Think all full-motion video games on the Sega CD were terrible? Here’s a handful of games that might just get you to change your tune.
By: James Swift
The Sega CD is a system that is unjustly crapped on by just about everybody. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of the console for stuff like Kriss Kross: Make My Video and Mad Dog McCree, but that discounts the platform’s high quotient of decades-defining titles, including: Sonic the Hedgehog CD (considered by many to be the best Sonic game ever), Snatcher, Robo Aleste, Silpheed, Popful Mail, two fantastic Lunar games, not to mention Criterion Collection iterations of several of the best 16-bit games ever, including NHL ‘94, Sensible Soccer, Earthworm Jim and Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin. For all the retroactive hate it garners, the Sega CD was unquestionably stacked with top-notch software.
And then, there’s FMV. There’s no way around it, there were a lot of bad full-motion video games on the Sega CD. For every above-average-to-OK game like Sewer Shark and Night Trap, you have three or four CD-ROM shaped turds, like Iron Helix, Kids on Site and Who Shot Johnny Rock? (the answer? Nobody cares). Sift through enough FMV games, however, and a few grains of wheat stand out among the bundles of chaff. Here’s a look back at five Sega CD titles that employ the FMV gimmick and – in sharp contrast to the bulk of full motion video games on the system – don’t suck out loud.
Double Switch (1993)
As much of a guilty pleasure as Night Trap is, it’s plagued by some major technical issues. This follow-up from Digital Pictures more or less retains the same core gameplay dynamics (right down to reusing some of the same death traps from the earlier game), but this time around everything’s been refined and tweaked to … well, not quite perfection, but it’s certainly a less frustrating game than Night Trap. Whereas Night Trap was a loving homage to B-horror movies starring Dana Plato of Diff’rent Strokes fame, Double Switch is an affable, light-hearted comedy crime caper, in which you help take down crooks and thieves using a security camera system controlled by ‘80s teen movie star Corey Haim. Indeed, the game has a pretty remarkable cast, including Deborah Harry from Blondie as the game’s primary, Egyptian-obsessed villainess and R. Lee Ermey (the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket) as an easily agitated electrician. Double Switch doesn’t have a whole lot of replay value, but it’s one of the more accessible FMV games on the hardware.
Ground Zero: Texas (1993)
Yet another FMV offering from Digital Pictures. You still monkey around with the multiple camera setup from Night Trap, but instead of doing mini-quick time events a la Dragon’s Lair, you get to manually control the action. That’s right, Ground Zero: Texas is one of the first (only?) full motion video first-person-shooter (FMVFPS, if you have an affinity for clunky acronyms) released on the Sega CD. If you’re a fan of light gun titles like Lethal Enforcers, you might be turned off by the slower pace, but if the “death trap” dynamics of Double Switch are too hands-off for you, this will be right up your alley. Here’s some trivia to wow your friends: the game was “directed” by Dwight H. Little, who also directed the “real” motion pictures Halloween 4 and Free Willy 2.
The Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO (1994)
Based on a 1993 movie, which was itself based upon the beloved Japanese TV series, Kamen Rider ZO is a no-frills, feature-length quick-time-event that knows how to do the sub-subgenre right. It’s all button-command gameplay here, and unlike Night Trap and Double Switch, the people who made this one actually had the decency to give you onscreen prompts. But it’s not just mindless button mashing. The game also incorporates some light exploration elements, at times feeling more like a live action choose-your-own adventure story than a Shenmue fight scene. Speaking of which, the kung fu battles against the monster bosses are an absolute hoot, and the hysterically bad dubbing adds so much campy fun to the experience; a rare instance of crappy voice acting adding to a game rather than detracting from it. For those of you disappointed by the lackluster Power Rangers game on the Sega CD, here’s your chance to play the game that title should’ve been.
Road Avenger (1993)
Hardcore coin-op purists will recognize this game as a retitled port of the 1985 Data East game Road Blaster. As far as full motion video games on the Sega CD go, this is probably the smoothest and most polished of ‘em all, with excellent, non-grainy animation and super-responsive, twitch-action gameplay. As with Kamen Rider ZO, the game tells you which buttons to press, but you only have a split-second to play Simon Says. If you don’t hit the gas or the brake right when the game tells you to, you’re a goner. Despite being preposterously short (you can beat the whole thing in about 20 minutes), there’s no denying the instant gratification fun of the (all-too) brief experience. Plus, the music kicks.
It’s a bit of a stretch to call any of the FMV games on the Sega CD “adult,” but this Sega “TruVideo” presentation is probably one of the more “mature” FMV games on the console. That’s not to say it’s jam-packed with sex and violence (it isn’t), but it does seem to be catering to the sensibilities of older players, with a plot that feels more like a Leslie Nielsen comedy than Dragon’s Lair. In Wirehead, you take control of the brain of antagonist Ned Hubbard, your dime-a-dozen suburban dork-dad, who suddenly and mysteriously gets caught up in a huge government conspiracy. With the exception of a few brief “fight” scenes in which you do some first-person karate, the majority of the gameplay comes in the form of trial-and-error arrow-pad button presses, as you’d expect. Wirehead is by no means a classic, but it’s different enough from the system’s other FMV games to be worth recommending.
*special thanks to A90sKid, Emuparadise, Vizzed, Vitaliy Chumak’s Youtube channel, and GamingTheSystems Youtube Channel for the screenshots.