Genesis Does What Nintendon't
As I grew up in the "golden age of console gaming," I was one of those poor kids who was a generation behind in the console I owned. From about 1990 to about 1997, I had only a Nintendo Entertainment System. Were it not for my friends, I would have totally missed out on that decade's biggest gaming battle: Super Nintendo vs. Sega. Unless you were birthed by a wealthy family, you were forced to choose between them. Despite never owning either a Genesis nor a SNES, I was fortunate enough to have several friends and family members who owned one or the other. I do believe I got my fill of both systems during my childhood.
With each stay-over, birthday party, and after-school gathering that was spent gaming during my "wonder years," I formed an opinion that I still hold to this day: I prefer the Sega Genesis over the Super Nintendo. I know that the SNES is the *internet-critic preferred* console of that era, but I am a Genesis man, through and through. I've never really cared for RPG games. I do enjoy Mario games, but only to a modest degree. And while I would admit that the Zelda games are not bad by any means, I find them boring, although I believe "A Link to the Past" to be the best of them. In fact, I believe the Sega Genesis and the SNES have roughly the same amount of enjoyable games as each other. I'm also aware of the downsides of the system, most notably the giant, awkward controllers. So I'm sure that leaves you wondering, "Just what the hell do you like better about the Genesis, anyway?"
The Genesis of the Sega
"Genesis does what Nintendon't." This was the slogan for what was, perhaps, the greatest advertising campaign in video game history. Not only was it rather brash and brazen, but it was nearly unyielding in its effectiveness. It wasn't uncommon for a video game company to call out their competition. In fact, I have several comic books that feature Atari ads calling out companies like Intellivision and Colecovision by name! In the face of Nintendo's massive success though, it would've been difficult to predict Sega's boldness. By 1994, Sega accounted for over half of 16-bit hardware sales. I would say that the ads did exactly what they were supposed to. It doesn't matter that the term "blast processing" is a bunch of hokum now. In the early 90's, the Sonic games made "blast processing" sound legitimate. Its easy for some to look back at the commercials and advertisements on "YouTube" and say that they were juvenile. However, if you grew up during this gaming era, seeing these ads made you believe that Sega was incandescent with confidence and swagger. Not only that, but the ads were quite humorous. It is a commercial-making formula that Super Bowl advertisers have stuck with for quite some time now, because these kinds of commercials stick in your head. 15 years after being on-air, I still remember many of Sega's promos. Sega had the attitude that the gaming industry needed, and that the kids and young adults wanted. If you didn't have a Sega Genesis, then you weren't cool.
Not every "innovation" that Sega brought to the mainstream table was a success (Sega CD, 32X, I'm looking at you). There is one innovation, however, that was not only way ahead of its time, but wasn't also in the hands of Nintendo: Sega Channel. For $12-$15 each month, your local cable company provided you with the cartridge adapter hook-up to the Sega Channel, which allowed you access to over 50 games, some of which were overseas exclusives. Each month, the game selection would change slightly and new games would be made available. Sounds a bit like the set-up for streaming Netflix movies on consoles and mobile devices, doesn't it? Well, the Sega Channel was first made available in 1994! This fact is almost mind boggling, especially when you consider that there is currently no mainstream equivalent available for video games! Sure, you can rent physical discs through the mail and you can purchase games in the comfort of your home, as well as through your console, but a game rental service such as the Sega Channel is nowhere in sight. Yes, it occasionally took up to a few hours for the Sega Channel device to connect with the server at the cable company, but that just made the anticipation for the 16-bit awesomeness grow. Not to mention, it would give you the time to mow the lawn and do the dishes that you would owe your parents because of the Sega Channel!
There you have it! Those are a few of the more important ways I feel the Genesis was superior. Of course, since their heyday, Sega has squandered their greatness and they are now out of the console business. Sigh... There was so much hope for the Dreamcast, too. We will always have the Genesis and its fine library of games, which I intend to focus on next. I thought about putting together a "Top 10 Sega Genesis Games" list, but I scrapped that idea since many of those games are also on the SNES. Instead, I will focus on five of my favorite "Genesis-exclusive" titles. This isn't necessarily my "top 5" and if I don't happen to mention one of your favorites, feel free to cry about it in the comments section. Enjoy!
This 1993 title was released as the world was in the midst of a full-blown X-Men resurgence. Along with many others at the time, I was enamored with the new X-Men cartoon and comic series and absolutely had to play this game when it was released. Luckily for me, I was able to rent it and play it on a friend's system right away. Its true that this is nowhere on the level of the different "X-Men" arcade game, but that would've been a tall order. Here, you can choose either Wolverine, Cyclops, Gambit, or Nightcrawler. I believe that nearly every fan was drooling over the chance to control the card-throwing Gambit. For me, the stand-out feature of the game was the "mutant support system." Archangel, Rogue, and Storm can be summoned a number of times on each level to eliminate enemies, while Iceman can be summoned to create an ice-bridge to help over to hard-to-reach platforms. This game was straight-up side-scrolling fun and was just difficult enough to keep you from walking through it. However, it's "computer resetting" trick kept many players from beating the game. (After defeating Mojo in the game, the player is required to "reset the computer" in the Danger Room to stop a computer virus. This actually entails lightly pressing the reset button on the Genesis.) This was both tricky and dangerous, as NOBODY want to have to accidentally restart from the beginning.
The spine-chilling feeling that MK II instilled in me was duplicated by this game, Splatterhouse 3. Gruesome gore was rampant upon Rick's mansion as he dons the "Terror Mask" to save his wife and son. This game accomplishes a great feat due to its multiple endings. If each stage is not completed within the allotted time frame, then the remaining cutscenes and ending will change in a dire fashion. The atmosphere of this game was enhanced greatly by this feature. Having to fight through hoards of monsters in a maze of a mansion as fast as you possibly can increases the tension. Letting the time expire can result in the death of your wife and son, leaving you feeling helpless. Tension and helplessness: The cornerstones of the horror medium. Note to Capcom: Try to remember this fact for RE: 6.
"Every time I start talkin' 'bout boxing, a white man got to pull Rocky Marciano out they ass."
This Genesis-exclusive boxing game features the likenesses of some of boxing's biggest champions, including Evander Holyfield, Rocky Marciano, and Muhammad Ail. This is a tough game, to say the least. The career mode on this game serves as a fore bearer to the career modes of today, as you fight your way up the boxing ranks to title contention, while training to increase your skills and stamina. After you win the championship, your journey is not complete until you've beaten all of the eight legends the game has to offer. In my experience, the greatest attribute you can give your created boxer is height. The largest height setting comes with the longest reach advantage, and a reach disadvantage is the biggest obstacle to overcome in this game. (Just as it usually is in real boxing and MMA fights!) Defeating this game gave me a great sense of accomplishment, as well as left me without feeling in my thumbs for several days.
Comix Zone came just a tad late to the Genesis party in 1995. With the Playstation's release at the tail-end of 1994, the 16 bit era was beginning to lose ground. Comix Zone was an unfortunate casualty of the shift change. Thanks to its re-release in digital form and in game collections, this game has become a cult classic. Not only did the new generation of gaming bury Comix Zone, but its incessant difficulty kept the few that actually played the game from being able to finish it. To those too young to remember, or those whom passed on this, Comix Zone is a complete package. It's not your traditional side scroller as the game's stage-framing and beautiful backgrounds molded each level to resemble comic book panels. Along with top-notch graphics, CZ also contains a rockin' soundtrack, composed by Sonic the Hedgehog veteran Howard Drossin.
Toejam and Earl
Speaking of infectious tunes, Toejam and Earl brought to the Genesis jams so funky that George Clinton quietly wept to himself. Whenever I hear the debate over which system had the better sound system (SNES vs. Genesis), I always point to this game as the pinnacle of early 16 bit sound. Sure, there may have been fuller, grander songs written for both systems, however nothing as catchy as what Toejam and Earl have to offer. On top of the unforgettable music, this game had a healthy injection of humor. These features, including bright, crisp colors and a regenerating system for the enemies and useful items help keep this game fresh, long after its been conquered.