Tag Archives: genesis

Kim recommends…Skitchin’ (Mega Drive, 1994)

(This post will be even better if you load up this here YouTube video and listen to the contents within while reading. Seriously, do it. In the words of Dr. Evil, throw me a frickin’ bone here.)

With news about old machines being rather slow today — as is often the case — it’s perhaps time for another recommendation post.  Skitchin’ is one of those games on the Mega Drive that can be somewhat unfairly maligned, perhaps due to it being the absolute single most ’90s game in existence – the entire decade runs through it. You’ve got the crunchy guitar soundtrack, the digitised pictures of folks with asymmetrical flattops and other ridiculous hairstyles, the graffiti aesthetics and the very art of skitching itself – hitching a ride by hanging on to the back of a car while also on skates or rollerblades. Skitching’s a real act and can be pretty damn dangerous, meaning that like any true ’90s video game, Skitchin’ also generated tons of controversy as people worried about their kids copying what they saw on the screen. Nothing even comes close to being as ’90s as Skitchin’.

Dunno about you, but I’ll buy anything sold by a greasy guy out the back of a van. Those shades are back in, by the way.

What’s often forgotten about the game amidst the entire summation of the whole Generation X period though, is how great Skitchin’ actually is. It’s an offshoot of the much more popular Road Rash series, with the same focus on beating your rivals — literally and figuratively — to first place, but the gameplay has a lot more features than just on the road violence. The art of skitching itself is so fun to do in game, as you quickly try to switch from the back of one car to the next, launching yourself from the side each time…it’s nuts and normally goes badly when you don’t quite make it to the car in front, but it’s so fast — it helps that Skitchin’ runs really smoothly, a lot better than Road Rash I and II does.

Skitchin’ is also a very active racer — again, more so than Road Rash where it often seems like you just move from one biker to the next. Every other skitcher is trying to do the same thing you are, and it’s quite a difficult act — meaning that it’s not uncommon to watch as your rivals get sent flying everywhere on a busy road as a car slams into the back of them.  Hazards on the road are plentiful – cars aside there’s oil slicks, the odd barricade, and plenty of ramps, which can kinda surprise you. Ramps offer a chance to show off by doing a trick too, as long as you stick the landing…you can even do this off of any skater who happens to be lying in the road. Imagine flying off of a rival, doing a star jump and sticking the landing as the crowd admire you — that’s pretty freaking gnarly. Of course, unexpected jumps like that often result in you landing in a crumpled bone heap and then getting knocked for six by an incoming vehicle. Skitchin’ demands serious engagement, all the time.

The art of Skitchin’ itself. In the words of Dr. Dre, “Never let me slip ’cause if I slip, then I’m slippin'”.

It was often hard for people to take Skitchin’ seriously at the time and it obviously still is in many ways — it couldn’t hammer home the time it’s from any more than it does. But then virtually everything about the game actually works — the risk/reward gameplay that it revels in, the technical craft, even that music — which is one of the few times that anyone, especially in a Western game, has made electric guitar on a Mega Drive game sound really good. Only a few years after Skitchin’, extreme sports games would be absolutely everywhere as the craze for skateboarding gathered momentum, and in that context Skitchin’ is far from out of place. It’s taken me quite some time to take the game seriously — you’ll probably be the same — but I’ve come to think that it’s better than any of the classic and better known Road Rash titles. But whatever, enough beeswax from me — if you’ve got the cheddar, then peace on out to the local Atari store, and gank yourself a copy. It’s the bomb-diggity, no diggity. We outta here.

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There awaits only more Monster World

Last month, French developer LizardCube released their beauteous remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap remake, a painstaking ode to a classic game which had gone largely overlooked solely for being trapped on the wrong hardware. Now any fan of retro platformers, action RPGs, and/or Metroidvanias owes it to themselves to put console allegiances aside and spend a few hours getting lost in the dense forests, arid wastes, winding caverns, and deep blue sea of Monster World. Then again, being the on-the-ball Retronaut you are, maybe you’ve already completed Bocke’s journey to regain his human form and found yourself yearning for more. If that’s the case, you should look no further than the assortment of Monster World games Sega brought to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii back in 2012.

Ported by the masters at M2, the titles number three in all: Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. Looking past the localized titles that only exacerbate this series’ confusing lineage, what you have here are in fact Monster World I, III, and IV. (Though in fact, the arcade version of Monster Land is titled as such even in Japan. For whatever reason, the Japanese Sega Master System version was renamed Monster World, and the series continued from there.) The Dragon’s Trap, which is Monster World II, was unfortunately passed over at the time, perhaps owing to the fact that only the downsized Game Gear version had been released in Japanese before; the Master System version was exclusive to America and Europe. But with this year’s remake, which includes the game in its original form, the entire Monster World series is now available to play in one modern format or another. (But not, mind you, the entire Wonder Boy series… Westone must have been on some kind of mission to make a line of games this mystifying.) Whether you’re a new recruit or you carried Westone’s torch all these years, there’s never been a better time to plunge into this world of side-scrolling role-playing and funny animal people.

Same.

Monster World IV is the easiest to recommend, boasting a fluid move set, fleshed-out dungeon puzzles, a heartwarming story, a setting that evolves over time, adorable animations, and a stunning use of color that you’d never guess was brushing up against the limits of the Genesis hardware. All that said, it’s also the least similar to every other game in the series—a brave new world unto itself, but maybe not the first thing to reach for if you’re just after a fundamental Monster World experience. Wonder Boy in Monster World is a more workmanlike installment that plays out a bit like a “greatest hits” compilation of the series up to that point. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s definitely best to play in order of release. Come to it before its predecessors, and its many homages will fly right over your head; go back to it after the clean break that is Monster World IV, and you’ll probably find yourself disappointed by its relative lack of ambition.

If you’re fresh off The Dragon’s Trap, I would instead point you to its direct predecessor: Wonder Boy in Monster Land. For one thing, The Dragon’s Trap begins shortly before the end of Monster Land, with our hero facing down a robotic dragon at the heart of an impossible maze, and you might be wondering how he got into that predicament in the first place. For another, well…Monster Land might actually be the secret best game in the series. Compared to a latter-day 16-bit effort like Monster World IV, it may appear simplistic at first—archaic, even—but there’s a lot going on under its hood. There’s so much, in fact, that I started talking about it and soon realized I couldn’t stop. So come back tomorrow for part two, where I’ll explain at length how Monster Land‘s various moving parts combine to instill the player with a sense of tension and accomplishment rarely found in games. For now, I’ll leave you with this hint: it involves wiggling. A lot of wiggling.

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Retronauts Special #2 – Live from Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2013

Retronauts Portland cover

Hey, all — Bob here. If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo, I’m sorry to say you missed out on what most scientists would consider a “hoot.” Before you do anything drastic, though, know that we’ve preserved our live panel in digital amber, so you can turn on your iPod, grow a fashionable beard (or don a fake one), and pretend you’re right there in Portland alongside us. This October marks the Mega Drive/Genesis’ 25th year on this planet, so we decided to sit down and give it a little more kindness than a few members of the crew did five years ago, when Retronauts was in its terrible twos. Joining us for this one: Kole Ross and Gary Butterfield of the stellar retro gaming podcast Watch Out for Fireballs, and 1UP alum Kevin Gifford, who has a great game music podcast simply titled FUN. Thanks to everyone who stopped us to say hi — hopefully our overbearing egos and pushy entourage didn’t alienate any of you.

Special thanks to Gary and Kole for letting us use their audio setup — this is definitely one of the best-sounding live episodes we’ve put together.

Libsyn (55:17 | MP3 | 40.1 MB) | SoundCloud

This episode’s description:

“Hold onto your beards and fashionable second-hand clothing — the Retronauts are in Portland and ready to rock. And by “rock” we mean “talk about the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis’ 25th birthday.” Join Bob Mackey, Ray Barnholt, Gary Butterfield, Kole Ross, and Kevin Gifford as they pay their proper respects to Sega’s most successful console in front of a live audience.”

This episode’s (musical) breakdown:

  • 13:43 | Sonic the Hedgehog 3 “Azure Lake”
  • 24:55 | Shining Force “Town” (Masahiko Yoshimura)
  • 37:53 | Panic! “Intro” (Kei Tani)
  • 53:24 | Sonic the Hedgehog 2 “Ending” (Masato Nakamura)

Next time: An episode about a subject near and dear to my heart, featuring two brand-new guests you’re sure to love. GET HYPED.

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Retronauts Pocket Episode 6: Genesis Accessories

Retronauts Pocket 6

So, last time I (Ray) hosted Pocket, we talked about NES accessories. And rather than just go down the line and talk about the SNES next, I thought there was a much more funky story to tell with the Sega Genesis. The line of Genesis accessories started out fairly normally — an arcade stick, the Power Base Converter — but by the mid-’90s, Sega was throwing everything at it, and usually as a clear response to whatever Nintendo was doing: the Menacer light gun was the answer to the Super Scope and looked like some kind of space uzi; the Mega Mouse lived a brief life as it countered the also-shortly-lived Super NES mouse; and the Activator was… certainly something, wasn’t it? But among that were important and interesting additions like the official six-button pad, the Sega Channel cable-modem distribution service, and a few others.

On this episode, Bob, Jeremy and Retronauts episode 6 guest Matt Leone join me as I describe these interesting add-ons, and this time, I brought a couple more clips from commercials to spice things up. Hope you like it, and we’ll see you next week.

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloudRSS
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