Game Corner [Ghostbusters Day]: Ghostbusters (Mega Drive)

Throw on your proton pack and get ready to bust some ghosts because June 8th is, officially, “Ghostbusters Day”! Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) was first released on this day back in 1984 and, since then, has become a major pop culture franchise that includes comic books, a popular cartoon and line of action figures, and videogames and it is, easily, one of my favourite films and franchises from that era.

This review has been supported by Chiara Cooper.
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Released: 30 June 1990
Developer: SEGA / Compile

The Background:
Ever since Ghostbusters was released and became a big hit, the concept of four somewhat-bumbling New York parapsychologists snagging troublesome spirits has developed into a pretty significant franchise. We’ve had the under-rated sequel, a questionable reboot, and a decent enough modern follow-up, a couple of popular cartoons, a whole slew of action figures and comic books, and, naturally, videogames. The first Ghostbusters-branded videogame was a multi-platform release from Activision that was a huge success despite being wildly different across each home console and containing humourous grammatical errors. Although the much-loved cartoon spin-off failed to replicate its success at the arcades, Japanese developer Compile made up for this with a much-sought-after Mega Drive title in 1990. The game, which was oddly missing Winston Zeddemore from its roster, was largely praised for its graphics and addictive gameplay, but criticised for its music and sound design. Although ranked highly among Ghostbusters videogames, the Mega Drive title is also seen as one of the strangest titles in the franchise for its unique art style and gameplay mechanics.

The Plot:
After saving New York City (and the entire world) from Zuul, business is slow for the Ghostbusters. However, when ghosts and ghouls rise again, the three supernatural exterminators rush to help (and earn some cash in the process) and solve the mystery of an ancient stone tablet.

Ghostbusters is a 2D, sidescrolling run-and-gun with light platforming elements and an emphasis on exploration, purchasing upgrades, and choosing which missions to undertake. Players can pick from one of the three Ghostbusters, and there are slight differences between each character: Doctor Peter Venkman is the allrounder, with normal speed and stamina; Doctor Ray Stanz (referred to as “Raymond”) compensates for his slow speed with a higher stamina; and Doctor Egon Spengler is fast on his feet but has less health than his fellow Ghostbusters. In this case, I guess it makes some sense to leave Winston out of the game as his stats would inevitably mirror one of the others, but it’s still a kick in the teeth that all four Ghostbusters aren’t playable. Despite the fact that Ghostbusters was very much an ensemble movie and focused on the camaraderie between the main characters, the videogame is a single player experience, and once you pick a Ghostbuster, you can’t switch to another one mid-way through the game.

Explore a number of locations zapping and trapping ghosts to earn cash.

Regardless of which Ghostbuster you pick, the game’s primary controls and mechanics remain the same; pressing A will see you toss one of your limited supply of bombs to deal damage to or defeat enemies, B will fire your current weapon from your proton pack, and C allows you to jump. Oddly, you cannot change these controls, which is a bit of a shame as I’d much rather have A be fire, B jump, and C throw bombs but it’s not too difficult to adapt to the controls. Pressing Start brings up the game’s inventory screen, where you can select a different weapon, activate a shield, use items such as food or the infrared scope, and view the grid-like map. The map gets coloured in as you explore and will give you a vague idea of where the “middle ghosts” and bosses are in each level, but it’s a very barebones map screen not unlike those seen in the early Metroid videogames (Various, 1986 to present). The heads-up display (HUD) will show your stamina (basically your health bar), proton pack energy, remaining lives, the number of bombs you have left, and how many ghosts are left for you to catch in the stage you’re in. When you start the game, you can pick from one of four different locations in New York City; each building has a different number of spooks that you need to catch and will net you a different cash pay-out, and basically the amount of money you can earn determines how difficult the stage will be. Once in the location, you need to seek out the ghosts and try to catch them; along the way, you’ll encounter some basic enemies that’ll you need to blast and hazards to avoid or hop over. The Ghostbusters can fire while moving and shoot both upwards and diagonally, which is extremely helpful; they can also crouch through small gaps and vents and swim without worrying about drowning. Your goal is to “encounter” the stage’s resident ghosts, which act as sub-bosses; once the ghost has been defeated, its spirit will float around the immediate area and you’ll have to hold down fire button (or tap it, it’s not very clear) to snag the spook in your proton stream and try to drag it over the ghost trap to capture it. If you manage to do this (and it’s easier said than done sometimes), you’ll see some of your health and energy restored and get a cash bonus; if you fail, either due to running out of energy or taking too long, the ghost will run away and you’ll lose out on these bonuses.

There’s some freedom to level and item selection, and the difficulty shifts accordingly.

However, you don’t actually need to capture these ghosts in order to progress; you just need to battle and defeat them and tick them off in the HUD in order for the boss ghost to appear on the map. You can freely navigate your way back to the start of the stage to exit back to the Ghostbuster’s headquarters and purchase additional health, items, and gear if you need to and you’ll have a limited number of continues at your disposal to carry on playing if you lose a life. The game can be played in either Easy, Normal, or Hard mode; I played on Easy and had nine continues, but I imagine the harder modes limit your continues (possibly your lives as well) and potentially make enemies more aggressive. Enemies will respawn when you leave the screen, or sometimes when you hang around too long, and you’ll encounter such hazards as spikes, lava, limited visibility due to lack of lighting, swinging axes, and projectile-spitting barriers that block your progress. Thankfully, there’s no time limit to worry about so you can take your time exploring each location, and you’ll need to search all over to track down the ghosts and figure out how to progress further. This can be confusing at times, thanks both to the map and how familiar some of the stages are laid out and appear, and the screen sometimes doesn’t scroll up fast enough for you to see temporary platforms or ladders that lead to a new area or the final boss. There are also no checkpoints in the levels so, if you exit or lose all your lives and have to continue, you’ll have to play through the entire stage from the start again but, on the plus side, you won’t have to capture the middle ghosts again.

Graphics and Sound:
I’ve played the 8-bit Ghostbusters videogames, and the arcade shooter, and I have to say that I have long been intrigued by screenshots and gameplay footage of this title. The game immediately stands out by utilising a charming chibi-style aesthetic than compresses the characters down to squat, cartoonish sprites with comically oversized heads! This gives the Ghostbusters a great deal of personality and expression, especially when hit, dying, or left idle; you’ll even see their breath in the frozen apartment stage, and you’ll be treated to a 16-bit rendition of the iconic Ghostbusters theme alongside some jaunty and catchy tunes to keep you invested in even the more uninspiring locations. While the bog standard enemies aren’t much to shout about, the sub-bosses and bosses are extremely creative and unique in terms of their appearance; the game even includes some fun homages, such as a giant man-eating plant not unlike Audrey II (Levi Stubbs, et al) from Little Shop of Horrors (Oz, 1986), alongside familiar enemies like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Though the locations are a bit bland, the sprites are comical and expressive and the story’s told well.

Indeed, Mister Stay Puft will be a constant presence in the high-rise building stage, leering in through windows and punching through the background as you progress upwards. The game’s main four stages are all quite similar in terms of their basic layout, containing doors to pass through, ladders to climb, and spikes to avoid, but the more profitable stages are noticeably bigger and more maze-like. The “Home Sweet Home” stage is a haunted mansion that just about separates itself from the high-rise building with dining tables and falling (and candle-tossing) chandeliers; the apartment stage grows increasingly frozen as you progress, with falling icicles dropping from above (but, thankfully, you don’t have to worry about the ground being slippery); the woody house requires the infrared scope to cast some light in the darkness and is filled with lava and narrow (or temporary) wooden log platforms. Once you’ve beaten the main four stages, you’ll head to a mossy, dungeon-like castle and, finally, descend into a deep hole full of diamond-like glass and damaging globs. The story is told through text boxes and pixelated renditions of the characters and their clients as they discuss the mysterious tablet pieces they acquire and the dialogue captures that amusing Ghostbusters banter that made the film so memorable; some limited sprite animations also help progress the story, but the majority of the cutscenes take place in these small box windows that somewhat limit their appeal.

Enemies and Bosses:
Each stage is filled with some minor enemies who dog your progress and don’t offer any pick-ups or cash upon defeat; you’ll encounter leaping slime balls, possessed cutlery and tablecloths, ice-like golems, big jellyfish, bouncing orbs, flaming bat-like spooks, gaunt zombies, and demonic teddy bears. Each of these can be dispatched in just a few hits but, as enemies will respawn and have a tendency to follow you, it’s quite easy to get caught off-guard or swamped with enemies at times, and this can be frustrating as you’ll experience some knock-back upon taking damage with can cause you to drop to a lower area or fall onto some spikes or lava.

You’ll need to wait for a lot of the middle ghosts to reveal themselves so you can properly damage them.

There are ten middle ghosts that need to be fought (and, ideally, captured) in order to refill some of your health and energy, snag a cash bonus, and unlock the stage’s boss battle. These “encounters” take place in an isolated area in each stage and, since you can take on the main four stages in any order, their difficulty can vary depending on which route you take. I played “Home Sweet Home” first, which sees you battling Silk Hatton, a headless gentleman ghost who resists your projectiles; you can only deal damage to this spirit when its demonic, dog-like “head” pops out of its top hat. You’ll need to avoid (or shoot) Silk Hatton’s projectiles and, once you deal enough damage, it’ll split into two disembodied parts that need to be blasted to reduce it to a catchable spirit. You’ll battle the ice giant Crystarobo in the apartment stage; this crystalline monster lumbers and hops about, blasting lightning that spawns small minions, swinging overhead, and even detaching its limbs to attack you and it can only be damaged by shooting its head. You’ll also need to battle the Siren, a witch-like entity that flies about at the top of the screen shooting a three-way projectile at you and splitting into three to fire large shots your way; it’s invulnerable when flying overhead and you’ll need to shoot the correct Siren in order to whittle her health down and snag her spirit. In the woody house, you’ll encounter the Fire Dragon and Fire Giant; while the “giant” is anything but and leaps all over the place spitting embers at you and is comparatively weak, the dragon is a pain in the ass as it randomly pops up through the floor to breathe a long plume of fire at you that is very difficult to dodge.

Monstrous creatures, possessed Ghostbusters, and even Death itself must be conquered to progress.

In the high-rise building, you’ll come across the 100-Eyed Centipede that worms around in mid-air and splits into separate, sweeping parts as you damage it; the 3-Way Shot upgrade is super useful here as the creature spreads itself across a large area and can be tricky to dodge as a result. You’ll also battle the Shell Beast, a green, glob-like ghost that shields itself from attacks with a pink shell and bounces around the arena; you must fire up at it when it cracks open, but can blast its projectiles to make this one of the easier encounters in the game. Finally, in the castle, you’ll battle the massively annoying Broccoli Worm that’s a bastard to jump over and splits into separate parts, the Grim Reaper himself (who flies about swinging his scythe at you and sending flaming blades spinning around the arena, and who can only be damaged by hitting his head), and even possessed versions of your kidnapped Ghostbuster pals! These two will mimic your currently-equipped weapon and match you shot for shot but, oddly, cannot damage you on physical contact; equally, the only way you can free them from their possession is to get around them to blast the spirit floating around near them, and I recommend equipping the Phaser Shell weapon as it’s slow and easier to dodge than other shots.

Bosses can take quite a bit of punishment, and love hopping about and firing projectiles.

Once you’ve captured the middle ghosts in each stage, you’ll be able to fight the boss can acquire a piece of the tablet or other key item to progress the story. There are five main bosses, one for each of the main levels, and four of them will need to be battled again in the “Deep Hole” stage before you can tackle the game’s final boss. In the apartment stage, you’ll find Scalon, a reptilian creature that rolls and hops about and is protected by its scales. When it attacks, it sends its scales flying off its body, exposing its true form and leaving it vulnerable, but you’ll need to fend off these projectiles and try to hop over or run under it as it moves back and forth across the arena. The frozen apartments are home to a demonic Snowman; this frosty customer floats above your head and spawns smaller versions of itself that shoot their carrot noses at you, but is pretty simple to take out, especially if you have the 3-Way Shot equipped. One of the more laborious bosses for me was the Wall Man from the woody house; in the first encounter, this massive projectile-spitting face is fought over a gap that leads to a lava pit, but this obstacle is missing in the “Deep Hole” stage, making the battle a lot easier. Basically, you need to fire diagonally upwards or jump-shoot at the eye that appears on the Wall Man’s forehead or chin, avoiding the enemies and projectiles he spits out, but he appears (seemingly at random) on either side of the screen, making this an exercise in trial and error.

After defeating a couple of familiar foes, you’ll face the newest God of Destruction on the block!

On the roof of the high-rise building, you’ll have a rematch with Mr. Stay Puft; this joyous kaijiu looms in the background firing lasers from its eyes, will-o’-the-wisp-like flames from its mouth, and trying to punch you from either side of the screen. However, it’s surprisingly simple to just blast away at Mr. Stay Puft’s grinning visage and put him down for the count. Easily the most difficult boss you’ll encounter before the finale is the Insect Trapper, a huge man-eating plant and fires a large laser from its gaping mouth and constantly spawns fines and snapping plant minions to attack you. I couldn’t quite tell if he creature was immune to my shots when its mouth was closed, so I simply poured on the firepower non-stop and kept low to the ground, switching to 3-Way Shot to dispatch the smaller minions. Once they’re all defeated, you’ll face off against Janna in a two-stage encounter; first, the massive, armoured monstrosity sits stationary and tosses an easily-avoidable bouncing heart at you and launches a spinning scythe that you need to race all the way to the left to avoid. Damage her head (her one weak spot) enough and she’ll detach from the background and float around, constantly hovering just out of reach of your attacks and tossing her scythe at you; however, if you stay on the move, duck and crawl when necessary, and take to the high ground when she exposes herself, you can take her down without too much trouble.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
In-game power-ups and pick-ups are few and far between, making this a tough experience at times; you’ll come across Slimer in every stage (sometimes more than once, and usually right before or after an encounter) and can blast him for a health or energy boost, but he won’t respawn unless you lose a life or use a continue. If you’re extremely lucky, you might stumble across a 1-Up in a stage, which is massively useful, but you’ll generally be dependent on capturing ghosts or defeating the boss to refill your health and energy meters outside of buying items. You’ll find safes in each level that can be destroyed to gift you bags of cash (or damaging bombs) and you can spam-collect these by entering and exiting stages over and over so you can buy everything you need.

Slimer will drop power-ups, but you’ll need cold, hard cash to purchase new weapons and gear.

There are two shops at Ghostbusters HQ; an item shop and a weapon shop. At the item shop, you can buy health-restoring items, bombs, and infrared scopes but these items will sell out pretty quickly so be sure to use them sparingly in stages. At the weapon shop, you can purchase new weapons and shields to make things easier on yourself; I found the most useful weapon to be the 3-Way Shot but you can also get the Phaser Shell (which fires a slow, but powerful, burst of energy), the Bubble Projectile (a slow, floaty bubble that I had little use for), and an explosive shot to damage multiple enemies at once. These additional weapons do drain your energy meter a lot faster, however, which can limit their use and your ability to capture ghosts. You can also upgrade and extend your energy meter and buy protective gear like the Special Suit that reduces the amount of damage you take for a limited time and the Barrier, which renders you temporarily invincible at the cost of draining your energy meter. Each of these items and weapons can be equipped from the inventory menu, carries a hefty price tag, and often can only be used once per life.

Additional Features:
Although Ghostbusters is a fairly lengthy game for its era, there’s not too much extra material to spice things up. As mentioned, there’s no two-player mode and there isn’t even a high score to try and beat. Instead, the replayability comes from the addictive gameplay, the option to play as a different Ghostbuster, and the freedom in picking which order you play the first four stages.

The Summary:
I have to admit that I was a little intimidated and concerned when I finally sat down the play Ghostbusters; the game is so expensive and so hard to come by that I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype I’d built up for it or the promise of its graphics. Thankfully, the game definitely delivers a solid experience; the controls are tight and responsive and blasting ghosts and enemies is a lot of fun, despite how difficult I found it to be to actually capture the little buggers. The graphics are charming and amusing, especially the sprite work on the main characters and the enemies, which more than makes up for some lacklustre environments. I actually really enjoyed earning cash to purchase new items and weapons; while you will need to grind a bit if you want to buy everything on sale, you don’t necessarily need to have every item the game offers to you and can fare well enough with the default weapon and setup. While it’s a shame that the game doesn’t include some kind of two-player mechanic or the ability to play as Winston or drive Ecto-1, Ghostbusters is easily the best videogame adaptation of the film I’ve played from this era of gaming; it’s tough but fair, presented wonderfully, and kept me engaged from start to finish. The only real drawback is how hard it can be to get your hands on a physical copy; I got lucky with mine, but it’s probably best you emulate it to save your money and also take advantage of save states to make things even easier on yourself.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you ever played Ghostbusters on Mega Drive? If so, what did you think to it and how does it compare to other Ghostbusters videogames from that era? Which of the Ghostbusters did you play as, and were you disappointed by Winston’s absence? Which of the bosses was your favourite and did you also struggle with capturing spooks for cash? What memories do you have of Ghostbuster merchandise like cartoon and action figures? How are you celebrating Ghostbusters Day today? Whatever your thoughts and memories of Ghostbusters, go ahead and share them below or drop a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Turtle Tuesday]: TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist (Xbox Series X)

The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. This year, I’m emphasising third entries and time travel shenanigans in the popular franchise every Tuesday in May!


Released: 30 August 2022
Originally Released: 11 December 1992
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Original Developer: Konami
Also Available For: Mega Drive, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S

The Background:
Kids in the late-eighties and early-nineties were enamoured by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles here in the UK), with the game-changing cartoon dominated the airwaves years before Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993 to 1996) and Pokémon (1997 to present). Though the cartoon was far tamer than the original Mirage Comics, the TMNT’s popularity not only spawned a series of live-action movies (of varying quality), comic books, a whole slew of action figures, and numerous videogames. Konami’s laid the foundation for some of the franchise’s most memorable videogames with their original TMNT arcade game and the developers only expanded upon those efforts with the much-beloved sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Konami, 1991). Not only was Turtles in Time bigger and better, while still retaining the simple pick-and-and-play mechanics of an arcade beat-‘em-up, it also gained further popularity thanks to a surprisingly faithful home console port. In addition to an unfairly criticised 2.5D remake in 2009, Turtles in Time served as the basis for this Mega Drive title, though there were some notable differences between the two versions, particularly regarding their length. Indeed, while The Hyperstone Heist was praised for its graphics and gameplay, its difficulty was criticised at the time. For decades, gamers were forced to pay through the nose for ridiculously expensive physical copies of the game, or resort to emulating the title, but that all changed when The Hyperstone Heist was included in this Cowabunga Collection alongside a host of other games and quality of life features.

The Plot:
The Turtles leap into action when their archnemesis, Oroku Saki/The Shredder, uses the power of the mysterious Hyperstone to shrink and capture half of Manhattan Island, battling through waves of Foot Soldiers to put an end to the Shredder’s bid for world domination.

If you’ve played Turtles in Time then The Hyperstone Heist will be immediately familiar to you; the game is, essentially, a stripped down and patchwork reordering of the classic arcade time travel jaunt. Just like the two arcade titles that preceded it, The Hyperstone Heist is a 2D sidescrolling beat-‘em-up that allows up to two players to battle side by side across five stages, with each comprised of a number of different areas unlike Turtles in Time and even including some entirely new stages and bosses. Since I’m playing this version on the Xbox Series X, it should be no surprise that this game can now be played both on- and offline co-operative play, and you can even opt to turn friendly fire on or off to make things a little harder, or easier, on yourself when playing with a friend. Players can once again select from one of the four Ninja Turtles; each one controls exactly the same and are defined primarily by the reach of their weapons (putting characters like Leonardo and Donatello at an advantage). Gameplay couldn’t be simpler; you go from the left side of the screen to the right using X to pummel baddies with some simple combos, B to jump, and X in mid-air to pull off a couple of jumping attacks depending on how high you are when you press it. If you press B and X together, you’ll pull off a power attack at the cost of some health, and you can press Y to dash ahead. While you can pull off dash attacks in this way, it can be a bit clunky as I find the dash works better as a double tap of the directional pad and, while you can no longer toss enemies at the screen, you can still slam them by attacking up close and fend off enemies attacking from behind with a back attack.

Gameplay is ripped from Turtles in Time but includes some new stages and mechanics.

Although The Hyperstone Heist has less stages than Turtles in Time, they’re much longer and even include transitions between different screens/areas; so, while you start in the sewers in this game, you hop up to the streets and play through a section of Alleycat Blues before dropping down into an alternative version of the Sewer Surfin’ stage. As ever with these TMNT arcade titles, there are a few opportunities to interact with the environment; traffic cones, candlesticks, barrels, explosive drums and boxes of fireworks and fire hydrants can all be used to take enemies out. While the game is lacking some of the more memorable stage hazards like Krang’s giant android body and the wrecking balls, many of these still crop up throughout certain stages; you can fall down holes, without fear of damage, to avoid attacks, step on loose planks, and injury your toes on spiked hazards. Turrets will pop up to freeze you solid, enemies can still grab and hold you for a beating, and electrical bolts and lasers will also still fry you to your skeleton. While you’ll still hop onto a rocket-powered board to fend off enemies across the ocean, these autoscrolling sections are limited to just the one instance here; things are mixed up a little with a high abundance of health-restoring pizza, flying Mousers, and lots of wreckage from the ghost shop to dodge and interact with, however. The Hyperstone Heist also includes the Technodrome stage that featured in the home console port of Turtles in Time, complete with the traditional elevator gauntlet section (only now the elevator goes down instead of up), but also shows its limitations and laziness by dedicating an entire stage to a boss rush (without any pizza to heal yourself up).

Graphics and Sound:
On a base level, The Hyperstone Heist is functionally very similar to the home console port of Turtles in Time, sporting the same heads-up display, similar sprite work, and the same environments and enemies, but it can’t be denied that the whole game has suffered a visual downgrade. This is evident right from the title screen, despite a unique new introductory sequence, and the far less impressive voice clips and limited animation frames. The TMNT even seem to be slightly out of proportion compared to their enemies, something I never noticed in the two versions of Turtles in Time, and the game is far more reliant on text, with dialogue featuring before and after each boss encounter. Still, everything looks and feels very true to the game’s arcade roots and continues to capture the quirky, slapstick nature of the animated series with its cartoony presentation and sound effects. The gameplay is noticeably slower, however, thanks to the lack of a turbo mode and it feels like a longer, far more tedious experience thanks to the levels dragging on a bit and the sheer number and aggression of enemies at any one time.

Some new areas, a new ending, and reshuffling of stages help the game stand out.

For the most part, the game’s levels are ripped right out of Turtles in Time, specifically the home console port; Sewer Surfin’ has been reduced to an on-foot stage (though the Pizza Monster still somehow jump out of the water), Alleycat Blues is a transition between the two sewer stages, and the pirate ship has been redesigned into a ghost ship, with the cave from Prehistoric Turtlesaurus now a transition to the Shredder’s secret lair thanks to the lack of a time travel plot. The game has supplanted the time travel stages of Turtles in Time with entirely new environments, with this most apparent in Scene 3 where you battle across a cliff top into a Japanese temple and a dojo where Shredder trains his disciples. Turtles in Time’s more visually interesting stages, like Prehistoric Turtlesaurus and Neon Night Riders, are replaced by a simple damp cave and a less thrilling water chase sequence, though the Technodrome remains largely unchanged. The final stage is also largely the same, though the Statue of Liberty has been replaced by this weird eldritch abomination of a machine in the background. Some of Turtles in Time’s cutscenes are also included, though altered to fit the slightly changed plot, and an entirely new ending sequence and defeat animation for the Shredder has been included that features some decent sprite work and partially animated sequences.Finally, the game’s soundtrack is largely the same as Turtles in Time’s but noticeably sped up and lacking in the oomph heard in the arcade release.

Enemies and Bosses:
As far as I could tell, every enemy you face in The Hyperstone Heist is ripped right out of the home console version of Turtles in Time. This means you’ll be fending off an endless swarm of robotic Foot Soldiers, each sporting different coloured pyjamas and different weapons, including throwing stars, swords, nunchaku, daggers, and tonfa. There is one new variant, however; a magenta-coloured ninja who breaths fire at you! Also returning are the Mousers (which scurry about and bite your hand), Roadkill Rodneys (which electrocute you with whips and fire lasers at you), these little laser firing spider-bots, and the Xenomorph-like Pizza Monsters. The Rock Soldiers also make an unwelcome appearance, generally in groups of at least three, to charge at you and fire heavy-duty ordinance right in your face. While many of the stage hazards return from Turtles in Time, you’ll spot a couple of new ones in Scene 3 thanks to this being an entirely new stage; these include a spiked ceiling, spiked bamboo canes that pop up from the floor, and ceremonial armour that fires electrical lasers at you.

After two copy/paste boss battles, Tatsu is a welcome, if easy, addition.

Every stage ends in a boss battle, with all of the bosses but one being repurposed from the two previous TMNT arcade games, though each sport a helpful life bar like in Turtles in Time’s home console port. After battling through the sewers and the city streets, you’ll face off against the monstrous Leatherhead. While the arena might be different, Leatherhead’s strategy is exactly the same as in Turtles in Time; he hops and scurriesabout, punching you or swiping with his tail up close and tossing daggers from across the screen, and basically sets the template that’ll work for every boss in the game which is get in there, land a quick combo, and jump away before you take a hit. After fighting through the decidedly unhaunted ghost ship, you’ll fight Rocksteady; sadly, there’s no Bebop in this game and this is basically just a copy/paste of his solo fight from the original arcade game as he charges at you, fires a machine gun in a spread, and tosses a few grenades into the arena, leaving himself wide open for your attacks in the process. Thankfully, the game does include a new boss battle at the end of Scene 3; here, you’ll face Tatsu from the first two live-action movies. Although he threatens that you’ll have to defeat his minions first, the Foot Soldiers actually fight alongside him, but it’s pretty simply to focus on him, avoiding the darts he fires across and rains down the screen, and pummelling him when he stands still.

Although the final bosses can be challening, the boss rush was a lazy addition to the game.

As mentioned, The Hyperstone Heist drops the ball somewhat with Scene 4, which takes place entirely in a dank cave and forces you to battle all three bosses again, one after the other, in what is fittingly called “The Gauntlet”. To be fair, the Pizza Monsters do show up again and all of the enemy sprites now have a new colour palette, and there’s no health here or in the final stage to help you through, but it’s pretty damn lazy to just shoehorn in a boss rush like this. On the plus side, it does culminate in a battle against Baxter Stockman that’s again ripped from the first arcade game; Baxter hovers about in this craft dropping Mousers on you and generally being a hard target, but I would’ve preferred to see an original stage ending in this boss fight. Similarly, you’ll again face Krang in the Technodrome but its in an adapted version of the Neon Night Riders battle rather than him being in his UFO; Krang’s android body dashes at you with a kick, smacks you with a clap attack, fires missiles from his chest, and rains bombs into the arena, but he still likes to gloat and leave himself an open target. Finally, you’ll take on the formidable Super Shredder in the game’s last stage just like in the home console version of Turtles in Time. While Super Shredder’s attacks and strategy remain the same, he’s been tweaked slightly; his projectiles and aura are now coloured coded, with blue bolts freezing you, green fireballs instantly killing you by reverting you to a normal turtle, and red flames hurting your toes.Additionally, I was only able to land a hit on Super Shredder when he was firing his freezing shot and he still hovers and dashes about to make himself an annoying target.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
The Hyperstone Heist features exactly the same power-ups as those seen in Turtles in Time, namely the odd pizza to restore your health and one single, solitary Pizza Power item that sends you into a short-lived frenzy. You will also be awarded an extra life at every 100, 300, 500, 700, etc points, which is useful if you find yourself struggling.

Additional Features:
Similar to the home console version of Turtles in Time, The Hyperstone Heist features a few options you won’t see in the arcade releases; you can play on three different difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, and Hard), with different endings assigned to each one, set your lives and continues to anywhere from one to five, enable or disable back attacks, and make use of a sound test. The game may have taken a further graphical hit during the conversion, and there’s no versus or time trial mode, but you can still pick between two colour schemes, “Comic” and “Anime”, which gives the TMNT new colour palettes in a nice touch. As you’d expect, the Cowabunga Collection adds some extra features to the game; you’ll earn a 70G Achievement for completing each game on any difficult level, rewind the gameplay with the Left Bumper, and use the Right Bumper to access save states and display options. You can also choose your starting level and enable some additional lives using the collection’s enhancements, flick through a strategy guide, choose between the American and Japanese versions (with minimal differences that I could see), view the game’s box art and manuals, or simply watch the game play itself.

The Summary:
Naturally, there’s a lot to like about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, specifically because it’s built on and is essentially a rejigged version of one of the most beloved TMNT arcade games ever made. However, while the gameplay and presentation owes pretty much everything to Turtles in Time, there’s just enough here to allow The Hyperstone Heist to stand on its own two feet. The new stages, environments, and the way it shuffles Turtles in Time’s stages around to fit its slightly changed narrative makes for a fun and action-packed gameplay experience that’s both similar and altogether very different. Most noticeably is the face that Turtles in Time was a short, sharp arcade style experience that never outstayed its welcome, but The Hyperstone Heist certainly drags on thanks to its long stages. While this is great for longevity, it equals not just unnecessary padding but also highlights just how repetitive the beat-‘em-up gameplay is and draws undue attention to the graphical hit the game has taken in the conversion to the Mega Drive. The same trappings that restricted its two arcade predecessors remain but are more glaring as there’s only one Pizza Power power-up and the inclusion of a lazy boss rush and lack of additional gameplay options and mechanics certainly makes it inferior to its arcade and Super Nintendo counterparts. However, it’s easily the best and most entertaining TMNT videogame on the Mega Drive; it’s not quite as good as Turtles in Time but it’s good enough to be a decent brawler for the system and, while the additional features in this version are somewhat lacking compared to other games in the Cowabunga Collection, it’s great to see this rare and expensive gem of a fighter readily available for a new generation of gamers.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you ever own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist on the Mega Drive? How do you think it compares to both versions of Turtles in Time? What did you think to the redesigned and additional stages? Were you disappointed by the artificially enhanced length of the game and the lack of new boss battles? Which of the characters was your go-to and what did you think to the additional features added to the Cowabunga Collection? Whatever you think, feel free to share your memories of The Hyperstone Heist down in the comments or on my social media.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Golden Axe (Mega Drive)

Released: 2 August 1991
Developer: SEGA
Also Available For: Arcade, GameCube, Game Gear, Master System, Mobile, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Sega CD, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X

A Brief Background:
Back in the mid-nineties, sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups and hack-and-slash adventures could often be found in arcades since they demanded little more from players than to hold right, mash buttons, and continually pump in their hard-earned pocket money. High fantasy was also a popular genre at the time; sword and sorcery settings were a recurring theme in movies, comic books, and action figures, so it made sense for there to be an influx of similarly themed videogames. Titles like Gauntlet (Atari Games, 1985), Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (Palace Software, 1987), and Dungeon Master (FTL Games, 1987) may have led the way but it was the two Conan movies (Milius 1982; Fleisher 1984) that most directly influenced lead designer and producer Makoto Uchida, who sought to create a beat-‘em-up that could stand out from ultra popular genre hit Double Dragon (Technōs Japan, 1987). Golden Axe was a hit in arcades and became incredibly influential to the beat-‘em-up genre; when it released on the Mega Drive, Golden Axe was one of the system’s premier titles and, while the home version didn’t quite match up to the arcade release, it still did a commendable job of pushing SEGA’s machine as an arcade-quality product. Although Golden Axe led to a number of sequels and spin-offs, and was ported to many other consoles over the years, the series has largely laid dormant; Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Secret Level, 2008) all but killed the franchise with its poor reception, and a 2.5D reboot/remake was ultimately scrapped before it could be properly developed, meaning fans have had to make do with the hack-and-slash games being represented in SEGA’s racing games.

First Impressions:
Golden Axe is set in the fictional land of Yuria, a high fantasy medieval world where the evil Death Adder has secured the mythical and titular Golden Axe and captured the King and his daughter, and threatens to destroy them all unless the people of Yuria accept him as their ruler. Players must pick between Ax Battler, Gilius Thunderhead, and Tyris Flare to set out on a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up quest to liberate Yuria and avenge their losses at the hands of Death Adder, with each of them having an added personal grudge against Death Adder and wielding a different weapon. No matter which character you pick, the default controls remain the same: A lets you perform a screen-clearing magic attack, B sees you attack with your weapon, and C lets you jump to avoid attacks and perform a jumping attack. Thankfully, these controls can be customised (I much prefer mapping attack to A and magic to C), and you can also rush ahead and perform a running attack and even limited combos that see you kicking, throwing, and beating down opponents, or press attack and jump together to perform a special twirling strike to quickly hit enemies that are behind you (or a rolling axe attack for Gilius). At first glance, it didn’t seem like there was much difference between which character you pick: Ax Battler was my pick and he seems slow and clunky compared to Gilius and Tyris, with Gilius being shorter and potentially having a smaller hit box as a result and Tyris seeming to have a faster dash attack. During and between stages, little Elves will wander about the screen; blue ones drop Magic Pots and green ones drop a chunk of meat to restore your life bar (though these only seem to appear in the interlude sections). Each character’s magic bar is a different length, and each one performs different elemental magic (Ax Battler’s are earth-based, Gilius’s are lightning, and Tyris’s are fire), with more powerful magic attacks performed when you have more Magic Pots. Unlike many beat-‘em-ups, Golden Axe lacks a time limit, which is a relief, and it also lacks a traditional difficulty system; you can pick between “Arcade” and “Beginner” mode, with the latter cutting the game short at Stage 3 for an easier challenge. In the “Options” menu, you can also increase your life bar, but you’ll be stuck with the default three lives and four credits to last you throughout the game.

You’ll need all the animals and magic you can get to endure the enemy’s tenacious attacks.

While there aren’t any power-ups to pick up, you can knock or throw enemies off the edge of some stages (and the enemy A.I. is dumb enough to walk right off, in some cases) and ride three different beasts that can really help turn the tide: there’s a weird little bird/lizard hybrid known as a “Chicken Leg” that performs a tail swipe and two dragons, a blue one that breathes fire and a red one that spits fireballs. You can jump and perform dash attacks on these creatures, but enemies can also ride them and, if you’re knocked off or don’t get on one fast enough, the beasts will run away. Gameplay is as simple as you could want; dialogue boxes and map screens between stages give you a quick overview of the game’s story, and you’ll occasionally see screaming non-payable characters running past as enemies attack, but your goal is to go from the left side of the screen to the right, taking out enemies and liberating towns and areas from Death Adder’s lieutenants. While enemies are sometimes dumb, they’re smart enough to flank you and can charge at you, perform jump attacks, and you’re basically screwed once they land their first hit; when caught between two or more, it’s frustratingly easy to get constantly beaten and knocked down, which can feel very cheap. The game is pretty slow by default, but runs fairly consistently; there’s only ever about four enemies on screen at once, which helps, and the only time I saw any kind of slowdown was when the game loaded the day to dusk transition that indicates a boss battle or gauntlet. Golden Axe has you travelling to eight different stages, each one sporting some fun and visually interesting details, such as a village being on the back of a giant turtle or eagle, with feathers blowing in the wind, enemies emerging from the ground or behind doors. The game is bolstered by an extremely catchy soundtrack that’s fittingly reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian (Milius, 1982) and everyone gets a little death scream when they’re defeated. Unfortunately, while the sprites and environments are very big and reasonably detailed, they’re also a bit blurry and indistinct and the game can be a bit of a struggle to play; characters plod along, barely able to avoid attacks, and land their blows with a lackadaisical enthusiasm. However, I liked the variety in the stages; you need to jump over broken bridges, hop up steps, and can take the high ground at times, and there’s even some interesting screen transitions between and at the end of stages.

My Progression:
I’ve played Golden Axe before; I used to have it on the Amiga, I’ve played it on various compilations, and I believe I’ve finished it before but always with conveniences like cracked cheats or replays and save states. I was thus surprised at how well I was able to progress through the game without any of these aides (apparently, there is a code for extra lives but I couldn’t get it to work). Although you’d never guess it from playing the game, there is a scoring system in place, but you only see it and receive a letter rank upon getting a game over, meaning there’s no way to accumulate more lives to see you through to the end. At the end of each stage, you’ll either face one or more larger boss enemies accompanied by some minions, or a short wave of enemies, and the bigger villains you face will then crop up as regular enemies in subsequent stages. The first boss you face is actually two, the hulking, hammer-wielded Bad Brothers, who stomp around the place swinging their giant warhammers, kicking at you, or charging at you. While their attacks can deal massive damage, it’s not too hard to stay out of reach and spam your running charge or jump attack, though you need to be careful as your running attacks won’t connect if enemies are a little too far to the edge of the screen.

While Death Adder Jr. bested me, there’s still The Duel and the game’s true ending to experience.

After clearing Death Adder’s minions from Turtle Village and crossing the bridge, you’ll face Lieutenant Bitter, a huge knight in silver armour who makes a nasty habit of slashing you out of the air or charging with his massive sword and bashing you with his shield. Tougher enemies will soon appear to cause you troubles, as indicated by their differing colour palettes, and this includes fighting variants of the Bad Brothers and Lt. Bitter prior to facing Death Adder Jr., who also doubles as the final boss of “Beginner” mode. When I faced him in “Arcade” mode, however, he was the death of me thanks to his massive axe swings and ability to fire a magical bolt across the ground. However, this isn’t necessarily where the game ends; you can play alongside a friend, for example, if player two presses start on the title screen (not the character select screen, as you might expect) but be careful as you can inflict damage on each other in this mode. You can also take on “The Duel”, which pits you against a number of the game’s enemies in a more traditional 2D fighter. Here, you get thirty seconds to defeat your opponent/s and they actually have a health bar (which would’ve been useful against bosses in the main game). Unfortunately, you can’t use your magic here and any damage you take carries over to the next round, though you are again given a class ranking for your efforts and you can also battle a friend in a one-on-one fight using this mode.

There’s no doubt that Golden Axe is a classic arcade and SEGA Mega Drive title; it’s a very visually appealing and enjoyable experience thanks to a pretty basic premise and control scheme, and it can be fun to charge at enemies, sword swinging, and toss them to their doom while humming one of the many catchy tunes. Unfortunately, it’s a very barebones and clunky experience; Tyris and Gilius were a bit faster and more responsive to play as, but the default speed is very slow, control can feel sluggish and lagging, and enemies are far too cheap at times. While the first few stages aren’t too difficult, it’s not long before the game’s arcade roots rear their head and see your health whittled down, your lives exhausted, and face you with that dreaded “Game Over” screen. Unlike many other beat-‘em-ups, especially ones on consoles, there’s hardly any opportunities to refill your health and no way to earn more lives or continues, meaning that the default difficult level is quite high compared to others in its genre. Had it included infinite continues to help balance these issues, this would’ve helped a lot; sure, you can probably finish “Beginner” mode without too much difficulty but that’s not the same as defeating the real Death Adder and his bigger, badder mentor, Death Bringer and getting the game’s true ending. Overall, it’s a fun arcade style beat-‘em-up, one that definitely set a standard for its genre and for the Mega Drive’s promise of offering arcade-style action, but there’s definitely better games of this type out there, even in the Golden Axe series, and some players might find the steep difficulty curve difficult to manage. Still, have you ever beaten Golden Axe? Do you think it’s worth me giving it another go to try and get to the end? Which of the characters or games in the franchise is your favourite? I’d love to hear your memories of Golden Axe, so leave them down below or drop a comment on my social media to share your thoughts on Golden Axe.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Chuck Rock (Mega Drive)

Released: 1991
Developer: Core Design
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Archimedes, Commodore 64, Game Gear, Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Game Boy, Mega-CD, CD32

A Brief Background:
Founded in 1988 by former employees of Gremlin Graphics, Core Design was a Derby-based videogame developer who produced a slew of Amiga titles back in the late-eighties and early-nineties in a variety of genres, from shooters to adventure games and, of course, platformers. Years before taking the gaming world by storm with the voluptuous Lara Croft, Core Design crafted their own slapstick platforming franchise in the form of Chuck Rock, which aimed to standout from the ever-growing number of platform titles by focusing on zany, cartoonish humour and graphics and taking place in prehistoric times. At the time, Chuck Rock was lauded for its colourful graphics, humour, and unique rock-throwing mechanics; while contemporary reviews aren’t quite as forgiving regarding the game’s pace and appeal, it did spawn a sequel and even a spin-off back in the day. For my part, I remember playing the Master System version and have always considered Chuck Rock a must-have game for my Mega Drive library so I was keen to see if it delivered under close scrutiny.

First Impressions:
So, as I mentioned, I first played Chuck Rock on the master System; it was one of the first home console games I ever played in that regard, and I’ve longed to add the 16-bit version to my gaming library simply because it’s one of those early Mega Drive titles that I consider synonymous with the system. The game is a pretty straightforward platformer; you’re placed into the Cro-Magnon role of the titular Chuck, an ape-like prehistoric man who can send enemies flying with a thrust of his considerable belly. You perform this “belly butt” by pressing B, though its range is pretty limited and some enemies move quite quickly or erratically, meaning you often take a hit when using it. Thankfully, Chuck can also jump with C; it’s not especially high, just like Chuck isn’t especially fast or nimble, but you can perform a mid-air kick by pressing B in the air. Oddly, the A button does absolutely nothing and there are not options to switch around the controls, which means you have to press down and B to pick up rocks; these can be flung as projectiles or held overhead to protect from enemy bombardments but are primarily used to help you reach higher ledges and areas or safely cross thorny obstacles and acid/lava pits. Chuck can also swim, in the loosest sense of the word; he kind of flails about when underwater, with his offense limited to his kick and the toss of a rock.

Bash enemies with your belly or squash them witth rocks in this colourful slapstick platformer.

The game is comprised of five levels, each with three to five “Zones” in each; this is an elaborate way of saying five levels with three to five screens as, when you reach the end of a Zone, you spawn in a new area and continue on to the right as normally. There’s a strong emphasis on platforming and exploration is often awarded with a cache of goodies to increase your score and bring you closer to the 100,000 points needed for an extra life or hearts to refill your health. Chuck can take quite a bit of damage, but there’s very little invincibility frames so it’s easy to get spam-hurt to death from hazards; he’ll also drown if you stay underwater too long, as helpfully indicated by his face on the heads-up display turning blue when submerged, though thankfully there’s no arbitrary time limit to complete the stages. While a variety of dinosaurs and cavemen will dog your progress, some will actually help you; you can use bat-like Pteranodons to cross gaps and you can cross acid and lava pits on the backs of Brachiosaurus’and water on whales. Your only real in-game options are to turn the music and sound effects off, but you should leave both on as Chuck’s battle cry of “Unga-Bunga!” is quite adorable and the game is bolstered by a catchy soundtrack that works well with the cartoonish visuals. Unfortunately, the game is pretty slow going; Chuck has a weight to him that makes avoiding enemies or precision platforming difficult to nigh-on frustrating, and your progress is restricted not just by a paltry three lives but also limited continues and no password or push-button codes to help you get further into the game.

My Progression:
My memories of the Master system version of the game are limited but I know I never finished it, and I don’t recall getting much further past the first boss. When I fired up Chuck Rock, I was ready for a fun, quirky little platformer and was sure that the thirty-odd years of experience would serve me well. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the game having limited continues; this is a trope of this era of gaming that never fails to irk me, and I don’t really understand the logic behind it, but it absolutely derailed my progress. Things started off pretty well; I made it through the jungle stage marvelling at the detailed backgrounds and the fun use of foreground elements and using rocks to protect myself from thorns, boulders, and toss at crocodiles to spring myself up to higher levels. As I progressed into the cave level, I was happy to see the pick-ups change with each stage, with meat featuring in the first stage, root vegetables in the second, and starfish and the like in the third. The cave also introduced extendable snake platforms, fireball-spitting lava pits, and invincible mud monsters; the water stage proved to be quite hectic, with the waters teeming with enemies to whittle away your health, though you can make use of frogs to ascend to the slightly safer coral platforms.

While bosses start out pretty easy, it’s not long before the hit boxes prove an issue.

As is to be expected of any platformer worth its salt, Chuck Rock includes a number of enemies to contend with; there’s mallet-swinging caveman, coconut-tossing enemies hiding in trees, and a range of dinosaur and prehistoric baddies, from little Triceratops’ who split into smaller enemies when attacked, to mud-spitting lizards, to jellyfish and swordfish. Each stage ends with a boss battle against a far bigger prehistoric enemy, though these often look more intimidating than they actually are. The first one you face is a massive Triceratops that mindlessly charges across a small, enclosed arena trying to trample you; however, you can safely stay out of range on the raised platform and it’s not especially difficult to dash into the area, grab the rock, jump to safety, and toss it at the charging dinosaur. The second stage ends with a fight against a far faster and more versatile sabretooth tiger; however, while this furry, sharp-toothed cat dashes around the arena at speed, I was easily able to accidentally trap it in a corner and beat it to death with Chuck’s belly without taking a single hit! Sadly, the same wasn’t true for the third stage boss, the Loch Ness Monster herself, Nessy (complete with diving headgear!) Nessy not only spits bubbles at you and is accompanied by some annoying little crab minions, but she’s so big that he hit box is massive, meaning it’s pretty hard to land a hit without taking one yourself and, as the bosses take quite a few hits to defeat, this was where I exhausted my lives, continues, and patience. It’s a shame, too, as there was only two more levels to go and a battle with a woolly mammoth and a Tyrannosaurus rex wearing boxing gloves to look forward to!

There’s a lot to like about Chuck Rock; the game looks really good, especially for an early Mega Drive title, has a fun, slapstick presentation, and the music and overall presentation are really great. I enjoy the gameplay mechanics or smacking enemies with your belly and tossing rocks as projectiles and boosts, but the execution is a little clunky. Chuck is so slow, his hit box so big, that he’s often at a disadvantage against his more nimble and versatile foes; he can take a few hits, but it’s far too easy to get repeatedly hit by attacks or hazards and lose a life since Chuck has little recovery time and there are no power-ups to help even the odds. The game is somewhat relenting in that it will respawn you at the start of the last stage you played, or in the boss room, when you die, but the limited continues really hurts the replay value and makes it unnecessarily more difficult than it needs to be. I do think it’s beatable, to be fair, though I get the sense that later levels would ramp up the frustration with more, far cheaper enemies and obstacles. I definitely think it’s a must-have game for your Mega Drive library, but it’s a bit disappointing that the Mega Drive version is apparently the only version of the game not to have any push-button codes to help make things easier. Regardless, I’d love to know if you’ve ever played, and beaten, Chuck Rock and your thoughts on the Neanderthal’s rock-tossing adventure so feel free to share these down in the comments or on my social media.

Game Corner [Turtle Tuesday]: TMNT: Tournament Fighters (Xbox Series X)

Ever since Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) first debuted, the franchise has enjoyed worldwide mainstream success thanks to action figures, cartoons, and videogames. Since I found some free time this December, I’ve been spotlighting four such videogames every Tuesday of this festival season.


Released: 30 August 2022
Originally Released: 4 September 1993 (Mega Drive / SNES) / February 1994 (NES)
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Original Developer: Konami
Also Available For: Mega Drive, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Xbox One, and Xbox Series S

The Background:
There was only one franchise that dominated childhoods back in the late-eighties and early-nineties and that was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles for Brits like me); beginning life as a violent pastiche of comic book tropes, the TMNT’s popularity exploded into the massively successful cartoon and action figures, live-action movie adaptations, and many videogames. Spearheaded by Konami, the TMNT were equally successful with their arcade beat-‘em-ups and their home console ports, but this was also a time when Capcom had changed the face of both arcades and the competitive fighting scene with the many iterations of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991), which was great success on home consoles and inspired a slew of knock-offs looking to cash in on Capcom’s success. The TMNT were amongst these with this one-on-one tournament fighter, which released in slightly different versions across three platforms at the time; the games took inspiration from the cartoons, movies, and the Archie spin-off comics but, while the 16-bit titles aped the combos and special moves of Street Fighter II, the 8-bit version had more in common with the likes of Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Konami, 1984) due to the NES’s limitations. Of the three, the SNES version was positively received despite being a Street Fighter II knock-off, the Mega Drive version was criticised for its sluggish controls and lacklustre presentation, while the NES version was seen as ambitious but unsurprisingly limited. All three games were lost to the midst of time, available only through emulators or extortionately expensive physical copies until they were included in this Cowabunga Collection alongside a host of other games and quality of life features.

The Plot:
The Turtles and their allies take part in a one-on-one tournament against some of their most recognisable and obscure enemies and friends. In the Mega Drive version, the heroes battle across the alien worlds of Dimension X to rescue Splinter from their archnemesis, Oroku Saki/The Shredder, and their evil clones; in the NES version, the Shredder challenges them to defeat his latest plot for world domination; and in the SNES version, the heroes battle on a fighting game show to prove their mettle and earn some cold, hard cash.

Regardless of which version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters you choose to play, the game is a standard 2D, one-on-one fighting game, with the 16-but versions of the game heavily borrowing their controls, combat, and presentation from Street Fighter II. Each game comes with a different roster of fighters, with ten fighters selectable in the SNES version, eleven available in the Mega Drive version, and seven in the NES version. Each version of the game allows you to customise the gameplay in some way, such as setting the difficulty level of the game (which directly impacts the ending and bosses you face), changing the time limit and amount of rounds to win (with the games defaulting to the standard best of three rounds), setting the speed of the game, setting the amount of credits you have to continue laying upon defeat, and eve setting the strength of your character and your opponent to establish any handicaps. These features don’t carry across to every version of the game, and some are slightly altered (the SNES version represents difficulty on a zero to seven scale, for example, while the NES uses a simple Easy, Normal, and Hard designation), but these options are generally consistent to those seen in Street Fighter II.

Each game sees you pummelling foes with a variety of moves and special attacks.

Combat, however, is a slightly different story and varies somewhat between each version; while the SNES version benefits from the additional buttons and mimics the directional input and button presses of Street Fighter II to pull off special moves, the Mega Drive and NES versions are limited by their control scheme layouts and the general presentation of the game. Indeed, the SNES version is more like Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Capcom, 1994), running much faster at its maximum speed and aping similar button combinations, while the Mega Drive version is far slower and reminds me more of the original, somewhat clunky first release of Street Fighter II. The NES version, as mentioned, is more like Yie Ar Kung-Fu and features little in the way of complex button combinations and special moves due to the limitation of the NES hardware. In the SNES version, you have two different types of punches and kicks; A and X launch a “normal” punch and kick while B and Y throw “fierce” variants. You can press up on the directional pad (D-pad) to jump and launch flying kicks and punches; when up close to an enemy, you’ll grab them and toss them in a unique throw move and you’ll use directional inputs and button presses (down, diagonal down-right, right, X, for example) to pull off each character’s special moves. When not playing in the game’s story mode, you’ll gradually fill up a gauge underneath your life bar; when this is full, you can use another simple button combination to unleash a devastating “Ultimate-Attack” that, unlike your regular attacks, actually damages the opponent through their block (though if they attack you during it you’ll fail and it’ll deplete if you don’t use it in time). Much of this is true of the Mega Drive version, but with some notable differences; there’s no special attack gauge, for starters, and no “fierce” attacks, you simply use X to punch and A to kick, and press Y to pull off a taunt (that seems to have no function). To pull off stronger attacks, you need to press the D-pad towards the opponent and then press X or A; you can still grab and throw your foe but special moves seem a lot harder to pull off (not least because the button inputs are missing from the strategy guide) and the game’s sluggish pace makes combat inconsistent and frustrating. It’s still more complex that the NES version, though; here, X punches and A kicks and that’s about it; you can use directional inputs and button presses to pull off special moves, but they’re extremely basic and the TMNT don’t even fight with their signature weapons in this game! Each game features a stun mechanic like in Street Fighter II, though; deal enough damage in a string of attacks and your opponent will be momentarily dazed and wide open for another combo or throw.

Although it lacks Nintendo’s bonus stages, the Mega Drive version has instant replays…

Some versions of the game do allow you to alter the button layout if you’re not happy with the default, and all three versions allow you to block by holding back on the D-pad (a mechanic I’ve always found awkward in fighting games; I much prefer a dedicated block button) but the SNES version also allows you to flip away from incoming attacks but only the NES version allows you to run towards your opponent by double tapping the D-pad. Each version also comes with a few gameplay options; you can take on the story mode (where you’re limited to playing as the TMNT), with cutscenes and a map screen (in the Mega Drive version) furthering the narrative between each bout, battle against a friend (or against the computer in the NES version), watch or practice the game in the SNES and Mega Drive versions, or take on a standard tournament mode. This also differs greatly between each version, with the SNES version taking the form of a broadcast and game show and featuring pre- and post-match dialogue and even tossing in a bonus stage where you rack up extra points and gold by smashing open safes in a bid to help break up the monotony. Although this is absent from the Mega Drive version, whose tournament simply goes from one fight to the next, every match is followed by an instant replay), bonus stages do appear in the NES version; here you have to smash through walls in the dojo for extra points, and all three will tally up certain criteria (health remaining, time left, whether you took damage or not) when you’re victorious to add to your score and this is the only version of the game to feature a high score table.

Each version offers a pretty tough challenge even on the easiest difficulty.

Each game comes with a natural, steady, and expected difficulty curve that I find is typical of most fighting games but synonymous with Street Fighter II; your ability to succeed will depend on how adept you are at pulling off the awkward special attacks and combos, especially as special attacks and throws deal way more damage than your regular attacks. The enemy AI, even on the easiest settings, is incredibly cheap in all three versions; your opponent will block almost constantly, is consistently able to attack and throw you through your attack animations, and they’re far more aggressive and skilled than I was, meaning I either had to fight hard and fast or be on the defensive. The difficulty and gameplay sliders can help with this, especially in the Mega Drive version, which allows you to reduce the rounds to win to one and set your speed and power to give you an advantage. Since the SNES version is the fastest of the three, combat can move at a breakneck speed, with rounds turning out of your favour in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be immediately at a disadvantage as you need to play on at least difficulty level three to even battle to true final boss and see the game’s best ending. This is even more demanding in the Mega Drive version, where you need to play on level eight to get the true ending; this version is so hampered by its plodding speed that it’s easy to get trapped in an unbreakable combo string and stunned into oblivion by your hyper-aggressive opponents. The NES version can be both paradoxically difficult and easy at the same time; there’s little benefit from picking one fighter over another as they’re all so limited but some, like Hothead, make for bigger targets while others, like Casey Jones, appear to be more agile. Either way, the limitations of the hardware make this a mundane back and forth affair that’s more about who can grab the power-up first rather than requiring any in-depth skill like the SNES version.

Graphics and Sound:  
Obviously, all three games look and sound very different. Of the three, the SNES version is the clear winner in terms of overall presentation; the game features more sound bites, big, bright, and well animated sprites and backgrounds, and the music is clearer and has more kick to it. The emphasis on story and cutscenes means there’s far more opportunities for big, partially animated sprite art here, with April O’Neil reporting on and interviewing characters before and after bouts and every fight in story mode being proceeded by dialogue between the fighters and the TMNT travelling to each location via their signature blimp. The characters in this version are clearly modelled more like the cartoon, with a hint of the live-action influence here and there, and they’re all large and full of attack and reaction frames. Sadly, the same isn’t true of the Mega Drive version; even the title screen and character select screen aren’t as impressive, though the game does include more palette swaps and some different fighters compared to its SNES counterpart. Sprites are smaller, however, duller, and seem to be missing some animation frames; everyone seems far meaner and more surly, as well, making this a very gritty and moody experience that seems to owe more to the original Mirage Comics, but it’s pretty obvious even to a die-hard SEGA fan like me which version has the better overall presentation. Naturally, the NES version is the most inferior in terms of graphics, character, and stage selection; however, while the TMNT don’t sport their signature weapons, they do have their own unique green palettes to separate them and the character designs seem to be drawing more from the first live-action movie than anything else. You won’t find much in the way of animation and variety here but it’s pretty ambitious, really; sprites have some decent details and special attacks, but the game suffers from black bars eating up a lot of the player’s screen.

Presentation varies between the three, with the SNES being the clear superior.

Naturally, the stages you’ll fight in follow very much the same format; the SNES version features a variety of large and detailed environments set largely on Earth, with some even featuring destructible elements to smash your opponents into like in Street Fighter II. Also like in that game, you’ll see background characters and elements and characters cheering and watching the fight, including TMNT staples like Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman in his fly form, and various Foot Soldiers. There’s always something going on in the SNES version, whether it’s a giant octopus, a band performing on stage, or a news report recording the action, and this version also includes better, more detailed and varied story cutscenes and even character bios in its attract mode. Comparatively, the Mega Drive version is an immediate disappointment; cutscenes are smaller and less interesting and the backgrounds, while surreal and often disturbing, are far more muted and feature almost no animation and absolutely no interactable elements. As this version of the game features a planet-hopping narrative, there are some bizarre stages to choose from, from an ice world complete with a submarine to an ocean planet with a sinking ship in the background, to the bleakness of the cosmic abyss, but it’s all so dull and lifeless even when there’s giant cycloptic magma creatures and dinosaurs looming in the background. Again, the NES version is hampered by its hardware and includes only four stages: the sewers, a subway station, the galley of a pirate ship, and the rooftops of New York City. This latter is the most impressive stage, showing the city and the Statue of Liberty at night and in all its 8-bit glory, and is preceded by a rare cutscene to set the stage for the final battle against the Shredder.

Enemies and Bosses:
As with all fighting games, every available character will eventually be your enemy at some point; button codes and the Cowabunga Collection’s enhancements allow you to play as the boss characters in the 16-bit versions of the game and the Mega Drive version even includes and practise mode to help you get to grips with your favourite character. Essentially, however, there’s minimal benefit to picking a certain character in each version of the game; all of them sport special moves that can match each other, with every character sporting projectiles, grabs, and powerful rushing or slamming attacks to deal heavy damage. However, there are some notable exceptions; as mentioned, Hothead is a unique character in the NES version, sporting a chunkier sprite and breathing fire, meaning his hit box is a little larger and the character is a little slower. In the Mega Drive version, Casey Jones can set bombs as traps, while characters like Chrome Dome and Krang can cover distances from a standstill with their extending arms and legs. Even on the easiest setting, the SNES version puts up quite a fight; I struggled against War in the first battle simply because of his ridiculous rolling throw and large swiping claws, and the Shredder proved quite formidable here thanks to his dashing uppercut, his flurry of punches, and his cheap tactics of spamming low kicks. The Rat King also proved a unique foe in this version as he relied more on wrestling moves, snatching you out of the air and grabbing you midway through your attacks to slam you to the ground, and you’ll really get a sense of how good or bad you are when you face off against your character in a mirror match.

You’ll need to challenge the game’s highest difficulties to achieve the best endings.

These are spiced up a bit in the Mega Drive version through the inclusion of evil clones, who sport a purple palette swap and constantly dog your progress throughout the game. The Mega Drive version also includes a unique character, Sisyphus, an alien beetle who spits a blue projectile at you and unleashes a rapid-fire horn attack. He’s not the only unique character, however; Ray Fillet, April O’Neil, and a Triceraton are also included in this version of the game, while Wingnut, Aska, and Armaggon round out the SNES roster, with each one bringing their own strengths and weaknesses. April was a surprisingly decent character to use as she has a very cheap crouching spam attack that’s great four countering the game’s aggressive enemies, but you can never count out the titular turtles, who can send ground sparks, spinning cyclones, and twirling kicks your way at any moment even in the NES version. Krang only appears as a boss in the Mega Drive version of the game; naturally, you battle him in the Technodrome as the penultimate boss and he’s able to extended his arms, slide at you with a kick, and fire missiles high and low from his robot body but his sprite just isn’t large or intimidating enough to evoke a sense of danger. Both 16-bit versions include the same final boss, Karai, who can only be fought on higher difficulty settings; on the SNES, you fight her on top of a speeding train, whereas you battle her in a traditional dojo on the Mega Drive. In both, she’s easily the most formidable fighter, which is accentuated on the SNES thanks to her larger sprite; she’s capable of crossing the screen with a devastating cartwheel kick, tossing out projectiles, diving from high above with flying kicks, and is overall a pretty tough customer thanks to her martial arts kicks and overly aggressive AI. Thanks to its limited roster, the Shredder is your final foe in the NES version of the game; fought on a rooftop like in the movie and original comic, Shredder again has a dashing uppercut, a flaming flurry of punches, and can send a ground shot your way but goes down just as easily as every other enemy in this version of the game.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As Tournament Fighters is styled heavily after Street Fighter II, for the most part, there aren’t any in-game power-ups for you to utilise. The SNES version includes that special gauge outside of the story mode, which is good for a dramatic finish, but this is completely absent from the Mega Drive version. The NES version, however, does feature a power-up; at some point in every battle, Splinter will drop a red ball into the arena, which you can collect by pressing down and X. While the exact button inputs aren’t explained, and it seems incredibly temperamental, you can then launch this ball at your enemy to deal massive (and, usually, decisive) damage and this will be your key to victory in almost every bout. Be warned, though, as your foe is also able to pick up the ball and you’ll lose it if you take too much damage.

Additional Features:
The additional features on offer differ somewhat between each version of Tournament Fighters but there is some overlap; each version includes a story and a tournament mode and allows players to go head-to-head, selecting their character, stage, and handicap modifiers as you’d expect from a one-on-one fighter. Each game includes a variety of endings depending on which character you play as and the difficulty you set the game to, encouraging multiple playthroughs if you can stand to tackle this game again. Of course, the Cowabunga Collection adds even more features to these games; you’ll get a generous 100G Achievement for completing each game, however, you need to beat each one of the higher/highest difficulty level and battle Karai for this to pop. You can also use the Left Bumper to rewind the gameplay and bring up save states and display options with the Right Bumper, which also allows you to look through the strategy guide for tips and move inputs, which is much appreciated. In addition to viewing each game’s box art and manuals, exploring their soundtracks, and switching between the American and Japanese versions, you can enhance each game in various ways: you can choose to play as the 16-bit bosses, access additional stages, increase the game’s speed, and enable extra lives, remove sprite and slowdown from the NES version and allow for Hothead versus Hothead fights if you wish.

The Summary:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters is a tough one for me. I’m really not the best at Street Fighter II and similar knock-off fighters; the button inputs and aggressive opponents always throw me off and playing these games is often more frustrating than fun. The TMNT aesthetic certainly suits the format; all of the character have unique attacks and represent both the cartoons, comics, toys, and movies from the time and anyone who’s ever played Street Fighter II, especially on home consoles, will be immediately familiar with the 16-but versions of the game. For me, the SNES version is the clear winner; not only does it look and sound the best of the three, it plays a lot better and there are far better opportunities for combos and special attacks. The story and tournament modes are also presented in a much more visually impressive way, the stages are livelier and more interesting, and the game is bolstered by the faster combat and fluid gameplay. It pains me to say it being a big SEGA fan, but the Mega Drive version just can’t compete with its SNES counterpart; everything’s smaller, grimier, and so slow and clunky. I actually prefer some of the roster here, having read a lot of the TMNT’s Archie Comics as a kid, but the gameplay and presentation lets these additions down considerably. Naturally, the NES version is the inferior of the three but, even so, it does a decent job with the limitations of its hardware. One-on-one fighters are never a good option on inferior hardware and the TMNT definitely benefitted more from their 8-bit sidescrolling adventures and brawlers, but there’s some ambitious elements here that make it an interesting option, at least, though it’s hard to believe anyone choosing to downgrade or settle for the NES version of the far superior SNES version. Overall, if you’re a fan of one-on-one fighters and Street Fighter II, you could do a lot worse than to give the SNES version of Tournament Fighters a whirl; the other two are worth a quick playthrough for a boost to your gamer score but I can’t see myself picking the Mega Drive or NES version on future playthroughs since the SNES version just leaves both in the dust with its superior options, gameplay, combat, and presentation.

Mega Drive Rating:

NES Rating:

SNES Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Could Be Better


Pretty Good

What did you think to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters? Which of the three did you own back in the day, or is your favourite to play in this collection? How do you think it compares to other one-on-one fighters, especially Street Fighter II? Which character was your favourite to play as in each version? Were you disappointed by the dip in graphical quality in the Mega Drive version? What did you think to the NES version and how it utilised the system’s limitations? Would you like to see another one-on-one tournament fighter from the TMNT? What did you think to the additional features added to the Cowabunga Collection? Whatever your thoughts on Tournament Fighters, go ahead and share them in the comments below or leave a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Urban Strike: The Sequel to Jungle Strike (Mega Drive)

Released: 4 March 1994
Developer: Granite Bay Software
Also Available For: Game Gear, Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Brief Background:
After the conclusion of the the Gulf War, Mike Posehn took the air rescue mechanics of Choplifter (Dan Gorlin, 1982) and expanded upon them to create Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, a nonlinear, mission-based military title that placed players in a sandbox environment and did away with typical videogame mechanics like bosses and power-ups. When Desert Strike proved successful, producer Scott Berfield, game director John Manley, and associate producer Tony Barnes created a sequel that built upon the core mechanics of the original with new locations and vehicles. Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike (High Score Productions/Granite Bay Software, 1993) was also was well received, despite criticisms of its difficulty curve, and a third entry was produced for the following year. Moving away from real-world conflicts and taking a slightly more futuristic slant, Urban Strike continued to refine the gameplay mechanics of the series while also mixing things up with sections that took place on foot, however many reviews reportedly found that the gameplay wasn’t innovative or different enough to be as interesting or engaging as it once was. Contemporary reviews echo this sentiment, criticising the game’s difficulty though none of this kept the series from continuing on for a couple more entries.

First Impressions:
Like the first two games, Urban Strike is a top-down, isometric shooter, now set in the far-flung future of 2001 and primarily playing in control of a Mohican helicopter to undertake some familiar missions across a variety of maps now exclusively based in the United States of America. As ever, you can customise your control scheme to your liking – the default settings see A fire your Hellfire missiles, B fire your Hydra Rockets, and C fire your chain gun – but the game now supports the Mega Drive’s six-button controller, which is super useful for the new drop feature that lets you dispose of cargo or smart bombs at the touch of a button. You can again choose to control your helicopter either with or without momentum to increase or decrease the realism of the gameplay, and select from various co-pilots, with some being more accurate or trigger happy and some missing in action and in need of rescue. So far, it’s all very familiar but, like Jungle Strike, you now have the option of taking the controls of two other vehicles: the much larger Blackhawk helicopter (which lakes Hellfire missiles and seems a bit slower but can hold twenty passengers rather than the usual six, making it perfect for the game’s many rescue missions) and the Ground Assault Vehicle (GAV), a heavily armoured transport that might be slow as all Hell but it can take a beating and deliver massive damage. While the game technically only has five campaigns, this number is increased by the newest gameplay feature, which sees you abandoning your vehicle and exploring labyrinthine facilities on foot!

The developers attempted to spice things up with new vehicles and even some on-foot sections.

Unfortunately, the grid-like control pattern makes these sections rather awkward; you’re also limited to your MX9 machine gun and have far less armour since your only protection is a flack vest, and the zoomed in isometric perspective causes the game’s otherwise impressive presentation to suffer in these rare sections. Luckily, opportunities to switch to other vehicles are much more frequent than in Jungle Strike, though I can’t say I was too impressed by the new vehicles on offer here. Similarly, your missions in each campaign are painfully similar to what’s come before; you start off in Hawaii (with three lives by default and again without any in-game music accompanying the action) and are tasked with destroying radar sites and stealth ships, rescuing Green Berets, and blowing up a bridge. Objectives also include transporting telescope mirrors to a barge, which means your winch is taken up carrying the object; if you press a button to drop your cargo, it’ll be lost, so I’m not really sure why this function was included (if you could drop it, pick up an ally, and then grab the object again it would make much more sense). The first map is pretty open and linear, with an abundance of fuel, armour, and ammo crates to be found; those you rescue will also repair some of your armour when you drop them off, which is helpful, though it’s still advised that you plan on optimal route to avoid running out of ammo or blowing up from lack of fuel. If you’re down in this manner, you’ll respawn with twenty-five units of fuel and full armour but you’ll get full fuel if you’re destroyed be enemy fire (though your weapons can only be replenished by ammo crates, so be careful not to accidentally destroy them!)

Graphically, the game impresses, but it’s gameplay has become quite repetitive by now.

From the pause menu, you can again see a pretty useful map of the area and cycle between mission objectives, notable highlights, and review your mission and current status. If you destroy the wrong targets or fail to rescue or secure others in time, you’ll be forced to return to base to restart from the beginning, so there’s again a fair amount of trial and error required to properly progress. Campaigns also include some hidden side missions, such as rescuing innocents from shark attacks and such, which will net you bonus points. While the first campaign is pretty simple stuff even without the helpful ten lives cheat code, campaign two takes its queue from the final level of Desert Strike and has you securing heavily-defended oil rigs, rescuing survivors from a sinking cruise ship (you’ll definitely need the Blackhawk for that one!), and securing a friendly Russian submarine. It’s a slightly tougher mission, made all the more challenging by the fact that some of your missions won’t appear on the game map until you complete earlier ones; you can’t swing by the cruise ship or fend off the gunboats by the submarine, for example, until you’ve secured the drilling platforms. Things get a bit tougher when you head inside an aircraft hanger and must navigate the maze, taking out turret columns and destroying fighter jets before activating a beacon. You’re then given 120 seconds to escape, but there’s no onscreen countdown, which is super annoying, and additional enemies pop up to obstruct you as you race for the exit ladder.

My Progression:
I believe this is my first time playing Urban Strike, but I went into it with a pretty fair idea of what to expect based on the last two games. Sadly, while the title screen is much improved and the explosion effects look a lot better this time around, things haven’t really progressed all that much; the graphics still have a fun, pseudo-3D feel but the cutscenes contain less animations than before and it feels like a bit of a step back from Jungle Strike in terms of variety and accessibility. Once again, there are no real bosses to speak of but you’ll counter more formidable and tougher enemy ships and helicopters as you progress; later missions have you commandeering a GAV to take out the heavily-armed militia or targeting bad guy Malone’s henchman as they speed away in cars, but you’ll face a similar assortment of turrets, jeeps, soldiers, and tank-like enemies as in the previous games.

Despite what the reviews said, I found to be just as tough as the first game!

While the on-foot sections are a bit ugly, the environments continue to be a vast improvement over Desert Strike, overall; the desert still crops up, naturally, but Urban Strike boasts cities, jungles, and even a pretty fun recreation of Las Vegas. Rendered in the black of night, the city is lit up by gunfire and explosions as much as the garish neon signs and let down only by the tedious objective of flying all over, avoiding enemy fire, to destroy a whole bunch of radar sites. After that, you’ll be struggling with your ammo as you’re forced to clear the Las Vegas Strip of enemies, and this mission proved to be too much for me in the end. But, truthfully, I’d tapped out in the previous mission; after destroying a bunch of guard towers and rescuing a bunch of prisoners of war in Mexico, the game required me to hack into the Gav to take control of one but, no matter what I tried, I kept picking the wrong fuse and was forced to abandon the mission. As before, the game is password-based; you get passwords to jump ahead to later campaigns, which is how I played the Las Vegas campaign, but you can’t input the ten lives code and then jump to a later level, and in-game extra lives are pretty scarce, so the difficulty curve was noticeably more like Desert Strike than Jungle Strike for me. It’s interesting for me, then, to learn that many reviews thought Urban Strike the easiest of the series so far; the missions are a little more tedious, often requiring you to rescue multiple targets, fend off waves of soldiers, or carry multiple objects from one point of the map to the other, which can be a drain on your resources. As ever, it’s thus important to plan your route and conserve your better weapons for when needed, but the shift towards more monotonous missions and the unsightly and awkward on-foot missions seems to have made the admittedly repetitive gameplay loop less exciting rather than injecting some variety to the formula.

So, again, I wasn’t quite able to finish Urban Strike; I did a lot better than with Desert Strike but I found the game to be a bit tougher than Jungle Strike, though I was surprised that I was even able to clear the second game. Although it’s just more of the same, with little in the way of gameplay or graphical progress or innovation, Urban Strike is still a really good game; the game is probably the smoothest of the three classics and the maps are all very distinct and much more interesting than being stuck in the desert but feel less visually interesting than in Jungle Strike. The two new vehicles area bit easier to control than those in the second game, but the Blackhawk is a bit too similar to the Mohican to really stand out and I really didn’t enjoy the on-foot sections, which were clunky and relied too much on maxes. Combat and gameplay are largely as exciting as ever, with lots to blow up and discover in each campaign; enemy fire can still destroy buildings and such, which is great, and it can be fun planning an optimal route to complete missions faster but, overall, this was just more of the same with little to really make it stand out from or surpass Jungle Strike.Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Urban Strike down in the comments or on my social media so please feel free to share your memories and opinions and check back in next Saturday for my thoughts on the fourth game in the franchise.

Game Corner: Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike (Mega Drive)

Released: 16 December 1993
Developer: High Score Productions
Also Available For: Amiga, MS-DOS, Game Gear, Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), PlayStation Portable

The Background:
Following the end of the the Gulf War, Mike Posehn expanded upon the air rescue mechanics of Choplifter (Dan Gorlin, 1982) to create Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, a nonlinear, mission-based military title that took place in a sandbox environment and eschewed typical videogame mechanics like bosses and power-ups. Following that game’s success, producer Scott Berfield, game director John Manley, and associate producer Tony Barnes were tasked with creating the sequel, which retained the core mechanics of its predecessor alongside new locations and vehicles. The developers struggled to decode the graphics files and ensure that each version of the game ran smoothly, which was made much simpler thanks to Stuart Johnson’s map editor. Like its predecessor, Jungle Strike was well received upon release; the game has been praised for improving upon almost every aspect of the original, though the difficulty curve was again noted as a concern. Regardless, Jungle Strike his generally regarded as one of the top Mega Drive games of all time and was followed by a third entry on the same system in 1994 and two more titles across the next generation of home consoles.

The Plot:
General Kilbaba is dead but his son (…also named Kilbaba…) swears revenge against the United States of America for interfering in his father’s dreams of world domination. He teams up with notorious drug lord Carlos Ortega and establishes himself in South America, necessitating military intervention using a variety of well-armed vehicles.

Just like the first game, Jungle Strike is an isometric action shooter in which you’re placed at the controls of a specialised Comanche helicopter and tasked with completing a variety of mission objectives, now across nine campaigns and taking place in a number of locations and maps rather than just out in the desert. Also as before, your Comanche has three types of weapons: a chain gun, rapid-fire Hydra missiles, and slow but powerful Hellfire missiles. You can change up the default buttons for these weapons and I absolutely recommend that you do since you don’t want to waste your more powerful rockets and, like last time, ammo and other resources are quite limited. You can choose between controlling “With Momentum” for a more realistic experience or “No Momentum” to make stopping easier, and can again pick between a number of different co-pilots, each with different strengths (some are better with the winch, which automatically picks up resources and people, while others are better shots), though the very best co-pilot is listed as missing in action (as are others) and needs to be rescued in a later mission. You also begin from the first campaign and are awarded a ridiculously long password after clearing each one so you can skip ahead. So far, so familiar.

In addition to the Comanche, there are new vehicles to control here, each with their own pros and cons.

Where the game differs, however, is not just in the variety of its locations but also in the new vehicles available to you; three additional vehicles can be found in three specific missions, with each controlling a little differently and offering new ways to traverse the maps and engage with the enemy. The first new vehicle is a hovercraft that can drop mines in the water and help you sink boats and submarines; it’s pretty decent to control, though the isometric angle can make it tricky to manoeuvre under bridges. Campaign five has you hop on a motorcycle, which is the only way of destroying the armoured trucks rolling around the map; small and spritely, the motorcycle can be a little difficult to control and isn’t really built for combat and feels a bit clunky. Finally, on the eighth campaign, you’ll uncover and control a stealth bomber; this thing is constantly moving, and your up and down inputs will cause it to descend and ascend, respectively. It has unlimited fuel and ammo, which is great for laying waste to targets, but it’s incredibly fragile, very difficult to manoeuvre (especially in tight corners), and you’re forced to both respawn at the landing strip where you first found it when downed and to successfully land it once your missions are complete. You get three lives to complete each campaign and, when they’re all lost, you have to start all over again with no checkpoints (though you can, very rarely find extra lives in the campaigns now). Pausing the game allows you to view a map of your current location and cycle through different points of interest, as well as review your mission objectives and status, which is super handy for when you want to plot an optimal route to pick up some supplies and take out some targets on the way to a certain objective. Your vehicle’s fuel, armour, and ammo are also all displayed here; you start with 100 units of fuel and 1000 units of armour, and will have your fuel replenished to 25 or 100 depending on how you’re shot down (if you’re shot down because of damaged, you won’t get full fuel, basically) but your ammo is extremely finite and can only be restored using ammo crates.

Many missions carry over from the first game and have you destroying or picking up targets.

You can also only carry six passengers at a time, so be sure to keep an eye on your current load and drop some off at a landing zone if need be, however it should be noted that you don’t need to rescue every prisoner of war (P.O.W.) or innocent you come across, nor do you have to engage with every enemy you see, either. In fact, since supplies can be so hard to come by, it’s actually advisable that you don’t waste resources destroying every enemy; indeed, I found a useful tactic was to position myself in such a way that enemies either couldn’t see and shoot at me or that caused their projectiles to attack and destroy buildings or other targets. As before, it’s generally advised to you complete missions in order and you usually have to do this as some campaigns only tell you what your other missions are once you’ve completed the ones available to you. In this regard, Jungle Strike is, like its predecessor, made to encourage multiple playthroughs; once you know where targets are and what your missions are, you can plan an optimal route, destroying targets like underground bunkers, power plants, and terrorist training grounds, rescuing agents, P.O.W. or capturing bad guys, and eliminating moving targets that are either difficult to trace, only show up with the right intel, or don’t show up at all. More than once, you’ll be tasked with protecting a Presidential escort (a limo in the first campaign and Air Force One in the last) from reprisals, which is quite fun; you’ll also need to find and sink nuclear submarines and stop the bad guys getting away with plutonium, destroy power transformer towers and uncover hidden nuclear chambers in the snowy wastes of campaign six, and rain fire on drug plantations and rocky outgrowths to uncover Tomahawk missiles. While many of Jungle Strike’s mission objectives aren’t much different to what we saw in Desert Strike, the variety is appreciated; sometimes you need to destroy up to thirteen different targets, often strewn all over the map, while others you don’t need to destroy or rescue everything and everyone, though you have to be careful to not be too trigger-happy and destroy vital targets as this’ll cause a complete mission failure. On the plus side, though, there’s rarely any timed tasks; you need to destroy four eighteen-wheelers carrying nuclear missions in the last campaign, and first capture and then eliminate the two antagonists before they can escape, but these come near the end of the game for an added challenge rather than being scattered throughout other campaigns.

Graphics and Sound:  
Graphically, not too much has changed or improved since Desert Strike beyond the title screen, which now uses a polygonal sprite for the Comanche, but the overall presentation of the game is vastly improved. Sprites, models, and environments are all very similar, with the same sound effects and use of text to convey mission completion, failure, the game’s story, and when you’re in a danger zone or running low on fuel or armour, but the maps are so much better this time around. Before, you just flew around the same area with a slight palette swap and some different structures here and there, with the most variety appearing in the final mission, but you instantly see how much more varied Jungle Strike is from the very first campaign, which sees you flying around an ambitious isometric recreation of Washington, D.C., complete with fully destructible White House and various other monuments (which also need protecting from enemy forces).

The graphics are much of the same, but overhauled and bolstered by a new vehicles and environments.

This carries through to the game’s other locations as well, which include an expanse of water with tiny islands dotted about and a large bridge running across it, and a couple of trips to the titular jungle (one at night, with low visibility, where explosions and gunfire light up the environment and two others in the day time, where rocky mountainsides, pyramid-like structures, and stone columns are plentiful). You’ll also fly through the frozen Soviet wastes and revisit the desert, both of which add to the visual variety of the game, and the pause menu and user interface have both been given a complete overhaul. Sadly, there’s still no in-game music, which can really make gameplay very monotonous, and it’s a shame as the title screen and story cutscenes are punctuated by some rocking tunes. These cutscenes are again made up of larger sprites and artwork, with some notable animation frames, but they do the job, as does the dialogue text; it’s fun seeing the Mad Man’s tanker truck explode in a blazing inferno and seeing your Comanche come in for a landing or launch a missile strike or your pilot character interrogate enemy agents helps to break up the gameplay a bit. It’s the 2.5D sprite work that steals the show, though; while the isometric perspective can make it a little difficult judge your precision and you can bonce off of buildings and rocks if you’re not careful, there’s a certain appeal to it and I always get a sense of satisfaction in seeing my missiles leave another enemy stronghold a flaming mess.

Enemies and Bosses:
While many of the enemy troops are functionally similar to the ones seen in Desert Strike, there’s been a few changes here; enemy soldiers still fire their guns and rockets at you, often masked by the foliage and environment, but you’ll also find seemingly innocuous civilian vehicles have been repurpose to either ferry bombs or fire at you and other targets. Guard towers, Gatling guns, and anti-aircraft placements are commonplace enemy targets, as are the smaller tanks and armour vehicles which patrol near to your mission objectives and fire bullets and missiles at you. You’ll also have to deal with a few more instances of gun boats and enemy helicopters, with these latter being able to be destroyed before they can take off, and stationary missile launchers which don’t pose a threat to you but are often heavily guarded. Thankfully, as mentioned, you can often strafe or position yourself in a way to avoid being damaged or have the enemy blast open jails and enemy stronghold son your behalf but be careful: destroyed buildings and targets are often as likely to hide an enemy unit as they are your object or some much-needed ammo. One of your more persistent and formidable enemies will be the Sheridan tanks and slow-moving mobile cannons, which can bring you down in just a few shots, and your own trigger finger; be sure to not just blast away at your targets in case you accidentally gun down someone you’re supposed to capture or destroy a nuclear warhead you’re meant to retrieve.

In place of traditional bosses, you’ll need to shoot down and destroy heavily armoured key targets.

As before, the game doesn’t really include any traditional boss battles, but there are a few instances that could be said to count for them. In the second campaign, for example, you need to use your hovercraft’s mines and rockets to destroy some heavily armoured nuclear submarines (though actually placing said mine, and avoiding their rockets, is easier said than done, especially as their sprite tends to vanish if you’re too far away). In campaign five, you need to flush out five armoured cars that can only be destroyed with the motorcycle’s mines, and you’ll also be tasked with defending your co-pilot as he sets explosives in the war room in this campaign but, as no heavy artillery appears, it’s not so difficult. In campaign eight, you need to blow up these stone pyramids and destroy the nuclear warheads, detonators, and scientists within, which can be tricky as they’re well-guarded and the stealth bomber is clumsy to move around without crashing, but you’ll also need to blow a hole in the Drug Lord’s fortified bunker, then land so your co-pilot can drive a drunk into it for you to explode, and then shoot down his escape chopper and pick him up for due processing. The most annoying campaign is the ninth and final one, which has you frantically flying all over Washington for thirteen enemy vehicles and then destroying a bus and a fuel tanker with the Drug Lord and Mad Man on, respectively, before safeguarding the White House once more. It’s not exactly difficult to take these out, as long as you’re smart about your ammo and supplies, but actually locating most of these targets is nigh-on impossible as they don’t appear on the map.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As in the first game, you can fly over ammo crates, fuel tanks, and armour to restore each to full capacity. On many of the maps this time around, though, these resources are hidden behind pyramids, buildings, vehicles, and other destructible targets, meaning they don’t always appear on your map screen and you often have to waste ammo to resupply something else. Occasionally, you’ll be able to pick up an extra life and a quick winch, which speeds up your winch motion, and it’s beneficial to try and rescue the M.I.A. co-pilots, such as Wild Bill, as it can dramatically increase your accuracy, fire rate, and winch speed.

Additional Features:
There’s not really much on offer here; Jungle Strike’s additional content is all contained within the gameplay, and there are no other difficulty settings, multiplayer options, or game modifiers to speak of. You can find passwords online, however, that let you not only skip to later campaigns but also award you twenty-three lives (more than enough to finish every campaign in the game since the count resets to twenty-three at the start of each new campaign). Otherwise, your main objective for replaying the game (beyond it being fun) is to try and accumulate a higher score; there isn’t a scoreboard, however, so you’ll just have to note these down yourself.

The Summary:
I played both Desert Strike and Jungle Strike quite a bit as a kid, either on the Amiga or after borrowing them from friends. Although I struggled with Desert Strike and could barely finish the first campaign in that game, Jungle Strike was much easier and more forgiving for me to play through; everything that was so appealing in the first game is still here, but the added variety in the campaign maps, enemy units, and available vehicles makes it vastly superior in every way. While I was disappointed that the other vehicles weren’t available in my campaigns (and they probably could’ve been), they made those campaigns even more memorable, and I can understand their limited usage since their controls and weapons were a bit clunky and there were plenty of drawbacks to even the most powerful jets. Mission objectives are immediately familiar to anyone who’s played the last game, but they’re pretty fun to tackle, with only a handful being tedious and forcing you to search all over or destroy multiple targets. Managing your fuel and ammo is key to succeeding at Jungle Strike, which means you’ll either need a guide to plan an optimal route or use a bit of trial and error to figure out the best ways to go to take out a few targets, pick up some resources, and drop off any passengers. While it’s still disappointing that there’s no in-game music, the sheer visual variety on offer more than makes up for it; just getting away from the dreary desert makes Jungle Strike instantly better than the original and I really enjoyed all the destructible objects, recognisable landmarks, and little touches like cows and desert springs being scattered across the map. Overall, I would say I much preferred Jungle Strike as it was far more accessible and rewarding to play since I was actually complete and experience the entire game this time around, so I would absolutely recommend this one over the original for all the improvements it makes to the formula.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you enjoy Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike? How do you think it compares to the first game, and it successors? Which of the new vehicles was your favourite? Did you like that the game featured more diverse environments? Which of the campaigns and missions was your favourite, or the hardest for you to complete? Whatever your thoughts on Jungle Strike, sign up to share them below or comment on my social media and check in next Saturday for my thoughts on the third game in the series.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (Mega Drive)

Released: March 1992
Developer: Electronic Arts
Also Available For: Amiga, MS-DOS, Mac OS, Master System, Lynx, Game Gear, Game Boy, SEGA Mega Drive Mini II, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), PlayStation Portable

A Brief Background:
By 15 March 1991, the Gulf War came to an end; after about six months of conflict and thousands left dead, the atrocities of the war would be felt for years to come and, naturally, this meant that Desert Strike caused some controversy when it was released due to the Gulf War being fresh in people’s minds. Desert Strike was spearheaded by Mike Posehn, who built off the air rescue mechanics of Choplifter (Dan Gorlin, 1982) by incorporating nonlinear, mission-based gameplay in a sandbox environment that eschewed typical videogame mechanics like bosses and power-ups. Inspired by Matchbox toys, Posehn designed the 3D models to resemble toys and programmed the game in such a way that players would be forced to restart if they went off-mission. Several months were spent perfecting the game’s physics and controls, all of which served it well upon release and Desert Strike has been highly praised as one of the Mega Drive’s top titles; reviews praised the graphics, the mission variety, and the strategy involved in tackling missions, though the difficulty curve and its more frustrating moments proved to be a cause of contention. Though many may have forgotten the series in recent years, Desert Strike kicked off a slew of similarlythemed sequels that built and improved upon the original’s formula; I used to play the Amiga version all the time back in the day and knew that the series was a must-buy once I really started collecting for the Mega Drive.

First Impressions:
Desert Strike is a top-down, isometric shooter in which players take the controls of an Apache helicopter and undertake a number of missions in a sandbox-like map in the middle of the Gulf Desert. At the start of the game, you can pick from a variety of control and gameplay options: by default, A fires your Hellfire missiles, B fires your Hydra missiles, and C fires your chain gun, but you can customise these to your liking. You can also choose to control the helicopter either from the cockpit (which makes movement a lot easier) from above (which leaves less room for error), or “with momentum” (the default setting, which has the helicopter move more realistically). I chose “from cockpit” and never had any issues with the control scheme; the helicopter is surprisingly manoeuvrable considering you’re essentially flying over a grid, and you can easily reverse away and bank out of firing range if need be. Once you’re happy with your controls, you can pick a co-pilot; while you’ll control the helicopter’s flying and weapons, the co-pilot you choose can greatly impact your gameplay as some cause the winch to jam while others are a bit more trigger happy. From there, you can either start from the game’s first campaign or enter a password to skip ahead to a later level, and you’ll be awarded with one of these codes after successfully completing each campaign. Sadly, despite some pumping tunes blaring during the title sequence and cutscenes, Desert Strike is devoid of in-game music, leaving only the sounds of your helicopter blades and weapons to hold your attention. Each of the campaigns also takes place on the exact same map, though the sand colour changes to indicate a different time of day and you’ll find different buildings, vehicles, and enemy placements in each campaign.

Check your map to identify mission objectives and targets to destroy or POWs to rescue.

While you need to press C on the title screen to view the game’s story, mission debriefing and cutscenes will take place before each campaign (and during the mission when you rescue prisoners of war (POWs) or capture enemy commanders) using large, detailed, and partially animated sprite art and onscreen text. Once you start the campaign, you’ll need to fly from the frigate and to the desert, and right away you’ll see just how large the game map is. You can view the map from the pause menu and use the directional pad to switch between different mission objectives and points of interest on the map, which allows you to easily see where your next target is and what resources you can acquire along the way. You can also view the status of your missions, and get additional information about each one (this tells you how many POWs you need to rescue, or how many targets you need to destroy, in order to clear the mission). The instruction manual stresses that you complete each mission in order; if you don’t destroy the radar dishes first, you’ll encounter greater enemy resistance throughout the campaign, but it’s also advisable to clear out enemies or do some prep work on your way to your next objective (for example, if you’re going to fly past where an enemy spy is hiding, break them out and pick them up before destroying the power plant, then loop past the fuel on your way to taking out a SCUD Launcher). Since onscreen text is limited to warning you when you’re in a danger zone or low on fuel and armour and other situational notifications, you’ll only be able to keep track of your ammo, armour, fuel, lives, current load, and current score from the pause menu. Your helicopter’s chain gun is your weakest weapon, but also holds around a thousand rounds, meaning it’s sometimes better to hang back, angle yourself just right, and use the gun to blow open buildings rather than waste your more powerful missiles. Ammo crates are scattered all over the map, but ammunition is scarce; if you’re too trigger happy, you’ll have a hard (or almost impossible) time destroying the campaign’s bigger targets or tackling more formidable enemy units, like tanks and Rapiers.

Campaigns quickly get very challenging as you’re given a variety of missions to complete.

Your helicopter can take a decent amount of damage, but you’ll be reduced to smouldering wreckage under sustained heavy fire or if you’re not careful and bash into rocks or buildings. You start the game with three lives and, when they’re exhausted, you have to restart the entire campaign over. You can, however, earn additional lives by accumulating a high score or hop back into the later missions using the password system. If you die mid-campaign, you’ll respawn right where you failed but your weapons won’t be replenished after each death. You’ll get a bit of extra fuel, though, but it’s usually not enough to get to one of the handful of fuel drums also scattered across the map. As a result, you really have to think about the best routes and the most efficient way of tackling the missions; fuel, ammo, and armour all need to be considered so you can’t just fly in all guns blazing, and you can only carry six passengers at a time so you’ll need to be mindful of where the nearest landing zone is, too. Resources and passengers are automatically picked up by flying over them, which drops a winch for you to latch onto them. Your helicopter will also land so your co-pilot can get out and rescue targets, which leaves you flying about fending of heavily-armed enemy forces before recovering them, and you also won’t lose fuel when flying over the sea, which is useful in the game’s later campaigns. Missions are generally grouped into two categories: destroying targets and recovering targets. Radar dishes, power stations, airfields, and chemical weapons facilities all need taking out and you’ll need to recover both POWs and enemy commanders to learn the exact location of things like SCUD Launchers or bomb shelters. You’ll be orchestrating jail breaks, rescuing United Nations ambassadors, uncovering and destroying missile silos (before they launch their ordinance), airlifting soldiers from life rafts out in the ocean, and angling yourself just right to stop oil spills as you progress through the game. Practically every target is either defended by or soon reinforced by enemy forces, ranging from soldiers packing both machine guns and rocket launchers to tanks, AAA turrets, mobile Rapier launchers, and even an enemy helicopter in one of the later missions. There are no traditional bosses to speak of, but the more heavy-duty enemy vehicles can easily catch you in a crossfire, especially if you’ve wasted all your best ammo blasting buildings. Things would be a lot easier if you could restock your weapons, fuel, and armour at the frigate but this isn’t an option; rescuinf missing soldiers can restock your armour but resources are so scarce that you’re easily left with no better option than to completely start over since you won’t have the necessary weapons or fuel to continue, making for a challenging gameplay experience

My Progression:
I’ve played Desert Strike, and its sequel, before; as mentioned, I had it on the Amiga and I remember borrowing both from friends back in the day, but my memories are a little vague on the specifics. After replaying it on the Mega Drive, though, I can only conclude that my version must have been one of the many Amiga games I had that was cracked, allowing me to play with such benefits as infinite fuel, armour, and ammo as Desert Strike really is one of the most challenging Mega Drive titles I’ve played. Thankfully, it’s not unfair, exactly, just extremely frugal with its fuel, armour, and ammo and you really need to have a plan of attack in mind before taking on your objectives. If you run out of missiles destroying enemy vehicles or targets, you’ll never be able to destroy five out of the six SCUD Launchers before they fire their missiles, for example, so you shouldn’t just blast away willy-nilly or pick up ammo crates unless you need them, and while you do get extra points for destroying other targets and picking up soldiers, it’s best to stay on-task and only attack and rescue those that you need to. All of this is to say that I couldn’t get past the second campaign, and it was only through a great deal of trial and error that I was even able to beat the first campaign (!), which requires you to destroy three radar dishes, take out a power station, destroy some heavily-defended airfields, and then rescue a secret agent from a bunker while fending off enemy forces.

You’ll be hard pressed to take on the game’s later missions even with the level skip passwords.

Campaign two starts out with much of the same, asking you to destroy radar dishes, a power station, and a chemical weapons facility, but the resources are far scarcer are there are a lot more passengers that need picking up between the jail break and SCUD commanders, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of back and forth between landing zones. I was able to achieve all of these objectives except for destroying the SCUD Launchers as I was completely out of missiles by the time they appeared on my map and thus unable to destroy them before they launched their load. Even using the ten lives code didn’t really help here as I kept running out of the resources I needed to complete the campaign, so I used a password to jump ahead to the other campaigns and see how they fared. As you progress, not only do the number and aggression of the enemy forces increase, but so do your mission objectives: Campaign three has you rescuing U.N. ambassadors, destroying a chemical weapons complex, locating and destroying missile silos before they can launch, destroying a power station, blowing a hole in the Madman’s yacht and rescuing his hostages while fending off speedboats, and then protecting your co-pilot as he drives a bus to safety. I believe I died trying to locate the enemy ambassadors, so I tried the final campaign and was similarly met with failure. At first, you only get two objectives: destroy the tanks attacking an oil field and drop some commandos off to take the complex over and stop oil pumping into the sea with well-timed shots, but additional missions pop up soon after, including locating bomb shelters and destroying specific garbage trucks carrying bomb parts, but I was all out of ammo, fuel, and lives before I really got a chance to go any further than that.

Despite the fact that I couldn’t actually complete the game, and barely managed to clear even one campaign, I still really enjoy Desert Strike. While enemies and the game’s speed aren’t exactly action-packed or at a breakneck speed, combat is exhilarating as you need to try and circle around or stay out of firing range to quickly take out enemies or blow open buildings, without catching their attention and to conserve your more powerful weapons. The controls are surprisingly slick, and there’s a lot of little things to see and do in each campaign, from vehicles idling down the road, security checkpoints, POWs fighting with the enemy, enemy fire damaging buildings, and the amount of objectives crammed into each mission is staggering. In fact, there may be almost too much to do, certainly too much for the limited resources available; thus, Desert Strike is a game that involves a lot of strategy and asks that you plan out your route and how you tackle objectives and then restock your weapons, though the developers were really stingy with the fuel, ammo, and armour, which means that this isn’t really a game you can just casually playthrough. Still, it remains an under-rated Mega Drive classic and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Desert Strike down in the comments or on my social media so please feel free to share your memories and opinions and check back in next Saturday for my thoughts on the sequel.

Game Corner [Mickey Mouse Day]: World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (Mega Drive)

It’s November 18th, which means that it’s Mickey Mouse Day! Disney’s beloved mascot first debuted in Steamboat Willie (Disney and Disney, 1928) and has since become one of the most recognisable and influential cartoon characters in the world, the face of an entire multimedia conglomerate, and one of the most enduring and popular characters of all time, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


Released: 14 December 1992
Developer: SEGA AM7
Also Available For: Mega Drive Mini

The Background:
As I’ve talked about a few times in the past, videogames based on popular Disney characters and licenses had quite the reputation back in the nineties and resulted in some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers of the era. As Disney’s loveable and successful mascot, Mickey Mouse was obviously at the forefront of this but Disney’s foul-tempered fowl, Donald Duck, had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well and what better way to guarantee a success than to team these two popular characters up in their own fantasy adventure. Taking inspiration from a variety of Disney’s animated feature films, most prominently Alice in Wonderland (Geronimi, Jackson, and Luske, 1951) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Hand, et al, 1937), and, despite how easy the game was, it was both reviewed very well at the time of release and fondly remembered years later.

The Plot:
While practising for their magic show, Mickey and Donald discover a magical box that sucks them into a bizarre magical world. Now, the two must join forces to travel across five treacherous fantasy worlds, defeat the evil Magic Master, and return home safely.

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is a 2D action/platformer in which, as you might be able to guess, players can pick between playing as Mickey or Donald or team up to play as both in simultaneous play. Whichever character you select, the game’s controls are basically the same and can be customised from the main “Options” menu; you can jump, hold down a button to dash ahead, and press down on the directional pad to duck. Although you cannot defeat enemies by jumping on their heads as is the standard of the majority of 2D platformers, Mickey and Donald can attack enemies with a swipe of their magician’s capes.

Attack with your magical cape and lend a hand to your partner to get through tight spots.

The cape produces a small flurry of magical sparkles, which can stun enemies if it grazes them or if they need more than one hit to defeat, and defeated enemies will be transformed into harmless forms (such as flowers or butterflies) when hit. There are actually some notable gameplay differences between Mickey and Donald as well; Mickey is able to crawl through small gaps but Donald gets his wide load stuck and will need pulling through with Mickey’s help. This means that, when playing as Donald alone, you’ll explore different levels compared to Mickey, which encourages at least two playthroughs of the game in order to see everything it has to offer. Additionally, when playing with a friend, you can help them out further by dropping a rope so they can reach higher level.

While not especially difficult, there are some annoying moments you’ll have to deal with.

Mickey and Donald’s vitality is measured in magical playing cards; you begin the game with five cards, meaning you can take five hits before you lose one of your three “Tries”. You can, however, pick up Candy and Cake to restore one of all of your cards and are gifted with unlimited continues. However, when you lose all of your Tries and choose to continue, you’ll have to restart from the very first part of the level you were last on. When playing with a friend, you’ll share a stock of six Tries; when your partner loses a Try, you can expend one to revive them and, when you only have one left, the last player to die can choose to continue solo.

Some tricky jumps are made clunky thanks to the game’s extremely slow pace.

World of Illusion isn’t an especially long game; there are only five levels to venture through, with each one split into smaller sub-sections and with some minor puzzles and hidden paths or areas that you can find by exploring a bit. While these generally just lead you towards Candy or other power-ups, other times you’ll find short sub-areas to playthrough for similar bonuses. Each level only has a handful of enemies and none of them are particularly menacing but they do respawn if you end up having to backtrack and can cause you to fall down a bottomless pit if you’re hit mid-jump thanks to a bit of knockback damage. The game is also extremely slow; the dash function helps with that but, still, Mickey and Donald move painfully slowly and the game is more about taking your time and enjoying the moment rather than blasting through at breakneck speed, which is fine but it does feel like playing underwater sometimes since everything’s so sluggish.

Donald has his own unique levels and hazards to contend with.

Your main concern in most levels will be dealing with the game’s platforming sections; mostly, this involves reaching the exit on the far right of the screen but other times you’ll be hopping from spider’s webs and web lines, floating leaves or clouds, and other similar platforms. These will invariably be large, small, moving, or even temporary; even solid ground isn’t safe in this respect as you’ll have to contend with floorboards cracking under your feet and dropping you to your death. Levels also contain a number of helpful gimmicks as well, though, such as see-saws, flowers, staples, and bottle corks that fling and spring you higher and further up the level and towards the goal.

Graphics and Sound:
Like all of the 2D Disney videogames, World of Illusion features large, colourful, and charming cartoony graphics. Mickey and Donald both have amusing edge and idle animations and little reactions that perfectly capture their distinct personalities. There’s also a very small number of voice clips in the game; Mickey and Donald will yelp and squeal when attacked and give a cry of “Alakazam!” when performing their magic tricks, which is a lot of fun.

The game definitely looks the part but can be a bit muted and empty at times.

Enemies are similarly colourful and instantly recognisable from Disney’s classic animated films, such as Alice in Wonderland. The game also draws aesthetic influences form Pinocchio (Sharpsteen, Luske, et al, 1940) and The Little Mermaid (Clements and Musker, 1989), with all three films (and others) likewise evoked in the levels you’ll journey through. However, while levels are bright and very fitting, they’re every short and also very bland and empty in a lot of ways. Levels can be a bit inconsistent like that; the chocolate-and-sweetie-filled level is bursting with colour and sometimes there’s large trees or vines or other elements in the foreground or little details in the background, but other times they’re just very barren a bit muted.

The story is told using a fairytale book and in-game sprites with brief dialogue boxes.

The game’s story is told through text in a storybook that can be skipped through, or entirely, at will; while these are only accompanied by static images, the supplementary music (and the music of the entire game) is suitably jaunty and uplifting (if nothing spectacular). After defeating the game’s bosses, a similar cutscene will play in which the characters learn their new magic and, at a few points, the game will use the in-game sprites and a speech box to convey dialogue. As is the case for many 2D videogames from this era, the cutscenes are most impressive for the opening (which pans through the theatre’s backstage area) and the ending (which differs for each character and in which the two perform their magic show before an auditorium full of Disney cameos) before heading off through the forest as the credits roll.

Enemies and Bosses:
While they draw inspiration from many of Disney’s most celebrated animated features, World of Illusion’s enemies aren’t really anything to shout or worry about. You’ll take on armoured bugs, avoid literal tiger sharks, swipe at carnivorous starfish, toy bi-planes, and spiders but none of them are really a threat as they come at you quite slowly and make for large targets. Eventually, you’ll have to contend with wild lightning striking at the ground and conjuring little flaming imps and come up against some more colourful and zany opponents, such as anthropomorphic biscuit men, sharks wielding saws, and rose-throwing playing cards from Alice in Wonderland.

While the spider boss couldn’t be simpler, the little dragons can be a bit tricky to land a hit on.

Each of the game’s levels culminates in a battle against a boss. The first of these is a giant spider that crawls down and across the webbing that is spreading across the background of the boss arena; sometimes it’ll crawl down harmlessly on the other side of the web and taunt you but, for the most part, it’s pretty easy to edge out of the way and swipe at it with your cape. The second boss you’ll face is a series of small dragons that resemble the one from The Sword in the Stone (Reitherman, 1963) or Pete’s Dragon (Chaffey, 1977); these little buggers will pop out from blocks, hop around, and spit fireballs at you but, again, it’s not exactly difficult to avoid them and it helps that they attack one at a time.

The sharks speed and unpredictability, and Mim’s erratic flight, make for challenging boss fights.

At the bottom of the sea, you’ll battle against a giant shark that rushes at you ominously beneath the floorboards of a sunken ship. When it charges towards you, jaws snapping, or leaps out from the ground to pounce at you, this is your moment to quickly attack and hop out of danger, but the shark’s speed and unpredictability actually makes this a somewhat challenging bout. Next, you’ll battle against Madam Mim, which was an amusing and entertaining surprise Mim flies about just above you on her broomstick and tosses flames down to the floor. You can easily jump up to attack her, though, and she stupidly drops down to the ground to taunt you, leaving herself wide open to reprisals in the process.

The Magic Master might be big and ugly but he’s sadly as simple as any of the other bosses.

Finally, you’ll take on not the anthropomorphic cloud beast seen in the game’s cover art but the Magic Master, who is a gigantic background sprite and greatly resembles Mickey’s long-time nemesis, Pete. Taking place up in the clouds, this battle features randomly rising and falling columns that you can use to get close to the Magic Master’s big ol’ head and swipe at him with your cape. The boss conjures smaller, ghost-lime doubles of himself that resemble the Grim Reaper and float around the arena for a bit to damage you but, otherwise, is a bit of a pushover (especially if you have full health, which you probably will as there’s a number of health-restoring items on the way to the final confrontation).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There aren’t too many power-ups to pick up in World of Illusion; as I mentioned before, Candy and Cake will partially or full refill your health but you can also earn yourself an extra Try by either finding a magician’s hat or collecting fifty-two playing cards. You can also occasionally find a firework that will shower the screen in explosions and destroy all onscreen enemies or a Silver Card for a brief period of invincibility.

Mickey and Donald learn new magic tricks to help them progress through the game.

After defeating each of the bosses, Mickey and Donald will learn a new magical ability to help them progress in the next level. The first of these is a magic carpet, which you can cause to ascend by tapping the jump button and ride through the skies avoiding tornados and buzzards. Next, you’ll get a magic bubble that allows you to slo-oo-wly navigate the underwater stage, again by tapping the jump button. The next spell allows you to teleport across the library when you’re shrunk down and is probably the least interesting of all of the magic tricks. Finally you’ll be able to cause specific playing card enemies to arrange themselves into platforms and bridges to help you get through the iconic garden and dining hall from Alice in Wonderland. All of these are performed in specific circumstances rather than at will and don’t really afford you any useful in-game benefits beyond allowing you to get to the end of the level you’re on, though.

Additional Features:
That’s about it for World of Illusion. The game uses a password feature that allows you to warp to later levels as either Mickey, Donald, or both if you have to suddenly top playing but that’s about it. I’m a bit confused as to why the game has this password system, though, as it’s not exactly difficult and easy to fly through it in about a hour or so.

The Summary:
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck certainly looks and sounds the part of a typical 1990s D16-bit Disney videogame; it’s bright, fun, and full of gorgeously animated sprites and instantly recognisable Disney characters and locations. Mickey and Donald are always two of the most versatile characters in videogames, I find, and excel when dropped into fantastical environments and tasked with getting through them using a number of gimmicks; while the attack range of their magic capes leaves a lot to be desired, I enjoyed the magical spin on their arsenal and, especially, the flying carpet sections of the game. Sadly, though, it’s just a bit too short and bland in a lot of ways; two of the five bosses are just generic, large creatures and the game is just way too slow and sluggish through and through rather than being action-packed and entertaining. It’s a decent way to send an hour or so and fun to be able to team up with a friend for simultaneously play; it’s pretty cool how you get a slightly different experience when playing as each character but it’s lacking in a lot of content and options, some of which (such as score and certain gimmicks) actually featured in Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SEGA AM7, 199) which released three years earlier and stuff like that does bring the score down a little bit for me despite how striking the game’s presentation is.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about World of Illusion? Where does it sit in your hierarchy of 16-bit Disney games? Which of the 16-bit Disney was your favourite, or least favourite, and who is your favourite Disney character? How are you celebrating Mickey Mouse Day today? Whatever your thoughts on World of Illusion, and Disney and Mickey games in general, drop a comment below and share your thoughts and have a great Mickey Mouse Day!

Game Corner: SEGA’s Mega Machine

SEGA’s Mega Machine

On 29 October 1988, SEGA released the 16-bit Mega Drive (known as the SEGA Genesis in North America); far superior to Nintendo’s 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and bolstered by both an aggressive marketing campaign and the eventual release of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991), this release kicked off the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties and changed the face of home consoles forever. This year, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m going to share some of my memories of this sleek, beautiful machine and the impact it had on my childhood. I was just a kid, something like six or eight, when I had what I am pretty sure was my first ever home console (and videogame) experience; I remember being at my aunt’s house and being introduced to the SEGA Master System II and, more specifically, Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time when I sat down to fumble my way through Sonic the Hedgehog’s (Ancient, 1991) Green Hill Zone. The colours, the sounds, and the user-friendly nature of the system clearly struck a chord with me and it wasn’t long (it was probably my birthday that same year) before my parents gifted me that very same machine and, as I recall, three titles: Spider-Man (Technopop, 1991), Trivial Pursuit: Genius Edition (Domark, 1992), and the aforementioned Sonic built-into the machine.

The Master System II served me well until I got a convertor unit for the Mega Drive.

For a long time, probably something like two or maybe even three years, the Master System more than met my demands; I amassed a pretty decent library considering money was a bit tight back in those days and wasted many hours playing a variety of 8-bit titles. One memory that sticks out for me in particular was when I had a friend come over to play games (this was, of course, back in the days when kids mostly only owned one machine so you had to actually go around someone’s house to play other consoles and games) and he was struggling to get past the Green Hill Zone boss. I took the controller from him and reached the last Zone of the game for the first time, which was quite the achievement for me at the time; though I distinctly recall not actually completing Sonic that day, I did eventually, and many times over. Another memory for me was when I discovered the elaborate method of activating Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s (Aspect, 1992) level select and actually being able to bypass the God-awful Sky High Zone. My love for videogames had well and truly began; I played the NES at a friend’s house, the PC at another friend’s, and enjoyed a handful of ZX Spectrum, MSX, and Amiga titles while routinely playing the Master System, reading Sonic the Comic (Fleetway, 1993 to 2002), and watching the likes of Captain N: The Game Master (1989 to 1991), Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993 to 1996), and GamesMaster (1992 to 1998).

The article I most attribute for selling me on the Mega Drive.

I bought videogame magazines from car boot sales, drooled over Master System games in the local game’s shop, and doodled pictures of Sonic and his friends at every opportunity. Then, one fateful day, I became aware of another SEGA console; one with far more detailed graphics, bigger, better games, and, more importantly, more Sonic titles. I can’t be exactly sure when I first became aware of the Mega Drive but I distinctly recall owning issue two of Mega (Future Publishing/Maverick Magazines, 1992 to 1995) which had a whole article devoted to the upcoming (or recently released) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992). I was awe-struck; the sprites were so big and colourful, the graphics so crisp and detailed. Unlike in the 8-bit Sonic 2, Miles “Tails” Prower was actually a playable character…and he followed Sonic around onscreen, too! I’m sure I must have seen other photos, articles, and gameplay footage of the Mega Drive across the other magazines and shows I watched but this particular issue of Mega really sticks out in my mind; I read that article over and over, each time more and more attracted to the power and superior graphics of the Mega Drive.

The Mega Drive was for sharing back when I first got it but that was fine by me.

Another memory I distinctly have is pointing the machine out to my parents in an Argos catalogue and trying to explain the benefits of upgrading to SEGA’s newer, sexier console. As I said, money was tight back then for us; we weren’t exactly poor and destitute but we also weren’t rolling in disposable income so I’m sure the decision to buy a Mega Drive didn’t come easily for my parents. Thankfully, however, unlike a lot of parents these days, mine were cleaver and, that Christmas, I received the coveted SEGA Mega Drive and two games (Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (SEGA, 1990) and my equally-coveted Sonic 2) on one proviso: it was to be a joint present for me to share with my older sister. I’m pretty sure that that gorgeous black machine, with its two control pads and those two fantastic games, was the only present either of us got that year, as well, but I didn’t care: I had it and that’s all that mattered. In 1983, an influx of home consoles, poorly-made titles, and a vastly oversaturated market caused the videogame industry to crash in spectacular fashion; what had once been a booming, attractive business had crumbled under the weight of expectation, success, and a market inundated with machines and titles that retailers just couldn’t sell. A few years later, the industry began to recover thanks to the release of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom); known as the NES outside of Japan, the machine was marketed not as a home videogame console but more as an “Entertainment System” (it wasn’t a “home console”, it was a “control deck” and the cartridges were “Game Paks” rather than “videogames”) to give it a better chance at selling in toy shops.

Super Mario Bros. catapulted Nintendo to mainstream success as the home console market leader.

Thanks to a lack of competition and the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985), 30% of American households owned the NES by 1990 and Nintendo absolutely dominated the slowly re-emerging videogame market after the NES sold over 35 million units in the United States, a number that was far beyond those of other consoles and computers. Videogames were back, and more popular than ever, thanks to Nintendo’s efforts and high quality titles, and the industry once again became lucrative and profitably so, naturally, others wanted in on the action. Enter SEGA; formally one of the top five arcade game manufactures in the US, the videogame crash and a decline in the popularity of arcades had seriously hurt the company and led to its purchase by Bally Manufacturing and an eventual restructure towards the home console market with the SG-1000, a precursor to my beloved Master System. Though the console sold well in Japan, it barely made a dent thanks to Nintendo’s stranglehold on the market so, amidst growing competition, SEGA’s research and development team, led by Masami Ishikawa decided that the only way for SEGA to remain competitive was to incorporate a 16-bit microprocessor by adapting their successful SEGA System 16 arcade board into the architecture for a new home console. Mitsushige Shiraiwa led the team that designed the Mega Drive, drawing inspiration from audiophile equipment and automobiles, and the machine was purposely designed to appeal to gamers of all ages, rather than just children like Nintendo’s console.

Aggressive marketing and strong third party support also helped give SEGA the edge.

To impress customers with the system’s power, “16-bit” was slapped right onto the console itself in impressive, striking gold yet, despite shipping 400,000 units in its first year and producing a number of additional peripherals, the console’s launch was overshadowed by the released of Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo EAD, 1988) and the system was unable to surpass the NES in terms of sales or popularity. For the Mega Drive’s release in North America, the system was rebranded as the “Genesis” and SEGA of America CEO Michael Katz spearheaded an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the power and superiority of the console compared to the NES. While the Genesis certainly did do what Nintendo didn’t, it still wasn’t enough to topple or compete with NES or their podgy little plumber. Thus, when Tom Kalinske replaced Katz as CEO, he developed a four-point plan that involved cutting the console’s price, create a U.S.-based team to develop games specifically for the American market, continue and expand their aggressive advertising campaigns, and bundle copies of the Genesis with the one game exclusively developed to overtake Mario once and for all: Sonic the Hedgehog. For a time, this plan worked wonderfully; bundling Sonic in with the Mega Drive gave SEGA the edge it needed as gamers who had been anticipating the release of Nintendo’s own 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), bought a Mega Drive instead just to play Sonic. Sonic’s popularity also led to the Mega Drive outselling the SNES during the 1991 holiday season and, but 1992, SEGA had wrestling 65% of the market away from Nintendo and overtaken Nintendo as the home console market leader for the first time since 1985.

Had SEGA focused on the Mega-CD, things might’ve been very different for them.

With a focus more on arcade-quality titles, a willingness to consider a greater variety of genres and videogames compared to Nintendo, and Sonic’s explosive popularity as not just a videogame icon but a mainstream icon, SEGA seemed unstoppable; a sleeker, more streamlined version of the Mega Drive released in 1993 and the company even produced a special convertor unit that would allow gamers (such as myself) to play their Master System cartridges on the 16-bit console. SEGA were ahead of the times in many ways; unlike Nintendo, they released Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1993) with its signature blood and Fatalities intact through use of a special code, showing the machine (and the company) to be the more mature and “edgier” of the two, and SEGA soon began to experiment in both CD-based games and 32-bit graphics with the Mega/SEGA-CD and Mega/SEGA-32X add-ons. Unfortunately, despite showcasing some impressive graphics, CD-quality sound, and the sheer potential of these peripherals, producing such expensive add-ons to prolong the Mega Drive’s lifespan ultimately proved financially disastrous for SEGA. When research SEGA and their tumultuous history for my PhD thesis, I was disappointed to see how the company squandered all their success with blunder after blunder in this way; to me, they had the right idea with the Mega-CD and should have stuck with that. Had SEGA simply made the little-known SEGA Multi-Mega the standard and ditched all plans for both the 32X and the SEGA Saturn, producing all the games that released for those console (and the Mega-CD) as CD-based games, the company may have fared better heading into the sixth generation of gaming. I don’t know if would have been enough to make the Dreamcast more competitive but SEGA would definitely have been in a much better financial position without wasting all that money making expensive add-ons and inferior consoles.

My Mega Drive collection is still a work in progress but has always had some quality titles.

Still, it is what it is and, for many years, even when I owned a Nintendo 64, I still returned to the Master System and the Mega Drive. My library of Mega Drive games grew respectfully as I continued to indulge my love of colourful, action-packed action/platformers like Rocket Knight Adventures (Konami, 1993), Marko’s Magic Football (Domark, 1994), The Revenge of Shinobi (SEGA, 1989) and, of course, every Sonic title released for the console. However, to say that I was a fan of Sonic was an understatement; I remember incurring the wrath of my mother for not pausing Sonic 2 right as I beat the game for the first time to go for dinner and I must have played that game endlessly, rejoicing every time I got to play as Sonic and someone else got to play as Tails for a change. I distinctly remember getting Sonic & Knuckles (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994) for a birthday and that I got the game before I owned Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (ibid). I’m not sure exactly how that happened but I remember being fascinated by Sonic & Knuckles’ unique “lock-on” technology and being able to play as Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic 2. Some time later, while at a game’s shop in Northampton, I picked up an unboxed copy of Sonic 3 for £9 and, after reading a guide in Sonic the Comic that showcased the awesomeness of Super Sonic, Hyper Sonic, and the Doomsday Zone, eventually made it my top priority to unlock these forms and reach this final Zone in a precursor to my newfound desire to obtain as many Achievements as possible.

The Mega Drive was pretty great for multiplayer experiences, too.

It wasn’t just about Sonic, though; the Mega Drive was a great two-player console and I lost a lot of hours playing T2: The Arcade Game (Probe Software, 1991), Captain America and the Avengers (Data East, 1992), and Mortal Kombat 3 (Midway Games/Sculptured Software, 1995) even while I was playing the likes of WCW vs. nWo: World Tour (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation, 1997) and Quake 64 (Midway Games, 1998). While not every title I played or owned for the Mega Drive was a smash hit, I still managed to find plenty to love thanks to the eye-catching graphics, catchy tunes, generally tight controls and gameplay, and the sheer attractiveness of those black boxes and cartridges. I even got a lot of enjoyment out of games that were short-lived in my collection, like Cosmic Spacehead (Codemasters, 1993) and The Aquatic Games Starring James Pond and the Aquabats (Millennium Interactive, 1992), even though they may not have necessarily been the easiest or most suitable games for my tastes at the time. Sadly, as I mentioned, money was always an issue in keeping me from having a truly expansive Mega Drive library; I borrowed a few titles I never actually owned, like Taz in Escape from Mars (HeadGames, 1994) and Street Fighter II’: Special Champion Edition (Capcom, 1993) but, while I played the likes of Golden Axe (SEGA, 1988) and Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension (Gremlin Graphics, 1992) on the Amiga, I never actually owned them for the Mega Drive back in the day.

My original mega Drive still sits proudly in the actual, physical game corner.

Thus, once we tore down our unused garage and had a little log cabin built and my dream of having an actual, physical game corner quickly became a reality, I knew what my first priority would be: to build a respectable library of physical, complete Mega Drive games to play at my leisure. It’s an expensive and long-winded process thanks to the fact that complete versions of Mega Drive games can be quite expensive but it’s a much easier prospect than collecting for Nintendo’s 8-, 16-, and 64-bit consoles as Nintendo favoured flimsy cardboard boxes for their games so the only Mega Drive game you really have to worry about having a battered or ripped box is Sonic & Knuckles. I first made my steps towards building this library when I finally bought a boxed and complete version of Sonic 3 a few years ago and, since then, the collection has grown slowly, but steadily. I’m prepared to play the long game when it comes to completing my collection as, while my Odroid console is great for emulating thousands of games and there’s plenty of ports or collections of classic Mega Drive titles available for modern consoles, there’s nothing quite like seeing a shelving unit full of those gorgeous, bulky, black or blue boxes and slotting a physical cartridge into that very same Mega Drive my parents gifted me all those years ago.

What are your memories of the SEGA Mega Drive? When did you first play or own one and which model did you have? Perhaps you preferred Nintendo’s consoles; if so, why and share your memories of those days? Do you also believe that SEGA might still be something of a competitor in the home console industry had they avoided the 32X and the Saturn or do you think their downfall was inevitable given how crowded and competitive the home console market became? What are some of your favourite Mega Drive titles? How are you celebrating this momentous day today? No matter what your thoughts, please feel free to share your opinions and memories of the Mega Drive and this era of gaming below.