TheHande’s Top-10 Mega Drive / Genesis Platformers
So, now it’s time to turn our focus to the Sega Mega Drive a.k.a. Genesis. Although I never owned the system growing up, I played it a fair bit at my cousins and grew to love it for its quirky and unusual library of games. In certain ways, I still consider the Mega Drive superior to the SNES because of this.
Here are the 10 platformers from said system that still stand out for me…
Sega’s original mascot, Alex Kidd, had a rough run on the Sega Master System. Despite appearing in six games in rapid succession, the character disappeared into obscurity as soon as Sega introduced their blue hedgehog, Sonic. And to be fair, the Alex Kidd games were a little on the generic side as platformers go, which is probably why they never quite achieved great success.
Alex Kidd’s one and only 16-bit title was essentially a repeat of his debut title (Miracle World) from the Master System, but despite this, I think it actually is a really fun game. Sure, the controls are a little slippery, but it has Alex’s iconic vehicles and a fair amount of challenge. The levels also present quite a lot of variety, even if the game itself seems a little too similar to most platformers.
Alex Kidd has a bit of nostalgia value for me as I did actually play it back in the day. It’s not the crowning gem of platformer excellence, but fun little time killer of a title.
Because people are always so wrapped up about the Disney/Capcom/Nintendo partnership, which produced one of the strongest runs of licensed games for any platform, I find that people tend to frequently forget that Disney and Sega also had an extremely fruitful relationship back in the day. The most succesful of all was the Illusion-series of games which started with Mickey Mouse, but later also brought Donald into the picture.
World of Illusion is just pure nostalgia. Magical sound-effects and colourful game worlds all wrapped into one. Also, the fact that you could play as either Donald or Mickey was sort of brilliant, although there was actually no noticeable difference. As a life-long Disney fan, this game just gets me in my happy place.
However, it is not the best Disney/Sega collaboration in my view, but definitely a title worth trying out.
Vic Tokai who created the notoriously bad Kid Kool for the NES, in my view, redeemed themselves with this forgotten gem of a title on the Mega Drive. In Decap Attack you control Chuck D. Head, a mummy travelling through levels of freaks and monsters, chucking a skull around to defeat enemies and navigating through elaborate levels.
Decap Attack featured the infamous momentum system of Kid Kool, but by comparison made it work much better with the levels relying heavily on its usage in a good way. The music and atmosphere have a quirky semi-horror like atmosphere which I really like. The cartoony graphic look and the surprisingly tight controls also make this a joy to play. Plus, you have potions and power-ups galore to exploit in order to help your game along.
Decap Attack is an unfortunately under-rated title from the Mega Drive and if you’ve never played it and love you some creepy, cartoony action – definitely get this game.
Do I really need to say anything? People who’ve never even seen a Mega Drive know about this title. Gunstar Heroes was basically the system’s equivalent to Contra and Mega Man on Nintendo’s systems. No surprise as Treasure, the company responsible for it, was formed out of former Capcom and Konami employees.
Gunstar Heroes is simply put the quintessential co-op shooter-platformer experience. Going up against the colourful cast of villains, through insane levels like the board-game one, the metro tunnels and airship level all made it super worth-while as an experience. Plus, imitating slightly the Mega Man series, you could change weapons using power-ups you found as you progressed through the game and combine them to create new awesome weapons.
Gunstar Heroes is already so iconic, I really don’t have to describe it much more. So why isn’t it in the top-5 you may ask? Apart from the fact that there actually is a Mega Man game up there, I perhaps have never loved Gunstar Heroes as much as everyone else. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong! But the game is really at its best with two players and without is just a little frustrating. On top of which, the music also isn’t exactly top-notch in my view.
The first two Sonic games have always held a special place in my heart and I feel the need to express this whenever I can, especially since Sonic 1 for some reason never seems to get the love it deserves. Basic as it may be, the first Sonic is an extremely well-crafted game, containing all that high-speed action you want from a Sonic game, but also providing you with some challenging platforming.
Pretty much all the iconic elements of a Sonic game can already be found here. I loved the three Zone-structure when the games still had somewhat fair and well-measured pace and length. The soundtrack is easily in my Top-5 from the entire franchise, even if it’s lacking that extra “Umpf!” of the sequel. And quite honestly, I just love playing through the game each time. Even with the first Super Mario Bros., I usually just skip most of the levels – but with Sonic I love every single one of them…
… well, except the Labyrinth Zone. Of course, there would have to be some flaws with the game or else it would have easily made the Top-5. Like I said, the Labyrinth Zone was a bit of a pain, apart from the first two – most of Robotnik’s boss fights in this game are kinda forgettable and the lack of a spin-dash is also a bit of a pain even if it doesn’t hinder my playing that much. It’s still a classic and I like it much better than most other Sonic games.
Another childhood favourite of mine and easily the best game starring Disney’s iconic Mouse in my view. Castle of Illusion was also released as 3D remake recently and its fair to say this game holds a lot of nostalgia for anyone who grew up playing the Mega Drive.
With solid gameplay and varied worlds, from the fantasy forest to the dark cliffs, the candy world and others. This game just has that classic quality you don’t get from modern games. The animation quality is pretty darn good for an early MD title and the music is extremely cheery and memorable. This proves that Sega was great at making family friendly titles and were not all about the edgy stuff as well.
Mickey has aged extremely well for me, but I’ll confess not everyone will think the game is still as good as it might have appeared when we were kids. Mickey does walk ever so slowly in the game and that’s about my biggest complaint. However, with the game even giving you a break with a shorter easy mode, I think this game holds up in the simple size of its contents.
That’s right folks! I put the same game up on both platformer lists. This isn’t me doing a cop-out, this is just my way of demonstrating what an incredibly awesome game the original Earthworm Jim was and that you should definitely play it.
I have a little more experience of the game’s Mega Drive version to be honest, and although at its essence it’s the same game as the SNES version – as I mentioned before, Virgin Interactive was somehow able to utilise the Mega Drive sound-chip a lot better when making this version of the game and as a result, the biggest weakness of the Super Nintendo port is not present. The game’s music sounds fantastic and has a lot of texture to it.
On top of that, there isn’t much else I can say without repeating myself, Earthworm Jim is a creative action-shooter-platformer with zany worlds and zanier enemies and loads of creativity. The sequel was also pretty good as I recall.
It is really a shame that more people haven’t been able to play this game. Mega Man: The Wily Wars is probably the most famous Sega Channel game in history, which sadly makes it very rare as the only place where the game received a physical release was the PAL region (which didn’t have Sega Channel). Yet, this is a Mega Man experience I think all fans of the Blue Bomber need to experience.
Firstly, the obvious – this game is essentially a 16-bit Super Mario All-Stars treatment of the first three Mega Man NES games. The games follow their rules, you can slide in MM3 but not the previous games and the only help you get in MM1 is the Magnet Beam. The graphics are redone with a lot of nice gradient and the music also sounds brilliant with its 16-bit renditions.
But then, there’s The Wily Tower – a set of wholly new and original levels where you – get this – can choose your own arsenal of Master Weapons from the first three games. WHOA!! This is a feature I would love to see in another Mega Man game. So, it may be a little hard to get, but Wily Wars is definitely a game you should try to play if you consider yourself a hardcore Mega Man fan.
Ristar was Sonic Team’s Kirby’s Adventure – an outstanding platformer which was all but ignored by the general public because it happened to come out at the very tail-end of the Mega Drive’s life-span. And unlike Kirby, Ristar never got a chance to appear in more sequels, leaving it as a bizarre but extremely fun one-of from the developers.
Ristar has you travelling from one odd world to the next, with your cheery and extremely well-animated protagonist butting heads (literally) with all manner of space monsters. Ristar is a joy to the ears and eyes. Ristar’s idle animations alternate depending on which world you’re on and the music is cheery and extremely lively.
The game can definitely get a bit frustratingly difficult towards the end, but it’s such a well-crafted game that I have to recommend it to anyone who loves solid 2D platformer action.
Probably not a surprise for anyone. The first Sonic already blew my socks off and also scared me half to death as the Sega logo was the first time I ever heard speech in a video-game. Sonic 2 then completely blew it out of the water.
Sonic 2 is one of the crowning 2-over-1 situations in video-game sequels. It had every awesome feature of its predecessor (the speed, the music, graphics) and then improved on it with more level variety, better controls and your very own side-kick, Tails. Plus, the Boss Fights (though still a little dumb and easy) were a lot more memorable.
Also with such excellent musical themes like the Chemical Plant, Oil Ocean and Sky Fortress Zones, this is a game I always love humming along to. It might have gotten frustrating in places, and I wont deny that the Metropolis Zone was easily my least favourite level, but the game is just so well-crafted I can forgive all the minor complaints I have with it.
And if you have not played the game, you seriously need to.