VGJ Miscellany #1: Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, Part One: Beast Mode

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection

System: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3

Developer: Backbone Entertainment

Publisher: Sega

Release Dates – NA: February 10, 2009

EU: February 20, 2009

AU: February 20, 2009 (PS3)

AU: February 26, 2009 (X360)

This classic collection lets you play over 40 Genesis, Master System, and arcade games from Sega. The features of the collection include the ability to save, load, and reset the games at any time; HD support; visual smoothing; interviews with some of the people behind certain games; a look at the game’s box art and cartridges; and a few pieces of trivia for most of the titles.

The format of these reviews is inspired by a retro collection review in the old Animerica magazines (I think it was a review for the Atari compilation for the PS1). The reviewer gave a quick blurb to most of the games. I’ve wanted to try something like that ever since.

SUGC lets you give each game a score from zero to five.

In alphabetical order:

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (1989)

Boy, the NA box art makes Alex look like a dweeb, though it’s a cleanly-rendered painting.

This weird platformer has fun music, but feels floaty and weird. There is a noticeable delay between pressing the jump button and Alex taking the action.

The game feels more like an old Mario game, especially by the third level (Splashy Sea), a partially underwater level.

I originally gave this game a 1/5, but I don’t feel that strongly towards it anymore. I don’t really like it, either.

The game looks better with the visual smoothing turned on. Dolphin smooth. :3

Whatever Happened to Alex Kidd?

A certain blue hedgehog, that’s what. Alex’s last game was Alex Kidd in Shinobi World in 1990. Since then, he has received a few appearances in games such as Segagaga, Sega Superstars Tennis, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The poor reception of Miracle World in the US and Europe contributed to the death of the franchise, but some of the staff for the game worked on the first Sonic the Hedgehog. 😉

Alien Storm (1990)

A brawler where you play as a dude, a chick, or a cyborg to go beat up aliens in the city. The player select screen looks rad. You can only play the Genny version with two players; the arcade version let you play with three. Shame it wasn’t included so that we could properly compare the versions.

The female uses a flamethrower; a reference to Ripley? Her special move has her summoning a friggin’ huge missile that hits the ground.

The robot has an electric whip, a gun hidden in his lower leg, and his special attack blows him up, only for his body to reappear offscreen to retrieve his head. Best character?

The male uses a gun that spews electricity. His special summons a gunship to spray the field with gunfire.

For some reason, the guy’s portrait looks like Elvis.

The game feels very fast compared to Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Almost a little too fast. The sprites are smaller than in the latter, which makes the playing field feel larger.

The music has some interesting compositions, but also sounds pretty harsh.

I’m pretty sure I’ve played through this game before, but it’s just all right compared to Streets of Rage 2.

Original Score: 2/5

The Sega Master System version does not feature the female character. In the SMS version, the male uses the flamethrower. The Genesis version’s cover only features the male and the robot.

Alien Syndrome (1987)

Cool music. Some of the enemies definitely look inspired by, well, Alien.

Cover art for the Sega Master System port

You can choose to play as a male of female, and the game supports two player co-op.

This arcade game… is awesome! There’s a lot of care in the animations, like how the heroine’s hair bobs around when she moves, and how the worms in the first level squirm about smoothly and explode in a bloody fashion (weirdly-colored blood, of course).

There are lots of different weapons to collect, like a flamethrower or laser. Unlike several other games of the time, you do not lose your weapon when you die, but you respawn from the same spot as you died, with a short span of temporary invincibility to keep you from dying instantly.

Your mission in each level is to rescue your comrades and defeat a boss before escaping. Kind of like the many Alien3 made in the early ’90s, but honestly, Syndrome is easier and more fun to me.

The game shows all of the ships that you’ll visit over the course of a game when you start a level. I liked it when old games did that.

I should really play through this sometime.

It’s kind of quaint that this game was once considered to be scary, but the monsters can be gross.

I’m slightly interested in the 2007 sequel of the same name for the Nintendo Wii; though I expect it will be fairly mediocre, it also sounds like it has some interesting features in it.

Altered Beast (1989)

This auto-scrolling brawler hasn’t aged well, but I’ve always kind of liked how weird it is.

The game over music is weirdly funky.

The grainy backgrounds look better with the smoothing on.

Original Score: 2/5

Altered Beast (Arcade, 1988)

Looks and sounds a heckuva lot better than the Genny version, but I finally realized that I don’t really like AB besides its novelty.

The hero’s punch is pathetic. When you try to do a crouching kick, he kicks upwards, which is your only defense against annoying flying enemies. The hero’s actions have a slight delay which sounds microscopic, but makes all the difference in practice.

The game has the basic “save the damsel in distress” plotline that was so prevalent back then, but with a Greek wrapping: Athena, the daughter of the perpetually slutty Zeus has been kidnapped. Instead of calling up one of the other gods, Zeus revives some centurion (or guys in two-player) to rescue Athena. Are you a bad enough centurion to rescue the goddess of wisdom?

I bring up the plot mainly because game’s Greek theme is woefully underused. They could have used monsters from Greek mythology as enemies and bosses (though I kind of like the collection of creepy freaks to battle against). There are not many musical tracks in the game.

I’m more entertained by reviews of the game and its ports by the likes of Hardcore Gaming 101 and Kim Justice than I am the game itself anymore.

Whatever Happened to Altered Beast?

A lot of body horror in the panned Project Altered Beast (PS2) from 2005, that’s what. This game went suuuuper edgy in presenting horrific transformations from man to beast in CG cutscenes. Skin is ripped off, eyes bulge out of their sockets, flesh turns to feathers, and hands turn into talons. I dunno, it’s kind of gross, but also feels like it’s trying too hard.

A more traditional sequel emerged in 2002 with Altered Beast: Guardians of the Realm for the Game Boy Advance. The game was actually criticized for the length of its levels and the number of levels overall (fifteen).

An updated and deeper take on the AB formula could be fantastic in the right hands. Imagine a game with beast transformations, with attributes to upgrade like in Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, and Metroidvania elements (then again, I tend to pick those elements when dreaming of “ideal” games). Certain areas couldn’t be reached unless you assumed a form with wings, or claws, or gills. Maybe keep the gore if it actually serves a purpose and not to just be gross and fit in with the “cool” M-rated kids.

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