Ah the Sega CD. Often mocked and jeered as the first nail in Sega’s hardware producing coffin. Priced at a few hundred dollars as an add-on, and bombing right out of the gate as every system add on ever has, the Sega CD’s potential was swept away by a myriad of reasons from being overly expensive to being ushered towards the end of the 16 bit revolution when both Nintendo and Sega were looking at their next big systems. But the truth is the Sega CD was a pioneer in video gaming. Before it, we were used to playing video games on karts. The Sega CD, and later the Turbo Duo, were the precursor to the Playstations, Game Cubes, and Xbox’s of today.
The Sega CD also gave us FMV and CGI in console gaming. It gave us music other than midis. It gave us strong and believable voice acting. It gave us Working Designs as a cult publishing company. But most of all it gave us some tremendous games that have had a tremendous impact on gaming since their creations.
The Sega CD gave us a ton of innovations in terms of new games. It gave us games that were interactive movies. It gave us some of the best platformers to ever grace a TV monitor. It gave us the first wrestling video game with video footage and voice acting from the wrestlers. Any video game that lets KAMALA speak is worth getting (WWF Rage in the Cage). But most importantly, the Sega CD was a paradise for fighting game and RPG fans. The RPG’s released for the Sega CD forever changed the genre. And for the better.
Don’t get us wrong people. The Sega CD died a death it deserved. Sega overpriced and under-marketed the thing. But even now, nearly a decade after its demise, it is still worth hooking up and playing some old early 90’s gaming goodness. The ten games we present to you in this special feature are games that we feel helped change the face of gaming into what it is today. These are ten games that are worth searching out on Ebay and playing for that bit of history you may not have been lucky enough to experience when you were younger. These ten games are classics. And ones we feel can still go head to head with the current set of games on the market. Note there are many other great games for this system, like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Fatal Fury, and VAY that didn’t make this list. These ten games are not the only good ones out there. They are merely an attempt to whet the appetite of the Retro-Gamer within you. So come with us into Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine and join Inside Pulse games on a trip through nostalgia, as some of the greatest games ever made. That just happened to be on a system that most people like to pretend never existed…
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
RPG fans get a warm juicy feeling down in their pants every time they hear that name. Working Designs may have emerged as cult heroes when they published them in North America, but Game Arts is the wondrous, magical developer behind the fanboyishly worshiped Grandia and Lunar series of RPGs. For this reason, all gamers who like to spend their time leveling up and fighting countless different colored blobs, bow down and castrate themselves before this mighty developer. Perhaps Working Designs itself pays them daily homage, as they wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular as they are today if without Game Arts.
But nobody knew that in 1993. Nobody knew that this upstart company would develop two of the most respected series in RPG history. Game Arts had zero to none on the street cred tilt, and just like everyone else they were looking to prove themselves. And dear lord, did they PROVE themselves.
Silpheed. Originally released on the PC back in 1987 as an overhead shooter, it got a total and incredible remake for Sega-CD in 1993, and became so popular that the assessment of Game Arts in many gamers eyes shot through the stratosphere. It’s been said that Game Arts may not have come as far as they have without Silpheed. And while that’s highly debatable, there is no doubt that this shooter succeeded in taking a “no name” rag tag bunch of programmers and putting them on the map. For that reason alone, this game is worth checking, playing, owning, hugging, and setting at the foot of your gaming shrine.
The idea of Silpheed is the same as every space shooter that has come before and after it. You fly a plane. Enemies have planes too. You don’t like them. They don’t like you. Everybody just got done watching Bowling For Columbine and they’ve all got itchy trigger fingers. Obviously mass destruction and completely unnecessary death ensues. It’s your standard cowboys and Indians type fair, where there’s one cowboy and six billion Indians. Good times, good times…
You get 12 levels of arcade shoot em’ up action, where the basic idea is to just’ well, dodge and shoot. The controls are straightforward which makes controlling your ship very easy. And the response time to every command you input is instant due to the game’s high framerate. A simple but effective in-game display charts your energy, score and weapons power, making the game sleek in presentation. Thus everything controls like a dream here and that’s standard fair for any good shooter.
Where you first get the inkling that something special is afoot here however, is when you hear the audio aspect of Silpheed. You’ll be getting this several times throughout this special feature, so allow me to be the first to say it: The leaps of quality that the Sega CD gave us in sound were astounding. The explosions, the firing, the chaos, are all represented to crisp perfection. You truly feel like you’re in a war zone and that Charlie’s right behind you trying to shove two tons of dynamite up your behind. But then when you add to the mix the game’s remarkable soundtrack, that’s when things get GOOD. I don’t know how else to explain these tunes other than to say it was as though each track was custom made for this game and this game only. It doesn’t sound like shooter music. It doesn’t sound like fighting music. The only genre that you can associate with this game IS Silpheed. The score literally gets you amped up for melee style shooting insanity, and this is especially true for the boss battles where the music brings you right into the game amidst tension so thick that you can slice it with a butter knife.
Amazing musical score that makes me actually WANT to play the game’s soundtrack. And I don’t normally collect, listen to, or even care about game soundtracks. Only title I ever gave two thoughts to was Shining of The Holy Ark for Sega Saturn, and this is darn near on par with that. Ok that may be pushing it. But it’s still great, fantastic stuff.
But as impressive as the music and controls are, nothing impresses more than how Silpheed looks. To be perfectly honest, the Sega CD didn’t exactly add that much more graphic power to the Sega Genesis. So to turn on your system and see Silpheed do what it’s doing on a 16-bit console is simply amazing. No beyond amazing. Almost unbelievable. Everything you see is made up of real-time polygons. EVERYTHING. Your ship. Your enemies’ ships. The background animations. The meteors flying by. The huge as all get-out battlecruisers that were impressive enough merely floating through space, but are even more eye shocking when you blow them into a million tiny individual polygonal shards. Smoke should be rising from this machine people! Your Genesis should have exploded five minutes after turning it on for even attempting these graphics, but the CD keeps on spinning and the wonderment keeps coming. Add to that high in quality FMV cinemas and you have quite possibly the most impressive looking Sega CD ever crafted.
Does Silpheed have some problem areas… Sure. The game has a distinct lack of extras showing itself to be a straight bare bones shoot em’ up, and the game should be easy for expert players to blaze through without much trouble. But these don’t distract from the enjoyment of the game by any means, and the ambiance along with the sheer fun of this title will draw almost any shooter fan in. More than worthy of a place in your current or hopefully soon to be current Sega CD collection.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg kids. The staff here is going to show you nine more games that make even this gem feel humble. Try not to view these choices as a definitive list, but rather as a crash course on the games of a system that’s debatably the most underrated of all-time next to the Neo Geo Pocket Color. So do yourselves a favor and pay attention. Especially because if you have any knowledge about the Sega CD at all, you know this isn’t the ONLY Game Arts game on the list. ;)
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
9.) SAMURAI SHODOWN
Samurai Shodown – Sega CD – Released 1993
Ya know, there’s a certain tingly sensation every time I’m privy to the introduction of Samurai Shodown. Whether it comes from the haunting Japanese voiceover which at present I can’t comprehend, or the only recorded drum-and-bass track that I can actually appreciate, there’s an unmistakable flavor; a sense of style that comes with the Shodown name. So when SNK finally decided to let their beloved franchise out of their grasp to become ports on every system of the day worth it’s weight in salt at nearly $950 off the preceding home sticker price, gamers of all system allegiances rejoiced.
If you’ve never heard of Samurai Shodown, then a little history is in order. For the woefully and unfortunately uninitiated, Samurai Shodown was a breath of fresh air in a smoke-filled room filled with what had became numerous Street Fighter 2 hacks and the digitized craze of Mortal Kombat. Featuring 12 characters from many walks of life limited to the 19th century (from corpulent ninjas of Texan heritage to South Americans whose height put Shaq to shame) with a rich storyline for those characters to fill, Shodown was principally set apart from the rest of the fighting herd due to it’s successful incorporation of weapons into a fighting game. But once you got past the surface, Shodown was a great fighter whose gameplay is filled to the brim, forcing the player to actually think before attempting an attack. Call it discrimination if you will, but this club don’t admit button mashers.
Debatably, and within the price bracket, the Sega CD version was the best port of the bunch; an excellent compromise between the quality of the game’s presentation and it’s complete price of admission (a Sega CD was still much cheaper than a 3DO at the time). For 50 dollars plus the then-going price of a Genesis and a Sega CD, gamers were able to experience Samurai Shodown in as faithful a representation as JVC and Funtron could have brought. And when considering what they were working with, they were able to pull it off damned well. For a port of such a resource-intensive game, Shodown is as faithful to the original as today’s Coke is to it’s narcotics-filled predecessor.
First off, the gameplay was translated well, with only noticeable omissions; only one of which is of any importance. While some gamers decried the absence of the SNK Zoom from the game, its exclusion from the game didn’t detract from the experience at all. It’s function was mostly cosmetic; and would have anyways been a draw from being able to incorporate what really needed to be in. The second omission was the sprite-heavy Earthquake, whose exclusion, while practical, also took away a portion of the game’s overall character. But those aside, JVC and Funtron did a really good job. With the help of a six-button controller, all of the combos and pre-meditated dash-n-slash tactics you’ve come to know and love are present. Everything from Galfords’ Plasma Blades to all of Mamahaha’s Nakoruru-directed flights o’ fury are true to the original, if not just a little choppy- but not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the game. A standard 3 button will still keep the game enjoyable, as I never knew many people who actively used the C+D kick- preference is the issue. Either way, you’ll still have a ball. Load times are noticeable, but again, do not detract from the mission at hand. Besides- you should already know that patience is it’s own reward; especially when playing Shodown!
The availability of the CD format has been a Godsend for JVC, as the entire soundtrack has been sampled for use on the Sega CD port. Every little hit of percussion to random echoes is there for your listening pleasure and amusement. However, some of the colorful voice samples are missing; most notably the introductory and concluding remarks from the referee. The characters themselves still have a lot of their voices, albeit a little muffed up and scratched- no doubt from some harsh sampling. When all of it is layered though, it comes through as clean as any other Sega CD game out there. All of the little dings of the swords and slashes are there, as well as the sounds of the artery-rupturing fatalities and final screams of agony. Layer it all together, and you’ve got yourself an extremely faithful reproduction from the hardware at hand. Oh yeah- pop this disc in your CD player, and listen to the beautiful music outside of the game. Tracks 21 through 30 are all the songs, which go on for quite some time. The ability to listen to the soundtrack outside of the game doubles its value alone.
The graphics of Shodown were as faithful as the Sega CD could handle, which is surprisingly very well. While the drunkards won’t be head-locking each other over liquor in San Francisco, you’ve still got your mob scene there egging on the fight. Mentioned in the gameplay paragraph, the Zoom element is omitted from this version, but it really didn’t need to be present at all. The characters, while somewhat scaled down and missing some frames of animation, are still brought in full detail, and dish it out accordingly. While the graphics weren’t the strong point of the Genesis or Sega CD hardware, you wouldn’t know by looking at Shodown. This was really sweet stuff.
With all things considered, Samurai Shodown is more than a worthy addition to your library. It’s a piece of gaming history; a piece that should be spread across the land to any gamer that simply enjoys a great game. Out of the 4 games in the series, with the 5th one on the horizon, you know that SNK has done something right. Hell- it’s one of the best fighters on the platform period. What you’re getting in the Sega CD version is a religiously faithful representation of one of the greatest fighting franchises in the history of contemporary video gaming.
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
8.) NIGHT TRAP
Full-motion video. Interactive gameplay. A more lifelike experience.
These are the things in which the Sega CD specialized. And no Sega CD game featured these aspects quite like Night Trap.
You could make the case that Night Trap is one of the most influential games in video game history. And you might be surprised to find out that this assessment wouldn’t be too far off.
Consider that Night Trap was…
- a game so vast it spilled onto 2 CD’s, with a total of 1 1/2 hours of video and dialogue
- the first game to heavily feature full-motion video
- the first truly “mature” console game
- the first “interactive movie”
- the first console game to feature real actors
We see these elements in games all the time nowadays, but in 1992, they were revolutionary. Night Trap may be the most ambitious game ever created.
Sega and Digital Pictures (the developers) set out to achieve their mission by pulling out all the stops. Real actors (including everybody’s favorite 80’s child, Dana Plato) were filmed extensively, and we see exactly what was filmed due to the new FMV-supporting Sega CD technology. Real voices were used, not muffled blips and beeps intended to represent speech. In short, Night Trap brought the real deal to the table. You were IN the game.
Oh, and the controversy! What controversy Night Trap caused! Those of age, even those who had no idea what a Sega CD was, knew the name Night Trap. This is one of the games that was key in the creation of the ESRB and the rating system we see on every game today.
“Was the game all that incendiary? Not really. However, it was the first of its kind.”
So, why all the fuss about Night Trap? Well, in an era of platformers and cartoon characters, Night Trap provide quite the alternative. You were essentially thrust into a cheesy 80’s horror movie. Basically, your character is a special agent whose job it is to watch these five girls in a house that is inhabited by vampires. The game consists of eight different rooms, and at any given time, a vampire could be in one of those rooms. Your job is to be watching the room at the time the vampire’s in there and set off the trap to capture the vampire.
The thing is, while you’re watching these rooms, you’ll also see girls running around the house in their underwear. You’ll see the vampires use violence on the girls. In other words, the exact things that make America’s special interest groups go wild. In fact, Sega was forced to take Night Trap off the market to appease these groups. Was the game all that incendiary? Not really. However, it was the first of its kind. If Night Trap was released today, you wouldn’t hear a whisper from the media about it.
As far as gameplay goes, your only goal is to be at the right place at the right time. When you’re not hunting for vampires, you’re privy to conversations the girls are having. Or you might see a vampire preparing to make an attack. And if you miss the chance to set off a trap, you’re treated to a rather graphic display of violence. Unfortunately, there’s only one solution to the game, but you can’t really fault developers Digital Pictures for that – what were they going to do, create an 8-CD epic with 6 hours of video so it would be different each time’ But part of Night Trap’s charm is that each time you play it, you end up in a different part of the house, which means you hear different conversations and see different things. This is where you’ll find your replay value with Night Trap.
History will tell you that Night Trap ended up summarizing the Sega CD’s run perfectly – an ambitious project that fell short of expectations. But to view Night Trap as a total failure is to be blind to the bigger picture. It is because of Night Trap that we’re able to play games like Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto. And if you really want to appreciate these games, you owe it to yourself to discover your gaming roots and give Night Trap a whirl.
Click Here For Part Two!