Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
4.) ETERNAL CHAMPIONS: CHALLENGE FROM THE DARKSIDE
Ahh, Eternal Champions. Now there’s a random name from some time back. Of all my favorite fighting game franchises, I can’t think of a worthier name for bringing back into the modern gaming fold. Sure, some may say “Atari should do another Primal Rage!’ or “I wanna see a 3D Time Killers!’, but these series have nothing on Eternal Champions. And while the Genesis version was full of 2D fighting game splendor, it’s Sega CD’s pseudo-sequel Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side that was great enough on its own to make anybody who played it forget about it’s Genesis cousin. Call me crazy, but I think there still remains something to be said about a game that makes the number 4 spot on this list. Especially one whose hidden character roster includes a Senator and a chicken. But I’ll put down more on that later.
But what Challenge From the Dark Side had going for it, possibly more than any other fighting game ever released, was its story. In a nutshell, it’s about this omnipotent, behind-the-scenes voice of reason “pre- Iraqi Invasion’ edition of Colin Powell-like being called “the Eternal Champion,’”who snatches history-altering people out of the time-stream just before they die, and puts them in a tournament to fight it out, seeing who will get their life back, in order to change history for the better. Now, aside from that, picture an equally omnipotent, behind-the-scenes Paul Wolfowitz-like being called “the Dark Champion,’ who exists solely to muck up any progress that the Eternal Champion makes. Some nutshell, huh’ More like a Chernobyl-grown walnut.
But aside from story, the game wouldn’t be anything without great characters, right’ It’s simply amazing how many well-thought out characters they put into this thing, but let me sample just a couple. First off, how about Blade, who lived in 2030 and was born in Syria, only, as the story says, to be killed off by the government that he served “as laser fire filled the streets” Now, I’m no Patrick Seale, but the optimism that this game holds in thinking that Syria would have an effective intelligence agency, AS WELL AS being able to provide laser weapons for their agencies in less than 30 years from now is beyond me. Or how about Xavier Pendragon, who, and I quote this from the instruction manual, “after a failed blacksmithing attempt during which he nailed hot horseshoes to the mayor’s prized horse’ had to find a new job,’ ended up finding a formula to create a lean and renewable energy source, only to be killed during the Salem Witch Trials as a warlock in 1692′ Sega was right- this guy had the environmental conscious of the ELF and the WWF at a time when the first settlers to the new world couldn’t even plant tobacco right, making him a true revolutionary. This is pure gold.
To add more gold where said gold is present, the Sega CD incarnation added 4 new characters: Ramses III, who could have defeated the Romans when they were to invade; Riptide, who would have’ well, probably found more gold; Raven Gindar, a voodoo priestess who could control time and aging in order to get with voodoo priests; and Dawson McShane, a Scottish guy who fought not only for justice, but also against his gambling problem. Don’t believe me’ It’s all in the instruction booklet. That, and who could mess with the inclusion of hidden characters including a chicken named “Crispy,” and a Senator (keep in mind that the anti-video game violence movement was just beginning to get media time) who fought in Washington D.C. Great stuff all around!
But story and characters aside, this game had some great things going for it. The gameplay was as solid as a Western-developed fighting game could be at the time, which meant that you could pull off moves rather seamlessly. Less seamlessly, however, was trying to pull off the moves that gave Challenge From the Dark Side Sega’s pre-ESRB “Deep Water’ rating for violent games: Overkills, Sudden Deaths, Cinekills, and Vendettas. I’m rather confident that a link at GameFAQs.com might shed some light on how to pull off those, and finally put a nail into that coffin of confusion that so plagued me when I got this game so very long ago. Also, you might want to grab a 6 button- but only if you like your pauses done with one button; on a three-button controller, the start button is used to alternate between punches and kicks. You have been warned.
And speaking of confusion, you might as well add frustration to the mix. Unless you were on crack, there wasn’t any way in the world to beat this game. I’ve tried many a time to simply beat this game without any fancy qualifier. But to no avail. For a game as rich in story and character as this one, I’m assuming that the programmers actually made endings to put in. Alas, I may never know what happened to any of em.’
Challenge From the Dark Side had a very good original score to it; something that many other fighters of the day weren’t (and in some cases today was well) known for. Heck- and since it’s on the Sega CD, all you’ve gotta do to hear it all is just toss it in your CD player and hit play! The sound effects, while a little choppy in some places, were trademark Sega effects all around, and are extremely fitting for each swipe of a weapon or fist. Sega made good use of the system’s sound capability, and it definitely shows on Challenge From the Dark Side.
The graphics in the game were done good and proper in bringing Challenge From the Dark Side a step up graphically from it’s Genesis cousin. You could tell that Sega put a lot of effort into differentiating this piece, and it pays off rather well. By today’s standards the full motion video might suffer a little on quality, but at the time was very cutting edge. Not only that, but the quantity of said cutting edge material was there for almost everything non-fighting. Cinekills were in effect for those fortunate enough and hardcore enough to set them up. When you got “game over,’ you not only get the requisite countdown, but you also get FMV depicting your ultimate death! That’s beautiful.
What more can I say about Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side” As if I haven’t typed enough, I say run to your local store and pick this up. From there, you’ll be able to peer into one of Sega’s most overlooked creations. So overlooked, I’d like to take this time to stress this: Sega should resurrect Eternal Champions for the Next-Gen systems. Be it 2D, 3D, I don’t’ care. But a game with a story this rich shouldn’t be so easily overlooked. So as a gamer, go- pick it up now. As a normal and well-adjusted human being, support good taste in story and pick it up. Either way, you’ll love it. I guarantee it.
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
3.) LUNAR: THE SILVER STAR STORY
It’s 1995. I turned thirteen two weeks ago, and had my Bar Mitzvah one week ago. I’ve officially become a man. Today I go to my favorite game shop to blow the hundreds of dollars I’ve received for my manhood. (It’s good to be a Jew. :) I browse the Genesis, 32X, and Sega CD aisles looking for the perfect game. And as luck would have it, one title jumps out at me in particular: Lunar: The Silver Star.
I pick up the box, and analyze the contents. Wow, the main character’s name is Alex! That’s my name, too! I don’t even bother to read the rest. I place it with the other 10-12 games I’m buying, and leave the store happily.
I pop the game into my brand new Sega CD, and watch the title sequence. The letters in “Lunar” appear individually, with an orchestral track accompanying it. A feeling stirs inside me, something I hadn’t felt before. A feeling like “this game is going to be something.” I pick “New Game”, and start my adventure.
A small, flying cat calls out my name. A voice! The game just spoke to me! With crystal clarity! And it spoke MY name! Well, the character’s name, anyway. It’s just a coincidence, right’ We can’t be the same person, right’ I continue on.
“Alex” meets with his two best friends: Luna and Ramus. Ramus convinces the rest of us to go on an adventure where riches await us. A typical boyhood fantasy, but we go anyway. Between the three of us, we don’t have a care in the world. We’re just playful children, out exploring. No responsibilities, no burdens…nothing is holding us back. Funny, that’s how I used to feel a few weeks before, when I was just a boy. The adventure continues, and the music captivates me. This is the first time I’ve heard CD-quality music in an RPG, and its beautiful. The peaceful sound as I roam the open plains. The dire emergency when I encounter enemies. The dankness of dark, spooky caves. Everything is represented beautifully through the music of the world.
I continue on, and I find the White Dragon. His name is Quark. An animated cut scene introduces him. The animation itself is a bit choppy, but in 1995, it is a great feat of technology. He speaks to me, and says I have a long road ahead of me. He tells me to go out into the world and collect pieces of the mystical Dragon Armor, in order to become a Dragon Master. Such experiences will allow “Alex” to grow, as future experiences will allow me to grow as well.
My adventure continues. Along the way, I meet up with a great many people. Laike, the rugged traveler, who imparts valuable wisdom. Nash, the self-absorbed student in the Magic Guild of Vane, a city floating above the clouds. Mia, the daughter of Vane’s leader, who is shy and unsure of herself. The brash young Jessica, who has a fiery temper and is not afraid to use it. And Kyle, a swordsman who lives to party at the next pub. All very distinct personalities, all very well portrayed. These characters start out as naive and inexperienced, but grow as time goes on. Not just in power, but in their demeanors. They’re wisdom. They’re experiences. As I must do. Interesting.
As I travel onward, everything seems to be in order. No impending dangers, nothing that can stop me from having fun. But soon, darkness reels its ugly head. An evil witch by the name of Xenobia turns out to be masquerading as Vane’s leader. She leads the Vile Tribe, a group of monsters ready to destroy all of humanity and rule it. She escapes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Her subordinate, Ghaleon, wants to accompany me back to White Dragon’s cave. There’s something about him that I don’t trust, but I put it out of my mind for now. Besides, the voice acting of John Truit has me too captivated to question his motives.
We return to the White Dragon’s cave, and all hell brakes loose. Ghaleon reveals that he is behind the Vile Tribe, and KILLS QUARK! He is the fabled “Magic Emperor,” a demon who wishes to resurrect the power of God for himself. I have never been so surprised by such an act in my life. I never saw it coming.
“Alex” now has a huge responsibility that he didn’t have before. The entire world needs to be saved from this demon, and only he and his friends can do it. He must become the Dragon Master. And he must grow from the boy he is now to face this ultimate challenge.
I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but the story is one of the finest EVER crafted in the video game world. When you start the game, there is no impending danger. The bad guys don’t even show up until the second act. You’re just a child. A child going on an adventure. But during the adventure, you are saddled with a great responsibility. Are you going to be passive and let the world fall under Ghaleon’s grasp? Or will you rise up and conquer this challenge?
This is why I love this game. The plot mirrored my life perfectly at that point. I started my journey to become a man, and “Alex” was doing the same. We both had challenges to overcome, and we are both here today because of it. I WAS that Alex in Lunar. I WAS him!
And if you were lucky to play this game, you were Alex, too. In fact, we are all Alex at some point in our lives.
This is why Lunar rules. Perfect character development. Perfect orchestral score. Perfect gaming experience. Perfect, perfect, PERFECT!
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
2.) SONIC CD
Odds are if you’re a Sega fan, you’re a Sonic fan. Sure, they have TONS of other more than worthwhile franchises such as Shining Force, Ecco The Dolphin and Phantasy Star, but most of us hold a large section of our heart reserved for the fastest hedgehog on the planet. From Sonic 1 to Sonic Adventure, the little guy has enthralled us in ways very few other mascot have been able to outside of Mario himself.
So everyone listen carefully because this is a no-brainer. If you’re a Sonic fanatic’ heck if you’re even just a Sonic fan and you haven’t played the very BEST incarnation of the entire series in that of Sonic CD then you are a retard. Actually no, that might offend some retards. You’re a brain dead paraplegic. There we go’
What’s the big deal? Why the empty and un-clever insults? Why all the praise here for this one game that’s on a “dead system’ anyway? I’ll tell you. Sonic CD is perhaps the most ambitious of the 2D Sonic games EVER made. The production value, the sound, and the gameplay all got kicked up a notch. A HUGE notch. The game is such loved due to its enhancements to the point that scarier Sonic fans will break open a new butt hole on someone if they don’t recognize its greatness. As an example of this, let me give you an idea of how we do these staff features. Each of us comes up with our own top 10 lists, and we mix and match what’s most respected by the staff overall until we have a FINAL list for the entire feature that reflects our varied and extremely individual tastes best. Well in the beginning stages allow me to show you what was Alex Lucard’s personal list and some of the staff’s reaction to it while we were working here at the 411games offices one evening’
Alex Lucard: Ok guys! Here’s my list:
1. Dark Wizard
2. Lunar: The Silver Star
3. Popful Mail
4. Shining Force CD
5. Samurai Showdown CD
6. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
7. Night Trap
8. Fatal Fury Special
9. Dracula: Unleashed
10. Eternal Champions
Honorable mention – Sonic CD, Snatcher, Eye of the Beholder, Vay, Monkey Island, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Liquidcross: Bullshit! Sonic CD is the best Sonic title EVER! No mere “honorable mention”! It should be in the top 5!
Alex Lucard: That’s MY list. I’m not a platformer. You all have to make your own, remember’
Bebito Jackson: Kill the bastard!
Alex Lucard: No’ you guys don’t understand!
Liquidcross: Screw you and this f*cking feature if you’re going to overlook the f*cking greatest Sonic title f*cking ever, you f*ck f*ck f*cker!
Bebito Jackson: Make our own lists’ Ok’ Here’s mine!
1. Sonic CD
2. Sonic CD
3. Sonic CD
4. Sonic CD
5. Sonic CD
6. Sonic CD
7. Sonic CD
8. Sonic CD
9. Sonic CD
10. Sonic CD
Alex Lucard: What’s wrong with you two!’ I’m not a platformer! Thus there are other Sega CD games that I prefer over Sonic CD!!
Bebito Jackson: That’s it! GET HIM!
Liquidcross: Fuck, f*ck, f*ck, got damn f*cker!!
Thankfully (or unfortunately depending on your view), we didn’t have to kill him as after some “persuasive techniques” we pushed Sonic CD up to the top 2. Where it belongs. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty on why.
To be perfectly honest, Sonic CD isn’t a completely radical departure from what fans of the series would expect. It stays tried and true to the classic Sonic formula of jumping, spinning, and running vertigo causing seizure inducingly fast and all that good stuff. But with Sonic CD, Sega of Japan added the innovation of time travel! Gameplay flows close to the very first in the series, 3 acts in each level then on to kick Dr. Eggie’s booty. BUT the difference here being is that Sonic can, during the very levels themselves, travel between past, present, and future versions, both radically altering the design and layout of the entire blasted stage! To put it simply, this means that there are 9 different acts for each level, which makes the game a whooping 3 times huger than your normal Sonic foray. It still stands as the longest / grandest in scope 2D Sonic of all time! Needless to say, much more bang for your gaming buck.
Sound was as you could imagine, the Sega CD’s shining feature. And all the dings, bells, jumps, and pops sounded crisper than ever. Great, great stuff that gave you a glimpse at the difference the CD format would make in the coming years once moved beyond the “16-bit’ era. But not EVERYTHING that came through the speakers was well received in this game, at least not for North American market. The game stands as one of the most controversial ever made at the time, because it was one of the first games where American gamers started wising up and became aware that what they were getting was different from the developers’ original intentions. Sega of America (god only knows what they’re thinking sometimes; bless their hearts) replaced the innovative and awesome techno soundtrack from the Japanese version with lighter, peppier, and just overall gayer tunes. Fans of the original music became infuriated. As they should, but truth be told the newer music wasn’t THAT bad. Ok, no’ not really. I can’t back that up. But the game is almost worth owning for this controversy alone. For those curious to see what the original tunes sounded like but don’t feel like dealing with imports, get yourself a Sega Saturn (NO REALLY’ get the Saturn! It’s probably the best Sega system ever made!), along with a copy of Sonic Jam, check out the extras section and behold what the game music could have been like if they simply left the thing alone. Especially when it comes to the opening and ending cinemas’
Oh yes’ *drool*’ the cinemas. The anime intro and outro. Gorgeously drawn and animated, it shows off Sonic on a whole new level, that fans hadn’t seen up until then. Heck, the cinemas in Sonic CD beat out every other Sonic cartoon series adaptation they’ve ever put out with the one and only exception of Sonic X (and debatably, the Sonic The Hedgehog anime movie). It’s that good people. So good that you’re disappointed once the opening stops rolling and you play the game feverishly looking forward to seeing what the ending looks like. Simply beautiful and it rounds out the entire package quite nicely.
So again, to break it down. Improved gameplay? Check. Larger levels? Check. Better sound? Check. Historical relevance in gaming history? Check. Sweeter than candy anime intro and outro? Check. And holy crap, how could I forget it had the first appearance of debatably the coolest Sonic villain ever. Metal Sonic! Check, Check and Check. The wonderful thing about all of this is that (for the most part) Sega CD games aren’t exactly hard to find people! Just a quick scan on ebay and you can find Sonic CD lying around waiting to be snatched up for a mere $10! That’s it. All of this, the greatest Sonic game arguably of all-time for 10 bucks. Amazing. You can’t pass this up, people. You CAN’T. The premiere platformer for the Sega CD, and a killer app for the system as a whole. Go out and enjoy some 2D Sonic in a way that we may never be able to see be surpassed.
Believe me. You’ll thank us later.
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