Review: Sega Genesis Classics Series 4

Sega has released their fourth installment of Genesis games for PC this week and the selection this time is ridiculously good. It’s an amazing batch of games and if the next releases are as good as this the Sega Genesis Classics series is definitely something to watch for in the future. Many of these games have been re-released a few other places in the last few years but stuff like ToeJam & Earl 1 & 2 rarely make the cut and it’s exciting to see them on the list. You can read our reviews below but to summarize our thoughts: Get them all.

All the games can be purchased at gamersgate.com for $2.99 each.

Landstalker: The Treasures of the King

Alex: Get it. Sega’s isometric answer to Zelda, Landstalker, is an amazing adventure game for the Genesis. It’s not quite as flawless as Nintendo’s Link to the Past, mainly due to some frustrating platforming sections, but overall it’s a great alternative and is easily worth the small price tag.

Shining Force

Alex: Get it. The fact that I like Shining Force is quite a surprise for me. I am ridiculously horrible at all things “SRPG” and have avoided the genre like the plague. When Shining Force came out on the App Store last year I decided to see what the fuss was about. Surprisingly, I became addicted immediately. Where many SRPGs today are incredibly complex mind-numbing affairs, Shining Force keeps things fairly simple and lets you focus entirely on strategy. It’s a great combination and I can’t wait to delve into Shining Force II.

Josh: Get it. Like Alex R, I was never so into strategy RPGs, but there’s something about Shining Force that just kept my attention rapt for quite a while.  The story is intriguing, and the gameplay is surprisingly fun for this genre.   Shining Force deserves to get some more fans, as it’s one of the best series in the peripheral vision of the Sega’s biggest fans.

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

Alex: Get it. Wonder Boy III is not amazing by any means but it’s an interesting take on the Wonder Boy franchise. A hybrid of both 2D platformers and shooters, Wonder Boy III can provide a fun time especially if you have a second player to join you as Wonder Girl.

Streets of Rage 2

Alex: Get it. This is the best game in one of the best beat-em-up series of all time. I can’t recommend this game enough. Even if you’re not into beat-em-ups you can still enjoy one of the greatest 16-bit soundtracks ever created.

Alex S: Get it. Such a great game. I actually prefer the enhancements of the Japanese release of Streets of Rage 3 for various reasons, but this is easily the most fondly remembered of the series by far. It also has MAX, who is so much better than any rubbish robot scientist or skater kid, as he is massive. I also love how smooth the transitions are from one stage to the next, and there is no forgetting meeting Bourbon in the bar and taking the fight outside in the rain to kick his ass. SO GOOD.

Stevie: Get it. Streets of Rage 2 is just a really solid beat em up. It’s really hard to mess these types of games up since, at their core they’re simplistic in nature. Basically if you’re in the mood for beating up some dudes then you can’t go wrong with this.

Tom: Get it. I’m with Alex–easily one of the best (if not the best) beat’up games ever made.  The sheer number of attacks each character has keeps it engaging, and everything about the game feels polished and complete, right down to little “intros” every time they introduce a new type of enemy.  This game is class.

Josh: Get it. Pretty much all of the games in this entry are absolutely, hands down must-haves, but this approaches the very top of that list.  Streets of Rage 2 is one of the most iconic beat-em-ups in the history of 16 Bit games.  The combat is about as repetitive as you might expect, but the game’s unfettered goofiness and great music will likely keep you coming back for some time.

Alien Soldier

Alex S. Get it. A very weird one, and at more than $3 a tough recommendation, but this is one of those games that’s worth playing to find out of you like it. This is the answer to what you’d get if Treasure made a game that was nothing but a massive boss rush. In fact, it holds the world record, if wikipedia is to be believed, for the most bosses in a run and gun game. It also stars EPSILON EAGLE, and you even get to fight a couple of Gunstar Heroes bosses, such as a remixed version of SEVEN FORCE.

Light Crusader

Alex S: Get it. One of my retro review favourites (Why not type it into the search box?), I hadn’t played this before until 2010, and there’s an awful lot to like about it. It’s a little janky, the platforming does feel sort of funny and you can find the most powerful armour in the game in the very first dungeon. That said overall it’s a really interesting game with a lot of unique quirks, like shoving the King around as if he were simply a piece of furniture until the entire room is pointing towards you in a kind of makeshift shrine.

Gunstar Heroes

Alex S. GET IT. Did you not read the most recent retro review? This is one of the greatest mega-drive games of all time. Amazing bosses. Fantastic battle system. One of the bosses is called SMASH DAISAKU! We cannot be friends if you don’t own this in some capacity, so it may as well be here.

Stevie: Get it. Gunstar Heroes is one of the best games on the Mega Drive. It’s fun, the bosses are crazy and inventive. You know how fun it is if you’ve played it, and if you haven’t well here’s your chance to find out.

Tom: Get it. Get it thirteen times.  I don’t how, just do it.  This game is very hard, but it’s one of the best video games of all time.  Yes, all time.  We’re talking infinity +1.

Josh: GET IT GET IT GET IT GET IT GET IT. I was late to the Gunstar Heroes party (I first played it on an emulator), but  when I finally got my hands on it, I discovered one of the most relentlessly entertaining and cleverly designed shooters that the Genesis had to offer.  The action fills the screen, with gorgeous, nonstop battles fought with an array of unique weapon combos and hand-to-hand combat.  If you’ve never tried this out, you’d be a fool not to get it now.  Guitar Hero wishes it could be this cool.

Shining Force II

Alex: Get it. I just started playing this game and I can easily say that this sequel is one of the best games I’ve played on the Genesis. It’s more of what everyone liked about the first Shining Force with minor improvements throughout. Even if you’re not into SRPGs this is worth checking out as Sega did an amazing job of making the game accessible to anyone.

Shining in the Darkness

Alex: Get it. This is actually the first game in the Shining Force series and fans of the latter games will recognize some familiar locals and names in the game. Surprisingly, it’s not a SRPG but rather a traditional first person dungeon explorer more in common to games like Wizardry or Might and Magic rather than the Shining Force games. It’s a huge game and definitely not for everyone but if you’re into old PC RPGs or want to see where the series got its start its worth checking out.

ToeJam & Earl

Alex: Get it. ToeJam & Earl is still one of the most original games ever made. Randomly generated levels, huge focus on cooperative 2 player gameplay, a great sense of humor, and the list goes on. If you don’t get this game you are truly “funked” up.

Alex S. Get it. An incredible co-op adventure game/platformer. It’s worth the price alone just for how amazing the split-screen ideas in play are, especially during the time in which they were conceived.

Andrew: Get it. Without a doubt, ToeJam & Earl is probably one of the best games you can pick up from Sega, regardless of console. Not only was the 2-player cohesive and well-construsted as much as it was just an overwhelming amount of fun, it’s just one of those games that is still capable of wasting an entire day away on looking for the parts to a crashed spaceship.

Stevie: Don’t get it. This was really hard for me to judge because I have a lot of nostalgia for this game. However due to the slow pace, I have to admit that it doesn’t really hold up now. If you have only heard of it, I just wouldn’t bother picking it up. However if you played it as a kid and need a quick nostalgia fix then I can recommend it.

Tom: Get it. A very innovative and fun game.  If you haven’t played it yet, you’re in for a funky treat!  The best part is that it’s never the same game twice, since the levels are randomly generated.  It does lose a lot if you have to play it by yourself, but it’s still a classic game.

Josh: Get it. The first Toejam & Earl games were oozing with character, so much so that I genuinely believed that their central characters carried the potential to be grade A mascots.  It helps that the first game is so much fun.  The multiplayer aspect of this game makes it extremely replayable, and the game’s sense of humor makes it incredibly endearing, even now.

ToeJam & Earl II: Panic on Funkotron

Alex: Get it. While not as good as its predecessor, ToeJam & Earl II is still a standout game in its own right. Ditching the top-down exploration based gameplay of the prequel, Panic on Funkotron is an amazing looking 2D platformer. The music and tone of the original game is still intact and it’s much better than the following game that appeared on the Xbox.

Andrew: Get it. I’ll be the first to agree with Alex and say that despite the sequel isn’t exactly an Empire Strikes Back level of incredibly great follow-up to the original, it still does have its whimsicality well within its own right. Probably one of the greatest design divergences between sequels, it looks nothing like the original, view or otherwise. Sure, you’ll recognize ToeJam & Earl, but at that point, do you really care about anything else?

Tom: Get it. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through this game myself (I just bought it last year–never played it as a kid), but it’s a fun and strange addition to the Toejam & Earl series.  Obviously not as original or endearing as the first game, but after playing the hell out of the original, it’s fun to use the characters in a more platform-based mechanic.

Josh: Get it.  I agree that this installment was not as good as the original, but I am so glad that they took the series in a new direction.  T&EII delivers a unique and funky take on the platformer, one that maintained the flavor and charm that the series has always worn on its sleeve.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Andrew: Get it. Not only is this game one of my personal favorites, I’m still firmly convinced that the soundtrack is the most solid of any of the Sonic titles released to date – with the exception of the intro song to Sonic CD. Everything from the level design to the bonus rounds proved that, at the time, Sonic Team still had a firm grasp of what the hell they’re doing. And admittedly, Chemical Plant is my favorite series of levels in any Sonic game. Ever.

Stevie: Get it. Sonic 2 is the best game on the Mega Drive. Seriously, if you haven’t played it then you need to. This is one of the great mascots of gamings finest hour and it’s just an amazing game. Get it.

Tom: Get it. My personal favorite of the original Sonic games, this is another example of one of the best games of all time.  The only reason not to buy it is that you probably still have copies for Genesis or on Saturn’s Sonic Jam or on the Xbox collection.  But one more can’t hurt…

Josh: Get it. If you’re reading this site and you haven’t played this, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you.  Sonic 2 is undeniable proof that the Sonic series was once one of most beautifully designed and simplistically exciting series of its time.  Oh, and the MUSIC!  Sonic 2 remains my most played game of all time.  I challenge you to hate it.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Alex: Get it. This is my personal favorite 2D Sonic game. The level design is top notch, Knuckles gets introduced, and the music is yet again amazing. The fact that you get both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles just sweetens the deal.

Stevie: Get it. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is not only a huge game for it’s time but a hugely fun game too. the levels are fun and colourful but you don’t need me to tell you this. It’s classic Sonic” You know exactly what you’re in for and this certainly offers a good time.

Tom: Get it. Definitely a well-done pair of games, and a great deal to get both.  Though I never cared for these as much as Sonic 2 (mostly because they’re quite a bit harder and more frustrating), there are a lot of aspects of these games that made them stand out among the other Genesis Sonic games, like sub-bosses, linking animations between levels, unique music for each act, special shield abilities, and so on.

Josh: Get it. Everybody loves to shit all over Sonic’s “friends”, but I remain steadfast in my belief that Knuckles and his perpetual Friend/Foe status is one of the greatest additions that the series has ever seen.  Being able to play Sonic 3 as Knuckles opens whole new areas and a completely fresh take on the usual speedy gameplay that no Sonic fan should miss.  The first stage in S&K is also one of the very best in the original series.

Streets of Rage

Stevie: Get it. Just take what I said about the second one and apply it to this. It’s a fun beat em up, that’s all really.

Tom: Get it. But only if you’ve never played the second one.  This is a really good beat’em up, though it pales in comparison in pretty much every way to its sequel.  But even if you have the second one, it’s still fun to play to see where it all started.  It also has a wider variety of weapons to use, like pepper to make your enemies sneeze.  Huh?

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