On this week’s Sega Addicts Top 10 feature we delve into the Sega CD library and choose our Top 10 games for the system. While the Sega CD is often remembered for the many terrible yet hilarious FMV games that filled store shelves if you look further there were games in almost every genre that made great use of the technology. From upgraded ports of Genesis games to completely new experiences the Sega CD had some truly great games for everyone.
Hit the jump to read our full list!
10. Robo Aleste
Flake: If I say the name “MUSHA” and you don’t get at least a little pumped, you have probably stumbled upon this website by accident. MUSHA, the best known title in the Aleste series, received a spiritual-sequel on the Sega CD that was incredible. I say spiritual because although the gameplay is very similar, the story in Robo Aleste is bat-shit crazy: It is feudal Japan and you have a flying steam powered robot with which to stop an evil Warlord named Nobunaga who has a robot ninja army and (wait for it) is the re-incarnation of Lucifer. So yeah: Spiritual Sequel!
Robo Aleste is like MUSHA refined: The graphics are a little clearer – it is a lot easier to guess where your hit boxes are and the robot actually looks like a robot. The music is a little cleaner, which may or may not be to your taste. There are more weapons and a better variety of stuff to blow up.
Robo Aleste never quite garnered the praise that MUSHA did – that might be because it was on the Sega CD or it might be that MUSHA is just a better game. All the same, Robo Aleste remains a highly sought after game and is one of the reasons why SHMUP fans continue to hoard Sega CD hardware.
9. Lunar: Eternal Blue
Flake: The biggest problem Sega had with the Sega CD was answering this question: Why should a customer buy it? Looking back, it’s easy to see that most Sega CD software just did not offer an experience that much greater than what the stand alone Genesis / Megadrive could do. Then came Lunar: The Silver Star – one of the best selling Sega CD titles of all time, a game that sold so well in Japan that there was almost a matching copy of Lunar: The Silver Star sold for every Sega CD unit in the land of the rising son. Not bad! Lunar: The Silver Star had a lot of things that were new and good: vocalized lines, decent music, complex visuals and a great story. It set the standard…
…just so that Lunar 2: Eternal Blue could blow it away. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue is the embodiment of the promise that CD technology held. It is a long game that builds on everything the original did but cranks it up to 11. Instead of 15 minutes of voice there is nearly an hour and a half! There was CD quality sound for the game’s theme songs and fluid (for the time) animation for character introductions and important scenes. On top of all this, the game was actually pretty good. I have never been a huge fan of RPG’s but even I was able to appreciate the level of strategy necessary to navigate an RPG that comes with a legitimate difficulty curve.
If Lunar 2 had been the standard to which more Sega CD games had been held, I think it’s fair to say that the add-on would be more fondly remembered.
8. Earthworm Jim
Kris Knigge: Earthworm Jim for Sega CD isn’t terribly different than the Genesis version, but the little changes make the game a lot better. First of all, the game’s fantastic soundtrack is now CD quality, which is a nice touch, considering that Tommy Tallarico wrote some fantastic music for the game. Making the game a bit easier is the very much appreciated password system, which (in my opinion) should have been in the Genesis version. It also has an extra stage where you guide a giant lizard around by making him follow your scent, but that stage isn’t that interesting (and stupidly hard), so I’m not going to spend much time talking about it.
7. Popful Mail
Alex Riggen: Popful Mail is another great example of Working Designs (Lunar) using the Sega CD to their advantage. It’s an RPG with some unique 2D action and platforming segments and is filled with great cutscenes, voice acting, and music that only the Sega CD could utilize. In the end, Popful Mail is one of the best and most unique games for the system and worth checking out for any RPG fan.
Stevie Grant: Wirehead is fucking insane. I’m not being ironic here as it is a very random and fucked up game. Setting the gameplay aside I think that Wirehead is a game that you really have to experience. It jumps from place to place, to any random location and never stops being hilarious. I really can’t do it justice. Want to experience pure insanity? Pop in Wirehead for a good time.
5. Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side
Tom Kyzivat: Oh, my stars, dear reader! I bet you can’t wait for me to talk about Eternal Champions again! By now it’s part of your well-balanced breakfast, along with orange juice and toast and whatever else they put in the backgrounds of those cereal commercials that kids never eat. Soo… I guess by now the magic is kinda gone, isn’t it? Here we are again, with me talking about Eternal Champions and you smiling and nodding, pretending you’re listening, but I know you’re really thinking about sports. I keep insisting that maybe we should see a counselor, or go to one of those sexy hotels where the beds are shaped like things, but you brush me off and go hang out with your buddies at the bar. I know it’s kind of a touchy subject, but maybe we should try talking about other games. Just for a while. My friends said they’ve tried that, and it ended up stengthening their bond. So… remember Weapon Lord? Man, I totally forgot about that game. Heavily influenced by the work of Frank Frazetta (and Boris Vallejo, and Conan, and… hell, all barbarians look the same, really) it pitted a bunch of loin-clothed warriors against each other in messy combat. A really surprising ratio, too–normally the barbarian world is a total sausage fest, but I believe about half the characters where women. Who somehow still had shaved legs. Anyway, a major gimmick of the game was the fatalities, in which you mostly cut the opponent’s head off or simply eviscerated them. Almost reminds me… of… Eternal Champions… THE MAGIC IS BACK! Challenge From the Dark Side was like my favorite game on Sega CD! It had cool, original characters, loads of hidden characters, character fatalities, stage fatalities, cut scene fatalities, cinematic intros and endings, a great plot, innovative gameplay, great music, and pretty much improved on everything from the first game! Man, I tell you, make-up write-ups are the best write-ups. I don’t know why we ever stopped talking about this game in the first place. I love you, honey.
4. Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin
Mike Kyzivat: This is one of the greatest Spider-Man video games ever made. Especially when you compare it to the Genesis version. They’ve crammed so much more content into the SEGA CD version it’s enough to send your spider-sense crazy. No it doesn’t let you swing freely through a 3D reproduction of NYC, but it did have a map of NYC from which you could select different platform areas to swing about in. And I believe it was the first game to hide comic covers around the levels for you to find, which has kinda become a standard in later comic book games. In addition, it was based on the comic book instead of the movies so it ran the gamut of villains Spider-Man could face. In this game alone you fought with: The Lizard, Sandman, Electro, The Hobgoblin, Dr. Octopus, Mystero, Venom, The Vulture, The Kingpin, Typhoid Mary and Bulleye.
Let’s not forget the totally hilarious dialogue and cut scenes that were animated in MS Paint. I can still remember my favorite lines: Old Lady: “oh my poor doggie!” Electro: “Why don’t you take a vacation, get a-waaaaay from it all?” Venom: “Don’t count me out yet Spider-Man.” All of these lines delivered in such a horrible manor you’d think you were watching Resident Evil. And these were real voice actors too, a couple from the Ninja Turtle series, so they must have had some powerful misdirection from the director. So please, I implore you, if you own a SEGA CD you need to buy this game, or at least watch the Oscar (the Grouch) winning cut scenes on youtube.
John Doherty: If you talk to me about Sci Fi movies for more than thirty seconds, my fervent love of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner probably comes dribbling out of my mouth on multiple occasions. You can imagine my excitement then when I heard that Hideo Kojima had made Blade Runner into an adventure game that takes place in future Tokyo, oh and it’s on a Sega console. Ok so it isn’t actually Blade Runner, but seriously, it is. Snatcher puts you in the role of Gillian Seed, a member of a unique unit who hunt and kill a breed of robots. It takes place in a dystopian future of one of the world’s largest cities, and also features flying cars. Is this all starting to sound familiar? Don’t take this as a bad thing though, it couldn’t be any further from it. It’s truly just Hideo Kojima exploring what it means to be human in a future where artificial life starts to blur the lines.
Snatcher was a huge step forward for game storytelling. It features an incredibly deep and robust world for the player to fall into. The writing is as good as a novels, the voice acting all feels right and helps bring the script to life, and the graphics still shine as some of the best in adventure games. Almost every character is amazingly developed, and seems to have a unique place in the world. The story is dark when it needs to be, yet has Kojima’s light touch of oddball humor spread throughout it. I tell people who think games can’t tell engaging stories that they clearly haven’t played Snatcher. Like him or not, it’s hard to deny Kojima as a masterful storyteller while playing this game.
The only problem with Snatcher is the light gun sections. Luckily they are few and far between, and never last more than a minute.
Snatcher is one of those games that’s so underplayed it’s painful. If there was one game on any Sega console that I would suggest above all else, Snatcher would probably be it. It’s also important because it presented the world to the beauty of Neo Kobe Pizza. If you don’t know what that is, just google it.
2. Final Fight CD
Mike Kyzivat: If you love beat-em-ups then it doesn’t get any better then an arcade perfect copy of Final Fight on the SEGA CD. It even includes all three playable characters: Haggar, Cody and Guy.
“But Mike…” you say, “didn’t the arcade version have 3 characters, why is this a big deal?”
Well, junior, back in those days we had things called cartridges and the Super NES had all its games printed on cartridges, which means memory is very expensive, and so the Super NES version does not have Guy in the game. It only had room for Cody and Haggar. So there was a big hullabaloo over not being able to play as Guy in the Super NES version of Final Fight. In fact, I believe in Japan they made a Guy version of Final Fight where you could play as Haggar and Guy to calm down all the orange ninjas fans. But us SEGA CD owners get the best of both worlds. Plus, we also got 2 player co-op, the industrial level complete with Rolento, and no sex changes for Poison and Roxxy, which was all absent or changed in the Super NES version.
1. Sonic CD
John Doherty: Sonic CD is an example of a Sonic game with new ideas that doesn’t fall flat on its face. Sure the time traveling mechanics may not be the coolest thing ever, but it’s just fresh enough to lend a unique feel to the game. I think that’s the best way to describe the game as well, unique. If looked at side by side with the rest of the early Sonic catalogue it really is the black sheep. The colors remind of a Grateful Dead concert in the 60s, and the music is pretty far out as well. It really stands out as a different interpretation of what Sonic games have to be.
Lets go back to the time traveling mechanics a bit. They really add a depth to the levels not seen in any other Sonic game. The concept of time traveling by itself isn’t terribly exciting, but knowing that you can change the future outcome of each zone by destroying a generator really adds a lot to the gameplay. It may sound simple, but it effectively allows the game to scale in difficulty based off of your actions. Want to have a bit tougher of a time in the future of some levels? Don’t destroy the generators and face the enemies and the obstacles. Want to breeze through the game? Then destroy the generator and face only the obstacles. Gameplay implications aside, this mechanic also explores some pretty deep issues of industrialization. It allows you to see the different outcomes the world can have, and allows you to feel a closer connection to Sonic and his world. This mechanic explores whether the world is being destroyed by industrialization, or if nature and technology can coexist peacefully. Whatever your opinion may be, you’ll probably agree that it’s ahead of its time in terms of environmental awareness and technologies impact on the Earth.
Now that the super over the top look at the games sociological intentions part is over, let’s talk about the best part, Metal Sonic. This is where we meet our nemesis Metal Sonic, and the game does a great job of showing his presence. In other games Robotnik just shows up at the end of a level to mess with you. It’s fine for the most part, but it’s hard to believe sometimes that he is the bad guy. I mean here is Robotnik, minding his own business in a machine of mass destruction, and here comes Sonic who destroys it. In Sonic CD Metal Sonic shows up multiple times and makes his ill intentions known. It’s a nice touch that works well with the overall tone of the game to really engage you in the Sonic story like no other old Sonic games had.
Sonic CD may not be the best Sonic game, but it’s a great example of a Sonic game that tries something fresh. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its uniqueness.
PS I forgive you for giving us Amy.