Review: SEGA AGES Thunder Force AC (Switch)

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Memories, Golden Space Roast Edition…

1990’s Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game, Thunder Force III was such a great and very challenging entry in the series that it got an enhanced arcade version in Japan called Thunder Force AC, which has now come back as the latest SEGA AGES release on Nintendo Switch ($7.99). It’s a game I used to play along with a ton of other space shooters on the Genesis as well as developer M2’s second enhanced port of a Thunder Force title (Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar) that’s a must-buy.

You get a flawless version of the game with the new ability to play with three other ships from other titles in the series (you’ll need to play a bit to get to three of them), and the game is another example on a fine example of M2 making a good game even more stellar on Nintendo’s platform. At the time it was released, the game was quite the spectacle with its parallax scrolling, some fancy warping effects, plus a few other neat visual tricks. Oh, and the music was (and is) perfection and thankfully, you get a music player function in this version.

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Review: SEGA AGES: G-LOC Air Battle

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That cornfield chase in the North By Northwest remake gets a little too action heavy…

sega-ages-g-loc-air-battle-switch-description-charI remember walking into an arcade back around 1990 or 1991 and seeing a new machine added to the site’s already impressive selection. It was a large sit-down G-LOC Air Battle cabinet that had a line of about 10 or so people waiting to play. That machine looked like a super-deformed airplane and had speakers on the seat that faced forward, which helped mostly shut out sounds from the arcade save for music and sounds inside the cabinet.

Most impressive was the movement, as the machine would tilt forward, backward, left, and right based on what the player was doing with their plane. The game also featured a red button that shut the movement off if one was feeling the need for speed and all those motions were getting too much to handle. Think of a LOT less painful to ride mechanical bull with a kill switch and you sort of get the idea. Personally, I never saw anyone hit that button, but it did make for a great and safe addition if it was needed.

I didn’t find out about the even more impressively insane R-360 rotating cabinet version until a few years later when a friend played one while on vacation and showed me a few photos taken by his girlfriend where he was upside down or sideways in the machine’s cockpit. She later told me that was the one of the funniest things she ever saw and heard, as he was yelling and screaming a stream of expletives as soon as the machine went spinning, despite the seat belts and safety harness holding him tightly inside and the attendant nearby who helped him secure himself. He denied that screaming part for years, by the way.

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Review: SEGA AGES: Puyo Puyo 2 (Switch)

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Oh, sure, it looks super-cute… but this game is a MONSTER.

Switch_PuyoPuyo2_desc_char“Did you get the game yet? She asked. I told her yes, I’d gotten it. “Oh, good! This one you can play better!” the voice on the other end of the phone cheerily said, then let out an evil-sounding cackle. My eyes rolled in my skull like marbles on a freshly waxed floor and I laughed. Well, my dear friend was right to some extent, as I got further faster in SEGA AGES: Puyo Puyo 2 ($7.99) that I did in the first game thanks to a new ‘offset rule’ that makes for  slightly less stressful play, ‘Garbage Puyo’ drops be damned. The game also tosses in a few other new rules as well as a very handy and new rewind feature, and overall, feels more fun than the original.

A voice in the background on the other end warned “She just wants to play against you online and win!” and yes, I knew that as soon as I saw their phone number pop up on my home line. Man, if that husband of hers just learned to play and lose gracefully, I’d at least be able to not have to take these awful beatings every so often.

Er, I think that came out wrong, but let’s move on.

The last time we played a Puyo Puyo game, it was in person, she was sick (some allergies acting up) and still beat me like a rug (yes, people used to beat rugs and still do). This time out, now she was tanned, rested and ready and yours truly had no chance against Mrs. Skills Deluxe. Yes, I was beaten like a barrel of pickles, if one beat a barrel of pickles for some reason instead of shooting fish in a barrel (which has always been a bad idea as you’d get fishy water and/or pickle brine on your good shoes).  Oh well, but I’m still pretty good at Bejeweled 3, so I take solace in that. Continue reading

Review: SEGA AGES: Sonic The Hedgehog 2

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They’re NOT social distancing, but the game is from 1992, soooo…

Switch_SegaAgesSonic2_STI knew I’d like M2’s revisiting this Sega Genesis classic a lot, but the extra mile (or Miles Prower, heh) the developer went here makes the experience even more enjoyable. SEGA AGES: Sonic The Hegdehog 2 ($7.99) is a solid enhanced port overall even with a touch of occasional glitchiness. Not only do you get the original game, but you get the inclusion of Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic and Knuckles as a playable character (as if you inserted a Sonic 2 cart into Sonic and Knuckles’ unique cartridge add-on slot back in 1992), a single stage Challenge Mode (I wish it had more stages, though), the Drop Dash move from the stellar Sonic Mania added, excellent HD rumble, online leaderboards and a few other nice touches like the ability to save anywhere.

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Review: SEGA AGES Shinobi (Switch)

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Hey, that’s NOT a ninja weapon!

Switch Shinobi boxAnother flawless and essential port by M2 with a few excellent modern options, the 1987 arcade classic Shinobi ($7.99) sneaks onto the Switch, and it’s just as hard as ever. There’s an easier AGES mode that changes lead Joe Musashi’s garb to white and lets you take more that a single hit (as in the Genesis and Mega Drive follow-up Revenge of Shinobi) and you can choose to use the new rewind function if you like to make things a bit easier. I’ll admit that I didn’t touch it for a few days until it was tested for review purposes and yep, it helped a lot in a few areas. But it’s not necessary to clear the game if you’re averse to it and want to do it the old-fashioned way. Well, minus the feeding the machine part.

 

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SEGA AGES Sends Shinobi and Fantasy Zone Westward

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Get ready for the tough stuff…

SEGA AGES on the Nintendo Switch gets more classics with developer M2 offering up two more Sega hits of yore with the developer’s stellar ports, and yes, each will arrive with new enhancements in tow that offer more accessibility options and new ways to enjoy these titles. First up, it’s the Ninja-packed action classic, Shinobi:

Ninjutsu master Joe Musashi returns in this classic side-scrolling platformer. He has been sent on a mission to single-handedly find and rescue all the children of the Oboro clan who have been kidnapped by a criminal syndicate known as ZEED. Utilize your sharp sword, shurikens, throwing knives, and even magic to defeat the enemy and free the hostages.

The challenging side-scrolling action title Shinobi strikes back with an AGES mode that gives a white-robed Musashi extra health and damage, and an added Melee button that lets you dispatch enemies up close and personal. And if the hordes of ZEED are proving too much of a test, difficulty and stage select options have been implemented, along with a reverse time feature.

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Review: SEGA AGES Columns II: A Voyage Through Time (Switch)

Columns II artHoo boy, I’d forgotten how very hard the Columns series of games can be. But yes indeed, this port of Columns II: A Voyage Through Time ($7.99) from the SEGA AGES lineup comes highly recommended if you want a match-3 game that’s constantly entertaining while you get used to the ropes. Also included in this solid M2 port is a a Mega Drive/Genesis port of the original Columns, so you can get schooled by the AI in two games. The coolest thing about the sequel is M2 has wisely added a tabletop mode feature where the co-op play switches Player 2’s screen 180 degrees for face-to-face battles, quite a nice thing to see as an addition.

The game lures you in with some gorgeous art (a bit of lovely Mucha-like imagery for the senses is the first thing that greets you), but even at the easiest setting the game will beat you like an angry drummer or a polite Gene Krupa doing a rapid fire solo. Nevertheless, when the pace gets speedier you’ll be beaten like an egg here as you learn to play. This turns out to be a good thing, as the only means of seeing more here is by getting better. It’s funny that I’m using “git gud” for the second time this week, but like the last time, it fits the case. It’s a game that masters will appreciate, but those who haven’t the skills down will find themselves going to until (and past) the ending. Like it should be, coming back to the game that was giving you grief to one where you’re seeing how the AI responds to a better player doesn’t ever get old.

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Uh-oh, unless you can clear some gems out…

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Review: SEGA AGES Puyo Puyo (Switch)

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I’m set to be sorry, heh.

Puyo Puyo SwitchWhile it’s a tad barebones when stacked up (heh) against its other ports, the M2 version of SEGA’s classic Puyo Puyo is a pretty addictive gem. I had to put off my review thanks to a friend who wanted to school me being a bit ill, but man, I walked right into her trap because even though she was still a bit under the weather when I dropped by to see if she was up for a surprise gaming visit, I was a smoked duck almost as soon as she started playing, drawing a few hearty laughs out of her husband, who refused to play with a “Well, she’s pretty good, even though she’s sick” mantra he fell back on almost every time I lost a round. No, he’s not a big gamer, but he does know from about 20 years of wedded bliss she’s a total monster at games like this.

Yes, there are the much beefier Puyo Puyo Tetris and more recently, the online-centric (and less beefy) Puyo Puyo Champions to scream at (she has both). But this one’s special to her because it was an arcade staple of her growing up in Japan. Well, there was also the hefty bragging from her and a few humorous warnings not to play her by the hubby every so often.  Those alone were reason enough to get a review code. Well, I also was curious see to how good (or badly) I was going to get beaten. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed by the near total routing I received. Or, I was, but too bruised up to say much in my defense, heh. Ow.

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Review: SEGA AGES Space Harrier (Switch)

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Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. GET READY!

Hell, even if I were to think I was born ready for it, back in 1985 seeing and playing Sega’s Space Harrier for the first time in an arcade was a total and unexpected blast. Granted, it wasn’t my first psuedo-3D sprite-based shooter (Willams’ still phenomenal BLASTER was an instant fave for me two years earlier), but Yu Suzuki’s even more instant classic made for a more lasting impression thanks to its more superbly detailed visuals, rock-solid 60fps gameplay and yes, a somewhat crushing difficulty level for beginners. Watching someone play any of the three cabinet version was thrilling enough. But as a player, if you lucked out and got one of the sit-down versions with that big flight stick and body-shaking tilt feature, it was pure gaming bliss that left you maybe a bit wobbly after a few too many replays. Ah, memories!

Still, Suzuki’s game was perhaps too well made, just like his other supremely reliable arcade hits some take for granted these days. This is a game that is flawless in execution, but might be seen by the more jaded gamers out there as “repetitive” because they don’t see the beauty past the lightning fast speed and brilliant use of color. Ever busy developer M2 has done another outstanding job in porting the game to Switch for the ongoing SEGA AGES project ($7.99 per title) in both its original form with a new stage select, optional visual filter and control additions and a new version of the game called KOMAINU Barrier Attack that adds infinite continues and two small stone lion statues to aid Harrier in his quest.

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Screenshots really don’t do this game any justice. Some heads will roll for that.

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That Sega Genesis Mini? It Just Got A Lot Cooler

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Well, now. The final set of games coming to the Sega Genesis Mini have been revealed and guess what? It’s 42 titles and not the 40 initially noted. That final dozen include a few excellent surprises such as Tetris, the Sega-developed Japan-only rarity, and Darius, which never got a retail release.

Here’s the list of included titles:

Sonic The Hedgehog
Ecco the Dolphin
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Space Harrier 2
Shining Force
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
ToeJam & Earl
Comix Zone
Altered Beast
Gunstar Heroes
Earthworm Jim
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Contra: Hard Corps
Thunder Force III
Super Fantasy Zone
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Streets of Rage 2
Landstalker
Mega Man®: The Wily Wars
Street Fighter II®: Special Champion Edition
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts®
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Beyond Oasis
Golden Axe
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball
Vectorman
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Tetris®
Darius
Road Rash II
Strider®
Virtua Fighter 2
Alisia Dragoon
Kid Chameleon
Monster World IV
Eternal Champions
Columns
Dynamite Headdy
Light Crusader

I’ll admit to being generally pleased with this lineup (let’s say about 85%) but there are a few odd omissions that leave me thinking that there will be some sort of second Genesis Mini or perhaps an update of some sort in the future. We shall see, I guess.

-GW