I plugged away at a few more Sega CD titles this evening. I don’t think I meant to process so many of these flat, circular, bastard stepchildren that gaming forgot. But I did know that there is only perhaps a 50% chance of a Sega CD game working in Gens. Further, I realize that even if a game does boot up, there is an exceptionally slim probability that the game will hold my interest for longer than the minimum amount of time required for me to collect at least a small sampling of representative screenshots and write a marginally comprehensible MobyGames description.
Let’s start off once more with the games that I tried to make work but could not. First was The Adventures of Batman and Robin. This appears to be based on the early-mid 1990s Batman animated series. I can boot the game. I can start the game. I can watch the opening movie. But I can go no further. Still, with these few screenshots, a complete set of cover art, and the power of Google, I should be able to throw together some nonsense for a description. I’ve done it before.
The next failure of the evening was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I can only hope that this game is widely divergent from the previous Frankenstein-themed game covered in this experiment. I won’t find out tonight. I only have the disc for this game, a disc that does not like to be read. I am not entirely convinced that I have all the data correct to begin with. When I mount the ISO rip under Linux, I see some suspicious file entries such as:
[...] -r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 12288 Oct 11 1994 men_sub.ovl ?????????? ? ? ? ? ? menu -r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 38912 Oct 11 1994 muf_main.ovl [...]
Moving along to stuff that worked even if it wasn’t very good: Powermonger. I somehow missed this last night when I was going through games already present in the database that only needed screenshots. Or maybe I blocked it out from my mind. I have the DOS version of this game (purchased as part of an Electronic Arts/Gravis collaboration for preording the Gravis Ultrasound sound card). I really enjoyed Powermonger’s predecessor, Populous. But I could never quite wrap my head around this one.
Powermonger is a realtime strategy game where you play an outcast warlord on a quest of world domination. You start out with a small following and start ravaging the countryside, territory by territory, taking what resources you can until everything belongs to you. I usually had the worst time controlling my armies who always seemed to be ambling off to pick flowers in the field or something other than marching off to battle like I thought I was ordering them to do. That’s why I took to calling this game the virtual cat herding simulation.
Given the technical capabilities of the Sega CD — or lack thereof — I’m rather impressed that the programmers were able to achieve Powermonger’s 3D effects on the console. How did they do it? Slowly, but they did it. It’s interesting to note that while my DOS version of Powermonger was delivered via a pair of 1.2-megabyte 5.25″ floppy discs, the Sega CD version expanded to fill the available capacity. The main data track is 320 MB large and there are 9 redbook audio tracks to boot. What to do with all that space? Why, FMV, of course. This is a different kind of FMV, though– it’s silent film FMV. Seriously, you sort of have to interpret what’s going on– no speech or subtitles:
Next game is Stellar Fire, apparently one in a long-running series of games under the Stellar 7 banner (I have yet another such game for the 3DO — Draxon’s Revenge — that’s not yet in the database). This game started out as a treat since the FMV on offer was actually very good. You’re humanity’s last hope, piloting a starship, yadda yadda, invading the Draxons’ homeworld and orbiting moons, blah blah. It’s a little more compelling when you’re actually watching the intro, of course.
You pilot something called a hovermorph. It’s supposed to be decked out with enough firepower to destroy a small solar system. That may or may not be hyperbole; the intro depicts this ship blowing up a Draxon capital ship. Too bad the ship’s pilot (you, I guess) hesitates until the Draxons had iced his 2 wingmates, a.k.a., the second- and third-to-last hopes for humanity, respectively.
Moving right along to the gameplay, the action takes place on a polygonally-rendered, first-person battlefield. The game’s box copy prides itself that it’s not an on-rails shooter but is instead real-time 3D. Hover around and shoot stuff with your lasers and missiles. There are flying creatures that are essentially drawn as 2 long arcs, similar to the way you used to draw seagulls as elongated McDonald’s arches when you were younger. The first fortified moon was teeming with the large beasts that I believe were called Xarz Voor. The disparity between the intro art and the in-game art reminded me mightily of the difference between Atari game cover art and the actual in-game character representations.
this is the artwork from the mission briefing
I think that polygon creature on the right is the in-game representation of the creature in the picture above
I can’t exactly figure out what the goal is in this arena, nor can I even find a way to die; I’m constantly knocked around but I don’t see any health meters diminishing. Indeed, if this ship really is tough enough to take out a star cruiser, it shouldn’t have a problem with these negligible opponents.
The final game tonight is Surgical Strike, one in a proud tradition of “FMV backdrop” shooters. I have a terrible, sinking feeling that this is going to suck notably. For the uninitiated, this type of game features an FMV clip playing, simulating intense 3D action, while you navigate a little target around the screen and shoot at opportune moments. One of the most in/famous examples of this sub-genre is Sewer Shark. (Aside: I know we’re supposed to reflect on these games now and cut them some slack because they seemed so novel and innovative at the time but I’m not playing along this time. I distinctly remember seeing Sewer Shark on display at a toy store when it was brand new and being wholly unimpressed.) Quick rundown: Middle-eastern madman launching rockets at civilians, U.N. secretary-general steps in to discourage this practice. You are assigned to pilot a heavily armored, advanced military hovercraft (built by a carpenter, according to the game credits) through war-ravaged cityscapes and hit highlighted hotspots at opportune times.
Fail and your commanding officer chews you out, while your teammates continue to cheer you up by offering some fairly generic advice. Fail too many times and even your peers abandon you, call you a bonehead and throw you in the slammer!
I admit: this game sucked harder than I was prepared to handle. Still, the most bizarre Sega CD titles are yet to come.
- Sega CD Mini-Extravaganza — my first big exploration into Sega CD games
- Actual Video Games — Working through the Make My Video series, the most notorious Sega CD titles (the bizarre titles alluded to above)