I went off the deep end with Sega CD games tonight. This is due to the fact that I got around to writing a Python utility that rips entire Sega CDs in a format suitable to play from the hard disk using the Gens emulator. You can find the Sega CD ripping script on my more technical blog. So I spent a bunch of time ripping games to the hard drive and concentrating on collecting screenshots for Sega CD games that are already in the database.
As best that I could, anyway. In the most ambitious evening yet of this project, I tried 7 different games. Only 3 worked. Among the ones that didn’t work:
- Sol-Feace: Space shoot-em-up with a large redbook audio soundtrack. I am listening to the energetic soundtrack ripped to MP3 right now and I am disappointed that I don’t get to try the game. It wouldn’t run in Gens. But at least it sounds like fun.
- Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO: I’m pretty sure this is based on the Power Rangers franchise. It, too, would not run in Gens.
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Severely multi-platform game based on the Coppola film, this game started to run but has trouble making it past the company logo movies; if it does, it never gets past the title screen movie. The problem is always the same: When the movie ends, the last second or so of audio gets stuck in an infinite loop. At least I got the title screenshot:
- Slam City with Scottie Pippen: This is actually a Sega CD/32X game. I’m not sure how well Gens is supposed to support the 32X hardware. The game does have a redbook audio track with the theme song which is performed by Pippen himself, according to the game’s credits. It’s a rap about respect that’s only 1.5 minutes long but feels much, much longer. I would post it for posterity but it’s not so much funny or embarrassing as it is dull. Definitely early-90s style, though.
Now it’s time to cover the games that actually did work. The first 2 are cut from the same cloth: Mad Dog McCree and Ground Zero Texas. While produced by different companies, they are both interactive movie-based shooters. McCree happens to be a little more straightforward in concept than Texas, but they’re both phenomenally obnoxious in their own ways. When I tried playing the DOS version of Who Shot Johnny Rock? with a mouse, I noted how difficult and tedious that was and I predicted how much harder it would be to play the same game with a control pad. I was right. McCree is from American Laser Games, same people behind Johnny (also for the Sega CD). What a chore! It’s less a game of skill than a game of memorization. You had better remember exactly where each goon emerges or be doomed to repeat the same level:
Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t matter if you know the precise coordinates of each crony. If you don’t hit precisely the right hot spot, your bullets have no effect. I routinely emptied my revolver squarely on the bad guy only to get plugged when my chamber was empty. I just played long enough to collect a diverse sample of screenshots and I was out. I often hear that this game was a huge hit in its day. I would like to hear more than second-hand testimonials to that effect.
Ground Zero Texas was a little more promising. The premise is that there is a covert alien invasion occurring in Podunkville, Texas, U.S.A. The military has sent out a minor military detachment to deal with this pressing end-of-the-world-type scenario and you are the new tactical ops specialist brought in. Your 3 predecessors mysteriously disappeared and the brass has thrown up its hands in frustration and declared, “If you can’t handle this, we’re nuking this Texan hamlet”. So there’s a sense of urgency. Your task is to sit at a console that is connected to four camera/gun combos in 4 locations in this tiny town. Watch for suspicious humans who are probably inhabited by alien invaders– they will spring up and shoot at the heavily armored gun.
Sci-fi fans will of course recognize the alien-host-inhabiting-human-bodies theme as a convenient plot device for avoiding having to create expensive alien costumes or effects. Anyway, the game was mildly promising until I found I was unable to switch to any other camera when I was done with a particular area. The A button was supposed to enable me to switch but that didn’t work. The A button responds fine in other games played in this emulator. So I got just enough screenshots to make this play time worthwhile.
Finally, it’s on to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective which represents the rarest of rarities: a halfway decent interactive movie! It even has the distinction of being one of the very first I-movies. Checking my master list of Sega CD titles, I would also have to qualify it as the best Sega CD game I’ve experienced thus far (admittedly, the competition is not especially stiff). The game boasts something like 90 minutes of FMV, and it’s reasonably well done (even if it’s necessarily tiny and grainy).
The aspect of this early genre game that struck me the most during my brief gameplay is the level of extraneous detail. For example, there is an extensive newspaper archive to which Holmes may refer. Each newspaper has marriages, deaths, classified ads, all in addition to actual news. There is a sizable directory of London citizens that Holmes may opt to visit. Granted, not all of them have corresponding FMV clips, rather just Watson informing Holmes that the person didn’t have anything to say. Still, the game is not on rails as you would expect from an interactive movie. This is truly just an adventure/mystery game supplemented with competent use of FMV.
- More Sega CD Insanity — plowing through more Sega CD backlog