An original arcade release from Sega in 1982, Super Locomotive is a side-scrolling action game where you must guide a train from one station to the next, while at the same time avoiding obstacles and other trains trying to shunt you off the track.
Some consider this 1996 ‘freebie’ from Sega to be the best Christmas-themed game of all time. And maybe it is, because – let’s face it – there isn’t much competition.
Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams is an adaptation of the classic Sega Saturn game NiGHTS into Dreams (also released in 1996), which was developed by the famous Sonic Team.
Developed by an American satellite studio of Sega and published for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1995, Comix Zone is a unique and interesting single-player beat ’em up in which battles are fought inside the pages of a comic.
Developed by Sega and released for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1990, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a masterpiece platform game that has stood the test of time extremely well.
Sega‘s Pengo is an arcade classic from 1982 and is a block-pushing maze game starring a cute penguin called – you guessed it – Pengo.
Developed by United Game Artists and released simultaneously for the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 in 2001, Rez is a trippy, mind-bendingly-original and visually-stunning ‘Rail Shooter’ (meaning: the path you follow is ‘on rails’, like a rollercoaster), with hacking and music influences.
A direct follow-up to the classic Megadrive game, Shining in the Darkness, and arguably the best level-grinder on the Sega Saturn, the awkwardly-titled Shining the Holy Ark is a superb first-person, party-based RPG with turn-based combat.
Developed by Sega‘s own Sonic! Software Planning team, Shining the Holy Ark was published in 1997 and is a mix of 3D and 2D graphics. The environments are made of simple 3D polygons, and all the characters are animated using 2D graphics (by the looks of it: possibly rendered on a high-end 3D workstation). Like most “Dungeon Master clones”, you explore tunnels patrolled by belligerent monsters and can step from tile to tile on the map using the joypad. Unlike Dungeon Master: you don’t really get to see the monsters in the distance before they attack you. Just like in Shining in the Darkness: when you step on certain tiles, scripted battles will take place – usually with the combatants sidling-in from the side of the screen, as if to surprise you. The direction the enemies arrive on-screen to fight you is crucial to the gameplay because you can use ‘pixies’ to counter your opponents before the battle starts – that is: if you get the direction right when you counter. Random battles also happen from time to time and the direction thing also applies. Combat is icon-driven, but very easy to understand. You can fight, run, and do all the usual stuff, and you choose your commands from a series of pulsating icons (which are very similar to those seen in a later game: Golden Sun, developed by Camelot Software Planning).
The story in Shining the Holy Ark isn’t anything to write home about. Like most games of this type: dialogue and situations are simple and a bit dumb, but that doesn’t really matter because the game is both extremely playable and very challenging. Like the original Shining in the Darkness, Shining the Lost Ark is tough. You can forget trying to complete any of the dungeons in one visit. The tactic that saves you is in using an Angel Wing, or a Return Spell, to warp back to town to heal-up. Then go back in. Thankfully there’s a very nice automap feature (brought up by pressing Start) when you’re actually in the dungeons, which helps make exploring fun and not confusing.
I hadn’t played Shining the Holy Ark until recently, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a big fan of the original Shining in the Darkness, and this is a perfect continuation in many respects. Graphically, it’s a little dated (it’s those pre-rendered character graphics that date it), but gameplay-wise it has survived the rigours of time extremely well and is very much worth playing now; if you can find a copy. If you like JRPGs this is a must-play game.
Also known in some territories as The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light, Beyond Oasis is an action adventure game that was developed by Ancient and published by Sega in 1994.
You could describe Beyond Oasis as a Zelda-style adventure – the world is viewed from above and you control a sword-wielding adventurer who engages in a real-time combat – but in reality this game is not a patch on Zelda; it really doesn’t have the detail and finesse of a Zelda game.
Graphically, Beyond Oasis is nice. The graphics are beautifully-drawn and evoke a suitably Arabian fantasy style atmosphere. Unfortunately the overly-simplistic gameplay results in a kind of detachment from any kind of real engagement. What I mean by that is that it’s a bit boring to play but looks nice. Which is a pity. A bit more character and depth could’ve resulted in something special. As it is, we got something merely okay.
An official sequel/prequel to this, called The Legend of Oasis, was released for the Sega Saturn in 1996.
Released in 1989 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Phantasy Star II is a pioneering RPG for its time. It’s a sequel, obviously; to the classic Sega Master System release of 1987, Phantasy Star.
Phantasy Star II was the first RPG released for the Sega Megadrive, and pre-dates the release of Final Fantasy on the NES – in the USA, that is. Both Phantasy Star II and the long-awaited English translation of Final Fantasy helped popularise RPGs in the USA and Europe in the ’90s.
Set some one thousand years after the events of the first game, Phantasy Star II is another sci-fi-based level-grinder with a party system and turn-based combat.
The first-person sections seen in the first game have been dropped, and Phantasy Star II is played almost entirely with separate ‘overworld’ and dungeon sections, shown from an overhead perspective.
There are also fewer abbreviated names in the game, compared to the original, which is good although the names of items and magic and stuff in this are still pretty weird. We can at least thank Sega for trying to do something different with the genre with this weirdness.
As far as gameplay goes: Phantasy Star II is fast and slick, and the timing of all the different processes is pretty much perfect. It’s very easy to get sucked-in to the hypnotic gameplay of this classic level-grinder, but the experience is worth it.