With every video game generation that expires, a new one begins and memories of the past rise to the surface. With the PS4 and Xbox One both releasing in the next few weeks, I have become somewhat nostalgic for the old days when game consoles were just game consoles, and game developers were in the nascent stages of evolving the medium into a conduit for more artful expression. In my recent private cogitations, I have been reminiscing about the Sega Genesis, a console I first owned in 1989. Many great titles were created on this venerable platform, and many great franchises were established. The 16 bit era was truly special, characterized by a maturing of the creative and developmental processes combined with the modernization of the industry as a whole; a time when the video game industry became firmly rooted as a legitimate entertainment giant. The following list is Part 2 of my most memorable Sega Genesis games, the ones that had the most profound effect on me during the formative years of my early adulthood, or the ones that left me with the fondest memories. Because this list does not represent any particular order of importance, the list is organized in alphabetical order. Please don't forget to check out Part 1.
Phantasy Star 3: Generations of Doom
I believe the theme song for Phantasy Star 3 is one of the best of the 16 bit generation, and maybe one of the best I have ever heard. While regal, poignant, and moving, this game's theme perfectly segues the player into the virtual fantasy world of the Phantasy Star universe. While many feel the gameplay and graphics took a step back from its predecessor, Phantasy Star 3 introduced a unique generational system that had players assuming the roles of the descendants of the characters the game started with.
Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium
What an apt conclusion to the Phantasy Star saga. Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium is a game that improved on almost every aspect except music over its predecessors. With improved graphics, gameplay systems, and an epic story, Phantasy Star 4 is a fitting end to the series, and one of the best 16 bit RPGs on any console. Even though the theme wasn't as memorable as the previous games in the series, it still rocks. Sadly, due to the massive amount of data stored on the cartridge, this game failed to make its way into as many gamers' homes as it should have due to its exorbitant price.
The Revenge of Shinobi
Shinobi is a classic arcade and Sega Master System ninja action-adventure that, thankfully, flourished on the 16 bit Genesis. The Revenge of Shinobi is an amazing game, so amazing that even Spiderman and Batman inexplicably show up as level bosses. Filled with solid platforming and shuriken throwing fun, The Revenge of Shinobi is best remembered as a game that kept me company through the flu over 20 years ago. Because I was so sick, I was able to slow down from my busy life and actually spend the time needed to finish the game.
Shining Force was my introduction into the world of Tactical Strategy gaming, and what a blissful introduction it was. Shining Force is one of those games that just doesn't get old. I can still find myself addicted to this game by simply starting it up in my Genesis (or my Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360). It is fun just trying to level up characters that originally seem useless until they prove their worth with a little attention. This provides players the motivation to play through the same battles repeatedly just to level grind.
Shining Force 2
This epic fantasy Tactical Strategy RPG is simply a continuation of the original game, with a few subtle improvements. Shining Force 2 is just as addictive and fun as the first game, and it's worth every moment spent strategically battling in a perpetual effort to improve units.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Not a lot needs to be said about this one. Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the most popular mascots for any company in the early 90s, even rivaling the great Mario Mario, and this title helped propel him to stardom. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was fast, fun, and had incredible music. This game introduced us to the legendary “Blast Processing” marketing campaign, and it began the high-stakes console wars we know today because it was the killer app that helped Sega give Nintendo a real challenger for video game console supremacy.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Although Sonic 1 deserves mention on this list, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is my favorite in the series. This game was bolder, faster, and better than its predecessor, and the gameplay was complimented by an incredible soundtrack. I can still hear many of the level specific tunes in my imagination, and I haven't even played the game in years. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had some great level design, and the introduction of the Spin Dash was one of the most important game-mechanic innovations in the series. Sonic 2 most definitely represents the heyday of this most venerable franchise.
Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition
This game reminds me of the days I had a subscription to EGM (yes, the magazine) in the early nineties. After a long wait due to Nintendo's timed exclusivity, EGM finally announced that Street Fighter 2 would indeed be coming to the Sega Genesis, and I don't think I have ever been as excited since. I do miss those days when information dissemination was on a month-to-month basis, allowing for a build up of anticipation instead of being on demand like we have today with the internet. Nevertheless, I didn't hesitate to acquire this game, and I was not disappointed. I couldn't believe how good Street Fighter 2 on the Genesis was, despite the scratchy sounding digitized voices. For many years I had longed for a one-on-one martial arts fighter, and Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition delivered an experience beyond my wildest, most lofty hopes.
Streets of Rage
Back in the 16 bit era, side-scrolling beat-em-ups were very popular. Capcom had their Final Fight series, and Sega had their Streets of Rage. The first Streets of Rage is probably most remembered for its soundtrack, which still gets mentioned on occasion over the web to this day. The Genesis wasn't known for the prowess of its sound chip, but in the hands of a talented composer, the system sure could produce some rhythmic beats. Streets of Rage had some amazing music, and the gameplay was deep and fun enough for repeated play-throughs. In retrospect, what other game out there allows you to call in a police car where the driver fires a bazooka to rain down justice and death upon hapless street thugs from anywhere on the screen and from any distance?
Many may not be familiar with this title. Super Hydlide is a top down, traditional RPG with a mesmerizing and haunting soundtrack. I still occasionally listen to the theme music for this game on Youtube.com since I no longer have a physical copy. This RPG was the first I played where your character's carry weight and hunger level were important to manage. The game was hard in the beginning because of it, but it was rewarding to overcome those elements through leveling up your character. It's still hard to believe the Genesis was producing such incredible music; the Genesis sound chip wasn't supposed to be capable of this level of quality.
Thunder Force 2
Here is another space shooter that is, frankly, one of the best on the Genesis. Thunder Force and Lightning Force is a legendary series of space shooters, but Thunder Force 2 really stands out for me. Most shooters of this type are difficult and inaccessible, in my opinion, but this game was easy to get into and had some very distinctive sound effects. Like the sound design is integral to the feel and recognition of the Star Wars franchise, so are the sound effects of Thunder Force 2. The crisp weapon's fire and pounding beats really belied the perceived low quality of the Genesis sound chip. To this day I can hear this game's distinctive sounds in my imagination, and I can still feel the thrill of playing this game. Because of the scratchy digitized voices produced by the sound chip, I still have no idea what is being said between levels before the voice wishes the player “Good Luck.”