Tag Archives: 1995

After Burner [Sega 32X] – Review

After Burner

My interest in the Sega 32X has evolved from something of an ironic curiosity to that of a genuine fan. Completely disregarding the business sense the unpopular Genesis add-on made, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t host some solid games. Its limited library of about forty is one of the prime drivers of my interest: the smaller library should make it easier for me collect and play each title. So when I came across After Burner for a fair price at Game Cycle of Pittsburg, Kansas, I had to jump on it. Continue reading After Burner [Sega 32X] – Review

After Burner [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

After Burner - Japanese Box Art

It’s been a while since I’ve recorded a let’s play but I picked up After Burner for the Sega 32X over Memorial Day weekend and that gave me a good reason to do another. This is truly a port of After Burner II, despite the name (Japanese box art included in this post). I enjoyed it, although I did find it quite tough. Admittedly, reaching the end took longer than it should’ve and my output isn’t as entertaining as it might otherwise be, unless you like seeing failure over and over again. Nonetheless, my playlist is featured below with a write-up to follow soon.

Knuckles’ Chaotix [Sega 32X] – Review

Knuckles' Chaotix

Released for the Sega 32X in 1995, Knuckles’ Chaotix is the sole title in the Sonic the Hedgehog series to grace the ill-fated add-on. It’s apt that there was only a single title on the Sega 32X since, much like the series, it went fast. Still, this game contains some stellar audio/visual qualities that seem to utilize the benefits provided by the add-on. Despite not revolving around or even featuring Sonic (outside of a cameo in the credits), the gameplay is that of a Sonic game, with one major difference. A second character remains attached to the player’s character at all times via a magical elastic ring. This was quirky and introduced unique platforming mechanics, but I bypassed it entirely by playing as another character.

The game featured a comprehensive tutorial explaining the unique mechanics.
The game featured a comprehensive tutorial explaining the unique mechanics.

Set against the backdrop of an amusement park the day before its opening, Knuckles’ Chaotix documents the trials that the famous (infamous?) echidna and his roadies were put through in order to see its opening day go off without a hitch. Chaotix, as I’ll refer to the group, cleanse Carnival Island’s five areas of Dr. Robotnik and Metal Sonic’s evil influence and prevent the duo from obtaining some sort of all-important crystal. Like its contemporaries, this is a Sonic game that is light on narrative. Which, considering the low, weird places the series has gone since the late 1990s, that’s a good thing.

As I mentioned, the gameplay veers from the series’ familiar formula in one major way: the addition of Ring Power. That’s the system that chains two characters together. It adds an additional element to the fast-paced platforming and boss fighting that traditionally occurs. Ring Power paved the way for rubber banding the characters to gain momentum and using that same concept to slingshot upwards and scale platforms. Because of this newly implemented mechanic, or perhaps in order to make it seem more necessary, stage design seemed to rely upon verticality to a much greater extent than previous games. The stage structure seemed more mazelike as well. There were times when I got confused on which way I needed to be going after doubling back many times while ascending the stages.

Per usual, special stages were present and felt familiar to past games.
Per usual, special stages were present and felt familiar to past games.

I recently read that the stage design for the Sonic games of this era was built upon the concept that the pathways on higher ground would lead to faster stage completion. These pathways contained more divided platforms and as such, allowed a smaller window of time to react, especially when zooming about at “Blast Processor” speeds. In other words, they required more skill. I’ve never been particularly skillful when it comes to these games, which is great since Knuckles’ Chaotix abandoned this approach. Instead, the stages felt more like those maze puzzles that have an entrance and an exit and task you with drawing a line connecting the two. When completed slowly and methodically, mistakes can be avoided but when you try to speed up, errors are made and backtracking is required. Unfortunately, this is a Sonic game and the concepts of “gotta go fast” and maze navigation don’t mix too well.

There was another option however.

The game had a variety of characters to play as but most played identically to Sonic, except for one...
The game had a variety of characters to play as but most played identically to Sonic, except for one…

The characters that make up Chaotix are a diverse bunch: Knuckles the Echidna, Mighty the Armadillo, Espio the Chameleon, Charmy Bee, and Vector the Crocodile. I take that back. They’re all Sonic clones with a unique move or two and they go just as fast as the “Blue Blur.” Well, except for Charmy Bee. Charmy is a bee and accordingly can fly. There isn’t an energy bar or stamina that needs to be considered either, he can just, fly. This impacted my playthrough in the following way: once this fact dawned on me I always chose Charmy and I would just fly to the exit or fly to the objective and then to the exit. Now this wasn’t a linear path I was on, I still had to navigate the confounding stages and believe me, when you ignore the actual platforms, they’re even more confounding. But, this was also the path of least resistance and I’d have been a fool not to take it.

As a result of Charmy Bee becoming my default character, I barely experienced Ring Power. I wasn’t dismayed by this. I spent about a quarter of my playthrough abiding by the platforming limitations requiring its use, but honestly, nothing comes to mind, outside of switches. All I can remember are stages that went vertical and doubled back way more than they should have and the tutorial which demonstrated a few of the ways Ring Power would be necessary. I can’t think of any times it was mandatory though, besides switches. It’s a novel idea, but one whose applications inside a game such as this seem limited and the implementation here didn’t call for it, making it practically nonexistent in my experience.

One of my favorite power-ups seemed to have inspired New Super Mario Bros.
One of my favorite power-ups seemed to have inspired New Super Mario Bros.

I’m not an expert on the first handful of Sonic the Hedgehog games, or any really (maybe Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Chao man, Chao!)), but the stage design on display here was confounding. The prospect of taking the series – known for its speed – and putting characters with similar abilities in positions where the focus on speed is removed in exchange for labyrinth navigation is frustrating. Not only that, but they introduced a new mechanic and in the same game introduced a character who completely nullified it, let alone require its use (disregarding switches). There are enjoyable moments in this game, and it’s a worthwhile addition to a Sega 32X collection because of the add-on’s small library, but Knuckles’ Chaotix isn’t worth seeking out otherwise.

And… all the way down here is the link to my collected let’s play where you can witness firsthand my opinion of this game form.

Knuckles’ Chaotix [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

Knuckles' Chaotix - Japanese Box Art

Knuckles’ Chaotix is a game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It’s the only game in said series to grace the Sega 32X. It’s an okay game, but not a great Sonic the Hedgehog game. More on that later this week. In the meantime, you can watch my collected let’s play in the YouTube playlist below. This will probably be the last full-game let’s play of a Sega 32X game I do for a while (following Tempo and Kolibri), although I still have a few more that I’d like to check out. Those will likely be one-off videos. Anyways, enjoy.

Kolibri [Sega 32X] – Review

Kolibri

As a part of our week of vacation this year, Jenny and I drove to Galveston, TX and spent a few days on the beach. It was wonderful, especially for me as I haven’t been to the ocean in about a decade. On the way, we drove through Houston as I intended on stopping in at a few local game stores. This is a must when I travel some place new, and H-Town didn’t disappoint. One of the games I brought back home was Kolibri for the Sega 32X.

Kolibri flew about in many different environments, but I wasn't a fan of the visual quality; everything seemed a little dark or muddied.
Kolibri flew about in many different environments, but I wasn’t a fan of the visual quality; everything seemed a little dark or muddied.

Kolibri is one of the Sega 32X’s few exclusives, and pragmatically, one of the few notable titles available for the add-on. It was developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega in 1995. Novotrade was the studio responsible for the Ecco the Dolphin games and I believe this game shares many of the same traits. However, I can’t extrapolate further as my exposure to that series has been limited thus far. Regardless, the studio had an apparent appreciation for ecology and that would appear to shine through in these creations of theirs.

Controlling the eponymous hummingbird, players are tasked with, drumroll…, saving the world! The manual has a rich backstory on the creation of Earth from a light crystal and the negative effects of a dark crystal crashing into the planet. The latter has had a corrupting effect on the nature and wildlife and Kolibri has been mystically chosen and infused with the ability to counteract the effects of the dark crystal and ultimately, destroy it. What this boils down to is a nontraditional shoot ‘em up.

The majority of the game’s stages take place in labyrinthine caves and ruins. Controlling Kolibri, I buzzed around looking for the exit and items that would assist in that endeavor, and did my best to destroy the infected insects trying to do the same to me. These stages were generally linear in nature, but featured so many paths that it didn’t seem that way in the moment. The final one was quite elaborate too, taking a good fifteen or twenty minutes to solve. Until the last third of the game, they lacked checkpoints which meant dying threw me back to the beginning, which usually wasn’t an issue due to their brevity.

Everything was after Kolibri, even chameleons and frogs.
Everything was after Kolibri, even chameleons and frogs.

The other types of stages that Novotrade incorporated were a more familiar sort: horizontally scrolling stages. Stages of this variety were infrequent (about every third stage) and easy to get through with the right weapon. Success, no matter what stage I was playing, was dictated by my weapon of choice. Like any good shmup, Kolibri featured a variety of upgradeable weapons. It took me a few stages before I began playing around with the assortment. Eventually I experienced each weapon fully upgraded and wound up with two or three stalwarts.

Due to my narrow-mindedness of the genre, I didn’t really think of Kolibri in terms of a shoot ‘em up for a while. Once I did, I began to perform better due to a newfound aggressiveness. The enemies often attacked as soon as they were on screen, and would usually respawn if “their location” went off screen and I returned. This aspect, and the stage design of the labyrinth stages, required a good bit of trial and error and memorization; particularly when I would start a level with low health, die, and then quickly restart a half-dozen times. It did grow frustrating (evidenced by segments of my let’s play) but the game didn’t prove to be too challenging and was relatively short.

Those who've made it to the end will surely recognize this puzzle. I'm proud to have figured it out without assistance!
Those who’ve made it to the end will surely recognize this puzzle. I’m proud to have figured it out without assistance!

Regarding the two notable Sega 32X exclusives I’ve played: Tempo and Kolibri, I’m more partial to the former. Like Tempo, Kolibri didn’t wow me from the start but it did grow on me. It curried favor with me mostly due to the uniqueness of its stage design and narrative. The manual is also spectacular, featuring a how-to on building a hummingbird feeder, references for extended learning, a flip note animation and much more. That being said the gameplay didn’t blow my socks off or have me begging for more. I thought Kolibri was awkward to control at times and the frequent restarting became disheartening. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable game worth seeking out for owners of the Sega 32X.

As I did with my Tempo review, here’s one final shameless plug for my let’s play:

Kolibri [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

Kolibri

Alright, here’s another let’s play of a Sega 32X game, this time Kolibri. Developed by Novotrade International (Ecco the Dolpin) and published by Sega in 1995, it’s regarded as one of the more sought-after titles for the lackluster add-on. I enjoyed it, although not as much as Tempo. Tomorrow or later this week I’ll post my review of it and begin working on a new let’s play, hopefully for Knuckles’ Chaotix.

Tempo [Sega 32X] – Review

Tempo

Regarded as one of the better or more desirable games for the Sega 32X, Tempo is a solid 2D platformer with great audio/visual qualities. It was developed by Red Entertainment and published by Sega in 1995 and having completed it myself, I’d put it on top of the list of 32X games. That wasn’t the case when I first started it as I was off put by the animation priority the player character had. But, with time to acclimate to the gameplay I wound up having an enjoyable time.

Tempo was visually interesting. I'd often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.
Tempo was visually interesting. I’d often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.

Almost immediately, the stellar audio/visual qualities of Tempo are on display. The game opens with a period, Saturday morning cartoon-style hip-hop song about the eponymous Tempo and it ushered in a wave of nostalgia for that time in my life – childhood. The game has strong musical overtones and accordingly each stage features, at the very least, a rocking accompaniment. One stage in particular appears to take place in a boom box and features many of the mechanisms one would suspect to see; only now they operate as platforming obstacles.

Visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The level design isn’t particularly noteworthy other than the fact that the stages aren’t simply “scroll to the right” affairs. The paths are generally linear, but they’re winding. For me, this was something fresh and sometimes confusing. To someone who’s played the likes of The Lion King or other period Disney platformers, this might be old hat. Again though, visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The foregrounds are detailed and well rendered but the backgrounds are something else. Featuring pseudo 3D objects and oscillating sprites, many are right on the edge of being a music visualizer!

Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.
Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.

Like the stage design, the game design isn’t too astounding either. The overall objective of each stage is to navigate the numerous obstacles and enemies that make up the two or three sub-stages, confront a boss, and hopefully, succeed. Tempo’s main offensive maneuver is to jump on his enemies. He can throw musical notes at his foes to stun them, making that attack a little easier. Easier more so if the player stumbles upon one of the myriad power ups which could summon his dance partner or increase the projectile count of his musical notes. If Katy, his dance partner, is tagging along, she’ll attack stunned enemies for him.

Katy and the musical note power ups come in handy when it’s boss time. Although I was a little perplexed by the level design, it was the first boss that really dampened my opinion of Tempo. I thought it to be very hard with little time to learn my opponent’s formula. After a few attempts, I figured it out though and really began enjoying the game. The stages themselves were often quaint to get through with the bosses almost always providing the brunt of the challenge. This mostly resulted in spending lives to learn their formula, but towards the end, I also had to be very strategic and play defensively as the bosses were more likely to be aggressive.

One last comment regarding the gameplay: Tempo himself is given animation priority. What I mean by this (and I’m probably not attributing this concept perfectly to this game) is Tempo animates very, very well but moves very, very methodically; quite slowly in fact. This game is more Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine than Vanquish, if you know what I mean. I generally always prefer a faster, more responsive game but can appreciate what the developers were going for regardless of personal taste. In fact, it’s something I quickly got over and it wasn’t an issue beyond the first stage or two.

Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.
Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.

Tempo saw a turnaround of opinion from me. I was a little down on it after the first stage. The tough boss and animation priority weren’t selling me on the game. However, I was able to clearly tell that this game was a labor of love for the developers and they put a lot of effort into it. There were many redeeming qualities that helped me persevere and continue coming back to it stage after stage. At this point, I definitely put it at the top of the list of Sega 32X games. Not the hardest list to ascend, especially considering I’ve played half-dozen titles, but the word-of-mouth praise I’ve always heard for Tempo holds true; it’s definitely worth seeking out for 32X collectors.

Also, here’s one final plug for the let’s play I recorded of Tempo: