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Psychotic Reviews: Beyond Oasis

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Beyond Oasis is an action/adventure game developed by Ancient for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It released quite late in the system’s lifecycle, late 1994 for Japan and 1995 everywhere else. Since Ancient was founded by Yuzo Koshiro it also includes a soundtrack composed by him. This is most likely Sega’s answer to The Legend of Zelda mixed with some Mana series since there are many similarities in gameplay design, puzzle solving, and progression.

You play as Prince Ali of the Kingdom of Oasis, and some bad stuff is starting to go down. One day while digging in an old ruin Prince Ali finds a gold armlet, which fixes itself to his wrist and tells him of his destiny to save Oasis. Clothing style and culture shows that the game is based on Middle Eastern mythology and literature such as the 1001 Arabian Nights. The gold armlet has the ability to control spirits, one of which is named after the class of infernal djinni Efreet.

There are differences with the weapon and item systems, as well as abilities. Ali starts off with a knife as your default weapon, this knife has unlimited uses but a short reach. You can pick up other weapons such as a bow, sword, and bombs for damage boosts, but these all break after a certain number of uses. Planning when and where to use your stronger weapons is a must, I usually saved them for boss battles.

Combat is quite fun as it offers great depth. It feels like you’re playing a brawler within your adventure game as Ali has kicks, swipes, stabs, jump kicks, flying stabs and slashes, flip attacks, and a spin attack. A lot of these attacks can only be used with your first knife though, so heavy damage weapons that can break are best used for more predictable fights like bosses. Each spirit has its own attacks as well, and these take large chunks of your SP down. Just having a spirit out will slowly deplete your SP bar.

The items you find mostly heal you. Ali has two stats to worry about, HP and SP. HP is your health, like it is every game that has HP. SP are your Spell Points, and these are used up just by having a spirit out or using a spirit’s magical abilities. These healing items are certain food items. Items like meat or cheese heals your HP while fruits heal your SP, still others heal both stats! You can also pick up powerups for your spirits, various weapons, and healing items in treasure chests scattered throughout Oasis.

There are plenty of secrets to find while exploring the world, even some hidden mini games that give quite nice rewards. In terms of following the storyline though the game is just as linear as any Zelda game. Beyond Oasis has the built in feature known as the “go-here” arrow when you’re off doing your quest. The map is stylized and fairly difficult to read when you’re first starting the game though. Once you’ve explored most of it the map will make sense.

The game feels quite balanced in its world design. You usually have nice area of outdoor overworld to explore while you make your way from dungeon to dungeon. The game also has a natural break between spirits. You can find the first two spirits quickly, but then Ali starts to work to unfold more of this mysterious group that is threatening his Kingdom before working to get the last two. Its a nice break between the two and lets the story keep you interested in what’s happening instead of breaking it up like this: get all spirits, uncover mystery.

A physical copy for the Genesis seems to be a bit uncommon, and its price ranges from $15-25 for a loose cartridge. This game has seen various digital releases and is on some modern compilations such as Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Steam.

Psychotic Reviews: General Chaos

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Now its been overdue for a nice nostalgia trip. Playing Saturn games was nice for a spell. I remember seeing the games on a shelf as a wee lad, and had no idea what the system was but thinking the big cases were the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on. I did not know anybody with a Saturn though. I did know multiple people with a Sega Genesis though, and one of them had our game today, General Chaos. General Chaos was developed by Game Refuge Inc. and published by Electronic Arts.

General Chaos is a real time action game that can also be said to be an early RTS game, without the base building aspect of the modern genre though. This game focuses on micromanaging a squad of soldiers against another squad of soldiers, its much more tactical and the real time battle system sets it aside from many turn based games of the time like X-Com and is closer to playing like Syndicate. It was developed by Game Refuge Inc. This company’s founders, Brian Colin and Jeff Nauman, were well known as arcade developers for Bally/Midway, developing classics such as Rampage and Arch Rivals, and later followups such as Rampage: World Tour.

The art style is cartoony and the style is definitely going for completely whacked out and crazy. My friend did not have the box and manual for some reason though, so my recent purchase was glorified by flipping through the incredibly cheesy comic book right at the front of the manual. The graphics are quite good, and there is plenty of action on screen at any one time. There are multiple types of soldier, and each one has their own weapon, range, strengths, and weaknesses. How you move in the game and what type of squad you decide to go with can have a massive impact on your success in the field of battle! While the AI is rather stupid there is a two player option, and that’s what I remember playing the most at my friend’s house. We would blow the crap out of each other in this game and have a blast while doing it.

Playing the AI is a rather interesting affair. At first your opponents are quite stupid and just run into your fire, and winning Close Combat sections are quite easy. Its not too difficult to win outright and storm General Havoc’s capital city on this first round. You then have a choice to play again, and this time the AI ramps up the difficulty. It may take a few tries to best this medium difficulty. There is then a third tier of difficulty that’s even harder. This is it though. You can only play three rounds, for a nice gradient from easy, medium and hard.

This game is a cult classic now, and its quite easy to see why. This is a game that occupies a nice niche on the Genesis, it is almost completely unique on the system. The animation is quite smooth in the game, and during battle you are graced with nothing but the sound effects of gunfire and explosions. The music is nice when it shows up, and is some of the higher quality audio for the system. With a multitap you can have up to 4 people playing at the same time, so this game is definitely made for couch multiplayer. The multiplayer is what I remember enjoying the most as a kid, and its just as fun now as it was back then.

A sequel was posted on Kickstarter, but this was a complete failure. General Chaos II: Sons of Chaos was asking for $125,000 to create a high definition, hand drawn sequel of this game. It only managed to get just shy of $16,000 in the month it had.

Why Did I Play This? Episode 10: Stargate

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The series returns with a nice look at one of the many ignored movie licensed games of the 16 bit era. Stargate was made by Acclaim and released for the SNES and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1995, but not all was well in this land of milk and honey.

What happens when your low class nametag goes away and you can’t use it anymore? Well it looks like you just have to use your own name and hope nobody notices and ignores such MEDIOCRITIES!

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Spooky Plays: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

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I would have loved to play some more survival horror games this year, especially with the relevant holiday this month! Driven by time constraints I decided to pick my halloween game based on the ability to pick up and play, so a good childhood classic came up as the forerunner.

You can smell the cheese through the monitor!

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a tongue-in-cheek top down maze like action game for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive (just called Zombies for the MD players out there) that released in 1993. The game is meant to be a spoof of old drive-in monster movies, putting the player in charge of a boy wearing 3D glasses, or a girl with a pony tail and baseball hat. Armed with only your trusty squirt gun you must go around and save all the civilians in each level while staying alive and avoiding all the monsters, or killing them for points.

No teens were harmed in this game.

Zombies is packed so full of levels it is ready to burst, boasting 49 on a regular playthrough, but 55 counting all bonus levels! That is a long haul for even some of the most dedicated gamers, thankfully the game has a password system that works. All you need to do is write down the 4 letter password you get after completing every few levels. 4 letters. Its glorious. All of these levels are built from many different tilesets which are smartly spread out through the entire game, no 5 hedgemazes in a row here.

Cliches are this game’s best friend, the team at Lucasarts really showed their love for all of those old cheesy monster movies by putting nearly all of them in the game. Secret areas are where many large nods are placed, the first one having a big Frankenstein’s monster guarding an extra life in the lab. Of course every game has its own first enemy, and in this one the choice is as clear as day, the name is in the title! It will not take long to encounter more difficult and annoying enemies though, like all the Evil Dolls, werewolves, chainsaw maniacs, mummies, and martians among others.

Others like gigantic babies for like, no reason.

In order to deal with all these enemies the developers gave you a ton of weapons to use, but first you have to find them strewn about or hidden in the various levels. One should never run out of ammo for their squirt gun, soda cans are used as grenades, popsicles can be thrown, paths can be blown open with the rocket launcher, forks and plates can be thrown, footballs can kill zombies. There is so much hidden around to find that the fun might never end! On top of weapons there are several secondary items to find, such as first-aid kits, keys, potions, shoes, and lazy clowns to name a few.

The game’s controls are smooth and responsive, the only real problem comes with the perspective. Since it is top down and some of the weapons require precision then sometimes you’ll shoot something and it will just barely miss. Think of beat’em-ups and how you have to be perfectly lined up with your opponent to hit them. The music and sound effects in this game are amazing, perfectly fitting given the game’s background and goal.

Now so far I’ve just been laying down my thoughts and a review of the SNES release of ZAMN but as of this writing I do not own the Genesis version, so can’t reliably comment on it. The Super Nintendo version is a must play, whether it is around Halloween or just at some random time. It is easy to pick up and play and get into, it doesn’t matter if you start from the beginning or use an old password, there is plenty of variety and challenge here to keep anybody busy until the dead return to their eternal slumber. Go play this classic right now if you have it for SNES, Genesis/MD, or Virtual Console!

Why Did I Play This? Classic Edition 2

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Well I’m finally back at work on some new content for my blog and channel, it should all be coming together and released next weekend. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the second post from my original concept blog about games that I regret playing. I reimagined this very entry as my first entry into the video world and the result can be seen on my youtube channel here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/WhyDidIPlayThis

And the videos can be seen right here:

This is the greatest game I’ve ever played! Crystal is on an epic quest of redemption, the introductory cutscene showing that all of her family and friends are lead off into the pastures of death and mowed down by automatic assault rifle firing. Enraged, Crystal dons a headband and grabs the closest AK-47 she can find, karate chopping a poor Vietcong soldier in two! She goes on the most epic shooting spree ever seen by human eyes, firing what appears to be hundreds of rounds into these pour souls without ever needing to replace her clip. Finally she confronts the evil mystic who communed with the gods and ordered her people exterminated. After giving some made up excuse Crystal pulls out her trusted Desert Eagle and blows the bearded man’s brains out.

Ok, it wasn’t actually that awesome. And I know exactly what you’re thinking, Crystal’s Pony Tale? That has to be one of the girliest games known to mankind. Trust me, it is, and they did not spend much time hiding it. So let us dive right in and start off by taking a look at the cover.

Well, now you know exactly how girly of a game this is, and as a muscular macho man I had to wash out the taste left behind by this game by playing some Altered Beast. First of all let’s take a look at the ponies themselves, in the immediate foreground you’ll notice a pink horse (Pilar) looking right at you with an open mouth smile. Right next to her is her brown coated, blonde maned friend Carla, also looking at the player. The pair are trotting along a narrow stone path leading to a bright, happy, suspended purplish castle. I’ve never understood children’s movies and those castles with those narrow stone paths, you wasted more stone building the castle up that high than just building one along a cliff face! Anyway to complete the cover we have a rainbow and pink clouds set to a normal blue sky behind the castle. Girls like pink right?

You will play as Crystal the Mystical, Wondrous Princess and Prettiest Pony in all of Ponyland. The evil, ugly, vile Storm Witch, has just cast a spell that has frozen all the other pretty ponies of Ponyland! Gasp! Oh noes! Conveniently Crystal dodges the lightning bolt and sets out on a quest to find the magical crystals (shocker I know) that will free all the other ponies from their magical prisons.

After starting the game up and navigating past the title screen you’ll come to an option screen where you have the options of changing the difficulty, changing the control scheme, and changing the colors of the pony’s body, mane, and tail that you’ll be playing. That’s… actually really cool for this time period in gaming history. Few games up till then had included a difficulty setting. And customizing the look of the character you’ll be playing as? Well it might as well have been unheard of then.

After finishing up with the options you’ll continue to another screen of your pony just standing there, this is the level select screen, letting you pick which level you’ll start at between three of them; the Farm, the Dark Forest, and the Storm Witch’s Cave. Again, this is a pretty awesome option to have at this point in gaming history.

Once you start playing either of these levels though you’ll notice that the bad decisions start showing their ugly heads. The controls are a bit sluggish, even with a wired controller there is some lag between the button presses and the actions that Crystal performs. She also turns and runs away from things that scare her, which is pretty much everything that’s not a cute animal, even water; ala Lester the Unlikely for you AVGN fans. What this means is that you’ll be running along, then press the jump button to vault over the obstacle and it will register too late so she’ll back away from it. Really annoying I know.

You’re also pretty much invincible as there is a flaw in the difficulty setting selection, all it does is toggle how much in game help you’ll get from the NPCs you run into. So you can turn it onto hard and rear up at everything by hitting the action button until you find out what you’re supposed to do. What makes you invincible is the fact that you collect horse shoes much like you would rings from Sonic, but when you run into an enemy you only lose one or two shoes each time. After playing for ten minutes I had almost 40 horseshoes, and going between the level portals eats ten of them, so this game can practically beat itself if anybody wants to take the time to do so.

All in all, its not the worst game. It is stupidly bright and so colorful that it will hurt your eyes looking at it for too long. Crystal’s Pony Tale, aside from being an obvious pun, implements some good ideas that stuck in the industry long after its 1994 release date. If you are a man, only get this game if you’re a completionist collector. If you have a little sister that for some reason has a hand-me-down Sega Genesis, then she might love this game. But to let you know how hilariously girly this game is, I popped it in and my girlfriend broke into insane laughter.

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