The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You’ve Probably Heard Of – #10 Altered Beast

At first glance, Altered Beast isn’t really that bad. It’s a decent, if unoriginal beat-em up in which you play as an ancient soldier, whom Zeus raises from the dead to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Athena. You travel from right to left across five stages punching and kicking an endless horde of identical monsters. The longer you play it, though, it stops feeling mildly generic and seems more like its ripping off one game in particular. At first, this is hard to pinpoint. “When have I played this before?” you think. Was it Golden Axe? No, that game allowed limited movement along a 3rd dimension, and had enemies that could take a few hits.Altered Beast is strictly two dimensional, and almost all the enemies die after being hit once. Was it Ninja Gaiden? Nope, Ninja Gaiden had some platforming, whereas AB’s jumping is limited to the occasional area where you can hop up to a second plane. And then it hits you…

Altered Beast is exactly like Bad Dudes.

altered_007

At the time Altered Beast was released, few other games allowed you to breakdance.

Well ok, it’s not EXACTLY like Bad Dudes.In Altered Beast’s favor, you get to turn into a Werewolf (or dragon, or bear, or other animal depending on the level), which is kind of cool.On the other hand, Bad Dudes has one of the greatest storylines in video games – President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas.If you were only going to steal one thing from Bad Dudes, it should have been that.

And it’s not as if they replaced it with a storyline that was equally good (as if such a thing were even possible). Why would Zeus need your help rescuing Athena? Did he run out of lightning bolts or something? And wouldn’t he have gotten Hercules  Perseus, or Jason to do it? Zeus didn’t even like Athena – he saw her as a threat to his power. And here’s one other serious flaw with the narrative: Athena isn’t the princess from Mario – she’s the Goddess of Wisdom AND War. Good luck with that, potential kidnappers – it’s going to take a lot more than some candy and an unmarked cargo van to pull off that abduction.

Silly storyline aside, Altered Beast is an average, if derivative, beat-em up. That’s not really so bad, but what earns Altered Beast a spot on this list is that it was the original pack-in game to come with the Genesis. Which means that for the first year or so, every single person who bought a Genesis was essentially forced to buy a copy of Altered Beast as well. They might as well have packaged them with an apology letter while they were at it.

Graphics:Altered Beast is one of the best looking games to come out in the Genesis’ first year. In terms of winning contests with impossibly low standards, that’s kind of like having fewer “Calvin pissing” stickers on your car than anyone else in Ohio.

Sound:It’s kind of hard to take a game seriously when the very first thing you hear is Zeus commanding you to “wise fwom your gwave!”

Control:Each level allows you to turn into a different monster, each with its own special attacks. These attacks generally fall into two categories – “projectile” and “run right into enemy and take damage”.

altered_004

In a more perfect world, suggesting this… whatever the hell it is… as the Level One boss would get you fired.


Final Verdict: When you’re the first to come out with a revolutionary next-generation system, and then have the audacity to name it after one of the books of the Old Testament, you’re making a bold statement. And that statement should not be “Buy a Genesis and get a free copy of Altered Beast! It’s just like Bad Dudes, except with werewolves!”

The Ten Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #9. WWF Super Wrestlemania

After going through a huge boom in the 1980s, pro wrestling hit a slump during the early-90s. Some say it was a lack of creativity, others blame the absence of new talent to replace aging superstars, while many thought the cause was lame gimmicks and storylines (the Red Rooster, anyone?). After playing WWF Super Wrestlemania, however, I’m convinced that the problem was awful licensed games giving the “sport” a bad name.

Wreslting games are one of those kinds of games that usually get a free pass from critics despite being really bad, since critics think wrestling fans are idiots. Wrestling fans prove them right by running out and buying horrible wrestling games. As long as the characters in the game kind of look like their real-life (and that’s a mind-bendingly relative term when discussing a wrestling game) counterparts, and the game doesn’t cause the console to overheat and start on fire, everyone’s happy. That’s as true now as it was back in the Genesis days.

wwf2

With the Macho Man down and out, Hulk decides to do the Funky Chicken

You can tell this game is going to be a disaster right from the character select screen. There are 8 WWF Superstars to choose from, including a few big names of the era such as Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage. However, they inexplicably left out both Bret Hart and the Undertaker in order to have enough room to get Irwin R. Shyster and Papa Shango into the game. That would be like inducting Ratt and Candlebox into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ahead of the Doors and Led Zeppelin. And though I haven’t played every fighting game ever made, I seriously have to believe that this is the only one where over 10% of the roster is made up of evil tax accountants.

In the ring, all of the wrestlers share the same assortment of about 15 moves, most of which are done by jamming on a specific button while grappling with your opponent. It’s hard enough to engage your opponent in a grapple, let alone actually win one, so it’s usually better just to mash the punch button and avoid the process all together. As a result, each match quickly degenerates into a routine of pummeling your opponent in the face until he falls down and then repeatedly stomping on his genitals. Just like the real thing!

In order to accurately portray all your favorite WWF Superstars, the game goes to great lengths to make them look and move just like their real-life counterparts. Oh no, wait, I was thinking of a good game. Sorry, it’s a defense mechanism by brain uses to sheild itself from the damage that prolonged exposure to something like this can cause. What I meant to say was that everyone in the game is the same height and body shape, so every wrestler kind of looks kind of the same except for their outfit. The crowd isn’t animated at all, and the artists made the mistake of drawing the fans frozen right in the middle of a rousing cheer, which adds a certain creepiness to the atmosphere.

Graphics: Unless your idea of pro wrestling involves two identical twins wearing Halloween costumes of their favorite wrestlers while fighting in the middle of a wax museum, these graphics aren’t very realistic.

Sound: As bad as the rest of this game is, its one redeeming feature is that it does include the entrance music for each wrestler in the game, so at least you can rock out to the Ultimate Warrior’s music on the character select screen…

Control: …before going out and trampling on the British Bulldog’s dong for 10 minutes.

wwf1

Hulk dries off his neck with his new “Hulk Rules” bath towel

Final Verdict: Not only did this game finish 9th on our list, but Super Wrestlemania is actually the worst of 4 WWF licensed games to be released on the Genesis. Keep in mind that one of those other WWF games was a horrendous knock-off of Mortal Kombat with wrestlers for all the characters and Vince McMahon screaming nonsense after every move. The people at Flying Edge and Acclaim must have some kind of vendetta against us personally because, let’s face it, making a game worse than that isn’t something that happens by accident.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You’ve Probably Heard Of – #8. Lethal Enforcers

Playing Lethal Enforcers is like opening a time capsule from the late 1980s.  Technically, the game is from 1992 (in its original arcade form, this version is dated 1993), but you have to consider the amount of time it takes to actually develop a game.  Most of the digitized video was probably filmed in 1990-91.  Nor is it taking into account the fact that the pre-Clinton 90s were basically one long 80s hangover.  So it’s no accident if you start playing this game, see all the boxy cars, grainy video, big hair, and racism towards the Chinese, and think that you’ve warped back in time to 1989 – culturally speaking, ‘89 was like an extended year that went on for 36 months instead of twelve, with Lethal Enforcers coming out somewhere near the end of that.

Lethal Enforcers002Looks like a scene out of a straight to video movie starring Brian Bosworth.

The game’s first level is The Bank Heist and takes place, as you probably surmised, at the bank.  Except in this case, it looks like the robbers got confused and instead of robbing a branch, inadvertently invaded the corporate offices.  There are lots of desks and employees in suits, but no counters with teller windows or those little tables with the pens chained to them.  It’s a light gun game, so the gameplay is pretty simple – bad guys pop up on screen and you either you shoot them in the face (if they’re behind cover), or in the testicles (if they’re not).  I guess technically you can shoot them in the chest of the arm or whatever and that still counts, but all the time I’ve spent playing it, or watching others play it, those are the only places anyone has ever aimed for.  At heart, we’re a nation of sadists.

It quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary bank robbery (the fact that it was going on in the offices instead of at the branch probably should have tipped you off already), as evidenced by the fact that there is a virtual army of robbers in the bank.  We didn’t make an official count, but I’d estimate that there is somewhere between 50 and 100 bad guys in this first area.  Clearly this is a foreign invasion – probably some Latin American rebel group trying to steal some money to fund their revolutionary efforts back home.  Or maybe it’s a corporate takeover by a competing bank, which would explain why they’re in the office building.  And you probably thought that hostile takeover stuff in the business section was all boring crap with stock brokers and whatnot.

In addition to the bad guys, there are also some civilians trapped in the bank.  Innocents have a bad tendency to jump out from behind desks like the robbers do, but you have to be careful not to shoot them because doing so will cost you a life, and more importantly, a promotion.  Kill enough civilians and at the end of the stage, they will make you do it all over again.  Which seems like an unnecessarily dangerous disciplinary action to bring against an officer who they already knows has a tendency to shoot civvies.

Lethal Enforcers009

You know what, Lethal Enforcers?  Fuck you.  I just stopped an invading army all by myself armed with only a pistol.  I deserve a goddamn medal, not a lecture about those two bank tellers I shot in a cross-fire.  It’s not like I chased them into a corner and shot them in the back.

This bank was prepared for the inevitability of a takeover-style robbery though, and has taken the precaution of stashing weaponry all over the building.  A Magnum and a shotgun can be obtained, naturally, by shooting them.  Of course, since one shot from your pistol is generally enough to kill anyone (this is a realistic crime simulator after all), the extra firepower isn’t really that helpful.  It does make each shot hit a larger area, though, which is handy for accidentally hitting bystanders.  That might be the reason real cops generally don’t bring 12 gauges to hostage negotiations.

A few stages later, the bad guys make their getaway, in four separate cars, including the epitome of 80s vehicles – an old Camaro.  We can only assume it’s an IROC-Z.  There’s about 4 guys to each car, which sort of makes me wonder if the bank parking lot is still full of now abandoned getaway cars from all the guys we killed inside on the previous stage.  There’s probably about 20 or more cars back there.

Lethal Enforcers005

The fourth getaway car is a cargo van with a sliding door.  If you’ve ever played a game like this before, you already know what that means – there’s a guy with a rocket launcher inside.  Sure enough, that door slides open to reveal another business suit an sunglasses man, this time armed with an RPG and about 10,000 rockets.  Between the number of guys involved in this robbery and the amount of expensive weaponry being used in it, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever stealing enough money to cover the costs.  Maybe this is more about making a statement or something.  Fortunately for you, rockets are easier to shoot out of mid-air than bullets, so he’s actually easier to defeat than your average bad guy, even if he does show amazing resilience to being blasted in the junk repeatedly.

The next stage takes place in Chinatown, but without light guns, this game is impossibly hard and we didn’t get very far.  I’d really love to know who the hell traded in a copy of both Lethal Enforcers games to Stryker’s store and decided to hang on to the guns.  Hope whoever it was enjoyed those other few Genesis games that were made for them.

Lethal Enforcers008The only way this could get any more racist would be if that Chinese chef was chasing an alley cat with the kitchen knife in hand.

Control: Is it really fair to judge the console versions of Lethal Enforcers without the guns?  While we’ve usually punished games for not using the standard controllers (see: just about every fighting game on the Genesis that required the 6 button pad), we’d be more willing to cut Lethal Enforcers a break since it came with the gun controller.  But more to the point – yes, it is fair.  We’ve played the home version without guns, and we’ve played the arcade version with guns, and our brain can kind of conceptualize what playing the console version with guns would probably be like.

Graphics: Though there may be a lot of them, the bad guys all look pretty much the same.  There’s a guy in a ski mask, a guy in a suit with sunglasses, and an older guy in a red jacket who looks like he should be strolling to a bowling alley or maybe playing bocce on his front lawn.

Sound: As one of the the poorly recorded audio clips from the game might say, “Eat lead!”

Final Verdict: Lethal Enforcers isn’t anything special. It’s basically Duck Hunt with three guys in different outfits standing in for the ducks.  And believe it or not, shooting the same crappy video of a guy with a gun over and over gets old pretty fast.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #7. Super High Impact

Super High Impact is probably the kind of game you would get if you took a group of people who don’t really watch football and had them supervise a team of sociopathic programmers. It’s supposed to be a high scoring, hard hitting interpretation of the sport with more excitement and attitude added to the game. In actuality, it’s a horrendous home version of an already bad arcade game that plays like Tecmo Super Bowl except with all the fun sucked out of it. Anyone who was around for the 16-bit era probably won’t be surprised to learn that this monstrosity was published by Acclaim.

Things go wrong as soon as you get to the play-calling screen. On offense, you have several plays to choose from, but almost every one of them is a long bomb. I think there’s a single running play, and one short pass, and neither one of them work very well. You can also kick a field goal or punt – you know, just in case the game somehow turns into a low-scoring contest of strategy and field position.

Once you decide which long bomb you want to throw, things only get worse. You can’t seem to be able to choose which wide receiver you throw the ball to, but it hardly matters since as soon as they run 10 yards downfield you can’t see them anyway. Are they open? Covered? Ran away to appear in a better game? Nobody knows! Don’t worry though, half the time a defender will plow through the line and tackle you before the game will let you get rid of the ball anyway. The rest of the time all you can really do is just throw the ball up for grabs and hope one of your guys ends up with it, which would actually make it a pretty accurate simulation if every quarterback in the game was supposed to be Drew Bledsoe.

hi1

Since the game was released, LA lost both its NFL teams, and Africa has been passed over for a new franchise 4 times. I guess “Super High Impact thinks we should have a team,” isn’t the most convincing case to present to an NFL Expansion Committee.

Defensively, things aren’t much better. As the title implies, Super High Impact football puts a big emphasis on making big hits. In fact, just about every tackle in the game is a bone-jarring impact that sends the opponent’s pads exploding off, and the best ones are rated on the “Hit-O-Meter” by some screaming jackass. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you hit the guy, he never drops the ball, so you actually have to let the guy catch the ball in order to hit him. And since just about every pass is a 50-yard bomb, this isn’t sound football strategy. The programmers compensated for this by making the game so bad that it’s impossible to care about the outcome anyway, but if you’re really trying to stop your opponent from scoring, your best bet is to simply push the receiver out of bounds before the ball gets there.

Control: You can’t choose which receiver you’re throwing to, you can only barely play defense, and you can rarely see enough of the field to know what the hell you’re supposed to be doing anyway. You could watch a real football game on TV while holding a Genesis controller and get about the same level of interactivity as you do from playing this goddamn game.

Graphics: The game features a lot of early 90’s era, low-resolution digitized graphics, which have very little animation and are quite pixelated. What’s really awesome though is that the Genesis couldn’t handle the video clips featured in the arcade version, but rather than get rid of them entirely, they’ve all been replaced with what look like really bad animated .gifs based off of the original FMVs.

Sound: Like some kind of low-budget cartoon, every character in the game sounds like his lines are being screamed at you by the same voice actor. And I mean screamed. This includes taunts, referee’s calls and commentary. At first, I thought it was kind of weird that the same voice that was yelling things like “Incomplete”, and “4th down” was also calling me a momma’s boy, but I guess the refs in Super High Impact Football are just really into trash talking.

hi2

No. No it isn’t.


Final Verdict: The only thing that kept this game out of the Top 5 is the fact that it’s still more interesting to watch than the Detroit Lions.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You’ve Probably Heard Of – #6. Out of This World

Out of This World wasn’t a huge seller when it was released in 1992, but almost immediately established a loyal cult following, which still remains to this day. The game is particularly well-thought of amongst critics and other so-called “hardcore” gamers. In cases like this, it is sometimes difficult to understand what it is about a game that attracts such a dedicated fanbase. But with OoTW the cause is fairly obvious.With its rotoscoped animations, vector graphics, and cinematic approach, the game looks and plays unlike pretty much anything that had come before it, and with only a few exceptions, most anything else that has been made since. But for all the things it does right, Out of This World has one glaring flaw – it is maddeningly unplayable.

Graphics are never more important than gameplay. Unless they look like this, then they totally are.

The more self-righteous gaming pundits will tout that gameplay is far more important than graphics, which is true, but it’s funny how quiet they get on this point when the graphics have a certain artistic flair to them, as opposed to simply making a more realistic-looking football player.And it’s also noteworthy that nobody ever says that gameplay is (or at least should be) more important than story.That rule used to be pretty self-evident back in the NES days when just about every game had a crappy, throwaway narrative that was usually printed on the first page of the instructions.Once game companies starting spending more than 10 seconds coming up with their stories, however, that attitude changed.Story is like the “sophisticated” gamer’s equivalent of graphics – completely auxiliary to the overall quality of the game and yet given a disproportionate amount of attention.

Out of This World creates something of a perfect storm in this way, because not only does it have stylish graphics, but they’re the centerpiece of the game’s cinematic way of presenting its story.There’s hardly any text or dialogue in the game – almost the entire story is told through brief cutscenes or through the on-screen events that you interact in.Unique, artistic graphics used to tell a story in an original, compelling way?Make a game like that and critics will start heaping awards on it without even playing it.

The game does a few other things that critics and other pretentious gamers love, too.In the very beginning of the game, you can see a big, scary monster running around in the background, stalking you – a scene far too obvious to be considered legitimate foreshadowing but nonetheless guaranteed to make fans swoon in the wake of its alleged genius.The game also attempts to enhance the cinematic experience by getting rid of any kind of on-screen displays such as life bars or inventories, a ploy that’s never really worked out well but nonetheless attracts praise every time it’s attempted.Finally, Out of This World features a good deal of puzzle solving, which is always a favorite for cult gamers.After all, nothing makes a trained chimp feel smart like pushing a few buttons to solve a simple puzzle!

But the real problem with Out of This World is that it combines trial-and-error style adventuring with poorly controlled action and platforming sequences.This is a match made in hell, not only for those obvious reasons that its essentially combining garbage with trash, but also because these two ingredients are so thoroughly uncomplimentary to each other.One style of gameplay causes you to die over and over until you figure out the “right” way of getting through an area.The other causes you to die over and over because your character doesn’t want to respond to your inputs.Put the two together and it becomes impossible to determine whether you’re dying because you’re taking the wrong course of action, or simply because the control sucks.

Of course, a good designer can get around a problem like that pretty easily by making the action sections more forgiving, or by cutting back on them in favor of more puzzle solving. A good example of this is the original Alone in the Dark.The fighting controls in that game were pretty horrendous, but it wasn’t a big deal because there aren’t that many combat sections.With the exception of a few areas, if you’re fighting something in Alone in the Dark, you’re doing something wrong. On the other hand, Out of This World prominently features intense gunfights, precise jumping sections, and various other fast-paced sections that the controls simply cannot handle without causing a great deal of frustration.

Is it just me, or does this somehow remind you of E.T. for the Atari 2600?

Control: And there’s no denying that the control sucks.Out of This World uses rotoscoped animation, like Prince of Persia, which isn’t a problem in of itself, but much like PoP, an overabundance of frivolous animations causes the game to be unresponsive, as you lose control while waiting for needlessly long animations to complete.Graphics over gameplay, anyone?

Graphics: If you’re a game critic, you’ll probably go nuts for these graphics. Humans, on the other hand, will likely be disappointed.

Sound: 90% of the audio the Genesis was capable of producing sounded like various animal flatulence, so it was probably better for the game’s artistic feel that the designers were pretty minimalistic here.

Final Verdict: Perhaps the most accurate way to gauge Out of This World’s true quality is take a look at its creator’s follow-up effort, the Playstation game Heart of Darkness.HoD features very similar design, gameplay (and control), similar graphics, and the same cinematic approach. However, the story isn’t as good, and by the time it was released, the graphics no longer seemed all that unique or stylish.As a result, that game is almost universally hated.What we have then is something akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes except in reverse – stripped of its fancy visuals and narrative, we can finally see that there never really was any kind of game underneath it the entire time. Let’s take some of the scorn that has been rightly thrown upon Heart of Darkness and redirect it toward Out of This World, an even more deserving target.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You’ve Probably Heard Of – #5. Sonic 3D Blast

On one of my trips to visit my brother in Ithaca, NY, we ran into one of his friends from the nearby town of Auburn.This friend told us of a game they liked to play back home, known as “junk tossing”.The way it works is that the players climb up to the roof of a barn, and then attempt to throw one another off of the barn onto a pile of junk.The “junk pile” generally consists of scrap metal, broken boards, plant trimmings, and whatever else happened to be laying around.It didn’t really matter if the stuff in the pile was sharp, or hard, or even coated in toxic chemicals – the only real safety concern when making up the junk pile was that it be tall enough to effectively break a fall from the roof.The winner of the game is whoever doesn’t land in the pile of junk (although this can be a bit misleading, as the rules are somewhat unclear about what happens if a contestant is thrown off the roof, but misses the pile of junk – we asked about this and the answer we got is such an event generally ends in a trip to the hospital).Of course, the whole thing has kind of a battle royale aspect to it, so it’s fully expected that throwees will climb back onto the roof and continue playing.And to add a little more drama to the event, bees like to build their nests in the junk pile, so people who get thrown onto the pile are generally treated to a bunch of stings as they make their way back up.Needless to say, Auburn sounds like pretty much the best town in the universe, though not all of us agreed.Another friend who overheard this story reacted by calling him an “absolute freak,” and asking “What do you do when you go to other towns? Do you walk around thinking ‘Where are the piles of junk?’ and ‘Why aren’t I being stung by bees?’”

The reason I bring all this up is because Sonic 3D Blast basically takes everything that made the previous Sonic games good and throws it off the roof of a barn onto a big pile of junk, filled with jagged metal and angry bees.Then it lights the pile of junk on fire.And then it throws some spoiled milk on top of that, just so that the big pile of flaming junk and bees smells really bad, too. Making this list forced us to make some pretty hard decisions, but believe me when I tell you that this wasn’t one of them.

In 3D, Sonic kinda just looks like an uninteresting Christmas ornament.

There really seems to have been a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the developers as to why people liked the Sonic games in the first place.It had a lot more to do with the actual game than its star character – despite what you may have heard, gamers aren’t inherently fascinated by punk-ass rodents that can run fast. But the games were straightforward, fast-paced, and had well-designed, sprawling levels with multiple routes, which turned out to be a pretty reliable recipe for fun. You didn’t have to think much about it – just jump in, start running, and enjoy.

Sonic 3D Blast has none of those things going for it.The isometric view makes lining up jumps and traveling through the levels an awkward process, which is frustrating and time consuming.The “escort mission” style of the gameplay puts a bigger emphasis on exploration than action and slows things down even further. At its worst, it’s a pain in the ass, and even at its best, it’s still boring.

Control: Sonic finally lives up to the reputation of having an attitude problem by thoroughly ignoring just about everything you tell him to do.

Graphics: Bring Sonic into the third dimension really helps showcase what a surreal and terrifying world he lives in, so as long as the game was going for kind of a horror angle, it totally nailed it.

Sound: Kind of hard to screw up the audio in a game with music and sound effects as iconic as Sonic’s, but the game deserves credit for trying anyway.

Final Verdict: What ultimately puts this game so high on the list is that it’s hard to imagine any way that it could possibly get any better.If Super High Impact had better control, it would still suck, but not quite as badly as it does.If the fighting in Shaq Fu was better, people might overlook how silly its story is. Sonic 3D Blast can’t be fixed like that because the flaws run too deep – its entire design is broken and ill-conceived. The only way to “fix” it would be to throw it out and start over.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #4. Shaq Fu

Shaq-Fu is so notoriously bad that, when I went to the flea market to buy a copy to research for this article, the guy selling it seemed reluctant to make the sale out of genuine concern for my well-being, much the same way a convenience store clerk might be averse to selling bottles of alcohol and sleeping pills to someone who was obviously suffering from depression. Upon returning home, my Genesis refused to play it. This forced me to try to play Shaq-Fu with an emulator, whereupon I discovered that my Genesis emulator also refused to run it. Thus, I was forced to base this writing off of the Super Nintendo version of the game. I know that sounds like a pretty unscientific way to research an article on the worst games on the Genesis, but you’ll just have to trust me that Shaq-Fu’s awfulness transcends mere hardware.

To put it another way, the Genesis and Super Nintendo are kind of like the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers teams that Shaq’s Lakers crushed in the NBA Finals. Sure, you could argue about which one was better, but it’s a moot point since neither one was a match for the awesome power of Shaquille O’Neal. Only in this case Shaq’s awesome power involves starring in horrendous games and making children sad.

shaq20fu20u002

The best part is that he appears to be wearing a jersey for the Orlando Shaqs

Right away, Shaq-Fu informs us that Shaq is a master of the ancient art of Shaqido. I love the way the game constantly comes up with ways to substitute Shaq’s name into non-shaq words. Like when they call things Shaqtacular instead of spectacular, or when I tell you that this game is Shaqing horrible.

Before we discuss Shaq Fu’s story, let’s take a moment to show some respect toward the person who wrote it. No, I’m not being sarcastic. That must have been the hardest job ever. Nothing you could do for a living, regardless of how depressing, or dangerous, or exhausting it is, could be as difficult as being the story writer for Shaq-Fu. Think about it – even on your toughest day at work, your boss has never come up to you and said “Hey, we’re making a video game where you play as Shaq, but instead of playing basketball, it’s a fighting game. Oh, and your enemies include cat-people and mummies. I need you to write a story that explains how that would happen.” Even Shakespeare would have been like “Shaq this,” (although I’m sure Shakespeare would have found a more elegant way of saying “Shaq this”, probably with a rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter). Of course the story isn’t very good. That’s not the point. The fact that one exists at all is amazing.

Anyway, Shaq-Fu’s impossible story involves Shaq going to Japan to participate in a charity basketball game. On the day of the game, he decides to kill a little time by doing some sightseeing. He does this while wearing his complete basketball uniform, which seems a bit strange considering every time I’ve watched a basketball game, and they show the players arriving at the arena, they’re all wearing suits and stuff. Do they not have locker rooms in Asia? Or is Shaq just so addicted to his own fame that simply being a gigantic black man in Japan wasn’t attracting enough attention to himself? Actually, considering that we’re talking about a game called Shaq-Fu, where you play as Shaq, master of Shaqido, that’s really not so hard to believe.

While sightseeing in Japan, Shaq stops at a mysterious shop where the shopkeeper recognizes him as some kind of warrior who is going to save the world, and tells him to walk into his closet, which is the gateway to another dimension. Though a series of painfully hard to believe mix-ups, Shaq thinks the shopkeeper is an exuberant fan, and decides to go along with it, even though climbing into some strange guy’s closet seems like the first thing the NBA would warn their basketball stars not to ever do while traveling overseas. Doing so teleports him to some alternate dimension where, as hard as it is for me to believe, everyone hates Shaq. How could such a thing be possible? It must be opposite land!

What takes place from there is a lot of fighting. Now you might think that being a basketball player, even one who is a master of Shaqido, fighting against a bunch of trained martial artists would put you at a real disadvantage. And you’d be right. If there’s a handicap that the game could give Shaq, he’s got it. He’s slower, less mobile, his attacks do less damage, and he has fewer special moves than anyone else in the game. The game features an arcade-style mode where you’re allowed to play as someone other than O’Neal, but if you want to play the Story Mode with a different character, you’re Shaq out of luck.

Don’t worry though, because even with those limitations, the game isn’t that hard. Like most bad fighting games from this era, the key to winning in Shaq-Fu is to find the one move that works almost all the time. Then you can just use that move over and over until you win. It’s different for each character, but everybody has one.

Graphics: Shaq’s basketball shorts have blue pinstripes, and he runs in place after every victory. That’s pretty Shaqed up.

Sound: Unfortunately, none of the tracks from Shaq’s rap albums are included in the game’s soundtrack, thus denying us the ultimate Shaq experience.

Control: The control isn’t horrible, but is spotty enough that special moves don’t always work, which makes using them a risky proposition, which in turn reinforces the strategy of just using the same easy move over and over.

shaq20fu20u011

Well, I suppose it’s more eloquent than “Tell me how my ass tastes.”

Final Verdict: In terms of gameplay, Shaq-Fu is only medium-bad. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a fighting game about Shaq travelling to another dimension to beat up cat people and mummies.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #3. Revolution X

When is the “best” time to release a game about overthrowing a tyrannical government with the help of Aerosmith? Ideally, never. But if it absolutely has to happen, the best time probably wasn’t 1995. See, Aerosmith’s “Get a Grip” album came out in spring 1993, and by that summer, the airwaves were being dominated by the song Cryin’. The video ran in a seemingly continuous loop on MTV that summer, with only occasional interruptions for Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train or Blind Melon’s No Rain. This is what was known to music video aficionados as “The worst summer of all time”. The Cryin‘ video was in such disproportionately heavy rotation that some wondered if Aerosmith didn’t actually own MTV. It went on to win the MTV Music Awards for Best Video and Best Group Video which, given its incessant airplay during the summer of ’93, wouldn’t have been too surprising if not for the fact that it won the award over a year later in September of 1994. By the time Revolution X reached the Genesis, Aerosmith had already unleashed two more videos from the album – Amazing, which was only mildly popular, and Crazy which, while not as badly overplayed as Cryin’, managed to once again make us wonder if the network’s playlists were being written out by Steven Tyler himself. Keep in mind that all this was going on right at the peak of the alt-rock craze, which was essentially about tuneless, uncharismatic bands that dressed like hobos who we listened to for no better reason than the simple fact that they weren’t Aerosmith.

So you want us to help you defeat an oppressive dictatorship? Sorry Aerosmith; but by 1995, we were already in the middle of trying to overthrow the tyranny of you.

rx2

Honestly, that “No Destroying Bridges rule doesn’t sound all that unreasonable.

A game about Aerosmith helping you overthrow the government is already a pretty shaky premise to base a game on, but here’s what I haven’t mentioned yet – that evil government is being led by a dominatrix. And that’s not some snarky comment on women in positions of authority like when a right-wing commentator calls Hillary Clinton a dominatrix. I mean a black-leather-clad, whips-and-handcuffs, pay-me-$200-an-hour-to-walk-on-you-with-high-heels dominatrix. And your weapon of choice to battle her and her army of identical, non-animated, yellow clad minions? A gun that shoots CDs. Why? Because music is a weapon, that’s why.

The game starts by informing us that the New Order Nation (NON), lead by Head Mistress Helga, has banned everything fun, and then seized everyone between the ages of 13 and 30; which seems kind of redundant, but does provide a good excuse for why a band made up guys in their mid-50’s is leading the revolution.

You are one of the last surviving free youth, and determined not to let all this oppression and dictatorship bum you out, you’re rushing to see Aerosmith perform at Club X, L.A.’s hottest nightspot. Since you are the last of their fans not to be imprisoned, this essentially means Aerosmith is playing the concert just for you. And not just any concert – an illegal concert in an illegal nightclub that has stayed in business, despite not having any customers, just so you could go see Aerosmith perform there. Is it your birthday or something?

Things only get worse from here, as NON raids the concert and kidnaps Aerosmith. You rush to Aerosmith’s dressing room, and after trashing it for no good reason, you get a secret message from Steven Tyler that it’s up to you to stop NON. Then you blow up the club (again for no good reason), and are told to commandeer the NON-helicopter and find Aerosmith’s car. Now, if “Go to the club” really meant blow it up, and “find Aerosmith” really meant destroy their dressing room, then you can imagine what “Commandeer the helicopter” means. So after a pitched battle in which you blow up the helicopter you were supposed to commandeer, you find Aerosmith’s car: a Lamborghini Diablo. Apparently all five members of the band prefer to cruise in a two-seater. Surprisingly, you don’t blow up the car. At this point, you are given a choice of missions, which you choose by (surprise!) shooting at pictures of them on the TV inside Aerosmith’s car.

rx4

Somehow, I don’t think this was what Joe Perry had in mind when they told him he was going to be in a video game.

The Genesis version suffers in a lot of ways compared to the arcade, but perhaps no more significantly than in terms of timing. When Revolution X hit the arcades in ’94, most people had already been suffering from non-stop exposure to Aerosmith videos for about a year and pretty much reached the upper limits of their tolerance. But a year later when it reached home consoles, the breaking point had long been passed, and people’s attitudes had shifted from “I’m getting a little tired of Aerosmith” to “Aerosmith had better not ever fucking cross the street in front of me.”

The most impressive thing about this is that Aerosmith wasn’t a one-hit wonder that everyone got tired of after a year. This isn’t Kris Kross Make My Video, or a game about Debbie Gibson. Aerosmith had been a successful, popular band for 20 years, yet Revolution X somehow managed to get released at the exact moment that we started to get sick of them. That’s incredible.

Rev X on the home console had a few other shortcomings compared to the arcade. Most significantly, it was a gun game without a gun, forcing you to instead move a crosshair around with the control pad. Due to hardware limitations, the game’s already terrible and largely inanimate digitized graphics had to be scaled back even further. Additionally, some of the real Aerosmith music included in the game, which was presumably one of its biggest selling points, was removed, and much of what remained was reduced in quality.

Graphics: Much like the Goo Goo Dolls, digitized graphics are one of those things that seemed like a much better idea in the mid-90s than they do now. Particularly when low-res console versions take what was already an ugly arcade game and turn it into something completely indecipherable. On the other hand, since you can’t really make out what anything is, it’s that much easier to pretend you’re spending the entire game peeing on Joe Perry’s face.

Sound: To give you a pretty good idea of the ineptitude involved in creating Revolution X, consider this: Of the four songs on the soundtrack, only two were included on Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits album. In other words, half of the soundtrack isn’t considered that good even by Aerosmith standards.

Control: While I understand the need to make this version of Revolution X gamepad-friendly, I’m shocked that they didn’t also include light gun support for the 6 of us who had bought the Sega Menacer.

rx5

After killing these guys, you get to shoot up the dressing room for a while. Aerosmith fans hate dressing rooms.

Final Verdict: Revolution X might just be the worst game ever made, and the only thing that kept it out of the top two spots was the fact that nearly identical versions were released on the super Nintendo and Playstation, which diluted its impact on the Genesis a little. Even so, on a scale of 1 to 100, Rev X gets a score of Satan clubbing baby seals.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #2 The Immortal

The Immortal might be the most ironically titled game in history. This is a game where just about everything will kill you. On the very first screen, there’s a spot where a giant worm will pop up through the floor and devour you. You can get killed by goblins, by falling in pits, by mushrooms that spew poison gas, by invisible monsters, by accidentally luring another giant worm to you, by walls that shoot arrows at you, or by reading the inscription on an item you find. That’s just on the first level. Later levels find even more creative ways to bring about your demise. No game has ever perfected the art of killing the player instantly and unexpectedly quite like The Immortal.

All this untimely death might make for a challenging and fun game if it were the least bit fair about it, but it rarely is. Fighting enemies is an uncontrollable nightmare, and while it happens with rare frequency and can sometimes be avoided entirely, almost every single encounter is fatal.

immortal

The Immortal’s Genesis cover – Wicked awesome yet remarkably appropriate.

Picking up quest items is also fraught with danger – about half of the deaths I described earlier were the result of me making the apparently unforgivable mistake of trying to figure out what an item I picked up did. Searching bodies and opening treasures may yield vital equipment required to progress through the game… or it might cause you to die without warning. And as a final little “Fuck You” to the player, the game forces you to retype your password after every single time you run out of lives, rather then letting you continue from the beginning of the level you were already on.

As a result, playing through the game is mostly a process of trial and error (and retyping passwords). Every minuscule amount of progress is generally followed by an instant death. You’ll find a cool new sword, and two seconds later be devoured by a slime. Or you’ll find the key to a treasure chest, and then fall into a pit. The whole game is like that. It’s like using some kind of exercise equipment that drops all the weight directly onto your face every time you complete a set. I find it incredible that this game had any fans at all in an era before prevalent strategy guides, GameFAQs, or emulators with save states. Yet it did.

For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, The Immortal enjoys a fairly positive reputation amongst most of the people who have played it. The game also retains a relatively high resale value, and if you dig up some old reviews, and you’ll probably see more than a few high scores. Doubtless, some of these people are cranky “old-school” gamers who believe difficulty and quality have a direct relationship. “Back in my day, all the games were this hard,” they’ll say. Sure, maybe they were, but was every single one of them good? Anyone who has ever played Timelord already knows the answer to that question.

I’m sure some people appreciate the way it takes the puzzle-oriented approach of some of the old PC adventure games and blends it with the action-oriented style of console games. But here’s the thing – if you get stuck in King’s Quest or Myst and try something that doesn’t work, generally you don’t die as a result. Also, since most of the “puzzles” in The Immortal require you to use the items you’ve obtained along the way, and since finding out what the items do usually gets you killed, you end up dying at least once to learn what things do, and then once again if you fail to use it at the right time. “Hmm, how do I get past this part? Should I use the potion that melts me into a skeleton, the amulet that kills me with a flash of light, or the spores that create a poison gas?” Assuming you eventually guess right, you’ll probably be rewarded with a nearly-impossible to win fight against an orc.

Graphics: At least the game’s numerous animated death sequences give you something to look forward to.

Sound: Given the frequency with which I kept dying, there’s only two things I can say with about the sound: 1. Your character doesn’t scream when he dies. 2. The first ten seconds of the music are pretty good. Beyond that, I really don’t know.

Control: These combat sequences play kind of like Mike Tyson’s Punchout, except your character ignores about half the things you tell him to do, and your opponent gets to hit you 5 times at the start of the match before you can do anything.

Final Verdict: Let’s recap: Illogical puzzle solving, poor control, instant deaths, and somehow still really popular. On a list like this, that’s pretty much like hitting a grand slam, and the fact that it only finished in second place says less about the quality of the game as it does the fact that we live in a truly terrifying world.

The 10 Worst Genesis Games That You've Probably Heard Of – #1. Jurassic Park

Remember that awesome scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant shot down the pterodactyl with the rocket launcher? Or when the raptor made the dinosaur skeletons explode? Well now thanks to JP the Genesis game, you can now relive all those exciting moments in your own living room! Like many 16-bit games that were based on movies, the story for the game has some variations from the basic plot of the movie. Usually these changes are necessary in order to make 2 hour movie with maybe 45 minutes of action into an interesting 15 hour game. However, in the case of Jurassic Park, all of these changes also help to illustrate just how insane the people making the game were.

jp1

When the game is this bad, choosing between the two characters is like trying to decide which sharp object to thrust into your eye.

There were a ton of platforming games based on movies back in the Genesis days, so in order to make Jurassic Park unique, the game offers the nifty feature of allowing you to play as either Dr. Grant or as a raptor. Each character has different abilities, and whichever one you pick, the storyline and levels will be different, so it’s really like getting 2 games in one. Before deciding to do such a thing, the programming team failed to ask themselves a few important questions, such as “Do we even know how to make a game about Dr. Grant?” or “Wait, do we even know how to make a game about a raptor, either?” and finally “Aren’t we just a bunch of hobos that a game company dragged in off the street and promised free sandwiches to if we made a game for them?” Sadly, none of these key issues were addressed, and the end result was probably twice as bad as it could have been had they only stuck to one character.

Dr. Grant is supposed to be escaping the island, but instead acts like he’s on a tour of the place, making stops at a pumping station and power plant, before deciding to go white-water rafting down a waterfall in a boat with almost no gas. Keep in mind that all these places he goes are crawling with hungry dinosaurs. Apparently this isn’t enough unnecessary risks for the suicidal Dr. Grant, because he then decides to go hiking in a steep canyon and follows this up by CLIMBING INSIDE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you’re going to find the Visitor’s Center inside that volcano, doctor. The guy who built the park might have been a little eccentric, but he’s not a GI Joe villain..

As the raptor, your goal is to kill Dr. Grant. That’s it. Not “Kill Dr. Grant and escape the island”, or “Kill all the humans including Dr. Grant” or even “Kill Dr. Grant unless he goes inside a volcano, in which case he can probably just assume he’s dead.” No explanation is given for why the raptor wants to kill Grant so badly. There are plenty of other humans in the game to eat, but you’re not interested in them. It’s not like there’s a message at the beginning telling you that “The President has been kidnapped by paleontologists. Are you a bad enough dino to rescue the president?” or some scene before the game starts where Grant and some other guys walk up to your dinosaur girlfriend, punch her in the stomach and then walk off with her. Nothing like that. You just want to kill Dr. Grant. Maybe his hat is full of barbecue sauce or something.

jp2

Armed with his mighty darts, Dr. Grant decides to take a rafting trip down the park’s world-famous Goddamn Tyrannosaur Falls.

“Cheap” doesn’t even begin to describe the gameplay. The backgrounds blend with the foreground to make it impossible to tell what the hell is supposed to be going on, and most of your enemies attack you from off-screen without warning. The majority of the gameplay is spent intentionally falling into pits and hoping that they are the kind of pits that lead to the rest of the level, as opposed to the ones that make you die – it’s usually impossible to tell before you jump in. The rest of the time is made up of trying to jump to platforms that are either off-screen or camouflaged into the background, and hoping for the best. Most of the time, the only way you can really be sure of whether or not there’s anything off-screen to land on is if some unseen attacker is shooting or jumping out at you from that direction. This is not good level design.

Of course, don’t ever say that on an internet message board. In numerous discussions with others, I’ve learned that a lot of people out there actually remember JP fondly. I have no idea why. But if you read this and thought “Hey, I like that game,” I want you to try something – rather than writing me an angry email about how wrong I am, go play Jurassic Park again. I guarantee the game is not nearly as good as you remember, and the experience will be a painful reminder not to doubt me again.

Graphics: Most gamers tend to believe than a game’s graphics have little effect on how much fun it is. JP blurs this line by having visuals that make it impossible to see what’s going on, which in turn, makes the game a lot less fun.

Sound: To the game’s credit, it does have some pretty good music. Unfortunately, the sound effects I heard most frequently were those of Dr. Grant’s death screams followed by me cursing. Oh, and the game over melody.

Control: Honestly, it’s kind of hard to determine how much control you have over your character when he spends the majority of his time jumping to places you can’t see and hoping there’s something to land on there.

Final Verdict: Jurassic Park would have been bad enough on its own, but here’s the real kicker – this was one of the Genesis’ most high profile titles. Jurassic Park the game came out right around the same time that JP the movie was breaking box-office records. Worse yet, the Super Nintendo version, which was a totally different game made by a different company, was actually kinda decent. So not only did this awful game find its way into thousands of soon-to-be-disappointed children’s hands, it was also 10 times worse than the competitor’s version. Talk about a marketing disaster – the title screen might as well have said “Warning – you should have bought a Super Nintendo”, because this game couldn’t have made that point any more clearly.