Monthly Archives: March 2013

Ben’s Favorite Game Tracks: Sega Genesis

After taking a look back at my top 5 favorite games on the Genesis, I thought it might be fun to take a listen to some of their old music. Now, the Genesis was never known for its stellar sound processing, but there were some awesome composers and programers, who could make excellent use of its mediocre sound chip. It might not have had quite the same depth of sound as the SNES did, but the Genesis had some rocking tunes. What follows is a look back at my favorite themes and BGMs form my Genesis game collection. I hope you enjoy this bit of nostalgia! Also, head over to my YouTube channel to listen to the list. I’m sure you’ll like what you hear.

#10: Saint Sword: Level One BGM

This may not be one of the most well known games on the Genesis, but I had a lot of fun watching my friend play this one. For me, the first level music has always stood out in my mind as a great example of a track that gets you pumped. It’s driving beat has that ability to make you nod your head and tap your foot, plus it fits well with the sword slashing premise of the game. It’s a great track.

#9: Blades of Vengeance: Ravaged City & Title Theme

Like the previous entry, this track also does a GREAT job of getting you pumped for a fight. Growing up, I would listen to this theme and imagine charging across a field of battle, battling monsters and evil creatures, with swords and magic. Blades of Vengeance was basically that exact scenario and I couldn’t get enough of it. In my opinion, it is one of the best adventuring themes out there.

#8: Chakan The Forever Man: Elkenrod’s Domain

The Genesis sound chip didn’t do Sega’s games any favors. Most of the time, the music and sound effects sounded horrible, or sub par at best. They were course, harsh and sometimes lacked musical depth of sound. At times the sound effects and music were indistinguishable from one another, turning the audio into a garbled mess. However, in some cases those shortcomings created something utterly terrifying. Luckily for Chakan the Forever Man, that notorious sound processor added a certain level of awesomeness to that game. The music sounded dark, gloomy and downright evil. On this one particular stage, the synthesized, very metallic sounding rifts combined with the eery tribal drums created a very special concoction. This track captured the gloom, haze, darkness and perpetual doom of Elkenrod’s domain, making it one of my favorite levels in the entire game. That music took Chakan to a whole different place. If it weren’t for the soundtrack, I might have disregarded the game entirely.

#7: Streets of Rage: Level 1 BGM

When I hear this track I can’t help but move with the music. Its just so much fun!  The track is a beautiful combination of a driving back-beat with an upbeat dance vibe. It was the perfect combination of a 80’s buddy cop flick and an awesome bar fight in a rambunctious 90’s disco. So very awesome! It fit the game beautifully.

#6: Shinobi III: Round 2 – Secret Entry

Boy Shinobi III had some killer music! Hand’s down, this level was one of my favorites. Galloping across an open field, ninja kicking your enemies, jumping wooden fences and tossing ninja-stars like a pro. So cool! This track had an underlying, driving energy that complemented the stage in a great way. It combined tension, drama, excitement, harmony and triumph all in one loop of music. I often wonder, who else used to charge forward on the horse, when the music reached its most exciting moment. I can’t be the only one.

#5: Vectorman: Ocean Stage – Riptide

I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s just a great track, with a good beat. The song seems smooth and flowing, like waves on the ocean. It fits perfectly with its level. It should also be  very nostalgic for anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, having that typical dance club beat with those electronic synthesizer sounds and melodies. I can’t help but think of groups like SNAP,  Black Box, C&C Music Factory and other prominent groups of that time. I think it’s the perfect type of BGM track, not to over powering, but still able to pump you up for the game.

#4: Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Chemical Plant Zone

Sonic is another series that was well known for having awesome music. Almost every track in that series got your foot tapping. In my opinion the music for Sonic 2 was some of the best in the entire series. It also had more attitude and in-your-face presence than the previous game, possibly trying to capitalize on that 90s “Take It To The EXTREME” mentality. Regardless, the Chemical Plant Zone was one of the fastest and coolest levels in that game and I think that the music matched it perfectly.

#3: Sonic the Hedgehog: Starlight Zone

Of all the Sonic games I’ve played, my absolute favorite theme and track is the Starlight Zone, from Sonic 1. Its not overly forceful, it doesn’t get all  “IN YOUR FACE”, its calming, peaceful and unassuming. It just lets you groove while making your way across the towers and loops of the level. Listen very carefully and you can hear a real sweet bass line that is guaranteed to get your head bopping every time. It’s a wonderful track and a great level.

#2: Castlevaina Bloodlines: Atlantis Shrine

If I had just one series that I could call my absolute favorite, it would have to be the Castlevaina series. From the NES, to today’s next gen consoles, the whole collection is legendary! Back in 1994 when Bloodlines first came out, I will admit I was kind of a Castlevaina snob. Even though I had a Genesis and was excited to play this title, I was a firm believer that the only good Castlevaina games were on Nintendo. I had played Super Castlevaina IV on SNES and absolutely fell in love with that game. Every other Castlevaina game paled in comparison. It wasn’t until I actually played Bloodlines that I realized Sega had a great entry into the series. The music in the Atlantis Shrine stage sealed the deal. It encompassed everything that made that series great: a feeling of adventure, of slaying monsters, fighting evil and making your way through a ruined and crumbling world.  I would list it as one of the all-time great BGMs of the series.

#1: Shinobi III: Round 4 – Destruction

To end this list, we return to Shinobi III and the 4th stage track called Whirlwind. This BGM combined the freedom of jetting across the open ocean with a feeling of anticipation and a sense of eminent danger. The first time I played this level, I was so nervous. I had no idea what lay ahead. The visuals were mesmerizing and the music was so epic, I was instantly enthralled. Fighting ninjas and robots while surfing on a jet powered surfboard…what is NOT awesome about that? It was the perfect song for such an intense and captivating level. For me, it was pure, virtual adrenaline. It well deserves that #1 spot on my list and will forever be my favorite tune on the Genesis.

GentleBen94

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GentleBen’s Favorite Games of All Time (Genesis)

Sega Genesis

“Genesis does what Nintendont!”

Anyone else BESIDES me remember that slogan? Maybe this will refresh your memory…

Ahhh the power of advertising. As a kid, watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were bombarded by commercials like this, telling us what we needed to buy, drink, eat, play and watch. Since gaming was becoming a BIG part of my free time, I fell for that Genesis slogan hook, line and sinker.   It convinced me that Genesis was THE console… If I could get one, I’d be set for the rest of my gaming life. I had to own a Genesis.

I began asking my parents for a Sega Genesis almost every day. Bargaining, pleading, rationalizing, anything I could think of. “Can I get a Genesis? Pleeeaaasssseeee!? I‘ll mow the lawn every week! I’ll take out the trash AND clean my room.I must have driven them insane. But, they finally came through and Christmas 1991 saw the arrival of my new, sleek, black, 16-bit monster…the Sega Genesis. So, I thought it would be fun to look back at my top 5, all time favorite games on the Genesis. So here we go:

#5: Blades of Vengeance

Back in the day, renting a particular game was always hit-or-miss. These places usually had one, maybe two copies of all their games and if you didn’t get there fast enough, you missed out. Then what would you do? You didn’t want to leave empty handed, so you would try and find something else. Blades of Vengeance was one of those lucky picks for me.

I had gone to the local video store to rent Sonic 3, but they were all out. So, I started just scanning the shelves, figuring something would catch my eye. At the beginning of the first row of games, I saw a box cover with a scantly clad women brandishing a curved sword, flanked by a musclebound barbarian and a Gandalf-like wizard. I was intrigued, so I rented it for the weekend. I was NOT disappointed. 

Blades of Vengeance was a fantasy, side scrolling, action-adventure game that pitted you against some pretty nasty levels and difficult enemies. You were able to choose from 3 different classes, a Huntress, a Barbarian and a Wizard. Each had their own strengths, weaknesses and playing style. You could either play co-op with a friend or tackle it by yourself, but no matter what…you were in for a fun ride. Along the journey you picked up potions, items and silver, which you could use to upgrade your character, buy suits of armor or increase your extra lives. I had such a blast with that game that I rented it 4 consecutive weeks in a row and about 2 months later, I went out and picked up  a copy. I still pop this one in from time to time. Its a little lacking in story, but its a lot of fun to play. I highly recommend it to any Genesis fan.

#4: Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

I had been a big fan of Shinobi since1992, when I witnessed a friend of mine playing The Revenge of Shinobi on his Genesis. I absolutely loved what I saw. Flipping in the air, tossing shurikens, using magic, all to a killer soundtrack… it was very much my type of game.  At the time I had a trial subscription to a magazine that previewed Genesis games and equipment. While flipping through one of them, I came across pictures of Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. It looked as equally awesome as its predecessor The Revenge of Shinobi. I decided on the next trip to the video store, I’d rent it and see if it was any good. That’s were this story takes an embarrassing turn.

It was a Saturday afternoon in mid Spring and I was in the Genesis section of my local video store. I had found a copy of Shinobi III, but I was taking my sweet time looking at all the games. While perusing the shelves, I happened to notice a fellow classmate of mine standing a few rows away. It was a girl by the name of Marin and I had a HUGE crush on her. Unfortunately, I never had anything to talk to her about so I usually avoided her. I couldn’t help but wonder, why was she lingering in the video game section? She had never appeared to be the gaming type so I was confused.

I got up enough courage to carefully stroll over to her aisle. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I noticed that she was holding a game in her hands and looking through some of the titles on the shelves. This was a very good sign. Maybe she liked games too?! If so, I might have finally found something to talk to her about. At that point, she noticed me and I had no choice but to make my move.

I started off with the usual pleasantries, asked how her weekend was going, if she had done anything fun. She was friendly and responded accordingly. After a bit of a pause and not wanting to loose my nerve, I started talking about games. I don’t remember my exact words, but I know it was full on gamer. I was talking high scores, best boss fights, favorite tactics and strategies, Sonic 1, Saint Sword, Mario 3… anything I could think of that might impress a fellow gamer. I was in rare form and feeling pretty good.

At that moment, a young boy came walking up to us. Marin said “Oh, this is my little brother. We’re here renting some games for the weekend.” She then handed him the game she had been holding. I froze, realizing she wasn’t a gamer. She was actually just holding the game for her brother and I felt so stupid. I had just completely and thoroughly labeled myself the biggest nerd in our entire class. Any chance of looking cool and getting to know Marin was gone. Gathering up my shattered dignity, we said our goodbyes, I rented my game and I got the hell out of there as fast I could. Let’s just say that the rest of the year was not very fun.

To this day, every time I think of Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master I can’t help but remember that moment. Don’t get me wrong, the game was awesome. It had great music, nail biting action, sweet level designs, crazy magic spells, you even got to ninja kick with a horse!! But, no matter how cool that game might have been, it was a bitter-sweet moment. I learned never again to try impressing a girl with my gaming prowess. Shinobi III may get great marks in my list, but my skills with the ladies fail horribly.

#3: X-Men 2: Clone Wars

Back in the 90s, I was a big fan of the X-Men. I used to watch the cartoon, read the comics, buy the action figures, even collect the Marvel Trading Cards. You can imagine, when I found out that there were X-Men video games on the Genesis, I had to check them out. My favorite entry in that series was  X-Men 2: Clone Wars.  From top to bottom, this game was amazing. The levels, the music, the animations they were all spectacular for their time. Not only could you play as my favorite two characters Gambit and Wolverine, but you could also be Psylocke, Nightcrawler, Beast, Cyclops and even Magneto. You could also play the game co-op with a friend, to double your mutant killing power. It was side-scrolling, X-Men action at its very best. It wasn’t an easy game and there were several  levels that really tested my patience, but it was a lot of fun. Looking back, I do seem to remember that this game had one very strange quirk. Instead of the usual title screen, start menu and character select screens, the game just started the moment you turned on the power. It gave you a random character to control and had you play an entire level before you ever got to a title screen.  I’m not sure why they did that, but it stands out in my memory as something every unique. It was a great game for sure.

#2: Sonic The Hedgehog

If you are an old school gamer, when you think of Nintendo, you think Mario. When you think of Sega Genesis, you think Sonic the Hedgehog. That blue haired, speed demon with an attitude rocketed into my gaming world with a huge BOOM. Sonic The Hedgehog was the very first game that I ever played on the Genesis and the first Genesis cartridge that I ever owned. Everything about that game was brilliantly simple, yet powerfully addictive. Fighting Dr. Robotnik and freeing my friendly woodland creatures from his robotic grips was so much fun. With zones like the Green Hill Zone, the Marble Zone and the Starlight Zone, this game had a great set of levels. Collecting rings, finding the Chaos Emeralds in the bonus stages, blazing through a level with insane speed… it was all awesome. PLUS the music was fantastic! To this day it remains one of my most beloved soundtracks of all time. I spent hours playing this game. On many occasions my mom or dad would find me in my bedroom, bathed in the glow of my 13 inch, Portland brand  television, just playing the hell out of Sonic 1 and rocking out to the music. It was such an amazing game, it almost made my number 1 spot. If you haven’t played it, go give it a run. You will love it.

#1: Chakan the Forever Man

My favorite Genesis title of all time is NOT a very well known game. It wasn’t a popular game or even a very well liked game. It was notoriously ruthless and unrelentingly difficult. It was the total opposite of every game I had yet played. While most games of the time were lighthearted and designed to be fun, Chakan was morbid and dark. I doubt that the word “fun” ever entered into the creators mind. It was based on a comic book created and illustrated by Robert A. Kraus. It followed the exploits of a master swordsman named Chakan, who boasted that he could defeat anyone in a sword fight, even Death himself. Death comes to Chakan and challenges to a fight. IF Chakan wins he would be granted eternal life. But, if he failed, he would lose his soul. In a twisted turn of events, Chakan wins and is given eternal life, but is cursed to never sleep again and to wither away in excruciating pain. The only way Death will allow him to finally die, is if all supernatural evil is purged from the world and it’s up to Chakan to make it happen. Enter the game Chakan the Forever Man.

The game is made up of two planes, four stages per plane, with three levels per stage. You begin in the Terrestrial Plane and once cleared, you move to the Elemental Plane and the difficulty ramps up. You reach each of the stages through a central hub and portal system that Chakan has to navigate. Along your travels, you are given four main weapons: a set of swords, a grappling hook, a battle axe, a hammer and a scythe. You also collect and refill potions that contain water, earth, air and fire. By combining and using these elements, Chakan gains certain benefits. Among other things, he can boost his jump, give his weapons elemental attacks, refill his life and even kill everything on the screen. Of course, once you use any of your powers, you loose those elemental components and since you can only hold four potions of each element, it makes using his powers very dangerous.

Despite the game’s difficulty, I have fond memories of playing Chakan the Forever Man. It was just such a tightly knitted game, that every element fit together seamlessly. Even though the Genesis was never known for its stellar sound processing, the music in Chakan enhanced the game’s dark and gritty style perfectly. The artwork and animations made Chakan look absolutely evil and his tortured yells of pain sent shivers down my spine. Even the introductory text crawl was epic and dark. The game scared the heck out of me and I couldn’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, I never was able to beat the game on anything but Practice mode. In this mode you had unlimited elemental potions so you could relay more on your powers.The farthest I could reach in normal mode was the Elemental Plane and for this game, that was no small accomplishment. It may have been the hardest game I have EVER played, but it was also one of the most memorable.

Now-a-days, dark and gritty games are prevalent, but back in the early 90s, we just didn’t see that many. Chakan seemed like the complete antithesis of every mainstream game out there. Now, I know there were other dark and disturbing games around, Splatterhouse comes to mind, but nothing held my interest as much as Chakan the Forever Man. The game combined swords, sorcery, gothic elements, mythology, primordial evils, betrayal, pride and a sense of hopelessness and futility that no title could match. It was such a different game that I couldn’t help but be drawn in. This was actually my second game I ever owned for the Genesis, but the first game to ever make me feel like a true, hardcore gamer.

Final Thoughts:

Looking back, I loved my Genesis, but sadly I never owned very many games for it. My NES and later my SNES ended up taking center stage most of the time. Even so, Genesis was the 2nd console I ever owned and the first 16-bit entry in my collection. It might not have been the ultimate gaming system, but it was a great console. I hope you have enjoyed my top 5 favorite Genesis games, up next the Super Nintendo.

We’ll see ya then.

GentleBen94

GentleBen’s Favorite Games of All Time (NES)

I have played a lot of games over the years. From the NES to the PlayStation 3 it would be next to impossible to count all the games that have graced my many different consoles. So per a suggestion from Drago, I thought it might be fun to list my all-time favorite games, by each system I’ve owned. To make this list more manageable, I decided to break it down by system and only list my top 5 favorite titles. So lets take a look at my first 5 titles for the NES.

NES

#5: Mega Man This was actually my very first game I EVER played for the NES and it blew my mind. It was one of the most influential games of my young life. The simplicity of it, the fact that you were fighting evil robots, the level designs, the music… it was just awesome. Not long after that, my friends and I all became Mega Man junkies, even going so far as to pretend we were the Mega Man characters at recess. We must have looked like idiots, running around, shooting and jumping like the Blue Bomber himself.  I have so many fond memories of playing Mega Man with my friend, trying desperately to beat the 6 robot masters. Mega Man also gave birth to one of the most classic and beloved video game series in retro gaming history, so we are starting off with a strong entry here.

#4: The Legend of Zelda When I first tried this game, I was really confused. Up until that point every game I had ever played had been a side scrolling action game. You made your way through a level, reached a boss, beat him and moved to the next level. Games like Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., Contra, they all followed that same pattern. The Legend of Zelda was nothing like that. It was a top down view, it had an over world, explorable dungeons, you collected items, gathered clues and found secrets. It was befuddling to my fragile gaming mind. I will admit, it wasn’t until years later that I actually became a fan of the game. When I first played it, I didn’t like it. Hold up….before you start raging, once I had matured a bit, I gave it another try and realized that it was a game changer. It was an epic adventure and I became a big fan.   

#3: Castlevania This was a hard game and one that I have yet to beat in all of these years. There is something about this game, some sort of mental block that thwarts every attempt that I have ever made trying to beat it. Even with that hanging over me, I absolutely love this game. The music is solid, the bosses are terrifying, the levels are deadly, the weapons are awesome, everything about Castlevania gives me goosebumps. Now, the game was not without its annoyances. The controls were stiff, your character moved sluggishly, you were knocked back every time you were hit and your jump was hard to control. If you got hit on a set of stairs, you were as good as dead. Even as frustrating as this game was, I have great memories of throwing everything I had at it. I miss that rush that came with fighting a boss and only having one bar of life left. I remember swinging my whip like a madman trying to hit him before he hit me. Sometimes I was successful, other times I was not. Either way, it was a blast and Castlevania takes the number 3 spot with ease.

#2: Super Mario Bros. 3  Mario has been around for years! He has appeared in well over 200 hundred game titles and has become the face of Nintendo. But back in the late 80s, he was far less well known. For me, I had played Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2, but I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the series. It was over shadowed by more action packed games such as Mega Man, Contra or Castlevania. However, in 1990 all of that would change with the release of Super Mario Bros. 3. To this day, it’s the only Mario game that I have ever bought when it was brand new. Mario 3 was a total game changer. It forever altered the Mario series and many of its contributions can still be seen today in the new Mario titles. It had an overhead map, different and unique power ups, mini games, 7 distinct Koopas besides Bowser, airships, mini castles, tanks, boats and new worlds…. it was so cool. I remember playing that game for hours at a time and I got pretty good at it. Thinking back to the summer of 1990, all I remember is swimming, eating loads of cinnamon graham crackers and playing Mario 3 at my friends house. To this day, I can’t eat a cinnamon graham cracker with out wanting to play that game. Ahhh those were the days.

#1: Mega Man 2 This number one spot was a difficult choice. It was neck and neck between Mario 3 and Mega Man 2. As a kid, I loved both games. I had played them to the point of exhaustion, but which one was my favorite? To decided, I had to look back at all of my memories of these two games and figure out which one had the most personal impact. The winner was Mega Man 2 and let me tell you why. For a long time, every Friday night I would go with my folks down to the local video store to rent some movies or games for the weekend. Every time, I would look at their selection of NES titles, but would always decide to rent Mega Man 2. It became my favorite game on the NES AND my most highly sought after title. The game was fantastic. It had taken everything that I loved about Mega Man 1 and made it better: better music, better levels, better weapons, better bosses. It was also the first Mega Man game I actually finished, all by myself. For years, I would ask for a copy for my birthdays. I even saved every penny I came across so that one day I could buy the game. I would go to Toys R Us and stare at the paper display for Mega Man 2. I went to local video stores, electronics stores and every gaming place that I could think of, but I never managed to get my hands on it. Birthdays came and went, but I never got Mega Man 2. That game was to remain out of reach for the rest of my childhood. Within a few months, the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis came along and I had my attention on other systems and other titles, but Mega Man 2 always remained in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until my mid 20s, that a very good friend of mine actually came across an original Mega Man 2 cartridge and surprised me with it, on my birthday. When I held that game in my hand, it was like a dream come true. After trying so hard as a kid, I finally had a copy of Mega Man 2 to call my own. I popped that sucker in my old NES and discovered that it had lost NONE of its awesomeness. Playing it again brought me back to when I was a kid and it reminded me of a much simpler time. That is why it’s the #1 pick for my favorite game on the NES. For me, no game brings back those same feelings like Mega Man 2.

Final Thoughts:

There are so many great games for Nintendo that I could have gone on and on with additional titles. Contra, Metriod, Zelda 2, Mario 2, Mega Man 3, Final Fantasy 1, the list is almost endless. But, remember this was my PERSONAL list of top 5 favorite games. I picked these for a reason. These titles are more than just games, they are the essence of my childhood. Each game represents something slightly different. They mean Saturdays at friends houses, rainy days at home, weekends, holidays, sleepovers and so much more. Even to this day, when I am gaming, there is a part of me that is always trying to recapture those old days. They all hold memories, feelings, laughs, and adventures and are intertwined with me growing up. I’m sure it’s not the best list, but it works for me.

I hope you enjoyed this look at my top 5 NES titles. We have a lot of systems left to cover so stay tuned. Next time, we’ll take a look at my top 5 favorite games on the Sega Genesis.

GentleBen94