Mega Archive: Part VII: From Joe Montana Football to Valis III

Welcome back to the Mega Archive, Segaheads! This month I felt like being a little more productive than, well, my usual "none at all" - hence the return of this ongoing project from last year that sees all of the games for Sega's 16-bit console get the detailed Giant Bomb Wiki pages they deserve. Each game will get their own rundown here too, if you just want the short version on their stats and/or my own opinions about how well they might have aged. If you're new to this series, check out the links below to get caught up on the previous three years of Sega Genesis/Mega Drive history.

We start Part VII in early 1991, what will easily be the Mega Drive's most significant year of existence. At this time, they are competing tooth and nail with Nintendo's new 16-bit console the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: though the Mega Drive will become eclipsed in Japan by Nintendo's powerful new rival, due to savvy marketing the Sega Genesis will continue to hold onto the lead in North America and elsewhere.

This "season" of the Mega Archive will cover the first half of 1991. It'll conveniently conclude with the release of a certain blue hedgehog game in late June, ending the more elusive era of the pre-Sonic Sega Genesis. We've got a while to go before we reach Mobius and Green Hill Zone however, so let's get started with the games released in the first quarter of 1991.

Part VII: 099-115 (January '91 - March '91)

099: Joe Montana Football

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Park Place Productions
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1991-03-01
  • NA Release: January 1991
  • EU Release: May 1991
  • Franchise: Joe Montana Football
  • Genre: Football
  • Theme: Pro Sports
  • Premise: In addition to hosting the Madden franchise, Sega was also hard at work at their own simulation of the world's most concussive sport featuring the (then) 49ers's star quarterback Joe Montana.
  • Availability: Nope, but there were a number of sequels.
  • Preservation: This is another one with a spotty history - Sega were originally working with Mediagenic (i.e. Activision) to bring this one out, but instead had to sheepishly ask Electronic Arts to finish off what would be their biggest football rival via their subsidiary developers Park Place Productions. Accounts seem to vary whether they made the holiday deadline in time; most data places suggest they did, while this Sega-16 article suggests that they did not. I'm inclined to believe the latter, given it seems far better researched. At any rate, it's another football game so I'm not going to have much else to say.

100: Dick Tracy

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega Technical Institute
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1991-03-01
  • NA Release: January 1991
  • EU Release: April 1991
  • Franchise: Dick Tracy
  • Genre: Side-Scrolling Shooter
  • Theme: Crime / Comic Books
  • Premise: Lantern-jawed cop Dick Tracy takes down his most famous enemies in this on-rails shooter based on the 1990 Warren Beatty movie adaptation of the classic comic strip.
  • Availability: Licensed game, so original Sega cart only.
  • Preservation: For a game based on a movie based on a comic based on a cop in a yellow trenchcoat, the Dick Tracy Mega Drive game is surprisingly competent. It combines standard side-scrolling action with this added wrinkle of background combatants that require using a separate shoot button and the D-pad as a makeshift light gun, effectively combining the two genres. I'm not sure we'll see a game do that again until Shadow Complex. One only has to see where the game came from to understand its quality: Sega Technical Institute, or STI (that abbreviation didn't age well), which got their start here but would later become far better known for their work on Comix Zone, Die Hard Arcade, and co-developing Sonic the Hedgehog 2. They were effectively Sega's elite first-party developing branch in the US, though they only made six games for the Sega Genesis and two for Saturn before being folded back into Sega of America proper. We'll see them again when we start on 1992's releases.

101: Techno Cop

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Punk Development
  • Publisher: RazorSoft
  • JP Release: N/A
  • NA Release: January 1991
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Side-Scrolling Shooter / Vehicular Combat
  • Theme: Crime / Sci-Fi / Unnecessary Gore
  • Premise: Techno Cop is here to clean up the mean streets and the turntables alike with his combination of chill EDM beats and chilling racially-motivated beatings. Actually, he's just some sort of future cop shooting mohawk guys in the face.
  • Availability: Released on multiple home computers prior to the Mega Drive, but nothing since then.
  • Preservation: Techno Cop, or Technocop, is another Razorsoft game to which it is proving difficult to pin a release date. Most internet sites seem to suggest some vague time in late 1990, though Sega Retro found an EGM magazine review from January 1991 that suggested a same-month release (though the magazine itself has a typo in it, so who can say?). RazorSoft was one of the earliest third-party publishers working almost exclusively on the Mega Drive (Punk Entertainment was their development wing and led by Jeff Spangenberg, the eventual founder of Iguana Entertainment) and it's suggested that they wanted to test the waters a little with what Sega permitted for their home consoles with this game's violent content. This sort of "Sega Does What Nintenwon't" rivalry would come to a decapitated head with the first Mortal Kombat of course, but the system saw a number of grisly ports from the lawless lands of the Amiga market (from which Techno Cop sprang) long before then.

102: Flicky

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: January 1991
  • NA Release: April 1991
  • EU Release: September 1991
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Theme: Cute
  • Premise: Flicky has to escort multiple chicks to the exit while avoiding all the cat enemies in this port of the classic (i.e. old-ass) Sega arcade game.
  • Availability: The Mega Drive port of Flicky is presently available on Steam either standalone or in Volume 3 of the Sega Genesis Classics packs. It's also in the Sega Genesis Classics compilation for consoles too, as well as multiple other Sega Genesis collections.
  • Preservation: Flicky was first introduced to the world via the arcades in 1984, and takes after Namco's Mappy with its multiple floors, persistent enemies, and side-scrolling loops. The history behind its Mega Drive port is fairly audacious: Sega was looking for shorter games that could be developed quickly and easily for the Game Toshokan service - an early precedent for the Sega Channel and the digital distribution storefronts of today - and chose to adapt one of their older arcade games for the 16-bit system. Since there was no Game Toshokon service overseas, Sega just released it as a full-price cart in Europe and North America instead. The blue bird Flicky itself was something of an early mascot for Sega in their arcade heyday, and would eventually become a canonical species of the world of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1996's Sonic 3D Blast. Can't say that really raised their profile much.

103: Gain Ground

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega (EU/JP), Renovation (NA)
  • JP Release: 1991-01-03
  • NA Release: 1991-01-02
  • EU Release: 1991
  • Franchise: Gain Ground
  • Genre: Top-Down Shooter
  • Theme: Sci-Fi
  • Premise: A highly advanced combat simulation program designed to keep humanity's fighting instincts keen during peacetime suddenly becomes corrupted, threatening the lives of all still trapped inside. Chosen heroes are sent in to destroy the root of the problem.
  • Availability: The Mega Drive port of Gain Ground is presently available on Steam either standalone or in Volume 1 of the Sega Genesis Classics packs. It's also in the Sega Genesis Classics compilation for consoles too, as well as multiple other Sega Genesis collections.
  • Preservation: Gain Ground, which was first released in arcades in 1988, was actually one of my favorite Master System games growing up and the Mega Drive port is even better, as you might expect. A little more involved than a regular Commando or Ikari Warriors type of top-down shooter, you had to be careful with who you sent out and when: each of the game's dozen or so warriors had different alt-fire attacks that could be beneficial in the current stage. If you lacked a guy who could hit enemies on high structures, for instance, you had no other choice but to finish the level the "lame way": dragging everyone in your crew to the marked exit while avoiding enemy fire. It's one of the few top-down shooters from that era I have any compulsion to go back to, and I'm glad it still holds up.

104: Wings of Wor / Gynoug

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Masaya
  • Publisher: Masaya (JP), Dreamworks (NA), Sega (EU)
  • JP Release: 1991-01-25 (as Gynoug)
  • NA Release: June 1991 (as Wings of Wor)
  • EU Release: March 1992 (as Gynoug)
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Horizontal Shoot 'em Up
  • Theme: Horror / Fantasy
  • Premise: The angel Wor descends into the nightmarish realm of the Destroyer, Iccus, to end his corrupt ambitions.
  • Availability: With the Wii Shop's Virtual Console closed down, the few Mega Drive games on there have vanished into the ether. This one is original cart only.
  • Preservation: Wings of Wor definitely has a look, huh? Some real grisly H. R. Giger business going on in this game, picking up the ball from gooey shoot 'em ups like Konami's Life Force and punting it into an abyss so deep there are no goodbyes. It has a fair power-up system too - bullet spread is upgraded in two ways, blue and red, and losing a life means only dropping a level in each - but is otherwise as hard as balls as any given Japanese shoot 'em up for the system.

105: Ultimate QIX / Volfied

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: ITL
  • Publisher: Taito
  • JP Release: 1991-01-25 (as Volfied)
  • NA Release: 1991 (as Ultimate QIX)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: QIX
  • Genre: Action
  • Theme: Sci-Fi
  • Premise: A lone pilot must save his home planet of Volfied from an invading race of aliens in what critics are calling the most original plot since never.
  • Availability: You can only play this particular version on the original Genesis and Japanese Mega Drive systems, but the arcade original is available on Taito's Taito Legends compilation for PS2 and OG Xbox (and PC, but not digitally).
  • Preservation: Good old Volfied. I last saw this QIX sequel in one of the TurboGrafx-16 wiki projects a while back, which meant very little additional wiki work for its page. It's QIX with a more traditional sci-fi spaceship kind of look and live-preserving power-ups but still the same line-drawing action. Despite the age of the concept, there's still a tensely fine-tuned risk vs. reward system at play regarding how much you're willing to box off at once. ITL handled the Genesis port on Taito's behalf: their second game for the system after Arrow Flash (Mega Archive #6).

106: Air Buster / Aero Blasters

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Inter State
  • Publisher: Kaneko
  • JP Release: 1991-01-31 (as Aero Blasters)
  • NA Release: February 1991 (as Air Buster)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Horizontal Shoot 'em Up
  • Theme: Sci-Fi
  • Premise: It's the far-flung year of 2021 and the Trouble Speciality Raid Unit are called into action when a strange floating object enters Earth's orbit and starts spitting out alien fighters.
  • Availability: Original cart only.
  • Preservation: Aero Blasters, not to be confused with Video System's Aero Fighters, is your standard arcade horizontal shoot 'em up. Unlike many console shoot 'em ups of this era, however, it offers a simultaneous two-player mode. It's also another game that was graced with a TurboGrafx-16 port which means I'm once again saved some work sprucing up its wiki page. This is the second time we've seen Kaneko (and their console development subsidiary Inter State) produce a Mega Drive port; the first being the unfortunate DJ Boy (Mega Archive #3).

107: Super Volleyball

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Video System
  • Publisher: Video System
  • JP Release: 1991-02-01
  • NA Release: 1991
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Power Spikes
  • Genre: Volleyball
  • Theme: Pro Sports
  • Premise: Remember when volleyball games didn't have jiggle physics and bikini DLC? Super Volleyball remembers. Hey, I see you yawning back there.
  • Availability: Original cart only. Hamster Corporation owns the rights to the series though, so it could be showing up as part of their Arcade Archives collection on PS4 or Switch any day. Maybe don't hold your breath.
  • Preservation: Hey, speaking of Video System. This is their arcade volleyball game, the Mega Drive port of which marks the first adaptation of that particular sport for the system. It's a bit on the rough side with a horizontal perspective that can make it easier to follow the ball but not your four-person team, who spend a lot of the action in one inscrutable clump near the net. What do you know? It's another game with a TurboGrafx-16 port too. I feel like this Mega Archive entry is turning into a mini-vacation.

108: Powerball / Wrestleball

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Namco
  • Publisher: Namco
  • JP Release: 1991-02-08 (as Wrestleball)
  • NA Release: 1991 (as Powerball)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Future Sports
  • Theme: Sci-Fi / Pro Sports
  • Premise: Speedball has speed, but Powerball has power! And balls! Welcome to the future sport of tomorrow, today. If you thought the only way for the NFL to improve was with even more head injuries...
  • Availability: It appears in Namco Anthology Vol. 1, released only in Japan for the PlayStation, and was on the Wii Shop Virtual Console once upon a time. Unlikely to find either these days.
  • Preservation: Going with Wrestleball, huh? Good title choice by its North American localizers. Our old friends Namco are back with another weird sports game that @jeffrud's going to have to add to his NamCompendium workload along with a thousand Famistas. Powerball seems like a transparent attempt by Namco to riff on Amiga classic Speedball, which must've been a big hit for its influence to have stretched that far. Always a little odd to see these future sports games feature a "USSR" team. Hey, maybe they reformed since. Reading any news for the past few years would certainly suggest that Russia's leaning that way.

109: Battle Golfer Yui

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Megasoft (as Santos)
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1991-02-15
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Golf
  • Theme: Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk / Pro Sports
  • Premise: Yui is a young golf prodigy who finds herself embroiled in the world conquering ambitions of Professor G. and his organization Dark Hazard! Can Yui stop him and save her brainwashed friend Ran with her exceptional short game?
  • Availability: Japanese Mega Drive cart only. If you can find a way to legally emulate it, there are fan translations out there.
  • Preservation: Battle Golfer Yui is the kind of game you always want to come across in projects like these - one that stands out because of its ambition and weirdness and has yet to be replicated since. There aren't a whole lot of narrative-heavy sci-fi golf games that feature opponents based on Japanese pop culture, after all. I had the fortune of discovering Battle Golfer Yui a while back through the Japanese TV show GameCenter CX, which threw host Shinya "Kacho" Arino for a loop. My approbations also to user Chickengeorgewashington, whose exuberance in filling in the pages of their selected obscure favorites took some cleaning up (the GB Wiki didn't really have rules back then to be fair) but always produced some in-depth deep dives on games most of us never knew existed. This is also our introduction to Megasoft, who at the time were still Santos: Sega bought them a while later, and had them produce a couple of Genesis exclusive titles as Megasoft before they were completely absorbed into Sega after a year.

110: Twin Cobra / Kyuukyoku Tiger

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Toaplan / Graphic Research
  • Publisher: Treco (JP), Sega (NA)
  • JP Release: 1991-02-22 (as Kyuukyoku Tiger)
  • NA Release: June 1991 (as Twin Cobra)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Tiger Heli
  • Genre: Vertical Shoot 'em Up
  • Theme: Modern Military
  • Premise: The Ultimate Tiger is the only vehicle capable of taking down an entire army. So that's what it does. Shooting jets down in a helicopter: it worked for Liquid Snake, and it'll work for you too.
  • Availability: Original Genesis cart only, unless you want to try one of its other half-dozen ports. The FM Towns Marty sounds like the most arcade-perfect, and I'm sure we all have one of those sitting in our attics.
  • Preservation: Twin Cobra's another Toaplan arcade shoot 'em up that has found its way onto the Mega Drive. The second in their Tiger Heli series - vertical scrollers with helicopter protagonists - Twin Cobra had already seen NES and TurboGrafx-16 ports by this point (and thus I had already worked on its page twice before), but the 16-bit power of Sega's console made the best case for an arcade-perfect conversion. Well, until the 1993 Sharp X68000 and 1996 FM Towns Marty ports at least, though don't expect any wiki projects on those systems any time soon. Graphic Research is credited with some or all of the work with the port, depending on which corner of the internet you ask. We last saw them with the visual novel Psy-O-Blade (not real great with names, that company). Treco, meanwhile, is a US-based publisher we first encountered with Atomic Robo-Kid in the previous episode of Mega Archive. They'll get involved in a few more Genesis games yet, including a well-known SRPG coming up very soon.

111: Warrior of Rome / Caesar no Yabou

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Micronet
  • Publisher: Micronet
  • JP Release: 1991-02-24 (as Caesar no Yabou)
  • NA Release: May 1991 (as Warrior of Rome)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Warrior of Rome
  • Genre: Strategy (Real-Time)
  • Theme: Ancient Rome
  • Premise: This strategy game follows a few of the military campaigns of Julius Caesar as the indomitable Roman general that helped conquer much of Europe and Northern Africa.
  • Availability: Original cart only.
  • Preservation: Micronet certainly seem like a versatile developer: their previous games were Curse, a shoot 'em up, and Junction, a puzzle game. Warrior of Rome must've seemed like a novel take on a serious strategy game for Genesis owners, but its Japanese name - Caesar's Ambition - belies its inspirations to a degree. Unlike Koei's long-running Nobunaga's Ambition series however, Warrior of Rome is an RTS that has its units move around the map in real-time as the player endeavors to raise armies to stop their advance. You give your units direction and a few AI toggles like the unit strength percentage before it tries to retreat from battle. It plays a bit more like a plate-spinning Ogre Battle game as a result, and not one I was having any joy with.

112: Paddle Fighter

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: March 1991
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Air Hockey
  • Theme: Pro Sports
  • Premise: Take on a series of bizarre opponents at the air hockey table with this online-only competitive game.
  • Availability: It was never released on a physical cart, so... well. There's no legal way to play it, let's say.
  • Preservation: The games available via Game Toshokan (see Flicky, above, for more info) are elusive buggers to track down. They're not quite as bad as the Satellaview games, but their release dates are nebulous at best. I'm going to try to dripfeed these across multiple Mega Archive entries, but there are a lot of them and they rarely get more sophisticated than "goofy air hockey". At least Paddle Fighter seems like a fun two-player game, if a little barebones.

113: Bahamut Senki

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1991-03-08
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Strategy (Turn-Based)
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Premise: You like dragons? We got dragons. Sega's here with the Bahamut SRPG everyone cried out for many years before Square and Nintendo could put theirs together. Deadbeats.
  • Availability: With the closure of the Wii Shop, it's Japanese Mega Drive cart only.
  • Preservation: Bahamut Senki is Sega's attempt to get in on that deep Koei tactical war-gaming action, splitting its focus between menu-driven empire-building instructions like diplomacy, farming or construction and battles which can play out as a real-time top-down action game. It's a bold attempt at a more console-friendly grand strategy game - though I can't read a lick of it, there seemed to be fewer options to worry about than in most of Koei's Nobunaga or Three Kingdoms games - but I don't think it was the big Mega Drive strategy franchise Sega was looking for. They would find a "shining" beacon of that particular genre eventually, though not for another year yet.

114: Fushigi no Umi no Nadia

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Namco
  • Publisher: Namco
  • JP Release: 1991-03-19
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Premise: Relive the events of the Nadia anime TV show with this top-down ambulatory adventure game that follows an abridged version of the story.
  • Availability: Japanese Mega Drive cart only.
  • Preservation: Oof, yeah. This one took some work. Someone made a single amalgam page for every Fushigi no Umi no Nadia game ever released, despite the fact that they all have different developers and play differently (though the majority are adventure games, and not particularly interactive ones). The Mega Drive adaptation has you running around as deuteragonist Jean talking to various people and finding clues to advance the plot. I assume it's a lot easier to figure out what to do next if you've already seen the show.

115: Valis III

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Telenet Japan
  • Publisher: Renovation
  • JP Release: 1991-03-22
  • NA Release: June 1991
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Valis
  • Genre: Brawler / Action
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Premise: Yuko, her sister Princess Valna, and their new friend Cham must take on the forces of King Ramses/Glames to save both Earth and the fantastical realm of Vecanti.
  • Availability: No rereleases, but you have the choice between the truncated Genesis version or the original TurboGrafx-CD version with all the levels, anime cutscenes, and CD music.
  • Preservation: I liked what I've played of Valis III in the past, definitely more than the previous two games. Part of the reason why is because it introduces a system "borrowed" from Castlevania III where you can switch between your three protagonists on the fly with a single button (except in boss fights, annoyingly) and each has their own strengths. You do need to rescue two of them first, though. I first played the TGCD version, as per the aforementioned prior wiki projects, and the Genesis version feels a little compromised due to the system's cart limitations compared to what was then an ungodly amount of storage available on compact disc. Something that will plague the SNES as well in due time, especially if you were to ask Squaresoft.
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