Mega Archive: Part XVIII: From Todd's Adventures in Slime World to Tougi-Ou: King Colossus

Ah, the dregs of summer. That's what we're looking at with Part XVIII: an uninspired gaggle of sports games and licensed games. I wish I could say there were some highlights, but... not so much. Well, not for me at least, but then I knew what I was getting myself into when I started this g-d project. Seriously, we have three basketball games in this entry alone. What gives? And golf, tennis, baseball, pool, F1, the Olympics, and two grody early The Simpsons tie-ins. Makes you long for the days when it was all shoot 'em ups.

Since this week's entry will bring us to the end of June '92, and thus complete the first half of the year, this will be the last of the Mega Archive blogs for a while. At least, the last of the "conventional" entries: you'll see what I mean in due time, I hope. My thanks for anyone who takes the time to check out my impressions of these venerable Sega games; I'm slowly building a more lucid vision of what owning a Genesis was like at the time, and the types of games I might've looked forward to for the holidays and those I would've rented a dozen times had my life taken a different path back then.

If you need to catch up with the past four years of the Sega Genesis, have at it:

Part XVIII: (April '92 - June '92)

271: Todd's Adventures in Slime World

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Micro World
  • Publisher: Micro World (JP) / Renovation (NA)
  • JP Release: 1992-04-30
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Action / Platformer
  • Theme: Gooey
  • Premise: Todd descends through a series of slimy planets with a supersoaker full of bleach for... fun, I guess? Is this what spelunking is in the future?
  • Availability: Nope. There was a brief revival of Epyx properties a few decades back, but nothing slime-related.
  • Preservation: This is what Todd's Adventures in Slime World is? I always assumed it was some long-forgotten Russ Meyer movie about an obscure fetish. It's instead an Atari Lynx platformer from Epyx that a Japanese port developer decided to recreate with caveats for the Mega Drive. It's a little more than your average action-platformer though, with an emphasis on mapping and exploration that puts it not quite but closely adjacent to the explormer genre. There's all these different modes - effectively different maps - that prioritize different playstyles, for instance one that requires you to be fast, another that has you exploring larger maps, one that makes combat more difficult, and so on. For a doofy platformer that is trading in on a very specific '90s fad of kids buying Nickelodeon Gak by the gallon, it's remarkably innovative. Well, beyond "Metroid but gooier".

272: Arch Rivals

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Arc Developments
  • Publisher: Flying Edge
  • JP Release: N/A
  • NA Release: May 1992
  • EU Release: 1992
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Basketball
  • Theme: Sports
  • Premise: The game for those who thought Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball was too polished and slick. If someone records video of this game for posterity, does that make it Archrival footage?
  • Availability: The arcade version appeared on Midway Arcade Treasures 2, for PS2/Xbox/GameCube.
  • Preservation: Midway's Arch Rivals was in many respects a dry run for their later NBA Jam - a semi-irrelevant and "arcade-friendly" take on America's third favorite sport that reduced teams to two a side, simplified the rules, moved like the players' shoes were on fire, and maybe let you swing a punch at the opposing team (or pants them) when the ref wasn't looking. Acclaim brought the game to home consoles, using their Sega-focused subsidiary Flying Edge in this case, and sadly it doesn't sound like the port fared particularly well. At least it's better than the NES version?

273: Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge / Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Hero MD

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Aisystem Tokyo
  • Publisher: Varie (JP) / Flying Edge (NA/EU)
  • JP Release: 1992-05-15 (as Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Hero MD)
  • NA Release: June 1992 (as Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge)
  • EU Release: September 1992
  • Franchise: Nakajima Satoru
  • Genre: F1 Racing
  • Theme: Drew-bait
  • Premise: Welcome to Team Ferrari in this licensed F1 game from Aisystem Tokyo, presented courtesy of Acclaim.
  • Availability: Nope. Modern licensed F1 games are a dime a dozen though.
  • Preservation: So yeah, this is a game from a semi-popular first-person F1 series in Japan that Acclaim randomly plucked out of international obscurity and released overseas with a new endorsement. We've already covered its Japan-only predecessor (MA #234), and we'll eventually see its Japan-only successor by the end of 1992. F1 games have always had to struggle with that dichotomy of replicating the exciting fast speeds and timing-intensive maneuvering of the motorsport and the heavy technical elements that also make it compelling to the more engineering-inclined (will the driver take a pit stop to switch out tires, or can they manage for one more lap?). No F1 game feels too arcade-y or too simulation-y as a result, but instead dwells somewhere in the grey zone between. It'd be a fascinating game design dilemma to look into, if I cared about F1 a single iota.

274: Warrior of Rome II

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Micronet
  • Publisher: Micronet
  • JP Release: 1992-05-28
  • NA Release: May 1992
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: Warrior of Rome
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Theme: Ancient Rome
  • Premise: Caesar's made a complete salad of his latest military campaign and needs your help telling a bunch of little soldier units what to do. Again.
  • Availability: Nope. Try the Total War series, maybe?
  • Preservation: I'm not sure these games were ever popular - I certainly hadn't heard of them before doing this feature - so I'm not sure how they gleaned enough goodwill for a sequel. Maybe it's a "Big in Japan" thing. Either way, these games aren't quite the obtuse headaches that the Koei war sims are, instead playing a bit more like a regular RTS where it's all about building shit and sending over oodles of units to overwhelm the enemy encampments. Units level up through heavy usage, so it also has something like an XCOM or Cannon Fodder element where you become ironically protective of the long-surviving heavy hitters despite them being the most capable of defending themselves.

275: Bulls vs. Lakers and the NBA Playoffs

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Electronic Arts
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • JP Release: 1993-04-02
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: September 1992
  • Franchise: NBA Playoffs
  • Genre: Basketball
  • Theme: Sports
  • Premise: EA tackles the '90-'91 NBA season, somehow correctly guessing the two final teams only mere months after the playoffs had already happened.
  • Availability: Nope. I'd say get this year's EA NBA Live game instead, except they cancelled it.
  • Preservation: Unlike most of EA's sports franchises, which launched out of the gate with the same brands they'd continue to use for another three decades, it took a while for EA to settle on what to call their annual basketball enterprise. Initially, we had the various "[Sport Team] vs. [Sport Team] and the NBA Playoffs": that is, word vomit that's not nearly as concise and marketable as "NHL [Year]" for example. Still, the one positive of the name is that it proved EA were determined to stay current: the Bulls had a hell of a season in 1991, to put it mildly, and having their name in the resulting summer of 1992 NBA game probably drew even more attention than it might've enjoyed otherwise.

276: Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Acme Interactive
  • Publisher: Mindscape
  • JP Release: N/A
  • NA Release: 1992
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Baseball
  • Theme: Pro Sports
  • Premise: Baseball's own "The Iron Man" is here to present a sub-par sim that's perhaps more rip-off than Ripken.
  • Availability: Nope. Mindscape's gone and Cal Ripken Jr.'s long retired, so off this game goes to the obsolescence graveyard. Toot toot. (It's taking the train to get there.)
  • Preservation: It's not clear when the Genesis version of Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball was released - it could've been closer to December, when the SNES version came out - but I figure you can't have enough summer ball games on this particular entry of the Mega Archive. Mega Archive XVIII is representing almost every other sport, so why not baseball also? Not much to say about this one: like many cheapo sports games, the developers acquired the endorsement of a single athlete - the former Orioles shortstop in this case - but not the official MLB or MLBPA licenses, so Ripken's the only name you'll recognize on the field. At least I can appreciate how many 16-bit games from 1992 onwards released on both the SNES and Mega Drive: having already completed all the game pages for the former, there's only so much I need to add.

277: David Robinson's Supreme Court

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Acme Interactive
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1992-07-10
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: August 1992
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Basketball
  • Theme: Sports (also the theme of June 1992 in general, apparently)
  • Premise: Remember when the Supreme Court was an institution to be admired? San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson does, and uses this educational game to guide politically-curious youths through the USA's Judicial Branch of government.
  • Availability: Nope. Probably gonna have to go through some hoops to track this down one.
  • Preservation: The third of three basketball games released that summer, David Robinson's Supreme Court is the most interesting to look at with its axonometric slant, but like Acme's other game in this Mega Archive there's a certain feeling of economy involved. It again has just the one sportsperson associated with it, as opposed to a team or the whole league, and it feels scrappy in the way sports games used to be until EA's dominance made any budget competitors less viable. There's also a certain weakness to the isometric look that makes itself known every time a player passes the midcourt with the ball in tow and the game has to fade to black for a moment to switch the camera around, which isn't really conducive to such a fast-paced sport like basketball.

278: Krusty's Super Fun House

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Audiogenic Software
  • Publisher: Flying Edge
  • JP Release: N/A
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: December 1992
  • Franchise: The Simpsons
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Theme: Mass Extermination
  • Premise: Krusty's fun house has a vermin infestation problem, and only elaborate murder machines can quell it. Bart immediately volunteered to man said machines, apropos for the character.
  • Availability: Nope. Go see if Disney's amenable to bringing these Acclaim Simpsons games back. I'll wait.
  • Preservation: It's probably no surprise to anyone that the only half-decent Simpsons game Acclaim ever put out was a modification of an existing puzzle game that they bolted the license onto. Left to their own devices, most Simpsons games instead turned out like Bart vs. the Space Mutants, i.e. trash (and trash we'll be visiting real soon - keep reading). I'm not exactly sure why Krusty's the star here; maybe the Simpsons household is too well-known by the audience, and they figured a TV clown was the most likely citizen in Springfield to have a bizarre, giant mansion that fit the level design?

279: Olympic Gold: Barcelona '92

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Tiertex
  • Publisher: US Gold (NA/EU) / Sega (JP)
  • JP Release: 1992-07-24
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: July 1992
  • Franchise: Olympics
  • Genre: Sports
  • Theme: Sports
  • Premise: Oh right, 1992 was an Olympics year. Well, here's your customary Olympics game, covering all seven events (look, they could only do so much back then).
  • Availability: Nope. I'd say wait for this year's Olympic Games instead, except they cancelled those too.
  • Preservation: Considering what a big deal the Olympics are (the Summer Games, at least), I was always underwhelmed by the "Official Game of the Games" that came out alongside them. I feel like the Mario and Sonic ones are probably the best case scenario because they embody the spirit of friendly international competition without taking itself too seriously. Official games like Olympic Gold are so austere and require such elaborate control schemes for each individual sport - because anything less would be an insult to all the top-tier athleticism involved - that you don't get a whole lot out of them, especially when you can only fit seven events on a cart.

280: Side Pocket

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Data East
  • Publisher: Data East
  • JP Release: 1992-12-11
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: 1993-02-22
  • Franchise: Side Pocket
  • Genre: Billiards
  • Theme: Rearranging Balls Via Pockets
  • Premise: Swim with the pool sharks in Data East's bar game simulator, delighting onlookers with your mispronunciations of "snooker".
  • Availability: Looks like it's still available on the 3DS Virtual Console.
  • Preservation: Unlike most sports games (maybe sports should be in brackets here) I'm quite fond of pool sims. Maybe because the simple physics involved make game versions feel very close to the real thing, even if in 1992 they weren't yet at a place to perfectly encapsulate the smoky atmosphere of seedy bars and pool halls. Data East's Side Pocket was as close to the platonic pool (pooltonic? Nope) ideal as you could get back then though, except I don't think attractive women hanging off saggy middle-aged dudes around a pool table was a thing outside of The Color of Money.

281: The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Arc Developments
  • Publisher: Flying Edge
  • JP Release: N/A
  • NA Release: June 1992
  • EU Release: July 1992
  • Franchise: The Simpsons
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Theme: "They Live Was A Good Movie"
  • Premise: Before Kang and Kodos there were the space mutants, and before good Simpsons games there was this.
  • Availability: Nope. Probably destroyed by the same holy ritual that sent Acclaim to the Stygian abyss.
  • Preservation: I'll admit to having something of a soft spot for Bart vs. the Space Mutants. As a platformer it was plain garbage, and unfortunately most of the later stages exacerbated the issue by making the platforming even harder, but early on it had some almost clever adventure game ideas that required lateral thinking. For instance, the first stage's unusual goal of removing any and all purple-colored objects required spraypainting a lot of things orange but also concealing or removing them in some way that might involve using inventory items or waiting for the in-game clock to hit a certain time. You even prank call Moe to get him outside so you can spray his purple bartending apron. My god, that jumping though. Diabolical.

282: Jennifer Capriati Tennis / GrandSlam: The Tennis Tournament

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: System Sacom
  • Publisher: Telenet Japan (JP) / Renovation (NA) / Sega (EU)
  • JP Release: 1992-06-12 (as GrandSlam)
  • NA Release: September 1992 (as Jennifer Capriati Tennis)
  • EU Release: 1993-02-22 (as GrandSlam: The Tennis Tournament)
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Tennis
  • Theme: Sports
  • Premise: Welcome to the world of professional tennis - a brutal and uncompromising place where love means nothing.
  • Availability: Nope. Also Capriati retired in 2004 so I'm guessing the endorsement won't have the clout it once did.
  • Preservation: I haven't done the necessary research, but this is either the first or one of the first sports games to have a female athlete on the cover and in the name. Capriati made headlines in 1992 for winning the gold medal at the Summer Olympics at the age of 16, defeating Germany's Steffi Graf, and even though it makes sense why Telenet would seek out her endorsement for the North American localization it feels a bit weird to court someone that young for a namesake business arrangement like this. I guess if you can win gold medals at that age, you can have your name attached to commercial goods. At any rate, the scuttlebutt has this game being perhaps the best "arcade-style" tennis game the Genesis had to offer, especially this early into its lifespan. I kind of like the cute little exaggerated animations of all the players; sports games can always use that extra touch of personality.

283: Top Pro Golf

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Soft Vision
  • Publisher: Soft Vision
  • JP Release: 1992-06-19
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Golf
  • Theme: Ball Chess
  • Premise: Being a pro golfer is like being Ganon - you won't get anywhere without hitting the Links often enough.
  • Availability: Nope. Consigned to the bunker trap of history.
  • Preservation: I'm really out of my element with most of the sports games featured in this entry, though I can at least recognize when a golf game is trying to be serious by the number of customization options and permutations the player is given control over. The more scientifically you approach golf, the less it starts to feel like a fun game where you just whack a tiny ball with a stick as hard as you can. Top Pro Golf, which has no player endorsements nor a featured real-life golf course, feels as rudimentary as they come, and even for a golf game is kinda dull to think about for more than a second. It did well enough for a sequel though: Top Pro Golf 2, which even saw a localization as the awesomely named Chi Chi's Pro Challenge Golf. I'm guessing it's not Dragon Ball themed, but finding out for sure will be something to look forward to with the 1993 season of the Mega Archive.

284: Gemfire / Royal Blood

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Koei
  • Publisher: Koei
  • JP Release: 1992-06-25 (as Royal Blood)
  • NA Release: November 1992 (as Gemfire)
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Premise: Ishmeria recently deposed its tyrant of a king, but he might regain his power if some other wizard doesn't grab a bunch of gemstones first. Look, it's Koei Fire Emblem, what more do you need?
  • Availability: Koei remade the game for PC in 2003, but only in Japan. The series would not persevere with annual entries the way Nobunaga's Ambition did.
  • Preservation: Koei were all-in on the Mega Drive by 1992, which sees them in the process of porting over almost all their existing properties including a few that didn't really take off. Gemfire is one such anomaly: a one-and-done attempt at a fantasy strategy RPG in the vein of Nintendo's Fire Emblem or Sega's own Shining Force. In fact, I'm guessing it was the hype around the latter that might've precipitated Gemfire's Mega Drive port, though the two releases are too close together to say that for sure. Gemfire's a bit more accessible than Koei's other strategy sims, but still considerably more details-oriented than most other strategy games for the system: expect to futz around with a lot of menus to keep all your soldiers trained and fed and to deploy diplomacy and trading routes whenever and wherever applicable.

285: Tougi-Ou: King Colossus

No Caption Provided
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega
  • JP Release: 1992-06-26
  • NA Release: N/A
  • EU Release: N/A
  • Franchise: N/A
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Premise: A burly amnesiac moves across the world beating up all manner of monsters in this Ys-ish RPG.
  • Availability: Nope. Mostly forgotten now, despite its first-party pedigree.
  • Preservation: Now this was a pleasant surprise. I'm usually in two minds about games that are deliberately lifting whole blueprints from other series, especially those that belong to a specific company/console. For a while Genesis experimented with finding its own Zelda, for example, with Crusader of Centy and Beyond Oasis being close - but distinct enough - pretenders. Tougi-Ou, conversely, is very much in the vein of Falcom's Ys franchise: the top-down ones in particular, where you fight monsters in real-time to gain levels and make a very small HP bar get progressively larger. It was graciously fan translated in 2006, this patch not only translating the script but also offering a few necessary gameplay patches, so it's been oddly compelling to work through its familiar charms even though I'm supposed to be focusing on... well, this blog, for one. But it looks like we're done here, so I'm hopping back into it. Thanks for reading, and the Mega Archive will return soon... (Probably.)
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