Daria here and I’m gonna title this article: Why Growing Up an RPG Gamer On the Sega Genesis Was fucking Awesome! Whenever the subject of the 16bit console wars is brought up, it’s universally understood that the Super Nintendo was the undisputed king of RPGs. With Squaresoft hemorrhaging heavy hitters like Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana how could Sega possibly have competed?
The funny thing is that I grew up in a Sega household as an avid RPG gamer and I never once felt cheated I had a solid library of excellent role playing games on the Genesis and even with the knowledge and experience I have now I would never substitute those memories for another console now I didn’t have all the great games. Somehow, I was totally ignorant of Phantasy Star series. I did have the opportunity once to buy Phantasy Star III but… when I compared the screenshots on the back of the box to the bitchin’ 80s artwork of Hydlide on the NES my inner metal head choose very poorly. I could have discovered sega’s other amazing first party RPG series but instead I went home with one of the worst console RPGs I’ve ever played but I was fortunate to own 5 titles that even today I would heartily recommend to other fans of the genre. What were they, you ask?
Well… my absolute favorite game on any system, Shining Force, is the title that solidified my love for tactical RPGs. I didn’t realize it at the time but Shining Force is a fairly unique series; just about every other SRPG you’ll play ushers the player from battle to battle with some dialogue and menu options in between. Shining Force, however, is more of a traditional RPG hybrid as your small army advances across the land of Rune you’ll stop in various towns and settlements. It sounds like an insignificant distinction, but I get burned out marching endlessly into consecutive battles. I need that down time to just explore the game world actually, I really enjoy talking to NPCs and poking around for secret easter eggs of which this game has in abundance.
Not to mention that I really enjoy the game’s atmosphere; Sega created a rich fantasy setting that blends high fantasy with futuristic sci-fi and populates the universe with an eclectic cast of characters. In addition to the usual Tolkien inspired archetypes: you know – humans, elves, dwarfs, and even hobbits – you will also recruit more exotic races like gelflings, anthropomorphic animals, centaurs, robots, dragons… Oh! Giant hamsters – nothing strikes fear into the heart of your enemies quite like facing an entire army of battle-crazed hamsters. I also appreciate the fact that the game doesn’t punish you for letting your characters die.
; there’s nothing fun about perma-death. Maybe that makes me a bad gamer, but I like not having to deal with the hassle of reloading the game every time the AI gets a lucky critical. Instead, I’m free to be reckless and kamikaze the mother fuckers. Actually sometimes that play-style is more strategic.
Imagine playing a chess tournament where you were forced to play subsequent games minus the pieces lost in previous rounds. Chess would be a completely different wargame if you couldn’t lure the enemy into a trap by sacraficing your pawns. As much as I loved the original, I had to have Shining Force II. I’m unashamed to admit that nearly 10 year old me geeked out in the middle of Toys R Us the day I spotted that laminated card shining down from the video game display and come my birthday I was not disappointed. Technically Shining Force II improves on the original in every way While the first was dark and gritty, typical of the style that we’ve come to associate with the Genesis, Shining Force II’s brighter color palette would’ve looked right at home on the Super Nintendo. Despite this cheerful overhaul however, the story was – in some ways – much darker.
Now I don’t want to encroach on spoiler territory but there’s a plot twist it hits me way harder then the death of certain flower merchant in Final Fantasy VII. Anyway… Sega made a few system tweaks like you no longer have to pull up the menu just talked with NPCs and when you search a chest with your hands full you can pass the item to other players in your party. But the biggest improvement was the expanded exploration. They introduced a semi-free roaming over world with random battles, set locations in the game that occasionally trigger a generic battlefield.
And the included more hidden items that are used with a new crafting system that unlocks some of the best weapons in the game. And other items which are used to select special promotions for certain classes. For example you can use the vicar ball on either Sarah or Karna to turn them into sexy master monks. Nuff said, right? Now I know I was just going on about the evils of perma-death But I love Warsong for being everything that Shining Force isn’t.
Warsong CAN be an excruciatingly frustrating experience and sooo slooow… but it also has the potential to be extremely rewarding as well. Generals slain in combat will not make a comeback. And choosing the correct unit-types for battle is just as important as your tactics on field.
The game essentially boils down to a rock-paper-scissors approach: archers are strong against horsemen, horsemen are strong against soldiers, and soldiers are strong against archers. And citizens are uncontrollable cannon fodder. This decision becomes more complicated once you unlock special units like merman, grphyons, guardsman, and monks. But these guys are all pretty much suck 90% of the time unless they’re up against very specific monster types. This system forces the player to pay heed to the enemy list displayed during the scenario synopsis.
Choosing the correct units for battle makes all the difference between unanimous victory and utter defeat. But really all these units are disposable pawns the true key to victory is clearing a path to the opponent’s commander. Destroy one of them and you’ll take out their entire squad.
BOOM! Adding to that “one-wrong-move-and-you’re-totally-fucked” style of gameplay you can choose between multiple promotion classes for your commander but this isn’t so much matter of personal preference as it is a pop quiz. You can completely gimp a formidable commander by choosing the wrong path. While Warsong may sound like an exercise in frustration it is a challenge and if you can play by its stringent rules and win you’ll feel like a venerable gaming god. It’s a real shame that the rest of the series has never been officially localized for a western release.
Langrisser, the series true name, has come a long way since this crude beginning and is renown in Japan as being one of the greatest strategy series ever released. Dungeons and Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun feels like a sort of odd duck in this list I wouldn’t claim that it’s better than any of those great Super Nintendo RPGs that you might have grown up with. But I feel like it holds its own in the Genesis library.
Graphically Warriors reminds me a lot of the 16bit Ultima titles. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be inaccurate to call it a clone. Warriors is a sort of hybrid of RPG styles.
When your party is exploring inside caves, and castles,and what-have-yous the game handles like a first-person dungeon crawler, but outside action is isometic top-down with a tactical style combat system; it’s a little strange but it works. The game really shines, however, in the story. Based on D&Ds Hollow World your band of adventurers come to find themselves stranded in a giant hollow crater in the center of the earth.
Whatever light source is illuminating this region never extinguishes, creating an illusion of perpetual daylight. The inhabitants of Hollow World are slowly being driven insane and you must find a way out before your party also succumbs to madness. Did I say that this story shines?
I meant that it is really fucking depressing. But it’s also a much welcome and creative departure from the “gather the baubles” and “save the world” tropes that we’re used to. Also these monsters are awesome. Kobold dog men and dinosaurs? Yes please! In the summer of ’95 my family took a vacation to Walt Disney World.
Despite being a total roller coaster junkie my most magical experience of the trip was visiting the then new Saga arcade in Epcot’s Innovations. It’s difficult to really explain the sensation. Picture a warehouse filled with thousands of Genesis kiosks running every game imaginable. A larger-than-life Sonic towers over you from the center of the room and every machine is on free play. The room is charged with an electronic beat pumping from the dissonance of a thousand games running simultaneously.
I remember wandering the darkened labyrinth between machines: too overwhelmed to play but elated to watch. I was particularly enthralled while some other kid ran through Zombies Ate my Neighbors but my mind was blown when I reached Shadowrun. A little back story: my family has always been big into table-top gaming and FASA’s second edition of Shadowrun was a staple in our home.
So to come across the game brought to life on a video screen in the middle of Disney World was unbelievable. That Christmas my dad bought our family two copies to share. Personally I love Shadowrun because it feels like playing the pen-and-paper game. Sega’s version manages to do a nice job of emulating the system’s core mechanics. You run missions in a sandbox enviorment to earn money and karma. Karma serves as your experience points and you can trade it in for increased skills and attributes.
Money, of course, is spent on equipment but also on cybernetic body modifications. The atmosphere, however, is really what sets this RPG apart from… anything else available on the system. Shadowrun is set in a futuristic cyberpunk dystopia. Some time ago regular people started developing magical powers. While others were morphing into hulking trolls or fearsome looking orks.
Babies around the world were suffering odd birth defects such as stunted growth or pointed ears… and the Dragons were awakening. You play the game as a Shadowrunner – a criminal outcast for hire who infiltrates powerful corporations and steals their secrets. The game has a decent underlying plot as well which unifies the game-play and progresses the adventure. But the real fun comes from building a team of adventurers and running around being a real badass.
Like Warriors there’s also two distinct methods of game-play. The real world is an action oriented top-down affair. But the internet (or Matrix) is a turn-based virtual world that feels entirely like a different game.
I feel completely confident in claiming that Shadowrun is one of the best RPGs of the 16bit generation. And that’s my list. Now I’m not saying that these five games are the best the Genesis has to offer, Or that the Super Nintendo is undeserving of its fanbase. I’m just happy to share some of my childhood nostalgia with you and I hope that someone out there can come away from this video with a new found appreciation for the RPG underdog Once again: thank you for watching! Daria out.