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  • ToeJam & Earl (Sega Genesis)

    Sega Visions #5, Summer 91 – ToeJam & Earl


    Everybody knows of Sonic as Sega’s mascot. However, before Sonic had that role locked up, ToeJam & Earl served in that role to some degree. The creator of the ToeJam & Earl game for the Sega Genesis was a big fan of Rogue and worked on Starflight and Starflight 2 earlier in his career. ToeJam & Earl has gameplay reminiscent of Rogue though with better graphics and an isometric viewpoint along with a more lighthearted version of some of Starflight’s science fiction themes.

    ToeJam & Earl was somewhat of a sleeper hit. It got good reviews and people that played it tended to enjoy it but it wasn’t a big seller, at least at first. Over time, the game’s popularity picked up and it ended up being a decent seller.

    ToeJam and Earl are amusing aliens that have crash landed on earth. The goal of the game is to find tens spaceship pieces so that they can escape earth. “Earth” is represented by floating islands in space. Once an elevator is found on one island, you can go up to the next. However, you can also fall off and land on the island below.

    ToeJam & Earl is a very unique game that is a blast to play despite (or because of) its many oddities. For Sega Genesis fans this is definitely one to have. An original copy won’t be terribly cheap but if you watch for a deal you may be able to find a moderately priced one on eBay. The original was also re-released on Wii’s Virtual Console in 2006 and on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in 2012.

    There have also been a couple of sequels though they haven’t managed to match the quality of the first one yet. The first sequel was called ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. While not a bad game it is in a completely different genre as it was made into a more traditional side scrolling platform game. A third game was planned for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast at different times but both were cancelled. A beta of the Dreamcast iteration eventually made its way into the wild. An official third game was finally released on the Xbox in 2002 titled ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth. It brought back some of the elements of the original but was really more of a 3D platformer and was not as well received. The good news is that a fourth game is in the works titled ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove and is supposed to be in a style very similar to the first game.

    The review at the top is from the Summer 1991 issue of Sega Visions.

  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Sega CD)


    Source: Mega Play – Issue Number 15 – April/May 1993

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a video game based on the movie of the same name that was released in 1992 (which in turn is based on the 1897 novel). The game was released in 1994 and came out on a large variety of systems. For the most part, they were all significantly different from each other. This ad highlights the Sega CD version of the game.

    All versions of the game (except the DOS version) were essentially action platform games but the level design, game play and graphics differ significantly. The Sega CD version was unique for its use of digitized backgrounds and full motion video cutscenes from the movie. The Sega CD version was only released in North America. The Amiga version did reuse some of the digitized graphics from the Sega CD version but there were more levels and they were significantly different.

    There were also regular Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, NES, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega Master System and DOS versions of the game. The 8-bit versions were mostly the same with the Sega Master System and Game Gear versions having slightly better graphics than the NES version and all three obviously being better than the Game Boy version. The 16-bit SNES and Genesis versions were completely different from the 8-bit versions but similar to each other except for minor differences. The last version to come along was the DOS version. This one was unique because it was more like a first persons shooter instead of a platform action/adventure game.

    With all these different variations of the game you would think at least one of them would be decent. You would be wrong. This game suffers the same fate as the vast majority of movie licenses. It is mostly crap or at best sheer mediocrity. The 8-bit versions are the worst with the Game Boy being worst of the worst. The others are probably a toss-up and depend on personal preference. If you like digitized backgrounds and characters, choppy animation and grainy, blurry FMV then go for the Sega CD version. Minus most of the FMV then go for the Amiga. More standard but below par 16-bit graphics and animation then pick the Genesis or SNES versions. Prefer first person shooter type games? Then go for the DOS version. It doesn’t really matter though as you are sure to be disappointed no matter which one you choose. I thought the movie was decent enough though.

    The ad above is from the April/May 1993 issue of Mega Play and all screen shots are from the Sega CD version of the game.

  • Red Zone (Sega Genesis)


    Source: Electronic Gaming Monthly – Issue Number 67 – February 1995 

    Red Zone was a top-down shooter developed by Zyrinx, distributed by Time Warner and released for the Sega Genesis in 1994. Zyrinx itself makes for an interesting story. It was a development studio originally formed from two Amiga demo groups in Europe that relocated to Boston. They developed two games for the Genesis including this one and Subterrania which was released the previous year.

    The plot of Red Zone centers around a guy who steals some nuclear weapons from the USSR and is threatening to destroy the world. Your job, of course, is to stop him. During most of the game you will be flying a helicopter armed mostly with cannons and missiles. However, you will be on foot for some parts of the game.

    Red Zone has gotten pretty mixed reviews over the years. Early on, magazines gave it pretty mediocre reviews, citing the difficulty and poor control of the ground segments. More recent reviews are much more positive overall. The game features some pretty brilliant graphics and effects for the Genesis including rotation, real-time zoom, and full motion video compression among others. The helicopter sequences are excellent but the ground sequences take some getting used to. At the end of the day, if you want a VERY challenging top-down 16-bit shooter that was state of the art at the time and impressive even today, then you’ll have a hard time doing better than Red Zone.

    Red Zone does not have any sequels or re-releases on modern platforms and it was only ever released for the Genesis. However, the original beta version of the game, called Hardwired, was made freely available by the developer. I’m not really sure what the differences are between this beta version and the final version. Loose carts of Red Zone can be found for not too terribly high prices and both Red Zone and Hardwired can be found easily enough if you want to play on an emulator.

    The above ad is from the February 1995 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly.