Sega Mega Drive Mini – Top 5 Games

In a world before the Covid-19 pandemic (yep, I barely remember either) there was something of a retro videogame revival taking place. We’ve had the NES mini, and the SNES mini, cataloguing some of the most beloved releases to grace either platform. The Sega Mega-Drive Mini (Genesis mini in the US), released in 2019, aimed to do the same. Forty-Two titles came included, 13 of which were exclusive to the west. Sega division M2 handled the conversions, and the console itself, arriving at 55% the size of the original home classic, certainly looks the part. But what about the games?

Thankfully the choices are not as generic as expected heralding quite a few tasty surprises. Castlevania: Bloodlines, Mega Man: The Wily Wars and Contra: Hard Corps are among the rarer and desirable classics on offer, as well as a very welcome return of Road Rash II. Who knew Sega and EA even still talked?

On the downside, many of the titles are a case of same old, same old. Sega have been releasing various Genesis/Mega Drive collections since the PS2 era, with the latest edition only being made available on Switch last December. No less than 24 titles (57% no less) make a reappearance on the Mega Drive Mini. But no one can argue that regardless of how many times they are released, many of these titles were key to the Mega Drive being a success. From Alex Kidd to World of Illusion, The Mega Drive Mini certainly is worthy of our money and time. And so, in no particular order, here are my top five picks.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994)
The inclusion of Castlevania: Bloodlines is certainly one of the best inclusions for many reasons. Firstly, it is the only Castlevania game for Sega’s platform, and was also exclusive at the time. Thankfully, the version included matches that of the recently released Castlevania: Anniversary Collection for PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch in that it is uncensored; its original 1994 release felt the wrath of the censors, much like Mortal Kombat did for the SNES. The end result is a traditional Castlevania adventure that is also among the most violent in the series.

Eternal Champions (1993)
Not an obvious choice for many I’m sure, but a pleasing one for me nonetheless. Sega’s answer to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat was better than neither of them, but could easily be considered the cultists choice. Sega developed Eternal Champions for the Mega Drive, and not an arcade port like its more successful counterpart giants of the genre.

Its unique characters from different time zones, including caveman Slash, futuristic Muay Thai fighter R.A.X. Coswell and 1920’s mobster Larcen Tyler, are unlike any other fighting franchise. They certainly could not have had names that were any less memorable if they tried. Weapon-wielding, an Art of Fighting-style special move meter, even its own take on fatalities make Eternal Champions a unique, if a little clunky, fighting experience.

Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition (1993)
On the back of Capcom developing Street Fighter II: Turbo for the SNES, Sega made the wise choice of delaying their own version of Street Fighter II to improve its content. Originally intended as a port of the namesake arcade, this newly dubbed “Special” edition includes both ‘Champion’ and ‘Turbo’ modes, the former of which the SNES version never had. In addition, this was the first console port of the famous arcade fighting introduction sequence, which is noticeably absent from all SNES versions of Street Fighter II.

It’s incredible to think that a decision to originally stick with Nintendo as its home console base, then to come full circle and over-compensate for a rival console, would result in such a console-defining moment. Special Champion Edition became a revolutionary move for the Mega Drive, paving the way for production of the 6-button controller that would resolve the initial issue of toggling between punches and kicks with the 3-button pad start button. This inevitable shift is a decision that transformed a title that was originally unworkable to arguably having better control than its SNES counterpart. Depending on your taste in controllers of course.

Although it trumps the SNES Turbo title on feature inclusion alone, what of the action itself? Everything is intact, plus the additions of tournament modes and both ‘Champion’ and ‘Turbo’ modes give the Street Fighter II Turbo a run for its money. As ever though, the Mega Drive just isn’t up there when it comes to the sound quality. The slightly muffled tunes and voices let the side down just a tad. Nevertheless, this is the best fighter the Mega Drive ever had to offer until the arrival of its sequel, Super Street Fighter II.

Road Rash II (1993)
Although boasting an incredibly baron Wikipedia page, Road Rash II is easily one of the greatest racing games on the Mega Drive. The core elements of racing with dirty fighting tactics to take out your rivals makes for challenging-yet-brilliant entertainment. Use chains, clubs or even punch/kick your way through multiple obstacle-riddled tracks at breakneck speeds. Road Rash II is simply an insane amount of fun.

Childhood memories of Road Rash include unlocking several of the nitro bikes, such as the black nitro addition. It would often be too fast for any race with any collision catapulting your rider through the air, hilariously defying gravity, and still have enough time to gather your bike and win the race. Ah memories. Road Rash II also introduced the split screen 2 player mode, whether against CPU opponents or head to head, which is presumably what gave it the nod over the original’s inclusion.

Road Rash II is simply a riot of a racing game, and a very welcome surprise to the Mega Drive Mini.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars (1994)
A unique inclusion given it is its first ever rerelease, Mega Man: The Wily Wars is unique to me in that I’ve never had the pleasure. All the more reason for looking forward to it then, in this 16-bit take (a la Super Mario All Stars on SNES) of the first three NES Mega Man games.

Unlike Nintendo’s Mario compilation however, there is a story behind this Capcom collection; Dr Wily seeks to change the future by going back in time, to the first three adventures, to eliminate Mega Man. Once you’ve conquered the graphically-enhanced adventures, it’s on to an original stage, Wily Tower, for a final showdown.

Given its sporadic release back in 1995, particularly in the US, it’s no surprise that Wily Wars at one time sat at the £200+ mark on eBay and other gaming markets. Which in turn makes it all the more pleasing that it is included here.

How about you? Did you buy the Mega Drive Mini? What are you favourites?

My Top 5 Games of 2017

2017 was some year for video games. The Xbox One and PS4 showing their true capabilities. The arrival of the Nintendo Switch. The impact of the Nintendo Switch. I cannot comment on PC and 3DS because i’m a poor man who cannot afford all of the games and systems. Man i’d love a gaming PC.

Anyway, back to 2017. Here are the 5 games I enjoyed the most. Before you skim down and click away in anger, there are some notable mentions that didn’t qualify. This is simply because I only had limited experience with them, despite first impressions being excellent.

Notable Mentions

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch):-

I am yet to own a Nintendo Switch. Note the word ‘yet’, because there are a few games already that make it scream ‘buy me’. Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely one of those games.

With just an hour or so into Odyssey, I am already in love with it, and in awe of it. The mysterious Cap Kingdom. The landscape of Cascade Kingdom. The beautiful Sand Kingdom. I’ve barely scratched the surface but I already know i’m in for something special.

Yakuza Kimawi (PS4):-

Whenever i see Yakuza, I immediately think of Shenmue. The combat is certainly familiar. This remake of the original, which I missed the first time around on PS2, oozes coolness. Like Mario Odyssey, I’ve only managed but a few minutes, but I can already tell this is going to be a time-devouring experience to remember. It is certainly reminiscent of Shenmue in all the right ways. Did I mention I miss Shenmue?

And now, let’s see what’s behind door #5….

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#5 – Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4)

Those that know me won’t be surprised by this entry, given that I love football. But even this, the 17th installment of Konami’s football series, took me by surprise. Up until the series’ transition onto the PS3/Xbox 360 platforms I was always a PES guy. Pro Evolution Soccer 6 is still the greatest football sim known to man. That’s just scientific fact.

I did jump ship to the much-improved and package-heavy FIFA series from ’09-’17. But I grew tired of FIFA’s increasingly unbalanced gameplay. After a taster of the series’ improving game with 2015/2016, I’m back for 2018. And it was worth the wait for many reasons.

First and foremost, Master League. The greatest league mode of any video game football simulation, is back in my life. It’s had a few media-style tweaks that are pretty pointless, but mirror today’s media-heavy approach. Getting yourself a edited data patch online adds to the experience much more. It isn’t official, but allows you to emulate competing in the Premier League, Serie A, etc along with the Champions/Europa Leagues, which are officially licensed. It can be life-consuming, but exhilarating no less.

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But what about the football itself? Master the basics and even the most novice players will be stringing one-touch passing moves together. The key is build up play, and it’s as precise as you want it to be. Passing/crosses/build-up is everything. Like the real thing.

Expect a challenge the other way, also. Defending isn’t easy with the games biggest gameplay issue: slide-tackling. Regardless of position, any tap of the slide button means a full-on tackle. And most likely a foul. That aside, you can press as freely and as high up the pitch as you want, and instruct team mates to do the same. Or not, if that’s your tactical nuance.

And finally, the cost. I managed to get PES 2018 Premium Edition for £38 (before trade-ins). FIFA 18’s standard cost is typical EA at £50/55. Plus EA want you spend even more within the game also. Don’t fall for it.

PES 2018 is an excellent football title. That data edit patch is a must for any true football fan to want it, and it’s worth a few minutes of hassle. As Konami would say, the pitch is ours. With PES 2018, you can make it yours.

Next, what’s behind door #4?

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#4 – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (PS4)

I reviewed this back in June. Check it out for the full low-down.

Off the back of the shocking ending to season 2, Telltale’s 3rd season certainly raises an eyebrow or two. Firstly, another change in lead character was initially disappointing. Disgraced baseball player Javier Carlos is an initially flaky individual, particularly around his family. But in true Telltale storytelling style, enough backstory is presented to make your own mind up. And more importantly, make the decisions. But fear not Clementine fans (me included), for she still plays a pivotal role in this penultimate season.

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There isn’t any change to the Telltale formula, but it’s fair to say there doesn’t need to be. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Telltale’s success is in it’s storytelling. Don’t like how certain decisions turn out? Then it’s worth a replay to see how things differ.

You want character investment? Telltale have become masters of that across most of their series. But The Walking Dead is still their best work. And come the end A New Frontier, you won’t be left wanting. Except for the next series of course.

And now for #3….

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#3 – Sonic Mania (PS4)

Well. Sonic Mania is quite the renaissance, isn’t it? Classic Sonic graphics, classic Sonic gameplay, classic Sonic characters. And while it starts out as an HD remix of sorts, revisiting levels from Sonic 1 + 2, Sonic Mania quickly becomes so much more.

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Granted if you were never a Sonic fan then 1) what is wrong with you? and 2) this could be the one to get you invested. Christian “Taxman” Whitehead has successfully created a brilliant hybrid of Sonic’s best 2D elements. On top of that, there is plenty of new content to justify Sonic Mania being a whole new adventure. And unlike Sonic Generations, the last decent Sonic title, none of that 3D third-person rubbish. It simply doesn’t work for the world’s most well-known hedgehog.

But Sonic Mania does work. On all levels. It has odes to the best Sonic has had to offer over the last 25+ years. Granted, of the 13 Zones on offer only 4 are wholly original. But most have originally developed ‘Acts’ designed against old backdrops such as the Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zones. There’s even a tribute to Mean Bean Machine thrown in for good measure. Add on top of that a host of unlock-able items/modes through in-game special stages, plus Chaos Emeralds to capture, and that’s the longevity sorted.

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And the special stages in particular are a nice addition. Reminiscent of the Sonic CD equivalent stages, they are nostalgia-tinged throwbacks to the 16-bit era. The Mode-7 racetrack-style courses are fluid and fast; something your reactions need to be as you collects rings to keep the timer going, and orbs in order to catch up to each Emerald. And you’ll want to collect them, for it is the only way to fully complete Sonic Mania.

At less than £20 it’s well worth it, whether you’re a fan or a newcomer. Sonic Mania is a retro-based reminder that 2D Sonic is and always will be the best Sonic.

And for my #2 pick of 2017…..

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#2 – MLB The Show ’17 (PS4)

Now this is most definitely the surprise pick of the year. I don’t watch Baseball. I don’t know any current rosters. Hell I can barely even name 10 teams. But such was the praise for Sony’s twelfth MLB installment i’d have been mad not to at least try it. And boy does it ever hit a home run.

MLB The Show ’17 is possibly the most comprehensive sports sim I have ever experienced. Given my little knowledge of the sport, the excellent tutorials get you up to scratch with little fuss/expectation. You can pitch/bat with whatever camera view suits you best, or even choose whatever TV coverage style you want. There is local co-op, online play, season mode and a franchise mode, which gives you control over and above the team on the field.

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The fielding and batting mechanics are pretty much perfect. You can swing with the tap of a button or with a swing of the analog stick. You can control all bases in sync or individually. The amount of functions and features goes on and on. To list everything MLB The Show ’17 has to offer for beginners through to seasoned professionals would simply be too much.

One new feature of note is the Retro Mode; a simplistic single-game mode that provides an excellent, top-level game of baseball for single/co-op play. It is visualised with 8-bit style block-graphics and thinner backdrops. It is an excellent mode to pick up the basics of the rules and batting/fielding timings.

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I haven’t even touched on the ‘Road to the show’ mode, where you create then guide a player through their career. From managing the bases to your contract, your social media profile to your attitude.

MLB The Show ’17 is incredible value for money. I picked this up for half price a few months down the line, but come March I will be looking for the best price for MLB The Show ’18. It is quite possibly the best sports sim series ever made.

And finally…..#1

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Come on Rey TELL ME!!!

#1 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

I think it’s fair to say that most who have experienced Breath of the Wild would make it their top pick. BotW is a genre-defining, mind-blowing experience that just has to be played.

The open-world environment is simply huge and awe-inspiring. The physics engine is tremendously detailed. The visuals are incredible, beautiful and, as a whole, is a brilliant adventure. Breath of the Wild takes elements from its already-greatest hits, as well as a few others (Skyrim being one example), and expands them exponentially.

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There isn’t much left to say about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. But there is a reason it has appeared on almost all 2017 Game of the Year listings. The anticipation alone led to 4 million sales for the Nintendo Switch, a perfect jump-start for Nintendo. It also served as a perfect swansong for the under-performing Wii U, managing to shift just over 1 million copies.

It’s release on the Wii U is something I am thankful for. Being 1 of the 1 million to own a copy on Wii U, it gave me the chance to experience one of the most immersive worlds ever committed to code. I urge you to do the same if you haven’t already. Breath of the Wild isn’t just the best video game of 2017; it’s the best game in years.

So that’s my top games of 2017, what were yours? Leave a comment below!