Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Megadrive/Genesis

Developed by Sega and released for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1990, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a masterpiece platform game that has stood the test of time extremely well.

The game itself is pretty simple: running, jumping, climbing, and swimming, with Mickey on a quest to save Minnie Mouse from the evil witch Mizrabel.

Mickey’s main weapon is his bounce, which he can perform while jumping and which helps him defeat enemies. He can also pick up items, such as apples and marbles, to use as projectiles to throw at enemies.

To defeat Mizrabel, Mickey must find the “Seven Gems of the Rainbow”, each of which can found behind a door, in a different realm, protected by one of Mizrabel’s henchmen. There are six different – graphically distinct – stages (The Enchanted Forest, Toyland, The Storm, Dessert Factory, The Library, and The Castle), with a boss battle at the end of each.

Castle of Illusion still looks and plays great to this day. If I had any complaint it would be that the Megadrive doesn’t have transparent pixels (like the SNES does), which means that the designers had to make do with using ‘stippling’ in the water sections (which is ugly and makes the game look dated). Otherwise: it’s marvellous (still).

A remake of Castle of Illusion was made by Sega Studios Australia in 2013 and is currently available on Steam.

More: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse on Wikipedia

Rolling Thunder 3, Megadrive/Genesis

Rolling Thunder 3 is a Sega Megadrive/Genesis exclusive. It was developed by Now Production and published by Namco in 1993. It did not appear in arcades, like its predecessors did.

This time you’re playing a different member of the Rolling Thunder team, a guy called Jay who wears blue trousers, as well as the usual gun holster on his chest. Jay is on the hunt for the Geldra gang second-in-command, while Codename Albatross and Leila go after the big boss – this is supposed to be happening at the same time as the events in Rolling Thunder 2, you see…

Unlike Rolling Thunder 2, Rolling Thunder 3 only has a single-player mode, which is a bit of an oversight. The Megadrive has two joypad ports by default, so I don’t know what they were thinking there… This would have been a great chance to combine what made the first and second games good – the ‘feel’, tempo, and graphical style of the first game, and the simultaneous two-player mode of the second… Oh well.

Jay operates similarly to Albatross – he can run, jump; leap up to an overhead platform; enter a door, and fire a variety of weapons. Gameplay is similar to the arcade original as you’d expect – some enemies get back up after being shot, so must be shot more than once; enemies come out of doors randomly so you have to be careful when you enter them; and each type of enemy has characteristic behaviour. Learning how to deal with individuals is a must in order to make it through a level – unless you know the game very well you’re not going to rush through it. Like the original: it’s challenging.

Features new to this game include: special weapons – selectable from a total of nine at the start, including three types of hand grenades; crosshairs lining up to fire on you if you take too long to complete a level; two fire buttons – one for special weapons; new enemies; checkpoint restarts; boss battles; and motorbikes!

In spite of there being no two-player mode, Rolling Thunder 3 is still an exceptional run-and-gunner. The graphics and gameplay are a nice re-imagining of the original and in this third instalment you can finally shoot diagonally! Back o’ the net!

Tip: Enter GREED as a password to play as the hidden character Ellen.

More: Rolling Thunder 3 on Wikipedia

General Chaos, Megadrive/Genesis

General Chaos is a memorable multiplayer strategy/action game, developed by Game Refuge Inc. and published for the Sega Megadrive by Electronic Arts in 1993.

The game is basically a real-time, single-screen tactical action game, with two teams of soldiers fighting it out for overall domination. You can either take on the computer AI, or another person, and must capture your opponent’s base to win the game.

General Chaos is a cartoony depiction of war, so is satirical rather than bloody. Graphically, the soldiers are well-animated and have character, and gameplay-wise the game has a lot going for it. Up to four players can play simultaneously against the computer – if you have the correct adaptor – which is brilliant fun. I actually got the opportunity to play this with three other people on a real Megadrive, back in 1993, although I had no idea what I was doing… Playing it now brings back a lot of good memories, although General Chaos is definitely more than just good nostalgia – it’s a great game that has stood the test of time well!

More: General Chaos on Wikipedia

Beyond Oasis, Megadrive/Genesis

Also known in some territories as The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light, Beyond Oasis is an action adventure game that was developed by Ancient and published by Sega in 1994.

You could describe Beyond Oasis as a Zelda-style adventure – the world is viewed from above and you control a sword-wielding adventurer who engages in a real-time combat – but in reality this game is not a patch on Zelda; it really doesn’t have the detail and finesse of a Zelda game.

Graphically, Beyond Oasis is nice. The graphics are beautifully-drawn and evoke a suitably Arabian fantasy style atmosphere. Unfortunately the overly-simplistic gameplay results in a kind of detachment from any kind of real engagement. What I mean by that is that it’s a bit boring to play but looks nice. Which is a pity. A bit more character and depth could’ve resulted in something special. As it is, we got something merely okay.

An official sequel/prequel to this, called The Legend of Oasis, was released for the Sega Saturn in 1996.

More: Beyond Oasis on Wikipedia

Phantasy Star II, Megadrive/Genesis

Released in 1989 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Phantasy Star II is a pioneering RPG for its time. It’s a sequel, obviously; to the classic Sega Master System release of 1987, Phantasy Star.

Phantasy Star II was the first RPG released for the Sega Megadrive, and pre-dates the release of Final Fantasy on the NESin the USA, that is. Both Phantasy Star II and the long-awaited English translation of Final Fantasy helped popularise RPGs in the USA and Europe in the ’90s.

Set some one thousand years after the events of the first game, Phantasy Star II is another sci-fi-based level-grinder with a party system and turn-based combat.

Graphically – and in terms of user interface – the game is a nice ‘step up’ from the original. The graphics are less cartoony and better-defined. In this sequel you can also now see all your party members above their associated info panels during combat, and they animate depending on what they’re doing. Which is neat.

The first-person sections seen in the first game have been dropped, and Phantasy Star II is played almost entirely with separate ‘overworld’ and dungeon sections, shown from an overhead perspective.

There are also fewer abbreviated names in the game, compared to the original, which is good although the names of items and magic and stuff in this are still pretty weird. We can at least thank Sega for trying to do something different with the genre with this weirdness.

As far as gameplay goes: Phantasy Star II is fast and slick, and the timing of all the different processes is pretty much perfect. It’s very easy to get sucked-in to the hypnotic gameplay of this classic level-grinder, but the experience is worth it.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantasy_Star_II