You can tell a lot about a gamer from his or her favourite titles. This week, the Voletic staff take a brief moment to share their favourite titles from the 16-Bit console generation. But be warned, there simply isn’t enough love for the SNES in the following list.
Ryan Kane McGuire
It’s almost hard to describe how playing this game at the time felt. It’s been released on a bunch of platforms, but the one I first experienced it on? The Sega Megadrive; that’s the Genesis, for all of you non-European types. Originally for the Amiga, Eric Chahi of Future Wars fame developed Another World under Delphine Software nearly all by himself in ’91 and to this day, the only games that come close to capturing the same intense and thick atmosphere are other Chahi games, like Heart of Darkness. True to its name, Another World really did feel like an alien realm. After the (rather groundbreaking) introductory cutscene, our pretty normal protagonist – the hilariously named Lester – gets zapped into a strange place by a lightning bolt striking the machine he’s working on. It’s a science machine or something, and video game logic dictates that is all you need to know.
The second you arrive, you notice the graphics. Everything is drawn in muted colours, and while other games at the time featured busy and colourful sprites, Another World managed to build an entire world pretty much just using outlines and block shading for definition.
Equally impressive is just how much you learn of the strange world you’re in with absolutely no comprehensible dialogue. You’re immediately set upon by shadow monsters and enslaved by lumbering, brutish humanoid aliens. Grunting their savage language – which sounds really good for the technology the game was built on – you’re thrown in prison, and after freeing yourself and a fellow slave (with whom you share no dialogue, being as he’s one of the aliens) you bust out together and set about getting yourself out of there. Lester develops a bromance with his alien friend (called Buddy, according to Chahi) through a series of seamlessly-animated set piece moments inbetween all the side-scrolling, combat and (fairly unintuitive) puzzle-solving.
As a game, it’s not perfect. It’s still great. There’s a lot of trial and error, as was common for adventure games in the ’90’s, and the controls could feel clunky, at times.
But as an experience? Unparalleled. There’s a reason Another World was one of the 14 games that were the first to be inducted into the Museum of Modern Art.
The year is 2049, and humanity has trashed the earth beyond the point of habitation. Building a series of “Orbots” to clean up the planet, humanity leaves to colonise the stars. Things go awry when Raster, the Orbot in charge of observing the planet, accidentally gets connected to a nuclear bomb and goes all kinds of crazy, declaring himself Warhead, dictator of Earth and forcefully enslaves the Orbot population. Enter Vectorman, returning from dumping rubbish into the sun at the time of Raster’s insurrection. As the last free Orbot it’s your job to blast, transform and roll your way through the robotic legions of Warhead before he can execute the retuning human population.
Everything about Vectorman is awesome. The game looks beautiful, borrowing the pre-rendered 3D graphics of games like Donkey Kong Country but taking it in a much darker direction, giving light and shadow real depth and allowing distinct locations such as underwater levels and dark caves a certain degree of realism. The sounds and music are individual and memorable, and thankfully the gameplay was not sacrificed for the appealing aesthetics. Vectorman’s movements feel fluid and natural, and distinct power-ups give the gameplay variety not found in other side-scrolling platformers of the time. Certain pickups allow the V-Man to transform into a variety of useful objects such as a train, drill and even a ticking time bomb. The game is difficult, but not inaccessibly so. It’s so fun to play that you’ll find yourself relishing the opportunity to play through the first few levels again after being bested by one of the games many imaginative and dangerous robotic bosses. If I had to make one single complaint, it would be that all of the power-ups are contained inside of television screens which are all huge, CRT monstrosities. This is supposed to be 2049. Forethought fail, BlueSky Software.
Although the Mario franchise was well established in the 8-bit generation (with Super Mario Bros 3 often heralded as one of the greatest games of all time), I personally feel that Super Mario World is the pinnacle of the2D Mario experience, and one of the best SNES games of all time.
Standard narrative: Peach kidnapped by Bowser, the Mario Bros must get her back. The game seemed like more of the same while introducing new and interesting mechanics that added depth to the proceedings. Stages had multiple routes with secret endings, which subsequently unlocked alternate paths across the world map. World introduced Yoshi for the first time, Mario’s faithful companion and mount, which gave a new dynamic to level progression.
Playing it today reminds me of why I fell in love with Nintendo all those years ago; tight controls, a strong sense of originality and flavourful character. Super Mario World lives up to its namesake, giving us a more realised landscape that feels bigger than the relatively abstract shapes dotted across the varied environmental themes of the previous games.
Simply put World is the Mario formula we all know and love, but juiced up with the beauty and power provided by the new 16-Bit systems. The game is ageless, arguably playing smoother and with more varied and interesting ideas than some of the more recent 2D Mario offerings.
Oh, and this is the first Mario title to feature dinosaurs extensively, and dinosaurs are rad.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the very first game I ever played. I loved it on my sixth birthday, and I love it today; I will no doubt love it until the day I die, at which point I will continue loving this game well into the afterlife….
With its beautiful level design and aesthetic, break-neck speeds, and a soundtrack that I haven’t stopped humming since 1995, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is my favourite 16-bit game.
Released in 1992 for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you’re from across the pond), Sonic 2 made Sega into a true competitor against the all-powerful Big N and forged a rivalry that would last for a decade. 400,000 copies were sold world-wide in under a week after the game’s release, selling six million copies by the end of the Mega Drive’s era.
The game looked fantastic when you consider how fast the game ran, graphically pushing the Mega Drive to its limit. The dodgy-as-hell split-screen mode is testament to this. The frame rate would drop to roughly 15fps, and every time someone jumped (which is a rather regular occurrence in a platfomer), the frame rate would drop even lower and occasionally stutter on the display.
It is timeless. Sonic 2 will be ported onto every future console and will be available for generations to come. Whilst some of his more recent outings (Aka: most of the Sonic games of the past decade) have been a little rough and have suffered from Sega trying to reinvent the series into 3D, …
… the future is actually looking bright for Sonic and his pals. Recent releases such as Sonic All-Star Racing: Transformed (bit of a mouthful) and Sonic Generations has proved that Sega, whilst not being a console warrior anymore, is still a serious games developer and publisher, and will no doubt be making Sonic games for decades to come.
I can’t wait for Sonic: Lost World, coming out later this year on 3DS and WiiU, but I know what game has a special place in my heart…
Do you have a 16-Bit game you think deserves a spot on our list? A hidden gem, or a genre defining work that simply has to make the cut? Sound off in the comments section below and let us know what you think.