Documentary Review: Console Wars (2020)

Release Date: September 23rd, 2020
Directed by: Jonah Tulis, Blake J. Harris
Based on: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
Music by: Jeff Beal
Cast: various

Circle of Confusion, CBS Television Studios, Legendary Television, Paramount+, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Whenever you’re at war, you always hit the guy in the mouth as hard as you can. If you can’t hit him hard, you might as well not even fight. That’s the attitude in real war and it’s the attitude in business. You’ve gotta be prepared to take on the competition and win.” – Paul Rioux

When I was a kid in the early ’90s, I was all about Sega Genesis. Sure, I liked some of the games on Super Nintendo when it came out but Genesis was just my cup of tea from the speed, the graphics, the sound and the game selection.

However, I was also growing up and by middle school age, I wasn’t into the kiddie games.

This documentary tells the story of how Sega emerged as a video game powerhouse in the United States in a time when Nintendo owned the vast majority of the market share. Sega didn’t care, though, and they went all in, creating a system that was much more impressive than the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and honestly, better than Nintendo’s rebuttal, which was the Super Nintendo.

There’s no hate here, though. I truly loved both systems but Genesis had the edge for me.

Anyway, this was well put together, well researched and it features interviews with the majority of the key players in this story.

Rivalries in business are great and for preteen me, this was the greatest business rivalry I could ever care about. Video games were a huge part of my life.

So seeing all these key people talk about this rivalry now is pretty f’n cool. There’s so much I didn’t know about the behind the scenes stuff because I was a kid and all I cared about was being entertained by the games I loved.

Well, I was also pretty thoroughly entertained by this documentary.

Rating: 7/10

Video Game Review: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Sega Master System)

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was the first sequel to the hit Ghosts ‘n Goblins game. This port to the Sega Master System actually came out a year after it was ported to Sega’s more advanced Genesis console.

However, this version of the game added in some cool stuff that the arcade and other ports didn’t have.

The Master System port features a unique upgrade system. The biggest thing that stands out is that the player can now enter shops and purchase better armor, weapons and magic.

The graphics on this version are also pretty impressive considering that the Master System console was a step behind the Genesis. This game looks visually better than the more comparable Nintendo Entertainment System’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins game from a few years earlier.

I thought that the controls were a bit wonky, though. Then again, they’re not that different from the older NES game that I spent hours upon hours playing in the late ’80s.

Like its predecessor, this game is also really damn difficult and frustrating. I didn’t get anywhere near completing it before giving up in frustration to go smoke a joint and grill a steak.

Despite being a visually alluring installment of the series, this one does fall kind of flat. It’s more frustrating than fun, the levels aren’t that great and the overall level design is kinda meh.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other games in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise.

Video Game Review: Captain Silver (Sega Master System)

I had no idea what this game was because I don’t have a lot of playing experience with the original Sega console, the Master System.

However, I now have access to tons of these games thanks to my RetroPie, a supremely worthwhile investment for anyone into retrogaming.

This is a simple side-scrolling action game where you play a heroic swashbuckler fighting real threats and fantastical ones like lion men wearing fancy clothes.

I went into this blindly so I wasn’t sure what the objective was but you pretty much have to collect letters dropped by defeated enemies and spell out “Captain Silver”. You can do this multiple times per level by walking back and forth but you are also timed and need to reach the end of the stage before the time runs out.

It was fairly fun but the one-hit death kind of sucks and makes the game more challenging than it should be. I didn’t play it to the point of beating it but I got a few stages in.

I tried to beat it on several attempts but after 45 minutes to an hour, I thought I had a good grasp of everything.

The mechanics are decent but the platforming was a bit rough, especially when having to jump from moving object to moving object. Plus, a water fountain killing a swashbuckling hero seems really lame.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game but it’s not great. I thought it looked good and it was amusing for awhile but I’m not sure if it’s anything I’ll play with any sort of regularity.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: Dead Angle (Sega Master System)

Dead Angle for the Sega Master System is an okay game for its time.

Basically, it’s a side scrolling shooter where your character is a transparent wire frame with his back to you, similar to the arcade versions of Punch-Out!!

You scroll through each level, shooting gangsters while trying not to get hit.

I found the controls to be really wonky and this isn’t an easy game to play because of that. Maybe it requires a lot more practice but the repetitiveness of the game didn’t really inspire me to put in a lot of hours. I only really played this for twenty minutes before giving up on it.

The game would have benefited from being an actual shooter with a light gun. However, I guess it would’ve had to have found an alternative way of letting the player get damaged. Considering that the Sega Master System had its own light gun, similar to its main competitor Nintendo, I’m surprised that this game didn’t take advantage of that accessory.

Again, this is an okay game but there isn’t much here to keep one’s interest beyond general curiosity.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The Punisher for the original Nintendo and other side scrolling action shooters.

Video Game Review: ALF (Sega Master System)

This was a disappointment.

I was glad to finally have access to the Sega Master System via a RetroPie machine. When I saw that there was an ALF game for it, I had to power it up and go for the gusto!

To be blunt, this game fucking sucks.

You play as ALF. Initially, I thought I was supposed to pick up cats. Although, I’m not sure if you save them to eat them later or what the deal is. But the game goes deeper than that and the cats don’t seem that important.

You also have to dodge these perverts dressed like Buttons McBoomBoom from C.O.P.S. They are walking around slowly, hands stretched out like they’re trying to grab boobies and if they touch you, you’re instantaneously dead. However, they don’t have to even touch you. They just have to be close. But that makes the mechanics of the game infuriating as you can’t whisk by them or jump over them. It’s like they have ghost tentacles with instant death poison.

Additionally, you get out of the house and take to the streets. The game sort of becomes a side scrolling Frogger in that you have to move around traffic. However, like the perverts, the vehicles don’t have to actually touch you, they just need to be close. So the game becomes even more infuriating.

On the positive side, I thought that the graphics were good for the time. But that’s about the only real positive.

I’d rather eat a whole tray of school lunch pizza than have to play this again.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other poorly crafted and executed 8-bit games based on intellectual properties that were just looking for a quick buck from ’80s and ’90s kids.