In the early nineties, Sega Genesis was dominating Western markets thanks to the efforts of Thomas Kalinske and Sonic the Hedgehog, but it wasn’t nearly as much of a success in its native Japan. During this time, CD technology demonstrated its ability to store recordings of music and full motion video. Seeking to provide a competitor to the PC Engine’s CD/CD-ROM², Sega commissioned a CD-based add-on to the Genesis.
While the increase of storage made flashier visuals and music possible, the peripheral’s library mostly consisted of enhanced versions of existing Genesis titles, shovelware, and dreadful interactive movies. Many point to the Sega CD as the beginning of the end for Sega’s brand, but a few quality titles show its hidden potential.
10 Best: Popful Mail Is A Bounty Hunter Worth Her Weight In Gold
Putting players in the shoes of a would-be bounty hunter, Popful Mail was a 2D side-scrolling action game that took full advantage of the Sega CD hardware. Though the controls can be a bit spotty, the non-linearity of the game encourages exploration and additional characters can become playable as the game progresses. Further aiding players in their quest are five different weapons and various helpful items. Bolstering the animated cutscenes is a stellar localization effort by Working Designs, which shines with lively vocal performances and humorous dialogue.
9 Worst: Wild Woody Should Have Gone Back To The Drawing Board
The infamous Wild Woody avoids harsher criticism list by virtue of simply being a poorly made game instead of one of the many lousy interactive movies that plagued this system. Developed by a division within Sega that had previously worked on a Jurassic Park graphic adventure, Wild Woody was a 2D platformer akin to games like Sonic. However, imprecise controls, clumsy level design, and inexplicable gameplay mechanics result in a game better left on the drawing board. The game’s only saving grace is the unintentional comedy found in its poorly animated cuscenes.
8 Best: Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin Lets Players Explore New York
Long before the efforts from Treyarch and Insomniac, Grey Matter’s Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin allowed players to explore New York as the aforementioned wall-crawler. Rather than just being a simple upgrade of the Genesis game of the same name, the Sega CD version was retooled with a non-linear map structure that allowed players to take on Spidey’s foes in any order they wished. Spider-Man’s web swinging and wall crawling were put to the test in levels and boss fights that made the most of these mechanics. Also unique to the game were cutscenes that showed what happened to the webhead when players lost.
7 Worst: The Space Adventure Is A Sophomoric Waste Of Time
Based on the manga series Cobra, The Space Adventure was originally developed for the PC Engine in Japan then ported over to the Sega CD in Western territories. Why Hudson decided to localize such a shoddily made title in the dying years of the Sega CD is an absolute mystery. Imagine Snatcher just without any of the good puzzle design or endearing characters. In 1995, the promise of pixelated cheesecake might have been enough to court some teens who couldn’t get their hands on a Playboy but somehow had a Sega CD lying around. In a post internet world, however, it’s not worth anyone’s time.
6 Best: Lunar Eternal Blue Is The System’s Most Ambitious RPG
Sporting more cutscenes, voiced dialogue, and an improved combat system, Lunar Eternal Blue serves as a worthy follow-up to its predecessor and delivers one of the most ambitious RPGs on the Sega CD. The English localization and voice acting by Working Designs are well-done for the most part, if a bit held back by some ill-fitting pop culture references and a few stilted performances. They also modified the game to be a bit more challenging in its Western release by requiring magic points in order to save. Like Lunar Silver Star, Eternal Blue was given a PlayStation upgrade that added more content.
5 Worst: Sewer Shark’s Basic Gameplay Mechanics Are Left Unexplained
It’s hard to be worse than the FMV garbage from Digital Pictures, but Sewer Shark’s sheer atrociousness just can’t be ignored. The game’s basic mechanics are completely unexplained which isn’t great considering that failure means starting back from the beginning. Even the instruction manual neglects crucial information that’s required to progress. When players aren’t crashing into walls or having their craft explode for some inexplicable reason, they’ve constantly getting chewed out and given insulting nicknames by both their co-pilot and the boss.
4 Best: Snatcher Is One Of Hideo Kojima’s Overlooked Classics
From the mind of Hideo Kojima, Snatcher was a neo noir cyberpunk story that wore its cinematic influences on its sleeve. The game was a graphic adventure that tasked players with gathering clues, interrogating suspects, and using the info gathered to solve the mystery. Occasionally, Gillian would have to fend off hostiles with his trusty blaster in brief shooting sections that kept players on their toes. Initially released on the Japanese NEC PC-8801 in 1988, Snatcher was granted a Western release on the Sega CD in 1994. The game showcased the capabilities of the add-on with fully voiced cutscenes and a CD-quality soundtrack.
3 Worst: Cliffhanger’s Snowboarding Levels Are A Test Of Sanity
Based on the Sylvester Stallone flick of the same name, Cliffhanger is a dreadful beat ’em up broken up by abysmal climbing and snowboarding sections. During the climbing levels, players are completely defenseless and forced to endure enemy potshots. While graphically impressive for the time, the snowboard levels can last up to eight minutes and are only winnable through trial and error. Peppered throughout the game are highly compressed clips from the movie that players could easily see on YouTube for free in better quality. Cliffhanger‘s one saving grace is the use of the film’s score by Trevor Jones and the National Philharmonic Orchestra.
2 Best: Sonic CD Is One Of The Hedgehog’s Best Outings
Sonic CD Is widely regarded as one of the best, if not THE best, titles to bear the blue blur’s name. The time travel mechanic that allowed players to go through the past and alternate futures of levels provided the game with plenty of replay value.
Not content to just offer more of the franchise’s fast-paced platforming, the game made complete use of the CD hardware with its pseudo-3D special stages, animated cutscenes, and redbook audio soundtrack. In 2011, this classic was graced with an HD re-release to digital storefronts for the low price of five dollars.
1 Worst: Night Trap Started A Wave Of Lousy FMV Games
Much like Sonic CD, Night Trap is a well-known Sega CD title that’s been given an HD upgrade and digital distribution. However, the level of quality is at the opposite end of the spectrum. The game is at odds with itself as it encourages players to listen to conversations to gather clues, but penalizes them if they linger too long and fail to trap a certain amount of vampires. While it has its place in history, Night Trap’s trial and error design, lack of any real gameplay, and limited lasting appeal make its 15 dollar price tag a tad exorbitant.
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