Radica Ghouls n Ghost & Street Fighter II Plug n Play
After taking a quick trip to the Goodwill Outlet store I found the final piece of the puzzle. Yes, I finally found the last Radica Sega Genesis Plug n Play for my collection, unless I find out they made more. This one varies from all the rest in a few ways, but in more functional ways than the OutRun 2019 I reviewed last time.
Firstly you will notice the two controllers sticking out of the system, instead of just one, as well as the Street Fighter II logo adorning both controllers. Radica decided to save space by using the smaller (model 2) style Genesis controllers, player 1 in red and player 2 in blue. But this time Radica gave us both Street Fighter II and Ghouls and Ghosts, two games that offer a 2 player mode and make full use of having two controllers hardwired to the system.
But soon after putting the controller in my hands, I immediately had a pair of problems. The first is the blatant fact that these controllers are obviously smaller than the Genesis controller of this shape; they’re comfortable don’t get me wrong, they’re just smaller. The second is a major issue I’ve voiced many times with Famiclones, and other systems alike, that put the Menu/Reset button right where I expect the Start button to be.
Although placed slightly below the actual Start button, in a hurry to get the phone, take a bathroom break or even just simply not paying attention this is TOO CLOSE to the Start button to avoid! And not only that, but both controllers have a Menu botton, this means either player can accidentally hit the Menu button and screw up a whole game. Perhaps Radica should have made use of where the Mode button on the Genesis controller was for their Menu button, but its too late to complain about it now.
Radica did an ok job on these little systems, but I have seen modders take a crack at them and add cartridge slots, enabling them to play almost any Genesis cartridge (I assume they become essentially a Genesis 3). As these systems are pretty much a Genesis on a Chip (Genechip? Take that and use it freely, just remember where you learned it!) this particular system would be the best one to modify, having 2 controllers. But with how plentiful the Genesis 2, the system these are modeled after, are on the market, you’re better off with the real thing.
I won’t go into any detail about Street Fighter II or Ghouls n Ghosts, as I’m sure we’re all fairly familiar with these games by now. I will however say that I wish Radica had chosen more games with two player modes to put in here and didn’t market it so heavily as a Street Fighter II machine. I’m not a Street Fighter II fan, so the game that I like most in this system doesn’t get top billing, nor does it even get honorable mention (or mentioned at all) until the title screen!
Sure these systems aren’t vintage, but the system they’re inspired by and the games they offer are. If nothing more than a fun novelty to own I would collect many more of these systems, had Radica made more. But on the practical side, these are far easier to pack for trips than the real thing.
OutRun 2019: Radica Plug n Play
Yet again I found a Radica Plug n Play system, but this one is different in 2 respects. Firstly this one is a dedicated system, as it only has OutRun 2019 built in, as where the previous two had six games each. Secondly, and most notably, instead of a normal Genesis controller this one offers a pseudo steering wheel.
Now I said pseudo steering wheel because from the look and feel of it one may assume the wheel is analog, but once I took the controller apart I found it only has 2 contact points, making essentially a two direction D-Pad. Another issue with the controller is that in the heat of racing and trying to keep your car on the track, the wheel portion feels weak and I often found myself letting off to avoid breaking the controller, leading my car off track and losing valuable time. However, you don’t need to use the wheel part to steer as you can use the D-pad on the face of the controller, but its too cramped to be comfortable, let alone any real use, subconsciously forcing your hand back to the wheel.
Stepping away from the controller and onto the game, OutRun 2019 is a fun game, albeit a bit removed from the rest of the series. OutRun 2019 was developed by a completely different company, but still published by Sega. Despite that you can expect pretty much the same experience as any other OutRun game.
OutRun 2019 is, obviously trying to be, a futuristic version of OutRun, in which you race through the course trying to beat the clock. My only problem with this is that the cars look slightly futuristic but the tracks and environments all seem to be modern day. Other than this slight oversight, again, the game plays just as the same as any other OutRun.
You still pick which direction you want to go to complete the course, but this time there are roads with two tiers, causing you to be more cautious as to not fly off the track. Also something new is if you max out your speed for a certain period of time you will receive an automatic turbo boost. This is pretty neat, but usually speeds the car up too much causing me to let off the gas within seconds to take a turn, really rendering this feature useless.
I have noticed OutRun 2019 seems to be a bit more forgiving in the wrecking department. Almost anything in OutRun that would send your car flying off the track, causing you to wait for it to recover, seem to merely cause your car in OutRun 2019 to spin around, quickly recovering and back on track with minimal interruption. Although the game handles much the same as OutRun, I can’t really connect with it as much as I do the other games in the series I’ve played.
N64 Controller Alternatives
We’re all familiar with the unique design of the Nintendo 64 controller and it’s much more modern usage as a shell for Chinese Famiclones. We’re also quite familiar with the fact that the N64 controller’s joystick has a tendency to become loose and work poorly, or stop working entirely. So when our favorite controller decides to give up the ghost, what choices do we have in a more reliable controller for our beloved N64?
For the past few years I’ve noticed a slew of reproduction N64 controllers that look identical to the real thing, as I haven’t had the chance to get my hands on one I can’t say much in the way of how good they are, or not. But what if you’re looking for something outside the box, something with a different shape entirely? Well Performance made quite a few N64 controllers that looked much worse than the original N64 controller design, somehow, but work quite well.
Performance was always in the market making memory cards, controllers and almost anything else you can think of for the N64, as well as almost any other video game console. Performance was perhaps most well known for providing controllers with built-in turbo features, as well as making simplistically standard replacements for worn out or broken controllers. If you were short on cash but needed something for your N64, you probably bought yourself something from Performance.
Recently I’ve come across four Performance SuperPad 64 controllers, 2 gray and 2 black. The gray ones were in good shape, other than their broken Z buttons, which I will get into later. Three of the four share the same design as you see above, but the fourth controller seemed to be designed by Picasso, with strange angles and an overall strange shape.
Outside of comfort, which there isn’t much comfort when using this controller, the controller does a great job. I assume Performance designed this controller to be even further outside the box of normalcy, while still retaining complete functionality, which they have achieved! Despite its design, the controller isn’t uncomfortable, but sometimes reaching the buttons can be a bit more of a stretch than you’re use to with the original or the Stingray design of Performance’s other controller.
All of Performance’s SuperPad 64 controllers share one common thing that really stand out in my mind, the joystick. I’ve only taken one apart because it was pulled out of place when I got it, but it was very easily put back into working order. Everything inside the joystick seems well thought out for the long haul, unlike Nintendo’s idea to use cheap plastic throughout.
My one complaint about these controllers are the Z buttons. In both of my gray controllers the Z button was broken, not the actual button but the piece inside that pushes in the carbon pad to activate it, rendering the controller useless for many games. I guess with such a robust joystick Performance had to make a misstep somewhere, and the Z button took the hit.
If you’re looking for a replacement controller for your N64, or just want one with a better joystick, I would say the Performance SuperPad 64 isn’t entirely bad. I found mine at the Goodwill Outlet for the standard $.79 a pound, so I imagine they should easily be found in thrift stores fairly cheap. Although they’re not nearly as, dare I say, comfortable as the original N64 controller, the joystick alone is a feature that is worth adding one to your collection.
Lagoon for the SNES
Lagoon is an RPG for the SNES, in much the same ilk of Ys, Willow and Crystalis, although much more basic. Lagoon was published by Kemco, a company mostly known for giving us the Top Gear series and a whole lot of Game Boy games, only a few of which slightly resemble RPGs. So what could we expect from a company who published a little bit of everything?
Now I need to be perfectly honest, when I started playing the game for this article I fully expected to make a gleaming review to garner some respect for this game, thinking it had been judged too harshly. I can honestly say that after playing this game, up to the final bosses, I have nothing, even remotely, to praise about this game what so ever. Ok, so the game isn’t complete trash, but it fails on nearly every level it tried to clone from the games it so shamelessly copies!
Speaking of levels lets begin there; what is an RPG without a robust leveling system? In Lagoon you’re limited to 35, and although that is over twice the levels in both Crystalis and Willow, there is absolutely no reward, fanfare, or any notification at all for gaining new levels. In almost every other RPG you’re well aware when you’ve obtained a new level, no matter how deep into grinding you may be. With Lagoon levels nearly fly past, without even a hint that you’re gaining them, forcing you to open the menu to check which level you’re currently on.
Another thing Lagoon has in common with Crystalis and Willow is the armor and weapons scheme. You’ll only need to purchase your first set of armor, the rest of the equipment to see you through the game is sprawled out within the caves you’ll be exploring to advance through the pretty abysmal and boringly stock story. Which only has you going back and forth between places you’ve already been a few times, making this game feel entirely too linear for its own good.
Although the armor is setup to be found, once you find them you may be surprised at the detail of actually changing the armor on the main character sprite. Overall the armor and shields look good and are quite useful, but the weapons only get mildly stronger as you progress. Even though the weapons get stronger for some reason they never bothered to change it on the sprite, so for the whole of the game you look as if you’re swinging a dagger, or pocket knife, and the targeting system makes it feel that way too!
One thing I disliked about the two games I keep name dropping because this game so clearly copied them, was the hit detection system, but after a few levels I found the flow of how to center my attack and become more successful, without taking a heap of damage. Not the case with Lagoon, hitting enemies sometimes feels the equivalent of threading a needle while your hands are on fire, it’s virtually impossible! On normal enemies placed around the game to help you level up this may be fine, but it’s an exercise in frustration when it comes to a boss fight.
Boss fights are strewn about to help push the story forward, again pretty standard RPG fare, but only require a slight bit of strategy, if any. But, and I can’t stress this enough, you need to hit a certain point or points on a massive boss with your equivalent of a pen knife, possibly leading to many frustrating attempts. Although sometimes the poorly thought out system can play extremely well in your favor, as I’ve sometimes walked straight into bosses and found the hot spot right away and did nothing more than button mash until they were defeated, taking little to no damage at all.
The linear feel is broken up by a handful of caves, castles and other places you need to go through to level up, find essential items/armor and to fight the boss, but unlike any other RPG I’ve played Lagoon leaves you in the dark as to what floor you’re on once you’re inside. You go through door ways and passages and you’re never fully aware if you’ve gone up or down, in a circle or just through a door into another part of the building on the same floor. As I previously stated you’ll need to search these winding corridors to find the, very few, items you’ll need to progress, but when you do find them you’ll be presented with an obnoxiously long fanfare. They can put one in for finding an herb but not for gaining a level, that’s well thought out programming!
Yet another thing Lagoon has in common with Crystalis is a small amount of platforming, requiring you to jump from area to area, or else you fall to your death, Game Over! Which is turned into quite the task by the poorly thought out centering system. The main character will almost walk off the screen in any directly, leaving you unsure of what is along the next step. It could be something you need to kill, or it could be a pitfall that will kill you and take you to the Continue or End screen.
Now we get into Ys territory with the ability to save virtually anywhere, expect boss rooms, so if you’ve planned out your save strategy well enough, once that dreaded Continue screen pops up you’ll be able to restart exactly where you last saved. This can be both handy and harmful as you can save almost anywhere, as often as you like, and progress through the game with a frequent save plan. But since the game tends to close things off behind you, in that linear fashion, I also assume if you miss an item and save down the road you may be screwed!
Again, you find almost every item you will need along your journey, but Lagoon does have a currency system. Monsters will drop small amounts of currency, by which I mean you just magically obtain it like exp, once they’ve been killed unless you kill them with magic, which I will get to in a second. The only real item that interested me was a Shiny Ball which speeds up your recovery on HP and MP, but by the time you’ve saved up the 10,000 coins you can’t go back to buy it, and its only a single use!
What would an RPG be without magic? Well Lagoon would probably be much better off as you can only use it on normal enemies and never in a boss fight! You only obtain magic through a variety of crystals and staves, which you can mix and match to create different spell effects. Not an original feature, but none the less the most creative feature in Lagoon.
And finally I’ve reached one of the most important aspects of all RPGs, your HP and MP. This is handled in the exact same way as Ys, you have two long bars across the bottom of the screen, both bars indicate how much HP you and your foes currently have, respectively. Your HP and MP will slowly refill as you sit still, you can’t be moving at all for them to refill, but in some key areas they will both refill rather quickly.
I originally planned to compare Lagoon to the games I name dropped oh so heavily in this review to highlight its strong points, but by the end of playing through the game I felt it mostly highlighted just how poorly they dismantled those games and half baked a game that isn’t as good as any of the games it tried to become. On a scale of 1 to 10 replay ability is a solid 0, but I fear Kemco never cared as they already conned people out of their money. I always try to keep my reviews positive, but I can’t for every game and as much as I wished, hoped and tried to like Lagoon for what it is, I simply can’t!