The game: Streets of Rage 3
Its cost: 800 points
Lucas DeWoody - Streets of Rage had small sprites, but addictive gameplay and a soundtrack to die for. Streets of Rage 2 had beautiful visuals, unbelievably fun gameplay, and a soundtrack to kill for. Then along came Streets of Rage 3. It's not the best in the trilogy, but it's far from the worst. In fact, its just one notch below its predecessor. If you played Streets of Rage 2, then you know exactly what to expect from SOR3 because there are no radical changes in gameplay. Stages are longer this time, and they look and play beautifully with each having a unique style and tons of interactive features. There are also three extra selectable characters to unlock on top of the regular four. Weapons now have a life bar that decreases with use until they break, and special moves have now been given a power bar of their own. All characters also have access to a Dash move. The animation is more fluid than SOR2 and there are tons of advanced graphical effects in this late Genesis-era title, and beautiful cut-scenes are all over the place. Unfortunately though, this version of SOR3 is highly censored compared to its Japanese counterpart. The intro has been heavily modified, female characters have more modest clothing, and a homosexual mini-boss was removed completely, yet it was the script that fared the worst in localization. The entire story was altered for "objective content" (which seems ridiculous by modern standards) and there are tons of inconsistencies in the plot that don't exist in the Japanese version. It's sad because this sequel was far more story driven than the previous two. The difficulty was also cranked up to an obscene level in the English translation. The most notable issue though stems from the music. SOR3's soundtrack was rave inspired and tries really hard not to suck, but the Genesis sound chip just wasn't well suited to industrial rave. There's no variety in the FM sounds and it comes off sporadic and scratchy. You've got to give Yuzo Koshiro credit for experimenting with something different, but it just didn't work on Genesis. SOR3 is a great game, but the series lost in the sequel. It's as simple as this though. If you're a brawler fan and enjoyed the first two, you'll love SOR3 even with its faults. If you're a newcomer though; start with SOR2 and work from there. It's the superior sequel.
Most refined gameplay of the trilogy; Killer co-op multiplayer returns; Unlockable characters; High replay value
Nearly intolerable soundtrack; High difficulty; Heavily censored
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The game: Kirby's Avalanche
Its cost: 800 points
Lucas DeWoody - Back during the days of the Nintendo/Sega rivalry of the 90's was the time a little Japanese puzzle game named Puyo Puyo from Compile was released. Though it missed the international boat, its sequel Puyo Puyo 2 decided to flock across the Pacific. The Japanese flavored game was re-skinned by Compile with licensed Nintendo or Sega characters on each console to become Kirby's Avalanche or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine respectively. Kirby's Avalanche is the localized SNES version of Puyo Puyo 2. The premise is simple. Conjoined pairs of multicolored "beans" fall from the sky two at a time and you have to rotate and place them in matching color groups of four to clear them. As you clear them, any beans above will fall down to fill the gap. This causes chains which result in massive points (or damage to your opponent in multiplayer). If you stack to the top, you loose. It's a simple premise, but has infinite replay value and many have borrowed from the formula. Like most action puzzle games Kirby's Avalanche shines in 2-player mode, but the CPU provides a decent challenge. Mean Bean Machine features a shorter CPU quest than Kirby (13 stages versus Kirby's 16), but you get level passwords, something Kirby doesn't support. Kirby's Avalanche features lots of remixes of the usually awesome Kirby music, but the quality isn't as good here as usual. The colors also feel flat. Longtime fans will also notice that the characters are poorly represented with oddball dialog during the between match cut-scenes. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is the better of the two versions from a stylistic and musical standpoint, but the two really are nearly equal when it comes it gameplay. If you're a Kirby fan, then go ahead and pick up this re-skinned version. It's Puyo Puyo with Kirby and it's awesome. Otherwise, stick to Mean Bean Machine. It's the better version between the two with superior presentation and more gameplay options.
Its Puyo Puyo with cute Kirby skinned graphics; Endless replay value; Great multiplayer
Mean Bean Machine is the better version; "Meh" music and flat visuals; No password support
The game: Legend of Hero Tonma
Its cost: 800 points
Lucas DeWoody - Legend of Hero Tonma is a home translation of the little-known 1989 arcade game (from Irem) of the same name. You play as a caped hero named Tommy (apprentice of Merlin) who is fulfilling his dream in living out the ultimate video game clichÃ©'â€¦.rescuing a princess. If you've played Ninja Spirit you'll immediately realize that Hero Tonma's gameplay is remarkable similar, but a little more forgiving. The game is an arcade platformer so the action is fastâ€”and sometime cheap. Enemies will typically rush at you with the intent to collide. They're usually easy to evade unless they come in large groups. Tommy's main power is the ability to shoot fireballs which can be upgraded both in size and power throughout the game. It adds a little bit of a Contra or Metal Slug flair to the action. If all else fails, you can bop most of the lesser enemies of the head. You'll be thankful for the fireball power-ups because the bosses can get pretty cheap unless you're strong enough going in and dying generally kicks you back to the level's mid-point. There isn't much variety between the seven stages and the graphics as a whole are flat and two-dimensional with stiff animation. The difficulty level is high thanks to the arcade roots, but each stage has a checkpoint or two and you've got unlimited continues. The control is a little floaty, but still pretty good overall. The music is mostly tinny and high pitched, but there are some good tunes in there from time to time. This version isn't arcade perfect. The arcade graphics were more colorful and detailed, but all the content is here. This isn't a game for the casual platform player out there, but if you're a hardcore fan of the genre, then Hero Tonma is a decent use of 600 points.
Traditional and enjoyable arcade side-scrolling action; Cute character design
Unoriginal concept and gameplay; High difficulty; Graphics look like they came from the Sega Master System
some images courtesy of vgmuseum.com