"According to spokesmen, the Genesis should reach the 1-million-sold mark by the end of this year. Michael Katz compared the Genesis story to another toy industry giant: "First year Genesis sales have surpassed that of Teddy Ruxpin, the benchmark start-up success story in the toy industry." Sega also revealed another significant statistic: It seems that over 60% of their buyers are "[NES] players who are trading up"."
- The VG&CE Editorial Staff, VG&CE September 1990

PSII... we hardly knew ye. Well, actually ye've been re-released about fourteen times, but still...
Phantasy Star II
6 megabits

The largest home video game ever made when it was released in 1990, Phantasy Star II proved to be a more than worthy successor to the Master System original. The futuristic setting and outstanding technopop musical score (by my favourite Genesis musician, "Bo") made PS II all the more unique. At the time of its release PS II was the only RPG available for the Genesis system, but it was arguably the best one for any console. Indeed, PS II went on to win the coveted "Game of the Year" award for 1990 from VideoGames & Computer Entertainment magazine.

Phantasy Star II, IMHO, to this day remains one of the best games ever made, bar none. In addition to its engrossing storyline and excellent graphics and sound, PS II is also incredibly challenging (especially compared to the RPGs of today). Including a 110-page hint book with the package was certainly a wise move on Sega's part!

PS II's weaknesses are few. Unlike the original Phantasy Star's battle sequences, which feature brilliant background graphics, PS II's battle sequences take place in front of a somewhat drab-looking purple grid. This was likely due to limited space on the 6 megabit cartridge, but it's still a bit disappointing. The english translation is also often unintentionally amusing (Lutz certainly is a "beautiful man"), but in the late eighties and early nineties stiff translations were sadly par for the course...

This game has been re-released several times and on several different platforms. Here are a few examples:

Phantasy Star Collection, Sega Saturn
Sega Smash Pack Volume I, Sega Dreamcast
Phantasy Star Collection, Nintendo GameBoy Advance

The Dreamcast version of the game is particularly noteworthy for its astoundingly awful audio :)

"It's the most expensive Genesis cartridge to date, but gamers won't be disappointed."
- Buyer's Guide, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide Fall 1990

No word on what happened to Herzog Eine...
Herzog Zwei
Sega / Technosoft
4 megabits

Herzog Zwei is considered by many to be the game that pioneered the realtime-strategy genre as we know it today. It was an interesting departure for Technosoft, a company which was famous for its Thunder Force series of shooters.

"I believe Herzog Zwei is the first [game] of its kind, and for those who enjoy wild shoot-'em-ups and war simulations, it's a superb and definitive crossbreed."
- Joshua Mandel, VG&CE May 1990

The sprawling Moonwalker ad, from back in the days when having a sprawling ad featuring Michael Jackson was considered a good idea...
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
4 megabits

Signing Michael Jackson to star in a Genesis game was quite an achievement for Sega in 1990 (Nintendo was still number one in the home console market by a gargantuan margin at the time). Apparently, Jackson was a fan of Sega's arcade games, and at least one magazine of the day indicated that he had actually approached Sega himself about creating Moonwalker.

Moonwalker was the first and only video game I have ever rented, and in many ways that form of distribution seemed particularly well suited to it. Fun to play for a few hours, only to toss it away later once the novelty has worn off, history will likely remember Moonwalker as more of a curiosity than anything else.

The game is worth playing at least once, though, if only to experience the weirdness of hearing Jackson's tunes coming out of your Genesis...

"[Jackson is] listed in the credits for the project, and made ongoing changes–not just alterations to the look of the game, but actual game play changes–during the development of Moonwalker."
- Andy Eddy, VG&CE August 1990

This ad marks the first appearance of Sega's "Arcade Power Stick" peripheral.
Afterburner II
4 megabits

If I recall correctly, Afterburner was Sega's first 4 megabit game for the Master System. Afterburner II for the Genesis system was also a 4 megabit game, and apparently the arcade conversion suffered as a result.

"What were once vast forests of trees in the arcade version have been reduced to specks of shrubbery that make bonsais look like sequoias. And the clouds have all but dissipated. Perhaps this After Burner takes place in the near future when such things have become extinct due to humankind's continual abuse of the environment."
- Howard H. Wen, VG&CE September 1990

"At times it comes remarkably close to the coin-op Afterburner, especially in the speed of your plane and the dizzying number of enemy planes and missiles that fly toward you."
- Buyer's Guide, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide Fall 1990

Sega used a screen from the arcade version of Super Monaco GP for, uh, "illustrative purposes"...
Super Monaco GP
4 megabits

Super Monaco GP for the Genesis went well beyond being a mere arcade conversion. In addition to the Monaco track featured in the arcade, the home version of the game boasted a full season mode with sixteen original tracks! Play in this mode consisted of selecting a rival from a better team, and then racing against them in the hopes of eventually stealing their team away from them.

One of the better Genesis games released in the fall of 1990, Super Monaco GP stands up well on its own merits, and has far more replay value than the arcade game on which it was based.

"Super Monaco GP has a lot to offer, and the game plays as good as it looks."
- Buyer's Guide, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide Fall 1990

The colourful Air Diver print ad.
Air Diver
4 megabits

The Genesis system's first flight sim (sort of), and one of its earliest third-party games.

"Air Diver features excellent, highly detailed sprites, depicting actual aircraft. They skim the sky at mind-boggling speeds, all while utilizing the Genesis' sprite-scaling functions to move accurately through the game screen's three dimensional perspective."
- Frank Eva, VG&CE July 1990

"Although it's not really a true, computer-style flight simulation, it is a top-notch video game with enough challenge and pizzazz to keep you flying again and again."
- Buyer's Guide, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide Fall 1990

It appears that the Atomic Robo Kid is some sort of trashcan / elephant hybrid...
Atomic Robo Kid
4 megabits

One of the first of many side-scrolling shooters released for the Genesis in 1990, Atomic Robo Kid was also one of the first third-party games for the system. There was a PC Engine version of this game as well, but it never made it to North America.

"As the Atomic Robo-Kid, you must stop not only the giant bosses, but also the dozens of diverse mutants found in every corner of the landscape."
- Buyer's Guide, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide Fall 1990

"To my surprise, I found that even though Atomic Robo-Kid is a shooter, it's also somewhat of a puzzle game. Having a lightning-like trigger finger is a plus, of course, but finding the right moves to get past obstacles and defeat enemies is also a large part of the challenge."
- Clayton Walnum, VG&CE January 1991

"300 hours of nonstop gameplay." Uh huh.
Sword of Vermilion
5 megabits

The third Genesis RPG (after Phantasy Star II and Super Hydlide), Sword of Vermilion was created by Yu Suzuki of AM2 fame. Like PS II, this game came with a large hint-book, which irritated some critics at the time for allowing gamers to "cheat."

"There's a feeling to Vermilion, a sort of atmosphere achieved by all of its elements, that make it vanish as a game. Instead, it becomes a living world of enchantment for the player to enter into."
- Neil Shapiro, VG&CE November 1990

"What's Sega going to do next, include a private tutor with Star 3? A nice role player that unfortunately is spoiled by the free cheat book."
- Bart, Mega Play January/February 1991

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