"After only a year and a half, Genesis has established itself as a leading electronic entertainment system. "
- Noreen Lovoi, Game Player's Sega Genesis Strategy Guide February/March 1991

The final version of the "Genesis Does It All" ad in all its glory...
Castle Of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
4 megabits

Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can pay this game is that it spoiled Sonic The Hedgehog for me. The gaming press had led me to believe that Sonic's first Genesis appearance would blow me away, and while that was true to a certain extent, by the time I played Sonic, Castle Of Illusion had already taken much of the wind out of the hog's sails for me...

What is it about this game that makes it so brilliant? For starters, there's the look of it. Sega's artists apparently took their inspiration for the game's graphics from the classic Mickey cartoons of years gone by, as opposed to the somewhat more streamlined/stylised Mickey of the eighties and nineties. While I've never been the world's biggest Disney fan, it has always seemed to me that their art style was much more visually interesting in their earlier work. That Castle Of Illusion draws from this period works to its advantage.

Almost all of the sprites in this game are animated in that famous bouncy Disney style, with colourful backgrounds that appear to make use of more hues than the Genesis is supposed to be able to display. One level which stands out in my mind as being particularly graphically lush takes place on a river dotted with cakes and candies, swirls of colour everywhere. The Pete's Dragon-esque boss at the end of that level is also quite impressive. And, unlike many other Genesis platformers up to this point, Castle Of Illusion's visuals never slow down and are only rarely marred by minimal flicker.

Most important of all, however, is gameplay, and Castle Of Illusion excels in that area as well. This game is just incredibly fun to play. Enemies are dispatched either by bouncing on their heads or throwing small balls at them, but the bulk of the game's challenge lies in navigating its complex platform-filled levels unscathed. Thankfully, the challenge never leads to frustration, and the graphical variety of the game's many stages keeps the player interested in what's going to show up next.

I think it's also worth pointing out that Castle Of Illusion has a fantastic soundtrack. The music for the first level, for example, really helps to set the mood for the game with its upbeat and catchy melody. Let Mickey stand idle for a few seconds and it looks a bit like he's dancing to the music! And, for those who are paying attention, Castle Of Illusion is one of the last Sega games (if not the last) to feature the infamous "Bo" in the credits. Although he didn't actually write the score for this game, Bo's mere presence in the staff roll should make Castle Of Illusion worth whatever people are asking for it on eBay these days...

Castle of Illusion received an honourable mention in the "Video Game of the Year" category in Video Games & Computer Entertainment's third annual game awards.

"Castle of Illusion is, quite plainly, one of the most fabulous run-and-jump games ever created ... The backgrounds and animation are nothing short of breathtaking - they make the graphics of Ghouls 'n Ghosts seem sickly by comparison."
- Joshua Mandel, Video Games & Computer Entertainment January 1991

Not to be confused with that other Genesis football game...
Joe Montana Football
4 megabits

Advertised by Sega for months before its release, by the time Joe Montana Football made it to store shelves sports players had already been swept up in Madden-fever. The Joe Montana series would continue to play second-fiddle to Electronic Arts' Madden titles for the remainder of the Genesis system's lifespan...

"The final version of Joe Montana Football bears no resemblance to the horizontally scrolling football game that had been shown in Sega's TV and print ads."
- Chris Bieniek, VG&CE March 1991

"The original developers of the game, Mediagenic (who planned to base Montana on a game called Hard Yardage), had a parting of the ways with Sega, and at the last minute the project was given to a new developer (Park Place, developers of the similar John Madden Football for the Genesis), so the entire game changed at the last minute."
- The Game Doctor, VG&CE August 1991

"A Madden wannabe. Even though you get Joe's face plastered all over, the game is nowhere near as much fun to play."
- Bart, Mega Play March/April 1991

"The only game that lets you make the rounds with guys named Fuzzy"...
PGA Tour Golf
Electronic Arts
4 megabits

PGA Tour Golf was the second golf game released for the Genesis system. I've not played it personally, but back in the day opinion appears to have been divided as to whether PGA or Arnold Palmer was the superior game.

"Although not as graphically elaborate as Sega's own Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf, the other golf simulation for Genesis, PGA Tour Golf plays an impressive game and has enough views and options to satisfy any armchair duffer. The ball dynamics are as good as they get, the tournament mode is handled realistically, even the music and sound effects are enjoyable."
- Joshua Mandel, VG&CE May 1991

"Viking terrorists"? Dear oh dear...
Arrow Flash
4 megabits

By the time Arrow Flash came out for the Genesis system, the whole "shooter-craze" of 1990 had already begun to fizzle. Perhaps Arrow Flash would have been better received by the gaming press had they not been made so utterly sick of the sight of side-scrolling shooters by the deluge of them from the previous year.

That wouldn't explain why Gaiares got such great reviews, though...

"The backgrounds for each level are anything but lavish, many being nothing more than waving lines or other patterns. When you consider the power packed into the Genesis, graphics this poor are inexcusable - pure laziness."
- Clayton Walnum, VG&CE Feb 1991

Razorsoft's second Genesis title, Stormlord
4 megabits

Having already ticked-off "graphic violence" on their game development to-do list with TechnoCop, Razorsoft apparently decided to move on to nudity for their second game, Stormlord.

Although there was no Genesis game ratings system in place in the early 1990s, Sega nevertheless made Razorsoft cover up Stormlord's fairy princesses with "flesh-coloured body suits" before they would approve its release. Thank goodness for that...

"After the disappointment of RazorSoft's dismal TechnoCop, I wasn't looking forward to Stormlord. After all, it's a rare thing for a video-game publisher to take criticism to heart and change its ways. But Stormlord is a real pleasure, outperforming Ghouls 'n Ghosts (the closest match to Stormlord in construction) in many areas."
- Joshua Mandel, VG&CE July 1991

The first in a series of ads from Renovation featuring "professional gamers". I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time...
8 megabits

Most of the gaming mags (especially Electronic Gaming Monthly) went gaga over this side-scrolling space shooter upon its release. Much was made of the game's 8 megabit cartridge size and its gratuitous use of splashy "cinema displays" featuring anime-style characters.

"One can't say enough good things about the ultimate shooter! There's nothing better out there and you have to get this one!"
- Mike, Mega Play March/April 1991

"This game is so great we've decided to obscure the one screenshot of actual game-play as much as possible..."
Sage's Creation
4 megabits

Crackdown was a top-down action game featuring a split-screen two player mode.

I'm not sure why I never bought Crackdown. The somewhat cramped viewing area, squashed and unimpressive-looking graphics, and the lacklustre critical response to it were no doubt all contributing factors...

"I think the game would have been measurably richer and more interesting if you had something more to do than creep around and shoot everything."
- Joshua Mandel, VG&CE March 1991

Not to be confused with the lottery of the same name
4 megabits

Futuristic sports games such as Powerball have never really appealed to me. Still, perhaps Square/Enix owes some small debt of gratitude to Namco for inspiring the game of "Blitzball" in Final Fantasy X...

"There's enough strategic variety to make the game interesting, but little originality or innovation and too little control over the makeup of your team."
- Joshua Mandel, VG&CE April 1991

"Powerball is one of those addicting titles that doesn't quite seem like much when you first plug it in, but the more you play and learn the techniques, the more involving the cart becomes."
- Steve Harris, Electronic Gaming Monthly's 1992 Video Game Buyer's Guide

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