The Genesis of Good RPGs
Anyone who grew up in the early ’90s with a Genesis is familiar with the popular misconception that the Genesis had a library of RPGs far inferior to the Super Nintendo’s no-doubt superb lineup of offerings. While Sega’s 16-bit workhorse may not have gotten quite as many epic adventures as Nintendo’s 16-bit box, the Genesis still had a number of truly exceptional adventures that were well worth embarking on. We at HeyPoorPlayer embarked on a quest of grand proportions to bring you this list of our top 5 Genesis role playing games.
Indie developer WaterMelon’s debut game for the Genesis may have shown up over a decade late to the party, but this masterful Japanese-styled RPG stands proudly among the finest games of the 16-bit era. Squeezing every ounce of power they had out of Sega’s 16-bit system, the team at WaterMelon even used some snazzy tricks to get more colors out of the Genesis’ humble color palette, as well as produce sprite scaling similar to the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 effects (granted you happen to play the game using the 32X). Packing an epic 30 hour storyline, a fantastic cast of charming characters and sublime gameplay make Pier Solar one of the most impressive role playing games to ever grace a 16-bit console.
Landstalker is an action RPG that relies heavily on challenge platforming segments and exploration of complex dungeons. Placing you in the oversized boots of a plucky treasure hunter named Nigel, you explore the land of Gamul in pursuit of the treasure of King Nole. Your adventure takes you all over the land where a multitude of challenging dungeons, dangerous monsters, and myriad treasures are to be found. It’s a shame the franchise never grew over time, save for the pseudo-sequel Dark Saviour which was released for the Saturn. However, the same team proceeded to release the Alundra titles which borrow heavily from Climax Entertainment’s oft forgotten classic.
All too often Sega Genesis owners had to face the shame of dealing with the taunts and jeers of proud Super Nintendo fans who thought the Genesis was impotent without a grand action RPG of the same caliber as Nintendo’s sublime Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Thankfully, the Blast Processing inclined gaming populace were greeted with a masterwork in adventuring in 1995 in the form of Beyond Oasis. Beyond Oasis may not have an overworld quite as large and captivating as A Link to the Past’s, but the fast-paced combo-heavy combat, beautifully drawn sprites, and sweeping score by acclaimed video game composer Yuzo Koshiro more than made up for what the game lacks in length. Beyond Oasis did well enough to receive another fantastic entry in the series, Legend of Oasis that saw its way to the Sega Saturn the following year. Man, what I wouldn’t do to see this series resurrected in high definition. Will it ever happen? Probably not, but a guy can dream, cant he?
I’ll say it outright, I was never a fan of Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom. Sure, they game had some novel ideas with the idea of your descendents taking up the mantle and continuing your fight to save the galaxy, but all in all I found the game’s rough aesthetics and clunky combat a tremendous turnoff, and even a step back from Phantasy Star II in some ways. Needless to say I was skeptical to pick up Phantasy Star IV when the game made its way to the states in 1995. Thankfully, as a Sega Channel subscriber I had the ability to give the game a safe shot and boy, am I glad I did! Phantasy Star IV takes place back in the Algol star system, the series’ original stomping grounds as novice bounty hunter Chaz and his skillful mentor Alys embark on what seems at first to simply be a monster hunting expedition, but quickly becomes a mission to save the entire star system from a great evil. Phantasy Star IV features bright, colorful graphics that easily overshadow the other games in the series, slick, stylized anime story sequences, and an absolutely staggering amount of areas to explore. It’s no wonder why fans consider this to be the last true Phantasy Star game, and to this day I can’t help but wonder why Sega refuses to bring the series back to its original role-playing roots.
Ah, Shining Force, the grandaddy of strategy RPGs and the inspiration for games such as Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, Vandal Hearts, Mystaria: Realms of Lore, and countless other adventures that prefer to keep the conflicts firmly on the grid. Shining Force II was everything a sequel should be, offering more battles spanning across two continents, hugely improved visuals, and a loveable cast of characters brimming with charm. Shining Force II is easy to pick up, but nearly impossible to put down thanks to its devilishly brilliant combat system and excellent pacing throughout the game’s epic story. I’ve played through this game dozens of times and simply can’t stop coming back to it. The fact that the third game in the series is an 80 hour epic spanning three games is a testament to just how much love Sonic! Software Planning had for the series, and it’s a terrible travesty we’ve yet to see another Shining Force release that adheres to the franchise’s original game play formula.
What do you think of our list? Do you agree with the games we’ve listed, or have a few of your own that you think deserved a place on the list? Let us know in the comments below.