Ben McCurry writes about games. He once sued Square Enix for their spurious and misleading use of the phrase "Final Fantasy". The case was thrown out instantly. He talks nonsense on Twitter @Oaty_.
We’ve had a lot of fun here, folks. At least, I know I did. However, the sun is setting, and the ship is coming into dock. It pains me to say it, but this is the last ever edition of On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive, and I have no plans to revive the series. It’s been an amazing three months, and I can honestly say this is the best time I’ve ever had writing for a site ever. Creative freedom, a wonderful community, and an audience that truly cares and knows their stuff. I loved every single second of it. Read More
Cast your mind back to one of the first reviews I did here on On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive: Donald in Maui Mallard. Yeah, it was a relatively decent platformer with vaguely racist undertones and an odd jumping mechanic, but it didn’t seem to leave a lasting impression on most. Most, that is, except for Looney Tunes, who decided that “anything they can do, we can do better, as long as we do it 20 years ago because our stuff isn’t so great now”. Strong words. In response, as if to say “Pah!” to Donald’s pathetic little excursion to Maui, Looney Tunes kicked it up to 11. They sent Daffy Duck to Hollywood.
I’ll admit that my experience with pinball machines is incredibly lacking; the only substantial time I’ve ever spent with pinball is with 3D Space Cadet Pinball on Windows XP, which is hardly the real thing but is nevertheless a game I will always fondly remember. So, you can imagine how I jumped at the chance to take a look at another pinball title, this time released for the Mega Drive. Coming to us from Codemasters is Psycho Pinball, and if there’s ever two things that go hand in hand, it’s mental illness and pinball, right? Nevertheless, I ventured forth to see what this title had to offer.
The beautiful game is ubiquitous in the UK, and even more so when it comes to video games. The last instalment of Fifa sold 800,000 copies for PS4 in the UK alone – compare that to 551k in the USA; the gap only get bigger across all consoles, because frankly, at this stage, Fifa‘s been on more platforms than Mario, Crash and Spyro combined. However, it’s not just the aspect of playing football that interests people – football management has captured gamers’ imagination for well over twenty years. To go back to the stats again, Football Manager 2015 has done 180k units in the UK, while the numbers are so low in the US that they’ve failed to even appear on the radar. The popularity of these games resounds in the UK like fans cheering at Wembley Stadium, which brings us onto today’s game: Premier Manager, which was only ever released in Europe, specifically aiming at a British audience. The question today: is this managerial sim like a shot in the back of the net, or is it offside?
This week’s edition of On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive is an oddity. As we know by now, this series covers Mega Drive games that never made it into America, but saw an audience in the UK. Usually, the reason for this is that the game in question based on a franchise that’s madly popular in Britain, but non-existent in America. Yet, today, we have this: Asterix and the Power of the Gods, developed by Core Design shortly before they hit the big time with Tomb Raider. Asterix, while not unheard of, is a definite French comic book icon (much like Tintin), making a UK release a slightly odd choice –a bit like releasing a Beano game in continental Europe.
In 1994, Ocean Software came up with the bright idea of creating a mascot for the Sega Mega Drive. A genius idea; loads of kids loved the console, and it’s always a good idea to hook them into the business early. So, they set upon coming up with a cute and cuddly fellow with just a little bit of attitude, one that had cool trainers (‘sneakers’ in American English) and could run as fast as the wind. Truly an inspir– wait, this is all very familiar, isn’t it? Hot off the booming popularity of Sonic in Europe (some might call it a Sonic boom), Ocean created their own European-only counterpart: Mr Nutz.
[Author note: I swear to Miyamoto, this will be the last sports game review you’ll see in a while, promise. Thanks for sticking with the series and please enjoy the next edition of On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive]
I live in fear. See, I have these dreams where I’m running but feel like I’m falling at the same time, desperately trying to escape and stay alive. I feel my tormentor looming on me, its massive presence casting a massive shadow on me, blocking out the dim moonlight. It chases me. Haunts me. I run as fast as I can, left, and right, through the field, trying to avoid the cold, dead, white figures, twisting through, trying to find an exit. I look back – it gains on me, and I yelp. I turn around, but I lose my balance, and topple into one of the figures. I splay out on the ground, and the shadow gets thicker and thicker. Nowhere to run. I can’t do anything but cry. It rushes towards me, the tears streaming out of my eyes, and that’s when I wake up in a cold sweat. This is precisely the effect that Brian Lara Cricket on the Sega Mega Drive can have on you.
The family may be creepy and kooky, but it must be said, after the prior performance of the last licensed game on this series, Donald in Maui Mallard, it doesn’t look good for the next tie-in title: Addams Family Values. Look at the, ahem, long and illustrious line of movie-based games like Home Alone, Independence Day, Transformers – these are games that were clearly not made with quality in mind, ruining many a weekend for poor, unsuspecting gamers upon their release. Yes, one could easily counter with examples like The Simpsons Game or Goldeneye or even The Warriors, but it’s fair to say that we’ve all been burned too many times in the past. Rolling into a movie-based game is much like rolling the dice – let’s just hope we don’t come up with snake-eyes.
If I may indulge you for a second, I’m going to say something unrelated to video games and remarkably un-British. I hate rugby. Yes, I know that the UK has some great teams, ones that have achieved remarkable success in the past, but the sport runs at a plodding pace, all the players are about as interesting as the supporting cast of a CBS sitcom, and the commentary teams grate my ears and brain. As a matter of fact, I prefer American football, but don’t tell Queen Elizabeth I said that. Anyway, with the overwhelming annoyance I feel towards the sport, you can imagine how badly I reacted when I learned I would have to review a title called International Rugby. I’ll tell you for sure right now, I wouldn’t care if this were called Local Rugby Starring Bobby B From Down The Street, I will not enjoy this in any shape or form, but I will persist.
There are a number of admired British institutions: fish and chips, Top Gear, the BBC (if you pretend the 70s and 80s never happened) and soccer all come to mind. However, none of those even compare to the wonder that is Worms, which is a true British original. Worms is a rare exception to cover in this series as many of the games I review are old, dusty, and forgotten – but not Worms. Worms was the small acorn that gave us the mighty oak. While many Americans may be more au fait with titles like Armageddon and 3D, this is where it all began. This one is a bit of a discovery for me, as I have never been able to secure a copy of this game until now. My first foray into Worms was the stellar World Party for PlayStation, which I adored at the time, but on more recent plays, I was disappointed to see that, especially with the new HD releases on Steam, the game has not aged well at all. So, you can imagine my trepidation at the idea of how rusty the very first one might be.
The weather, as you all might know, is notoriously bad here in the UK. Sleet in Sheffield, rain in Renfrewshire, lightning in Londonderry, and hail in Holyhead – all very underwhelming. So, you could understand my excitement when I was offered the chance to gad around Maui with one of my favourite cartoon characters of all time; Donald Duck. After all, I was dying for some sun, and to spend some time with my favourite TV mallard without a spiky-haired adolescent and a talking dog in tow sounded like a dream come true. It is with this sunny disposition that I entered Donald in Maui Mallard.
Normally, North America gets near enough all the good game releases they want, leaving us Brits staring over the pond sullenly, like someone’s just disposed of all our tea into a large body of water. Yet, there have been a few times, rare as they are, where we have gotten a stroke of good fortune – the games come over to Europe and the UK only. With the popularity of the Sega Mega Drive in Europe (this isn’t hyperbole; Sonic is far more beloved than Mario here, and the Mega Drive didn’t even leave the market until 1998!) it makes sense that we (rightfully) got our hands on a few exclusives. This series, then, is all about those games; the ones that never saw the light of day across the Atlantic. You’ll only find them on one place, though. Where? On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive.