I'm a Nintendo guy. As a kid I owned a cheap but very popular Eastern European NES knock off called Pegasus and innocently and happily I played my illegal Mario and Contra on it. Then one day I saw a SNES review in a gaming magazine and I immediately thought it was the best and the most beautiful console ever made, which honestly is most likely the truth to this day (mind you I'm talking about European SNES- the PAL system, which looked exactly like the Super Famicom- the Japanese SNES). Never got it as a kid, but it was always on my mind, as a prototypical console.
Now, of Sega I knew nothing. I mean, I heard they made games and consoles, but I never really saw any, except maybe Sonic, somewhere on a still in a magazine. I didn't particularly care for Sega. Genesis (or MegaDrive in Europe) wasn't on my radar back there. If I had seen it, i wouldn't have been interested. SNES was all I wanted.
Now I am wiser and better off. And I still don't particularly care for Sonic and Sega. But that Genesis offers something that regular Nintendo't.
Let me take you back again (I'm sorry, this is a lousy review so far). One of my best gaming experiences, a very early one at that, was before I even knew there was such a thing as a home console. All I knew was arcades. Loved them. One summer we visited a remote mountain resort full of hiking, horse riding, swimming, sporting and whathaveyou activity opportunities, I'm sure you know of such places. Bizarrely, it had also the best god damned arcade saloon I'd seen. And I and my brother spent the whole vacation playing one machine. It was the best platformer game ever. There was this little corpulent guy whose girfriend got kidnapped and he had to brave dark dangerous forest and god knows what else to rescue her. The guy could cast some kind of fire spells and he had a cape.
That's all I remembered.
Years passed, but we still thought fondly of the game and tried desperately to get hold of it. To no avail.
I tried to look it up on the internet about ten years ago, but came up with nothing. Finally the whole experience and want faded away.
But it all came back like a magic firestorm when SilverMongoose made a fantastic video about "white whales" of gaming, just last year: watch it here
I searched again, I typed "platformer", "magic", "cape" and "forest" (exactly in that order) in the google search and looked at the images and there it was, one of the first hits! Incredible!
The game is called Wardner (or sometimes Pyros in the arcades) and it came out only for the arcades... and then it was ported for the mighty beautiful Genesis.
This is the only game ever, for which I bought the whole system. The game itself cost me four times the price of the console. And it was totally worth it. It is not the best of ports. the graphics are obviously downgraded, but surprisingly held up pretty well (and are quite nice as far as 16 bit home console gaming is concerned). The music is cruder, but it's very melodic. The sound effects are lacking. But I don't care.
All I care about is the magic forest daring caped rescue experience.
And the game delivers just that. The gameplay is simply fantastic. The controls are tight and the level design is perfect. It's challenging, but not frustrating (e.g. the game is very generous with the mid-level save points). When you learn the patterns and pratice patiently you can beat it time after time in 20 minutes or so. And the satisfaction and fun you get out of it is something else.
This, my friends, is the perfect platformer.
I highly recommend it to anyone who owns a Genesis system (it works perfectly on a MegaDrive, too), even if you don't have the idyllic childhood experiential factor driving you, as I did . Unless you have the means and just the right amount of madness in you to own a whole arcade machine, this is the only way to go (there was also a port for a Famicom disc system, but good luck getting your hands on that).
The Genesis way is the best way.
I wonder how many other "exclusive" arcade ports there are for the fantastic system. And how many blissful moments slowly fading away from people's experience it still holds inside...
Thank you for reading.