Alphabest: Mega Drive – T

Alphabest: Mega Drive – T

After all the S games last time around I was hoping for a breather when it came to T, but no. There are just as many. Thankfully (at least in terms of me writing about them), they’re mostly crap. Phew, eh?


Tecmo appears a lot under T, as they seemed to enjoy prefixing their titles with their own company name. They’re all sports games, and none are very good, so we can bin them straight away. Joining them are four baseball games – Tommy Lasorda (who) and Tony La Russa (who) fronted titles, and two versions of Triple Play. All cut. While we’re here, Troy Aikman (who) NFL Football can do one as well.

One of the Mega Drive’s later games, Toy Story, is an impressive looking platformer. Despite being from Traveller’s Tales, who have since gone on to great things with the Lego titles, it’s still one of those 16bit Disney platform games that never turn out well. See also TaleSpin.

Other platformers of (slightly bum) note here include Turrican, which isn’t terrible but Mega Turrican is better, Taz-Mania which was pretty good at the time but has not aged well at all, Taz in Escape from Mars which is just crap, and Tintin in Tibet which is more adventurey than platformy and looks great – but plays really badly. Oh, and there’s Tinhead too, which was never a good game.

Better is the Tiny Toons: Buster’s Hidden Treasure game, which is still fun now. The ill-advised “wacky sports compilation” follow up Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars is funny, but wears thin very quickly.

Three other sequels that aren’t a patch on the original games are up next: Turbo Outrun, Two Tribes: Populous II and ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. Really, none of them are actually awful, but they’re all disappointing compared to the originals they came after. ToeJam & Earl 2 in particular, as it retains the humour and style of the original, but loses the uniqueness of the first game replacing it with a generic 2D platformer. Not a bad platformer, but a shame nonetheless.

The letter T of course brings Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles games, and the Mega Drive was blessed with two such titles. I say blessed, but in fact, although The Hyperstone Heist was nearly up there with other Turtles games like Turtles in Time (on which it’s mostly based) on the SNES or the original arcade game, the god-awful one-on-one fighting game Tournament Fighters was a massive misstep. You’d think, on paper, it’d be awesome, but it was ruined by having very few characters, rubbish controls and being a shadow of the (still poor but much better) SNES game.

Finally, before the shortlist, there’s Two Crude Dudes which is a great looking but near-impossible platform fighting game (with no crudeness), and two Terminator 2 titles – a platform shooter which is pretty decent, and a Menacer gun compatible port of the arcade game, which is OK but nothing special. Twin Hawk is a good vertically scrolling shooter, Theme Park is sluggish and not suited to joypad controls, True Lies at least tries something different to most 16bit film licences by being top-down rather than platformer – it’s still crap though – and Top Gear 2 isn’t as good as Lotus 2. There. Done.

Now the important three:

thunder force ivThunder Force IV is considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of 16bit shooters. Thunder Force II and III were also Mega Drive games, but IV kicks it up a gear with bigger levels and more impressive weaponry. I’ve pointed out before that shooters are not my favourite genre, but even I really enjoyed Thunder Force IV, and found it more accessible than the previous two in the series.

toejam & earlToeJam & Earl is, although perhaps not realised as such at the time, a roguelike exploration game. Taking control of one (or both, it’s co-op two-player in an original split screen formation, copied much later by TT’s Lego games) of two likeable aliens who have crashed on a bizarre approximation of Earth and are trying to find their ship parts. Random mode allows infinite replayability, some excellent and unusual power ups are equal parts hilarious and frustrating (you don’t know what they are until you open them), and it’s so damn laid back and cool you can’t help but enjoy it.

tokiToki: Going Ape Spit is strangely different version, in terms of levels, to the arcade game Toki, a title perhaps lost to the ages now. You’re a spitting monkey, and must navigate the usual platform level tropes in order to defeat the wizard who turned you into a monkey in the first place. It may not sound that impressive, but unlike so many other Mega Drive platformers, Toki is genuinely a lot of fun.

And the Alphabest?

Considering the sheer number of games starting with T, I was disappointed that so many of them were average at best. Thankfully, there are a few genuine classics in there, and few titles for the Mega Drive can be considered more classic than the winner – ToeJam & Earl.

Everything about it is such fun. The wacky earthlings and their odd behaviours, the presents you collect and the Russian Roulette you play opening them to discover the power ups, the one-liners, and of course the secret Level 0 complete with a life-giving lemonade stand and babes in a hot tub. It’s not just the best T, it’s one of the very best Mega Drive games there is.

Next time… (counts on fingers) U! Home stretch now. Stay strong!

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