Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Super Tempo (Red Company, Sega Saturn)

Super Tempo was one of the later Sega Saturn titles, released in 1998 by developer Red Company. A sequel to a Sega 32X game, this is a rare 2D side-scrolling platformer from the age when 2D platformers became persona non grata. Once, these kind of video games were a dime a dozen; then, suddenly, the Sony Playstation dropped like a ten-megaton bomb, and 3D polygons were the new hot thing. Everything else was given a swift kick in the rear and shoved out the door. Sprite graphics were out. Texture-mapped polygons were in.

I'm reminded of the great Genesis action-platformers, games like Aladdin and Earthworm Jim that played like living cartoons, but also games like Castle and World of Illusion, and their masterful level designs. Super Tempo has that excellence in design, the variety in levels, goals, gameplay styles. Most of the action is run-and-jump, but there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. And everything is presented with an absurdist sense of humor; probably closer to Dave Perry than Treasure.

Visually bold, endlessly clever, and packed with a wicked sense of humor, Super Tempo is a standout title in the Saturn library. It's also a testament against the absurdity of the herd mentality. Who decided that 2D games were suddenly terrible? Look at all those once-beautiful Playstation, Saturn and Nintendo 64 games that have aged terribly. All those gouraud-shaded polygons don't look so hot today, do they? And yet, the more traditional sprite graphics still look lovely. Funny how these things work themselves out.

How many great Sega Saturn games were left in Japan? Far too many to count. This system has one of the deepest software libraries in history. I've been digging for years and I'm still discovering gems. True, not everything out there is a masterpiece, but something like Super Tempo doesn't have to be one. It just has to be very entertaining and very fun. Thank God for Internet Downloads!*

(*Now there's something you'll never read from another videogame critic. Hah!)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Classic Video Game Price Gouging

Back around 2008-09, I got back into collecting physical video games again, after a decade of playing classic games exclusively via PC emulators. I think it was the arrival of Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console that reminded me of just how much fun it was to play the actual video games and systems connected to a picture-tube TV. At that time, Sega Genesis cartridges and Saturn discs were dirt cheap, and barely any title ever creeped above $10. I passed on a lot of titles that, frankly, weren't worth that kind of money. They were "rental games" at best.

So what the heck has happened? Across the board, classic videogame prices have skyrocketed to ludicrous levels. It's becoming difficult to find anything under $20, but what's really shocking are the large number of games being sold for $100 or more. And we're not talking about extremely rare, limited-edition cartridge games. We're talking about videogames that sold very well, are available in ample supply, and often available on modern formats, including XBox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Steam.

My guess is that Ebay sellers and retro game stores are caught in one massive circle jerk. The first joker who successfully sold his mint copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga for over $250 inspired everybody else to furiously jack up the prices. Hey, if that guy on Ebay is selling these games for $100, I can too! And so everything except sports games (which, thankfully, are still dirt cheap) gets priced through the roof.

Perhaps the younger Millenium Generation hasn't been taught the value of old computer hardware and software. And perhaps they haven't been clued into modern digital services. And certainly nobody has informed them that every classic videogame ever made is freely available on the internet. I have over 300 Sega Saturn games copied onto CD-R, and this ridiculous price gouging will only inspire me to burn more.

In any case, this is becoming a joke, and if retro videogame stores believe they're sitting on a gold mine of Sega and Nintendo titles, they're in for a shock. No, Galactic Attack on Saturn is not worth $70, Gaiares on Genesis isn't worh $100, and Mortal Kombat 2 is definitely not worth $150.

My advice for consumers: Don't believe the hype, and don't feed the trolls.