Brave Battle Saga: Legend of the Magic Warrior

I honestly wanted to enjoy this game, but its inconsistent graphics, often tedious battles, and uninspired story prevented me from doing so. I commend Djinn and SteveMartin for their work making this game available to the English-speaking community. I just hope that their next project is a little more deserving than Brave Battle Saga.

In all likelihood, you have never heard of Brave Battle Saga: Legend of the Magic Warrior. Originally released as Barver Battle Saga: The Space Fighter, this is an unlicensed Chinese title that reportedly borrowed heavily (i.e., directly lifted sprites, etc.) from other games such as Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy. Thanks to the hacking and translating skills of Djinn and SteveMartin (links take you to their respective pages on, those of us who speak English have the opportunity to experience this game.

Using my Everdrive cart, I was able to experience this title on my Sega Genesis. I approached this game with a certain level of excitement for a few reasons. First, Brave Battle Saga is a role-playing game—one of my favorite game genres—and there weren’t a lot of RPG titles released on the Genesis. Second, I had the thrill of playing something rare and forbidden. Third, this was a new Genesis experience, and it had been a very long time since I had one of those.

The game starts out with you controlling one character (unimaginatively named Tim). Tim lives in a village that chooses a town hero each year, the hero being the first to complete a task given by the town elder. Due to his participation in this challenge, Tim finds himself exiled from his town and placed on a quest that will take him to several different towns, kingdoms, shrines, and eventually to a space station that threatens to destroy the planet. The adventure is a little cumbersome at first with only one character, as you will usually face 2-4 enemies in each encounter, and they usually get to attack before your character. Waiting through several enemy attacks, finally getting to retaliate (which may or may not be enough to kill an enemy and decrease the attacks against you), and repeating this pattern until the enemies are destroyed can be tedious and sometimes infuriating. Luckily, other characters eventually join Tim, which makes the battles a little more enjoyable, though your enemies will still likely attack prior to most (if not all) of your characters.

The action during battles reminds me of the Final Fantasy games, and the action occurs without pausing while you make decisions on what you want each character to do. Each character has a bar that slowly fills up, and once filled, you are allowed to give that character a command. After the character acts, the bar is depleted and must fill up again. Much of the time, this system works fine; however, whenever scrolling through menus for a particular spell or item later in the game, you may get annoyed with the extra turns the enemy will receive while you search. Personally, I prefer RPGs that use a battle system like in the Phantasy Star series, where you are allowed to pause the action after each turn, but I can see how some may feel that pausing like that pulls you a little out of the action.

The graphics in the game are nice, but the pirated nature of the game prevents the graphics from feeling cohesive. For one, whenever Tim and his companions are traveling, they will encounter monster sprites. Whenever Tim touches a monster sprite, the game switches to a battle screen. The problem is that, more often than not, the monster in the battle screen has absolutely no resemblance to the monster Tim ran into. For example, Tim may run into a monster that looks like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, but when the game switches to the battle screen, he is up against a couple of giant eagles and a swordsman. The same problem exists in the character sprites for Tim and crew as well. When not in battle, these characters have a super-deformed look. Once a battle begins, the characters are more realistically proportioned and don’t closely resemble their non-battle selves.

Surprisingly, the game is lengthy, and I spent around twenty hours playing through it. Unfortunately, the story is not compelling and the battles quickly become monotonous. I remember wondering over the last quarter of the game when it would finally end. Finishing was more a matter of perseverance than pleasure.

I honestly wanted to enjoy this game, but its inconsistent graphics, often tedious battles, and uninspired story prevented me from doing so. I commend Djinn and SteveMartin for their work making this game available to the English-speaking community. I just hope that their next project is a little more deserving than Brave Battle Saga.

Not recommended

Note that, if you choose to try out this game, you will need to acquire the ROM of the Chinese game and patch it with the file that can be downloaded from

Shining Force

Shining Force is a joy to play and is among the best titles for the Genesis . . . . Though I won’t claim this game has universal appeal, I think even gamers who do not traditionally play FRPGs will find themselves drawn to Shining Force.

It all started with Phantasy Star. That was my initiation into the world of FRPGs (fantasy role-playing games), and from that point on, I was in love with the genre. I followed up with the remainder of the series (the second game being my personal favorite), and hungered for more. Unfortunately, outside of the Phantasy Star series, many of the Genesis FRPGs were rather lackluster. There were acceptable titles such as Sword of Vermillion, but they really failed to capture the epic feel of the Phantasy Star series. Finally, though, Sega gave us Shining Force, and a new and exciting franchise was established.

OK, before you correct me, I should note that there was a previous game released in this franchise titled Shining in the Darkness, but the gameplay is much different in this previous title. Shining in the Darkness used a first-person view similar to the dungeon levels of the original Phantasy Star. For some reason, though, I could never get into Shining in the Darkness. I appreciated aspects of the game, such as the artwork and creature design, but I think I was turned off by the need to create maps as I played, so I gave up. Shining Force used much different play mechanics, though. This game retained the type of design from Shining in the Darkness, but it seemed to be much more of a blend of the strategy and FRPG genres. There were no first-person dungeons in Shining Force. Instead, there were overhead-view villages and cities in which you interacted with non-player characters (NPCs) like in Phantasy Star mixed with battles in which you deployed the members of your party, all of whom had different movement ranges, reminiscent of strategy games. The mixture of elements worked, and Shining Force was a fun and refreshingly new addition to my Genesis library.

One of the things I love about Shining Force is the switch from the overhead battleground view to the close up of characters whenever one of them acts. You get to see your centaur knights charge forward with lances, your elves fire arrows, your dwarves strike with their axes, your mages call forth fire to scorch your enemies, and your birdmen hover then slice with their swords. The character graphics are all well rendered and will change as characters equip new weapons or are promoted (I’ll explain promotions in a bit). The background graphics will also change based on the terrain and include a good amount of detail. For a game of its time, this title provides excellent visuals.

As you progress through the game, you will add numerous different allies to your roster. Though you can only have twelve members in your party at any one time, you will find a headquarters in each town where you can change party members. Part of the fun of this game is finding party members and mixing and matching them to discover which combination works best for your style. Many members are secret, requiring you to search in a particular place at the right time or to use a particular item in order to unlock them. It is unlikely you will find everyone in your first playthrough without resorting to online hints or guides.

As you defeat enemies and use magic and items, your characters will gain experience. Unlike some FRPGs in which experience is shared among party members, your characters in Shining Force will only accumulate experience on their own actions. This can be problematic at times, as your mages and healers get a lot less experience for using their magic than your warriors will for attacking enemies. You’ll often find that you have to wear down your enemies with your strongest characters and then allow your magic users to finish off the enemy in order to help them advance through levels. In addition to this level advancement, though, your characters can also be promoted. When your character is promoted, he or she is given a new title (for example, a MAGE becomes a WIZD). The benefits of promotion are that the character may be able to use weapons which were previously unequippable or may learn new magic. You can promote a character at 10th level, but it is generally a good idea to raise your character higher than this, as the character’s stats will drop after the promotion, though as the promoted character advances, he or she will quickly compensate for this drop.

Though leveling up characters and opening new abilities is fun, you will often find yourself fighting the same battles repeatedly in order to do so, which can become monotonous. There aren’t any random battles in this game, so you are required to leave a battle prior to the last monster (or in some cases, the boss monster or character) is defeated. You may then return to the battle with respawned monsters, allowing you to build more experience.

Another gripe that I have with this game is that NPCs will often get in your way when you are in villages and cities. Since you cannot move through an NPC, they become very cumbersome in small houses and passageways. Often, you will sit and wait for one to move away from a door or staircase so that you may enter or exit. Though this isn’t a huge issue, it is still one that the programmers should have fixed prior to the game’s release.

Aside from those gripes, both of which are relatively minor, Shining Force is a joy to play and is among the best titles for the Genesis. The game balances battles with character interaction well, and people who generally feel that FRPGs are slow and plodding may find the pace of this game much more to their liking. Though I won’t claim this game has universal appeal, I think even gamers who do not traditionally play FRPGs will find themselves drawn to Shining Force.

Highly recommended

Spoiler Alert—the video below shows the game’s ending.

Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition

Unless you are a Street Fighter completist, or are like me and appreciate the memories associated with Street Fighter II: SCE, there probably is no reason for you to buy this version when there are better, cheap alternatives to be had.

It’s strange how competition breeds fierce fanboyism. It seems to always occur when there are two obvious front-runners that are vying for your business, whether it be Coke versus Pepsi, McDonald’s versus Burger King, Ford versus Chevy (before the American automobile market went to hell), and in the early 1990s, when 16 bit consoles were in the process of replacing their 8 bit predecessors, there was the Sega Genesis versus the Super Nintendo. This is arguably the best video game rivalry in history. Sega had been tested early by NEC’s TurboGrafx 16, but due to poor marketing on NEC’s part as well as Sega’s recognizable arcade titles (Altered Beast even came with the system!), the Genesis became the early 16 bit victor. And then came the Super Nintendo . . .

Nintendo had given Sega an early lead in the 16 bit market, which allowed Sega to find the following the Master System never achieved. The fact that gamers could now play games at home that looked close to the arcade originals was a big draw, along with the fact that Sega was releasing quality non-arcade titles as well, such as Revenge of Shinobi (an all-time favorite). The Super Nintendo was scary for those of us who loved our Genesis systems, though. It would have better graphics and sound, but beyond that, Nintendo brought with it numerous third-party publishers who weren’t making games for the Sega Genesis. This came to a head when it was announced that Capcom would be making Street Fighter II . . . only for the Super Nintendo. At the time, there was no title we wanted to see ported to home consoles more, and it was being made only for the competition. In order to play Street Fighter II at home, my roommate and I had to spend probably around $20 to rent a Super Nintendo and Street Fighter II, along with a hefty deposit to cover the price of the system in case we would decide not to bring it back. It sucked, but we did it, and on more than one occasion.

Then it happened. The news that I wanted to hear finally broke. Capcom was releasing Street Fighter II for the Genesis. It wasn’t just Street Fighter II, though—they were going to give us the Champion Edition! Nintendo didn’t have the Champion Edition, but we would! Sega fanboys across the globe rejoiced . . .

Of course, it all didn’t quite play out like that. We did finally get a Genesis of Street Fighter II, and it not only contained the Champion Edition, but the Turbo version (here called Hyper) as well. Nintendo got Street Fighter II Turbo as well. At that point, I didn’t care. I could finally play Street Fighter II at home on my Genesis. Sure, it may not have been as pretty and didn’t sound as good as the Super Nintendo version, but none of that mattered. What did matter was that this was a good port that controlled well. All was well in Sega land . . .

So, the question is, does the game still hold up fifteen years later?

Yes, yes it does. Obviously, the Street Fighter series has evolved and there are better versions to be had, but the Genesis version is still highly enjoyable, especially after recently battling the controls of Fighting Street. I was surprised at how quickly I picked up the controls again, executing fireballs, dragon punches, and hurricane kicks. The sound is as bad as always, but again, after playing Fighting Street recently, I didn’t mind the sound at all.

Unless you are a Street Fighter completist, or are like me and appreciate the memories associated with Street Fighter II: SCE, there probably is no reason for you to buy this version when there are better, cheap alternatives to be had. If you have this collecting dust in your Genesis collection, though, you might want to give it another try as there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.


Streets of Rage 2

. . . if you own a Sega Genesis and Streets of Rage 2 is not yet part of your collection, you must get your hands on a copy . . .

front cover image for Streets of Rage 2During my first year of college, we played a lot of video games. In fact, for at least a couple of us, it took the place of attending classes and doing the assigned work. We were young, we had our own apartment, and we had a Sega Genesis and a TurboGrafx 16 with the CD attachment (this was 1992, by the way. Yes, I’m old). The choice seemed obvious.

During that first year of college, Sega released Streets of Rage 2. Let’s just say that it didn’t make me more motivated to attend class, with its huge character sprites and responsive controls. It was a fun game, plain and simple. So, how does it fare sixteen years later (wow, I really am old)?

It still kicks ass. In fact, it ranks among the best side-scrolling beat-em-ups of all time.

There are many, many things to like about this game. For one, it offers you the choice of four different characters from the beginning. Unlike some of the earlier games, in which the difference between characters was more superficial, whom you choose in Streets of Rage 2 really has an impact on the way you play the game. If you choose Max, you are a massive powerhouse who sacrifices speed for sheer strength. If you are Blaze, on the other hand, you are quick and nimble. Plus, each character has special moves that can be unleashed to do more damage and/or get you out of perilous situations. One move is executed by pressing sideways twice and hitting the attack button—a beat-em-up standard of this era. For Axel, this does a ground sweeping uppercut with a flaming fist. For Skate, it’s a flying headbutt that turns into a spin attack. There are also special moves that can be unleashed with the press of the A button. If you do not hit left or right while doing this, you do a move that will inflict damage on enemies both in front and behind you. This move will deplete some of your own health, but only if you actually hit an enemy. If you hit left or right while hitting A, you do a different special move, but you will lose energy even if you miss your target.

The sounds in Streets of Rage 2 are good for the 16 bit era. The music is sometimes catchy and never annoyed me. Some of the sound effects are amusing. Often, the sound effects don’t seem to quite match up to what’s going on (why does it sound like glass is breaking when I reduce that chair to toothpicks?). The sound of a punch hitting the enemies is a solid thwack, which though not accurate, is satisfying.

For the most part, the controls in Streets of Rage 2 are very good. After many previous beat-em-ups in which enemies would surround you to get in many cheap hits, Streets of Rage 2 gives you ways to fight back. Whenever an enemy is behind you, you have a backward attack you can utilize, and if you get surrounded, a tap of the A button will clear the area around you. There are some minor issues that are common with this type of game. For one, standing over an item while punching will make you pick up the item and open yourself up to enemy attack. This can be frustrating if the ground becomes littered with items, such as when you’re fighting one of the enemies who throws knives at you. The good news is that the enemies suffer the same consequences when they attempt to pick up weapons, so you can let them keep trying to get that pipe while beating the holy hell out of them.

I could go on about this game, but I guess the most important thing I can say is if you own a Sega Genesis and Streets of Rage 2 is not yet part of your collection, you must get your hands on a copy. It is just too good to pass up. While others games sit in my collection after I play through them once (or in the case of Last Battle, before I can manage to even do that), Streets of Rage 2 is a game that I can return to time and again for a thug-beatin’ good time.

Highly recommended!

A little spoiler—Blaze fighting the final boss, Mr. X