Category Archives: Sega CD

Eye of the Beholder (Sega CD)

EyeoftheBeholderCoverEye of the Beholder
Sega CD, 1994
Developer: Westwood Studios/FCI
Publisher: Sega

Like Ultima: Quest of the Avatar, Eye of the Beholder was one of those games I just couldn’t wrap my brain around as a young kid. Released in 1991 for DOS PCs and the Commodore Amiga, EOTB was an early first-person dungeon crawler which iterated ever-so-slightly on the the formula established by FTL Games’ Dungeon Master. What, precisely, does that mean, you ask? Well, let me spell it out for you.

In EOTB, you control a squad of up to six heroes on a quest to save the city of Waterdeep from the evil machinations of a beholder named Xanathar. A beholder is kind of like a Madball with a whole bunch of antennae-eyes. As sinister eyeball monsters are wont to do, Xanathar has set up shop in a secret lair deep within the city’s sewers, which, coincidentally, are inhabited by a slew of spider-worshiping purple elves, malevolent bird people and sinister toad men. Kill them all, find your way out, end of story.

Eye of the Beholder Chwat2
Who are you calling a chwat?

While EOTB utilizes a first-person perspective, movement is restricted to a tile-based grid. Don’t expect any fancy modern conveniences like “scrolling” here – Wolfenstein 3D was about a year and a half off. You move and turn your party of heroes by clicking on set of directional icons on the game’s HUD. If you’re used to contemporary first-person camera controls, this can be more than a little jarring, as the sudden perspective changes make it very easy to become disoriented. Back in in 1991, though, getting disoriented was what they called a “feature.” You just sort of assumed you’d have to make a map when you played an RPG, so it was a forgivable offense.

Eye of the Beholder Screenshot 2016-05-15 16-28-03
Wow. Look at Spud Webb here.

Despite its tile-based movement, the action in EOTB plays out in something resembling real time. This means you’ve got to keep your party moving, reacting and attacking at a decent clip, lest they be ripped to shreds; playing the game effectively requires you to nimbly navigate a series of dense (though not unintuitive) menus in the middle of tense situations. Additionally, as its trappings suggest, EOTB is an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons licensed product. This means it reaps the benefits (and occasionally suffers from the quirks of) a well-defined tabletop RPG rule set. Characters can only act a certain number of times in any given “round” of combat, they can only attack with melee weapons if they’re in your front ranks, and spells must be re-memorized after every use.

Eye of the Beholder Game Over Cropped
Looks like someone forgot to pack enough rations.

You can even die of hunger. Seriously – you could quite legitimately argue that “Create Food” is the most powerful spell in the game. In short, EOTB is kind of like playing an actual game of AD&D with a DM who just won’t chill out and wait for you to respond before giving into his thinly veiled god-complex, because GOD DAMMIT DAVE, I JUST NEEDED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO LET THAT TROLL KILL MY CLERIC. CHRIST.

*Ahem.* Sorry about that. Anyway, if that description even comes close to tickling your fancy, I’d give EOTB a shot. And, if you have access to a Mega Mouse (or some questionable gray market alternative), I’d strongly suggest you do what I did, and play the 1994 Sega CD port. The gameplay is all but identical, and graphically, it’s at least on par with its PC and Amiga counterparts. Hell, the addition of cinema sequences may actually give it a leg up.

Eye of the Beholder Necromancer2
Tell me about it. What a bunch of rubes.

But screw the graphics, man. The Sega CD port of EOTB has one thing its source material was sorely lacking: a soundtrack. A glorious, redbook audio soundtrack from legendary game music composer Yuzo Koshiro. While EOTB is not one of Koshiro’s more well-known soundtracks, I’d put it right up there with his work on the Streets of Rage series and ActRaiser. Despite the fact that Koshiro’s EDM-inspired style seems wholly ill-matched to the AD&D license, it somehow manages to be a perfect fit for the haunting isolation of EOTB’s labyrinths. It’s not unlike that time your party’s thief got really into electronic music and demanded that you STOP LISTENING TO POWER METAL FOR FIVE GOD DAMN MINUTES OR ELSE HE WAS TAKING HIS MINIATURES BACK UP THE STREET.

Uh, anyway… here it is in its entirety:

Like Gain Ground SX, EOTB for the Sega CD is noteworthy in that it’s a port that, in many ways, outshines its source material. Regardless, I feel the need to qualify my praise by again noting that you shouldn’t bother playing this game without a Mega Mouse. Simply put, it’s far too much of a chore to navigating the game’s multi-tiered menus with a gamepad is far too cumbersome. you’d be better off playing the PC original.

Eye of the Beholder Screenshot 2016-05-31 22-25-45
You can totally make your party look like a German metal band circa 1988. DO IT.

Should you decide to give EOTB a shot, I hope you’ll accept the following images of the in-game dungeon maps as a parting gift. While EOTB does require you to actually find its maps before you you can access them, they take an annoyingly long time to load on the Sega CD’s single speed disc drive; an external image is an extremely useful convenience. Use them in good health, but try not to deprive yourself of the joy of getting lost – finding your way is half the fun.

For optimal enjoyment, we here at Subspace Briefcase recommend that you play Eye of the Beholder in a dark basement after several dateless weeks. It increases the authenticity of the experience.

Corpse Killer (Sega 32X CD)

Corpse Killer (32x) Screenshot 2016-01-13 07-35-19Corpse Killer
Sega 32X CD, 1994
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures

We round the halfway point on the 32X CD library with Corpse Killer, an interesting, if flawed, light gun/FMV adventure hybrid from Digital Pictures.

If you’ve got a hankering to play Corpse Killer after watching this video, I’d stick to the 3DO or Sega Saturn versions, if you’ve got the means to play them.  The Sega CD/32X simply didn’t have the horsepower to make the digitized zombie sprites look like anything more than a blurry mess – which is pretty amazing when you consider that said sprites have less frames than your average animated gif. My, how far we’ve come!

This one really felt like a long road to a small house. We’ll be taking a brief break from 32X CD games for a bit. For as positive as I try to remain about these games, playing them end-to-end really makes you appreciate the wonders of modern console gaming.  Don’t worry though, I hope to continue in a month or two with either Night Trap or Surgical Strike.

Supreme Warrior (Sega 32X CD)

SupremeWarriorTitleSupreme Warrior
Sega 32X CD, 1994
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures

Oh yes, I’m going to play ALL SIX Sega 32X CD games. Why? Because I want to play an entire game system’s library at least once in my life, and this is LOW HANGING FRUIT. And on top of that, the 32X CD isn’t really its own system, so it’s kind of like winning on a technicality. We lawyers LOVE technicalities.

Anyway, I played through Supreme Warrior, one of the last gasps of Digital Pictures, quite possibly the most prolific producer of FMV games in the early-to-mid-90’s. Supreme Warrior is simultaneously all that is great about mid-90’s FMV (fantastic production values and surprising fluidity) while at the same time a reminder of why the genre never reached its potential (shallow and clumsy gameplay).

If you’d care to have a look at the differences in quality between the Sega CD and Sega 32X CD versions, I’ve ripped the introductory sequences for both games.

While the 32X version certainly looks prettier, I find myself more impressed by the Sega CD version. It’s pretty ugly, but quite good by SCD standards.

The game’s credits make it clear that the actors who portrayed the enemy fighters did all their own choreography. In my mind, this accounts for (1) why the action looks so good (when you can see it); and (2) why the button prompts are so mercilessly short. Someone needed to tell these guys and gals to slow down for the benefit of the players at home.

I couldn’t recommend Supreme Warrior to anybody but the most devoted fans of FMV games, but for what it’s worth, I enjoyed my time with it; it’s a beautiful disaster of sorts.

Fahrenheit (Sega 32X CD)

Sega 32X CD, 1995
Developer: Sega Studios
Publisher: Sega

What, you were expecting Indigo Prophecy? About ten years to early, pal.  We’re taking a look at one of the few games to utilize all the power a Sega Genesis could conceivably muster – A 32X CD GAME! Fahrenheit is one of just six such titles, and probably the best of the bunch. Take a look!

As noted in the video, Fahrenheit received a standard Sega CD release as well.  Actually, it was sold in the SAME package as the 32X version.  Here’s the intro from the Sega CD version:

Compare it to the intro for the 32X CD variant:

The visual improvements are quite apparent!

I’ll be updating this post after the holidays with some more video. In the meantime, enjoy the smooth sounds of LOU NADEAU. WATCH OUT, STAN BUSH.

Yes, I ripped both variants of the song….

Happy Thanksgiving!

Silpheed Stress Test – Part 1

Silpheed CoverSilpheed
Sega CD, 1993
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Sega

In my recent Time Gal writeup, I posted a link to the official throne room of Subspace Briefcase. I expected it would engender a few laughs. What I did not think it would engender, though, was a challenge. Mere moments after my Time Gal post went live, I received the following message from some shadowy ne’er-do-well:


Apparently this reader (1) really likes looking at pictures of bathrooms, or (2) has some reservations about my game playing acumen. Sir, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a VIDEO GAME site. To challenge my ability to conquer a mere VIDEO GAME is to challenge my ability put food in my lizard’s mouth. Griselda and I will not suffer this lightly, and I DEMAND SATISFACTION – which I will obtain by absolutely demolishing Silpheed in mere minutes.

Silpheed (Sega CD) - Introduction Screenshot 2015-05-27 20-37-43

Silpheed was one of 25 random Sega CD games I purchased on eBay for $30, and subsequently neglected to play for weeks on end. You can read the last post for all the exciting details on that transaction. All that aside, I was not unaware of Silpheed prior to having my shooter skills besmirched. It’s well-known for having the finest “polygonal” graphics on the Sega CD. Just take a look at this intro:

“Good God,” you say, “that could almost pass for a PSX game. How did they do that?” Well, the truth is, they didn’t. While the player’s ship and enemy combatants are nothing but polygonal goodness, the backgrounds are actually video footage. Video footage deceptively rendered to look like polygons rendered in rendered in real-time, but video footage nonetheless.

So, Silpheed is a technical achievement, yeah. I heartily recommend that you read all about it here. But I’m not here to praise it. I’m here to crush it. Probably doesn’t matter that I suck at shooters. Probably doesn’t matter that I don’t have my teenage reflexes anymore. How tough could this possibly be? Bring on Stage 1!

Nailed it on the first try! Sure, took a few hits, but the shields stayed intact. Kill me to death. HA. Barely made a scratch!

My reward for besting the first stage? A brief cutscene wherein I am told that I’m out to stop some fat guy in a dirty trenchcoat and a cut rate Geordi LaForge visor who has “networked jacked” the computer which controls the….

Silpheed (Sega CD) Clip 2 Screenshot 2015-05-28 20-27-07
Max Headroom has really let himself go. Go EVIL, that is.

SNORE. I need no reasons. I AM DEATH INCARNATE. STAGE 2. GO.

Silpheed (Sega CD) Screenshot 2015-05-28 20-36-30

Oh hey, wait, a weapon select. Looks like I’ve got some choices here. Choices which I WILL NOT BE TAKING. I shoot forward and no other way. It’s the code of the space cowboy.

Hey, as far as “asteroid field” levels go, that one was pretty intense – and pretty good looking. Damned if it wasn’t visually confusing, though. It was nigh-impossible to tell which asteroids were in the foreground, and actually capable of damaging my ship. Thankfully, I had all that beautiful digitized speech to direct me in the right way. Also, please note that the boss actually ran away. Some might take my failure to destroy it as a sign of weakness; I choose to take it as the game recognizing my skill. YAWN. STAGE 3.

Well come on. If you aren’t going to refill my shields, how am I supposed to beat the level on the first try? That’s just cheap. Stupid cheap game. And where were those chatterbox buddies of mine this level? In Stage 2, it was “watch out for that giant asteroid on your left.” Now all they have for me is “there’s too many?” If there’s too many, why don’t you get off your radio and help me out, chump? BOGUS.

Silpheed (Sega CD) - Stage 3 Gameplay Screenshot 2015-05-28 21-05-39

Hey, at least I took down 0002 masses over 400001 pounds before I went out. Okay, Silpheed. You may have killed me, but you haven’t killed me to death. I will be back. Probably next Thursday.

Played on original hardware, upscaled to 720p through a Micomsoft Framemeister. All footage and screens captured through an ElGato HD60.

Time Gal

Time Gal Footage Screenshot 2015-05-13 19-14-26Time Gal
Sega CD, 1993
Developer: Taito/Wolf Team
Publisher: Taito

Some time ago, I purchased a box of 25 unidentified Sega CD games from a seller on eBay. The games were in questionable condition, but the price was right ($30 for the whole bunch), and I was eager to put my recently acquired Sega CDX to the test, so I took the plunge. Most of those games turned out to be terrible early ’90s FMV games, which sat on my shelf, unplayed, for months.

Fast forward about a year, and I’m looking for a game to play so I can get some practice slapping our shiny new logo (courtesy of my brother, the very talented Dave White) on some video captures. In an attempt to justify the amount of shelf space dedicated to Sega CD games in my throne room, I randomly chose Time Gal as my test case. I’m glad I did – this game is worth far more than the $0.83 I paid for it.

Time Gal is an arcade port of a Japanese laserdisc game from 1985 – think of it as the Japanese equivalent of Dragon’s LairFor the uninitiated, that means that the game is ostensibly a collection of what we have come to know as “quick time events:” the player watches a series of animated sequences (not unlike a cartoon), directing the protagonist through occasional button prompts. Failure to properly respond to said button prompts results in failure. That’s it and that’s all – there’s no direct control of your character. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, I suggest watching the videos at the end of this post; it will all become clear very quickly.

Time Gal - 1941 A.D. Screenshot 2015-05-13 19-27-18
Apparently her real name is “Reika Kirishima,” but you wouldn’t know that from playing the game alone.

In Time Gal, you control… uh…Time Gal, a time traveler from the 41st century, who is out to save the universe from this guy –

Time Gal Footage Screenshot 2015-05-13 21-17-22
His name is Luda. 99% of your interaction with him will be via this screen.

– who has apparently stolen a time machine in an ill-defined scheme to alter history and seize control of the universe. The plot isn’t really important – it’s a convenient excuse to send the player on a tour of recorded (and unrecorded) time’s most adventurous eras.

You’ll battle prehistoric sea monsters!

Time Gal Footage Screenshot 2015-05-13 19-13-46

You’ll battle both man and beast in the Roman Coliseum!

Time Gal Footage Screenshot 2015-05-14 20-44-58

You’ll fight your way through the giant skeleton invasion of 999!

Time Gal Footage Clip 6 Screenshot 2015-05-13 19-18-48

Hell, you’ll even square off against hover bike gangs in the apocalyptic future of 2001!

Time Gal Footage Screenshot 2015-05-13 21-26-45

Historical accuracy (or prognostication) isn’t Time Galstrong suit, but its levels are varied, colorful, and filled with action and humor. When a game amounts to little more than a series of timed button presses, setting is perhaps more important than ever, and Time Gal knocks it out of the park.

While the Sega CD version of Time Gal may seem primitive by today’s standards, it looks quite good for a “full motion video” game from 1993. Rather than simply compress the laserdisc video from the original arcade game, the developers opted to re-draw and re-color key frames, in an effort to make the game look as good as possible for the home CD ROM market. One need only compare the game’s introduction, which contains compressed footage from the original arcade game –

– to a video of the game in action:

While the gameplay loses some of the fluidity and detail of the compressed video, it’s far more vibrant and colorful. I’m fairly certain this approach kept load times down as well. Time Gal simply looks and plays better than other FMV games of its vintage.

There’s not much else I can say about Time Gal that hasn’t already been said. If you’d like to learn more about the game’s history and legacy, I would strongly suggest that you read Neil Foster’s excellent writeup over at Hardcore Gaming 101.

In closing, I offer you a playlist of all of the game’s stages, arranged chronologically, for your viewing pleasure – with most of my failures intact. Enjoy!

Played on original hardware, upscaled to 720p through a Micomsoft Framemeister. All footage and screens captured through an ElGato HD60.