Five Obscure Video Game Gems

 

Continuing on this gaming kick that I’m on, I’ve been thinking lately of all the lesser known video games I’ve owned growing up. It seems that so many games I’ve played in my youth were awesome but were rarely talked about then and are barely even remembered now. Beyond the Super Marios, the Donkey Kongs, the Call of Dutys, the Castlevanias, etc., there were games that were addicting but were forgotten through time for reasons such as not being enjoyable enough to a mass market, no sequels, or being too weird just to name a few. I want to shine some light on these forgotten titles. I pretty much stopped following the video game culture entirely after the Gamecube/XBOX/PS2 era (I own a Wii but mostly for playing old NES games on it) so here are five games from my younger years that I feel should be acknowledged:

 

Jewel Master (Sega Genesis, 1991)

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This was a Genesis game that was bought for me with no prior knowledge of its existence. Boy, was I in for a ride when I actually played it.

The action-adventurer, Jewel Master, puts you in control of a warrior trying to save the fictitious world of Mythgard by collecting rings. Each ring has the distinct elemental power of either earth, fire, wind, or water. When you equip these rings, you use these powers to take down enemies. Once all the rings are collected, you summon a deadly sword that you use to defeat the final boss and restore peace to the land.

I’m not even sure if I beat this one but I do remember playing it an awful lot. It was only five levels so I don’t see how I couldn’t have conquered the whole thing but my young seven year old self was still pretty inexperienced back then. I think my brother may have finished it.

This was one of the first games I can remember really liking the music to.

 

Mr. Bones (Sega Saturn, 1996)

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This was a game that was way ahead of its time, in my opinion. Everyone remembers the Sega Saturn. Hell, I was a vehement supporter of the fifth generation console due to my Sega fandom as a kid. The reality though, sadly, was that it just couldn’t compete with the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. Saturn lacked any superior game ports or many noteworthy titles but one unforgettable  journey to me that has slipped through the cracks was Mr. Bones.

My first taste of this game was the preview video that was included in the playable demo disc that was enclosed with the Saturn I got for Christmas in 1996. After watching, I said to myself “woah, that game looks awesome! A guitar-rocking skeleton who fights?!”

A few months later, I got my hands on a copy and…wow. Mr. Bones is a genre hopping game that was a pretty big mindtrip for any player in 1996. Here, you take control of the eponymous live skeleton, a deceased blues musician brought back to life by a demented philosopher who then rebels against his evil army of the undead. Some stages use standard platform gameplay, you dodge deadly enemies and traps. The more you get hit, the more body parts you lose and you try to refill your health so you can re-attach them. In addition, you perform all sorts of unorthodox tasks such as tell jokes, play songs on guitar and drums, fly across churches, flee a log avalanche, and avoid being sucked into a vortex among others. Half the time, I would be trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing. Once you get the hang out if though, you start appreciating the variety the games offers and how no two levels are alike. The game was insanely hard and almost impossible to complete without the Saturn memory card equivalent, the RAM backup cartridge, but damned if I didn’t keep trying until the wee hours of the morning.

 

Legend of Legaia (Sony Playstation, 1999)

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This is one of my favorite role-playing games ever. I used to subscribe to Playstation magazine when I was a pre-teen and inside every monthly publication was a playable CD with demos of the newest, hottest PS games. This was one of them. After playing the short demo, I was hooked and needed to get my hands on the full copy. Soon enough, I did.

The world of Legaia desperately needed your help in this story. Legend of Legaia takes you on an adventure where a strange mist has overtaken the land, transforming its residents into monsters and almost eliminating the entire population. It’s up to you to resurrect the Genesis trees in order to return Legaia back to its normal state.

This is a turn-based RPG where you maneuver between different characters during battle and use an array of strategies and attacks to destroy opponents. Like most turn-based RPG’s, I was so used to having a plethora of playable characters such as in the Final Fantasy series, but in this game you only have three: Vahn, Noa, and Gala, and you them all throughout the game. I always used to describe this game as Final Fantasy meets Street Fighter since you can use different move and button combinations to defeat bad guys. You strike with all sorts of punches, kicks, and your equipped weapons to wreak havoc on the deadly mist-created monsters.

There was sequel released for the PS2 in 2002 but it came and went much like the first one did. I never played it but I will always remember the first one being an all time favorite.

 

Sonic CD (Sega CD 1993)

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The Sega CD wasn’t a bad idea in theory. It was the first CD-based gaming console whose format would be used to usher in the Playstation just three years later. The problem was that Sega didn’t know how to properly utilize the still-inexperienced technology at the time. Yes, I owned one of these. In fact, for my 10th birthday, I received something Sega released called the CDX. It was a small console that had a Sega CD AND a door where you can play your Genesis games in the back.

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It’s apparently very rare. I guess I should consider myself lucky?

Sega CD barely released any memorable games but one that most owners remember is Sonic CD. It’s hard to imagine how a game featuring Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, can be obscure but no one ever talks about this one. It was packaged with my CDX and while it’s a standard side-scrolling Sonic game, it possessed an amazing soundtrack and blended weird elements to the gameplay. For example, you can alter the levels by running past checkpoints titled either “Future”, “Present”, or “Past”. Once you warp into either timeline, the levels’ backdrop, enemies, and music change to that particular time period. This is only done as a novelty, though, and has no effect on the overall gameplay.

I certainly liked Sonic CD a lot more than many of its successors such as Sonic 3D Blast.

 

Garfield: Caught in the Act (Sega Genesis & Game Gear, 1995)

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Garfield was one of my favorite cartoons growing up. With the character’s popularity being around since the late 1970’s, it’s hard to imagine how a video game based on him wouldn’t be released until the mid 90’s. Garfield: Caught in the Act was released in 1995 for both the Genesis and Game Gear, and for some reason, I asked my mother for the handheld version.

In the game, you’re the one and only Garfield, a fat, lazy, orange cat who loves sleeping and eating. Our feline friend gets sucked into the television late one night and now you have to complete different stages resembling popular films to return home safely. The levels boast such humorous titles like “Catsablanca” and “Count Slobula”. You battle a pre-historic Odie and skeletal pirates on the way to the main boss which is….a television glitch. Yes. The only differences I’ve noticed between the Genesis and Game Gear versions other than the graphics is that in the Genesis version, Garfield dresses up in different attire for each level. For example, in “Count Slobula”, he wears a vampire cape and in “The Curse of Cleofatra”, he wears a pharoah’s hat. I killed many a battery on my Game Gear playing this one. Fourth grade couldn’t have been better.

Photo credit: www.gametrog.com for Sega CDX
Cover background image credit: www.solifestyle.com

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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