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As Seen on CD: CD Games That Deserve a Comeback

March 22, 2018Written by Stephen Wilds

cd games

I recently tried my hand at Night Trap again. I figured any game that got a 25th anniversary re-release had to have something going for it other than the past controversy. I was dead wrong, and failed a lot at it, but that got me looking into some newer FMV games, such as Late Shift and the recent Super Seducer. As good as those might be though, they are missing that 80s and 90s flare: bad acting, poor quality, and overall cheesy goodness that I grew up with.

So, if Night Trap can come back, why can’t we get a compilation of some underrated and forgotten titles like that? I’m not saying these would be the best games, as many along the lines of the Don Bluth animated masterpieces would be worthy of their own re-master, and games like The 7th Guest and Phantasmagoria are already available in a somewhat shiny new edition on services like Steam. However, these should all be experienced for sure. I’m not asking anyone to suffer through Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods on the Jaguar or to pay actual money for Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties, but I can defend a lot of these forgotten gems, especially if they are Make My Video: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch level good.

Road Avenger

cd games

Take to the road for revenge in a red hot rod through this animated adventure. It’s high-speed vehicular combat, but don’t think that it’s anything like Twisted Metal or Burnout. Think instead of direction-based actions that rely on the pure visual stimulation for excitement. With animation done by Toei, the adventure takes players through nine stages within intense visuals and concludes against a cool female antagonist—leader of S.C.U.M, a group responsible for the murder of the hero’s girl. The world may feel a little familiar though, knowing that it is connected to Double Dragon, as the car shows up in the Lee Brothers’ garage in that series.

The game originally appeared in Arcades (1985) and was later put on the MSX console (1986) before finally coming to America for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn (1995), but depending upon the version, it can be known as Road Blaster and Road Prosecutor. Like many games in the genre, this one is short, beatable in just under thirty minutes. That said, it has a high replay value with a wide array of incredible visuals, and restarting just means more chances to hear that incredible opening theme song.

Burn: Cycle

cd games

Assume the role of Sol Cutter, who is more than just a badass name, he’s also a skilled hacker and data thief who just stumbled into the wrong file. As a result, he gave himself an advanced computer virus. Now, the player only has two hours to help Sol live, assuming they can stomach the shooting controls and bad acting—though the main character really is trying to give it his all. Some of these blood effects are fantastically bad as well, but the game does have some alluring visuals for the time, creating a cyberpunk-styled world that feels futuristic, dangerous, and easy to get lost in. This game came with an extra disc that was the soundtrack—I miss when games did that—a wonderful techno mix by Simon Boswell, who is also responsible for the Hackers movie soundtrack—which is quite fitting.

Burn: Cycle may not look it now, but at the time (1994) it was touted as one of the best games for the 3DO, a system that could have used a few more really good games. Try it though; come for the point and click action, but stay for the Psychic Roulette.

Double Switch

cd games

Similar to Night Trap, this title takes that formula and adds more of the exiting formula on top of it, which makes the game more complicated and requiring better precision and memorization. Be prepared to try sections over and over again as well, since the game has a limited number of saves, and it is very possible for the player to put themselves in a much tougher position without knowing.

It takes place in the Edward Arms apartment complex, which has a lovely Egyptian theme and large criminal element trying to break in to steal a valuable statue, putting the establishment’s tenants at risk. Things take a turn for the worse, though, when a unknown killer dressed as a mummy begins trying to off the residents as well. Double Switch boasts a strange and fun cast of characters, even including an entire band, but Eddie (played by Corey Haim) acts as a guide, who has unfortunately been locked in the basement.

The game debuted on Sega CD (1993) but later came to the Saturn (1995), with better visuals. There was a recent mobile edition (2016) as well, but this title deserves a bigger audience as well as another shot on consoles.

Time Gal

cd games

Featuring an interesting, cute, and quirky female protagonist, the game sets Reika fighting her way through time, tracking down the villainous Luda across the ages. The game uses the standard mechanic of deciding the direction to press for an attack or avoid being killed, but Time Gal uses its theme to allow for a time stop to pick more detailed actions in some situations.

Originally in Arcades (1985) and on the MSX (1986), the game was later released for PlayStation (1996) and Sega Saturn (1997), but North America only saw it on the Sega CD (1993). That version had a small bit of extra content, but was also censored. It changed some of the death scenes and removed one where the character lost her clothes upon failure. So, a perfect version for a compilation would be a mixture that has the extra content but didn’t censor anything, including the stage that had its year changed from A.D. 666 to A.D. 999. Unlike many of the other games to use real footage in the genre, Time Gal has a bright and colorful appearance with wonderful art design and interesting enemies. The game only received a mobile version in Japan (2017), but Reika herself has appeared in a couple of other games along the way.

Sewer Shark

cd games

Here is a game with a reputation that speaks for itself, but I’m not sure if it would sell as its own thing. Originally released on the Sega CD (1992) and later the 3DO, the title is often noted as the first console game to completely use FMVs. There isn’t much of a story; it’s more of a set-up, which features a new rookie pilot assisting Ghost, the co-pilot, in an attempt to keep the sewers clean from mutants while paving a way to Solar City. That is at least until things get really dangerous.

Some people may see Sewer Shark as an early on-rails shooter and think it would be easy, but this game that doesn’t hold the player’s hand and has some highly annoying instant kills. It also requires using charge stations to keep going, but at least there are infinite continues.

There are only four stages for the sewer jockeys, relying mostly on the visuals and cinematic interactivity. Coupled with some fun acting and an eccentric bad guy (he was great in Die Hard 2), it all rounds out to a classic experience that sold well for Sega and ended up later being bundled with the console.

Wirehead

cd games

I have a love for this game that honestly shouldn’t exist. Though I never had a chance to play it in 1995 on the Sega CD, I made up for that with many playthroughs later on. I definitely succumbed to this attempt to take the cheesy action comedy made popular in the 90s, yet the game subverted most expectations with its unlikely hero and the antics that follow. The story isn’t good, but it sucked me in, making me want to see what happened next. It even has the over-the-top acting you’d expect—I finally realized that the main actor is the guy who gets his nose bitten off in Batman Returns.

Like many other titles on the list, there is a bit too much trial and error, and it would have been improved with just a few more options for more paths. There are multiple attempts, as life is measured by battery power, but complete failure means a full restart. With some tweaking, Wirehead could be one of the best FMV games from that time, instead of being mostly obscure. Many missed this title because it was one of the last games for the console, and though an enhanced edition was planned for the 32X, it never came out, but it’s time for this action hero dad to ride again.

Psychic Detective

It may seem like the title says it all, but I promise this game is much weirder. It was released on PC (1995) first, coming to the 3DO and PlayStation consoles a year later, but that last version was a bit censored.

This is an adventure where the player can take a trip to San Francisco, playing as a man trying to live his life out as a psychic stage magician. Naturally, he gets roped into a crazy mystery where the protagonist ends up playing a dangerous board game against the main villain—it gets weirder, but that stuck out. Upon release, it was an innovative and adult storyline, which the hobby had been lacking, but it is also very disjointed and doesn’t always make sense. The plot was just too interesting not to keep going though, especially since it had multiple endings. The game will take a few runs to uncover everything, and I’d love a chance to take another crack at it (I got a bad ending last time).

The Daedalus Encounter

cd games

I was a big Tia Carrere fan back in the day, mostly because of Wayne’s World, but had I known at the time that she was in an FMV adventure game back in 1995, I would have purchased a 3DO (maybe). She really gets into the role, especially some of the bad dialogue, and hams it up during the light-hearted parts. Some of that comedy is bad though, with literal toilet humor, but at least there is a Lethal Weapon reference.

It’s an interesting space story, where the player takes control of a recently injured crew member whose brain has been put into a small robot, which now must assist the remaining two members of the crew. Gameplay is based off of navigation and puzzles, where some are ridiculously easy and others are super hard with few hints. There is a full command list for the tiny robot, but some aren’t useful or are only needed once.

These CGI effects are wonderful and terrible at the same time, but I give the game its due for coming so close to a first step at mixing a big budget movie with gameplay, even if it can be repetitive and a little slow. The most annoying flaw of the game might be all of the swapping between the four different discs at new areas, but I imagine we can do something about that particular pain.

Honorable Mentions

Mad Dog McCree

cd games

Everyone loves a good Western, and I appreciate anything that could be played on a Standard DVD player. Though originally released for Arcade (1990), the game came out eventually for the Sega CD (1993), 3DO (1994), and more recently Wii (2009), 3DS (2012), as well as the PS3 (2013), so, it is pretty available. I recommend trying it for the duels if nothing else though.

Policenauts

cd games

I ended up not putting this one on the list because it was never released outside of Japan, and although the text is in English on several versions, the dialog isn’t, making it a bit less accessible for most. It’s a good story though, hard science fiction, written by Hideo Kojima, where the main two characters are essentially Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon. It’s similar to Snatcher in a lot of ways, for anyone who liked that game.

Thunder in Paradise

cd games

So, this game isn’t good, but think of it as a bonus for anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to experience the show back in the day. It’s Knight Rider, but as a boat and with Hulk Hogan. This bad idea was released on the Philips CD-I (1995) and is a mediocre on-rails shooter with almost zero replay value, especially since it’s easier to just watch the episode this is based off of. It does makes me laugh a lot, though.