Crazy special effects that make you feel like you’re in a virtual reality movie. Big (bigger! biggest!) budgets! A-list movie stars and directors! Summer blockbuster season is officially here. Beyond the traditional summer movie fare of superheroes and sequels that Hollywood deluges us with each year, you can also count on longer than usual theater lines, extra large tubs of buttery popcorn, and a brief respite from the summer heat. Summer blockbuster season wasn’t always a term that the media used to describe the film release schedule between late May to the end of August but it certainly still existed, even if unofficially. Over the past 20-30 years, the trend has moved from major releases occurring over winter holidays towards the summer months, with “summer blockbuster” season now starting as early as April. What’s next? The reboot of the reboot of the reboot of Spiderman premiering over Valentine’s Day?
Films, especially those with bloated budgets set aside for special effects, acting/writing/ producing/directing talent, and musical scores/soundtracks cost A LOT of money. Movie studios can hope to recoup their investment with box office receipts alone but a better option would be to hedge their bets on a multi-tiered approach that includes movie-tie ins. Movie tie-ins aren’t unique to the 21st century, as anyone who owned a Star Wars action figure from the late 70s/early 80s can attest to, but it certainly may feel like it’s gotten a bit out of hand lately thanks to your favorite action and animated movie characters hawking not only toys but also soft drinks, fast food chains, cereal, potato chips, school supplies, candy, etc. Video games definitely fall into that multi-tiered investment approach that movie studios strive to succeed in as it has been and continues to be a lucrative, high risk, high reward art form. So much so that movie and video game studios have partnered together to create some pretty awful tie-in games over the years, with hopes that little effort would still result in a big financial reward thanks to a familiar title or character on the cover. This works some of the time, but I would guess just as often, gamers are now savvy to the cash grab games and seek out titles that would be enjoyable regardless of whether or not the biggest box office smash of the year has it’s name and likeness plastered all over the front cover.
The following are three movie-tie in titles, released for the Sega/Mega CD in the early 1990s. All are associated with blockbuster summer smashes from successive years, 1991-1993. All of them are what I consider to be high quality games that any Sega/Mega CD owner could and should play.
The Terminator (Terminator 2 -1991)
“The Terminator” is an amazingly fun side-scrolling platform shooter but the plot mirrors that of the original 1984 film, not the 1991 sequel. However, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” was released in theaters to massive acclaim in 1991 but the Sega/Mega CD Terminator game wasn’t released until 1993. I’m going to go out on a limb and consider the success of this game having more to do with T2 bringing the Terminator franchise into the 90s than the original from 9 years prior. Regardless, this version of “The Terminator” is action packed with great 16-bit graphics depicting a war-torn urban wasteland, smooth gameplay and outstanding music and sound effects while providing just the right amount of challenge. You may notice that “The Terminator” is also available on other consoles of the era such as the Mega Drive/Genesis, NES, SNES & DOS, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are all the same. The Sega/Mega CD version is the one to own.
Batman Returns (Batman Returns – 1992)
By 1993, there weren’t many franchises bigger than Batman. The first of the two Tim Burton helmed “Batman” movies came out in 1989, and its sequel, “Batman Returns” was a huge success during the summer of 1992. The movie tie-in game, also titled “Batman Returns” saw a wide multi-platform release and the Sega/Mega CD of course had their own version of the game released in 1993. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Sega/Mega CD versions of the game are very similar, however, the CD version is definitely enhanced thanks to the CD quality sound and the inclusion of 3D racing levels that the Mega Drive/Genesis version did not have. These racing levels do a good job of utilizing the consoles’ scaling abilities & and are genuinely fun to play. The game starts you off with a racing level right off the bat (no pun intended) where you control the Batmobile and blast enemies while charging down Gotham’s streets. After completing this long and fairly difficult racing level, you will be treated to a more standard side scrolling beat ’em up style of game. Just like in the movie, your primary antagonist is the Penguin. Also just like the movie, it probably won’t be your favorite Batman related game in the franchise but it will still be highly regarded.
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park – 1993)
Unlike the other two games on this list, “Jurassic Park” wasn’t released following a high profile sequel. Steve Spielberg’s massive smash from the summer of 1993 based on the sci-fi classic novel written by Michael Crichton was everywhere that year and those pesky dinosaurs were bound to find their way onto a video game or two. Nintendo managed to snag the first licensed “Jurassic Park” title for the NES the same year that the movie was released but Sega wasn’t too far behind with their own unique game released only a couple months later. The version of “Jurassic Park” that was developed and released for the Sega/Mega CD in 1994 veers away from side scrolling action platforming found on the Mega Drive/Genesis version and instead turns it into a point and click adventure. This entry into the series takes place sometime after the events of the film, with a whole new team of scientists making their way to Isla Nublar in an attempt to gather dinosaur eggs for research (apparently they didn’t watch the movie or read the book). After a helicopter crash, the team’s only survivor must escape the island while avoiding dinosaurs and corporate rivals attempting the same task of egg gathering. The player must manipulate their environment by clicking on items found on the screen, moving from screen to screen and engaging in action sequences that require precise timing to complete. There is also a puzzle solving element to “Jurassic Park” that makes it more than just an exercise in hand-eye coordination. Additionally, “Jurassic Park” incorporated Full Motion Video (FMV) sequences that take advantage of the game’s compact disc capabilities but the primary graphics were created by sketches then turned into pixels and sprites. This really gives “Jurassic Park” an interesting look that fits right in with the interesting gameplay.