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Golden Axe was already an old game when I found it at the back of an arcade in the 1990s. The dusty cabinet only cost 20 cents per credit while shiny new games demanded a whole dollar. It was good value: only 20 cents to become a dwarf who could ride dragons or weird chicken-leg creatures, bash up tiny gnomes for their magic potions, and sometimes summon lightning from the sky.
Even at that price I could never finish it, and playing it years later on Steam as part of the Sega Mega Drive & Classics Collection it's obvious why. The boss fights are cheap, enemies burst out of doorways to hammer you on the head, the difficulty spikes are entirely random, and ledges are precarious. It has all the hallmarks of arcade games designed first and foremost to vacuum coins straight out of childrens' pockets with maximum efficiency. But thanks to a Steam Workshop modder, it no longer has to be that way.
Tucked away among the mods in the Steam Workshop, behind the ones that or , I found the . These personalised tweaksets alter arcade classics, some of them adding infinite lives or unlimited time, level selection, or protection from death when you fall off the edge of the screen.
Games from Altered Beast to Vectorman 2 had been given the Chill Edition treatment. They took the rage out of Streets of Rage 2, and made even frantic games like Gunstar Heroes into relaxing experiences you can zone out to while listening to a podcast. At first I thought that was all there was to it, and then I looked into the identity of the blessed saint of a Steam user called xONLYUSEmeFEET responsible for these mods.
Turns out he's AJ Ryan, who has a condition called Arthrogryposis that restricts the use of his hands. Ryan steers his wheelchair, types, and plays games using his feet hence the username. You can check him out on YouTube , and he s able to type at 50 words-per-minute and use a mouse with his feet as well. Though he can play with controllers the triggers can be hard to depress with his toes and he s switched to PC gaming for his favorite first-person shooters. I'm glad I did because I can hold my own against my friends now! he says. But Ryan's keenly aware that not everybody is capable of doing what he can.
"Many Sega games are difficult to beat even for the most seasoned gamer and more people should be able to see these games through," Ryan says, explaining the impetus behind his project. "I began work on a few games before Workshop support released so I could have my mods on the store as soon as possible. I started making one of my favorite games, Streets of Rage 2, more accessible by adding in Infinite Lives and enabling additional features in the options menu. Upon completion of the mod, I decided I needed a name for my work. I didn t want to call direct attention to the fact my audience was those with disabilities so I decided on the Chill Edition moniker as I believed these Chill Editions could be enjoyed by anyone."
He was right. There were 34,143 players subscribed to various Chill Editions, and most of them had no idea who is responsible for them or that their creator has an even nobler motivation than saving modern players from ragequitting. His most popular mod is for Comix Zone an innovative but bastard-hard beat-em-up about an artist trapped in a comic who can traverse levels by ripping a path through the panel dividers which had 2,677 subscribers. The Chill Edition of Comix Zone made enemies weaker, adds infinite energy, and when you use the ability to rip a chunk of paper off the page and make a plane out of it, you now get health back instead of losing some. Each Chill Edition's modifications were chosen to suit the difficulties of that particular game.
"The experience I wanted for each Chill Edition game was to allow the player to go through the game at their own pace without worrying about a game over," Ryan explains. "So infinite lives/health were always my top priority for each Chill Edition game as if I could do that, any player could eventually beat the game. I also tried to enable stage/level select for every game to allow players to start the game from any level of their choosing. From there, I added features specific to each game that had a minor impact on difficulty such as infinite shurikens in Shinobi III or infinite time in Sonic."
Ryan started modding seven years ago, creating Doom maps when he was in high school, but his first Chill Edition for Streets of Rage 2 presented a new kind of challenge. "I was not familiar with Hex Editing or the workflow I needed to create in order to make my mods," he says. "The biggest obstacle for me was figuring out I needed to modify Sega s code protection in order to get any of the games to boot."
Though the process got easier once Ryan cleared that obstacle, his later work on the Sonic trilogy turned out to be "a nightmare" as he puts it. "All three games are structurally very different from each other so I was unable to get the same exact features across all of them which was always my goal for series of games." Sonic 3 & Knuckles was the Chill Edition fans requested most frequently and is currently the most popular one, but getting it to work took a lot of trial and error. "Additionally, getting complete hazard and drowning immunity in Sonic 3 & Knuckles to work without having the game lock out took forever to figure out."
A new obstacle stands in front of the Chill Editions right now, however. This week, dozens if not hundreds of mods have been pulled from the Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Collection, removing those that sneakily uploaded entire games as well as perfectly legit mods like Ryan s. Because of how many mods I uploaded I'm currently banned from the Workshop for 28 days! he says. Since the mods were first taken down, four Chill Edition mods have been reinstated, but that still leaves many more unaccounted for.
Even mods created by Simon Thomley, aka Stealth, the modder hired by Sega to create , have been caught in the mass ban. Ryan s hoping to get his mods reinstated or hosted elsewhere, but at the moment they are frustratingly unavailable on Steam, and modders are struggling to get more than stock answers from Steam support.
Ryan plans to continue working on the Chill Editions in the future, bugfixing existing ones while deciding which game to Chill next. He's hesitant to double up on work being done by other modders a lot of players request the JRPG Phantasy Star II, but there's already an out there for it. He's also considering modding other mods, like the original Japanese edition of Streets of Rage 3 which fans can now find under the name , although he wants to make sure the previous modders receive appropriate credit for their work. "I m always looking for suggestions on Chill Edition mods so always feel free to let me know! I ll make Chill Editions for as long as players ask me to."
The Chill Editions have proved worthwhile for both to disabled players who can now experience games that previously relied too much on fussy precision and tight reaction times, and anyone who never saw the end of Alien Soldier because it was just too hard. There are even commenters on Steam popping up to say how happy they are to be able to play games games they remember from their youth like Golden Axe alongside their own children, no matter what age they are.
Sometimes players are critical of the Chill Editions for being too easy, but that's the point of them. Arcade classics in particular weren't designed with accessibility in mind, and that's a shame. Video games all of them, including these historical artifacts of the coin-operated days should be for everyone.
This Future Is Disappointing, Part #89: look at Jet Set Radio then look outside your window. Are a colourful cast of rollerbladers grinding down rails wound around your home and spraying neat tags? Of course not. But hey, at least all and sundry can now have a bash at JSR for free, as Sega have made it free for a little while on Steam. Also going free are platformer Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit and ye olde Golden Axe. Grab ‘em now and they’re yours for keepsies!
Ecco the Dolphin a game in which a porpoise saved sea animals and talked to magic crystals, was a rare case of a 16-bit game that was a quiet, meditative experience. Creator Ed Annunziata and his team have turned to crowd-funding for the game's spiritual successor, titled "The Big Blue."
The Kickstarter project (via Polygon) is aiming for a $665,000 goal over the next 34 days. The team is already thinking about stretch goals too, in the form of making the game an MMO--but obviously it has to clear the hurdle of its initial goal first.
Much like Ecco, the game will focus on exploration and puzzle-solving, but you'll be playing as all kinds of sea creatures, or even swarms of creatures at a time. The game hopes to launch in April of 2014 on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. If you just can't wait a full year, you could try out the prototype now.
The Big Blue boasts not only Annunziata and Laszlo Szenttornyai from the original Ecco games, but also Spencer Nilsen, who composed the original Ecco scores, and Bear McCreary, for composing the scores to The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica.
Annunziata had previously talked about the game conceptually, and at that time mentioned he wanted to try Kickstarter.
The beat 'em up genre flourished in the nineties, with Capcom and Konami leading the way on the SNES and on the SEGA Genesis, as well as with a huge amount of great arcade games that never got a home console port.
We've selected some of the most amazing titles from this wonderful era, the ones that had the most detailed graphics and most impressive animations.
Dozens of other beat 'em ups came out in addition to those ones. Show us your picks in the comments below!
A video game's opening stage or starter zone has an extremely important role: it sets the tone for the rest of the game. Getting it right is essential. Below, we've collected some of the best-looking and most iconic starting zones, first stages and opening missions.
Post your picks for the most intense, best made and most beautiful first levels below with visual support.
Raise your hands if you spent a whoooole lot of time playing Golden Axe on your Sega Genesis. I sure did and never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be finished in under ten minutes.
That's exactly what Jason 'honorableJay' Feeney does in this speedrun video hosted at Speed Demos Archive. Feeney offers up insights from his time with the classic brawler on the video's homepage. Here, he brings up my most hated part of Golden Axe:
The first 4 stages give you a chance to fill up on your magic/health after the completing the stage. The problem with these stages is the fact that the thief patterns are random. There is nothing I can do but pray I don't get a bad pattern. This is the only spot in the game with random elements, making them the most frustrating at times.
Man, I hated those thieves! I'm saving the entire realm, assholes. You should be giving me stuff! Jerks.
Golden Axe [Speed Demos Archive]
You've got concept art with a pinch of news this morning, as Superannuation points out the portfolio of Kiwi artist Christian MacNevin, which contains images from a pitch for an Altered Beast remake that Sega never picked up.
They're...interesting, to say the least, but I'm just as interested in MacNevin's other fantastic pieces for projects as diverse as PlayStation Home and panda robots.
You can see more of Christian's art at his personal site.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Sega has been keen on releasing its classic Master System and Genesis games lately. The Monster World Collection recently leaked out, and now it appears more games are coming to the Xbox 360. The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) board has rated another three titles.
Siliconera reports that Super Hang-On, Golden Axe 3, and Streets of Rage 3 have recently been rated, which is a pretty certain signal that they're coming. Sega hasn't formally announced the games for Europe or here in the States. But like the ESRB, PEGI has a long and proud history of spilling the beans on upcoming game announcements. We'll probably see some word of these titles soon.
Three classic Sega Game Gear games head this week's Nintendo eShop update.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, Shinobi and Dragon Crystal both launch this Thursday as downloadable games. Sonic costs €5 / £4.50, Shinobi costs €4 / £3.60, and Dragon Crystal costs €3 / £2.70.
On the Wii Virtual Console, Capcom's Mega Man 5 launches for 500 Wii Points. DSiWare puzzle game Hints Hunter launches on the 3DS eShop and the DSi Shop for €2 / £1.80 or 200 Nintendo DSi Points.
Meanwhile, 3DS owners get the fourth Shaun the Sheep 3D clip, called Bitzer over easy, created in 3D by Aardman Animations. The third part in a series of Kid Icarus Anime clips is also available from Nintendo Video. It's called Thanatos Rising, and features Pit and his battle against one of Medusa's minions.
The first two Game Gear titles to launch on the 3DS eShop will likely be Shinobi and Sonic Triple Trouble.
Both have just recieved fresh ESRB ratings (spotted by TinyCartridge).
Their launch will be the first time non-Nintendo platform games have become available on the 3DS Virtual Console.
Nintendo first announced it would start dusting off Game Gear titles early last year. Turbografx-16 games were also promised.
Sega has launched new games in both the Shinobi and Sonic series for 3DS during the past year, so it makes sense to start mining the back catalogue with these.
Both games were rated "E for Everyone", with Shinobi featuring "animated violence".