The Genesis debuted in 1989 and got off to a pretty strong start, but it began to struggle once the technologically-superior Super Nintendo entered the 16-bit market with a barrage of high-quality titles. Attempting to give themselves an edge over their new competitor, Sega developed and released a CD-based addon, hoping the allure of full motion video and CD-quality audio would entice fans to give the Genesis another look. Unfortunately, most of the games they were promoting were simply not very good and severely lacking in the gameplay department, or just barely-improved Genesis games that tacked on a few cutscenes and new music tracks and called it a day. Even it's much-touted full motion video capabilities were lackluster (with 64 colors, choppy framerates, being boxed into a tiny portion of the screen and a lot of ugly compression), so the Sega CD proved to be unpopular and didn't sell very well. That didn't mean it didn't have good games, though; as with the Saturn and Dreamcast they were there, just denied their due by a lack of promotion on Sega's part. So, let's take a look at ten of my favorites.
10. Dark Wizard (Sega, 1994)
A forgotten Sega IP if ever there was one, Dark Wizard is a turn-based tactical experience with a combat system somewhat reminiscent of Nintendo's Fire Emblem franchise and overall design somewhat similar to Master of Monsters. As in that game, you cast spells to aid your units, and summon creatures to fight alongside your humanoid characters (who can change class and power up as their XP increases). You can also visit towns along the way to upgrade characters' equipment, purchase items or get intel on your enemies, and each map has a number of hidden secrets to discover as well. There are even four different campaigns to play through depending on the character you pick at the start, so there's quite a lot going on in Dark Wizard. It may not be the most unique or groundbreaking game in the genre, but it's an engrossing and complex game for tactical RPG fans that's worth playing.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man VS the Kingpin (Technopop, 1993)
While the Genesis version of Spider-Man was a decent (if overly difficult) game, most people remember Spider-Man's foray on the Genesis as an oddly-shoehorned boss in Revenge of Shinobi alongside numerous other licensed characters, most of which were altered in later versions of the cart. But not too many people remember the enhanced Sega CD version of Spider-Man VS the Kingpin, and it's a shame as it's a vast improvement over its Genesis counterpart. Not only did it feature surprisingly good cutscenes, music and voice acting (for the time, at least), but the gameplay was vastly streamlined by no longer having to find money and having a generally faster pace. The game also provided more nonlinearity by allowing the player to visit stages in almost any order and even two new levels. Spidey has had quite a few games over the years that have varied pretty heavily in quality, but this is definitely among the better ones.
8. Final Fight CD (Sega, 1993)
The SNES port of Final Fight suffered from many technical issues, being limited to one player gameplay, missing a stage and having only two of the playable characters from the arcade game. As with Strider, Sega saw an opportunity to capitalize and licensed the game to produce their own version on the Sega CD, delivering an experience that was much more faithful to the original. Of course, being on the Sega CD, it also featured a retooled soundtrack and some bits of voice acting in the intro and ending, both of which are pretty forgettable. But the gameplay is what matters most, and Final Fight CD was as close to the authentic arcade experience as you could get at the time.7. Heart of the Alien (Interplay, 1994)
4. Shining Force CD (Sonic! Software Planning, 1995)
3. Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993)
2. Snatcher (Konami, 1994)
1. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (Game Arts/Studio Alex, 1995)
The sequel to Game Arts' Lunar: The Silver Star, and it's a logical step forward in almost every respect. It still sports the same unique combat system, but the dialog and cutscenes have been expanded to an unprecedented 50+ minutes apiece, and were remarkably well produced and acted for the era (albeit with some of Working Designs, erm, "colorful" accents added). Working Designs also implemented some changes to the original release, toning down the difficulty for some extremely difficult battles and implementing a unique save system that required a certain number of points to be earned (as they saw little challenge in letting the player save at any time). It later received wider recognition and some substantially refined gameplay and presentation on the Playstation, but the original Sega CD release is still a standout title for the platform, as well as one of the games that helped to revolutionize the way stories were told in games.