Is that a roll of Zennies in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? It’s Forgotten Worlds for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Released in 1989 in Japan and 1990 in the US and Pal Regions, this float’n gun scrolling shooter is a port of Capcom’s stunning 1988 coin-operated arcade classic.
Prepare to take control of a juiced-up super man (and with a buddy in two-player mode, his equally juiced-up gym partner) on a mission to float (unaided by any means of propulsion) and blast your way through 7 levels filled with lizard men, evil Tibetan monks, and clones of what appear to be the disembodied head of Sagat from Street Fighter, to a final showdown with the false god Bios. What’s at stake? Just the salvation of the entire human race… Pressure much?
Generic story aside, Forgotten Worlds was fairly innovative in its time. Unlike most other scrolling shmups of the era, the player’s angle of fire was controlled independently of movement and possible in 16 directions through the use of a rotatable button called a roll switch. In this Genesis port, the 360 degree firing range of our buff protagonist is achieved through the use of the A and C buttons to rotate the player’s projectile-firing satellite clockwise and counter-clockwise. Shooting is assigned to B but an auto-fire option is provided freeing your thumb to exclusively tackle the task of directing fire.
In Forgotten Worlds the acquisition of upgrades does not conform to the typical shmup formula. They are not collected – they are purchased in shops throughout each level using Zennies (currency left behind by vanquished enemies). Inside these stores you’ll not only find a lovely anime shop-keeper waiting for you, but a multitude of power-ups – weapons including but not limited to homing missiles, lasers and flamethrowers, weapon boosters, speed, armor and health upgrades, the all-important resurrection can, and even gameplay tips.
The Genesis is unable to perfectly replicate the visuals of the original coin-op but Forgotten Worlds, for an early 16-bit console release, looked amazing when I first saw it and even now, nostalgia goggles removed, it still looks great. The sprites are detailed, backgrounds colourful, action fluid with barely a hint of slowdown, and some of the bosses (level three’s pharaoh in particular) are huge! Sure there’s only one layer of parallax scrolling, levels four and five look almost identical, and for the first three stages, it’s pretty much just lizard men and turrets, but these are all just minor quibbles.
In the sound department, the game fares pretty well. Almost jovial to start, the music becomes darker as you progress. By the end, eerie synth and horns, the utilization of drawn out minor notes and a good use of space, really ratchet up the tension and inject you with a sense of foreboding. Most tunes plod along, slow to mid tempo, so if you prefer a fast paced metal-inspired soundtrack ala Thunder Force, you may be disappointed. Playing through, the tunes seemed to me reminiscent of something akin to Ghosts’n Goblins. Interestingly the game’s composer, Tamayo Kawamoto, was also responsible for the soundtrack of Ghouls’n Ghosts so I guess this makes sense. The sound effects are what you would expect and to Capcom’s usual high standards.
Gameplay-wise, the ability to fire in all directions makes for a fairly unique shmup experience – you’ll miss it when you go back to something more conventional like Raiden. The controls, a little tough to get used to in the beginning, ultimately are responsive, intuitive, and allow you to target enemies with pinpoint accuracy. Shopping for upgrades adds depth and the extensive selection of power-ups for sale is impressive. The inclusion of the coin-ops simultaneous 2-player mode makes what is already a great game even better. Unfortunately Forgotten Worlds is let down by its low difficulty. Even in hard mode most players shouldn’t have trouble completing it within a couple of hours.
Forgotten Worlds is one of the better shooters for the Genesis/Mega Drive and is highly recommended for shmup aficionados, Capcom fans and lovers of shirtless, buff dudes. Gather up some Zennies and hunt down a copy at your earliest convenience.