Game Genie
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10  |  Whatever You Wish, It's The Genie's Command...
Darryl B. , 7/1/2005 1:04:45 AM
The Game Genie is equivalent to being the poor kid with only a few systems and not many games per system, while the rich kid (since he had a paper route) down the block had dozens of games per system (and a computer!) and all kinds of cool utilities, like this one. Granted, the Game Genie wasn't very expensive (maybe 50 bucks if I remember correctly), especially so when you consider it has codes for hundreds of Genesis games, so you're talking only pennies a game, making this well worth a buy.

It's tv commercial informed you that it could breathe new life into your old games, as it could make whatever video game character jump higher, make you invincible, skip stages (for games that didn't have a skip stage option), etc. It sounded pretty fun!

Believe it or not, I was able to rent this at a Blockbuster Video once, although like those "just stick it in your Genesis!" b. s. ads a few years later for the Sega 32X unit (which you also had to connect several wires together [unlike just "sticking it into your Genesis", which was a load of crap] between the 32X and the Genesis, along with installing those shields that are so sharp you could slice your fingers up with them [yeah, I know, people say years later they're not needed, but I almost always follow the instructions]), I turned the unit on (after plugging in Sonic the Hedgehog into the Genie) to finding a bunch of numbers, letters and symbols on my tv screen. I thought you'd be able to choose what you wanted from a menu, like "Higher Jump", "Skip This Crappy Level", and "I Suck At This Game, So PLEASE Make It Easier For Me, OK?", but no such luck.

Back to Blockbuster for the instruction book, which I found out certain codes had to be entered per game; sheesh!

Once the Genie is plugged into the Genesis, a game is plugged into the Genie, and the Genesis is turned on, an onscreen sword is used to go through the alphabet and numbers (0 through 9) to enter a code with; certain buttons on your controller can choose or delete letters, or even entire lines. Even without a keyboard attachment for the Genesis (which the Genesis never had one, I don't think; I'm just bringing it up here for those of us that are fast typists and would've preferred inputing the info that way), and even though the codes are somewhat long (depending on how many you want to use for a game), it still doesn't take too long before you're cheating away at your favorite, or even an old game that you haven't played in years.

Among the many, many good things about this unit is that it can bring back the fun with old games that you thought you might not play again, in case there were spots in games that you never could beat, for example. It also fixes some design flaws in some of the games, such as giving some slow-assed turning spaceships in Star Control (that were even slower than the PC version) a faster turning speed, making them more bearable in using this time around. Certain transactions in games could also be bypassed, such as games where originally you had to buy certain items getting reduced to zero cost (take THAT, Donald Trump!). You could also pick several codes per game and mix 'em up however you wanted.

The Genie can also take you to new places that you originally couldn't get to, like a certain hill that was too high to jump to in the original Sonic game you can now do with the Genie. Plus, there's an on/off switch that you can turn the codes on and off without losing the codes/having to re-enter them in case you don't want a certain code until certain parts of the game (like jumping too high in Sonic might impale you on a spike, so you can turn it on and off as you see fit). There were also update booklets for pretty cheap as you bought games, found out later there were codes for them, so you could go back and order the booklets.

Unfortunately, not everything's all pixelated roses for this product, but it's not the Game Genie's fault though: even with some spankin' new features that you can add to games, some of them that you're sick of and thought the Genie would get you back into playing them again you'll end up playing only once, then shrugging and never picking up the game again (since, after all, it's still the same game that you're sick of, like most Meg Ryan movies still being...Meg Ryan movies). Being kind of long, the codes are kind of annoying to enter and take some time to do, and it might be a good idea to use a ruler or a straight edge of some sort when you start choosing letters and numbers to make sure you're not entering a line of one code and then a line of the one under it by accident.

Also, some codes won't work; I recall me and a friend playing a simultaneous two player version of Ms. Pac-Man, which, once I gave him the code book, I asked if he wanted any codes entered. He chose the one to supposedly keep the ghosts blue for twice as long (the better for us to eat them). As we started going through the screens, we were both pretty sure there was no difference at all. Yep: months later when I ordered a past code booklet for a game I got, it said in there that that code had been deleted. Whoopsie.

Plus -- or minus, really -- some games have two different versions (Starflight is one that comes to mind), and some codes will not work with, as you have to figure out which version you have and enter those codes; kind of annoying, but again, not the Genie's fault, it's the manufacturer's that found a glitch or something and redid the game into a second version. Some games might start screwing up if you're taken to a place in the game that didn't have finished coding for, like going to a place in a Sonic game where you'll suddenly get a bunch of garbage showing up on your screen. If you're a video game completionist, you'd probably also want the original code book updates, which probably aren't available any more, but I'm sure their codes are easily found on the internet, so this isn't much of a big deal.

HOWEVER...keeping the Genie working years later is, since it's got two pairs of contacts, one for the game and one to plug into your Genesis. I used (note how I say "used") to keep my Genie in a cartridge holder that I have because I didn't have many games and it looked really cool sitting in it's slot with all the games. Unfortunately I used it once for Star Control, which it kept on freezing up, due to the dust that had gotten into the contacts and all. It took THREE freakin' cleanings (at both contact ends) before I could finally have a "normal" (i. e. "non-freezing") game of S. Control. So if you don't have the original box for your Genie (or you have the later-released, smaller version, whose cardboard isn't very stiff and prone to warping and all to let the dust in, like mine is), then keep it in a sealed container (a small Tupperware container will do, a box, or just a baggie, which I use), and it should last you for years to come.

So, to summarize:

The Good

*Breathes new life into old games that you're sick of and thought you'd never play again

*Teaches old games new tricks (by jumping higher, "buying" items in games [that requires money] for absolutely nothing, etc.)

*IMPROVING some old games that had some design flaws (faster turning for some spaceships in Star Control, for example)

*Taking you to new places (jumping higher in original Sonic takes you to places you couldn't get to originally)

*You can turn codes off for various parts of a game without having to lose any code info/re-enter them

*You can pick 'n mix your codes

*Kick A**-looking! (Ok, so that's a minor thing, but you can't beat that glossy black label!)

The Neutral

*Good luck trying to find original code books nowadays!

The Bad

*Some games, even with the added features, you'll still only play once, and then never again

*The codes are kind of annoying to enter/take some time to do so

*Some codes won't work

*Some games have two versions, and codes might not work with them/you have to figure out which version you have

*Some games will screw up if you use too funky a code

*The unit can be a pain in the butt to keep clean/keep on working over the years

Final Summary: if you didn't buy one of these during the day, it's a must-buy, even now, as, even with the bummers of the Genie (again, most aren't the Genie's fault), it's still great! (Dunno how easy they are to find in the wild nowadays, though. But that's why it gets the highest rating possible from me.)

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