Behold, ladies and gentlemen, how daring games used to be. Do you think a game about two "highly funky aliens from outer space," dressed in shades, designer sneakers and personalized gold chains would fly today? I certainly don't. But in those early Genesis days when Sega needed a hit to chew away at Nintendo's sizable lead, they'd give anything a shot - and what we got was a clever dystopian view of humanity, as seen through the eyes of street-talkin' aliens, plus an extremely impressive and inspired jazz/hip hop soundtrack.
The game itself had you and a friend searching randomly generated levels for pieces of your shattered spaceship. Along the way you'd run into unfriendly humans who, looking back now, were all mirrors reflecting our society back in our faces. They're all psychotic, aggressive maniacs who guard hordes of presents - not that they want or need those possessions, they just don't want anyone else to have them. It's a surprisingly high concept, one that's covered in great detail here. Oh right, the music... well it's funky as hell, man. I named it as a soundtrack ahead of its time, and still stand by it.
Above: Alien Break Down, like the rest of the content the game pokes fun at, is firmly entrenched in the early '90s
Above: Toejam Jammin is the game's theme song and one of the catchiest ditties you'll ever find on Genesis. Love that breakdown!
Above: A Toejam/Ludacris "jam up" from SlamminWolfgang
There's a brilliance here that was never recaptured in the Genesis sequel, nor the nine-years-later Xbox follow-up. The latter wasn't met with particularly high reviews or sales, with most critics citing the humor and gratuitous urban references as dated and unfunny. I never played TJ&E III so I can't say, but I know the original game, despite having heroes in stereotypical "street" attire, never came off as misguided or an attempt to curry favor with a certain audience.
Sega, you're sitting on a gold mine of lost franchises. Gimme Shinobi, gimme a new TJ&E and find a way to make Streets of Rage relevant again. Or publish another ho-hum Marvel game, whatever.
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