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Action 52 (Genesis) artwork

Action 52 (Genesis) review

"A pretty bad game that's still better than the NES version and is great to own for its uniqueness."

I remember getting the collecting but in the summer of 1998 before my junior year in high school when I found a boxed Atari Jaguar in a pawn shop and after that I started buying everything I found for any system I could. In 2000 I met a super collector that had over 10,000 games that was slowly selling out. We soon became friends and I started buying plenty of stuff from him. He showed me what existed as well as many rare items and he gave me a general sense of direction with game collecting. I was young in my hobby so I had this ďkid in a candy storeĒ feel each time I went there and I slowly built up a want list of collectables and games that were famous of infamous for whatever reason. I got several consoles that I wanted and also got the NES version of Action 52 as well as Maxi 15 and the Legendary Tengen Tetris. The obscure want list got bigger and slowly I got most every game on it, though he had the Genesis version of Action 52 I never got a chance to buy it from him so it remained on my legendary want list for about 8 years now.

Fast forward to January 2009 and Iím still slowly getting getting my hand on each and everyone of those amazing collectables I wanted and I finally found a complete copy of Action 52 for the Sega Genesis. It instantly gave me that great feeling that you get when you get a game youíve wanted for so long though I knew it would be a bad game, I still wanted it and knew it would at least be interesting to play and also to share my thoughts with you guys in this review. The game started out on the fun side but quickly got old but nonetheless I sat through it and started writing this review; itís been one of the easier reviews to write since Iím at no loss for words, itís just that itís one of the more tedious ones Iíve had the fortune of sitting through.

Youíve gotta give Active Enterprises credit, they went out on a limb trying to sell such a crummy game with no marketing or advertising and on top of that, slapping a $199 price tag on both the Genesis and the NES ports. Doing something like that on a modern console would put someone in debt for the rest their life. Itís still one of my favorite collectables and feels like one of those cheesy pirate bootlegs found on countless cart based consoles of the day and because of Activeís stupidity, is a rarity any day of the week and on top of that most of the history of the game and of Active Enterprises is still surrounded in mystery though more is known about them as of late.

Anyway, enough of the historic rambling. Though you might have played the NES version and are ready to write this one off, the first thing youíll notice when you first play the Genesis version is that itís a huge improvement over itís NES cousin but still has the famous lack of quality Active is known for. The title screen is done well enough and would be good enough for even a big name release, this time around Active sorted each game by color. Games highlighted in yellow are for experts, purple are intermediate, green are beginner, blue are two player games only and white are special games. Like its NES cousin, more time was probably spent making the menu nice than there was making each game fun to play.

The games themselves are a mixed bag in quality with the majority (about 80%) being pretty awful. Though the game probably took time to complete since itís got so many little game, it was probably still simple to program since so many games use borrowed material from the other games. Only about 2 or 3 of the games would give you any hint that they are running on a 16 bit platform, the rest of them would probably run on the Colecovision just fine since most games of that era were more complex then the games present here. The page of games are pretty good for what they are, Bonkers and Darksyne, though hard, are quite fun and several games are also fun to play but as you keep going on through the menu, youíll realize that Active was hard pressed to come up with new source material and most of the games are pitiful copies of a previous game found on the cart earlier on. There are a few platform games early on (notably The Ooze and Haunted Hills) where each stage has a different layout and always present new challenges and kept me playing them for a while. Later games have stages that keep repeating over and over just with more enemies on screen. One of the other things youíll notice with the game is that Active kept every game set 9 stages before the game ended, if itís a two player game then there are always nine rounds before the game ends, it then flashes a score before resetting back to the Action 52 title screen. One other nice feature only found in this version is the ability to hit start then C to reset the game to the title screen.

Audio wise the game is not that bad, each game alternates between two different tracks each stage and most games have different music though some of the later games start recycling music. Most of them, though tinny and rough, are full of bass and rather catchy for such a generic game and I found all but a few of them more than tolerable and a few of them, notably the Ooze theme, had me wanting to rip them from the game so I could listen to them on my laptop.

Sound effects on the other hand are pretty bad, thereís probably only enough original ones for four of five games then the rest are recycled and overused too much. The explosions are very funny and thereís also nothing funnier than having your tank blown up in ďNormanĒ and hearing a screaming sound of a man dying, you have to hear it but itís very unfitting. Thereís also a few games where you see your player getting fried and you hear a badly done frying/zapping sound when you die. The other thing worth noting is the voice samples that say ďlevel 1Ē or ďlevel completeĒ during the beginnings and ends of each round. Itís cool at first when you hear it over and over with each game it gets old and grating.

Fans may be disappointed this time around when they realize that Cheetahmen, Activeís flagship game, has been reduced to a forgettable platformer without even the intro that the NES version had but thereís no big loss from that version either. Either way you look at it, itís still a great conversation piece and collectable, Active even included a few bonuses this time around. Youíll notice that at the end of the menu after game 52 that thereís a Music Demo that lets you listen to all of the music tracks and sound effects. The next option is a Randomizer which if hit will randomly choose a game for you.

I wonít score the game highly at all but itís not going to get as bad of a score as I bet some of you are hoping for. Iíd recommend adding a copy to your collection since itís just so unique. Donít expect to get much play time out of it but itís one of those games that you can pull out for a friend as theyíre almost definitely going to be curious and get some laughs out of it. Anyways Iím going to digress now so go and have some laughs with your copy of the game if you own one!

vgc2000's avatar
Community review by vgc2000 (November 21, 2021)

vgc2000's more extensive backlog of reviews can be found on GameFaqs. But some now live here.

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dagoss posted November 23, 2021:

Aside to the review: are you still collecting in the past year? I see the price of Action 52 (NES version) has more than doubled. I haven't bought a non-Switch game since August 2020.

So the Genesis version was actually made by a different developer, FarSight. Active developed the NES version internally with a pre-Atari crash dev cycle ("what's is a playtesting?"). The Genesis version appears to be a ground-up re-write rather than a port, hence the differences in some games. Interestingly, one of the people that worked on the Genesis version, Jay Obernolte, also worked on Color a Dinosaur. Can't make this stuff up.

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