Developer Playlist is The Black Panel’s occasional column devoted to industry figures and the games that inspire them. Each instalment features a ‘playlist’ of influential titles hand-picked by a talented creator.
It may have been one of the premier gaming companies of the 20th century, but SEGA hasn’t been well represented in our Developer Playlist series. Until now. A talented visual artist and games designer with Melbourne based indie Kumobius, James Greenaway is best known for his work on acclaimed iOS platformer Bean’s Quest. Here at The Black Panel, we prefer to think of him as the man who stares wistfully into the middle distance while daydreaming about the glory days of the SEGA Master System.
—– James Greenaway’s Playlist —–
Asked to nominate the games that he turns to inspiration, Greenaway devotes all three selections to SEGA classics.
A heavily remixed version of an obscure MSX title, 1988’s GOLVELLIUS: VALLEY OF DOOM is a fondly remembered action adventure game for the Master System. Its top down perspective and rescue the princess storyline continue to remind casual observers of The Legend of Zelda. A particularly challenging puzzle has prevented Greenaway from ever completing this 8-bit epic, despite his obvious affection for it. “In its own way, this made the game incredibly mysterious as I always knew I only ever scratched the surface.”
Released for both the Mega Drive and the Master system in 1991, high speed platformer SONIC THE HEDGEHOG spearheaded SEGA’s growth in the west. It is “the visual complexity and distinct art style” that continues to influence Greenaway’s work today. “The way the artists merged the flora and industrialization of Sonic’s universe into some kind of art deco theme park utopia is simply one of the highest achievements in the history of video game art,” he says.
While an entirely different arcade game also bears the Wonder Boy III moniker, it is 1989’s WONDER BOY III: THE DRAGON’S TRAP that Master System fans know and love. This side scrolling fantasy adventure sees players battle no fewer than five dragons. Greenaway considers it to be an early example of the Metroidvania genre, explaining that the “the exploration and discovery of doors and passageways that would require a different creature or sword to pass through made it an unforgettably mysterious and enchanting experience.”
Bean’s Quest and the future
A welcome throwback to the days of mascot platforming, Bean’s Quest stars a rambunctious Mexican Jumping Bean (complete with sombrero). The game has been widely praised for bringing precision platforming to touch screen devices. “Bean’s Quest was a really great learning experience,” Greenaway says, “but we’ve really come a long way since then.” So, what’s next for Kumobius and Greenaway? “We’ve had so many ideas bouncing around the studio while we’ve been working on it and now it’s time for those ideas to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world!”