Rise of the Underdog – The Mega Drive’s Top Five Unsung Heroes

GalsiaAlex Kidd, Sonic the Hedgehog, Joe Musashi and Jelly Boy – four characters with one thing in common – legendary retrogaming status. Each a hero in their own right, punching, speeding and slashing their way through their respective gaming worlds. Their mission? To save the day again and again. Their purpose? Just being damn cool (or a foodstuff, in the case of Jelly Boy. Let’s forget we mentioned him/it). 

I was playing Streets of Rage 2 the other day, when something incredibly rare happened – I was killed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been graced by Streets of Rage’s ‘game over’ screen on countless occasions, but this time it was different. This time, I was slayed by Galsia. GALSIA!!

I hate to put a guy down, but Galsia was pathetic. How he came under the employment of Mr X, I will never know. Yet, as the screen faded to black and the Sega logo reappeared, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of respect for the little guy. “Good on you, you limp-wristed little urchin,” I thought to myself “Good on you.” Although I’d been defeated by an underdog, I’d been defeated by one of the Mega Drive’s prime cuts, the filet mignon of gaming’s unsung heroes.

Let us continue as we delve deeper, uncovering my personal top five of the Mega Drive’s seemingly insignificant minions, who deserve just that little bit more attention.

5. Butterdroid – Sonic & Knuckles

OopsMushroom Hill Zone – Sonic & Knuckles’ first level. Pressing right on the d-pad, Sonic takes his first few steps into a new adventure. A few more paces and three rings pass overhead. “Should I jump to collect them?,” I think to myself. “No, I’ll be ok.” Picking up speed, Sonic’s feet swirl, accelerating as he climbs his first slope, then BAM! He dies. What just happened? Butterdroid. That’s what.

Contrary to appearance the seemingly harmless Butterdroid is one of the Sonic series’ greatest killers.

If you ever find yourself speeding through Mushroom Hill’s lush landscape, ring-less, choosing not to roll into a ball – beware. Butterdroid WILL get you.

4. The Guy in the White T-Shirt – Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition

Sure, we all remember Ryu’s hadouken, Chun Li’s ‘Spinning Bird Kick’, Dhalsim’s ‘Yoga Fire’. But what of the greatest fighter of them all – the one guy with the move to end all killer moves? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the ‘Guy in the White T-Shirt’.

White T ShirtThe fading of the Capcom logo presents the gamer with a short intro sequence. We’re presented with a scene depicting two fighters in a city park. Cheering crowds surround the rivals and are blissfully unaware of the brutality about to unfold.

With strength of seemingly Zeus-like proportion, the ‘Guy in the White T-Shirt’ unleashes a killer right jab, his opponent flies off-screen, stage left. In a single swift move, our hero is victorious.

sf2Who is this man? Surely a warrior of such strength more than warrants a place amongst Street Fighter’s greats?

With his opponent floored, the camera pans upwards and reveals the Street Fighter logo upon a skyscraper roof. The image fades to reveal the game’s title screen and our fighter is gone – no doubt to unleash his fury upon his next hapless victim – possibly that shady character iin the bowler hat. Bravo sir. Bravo.

3. P. Wagner – World Cup USA ’94

USA94Roberto Baggio, Romário, Diana Ross – three of the 1994 World Cup’s most memorable figures. But what of P. Wagner, Germany’s all conquering forward? What do you mean you’ve never heard of him?

For me, the summer of ’94 was one filled with pure gaming joy and ultimately tainted by intense heartbreak. It was in that summer in which me and my dad embarked upon the ultimate sporting competition – a two player World Cup tournament on the Mega Drive’s World Cup USA ’94.

I took the role of the Italian national team, my dad, Germany. Thanks to the cartridge’s battery backup capacity, we spread our matches over an entire week. Skill, agility, incomprehensible crowd chants, the tournament was a 16-bit spectacle (and an absolute goal-fest, due to a huge flaw in the game’s physics).

The day of the final arrived – Germany vs Italy. We had made it. The referee blew his whistle and we were off. Trying my hardest, I couldn’t settle into the game. Something was strange, something was different. What was it? I’ll tell you what it was – P. Wagner. Under my dad’s control, this player was unlike anything I’d witnessed in the tournament so far, he was fast, agile, silky smooth. More to the point, he was a goal scoring machine.

IMG_3555The final whistle blew. 4-0. I’d been thrashed. Thanks dad.

Heartbreak swiftly turned to astonishment. P. Wagner, who was this enigma? I’ll tell you who – he was the prince of player pixels, the sprite of sporting supremacy. P. Wagner was one of the greatest sporting figures to grace the Mega Drive since that guy with the strange bleeding leg from Italia ’90. ‘GOOOAALL!’

2. Waster, Loser and Fodder – Cannon Fodder

Jools, Jops and Stoo – three names that conjure up an immense sense of pride, glory and heroicism. First in a line of seemingly endless recruits, this trio are responsible for singlehandedly taking down entire armies, fighting their way through jungle, river, sleet and snow. For those who dare cross their path, beware – death is all but guaranteed. Yet, all it takes is one stray bullet, one mis-aimed grenade and BOOM – poppy fertiliser.

Cannon_Fodder_HillAs the line of recruits extends beyond Boot Hill, the player is graced by further men of war – RJ, Ubik, Tadger and Mac. Mario and Luigi even make an appearance (not of the Italian plumber variety).

Recruits come and go and the hill is filled with tombstone upon tombstone. Sadly departed, our three initial heroes are gone – but not forgotten.

Yet, what of those who barely get a say in the matter? What of those unfortunate (if not lucky) recruits at the very back of the line? I present to you Waster, Loser and Fodder.

FodderLast in the line of a whopping 360 war-hungry individuals, chances are these three have never graced Cannon Fodder’s battlefields on any console, anywhere in the known universe. Any gamer that has called upon their questionable services either has immense patience, is an awful shot, or gets their kicks out of suicide on an industrial scale.

Waster, Loser, Fodder, I’d salute you… If I’d ever known you.

1. Galsia – Streets of Rage 1, 2, 3

Take ThatIn the number one spot we come full circle, back to the man of the moment – Galsia.

Picture the scene, Axel returns home – another day of brutal, bare-knuckle murder. The corpses of a few hundred of Mr X’s finest fighters line the city streets. Axel casually kicks off his trainers, opens a can of Mountain Dew and sits back on the sofa. Closing his eyes, he reflects on the day’s mauling. No matter how tough the bosses, nor the sheer volume of apples and roast chickens consumed, one name continues to ring round his head – “Galsia, Galsia, Galsia!”

Although he was overshadowed by Donovan, Y.Signal and friends, what Galsia lacked in strength, he more than made up for in numbers – he was everywhere! From the first level, to the last, you simply couldn’t shake the guy! For this reason alone, Galsia rightly deserves his place atop the underdog hall of fame. Grand-upper indeed.

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