Capcom had become a staple on Nintendo’s home system, the Famicom (in Japan) and the NES (in North America and elsewhere), and its place as a premier designer with an impressive arcade backlog eventually brought it over to Sega’s 16-bit behemoth, the Mega Drive (the Genesis in North America). Capcom, like a few other companies, embraced both Nintendo and Sega’s consoles producing what would often be exclusive releases for both in the 16-bit era.
But a few years before the SNES would arrive in the West, Forgotten Worlds hit PCs in Europe in 1989 and later, in the same year, the Sega Mega Drive in Japan with the Genesis following in 1990 taking its arcade roots into the living rooms of the burgeoning 16-bit revolution.
They all hailed from the arcade version (known as Lost Worlds in Japan) that launched in 1988 and which debuted Capcom’s new CPS hardware, a fancy new arcade board built to be used by multiple games with a simple swap of a ROM cartridge. Back in those days, it wasn’t unusual for a custom board to be built for a small number of games, or even just one game, by arcade manufacturers which added to the total cost for a game especially for arcade operators. With the CPS system, they could technically use the same cabinet without having to order an entirely new one or make complex changes with a kit to switch the game.
Forgotten Worlds in the arcade also featured a number of impressive technical bells and whistles. Voice samples were spoken during the short cut scenes in between each of the game’s major stages, the graphics were stunning at the time (and still hold up today), and the frenetic action was smoothly handled onscreen with a solid soundtrack behind it.
The game’s co-op mode casts player one as a big, Schwarzenegger-type with shades with the second player as a shades wearing black guy with a killer mohawk. There’s no other difference between either and both have equally terrible lines in the game.
The home version for the Genesis, in particular, had a manual that came with a two page story — an actual story — describing the background of the game. The time is the 29th century and two young men, raised in secret, have become the Nameless Ones fated to battle and free the Dust World. In ages past, it wasn’t always the ruins it is now until warships descended from the skies and conquered the world. With the humans enslaved and these strange overlords masters of the land, it is now up to these two to free the world and restore its true name: Earth.
Each of the three zones even gets a writeup in the manual describing the Dust World, the Pyramid of Terror where you fight “Rah the Sun Czar”, and finally, the Cosmic World where the War Tyrant awaits you at the top of the tower. Each zone is divided into several other areas and have their own strange bosses to contend with.
As cool as the fiction might be, the game that’s presented is a bizarre mish mash of ruined cities, high-tech fortresses, devastating bleeding edge weapons (our two heroes also fly standing up as if they have gravity belts), ancient Egyptian gods and flying archers, an oriental cloud land with old monks peeking above the clouds to spit death at you, and at the end, a winged boss that could be mistaken for a fallen angel. I guess for aliens, they like appropriating chunks of human culture in the same way we change clothes every day.
Now the arcade version was packed with a lot of sound and fury. There was a huge metal giant whose armor you could crack and blast, a gutted dragon that your weapons could punch holes into revealing rotting bone and organs, and fancy (and every expensive) weapons to upgrade with if you had collected enough “zenny” coins from annihilating your foes. Bad dialogue was spoken in cut scene stills.
The PC versions varied quite a bit in quality with the Amiga version looking and sounding the best out of them. When it came to consoles, it had come out on the Sega Master System, and later, the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. But it also came out in 1992 for the PC Engine’s CD-ROM system in Japan (the PC Engine would become the TurboGrafx-16 in the West) and was arguably the best version — perhaps even better than the arcade version in some respects such as its its enhanced soundtrack thanks to the CD format.
Forgotten Worlds’ arcade version would later return as part of the Capcom Classics Collection Vol 1 compilation released in 2005 for the PS2 and the Xbox making use of both analog sticks to both move and aim — a big and welcome advantage that made it fun all over again. It later reappeared on Nintendo’s Virtual Console for the Wii in 2008 whose Wii Remote was a poor substitute, according to IGN’s review, for a the old school Genny controller.
It wasn’t the greatest shooter in the world but Forgotten Worlds is certainly one of the weirdest with a bizarre backstory. Yet it was also a nice spot of crazy fun action adventure where two friends could pit themselves against dragons with giant, attacking rib bones, resurrected Egyptian gods, and colossal titans of iron. A fun Capcom classic!