Unfortunately, my first impressions of the Mega Drive - and yes; its delivery was indeed met with the predicted barrage of condemnation - were not great. It came with the pack-in Altered Beast, and Super Thunder Blade, a game which set out to answer the question "What if Thunder Blade was actually really bad?".
Disappointed, I spent even more money to get Golden Axe, which - at least for a while - made the purchase somewhat worthwhile.
Fact is, there just weren't many great games early in the Mega Drive's life. I bought Budokan and Sword of Sodan - both objectively appalling - but it wasn't until I picked up Revenge of Shinobi that it was worth suffering through the ongoing parental disapproval.
Heck, the first review I ever had on Digitiser was for a Mega Drive game - Green Dog The Beached Surfer Dude (nice graphics, shame about the insufferably sluggish controls). Fortunately, Sega gradually got its act together, and while I maintained a somewhat playfully antagonistic relationship towards the company once I became a games journo, I retain a real affection for the system.
Heck, by the time the Mega Drive was in its twilight, it was performing at a level which made it feel like an entirely different generation of hardware to the console responsible for something like, I dunno, the risible Last Battle.
Suffice to say, it has been a while since I last reviewed a brand new Mega Drive game. And Tanglewood is indeed a brand new Mega Drive game - developed on, and for, the original Sega hardware, and released on cartridge (though most of us will be playing this via Steam). Is this something we need in 2018? Can it go beyond giving us anything more than a brief drag on the nostalgia pipe?
Tanglewood has not been short of publicity. It's a unique proposition in this era, an achievement akin to a transatlantic flight in a biplane, with a fully-stocked hamper full of era-specific snacks.
However, much of that publicity has been somewhat misleading. Not intentionally so, I believe, but we all saw Nymn, the game's star - a cute fox - and assumed it would be a platform game. Because, let's be honest here, the Mega Drive had more anthropomorphic animals than The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Tanglewood IS a platform game, in as much as there is jumping and there are platforms. However, while there are certain, probably deliberate, nods towards some of Sonic's tropes, it's more of a puzzle game. In the tradition of other platform-puzzlers, there's a certain degree of backtracking and exploration, a lot of trial-and-error, and plenty of sudden deaths.
Nymn lacks any defences of her own. She can't attack an enemy directly; there's no bouncing on heads. Instead, she has colour-coded special powers, such as the ability to glide, or ride upon the monsters - rather oddly acquired by rolling a little fluffy creature into a nest, and then basking in the light it produces (later, the fluffy things are used in other ways... as the actress once said to the bish').
In short, surviving the game is done by using your wits; avoiding monsters as often as you'll be dropping boulders on them.
Consequently, the pace is generally quite sedate - the adrenaline only really kicking in when you're being chased. I admit, it wasn't what I'd expected, and possibly not what I was looking forward to, but I accept that it's my baggage that I've brought to this party.
"Why have you brought that big suitcase to my party? Bit weird."
"IT DOESN'T MATTER."
"What are you doing now...? Stop filling up the suitcase with my drinks!"
What surprised me further with Tanglewood is that it isn't a Mega Drive game featuring the benefit of 20-odd years worth of development.
It doesn't even feel - or look - particularly like a late-era Mega Drive game, when developers were discovering ways to squeeze more power and graphical effects out of the hardware. It lacks the bells and whistles seen in games like Ristar and Dynamite Headdy, and doesn't even have the effects or variety you got in something like Earthworm Jim.
It's my fault for expecting that from a game which has, for the most part, been the work of one person, developing for the first time on archaic hardware. Regardless... when stacked up against similar indie games, created on modern hardware, there's no escaping that Tanglewood can feel slightly lacking by comparison. I know... that's missing the point, but nevertheless, some of the decisions slightly pull it in the wrong direction.
The soundtrack - when it kicks in - is beautiful, but it's absent a lot of the time. That's probably a deliberate choice - a nod to games like Flashback and Another World - but here, for some reason, it made the game feel empty. Again, it was probably intentional that the levels are so sparsely-populated, but that made it look a bit unfinished.
Likewise, the background graphics are somewhat repetitive and simple. Even the puzzles are relatively straightforward most of the time. Plus, working them out can be hamstrung by how similar everything looks; the levels aren't big enough to get lost in, but I sometimes dropped my bearings for a few moments.
That said, most of my slight disappointment with Tanglewood comes from my own expectations, rather than what's actually there. It's the gaming equivalent of a new Paul McCartney album; decent enough in its own right, but weighed down with the legacy which precedes it.
Had this been released in, say, 1994... I suspect I'd have been far more welcoming towards it. It succeeds in subverting expectations, the character animation is great, and it's a pretty unique blend of scrolling platformer, with the sort of insta-death monster-avoiding of Another World. There's nothing remotely bad about it, beyond what I brought to it.
Ultimately, Tanglewood is charming, and noble, and - for all my grumbles - I am happy that it exists.