The Rolling Thunder Series

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Rolling Thunder

I’ve described my childhood circumstances in many past articles, including the nature of my relationship with arcade games. I simply didn’t get to play them very often, because my grandmother felt it was a waste of money to give me quarters for games that I’d only last a few minutes on if I were lucky. Looking at it from that perspective, you could arguably see her point. But that doesn’t change the fact that arcade games and arcades in general were simply amazing back in the 80s and early-to-mid-90s. If you weren’t around in those times to experience arcades as they truly were, back when they were new, exciting, and relevant, it’s honestly very hard to try and really describe it to you. In many ways, while home gaming (especially my beloved NES) was amazing in it’s own right, some rightly viewed the arcades as the pinnacle of gaming. How it used to work, is that arcade games would inevitably be “bigger and better”, at least in terms of graphics and certain types of content, than home console or home computer games. So in some respects, arcade games back during their golden era, were the vanguard of video gaming as a whole.

As a gamer, you would go out to wherever your local arcade was, and if you weren’t, like me, lucky enough to live in a big enough town that had it’s own local dedicated arcade, then you went to whatever businesses where such machines could be found, whether it was local pizza joints, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bars (if you were old enough of course), or even laundry mats or gas stations/convenience stores. You would go to these places to experience the newest advancements in video game graphics or sometimes even brand new concepts in gaming. And then, as the process went, if you were lucky, some of these arcade games would eventually be “ported” (with obvious downgrades to accommodate lesser technology), to some kind of home platform that you hopefully owned or knew someone who had one.

Rolling Thunder
You know….it’s still beautiful, in a simplistic sort of way.


One of my own personal favorites, that I of course rarely got to actually play, was a game called Rolling Thunder. It was at my local Pizza Hut, where so many other treasures came and went over the years, like Klax, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Double Dragon II, and Final Fight, and Pole Position II, and Ghost Pilot, and 1943, and my biggest childhood arcade crush, Street Fighter II. Rolling Thunder was a very intriguing, unusual game that for whatever reasons caught my attention, and it was one of the games I gravitated to most whenever we’d go out for pizza. One of the allures it had, I’d have to say, was the unique graphical presentation. It was a sprite based game, as almost all were in the 80s and early 90s, but as you can see above, it had a very simple, shaded, almost “pre-rendered” look, akin to an early prototype of the sort of thing games like Donkey Kong Country would pull off years later. The characters also had unusually smooth animation for the time it released (1986), and the game had a very intense, but subdued, moody soundtrack, very much “secret agent” type of fare, and the whole thing was just very novel in it’s approach. I suppose the other reason this game stuck with me, is because of the “Game Over” screen: when you lost, it took you to the big screen from the title, where the boss “Maboo” (this big green fucker) would laugh at you for losing. That alone probably kept me coming back, because as a kid, this really genuinely upset me that this assclown was laughing at me, and I wanted revenge.

Rolling Thunder
This asshole haunted my childhood. What a jerk.

Rolling Thunder was developed by Namco, creators of groundbreaking classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. It was released in 1986, right in the midst of the “arcade boom” of that decade, and it was a different sort of game that caught people’s attention. At it’s core, it’s a side-scrolling shooter, similar to something like Contra, but unlike Contra where you just run, shoot, and hope you don’t lose too many lives per-level, Rolling Thunder was a lot more about strategy. The most immediately noticeable feature of the game when you start, is that you have limited ammo, even with the simple pistol you start with. You can’t ever totally run out of ammo with the pistol, but once you “run out”, you can only shoot one slow bullet at a time until you find more ammo. That alone plays into the “strategy” nature of the game.

Another main feature of the gameplay, is that the levels feature doors all over the place, and you can open pretty much any door you wish. However, it is sometimes a gamble, because certain doors have enemies that will pop out. Other doors (typically labelled “bullets”) hold more bullets for you, or even a temporary upgrade to a machine gun. And there are yet other doors that you can duck inside of to avoid enemies or enemy fire, and then pop back out to blast ’em in kind. Lastly, the other major facet of gameplay, and perhaps the one thing that this game really added to the gaming spectrum (as it was emulated by several other games down the road), was the ability to jump between the ground floor and an upper floor of each level. That in itself presented more strategy to be utilized by the player, to move upstairs or down to avoid obstacles or enemies. All in all, much like the graphics and music, like I said, a very unique game unto itself.

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

The basic story of the game, is that you are a secret agent called “Albatross”, who works for an international group called “W.C.P.O”, which stands for “World Crime Police Organization”. You are on a secret mission in New York, trying to rescue a fellow agent named Leila Blitz, who has been captured by the sinister terrorist secret society known as “Geldra”. Most of these “Geldra” goons are hooded baddies known as “Maskers”, who frankly look kinda like prototypes for the TMNT “Foot Soldiers”, as they are covered head-to-toe and come in different colors, each color having different weapons or abilities. The game has other enemies like mutant bats, ninjas, robots, etc., but the “Maskers” are the main course. Ultimately, the game plays out over two distinct parts, each having five levels, and at the end of the tenth, to save Leila, you face off with that green-faced asshole who laughed at you after every game over screen, “Maboo”. So at least, I guess, the developers were nice enough to give you the possibility of catharsis: if you could actually MAKE it through this fucking game, you could shoot that son-of-a-snake right in his smirking mug, and make him pay!

As you can see in the picture above, the game got it’s share of home “ports”, first coming to various home computers in 1987 and 1988. Tengen, Atari’s home console publishing arm that had infamous issues with Nintendo over their own less-than-scrupulous efforts to get around the NES lock-out chip that kept third party publishers from being able to put out more than five games a year on the system, put out many unlicensed (aka not officially approved by Nintendo releases) games for NES, and in 1989, one of them was Rolling Thunder. Namco didn’t yet publish their own games outside of Japan, and so they contracted Tengen to do it….which of course probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I digress. Nonetheless, Rolling Thunder on NES was, for all intents a purposes, a pretty strong port of the game. It didn’t have the technical prowess of it’s arcade original, but the core gameplay and atmosphere where still intact, and it’s still pretty damn fun to play. 

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

The first game was popular enough, that in 1991, Namco made a lesser-known sequel, Rolling Thunder 2. A slightly confusing affair, as the original game was apparently supposed to take place in the 60s, but now the sequel takes place in modern times, yet the characters in both games are named Albatross and Leila. In Rolling Thunder 2, Leila is now the main character, which is a cool touch, not only letting her get her revenge, but also making her one of the first playable female protagonists in gaming. The biggest addition to the sequel, was simultaneous 2-player action (a big feature in many arcade games of the day), with Player 1 playing Leila, and Player 2 controlling Albatross. They have identical abilities, outside of their visual differences, of course. The gameplay is essentially the same fare, focused on doors and jumping between upstairs and down. However, the level designs are more varied, this time splitting the game between Florida beaches and Egyptian ruins. The “Maskers” also this time become (if not visually) a bit more “Foot Soldier”-esque, as they are now robots, whereas in the first game they were live villains. Storyline-wise, Geldra, thought destroyed for good in the first game, is back, and it’s up to the heroes to stop ’em. 

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in the rest of the world), received a port of the game that included cut scenes and additional levels that featured new weapons and bosses. It was apparently successful enough to warrant Namco producing a third, Genesis exclusive game, Rolling Thunder 3, released only in North America in 1993. Gameplay-wise, it took a bit of a step back, once again only being single player, where part 2 was 2-players. But on the other hand, they greatly expanded the weapons format. Where the first and second games only made use of pistols and temporary machine-gun upgrades, in Rolling Thunder 3, you can choose one of 9 different “special weapons” before each stage begins, and you get two separate fire buttons, one for your regular pistol, and one for the special weapon. The special weapons, once out of ammo, can’t be used for the rest of the game, thus maintain the strategic element of gameplay. Another way the game differs, is that the levels now have no time-limit: instead, if you take too long, a sniper will eventually come out and try to kill you. Story-wise, the game seems to be a companion piece to Rolling Thunder 2, where while our heroes Leila and Albatross are busy fighting the main Geldra forces in that game, in RT3, a new hero, special agent “Jay”, is chasing after Geldra’s “Number Two” in command, another green-faced mother-fucker named “Dread”. In an era when the Super Nintendo tended to get most of the cool third party published exclusive games, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3 were an exception to the rule. 

Rolling Thunder
Albatross, Leila Blitz, and…………….Jay. Just Jay.

All in all, while I’m not as experienced with the sequels, I need to play them more, because the original Rolling Thunder will always have a special place in my gaming heart. If you’ve never heard of or never had a chance to play these games, find a way to do so (however that may be), because there are fun times to be had, guaranteed. And give my old pal “Maboo” a kick in the balls for me while you’re at it.

Monster Party

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Monster Party

When I was a kid, once I had my own NES, I was able to rent a game for it at least once a month or so. At the local All The Best Video where I lived, they had a surprisingly decent game rental selection for a small town, and their NES stock was, I’d wager, at least 100 or so games deep at one point in time. Sufficed to say, from about late 1990 to mid-1995, I rented myself a fair share of games. I’d even go so far as to say that over that time I probably rented well over half of what they had available. Every once in awhile we’d rent from a different store, but it was usually All The Best, and so I got well acquainted with their rental section.  
I was the kind of kid that would check something out just to check it out, and playing game roulette was pretty much like any other form of gambling: sometimes you won big, sometimes to lost hard.

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The worst game I ever rented, hands down, was “Defenders of Dynatron City”. Now mind you, I rented some really shitty games, games that were barely playable, crappy stories (if there even was one), you name it, but I almost always stuck with them and tried to beat them if I could. I didn’t mind if a game was “bad” as a child, I just loved playing video games. But there was one in particular that stuck out as just pure, unadulterated horseshit, and even in my childhood innocence and tolerance, this was one stinker that I just couldn’t put up with. It was so bad, I only played it one time after renting it, and only for about an hour before I probably literally said “fuck it” (to myself, quietly of course). Honestly, I might have to do a whole article on that shit-fest someday, as obviously I’m already having flashbacks and going on about it way too much.

But of course, for every stinker I rented, I’d have to say that there were at least two decent games I’d also get, I lucked out in usually having some pretty good taste. A lot of times, all you had to go on to key you off on what you should try, was box art. Box art back in the 8-bit era genuinely was ART, literally it was typically hand-drawn, some cool image to draw you in. Sometimes the image was a total lie and the game was crap. Other times you lucked out and the image was a preview of how awesome the game was going to be. Every once in awhile, I’d really strike gold, and get a game that, at least to me, was pure awesomeness. One such game was an obscure little nugget by the title of “Monster Party”.

monster party - NES

Just look at that box art. One quick glance at it should be all you’d really need to see why I was instantly attracted to this game. Hell, if I’d never played this game in my life and saw this cover today, it’d STILL draw me in. To be fair, not all those monsters pictured are actually in the game. I’m not sure there was a Gillman, nor a Yeti/Sasquatch/Whatever that thing is, or Dracula. But that hardly matters, what matters is that that art is freakin’ awesome, and seeing it at 10 or 11 years old, I absolutely HAD to play it.


For a bit of background, the game was developed by a group called Human Entertainment, creators of the equally bizarre NES game “Kabuki Quantum Fighter”, as well as the Japan-only Fire Pro Wrestling series, and the slightly more well known Clock Tower series which would later appear on the original Playstation. It was published by toy company Bandai, who had a video games division mostly used to promote their properties like Mobile Suit Gundam.  The game originally released in the states in June 1989, but I didn’t personally play it until probably around 1992 or 1993, I’m going to say. As for the game itself, in a nutshell, the story features a young kid named Mark, who is on his way home from a baseball game, when he was suddenly happened upon by a gargoyle of a fellow called Bert. Bert needs his help in ridding his home world of evil monsters who are out of control. Mark says “No thanks”, but Bert convinces him it’s totally kosher, grabs him, magically fuses with him so they are one being, and away we go to “Dark World”.

monster party - NES

One look at the title screen, with it’s weird but oddly cheery music, that toothy-grinned monster face, and a parade of monsters that pass by the screen if you wait awhile (all of which are bosses later in the game). Just look at that green slime, and even the Jack O’Lantern icon with which you choose “Start” or “Continue”. This game right from the get go just kind of screams “Halloween Game!”, which is why I’m here talking to you about it now. Catchy music? Check. Cool looking title screen? Check. Jack O’Lantern? Check. Parade of interesting monsters that makes me want to see more? Check. Everything in order to make me super interested in this game, right from the first screen. So you press start and…….

monster party - NES

As you can see, this is the very next screen you get after pressing start. I must tell you, as a kid I had never ever seen anything like this in a game before. I was so momentarily shocked to see a dripping blood-filled screen with bloody skeletons, that I’m pretty sure I must’ve done a double take, and then looked over my shoulder to make sure my grandmother didn’t see. Because if she had, it might’ve been game over before I even got to really play the thing. Deep down inside, I was probably excited (if not also a little scared) by this image, but even though I should have known better, seeing this didn’t prepare me for what would come…

monster party - NES

So the very NEXT screen you get to, is the first level, and you are immediately smacked in the face by an overdose of bright and colorful and cute. I was probably as genuinely surprised by this as I was by the bloody screen before. The music is bright, chirpy and bouncy, there’s hot pink in the background, the platform blocks are smiling at you. I mean what’s a few flaming ninjas trying to kill you and human legs sticking out the ground trying to kick you between friends? Even the first boss encounter is fairly tame, a talking plant that spits bubbles at you. The gameplay was solid, it seemed fun, I could get over the weirdness of going from bloody bones to happy faces. What the hell, I was digging this game. And thus I was totally suckered in, just like the game wanted me to be, totally unprepared for what happens when you reach the screen above….

monster party - NES

So like I said, you get to this huge, weird looking tree with happy faces all over it, which comes at about the stage’s half-way point, everything seems normal, hunky dory, no problem. Then you take a few steps from left to right on the screen, and suddenly the game has a flashing lights seizure. When the lights stop flashing, it goes from cute to what you see above. Gooey, gory, grotesque and just….goddamn. Again, as a kid, I had never seen anything like this in a game before, and even that “Round 1” bloody bones screen before had not prepared me for the “GOTCHA” transformation moment this game pulls on you in the middle of the first level. It isn’t just that bright colors and happy faces are replaced by slime and bloody skulls and melting zombie faces. The happy, bouncy music also changes, to a slow, dark, brooding (and awesome) piece that really sets the change in tone, even more so than the graphics. Just so you know, this is the only time anything like this happens in the game. The rest of the levels, while all unique and bizarre in their own right, stay what they are the whole time. But then again, to be fair, I’ve never played any other game where something like this happens. So just for this first level shake-up alone, the game is noteworthy. But that is hardly all.

monster party - NES

This is one of the “bosses” from the game, in fact the second one you happen upon before the level goes batshit. This one picture pretty much tells everything you need to know about Monster Party. It has a quirky but dark, sense of humor that pervades throughout, and an overwhelming (but still cool) cloud of “What the hell?” weirdness that just kind of hangs over everything. The way the game works, is that you play as Mark most of the time, but can change into Bert buy getting the occasional “Dr. Mario” looking pill capsule, that will temporarily transform you. Of course, you WANT to play Bert as often as you can, because he’s a cool dragon/gargoyle man who can fly and shoot beams from his eyes. Mark is cool too, but I mean, really, he is just a kid with a baseball bat. As Mark, you hit things with your bat, or as you quickly learn is better for boss encounters, you hit projectiles that some enemies shoot back at them. As Bert, of course, you flap around and try to shoot them from a distance with your beams. As for those boss encounters, the way this game handles bosses is a bit different from most, as with the exception of the very last boss, there are no real “end of level bosses”. Instead, there are rooms scattered throughout the level you can enter. Some have nothing in them, but a few (usually 3-4) in a given level will hold a boss you must defeat. You have to destroy all the bosses in a level to get the key to open the gate at the end and move on. And of course, all of the bosses are very, very strange.

monster party - NES

The “Sorry I’m Dead” monster is more of an in-game joke than a “boss”, as it’s already dead when you get there, and you get a little question mark power up from it (usually) for doing nothing. But the other bosses in the game, with only one real exception, you actually have to fight. Some aren’t so bad. Others, like this Jerk O’Lantern above, can take some real effort (and patience) to beat. He in particular jumps around the room and shoots tiny pumpkins at you in various directions. The bosses in this game vary wildly, and most are weird as hell.

monster party - NES

The picture above shows a boss encounter from the second level. The background is a visual homage to the 1980s “The Fly” remake, and the boss itself consists of three different kinds of giant friend Japanese food that you must fight one at a time, as they bounce around the screen trying to kill you. Other bosses include a mummy that throws it’s wrapping at you, a giant spider that wants to drink your blood, a zombie rock star with a killer mohawk, a super annoying dragon, the Grim Reaper, and even an adorable kitten that turns evil and throws TINY KITTENS at you, which you have to bat back at it to kill it. Yup.

Another thing about the game’s bosses that should be noted, is that each of them says something right before the battle starts, and a lot of the quotes are very off-kilter or even cheesy. For instance, at one point you fight a Sphinx statue that complains it’s legs have fallen asleep. There is a giant Samurai ghost who tells you he’s a slowpoke, which he is. A minotaur that yells “MOOOOVE IT!” (get it, MOO?), before hurling cows at you.  A giant Pharaoh head that exclaims “Oh boy, Mark soup!”. And perhaps the most dastardly of all, a pair of zombies that rise up out of the ground, and tell you to “Watch My Dance”. The reason this is dastardly, is because you naturally assume that like all the other bosses, you have to beat the shit out of this boss until it dies. Problem is, you beat it and beat it and beat it, and they just keep getting back up and dancing some more. Quite frustrating. It isn’t until you give up in exasperation and just sit there for a minute, that you realize these zombie guys never once attack you. Literally all they do is dance. And if you watch them dance long enough, their song will end, they’ll melt back into the ground, and you get your reward. “Watch My Dance” indeed.

monster party - NES

It kind of goes without saying by this juncture that Monster Party is one of the single oddest and most outrageous games ever made. The fact that so few gamers have probably ever heard of it, let alone played it, makes that both better and also worse. Better because it’s like this awesome secret that only you and a few others have shared. But also worse because it’s a good enough, and weird enough game that you know it’s a secret other people NEED to get in on. Any gamer worth their salt, as far as I’m concerned, needs to check this game out. It’s hard as hell (especially towards the end). And it’s even sadistic at times if you don’t know what you’re doing (such as with the goddamn haunted house maze level). As you can see, you’re able from level one to build up a lifebar that stretches the whole length of the screen almost. But the trick is, it’s harder than hell to actually KEEP it anywhere near full, and you don’t regenerate much health between levels. This game is, in fact (while I kinda hate the phrase), the epitome of “NES hard”. But it’s still totally worth playing. It puts you through eight stages of hell. But it’s a hell that if you’re persistent enough, and also a bit lucky enough, you’ll maybe get through, and be glad for it.

Godzilla: Monster of Monsters

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One of the knocks on this game is that it’s too repetitive, and I’ll grant that it really is. ~Jesse Moak

Godzilla: Monster of Monsters

If you’ve been following my blog, you might have figured out by now, via my site logo, and various graphics employed on the Twitter and Tumblr pages, etc., that I’m a pretty big Godzilla fan. In fact I pretty much decided from the moment that I began Retro Revelations, that Godzilla was going to be the unofficial mascot. When I created the logo banner graphic, I did so with several thoughts in mind. The foremost among them, was that having a depiction from a video game would help convey my love for video games, Godzilla, and film in general, as well as helping to convey what this blog site is all about: All things Retro and Classic. Plus I felt that utilizing that particular pic, which is actually from the ending of the game I’m about to talk about, was especially poignant, because the blog slogan is “Revisiting the Past, One Blog at a Time”, and I felt the image of Godzilla and Mothra looking at the Earth from the Moon, was especially evocative and kind of helped drive that home. So there ya go, a free peak into the creation of this site!
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I grew up loving Godzilla, and while I have yet to get around to writing about the classic movies I love so much, trust me, it’s going to happen.  I do not clearly remember which Godzilla film I saw first, as I grew up in a (better) era of television, when local stations would often show old monster movies late at night. But the first G-film I do clearly remember, is the first one I ever got on VHS tape. It may well have been the first VHS tape of my childhood that was actually “mine”, and not just the family’s. That movie was “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” (1966), which is still my second favorite Godzilla movie to this day. My first, of course, being likely the second movie I ever got on VHS, “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero” (1965). Regardless, from at least the age of 8 or so, I was a Godzilla fanatic as a child. In fact it sucks that there were several Godzilla/Toho films I didn’t get to see as a kid, because they were never on TV or I never saw them on tape, that I wish I could have just because I would have enjoyed them so much more as a child, when everything generally felt more awesome. You know, before we all grow up and die a little inside. But sufficed to say, being a kid obsessed with both Godzilla, and Nintendo, discovering there was a Godzilla NES game was bound to lead to love at first sight.
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The game in question is “Godzilla: Monster of Monsters” for the NES. It was actually published by Toho, the studio who created Godzilla and produced his films. It was developed by a little known (now defunct) studio known as Compile, mainly known for their classic shoot ’em up games such as Aleste, Gun-Nac, Blazing Lasers, and The Guardian Legend. But with this game, they took a crack at the side-scrolling action game, and it certainly is a unique take on the genre. As an adult, I have heard many negative things said about this game, and to be fair, it’s not the greatest game I’ve ever played. But to also be fair, for what it is it’s also pretty solid, and doesn’t deserve some of the shit that the internet retro gaming community has heaped upon it. As you can see in the pic above, in the game you travel to different planets, trying to stop the forces of Planet X, and each world map is depicted as a kind of chess board, with hexagonal spaces. In a way, the game plays out, at least on the surface, similar to a turn-based strategy game, as both monsters you control (Godzilla and Mothra) get a turn to move on the board, and then the enemy monsters also get a turn. Though that’s about as far as that goes, as there is literally no other real strategy to the board, you simply have to move across it, defeat the enemy monsters, and take out the enemy base on each planet (the space with the satellite dish thingy). 
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Each space on the board that you move to, represents a short side-scrolling level that you must play through as either Godzilla, who can move two spaces per turn, or Mothra, who can move four. Godzilla is stronger, with punches, kicks, a tail whip, and of course his “destroys everything” thermo-nuclear breath. But Mothra is faster, can fly, and attacks with eye beams and “poison wing dust”. Basically, it’s a lot easier getting through shit as Godzilla because he’s a living wrecking machine, but Mothra is able to fly over many of the ground enemies, so it is technically possible to get through some stages faster with her. Once you reach a space on the map next to an enemy monster, or they move next to you, it initiates a more fighting game style one-on-one battle. For each monster you defeat, your power and life bars upgrade a bit. After you defeat the monsters, and take out the enemy base, which consists of just getting to the end of that stage, you have beaten that world, and move on to the next. One of the knocks on this game is that it’s too repetitive, and I’ll grant that it really is. There is a bit of variety to the stages, with moon levels, weird alien jungle levels, firey volcano levels, strange subspace levels, and of course the robotic enemy base stages. But that’s about it, and they all pretty much play out the same, move left to right, destroy enemies, get to end of stage, move on to the next. So in that sense, for that part of the gameplay I can see how some could get turned off by it. But as a kid, I didn’t give a single shit. This was GODZILLA, on NINTENDO, and I actually received it as a gift for my (if I remember correctly) 9th birthday, along with several other games such as Loopz and Spy vs. Spy. But Godzilla was the one I cared about, naturally.
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After apparently traveling throughout the solar system or at least some of their moons, the final destination is Planet X. In the film “Invasion of the Astro Monster” (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero), the only Godzilla film to actually feature him going into space (and in my mind the best Godzilla film ever made), Planet X is depicted as a small, barren, rocky planet. But in the game, it’s depicted kind of like the Death Star from Star Wars, as every stage on the board is now an “enemy base” stage, complete with non-stop guns and missiles and ships firing at you from above that you must trudge through. It’s worth noting, for fellow Godzilla fans out there who would know what the hell I’m talking about, that while the game does feature several generic enemies, such as that goofy space dragon and fiery phoenix bird in that screenshot further up, many enemies from the game are also taken from other Godzilla/Toho films. Some of these include the Moonlight SY-3 ship from “Destroy All Monsters” (1968), the Gotengo ship from “Atragon” (1963), the Super X ship from “Return of Godzilla” (1984), and Planet X flying saucers from “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero”. There were also generic missile launchers and electric “Masers”, etc., featured in various classic Godzilla films.

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On Planet X, as with the previous worlds, you have to face all the monsters you previously faced, plus of course the game’s final boss, King Ghidorah, who also naturally happens to be the hardest monster in the game. If you can manage to take his three-headed ass out, and destroy the final enemy base, you have saved the Earth, send the Planet Xians packing out into space exile, and get to enjoy the end credits. One thing that has to be said about this game, is that while the gameplay is “so-so”, and the graphics are decent, the one area that really shines, is the music. “Godzilla: Monster of Monsters” features one of the best NES soundtracks I’ve ever heard in my life, I mean the tunes in this game genuinely rock. Every planet has it’s own tune, as does every monster (with the exception of Moguera and Baragon sharing a tune). The ending/end credits theme, is honestly up there with the Super Mario Bros. 2 end credits theme as one of the coolest and most satisfying “I just beat the game” songs I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. And similarly, it’s very soft and somber, kind of a nice closer to the game.

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If you’ve never played “Godzilla: Monster of Monsters”, while it’s not the BEST game in the universe, if you’re a Godzilla fan, merely curious, or just want to enjoy some great “chip tunes”, I highly suggest checking this game out. It brought me a lot of great memories (and a few frustrating game deaths) from my childhood, and I still to this day consider it a “classic” in it’s own right. Cheers!

Mega Man V (Gameboy)

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Mega Man V for Game Boy is awesome on many fronts. It’s the only all-new, completely original game in the Game Boy series. ~Jesse Moak

Mega Man V

Back again, with  another installment of the Forgotten Gems series, looking at more obscure (but awesome) classic video games from yesteryear! Today, in honor of classic Mega Man being announced as a playable fighter in the new upcoming Smash Bros. game, I decided it was a good time to look back at one of my favorite games, in fact my second favorite, and quite frankly, the second BEST Mega Man game ever made, Mega Man V for Game Boy!

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Not to be confused with Mega Man 5 for NES, this particular gem was the fifth and last of the Game Boy series of Mega Man games, known in Japan as “Rockman World”. And also, while Mega Man 5 on NES was a decent, solid game, Mega Man V on GB is without question a far superior creation. The Mega Man games on the Nintendo Game Boy had, up until now, basically been rehashes of the NES games, using bosses and elements taken directly from those, with only a few things (like the Mega Man Killer robots) actually new.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

For example, the first game, “Mega Man: Dr. Wiley’s Revenge”, features four of the six robot masters from the original Mega Man on NES, then after defeating them, in Wily’s Castle, you must fight four of the robot masters from Mega Man 2. In Mega Man II (the GB series used Roman numerals), you fought the other four robot masters from MM2 on NES, and then four from Mega Man 3. This continued on through Mega Man III and IV on Game Boy, as a typical formula. But then, lo and behold, the wonderful oddity that is Mega Man V came about, a game possessed of a totally, 100% brand new story, bosses, level elements, etc. And not only was it all new, but it was/is also AWESOME. Allow me to elucidate.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Mega Man V actually released after the also-fairly-good Mega Man 6 on NES, in September 1994. Along with being it’s own, all-new game, it also was the only Mega Man game to make use of the Super Gameboy peripheral, which allowed Super Nintendo owners to play Game Boy games on their home console, and even add limited color palettes to them. Some later Game Boy titles, such as Mega Man V, came programmed with some SGB compatibility, so as you can see above, they had their own pre-set palettes, as well as cool little graphic borders at the edge of the screen. Beyond that nifty addition, the game itself was one hell of a package.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

I didn’t personally get a Game Boy until Christmas 1994, but when I did, I was surprised by a fairly random-yet-awesome assortment of games. Among them, were Kirby’s Pinball Land, the awesome 100 level Game Boy remake of Donkey Kong, the first Wario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (still to this day my favorite classic Zelda game), Tetris, and Mega Man V. I’m not 100% sure all these years later that I got ALL those games on Christmas with the GB, or if I got a couple of them later which is totally possible. But there were several, and Mega Man V was among them. Looking back, Mega Man V has to be, hands down, my second favorite Mega Man game ever made, behind only the unbeatable classic Mega Man 2 on NES. Mega Man Vreally has everything, from the Super GB functionality, to a cool original story, to the fact that it is one rare case in the series where NONE of the weapons you gain from beating the robot masters seem useless. They all are at least somewhat useful, a few of them being arguably the best weapons in the series.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

The coolest, and most memorable, out of all of these, is Saturn’s weapon, the “Black Hole”, which allows you to create a small black hole in the air which sucks up all items and enemies on screen, and drops any items neat-as-you-please right into your lap. Easily the coolest Mega Man weapon ever conceived. But even so, some of the other weapons you get are pretty sweet too. Such as the “Salt Water” attack, where you fire a ball of water, which then splits on impact into three smaller balls that bounce all around the room. Or the “Grab Buster”, which fires a shot that leeches energy from enemies, refilling two units of your health meter.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

Mega Man V is so stuffed full of awesome, that even the standard Mega Buster is pretty much the coolest it’s ever been, before or since. In every other Mega Man game (from 4 on NES onward) you could charge the Mega Buster to build up and release one big, powerful blast. Well in Mega Man V for Game Boy, Dr. Light, Mega Man’s creator, upgrades the Mega Buster weapon to create the Mega Arm, which instead of charging and firing a huge shot, you fire a huge Mega Man fist at enemies. And if you collect enough bolts (the in-game currency), you can upgrade this even further, to make it charge faster, to grab items from clear across screen, and to lock on to regular enemies and hit them over and over till they explode.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

If THAT isn’t the single coolest regular weapon in just about any video game ever, I don’t know what is. Rush, Mega Man’s robotic dog pal (introduced in Mega Man 3 on NES), even gets into the act, transforming into “Rush Space” for the space journey form Earth to (SPOILERS) Dr. Wiley’s secret space station. In this level you ride in Rush like a spaceship, and the level plays out like a classic side scrolling shoot’em up game, similar to R-Type or Gradius.

Mega Man V

The actual plot of the game is pretty unique as well. The Earth has been attacked by mysterious space robots called “Stardroids”, and in Mega Man’s first encounter with their leader, Terra, his Mega Buster has no effect on their super-hard space metal. Thus Dr. Light upgrades it to the more powerful Mega Arm, and once again he must rush off to save the world. The robot masters themselves are singularly unique in the Mega Man universe as well, because unlike the classic Mega Man series, where every boss is named “____ Man”, or the X series where almost all bosses are named/based off of some kind of animal, in MMV on Game Boy, the “Stardroids” are named after the 9 planets of our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Terra (Earth), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto (which is STILL a planet, fuck the haters). As it later turns out, it was Dr. Wiley who discovered these mysterious space robots in some kind of ancient ruins, and reactivated and reprogrammed them to, what else, take over the world.

Mega Man V - Gameboy

After defeating them, surviving the hard-as-nails space shooter level including the boss fight with the Skull on the front of Wily’s space station, and then making it through the station, fighting the “Mega Man Killer” robots one last time, and once again stomping Wily himself, (SPOILERS), you even have to fight one last super-top-secret space robot that Wily also discovered, a fairly all-powerful guy called “Sunstar”. He’s one hell of a final boss, let me tell you.

Mega Man V

I can’t possibly talk about Mega Man V, however, without telling you about possibly the coolest and most unique asset this game has. Dr. Light also creates a new robot pal to assist Mega Man in his battles. And unlike Flip-Top Eddie, or the robo-bird Beat, etc., who are-yet-aren’t useful, THIS little guy is fucking bad ass. It’s a little green robo-cat named “Tango”, and while he only has one function, it’s just about the most awesome function you could hope for. When you summon him, he teleports on-screen, lets out a “meow”, and then transforms into what basically looks like a giant buzz-saw, bouncing all over the screen and destroying everything in sight. And like Rush, you can refill his energy, so that you can use him throughout the game.

Mega Man V

The developers originally added Tango because they wanted a new robot pal that wasn’t in the NES games. But sadly, as cool as he is, he more or less got forgotten in the future. He can be bought as an item in the SNES/Game Boy Advance game Mega Man & Bass, and makes a cameo playing in the item shop in the downloadable game Mega Man 10. But outside of that, he never has the prominent role he had in Mega Man V. And to me, that sucks, because he’s an awesome, and incredibly useful character.

Mega Man V

So, in summary, Mega Man V for Game Boy is awesome on many fronts. It’s the only all-new, completely original game in the Game Boy series. It’s the only game in the entire Mega Man franchise, to my knowledge, that has totally unique names for the bosses. It’s the only game that features the super-useful Mega Arm weapon. It’s the only Mega Man game I can honestly thing of, where MOST of the robot master weapons you gain are actually useful. It’s got the cool Rush Space shooter level. It’s got a great soundtrack. It’s fun, even though it’s tough as nails to beat. It’s got fuckin’ TANGO the robo-cat! Basically, the game just has everything you could want in a Mega Man game, or an action/platformer game in general. It truly stands alone, and I would have to say, in my opinion at least, is the second coolest Mega Man game ever created.

Mega Man V

So if you’ve never tried it yet, give it a whirl! Though sadly, as of now, Capcom has yet to release this game for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Hopefully they eventually will, sooner rather than later, because it is one forgotten gem that ABSOLUTELY deserves to be played and recognized by a wider audience. Cheers!

[Check out more from Jesse on Retro Revelations]

Mighty Final Fight

Mighty Final Fight
Feel the hi-top of Justice

 The Nintendo Entertainment System certainly had a rather wide variety of game types during it’s 10 year existence. From platformers, to action games, to shooters, to puzzle games, sports games, role playing games, you name it. But the one genre we’re here to talk about today is a fine little slice of gaming known as the “Beat ’em Up”. What defines a “Beat ’em Up”, as opposed to a “Fighting Game”, is that in fighters, your objective is to beat the snot out of the guy across the screen from you, and the person who takes the most rounds wins. But in a “Beat ’em Up”, the objective is to beat the snot out of every single thing that moves on the screen, and to do so until you beat all the bad guys in every single level, and finally save the day. So in other words it’s the difference between a Mohammed Ali fight, and a Jackie Chan film. The NES had it’s share of this fine genre, which enjoyed it’s “boom” period in the late 80’s and early 90s. Double Dragon, Renegade, River City Ransom, Toxic Crusaders, and of course Battletoads all graced the classic console. But I’m here today to tell you about one such game, released late in the NES’ life, years after the Super NES had launched, that may have gotten passed over by many. I’m here to correct that, because it just might be the best of the bunch….

Mighty Final Fight
Back when almost everything Capcom made was gold…..

Most gamers worth their salt know that the first game to truly establish the conventions of the genre known as the “Beat ‘Em Up”, was 1987’s Double Dragon. Developed by Technos, DD became an arcade smash hit that spawned a franchise, and the rest is history. Most gamers worth their salt are ALSO aware of the fact that while Double Dragon started it, another game that came along in 1989, pretty much perfected it. And that would be Capcom’s Final Fight. Originally meant to be a semi-follow up to their first (and terribly obscure) Street Fighter game, this classic was originally going to be called “Street Fighter ’89”. But once they realized it had really nothing to do with their first foray into one-on-one fighting, they renamed it “Final Fight”, and it was off to the races.

Mighty Final Fight

Now, Final Fight was an amazing arcade game, which received a very good port for Super Nintendo, and believe it or not even a solid one for Sega CD. The game was also popular enough to spawn two SNES only sequels, which saw it change characters, but kept the overall look and feel. WELL, around the same time that FF2 came out in 1993, another little known gem also released, for the by then fading-but-still-awesome original NES. And that game, was called “Mighty Final Fight”. Mighty Final Fight is a strange but wonderful beast. It is a fairly comical retake on the arcade original, complete with “chibi” (small, cartoony) versions of the main characters and enemies, and a goofier feel over all. But with the goofieness also came something that most wouldn’t expect, especially out of an NES “port”, and that is the fact that while the SNES version was a great game although lacking 2-player, this NES “remake” was actually superior in a lot of ways, even to the arcade original.

Final fight
The arcade lineup, as seen in the Sega CD version.
Mighty Final Fight
The lineup as seen in the NES. Notice the differing art styles.

For one thing, unlike the better known SNES port, where you could only play characters Cody and Mike Haggar for some strange reason, in MFF you get to choose between all three from the arcade, which includes the ninja characer Guy. Like the SNES version, MFF is only single player, but honestly, that’s small potatoes compared to what they added to the game. Not only does the overall action feel even “meatier” with a superior sense of hit detection, but Capcom also took a page out of the NES port of Double Dragon’s book, and added an rpg like element wherein your character gains experience for every baddie he thrashes, and eventually you “level up”, with each level unlocking new and cooler attacks, as well as extending your life bar.

Final fight
The game’s first boss, “Damnd”, also known as Thrasher.
Mighty Final Fight
Thrasher as seen in the NES version. Aren’t they adorable?

The game also includes most of the content from the original, though it only has 5 stages instead of the arcade’s six, in this case missing the “Subway” area. That aside, it’s got everything the arcade did with a bit more besides, and beyond that, even has one hell of a bad ass 8-bit soundtrack. And again, the soundtrack is arguably superior to the arcade or even SNES versions. All around, Mighty Final Fight is one hell of a game, loads of fun, and a perfect example of why the NES lasted an amazing 10 years in North America, because up through 1994 it kept getting sprinklings of high quality games such as this. In fact, 1993 was a huge year for the ol’ NES all around, as it not only got Mighty Final Fight, it also saw the releases of games like Kid Klown, Zen the Intergalactic Ninja, Duck Tales 2, Battletoads & Double Dragon, and of course Kirby’s Adventure.

Mighty Final Fight
An example of the upgraded moves you get with each level, in this case Cody’s uppercut.

So there you have it folks! If you haven’t ever gotten a chance to get your hands on this true “Beat ‘Em Up” classic, or haven’t even ever heard of it until now, please do yourself a huge favor and do so.You really can’t do much better in it’s genre, and as far as I’m personally concerned, it’s one of the greatest games ever crafted. So fire this bad boy up, and have a great skull-knocking time, on me! Cheers!

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Welcome back to another look into gaming’s obscure, but awesome, past. Today’s exhibit? A little known NES gem entitled “Kid Klown in Night Mayor World”. Developed and published by Japanese studio Kemco, the company that brought such NES classics as Spy vs. Spy, Deja Vu, Shadowgate, and the Bugs Bunny games, this title, like certain others (Super Mario Bros. 2, Yo Noid!), started out as somewhat of a different beast. Originally titled “Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen” (Mickey Mouse III: Balloon Dreams),  it was essentially the same game, only part of a Mickey Mouse series of games. In fact, this game was called “Mickey Mouse III” in Japan because they had done this before, with what Americans know as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle. Crazy Castle originally featured Roger Rabbit in Japan, but they later made a version with Mickey Mouse after losing the rights, along with the Bugs Bunny version for the states.
Kid Klown
The Game Boy versions of Crazy Castle 1 and 2 are known as Mickey Mouse I and Mickey Mouse II in Japan, hence this game was somehow the third in that series. Confused yet? Well that’s okay, because Kemco would continue the series as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle in the states, until Crazy Castle 5 for the Game Boy Advance, which wound up starring Woody Woodpecker. For those counting along at home, that makes 4 different characters from 3 different animation studios (Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal) that Kemco had to license from. But hey, the series DID see a total of 10 releases (at least in Japan, one of which was made into a Real Ghostbusters game in NA and a Garfield game in Europe, if you can grasp that), so I suppose ultimately it paid off right?
Kid Klown
ANYWAYS, disregarding the somewhat messy (but intriguing) history of the series that the original Japanese version originated from, what WE here in the U.S.of A got, was a peculiar, but fun, game called Kid Klown. The original Mickey game was released in Japan in 1992. Our version with the righteous Klown dude (first name Kid), arrived in April 1993, what happened to be a very good year for the NES (Kirby’s Adventure anyone?). So, focusing on OUR version here today, the setting sees a family of clowns traveling with their circus, when they run across a mysterious magician named Night Mayor. I want to take a moment, first off, to comment on the fact that the pun-name NIGHT MAYOR is, in my humble opinion, fucking fantastic.
Kid Klown
It’s just the right amount of cheese to tickle my “Man That’s Awesome” bone. So, as you might surmise given his name (and his nefarious mustache), Night Mayor is up to no good, and he asks Kid to help him open a magical treasure vault. Kid, having been warned NEVER to talk to strange and creepy magicians out on the highway at night by his wise and loving parents, basically tells Mr. Mayor to “piss off”. So, in a fit of indignation, said bad fellow uses his wicked magic to kidnap the Klown family, and challenges Kid to follow and find them, if he ever wants to see them again. And thus it’s off to the races we go!
Kid Klown
If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’ll reveal the silly pun. Night Mayor = Nightmare! Get it? Awesome right? Indeed. Moving on!
So as far as the game proper is concerned, here’s the scoop. You’ve got yourself six major areas (plus the opening level), each one having a different theme. I can definitely see how in the Mickey version, you were traveling through some kind of magical dream world. But it fits with a kooky game where you play a balloon-wielding clown fighting a guy named Night Mayor as well! The thing that stands out about this game the most, of course, is in fact said balloons. The graphics are solid (in fact there’s some very inventive sprite effects at points), and the soundtrack is cheery if not unremarkable. But where the game enters the “kicks ass” arena, is in the gameplay. Why it kicks is, is because Kemco really did a number on inventing balloon mechanics the player can employ.
Kid Klown
In no particular order, you can use these inflated bags of fun as: weapons, a means of floating for longer jumps, a platform to bounce off of performing high jumps, a shield from certain enemy attacks, etc. Talk about versatile. And it doesn’t end there. You can aim balloon fire directly overhead, as well as choosing to toss short-range balloons, or hold the B button down to throw them further. And of course you can even drop the balloons straight down, as a weapon or a platform to jump to higher places, or you can even just hold it out in front of you like a shield. If you ask me, that’s pretty damn ingenious, especially for the 8-bit era, not to mention the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a similar set up in any other game I’ve ever played. So Kemco deserves major kudos for really taking the Mario “run and jump” platforming standard, but making it their own.
Kid Klown
The other area that this game really stands out, for anyone who has ever played it, is that while on the surface it seems very much like an “easy kids’ game”, it also packs some serious punch in the difficulty department in a few areas once you get deeper in. The different areas include a charming forest, a crazy toy factory, a giant beanstalk land complete with an evil Cyclops giant at the end, a land of snow and ice, a stage made up of living (and dangerous) candies and pastries, and finally Night Mayor’s gigantic castle. The game really does ramp it up the further you get, as well. I just recently played through it again myself, and god damn, there are some parts that’ll make you cuss out the game like nobodies business.
Kid Klown
For instance, in Stage 3, the beanstalk stage, you have to climb vertically, but are bombarded while doing so by swarms of enemies that include among other annoyances, evil clouds that shit lightning all over you. Then you’ve got Stage 4, with it’s slippery ice, but worse yet, snow drifts that you actually get stuck in, which makes getting across super fun, while being attacked by enemies. and then of course, there’s Castle Night Mayor, which takes the SMB1 concept of having a maze-like castle with plenty of wrong ways to go, and cranks it up to 11, by having doors that make you fight previous bosses, doors that take you right back to the beginning of an area you just got through, or even all the way back to the beginning of the castle. And unlike Bowser’s final castle in that hallowed NES standard, Night Mayor is more of a dick, so his castle is bigger, with plenty of genuinely fucked up moments, most especially the final area, which is a room of doors which, you guessed it, all but one lead you to other areas, including the very damn beginning of the level. So have fun choosing the wrong door several times (unless of course you CHEAT and use the internet).
Kid Klown
All in all, this game is well worth playing in my expert opinion. It controls well, is fun to play thanks to the inventive balloon mechanics, has a lot of replay value in spite of a few throw-your-controller moments, and the game just honestly exudes fun. From the gameplay, to the level design, right down to the carnival-like minigame between stages that allows you to throw balloons at targets to gain back health, 1up, etc. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, the bad guy’s name is NIGHT MAYOR, and that right there should be worth the price of admission. The game actually turned into a series, but the SNES and PS1 entries, for instance, were weird “always moving” games that saw Kid on a rolling ball, rolling and dodging through levels. None of them showed the same cool gameplay mechanics or sense of fun-ness the original had, so in my personal view they’re really not all that worth checking out.

But do yourself a favor, and get your hands on a cart of the NES original if you can, or find “other” means to play it if you have to, but play it. Or else the Night Mayor will give you…….unpleasant dreams!

TumblePop

 Tumble Pop

TumblePop

Back again for another round of forgotten gaming classics. This time, we take a look at another fairly obscure arcade game that was mentioned last time around, that being 1991’s TumblePop. TumblePop was made by Japanese developer/publisher Data East, who were one of the kings of the arcade’s heyday. Data East was responsible for such early arcade hits as Burger Time, Astro Fighter, Karate Champ, and Ring King. They also made later hits such as Karnov, Two Crude Dudes, Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Heavy Barrel, Captain America and the Avengers, Kid Niki, Breakthru, Bloody Wolf, and the Magical Drop series. They were also a big name in the late 80s/early 90s home console market, producing such hits as Joe & Mac, Congo’s Caper, and High Seas Havoc. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their infamous (but decent) Street Fighter II ripoff, Fighter’s History, which became a short-lived series of it’s own.
Tumble Pop
It SUCKS, while it CUTS!

Unlike the last entry, Avenging Spirit, TumblePop was more of your traditional arcade fare: light on story, big on high scores and just outright fun. The basic premise of the game is that you play a pair of “Ghost Buster” type characters, who use (get this) vacuum cleaner type gizmos to suck up ghosts, demons, aliens and other monsters. A concept that would, in some form, pop up again years later in Nintendo’s own Luigi’s Mansion. Once you suck up enemies, you can blast them back OUT of the vacuum thingy to use as projectiles against other enemies. And therein lies the core gameplay mechanic, and basic fun of Tumble Pop.

Tumble Pop
I’ll have the Calamari, Bob.

Similar to the Taito classic Bubble Bobble, when enemies are destroyed, they often leave behind goodies for you to collect, such as coins, etc. In fact, the game seems largely inspired by earlier hits like Bubble Bobble as well as Capcom’s Buster Bros, and the game takes the same classic arcade approach of the action being limited to little “Screens”, instead of the kinds of sprawling levels seen in the later side-scroller genre. Like those earlier games, it also features two player simultaneous co-op gameplay, which just adds to the pandemonium. Along with goodies from enemies, you also collect occasional letters that, as you can see in the picture above, eventually spell out “Tumbepop”, and when you get the full word, you are whisked off to a timed bonus stage where you can get even MORE high-score ensuring goodies, as well as extra lives.

Tumble Pop
Alright Mister, FREEZE!

The game plays out over 10 different areas, representing (mostly) real places on earth, such as New York, Moscow, Japan, Egypt, Australia, etc. In the final two areas (SPOILERS) the game sees you travel to Outer Space and finally The Moon. Each area features it’s own themed monsters, as well as typically one big boss fight at the end. And as you have seen in these pictures, there are some crazy bosses, like a giant octopus, a killer snowman, a giant clown robot, a flaming dragon, an enormous genie, etc. And if that weren’t enough, if you failed to defeat all the monsters in a given time, a Dracula-type dude will wander on screen and if he catches you, you lose a life. Major bummer. Totally bogus! But I digress.

Tumble Pop
What the hell happened? Now we’re colorless AND adorable!

As mentioned in the previous article, as coincidental Fate would have it, unfortunately the only platform that TumblePop was ever ported to, like Avenging Spirit before it, was the original Game Boy, in 1992. Again, awesome for Game Boy owners, too bad for anybody else. As again, this would have made an amazing NES game, or even SNES or Genesis game. I certainly would have loved to have rented or maybe even owned it on NES as a kid. The one big difference between the two however, in my personal experience, was that I actually got to PLAY the arcade version of TumblePop as it was long a mainstay of the local area skating rink. As a matter of fact, as a call back to an even earlier article, remember that buddy of mine Harold, whose favorite game EVER is M.C. Kids? Yup, well TumblePop was pretty much his favorite arcade game too. And wouldn’t you know it (unlike his modern taste in games), BOTH of these classics were actually fun! Damn you Harold!!

Tumble Pop
I guess it’s true what they say…being on game box art really DOES make you gain weight!

It should be mentioned that the Game Boy version of TumbePop differed slightly, in that it featured a “World Map” of sorts, where you could even exit areas if they were too hard and come back later, as well as an on-map Shop where you could use coins collected to buy upgrades. Pretty nifty all around. And, again like Avenging Spirit, the Game Boy version of TumblePop, as luck would have it, is available for download on the 3DS eShop. I would highly suggest giving both games a whirl, as they’re well worth it.

Well, that about wraps it up folks! Another fun game, faded from memory, but now resurrected through the power of….well, my bodacious writing! Go find yourself a copy of TumblePop, and suck away!

Avenging Spirit

Avenging_Spirit

Avenging Spirit

When it comes to classic/retro gaming, most people would probably be amazed at just how many truly great, obscure classics there are out there that they’ve not only never played, but likely never even heard of. And so, as part of my ongoing Retro Ministry, I intend to reacquaint folks with some of these forgotten gems over time. As comes with the territory, these entries will not be about the bigger, more popular games that a lot more people know about. No, instead, these will strictly be focused on games that are rare, but awesome.

Avenging_Spirit

First up, we’re going to look at a little number called “Avenging Spirit”, or as it was known in Japan, “Phantasm”. Avenging Spirit was originally an arcade game by Jaleco, who also brought you such classics as Astyanax, the Bases Loaded series, and the Rushing Beat series. With Avenging Spirit, however, you had a game that was a bit ahead of it’s time and rather unique in it’s approach. It was, at it’s core, another action/platformer type of game, similar to Mario, Mega Man or Contra. But where AS really stood out, was also the “gimmick” that made it incredibly fun. The plot can be summarized as follows: You’re a dude who was walking his girlfriend home one night, when you are ambushed by villainous agents, who kidnap your girlfriend, and shoot you down, leaving you for dead. You come back as a ghost, and your girlfriend’s father, a research scientist specializing in spectral phenomenon, wants you to try and get his daughter back, as she’s being held for random to ensure her father’s aid in nefarious plans.

Avenging_Spirit

So that’s the basic setup. You play as a ghost, and while you have the awesome ability to possess enemies to use their powers, the catch is that if the body you’re inhabiting dies, you have a limited amount of time to possess another body, otherwise your energy will dissipate, you’ll pass on to the “Other Side”, and your mission to save your girlfriend will have failed. So while you get this bad ass ability to basically play as a wide assortment of various characters with all sorts of weapons and powers, you’re also challenged by your spectral limitations. And when I say you can possess enemies, literally, you can take over and play as pretty much every enemy type in the game, except for the bosses. Naturally.  As you can see above, you get an energy bar for your ghost, which goes down every time you leave a possessed body, as well as a life-bar for the enemies you possess at the bottom of the screen.

Avenging_Spirit

Different enemy types also give you varying speed, strength, jumping power, etc., in addition to their unique weapon. Of those enemy types, as mentioned, for a game from 1991, you get a pretty healthy selection to choose from. They include, as seen above, nefarious 1930s mobsters complete with pistols, and feisty Amazon women who look suspiciously like classic Wonder Woman, who use their raw power to punch waves of force at you.  You can also play Rambo-esque commandos with machine guns, ninjas who are very agile and throw stars, goofy wizards with magic wands, a baseball player complete with a bat, a robot, an invisible man, and even a fire breathing DRAGON (probably the coolest thing you can play in the whole game).

Avenging_Spirit

You have to use these awesome abilities to make your way through six stages, all while smashing the shit out of enemies, and possessing some at your leisure to accomplish this. Each stage has a boss, of course, and naturally, especially considering it’s an arcade game and wants our quarters, they aren’t easy. You are also tasked with collecting 3 keys in stages 2, 5 and 6 (random I know), which are used at the end of the game to rescue your girlfriend, as if beating the game wasn’t enough. And just to really stick it to you, if you DON’T get all the keys in those stages, you’ll actually be unable to rescue her at all, and even though you can still beat the boss and defeat the bad guys, you’ll actually get a bad ending (SPOILERS). So trust me, you wanna get those damn keys!

Avenging_Spirit

The game was also ported a year later in 1992 to the Nintendo Game Boy. Having played both versions, with obvious “downgrades” to graphics and such, the game holds up remarkably well, and I honestly can’t see too much different in the port. The Game Boy version seems to retain most of the enemies, all the stages and bosses, and plays basically the same (if not actually a little bit tighter than the arcade original). Sadly, Avenging Spirit was ONLY ported to the Game Boy and nothing else, which is too bad, because looking at that screenshot above, I could really see it having been great on NES in full color, not to mention being a no-brainier for the 16-bit Super NES. It’s actually a similarly odd case to another obscure arcade gem, Tumble Pop by Data East (which I’ll cover later), that was also ONLY ported to the Game Boy.

Avenging_Spirit

 

Damn Game Boy got all the luck. And while I did have a Game Boy as a kid, I didn’t get one until, I do believe the Christmas of 1993, and I never actually heard of this game until I was an adult. I just think it would have made a great NES game, and I would have had a higher likelihood of perhaps seeing at my local rental store and actually getting to play it as a kid. I only lament this, mind you, because while I love this game as a kid, you know how much more open and enthusiastic about everything you were as a child….I absolutely would have been nuts about this game back then.

Avenging_Spirit

Then again, there’s a very long list of games I never got to play or even heard of as a kid that I wouldn’t discover until my teens at least, when internet was more prevalent. Real damn shame, that. BUT, all things considered, the Game Boy version that we did get is a great port of the game, and is actually available for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. You can also apparently get a version of the arcade original for iPhone, though personally, I just simply couldn’t see playing old school side-scrollers with those fake touch-screen “buttons” they try to get away with. Me, I need a real controller in my hands! Of course there are “other” means to find and play the arcade version if you wish, and considering that’s how I got to play it, I’ll just say that if you know what I’m talking about and can, by all means enjoy! You’ll be glad you did.