Kid Chameleon

Kid Chameleon

An attempt to mimic Mario – in a few ways at least – Kid Chameleon offers something much different to Sonic’s speedy antics on the Mega Drive.

It’s a solid platformer, and for fans of the genre it’s worth investigating.

Kid Chameleon

You play as Kid Chameleon, who must enter a virtual reality arcade machine and defeat an evil entity who is trapping kids within the game itself.

There are several worlds, with each one containing two to three levels.

The game starts off, as so many platformers often do, with an ordinary looking forest level – but even these aren’t as dull as you’d expect, thanks to the title’s main gimmick.

Kid Chameleon

You can collect suits throughout stages by hitting the various P blocks (most of the time they just hold gems), and grabbing masks which transform you into various forms.

These include a sword wielding samurai, a knight who can charge and destroy walls, a Jason Vorhees clone who can fling axes, and – most amusingly – a tank driving skeleton.

Fortunately the costumes aren’t the only entertaining thing here, with the enemies themselves an interesting bunch.

Kid Chameleon

They all pose different threats, including crawling hands who restrict your movement, lava-men who leave a trails of fire behind them, and tiny green slime beasts.

The only surprising thing about the cast of foes is the lack of bosses at the end of each world. They would have been worth seeing if the smaller foes in the game are anything to go by.

It’s a shame then, that the level design itself isn’t up to the same standards of the cast of enemies and power-ups.

Kid Chameleon

Too often the game expects you to somehow understand its strange design quirks, such as the fact you can walk through some walls as they’re in the foreground – even though they look nearly exactly the same as all the other walls.

Other times it can be plain cruel, like in a Under Skull Mountain level, which slides you down ramps straight into pits of spikes. It does this twice as well – talk about unfair.

Kid Chameleon

The game only gets harder as you progress as well, and there’s a lot to get through.

With no save system very few people will see the end, or even want to – despite the game’s admirable qualities.

Despite its problems, Kid Chameleon doesn’t hold up too badly today though.

Kid Chameleon

Its simple graphics can look a little dull if the world you’re in isn’t set in an enthralling setting, but there are enough inspired moments to hold your attention.

It doesn’t stand out in a crowded genre, but it doesn’t disappear out of view from it either.

Doshin the Giant

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Doshin the Giant

Format: GameCube Genre: God Game Released: 2002 Developer:Nintendo

I’ve got to admit that this game was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s obviously a kids’ game, and I obviously wasn’t a kid when I was playing it, but let’s face it, kids shouldn’t get to have all the fun.

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

Doshin the Giant managed to suck me into its world entirely. At its core the game is incredibly simple, yet somehow utterly compulsive: you play a friendly yellow giant whose aim is to help four tribes scattered across several islands. The villagers’ requests are pretty simple – they generally amount to raising or lowering the ground or moving trees about – and every time you help them out they send a bit of love your way. The more they love you, the bigger you get, so that by the end of each ‘day’ in the game Doshin is usually towering above even the highest mountains. However, come the next day, he always reverts to his original size, although all the changes you made to the islands remain the same.

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

A lot of the game’s charm comes from its visual appeal – all primary colours and smiling faces. More than anything though, it’s the sound effects that wormed their way into my head: there’s no music as such, but the background noise is a symphony of birdsong, animal noises, the lapping of the sea and the weird, high-pitched mewlings of the villagers. The whole soundscape is strangely hypnotic and relaxing: playing Doshin is almost like undergoing brain massage. Click on the video below and you can hear what I mean for yourself:

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

It’s not perfect of course – the simple concept, although appealing, ultimately becomes repetitive – but it’s the way this game made me feel that ensures its place on the list. As you make your way from village to village, planting and landscaping, you can’t help but build up an affection for your tiny wards, and there’s a sense of fatherly pride as you watch your little denizens go about expanding their villages and building monuments in your honour.

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

But there’s the catch – the ultimate goal of the game is to get the various villages to build all 15 possible monuments, but only half of these are ‘love’ monuments. In order to get the remaining ‘hate’ monuments, you have to terrify your villagers by tapping the shoulder button and turning into Jashin the Hate Giant, allowing you to destroy the villages and murder the inhabitants.

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

After nurturing my villagers for so long, watching their families grow and listening to them burst into cheerful song at my approach, I was quite reluctant to rain down fiery destruction upon them, yet it was the only way to proceed. As they ran in terror while I systematically destroyed their houses, I couldn’t help but feel terribly guilty – and there are very few games I’ve played since that have managed to provoke such emotion.

Doshin the Giant - Nintendo GameCube

Who’d have thought a kids’ game could be so provocative?

City Connection

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City Connection

City Connection was a somewhat classic arcade game that debuted in 1985, offering players a fast-paced high-score challenge that demanded intense concentration and twitch-speed reflexes. In 1988, Jaleco published an 8-bit version for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Was the cartridge any better than the cabinet?

Gameplay

City Connection is a platforming puzzle game with a unique premise: The protagonist is off to see the sights that the world has to offer; however, rather than paint the town red, he wants to paint the streets white. This means that the goal is to just drive over every square inch of road that each city has to offer, completing a stage when every blank grid space has been marked in white.

City_Connection_NES

But rather than drive over one single road, presentation is given from a side view, with four tiers. This means that the controlled car must be constantly jumping up to higher levels, falling to lower ones, or hopping across gaps. The A button is used for jumping, as proper, while the directional pad corresponds with movement, of course.

However, the challenge arises in the fact that our mysterious driver does not explore these streets alone. There are always multiple police cars patrolling the byways, along with cats that just sit in the road and instantly take a life if struck. The player begins with three lives, and can earn extras when hitting 100,000 and 300,000 points.

To both foster bonus points and defend against cops, there are oil cans strewn throughout the stages. Picking them up adds them to an inventory, whereas the B button fires them ahead of the vehicle, striking law enforcement vehicles to render them harmless. If the player can stockpile oil cans without using them, 100 bonus points are awarded for each when the city is completed.

City_Connection_NES

If the player stays on one of the tiers too long, metal spikes begin erupting out of the ground, just one, that will sit there until moving to a different level. The cats, the spikes may disappear if the player simply turns around and lets them go off-screen before returning to their spot; although unlike the felines, the spikes tend to appear much more aggressively.

Thus, the player ends up with a maze-completion type game in the vein of Pac-Man but with platforming mechanics drawn somewhere through the ages from Donkey Kong. This is an arcade-style game, with six stages that endlessly repeat, purely for the pleasure of seeking the highest score. Two players can try in alternating turns.

City_Connection_NES

Oh, and there are balloons. They are worth bonus points, and grant a city-warp effect when three are collected. Magical warp balloons, yes. Even with those hexing helium semi-spheres, City Connection just poses too many cheap deaths in the player’s direction to really be any fun. This is a “challenge for challenge’s sake” sort of game, where only those who played it without other choice or in search of something utterly difficult and minimally rewarding would ever truly grow fond.

Graphics

In this reviewer’s opinion, the visuals of City Connection on NES are the game’s highlight. The protagonist car has some nifty animation frames, having the policing vehicles appear differently in each city is a nice touch, and the background details for the cities themselves are wonderful, with recognizable sights like Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along with portraying the locations in differing times of day. There is even a faux parallax scrolling effect at work, whereby the background is scrolling by a little bit slower than the streets themselves.

City_Connection_NES

Then again, this game has some serious flickering problems, with many police vehicles constantly blinking in and out of existence, which can be a distracting nuisance for the eyes. Also, while the arcade original actually used colors to fill in the streets, all NES players get is a bland, tepid, boring, depressing stark white across every roadway. Bleh.

Sound

The sound effects are barely noticeable, and never more than a brief one-note blip across the player’s consciousness. The music, while presenting itself as a decent arrangement of three sound-channel instruments, feels somewhat uninspired and gets repetitive. Eh.

Originality

While arcade-style high-score games have their place, and within their own category have varying tiers of quality, many of them lost something in their porting to home consoles in the 8-bit era.

City_Connection_NES

 

City Connection may have been one of them. Whatever the case may be, players are left with a subpar experience that, while not atrocious and certainly representing a game, raises a tough question: “If I had other NES titles to choose from, why would I play City Connection?”

The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

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The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Though it’s hard to believe someone wanted to make a video game based off of it. Though Bandai had that idea and did so in 1990. The Adventures of Gilligans Island hit the NES about 23 years after the show ended
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game is (obviously) set on the tropical island Gilligan and all his friends are stuck on. Well except Ginger for some reason. Tina Louise, the actress that portrayed her had clashed with creator Sherwood Schwartz because she thought she’d be the central character. She failed to return in most of the reunions, and I guess the same applied to her 8-bit self.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game instead has the Skipper as the central character with Gilligan as your sidekick. You basically walk across the jungle looking for the other castaways. On the way the duo are attacked by birds, warthogs, and other animals of the jungle. The Skipper has the ability to punch (which doesn’t seem to do anything), but running away is more effective. Gilligan is so mindless that he often falls behinds or into pits. Leaving you to have to rescue him time and time again.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
Overall Gilligan’s Island is often listed as one of the worst NES games ever made. It was a game nobody asked for, and even less people thought it was fun. It had unclear objectives, terrible combat, sub-par graphics, and some things made little to no sense. And to make matters worse, Gilligan isn’t even wearing the right shirt.

Phantasy Star

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Phantasy Star

The game itself is a gem from start to finish, but you’ll have to face a quest of over 50 hours and lots of grinding but it’ll be totally worth it. You’ll also be shocked by what happens in the story. It’s a very awesome quest so lets take a look at it in the different categories as usual..
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The music is quite good as well as the effects. You know how much people brag about great 8-bit music and sound? Well, this is one of those titles. It’s great for the ears hands down.
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The graphics are just awesome. You feel like you’re playing a vivid and alive game. The characters are very detailed taking into account the limitations of the hardware. You also have to love the cut-scene that happen throughout the game. I love it
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
This is your classic RPG hands down. You can level up and have lots of fun. The game is turn-based so it requires some savvy strategy at times especially with the tougher monsters and boss fights. You will also spend lots of time grinding which is perfect for classic RPG fanatics!
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The game is worth a second play because it’s just amazing to play through. This is the best RPG for the Master System after all. It’s so full of magic and wonder. You will never put the controller down!
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
You can’t go wrong with picking a Phantasy Star game but I do advice that you pick up this one as it’s just an awesome game nonetheless. You won’t regret it at all especially if you’re into Sci-fi style RPGs. It’s just a wonder over all and makes me sad that Sega hasn’t done a game like this in such a long time…

10 Yard Fight

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10 Yard Fight

So far in the NES Sport Series, we’ve taken looks at both Tennis and Baseball with less than stellar results. Could this be the savior to ascend the series out of complete poopdom? Let’s open up another Black Box and sneak a peek at the system’s first ever football game, 10 Yard Fight.
10 Hard Fight
And who are the three guys in the back blocking exactly?
Initially released in the arcades in 1983, 10 Yard Fight was the brainchild of the good folks over at Irem who made their name from the classic Moon Patrol. This would mark it as one of the few early titles to be created by another company, yet published by The Big N. How did a team of Japanese programmers wrap their heads around American Football in enough time to get a game made you ask? Well, since 1971, Japan has had the X-League, their own version of the NFL complete with a championship game dubbed the (I’m not making this shit up) Rice Bowl.
The X-League also showcases some of the gnarliest team names ever witnessed such as the All-Tokyo Gas Creators, the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers, and the Panasonic Electric Works Impulse. The Buffalo Bills doesn’t sounds quite as bizarre when placed next to those odd squads. I digress. Fast forward two years later and Nintendo was up to their ears trying to get games ready for the launch so instead of depleting the already limited manpower to create a new football title, they struck a deal with Irem to publish their established arcade hit.
10 Hard Fight
SEE?
For its era, 10 Yard Fight was certainly the most advanced available football game on the market. That doesn’t necessarily make it good. I’m sure if I was a castaway on a lonely island faced with the choice of either dung-beetle and squirrel for dinner, the squirrel will look like a 32 oz Porterhouse. The gameplay is 9 on 9, not automatic grounds for a game to be rated subpar due to Tecmo Bowl having the same limitation. No playbook is available as you can either lob the rock to a running back and call it a running play with the B button or pass to an open receiver with the A.
The problem is that you’ll find that unless you’re certifiably insane, you’ll never want to pass. The cornerbacks were all apparently cloned from Spider-Man and it is doubly bad as there was no depth given to the ball. That means if you throw the pigskin anywhere in the vicinity of these little bastards, its an instant interception. Running isn’t as broken but at times you’ll need the extra blocker to make his way into position which takes FOREVER. When I say forever, I mean you can probably get through a battle on any given JRPG in the time it takes the blocker to stumble to where needed.
The game clock is divided into two fast counting thirty minute halves, which I appreciate since I’d probably still playing the game of Baseball I began if I didn’t say to hell with it. The difficulty is ranked from high school to Super Bowl and is presented well with different uniform and endzone graphics for each. On a sour note, it gives the illusion that it is similar to a career mode, as any other team you defeat gives you the message “You are on your way to the Super Bowl!” but guess what? NESquester kicked the Super Bowl team’s candy asses before this review was started and was greeted by the screen below…
10 Hard Fight
…but…I…just…

THE FINAL VERDICT

4/10 Even giving the benefit of the doubt that it was 1986 like every game was given thus far, this just wasn’t a very good game then and is more than likely played in psyche wards to study how ADHD medication works now. Originally, it looked like a million bucks in the 1983 arcade market but already showed its age by the time the NES rolled it out. My friends and I were game critics in our own rights in 1986 on the schoolgrounds of Houston and while we could never quite agree on which He-Man character was the strongest, we were unanimous in the fact that 10 Yard Fight fucking sucked.
10 Hard Fight
But it sure made for one sweetass looking cabinet!

Martian Gothic: Unification

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Martian Gothic: Unification

Survival horror titles tend to be less scary the older they get – they still retain some impact, but the ageing graphics can sometimes have a direct impact on how immersed you become in the game’s world.

Martian Gothic: Unification doesn’t suffer as much as you’d expect in this regard though, mainly due to the game’s slower paced nature.

It starts off with a fairly long opening cutscene, which sees a three person rescue team being sent into a Mars space base to investigate why nothing has been heard by its crew for ten months.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

It’s a predicable set-up, but that doesn’t make the amount of effort that’s gone into the game’s presentation any less impressive.

The music is dripping with dread, and the opening voiceover sets the dark and foreboding tone rather well.

You’re then thrown into the game proper, and you have a choice of three characters to swap between – Kenzo, Matlock and Karne.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Each character has entered the base at different doors, mainly due to their instructions to ‘stay alone – stay alive.’ Yes, that’s possibly the worst reason ever to have characters split up, but it does mark the game out as being a little bit different.

This is mainly as you can only progress to certain areas by co-operating with your colleagues by, for example, sending each other relevant items using delivery tubes (or ‘vac-tubes’) and opening doors for the others by using computers in your section.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation
You won’t get anywhere by screaming like that…

 

The game is also aided a great deal by the decent voiceover work and a solid script that helps maintain your interest – although there are exceptions to this.

Kenzo talks like he’s on dope for example (just listen to entries 42 and 13 on this Youtube list for a sample), and he does ruin the atmosphere a little as a result – the way he calmly reports seeing a floating reanimated corpse is ridiculous.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

But by and large, the script is well crafted, and you’ll be surprised at how much work that’s gone into it. There are several audio logs from members of the now departed crew, and each character has realms of voiced dialogue.

The game doesn’t even look too bad nowadays, mainly due to its Resident Evil style rendered backdrops with fixed perspectives.

There’s very little movement in each screen – but that actually works in the game’s favour, as it’s even scarier when the infected humans drag themselves into view.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Despite the game’s admirable qualities – of which it has several – it’s a little too frustrating to be enjoyable though (perhaps being enjoyable isn’t the aim of a survival horror title, but you get the point).

One minor problem are the awkward rotate and move controls which can make avoiding the re-possessed humans and various beasts a struggle (the constantly changing perspectives when you’re going from place to place doesn’t help), but more problematic is the occasionally confusing design.

With three characters the possibility to miss something vital is tripled, and the unhelpful map doesn’t help matters.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Some of the puzzles also have overly vague solutions, and you can often be wandering aimlessly looking for the right item or clue – this isn’t ideal when enemies re-spawn constantly. The fact there are very few complete guides to the game tells its own story.

As a result, there are probably very few people who will enjoy Martian Gothic: Unification nowadays – but if you have the patience of a saint you may be able to savour the game’s finer qualities, namely its plot and script.

 

Dig Dug

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Dig Dug (Digu Dagu)

A lot of people are probably familiar with this game as it was an arcade game but I never really had an arcade near me when I was growing up so this was a whole new game for me when I played the Famicom version, as I was only familiar with Dig Dug II that actually was released on the NES.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

You play as Dig Dug, a little blue guy (kind of like a smurf in white overalls) who is basically an underground exterminator who uses something like a bicycle air pump to exterminate his enemies.  There are only two types of enemies you will encounter, Pookas who are the cute red round guys with the goggles and Fygars the green dragons who breathe fire at you through the dirt.  Gotta be careful or if you get hit you will be BBQ.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

Since this is based on an arcade game your objective other than just clearing levels is getting as many points as you possibly can.  This can be accomplished in several different ways. Just digging will earn you 10 points a block, which is alright but your time is better sent going after enemies.  Dropping a rock on an enemy will earn you 1000 points, if you kill 2 or more 1500 points each and any more than 2 is worth 2000 points for each enemy. Once you have dropped 2 rocks in the level other bonus items will appear for you in the middle of the screen, if you are able to get to it.  Fruits and Veggies or other bonus items like the ship from Galaxian, which is awesome by the way, for you to collect to get extra points. The item worth the most at 8000 points is the pineapple so if you see it be sure to grab it!  Also keep in mind that popping an enemy further down in the dirt is worth more so it may be worth trying to lure the enemies further down if you want to try to get max points.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

This game originally came our in the arcades in 1982 (I wasn’t even born yet) its not the most graphically impressive game out there, but the sprites are cute and colorful and definitely get the job done.  At first sight this game gives the impression that it is very basic and simple, this is very deceiving.  It definitely requires some quick reflexes if you want to successfully evade and exterminate the enemy.

Dig Dug - Famicom

As far as I can tell we never got a copy of this game in North American on the NES, only Dig Dug II was released here which is also good by the way. So if you want to play this you will need to pick up the Famicom version. The nice thing is you don’t need to know any Japanese, so you really don’t have any excuse not to play.

For some fun arcade action Dig Dug definitely fits the bill!

One eBay you can find it complete in box for $39.60, at the moment there aren’t any loose ones listed though mine was like $2.

 

Diddy Kong Racing

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Diddy Kong Racing

While Mario Kart has been king of kart racing games since 1992, it has seen many imitators and rivals.  Diddy Kong Racing was the first kart racer (that I know of) that Nintendo had done outside the Mario series. Though technically Rare (who made the Donkey Kong Country series) were the real team behind it.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
 It featured a similar set-up to Mario Kart, with racing through colorful themed tracks with power-ups to use. The cast didn’t feature Diddy Kong’s famous uncle, but original characters. Most notable would be Banjo the bear (who would later star in Banjo-Kazooie) and Conker (the star of Conker’s Bad Fur Day) the squirrel.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
What also set it apart from Mario’s was the ability to use hovercraft and planes. The game received a very positive reaction from critics and gamers alike. It’s often remarked as one of the most beloved N64 games, with many thinking it was superior to Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
No real sequel was ever released as Rare left Nintendo for Microsoft. Though surprisingly they came back to develop a remake of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS. It featured online-play, but Conker and Banjo were absent. Though ironically despite some improvements, the DS remake received a mixed reaction. It wasn’t considered terrible but it was vastly overshadowed by Mario Kart DS.

Sonic The Hedgehog

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Sonic The Hedgehog

This week we have Sonic for the Sega Master System. Why this version? Because it’s definitely one to play. Of course, it’s graphically inferior than the Genesis version we all know but it’s quite rare to find the US version around these woods. The game overall is not bad until you compare it to its more powerful predecessor. Enough talk, it’s a Sonic game after all so it can’t be that bad right? OK, I take that back…
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Sonic music in 8-bit sound is actually quite enjoyable but it’s definitely not for everyone. The sound effects are also a bit bland. I’m getting to understand why Sega didn’t released this game massively in the USA.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The graphics are quite good for a Master System game. Sonic looks like Sonic and not like a blob. The backgrounds and graphics of the stages are a hit. You never feel like you’ll jump into a fake wall or something. There isn’t that much distortion if there are too many things going on in the game so that’s a well deserved thumbs up.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The gameplay is easy. Sonic games for the Genesis were just as easy as pick up and play. They are fast and fun. This one requires a little bit more strategy and jumping without having to go as fast as the speed of light. It’s still fun in the end, it is classic Sonic after all.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Like many of the older Sonic games, this one is well worth a replay especially if you want to challenge yourself with your own goals like not taking a hit per level or collecting all the rings. Sonic games can be addictive too you know..
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
It’s the first Sonic game and it’s fun. What else is there more to say about this gem? It’s just really enjoyable! I suggest you get the European version as it’s the same thing and a lot cheaper!

The Simpsons Wrestling

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The Simpsons Wrestling

 While the early 90’s had plenty of games based on The Simpsons, I really think The Simpsons Wrestling in 2001 was the start of the modern era of their video games. While the older games featured mainly Bart, The Simpsons Wrestling featured most of the well-known characters.
The Simpsons Wrestling-PSOne
The late 90’s and early 2000s were also an era of countless wrestling games, so I guess a wrestling game based on a beloved cartoon was inevitable. The game features a cast of the whole Simpsons family, friends like Apu and Barney, and less-known characters like Bumblebee Man and Professor Frink.
The Simpsons Wrestling-PSOne
 The game features a similar set-up to other 3D wrestlers, but with the addition of power-ups such as donuts to make you faster. It also featured original dialogue from the cast of the show, and many of the characters that don’t show up to wrestle can be seen in the audience.
The Simpsons Wrestling-PSOne
Overall The Simpsons Wrestling received a very harsh reaction from critics. It came out after the end of the PS1’s prime, and neither the graphics nor the game-play impressed many. I was a huge fan of the show, but I didn’t get a PS2 (which could also play PS1 games) until a few years later and by that time I had forgotten all about it.

Whomp ‘Em

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Whomp ‘Em

In 1991, when they were not busy releasing another Bases Load sequel, Jaleco released a side-scrolling platformer for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console called Whomp ‘Em. Following a Native American protagonist named Soaring Eagle on his quest to seek mystical totems, Jaleco put plenty of developer muscle into fine-tuning this title. But in tuning the mechanics so finely, did they miss the big picture?

Whomp 'Em - NES

Gameplay

A seasoned NES player recognizes the formular: The directional pad moves the on-screen character, the A button jumps, and the B button attacks. While Whomp ‘Em begins with this formula, it certainly adds many ingredients. On a minor note, Soaring Eagle can duck.

Whomp 'Em - NES

But in a major way, Soaring Eagle’s attacks can be incorporated into a variety of moves. Holding B while running keeps his spear ahead of him, damaging incoming foes. Holding Down in midair enables him to drop the spear’s tip upon the head of unlucky enemies. The spear can even be used as a shield against certainly projectiles, if held in the right manner and in the right spot. The spear can even be directed upward, by pressing Up when jumping. This gives the player a variety of ways to damage creatures, and many angles to utilize.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the items, which form quite an in-depth in-game economy. Although the player begins with just a few hearts on the health bar, these hearts can be increased by collecting gourds. But the number of gourds needed to gain a heart of health increases each time, until the player needs 99 gourds to gain the 12th and final heart unit of hit points.

Whomp 'Em - NES

And this is not even to mention the bonus items that add to attack or defense until the player is hit, nor the health-increasing grabs. Perhaps the most intriguing item-driven mechanic, however, is how Whomp ‘Em handles extra lives: The “magic potion” item essentially is an extra life, but the player is limited to holding three at a time. This is a strange, different-from-the-norm way to handle an extra-life mechanic. It does seem to add some tension, as it removes the possibility of simply hoarding dozens of lives, as can be done in other games, while also making it a priority at times to hunt for those crucial hidden potions.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Much like Capcom’s Mega Man series, Whomp ‘Em lets the player select what order he or she would like to conquer the stages in. At the end of each level is an environment boss. Defeating this character gives the player a new selectable weapon type to use; typically, a boss is especially vulnerable to a certain weapon, which gives the player incentive to strategize smartly as to their order of play.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Taken together, these separate elements would seem just fine, quite enough to put together in order to create a formidable video game. Whomp ‘Em does proceed crisply, offering the player well-honed fighting mechanics to use throughout a variety of stages in an experience that proves to be a worthy challenge. However, well-designed items and enemies aside, Whomp ‘Em does have some flaws.

Whomp 'Em - NES

The additional weapon are underwhelming. Most of them just make the basic attack reach a little further, which there is already an item for, and prove to not be any more useful against most regular enemies. This is a strange choice, and could have been for any number of reasons, but it is definitely disappointing to gain the flame weapon – and notice that it only shoots a small fire out of the tip of the spear, like a blowtorch.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Some of the stage designs are questionable. Among Let’s Players and others, the final level has gained notoriety for being rather difficult and just plain cheap. These design errors are evident elsewhere, though: Several areas force the player to make blind jumps, which is hardly ever fun. At least the player can aim the spear downward, likely helping the cause in these cases. There still remain, though, a few spots in which it is tough to tell which elements are mere background and which are needed platforms, along with dubious practices in enemy regeneration.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the bosses, which range wildly between very cool and a just-right level of difficulty – to ones that are spectacularly frustrating, with such traits that include the ability to instantly take away the player’s extra lives at a single touch. While none of the bosses are impossible, and all are pattern-based, the use of cheap tactics in order to artifically inflate their challenge is a bit eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Overall, Whomp ‘Em is a pretty good game, and just that. It is not an all-time great. It is rarely seen on top-10 lists, but deservedly so; even then, it has perhaps been overlooked a tad, since it is still better than most 8-bit titles, and while nitpickers can find many flaws, the entirety was made well as a whole.

Graphics

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em looks great. The enemy designs are fun and varied, while some of them even move smoothly in interesting ways – check out the floating hands in some of the vertically oriented portions. The levels are lush with colors, but better graphical signals could have been used, such as with the bizarre “electric” clouds on the final stage. Also, this game does suffer from some flickering. The pixel artists was skilled, but the execution was not quite fully polished. For instance, that jump animation looks super weird.

Sound

Whomp 'Em - NES

For a video game that feels like it was trying to be The Next Big Thing on NES, the music has a strange strata to it. While the composition mostly maintains a sense of skillful rendering, even summoning a vague Native American sensation at times, but at others falls flat or even gets downright irritating. At least the sound effects are satisfying.

Originality

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em has been accused of being a Mega Man clone. You can offer the character stage selection right away alone without getting that accusation, or just borrow enemy powers, or have stage-end bosses, or involve pesky precision-jumping puzzles; but combine those, along with elemental weaknesses, and you have a recipe for such reputation. Then again, with a training level to start, the impressive in-game economy of items, the Native American flourishes, and an overall theatrical flair, Whomp ‘Em deserves a look, and is a bit more than a mere clone… even if it still never reaches the heights that a great Mega Man game achieves. Perhaps it would be a little better with a smidge more length, coupled with an adequate password or save function. Alas.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Mach Rider

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Mach Rider

Intros be damned! Today is a special day because I only have four words for you. The same four words that have become a personal battle cry anytime I spot a douchebag recklessly swerving between traffic on his little pathetic Honda. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER.

Mach Rider_NES
Badass in name only. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER. Sort of.

Mach Rider, as is the case with a few of the launch day NES titles, has curious beginnings. The name and concept debuted as a Japanese exclusive toy way back in 1972. Children were given the choice of a red, yellow, or blue car that was propelled at high speeds from a launcher that came with it. One of the rare instances where Nintendo didn’t create an intellectual property first, it was licensed from Hasbro and Nintendo distributed it. The toy itself was a bomb so around the time the powers that be at “The Big N” were looking for new titles to draw people into their debuting system, the Mach Rider license was bought on the cheap and re-packaged into the game we know.

Mach Rider_NES
Seriously, if you’re weaving between cars on some of the busiest freeways in the country and I catch you, this gets yelled in your direction full blast. For reasons unknown, I can’t help it.

In an uncharacteristically dark story for 1985 Nintendo, the setting is a post apocalyptic Earth in the year 2112 after an alien invasion of the evil Quadrunners. Whether the programmers were Rush fans or randomly picked that year is a mystery that may never be solved. Mad Max’s pixelated brother in spirit, Mach Rider, is the protagonist who rides like the fury of vengeance on the aptly named Mach Bike to different parts of the Earth. His main goal to begin with is simply finding a new spot to call home but along the way finds other humans that need assistance being liberated from the alien’s tyranny.

Mach Rider_NES
Dodge puddle. Shoot down both dirt bike riding aliens. Make turn. Don’t crash into barrel. Do Chinese algebra.

As with most early NES games, there are a few different modes of play. The main story mode is the Fighting Course, where you are presented with the troubles of the sector you are in and given the choice between two tracks to race on, giving it a feeling of variety which is pretty neat. “You are Mach Rider!” crawls across the screen before each mission and gets you amped for the upcoming hellride. The game itself has more advanced controls than most in this era of the NES as you can upshift or (if you are feeling suicidal) downshift all while firing a finite number shots at the Quadrunners who try to not only run you off the road but post-invasion, decided to litter the road with as much shit as they could find.. The feeling of speed is well executed here for the paltry 5 frames per second and there weren’t many mistakes on turns that I couldn’t recall the next time I tried and could correct my previous errors. The sound is great as a frantic tune accompanies the journey and the bike gives you a different sound when an upshift is needed as opposed to many games where you have to look at your dashboard while a pebble in the road somehow atomizes your entire vehicle. It really gets my goat when racing games do that.

Mach Rider_NES
Nintendo sure had a thing with all their games having weird score systems that noone took very seriously in the early days.

The difficulty of the bike’s controls and the Quadrunners themselves are decent, but the relentless amount of crap in the road can make things quite unforgiving at times. More often than not a little puddle of water will send you directly into a barrel on the shoulder which can’t be avoided or shot. When an obstacle is plowed into, you oddly break completely apart and pull yourself together not unlike a blocky T-1000. After a few hits, the game ends and it’s time to try, try again. My major complaint with this mode is that Mach Rider’s story is never resolved. If you beat the 10th sector (after a load of practice), you are transported back to the first sector to start it all over again. It would’ve been nice to know if the poor guy ever found a crash pad to live out his life.

Mach Rider_NES
Glitch Death!!!

The second and third modes are almost exactly alike. Almost. Given a set number of kilometers to make it to in a predetermined amount of time, the second mode, Endurance is basically Fighting Mode without the storyline and an infinite amount exploding/reassembling, only costing precious time required to advance. This mode was used personally as a way to practice for Fighting Mode, as it gives you a great feel for the courses and how to avoid certain ways to go kaboom. Solo Course is the same as Endurance except everything on the course has been removed, so once again, if practice is needed, this is the place to go if you’re struggling with some of the high speed turns. As with Excitebike and Wrecking Crew, the unusable Design Mode rears it’s ugly head. Recently, I’ve gotten messages about the Virtual Console versions of the Programmable Series now being able to save/load so that’s awesome. However, for the sake of the original carts being the ones I’m reviewing, it’s a disappointment we couldn’t do it over for 25 years.

Mach Rider_NES
Only 4 buttons to press and still couldn’t make heads or tails of how to design a course. Guess that’s why I’m just a lowly reviewer.

THE FINAL VERDICT

7/10 A really fun romp to kill a few hours with, the mastering of the controls can take a little while and even then there will be death, death, and more deaths. The premise is very Road Rash-ish and as great as I think this title could’ve been, there are a few control issues, like the puddles, and being read-ended to oblivion can make it seem more cheap than fun at some points. It does have the distinction of feeling very different than others of its era as a futuristic story featuring machine gun shooting biker vigilantes wasn’t standard Nintendo material at the time and is worth checking out for that alone. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER!

Mach Rider_NES
In the future, one man is bold enough to sport a Mario/Spider-Man hybrid color scheme, Road Warrior shoulder pads, and the fabled Excitebiker’s helmet. HE. IS. MACH. RIDER!!!

Sadly, the story of Mach Rider was never resolved even in the “Vs” arcade version released the following year. In interviews, it has been brought up more than once that the F-Zero is the spiritual sequel of Mach Rider and Captain Falcon has a few of the same traits our mysterious wasteland wanderer possessed. Still, one can only wonder what became of him. Did he find peace in a new home that we never saw? Did the looping sectors mean he was only destined to ride and avenge until his eventual end via exploding barrel? Seeing as we all say we love a mystery yet deep down don’t, I elect a revival of the Mach Rider franchise!

Venture

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Venture

 

Usually with games from the early 80’s you can either claim that they still retain a basic charm – or you can dismiss them as utterly archaic and not worth playing nowadays. I’ll do the former.

Venture hasn’t aged as badly as you might expect though. Sure, the graphics are incredibly basic, but it’s compulsive structure is timeless.

A basic dungeon crawler at heart, the game has two main styles of play. The first is a large view of each level (see screenshot below) where you control a tiny dot.

Venture-ColecoVision

Even on a huge television this dot is tiny – but once you figure out where it is (it’s at the bottom in the middle of the screen in the picture above) you’ll be fine.

Each level has four rooms for you to explore, which you enter using white doors. At first entering these rooms is easy, but the further you progress in the game the more aggressive the green squid-beasts that patrol the corridors become.

One touch from them and you lose a life, so when you exit rooms you have to be very careful not to immediately bump into them. There’s no way to fight back against them either.

This is contrasted by the challenges within the rooms themselves, where you can actually fight back (see top screenshot).

In these you are a much more distinguishable entity, taking the form of a smiley face with an arrow launcher (its name is Winky – no i’m not kidding).

Venture-ColecoVision

Within each room lies a treasure which you have to grab and escape the room with.

There’s always an obstacle to avoid or defeat in each one though, and most of the time it’s a group of enemies – which can either already be in the room or appear once you grab the treasure.

Sometimes there are other traps to avoid, such as tidal waves (blue rectangles – you have to use your imagination) and disappearing walls.

There’s a basic thrill to be had not knowing what’s waiting behind each door, and the way enemies take a second to appear once you’ve entered a room only adds to the suspense.

Venture-ColecoVision

The sound and music is also excellent, and not just for the time – it may consist of basic bleeps and blorks, but it’s genuinely charming and adds a lot to the old school atmosphere.

Although Venture isn’t a must-play by any means, it’s well worth a look if you ever get into the ColecoVision scene – it’s gameplay may be simple but it’s still a enjoyable slice of old-school action.

It even has a solid amount of content thanks to its range of difficulty settings and a serviceable two player mode.

WWF No Mercy

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WWF No Mercy

In every console cycle there are always games that get lost in time for whatever reason, waiting for the day when an ardent fan would bring them back up to a volley of puzzled looks. When AKI Corporations’ WWF No Mercy debuted on the Nintendo 64 in mid 2000, people were already looking towards shinier, newer things that they were told would blow their socks off, destroy their wallets and take them to the elusive ‘Third Place’.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

Concurrent to No Mercy‘s release, wrestling popularity was at its height, and kids everywhere wanted to be The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin ( including me). When WWF No Mercycame out my local Kmart’s game shelves were filled with nothing but copies of Waialae Country Club and the odd exorbitantly priced copy of Conker’s Bad Fur Day (something for another article to be sure), so at this point I was mighty wary of what I was getting into.  It’s handy then that No Mercy was both a fantastic representation of wrestling and a damn good game. In fact, it was one of my favourite games of all time!

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

All it took was five buttons of destruction and the loving cradle of the Nintendo 64 controller and you could be beating up a virtual Triple H in no time. Never mind the overblown simulators that wrestling games have become today, No Mercy had an easy to learn, yet robust grapple system which meant that all competitors were (usually) similarly skilled, moves were easy to pull off and wonderfully animated for the time.  There is something awesome about seeing your opponent somersault through the air rag-doll style after a well-timed clothesline, or smash into the canvas after a power bomb.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

If you became good enough, simple strikes could be turned into match winning counters – all the more sweet when you could hit an opponent with their own finisher. When I say hit, I mean really hit!  No Mercy captured the big hits of wrestling so well and with such great sound effects that when I used to go town on friends with a set of steel steps or a ladder I almost felt sorry for them…almost! The grunts and groans heard during submission moves are also pretty awesome but in more of a, ‘I suddenly feel disturbed’  kind of way. The bell sound effect that rang when a player copped a low blow is still hilarious to this day.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

But it wasn’t just the game play that made No Mercy stand out – we’d already seen a similar engine in the previous games Wrestlemania 2000WCW vs N W O Revenge and WCW vs N W O World Tour. It was the fact that the game is pure fan service with over 60 wrestlers to choose from, including some wacky retro long-retired ones. Nearly every wrestler came with their own unique move set and entrance video with authentic music and taunts. They even modelled the different arenas from the show for extra authenticity.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

In addition to all of this is a wealth of content including a championship mode for every belt that had dialogue, branching paths and even choices you could make to influence alliances. A survival mode – where you were charged with defeating forty opponents without getting knocked out of the ring, custom multiplayer tournaments and one hell of a create-a-wrestler mode. I would spend hours crafting a character to my liking before loading it onto my memory card and heading to a friends place to take them on.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

Of course, I’d love to call No Mercy a perfect game but there are a few minor things that have always irked me. If you played the game regularly you’ll remember a rather annoying glitch that randomly deleted your content. There are also other versions of the game where characters wouldn’t bleed. But hey, I’m willing to let a couple of troublesome glitches slide after so much fun, especially for something that’s still enjoyable to this day. So much so, thatNo Mercy remains a very popular choice for wrestling fans on the PC. Although, seeing as they’ve patched and modified the game so much to bring it up to ‘modern’ graphical standards it has become very much a different game – with some people going so far as to replace the older wrestlers with the current ones. Sacrilege!

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

So if you’ve read this far you may have worked out that I hold this game in rather high regard. For me, it’s a game that sits up there with Goldeneye for multiplayer on the Nintendo 64 and is easily the best wrestling game of all time. The gameplay holds up so well and there’s so much to do that even though I don’t watch wrestling anymore, I can still return to it with three friends and have as good an experience as I had 11 years ago.

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.

monster party - NES

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.

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

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South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

There are hardly any South Park games released on home consoles nowadays, but back in the late nineties a trio of titles based on the show were developed.

There was an FPS (South Park), a racing game (South Park Rally) and a party game (Chef’s Luv Shack).

Despite the difference in genres, they all shared one common trait – they were all at their best when played with friends.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

It isn’t just a recommendation that you play Chef’s Luv Shack with friends though – but almost a requirement.

Set up as a quiz show, the game has you competing with up to three other players in order to gather the highest number of points (or dollars) at the end.

It’s as shallow as a puddle in terms of modes, with no dedicated single player option (you can choose how many rounds you play, from 2 up to 8 – and that’s it) but fortunately the main body of the game is enjoyable enough.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

Each round consists of a few quiz questions and a mini-game. Questions fall into certain random categories, such as ‘people who eat people’, ‘aliens, assholes and anal probes,’ and ‘DNA holes.’

Sometimes questions are simple, and other times they’re purposefully random – making answering them a gamble. Getting one right wins you 500 points, and getting it wrong deducts the same amount.

You have to press a buzzer to attempt to answer the question as well, which inevitably makes thing very frantic indeed if there are several contestants.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

There are some variations to break up the question and answer format, such as the wheel of fortuitousness (where if you land on a certain section you get a points bonus or are allowed to play an extra bonus game) or a pressure round – where if you get enough questions right a huge anal probe/drill is rammed up Cartman’s…well, you can guess where.

As you might expect, the mini-games are where the most fun is to be had, and most of the challenges are incredibly simple but perfectly suited to simultaneous competitive play.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

‘Asses in space’ is an Asteroids clone for example, and has you destroying as many rear ends as you can before you lose all your lives. It’s easy to pick up, and with more than one ship on the screen things can get joyously messy.

A game that requires button mashing is ‘Eat this,’ which has you taking part in a pie eating contest. You have to press A and B to eat the pies, and the d-pad to get rid of the empty tins, and if you can get a rhythm is enjoyably hypnotic.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

One other example is the Game & Watch inspired Scuzzlebutt, which has you moving left and right to bounce falling water balloons off a trampoline onto a tree (that’s on fire and has scuzzlebutt trapped on top of it).

Although each game is basic, they each have a slightly different concept or control scheme behind them, and there’s enough of them to stop the game from getting dull too soon.

It goes without saying that you have to play it in short bursts to keep it fresh though, but brief plays are what it’s seemingly been designed for anyway.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

The game still holds up fairly well today as well – for two main reasons.

One is that the basic graphics actually depict South Park fairly accurately, and secondly there’s very little out there quite like this, even today. Sure, there are slicker quiz game experiences – but none of them have the cast of South Park.

The game admittedly isn’t as funny as the show, but there’s more than enough here to satisfy fans.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

Overall, the anarchic nature of the show is well suited to the party game format – and if you’re a South Park fan this is an essential purchase. It’s fairly cheap nowadays as well.

Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals

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Lufia 2

 Last time, we talked about Lufia for the SNES. This time around, we will be discussing the sequel, Lufia 2 for the same console. The first one introduced us to an amazing world of fantasy with an awesome story and great gameplay. This one offers another piece of the story. Lufia 2 is actually a prequel to the first installment. The game covers the story of the heroes who’s mission was to slain the sinistrals. You will definitely enjoy this and understand more of the story of Lufia. It’s a great way to combine the story of both games into one. Lets check out what this game is all about.
Lufia 2
 Another beautiful score of music accompanies this amazing game. The music is enjoyable from start to finish. You just can’t get enough of it. You’ll eventually end up adding it to your Ipod to listen on the go. The sound effects are just as good. You’ll be listening to 16-bit sound effects at its best.
Lufia 2
The graphics are even more detailed and beautiful than the first. The best part about a second entry of a game is the various improvements you observe from one game to the other. Not to say, this game was released in the console’s mature years so it was only fair to see various changes. You’ll definitely love this one.
Lufia 2
The gameplay is as enjoyable as the first one. You have the classic random encounters and you can even catch monsters to help you fight your battles. This was before Pokemon by the way! You’ll be doing some classic grinding and dungeon exploring. it never gets too old though. Increasing your stats and finding better equipment has never been so much fun in a 16-bit game.
Lufia 2
So being an RPG, you’ll have to play at least 40 hours to finish this one but the replay value comes in when you level up and go to the various dungeons. It’s very enjoyable even if it’s your only run in the game. It’ll never get too boring as you’ll always have a goal in mind. Why not reach level 99 with all your characters and become the ultimate monster hunter?
Lufia 2
The game is another gem for the SNES. If you are an RPG fan, then this one has to be in your collection. There is definitely no doubt about that! It’s a pricey gem but you’ll definitely see your money’s worth, even to this day!

Asterix and the Great Escape

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 Asterix and the Great Escape

The French comic book star Asterix has questionable appeal across the globe (especially in the US and Japan), but has still been the topic of a literal smorgasbord of games.

This Mega Drive is far from the worst outing for the French ‘hero’ (although I will admit I have played only a few Asterix titles), but it still has some sizeable flaws that make it hard to truly enjoy.

The standard plot involves Getafix and Dogmatix getting kidnapped by the Romans, with Asterix and his rotund pal Obelix setting off to rescue them.

To do this they travel across Europe completing short stages.

Asterix and the Great Escape

You can choose between Asterix and Obelix before you enter each stage, although you can only select the other (if you want to) when you lose all your lives and use a continue.

The game starts as it means to go on however, giving you no guidance and beating you over the head with a misjudged difficulty level.

Opening with a simple stage set in a village that lasts around a minute, the game then truly throws you into the deep end with the second level.

It not only demands that you to know how to equip items, it also expects you to realise that you have to go backwards from where you start to grab an essential potion.

Asterix and the Great Escape

Even if you do somehow figure that out you’ll need to act fast – the clock is ticking.

The time-keeping aspect is one of the most notable elements of the game in fact, and helps and hinders the title in equal measure.

You are rarely given any time at all to complete levels, and you’ll often be reaching the ‘exit’ (a special potion) with milliseconds to spare.

Obviously this is massively unfair at times, but it does inject an added amount of tension and panic when you’re leaping and punching your way through stages.

Unfortunately constant design mis-steps threaten to make the game an entirely frustration filled affair.

Asterix and the Great Escape

One example is the underwater level that arrives early on. Even when you overlook the design inconsistency (in one of the previous stages touching water hurt you) it’s still got a sadistic streak a mile wide.

It not only has an irritating wibbly-wobbly filter in front of the screen, there are also foreground objects that actively hide dangers from you.

The main example is falling blocks, and the seaweed mostly conceals them from you – meaning you’ll have to tread very carefully.

But a conservative approach isn’t possible if you’re going to complete stages in time, as previously mentioned.

Asterix and the Great Escape

So here lies the game’s main problem, and if a correct balance between challenge and unfairness had been found this could have been a hidden gem.

As it stands the game only occasionally glimmers – some potion based abilities are genuinely interesting, such as ones that inflate you and help you build cloud platforms – but is ultimately dulled by repeatedly poor design choices.

It still looks good though, and it’s colourful cartoon graphics and comic book flourishes (see the ‘paf!’ bubble in the screenshot above) have clearly had a lot of work invested into them.

It’s just a shame you can’t say the same for the gameplay.

Baseball Simulator 1.000

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Baseball Simulator 1.000

Among all the baseball video games released for the NES console, Baseball Simulator 1.000 was certainly among the most transparent efforts to try and be unique, to stand out from the genre crowd. Released in 1990, it was developed by Culture Brain, who produced a handful of other 8-bit titles, such as Kung-Fu Heroes and Scheherazade.

Gameplay

Want to simulate an entire 165-game season among six teams in a pennant race? You can, with Baseball Simulator 1.000. You can even hop in and out of whichever games you choose, or stick to one particular game, or participate in every single match-up. Statistics are tracked all year long, batting and pitching alike.

Baseball Simulator 1000

Want to create your own team, entirely from scratch, down to their individual names and statistical aptitudes? You can with, Baseball Simulator 1.000. The instruction manual even winkingly suggests that you can use this feature to recreate an all-star squad composed of your favorite real-life athletes.

Want to just play a shorter season with one team, such as 5 or 30 games? Want to watch two computer rosters play against each other, just to get a feel for the simulation? Want to track pitcher fatigue over a series, change line-ups, or even shift fielders mid-inning? You can, with Baseball Simulator 1.000.

Baseball Simulator 1000

Really: Baseball Simulator 1.000 is quite a thorough, dynamic 8-bit baseball simulation. Even if you just want to play one simple game, you have options: You can play against the computer, or against a human opponent. You can pick one of six different fields, each visually different for its setting, including one set in space. You can still alter batting order. As you choose the teams, you can select which league they come from – which, intriguingly, affects the use of Ultra Plays, as only teams from the Ultra League can utilize them.

As it turns out, Ultra Plays are the primary hook of Baseball Simulator 1.000, the single biggest gimmick to try and differentiate itself from other sports titles. The premise is that, in additional to the usual nine innings of offense and defense across a standard 8-bit baseball simulator, the players have basically been given superpowers.

Baseball Simulator 1000

Pitchers can, for example, throw a pitch that comes to a complete stop for a moment before continuing its flight. Batters can, to cite one sample, hit a ball that will have multiple shadows on the ground, making it very difficult to field. But fielders, too, can utilize abilities such as leaping impossibly high into the air in order to make a catch.

These Ultra Plays are used by hitting a certain button, such as B as a fielder or hitting Up twice as a pitcher. Once selected, they will be visibly indicated by an icon, but usually also by a sort of special animation. Spectators will note pitchers bursting into flames for fiery pitches and batters whirling like a tornado before smacking an especially thunderous knock. These descriptors, of flames and tornadoes, are not figurative: They are the shapes taken literally in animation, cartoon-like in their appearance.

Baseball Simulator 1000

The Ultra Plays are optional, entirely dependent on whether any Ultra League teams are participating in a given game. As a concept, the Ultras hit a sweet spot: Well-planned, with much variety, and executed in a way that does not break the gameplay entirely. However, as a gimmick, it is one that ends up as annoying just as often as it seems fantastic. In an attempt for balance, teams are limited to how many Ultra Plays they can perform per game, but such effort seems a little futile.

The special plays do lean on the defense a bit, though. Pitchers are favored in Ultra Moves, where pitches are made nearly unhittable. Yet half the time a batter will try to use an Ultra Move, it will be wasted on a short pop fly, or a quick little ground-out to the shortstop.

Baseball Simulator 1000

Maybe the comet strike Ultra Move is the best for batters, but slapping home runs is not too terribly difficult anyway, given how tiny the field is. Seriously, fielding is a nightmare: The ballpark is small, the fielders run terribly slowly, and diagonal movement is a clunky joke. At least even non-Ultra fielders are given a little jumping ability at a tap of the A button, but it proves inconsequential in the face of stacked odds.

The actual batting screen is fine, just fine. As a baseball simulator, those intense pitch-by-pitch at-bats are well-done, and seem to be fine-tuned to a mechanical science by Culture Brain. It is a shame, really, that the fielding is done so poorly, then. When placed head-to-head next to other baseball titles, most of them will shine as being an obvious improvement in the field. However, the real strike against Baseball Simulator 1.000 is that even a new NES player can tell that fielding is wonky, without necessarily any prior baseball-game experience.

This is what dooms Baseball Simulator 1.000 to the middling, not-the-best pile of baseball games, in this reviewer’s mind: The intrigue of the Ultra Plays would be awesome, if they did not backfire half the time; otherwise, the core mechanical make-up of the matches is just not strong enough to completely hold the fort against its opposition, even in the same genre.

Graphics

With its crazy Ultra animations, very mold-breaking character models, and the gorgeous array of different environments to play in, not to mention the absurdly colorful scoreboard model – Baseball Simulator 1.000 is beautiful. The visuals are a strong point, and go a long way towards enjoying this to its greatest possible extent.

Sound

Savvy listeners will notice similarity to Bad News Baseball in the sound department, down to the cadence of a certain background track and its drumbeat section. Those tunes, and the effects, are pretty good, if not as explicitly pleasant as the graphics.

Originality

Well, Baseball Simulator 1.000 certainly goes out of its way to separate itself from the pack of baseball games on NES. To a degree, it succeeds: The Ultra Moves are provocative, the customization options are in-depth, and the ballpark selection might actually be among its best spots. But no matter what selections are made, the actual baseball mechanics still have to be used, and thus are revealed for its weaknesses. A very competent batting set-up cannot make up for piss-poor fielding control and other minor elements that may make the player feel stacked-against. Add the fact that the Ultra Moves are often just as much a hindrance as they are a bonus, and you can look elsewhere for superior baseball action, even if Baseball Simulator 1.000 is serviceable.

Overall rating: 3/5 stars.

Mission Impossible

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Mission Impossible 

Well known as being a crushing disappointment when it was released back in 1998, it’s difficult to know exactly who would want to play Mission Impossible nowadays.

What’s really surprising about revisiting it today though is how you can still see the potential underneath the myriad of design missteps. It wasn’t dubbed ‘dissapointing’ for nothing.

Based on the TV series rather than the movie, the game opens with that tune and with some truly shonky looking character introductions.

Mission_Impossible-N64

Supposedly made to look like each person is twirling towards the screen, they instead look like they’re suffering from some serious spasms.

Things don’t get any better with the opening cutscene, which is woodenly animated and incredibly ugly and angular. It was never going to look good next to modern titles, but it’s still noticeably poor.

The first mission is also dull, and lacks any of the verve or excitement of the opening of say, Goldeneye.

You’re tasked with infiltrating a frosty Scandinavian (well, I presume it’s Scandanavian – the game gives all of its locations fake names for some reason) base and destroy the submarine within it.

Mission_Impossible-N64

Sounds promising, but it’s almost insultingly simple. You go into a building once you’re into the base, knock out a guard, disguise yourself as him (face changing is a big part of the game) and then stroll to the exit.

You then get to the next section, and have to find some bombs (why you didn’t bring your own is never explained) and plant them onto the sub and escape.

This had the potential to be a tense and stealth-based affair, but the game allows you to alert all the guards in the complex and still survive.

Thanks to the huge health meter (that’s the fuse at the bottom of the screenshot above) you can take hit after hit and grab the bombs, attach them to the sub and escape with no trouble at all.

Mission_Impossible-N64

It feels cheap, and there’s no satisfaction to be had from defying the odds as it was so easy.

Still, it’s perhaps fortunate that stealth wasn’t an pre-requisite in the mission, as the controls are woeful if you’re hoping to avoid detection. The main reason for this is because it’s nearly impossible to control the camera.

You have to move your hand off the analogue stick and use the d-pad to rotate the camera, which is as clumsy as it gets.

This means the C-pad is used to select your items and the d-pad for the camera, whereas it should have been the other way around.

So after this limp opening you may be ready to give up hope, but the next mission is markedly better – or at least, it starts off well.

Mission_Impossible-N64

You must access the important areas of a Czech embassy while disguised as a waiter, while also having to rig the air ducts with gas bombs and assume the identity of the Ambassadors Aide.

The way you achieve the last objective is actually surprisingly enjoyable and amusing. You not only have to spike his drink, but also have follow him to the bathroom and knock him out (and then change your face to his).

Most amusing is the cutscene where you drag the unconscious aide into the bathroom. You see him being slowly pulled in, and it looks incredibly dodgy – this clip must have been included as a joke.

What even more hilarious is when you take out the female assassin in the same place. Look 4 minutes and 53 seconds into this video to see for yourself:

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This section ultimately makes you feel like an undercover agent though, and is a great example of why people’s hopes for this game back in 1998 were so high.

Somewhat inevitably it’s followed by a highly tedious trudge through a poison gas filled labyrinth however, which requires you to know exactly which explosive boxes to destroy to get through.

Choose the wrong route and you’re pretty much finished, as you only have a limted amount of ammunition.

Mission_Impossible-N64

To make matters worse the game froze while I was playing this section for no reason whatsoever, but with the game’s reputation for being a buggy this was no surprise.

My recent time playing the game is a perfect demonstration of the game as a whole. Small, promising snippets followed by crushingly dull or frustrating troughs.

Mission Impossible is not a complete disaster, but is sadly a case of a potentially great license squandered.

Excitebike

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Excitebike

A title fondly remembered by any and all who played it. Introducing the thrill of motocross to millions who were years away from even thinking about a drivers license is one of the most popular and beloved of the Black Box titles, Excitebike!

Excitebike
Excitebike, October 1985, Nintendo

Conceived in Tokyo late 1984, Excitebike was the first NES title that gaming gods Shigeru Miyamoto and Toshihiko Nakago worked on together. These two along with Takashi Tezuka are often regarded as Nintendo’s “Dream Team” and have worked together for over 25 years, developing titles you may have heard of like Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda.

Excitebike
Part of the Un-Programmable Series. Is this is first instance of the title screen not being black other than Mario? The less black on your splash screen, the higher the rating!

The story goes that Miyamoto wanted Mario to ride a dinosaur right out of the gate but neither one thought the NES was capable of producing the exact feelings of accurately launching off ramps at high rates of speed and attempting to right your center of balance in mid-air. Determined to create a game that proved the NES was one malleable beast, they gathered that the physics for motorbikes was similar to what they were trying to accomplish with the unnamed Mario dino and Excitebike was born.

Excitebike
Look Ma! And you said dropping out would make me become a nothing! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

The game itself is a time tested classic. The graphics are bright, the variety of colors seem well thought out, and the music is classic NES fare, especially the catchy title screen tune. There are a total of two modes and 5 tracks but the action never feels dull or repetitive for a second. The first mode is a time trial where you are given a par time and must best it while dodging obstacles, aiming for ramps that shoot you into the stratosphere, and keeping an eye on your temp gauge to insure you don’t overheat. Overheating is one of the first challenges to overcome as having to wait for your bike to cool off can add precious seconds to your time. What’s awesome is that while A is your normal speed and B is your high speed, the game makes it impossible to not want to lean on B the entire time. There is definately strategy involved as to when to haul ass safely to your next opening in the action and when to slow things down so your don’t wreck or have to sit on the sidelines pissed off for a spell. Icons are laid out on the track as a sort of “instant cool down” for your engine and blend into the ramps, dirtpiles, and water puddles in a way to keep things intresting. The mechanics are simply amazing for the time as you can lean yourself forward or back in mid-air and it just feels right. Call it a lazy description but that is Excitebike as a whole, it just…feels…right.

Excitebike
So…which one of you assholes played Road Rash?

The second mode is just as fun but three times the white knuckle inducing challenge. You play the same five courses, but now have other “Excitebikers” to contend with. Sometimes, if you do much as scratch them, you’re picking yourself and your bike up off the ground. In real motocross, I imagine even a tenth of a second worth of impact can be catastrophic for the racers so it adds a feeling of true danger to the game. It isn’t difficult in a way that feels cheap as much as it feels like the challenge dares you want to try again an hour after you turn it off, the mark of any great game.

Excitebike
WHY GOD WHY? This mode would’ve been the standard bearer for mods years before they became as popular as they did.

Design Mode is exactly what it sounds like. You get your own NES canvas and get to paint it however you like. Starting with a completely bare track, there are 19 ways to litter it with shit that would drive anyone who tested your tracks out insane. The only bummer here is that it required the Famicom Data Recorder to save and load the tracks, which was never released outside Japan.

Excitebike
“It isn’t that Nintendo didn’t want to make more games starring me, my Lloyds of London insurance agents were PISSED when they got a copy of the original!”

In the actual Excitebike manual, it states “Save and Load menu selections are not operable in this game; they have been programmed in for potential product developments.” Seeing as this isn’t part of the Sports Series of the Black Box titles and one of the Programmable Series, not having the peripheral that would’ve made an already epic game into an even bigger landmark title is kind of a let-down. Thankfully, the rest rules and eventually Miyamoto got to use the lessons learned here to create one of Nintendo’s top mascots of all-time, Yoshi.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

9/10 A must have for every NES library, Excitebike is easily a title you can pop into the old grey box and still have a blast with. The physics are spot on, the fun factor is off the charts, and the challenge can go from beginner to ready to kick down walls. Good news is that Excitebike is one of the common carts, so this one can probably be found from $3 to $6 on average and worth every cent.

Excitebike
Ah, the classic Mario Excitebike we all piled into the stores for back in 1997 to add to our growing SNES collec…wait, WHATTHEUNHOLYFUCK???

The Excitebike series, for as popular and endearing to the fans as it was, laid dormant until 2000’s Excitebike 64 here in North America. HOWEVER, there was a little invention called the Sattellaview that hooked in through the Super Famicom in Japan (it would take all night to go into detail exactly what it was, think Sega Channel, but Nintendo), and in 1997, they released the most mind-blowing version of Excitebike ever.

Excitebike
Such an awesome find that I had to share two pictures from it. Hear that sound? That’s Nintendo still flushing money down toilets today for not releasing this publicly.

Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium was a SNES port of Excitebike featuring characters straight from the Mushroom Kingdom! It is a fucking travesty that more people don’t know this game exists as the gameplay and all-around Excitebike awesomeness is 100% intact. This will be a first for me because I’m all about original carts but since this bad boy had no cart, I highly recommend emulating this unknown piece of history. Excitebike with updated graphics starring Mario characters? How they could pass up the millions of dollars this could have sold is way beyond me.

Virtual Pool 64

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Virtual Pool 64

In terms of content alone, Virtual Pool 64 is a success.

The big issue is whether this huge amount of content and modes is worth wading through today.

If you’re a pool fan it’s probably safe to say that it is though. Despite the game’s slightly dated visuals it plays a fairly solid virtual rendition of the ball potting sport.

The controls are undoubtedly the most important element of the game – without feeling suitably responsive and solid the main meat of the game would be largely worthless.

So it’s good to see they’re not bad. Not perfect by any means, but workable enough.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

Moving your cue (seemingly held by the invisible man) is done with the analogue stick. Adjusting the cue angle is done with the right C-button, while holding the R trigger helpfully allows you to see things from an overhead perspective.

Hitting the ball is a little odd though. You have to hold A, and then pull back the analogue stick, pushing it forward to strike the ball. The strength of the shot depends on how quickly you move the stick.

It’s unintutive at first, but eventually you get used to it. You can see what the developers were going for at least, attempting to recreate the cue movement with the analogue stick.

You can then start picking through the games many options and modes.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

There are nine variants of pool to choose from, and you can play in one-off matches, tournaments and more for each.

Four of them are the same thing but with a different number of balls though.

3-ball, 6-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball all see you potting the balls in numerical order, with the person to pot the last one the winner.

I personally have always found this version of pool to be a tad unfair (you can pot all but one ball and still be the loser), but I know many people who swear by it.

For everyone else you have the reliable, trusted 8-ball mode, with the option to play it US or English Pub style.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

If you don’t how this version of pool works i’m surprised you’ve managed to read this far into this revisit. Suffice to say, it’s the one version of pool you should think of when someone mentions the sport to you.

You choose a colour/ball type (plains or stripes) and you have to pot all your balls and the black before your opponent.

Straight Pool, on the other hand, is pretty much pot any ball on the table that you can up to a certain pre-set total. A little mindless, but fun enough.

Rotation sees you attempting to rack up a score of 61 before your opponent with 120 points available on the table. This is one of the less enjoyable variants.

Bank Pool is even more torturous, only allowing you to pot a ball if you hit the rail during your shot.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

One Pocket is slightly more interesting, and sees you elect a pocket from the far end of the table which you must then try to hit as many balls into as you can. This one is like a hybrid of Hungry Hippos and pool, but it’s still not quite as good as that sounds.

That’s quite a lot to get your teeth into, and if you’re in the market for a pool game on the N64 (well, you might be) you won’t get much better than Virtual Pool 64.

Psycho Fox

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Psycho Fox

I must admit that when I first came to review this game, I failed to see why I had such fonds memories of it in the first place.  That was until I hit stage 2 and enter Skull Land!  From here the game picks up its pace a bit.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Like many other platformers of its time, the objective of Psycho Fox is to save a world that has been thrown into turmoil by some evil tyrant.  In this case the tyrant is known as Madfox Daimyojin.  With Bird Fly perched on his shoulder, Psycho Fox must trek through seven bizarre stages, each with their own stage boss, before encountering his nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin.  Who is Bird Fly you may ask?  Bird Fly is Psycho’s trusty sidekick that can fly out from his shoulder to defeat enemy creatures.  Bird Fly also acts a shield because while perched on Psycho’s shoulder, he can take one hit without dying…however you will lose your feathered friend.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

One of the coolest features of this game is Psycho’s ability to morph between fox, monkey, hippo, and tiger.  However this is reliant that you have obtained a “Psycho Stick”, which can be found hidden away in the eggs that are scattered throughout the rounds or by killing an enemy creature.  Of course each transformation has its strengths and weaknesses.   Fox is the original form of Psycho Fox and his abilities such as walking, acceleration, punching power etc are standard.  The hippo has tremendous punching power with the ability to break bricks.  This allows you to enter some sealed off areas, but ultimately his weight will let you down.  Monkey is known for his high jumping ability, while Tiger is a bit of an athlete who excels in running and long jumping.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Another feature is the end of round lottery bonus game known as “Amida”  To play this game you must acquire at least one money bag during the round…one bet per money bag.  Psycho Fox places a bet on a pathway that he then travels along, before receiving the prize at the end of the pathway.  Prizes include extra lives, psycho sticks, straw effigies, and magic medicine.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Or if you’re unlucky like me, you might get the booby prize.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

My favorite part of the game is defeating the stage 2 boss.  A fly of epic proportions, brain visible through his transparent shell, Psycho must douse his opponent with fly spray by jumping on the nozzle of the can provided!

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

The game takes you through a number of landscapes including desert, sky, wind tunnels, and underground caverns, before you meet your nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin.  In addition there are various hazardous implements you must avoid including disappearing bridges, slippery slopes, and needle-studded floors and ceilings.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Victory was mine and boy was it sweet!

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

One of the bonuses of this game is that once all your lives are depleted, there is an unlimited “continue” function enabling you to return to both the stage and round you left off.

However, my main frustration with Psycho Fox is the lack of a “checkpoint”.  If you happen to die, you must begin from the very start of the round.  This is very frustrating if you happen to die whilst battling a stage boss!  Another criticism is that Psycho Fox moves a little too slow for my liking.  This means that if you get to close to an enemy, and are not in a position to throw a punch, it is difficult to move away in time.  It is also hard to jump distances if you don’t have a bit of speed behind you.

By the time the credits had rolled I felt like it was ME going psycho, possibly because I had died at least 100 times!  But despite my frustration Psycho Fox is a great little platformer.   It features some neat realistic sound effects, for example when Psycho cracks open an egg with his fist.  The soundtrack is great albeit a little repetitive, and the game is rolled up in a bright little package.  The biggest plus it gets from me is the interesting modes of defeating the stage bosses it employs.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

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Conker’s Bad Fur Day

As i’ve said a few times before, buying N64 games back when I was a kid was expensive. Very expensive. With price-tags of up to £60 per title, I could only afford to buy a game once every blue moon.

It just so happens that one game I did end up paying full whack for was Conker’s Bad Fur Day – and I think I ended up getting my money’s worth.

Starting of development life as the sickeningly twee looking and kid-friendly Twelve Tales: Conker 64 – developers Rare made a complete u-turn, deciding to make the game an adult, swear filled romp instead.

It was an inspired move, and the game has a freewheeling charm that’s still refreshing today as a result.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

Unlike the bloated collectathon that was Banjo Tooie (released around the same time and also developed by Rare), Bad Fur Day is a more linear and focused experience – and has aged better as a result.

I say focused, but the game boasts such an eclectic mix of settings and genres it’s hard to keep up.

Starting off with a bright and colourful farmyard stage, the game then has you climbing a mountain of faeces, and then throws you into a prehistoric world – and that’s just for starters.

The game has a deceptively simple way of tying all these wildly different concepts together though, and that’s through the use of ‘context sensitive’ buttons.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

Simply put, these are pads which you can stand on, press B, and are given a relevant tool to help you in your current predicament. Whatever that may be.

Teetering on a thin walkway with bats attacking you? Press B on the relevant spot, and your fire off a flamethrower that sees those bats bite the dust within seconds.

Need to attacks a giant boiler’s brass testicles? Press B, and you can whack them with a pair of bricks.

A deviously simple way to inject even more unpredictability into affairs, these buttons are fortunately used reasonably sparingly – otherwise they have made the game’s design feel a little too amateurish.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

What’s really surprising when looking back at the game is how simple many of the challenges are, and how they sometimes only feel fresh due to how they’re set up.

An arena based combat section is nothing new for example, but riding a velociraptor and making it tear terrified caveman limb from limb is.

The game is also bolstered by some truly stunning bosses, and to list them all here would be to ruin the surprise.

One is much better known than all the others though, and is still as mad, operatic and quotable now as the day the game was released.

In terms of presentation Bad Fur Day is still impressive as well. The graphics may now appear a bit angular and fuzzy by today’s standards, but the full speech used in cutscenes and the quality of the game’s script still stands up.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

The humour is strictly lowbrow of course, and there are perhaps a few too many film references and parodies – but it’s genuinely amusing stuff for the most part.

The game’s flaws still stand out though, and against modern titles they look even worse than they did back in 2001.

The camera is very poor, and you’ll be wrestling with is by using the C-buttons a lot of the time. In terms of difficulty the game can also be very unforgiving, with the latter parts of the war section in particular being controller-smashingly unfair.

Another element of the game that is bemusing is the lives system. When you lose all your lives you see a game over screen, but once you’ve started up your save file you simply start from the latest checkpoint where you were before. What’s the point?

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

It’s nonsensical design choices like this that can end up making the game feel a little dated, but they’re not enough to stop the game from being worth playing.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is still a genuinely brilliant experience, and one that can be as frustrating as it is laugh out loud funny.

If you can persist through the occasional low-points the game offers up a mad-cap quest that hasn’t been seen before or since.

It’s just a shame that the game is so damn rare nowadays, mainly due to being released right at the end of the N64’s lifespan.

Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

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Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

This week we have an incredible RPG for the SNES. It’s Lufia & the Fortress of Doom for the SNES. The game was released by Taito and it’s one of the most memorable RPGs for the 16-bit console. If you want an awesome old school RPG adventure with an incredible story and more, then you have come to the right choice! Lets take a look!
Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
 The music is just awesome. Taito had some memorable music in its time. You will definitely love the soundtrack of this game so much that you’ll have it on your Ipod! Also, the sound effects are superb 16-bit beauties. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
 The graphics are the usual RPG graphics for a 16-bit game back in the day. They aren’t at Chrono Trigger standards, but they are definitely good for the eye. You will not be confused in this game as to where is there is a door or not.
Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
 The gameplay is what makes this game shine. It’s fun turn based classic style. You can’t go wrong with this choice of gameplay. Each character has their own style of fighting and can help other members out. If you keep a good balance of attacks and magic, your fights will be a lot easier than you might think. The game mostly takes places in caves where you must explore to your heart’s content. Definitely, addicting gameplay overall.
Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
 RPGs don’t usually have much replay value as the games themselves take hours and hours to complete but there are extra dungeons and what not that makes some outshine. This one is more about going back to previous areas and see if anything has changed. This like many RPGs is not a game you would want to return to multiple times unless you’re deep in love with it.
Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
 One of the most awesome RPGs for the SNES and a must play for the console. If you are just getting into RPGs, then this is the best way to go especially if you’re a fan of 16-bit games. This is a must have for your collection.

Total Recall

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Total Recall

Video game developer Acclaim who put out games like Mortal Kombat, Smash TV and Spiderman Return of the Sinister Six released this licensed game in 1990.  The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid and Sharon Stone as his violent wife Lori.  If you haven’t seen the movie it’s a sci-fi movie that involves a lot of crazy things like traveling to Mars, having new memories implanted into the brain and Douglas’ loving wife who starts trying to kill him.  Problem is with the new implanted memories, he doesn’t know which ones are real and which ones are the fake memories so he’s on a quest to find out what is real and what isn’t.  Sounds like a crazy movie that should have a cool game right?? In theory yes, but what Acclaim delivered was just a frustrating piece of junk that adds in a bunch of stupid things that weren’t in the movie.

Total Recall - NES

You start the game playing as Schwarzenegger’s character Douglas.  The sprite is slightly accurate and it is a big guy who could be based on Arnie, but overall it’s a pretty bad looking game with some serious problems with its animation.  It’s a 2D action platforming game, where you have to get Doug to a certain part in the level while you kill people along the way.  Normally I love games like this but Total Recall has poor controls, tons of enemies and is just frustrating making it very difficult. There is a variety of different stages like city streets, the sewer, subway, concrete factory and sometimes you will have battles in little apartment rooms.  Unfortunately most of my time was spent in the sewer, since every time you walk past an alley you get hit by someone and dragged down there.  Then you need to work your way out and start by the alley again, the one nice thing is the alley seems to have a lot of energy drinks for you to replenish your health a bit.

Total Recall - NES

You can jump and punch (then shoot when you get a gun).  One of the most annoying things is when your enemies are constantly jumping over you making it incredibly hard to hit them while other baddies are attacking at the same time.  Oh and since when were there pink mutant midgets attacking Arnold in the movie?  Maybe I just have a bad memory, but it seems very odd to me.  It’s hard to kill these guys too since they are short and you have to duck to have a chance of hitting them.  It reminds me of playing Goldeneye on the N64 when someone would take Oddjob and it was much harder to kill them when they are shorter than you. Plus you have to fight rats. Ya, I don’t remember Arnie punching rats in the movie…

Total Recall - NES

While you are playing and trying to figure out what exactly is going on you will have a happy bubbly soundtrack to listen to. This game is supposed to be a gritty, and dark at moments but the music definitely doesn’t represent that.  It’s very off putting, it seems like they pulled a music track from some other happy game and just dumped it in here.  The sound effects are also bad with a lot of thud sounds and a weird buzzing type sound.

Total Recall - NES

There are just too many things wrong with this game.  The game feels unfinished with hit detection problems and flickering sprites just to name a few problems.  Ultimately the choices made by the game designers are confusing at best.  Why have a theatre where you can earn a life by watching the Total Recall movie credits then follow it up with a death scene of Arnold saying “I’ll be back!”  Did they not do any research and realize this was from a different movie? I love cheesy Schwarzenegger movies but seriously this is a huge disappointment, and there is nothing about it I can recommend.  Why couldn’t it have been a good movie adaptation like Batman?  It’s not even worth playing to see how bad it is, that is why I consider it one of the worst games on the NES!

Blues Brothers

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Blues Brothers

In 1999, developer Titus Software released a video game for theNintendo 64 console called Superman: The New Superman Adventures. More commonly referred to as simply Superman 64, the title gained widespread notoriety for being among the worst of all time. However, Titus had certainly been producing awful cartridges based on media licenses far before that; for example, Blues Brothers, which dropped in 1992 for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System Console.

Gameplay

Blues Brothers, at first glance, is a fairly typical platformer. The directional pad moves the protagonist left and right, holding down the B button enables a faster movement speed ala Super Mario Bros, and the A button jumps. Two players can play simultaneously, although the implementation has its flaws, such as enabling one player to easily be left behind forever. Otherwise, the only other move is the option to crouch by pressing Down, and possibly crawling back and forth while doing so.

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Based on the hit 1980 film of the same name starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, Blues Brothers gives the player the choice between playing as Jake or Elroy, although this does not affect gameplay beyond their appearance. The twelve-year gap between the movie release and the game release is interesting, to say the least, and one has to wonder if Titus was truly grasping for the cheapest licenses they could try to take advantage of.

This is a platformer, with the simple goal of reaching the end of each of the handful of levels. Enemies are usually to be dodged rather than defeated, with the exception of goggled sharks and dogs that can be temporarily rode upon, seemingly just for kicks. There are many traps, spikes, pitfalls, and other dangers. Even pausing is dangerous, since there is a delay, which is a spectacularly unusual element for any video game.

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While the formula seems intact, and the game impressively scrolls across all directions across large levels full of different required movements and detailed aspects, the player will soon realize that this is no ordinary NES video game. While three hit points are offered with each life by default, with a couple extra lives to go afterward and a couple continues besides, even all those instances of accident forgiveness can hardly prepare the player for the soul-searing nightmare ahead.

Blues-Brothers-Video-Game

To put it simply: Blues Brothers is a very challenging game. But to merely put it in such stale words, such simple terms like “extremely hard,” only dulls the true nightmare effect this cartridge provides. Blues Brothers on NES is a master class in awful license games, putting on a clinic of game design choices that artifically inflate both difficulty level and gameplay length through means of platforms the player can only spend a limited time on, invincible enemies, no means of attack, remarkable precision needed for jumps and other maneuvers, “trap” drops where you cannot see oncoming dangers, unclear destinations, slippery physics, and other notable faults.

Blues-Brothers-Video-Game

Blues Brothers may not be the worst NES game, and several nice quips could be uttered concerning its presentation, but the outright combination of patience for tedium and outstanding platforming skill required to complete it are astounding. Titus really flexed their bad-design muscles on this one, providing 8-bit gamers with something that might be even harder to enjoy than it is to complete.

Graphics

Having said all that, the game does not look terrible. Yes, the color choices can be a bit strange, with the one-color animals and the way the protagonists’ coats often blend into the background, and maybe sometimes the tile-based haphazard sophomore-effort effect of the levels is overwhelming, but at least the pixels are usually placed with care and the entirety obviously took a lot of effort to produce. Actually, it might even be better-looking than Superman 64, if we are being completely honest.

Sound

The effects seem a little limp, achieving a cartoon-like absurdity at their best and an underplayed denouement for the most part. Then there is the music, which might be the best part of Blues Brothers on NES; appropriate, considering that music played a rather prominent role in the film. From the title screen track to the stage backgrounds, the crew at Titus shows off some skill in layering the hardware wave forms nicely, with enjoyable beats over pleasant melodies. The emulated drum kicks well, and it may be a shame that such simply good chip music had to accompany an otherwise crappy game.

Originality

Beyond the strangeness of riding a green goggles-wearing shark for a few seconds, the whole Blues Brothers experience feels stale and overdone. The game feels like the final project of a student tasked with producing a platform games; the levels crawl on endlessly with little self-consideration for the reasons why they proceed in the manner that they do, and completion of each feels so utterly arbitrary. The ending seems to echo this sentiment, with a big shrug from the developers as a single bland congratulations screen marks the finale to a real slog-through session. A platform game can feel utterly cobbled together but still be somewhat fun, like Alfred Chicken, and some license games managed to shine on NES. But not Blues Brothers. Blues Brothers is bad.

Overall score: 1/5 stars.

Stack-Up

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Stack-Up

Since 1967, there has been a major event held showcasing the latest in technology called the Consumer Electronics Show (CES for short). It was so popular in fact, that for awhile, the powers that be held two a year, one in the summer and one in the winter. In 1984, Nintendo entered the CES with flyers of a grey box flanked by out-dated looking Atari games boasting the slogan “The evolution of the species is now complete”.

Stack-Up NES

 

Inside that grey box was the Famicom, an institution in Japan for over a year at that point. Due to the crash of 1983, they couldn’t muster one single order at the event as consumers and retailers had zero to little intrest in risking one cent of hard-earned spending money on video games ever again.

Enter R.O.B., the greatest Trojan Horse in gaming history. At a time when noone was willing to part with their funds for a video game system, Nintendo unveiled the Robotic Operating Buddy along with the Zapper the following year and explained to retailers that it wasn’t a video game console, and instead marketed it as a toy robot and a toy gun. What kid didn’t see this and automatically start erasing shit off their Christmas list? They even went to the lengths of downplaying the televisions in the advertising to focus everything on the accessories.

Stack-Up NES
“Yes, I saved gaming by being unplayable. Suck it Atari!”

It worked and on October 18, 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System along with 18 available games were launched in a few markets in New York City. The rest as they say is history. By the end of the first fiscal year, R.O.B. was discontinued and sole focus was put on the gaming aspect of the NES but by then, they had already sold one million units and blew the asses off of people used to Atari’s simple graphics and sound. The moment impressionable youth first popped in Super Mario Bros after spending precious and frustrating time trying to figure out the robot’s nuances, it was too late. North America was hooked. The following year, 3 million more units were sold and people never spoke of the robot again. The Zapper had legs however, but that’s a story for a later review.

 

Stack-Up NES
But…I thought the game was named…

How are the game themselves? Let’s start with Stack-Up, or as it is called in Japan and in the title screen, Robot Block. The reasoning the title on the splash differs from the name on the box is because Nintendo was trying to cut costs and instead of overriding the 10NES lockout chip with new code, they simply created an adapter so basically you had a Famicom game(60 pin circuit board) being converted into a NES(72 pin) game when played. The 10NES chip was the enemy of many collectors who wanted to play games shipped from overseas, so a good deal of R.O.B. games were bought and broken apart for the converter alone, making both titles in the series very collectible. While Gyromite was a pack-in game at first, Stack-Up wasn’t. Being marketed solely to children at the time would be another reason complete sets are hard to come by as God knows what the fate of many of the required pieces were.

Stack-Up NES
If you think this is too much extra shit for a gaming controller, wait until Gyromite.

It comes with five pedestals and five “blocks”, which resemble nothing close to a block. Think more along the lines of Tonka Truck wheels without treading. So, you turn R.O.B. into a deranged looking electronic star and sit the blocks in a pre-arranged pattern. From there, you control Professor Hector (for some reason they put Professor Vector on the box) and jump onto tiles instructing R.O.B. to place them into the pattern the game asks you to. This would be the earliest example of the NES using a digitized voice in a game as the Professor actualy says “up”, “left”, and the like. That’s where the all fun times end. To start, R.O.B. moves in such a lackadaisical fashion, you’d swear he spent all the time confined to his box hitting on the reefer. It takes about twenty seconds for him to turn right and grab something, not counting the time it takes for him to turn back around and put the blocks where they are supposed to go. That, by the way, NEVER happens because while R.O.B. does an admirable job of picking up the blocks, transporting them with any sort of balance where they need to be is lost on the poor fellow. You’re going to spend half your time getting up and picking these damned blocks up and the other half wondering how they thought this game was ever going to be playable. Oh wait, see above, they already knew R.O.B. was a total piece of shit.

Stack-Up NES
My first walkthrough for GameFAQS will be for Stack-Up and will read like this. “Press start. The end”. You read it here first foks!

Parents still bought it for their kids, who all eventually popped in a real game and threw R.O.B. in the closet forever. There is another mode where you play Bingo while trying to instruct R.O.B. what to do by avoiding eneimies and hopping on directional buttons but in all honesty, it’s even worse than the original game. With alot of luck, you might be able to get the robot moving once every two minutes or so. The weirdest part of this game isn’t even the controller, it’s the fact that there is no way for the Nintendo to know what exactly R.O.B. has accomplished so all you have to do is press start and you the level is complete. No bullshit, my 6 month old son beat a level of Stack-Up.

Stack-Up NES
To prove how hardcore R.O.B. was marketed, he is in this old UK advert not once but twice!

THE FINAL VERDICT

2/10 Well, it has barely better controls than my current bar for complete shit, DKJrM, which is saying something for that poor game. However, the game isn’t as unplayable and, not meaning to go out of order, R.O.B. is a little easier to use here than with Gyromite. A video game that operates on a trust system is a pretty worthless one indeed when we as gamers look for any and every cheat available to us to see the end. I can see this being played once if only to try out the awesome looking peripheral, trying out say, Kung Fu, or Clu Clu Land, and then never even recalling having owned it until a closet clean-up and an Ebay auction a decade later. No denying the little fellow has a cult following as he has made as many if not more cameos in gaming than just about any other character in the history of NES.

Stack-Up NES
“If my brother, Johnny Five, could see me now…”

 

NBA Action ’95

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NBA Action ’95

To its credit, NBA Action ’95 was revolutionary. While EA was tinkering with a 3/4 view for their NBA series, Sega loaded NBA Action ’95 with then unheard of features like create-a-player, trades, injuries, and more. In 1995, it was the most feature-packed sports game ever made.

nba-action-95-

Unfortunately, all of that time spent developing those bonuses led to a hysterically funny basketball game. Situated in an illogical overhead view (where the players still appear as if viewed from the sides), every player was a force on the court. Chicago Bulls center Will Purdue could lead a fast break down the court every time, and the game’s total lack of defense meant he was an offensive powerhouse.

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Lay-ups and dunks were missed more than jumpshots, and an absurdly high levels of foul calling meant you spent extensive time at the line (and made it even harder to play defense). Glitches (or a total lack of acceptable animation) results in players warping from the top of the key to the basket when dunking. Stepping out of bounds was only a problem when the referees decided it was.

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NBA Action ’95 was so terrible, it contained a weird charm. There was (and still isn’t) anything remotely like its bizzare combination of simulation aspects and broken arcade gameplay. A level of complete unpredictability happens during every game, but that doesn’t mean its a classic, or even acceptable. On the bright side, Marv Albert’s now unintentionally funny, “Serves up a facial,” commentary may be the best aspect of the actual gameplay.

Gunfighter

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Gunfighter

At some point in the early 80s my parents aquired a Philips Videopac G7000, also know as Magnavox Odyessy². The world’s first computer games console was of course 1972′s Magnavox Odyessy (I say of course though I only found this out when googling the Videopac). I say aquired as I really can’t imagine my parents actually buying a Videopac off their own backs. I have a vague memory that an uncle may of given it to us when his kids no longer wanted it. That or my Dad got it from a man in the pub.

The Philips Videopac G7000

Whatever, I don’t remember it arriving, it just seemed to always be there. It was kept in a big plastic bag on top of a wardrobe and whenever my brother or I wanted to play it we had to ask my Dad to get it down and set it up on the TV. Consequently we didn’t play on it that often and it was always a bit of a treat when we did. Kids these days with their Nintendo stations and their xwees, they don’t know they’re born, etc. We had several games, but I only remember two – Laser War, a kind of space meteor type game (I may blog about it one day) and Gunfighter.

With Gunfighter you took control of, unsurprisingly, a Gunfighter in the old wild west. Each player was represented by about twelve sprites, with a couple of sprites representing the mandatory cowboy hat. You moved about the screen, firing your one sprite gun at your opponent and the one sprite bullet would drift across the screen, usually missing the other cowboy and bouncing off… things – not quite sure what they were, stones? Cacti?

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It was simple, slow and would no doubt be incredibly boring if I played it now, but back then it was a little bit of magic. I still remember the sounds, the way the screen would change colour when someone was hit, the feel and click of the joystick.

This game was the first multiplayer game I ever played. I mostly played against my brother, who I remember often beating. Though seeing as I’m three and a half years older than him that’s not so impressive – my hand to eye coordination was a little bit more developed… That didn’t stop me lording it over him, showing off and generally being a horrible, boastful, little git. I played against my Dad as well. More often than not he won but I used sometimes beat him. I think it was the first thing that I beat my Dad at (lets brush over the fact that he was probably letting me win to be nice). Probably my earliest memories of beating anyone at anything – of victory – are of Gunfighter. I was a true twelve sprite cowboy.

gunfighters-gameplay-screenshot

My dominance of Gunfighter couldn’t last forever of course. My brother soon got the hang of it and started beating me, rubbing my nose in his every victory just as I had done to him. I seem to remember that led to sulking and lots of ‘Not playing anymore’ on my part.

So Gunfighter taught me that what comes around goes around – to be a gracious winner as there’s every chance that next time I’ll be the loser. To this day I try to follow this creed, especially as more often than not I tend to be on the losing side when playing games. Especially if I’m playing Lew.

The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

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The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

Bart’s Nightmare is often considered one of the better retro Simpsons games as well – although that may be because it’s not competing in a particularly strong field of candidates.

By today’s standards Bart’s Nightmare is an overly difficult and strangely structured beast – but it still has some interesting elements.

One plus point is the game’s presentation, which as you can tell from the screenshot is very colorful and quite unique.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

This is mainly as the developers used a hand drawn art style, which ends up portraying the bright colors of The Simpsons’s cartoon world quite well. It looks a little ramshackle by today’s standards, but still maintains a certain charm.

The music used is also quite strange, exuding an oddly lulling quality that is very hard to accurately describe (as you can tell from that hash of a sentence).

In terms of plot the game sees you play as Bart, who falls asleep at his desk while attempting to do his homework.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

You are then taken into an odd dream world where you must recover nine pages to get back to reality.

To find the pages you have to scour the game’s hub (see above), which sees you avoiding crazed mail boxes, old ladies who shoot kisses, bouncing basketballs and so on.

Finding a page is seemingly a random event – and at this early point is where the game may start to test your patience.

Finding the pages isn’t enough either. You have to jump into one when you find it, and select one of two doors to enter.

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Each one takes you to a different stage, with every challenge different from the last.

This is where one of the main problems with the game lies. Although it offers up a variety of challenges, each has its flaws – making the game a rather bittersweet experience.

Most of the problems contribute to the game’s over-difficult nature as well.

In the Itchy and Scratchy stage for example, it can be tough to avoid taking consecutive hits before you’re able to fight back.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

The Bartzilla stage on the other hand, doesn’t even have the common courtesy of giving you a life bar.

A Indiana Jones inspired block jumping stage also feels far too random to be fun.

The controls also needed refinement. Your jump (B button) is too stiff and inflexible to make you feel in complete control, and movement is a little stilted in general to boot.

Overall, Bart’s Nightmare hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s presentation now acts as less of a cover for its slightly sloppy structure, but if you’re a Simpsons die-hard you might get something out of this.

Shadow Dancer

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Shadow Dancer

Subtitled ‘The Secret of Shinobi,’ this is actually a do-over of the arcade game of the same name.

It’s not quite classic enough in my opinion to be classed a proper Shinobi successor, but it’s still a damn fine game in its own right.

shadow dancer

You play as a ninja, who can jump, throw shruikens and summon a fire attack. You can also strike foes with a blade if you get close enough. There’s also a white dog that follows you, but I don’t think it does anything of note.

You scroll to the right, basically shooting down foes with your shruikens, and avoiding their attacks/bullets. And it’s pretty damn important that you avoid their attacks, as one hit and it’s back to the start.

shadow dancer

This makes the game a lot more difficult than it would have been otherwise. Ducking usually allows you to avoid the bullets that come flying at you, but with no room for error, one mis-step can send you right back to the beginning of a stage.

Fortunately levels are quite short, and can be rattled through fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing. I believe you have to save a set amount of hostages held throughout the levels to progress, but they’re usually found along the path you’re going down anyway.

shadow dancer

There’s a decent range of ideas in the levels as well, such as one being ripped apart by an earthquake, and another allowing you to jump into both the fore and back ground.

The graphics are clear and detailed, and the animation is as fluid as you’d expect from a title with a Shinobi connections.

shadow dancer

Bosses are fairly simple, but are made a real challenge due to the ever present ‘one hit = death’ element.

It all adds up to a game that’s a challenge, but one you’ll end up relishing rather than rejecting. Although a genuine cart of the game will cost you a fair bit, it can be found in a few of those Blaze Mega Drive collections – which is nice.

Shaq Fu

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Shaq Fu

I just had to do this because this game is so awesome. So awesome it deserves a pick of the week. After seeing it for a total of three times at my flea market trip last Sunday, I decided to give it a shot and wow what an amazing game this is.

shaq fu - sega - genesis

 

For a side scroller the graphics are superb and the sound just outstanding, just try playing the game with the stereo plugged in and you will have one of the most amazing soundtracks in video game history! I’m not kidding! The gameplay is simple, you have Shaq doing the Shaqattack! doh! and much much more!

Once you pick this game up, you can’t put it down!

shaq-fu-sega-mega-drive-cover

btw….this is all a sarcastic entry….this game is pure shit but since no one in the entire world will pick it as a game of anything, I decided to be a nice guy like usual and do it myself. Screw this game! UP THE A-HOLE!

Mr Driller

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Mr. Driller

Love it or loathe it, Dig Dug is (correctly) regarded as an all-time classic arcade game and, despite being converted to a large number of home systems, it has not been one of the franchises that Namco has furnished with a large number of updates or sequels. It received a rather anonymous second installment in 1985, but the series wouldn’t be revisited for another fourteen long years.

Originally intended to be Dig Dug 3, the transition during its development to Mr Driller also included a change in the protagonist. The hero of Dig Dug was Taizo Hori but taking his place here is his son, Susumu Hori! As the highest ranked Driller in the world, he was the first one the panicked people called when the cities became overrun by mysterious colored blocks rising from underground…

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This flimsy, and largely unnecessary, premise does of course set the scene for another colored/shaped blocks puzzle game. Once you’ve chosen between a 2500ft or 5000ft challenge, the arcade mode throws you straight into the action with Mr Driller falling on top of a huge pile of colored blocks. He can drill in all four joy-pad directions and doing so causes drilled blocks to vanish. As he drills down, untouched blocks may fall downwards if the blocks supporting them are drilled. This can of course result in Mr Driller getting crushed and losing a life.

It’s not quite as hard as it sounds though as falling blocks shake for a split-second before falling, giving you a precious chance to get out of the way. Falling blocks also stick to non-falling blocks of the same color if they touch them, forming larger blocks. There’s only four different-colored blocks as well, so some blocks can get pretty big!

Luckily, larger blocks are destroyed from a single drill-strike, much like single blocks, and any four or more falling blocks of the same color will vanish once they land. This can of course cause big chain-reactions so it’s best to make sure none of them land on your head! Speed is of the essence for more than one reason too.

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Mr Driller has an ever-decreasing air supply so he must drill strategically but quickly. Air capsules are readily available which top up his supply by 20% but sometimes they’re tricky to reach. They are often near brown ‘X’ blocks. These take five drill strikes each to destroy and also take away 20% of Mr Driller’s air, so it’s not really worth breaking one except in an emergency. Mr Driller can clamber up blocks either side of him, but only if they are one block high. This is invaluable for reaching air capsules or escaping falling blocks, but sometimes it’s not enough!

As well as the arcade mode, Mr Driller players also have access to a survival mode and a time attack mode, both of which are fairly self-explanatory. The basic gameplay doesn’t change a great deal, but it doesn’t need to either. I don’t think I was alone in finding Mr Driller a rather unlikely release by Namco on the fancy new Dreamcast, but any initial disappointment soon faded.

It may look like a game that could’ve been hosted by a console from the previous generation, perhaps even the one before that, and it’s not even particularly original, but Namco ensured Mr Driller had it where it counted. It’s bright, colorful, and loud – the music and sounds effects are great. But more importantly, it’s just immense fun. And addictive. Very addictive. If you haven’t dabbled before, Mr Driller comes highly recommended.

Double Dribble

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In 1987, Konami released a video game cartridge for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console that was a port of a fairly widespread basketball simulation arcade game called Double Dribble. Could such an early-release title for the young system’s cycle actually live up to its arcade-cabinet origins? ~Eric Bailey

Double Dribble

Gameplay

Double Dribble is a basketball simulation video game sporting (pun intended) five-on-five full-court gameplay. In this particular NES b-ball sim, the developers opted for the control scheme of using B to switch which defender is being controlled or to shoot on offense, while the A button steals on defense, or jumps to contest a shot if the opponent is shooting, or passes the ball. Actually, to clarify, pressing B once on offense makes the player jump, while pressing it again in mid-air releases the ball for the shot. If this is done near the rim, the game shows a dunk-animation cutscene, emphasizing the slam dunk; or, in some cases, getting “hung” when the ball clangs off the rim instead of satisfyingly tearing through the net.

Double Dribble

Other, the gameplay is fairly standard for an 8-bit basketball game, following four periods of play, offering a selection of a handful of cities to pick from for teams, and instituting certain penalties such as out of bounds, traveling (incurred whenever a player fails to release the ball in midair) and backcout violations, humorously called “BACK PASS” on-screen and resulting in a rapid change of possession. There is a tip-off to begin each game, but the computer always wins. Double Dribble does, though, have a few unique quirks: The players retain their momentum if they jump while running, which is already distinctive, but then the player can even change the athlete’s direction in midair. This leads to very interesting maneuvers in the paint, wherein a fairly dexterous player can change direction five or six times before the second B button tap to launch the dunk animation. It could be presumed that this is something akin to digitally throwing down a 1080-degree jam. Also, the game seems to emphasize stealing as the primary strategical element.

Double Dribble

Furthermore, the A.I. moves in the weirdest, most illogical patterns – even on higher difficulty levels, one example would be when an unguarded player has a clear path to the basket, only to turn and take several step back toward the half-court line instead. Finally, one unfortunate deficit of this basketball game is the inability to pass to an on-screen teammate: The computer can pass to an off-screen teammate, but a human player must absolutely only pass to a player that is already visible on screen, lending a certain limitation to available plays.

Double Dribble

The title screen has a voice effect for the Double Dribble name, then after the player chooses to play alone or versus a human opponent, a cutscene launches that shows people (or, at least, very fuzzily rendered pixelated massive blobs) swarming to an arena as a Konami blimp flies overhead. A shortened version of America’s national anthem plays, balloons are launched, and an absolutely enormous flag is raised over the stadium. Finally, one of the most awkward options screens in gaming history is found: Settings such as period length, team, and difficulty level can be altered, but with each button press, rather than simply and instantly scroll through the available selections, an on-screen player actually fires a jump shot at a rim that aligns with the intended option. This makes for an overly tedious selection process, which would be bearable if it were not for the already drawn-out effect of the opening ceremonies screen.

Graphics

This 8-bit basketball sim looks okay. There are better-looking roundball titles, and there are worse-looking ones as well. The players do not differentiate in height; but in classic NES basketball game tradition, there are palette-swapped sprites in two varieties to display white players and black players. Gameplay follows somewhat smoothly, the one animation anomaly being a bit of flickering, even besides the intentionality of the ball-handler flickering as a possession signal.

Double Dribble

Perhaps somewhat humorously, rather than the disappearing act of typical flickering characters, the ball-handler alternates in sprite frames between being caucasian and African-American in appearance. But the visual highlight of the game are the dunking cutscenes, perhaps the best on the console, copied by later titles but never quite equaled in their five or six frames of slam-dunk monochromatic-athlete glory.

Sound

Background music is laid to the wayside in favor of traditional arena organ ditties and the constant repetition of the bouncing basketball, emphasized appropriately for a game called Double Dribble, to the unfortunately annoying result. Some digitized voice effects are used, such as for the aforementioned title screen and certain foul calls.

Double Dribble

There is the usual “swish” sound effect for a made shot (heard often, since it seems very difficult for the computer to miss a jumper), the oomphy dunk noise, and perhaps this reviewer’s favorite, the rattling clang of a missed slam of the rim. Just as with its graphics and its gameplay, the soundtrack of this game is middling for a basketball title on the NES, though Konami does flex its muscles in a few highlight portions.

Originality

Double Dribble cannot get too much credit for creativity, since it is not only an arcade port, but also a title based on a pre-existing sport, basketball. However, Double Dribble did set the basketball video game standard on the NES, considering its early release date in the console’s supported lifespan. The gameplay is actually somewhat impressive in that context, but its most significant contribution to the genre is likely the dunking animations, which would be endlessly emulated by dozens of future basketball titles and series across further console generations, making the switch from gameplay view to a specific up-close dunking shot a staple for roundball games to come.

Double Dribble

In terms of its production quality, programming accuracy, faithfulness to the original sport, and overall place in the NES library, Double Dribble is an average game. This is not a title that will appear on any all-time greatest lists, except perhaps those that allow for sentimental favorites, but nor will this appear on worst-ever lists either. It is what it is: A simplified, arcade-style basketball video game. In fact, it is actually probably a step up from the original arcade iteration, which made players actually press a button for every single dribble. Nonetheless, Double Dribble on the NES scores two and a half stars out of five.

Street Fighter Alpha

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Street Fighter Alpha

When I was a kid Street Fighter II was one of the coolest games we had on SNES. The series had seen many editions, spin-offs, and sequels, but this is the first time I really played the Alpha series. Since PSN has classics for the original Playstation, I thought I’d start with first Street Fighter Alpha.
street fighter alpha
Alpha was called Street Fighter Zero in Japan, as it is a prequel. Though it’s really the first real successor to Street Fighter II. It’s also more similar to II than III or IV. You have a fair amount of characters with a couple of stages. Old favorites like Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li are here but new ones like Charlie and Rose join the cast.
street fighter alpha
Overall it plays like a sightly superior Street Fighter II though some of the characters I didn’t care much for. There also isn’t a whole lot to the game either. Just an arcade mode and a versus mode. Typical for a fighting game in the 1990s, but now we expect a tad more.
street fighter alpha
I think Street Fighter Alpha is a great game, though as a fan of the series it does feel a bit like deja-vu. Why I was a bit curious to see what the original Alpha was like, I’m now regretting going to it instead of the the third game. I hear it’s got a lot more characters and improvements than the original.

Street Racer

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Street Racer

Street Racer is still no Mario Kart, but is much better than it has any right to be – just make sure you give it sufficient time to impress. ~Simon Reed

I’m not sure how I haven’t yet revisited Street Racer, as it seems a perfect for this blog. A game that’s slightly obscure and been forgotten by many, but still has elements that means it’s worthy of re-appraisal.

A Mario Kart style racer developed by Ubi Soft, Street Racer could easily be dismissed as a lesser imitation during your opening minutes of playtime.

Despite a rocking opening music track for the main menu and some solid if uninspiring looking cartoon characters to choose from – such as Frank (Frankenstein), what looks like a gold prospector and a beach babe – you’ll struggle to get to get to grips with the actual racing itself.

Street Racer - SNES

The game uses Mode 7 (at least it sure looks like it does) to a near nauseating degree, and tracks spin and warp quite badly.

This makes the simple task of seeing what’s coming up ahead much tougher than it should be. It looks good in stills (see above) but the game is no picnic when in full flow.

What makes things worse is that the fairly loose handling takes a fair while to get used to. You need to slow down regularly here – odd for a cartoon karting game – to get anywhere fast (pun intended).

Especially when you consider that you can’t really make out walls due to the Mode 7 graphics until the very last moment.

Street Racer - SNES

Added to the initial malaise of annoyance is the unclear power up/weapons system.

There are no pick up weapons in Street Racer, only turbo boosts (used with Y). Attacks, in the form of your racer punching, are done with the L and R buttons, which allow you to punch to the left and right respectively. X makes you perform a short jump.

If you can cope with these problems/oddities though – and it’s a big if – the game does get better the more you play it.

The more open tracks, such as a beach level, are easy enough to negotiate around for example, and you suddenly get the extra confidence to be able to weave your way through the pack – which you possibly didn’t feel like you could do before.

Street Racer - SNES

Better still, the game boasts some rather unique little features.

One is that after each race extra points are awarded to the racer who gets the fastest individual lap time, punches the most opponents and collects the most stars scattered around the track.

This is a neat little touch, and adds another welcome layer of depth to races. It can mean you can finish fourth but still accumulate a healthy number of points.

The other interesting part of the game is the inclusion of two multiplayer modes (they can be played in single player if you must) alongside the regular races.

One is a ‘Rumble’ mode, which has you trying to knock/punch off your fellow racers off a small arena. Depending on the difficulty setting you have buffers around the arena that slowly deteriorate when they’re hit.

Street Racer - SNES

It’s a little messy, especially with no real weapons to speak of, but still fun.

What’s even more chaotic is the ‘Soccer’ option though.

It has eight racers on one small pitch all attempting to take a football and thwack it into the one goal. The goal has a pong-esque paddle as a goalkeeper, and it’s as ridiculous to play as it sounds.

Despite it’s problems – it can take you minutes at a time to get the ball – it’s a brave experiment and one, against all odds, that’s still playable today.

In conclusion, Street Racer is still no Mario Kart, but is much better than it has any right to be – just make sure you give it sufficient time to impress.

Iron Soldier

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Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre. ~Simon Reed

Iron Soldier

A Jaguar exclusive, Iron Soldier also happens to be one of the most common titles on the system.

Fortunately it’s no disaster like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (another common Jag title), but instead a fairly solid game that’s worth picking up if you’ve had a Jaguar inflicted upon you.

You take control a robot/mech, helping what sounds like a resistance group. There’s no real explanation of the over-riding plot, but it would be foolish to suggest that makes the building destroying action any less satisfying.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

At the start you have four missions to choose from (with 16 overall), which can be tackled in any order you wish.

Or at least, it seems that way. Some stages can be a real struggle if you aren’t equipped with weapons gathered from certain other levels.

Before you enter a mission you can tool up your mech with any weapons you may have, and you’re given a brief rundown of your objectives.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

This quick briefing has to be studied carefully – as not knowing exactly what you’re doing in a stage is suicide.

As soon as you enter a level you’ll probably be struck at how blocky the game is. If you needed any more evidence that the Jaguar wasn’t really 64-bit then here it is.

The next thing you’ll realize is that the controls aren’t the easiest to grasp.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The simple task of movement requires you to press A and either up or down to start going forward or backwards respectively.

Once you’re moving (you can adjust the speed accordingly) you simply have to steer and shoot. Changing your weapons is tasked to the option button and – this took me a little while to realize – the numbered keys at the bottom of the pad.

Shooting is something you’ll be doing a lot as well, with endless streams of tanks and helicopters firing at you non-stop.

This is why knowing your objective is an absolute necessity, with missions being reasonably varied. Even if most basically just involve destroying stuff.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The first stage, for example, sees you going around a city to destroy a warehouse. The second has you sinking docked boats, and another involves reducing a bridge to rubble with the use of grenades.

There’s no hugely complex action here, and the game is probably all the better for it.

Yes, the graphics may be ridiculously blocky, but the game still has some impressive explosions, and the way buildings dissolve into showers of cubes is actually rather charming, in a retro kind of way.

Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre – but for the Jag it offers up some solid robo-destruction action.

Phantasy Star Online

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While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. ~Adam R.

Phantasy Star Online

While Sonic Team might be constantly criticized for never really getting Sonic right when 3D came along, their magnum opus during the Dreamcast era was Phantasy Star Online. Which revived the classic Phantasy Star series after a 7 year break.

Phantasy Star Online

 While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. The only thing like it were MMOs like Everquest on PC. It was to be played online as players can choose different classes and join other players to conquer levels and defeat bosses.
Phantasy Star Online
 The game later came out with different editions like a 2nd version with new content on Dreamcast. After the “death” of the Dreamcast, Sega ported an enhanced version on Nintendo Gamecube. There was also an Xbox version later on, but oddly it’s unplayable now since it had no offline mode and the online service for the original Xbox is gone.
Phantasy Star Online
This was one of the games I was always meaning to get, but never did. I never had broadband (until 2005) or got the internet adapter for Gamecube which was a big reason for it. Unless they come out with a Xbox Live Arcade version, I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to try it out. I hear the sequels never recaptured the magic of the original.

Mega Man Legends

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Imagine Metroid meets Ocarina of Time with walking/movement akin to Resident Evil, and you sort of get the picture. ~Adam R.

Mega Man Legends

While the original Mega Man series has only seen ten original games, Capcom’s favorite blue hero also had different spinoff and subseries. Like Mega Man X which features a new Mega Man built by the original Dr. Light in his last days. Later came along Mega Man Legends which introduced a new Mega Man into a 3D world.

Mega Man Legends - PSOne

Its story is also somewhat indepdent and perhaps unconnected to the rest of the series from what I can tell. This Mega Man is referred to as Mega Man Volnutt who travels with Roll Caskett (who shares the same name as the original Mega Man’s sister), her grandpa, and some monkey. It had something to do with mining and random robot attacks. Didn’t make much sense.
Mega Man Legends - PSOne
The game was not a traditional platformer but instead a 3D action-adventure. Imagine Metroid meets Ocarina of Time with walking/movement akin to Resident Evil, and you sort of get the picture. You travel around towns, and go into caverns/dungeons defeating bad robots.
Mega Man Legends - PSOne
The game met very positive reactions when it first came out on PS1. The complete overhaul was praised for the most part, and the 3D gameplay was likable. A PC and N64 version were later released but they were met with a fair harsher criticism. I played a little bit of the N64 version, but I was saddened to hear that the 3rd game in the series got cancelled.

Black 4 In One

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There is a certain cute factor to Mr Postman (you are a teddy bear after all) yet its quickly forgotten by the sheer brutality of that constantly shitting and spitting bird. ~Joseph Tobin

Black 4 In One

Manufactured by a German company (from what little I can find out online about it) named Bit Corp. (which sounds like a really cool chiptune artist name if you ask me) is the Black 4 In One cartridge. Why I refer to it as the Black 4 In One cartridge is because years after acquiring that one (I’ve had it since I was about 10 or 12) I managed to acquire an orange one with a different mix of games on it and the same name (which I may review later).

Black-4-in-one-cartridge-for-the-atari-2600

Anyway the cartridge has 4 games on it and it uses 2 switches to determine which game will play when you turn on the Atari console with it plugged in. This weird as I’ve never seen the same switch system used on any other Atari cartridges yet its very effective.

Something of interest is this cartridge was only released in PAL territories so they are considered pretty rare in USA.

As you can see my personal copy had taken a bit of damage thanks to my kids. Somehow it still works – further proof of how durable these old Atari carts really are (even the cheap third party ones).

Anyway these are the games that are on Black 4 In One –

  1. Space Tunnel (right/right)
  2. Phantom Tank (right/left)
  3. Bobby Is going Home (left/right)
  4. Mr Postman (left/left)

Now for the games themselves…

Space Tunnel

Space Tunnel reminds me a lot of Vanguard except you move up and down instead of scrolling left and right. Alien ships at varying speeds and sizes come at you in squadrons of one, two or three at a time. What makes this a challenge is the bullets they fire ricochet off the walls and they tend to be as fast as the ship that fires them. slow ship – slow bullets. Fast ship – oh my god how do I dodge this thing?!? Its usual Atari fare of an endless amount of waves and trying to survive as long as you can whilst scoring as high as possible.

Space Tunnel

This game is pretty fun – the controls are responsive and the adrenaline shoots up when the fast ships are firing bouncing bullets at you. When you die (by touching a wall, an alien ship or a bullet) your ship becomes a twisted piece of wreckage and there is a loud bang sound. When its game over you can still move your wreckage left and right, further rubbing in the fact your ship is screwed. Whether intentional or not I like that.

Phantom Tank

In Phantom tank you drive a tank in a maze trying to kill phantom tanks which are attacking your base at the bottom of the screen. What is really cool is this is one game where flickering graphics are actually a good thing because they make the phantom tanks look very ethereal. So you navigate your way around, shoot 20 tanks and on to the next level.

Phantom Tank

While the first level or two aren’t too tough the third level is an absolute bitch. You are fighting in mostly open terrain with a small barrier to protect the top. Where this sucks is you can only have one bullet on screen at a time and only the screen walls or the moving tanks to stop it. Not to mention if you sneak up the top a single stray enemy bullet can drift down and kill your base. When your base goes it doesn’t matter how many lives you have – GAME OVER!

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In spite of this Phantom Tank has remained one of my favorite all-time Atari games.

So the first two games are pretty straight forward. Not a lot to say about them – they are what they are and are pretty fun. The next two is where it starts to get weird…

Bobby Is Going Home

Warning – this game is cute. I’m talking obnoxiously cute here. How a bunch of Germans came up with this game is beyond me – Germany is known for industrial efficiency, hard electronic music and good beer – NOT FOR CUTE! Don’t believe me – take a look at this screenshot!

Anyway you are Bobby (who is supposed to be a little boy but looks more like an elf on his way to a funeral) and you are trying to get home. In this brightly coloured world you have to traverse such obstacles as fences, ponds, retracting bridges, chickens, bats, butterflies, rolling stones and so on. Controls are pretty good although the high jumping can get you killed sometimes.

Bobby Is Going Home atari 2600

Throughout the game an obnoxiously cute tune plays to make this German kawaii nightmare complete. That happy tune will get stuck in your head. Anyway you go from left to right through various screens dodging obstacles. When you jump it plays a little tune which plays instead of the background music’s bass line (yes the game music has treble and bass parts – something that Atari doesn’t have often).

If you hit an enemy Bobby farts when he dies. If you fall into a pond you sink ito it and drown with a bubbly drowny-type sound. As you near your house the music slows down – I guess Bobby is starting to get tired by this point. The final screen is a snow storm with you going into your house and you are treated to a happy ‘there’s no place like home’ type tune. Then it all starts again except a little harder.

Bobby Is Going Home

This game most certainly has camp value and is very fun to play in spite of the cuteness blasting from every pixel on the screen made even worse by that tune you will find yourself playing in your head for years to come. For what it is this game is very well made – lots of colour, great looking backgrounds, butterflies that look like butterflies, house that looks like a house and so on. However those black things they call rolling stones look pretty weird.

Mr Postman

This is a game most reviewers can the crap out of mostly because they can’t get past the first screen so they dismiss it as being a bad game. Personally I think these reviewers are just being AVGN wannabees and are deliberately looking for stuff to trash in games in an attempt to be funny. A bad game is a bad game but Mr Postman is a lot better than many other Atari 2600 titles.

There are three screens in all and I can make it through all of them. But it took a hell of a lot of practice to do it.

Mr Postman

In this game you are a postman represented by a teddy bear. The aim is to traverse the three screens and deliver your letter to a house in the ‘City of Silence’. Why I know this and most reviewers don’t? I used to have the scrap of paper that came with this cartridge they laughingly called the instruction manual.

The first screen is very hard, the hardest part of the game in fact. You have to run across the bottom of the screen, climb the tree jump onto the swinging rope, jump off the rope and land on the bird.

Jumping onto the bird is hard enough but many people don’t even get that far as the bird is constantly shitting while spitting at the tree. So you risk being shit on by the bird (which of course kills you). If you make it that far you risk being spat on as you climb the tree (which also kills you). Timing your jump to catch the rope is the easiest part of this screen (again, if you miss the rope or bird it kills you). As the bird is moving a lot its hard to time the jump onto it. But it can be done and when you do a triumphant tune plays and you can fly around on the bird for a bit. Yay.

The second screen you are flying around in a hailstorm. If you touch the trees at the bottom you die. If hailstones hit you (which you have to shoot) you die, if the lightning bolt hits you (kind of like a faster moving missile like in Missile Command) you die. Plus you have to shoot the birds at the top of the screen through the gaps in the clouds. Surprisingly its not as hard as it looks. Anyway you kill all the birds and the hail you make it to the third and final screen.

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Congratulations Mr Postman you’ve made it to the City of Silence – now to make your way to the house and deliver that letter. But its not so simple as there are some tight squeezes to slowly inch your way through else you die by touching the walls. As long as you take it slow its not so hard but a couple of those spaces are pretty tight. Ironically there is a simple tune playing in the background as you roam the City of Silence.

There is a certain cute factor to Mr Postman (you are a teddy bear after all) yet its quickly forgotten by the sheer brutality of that constantly shitting and spitting bird. The hailstorm is chaotic and keeps you on your toes. Crawling through the City of Silence can be nerve-wracking navigating those tight corners. You really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you deliver that letter. But wait… it doesn’t end there. Thats right, this is Atari – you go back to the beginning to do it all over again!!!

So there you have it – all four games and for the most part four fairly entertaining ones. All games have excellent responsive yet precise controls so you can’t blame those if you suck at the game. I like the varying difficulty between the games as it caters to gamers of all skill and patience tolerance levels. A rarity for a small third party company as they are generally known for bad games.

Our Rating

  • Space Tunnel – 7/10 – Its fun, action packed space shooting in a confined space. The changes in speed keep the challenge going and the richochets keep you on your toes.
  • Phantom Tank – 8/10 – Great game even if the third screen is nigh impossible to beat
  • Bobby Is Going Home – 7/10 – Fun but gets repetitive once you know the patterns. Has some replay value as its the sort of game you just have to show to people and laugh when they can’t make it home even once (then you proceed to breeze through it). I can imagine people on drugs having a lot of fun with this one.
  • Mr Postman – 5/10 – The sheer brutality of the first screen will turn many people off playing it. Yet there are those who will be determined to beat it if only once.

Overall an excellent cartridge to pick up if you can find a copy.

ISS Deluxe

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 Konami made sure you sweat when you play this game. ~Luis Zena

ISS Deluxe

This is one of the games that brought back interesting gameplay to a very interesting and abandoned sport genre, Soccer. The game itself is very easy to handle, of course you won’t be able to do much with the weaker teams so I suggest you start playing with the stronger teams like Brazil or Germany.

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe

The goal keeper is something else as he will guard the post like if it was a matter of life and death! I’m totally serious, this guy gets to a point that you just want to break the controller. HE SAVES EVERYTHING!! The post is also as big as it can get and the bastard always somehow makes the save.

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe

Either way, it’s always a challenge to beat him. I usually just lure him out of the post and pass the ball back for a kick on the side he is furthest from and he still manages to save the ball half the time. Yeah, Konami made sure you sweat when you play this game.

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe

The teams are also very unbalanced in the aspect of weakest to strongest. I know that most games are very playable even with the weakest character (TMNT Raph, I’m talking to you!) but this one makes you want to just pick Brazil or Germany half the time. You can try it with other teams but you’ll end up having a very hard time beating the goal keeper or even catching up to the offense as your guys aren’t even as fast as your rival. This uneveness makes you work harder and truly think like a pro to find a way to win. I haven’t played the game so much to get to that point, but you will know what I mean when you play it.

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe

To conclude, the game is very entertaining just don’t let yourself pick any other team other than Brazil or Germany when you start playing. With enough practice, you can beat the team with the weaker teams like Japan, USA, and even Mexico.

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!

Return Fire

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As technically impressive as the 3DO was for its day, it’s a sad fact that anyone who met the rather immense outlay required to own one had little in the way of high-quality games to play on it, and even less that actually made use of the new machine’s impressive abilities. ~Simon Lethbridge

Return Fire

One game that appeared to do just that, however, was Return Fire, and it was an exclusive too! Well, until the 3DO started floundering at least, at which point it was also released on the PS1 and PC, but still – for a while, 3DO owners had something to show off, and it was a game worthy of envy. It’s a simple military-based strategic frolic at heart which pits two forces against one another – green and brown. Player one controls the latter while a second player or the console itself controls the former, and the object is simply to seize your opponent’s flag and return it to your base. As you might expect, however, it’s not quite that simple.

Return Fire - 3DO

There are somewhere in the region of 130 stages altogether and they are divided equally into two groups – one consisting of single player stages, another of two player stages. They are viewed from a scrolling, angled-overhead perspective and most of them consist of an island with opposing forces occupying a different end each – two player maps give each side about half of the land area each while one player maps just have a few buildings on the player’s side with most of the island taken up by enemy buildings and defences. In either case, your job is to find the building which houses the flag, destroy it, collect the flag, and return to base, and there is initially only one mission on which to do this. Once this is completed, however, the next tier of stages is unlocked which has eight new maps. Finish any of these and the next tier becomes available with eight more, and so on.

Return Fire - 3DO

Your means of vanquishing your opponent and completing these stages comes in four forms. You start each stage safely within the confines of your bunker and here there are four vehicles to choose from – the Tank, which moves at a reasonable speed and can fire shells at ground or air targets with its rotating turret, the Armoured Support Vehicle, which is slow but has meatier defences and can fire air/ground rockets and drop mines, the Helicopter, which is fast and obviously unimpeded by buildings and suchlike, and can fire air/ground rockets, but is obviously a bit more delicate, and lastly the Jeep which is fast and nimble, can move across watery areas with its inflatable air thingies, and can launch grenades, but is of course incredibly weedy. Eight of the jeeps are available for each stage and these are the only vehicles with which you can grab and transport the flag, but you also get three each of the other vehicles for blasting your way to it.

Return Fire - 3DO

If any of your fine vehicles are destroyed you’ll automatically return to your bunker to choose another (unless you somehow manage to lose all seventeen of them!), but you can return at any time anyway to switch if you want. Helpfully, doing this also replenishes their limited fuel, ammunition, and armour as well, although this can be done ‘on the fly’ too, by stopping off at one of the relevant depots nestled amongst the gun towers and other buildings of either side. The depots though, like everything else in the game can be destroyed (even the trees!). This doesn’t present a dilemma for the solo-player as you’re only up against the enemy gun towers, but with a two-player game you then need to decide whether to preserve them for your own use or to destroy them to prevent your opponent from doing the same. Indeed, despite the extensive amount of shooting and destroying you’ll no doubt engage in while playing Return Fire (its ‘tagline’ is even “Destroy, Destroy, Destroy!”), if you want to actually play it properly, there’s a lot of strategy involved as well.

Return Fire - 3DO

One aspect of this is of course choosing the right vehicle at the right time, and they all differ enough for each player to find a strategy that suits them. You might want, for example, to use the chopper to scout out your opponent’s stronghold and try to locate his flag tower (there are usually some decoy towers too) and find the easiest route to it. Alternatively, you may choose to plough head-first through everything in a straight line from your bunker to your final goal. Whichever method you employ, it’s best not to hang around for too long or annoying little helicopters will turn up and start taking pot-shots at you (although it is very satisfying to shoot them down!). Other things to consider are the design of the stage in question. They all consist of one or several islands and in the case of the latter they’re linked together by rickety (and very destroyable) bridges which presents numerous possibilities in itself. As you probably already guessed, this is therefore a game which was not designed for solo play and accordingly is immeasurably more enjoyable when playing against a friend.

Return Fire - 3DO

As undeniably awesome as this mode is, I’ve also spend quite a bit of time with the one player mode and, while it is good fun, either for practise or for mere wanton destruction purposes, it does get a bit repetitive after a while. A big part of this is down to the graphics which are quite splendid but pretty much the same throughout the whole game. In spite of the angled-overhead viewpoint, the stages are presented in 3D which allows the camera to zoom in or out rather nicely depending on how fast you’re moving. Things do get a little blocky when the view zooms right in but that’s not too often. The worst thing about the visuals, though, is without doubt the total lack of variety. All stages are set in the same environment – sandy areas with surrounding water, bridges, the odd patch of grass – and all feature the same few types of building with the same roads around them. The only differences really are the shapes of the islands and the actual location/arrangement of the buildings and features, and even then, some stages are merely mirrored versions of others.

Return Fire - 3DO

One aspect of the game that definitely impresses, however, is the presentation. From the tank that trundles onto the screen to destroy the glass 3DO logo, to the dramatic title sequence, and the FMV clip of a WWII victory parade that greets completion of a stage, everything is very slick and polished, especially the audio which, famously, consists of several pieces of classical music. The aforementioned title sequence features Requiem Dies Irae while, in-game, each of the vehicles has its own theme tune including Mars: Bringer of War for the Tank, Flight of the Bumblebee for the Jeep, In the Hall of the Mountain King for the ASV, and of course Ride of the Valkyries  for the Helicopter, and the volume of the music even increases or decreases according to the intensity of the on-screen drama! There is also the occasional use of ‘incidental music’ such as upon discovery of your opponent’s flag, and victory is hailed by the Hallelujah Chorus which certainly gives the sense of a job well done.

Return Fire - 3DO

The ingenious use of this music, as well as some spot-on sound effects, is what really gives this game its fantastic atmosphere which is helped further still by some great attention-to-detail. Shooting a building often sees its occupants flee, for example (and yes, you can squash them if you so desire, complete with squelching noise). This superb atmosphere plays a big part in drawing you back to Return Fire too, even on your own. I don’t usually play it for long at a time by myself own as, despite the tremendously enjoyable and satisfying game mechanics, it’s easy, a bit repetitive, and largely pointless to play solo, but I still return to it often. Besides, it’s nice to play it with a full-screen (well, the upper two-thirds of the screen) now and then rather than half of it which can feel a bit cramped. If Silent Software came up with a decent back-story and incorporated some sort of mission-based one-player mode this could be an all-time great. It is a two-player game really though, and offers a rare chance to outfox a friend with cunning stategies rather than brute force, and in this capacity alone it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played.

Sonic Heroes

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Sonic Heroes was a good bit different than the Sonic Adventure games. While those games stopped the furious speed with adventure elements, this game was more true to it’s 2D roots. It was a pretty straight forward platformer with little distractions. ~Adam R.

Sonic Heroes

While Gamecube fans liked the ports of the two Sonic Adventure games, Sonic Heroes was the first original Sonic game for the system. Ironically Sega also produced PS2 and Xbox versions which gave Sonic a home on all the major consoles. Though most critics cite the Gamecube version as the superior edition.

Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot

 Regardless of platform, Sonic Heroes was a good bit different than the Sonic Adventure games. While those games stopped the furious speed with adventure elements, this game was more true to it’s 2D roots. It was a pretty straight forward platformer with little distractions.
Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot
 The game also made use of Sonic’s friends and enemies being forced upon the player. You can pick between four teams of three. So you had the good team (Sonic, Tails Knuckles), the evil team (Shadow, Rogue, Omega), the girly team (Amy, Cream, Big), and the weird team. The last team was comprised of the awful characters from Knuckles Chaotix. I have to give Sega credit for bringing back such strange characters for no reason.
Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot
The game was received well by critics, and fans but nothing compared to the praise of the Genesis generation. I ended up never playing the game myself, but I was very tempted at the time. At least it wasn’t as awful or bizarre as some of the sequels that followed.

Moho/Ball Breakers

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Even the single player is better than you might expect, with ten prison worlds to play through.~Simon Reed

Moho aka Ball Breakers

Trawling through my local car boot, I spotted a copy of Moho on the Playstation.

Moho - Ball Breakers - PSOne

Actually, judging by the weird font used on the cover, I thought it might be ‘Motto.’

Either way, i’d never heard of it or seen it before, so snapped it up (50p if you’re interested) in the hope that it was rare.

Moho - Ball Breakers - PSOne

It turns out that it’s incredibly common. Oh well. At least it’s not too bad an effort – in fact, it’s above average.

Last week I berated Crash Bash for being a rather tepid collection of minigames. Moho is structured in a similar way, but is a far more successful in nearly every respect.

You might be surprised to hear that Rockstar even had a hand in making the game, and (of less interest) the title was called Ball Breakers in the US. But not when it came to PC, where Moho was used in both EU and the US.

Moho - Ball Breakers - PSOne

But that’s enough pointless trivia.

Starting off with a CGI cutscene, the game sets an odd tone – one that is both brooding and lighthearted. If that is even possible.

You then choose a robot to play as, and are then thrown into individual jail based worlds where you’re set a certain challenges to complete.

These range from last man standing battles (‘last man rolling’), straight out races, collecting all the pick ups in an arena (‘tag’), to ones that set you a goal to reach – piling obstacles and various foes in your way.

There are a few more, but all revolve around one main gameplay gimmick – you’re a robot on a sphere shaped wheel, and therefore you’re fighting against momentum and physics all the time.

Moho - Ball Breakers - PSOne

Instead of being annoying this actually makes the game feel far fresher and varied that it has any right to be.

It transforms what could have been a solid but unspectacular mini game collection into something much more interesting.

In terms of modes the game inevitably has a multiplayer mode, which is as frenetic and competitive as you’d want it to be.

Even the single player is better than you might expect, with ten prison worlds to play through.

Overall, Moho is a solid and reasonably experimental minigame collection that’s worth 50p of anyone’s money.

Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge

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  All in all, the richness of Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge is certainly appreciated, and serves to place it on a level above the usual standard multi-sport fare. Even the introductory cutscene is enough to truly make this cart something special.~Eric Bailey

Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge

Developer Technos was best known for their beat-’em-up titles on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console, including the Double Dragon series and the classic River City Ransom. What would happen when the company tried to take on the multi-sport genre, like the arcade port Tack & Field, straightforward World Games, or distinctively wacky Caveman Games? The result was something called Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge - NES Gameplay Screenshot - 1

  This was a sports video game on the NES that actually had a story; basically, our hero Crash Cooney and the Southside Boys are rivals with the rich snobby kids that live up on the Hill. After the Southsiders beat the Hillers in the big track meet, whiny brat Todd Thornley III was a sore loser and challenged the Boys to a street-sports gauntlet of various events with minimal rules, while his family secretly plotted to plant superpowered adults on his team in Thornley’s favor.

  Gameplay

To summarize, the Street Challenge consists of five events: 400 Meter Hurdles, Hammer Throw, Swimming (humorously referred to in the instruction booklet as Water Slaughter), Roof Top Jumping, and Fighting Scene. Each has their own distinctive appearance, mechanics, goal, and controls. Gameplay is divided into three modes: Practice, in which the player can pick one event at a time and try it over and over; Short, in which the player progresses through three events; and Normal, in which all five events are attempted through the storyline. This game is also playable for 1-4 people, with alternating controller usage.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Once the play mode is determined, the player actually has a choice of four teams to pick from, two of which are the Southsiders from Southside High and Thornley’s school, Washington High. The two others are Lincoln High and Jefferson High, the relational nuances between each of which are awesomely explained in the instruction manual, but the remarkable thing is that each school then has five different characters to choose from, each with their own individual statistical ratings in Power, Speed, and Defense, the usefulness of each of which will depend on the event.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Incredibly, and especially so for an 8-bit cartridge, not only is there the tournament of events, but between rounds the player(s) can actually shop for items using both money they begin with and the coins they additionally collect throughout the events. Items can boost stats, heal hit points, or even gain all-new techniques for the next event. This feature definitely adds a level of depth that is not quite seen in other multi-sport titles for the system.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Of course, the main attraction is the five events, each of which deviates from the norm and either is not a traditional sport or simply goes for all-out combat in favor of athletic competition. In 400 meter hurdles, the player must tap right on the directional pad to keep up with the opponent, but while jumping or sliding under hurdles, the characters can spin-kick each other or even throw chunks of broken hurdle at the opponent. Hammer Throw is actually Hammer Golf, as the player must throw a heavy weight across a two-dimensional course until getting to the hole in a certain number of strokes, and including trying to avoid hazards. In Swimming, there is not even the pretense of competition, just the goal of trying to kill the other character, and tacking both hit points and oxygen intake. Roof Top Jumping is a fun one, as a mix of tightrope-balancing unicycles and pole vaults is used to traverse rooftops, trying to get to the end of the course.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  Then there is the Fighting Scene, worth considering on its own for one key reason: This may be the best representation of the fighting-game genre there is on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with the possible exception of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Not only is character selection with distinctive characteristics intact, which Mortal Kombat could hardly even boast in its original iterations, but there are even special grapple moves per character in addition to the usual arsenal of punches, kicks, rushes, and jumping attacks. Some of the special moves, earned when reducing the opposing character’s stamina bar more quickly in a grapple, are especially funny and/or brutal.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

  All in all, the richness of Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge is certainly appreciated, and serves to place it on a level above the usual standard multi-sport fare. Even the introductory cutscene is enough to truly make this cart something special. However, not all is perfect, as the control schemes can be very unintuitive, inconsistent, and even confusing, as there is no real format that connects each event, a different button may jump from one sport to the next, and there is a learning curve involved as well. The curve is welcome, actually, especially to make one-player playthroughs worthwhile, but it can be difficult to gain initial practice when the computer is in constant “must kill the new guy” mode.

  Graphics

Judging Crash ‘n’ The Boys: Street Challenge on its audiovisual merits is an intriguing endeavor, since those aspects are of unquestionably high quality, given the context of the hardware and comparison to the rest of the NES library of carts, but they are also noticeably recycled. This is a later release than their previous titles like River City Ransom and Super Dodge Ball, so you know that many of the graphics are recycled.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

Yet, this may not be the worst thing, since the Technos style of characterization is largely what gives their games their appeal to begin with. Sprites aside, action proceeds smoothly and the backgrounds are gorgeous (in fact, among the best on the console, and somewhat underappreciated, in this viewer’s opinion – check out the city’s layered skyline in the background of the Hammer Golf event and how it reflects in the water hazard), so maybe Technos should just be given the benefit of the doubt here: This game looks great.

  Sound

It sounds great, too, but in the case of the background tracks and effects, the recycling effect is much more noticeable, and hardly bothered to be disguised as all. For example, the hurricane kick sound effect used in the 400 Meter Hurt-les is the same as used in the game Double Dragon II: The Revenge.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

Other combat sounds are taken from River City Ransom, while many of the same short themes and ditties for the music have been conglomerated from the sporting titles like Super Dodge Ball and Super Spike V’Ball. They at least sound very, very similar, but some samples are definitely repeats. Nonetheless, again, this is likely not the worst thing.

  Originality

Crash ‘n’ The Boys is undoubtedly an original, creative, and innovative game. Fans of the multi-sport NES titles absolutely must give Crash a shot if they have not already. Playing alone is fun already, but multiplayer adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment.

Crash 'n' the Boys - Street Challenge

This is a title where the developers really seemed like they had the player experience in mind, and wanted to make it joyous and memorable. This is a four-star game, a rating out of five.

Popeye

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You control the affable sailor throughout three repeating levels, catching whatever icons Olive Oyl throws your way. While she is dropping either hearts, notes, or the letters that spell out “HELP ME”, Popeye catches a set number while attempting to steer clear of Bluto, who was renamed Brutus here for reasons unknown. ~Mike NESquester Wright

Popeye

One of the most regonizable figures in American pop culture as well as the original premise for the game that became Donkey Kong, today we take a nice, long look at a game that was another arcade port of a Miyamoto smash hit, Popeye.

popeye
Unlike the many revamps other character go through nowadays, Popeye remains practically unchanged from his very first appearance.
Popeye began as the brainchild of writer/artist E.C. Segar. Making his debut in 1929 in the popular Thimble Theater newspaper strip, he was a minor character at the start. Popeye was just a sailor hired by Olive Oyl’s current boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy to captain a ship to an island to thwart an evil casino operator. His adventures were meant to end there, but readers took such a huge liking to the oddball that he was quickly brought back.
popeye
Popeye easily sported one of the most unusual, yet awesome supporting casts. Not just of his time, but ever.

As the years went on, the strip evolved as Olive left Hamgravy for the goofy sailor, a baby named Swee’Pea was introduced, and Thimble Theater quickly became the Popeye show. A plethora of weird shit began debuting as well such as Eugene The Jeep, the Sea Hag, and the burger hoarding Wimpy. The comic strip and the cartoon that followed had little in common as in the funny pages, Bluto was only featured once and spinach was a rare plot device. Both being commonplace for Popeye mythos shows how powerful the medium of television was at the time. The animated version was done by Fleischer Studios, the same crew who also created the most beloved of Superman cartoons right around the same time. Strangely enough, Popeye debuted in that form alongside the famous Betty Boop in 1933. To this day he remains a household name having his unique mug plastered on everything from lunchboxes, t-shirts, and even his own line of spinach. Robin Williams portrayed the live-action version in 1980 and to this day, the town built as the set of the movie stands tall and is one of the largest tourist attractions of the Island of Malta.

popeye

Should it be any suprise that Shigeru Miyamoto loved Popeye? Weird met weird to create awesome in the NES port of a 1982 arcade classic. You control the affable sailor throughout three repeating levels, catching whatever icons Olive Oyl throws your way. While she is dropping either hearts, notes, or the letters that spell out “HELP ME”, Popeye catches a set number while attempting to steer clear of Bluto, who was renamed Brutus here for reasons unknown. Later levels add the Sea Hag, who drops objects to make life difficult as well. Popeye is given a weapon the Marios and Kongs didn’t have at the time as he can swing his mighty fists at anything that moves with the exception of “Brutus”. To take that huge, burly tub of fatfuck down, there is one can of spinach per level that will make our hero red-dog mad enough to knock the big man halfway across creation. The stages are varied enough to stay fun and there is even a cameo by Swee’Pea. The music is excellent and when the third stage is clear, you are treated to the signature song, complete with the toot-toot, which is a nice touch and causes the ‘Quester to smile everytime. It is obvious that Miyamoto loved the source material and wasn’t going to create anything that didn’t have the same feel of the classic cartoons he grew up adoring. As with Donkey Kong Jr, this is another port that could’ve easily been made in 1986 and still been a hit.

popeye
You don’t always need to hide and re-load different styles of guns for a game to rock. A great songwriter said it best. All you need is love.

THE FINAL VERDICT 9/10 If that’s too high, then create your own blog and reviews and feel free to adjust as you see fit, but I appreciate this game even more now than I did as a kid. The graphics and tunes scream out Popeye and the challenge is balanced enough to make me want to play for hours instead of hitting the road block alot of the ports do where it goes from head-ache inducing to requiring the X-gene.

popeye
“That paycheck you cashed on the gorilla game was MINE!!!”

Thanks to Mason V. for seeing my post and contacing me about having a double, thereby saving my ass on this one! Folks like you are the ones I do this for. Fuck you Ebay! (Until you are the only place I am able to run to in the future. I’m an honest hypocrite like that.)

Alien 3

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Irritatingly Alien 3 has many hallmarks of a top title – but I can’t help but feel some of the design choices have been made purely for masochists. ~Simon Reed

Alien 3

In yesterday’s Lucky Dime Caper entry I rambled on about how I preemptively expect most old school 2D platformer style games to be infuriatingly tough. Alien 3 is a prime example of exactly why I have those expectations. Irritatingly it has many hallmarks of a top title – but I can’t help but feel some of the design choices have been made purely for masochists. The first thing that strikes you as you’re thrown into the game is how clear the design of it all is. Rather than the overly dark and grimy recesses of the film, there’s a pleasing crispness to the game.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

You play as Ripley, with your first mission to save a set amount of fellow humanoids who have been trapped by the aliens. To complicate matters you have to escape using a specific door, as well as reach it before the clock at the top of the screen reaches zero. You’re also never told that this is what you need to do, but fortunately it’s a fairly straightforward mission. Still, some instructions would have been nice.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

One other notable feature is your large arsenal you have at your disposal. A missile launcher and a machine gun are two of the finest from the selection available to you. These weapons aren’t enough to stop the aliens regularly handing you your ass on a plate though. Instead of going down the slow, tension addled route the game throws aliens at you like they’re going out of fashion. They leap at you so quickly that they can be nigh on impossible to avoid completely. Worst of all Ripley takes far too long to get up once hit – not a good thing when you’re up against the clock.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

It doesn’t help that your control of Ripley can feel a little stiff. You feel slower and far more useless than the aliens – this concept works well in the films, but in a game it’s a potent recipe for frustration. The game may be a good looking and reasonably varied in its design – but the difficulty kills it.