Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier (1991)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 734,600
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

Super Star Soldier

I originally started playing this game with a view to reviewing it quite a few weeks ago now – it is after all arguably the Engine’s most famous shmup (along with Gunhed) and I hadn’t played it before so this was a major issue to rectify! Not too long after starting, however, I discovered it had a prequel on the NES and MSX which, after playing and subsequently reviewing, found rather disappointing, and that got me thinking. The NES and PC Engine – both 8-bit consoles, both home to dozens of arcade conversions and arcade-style games, and yet the Engine is significantly superior with regard to games of this type (sorry NES fans!). I guess it’s a little unfair to compare them but does the extra power of the Engine really make that much difference? I suppose it must do as after playing the frankly rather boring Star Soldier, this Engine sequel immediately looked ten times better…

Super Star Soldier

One aspect of the original game that impressed me was with the number of stages – an unusually numerous sixteen. This sequel has a mere, though still decent, eight, but they are of a higher quality and are also much more varied. They all scroll vertically of course, and take place over enemy bases (or giant ships, maybe), planetary surfaces, in caverns, and in open space, and they’re filled with the usual mix of enemies – small ‘n’ fast ships, often flying in formation, larger more powerful ships, lots of scenery/ground-mounted guns and missile launchers, and of course large bosses at the end of each stage. Power-ups are found in the smoking hulks of a certain type of ship and include four main weapons represented by coloured rings – red is your default weapon which powers-up into a multi-directional shot, blue gives you ring lasers, yellow unleashes a swooshy flame-thrower, and green gives you a mighty crackly-looking lightning cannon.

Super Star Soldier

Each weapon can be powered-up four times by collecting successive icons. Grabbing more after that has a smart-bomb effect. Whichever main weapon you choose, you can bolster it with either heat-seeking missiles or a pair of shot-absorbing drones, both of which can also be powered-up. Contact from an enemy or their fire reduces the power of your weapons by one level so as long as you keep collecting icons, you should be able to progress quite far into the game. Luckily, the desire to do that is much greater here than with the prequel and part of this is down to the graphics which are superb. The smaller enemy ships often whizz around at ultra-sonic speeds and the larger ships are all great designs, especially some of the bosses which include a giant mech and what looks like that strange creature in the garbage compacter in Star Wars! As mentioned earlier, everything is far more varied here as well – just compare the screenshots to those in the Star Soldier review and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Super Star Soldier

The first stage rather reminded me of Gunhed, which is no bad thing of course – it’s mostly filled by a large metal structure brimming with guns, but the second stage differs about as much as it could, taking place over a forested planet! The third is similar but features a much more fiery landscape with jets of flame and fireballs occasionally escaping from the lava-filled areas. After that we find ourselves in open space with pretty stars and stuff in the background before entering some icy, obstacle-filled caverns. After that comes the obligatory enemy battleship and confrontations with the final bosses. Destroy all these and the evil ‘Star Brains’ are once again defeated! There is a little slow-down on the odd occasion but overall this is certainly among the best-looking shmups on the Engine and one of the most appealing I’ve played on any system. Even the weapon effects – something that’s often lacking in other games – are superb.

Super Star Soldier

The red multi-shot isn’t too spectacular but the blue, yellow, and green weapons are all fantastic which is all the more impressive considering the delightful backdrops and large number of enemies sometimes on screen, and there isn’t even an annoying stats/score panel in the way of it all! The weapons all have unique sound effects too, which are pretty good, and each stage has its own decent tune, so all in all there’s not really anything that’s less-than-splendid about Hudson’s fine sequel. Control of your ship (which is called the Neo Cesear, incidentally) is fast but precise and I rarely had any problems with the collision-detection. It’s even a surprisingly fair game too – the stages have restart points, the power-ups are quite numerous, extra lives are awarded on achieving certain scores, and the boss attack patterns are challenging without being too tough. Super Star Soldier is probably not quite as amazing as the great Gunhed but it is a fantastic shooter – sometimes fast and manic, other times slower and more cerebral, but always entertaining and everything the first game wasn’t!

Riot Zone

Riot_Zone

Riot Zone

You might have heard of a game called Riot City, but because of Sega’s rights to the main characters and bosses, Westone and Hudson Soft had to do some creative reconfiguring and came up with Riot Zone. Riot Zone was released in 1992 for the TurboGrafx-CD and featured two characters out to stop an evil crime boss who kidnapped a girl name Candy.

Riot_Zone

Does this sound familiar or even kind of standard for side scrolling beat em up games? Well, that is because this is pretty standard. The game plays a lot like Final Fight and toss in some Double Dragon just because we can. The gameplay is simple, you walk from left to right fighting enemies that can appear from both sides of the screen. Like Final Fight, you face a boss at the end and move on until the final boss. Unlike Final Fight, there are no weapons, only items for health and points.

Check out the video review for Riot Zone.

Splash Lake

splash-lake-

Splash Lake

The idea of a bouncing Ostrich with a very sharp beak named Ozzie was enough for me to at least take a look at this game. Splash Lake was released by NEC in 1992 for the Turbo Grafx-16. This puzzle game features an Ostrich named Ozzie who uses his sharp beak to break holes in the bridge he is on causing his enemies to fall, into the lake, where they splash, hence, Splash Lake.

splash-lake-

Check out our few video review with commentary.

Boxyboy

BoxyBoy

Boxyboy

This could be called the Amazon warehouse game. In Boxyboy you control a worker in a warehouse and the overall goal is to push the crates on to the squares with the yellow dots on them. The game was developed by Media Rings and published by NEC on the TurboGrafx-16.

BoxyBoy

Part of the Sokoban series the game starts of pretty easy, but like all puzzle games it gets harder and harder each level. Speaking of levels, Boxyboy features a level editor that allows players to create and then play their own custom levels.

Chew-Man-Fu

Chew Man Fu

Perhaps it is the Japanese equivalent to the Ham-burglar.

Chew Man Fu

 

In Chew Man Fu your mission is to stop this hungry little man from stealing all the worlds’ fried rice and egg rolls. The game plays sort of like Pengo and you have to take out the enemies by firing the balls you place on each of the 500 stages. Developed by Now Productions and published by Hudson Soft and NEC in 1990 you can also find this game on the Wii’s virtual console.

Magical Dinosaur Tour

magical_dinosaur_tour

Pretty much whenever you see the words Magical and tour in something it means educational which for many means boring. This game was released in 1990 so it was before the whole Dinosaur craze, but it would have fit right in if you had a child that really liked learning about Dinosaurs and whom you wanted to punish by giving them this instead of say Ninja Spirit.

magical_dinosaur_tour

So you get to explore a magic area and watch and learn about Dino’s but that is pretty much it. You can watch them living and searching for food and the coolest part is when they roar. The game did not look bad, but it took forever to load and honestly it was one of those games that seems cool when you buy it until it is loaded up and you realize you are in school.

Cratermaze

Cratermaze

Traveling through time with four of your best friends, what could go wrong? No, this isn’t the plot for an upcoming movie (or is it). This is the overview for the game Cratermaze released by Hudson Soft for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990.

Cratermaze

So you are traveling through time with friends and an evil villain kidnaps them and you have to travel through more time periods to save them. Along the way you “collect” (cough *steal* cough) treasures from the various periods. Every 15 levels you rescue a friend (what did he leave them as breadcrumbs). Also on level 30 and 60 there is a floating super boss that can kill you with a single touch.

Why can’t they just be normal people and travel to the previous week can play the winning lotto numbers like the rest of us would?

J.B. Harold Murder Club

J.B. Harold Murder Club

The name could almost be on a rap label or like those teenage books I used to read in school. However, J.B. Harold Murder Club is a murder mystery game developed by River Hill Soft and published by Hudson Soft for the PC Engine, aka the Turbo Grafx-16 in 1991.

J.B. Harold Murder Club

In the game a wealthy womanizer named Bill Robbins has been murdered and you as J.B. Harold has to find out who did it. There is a list of suspects and you must travel around talking to people and searching for clues. For the most part you travel using a grid map and view pictures. For many of today’s gamers it would not be that interesting, but for those who like reading and solving mysteries and puzzles it was an interesting game.

Military Madness

Military Madness

Military Madness sounds like it could be the name for all the wars happening in the past 12 years, but it is actually the name of a turn-based strategy game released for the Turbografx-16 by Hudson Soft in 1989. You play on the moon in 2089 on a hex map controlling the Allied-Union forces against the Axis-Xenon forces. Now unlike many games like this you do not build units, but you can capture enemy units being built in factories. The game was eventually remade for the PlayStation and a 3D remake was made for WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

Bravoman

Bravoman

How to describe Bravoman, it is a platform slash beat em up game that is a parody of Japanese Tokusatsu and video games. So just think, if we sometimes laugh at crazy Japanese video games, this game, developed by Now Production and published my Namco, laughs at those types of games which will make us laugh at this game.

So the plot, well using my comic book knowledge it is like a strange version of Hal Jordan and Green Lantern. A normal man who works at an insurance company encounters and alien named Alpha Man who gives him a metal rod, a fork and a coin, kind of sounds like a Macgyver setup, and this allows him to turn into Bravoman. His mission is to stop the evil Dr. Bomb who gives him a… you thought I was going to say bomb didn’t you. Dr. Bomb has an “end the world weapon”, whatever that means, that will, er, end the world.

So that is the setup, check out the video for a full review.

Super Air Zonk

super air zonk

How Japanese gaming is this, you have a hero that belts out songs on his microphone, hurls sushi at enemies and morphs into all kinds of things in a shooting game. Well that is what you get with Super Air Zonk the follow up to Air Zonk which is a spin-off from the Bonk’s Adventure series. You got all that? Super Air Zonk was released in 1993 for the TG-16 by Hudson Soft. Like in Air Zonk you face a multitude of enemies and your overall arch nemesis, SandroVitch. You can power Zonk up with the meat item to eventually turn him into Ultra Zonk and Tyrano Zonk. In addition, after rescuing your friends from capture you can morph with them and combine your powers.

super air zonk

Monster Lair

Monster Lair

Monster Lair is a side-scrolling action game originally released to the arcades by Sega in 1988. A year later the game was adapted for the Turbo Grafx-16 by Hudson Soft. One of the cool things about Monster Lair is how the game starts out as a normal platformer where you control a boy or girl hero trying to stop the enemy from destroying your land and later on in the game, it turns into a shoot em up.

Monster Lair

Bloody Wolf

bloodywolftg16

Ah the lone wolf run and gun game. You have become such a great solider that your reward is to be sent up against an army and destroy something that should have been taken out by long range missiles. In this game you are not only a lone wolf, but a bloody one at that.

bloodywolftg16

Bloody Wolf is a pretty standard run and gun in the vein of Ikari Warriors, Merc and Heavy Barrel. Developed by Data East in 1988 this arcade game featured Snake and eagle, two commandos against an army of bad guys, but luckily for you, you had a ton of weapons at your disposal.

Takin’ It to the Hoop

Takin-It-To-The-Hoop

This week in honor of the NBA playoffs we bring you the Turbo Views, video game review of Takin it to the hoop. Sadly, this title made by Aicom Corp is really sub-par and I mean even for NES standards much less TG-16. The roster is not good and the big heads and style of the graphics is made more for a Wii retro game that a real basketball game. Also, get this, you cannot even jump!

Takin-It-To-The-Hoop

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective

You don’t have to be a real detective to guess what you do in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. The game is a hybrid of an adventure and simulated game where you play the famous doctor Holmes as you and your friend Watson solve a series of crimes.

Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective

The game takes you around London where you will, interrogating suspects, gathering clues, checking out the newspapers, and eventually presenting all the evidence to the judge. If you did your work correctly the judge will accept your results and the case will be solved.

Victory Run

victoryrun

Racing fans always wanted to get their hands on a game that allowed them to challenge themselves on real life racing tracks. As games began to come out featuring them, fans wanted more and more. Enter, Victory Run for the Turbo Grafx-16. It was released in 1989 by Hudson Soft and was one of the first racing games to depict the Paris-Dakar Rally.

victoryrun

Victory run also featured degradable parts that you had to replace if you had spare parts which you acquired before the start of a race. You can find rereleases of Victory run for the Wii Virtual Console and the Playstation Network.

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

A very simple game to start off a very interesting console. The Turbo Grafx made its debut with this game as a pack in with the console and showed some a very simplistic game. We already seen stuff like this for its time so it wasn’t nothing new. With games like Final Fantasy 2(4 in Japan) hitting the USA and other RPGs as well, there was no doubt that this title wouldn’t stand against others. In my opinion, I think this game was released just to show off what the Turbo Grafx console was capable of. The game is very simple, although based by an anime, it’s not bad at all. It contains some RPG elements that help it stand out a little bit. There is also a transformation sequence where you turn into a robot and fly around, Not sure how that works as you were a human a second ago and slow as a mother fucker.

The game’s length is decent and will keep you interested until the end which will surprise you in the end and probably leave you wanting for more or maybe a lot less. It’s all about taste in the end, I can’t say this is a title that will keep you coming for it and that everyone will love but I will say this, the game is just your average platformer with RPG elements, the end!

Valis 2

valis2

Remember when it was all about cut scenes? Well, in a sense they are still important, but when consoles began using CD ROM’s gamers got their first real look at some very cool live-action and animated cut scenes. Valis II was one of the first games to take advantage of the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM attachment which allowed for some pretty cool animated cut screens.

The game itself is more of a traditional action platformer. Developed by Telenet Japan Co and released in 1990 this six staged game featured your standard left to right enemy slashing actions. The game featured, items, power-ups, mid-level bosses and end bosses which, as said, took advantage of cut scenes featuring animation and voice overs.

Neutopia 2

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

This week we look at the classic action adventure game Neutopia 2. Developed by Hudson Soft and released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992, it is the direct follow up to Neutopia where you are Jazeta’s son and your mission is to defeat the evil Dirth and save your father.

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

The game plays a lot like the Legend of Zelda games on the NES and SNES where as you explore a large 2D world taking on tasks and quests in any order you wish. A strange note about this game is at the end it mentions that Neutopia 3 would be coming soon, but no such game was ever released.

TV Sports Basketball

TV Sports Basketball

In honor of the All-Star Game we bring you this video review of 1990 TurboGrafx-16 game, TV Sports Basketball. Developed by Cinemaware and published by Mirrorsoft the game featured five-on-five gameplay, but no NBA licenses. This meant you got the city names and perhaps some colors that might match, but no team names like the Miami Heat and no famous names like Michael Jordan.

The game allowed you to play against the computer as either a player or a coach and against other players in versus mode. One of the strange things about the game was that it was a full court basketball game with a vertical view. However, when you crossed half-court there would be a short cut scene showing all your players running to the other side as a sort of loading screen.

Shadow of the Beast

Shadow_of_the_Beast_turbo-grafx-16

Developed by Psygnosis and published by Electronic Arts, Shadow of the Beast tells the story of a child kidnapped by mages. This child was transformed into a powerful creature to be used at their will. Years later you learn the truth of your past and set out to kill everyone involved and ultimately your master.

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones

keith-courage-in-alpha-zone

Our video review of the week features the 1988 Adventure game, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones. Created by Hudson Soft, you take on the role of Keith Courage who has to take back the earth from evil aliens that attacked it after earth was struck by a meteor. When fighting underground you gain access to the powerful Nova Suit left behind by your father which gives you additional abilities to succeed in your mission tor reaching the Robo Zone, the 7th Alpha Zone and defeating the Beastly Alien Dudes.

Buster Bros

buster bros

This week’s Turbo Views video features the 1989 game Buster Bros. In this game two brothers must go around the world destroying balloons that are terrorizing cities and landmarks (I never heard of balloon terrorists).  There are 17 locations in the game from Mt. Fuji to New York and over 50 stages of gameplay. The game was originally released to the arcades and then ported to several consoles systems and you can play one and two player games.

Final Soldier

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

This week’s classic game review features the 1991 scrolling shooter, Final Soldier. Developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft this is the third game in the Star Soldier series. The game features 7 stages and two challenge modes and at the start of the game you can choose what weapon will apply to the color power-up you can use.


Here is the story:

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

On Earth in the 23rd century, a space time warp opens up over the Atlantic Ocean. From it comes an enormous invasion force analyzed to come from the 25th century. As Earth is attacked by the alien war machines, it is revealed that the culprits are identified as the Gader’el, a race of large bio-mechanic creatures, who have the ability to freely manipulate space and time; after conquering the future Earth in the 25th century, the Gader’el decided to ensure their influence on mankind by traveling back in time to the 23rd century, conquering that time and then going further into Earth’s past.

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

As the armed forces of every country on Earth combats the Gader’el, each scientific academy collaborates on making a weapon capable of destroying the Gader’el’s strongest weapons. The result is the Dryad, a single-fighter spaceship capable of wielding several types of futuristic weapons. The Dryad’s flight path and mission is to warp into the Future Zone in order to reach the Gader’el headquarters and destroy their leader.

Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

This week’s video review features the kung Fu stunt master Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu was released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992 and was an action platform game developed by Now Production and published by Hudson soft.

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

The story featured Jackie Chan and his sister Josephine serving as protectors of the land and fighting against bad guys until a Prince of Sorcerers kidnaps Jackie’s sister. Jackie sets off on a quest to get his sister back by fighting through five levels each with a boss at the end until he reaches the Prince.

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

One of the interesting things about this game was the fact that you only had one life, but you could continue up to five times and earn more continues in bonus rounds. Also, you would gain health and power ups by hitting frogs and the power-ups gave you special attacks as well as a charge attack you could use temporarily.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijqUpIWz82c[/youtube]

Cadash

Cadash-turbografx-16-box-art

Cadash

This week’s video review features the 1991 platform game, Cadash. Developed and published by Tatio, the gameplay combines the elements of the traditional role-playing game with that of a platformer. The game features sword and sorcery and is set in a medieval fantasy world where powerful demons and abominations who at one time walked among humans, were banished to the underworld below Cadash. A powerful wizard named Balrog has arisen to take revenge on the humans and return to the overworld.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydps5ZaOyy0[/youtube]

Darkwing Duck

Darkwing Duck - Turbografx-16 - cover

Darkwing Duck

Based off of the Disney cartoon of the same name, Darkwing Duck was created for the TurboGrafx-16 by Radiance Software and released in 1992. In the game Darkwing Duck must stop Steelbeak who has recruited some of the most dangerous criminals in St. Canard to build an ultimate weapon.

Darkwing Duck - Gameplay screenshot - turbografx-16

The gameplay consists of collecting puzzle pieces as clues and fighting enemies. There are also gas guns, cherry bombs and other power-ups Darkwing can use.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwtFayPg5hg[/youtube]

Yo’ Bro

Yo' Bro

Yo’ Bro

This week we bring you the video review of Yo’ Bro for the Turbo Grafx-16. Release in 1991 by Camp California, The city of Los Angeles is being invaded! Only Lil Bro’, Camp California’s rad skateboarding dude, can save it. The evil Ratz gang is unleashing a barrage of killer creatures and devices. Find incredibly cool weapons to fight back. Wipe out their earthquake machines and nasty man-eating plants with rocket grenades. Fight off wicked space aliens and launch your bonus attacks. It’ll take everything you’ve got to send the Ratz packing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqrv5u-YvQg[/youtube]

TaleSpin

Talespin-turbrografx-16-box

TaleSpin

Released by Radiance Software in 1991, TaleSpin follows the adventures of Captain Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker from the Disney animated series. In the game, you are after the lost treasure of Ionia, but an evil Witch Doctor called Watusi stands in your way.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQQ5Ci2ZdxQ[/youtube]

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams

cotton - fantastic night dreams

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams

This week’s video review features the 1993 scrolling-shooter, Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams. Developed by Success the gameplay consisted of guiding a long female witch on her broomstick while she avoided enemies and gathered power-ups to take down bosses. The game was similar to other shooters like R-type with a mix of Parodius thrown in. This video review features the TurboGrafx-CD version.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guKujBei0q4[/youtube]

Pac-Land

pac-land

While considered part of the Pac-Man series Pac-Land was a completely different style of game that brought us an early look at a gameplay style that would later become common place. Developed by Namco and released in 1984 Pac-Land showed us a completely new world we had never seen before.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhrqHeJQKLc[/youtube]

Turbo Views, originally premiering on YouTube in December 2008, covers games for the TurboGrafx-16 and Turbo Duo video game system from 1989 – 1993.

The goal of the series is to eventually review EVERY American released TG-16 game as well as numerous on-camera “extras,” home-brew, prototypes and PC-Engine games that never made it overseas.

 

R-Type

Format: HuCard
Developer: Hudson Soft / Irem
Released: 1988 (Japan) / 1989 (US)
Genre: Shoot’em Up

 r-type-pc-engine-box

Irem’s legendary side scrolling shoot’em up is regarded as one of the PC-Engine’s most accomplished arcade conversions. This was (and still is) the PC-Engine’s ‘killer app’.
The game-play is simple, pilot your R-9 fighter to wipe out the evil Bydo Empire.

R-type-pc-engine-gameplay-screenshot-

 

Your R-9 fighter is equipped with a small gun which can only shoot down the smallest of enemies without firing several shots. But, if you hold down the fire button long enough, you can load up your shot so it releases a massive burst of energy, eliminating all but the strongest enemies in its path.  To assist in bringing down tougher Bydo enemies (and help you get further in this tough game), there are souped up weapons that can be collected along the way, like the diagonally firing lasers and the mega powerful circular red laser. When combined with the homing missiles and orbs that protect you, your R-9 becomes a Bydo blasting behemoth.

R-type-pc-engine-gameplay-screenshot-

 

There aren’t enough superlatives you could use to describe how great this game is. From the music, to the graphics, the stage layouts, the enemies – they are all perfect in this coin-op conversion. Even the difficulty is spot on (it’s tough) ! This is as close to a perfect horizontally scrolling shoot’em up you can get on the PC-Engine. Do not miss it !

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9BicddeXdg[/youtube]

GraphicsAs close as possible to arcade perfect.

90%

SoundYour ears will thank you.

90%

PlayabilityEasy to pick up and play, but tough to beat and master. The difficulty is just right.

93%

LastabilityYou will be playing this for years to come. All side-scrolling shoot’em ups are judged against this game.

94%

OverallIf you have a PC-Engine, this is your killer app. Go and get it !

93%

Doraemon Meikyu Daisakusen

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

Doraemon Meikyu Daisakusen a.k.a. Cratermaze (1989)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1  Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: Infinity
Also Available For: Nothing

Having recently introduced some Red Parsley readers to the wonder that is Doraemon (a post met with overwhelming indifference it seems!), I thought it might be timely to feature a game based on his antics. In fact, there are currently over 50 videogames based on or featuring everyone’s favourite robotic cat, but this is one of the few to make it out of Japan. Well, kind of. For there was once a rather obscure arcade game called ‘Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen’, better know in the West as ‘Booby Kids’ (snigger) which received an NES port. It was later also ported to the PC Engine (or rather a game based on it was released) but the sprites and theme of the game were altered to incorporate Doraemon and friends, naturally, given their popularity in their native realm. However, this version was then released on the TurboGrafx-16, but since most Americans don’t know who Doraemon is, all the original graphics were put back into the game and it was released as ‘Cratermaze’! This review, however, will focus on the Doraemon version of the game. Because I like him.

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot
Not everyone likes Doraemon though it seems. There he was, happily flying along on his magic carpet device with his friends when an evil spirit turns up and kidnaps all of them except Doraemon himself! It’s now clearly up to the splendid blue moggy to rescue all his friends. This is done by guiding him around the many overhead viewed, scrolling mazes in each of which you must collect sixteen… well, they look like pies or something, but I imagine they are dorayaki, Doraemon’s favourite food! After they’re all collected a key will appear which unlocks the exit to that round. Of course, the rounds are also inhabited by various peculiar beasties which pootle around the mazes seemingly aimlessly, and all of them cause Doraemon to lose a life if one of them touches him. Fortunately there are a few things that make his task a little easier to shoulder.

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

In order to deal with the horrific beasts prowling each round, Doraemon is capable of digging holes in which he can trap them. Once this happens, another press of the same button sees the hole filled in, thereby cruelly ending the life of the enemy in question. For each of them you kill you’ll receive bonus points at the end of the round but, beyond potentially getting you out of a tight spot, that’s about all killing them does. They will immediately respawn nearby and are pretty much just there to get in the way and prevent you from… umm, collecting all the dorayaki’s! Helpfully, one of the several power-ups available doubles the number of holes Doraemon digs at once so you can dispose of the enemies from a greater distance, but be careful – on the higher of the two difficulty settings he can fall into the holes himself!

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot
There are sixty rounds in all, each one being several screens in size and of course littered with various power-ups too. There’s speed-up boots which, like the one already mentioned, last indefinitely, but there are some more with rather more limited time-spans including a clock which freezes all the monsters, a spray which slows them all down, an invincibility shield, a bubble-gun which traps and kills any enemies that you shoot, something which turns the level blue and all of the enemies into ice, and perhaps best of all – bombs! These are used Bomberman-stylee, killing any enemy in their blast range (well, this game is by Hudson Soft!). Other items found now and then include teleporters (which, like Gauntlet, send you to the nearest similar device) and spring pads (which can just as often be a pain as they are helpful!).

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

Doraemon Labyrinth, as it’s sometimes called by Westerners, is a curious game. There’s definitely nothing spectacular about it but at the same time everything here is pleasant enough with one exception – it’s far too easy. The graphics and sound certainly don’t push the Engine to its limits but they do their jobs well. The stages and sprites aren’t particularly varied but everything is neat and well-drawn, with the titular metallic feline looking great. The music too, which for the most part will be familiar to fans of the anime, is pretty good as well, which just makes it more of a shame that Hudson didn’t think to increase the difficulty to any noticeable degree. To be honest, I got bored of playing after 30 minutes or so, having not even come close to losing a life, but I strongly suspect that if you were so inclined you could play through this entire game in your first sitting, even on the higher of the two difficulty settings!

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot That’s the most (or only!) frustrating thing about this game – it’s genuinely enjoyable to play for a short while and features some nicely designed stages – but the absence of any kind of challenge offers little incentive for prolonged play. Hudson Soft are generally purveyors of some top-notch games, especially on the Engine (such as the splendid Bomberman series which this game plays a little like), so I can only assume this title is either aimed exclusively at young children, or is a rare slip up.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXM_BwNwCf8[/youtube]

RKS Score: 5/10

Devil’s Crush

Devil’s Crush (a.k.a. Devil Crash) (1990)

By: NAXAT Soft Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 18,756,300
Also Available For: MegaDrive / Genesis
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

If you cast your mind back to the first time you noticed pinball videogames, there’s a good chance you’d think of this game. Digital Illusions had some success in the early 90’s with the reaslitic but playable Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies, and sure, Alien Crush was popular, but it was this sequel, which arrived approximately two years later, which really got the genre noticed among the console gaming fraternity. Brought to us by Naxat again, the basic premise is obviously very similar to before. Instead of the evil aliens from the first game, however, this game is based, perhaps somewhat controversially, on the occult! The main table, for there is only one again, is three screens high this time, medieval themed, and is crawling with hordes of satanic demons, dragons, and monsters beyond description!
Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot
As before, each section of the main table has its own flippers and is home to its own features. The bottom section, for example, is home to a large skull (who mocks you by laughing every time you lose a ball!), a fire-breathing dragon, a tower, which gives you a blocker if you get the ball through its gate, and several other features. The middle section is dominated by a woman’s face, which the ball can enter for bonus points, and it also gradually mutates into a dragon every time the ball enters a pocket! The top section features a rotating pentagram with eight sorcerers standing around it, and looming over them is the Dragon’s Gate (a large skeletal demon thingy). All sections of the table are also populated by various bugs, soldiers, and scary creatures who wander around helping your score multiplier increase as you destroy them with the ball.

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

Devil’s Crush, like its prequel, again features bonus tables too – six this time – and the main table is festooned with pockets through which you can enter them (when the pocket is open). On each of the bonus tables, the object is to take out the evil creatures that dwell within. These range from large dragons, skeletal heads, undead knights, and all manner of smaller, but equally malevolent foes. The only way to end this game it to max out the score counter, which, if you can manage it, would be 999,999,990! It’s not as impossible to achieve as you might initially think though, for if you thought there was a lot to do in Alien Crush, then you’ve not seen anything yet! There are even more ways to increase your score here, including various tricks, secrets, and all sorts of ways of increasing your multiplier. Not only that, but there’s now a password option to resume play later too, so I think it’s safe to say there’s plenty to keep you occupied!

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot
Graphically, the game is even more impressive than its predecessor. The dark, gothic, demonic theme is superbly presented here, with excellent definition of the sprites and backgrounds and great use of colours, which are nicely contrasted. The table and monsters are mostly dull greys and browns compared with bright reds and greens for the explosions and various flashing lights. There’s far more happening at once than there was in Alien Crush, too. There’s a near-constant stream of evil beasts of some sort wandering around and they look suitably demonic, though their animation still isn’t particularly impressive. The table itself appears to be based around an ancient castle of some sort, compared to the sci-fi inspired, organic appearance of Alien Crush’s, and looks very much like the kind of place evil is likely to dwell. All this is supplemented by a fantastic soundtrack featuring a mixture of fast, rock tracks and moody, mysterious sounding tunes. Add to this the great, loud, arcadey sound effects, and your ears will thank you for playing this!

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

Gameplay-wise, like Alien Crush, not everyone will enjoy playing this, simply because it’s pinball, but those who do play it will discover one of the most immediately entertaining games ever! This is without doubt the best pinball game I’ve ever played on a console or computer and even puts many actual pintables to shame, too! There is again an option to choose between fast and slow ball speeds and on fast, which should be everyone’s choice really, the ball can sometimes rocket around the table at awesome speeds – reactions are everything here. The ‘tilt’ option is also present once more, and ball physics and play mechanics are flawless too – this is a game that takes genuine skill and lots of practise to be proficient at. There’s a hell of lot of demons to keep you occupied (a near infinite number, in fact) and a great many targets to hit and objectives to meet, and the length of time you play for is more or less entirely dependent on your competence rather than your luck.

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot Most pinball videogames have tried to be authentic pintables rather than taking advantage of the limitless creative potential that computers and consoles offer. Alien Crush was the first to try something different, and Devil’s Crush upped the ante ten-fold! Naxat have produced a frankly remarkable game here, and one that remains the definitive example of its genre, as well as one of RKS’s all-time favourite games. It’s as simple as pinball should be, but at the same time has so much more to it. This game should, theoretically, last you forever.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Axe0DKqdtZc[/youtube]

Weird Games: Toilet Kids

toilet kids cover

Going through my thousands of M.A.M.E. games, I wanted to search for really weird games that people might not know about. There are definitely a lot of them, but today’s weird game come from the PC-Engine.

toilet kids - gameplay

The game is called Toilet Kids and is about a kid who goes to the restroom in the middle of the night and gets sucked in. The kid wakes up in a world where everyone looks like toilet fixtures and he has to fight his way out. One of the best things is the boss of the game is called Urinal, seriously I could not make this stuff up.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8tYmQoPgEY[/youtube]

Air Zonk

Air Zonk a.k.a. PC Denjin Punkic Cyborg (1992)
By: Red Company / Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 1,184,160
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot
As the era of the game mascot came to pass the PC Engine was at its peak, so it’s no surprise to find that it was the recipient of its own platform hero in PC Kid (or Bonk, as he was known in the US). He was an amusing character, and the star of some outstanding games, but apparently Hudson decided he had uses beyond that genre. But how do you adapt a prehistoric platform game starring a caveboy into a shoot ’em up? Well that’s easy – make him a cyborg! Whilst probably a cynical ploy to make PC Kid ‘cooler’ in the wake of Sonic’s rise to fame, it also facilitated a shmup with great potential. The primary antagonist here remains the same as in the PC Kid games – King Drool. This time he has sent forth legions of maniacal robots to take over the world. Having discovered his plan, Zonk and the rest of ‘Team Cool’ set out to stop him at any cost!
Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

Before beginning play you must choose one of the three originally monikered difficulty levels – Sweet, Spicy, and Bitter. The most immediately noticeable difference between them is the number of lives you start with (on ‘Bitter’ mode you start with one, for example!). You must then also choose a ‘Friend’, but more on them later. Once that’s out of the way, you’re off! As you’ve probably guessed, you play through Air Zonk as the titular cyborg himself whose many talents apparently include the power of flight. Using this helpful ability, he must progress through the five horizontally-scrolling stages, taking out King Drool’s robotic minions as he goes, which range from the formidable to the truly bizarre! The stages they populate are almost as varied too and include Toxy Land, Cyber City, Rockin Stadium, Deep Blue, and Land of Drool.
Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot
Considering it’s a shmup derived from a series of platform games, it should come as little surprise to find that Air Zonk has its fair share of original features. Among these are Zonk’s rather odd ‘friends’. There are ten of them and you get the option of choosing one of them before you start, or alternatively you can opt for the ‘auto’ option that lets the computer choose for you. During play, you’ll occasionally encounter small yellow smiley faces which appear when some enemies are destroyed. These are merely worth a thousand bonus points each, but collecting five of them within a certain amount of time results in a larger smiley face appearing (wearing shades of course – nearly everything in this game has to be wearing shades or it wouldn’t be ‘cool’). If you collect it, your chosen ‘friend’ will appear and fight beside you! They act much like the ‘options’ from Gradius – i.e. they follow you around the screen and fire their own weapons. The best part, however, is if you collect a large yellow face whilst already accompanied by a friend, Zonk and said friend will merge and, for a short time, form an indestructible hybrid creature/device with much fiercer firepower!

Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot
In addition to the highly helpful ‘friends’, there are eight, somewhat unorthodox projectile weapons available for Zonk to use. These include homing missiles, a short range but powerful electric beam, flying metal jaw things, spinning boomerang things, eight-way lightning shot, flying boxing gloves, explosive playing cards, and something that shrinks Zonk down into a smaller form who can fire a multi-direction homing shot. On all but the ‘Bitter’ difficulty mode, Zonk also has the ability to cause significant damage to any enemies close behind him by using an after burner of some sort. It’s extremely short-range but is a big help in certain situations. On top of that, Zonk has the ability to fire an R-Type style charge shot. If the button is held down long enough, a smart bomb will drop onto the screen and take out all non-boss enemies too.
Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

The attempt here to make PC Kid/Bonk ‘cooler’ is about as subtle as a sledgehammer but, whilst a little reminiscent of some other strange/cute shmups like Konami’s Parodius and Sega’s Fantasy Zone, it’s still pretty amazing what Hudson have achieved with Air Zonk. Purely from a technical standpoint, this could well be the finest game on the PC Engine! The backgrounds are varied and detailed, and some stages have more than one, but it’s the sprites that impress the most. There are a huge number of different enemies which are colourful and full of character, and many of them are pretty big too, particularly the bosses! Talking of whom, I’ve seldom seen such a peculiar bunch of bosses. They range from mechanical dinosaurs that split in two, heaps of rubbish, and even a giant amoeba type thing! The trusty Engine must be working its socks off to keep it all running smoothly but from the outside it seems to handle it all with no trouble at all! Zonk himself looks suitably ‘cool’, as do his ‘friends’, and their weapons are both original and satisfying to decimate the beautifully drawn enemies with.
Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot
The technical splendour isn’t just restricted to the graphics either. Each stage has its own memorable tune and the effects are loud and varied. This remains almost certainly my favourite soundtrack on the system and it makes great use of the Engine’s sound chip too. I particularly like the music for stage two! The game understandably takes a lot of inspiration from the PC Kid games, such as stage and enemy design, and they have been incorporated excellently – just look at the screenshot to the right! Everything about Air Zonk is of a very high quality and it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s all just on one standard Hu-Card! However, extraordinary technical achievements are all very well, but what if the game played like a football match between two teams of fifty retards? It would be entertaining to watch but somewhat frustrating to take part in, right? Well, happily that’s not the case!
Air Zonk - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

Air Zonk is enormous fun to play through – there’s never a dull moment with the game always providing something weird or interesting to see, including some very creative enemies such as robots with magnets on their heads, which draw Zonk closer to them! The collision detection is good here, and fair too – if Zonk only receives a glancing blow then he’ll merely lose the weapon he was using instead of dying, but even when you do lose a life you don’t have to restart the level, and the power-ups are encountered frequently. It’s not a perfect game – the weapons aren’t particularly spectacular and there’s not much ‘explosiveness’ about the proceedings, but I suppose it’s not really that kind of game. There’s no major problems with the game though, with the only real issue being that it’s all over a bit too soon – there are only five stages and some of them are pretty easy so it probably won’t last you too long, but it’s a hell of a game while it lasts. It’s original, and full of character and, unless you object to the cute, colourful graphical style, this must surely rank among the best, not to mention most unique of the crowded Engine shmup milieu.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HBNQpBakj4[/youtube]

Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.

RKS Score: 8/10

 

 

 

Energy

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

Energy (1989)
By: Quasar Soft / NCS  Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing

 I thought I’d take a look at the PC Engine’s back-catalogue. The game I settled on is a Japanese-exclusive apparently based on an old NEC PC-88 game by the same company called Ashe. It takes the form of a flick-screen run ‘n’ gunner set in the ruins of Tokyo which are now populated by all manner of monsters and demons and you, as a member of the ‘Demon-Busting Squad’, must journey through the ravaged lands in search of your three fellow Squad members who have gone missing in the city.

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

After some cut-scenes, which presumably lay it all down for you, the action starts above ground amidst the damaged buildings and empty city streets where you must move from left to right shooting the monsters as you go, although at this point they constantly respawn and are seemingly just there to impede your progress. Before long you’ll reach what is apparently a hostage in need of rescuing and then your journey resumes underground through various caverns which contain more numerous monsters and other obstacles. You’re able to shoot the enemies using some sort of ‘energy bow and arrow’ although your blue ‘ESP’ bar will gradually shrink slightly when repeatedly firing on enemies. The other bar indicates your life which is obviously depleted by contact with the monsters.

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

To be honest, I didn’t really play Energy a great deal more than that! It’s reasonably playable to a degree but it has lots of annoying quirks, some of which are frankly baffling. For example, as mentioned, this is a flick-screen game but the screen takes a full six seconds to gradually scroll the next screen into play, during which play freezes, and the exits on all the underground screens are blocked until the monsters have been killed, but it also takes six seconds after they’ve been cleared for the exits to disappear! All the intro and cut scenes are unskippable too (grrr!) but the worst thing about this game is the mystical ‘super-jump’ feature. Some brief internet research reveals that it’s supposedly possible to perform a higher jump but no one seems to know how to do it, and without it I couldn’t progress very far! This is a rather strangely-conceived game from a usually reliable company but I don’t really know what they were thinking with this one. The graphics are pretty poor (although the music isn’t bad) but it’s just a mess, gameplay-wise. The most frustrating thing is, it would’ve been easy to rectify the problems too.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95YZs-N5cj8[/youtube]

RKS Score: 4/10

Legendary Axe

legendary_axe_cover_image_large

My last day of Sword & Sorcery Week has me re-playing Legendary Axe. Been a while since I’ve fired this up, and I’ve never been able to finish it (Damn yooouu, No-Save-Game!)

This game is another hack-and-slash scroller, but also a fine platformer. You’ll find yourself doing a lot of jumping and climbing, and in my case…falling.

You play as a red-haired caveman armed with a legendary axe, which frankly looks like an ordinary hatchet that he could have picked up at Oog’s Hardware. But, some bad guy has kidnapped his woman, and he wants to get her back. It seems Axe-guy isn’t finished dragging her around by her hair yet.

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

The first thing you’ll notice is the bright, colorful level design and backgrounds. Victor Interactive Software really put forth some effort, and I thank them for it. There are 6 levels of game play (that I’ve never finished), ranging from the jungle, to caves, to mountains, etc…

Each level has it’s own mini-boss (crazed bears, huge boulders), and eventually, the Big Bad himself. Have a mentioned I haven’t ever reached him?

Throughout your journey, there’s a number of highly-detailed creatures that you’ll hack, from huge spiders, to half man/half animals, but you’ll always be annoyed by these little flying bats. To help you, there are plenty of power-ups in form of a small tiki idol, which can increase your health, give you a free life, of improve the strength of your mighty axe-blow.

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

Overall, the controls are fine, I didn’t have any problems except for the ones that show my lack of platforming skill.

Recapping: Beautiful-looking, decent controls, plenty of detailed levels/creatures, unique bosses, plenty of power-ups… I recommend playing.

Now if I could only rescue the girl….I need someone the sweep my dirt-floor cave.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcnk0JKYL3k[/youtube]

Overall 7/10

Alien Crush

[youtube id=”VpuO_XKRMd0″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? ~Simon Lethbridge

Alien Crush

Pinball has diminished in popularity a great deal since the advent of videogames, and pintables are now rarely seen anywhere but decent sized arcades and specialist retro establishments, but thanks to the entertainment medium that saw their demise, they can continue to live on! Which brings me, in a typically long-winded RKS stylee, to Alien Crush. I’m a bit of a pinball fan and I frequently venture into my local pizza restaurant, which is the only place for miles that still has any pintables, but pinball videogames, in my view, too often tried to accurately emulate proper pintables rather than taking advantage of the fact that they are no longer governed by the sometimes-restrictive rules of pintables. That is until Alien Crush came along.

Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Released by Naxat Soft exclusively on the PC Engine, Alien Crush is an original, not to mention supremely playable pinball game that would be completely impossible for an actual pintable to replicate. Its table, you see, is viewed from an overhead perspective, is two screens tall, and is awash with many scary alien creatures and devices! The bottom section of the table is dominated by a large alien creature with many eyes (which looks like the queen from the awesome ‘Aliens’ movie). All around it are various smaller aliens poking their heads out and insect-like creatures scurrying across the table occasionally, tempting you to destroy them before they scamper away, and further down the table on either side of the flippers are two cocoon things that act like bumpers, but if you hit them enough times they will open setting loose the evil monsters within!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 2
The top section of the table has two main features. In the top-left is a brain, which doesn’t really do much besides flash every time the ball hits it, but if you can get the ball right around the side and top of it, a blocker will appear between the flippers. The brain also opens up occasionally to unleash some horrific alien beasts. On the right of the screen is what appears to be a large mollusc or squid-type alien, into which you can also shoot the ball for points. Between these two objects at the top of the screen are three vertical dividers. Passing the ball through them turns lights on and off, and below them are three bumpers whose positions are determined by a mystical eye at the side of the screen. There are of course further aliens abound here too, to further complicate matters!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 3
The last feature of note in Alien Crush is the existence of several bonus tables. These can be reached by shooting the ball into one of the pockets situated around the table, which are usually aliens mouths or something, when the arrow pointing at them is lit. The bonus tables are all one screen in size and the object of them is generally to destroy all the aliens that reside on them. There is one that’s devoid of aliens, however, and they are replaced by lots of bumpers arranged in various positions. It is of course possible to amass considerable points on these tables, but, as every pinball connoisseur should know, everything on a pintable does something, and there are countless ways to amass huge scores on the main table too.
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Graphically, the game is a real treat, especially considering this was an early Engine game. I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? The sound, too, is decent enough. There’s the choice of two tunes before playing – Lunar Eclipse and the splendidly-named Demons Undulate, and the sound effects are suitably befitting of the game’s style. Gameplay-wise, there’s not really much more you could ask for. As with any pinball game, the most important thing is the ball physics, and happily that’s top-notch here. Movement around the table is reliable and impact with enemy sprites is rarely too unforgiving. There’s even a ’tilt’ option for added realism! As you might expect, this is an awesome game for ‘score attacks’ too. New ways of achieving bonus points are seemingly discovered every game – I’m still finding new tricks and devising new techniques all the time! Overall, yes, some could argue that Alien Crush has been superceded now (by its own sequel, for one!) but it still plays a pretty mean game of pinball and is well worth a bash.

RKS Score: 7/10

Dragon Egg

DRAGON EGG - Title ScreenDragon Egg! (1991)

By: NCS Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing

One thing I love about delving into the mysterious realms of Japanese gaming is discovering another of the many hidden gems that were, for some bizarre reason, never released outside of their native territory. It’s not without its frustrations either, though. This is mainly down to problems presented by the language barrier. Some games, RPG’s for example, are pretty much rendered totally unplayable as you might imagine, but sometimes even relatively simple platform games like Dragon Egg can’t be fully understood either. The game is perfectly playable and features little text beyond the intro sequence, and yet the premise behind the game remains a mystery. It seems some terrible creatures were summoned by a dark power and let loose upon a peaceful land but I couldn’t be certain. All I can tell you for sure is, there’s a little girl and she has a backpack, and nestling atop this backpack is an egg.

DRAGON EGG - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Standing between her and the presumed banishment of evil and the restoration of peace to the land are six side-viewed stages, each comprising of severalsections. These stages are set in a variety of locations including a forest, a castle, a desert, and even a space station of some sort (complete with teleporters of course), and they are all filled with evil monsters such as skeletons, ogres, pigs, blobs, and flying trolls and insects, as well as lots of traps and obstacles such as moving/collapsing platforms, fire, and force-fields. All of these enemies and some of the traps deplete our young heroine’s life meter (represented by hearts) but fortunately she is fairly agile and can jump around the multi-tiered stages quickly to avoid many of them, and to retrace her steps if she falls down from a high section, for example. She has a more interesting way of dealing with the many monsters though.

DRAGON EGG - Gameplay Screenshot 2It is here that we return to that egg nestled in her backpack, and indeed the egg of the title. To begin with she, perhaps rather unwisely, uses the egg itself as a weapon, bashing the enemies with it until they die, leaving behind a coin. Some random enemies, however, will leave behind a power-up instead. Once you’ve collected two of them, the egg will hatch into a baby dragon. Now when she thrusts him towards the enemies he scorches them with his fiery breath! Collect two more power-ups and he leaves her backpack altogether and becomes big enough for her to ride on his back. At this stage he can spit small fireballs which are enough to deal with most enemies but he can be powered-up even more to fire bigger, more powerful fireballs and even offers improved jumping abilities. Other power-ups can occasionally be found laying around here and there but can more reliably be purchased in mid-level shops with the coins gathered from defeated enemies. These include a ‘cure’, which replenishes her health, another heart to extend her health capacity, a shield, and several others.

DRAGON EGG - Gameplay Screenshot 3

So, I’ve no idea who this little girl is or why she’s carrying a dragon egg around, but luckily it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game, and enjoyable itis too. The stages are nicely designed and fairly varied in their appearance and everything is fairly cutesy as you probably guessed. The music and sound effects are nice and the sprites and backgrounds are nicely drawn too – there’s even a wibbly graphics effect like a water version of Thunder Force 3’s fire stage! It’s great fun jumping around the stages and spitting fireballs at all and sundry too, the controls are tight and responsive and there’s seldom an unfair death. In fact, that’s probably the games’s biggest problem. Not that it’s fair I don’t mean, unfair games are annoying as hell, just that it’s a touch on the easy side. Neither is it a particularly big game and could be comfortably finished inside 30 minutes. It’s a lovely little adventure while it lasts though. It looks and sounds nice, and is very enjoyable to play though, but just make sure you set it on ‘hard’!

RKS Score: 7/10