The Obsolete Gamer Show: Richie Knucklez


We start our new season dedicated to Retrogaming with the King of the Arcade, Richie Knucklez. Fans of Retrogaming will know him from his gaming achievements, the documentary film, King of the Arcade and of course, Twin Galaxies.

In our extended interview, we discuss his experiences running a successful arcade, being a retrogamer and his awesome collection of arcade cabinets.

Steel Rain: Glacus Prime Stage 2


Steel Rain is a shoot ’em up game with a base creation game in between battles.

To view more of our Gameplay Videos, click here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuqRuL_MxEq_Mxw7tk0Dplg09MyOo6DSA

To check out more of our Let’s Plays, click here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuqRuL_MxEq9QTRukDPj3SKguwnTPLlLM

M.A.M.E of the Game – Let’s Play: Dancing Eye’s


MAME of the Game is back with a new episode and this time J.A. Laraque has found a game that combines the perv he knew was inside him with the gamer that he has become. Dancing Eyes is an arcade game published by Namco in 1996 and featured a small monkey than walks or “dances” around a 3D grid that is placed around various women.

These titles are usually the clothing the women are wearing, but can sometimes be other items such as boxes or curtains. Now, there is no nudity, but the game is still pretty pervy as your main goal is just undressing these women and avoiding other animal enemies. Yes, that is pretty much it. You can collect power ups to increase your speed or size (kind of sounds like a male enhancement commercial) but all in all that is the main goal.

Dig Dug

[youtube id=”o8xGfpcl4uA” width=”633″ height=”356″]

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.

 

The Rolling Thunder Series

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

Rolling Thunder

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

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

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

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

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

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

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

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

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

Gravitar

Gravitar

While it’s true that the first video games to employ the combination of a space vessel and a landscape with a fairly realistic interpretation of gravity came earlier than this one, the first one you could really call an actual game was Gravitar. Like the earlier Lunar Lander and Asteroids, it makes use of lovely vectors to create its landscapes and other bits and pieces, and this time they’re in glorious technicolor! Unsurprisingly for a ‘gravity game’, it’s also set in space and involves cleansing several star systems of the many gun emplacements, or ‘bunkers’, that are sprinkled across the surfaces of their various planets. Your ship is a small blue thing somewhat reminiscent of the craft in Asteroids and is controlled by five buttons. Two turn it left or right, one shoots its feeble but invaluable cannon, another thrusts its engine to counteract the gravity, and the last activates its shields.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

By making use of these buttons you’ll need to guide your craft through three solar systems and clear them of bunkers. You start off emerging from a portal of some sort from where you’ll immediately be drawn towards the nearby star. Getting too close will cost you a life so you’ll instead need to use the ship’s thrusters and head for one of the five planets that lie further out. Touching any of these switches the action to a side-viewed section of land featuring several red bunkers. Destroying one takes only a single hit but they’re constantly shooting as well so you’ll often need to be a very good shot! Once you clear the section of bunkers, simply head back to the top of the screen to re-enter the ‘home’ area and head for another planet. Do the same for all of the planets and you’ll move to the next ‘phase’ which has some new ones. If you manage to clear all three phases and you’ll then be transported to the next ‘universe’ where the same job awaits.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

It’s not quite as repetitive as it might sound though. Each planet has a different layout – one might feature a flat (though ‘bumpy’) landscape, others require you to go underground and take out the bunkers around tricky caverns, and one stage consists of what seems to be an asteroid with bunkers all around the outside of it. Each solar system also features a ‘red planet’ which contains a reactor at the end of a winding tunnel. The tough part is, you have to get to it, destroy it, and get back out within a tight time limit. Doing so will ‘complete’ that solar system. The planets also have different points values which indicate how difficult they are – not only in terms of bunker positions/numbers, but also how strong the gravity is and therefore how much fuel you’ll need to use, for your supplies are indeed finite and, unlike Lunar Lander, you don’t get more simply by inserting more coins.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

As well as the thrusters, fuel is also used by the shield so it can disappear quickly! Luckily, there are more fuel cannisters available on most planets which can be grabbed using your tractor beam (activated the same way as the shield). It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the bunkers are pretty good shots, and enemy ships also appear now and then and zero in on your position, so hanging around to grab fuel can often be costly. It’s not an overly tough game though, at least in theory. Lives are lost often at first but the stages are well designed and control of your ship is well implemented too – it’s one of those games where mastering the controls makes a lot of difference and can potentially see your game last forever (almost). Like many early arcade games it does keep repeating too. There are four ‘universes’ in total – the second one reverses the gravity (which will mess with your mind big time), the third one features invisible landscapes, and the fourth one has both features, but if you complete all of them you’ll just go back to the first one.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

The only thing that changes for each universe is the time limit for destroying the reactor which gets smaller and smaller until it becomes impossible, but that can take a good while – the amazing world record score for this game was achieved over a continuous 24 hour (almost) period! I’m not sure I’d want to play Gravitar for that long even if I was good enough (and I’m pretty far from that – I can generally only last between 5 and 10 minutes!) but it is a pretty decent game. The sound is limited to a couple of effects but I’ve got no complaints about anything else. The vector graphics are as crisp as you would expect (and are even all glowy on the Xbox 360 port!), the ship movement and collision-detection is fine, and those controls, while initially a little confusing, do at the very least challenge you to do better. It may still be a bit too tough for some but it’s a challenge that I enjoyed anyway!

RKS Score: 7/10

M.A.M.E of the Game: With Great Power

x-men the arcade game

We are back with another episode of M.A.M.E. of the Game. In episode two we looked to superheroes for our inspiration and theme for the show. J.A. Laraque and Joshua Laus commentated on this episode titled, With Great Power where you can find gameplay from the following games.

Games we Played

 

Captain America and the Avengers

X-Men the Arcade Game

Superman the Arcade Game

The Punisher

Spider-Man the Arcade Game

We had a lot of fun bringing you this latest episode and we hope you enjoy it. As always we look for feedback and ideas for future episodes so leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

About M.A.M.E. of the Game

Mame of the Game takes something old and mixes it with something classic. The show will feature various gameplay footage from classic games on all platforms. Sometimes we will take a theme like Street Vigilante and feature a few games like Streets of Rage, Double Dragon and Final Fight. Sometimes we will feature on game in-depth. We don’t discriminate, so you will sometimes see footage from modern games and even previews.

Arm Champs II: Video Games that Break our Bones

Arm Champs 2

Arcades are products of a dying caste. On the decline for the past two and a half decades, it has become increasingly more difficult to find them. And when you do manage to wander into an arcade, unless it’s a Friday or Saturday night, chances are you’re all by your lonesome. The lights of machines twinkling, games beeping and talking to you as if they have been waiting for someone to show up for a very, very long time. The vestiges and ghosts of people remain only in the form of high scores, but no living souls are in sight. These are testaments to a once thriving subculture that rose in the late 70’s and waned in the mid 80’s and ultimately was dissolved by home consoles.

Go on. Hit the jump for more about unconventional arcade cabinets, broken arms and my personal quest to defeat a videogame’s arm.

twin galaxies
Best arcade players of all time (at the time). Taken at the Twin Galaxies Arcade, Ottumwa, 1982. Photo was featured in Life Magazine.

I haven’t seen a picture like the one above in a non-gaming magazine, well, ever. This is a sad fact. Only a few remaining large-scale arcades, or, I should say, beacons of hope, remain. Such as Funspot in NH. In these few select locations, the people seem to remember why arcades used to be popular. For the fun and excitement of live, high-level competition and intensity of playing a game with the pressure of others watching. Will you buckle and face the humiliation of public defeat or step up and overcome the odds as you digitally etch your name into the hall of fame?

Arm Champs 2

Unfortunately, in the years following the Golden age of video arcade games, arcade popularity has, overall, slipped off the map. However, new ideas have emerged in an effort to bring gamers back out of their living rooms. Deftly moving fingers and button mashing would no longer be sufficient to satiate the “masses”. Games of greater kineticism and physicality started appearing. Games that employed peripherals, such as the light guns of Virtua Cop or Big Buck Hunter, the motorcycles of The Fast and the Furious Super Bikes, the stage and pads of DDR and the arm (yes, arm!) of Arm Champs. And yes, kiddies, all of these were out pre-Wii (not to be confused with PeeWee), Kinect, Playstation Move, etc.

Arm Champs 2
In mid-October of 2010, during a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida, me and fellow contributor Jamie Richardson (Yes, we’re married. And yes, this was our honeymoon. Anything else you want to know?!) stumbled upon an arcade in the New York section of the theme park. Enchanted by the charm and nostalgia the arcade made us feel, we proceeded to haphazardly spend our hard earned money (wedding gifts) on tokens and played arcade games until our yearning hearts were content. Of all the claw cranes with console prize boxes, classic game cabinets and themed pinball machines, I was (for some inexplicable reason) most fascinated by a machine called Arm Champs II. Yep, you got that right. That’s a sequel to Arm Champs. But only equally as evil. Check out some of my masterful shaky cam of the title screen.

You can see why I had to play this. Arm Champs II is a 1992 game from Jaleco that pits you against the Terminator arm of a robot video game. That’s right, you arm-wrestle it. Little did I know at the time that people have had their arms broken from similar game cabinets in Japan, resulting in recalls. All I could think was, “Oh this looks like good, clean fun!” The surprising results of my herculean efforts can be viewed below. Thanks so much to my new wife for narrating this and humoring her pasty, frail, geek husband! It’s too late now babe!

In case you didn’t catch it at the end there, Jamie asks, “How does success feel?” To which my best reply was, “I’m sweating.” How ignorant of me. I wasn’t even thankful that I didn’t have any broken bones.

Arm Champs 2

Not unlike the robot boss, I also emphatically repeated, “No way!” over and over (and over) again after my unexpected victory. I couldn’t believe that I was Number 1. What? I’m not too sure about the 1992 wiring in this cabinet. How can I, king of nerds, be the top score? Ohhhhhh wait … I get it. They must reset it every week to make kids (and weaklings) feel good about themselves. Well you know what I think about that? Mission accomplished, Universal Studios. Mission accomplished. Now I know I’m stronger than videogames.

Galaga

Those on the ausretrogamer bandwagon will be aware that I LOVE Galaga! Namco’s vertical shoot’em up trapped me in its tractor beam back in 1981 and hasn’t released me yet.

galaga

Some 30 plus years ago, while waiting for relatives to arrive at Melbourne International Airport, I noticed a tabletop machine nearby. Upon gazing at the screen, I saw a little triangular ship shooting at formations of alien spaceships streaming from the sides of the screen. My first thought was, “wow, a souped-up Space Invaders”. Once I dropped in two 20 cent pieces, I immediately realised – this was no Space Invaders. This was way better! You could shoot multiple times (as long as you had the finger dexterity), your ship could be captured in a tractor beam, and there were challenge stages to rack up those high score points. To put it mildly, I was hooked.

galaga

So, what was it about Galaga that got this child hooked all those years ago? Galaga was, and still is, an uncomplicated vertical shoot’em up with the right mix of challenge and entertainment. Blasting those pesky alien spaceships gives a great sense of satisfaction.

For those unfamiliar with Galaga, here is the low-down on this beautiful game: You control the ship at the bottom of the screen, firing at Galaga enemies, moving left and right to avoid their fire and kamikaze attacks.

galaga

The enemy spaceships fly onto the screen from the left or right side. Unless you can shoot them all while forming, they assemble in the centre of the screen – just like in Space Invaders. As you play the game, you quickly learn the formation patterns and can anticipate when and how the spaceships will fly out onto the screen.

There is one particular Galaga enemy ship that is special – these enemy spaceships take multiple hits before they are destroyed. If you do not destroy them, they can fly down the screen towards you and release a tractor beam to capture your ship. To free the captured ship, you must destroy the captor Galaga while it is attacking you, if you fail, your captured ship will be destroyed. When you free your captured ship, it will dock alongside your current ship, and you are thus rewarded with a dual firing weapon of mass destruction.

galaga

These dual ships are especially handy for blasting away enemies during challenge stages. With your dual ship you can clear stages quickly and collect some nice bonus points. Speaking of points, every 20,000 earns you an additional life (ship); and as the game increases in difficulty, every spare ship counts.

Galaga remains a firm favorite in the gaming community, especially to those who grew up in the 80s. Since dropping in those coins all those years ago, I can safely say my affinity for Galaga has not subsided one bit. Long live Galaga!

GraphicsThe star field is realistic enough to make you feel like you are flying through deep space engaging in some enemy fire.

90%

SoundPew Pew sound effects never sounded any better.

90%

PlayabilityInsert coins, move left or right and fire. Couldn’t be any easier, right?

93%

LastabilityGalaga enemy spaceships have been fired upon ever since 1981. You do the maths on the lastability of this seminal shooter.

95%

OverallWhen it comes to old school vertical shoot’em ups, Galaga is at the top of its class.

95%

 

 

 

arcade-game-galaga

Manufacturer: Namco
Year: 1981
Genre: Shoot’em Up
Number of Simultaneous Players: 1
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Alternating
Control Panel Layout: Single Player
Controls:
– Joystick: 2-way (left, right)
– Buttons: 1 (fire)
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

 

 

Insector X

Insector X

By: Taito Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 259,300 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, NES

The differences between the gaming cultures in Japan and the ‘West’ really are quite amazing sometimes. Obviously certain genres are more popular in certain parts of the world but even some that are universally popular, such as shoot ’em ups, can be quite different. The Japanese like bright, cute, and often very weird games while us Western gamers apparently have darker, more realistic, and often more violent tastes. A great example of this peculiar trend is Insector X by frequent purveyors of cuteness, Taito. Accordingly, this original is colourful and full of cute characters. Most Western gamers know it as a MegaDrive release, however, and this version features much more realistic graphics devoid of cuteness. When I recently decided to reacquaint myself with the game, this time by sampling the arcade version, it was this kind of game that I was expecting, but as you’ve probably already determined, it’s not the type of game I found.
Insector X

No versions of the game seem big on story, not even the ones that have instruction manuals as far as I can tell, but it seems the premise involves some sort of insect infestation, but they’re not just ordinary insects – these ones are cybernetic terrors! Rather than using a combination of insect repellent and the odd hydraulic press, however, the fate of the world (whichever world it is) is instead left up to a hero who rivals the insects in terms of his diminutive stature as well as his hardened resolve. He goes by the name of Yanmer and only with your help can he rid the world of the Dark Ruler Queen, etc. Five side-scrolling stages stand between the two adversaries as well as a large number of exoskeletal goons who, I’m happy to say, do not exclusively possess the luxury of flight – Yanmer is not only equipped with wings himself which enable free and unlimited movement around the stages but he also wears a hat topped by a propeller for good measure.
Insector X

The freedom of flight would be useless without something a bit more aggressive to back it up with though, as a single hit from one of the spindly critters is enough to put him down. To this end, Yanmer is also equipped with the standard weedy gun which initially fires a single small shot. It can be powered-up fairly quickly by collecting ‘P’ icons though, while the similar ‘S’ icons put a bit more wind in his wings, the ‘A’ icon equips an autofire option, Lightning icons are smart bombs, there are acorns to collect for bonus points, and there’s also the odd 1up to look out for. Then there’s the special attacks. There are ten of these altogether which are obtained by collecting insecticide cans carried by some enemies (which is a bit like Ripley carrying an angry Alien around, but nevermind) which alternate between ground and air attacks – coloured brown or blue respectively – of which there are five apiece. They are seemingly awarded randomly but generally consist of either bomb-like things to hammer the numerous floor-dwelling enemies, and various types of missiles for taking out the more numerous airborne nincompoops.
Insector X

These special attacks can also be powered-up by collecting successive icons and before long our heroic fairy is hurling an almost-unbreachable wall of death! That doesn’t make it the easiest arcade shmup of all-time but it’s far from the hardest either. Least that means you should get to see all the stages though, but are they worth seeing? Graphically, it uses a mixture of styles. As mentioned, the sprites are mostly cute creatures such as flies, bees, dragonflies, moths, and ladybirds in the air while the ground forces are made up of fish, snails, flowers, and even mushrooms. The stages themselves, on the other hand, are made to look a bit more realistic for the most part. They’re named Desert, Plateau, City, Jungle, and Their Empire, and feature a decent mixture of man-made as well as natural environments, both indoor and outdoor.
Insector X

Each stage, or ‘area’, is guarded by a giant creepy-crawly too, such as wasps or spiders. These things reminded me of the bosses in Fantasy Zone – they have limited movement and seem to content merely flinging a load of bullets your way. They’re not nearly as tough as the infernal guardians in Sega’s older cute ’em up but they do look half-decent, as do many of the backgrounds and some of the amusing enemies too, but I can’t help thinking this looks like a game designed a few years earlier – things were generally quite a bit flashier than this by 1989. The flashiest thing here is probably Yanmer’s weapons, with the screen often brimming with his multi-coloured bullets and missiles, but most effects, such as the explosions or enemies taking damage are quite poor. Still, it’s pleasant and cheerful enough, and sounds the part too. The music is rather on the loud side but most tunes are catchy and suit the cutesy action pretty well.
Insector X

For all its decent-though-unspectacular aesthetics, though, I’m struggling to think of any one moment or section of the game that really stands out. Control of Yanmer is good, although it’s possible to speed him up too much, but there isn’t really much in the way of foreground scenery or obstacles to manoeuvre around which was disappointing and made progress a bit… well, boring at times, especially as there isn’t really any super-tough, nerve-fraying parts either. A balanced difficulty level is rare in a shmup, admittedly, but sometimes you need a crazy, hectic section to keep you on your toes! It’s not a very long game either – a player of moderate skill should be able to play it through in less then twenty minutes with a bit of practise. Insector X is far from a terrible game and is well worthy of a blast if the chance arises – what else gives you the opportunity blow the crap out of confused-looking snails, frowning moths, and evil mushrooms? – but when the most noteworthy thing about a game, and an arcade game no less, is curiosity over its graphical style compared to a more popular version, it can’t really be wonderful news either.

RKS Score: 6/10

Growing up in Arcades

arcades

Growing up in Arcades

This week on the Obsolete Gamer show we reminisce about arcade rooms and the various arcade games and establishments we visited in our youth. Check out the various questions we asked fans on our Fan Book fan page and look for our game where we send in pictures of arcade games where ever we find them.

So check it out and let us know what you think and remember, you can download our podcasts on ITunes and now we are available on Stitcher Radio.

Or listen here.

Pocket Gal

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Pocket Gal (1987)
By: Data East  Genre: Sports  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 9,300 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Love them or hate them, videogames are big business. Those of us who partake in their wonders, however, have taken a lot of stick over the years for the sake our ‘nerdy’ hobby so it doesn’t really help matters when developers release blatantly pervy games featuring titillating girlies in various states of undress. Most of the time this is of course a less-than-subtle attempt to grab the cash of lonely gamers with a bare minimum of effort. Indeed, the games that facilitate these giggling girlies are usually utter trash – the flimsiest of excuses for the nudity and immoral material contained within, and that’s when there even is a game at all! But could there be any genuinely good games hidden amidst this nonsense? In a series of new features here at Red Parsley, I will bravely attempt to uncover an answer to this intriguing mystery!

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

As you’ve probably already seen, the first game of this feature is a pool-based game. It’s a Japanese game but as far as I can tell there’s no fancy options or tournaments. When you start, you’ll see a chart featuring four different classes, each of which is represented by a ‘sultry’ lady and you have to work your way up the ranks, so to speak. This naturally involves playing pool. There is a two-player mode but in the one-player mode there is surprisingly no computer-controlled opponent. Instead, you must simply pot all the balls (tee hee!) yourself. Bonus points are awarded for potting multiple balls in succession and for following their numbered sequence. The more points you get, the quicker the girlie will get her kit off! That’s right, for the object of the game appears to be simply to disrobe the ladies – first they’ll lose their outer-garments, then their underwear, and the further up the rankings you get, the more effort is required to persuade them to do so! Oo-er…

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

This ‘effort’ comes in the form of stages. There are more of them per girlie the further you get and they alternate between frames of regular pool (is it still called a ‘frame’ in pool?) and trick shots. A predictibly simple interface enables you to take the shots – just move your aim, represented by a dotted line, and set the power. It’s hardly a complicated process so you should find yourself smacking the balls around (giggity) in no time. There are a few different variations of pool during the course of the game (6 ball, 9 ball, etc) and it’s possible to add topspin, backspin, and swerve to the cue ball during play, but that’s about as complex as things get. So, your prize for playing well may nudge this game toward the ‘adult’ side of things, but is it even worth playing it at all? Well, not for the ‘prize’ itself, obviously – even in its day this was hardly an obscene game – but it’s actually not bad.

As you can see, the graphics are hardly anything to write home about. The tables themselves, whilst coming in several different colours, didn’t exactly require the finest hardware in the world, but everything looks okay. More importantly, the balls move around fairly accurately, at least to my non-expert eyes, and playing the game can be pretty entertaining in short bursts. The different variations and trick shots help to keep it from becoming too repetitive and there’s some pretty decent music and sound effects too (even a bit of speech!). As for the girlies themselves… well, they’re more amusing than anything else, but that was probably the point I suppose. It’s certainly not worth playing the game just to see their ‘boobies’ but Pocket Gal is a surprisingly enjoyable game regardless. Obviously there’s not much in the way of depth so it does get repetitive after a while, but it’s good fun while it lasts.

RKS Score: 6/10

Weird Games: Chiller

Chiller - Arcade game - gameplay screenshot

Weird Games: Chiller

I have always liked shooting games. From the simple BB gun shooting games at carnivals to games like Operation Wolf and Time Crisis, there was something about shooting at things that made my young self smile. Then there was Chiller which took the arcade shooter and added horror and gore and scared little boy J.A. forever.

Chiller was first released to the arcades in 1986 from publisher Exidy and the game consisted of several different screens of horror settings like torture chambers and graveyards. Now you would think the goal would be to save the helpless victims trapped there and to shoot and the bad guys holding them there, but you would be wrong, horribly wrong.

Chiller - Arcade game - gameplay screenshot

Your mission is to figure out how to kill every victim on the screen the fastest way possible. Now you would think that all you would have to do is shoot the victims outright, but I guess being trapped in their living nightmare has given them super powers or something because if you try just shooting them it takes too much time to kill them and you lose.

The challenge is finding ways to activate the torture devices or other means to kill the victims. So an example of that would be shooting a lever on a stretching rack to pull the victim apart. There are also bonuses for shooting all targets on each screen which results in a bonus round, as if shooting off chunks of flesh and bone wasn’t enough.

Chiller - Arcade game - gameplay screenshot

Now this game was released in the U.S. for the NES and used the light gun to shoot. Obviously there were differences in the NES release including a storyline which said the victims were monsters not people (I guess that makes torture ok).  Here is the storyline in a nutshell:

“Back in the middle ages a castle on the outskirts of town has been invaded by an evil force which is causing the dead to come back to life! You need to stop this force before it can create a large army and take over the town. …Each level also has 8 talismans hidden in it; you need to find and destroy these to stop the monsters from appearing.”

We have talked about Nintendo Censorship before so what was censored in this version of Chiller? Well, the infamous “shoot the clothes off the half buried woman” part was removed as well as things like shooting off the flesh of the victims and the body parts spread across many of the levels. Strangely enough one weird change was in the original was a monk hauling a wheel barrel of body parts across the screen. This was replaced with a nun pushing a baby carriage and yet you could shoot the nun.

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

Serious Nintendo WTF.

The Simpsons Arcade Game

It’s the Simpsons Arcade game as the pick of the week. I fell in love with this title back in the arcade era in the late 80s and early 90s and now that it’s available in the PSN network, I had to have it. Lets kick back and check this wonderful adventure!

The Simpsons Arcade Game - Gameplay Screenshot

Can anyone not have the music of the Simpsons engraved on their head? I know I do! Not only is that wonderful sountrack in the game but also a lot of remixes using it. What better way to enjoy a Simpsons game than to listen to such a wonderful soundtrack! The sounds are also very cartoonish like and best of all, Simpson voices! You’ll hear Homer yawn, Bart swear, and the others!

The Simpsons Arcade Game - Gameplay Screenshot

The graphics are amazing for its time. The game looks just like the cartoon so in a way you get the feeling you are in the cartoon itself. There is no other way to have made this game possible! All the characters look like the ones from series so you won’t have any problem recognizing them. There are of course some characters that only appear in the game but you get the picture.

The Simpsons Arcade Game - Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay is so much fun you’ll be replaying it with all your friends over and over! The game is quite simple. It’s a beat ’em up which means you have to beat everyone on your path. The game is seven stages long and packed with lots of traps and foes so at points it can get quite challenging. Overall, there isn’t any problem since you don’t need quarters anymore.

The Simpsons Arcade Game - Gameplay Screenshot

This is an arcade game so it obviously holds replay value! It’s always fun to go at it alone and let people join along the way or start a new game with three online peeps and enjoy the journey together. It’s such an awesome masterpiece and totally worth it!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9DE-KyZnLc[/youtube]

So there is nothing much to say except, get it! It’s a must have, you’ll have a blast ! Online randomness? Yes! Simpson humor? Yes! What more do you want? That’s all for this week!! By the way, it only costs 9.99, runs away”

Joust turns 30

Joust

Joust turns 30

The early 1980s marked a huge boom period for the video game industry. As a result, many of the iconic classics of that time seem to be reaching major anniversaries in rapid-fire succession.

The latest to reach the 30 year milestone is Joust, the unique 1982 title from former arcade powerhouse Williams Electronics. According to government trademark records the first appearance of the title was on July 16, 1982.

Created by John Newcomer, the game of Joust put the player in control of an ostrich-riding knight. The object of the game was the turn away the challenges of numerous enemy knights, also riding the odd birds through levels with several platforms. From time to time an almost unbeatable pterodactyl would join into the frantic pace of the game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkxY9_dZFI8[/youtube]

The two-player feature helped Joust make an impact in the coin box at arcades across the country. While the ability for numerous players to play together has been a common feature in arcades for some time, in 1982 it was quite the novelty for two players to be able to play at the same time. Adding to the feature were offers of bonus points on certain levels, some of which encouraged teamwork and others that encouraged direct competition.

While the classic has been long removed from most surviving arcade locations today, Kansas City gamer Lonnie McDonald has been bouncing across the country for the past year in an effort to post a high score of 9,999,999 points on every surviving Joust machine he can find. So far on his tour he has hit over 60 different Joustmachines, including one in placed in the former location of a historic arcade just days before the 30th birthday date.

“I have met some cool folks along the way,” he said in a previous interview. “Played with current world champs; seen Joust machines in homes, bars, arcades and museums. I’m not as fast or as handsome or thin, but I am wiser and more strategic. On the other hand when you win 500 free guys you can play silly if you want to.”

Bomb Jack

Good old Bomb Jack. Could he have been the first ever bomb disposal expert in video gaming ? Perhaps he was. It doesn’t really matter, does it.

Bomb Jack - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Released in 1984, our little hero garnered a cult following. He may have worn red spandex, but that didn’t stop us from pumping coins into his machine.

Bomb Jack - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The premise of the game is pretty straight forward – collect all the bombs to complete a screen. Only one bomb at a time has a lit fuse. If you collect 20 or more of these lit bombs on a level, you get a bonus.

Bomb Jack - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s not all easy going for Jack, he has to avoid various monsters and aliens that chase him around the screen. However, if you collect the powerball when it appears, it freezes the baddies for a short period of time, during which, you can kill them simply by touching them. There are other items to be picked up that give you additional bonus points or extra credits.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jJzasm63DE[/youtube]

The game starts to repeat after Level 18. However, you will be too busy darting around the screen, collecting bombs to notice. Bomb Jack is one of those old games that invoke memories of playing it at the corner shop or fish’n chips store across your school. I know, it does for me. Most of my pocket money went into playing this game. It kept me out of trouble, which is always a good thing.

GraphicsIt was 1984, so what do you expect !

72%

SoundAs above !

70%

PlayabilityAnother typical arcade game from the early / mid 80′s – dart around the screen, collect stuff and avoid the baddies. Damn that’s a lot of fun

85%

LastabilityWell, the levels repeat after level 18, but who cares, this game oozes nostalgia. It is a great “pick up and play for 10 minutes” kind of game – which is perfect for us time-poor gamers

85%

OverallThis will not be the first game that comes to mind from the 80′s arcade era. But, if you do come across it, play it. It has the perfect mix of platform and puzzle fun. I guarantee it will put a smile on your dial.

85%

 Bomb Jack - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Manufacturer: Tehkan
Year: 1984
Genre: Single screen platform
Number of Simultaneous Players: 1
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Alternating
Control Panel Layout: Single Player
Joystick: 8-way
Buttons: 1 [jump]
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

Bomb Jack Twin

Bomb Jack Twin (1993)
By: NMK Co., Ltd  Genre: Platform  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 169,260
Also Available For: Nothing

BombBomb Jack Twin - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Poor old Bomb Jack. After an exceptional mid-80’s debut his future looked bright and he could’ve been one of the very first platform heroes but despite a couple of sequels, he instead faded into obscurity. One of the sequels, Mighty Bomb Jack, appeared only a couple of years after the original and took the addictive bomb-collecting, enemy-avoiding gameplay and introduced scrolling stages as well as numerous bonus collectibles. A year after that, Elite offered their own unofficial sequel, creatively titled Bomb Jack 2, which strangely took away Jack’s power of flight, instead requiring him to leap from platforms to adjacent platforms. The next game in the series was also sadly the last to date and it was… Bomb Jack Twin.

BombBomb Jack Twin - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Appearing some six years after Elite’s franchise-destroying game, Bomb Jack Twin took the gameplay back to the basics, but made one vital addition – a two player mode. Yes, that’s right – joining in with Bomb Jack’s bomb-collecting tomfoolery this time is a female Bomb-collector (Bomb Jill?) and together they must once again save the world’s landmarks and cities from… actually, did we ever find out who was responsible? Anyway, the stages here are basically polished-up copies of those found in the first game with one exception – they’re a lot harder! It appears, therefore, that rather than merely offering the option of a two-player, this game is designed to be played that way.

BombBomb Jack Twin - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The reason it’s harder, you see, is because the enemies are both much more numerous, and much faster. Just look at the screenshots below – both were taken by me a few seconds after the start of the stage and there’s already six or more enemies on the loose! The longer you last, the more of them there will be and some of them chase you around the screen at a ridiculous speed. The first stage eases you in a little but after that you’ll need the reflexes of a gazelle to get very far on your own and the ‘P’ icon becomes more vital than ever before!

BombBomb Jack Twin - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

As you can probably see, one of the biggest changes the series has seen from first game to this one is the graphics. It’s been nine years since the first Bomb Jack so this game looks much fancier with its beautifully drawn sprites, some nice animation, and nice backdrops. Some of the music and sound effects return from the first game (in remixed form, of course) but they are joined by some new ones too, and everything is top-notch presentation-wise. But does the pretty new look make it a better game?

BombBomb Jack Twin - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Stages are set in thirteen locations around the world and before play begins you’ll see a map screen showing where you are. After three rounds, then a bonus round (same sort of objective but with no enemies and a tighter time limit), you’ll move to the next dot on the map, and control over Jack (and Jill) through the game is again extremely tight and precise which is more necessary than ever here!

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

Obviously this game is the best in the series for enjoying with a friend since it’s the only entry in the series with such an option, and fantastic (if often short-lived) fun it is too, but when ‘flying solo’ I think I’d have to go for the original. If you’ve got the necessary skills, Twin is a superb game, but it’ll just prove too tough for most single-players.

RKS Score: 8/10

Bad Dudes

“The President has been kidnapped by Ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue The President?”

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

The opening line uttered by the Secret Service agent immediately stirs the street fighter within you. Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja can be played in single player mode as Blade (in white pants); or in two player co-op mode – the second player controlling Striker (in green pants).

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot

Blade and Striker’s mission is simple: rescue President Ronnie by pummeling all kinds of evil martial artists across seven levels within the allotted time. The attack moves at your disposal are fairly basic: low, middle, and high kicks. Each fighter can also perform a mega punch by holding down the attack button.

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot

Should Blade or Striker get the better of their armed opponent, they can pick up the dropped weapon, be it a knife or nunchuks, and use it to extend their attack range. This comes in handy for the end-of-level bosses. Speaking of bosses, even Karnov makes an appearance.

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot

Once you have ploughed through evil-doers across seven levels, you reach the final boss – the one and only, Mr Dragon Ninja himself. Defeat this evil kingpin and it is happy times as President Ronnie is freed from his kidnappers.

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot

 

After the popularity of Double Dragon in 1987, it was inevitable that arcade developers would make 1988 a co-op beat’em up fest to cash in on the genre’s popularity.

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot
The late 80′s was truly the Golden Era of beat’em ups. Grab a mate, and hit Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTjgV_9YFDQ[/youtube]

Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja:

Bad Dudes - Gameplay Screenshot

Manufacturer: Nihon Bussan / AV Japan
Developer: Data East
Year: 1988
Genre: Beat’em Up (side scrolling fighter)
Maximum number of players: 2
Gameplay: Joint (co-operative)
Joystick: 8-way
Buttons: 2 (Attack and Jump)
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)
Cabinet: Upright Standard
Levels: 7 (Street, Truck, Sewers, Forest, Train, Cave and Dragon Ninja HQ / helicopter)

 

Step into the Australian Retro Gamer nostalgic time machine as we go back in retro gaming history and relive the consoles, the computers, the peripherals, the games, the people, the players and the magazines that made us all feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and put a huge smile on our face. You can view his website here.

Star Castle

Star Castle

I gave this game a whirl on a request from our Facebook Fan page and I must say, this game looked easier than it was. Star Castle is a vector arcade game and was made in 1980 by publisher and developer Cinematronics. The main objective is to take out the enemy cannon, which is surrounded by a defense shield. Your ship can move and rotate 360 degrees and fire a series of shots at the shields weakening and eventually destroying them. However, there are mines that fly off from the shield, which you must avoid. Once you take out enough of the enemies shields, the cannon itself begins firing at you.

star_castle_

Now you would think since you can fly anywhere, even off of the screen, it would be easy, but it’s not. First, I had a handicap which was the sound did not work. Second, and this is normal gameplay mechanics, the thrusters take a bit to get used to and you cannot just stop and turn on a dime so the result is you end up coasting into mines or not moving out of the way of the cannon fire fast enough.

Now, something to keep in mind, which I did not know, your goal is not to destroy the entire outer shield because if you do it will regenerate. This makes the game harder because you want to hit the same spots and make a small window in the shield to take out the cannon. As you can see in the video, I was not very good at this.

Overall, this game is pretty fun and like all classic games of this type if you do take out the cannon you start all over, but with more mines and faster shots from the cannon, but definitely a fun game and a great time waster.

Thanks to Mike Taylor for suggesting this game to try.

Gemini Wing

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Gemini Wing (1987)
By: Tecmo  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 85,980 (one credit)
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX, Sharp X68000

Like most people (or game fans, at least), I have a fairly extensive list of games I always meant to play but never got around to as a result of time or financial constraints, but Gemini Wing has never been among them. My only memories of it are the rather lacklustre reviews the home conversions received, notably on the Speccy (which had blue and yellow monochrome graphics as I recall), so when I decided to take a look at the arcade original of this vertical-scroller (which is actually a few years older than I realised), I didn’t have very high expectations. Initially, however, it’s been a pleasant surprise! I hope my luck holds, I could do with a decent new shmup to play…

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Even for shmup standards, Gemini Wing has a pretty hideous storyline that I won’t inflict on you here, but suffice to say, every alien race in the galaxy has apparently declared war on Earth! Things aren’t as bad as they might seem though as the invading aliens didn’t reckon on the ingenuity of the Gemini Wing fighter. It is using this that you (and a friend) must engage the terrifying alien fleets across seven stages of vertically-scrolling action. It appears you’re fighting the actual aliens themselves here too, for the most part, rather than their spaceships and stuff and they’re quite a diverse bunch that wouldn’t look out of place in our gardens and forests!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

As you can probably tell from the screenshots, many of the aliens look like insects, other animals, and plants, and they include centipede’s, bats, various types of flies, praying mantises, spiders, beetles, trees, even single-celled organisms! The bosses are similarly organic in nature. The first, for example, is a walrus, and the next a pair of one-eyed snakes! Like Metal Black, recently reviewed here, Gemini Wing tries to do something a bit different with the weapon system too, and with a bit more success this time. Your fighter is equipped with a reasonable, though poor range, cannon, but you may notice the ship also has a tail of circular icons behind it.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

These are called ‘Gunballs’ and each of them represents a different special attack ranging from three-way fire, to homing missiles, to a wall of fire, and others. They are used in the order they trail behind you and each lasts for one brief attack, acting like lesser smart bombs of a sort. More of them can be collected by destroying a certain kind of alien called a ‘Bringer’ which have ‘Gunball tails’ of their own! Bringers are hard to kill but each time you shoot one will change the type of Gunball they are carrying. When it carries the attack you want, you can steal them by flying into them and snatching them. Be careful though as they can also steal your Gunballs in the same way!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Not all the Gunballs are weapons though. Certain ones will also give you speed-ups, an extra life, or award you with bonus points too. If you do manage to destroy a Bringer (it takes a lot of shots), its Gunballs will scatter around the screen, much like your own if you lose a life. This does of course make things a little easier as you can gather up most of your lost power-ups again when you restart (which happens immediately from the point you died). That’s not to say this is an easy shmup though. As well as numerous medium and large enemies, there are frequent swarms of dozens of smaller enemies (like the green things to the right) and they often move lightning fast!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Others attack from behind while some, such as the beetles, come flying down the screen straight at you. Most of the enemies have horribly unpredictably flight paths too, especially the smaller ones, and it’s not just the aliens who cause problems. Many of the stages are home to hard-to-reach guns and there are various kinds of barriers that you have to try and shoot through as well. Fortunately the Gunballs are fairly common but you’re still likely to become overwhelmed now and then! The game can sure handle a lot of sprites on the screen at once too – there are sometimes literally dozens of several different types attacking at once.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Your ‘tail’ of Gunballs following you around can be a bit distracting too, but this isn’t the hardest shmup in the world either. The sprites and backgrounds are both pretty varied, and the sprites in particular look nice. However, Tecmo missed some great opportunities as well. For example, the first stage takes places over a giant canyon of some sort. Some parallax scrolling here could’ve looked amazing and given the game a real sense of scope! Nevermind though, it’s still looks decent enough. The music and sound effects are pretty average though, it has to be said, and not something that you would even notice really unless you actually tried to.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Initially at least, this appeared to be a bright, cheery game which kind of reminded me, thematically, of a vertically-scrolling version of recently-played Amiga classic, Apidya, what with the abundance of insect-like enemies and all (well, vice versa since Gemini Wing came out first but you know what I mean!), and plays a little like PC Engine great, Gunhed. Having something in common with those two fantastic games is certainly no bad thing and, while Gemini Wing is not as good as either of them, it is a pretty half-decent and playable game. It has a great two-player mode (and yes, the players can steal Gunballs from each other!) and proves a nice challenge too. The difficulty increase is gradual with only a few overly tough sections, and there are some innovative features here which work well. As mentioned earlier, to me at least, this has always been one of those games that was just, sort of… there, but having now given it a chance, it has proven to be a rather pleasant surprise.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGWq0n0tQ8g[/youtube]

RKS Score: 7/10

8 more classic SNK games now available

NeogeoStation_logo

8 more classic SNK games now available

The Playstation store is really upping its classic gaming cred. Available now you can download 8 pre-NEO GEO arcade classics which include:

OZMA WARS
Fight against UFOs, meteors, comets, and dock with the mothership before your energy runs out in SNK’s first arcade game originally released in 1979. Ozma Wars stands out as the second released vertical shooting arcade game, but is also known as the first game with disparate levels!

SASUKE vs COMMANDER
Play as Sasuke, who must protect the Shogun from Ninja in this 1980 classic arcade “gallery shooter”, one of the first games to feature bosses!

VANGUARD
VANGUARD, famous for being one of the first scrolling shooters ever made, was originally released in 1981. Shoot your enemies in all four directions or get an energy pod and ram them in this classic arcade game!

MARVIN’S MAZE
Help Marvin defend his Maze from the terrible Robonoids in this cute and addictive arcade puzzle-action game, originally released in 1983.

HAL 21
As Captain Clain, attack enemies in the air and bomb ground targets on your way to the boss in this classic shooting title originally released in 1985.

ATHENA
Join Athena, Princess of the Kingdom of Victory as she opens the “Forbidden Door” and descends into a world of fantasy in this classic platform arcade game originally released in 1986.

IKARI WARRIORS

As colonel turned mercenary Ralf, use your machine gun, grenades, and jump in tanks to defeat countless foes. Infiltrate the enemy base and complete your mission in this ’80s run-and-gun mega-hit 

GUERRILLA WAR

Enter the jungle and ruined cities of a tropical island to overthrow its tyrannical dictator, and liberate the nation held in his grip. Don’t forget to rescue your captured comrades along the way! Hail the heroes of the Revolution!

All of these titles are only $2.99 on the PlayStation Store.

Kino One Review

Kino One
Kino One can be described, in a nutshell, as the illegitimate child of a classic single screen shoot-em-up arcade game with a late 90s bullet-hell Japanese shmup, conceived after a particularly wild night of sake drinking. This is of course a good thing. Or at least it should be considered one by most indie-minded retro gamers, that tend to appreciate both these sub-genres and the overall anime aesthetic of the game. Especially as some R-Type inspired mechanics have also been thrown into the mix.

After all, Kino One, knows and loves its audience, and doesn’t try to appeal to the casual gaming crowd. It features lovely cell-shaded graphics to appease the little Japanese loving nerd that lives inside you, excellent comic book styled cutscenes, great video game humour, an intricate scoring system, and a brilliant virtual arcade sporting some truly well remade versions of Pong, Pac-Man, Arkanoid and more.

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot 1

Despite not being incredibly original and at times feeling slightly repetitive (some stages do drag a bit), one can’t help but notice the amount of care and polish poured into the thing. It features more than enough levels, impressive end bosses, different difficulty options and even comes packed with cute faux arcade flyers. Besides, the control scheme that effortlessly lets players cloak, use smart-bombs and shoot everything in sight works like a breeze and helps Kino One become a most addictive fun little high-score chase.

Oh, and the soundtrack is quite enjoyable and definitely appropriate too.

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot

Verdict: Not the most original shmup around nor a game for everyone, but excellent fun and absolutely stuffed with content to make retro-gamers, shmup addicts and manga worshipers drool. Also very cheap.

Visit the official Kino One website to find out more, download the demo or -better yet- grab a copy of the thing.

Aero Fighters

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Aero Fighters a.k.a. Sonic Wings (1992)
By: Video System / Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 191,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: SNES, PlayStation 2

As any self-respecting shmup fan knows, now and then comes a game that, despite not being hugely remarkable in itself, goes on to prove very important in the genre at large. Aero Fighters is among these. Obviously it wasn’t the work of just one person, but having a significant role in its creation while working at Video System was a certain Shin Nakamura. Shortly after its completion, he and a few colleagues left to form the now legendary Psikyo who went on to create some of the finest vertical scrollers seen during the remainder of that decade and beyond, including such classics as Strikers 1945, Gunbird, Sengoku Blade, and Zero Gunner. Not all of Psikyo’s great shmups drew inspiration from Aero Fighters (perhaps more commonly known by its Japanese name of Sonic Wings), but all of them owe it a debt.

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Like most of the Psikyo games that followed, Aero Fighters is a vertical scroller, on this occasion a military-based one. Before play begins you are given the option of choosing from four pilots, each representing a different country, and each possessing a different attitude in their outbursts in the between-level cut-scenes. The US pilot is predictably cocky (“I’ll fly anywhere at anytime!”), the Japanese one is all business (“Next mission…”), the crazy Swedish guy just laughs each time, and the British pilot is only interested in his bit of skirt (“Enemy took my bride”). Each of them also flies a different jet fighter (based on real aircraft) equipped with a powerful, rapid fire main cannon as well as a screen-clearing smart bomb style attack, although you only get two of these per life.

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot
The main cannon on all the jets can be powered-up four times by collecting the floating icons left behind when you destroy some of the larger enemies, although the power increase from the fourth upgrade is only temporary. You will also find addition smart-bomb icons now and then but that’s the extent of the weapon upgrades in this game – no giant, screen-filling beams of death here, you have to do your despot-vanquishing the old-fashioned way! One nice feature present here is the way you play through the stages. They are set in various countries around the globe, with the first three you face being in a random order. The pilot you select doesn’t face a stage in his home country, so each time you play the game may present the different stages in a different order. Which is nice.

 

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

After completing the first three stages, taken from the four pilots home countries, there are four more stages for you to battle through, in a set order this time, before the evil terrorists are defeated. It’s a great approach to a shmup and one that sees you return to it over and over again. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a damn fine blast too! Graphically the game is pretty awesome. Aside from the bosses, the sprites are fairly samey – jets, helicoptors, tanks, gunboats, etc, with minimal animation, but later on some more interesting ones appear, and the bosses are pretty impressive throughout, especially the giant transforming tank thing (in the shot to the left), and the smart-bomb effects (one of which is also featured to the left) are awesome, as are the fantastic backgrounds!

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Sound-wise, there’s not too many effects, but those that do exist are great with a particularly satisfying shooting sound, and most of the music is great too, especially on the stage with aircraft hangars in the mountains! However, as you might expect if you’ve played any of Psikyo’s games, Aero Fighters is really tough going! Luckily you can continue forever as long as you keep pumping in the coins (or pressing ‘5’ on the keyboard!). The enemy onslaught is relentless here and their bullets move really quickly most of the time too – on some occasions it seems impossible to not lose a life, and things do border on ‘bullet-hell’ insanity at times. Hard or not though, no one can deny that playing this game is an exciting, adrenaline rush of an experience, especially for two players at once, and the short time you’ll likely be playing for makes it one of the most addictive shmups I’ve played!

RKS Score: 8/10

Beastie Feastie aka Super Glob

Super Glob - Beastie Fetie - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Super Glob a.k.a. The Glob, a.k.a. Beastie Feastie (1983)
By: Epos Corporation Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,350
Also Available For: Nothing

Who remembers the Psygnosis classic, Globdule, on the Amiga? It was a cavern-based collect ’em up which saw you controlling a floppy purple blob who could stick to almost anything! I’m a big fan of that game, and when I saw the abbreviated filename of this game I thought someone had finally made a sequel! Alas, it proved not to be the case, for, whilst also a platform game, this one is a little know oddity from the early 80’s. Despite what the title screen says, Super Glob is a one player game (the two-player mode just sees the players take turns). It’s your job to guide a blue blob called Toby around the single-screen stages to collect food, which includes standard game food such as strawberries, grapes, and even hunks of meat! The food has of course been sprinkled liberally all around the platforms on each screen. As you might expect, being a ‘glob’, Toby lacks the limbs to use ladders, so he can’t reach other platforms that way. He instead has to rely on the handily-located elevators which he can summon to his current platform by pressing one of the buttons nearby.

Super Glob - Beastie Fetie - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Also populating these platforms in ever increasing numbers are various enemies which take the form of animals. The first stage is populated by crocodiles but other stages are home to such seemingly benevolent creatures as rabbits, frogs, monkeys, and pigs! Of course, contact from any of these results in the instant loss of a life, although more can be gained by achieving set scores. These guardians of the food can be defeated in two ways. Firstly, if he times it right, Toby can crush them with the elevators by moving up or down into them. It’s also worth mentioning that he can actually crush himself with the elevators too, by summoning one and standing underneath it as it desends! The other way, which is probably more reliable, is to take advantage of Toby’s gelatinous nature by jumping up and sticking to the ceiling! Hold the jump button down to stay stuck, then release it to land on top of your adversary. If either of these manoeuvres are not timed right, however, it almost certainly results in contact with the creatures and subsequent death! Neither is a long-term solution either – the enemies quickly respawn close to where they originally apeared so it’s sometimes easier to just avoid them.

Super Glob - Beastie Fetie - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Before the accidental discovery mentioned earlier, I had never heard of this game. I have no idea how it was received or how popular it was, but I’m guessing it passed a lot of people by, and that’s a shame. It’s not spectacular or remarkable in any way, and I’m sure that was the case when it was first released as much as it is today, but it’s an enjoyable little game and it must’ve been pretty original back then. There is apparently 24 stages to play through here and that should prove a challenge for most gamers, but even if you can’t get very far, you’ll keep trying. It’s a very addictive game and, despite being pooly animated, Toby is quite an endearing little chap. The graphics and sound are pretty basic, with no in-game music at all, but there a lot worse games to spend ten minutes than trying out this one.

RKS Score: 6/10

Badlands

Badlands - Title Screen

Badlands (1989)
By: Atari Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 32,140
Also Available For: PC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

After helping to put the overhead racing genre on the map with Super Sprint, there was unsurprisingly soon a glut of similar games. Never ones to rest on their laurels, it wasn’t long before Atari offered their own ‘update’ in Badlands. This is one of those games that I’d been hearing about for years but hadn’t actually played until now for this review! Finally playing it yielded few surprises, however – aside from a few additions to the basic formula, an ‘update’ is about all it is – Super Sprint in different clothes! Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, of course; Super Spint is hardly a stinker itself. So how does Badlands differ from its forebear? Read on…

 

Badlands - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The most immediately obvious difference is the game’s setting. Rather than the professional, organised world of Formula One, this series of races is contested in and around the ruins of a post-apocalyptic war! The game plays much the same as Super Sprint did, but the scenery is comprised of wrecked roads and terrains, and surrounded by various ruins. There are again eight courses and they are in much the same style as Super Sprint, getting progressively more complex until they start repeating. Racing over them are just three vehicles per race this time and, as can be seen from the title screen, they’re not as delicate as F1 cars! They are armoured cars of some sort and each comes equipped with a roof-mounted cannon with which you take pot-shots opposing cars! This only slows them down and generally knock them around a bit but it’s still pretty amusing!

Badlands - Gameplay Screenshot 2

It’s also possible to buy upgrades for your car between races using the golden wrenches once again, and you can even buy gold wrenches this time with any spare credits (i.e. money). Perhaps most notable among these are missiles. Arming your car with these babies causes a bit more inconvenience than the little roof-mounted cannon! They are heat-seeking to a degree – if there’s a car roughly in front of you, you’re guaranteed to take it out, but they won’t chase your chosen victim round and round the course. Nonetheless, they’re perfect for getting someone out of the way, or indeed for exacting revenge on a trigger-happy friend! Other upgrades include shields, speed, turbo, and tires. Luckily, the wrenches are plentiful enough and you should quickly boost your car’s meagre specs!

Badlands - Gameplay Screenshot 3

In addition to the missiles, the courses feature some hazards of their own, though mostly less extreme! They include the mildly inconvenient water and oil spills and broken/damaged surfaces (including a jump or two), and the more dangerous mines and retractable spikes. Some courses, particularly later ones, also feature the ‘gates’, first seen in Super Sprint, which allow short cuts, but only when they are open. Timing the use of these well can often make the difference between first and last place! There are some further differences between the two games, aesthetically, of course, but as far as gameplay is concerned, the difference is negligible. Even the courses aren’t entirely unique here – the design of one or two is recycled from Super Sprint! The control of the cars is more or less the same too, although the turning circle of the cars seems to be tighter here, which obviously makes navigating the courses easier at high speed.

Badlands - Gameplay Screenshot 4

As mentioned in its review, Super Sprint was a pretty basic game, even for its time. Badlands, released three years after it, must therefore be considered even more so for its own time. Whilst it’s true that it improves on its predecessor, graphically – each screen contains more objects and detail here, and there’s a bigger variety in the appearance of the courses – the improvement is marginal considering how much graphics had improved in the intervening time, generally, and the fact that this game’s colour pallette almost exlusively consists of various greys and browns means that, despite the technical improvement, Super Sprint is actually nicer to look at in my opinion! Sound is also improved – there’s tunes here while you race as well as the mostly identical sound effects, but they’re largely forgettable, unfortunately. Overall, like Super Sprint, this is a fun racing game, particularly in multi-player, but the dreary-looking visuals, loss of a player, and lack of any real innovation in the genre mean that you’re probably better off sticking to the 3-player thrills of this game’s unofficial prequel.

RKS Score: 6/10

Brooks Piggott: Barcode Games

Carcode Games logo
Carcode Games logo

Name: Brooks Piggott

Company: Barcode Games

Profession: Owner / Developer

Favorite Classic Game: Galaga

Quote:

Bio: BarcodeGames is run by 2 developers from Austin, Texas. The company focuses on PC applications, web applications, and various mobile apps. The primary product of the company is Professional Football Simulator.

Professional Football Simulator
Professional Football Simulator

Project: Professional Football Simulator

Project Info: Professional Football Simulator is a text-based simulation game for the PC from Barcode Games. PFS allows players to own, operate, and coach a football team by simulating a single season or dozens of seasons. Players are in complete control of many team functions, including player drafting, free agency, roster moves, lineup setting, and play calling. The game allows significant customization of leagues including choosing from many popular league formats, financial models, and both modern and historical teams and players.