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.

Super Bomberman 4

Super Bomberman 4

Super Bomberman 4

There are 5 Super Bomberman games on the SNES/SFC. Not many people know this as in the Western world only the first 3 were released. The problem is that Super Bomberman 4 was released in 1996 which was around the time the SNES had started to drop in popularity. The world was anticipating the next generation of systems, & the 16 bit machines were being abandoned. Not in Japan however, where SNES games were made well into the year 2000. On a side note, recently a Bomberman article featured in Retrogamer magazine where they claim that number 5 was the only one never released outside Japan, but I can’t find any evidence to suggest 4 was so we’ll put that down to being a mistake.

So let’s have a look at the game. A very nice intro starts us off with Shiro & Kuro (another little known fact is that the 2 Bombers actually have names) asleep on a rocket ship which is attacked by a group of 5 evil bombers.

Super Bomberman 4

The guys are then awoken from their sleep & they are sent into a world full of clocks for some reason with a little girl dressed in cowboy clothes. Hey, it’s Japanese, I don’t speak it, so that’s the best I can give you. The manual has a little comic at the start which explains the story, but as it too is in Japanese I can’t refer to that for plot points I’m afraid. Does the plot of a Bomberman game REALLY matter though? We all know what we’re here for. BLOWING THINGS UP!!!

As you can see by the title screen at the top of the page you have your typical 3 options of “Normal Game”, “Battle Game” & “Password” for the normal game. If you’ve ever played a Bomberman game you’ll be pretty familiar with these options. If not I’ll explain as we go along. How does Bomberman 4 differ from the others? Well I’m glad you asked…

Here’s the first stage:

Super Bomberman 4

Not a lot in it, is there? Looks like Bomberman 1, Bomberman 2 & Bomberman 3. Bomberman 5 had a massive graphics overhaul which will be covered in another review later on. But here we are, typical Bomberman play. For the uninitiated, You play as Shiro (the white bomber) or Kuro (the black bomber) & using an infinite supply of bombs (though initially you can only use 1 at a time) you must blow up boxes blocking your path to the enemies, collect any powerups that may appear from those blocks, then blow up the enemies, then an exit will appear. You go to that exit & it’s level over. It really is the simplest of concepts.

Super Bomberman 4

Each Bomberman game has little things which differentiate it from the one previous. Bomberman 3 was quite innovative in that it had the Louies (Rooies), who were kangaroo type characters that you could ride. When blown up, some of the blocks in the level would reveal an egg you could collect. It would hatch into a Louie & you could ride it. Each Louie has its own special ability. Yes, it’s Bomberman’s version of Yoshi, but we won’t dwell on that as the Louies aren’t in this game. They do come back in Bomberman 5 however.

Super Bomberman 4

Bomberman 4 expands on this feature by allowing you to defeat enemies & use their special abilities. Some enemies when blown up will become green spotted, or metallic eggs. You collect the eggs, they hatch back into that enemy you blew up & they become your pets, allowing you to ride them & use their special abilities.

Unlike Bomberman 3 you can stockpile these guys allowing you to ride one & carry 2 eggs behind you in reserve. The problem with this is when you lay a bomb you must get those eggs out the way or they WILL be destroyed, even if you’re clear of the bomb yourself. If you are in a 2 player game your ally can come & pinch one of the eggs. This can be a problem in Battle Mode which we’ll cover later.

Super Bomberman 4

Another new idea introduced in this game is the idea of imprisoned Bombers who you can free. In some levels you will see a rattling cage such as the one pictured below. It’s along the left. side of the image.

Blow up the cage & you get yourself an ally for the remainder of the level. Here he is in the top left corner of the screen.

Why is he up there for seemingly no reason? Well the problem is these Bombers aren’t too bright, just seeming to lay bombs at random. This can cause problems as they don’t seem to care where you are when they place them. You don’t HAVE to free them to pass the level, so if you want to leave them to rot in their tiny cages go right ahead. They deserve it!!

Super Bomberman 4

I haven’t touched on the powerups yet. Upon destroying blocks you may find one of the following:

Skates for speed
Wooden sandals to slow you down
Additional bombs
Additional blast power
Viruses that cause random negative affects
Remote control bombs
Protection vest
The ability to kick bombs out of your way
The ability to punch bombs
The ability to be hit once & still remain in the game
Extra lives
Spikey bombs that go through blocks
Clock that freezes enemies
The ability to go through walls
The ability to pick up other Bombermen & throw them
The ability to push other Bombermen
2 others I can’t understand from the manual. One has a picture of a question mark & another as a normal human face. I never saw this item while playing the game, so I don’t know what it is.

Super Bomberman 4

The single player mode showcases some impressive bosses. The guys at Hudson really have a good imagination when it comes to designing some of these.

Not much to say here. Hit them 8 times with a bomb blast & they’re history.

Music is fun as always with variations on Bomberman themes featured in the earlier games. In Bomberman 3 as soon as you turned the console on you would hear a voice saying “By Hudsonsoft”. This voice is back but it’s slightly slower & less high pitched. The little Bombers will speak occasionally, but as it’s in Japanese I don’t really know what they’re saying.

Super Bomberman 4

Let’s move on to Battle Mode. Bomberman 4 gives us a little more yet keeps the improvements introduced in Bomberman 3. You can either choose a generic Bomber or one of the 5 enemies.

Now these guys aren’t just new sprites that look different. Each of the Bombers has their own special ability which can be used to cause problems for the opposition. For example, one of them can swing a ball & chain over their heads knocking items off anyone they hit & scattering them across the screen for other players to pick up. Another one can shoot fire destroying anyone it hits, but he loses all his powerup abilities for a short time afterwards. Now you & all of your friends will want to play Battle mode over & over trying all 6 of them… presumably that was the idea anyway…

Super Bomberman 4

When a Bomber gets blown up you can switch on an option that will allow them to come back & exact revenge on the players still in the play field. They pilot little ships that hover on the outside of the play field & can lob bombs into it. If a player is hit on the head with one of these bombs they get stunned & lose some of their items which will scatter around the screen, so if you blow someone up watch out!!! They may come back & hunt you down.

Super Bomberman 4

Summary.

This is without a doubt my favourite Bomberman game & it’s a shame it was never released outside Japan. What makes it my favourite? I personally think it’s the most innovative of the 5 games. Lots of new ideas which expand on an old favourite. It’s got to be 5/5. Sheer Hudsonsoft brilliance.

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.

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.

Alien Crush Returns

Alien Crush Returns

It’s scary to think that it’s now 23 years since Naxat dreamed up the genesis of the Crush series. There have since been several sequels, both official and otherwise, the last of which was the little-known Jaki Crush, itself now almost 20 years old, but that was it. Until now! Yes, in a move of special magnificence, Tamsoft have resurrected this great series and what better way of doing so than to remake the original? Alien Crush Returns is more of a sequel than a remake really though and they’ve even managed to tack on a backstory this time!

Alien Crush Returns

Apparently “an elite squad of space marines sets off to investigate an alien spaceship trapped in Jupiter’s gravity” or some such nonsense. Sound familiar? How they’ve managed to facilitate a pinball game with that story I don’t know, but the game includes a story mode, arcade mode, ranking mode and versus mode (1-4 player), and as well as multiple tables, including bonus tables as always, and lots of other sweet features like multi ball, reverse ball, etc.

Alien Crush Returns

The biggest change between this game and the original is of course the graphics which are lovely and suitably grotesque, including pulsating sacs, toothy mouths, slimy tubes, scuttling insects, and all manner of horrifying beasts. There’s even huge bosses this time too! There are initially three tables to play in arcade mode (although more can be downloaded) and the ball pings around them at quite a speed, probably the fastest of any Crush game so far, and as usual they are packed with secrets and bonuses galore.

Alien Crush Returns

I haven’t yet spent any time playing this game as I don’t own a Wii but the prospect of playing it sure makes buying one a tempting prospect, and the possibility of a Devil’s Crush Returns in the future is even more exciting! So, Alien Crush has indeed returned but is it better than the original? Well, that remains to be seen, but I can’t wait to find out!

RKS Score: 4/5

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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]

Bomberman II

Bomberman II

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

The original Bomberman video game on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console was released in 1989 by much-beloved developer Hudson Soft and launched a franchise that would see many subsequent sequels and spin-offs on future systems. It did take four years to see Bomberman II take shape, though, as it came out in early 1993.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Gameplay

Bomberman II is an action puzzle game, where completing stages means using strategy while also making split-second decisions for survival. The best way to beat a level is not always the fastest, and as the game progresses, it grows in complexity. There is a thin plot involving a rival Bomberman framing our hero Bomberman for a bank robbery, necessitating a prison escape and eventually attaining freedom through traversing cave, forest, and other areas as well.

From the top-down perspective, the player maneuvers Bomberman through the grids using the directional pad. Pressing A lays a bomb. Each bomb explodes after a couple seconds; unless Bomberman has gotten the Detonator item, which allows the player to explode bombs by pressing the B button, and they will no longer explode by timing. The Start button pauses the game.

That is it, as far as controls go. The bombs explode a flame horizontally and vertically outward, destroying “soft blocks” in the path of the explosion. Permanent “hard blocks,” which can never be blown up, are distributed evenly throughout every level, forming the resulting grid corridors that Bomberman must walk through. The goal of every stage is to destroy all enemies and find the exit, which begins hidden in a soft block.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Every level also has one hidden power-up item, such as the aforementioned Detonator, found on stage 1-4. These items vary from a simple upgrade to blast radius or amount of bombs to lay, from powerful advantages like being able to walk through bombs or soft blocks. However, just as Bomberman grows stronger and more sophisticated in his techniques, so too do the enemies, moving in differing patterns at varying speeds and often able to move through bombs and soft blocks.

There are six areas in the Normal Mode game, each with eight levels, meaning that Bomberman II has 48 stages in total, with 6-8 being the final. Each area usually begins with a few levels that just occupy the entire screen, but later levels within that area will go beyond the border, scrolling to reveal more blocks and enemies on a wider scale. Bomberman always begins the level in the upper-left corner. He may start out on his jailbreak adventure with only a single bomb with a measly blast, but will soon grow to be quite formidable.

Bomberman starts out with a few lives, and upon losing them all, is given a password for the level, which can be entered as an option at the title screen. Score is also kept, and is increased by defeating enemies, including special “Bonus Round” stages about once per area as an interstitial portion, during which Bomberman is immune to fire, there are no soft blocks, and the goal is just to blow up as many of the generated enemies as possible within the time limit. Every level, in fact, has a time limit, although it should only be significant to new players on the first few levels, as the frenetic intensity of later stages largely renders it a moot point.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Although this action-puzzle hybrid is a little more action-oriented that someone as cerebral as, say,Solomon’s Key, Bomberman is still a very tactical, method-focused game. Its unique formula distinctively delivers challenging puzzles of timing, concentration, pixel-perfect maneuvers, and other nuances, all of which just happen to be packed with lovable explosions. The Bomberman games definitely have a signature legacy, and as such a unique entity, are going to fall into the “not for everyone category”: Some people may never quite understand the appeal, but many fans will continue enjoying the grid-based pyrotechnic demolition within.

Bomberman II includes the addition of multiplayer gaming, which was not found in the original title. Vs Mode pits one human player against another, in a one-screen simple grid that starts them off with minimal firepower and demands they find upgrades and kill the other first in a best-of-5 head-to-head series. Battle Mode is tweaked to offer more firepower on the front end, since it includes a third human player and grows very heated very quickly.

For better and for worse, Bomberman II’s main gameplay remains remarkably similar to the original 8-bit Bomberman game. This means that newcomers can saddle right up and dive in without really having missed much in terms of introductory experience needed, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it also represents a sad failure to tweak some of the flaws of the original. For example, both games have a fun feature where, if the exit door is revealed, it will generate a handful of enemies whenever it is inadvertently blasted. This makes sense and adds a thoughtful element; however, due to the timing of the explosions in chain reactions from one bomb detonating another, it is still possible to, in a split-second, have one bomb reveal a hidden item only for another to blow it up, all before the player has a chance to retrieve the item.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

This is a fundamental design flaw, in that it discourages the player from forging ahead in explosive exploration, discovering the most efficient ways to eliminate clusters of soft blocks, and playing against the time; instead, it forces bombers to make sub-par placement decisions and play over-cautiously if they absolutely wish to avoid such frustration. A very simple solution: Have items be invincible for a moment upon their appearance. While, ultimately, this is not a crippling issue, there are other minor flaws like this throughout, or some matters that are debatable (example: some levels begin with an enemy that can move through blocks moving straight toward Bomberman, which results in a cheap death or two until the player learns to immediately deal with the threat – is this ploy cheap or clever on the part of the developers?) as to their merit. Essentially, if you strip away the visual updates, the gameplay is not only very similar to the original, but so identical as to still have its flaws as well, to which one can ask: Within those four years time, did nobody think to at least examine the core gameplay and try to improve it, rather than provide what basically amounts to just a reskin?

Graphics

Of all the tweaks to the original Bomberman NES game, major and minor, the most noteworthy is probably the visuals. From the in-your-face title screen to the overhaul of the main quest looks, Hudson shows off their artistry with crisp, colorful, cool pixel pieces from beginning to end. Every eight-stage Area has a different theme, which determines the color and appearance of the soft blocks, permanent blocks, border, and background color. There are still-frame cutscenes between each areas, showing Bomberman’s continued progression to true freedom. Many of the enemy designs from the original game return fairly faithfully but with an appropriate touch-up. While other elements shine as well, like the fantastic frame-by-frame explosion animation, there is definitely a bit of slowdown when a lot is going on at once on-screen. This is unfortunate, especially later in the game.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Sound

Bomberman II sounds great. Hudson was among the highest-quality developers for quite a while, with many player-favorites among that repertoire in the NES days that includes classics like the Adventure Island series, the platforming powerhouse Felix the Cat, etc. One mark of their production value is their sound, which is engineered with pop, precision, and proper pacing in Bomberman II. The main Bomberman theme is back, and the music changes with on-screen events, like discovering the hidden item and signaling additional urgency.

Whereas in many other NES games, the soundtrack sounds as though the programmers had a lot of trouble dealing with the console’s hardware limitations, Bomberman II sounds like the composers were genuinely able to have fun rocking the available channels to their limits. Each Area has its own theme, effectively enhancing the setting and fully encapsulating the environment presentation. The sound effects are subtle, with the exception of the actual bomb explosion, a wonderfully rich effect that sounds like a classic PC-gaming .wav file, multi-layered and complex in its throaty execution. Basically: The sound in Bomberman II is delightful.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar_Kr_UKQ0Y[/youtube]

Outside of its visuals and multiplayer additions, Bomberman II can hardly be considered original, since it is basically the same game as the original Bomberman on NES; however, it should not necessarily be penalized for such lack of innovation either. The Bomberman formula works: It is a fun way to present the player with action elements in a manner that demands thought, and at a rapid rate of speed at times. The series went onto cross-platform multi-generational success for a reason.

Fans of the original Bomberman game will be unable to find any true reason to dislike Bomberman II, while those who never “got” or liked the first outing will not have much incentive to like the second. It does look much better, but at the cost of what feels like a little more slowdown. It does introduce multiplayer, though in a very basic, experimental sense. The plot of the original was much more compelling: A mining robot escaping his subterranean captivity in its desire to become human. In the sequel, we have a Bomberman framed for a bank robbery; which, while thematically intact, is not quite as grand. Then again, do gamers care about storyline?

All nuanced nitpicks aside, Bomberman II remains a very solid 8-bit video game. Critics will cite repetitive gameplay, fans may see it as the ideal NES action puzzler, and gaming historians can note its firm place within the hallowed legacy of the Bomberman canon. The sequel, the stepping stone to the franchise becoming a true series, blows up four stars out of five.

PC-Engine: Must have games

The PC-Engine console, a collaboration between Hudson Soft and NEC, was released late 1987 in Japan and mid 1999 in North America. NEC changed the name in the US to the TurboGrafx-16. The US unit also had a facelift, it was bulkier (and uglier) compared to its smaller, sleeker Japanese counterpart.

PC Engine

 

If you were one of the lucky ones to have this cult retro console, or one of its variants, here are 5 must have games you need to add to your collection:

Gomola Speed:

Gomola_Speed

Play as a segmented caterpillar-like creature that has to encircle food in order to exit each level. As you work your way around each area, you pick up new body segments which makes you longer, and have the ability drop bombs that attract the enemy bugs which are then stunned. This is a superb title that mixes strategy with puzzle elements to great effect.

Splatterhouse:

Splatterhouse

 Parapsychology students, Rick and Jennifer, set out to investigate paranormal activity at West Mansion. This arcade conversion remains faithful to the gloriously gory coin-op. The American version was sadly censored upon release. The Japanese version is the one to get.

R-Type:

R-Type

Irem’s legendary side scrolling shoot’em up is regarded as one of the PC-Engine’s most accomplished arcade conversions. This was the PC-Engine’s ‘killer app’. The premise was simple, pilot your R-9 fighter to wipe out the evil Bydo Empire. R-Type was split into two HuCards – so if you want the complete game, you will have to buy both.

Gekisha Boy / Photo Boy:

Photo Boy

 This is the most original and innovative game on the PC-Engine. Photo boy is a budding paparazzo tasked to earn points by taking photographs of newsworthy happenings throughout several different environments. Using the on-screen crosshair, you must take snaps of various objects and events while avoiding obstacles. Think of Paperboy with a camera and you have Photo Boy.

PC Genjin / PC Kid / Bonk’s Adventure:

Bonk’s Adventure

Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic. Although not as famous as these two, NEC had PC Genjin, or as he was known in different regions,  PC Kid or Bonk. You play a cave boy going through prehistoric lands head-butting dinosaurs.

Some notable games that just missed out (and I do mean, just !) on making this list: Parasol Stars, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Bomberman’94 and Devil Crash.

If you have never played on the PC-Engine do yourself a favour and hunt one down – or find someone that does, and give these games a whirl.
YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED !

Adventure Island

Adventure Island

Overall Rating: 2/5

NES Adventure Island

Adventure Island is one of those early (1987 early) Nintendo Entertainment System games that gamers from the era can still remember sitting on the shelves of so many stores and flea markets. The developer, Hudson, which later formed HudsonSoft, went on to have a hand in the creation of many now-classic titles, and Adventure Island was one of its entries into the foray of home console gaming.Following the exploits of our intrepid explorer Harry, Adventure Island is a fast-paced scrolling platformer in a jungle-type setting with both the appropriate elements (snake and bird enemies) and the eyebrow-raising unexpected features (power-ups like the skateboard or helpful fairy). Does it belong in the famed halls of NES lore?

Gameplay

NES Adventure Island

Borrowing a page from Mario’s playbook, Harry jumps with the A button, attacks (once he finds the hammer) with the B button, and can run while holding B, while also jumping higher. With these moves mastered, the player simply runs to the right, jumping over obstacles and slaughtering any living creature he crosses paths with.

This would be simple (and easy!) enough, except for one very important catch that sets Adventure Island apart: Harry must constantly and continually “eat” the fruit he comes across, to refill and keep his energy at bay, or he will die when his energy bar dips to being empty. This adds a built-in time limit throughout the entire experience, and provides the impetus for moving forward at a torrid pace.

Graphics

NES Adventure Island

Adventure Island looks okay, with the recognizable jungle greens and browns and trees and animals and such, but it does just look okay and not any better. Even Harry, our main character, the protagonist, combative explorer, looks washed-out and minimally rendered. The developers could have spent a little more time creating defining lines and bolder looks. The atmosphere ends up a little bland.

Sound

NES Adventure Island

The music is repetitive, but the track is upbeat, lively, and festively appropriate for fueling a mad dash towards the unknown finish of every stage. The effects, conversely, are rather lacking: Creatures never make a sound, nothing ever rumbles or fires, and beyond the noise of Harry’s jumping, firing, and occasional fairy track, there is very little auditory variety.

Creativity and Innovation

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K70mt9UCam0[/youtube]

The power-ups are interesting, and provide the key motivator. Taking the form of eggs, when they are bumped into, they reveal themselves. The most common is the axe, always gathered first to provide a means of attack. But if Harry runs into other eggs once he has the throwing axes, he can gather further power-ups at the same time, such as riding a skateboard that not only moves forward quicker but also means he can now take an additional hit without dying; or the fairy mentioned before, which provides added protection and a temporary period of differing music. The idea is to make players want to see how many power-ups they can continue getting in a row, until they build into this unstoppable SuperHarry and crash through to the end of the level.Even with the power-ups, the game still suffers from a sharp learning curve. Because obstacles and enemies appear on-screen so quickly, and because Harry must continue gorging himself on island fruits and vegetables, the game demands that a player possess either impossibly fast reflexes, or the patience to try levels over and over until he or she masters them by memorization.

And this, ultimately, is what prevents the game from becoming anything special. Without a password function, this becomes the arena of only the most intrepid and hardcore of gamers, regardless of how many invincibility fairies you may find. For its faults both profound and simplistic, Adventure Island becomes an adventure in mediocrity at two stars out of five.

3-D Bomberman

3-D Bomberman-gameplay screenshot

3-D Bomberman (1984)
By: Hudson Soft / Kawaguchi  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: MSX  First Day Score: 000,000 (seriously!)
Also Available For: Sharp X-1

It’s been a while now since my last look at this great series but since returning to it I’ve discovered, apparently in my eagerness to progress through the series, that I missed one out! Now that I’ve realised this, however, I wish this particular offering had remained obscured from my sight until the end of time. For better or worse though, it does exist, and as you may have guessed from the title, it tries to do something a little different. In more recent years there have been a few attempts to turn our hero’s world into a three-dimensional one but I thought Bomberman 64, which itself got a rather lukewarm reception, was the first one. It now appears that this isn’t the case, for as far back as 1984, and immediately after the original game’s release, Hudson released 3-D Bomberman, and it was something of unbridled horror.

3-D Bomberman-gameplay screenshot

Usually when writing about a game I try to remain impartial and detail the various facts and figures of a game before praising or criticising it accordingly, but this game is different. It is, you see, quite literally the original Bomberman but from a first-person viewpoint. This would be a concerning prospect on a modern consoles but on an MSX? It is, quite frankly, terrifying. The first problem is that all the walls are red with nothing to differentiate ‘soft blocks’, or destroyable parts of the wall. This means there’s lots of identical-looking corridors that you’ll most likely end up walking around aimlessly. If you walk into a dead-end, it’s a good bet that it’s a soft block in your way, so you can try laying a bomb. The viewpoint also makes it difficult to judge distance accurately though, so you’ll have to run far away to be sure of avoiding the blast (which looks like a untuned TV). Once you’ve turned back round you’ll probably be unable to find where you were so you’ll have to wander aimlessly some more.

3-D Bomberman-gameplay screenshot

As you might expect, there are enemies in the mazes but you’ll rarely spot one and when you do it’s very difficult to kill one. Lest we forget, the most effective way of doing this in normal Bomberman games is to trap them in a dead-end but it’s no longer possible to watch them from afar and then move in when the timing’s right. There is a very basic scanner in the corner which shows enemies, but it doesn’t show walls so it’s not a great deal of help really! Technically the game is reasonable enough – the mazes (and they literally are mazes now) move pretty quickly and smoothly, more so than I would’ve expected, but that’s not the problem – this style of game just shouldn’t have been attempted in 3D, back then or now! It’s really, really not an entertaining game to play – it’s confusing and very easy to get lost, and there’s no variety whatsoever. There’s probably a few power-ups and maybe a few different enemies to be found if you persevered, but to be honest I couldn’t handle playing it long enough to find out. I feel like I need a shower…

RKS Score: 2/10

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

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

 

 

 

Bomberman

Bomberman - NES - Gameplay

Bomberman (1985)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 35,800
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Sharp MZ-700, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-88

Bomberman

Until a few years ago, the Bomberman series began on the PC Engine for me, so I was surprised to discover that its origins actually go beyond that famous version to a multitude of older Japanese systems, many of them computers rather than the consoles the series would soon find a home on. It was released in the West, on the Speccy no less, and featured a curious main character called Eric who was an explorer looking to plunder treasure from caverns. The Japanese releases, however, featured the classic White Bomber we all know and love today, and the most widely available of these, to those gamers in the West at least, was the NES version. White Bomber himself is apparently a sentient robot who wants to be free of his job in an underground bomb factory. To do this, he must blast his way through fifty stages populated by a variety of enemies who, rather harshly, kill White Bomber with a single touch!

Bomberman - NES - Gameplay

As you’ve probably guessed, the premise behind the game is the same as the Westernised game featuring Eric, and indeed most of the subsequent games in the series – that being, to eradicate all the enemies on the stage, then look for the hidden exit to move to the next. Both of these goals are achieved by deploying bombs. Their blast range is very limited to start with, and you can only lay one at a time, which makes ensnaring the enemies pretty tough. Luckily, hidden beneath occasion soft (i.e. destroyable) blocks are power-ups which will increase the range of your bombs and let you lay more than one at a time, as well as some others like speed-ups and remote-controlled bombs. This would actually make the game easier as you progress through it were it not for the ever increasing number of enemies and also the different types that appear as you advance through the levels. There are eight different types in total and they get faster and craftier all the time. Some seem to constantly run away from you, making it difficult to kill them, while others actively chase and harass you!

Bomberman - NES - Gameplay

The first stage only features the most basic enemies which seem to be the ‘Floaters’ from the Speccy game I looked at recently, except here they’re called ‘Valcoms’ which look like balloons and don’t cause too many problems. As early as the second stage you’ll encounter the next type of enemy, a blue water-drip type creature called ‘O Neal’. The other enemy types (most of whom have equally obscure names) are apparently introduced one per level thereafter and include ‘Dahl’ which look like wobbly barrels, ‘Ovapes’ which look like Pac-Man ghosts and can move through soft blocks, the fast-moving muchers called ‘Pass’, and the pillow-like ‘Doria’ who certainly do more damage than any kind of soft furnishing I’ve encountered, and all must be destroyed before the time limit expires. If you allow that to happen you’re in trouble for you’ll then be inundated with hoardes of super-fast ‘Pontans’, which pretty much spells certain death!

Bomberman - NES - Gameplay

Eric and the Floaters was the genesis of the great and enduring Bomberman series, and it certainly introduced the basic game concept, but it was this NES release two years later which introduced many of the features that would soon become synonymous with the series for the next few decades, not least White Bomber himself. He looks a little different here, with his appearance being maginally altered over the years, but there’s no mistaking his distinctive form. Some of the enemies found here would also return in many subsequent games and even the famous Bomberman music can be heard here for the first time, albeit in a slightly more primitive form. The basic stage layouts are also instantly familiar, with each being larger than a single screen and containing dozens of blocks in random layouts. This was a pretty early NES release, and a simple game in any case, so the graphics reflect that, but everything looks tidy enough and the use of colour is good.

Bomberman - NES - Gameplay

It seems strange talking about which elements of this game are familiar when it was the first one to feature many of them, but I, like many, didn’t discover the series until later iterations, so it’s fascinating to see when and where each first appeared, and this NES release certainly gave birth to many features that we now take for granted in any Bomberman game. However, at this stage Bomberman still lacked the one gameplay element that the series is arguably best known for in later years – a multi-player mode. After the somewhat limited, not to mention tough debut starring Eric, the classic gameplay of the series takes shape here, and it’s great fun to play through. The fifty stages will certainly last you a good while, and each has a password (although it’s a twenty-digit one, and if you make a mistake inputting it with the joypad you have to start again!) so you won’t have to struggle thought the opening stages over and over, but the lack of a multi-player mode makes the game seem incomplete – for many gamers, playing Bomberman is only ever done with more than one player involved, and that would have to wait for the sequel…

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

RKS Score: 7/10

Ads From The Past: Retro Rewind

Street Fighter 2010 NES ad
When Street Fighter 2 was taking over the world Capcom took the opportunity to try to sell a crappy game with its name. Street Fighter 2010 -The Final Fight- was the result. The game is quite difficult and can be very tedious especially if you don’t have any patience. 

 

Classic video game ads
I gotta say I rather enjoy the ads where they showcase a lot more games in just one page especially if they aren’t that good to begin with.
Ninja Spirit ad
Ninja Spirit for the Turbo Grafx is well kinda of bland. I just don’t understand why the Turbo Grafx ads were so unappealing. They deliver a message but why does the background of every ad I have seen so far for a Turbo Grafx game the color white. Where these guys trying to save on ink? I sure hope not….
Nightmare on Elrm Street ad
For such an awesome movie this was such a horrible game. Leave it up to LJN to screw things up over and over again. Enter Nightmare on Elm Street for the NES. The game is at least somewhat playable and beatable if you have the patience for it. I dare you to play through this one!

Konami Handhelds ad

Konami sure took advantage of the handheld craze back in the day. They released many handhelds from their favorite titles. I was lucky enough to find a TMNT handheld to add to my collection but I’ll surely be looking out for these ones.
Toys r us ad
Here we have a nice ad from Toys R Us. They carried everything back in the day. I remember how they used to have their consoles for you to play the latest games on….Those were the days….
Starship Hector NES ad
This one is based on the game Starship Hector for the NES. The game was released by Hudson Soft so you can expect it to be something above average. Hudson Soft always delivered great games you know.

Phelios & Burning Force Genesis ads

Continuing with the Sega trend, we have yet another ad from it. The ad is very simple and has a nice look. The Pac-Man dude helps with giving the ad some attention. As good as the cover art may look, I’m sure these games are just your average Sega titles but I could be wrong.
Pictionary NES ad
Making crappy games interesting was a huge part of video gaming back in the late 80s and 90s and this is just one of the bunch. I’m not saying the game is horrible but it’s not something I would play on a daily basis or in a session of retro gaming goodness. The ad itself portrays it as a game that anyone can pick up and play although if you were smart enough to not buy into the ad, you’ll be good. For the rest of you, run for your lives!
SNK Video Games Ad It mainly shows off some of the good titles from SNK before they dumped Nintendo and decided to go up against them. There is one title on this ad that I think should be in anyone’s list, care to guess? The answer is Crystalis!

Eric and the Floaters

Eric and the Floaters - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Eric and the Floaters (1983)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 1,240
Also Available For: Nintendo NES, MSX, Sharp MZ-700, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-88

There can’t be many people that haven’t played a Bomberman game at some time or another. The series has gone through many iterations and changes over the years, some good, some bad, but if you asked the average gamer, you’d probably get nothing but praise for the series. Known primarily as crazy multi-player extravaganzas, the Bomberman games are a curious mixture of action and strategy and are among the most widespread of any game series, appearing on pretty much every system ever made, and most of them are fantastic fun too! The series now numbers over 60 games, but where did the it originate? Many gamers would probably count the first PC Engine game to be the origin of the series. However, while this release and its sequels may have popularised the series, they weren’t the first. More astute gamers may even name the NES version as being the first, but even this wouldn’t be correct. As hard as it is to believe, the genesis of the great Bomberman series was a Speccy game called Eric and the Floaters!

Eric and the Floaters - Gameplay Screenshot 2

I personally hadn’t even heard of it until recently and I’m a big fan of the series, but yes, this is the first ever Bomberman game! However, rather than taking control of White Bomber, or indeed a bomberman of any colour, you must take control of Eric, an explorer attempting to plunder treasures from ancient underground caverns. At least, that’s the story with regards to this version, the only one to find a release outside of Japan. Patrolling these caverns are the Floaters of the title. However, they are not the kind of floaters you may immediately think of – they appear to be balloons, although if later iterations of the game are anything to go by, they are actually balloon-like creatures of some sort. The quantity of Floaters increases as you progress through the levels, and contact with them is deadly. To progress to the next stage, you must blow them up!

Eric and the Floaters - Gameplay Screenshot 3

The stages consist of soft blocks, which can be destroyed by bomb blasts, and solid blocks which cannot. Hidden beneath one of the soft blocks is an exit, and under another some hidden treasure for bonus points. Eric can lay a bomb in any unoccupied space but he must be sure to escape the blast or he’ll kill himself too! Even later Bomberman games are hardly the most complicated games around, and this one is the simplest one of all, as you might expect. Obviously, given the evolution of the series over so many releases, it has aged somewhat – the graphics are basic, the sound restricted to a few simple effects, and there’s very little variety between stages – but the core gameplay remains intact and this remains an interesting and addictive title. It’s always at least intriguing to discover a long-running series’ roots, and this is no different. I’m sure 99.9% of gamers would opt to play a later Bomberman game if given the choice, myself included, but it’s still fascinating to see this.


RKS Score: 5/10

Blazing Lazers

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Title Screen

Gunhed a.k.a. Blazing Lazers (1989)
By: Hudson Soft / Compile Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 1,699,100
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

The late 80’s was an exciting time to be a gamer. When the PC Engine was released, the early titles for it were like Holy Grails to most Westerners. Games that we could only gaze at longingly in C&VG and the like. One of the most tantalizing of these was Gunhed. Month after month we would read Julian Rignall and chums rave reviews and general hysterics regarding the new power-house console and for many it was torture. This was the time gamers realised that Japan was now getting the a lot of the best stuff first. For those gamers who couldn’t afford to pick up one of the imported consoles and games that some companies were now offering (at inflated prices, of course), it would be a long time before any of these new games could be enjoyed. I finally got my PC Engine in the mid-90’s and Gunhed was one of the first games I sought out for it. I’d waited a long time to sample the amazing game I’d been reading about. Was it worth the wait?

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Before being a frenetic PC Engine shmup, Gunhed was also apparently a movie. Set in the year 2038 in and around some sort of post-war ruins where a renegade computer system, Kyron-5, is causing havoc. Luckily, one lone hero discovers a GUNHED (Gun UNit Heavy Elimination Device), a large ‘mech’ type device (of the sort our Japanese friends seem so keen on), which he restores to working order and must then pilot against the defences of the computer complex. On the surface at least, this takes the form of a fairly standard vertical-scrolling shmup. It’s set over 9 stages or ‘areas’, some of which are set in space, others over planets (which must make the Kyron-5 ‘complex’ as big as a solar systems!), and all are crawling with countless, highly varied enemies. Some of these are ground-based or scenery-mounted gun emplacements and the like but most are aircrafts or ships, and they range from small and fast to large and lumbering, but all are more than capable of taking you out!

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Gameplay Screenshot 2

To combat this onslaught of evil you must use your ‘Gunhed Star Fighter’. Luckily it can be powered-up as the near pea-shooter-level cannon it’s initially equipped with is of little use. Even more luckily, the stages in Gunhed are awash with maybe the most frequent power-ups I’ve ever known in a shooter! Some enemy ships drop a numbered capsule which replaces your main weapon. Among them are huge, screen-covering lasers, homing lasers, multi-directional shots, and wave shots. There are also lettered capsules which grant your ship with a secondary power-up, These include shields, homing missiles, a drone type device called a ‘Multibody’, and ‘Full Fire’ – enhanced fire for your main weapon. Lastly and even more common are small, purple ‘gel capsules’ which increase the power level of any given weapon.

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Gameplay Screenshot 3

One of the reasons this game was so revered upon its release is down to its technical prowess. The fact it was co-developed by the designers of the PC Engine itself, Hudson Soft, goes some way to explaining this but it doesn’t detract from the ‘wow’ factor this game exudes, particularly when you consider it was one of the earliest games for the system. The graphics are outstanding throughout with a large variety of sprites, both in size as well as design. They don’t really have a lot of animation but there is often so many of them on the screen and the screen often scrolls so fast, it really is amazing that there’s no slowdown or glitches of any kind. The sound is also of a high standard with some fantastic, memorable music, and some nice (if quiet) speech.

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Gameplay Screenshot 4

As any shmup fans knows, however, all the window dressing in the world doesn’t necessarily make a game great, and excitement over being shown what a flashy new system is capable of can often conceal a game’s design flaws. The fact that Gunhed is such a fantastic game, therefore, is testament further still to its greatness. Unlike a lot of shmups, however, especially the arcade ones which Gunhed mimics so well, this game eases you in slowly and the increase in difficulty is very gradual the further you get. As you might expect, things do get really tough towards the end of the game though, with all manner of aliens, guns, and lord knows what else, out to get you, but the sheer frequency of power-ups means this isn’t one of those ‘one-life’ games where it’s impossible to continue when you lose your power-ups. Just look at the screenshots here – every one except the first has at least one power-up capsule floating about!

Gunhed - Blazing Lazers - Gameplay Screenshot 5

As mentioned, I was late to the party as far as this game is concerned, and yet not only did its visuals and music still impress when I finally played it, but even more apparent was how polished and arcade-like it was. The PC Engine was most famous for the quality of its arcade and arcade-style games, and it was titles like this that cemented that reputation. Admittedly I haven’t played them all (yet) but Gunhed must surely rank as one of the best shmups on this system, possibly any system.

RKS Score: 9/10

FC Genjin

Genjin - Famicom - Title Screen

Well another week and another edition of retro game of the week. This time around I’m basing it off a game for the Famicom/NES that I just got in the mail not long ago. FC Genjin(Bonk’s Adventure) for the Famicom is surely one not to miss. The game is your typical platformer that’s unique in many ways. In this game, you take control of umm Bonk which is a big headed cave boy!

 

Genjin - Famicom - Gameplay Screenshot

Anyways, here we go with the game! The game like I said is your usual platfomer. Probably the best part is when you find a piece of meat and eat it! Then Bonk goes crazy! Kinda of like the star power in Super Mario Bros. Afterward, Bonk stays in a tan color which gives him more powers. You can you Bonk’s head to create an earthquake and destroy all the monsters that are currently in the screen. Your powers will be gone in no time so you have to use them to your advantage. The game plays a lot like say Joe and Mac for the same console. So I’m hoping this is enough to make you guys pick it up unique title. I’m sure that the TG-16 fans will agree the superiority of the Bonk games for that console. Since I haven’t played them, I can’t make a comparison. Hopefully, one day I will be able to pick those games up(even though I had the chance at a flea market and let it go….). Until next time!

Genjin - Famicom

 

Also credit for the photos goes to good old Nintendo Dork(Tyler) har har har

 

Faxanadu OST

Faxanadu box
Faxanadu box

Faxanadu came out in 1989 by publisher Hudson Soft, it is an RPG where you main goal is to defeat the Evil One. After being away from home for an untold amount of time you return to find your homeland pretty much abandoned. The Eleven King asks you to kill the Evil One because somehow that will lower unemployment and balance the budget.

In a nutshell the Evil One came to earth via meteorite (take that Superman). The Evil One transformed the Dwarves into monsters and had them attack the Elves who were all nice and peaceful living on the World Tree before this all went down. There is only one thing that can kill the Evil One and that is the Dwarven kings sword, too bad he swallowed it before he was transformed into a horrible and hard to kill monster.

[mp3player width=600 height=400 config=fmp_jw_osg_config-xml.xml playlist=faxanadu.xml]

Games I have never beat: Faxanadu

Faxanadu box

I was in the prime of my NES gaming. I was just getting into RPG’s and one of my friends came over and gave me this game. I thought to myself, why would he give me this, then and then I figured it out, he couldn’t beat it. I was all set to do what he couldn’t and then I started it up and discovered I could not beat it either. Looking back now it is sad because I really can’t remember why I was unable to beat this game.

Faxanadu came out in 1989 by publisher Hudson Soft, it is an RPG where you main goal is to defeat the Evil One. After being away from home for an untold amount of time you return to find your homeland pretty much abandoned. The Eleven King asks you to kill the Evil One because somehow that will lower unemployment and balance the budget.

Thanks to NES Guide for the Video

In a nutshell the Evil One came to earth via meteorite (take that Superman). The Evil One transformed the Dwarves into monsters and had them attack the Elves who were all nice and peaceful living on the World Tree before this all went down. There is only one thing that can kill the Evil One and that is the Dwarven kings sword, too bad he swallowed it before he was transformed into a horrible and hard to kill monster.

The game play was mainly side scrolling and you had to travel between various towns where you could talk to people, buy things and take on quests. There were also dungeons where you fought monsters and could find treasure. The hero himself could walk and jump and there were ladders to climb. In addition to your sword you also had armor, magic and various other items you needed to either get to a specific spot or in order to open something.

The graphics reminded me of the early Castlevania for the NES. The music was interesting to in it was memorable from the starting theme to the music played when you enter a church. One of the bad things was Faxanadu used a password system that had a long code you had to write down and if anyone remembers the Nintendo had an issue with its connectors where if something happened it could totally mess up the numbers and letters on the screen. Perhaps that is why I was unable to beat it.

I plan to give this game another shot and once I do will do a full review. The good news is for those of you with the virtual console you can play Faxanadu right now.