Altered Beast

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

Yeah, I know. ‘Wise from your gwave,’ Elmer Fudd, etcetera etcetera.

It’s probably a small mercy for the game to be famed for it’s amusing opening voice though, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be remembered at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Basically a very straightforward side scrolling game where you punch and kick various nasties, the one thing the game has on its side is its almost incredible simplicity.

Altered Beast really has little in terms of depth – its just the same thing, for every level, with added difficulty the further you progress.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Move right, punch baddies, collect the orb from the special wolves, power up, find the boss, defeat the boss, end. Rinse and repeat.

The main variation comes from the bosses, but there’s little attempt to make the different settings (cave, gwaveyard (sic), etc) affect the gameplay in any way at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The game is still tough to grasp at first though, feeling clumsy and a little unfair. If you give it a chance however, you soon adapt to the attack patterns that are the most effective, and start making slow progress. It’s still a pain at times of course, but that’s probably to be expected.

There’s no real getting away from the clumsiness of the game in the end though, in both its controls and presentation.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The controls feel unbelievably wooden, mainly because the characters are all so stiffly animated. The whole things feel like a puppet show at times.

Graphics wise, the game looks good in stills, but in movement doesn’t appear so impressive. There are lots of things that look out of place, like the mist which bosses dissolve into when you defeat them, that just don’t fit into the aesthetic of the game. This results in giving the game a weirdly low budget veneer, even when you take into consideration its age.

All in all, the game’s a bit of a clunker that you’ll either despise or embrace for its dated look and feel. I personally have nothing against Altered Beast, but wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone.

Battle Mania

Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
So we are back with another entry of the week! This time around we have the awesome game Battle Mania for the Sega Genesis. This is an awesome shoot ’em up game for the classic console. It’s totally recommended! And here is why!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The music and sound effects are spot on! You will definitely feel upbeat and ready for battle with the music score of this gem of a game. Totally overjoyed with power!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
 The game looks wonderful and there is always a lot of action going through each of the stages. The stages also have awesome backgrounds and the enemies are very detailed. You definitely will get a joy from looking at this game.
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The gameplay is genius! You can guide your two gals through the stages and detach them as you go in order to plan an strategy for victory! You’re going to need all your cunning to get through the stages but it’ll be an enjoyable experience overall. If you are a fan of shoot ’em ups and cute girls, then check this baby out!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The game is always a fun journey from beginning to end so you’ll definitely find it enjoyable and challenging. Why not try to beat the game without dying once? That will make your entire afternoon a blast!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
To conclude, the game is just awesome! With great graphics, awesome gameplay, and a high rate of replay value Battle Mania will be one of your favorite Genesis games ever! The game is a little pricey but I’m sure you can find other alternatives or just use a damn emulator!

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

Pirates

Once upon a time it was a lot more avante-guard to be a pirate, long before the unwashed masses embraced the Disney Jack Sparrow movie juggernaut, and even before some wag convinced enough people to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.  In the heady days of the dawn of the PC graphic adventure, pirates were nothing more than literary devices or the stuff of all things dastardly; pirates portrayed in PC games were more Blackbeard or Captain Hook than Errol Flynn. And then along came Sid Meier.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meier is a gaming legend today, a name that is as much a brand and promise of great gameplay, but in 1987, this was not the case.  To be sure, Sid Meier’s name already carried some weight in the simulation community, as a designer of games such as F-15 Strike Eagle and Silent Service.  His games were always enjoyable and well-coded, but more importantly, sold well.  The marketing gurus at MicroProse suspected that people were buying Sid Meier games because they were designed by Sid Meier, so it seemed reasonable to help make their buying decisions for them by announcing his involvement directly in the product title.  From this reasoning the very first game to feature “Sid Meier’s…” in the game title was born: Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Sid Meier – Gamer godThe game was for single players, made long before the mad, lemming-like multiplayer rush of today that all gaming companies seem to have embraced.  (Wait, was that an editorial?)  It was an open-ended game, letting the player make the choices on where to travel and what to do, with the only caveat being that eventually the player’s character would grow too old to continue on the pirate’s path, and would retire.  Depending on what actions the player took (that is, what rewards and successes they achieved during the game), the game would then give a litany of how their character lived the rest of their days, from a lowly beggar in the streets to the prestigious role as adviser to the King.  The game world itself was created using a series of questions-and-answers, beginning with what pirate era the player wanted to play within (1560: The Silver Empire; 1600: Merchants and Smugglers; 1620: The New Colonists; 1640: War for Profit; 1660: The Buccaneer Heroes; and 1680: Pirates’ Sunset).  This was followed by which nationality they wished to be (Dutch Adventurer, English Buccaneer, French Buccaneer, or Spanish Renegade), which Difficulty Level they wished to play in (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, or Swashbuckler).  Finally, a Special Ability was chosen: Skill at Fencing, Skill at Gunnery, Skill at Medicine, Skill at Navigation, or Wit and Charm, each with its own advantages (for instance, Wit and Charm was used to keep on a Governor’s good side; whereas Skill at Medicine kept injuries to a minimum and prolonged the character’s life).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Swordplay in Sid Meier’s Pirates!The game world was then generated from these questions.  Of course, the final variable was the copy protection, which requested when either the Silver Train or the Spanish Treasure Fleet arrived in a particular city.  Failure to provide the correct answer stacked the odds so far against the player that even the game manual stated, “Heed the advice and start over, otherwise you’ll find your situation most bleak.”  Takethat, software pirates!  Actually, in some ways the manual was as interesting as the game, as there was a wealth of historical information on pirates and the historical context within which they plied their trade.  Well worth reading!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Decisions, decisions in Sid Meier’s Pirates!

As for actual gameplay, the live of a pirate was sometimes short, but always challenge-filled and exciting, which the player soon discovered for themselves.  Since a pirate fought with a sword, fencing was part of the game.  Since pirates sailed the seas to prey upon treasure-laden ships, navigation and naval combat was part of the game.  Since pirates often sold their loot to merchants (money laundering was alive and well in the pirate era), trade was part of the game.  Since pirates sometimes sacked small townships, that, too was part of the game.  Since pirate ships didn’t magically manifest crewmembers to sail the seven seas, recruitment was part of the game, and since a silver tongue helped a pirate live a longer life, diplomatic contact with town governors was also part of the game.  All in all, this was an impressive pirate simulation.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! Gold for the Sega Genesis

If the Career Mode was too large of a time investment, Sid Meier’s Pirates! offered six historically accurate scenarios to test your swashbuckling mettle.  Each scenario was in a different time period, and each offered unique challenges to overcome.  These scenarios were: John Hawkins and the Battle of San Juan Ulua  – 1569 (wherein you have a slow, but powerful galleon to command, with many ports unwilling to trade and a fleet not powerful enough to force them to comply); Francis Drake and the Silver Train Ambush – 1573 (can you match the verve and skill Drake showed battling the Spanish Fleet at the height of their power with only two small ships?); Piet Heyn and the Treasure Fleet – 1628 (your fleet is powerful, but the season is late and finding the treasure ships is becoming a difficult task and will take expert planning to locate and dispatch); L’Ollonais and the Sack of Marcaibo – 1666 (an abundance of manpower but a shortage of powerful vessels make ship-to-ship battles difficult, but port sacking attractive, with the additional challenge of the fragile nature of your men’s morale);Henry Morgan the King’s Pirate – 1671 (the dangers of having a powerful pirate fleet in both naval power and manpower in that you must keep everyone fed, content and treasure laden to succeed); and Baron de Pontis and the Last Expedition – 1697 (the munchkin scenario, in which you have a large strike force and a more than reasonable certainty to win any battle, making the only challenge how much treasure can you loot?).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was first released in 1987 on the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM PC (PC Booter) platforms.  It was quickly ported over to the Macintosh (1988), Amstrad (1988), Commodore Amiga (1990), and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991).  It would be remade in 1993 with improved graphics and sound, then published under the title Pirates! Gold, for IBM PC (both DOS and Windows), Macintosh, and – because Nintendon’t – the Sega Genesis. The remakes didn’t end there, as it was again remade in 2004 for Windows XP, returning to its original title ofSid Meier’s Pirates!, and then again in 2008 for mobile devices, imaginatively calledSid Meier’s Pirates! Mobile.  Perhaps in the next decade it will be remade once again.  (I recommend they try Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold as the title for next time.)

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Pirates! Gold

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was not only popular amongst gamers, it also performed well in the eyes of the gaming press.  It was awarded “Action Game of the Year” by Computer Gaming World, and also the Origin Award for “Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987”.  The game also ranked at #18 in the Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time.  Clearly, this game has remained in the gaming public’s eye for a reason, making Sid Meier’s Pirates! a worthy addition to anyone’s game collection.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2RigX8BVlc[/youtube]

Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games.  If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here

Red Parsley’s Favorite Games: Part 7

Fighters Megamix – Saturn (1997)

Fighters Remix - Sega

Rarely have I looked forward to a release like I did this one! Unlike many gamers, I never really warmed to the Virtua Fighter style of combat, but it had its good points, and I did like Fighting Vipers a lot, so imagine my excitement at receiving news of this! The extensive roster of combatants includes all of those from both VF2 and FV and let you fight in the style of either game, and also included a dozen or so secret unlockable characters and multiple play modes, so for its day it was a beat ’em up with a lot of longevity. Despite being fond of Candy (for the obvious reasons), I usually fought as Raxel – who wouldn’t enjoy smashing people through walls with a Flying V guitar?! Until Soul Calibur came along, this was the most feature-laden fighting game I’d played and it’s still immensely enjoyable.

Arkanoid – Spectrum (1987)

Arkanoid

Back in the days of game compilations, the 8-bit computers were the systems of choice, and thanks to Taito Coin-Op Hits I had some great games to occupy my time. Using up most of it was this ultra-addictive Breakout clone. Despite the weird controls which made the bat move faster in one direction than the other, I couldn’t get enough of this. I even managed to finish it with the help of a lives cheat (enter ‘PBRAIN’ as a highscore name)! Taking the Breakout concept and adding power-ups and more varied stages was a masterstroke and the game was perfectly suited to the Speccy. Nice crisp, colourful graphics and a well-graded difficulty level made this a great conversion of a fantastic game that hasn’t aged at all. Round three still gives me nightmares though!

Golden Axe – MegaDrive (1989)

Golden Axe

Christmas morning, 1990… finally I got my hands on Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse. I played each game as I unwrapped them and the first one was… Golden Axe! Famously billed by Mean Machines magazine as ‘arcade perfect’ (it’s not), this was one of the best of a decent selection of launch titles for the MD and, after Revenge of Shinobi, my favourite. Not only was it a top conversion of their hit arcade game but Sega also kindly included an extra level and a new play mode called ‘Duel Mode’, which saw the player take on a succession of ever-tougher enemies, to prolong the admittedly short hacking action. A superbly playable game with a great soundtrack, and immense fun for one or two players.

After Burner 2 – Arcade (1987)

After Burner 2

This Super-Scaler classic has its critics, but they usually relate to the home conversions. After Burner belongs in the arcade and in this specially equipped environment I don’t think too many people could argue that it’s an experience to behold! Clambering into the sizable cockpit, grabbing the yoke, and blasting off from the Sega Enterprises carrier is something that can be experienced all too rarely these days but it’s never ceases to thrill. I’ve never been particularly good at this game (those pesky varmints that attack from behind – grrrr!) but it’s always a pleasure to let fly a few missiles, nearly get lost in the smoke trails, perform a barrel-roll to get out the way, shoot down a few jets, etc, repeat often!

Dragon’s Fury – MegaDrive (1992)

Dragons Fury

My appreciation of this pinball classic is well-known! It’s inclusion in the list of My Favourite Games goes without saying, the only point of contention is which version to include. Both the PC Engine original and this MegaDrive conversion are amazingly playable games, but they have their differences. Based purely on how much time I’ve spent playing each version though, I’d have to plump for the MD version, plus it’s a bit easier! Smacking a pinball around a table infested with all manner of demonic minions and horrific creatures of unimaginable horror would be entertaining to start with but when you include flawless ball physics, an extensive and intricate scoring system, bonus tables, and a superb soundtrack, pinball videogames simply do not get any better than this!

 

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

megadrive2

Though popular since the 70’s, it was the late 80’s and early 90’s when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot ’em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time.

I’ve owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD’s fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run ‘n’ gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren’t included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)

 

5 - Wiz n Liz

I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only fan this poor old game has! I’m not usually a fan of fast ‘n’ frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz ‘n’ Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can’t help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough – one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a ‘hidden gem’ in the MD’s back catalogue but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game – nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

4. Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure (1990)

4 - Robocod

I’ve mentioned this great game before, and I’ll do a full review at some point, but for now be assured that it’s awesome! Most Western gamers will know it by the new name and identity given to it for its European and US release (Decapattack) but I much prefer this Japanese original which is perhaps more famous for its amusing name than anything else! It will be instantly familiar to fans of Psycho Fox on the Master System as they share many qualities, but this is no sequel or tarted-up port. It’s a pretty large game with some stages featuring multiple routes through them and there are many quirky features present in its stages. Magical Hat is a real charmer which constantly entices you to explore its strange world. If you’ve never played it, or even if you’re veteran of Decapattack, do yourself a favour and give it a try.

3. James Pond 2 Codename: Robocod (1991)

3 - Magical Hat

Games don’t come much more nonsensical than this one! The original James Pond was an original and entertaining romp but this sequel cranked everything up a notch and is now a full platform game too, thanks to the special suit that allows James to remain on land. The game takes place across many themed stages populated by some very strange enemies and seemingly random collectible items but, perhaps aside from its strangeness, it doesn’t really do anything that countless other games haven’t done before – it just does it better than most games! The graphics and sound are among the MegaDrive’s best and the many stages are packed with features and secrets. This is probably the most slick and polished of all MD platformers, and certainly the craziest non-Japanese one!

2. Ristar (1995)

2 - Ristar

Good old Sonic Team. Not only did they regale us with the wonders of their Sonic games, but they also found time to sneak in this gem late in the MD’s life. It actually started out as the game that would become Sonic before being resurrected with Ristar in command, and the first stage does feature similar graphics, but the gameplay differs quite a bit. The pace is a lot slower for one thing. Ristar clambers around the gorgeous stages using his arms as much as his legs. He can climb up walls, across ceilings, and around trees and logs, and it is by experimenting with these abilities that you’ll be able to fully explore his world. The more sedate pace really suits the game and the character, as does the laid back soundtrack, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate the lush graphics! Many gamers missed this, what with the Saturn and PlayStation being unveiled, but if you were one of the ones who did notice it, you’ll not need me to tell you how good it is!

1. Sonic 2 (1992)

 

1 - Sonic 2

Sorry but it had to be really, didn’t it? No other game got MegaDrive gamers whipped up into a frenzy like this one, nevermind any other platform games. Sega’s motives for creating Sonic may not have been the best but at least they made a great game for him, so the sequel had a lot to live up to. To say it did would be one of gaming’s biggest ever understatements! Sonic 2 features bigger stages and more of them, a tougher challenge, and perhaps the nicest graphics and sound the console has ever produced. I’m sure everyone who owned an MD had this game so I don’t even need to extol its virtues really. Suffice to say, everything here is so much flashier than the first game it’s almost as if they’re running on different consoles, and the gameplay so finely-honed that, sadly, no further games in the Sonic series would ever better it.

As mentioned, the MegaDrive was swamped in platform games, so picking the best five was tough, mainly because I had to leave out some other great games. So, honourable mentions also go to: Castle of Illusion, Rolo to the Rescue, Kid Chameleon, Flicky, Quackshot, Aladdin, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, goodness knows how many others…

Heavy Unit

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot 1

Heavy Unit (1990)
By: Kaneko / Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 6,900
Also Available For: Arcade, MegaDrive

If you were asked to think of a Taito shmup, there’s a good bet you’d immediately think of a Darius title. This is largely understandable due to the number of games in that series if nothing else, particularly on the PC Engine which was groaning under the weight of shmups of varying quality, but they did make a few other games of that type too. Among them is Heavy Unit, which is again a horizontal scroller converted from their arcade original. The story is pretty similar to that of the Darius games in that one of Mankind’s planets has come under attack and needs defending. In this case it’s our first artificial star and planet, Le Tau, which a race of genetically modified alien monsters has designs on! Naturally, it falls to you to vanquish this evil (and scary-sounding) foe by making use of the ‘Heavy Unit’, a heavily-armed transforming spaceship/mecha.

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot 1

The planet in question is apparently a rather diverse one, for the six stages that make up the game are all pretty distinctive, although that could be because the aliens have already had their way with it! Featuring a forest, gelatinous pink alien slimy stuff, and big metallic bases amongst its diverse locales makes it fairly easy on the eyes, but it’s definitely not easy on anything else – Heavy Unit is one of those ‘suicide missions’ which actually is! Each stage is filled with a wide variety of alien scum of many shapes and sizes. The small ones generally attack en masse and move quickly, and they don’t just go down after a single shot either! The larger ones are obviously less agile but make up for it with their firepower. Each stage also predictably ends with a large boss too, and some of these are pretty strange, including a dinosaur skeleton!

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot

Much like the recently-reviewed TransBot for the Master System, this game features a ship that can transform into a flying robot-type thing, and much like TransBot it’s a gimmick that really doesn’t serve any useful purpose. Here, that ability is one of a very small number of power-ups, and is basically a different weapon. Your ‘Heavy Unit’ ship looks fairly unspectacular and in fact is, in pretty much every way. Its default weapon is a puny pea-shooter and, unfortunately, power-ups with which to upgrade it are not frequent. When the ‘P’ icons do arrive though, they increase the power and range of its cannon and also provide weak missiles that fire above and below the ship. In order for your ship to undergo its aforementioned transformation, you need to look for a ‘T’ icon, which are even rarer. Collecting this will cause it to change into a flying robot, or mecha, which has a more powerful main gun, and homing missiles, and collecting it again will cause your craft to revert to its previous form.

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot

Remaining power-ups include the ‘B’ icon for a shield which protects you for a few hits, ‘S’ icons for much needed speed- ups, and ‘E’ icons for extra lives. All but the latter of these are found by shooting a certain type of enemy, but the extra lives are a little harder to find. There is one per stage (as far as I can tell) and each is hidden, usually in part of the scenery. They can be found by shooting at its location but you have to find out where that it first! That’s actually quite telling about this game’s biggest fault – take one of my favourite horizontal scrollers, Thunder Force 3 for example… When I play it from beginning to end without losing a life, by the final boss I have 23 lives. When doing the same with Heavy Unit for this review, I had 3. That gives you an idea of the relative abundance of extra lives to be found, and it’s indicative of the game’s insane difficulty level generally.

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot

Heavy Unit is a strange game. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about it but it’s not a bad game – what there is of it looks and sounds decent enough – it’s just so stupidly hard! Most games ease you in with the first few screens featuring small, relatively harmless enemies that you can pick off with a single shot. Here, the first enemy is a fast skeletal snake-type thing, and it will probably kill you repeatedly. You’ll probably soon decide that avoiding it is a better idea – it is killable but it’ll be a while before you actually manage it! After this there is another, then two more at once, all of which whoosh onto the screen at high speed, and all of which take multiple hits to destroy. After that you’ll reach the point from which the first screenshot is taken, above. This features three rapid-fire, directional cannons (each of which takes a real pummelling to disable), then, after navigating around a large moving piece of scenery you’re faced with three large, metallic snakes. Getting past this point will take multiple restarts, even for a fairly proficient shmup gamer, and it’s only the first three screens or so of the game! Utter insanity.

Heavy Unit - PC Gameplay Screenshot

Unsurprisingly, what with the somewhat harsh difficulty here, Taito didn’t have to make the stages very long. They do look fairly nice for the most part, and some parts of them are more than a screen high, but they scroll very slowly, and each would be over in minutes if it wasn’t for the inevitable restarts. Some parts of the later stages have moving obstacles, parts of the scenery, and barriers to further hamper your progress, but they needn’t have bothered as only a very small percentage of gamers will ever reach them. I played this game via emulation for this review. If I hadn’t, I’m confident I wouldn’t have even finished the first stage. It took me a good couple of hours to reach the final stage, and that was with saving and reloading my game about a hundred times! If Heavy Unit had a more forgiving difficulty curve, it would still be merely an average shmup, but as things stand there really is little to recommend. To make things worse, the collision detection is also pretty ropey here. Even the pause button didn’t seem to work at some points, usually the most critical of course! The PC Engine is positively swamped with shooting games. They’re not all great of course, but I haven’t yet played any less deserving of anyone’s time than this one. Unless you’re an insanely gifted gamer (or perhaps just insane), steer clear of this.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQmH9h2xrpY[/youtube]

RKS Score: 3/10

Top Five MegaDrive Shmups

Fire Shark Screenshot

5. Fire Shark (1990)

Flying Shark, in my view, is among the finest vertical scrollers of all-time so it’s a shame it never saw a release on a system able to do it justice, such as the MD. I guess we’ll have to settle for the game considered its unofficial sequel – Fire Shark! Still, it’s not much of a sacrifice as this game retains many of the distinctive features from its forebear and adds a few more of its own for good measure!

4. Super Fantasy Zone (1992)

Super Fantasy Zone Screenshot

After the three Fantasy Zone games on the Master System, many fans feared the end of the series was nigh. But these fears were unfounded, for this apparent final swan song on the MD is fully deserving of its ‘Super’ prefix! Instantly familiar to fans of the series, but bigger and better than ever before, this tough blaster had lovely graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, lots of new weapons, creative bosses, and the same ultra-addictive gameplay we had come to know and love!

3. Battle Squadron (1990)

Battle Squadron Screenshot

Arguably the MD’s best vertical scroller (that I’ve played, anyway), this offering from EA is really tough going, but don’t let that put you off. With no traditional level structure to speak of and a few nice ideas such as the ‘Chameleon’ ships which employ cloaking devices, and some fantastic music, it’s well worth persevering with. Plus, it has a card up its sleeve – it’s a simultaneous two-player game! A real rarity in this genre…

2. Hellfire (1990)

Hellfire Screenshot

This underrated gem was a pretty early release for the MD but still ranks among its best coin-op conversions. It doesn’t have the graphical tricks of some games (see below!), but it is one of the most polished, balanced shooters I’ve ever played. It’s true that it’s somewhat unforgiving (it’s basically a one-life game) and doesn’t really have much in the way of power-ups, but it’s hard to complain when the game is still so good! Varied levels, a rocking soundtrack, a well-graded dificulty curve, and perfect collision detection make this one of the best!

1. Thunder Force 3 (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Screenshot

Yes, yes, I know many of you prefer TFIV. I personally like all of the Thunder Force games, but I’m really struggling to remember any shooter I’ve enjoyed as consistently as this one on any system. It’s pretty easy (although maybe that’s just because I’ve played it so much!) but how could you not be impressed with this game? At the time of release it was among the best-looking games on any system, rife with fancy graphics effects, and features one of the best shmup soundtracks ever. Couple that with the huge variety between levels, impressive multitude of weapons, and immense enemies, and you’ve got a game that screams quality from every pore…

 

Battle Squadron

Battle Squadron - Title Screen

Battle Squadron (1990)
By: Innerprise Software / Electronic Arts Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 200,700
Also Available For: Amiga

The days of the 16-Bit Console Wars were an interesting time to be a gamer. If the SNES was better at one type of game, the MegaDrive was better at another. One area in which many agree the MD had a firmer foothold is that of the shoot ’em up. Yes, the SNES had some blinding examples of the genre, but the MD won the day through sheer weight of numbers. An early example of the vertical scrolling shooter on the MD is Battle Squadron, a product of the bygone era of bedroom coders which saw many talented enthusiasts try their hand at that programming lark. Most games resulting from these endeavours were of course very limited, but on the odd, rare occasion, something much more interesting would emerge. Battle Squadron’s success was probably not that immense, but Martin Pedersen did well enough from it to enable him to help form Innerprise Software who subsequently went on to develop several more titles.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Originally released on the Amiga, Battle Squadron is apparently the sequel to fellow Amiga blaster, Hybris. This installment sees you facing off against the evil Barrax Empire, which initially appears to be nothing more than a bog-standard pretext to a bog-standard vertical-scroller. Actually, to be fair, it’s not the most remarkable shmup ever, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeves! For starters, there are no levels. Well, kind of. You start above ground fighting off swarms of enemy fighters as well as lots of ground-based vehicles and gun turrets. Before long, you’ll come to a big crater or chasm of some sort in the ground which you can enter. You don’t have to though – you can fly straight past if you want to as it will return over and over again. You’ll need to enter eventually though, and upon doing so you’ll be faced with an underground area crawling with different types of enemy craft and installations, at the end of which is a boss. Once you defeat the boss you’ll return to the surface again. If you enter the underground section at the first opportunity every time, you’ll eventually fight through three surface sections and three underground sections before you get to face the Ultimate Alien Force of Evil. To quote the instruction book: “You will face Surlotech in the final battle. He’s known for cruelly toying with enemies and laughing at their feeble attempts to destroy him”. Sounds like a charming fellow.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 2

When playing this game, there’s one thing that quickly becomes apparent – Battle Squadron must be one of the most enemy-laden shooters ever – they’re everywhere! It’s lucky then, that there is sufficient weaponry available (though barely so) to ‘convince’ them that their agenda is a flawed one. You start the game with the Orange Magma Wave. This is just about sufficient at the start of the game but needs to be powered up pretty quickly. Once this is done, it becomes a formidable weapon which has a fairly powerful forward shot as well as four less powerful shots which fire at diagonals. Other weapons are the Green Emerald Laser which is very powerful and fires rapidly, but has a very limited range (straight forward), Red Magnetic Torps, which covers most of the screen, but aren’t too powerful, and the Blue Anti-Matter Particle Beam. This weapon also fires very quickly, and shoots both forwards and backwards, but again, has a limited range.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 3

These tools of destruction can be found by destroying the Barraxian gunships that carry ‘X’ capsules. Once freed, these drift back and forth across the screen changing colours as they go. Collecting them will give you the weapon of that colour and collecting another capsule of the same colour will power it up one level. If you’re destroyed, your weapon’s level will be reduced by two, though thankfully you don’t have to restart the level! One helpful way to avoid being shot down, however, is to deploy a ‘Nova Bomb’. These swirling waves of destruction, more commonly referred to as smart bombs, destroy or damage everything on the screen (except your ship, obviously). More importantly, they also rid the screen of enemy bullets. These can be stockpiled by collecting the ‘M’ icons that result from the destruction of an entire squadron of enemy fighters (which appear increasingly frequently), and it’s a very good idea to save as many as possible – you’ll need them later on!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 4

But what of the enemies? Poorly designed ones have been known to ruin otherwise decent shooters, so thankfully that’s not the case here! There are fourteen different alien attackers altogether – not a huge number I’ll grant you, but there are some highly creative ones among this contingent. Some are your standard gun turrets or formation-flying, few-shots-to-kill aircraft, while others are far meaner. One original feature of Battle Squadron from which it derived much of its fame is its ‘Chameleon’ ships. These are sister ships to the standard fighters, except they’re invisible! They can be detected by the funny noise they make when your weapons strike them, and by a slight shimmering of the area over which they’re flying (in a similar style to the titular creature from the Predator movies). Some enemies (mostly the various kinds of gun turrets) leave behind green ‘X’ icons when you’ve destroyed them “exposing their jewel caches”, and each one gives you a thousand points at the end of the ‘section’ (i.e. when you go underground or back above ground).

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 5

Despite the fact that Battle Squadron was first released on the Amiga, this version is near enough identical. That doesn’t mean it looks bad though. On the contrary. Though there’s not many backgrounds, and one of the later ones will make your eyes bleed (not to mention render enemy bullets near invisible!), the graphics are very decent. The sprites are varied and some of them pretty sizeable, and there’s some lovely parallax scrolling on the underground sections (something the Amiga version lacks). Scrolling is also smooth, even with 15 or more enemies on the screen at once! It’s not just your eyes that get a treat here either. Game music fans will be pleased to hear that the sounds accompanying this manic shooter come courtesy of the great Rob Hubbard, which pretty much guarantees top quality music. Whilst there aren’t many tunes, the ones that are here are memorable and of typically high quality, as are the superb sound effects.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 6

One of the first things you’ll notice about this game is undoubtedly its difficulty. Whilst it’s true that the number of lives, credits, enemy bullets on screen at once and enemy bullet speed can all be altered, even on the lesser settings, this game is still tougher than a disgruntled Chuck Norris. There’s not a single enemy in this game that goes down from a single shot, so until you’ve powered up your ship, prepare to practise your bullet-dodging skills! Even once you’re powered up things are no picnic either. Undestroyed gun turrets can still fire at you from behind after they’ve left the screen, Chameleon ships appear from holes in the ground (sometimes right on top of you), and there’s even heat-seeking missiles that can’t be shot down! With a bit (or a lot) of perseverance, however, some lengthy and impressive blast-a-thons can be enjoyed. One extra special thing about Battle Squadron is that it has a simultaneous two-player mode! A rare thing indeed for a shooter. It’s just as hard with two-players though, so don’t go forcing a friend into playing just so you can see the ending!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 7

Overall, this is a tough game, but not unfairly so. Okay, so invisible ships appearing beneath you don’t help matters but it’s not like it’s one of those ridiculous ‘bullet-hell’ games! One thing’s for sure – you won’t get a second to relax when playing it. It’s like a gaming equivalent of one long sweaty-palmed adrenaline rush! There’s always something going on and its difficulty will keep all but the most awesomely skilled of gamers going for a while, and all but the most pathetically skilled will most likely want to keep trying to beat it.

RKS Score: 8/10

My Favourite Games – Part 3

Hello, I’m back a day late! I was too tired to post anything yesterday, I had a nice looong sleep for the first time in a while instead! And that means I’ve just worked, slept, and worked again since last posting, so I don’t have anything interesting to say! So, to resume with my favourite games:

Thunder Force 3 – Mega Drive (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Mega Drive

Back in my Sega fanboy days, I used to love it when a game like this came along. It would give me more ammunition to use against those who would seek to besmirch the good Sega name, and would almost always overshadow similar efforts on other machines (at least until the SNES came along!). I can fondly recall many arguments with my Amiga fanboy friend at college. Try as he might, he could never convince me that Project X was a patch on this game! I didn’t have to argue hard either. Featuring lush graphics, an awesome rocking soundtrack, kick-ass weaponry, big bosses, and eight varied levels (including the awesome lava stage, pictured), there’s not really much more a shoot ’em up fan could ask for here. Many people prefer the fourth game in the series, but it’s the third title all the way for me. Perhaps my fondness for this game comes from the fact that I rule at it, but there can be no doubting its quality. After all, how many other shooters are so good they have an arcade version made after they come out?

Datastorm – Amiga (1989)

Datastorm Amiga

There aren’t too many Defender clones as blatant as Datastorm, but it is without question my favourite, even including Defender and Dropzone. In fact, when I started playing it, I hadn’t even played Defender yet! A friend’s Amiga was the setting of many of these early sessions, and when I finally got my own Amiga, this was one of the first games I sought out for it. I remember buying it in a second hand store and the guy in the shop accidentally put two copies of the game in the case. Hee hee! Anyway, it’s similar in style to those aforementioned great games. The object is to collect at least one of eight pods drifting along the ground of each ‘wave’ and deliver it to the portal, then destroy the many and varied aliens. That’s about it. It’s not as insanely difficult as Defender but does have a few extras such as power-ups, bosses, etc, and it’s addictive as hell.

Head Over Heels – Spectrum (1987)

Head Over Heels Spectrum

There can’t be many Speccy owners who didn’t play this celebrated classic by Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond, it’s almost as famous as the Speccy itself! I have always been absolutely useless at it, but that never stopped me from loving it! Controlling, first either Head or Heels, then later on both at once, you are tasked with the liberation of the five planets of the Blacktooth Empire. The story doesn’t really matter a great deal though, it’s the gameplay that counts, and Head Over Heels has it in bucketloads! The stages are creatively designed and full of imaginitive touches and the graphics, though monocrome, are nicely defined and full of character. It is a bit tricky though, I can’t even finish the first planet! It’s amazing that I like it so much and I’ve not even seen 1/5th of its 300 screens! Maybe some day, huh?

Everybody’s Golf – PSP (2005)

Everybodys Golf PSP

Until recently, this ‘slot’ was filled by Neo Turf Masters on the NeoGeo Pocket Color, a fine game by any standards, and probably my favourite golf game too. That is, until I got this little gem for my PSP! Generally speaking, there are two types of golf games. The serious, take-an-hour-to-prepare-each-shot type game (eg, Tiger Woods series), and then there’s this kind. The arcadey, fun, not-so-serious cartoony sort that come from Japan. And it is this kind which is by far my favourite. The series debuted, of course, on the PS1 some years before, but this effort, which was a launch title for the PSP, is a significant improvement over that already fun effort. It’s a lot more forgiving for one thing, but, perhaps more importantly, it has a lot more longevity. Many, many tournaments are available to play though, and there’s more unlockable items than seems possible to begin with. New characters are among these items, but they mostly consist of often nonsensical things to customise your chosen character with. Nonetheless, they are a lot of fun to collect, and give an excuse to keep playing! Just need to find a bikini costume for my favourite, Yumeri now!

Worms Armageddon – Dreamcast (1999)

Worms Armageddon Dreamcast

It’s almost impossible that no-one has played at least one game in this classic, not to mention sizeable series of strategy games from Team 17. It’s also likely that there are better offerings than this one, such as one of the online play versions, but this is the version I’ve spent the most time playing, and therefore, at time of writing at least, my favourite. I’ve most often played this in two-player with my good buddy, Luke, but it can be played by up to four people at once, which can lead to some chaotic but entertaining battles! Admirably, Team 17 have also tried to improve the single player game by including a mission-based game mode, but it is the main game you’ll return to most often, even if you’re on your own! Nothing beats creeping up on a lairy CPU-controlled worm, dropping a bundle of dynamite next to him, and sneaking off again! Hee hee hee!

Back with the next five tomorrow…

 

My Favourite Games – Part 2

Well, much of today has been spent in the fruitless pursuit of an obscure Japanese game and an emulator to run it on. I’m starting to think it’s impossible to find the combination of desired game rom and the relevant emulator, despite the help of couple of good chaps from Retro Gamer forum. Anyone know how to emulate the Sharp X-1, or the NEC PC-98, or goodness know which other previously unknown 25-year old Japanese computers?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out!

And so, to continue with the fairly unremarkable list of my favourite games, numbers 6 -10… Behold!

Super Mario World – SNES (1992)

Super Mario World

Proclaimed by many to be the greatest platform game of all-time, who am I to argue? After spending all of the preceding generation as a Sega fan-boy, I really didn’t want to like this game, but I finally relented and got myself a SNES along with this game, and I was soon converted! Despite looking far less flashy than a certain blue hedgehog’s debut on the rival Mega Drive, this game soon proved to me that looks aren’t everything! I can still remember the first time I completed it, I was so proud of myself but my parents didn’t even care about my achievement! Consisting of a sprawling 96 levels (many of which are secret), I felt justified in being proud of myself too! Despite its size, it never failed to consistently introduce new and creative features either, not least of which was Yoshi, now almost as famous as Mario himself, but the game was just so enjoyable to play through, and has so many nice touches. Has it ever been bettered? Not in my opinion…

Star Fighter – 3DO (1996)

Star Fighter 3DO

Now here’s one that most people haven’t even heard of, nevermind played! I bought this from the 3DO clearance bin in my local second-hand games store towards the end of the 3DO’s brief life for a mere £5, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded it, but then came one of just a few genuine ‘wow’ moments in my gaming life! It was the first free-roaming 3D flying game I had ever played, and it was amazing! Sure, visually it’s looking pretty ropey nowadays, as all early polygon games are, but back then it was a revelation! Originally an Acorn Achimedes game, this spruced up version is, at its core, a mission-based 3D combat game, but it’s not just an out-and-out blaster, no siree! Strategy plays a big part too, especially during later missions, and there’s so much to do. Star Fighter was way ahead of its time; I’ve still not played anything else quite like this, and I’d dearly love to! If you want to try it out though, just steer clear of the horrifying Sega Saturn and Playstation versions!

F-Zero X – Nintendo 64 (1998)

F-Zero X N64

Along with Burnout 2, this is easily my favourite racing game of all-time. Nintendo took the controversial decision of reducing the graphical detail in the game (especially backgrounds) in order to keep it running smoothly at 60fps. Was it worth it? You’re damn straight it was! This could be the most exciting, edge-of-the-seat, sweaty palms, racing game ever made! Racing at speeds of up to 1500kph over courses that often look more like rollercoasters, I’m sure you can imagine why too! There are over 20 varied courses, each race is contested by 30 distinctive racers, and there’s even a four-player battle mode, so there’s no danger of getting bored anytime soon either. Simply the fastest, most exciting racing action to be found anywhere!

Space Station Silicon Valley – Nintendo 64 (1998)

Space Station Silicon Valley N64

This is another under-appreciated classic which I discovered thanks to the short-lived magazine, Total Control. I can’t even find any reference to that magazine with a quick Google search, but I’m glad it did exist or I may never have played this game! It’s a 3D platform/puzzle game in which you control the microchip of a malfunctioning robot called Evo, damaged when the ship he was on crashed into the titular space station it was meant to be landing on! Populating this space station are many robotic animals, which you can take over by leaping into them. Each animal has unique (and often very strange) abilities and, using them, you must perform set mission objectives (also often very strange) before you can move onto the next. It’s a highly original, creative, and funny game in which you never know what’s around the next corner!

The Revenge of Shinobi – Mega Drive (1989)

The Revenge of Shinobi Mega Drive

Or Super Shinobi, as it’s known in Japan, and this was the version I first played. When visiting my good friend, Stu’s, house one day after school I was excited to see that his brother had a gleaming new imported Japanese Mega Drive sitting in his room. It wasn’t long before Stu and his brother, Darren, were demonstrating the power of this new console, and this was the game they used to do it. And it worked! The awesome intro sequence, the breathtaking graphics, the now legendary music… I was still used to my Sega Master System and trusty Speccy at this time, so the effect this game had on me was profound, and it still holds a lot of good memories for me. And after all these years, it’s clearer than ever that this wasn’t all window dressing either, it still plays like a dream. Still the best game in the Shinobi series if you ask me!

Next five to follow tomorrow…

My Favourite Games: 1

Hello.  I’m RetroKingSimon (or RKS to my friends).

Some of my many interests include retro videogames, movies, and anime, but I have been complacent in the pursuit of these interests for quite some time now, espically since I’ve been married. This is my attempt to make amends, and will offer the opportunity/excuse to sample some of the best, and no doubt worst, these subjects have to offer, including some that I’ve been meaning to try for many years, and will also allow me to re-evaluate some old favourites that should perhaps be better consigned to fondly-recalled memories.

In addition, I have a curious fondness for making random, and often nonsensical ‘Top Five’ lists, often with the help of Luke. These will also form part of my tomfoolery here, and are just for fun. Any of you that read these musings, I encourage you to make comments or let me know what you think, good or bad, but trolls and other hateful rapscallions can direct your bilge elsewhere. 🙂

Anyway, to mark my first post here, I thought it might be prudent to list my favourite games. There are 30 here, though I like many more of course, and with the exception of the first one, they are in no particular order.

Star Control 2 – 3DO (1994)

Star Control 2 Screenshot I

My favourite videogame of all-time? Without question! Not many sci-fi TV shows or films even have a story as engrossing as this game! It’s an epic space adventure game where, controlling a large, but weak starship, you must wander the galaxy searching for artefacts, forging alliances with or fighting against the many alien races, gathering resources, and building a fleet with which to take on the evil Ur-Quan Heirachy who have enslaved Earth and several other worlds. Featuring hectic real-time battles, hours of speech, and countless things to do, it’s a sci-fi game that has everything. You even get to score with a green-skinned alien girly for goodness sake! The best thing of all about this game is that you can download a conversion of the 3DO game for nothing and play it on any modern PC. Get it here (the game has had a name change though, it’s now called Ur-Quan Masters).

Burnout 2: Point of Impact – Gamecube (2002)

Burnout 2 - Point of Impact Screenshot I

Granted, there’s a lot of games I haven’t played, but right now this is the finest arcade-style racing game I’ve ever played. You have three opponents and racing takes place on long stretches of road also populated by civilian drivers ranging from cars right up to coaches and juggernauts. There are a few cars to choose from when you start the game and successful racing unlocks many more. It’s all fairly standard stuff, it’s just done so well. Control over the cars is precise, the courses are busy and superbly designed, and opponent AI is pretty good too. This all combines to make some pretty awesome, hi-octane racing! In my humble opinion, this was and remains the pinnacle of the Burnout series (and marks the final installment before Electronic bloody Arts bought the franchise and ruined it), and the arcade racing genre in general.

Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap – Master System (1989)

Wonder Boy 3 - The Dragon’s Trap Screenshot I

Introduced to me by my good friend Luke, this game blew me away when I first played it in the late 80’s, and has remained a firm favourite. Despite its name, this is actually the fourth game in the convoluted Wonder Boy/Monster World series of games and almost certainly universally considered the best. The game, which takes the form of a sprawling arcade adventure, carries on directly from Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and sees Wonder Boy cursed by a dragon and turned into Lizard Man! And so Wonder Boy’s latest quest begins. He must brave many strange and distant lands in his bid to return himself to Human form, but not before he takes various other forms too! A top game when it was first released and it remains a top game today, arguably the best game of the Master System.

Gauntlet 4 – Mega Drive (1993)

Gauntlet 4 Screenshot I

Not strictly speaking a sequel, Gauntlet 4, released on the Mega Drive/Genesis exclusively, was more a tarted-up conversion of the original and features four different modes. The Arcade Mode is a near-arcade perfect port of the orignal Gauntlet arcade game from 1985, but with the addition of an all-new soundtrack, the Record Mode, which is a variation on the arcade mode tailored to achieving high scores, the Battle Mode is a multi-player fight to the death, and best of all is the Quest Mode, which is an all-new Gauntlet game where the player must battle through the ten floors of each of an ancient castle’s four towers before tackling the dragon dwelling therein. Including some RPG-style features, this is a whole game in itself. Overall, for any Gauntlet fan, this is the complete package.

OutRun – Arcade (1985)

Outrun screenshot I

Until the Burnout series came along, this was still my favourite driving game ever, and in many ways is responsible for my love of videogames to begin with. Everyone knows all about this classic by Yu Suzuki which is still as enjoyable today as the day it was made, in my view. Sure, OutRun 2 and Coast 2 Coast superceded it in many ways, not least graphically, but do they contain the spirit and atmosphere of the 1985 original? I can’t think of many driving games that don’t even have any opponents which are still as enjoyable as this! Simply cruising along listening to Magical Sound Shower is a treat matched by only a small number of other gaming experiences. It’s a shame so few people will ever get to play the arcade behemoth now!

That’s it for now, more to come.