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.

Five Video Games To Play In Summer

Summer_Games

When the temperature soars outside, there is only one thing to do – turn on the air-conditioner and grab a video game that will keep you cool and simulate that summer experience.

Wave Race 64 [N64]

Wave_Race_64
Grab your jet-ski and hit the waves. This early N64 title has realistic water effects and an array of differing environments and courses that will keep your heart racing. Play on your own or call a friend over, you will have an absolute ball. Bonsai!

California Games [Lynx]

california-GamesWhen you think of California, you think of sun, surf and lots of obscure sports, right? California Games on the Atari Lynx brings four events which will have you playing till the batteries run out. Connect the Lynx to a power outlet and have some fun in the sun.

Virtua Tennis [Dreamcast]

Virtua Tennis
With all the Grand Slams being in summer, it is perfectly natural to pull out your Dreamcast and start playing Virtua Tennis – the best tennis video game ever, period! Practice makes perfect, and the mini games are equally entertaining as blasting your opponent on clay, grass or even hard courts.

Summer Games II [C64]

Summer Games II
No summer games list can be complete without Epyx’s seminal favourite. From the triple jump to the cycling event, grab seven of your mates, a sturdy joystick and have some fun! Make sure you watch the closing ceremony fireworks – a perfect touch to a perfect game.

Out Run [PC-Engine]

Out Run
Jump in your red Ferarri, crank up the stereo, swing past your girlfriend’s place and hit the road. Feel the wind in your hair as you race down the highway to make it to the next checkpoint. Make sure you enjoy those cool and refreshing tunes along the way.

Well, there you have it. These are just a few video games to keep you cool this summer. Which video games will you play?

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

TV Sports Basketball

TV Sports Basketball

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

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

Shadow of the Beast

Shadow_of_the_Beast_turbo-grafx-16

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

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.

The TurboGrafx-16

Tweeting back and forth with TheSocialGamer about the TurboGrafx-16 led to some serious retro T16 game-groovin’ on my handheld TurboExpress, replaying some Blazing Lazers, Dragon Spirit, and Bonk’s Revenge before calling it a night.

NEC TurboGrafx-16

The NEC TurboGrafx-16 Video Game System.

For those that have NO idea what I’m talking about, the TurboGrafx-16 was a video game system sold in North America by NEC (it hit the shelves in 1989).  It was known as the PC Engine in Japan, where it debuted 2 years earlier (those damn Japanese got all the new game tech!).  This was a killer system in its day: 16-bit graphics capable of 482 colors at once.  It suffered a pretty big drawback, though, with initially only 8K of memory available for the games to work under.  (As a comparison, the Super Nintendo had 128K.)

It came packaged with one game (Keith Courage in Alpha Zones) and one controller (called a TurboPad).  Some awesome games were available for this system, like Blazing Lazers, Neutropia, Order of the Griffon, Bomberman, Bonk’s Adventure, Alien Crush (and its sequel, Devil’s Crush), Cadash, Klax, and Military Madness, just to name a few.  You could hook up an accessory called a TurboTap which would allow you and 4 of your gamer buddies to play certain games (like Bomberman) for serious multiplayer fun.  Oddly enough, there was only ONE controller port on the system.

The TurboExpress handheld video game system (with TV Tuner)

The TurboExpress handheld video game system (with TV Tuner)

What made the TurboGrafx unique was how they promoted their handheld game system.  Most competitors used separate games for the console systems versus the handheld systems (like the NES and the GameBoy).  If you wanted to play Tetris on the NES and GameBoy, you had to buy one NES version and one GameBoy version.  But the TurboExpress (the handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16) used the very same games that it’s parent console used!  The games – called HuCards – fit in either system and played the same.  The TurboExpress even played in FULL COLOR!  Wow, back in the day that was an AWESOME gaming experience.

This is the TurboGrafx-16 with the TurboCD attachment.

This is the TurboGrafx-16 with the TurboCD attachment.

Another nifty accessory you could get for the TurboGrafx was the TurboCD, which allowed you to play the really great CD games that were out there, as well as play music CDs.  It came with a HuCard called a System Card which you put into your TurboGrafx to boost the RAM so the CDs could play (64K).  Another memory card, the Super System Card, gave you an additional 192K, which gave access to the Super CD games.  You haven’t played a 16-bit system until you’ve played Lords of Thunder.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otz8kIUqN38[/youtube]

So why didn’t NEC rule the 90′s instead of Sega and Nintendo?  There are plenty of reasons that come to mind, such as the aforementioned 8K memory limit and an intially high price on the accessories that made it a gaming system juggernaut (the TurboCD and TurboExpress).  The real T16 killer was that the system was not embraced by 3rd Party developers.  Companies today should look at the history of the TurboGrafx-16 to see what happens when all your innovation and development comes inhouse.  Had NEC been able to bring more developers on board right away, the system would have had a massive library of games and accessories, which everyone knows is the gamer geek’s kryptonite.  Who knows how console game systems would look like today if NEC’s TurboGrafx had dominated the market? Perhaps Sony wouldn’t have been able to get a toehold because the TurboDuo drowned out their sales?  Maybe Nintendo would have skipped past cartridge-based systems right into a disc-based system like the GameCube right away?

Who knows?

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 !

R-Type

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

 r-type-pc-engine-box

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

GraphicsAs close as possible to arcade perfect.

90%

SoundYour ears will thank you.

90%

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

93%

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

94%

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

93%

Doraemon Meikyu Daisakusen

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

RKS Score: 5/10

Devil’s Crush

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

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

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

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

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Devils Crush - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

Weird Games: Toilet Kids

toilet kids cover

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

toilet kids - gameplay

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

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

Air Zonk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RKS Score: 8/10

 

 

 

Exploring the SuperGrafx

PC Engine SuperGrafx

For anyone who grew up with an intense interest in gaming there were of course always some systems they liked and some they didn’t like, but I’m willing to bet there was also one which they were always intrigued by, one they wanted but probably never even got to see nevermind own. A system that seemed to take on an almost mythical aura of wonder and excitement. For me that system was the PC Engine SuperGrafx.

The original PC Engine was an amazing machine itself, like the Holy Grail to a videogame-obsessed teenager like myself. All the hype and excitement surrounding it in the pages of magazines like C&VG built it up and up – even my dad was impressed with it! But then reports started surfacing of a new, more powerful PC Engine. What could possibly be better than the amazing Engine? Well, as many of you may well know by now, it was not well received and few games were ever released for it, but even in spite of that it retained its mysterious and enticing aura in my mind and it has remained ever since. Until, that is, I attended the Replay gaming expo in Blackpool where I was excited to see this very console nestled menacingly between a standard Engine and and a NEC PC-FX. Finally I had been granted the opportunity to use a real SuperGrafx in the flesh (so to speak) and I seized it!

Whatever faults the SuperGrafx might’ve had, it’s always sad to see a console flop as dramatically as this one did and sadly, as a consequence of this, there were only ever five dedicated games released for the system, with a further two that worked on both the standard Engine as well as the SuperGrafx, benefiting from improved graphics on the latter. Here I’ll take a look at all five of the dedicated titles released for it:

Aldynes (1991)

Aldynes
Amusingly sub-titled ‘The Mission Code for Rage Crisis’, this is one of just three all-original games made specifically for the new system and to be honest, I can’t decide if it’s the best or the worst of them! It’s a pretty traditional side-viewed shmup set over various alien landscapes and through space with you in command of a small but formidable space fighter. There are of course numerous power-ups to be found including speed-ups and various fairly unoriginal but effective weapons, but there are also drone-type devices which seem to have a bit more sentience than most as they home in on and zap the enemies for you! It’s a good idea in theory but they do make the game rather easy (except the bosses – eek!). The graphics are pretty nice though – their style reminded me of an Amiga game to start with but there is some nice backgrounds and bosses and the music is good too. Aldynes is a decent horizontal-scroller but there’s better examples on the standard Engine.

Madouou Granzort (1990)

 

Granzort

Out of all the SG games, this is the one I knew least about prior to this feature and my instant first impressions of it weren’t too good. Predictably based on an anime series, Granzort itself is a giant robot warrior fighting to rid the world of invading monsters which, in the case of this game, results in a side-viewed run ‘n’ gun adventure. Granzort looked and moved a bit clunkily to start with, but after I’d played this for just a short while I soon realised it’s actually pretty sweet! As Granzort the player can switch between three different robot configurations, each with its own attacks which are more effective against certain enemies than others. The music is catchy and the graphics are really nice too, particularly the backgrounds. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that Granzort is a top-notch platform/combat game and I’ll definitely be playing this some more.

Battle Ace (1989)

 

BattleAce

This was the first SuperGrafx game I played (at Replay) and I was initially rather deflated. It certainly didn’t strike me as demonstrating a significant leap in graphical abilities but after playing it a for a while I started to rather enjoy it. It’s essentially a first-person take on After Burner and requires little further explanation beyond its slightly more futuristic setting. Your craft is equipped with cannons and heat-seeking missiles with which you must take out the many enemies that advance from the horizon. The music here is largely forgettable and the graphics aren’t particularly impressive, with somewhat sparse backgrounds and uninspiring sprites, but there are some nice weather effects and the chosen perspective allows for the inclusion of a useful HUD which helps make this a fairly enjoyable, if unoriginal into-the-screen shmup. Probably not as good as After Burner on the standard Engine though!

Daimakaimura a.k.a. Ghouls n’ Ghosts (1990)

GhoulsnGhosts
This was the SuperGrafx game the magazines mostly used screenshots of to tantalise us readers with and I can see why – it’s a cracking conversion of Capcom’s arcade classic. As most (old) gamers will already know, it’s a hard-as-nails platform shooter which sees you, as Sir Arthur the knight, battling hordes of undead creatures across many creepy locations in an effort to save your lover from the evil clutches of Lucifer. Frequently compared to the fantastic MegaDrive version, this SuperGrafx port very nearly succeeds in eclipsing it which, when you consider it’s still technically running on an 8-bit machine, is an amazing achievement! This is a superb port of a superb game and is every bit as playable as the best versions around.

1941: Counter Attack (1991)

1941
Yep, it’s another shoot ’em up! This time a conversion of the arcade game of the same name and latest in the 194x series of WWII-set vertical-scrollers from Capcom. Surprisingly this port for the SuperGrafx is the only official conversion the game received which is surprising given its quality. As you might expect, the game sees you taking on the entire enemy military single-handedly, this time using a P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft. You start with a pretty feeble forward-firing cannon and three ‘loops’ (smart bombs) but numerous power-ups are of course forthcoming. It’s a fast-paced game, with enemies zooming around all over the place and appearing from all sides of the screen so it’s pretty tough going in single player mode, especially considering how small many of the sprites are. Luckily there’s a nice two-player mode which helps. A hard but good shmup which ably demonstrates the SuperGrafx’s sprite-handling abilities!

The Verdict:
And there we have it – the entire back catalogue of the SuperGrafx! To be honest it’s hard to know what NEC were thinking when they decided to go ahead with this machine. The PC Engine was a big success in Japan, a moderate success in the US (which is good considering how little they promoted it), and highly sought after in Europe (where they stupidly never released it), and the Engine CD-ROM was going pretty well too, featuring many games that wouldn’t be possible on a standard Engine so, to a mere mortal like me, it would’ve seemed like a better idea to concentrate on that machine.

Admittedly, NEC’s vision was more grandiose to start with though. The SuperGrafx was originally intended to be a full 16-bit system dubbed the ‘PC Engine 2’ but somewhere along the line something happened and NEC got cold feet, scaled down their plans for the new machine, and released it earlier than expected as the SuperGrafx. Hardware improvements over the standard PC Engine ended up being negligible with the new system using the same CPU as its predecessor, benefiting only from additional RAM and a couple of extra chips.

I’d love to interview the heads of NEC around this time to find out exactly what they were hoping for with the SuperGrafx. Its games are all good and do look nice for the most part but there’s better examples of each of them on a standard Engine. The most baffling thing for me though is NEC’s decision to make the SuperGrafx another HuCard-based system. While it does allow the console to be backwards-compatible with Engine games, I can’t work out for the life of me why they didn’t make it a CD-based system, especially considering the Engine CD-ROM was well established by this point.

So, it wasn’t a success, and deservedly so to be honest. It had very few improvements over the popular PC Engine which already had hundreds of games available (not to mention a CD-ROM), and it had perhaps the smallest number of dedicated games of any console ever. It seems hard to see the console as anything other than a lesson by NEC in how to squander success and money, but in spite of this and everything else, I still can’t help but be entranced by it! Just look at it – has there ever been a cooler or meaner-looking console?

Energy

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

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

Energy - PC Engine - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

RKS Score: 4/10

Top Five PC Engine Shoot-em-ups

5. Image Fight (1990)

Image Fight - Gameplay Screenshot

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. It’s not the flashiest shooter ever – the graphics aren’t particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it’s possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

4. Magical Chase (1991)

Magical Chase - Gameplay Screenshot

For a long time an Engine exclusive, this horizontal-scroller is so charming it’s as if you’ve had a spell cast on you by the ‘Star Maiden’ protagonist of the game! It’s a horizontal-scroller in a similar vein to Cotton (which was released around the same time) which sees you in control of a witch complete with broomstick (but apparently no black cat) battling six demons and their bizarre minions across the six stages! A very strange but nonetheless compelling and highly playable little game which looks fabulous, has a fantastic soundtrack, and constantly beckons you to discover what lies around the next corner.

3. R-Type (1988)

R-Type - Gameplay Screenshot

Until the PlayStation came along, this remained the most faithful conversion of this eternally worshipped, all-time classic yet seen (Lord knows why it never appeared on the MD, come to think of it, that could’ve been a cracking version). Despite the fact that it was initially spread over two separately released Hu-Cards, it was still hard to fault it. The graphics and music are near- faultless and as close to arcade perfect as anyone could reasonably expect, and the timeless level design and gameplay is faithfully recreated. This was a God-send for the game’s many fans.

2. Gradius (1991)

Gradius - Gameplay Screenshot

As is the case with R-Type, this was arguably the best version of Gradius until the arrival of the 32-bit consoles, although the X68000 effort was also superb. While it’s true that the graphics are simplistic and do suffer from bouts of slowdown now and then, they are also beautifully defined and the twinkly, multi-coloured stars in the background are hypnotic! The remixed soundtrack here is fantastic too, and among my favourite shmup soundtracks on any system, but it’s the finely honed gameplay that keeps me coming back. Challenging it may be, but the difficulty curve is well pitched and there’s so many distinctive touches (including an extra level) it’ll take ages to see all it has to offer.

1. Gunhed (1989)

Gunhed - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s amazing to think that this was one of the first shmups released on the Engine. After all these years it’s still one of the finest vertical-scrollers I’ve played on any system. It’s true that there’s a vast number that I’ve still not played but that doesn’t detract from the sheer quality of this classic from Hudson. It eases you in with the gentle opening stage before gradually ramping up the intensity to sweaty-palms, edge-of-the-seat levels – this really is a game that oozes quality in every department. Given the Engine’s prowess with this genre, it’s possible I may encounter an even better shmup at some point but it’ll have to be something really special to beat this legendary game.

My Favourite Games – Part 4

Wow, these things take longer to write than I thought they would. And to think I was going to post all thirty in one go for my first post! I’m glad I decided to write just five a day (yes I know it hasn’t been every day!), hope you’re enjoying them (if anyone’s even reading this!)…

Galaga ’88 – PC Engine (1987)

Galaga 88 - PC Engine

I’ve always preferred this series of shooters to other games of the type such as Space Invaders. There are countless versions of Galaxians/Galaga/Gaplus, but few could argue that this PC Engine update isn’t the best. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say this is the Engine game I’ve spent most time playing ever! The fact that my good friend, Luke, gave me the HuCard for free certainly didn’t help matters – it’s addictive as hell! The graphics are hardly pushing the Engine hardware to its limits, but they are very appealing nonetheless. The sprites are well-defined and colourful, and there are now nice backgrounds too. The Challenging Stages from the original Galaga return here, beginning with an announcement of “That’s Galactic Dancin'”, and accompanied by some nice music! Anyway, nice presentation aside, it’s Galaga, you know what you’re getting. Simple, addictive fun. Right up my street!

Pang 3 – Playstation (1997)

Pang 3 – Playstation

I still find it pretty amazing that the Pang games weren’t more popular here in the UK. This third offering, released here on the PS1 as part of the Super Pang Collection, is my favourite of the series. The same basic gameplay is prevalent – that is, destroy the bouncing balloons by shooting them with a harpoon gun, splitting them into ever smaller pairs until they’re gone – but this time they’ve managed to tack on a story mode! You can choose between four characters – Don Tacos, Pink Leopard (my favourite), Captain Hog, and Sheila the Thief, each of whom fires a different type of harpoon, and also has an additional skill. Pink Leopard, for example, is able to go unhindered by the various enemies on each stage. It is then your job to journey around the world collecting various works of art by popping balloons! It’s a crazy game but it’s addictive and great fun!

LocoRoco – PSP (2006)

LocoRoco – PSP

I knew from the first moment I saw a screenshot of LocoRoco that I wanted to play it! I had no idea what sort of game it was, of course, but that didn’t matter. Just look at it! It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I finally got a PSP, having convinced a guy at work that his one wasn’t really worth much and I’d help him out by taking it off his hands! Hee hee! Anyway, the next thing I did was to trade in all the EA Sports crap that came with it, for LocoRoco. Finally it was mine! It was worth the wait too, what a crazy game! It’s basically just a collect ’em up set in the happiest, most colourful game world of all-time, but instead of controlling any characters, you simply tilt the landscape back or forth, rolling the spherical, singing LocoRoco’s around. It’s great fun, features some very imaginitive levels, including more secrets than I can count, and a highly amusing soundtrack is the cherry on the cake! If you want to play a funny, happy game for a change, instead of all the violent nonsense around these days, give it a try!

Tee Off – Dreamcast (2000)

Tee Off – Dreamcast

Yep, it’s another golf game! I do really enjoy these Japanese cartoony style ones, and this is one of my favourites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find them very relaxing and enjoyable, and perfect for the times when I don’t feel like dodging millions of bullets or making pixel-perfect jumps whilst fighting some evil monster. This one, by Bottom Up, is clearly based on Everybody’s Golf for the Playstation, but that’s no bad thing, and features five courses of varying difficulty – Japan, USA, Australia, Scotland, and South Africa. Each course has it’s own look too, and there are several characters to choose from, and various game modes to play through. Granted, there’s nothing terribly spectacular about this game but it suits me down to the ground!

Desert Strike – Mega Drive (1992)

Released a short while after the first Gulf War, it doesn’t take a genius to see where the inspiration for Desert Strike arose! However, regardless of its dubious genesis, surely even those most critical of its origins couldn’t fail to be impressed by such a splendid game! Far from being an all-out shooter, Desert Strike is a free-roaming isometric-viewed game with more than a smattering of strategy tucked into it’s rapid-fire cannons. Controlling a shiny new Apache Gunship chopper, you must complete a set number of missions per level. Some serve military ends, some political, but all must be completed before you have an opportunity to shove a Hellfire missile up “The Madman’s” bunghole (clearly based on Saddam). The sequels added a lot to the formula, not least more vehicles to control, but it’s this first game in the ‘Strike’ series that most gamers, myself included, still hold most dear.

That’s it for now! RKS is tired and will have some dinner before retiring for a while. Next five will be here soon, as well as the first in my ‘Top Five’ series that I’ve been ‘researching’ today… 😉

Chase HQ review

Chase HQ Title screen

Chase HQ (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,723,860 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Master System, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Before the days of polygons, it was pretty rare to find a decent driving game. Even in the arcades they were pretty rare. If you asked any gamers around my age to name their favourite, most would probably say OutRun, and with good reason – it was a revolutionary game that made a huge impact. There was a few other good examples from around that time as well though, and one was Chase HQ. This effort from the awesome Taito was clearly influenced by OutRun – what else wasn’t in the years after its release? – but it’s not just a shameless rip-off, no sir. Whilst the basic gameplay has shades of Sega’s classic, Taito also injected it with themes taken from some of the American buddy cop movies and TV shows which were so popular at the time. It sure sounds like a perfect combination but how does it stand up today?

Chase HQ screenshot

Taking on the role of police detective, Tony Gibson, it’s your job to pursue one dangerous criminal on each of the game’s five stages. They have all commandeered some sort of powerful sports car and are fleeing out of the unnamed city (which is probably LA), They have got a head-start too so you, along with your partner, Raymond Broady, need to move quickly to make up the lost ground. After a briefing from the lovely Nancy back at ‘Chase Headquarters’ you’ll get sixty seconds to catch up with each felon in your black Porsche 928 Turbo. Once you’ve reached him, you’ll get another sixty to smash his car up until they stop (they’re all men – women don’t commit crimes, remember)! Your ride is equipped with three helpful turbo boosts per stage/credit which can either be used to catch up with the ‘con’ quicker, or to smash into him more aggressively once you already have.

Chase HQ screenshot

You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of fun, but you may also have thought that it sounds rather short. Well, you’d be right on both counts, but the latter point is pretty much the only bad thing about the game. Rather than attempting to craft a longer lasting, more subtle kind of driving game, Taito have instead gone for an intense ten minute blast of a game. It’s not particularly difficult either but some replay value is added by the accumulative bonus you receive for passing each of the many civilian cars the roads are filled with without hitting them. Technically the game is a noticeable step up from OutRun too. The sprites are probably a little better and more varied and the game plays a bit faster, but the biggest improvement is in the stages themselves.

Chase HQ screenshot

Rather than sticking to one backdrop each, the backgrounds and scenery here change numerous times per stage and are pretty varied too. The courses are also much less flat than OutRun’s and each features a fork mid-way through with one route being longer than the other. The audio is also pretty half-decent. The music, whilst perfectable fine, could never hope to best Hiroshi Miyauchi’s immortal tunes, and the effects are okay too, but Chase HQ’s most noticeable addition is the speech. Your partner is pretty vocal throughout the game, willing you to drive faster and getting excited once battle commences, and good old Nancy has a fair bit to say for herself, both during the briefings and over the police radio during the game too.

Chase HQ screenshot

Such is the glorification of crime and violence these days, I’m confident that if this game was released today you would play the role of the criminal, most likely with the object not only to escape from the pursuing police officers but to kill them too, and bonus points scored for killing civilians too, or some such nonsense. As it is though, this is very much a ‘good guys sim’ and remains one of the most memorable cop games released. The combination of OutRun and cop film was a superb idea for a game and makes this play very differently to the former. It also creates a fantastic atmosphere and makes it a different enough game to stand proudly next to OutRun instead of in its shadow. It won’t take you long to see all Chase HQ has to offer but it’s such a fast, exciting rush of a game, you’ll be back time and time again. A genuine classic.

RKS Score: 9/10

Dragon Egg

DRAGON EGG - Title ScreenDragon Egg! (1991)

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

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

DRAGON EGG - Gameplay Screenshot 1

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

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

DRAGON EGG - Gameplay Screenshot 3

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

RKS Score: 7/10