BlazeOn

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Released by Atlus Co Ltd in 1992 this Japanese space shooter might look a little familiar when you first start off. Honestly, at first I thought I was playing a bootleg copy of R-type, but as the game continues on you find enough differences to move it out of the bootleg category and into the standard space shooter category.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Now don’t get me wrong if you love these types of games then you’ll understand there is only so much you can do, but the key question becomes, is the gameplay fun. In BlazeOn you fight one against an army of enemies and like R-type you are not always in free open space. You end up traveling inside enemy bases and end up fighting a boss at the end.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

When you start off your ship has two attacks, your main blaster and a missile that fires straight ahead at enemies. After a while you will encounter some enemies that when you kill them they will leave an outline of themselves and when you fly into it you morph into your own version of that enemy.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Now you have access to their abilities which gives you an even bigger upper hand on the enemy. Some of the enemies you can morph into have a special attack with limited charges while others are specialized for certain conditions like fighting inside the base and shooting at turrets and such.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Like most space shooters the idea is not to get overwhelmed, especially when in a base when you have enemies flying at you while turrets and other defenses are trying to take you out. Obviously the key is to be in an upgraded ship when you get to a boss so you can take it out quicker.

Overall the game is fun, you have you basic controls and decent fight music including individual scores for the boss fights. The game can get frustrating at times as some of the enemies you morph into are not especially useful when you get them. Again, twitch factor is the key to avoid being killed quickly like I am in the video.

Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part 2

TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part

Here are what I consider the next Top 10 HuCard (in no particular order) games for this forgotten system.  Remember (!): no CD Games, and only North American releases.

Air Zonk

Air Zonk
Once you get past the fact that Hudson Soft used a futuristic Bonk as the pivotal character in this game, you’ll find it a challenging shooter. Humorous sci-fi updates to Bonk’s various power-ups and their effects, such as the glass-encapsulated meat and the ability to call in one of Zonk’s friends to help shoot down the Bosses, keep Zonk’s airborne adventures from becoming just another Bonk’s Adventure game.

Bloody Wolf

Bloody Wolf
Have you ever noticed that the President of the United States gets kidnapped a lot in the video game world? He’s been kidnapped again in Bloody Wolf, along with a truckload of other hostages, all of which you have to rescue. A sound track that drives the action, plenty of enemies to dispatch with a good assortment of weapons, and a variety of level designs make this game a must-have T16 arcade experience!

Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon

Dungeons & Dragons Order of the Griffon
It’s a D&D RPG on the T16! Based on the Dungeons & Dragons rules – not the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules – this game was designed by Westwood Associates, before they became the gaming giant Westwood Studios. It is very similar to the Gold Box series by SSI: pick a party of four pre-generated characters, and off you go adventuring. Strategic thinking is required to survive the many encounters, as well as while constructing your party. Saving your game frequently is wise!

Final Lap Twin

Final Lap Twin
What’s more fun than racing behind the wheel of a Formula One race car? How about racing your buddy with the screen split in two, one half for each player? And if you don’t have any friends that want to race you, then you could also play in RPG mode, searching for challenges to face in your quest to become a World Champion racer!

Galaga ’90

Galaga ’90
Colorful animations, jaunty tunes and endless waves of alien ships are just a few of the things I liked about Galaga ’90. The ability to gain a triple ship almost immediately by temporarily sacrificing one of my precious single ships and relying on the alien capture teams and my sharpshooting skills is another. Now that is Galactic Dancing.

Klax

Klax
There’s something to be said for Tetris clones that don’t play anything like Tetris. This is a marvelous puzzle game that requires quick-thinking and even quicker reflexes as you attempt to sort the oncoming conveyor belt blocks by color into rows, stacks, and diagonals. The applause from the crowd and the onomatopoeia  from the obviously impressed female announcer make it all worthwhile.

Parasol Stars

Parasol Stars
There are two things you need to know right away about this game. First, a parasol is a sun umbrella, from the Latin verb “parere” (“to ward off”) and the noun “sol” (“sun” ). They’re often colorful and decorative, and not for heavy rain. Second, this game is part three of the Bubble Bobble trilogy, so you can expect the same kind of colorfully bright graphics and weird gameplay. So when I tell you that you use your parasol to capture and toss objects around to score points and capture power-ups, you won’t immediately re-read the sentence for clarity. Did I mention it’s bright and colorful? Because it is…relentlessly so!

R-Type

R-Type
There are some people who believe R-Type is the best arcade shooter ever devised, and though I am not one of those people, I can see their case.  The graphics are reminiscent of H.R. Giger’s work, and some of the power-ups are unique, such as the Power Pod, which can be detached to attack enemies or attached to your ship to fend off attackers. The game can be very challenging, even with the robot help, so be prepared to be faced with an equal mixture of joy and frustration when playing R-Type!

Raiden

Raiden
Another in a long series of arcade shooters that put you at the controls of an advanced fighter facing off against hordes of alien invaders, Raiden distinguished itself from its competition with superb graphics (including a wide variety of background screens), well-thought-out power-ups, and vertical scrolling gameplay that progressively became more difficult until it reached diabolical levels. The game was translated into seven different gaming platforms, but the TurboGrafx version is the best!

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier
Do you want to play a vertical shooter that is relentlessly challenging? One that boasts outstanding graphics and a wide array of weapons, all programmed onto a standard huCard? Well do I have a game for you!  Besides having some of the best weapon choices ever to grace the TurboGrafx-16, this game also does not clip when the enemies fill the screen and the action is at its most intense, making Super Star Soldier one of the best arcade shooters to ever show the T16′s capabilities!

Honorable mentionLegendary Axe II

Legendary Axe II
Now this game should probably be on the first Top Ten list as part of the Legendary Axe series, but since I didn’t remember to put it there, I’m exercising executive authority to put it on this list. Legendary Axe was a fantastic game, but its sequel (imaginatively entitled Legendary Axe II) was even better. More creatures to fight, better levels to navigate, better atmosphere overall…this was and is an amazing game that showcased what the TurboGrafx-16 could offer gamers. It could stand up against many of today’s graphic extravaganzas and easily win on gameplay alone!

Have a different Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 list?  Leave a comment with your favorites – and don’t forget to say why!

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 !

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams

cotton - fantastic night dreams

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams

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

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

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%

R-Type available today for Android devices

r-type

Fans of classic space shooters rejoice because R-Type is coming to your Android phone starting today from DotEmu.

Pilot the R-9a Arrowhead, the last hope of human race in its war against alien invader! Your mission is clear but not so easy: blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!

Initially developed and published by Irem in 1987, R-Type has become an essential game on arcade cabinet, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and PC. Today this masterpiece is ported and published for Android devices by DotEmu SAS.

R-Type for Android is a real diving in your youth and will include all the features you enjoyed in the original game:

  • A large amount of items and powers-up to collect through various and sharpened sets.
  • Strong enemies and bosses at the end of each level (8 altogether).
  • The famous « charge shot » for more power!
  • Share your results with your friends with OpenFeint!

R-Type for Android will come along two difficulty modes and a new intuitive control system – full touch mode – to directly control your spaceship. Get your hand on a real blast from the past and (re)discover all the hype from the 80’s!

R-Type for Android is compatible with devices running on OS 2.1+ and with a screen resolution of 480×320 HVGA or above. Supported devices will include Samsung Galaxy S / Google Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.

Also great news for fans, R-Type Android is officially Xperia PLAY optimized providing the best user experience!

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMlrLbxywGU[/youtube]

R-Type Android is now available for $2.99
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dotemu.rtype
And soon for Amazon Appstore.

Top Five Master System Shoot-em-ups

Shoot ’em ups have long been one of my favourite genres and one that I probably own most examples of. The fact that my recent ‘Top Five MegaDrive Shmups‘ post has been my most popular yet indicates I’m not alone! I also seem to have sparked a craze for compiling shmup lists, with all and sundry now apparently listing their own favourites, including my friend Graeme (Jdanddiet) here! So, continuing the theme, I thought I’d return to my first console, and here’s my choices:

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!

5. Cloud Master (1989)

Cloud Master
I never really had much interest in this one due to the average scores it seemed to get in reviews, but when I actually played it, I discovered that I (at least) really liked it! One of the reasons for this could be the highly varied and imaginative enemies, which seem to be straight out the Fantasy Zone school of weirdness, but it’s got nice graphics, including some fantastic sprites and it’s just really enjoyable to play too.

4. Astro Warrior (1986)

Astro Warrior
I think this was originally a pack-in game on a combi-cartridge with Hang-On or Pit Pot. It did get a standalone release as well though, and it deserved it – it’s a cracking little game! It reminds me of a kind of cross between Cresta’s Moon and Terra and the power-ups increase the size of your ship a bit like those games too. I love these early space-based shooters and Astro Warrior is a great example. It might be a bit
short but it’s great fun while it lasts.

3. Fantasy Zone 2 (1987)

Fantasy Zone 2
Yes, the first game is a top blaster but this sequel just does everything a little bit better in my view. I’m pretty sure it was the first Fantasy Zone game I played too. Happily, the hyper-cute enemies and super-colourful backdrops from the first game return and if anything, they’re even more garish here! In fact, the whole game concept is mostly unchanged. But hey, it’s all part of the charm of playing a Fantasy Zone game, huh? Simple, addictive, and very challenging.

2. R-Type (1987)

R-Type
Many people’s bet for number one, I’m sure! Few shooters have become as iconic or proved as influential as this one, and this conversion of Irem’s all-time great is an outstanding one for sure. It has a few issues such as some sprite flicker but I don’t think anyone could really have expected any more from the humble Master System and they even found the space to cram in an extra level here too!

1. Power Strike (1988)

Power Strike
Perhaps better know as Aleste to some, this was one of the first games I got for my Master System and I’ve still got it now! It really is a technical marvel too – there can be dozens of sprites on the screen at once and there’s no slowdown or flicker, and it has very fast scrolling at time. Graphical achievements aside, this is a top-notch vertical scroller and still one of the best I’ve played. In fact, one of the only ones I’ve played that’s better is another game in the series on the SNES! Gorgeous, loud, challenging, and addictive – what more could you ask?

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.

Kino One Review

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

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

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot 1

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

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

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Super R-Type

Super R Type Gameplay Screenshot

One of my favorite shmups back in the 90s and especially during the console wars of the SNES-Genesis was Super R-Type. I remember going to my friend’s house just to play this game and had a blast with it. It’s just one of those games that would leave me breathless. This game at least for the most part always keeps me wanting come for more. I’m glad I was able to find this game once again. I don’t have to keep bothering my friend anymore to play it although I stopped doing that over ten years ago. Anyways, the gameplay is your solid shmup gameplay that involves a lot of shooting and a lot of power ups. The game of course increases in difficulty as you get to the later levels so take the first couple levels as training.

Super R Type Gameplay Screenshot

The game is also really great graphically and a must have for any shmups fanatic! The game can get quite challenging so if you are looking for a good challenge on shooting form, don’t hesitate to try this one out. Like any game, you can master this one with practice. Some of you may need a lot of practice while others not much at all especially gamers that are used to these kind of games.

Overall, this is one of those games that brings back memories of my childhood. It’s always great to have games like these. I’m sure many of you have sentimental games that’ll give you a flashback of your youth. In this case, I always remember taking the controller away from my friend so that I would play it only to loose five seconds later. Let us keep those memories alive forever. Until next week!

Top Five SNES Shoot em ups

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 SNES shmups in my upcoming features 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!)

Macross Scrambled Valkyrie - gameplay screenshot

5. Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie (1993)

I didn’t discover this one until fairly recently as it was only released in Japan but I was certainly glad I did find it! It’s based on an older anime and as such you can choose between three characters, each of whom has their own variation of the ‘Valkyrie’ fighter with unique weapons, all of which can be upgraded. The ships have an energy meter rather than lives and they can also switch between three different forms at will too, each of which is more useful in certain situations than others, as you might expect. There’s a good few other nice features here too (including enemies with tractor beams – grrr!) and that, combined with the superb graphics and decent soundtrack, makes this a pretty damn fine shmup. It would be higher on the list if only it wasn’t so bloody difficult though!

Pop n Twin Bee - Gameplay Screenshot

4. Pop’n’ TwinBee (1993)

There had to be a ‘cute em up’ on the list somewhere and this is surely the finest on the SNES! Indeed, although there had already been numerous games in the TwinBee series, this was the first one to be deemed worthy of a release outside of Japan. It’s the easiest game in this list by far too, which makes it a nice break for one thing, and it’s certainly a rather unique game too. Either one or two players can play at once piloting the strange creatures, TwinBee and WinBee, through the unusual stages filled with both airborne and ground-based enemies including all sorts of oddities. It’s probably not the most technically proficient game here but the backgrounds and sprites are beautifully drawn making it the nicest to look at anyway, in my opinion, and the music is fantastic too. This definitely won’t be your thing if you dislike cute games but for everyone else it’s a superbly entertaining and original game.

R-Type 3 - Gameplay Screenshot

3. R-Type 3 (1994)

Despite its name, this is actually the sixth game in the great R-Type series and for many people the best. It would be nearly impossible for it to have anywhere near the impact of the first title but it adds a lot to the existing games. Not least is the ability to choose from three different Forces, each with its own weapons, and it must also surely rank as the finest shmup on the SNES, graphically. It features none of the slowdown that blighted the otherwise awesome Super R-Type but adds bigger sprites, some fantastic backgrounds, and superb bosses. The levels, too, are pretty creative with not only the usual kinds of enemies but also all manner of moving scenery which actually causes more problems than the enemies do. Indeed, this is a notoriously tough game and one that I’ve never managed to finish but I’ve sure enjoyed trying!

Axelay - Gameplay Screenshot

2. Axelay (1992)

Konami unleashed this amazing game pretty much out of the blue and it took SNES owners by storm, myself included! There could be many reasons for this including the graphics which are at worst good, and at best jaw-dropping, or the fantastic soundtrack, but it must surely be the innovative and varied stage design that clinched it – there’s a few new ideas here which work really well. For starters the game alternates between vertically and horizontally-scrolling stages. The former makes use of a pseudo-3D viewpoint combined with Mode 7 graphics to create an amazing scrolling landscape effect and the latter is packed full of moving scenery, barriers, and lots of crafty enemies that try to halt your advance in any way possible! Axelay hasn’t aged at all and remains a superb and varied shmup that still commands a strong following today. Just one question… Why no sequel?

Super Aleste - Gameplay Screenshot

1. Super Aleste (1992)

Some may disagree with me but I still think this is one of the best vertical-scrollers of all time, and certainly the best shmup for the SNES generally, and the reason for this is simple – there’s pretty much nothing about it that isn’t awesome! The graphics may not be quite as flashy as some other shmups but they’re still superb, detailed, and varied. The second stage in particular is noteworthy, featuring a distant enemy base that gradually gets closer and closer (using some splendid Mode 7, of course), all the while firing missiles at you from afar, until if finally gets close enough for you to shoot up! The sound is also fantastic too, with some great music, speech, and some very bassy explosions. There’s also eight varied and customisable weapons which can all be powered-up, twelve long, well-designed stages, but best of all it has the most perfectly-pitched difficulty curve of any shmup I’ve played. A truly awesome shooter.

Chronos

Chronos (1987)
By: Mastertronic Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 36,950
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC

Chronos title

Back in gaming’s distant past, a phenomenon known as budget games was born. Budget games were something that, until Sony came along and introduced their ‘Platinum’ range of older titles, had never graced the console market – they were restricted to the now-classic home computers of the day. They were at their most successful during the days of the battle for 8-bit computer supremacy and, at this time, they usually cost £1.99 or £2.99. They included, either top-selling titles which had been on release at full price for a while already (much like the Platinum range), or they were original but often somewhat limited games whose developers felt wouldn’t shift many units at full price, and thus released them for a knock-down price. Some budget games were indeed substandard, or even mind-numbingly crap, but there were also many better than average, or even awesome titles available too. Chronos was among these.

Chronos screenshot

Even in its day, Chronos was one of the most basic shoot ’em ups seen for years. It’s a horizontally scrolling affair spread over six fairly long levels. It features no power-ups, very basic and repetitive enemies, and little else. It should be complete crap, but for reasons I find myself completely unable to explain, it’s not! The first level features two kinds of enemies. The first are flying aircraft things which fly in a straight line and explode, either when you shoot them or when they hit part of the scenery. The second kind is a simple sphere which does much the same thing, but doesn’t move as quickly. The level is over when you reach the ‘Chronos Zone End’ marker, at which point the next level begins and the monochrome graphics change colour. Each new level brings with it a new kind of enemy. Level two for instance, sees the introduction of the ‘tumbling’ squares. These erratic fiends are much harder to avoid or shoot due to their unpredictable flight path and they often seem to lie in wait, popping up at the most inconvenient moments! All the enemies seem to appear randomly too, and often in or from rather strange parts of the levels.

Chronos screenshotThe levels themselves are quite interesting. They feature an abundance of scenery – some of it along the top and bottom of the screen, as is standard, some of it simply floating in the middle of the screen, and much of it pretty sizeable and arranged in such a way that you’re rarely able to fly along in a straight line. At a few points it even offers two different routes, but one of them generally ends in a dead-end! Amusingly, many parts of the scenery also display various non-game-related messages, presumably as a result of the programmer larking around while writing it! This doesn’t represent the extent of the levels’ features either. The first of the obstacles you’ll encounter are segmented barriers, which can be destroyed a section at a time by shooting them. They are numerous and appear in all sorts of locations – sometimes they are only one or two sections high inside a tunnel or small gap in the scenery, other times they appear screen high (on the rare occasion that’s possible). They are replaced by honeycomb-like barriers in later levels too, which effectively do the same thing. There are also energy barriers which span the distance between the top and bottom of the scenery. These are taken out by shooting them at the top or bottom which disables the beam. A more aggressive feature, which can be found increasingly frequently as the game wears on, are the gun emplacements. They are usually found near the bottom of the screen and shoot directly upwards. Just about the only other feature of note is the bonus letters which appear every now and then. They gradually spell out B-O-N-U-S (what else) and give you extra points.

Chronos screenshot

There’s not a lot more to it that that. Chronos is a basic shooter to say the least, but it unquestionably has a certain something. But what is the hook? One of the most appealing things about it is its appearance. Each level is presented in a monochrome style – one colour for the space background, which is littered with stars moving at different speeds, and the other colour for everything else. The first level features a black background with yellow scenery and sprites for instance. While technically far from the pinnacle of Spectrum achievements, Chronos’ graphics are very neat and suit the game well. The only bad point here is the somewhat jerky scrolling. Like many Speccy games, the sound is far less impressive, however. The only tune in the game is present on the title screen and during play there are all of three sound effects – your ship’s shooting noise, explosions, and when you collect the bonus letters.

Chronos screenshotAs far as the gameplay is concerned Chronos should be a bit of a stinker, but for some reason it’s not. I’m not sure why this is but I’ve always enjoyed playing it, from right back in 1987 when I first got it up until this very day. I think at least part of this is down to the highly imaginitive scenery. Shooting the aliens almost takes a back-seat at times to navigating your way around the screen, down tunnels, and taking out or avoiding obstructions – the game always keeps you on your toes. The six levels won’t challenge you forever and I’ve finished this game several times, but it’s a good game to return to due to its high-score potential. There are a fair few enemies on the screen at any time and you can’t cover the entire screen the whole time. Therefore, if you can’t destroy all of them, the possibility to improve your score will always exist, as there are always points missed.

Chronos screenshot

When you see Chronos in action for the first time, you’d know it’s a budget game. It doesn’t have the ‘presence’ of a full-price title, but the truth is I’ve spent far more time playing this than I have almost all other Speccy shooters, full-price or otherwise. But at the same time, it would be slightly unjust to give this game a huge score, due mainly to the existence of far more polished Spectrum shooters such as R-Type, Side Arms, Salamander, and Flying Shark. The mere mention of those titanic games should see this game immediately fade into obscurity, but for some reason I can’t stop myself from liking this cheap and cheerful, but highly enjoyable little game.

RKS Score: 8/10

On a footnote, such is the love for Chronos, there’s a decent PC remake available. Download it from the excellent World of Spectrum remakes page, here.

Turbo-Grafx 16

TurboGrafx 16
TurboGrafx 16

Turbo-Grafx 16

If you owned a Turbo0Grafx 16 you were either loved because you had one or hated because you had one. During the early console wars of the late 80’s the TG16 came on the scene. Released in 1989 by NEC the Turbo-Grafx 16 featured an 8-bit CPU and a dual 16-bit CPU. What this mean was it could display more colors than the NES however, the TG16 definitely had its problems.

First off was the cost, at a whopping $399 (CD version) the price was out of the range of those looking for a console system. In addition the TG16 launched with limited titles and only offered one controller. (You had to pay for a Turbo Tap to add more controllers) In Japan sales went well, but in the U.S. and Europe the TG 16 lagged greatly behind the NES and Sega Genesis.

To be fair one of the reasons there were a lack of third party software releases for the Turbo-Grafx 16 was due to Nintendo anti-competitive practices which pulled tricks like requiring exclusive contracts and other tactics making it hard for third party software developers to release titles for both or all three systems.

With that said if you asked anyone who owned a TG16 what they thought of it they would tell you it was the best system out there. With games such as Bonks Adventure, Chase H.Q., R-Type and my personal favorite, Ninja Spirit those willing to spend the cash did have some pretty awesome titles to show off.