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I must admit that when I first came to review this game, I failed to see why I had such fonds memories of it in the first place. That was until I hit stage 2 and enter Skull Land! From here the game picks up its pace a bit.
Like many other platformers of its time, the objective of Psycho Fox is to save a world that has been thrown into turmoil by some evil tyrant. In this case the tyrant is known as Madfox Daimyojin. With Bird Fly perched on his shoulder, Psycho Fox must trek through seven bizarre stages, each with their own stage boss, before encountering his nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin. Who is Bird Fly you may ask? Bird Fly is Psycho’s trusty sidekick that can fly out from his shoulder to defeat enemy creatures. Bird Fly also acts a shield because while perched on Psycho’s shoulder, he can take one hit without dying…however you will lose your feathered friend.
One of the coolest features of this game is Psycho’s ability to morph between fox, monkey, hippo, and tiger. However this is reliant that you have obtained a “Psycho Stick”, which can be found hidden away in the eggs that are scattered throughout the rounds or by killing an enemy creature. Of course each transformation has its strengths and weaknesses. Fox is the original form of Psycho Fox and his abilities such as walking, acceleration, punching power etc are standard. The hippo has tremendous punching power with the ability to break bricks. This allows you to enter some sealed off areas, but ultimately his weight will let you down. Monkey is known for his high jumping ability, while Tiger is a bit of an athlete who excels in running and long jumping.
Another feature is the end of round lottery bonus game known as “Amida” To play this game you must acquire at least one money bag during the round…one bet per money bag. Psycho Fox places a bet on a pathway that he then travels along, before receiving the prize at the end of the pathway. Prizes include extra lives, psycho sticks, straw effigies, and magic medicine.
Or if you’re unlucky like me, you might get the booby prize.
My favorite part of the game is defeating the stage 2 boss. A fly of epic proportions, brain visible through his transparent shell, Psycho must douse his opponent with fly spray by jumping on the nozzle of the can provided!
The game takes you through a number of landscapes including desert, sky, wind tunnels, and underground caverns, before you meet your nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin. In addition there are various hazardous implements you must avoid including disappearing bridges, slippery slopes, and needle-studded floors and ceilings.
Victory was mine and boy was it sweet!
One of the bonuses of this game is that once all your lives are depleted, there is an unlimited “continue” function enabling you to return to both the stage and round you left off.
However, my main frustration with Psycho Fox is the lack of a “checkpoint”. If you happen to die, you must begin from the very start of the round. This is very frustrating if you happen to die whilst battling a stage boss! Another criticism is that Psycho Fox moves a little too slow for my liking. This means that if you get to close to an enemy, and are not in a position to throw a punch, it is difficult to move away in time. It is also hard to jump distances if you don’t have a bit of speed behind you.
By the time the credits had rolled I felt like it was ME going psycho, possibly because I had died at least 100 times! But despite my frustration Psycho Fox is a great little platformer. It features some neat realistic sound effects, for example when Psycho cracks open an egg with his fist. The soundtrack is great albeit a little repetitive, and the game is rolled up in a bright little package. The biggest plus it gets from me is the interesting modes of defeating the stage bosses it employs.
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Not much can be found on the internet about this game, except that it was developed by Opera House in 1991, famous for porting to home consoles from Arcades like Midnight Resistance, Rastan Saga 2, and Captain America and the Avengers. Those games were somewhat decent at least. ~David Kudrev
The SEGA Master System 2 was the first home console I’ve had. It was a new experience in gaming for me as I was used to the arcades and Game & Watch games prior. I still don’t remember why we went for the Master System over the NES at the time. Might be the cost factor, as I did enjoy the games on the NES at the department stores when trying out which home console to go for. Although one thing about the Master System, was even though it had a large library of games, a lot of them were quite bad. This is one of the worst. Enter Running Battle.
Not much can be found on the internet about this game, except that it was developed by Opera House in 1991, famous for porting to home consoles from Arcades like Midnight Resistance, Rastan Saga 2, and Captain America and the Avengers. Those games were somewhat decent at least..
So the storyline in short: The Dark Zone, which is the name of your town, has been taken over by gangs and crooks, you play as Detective Gray, a cop who’s partner was gunned down by said crooks, and you’re avenging the death of him by plummeting yourself into 5 levels of fighting through monotony and cardboard cut-out characters to defeat “M”, the big boss of said town.
Okay, first off, the graphics are what you’d expect from a game on the Master System. Simple, yet effective for the given hardware there (granted I’ve seen decent graphics pulled off nicely on a Master System, I mean look at Sonic Chaos for example, or Fantasy Zone even! They’re very colorful games, Running Battle tends to go for blander colors.
The music in this game is the only thing that shines, when I first hired the game in 1991 and sat there playing it. The music was what stood out. Oh sure forget that this game has horrible animation in the characters, kind of like waddling a piece of cardboard across the screen, except cardboard doesn’t flicker/disappear when moving..
Forget that the collision detection in this game is beyond arse.. as in you can’t even get close enough to the thugs with your fists or kicks. Thankfully you do get some power-ups, like a pistol, rifle, super strength (one hit and the thugs are dead.. if you get close enough to hit them), and then there’s 5-second invincibility.
And forget the storyline and character development, you just fight 5 bosses, defeat the end boss and then greeted to a one-screen, one sentence, one picture end sequence.
I honestly don’t know what happened when this game was developed, whether it was meant to be a tax write-off? There were some great titles in that time on the Master System (Sonic 1, Asterix, Strider, Castle of Illusion) as well as it’s other competitive consoles (Battletoads and Star Wars on the NES).
If you see this game in the stores, grab it for the music. But don’t expect anything to pull you in and keep you playing for hours on end..
1.5 out of 5
– A great party game to piss friends off with
– Graphics and animations are bland (and at the time other games did better)
– Controls are way too hit-and-miss
– Not much in the way of story
Format- Master System
Genre- 2D scrapathon
Kung Fu Kid
This game reminds me of The Ninja on the Master System – in both a good and bad way.
Many Sega produced titles for the Master System were very odd indeed, and Kung Fu Kid is no exception. Their games for the system weren’t particularly polished and had several odd touches in them. They weren’t broken in any fundamental sense, but felt as if they were at times.
Take the first stage for instance. There are three ways it can go. The first time you play it, you’ll get your ass kicked. Angry men and leaping dolls (see, there’s the ‘odd’ touches I was talking about) storm across the screen at you from both directions.
You’re armed with a kick and a large jump, but you’ll most likely get your rump served up to you on a plate, confused at how to survive such an onslaught.
The second way is probably the way the developer envisioned you progressing. Inching your way to the right, you kick away foes (these ones only take one hit – small mercies), and try your hardest to avoid being hit. You have to build up a rhythm of move, kick, move kick to survive. Then, the boss.
The best way to beat the level though? Jumping. Leaping over the enemies is incredibly easy, and you’ll find yourself at the end of the stage in no time.
Best of all, the fast moving dudes can’t get to you if you use this method, as they get stuck behind the jumping dolls, leaving you to stroll away unchallenged. Slightly broken design at its finest.
The first boss battle, an old wise warrior (that’s what he looks like anyway), is not so easy though, and you have to have a bit of luck to beat him.
Levels get a bit harder, but in every one the same mantra of jump, jump, jump remains. Kung Fu Kid? More like Jumpy Boundy Boy.
Bosses however, generally get easier. Once you recognize their attack patterns you can open up a whole can of whupass on them.
One of the main reasons to stick with the game is to see what weird enemy the game will throw at you next. Tiny lobsters, zombies and what look like tin soldiers all stand in your way – i’m not sure why Sega though these enemies would fit into kung-fu game, but they’ve been shoehorned in nonetheless.
One enemy, that first appears in the third level though, is particularly worth seeing. Frogs. Tiny, cute green little frogs. Now don’t get me wrong, as I kid I didn’t put firecrackers into frogs and watch them go boom – like my Dad admitted he did – but the amphibian cruelty in this game had me in stitches.
About halfway through the third stage a small frog comes a-leaping at you. As with any enemy, you prepare to unleash a kick. But unlike the other enemies, which are knocked back a little and destroyed when hit, when you kick a frog they fly like a missile across the screen, taking out any other enemies that appear in their path. It is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.
Even better for those with a vendetta against frogs, the end boss for that stage is a huge version of the small green amphibians. It’s a spectacularly easy boss fight in fact – just barrage him with consecutive kicks right to his huge froggy nads and he’ll fall down like a pack of cards. Simple.
It’s in the fifth stage of the game where things get much tougher. Your jumping tactics aren’t as effective here, and you’ll probably end up taking on the boss with a weakened health bar.
Still, the game is never really unfairly difficult, and you can usually work your way through all seven stages if you’re patient enough.
What else is there to say about Kung Fu Kid? It’s weird, very weird indeed, but that’s undoubtedly part of its charm. Pick this one up if you see it abandoned at a car boot – and endless frog flying hilarity will be yours to cherish forever.
By: Tatsunoko Productions Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing
I think it must be an indication of my gaming preferences and heritage that I’ve seldom been able to ‘get’ some of the most popular computer games that were doing the rounds during the 80’s. A great example of that is Impossible Mission – a supremely popular game, mainly on the C64 which I never owned admittedly, but I did later buy a copy of it for Sega’s splendid Master System. I found it an enjoyable, though very difficult game, but the puzzle elements caused me great confusion and in the end I’m ashamed to say I gave up on it. If only there was a similar game but with less puzzley puzzle bits… Before long I discovered that there was – Zillion – an unusual title even now in that it isn’t an arcade conversion and is exclusive to the MS which meant that not many people had the opportunity to play it. In the opposite scenario to which I usually find myself, however, I did have such an opportunity and I enthusiastically took advantage of it.
Like many Japanese games, this one is based on an anime series, albeit a shortish and relatively unknown one, even in Japan. Both the anime and the game star a fellow called JJ who is a member of the medieval-sounding White Knights, a peacekeeping force who are out to destroy the evil Noza Empire’s base which is located on the 50’s sci-fi-sounding ‘Planet X’. At the start of the game, the White Knight’s mothership has just landed on Planet X leaving JJ to infiltrate the underground base, rescue two captured comrades, and set the base’s mainframe computer to self-destruct. Sounds simple enough! After a short jog across the planet’s surface, JJ descends into the complex via a mysteriously-unguarded lift. From here he can make his way anywhere he wants really. The lift shaft and corridors lead to numerous rooms, each a single-screen in size. These usually contain various traps, some capsules, a computer terminal, and often a door to another similar room which will be locked.
JJ is less agile than the C64’s most famous secret agent but he can still jump around about the place (surprisingly high, too) and can also crawl along the ground. He packs a gun, too, which is used for destroying the sadly-infinite enemy guards who are found in pretty much every location – the planet’s surface, the lift corridors, and many (though not all) of the rooms themselves. Contact with their shots (though not the enemies themselves), or some of traps in the rooms, depletes JJ’s energy reserves, although he can get a ‘top up’ at any time by returning to the mothership. The gun is also needed for breaking open the capsules which contain power-up items including more energy, more powerful guns, goggles (which allow you to see some of the otherwise-invisible traps), ID cards (which are needed to access the computer terminals), and floppy disks which are needed to access the main computer.
More commonly found in the capsules, however, are code symbols. Each door has a four-symbol code but capsules only contain one so you need to bust open four in any given room, remember (or write down) the symbols, then re-enter them at the computer terminal. These capsules are, unsurprisingly, often protected by guards or traps which include energy-sapping barriers, conveyor-belt sections of floor, automated guns, mines, or trip-wires which trigger an influx of guards. The traps can all be turned off by entering a simple code in the terminals although, unlike entering door codes, you won’t get your ID card back so it’s best to work around the traps if possible. JJ is reasonable for this but, splendidly, you can also control your two kidnapped comrades once you’re rescued them. They include the awesomely-named Apple, a girlie who is predictably more agile than JJ and can jump higher but also takes more damage, and Champ, a bulky fellow who shrugs off enemy fire more easily than the other two but can’t leap around so well.
These two idiots also have their own energy reserves, so once you’ve rescued them you then basically have three lots of energy to get through the game with. Well, I suppose technically you have infinite energy if you can be bothered to go all the way back to the mothership every time you’re running low, but either way it makes Zillion a much easier and more accessible game than Impossible Mission, for me at least. That said, it can occasionally be rather unfair, as with the ‘unavoidable death loop’ I encountered. Contact with enemies or their fire knocks JJ (or whoever) backwards, you see, so if enemies are present very close to the point you enter one room and leave another, you can end up getting knocked backwards and forwards between them until you die. Boo hoo! Still, it only happened the once so far and the rest of the game is fairly accommodating despite some slightly iffy controls, mainly regarding the characters’ jumping abilities. Practise makes perfect though, although don’t expect to be able to play though the game quicker on subsequent runs – the door codes are randomly generated each time you play!
The presentation is of a high standard throughout the game and includes a few cut-scenes (including some girlie on the mothership crying if you die – unrequited love?) and the in-game graphics are quite good too. The sprites look a little weird to be honest (it looks like JJ has a blue face for one thing) and the way they shuffle along the ground is quite amusing. There’s a bit of flicker amongst the enemies when two or more are close together too, but there’s been a bit of effort to keep the nicely-detailed backgrounds a little more varied than I had expected. The audio is also good – there’s only one main tune but it’s a catchy one and the effects aren’t bad either which means that, all things considered, Zillion is pretty spiffy! It’s a pretty big game, spanning 136 screens I believe, and most of them are well-designed. You’ll need to return to some later (with a different character or more powerful gun, for example) and the sense of progress is keenly felt. Impossible Mission may well be an all-time great as far as most gamers are concerned, but my simple-mind would much rather tackle this lesser-known clone!
RKS Score: 8/10
Format- Sega Master System
Genre- Overhead Ninja Action title
With such a vague title (and box art) this game promises and threatens in equal measure. It could be the best Ninja game ever, with simple but refined gameplay that takes the genre to new heights. Or it could be a colostomy bag of crap.
It turns out it’s neither of these though. It is merely a solid but unspectacular romp that is, by today’s standards, hard as nails.
The gameplay consists of working your way upwards and dealing with onrushing enemies with a swift shrunken to their faces.
One hit and you’re finished, so the game can be frustrating, especially if you are approaching a yet unexplored area. Foes seem to come from nowhere and can finish you off in a second.
Trial and error is therefore a part of the game, and you either love that or hate it. I’m usually against such underhanded tactics, but in this game is seems an acceptable evil.
It’s not going to convert anyone to the Master System, but is worthy of a play if you see it cheap.
So if you spot it nestled amongst soiled copies of FIFA 2001 and a grimy cartridge of PGA Tour on the Mega Drive, make sure you save it.
It’s far better than you might expect, as long as your expectations are set fairly low.
Format- Sega Mega Drive
Genre- 2D platformer
You probably know that Cool Spot was 7 up’s mascot during the 80’s and 90’s, but only really in the US. Therefore the UK got Spot surfing on a generic non-branded bottle in the games opening screen rather than one with a 7up label…but this is all rather beside the point. What’s important is how the game itself holds up.
Personally, I found this a tough game to like. Spot himself is a well animated character, but to the point where his slow ‘i’m so cool’ walk makes the game more annoying rather than fun. The same can be said for the game overall.
Plus, the opening level alone is tough enough to make you spit your lemonade out in sheer frustration. Set on a beach (see picture above), the stage is swarming with crabs that for reasons unknown want Spot dead. Difficult to simply jump over (you usually just end up landing on another one and hurting yourself), to make decent progress you have to slowly work your way to the right and picking off the crustacean cronies one by one with your soda spray attack. This is not fun.
The next level on a port is teeming with even more foes, and it’s here where I usually struggle to progress any further. I’m not helped by the fact I find Spot a fairly annoying character. He’s not as detestable as say, Gex, but I find his laid back attitude makes him look more a tool than actually seem cool.
Even the rather good music can’t save this game from being merely a forgotten relic of the over-populated 16-bit platformer crowd. Cool Spot might be worth a punt at a low price to see one of the better games based on a drink, but it’s in a very small playing field in that respect – and there are certainly a lot better platformers out there.
Let’s start by adding Sega and Probe Entertainment to the List of Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery, because they seem to be more against him than with him.
Clearly, they were trying to ride the Sonic popularity wave from 2 years prior and make a “sequel” with another fast guy, but this game just didn’t work.
The object of the game is to defeat The Trickster, who has somehow become the mayor of Central City. Now, I know his job is tricking people, but am I to believe that he’s smart enough to convince an entire city to vote him into office, then declare Flash a criminal so everyone is against him? Even for an early-90′s comic story, this is ridiculous. The Flash needs to get through various levels of the city to reach/stop Trickster, so there’s a lot of running and jumping. Problem is, while Sonic had this huge, open area….Flash has these little city neighborhoods, and it gets confusing. He really moves too fast to see where you’re going, or sadly, what you’re landing on. Obviously, Trickster’s first order of business was to create huge potholes and spiked-pits throughout…was this the platform on which he ran? Who would have voted for this?
You must reach the far end of the level in a certain amount of time, or Trickster releases a remote robot/droid that will actually outrun the Flash and kill him. Question: If he can invent this mechanical marvel that can run faster than the speed of light, why doesn’t he just patent it, sell it to the government, and retire? Why go through all the crazy shenanigans?
Flash does have 2 forms of combat; If he’s standing still, he can waste flunkies or open “boxes” by “vortexing” his hands. Also, if he’s running, he’ll spin like a top. Both of these look cool, and are a classic use of his powers. The game looks good, and has a neat comic style. Also, love it or hate it, there are tons of the obligitory coins…er…lightning bolts that Flash can collect, even though I don’t see the point. The Barry Allen-Flash was one of favorite characters when I was a kid, so I love me some Flash, but this just do too much for me. Too crazy-difficult and pointless. And I’ll leave you with 2 words……….Trickstermobile, really?
More retro gaming from the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis are on their way to both PSN and XBLA. Soon you will be able to play the Monster World Collection, which comes with Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World and MWIV on May 23. Next up will be the arcade edition of Golden Axe along with Golden Axe 2 & 3 and the Streets of Rage Collection, which will feature all three games. These collections sell for 800 Microsoft Points each.
For the PSN you get Wonder Boys, Super Hang-On, Revenge of Shinobi, and Alex Kidd in Miracle World on May 22. These will sell individually for $5 each. Expect more retro gaming to be released in the next few months for both networks and as we get the details, we will bring it to you.
Bomber Raid (1988)
By: Sanritsu Denki / Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 78,100
Also Available For: Nothing
As much affection as I have for the Master System, it didn’t really fare too well anywhere except Europe (and Brazil), and its paltry but loyal core of proud and loyal owners were enveloped by the congealing mass of NES owners in Japan and the US. A testament to its failure in the two most important markets is the fact that this very game represented the final official release for the console in Japan, and at a time when the system was only just becoming established here in the UK! Bomber Raid was released exclusively on the Master System too so there’s a good chance a lot of American and Japanese gamers missed out on it altogether, but did they miss much? And perhaps more importantly, was it a fitting farewell for the lovely little console in its native territory?
Taking its cues from Capcom classic, 1942, and a few similar games to a lesser extent like Flying Shark, Bomber Raid is a WWII-set vertically scrolling shmup which takes place over both land and sea. It’s interesting that the front cover of this game depicts an SR-71 Blackbird dropping a load of bombs as the actual game sees you piloting a far older and less sophisticated plane and any bomb-dropping you do is restricted to the three ‘cluster bombs’ your aircraft is equipped with! The game takes place over five stages, or ‘missions’ (you’ll receive a short briefing before each), all of which are filled with enemy aircraft, tanks, boats, submarines, and other associated vehicles, including of course much larger and more powerful bosses at the end of each stage.
Amidst all the usual military-type enemies, you’ll frequently encounter spinning pods which release power-ups when shot. These include speed-ups, upgrades for your feeble main gun, and can also see smaller drone planes join yours and produce fire of their own, although they are just as prone to enemy fire as your main aircraft too, and you can also unleash the aforementioned cluster bombs which are screen-clearing smart bombs as you might expect. No, the arsenal isn’t particularly huge or impressive but even with the pretty limited resources available here you should make pretty good progress through the stages. The difficulty curve is just about right and there’s few overly tough parts that you’ll get stuck on.
In fact, probably the biggest challenges offered by the game, at least initially, are a result of graphical issues! They’re pretty good, if lacking a little in variety, but the enemy fire is small and moves fast so it’s often hard to spot it, and the same can be said of some of the enemies themselves. Your own bullets, too, are practically invisible to start with making the acquisition of power-ups even more of a necessity! There’s also a bit of slowdown and flicker now and then too but aside from that, this is a decent enough looking game, and indeed a decent enough game generally. It was actually one of the MS games I always wanted to play but I never got around to buying it, so this is my first encounter with it, and happily it’s been a good one. It’s not perfect and it’s certainly not the best vertical-scroller on the Master System (Power Strike retains that crown) but once you get used to the slightly confusing visuals it proves to be an enjoyable and addictive blaster, and a decent farewell for the Japanese incarnation of this great console.
RKS Score: 7/10
My Favorite Games
Saturn Bomberman – Saturn (1997)
The Bomberman series is unquestionably one of my favourite series’ of all-time and it’s almost unanimous that this Saturn-exclusive version is the best. Unlike many who view the Bomberman games exclusively as multi-player games, I personally really enjoy the single player modes on most of them too. The simple pleasure of trapping enemies and blowing them up, gradually powering-up our White Bomber hero, and progressing through the stages is one that I enjoy a lot, and the stages in this release are the most inventive and feature-laden yet. However, no one can question the frenetic fun of a multi-player Bomberman session and this is another area in which SB excels – it’s possible to have up to ten players simultaneously battling away here and it’s among the most fun that can be had in any game!
Hydro Thunder – Dreamcast (1999)
For some reason water-based racing games are few and far between to begin with, but good ones are unfortunately even rarer. For this reason, I thought Midway’s Hydro Thunder may be a special treat even before I first gripped the steering wheel, but a few short, heart-pounding, sweaty-palmed minutes later I knew for sure! There’s no fancy options screens or championship modes to mess around with here – simply choose from the selection of ‘space boats’ and blast away! The courses are fantastically themed and designed, and are full of features, shortcuts, huge jumps, and other racers to jostle for position with. The water physics here aren’t as convincing as something like Wave Race but that’s not really the point – this is a fast-paced arcade racer through and through, and what a rush!
Robocod – MegaDrive (1991)
Released by EA before they sucked, this sequel to the entertaining underwater adventure, James Pond, bore little resemblance to its forebear aside from the inclusion of the main character himself, and even he is barely recognisable! To enable our hero to engage in non-water-based tomfoolery, he has been equipped with a robotic exoskeleton, but the Robocop puns end there as he embarks on a bizarre platform-based quest across many large, strangely-themed levels to save Christmas from Dr Maybe! As well as being a superbly designed game, Special Agent Bond’s second mission is a treat for the eyes and ears too. It may not have as many background colours as the Amiga version but it’s superior in pretty much every other way, and provides a long and entertaining challenge with a surprise around every corner.
John Madden Football – 3DO (1995)
Given my well-known intense dislike of EA, some may be surprised to see this here, but I didn’t always hate them. In the MegaDrive days in particular, EA were awesome and one of their best games was John Madden Football. This was the first version of the series to appear on a 32-bit system and, as great as the MD games were, it made a big difference. Bigger sprites, great commentary from Madden, video clips, countless game options and stats, more plays than ever, a floating camera that follows the action closely, and the ability to play as legendary teams from the past made this the definitive US Football game to have ever been seen at that time, and it’s still my favourite to play. Some games are great fun but too arcadey, some are too intricate and take too long to learn. This was just right. Plus, it’s the only game where I’ve actually managed to win the SuperBowl!
Chuckie Egg – Dragon 32 (1983)
Few platformers were as popular as this one in their day. Every version that I’ve played is at least good, but the rather garishly-coloured Dragon 32 version is the one I’ve spent by far the most amount of time playing. My good friend Luke had a Dragon around the time I first met him and we would spend many hours trying to play through this. The game apparently cycles through the eight single-screen stages five times but I’ve had the skill to prove this. Luke was always better at Chuckie Egg than me but even he couldn’t get that far! Still, despite its hideous background (which seemed perfectly normal at the time), this is a great version of the egg-collecting classic, and the only version Luke and I have played which enabled you to perform a few little tricks which greatly helped our progress!
Fantasy Zone The Maze a.k.a. Opa-Opa (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Maze / Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 421,610
Also Available For: Nothing
I don’t know about you but the thinking behind some games is really confusing to me. After releasing ultra-cute shoot ’em up, Fantasy Zone, in 1985, even finding sufficient success with it to adopt its main character, Opa-Opa, as their mascot, Sega then released a similar but improved game in Fantasy Zone 2, also a psychedelic side-viewed shooting game. Both games were tough but proved very popular nonetheless and were converted to several consoles of the time. So after this success, and with the character and game series firmly in place, the logical next step would be Fantasy Zone 3, right? Actually, no. The next game in the series was Fantasy Zone The Maze, a curious combination of the first game and… Pac-Man?
Yes that’s right, the third Fantasy Zone game is a maze-based collect-the-dots game! Or in this case collect-the-coins. It retains its links to the series from which it takes its name by virtue of the fact that player(s) control good old Opa-Opa (and Upa-Upa), and the backgrounds to each round are taken from the worlds that comprise the first Fantasy Zone game, i.e. Plaleaf, Tabas, La Dune, and all the rest. Each world features four rounds with different layouts – three standard and one bonus. Every navigable part of the standard rounds are filled with rows of coins of varying sizes (and different values accordingly) which can be used to buy various weapons and power-ups with which to outwit the many enemies found in each maze.
All the enemies emanate from a circular generator, usually found in the middle of the stage. Each time it ‘charges’ it releases a batch of aliens but you can reset the charger, thereby delaying their arrival, by passing over it. Obviously this diverts your attention from collecting the coins though, and this must be done to finish the round (plus the larger, more valuable ones shrink down to small ones if you leave them too long), so you will inevitably have to contend with aliens to some degree. Luckily these can be dealt with by purchasing the aforementioned power-ups which can be found scattered around each maze. Again, passing over them will buy them (if you can afford it!) with each lasting for a limited time. Before the start of each round you’re given an inventory of which ones will be available and how much they will cost.
Predictably, most of the power-ups available here are taken from Fantasy Zone itself, such as big wings (speed-up), twin shot, laser, firebombs, etc, but the best one is all-new, though not very imaginatively-named – the ‘Top Power’, which turns the player’s ship into am industructible fireball (for a short period)! Much like Fantasy Zone however, each time you buy a power-up, the more it will cost next time. Also, appearing in the respective corner of player one or two now and then is a smart bomb or extra life. Very handy, thank you! After each round you’ll receive a bonus based on how fast you completed it, and after each third round (each world, in other words) you’ll enter a nice bonus round. This takes the form of a simple maze filled with various bonuses. However, you’ll only get a second to memorise its layout as the lights soon go out, leaving just a small area around your ship illuminated!
As you probably guessed, most of the aesthetics here are lifted straight from the first FZ game including the backgrounds, sprites (albeit miniturised in most cases), sound effects, and music (slightly remixed), but the gameplay is of course almost entirely different. It’s an interesting, well-executed idea though, and fans of this kind of game will find plenty to enjoy here. There’s 51 mazes altogether so it will last a long time, and while the game is pretty tough with just the one player (some of the smaller enemies move far faster than Opa-Opa), it was really made with two-players in mind I think. My good friend Luke and I have completed it many times over, for example, but no way could I do it on my own. To fans of the first two games, it was probably a big disappointment in all honestly, as they must’ve been expecting more or the same, not some obscure maze game, but if you (and a friend) take the time to judge The Maze purely on its own merits, you’ll find a enjoyable and addictive collect ’em up which is fantastic fun, especially with two-players.
RKS Score: 8/10
Fantasy Zone (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Master System First Day Score: 9,100
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, MSX, X68000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console
Love them or loathe them, videogame mascots were big business in the 80’s and 90’s. Every system needed one and most of them received one too, for good or ill. Well, they did until ultra-violent First Person Shooters became the staple of each machine’s lineup, at least. Anyway, Sega is best known to most for Sonic, but before they conjured up that pesky blue hedgehog they tried out a couple of other potential characters. One of them was Opa-Opa, a curious sentient spaceship type of creature. He didn’t last long as head mascot though – Sega soon switched their attention to Alex Kidd before he too was forgotten, but Opa-Opa is an endearing little chap all the same whose games remain fondly remembered today. This is the first.
Fantasy Zone saw his debut with this Master System release being converted from the arcade game of the previous year. It, and indeed the later games in the series are set in a place called… umm… the Fantasy Zone, oddly enough, which consists of several planets. In the midst of some sort of spacial recession, the residents of one of these planets, Menon, decide to try and strip all the wealth from the other planets to fund the construction of a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. Understandably upset at this blatant lack of community-spirit, the residents of the remaining planets nominate Opa-Opa to stop the forces of Menon. To do this he must visit each of the eight planets they’ve occupied and kick them out, which means taking to the skies in the form of a side-viewed shmup. But this is no run-of-the-mill side-scroller.
Each but the last of the eight stages is free-scrolling, meaning he can fly in either direction, and they are also looped. Populating each of them are six enemy ‘bases’ (large Menon creatures) which just, sort of, sit or hover there, spawning smaller Menons periodically. The object of each stage is to destroy all the bases, at which point a large boss will appear. However, to make life as difficult as possible for you, each stage is also home to a large variety of absolutely bizarre smaller Menon creatures. Some of them are solitary but they generally attack in formation. Opa-Opa is equipped with a weak but rapid-fire twin shot cannon and he can also drop small bombs. Contact with any enemy, large or small, is of course immediately fatal, however. The pesky Menons are useful for one thing though – destroying a group of them or a base results in a coin dropping from their last position and bouncing around for a short time before disappearing. Grab these quickly and you can spend them in the shop to upgrade Opa-Opa’s abilities.
The floating shop icon appears at the start of each stage, and occasionally later on too if you spend enough time on a stage. Upon entering this apparently Tardis-like shop you are presented with various items covering three categories. Opa-Opa is apparently a winged creature and the shop offers the chance to give him bigger wings, or even one of several engines. These are of course speed-ups, and a similar range of upgrades are available for his standard shot (such as wide shot, laser, seven-way shot) and his bombs (twin bombs, fire bombs, heavy bombs, etc). The speed-ups will last for the remainder of the life but the shot upgrades are timed and most of the bomb upgrades only last for one shot, so pick your targets carefully!
If there’s one thing that the Fantasy Zone games are known for, it’s their cute, garishly-coloured visual style. Whilst it would be unfair to focus just on that, it’s certainly easy to see where the reputation comes from! This is among the most colourful games I’ve played – some stages such as the first feature bright greens, pinks, and blues, whereas others such as the third stage are adorned in more restrained pastels, but the sheer variety in colours used throughout the game really is amazing. The sprites are mostly small but nicely drawn, although I’ve absolutely no idea what most of them are meant to be, but the variety of the visuals through the game is amazing. Something else Fantasy Zone is well known for is its excellent audio. The original music and effects featured here are of a very high standard and would go on to be used for most of the other games in the series, and the tunes have been remixed several times to great effect.
No matter how cute and colourful the game might look, however, it certainly isn’t easy! The smaller Menon attackers in each stage are infinite and there only to get in your way. They grow ever faster and more plentiful as the game wears on, and they change direction without any warning. Some of them have such erratic flight paths/formations it’s hard to predict where they’re going to go, and therefore where you can go, and their bullets travel at lightning speeds in the later levels. With all this in mind, it’s fortunate that the collision-detection is spot on, to the pixel. You still won’t get far in this game without careful use of the shop and its wares though, and each time you purchase most of the upgrades, they’ll increase in price for the next time you need them!
There really isn’t anything else quite like Fantasy Zone. Its unique gameplay style, not to mention its eye-bleeding visuals, mean the series has its detractors of course, much like any other, but there can’t be too many gamers who don’t appreciate this classic. It’s precise play-mechanics make it a joy to play and it’s as addictive as any shooter I’ve played. Despite its challenging nature, it’s such a happy, vibrant game, you can’t really help but enjoy it.
RKS Score: 8/10
My eyes lit up like a LED screen when I came across this section at E3 2011. Normally, there would be a small section with a few games, but this place was huge. On the back wall were a ton of classic video games from Dig Dug to Killer Instinct and a few even broke down so you know they were authentic.
They had what I called a 80’s living room complete with a couch, a radiation level 6 television and an Atari 2600 and best of all you could sit down and play. Now, while I was still just a baby when the 2600 launched I remember setups that looked exactly like this.
There were a ton of classic game systems, add-ons and games spread out for display. I recognized many of the systems, but there were a number I did not recognize. I was totally shocked by how huge the cartridge was for Metal Slug. We met a couple of guys from SNK there and they were totally cool so watch for some articles about them coming soon.
Not only did they have the boxes and items to view there were many classic game systems setup that you could play for yourself including an Atari 2600, N64, Sega Master System and Intelivision and more.
What classic gaming museum exhibit would complete without music. There were two different bands there that played classic music. We were able to record a bit from 8-bit weapon, a duo that plays classic music from Commodore 64, Gameboy and more.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM1bmLk5zLI[/youtube]
All in all it was great to see classic gaming displayed in such a way at E3 2011 and we hope we will see more in the future.
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Baku Baku Animal (1996)
By: Sega Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn First Day Score: 17,250
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Master System, PC
After the unprecedented success of Tetris, a good few companies jumped on the ‘falling block’ puzzle game genre, and one of the biggest offenders was Sega. After buying the rights to Columns, it soon snapped up Puyo Puyo too. None of these addictive games, however, was to appear on their new Saturn console, so instead Sega came up with their own game, and quite an original one it was too! The King (of somewhere) is apparently looking to hire a zookeeper to look after the animal-mad Princesses pets! The game is basically a test at a job interview. If you win, you’ll get offered the job! Like the games before it, the action takes place on a single screen, in this case divided vertically down the middle. Player one controls the action on the left side of the screen, and player two or a computer-controlled opponent controls the right. As is usually the case with games like this, the concept behind the gameplay is a simple one. Sets of two blocks drift down the screen, one after another. Pictured on each single block is either a food or an animal. All you have to do is match the food with the animal that eats it!
There are five different animals in the game and each will eat only his favourite food when he lands on some (monkeys eat bananas, mice eat cheese, etc), but since food blocks appear more often than the animal ones it’s best to group foods together as much as possible. This is the best way to play the game as chain reactions can occur this way resulting in not only larger scores for you, but will also see a load of random blocks dumped on your opponent’s side of the screen! This will obviously not only screw up their attempts to do the same to you, but will also push them closer to the top of the screen which results in game over. The longer the game goes on for, the faster the blocks will fall down the screen. Occasionally, a pair of coins called ‘BB Coins’ will appear in place of a food/animal block. These will make any blocks they touch, and any other blocks of the same type on that player’s play field disappear.
There are two play modes to choose from in Baku Baku (plus a secret third one) – Arcade and Ranking modes. Arcade mode is the same as the arcade version as you might imagine. Here, you will challenge a series of opponents until you get to challenge the Princess. Beat her and win the game! Arcade mode is also where the two-player action is to be found. The ranking mode is for one player only, and is more or less the same as the arcade mode except your opponents carry on forever. Beat as many as you can and then receive a ranking for your playing skills such as number of attacks, number of chain reactions, and the least amount of time elapsed. Also featured is a hall of fame and a movie viewer, both accessible from the options screen where it is also possible to alter the difficulty level and increase or reduce the number of different animal types.
As with most puzzle games of this nature, its simplicity means the technical strain on the host system is kept to a minimum. It’s a nice, colourful, happy looking game though, and features a decent rendered intro detailing the story. The animals themselves are particularly amusing when they grow bigger to eat the foods! The music and sound effects are also suitably happy and upbeat (there’s even a ‘bangin’ dance remix hidden on the disc), and that’s pretty much the case throughout the game. You know what you’re getting with games like this and, whilst there are no real surprises and the one-player mode won’t last you long, this is still one of the best games of its type. Everything about it is top quality and it’s a lot of fun, especially when challenging a friend. A novel and amusing take on the much-copied falling block game and one well-worthy of your time.
RKS Score: 8/10
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 331,150
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade
The original version of Shinobi was a fantastic game for its day and proved to be extremely popular, but for many years the only version of it I knew was this version that Sega treated all of its loyal Master System customers to. It’s one of the few conversions handled by Sega themselves and happily it’s a splendid version of the arcade great, arguably the best, but it’s not identical. The game’s story is still the same, which involves the children of the Oboro clan (or of various world leaders, according to the Western versions, as I recall) being kidnapped, but unlike the arcade version where rescuing the children was mandatory, here you don’t actually have to rescue them. You can though, if you want, and it’s a very good idea to do so anyway, for each one bestows upon courageous Joe a reward of special magnificence!
The biggest and most immediately obvious difference between this and the arcade version (as far as gameplay is concerned) is the existence of a life-meter. Poor Joe would keel over after a single hit in the harder, money-grabbing arcade version, but here you afford to be a little more reckless! This does make the game easier as you might expect, but don’t expect it to suddenly be a walkover because it’s not! This is still a pretty tough game and one that I never managed to complete in all my years of trying (although I could get to the final boss without too much trouble, after all the practise I had!). The actual stages themselves, though, are faithfully recreated and contain the same enemies and obstacles as their parent, and playing through them is pretty much unchanged.
As previously mentioned, the poor, traumatised children being held hostage in positions of questionable strategic significance are apparently each in possession of a special reward that Joe will receive upon rescuing them. Unlike the arcade version in which Joe starts with shurikens before he obtains a gun, here the transition takes longer. His normal shurikens are first upgraded to a rapid-fire variety before being replaced by fast-firing knives, then small, bouncing bombs, before he finally receives the powerful gun, with each upgrade being provided by a child. There is also one each stage which will allow entry to the between-stage bonus round seen in the arcade version. Successful completion of this then rewards Joe with ninja magic, and if you manage to take out a blue ninja during this round, you’ll get two magics instead of one!
Others child power-ups include one which extends his life-gauge and another which refills it to maximum. Each stage features a power-up child, and one to bestow each of the other rewards mentioned. Any remaining children on a stage will award Joe with bonus points. Anyway, enough talk about children, that’s pretty much the only differences between the two versions other than the aesthetic. The humble MS does a decent job of replicating the graphics of the arcade version though. The sprites are understandably a bit smaller and suffer from some trademark MS flicker when a few are on the screen at once, but apart from that they’re a good match, and the backgrounds and bosses are all instantly recognisable too. The music is also reasonably accurate, although there are fewer tunes here, with the game instead repeating the same tune for most stages, but it’s a good one and is more prominent than the somewhat inconspicuous music of the arcade game. Sound effects are also superb here and very distinctive.
As most of you already know, Shinobi is overall a fantastic game. It was perfectly suited to the era in which it was made, but of a high enough quality to remain just as enjoyable more than 20 years later. Most conversions of it were at least pretty decent – even the Speccy gave it a good go – but the best conversion is usually acknowledged to be the PC Engine version which, with the exception of the missing bonus stage, is close to arcade perfect. It has, however, always been this mighty fine Master System version that I’ve had the most affection for. It has good, colourful graphics, catchy music, and challenging and additive gameplay which it’s hard to fault. Impartial I may not be, but anyone can see that this is about as good as Shinobi could be on the MS, and that’s very good!
RKS Score: 9/10
Penguin Land (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 9,450
Also Available For: Sega SG-1000
Back in the late 80’s when my beloved Master System was my console of choice, I was rarely able to add to my game collection. I had around 8 games, mostly considered classics nowadays and highly rated back then. As I spent time looking through the magazines of the day, there were, however, always a few games that I wanted but was never able to get my hands on. Penguin Land was among these. Despite the unspectacular scores it generally received in the magazines, I found myself taken by the premise and screenshots and decided that I had to have it! This was, I suspect, mainly due to my fondness for platform/puzzle games, but it wasn’t until many years later – around 10 in fact – that I finally got round to buying it. Was it worth the wait?
As you may have guessed from its name, Penguin Land features… a penguin! He is no ordinary penguin, however – he’s a space penguin called Overbite, Penguin Mission Commander, who has rather carelessly lost three eggs on a distant, icy planet. After flying to retrieve them, he has to push them back to his spaceship and safety. This must be done over the course of 50 vertically scrolling rounds through which you must push the egg carefully without breaking it, from the top of the stage to the bottom. Of course, it’s not that simple, for there are various hazards awaiting you and your egg, not least of which is a time limit. Polar bears, rising and falling section of rock walls, birds that drop bricks on your egg if you don’t move it for a while, and ghosts which mess up your controls are also out to hinder your progress as much as possible too!
Luckily, with his eggs trapped on apparently such a hostile planet, Overbite is free to walk and jump around the rounds to his hearts content. A vast majority of the blocks are blue ice blocks. Overbite can break the ice blocks beneath him by pecking them and the egg can then be pushed through the gap. Be careful though – the egg can’t fall more than three blocks downwards without breaking, so you’ll have to take some time to consider which blocks to break. There are also cracked blocks which break as soon as the egg touches them, stone blocks which can’t be broken, and tubes which Overbite or his egg can drop through. Also sprinkled liberally around the stages (increasingly as you progress through them) are rocks, which can be pushed around much like your egg, and can also be pushed off platforms onto polar bears below!
Like most platform / puzzle games, Penguin Land is a simple concept, yet fiendishly addictive to play. The graphics, whilst pretty repetitive (only the background colour changes really) are neat, appealing, and suit the game style well. There is some slight sprite flicker if too much occupies one line, but it’s rare. There aren’t many tunes in the game though. A few little ditties and just the one main game theme. It’s a jolly, catchy number, but may soon grate, especially if you dislike this kind of tune to start with! Sounds effects are minimal but decent enough. As is often the case with games like this, though, it’s the gameplay that makes all the difference. It’s easy to start playing but hard to master, and with 50 challenging rounds to play through, it will last a fair old while! You can choose any of the first 30 rounds from the title screen and there’s even a level editor with which you can create additional rounds and save them on the cartridge’s battery back-up.
After waiting so long to play this game, I won’t say I was bowled over by it when I finally did get to play it. To be fair, it was probably an unspectacular release, even when it came out, but it has proven to be a highly playable and addictive little puzzler that not many people seem to know about. If you like platform games that require a bit of thought and planning, give this charming game a try!
RKS Score: 7/10
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 74,610
Also Available For: Sega Master System, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade
Ninjas are cool. Everyone knows that, it’s just one of those facts everyone automatically accepts. These masters of stealth have many abilities beyond the use of martial arts and the awesome weapons they employ, not least their magical abilities which include invisibility, teleportation, shapeshifting, command over birds and beasts, and various others. How could they not rule? In the 80’s they became popular in the West thanks largely to their depiction as mysterious yet highly skilled warriors, either good or bad, in various low-budget films such as the classic American Ninja. Inevitably various videogames followed soon after, although on this occasion with good reason – ninjas characters are ideal to build a game around, and there were many superb offerings. One of the earliest and most popular was the intriguingly-named Shinobi.
Like many of the ninja-based games that appeared, Shinobi (which, incidentally, is another word for ninja) is a platform- based combat/shooting game which takes its basic gameplay cues from Namco’s Rolling Thunder, released the previous year. Taking the starring role here (and indeed in subsequent games in the series) is Joe Musashi, master ninja, who must battle the ‘Zeed’ crime gang over five levels, or missions, to locate and rescue the children of the Oboro clan who were kidnapped by Zeed. Each level is split into several stages (usually three or four) and ends with a boss battle against a leader of the Zeed. Once the children have been saved and the ‘Ring of Five’ (the Zeed bosses) defeated, it’s time for Joe to celebrate!
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, there are far more enemies to deal with than just the Ring of Five. The stages are set in such locales as city streets, dockyards, warehouses, etc, and each is predictably populated by many lesser-skilled goons too, initially consisting of gun-wielding thugs, baldy-musclemen who fling their scimitars at you, and even a few spider-men (although these are probably just ninjas in coincidentally-coloured outfits). Later on, different kinds of enemies appear such as mercenaries with bazookas and other ninjas wearing highly unstealthy-coloured outfits and they’re all just waiting to chop Joe into sushi! Indeed, contact with the enemies themselves bumps him around a bit and even the merest contact with any of their weapons causes his death and he must return to the beginning of that stage (although all children rescued up to that point will remain rescued).
Joe has a variety of weapons at his disposal to dispatch these hoodlums. From afar he can fling shurikens, of which he has an unlimited supply, and in close-quarters combat he can punch and kick his foes. There is also a power-up available, obtained from one of the hostage children, which replaces the shurikens with explosive bullets of some sort and also grants Joe a katana blade to save his knuckles from any unnecessary wear and tear. He is also able to unleash ninja magic once per stage which basically acts like a smart bomb, clearing the screen of enemies and damaging bosses. Lastly, there is also a between-stage bonus round where hoardes of ninjas run along platforms and jump closer and closer to you. The object is to take them all out, for which you’ll receive an extra life, but if a ninja makes it close enough (as in the screenshot), you’ve failed.
Many of the stages throughout the game feature more than one platform level – for example, you can jump from the street up to a rooftop or jump from one side of a tall fence to the other, that kind of thing. It’s a handy feature ‘borrowed’ from the aforementioned Rolling Thunder and improved upon, which not only enables you to gain access to the kidnapped children hidden there, but also allows a handy escape route when you find yourself in a hairy situation. It works well too and adds a lot to an already playable game. Shinobi is also a very nice looking game too. It doesn’t really break new ground or do anything fancy but it’s a nice looking game all the same. The stages are all instantly recognisable and the sprites, though not featuring a great deal on animation, are nicely drawn. Sound effects are pretty minimal but decent enough, although Joe makes a grunting sound every time he jumps which soon irritates. Also accompanying the action are several authentic, Eastern-flavoured tunes which get repeated every few stages. They’re okay but pretty quiet and to be honest I only really noticed them when I thought to listen out for them. Still, perhaps that was intentional, in keeping with Joe’s stealthy exploits.
To be honest, as is often the case since starting Red Parsley, playing the arcade version of this great game represents my first real experience of it, certainly besides the first couple of stages. I had the Master System version and played it to death, but I didn’t discover the arcade version until later. It’s much tougher and I couldn’t get very far without the assistance that MAME offers! I’m sure I could get much further now I’ve had a chance to practise though, and the game is supremely playable throughout. The difficulty curve is spot-on and the multi-tiered gameplay gives it a nice, fresh feel. Shinobi is still regarded as one of the best ninja-based platform/combat games, and it’s easy to see why. A classic through and through.
RKS Score: 9/10
It was on a family holiday that videogames first got their hooks into me. Sure, they were around before that, and I was vaguely aware of them, even ‘dabbling’ on occasion, such as when I played the table-top classic, Astro Wars, for practically the whole weekend I stayed over at my cousin’s house, for example, or when I played Frostbite on a school friend’s Atari VCS after school now and then. At that point though, they were never anything more than a passing distraction.
The aforementioned trip was my first vacation and would see us visit the land of my forebears. Namely, the Torbay area of Devon, and we would stay in a rented cottage. I was around 11 or 12 at the time and was very excited about my first trip away, it sounded fantastic, even if it would be occurring in the school summer holidays, thereby failing to ensure that I’d miss any schooltime! For those who don’t know, Torbay is a beautiful area of the Devonshire coast known as “the English Riviera”. It enjoys a mild climate and is home to a sizable marina, some top beaches, three lovely resort towns – Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham, which collectively feature many sights and attractions of magnificent splendour. I, however, ultimately saw very little of all this after I first wandered past an amusement arcade.
Up until this point I’d had little interest in arcades. Sure, I’d seen most of the big-name machines like Centipede, Asteroids and the like dotted around here and there and I had a bash on occasion like when my dad would give me a few 10p coins to use on the Space Invaders machine at my youth club, but videogames were still a niche subculture at this time – some games had intrigued me but none had ever truly captured my imagination. Until, that is, I happened upon one of the several arcades in Torquay and something caught my eye. I saw a machine, big, bright red, gleaming like a….. Ferrari! Now cars were an interest of mine at that time. This magnificent-looking machine grabbed me by the ears and pulled me in.
I arrived beside the dauntingly large machine. I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Amazing images greeted my young eyes. It was fast and colourful. The sounds came booming out of the speakers. There was actual music… The arcade games I’d seen before were pretty impressive, but I’d never seen anything like this – it was amazing! After moaning at my parents for what seemed like an eternity, they yielded and bestowed upon me a shiny fifty pence coin. I finally lowered myself into the large seat armed with the coin and immediately felt more important. I deployed it and selected the music – Magical Sound Shower of course – and began the game. The excitement as I floored the accelerator and zoomed away from the start line was immense.
I soon reached the first corner of the exquisite Coconut Beach Boulevard, started to turn the wheel and – oh my God! – the whole seat moved! I managed to get as far as the uphill chicane before succumbing to the ever-precarious tree-lined roadside. Upon hitting them for the first time, the whole machine shook around! To say that this was unexpected would be to put it mildly – this was quite incredible! Unfortunately this revelatory experience didn’t last much longer as my time expired, but it was to become an important experience for me. Suffice to say, and the rest of this holiday was predominantly spent in the various arcades of Torquay, and most of that time, sat in an OutRun machine’s seat.
It’s hard to explain how much Outrun means to me. It was the first videogame I ever really played properly – the beginning of what was to become a passionate, not to mention expensive hobby, which has been vigorously pursued ever since. It’s a real possibility that had this encounter not taken place, I may not even be a casual gamer now, let alone the hardcore gaming nerd that I became and remain. The holiday had to end though, and upon returning to Hampshire, the source of my obsession was nowhere to be found. This situation was soon rectified, however. After a hard fought campaign, my parents finally bought me a Sega Master System, on which I had discovered I could play Outrun. I had to pay them back of course, so three years of paper rounds ensued, all proceeds going to this cause. It didn’t matter though – I had Outrun!
Well, much of today has been spent in the fruitless pursuit of an obscure Japanese game and an emulator to run it on. I’m starting to think it’s impossible to find the combination of desired game rom and the relevant emulator, despite the help of couple of good chaps from Retro Gamer forum. Anyone know how to emulate the Sharp X-1, or the NEC PC-98, or goodness know which other previously unknown 25-year old Japanese computers?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out!
And so, to continue with the fairly unremarkable list of my favourite games, numbers 6 -10… Behold!
Super Mario World – SNES (1992)
Proclaimed by many to be the greatest platform game of all-time, who am I to argue? After spending all of the preceding generation as a Sega fan-boy, I really didn’t want to like this game, but I finally relented and got myself a SNES along with this game, and I was soon converted! Despite looking far less flashy than a certain blue hedgehog’s debut on the rival Mega Drive, this game soon proved to me that looks aren’t everything! I can still remember the first time I completed it, I was so proud of myself but my parents didn’t even care about my achievement! Consisting of a sprawling 96 levels (many of which are secret), I felt justified in being proud of myself too! Despite its size, it never failed to consistently introduce new and creative features either, not least of which was Yoshi, now almost as famous as Mario himself, but the game was just so enjoyable to play through, and has so many nice touches. Has it ever been bettered? Not in my opinion…
Star Fighter – 3DO (1996)
Now here’s one that most people haven’t even heard of, nevermind played! I bought this from the 3DO clearance bin in my local second-hand games store towards the end of the 3DO’s brief life for a mere £5, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded it, but then came one of just a few genuine ‘wow’ moments in my gaming life! It was the first free-roaming 3D flying game I had ever played, and it was amazing! Sure, visually it’s looking pretty ropey nowadays, as all early polygon games are, but back then it was a revelation! Originally an Acorn Achimedes game, this spruced up version is, at its core, a mission-based 3D combat game, but it’s not just an out-and-out blaster, no siree! Strategy plays a big part too, especially during later missions, and there’s so much to do. Star Fighter was way ahead of its time; I’ve still not played anything else quite like this, and I’d dearly love to! If you want to try it out though, just steer clear of the horrifying Sega Saturn and Playstation versions!
F-Zero X – Nintendo 64 (1998)
Along with Burnout 2, this is easily my favourite racing game of all-time. Nintendo took the controversial decision of reducing the graphical detail in the game (especially backgrounds) in order to keep it running smoothly at 60fps. Was it worth it? You’re damn straight it was! This could be the most exciting, edge-of-the-seat, sweaty palms, racing game ever made! Racing at speeds of up to 1500kph over courses that often look more like rollercoasters, I’m sure you can imagine why too! There are over 20 varied courses, each race is contested by 30 distinctive racers, and there’s even a four-player battle mode, so there’s no danger of getting bored anytime soon either. Simply the fastest, most exciting racing action to be found anywhere!
Space Station Silicon Valley – Nintendo 64 (1998)
This is another under-appreciated classic which I discovered thanks to the short-lived magazine, Total Control. I can’t even find any reference to that magazine with a quick Google search, but I’m glad it did exist or I may never have played this game! It’s a 3D platform/puzzle game in which you control the microchip of a malfunctioning robot called Evo, damaged when the ship he was on crashed into the titular space station it was meant to be landing on! Populating this space station are many robotic animals, which you can take over by leaping into them. Each animal has unique (and often very strange) abilities and, using them, you must perform set mission objectives (also often very strange) before you can move onto the next. It’s a highly original, creative, and funny game in which you never know what’s around the next corner!
The Revenge of Shinobi – Mega Drive (1989)
Or Super Shinobi, as it’s known in Japan, and this was the version I first played. When visiting my good friend, Stu’s, house one day after school I was excited to see that his brother had a gleaming new imported Japanese Mega Drive sitting in his room. It wasn’t long before Stu and his brother, Darren, were demonstrating the power of this new console, and this was the game they used to do it. And it worked! The awesome intro sequence, the breathtaking graphics, the now legendary music… I was still used to my Sega Master System and trusty Speccy at this time, so the effect this game had on me was profound, and it still holds a lot of good memories for me. And after all these years, it’s clearer than ever that this wasn’t all window dressing either, it still plays like a dream. Still the best game in the Shinobi series if you ask me!
Next five to follow tomorrow…
Hello. I’m RetroKingSimon (or RKS to my friends).
Some of my many interests include retro videogames, movies, and anime, but I have been complacent in the pursuit of these interests for quite some time now, espically since I’ve been married. This is my attempt to make amends, and will offer the opportunity/excuse to sample some of the best, and no doubt worst, these subjects have to offer, including some that I’ve been meaning to try for many years, and will also allow me to re-evaluate some old favourites that should perhaps be better consigned to fondly-recalled memories.
In addition, I have a curious fondness for making random, and often nonsensical ‘Top Five’ lists, often with the help of Luke. These will also form part of my tomfoolery here, and are just for fun. Any of you that read these musings, I encourage you to make comments or let me know what you think, good or bad, but trolls and other hateful rapscallions can direct your bilge elsewhere. 🙂
Anyway, to mark my first post here, I thought it might be prudent to list my favourite games. There are 30 here, though I like many more of course, and with the exception of the first one, they are in no particular order.
Star Control 2 – 3DO (1994)
My favourite videogame of all-time? Without question! Not many sci-fi TV shows or films even have a story as engrossing as this game! It’s an epic space adventure game where, controlling a large, but weak starship, you must wander the galaxy searching for artefacts, forging alliances with or fighting against the many alien races, gathering resources, and building a fleet with which to take on the evil Ur-Quan Heirachy who have enslaved Earth and several other worlds. Featuring hectic real-time battles, hours of speech, and countless things to do, it’s a sci-fi game that has everything. You even get to score with a green-skinned alien girly for goodness sake! The best thing of all about this game is that you can download a conversion of the 3DO game for nothing and play it on any modern PC. Get it here (the game has had a name change though, it’s now called Ur-Quan Masters).
Burnout 2: Point of Impact – Gamecube (2002)
Granted, there’s a lot of games I haven’t played, but right now this is the finest arcade-style racing game I’ve ever played. You have three opponents and racing takes place on long stretches of road also populated by civilian drivers ranging from cars right up to coaches and juggernauts. There are a few cars to choose from when you start the game and successful racing unlocks many more. It’s all fairly standard stuff, it’s just done so well. Control over the cars is precise, the courses are busy and superbly designed, and opponent AI is pretty good too. This all combines to make some pretty awesome, hi-octane racing! In my humble opinion, this was and remains the pinnacle of the Burnout series (and marks the final installment before Electronic bloody Arts bought the franchise and ruined it), and the arcade racing genre in general.
Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap – Master System (1989)
Introduced to me by my good friend Luke, this game blew me away when I first played it in the late 80’s, and has remained a firm favourite. Despite its name, this is actually the fourth game in the convoluted Wonder Boy/Monster World series of games and almost certainly universally considered the best. The game, which takes the form of a sprawling arcade adventure, carries on directly from Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and sees Wonder Boy cursed by a dragon and turned into Lizard Man! And so Wonder Boy’s latest quest begins. He must brave many strange and distant lands in his bid to return himself to Human form, but not before he takes various other forms too! A top game when it was first released and it remains a top game today, arguably the best game of the Master System.
Gauntlet 4 – Mega Drive (1993)
Not strictly speaking a sequel, Gauntlet 4, released on the Mega Drive/Genesis exclusively, was more a tarted-up conversion of the original and features four different modes. The Arcade Mode is a near-arcade perfect port of the orignal Gauntlet arcade game from 1985, but with the addition of an all-new soundtrack, the Record Mode, which is a variation on the arcade mode tailored to achieving high scores, the Battle Mode is a multi-player fight to the death, and best of all is the Quest Mode, which is an all-new Gauntlet game where the player must battle through the ten floors of each of an ancient castle’s four towers before tackling the dragon dwelling therein. Including some RPG-style features, this is a whole game in itself. Overall, for any Gauntlet fan, this is the complete package.
OutRun – Arcade (1985)
Until the Burnout series came along, this was still my favourite driving game ever, and in many ways is responsible for my love of videogames to begin with. Everyone knows all about this classic by Yu Suzuki which is still as enjoyable today as the day it was made, in my view. Sure, OutRun 2 and Coast 2 Coast superceded it in many ways, not least graphically, but do they contain the spirit and atmosphere of the 1985 original? I can’t think of many driving games that don’t even have any opponents which are still as enjoyable as this! Simply cruising along listening to Magical Sound Shower is a treat matched by only a small number of other gaming experiences. It’s a shame so few people will ever get to play the arcade behemoth now!
That’s it for now, more to come.
Name: Jeroen Talman
Company: Games Factory Online
Profession: Project Manager / Game Producer
Favorite Classic Game: Alexx Kidd in Miracle World
Quote: As a little kid I never owned a NES, but we had a Sega Master System II instead. This console had the game Alexx Kidd in Miracle World build in. I spent so many hours playing this game as a 6-year old boy that the nostalgic feelings I have with the game overrule other games like Sonic.
The use of vehicles and mini-games such as rock-paper-scissors were impressive, just like the shop system. Alexx Kidd, where are you nowadays… We miss you dearly!
Let’s be frank. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is a very weird and very frustrating platformer from the early ages of the 8-bit era. It was one of my first Sega Master System games, and one of the only ones that I could manage to beat. The levels were colorful, the enemies bizarre, and to this day, I’m still not really sure what the hell the story was about. I think it has something to do with collecting the signs of the zodiac. “Find the Miracle Ball,”says the disembodied digitized voice. This is almost all of the storyline you have to go on aside from the blurb on the back of the box.
Its predecessor, Alex Kidd In Miracle World, had a lot more going on for it: breakable blocks, purchasable items and power-ups, a varied terrain that seamlessly went from vertical to horizontal, and to top it all off: a freaking motorcycle. AKIMW is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever played and I don’t think I’ve even gotten past the second stage.
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars shares the same protagonist, but its gameplay is almost nothing alike. To me, it seems more like Wonder Boy crossed with a hallucinogen-fueled nightmare. The erstwhile Sega mascot can no longer deliver his trademark punch, and is left pretty much defenseless until he gets an “S” card power up which allows him to shoot some sort of energy wave. They’ve thankfully done away with the one-hit death system from Miracle World and have replaced it with a health bar that also serves as a timer. An unlimited amount of continues makes this decently kid-friendly; the disturbing sound clip of Alex Kidd screaming every time he dies, probably does not, however. And die you will. Often.
The seven levels in Lost Stars consist of Toyland, a robot assembly line, some sort of Halloween crap-forest, an underwater escapade, some dinosaur crap, the inside of a body, and a low-gravity outer-spaced themed area simply known as Ziggurat. The action is solely limited to “run from the left side of the stage to the right” while jumping over pitfalls and dodging enemies. The game features angled surfaces, swinging ropes, and a few different types of platforms that will drop, raise, dissolve, or launch you into the air, but nothing really breaks the monotony of left-to-right. In place of end bosses, the final screen of the level has some sort of hazard to navigate to get to the Exit sign. Most of these you can run right through without much of a problem, but others will snag you in a flurry of overlapping projectiles that will make you lose precious time and take you back to the start of that screen.
The enemies in this game are something else. Some of them fit right in with their themed levels, such as a puppy that spits a rainbow of colored letters in Toyland or the falling anchors and octopuses of the undersea level. Others, such as the outer-space penguins of Ziggurat, the rolling baby heads in the esophagus area of the body stage, and the naked men that shoot skulls out of their asses from the Halloween area, left me scratching my head. Certain previously encountered enemies will act completely different later in the same level (oh, now they jump!), which furthers the frustration level. I’m unsure whether to haul ass to the edge of the screen or take my time, as things will drop down on you from the top of the screen pretty much either way.
Power ups are haphazardly scattered around the levels and many are invisible until you’ve come within a certain distance, which means you will probably be jumping around like an amphetamine-crazed pogo enthusiast for much of your playing time. Most of the items don’t have any obvious use aside from the “J” card that doubles your jump height, the “SC” card that will partially replenish your health bar, and the aforementioned “S” that gives you a limited number of projectiles. What does a mirror or a clown head do? Beats me. There is a score system in place but you can’t see any numbers until after clearing a stage, so I’m never sure if the point items are worth the risk.
The game features one of the most maddeningly asinine second halves I’ve ever seen. Here’s how I think this went down. The developers come up with six or seven wildly imaginative levels pushing the boundaries of the Master System’s graphic capabilities and nearly taking up all of the cartridge space. It goes into play-testing and they realize that the game is simply too short. They don’t have room for many more assets, so some genius gets the idea to simply re-use the levels again in the same order, without so much as a palette swap. There are a few more enemies and the power ups are harder to come by, but the player is simply left to trudge through the whole game a second time to find the other six signs of the zodiac. It could be the original NG+, except for the fact that you didn’t even really beat the game yet.
Alex Kidd still had about five years left as Sega’s mascot but they were already starting to give him the raw deal with this title. It has since been released on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, so you don’t have to scout flea markets and garage sales for this whimsical piece of trash. I can’t say it offers much replay value, as you’re already sick of it by the time you get to the first stage your second time. I had to force myself to complete it and I was not terribly surprised by the lack of a satisfying ending. Fun for masochists of all ages!
Ah, the game that made me break one of my many Sega Genesis’s. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was released to the arcades in the spring of 1988. Maybe by Capcom, it was the popular sequel to the 1985 arcade smash Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
In Ghouls ‘n Ghosts the heroic knight Arthur must once again faceoff against the demonic hordes of Loki. After an attack on his kingdom Arthur’s lover, the lovely Princess Prin Prin, is killed along with many innocent civilians. To avenge the death of his love and restore her soul and the souls of the others Arthur will have to take down the big man Loki himself.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts plays pretty much like Ghosts ‘n Goblins it is a platform run and gun type of gameplay meaning you have to always be on your toes firing away at the enemy and avoiding traps and pitfalls. Luckily this time around Arthur can fire upwards and while jumping fire downwards which is a must in this game. In addition Arthur has an array of weapons at his disposal including a mega axe, a golden sword and even golden power armor.
When Arthur jumps in certain spots on the map a treasure chest will pop out of the ground. If Arthur destroys the chest he can find two things. First is an evil magician who turns him into a duck. As the duckyou are pretty much undead chow because you have no armor or weapons. The best thing to do is avoid any enemies until the effect wears off.
The second thing that can appear from the chest is Arthur’s golden armor. The golden armor allows any weapon Arthur currently has to gain a charged power up move that unleashes a special attack. Sadly, the golden armor works just like the normal silver armor where as if Arthur is hit it will break apart leaving him pretty much naked.
Once you work your way through five levels you discover you need a special weapon in order to defeat Loki. This restarts the game and you must fight your way through the same five levels and back to Loki’s chamber.
The game is extremely fun to play, but it can be very unforgiving at first, but once you learn your jumps, attacks and timing you can make it through the game without too much trouble. I can say this now, but when I first played it I had an awfully hard time and ended up punching my poor Genesis to death.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts had some great music composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. The bosses were well designed along with the levels making sure your twitch level was high. In addition to great arcade success GnG was ported to several systems including the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, CP System, Commodore 64, X68000, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, SuperGrafx, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Virtual Console, ZX Spectrum.