The Rolling Thunder Series

[youtube id=”PUrTqXtdINw” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Rolling Thunder

I’ve described my childhood circumstances in many past articles, including the nature of my relationship with arcade games. I simply didn’t get to play them very often, because my grandmother felt it was a waste of money to give me quarters for games that I’d only last a few minutes on if I were lucky. Looking at it from that perspective, you could arguably see her point. But that doesn’t change the fact that arcade games and arcades in general were simply amazing back in the 80s and early-to-mid-90s. If you weren’t around in those times to experience arcades as they truly were, back when they were new, exciting, and relevant, it’s honestly very hard to try and really describe it to you. In many ways, while home gaming (especially my beloved NES) was amazing in it’s own right, some rightly viewed the arcades as the pinnacle of gaming. How it used to work, is that arcade games would inevitably be “bigger and better”, at least in terms of graphics and certain types of content, than home console or home computer games. So in some respects, arcade games back during their golden era, were the vanguard of video gaming as a whole.

As a gamer, you would go out to wherever your local arcade was, and if you weren’t, like me, lucky enough to live in a big enough town that had it’s own local dedicated arcade, then you went to whatever businesses where such machines could be found, whether it was local pizza joints, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bars (if you were old enough of course), or even laundry mats or gas stations/convenience stores. You would go to these places to experience the newest advancements in video game graphics or sometimes even brand new concepts in gaming. And then, as the process went, if you were lucky, some of these arcade games would eventually be “ported” (with obvious downgrades to accommodate lesser technology), to some kind of home platform that you hopefully owned or knew someone who had one.

Rolling Thunder
You know….it’s still beautiful, in a simplistic sort of way.


One of my own personal favorites, that I of course rarely got to actually play, was a game called Rolling Thunder. It was at my local Pizza Hut, where so many other treasures came and went over the years, like Klax, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Double Dragon II, and Final Fight, and Pole Position II, and Ghost Pilot, and 1943, and my biggest childhood arcade crush, Street Fighter II. Rolling Thunder was a very intriguing, unusual game that for whatever reasons caught my attention, and it was one of the games I gravitated to most whenever we’d go out for pizza. One of the allures it had, I’d have to say, was the unique graphical presentation. It was a sprite based game, as almost all were in the 80s and early 90s, but as you can see above, it had a very simple, shaded, almost “pre-rendered” look, akin to an early prototype of the sort of thing games like Donkey Kong Country would pull off years later. The characters also had unusually smooth animation for the time it released (1986), and the game had a very intense, but subdued, moody soundtrack, very much “secret agent” type of fare, and the whole thing was just very novel in it’s approach. I suppose the other reason this game stuck with me, is because of the “Game Over” screen: when you lost, it took you to the big screen from the title, where the boss “Maboo” (this big green fucker) would laugh at you for losing. That alone probably kept me coming back, because as a kid, this really genuinely upset me that this assclown was laughing at me, and I wanted revenge.

Rolling Thunder
This asshole haunted my childhood. What a jerk.

Rolling Thunder was developed by Namco, creators of groundbreaking classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. It was released in 1986, right in the midst of the “arcade boom” of that decade, and it was a different sort of game that caught people’s attention. At it’s core, it’s a side-scrolling shooter, similar to something like Contra, but unlike Contra where you just run, shoot, and hope you don’t lose too many lives per-level, Rolling Thunder was a lot more about strategy. The most immediately noticeable feature of the game when you start, is that you have limited ammo, even with the simple pistol you start with. You can’t ever totally run out of ammo with the pistol, but once you “run out”, you can only shoot one slow bullet at a time until you find more ammo. That alone plays into the “strategy” nature of the game.

Another main feature of the gameplay, is that the levels feature doors all over the place, and you can open pretty much any door you wish. However, it is sometimes a gamble, because certain doors have enemies that will pop out. Other doors (typically labelled “bullets”) hold more bullets for you, or even a temporary upgrade to a machine gun. And there are yet other doors that you can duck inside of to avoid enemies or enemy fire, and then pop back out to blast ’em in kind. Lastly, the other major facet of gameplay, and perhaps the one thing that this game really added to the gaming spectrum (as it was emulated by several other games down the road), was the ability to jump between the ground floor and an upper floor of each level. That in itself presented more strategy to be utilized by the player, to move upstairs or down to avoid obstacles or enemies. All in all, much like the graphics and music, like I said, a very unique game unto itself.

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

The basic story of the game, is that you are a secret agent called “Albatross”, who works for an international group called “W.C.P.O”, which stands for “World Crime Police Organization”. You are on a secret mission in New York, trying to rescue a fellow agent named Leila Blitz, who has been captured by the sinister terrorist secret society known as “Geldra”. Most of these “Geldra” goons are hooded baddies known as “Maskers”, who frankly look kinda like prototypes for the TMNT “Foot Soldiers”, as they are covered head-to-toe and come in different colors, each color having different weapons or abilities. The game has other enemies like mutant bats, ninjas, robots, etc., but the “Maskers” are the main course. Ultimately, the game plays out over two distinct parts, each having five levels, and at the end of the tenth, to save Leila, you face off with that green-faced asshole who laughed at you after every game over screen, “Maboo”. So at least, I guess, the developers were nice enough to give you the possibility of catharsis: if you could actually MAKE it through this fucking game, you could shoot that son-of-a-snake right in his smirking mug, and make him pay!

As you can see in the picture above, the game got it’s share of home “ports”, first coming to various home computers in 1987 and 1988. Tengen, Atari’s home console publishing arm that had infamous issues with Nintendo over their own less-than-scrupulous efforts to get around the NES lock-out chip that kept third party publishers from being able to put out more than five games a year on the system, put out many unlicensed (aka not officially approved by Nintendo releases) games for NES, and in 1989, one of them was Rolling Thunder. Namco didn’t yet publish their own games outside of Japan, and so they contracted Tengen to do it….which of course probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I digress. Nonetheless, Rolling Thunder on NES was, for all intents a purposes, a pretty strong port of the game. It didn’t have the technical prowess of it’s arcade original, but the core gameplay and atmosphere where still intact, and it’s still pretty damn fun to play. 

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

The first game was popular enough, that in 1991, Namco made a lesser-known sequel, Rolling Thunder 2. A slightly confusing affair, as the original game was apparently supposed to take place in the 60s, but now the sequel takes place in modern times, yet the characters in both games are named Albatross and Leila. In Rolling Thunder 2, Leila is now the main character, which is a cool touch, not only letting her get her revenge, but also making her one of the first playable female protagonists in gaming. The biggest addition to the sequel, was simultaneous 2-player action (a big feature in many arcade games of the day), with Player 1 playing Leila, and Player 2 controlling Albatross. They have identical abilities, outside of their visual differences, of course. The gameplay is essentially the same fare, focused on doors and jumping between upstairs and down. However, the level designs are more varied, this time splitting the game between Florida beaches and Egyptian ruins. The “Maskers” also this time become (if not visually) a bit more “Foot Soldier”-esque, as they are now robots, whereas in the first game they were live villains. Storyline-wise, Geldra, thought destroyed for good in the first game, is back, and it’s up to the heroes to stop ’em. 

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in the rest of the world), received a port of the game that included cut scenes and additional levels that featured new weapons and bosses. It was apparently successful enough to warrant Namco producing a third, Genesis exclusive game, Rolling Thunder 3, released only in North America in 1993. Gameplay-wise, it took a bit of a step back, once again only being single player, where part 2 was 2-players. But on the other hand, they greatly expanded the weapons format. Where the first and second games only made use of pistols and temporary machine-gun upgrades, in Rolling Thunder 3, you can choose one of 9 different “special weapons” before each stage begins, and you get two separate fire buttons, one for your regular pistol, and one for the special weapon. The special weapons, once out of ammo, can’t be used for the rest of the game, thus maintain the strategic element of gameplay. Another way the game differs, is that the levels now have no time-limit: instead, if you take too long, a sniper will eventually come out and try to kill you. Story-wise, the game seems to be a companion piece to Rolling Thunder 2, where while our heroes Leila and Albatross are busy fighting the main Geldra forces in that game, in RT3, a new hero, special agent “Jay”, is chasing after Geldra’s “Number Two” in command, another green-faced mother-fucker named “Dread”. In an era when the Super Nintendo tended to get most of the cool third party published exclusive games, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3 were an exception to the rule. 

Rolling Thunder
Albatross, Leila Blitz, and…………….Jay. Just Jay.

All in all, while I’m not as experienced with the sequels, I need to play them more, because the original Rolling Thunder will always have a special place in my gaming heart. If you’ve never heard of or never had a chance to play these games, find a way to do so (however that may be), because there are fun times to be had, guaranteed. And give my old pal “Maboo” a kick in the balls for me while you’re at it.

Sonic The Hedgehog

[youtube id=”SQPvA0OvR24″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

Sonic The Hedgehog

This week we have Sonic for the Sega Master System. Why this version? Because it’s definitely one to play. Of course, it’s graphically inferior than the Genesis version we all know but it’s quite rare to find the US version around these woods. The game overall is not bad until you compare it to its more powerful predecessor. Enough talk, it’s a Sonic game after all so it can’t be that bad right? OK, I take that back…
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Sonic music in 8-bit sound is actually quite enjoyable but it’s definitely not for everyone. The sound effects are also a bit bland. I’m getting to understand why Sega didn’t released this game massively in the USA.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The graphics are quite good for a Master System game. Sonic looks like Sonic and not like a blob. The backgrounds and graphics of the stages are a hit. You never feel like you’ll jump into a fake wall or something. There isn’t that much distortion if there are too many things going on in the game so that’s a well deserved thumbs up.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The gameplay is easy. Sonic games for the Genesis were just as easy as pick up and play. They are fast and fun. This one requires a little bit more strategy and jumping without having to go as fast as the speed of light. It’s still fun in the end, it is classic Sonic after all.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Like many of the older Sonic games, this one is well worth a replay especially if you want to challenge yourself with your own goals like not taking a hit per level or collecting all the rings. Sonic games can be addictive too you know..
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
It’s the first Sonic game and it’s fun. What else is there more to say about this gem? It’s just really enjoyable! I suggest you get the European version as it’s the same thing and a lot cheaper!

Asterix and the Great Escape

[youtube id=”i61HEDYN8TQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

 Asterix and the Great Escape

The French comic book star Asterix has questionable appeal across the globe (especially in the US and Japan), but has still been the topic of a literal smorgasbord of games.

This Mega Drive is far from the worst outing for the French ‘hero’ (although I will admit I have played only a few Asterix titles), but it still has some sizeable flaws that make it hard to truly enjoy.

The standard plot involves Getafix and Dogmatix getting kidnapped by the Romans, with Asterix and his rotund pal Obelix setting off to rescue them.

To do this they travel across Europe completing short stages.

Asterix and the Great Escape

You can choose between Asterix and Obelix before you enter each stage, although you can only select the other (if you want to) when you lose all your lives and use a continue.

The game starts as it means to go on however, giving you no guidance and beating you over the head with a misjudged difficulty level.

Opening with a simple stage set in a village that lasts around a minute, the game then truly throws you into the deep end with the second level.

It not only demands that you to know how to equip items, it also expects you to realise that you have to go backwards from where you start to grab an essential potion.

Asterix and the Great Escape

Even if you do somehow figure that out you’ll need to act fast – the clock is ticking.

The time-keeping aspect is one of the most notable elements of the game in fact, and helps and hinders the title in equal measure.

You are rarely given any time at all to complete levels, and you’ll often be reaching the ‘exit’ (a special potion) with milliseconds to spare.

Obviously this is massively unfair at times, but it does inject an added amount of tension and panic when you’re leaping and punching your way through stages.

Unfortunately constant design mis-steps threaten to make the game an entirely frustration filled affair.

Asterix and the Great Escape

One example is the underwater level that arrives early on. Even when you overlook the design inconsistency (in one of the previous stages touching water hurt you) it’s still got a sadistic streak a mile wide.

It not only has an irritating wibbly-wobbly filter in front of the screen, there are also foreground objects that actively hide dangers from you.

The main example is falling blocks, and the seaweed mostly conceals them from you – meaning you’ll have to tread very carefully.

But a conservative approach isn’t possible if you’re going to complete stages in time, as previously mentioned.

Asterix and the Great Escape

So here lies the game’s main problem, and if a correct balance between challenge and unfairness had been found this could have been a hidden gem.

As it stands the game only occasionally glimmers – some potion based abilities are genuinely interesting, such as ones that inflate you and help you build cloud platforms – but is ultimately dulled by repeatedly poor design choices.

It still looks good though, and it’s colourful cartoon graphics and comic book flourishes (see the ‘paf!’ bubble in the screenshot above) have clearly had a lot of work invested into them.

It’s just a shame you can’t say the same for the gameplay.

Shaq Fu

[youtube id=”epFGWW1n25M” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Shaq Fu

I just had to do this because this game is so awesome. So awesome it deserves a pick of the week. After seeing it for a total of three times at my flea market trip last Sunday, I decided to give it a shot and wow what an amazing game this is.

shaq fu - sega - genesis

 

For a side scroller the graphics are superb and the sound just outstanding, just try playing the game with the stereo plugged in and you will have one of the most amazing soundtracks in video game history! I’m not kidding! The gameplay is simple, you have Shaq doing the Shaqattack! doh! and much much more!

Once you pick this game up, you can’t put it down!

shaq-fu-sega-mega-drive-cover

btw….this is all a sarcastic entry….this game is pure shit but since no one in the entire world will pick it as a game of anything, I decided to be a nice guy like usual and do it myself. Screw this game! UP THE A-HOLE!

Mr Driller

[youtube id=”rWdpkvFh49g” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Mr. Driller

Love it or loathe it, Dig Dug is (correctly) regarded as an all-time classic arcade game and, despite being converted to a large number of home systems, it has not been one of the franchises that Namco has furnished with a large number of updates or sequels. It received a rather anonymous second installment in 1985, but the series wouldn’t be revisited for another fourteen long years.

Originally intended to be Dig Dug 3, the transition during its development to Mr Driller also included a change in the protagonist. The hero of Dig Dug was Taizo Hori but taking his place here is his son, Susumu Hori! As the highest ranked Driller in the world, he was the first one the panicked people called when the cities became overrun by mysterious colored blocks rising from underground…

Mr_Driller_Sega-Dreamcast-

This flimsy, and largely unnecessary, premise does of course set the scene for another colored/shaped blocks puzzle game. Once you’ve chosen between a 2500ft or 5000ft challenge, the arcade mode throws you straight into the action with Mr Driller falling on top of a huge pile of colored blocks. He can drill in all four joy-pad directions and doing so causes drilled blocks to vanish. As he drills down, untouched blocks may fall downwards if the blocks supporting them are drilled. This can of course result in Mr Driller getting crushed and losing a life.

It’s not quite as hard as it sounds though as falling blocks shake for a split-second before falling, giving you a precious chance to get out of the way. Falling blocks also stick to non-falling blocks of the same color if they touch them, forming larger blocks. There’s only four different-colored blocks as well, so some blocks can get pretty big!

Luckily, larger blocks are destroyed from a single drill-strike, much like single blocks, and any four or more falling blocks of the same color will vanish once they land. This can of course cause big chain-reactions so it’s best to make sure none of them land on your head! Speed is of the essence for more than one reason too.

Mr_Driller_Sega-Dreamcast-

Mr Driller has an ever-decreasing air supply so he must drill strategically but quickly. Air capsules are readily available which top up his supply by 20% but sometimes they’re tricky to reach. They are often near brown ‘X’ blocks. These take five drill strikes each to destroy and also take away 20% of Mr Driller’s air, so it’s not really worth breaking one except in an emergency. Mr Driller can clamber up blocks either side of him, but only if they are one block high. This is invaluable for reaching air capsules or escaping falling blocks, but sometimes it’s not enough!

As well as the arcade mode, Mr Driller players also have access to a survival mode and a time attack mode, both of which are fairly self-explanatory. The basic gameplay doesn’t change a great deal, but it doesn’t need to either. I don’t think I was alone in finding Mr Driller a rather unlikely release by Namco on the fancy new Dreamcast, but any initial disappointment soon faded.

It may look like a game that could’ve been hosted by a console from the previous generation, perhaps even the one before that, and it’s not even particularly original, but Namco ensured Mr Driller had it where it counted. It’s bright, colorful, and loud – the music and sounds effects are great. But more importantly, it’s just immense fun. And addictive. Very addictive. If you haven’t dabbled before, Mr Driller comes highly recommended.

Phantasy Star Online

[youtube id=”ryMkZk0OTUc” width=”633″ height=”356″]

While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. ~Adam R.

Phantasy Star Online

While Sonic Team might be constantly criticized for never really getting Sonic right when 3D came along, their magnum opus during the Dreamcast era was Phantasy Star Online. Which revived the classic Phantasy Star series after a 7 year break.

Phantasy Star Online

 While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. The only thing like it were MMOs like Everquest on PC. It was to be played online as players can choose different classes and join other players to conquer levels and defeat bosses.
Phantasy Star Online
 The game later came out with different editions like a 2nd version with new content on Dreamcast. After the “death” of the Dreamcast, Sega ported an enhanced version on Nintendo Gamecube. There was also an Xbox version later on, but oddly it’s unplayable now since it had no offline mode and the online service for the original Xbox is gone.
Phantasy Star Online
This was one of the games I was always meaning to get, but never did. I never had broadband (until 2005) or got the internet adapter for Gamecube which was a big reason for it. Unless they come out with a Xbox Live Arcade version, I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to try it out. I hear the sequels never recaptured the magic of the original.

Sonic Heroes

[youtube id=”06Iky1HQgLc” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Sonic Heroes was a good bit different than the Sonic Adventure games. While those games stopped the furious speed with adventure elements, this game was more true to it’s 2D roots. It was a pretty straight forward platformer with little distractions. ~Adam R.

Sonic Heroes

While Gamecube fans liked the ports of the two Sonic Adventure games, Sonic Heroes was the first original Sonic game for the system. Ironically Sega also produced PS2 and Xbox versions which gave Sonic a home on all the major consoles. Though most critics cite the Gamecube version as the superior edition.

Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot

 Regardless of platform, Sonic Heroes was a good bit different than the Sonic Adventure games. While those games stopped the furious speed with adventure elements, this game was more true to it’s 2D roots. It was a pretty straight forward platformer with little distractions.
Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot
 The game also made use of Sonic’s friends and enemies being forced upon the player. You can pick between four teams of three. So you had the good team (Sonic, Tails Knuckles), the evil team (Shadow, Rogue, Omega), the girly team (Amy, Cream, Big), and the weird team. The last team was comprised of the awful characters from Knuckles Chaotix. I have to give Sega credit for bringing back such strange characters for no reason.
Sonic Heroes - Nintendo Gamecube - Gameplay Screenshot
The game was received well by critics, and fans but nothing compared to the praise of the Genesis generation. I ended up never playing the game myself, but I was very tempted at the time. At least it wasn’t as awful or bizarre as some of the sequels that followed.

Altered Beast

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

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

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

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

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

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

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

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

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

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

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

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

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

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

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

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

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,297 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision
Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

It may have taken a few years but it still wasn’t long before the first few licensed video games started to appear. One of the first such games to grace an amusement arcade was this example, by my beloved Sega no less, and was based on the (mis)adventures of Captain Rogers. Well, I say ‘based’ but this is a game that, name aside, has pretty much nothing to do with the source material – something that would become a familiar story in the years to come – but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily make it a sucky game, just an unfaithful one. Planet of Zoom, for example, takes the form of an into-the-screen shooter. Nothing unusual there for a 70’s sci-fi show, I’ll grant you – plenty of shooting done in most of those. However, as long as it might have been since I’ve immersed myself in the gallant exploits of Buck, Wilma, and Twiki, nothing else from the game seems familiar.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t even be sure that we’re playing the game as Buck! Oh well, whoever may be at the controls, it’s your job to guide their ship through a tonne of dangerous stuff, and the best means of doing this is by blasting the crap out of it all. To this end, the ship offers unlimited use of its cannon, and you can also move it around the screen freely and increase or decrease its speed as you see fit. Each round is divided into eight stages (or sectors) of which there are three types – trench (as seen in the screenshot to the right), open space (next shot down), and planet (bottom shot) – but the object of each is the same; namely, to either fulfill an enemy quota or to finish within the time limit. If you can take down the required number of enemies before the time expires, you’ll move on to the next stage with any remaining time awarded as bonus points. If the timer runs down before you do this, you’ll still progress but with no bonus.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Most of the stages merely pit you against various kinds of oncoming enemies which include many flying saucers, hopping ground-based buffoons, red/purple versions of your own ship (almost), fast winged vessels, and angry-looking grey/red craft. As well as being mighty dangerous by themselves, most of them can also fire missiles and stuff at you, and there are also a few other hazards too. One of the trench stages features a series of barriers with gaps on the left, right, or middle, one of the planetary stages has a load of weird slalom-style gates (which offer only your continued existence as a reward for passing though them), and there is also a stage featuring a much larger boss ship which, for some reason, attacks with its back to you allowing you to simply blast all four of its engines to see it off. Defeating this befuddled clot isn’t too hard and each time you do it’s on to the next round where the stages are in a different order.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

This process goes on forever as far as I can tell, which means things could potentially get more than a little repetitive. Fortunately, the action is fast and involving enough to keep this from setting in too much. The stages all look the same each time they’re repeated but they work well – the scrolling is pretty fast and the enemies move quickly via some superb scaling. The colouring is also impressive with lovely pixelly explosions, nice shaded skies, and even some occasional eye-melting psychedelic effects on some spacey stages. The sound is a little more basic, consisting only of a constant blooping sound (the ship’s engine?), as well as shooting and explosion effects. They’re loud though, and do contribute to the enjoyment of Buck’s adventure which is a pretty decent one. I think it’s clear Sega’s inspiration for Space Harrier lies here, and the later game is understandably the one that’s more fondly remembered, but I was pleasantly surprised by its spiritual predecessor which is more playable in some ways as well as being slightly easier. Buck and friends may have a pretty limited involvement but they can still be fairly proud of this.

RKS Score: 7/10

Skies of Arcadia

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Format: Dreamcast Genre: RPG Released: 2001 Developer: Sega (Overworks)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Skies of Arcadia

Yes, that’s right another Dreamcast game for the list – no complaining back there. Hey, look, it’s not my fault that a signficant proportion of THE BEST GAMES EVER MADE were released on one particular console. (Funnily enough, I was never a big fan of Sega consoles before the Dreamcast came along, but I became a bit of a DC fanboy after I got one. Ah, Dreamcast, you were taken far too young! May you rest in peace in forgotten console heaven…)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

In terms of set-up, Skies of Arcadia is pretty much your standard Japanese RPG fare:  a young boy from a small village is summoned by destiny to save the world by fighting random, turn-based battles across strange new lands filled with a multitude of manga-style characters, and so on, and so forth. We’ve been here before (Grandia, Final Fantasy, etc. etc.), but the difference with Skies is the sheer imagination that has been poured into the game world, along with the strong sense of ownership you feel over the characters.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

The game world is composed of a series of floating islands that you navigate between using your trusty flying pirate ship. I couldn’t really find the screenshots to do it justice, but this floating world looks fantastic, and there’s a real sense of wonder as you explore new continents and find hidden treasures. In fact, finding the hidden ‘discoveries’ became such a distraction for me that I regularly abandoned the main plot in favour of locating these hidden gems, which were revealed by vibrations of the joypad.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Then there’s your ship’s crew – as you progress through the game you can recruit more and more members to your crew, each of whom provides some sort of boost when battling an enemy ship. (Incidentally, the ship battles are fantastic, and make for a diverting change from the usual monster battles – see the video below for an example.) The personalities of each of the characters really shine through, and by the end of the game you find yourself becoming quite attached to your motley crew of air pirates.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

The big downside to the game for me was the random battles – I’m not totally against random battles per se, but there should be an option to avoid them if possible. Later on in the game you can purchase items that let you avoid all confrontation, but earlier on you have no option but to plough through whatever the game throws at you, which got frustrating at times. The hardest part of the game occurred about a third of the way through, when you were tasked with finding an item among a series of floating rocks. The trouble was, you were constantly attacked as you flew your ship between the rocks, and this one section became so frustrating that I almost jacked the game in right there. Thankfully I perservered, which was a good thing since the game got a whole lot better from then on in.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

It’s difficult to say exactly what sets Skies of Arcadia apart from its JRPG ilk – it could be the imaginative setting, or the neat mixture of ship and monster battles, or perhaps the excellently crafted characters. Whatever it is, it had me totally hooked, and if you’re an RPG fan it’s an absolute must buy. (NB. If you’re planning to get it, you might want to look out for Skies of Arcadia Legends, an improved version that was released for the GameCube/Wii.)

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and story-lines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favorite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’ ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting back-story, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguisher refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

 

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ’4′ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the back-story to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

Streets of Rage 2

[youtube id=”F4S2z5mV17I” width=”633″ height=”356″]

I actually played Streets of Rage 1, 2 and 3 back then – but 2 for some reason was always my favorite of the trilogy. ~Nick Herber

Streets of Rage 2

This could fall under a Retro Reflection or a PlayStation Network Review, but I really did not want to break this down into a series of score points.  One of the titles I got to play while using PlayStation Plus was Streets of Rage 2 on the PSN.

streets-of-rage-2

This was a classic beat ’em up game from Sega that I played over and over again on my Sega Genesis.  I actually played Streets of Rage 1, 2 and 3 back then – but 2 for some reason was always my favorite of the trilogy.  By today’s standards, it can be a bit slow and sometimes the fighting is a bit ‘cheap’ – but it is still a good throwback to the older days of gaming for those of us who recall Final Fight, Golden Axe, Double Dragon and Streets of Rage so fondly.
  streets-of-rage-2
The premise is pretty simple – you walk from one side of the screen to the other, causing it to scroll in your direction as you take on wave after wave of street thugs.  Each level culminates in some sort of a boss battle that is equal parts amusing and frustratingly cheap.  Along the way you will pick up a variety of items like food, money and weapons stored in random barrels, benches and more from the environment around you.
streets-of-rage-2
You can play the game with a friend, which I recall doing repeatedly when I was younger and it is still fun today.  There is an online versus mode as well that does not hold up nearly as well, for a variety of reasons.  One, the fighting mechanics are really shallow – Street Fighter IV this is not.  Additionally, it seemed like the connections were flaky at best a lot of times.  If I can run around environments like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 and suffer no lag, then it seems baffling to me that a game like this would consistently have trouble keeping up during a single isolated fight.
Beyond that, it seemed like every time I was about to win, my opponent would disconnect with no fear of tangible penalty that I could detect.  Anyway, not a big deal as the majority of my time spent playing was just trucking through the actual story mode on my own.  I beat it two or three times over the span of a few days, and it definitely provided me with a nice dose of nostalgia along the way.

R-Type Dimensions

r-type-dimensions

If there was one thing I would not expect to do on a next-gen console, is to play games from the older generation. Boy was I wrong! Even though I do own a SNES and a Master System 2, I still happily play old and new titles on my Xbox Classic, the 360 and the Wii. The 360 and the Wii offer access to their exclusive online stores, and amongst the titles on there are a lot of old games from the older consoles. With that said, a lot of companies lately are remaking classics (and doing quite a faithful job of it as well!) Enter R-Type Dimensions.

r-type-dimensions

My past experiences with the R-Type games weren’t overly immense. A brief stint at a Timezone in Sydney back in the 80’s , the rental-to-almost-purchase on the Master System 2 in the early 90’s, and a sequel on the SNES (R-type 3). A frustratingly hard game? Some could say that, but I’ll go with exuberantly challenging. For those who don’t know what R-Type is, it is a side-scrolling shooter, think 1942 but with a side-on perspective. The storyline is that there’s the evil Bydo empire invading the universe, you are a pilot of a small ship sent to stop this evil.

r-type-dimensions

Okay, not much to it really, but this is the kind of game, where the storyline doesn’t mean a thing, and gameplay is where it matters. R-Type Dimensions is a faithful remake to the original game on the arcade. The graphics have been enhanced to a more modern (3D) feel, and I’ll be honest, they (IREM who were the original creators of R-Type, Tozai, and SouthEnd) did an amazing job of keeping the remake faithful to the classic, also by including an option to swap between HD and Classic graphic mode flawlessly, as the High-def visuals were rolled over onto the originals (Plural, yes, it includes R-Type I & II).

r-type-dimensions

The game was, and still is very challenging, getting to the point that many levels can not be passed easily unless you have 1-3 seconds of invincibility after you die, and a new ship appears. You have multiple power-ups, one of them infamously is your satellite, which is mounted to the front or rear of the ship, and can be jettisoned at will and returned back to the front or the rear of the ship. With the usual speed-ups and missile power-ups, you will find interesting methods on attacking the hordes of enemies, and figuring out how to defeat each end-level boss without losing 50 or so lives.

r-type-dimensions

Speaking about the lives, there is also an infinite mode, meaning you have unlimited lives to plow through the game with. The challenge there I suppose is to see who can finish the game with the least lives. There is also a co-op mode which would be beneficial for plowing through such a hard game.

On the XBLA for 1200 Microsoft Points, some would argue that the price for title like this is questionable. R-Type Dimensions is definitely a title for those who appreciated the original on just about any platform since it’s release.

4.5 out of 5

Pros:
– extremely loyal remake to the original
– ability to swap between new and old graphics
– challenging

Cons:
– Price may be questionable
– Plenty of moments where you could lob your controller across the lounge room from frustration

Battle Mania

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

Blue Stinger

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Blue Stinger (1999)
By: Climax Graphics / Activision  Genre: Survival Horror  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Dreamcast  
Also Available For: Nothing

As game systems get more and more powerful over the years it’s only natural that the games played on them will evolve to make better use of them too, and occasionally new genres appear. One such genre was arguably started by Alone in the Dark which appeared in 1992 for the PC but I don’t think anyone would deny it was the arrival of Capcom’s Resident Evil series which really saw it take off. This genre came to be known, of course, as survival horror, but it’s one that’s never really taken a hold of me. Despite this, I bought Blue Stinger at the Dreamcast’s launch and looked forward to exploring its world. Is that because it promised something more than existing survival horror games, or would I once again fail to be ensnared by this burgeoning genre?

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

In all honesty it was probably just excitement over the Dreamcast’s arrival which prompted the purchase of this game, but it does have a few differences to earlier games of its type. It’s set in the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of the Yacutan Peninsula. As we’re shown in the fairly decent intro sequence, this was the site of the immense meteor strike which brought to an end the age of the dinosaur. Fast forward to the year 2000 and a mysterious island is all that remains after a huge earthquake hits the presumed site of the meteor impact, and it becomes known as Dinosaur Island. It isn’t long before the island is occupied by a shady biotech corporation called Kimra. Nearly twenty years later, ESER (Emergency Sea Evacuation and Rescue) member, Eliot Ballade, is fishing in the area while on vacation with a friend when something falls from the sky, heading towards the island.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Soon after the island is struck by what appears to be a meteor, an energy barrier appears around it which traps Eliot’s friend, and almost capsizes their boat in the process. Needless to say, Eliot awakens on the island with only a blue, floaty creature called Nephilim for company. Urging Eliot to follow her, it’s at this point your adventure begins. To begin with you’ll just have Eliot to control but before long you’ll meet some friendly characters – Janine King, a member of the security force on the island who most of your contact with is via computer/viewscreen, and Dogs Bower, a resident of the island. From this point on you can select either Eliot or Dogs to explore the mysterious island with. Eliot is faster and more agile, Dogs is stronger and can take more damage. But damage from what, I hear you ask? The majority of Blue Stinger is a adventure game – explore the various buildings and other areas, solve simple puzzles or find items to progress, etc, but there are also some less-than-friendly creatures on the loose.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

As you might expect from a survival horror game, the island is occupied by some horrifying creatures as well. Many of these used to be human by the looks of it, but I don’t think they’re zombies. Whatever they are, they waste little time in tearing chunks out of Eliot and Dogs if they get the chance. To begin with, your only means of fending them off is your fists but it isn’t long before you’ll start finding some more effective weapons. These come in two groups. Short-range weapons include the trusty baseball bat (do these things actually get used for playing baseball?), axe, even a light-sabre type device. Far more effective (and safer), but with finite ammunition, are the long-range weapons. These include the standard handgun and shotgun, a couple of more originals ones in the acid gun and plasma gun, and the supremely satisfying bazooka!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Some of these weapons can be found surreptitiously laying around, but they can also be bought at one of the various (automated) shops you’ll come across. It’s the same for ammunition, although this can also be found on some of the dead bodies you’ll periodically encounter. Eeek! Dinosaur Island is a fairly extensive place too. As well as the expected areas like the docks (which is where you start), warehouses, and research facilities, there’s also shops, banks, and all sorts of other places. It’s more like a town than a corporate headquarters – they even have their own currency – the Kimra dollar. This can be found in several places but your first source of it is a dangerous one – the terrifying monsters themselves!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Predictably enough, the hideous creatures increase in both strength and numbers as you progress through the game but it’s worth taking them on rather than running as each will explode in a shower of coins upon defeat! Whilst this does break the illusion a little, they are nonetheless invaluable sources of money which is needed to make decent progress. Money can also be found in a few other places, as can numerous other items. Some of them are useful but not very exciting such as keys, bank and ID cards, stamps, etc. Others are a bit more interesting but less useful such as an array of new t-shirts! Various foods and ‘Hassy’ drinks can also be found or bought which replenish your energy level to a varying degree depending on what you consume.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

One of the biggest attractions of games like this is their realism which is probably why they, as a genre, were born relatively recently as a result of the ever-increasing power of home systems. After all, only so much realism could be achieved on the older and more limited cartridge and disc-based machines! Accordingly, considering it was one of the first Dreamcast games, Blue Stinger is a fantastic-looking game. The intro and cut-scenes are great (although the lip-syncing is a little ropey) and this was one of the first games on any system to feature a fully-3D game environment. The scale and atmosphere this helps to convey is pretty darn good and all the characters, especially the gruesome monsters, look superb. Some of the boss monsters are enormous and mightily impressive!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

The various areas of the game have been well thought-out too and the attention to detail is top-notch. For example, the game apparently takes place near Christmas as there are decorations and jingly music around the shopping area! The voice-acting, whilst not cringe-inducing, is a little below-par but the rest of the music is of a high standard too. Some of it’s creepy as you would expect, but that Christmas tune is brilliant. There’s something very surreal about shooting the crap out of disgusting, mutated creatures while music as happy and jolly as that is playing! A vast majority of the game is viewed from a third-person perspective and, mercifully in my opinion, control over Eliot/Dogs is more akin to Tomb Raider than Resident Evil which gives the game a lot more immediacy and is greatly beneficial to the enjoyment of the game.

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast
And enjoyable it is too. The graphics, sound, presentation, etc are all about as good as you could expect for a Dreamcast launch title and they still impress today but for one problem – the camera. Yep, it was a familiar story in the late 90’s. The view of the action is very good until you find yourself in a cramped corner or something similar, at which point it doesn’t seem to know where to go! That said, it’s not a game-ruining problem and it shouldn’t dissuade you from playing Blue Stinger. The story is engrossing and the interaction between the characters is superb with some amusing banter between them all. The shady Dogs rarely seems at ease with Eliot and even less so when Janine’s around (I suspect he’d be ever more incensed if he knew about the revealing pics Sega hid away of her on the game disc!).

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Aside from the camera problem there really isn’t and bad points to this game. There’s a genuine urge to unravel the mystery and see how things end and there’s a good 10-15 hours of tense and atmospheric gameplay before you’ll get to find that out. There’s also enough secrets and small side-quests to encourage multiple play-throughs and it’s enjoyable each time. A survival horror beginner I may be, but I’d like to think I know a good game when I see one, and this is certainly that.

RKS Score: 8/10

Five Video Games To Play In Summer

Summer_Games

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

Wave Race 64 [N64]

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

California Games [Lynx]

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

Virtua Tennis [Dreamcast]

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

Summer Games II [C64]

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

Out Run [PC-Engine]

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

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

Sonic The Hedgehog Triple Trouble

[youtube id=”NFCZ98Kz2kA” width=”633″ height=”356″]

This is a nice enough portable rendering of Sonic, but it fails to deal with any of the issues that have always been present in the series. ~Simon Reed

Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble

Sonic is not a character I have ever really warmed to. I prefer my platforming to be precise and skillfull, with new challenges introduced throughout. Sonic, however, seems to be purely about running fast and letting his (usually lovely looking) backdrops become a blur. That’s not something I can really abide by.

Anyway, that’s my feeling about Sonic, and most of his games. Triple Trouble doesn’t change this mindset, but if you’re a fan I suppose it’s a pretty good effort, especially for a Game Gear game.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

It starts with a little cutscene with Sonic chasing Knuckles, who has taken some gems. Tails bring up the rear (i’m saying nothing). Eggman (or Dr Robotnik, whatever), then appears, and holds a gem. Nothing more is explained. Whether you end up having to take on two enemies in the game is a mystery.

Next, the title screen pops up with Sonic’s face. A smaller Knuckles appears and laughs like a dick. This was obviously before he wimped out and became a good guy, letting in freaks like Shadow into the increasingly cack Sonic enemy cast.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

I chose to play as Sonic instead of Tails in this play-through by the way. I don’t think I need to justify my choice.

Great Turquoise is the first world. It is neither turquoise or great, but whatever. Basically, it’s Green Hill Zone. You can easily rush your way through to the boss stage, and I only really noticed two things during my dash.

First is that the water in the game is very odd, with weird flickering dots appearing on top of it. Not particularly easy on the eyes. The other is that no matter how many rings you hold, when you get hit you only drop around 5, meaning that the difficulty is a little higher than a Mega-Drive Sonic title. It also robs you of seeing the rings cascading in every direction – personally one of my favourite little touches of the series.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

The Boss for the first set of levels is a flying turtle thing. You start in a pool of water, with the fight eventually reaching ground level. It’s tough to hit the boss in this part as he’s high off screen. You just have to spring up and hope you hit him, instead of the other way round.

After sending him to turtle-robo hell you’ll see Knuckles on top of a cliff. He laughs like a dick (again) and roasts you with a wall of fire. How he set up such a thing I have no idea, especially as it seems to come out of nowhere.

sonic_the_hedgehog_triple_trouble

Sunset Park is the next stage, and is a solid but unspectacular world, full of slightly unfair deaths. Spikes, flying hammer bees and exploding platforms are all frustrating obstacles, but you can scrape your way through eventually.

The boss for this world is an even bigger pain though. Set on a moving train you have limited control of your character and must hit a gun firing directly at you. What’s worse is that you have to start the whole level, which is slow (for a Sonic game) and boring, from the start if you die.

I think i’ve seen enough from those two worlds though. Basically, it’s as I said in the introduction. This is a nice enough portable rendering of Sonic, but it fails to deal with any of the issues that have always been present in the series. Oh and one last thing – Sonic The Hedgehog: Pocket Adventure on Neo-Geo Pocket is much, much better than this.

Black Belt

Black Belt a.k.a. Hokuto No Ken (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Fighting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 209,100
Also Available For: Nothing Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Black_Belt
Apparently inspired by Irem’s Kung Fu Master, even to the point of borrowing its ‘plot’, Sega’s game introduces the martial arts master, Riki, whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by a rival gang. Blinded by love to the obvious dangers ahead, Riki immediately sets out to rescue her by kicking and punching his way across six scrolling stages of enemy goons. His repertoire of moves is restricted to a punch or kick, both of which can be performed while standing or squatting, and he can also unleash a flying kick. Each stage features just one type of standard enemy who are each felled (and then explode) by one of Riki’s strikes. There are also one or more mid-bosses, who are usually armed, before the main end-of-stage battle against a much stronger foe.Back in the late 80’s, my good friend Luke and I were both proud owners of Sega’s Master System.

Black_Belt

We were both still at school though, so we couldn’t afford new games very often, but we frequently ogled the games we wanted in the various magazines of the day, and on both of our lists was this exciting-sounding game by Sega. It’s actually one of the first games by Yuki Naka who would later go on to head Sonic Team and was released earlier in the same year in Japan as a game based on the popular manga and anime series, Fist of the North Star. Rather than using this opportunity to introduce it to the rest of us though, its release in other territories saw a change in theme to the generic karate game we have before us. This was all unknown to Luke and I at the time of course, and despite the atrocious cover art (see here) it’s a game I always found very enticing.

Black_Belt

Enemy strikes deplete Riki’s health-bar but this can be replenished by performing a high-jump (jump while squatting) to grab the icons that occasionally float along the top of the screen. As well as several types of food to refill your energy, there’s also a temporary shield, but they’re tricky to grab without taking any damage as the buffoons running backwards and forwards along the single-plane landscapes are infinite and quite quick too. They’re also pretty small, as is Riki himself. The level of detail isn’t too impressive on most sprites either but the mid and end-of-stage bosses are quite varied and a bit more detailed too. Confrontations with the latter sees the view zoom in a little, and therefore the level of detail increase a little, as the game (briefly) switches to a one-on-one brawler complete with unique backgrounds.

Black_Belt

Each of the stages also has its own backdrop and tune, of course, but these are little better than average which sums up the whole game really. It would probably have proved a reasonably entertaining game to play every now and then when it came out but it’s not aged too well. There’s no incentive to play for points since the enemies are never-ending. There is a time limit, admittedly, but it’s not a very strict one which is probably because the stages aren’t very long – if you were forced to rush through them, each would probably last a couple of minutes at most, not including the boss fights which are, incidentally, the only times you’ll need to use more than one brain cell! Playing through the rest of the game, though, is a bit of a chore and there’s a few scrolling fightings games on the MS which are much more enjoyable. Sometimes these games I’ve been meaning to play for so many years are worth the wait. Sadly, Black Belt isn’t one of them.

RKS Score: 5/10

My Favorite Level: Sonic 3 Hydrocity

Hydrocity Zone 2

My Favorite Level: Sonic 3 Hydrocity

There are a ton of levels I love across all of the Sonic Universe, but one of my favorites is Hydrocity. This is the second zone in Sonic 3 and is a mixture of a underwater zone and ruins.  You start off after you fall from the broken bridge on Angel Island, if you fall to the left you can find a ring container. Depending on where you fall you will encounter some spikey enemies, spikes or some red colored springs. You sometimes will be spending a lot of time underwater so it’s good to look for bubbles that will give you air or better yet, the bubble shield which keeps you from drowning completely.

Hydrocity Zone 2

Perhaps it is because I always loved water and waterparks, but the different experiences in these two levels were fun to me. Right in the beginning you open a gate and a run of water forces you out and you speed across the underwater city. You also can go up and hover on fans of air and jump from conveyer belts before speeding around loops and slides going above and below the water.

Hydrocity Zone 2

There are multiple ways to traverse the level. You can stay low and underwater, head up and down the various ramps and go to the top of the level via levitating platforms. Of course there are hidden area’s that will take you to get Chaos Emeralds, but there are also power ups, coins and free levels scattered about the level.

Hydrocity Zone 2

Now I love both zones, but my favorite is act 2 mainly because of the water slides. On some of the slides you just use your own speed to go up or down them and others have spinning platforms. On these platforms a hand comes out and you speed up and go rocketing up the slide, just watch out for the shark/missile looking enemies. I can’t talk enough about the slides and if you time it right you can spend a good amount of the level on these slides that spin and twist and take you pretty much all the way to the boss.

Hydrocity Zone 2

I also love the music. On the main page of Obsolete Gamer you will see I have Hydrocity Act 2 music in the music player. Like most of Sonic’s music it matches the level and is a really catchy tune. I like act one music, but act 2 is by far my favorite.

Overall a great series of levels in an awesome game and for me ranks right up there with Chemical Plant zone.

Assault City

assault-city-sega

Format- Master System

Genre- Lightgun shooter

You may remember my dismissal of Knife Edge on N64 as a pointless exercise without having an actual light-gun to play it with. Well, Assault City has a gun, but it’s still not much cop. But what do you expect when you play it with Sega’s rather naff Light Phaser?

The game starts with an odd shooting range thing, with both human and robot faces popping up to fire at. You’re not supposed to shoot the humans apparently – it took me a little while to realise this. No instructions you see. You’re just supposed to already know the robots are your enemies. That’s robo-racism if I ever saw it.

assault-city-sega

The weird faces the humans pull when you blast them with lead are amusing though. (the robot’s death animations are boring in comparison). It’s almost like the designers wanted you to shoot the wrong targets…

You’re then given a ranking for how well you did (I performed badly, predictably), and whisked into the first stage proper. Things get ugly quickly.

Enemies fly around in the air, and a robot (which the game has taught me is certainly an enemy) walks along the bottom. All of them are rather uninspired and blandly designed. I shoot away at them, and their death explosions are as equally dour.

assault-city-sega

Eventually I die, despite not really knowing when I took a hit. Enemies are so badly designed it’s not clear when they’re shooting at you.

I’m treated with a cartoon panel style rendering of my death (which is nice), but it doesn’t paticularly inspire me to attempt to progress any further.

Light-gun games don’t usually age that badly. They have a simple charm that is purely down to the way they are played – with a chunky plastic gun.

assault-city-sega

Assault City definitely does suffer from the weedy Light Phaser you have to play it with, but it has other, deeper, problems. It’s designed without any real style, and it also lacks any solidity of heft in its gunplay. These are two areas which really work against it.

In the end, it’s a game where you shoot at things on a screen, and Assault City does a half-decent job. But it had to doa lot better than half-decent job if it wanted to be remembered with any fondness.

Monster Lair

Monster Lair

Monster Lair is a side-scrolling action game originally released to the arcades by Sega in 1988. A year later the game was adapted for the Turbo Grafx-16 by Hudson Soft. One of the cool things about Monster Lair is how the game starts out as a normal platformer where you control a boy or girl hero trying to stop the enemy from destroying your land and later on in the game, it turns into a shoot em up.

Monster Lair

The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Platformer

Well, this a load of cack. The film this is based on was loved by me as a child (even though now I can see nowadays it’s no masterpiece), but this interactive adaptation is just tripe of the highest order.

Perhaps in its day it was a given a bit more leeway, but now it can only really be enjoyed by those suffering with masochistic tendencies.

First off, controlling virtual Macaulay Culkin is all wrong – it feels as if he’s greased his shoes with the way he slides uncontrollably all over the place.

The Pagemaster

This lack of solidity extends to the gameplay as well. The rules of the game aren’t explained at all, leaving with you guessing to progress.

Enemies are the main frustration. Occasionally they kill you instantly, but if you approach it in another way you can kill it, but it’s all guesswork. You attack by collecting items (also not detailed in-game), but you can also do some kind of punch if you run and jump.

It’s all so frustratingly oblique – did the developers expect kids (or me) to read the instructions? It just unfairly increases the level of difficulty, which is fairly high anyway.

The Pagemaster

Then there are characters which might be enemies, but you’re not sure, so you avoid them. For example, some books can be found just sitting around (see pic), but don’t seem to serve any purpose even if you risk getting near them. Why are they there?

Graphically its okay, but it’s hard to care about such things when the game is constantly spewing frustrating situation after frustrating situation into your face.

Perhaps it gets better after a while, but that’s no excuse for the churning tedium they inflict upon you in the game’s opening. If they can’t be bothered to provide a well balanced game, I definitely can’t be bothered to play it.

So don’t buy this. It probably won’t burn as well as a book, but i’d advise you throw it on a fire regardless.

Sonic 1 Coming to the 3DS

sonic-1-sonic-the-hedgehog

Sonic 1 Coming to the 3DS

Hey, if you haven’t gotten your Sonic 1 fix on every other platform coming in about a week you will be able to get the classic game on your 3DS. Now this is considered a remake, but for the most part everything will stay the same except changes in the games background thanks to the features of the 3DS. If this isn’t enough Sonic news, Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead and Stealth are working on a Sonic 1 remake for Sega. Those of you who played Sonic CD on your smart phone should know about that team. Either way, soon there will be no place you cannot find a Sonic game to play.

Holosseum: Time Traveler

holosseum

Holosseum: Time Traveler

I remember walking into my local arcade and seeing this weird looking game in the center of the room. It was the place they put all the new premier games they wanted all the kids to try. What was weird was this game did not look anything like the other arcade cabinets. This game looked like some futuristic console made by the Nintendo Wii designers. Now the game was called Time Traveler and it featured awesome 3D holograms, well kind of.

holosseum

The game was released in 1991 by Sega and the overall story was that you were a cowboy and you are tasked to stop an evil scientist called Vulcor. Vulcor can manipulate time and so you have to travel to different time periods and undo the damage he has done, get to him and save the Princess of the Galactic Federation. Now the game was pretty expensive at the time. To play the game cost anywhere from 75 cents to a dollar which I guess was to pay for the over 40 actors they used in the filming of the game.

holosseum

Those of you who are into current gaming will know about stereographic 3D which is what makes everything look three dimensional. The arcade cabinet itself was specifically made to project the game characters and make them look like holograms. The gameplay was kind of like Space Ace where the key is to move the joystick or hit a button at the right time to avoid being killed. The game was known for its death sequences kind of like how Dragon’s Lair became known for.

holosseum

Unlike Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, Time Traveler gave you a lot more hints and when you died showed you what to do. You also had a time reversal button that you could hit to rewind time, think sands of time from Prince of Persia. The problem was this game was made to suck coins as you only had a few time reversals, sometimes as few as one, but you could always pay quarters to buy more. You also only had three lives and nine times out of ten the game was set to hard. So how did people beat it? They would watch someone else and write down what to do. If you did that without dying you got a whopping ten minutes of total game time.

There were seven time periods based on real time periods in our history and one called the Age of Magic. It also had a bonus game called Hellgate which was a slot machine type game where you could bet your lives to win more, but again, this was a money grab and most of the time you never won additional lives. Believe it or not, the game sold pretty well, perhaps because of how expensive it was, but had a short life span as the awesome fighting games of the 90’s were being released. However, I remember this game even though I only played it a few times as an interesting fad just like how I view glass wearing 3D gaming today.

Golden Axe

GoldenAxe

The powerhouse that was Sega in the late 1980′s indulged us in some awesome arcade hits. Towards the end of that decade, Sega released memorable arcade games: Crack Down, Dynamite Dux, ESWAT Cyber Police, Scramble Spirits and Power Drift. To keep up this pedigree of arcade hits, Sega unleashed Golden Axe in 1989. Once again, Sega proved that they were the king of the arcade hill.

The big rage back in the late 80′s was two player co-op, horizontal-scrolling fighting games, or in this case, slashing evil minions to pieces and getting to the final boss. The medieval theme of Golden Axe implements the hacking and slashing game play to perfection. The storyline is pretty much run of the mill – the evil Death Adder has kidnapped the King and Princess of Yuria and it is up to the protagonists to rescue them and also seek revenge on the evil that was done to their families.

GoldenAxe

To set off after Death Adder, the player controls one of three characters, Ax Battler (a Conan The Barbarian lookalike),  Gilius Thunderhead, the viking dwarf, and Tyris Flare, the Amazonian goddess (my first female video game character crush – sorry Lara!). Even though Tyris is a great character to use, her long-sword is no match for the battle axe that Gilius Thunderhead wields.

GoldenAxe

Anyway, on with the adventure – there are lots of different enemies to slash and if things get tough on screen, each of the protagonists can call upon their unique magic power – Tyris Flare has the coolest magic, she uses fire to incinerate everything on screen. There is finite magic power, so the player will have to pick and choose when best to use it. But wait there is more – mounted enemies riding creatures can be knocked off and the players themselves can then hitch a ride on the creatures and use them as weapons (swiping with their tail). The other neat attack is to charge and ram Death Adder’s henchmen by double-tapping the joystick right or left.

GoldenAxe

The level design is simply awesome – from Turtle Village (which is on a shell of a turtle), to the back of a giant flying eagle. Last but not least, there is the castle where you must defeat Death Adder and reclaim the Golden Axe.

SPOILER ALERT: Once the game is beaten, the ending shows a view of an arcade where the characters “jump out” of the game, run out of the arcade and down the street.

I have always been a huge Sega arcade fan. Whatever they pumped out, it was an instant hit. Golden Axe was no exception.

GraphicsUsing the Sega System 16 board, this was the pinnacle in visuals at the time. Great sprites and awesome looking levels.

87%

SoundThe background music and digitised effects and grunts add perfectly to the axe wielding and sword swooshing atmosphere.

88%

PlayabilitySega knew what they were doing when adding an Amazonian beauty to the mix. Golden Axe remains easy to get into, but its best played with a buddy.

87%

LastabilityIt is a run of the mill side scrolling hack and slash, but hey, there is nothing wrong with that.

88%

OverallIn 1989, I pumped the equivalent of my body weight of coins into this game. It was also one of the reasons I bought a Mega Drive when it was released. Best played with a friend, Golden Axe has it covered – great graphics, awesome sound effects and great game play.

89%

 

 

GoldenAxe

Manufacturer: Sega
Year: 1989
Genre: Platform
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Collaborative
Control Panel Layout: Multi Player
Controls:
– Joystick: 8-way
– Buttons: 3 [Jump, Attack, Magic]
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

 

Sonic the Hedgehog Remastered

sonic-the-hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog Remastered

Coming in April the remastered version of Sonic the Hedgehog arranged by Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead will be available for the Android and iOS platforms. The cost will be three dollars and you can expect it to be a lot like Whitehead’s last release of Sonic CD. In addition, Sonic 2 will also be getting the remastered treatment soon.

Toy Story

toy-story-sega-genesis

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

This is an interesting one, in a few ways you might not expect.

First off, the game followed several months after the film, which was, as everyone knows, a huge success.

toy-story-sega-genesis

Perhaps the delay was to to make the game better – after all, no-one knew if the film was going to be a hit, and this could have therefore made the developer re-think producing a cash-in rather than a product that was a worthy accompaniment to the film (not that is something that happens often).

Although this is not a crushingly soulless exercise in licensed based tedium, the game is still nowhere near the classic the film is.

toy-story-sega-genesis

The first thing that you notice is that the game is by Travellers Tales, now of Lego-based fame. Toy Story shares hardly any of the traits of its present series of titles however.

Plumping for pre-rendered style graphics, the game doesn’t appeal that much in the cold light of 2011. It doesn’t help that the general feel of the game isn’t quite solid or tactile enough, making you not feel completely comfortable with the controls.

toy-story-sega-genesis

You play as Woody, with the opening stages offering up a pleasing amount of variation. There’s a typical side scrolling level, a open rescue mission and a racing section in the first three stages alone.

I managed to get to the nightmare based boss level, and I have stepped no further. I imagine the game continues in the same vein as its opening though, as long as it follows the plot of the film.

toy-story-sega-genesis

You can certainly tell it’s from a talented developer, but the game is still no classic and looks fairly dated by today’s standards. If you’re an Toy Story obsessive though, this is worth hunting down.

Oh and one last thing – the guy who is supposed to be impersonating Tim Allen did a terrible job – he sounds nothing like him. The Tom Hanks voice though, is passable.

Cool Spot

Cool-Spot

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.

Cool-Spot

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.

Cool-Spot

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.

Jet Set Radio

jet set radio

The beautifully designed, awesomely soundtracked game from the Sega Dreamcast is now only 99 cents on Google Play.  Originally released by Sega in 2000 the game features a gang of rebellious teens who skated around a beautifully cartoonish cell shaded town collecting spray cans to paint designated targets all while jamming to impressive beats.

jet set radio

All this holds up in the Android port however, what does not is the controls. Back on the Dreamcast it still took many a while to get used to the controls especially when preforming tricks to get to those hard to reach places. On the screen pad it is nearly impossible. Perhaps mobile gaming pros will have no issues, but if any game was made to go with a Bluetooth controller it is this one.

jet set radio

Another complaint is its size. At 1.3GB’s it can be a lot for people with smaller storage spaces and if your phone is kind of old there have been reports of crashes. If you have a newer phone then it isn’t an issue and with an external controller the game is just as fun as I remember.

So check it out for only 99 cents on Google play and rejoice in retro and classic gaming having a home on mobile devices.

The Game Genie

gamegenie

Long before there was an Internet to search for clues and codes to hack your way through a stubbornly difficult game, Codemasters brought a product into the game market which permitted access to your video game’s code, thereby letting you add unearned lives, power-ups, and so forth. The Game Genie was an accessory that you could insert into your game console, and then the game would attach to the Game Genie, allowing the Game Genie to act as an intermediary between the console and the game.

gamegenie

Many gamers found this helpful, and different Game Genies were produced for a variety of game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Game Gear. Two different companies distributed the Game Genie over the years it was being manufactured: Galoob and Camerica, one of which (Galoob) was actually sued by Nintendo in an effort to prevent the Game Genie from being sold. Fortunately for many gamers, Nintendo lost their legal battle and had to pay Galoob for damages.

Time marches steadily on, however, and the Game Genie is now in the dustbin of gaming history, while Nintendo continues to be a gaming powerhouse.  All we have left of the Game Genie are the few units that can be found here and there in the retrogaming marketplace, and our memories. Speaking of which, see if the following ad brings back memories of how you salivated over the thought of finally mastering that one irksome game, if only you got a Game Genie.

The Turbo CD Review

The ultimate accessory for video console gaming in the early 1990′s was not the Sega CD – it was the Turbo CD with a Super System Card.  This combination permitted owners of NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 gaming system to access some of the very best games available at the time, whether they were North American or Japanese releases, such as Dungeon Explorer II, Ys Book I and II, Lords of Thunder, and Dracula X.

The Turbo CD with TurboGrafx-16

The Turbo CD attached itself to the TurboGrafx-16 system, and the new world of CD gaming was opened up.  The Super System Card turned the Turbo CD into a Turbo Duo machine, with 256K of RAM (split 64K DRAM and 192K SRAM).  It also provided the most advanced bios for the T16 (version 3.0), which permitted its owners to play the “Super System CD” games.  The extra memory gave programmers the ability to use the entire color palette for their games’ backgrounds, which provided a much richer gaming experience.

So if this accessory was the greatest thing to happen to gaming since the release of the Atari 2600, why didn’t everyone own one?  Well, to begin with, it was an accessory for the TurboGrafx-16 system, which was fighting for ground in the Nintendo vs. Sega console wars, and losing.  It was also BIG, which was odd, considering the Japanese model it was based on (for the PC Engine) was quite small.  Perhaps the North American fascination for big trucks and luxury cars blinded the design team at NEC, since they clearly thought BIGGER was better.  Unfortunately, retailers don’t want giant boxes that are mostly Styrofoam or packaging today, and they didn’t then, either.

With a box measuring 59.5cm x 44.5cm x 26cm (23.4″ x 17.5″ x 10.2″), who had the space to display it, never mind stock it in any significant quantity?  Another reason was that, unlike the Sega CD, which included Sewer Shark, the Turbo CD did not include a game, which meant you had to add a little more cost to the final bill.  That leads us to the final, and most important reason why the Turbo CD did not catch fire in the gaming universe: the price.  NEC priced the Turbo CD at $399, which was a prohibitive price point.  Although the standard System 2.0 Card was included in the package, it only gave access to the standard CD games.  Only by purchasing the Super System Card could gamers access the Super CD titles (like Prince of Persia, DragonSlayer, etc), and this was retailing in the $80-$100 range.

Turbo CD Super System Card 3.0

So let’s review NEC’s market strategy for the Turbo CD:

  1. High price
  2. Basic function unless you pay even more money for an accessory for the accessory
  3. GIANT size
  4. No game

I’m not a rocket scientist, but this combination would spell disaster today for any peripheral’s sales, never mind during the height of the Nintendo vs. Sega console wars!

The TurboGrafx CD original box

So in the end, the Turbo CD was the best gaming accessory no one bought.  Today retro gaming is a both a popular and enjoyable pastime.  If you are a retro gamer with a passion for all things 90s, you simply need to have a TurboGrafx-16 with a Turbo CD system!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel a need for some Lords of Thunder Super CD action coming on – awesome guitar riffs and amazing game play await!

Contra: Hard Corps

 

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot

Contra: Hard Corps

Let me start by saying that while this is a true, crazy Contra game, Hard Corps was a bit of a disappointment.
The good parts: You can play as 4 different characters, which would be great for the replay value….if it were possible to actually finish the game the first time.

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
The graphics are absolutely beautiful (as expected); there are some cool cut-scenes; heat-seeking-missile guns are always a good thing; there’s enough variation in bad-guys to make it interesting; the bosses are many and very well designed……

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Here’s the problem: Where the earlier Contra games (arcade and console) are notorious for their difficulty and 1-hit kills, at least there is a high fun-factor in overcoming the challenges and looking for the patterns…. Hard Corps does not have this. Here’s why:

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Whenever you shoot something, which is constantly, your enemy explodes in a beautiful shower of fireballs. The problem……..it’s so huge and bright, you’re constantly being cheap-killed by a stray bullet!!! The normal dexterity needed to play these games are normally reserved for AD&D 2nd Edition Thieves (Yep, I’m old). I get that. But, when you can’t see what you’re trying to dodge, it just takes all the fun out it. I’m not freaking Daredevil! (2nd nerd drop..I’m done)

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
If you’re a fan of this genre, or a Contra completist…go for it. It has all the juicy goodness of awesome weapons, cool music, huge bosses, robots, and great controls. But for me, I’m going back to Contra III, for the SNES….and that’s saying something, because I’ve always been a ‘Sega over Nintendo’ guy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfwnSPK48TU[/youtube]

Overall: 6/10 solo 7/10 co-op

My Favorite Games: Part 10

And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)

Wiz n Liz - MegaDrive

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!

Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Goldeneye 007 - Nintendo 64

Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!

Soul Calibur
– Dreamcast (1999)

Soul Calibur - Dreamcast

Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.

Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)

Operation Wolf - Arcade

Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.

Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)

Sonic 2 - MegaDrive

Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!

The End…

The Top 5 Sega Genesis Accessories

The Sega MegaDrive - The First Genesis

The Sega MegaDrive – The First Genesis

The rise and rule of the Genesis system led to some nifty accessories.  Here’s five of the coolest accessories that gamers could add to their Sega Genesis:

EA Sports 4-Way Play

EA Sports 4-Way Play

4-Way Play
EA Sports have been making sports-related games for decades, and back in the day Sega Genesis titles were where you went to get your Madden or NHL fix.  But many sports are team games, so Electronic Arts developed the 4-Way Play accessory. This handy little device allowed up to 4 players to play their favourite EA Sports games, so you could have a gamer Super Bowl party, complete with a little pre-game Genesis warm-up!

The Genesis Game Genie by Galoob

The Genesis Game Genie by Galoob

Game Genie
Some Genesis games were hard to beat.  Really hard.  (And some ridiculously easy, but I digress.)  Game Genie by Camerica/Galoob to the rescue!  All you had to do is pop the Genie into the Genesis and insert your game cartridge into it, enter the right code for whatever cheat you wanted, and the game suddenly became a lot easier!  (And you could use the Genie as a country converter cartridge for most games, too – but not officially…)

 

The Sega Channel by General Instrument

The Sega Channel by General Instrument

Sega Channel
Long before Internet online games, Sega came up with the idea to offer games by download.  This little box attached to the Genesis and to the cablevision line.  Players paid a monthly service fee to get access to unlimited access to 50 or so games, plus limited previews of new releases, as well as special versions of fan favorites.  The service is long gone, but still remembered fondly!

 

The Sega Power Base Converter

The Sega Power Base Converter

Power Base Converter
Before the Sega Genesis was a hit, there was the Sega Master System.  Although it never reached the market share dominance that the Genesis did, there were quite a few games and consoles sold.  Rather than tossing out the old games (like Phantasy Star!) gamers could pick up the Power Base Converter, which attached to the Genesis and allowed those SMS games to be played on their new Genesis.  8-bit gaming goodness on their new 16-bit gamer powerhouse!  Gamergasm!

Sega CD Accessory - Top and Side Mounts

 

Sega CD Accessory – Top and Side Mounts

Sega CD
If you had the cash, the Sega CD was a must-have accessory.  It came in two designs, a CD-player style for the older Genesis systems, which stacked on top of each other, and a top-loading style for the new Genesis systems, which acted as a base and the Genesis inserted into its side.  (The Nomad would be released later.) Some of the best games for the Genesis were released on CD-format, including Lunar: The Silver Star, Sonic the Hedgehog CD, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, and Earthworm Jim.  Now that’s quality retro gaming!

Sonic CD

Sonic CD - Main Screen

Of course, this should’ve happened months ago but there are always things that come and go with our lives and other things. It’s finally here though and what better way to reach the one hundred mark than with an incredible game. A personal favorite if you ask me! Lets check Sonic CD out!

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The music of Sonic CD is something to admire. Not even the Sonic 3 soundtrack which was directed by Michael Jackson was good enough to surpass this. There might be different opinions on this matter but the fact is that this game has an incredible soundtrack! Don’t believe me? Just try it out for yourself!!

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The graphics are top notch for a 16 bit Sonic game. The game not only looks beautiful but it also has a 3D view at times especially when Sonic runs through some ramps. The angle switches and almost gives it a 3D look. There is plenty of color to see and lots of graphical beauties to admire. Well done Sega.

Sonic CD - Main Screen

What can you expect from a real good Sonic game? Great gameplay of course. The levels get challenging along the way but not too challenging to make you throw your controller against the wall. The levels stay fresh and offer new ideas which is why this has been one of the more enjoyable Sonic games ever released. You have to search for all the secrets and even try to acquire all the stones. Can you accomplish such tasks?

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The game has a great replay value. You can pick this game and beat it from start to finish and enjoy it every time. This is an example of why these games are referred to as “classics”. They are always a great experience to come back and challenge yourself over and over. Keep this one in your collection for sure!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDuk-wsY0rA[/youtube]

To conclude, the game is just a gem and probably one of the best Sonic games ever. After years of mediocre Sonic releases, we can always go back to this one and enjoy what Sonic was. Thank goodness for Sonic Generations reviving the franchise! Be sure to pick up Sonic CD to battle against Metal Sonic whenever you get a chance!! A must have!!

Pengo

 

Pengo Cover

I probably should have liked this game more than I did. Pengo is an overhead maze-puzzler, and I generally love these games. The ability to use my brains (for once) in a video game, add a little action, sprinkle in some cutesy characters and music, normally would equal “retro arcade goodness”. But, here’s why Pengo didn’t really do it for me:

Pengo Cover
Sega put out Pengo, a cute red penquin, in 1982. I remember this being rather popular, but for whatever reason didn’t give it much of a look. Set in a maze of ice-blocks, the goal is to kill all of these blob-like creatures, called Sno-Bees…even though they could have just used bees, I guess…or called them “Sno-blobs”…not really getting this. Anyway, you push-slide the blocks around, which will shatter when they hit something…preferably a blob. After you kill one (there will be 3 on-screen), another will hatch from an ice block and you’ll continue smashing them until they stop hatching, usually around 8-10. When the level first starts, the blocks from which the blobs hatch will briefly “flash”, allowing you to destroy those blocks, if you wish, before they hatch, making it easier to finish the level…..in theory.

Pengo Gameplay screenshot
Here’s my problem: The blobs don’t move like the slow-asses I’ve seen in the movies. Matter of fact, it seems like they’re actually faster than me. They melt-through my ice-block weapons on the way to me, and I can’t tell you how many times I was waiting behind a block to shove and they started melting it before I had a chance to use it. I was literally spending all my time running for my life, and just tossing ice randomly. I haven’t panicked this much in a game since the first night of Left 4 Dead. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have “mastered” the game, but holy shit, it was tough for me. The controls just seemed a bit off, which added to the frustration.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hdDKxfrAbs[/youtube]
There are a lot of ways to gain points in the game; obviously killing blobs, but also there are 3 diamond blocks on every level. These are indestructable and make for a good weapon, but if you’re able to line the three up, you’ll receive bonus points. Again, I don’t know how you’d ever have time for this…good luck. Also, the quicker you finish a level, the more bonus you receive…capping off with 5000 points if you do it under 20 SECONDS!!!! Christ….
I do love the animation and music, and I’m sure this is a well-loved classic…..but I don’t.

Overall 5/10

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]

Pre-Order The History Of Sonic The Hedgehog

The History of Sonic the Hedgehog

The History Of Sonic The Hedgehog

Fans of Sonic you can now preorder the upcoming book titled The History of Sonic the Hedgehog. . Amazon is not taking pre-orders for the book that outlines the history of Sonic from the development stages through all the games we know and love.  Here is a scoop on what to expect:

The History of Sonic the Hedgehog

The History of Sonic The Hedgehog covers every 2D and 3D Sonic game in detail, ensuring that every generation of ‘Sonic’ fan will find a lot to love! The book also details every spin-off game, every crossover, and even rare cameo appearances by Sonic across the gaming universe! Whether you’re looking for a detailed history, character profiles, promotional art, game packages, or even rare concept art, you’ll find it in The History of Sonic The Hedgehog!

The History of Sonic The Hedgehog is the book that fans of this series have been waiting for, and whether you’re an avid gamer, a Sonic comic reader, or just have fond memories of this series, you’ll want a copy on your shelf!

The History of Sonic the Hedgehog

Currently the exactly release date is unknown, but you can reorder yours right now.

Nights: HD Release

nightsintodreams

Nights: HD Release

Fans of the classic Sega Saturn game have something to celebrate as HD release of Nights into Dream will be coming this fall. About 16 years ago, July 5th, 1996, Knights was released for the Sega Saturn featuring a unique gameplay style, beautiful graphics and an awesome soundtrack. The HD release will feature updated graphics and features such as trophies/achievements, and leaderboards.

nightsintodreams

Chris Olson, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA, said in the official announcement: ”The SEGA Saturn offered many unique gaming experiences, and NiGHTS into dreams… stands out as one of the most recognizable titles that found a home on the system. We’ve gotten a lot of requests about this game over the years, and are very happy to be able to give both former Saturn owners and new players a chance to play it in its most beautiful form to date this fall.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSHcbnu49lI[/youtube]

Currently we only know that the game will be released in the fall for the PC, PSN and XBLA. As we get a firm date, we will bring it to you. The retro releases continue out of Sega HQ as word of a HD release of Jet Set Radio is slated to be released around the game time.

PSone Classics coming to the Vita

PS Vita

We have kept quiet on the Vita mainly because there is enough coverage elsewhere, but with the announcement of PSone classics coming to the Vita, we felt it was news worthy. Originally, the Vita could not play any of the PSone classics, which made many gamers upset. However, an upcoming firmware update will allow owners of the Vita to place all the PSone classics.

For those of you who already have PSone classics on your PS3 all you will need to do is connect your Vita to your PS3 or you can connect directly to the PlayStation Network and transfer your classic games. As said, if you don’t own a PSone classic and want to play it on your Vita you will have unrestricted access to it. Every game in the current PSone catalog will be available.

Now that’s progress.

Sonic Blast on the Nintendo 3DS

From the Euro Desk:

Sonic Blast

Sonic Blast on the Nintendo 3DS

UK fans rejoice soon you will be able to play the Sega classic Sonic Blast on your Nintendo 3DS. The retro Game Gear title will be available via the Nintendo eShop  this Thursday for about  €5.

In Sonic Blast you can play as Sonic or Knuckles in this classic title which comes complete with 14 classic levels. The game is full of power-ups, special advantages like Sonic’s new Boost Blast, allowing you to reach hidden areas and Knuckles super climbing skills to help you gain extra points, and even hidden levels.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T7TcBYUSNo[/youtube]

P.S. Don’t worry U.S. fans, it’s coming soon to us as well.

Bomber Raid

Bomber_raid_cover

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

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

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?

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

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.

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

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.

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncUcqF82FCc[/youtube]

RKS Score: 7/10

Home Alone

HomeAlone-game

My Home Alone knowledge goes as far as being forced to watch the first movie because of a girl…..it’s always a girl. I’ve been told (thanks @CrapDracula) that the Home Alone game has completely different game play depending on which console it was purchased, which I found odd. But thankfully, the Genesis version seemed to capture the fun parts of the first movie.

You play as Kevin, the Macauley Culkin character, and you have to protect the neighborhood from the Wet Bandits, played by the Wonder Years voice-guy and Leo Getz.

Home Alone - Sega Genesis

There’s some really unique game play here, which won me over right away: There’s an overview of the “neighborhood”, which consists of the 5 houses that Harry and Marv are trying to rob. The game gives you 20 minutes to slow down the Bandits before the cops arrive. You do this by staying ahead of them inside the houses. Moving around the neighborhood in a motorized sled, you enter each house to set up traps. Once you’ve entered, there’s a blueprint map where you do this; marbles, toys, oil…a number of things to slow them down, because they seem to be too stupid to look down at the floor, I suppose. Once they’re inside, you go into “attack” mode, using weapons against them. You’ll find items by running over snowmen outside or just grab something off the shelves in each house. There’s another map where you’ll put these items together, likeMacGyver. Because of the lead character being a little boy, I had plenty of enjoyment blasting these two idiots in the groin with a snowball cannon. If they catch you, you’re hung on the wall for a couple of seconds before you wiggle loose.

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

The characters look like the actors…very well done. The wintery setting and the story taking place over Christmas vacation makes this a fun and memorable game for that time of year. Plus, I try to remember Macauley during his “good old days” before Michael Jackson got a hold of him….I think I meant that literally.

Weird Games: The Typing of the Dead

The Typing of the Dead - Gameplay - 1

If they had a game like this in typing class, I would have stayed awake. The Typing of the Dead is considered more of a mod or remake because of how closely it is to House of the Dead 2. The game plays just like the first-person rail shooter where your mission is to take out zombies, but instead of a gun, you use your keyboard.

The Typing of the Dead - Gameplay - Arcade Cabinet

No, seriously, each zombie or monster has a word and you must type out the word fast enough to kill it. How does it know you typed the word or if you spelled it right? I think those questions asked means you are sympathetic to the zombie cause so shut up and play!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNfQ_B6_xy8[/youtube]

As far as bosses, you will have to type out answers to questions and for the final boss there are alternate endings if you type out different answers. I think we need a season of The Walking Dead that covers this.

Fantasy Zone 2

Fantasy Zone 2 (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 40,000
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Fantasy Zone 2 - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Sega pretty much invented the quickly-dubbed ‘cute em up’ sub-genre with Fantasy Zone and it was an interesting fusion of gaming styles. The bright, colourful graphics full of funny-looking creatures and cute characters belied the tough shooting action the game provided, but it proved to be very popular and was converted to several platforms of the time. Set ten years later, this inevitable sequel tells pretty much the same story as the first game – the now-expanded territory of the Fantasy Zone has come under renewed attack from the evil Menon Empire who are once again attempting to construct a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. He’s getting on a bit now but Opa-Opa still springs into action to save the day!

Fantasy Zone 2 - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
Fantasy Zone 2 The Tears of Opa-Opa, to give it its full title, initially appears to be more of the same from Sega, and there is in fact little difference between this and the first game beyond the cosmetic, but that’s certainly no cause for complaint when the first game was so good! There are again eight stages and each but the last is a free-scrolling, looped stage featuring a constant stream of small enemies, usually moving in formation or patterns, whose sole job it is to prevent you from destroying the larger, enemy-spawning Menon ‘bases’ on each stage, of which there are substantially more this time. Eliminating them all will lead to a boss fight before progressing to the next round.

Fantasy Zone 2 - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

The biggest difference between this and the first Fantasy Zone game is that each round is now divided into several different areas. Destroying enemies still releases coins (and notes now, too) of varying value but some Menon bases leave behind a blue warp instead. These allow you to travel back and forth between the areas, each of which generally contains four or five bases. There is also one base that will leave behind a red warp when destroyed. This leads to the boss but you can’t enter it until all the bases are destroyed. Opa-Opa’s basic armaments remain his weak but rapid-fire twin shot, and slow-firing but more powerful bombs. Fortunately there is again a shop to help him out which this time stays put once it appears rather than floating around for just a few seconds as before. Most of the old engine and weapon upgrades return, such as the jet engine, wide beam, laser, seven way shot, and twin bombs (which are much more useful this time) and there’s a few new ones too like the big shot, three way shot, and twin big bombs. As before, the speed-ups and twin bombs will last for the remainder of that life but the other shot and bomb upgrades are time or shot-limited.
Fantasy Zone 2 - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
The eight rounds are all set on new planets and as such there are many glorious new wonders to behold here, and that’s perhaps one of the biggest draws of Fantasy Zone 2. Not only does each round have its own background, but most of the areas within each round do too, and they are mostly superb! As well as being unique (and very colourful, as you might imagine!), they are much more diverse than in the first game and feature particularly impressive ice and fire stages. Each stage is also home to unique enemies who are varied and superbly detailed for the most part. There is a little slow-down when things are at their busiest, but this remains one of the prettiest, most vibrant games available for the Master System.

Fantasy Zone 2 - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Anyone who’s played Fantasy Zone will know exactly what to expect here. Sega has tinkered with the premise very little for the sequel and, aside from the new graphics, sound, and level structure, this is essentially the same again but even better. It remains a pretty tricky game, with some smaller enemies moving very quickly and occasionally seeming to appear from nowhere, but it’s not unfairly difficult and playing though it is great fun. As well as taking you to new areas, the warps are extremely helpful for escaping from oncoming hordes of enemies, and thanks to the easier access to the shop, it’s now possible to buy weapon upgrades and save them for the bosses, so you could say the going is a little easier here. In fact, the only thing here that’s worse than the first game is the music which is still pretty good but not as memorable as the first game. Overall, this is a fantastic sequel that retains all the charm of the first game and adds more of its own.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J8vP02wEFs[/youtube]

RKS Score: 9/10

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

xbox 360, playstation 3, nintendo wii

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

The Nintendo Entertainment System defied the odds as the 1980s came to a close.  Released in a video game market that American retailers had written off as a fad, the NES not only revived the gaming entertainment industry but set sales figures that blew away the earlier console generation and the previous king, the Atari 2600.

The NES lifetime sales figure of  61.91 million consoles became the biggest prize for anything released after it.  Going into the current crop of gaming consoles, only two consoles ever topped the lofty mark set by the NES:  the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2.

Now, according to sales-tracking website VGChartz.com the PlayStation 3 has now also topped the lofty NES numbers.  Not only does this put all three PlayStation consoles into the top five best-selling consoles of all-time, but it also means the PS3 joins the Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 in that short list.  All three modern consoles have now topped the NES lifetime sales figures, a first for any console generation in history. (Author’s note: All three consoles have also topped the NES software sales figures, according to the same website.)

“It was just a matter of time before gaming became so popular that the modern big three topped the original console that revitalized the gaming industry,” said Eric Cummings, founder of the group Gaming World Wide.  “I’m happy about it.  It means that the industry has really arrived.”

Another gamer who remains an NES player to this day provided similar thoughts.

“I feel this is proof that gaming is more than just people who play games,” said Eric Perez, host of The 8-Bit Eric Show.  “It is part of a worldwide culture.  The fact that three separate consoles have outsold what I feel was the pioneer of revitalizing gaming shows that the industry is in great shape.  The Nintendo Entertainment System will forever hold it’s place in history, but this is also history in the making.  The next generation of consoles will be something to watch.”

The Top Ten Selling Game Consoles of All-Time (source: combined data from VGChartz.com and Wikipedia listings.  Excludes handheld gaming devices.  All stats are as of date of this article’s publishing.)

1.  PlayStation 2 (Sony, 2000) – 153.68 million units

2.  PlayStation (Sony, 1994) – 104.25 million units

3.  Wii (Nintendo, 2006) – 95.25 million units

4.  XBox 360 (Microsoft, 2005) – 65.80 million units

5.  PlayStation 3 (Sony, 2006) – 62.11 million units

6.  Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1983, 1985) – 61.91 million units

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1990) – 49.10 million units

8.  Mega Drive / Genesis (Sega, 1988, 1989) – 39 million units

9.  Nintendo 64 (Nintendo, 1996) – 32.93 million units

10. Atari 2600 / VCS (Atari, 1977, 1985) – 30 million units

 

Ads of the Past: Funco Land

Oh Funco Land you evil child pawnshop. You took advantage of me by surrounding me with games I could not afford and made my adolescent brain made deals like trading Megaman 2, which my mother paid over $40 for, and selling it for less than $10.

Funco Land

Funco Land

Most of the time your demo stations did not work and sometimes you only showed the opening video of a game (dick). The man behind the counter was mean and creepy and smell of failure. Oh Funco Land, I got you back one day when I sold my copy of Double Dragon to a lady about to buy it from you for half price of what you were selling it for and triple what you would have paid me for it. Alas, it was my only victory against you as most battles and the war belonged to you. Rest in peace my old nemesis I have a new abusive soul in my life named Gamestop.

Thanks to FamicomFreak from Retro Gaming Life for the scans!

My Favorite Games: Part 8

My Favorite Games

Saturn Bomberman – Saturn (1997)

Sega Saturn - Bomberman

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)

Hydro Thunder - Sega Dreamcast

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)

Robocod - Sega MegaDrive

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)

John Maddon Football - 3DO

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)

Chuckie Egg - Dragon 32

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!