Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier (1991)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 734,600
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

Super Star Soldier

I originally started playing this game with a view to reviewing it quite a few weeks ago now – it is after all arguably the Engine’s most famous shmup (along with Gunhed) and I hadn’t played it before so this was a major issue to rectify! Not too long after starting, however, I discovered it had a prequel on the NES and MSX which, after playing and subsequently reviewing, found rather disappointing, and that got me thinking. The NES and PC Engine – both 8-bit consoles, both home to dozens of arcade conversions and arcade-style games, and yet the Engine is significantly superior with regard to games of this type (sorry NES fans!). I guess it’s a little unfair to compare them but does the extra power of the Engine really make that much difference? I suppose it must do as after playing the frankly rather boring Star Soldier, this Engine sequel immediately looked ten times better…

Super Star Soldier

One aspect of the original game that impressed me was with the number of stages – an unusually numerous sixteen. This sequel has a mere, though still decent, eight, but they are of a higher quality and are also much more varied. They all scroll vertically of course, and take place over enemy bases (or giant ships, maybe), planetary surfaces, in caverns, and in open space, and they’re filled with the usual mix of enemies – small ‘n’ fast ships, often flying in formation, larger more powerful ships, lots of scenery/ground-mounted guns and missile launchers, and of course large bosses at the end of each stage. Power-ups are found in the smoking hulks of a certain type of ship and include four main weapons represented by coloured rings – red is your default weapon which powers-up into a multi-directional shot, blue gives you ring lasers, yellow unleashes a swooshy flame-thrower, and green gives you a mighty crackly-looking lightning cannon.

Super Star Soldier

Each weapon can be powered-up four times by collecting successive icons. Grabbing more after that has a smart-bomb effect. Whichever main weapon you choose, you can bolster it with either heat-seeking missiles or a pair of shot-absorbing drones, both of which can also be powered-up. Contact from an enemy or their fire reduces the power of your weapons by one level so as long as you keep collecting icons, you should be able to progress quite far into the game. Luckily, the desire to do that is much greater here than with the prequel and part of this is down to the graphics which are superb. The smaller enemy ships often whizz around at ultra-sonic speeds and the larger ships are all great designs, especially some of the bosses which include a giant mech and what looks like that strange creature in the garbage compacter in Star Wars! As mentioned earlier, everything is far more varied here as well – just compare the screenshots to those in the Star Soldier review and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Super Star Soldier

The first stage rather reminded me of Gunhed, which is no bad thing of course – it’s mostly filled by a large metal structure brimming with guns, but the second stage differs about as much as it could, taking place over a forested planet! The third is similar but features a much more fiery landscape with jets of flame and fireballs occasionally escaping from the lava-filled areas. After that we find ourselves in open space with pretty stars and stuff in the background before entering some icy, obstacle-filled caverns. After that comes the obligatory enemy battleship and confrontations with the final bosses. Destroy all these and the evil ‘Star Brains’ are once again defeated! There is a little slow-down on the odd occasion but overall this is certainly among the best-looking shmups on the Engine and one of the most appealing I’ve played on any system. Even the weapon effects – something that’s often lacking in other games – are superb.

Super Star Soldier

The red multi-shot isn’t too spectacular but the blue, yellow, and green weapons are all fantastic which is all the more impressive considering the delightful backdrops and large number of enemies sometimes on screen, and there isn’t even an annoying stats/score panel in the way of it all! The weapons all have unique sound effects too, which are pretty good, and each stage has its own decent tune, so all in all there’s not really anything that’s less-than-splendid about Hudson’s fine sequel. Control of your ship (which is called the Neo Cesear, incidentally) is fast but precise and I rarely had any problems with the collision-detection. It’s even a surprisingly fair game too – the stages have restart points, the power-ups are quite numerous, extra lives are awarded on achieving certain scores, and the boss attack patterns are challenging without being too tough. Super Star Soldier is probably not quite as amazing as the great Gunhed but it is a fantastic shooter – sometimes fast and manic, other times slower and more cerebral, but always entertaining and everything the first game wasn’t!

Riot Zone

Riot_Zone

Riot Zone

You might have heard of a game called Riot City, but because of Sega’s rights to the main characters and bosses, Westone and Hudson Soft had to do some creative reconfiguring and came up with Riot Zone. Riot Zone was released in 1992 for the TurboGrafx-CD and featured two characters out to stop an evil crime boss who kidnapped a girl name Candy.

Riot_Zone

Does this sound familiar or even kind of standard for side scrolling beat em up games? Well, that is because this is pretty standard. The game plays a lot like Final Fight and toss in some Double Dragon just because we can. The gameplay is simple, you walk from left to right fighting enemies that can appear from both sides of the screen. Like Final Fight, you face a boss at the end and move on until the final boss. Unlike Final Fight, there are no weapons, only items for health and points.

Check out the video review for Riot Zone.

Splash Lake

splash-lake-

Splash Lake

The idea of a bouncing Ostrich with a very sharp beak named Ozzie was enough for me to at least take a look at this game. Splash Lake was released by NEC in 1992 for the Turbo Grafx-16. This puzzle game features an Ostrich named Ozzie who uses his sharp beak to break holes in the bridge he is on causing his enemies to fall, into the lake, where they splash, hence, Splash Lake.

splash-lake-

Check out our few video review with commentary.

Boxyboy

BoxyBoy

Boxyboy

This could be called the Amazon warehouse game. In Boxyboy you control a worker in a warehouse and the overall goal is to push the crates on to the squares with the yellow dots on them. The game was developed by Media Rings and published by NEC on the TurboGrafx-16.

BoxyBoy

Part of the Sokoban series the game starts of pretty easy, but like all puzzle games it gets harder and harder each level. Speaking of levels, Boxyboy features a level editor that allows players to create and then play their own custom levels.

Cratermaze

Cratermaze

Traveling through time with four of your best friends, what could go wrong? No, this isn’t the plot for an upcoming movie (or is it). This is the overview for the game Cratermaze released by Hudson Soft for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990.

Cratermaze

So you are traveling through time with friends and an evil villain kidnaps them and you have to travel through more time periods to save them. Along the way you “collect” (cough *steal* cough) treasures from the various periods. Every 15 levels you rescue a friend (what did he leave them as breadcrumbs). Also on level 30 and 60 there is a floating super boss that can kill you with a single touch.

Why can’t they just be normal people and travel to the previous week can play the winning lotto numbers like the rest of us would?

Military Madness

Military Madness

Military Madness sounds like it could be the name for all the wars happening in the past 12 years, but it is actually the name of a turn-based strategy game released for the Turbografx-16 by Hudson Soft in 1989. You play on the moon in 2089 on a hex map controlling the Allied-Union forces against the Axis-Xenon forces. Now unlike many games like this you do not build units, but you can capture enemy units being built in factories. The game was eventually remade for the PlayStation and a 3D remake was made for WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

Bravoman

Bravoman

How to describe Bravoman, it is a platform slash beat em up game that is a parody of Japanese Tokusatsu and video games. So just think, if we sometimes laugh at crazy Japanese video games, this game, developed by Now Production and published my Namco, laughs at those types of games which will make us laugh at this game.

So the plot, well using my comic book knowledge it is like a strange version of Hal Jordan and Green Lantern. A normal man who works at an insurance company encounters and alien named Alpha Man who gives him a metal rod, a fork and a coin, kind of sounds like a Macgyver setup, and this allows him to turn into Bravoman. His mission is to stop the evil Dr. Bomb who gives him a… you thought I was going to say bomb didn’t you. Dr. Bomb has an “end the world weapon”, whatever that means, that will, er, end the world.

So that is the setup, check out the video for a full review.

Super Air Zonk

super air zonk

How Japanese gaming is this, you have a hero that belts out songs on his microphone, hurls sushi at enemies and morphs into all kinds of things in a shooting game. Well that is what you get with Super Air Zonk the follow up to Air Zonk which is a spin-off from the Bonk’s Adventure series. You got all that? Super Air Zonk was released in 1993 for the TG-16 by Hudson Soft. Like in Air Zonk you face a multitude of enemies and your overall arch nemesis, SandroVitch. You can power Zonk up with the meat item to eventually turn him into Ultra Zonk and Tyrano Zonk. In addition, after rescuing your friends from capture you can morph with them and combine your powers.

super air zonk

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

A very simple game to start off a very interesting console. The Turbo Grafx made its debut with this game as a pack in with the console and showed some a very simplistic game. We already seen stuff like this for its time so it wasn’t nothing new. With games like Final Fantasy 2(4 in Japan) hitting the USA and other RPGs as well, there was no doubt that this title wouldn’t stand against others. In my opinion, I think this game was released just to show off what the Turbo Grafx console was capable of. The game is very simple, although based by an anime, it’s not bad at all. It contains some RPG elements that help it stand out a little bit. There is also a transformation sequence where you turn into a robot and fly around, Not sure how that works as you were a human a second ago and slow as a mother fucker.

The game’s length is decent and will keep you interested until the end which will surprise you in the end and probably leave you wanting for more or maybe a lot less. It’s all about taste in the end, I can’t say this is a title that will keep you coming for it and that everyone will love but I will say this, the game is just your average platformer with RPG elements, the end!

Valis 2

valis2

Remember when it was all about cut scenes? Well, in a sense they are still important, but when consoles began using CD ROM’s gamers got their first real look at some very cool live-action and animated cut scenes. Valis II was one of the first games to take advantage of the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM attachment which allowed for some pretty cool animated cut screens.

The game itself is more of a traditional action platformer. Developed by Telenet Japan Co and released in 1990 this six staged game featured your standard left to right enemy slashing actions. The game featured, items, power-ups, mid-level bosses and end bosses which, as said, took advantage of cut scenes featuring animation and voice overs.

Neutopia 2

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

This week we look at the classic action adventure game Neutopia 2. Developed by Hudson Soft and released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992, it is the direct follow up to Neutopia where you are Jazeta’s son and your mission is to defeat the evil Dirth and save your father.

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

The game plays a lot like the Legend of Zelda games on the NES and SNES where as you explore a large 2D world taking on tasks and quests in any order you wish. A strange note about this game is at the end it mentions that Neutopia 3 would be coming soon, but no such game was ever released.

Final Soldier

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

This week’s classic game review features the 1991 scrolling shooter, Final Soldier. Developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft this is the third game in the Star Soldier series. The game features 7 stages and two challenge modes and at the start of the game you can choose what weapon will apply to the color power-up you can use.


Here is the story:

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

On Earth in the 23rd century, a space time warp opens up over the Atlantic Ocean. From it comes an enormous invasion force analyzed to come from the 25th century. As Earth is attacked by the alien war machines, it is revealed that the culprits are identified as the Gader’el, a race of large bio-mechanic creatures, who have the ability to freely manipulate space and time; after conquering the future Earth in the 25th century, the Gader’el decided to ensure their influence on mankind by traveling back in time to the 23rd century, conquering that time and then going further into Earth’s past.

final soldier - pc engine - gameplay screenshot

As the armed forces of every country on Earth combats the Gader’el, each scientific academy collaborates on making a weapon capable of destroying the Gader’el’s strongest weapons. The result is the Dryad, a single-fighter spaceship capable of wielding several types of futuristic weapons. The Dryad’s flight path and mission is to warp into the Future Zone in order to reach the Gader’el headquarters and destroy their leader.

Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part 2

TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games Part

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

Air Zonk

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

Bloody Wolf

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

Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon

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

Final Lap Twin

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

Galaga ’90

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

Klax

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

Parasol Stars

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

R-Type

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

Raiden

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

Super Star Soldier

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

Honorable mentionLegendary Axe II

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

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

Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

This week’s video review features the kung Fu stunt master Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu was released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992 and was an action platform game developed by Now Production and published by Hudson soft.

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

The story featured Jackie Chan and his sister Josephine serving as protectors of the land and fighting against bad guys until a Prince of Sorcerers kidnaps Jackie’s sister. Jackie sets off on a quest to get his sister back by fighting through five levels each with a boss at the end until he reaches the Prince.

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - turbografx-16-gameplay screenshot

One of the interesting things about this game was the fact that you only had one life, but you could continue up to five times and earn more continues in bonus rounds. Also, you would gain health and power ups by hitting frogs and the power-ups gave you special attacks as well as a charge attack you could use temporarily.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijqUpIWz82c[/youtube]

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!

The TurboGrafx-16

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

NEC TurboGrafx-16

The NEC TurboGrafx-16 Video Game System.

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

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

The TurboExpress handheld video game system (with TV Tuner)

The TurboExpress handheld video game system (with TV Tuner)

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

This is the TurboGrafx-16 with the TurboCD attachment.

This is the TurboGrafx-16 with the TurboCD attachment.

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

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

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

Who knows?

Dragon’s Fury

Dragon’s Fury (a.k.a. Devil Crash MD) (1992)

By: TechnoSoft Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 22,593,300
Also Available For: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Download For: PlayStation Network

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

For two years, Devil’s Crush had been thrilling Japanese (and to a lesser extent, American) PC Engine gamers before, unlike its prequel, it finally received a conversion, and it was MegaDrive owners who were the lucky ones to receive it. Handled by Technosoft (famous for the Thunder Force series), it’s a more or less a straight conversion of the Engine game (aside from the unnecessary name change), but there are a few noteworthy differences. Aside from a few small, almost unnoticeable changes, the main table in this version looks pretty much the same as it did on the Engine – everything’s in the same place and everything does the same thing, though the ball feels a little weightier and doesn’t seem to bounce around quite so much.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

As far as I can determine, all the bonuses and scoring techniques also remain unchanged, too. The graphics are slightly different, though. While good in both versions, this version appears less colourful and slightly fuzzier and less defined than the Engine version, and the surface of the table is much brighter here, which makes the colours at least appear to be less contrasted. I actually prefer the graphics of the Engine version by quite some margin but that’s just me. Check out the shots in both reviews and make up you own mind as to which version you think looks better. The music has changed very little during the conversion process, though the sound effects are slightly different (and better) here. Since they are one of this game’s strongest points on the Engine they certainly increase the enjoyment of playing this version, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

One significant difference between the two versions is the bonus tables. There are still six of them here but only two of the ones from the Engine version have survived the transition; the other four are all new. I’m not sure that they’re better but they are probably easier (except for number six which is well ‘ard). Also, this version has an ending! If you can defeat all six bonus tables, you’ll progress to a final table featuring ‘King Dragon’ (or King Demon, depending on which territory you’re in). Defeat him and you’ve completed the game! If you’re like me though, you’ll purposely avoid reaching him in order to achieve the highest score possible.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

Which reminds me of perhaps the biggest difference between the Engine and MegaDrive versions of this great game – the difficulty. This was the version I first played, and it’s the version I’ve spent by far the most time playing, and I’d like to think I’ve become pretty good at it, achieving scores in the nine-figure region fairly easily. This, however, proves a lot more difficult when playing the Engine version. For example, the top section of the table is where high scores can be quickly amassed, and it’s A LOT easier to get there, AND stay there for prolonged periods on this MD version. It’s not that the tables on the respective versions have been designed differently though, nor that this game has been badly converted by TechnoSoft. The ball physics is outstanding on both versions, but, as mentioned briefly earlier, they are slightly different here, which results in a couple of tricks I learnt when playing this version, didn’t work when I started playing the Engine game.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

So there you have it. Both versions are essentially the same. The Engine version is more challenging and looks prettier (in my opinion), this MegaDrive version is easier and louder. Both are amazingly playable, both are as addictive as hell, but this version is the one where I cut my teeth, so to speak, so I’ll always love playing it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-HEbNw2Kbo[/youtube]

RKS Score: 9/10

Darkwing Duck

Darkwing Duck - Turbografx-16 - cover

Darkwing Duck

Based off of the Disney cartoon of the same name, Darkwing Duck was created for the TurboGrafx-16 by Radiance Software and released in 1992. In the game Darkwing Duck must stop Steelbeak who has recruited some of the most dangerous criminals in St. Canard to build an ultimate weapon.

Darkwing Duck - Gameplay screenshot - turbografx-16

The gameplay consists of collecting puzzle pieces as clues and fighting enemies. There are also gas guns, cherry bombs and other power-ups Darkwing can use.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwtFayPg5hg[/youtube]

PC-Engine: Must have games

The PC-Engine console, a collaboration between Hudson Soft and NEC, was released late 1987 in Japan and mid 1999 in North America. NEC changed the name in the US to the TurboGrafx-16. The US unit also had a facelift, it was bulkier (and uglier) compared to its smaller, sleeker Japanese counterpart.

PC Engine

 

If you were one of the lucky ones to have this cult retro console, or one of its variants, here are 5 must have games you need to add to your collection:

Gomola Speed:

Gomola_Speed

Play as a segmented caterpillar-like creature that has to encircle food in order to exit each level. As you work your way around each area, you pick up new body segments which makes you longer, and have the ability drop bombs that attract the enemy bugs which are then stunned. This is a superb title that mixes strategy with puzzle elements to great effect.

Splatterhouse:

Splatterhouse

 Parapsychology students, Rick and Jennifer, set out to investigate paranormal activity at West Mansion. This arcade conversion remains faithful to the gloriously gory coin-op. The American version was sadly censored upon release. The Japanese version is the one to get.

R-Type:

R-Type

Irem’s legendary side scrolling shoot’em up is regarded as one of the PC-Engine’s most accomplished arcade conversions. This was the PC-Engine’s ‘killer app’. The premise was simple, pilot your R-9 fighter to wipe out the evil Bydo Empire. R-Type was split into two HuCards – so if you want the complete game, you will have to buy both.

Gekisha Boy / Photo Boy:

Photo Boy

 This is the most original and innovative game on the PC-Engine. Photo boy is a budding paparazzo tasked to earn points by taking photographs of newsworthy happenings throughout several different environments. Using the on-screen crosshair, you must take snaps of various objects and events while avoiding obstacles. Think of Paperboy with a camera and you have Photo Boy.

PC Genjin / PC Kid / Bonk’s Adventure:

Bonk’s Adventure

Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic. Although not as famous as these two, NEC had PC Genjin, or as he was known in different regions,  PC Kid or Bonk. You play a cave boy going through prehistoric lands head-butting dinosaurs.

Some notable games that just missed out (and I do mean, just !) on making this list: Parasol Stars, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Bomberman’94 and Devil Crash.

If you have never played on the PC-Engine do yourself a favour and hunt one down – or find someone that does, and give these games a whirl.
YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED !

TaleSpin

Talespin-turbrografx-16-box

TaleSpin

Released by Radiance Software in 1991, TaleSpin follows the adventures of Captain Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker from the Disney animated series. In the game, you are after the lost treasure of Ionia, but an evil Witch Doctor called Watusi stands in your way.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQQ5Ci2ZdxQ[/youtube]

Doraemon Meikyu Daisakusen

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Cratermaze - TurboGrafx-16- Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

RKS Score: 5/10

Weird Games: Toilet Kids

toilet kids cover

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

toilet kids - gameplay

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

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

Air Zonk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RKS Score: 8/10

 

 

 

Alien Crush

[youtube id=”VpuO_XKRMd0″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? ~Simon Lethbridge

Alien Crush

Pinball has diminished in popularity a great deal since the advent of videogames, and pintables are now rarely seen anywhere but decent sized arcades and specialist retro establishments, but thanks to the entertainment medium that saw their demise, they can continue to live on! Which brings me, in a typically long-winded RKS stylee, to Alien Crush. I’m a bit of a pinball fan and I frequently venture into my local pizza restaurant, which is the only place for miles that still has any pintables, but pinball videogames, in my view, too often tried to accurately emulate proper pintables rather than taking advantage of the fact that they are no longer governed by the sometimes-restrictive rules of pintables. That is until Alien Crush came along.

Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Released by Naxat Soft exclusively on the PC Engine, Alien Crush is an original, not to mention supremely playable pinball game that would be completely impossible for an actual pintable to replicate. Its table, you see, is viewed from an overhead perspective, is two screens tall, and is awash with many scary alien creatures and devices! The bottom section of the table is dominated by a large alien creature with many eyes (which looks like the queen from the awesome ‘Aliens’ movie). All around it are various smaller aliens poking their heads out and insect-like creatures scurrying across the table occasionally, tempting you to destroy them before they scamper away, and further down the table on either side of the flippers are two cocoon things that act like bumpers, but if you hit them enough times they will open setting loose the evil monsters within!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 2
The top section of the table has two main features. In the top-left is a brain, which doesn’t really do much besides flash every time the ball hits it, but if you can get the ball right around the side and top of it, a blocker will appear between the flippers. The brain also opens up occasionally to unleash some horrific alien beasts. On the right of the screen is what appears to be a large mollusc or squid-type alien, into which you can also shoot the ball for points. Between these two objects at the top of the screen are three vertical dividers. Passing the ball through them turns lights on and off, and below them are three bumpers whose positions are determined by a mystical eye at the side of the screen. There are of course further aliens abound here too, to further complicate matters!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 3
The last feature of note in Alien Crush is the existence of several bonus tables. These can be reached by shooting the ball into one of the pockets situated around the table, which are usually aliens mouths or something, when the arrow pointing at them is lit. The bonus tables are all one screen in size and the object of them is generally to destroy all the aliens that reside on them. There is one that’s devoid of aliens, however, and they are replaced by lots of bumpers arranged in various positions. It is of course possible to amass considerable points on these tables, but, as every pinball connoisseur should know, everything on a pintable does something, and there are countless ways to amass huge scores on the main table too.
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Graphically, the game is a real treat, especially considering this was an early Engine game. I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? The sound, too, is decent enough. There’s the choice of two tunes before playing – Lunar Eclipse and the splendidly-named Demons Undulate, and the sound effects are suitably befitting of the game’s style. Gameplay-wise, there’s not really much more you could ask for. As with any pinball game, the most important thing is the ball physics, and happily that’s top-notch here. Movement around the table is reliable and impact with enemy sprites is rarely too unforgiving. There’s even a ’tilt’ option for added realism! As you might expect, this is an awesome game for ‘score attacks’ too. New ways of achieving bonus points are seemingly discovered every game – I’m still finding new tricks and devising new techniques all the time! Overall, yes, some could argue that Alien Crush has been superceded now (by its own sequel, for one!) but it still plays a pretty mean game of pinball and is well worth a bash.

RKS Score: 7/10