Friday, 29 June 2012

Arcade Shmups #14

Choplifter (1985)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 82,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, NES, Commodore 64, VIC-20, MSX, Apple II, Atari 7800, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Fujitsu FM-7
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network

I think the chopper is shooting the hostages :(
I must admit, I hadn't thought about Choplifter for a good few years until recently. It's a game I've got for my Master System which my good friend Luke and I used to spent a fair amount of time with in our younger years but it always a game we both found unyieldingly difficult. Only during the last couple of weeks did the game re-enter my gaming radar when I had a look at the SG-1000 version. At this time, it transpired that, highly unusually, this isn't a game that originated in the arcades. Well, okay, it's not strange for a game to not have an arcade version, but it is a little strange for such a version to appear after a début on a home system. Indeed, it was the Apple II that first saw a version of Choplifter, way back in 1982 courtesy of Brøderbund Software. Sega were clearly impressed though, as they subsequently tarted the game up for an arcade release!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Arcade Adventures #3

Blaster Master a.k.a. Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight (1988)
By: Sunsoft Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

It's long been agreed by pretty much everyone that ever since video games have had stories, most of them have been at best unoriginal and at worst rather ridiculous, and here with Blaster Master we have a bit of both. It's a game I know was well-regarded in its day but my only real memories of it are the rather un-game-like adverts that featured in my favourite mags. Looking into it now, however, reveals another example of a game's backstory being changed to supposedly suit the territory in which it's been released. The Japanese version, whose title apparently translates as the catchy 'Super Planetary War Records: Metafight', finds you as the protagonist in the very familiar role of universal saviour, battling against the odds to rid a peaceful galaxy of an evil dictator. Changing this story for the game's US/European release was not necessarily a bad thing in theory, but what we were left with was.

Monday, 25 June 2012

PC Engine Shmups #7

Override a.k.a. Last Battalion (1990)
By: Sting / Data East Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 269,550
Also Available For: X68000

The PC Engine is rightly famous for the large number of shoot 'em ups that have graced its card 'slot' over the years - some were arcade conversions, some were ported from other home systems, and some were even exclusive to NEC's little box of tricks. Such is their abundance, in fact, there are even a few I'd never heard of until recently! One such title is Override, also known as Last Battalion in its X68000 guise - a Japan-only release and one of the first games by Storm Entertainment who, unlike many 80's and 90's developers, are still going strong today. Not many of their games have been shmups though, which makes this an even more notable game, but it's also one competing for space in a crowded genre. It managed to escape my attention in its day but does it deserve yours?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Single Screen Platform Games #10

Zupapa! (2001)
By: Face / SNK Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 138,300
Also Available For: Nothing

As great as the Neo Geo was (and still is), it was never anything other than a hardcore gamer's system, and one for rich hardcore gamers at that! With that in mind, it's pretty damn impressive that it lasted as long as it did - over a decade in fact. After the world failed to end at the turn of the millennium, however, releases started drying up as SNK suffered financial problems. There were still a few releases though. These were mostly the fighting games that had made the system so famous over the years but a few other games sneaked through. One of these was Zupapa!, released around the same time SNK were being reborn as Playmore, and an unusual game by Neo Geo standards. It wouldn't have been a particularly unusual release on other formats of the day but it stood out a bit more on SNK's machine...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sega SG-1000 Round-Up #2

Summer time is unfortunately busy time for me here in RKS Land which includes working most Saturdays. Why waste time actually working at work though, when I could be playing some more SG-1000 games? To that end, inspection of another random selection of five titles yielded the following:

Pacar (1983)

It was actually Sean, custodian of the splendid Famicomblog, who made me aware of this little-known game which is to date the only SG-1000 game he owns! Owning only one game for a system isn't too bad if it's a good one though, so is this? It's certainly a simple game which is a combination of Pac-Man and Rally-X. Accordingly, it has you racing around mazes collecting dots while avoiding the evil enemy cars. The car moves a little differently to Pac-Man though - it will keep moving in the direction indicated until it hits something for one thing and it can't turn on the spot either. You can move it backwards but it moves much slower which means that stages require a decent degree of planning. The best way to describe the graphics is 'functional' and the sound is practically non-existent but, like most Pac-Man-inspired games, Pacar is quite enjoyable in short bursts and rather addictive too! ... 6/10

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Exploring the Sharp X68000 - Part 2

Crikey, things have been pretty busy here in RKS Land of late - regular readers may have noticed that the number of posts here has slowed down somewhat. I blame work for making me all stressed and not in the right mood to delve into the world of retro games as often!

One victim of this whole thing has been my X68000 feature, the first part of which was all the way back in March now, which looked at the legendary ability of Sharp's imposing system to cope with conversions of arcade games of the day. It turned out to be more than adept at this, as was already widely known of course, but it's always nice to see for yourself!

Something the X68k is less celebrated for, however, is the quality (or indeed the existence at all) of games which are exclusive to the system, or at least found on very few other formats. Having once again sought the advice of jolly helpful Retro Gamer forum buddy, Oli, I find myself armed with the names of some such titles. Here are the results:

Aquales (1991)

Many X68k games are a mystery to me (titles exclusive to the format, at least) but I was sure I knew at least something about this one. Of course, it turned out I was wrong, but what I discovered was certainly no disappointment! Aquales, you see, places you in command of one of those big mecha things the Japanese love so much. It's not the meanest-looking one of all-time but it's pretty agile as it can shoot a variety of weapons with one arm while the other is equipped with a grapple which can be used to swing around the multi-tiered stages which look gorgeous for the most part - filled with huge sprites, super-parallax scrolling, and all manner of special effects. The music is also fantastic which makes exploring the large, superbly-designed stages a pleasure in spite of a slightly inconsistent difficulty level.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Computer Platform Games #5

Flimbo's Quest (1990)
By: System 3 Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 24,230
Also Available For: Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

Although perhaps most well-known on the Commodore 64, Flimbo's Quest is a game that I've always know as an Amiga title, but it's not one I've ever spent much time with. It's a pretty standard-looking side-scrolling platformer which stars Flimbo, an innocent, cap-wearing young boy who's fallen foul of his local 'mad' professor, Fransz Dandruff. Like most mad professors, he's come up with a madcap invention - a life extension machine. However, in order to extend one person's life, another person's must be drained (like the Babylon 5 machine?). So, whose life does he intend to drain? Flimbo's girlfriend, Pearly, of course! Flimbo immediately sets out to save her but Dandruff hears of his intentions and unleashes hordes of mutants bred in his laboratory and sends them scurrying in Flimbo's direction. Can he rid Dewdropland of this menace?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Doujin Shmups #5

Royal Edoma Engine (2005)
By: Platine Dispositif Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: Still Trying!
Also Available For: Nothing

The awesome fellows behind these doujin games are far more intelligent and talented than mere oafs like me but, as far as shmups are concerned, they do seem to have an obsession with those of a vertically-scrolling nature. So, when searching for the (rather overdue) next instalment in this series of posts, Royal Edoma Engine immediately caught my eye. As you've probably already noticed, it's unusual for any shooter nevermind a doujin one in that it's viewed from an isometric perspective. Something else that's unusual about this game is that its story features no invading alien fleets or marauding legions of evil creatures. It instead features... sushi. Yes, that's right - the Japanese dish may be increasingly popular here in the UK but in the fictional world of this game, it's so popular it's caused countless wars!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Overhead Racers #12

Hot Rod (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-3 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 134,793
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Although Sega had released overhead-viewed vehicular-based games before - they were one of the very first in fact, after Atari - they hadn't actually made too many in what had quickly become known as the 'traditional' format. This late 80's release, however, is exactly that. Taking its cue, as so many did, from Super Sprint, Hot Rod is also a circuit-based game but is viewed from a slightly more zoomed-in perspective. Races are contested by four cars, up to three of which can be controlled by human players, with the fourth and any unused player cars being controlled by the computer. Unlike many games of this type, however, progression through the various races is not dependent on finishing in first place or within a time-limit; instead you have a finite supply of 'gas' with which to complete the solitary lap of each circuit. Running out means game over!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Master System Platform Games #1

Psycho Fox (1989)
By: Vic Tokai / Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

Most of my time spent gaming during the 80's and 90's, certainly on consoles at least, was spent playing two types of games - shoot 'em ups and platform games. Most systems of the day were of course swamped with games of both types but my interest in them began with my awesome Master System. A limited selection of titles it may have had, but among them were some superb examples of both of these genres. One of the first platform games I played on the system, and therefore pretty much the first arcade-style platformer I played at all, was Psycho Fox. I can't remember which of us introduced it to the other now, but my good friend, and fellow MS-owner, Luke, and I both loved and still love this great game. However, in order to determine if our affection is rooted in nostalgia or if it really is a great game, I thought I'd dissect it once again. Behold, the results...