European Club Soccer – Review

In 1992, I was just beginning to become interested in football. I was playing in my school team, and at weekends would play for local Saturday morning teams. My love of football meant that I also sought out football computer games. FIFA International Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer were a few years away yet, so I purchased European Club Soccer.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Known as World Trophy Soccer in North America, and J-League Champion Soccer in Japan, this football game was developed by Krisalis Software (Game Arts in Japan) and published by Virgin Games for the Sega Mega Drive in 1992. I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version.

European Club Soccer had an impressive array of teams to choose from (screenshot taken by the author)

Playable in one and two-player mode, you can choose from over 150 teams throughout Europe to compete in tournaments. Naturally they do not have the real player names, but many of the teams are recognisable. For example, Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus etc., are available, as well as some more obscure additions such as Rotherham United.

I remember that I always wanted this game as a kid because I thought it looked excellent, and the cover art really sold it to me. The in-game graphics are good for 1992, far superior that Konami Hyper Soccer and Goal! Two on the NES, but sadly the gameplay was a let-down. Oddly, there is no “shoot” button per se, only low pass and high pass. Frustratingly, the players lose the ball if they change direction too fast whilst dribbling and scoring from a cross or corner is pretty much impossible too. In order to score, I found that I had to have one of my players stand in front of my opponent’s goalkeeper to intercept a shot from another of my players. The keeper would dive out the way, allowing the intercepting player to score into an open net.

Sadly, the gameplay left alot to be desired (screenshot taken by the author)

Due to a lack of storage, any changes made to team strips could not be saved, and the only way to continue progress through a tournament was to use a password.

Did I complete the game?

I successfuly won all leagues and cups without the Three Shredded Wheat cheat.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A superbly presented game which is sadly let down by some awkward gameplay points. Overall 69%.[1]

Mean Machines Index: Megadrive soccer games have a history to beingsad and this effort does little to addressthe situation. Although the graphics and sound are very good, the gameplay is let down by low player intelligence, wonky collision detention and awkward controls. As the (very) old saying goes “try before you buy!”. Overall 69%”[2]

Sega Power: “Nice introduction and options, but the whole thing is a let down by poor gameplay. It’s simply too easy to beat in one-player mode. Overall 3/5[3]

My verdict:Not the worst football game I’ve played, but there are better ones out there to enjoy. I‘d recommend seeking out arcade football games for games released in 1992.

Rating:

What are your memories of European Club Soccer? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – European Club Soccer’. Mean Machines. (June 1992). Issue 21:106-8.

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Euro Club Soccer’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – European Club Soccer’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:97.

Pat Riley Basketball – Review

Basketball has never been overly popular in England. Yes, we played it at school, or if one of our friends happened to persuade their parents to buy a hoop for their garden but overall, basketball was considered very much a North American sport. In the mid-90s, Channel 4 began showing NBA games regularly on Sundays. Had Pat Riley Basketball been released during this time, it may have proved a more popular game.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Pat Riley Basketball (also known as Super Real Basketball)is a sports game developed and published by Sega in 1990. It was released on the Sega Mega Drive and can be played in one or two-player modes. It version was also released for the Sega Master System. I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version.

You must choose from eight teams across the US. And lead them to glory in a tournament that one can only assume is the coveted NBA Playoffs.

There’s not really that much to say about this game. It did not have the license for the real team or player names, most likely because the budget went on securing Pat Riley’s association with it.

The graphics are pretty good, especially during the action cut scenes when players shoot and dunk (almost identical to Takin’ It To The Hoop on the TurboGrafx-16), and are far superior to other basketball games released for consoles in 1990 such as Ultimate Basketball (NES) and Harlem Globetrotters (NES). Whilst dunking, a bar appears with blue and red areas in it. A white dot moves across the bar and you must stop the white dot inside the red zone to ensure you score the basket. The same rule applies when defending a dunk. For some reason when in open play, the ball is ridiculously large. It looks more like a medicine ball.

The players do have stats and you are able to change their positions as well as decide if you want your team to mark man-to-man or zone defense.

The sprites are bright, colourful and clearly defined(screenshot taken by the author)

The gameplay does let this game down though. The pass function isn’t as responsive as it should be, and its frustrating the way the computer is able to steal the ball from you, but you can only intercept their passes to steal the ball back. Another annoyance is that once you have scored a basket, your team seems to hang around the opponent’s end, leaving your basket unattended and allowing the computer to make a B-line for it.

On a positive note, the fact that this can be played in two-player mode, and that there are three difficulty settings adds to the replay value of the game.

The action shots are beautifully illustrated and animated (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

I have completed this game several times without using any cheats. You really shouldn’t need them for this game anyway, as its not that difficult to win comfortably. Sadly, there is not much of an ending to make you feel that the effort was justified.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: (Reviewed as Super Real Basketball) “Super Real Basketball gives solid entertainment to two players, but on your own, it’s a little wearing! Overall 79%”.[1]

Sega Power: (Reviewed as Super Real Basketball) “Boasting detailed close-ups of the slam-dunk action, realistic court views and decent sound this is an okay sport sim. However, the lack of depth and difficulty means that its potential is only realised in two-player mode. Overall 3/5.[2]

Sega Power: (Reviewed as Super Real Basketball) Detailed close-ups of the action, realistic court views and fairly decent sound FX. An okayish sports sim, with great two-palyer mode. Overall 2/5”[3]

My verdict:Some nice graphics, let down by the gameplay, but worth a bit of your time if you like basketball and the game is cheap to pick up.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Pat Riley Basketball? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Super Real Basketball’. Mean Machines. (April 1991). Issue 7:56-57.

[2] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Real Basketball’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99.

John Madden Football ’92 – Review

Sports games have always been popular amongst gamers. However, technology has always held creators back from producing quality and realistic sports sims. Madden ’92 is an example of an early attempt to produce a playable American football game…and to be fair, they didn’t do a bad job.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

John Madden Football ’92 is an American football sports game developed and published by Electronic Arts for the Sega Mega Drive, beginning a series of yearly instalments for the video game market. I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version.

For those unacquainted with the game of American football, each team consists of groups of offensive, defensive, and special team players. When you are in possession of the ball, you have four plays or “downs” to move the ball forward 10 yards or more. This can be achieved by throwing or kicking the ball or running with it. This is decided before each play as you set your team up in a tactical way to deceive and outmanoeuvre your opponents. If you fail to move the ball 10 yards or more within those four downs, the ball passes to the opposite team. If you are successful, then you go back to a “1st Down” and the process starts again until either you score a “touchdown”, “field goal”, or lose the ball in a number of different ways.

“Red, 27, HIKE!” (screenshot taken by the author)

Madden ’92 can be played in single-player modes as well as two-player head-to-head and co-op modes (the later being a new feature).

There are 28 professional teams (the All-Madden team can only be played in Regular Season) to choose from and several new options for you to play:

  • Pre-Season – An exhibition match with no fouls except offsides and the 45 second play cock is turned off
  • Regular Season – Exhibition but with all game rules in effect
  • New Playoffs – Begin a new tournament
  • Continue Playoffs – Continue with a previous tournament
  • Sudden Death – Normal game rules but the first to score wins the game

American football consists of four quarters, and you can choose how long these quarters are. Quarter lengths of 5, 10, and 15 minutes can be chosen.

You then get to choose the type of stadium and field you play on. The choices are:

  • Open stadium with grass
  • Open stadium with Astroturf
  • Domed stadium with Astroturf

When you select open stadiums, the weather can affect the game in the guise of wind, rain and snow. In the snow and rain, players are slower and have less traction. The wind affects field goals and punts making it trickier to judge direction.

The game came with a very comprehensive manual explaining in detail the intricacies of the plays and in-depth stats on the players. Simply by reading the manual, one could quite easily become an expert (or a bore).

The manual will help you learn the strengths and weaknesses of the various plays you can make (screenshot taken by the author)

Madden ’92’s competitors released in 1991 were Tecmo Bowl (NES) and Mike Ditka Power Football (Mega Drive). I haven’t played either of those games and so cannot compare playability, but I do feel that Mike Ditka Power Football’s graphics are slightly better than Madden ’92. That’s not taking away from Madden ’92 which I think looks very good.

Music doesn’t play a big role in this game, and one can live without the SFX. I tended to listen to a podcast or stick on some music.

Naturally I had heard of American football as a youngster through American films but had never actually played it. I had previously played John Madden American Football (1990) which gave me the opportunity to learn how the sport was played. When we picked up Madden ’92, I was pleased to see there had been some improvements. There were more plays for the teams to perform, and when a player was injured, an ambulance would drive onto the pitch, which proceeded to plough through the huddled mass of players, splaying them across the field. Sadly, there was still no license for authentic teams, stadium and player names.

In my youth, I would always play as Chicago (because for some reason I liked the Chicago Bears), and my older brother preferred Cincinnati (Bengals). Like most sports games, Madden ‘92 is better in two-player mode. The negative aspects of this game include the fact that the players are very slow when running that trying to gain rushing yards is pointless. You may as well stick to throwing plays.

Did I complete the game?

In many modern sports games you don’t necessarily complete them, as much as win the league and cup titles and then move on to the next season. Completing early sports games simply means winning a tournament or league once before restarting with a different team. I have won the play-offs many times with several different teams including Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Philadelphia.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:Better than the original John Madden’s football in every department. What more can be said?”. Overall 95%.”[1]

Mean Machines Index: “Featuring new teams, higher difficulty level and plenty of gameplay tweaks, this sequel does the impossible and improves upon the original to become the best Megadrive game yet seen! An essential purchase. Overall 96%[2]

Sega Power: “Better than the original, but at first sight it seems very similar. Don’t be fooled! (If you’ve got the original though – think before buying. It’s not radically different.) Overall 5/5.[3]

GamePro: “John Madden Football ’92 features the most talented computer opponent – ‘nuff said. Add to this the additional plays, two-player cooperative play, and improved graphics, and JMF ‘92 gives you great bang for your buck. Overall 5/5”.[4]

Sega Force: “Madden is one of those rare things, a complex game easy and fun to play, but with the detail to allow constant improvement by practice. Even rarer it merges detailed tactics with arcade gameplay so well, few people will be able to resist it. Overall 94%”.[5]

My verdict: “An improvement on the first game. Definitely more enjoyable in two-player mode but sadly, the game hasn’t aged well.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Madden ’92? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ’92’. Mean Machines. (December 1991). Issue 15:20-24.

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ‘92’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:139.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – John Madden ‘92’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:97.

[4] Fanatic Fan. ‘GamePro’s Video Football Playoff – John Madden ‘92’ GamePro. (December 1991). Issue 29:55-56.

[5] ‘Reviewed – John Madden’s Football ’92’. Sega Force. (January 1992). Issue 1:36-7.

Sonic the Hedgehog – Review

In a bid to compete with the popularity of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. series, the early 90s saw Sega introduce a new hero for their latest console, the Sega Mega Drive. Whilst it was still a platform game with a recurring antagonist, it was unique enough so as not to be accused of copying Mario’s format. In 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog burst onto our screens and has maintained a place in the hearts of retrogamers everywhere.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega. It was released on the Sega Megadrive in 1991, spawning one of the most successful videogame series of all time. This review is based on the Mega Drive version.

Sonic is a blue hedgehog who has the ability to run at incredible speeds. This speed, and the ability to defend himself by curling into a ball, allowing his spikes to damage his enemies, is put to use when the evil Dr. Robotnik arrives in Sonic’s homeland. He proceeds to steal the six Chaos Emeralds (which have the ability to warp time and space), and capture the local wildlife, transforming them into evil robotic animals.

Sonic must navigate through six zones, evading Robotnik’s minions and attempt to steal back the Chaos Emeralds which are found via special stages.

Spring Hill Zone (screenshot taken by the author)

Along the way, you collect gold rings which act both as health and a way to access the special stages where the Chaos Emeralds are. If you get hit by an enemy or land on spikes or lava, your coins will spill out all around you. However, you can instantly retrieve a small number before they disappear. If you take damage with no rings, you die. Should you still have 50 rings or over by the end of stages one and/or two of each level, a large gold ring will appear that you must jump through to warp to the special stages. Gaining 100 rings will give Sonic an extra life.

There are six special stages in all, each one different and consisting of Sonic constantly spinning in a ball whilst navigating a rotating semi-labyrinth. Throughout these stages you will encounter buttons that make the levels spin in the opposite direction, circular bumpers that ping you aggressively in all directions, flashing red buttons that make you exit prematurely that bonus stage, and, of course, the Chaos Emeralds themselves.

Occasionally you will see what look like computer monitors showing either a ring, a blue sphere, or stars on them. Destroying these will give you 10 rings, a protective shield, and temporary invulnerability respectively.

The special stages are somewhat psychadelic (screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic really was revolutionary for its time, and still holds up well today. The sprites, levels and backgrounds are beautifully illustrated and coloured, and are all unique, crisp and well defined.

The music is very memorable and even when I hear it now, I can recite every note and instantly know which level it belongs to.

The controls are tight, allowing you to evade hazards and attack your enemies in the manner you intend. They consist of running, jumping, and spinning. You need to spin when attacking your enemies.

There are two endings depending on if you manage to collect all the Chaos Emeralds which adds a little replay value, and the high speed at which Sonic can achieve makes for exciting gameplay.

We bought our Sega Mega Drive for Christmas 1991, and Sonic came with the package. I have very fond memories of this game and have spent many an hour playing through it (it only takes about 25 minutes to complete). It’s an easy game to play but still challenging when trying to attain all Chaos Emeralds. The game appeals to all ages of gamer.

Did I complete the game?

Over the years I have completed Sonic the Hedgehog many times (including with all Chaos Emeralds collected) without the use of cheats, and will no doubt re-visit the game in the future to make sure I still can.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:Yep, it’s true – Sonic is really great! I can’t think of a Megadrive game with more spectacular graphics…”. Overall score 92%.[1]

Entertainment Weekly: “Dazzlingly fast yet never chaotic, consistently challenging but never impossible, Sonic the Hedgehog is quite simply one of the best video games I’ve ever played. A+.”[2]

Mean Machines Index: “Sega’s hyped-beyond belief character stars in a game inspired by Nintendo’s Mario platform game series. It’s very addictive with brilliant graphics and speed. However, the gameplay is frustrating at times and experienced gamers should have this one licked within days. Overall 90%[3]

Sega Power: “World famous and rightly so. This is almost certainly the game that has sold more Sega systems than anything else. It’s a bit easy and looks slightly dated now, but it’s still one of the best games around. Overall 5/5”.[4]

Sega Power: “Sega’s answer to Super Mario Bros, Sonic is the fastest parallax scrolling collect-‘em-up ever! A stunning rotating bonus round and a feast of visual effects – a classic. Overall 5/5”.[5]

Awards:

Overall Game of the Year – EMAP’s Golden Joystick Awards[6]

Game of the Year (Overall) – Electronic Gaming Monthly[7]

Game of the Year (Genesis) – Electronic Gaming Monthly[8]

Best Graphics in a Video Game – Electronic Gaming Monthly[9]

Hottest Character in a Game – Electronic Gaming Monthly[10]

My verdict:A revolutionary riposte to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. series. It’s beautiful, colourful, fun, challenging, and has great music. Every gamer should play this game as a rite of passage.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Sonic the Hedgehog? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog’. Mean Machines. (July 1991). Issue 10:42-44.

[2] Strauss, B., (August 1991). ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog’. Entertainment Weekly. (https://ew.com/article/1991/08/23/sonic-hedgehog/ Accessed 10th December 2019).

[3] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:140.

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98.

[5] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Sonic the Hedgehog’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54.

[6] ‘News – Luvvies! Dahlings!’. The One. (May 1992). Issue 44:17.

[7] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1991’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1992 Video Game Buyers Guide. (January 1992). :61.

[8] ibid,. :61.

[9] ibid,. :62.

[10] Ibid,. :65.