Star Trek: 25th Anniversay

“Space…the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary is a single-player adventure video game in the point and click format. It was developed and published by Interplay for DOS in 1992, Amiga in 1994, MacOS in 1995 and OSX and Linux in 2015. The version I played can be found on DOS.

Based on Star Trek: The Original Series, the game sees you take control of the crew of the starship USS Enterprise. There are seven missions to complete, with each mission styled like an episode of the series. During these missions you encounter strange new species, as well as run-ins with more familiar alien races such as the Klingons and Romulans. There is even an encounter with notorious con-artist Harry Mudd. However, the game isn’t just point and click based. There are also opportunities for space battles too when dealing with the Elasi pirates.

On the bridge of the USS Enterprise (Screenshot taken by the author)

The gameplay is mostly point and click based. You can select whether to walk, look, speak to, or interact with; scenery, people, and items. Your inventory is available at the top left of the screen where you can choose to wield weapons or items when interacting with your surroundings. You also have the ability to select characters to interact with your environment which adds to the realism of the game…you wouldn’t ask Bones to decipher a computer lock would you…”Damn it Jim I’m a doctor, not a locksmith!!”.

When talking to the many characters you encounter, you sometimes have several options of how to interact. Only one is the correct way to reply or ask a question. The others are considered too hostile for Federation standards and affect how the other character reacts and, ultimately, your end of mission score.

Occasionally, you may be called upon to use your phasers against an enemy. You will have the option not to fire, fire on stun setting, or set your phasers to kill. Again, your decision affects not only the safety of your crew, but also your end of mission score.

It’s the Klingons!!! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Graphics wise, the game looks brilliant. The sprites are bright, colourful and clearly defined. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed and well-illustrated. The only downside to the graphics are the pixalated look of the starships and planets during the intro and beginning of each mission. During battles, the starships are designed to give the illusion of the ships being 3D but they clearly are not, and at times look less than smooth.

What makes this game particularly great, is that it contains the actual voices of the original crew, with authentic music from the show (albeit an 8-bit version). The background sound FX, especially when you are on the bridge of the Enterprise, are very reminiscent of the TV show and really immerses you in the game. Additionaly, what brings this game to life is the interactions between the characters which makes you feel as if you are watching an episode of Star Trek.

A particularly nice touch is that before you beam to your destination, you are able to access the ship’s computer and type in keywords from your mission brief. A computer voice will then read out the relevant information and then, like Wikipedia, you find yourself scribbling down keywords and going down a rabbit hole gaining more and more information about the mission ahead.

The puzzles have varying degress of difficulty. Most are simple enough, but some of the missions allow for more than one outcome which greatly affects your end of mission score. One mission however, is very tough, especially if you find maths difficult. I don’t know anyone who worked it out without using a walkrthough.

“Fascinating” (Screenshot taken by the author)

Beware on the last mission. There seems to be a bug which leads you to a dead end. I spent a lot of time revisiting rooms before looking online to see where I’d gone wrong. This was where I read some walkthroughs and realised, I’d gone wrong. I only used the walkthrough to help progress on Mission six where some advanced mathematical skills are needed to find a code.

Did I compete the game?

Yes, many years ago, but I did need help for mission six when you need to work out a code for a door lock.

What the critics said:

Computer & Video Games: Frank O’Connor “The graphics are in super mega VGA-o-Vision and look dreamy. The sprites are excellent, right down to the high-heeled boots for the male characters. The music is a spot-on rendition of the TV themes, with a smattering of groovy sound effects for good measure. Overall 93%.[1]

ACE: “The only real problem is the overall longevity, as defined by the number of missions – with only eight of them, seasoned adventurers may find the challenge distressingly short-lived. Those new to the genre, however, would be hard pushed to find a friendlier, more enjoyable and absorbing experience. Overall 960/1000.[2]

My verdict:

“Authentic, fun, challenging…one of the best Star Trek games ever made. Point and click fans should also enjoy the game, even if they’re not Star Trek fans.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary? 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 Facebook.


[1] O’Connor, F., ‘Review: PC – Star Trek: 25th Anniversary’. Computer & Video Games Magazine. (April 1992). Issue 125:60-1. (https://archive.org/details/cvg-magazine-125/page/n59/mode/2up Accessed 19th April 2020).

[2] ‘Screentest – Star Trek: 25th Anniversary’. ACE. (April 1992). Issue 55:60-5.  https://archive.org/stream/ACE35Aug90/ACE/ACE55-Apr92#page/n63/mode/2up Accessed 19th April 2020).

Snow Bros.

What makes a great video game? Graphics, music, replay value, multiplayer options…there is no correct answer. Personally, I feel that gameplay is more important than the others. If a game doesn’t play well, the rest is pointless. That’s just my opinion of course.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Snow Bros. was developed and published by Toaplan for the arcade in North America, Japan and Europe in 1990. Over the next few years it was released for home consoles on the NES, Game Boy and Mega Drive in North America and Japan but wasn’t officially released in Europe until the Android and iOS versions in 2012.

In this platform game you play as Prince Nick and/or Prince Tom who are cursed and turned into snowmen by King Scorch whilst he captures Princesses Teri and Tina. Naturally, the two princes pursue King Scorch in order to rescue the princess.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

To progress through each level, you must turn monsters into snowballs by throwing snow at them. Once they are transformed into snowballs, you need to push them into each other or to the bottom of the screen where they smash against the wall and die. Once all monsters in a level are defeated you progress to the next level. There are several power-ups to help you along the way. The power-ups are: Red – increases walking speed; Blue – increases amount of snow you throw; Yellow – increases the distance snow can be thrown; Green – inflates you like a balloon where you can fly around the level killing anything you come into contact with. There are 50 levels in total, with a boss battle occuring every 10 levels.

Every ten levels, there is a big, bad boss to defeat (Screenshot taken by the author)

The levels are very colourful, sometimes so much that it hurts the eyes. The game also tends to flicker a little when the screen is busy. The controls are simple…move left or right, jump and throw. This game looks simple, and older gamers may think this is for children…it is not! It’s challenging and it’ll take you several tries before you can complete the game. The game has limited replay value, but I think you will come back to it more than once after you have beaten the game.

Quite simply, this is a fun game to play, especially in two player mode. Thankfully, you cannot harm each other when you are throwing snow, which could get extremely frustrating if that was a feature.

You must throw snow at the enemy to turn them into snowballs (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

Although I did play this several times with Mrs. L, I completed it by myself.

What the critics said?

At present I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.

My verdict: “This game is fun! It’s easy to control but challenging. It has the added bonus of being two player, and even after you have beaten the game, you’ll want to play through it again and again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Snow Bros.? 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 Facebook.

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

After six years and four games, Phantasy Star IV sees the conclusion of the original Phantasy Star series. In the Phantasy Star universe, the games have spanned several thousand years and players were introduced to many different characters including Alis, one of the first female protagonists in computer game history. I have throoughly enojoyed playing through the series but as George Harrison wrote, “All things must pass”.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

PSIV is a role-playing game that was developed and published by Sega and released for the Sega Genesis in Japan in 1993. It would not make an appearance in North America and Europe until 1995. It was later released on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2008. The version I played can be found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.

Taking place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II, a cataclysmic event known as the Great Collapse has turned Motavia back into a desert planet, and once again there is an increase in biomonsters appearing throughout the world. Chaz Ashley, a young hunter, learns of the link between the biomonsters and the ecological crisis on the planet. The computer system put in place to control the climate is malfunctioning, and the planet is reverting back to its original desert-like state. It also seems that Dark Force is back, hellbent on destroying the Algol system once and for all.

Sadly, the overworld graphics seem to have reverted back to the PSII model making it look a little dated (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, the story is more fleshed out than it’s previous instalments, and a lot more engaging. The dialogue in general feels like there was a better translation of the original script. Additionally, during dialogue moments, character profile boxes appear which are beautifully illustrated. It also clarifies exactly who is speaking. During cutscenes, more illustrated boxes are added giving the illusion that you’re reading a comic book. There are also a few nice surprises in the form of characters from previous games reappearing, but I won’t spoil it by telling you who.

Originally the game came with a very comprehensive 40-page manual explaining every aspect of the game including: Information on each character, what the main items are for, what all the spells and techniques do when used, what injuries you can incur, a map of Motavia, and information on weapons and armour.

The gameplay has been kept the same – that is, top down view with the exception of battle mode. There is a significant increase in walking speed for the characters, meaning you can get from A to B a lot quicker. You are also able to increase the speed of the battles and text to help hurry the game along. One annoyance was that when you approach a person and/or object, whilst still pressing that direction, you walk around the target as oppose to stopping in front of it. When you play it, you’ll know what I mean.

The graphics in battle mode have also reverted back to a similar style to PSII, with the addition of illustared backgrounds (Screenshot taken by the author)

Oddly, the sprites in the overworld seem to have reverted to PSII style graphics as oppose to PSIII or creating newer, more improved graphics. Comparing the two, one could be forgiven for thinking PSIII was a later instalment. Sadly, these graphics look dated for the mid-90s, especially when compared to RPGs such as Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse (1994) and Shining Force 2 (1993). Also, the PlayStation had been released in 1994, upping the expected standard for games in general. When the PlayStation could produce RPGs like Suikoden (1995), what chance did the Mega Drive have?

The menu system is easy to access and straight forward to navigate. What made me particularly happy is that you no longer need to manually go into your menu and pass items between characters in order for them to equip or use them. The weapons and armour will automatically be available to those who can wield them.

On Dezo – added snowy effects give the impression that you are in a blizzard. However, this effect is heavy on the eyes. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Buying and equipping weapons and armour has been simplified, and for the better. When you buy a new weapon or piece of armour, arrows appear by the name of the individual who can wield it. Sadly, you cannot see if an item will improve the stats of that character until you buy it and equip it.

PSIV reintroduces fighter animations back into battle mode, similar to that of PSII. However, this time the backgrounds have also been kept. The animations of the physical attacks of the characters are the same as they were in PSII which is a little disappointing. The backgrounds during the battles are more detailed and, in some cases, animated. Additionally in PSIV, you can now use your transport vehicle during battles instead of using your characters.

A nice new feature is that two or more characters can combine their spells and techniques to create bigger and more powerful attacks. Sadly, this is very trial and error and it doesn’t always work (Screenshot taken by the author)

The enemies are beautifully illustrated and animated. There are some real ugly bastards in this game. A nice little extra is that sometimes, when two or more fighters use a certain technique or spell, it can combine to produce a stronger attack. Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime you attempt it.

One added bonus is that you no longer need to  pay to restore a fallen comrade. You simply go to a hostel, and bed down for the night. In the morning, said comrade will be right as rain.

Finally, and thank Christ, the battle menu is now wonderfully intuitive. It is very easy to learn, and they have finally simplified the way you can chose which enemy to attack. This makes strategic attacks a hell of a lot easier.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, a walkthrough was needed on several occasions though.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the fourth instalment in the Phantasy Star series with an improved magic system that allows you to combine spells for more power. Overall 7.75/10[1]

GameFan: “The graphics are gorgeous, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a while on the Genesis., full of batchin’ samples, and the game exudes nothing but pure, joyous power. Overall 93/100.[2]

Mean Machines Sega: “The best pure RPG for the Megadrive…” Overall 88%.[3]

Sega Saturn Magazine: “The gameplay – controlling inventories, arming combatants, and using spells – is not to everyone’s taste. But the game succeeds by creating climactic moments, introducing new characters and powers, and taking many weird and wonderful plot turns. Overall 90%.[4]

Game Players: “Newer RPGs like Final Fantasy III make this game look ancient…this still feels like every other Phantasy Star Game…The game offers plenty of items while staying clear and user-friendly. Fighting every other step drives you crazy. Overall 70%.[5]

My verdict:

“Although the graphics are beginning to look a bit dated, they are still pleasing to look at for the most part. The story is compelling with some nice surprises, and they have simplified the menu systems making them easier to navigate. Personally I feel this is the best Phantasy Star in the series.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star IV? 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 Facebook.


[1] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Phantasy Star IV’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (June 1995).  Issue 71: 46. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/21/EGM_US_071.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[2] Rox, N., ‘Genesis Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. GameFan. (April 1995). Volume 3 Issue 4:19 & 27. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue04April1995/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed on 26th March 2020).

[3] ‘Megadrive Review – Phantasy Star IV’. Mean Machines Sega. (July 1995) Issue 33:76-7. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-33/page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[4] ’16-bit Megadrive – Phantasy Star IV’. Sega Saturn Magazine. (December 1995). Issue 2:91. (https://archive.org/details/Official_Sega_Saturn_Magazine_002/page/n89/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[5] Slate, C., ’Genesis: Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. Game Players. (February 1995). Issue 49:38-9. (https://archive.org/details/Game_Players_Issue_49_February_1995/page/n37/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

Contra (Probotector & Gryzor)

A picture containing man, holding, people

Description automatically generated

Arcade games were designed to be nigh on impossible to complete. This was because not only did the creators want to challenge gamers, but they also needed to be able to sell a product to arcade owners who in turn wanted games that gamers would repeatedly pump their pocket money in to continue playing…it is a business after all. When arcade games were ported to home consoles, it often seems that the creators failed to adjust the difficulty levels. Young gamers today have no idea how easy they have it all with constant automatic saving, online walkthroughs and cheat pages close-by, at the touch of a button.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Contra is a run and gun video game developed and published by Konami for the Arcade in 1987. A home version was released on the NES in 1988 (in Europe, Contra was known as Probotector). Ocean Software ported the game to the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC in Europe in 1988 under the name Gryzor. Interestingly, Ocean’s cover art for the game was a clearly influenced by a photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Predator. I reviewed the NES version of this game.

The cover art was clearly influenced by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Predator (1987).

According to the NES manual, in 1957, a large object crashed into the Amazon near some Mayan ruins. Nothing further seemed to have happened and the incident was forgotten about. 30 years later, reports of weird alien monsters terrorising the local villages have been received by the Pentagon. Rather than create a political incident by sending in an army, the US send in two commandos, Lance and Bill, to find and destroy the aliens.[1]

Bright colours, clearly defined sprites, and excellent gameplay (Screenshot taken by the author)

Contra is easy to play but tough to master. You mainly run, jump, lay down, and shoot. The controls are nice and responsive, and you can shoot in all directions. However, if you want to shoot directly down, then you need to jump. You can jump down to a lower platform simply by pressing down and jump. Be careful though…one shot can kill you and you only get a finite amount of lives and continues

The manual describes all the levels you will fight through as well as what all the power-ups do. The power ups are greatly appreciated as you progress through the games and the enemies begin to increase in number and strength. They also make defeating the end of level bosses much easier.

After every level you must battle your way through a series of rooms by destroying a flashing button to lower the electrical field (Screenshot taken by the author)

After every level, the perspective changes and your character begins in the foreground firing at enemies and defensive weapons in the background. Once you destroy the circular flashing light, which powers the electrical fence stopping you from moving forward, the rear wall explodes and you can progress to the next room. This must be done several times before you complete the level.

The levels are very well designed and very detailed. They are brightly coloured with many different platforms for you to jump up to and down from. The music fits the game well, and the sprites are clean and nicely animated. The overall graphics are pretty damn good for a home console in 1988.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

The game becomes a lot more fun in two-player mode. Although you are competing for points, you are actually co-operating to beat the game, and it certainly makes the game easier. Mrs. L was my co-op buddy for this run through.

Did I complete the game?

Mrs. L and I did complete the game, but we needed the cheat that gave us 30 odd lives each. Else we could only get past the first few levels. On YouTube I did see one video where someone completed the game without dying once. Fair play to them.

What the critics said:

Computer Gaming World: “Two player contests are always in demand, because most video games are designed for a solo gamer. Contra is doubly welcome, because it is a truly outstanding action epic.” No rating given.[2]

Joystick: ”Overall 92%”.[3]

Awards:

Best Action Game – 1989 Player’s Choice Awards[4]

My verdict:

“Although this game is tough, it is also a lot of fun, especially in two player mode. Great graphics, tight controls, and adrenalin inducing levels. I think that you will find yourself returning to this game again and again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Contra? 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 Facebook.


[1] ‘How to Play Contra’. NES Contra Manual. :4 (https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media/SYSTEM/Nintendo_NES/manual/Formated/Contra_-_1988_-_Konami.pdf Accessed 28th March 2020)

[2] Katz, A., ‘Video Gaming World – Contra’. Computer Gaming World. (June 1988). 48:40. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_48/page/n39/mode/2up Accessed March 29th 2020).

[3] Huyghues-Lacour, A., ‘Probotector’. Joystick. (April 1991). 15:118. (https://archive.org/details/joystick015/page/n117/mode/2up Accessed on 6th July 2020).

[4] ‘The 1989 “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Action Game: Contra’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/64/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1989.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

“They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team.
(We’re really hip!)
They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green.
(Hey, get a grip!)
When the evil Shredder attacks,
These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!”

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto our TV screens in 1987. I had very mixed feelings towards them. On the one hand, ninjas were cool to most boys when I was a kid. On the otherhand, it coincided with the end of my favourite cartoon series Transformers. Over the next few years their star rose culminating in a trio of mediocre live action films in 1990, 1991, and 1993. With such a high evel of popularity, it was only a matter of time before video games featuring Turtle Power would appear.

A picture containing food

Description automatically generated
Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Konami in 1989 for the NES (Ultra Games published it for the North American and European markets in 1989 and 1990 respectively). It was later released on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, and Playchoice 10. The version I reviewed was a on the NES.

The story follows the main objective of the animated series. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo must retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder in order to return Splinter to his human form.

The overworld map allows you to explore buildings before heading back to the sewers (Screenshot taken by author)

There is a basic intro which shows the Turtles mutating from their smaller selves, before showing the range of moves they can perform. It music over the intro is quite good as to seems signifying the tough attitude of the Turtles. Sadly, the intro is pretty dull when compared to the likes of Batman and Castlevania III.

There are three aspects to the game: A side-scrolling platform part, a swimming part, and top down adventure style part.

The menu screen allows you to see a map of your area, receive instructions from Splinter, and change between the Turtles if their energy is getting too low (Screenshot taken by author)

You begin in the overworld adventure mode, on the streets of the city. There is some catchy music playing whilst you investigate your surroundings. For some reason the energy meter at the bottom flickers, and I’m unsure if that was intentional, to draw your attention to it, or simply an error on the creators’ part. If at anytime you are unsure what to do, you can select the information area where either Splinter or April will explain your task. You can also see a map of the area, and the energy levels of each Turtle. If you need to, you can select which Turtle to use at any time.

When you enter buildings and sewers, you begin the platform part of the game. Which involves battling through enemies from left to right, and interestingly, right to left. Each Turtle is equipped with their respective weapon of either a katana, sai, bow and nunchuks. Along the way they can also pick up weapons such as shurikens with which to throw at the baddies. To gain health, keep an eye out for slices of pizza.

The sewers contain lots of baddies for you to defeat (Screenshot taken by author)

During all levels you can change between Turtles at any time. Each Turtle is distinguishable by their coloured bands and weapons just like the animated series. I tended to favour Donatello because of his long reach and power with the bow.

The gameplay itself is simple. Walk, jump, swing your weapons in various directions, and throw projectiles. Annoyingly, the movement can get a bit choppy and jerky when there are too many enemies on screen.

Occasionally you get a cut scene using a mix of in-game sprites and nicer drawn character close-ups. I feel they could have done better with these cut scenes, they feel lazy and uninspiring.

Some of the baddies are poorly illustrated , and it is unclear exactly what they are (Screenshot taken by author)

In overworld areas, the graphics are clean and colourful. However, some of sprites during the platform section are poorly illustrated and it’s difficult to identify what they are. Some enemies are clearly defined, but others look a bit hazy, and stick out like a sore thumb. The NES is clearly capable of so much more. You only have to look at Duck Tales and Batman to see how naff the platform level sprites are, including the Turtles themselves.

The swimming level is notoriously tough. You need to find and disarm bombs that have been planted to destroy the dam. Although they can breathe underwater (not accurate for turtles but we won’t hold that against the creators), for Turtles, they don’t seem to be able to swim very well, and are hard to control. Often you must swim through tight gaps where “electric seaweed” damages you if you touch it. You also need to evade electric beams and disarm all the bombs before the time runs out.

The swimming level has gone down in history as being very tough to complete (Screenshot taken by author)

The music, though fitting for the game, lacks the recognisable traits of the animated series. The only time you hear anything resembling the original theme at certain times like when you rescue April or finish the swimming level. This is stark contrast to games like Duck Tales where the recognisable theme is present throughout.

The game is notoriously challenging. There are lots of baddies to kill but completing missions with all Turtles and health intact is nigh impossible. If you re-enter buildings and sewers, the levels are reset meaning you have to fight all the baddies again, but this is handy when needing to find pizza to gain health.

Did I complete the game?

No, I just about got past the swimming level.

What the critics said:

Computer & Video Games: “The graphics are great, a bit on the blocky side at times but with lots of colour and some nice additions such as the opening sequence which shows the turtles being transformed into their mutant alter-egos. The game itself is very tough…the high level of difficulty isn’t at all frustrating, in fact it only adds to the overall brilliance of the product. Overall 89%[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Donn – “TMNT wasn’t overly impressive – I thought it would have been much better considering all the hype that t achieved. The game play is there and the graphics are nice, but the whole cart didn’t meet my expectations. It is good, but I was expecting more. Overall 5.75/10.[2]

Nintendo Power: “The sound effects and the music in the tunnels and buildings are excellent…Great graphics and excellent character control in Action Scenes make this an exceptional game…cool storyboard graphics. Overall 4.125/5.[3]

The Games Machine: “The game kicks off to a great start with an oriental tune and some impressive portraits of the turtles. Though, sadly, some of the in-game graphics are a bit iffy and there is the odd screen glitch. Initial playability is high, all the turtle sprites are well drawn and animated and the bad guys present quite a challenge. Overall 86%.[4]

Gamepro: “The absence of a multi-player option detracts from the whole concept of Turtle togetherness, the overall action is average, and it’s nearly impossible to finish with only two continues. Also, although the Turtles look cool, the Foot Clanners’ graphics are a little weak. Turtles Overall 3.8/5.[5]

Raze: “The difficulty factory is set just right; frustrating but nothing to put your Nintendo in physical danger. The graphics are impressive for the NES, with superb use of vivid colours and impressive animation. Overall 87%.[6]

Awards:

Best Theme, Fun 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[7]

Best Overall 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[8]

Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That Was Released) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1989[9]

My verdict:

“TMNT is as tough as I remember. Graphically, the platform levels should have been much better. The gameplay would be great if it wasn’t so choppy, and it was disappointing that the original theme tune didn’t feature more. However, It was still a fond trip down memory lane, and I will certainly pick it up the controller up again at some point to try and beat the game in the future.”

Rating:

What are your memories of TMNT? 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 Facebook.


[1] Rand, P., ‘Mean Machines: Nintendo – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’. Computer and Video Games. (June 1990). Issue 104:98-9. (https://archive.org/details/computer-and-videogames-104/page/n97/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew – TMNT’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (October 1989). Issue 4:10. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/6e/EGM_US_004.pdf Accessed 20th March 2020).

[3] ‘Previews – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ Nintendo Power. (March/April 1989). Issue 5:52-5. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20005%20March-April%201989#page/n47/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[4] Caswell, M., ‘Reviews – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.’ The Games Machine. (July 1990). Issue 32:28-9. (https://archive.org/details/the-games-machine-32/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[5] Slasher Quan, ‘Pro Classics – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Gamepro. (March 1991). Volume 3 Issue 3:28-9. (https://retrocdn.net/images/9/92/GamePro_US_020.pdf Accessed 20th March 2020).

[6] Ellis, L., ‘Reviews – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.’ Raze. (December 1990). Issue 2:46-7. (https://archive.org/details/raze-magazine-02/page/n45/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[7] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:27. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[8] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:28. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[9] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990 Video Game Buyer’s guide. Issue 5:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

Ah role-playing games, the opportunity for real adventure. Battle ugly-ass monsters, fill your pockets with treasure, and wield magic weapons. Cast spells of fire, lightning, as well as healing. Journey through mystical and fantastical lands, through deadly dungeons, dark forests, and creepy castles. Build your fighter’s stats until they are strong enough to defeat the demonic rulers of the evil armies.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom is an RPG developed and published by Sega and is the sequel to Phantasy Star II. It was released in Japan in 1990 for the Sega Mega Drive and reached Europe and North America in 1991. The version I played was part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3.

1000 years before the start of the game, which seems to be set in a medieval setting as oppose to a science-fiction setting, two factions are engulfed in a bitter feud. Orakio, a swordsman, and Lava, a sorceress, meet for an armistice and both mysteriously disappear. Both factions blame each other for their leader’s disappearance, and all communication and travel between the two worlds cease. War seems inevitable…

The colours are less headache-inducing, and the graphics are more detailed than previous instalments (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, you get a nice intro with some beautiful illustrations, and text explaining the back story. The game then begins with Rhys, Prince and heir to the Orakian kingdom of Landen. He is due to marry Maia, whom Rhys found washed up on a beach two months earlier (a bit odd, but ok). The ceremony is interrupted by a dragon, identified as a Layan, who abducts Maia in what is seemingly a deliberate act of war. During his search for Maia, Rhys recruits a number of fighters to assist him.

Continuing in the tradition of most RPGs, PSIII involves the player exploring a 2D world, recruiting characters, random enemy encounters, and a turn-based battle system. You can attack the enemy in three ways: with a weapon, using magic spells, and/or using special techniques. I know in PSIV you can use dynamite to attack the enemies, but I don’t recall seeing that option in this game…I may be wrong of course. Once enemies are defeated you gain Meseta (money) and experience points. Experience points are necessary to increase your fighter level which in turn, increases their stats.

The overworld is more detailed and realistic than previous instalments (Screenshot taken by the author)

The overworld gameplay hasn’t changed. It is still a near top down view and you must wander from town to town whilst buying new weapons and armour, gleaning information from local villagers, and fighting a multitude of different creatures. The overworld graphics are less vibrant, but more detailed, and realistic in my opinion. It certainly gives me less of a headache looking at it anyway.

When battling enemies, for some reason they have done away with seeing your fighters attack the enemies which is disappointing because it looked great in PSII. The enemies are more detailed, and some, in the later levels, just look really peculiar and I have no idea what they are supposed to be. Thankfully, they have brought back the backgrounds, and done away with the blue grid. Controversially, I prefer the backgrounds from PSI as I think they are more interesting to look at.

The blue grid system has been done away with in favour of scene-setting backgrounds (Screenshot taken by the author)

The battle menu is still more complicated than it needs to be. In PSIV, which I will be reviewing in several weeks, they rectify this to create an intuitive, and simple battle menu.

Strangely, PSIII doesn’t resolve what happened at the end of PSII. What happened to your fighters? What happened to Rolf, Rudo and company? Were they defeated? Did they survive? Me may never find out!

Why is Guile from Street Fighter II appearing as if he belongs in an 80s band (Screenshot taken by the author)

What is unique about PSIII, compared to other games in the franchise, is that the story spans three generations. At the end of each generation, you have the option to choose who you wish to marry. This determines who you will take control of in the next generation storyline. As I understand it, the only difference it makes is that it will affect the offsprings ability to use their techniques. There are potentially 10 different generational choices, which affect the game’s ending. Although this adds to the replay value, I don’t imagine many people would wish to play through such a gargantuan game a second or third time…but then again, I may be wrong.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but with the help of a walkthrough at times.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “Another enormous role-playing game, but this one has far more depth and variety than its predecessor. It’s by far the best RPG on the Megadrive…Overall 89%.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Martin – “One of the best RPGs ever! Phantasy Star 3 blows away the previous games, although it isn’t necessarily more challenging overall. The game throws in a lot of new features like different generations who each will encounter their own quests to overcome. Awesome RPG! Overall 8/10”.[2]

Dragon: “Though we didn’t like it as much as Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III is creative in many ways. First, you have the ability to marry a person and then become the offspring of that union to continue the quest. The various endings in the game are a definite plus as well. The graphics are excellent, except for combat (Phantasy Star II is better here)…Overall, this game will definitely keep you fixed to the television for weeks. Overall 4/5.[3]

My verdict:

“Another great game for the Phantasy Star universe. Improved graphics, a great story with a new generational storyline, and alternate storylines. They still need to decide what they are doing with the battle scene animations and battle menus.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star III? 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 Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Phantasy Star III’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:140. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n139/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew: Phantasy Star III’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (May 1991). 22:16. (https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_22/page/n15/mode/2up Accessed 23rd March 2020).

[3] ‘Phantasy Star III’. Dragon. (December 1991). 176:61. (https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg176.pdf Accessed 24th March 2020).

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Every game from the Super Mario franchise has been hotly anticipated by fans of the series. After the success of Super Mario World, the bar was set extremely high for the sequel. The creators not only succeeded in producing a fantastic sequel (although it’s actually a prequel), but a game that proved so popular that its success spawned a series of spin-offs and sequels in itself. It really does seem like there is no stopping the Super Mario franchise!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SMW2) is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released for the SNES in 1995, the Game Boy Advance in 2002, the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014. The version I played can be found on the SNES Mini.

The overworld map is different from Super Mario World, but does allow you to track your progress in each level (Screenshot taken by the author)

SMW2 is a prequel to Super Mario World (SMW), and what a prequel it is! Magikoopa and the Koopalings intercept a stork that is carrying Baby Mario and Luigi. During the attack, Baby Mario is dropped but safely caught by Yoshi. Many Yoshies assist in bringing Baby Mario back to the stalk through a number of challenging levels and bosses. Oddly, it doesn’t explain why Magikoopa and the Koopalings are trying to intercept the brothers, or what they will do with them once they have captured them. Does Bowser know that they will grow up to be a thorn in his side?

Yoshi must carry Baby Mario through some dangerous levels whilst collecting gold coins, red coins, stars and flowers (Screenshot taken by the author)

Keeping with the Super Mario traditions, the game mostly consists of running and jumping through the levels whilst collecting coins and tokens, although this game involves more puzzle-solving and item collecting than other platforms. There is no time limit which allows deeper exploration into each level and enables you to take your time. As well as simply playing through the levels, there is an added challenge of collecting 100% of the flowers, stars and red coins from over 40 levels (plus several different bonus levels and games). This greatly extends the game’s life and adds replay value.

Yoshi has the ability to eat most of his enemies, spit and throw objects at his enemies, and jump or stamp on them (as long as they don’t have spikes). He can also briefly levitate which greatly helps whilst jumping larger gaps.

Yoshi also collects eggs which he can use to fire at enemies and obstacles. These can be found by either hitting a white and green coloured block from below (red and yellow ones also occur), or by eating certain enemies and laying them as eggs. Green eggs can simply be used as a projectile to either kill enemies or aimed to collect coins and flowers. Red eggs produce stars for you to collect when thrown, and yellow eggs produce coins when they are thrown. Yoshi can also eat green and red watermelons and then spit the seeds and fire at his enemies.

There are several areas where Yoshi can touch an icon and be transformed into either a helicopter, car, drill or submarine where applicable. This enables Yoshi to reach bonus coins and flowers etc. that were previously inaccessible. A flashing star power-up is also available which makes Mario invincible for a limited amount of time.

Although Yoshi is basically invincible, he will die if he falls onto spikes and into lava etc. When he does get hit by an enemy, Baby Mario becomes encased in a bubble and begins to fly away. A countdown will begin and you need to retrieve him before the time runs out. Once caught, the timer will increase again to ensure that you have at least 10 seconds on the timer. Throughout the game you can also collect little stars that increase the amount of time you have to retrieve Baby Mario. Two things are incredibly annoying about his feature. Firstly, Baby Mario’s crying makes you want to leave him and turn the game off. Another is that sometimes the bubble Baby Mario is in, floats to areas of the screen that Yoshi cannot reach.

The game’s illustration style is reminiscent of a colouring book coloured by crayons. The levels, backgrounds, sprites and animations look great, but I personally prefer the illustration and colour scheme of SMW. Alas, the music isn’t as memorable as SMW or Super Mario Kart for that matter.

Like Super Mario World, Yoshi can eat most of the enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

Yoshi’s Island is a very good prequel and I enjoyed playing through it. There are plenty of new features and designs that clearly distinguish this from SMW, but it is easy to learn and familiar enough to not seem too different from other Mario games. However, I feel this game lacks the charm of SMW, and although it is challenging, I found the game too frustrating in places, making me not want to bother trying to achieve 100%.

Did I complete the game?:

I have completed the main storyline, but am yet to achieve 100% throughout.

What the critics thought:

Edge: “…Yoshi’s Island is a welcome addition to the series – as playable, challenging and entertaining as the best of the other Mario games. Overall 9/10.[1]

Gamefan: “One word immediately springs to mind – perfect. Perfect gameplay, perfect graphics, perfect music.  Overall 9.7/10.[2]

Next Generation: “The most impressive features of Yoshi’s Island are its size and playability. Strewn with bonus levels of all kinds, much like the original, this game will keep your dinosaur friend hopping in several different directions. You’ll find yourself baffled at the task of completing this gargantuan game, but you’ll definitely enjoy trying. Overall 5/5.[3]

Nintendo Life: “Yoshi’s Island isn’t just a great platformer: it’s a reminder of why this silly little hobby of ours is so wonderful. Sure, the game contains no political satire, no poetic justice, no character development. But if what Miyamoto and Tezuka crafted isn’t a work of art, then the definition of “art” needs to be amended. Overall 10/10.[4]

My verdict:

“A great and worthy prequel which I feel lacks a bit of the charm of Super Mario World. However, the graphics are gorgeous, and there is plenty to learn and find, differentiating it from its predecessors and most of its contemporaries. Don’t be fooled, this game is much tougher than Super Mario World and although there is plenty here to keep you coming back, rage quits will be frequent!”

My rating:

What are your memories of Yoshi’s Island? 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 Facebook.


[1] ‘Testscreen: SNES – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island’. Edge. (November 1995). Issue 26:62-65. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/af/Edge_UK_026.pdf Accessed 10th March 2020).

[2] ‘Viewpoint: SNES – Yoshi’s Island’. Gamefan. (October 1995). Volume 3 Issue 10:18. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue10October1995ALT/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed 10th March 2020).

[3] Rating: SNES – Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2’. Next Generation. (February 1996). Issue 14:178. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-014/page/n177/mode/2up Accessed 10th March 2020).

[4] Delgrego, K., (23rd July 2009). ‘Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island Review’. Nintendolife.com. (http://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2009/07/super_mario_world_2_yoshis_island_retro Accessed 11th on March 2020).

Star Wars: Dark Forces

In the early 90s, I was at the height of my Sci-fi geekdom. I watched and re-watched Star Trek and Star Wars movies with unhealthy regularity. The video games that the franchises were producing in the early 90s were also filling my daily quota of science fiction. Resisting the entreaties of my parents to go out into the summer sun, I preferred to stay in a darkened room and lose myself in these cherished universes. Some would say it was an unhealthy hobby for a teenager, and they could be right…if it wasn’t for the fact that I played competitive football at least twice and week, and worked part-time jobs that is. However, the memories I have playing these games with a childhood chum (who I shall refer to as MC), are not to be discarded lightly.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Dark Forces is a first-person shooter developed and published by Lucasart in 1995 for MS-DOS and Macintosh. A year later it was released for PlayStation. In 2009 it was re-released on Steam. The version I played was for the PC.

A map can be used whilst still moving around the levels which is very helpful (Screenshot taken by the author)

You play as Kyle Katarn, who is studying agricultural mechanics with the intention of working in the family business. Whilst at the academy, he is told that his parents were killed by the Rebels, causing him to enlist in the Imperial Army. Whilst working for the Imperial Army he meets Jan Ors, a double agent working for the Rebels. She informs Katarn that it was an Empire raid killed his parents. With the truth known, he helps Ors escape. He then becomes mercenary and begins to take on jobs for the Rebel Alliance.

The first mission is set during Rogue One, and sees Katarn charged with stealing the Death Star plans (naturally this storyline is not considered official canon). It then skips to after A New Hope. Once the Death Star is destroyed, the Rebels ask Kyle to investigate an assault on a Rebel base by a new type of Imperial soldier.

This first-person shooter sees Katarn navigate his way through several locations including a Star Destroyer, Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, and the planet Coruscant. The levels are well designed and challenging, and really give the illusion that you are in the Star Wars universe.  Throughout the levels, there are lots of secret doors which contain power-ups and goodies to help you on your way.

“There he is, blast him!” (Screenshot taken by the author)

You can choose between a number of different weapons with which to fight the Imperial soldiers including blasters, thermal detonators, land mines, and some more explosive weapons. All weapons have a secondary mode which offers a different effect when fired. All weapons need ammunition so use the more powerful weapons sparingly.

The map unfolds as you progress for the level, adding to the feeling of isolation and the unknown. You can toggle this map to be overlaid whilst you are walking around the level too which is a useful tool to have. There are times in the game when you need to use night-vision goggles and breathing apparatus which are nice touches. Just remember that you’ll need to pick up batteries for the night vision goggles as they only have limited power.

The in-game music is atmospheric, but very basic. Don’t expect John William’s well-constructed musical themes blasting through your speakers in high fidelity. The in-game graphics are generally good. Although the levels are 3D, the baddies are 2D. However, they are well illustrated and use familiar exclamations such as “You’re not authorised in this area!”, and “There he is, blast him!”. Sadly, they do become a little pixelated as you get closer to them. The cutscenes are beautifully illustrated but sadly, it’s not the real Darth Vader’s voice.

Even animated, Darth Vader is an imposing figure (Screenshot taken by the author)

The controls let this game down a little. Whilst you are able to run, jump, duck, swim and look around, the mouse only allows you to look horizontally turning left and right. You need to use the keyboard to look up and down. This makes it unnecessarily difficult when shooting at enemies on high ledges. The jumping is frustrating too as the player doesn’t stop instantly when landing which, although realistic, means plummeting to your death alot as it’s difficult to gauge when you are near to falling off the edges.

The three difficulty settings, and the fact this is a Star Wars game, give this game some replay value, but I don’t think this is a game that will have you returning time and time again.

Did I complete the game?

Yes!

What the critics said:

Gamespot:Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game is set in the Star Wars universe. It’s much more fun to blast Imperial lackeys than faceless monsters. The familiar setting is enhanced by your enemies’ taunts, like “Stop, Rebel Scum!” Dark Forces’ only real flaws are its tragically short length – less than a dozen levels – and its lack of multiplayer options or add-ons, which severely limits the replay value. Overall 7.6/10”.[1]

Next Generation: “Ultimately, Dark Forces offers nothing that Doom didn’t provide a year ago apart from some pretty Star Wars cut-scenes. And Technically, it’s on par with the most accomplished 3D games, but it seems that LucasArts’ reputation as a software pioneer has made it wary of producing an instantly playable title. Dark Forces will be judged by Doom Standards, and in most areas, it falls just short. Overall 3.5/5.[2]

PC Zone: “The best Doom-inspired game to date, based on Star Wars. Overall 95%.”[3]

My verdict:

“Overall the game has a good storyline and is fun, even for non-Star Wars gamers. Some of the controls need a little fine tuning but the number of weapons you can use, the level designs and familiar phrases such as “There he is, blast him!” make this game worth playing. However, single player limits the replay value a bit.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Dark Forces? 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 Facebook.


[1] Dulon, R., (1st May 1996). ‘Star Wars Dark Forces Review’. Gamespost.com https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dark-forces-review/1900-2538507/ Accessed 17th March 2020.

[2] ‘Finals: PC – Dark Forces’. Next Generation. (May 1995). Volume 1 Issue 5:94. https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-005/page/n95/mode/2up Accessed 17th March 2020.

[3] ‘CD Rom Review – Dark Forces’. PC Zone. (March 1995). Issue 24:52-56. https://archive.org/stream/PC_Zone_24_March_1995#page/n55/mode/2up Accessed 17th March 2020.