Kid Chameleon – Review

16-bit consoles are never short of platform games, all with varying degrees of popularity and success. Once you have a game like Sonic the Hedgehog, all platformers will naturally be compared to it. Originality isn’t always easy to produce and so many will naturally fall short.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Kid Chameleon is a platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in 1992 and latterly as part of the Sega Smash Pack 2 (2000) for the PC, Sega Genesis Collection (2006 for the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation 2, on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 260 and PlayStation 3, and on the Sega Forever service in 2017.

The Samurai helmet transforms you into Red Stealth (screenshot taken by the author)

In an unnamed town in the US, a new and exciting game has hit the arcades. Wild Side uses holograms to create a fully immersive video gaming experience, much like the holodeck from Star Trek. Soon children start to go missing once they enter Wild Side and they are never seen again. It is soon discovered that the boss of the game, Heady Metal, has escaped the confines of his programming and is kidnapping the children once he defeats them at the game. Kid Chameleon is the toughest and coolest kid in town. He agrees to take on the challenge of Wild Side, defeat Heady Metal and rescues the children imprisoned within the game.

The controls are simple. You can walk, run, crawl and jump. Like many platformers, you need to hit the blocks from below to gain whatever bonus is inside. The bonuses you receive will increase your time, contain different helmets to transform you and gain different abilities, and diamonds. Collecting diamonds helps energise your abilities. If you have 2, 5, 20 or 50, then you can engage your Diamond Power which is dependant on what sort of helmet you are wearing. You can also find Ankh’s which give you extra lives and coins which give you extra continues. Once you collect a helmet, you will automatically transform into a new character and will be bestowed unique abilities.

There are nine helmets that Kid Chameleon can wear, and they all have unique powers:

Iron Knight – Enables you to climbs walls.

Red Stealth – Samurai that can use his sword to attack or as a pogo stick to smash blocks below your feet.

Berzerker – An American football helmet with horn on the top. When you run at walls, he can smash them to break through.

Maniaxe – Jason from Friday 13th’s mask. He throws axes.

Juggernaut – Turns Kid Chameleon into a tank that fires skull bombs.

Micromax – Shrinks Kid Chameleon to access smaller places. He alsouses wallas to jump higher.

EyeClops – Allows Kid Chameleon to see invisible blocks.

Skycutter – Enables you to fly upside down and traverse ceilings.

Cyclone – Enables you to fly.

When you aren’t wearing a helmet, you can still attack some enemies by jumping on them (screenshot taken by the author)

Kid Chameleon can be played in one- and two-player modes. In two-player mode, each player simply takes turns. The physics of the game take some getting used to. When you begin to move, he starts slowly and quickly gathers speed. This sounds pretty straight forward but it just feels odd in this game. The physics when jumping are very unforgiving and I found him difficult to control. An interesting option is that you can choose whether to have Kid Chameleon walk and then use the speed button to speed up, or to run all the time and use the speed button to slow down.

I thought the graphics were pretty good. The sprites are clearly defined, colourful and are nicely animated. The levels and background are also colourful and very detailed. A nice touch is where on the first level, the reflections of the trees on the water are moving.

The music is fine for the game, no complaints here. It just hovers in the background not imposing itself too much on the game.

Interestingly, there is only one difficulty setting which obviously limits its replay value.

There is something about this game that just didn’t click with me. I liked the idea of the helmets giving you unique powers, but I felt the way they were used fell short of their initial vision. At the end of the day, I felt that the physics of the game made it feel that you weren’t really in control of the character. That could just be me sucking at video games of course.

Did I complete the game?

Not yet, I am currently unable to get past the Bagel Brothers level.

What the critics thought:

MegaTech: “Kid C is a platform game with a novel twist, the hero can change his form by collecting hats. This power lets him masquerade as a samurai, a tank, a psycho and a host of other characters. What lets it down is the lack of challenge which persists throughout the game bar one level. Overall 64%.[1]

Sega Force: “Aesthetically its ok: backgrounds are good, sprites are excellent, tunes and FX are reasonable – there’s nothing fault. Hardened platformers will take to this, those looking for the next Sonic should wait. Overall 82%.[2]

Console XS: “Above all, the kid is cool. With his Ray-Bans glistening in the midday sun, he must venture over and underground to rescue his mates. Best of all, kid can change his persona, resulting in constant variety. Overall 89%.[3]

My verdict:

“Great graphics but I don’t think the physics of the game is very good and the game can be very unforgiving at times. Other than that, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this game, but it lacks a bit of the “WOW” factor for me.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Kid Chameleon? 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] ‘Game Index – Kid Chameleon’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:77.

[2] ‘Reviewed! – Kid Chameleon’. Sega Force. (April 1992). Issue 4:12-16.

[3] ‘Console XS AZ – Kid Chameleon’. Console XS. (June 1992). Issue 1:12-131.

Advertisement

Golden Axe III – Review

Golden Axe (1989) has gone down in history as being one of the greatest hack ‘n’ slash games of its generation. Golden Axe II (1991) was a respectable sequel but isn’t held in as high regard as its predecessor. The arcade sequel Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (1992), wasn’t released onto home consoles until decades later. Naturally, one can be forgiven for thinking that the franchise had ended. However, Sega decided to have one more stab at rivalling the original.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe III is a side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slash developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in Japan in 1993 and north America in 1995 for the Sega Channel. For some reason, it didn’t get a European release until it became available as part of Sega Genesis Collection (2006) for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009). It can also be found on Wii Virtual Console. I chose to review the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.

The sprites are more detailed than in Golden Axe (1989) and Golden Axe II (1991) (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

It has been many years since Gilius Thunderhead, accompanied by Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, retrieved the Golden Axe from Dark Guld. Both Battler and Flare has since passed away, leaving only Gilius, a dwarf whose life expectancy is greater than humans, to relive their battles alone. Gilius vowed to travel to the ends of the Earth to find the Gods who had bestowed the Golden Axe among the humans to return it to ensure that future dark powers could not use it for their evil ends. As his ship sailed across the ocean and mighty tempest sank his ship. The next thing he knew, he had awoken in a land he had never been to before. He may have imagined it, but he could have sworn that the last thing he heard before losing consciousness was an evil laughter. There was one thing he that he is sure of. The Golden Axe he was carrying to the Gods has been lost…

Half a year later, Gilius’ injuries are healing and he feels strong enough to set out again in search of the Golden Axe. He is soon caught up in war between good and evil. The Kingdom of Splash Hill where he had been recovering is under attack from the armies of the evil Damned Hellstrike who has conquered and enslaved the people. The king is missing and the queen is confined to the castle. Gilius soon puts two and two together and realises that Damned Hellstrike is in possession of the Golden Axe. However, Gilius is too old to go into battle and must seek out four warriors to go in his place.

These four warriors are:
Kain Gurindaa – A soldier who wields a battle sword. His closes friends were killed by the Demon Army and he is seeking revenge. He is basically Ax Battler.
 
Sara Baan – Once part of a troupe of travelling entertainers, her friends were killed when the Demon Army invaded. Possessing the Blue Dragon Sword given to her by her father, she too seeks revenge. She is bascially Tyris Flare.
 
Puraudo Kuragga – A descendant of the giants, he lends his strength to the cause after Gillius rescued him from the Demon Army where he was being held captive.
 
Kuronosu “Ibiru” Reito – This half-man half-beast was once a human. He has been cursed by the Demon Army and seeks to regain his human form.

Gameplay

As with the prequels, you must battle through a variety of areas using hand to hand combat and magic. You can now block enemy attacks. To do this, you need to push the D-pad backward away from the enemy.

One nice addition to this game is that there are times when you can choose which path to take. Some paths will be easier, but the harder paths yield better power-ups, so the choice is yours.

Once again you can use Bizzarians. There are four types. The Red Dragon who fires flames, the Green Dragon that bites, the Purple Snail that uses its tongue to attack, the Green Snail, which is superior to the Purple Snail, because it has a longer tongue. Unlike Golden Axe II, if you are riding a Bizzarian and you get hit, you WILL lose some of your health. If you wish to mount one, you will need to press the action button near one. You will not mount one automatically. This also goes for picking up potions and health.

As with previous games in the series, you can gain potions to increase your magical power (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay is very simple, if not a little repetitive due to the limited move set that each character has. The enemies are wiser to your offensive tactics and defend themselves better than in previous instalments. This is particularly noticeable when fighting the skeletons who have shields, and the big bosses who are exceptionally good at defending themselves.

In previous Golden Axe games, the attributes of the characters were clear. Gilius Thunderhead was the strongest in hand-to-hand combat but had the weakest spells, Ax Battler was in the middle ground and Tyris Flare was weaker in battle but had the strongest spells. In Golden Axe III it is unclear who the strongest is in hand-to-hand combat. To me, it seems that it’s Puraudo Kuragga as he seems to take less time to kill the evil minions. However, each character seems to have the same number and strength in spells, which doesn’t make sense as this means there is no advantage in playing with Sara Baan who is weaker and has less of a reach even though she wields a sword.

The new blocking action doesn’t work very well. You need to guess when they are going to attack else your fighter simply turns around and starts walking the other way. This method of defence is fine for one-vs-one fighter games when attack will only come from one direction, but when attacks can come from multiple directions, its just doesn’t work. It would have made more sense and would have been more intuitive to have a button to act as the blocking function. Also when fighting the baddies, they have the odd ability to be either slightly high or lower in the foreground and can still hit you with an attack which is incredibly annoying.

Annoyingly, you now seem to have no control over how much of your magic you use. I don’t understand why they didn’t keep this in from Golden Axe II (1991) as this adds strategy to the game.

The Bizzarians really are pathetic in this game and really are not worth the hassle of mounting them only to get knocked off almost instantly.

One good feature of this game is that you can rescue villagers to gain extra lives (I think it’s five per extra life). You can also find hearts which increase the size of your health bar.

Graphics

The graphics, as far as the sprites are concerned, are much larger and more detailed than in previous instalments and look great! However, the backgrounds are very lacklustre (only occasionally is there parallaxing), and the animations of the spells are really crap!

Out of the four characters, I preferred weather playing as Kain Gurindaa or Puraudo Kuragga; the former because of the reach of his sword, and the latter because of his strength.

Music

The music is more fitting than it was with Golden Axe II (1991), but again, is very forgetable.

Replay Value

There are two endings: one good, one bad. To get the good ending, you’ll need to reach the final boss with at least one continue left. Incidentally, when you do die, a message appears on the screen stating “And You Dead!” which made my brother and I laugh. It must be a translation issue.

Did I Complete The Game?

No, I made it the castle but have not gotten any further as of yet.

What The Critics Said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly “The graphics are by far some of the most plain looking on the Mega Drive. Plus, the new magic effects aren’t as impressive as before. No rating given.”[1]
  
Sega Power: “Not the sequel we expected, I’m afraid. Everything about this game smells. If you’ve got the superior Golden Axe II, be content with that – you won’t find anything here. Overall 34%.[2]

Sega Pro: “The competitive two player mode still remains, but the moves are limited and the control a little too shabby in comparison to modern head-to-heads we see today. Again, the challenge is far too easy and the gameplay soon becomes repetitive and boring. This is one too many. Overall 54%.[3]

Computer & Video Games: “Loads of levels and stacks of moves. Boring, tedious, dull, unattractive. Is that enough? Overall 62%.[4]

My Verdict:

“A disappointing sequel. This game is just not fun to play. Which is a shame as the graphics of the sprites are greatly improved from the previous instalments. There is more wrong with this game than right.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe 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 Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Golden Axe III’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (December 1993). Issue 53:111-1.

[2] Mortlock, D., ‘Mega Drive Review: Golden Axe 3’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:50-1.

[3] ‘Short Reviews – Golden Axe III’ Sega Pro. (September 1993). Issue 23:84.

[4] Anglin, P. & Rand, P., ‘Review Mega Drive – Golden Axe III’. Computer & Video Games. (September 1993). Issue 142:54-5.

Golden Axe II – Review

Golden Axe has gone down in history as arguably one of the most famous hack ‘n’ slash videogames ever to grace the arcade, warranting its conversion to the 16-bit consoles. With such success, questions surrounding sequels are bound to be asked. Can lightning strike twice or will Golden Axe II be nothing but a damp squib?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe II is a side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slash game that can be played in single and two-payer modes (Be careful in two-player modes as you can damage the other player if not careful). It was developed and published by Sega and released solely on the Mega Drive in 1991. It would later be released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009), as well as iOS. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Although this is the sequel that was released on home consoles, in 1992, another sequel, Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder was released but only appeared in the arcade. As far as I can tell, this sequel was set after the events of Golden Axe II.

Plot

A few years after the defeat of Death Adder, evil once more rises to threaten the world. After many years imprisonment, Dark Guld escapes and steals the Golden Axe. With his army of evil demons, he terrorises the world bringing death and destruction to peaceful villages everywhere. Once again, it is up to the mighty barbarian Ax Battler, the Amazonian Tyris Flare and the dwarf Gilius Thunderhead who defeated Death Adder, to come forth once more and reclaim the Golden Axe, defeat Dark Guld and bring peace to the world.

Ax Battler once again swings his mighty sword against the armies of evil (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

The three playable characters from the first Golden Axe, Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, and Gilius Thunderhead, return in Golden Axe II to take on Dark Guld and his army of evil minions. The game features a total of seven levels: six scrolling levels and a final end of game boss battle against Dark Guld:

  • Ravaged Village
  • Ruins
  • Tower
  • Dragon’s Throat Cave
  • Castle Gates
  • Castle
  • Dark Guld’s Chamber

As before, each character has a unique move set and magic spells. Gilius Thunderhead is the strongest and so has weaker spells. To cast spells you first need to collect spell books. These can be found either lying around, or will be dropped by evil mages when you attack them. In the option screen under the magic heading, you can select ‘Special’ or ‘Normal’. When ‘Normal’ is selected and you use your magic, you will automatically use the strongest level of spell you can according to the number of spell books you have acquired. When you select ‘Special’, you can press and hold the ‘magic’ button in order to select how strong you wish your spell to be. This is a nice new feature as it adds an element of strategy to the game and means you don’t have to waste your strongest spells on the lesser minions.

The Bizarrians (Chicken Leg, Green Dragon, Red Dragon) are also still available. When you find these along your journey, it is advisable that you ride them and use their abilities. If you get hit whilst rding a Bizzarian, you won’t lose any of your life bars.

An additional sub-game is The Duel. In one-player mode you must fight total of 15 rounds against ever increasingly strength of opponents. In two-player mode player one and two fight each other.

Amazonian Tyrius Flare also returns to fight Dark Guld and his evil army (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

I did notice a slight change in the tactics of the computer sprites, in particular, the bosses. In the original, you simply kept the bossses on either side of you and ran back and forth using your diving attack. However, in this game, the sprites are wise to this and move slightly up or down the screen to avoid this tactic. The final boss also seems to stay half off the screen, meaning that you cannot ambush him in two-player mode.

Now, is it me, or is this game very short? Both this game and the original can be completed within 25 minutes, but for some reason, this game feels shorter. In reality the game length is around the same as the original. Funny how the mind can play tricks on you, but then again, humans are notoriously bad at gauging time without the aid of a clock. Either way, as a sequel this game should be longer.

Graphics

There seems to be very little improvement in the graphics (if any), although parallax scrolling has been added on the Dragon’s Throat Cave level and the spell graphics have slightly improved. Other than that, there is very little to discuss here.

Music

The music over the title screen does not fit with the theme of the game. It sounds like it would be more fitting in a game associated with crime such as Dick Tracy (1991) or Bonanza Bros. (1991). The in-game music is very…meh. It is easily forgettable and a little annoying. You’ll be forgiven for not recognising it when you hear it again.

Replay Value

This game has plenty of replay value. When playing the single or two-player standard game, you can change the difficulty setting to either ‘Easy’, ‘Normal’ or ‘Hard’, as well as adjusting the number of life bars you have per life.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I have completed it on Normal Mode.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A disappointing sequel which lacks new ideas, and challenge, and is just too similar to the original to be really worthwhile. Overall 69%.[1]

Mean Machines: “What a con! Golden Axe II is almost identical to the original game. It follows the same formula, has virtually no new features and certainly isn’t worth the money. Buy the original if you haven’t already got it. If you have, look elsewhere for your beat ‘em up thrills. Overall 69%. [2]

My Verdict:

“There is nothing glaringly wrong with this game. The issue is that there is very little to distinguish it from its predecessor. It’s almost an exact carbon copy and just feels like a lazy money-grabbing move by the creators. A disappointing sequel.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe II? 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] ‘Megadrive Review – Golden Axe II’. Mean Machines. (December 1991). Issue 15:142-4.

[2] ‘Game Index: Mega Drive – Golden Axe II’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:139.

Fatal Labyrinth – Review

Some gamers love nothing better than to take control of an individual or a group of fighters and battle through endless dungeons gaining experience points, better armour, better weaponry and even stronger magic spells. To me, these games feel a tad monotonous and I rarely complete them purely because I don’t have the desire to spend hours fighting the same monsters to gain a few levels to help defeat a big boss only to have to do the same again soon after. It feels like a waste of time to me. Fatal Labyrinth, although containing RPG elements, is an alternative to these types of games. A sort of RPG-lite if you will. The question is, is it any good?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Fatal Labyrinth is a single-player RPG developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in 1991 and appears on Sonic’s Ultimate genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was also released for Microsoft Windows in 2010 and can also be found on the Nintendo Switch. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate genesis Collection (2009) on the PlayStation 3.

Plot

One day, in an unnamed village in a faraway unnamed land, the monstrous castle of doom known as Dragonia rises from the earth. Ghouls from the castle pour out and head towards the village. They steal the Holy Goblet, a sacred artifact and source of light in the world, and take it back with them to the castle leaving the villagers in a state of terror.

One man, Trykaar, volunteers to take up arms and infiltrate the castle to steal back the goblet. To find the goblet, he must search through 30 levels of labyrinth that are filled with all manner of creatures hellbent on stopping him.

Beware the wizards, for they can paralyse you, leaving youu open to attack. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

Throughout the labyrinth, you can pick up various weapons, shields, body armour, helmets and bows to defend yourself with. You can also find many magical items such as canes, potions, scrolls and rings. Initially, you don’t know how strong each weapon is or what each of these magical items do until you use them.

You do not automatically pick up these items though, and only have limited numbers you can carry. However, rather than just discarding them, you can choose to throw them at the enemy which I think is a nice, realistic touch. Afterall, having a metal helmet thrown at your face isn’t exactly going to tickle.

Like other RPGs, you gain experience points when you kill enemies. You start as “Beginner” and as you level-up progress onto “Valet” and countless other names. With each level you increase your attack, defence and HP also increase.

When battling the monsters, they will only move in response to you moving. When you take a step, they will take a step at the same time. Some need to be next to you to attack, and others can throw projectiles at you. This means that once one is chasing you, it’s incredibly difficult to lose them so you may have to simply fight them.

Every five levels is an automatic checkpoint so that if you die, you will go back to Level 5, 10, 15 etc. You seem to have infinite continues so in theory can play until you get tired of the game. If you stay on the same level for too long, then the screen flashes and the monsters will respawn.

Food is a vital part of the game. When fed, the hero slowly regenerates health. If unfed for extended periods of time, the hero becomes hungry and loses health. If too much food is eaten, the character’s movements become sluggish due of overeating. This is an unnecessary addition to making the game even harder.

Throughout the levels, you can pick up gold. This has very little benefit in the game other than when you die, your gravestone is more elaborate, and more mourners attend your funeral. It’s almost as if the game creators know you are going to die a lot during this game.

Features to watch out for:

Secret Doors – You actively have to press the ‘Pick Up’ button (the square button on the PlayStation joypad) when you are next to a wall to find these secret doors.

Trap Doors – Occasionally, you will fall through the floor to the level below. You simply have to find the stairs again to take you up.

Booby Traps – You may also set off an alarm which causes enemies to respawn and surround you.

There are lots of items to search for and pick up throught the labyrinth. Beware, as not all items will aid you. Some are cursed! (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Disappointingly, There is very little intro to this game. You simply speak to a few people in the village before heading off to the castle. They don’t confide any information that is particularly helpful, and it all feels like a half-arsed afterthought.

This game is simple enough to play. The not knowing the strength of the weapons or what the magical items do works well as it forces you to experiment with your items and adds an element of danger and risk.

An annoying aspect to the game is that when you are approaching an enemy to attack, they will move aside one square and so you’ll turn to face them but they will move again meaning that you also move a square. It is as if you are engaging in a medieval dance with a monster. It’s very frustrating. Also, when you do get hit, you are frozen for a split second, and this makes it very difficult to escape, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies.

Graphics

Personally, I feel the graphics leave a lot to be desired. The initial top down view is similar to other games such as Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (1991), but that is all you get. There are no additional battle scenes where player and foes are seen with more elaborate illustrations and animations. The game also lacks the scary atmosphere of Shining in the Darkness (1991).

Music

The music in this game is very unassuming and very repetitive. You won’t need SFX or the music anyway for this game as they add very little to the atmosphere, so I just turned down the volume and listening to a podcast.

Replay Value

This game has plenty of replay value. Although it only has one difficulty setting, the levels are randomly generated so that every time you play, you are greeted with a new labyrinth, and the items will never be in the same place twice.

Did I Complete The Game?

No, I couldn’t get past Level 11.

What The Critics Thought:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Even though the mazes change constantly, the gameplay itself never changes, let alone the music! How Irritating! The price is right, however, for the Gauntlet fan who hates playing the same levels over and over. Since no passwords exist, you can only finish in one sitting. Yikes! Overall 20/40.[1]

Mean Machines Sega: “This Cross between a scrolling beat ‘em up and a role-playing game fails to deliver in both categories. The RPG aspect is dull and limited and slow, boring action fails to offer any thrills and spills. Overall 51%.”[2]

SegaPower: “Addictive roam around the labyrinth and collect the goodies RPG. Overhead graphics reveal themselves as you enter each room, which is nice, but it’s just too easy. Overall 2/5.[3]

My Verdict:

“Sadly, this game is rather monotonous and lacks atmosphere. The constant “swing and a miss” dynamic of the fighting is downright tedious. Mediocre graphics and dull music mean that you won’t be missing much if you give this game a miss. Pity really, as the concept had potential.”

My Rating:

What are your memories of Fatal Labyrinth? 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 Crew – Fatal Labyrinth’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1991). Issue 21:22.

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Fatal Labyrinth’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Fatal Labyrinth’. SegaPower. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.

Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time – Review

It is natural that the financial success and popularity of a video game should beg the question if a sequel (or prequel) will be wroth the investment. After all, I’m sure all game developers wish to be known for creating a successful franchise spanning generations of video gamers. The issue is that sequels are, more often than not, flops. Ecco the Dolphin was a huge success. So why not create a sequel?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time is a single player action-adventure game. It was developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega for the Mega Drive, Game Gear and Sega CD in 1994, and for the Master System in 1996. The version I chose to review can be found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.

Plot

Tides of Time picks up where the first Ecco game left off. Having saved his pod, and coincidently the world, from an alien vortex, Ecco retains the powers bestowed upon him by the Asterite that allow him to stay underwater indefinitely without the need for air. His sonar also produces a blast wave stunning enemy sea creatures. Things are peaceful in Home Bay.

One day, a powerful earthquake hits the underwater cave that Ecco is exploring. Unsure how, Ecco soon learns that his powers have left him and that the Asterite has been killed. Ecco soon meets an unusual dolphin named Trellia, who informs him that she is from the future and one of his descendants. She brings Ecco back to her future where he learns that the Vortex Queen survived, followed him back to Earth and killed the Asterite in Ecco’s time. After travelling back to his own time, Ecco must search for the globes of the Asterite that have been scattered throughout the ocean and bring them together. Only then can he learn how to defeat the Vortex Queen and save the Earth…again.

The graphics for the Mega Drive versions of the Ecco series are truly stunninig (Screenshot taken by the author).

Gameplay

The game play is the same as the original Ecco game. When pressing a direction, Ecco will swim in that direction. When you stop swimming, Ecco will drift, adding some realism to the game, since the sea is always moving with the tides. To increase speed, press the ‘C’ button, and Ecco will speed up, handy for when you’re almost out of oxygen or when you need to leap out of the water and over obstacles. The ‘B’ button makes Ecco dash (tap twice for double charge). This is mainly used to attack the many dangerous and deadly creatures he encounters, as well as, breaking down shelled walls.

The ‘A’ button is Ecco’s sonar ability and can be used in several ways:

  • Press and hold ‘A’ until the sonar bounces back. This opens a map segment, again very handy for when you are lost in caves.
  • Communicate with other friendly sea creatures such as other dolphins and killer whales. These friends can offer advice and hints to you.
  • Large glyphs are found dotted around the levels that offer tips or give Ecco a password so that when he comes across one that blocks his path, he can use his sonar to clear the way.
  • After the first few levels, Ecco gains the ability to use his sonar to stun enemy creatures.
  • Pressing ‘B’, followed by ‘A’, Ecco releases a sonar charge that will kill his enemies.

So What Is New About Tides Of Time?

In the first Ecco game, there were Key Glyphs that when you sang to them, would offer clues or give you a specific song to pass through Barrier Glyphs. Power Glyphs would give you invincibility for a short period of time. In Tides of Time, there are now:

Puzzle Glyphs – Join with others to help release their powers

Cracked Glyphs – Similar to Barrier Glyphs but will only open for a short period of time; Broken

Broken glyphs – Fit the pieces together to Ecco receives a gift

Milestone Glyphs – Act like save states

Another new addition to the game is the teleportation sub-stages. The view changes so that the camera is behind Ecco as he travels forward. Dodging seaweed and jellyfish, you must watch out for rings that Ecco must swim or jump through. If you miss too many, you will go back to the beginning of the level. It doesn’t really add that much to the game, but changes it up enough to be worth including as a new feature.

Several new features include new level types (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The game handles pretty much the same as it’s predecessor…and is just as difficult.

The Sky Tides level was tough because it is a scrolling level and there is lots of trial and error when it comes to finding the best way to navigate through the level. If you fall out of the sides of the tubes, you fall back to the ocean and back to the previous level.

On the next stage, Tube of Medusa, if you get grabbed by the Medusa’s and flung out of the tubes, you go back two stages!!! Luckily, the Barrier Glyph is still open so you can swim straight back to the Sky Tides level, but it is still incredibly frustrating.

On some of the levels, there are helium bubbles in the sky. When you leap into the air and use your sonar on them, they fling you across the screen to either a floating pool or another set of helium bubbles. On another level, when you leap out of the water to where a larger bubble is floating in the air. When you touch it, you turn into a seagull and need to fly over cliffs to another body of water. What on Earth were the creators smoking when they came up with ideas for this game?

Graphics

The graphics still look top rate. The sprites all look a little smoother and the colours and detail of the sprites and backgrounds still look incredible. Now, I may be crazy, but the game perspective feels like you have been zoomed in slightly…or am I imagining it?

Music

The music just does not fit the game. In the original you had either a soft Caribbean melody or a low-key track that almost buzzed, giving you the feeling of being along in a scary and unfamiliar environment. Some of the weird new music feels like it should fit better in a run-and-gun shooter.

Replay Value

To add to the replay value of this game, at the begining you can choose to swim in four directs. Left leads to the password screen, top left is difficult, top right is easy and right is normal. Normal adjust the game difficulty based on your ability and how well you’re doing.

Did I Complete The Game?

Not yet. At present, I am stuck on Four Islands where you need to follow a friendly dolphin who will show you the way. When following the dolphin, if it disappears off your screen, it will go back to where you found it. It is rather unforgiving.

What The Critics Thought:

GamePro: “There’s no doubt that Tides of Time offers a lot, providing a scenic variety of levels for the player to swim through and solve. Occasional control glitches do bring their share of frustration, but you still get a solid does of entertainment. This sequel proves that Ecco’s not washed up yet. Overall 85%.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Ecco: Tides of Time really shows that Genesis games can be colourful, The backgrounds and animation are simply beautiful, with lots of eye-popping graphics. The quests are a lot harder than before, and sometimes you are left without a clue as to what to do. I like the fact that you can transform into different creatures I’d have to say that I really like Ecco and his adventures. Overall 7.25/10.[2]

Next Generation: “Taxing puzzles, RPG elements, shooting stsgaes, and some of the best Genesis graphics to date make you want to reel Ecco II in, but it’s certainly not a keeper. Overall 3/5”.[3]

My Verdict:

“I’m not sure what to make of this game. The graphics, as with the original, are glorious. The change in music doesn’t work well for me, and some of the new aspects of the game like the helium bubbles and turning into other creatures seems a bit dumb. Having said that, it’s a perfectly good game. Challenging, great to look at, and is certainly a worthy addition to the Sega Mega Drvie library.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time? 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] LaMancha, M., ‘ProReview – Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time’. (December 1994). GamePro. 75:86-7.

[2] ‘Review Crew – Ecco: Tides of Time’. (December 1994). 65:40.

[3] ‘Rating Genesis – Ecco: Tides of Time’. (February 1995). Next Generation. 2:100. (

Streets of Rage – Review

There are some games that will always remain close to my heart. Streets of Rage is one such game. For almost 30 years, I have regularly returned to this game time and time again, and am instantly transported to my youth. I decided to revisit it once more with my “reviewers” hat on and wondered if it would hold up to scrutiny. Read on to find out my verdict!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Arcade and Sega Mega Drive in 1991. It was later ported to the Game Gear (1992), Master System (1993), Wii (2007), iOS (2009), Microsoft Windows (2011) and Nintendo 3DS (2013). For this review, I chose to play the Mega Drive version.

You have the choice between Adam, Axel and Blaze. Each character has a unique move set (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

A once peaceful city has been the victim of a crime wave. A secret criminal syndicate has taken over the local government and the local police force. Frustrated by the police force’s corruption, three young police officers take it upon themselves to clean up the streets and stop the crime syndicate.

Gameplay

Streets of Rage can be played in either one or two-player modes. You can choose one of three characters:

Adam Hunter – an accomplished boxer

Axel Stone – a skilled martial artist

Blaze Fielding – a judo expert

You must then battle through eight levels, which take from through mean streets and beaches, on a boat and into a hotel. Along the way, there are also a number of weapons such as bottles, knives and baseball bats that you can pick up and use against the enemies.

As you progress, you gain points for killing the enemies but you also gain extra points for picking up cash and gold bars. To gain health, you will need to find apples and beef joints. Occasionally, you may come across a 1-up icon too.

My favourite character has always been Axel (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Each character has an impressive number of moves, with plenty of differentiation between the characters. Blaze is quick and can jump high and far but not as powerful as the other two. Adam is the slowest and can’t jump very high or far but is the most powerful, and Axel, my personal favourite, is quicker than Adam and just as powerful but doesn’t jump as high or as far or is as quick as Blaze. There are even a few moves with which you can use to double team the enemy. If things get too heavy, each character can use their special attack which involves calling for back-up in the form of a police car. A police officer, leaning out of the window proceeds to fire napalm or rain down fire upon the enemy in the form of a gatling gun rocket launcher hybrid. The controls are nice and responsive and the hit detection is spot on. There is also an element of strategy when fighting some of the bosses so that you can work together in a team.

Blaze can easily hold her own against a gang of baddies (screenshot taken by the author)

Graphics

Firstly, this game looks beautiful. The character sprites are clearly defined, colourful and very detailed! The level designs are awesome too and some of the best I’ve seen for 16-bit games released around this time.

Music

What a soundtrack! Memorable tunes and a nice gear change when fighting the bosses to emphasise that shit’s about to go down.

Replay Value

The game has four difficulty settings ‘easy’, ‘normal, ‘hard’ and ‘hardest’, but even if you stick to the easiest setting, I found that I returned to this game again and again, especially when playing in two-player mode with my brothers and sister.

I have so many fond memories of this game, and it’s probably why I rank it as as one of my favourite games of all time. Even after almost 30 years, I still return to it yearly with my little brother and we play through it.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years on the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ settings.

What The Critics Said:

Sega Power: “Double Dragon-style street fighter with arrange of 40 combat moves! Loads of enemies, frenzied activity and brilliant soundtracks. This sets new standards for urban guerrillas. Overall 5/5.[1]

Mean Machines: The greatest and most enjoyable beat ‘em up yet seen on the Megadrive. Overall 90%.[2]

Games-X: “Okay as beat ‘em ups go, but will only appeal to fans of the genre. Overall 3/5.[3]

Computer and Video Games: “Beautifully presented, the games smacks of quality from the moment you slap in the cart and prepare to slap heads. The gameplay is totally wicked. Each fighter has his or her own characteristics, but you’ll soon choose a favourite with which to kick ass. Overall 93%.[4]

Mega Tech: “This is the best beat ‘em up on the Megadrive with tons of moves, action, death and great electro soundtracks. Overall 92%.[5]

Sega Pro: “Basically this is Final Fight for the Megadrive. Great graphics and some amazing moves. This is the best beat-‘em up game yet for the Megadrive. Overall 96%.“[6]

Wizard: “Fighting game, third generation game. Not bad, still holds up well. Lots of action. Overall B.[7]

MegaTech: “Yes! The Megadrive needed a fabulous beat ‘em up, and Streets of Rage more than delivers. With excellent sprites, backdrops and brilliant music, Streets of rage is initially very appealing. Add in great gameplay and simultaneous two-player action and you’ve got an essential buy. Overall 92%.[8]

My Verdict:

“I can’t praise this game enough. It looks fantastic, it plays fantastic and the sound track is awesome. It truly is one the greatest video games ever made and I can be certain that even when I’m in my senior years, I will still return to relive the Streets of Rage adventure again and again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Streets of Rage? 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] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Streets of Rage’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:54.

[2] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mean Machines. (September 1991). Issue 12:80-82.

[3] ‘Bare Knuckle – Review’. Games-X. (22nd-28th August 1991). Issue 18:38.

[4] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Computer and Video Games. (October 1991). Issue 119:54-6.

[5] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mega Tech. (February 1992). Issue 2:30.

[6] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Sega Pro. (April 1992). Issue 6:29.

[7] ‘Game Reviews – Streets of Rage’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24.

[8] ‘Game Index – Streets of Rage’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:78.

Altered Beast (Mega Drive) – Review

Altered Beast was one of the first 16-bit games I played as child and I have idealised memories of how good the game was. The question is…how will I feel revisiting it after 25 years?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Altered Beast is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up with some platform gaming elements. It was developed and published by Sega, and released in the arcade in 1988. It was later ported to the Master System, PC, NES, Atari ST, Mega Drive, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Amiga and MS-DOS. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox and PlayStation. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.

After rising from your grave, you must fight your way through a graveyard whilst collecting orbs that turn you into an anthropomorphic beast (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

“Rise from your grave!” commands Zeus, as you emerge from your tomb. You play as a Roman Centurion who is resurrected by Zeus (I know Zeus was a Greek God and the Roman equivalent was Jupiter, but let’s overlook the mythological inconsistencies). Your mission is to rescue Zeus’ daughter, Athena, (Minerva for the Romans) from the evil Demon God known as Neff who has taken her to the Underworld.

The cutscenes are accompanied by some incredibly eerie gothic organ music (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

You must punch and kick your way through graveyards and caverns to reach the Underworld, all the while fighting numerous undead minions and monsters. In order to meet and defeat the end of level bosses, you need to collect three orbs which increase your strength and eventually morph you into anthropomorphised animals such as wolves, bears, tigers and dragons, each with unique abilities.

Chicken Stingers, as they are called in the manual, are similar to the pink creatures you ride in Golden Axe, with a similar attack. Does this mean Altered Beast and Golden Axe are in the same universe? (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Modern critics argue that the game doesn’t hold up to today and I have to agree. The game is tougher and more frustrating than I remember. The screen scrolls slowly from left to right automatically, meaning you have no choice but to advance. The controls are sluggish and your punching and kicking range is so small that you need to get very close to the enemies. They are quicker than you and so can kick your arse pretty easily.

Graphics

The graphics are clearly, early 16-bit. The sprites and backgrounds would be cleaner and more detailed if this game was released a few years later. Having said that, I still think the games looks good.

Music

The music isn’t that much to write home about. However, the creepy gothic organ music during the cutscenes is pretty cool.

Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe Link?

In a previous review, Shining in the Darkness, I discussed the possible links that suggest Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe were in the same universe, due to the presence of Gilius Thunderhead, the green dwarf. During this review, I noticed that the Chicken Stingers, are identical (except for the colour palette change) to some of the Bizzarians in Golden Axe. Does this mean that Altered Beast is also set in the same universe as Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe?

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines Sega: “Altered Beast is a spot-on conversion of the coin-op. The trouble is, the game wasn’t exactly a smash-hit – it’s a very simply beat ‘em up with only five levels. The gameplay is very samey, and it doesn’t take long to get all the way through the game. Overall 67%.”[1]

Sega Pro: “For its day, it was amazing – speech, smooth scrolling and lots of playability. However, its finest hour has truly passed. Overall 74%.[2]

The Games Machine: Altered Beast turns out very close indeed to its arcade origins, complete with two-player mode. The main characters and enemy sprites look ever so slightly washed out, but the detail is all there, and background graphics are spot on. Overall 87%.[3]

Sega Power: “However much you enjoy the coin-op, give this one a miss. Poor scrolling, jerky animation and limited gameplay. Overall 2/5.[4]

My Verdict:

“Does Altered Beast deserve the accolade of being a classic title? There are many video games that acheive the accolade as a ‘classic’ but not all of them are worthy of title. Having revisited Altered Beast, I can say that the concept was great, but the execution was lacking. The game is too short, the controls too sluggish and frustrating, and the graphics should have been better. I think this game is better remembered than played.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Altered Beast? 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 – Altered Beast’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

[2] ‘Sega Software Showdown – Altered Beast – Mega Drive.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19.

[3] ‘Review – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. Issue 19:17.

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Altered Beast’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52.

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle – Review

A picture containing sign

Description automatically generated

Alex Kidd proved to be a hit on the Sega Master System throughout the eighties, and was arguably the console’s mascot. The question was, could he continue to be their main draw for Sega’s latest console, the Mega Drive? Clearly not, as this was his only outing on the 16-bit console.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle is a single-player platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in Japan in 1989, Europe in 1990, and the US in 1991. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console, Mega Drive Handheld, Cloud Online, and Steam. I chose to review the original Mega Drive version.

Rookie Town (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

On the planet Aries, Alex Kidd’s father, King Thor, has been kidnapped by Ashra, the ruler of planet Paperrock. Alex travels to Paperrock in a bid to rescue his father. He must navigate through 11 stages:

1. Rookie Town

2. The Prairie

3. The Splashy Sea

4. Scorpion Desert

5. The Pyramid

6. The Hiho Forest

7. Tropics Town

8. Rocky Mountain #1

9. Rocky Mountain #2

10. In the Sky

11. Sky Castle

Gameplay

The gameplay is simple: Run, jump, punch, kick, crawl and swim. When breaking into red treasure chests, coins will spill out for Alex to collect. Grey treasure chests contain lives and power-ups. Beware, however, as some chests, some contain bombs that explode and will kill Alex.

Jan-Ken-Pon (screenshot taken by the author)

Along the way, Alex can pay to compete in Janken fights (paper, scissor and rock) with shopkeepers to win equipment and power-ups. These include motorcycles, helicopters, a pogo stick, a wizard’s cane, a cape, and a necklace that helps Alex to see the thoughts of his opponent. This item gives you a better chance at winning Janken. At the end of every level, Alex must collect a piece of cake to progress.

Alex can swim and, thankfully, seems to be able to breathe underwater (screenshot taken by the author)

The power bracelet is very useful and allows alex to shoot a crescent-shaped band of light that kills the baddies.

Spoiler alert!!!

You need to have the power bracelet equipped after beating Ashra at Janken so that you can fire at him from a distance. This is the only way to defeat him.

How Does It Handle?

The physics of the game take a bit of getting used to. Alex will slide around a bit when quickly changing direction, and is a bit floaty when jumping, which takes a bit of getting used to, so be careful near enemies.

Graphics

Graphically, the Mega Drive is capable of so much more. The sprites are nicely drawn, if a little cutsie, suggesting this game was meant for a younger audience. Sadly, the levels and backgrounds are rather basic.

Music

The music, however, is very catchy and will get stuck in your head. When revisiting this game after 20 odd years, I still remembered the tunes instantly and began to hum along.

Replay Value

There are three difficulty settings: easy, medium and hard. With increased difficulty, you are given less lives to start with and the Janken opponents are harder to defeat, adding to the game’s replay value.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, but I have only played through on easy mode.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The graphics and sound are almost Master System Standard, and while it’s fun to play, with plenty of secret rooms and things to work out, it lacks that really addictive spark that makes the 8-bit Sega Alex Kidd games so much fun to play. For ardent Alex Kidd fans only. Overall 68%[1]

Sega Pro: Alex’s only appearance on the Mega Drive is not a bad attempt…although it can get repetitive. Overall 77%.[2]

The Games Machine: “It goes without saying that Alex Kidd highly playable and incredibly addictive. Overall 82%.[3]

Sega Power: “Alex goes 16-bit in this colourful platform exploration romp. As with previous Alex Kidd games, the jolly atmosphere belies the testing gameplay. Fun and very polished.  Overall 3/5.[4]

My Verdict:

“Definitely one for the younger gamer. It can be completed very easily without too much hassle, but there is little to keep you coming back for more. Catchy music, nice sprites and bright colours, but the level design and backgrounds are a bit basic and could be more visually pleasing. However, I do have a softspot for this game and feel it’s been harshly judged by critics. I certainly keep it in my collection and revisit it every year or so. It’s also handy to keep around for my niblings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle? 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] ‘Game Index: Mega Drive – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:18.

[3] ‘Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. The Games Machine. (June 1989). Issue 19:18-9.

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52.

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium – Review

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 thoroughly enjoyed 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. For this review, I played the version found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.

Plot

Taking place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II (1989), 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.

Gameplay

The gameplay has been kept the same as previous instalments – that is, top down view with the exception of battle mode. As you walk around you will have random battle encounters that allow you to earn money and gain experience points. The more points you earn, the higher each player’s stats will become. The view changes to a third person view fir the battles.

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

How Does It Handle?

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.

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 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.

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 graphics in battle mode have also reverted back to a similar style to PSII (1989), with the addition of illustared backgrounds (screenshot taken by the author)

Graphics

Oddly, the sprites in the overworld seem to have reverted to PSII (1989) style graphics as oppose to PSIII (1990) or creating newer, more improved graphics. Comparing the two, one could be forgiven for thinking PSIII (1990) 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?

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 fighting 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 Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Phantasy Star IV’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (June 1995). Issue 71: 46.

[2] Rox, N., ‘Genesis Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. GameFan. (April 1995). Volume 3 Issue 4:19 & 27.

[3] ‘Megadrive Review – Phantasy Star IV’. Mean Machines Sega. (July 1995) Issue 33:76-7.

[4] ’16-bit Megadrive – Phantasy Star IV’. Sega Saturn Magazine. (December 1995). Issue 2:91.

[5] Slate, C., ’Genesis: Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. Game Players. (February 1995). Issue 49:38-9.

Super Mario Kart – Review

Racing games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, as gamers usually expect realism and serious competition. Super Mario Kart took already established and loved characters and put them in a family-friendly racing game. The result was the beginning of a huge series of games that saw children and adults alike competing for hours in heated but fun and entertaining tournaments. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Super Mario Kart!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

SMK is a kart racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released in North America and Japan in 1992, and Europe in 1993 on the SNES. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2009, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.

Gameplay

This is a racing game with a difference. You can choose from eight classic Mario characters including Mario, Luigi, Toad, Donkey Kong Jr, Bowser, Princess Peach, Yoshi and Koopa Troopa. Each character has different characteristics, e.g., Top speed, acceleration and handling. You then race on a number of tracks based on Super Mario World (Donut Plains, Ghost House and Bowser’s Castle etc.). Throughout the race you can pick up various weapons and power-ups such as turtle shells, banana skins and super stars to assist you.

One of the tracks from Donut Land

SMK has two, one-player modes. The first is Mario Kart GP which is divided into two kart speeds: 50cc and 100cc. You can also unlock a 150cc mode when you win all the trophies from 100cc mode. Each kart speed has three trophies to attain: The Mushroom Cup, The Flower Cup and the Star Cup. The more challenging 100cc option also adds The Special cup which contains tougher race tracks. Each cup consists of five, five-lap races. Depending on where you finish in the races will depend on how many points you accrue. The racer with the highest amount of points at the end of the cup competition will determine who wins the trophy. If a racer finishes between 5th to 8th then the player will lose a life and will have to race that track again. You can gain extra lives by finishing in the same position three races in a row.

The second one-player mode is the Time Trial Mode. It’s pretty self-explanatory, you simply race each track and try to gain the fastest time possible.

One of the Ghost House tracks (screenshot taken by the author)

Although one-player mode is fun and challenging, this game really comes into its own in two-player mode. Hours of swearing at your best mate and calling them “cheating bastards” as I recall from my youth when I’d lose.

In two-player mode, you and a friend can compete in Mario Kart GP, Match Race and Battle Mode. In two-player mode, the same rules apply for Mario Kart GP as in one-player mode, but you compete simultaneously via split-screen. In Match Race you can pick and choose which tracks you wish to compete on for a single race without other CPU racers.

Battle mode is also head to head and sees each racer begin with three balloons spinning around their kart. You have a choice of four arenas in which you can pick up weapons and power-ups and attack your opponent. The first player that has all their balloons popped, loses. All of these features give the game loads of replay value.

Battle Mode (screenshot taken by the author)

Game Development

Wikipedia claims that in an interview with Super Mario Kart creator Shigeru Miyamoto, that SMK was originally developed as an experiment to see if they could create a game capable of displaying the same game on the same screen simultaneously. Whilst I have heard this before, sadly, I haven’t been able to verify this quote, as Wikipedia’s links are broken. If this is true, then this experiment was fortuitous for Nintendo because it culminated in the creation of one of the most popular sub-series of games ever created, with the initial instalment selling over 8 million copies.[1]

If you would like to learn more about the origins of Super Mario Kart, I can recommened listening to episode 17 of season 2 of The Life and Times of Video Games podcast.

How Does It Handle?

What can I say? This game is great! The gameplay is easy to learn. A nice little touch, to stop you dominating the grid all the time, is that if you are in first place, you will get less effective power-ups and weapons. The further back in the pack your are, the better your weapons and power-ups.

Graphics

The graphics are bright and colourful. Each character is unique and easily identifiable. The tracks are designed in Mode 7 which lends itself very well to these types of games (although nowadays looks a bit low-res).

Music

The music sounds perfect for the game. The title music has a fun Caribbean beat to it.

Personal Memories

I had a blast revisiting this game, and it was as fun as I remembered. My blood was pumping as I scraped wins, and dodged banana skins. My favourite character to play with is Yoshi. I tried other players too (I really dislike playing with Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr) and found that I also like playing with Mario and Koopa Troopa.

Did I Complete The Game?

Although I completed 50cc mode, as of yet I cannot seem to win the Star Cup in 100cc mode.

What The Critics Said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the best driving game to come along for some time. Mario Kart may look like an F-Zero clone on the surface, but there are many interesting upgrades ranging from power-ups to special combat battle modes using a split-screen layout. Replay options and plenty of tracks add to the appeal of this super game. Overall 8.5/10.[2]

Gamerpro: “Here’s one that’s a winner. Super Mario Kart makes wheel-spinning, bumper-grinding, motor racing actually cute! The little guys definitely have a lot of drive. Overall 4.75/5.[3]

Electronic Games: “Super Mario Kart has a fast-paced feelwith plenty of in-depth play. While the gameplay isn’t totally revolutionary, the action does deviate from what we’ve been exposed to in the past to make this new driving adventure something worthwhile to add to the collection, whether you’re a fan of driving titles, or Mario. Overall 93%.[4]

Superplay: Matt Bielby – “Quite simply the best racing game yet on the Super Nintendo, and one of the funniest, most playable ones on any system. The balloon-bursting option is a delight! Guaranteed to be one of the most played carts in the Superplay office for the rest of the year. Overall 93%.[5]

Superplay: Jonathon Davies – “Everything we could have hoped for, and more. It’s completely impossible to fault. In fact, this is the sort of thing the Super Nintendo is all about –  sheer perfection (ahem). (Make sure you find yourself a decent opponent, though). Overall 93%.[6]

My Verdict:

“A simple concept but a fantastically fun game, especially in two-player mode, that will keep you coming back for more. Tons of replay value, with countless evenings with friends and family is what this game is all about.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario Kart? 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] (14th April 2010). ‘IGN’s Top 100 Games of All Time – Super Mario Kart’. http://www.top1ign.100.com. https://web.archive.org/web/20120414133232/http://top100.ign.com/2007/ign_top_game_23.html Accessed 24th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (November 1992). Volume 5 Issue 11:26.

[3] ‘Bro. Buzz, ‘Pro Review: Super Nes – Super Mario Kart’. Gamerpro. (December 1992). :80-2.

[4] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:79-80.

[5] Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30.

[6] Davies, J., Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30.