Shining In The Darkness

Shining in the Darkness (Shining and the Darkness in Japan) is a role-playing game developed by Climax Entertainment and Sonic Software Planning, and was published by Sega in 1991 for the Mega Drive.

Shining in the Darkness doesn’t have a title screen as such (Screenshot taken by the author)

In the Kingdom of Thornwood, the king’s daughter, Princess Jessa, has disappeared whilst visiting the shrine of her deceased mother. Mortred, one of the king’s most brave and trusted knights, was charged with escorting her to the shrine. He is also missing. You take control of Mortred’s son and agree to be the search party.

Shining in the Darkness is a real dungeon crawler that sees your character, along with friends Milo and Pyra, exploring what seems like endless miles of dungeons. Along the way you have random encounters with all manner of ugly beasts. Deafeating these will help your team gain experience points and level up, increasing stats and allowing new spells to be learnt. Gold is also acquired which allows you to buy new weapons and armour.

When leaving the palace, a map appears showing you the three locations you can visit: the palace, the town or the dungeons. In the town you can visit the shrine to save your progress; enter the tavern to talk to some interesting character and regain your health with an overnight stay; visit the weaponry and armoury where you can upgrade to stronger weapons and armour; and buy antidotes and healing potions needed for your adventures in the dungeon from the Alkemist (not alchemist I might add).

Isn’t that the same guy from Golden Axe? (Screenshot taken by the author)

Moving through the dungeons is simple. You can move forwards, walk backwards and turn left or right. The interactive menu consists of four boxes at the bottom of the screen and can be called upon at any time. It allows you to check your party’s status, use items, equip weapons and armour etc. When confronted with enemies, the menu changes to include attack, use item, use magic and flee options. When attacking, you have the option to choose which groups of enemies to attack first, but sadly, you cannot choose which individuals to attack within a group. If your health gets too low, you can spirit yourself out of the dungeons using the egress spell or angel feather.

The music sounds great and has heroic air, fitting for such a game. The graphics are awesome. The palace, tavern and shop scenes are bright and colourful, and the dungeons themselves and the enemies are well illustrated. There really are no complaints here. The game looks gorgeous!

To arms! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Although it is easy to learn, the game soon becomes too monotonous in my opinion. Having to navigate the same dungeon levels to gain enough experience points to fight deadlier opponents and raise enough money for better weapons becomes a real drag after a while. I know this is the whole point of RPGs but I found myself losing interest, especially when you have to traverse the same dungeons you’ve completed to reach the next dungeon. There are also times when it is unclear where you should go next. I definitely recommend you drawing your own map else you will get lost.

A nice little Easter Egg is that the dwarf who sells you your weapons seems to be the same dwarf from Golden Axe. One of his sacks on the left in the background even has a picture of one of those little imps who you steal magic potions from. Does this mean that Golden Axe and Shining in the Darkness occur in the same universe?

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A reasonable, but pricey RPG with impressive graphics, let down by combat system that soon becomes a chore. Overall 69%.[1]

Mean Machines Sega: “A role-playing game with excellent graphics and a brilliant window system. Shining in the Darkness is recommended to RPG buffs. Watch out though for irritating combat, reliant on luck than the player’s skill. Overall 72%.[2]

Dragon: “The game combines the icons and combat of Phantasy Star III, the first person perspective of Phantasy Star I, and the great close-up graphics of Phantasy Star II. The combat can sometimes be tedious without the battle animation so well programmed in Phantasy Star II. Overall 4/5.[3]

Sega Force: “Shining in the Darkness is the most colourful, enchanting RPG I’ve played on the Mega Drive – I enjoyed it even more than Phantasy Star II and III. Overall 90%“.[4]

Sega Pro: “RPG’s and great graphics don’t usually go together but Shining in the Darkness breaks the mould. Loads of playability and potential addictiveness will make this RPG a game to remember. Overall 93%.[5]

Sega Power: “Startling graphics, super smooth animation and brilliant labyrinths to explore. A corker! Overall 5/5.[6]

My Verdict:

“This is a beautiful game! It is easily to learn and there is plenty there to keep hardened RPG fans interested for hours and hours. For the average gamer though, monotony and frustration at repeating the same areas again and again soon becomes tiresome. However, this game is definitely worth your attention”

Rating:

What are your memories of Shining in the Darkness? 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] ‘Mega Drive Review: Shining in the Darkness’. Mean Machines. (November 1991). Issue 14:112-3. (https://ia800308.us.archive.org/3/items/mean-machines-magazine-14/MeanMachines_14_Nov_1991.pdf Accessed 11th February 2020).

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

[3] ‘Reviews – Shining in the Darkness’. Dragon Magazine. (February 1992). Issue 178:60. (https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg178.pdf Accessed 14th June 2020).

[4] ‘Reviewed – Shining in the Darkness’. Sega Force. (January 1992). Issue 1:52-3. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/27/SegaForce_UK_01.p Accessed 14th June 2020).

[5] ‘Proreview – Shining in the Darkness’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:58-60. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

[6] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Shining in the Darkness’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.

Alien Storm

By the early 90s, multiplayer beat ‘em ups/hack and slash games such as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Final Fight were growing increasingly popular. The increasing array of characters and fighting moves kept gamers playing these games time and again, using all characters in a bid to master them. The multiplayer modes meant that you could play with friends and spend countless rainy afternoons and cold winter evenings in imaginary worlds saving the planet, defeating crime bosses or rescuing royalty.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Alien Storm is a beat ‘em up/shooter hybrid developed and published by Sega for the arcade in 1990, and ported to the Mega Drive and Master System in 1991. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and as part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The version I played and reviewed was the original Sega Mega Drive version.

Earth is being invaded by an army of incredibly ugly and aggressive aliens. A team of crack special force operatives known as the “Alien Busters”, comprising of the flame-thrower wielding Karen; the hunky Garth (Gordon in some versions) with his electric rifle, and Scooter (Slammer in PAL version) the robot, are sent to repel the invasion. Eight missions sees them battle through cities and towns, laboratories, electronic goods stores and eventually a UFO.

Oddly, the main character looks like Elvis Presley in his profile picture (Screenshot taken by author)

The game is mostly a linear beat ‘em up which sees the players fight from left to right. There are sections of the levels where the game changes to a shooter style game which adds a nice bit of variety to the action. Each character can attack, run, and perform a running attack. There are two bars: life and energy to keep an eye on too. When using your weapon, the energy bar begins to deplete. If you use your special attack, the energy bar depletes more quickly. Along the way, you can pick up medicine and batteries to replenish your life and energy levels. There are a few end of level bosses in the game which take a long time to deafeat if you don’t have special attacks, so I recommend not using them until the boss fights. The controls are very easy to learn, and the game quickly turns into a button masher with little strategy required.

Alien Storm incorporated elements of the rail-shooter genre (Screenshot taken by author)

The graphics are great! The levels contain detailed backgrounds and the sprites are bright, colourful and well designed with clear outlines. As the game progresses the increased difficulty of the aliens is noted by a colour palette change.

Each character has an individual move set and special attack but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in strength, agility etc. Interestingly, if you look at the profile picture of Gordon in the bottom left corner of the screen, to me, he looks unmistakably like Elvis Presley.

Watch out for the alien marsupials!!! (Screenshot taken by author)

Before beginning the game, you can choose between three difficulty settings: easy, normal or hard. To add an extra element of difficulty, you can also set your energy bar levels to either easy, normal or hard. When you complete the game, after the end of game scenes and credits, you get a score and a rating. As far as I know, your score makes no difference to the game ending. This adds to the replay value of the game as it encourages additional run throughs.

As with these types of games, two-player co-op modes only add to the fun. To further increase the replay value of the game, the Mega Drive version also contained a Duel mode and a Player v Player mode. In the Duel mode, you select a player and must compete in fights with differing numbers and strengths of aliens. The more rounds you win, the higher your overall score at the end. I received a score of 82 and the title “Champion”. During these battles there is no way to regain your energy so use your weapons sparingly. In the Player v Player mode, you and your opponent select one of the three main protagonists each to fight in a one on one battle. The first player to win two rounds, wins the fight. Sadly, this is a bit naff due to the fact that you only have a limited move set. There is not enough variation in attack combinations to make these battles interesting.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years in both one and two-player modes, but only in easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:An absolutely outstanding conversion from the coin-op, with great graphics and highly enjoyable one or two-player action. The big problem is that it’s just too easy. For some unknown reason, the import version was harder, but even then, it’s not that difficult to finish. Those new to the Mega Drive scene will really enjoy the action – experts, though, are warned that they might just find themselves finishing this prematurely. Overall 78%.[1]

Sega Pro: “A space age Golden Axe. One or two players can choose from three characters and then walk through eight levels packed with superbly animated and intricately detailed aliens. Great fun as each of the players has a special weapon and executes them in an amusing way. For instance, the robot takes off his (head) and self-destructs as he walks off screen. Way too easy, though. Overall 79%.[2]

Sega Power: “The game is, if anything, pitched a little too easy, and although the sound effects, music (especially the dance tunes) and graphics are excellent, there is little left to grab you after you’ve heard and seen them all. But as an original theme for a blast-‘em up, it’s got a lot of guts (urgh!). Easily a worthy of addition to your Sega collection. Overall 83%.[3]

Sega Power: “Horizontal scrolling blast-‘em up in the vein of high-tech Golden Axe.Great 3D shooting sections and ultra-high-speed scroll, but crippled by easy gameplay. Overall 3/5.[4]

My verdict:

“I have great memories playing this game with my sister and brother. Its looks great, plays great, and the mix of beat ‘em up and shooter adds some nice variety. The replay value is there too, and I think this is an underrated game from the Mega Drive catalogue. However, it must be said that titles such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage are still superior in every aspect: Story, graphics, music…the lot.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Storm? 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 – Alien Storm’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alien Storm’. Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

[3] ‘Reviews – Alien Storm’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:40. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 29th July 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Alien Storm’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 29th July 2020).

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 Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[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).

Street Fighter II

Every once in a while, a game comes along and raises the bar for video games everywhere. In the 70s there was Space Invaders, Pong and Asteroids. In the 80s you had Pacman, Super Mario Bros. and Tetris. In 1991 Street Fighter II hit the arcade and was an instant hit, and people lined up to spend their pocket money for a few minutes of intense action.

Titel screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting is a competitive fighting game developed and published by Capcom for the arcade and released in 1992. It is part of a sub-series of Street Fighter II games along with Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, Super Street Fighter Turbo, and Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition. I will not be reviewing each sub-series instalment individually, so they will all be lumped in together. The instalment I reviewed was the Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting version that can be found of the SNES Mini.

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting was also ported to the following:

  • 1992 – Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Spectrum ZX and PC (DOS)
  • 1994 – CPS Changer
  • 1995 – Game Boy
  • 1997 – Master System
  • 1998 – Saturn and PlayStation
  • 2004 – Mobile
  • 2006 – PlayStation 2, XBox and PlayStation Portable
  • 2018 – PlayStation 4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows

According to Street Fighter “canon”, Ryu won the first tournament by defeating Sagat. During the battle, Sagat was badly injured by Ryu, hence his chest scar, and suffered a mental breakdown. Later, the story seems to have changed a bit. Now, Sagat was winning the fight quite easily. When Ryu had been knocked down, Sagat offers a hand to help him up. Ryu, possibly affected by the darker nature of his martial art, takes advantage of this show of mercy and performs a Shoryuken to Sagat’s chest. Ryu goes on to win the tournament. Sagat melts away, is recruited by M. Bison and joins Shadaloo (Shadowloo – a powerful and deadly criminal organisation).[1]

There are 12 characters to choose from and the fights take place all over the world (Screenshot taken by the author)

So, we find ourselves entering a second tournament. Who are the competitors?

  • Ryu is the champion of the first tournament and a student of Shotoken karate. Dedicating his entire life to martial arts, Ryu has no home, no family or friends. He wanders the globe testing his skills against other fighters.
  • Ken is also a student of Shotoken karate, but has a huge ego to match his fighting ability. In recent years, Ken has not been training as hard, and is not as sharp as he used to be. A challenge from fellow student Ryu prompts Ken back into action and he enters the tournament.
  • E. Honda is the greatest sumo wrestler of all time and has received the highly prestigious title of “Yokozuna” (Grand Champion). After hearing that the world doesn’t consider sumo wrestling a true sport, he has entered the tournament to prove the them all wrong.
  • Guile is ex-special forces. He was captured and imprisoned, along with co-pilot Charlie, during a mission to Cambodia (or Malaysia depending on which information you read). After months of imprisonment in the jungle, they escaped and began their long trek back to civilisation. Along the way Charlie died, and Guile has been seeking vengeance ever since.
  • Chun-li is an undercover Interpol officer secretly tracking a smuggling organisation known as Shadowloo. The trail leads to the tournament in which she enters, believing that one of the Grand Masters (Balrog, Vega, Sagat or M. Bison) is responsible for her father’s death.
  • Blanka is somewhat of an enigma. From the rainforest of Brazil, he is the source of reported sightings of a creature that is half-man, half-beast. Recently he has been found wandering into cities and fighting whoever dares to confront him.
  • Zangief is a proud Russian. He loves his country and he loves fighting! One of his favourite pastimes is wrestling bears, hence the scars all over his body.
  • Dhalsim has spent a lifetime dedicating himself to yoga. He has a disciplined mind, but now he wishes to enter the tournament to test his fighting skills. Proving himself will help him gain a higher state of consciousness.
  • Balrog (based on boxer Mike Tyson) is a former Heavyweight boxing champion who has been banned from the ring for disobeying the rules. He is very strong and very aggressive, and fights in the streets of Las Vegas for money. He is also bodyguard to M. Bison.
  • Vega is a nobleman by birth, he has spent time blending Ninjitsu with skills learnt while he was a matador. He has been nicknamed the “Spanish Ninja”.
  • Sagat was once labelled “King of the Street Fighters” but has since lost this title due to being defeated by Ryu in the first tournament. Skilled in Muay Thai boxing, he plans to regain his title in this tournament.
  • M. Bison is a mysterious but powerful man. He is the leader of the criminal organisation Shadowloo. He is the ultimate boss that must be defeated to ensure victory.[2]
Fight! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Street Fighter II can be played in one or two-player modes. In one-player mode, once you have selected a fighter, you must battle your way through all the other opponents before fighting the Grand Masters: Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison. There are eight difficulty settings allowing for less experienced players to practice on easier settings. Each character has their own motivation for entering the tournament, and in order to see each character’s own unique ending, you need to defeat the game on at least level six (as I recall but I may be wrong).

Shoryuken! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Each character is distinct (although nowadays some argue a little stereotyped) and has their own individual fighting styles, except for Ken and Ryu who have the same Shotoken fighting style. The fights take place all over the world with beautifully illustrated and animated backdrops. The music is memorable, with each fighter having their own distinct tune. Some, annoyingly, get stuck in your head.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Like all great games, Street Fighter II is easy to play but difficult to master. Once the fun of the one-player mode has been exhausted, Street Fighter II really comes into its own with a highly addictive two-player mode. All over the world, you can be guaranteed to bump into people who have memories and stories about late rainy afternoons and nights with friends playing into the the early hours of the morn. Additionally, during one and two-player modes, you can increase the fun and challenge even more by turning the time limit and increasing or decreasing the speed of the game.

Did I complete the game?

I have completed the game in the sense that I have finished the game with all 12 characters and have seen their respective endings. However, I have not defeated the game with all 12 players on the hardest setting.

What the critics said:

Edge Magazine: “If you own SNES SFII it’s still a tricky decision whether you should buy Turbo: at current import prices, probably not. But if you’ve yet to be introduced to the genteel art of street-fighting, and have a few pounds to shed, SFII Turbo is the one to get. Overall 9/10“.[3]

Gamepro: “Despite the minor quibbles with the AI of the computer, the repetitive crowd-noise effect, and the removal Re-Dizzy Combos from CE mode, SF II Turbo is worth every penny for its boss and speed features alone. Overall 5/5“.[4]

Nintendo Power: “This game is a must have for all Super NES players who like action and competition. Overall 4/5.[5]

Electronic Games: “For those looking for a good fighting game, Street Fighter II is the best to date. Capcom should be proud. This translation has no equal. Overall 94%.[6]

Superplay: “Faults? Well, as a one-player game it’s superb, but inevitably has its limits – it’s the two-player game that makes it so great, even trouncing Super Tennis for laughs and general lasting interst. Overall 94%.[7]

Super NES Buyer’s Guide: “Spectacular graphics, great animations and realistic sounds make this a great game to get! Overall 9.3/10.[8]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Steve: “All the moves, graphics, gameplay and sounds are rolled into a 16-Meg cartridge that will do anything but disappoint fans of the arcade original or fighting games in general. Awesome! Overall 9.5/10.[9]

N-Force: “The smooth animation’s poetry in motion, it’s martial art! Apart from minor control problems which will be remedied with the new joypad, this is everything you could ask for. If you’ve got a SNES you’ve got to get a copy. It’s the game of the year! Overall 96%.[10]

Megazone: “Street Fighter II is already and undoubted classic on the arcades and this classy conversion will be a smash hit for the Super Nintendo. Overall 95%.[11]

Awards:

Best Game of the Year (All Games Systems) & (SNES) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[12]

Best Video Game Ending (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[13]

Joint winner of Best Video Game Babe (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[14]

Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[15]

Best Trick That Didn’t Work (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[16]

According to Wikipedia, Street Fighter II won several more accolades, but as of yet, I have been unable to find the original magazines to verify.

My verdict: “Memorbale characters, memorable music, and fab gameplay. SFII has multiple difficulty levels, plenty of different characters to use, and a competitive two-player mode, giving this game huge replay value. SFII remains close to the hearts of gamers everywhere.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Street Fighter 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] Jasper, G., (July 20th, 2018). ‘Street Fighter: Timeline and Story Explained’. www.denofgeek.com. (https://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/street-fighter-v/242133/street-fighter-timeline-and-story-explained Accessed 20th February 2020).

[2] ‘The World Warriors’. Street Fighter II: Turbo Instruction Manual. (March 1991). :14-37. https://www.nintendo.co.jp/clvs/manuals/common/pdf/CLV-P-SABHE.pdf Accessed 20th February 2020).

[3] ‘Testscreen: SNES – Street Fighter II: Turbo’. Edge Magazine. (October 1993). Issue 1:82. https://archive.org/details/EDGE.N001.1993.10-Escapade/page/n81/mode/2up Accessed 21st February 2020).

[4] Quan, S., ‘Super NES ProReview: Street Fighter II: Turbo’. Gamepro. (August 1993). Issue 49:26-35. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

[5] ‘Now Playing: SNES – Street Fighter II’. Nintendo Power. (August 1993). Issue 38:105. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20038%20July%201992#page/n113/mode/2up Accessed 21st February 2020).

[6] Camron, M., ‘Video Game Gallery: SNES – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Games. (October 1992). Volume 1 Issue 1:72. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-10/Electronic%20Games%201992-10#page/n71/mode/2up Accessed 21st February 2020).

[7] Brookes, J., ‘UK Review: SNES – Street Fighter II’. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:67. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n65/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[8] ‘Super NES Review – Street Fighter II’. Super Nes Buyer’s Guide. (July 1992). Volume 1 Issue 2:60. (https://archive.org/details/snes_buyers_guide_002r_-_1992_jul/page/n59/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[9] Steve., ‘Review Crew – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1992). Volume 5 Issue 7:18. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_036.pdf Accessed 23rd February 2020).

[10] ‘Reviewed! – Street Fighter II’. N-Force. (August 1992). Issue 2:48-9. (https://archive.org/details/N-Force_No_2_1992-08_Europress_Impact_GB/page/n47/mode/2up Accessed 23rd February 2020).

[11] Iredale, A., ‘Review: SNES – Street Fighter II’. Megazone. (October/November 1992). Issue :36-7. (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/55/Megazone_AU_24.pdf Accessed 23rd February 2020).

[12] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Game of the Year (All Game Systems) & (SNES) – Street Fighter II: Turbo’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :14. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

[13] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Video Game Ending (All Systems) – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

[14] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Video Game Babe (All Systems) – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

[15] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

[16] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Trick That Didn’t Work (All Systems) – Street Fighter II’. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :22. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

Super Mario World

The Super Mario Bros. franchise is one of the most popular series of games ever to grace the planet. The brothers, who are plumbers by trade, seem to be regularly called upon to defeat the evil Bowser, and rescue Princess Toadstool (Super Mario 2 is different, as it was originally intended to be a different game). So get ready for a whole new adventure, of sliding down drain pipes, squashing Goombas, dodging Bullet Bills, discovering the secrets of the Ghost Houses, and the introduction of a new ally named Yoshi.  

Title Screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Mario World is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo, and released for the SNES in Japan in 1990, North America in 1991, and Europe in 1992. It would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 1991/2. The version I reviewed can be found on the SNES Mini.

In Super Mario 3, Mario and Luigi saved the Mushroom Kingdom from King Bowser. In need of a vacation, they visit Dinosaur Land for some much needed R&R. During their vacation, Princess Toadstool disappears…again! While searching for her, the brothers find a dinosaur egg which soon hatches, and they are introduced to Yoshi.

The Overworld Map at the beginining of the game (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game begins on a map of the Dinosaur Land where yellow and red dots indicate the levels that need to be traversed before you can progress. If the dot is red, it means that there is a secret area or alternative route that once found, will open up another secret area. Ghost Houses also tend to have secret areas too.

One of the early levels (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game follows the standard Mario gameplay of running from left to right and jumping over obstacles and either evading or killing a variety of enemies. Power-Ups include the standard Super Mushroom, Star of Invincibility, Fire Flower that allows you to throw fireballs, and a cape that allows Mario to fly and/or descend slowly. Mario and Luigi can also perform a new spin and jump move which allows you to destroy blocks you are standing on or next to.

Yoshi has his uses too. He can eat pretty much anything. Some of the enemies he eats will stay in his mouth and can be spat out at other enemies. Depending on what he eats will depend on what he spits out. If he eats a Koopa Troopa (green shelled turtle), he will simply spit out a green shell, but if he eats a Koopa Paratroopa (red shelled turtle), he will spit out fire balls.

There are several underwater levels to challenge you but, unlike Sonic, Mario doesn’t need to find air bubbles to survive (Screenshot taken by the author)

Another new feature means you can now store a power-up in a blue box at the top of the screen. You can make the power-up drop down manually to change your ability, or it will automatically drop when you are struck by an enemy.

Evading ghosts in the one of the many Ghost Houses (Screenshot taken by the author)

Coins and Yoshi tokens can be collected as usual to increase points. Every 100 coins found will give you an extra life. Each level contains five Yoshi tokens. If you collect all five in one level, you gain an extra life.

More of the Overworld Map (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once a level is completed, you can still play it again, but with an addition that if you wish to exit the level before making it to the end, you simply pause the game and press select. You will then be taken back to the Overworld Map.

Super Mario World can be played in one- and two-player modes which allow you to take it in turns to complete levels. As you progress through the game you will be given a percentage of how much the game is completed. However, you don’t need to have played all the levels and/or found all the secret areas to complete the game. For those of us that simply must find every secret of a game, this will add to the replay value, as you will be replaying levels trying to find alternative routes and secret areas.

Brightly coloured levels with beautifully illustrated and animated sprites. The levels are challenging but fun, and look great. The music will get stuck on a loop in your head. Interestingly, when riding Yoshi, extra drum beats are added to the music which is a cool little addition. The game is easy to learn and fun for all ages to play. You will be drawn back to revisit the game time and again.

Did I complete the game?

I have completed the story but have yet to achieve 100% on the game.

What the Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “What a truly terrific game! With seven worlds and over a hundred sub-levels, Mario IV has incredible depth of gameplay. Overall 96%.”[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The ultimate Mario adventure! Super Mario World is a perfect subtitle, with 96 areas to explore. Everything just plain blew me away! Overall 9/10.”[2]

Super Play: “An amazingly deep and playable platform game, and a credit to Nintendo. Unmissable. Overall 94%.”[3]

Awards:

Best Graphics and Sound (SNES) – Nintendo Power Awards 1991[4]

My Verdict:

“I had so much fun revisiting this game. It holds up very well. Beautifully illustrated and animated, and I love the music! There are loads of fun new features, and the game has great replay value. A true landmark of a game in the side-scrolling platform genre.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario World? 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] Glancey, P., ‘Review: Super Mario World’. Computer & Video Games. (March 1991). Issue 112:48-50. (https://archive.org/stream/computer-video-games-magazine-112/CVG112_Mar_1991#page/n49/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew – Super Mario 4’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (August 1991). 25:18. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_Issue_025_August_1991#page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[3] Brookes, J., ‘UK Review – Super Mario World’. Superplay. (December 1992). 2:84. (https://archive.org/stream/Superplay_Issue_02_1992-12_Future_Publishing_GB#page/n83/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[4] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ’91 – For Graphics and Sound (SNES)’. Nintendo Power. (May 1992). 36:58. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20036%20May%201992#page/n59/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).

Super Kick Off

You stand in the tunnel and hear the chants from the stands echo all around you. Your supporters expect glory. Can you immortalise yourself and your team by winning silverware and reigning supreme? Tie up the laces of your football boots and adjust your shin pads. Its not just Kick Off, its Super Kick Off!

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Kick Off is the sequel to Kick Off 2. It was developed by Anco Software, Tiertex Design Studios and Enigma Variations, and published by US Gold, Imagineer, and Misawa Entertainment in 1991. It was released on the Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, and SNES.

The game is played with a top down view, similar to that of World Cup Italia ’90, but the overall graphics are more detailed, especially where the sprites are concerned. The game has also added footballers of different skin tones, making the game more realistic. The pitches are also prettier and the crowd is brightly coloured.

In-game action (Screenshot taken by the author)

The in-game menu icons are not labelled but are fairly self-explanatory. One league and three cup competitions, plus a two-player mode, adds to the replay value. It is also possible to increase the overall speed of the game and adjust the difficulty setting of the oppoenent, to add more of a challenge.

In-game menu (Screenshot taken by the author)

The teams are a random array of Europe’s better teams from the early 90s. The names of the players are not real but are close enough to distinguish who they really are (Griggs = Giggs etc.). Oddly, some players begin out of position. For example, when playing with Man Utd, Spruce (Steve Bruce), starts upfront instead of in defence, so a little tinkering is needed to amend such insanity.

The music is forgettable and not as catchy as World Cup Italia ’90 which had a very Latino feel to it. There are a few SFX but the gasps from the crowd everytime the ball is either saved by the goalkeeper or goes out of play is very annoying.

Half-time (Screenshot taken by the author)

Controlling the ball takes a bit of getting used to. You have to either manoeuvre the player around the moving ball or press the ‘trap’ button before changing direction. The ‘trap’ button also acts as the pass button and so many times the ball gets kicked wildly out of play. Tackling is pretty much non-existant other than running into the opposition to steal the ball, and the offside rule tends to happen at odd times during the match. Once you can beat the computer regularly on the hardest setting (14-0 if you must know), you know it’s time to stop playing the game.

Although an improvement on most previous football games, I am still at a loss as to how computer designers were consistantly unable to produce a realistic football game in the 80s and early 90s. You only need three buttons: For attacking – 1) short pass, 2) long pass, and 3) shoot. For defense – 1) standing tackle, 2) sliding tackle, and 3) control nearest player to the ball etc. It’s that simple!

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I won all leagues and trophies in this game.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The best football game going, and one which every Mega Drive owner, regardless of their interest in sport, should leap out and purchase. Overall 95%”.[1]

Sega Power: “You wanted a decent football game and you’ve got one! You’ll need patience to get used to controlling the players, but it’s more than worth the effort. Overall 5/5.[2]

My verdict: “An improvement on most previous football games, and certainly worth playing. However, they are still a long way to go where football games are concerned.”

Rating:

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


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Mean Machines Sega. (February 1993). 5:18-21. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-05/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Sega Power. (September 1993). 46:98. (https://archive.org/details/SegaPower46Sep1993/page/n97/mode/2up 25th February).

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The lightning quick blue ball of spikes has returned, and this time he has speedy side-kick. Yes, Sonic is back with a faster, bigger, and more challenging game for those with quick reflexes.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a platform game developed and published by Sega for the Megadrive in 1992. It is the sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog with 8-bit versions being released on the Master System and Game Gear. In recent years, versions were released for multiple mobile platforms as well as part of a number of Sega collection packages for the PlayStation and Xbox systems. I reviewed the Mega Drive version of Sonic 2.

Sonic is accompanied by Tails (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic is back, and this time he has assistance from his trusty sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower, a two-tailed fox. Dr. Robotnik is also back, and again plans to steal the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station known as the Death Egg. Once again Sonic must make his way through an array of different levels evading the robotic minions of Dr. Robotnik. Like the first instalment, Sonic has the option to destroy the minions to release the animals that Dr. Robotnik has trapped inside them.

There are plenty of new features in this game. At the start of the game you can choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or as Sonic with Tails. There is no real difference between Sonic and Tails, but I would recommend playing as one or the other alone. The reason for this is the Special Stages where Sonic attempts to win the Chaos Emeralds. The stages are now designed like a half-pipe run and are broken into stages. You must gain ‘X’ amount of rings to progress to the next stage, all the while dodging obstacles that will make you lose rings if you hit them. If you have Tails with you, he will often get hit by an obstacle and will lose you rings.

The new half-pipe special stages (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once you have won all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic gains the ability to transform into Super Sonic by gaining 50 rings and jumping into the air. As Super Sonic you are invincible, can run faster and jump higher. However it uses up your rings at a rate of one per second. Once they are gone, Sonic reverts back to his normal self.

After you collect all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will be able to temporarily transform into Super Sonic (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic 2 also sees the introduction of the ‘Spin-Dash’, which enables Sonic to spin and gain speed whilst stationary.

The addition of a competitive two-player mode where you can race another player through certain levels and special stages adds an extra element of fun which I know myself and my buddies found particularly diverting.

With the release of Sonic and Knuckles in 1994, the two cartridges could be interlocked, enabling you to play through Sonic 2 as Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles can glide and climb walls, enabling you find alternative routes through the levels. However, he cannot jump as high as Sonic and Tails, making some of the boss fights a bit more difficult.

Sonic and Tails must fight their way through an array of new machines built by Dr. Robotnik (Screenshot taken by the author)

The graphics haven’t changed that much since the first Sonic game. The Sonic sprite is a slightly darker shade of blue, and the enemy sprites are designed to have a more mechanical look. The levels are longer, less linear (you sometimes have to go back on yourself to find the correct route) and more intricately designed, making traversing the levels more challenging. Some of the evil minions are harder to destroy and the end of level bosses are certainly more challenging and inventive too. The music is good, but I don’t think its quite as memorable as the first game.

I did feel that the way you have no rings or means to get them for the last two bosses is a cheap way to make the bosses harder, and I found that frustrating.

The two-player mode is what my friends and I played alot when we got this game. I remember distinctly arriving at my buddy’s house and eagerly turning the game on for the first time. We played the for hours. Having revisited the game I noticed that in one-player mode and two-player mode, the game has a tendency to slow down and the sprites flicker a bit when Sonic and Tails are going top speed, in particularly when you are hit by an enemy and lose lots of rings.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game a few times through whilst winning all the Chaos Emeralds.

What the critics said:

Gamepro: “Its tough to follow a classic but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 earns top honours. There’s enough stuff that’s new and different in Sonic 2 to make it a must-have cart for fans of the original. Overall 19.5/20.”[1]

Gamesmaster: “The changes are there, but they’re just not profound enough to transform the agme into an essential buy for owners of the original. Overall 65%.”[2]

Computer & Video Games: Paul Anglin“At first glance Sonic may not look radically different to the original, but it packs a lot more punch than Bluey’s first outing. The levels are absolutely massive, with so much to do and so much to find that you’ll bust a gut trying. Overall 94%.[3]

Computer & Video Games: Tim Boone“For a start it’s all a tad faster, and the addition of Tails is a real master stroke to beef up the gameplay. Graphics are no great improvement over the original, but seeing as the first game’s were about the best you’ll find that’s no bad thing! Sound is ace too. Overall 94%[4]

Gamer Fan: Sonic 2 is amazing, faster and nastier than ever spinning through awesome new zones that will make your eyes bug out! The creativity and attention to detail is remarkable and to finish with all the chaos emeralds is a worthy challenge for even the best players. Overall 98.5%[5]

Mean Machines Sega: “Sonic has outdone itself. An absolute gem of a game which your Megadrive will be screaming out for. Overall 96%.[6]

Mega: “Sonic 2 is pure, top grade video game entertainment. No one should miss it. Fight for a copy.  Overall 94%”.[7]

Megazone: “Sonic 2 is a brilliant sequel, and does what most sequels don’t do – improve and expand on the original. Overall 96%.[8]

Sega Force: “One of the best games of the year and definitely worth the wait! Overall 97%”.[9]

Electronic Games: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2 offers the same exciting play as the first, but the welcome additions of two-player simultaneous play and more levels only enhance this exciting title. Sonic shows no signs of slowing down! Overall 91%.[10]

Awards:

Best Game of the Year (Sega Genesis) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1992[11]

Game of the Year – Megazone Games of the Year 1992[12]

Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[13]

My Verdict:

“There was something about this game that I didn’t like, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first. That being said, this is a solid sequel, and I did have fun revisiting the game. There are plenty of new features, to make it worth playing, and the addition of a two-player mode adds to the overall enjoyment of the game”

Rating:

What are your memories of Sonic 2? 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 Unknown Gamer. ‘Pro Review: Megadrive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamerpro. (January 1993). 43:46-50 (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/54/GamePro_US_042.pdf Accessed 16th December 2019).

[2] Lowe, A., ‘Game Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamemaster Magazine. (January 1993). Issue 1:56-8 (https://retrocdn.net/images/1/18/GamesMaster_UK_001.pdf Accessed on 10th December 2019).

[3] Anglin. P., ’Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[4] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). Issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[5] ‘Viewpoint: Mega Drive: Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamer Fan. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 2:9. (https://archive.org/details/Gamefan_Vol_1_Issue_02/page/n7/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[6] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mean Machines Sega. (November 1992). Issue 2:60-3. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-02/page/n61/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[7] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mega. (November 1992). Issue 2:36-41. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/Sonic2-MEGA2-6.html Accessed 19th February 2020).

[8] Clarke, S., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:31-33. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[9] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Sega Force. Issue 12:14-16. https://retrocdn.net/images/b/bc/SegaForce_UK_12.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[10] Carpenter, D., ‘Video Game Gallery: Genesis – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:72-4. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n73/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[11] ‘EGM Best and Worst of 1992 Video Game of the Year’. Electronic Gaming Monthly 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :14. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[12] ‘Game of the Year Awards 1992 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:21. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[13] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Sonic The Hedgehog 2‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

Columns

Reviewed by Nick Lawrence

In 1989, Nintendo released Tetris on the Game Boy, and it proved to be an instant hit. By its 25-year anniversary Tetris had sold over 70 million copies worldwide.[1] Sega, eager to compete, needed a puzzle game of their own. They settled-on Columns, similar enough not to deter Tetris fans, but different enough to try and attract a new audience. Sadly, Columns couldn’t imitate Tetris’ success.

Screenshot taken by the author

Columns is a puzzle game created by Jay Geertsen for the arcade in 1989. Its success led to it being ported to many other platforms. The version I played was from the Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Collection on the Playstation 3. It was originally developed and published by Sega in 1990.

The game consists of three coloured jewels being dropped to the bottom of a rectangular screen, similar to Tetris. However, instead of aiming to complete horizontal lines, you must match three or more of the same coloured jewels in either a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. Once lined up the jewels will disappear allowing any jewels above to fall down to the lowest point possible. You will also be awarded points. You are able to cycle the order of the jewels to aid in your organisation of landed jewels. If a multi-coloured, flashing set of jewels appears, you can land any colour of jewel that you wish and all of that type of jewel will disappear. The higher your score, the faster the jewels will fall. Columns can be played in one-player and multiplayer modes, flash-modes and a time trial mode which add to the replay value of such a seemingly simple but highly addictive game.

Screenshot taken by the author

I have a real soft spot for this game and prefer it to Tetris, possibly because of the beautifully coloured jewels. The graphics in general have a classical Greek/Roman feel to them and each jewel is brightly coloured and easily distinguishable from the others. The music is rather basic but does have a tendency to get stuck in your head, but mostly you will find that you’ll turn the sound down and listen to your own music, podcast or an audiobook.

I used to play this game a lot and got pretty damn good at it. As you can see from the photograph below, the highest score I achieved was 5408848 at level 121. I would have continued but I had been playing for a while and was due to go out for the evening. I could have paused and come back to it but I feel that I had proved my aptitude for the game.

A photgraph of my highest ever score

Did I complete the game?

No one seems to know how high the score or levels go, and I don’t know of anyone who has “completed” this game, so I’m going to assume this is a game that cannot be completed.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Index: “Sega’s answer to Tetris, this puzzle game is excellent. There’s a huge variety of options, including arcade-style time trials, three different difficulty settings, nine different starting levels, and a two-plater head-to-head made which adds to the game’s lasting appeal. Overall 88%[2]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with a superb challenge mode. Simple and addictive. Overall 4/5.[3]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with superb one-on-one challenge mode. More of an end-of-blast relaxer than a main game. Simple, addictive , but expensive for what it is. Overall 4/5.[4]

Wizard: “Good puzzle game, drop jewels, like Tetris but a bit better. Overall B+.[5]

My Verdict:

“It’s like Tetris, but better in my opinion. Colourful, challenging and surprisingly addictive.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Columns? 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] Johnson, Bobbie, (June 2009) ‘How Tetris Conquered the World, Block by Block’. The Guardian. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/jun/02/tetris-25anniversary-alexey-pajitnov Accessed on 10th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Columns’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n137/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Columns’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Columns’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:53. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.

[5] ‘Game Reviews – Columns’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24. (https://archive.org/details/WizardMagazine017/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 24th September 2020).

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II

In the voice of the great Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, “And there he goes! Look at that! Villeneuve has passed him! Villeneuve has won the Brazilian Grand Prix!”.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II is a Formula One racing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Megadrive, Master System and Game Gear in 1992, and is the follow up to Super Monaco GP. The game’s development was also assisted by Senna, who supplied his own advice about the tracks featured in the game.

Naturally the object of the game is to win the Driver’s World Championship and/or the Senna GP. To win the World Championship, you must race 15 other drivers on tracks from the 1991 Formula One season. You gain points depending on the position that you finish. The higher the finish, the more points you accrue.

In Practice Mode you can choose to train freely or simulate a race. This enables you to familiarise yourself with the sharp turns of each track, and allowing you to perfect your racing line. In Practice Mode you can also select the number of laps you wish to complete, your starting position and sometimes, the weather.

The late, great Ayrton Senna died tragically from injuries sustained during a crash whilst competing in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (Screenshot taken by the author)

In Beginner Mode, you first enter your name and select your nationality. You are then given the choice to run a few practice laps before the main race. When you select Race Mode, you can choose your preferred type of gear box (automatic, 4-speed manual and 7-speed manual). Before the main race starts you must complete a lap in the quickest time possible. Your time compared to the times of the other drivers will dictate you starting position. Your aim is to be the Polesitter.

Master Mode is pretty much the same as Beginner Mode with the exception that you may get the opportunity to drive better race cars by challenging rivals during races. If you beat the rival, you race their car from then on. There are five different car companies to achieve.

For the Senna GP, you simply compete in one race. You can choose from three tracks, and your lap times are given after each race.

In-game screen offering all the views and information you need (Screenshot taken by the author)

As mentioned, when reviewing Super Hang-On, I’m not a fan of racing games. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t do it for me, so I am reluctant to spend too much time on them. However, I will say that even though I found this game very challenging, I did enjoy playing it.

The game is challenging and much practice is needed to understand the physics of the game. Frustratingly, when a collision with another racer occurs, you aways seem to come off worse than the other racer. No serious damage occurs, it just slows you down. However, if you hit a sign or barrier at high speed, you will crash and your race is over.

The 16 tracks plus the Beginner, Master, and Senna GP modes increase the replay value considerabley, and fans of racing games will find that this not a game that will be completed within a few hours. Alas, it is a pity there is not a two-player option.

The graphics are bright and colourful, and should be praised for their realism. I’d argue that they are superior to F1 (1993). The music is very basic and easily forgettable, but then again you’re not playing a racing game for the music are you!

Did I complete the game?

Sadly no. The best result I achieved was fourth overall. In the World Championship.

What the Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A very good racing game – but if you’ve already got Super Monaco GP, this simply isn’t different enough to be worth buying. Overall 87%[1]

Mean Machines: “If you already have the original Super Monaco in your cart collection, take a look before you buy because it is very similar. However, if you’ve just got your Mega Drive and fancy owning one of the greatest road racers money can buy, take a look at Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – it leaves the others on the starting grid. Overall 94%”[2]

Computer & Video Games: “Super Monaco still ranks one of the best racers on the Mega Drive, right up there with the likes of Road Rash and Super Hang-On. However, it has to be said that this sequel is quite a disappointment because it’s too close to the original game! Overall 84%[3]

Sega Power: “Bigger and Badder sequel to the original game, this time with the golden touch of Ayrton Senna himself. Hit the gas and burn some rubber, baby. Groovy! Overall 5.5.[4]

My Verdict: “Becomes more enjoyable the more you play it. Fans of racing games with love the realism, and the challenge.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP 2? 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 – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. (June 1992). Issue 21:20-1. Mean Machines. (https://ia600306.us.archive.org/2/items/mean-machines-magazine-21/MeanMachines_21_Jun_1992.pdf Accessed 14th December 2019).

[2] Leadbetter, R., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:126. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[3] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco Grand Prix 2’ Computer & Video Games. (July 1992). Issue 128:68. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/08/CVG_UK_128.pdf Accessed on 11th February 2020).

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Monaco GP II’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

Art Alive

Remember when you were bored in computer classes in the pre-internet days of the early 90s? You had the choice of playing Solitaire or, if you were artistically minded, trying to create a some art with Microsoft Paint. Sega decided to make an alternative version for the Mega Drive. Did it inspire a generation of pick up their proverbial paintbrush and express themselves, or was Sega’s attempt to bring “paint” to their console a smudge on the face of electronic easels around the world?

Art alive is a paint program developed by Western Technologies and Farsight Technologies, and published by Sega, and Tech Toy for the Megadrive. It was released in 1991 in north America, and Europe and Japan in 1992. The Mega Drive version I reviewed was lent to me by a friend.

My wife is a professional illustrator and so I asked if she would give up some time in her busy schedule to review the game for me. This is what she said:

“I didn’t read the instructions, but the game was easy to learn and fairly intuitive. Even though there was a limited palette, the ability to use patterns was neat, even if they were only 16-bit. The SFX became very annoying very quickly, especially when accessing the menu. It was disappointing too that music was only played when certain tools were used. Having music throughout would have made the game more enjoyable. The limited nature of the title would make the modern gamer become bored very quickly. However, I’m sure it would have been more engaging when it was released.”

Screenshot taken by the author
Yes, I am a fan of the Retro Game Squad podcast. Screenshot taken by the author

Did she complete the game:

N/A

What the critics said:

Entertainment Weekly: “More of a toy than a game, Sega’s draw-and-paint program is pretty colourless compared with what you can accomplish on some mid-range personal computers, but it’s still a welcome alternative to those burnt out on mindless shoot-’em-ups. Overall C+”[1]

My verdict:It’s basically Microsoft paint…but for the Mega Drive. It might be worth picking up if you’re a collector, but other than that, I doubt it is even worth acquiring for your children, if you have any.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Art Alive? 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] Strauss, B., (January 31st, 1992). ‘The Latest Video Games’. Entertainment Weekly. (https://ew.com/article/1992/01/31/latest-video-games-2/ Accessed 14th December 2019).