Mighty Final Fight – Review

Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups were huge in arcades in the 80s. However, home consoles of the 80s struggled to replicate the arcade versions, which were far superior. Although the NES and Master System produced some good quality beat ‘em ups, it wouldn’t be until the late 80s that “arcade quality” beat ‘em ups could be found on home consoles like the Sega Mega Drive.

titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Mighty Final Fight is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up developed and published by Capcom in 1993 for the NES. It is a spin-off of the 1989 arcade classic Final Fight. It was later released on the Game Boy Advance (2006) and Wii Virtual Console (2014). I chose to review the NES version.

The Mad Gear Gang, the most notorious crime gang in Metro City, have kidnapped Jessica, the daughter of Haggar, mayor of the city. Along with Cody, Jessica’s boyfriend, and Cody’s training partner, Guy, they attempt to rescue her from the gang.

Sadly, the game can only be played in single-player mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

You can choose to be either:

Haggar – City Mayor and former professional wrestler

Cody – A street fighter who has developed his own unique fighting style by fusing boxing and karate

Guy – A master of Ninjutsu

Each with their own strengths and fighting styles. As the game progresses, you gain experience points which increase the strength of your character and unlock more fighting moves. Weapons can be found throughout the levels but they are dependant on the character your are playing as (Cody – knife, Guy – shuriken, Haggar – oversized mallet).

The graphics have been adapted in the Chibi art style (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game has been redesigned in the Chibi art style which gives  the characters and overall game a more childlike look. The graphics and backgrounds are a great improvement on previous games such as Double Dragon and Renegade, even if Haggar does look like he has a huge double chin. However, by 1993, the SNES and Mega Drive were already producing far superior titles such as Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. There is also a limited number of sprites allowed on the screen at any one time, and there is a fair bit of flicker when fighting. This game is clearly pushing the NES to its limits.

The gameplay is pretty good. The controls are responsive, and the hit detection is spot on. The introduction of new moves keeps the fighting interesting too.

What really let’s this game down is that it is a single-player game and there is only one difficulty setting. This is a real shame, as side-scrolling fighters are always better in two-player mode. Without a two-player mode and the chance to increase the game’s difficulty, this game will never become a staple for late night gaming with buddies. However, it is slightly redeemed by having three distinct characters does add to the replay value of the game a little.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, my go to character is Cody. My older brother’s choice was always Guy.

What the critics said:

At present, I have been unable to locate a contemporary review.

My verdict:

“A fun little beat ‘em up which looks great, for a NES game, and plays very well. Good differentiation between the characters but a lack of two-player mode severely limits its replay value.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Mighty Final Fight? 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.

Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight – Review

Sometimes an original game or franchise contains characters or ideas for spin-offs. Some are successful such as Super Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country…but others are real stinkers. I’ve recently read several articles titled ‘Top Ten Spin-Offs That Sucked’ or titles to that effect. Most of the games cited in those articles I have never played and so cannot comment on them. However, Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight did…and I’m afraid I have to agree.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Street Fighter 2010: Final Fight is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Capcom and released on the NES in 1990. It was later released on the 3DS Virtual Console in 2014, and Wii U Virtual Console in 2015. I chose to review the NES version.

According to the history of this game, Ken won the original Street Fighter tournament. He later retired and became a scientist (as you do) who developed cyboplasm, a substance that gives superhuman strength to whoever uses it. Naturally, Ken has taken the substance to keep himself in tip-top shape. One day, Ken’s lab partner, Troy, is murdered and the cyboplasm is stolen leading Ken to pursue the murderer to the far reaches of the galaxy. Oh, and the future has interplanetary warp gates to assist travel between planets.

The game looks pretty good. I just couldn’t get on with the gameplay (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, I have to say that I got the feeling that this game was given the Street Fighter title because the creators wanted to cash in on the franchise. It’s such a departure from the original format that I cannot understand how they thought it would tie in in a believable way.

Having said that, the graphics are good! However, the controls are frustrating. the difficulty is too damn hard and it’s not very enjoyable at all. You can jump, climb walls and back flip, you can fire short range projectiles left, right, up, down (when flip-jumping) and diagonally up…but for some reason you can’t crouch or fire diagonally down. This is fine but there are flying machines that seem to attack you from low down and you are unable to defend yourself. Had crouching and firing diagonally down been possible, this game would have been a lot more enjoyable. Alas, it wasn’t possible, and the frustration led to me simply getting annoyed and moving on.

Did I complete the game?

No, I only got to level 2.

What the critics said:

At present, I have been unable to find contemporary reviews.

My verdict:

“An odd spin-off with a totally different format to the original franchise. The controls suck as does the difficulty level.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Street Fighter 2010: The FInal Fight? 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.

Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers – Review

“Ch, Ch, Ch, Chip and Dale. Rescue Rangers!!!”

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers is a platform game developed and published by Capcom and released for the NES in 1990. It would later be released in the 2017 The Disney Compilation Collection for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I chose to review the NES version.

The evil Fat Cat has stolen Mandy’s kitten. The Rescue Rangers pledge to rescue the kitten. Through streets, over and through buildings, and forests; Chip and Dale must evade foes such as mechanical bulldogs, robotic rats, and gansgter lizard-type things known as warts. You can choose to dodge these dangerous foes or throw various items such as crates and apples at them. After each level, Gadget offers some advice about how to defeat the trickier aspects of the next level.

You can use objects such as crates and apples to throw at your enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game can be played in on or two-player mode. In one-player mode, you can choose to be either Chip or Dale. Each player can only be hit three times before they die.

The levels are brightly coloured, well designed and detailed, and pose a nice challenge for the average gamer. The sprites are well animated and the controls are sharp and responsive. It is easy to distinguish between the two protangonists as Chip wears a hat and a dark jacket.

The game has many trickier parts but it is enjoyable to play. I wasn’t expecting to like this game but I really enjoyed it. Although the game has minimal replay value, it’s a lot of fun and a great game to be played with a younger sibling or child.

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Every part of this game from the graphics, to the sounds to the gameplay are well done indeed. Rescue Rangers only falls flat in terms of challenge and difficulty. Overall 7.75/10.[1]

Nintendo Power: “Overall 4/5.[2]

Mean Machines: “Not groundbreakingly original, but very good nonetheless. Fun to play and long-lasting Overall 88%.”[3]

Total!: “Groovesome, slick and utterly dashing platform game with some ingenious two-player twist and a brain curdling difficulty curve! Overall 81%.[4]

Awards:

Parents’ Choice (1990) – Parents’ Choice Foundation[5]

My Verdict:

“This game looks great…but don’t be fooled by its cutsie look. There are some challenging parts to it, but nothing a seasoned gamer can’t handle. Excellent gameplay too. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers? 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 – Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers.’ Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1990). Issue 12:12. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/a1/EGM_US_012.pdf Accessed 12th October 2020).

[2] ‘Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers’. Nintendo Power. (July-August 1990). Issue 14:26. (https://archive.org/details/NintendoPower1988-2004/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20014%20%28July-August%201990%29/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed 12th October 2020).

[3] ‘Nintendo review – Rescue Rangers’. Mean Machines. (February 1992). Issue 17:52-4.   (https://web.archive.org/web/20190519025012/http://www.meanmachinesmag.co.uk/pdf/rescuerangersnes.pdf Accessed 12th October 2020).

[4] ‘Chip ‘n’ Dale’. Total!. (April 1992). Issue 4:26-7. (https://archive.org/details/Total_Issue_004_1992-04_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed 12th October 2020).

[5] ‘Keeping Kids Entertained’. The Seattle Times. (Dec 27, 1990) (https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=19901227&slug=1111657 Accessed 12th October 2020).

Double Dragon – Review

If memory serves, my first time playing Double Dragon was on the Sinclair Spectrum ZX. I remember loving it and I’m sure this was another game that I played with my dad and my older brother. It has gone down in history as a classic game and I was certainly looking forward to revisiting it again.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Double Dragon is a beat-em up developed by Technōs Japan and released in the Arcade in 1987. It was published in Europe and North America by Trade West, coming to home consoles in 1988. Versions have been released on the NES, Master System, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Atari ST, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Mega Drive, Game Gear, ZX Spectrum and Atari Lynx to name a few. It appeared on the Wii Virtual Console in 2008, Nintendo 3DS in 2013 and Wii U in 2013. For this review, I played was the NES version.

You play as twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee (Hammer and Spike in the American versions), who must fight their way through the territory of the Black Warriors gang to rescue Billy’s girlfriend Marian. At your disposal are an array of punches, kicks, headbutts, throws and elbow strikes. Along the way, you can temporarily use weapons such as baseball bats, knives, whips and dynamite sticks. There are only four levels, but the game is quite challenging and, at present, I can only make it to level three (I swear I completed this game as a kid!).

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Unlike the arcade, the home console version’s two-player co-operative mode was replaced by alternating play, meaning each player plays the game on their own, which was a poor decision by the game designers. Initially, you are limited to just a few fighting moves but as your gain experience points, more fighting moves become available to you which I thought was a nice touch. Due to the lack of power, the NES could only generate two enemies on the screen at any one time.

The NES version also contains a MODE B for both one and two-players where you can select any character from the game to fight in one-on-one battles which adds some replay value.

The graphics are good, especially the background of level one, and are superior to many contemporary games such as Renegade. The characters are distinctive, but the protagonist looks like he’s barefoot. The controls are easy to learn but aren’t as responsive as they could be. You can’t turn around quickly whilst punching but you can whilst kicking. I’d recommend kicking rather than punching anyway. One annoying part of level three is where you need to jump across a stream but as soon as you land you are hit by an enemy and fall into the water, losing a life.

Oddly, this character looks like The Thing from Marvel’s Fantastic Four (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

No, I’ve yet to complete the NES version.

What the critics said:

Entertainment Weekly Magazine: “…Double Dragon now has quality as well as content. There are more screens than the arcade, as well as vertical scrolling and the one on one match that is very reminiscent of Karate Champ (thrown in for free!)…This game is worth every penny! DIRECT HIT!”.[1]

Computer and Video Games: “Nintendo unfortunately locks the two-player mode option, but more than makes up for this deficiency with an extra one-on-one Street Fighter-style game included on the ROM. Overall 83%.[2]

Joystick: “Overall 75%”.[3]

Awards:

Best Graphics – Electronic Gaming Monthly “1989 Player’s Choice Awards”[4]

My verdict:

“Double Dragon is a classic title and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t played it. In fact, I’d wager that I have never met a gamer who hasn’t at least heard of it. The game looks good, and there is a nice amount of hand-to-hand attacks and weapons to use. When this game was released, I can imagine it being a great game! However, it loses marks for the lack of a two-player co-op mode and its short length. It is not a game that encourages regular revisits. Sadly, the game is not as good as I remember but then it is always difficult to revisit games.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Double Dragon? 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] Moon, J., ‘Review – Double Dragon’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :44. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/64/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1989.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[2] Rignall, J., ‘Mean Machines – Double Dragon’. Computer and Video Games. (December 1988). : (https://ia800604.us.archive.org/view_archive.php?archive=/1/items/World_of_Spectrum_June_2017_Mirror/World%20of%20Spectrum%20June%202017%20Mirror.zip&file=World%20of%20Spectrum%20June%202017%20Mirror/sinclair/magazines/Computer-and-Video-Games/Issue086/Pages/CVG08600175.jpg Accessed on 4th July 2020).

[3] Huyghues-Lacour, A., ‘Double Dragon’. Joystick. (April 1991). 15:112 (https://archive.org/details/joystick015/page/n111/mode/2up Accessed 6th July 2020).

[4] The 1989 “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Graphics: Double Dragon. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/64/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1989.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

Shadow Warriors/Ninja Gaiden/Ninja Ryūkenden – Review

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the popularity of eastern martial arts rose dramatically in popularity in the west through Bruce Lee and The Karate Kid movies. Naturally, gamers are attracted to games where they can perform a flurry of punches, an array of agile kicks and jumps, and master hand to hand combat because, let’s face it, these things take years of training and dedication which many of us don’t have the inclination for.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Shadow Warriors is a side-scrolling action-platform game developed and published by Tecmo. It was released for the NES in Europe in 1991, having previously been released in Japan in 1988 as Ninja Ryūkenden, and in North America in 1989 as Ninja Gaiden. It was later ported to the SNES, PC and mobile phones. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.

You control Ryu Hayabusa who travels to America to avenge the murder of his father. He soon learns of a person known as “The Jaquio” who plans to take over the world with the help of an ancient demon whose power is contaminated in two statues. The game contains 20 levels broken down into six acts.

I’m not sure why Ryu has a reddish tinge to him (Screenshot taken by the author)

The controls are very responsive and the movement tight, allowing for close control. Ryu’s main weapon is a sword but you are able to pick up and use limited numbers of shuriken. Ryu can jump and cling onto the walls, but can only climb if he is on a ladder. If not, and a wall is opposite, he can spring himself up by jumping between walls. Annoyingly, and this is common amongst early games, if you progress to a higher screen and you fall back down the whole you just came from, you die as oppose to simply fall to the level below.

The levels are very difficult and unforgiving, but you do receive unlimited continues. Sadly, I was only able to get to Act 3 as my version kept crashing. However, I really enjoyed playing this game and so will definitely return to it in the future. After each act, there is a beautifully illustrated anime-type cutscene furthering the storyline.

The graphics and music are standard for 8-bit home consoles in the 80s but withthe introduction of 16-bit consoles, begin to look dated by the time of its release in Europe in 1991. The Ryu sprite has a reddish glow to him, which is strange.

Between levels, there are beautifully illustrated cut scenes (Screenshot taken by the author)

Mean Machines: “A superb game, very similar to Shadow Warriors coin-op. Highly recommended top Nintendo beat ‘em up fans. Overall 88%.[1]

Mean Machines: “A superbly presented Ninja game which proves very playable. Overall 90%.[2]

Awards:

Best Challenge 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[3]

Best Ending 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[4]

Best Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Best and Worst of 1989[5]

My verdict:

“Tight controls, beautiful cut scenes but very difficult and unforgiving. A good edition to the ninja genre”

Rating:

What are your memories of Shadow Warriors? 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] ‘Nintendo Review – Ninja Gaiden’. Mean Machines. (July 1990). Issue 06:12-4. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-15/page/n107/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] ‘Nintendo Review – Shadow Warrior’. Mean Machines. (July 1991). Issue 10:66-8. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-10/page/n67/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).

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

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

[5] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990Video Game Buyer’s guide. 5:17. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).

Robocop – Review

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!”

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Robocop is a beat ’em up/run and gun arcade game developed and published by Data East. Based on the 1987 film Robocop, it was released in 1988 for the Arcade, Apple 2, PC, Amiga and Atari ST. It was later release on the NES in 1989 and the Game Boy in 1990. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.

A crime wave has swept the city of Detroit and the streets are no longer safe. OCP, a private company, have developed a cyborg to assist law enforcement. Using his fists, and an array of guns, the cyborg known as Robocop aims to clean up the streets, destroy ED-209, and defeat Dick James, the mastermind behind the crime epidemic.

Before the game starts, the intro consists of a run through of Robocop’s cybernetic make-up, which I think would have been made better with a bit more backstory as to how Robocop came to be. Not everyone has seen the film after all. However, the cut scene between the levels are nicely illustrated and the phrase “Crime in progress” appears which is a nice nod to the movie.

A short but well illustrated cut scene kicks the game off (Screenshot taken by the author)

That game is very easy to play. Robocop is a big hunk of machinery and so he can only walk at one speed (As you can imagine, he cannot jump). However, he can also climb and descend stairs, crouch and block, and punch or fire his gun (Note: when descending the stairs you only need to press down as oppose to diagonally down). He can fire his gun in all directions except straight down. During the levels, Robocop can pick up and use other firearms other than his standard side-arm including a machine gun and cobra gun (Robocops standard side-arm has infinite ammo but these other weapons do not).

There is no time limit to the levels, but Robocop’s energy bar depletes as he progresses through the level. Once the bar is depleted he will cease to function and need to restart the level. Thankfully, he can pick up batteries along the way to restore his energy bar. Robocop’s health bar will deplete if he is hit by an enemy. Collecting bottles labelled ‘P’ will help restore his health.

Why unarmed criminals try to take on a cyborg I’ll never know! (Screenshot taken by the author)

At the bottom right of the screen are four symbols. When they flash they indicate the following:

Infrared Vision – Which will help you locate a weak wall that you need to punch to break through.

Punch – You can only defeat an enemy by punching.

Foe Detector – Begins to flash faster and faster the closer you get to a boss/sub-boss.

Energy/Power Alarm – Indicates when energy or health levels are low or when they drop dramatically.

Graphically, this game is good for an 8-bit console in 1989, and matches the likes of Ninja Gaiden. The sprites are detailed and clearly defined against the backgrounds, and when using his gun, Robocop even mimics the one-handed stance seen in the film. The backgrounds themselves are pretty good too. However, there is a fair bit of sprite flicker, especially from the dogs and when you’re shooting at the first boss.

Robocop will only use his gun when the threat level increases (Screenshot taken by the author)

Like the film, Robocop matches his weapon to the threat level of his attackesr, which I think is a very neat feature and adds an element of realism to the game. This means that Robocop won’t use his gun until he comes face to face with an enemy who uses guns, flamethrowers or explosives etc.

I do have a few issues with this game though. Firstly, the stupidity of the unarmed enemies and dogs. Why on Earth would you run towards a huge bloody cyborg that can dispatch you quite easily with one punch…especially when your only attack is a flying kick?! Also, you have one life, then it’s game over. You do seem to get an infinite number of continues but when you use them it takes you back to the beginning of that level. If you are going to force people to use continues and restart the level, then please give them more than one life.

This game only has one difficulty setting so there really is not much to keep you coming back once the game is completed.

Did I complete the game?

No, I barely got past the first level. I just couldn’t be bothered with getting to the end of level boss, dying and being sent back to beginning of the level.

What the critics said:

At present I have been unable to locate contemporary reviews for the NES version.

My verdict:

“Graphically, this game is good and the controls are simple and responsive. However, the game itself is very tough, and although it will certainly pose a challenge to gamers everywhere, the lack of lives sees you having to repeat the same monotonous levels over and over again. This game could have been so much more.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Robocop? 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.

Snow Bros. – Review

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

(Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

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

Did I complete the game?

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

What the critics said?

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

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

Rating:

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

Contra (Probotector & Gryzor) – Review

A picture containing man, holding, people

Description automatically generated

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Screenshot taken by the author)

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

Did I complete the game?

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

What the critics said:

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

Joystick: ”Overall 92%”.[3]

Awards:

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

My verdict:

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

Rating:

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


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

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

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

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

Saboteur – Review

I was born in 1983, and had an older brother and father who were interested in computer games. Although I vaguely remember some sort of computer system that we played Pong on, the first computer system that we owned that I really remember was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Games on cassette tapes, multi-coloured loading screens, and games frustratingly crashing often were my childhood memories. One game that holds a special place in my heart is Saboteur, as it was the first game that I completed. I remember playing it alot as a child. My dad even spent time creating a map showing every room and all the features. For this review, I revisited the ZX Spectrum 128 version.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Saboteur is a single-player stealth action-adventure game. It was developed by Clive Townsend and published by Durell Software in 1985 for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 16. Enhanced versions were released for the PC, iOS and Android in 2017, and the Nintendo Switch in 2018.

Beware of the Dog! (Screenshot taken by the author)

You play as a ninja who must infiltrate a warehouse to steal a floppy disk, which contains names of rebel leaders, before escaping in a helicopter. Along the way you may have to evade or engage in hand to hand combat with guards and guard dogs. You can also pick up and throw projectiles such as shurikens, knives and bricks. To add to the excitement, you’re given a time limit with which to complete the mission.

There are nine skill levels which increase the difficulty of the mission by including more guards, more locked security doors and giving the player less time to complete the mission. This feature adds to the overall replay value of the game.

Let’s start with the music. The music is only existant once the game has loaded, and you see the first option screen where you can opt to play with a joystick, keyboard or Kempton interface. You also have the option to redefine the command keys. The music that plays over this menu is actually pretty good. It reminds me of the sort of music melody that might be played over any number of 80s action movies. It tells the player that the game is serious and means business. Sadly, there is no in-game music.

Use your kung-fu skills to take out the guards (Screenshot taken by the author)

As far as SFX goes, the game is quiet. I don’t know whether the lack of in-game music and SFX was intentional or not, bearing in mind that this is supposed to be a stealth game. You can hear the boat as it arrives at the dock and your saboteur’s footsteps as he runs. There is a noise when you’re being fired at and when you attack a guard, but other than that the game is eerily silent. This silence, intentional or not, actually adds to the atmosphere of the game.

The graphics are smooth, and I like the way that there is a stark difference between rooms that are lit and rooms that are supposed to be in darkness. The sprites are clear and well defined, and there is virtually no colour bleed between sprites, and the backgrounds.

The game is easy to learn and control, and there are plenty of places to explore, even if you don’t necesarily need to visit them to complete the mission.

What the critics said:

Computer & Video Games: “Saboteur is an addictive, exciting and challenging game. A mixture of Exploding Fist and Impossible Mission. It’s a winner – watch it climb the charts! Overall 9.25/10.[1]

Sinclair User: “The game is very realistic, the graphics are outsnaindgly smooth and there is no colour clash or flicker to speak of. There are nin levels of play, ranging from extremely easy to extremely difficult. Overall 5/5“.[2]

Your Sinclair: “Saboteur manags to combine the good graphical representations of the other kung-fu games with a solid background of an action-packed story. One to be recommended. Overall 9/10”.[3]

Computer Gamer: “An exceptional game that takes the kung-fu game a stage further to perfection. Overall 4.75/5.[4]

My verdict:

“Modern gamers, don’t be fooled by the seemingly crude graphics and lack of music and SFX. This game is challenging and fun, and there is enough here to have you wanting to continue playing on harder difficulty settings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Saboteur? 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] ‘Software Review: Saboteur’. Computer & Video Games. (January 1986). :23. (http://live.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek/magazines/computer–video-games/51#22 Accessed 26th February 2020).

[2] Edgely, C., ‘Spectrum Software Scene: Saboteur’. Sinclair User. (January 1986). Issue 46:20. (http://live.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek/magazines/sinclair-user/46#20 Accessed 26th February 2020).

[3] ‘Review: Saboteur’. Your Sinclair. (January 1986). Issue 1:66-7. (https://archive.org/details/your-sinclair-01/page/n65/mode/2up Accessed 26th February 2020).

[4] ‘Reviews: Saboteur’. Computer Gamer. (December 1986). Issue 9:74. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gamer_Issue_09_1985-12_Argus_Press_GB/page/n73/mode/2up Accessed on 26th February 2020).