Revisiting retro video games can be perilous. Over the years, our gaming prowess increases (or decreases for some of us), our tastes change and many games simply don’t age well. This week, I revisited Bonanza Bros., a game that I thought was lots of fun in the early 1990s…after almost 30 years, does the game still hold up?
Bonanza Bros. is a 2D shooter platform game created in a 3D style. It was developed and published by Sega for the Arcade in 1990 (U.S. Gold published the game for home computer systems). In 1991, it was released on the Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amiga, Master System, TurboGrafix-CD, Mega Drive, Sharp X68000 and ZX spectrum. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).
In the game, you are hired by the Police of Badville to test the security of buildings around the town where some very valuable objects are housed. These include a mansion, yacht, bank and a casino. To steal the objects, you must use your stealth skills and your wits to evade the security stationed to protect the valuables. Once you have all the valuables, you must reach the roof so that you can be whisked away in a hot air balloon.
Bonanza Bros. can be played in both one and two-player modes. The characters consist of Robo (red) and Mobo (blue). In the European version, they are named Mike and Spike. The two-player mode is co-operative, with the screen split horizontally, allowing both players to explore each level individually.
The game contains three difficulty settings and allows you to increase or decrease the number of lives you are assigned. This adds a lot of replay value to a game that is pretty short and easy to complete for any gamer with half a brain cell. There is also a time limit of three minutes for each level.
The controls are very simple. You can walk, jump and shoot your gun…that’s it. To make the game a little more interesting, you can move back and forth by one square from the foreground to the background. This enables you to hide behind walls and objects, as well as dodging shots from the guards. When you shoot the guards, they do not die, they are simply stunned for a few seconds. The guards are alerted to your presence when you either walk into their field of vision or if you make a noise near them, such as kicking a soda can. Some guards are armed with riot shields, protecting them from your gunshots. If you are hit by a bullet or if the guards are close enough to hit you with their truncheon, then you lose a life. Running out of time also causes you to lose a life and you must restart the level.
I first played Bonanza Bros. back in the early 1990s when my older brother either borrowed it from a friend or rented it from the local Blockbusters. At the time, I thought it was one of the best games I’d ever played (bearing in mind I was only about nine years old), and was really looking forward to revisiting the game.
So does the game hold up? Sadly no.
What are the pros?
I think the music is great! Its upbeat, funky a fun, and fits well with the game. I also think it is a game best played in two-player mode, perfect for a parent and child or for an older sibling playing with a younger one.
Some nice little touches to the game come in the form of being able to splat a guard against the wall when you open a door, and a fly buzzing around and landing on you if you stay still for too long.
Now the cons:
The game is very easy, even for less experienced gamers, and the gameplay is so simple that it becomes boring very quickly. Frustratingly, you cannot duck which becomes frustrating particularly in the later levels. Also, for a game that is supposed to be designed around stealth, there is little finesse to it. There are very little consequences to alerting the guards to your presence as all you need to do is stun them and run off screen and they seem to forget you were even there.
The graphics, although quite cute, are below standard, even for 1991. When compared to contemporary games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Quackshot (1991), the graphics were found wanting.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but I don’t think I will be revisiting it very often.
What the critics said:
Mean Machines:“Fans of the coin-op will love this – but others might find the action a little too repetitive. If in doubt, check it out. Overall 82%”.
Mean Machines Sega: “Like Alien Storm, this is another superb conversion which is let down by the fact that it is just too easy. The two-player action is fun, but at the end of the day what you need is a challenge, and unless you’re a games novice, this simply fails to deliver. Overall 73%”.
Sega Power: “The graphics are faithfully reproduced, the split- screen two-player mode is included and the gameplay, if a bit repetitive, is all there. Overall 4/5”.
My Verdict: “This game is not without its charm. Its cute, and quite fun in two-player mode. However, the graphics are below standard when compared to its contemporaries, and the gameplay becomes too repetitive too quickly. Definitely one for younger gamers.”
What are your memories of Bonanza 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.
Video games set in fantasy lands have always been popular. There is something enthralling about controlling musclebound and bronzed barbarians, big-breasted Amazonian women and axe-wielding dwarves who can not only hack their way through masses of monsters but also use fantastical magic when the situation warrants it. I mean, who doesn’t want to play a video game like that?
Golden Axe is a side-scrolling arcade hack ‘n’ slash developed and published by Sega, and released for the arcade in 1989. Over the next few years, it was later ported to the following:
For this review, I replayed the Mega Drive version from 1990.
Set in the high-fantasy land of Yuria, the evil Death Adder has risen to power. His soldiers are responsible for the massacre of thousands of peaceful villagers. Soon, he kidnaps the King of Yuria and his daughter and steals the Golden Axe. Thankfully, three warriors emerge who are capable of saving the kingdom:
Ax Battler – a mighty barbarian from the far plains. He seeks to avenge the death of his mother. He is brave and strong, and wields volcanic magic.
Tyrius Flare – an Amazonian from deep within the jungles whose mother and father were killed by Death Adder. She has skill with the sword and possesses immense magical power that can rain down fire upon her enemies.
Gilius Thunderhead – a dwarf who wields a mighty axe and uses his speed and cunning to defeat his enemies. He seeks to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Death Adder. His magic ability sees bolts of lightning strike from the heavens.
Together, they have sworn to purge Yuria of the pestilence that is Death Adder’s army and rescue the king and princess.
To progress through the game, your heroes must battle through hordes of Death Adder’s ugly minions. Along the way, you will come across elves whom you can attack for magic and food. If things become too desperate, all three can use their individual magical powers to destroy their enemies. Gilius is limited to three bars, Ax to four bars and Tyrius to six bars. Tyrius magic is the more powerful of the three.
The controls are slick and responsive, and the hit detection is spot on. The two main tactics you will use is to either hack and slash your way through or charge at your enemies from a distance and either kick, shoulder barge or headbutt them. So, it’s not just a case of button mashing. You need to change your strategy depending on the enemy you’re facing. Occasionally, you may capture a Bizzarian. These weird creatures consist of one weird pink creature with a beak that uses its tail to swipe at your enemies, or dragons who breathe fire (blue = flame, pink = fireball). Interestingly, the tail swiping Bizzarian looks similar to the one’s seen in Altered Beast. Could it be that Golden Axe and Altered Beast are in the same universe?
The graphics look fantastic, expecially the backgrounds which are very detailed. The sprites look great and are animated well. Interestingly, Gilius Thunderhead seems to appear as a shopkeeper in Shining in the Darkness. Even one of his sacks in the store contains a face of one of the elves from Golden Axe. Again, does this mean that Golden Axe, Altered Beast and Shining in the Darkness are all set in the same universe?
Naturally, the game can be played in one- or two-player mode. There are three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard, and you can adjust the number of life bars you begin from three to five. You also begin with three lives and three continues. Watch out though, in two-player mode as you can damage your co-op buddy.
Arcade mode sees you play through all the stages whereas Beginner mode only takes you to level three where you fight Death Adder Jr. Duel mode sees you fight in 12 consecutive battles against increasingly harder opponents.
I have a lot of memories with Golden Axe playing with my siblings. Again, it is a game that has given me many hours of fun, and I have returned to it year after year, even though I can easily complete the game. When I play in two-player mode, I don’t necessarily think it is about the challenge, but more trying to recapture an adventure with my younger brother.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years on easy. Strangely, I don’t think I have ever played this game on the Normal or Hard settings. I must remedy that.
What the critics said:
Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The screen graphics are perfect, with exceptional detail in in both the characters and background. The game is almost exactly like the arcade, with endless fighting filling each round. Axe moves slow, but has all the hack and slash action you could ask for. Overall 29/40”.
Mean Machines:“A flawless conversion that even improves on the arcade game! Superb! Overall 91%”.
Game Machine:“The character sprites are all big and bold, with more than a rainbowful of colours. The pounding soundtrack only adds to the involving and inviting atmosphere of the game. Fast action, superb attention to detail in the fight sequences and some breathtaking magical spells makes Golden Axe a must for all arcade action fans. Overall 92%”.
Zero: “Everything about this game is good; graphics, sound and playability. One-player is brill; two-player is unbeatable. Overall 94%”.
Wizard: “Again, another first generation Sega game. Medieval action game. Overall C”.
Sega Power: “Hack-‘n’-slash with all the frills of the classic coin-op. Two-player mode isn’t as smooth as expected and for one it’s easy to finish. Still, hugely playable and addictive! Overall 4/5”.
MegaTech:“Golden Axe is a pixel-perfect replica of the arcade machine, containing identical graphics, sound and gameplay. This is one of the best arcade conversions ever seen, and a game with no Megadrive owner should be without. Overall 94%“. 
“An excellent coin-op conversion. It looks great, plays great and the two-player mode will have you coming back again and again.”
What are your memories of Golden Axe? 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.
Video games do not have to be complex to be enjoyable and challenging. If they did, early video games such as Space Invaders (1978) and Asteroid (1979) would never have gained popularity. I feel it is important for modern gamers to go back and play early retro games to help them appreciate just how far video games have developed in such a short space of time.
Bomb Jack is a platform game developed and published by Tehkan. It was released in the arcade in 1984, and later ported to SG100 (1985), Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 16 (1986), Atari ST and Amiga (1988), Game Boy (1992), Java ME (2003) and Atari XL (2008). For this review, I chose to play the ZX Spectrum version.
You play as Bomb Jack. The object of the game is to collect bombs that have been laid on each level, all the while dodging an array of monsters. Collecting the bombs also increases your score. If you collect the special power block with a ‘P’ on it, the enemies will temporarily turn into octagonal blocks with smiley faces on them. Collect these to rid yourself of these enemies and to gain extra points. Other power blocks include:
‘B’ – increases score multiplier by 5x
‘E’ – extra life
‘S’ – awards a free game (I think this was only present in the arcade version).
There are five different screens. Once you have completed the five screens, you simply go around again and again until all your lives are lost. You must try to gain the highest score possible to reach the top of the scoreboard.
The sprite is easy to control. You simply move left or right and jump. To make things a little easier, Bomb Jack can float after jumping, reducing his falling speed.
The backgrounds to the levels are gorgeous! Although the sprites, power-ups and enemies are plain black, it is all you need for this sort of game. There is no need for over the top sprite design or animation.
The game is challenging and strangely addictive, and although the replay value is limited, it’s the sort of game that nowdays keeps people glued to their smart phones on public transport.
Did I complete this game?
I don’t think this is the sort of game you complete. You simply keep going, trying to get the highest score possible.
What the critics said:
Crash: “A great arcade conversion, don’t miss it! Overall 92%”.
“A simple but somewhat addictive game. Tight controls, easy to learn and fun to play. Beautiful backgrounds too, especially for a ZX Spectrum!”
What are your memories of Bomb Jack? 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.
Multiplayer arcade games used to be goldmines in the arcades. There’s not much better as a teenager than spending your pocket money battling alongside your friends in a bid to rescue (insert person’s name here). Many of these games were ported to home consoles meaning you could do battle without leaving the comfort of your own home. However, not all converted coin-op games were successful. How did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game fair?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (TMNT II on the NES) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, developed and released by Konami for the Arcade in 1989. It was ported to the NES in 1990 with some additional levels and enemies that were different from the arcade version. In 1991, it was released for the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, PC and Commodore 64. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.
Tempted by a large bounty placed on the heads of the Turtles by arch-nemesis Shredder, two intergalactic bounty hunters kidnap April O’Neil and use her as bait to lure the Turtles out into the open. To rescue April, The Turtles give chase and must fight their way through 10 hazardous levels, where endless numbers of enemies and several boss battles stand in their way in order to reach Shredder.
Straight away, it is clear to see how much the graphics have been improved when compared to the first TMNT NES game. The levels and characters look great! They are colourful and vibrant, and the sprites are very well animated. The intro, although short, gets you straight into the action and contains the authentic TMNT theme. The game is faster, slicker, and the upbeat music really gets your blood pumping.
You start with three lives but can gain more with every 200 enemies you defeat. You can also regain health by eating pizza slices.
I do, however, have a few gripes with this game. Firstly, these are supposed to be “ninja” Turtles, yet they have maybe three different moves: a flying kick, and two different ways to swing their weapons. WTF? There are no throws, there are no kick or punch combinations, and you cannot pick up extra weapons to throw at the enemies. Earlier games such as Double Dragonhad more of a move set to prevent the fighting from becoming monotonous.
Secondly, Donatello is supposed to have a bo, a long wooden stick. Yet, his reach is pitiful. You have to get close to the enemies, within their striking range, to attack. If you don’t wish the game to be too easy, simply slow down his attack or make his bo attacks weaker. These points made the game very frustrating and dull for me.
Disappointingly, the NES version could only cope with a one- and two-player mode, so it loses the four-player mode which is what made the arcade version an awesome fighting experience.
Did I complete the game?
No, nowhere near.
What the critics said:
GamePro: “The heavy-duty faithful-to-the-arcade style game play (and it’s a long game!) are real crowd pleasers, and the radioactive mutants are as personable as ever. The new scenes blended in with the original arcade scenes are a great addition. The music could have been better but, hey, you can’t have everything.Overall 4.6/5”.
“This game looks fantastic! With the music, it looks and sounds just like a Turtle game should be! However, the gameplay is dull. These guys are supposed to be ninjas. Where are all their moves? The game becomes very boring, very quickly, even in two-player mode. I think this is a game for the younger gamer. It is overrated and only hardcore Turtles fans should bother with this game.”
What are your memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game? 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.
Altered Beast was one of the first 16-bit games I played as child and I have idealised memories of how good the game was. The question is…how will I feel revisiting it after 25 years?
Altered Beast is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up with some platform gaming elements. It was developed and published by Sega, and released in the arcade in 1988. It was later ported to the Master System, PC, NES, Atari ST, Mega Drive, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Amiga and MS-DOS. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox and PlayStation. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.
“Rise from your grave!” commands Zeus, as you emerge from your tomb. You play as a Roman Centurion who is resurrected by Zeus (I know Zeus was a Greek God and the Roman equivalent was Jupiter, but let’s overlook the mythological inconsistencies). Your mission is to rescue Zeus’ daughter, Athena, (Minerva for the Romans) from the evil Demon God known as Neff who has taken her to the Underworld.
You must punch and kick your way through graveyards and caverns to reach the Underworld, all the while fighting numerous undead minions and monsters. In order to meet and defeat the end of level bosses, you need to collect three orbs which increase your strength and eventually morph you into anthropomorphised animals such as wolves, bears, tigers and dragons, each with unique abilities.
The game is tougher and more frustrating than I remember. The screen scrolls slowly from left to right automatically, meaning you have no choice but to advance. The controls are sluggish and your punching and kicking range is so small that you need to get very close to the enemies. They are quicker than you and so can kick your arse pretty easily. Modern critics argue that the game doesn’t hold up to today and I have to agree.
The graphics are clearly, early 16-bit. The sprites and backgrounds would be cleaner and more detailed if this game was released a few years later. Having said that, I still think the games looks good. The creepy gothic organ music during the cutscenes is pretty cool too.
In a previous review, Shining in the Darkness, I discussed the possible links that suggest Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe were in the same universe, due to the presence of Gilius Thunderhead, the green dwarf. During this review, I noticed that the Chicken Stingers, are identical (except for the colour palette change) to some of the Bizzarians in Golden Axe. Does this mean that Altered Beast is also set in the same universe as Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe?
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Mean Machines Sega:“Altered Beast is a spot-on conversion of the coin-op. The trouble is, the game wasn’t exactly a smash-hit – it’s a very simply beat ‘em up with only five levels. The gameplay is very samey, and it doesn’t take long to get all the way through the game. Overall 67%.”
Sega Pro: “For its day, it was amazing – speech, smooth scrolling and lots of playability. However, its finest hour has truly passed. Overall 74%”.
The Games Machine: “Altered Beast turns out very close indeed to its arcade origins, complete with two-player mode. The main characters and enemy sprites look ever so slightly washed out, but the detail is all there, and background graphics are spot on. Overall 87%.“
Sega Power:“However much you enjoy the coin-op, give this one a miss. Poor scrolling, jerky animation and limited gameplay. Overall 2/5”.
“Does Altered Beast deserve the accolade of being a classic title? There are many video games that acheive the accolade as a ‘classic’ but not all of them are worthy of title. Having revisited Altered Beast, I can say that the concept was great, but the execution was lacking. The game is too short, the controls too sluggish and frustrating, and the graphics should have been better. I think this game is better remembered than played.”
What are your memories of Altered Beast? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Review: Mega Drive – Altered Beast’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.
 ‘Sega Software Showdown – Altered Beast – Mega Drive.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19.
 ‘Review – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. Issue 19:17.
 Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Altered Beast’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52.
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 older brother. It has gone down in history as a classic game and I was certainly looking forward to revisiting it again.
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!).
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 you 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.
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!”.
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%”.
Best Graphics – Electronic Gaming Monthly “1989 Player’s Choice Awards”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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. Without the cheat 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.
“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.”
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.
“They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team. (We’re really hip!) They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green. (Hey, get a grip!) When the evil Shredder attacks, These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!”
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto our TV screens in 1987. I had very mixed feelings towards them. On the one hand, ninjas were cool to most boys when I was a kid. On the otherhand, it coincided with the end of my favourite cartoon series Transformers. Over the next few years their star rose culminating in a trio of mediocre live action films in 1990, 1991, and 1993. With such a high evel of popularity, it was only a matter of time before video games featuring Turtle Power would appear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Konami in 1989 for the NES (Ultra Games published it for the North American and European markets in 1989 and 1990 respectively). It was later released on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, and Playchoice 10. For this review, I played the NES version.
The story follows the main objective of the animated series. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo must retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder in order to return Splinter to his human form.
There is a basic intro which shows the Turtles mutating from their smaller selves, before showing the range of moves they can perform. It music over the intro is quite good as it seems to signify the tough attitude of the Turtles. Sadly, the intro is pretty dull when compared to the likes of Batman and Castlevania III.
There are three aspects to the game: A side-scrolling platform part, a swimming part, and top down adventure style part.
You begin in the overworld adventure mode, on the streets of the city. There is some catchy music playing whilst you investigate your surroundings. For some reason the energy meter at the bottom flickers, and I’m unsure if that was intentional, to draw your attention to it, or simply an error on the creator’s part. If at anytime you are unsure what to do, you can select the information area where either Splinter or April will explain your task. You can also see a map of the area, and the energy levels of each Turtle. If you need to, you can select which Turtle to use at any time.
When you enter buildings and sewers, you begin the platform part of the game. Which involves battling through enemies from left to right, and interestingly, right to left. Each Turtle is equipped with their respective weapon of either a katana, sai, bow and nunchuks. Along the way they can also pick up weapons such as shurikens with which to throw at the baddies. To gain health, keep an eye out for slices of pizza.
During all levels you can change between Turtles at any time. Each Turtle is distinguishable by their coloured bands and weapons just like the animated series. I tended to favour Donatello because of his long reach and power with the bo.
The gameplay itself is simple. Walk, jump, swing your weapons in various directions, and throw projectiles. Annoyingly, the movement can get a bit choppy and jerky when there are too many enemies on screen.
Occasionally you get a cut scene using a mix of in-game sprites and nicer drawn character close-ups. I feel they could have done better with these cut scenes, they feel lazy and uninspiring.
In overworld areas, the graphics are clean and colourful. However, some of sprites during the platform section are poorly illustrated and it’s difficult to identify what they are. Some enemies are clearly defined, but others look a bit hazy, and stick out like a sore thumb. The NES is clearly capable of so much more. You only have to look at Duck Tales (1989) and Batman (1989) to see how naff the platform level sprites are, including the Turtles themselves.
The swimming level is notoriously tough. You need to find and disarm bombs that have been planted to destroy the dam. Although they can breathe underwater (not accurate for turtles but we won’t hold that against the creators), for Turtles, they don’t seem to be able to swim very well, and are hard to control. Often you must swim through tight gaps where “electric seaweed” damages you if you touch it. You also need to evade electric beams and disarm all the bombs before the time runs out.
The music, though fitting for the game, lacks the recognisable traits of the animated series. The only time you hear anything resembling the original theme at certain times like when you rescue April or finish the swimming level. This is stark contrast to games like Duck Tales (1989) where the recognisable theme is present throughout.
The game is notoriously challenging. There are lots of baddies to kill but completing missions with all Turtles and health intact is nigh impossible. If you re-enter buildings and sewers, the levels are reset meaning you have to fight all the baddies again, but this is handy when needing to find pizza to gain health.
Did I complete the game?
No, I just about got past the swimming level.
What the critics said:
Computer & Video Games:“The graphics are great, a bit on the blocky side at times but with lots of colour and some nice additions such as the opening sequence which shows the turtles being transformed into their mutant alter-egos. The game itself is very tough…the high level of difficulty isn’t at all frustrating, in fact it only adds to the overall brilliance of the product. Overall 89%”
Electronic Gaming Monthly: Donn – “TMNT wasn’t overly impressive – I thought it would have been much better considering all the hype that t achieved. The game play is there and the graphics are nice, but the whole cart didn’t meet my expectations. It is good, but I was expecting more. Overall 5.75/10”.
Nintendo Power: “The sound effects and the music in the tunnels and buildings are excellent…Great graphics and excellent character control in Action Scenes make this an exceptional game…cool storyboard graphics. Overall 4.125/5”.
The Games Machine: “The game kicks off to a great start with an oriental tune and some impressive portraits of the turtles. Though, sadly, some of the in-game graphics are a bit iffy and there is the odd screen glitch. Initial playability is high, all the turtle sprites are well drawn and animated and the bad guys present quite a challenge. Overall 86%”.
Gamepro: “The absence of a multi-player option detracts from the whole concept of Turtle togetherness, the overall action is average, and it’s nearly impossible to finish with only two continues. Also, although the Turtles look cool, the Foot Clanners’ graphics are a little weak. Turtles Overall 3.8/5”.
Raze: “The difficulty factory is set just right; frustrating but nothing to put your Nintendo in physical danger. The graphics are impressive for the NES, with superb use of vivid colours and impressive animation. Overall 87%”.
Mean Machines: “Bodacious stuff! Definitely worth shelling out for! Overall 90%”.
Best Theme, Fun 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989
Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That Was Released) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1989
“TMNT is as tough as I remember. Graphically, the platform levels should have been much better. The gameplay would be great if it wasn’t so choppy, and it was disappointing that the original theme tune didn’t feature more. However, It was still a fond trip down memory lane, and I will certainly pick it up the controller up again at some point to try and beat the game in the future.”
What are your memories of TMNT? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 Rand, P., ‘Mean Machines: Nintendo – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’. Computer and Video Games. (June 1990). Issue 104:98-9.
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 that would crash frustratingly often and multi-coloured loading screens were my childhood memories of this system. 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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“.
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”.
Computer Gamer: “An exceptional game that takes the kung-fu game a stage further to perfection. Overall 4.75/5”.
“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.”
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.
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 with people lining up to spend their pocket money for a few minutes of intense action.
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. For this review, I revisited 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).
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 himself.
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, and 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 and the ultimate boss that must be defeated to ensure victory.
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).
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.
How Does It Handle?
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 rainy afternoons and late 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 on or off, and increasing or decreasing the speed of the game.
The fights take place all over the world with beautifully illustrated and animated backdrops. The characters are highly detailed and are easily recognisable.
Music & SFX
The music is memorable, with each fighter having their own distinct tune. Some, annoyingly, get stuck in your head. Many of the phrases from the fighters such as hadouken, yoga flame and tiger uppercut have be one part of our everyday lexicon.
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“.
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“.
Nintendo Power:“This game is a must have for all Super NES players who like action and competition. Overall 4/5“.
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%“.
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%“.
Super NES Buyer’s Guide: “Spectacular graphics, great animations and realistic sounds make this a great game to get! Overall 9.3/10“.
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“.
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%”.
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%“.
Best Game of the Year (All Games Systems) & (SNES) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992
Best Video Game Ending (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992
Joint winner of Best Video Game Babe (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992
Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992
Best Trick That Didn’t Work (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992
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.
“Memorable 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.”
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.