Streets of Rage

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

Adam Hunter – an accomplished boxer

Axel Stone – a skilled martial artist

Blaze Fielding – a judo expert

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

The gameplay is fabulous. Each character has an impressive number of moves, with plenty of differentiation between the characters. Blaze is quick and can jump high and far but not as powerful as the other two. Adam is the slowest but is powerful and can jump high and far, and Axel, my personal favourite, is quicker than adam and just as powerful but doesn’t jump as high or as far. There are even a few moves with which you can use to double team the enemy. If things get too heavy, each character can use their special attack which involves calling for back-up in the form of a police car. A police offer, leaning out of the window proceeds to fire napalm or rain down fire upon the enemy in the form of a gatling gun rocket launcher hybrid.

Throughout the eight levels, there are also a number of weapons such as bottles, knives and baseball bats that you can pick up and use against the enemies.

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

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

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

The controls are tight, and each character has plenty of moves to prevent this from becoming a monotonous button mashing affair. The controls are nice and responsive and the hit detection is spot on. There is also an element of strategy when fighting some of the bosses so that you can work together in a team.

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

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

Did I complete the game?

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

What the critics said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My verdict:

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

Rating:


[1] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Streets of Rage’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:54. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 13th September 2020).

[2] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mean Machines. (September 1991). Issue 12:80-82. (https://retrocdn.net/images/f/f2/MeanMachines_UK_12.pdf Accessed 15th September 2020).

[3] ‘Bare Knuckle – Review’. Games-X. (22nd-28th August 1991). Issue 18:38. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/26/GamesX_UK_18.pdf Accessed 15th September 2020).

[4] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Computer and Video Games. (October 1991). Issue 119:54-6. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d0/CVG_UK_119.pdf Accessed 15th September 2020).

[5] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mega Tech. (February 1992). Issue 2:30. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/21/MegaTech_UK_02.pdf Accessed 15th September 2020).

[6] ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Sega Pro. (April 1992). Issue 6:29. (https://segaretro.org/index.php?title=File:SegaPro_UK_06.pdf&page=29 Accessed 15th September 2020).

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

Bomb Jack

Video games do not have to be complex to be enjoyable and challenging. If they did, early video games such as Space Invaders and Asteroid 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.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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). I reviewed the ZX Spectrum version.

Personally, I think the backgrounds look awesome (Screenshot taken by the author)

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; and ‘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.

Collecting the ‘P’ power block will temporarily turn the enemies into octagonal blocks(Screenshot taken by the author)

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 strangly 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%.[

My verdict:

“A simple but somewhat addictive game. Tight controls, easy to learn and fun to play. Beautiful backgrounds too, especially for a ZX Spectrum!”

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Reviews – Bomb Jack’. Crash. (April 1986). 27:20-1. (https://archive.org/details/Crash_No._27_1986-04_Newsfield_GB/page/n19/mode/2up Accessed 29th August 2020).

Hudson’s Adventure Island

As a married man with a full time job, I find that I have less and less time to devote to videogames. I love modern games like the Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed series and thoroughly enjoy playing and immersing myself into these worlds. Sadly, I don’t have 40 extra hours a week to devote to such in-depth games on a regular basis. It is for this reason that I have embraced the retrogaming world. Games that one can simply pick up, mess around with for 20 minutes and put down again very much have their place in the gaming world. Simpler games should not be sniffed at!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Hudson’s Adventure Island is a side-scrolling platform game adapted from the arcade game Wonder Boy. It was developed and published by Hudson Soft, released in Japan in 1986, North America in 1987, and Europe in 1992 under the title of Adventure Island Classic. Versions can be found on the NES, MSX, Game Boy, Gamate, Game Boy Advance, Game Cube and PlayStation 2. I reviewed the NES version.

You play as Master Higgins (Master Wigins in the UK and Takahashi Meijin in Japan), who has travelled to an island in the South Pacific to rescue Princess Leilani (sometimes known as Tina) from the Evil Witch Doctor. Along the way you need to eat fruit that appear out of the ether in order to keep your energy levels up. However, if you get touched by an enemy, you instantly die.

Whilst traversing through forests, mountains and caves, you will find eggs that contain bonus items to help you on your way. These items include:

Stone axes – Which can be used to throw at the enemies

Skateboard – Helps you travel faster

A flower – Double the points you get from collecting fruit

Milk – Fills up your energy bar

Honeygirl – Make syou invincible for a limited period of time

However, beware of the:

Eggplant – Takes energy away from you.

There are 32 stages in total spread out over 8 worlds. These are further divided up with checkpoints. Once the fourth stage of an area is completed, you must fight and defeat an end of level boss.

It’s easy to look at these videogames nowadays and compare them to modern games, where they will always be found wanting. It is very unfair to do so. So let us compare it to a game that is still revered and remember fondly today: Super Mario Bros (1985). Intially, I don’t think the background graphics are any better or worse than Super Mario Bros, but I do think it’s the sprite design and colours that separate the two here. From what I have seen so far from Adventure Island, the enemy sprites have little to no animation, a stark contrast to Super Mario Bros. Also, unlike Super Mario Bros., Adventure Island’s music is very forgettable.

So what of gameplay? Adventure’s Island’s controls are very slip/slidey (seemingly even more so than in similar games), meaning lots of sliding off the edges of platforms and it takes a while to get used to. It is also very unforgiving. You only have three lives, with little chance of gaining more and no continues.

Did I complete the game?

No, at present, I can only get to the third level of world one.

What the critics said:

At present, I cannot find any comptemorary reviews.

My verdict:

“I just didn’t enjoy playing this game and had little desire to put too much time and energy into it. The graphics are good and it is diverting if you have a spare 15 minutes on your hands, but it just lacks charm and for me, the game just feels cheap.”

Rating:

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

Tekken 3

Normally, fighting games aren’t for me. I have neither the patience nor desire to learn all the moves and master them so that I can spend hours on a single play at the arcades, defeating all opponents who dare to approach the arcade machine. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. The Street Fighter, Tekken and Soul Blade franchises have always managed to gain my attention. Tekken 3 is now 23 years old. The question is, does it still hold up?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Tekken 3 is a fighting game, and the third instalment in the Tekken franchise. It was developed and published by Namco and was released in the arcade in 1997 before being ported to the PlayStation in 1998. The arcade version was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005, and re-released on PlayStation Classic Mini in 2018. Although I have previously owned Tekken 3 on the PlayStation, I reviewed the PlayStation Classic Mini version.

15 years after Tekken 2, Heihachi Mishima has established a paramilitary defence force, known as Tekken Force, to protect his company. Upon searching an ancient temple, they unwittingly release an ancient demon known as Ogre. Ogre proceeds to travel the world killing martial artists. In order to lure Ogre into a trap, Heihachi organises a third Iron Fist tournament.

The game contains 21 characters (11 of which need to be unlocked by completing the game with different characters). Each character has their own unique back stories, endings and fighting styles.  There were two characters only available on PlayStation: Dr. Boskonovitch and Gon.

The returning characters were:

Anna Williams – Younger sister of Nina Williams, she wa placed in suspended animation after the second Iron Fist Tournament. Before the third tournament she was reanimated. She follows Nina into the third tournament in a bid to help her regain her memory and to stop her from becoming an assassin again.

Heihachi Mishima – Head of Mishima Zaibatsu and grandfather of Jin Kazama, he arranges the third Iron Fist Tournament to lure Ogre into the open.

Lei Wulong – A respected detective, Lei has entered the tournament to investigate the disappearance of the martial artists masters.

Nina Williams – After failing to assassinate Kazuya Mishima in the last tournament, Nina was forced to become a test subject for cryogenic experiments. She has been reawakened by Ogre’s powers and plans to assassinate Jin Kazama.

Paul Phoenix – Frustrated by letting victory in the previous tournament slip from his grasp, he has renewed his training. He is determined not to let vistory escape him this time.

Yoshimitsu – Leader of the Manji Clan, Yoshimitsu and his clan act as a modern day Robin Hood. Upon learning his friend Dr. Bosconovitch needs Ogre’s blood to survive, he has entered the tournament to help the man who once saved him.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

New Characters:

Bryan Fury – A cyborg kickboxer who plans to kidnap Dr. Bosconovitch for his creator Dr. Abel.

Dr. Bosconovitch – Elderly genius scientist and friend of Yoshimitsu’s. Currently imprisoned by the Mishima Zaibatsu.

Eddy Gordo – Eddy seeks to avenge his father who was killed by the “Organsiation”, and were also responsible for him being thrown in jail. By winning the Iron Fist Tournament, he hopes to take over the Mishima Financial Empire and use their resources against the “Organisation”.

Forest Law – Son of Marshal Law, he was persuaded to enter the Iron Fist Tournament by Paul Phoenix where he can prove himself to his father.

Gon – An unlockable fighting dinosaur.

Gun Jack – Third in the series of the Jack robots. He has been sent into the tournament to retrieve the memory data of Jack 2.

Hwoarang – Hwoarang has two motives for entering the Iron Fist Tournament. The first is to defeat Ogre who killed his mentor, Baek. The second, is to defeat Jin, who he had previously lost to in a fight.

Jin Kazama – Jin is Jun Kazama’s son. He was trained by his grandfather, Heihachi, and seeks to defeat Ogre in order to avenge the death of his mother.

Julia Chang – Adopted daughter of Michelle Chang. She has entered the tournament to rescue he mother who has been kidnapped by Mishima Zaibatsu.

King II – A protege of the original King, who was killed by Ogre, King II wishes to become a professional wrestler and take over his mentor’s orphanage.

Kuma II – Son of the original Kuma, he is Heihachi’s loyal bodyguard.

Ling Xiaoyu – Ling is a huge fan of amusement parks. She wishes to win the Iron Fist Tournament to raise enough money to build an amusement park in China.

Mokujin – A 2000 year old training dummy who has been brought to life by Ogre’s release.

Panda – Xiaoyu’s pet and bodyguard.

Tiger Jackson – A disco man with an afro. Basically, a palette swap of Eddy Gordo.

Ogre – The God of Fighting, he is a mysterious humanoid who is immortal.

True Ogre – Ogre’s true self.

Fight! Fight! Fight! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ok, let’s not beat around the bush. This game is awesome! There really is no disputing that statement. I remember when this game came out. I was blown away by the graphics. Although nowadays, it looks a little rough around the edges, I still think it looks great and, graphically, has held up.

The basics of the game are easy to learn. Advance, retreat, left punch, right punch, left kick, right kick, jump etc. However, this is a 3D game, so you are able to side step into the back and foreground. If you’re close enough to the opponent and perform a throw, your chareacter will perform different throws depending on which way your opponent is facing. During the fights, you are able to access the move manual which shows you how to perform a large array of moves, which is handy for beginners.

As well as the standard Arcade/Story Mode and Two Player Vs. Mode, there are several other modes which really add to the replay value of this game:

Team Battle Mode – Each team chooses four players in a winner stays on fight. The first defeat all characters in the other team wins.

Survival Mode – Choose a character to fight with and see how many fights you can win consecutively. You gain back a little bit of energy after each fight, but not much. You cannot change the difficulty setting, time limit or number of rounds. There is no option for Player 2 to join.

Time Attack Mode – Compete against the clock to complete all stages. Again, you cannot change the difficulty setting, time limit or number of rounds. You cannot change characters when continuing and Player 2 cannot join.

Apologies for the blurry shot (Screenshot taken by the author)

Tekken Force Mode – This beat ‘em up style mode sees you fight your way through several levels battling the Tekken Force. Although it was a nice idea, this mode falls a bit flat in practice. It’s a poor man’s side-scrolling beat ‘em up.

Practice Mode – Pretty self-explanatory.

Tekken Ball Mode – This is great fun. It’s beach volleyball, but using fighting moves to hit the ball. The stronger your attack, the more power the ball absorbs until it finally hits someone, dealing them a devastating blow, or until it hits the floor.

No bikinis in this game of Tekken Ball (Screenshot taken by the author)

Theatre Mode – This mode allows you to re-watch all the FMV sequences that you have unlocked in the game.

You’ll have hours and even weeks of enjoyment out of this one. I’ll say it, this game is amazeballs! My favourite character to play with is Hwoarang. Some of his kick combinations are phenomenal, and I throroughly enjoy kicking my little brother’s butt with him.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I unlocked all videos, modes and characters

What the critics said:

Allgame: “It’s loads of fun with quick and deep gameplay that’ll keep you, your friends, and most of the gamers in this genre busy for weeks and months on end. Overall 4.5/5“.[1]

Computer and Video Games: “Fantastic! Own the arcade at home, plus a whole bunch of new features and characters. Overall 5/5.[2]

Edge Magazine: “Edge’s only – slight – reservation is that those who have played Tekken 2 to the point of exhausting all enthusiasm for the game may not find this new version initially appealing. Those prodigal sons should persevere, as even a short sequence of bouts will bring the reward of instant addiction. Make no mistake, the master has returned. Overall 9/10.[3]

Entertainment Weekly: “Building on its predecessors (both all-time PlayStation best-sellers), the latest version has crisper graphics and speedier martial-arts animation. Watch the characters sidestep, punch, and kick in their beautifully detailed costumes, and you’ll think you’re performing in a ballet choreographed by Jackie Chan. Overall A.[4]

Game Informer: “Tekken 3 is just plain awesome. Tekken 2 is still one of my favorite(sic) fighters, but 3 just puts it to shame. There are so many unique fighters like Lei, King, Gordo, and Hwoarang that can be played by anyone; but only a select few will be able to master their fighting styles. It is a shame though that the 1-player Arcade mode can still be beaten on Easy set at one round, but the Force Mode does make for some very interesting and entertaining 1-player fighting. Of course, 2-player mode is where Tekken 3 is at. Spend a night unlocking the characters and a lifetime battling it out with your friends. If you only buy one fighting game this year, make it Tekken 3. Overall 9.5/10.[5]

GamePro: “There’s no arguing that other games will try to topple Tekken 3, but that’s a tall order to fill. Trust us-Tekken 3 is the best fighting game ever. Overall 5/5. [6]

Game Revolution: All in all, Tekken 3 ranks as one of the best console fighting games ever…If you have a PlayStation, and you love fighting games, the decision to buy this game is a no-brainer. If you’re still dropping quarters in the arcade version, forget it, just get the home version. With everything that the arcade version has and more, this is one of the few times that a console game outshines its arcade counterpart. Overall 4.5/5.[7]

GameSpot: “Not much stands between Tekken 3 and a perfect 10 score. If the PlayStation exclusive characters were better and Force mode a bit more enthralling, it could have come closer to a perfect score. Needless to say, Tekken 3 is the best PlayStation game to come along in a long time, and this one won’t be topped anytime soon. Overall 9.9/10.[8]

IGN: “Tekken 3 on the PlayStation is the most well-rounded fighting package on the market. Not only does it provide an excellent fighting game, but the extra modes and practice features make it the benchmark for fighters to come. The only gripe that we’d have with it is that Namco’s set the bar so high that we shudder with anticipation and dread over what the designers’ll have to do to top this.  Overall 9.3/10.[9]

Next Generation: “There is no better fighting game, on this system or any other. It’s clearly superior to the previous games in the series and a stunning value for Tekken aficionados. Overall 4.5/5.[10]

Awards:

Best Fighting Game1998 Best of E3 Game Critics Awards[11]

Fighting Game of the Year – 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards[12]

Best Fighting Game of the Year – Video Games Awards[13]

My verdict:

“Great graphics (with the exception of a few shaky parts) and great gameplay, full of unique characters and storylines. There is plenty here to keep you coming back for more time and time again. The game has aged very well and still feels fresh.”

Rating:


[1] Sackenheim, S., ‘Allgame – Tekken 3 Review’. Internet Wayback Machine. https://web.archive.org/web/20141114121007/http://www.allgame.com/game.php?id=9362&tab=review Accessed on 14th August 2020).

[2] ‘Tekken 3 Review’. Computer and Video Games. Issue 202:48-55. (https://archive.org/stream/Computer_and_Video_Games_Issue_202_1998-09_EMAP_Images_GB#page/n47/mode/2up Accessed on 14th August 2020).

[3] (April 23, 1998) ‘Edge – Tekken3 Review’. Internet Wayback Machine. https://web.archive.org/web/20120509212114/http://www.edge-online.com/reviews/tekken-3-review Accessed on 14th August 2020).

[4] Walk, G. E., (June 19, 1998). ’The X-Files Game; Tekken 3; Gran Turismo; Mulan Animated Storybook’. Entertainment Weekly.  https://ew.com/article/1998/06/19/x-files-gametekken-3gran-turismomulan-animated-storybook/ Accessed 14th August 2020).

[5] (May 1998). ‘Game Informer – Tekken Care of business’. Internet Wayback Machine. (https://web.archive.org/web/19990911170224/http://www.gameinformer.com/cgi-bin/review.cgi?sys=psx&path=may98&doc=tek3 Accessed on 14th August 2020).

[6] Scary Larry. (November 24, 2000). GamePro – Tekken 3 Review Internet Wayback Machine. (https://web.archive.org/web/20090107235810/http://www.gamepro.com/article/reviews/207/tekken-3/ Accessed 14th August 2020).

[7] Ferris., C., (June 4th 2004). ‘Tekken 3 Review’. Gamerevolution. (https://www.gamerevolution.com/review/34070-tekken-3-review Accessed 14th August 2020).

[8] Gerstmann, J., (March 30, 1998). ‘Tekken 3 Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/tekken-3-review/1900-2549648/ Accessed on 14th August 2020).

[9] (24th Aug 1998). ‘Tekken 3’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/1998/08/24/tekken-3 Accessed 14th August 2020).

[10] ‘Tekken 3 Review’. Next Generation. (June 1998). Issue 42:138-140. (https://archive.org/details/NextGeneration42Jun1998/page/n141/mode/2up Accessed 14th August 2020).

[11] ‘1998 Winners’. Game Critic Awards. (http://www.gamecriticsawards.com/1998winners.html Accessed 14th August 2020).

[12] ‘1998 Gamer’s Choice Awards’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1999). Issue 117:112. (https://retrocdn.net/images/4/4d/EGM_US_117.pdf Accessed 14th August 2020).

[13] ‘Video Games Awards’. Game Informer. (February 1999). Issue 70: 25. (https://archive.org/details/Game_Informer_Issue_070_February_1999/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed 14th August 2020).

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

There is something inherently violent about humans, there really is no way to ignore it. Archaeological evidence of mass graves where the occupants show signs of sharp and blunt force trauma, and historical records of battles throughout history attest to this. This may be why gamers are drawn towards to violent games. Although, it is not so much the killing but the hero fantasy that we seek. We are never going to take on an entire castle of baddies using only our guile, sharpshooting and hand to hand combat skills in real life (thankfully). So we immerse ourselves in artifical worlds. Some may think there is something wrong with that. I say, what’s wrong with a little hero fantasy every now and them?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter, and a reboot of Wolfenstein 3D (1992). It was developed by Gray Matter Interactive (Nerve Software developed the multiplayer) and published by Activision. It was released for the Microsoft Windows in 2001, Linux and Macintosh in 2002, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003, and Steam in 2007. I reviewed the Microsoft Windows version.

It’s 1943 and World War II has been raging for four years. The Nazis have uncovered an ancient demon named Henrich who has been trapped deep underground in magical prison for 1000 years. They’re also developing a super soldier capable of destroying the allies and winning the war. You play as US Army Ranger William Blazkowitz who is charged with investigating the Nazis’ SS Paranormal Division and stopping their evil plans.

Even after 80 years, games about World War II are still popular (Screenshot taken by the author)

The missions consist of assassinations, data retrieval and sabotage. Some of the missions rely on stealth and your mission is over if you are spotted, which adds an extra layer of difficulty and breaks up the action nicely. It’s quite a long game, with some of the missions being quite lengthy for the time. There are plenty of authentic World War II weapons to choose from as well as fictional weapons such as the Tesla gun. Along the way, you will find ammo, armour and health packs to restore you weapons and health.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour (Screenshot taken by the author)

The story, although fantastical, is engaging. The graphics and sound effects are good for the time, but the AI, as with lots of gmes of this era, still needs work. Enemies vary in strength and difficulty, these include standard German soldiers, experimental soldiers and the undead.

There is not much replay value here but the multiplayer addition was critically acclaimed.

Did I complete the game?

I am adamant that I completed this game when I first played it after its release. However, this time around, I couldn’t get defeat the final boss.

What the critics said:

Computer Gaming World: “If all you want to do is blast your way through countless Nazis and zombies, then this game is probably for you. But if you want a deep, engaging storyline with surprising twists and turns, this probably isn’t for your cup o’ tea. Overall 3.5/5.[1]

Eurogamer: “Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot ’em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element. Overall 8/10. [2]

Game Revolution: “But in all, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not what it could have been. As a story it’s utterly bizarre, as a sequel it’s sub-par, but as a stand-alone game it’s very good. The simple truth is that regardless of the detractions, killing Nazis will always be fun…always. There are few times that you can play a game and feel you made the world a better place. Wolfenstein 3D was one of those times. If the world isn’t any better after playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein, at least it might brighten your day. Overall 3.5/5.[3]

Gamespot: “In a weird inversion of the typical shooter model, Return to Castle Wolfenstein features an amazing multiplayer component coupled with a good if somewhat underwhelming single-player game. Then again, fans of id Software’s previous 3D shooters should be familiar with this model. But honestly, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is well worth buying for the multiplayer game alone, so the fact that you get a solid single-player game in the box can only be considered a bonus. Overall 9.2/10.[4]

IGN: “The single player campaign is certainly decent and will hold people’s interest long enough to get them accustomed to the various weapons in time to jump into multiplayer. It’s not quite the revolutionary trip back to Castle Wolfenstein that people may have been hoping for, but that’s no reason to discount it, as it is nothing less than a solid and satisfying experience. But it’s no doubt that the real value in the title falls on the multiplayer which is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite a while. It all adds up to a really fun game that fans of the genre will love to get a piece of. Overall 9/10.[5]

My verdict:

Defeating the Nazi’s always feels fun and for the most part so is this game. I like the story, I like the graphics and I like the variety of missions. Unless you play multiplayer, there isn’t much replay value, but the game is long enough to certainly justify the purchase.

Rating:

What are your memories of Return to Castle Wolfenstein? 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] Price, T., ‘Reviews – Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. Computer Gaming World. (March 2002). Issue 212:74-5. (https://archive.org/stream/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_212#page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 3rd August 2020).

[2] Bramwell, T., (25th July 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, Eurogamer.net. (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_rtcw Accessed 4th August 2020).

[3] Radakovic, N., (1st July 2001) ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. GameRevolution.com.  (https://www.gamerevolution.com/review/32806-return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review Accessed 4th August 2020).

[4] Wolpaw, E., (27th Nov 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review/1900-2827475/ Accessed 4th August 2020).

[5] Adams, D., (1st December 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. IGN.com (https://www.ign.com/articles/2001/12/01/return-to-castle-wolfenstein Accessed 4th August 2020).

Altered Beast

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?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 you 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.

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 athe colour palette change) to some of the Bizzarians in Golden Axe. Does this mean that Altered Beast is also set in the same universe as Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe?

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

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

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

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

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

My verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Altered Beast’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 28th July 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Software Showdown – Altered Beast – Mega Drive.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 28th July 2020).

[3] ‘Review – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. Issue 19:17.  (https://archive.org/details/the-games-machine-19/page/n15/mode/2up Accessed 28th July 2020).

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

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

“It belongs in a museum!”

I was introduced to the Indiana Jones movies by my older brother. I soon became a huge fan as a consequence. Controversially, I don’t think the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a bad a movie as most think. For the record, these films had nothing to do with me going into archaeology as a profession. Time Team holds that honour.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a point and click adventure game developed and published by Lucas Arts. It was released in 1992 for the Amiga, FM Towns, MS-DOS and Macintosh. In 2009, a version was also released on the Wii. The version I reviewed was purhcased from Steam.

“We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot.” (Screenshot taken by the author)

It’s 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. After a Nazi agent tricks Indy into opening an artefact before running off with its contents, Indy finds himself in a race to find Atlantis before the Nazis do. Whilst dodging Nazi henchmen, Indy must solve a plethora of puzzles and learn the secrets of Atlantis. Indy is accompanied on his adventure with colleague Sophia Hapgood, a former archaeologist turned psychic.

“What is Shankara?”, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game plays in a similar way to the early Monkey Island series. You have several commands at the bottom left part of the screen (“talk to”, “pick up” etc.) and need to use your cursor to highlight a command before clicking on the object or person you wish to interact with. Your inventory is located in the bottom right of the screen. When talking to a person, dialogue will appear at the bottom for you to select. Asking the right questions will help you progress in the game.

Originally, there was no voice acting. This was added to the enhanced version released in 1993. Alas, Harrison Ford didn’t reprise his role as Indy, which, for me, shatters the illusion of the game. The theme music is an 8-bit version of the film’s main theme which, let’s face it, would have been ridiculous if Lucas Arts couldn’t get the rights to a movie theme produced by Lucas Film.

“Half the German army’s on our tail, and you want me to go to Berlin?” (Screenshot taken by the author)

One thing I will say about Lucas Arts is that they know how to make a game look great. The graphics and animation are fantastic! The characters and backgrounds are very detailed and beautifully illustrated and animated.

Although this game was critically acclaimed, I just didn’t enjoy it but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Some of the puzzles were frustrating and convoluted, and I question whether an Indiana Jones game works in this format. Surely, an action-adventure game would work better!? After all, the beauty of Indiana Jones films is not necessarily the intellectual intricacies of archaeology, but more the action of swinging with your whip, fighting a foe who is twice as large as you, and beating him, and running from falling boulders or indigenous tribes.

There are three “storylines” giving the game good replay value, but I struggled to maintain my interest in one storyline let alone try the other two. There are also two alternative bad endings. I have been reliably informed by chums who have played the game that it is best to allow Sophia to join you on your quest, so i will no doubt return to this game in the future.

Did I complete the game?

No, I’ve yet to complete this one.

What the critics said:

Dragon: “We can’t speak highly enough of this offering, and we ask Lucas Arts to consider future Indiana Jones game releases to please gamers of all ages. Overall 5/5”.[1]

PC Review: “Fate of Atlantis is simply brilliant. I can honestly say I haven’t really enjoyed playing an adventure game as much since Indiana Jones and the Crusade. Overall 9/10”.[2]

Electronic Games: “The graphics here are spectacular, studded with the sort of period effects expected from the Indy films. Overall 97%”.[3]

Mega Zone: “Overall, this is one of the best adventure games I’ve seen in a long time (and I’ve seen a few). The combination of excellent graphics, great game play and the multiple plots (sheer genius) makes for great value for money. Overall 94%”.[4]

Awards:

Best Adventure – Mega Zone Game of the Year Awards ‘92[5]

My Verdict:

“This game is beautiful! The detail and animation of the sprites and backgrounds are first rate. The game play is simple but can get tiresome when trying to find the exact command needed to progress. I have to confess that I just didn’t enjoy this game all that much. I found myself becoming easily bored with it. For me, Indiana Jones is an action-adventure, not a slow-paced point and click.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? 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] ‘Reviews – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Dragon. (May 1993). 193:60-1. (https://www.annarchive.com/files/Drmg193.pdf  Accessed on 22nd July 2020).

[2] Presley, P., ‘PC Review – Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis’. PC Review. (September 1992). 11:40-4. https://archive.org/details/PC_Review_Issue_11_1992-09_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n43/mode/2up Accessed on 23rd July 2020).

[3] Video Game Gallery: SNES – Indiana jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Electronic Games. (October 1992). Volume 1 Issue 1:823. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-10/Electronic%20Games%201992-10#page/n81/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[4] ‘Review: – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Megazone. (October/November 1992). Issue :46-7. (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/55/Megazone_AU_24.pdf Accessed 23rd February 2020).

[5] ‘Game of the Year Awards 1992 – Indiana jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Mega Zone. Issue 25:20. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

Age of Mythology and The Titans Expansion

Ancient mythology has always fascinated me. It is the religion of the ancients before monotheism took hold. Although ancient mythology is not quite given the respect it deserves by modern theists, our world would certainly be poorer without it. Tales of heroes, gods and demi-gods have been the subject of legends and epic sagas for thousands of years, and more recently, movies and TV series.

Title Screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Age of Mythology is a real-time strategy game, and a spin off of the Age of Empires series. Developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Games, it was released in 2002 for the PC. An extended edition was released on Steam in 2014 but I reviewed was the original version.

The civilisations are based on Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythology. You follow the story of Atlantean hero Arkantos who is hunting a cyclops. This cyclops is in league with Poseidon, whose plan it is to release the Titans and bring the rule of Zeus, Odin and Ra to an end. To stop the Titans from being freed, Arkantos and his army must travel from Atlantis through Greece, Scandinavia and Egypt to find and re-seal doors to Tartarus.

The gameplay is more or less the same as Age of Empires series. You must collect resources to build a base and an army in order to wipe out the opposition. However, there are a few features that distinguish this from the Age of Empires series. Firstly, you are able to train and use mythological creatures, but in order to do so, you must gain favour from the Gods (favour replaces stone in this game). Each civilisation gains favour in different ways (Greek – send villagers to worship at the temples, Norse – gain favour in battle and Egypt – gains favour by building statues). Secondly, when advancing to the next age (the four ages are: Archaic, Classical, Heroic and Mythical) you must choose which God to follow into the next age. Different Gods offer different units and abilities. You will also gain unique God powers to add to your arsenal. Some will aid in attacking the enemy, others will add to your resources gathering abilities. A great new feature is that whilst building your army, you can now produce up to five units at a time, meaning that five units will be released from the barracks instead of one which rememdies a gripe that I have had with the Age of Empires series. Interestingly, there is also a slight difference in how you gather resources and build with the Norse civilisation. Not only will you have a portable storage caravan, but the Ulfsarks, who are an infantry unit, can also build. Your villagers will gather resources as normal, but you can also produce dwarves who are better at mining gold.

The new 3D engine looks great! (Screenshot taken by the author)

The effectiveness of units is based on the rock-paper-scissors model: Infantry are good against cavalry, cavalry are good against archers, and archers are good against infantry. Mythological units are great against normal units but are vulnerable to heroes. Heroes are few and far between in the Greek and Egyptian civilisations, but any Hersir units can be upraded to hero status provided you have enough resources.

Throughout every map stage, there are hidden relics which are valuable to collect. Your hero can carry them to your temple where they will assist you in either supplying a trickle of a particular resource, making certain improvments cheaper, or regenerating certain units when they die.

The graphics have moved into the 3D realm and are stunning by 2002-3 standards. The music is memorable and fitting to the atmosphere of the game. Ensemble Studios have a habit of creating great music for their AOE series and AOM is no exception.

You must choose which God to worship. Each God will offer different units and abilities (Screenshot taken by the author)

There is plenty of replay value in multiplayer mode and changeable difficulty settings. I have played through this game multiple times over the years, and even spent hours on Random Map mode. You will quickly learn which civilisations and Gods you prefer to play with and use. In 2016, another expansion pack, Tale of the Dragon was released but I have yet to play this expansion.

Did I complete the game?

I have played through and completed these games many times, and I enjoy them so much, I’m sure I’ll play through many times in the future.

What the critics said about Age of Mythology:

Gamespot: “Of course, what’s most important is that Age of Mythology plays remarkably well. Featuring lots of interesting, inventive design decisions, plenty of fun-to-use units, and tons of variety, Age of Mythology is the last real-time strategy game you’ll need for a long time. It’s a necessary addition to any real-time strategy fan’s collection, and the game is accessible enough so that even those without much experience with the genre should be able to pick up and enjoy the game without getting overwhelmed. Novices and die-hard RTS players alike will all note the remarkable amount of care and quality that clearly went into every aspect of Age of Mythology–the sorts of things that have already established Ensemble Studios as one of the leading developers of real-time strategy games and that now reinforce the company’s position as a leader and innovator in one of PC gaming’s most competitive and most popular genres.Overall 9.2/10”.[1]

IGN: “I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s particularly gratifying that, in a year with so few RTS games (and fewer good ones), Ensemble has favored (sic) us with such a fantastic complete package. It’s a real ornament for the genre and a benchmark that won’t soon be surpassed. After thousands of words of explanation, the short take is this: if you love the RTS genre, you have to own this game. I won’t take any excuses. Overall 9.3/10.[2]

My verdict:

“What can I say? This game looks great, plays great, sounds great, and keeps the player thoroughly interested with the clear distinctions between civilisations and Gods. This game is an absolute  banger and I can’t sing its praises enough.“

Rating:

In 2003, an expansion pack, The Titans, was released. Adding more Gods and units, the story follows Kastor, son of Arkantos, who is tricked into attacking his allies and helping release the Titans.

Title screen

AOM: The Titans adds a fourth civilisation, the Atlanteans, to the mix. Although similar to Greek, there are some differences including the ability to turn most human units into heroes. They do not require drop off points for resources as each villager is accompanied by a donkey.

There is also the new addition of Titan powers to use. Gaia, Kronos and Oranos are the main Titans and with each age advancement you must choose which minor Titan to follow, again, each offer different units and technologies.

A new Atlantean civilisation has been added (Screenshot taken by the author)

On some of the missions, and in Random Map mode, you will be able to release a Titan to cause the destruction of your enemies. They are slow moving but incredibly powerful. They can be killed but you need a huge army with lots of mythical and hero units or a Titan of your own. Once the Titan is dead you cannot create another.

Release a Titan to smite your enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the expansion pack?

I have completed AoM: The Titans many times and will no doubt return again in the future.

What the critics said about Age of Mythology: The Titans:

IGN: “Sure, I’d still like to have seen a completely new civilization based on an entirely different set of myths, but The Titans serves as a nice coda to the previous game, which I’m not sure would’ve been possible if the series had branched out a bit more. In the end, the balance and personality are what keep me coming back for more. Overall 8.9.[3]

Gamespy: “While I was in the game, I was having too much fun to give serious consideration to what are essentially minor quibbles. The bottom line is this: Age of Mythology: The Titans is a great add-on that gives AoM fans plenty of new toys to play with that are not only fun in their own right, but make the game they’re attached to much, much better. Overall 4.5/5.[4]

My verdict:

“What a fantastic expansion…a great new story and a new civilisation to learn about and use. The introduction of the Titans as a physical entity that you can use a great addition too.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Age of Mythology and The Titans expansion? 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] Kasavin, G., (November 1, 2002). ‘Age of Mythology Review’. Gamepsot.com. https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/age-of-mythology-review/1900-2896451/ Accessed on 14th July 2020.

[2] Butts, S., (November 4, 2002). ‘Age of Mythology Review’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2002/11/04/age-of-mythology-review Accessed on 14th July 2020).

[3] Butts, S., (September 30, 2003). ‘Age of Mythology: The Titans Review. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2003/09/30/age-of-mythology-the-titans-review Accessed on 14th July 2020).

[4] Rausch, A., (October 9, 2003). ‘Reviews – Age of Mythology: The Titans.’ Gamespy.com. http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-mythology-the-titans/498508p1.html Accessed on 14th July 2020).

Double Dragon

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

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.

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:

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