Golden Axe Warrior – Review

It is always a pleasant surprise when you find out that a game that evokes so many fond memories from your childhood has prequels and sequels. Sadly, some of these are often vastly inferior to the original and are clearly a quick cash in for game companies. However, some are rather interesting, especially when a different genre is attempted. I’d never heard of Golden Axe Warrior until I began playing Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe Warrior is single-player action-adventure role-playing game. It was developed and published by Sega and released for the Master System in 1991. It would later be released as part of the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Playstation 3.

A spin-off of the Golden Axe franchise, I was unable to find out where it fits into the series (if, in fact, it does). It is possible that it may simply be a reboot in a different genre.

Plot

In ancient times, a race of evil giants rose up and fought the Elders. At one point, it looked as though the giants would emerge victorious…but from imminent defeat emerged a hero carrying the Golden Axe bestowed upon him by Thor, God of Thunder. This unnamed hero put down the giant’s rebellion and peace ensued in the kingdoms of Firewood, Nendoria and Altorulia for many years.

As time passed, the war was nearly forgotten until the evil giant Death Adder eyed the kingdoms greedily. He first conquered Nendoria and Altorulia but could not invade Firewood as the kingdom was protected by nine magic crystals. One day, a greedy minister betrayed the King of Firewood, stole the crystals, and gave them to Death Adder, allowing him to finally invade and defeat the kingdom.

An unnamed young hero (you) soon sets out to recover the nine crystals, find the Golden Axe and defeat Death Adder. To do this, you must locate, and search nine labyrinths created by Death Adder and guarded by his armies of minions.

Gameplay

Starting out with a short sword and a shield, you must begin to explore the world one screen at a time. Each screen will spawn a differing array of monsters both in appearance and difficulty. Defeating these enemies will allow you to pick up horns, which you can use to buy items, health, and magic potions. Occasionally you’ll come across towns where the inhabitants offer tips on where to go next. Some even lead you to secret objects. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to acquire better weaponry and armour. You can also learn the Thunder, Earth, Fire and Water magics.

There are many shops dotted throughout the map where you can buy items. These include:

Magic Oil – Use when your armour gets rusty (flashes).

Golden Apple – Fills up your life gauge.

Magic feather – Whisks you away from danger and back to where you last saved your progress.

Small Key – Can be bought or found and used open locked doors in the labyrinths.

Other items to look out for include:

Yellow Horn – Worth 1 horn.

Blue horn – Worth 5 horns.

Bread – Increases your life guage a little.

Meat – Increases your life guage a lottle (like a little but a lot).

Heart – Adds an extra heart to your life gauge.

Magic potion – Will fill an empty magic pot (if your magic gauge is full, it will add another pot to it increasing your magic gauge).

Ice Bell – Allows you to see rocks that can be smashed open.

Torch – Allows you to light up dark rooms.

Magic Rope – Allows you to ascend and descend certain parts of the mountains.

Thief’s Key – Opens locked doors in labyrinths and can be used Infinitely.

Speed Shoes – Make you run faster.

Hourglass – Freezes all monsters on screen for a short time.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for sages where you can save your progress and inns where you can pay to stay the night and restore your health.

You will need to make your own map to record all the secrets you find (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Although the manual contains a map of the world, annoyingly, the map in your inventory is a blue-lined grid which tells you basically nothing about where you have been and where you yet need to explore. It stays black the entire time. However, this does allow a bit of old school mapmaking and note taking to do yourself…which I find fun!

Your sprite is easy to control but there is an element of finesse to the fighting. For example, when your enemies are throwing their weapons at you, you can manoeuvre yourself to block the attacks with your shield. You must also ensure you are not swinging your weapon at this time else you will take damage.

Graphics

First of all, I love the title screen. Definitely the sort of imagery that would have a younger version of myself chomping at the bit to go on a fantastical adventure.

The hud is unintrusive and allows you to keep track of the magic crystals you find, the number of horns you loot, your life and magic gauges, and the weapon/item you are wielding.

I think the in-game graphics are good for an 8-bit system, and better than any top-down RPG I’ve seen on the NES (prove me wrong gamers). However, I don’t think they compare to the quality of Phantasy Star’s (1987) introduction, or open world graphics where the towns and sprites are more detailed and colourful.

The labyrinths are where you’ll find the magic crystals (screenshot taken by the author)

Music & SFX

I quite like the intro music. It gets the blood pumping. The in-game music is good too. There is a relaxed, mellow air when you walk around the villages but when you’re out in the open it takes it up a gear with a melody that will get stuck in your head whilst you reach for your sword and prepare to charge at your enemies!

I don’t really think there is much to comment to discuss where the SFX are concerned. There is a semi-pleasing explosive noise when you kill an enemy, and a rewarding noise of some description when you pick up a goody, but these sounds are very forgettable.

Replay Value

As much as I enjoyed this game, I can’t say I would return to it as I don’t think there could be enough variation in the game to warrant a second run through.

Spoiler Alert

Keep an eye out for the cameos of Gilius Thunderhead, Ax Battler and Tyris Flare (in this game she is a princess).

Along the way, you’ll find faster modes of transport (screenshot taken by the author)

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “It’s no sequel to Golden Axe – instead Golden Axe Warrior is an unsurprising and uninteresting role playing game. Overall 40%.[1]

Sega Power: “An arcade adventure based on the Golden Axe characters. Akin to Golvellius, this is a flick-screen quest for amgic and monsters. Pretty, but too tame for true RPGers. Overall 2/5.[2]

My Verdict:

“I have a soft spot for this game and had a fun time playing it and creating my own map. I think it has been harshly judged by critics who unfairly compared it to Zelda: A Link to the Past, in which it can never match in graphics or music, and called it a poor clone. I still think this game is worth playing.”

Rating:

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


[1] ‘The Hard Line – Golden Axe Warrior’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:57.

[2] ‘Master System Review: Golden Axe Warrior’. Mean Machines. (April 1991). Issue 7:72-3.

Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time – Review

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

Plot

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

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

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

Gameplay

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

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

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

So What Is New About Tides Of Time?

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

Puzzle Glyphs – Join with others to help release their powers

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

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

Milestone Glyphs – Act like save states

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

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

How Does It Handle?

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

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

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

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

Graphics

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

Music

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

Replay Value

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

Did I Complete The Game?

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

What The Critics Thought:

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

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

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

My Verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] LaMancha, M., ‘ProReview – Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time’. (December 1994). GamePro. 75:86-7.

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

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

Ecco the Dolphin – Review

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes in video games. Muscle-bound barbarians, ace spaceship pilots, martial arts experts, and yes, even Italian plumbers, to name a few. In 1992, Sega took a chance on a new hero. This one couldn’t wield swords or axes, or pilot machinery, or cast magic spells. It didn’t know kung-fu and certainly didn’t grow larger having eaten mushrooms. No, this hero lived in the ocean but needed air to breathe. He was agile, could swim at great speeds and leap from the water to soar above he waves like an albatross. This hero was a dolphin!

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ecco the Dolphin is an action-adventure developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in 1992, with versions also being released on the Master System, Game Gear, and Sega CD. Versions were later released for the Wii Virtual Console (2006), Xbox Live Arcade (2007), as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS (2013), and Sega Genesis Mini (2019). For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.

Plot

Ecco is a dolphin. There is nothing particularly special about him other than the unique star pattern on his forehead. One day, whilst swimming with his pod, he leaps high into the air and at that exact moment, a vortex opens and sucks up his pod (as well as other ocean dwelling sealife). Ecco needs to find out what happened to his pod from creatures much older and wiser than himself. He embarks on a long journey into cold and unfamiliar waters, where strange and deadly creatures live.

Ecco can use his sonar to stun or to talk to other creatures (Screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

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

In each level, you must explore each area Ecco travels through looking for clues as to where your pod has gone. This includes rescuing other dolphins, speaking to killer whales, and swimming though mazes to find glyphs that give Ecco a sonar song that you can sing to other glyphs that are blocking your way.

Rather than have time limits for the levels, Sega offer us two energy bars. One is health and the other is oxygen. To replenish your health, simply dash and catch smaller fish. To replenish your oxygen bar, you need to find an area where you can breach the surface of the water or find where oxygen bubbles are rising from cracks in the seabed.

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

  • Press and hold ‘A’ until the sonar bounces back. This opens a map segment, again very handy for when you are lost in caves.
  • Communicate with other friendly sea creatures such as other dolphins and killer whales. These friends can offer advice and hints to you.
  • Move starfish circles that will eat rock and open previously blocked pathways for you.
  • Large glyphs are found dotted around the levels that offer tips or give Ecco a password so that when he comes across one that blocks his path, he can use his sonar to clear the way.
  • After the first few levels, Ecco gains the ability to use his sonar to stun enemy creatures.
Eating the smaller fish helps Ecco restore lost health (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

This becomes challenging when you are deep under sea in a labyrinth of caves. To recover health, Ecco must dash into the shoals of smaller fish to gobble them up. If you die, you simply go back to the beginning of the level. You have infinte lives in this game and believe me, you’ll need the am all!

The enemies include sharks, jellyfish, pufferfish, and crabs….those crabs can fucking do one! They come out of nowhere and make a ‘B’ line for you. I admit, I dropped the ‘C’ bomb several times during my playthrough due to those little wankers. Frustratingly, the enemies also respawn which pisses me off even more and makes the game even harder.

This game may look cutsie, but it is fucking hard! Rage quitting is standard for this game, especially when you are near the end of a level and those fucking crabs come out of nowhere and kill you. Thankfully, you receive a password after every level.

Another aspect of this game that is irksome about this game, is when you have to navigate through narrow caves and sometimes you need to manoeuvre through even narrower gaps past sharp coral. There are points where you cannot do this without injuring yourself, not matter how hard your try to avoid them.

Graphics

There are few that would disagree that the graphics of this game show the Mega Drive at its pomp. Bright and colourful, with incredibly detailed backgrounds and sprites. From the multi-coloured shoals of fish, to the array of seas sponges and plants on the sea bed, there is so much that draws the eye. An accurate and nice touch is where the deeper you go, the darker the background becomes, emphasising that light doesn’t penetrate that deep into the ocean.

Music

The music is very understated in this game, but it works so well. Some of the music is very relaxing and calming, which is surprising because for most part, you are not very relaxed at all. In fact, the game will give even the most seasoned gamers anxiety.

Personal Memories

I remember when a childhood friend of mine bought this game. We were stunned! Not only did the concept of controlling a dolphin seem unique (to us at least), but the attention to detail was at such a level that I think we firmly believed that gaming had reached its apex…how young and naïve we were.

Replay Value

The game only has one difficulty setting and so offer little in the way of replay value other than simply showing the awesomeness of the graphics to a friend.

Did I Complete The Game?

Nope, and I have never met anyone who has either.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines Sega: “A Megadrive classic without doubt, and a strong contender for best game ever! A unique underwater experience for those tired of unoriginal pop. Overall 97%.[1]

MegaTech: “Original concept combined with wonderful graphics and amazingly engrossing gameplay make this a classic. Overall 94%.[2]

My Verdict:

“This is by far, one of the most original and best-looking games the Mega Drive has to offer. Incredible graphics and atmospheric music offer a unique gaming experience. The difficulty of the game is the only this that lets it down.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ecco the Dolphin? 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] ‘Ecco the Dolphin – Review’. Mean Machines Sega. (December 1992). Issue 3:24-8.

[2] ‘Game Index – Ecco the Dolphin’. MegaTech. (October 1993). Issue 22:99.

ESWAT: City Under Siege – Review

Science-fiction movies have often toyed with the idea of a mechanised police officer battling huge crime syndicates in a dystopian future (1987s Robocop springs to mind). ESWAT: City Under Siege was one such game, with a storyline that felt like it came straight from a 1980s B-movie starring Jean Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

ESWAT: City Under Siege (Cyber Police ESWAT in Japan) is a side-scrolling action platform game developed and published by Sega. Based on the 1989 arcade game Cyber Police ESWAT, it was released in 1990 for the Mega Drive and Master System. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) found on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Plot

Global terrorist organisation E.Y.E is wreaking havoc throughout the world. To combat this terrorist threat, the governments of the world launch their ESWAT (Enhanced Special Weapons and Tactics) initiative. Selected from the bravest police officers and sharpest shooters, these law enforcement officers don state-of-the-art ICE combat suits with advanced armour and weaponry.

In the early missions, you are a plain clothes officer (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

There are eight missions for you to battle through:

  • Guard Silent City!!
  • Infiltrate Cyber Prison!!
  • Defend Neo Three-Mile!!
  • Attack Mad Scientist!!
  • Destroy Dark Base!!
  • Penetrate Secret Sewer!!
  • Destroy Tactical Complex!
  • Break E.Y.E’s Plan!

You begin the game at the rank of Captain and are a uniformed police officer. Once you complete the first mission you gain a promotion to Chief. The completion of the second mission sees you promoted again to ESWAT and this is when you gain the ESWAT suit. The suit begins with your plain shot weapon but allows you to pick up a further four weapons:

  • Super – Shoots three shots at once instead of one, and includes rapid fire ability.
  • R.L. (Rocket Launcher) – Fire two powerful rockets in quick succession before needing a bit of time to reload.
  • P.C. (Plasma Charge) – Fires smaller shots but can charge up to fire a huge devastating ball of plasma.
  • Fire – The most powerful weapon in your arsenal, this weapon can only be used when your jetpack fuel is in the red zone (full power). You can also only use it once.
Once you reach the ESWAT rank, you gain the stat-of-the-art armour (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

In the first two levels, you only move a one speed: walking. As you progress and gain the ESWAT suit, you can also use your rocket pack to help evade hazards and enemy fire. My only criticism of the player’s movement is that I feel that your character walks a little too slowly for my liking and cannot shoot diagonally, which is a tad annoying at times. I also felt that the you are too zoomed in (if that makes sense). You are quite clsoe to the edge of the screen as you walk to progress. I’d have liked to have seen it zoomed out a bit more so that you can see a bit more of what’s going on around you and aren’t in a constant state of nervous surprise.

Graphics

I’d like to rave about the graphics of this game. The sprites look incredible! The detail on your character’s uniform and the initial human enemies is top rate for 1990 (there is a nice little explosion once you kill the enemies too). They are bright and colourful, and they have even captured the shadows on your attire (between the legs for example). The levels themselves, are also incredibly detailed and there is plenty that to attracts the eye. They really did go all in for this game.

Music

The music sounds great too. Upbeat and funky, it’s the sort of in-game music that you’d listen to as opposed to muting the sound and putting on your own tunes.

Replay Value

This is a tough game, and certainly not for the faint-hearted. If you complete the game and are a glutton for punishment, you can increase the difficulty and number of lives you begin with. This increases the replay value of the game.

Did I Compete The Game?

No, I could not get past mission five.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines Sega: “ESWAT is s super-slick platform shoot ‘em up that simply oozes quality. The parallax scrolling backdrops and sprites are excellent, and the sound is great. Combine those with challenging and highly addictive gameplay and you’ve got a game that’s a must for your collection. Overall 92%.[1]

Sega Power: At first this Shinobi-style shooter isn’t too hot. Later on, though, it displays some of the moodiest scenes on the MD. Tried and trusted gameplay, plus a few shocks! Overall 4/5.[2]

My Verdict:

“Graphically, a superb example of the capabilities of the Sega Mega Drive with a knock out soundtrack to boot. This is a challenging game and you won’t simply finish it in one sitting.”

Rating:

What are your memories of ESWAT? 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 – Eswat’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138.

[2] ‘The Hard Line – E.S.W.A.T. City Under Siege’. Rage Magazine. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – Review

Puzzle games have always been popular. Humans clearly enjoy the mental challenge of solving a puzzle as well as the competitive challenge of solving it faster than a friend or opponent. One would presume that many puzzle games such as Tetris (1984), Columns (1989), Pipe Mania (1989) and Shanghai (1986) were cheap and easy to produce. Their popularity stems from the personal challenge as well as the fact that they are easy to learn but difficult to master. As the complexity of video games increased, how could game creators use the ideas from previous puzzle games and expand them for modern gamers of the 1990s? One answer was Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a falling block puzzle game and can be played in single or two-player mode. It was developed by Compile Co., Ltd. and published by Sega. It was released on the following platforms:

Mega Drive and Game Gear in 1993

Master System in 1994

Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube in 2002

Wii Virtual Console in 2006

Sega Mega Collection Plus for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009

Microsoft Windows in 2010

Nintendo 3DS in 2013

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

Plot

On the planet Mobius, Dr. Robotnik, Sonic the Hedgehog’s arch nemesis, has created a Mean Bean-Steaming Machine in order to turn the peaceful inhabitants of Beanville into evil robots. Once he has his army, he intends to ensure that music and fun disappear from Mobius forever…what a miserable bugger!

Gameplay

The game is similar to Tetris (1984) and Columns (1989), in that blocks, or in this case two coloured beans, fall from the top of the screen. As they slowly descend, you must decide where to place them before they reach the bottom. You can rotate them in order to place them vertically or horizontally, as well as changing which order the coloured beans are placed in.

When beans of the same colour are either on top, below or either side of another bean of the same colour, they form a link. When you link four or more beans together, they will disappear allowing earning you points and allowing beans that were above them to fall directly downward. The more beans you make disappear, the higher your score. The game ends when either you or your opponent’s dungeon is completely filled with beans.

To make this game more challenging, if you make more than one set of coloured beans disappear in a chain reaction, for example, then ‘refugee’ beans appear above your opponent’s screen. They will eventually fall and block your opponent from matching beans together. These ‘refugee’ beans can be made to disappear by matching four or more of that same-coloured beans whilst the ‘refugee’ beans are directly above, below or adjacent to the matching ones.

Ace graphics with vibrant colours (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The game is very easy to learn, and the controls are simple. A practice mode is available, but you really won’t need to bother with this unless you are a younger or more inexperienced gamer.

Graphics

The graphics won’t blow you away, but they don’t need to. They are perfect for what this game is. They are bright and colourful, and beans are easily distinguishable.

Music

The in-game music is very good. I particularly like the descending riff. I don’t know whether this riff was intentionally created to accentuate the fact that the beans are falling or whether this is a coincidence. Either way, I liked the music for this game.

Replay Value

Be warned, this game is not walk in the park! It is a tough game, and will take time and a multitude of continues to beat it. Luckily, the creators give you infinite continues and offer a password system so that you don’t need to keep going back to the beginning.

I’m not really a fan of these types of games but the more I played it, the more I enjoyed it. Its fun and really comes into its own in two-player mode.

Did I Complete The Game?

No, I couldn’t get past the 8th stage.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “…is as addictive and frustrating as the game it’s based on, the famous puzzler Tetris. The beans are a lot cuter and colourful than a bunch of bricks, and you also have to compete against the computer, which plays on a screen next to you; this makes the game even more difficult to complete. The graphics are bright and colourful, although not too adventurous, but it’s all good, obsessive fun. Overall 90%.[1]

GamePro: “Despite a lot of similarities to Tetris, Columns, and other classic puzzlers, this game is no has-bean. The offensive strategy makes it especially fun when playing against a friend. Games of this kind seem few and far between for the Genesis, so fans of this genre should find Mean bean Machine a match made in heaven. Overall 4.375/5.[2]

Mega: “Don’t let the seemingly innocuous exterior and simplistic appearance put you off. Mean Bean Machine is a devilishly addictive game which even haters of all stings Sonic-related will love.Overall 90%”.[3]

My Verdict:

“Bright, colourful with quirky music, this game is a lot of fun and particularly comes into its own in two-player mode. However, it is just too darn difficult in single player mode for the casual gamer. If you’re a fan of these sorts of puzzle games will love this game. If not, it is still worth a place in your collection.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine? 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] Tipping, A., Computer & Video Games. (January 1994). Issue 146:93.

[2] Andromeda, ‘Genesis ProReview – Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine’. (January 1994). Volume 6, Number 1:58.

[3] Dyer, A., Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Mega. (January 1994). :48-9.

Bonanza Brothers – Review

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?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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).

Plot

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.

Gameplay

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 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.

The graphics are a bit too basic when compared to its contemporaries (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

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.

So does the game hold up? Sadly no. 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.

Graphics

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. However, 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.

Music

I think the music is great! Its upbeat, funky a fun, and fits well with the game.

Replay Value

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.

Personal Memories

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. Sadly, I think this is a game not worth revisiting.

Although more enjoyable in two-player mode, the game is too easy and becomes repetitve very quickly (Screenshot taken by the author)

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%.[1]

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%.[2]

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.[3]

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.”

My Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Mega Drive Review – Bonanza Brothers’. (July 1991). Mean Machines. Issue 10:86-8.

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Bonanza Bros’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Bonanza Brothers’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six – Review

I love a superhero game. I imagine nearly everyone wishes they had some kind of superpower (although whether you’d use your powers for good or for evil I can only guess). Superhero games, although popular are, for the most part, disappointing. Why is it so hard to get superhero games right? Is it because they are difficult to translate into video games? Are they just a quick money grabbing scheme on an unsuspecting public? Are our expectations simply too high? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six is a single-player action-adventure game developed by Bits Studios. It was published by LJN for the NES in 1992, and Flying Edge for Master System and Game Gear in 1992 and 1993 respectively. For this review, I played the NES version.

Plot

The game is based off the story arc found in The Amazing Spider-Man #334-339. The plot sees Doctor Octopus attempting to take over the world with the Sinister Six (Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, Vulture, Hobgoblin and, of course, Doctor Octopus himself).

I think the graphics and animations are pretty darn good. Although when standing still, Spidey looks like he has developed a bit of a paunch (Screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

There are six levels which will see Spidey swing through. At the end of each level, you will face one of the Sinister Six:

Level 1: The Power Station

Level 2: Toxic Waste Dump

Level 3: The House of Illusion

Level 4: Streets and Rooftops

Level 5: The Forest & Hobgoblin’s Cave

Level 6: Doc Ock’s Castle

Throughout the levels, Spidey must swing and fight his way through a number of minions. There are two types of pick-ups available to you. Attack Web Fluid (which one can only assume is different from Swinging Web Fluid), and a special item which is different on every level. This item needs to be found for you to progress to the next level.

Spidey takes on The Sandman (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay is a let down. Firstly, the buttons have been mapped incorrectly. ‘A’ is punch and ‘B’ is jump. This may seem pedantic to some, but it makes the game feel “unnatural” and less intuitive. Spider-Man’s flying kick needs to be surprisingly accurate to cause damage. So many times you completely miss the enemy and fly straight past them.

Spidey is only able to shoot a web at his enemies when he picks up web packs…oddly, he seems to have an endless supply to swing around the levels. Whilst we’re on the subject of web-swinging, this is supposed to be a Spider-Man game, but you really don’t need to use your web-swinging or wall-climbing skills at all. Why Spidey can climb some walls and not others is anyone’s guess. At least the jumping is easy to control I guess.

For the most part, Spidey’s movements are very quick as one would expect, but he is quite slow when turning around. This frustrating, particularly when fighting The Sandman.

Interestingly, the enemies only inflict damage on you when they actively strike you. You can easily run and jump past them with no damage taken.

This game DOES win back points with me because the levels aren’t simply a case of running through, evading enemies and reaching the end. You actively need to find objects to help you progress in the level. For example, on Level 2, you need to find dynamite and a detonator in order to progress, adding a layer of complexity to the game.

Music

The music sucks! Nuff said!

Graphics

The graphics are pretty good. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the animation of Spidey is smooth, although oddly, when he stands still, it looks like he has bit of a paunch and not like the svelte superhero we are all used to.

Before each level, there is a very brief illustration letting you know which member of the Sinister Six you wil be facing next. The illustration looks good but I feel the cutscenes should have been a bit more in the comic-strip style with more than one slide, which in turn would give the story a bit more depth.

Replay Value

There is only one difficulty setting which limits its replay value.

I really didn’t spend that much time on this game, nor did I wish to. Where was the need for using your web to swing over large gaps or over pools of deadly lava or fire? Why couldn’t Spidey hang upside down on the ceiling to avoid enemies or crawl into small spaces? This game is not fun and I found it very disappointing.

Did I Complete The Game?

Nope, at present I’ve been unable to complete Level 3.

What The Critics Said:

Nintendo Power: “George: ‘The graphics are good and the villains are great, but play control is a little rough’; Rob: ‘You can release what looks like a perfect punch and end up releasing right past your enemy. That gets kind of frustrating, but otherwise it’s a fun game. Overall 2.925/5.[1]

Electronic Games: “The graphics are average for the NES, though the flicker is excessive in a few spots. The Spiderman figure is failry well animated and holds together during leaps, climbing, and somersaults. As in many 8bit cartridges, it isn’t always easy to tell three dimensional objects from non-interactive backgrounds. Overall 72%.[2]

My Verdict:

“Initially, I disliked this game outright. After revisiting it, it has gone up a little in my estimation. The game looks good, but is let down by the gameplay and the music. You really could take a character from another game and swap them for Spidey because his special skills of web-slinging and wall-climbing aren’t really needed for this game. It’s not a game you’ll be returning too. Unless you’re a Marvel fan, I’d not bother with this one.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six? 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] George & Rob., ‘Now Playing – Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six’. Nintendo Power. (October 1992). Issue 41:103 &105.

[2] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: NES – Spiderman: Return of the Sinister Six’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:61-2.

Golden Axe – Review

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?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

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:

Mega Drive/Genesis

Master System

Sega CD

IBM

PC

Amiga

Atari ST

Amstrad CPC

Commodore 64

Turbo Grafix-16

Wonder Swan

ZX Spectrum

For this review, I replayed the Mega Drive version from 1990.

You can choose to fight as either Ax Battler, Tyrius Flare ot Gilius Thunderhead (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

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.

My personal favourite is Gilius Thunderhead (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

To progress through the game, your heroes must battle their way through hordes of Death Adder’s ugly minions using only their swords and a bit of magic. 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.

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.

Some Bizzarians can come in very useful (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are slick and responsive, and the hit detection is spot on. The two main tactics you will use is to either to 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 (1988). Could it be that Golden Axe and Altered Beast (1988) are in the same universe?

Graphics

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 (1991). 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 (1988) and Shining in the Darkness (1991) are all set in the same universe?

Replay Value

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.

Personal Memories

I have a lot of memories with Golden Axe playing with my siblings. I always played as Gilius Thunderhead. 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 cComplete 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.[1]

Mean Machines: “A flawless conversion that even improves on the arcade game! Superb! Overall 91%.[2]

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%.[3]

Zero: “Everything about this game is good; graphics, sound and playability. One-player is brill; two-player is unbeatable. Overall 94%.[4]

Wizard: “Again, another first generation Sega game. Medieval action game. Overall C.[5]

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.[6]

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%. [7]

My Verdict:

“An excellent coin-op conversion. It looks great, plays great and the two-player mode will have you coming back again and again.”

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Review: Genesis – Golden Axe’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1990). Issue 8:22.

[2] ‘Mega Drive Review – Golden Axe’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:42-4.

[3] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Golden Axe’. Game Machine. (March 1990). Issue 28:30-1.

[4] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Golden Axe’. (April 1990) Issue 6:74.

[5] ‘Game Reviews – Golden Axe’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24.

[6] ‘The Hard Line – Golden Axe.’ Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.

[7] ‘Game Index – Golden Axe’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:76.

Streets of Rage – Review

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

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

Plot

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

Gameplay

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

Adam Hunter – an accomplished boxer

Axel Stone – a skilled martial artist

Blaze Fielding – a judo expert

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

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

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

How Does It Handle?

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

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

Graphics

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

Music

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

Replay Value

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

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

Did I Complete The Game?

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

What The Critics Said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Streets of Rage’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:54.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Altered Beast (Mega Drive) – Review

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

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

Plot

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

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

Gameplay

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

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

How Does It Handle?

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

Graphics

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

Music

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

Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe Link?

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

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes

What The Critics Said:

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

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

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

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

My Verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Altered Beast’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

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

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

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