Ristar – Review

By 1995, 16-bit gaming was in its descendancy. The PlayStation and Sega Saturn had been released, demonstrating the future potential for video gaming to the world. The 32-bit era had arrived!!! Technology had finally reached a stage where 3D polygonal graphics were actually beginning to look good, and gamers were demanding longer more complex challenges. However, there were still a few gem 16-bit games in the wings, waiting to make their appearance.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Ristar is a single-player platform game developed and published by Sega and released on the Mega Drive for 1995. You can also find this game on various Sega compilations on systems such as the PlayStation 3 and 4. For this review, played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

In a far-off galaxy, a band of space pirates led by their tyrannical leader Greedy is brainwashing the leaders of a nearby solar system and forcing them to do his bidding. On the planet Flora, Ristar, son of a captured space hero has pledged to travel from planet to planet to rescue his father and free all the brainwashed leaders which will in turn loosen Greedy’s power.

Superb graphics! (screenshot taken by the author)

There are seven worlds for you to save from Greedy:
 
Planet Flora
Planet Undertow
Planet Scorch
Planet Sonata
Planet Freon
Planet Automation
Greedy’s Space City

Ristar’s unique way of attacking any foe he encounters is by extending his arms to grab them and bring them towards him in what can only be described as a headbutt. Since his hands can be made to extend in all directions, this can make for some incredibly acrobatic gameplay.

There are times in the game where you will come across a Star Handle. By grabbing this, Ristar proceeds to swing like a gymnast. By pressing a direction button you can pick up speed until tiny stars start to appear. This indicates that Ristar is now a shooting star and when he lets go of the bar, will fly at great speed and will be able to reach very high places as well as kill any enemy he comes into contact with. You will find Star Handles at the end of each level where the higher you exit the screen the more points your earn.

There are also hidden Star Handles that allow you access to bonus stages. Each bonus stage has a treasure that you must find within a time limit. I’m unsure if collecting all these treasures makes a difference to the ending of the game.

Along the way you will find power-ups to help you on your journey:

Little Star – Yellow and black gives you an extra life, and black and white helps you through traps.
Restore Star – The gold star adds one more hit to your Gold Star count and a silver star resets your Gold Star count to four hit points.
Yellow Jewel – Collect these to gain points.

Ristar is an incredibly acrobatic sprite (screenshot taken by the author)

This game is fun and very enjoyable to play. Oddly there is no run button, so Ristar will always run at the same speed (unless using the Star Handle, of course). The controls are easy to learn but that doesn’t detract from the gameplay as there are plenty of enemies and handholds to grab thorughout the levels allowing Ristar to show off his agility. The controls are tight and the physics of the game are easy to get used to. However, one annoying aspect to the gameplay is that when you kill and enemy, Ristar backflips. You have no control over this and it leaves him vulnerable if another enemy is nearby.

For the most part the game is easy enough, although, I found the boss at the end of Planet Freon difficult to get past and it took me several attempts to defeat it.

Unlike many platformers which keep to the same formula of simply running and jumping through the levels, there is a puzzle aspect to Planet Sonata. You must find metronomes and take them to weird singing bird creatures that block your way.

There is little argument about it. This is one of the most beautiful Mega Drive games you will see. The levels are incredibly detailed and colourful with multi-layered parallax scrolling, and the sprites look superb. on occasion when Ristar is sliding on ice, or jumping from springs, he rotates which allows the Mega Drive to show of its graphics capability.

During the swimming levels when Ristar swims deeper, the screen becomes darker as it would in the real world adding a touch of realism to the game. Although, it would make sense to keep a circle around him which is brighter since he is a star and he emanates light. Ristar swims very well and doesn’t need to breath underwater either…which is a relief to platformer fans everywhere no doubt.

When Ristar has been standing still for too long, he begins to amuse himself in different ways depending on the planet you are on. For example, on Planet Freon, he will begin to make a snowman.

I can understand how this game has been criticised for being a Sonic the Hedgehog clone. The animations that appear at the beginning of every level telling you the stage are almost identical to what you would see in Sonic. The music, whilst being upbeat and enjoyable to listen to also reminds me of the Sonic franchise. This doesn’t bother me though as good music is good music.

Did I complete the game?

Not yet, I couldn’t get past Planet Automation.

What the critics said:
Computer & Video Games: “At first glance it just doesn’t have any original features, which is the real lifeblood of a decent jumpy game like Ristar. However, despite the absence of any real gaming inspiration so far as the format goes, Risatr is actually a pretty darned playable title. Overall 83%.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “An excellent new character, Ristar requires more technique than the typical run-and jump action titles. The stages are very colourful, with good graphics and control. The sounds could be a bit pumped up. Overall 38/50.[2]

Next Generation: “Ristar borrows heavily from Sega’s other budding mascot, Dynamite Headdy, but it still contains enough original gameplay, solid action, and fun to escape the ‘copy-cat’ labl and be one of 1995’s more promising games. Overall 3/5.[3]

Games World: “Beautiful and enjoyable platform adventure in true Sega style. No attempt is made to hide the fact that Ristar takes most of its influence and style – no all of its influence and style from the Sonic games. The idea for his telescopic arms has been lifted from Dynamite Headdy, (although he didn’t use his arms mush of course). Very playable but maybe a little easy to finish. Overall 83%.[4]

Mean Machines Sega: “Likeable, if not exactly lovable, and pretty interpretation of the old platform chestnut. Now does anyone have some new ideas? Overall 84%.[5]

Sega Magazine: “A highly polished platform game. Not up there with Headdy or Earthworm Jim, but Ristar has its own charms. Worth giving a try. Overall 87%”.[6]

Sega Power: “Far too close to Sonic to be judged on its own merits. It’s not as good as Sonic either – which doesn’t help. Overall 74%.[7]

Sega Pro: “A promising debut by RIstar, this guy will go far. Good stuff, but a touch more originality would have made it even better. Overall 90%.[8]

My Verdict:

“I really enjoyed playing this game. It looks gorgeous, is fun to play, and has a good soundtrack. It shows how incredible 16-bit games can look.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ristar? 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] ‘CVG Review – Ristar’. Computer & Video Games. (February 1995). Issue 159:66-7.

[2] ‘Review Crew – Ristar’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (February 1995). :36. 

[3] ‘Rating Genesis – Ristar’. Next Generation. (March 1995). Issue 3:101.

[4] Reviews – Ristar‘. Games World. (March 1995). Issue 9:12.

[5] ‘Mega Drive Review – Ristar’. Mean Machines Sega. (February 1995). Issue 28:60-2.

[6] Mega Drive Review – Ristar’. Sega Magazine. (January 1995). Issue 13:889.

[7] ‘Mega Drive – Ristar’. Sega Power. (March 1995). Issue 64:50-1.

[8] ‘Review Mega Drive – Ristar’. Sega Pro. (February 1995). Issue 41:40-1.

Kid Chameleon – Review

16-bit consoles are never short of platform games, all with varying degrees of popularity and success. Once you have a game like Sonic the Hedgehog, all platformers will naturally be compared to it. Originality isn’t always easy to produce and so many will naturally fall short.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Kid Chameleon is a platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in 1992 and latterly as part of the Sega Smash Pack 2 (2000) for the PC, Sega Genesis Collection (2006 for the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation 2, on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 260 and PlayStation 3, and on the Sega Forever service in 2017.

The Samurai helmet transforms you into Red Stealth (screenshot taken by the author)

In an unnamed town in the US, a new and exciting game has hit the arcades. Wild Side uses holograms to create a fully immersive video gaming experience, much like the holodeck from Star Trek. Soon children start to go missing once they enter Wild Side and they are never seen again. It is soon discovered that the boss of the game, Heady Metal, has escaped the confines of his programming and is kidnapping the children once he defeats them at the game. Kid Chameleon is the toughest and coolest kid in town. He agrees to take on the challenge of Wild Side, defeat Heady Metal and rescues the children imprisoned within the game.

The controls are simple. You can walk, run, crawl and jump. Like many platformers, you need to hit the blocks from below to gain whatever bonus is inside. The bonuses you receive will increase your time, contain different helmets to transform you and gain different abilities, and diamonds. Collecting diamonds helps energise your abilities. If you have 2, 5, 20 or 50, then you can engage your Diamond Power which is dependant on what sort of helmet you are wearing. You can also find Ankh’s which give you extra lives and coins which give you extra continues. Once you collect a helmet, you will automatically transform into a new character and will be bestowed unique abilities.

There are nine helmets that Kid Chameleon can wear, and they all have unique powers:

Iron Knight – Enables you to climbs walls.

Red Stealth – Samurai that can use his sword to attack or as a pogo stick to smash blocks below your feet.

Berzerker – An American football helmet with horn on the top. When you run at walls, he can smash them to break through.

Maniaxe – Jason from Friday 13th’s mask. He throws axes.

Juggernaut – Turns Kid Chameleon into a tank that fires skull bombs.

Micromax – Shrinks Kid Chameleon to access smaller places. He alsouses wallas to jump higher.

EyeClops – Allows Kid Chameleon to see invisible blocks.

Skycutter – Enables you to fly upside down and traverse ceilings.

Cyclone – Enables you to fly.

When you aren’t wearing a helmet, you can still attack some enemies by jumping on them (screenshot taken by the author)

Kid Chameleon can be played in one- and two-player modes. In two-player mode, each player simply takes turns. The physics of the game take some getting used to. When you begin to move, he starts slowly and quickly gathers speed. This sounds pretty straight forward but it just feels odd in this game. The physics when jumping are very unforgiving and I found him difficult to control. An interesting option is that you can choose whether to have Kid Chameleon walk and then use the speed button to speed up, or to run all the time and use the speed button to slow down.

I thought the graphics were pretty good. The sprites are clearly defined, colourful and are nicely animated. The levels and background are also colourful and very detailed. A nice touch is where on the first level, the reflections of the trees on the water are moving.

The music is fine for the game, no complaints here. It just hovers in the background not imposing itself too much on the game.

Interestingly, there is only one difficulty setting which obviously limits its replay value.

There is something about this game that just didn’t click with me. I liked the idea of the helmets giving you unique powers, but I felt the way they were used fell short of their initial vision. At the end of the day, I felt that the physics of the game made it feel that you weren’t really in control of the character. That could just be me sucking at video games of course.

Did I complete the game?

Not yet, I am currently unable to get past the Bagel Brothers level.

What the critics thought:

MegaTech: “Kid C is a platform game with a novel twist, the hero can change his form by collecting hats. This power lets him masquerade as a samurai, a tank, a psycho and a host of other characters. What lets it down is the lack of challenge which persists throughout the game bar one level. Overall 64%.[1]

Sega Force: “Aesthetically its ok: backgrounds are good, sprites are excellent, tunes and FX are reasonable – there’s nothing fault. Hardened platformers will take to this, those looking for the next Sonic should wait. Overall 82%.[2]

Console XS: “Above all, the kid is cool. With his Ray-Bans glistening in the midday sun, he must venture over and underground to rescue his mates. Best of all, kid can change his persona, resulting in constant variety. Overall 89%.[3]

My verdict:

“Great graphics but I don’t think the physics of the game is very good and the game can be very unforgiving at times. Other than that, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this game, but it lacks a bit of the “WOW” factor for me.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Kid Chameleon? 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] ‘Game Index – Kid Chameleon’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:77.

[2] ‘Reviewed! – Kid Chameleon’. Sega Force. (April 1992). Issue 4:12-16.

[3] ‘Console XS AZ – Kid Chameleon’. Console XS. (June 1992). Issue 1:12-131.

Golden Axe III – Review

Golden Axe (1989) has gone down in history as being one of the greatest hack ‘n’ slash games of its generation. Golden Axe II (1991) was a respectable sequel but isn’t held in as high regard as its predecessor. The arcade sequel Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (1992), wasn’t released onto home consoles until decades later. Naturally, one can be forgiven for thinking that the franchise had ended. However, Sega decided to have one more stab at rivalling the original.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe III is a side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slash developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in Japan in 1993 and north America in 1995 for the Sega Channel. For some reason, it didn’t get a European release until it became available as part of Sega Genesis Collection (2006) for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009). It can also be found on Wii Virtual Console. I chose to review the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.

The sprites are more detailed than in Golden Axe and Golden Axe II (screenshot taken by the author)

It has been many years since Gilius Thunderhead, accompanied by Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, retrieved the Golden Axe from Dark Guld. Both Battler and Flare has since passed away, leaving only Gilius, a dwarf whose life expectancy is greater than humans, to relive their battles alone.  Gilius vowed to travel to the ends of the Earth to find the Gods who had bestowed the Golden Axe among the humans to return it to ensure that future dark powers could not use it for their evil ends. As his ship sailed across the ocean and mighty tempest sank his ship. The next thing he knew, he had awoken in a land he had never been to before. He may have imagined it, but he could have sworn that the last thing he heard before losing consciousness was an evil laughter. There was one thing he that he is sure of. The Golden Axe he was carrying to the Gods has been lost…

Half a year later, Gilius’ injuries are healing and he feels strong enough to set out again in search of the Golden Axe. He is soon caught up in war between good and evil. The Kingdom of Splash Hill where he had been recovering is under attack from the armies of the evil Damned Hellstrike who has conquered and enslaved the people. The king is missing and the queen is confined to the castle. Gilius soon puts two and two together and realises that Damned Hellstrike is in possession of the Golden Axe. However, Gilius is too old to go into battle and must seek out four warriors to go in his place.

These four warriors are:
Kain Gurindaa – A soldier who wields a battle sword. His closes friends were killed by the Demon Army and he is seeking revenge. He is basically Ax Battler.
 
Sara Baan – Once part of a troupe of travelling entertainers, her friends were killed when the Demon Army invaded. Possessing the Blue Dragon Sword given to her by her father, she too seeks revenge. She is bascially Tyris Flare.
 
Puraudo Kuragga – A descendant of the giants, he lends his strength to the cause after Gillius rescued him from the Demon Army where he was being held captive.
 
Kuronosu “Ibiru” Reito – This half-man half-beast was once a human. He has been cursed by the Demon Army and seeks to regain his human form.

As with previous games in the series, you can gain potions to increase your magical power (screenshot taken by the author)

The gameplay is very simple, if not a little repetitive due to the limited move set that each character has. The enemy are wiser to your offensive tactics and defend themselves better than in previous instalments. This is particularly noticeable when fighting the skeletons who have shields, and the big bosses who are exceptionally good at defending themselves. You can now block enemy attacks, but it doesn’t work very well. To block, you need to push the D-pad backward away from the enemy. However, you need to guess when they are going to attack else your fighter simply turns around and starts walking the other way. This method of defence is fine for one-vs-one fighter games when attack will only come from one direction, but when attacks can come from multiple directions, its just doesn’t work. It would have made more sense and would have been more intuitive to have a button to act as the blocking function. Also when fighting the baddies, they have the odd ability to be either slightly high or lower in the foreground and can still hit you with an attack which is incredibly annoying.

Out of the four characters, I preferred weather playing as Kain Gurindaa or Puraudo Kuragga; the former because of the reach of his sword, and the latter because of his strength.

In previous Golden Axe games, the attributes of the characters were clear. Gilius Thunderhead was the strongest in hand-to-hand combat but had the weakest spells, Ax Battler was in the middle ground and Tyris Flare was weaker in battle but had the strongest spells. In Golden Axe III it is unclear who the strongest is in hand-to-hand combat. To me, it seems that it’s Puraudo Kuragga as he seems to take less time to kill the evil minions. However, each character seems to have the same number and strength in spells, which doesn’t make sense as this means there is no advantage in playing with Sara Baan who is weaker and has less of a reach even though she wields a sword.

Annoyingly, you seem to have no control over how much of your magic you use. I don’t understand why they didn’t keep this in from Golden Axe II as this adds strategy to the game.

One nice addition to this game is that there are times when you can choose which path to take. Some paths will be easier, but the harder paths yield better power-ups, so the choice is yours.

Once again you can use Bizzarians. There are four types. The Red Dragon who fires flames, the Green Dragon that bites, the Purple Snail that uses its tongue to attack, the Green Snail, which is superior to the Purple Snail, because it has a longer tongue. Unlike Golden Axe II, if you are riding a Bizzarian and you get hit, you WILL lose some of your health. The Bizzarians really are pathetic in this game and really are not worth the hassle of mounting them only to get knocked off almost instantly.

Speaking of riding Bizzarians, if you wish to mount one, you will need to press the action button near one. You will not mount one automatically. This also goes for picking up potions and health.

One good feature of this game is that you can rescue villagers to gain extra lives (I think it’s five per extra life). You can also find hearts which increase the size of your health bar.

Spoiler alert!

There are two endings: one good, one bad. To get the good ending, you’ll need to reach the final boss with at least one continue left. Incidentally, when you do die, a message appears on the screen stating “And You Dead!” which made my brother and I laugh. It must be a translation issue.

The graphics, as far as the sprites are concerned, are much larger and more detailed than in previous instalments and look great! However, the backgrounds are very lacklustre (only occasionally is there parallaxing), and the animations of the spells are really crap!

The music is more fitting than it was with Golden Axe II, but again, is very forgetable.

Did I complete the game?

No, I made it the castle but have not gotten any further as of yet.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly “The graphics are by far some of the most plain looking on the Mega Drive. Plus, the new magic effects aren’t as impressive as before. No rating given.”[1]
  
Sega Power: “Not the sequel we expected, I’m afraid. Everything about this game smells. If you’ve got the superior Golden Axe II, be content with that – you won’t find anything here. Overall 34%.[2]

Sega Pro: “The competitive two player mode still remains, but the moves are limited and the control a little too shabby in comparison to modern head-to-heads we see today. Again, the challenge is far too easy and the gameplay soon becomes repetitive and boring. This is one too many. Overall 54%.[3]

Computer & Video Games: “Loads of levels and stacks of moves. Boring, tedious, dull, unattractive. Is that enough? Overall 62%.[4]

My verdict:

“A disappointing sequel. This game is just not fun to play. Which is a shame as the graphics of the sprites are greatly improved from the previous instalments. There is more wrong with this game than right.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe III? 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] ‘Golden Axe III’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (December 1993). Issue 53:111-1.

[2] Mortlock, D., ‘Mega Drive Review: Golden Axe 3’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:50-1.

[3] ‘Short Reviews – Golden Axe III’ Sega Pro. (September 1993). Issue 23:84.

[4] Anglin, P. & Rand, P., ‘Review Mega Drive – Golden Axe III’. Computer & Video Games. (September 1993). Issue 142:54-5.

Fatal Labyrinth – Review

Some gamers love nothing better than to take control of an individual or a group of fighters and battle through endless dungeons gaining experience points, better armour, better weaponry and even stronger magic spells. To me, these games feel a tad monotonous and I rarely complete them purely because I don’t have the desire to spend hours fighting the same monsters to gain a few levels to help defeat a big boss only to have to do the same again soon after. It feels like a waste of time to me. Fatal Labyrinth, although containing RPG elements, is an alternative to these types of games. A sort of RPG-lite if you will. The question is, is it any good?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Fatal Labyrinth is a single-player RPG developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in 1991 and appears on Sonic’s Ultimate genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was also released for Microsoft Windows in 2010 and can also be found on the Nintendo Switch. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate genesis Collection (2009) on the PlayStation 3.

One day, in an unnamed village in a faraway unnamed land, the monstrous castle of doom known as Dragonia rises from the earth. Ghouls from the castle pour out and head towards the village. They steal the Holy Goblet, a sacred artifact and source of light in the world and take it back with them to the castle leaving the villagers in a state of terror.

One man, Trykaar, volunteers to take up arms and infiltrate the castle to steal back the goblet. To find the goblet, he must search through 30 levels of labyrinth that are filled with all manner of creatures hellbent on stopping him.

Beware the wizards, for they can paralyse you, leaving youu open to attack. (Screenshot taken by the author)

There is very little intro to this game. You simply speak to a few people in the village before heading off to the castle. They don’t confide any information that is particularly helpful, and it all feels like a half-arsed afterthought.

Throughout the labyrinth, you can pick up various weapons, shields, body armour, helmets and bows to defend yourself with. You can also find many magical items such as canes, potions, scrolls and rings. Initially, you don’t know how strong each weapon is or what each of these magical items do until you use them. This works well in this game as it forces you to experiment with your items and adds an element of danger and risk.

You do not automatically pick up these items though, and only have limited numbers you can carry. However, rather than just discarding them, you can choose to throw them at the enemy which I think is a nice, realistic touch. Afterall, having a metal helmet thrown at your face isn’t exactly going to tickle.

Like other RPGs, you gain experience points when you kill enemies. You start as “Beginner” and as you level-up progress onto “Valet” and countless other names. With each level you increase your attack, defence and HP also increase.

When battling the monsters, they will only move in response to you moving. When you take a step, they will take a step at the same time. Some need to be next to you to attack, and others can throw projectiles at you. This means that once one is chasing you, it’s incredibly difficult to lose them so you may have to simply fight them. An annoying aspect to the game is that when you are approaching an enemy to attack, they will move aside one square and so you’ll turn to face them but they will move again meaning that you also move a square. It is as if you are engaging in a medieval dance with a monster. It’s very frustrating. Also, when you do get hit, you are frozen for a split second, and this makes it very difficult to escape, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies.

Every five levels is an automatic checkpoint so that if you die, you will go back to Level 5, 10, 15 etc. You seem to have infinite continues so in theory can play until you get tired of the game. If you stay on the same level for too long, then the screen flashes and the monsters will respawn.

Food is a vital part of the game. When fed, the hero slowly regenerates health. If unfed for extended periods of time, the hero becomes hungry and loses health. If too much food is eaten, the character’s movements become sluggish due of overeating. This is an unnecessary addition to making the game even harder.

Throughout the levels, you can pick up gold. This has very little benefit in the game other than when you die, your gravestone is more elaborate, and more mourners attend your funeral. It’s almost as if the game creators know you are going to die a lot during this game.

Features to watch out for:

Secret Doors – You actively have to press the ‘Pick Up’ button (the square button on the PlayStation joypad) when you are next to a wall to find these secret doors.

Trap Doors – Occasionally, you will fall through the floor to the level below. You simply have to find the stairs again to take you up.

Booby Traps – You may also set off an alarm which causes enemies to respawn and surround you.

There are lots of items to search for and pick up throught the labyrinth. Beware, as not all items will aid you. Some are cursed! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Personally, I feel the graphics leave a lot to be desired. The initial top down view is similar to other games such as Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (1991), but that is all you get. There are no additional battle scenes where player and foes are seen with more elaborate illustrations and animations. The game also lacks the scary atmosphere of Shining in the Darkness (1991).

The music in this game is very unassuming and very repetitive. You won’t need SFX or the music anyway for this game as they add very little to the atmosphere, so I just turned down the volume and listening to a podcast.

This game has plenty of replay value. Although it only has one difficulty setting, the levels are randomly generated so that every time you play, you are greeted with a new labyrinth, and the items will never be in the same place twice.

Did I complete the game?

No, I couldn’t get past Level 11.

What the critics thought:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Even though the mazes change constantly, the gameplay itself never changes, let alone the music! How Irritating! The price is right, however, for the Gauntlet fan who hates playing the same levels over and over. Since no passwords exist, you can only finish in one sitting. Yikes! Overall 20/40.[1]

Mean Machines Sega: “This Cross between a scrolling beat ‘em up and a role-playing game fails to deliver in both categories. The RPG aspect is dull and limited and slow, boring action fails to offer any thrills and spills. Overall 51%.”[2]

SegaPower: “Addictive roam around the labyrinth and collect the goodies RPG. Overhead graphics reveal themselves as you enter each room, which is nice, but it’s just too easy. Overall 2/5.[3]

My Verdict:

“Sadly, this game is rather monotonous and lacks atmosphere. The constant “swing and a miss” dynamic of the fighting is downright tedious. Mediocre graphics and dull music mean that you won’t be missing much if you give this game a miss. Pity really, as the concept had potential.”

My Rating:

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


[1] ‘Review Crew – Fatal Labyrinth’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1991). Issue 21:22. file:///C:/Users/nikth/AppData/Local/Temp/EGM_US_021.pdf Accessed 16th September 2021).

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

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Fatal Labyrinth’. SegaPower. (October 1991). Issue 23:53 (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 16th September 2021).

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).

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)

First, let me just say 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.

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.

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.

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 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. 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!

Eating the smaller fish helps Ecco restore lost health (Screenshot taken by the author)

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 gave, 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. 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.

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.

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. I doubt you will finish this in one sitting, if at all. 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.

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 (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-03/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 29th June 2021).

[2] ‘Game Index – Ecco the Dolphin’. MegaTech. (October 1993). Issue 22:99. (https://archive.org/details/mt-22_202005/page/98/mode/2up Accessed 29th June 2021).

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.

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)

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 plain clothes 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)

First, 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). 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.

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.

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.

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. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n137/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line – E.S.W.A.T. City Under Siege’. Rage Magazine. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.  (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 22nd May 2021).

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).

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!

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.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

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.

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.

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 De-Cap Attack? 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. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/63/CVG_UK_146.pdf Accessed 28th April 2021).

[2] Andromeda, ‘Genesis ProReview – Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine’. (January 1994). Volume 6, Number 1:58.  GamePro. https://retrocdn.net/images/e/ec/GamePro_US_054.pdf Accessed 5th May 2021).

[3] Dyer, A., Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Mega. (January 1994). :48-9. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/a3/Mega_UK_16.pdf Accessed 5th May 2021).

De-Cap Attack – Review

The early 1990s were a great time for me. I was too young to be distracted by girls but old enough to be able to hang out with friends without the supervision of parents. I was also old enough to be half decent at video games. My friends and I regularly exchanged games (and cheat codes) but sadly we just didn’t have the money to buy many games. Having an older brother has its benefits. He may be mean and leave you out in the cold when his older, cooler friends are around, but he may also have access, and money, to borrow or buy more video games. One such game that my brother brought home one night was De-cap Attack.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

De-cap Attack is a single-player platform game. It was developed by Vic Tokai and published by Sega for the Mega Drive in 1991. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Max D. Cap has returned from the Underworld to wreak havoc with his army of evil monsters. His devastation has caused the island where you live, shaped in the form of a skeleton, to break apart. Chuck D. Head, that’s you, is the creation of Dr. Frank N. Stein and his loyal assistant Igor. They created you, a headless mummy, and sends you to defeat Mad D. Cap and his minions and return to the island to its original state.

The Skeleton Island (screenshot taken by the author)

Chuck can attack his enemies in three ways. He has a weird face in his chest that extends out and punches the enemy, he can jump on their heads and squash them into the ground, or he can acquire a skull that can be thrown at the enemy but will return like a boomerang. Chuck also has the added ability of slowing his descent by kicking his legs. This little feature has saved my life, and my sanity, on more than one occasion.

Along the way, Chuck can pick up several different potions to assist him. These give him abilities such as harnessing a lightning ball, speeding up his run, slowing down the enemy etc. You can also pick up gold coins to use in a post-level bonus game.

Your health unit, quite ingeniously, is measured by pumping hearts. Each heart is the equivalent of two hits. However, if you fall into lava you will die instantly.

Chuck can use his head to throw at his enemies (screenshot taken by the author)

Although this is technically a side-scrolling platform game, and mostly that’s left to right, there are several levels where you either climb or descend the screen and at least one or two where you go from right to left. Which is quite novel considering most platformers seem to go from left to right. Like most side-scrolling plaforms, there are higher parts to each level where more goodies and power-ups can be found.

Each “island” has three stages to complete. At then end of each island you will face a boss. To add an extra challenge to each island, there is a special object to collect so even if you defeat the end of island boss, you cannot progress without finding this object.

After your complete an “island” you are rewarded with a bonus stage. Each coin you gathered allows you to place a clone of Chuck on a path. You can place as many or as little as you want on each path. Everytime they reach a bridge they will cross it either to the left or right. When they reach the end of the paths, you need to stop a set scrolling bridges. If you place your clones correctly and timed your stop of the correctly Chuck will be rewarded with lives and potions. If not they fall down a hole and you win nothing.

Obligatory swimming level (screenshot taken by the author)

The controls are tight and responsive but when Chuck changes direction whilst running he skids in a very cartoony way which takes a bit of practice.

I think the graphics are fab! The levels are incredibly detailed and sprites are well animated. There is no flickering or slowing down when there are several sprites on screen and end of level bosses look great too.

The intro music to this game is pretty cool. Sadly, the in-game music is fitting but forgettable. However, the clever part of the music lies when Chuck dies. It plays a bar or two of Bach’s Toccato and Fugue in D Minor (skip to the 2.40), which is one of the creepiest pieces of classical music you’ll hear and works well in this game.

The difficulty of the game can be changed by altering the number of hearts you begin with. Don’t be fooled by the first few levels however, this game gets tough later on.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, and I will certainly play it again in the future.

What the Critics Said:

Game Informer: “There’s enough originality to keep a gamer’s interest and the characters are really a scream (pun intended). If you like Mario and Bonk type games, You’ll love De-Cap Attack”. Overall 7.5/10.[1]

Game Informer: “The game is addictive. There’s enough to keep even the best player busy for weeks. Overall 8.5/10.[2]

Game Pro: “Decapattack breathes life into the worn out action/adventure theme. – you gotta admit, head tossing is a pretty innovative for of self-defence. It’s got all the makings of a superior game: great graphics, manageable challenge, ear-pleasing tunes, and , yahoo, endless continues. It’s well worth losing your head in Decapattack. Overall 4.6/5.[3]

Mean Machines Sega: “A fun-filled platform game which is basically identical to the old import game, Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure, except it has different sprites and backdrops. Platform fans will love it… Overall 82%.[4]

My Verdict:

“I love this game! Its fun yet challenging. It looks great, plays great, sounds great, and certainly is a cut above most other 16-bit platform games. It holds help well, even 30 years after its original release.”

Rating:

What are your memories of De-Cap Attack? 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] Rick, The Video Ranger. ‘Review – De-Cap Attack’. Game Informer. (Fall Issue 1991) :9. (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/52/GameInformer_US_001.pdf Accessed 26th April 2021).

[2] Andy, The Game Dandy. ‘Review – De-Cap Attack’. Game Informer. (Fall Issue 1991) :9. (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/52/GameInformer_US_001.pdf Accessed 26th April 2021).

[3] ‘ProRreviews – Decap attack’. Game Pro. (October 1991). Volume 3 Number 10:46. (https://retrocdn.net/images/f/f1/GamePro_US_027.pdf Accessed 26th April 2021).

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

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).

In the game, you are hired by the Police of Badville to test the security of buildings around the town where some very valuable objects are housed. These include a mansion, yacht, bank and a casino. To steal the objects, you must use your stealth skills and your wits to evade the security stationed to protect the valuables. Once you have all the valuables, you must reach the roof so that you can be whisked away in a hot air balloon.

Bonanza Bros. can be played in both one and two-player modes. The characters consist of Robo (red) and Mobo (blue). In the European version, they are named Mike and Spike. The two-player mode is co-operative, with the screen split horizontally, allowing both players to explore each level individually.

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

The game contains three difficulty settings and allows you to increase or decrease the number of lives you are assigned. This adds a lot of replay value to a game that is pretty short and easy to complete for any gamer with half a brain cell. There is also a time limit of three minutes for each level.

The controls are very simple. You can walk, jump and shoot your gun…that’s it. To make the game a little more interesting, you can move back and forth by one square from the foreground to the background. This enables you to hide behind walls and objects, as well as dodging shots from the guards. When you shoot the guards, they do not die, they are simply stunned for a few seconds. The guards are alerted to your presence when you either walk into their field of vision or if you make a noise near them, such as kicking a soda can. Some guards are armed with riot shields, protecting them from your gunshots. If you are hit by a bullet or if the guards are close enough to hit you with their truncheon, then you lose a life. Running out of time also causes you to lose a life and you must restart the level.

I first played Bonanza Bros. back in the early 1990s when my older brother either borrowed it from a friend or rented it from the local Blockbusters. At the time, I thought it was one of the best games I’d ever played (bearing in mind I was only about nine years old), and was really looking forward to revisiting the game.

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

So does the game hold up? Sadly no.

What are the pros?

I think the music is great! Its upbeat, funky a fun, and fits well with the game. I also think it is a game best played in two-player mode, perfect for a parent and child or for an older sibling playing with a younger one.

Some nice little touches to the game come in the form of being able to splat a guard against the wall when you open a door, and a fly buzzing around and landing on you if you stay still for too long.

Now the cons:

The game is very easy, even for less experienced gamers, and the gameplay is so simple that it becomes boring very quickly. Frustratingly, you cannot duck which becomes frustrating particularly in the later levels. Also, for a game that is supposed to be designed around stealth, there is little finesse to it. There are very little consequences to alerting the guards to your presence as all you need to do is stun them and run off screen and they seem to forget you were even there.

The graphics, although quite cute, are below standard, even for 1991. When compared to contemporary games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Quackshot (1991), the graphics were found wanting.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I don’t think I will be revisiting it very often.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “Fans of the coin-op will love this – but others might find the action a little too repetitive. If in doubt, check it out. Overall 82%.[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. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-10/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Bonanza Bros’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Bonanza Brothers’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53. https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 10th April 2021).

The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light/Beyond Oasis – Review

Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (LTTP) really changed the way gamers think about action-adventure games. The story line, the music, the graphics, the shear size of the game set the standard for action-adventures going forward into the 1990s. As far as I can tell, the only offering Sega had in this category was A Faery Tale (1991). There may be others, but none spring to mind. As far as I can tell, it took Sega until 1994 to create a reply to LTTP. The question is, would it be any good?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light is an action-adventure game developed by Ancient Corp. and published by Sega. It was released in Japan in 1994, and Europe and North America in 1995 for the Sega Mega Drive. It would later be released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and on the PlayStation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009). Interestingly, it was released in North America under the title Beyond Oasis. For this review, I played the version found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

The intro is beautifully illustrated (Screenshot taken by the author)

Prince Ali is a treasure hunter, living on the land of Oasis. One day, whilst exploring a cave on a nearby island, he discovers a golden armlet. When he tries on the armlet, a ghostly face appears and re-tells the story of a magical war between two sorcerers. One of the sorcerors, Reharl, wore the golden armlet and used it to control four spirits: Dytto the Water Spirit; Efreet, the Fire Spirit; Shade, the Shadow Spirit; and Bow, the Plant Spirit. The other, Agitio, wore the silver armlet and used it for evil, causing death and destruction everywhere within his reach. Ali must search Oasis and gain the power of the four spirits and prevent the silver armlet from being used to destroy the world.

The game begins with a beautifully illustrated cutscene giving the back story of the game. The in-game graphics are bright, colourful and much more detailed and interesting than in LTTP. The sprites are clearly defined and there is a good array of different foes to fight. The bosses are challenging but not too difficult, even for a younger gamer.

Battle your way through caves full of monsters to find the four spirits to aid you in your quest (screenshot taken by the author)

Like LTTP, as you explore the map, you will encounter numerous baddies that you can engage in battle and kill. You can attack these enemies using your dagger, swords, bow and arrow and bombs. The dagger is the only weapon that you can use infinitely. Occasionally, these fallen foes will leave behind items that will help restore your health or magic points.

What makes the battles with foes more interesting than LTTP is that you have to crouch to hit foes such as snakes, and have to jump in order to hit bats. This adds an extra challenge to the game.

The controls are easy to learn, and the game interface is intuitive and easy to use. The only difficulty jumping, which takes some practice.

Sadly, the music sucks and really can’t hold a candle to LTTP. In LTTP, the music is inspiring with hints of danger and intrigue. It encourages you to be brave and venture forth into the unknown. Beyond Oasis just falls flat and doesn’t inspire the same feelings.

As for replay value, although the game only has one difficulty setting, it is worth revisiting again, but there is nowhere near the amount of secret objects (if there are any at all) to find and the game is so much shorter than LTTP. In fact, you could easily beat it in the half the time it’d take to finish LTTP.

Efreet, the fire spirit, is one of four you need to find and gain control of (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This one is pretty enjoyable…with the standard fare of menacing enemies and creative boss characters. The best element is probably the gigantic area you cover, and the plot twists throughout the game. Overall 38/50.”[1]

GameFan: “The game excels in almost every category. The music gets a tad repetitive, but it’s high quality… Overall 94.7%.[2]

Next Generation: “The use of magic, whether it be the fireball or meteor storm; a user-friendly interface, and an ever-ready map put Beyond Oasis beyond others of its type. But ultimately, poor fighting and an uninspired storyline leave this title looking more like a mirage. Overall 2/5.[3]

Awards:

Action RPG of the Year – GameFan’s Mega Awards 1995[4]

My Verdict:

“This game looks fantastic and incorporates some very interesting features such as the different abilities of the four spirits and the imaginative bosses. What let’s this game down is the music and game length. It’s well worth playing though!”

My Rating:

What are your memories of The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light/Beyond Oasis? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review Crew – Beyond Oasis’.  Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1995). Issue 68:36. (https://archive.org/details/ElectronicGamingMonthly_68/page/n35/mode/2up Accessed 7th April 2021).

[2] ‘Viewpoint Beyond Oasis’. GameFan. (March 1005). Volume 3 Issue 3:18. https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue03March1995/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed 7th April 2021).

[3] ‘Rating Genesis – Beyond Oasis’. Next Generation. Issue 4:94. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-004/page/n95/mode/2up Accessed 7th April 2021).

[4] ‘GameFan’s Mega Awards 1995’. GameFan. (January 1996). Volume 4, Issue 1:106. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume4Issue01/page/n105/mode/2up Accessed 7th April 2021).