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?
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.
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.
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.
Did I complete the game?
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.”
GameFan:“The game excels in almost every category. The music gets a tad repetitive, but it’s high quality… Overall 94.7%”.
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”.
Action RPG of the Year – GameFan’s Mega Awards 1995
“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!”
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.
In the sphere of TV and films, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film was a stark contrast to the colourful and campy 1960s TV show. The choice of Michael Keaton for the role of the Caped Crusader was controversial to say the least, but he acquitted himself admirably and, in my opinion, rivals Christian Bale as the definitive Batman.
Batman: The Video Game is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Sunsoft. It was released on the NES in Japan in 1989, and North America and Europe, as well as for the Game Boy, in 1990 (oddly both games are actually different). I chose to review the NES version.
The bicentenary of Gotham City is fast approaching, and the city’s officials are hard at work planning festivities for the event. However, the city is engulfed by a crime wave orchestrated and encouraged by the Joker. It is up to the Caped Crusader to stop the Joker’s evil plans and save the city.
Although based on the 1989 Tim Burton movie Batman, there are a few differences. Yes, you are pursuing the Joker and trying to save the City of Gotham, but the game contains enemies with rocket packs or that are mutants. These definitely do not appear in movie. However, these differences take nothing away from the game.
The game contains five levels (each level has four or five sub-levels):
AXIS Chemical Factory
Ruins of Laboratory
Whilst battling his way through the levels, Batman utilises hand-to-hand combat as well as weapons such as a spear gun, Batarang and dirk (which is more like a shuriken) to defeat his enemies. The levels contain no time limit allowing your to take your time through the levels.
Let’s begin with the graphics. The game looks great! It begins with an awesome and intimidating looking title screen containing the figure of Batman looking menacing, and the game title in the same font used for the movie. Between each level, there is a short animated cutscene which again looks very cool.
For the in-game graphics, yes, Batman is coloured purple but that is purely so that you can see him clearly as the levels have a dark colour scheme. The levels themselves are very detailed. They help create a dark atmosphere for the game which fits well with Tim Burton’s vision. The sprites are beautifully illustrated, detailed and colourful. Throughout the game, I noticed that there was practically no flicker in the graphics at all.
The music, although not from the movie, fits the game well and certainly has an arcade feel to it. It’s great for getting the adrenaline pumping.
The controls are simple but they don’t need to be complicated. You can punch whilst standing and crouching, and select one of three weapons to use. You can jump to different heights, depending on how long you hold the ‘jump’ button for, and you can even use the walls to help you jump even higher and to avoid some nasty floor spikes.
Although this is an incredibly tough game, I had a lot of fun playing through it. The difficulty level is my only real gripe with this game. You are unable to change the difficulty level which is a pity as this would have given the game a bit more replay value.
Did I complete the game?
No, I was unable to get past level 3-1
What the critics said:
Mean Machines: “A classy license through and through. If you own a NES you’d be bats to miss this – so there! Overall 87%“
Best Movie to Game – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s ‘Best and Worst of 1989’
“It looks great, sounds great, has tight controls and a challenge to test even the most hardened of gamers. The game proves that not all superhero games suck.”
What are your memories of Batman: The Video Game? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
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.
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.
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).
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, 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.
First of all, let me get this out the way…the music sucks! Nuff said!
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.
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 porgress.
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 hand upside down on the ceiling to avoid enemies or to 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”.
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%”.
“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.”
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.
When a games console is coming to the end of its life, the output of the games can seem odd, as if the creators are just trying to cash in one last time before taking the console out back and humanely laying it to rest. One would assume that the last few games would be the ones that really push the console to its limits, highlighting the need to move to a more powerful machine. However, it seems that some creators delve into the depths of their rejected titles to see if they can use up the last of their stockpile before moving on to pastures new. Mitsume ga Tooru (The Third-Eyed One) was one such game.
This week’s review, is Mitsume ga Tooru (The Third-Eyed One) an action-platformer based on the manga and anime series of the same name. It was developed by Natsume and published by Tomy for the NES in 1992.
Hosuke Sharaku is the last Three-Eyed Man. He must rescue his friend Wato Chiyoko who has been captured by Prince Godaru.
The game contains five levels with a boss at the end of each level. The levels are:
Level 1 – The City, where Hosuke searches for his girlfriend.
Level 2 – Forest and Caves
Level 3 – Ancient Pyramid and Catacombs
Level 4 – Abandoned Ship
Level 5 – Sodom
The backgrounds and sprites are really nice (if a little limited in variety) and are just as good as other games released on the NES c.1992 like Felix the Cat and Joe & Mac, and are better than others like The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man, Hudson Hawk, and The Blues Brothers.
For me, the gameplay just feels very lacklustre. You can jump and shoot (from your third eye), and summon a red condor (which can be used as a platform), but that is about it. You cannot crouch, or shoot in any direction other than forward, which is annoying to say the least. Occasionally, you need to use a spear to help you jump over tall walls or large gaps. When you throw the spear, it only goes a short distance before turning and coming back toward you. You need to jump and land on it for it to stop and become a platform for you.
You also only run at one speed, which is lucky because there is no time limit to race against. The controls are tight and there is practically no slide when you come to a stop. Jumping is easy to control too.
You have six bars of life in your life meter which deplete by one whenever you get hit. If you fall off the edge into a hole, your red condor swoops down to save you but you still lose one bar of life. If you lose all your lives, you can continue but will be taken back to the beginning of the stage.
When you destroy an enemy, they will drop coins for you to collect. These coins can be used to buy special weapons and bonuses from your girlfirend. These include:
Wave – It allows you to curve your shot up and down, handy for enemies attacking at higher and lower altitudes.
Sonic – Three consecutive shots (High Middle and low)
High – Fires three laser blasts straight at the enemy
Spear – I’m not entirely sure what this one does as the language of the game is in Japanese.
You can also buy medikits to increase health, and extra lives. In order to select the different weapons, you need to pause the game. However, you will lose those weapons if you die.
The issue I have with the gameplay is that one expects more from a game released in 1992, even from the outdated (by 1992 the NES was outdated) NES. You’ve only got to look at other titles such as Vice: Project Doom (1991), Duck Tales (1989), and even Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu (1990) to see how fun and interesting gameplay can be on the NES.
At least the fact that there are two difficulty settings offers the gamer some replay value.
Did I complete the game:
I lost all my lives on stage 3. Although you can continue, I didn’t enjoy this game that much to warrant continuing to play.
What the critics said:
At present, I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.
“This game looks great and has tight controls…but there just isn’t that much to it. This game could have been awesome but it just felt half-arsed. By all means, play it if a friend has it or you can find a cheap copy, but you won’t be losing sleep if you never play this game. I feel this game is aimed toward a younger audience and so is not a game I shall be returning to anytime soon.”
What are your memories of Mitsume ga Tooru (The Third-Eyed One)? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Every now and then, a video game comes along that defines a generation. The game in question is always innovative and pushes the boundaries of what we thought was possible from a video game. These are the games that are burned into the brains of gamers everywhere. We’ve all heard of them, we’ve all played them, we’ve all loved them! In the late 70s it was Space Invaders, in the 80s it was Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. In the early 90s it was The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1998 it was Metal Gear Solid!
Metal Gear Solid (MGS) is a stealth game, billed as tactical espionage action. It was developed and published by Konami and released on the PlayStation in 1998 and for the PC in 2000. I used to own this game for the PlayStation all those years ago. However, for this review, I played the version found on the PlayStation Mini Classic.
Set in the year 2005, six years after the events of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990), a genetically enhanced special forces unit known as FOXHOUND has gone rogue and taken control of an island off the coast of Alaska. Why? Because the island contains a nuclear weapons disposal facility, meaning there are nuclear warheads present. Once they commandeer the facility, FOXHOUND threaten the US government with Metal Gear REX, a mecha capable of wielding and using nuclear weapons. To prevent nuclear weapons from being fired at the US, FOXHOUND demand the return of the remains of their deceased leader Big Boss as well as $1 billion within 24 hours.
Veteran Solid Snake is forced out of retirement by his former commanding officer and ordered to infiltrate the island and stop FOXHOUND.
The object of the game is to use stealth. Your mantra should be discretion is the better part of valour.
You take control of Snake as soon as he has entered the facility. To help navigate your way through the facility, you have a map in the top right hand of the screen that shows you where soldiers and security cameras are located. It also shows you their line of sight allowing you to evade notice. This is particularly handy because the game is played mostly from an almost top down view. There are only a few occasions when the angle changes: if you are crawling through a tunnel or under something, if you are pressed against a wall in an attempt to peer around it, or if you are using binoculars or a sight on a rifle or missile launcher.
A smart feature I was impressed with is the ability to knock down on walls and crates to get the attention of a nearby guard who will approach the sound. This allows you to slip by undetected.
Should you be detected, the music will change to a dramatic theme, your map will turn red and a countdown will begin once you have moved out of the enemy’s line of sight. Once the timer reaches zero, the map turns yellow and begins another countdown. You must continue to stay out of the enemies’ line of sight else they will spot you again and your map will turn red. Once the yellow timer reaches zero the enemy stop chasing you and you can use the map again to see where the enemy are located.
You also have a codec, a communication device that allows you to speak to team members back at mission control. The people you communicate with will give you hints and tips on how to proceed. They will also contact you when the story progresses.
As the game progresses, you will trigger many cutscenes that will help story along and offer you more information. These cutscenes really draw you in. It’s the first game I played when I really felt like I was actively participating in a movie.
MGS really was a novel and innovative game when it was released. So much so that a training mode was needed. This could be found in VR Training Mode which allows you to get to grips with the controls and teachs you how to evade capture. It was very useful for gamers like myself who had hitherto been used to simple platform and sport games.
I remember when this game came out. A friend of mine bought it and lent it to me after he’d completed it. I was amazed! The graphics looked great for the time and the game felt eerily realistic.
The storyline is full of twists and turns and I still don’t think I fully understand what was going on. It will certainly have you reading up more about the game trying to make heads and tails of it.
The controls and camera angles take some getting used to. The almost top down perspective, even when firing your gun or rifle, make it difficult to see where the enemy is if they are not on screen which is very frustrating. The left joystick is used for aiming but takes practice to become accurate with it.
MGS really was imaginative in many ways. It broke the fourth wall on several occasions which, as a younger gamer, really freaked me out. Naturally, I won’t spoil it for you here but all I will say is that when fighting Psycho Mantis, you really DO need to think outside the box to defeat him.
MSG has several nice little touches too. For example, when it’s cold, you will see the breath from the sprites and when you are walking on snow, the guards will spot your footsteps. Also, when walking on some surfaces, if you run, you will create loud footsteps which will also alert the guards to your presence.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but only on the easiest setting.
What the critics said:
Computer and Video Games:“Metalgear is distinctive in that the game is woven around the story, rather than the opposite way around. The story sections are all portrayed using polygons, but look as slick as any FMV. Occasionally it’s quite funny – the wobbly bum close-ups in the prison block should raise a titter – but it’s always gripping. Overall 9/10”.
Gamepro:“However, Metal Gear’s solid works get slowed by a few wrenches. An inconsistent frame rate occasionally stalls the eye-catching graphics. Especially annoying are instances where you zoom in with binoculars or the rifle scope, and the graphics slow to a crawl while you pan back and forth. Another annoyance is in the early stages of the game, as you’re constantly interrupted with advice from your team that’s all listed in the instruction manual. Yet, even with its minor and distracting faults, Solid is this season’s top offering and one game no self-respecting gamer should be without. Forget fast-food action titles with rehashed formulas that never worked; Metal Gear Solid elevates video gaming to high art. Overall 5/5”
Game Revolution: “Let’s face it – the hype surrounding Metal Gear Solid would be hard for any game to match. It won numerous awards after E3, and deserved most of them. In the end, we have a great game, one of the best for the system. But its diminished length and excessive no-interactive plot hold it back from truly reaching the highest plateau. Still, this is a must have for any PSX library and a ton of fun. Overall A-“.
Gamespot:“Five years from now, when we look back upon Metal Gear Solid, what will we see? The game definitely is revolutionary in many ways. It breaks new ground in gameplay and truly brings the video game one step closer to the realm of movies. It is, without a doubt, a landmark game. But the extreme ease with which it can be mastered and the game’s insultingly short length keep it from perfection. Plus, do we really want games that are more like movies? If Hideo Kojima, the game’s producer, was so set on this type of cinematic experience, he should really be making movies instead of games. While Metal Gear Solid currently stands alone, it stands as more of a work of art than as an actual game. It’s definitely worth purchasing, but don’t be surprised if you suddenly get extremely angry when you finish the game the day after you brought it home. Overall 8.5/10.”
IGN:“I’m in awe. An admittedly ambitious project from the very beginning, Metal Gear Solid has managed to deliver dutifully on all of its promises. From beginning to end, it comes closer to perfection than any other game in PlayStation’s action genre. Beautiful, engrossing, and innovative, it excels in every conceivable category. Overall 9.8/10”.
Next Generation: “There are precious few games in this world that end up living up to the hype when they are released – especially when they’ve been hyped as much as this one. However, rest assured that this is a game no player should miss and the best reason to own a PlayStation. Overall 5/5”.
Official PlayStation Magazine:“Metal gear Solid is just asking to be teased and dominated, and any gamer wanting to lock horns with the ultimate in plot, action and originality must grab a copy immediately. Overall 10/10”.
Arcade: “A brilliant, technically stunning, well thought through release that’s sure to influence action adventure games for many years. Overall 5/5”. 
PlayStation Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)
Adventure Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)
Best Sound Effects – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)
Excellence Award for Interactive Art – 1998 Japan Media Arts Festival
“A truly legendary and ground-breaking game. Fantastic graphics and a fully engrossing storyline that will draw you in and mess with your head. Challenging and inventive boss battles will really test your mettle. You will certainly play through this game more than once!”
What are your memories of Metal Gear Solid? 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.
Revisiting games can be fun…but it can also be disappointing. We romanticise games in our minds and revisiting them years later, especially when technology has moved on, often destroys these rose-tinted memories. Altered Beast is an example of one such game. When I revisited it, I was disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I remember. No doubt, there will be many more to come. Will Shining Force II suffer when I revisit it with older eyes and a colder heart?
Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal is a tactical RPG developed by Sonic! Software Planning and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in 1993. It was re-released for the Wii U Virtual Console in 2008, as well as being part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to Shining in the Darkness, and is set 40-70 years after the events of Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict (1995) on the Game Gear. although the stories consist of different characters.Although I did used to own the original Mega Drive cart, for this review, I played through the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for PlayStation 3.
It is a dark, stormy night. A small band of thieves led by Slade, break into an ancient shrine looking for treasure. They happen upon two coloured jewels: one blue and one red. Upon stealing the jewels, they unwittingly break a magical seal that has held the demon King Zeon captive. With the seal broken, but not yet at his full strength, Zeon orders his minions to find the Jewel of Darkness so that he can restore his power and conquer the world.
Bowie is the main character (although you can choose to change his name). He is a student of Astral the Wizard, is a human and a swordsman. He is an all-rounder and can be promoted to Hero.
Jaha is a dwarf and a warrior. He is very strong but his movement is limited. He is also a student of Astral. He can be promoted to Gladiator, but with a special item, can become a Baron.
Chester is a centaur and a knight. He is also a student of Astral. He can use either a lance for short range attacks or you can equip him with a spear for longer ranged attacks. When prompted he becomes a Paladin but with a special item, he can become a Pegasus.
Sarah is an Elf and a priest. She is also a student of Astral. She is not very good in hand-to-hand combat but she is great for casting spells and healing your injured party. When promoted, she become a vicar, but with a special item, she can become a Master Monk which greatly increases her hand-to hand combat skills.
Kazin is an Elf and a mage. Once promoted he becomes a wizard.
There are many other characters who join your party along the was but I won’t discuss them here.
The menu is exactly the same asShining Force. That is, when walking around both urban and rural areas, you begin with four boxes that are animated when your cursor is over them These options are:
Member – Check the status of member sof your party
Item – It will take you to another menu where you can choose to use an item, pass an item to someone else, equip an item or drop one.
Search – Use this when you come across chests, boxes and vases. In fact, there are lots of hidden items in odd areas, so use this option freely.
Magic – Takes you to a menu where you can cast spells. In non-battle scenarios, only the detox spell works.
During your adventure, there are plenty of opportunities to visit shops where you can buy new weapons and sell old ones. You can also buy provisions such as herbs that help regain health, an angel wing which acts like an Egress spell and an antidote for poison. There are also options to repair your weapons (I’ve never had to use this) or to ask for deals. The deal option is pretty pointless because, as far as I can tell, items only appear there when you have already sold those special items to the shops.
Again, the combat is exactly the same as SF, in that it is a turn-based tactical affair where you must manoeuvre members of your party into good tactical positions before engaging the enemy. Depending on the type of fighter, certain members have a much larger movement range that others. When attacking an enemy, you can opt to use yor primary weapon, cast a spell or use an item. If you do not wish to attack you can simply press “stay” and that ends that character’s turn until it comes around to them again.
Like SF, I think this game is beautiful. The environment in the overworld maps (forests and trees) have been improved, but the sprites themselves and the battle scenes are practically the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as they are a great improvement on games like Phantasy Star IV (1993), and better than the graphics of games like Earthbound (1994), Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager (1994) and Final Fantasy VI (FF III in North America). Yes, I personally prefer Shining Force II‘s graphics to FFVI.
Whereas SF was a very linear game, SFII involves more free-roaming. There are many places you need to return to in order to find special items or for the game to progress.
There is also more than one way to promote members of your party. Like SF, you can promote your party when visiting a priest, once your party member has reached level 20. However, there are instances when you can promote your party member to a different class of fighter with the help of special items.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Electronic Gaming Monthly:“A worthy follow-up to the first RPG, with bigger areas to explore and characters to meet. This will definitely appeal to the fans of first one, and RPG fans in general. It assumes you’ve played the first Shining Force, but the story could use a few more twists and turns. The music is very good, as is the easy-to-follow configuration. Overall 34/50”.
Personally, I think this is a great sequel. I enjoyed the story, the battles, the graphics and music. Hardened RPG fans may think this too easy, but I think it’s a game for the average gamer to enjoy, and maybe a nice introduction to RPGs.
What are your memories of Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal? 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.
Game creators have never been shy about using aspects of ancient mythology as a basis for their games, and why wouldn’t they? Ancient mythology is filled with stories of derring-do: defeating giants, outsmarting the Gods and rescuing fair maidens. In Greek mythology, Astyanax (also known as Scamandrius) was the son of Hector, prince of Troy, and Andromache. When Troy fell, he was either thrown from the walls to his death by Neoptolemus or killed by Odysseus (depending on your source).
Astyanax, known in Japan as The Lord of King, is a side-scrolling platform action game developed by Aicom and published by Jaleco. It was first released in the arcade in 1989, then later that year on the NES in Japan before getting a release in Europe and North America in 1990. For this review, I revisited the NES version.
Astyanax is a 16-year-old student from Greenview High who keeps having a recurring dream of a woman calling his name. One day, he is transported to another dimension where he meets a fairy named Cutie. She persuades Astyanax to rescue Princess Rosebud, Ruler of Remlia, from the evil wizard Blackhorn. Using either the legendary axe known as ‘Bash’, a spear or a sword, Astyanax must fight through forests, caves and a castle to reach Blackhorn.
You have energy three bars: the first is a power gauge showing how hard you hit the enemy. This descreases anytime you swing your weapon at an enemy. When you stop attacking, the bar increases again. The length of your power bar increases as you find power-ups. The second is your health bar, and the third is your magic bar. Unlike the arcade version, the NES version can only be played in one player mode.
Graphically, this game looks good, especially when compared to its contemporaries such as Iron Sword: Wizards and Warriors 2 and Clash at Demonhead, both released in 1989. It has detailed and colourful backgrounds, and well defined sprites, especially the end of level bosses. After each level, you are treated to some beautifully illustrated cut scenes which help move the story along. However, there is a bit of flicker when you attack the enemy and at times, whole blocks of detail disappear.
The controls, whilst easy to learn, are frustrating because you can only strike straight ahead, whilst crouching or whilst jumping. you cannot jab upwards. It is ridiculously tough too. Many enemies attack at awkward heights, and you find yourself accidentally pressing up and attack which casts a spell and uses up your magic. Some later levels have an insane number of monsters swarming the screen at once. Oddly enough, the end of level bosses are not that difficult to defeat.
I wanted to give this game a better score but due to the monotonous music, the attacking issue, and the fact that you will need a cheat code to complete this game, lowers the score for me. There are better, more enjoyable games out there. Once completed though, there is little to make you want to play through again as the game only has one difficulty setting. There is also the opinion that I just didn’t enjoy playing this game that much.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but I had to use the invincibility cheat, as this game is too damn hard. Without the cheat, I could only get to the end of level boss on level 3.
What the critics said:
As of yet, I have been unable to find contemporary reviews.
This game looks good, has tight controls, and a challenge that hardened gamers look for. The issue is that the controls are limited. It is perhaps too tough for the average gamer and has little in the way of replay value. It’s worth playing, but it’s not a game you’ll return to very often, if at all.
What are your memories of Astyanax? 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.
It must be difficult for game creators. Do they stick to a winning formula for a sequel and run the risk of the concept becoming stale, or do they gamble on new features that have the potential to disgruntle loyal fans to the franchise? It’s a hard balance to get right as many games have shown over the years. The question is, will Sonic 3 fall foul of over-zealous creators or will they get it right for a third time in a row?
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released in 1994 on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and latterly for Windows in 1997. Later, it would be made available for the Game Cube, PS3 and Xbox 360. For this review, I revisited the Sega Mega Drive version.
After Sonic 2, Dr. Robotnik’s spaceship crashed into the mysteriously floating Angel Island. He meets and tricks the island’s guardian, Knuckles the Echidna, into believing that Sonic is trying to steal the Master Emerald. Sonic and Tails must once again defeat Dr. Robotnik who is being aided by Knuckles.
There are several new features to this game. Sonic can attain three shields: lightning, bubble and fire, each giving him a unique ability when using them. The giant gold rings, which are portals to finding the Chaos Emeralds, are now found in secret locations.
The bonus stages themselves are much for interesting and fun than Sonic 2. They consist of Sonic and Tails running around a globe in third person view. The object is to collect all the blue spheres. If you hit a red sphere you fail. The more blue spheres you collect, the faster Sonic runs, adding some difficulty to the harder bonus stages.
Once Sonic gains all the Chaos Emeralds, he can become Super Sonic, making him invincible for a short period of time.
As expected, the game looks great. Lots of beautifully designed levels for you to navigate through, and plenty of unique sprites to evade or destroy. However, I feel that if you were to be shown screenshots of Sonic 1, 2and 3, there are times you’d be hard pressed to distinguish between the three. This is certainly not the case with the Mario franchise where the graphics of each game are very distinguishable. Now, I concede that Super Mario 1, 2 and 3 were all released on the NES and Super Mario World on the SNES, and so is bound to look different. However, even when comparing Super Mario World to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, there is a clear distinctive design to the levels and enough gameplay changes so that both games can stand on their own.
One of the issues I have with this game is that the levels are so much bigger than previous games, but are filled with slopes and shoots and other features that you feel like you’re just whizzing through the levels without actually doing much. I appreciate that the whole appeal of Sonic is that he is fast, but sometimes it feels like you’re just on autopilot because he just whizzes through the game. Along with this speed comes another issue that the creators have yet to rectify…when Sonic is going at full speed, the game lags and the sprites flicker.
That being said, I enjoyed playing Sonic 3 much more than Sonic 2, but for the reasons stated above I cannot give Sonic 3 5 stars.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, with all Chaos Emeralds captured.
What the critics said:
Electronic Gaming Monthly:“Sonic 3 is simply the perfect Sonic game. It beats out all previous Sonics with outstanding graphics, more hidden items and new items like many types of shields…The bonus rounds give the average player a fair chance this time, unlike “those tunnels” of part 2. It seems unlikely that Sega will be able to top this one. Overall 38/40“.
Gamepro: “Sonic 3 proves that you can teach the old hedgehog new and exciting tricks. Take that old Sonic magic, add fun new variations, and you have another spectacular game. Overall 19/20”.
Hyper:“Everything you expect from a Sonic game, nothing more. If it was just me, the score would be lower, but Sonic freaks are going to go off. Overall 90%“
Entertainment Weekly:“Sonic 3, by contrast, represents the apotheosis of the Sonic concept: Unlike previous games, the stages are linked cinematically (Sonic and Tails literally tumble from one scene to the next), and the characters have some stunning new techniques — I, for one, never thought I’d see a spiny blue hedgehog on a pair of skis. Ovearll A+”
Mean Machines Sega: “Sonic’s Back! Back! Back! This game re-establishes him as King of the Hill, Top of the Heap and Life Emperor of the Platform Universe. Huzzah! Huzzah! Overall 94%”
Sega Power:“No radical changes to the game, but its sheer size, super graphics, wealth of imagination and above all playability, guarantee Sonic gold status. Overall 90%“.
Sega Magazine:“An amazing release and serious contender for Best Platform Game ever award. Overall 95%“.
“Sonic 3 is a very good game. If you like the solid formula of speed, ring collecting and bonus stages that the creators have been successful with in their first two outings, then this game is for you and you’ll enjoy every second of it. Personally, I worry that there aren’t enough differences between this and the previous two games and it’s in danger of going stale.”
What are your memories of Sonic the Hedgehog 3? 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.
Keeping sequels fresh whilst staying true to the original franchise is a tough challenge for game creators. You can’t change things too much or too quickly without a backlash of disgruntlement from fans, but you also need to be seen as being progressive and innovative. The Age of Empires franchise has always been innovative in the way it has taken the gamer through history and given them control of countless civilisations from around the world. After the success of Age of Empires II and its spin-off, Age of Mythology, what new features would its creators include to keep the franchise fresh whilst still staying true to the originals concepts?
Age of Empires III (AOE III)is a real-time strategy game and the third in the Age of Empires franchise. Developed by Ensemble studios, it was published for PC by Microsoft Games in 2005 (The Mac version was published by Destineer’s MacSoft in 2006). Glu-Mobile published a mobile version in 2009. A remastered version was released in 2020. For this review, I revisited the original PC versions.
AOE III focusses on the European colonisation of the America’s between 1492 and 1876. The story mode focuses on the Black family and their fortunes and failures in North America. The story mode has a similar style to that of Age of Mythology (AOM) where there are cut scenes before and after each mission which progress the story along.
The game is broken into three acts:
Act One: Blood – The first campaign begins in the late 16th century and introduces Knight of Saint John, Morgan Black who must travel from Malta to South America in a bid to prevent the Circle of Ossus from finding the Fountain of Youth.
Act Two: Ice – The second act takes place in the mid-18th century, and sees Morgan’s grandson, John Black and Mohawk companion Kanyenke, ally with General Washington during the Seven Years’ War against the French.
Act Three: Steel – The third act takes palce in 1817, and sees Amelia, John’s granddaughter, who is trying to expand her railroad empire, pursue a French prospector to South America where he intends to find the Lake of the Moon and the Fountain of Youth.
Thankfully, AOE III has moved away from the simple mission objectives of “build up your base and destroy the enemy base”. Although there are many missions where that is the end goal, there are also other interesting missions to ensure the game doesn’t become monotonous. An example of this is the Pirate’s Help mission where Morgan must gain 8000 experience points by doing a number of small missions in order to impress a pirate named Lizzie. Another is the Bring Down the Mountain mission in the John Black campaign where you need to use miners to hack down rocks to block mountain passes.
Secondary objectives do very little other than give you extra experience points with which to have more shipments sent from your home city or enables you to add features to your home city. Other than that, they are pretty pointless.
Another improvement is that there is greater differentiation between the civilisations. There are plenty of unique units to each civilisation, encouraging the gamer to try them all in Random Map mode in order to find their preferred units.
Different from AOE II but kept from AOM the gamer has the opportunity to choose how they wish to advance to the next technological age. Each path will offer different improvements and units and it is up to the player to decide which path is best suited for the mission at hand.
Although AOE II had ‘Heroes’, (e.g. Joan of Arc etc.) they fought like every other unit. AOM introduced the concept of a special ability or attack that ‘Heroes’ performed but these were automatic and could not be controlled by the player. AOE III has introduced special attacks that CAN be controlled by the player. ‘Heroes’ such as John Black can either use Hawk Eye – which kills almost all units with one shot, and Eagle Eye which is a powerful shot that damages enemy units in an area. Once used, you have to wait a minute or so before it can be used again. Some ships have a similar special attack where they pepper their intended target with cannon.
Interestingly, sea battles and the use of ships in general seems to have taken a real backseat in this game. If memory serves, other than the Pirates!, Great Lakes, and Last Stand of the Boneguard missions, you can quite happily do without worrying about a naval presence. Whilst we’re on the subject of ships, they have dramatically increased the number of units each ship can carry. The problem with this is that there is no automatic disembarking button, so you have to manually click the unit’s icon for them to disembark, and when you’re carrying large numbers of troops, this can prove tricky in tight spots.
To make things a bit more challenging, and realistic with regard to technological advancement, Morgan Black’s campaign can’t advance past the Fortress Age, and John Black’s campaign cannot advance past the Industrial Age.
Other new features include:
Gaining experience points – Dotted around each map are several treasures or captured units, mostly protected by human or animal ‘guardians’. Defeating the ‘guardians’ and taking the treasures or rescuing the prisoners will gain you resources, units and/or experience points. These experience points enable the gamer to have shipments of resources, improvements or units sent to your town centre. Killing enemy units also gains experience points.
Build your shipment deck – After every mission you are unable to unlock more improvements for your shipments. This gives you the opportunity to build you own deck of shipments that you prefer to use during missions and Random Map modes. For example, one mission may require artillery, so provided you have unlocked an artillery card, you can swap that card in for another and have a shipment of artillery sent to your town centre.
Trading posts – There are two types of trading posts: The first consists of building a trading post in the village of local tribes. This enables further improvements to your units and resrouces as well as being able to train unique Native American units. The second consists of building trading posts at specific areas along trading routes. These routes regularly have traders travelling along them. At first, all these trading posts do is help gain experience points. As you move through the ages, you can upgrade the way the traders transport their goods, and also which resource you would like to have added to your stockpile.
AOE III has greatly improved graphics from AOEII. They have moved away from the 2D isometric view to a 3D model giving different parts of the screen a slightly different perspective. The buildings are incredibly detailed with animated, realistic looking smoke arising from fires and chimneys. The units are also very detailed, and beautifully illustrated and animated. This goes especially for the artillery, whose artillerymen are a hive of activity carrying, reloading and firing.
I very much enjoyed the story mode and the fact that you follow the same family over a 300 year period. Although fictional, the story is compelling and keeps you from skipping the cutscenes.
I really liked the experience points and shipment system employed in this game as I think it can certainly give you a tactical advantage when you get it right. I love the fact that parts of the buildings are blown off when they are under attack, adding the realism of warfare. Last but not least, AOE III has managed to create a beautiful score to go with the game. These are the types of musical scores that I find myself listening to simply because I enjoy them so much.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, I have played through this game several times and thoroughly enjoy the missions.
What the critics said:
1up.com: “It’s a rock-solid package, one that tightens every part of the existing game with a facelift worthy of the most talented plastic surgeon. Ensemble has proven no one can beat it at its own game, but neither will it be Age of Empires III the wannabes are aiming at in the coming months. Overall B-“.
Game Revolution: “But no one buys strategy games for the sound effects – they buy them to agonize over tactics and statistics and this is why Age of Empires III is still a recommendable RTS. The steps it has taken in the gameplay department since Age of Empires II are negligible, but at least the new card-based bonus system adds an element of customization and depth to the genre. This result is as detailed as a history book, and about as much fun. Overall 3/5”.
Gamespot: “Age of Empires III has some very big shoes to fill, and on top of that, the real-time strategy market has grown hugely competitive due in no small part to Ensemble Studios’ previous accomplishments. This latest game offers a lot of what made Age II so great, and it’s got plenty of depth and lasting appeal, despite how most matches tend to begin and ultimately pan out similarly. Age III does seem surprisingly rough around the edges in some respects, and those expecting the game to revolutionize or even refresh this style of gaming may come away disappointed that their high expectations weren’t met. But those looking for a complex and interesting real-time strategy game with fantastic good looks and some historical flavor will find just what they want in Age of Empires III. Overall 8.2/10”.
Gamespy: “Age of Empires III is an absolutely fantastic title with superb graphics and tight gameplay. Single-player or multiplayer, no matter what your skill, you’ll get hours of joy out of this sucker online or off. Age of Empires III may not redefine real-time strategy gaming, but it sets the bar so high that we’ll be comparing games to this for years. Shoulder your musket and pony up: this one’s a real trip. Overall 5/5”.
Gamezone: “Age of Empires III is a must have game for any Real Time Strategy gamer. There are so many new additions in this game that it will boggle your mind. This is one of the best looking games, much less an RTS game, that is out on the market currently. This is one purchase you will not come to regret. Overall 9.5/10”.
IGN:“Age of Empires III is a superbly balanced and polished game and it definitely ups the ante for the C&C and ‘Craft developers. Discounting a few niggles in the interface, the whole presentation is rock solid. Each new release in the Age of Empires series has added something to the mix. But while Age of Empires II seemed to focus on quantity, Age of Empires III sacrifices some units and civilizations in order to make the whole experience much tighter. Overall 8.8”.
2005 PC Turn-Based Strategy – 2005 Gamespy Gamers’ Choice Awards
2005 Best Graphics – 2005 Gamespy Gamers’ Choice Awards 
“Great graphics, fantastic soundtrack, challenging gameplay, and lots of new features to keep you interested. It is easy to see why the Age of Empires franchise is so popular. I love these games and I find myself returning to them again and again.“
AOE III: The War Chiefs was the first AOE III expansion pack to be released. It was developed by Ensemble Studios (Destineer’s MacSoft on the Mac), and was published by Microsoft Games for the PC in 2006 and MacSoft for the Mac in 2007.
This expansion continues to follow the story of the Black family.
Act One: Fire – Nathanial Black is the son of John Black and Nonahkee of the Iroquis from Act Two: Ice of AOE III. His story begins in 1775. The campaign begins with Nathanial and his uncle Kanyenke trying to persuade the Seneca and Mohawk tribes not to join in the American Revolutionary War. Nonahkee is soon kidnapped by the Mohawk and a group of Hessian soldiers led by Colonel Sven Kuechler. It turns out Kuechler has gone rogue, so Nathanial joins forces with George Washington to pursue the leader of the Hessian Soldiers and rescue his mother.
Act Two: Shadow – The year is 1866. We are now introduced to Chayton Black, son of Amelia Black from Act Three: Steel of AOE III. His father, a member of the Lakota tribe, died when he was young. When American prospectors begin to encroach on Native American land in search of gold, Nathanial must decide which side to fight on.
Primary Objectives: Again, there is a nice array of different primary objectives to win the each mission. I found mission 6: Valley Forge particularly interesting because the first objective is to build 6 houses to shelter the men through the winter. The issue is that the cold depletes your gatherer’s energy bars and so you need to head back to the fires to gain your health back. Then you need to amass 3000 food before your town centre arrives and you can build a farm etc. This is before you build an army and destroy the enemy fort.
One new building that features is a fire pit. This enables you to instruct villagers to dance. There are up to 16 different dances, some of which vary depending on which tribe you are. Some of these dances are:
Fertility Dance – Increases unit training speed
Population Dance – Speeds up the production of units
Gift Dance – A slow trickle of experience
War Dance – Increases damage to enemy units
Holy Dance – Spawns Medicine Men.
Fire Dance – Increases damage to buildings and ships
Earth Mother Dance – Increases your population
Other new features include:
6 New Maps – These include: The Andes, Araucania, California, Northwest Territory, Orinoco and the Painted Desert.
Trade Monopoly – For Random Map players, a new ‘Trade Monopoly’ winning scenario has been added. Once a player owns more than half of the trading posts on a map can begin a timer. Your opponents need to destroy some of your trade posts before the timer runs down. Whilst the timer is ticking down, the player who started it cannot rebuild more trading posts if some of his has been destroyed until the timer stops.
More Native Tribes – Another four minor tribes to bring the overall total to 16.
Unique Technologies – Each Native civilisation has unique technologies.
Revolution – When advancing to the Imperial Age, European colonies have the option to revolt and form their own nation. A revolution gives your military a boost but can damage your economy as your settlers all change to colonial militia.
StealthMode – Certain Native tribe units have a stealth mode, allowing them to sneak past or sneak up on the enemy. However, this slows down your unit’s movement, and if you get too close to the enemy you will still be spotted.
New Skills for Heroes – Native heroes wuch as Wind Feather from the first mission can use Nature Friendship which convert treasure guardians to ally units.
What makes this expansion a bit more challenging is that not only are you unable to advance further than the Fortress Age, but you are also unable to build walls, an incredibly useful defensive necessity. There are also no watchtowers. Instead, your barracks act in a similar way and will fire arrows from a turret.
There is also less artillery available to the Native Americans. Instead they have either mantletes – Iroquis who carry a shield, and falconets – small cannon. There is only one mission where an allied army supplies bigger artillery for you.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Gamespot:“The WarChiefs expansion adds a solid amount of new content to the existing game, and while many of the new features provide interesting new ways to play and win the game, it’s fair to say that fans of the series will appreciate the changes. The WarChiefs does a lot to shake up the formula, but when you get down to it, the tried-and-true Age of Empires gameplay remains pretty much intact, and the expansion offers more depth and strategy to an already deep strategy experience. Overall 7.8/10”.
1Up.com: “…WarChiefs turns into an exciting exercise in completely rethinking old strategies. And this, after all, is what the best expansion packs do: not just add, but entirely revise. Overall A”.
Eurogamer: “All told, it’s quite a lot of newness from an expansion pack, and in many ways makes for a pretty considerable shift from how the original game works. Not everyone’s going to agree with me here, as Age Of Empires III certainly has its fans, but, for me, this is redemption (but only redemption & we’re not talking elevation to high levels of acclaim) of a sort for the original game. I laughed one of those laughs that sounds a little like crying when I heard that AOE3 had scooped the Best Online Game award at this year’s Golden Joysticks. What a baffling decision – it wasn’t a terribly interesting game, it was just by the numbers RTS, and in many ways, pretty boring. I prefer my strategy over-the-top, even slightly silly, so being able to vanquish a foe by setting a horde of hypnotised bears on him is far more like my idea of fun. Overall 6/10”.
Gamespy: “In the end, The WarChiefs is yet another demonstration of why Ensemble Studios remains among the first rank of strategy game developers. The single-player aspects of the game may indeed be just more of the same, but in this case it’s pretty damned good. On top of that, the multiplayer additions elevate the expansion to a must-own. Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs has managed to re-invent and reinvigorate the game. I’m sorry guys. I’ll never doubt you again. Overall 4.5/5”.
IGN: “As we said at the beginning, Ensemble’s not known for producing expansions that alter the strategies of concepts of their core games. Given the popularity and quality of the core games, who are you to argue? Fans of Age of Empires III who are just looking for more content are definitely going to be pleased with the expansion. Those who are hoping for something new or different aren’t going to find it here. Some of the Native American concepts offer a nice twist, as does the inclusion of revolutions and monopolies, but to be totally honest, they could just call the game More Age of Empires III and we’d still line up to play it. Overall 8.2”.
“Personally, I really enjoyed War Chiefs. The limiting of the artillery and defensive structures were a challenge. The stories and scenarios were good, and it was nice to return to play as some other members of the Black family.”
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties is the second expansion pack for AOE III. It was developed by Ensemble Studios in collaboration with Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft Games for the PC in 2007; and developed and published by Destineer’s MacSoft for the Mac in 2008.
This expansion pack leaves the Black family behind and introduces three more civilisations: Japan, China and India, and is broken down into three campaigns respectively.
Japan – This campaign focusses on the reunification of Japan (a scenario of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors) and the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It begins with The Siege of Osaka c.1614-15.
China – This campaign is based on the controversial hypothesis that China reached the Americas before Columbus.
India – This campaign introduces a new character, Subedar Nanib Sahir who serves the East India Company, and focusses on the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
As well as the design of the buildings, which fit with their respective Asian cultures, there is the introduction of loads more unique units. Other new features include:
Wonders – When advancing to the next age, you must choose to build a wonder. Each wonder offers either units or a resource bonus.
Rice Paddies – Instead of farms, rice paddies can be built. They can be used by villagers to gather food or gold.
Consulates – This new building allows your base to ally with a foreign power. This allegiance will allow you to buy foreign units not otherwise available to you. Export (symbolised by a green leaf) is automatically generated as your villagers gather resources. However, it is generated a lot slower making it more difficult to buy foreign units.
Treasure Ships: For many of the Chinese campaigns, you have a treasure ship which generates a resource of your choice every minute or so.
I didn’t enjoy this expansion quite so much as the others. To me, it felt like there were so many upgrades to use resources on and they were so expensive that I found you could complete each mission before using them.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Gamespot:“Like The WarChiefs expansion from last year, The Asian Dynasties does a good job of introducing distinct new civilizations to Age of Empires III–only this time, instead of Native American tribes, there are three iconic Asian civilizations to play with now. There’s a fair amount here to dig into if you’re a serious Age of Empires fan or someone who likes Asian civilization. Overall 7.5/10”.
Gamespy:“No self-respecting Age III fan would want to miss out on all the East meets West fun, not to mention the new artwork: such gorgeous pagodas, arches, minarets and colors that those musty old Europeans could scarcely imagine in their new worlds. This expansion pack is a rare and generous package of new visuals, new gameplay, and absolutely crucial improvements to the core game. If you weren’t an Age III fan before Asian Dynasties, get ready to be one now. Overall 4.5/5”.
IGN: “Asian Dynasties is another great chapter in the Age of Empires series and one that strategy gamers with a yen for the Far East should definitely investigate. The units are colorful, the combat is exciting, and the story, though not as thrilling as Age 3 or as historically relevant as Age 2, is still strong enough to carry the action. It’s true that the missions leave a bit to be desired in terms of but I don’t want to come down too harshly on the campaign here because at the end of the day, Asian Dynasties is a heck of a lot of fun. I mean, the elephants alone are worth the price of admission. Overall 8/10”.
“I enjoyed the storyline and the game still looks and plays great. My only gripe is the increase in expensive upgrades that are not worth the effort of gathering resources for. Other than that, it gets a thumbs up from me.”
What are your memories of Age of Empires III and its expansion packs? 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.
RPG fans like nothing more than to take control of a character or group of characters, and immerse themselves fully in a fantasy world where they can increase their character’s stats, find magical and rare weapons, and rescue a kingdom or two. It’s pure hero fantasy…and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention is a fantasy turn-based tactical RPG. It was developed by Climax Entertainment and Camelot Co. Ltd., and published by Sega in 1992 in Japan, and 1993 in North America and Europe. Released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, it would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 (under the title of Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon), Wii Virtual Console in 2007, iOS in 2010 (discontinued in 2015), and Windows, Linux and Mac (Steam) in 2011. It can also be found as part of the Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 on the Dreamcast, Sega Smash Volume 2 for Microsoft Windows, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. For this review, I revisited the version found as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.
Millenia ago, in the Kingdom of Rune, a battle between good and evil took place. Dark Dragon, who led the forces of evil, was defeated by the Warriors of Light who cast him into an alternate dimension. Dark Dragon vowed to return in 1000 years to once more wreak havoc in Rune. 1000 years later, in which time peace and tranquillity existed in Rune, the Kingdom of Runefaust attacked Rune hellbent on helping Dark Dragon to return.
A young man named Max, who lives in the Kingdom of Guardiana, is sent to defeat the evil warrior Kane and his army. Along with an army of his own, Max soon discovers that Darksol is behind the plot and pursues him throughout Rune to stop Dark Dragon’s ressurection.
Max (You): Max is human and an all-round fighter, both fast and accurate. If things are looking bleak during a battle, he can cast Egress to whisk your party away to safety. Be warned, if Max is defeated in battle, you automatically lose the confrontation, and are sent back to your last save spot minus half your gold! To prevent this, keep an eye on his health and don’t be afraid to use Egress or keep a supply of Angel Wings for each member of your party (Angel Wings have the same use as Egress).
Luke: Luke is a dwarf and a great warrior. He cannot cast spells and his movement is limited, but he is strong.
Ken: Ken is a centaur and a good fighter. Centaurs have quite a long movement range so be careful he doesn’t go too far and get separated from the group.
Tao: Tao is a young elf who is training to be a mage. As she gains experience, she will be able to cast spells from afar but she is weak in hand-to-hand combat. Make sure your protect her.
Hans: Hans the Elf is an archer, perfect for ranged attacks. Again, protect him from hand-to-hand combat.
Lowe: Lowe is a halfling priest. Although weak in attack, his skill lies in healing your party during battles.
There are nine other characters who will join your party along the but you’ll have to wait to meet them to find out who they are.
For the most part, the game takes place from an almost top-down view, in the traditional Japanese-style RPG. There are no labyrinths, and only a few puzzles to solve. You must make your way through various towns and through the overworld map in pursuit of Darksol. In the towns, you can talk to the citizens, some of whom offer insights to help you progress. You can buy and sell weapons and items from the shops to assist you on your quest. You can also find priests who can resurrect fallen characters, cure them of various ailments, promote those who have reached level 20, and record your progress.
Unlike many other RPGs, there are no random battle encounters as such, but there are areas where you can find battles should you wish to increase your stats before progressing in the game.
Battles take place on a square-grid system. Depending on their stats, characters can only move a certain number of squares at one time. Depending on your proximity to an enemy, you can either attack with a weapon, cast a spell, use an item or choose to do nothing. If you are adjacent to a member of your own party, you can swap items. This does not class as a move, and so items can be exchanged without losing your turn.
When an attack occurs, a beautifully animated action scene appears with a blue dialogue screen explaining damage given or accrued, and experience points and money earned etc. When an enemy is hit by your weapon or spell, your attacking character will earn experience points for themselves. When an enemy is defeated, a larger amount of experience points will be awarded to your attacking character and the money earned will be added to your party’s kitty. For every 100 points accrued, that character will level-up increasing their attack, defence, MP, agility etc. Once a character reaches level 20, they can be promoted to a different class of fighter.
What can I say other than this game looks beautiful. The overworld map and village scenes are bright and vibrant, and detailed with clear distinction between the sprites and environment. The fight scenes are beautifully illustrated and animated with incredible looking sprites, action shots and backgrounds. I really cannot compliment this game enough on its graphics. For me, they are superior to games like Final Fantasy V (1992), Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992) and Paladin’s Quest (1992). However, by the time this game reached North America and Europe, the SNES was beginning to take the graphics up a notch with games like Secret of Mana (1993) and Illusion of Gaia (1993). Had Shining Force been released a year or two later, it would have looked a but dated.
The only thing that lets this game down for me, is the music. By 1992, Both Nintendo and Sega had released games with fantastic 16-bit soundtracks like Super Mario World (1990) and Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) respectively. Now I know that these are different genres from Shining Force, but it is an indication of how good the music could be in games. I just feel that Shining Force loses a few marks in this department.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Mean Machines Sega: “A beautifully crafted piece of Megadrive software with just the right balance of action and adventure to satisfy all needs. Overall 91%”.
Sega Power: “A beautifully produced RPG. Great tactical battle sequences. Loads of unique, cute characters, speedy gameplay and lots to see ‘n’ do. Gorgeous to play and look at. Overall 89%”.
Megatech:“Finely presented combination of exploration and fighting leads Shining Force to victory. Overall 90%.”
“Blood, death, war, rumpy-pumpy, TRIUMPH!!! I love this game. Shining Force looks beautiful with great graphics, illustrations and animations with plenty of different characters to get to know. The chess-like manoeuvring during battles is challenging and enables you to prepare your army for strategic assaults on the enemy. However, hardened RPG players may find this game a tad easy though.”
What are your memories of Shining Force? 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.