Shoot ’em ups are not for the light-hearted. They require the quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination of a sprightly feline. They can also be immensely fun to play, especially in co-op mode. These sorts of games were perfect for the arcades and players brave enough to attempt them would soon find they had a mass of spectators cheering them on. Those were the days!
Final Mission is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up developed by Natsume. It was published by Natsume Co. Ltd. (North America and Japan), Infogames (Europe), and Konami (Australia). It was released on the NES in Japan in 1990. In North America it was released in 1991 under the name SCAT: Special Cybernetic Attack Team. In 1992, it was released in Europe and Australia under the name Action in New York. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2011, and the Nintendo DS and Wii U in 2014.
The year is 2029, Supreme Commander Vile Malmort leads an army of aliens to invade and conquer Earth. A team consisting of soldiers that are part-human, part-machine, are assembled and sent to repel the invasion.
Final Mission can be played in one, or two player co-op modes. You play as either Arnold or Sigourney, no doubt a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver (in the Japanese version they are both male). You are equipped with jet packs and two satellite modules that fire at the enemies as you fly around the levels destroying the invaders. You must battle your way through five levels: New York City Ruins; Subterranean Realm; the Astrotube; the Battleship; and the Orbiting Platform. You can pick-up several upgrades along the way, boosting your attacking power and maneuverability. The upgrade icons are: S – Increases the speed of your warrior; L – You wield a high powered laser gun that can shoot through some walls; W – You wield a wide beam to attack multiple enemies; B – Explosive shells; and R – Restores your lost energy.
The controls are simple and easy to learn. The D-pad moves you around the screen. The B button fires your weapons (some weapons fire continuously when the fire button is held down). The A button locks your satellites into position, and unlocks them again so that they can change position as you move. There is no time limit but the screen will scroll sideways (and sometimes up and down). This feature adds an element of strategy when battling through the levels. Sadly, it only takes three of four hits before you die. You only have one life and four or five continues, which are used up very quickly making this game is very tough.
The graphics and level detail are good. The backgrounds are very detailed and look great. In NES shoot ‘em ups, the backgrounds aren’t usually as detailed (see Gradius II  and Over Horizon ), but Final Mission’s backgrounds are really impressive. However, there is a little bit of flicker when the screen gets too busy.
Did I complete the game?
Nope, didn’t even get past the first stage.
What the critics said:
At present I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.
My verdict:“This game looks great and the controls easy to learn and are very responsive. Sadly, the difficulty level is rather off putting and I found that I simply didn’t enjoy playing this game. However, it is a little more fun in two-player mode.”
What are your memories of Final Mission? 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 Facebook.
I often wonder what goes through the minds of game creators. Naturally, creators wish to make money but at the same time, surely they want to make a game that’ll be loved by gamers. Why they would create games that frustrate gamers because of limited moves, the inability to select weapons, and limited lives and continues, I’ll never know? Kage is one such game!
Kage was developed and published by Natsume in 1990 (Taito in 1991). It was later renamed as Shadow of the Ninja in Japan and Blue Shadow in Europe and Australia. Originally released on the NES, it was later re-released for the Virtual Console on the Wii.
Set in 2029, the evil Emperor Garuda has taken over the USA. Two ninjas from the Iga clan, Lord Hayate and Lady Kaede, are sent to infiltrate the Emperor’s stronghold and assassinate him. Using weapons such as the katana (sword), shuriken (throwing stars) and kusarigama (sickle and chain), the ninjas must fight through numerous enemies and sub-bosses. There are five levels broken down into 16 stages, which see you fight through a seaport, underground sewers, city rooftops, an air fortress and a final fortress.
It can be played in both single and two player mode. In one player mode, you have the option to decide who you play as. You can run, jump and attack, and even hold onto certain platforms and hang from them. You can then choose to flip up to that platform or drop to the platform below. However, you can only attack the way you are facing when hanging from a platform.
The controls are responsive and simple…perhaps too simple. When using the katana and shuriken, you can only attack straight in front of you or in a crouching position. You cannot slash your sword or throw a shuriken up or diagonally, which I think is pretty dumb, especially where the shuriken is concerned. You can attack diagonally up and straight up when you wield the kusarigama, but not down or diagonally down. Finding scrolls throughout the levels increases the range of your attack, but I didn’t find any on the first stage. You may also find bombs and health potions.
Annoyingly you cannot switch between weapons meaning when you pick up shurikens, you have to use them up before reverting back to the katana or kusarigama, or you need to find an item box conatining a different weapon or additional shuriken. This is frustrating because, and I’m sure I don’t need to explain this, but I will, it would be very handy with some bosses and sub-bosses to be able to save some shurikens back.
Thankfully, there is no time limit on the levels meaning you can take your time.
Graphically, levels are detailed and well designed, and the sprites are clean and well defined. No complaints there. The music is very basic and easily forgettable.
I didn’t spend that much time on this game because I found the limited move set frustrating and I just didn’t enjoy playing it. The inability to defeat various enemies without taking hits is frustrating.
Did I complete the game?
No, I only managed to get to level 2.2 before I gave up.
What the critics said:
GamePro:“Shadow of the Ninja, however, is above average Ninja fare with top of the line graphics and fast-paced gameplay. One minor hang-up is the sluggish transition between dialogue screens. But all in all this is a top flight, fast-paced action cart.” Overall 4.6/5”.
Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Superb Graphics and sound intensify this battle for freedom. No rating”.
Total!: “A sexy-looking and very playable platform hack ‘em up, with great two-player option. It’s just a bit too easy for my liking. Overall 74%”.
My verdict: “This game isn’t bad, but the limited ways to attack your enemies make it very frustrating. Sadly, this detracts from the nice graphics and keeps me from wanting to pay more. It’s a poor man’s Ninja Gaiden”.
What are your memories of Kage? 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 Facebook.
Many gamers love a good martial arts beat ’em up…Double Dragon, Shinobi, and Ninja Gaiden to name a few. Oddly, Kick Master is set in a medieval world where you battle through forests and caves as oppose to city streets. Where are the knights with their mighty steeds and glinting armour? Where are the broadswords, morning stars, maces and axes? There are none. Apparently, the best way to defeat the monsters in this game is by using an array of kicks. So limber up those hamstrings and groin muscles, and prepare defend yourself against an army of evil demons. Why? Because yet another princess needs saving! After all, if you don’t do it, who else will?
Kick Master is an action game developed by KID and Published by Taito. Although it is considered an action game, it contains elements of a role-playing game, explained below. It was released on the NES in 1992, and this was the version I reviewed.
Castle Lowrel has been attacked by the evil witch Belzed. The king and queen have been slain, and Princess Silphee (strange name I know) has been abducted. You play as Thonolan, an aspiring martial artist, who must battle through eight stages of monsters and defeat Belzed by using an array of kicks and magic spells. As your experience level increases, more types of kicks are unlocked.
The title screen is quite plain, with a black screen and a rectangular banner with Kick Master splashed across it. The music that then plays is quite catchy and fits well with the game, adding an air of almost Castlevania-esque creepiness to it. The pre-game intro is text based, but once the game begins, an animated introduction begins showing how Thonolan’s brother is killed in battle. The illustrations are bright and colourful, but the animation is very basic. The character illustrations do not move but the background does in a parallaxing kind of way.
The gameplay is quite frustrating and takes some getting used to. The reach of your kicks isn’t all that far, so you have to be incredibly precise with the timing of your attacks else you get hit by the monsters. When you kill a monster, it releases three objects for you to grab. Each object either assists you (heart for energy, coin for experience points, and potion bottle for magic points) or hinders you (skull and crossbones for poison). Along the way you will pick up different magical abilities such as lightning, healing and fireballs etc. (thankfully these are also explained in the manual).
The levels have no time limit which allows the player to take their time and really get to grips with the different kicks when they become available. The game has infinite continues, and after each level you will be given a password, allowing you to walk away and come back to it another day. However, you will not get to see the end credits until you complete it on the hardest setting.
Graphically, the levels look great and are very detailed. They probably pushed the NES to its limits. All the sprites are distinctive and are varying in their strength and difficulty to defeat. This was also the first game to use parallax scrolling.
The game actually requires a certain amount of tactics. As mentioned above, when an enemy is killed, they release three objects. If you’re quick enough you may be able to catch two before they disappear off screen. However, it soon becomes clear that you must either focus on gaining experience points to unlock more kicks, or collect magic points to be able to use spells. You can do a mix of both of course. This adds a layer of complexity to the game not often found in these sorts of 8-bit games.
Additionally, one nice feature is that in the options menu, there is a demonstration of all the kicks Thonolan can perform, and at what level he needs to be to be able to perform them. This is also explained in the manual.
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy playing this game, but then again, I can’t say that I did. I am…indifferent to it. I wasn’t instantly enamoured with this game, but I will say that the game grows on you the more your play.
Did I complete the game?
At present I have been unable to complete the game. I managed to reach the octopus boss battle at the end of level 5 but so far am unable to defeat it. I do however have a password and will no doubt return to this game in the future.
What the critics said:
Gamepro:“If Kick Master sounds similar to most NES side-scrolling martial arts offering, you’re right. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great. The challenge pushes the fast-and-furious needle almost off the scale, but that’s cool because you get unlimited continues and passwords. Overall 21/25”.
“The graphics look great! The gameplay takes a little getting used to but the graphics look great. Take time to get used to Kick Master as it will grow on you. This game is a challenge and will no be completed in an afternoon.”
What are your memories of Kick Master? 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 Facebook.
“Space…the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary is a single-player adventure video game in the point and click format. It was developed and published by Interplay for DOS in 1992, Amiga in 1994, MacOS in 1995 and OSX and Linux in 2015. The version I played can be found on DOS.
Based on Star Trek: The Original Series, the game sees you take control of the crew of the starship USS Enterprise. There are seven missions to complete, with each mission styled like an episode of the series. During these missions you encounter strange new species, as well as run-ins with more familiar alien races such as the Klingons and Romulans. There is even an encounter with notorious con-artist Harry Mudd. However, the game isn’t just point and click based. There are also opportunities for space battles too when dealing with the Elasi pirates.
The gameplay is mostly point and click based. You can select whether to walk, look, speak to, or interact with; scenery, people, and items. Your inventory is available at the top left of the screen where you can choose to wield weapons or items when interacting with your surroundings. You also have the ability to select characters to interact with your environment which adds to the realism of the game…you wouldn’t ask Bones to decipher a computer lock would you…”Damn it Jim I’m a doctor, not a locksmith!!”.
When talking to the many characters you encounter, you sometimes have several options of how to interact. Only one is the correct way to reply or ask a question. The others are considered too hostile for Federation standards and affect how the other character reacts and, ultimately, your end of mission score.
Occasionally, you may be called upon to use your phasers against an enemy. You will have the option not to fire, fire on stun setting, or set your phasers to kill. Again, your decision affects not only the safety of your crew, but also your end of mission score.
Graphics wise, the game looks brilliant. The sprites are bright, colourful and clearly defined. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed and well-illustrated. The only downside to the graphics are the pixalated look of the starships and planets during the intro and beginning of each mission. During battles, the starships are designed to give the illusion of the ships being 3D but they clearly are not, and at times look less than smooth.
What makes this game particularly great, is that it contains the actual voices of the original crew, with authentic music from the show (albeit an 8-bit version). The background sound FX, especially when you are on the bridge of the Enterprise, are very reminiscent of the TV show and really immerses you in the game. Additionaly, what brings this game to life is the interactions between the characters which makes you feel as if you are watching an episode of Star Trek.
A particularly nice touch is that before you beam to your destination, you are able to access the ship’s computer and type in keywords from your mission brief. A computer voice will then read out the relevant information and then, like Wikipedia, you find yourself scribbling down keywords and going down a rabbit hole gaining more and more information about the mission ahead.
The puzzles have varying degress of difficulty. Most are simple enough, but some of the missions allow for more than one outcome which greatly affects your end of mission score. One mission however, is very tough, especially if you find maths difficult. I don’t know anyone who worked it out without using a walkrthough.
Beware on the last mission. There seems to be a bug which leads you to a dead end. I spent a lot of time revisiting rooms before looking online to see where I’d gone wrong. This was where I read some walkthroughs and realised, I’d gone wrong. I only used the walkthrough to help progress on Mission six where some advanced mathematical skills are needed to find a code.
Did I compete the game?
Yes, many years ago, but I did need help for mission six when you need to work out a code for a door lock.
What the critics said:
Computer & Video Games: Frank O’Connor “The graphics are in super mega VGA-o-Vision and look dreamy. The sprites are excellent, right down to the high-heeled boots for the male characters. The music is a spot-on rendition of the TV themes, with a smattering of groovy sound effects for good measure. Overall 93%”.
ACE:“The only real problem is the overall longevity, as defined by the number of missions – with only eight of them, seasoned adventurers may find the challenge distressingly short-lived. Those new to the genre, however, would be hard pushed to find a friendlier, more enjoyable and absorbing experience. Overall 960/1000”.
“Authentic, fun, challenging…one of the best Star Trek games ever made. Point and click fans should also enjoy the game, even if they’re not Star Trek fans.”
What are your memories of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary? 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 Facebook.
What makes a great video game? Graphics, music, replay value, multiplayer options…there is no correct answer. Personally, I feel that gameplay is more important than the others. If a game doesn’t play well, the rest is pointless. That’s just my opinion of course.
Snow Bros. was developed and published by Toaplan for the arcade in North America, Japan and Europe in 1990. Over the next few years it was released for home consoles on the NES, Game Boy and Mega Drive in North America and Japan but wasn’t officially released in Europe until the Android and iOS versions in 2012.
In this platform game you play as Prince Nick and/or Prince Tom who are cursed and turned into snowmen by King Scorch whilst he captures Princesses Teri and Tina. Naturally, the two princes pursue King Scorch in order to rescue the princess.
To progress through each level, you must turn monsters into snowballs by throwing snow at them. Once they are transformed into snowballs, you need to push them into each other or to the bottom of the screen where they smash against the wall and die. Once all monsters in a level are defeated you progress to the next level. There are several power-ups to help you along the way. The power-ups are: Red – increases walking speed; Blue – increases amount of snow you throw; Yellow – increases the distance snow can be thrown; Green – inflates you like a balloon where you can fly around the level killing anything you come into contact with. There are 50 levels in total, with a boss battle occuring every 10 levels.
The levels are very colourful, sometimes so much that it hurts the eyes. The game also tends to flicker a little when the screen is busy. The controls are simple…move left or right, jump and throw. This game looks simple, and older gamers may think this is for children…it is not! It’s challenging and it’ll take you several tries before you can complete the game. The game has limited replay value, but I think you will come back to it more than once after you have beaten the game.
Quite simply, this is a fun game to play, especially in two player mode. Thankfully, you cannot harm each other when you are throwing snow, which could get extremely frustrating if that was a feature.
Did I complete the game?
Although I did play this several times with Mrs. L, I completed it by myself.
What the critics said?
At present I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.
My verdict:“This game is fun! It’s easy to control but challenging. It has the added bonus of being two player, and even after you have beaten the game, you’ll want to play through it again and again.”
What are your memories of Snow 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 Facebook.
After six years and four games, Phantasy Star IV sees the conclusion of the original Phantasy Star series. In the Phantasy Star universe, the games have spanned several thousand years and players were introduced to many different characters including Alis, one of the first female protagonists in computer game history. I have throoughly enojoyed playing through the series but as George Harrison wrote, “All things must pass”.
PSIV is a role-playing game that was developed and published by Sega and released for the Sega Genesis in Japan in 1993. It would not make an appearance in North America and Europe until 1995. It was later released on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2008. The version I played can be found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.
Taking place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II, a cataclysmic event known as the Great Collapse has turned Motavia back into a desert planet, and once again there is an increase in biomonsters appearing throughout the world. Chaz Ashley, a young hunter, learns of the link between the biomonsters and the ecological crisis on the planet. The computer system put in place to control the climate is malfunctioning, and the planet is reverting back to its original desert-like state. It also seems that Dark Force is back, hellbent on destroying the Algol system once and for all.
Firstly, the story is more fleshed out than it’s previous instalments, and a lot more engaging. The dialogue in general feels like there was a better translation of the original script. Additionally, during dialogue moments, character profile boxes appear which are beautifully illustrated. It also clarifies exactly who is speaking. During cutscenes, more illustrated boxes are added giving the illusion that you’re reading a comic book. There are also a few nice surprises in the form of characters from previous games reappearing, but I won’t spoil it by telling you who.
Originally the game came with a very comprehensive 40-page manual explaining every aspect of the game including: Information on each character, what the main items are for, what all the spells and techniques do when used, what injuries you can incur, a map of Motavia, and information on weapons and armour.
The gameplay has been kept the same – that is, top down view with the exception of battle mode. There is a significant increase in walking speed for the characters, meaning you can get from A to B a lot quicker. You are also able to increase the speed of the battles and text to help hurry the game along. One annoyance was that when you approach a person and/or object, whilst still pressing that direction, you walk around the target as oppose to stopping in front of it. When you play it, you’ll know what I mean.
Oddly, the sprites in the overworld seem to have reverted to PSII style graphics as oppose to PSIII or creating newer, more improved graphics. Comparing the two, one could be forgiven for thinking PSIII was a later instalment. Sadly, these graphics look dated for the mid-90s, especially when compared to RPGs such as Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse (1994) and Shining Force 2 (1993). Also, the PlayStation had been released in 1994, upping the expected standard for games in general. When the PlayStation could produce RPGs like Suikoden (1995), what chance did the Mega Drive have?
The menu system is easy to access and straight forward to navigate. What made me particularly happy is that you no longer need to manually go into your menu and pass items between characters in order for them to equip or use them. The weapons and armour will automatically be available to those who can wield them.
Buying and equipping weapons and armour has been simplified, and for the better. When you buy a new weapon or piece of armour, arrows appear by the name of the individual who can wield it. Sadly, you cannot see if an item will improve the stats of that character until you buy it and equip it.
PSIV reintroduces fighter animations back into battle mode, similar to that of PSII. However, this time the backgrounds have also been kept. The animations of the physical attacks of the characters are the same as they were in PSII which is a little disappointing. The backgrounds during the battles are more detailed and, in some cases, animated. Additionally in PSIV, you can now use your transport vehicle during battles instead of using your characters.
The enemies are beautifully illustrated and animated. There are some real ugly bastards in this game. A nice little extra is that sometimes, when two or more fighters use a certain technique or spell, it can combine to produce a stronger attack. Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime you attempt it.
One added bonus is that you no longer need to pay to restore a fallen comrade. You simply go to a hostel, and bed down for the night. In the morning, said comrade will be right as rain.
Finally, and thank Christ, the battle menu is now wonderfully intuitive. It is very easy to learn, and they have finally simplified the way you can chose which enemy to attack. This makes strategic attacks a hell of a lot easier.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, a walkthrough was needed on several occasions though.
What the critics said:
Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the fourth instalment in the Phantasy Star series with an improved magic system that allows you to combine spells for more power. Overall 7.75/10”
GameFan: “The graphics are gorgeous, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a while on the Genesis., full of batchin’ samples, and the game exudes nothing but pure, joyous power. Overall 93/100”.
Mean Machines Sega: “The best pure RPG for the Megadrive…” Overall 88%”.
Sega Saturn Magazine:“The gameplay – controlling inventories, arming combatants, and using spells – is not to everyone’s taste. But the game succeeds by creating climactic moments, introducing new characters and powers, and taking many weird and wonderful plot turns. Overall 90%”.
Game Players:“Newer RPGs like Final Fantasy III make this game look ancient…this still feels like every other Phantasy Star Game…The game offers plenty of items while staying clear and user-friendly. Fighting every other step drives you crazy. Overall 70%”.
“Although the graphics are beginning to look a bit dated, they are still pleasing to look at for the most part. The story is compelling with some nice surprises, and they have simplified the menu systems making them easier to navigate. Personally I feel this is the best Phantasy Star in the series.”
What are your memories of Phantasy Star IV? 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 Facebook.
Arcade games were designed to be nigh on impossible to complete. This was because not only did the creators want to challenge gamers, but they also needed to be able to sell a product to arcade owners who in turn wanted games that gamers would repeatedly pump their pocket money in to continue playing…it is a business after all. When arcade games were ported to home consoles, it often seems that the creators failed to adjust the difficulty levels. Young gamers today have no idea how easy they have it all with constant automatic saving, online walkthroughs and cheat pages close-by, at the touch of a button.
Contra is a run and gun video game developed and published by Konami for the Arcade in 1987. A home version was released on the NES in 1988 (in Europe, Contra was known as Probotector). Ocean Software ported the game to the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC in Europe in 1988 under the name Gryzor. Interestingly, Ocean’s cover art for the game was a clearly influenced by a photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Predator. I reviewed the NES version of this game.
According to the NES manual, in 1957, a large object crashed into the Amazon near some Mayan ruins. Nothing further seemed to have happened and the incident was forgotten about. 30 years later, reports of weird alien monsters terrorising the local villages have been received by the Pentagon. Rather than create a political incident by sending in an army, the US send in two commandos, Lance and Bill, to find and destroy the aliens.
Contra is easy to play but tough to master. You mainly run, jump, lay down, and shoot. The controls are nice and responsive, and you can shoot in all directions. However, if you want to shoot directly down, then you need to jump. You can jump down to a lower platform simply by pressing down and jump. Be careful though…one shot can kill you and you only get a finite amount of lives and continues
The manual describes all the levels you will fight through as well as what all the power-ups do. The power ups are greatly appreciated as you progress through the games and the enemies begin to increase in number and strength. They also make defeating the end of level bosses much easier.
After every level, the perspective changes and your character begins in the foreground firing at enemies and defensive weapons in the background. Once you destroy the circular flashing light, which powers the electrical fence stopping you from moving forward, the rear wall explodes and you can progress to the next room. This must be done several times before you complete the level.
The levels are very well designed and very detailed. They are brightly coloured with many different platforms for you to jump up to and down from. The music fits the game well, and the sprites are clean and nicely animated. The overall graphics are pretty damn good for a home console in 1988.
The game becomes a lot more fun in two-player mode. Although you are competing for points, you are actually co-operating to beat the game, and it certainly makes the game easier. Mrs. L was my co-op buddy for this run through.
Did I complete the game?
Mrs. L and I did complete the game, but we needed the cheat that gave us 30 odd lives each. Else we could only get past the first few levels. On YouTube I did see one video where someone completed the game without dying once. Fair play to them.
What the critics said:
Computer Gaming World: “Two player contests are always in demand, because most video games are designed for a solo gamer. Contra is doubly welcome, because it is a truly outstanding action epic.” No rating given.
“Although this game is tough, it is also a lot of fun, especially in two player mode. Great graphics, tight controls, and adrenalin inducing levels. I think that you will find yourself returning to this game again and again.”
What are your memories of Contra? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.
“They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team. (We’re really hip!) They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green. (Hey, get a grip!) When the evil Shredder attacks, These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!”
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto our TV screens in 1987. I had very mixed feelings towards them. On the one hand, ninjas were cool to most boys when I was a kid. On the otherhand, it coincided with the end of my favourite cartoon series Transformers. Over the next few years their star rose culminating in a trio of mediocre live action films in 1990, 1991, and 1993. With such a high evel of popularity, it was only a matter of time before video games featuring Turtle Power would appear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Konami in 1989 for the NES (Ultra Games published it for the North American and European markets in 1989 and 1990 respectively). It was later released on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, and Playchoice 10. The version I reviewed was a on the NES.
The story follows the main objective of the animated series. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo must retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder in order to return Splinter to his human form.
There is a basic intro which shows the Turtles mutating from their smaller selves, before showing the range of moves they can perform. It music over the intro is quite good as to seems signifying the tough attitude of the Turtles. Sadly, the intro is pretty dull when compared to the likes of Batman and Castlevania III.
There are three aspects to the game: A side-scrolling platform part, a swimming part, and top down adventure style part.
You begin in the overworld adventure mode, on the streets of the city. There is some catchy music playing whilst you investigate your surroundings. For some reason the energy meter at the bottom flickers, and I’m unsure if that was intentional, to draw your attention to it, or simply an error on the creators’ part. If at anytime you are unsure what to do, you can select the information area where either Splinter or April will explain your task. You can also see a map of the area, and the energy levels of each Turtle. If you need to, you can select which Turtle to use at any time.
When you enter buildings and sewers, you begin the platform part of the game. Which involves battling through enemies from left to right, and interestingly, right to left. Each Turtle is equipped with their respective weapon of either a katana, sai, bow and nunchuks. Along the way they can also pick up weapons such as shurikens with which to throw at the baddies. To gain health, keep an eye out for slices of pizza.
During all levels you can change between Turtles at any time. Each Turtle is distinguishable by their coloured bands and weapons just like the animated series. I tended to favour Donatello because of his long reach and power with the bow.
The gameplay itself is simple. Walk, jump, swing your weapons in various directions, and throw projectiles. Annoyingly, the movement can get a bit choppy and jerky when there are too many enemies on screen.
Occasionally you get a cut scene using a mix of in-game sprites and nicer drawn character close-ups. I feel they could have done better with these cut scenes, they feel lazy and uninspiring.
In overworld areas, the graphics are clean and colourful. However, some of sprites during the platform section are poorly illustrated and it’s difficult to identify what they are. Some enemies are clearly defined, but others look a bit hazy, and stick out like a sore thumb. The NES is clearly capable of so much more. You only have to look at Duck Tales and Batman to see how naff the platform level sprites are, including the Turtles themselves.
The swimming level is notoriously tough. You need to find and disarm bombs that have been planted to destroy the dam. Although they can breathe underwater (not accurate for turtles but we won’t hold that against the creators), for Turtles, they don’t seem to be able to swim very well, and are hard to control. Often you must swim through tight gaps where “electric seaweed” damages you if you touch it. You also need to evade electric beams and disarm all the bombs before the time runs out.
The music, though fitting for the game, lacks the recognisable traits of the animated series. The only time you hear anything resembling the original theme at certain times like when you rescue April or finish the swimming level. This is stark contrast to games like Duck Tales where the recognisable theme is present throughout.
The game is notoriously challenging. There are lots of baddies to kill but completing missions with all Turtles and health intact is nigh impossible. If you re-enter buildings and sewers, the levels are reset meaning you have to fight all the baddies again, but this is handy when needing to find pizza to gain health.
Did I complete the game?
No, I just about got past the swimming level.
What the critics said:
Computer & Video Games:“The graphics are great, a bit on the blocky side at times but with lots of colour and some nice additions such as the opening sequence which shows the turtles being transformed into their mutant alter-egos. The game itself is very tough…the high level of difficulty isn’t at all frustrating, in fact it only adds to the overall brilliance of the product. Overall 89%”
Electronic Gaming Monthly: Donn – “TMNT wasn’t overly impressive – I thought it would have been much better considering all the hype that t achieved. The game play is there and the graphics are nice, but the whole cart didn’t meet my expectations. It is good, but I was expecting more. Overall 5.75/10”.
Nintendo Power: “The sound effects and the music in the tunnels and buildings are excellent…Great graphics and excellent character control in Action Scenes make this an exceptional game…cool storyboard graphics. Overall 4.125/5”.
The Games Machine: “The game kicks off to a great start with an oriental tune and some impressive portraits of the turtles. Though, sadly, some of the in-game graphics are a bit iffy and there is the odd screen glitch. Initial playability is high, all the turtle sprites are well drawn and animated and the bad guys present quite a challenge. Overall 86%”.
Gamepro: “The absence of a multi-player option detracts from the whole concept of Turtle togetherness, the overall action is average, and it’s nearly impossible to finish with only two continues. Also, although the Turtles look cool, the Foot Clanners’ graphics are a little weak. Turtles Overall 3.8/5”.
Raze: “The difficulty factory is set just right; frustrating but nothing to put your Nintendo in physical danger. The graphics are impressive for the NES, with superb use of vivid colours and impressive animation. Overall 87%”.
Best Theme, Fun 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989
Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That Was Released) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1989
“TMNT is as tough as I remember. Graphically, the platform levels should have been much better. The gameplay would be great if it wasn’t so choppy, and it was disappointing that the original theme tune didn’t feature more. However, It was still a fond trip down memory lane, and I will certainly pick it up the controller up again at some point to try and beat the game in the future.”
What are your memories of TMNT? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.
Ah role-playing games, the opportunity for real adventure. Battle ugly-ass monsters, fill your pockets with treasure, and wield magic weapons. Cast spells of fire, lightning, as well as healing. Journey through mystical and fantastical lands, through deadly dungeons, dark forests, and creepy castles. Build your fighter’s stats until they are strong enough to defeat the demonic rulers of the evil armies.
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom is an RPG developed and published by Sega and is the sequel to Phantasy Star II. It was released in Japan in 1990 for the Sega Mega Drive and reached Europe and North America in 1991. The version I played was part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3.
1000 years before the start of the game, which seems to be set in a medieval setting as oppose to a science-fiction setting, two factions are engulfed in a bitter feud. Orakio, a swordsman, and Lava, a sorceress, meet for an armistice and both mysteriously disappear. Both factions blame each other for their leader’s disappearance, and all communication and travel between the two worlds cease. War seems inevitable…
Firstly, you get a nice intro with some beautiful illustrations, and text explaining the back story. The game then begins with Rhys, Prince and heir to the Orakian kingdom of Landen. He is due to marry Maia, whom Rhys found washed up on a beach two months earlier (a bit odd, but ok). The ceremony is interrupted by a dragon, identified as a Layan, who abducts Maia in what is seemingly a deliberate act of war. During his search for Maia, Rhys recruits a number of fighters to assist him.
Continuing in the tradition of most RPGs, PSIII involves the player exploring a 2D world, recruiting characters, random enemy encounters, and a turn-based battle system. You can attack the enemy in three ways: with a weapon, using magic spells, and/or using special techniques. I know in PSIV you can use dynamite to attack the enemies, but I don’t recall seeing that option in this game…I may be wrong of course. Once enemies are defeated you gain Meseta (money) and experience points. Experience points are necessary to increase your fighter level which in turn, increases their stats.
The overworld gameplay hasn’t changed. It is still a near top down view and you must wander from town to town whilst buying new weapons and armour, gleaning information from local villagers, and fighting a multitude of different creatures. The overworld graphics are less vibrant, but more detailed, and realistic in my opinion. It certainly gives me less of a headache looking at it anyway.
When battling enemies, for some reason they have done away with seeing your fighters attack the enemies which is disappointing because it looked great in PSII. The enemies are more detailed, and some, in the later levels, just look really peculiar and I have no idea what they are supposed to be. Thankfully, they have brought back the backgrounds, and done away with the blue grid. Controversially, I prefer the backgrounds from PSI as I think they are more interesting to look at.
The battle menu is still more complicated than it needs to be. In PSIV, which I will be reviewing in several weeks, they rectify this to create an intuitive, and simple battle menu.
Strangely, PSIII doesn’t resolve what happened at the end of PSII. What happened to your fighters? What happened to Rolf, Rudo and company? Were they defeated? Did they survive? Me may never find out!
What is unique about PSIII, compared to other games in the franchise, is that the story spans three generations. At the end of each generation, you have the option to choose who you wish to marry. This determines who you will take control of in the next generation storyline. As I understand it, the only difference it makes is that it will affect the offsprings ability to use their techniques. There are potentially 10 different generational choices, which affect the game’s ending. Although this adds to the replay value, I don’t imagine many people would wish to play through such a gargantuan game a second or third time…but then again, I may be wrong.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but with the help of a walkthrough at times.
What the critics said:
Mean Machines:“Another enormous role-playing game, but this one has far more depth and variety than its predecessor. It’s by far the best RPG on the Megadrive…Overall 89%”.
Electronic Gaming Monthly: Martin – “One of the best RPGs ever! Phantasy Star 3 blows away the previous games, although it isn’t necessarily more challenging overall. The game throws in a lot of new features like different generations who each will encounter their own quests to overcome. Awesome RPG! Overall 8/10”.
Dragon:“Though we didn’t like it as much as Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III is creative in many ways. First, you have the ability to marry a person and then become the offspring of that union to continue the quest. The various endings in the game are a definite plus as well. The graphics are excellent, except for combat (Phantasy Star II is better here)…Overall, this game will definitely keep you fixed to the television for weeks. Overall 4/5”.
“Another great game for the Phantasy Star universe. Improved graphics, a great story with a new generational storyline, and alternate storylines. They still need to decide what they are doing with the battle scene animations and battle menus.”
What are your memories of Phantasy Star 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 Facebook.
Every game from the Super Mario franchise has been hotly anticipated by fans of the series. After the success of Super Mario World, the bar was set extremely high for the sequel. The creators not only succeeded in producing a fantastic sequel (although it’s actually a prequel), but a game that proved so popular that its success spawned a series of spin-offs and sequels in itself. It really does seem like there is no stopping the Super Mario franchise!
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SMW2) is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released for the SNES in 1995, the Game Boy Advance in 2002, the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014. The version I played can be found on the SNES Mini.
SMW2 is a prequel to Super Mario World (SMW), and what a prequel it is! Magikoopa and the Koopalings intercept a stork that is carrying Baby Mario and Luigi. During the attack, Baby Mario is dropped but safely caught by Yoshi. Many Yoshies assist in bringing Baby Mario back to the stalk through a number of challenging levels and bosses. Oddly, it doesn’t explain why Magikoopa and the Koopalings are trying to intercept the brothers, or what they will do with them once they have captured them. Does Bowser know that they will grow up to be a thorn in his side?
Keeping with the Super Mario traditions, the game mostly consists of running and jumping through the levels whilst collecting coins and tokens, although this game involves more puzzle-solving and item collecting than other platforms. There is no time limit which allows deeper exploration into each level and enables you to take your time. As well as simply playing through the levels, there is an added challenge of collecting 100% of the flowers, stars and red coins from over 40 levels (plus several different bonus levels and games). This greatly extends the game’s life and adds replay value.
Yoshi has the ability to eat most of his enemies, spit and throw objects at his enemies, and jump or stamp on them (as long as they don’t have spikes). He can also briefly levitate which greatly helps whilst jumping larger gaps.
Yoshi also collects eggs which he can use to fire at enemies and obstacles. These can be found by either hitting a white and green coloured block from below (red and yellow ones also occur), or by eating certain enemies and laying them as eggs. Green eggs can simply be used as a projectile to either kill enemies or aimed to collect coins and flowers. Red eggs produce stars for you to collect when thrown, and yellow eggs produce coins when they are thrown. Yoshi can also eat green and red watermelons and then spit the seeds and fire at his enemies.
There are several areas where Yoshi can touch an icon and be transformed into either a helicopter, car, drill or submarine where applicable. This enables Yoshi to reach bonus coins and flowers etc. that were previously inaccessible. A flashing star power-up is also available which makes Mario invincible for a limited amount of time.
Although Yoshi is basically invincible, he will die if he falls onto spikes and into lava etc. When he does get hit by an enemy, Baby Mario becomes encased in a bubble and begins to fly away. A countdown will begin and you need to retrieve him before the time runs out. Once caught, the timer will increase again to ensure that you have at least 10 seconds on the timer. Throughout the game you can also collect little stars that increase the amount of time you have to retrieve Baby Mario. Two things are incredibly annoying about his feature. Firstly, Baby Mario’s crying makes you want to leave him and turn the game off. Another is that sometimes the bubble Baby Mario is in, floats to areas of the screen that Yoshi cannot reach.
The game’s illustration style is reminiscent of a colouring book coloured by crayons. The levels, backgrounds, sprites and animations look great, but I personally prefer the illustration and colour scheme of SMW. Alas, the music isn’t as memorable as SMW or Super Mario Kart for that matter.
Yoshi’s Island is a very good prequel and I enjoyed playing through it. There are plenty of new features and designs that clearly distinguish this from SMW, but it is easy to learn and familiar enough to not seem too different from other Mario games. However, I feel this game lacks the charm of SMW, and although it is challenging, I found the game too frustrating in places, making me not want to bother trying to achieve 100%.
Did I complete the game?:
I have completed the main storyline, but am yet to achieve 100% throughout.
What the critics thought:
Edge: “…Yoshi’s Island is a welcome addition to the series – as playable, challenging and entertaining as the best of the other Mario games. Overall 9/10”.
Gamefan: “One word immediately springs to mind – perfect. Perfect gameplay, perfect graphics, perfect music. Overall 9.7/10”.
Next Generation: “The most impressive features of Yoshi’s Island are its size and playability. Strewn with bonus levels of all kinds, much like the original, this game will keep your dinosaur friend hopping in several different directions. You’ll find yourself baffled at the task of completing this gargantuan game, but you’ll definitely enjoy trying. Overall 5/5”.
Nintendo Life: “Yoshi’s Island isn’t just a great platformer: it’s a reminder of why this silly little hobby of ours is so wonderful. Sure, the game contains no political satire, no poetic justice, no character development. But if what Miyamoto and Tezuka crafted isn’t a work of art, then the definition of “art” needs to be amended. Overall 10/10”.
“A great and worthy prequel which I feel lacks a bit of the charm of Super Mario World. However, the graphics are gorgeous, and there is plenty to learn and find, differentiating it from its predecessors and most of its contemporaries. Don’t be fooled, this game is much tougher than Super Mario World and although there is plenty here to keep you coming back, rage quits will be frequent!”
What are your memories of Yoshi’s Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.