Fatal Labyrinth – Review

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features to watch out for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I complete the game?

No, I couldn’t get past Level 11.

What the critics thought:

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

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

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

My Verdict:

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

My Rating:

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


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

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

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

Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time – Review

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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

The game play is the same as the original Ecco game. When pressing a direction, Ecco will swim in that direction. When you stop swimming, Ecco will drift, adding some realism to the gave, since the sea is always moving with the tides. To increase speed, press the ‘C’ button, and Ecco will speed up, handy for when you’re almost out of oxygen or when you need to leap out of the water and over obstacles. The ‘B’ button makes Ecco dash (tap twice for double charge). This is mainly used to attack the many dangerous and deadly creatures he encounters, as well as, breaking down shelled walls. The enemies include sharks, jellyfish, pufferfish, and crabs….those crabs can fucking do one! They come out of nowhere and make a B-line for you. I admit, I dropped the C bomb several times during my playthrough due to those little wankers. Frustratingly, the enemies also respawn which pisses me off even more and makes the game even harder.

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

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

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

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

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

So what is new about Tides of Time?

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

Puzzle Glyphs – Join with others to help release their powers

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

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

Milestone Glyphs – Act like save states

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

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

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

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

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

Did I complete the game?

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

What the critics thought:

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

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

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

My verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] LaMancha, M., ‘ProReview – Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time’. (December 1994). GamePro. 75:86-7  (file:///C:/Users/nikth/AppData/Local/Temp/GamePro_US_065.pdf Accessed 15th September 2021).

[2]  ‘Review Crew – Ecco: Tides of Time’. (December 1994). 65:40. (https://archive.org/details/ElectronicGamingMonthly_201902/Electronic%20Gaming%20Monthly%20Issue%20065%20%28December%201994%29/page/n43/mode/2up Accessed 15th September 2021).

[3] ‘Rating Genesis – Ecco: Tides of Time’. (February 1995). Next Generation. 2:100. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-002/page/n101/mode/2up Accessed 15th September 2021).

ESWAT: City Under Siege – Review

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

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

There are eight missions for you to battle through:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I compete the game?

No, I could not get past mission five.

What the critics said:

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

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

My Verdict:

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

Rating:

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


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

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

Batman: The Video Game – Review

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.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Fight your way through the City of Gotham (screenshot taken by the author)

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 in-between level animations look fantastic (screenshot taken by the author)

The game contains five levels (each level has four or five sub-levels):

Gotham City

AXIS Chemical Factory

Underground Conduit

Ruins of Laboratory

The Cathedral

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.

Beautifully detailed with an understated, dark colour scheme suits this game well (screenshot taken by the author)

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%[1]

Awards:

Best Movie to Game – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s ‘Best and Worst of 1989’[2]

My Verdict:

“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.”

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Nintendo Review – Batman’. (December 1990). Issue 3:78-9. https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-03/page/n77/mode/2up Accessed on 13th February 2020).

[2] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990 Video Game Buyer’s guide. Issue 5:22. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six – Review

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

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

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

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

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.

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

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.[1]

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

My verdict:

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

Rating:

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


[1] George & Rob., ‘Now Playing – Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six’. Nintendo Power. (October 1992). Issue 41:103 &105. (https://archive.org/details/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20041%20October%201992/page/n113/mode/2up Accessed 1st January 2020).

[2] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: NES – Spiderman: Return of the Sinister Six’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:61-2. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n61/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

Mitsume ga Tooru (The Third-Eyed One) – Review

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.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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’s main attack is a bullet fired from his third eye (Screenshot taken by the author)

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

When you destroy enemies, they drop coins for you to collect and spend at your girlfriend’s shop (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

The sprites and backgrounds are beautifful illustrated (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

My verdict:

“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.”

Rating:

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.

Metal Gear Solid – Review

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!

Title screen (Screenshot take by the author)

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 map allows you to see the line of sight of the enemy soldiers and security cameras, allowing you to evade detection (Screenshot take by the author)

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.

The codec allows you to communicate with mission control. They will either offer tips on how to procede or will contact you when the story is progressing (Screenshot take by the author)

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.

The cutscenes looked great for 1998, and really helped immerse you inot the story (Screenshot take by the author)

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.

The over head angle can become frustrating as it is very limiting, particularly for a game where you really need to see your surroundings (Screenshot take by the author)

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.[1]

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[2]

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-.[3]

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.”[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

Arcade: “A brilliant, technically stunning, well thought through release  that’s sure to influence action adventure games for many years. Overall 5/5. [8]

Awards:

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)

Best Graphics – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards[9] (Editor Choice)

Excellence Award for Interactive Art – 1998 Japan Media Arts Festival[10]

My verdict:

“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!”

Rating:

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.


[1] Alex C., (15th Aug 2001). ‘Playstation Reviews – Metal Gear Solid’. Computer and Video Games. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080615233719/http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=8389 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[2] Major Mike, (13th July 2005). ‘Review – Metal Gear Solid’. Gamepro. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080602095023/http://www.gamepro.com/sony/psx/games/reviews/236.shtml Acessed 13th December 2020).

[3]  (10/1/1998). ‘Metal gear Solid – PS’. Game Revolution. (https://web.archive.org/web/20070219011314/http://www.gamerevolution.com/review/sony/metal_gear_solid Accessed 13th December 2020).

[4] Gerstmann, J., (September 25, 1998). ‘Metal Gear Solid Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/metal-gear-solid-review/1900-2546002/ Accessed 13th December 2020).

[5] Nelson, R., (22 Oct 1998). ‘Metal gear Solid’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/1998/10/22/metal-gear-solid-6 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[6]  ‘Playstation – Metal Gear Solid’. Next Generation. (December 1998). Issue 48:118-9. (https://archive.org/details/NextGeneration48Dec1998/page/n119/mode/2up accessed 13th December 2020).

[7] Griffiths, D., ‘Play Test – Metal Gear Solid’. OPM. (February 1999). Issue 42:88. (https://archive.org/details/official-uk-playstation-magazine-42/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 13th December 2020).

[8] Pelley, R.,  ‘New PlayStation Games – Snakecharmer’. Arcade. (December 1998). Issue 1:126. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/0e/Arcade_UK_01.pdf#page=128 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[9] ‘1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. Issue 117:109-113. (https://retrocdn.net/images/4/4d/EGM_US_117.pdf Accessed 13th December 2020).

[10] ‘1998 Japan Media Arts Festival’. Plaza.bunka.go.jp. (https://archive.vn/gkmXZ Accessed 13th December 2020).

Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal – Review

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?

(Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

The sprites and overall design are almost identical to Shining Force (Screenshot taken by the author)

Main Characters:

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.

During battles, you must be careful to position your stronger units where they can defend your weaker units (Screenshot taken by the author)

The menu is exactly the same as Shining 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.

The battle scenes are beautifully illustrated (Screenshot taken by the author).

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?

Yes!

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.[1]

My verdict:

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.

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Review Crew – Shining Force II’.Electronic Gaming Monthly. (September 1994). 62:36. (https://findyourinnergeek.ca/wp-content/gallery/egm-issue-62-september-1994/electronic_gaming_monthly_62_36.jpg Accessed 27th November 2020).

Astyanax – Review

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).[1]

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Graphics-wise, the game looks good. (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Attack of the Green Monster type thing! (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Verdict:

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.

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Astyanax’. (22nd December 2015). Oxford Classic Dictionary. (https://oxfordre.com/classics/search?siteToSearch=classics&q=astyanax&searchBtn=Search&isQuickSearch=true Accessed 24th November 2020).

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 – Review

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?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Visually, very little has changed between Sonic 1, 2, and 3 (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

The new bonus stages are so much more enjoyable than the tunnels of Sonic 2 (Screenshot taken by the author)

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, 2 and 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.

The all too familiar underwater levels…you’d have thought he would have learnt to swim by now! (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.[1]

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.[2]

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%[3]

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+[4]

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%[5]

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%.[6]

Sega Magazine: “An amazing release and serious contender for Best Platform Game ever award. Overall 95%.[7]

My verdict:

“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.”

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Sonic 3’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1994). Volume 7, Issue 3:30. https://retrocdn.net/images/a/ae/EGM_US_056.pdf Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[2] ‘Proreview – Sonic the Hedgehog 3’. (March 1994). Gamepro. Issue 56:42-44. https://archive.org/details/GamePro_Issue_056_March_1994/page/n43/mode/2up Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[3] ‘Sonic 3’. Hyper. (March 1994). 4:26-29. (http://sost.emulationzone.org/sonic_3/scans/sonic3hypermarch943.jpg Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[4] Strauss, B., (February 11, 1994). ‘Sonic CD; Sonic Chaos; Sonic Spinball; Sonic 3’. Entertainment Weekly. (https://ew.com/article/1994/02/11/sonic-cd-sonic-chaos-sonic-spinball-sonic-3/ Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[5] ‘Mega Drive Review – Sonic 3’. Mean Machines Sega. (March 1994) Issue 17:49. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/Sonic3-MMS17-6.html Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[6] ‘Mega Drive Review – Sonic 3’. Sega Power. (March 1994). Issue 52:30 (http://sost.emulationzone.org/sonic_3/scans/segapowermar943.jpg Accessed 23rd November 2020).

[7] ‘Mega Drive Review – Sonic 3’. Sega Magazine. (February 1994). :87-88. https://archive.org/details/sega-magazine-2-february-1994/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 23rd NOvember 2020).