Alien Storm

By the early 90s, multiplayer beat ‘em ups/hack and slash games such as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Final Fight were growing increasingly popular. The increasing array of characters and fighting moves kept gamers playing these games time and again, using all characters in a bid to master them. The multiplayer modes meant that you could play with friends and spend countless rainy afternoons and cold winter evenings in imaginary worlds saving the planet, defeating crime bosses or rescuing royalty.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Alien Storm is a beat ‘em up/shooter hybrid developed and published by Sega for the arcade in 1990, and ported to the Mega Drive and Master System in 1991. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and as part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The version I played and reviewed was the original Sega Mega Drive version.

Earth is being invaded by an army of incredibly ugly and aggressive aliens. A team of crack special force operatives known as the “Alien Busters”, comprising of the flame-thrower wielding Karen; the hunky Garth (Gordon in some versions) with his electric rifle, and Scooter (Slammer in PAL version) the robot, are sent to repel the invasion. Eight missions sees them battle through cities and towns, laboratories, electronic goods stores and eventually a UFO.

Oddly, the main character looks like Elvis Presley in his profile picture (Screenshot taken by author)

The game is mostly a linear beat ‘em up which sees the players fight from left to right. There are sections of the levels where the game changes to a shooter style game which adds a nice bit of variety to the action. Each character can attack, run, and perform a running attack. There are two bars: life and energy to keep an eye on too. When using your weapon, the energy bar begins to deplete. If you use your special attack, the energy bar depletes more quickly. Along the way, you can pick up medicine and batteries to replenish your life and energy levels. There are a few end of level bosses in the game which take a long time to deafeat if you don’t have special attacks, so I recommend not using them until the boss fights. The controls are very easy to learn, and the game quickly turns into a button masher with little strategy required.

Alien Storm incorporated elements of the rail-shooter genre (Screenshot taken by author)

The graphics are great! The levels contain detailed backgrounds and the sprites are bright, colourful and well designed with clear outlines. As the game progresses the increased difficulty of the aliens is noted by a colour palette change.

Each character has an individual move set and special attack but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in strength, agility etc. Interestingly, if you look at the profile picture of Gordon in the bottom left corner of the screen, to me, he looks unmistakably like Elvis Presley.

Watch out for the alien marsupials!!! (Screenshot taken by author)

Before beginning the game, you can choose between three difficulty settings: easy, normal or hard. To add an extra element of difficulty, you can also set your energy bar levels to either easy, normal or hard. When you complete the game, after the end of game scenes and credits, you get a score and a rating. As far as I know, your score makes no difference to the game ending. This adds to the replay value of the game as it encourages additional run throughs.

As with these types of games, two-player co-op modes only add to the fun. To further increase the replay value of the game, the Mega Drive version also contained a Duel mode and a Player v Player mode. In the Duel mode, you select a player and must compete in fights with differing numbers and strengths of aliens. The more rounds you win, the higher your overall score at the end. I received a score of 82 and the title “Champion”. During these battles there is no way to regain your energy so use your weapons sparingly. In the Player v Player mode, you and your opponent select one of the three main protagonists each to fight in a one on one battle. The first player to win two rounds, wins the fight. Sadly, this is a bit naff due to the fact that you only have a limited move set. There is not enough variation in attack combinations to make these battles interesting.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years in both one and two-player modes, but only in easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:An absolutely outstanding conversion from the coin-op, with great graphics and highly enjoyable one or two-player action. The big problem is that it’s just too easy. For some unknown reason, the import version was harder, but even then, it’s not that difficult to finish. Those new to the Mega Drive scene will really enjoy the action – experts, though, are warned that they might just find themselves finishing this prematurely. Overall 78%.[1]

Sega Pro: “A space age Golden Axe. One or two players can choose from three characters and then walk through eight levels packed with superbly animated and intricately detailed aliens. Great fun as each of the players has a special weapon and executes them in an amusing way. For instance, the robot takes off his (head) and self-destructs as he walks off screen. Way too easy, though. Overall 79%.[2]

My verdict:

“I have great memories playing this game with my sister and brother. Its looks great, plays great, and the mix of beat ‘em up and shooter adds some nice variety. The replay value is there too, and I think this is an underrated game from the Mega Drive catalogue. However, it must be said that titles such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage are still superior in every aspect: Story, graphics, music…the lot.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Storm? 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.


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

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alien Storm’. Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle

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Alex Kidd proved to be a hit on the Sega Master System throughout the eighties, and was arguably the console’s mascot. The question was, could he continue to be their main draw for Sega’s latest console, the Mega Drive? Clearly not, as this was his only outing on the 16-bit console.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle is a single-player platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in Japan in 1989, Europe in 1990, and the US in 1991. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console, Mega Drive Handheld, Cloud Online, and Steam. The version I reviewed was the original Mega Drive version.

Rookie Town (Screenshot taken by the author)

On the planet Aries, Alex Kidd’s father, King Thor, has been kidnapped by Ashra, the ruler of planet Paperrock. Alex travels to Paperrock in a bid to rescue his father. He must navigate through 11 stages: Rookie Town, The Prairie, The Splashy Sea, Scorpion Desert, The Pyramid, The Hiho Forest, Tropics Town, Rocky Mountain #1, Rocky Mountain #2, In the Sky, and Sky Castle, where his father is being held. The Sky Castle is where you must fight Ashra at Janken.

The gameplay is simple: Run, jump, punch, kick, crawl and swim. Alex will slide around a bit when quickly changing direction, and is a bit floaty when jumping, which takes getting used to, so be careful near enemies. When breaking into red treasure chests, coins will spill out for Alex to collect. Grey treasure chests contain lives and power-ups. Beware, however, as some chests, some contain bombs that explode and will kill Alex.

Jan-Ken-Pon (Screenshot taken by the author)

Along the way, Alex can pay to compete in Janken fights (paper, scissor and rock) with shopkeepers to win equipment and power-ups. These include motorcycles, helicopters, a pogo stick, a wizard’s cane, a cape, and a necklace that helps Alex to see the thoughts of his opponent. This item gives you a better chance at winning Janken. At the end of every level, Alex must collect the piece of cake to progress.

Alex can swim and, thankfully, seems to be able to breathe underwater (Screenshot taken by the author)

The power bracelet is very useful and allows alex to shoot a crescent-shaped band of light that kills the baddies. Spoiler alert!!! You need to have this equipped after beating Ashra at Janken so that you can fire at him from a distance. This is the only way to defeat him.  

There are three difficulty settings: easy, medium and hard. With increased difficulty, you are given less lives to start with and the Janken opponents are harder to defeat, adding to the game’s replay value.  

Graphically, the Mega Drive is capable of so much more. The sprites are nicely drawn, if a little cutsie, suggesting this game was meant for a younger audience. Sadly, the levels and backgrounds are rather basic. The music, however, is very catchy and will get stuck in your head. When revisiting this game after 20 odd years, I still remembered the tunes instantly and began to hum along.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I have only played through on easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The graphics and sound are almost Master System Standard, and while it’s fun to play, with plenty of secret rooms and things to work out, it lacks that really addictive spark that makes the 8-bit Sega Alex Kidd games so much fun to play. For ardent Alex Kidd fans only. Overall 68%[1]

Sega Pro: Alex’s only appearance on the Mega Drive is not a bad attempt…although it can get repetitive. Overall 77%.[2]

My verdict:

“Definitely one for the younger gamer. It can be completed very easily without too much hassle, but there is little to keep you coming back for more. Catchy music, nice sprites and bright colours, but the level design and backgrounds are a bit basic and could be more visually pleasing. However, I do have a softspot for this game and feel it’s been harshly judged by critics. I certainly keep it in my collection and revisit it every year or so. It’s also handy to keep around for my niblings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle? 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.


[1] ‘Game Index: Mega Drive – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:18. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 14th June 2020).

Final Mission (S.C.A.T./Action in New York)

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!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Use your satellites to attack the enemy, and protect your six! (Screenshot taken by the author)

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 [1988] and Over Horizon [1991]), 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.”

Rating:

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.

Kage (Shadow of the Ninja/Blue Shadow)

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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!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

You can select to play either as Lord Hayate or Lady Kaede (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Hangin’ tough (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Be prepared to evade small missiles (Screenshot taken by the author)

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”.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Superb Graphics and sound intensify this battle for freedom. No rating”.[2]

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%”.[3]

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”.

Rating:

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.


[1] Bro Buzz. ‘Nintendo Proview – Shadow of the Ninja’. GamePro. (July/August 1991). :24-5. (https://archive.org/stream/GamePro_Video_Game_Greatest_Hits_1991-07_IDG_Publishing_US#page/n25/mode/2up Accessed 7th May 2020).

[2] ‘Shadow of the Ninja’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1991). 21:98-102. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/29/EGM_US_021.pdf Accessed 7th May 2020).

[3] ‘Blue Shadow’. Total!. (April 1992). 4:38-39. (https://archive.org/stream/Total_Issue_004_1992-04_Future_Publishing_GB#page/n37/mode/2up Accessed 7th May 2020).

Kirby Super Star

Kirby Super Star is a platform game developed by HAL Laboratory and released by Nintendo for the SNES in Japan and North America in 1996. It was released in 1997 in Europe under the name of Kirby’s Fun Pak. Between 2009-2010, it was re-released on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles. In 2008, an enhanced version was released on the Nintendo DS. It was released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019. The version I reviewed can be found on the SNES Mini.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

This action platformer contains several games featuring Kirby, a weird, round, pink puffy-type character; that can float, inhale enemies and copy thier abilities, or alternatively, inhale and spit out blocks to attack the enemies.

The menu screen where you can select and unlock new games (Screenshot taken by the author)

So what are the games:

Spring Breeze: Similar to Kirby’s Dream Land, although with some differences. King Dedede has stolen all the food from the citizens of Dream Land. Kirby must battle his way to the castle to defeat him and regain the food.

The bright, colourful graphics of the Spring Breeze game (Screenshot taken by the author)

Dyna Blade: Dyna Blade is a giant bird, who is attacking the crops of Dream Land. Kirby must make his way through four levels before he fights Dyna Blade.

Gourmet Race: Kirby must race against King Dedede whilst eating as much food as possible. These races take place across three levels. You earn points during the race by eating food, and you can gain bonus points by coming first. Whoever has most points after all three races is the winner. You have the option to either race King Dedede or his ghost (the player’s best attempt at a race). You can also race alone in a time-trial style mode.

The Great Cave Offensive: An action-adventure type game where Kirby must explore caves to find treasure. There are four areas and 60 treasure chests to find. Some of the treasures are nods to previous Nintendo games, but I won’t spoil the surprise here.

Revenge of Meta Knight: The Meta Knight is attempting to conquer Dream Land in his battleship, the Halberd. Kirby must stop the Meta Knight by defeating him in a duel. Unlike the other games, this one has a time-limit. Naturally when the time runs out, Kirby loses a life.

Milky Way Wishes: The Sun and Moon have engaged in a battle around planet Popstar with a creature named Marx. Kirby must travel to different planets in a bid to fix a giant wish-giving clock called NOVA. Unlike the other games, Kirby cannot adopt the abilities of the enemies he swallows. To adopt different abilities, he must collect items called Copy Essence Deluxes. These allow Kirby to select an ability from a list.

The Arena: This mode challenges Kirby to fight every boss in the game (26 bosses in 19 rounds). Between each fight, you find yourself in a room where you can collect five tomatoes (each one can only be used once), and two random pedestals that will grant you certain powers.

Samurai Kirby: Similar to Kirby’s Adventure’s: Quick Draw, you must wait for the signal before pressing a button to draw. If you draw quicker than your opponent, then you win. If not, you lose.

Draw you scum sucking mollusc! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Megaton Punch: This is another timing-based game. You face one opponent at a time and must press the button at certain times to gain power before Kirby attempts to punch the ground and crack a star. The person who produces the biggest crack wins.

Megaton Punch is a great game in two-player mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

I’ll have to be honest. The thought of playing this game didn’t inspire me with confidence. If I were in a shop browsing games to buy, I would not gravitate towards this one simply because it looks like it is a game for younger gamers.

That being said, the gameplay is quite fun. I like the idea of being able to adopt different abilities from your enemies, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Kirby can also fly and swim, and has a defensive pose that makes him virtually invincible. An annoying feature of the gameplay is that when you attack, you cannot turn around until your attack has been completed, which sounds odd when I write it, but it will make sense when you play the game. There are however, some nice little animations, such as when Kirby enters water, he wears a goggle and snorkel kit.

The graphics are bright, sharp, and colourful, and sickeningly cute. The music was upbeat and fitting for the game, but as I sit hear writing this, I can’t recite the tune in my head. Sadly, this game couldn’t hold my attention for long.

Spring Breeze and Dyna Blade are very easy games and would be perfect for younger gamers. The Great Cave Offensive and Revenge of the Meta Knight are more difficult and may hold the attention of an adult for a while. Personally, I think the two best games to play are Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch. They are pretty fun in one-player mode, but are so much better in two-player mode, and would definitely recommend you play these with a friend.

Did I complete the game?

I completed Spring Breeze and Dyna Blade, but not any of the others.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Dan – “I don’t understand why I like this game. I’m almost ashamed of it. It’s just that the cart is a piñata packed full of little goodies. You’ll just have to experience it to understand what I mean. Once you play it with a friend, you’ll be hooked. Overall 7.25/10.[1]

Gamepro: “Everything’s improved from the 8-bit games (32 megs will do that). The graphics are sharp and colourful, and the spirited music changes constantly. If you haven’t gone Kirbying lately, bask in the light of this superstar. Overall 4.87/5.[2]

My verdict: “The truth is, not everyone is going to like this game. The graphics and music are great but this game gets boring very quickly, and I can’t recommend it for adult gamers, even for the Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch games, which, for me, are the best feature of this cart.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Kirby’s Super Star? 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.


[1] ‘Review Crew: Playstation – Kirby’s Super Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (September 1996). Issue 86:30. https://retrocdn.net/images/2/2e/EGM_US_086.pdf Accessed 27th February 2020).

[2] Captain Cameron, ‘The 16-bit Gamer’s Survival Guide: ProReviews: SNES – Kirby’s Super Star’. Gamepro. (November 1996). Issue 88:130. https://archive.org/details/GamePro_Issue_088_November_1996/page/n129/mode/2up Accessed 5th March 2020).

Super Mario Kart

Racing games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, as gamers usually expect realism and serious competition. Super Mario Kart took already established and loved characters and put them in a family-friendly racing game. The result was the beginning of a huge series of games that saw children and adults alike competing for hours in heated but fun and entertaining tournaments. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Super Mario Kart!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

SMK is a kart racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released in North America and Japan in 1992, and Europe in 1993 on the SNES. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2009, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013. The version I reviewed can be found on the SNES Mini.

This is a racing game with a difference. You can choose from eight classic Mario characters including Mario, Luigi, Toad, Donkey Kong Jr, Bowser, Princess Peach, Yoshi and Koopa Troopa. Each character has different characteristics, e.g., Top speed, acceleration and handling. You then race on a number of tracks based on Super Mario World (Donut Plains, Ghost House and Bowser’s Castle etc.). Throughout the race you can pick up various weapons and power-ups such as turtle shells, banana skins and super stars to assist you.

One of the tracks from Donut Land

SMK has two, one-player modes. The first is Mario Kart GP which is divided into two kart speeds: 50cc and 100cc. You can also unlock a 150cc mode when you win all the trophies from 100cc mode. Each kart speed has three trophies to attain: The Mushroom Cup, The Flower Cup and the Star Cup. The more challenging 100cc option also adds The Special cup which contains tougher race tracks. Each cup consists of five, five-lap races. Depending on where you finish in the races will depend on how many points you accrue. The racer with the highest amount of points at the end of the cup competition will determine who wins the trophy. If a racer finishes between 5th to 8th then the player will lose a life and will have to race that track again. You can gain extra lives by finishing in the same position three races in a row.

The second one-player mode is he Time Trial Mode. t’s pretty self-explanatory, you simply race each track and try to gain the fastest time possible.

One of the Ghost House tracks (Screenshot taken by the author)

Although one-player mode is fun and challenging, this game really comes into its own in two-player mode. Hours of swearing at your best mate and calling them “cheating bastards” as I recall from my youth when I’d lose. In two-player mode, you and a friend can compete in Mario Kart GP, Match Race and Battle Mode. In two-player mode, the same rules apply for Mario Kart GP as in one-player mode, but you compete simultaneously via split-screen. In Match Race you can pick and choose which tracks you wish to compete on for a single race without other CPU racers. Battle mode is also head to head and sees each racer begin with three balloons spinning around their kart. You have a choice of four arenas in which you can pick up weapons and power-ups and attack your opponent. The first player that has all their balloons popped, loses. All of these features give the game loads of replay value.

Battle Mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

Wikipedia claims that in an interview with Super Mario Kart creator Shigeru Miyamoto, he explained that SMK was originally developed as an experiment to see if they could create a game capable of displaying the same game on the same screen simultaneously. Whilst I have heard this before, sadly, I haven’t been able to verify this quote, as Wikipedia’s links are broken. If this is true, then this experiment was fortuitous because it culminated in the creation of one of the most popular sub-series of games from Nintendo, with the initial instalment selling over 8 million copies.[1]

If you would like to learn more about the origins of Super Mario Kart, I can recommened listening to episode 17 of season 2 of The Life and Times of Video Games podcast.

What can I say? This game is great! The graphics are bright and colourful, the music sounds perfect for the game, and the gameplay is easy to learn. A nice little touch, to stop you dominating the grid all the time, is that if you are in first place, you will get less effective power-ups and weapons. The further back in the pack your are, the better your weapons and power-ups. My only criticism for this game is that the graphics for the tracks themselves are a little blocky, but that can be forgiven because, in my opiniom, gameplay trumps graphics everytime (controvesial I know).

I had a blast revisiting this game, and it was as fun as I remembered. My blood was pumping as I scraped wins, and dodged banana skins. My favourite character play with is Yoshi. I tried other players too (I really dislike playing with Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr) and found that I also like playing with Mario and Koopa Troopa.

Did I complete the game?

Although I completed 50cc mode, as of yet I cannot seem to win the Star Cup in 100cc mode.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the best driving game to come along for some time. Mario Kart may look like an F-Zero clone on the surface, but there are many interesting upgrades ranging from power-ups to special combat battle modes using a split-screen layout. Replay options and plenty of tracks add to the appeal of this super game. Overall 8.5/10.[2]

Gamerpro: “Here’s one that’s a winner. Super Mario Kart makes wheel-spinning, bumper-grinding, motor racing actually cute! The little guys definitely have a lot of drive. Overall 4.75/5.[3]

Electronic Games: “Super Mario Kart has a fast-paced feelwith plenty of in-depth play. While the gameplay isn’t totally revolutionary, the action does deviate from what we’ve been exposed to in the past to make this new driving adventure something worthwhile to add to the collection, whether you’re a fan of driving titles, or Mario. Overall 93%.[4]

Superplay: Matt Bielby – “Quite simply the best racing game yet on the Super Nintendo, and one of the funniest, most playable ones on any system. The balloon-bursting option is a delight! Guaranteed to be one of the most played carts in the Superplay office for the rest of the year. Overall 93%.[5]

Superplay: Jonathon Davies – “Everything we could have hoped for, and more. It’s completely impossible to fault. In fact, this is the sort of thing the Super Nintendo is all about –  sheer perfection (ahem). (Make sure you find yourself a decent opponent, though). Overall 93%.[6]

My verdict:

“A simple concept but a fantastically fun game, especially in two-player mode that will keep you coming back for more. Tons of replay value, with countless evenings with friends and family is what this game is all about.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario Kart? 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.


[1] (14th April 2010). ‘IGN’s Top 100 Games of All Time – Super Mario Kart’. http://www.top1ign.100.com. https://web.archive.org/web/20120414133232/http://top100.ign.com/2007/ign_top_game_23.html Accessed 24th February 2020.

[2] ‘Review Crew: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (November 1992). Volume 5 Issue 11:26. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/7f/EGM_US_040.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[3] ‘Bro. Buzz, ‘Pro Review: Super Nes – Super Mario Kart’. Gamerpro. (December 1992). :80-2. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/26/GamePro_US_041.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[4] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:79-80. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n79/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[5] Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[6] Davies, J., Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

Super Hang-On

Hold on to your hats guys, its time to rev that engine, feel the horsepower, and leave your competitors to eat your dust. Glory awaits!

Screenshot taken by the author

Super Hang-On is a single-player motorcycle racing game developed and published by Sega. Originally released in the arcade in 1987 as a sequel to Hang-On, it would later be released for the following:

1987 – Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.

1989/1990 – Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Macintosh, DOS, Sega Megadrive, and Sharp X68000.

2003 – Game Boy Advance (Sega Arcade Gallery)

2010 – Wii’s Virtual Console (2012 in North America)

2012 – Xbox Live Arcade (Sega Vintage Collection)

The version I reviewed was on the Sega Mega Drive and can be found in the Mega Games I package.

Whilst still similar to Hang-On, there is now a choice of four new tracks, based on the continents of the world. Each continent contains a different number of stages to increase difficulty (Africa = 6 stages, Asia = 10 stages etc.). A turbo button is also available should you need an extra boost.

Screenshot taken by the author

The Megadrive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I, contains both the full arcade mode, and an original mode. The original mode is a bit more in-depth and allows you to gain sponsorship and earn money to upgrade your motorbike.

I have vague recollections of playing this in the arcade at Folkestone Rotunda Amusement Park when I was a pre-pubescent imp. It had the full arcade set up complete with a replica motorbike that you could sit on and use your weight to lean left or right. Being small at the time, my father would stand at the back of the bike and help me lean it, ensuring I didn’t go flying off.

Screenshot taken by the author

The bike is easy to control, and the game is easy to learn. The graphics are clean, with brightly coloured sprites making it easy to distinguish yourself from other riders. The backgrounds and time of day change as you move through the stages of a race giving you a real sense of location and distance. At the top of the screen you have information telling you your score, speed, what course and stage you are on, and a countdown dial.

The game can become frustrating when you crash in Arcade mode as there is no way to make the time up again, so you may as well restart the game. I also dislike the time countdown in arcade mode too. In the arcade one can understand a time limit as you want games that are “quarter guzzlers”, but for gaming at home, it’s just plain annoying. Admittedly I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I’m not a racing fan, but if you are, I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge of this game.

Did I complete the game?

Nope, nowhere near.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “This cart manages to contain all of the playability of the coin-op, coulpled with slick audio-visuals. Definitely worth getting if you enjoyed the coin-op, or if you’re after a decent Mega Drive game at a bargain price. Overall 90%.”[1]

Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”[2]

My Verdict: “I’m not a fan of racing games but if you are, this may prove a challenge. Beautiful graphics and scenery too, and enough replay value to make it worth adding to your collection.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Super Hang-On? 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 follow me on Facebook.


[1] Leadbetter, R.,’Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:127 (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).