Shoot ’em ups are not for the light-hearted. They require the quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination of a sprightly feline. They can also be immensely fun to play, especially in co-op mode. These sorts of games were perfect for the arcades and players brave enough to attempt them would soon find they had a mass of spectators cheering them on. Those were the days!
Final Mission is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up developed by Natsume. It was published by Natsume Co. Ltd. (North America and Japan), Infogames (Europe), and Konami (Australia). It was released on the NES in Japan in 1990. In North America it was released in 1991 under the name SCAT: Special Cybernetic Attack Team. In 1992, it was released in Europe and Australia under the name Action in New York. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2011, and the Nintendo DS and Wii U in 2014. For this review, I played the NES version.
The year is 2029, Supreme Commander Vile Malmort leads an army of aliens to invade and conquer Earth. A team consisting of soldiers that are part-human, part-machine, are assembled and sent to repel the invasion.
Final Mission can be played in one or two-player co-op modes. You play as either Arnold or Sigourney, no doubt a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver (in the Japanese version they are both male). You are equipped with jet packs and two satellite modules that fire at the enemies as you fly around the levels destroying the invaders. You must battle your way through five levels: New York City Ruins; Subterranean Realm; the Astrotube; the Battleship; and the Orbiting Platform. You can pick-up several upgrades along the way, boosting your attacking power and maneuverability. The upgrade icons are:
S – Increases the speed of your warrior
L – You wield a high powered laser gun that can shoot through some walls
W – You wield a wide beam to attack multiple enemies
B – Explosive shells
R – Restores your lost energy
The controls are simple and easy to learn. The D-pad moves you around the screen. The B button fires your weapons (some weapons fire continuously when the fire button is held down). The A button locks your satellites into position, and unlocks them again so that they can change position as you move. There is no time limit but the screen will scroll sideways (and sometimes up and down). This feature adds an element of strategy when battling through the levels. Sadly, it only takes three of four hits before you die. You only have one life and four or five continues, which are used up very quickly making this game is very tough.
The graphics and level detail are good. The backgrounds are very detailed and look great. In NES shoot ‘em ups, the backgrounds aren’t usually as detailed (see Gradius II  and Over Horizon ), but Final Mission’s backgrounds are really impressive. However, there is a little bit of flicker when the screen gets too busy.
Did I complete the game?
Nope, didn’t even get past the first stage.
What the critics said:
At present I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.
My verdict:“This game looks great and the controls easy to learn and are very responsive. Sadly, the difficulty level is rather off putting and I found that I simply didn’t enjoy playing this game. However, it is a little more fun in two-player mode.”
What are your memories of Final Mission? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
I often wonder what goes through the minds of game creators. Naturally, creators wish to make money but at the same time, surely they want to make a game that’ll be loved by gamers. Why they would create games that frustrate gamers because of limited moves, the inability to select weapons, and limited lives and continues, I’ll never know? Kage is one such game!
Kage was developed and published by Natsume in 1990 (Taito in 1991). It was later renamed as Shadow of the Ninja in Japan and Blue Shadow in Europe and Australia. Originally released on the NES, it was later re-released for the Virtual Console on the Wii. For this review, I played the NES version.
Set in 2029, the evil Emperor Garuda has taken over the USA. Two ninjas from the Iga clan, Lord Hayate and Lady Kaede, are sent to infiltrate the Emperor’s stronghold and assassinate him. Using weapons such as the katana (sword), shuriken (throwing stars) and kusarigama (sickle and chain), the ninjas must fight through numerous enemies and sub-bosses. There are five levels broken down into 16 stages, which see you fight through a seaport, underground sewers, city rooftops, an air fortress and a final fortress.
It can be played in both single and two-player mode. In one-player mode, you have the option to decide who you play as. You can run, jump and attack, and even hold onto certain platforms and hang from them. You can then choose to flip up to that platform or drop to the platform below. However, you can only attack the way you are facing when hanging from a platform.
The controls are responsive and simple…perhaps too simple. When using the katana and shuriken, you can only attack straight in front of you or in a crouching position. You cannot slash your sword or throw a shuriken up or diagonally, which I think is pretty dumb, especially where the shuriken is concerned. You can attack diagonally up and straight up when you wield the kusarigama, but not down or diagonally down. Finding scrolls throughout the levels increases the range of your attack, but I didn’t find any on the first stage. You may also find bombs and health potions.
Annoyingly you cannot switch between weapons meaning when you pick up shurikens, you have to use them up before reverting back to the katana or kusarigama, or you need to find an item box conatining a different weapon or additional shuriken. This is frustrating because, and I’m sure I don’t need to explain this, but I will, it would be very handy with some bosses and sub-bosses to be able to save some shurikens back.
Thankfully, there is no time limit on the levels meaning you can take your time.
Graphically, levels are detailed and well designed, and the sprites are clean and well defined. No complaints there. The music is very basic and easily forgettable.
I didn’t spend that much time on this game because I found the limited move set frustrating and I just didn’t enjoy playing it. The inability to defeat various enemies without taking hits is frustrating.
Did I complete the game?
No, I only managed to get to level 2.2 before I gave up.
What the critics said:
GamePro:“Shadow of the Ninja, however, is above average Ninja fare with top of the line graphics and fast-paced gameplay. One minor hang-up is the sluggish transition between dialogue screens. But all in all this is a top flight, fast-paced action cart.” Overall 4.6/5”.
Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Superb Graphics and sound intensify this battle for freedom. No rating”.
Total!: “A sexy-looking and very playable platform hack ‘em up, with great two-player option. It’s just a bit too easy for my liking. Overall 74%”.
My verdict: “This game isn’t bad, but the limited ways to attack your enemies make it very frustrating. Sadly, this detracts from the nice graphics and keeps me from wanting to pay more. It’s a poor man’s Ninja Gaiden”.
What are your memories of Kage? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 Bro Buzz. ‘Nintendo Proview – Shadow of the Ninja’. GamePro. (July/August 1991). :24-5.
 ‘Shadow of the Ninja’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1991). 21:98-102.
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. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.
This action platformer contains several games featuring Kirby, a weird, round, pink puffy-type character; that can float, inhale enemies and copy their abilities, or alternatively, inhale and spit out blocks to attack the enemies.
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.
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.
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.
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 is 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“.
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“.
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.”
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 Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Review Crew: Playstation – Kirby’s Super Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (September 1996). Issue 86:30.
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!
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. For this review, I played the version 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.
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 the Time Trial Mode. It’s pretty self-explanatory, you simply race each track and try to gain the fastest time possible.
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.
Wikipedia claims that in an interview with Super Mario Kart creator Shigeru Miyamoto, 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 for Nintendo because it culminated in the creation of one of the most popular sub-series of games ever created, with the initial instalment selling over 8 million copies.
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 opinion, 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 to 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”.
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”.
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%”.
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%”.
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%“.
“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.”
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 Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
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!
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)
I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version found on the Mega Games I (1992) 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.
The Mega Drive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I (1992), 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.
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 the races 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: “A high quality racing game which is a must for speed freaks. Overall 86%”.
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%.”
Sega Power: “Brilliant biking coin-op conversion. Terrific sensation of speed and movement, with good graphics and smooth 3D update. Thrilling to play and lasts for ages. Overall 5/5“.
Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”
MegaTech:“Converted from the Sega coin-op, this is an excellent copy and has all the features of the original machine plus an extra challenge game thrown in for good measure! The graphics and sound are both excellent, and with playability to match, this is a race game that no Megadrive owner should be without. Overall 89%”.
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.”
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 find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Mega Drive Review – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:82-4.
 Leadbetter, R.,’Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:127.
 Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54.
 ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98.
 ‘Game Index – Super Hang-On’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:78.