Monday, 30 April 2018

Retro Game purchases: April 2018

So its the fourth month of the year and once again as always I have been tracking how much I have been spending on retro games. The first month was an expensive one, with the second not being too bad, the third being average and well as for the 4th? Well if you want to know that then I guess your going to have to read this post.

Well on the 5th of the month I got my first purchase and it was a Japanese N64 which cost me £15, it was just the system no pads or wires as I planed to take those from a spare European machine I had. On the same day I also got a boxed complete Japanese copy of G.A.S.P which I paid £5 for and an American N64 cart of Rogue Squadron which I spent a further £5 on. The first thing I did was to go inside the Japanse N64 and alter the insides of the cartridge slot so that it would play Japanese and American games.

I went on to order a few more Japanese carts these were Choro Q, Mario Kart, Blast Dozer and a boxed copy of Human Grand Prix which cost me £20 in total which had all arrived by about the 18th of the month. A few days later on the 20th I would spend £3.40 on a Japanese cart only copy of 1080 snowboarding and then on the 23rd I would get an orange memory cover for the N64 which I had ordered, basically I got this so I would know my Japanese system from my regular pal ones instantly on first glance, it cost me £1.50. So this means I spent £49.90 on getting into Import N64 gaming this month. I already owned carts of Kirby and Flying Dragon Japanese which I had previously used with an import convertor so I guess I know have myself a nice little 9 cart import N64 collection.

On the 22nd I made my first none N64 Retro purchase of the month when I grabbed 4 complete PS2 games for 50p each today Shrek superslam, Super Monkeyball Deluxe, Monsters inc scare island and IronMan. 


On the 26th I did a little shopping at some retro indy stores after work and managed to grab Grandia (Unisoft exclusive edition) complete for PS1 for £15 and Captain America and the Avengers (American Genesis version) complete for megadrive £20. In honesty I think these two were my joint favorite purchases of the month.

So this month I spent £86.90 but this doesn't seem much really when there was a retro console purchase in the mix. I have been getting rid of a lot of none game related stuff I no longer need as I acknowledge the fact that what I buy takes up room and I kind of have plans to buy less, but I guess we will need to see how this goes, only time will tell.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #5: Atomic Runner (aka Atomic Runner Chelnov)

There was an arcade game called Chelnov – or to give it its full title Atomic Runner Chelnov – Tatakau Ningen Hatsudensho, which would translate as Atomic Runner Chelnov Fighting Human Power Plant. It’s a bit of a mouthful right? It was developed and published by Data East in 1988.


My Atomic Runner Megadrive Review 


One of the things I love is when a game has a big history behind it, mostly because sometimes the stories which exist in the background of a games history can be very interesting and almost as worthy of note as the games themselves. This is one area in which Atomic Runner Chelnov certainly delivers.

There was a heap of controversy surrounding this game’s original arcade release. With the Russian-style hammer and sickle being present on the title screen, the fact the game’s story/the main character Chelnov’s origin is that he received his power due to a nuclear explosion and his exposure to the radiation. And on top of this the fact his name is spelt very closely to how Chernobyl, the site of a real life nuclear disaster, is written in Japanese (チェルノブ and チェルノブイ. Well, when you throw all of this together it is easy to see how this game got some major attention in a bad way. After all when you basically base your game on a disaster – in this case the Chernobyl disaster – just a year and a half after it happened you’re clearly going to annoy people. Just imagine if you took the last high school shooting or terrorist bomb incident and started producing a game on it now and made the dots pretty easy for anyone with half a brain to connect. You’d basically be asking for a lot of fuss and controversy, wouldn’t you?

The arcade game was ported to the Mega Drive in 1992, but it wasn’t a straight conversion, in fact there were a lot of alterations. The Japanese version kept the same name as the arcade version, but in Europe and North America it was released with the much simpler title Atomic Runner. The game’s plot was also altered. Chelnov was no longer a coal miner caught in a nuclear blast. Instead he was a regular guy wearing a special advanced combat suit the whole nuclear angle was removed. In fact basically the whole story was changed.

I will quickly run down this version of the game’s story in all of its B-movie glory. Chelnov was a young scientist who worked with and lived with his father and sister. They lived a happy and peaceful life and then one night when Chelnov went for a jog he heard a huge explosion coming from the direction of his home. He ran back home to find his father barely conscious, with Chelnov’s father’s dying breath he explained beings called the Deathtarians had caused the explosion and that they were a species who had ruled over the Earth long before the dawn of mankind and that they had returned now to claim what once was theirs. Apparently Chelnov’s father had known about them all along and that’s what all of his and his family’s research was for. Chelnov’s father points towards a metal case saying that inside the case there is a suit – a suit which will increase a human’s power making him a super human and inside the suit there are various weapons and devices. Chelnov’s father also tells him that he must put on the suit and defeat the Deathtarians and not only does the fate of the world lay in his hands but also the fate of his sister who they have kidnapped. With this Chelnov’s father passes away and with this Chelnov puts on the suit and becomes the atomic runner. You would think the game starts here, but no, it goes on to tell you Chelnov was overwhelmed by the share number of Deathtarians and became their prisoner. He was then tortured in an attempt to brainwash him, just as they thought they had broken his will though he lashed out in anger and broke free.

Now I like a B-movie plot as much as the next guy but I do have to admit I actually think the plot is a little heavier than it needs to be. Yeah there are a million games and films where someone killed someone’s dad or kidnapped someone close to the main character but do we really need to give the player/main character three reasons to hate the game’s villains? Surley either the killed father, the kidnapped sister or the imprisonment and torture on their own would have been enough reason to explain why Chelnov wanted to defeat the bad guys, we didn’t really need to throw cliché on top of cliché did we?

So, you start the actual game by breaking out of an alien facility. The game plays like a run and gun game, except it’s auto-scrolling. This kind of makes it feel unique compared to your usual run and gunner and in honesty I find the fact it’s always pushing you forward as opposed to letting you kind of just stand about adds to the game’s arcade feel. There are a variety of weapons and power-ups to collect, a whole bunch of enemies to kill, some pretty awesome bosses, and so much more.

The game’s controls can best be described as interesting. So what can you do in your super powered suit? Well you can fire right, you can fire left and you can jump. You need to fire backwards and forwards as enemies will come at you from both directions. As previously mentioned your always travelling forwards, you can move further forwards on the screen but as its always scrolling forwards you can’t go backwards. An interesting thing is as well as shooting enemies you can also jump on them in order to harm them, when you do this you will hurt them and simultaneously bounce off of them as well, in this way you can sort of bounce from enemy to enemy. Also, when you are jumping, if you land on top of an enemy you’ll bounce off and do damage, instead of dying. This is a key mechanic. But be sure you’re jumping! If an enemy hits you from below while you’re on the ground, you’ll die. Your boots only provide invulnerability when you’re not touching the ground, evidently, for whatever reason. This definitely can be frustrating, when you try to jump on an enemy under the floor but just miss and they come up under you and kill you. Jumping on enemies can be a little hairy, but you’ve got to do it. This is the only controls-related complaint I have with the game. Jumping on enemies mostly works fine, but could have been done a little better. Its important to note you die in one hit, be this a hit from a bullet or physical contact with an enemy (well, apart from the contact of your jumping boot with an enemies head). There’s no shield. When you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint. Fortunately this game has a fair few checkpoints, so you don’t usually lose too much progress. The game is pretty darn hard with its one hit death, but this is helped by the large amount of checkpoints and also the fact if you keep dying without making progress then the game will put more powerful power ups in front of you to try and help you. It still is a hard game and this doesn’t totally negate that but it does make things a little bit more bearable at times. The game is one of those old games which is actually rather short, its difficulty kind of makes it seem longer than it is. In all honesty if the game was easier then you would simply fly through it.

The graphics for this game are a little hit and miss. As far as its arcade conversion status goes, I would argue that the graphics here are actually an improvement over its arcade cousin, yet they’re still not that great compared to some other things you will find on the Mega Drive. Everything does run smoothly though and I actually like a lot of the changes that were made to the Mega Drive version. One thing I have to say is the backgrounds are a heck of a lot more interesting and detailed on the Mega Drive and you do get lots of enemies on screen at once. I need to give this game a huge shout-out when it comes to its soundtrack. It’s just dripping with quality tunes which do help make the game more enjoyable than it would otherwise be. I found this game was a little better when running at 60hz. Maybe it’s just me but it just seemed to work a little better when running faster and the music sounded better at that rate as well.

OK so if I am to score this game what am I going to give it? Well I would give it seven out of 10. It’s a good enjoyable challenging but short game. I don’t think it’s a world changer or a real classic and to be honest I think with its history it almost makes a better story than it does a game. I would warn you though if you are not the kind of person who can cope with frequently dying and just getting that little bit further each time then this is probably not the game for you. If you want to buy it then boxed copies tend to sit around the £35 mark with loose cartridges being about £15 when I have seen them.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #24: Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type

Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was released in 1993 as part of the Fire Pro Wrestling series.

Due to a large number of complaints about the game’s difficulty, developer Human Entertainment released Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Easy Type which is the version I own. The main difference in it – apart from a substantial lowering of the difficulty – is all of the hidden wrestlers are unlocked from the get go.

The first thing you will notice once you get past the vast screen of Japanese which represents your choices, you will be met with what I think is fair to say is a massive list of characters. You will scroll through some of them going: ‘No idea who he is’ or ‘Oh he looks neat’, and then you’ll fall upon US wrestling stars most of us will likely know such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, Rick Steiner and the Ultimate Warrior. Each wrestler is ranked based on their attacking and defensive abilities, and their running speed. There are approximately 60 wrestlers in total, which if you compare this number to other wrestling games back at roughly this sort of time is impressive. Another interesting thing to note is that the original version of this game Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout was the first game worked on by the now famous Suda51.

The game initially looks quite simple. The graphics are not great but the game controls well, and has all of the moves you’d expect in a wrestling game – punching, grappling, running, etc. The game is full of little things which make you warm to it though. I obviously don’t have a massive knowledge of 90s Japanese wrestlers but I have picked every single WWF/WWE and WCW star who appears on the roster, and I have been able to work out who they are (their names are in Japanese so this has been done purely based on the fact they obviously look like who they are supposed to be), and I have played as them, instantly noting that the moves they use are moves frequently used by their real-life counterparts. The Warrior does the gorilla press, Hulk Hogan does his signature leg drop and so on and so on. There are digitised sounds that come from the wrestlers and cheers that come from the audience members, the music is fitting and overall this adds to the experience. Two of the buttons on your controller are used for strong blows, another button is used for low blows and the other face button makes you run.

The language is a bit of a barrier. It took me a bit of messing around choosing this and then that option, with no idea of what I was selecting. But once I got myself into career mode it was easy enough to play round after round and make some progress, and I have to admit that I was enjoying it. If someone was interested in this game I wouldn’t say it is too heavy going, but you need to be the kind of person willing to work around the language barrier.

The score I am giving to this game is 6.5 out of 10. this score is not an overall mark of the game’s quality, it’s the mark of how much fun your typical English SNES fan would have with it, taking into consideration issues such as having to fiddle with the language barrier, how it has aged, etc. I think if you were someone who could read Japanese when this game came out it would have been the absolute mutt’s nuts it would have been an easy eight or nine out of 10.

If you’re after this, well it might be hard. I have seen a few copies of the regular version of this for around £13, some boxed, some cart only, but you’ll need a Japanese machine, an import converter or a modified machine. As for the exact version I have reviewed the Easy Type version, I haven’t managed to find one for sale at the moment. It is an interesting game I would recommend you read about it, watch videos on it, etc. But I think your money in this case is better spent elsewhere either on a more modern wrestling game with all the bells and whistles or something a little easier and cheaper to get on the SNES (for example Exhaust Heat).

Monday, 23 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #23: Final Fight

I try to keep games like this that everyone will know to a bear minimum or at least thin them out as much as I can, but I kind of felt that I needed to get Final Fight out of the way – and not in a bad way.


My Final Fight YouTube Review 


The game was important for a lot of reasons. The fact that it was on the SNES but not the Mega Drive was one of them, as this was part of the reasoning behind Sega coming up with the Streets of Rage franchise. The game touched and affected the whole of the market. I am going to try to talk about it but do my best not to retread the exact same ground everyone does (this will be hard with how much the game has been talked about).

Final Fight is a side-scrolling beat-’em-up produced by Capcom. Originally it was released as an arcade game in 1989. Final Fight was the seventh title Capcom made to work with its CPS-1 arcade system board. The CPS-1 worked a bit like the Neo Geo, you had a system board and other smaller boards could be mounted on top of this, and the large board was the guts of the arcade unit and the small board held the actual game. I actually own a CPS-1 board but the only game board I own for it is Pang! 3.

The game is set within the fictional Metro City. In the arcade game you get to pick one of three characters: Former pro wrestler-turned-mayor Mike Haggar, his daughter’s boyfriend Cody, and Cody’s friend Guy. The whole idea of the game is to take down the Mad Gear gang and rescue Haggar’s daughter Jessica.

The game originally began development as a sequel to the first Street Fighter arcade game but the genre was switched from a one-on-one fighting game to a scrolling beat ’em up and the title was changed following the success of Double Dragon. This is probably one of the main reasons that Final Fight characters have popped up in Street Fighter games.

When the SNES version was released it was in some ways limited. There was only Haggar and Cody – Guy had been dropped (although there was a version released in some territories called Final Fight Guy which removed Cody from the game and replaced him with Guy). There was also a level stripped out of the game and then there were some minor changes in connection to policies Nintendo had for games released on their machines. Female members of Mad Gear were altered to appear male as Nintendo had objections in regards to the ability to violently beat up women, even if they were busy trying to knife you to death. None of this broke the game or made a huge difference to how it played. I do think that with some effort they could have squeezed Guy in. I have seen games cheat to free up room by using the same legs or arms for characters before sometimes just colour swapped and I am sure there would have been a way to do something like this to free up a little room. The main thing that people tend to talk about is the fact that the game has no two-player mode, which I have to admit is a shame as this was one of the things that made the arcade machine so popular, the fact that you could go through the whole game with a buddy. It is not a game breaking deal though as long as you know about it in advance. The graphics are big, bright and impactful, the music is just as good. The only negatives there are can’t really be termed negatives with the game and more deficits from the arcade machine.

The game is a great scrolling beat em up to play on your own and even bearing this in mind I would have to give it eight out of 10. However I fully recognise that if you want to play with a buddy or have a friend around you would be better looking at one of its competitors or even one of its sequels (they are usually expensive though).

I have had my copy since I was a kid. I bought it before I even owned a SNES. It was September and I knew I was getting my SNES for Christmas, I already had a cheap converter and Final Fight came up for sale NTSC in my local games shop a place called Games World for £10. I used to get £5 a week pocket money and £2 a day lunch money. So I did what I think most game crazy school kids would do. I took an apple and a bottle of water to school everyday without my parents knowing and ate these for dinner while pocketing the money waiting for Saturday to come so I could buy Final Fight. Following this kind of logic I had a nice little collection by the time Christmas rolled around.

If you want to buy Final Fight PAL versions exist but whenever I see them they are crazy money. US NTSC versions crop up for around £15 for a cart. To be honest if you have a Wii U you can download Final Fight for £5.50 (the SNES version). Or if you have a PS3 or Xbox 360 you can get a perfect emulation of the arcade machine for about £6.50. It can be found under the title Final Fight: Double Impact, and for your cash you get both Final Fight and another Capcom game called Magic Sword (which was also ported to the SNES).

Friday, 20 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #22: Super Strike Gunner (aka Strike Gunner S.T.G.)

Super Strike Gunner (or Strike Gunner S.T.G. as it was known in the US) is a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up game originally developed by Athena it was released in the arcades by Tecmo (in 1991) it was then ported to the SNES, and this version was published/distributed in the UK by Activision.
There was quite a wide supply of shooters back in the 16-bit days and although the Mega Drive seemed to end up with more of them the SNES wasn’t exactly left short. It has to be admitted though the Mega Drive was better known for them, the SNES might have been superior in  a lot of areas but it definitely had a slower processor and this usually meant more slowdown in this particular type of game when there were a lot of small, fast moving objects on screen.

There were a few big, famous shooter titles on the SNES but this game seems to have been forgotten by a lot of people. When people talk about shooters on the SNES they tend to talk about Axelay, Gradius III, Super R-Type, or U.N. Squadron, very rarely will people mention Super Strike Gunner.

In Super Strike Gunner you take control of a high-tech jet called the Strike Gunner (hence the game’s name), and like most games of this type you face wave after wave of enemies. In this case they range from helicopters, to jets and tanks and so on. In this case you fly up the screen vertically with stuff generally coming down at you (some things will come from the side of the screen or the bottom corners but most stuff tends to fly down towards you). When you start each level though you have a large choice of special weapons, but there is a catch. You can only choose one weapon to use and you can only use it for one level. Among the choices are heat seeking missiles, super stronger lasers and there is even a mega-beam cannon, which seems to just blow the living hell out of anything in more or less one shot. This does add a bit of tactics to the game, because obviously if you use the strongest weapons or the ones you find yourself best suited to first then you wont have them available to you for the later stages. I would suggest starting with a strong weapon until you get a good feel for the level and then once you feel you know a level like the back of your hand taking it on with a weapon your less attached to.

You have a special power bar, which decreases when you use your special weapon. Some of the less powerful special weapons will drain the bar very slowly but then there are others which will just make the bar disappear in seconds. Heck, one weapon depletes the bar in one. There is however a friendly aircraft which comes to you usually several times a level and drops things to help you. It can drop power ups which speed you up, increase the power of your ship’s main weapon, or fill up your special weapons bar.

Over the years I have seen this game receive all kinds of reviews and scores. Back in the day I think it got score generally around the 65% mark. Some called it a mediocre shooter complaining that it was slow-paced and repetitive, with levels that felt too long and had predictable enemy waves. Yet others seemed to love the boss fights and the super weapons. I will say that the backdrops are very basic but I found the game rather enjoyable. In a world which has seemed to want all shooters to turn in to full on bullet-hell ballets I found this game rather refreshing. I am going to go so far as to say I think people have been a little harsh to it over the years and have slightly underrated it. The game is not an all-time classic but its a decent game so I would have to give it a seven out of 10.

If you want to try it you tend to see copies of it come up now and again for around £10. If anything it seems to be a game which is much cheaper and easier to pick up in PAL. My copy was got from a market five years ago for around £3, but the days of walking back from markets with three or four SNES games seem to be long gone.

I do recognise there were better shooters on the SNES but this game is not bad at all. It is also a game which is basically selling for what I would consider to be a fair cash-to-playability ratio unlike some good games which seem to go for a small fortune.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

150 Mega Drive. Genesis games reviewed #4: Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday

I have been reviewing games, writing blogs and making YouTube videos for quite a long time now, and there are a few games which I have found myself repeatedly returning to. One of these is Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday.


I made a YouTube video about it many years ago and I have talked about it several times on my blog. I guess there is some reason that I keep returning to it. Even before all of this I have had a long history with this game it was one of only a handful of games that I ever actually rented for one. In fact, Mega Drive-wise I think I only ever rented about four games. All of these were before I owned an actual Mega Drive and were rented along with a rental console.

The main thing that drew me to Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday was the name. I grew up watching the old Buck Rogers show when it was rerun on Saturday afternoons, as well as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Doctor Who and Blake’s 7. Watching science fiction shows and movies was the main way I spent time with my dad. Usually he would get home from working long, hard hours and he wouldn’t have the energy left to play ball or do something like that so we would watch science fiction. Heck, watching sci-fi stuff pretty much is still our main way of hanging out with each other.

So basically I was in the know about just how cool a certain Buck Rogers was and how awesome his universe was and that made me want a piece of that – I wanted to shoot bad guys and go to space. I still think Buck is cool to this day even though I later learned that he didn’t swear on TV during a space dogfight like I believed he had when I was a kid. (During an episode of the show he asked a pilot if there was something wrong with his ‘Funk & Wagnalls’ which I heard as ‘there is something wrong with your fucking wagnalls’. No idea what a wagnall would be, but I basically believed he was cussing the guy out and he was so cool he could get away with it during daytime TV. For those wondering what Funk & Wagnalls means its basically an US brand of dictionaries and encyclopaedias, so it’s a way of him saying ‘hey, do you know what you’re on about?’.)

OK, that’s enough about me and the TV show lets move on to the game. Well the game was an RPG set in the Buck Rogers universe. It was developed by Strategic Simulations and published by Electronic Arts and it came out in 1991. During the Mega Drive’s glory years EA was responsible for porting a large number of games across to the Mega Drive from the PC and Amiga. Personally I think this was a great thing as it opened up console players to a world of games which had previously been merely the domain of home computer users.

Buck Rogers was made on a very famous game engine called Gold Box which was used for the classic Dungeons & Dragons series of games from the 80s and 90s. If you’ve played any of the Forgotten Realms games then you will have played something which uses this engine. I have to admit that when I hired it I didn’t know that it was a RPG in all honesty, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into I think I just expected some action type of game a bit of shooting and well something a lot simpler than this.

What I was met with was the ability to make my own team of individuals and to then enter a conflict which was taking place in the world from one of my favourite TV shows. From this point on though the game was just this gift that kept on giving. To go back to the beginning you start the game by making a party of six characters. It’s all based on dice rolls really. You make the characters one at a time and you do it by choosing the character’s races, genders and classes, and then you basically do a digital dice roll for HP, attack power, defence, etc. You can do this again and again though until you get the result you want. Then you name your creation, choose an on-screen sprite to represent them and finally use some assigned points to train them in the skills of your choices, including things such as tactics, perception, stealth, demolition, etc. If you’re anything like me then you will probably rip names off from other games or TV shows. I frequently used names like Kirk and Spock when growing up as well as the names of various Transformers. Still it helps the game in the long run because you get really attached to the little guys and cant stand the thought of them dying. Very few games have made me feel this close to my characters and this concerned for their welfare and those games would be games from the X-COM and Fire Emblem lines.

At first after having made my squad of six I was walking around an isometric game environment getting into random battles which are handled in a turn-based way. First you move and attack and then the enemy does the same and this repeats until someone has won the battle. After each battle you have the chance to root through your enemies remains in the hopes of finding something good in the spoils of war or just grabbing absolutely everything so you can sell it later.

When I had finished a couple of missions and I was given the ability to pilot my own ship around the universe well that’s when the game really began to open up. It really stopped feeling like just a game and became a sort of second life in the way that only the best games do. The story grabbed a hold of me and pulled me in to the universe itself. The funny thing was I had an Amiga in the house and as I have learned since this game was actually available on the Amiga but at the time I didn’t realise this was the case and so Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday became one of the reasons I wanted a Mega Drive even more than before. (I originally wanted a Mega Drive because my brother’s friend brought a Japanese imported one to the house with a handful of games.)

I think I need to talk at least a little about the game’s sound and graphics, so let’s start with the sound. The music is rather basic. In fact most of it is made up of very short repeating tunes which a lot of people would probably find repetitive. In all honesty though I kind of like the music. Yes, it’s basic. Yes, it’s repetitive but it also fits the tone of the game. It’s action packed and dramatic when it needs to be. There are a lot of different sound effects. Each and every weapon has its own crack, buzz or sizzle noise – a rocket pistol sounds different to a laser pistol, for instance. There is even a tiny bit of digitised speech here and there in the game which for its time and a game of this scope on a cart has to be admired. The graphics are about as basic as you can get, but they work. They are basic but highly functional and full of little nice touches. There are some great still frame comic-style scenes shown at certain points to tell the game’s story.

With this game being a strategy game I didn’t really notice any difference when trying this game at 50hz and then 60hz.  I guess the speed difference is more of a deal when playing games which have a fast pace to them.

It is time to score the game. I am going to give this game 10 out of 10. Yes the graphics could have been better and the music could have been better, but the game itself is so good that once you get into it none of this matters. This game is one of a kind on the system, there is nothing else quite like it and I recommend this to everyone. I kind of see this game as a sort of Mass Effect for the Mega Drive as the games although differing in style are in fact kind of similar in feel.

I would have loved this game to either get a sequel or a updated remake on a later console. Actually while talking about sequels there was a PC only sequel which I have heard mixed things about. It’s actually considered abandoned ware now so you can download it and play it on your PC using DOS Box. I do wish though that some enterprising individuals would try to use the engine behind Countdown to Doomsday to construct a Mega Drive rom based on its PC sequel. I know someone will say why don’t you do it if you’re so into the game but that is something far beyond both my time and skill. As much as I love games I have never understood a thing when it comes to how they are made, to the degree that as far as my brain understands they might as well be made by fairies clapping or wizards waving there wands.

If you fancy giving the game a bash yourself then you can expect to pay around £10 for a loose cart, with boxed copies usually starting at about £15. If you keep your eyes open. I really feel this game is worth the cash and worth your time.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #3: Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!

My first memory of Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! was seeing it at the house of one of my friends when we were young. He was an amazing guy who would pretty much perfect anything he put his mind to.

 My Greendog YouTube Review Video

The first thing I really saw him perfect was Greendog, then later it was Ridge Racer and finally it was the electric guitar. He made the game look like a work of art. He hadn’t owned it long but he seemed to totally understand everything about how it worked and he made it look darn easy to play.

I didn’t actually own it till years and years later. I think I got a boxed copy complete for £5 from an indy game shop and in all honesty the second I saw the game it made me think of my friend. Simply put, for me that game will forever be linked to him because not only is it the first time I saw it being played, I have also never seen it being played so well anywhere else.

OK so lets start with the story. Well, the main character is called Greendog which you could probably guess from the game’s name, and he has an issue. This issue is the fact that he was surfing and then he wiped out finding himself on a beach with no surfboard in site and a strange necklace around his neck. He soon finds out that the necklace can not be removed when a ‘beach babe’ appears before his eyes and informs him that the necklace is cursed and that he will be stuck wearing it until he finds the lost parts of an ancient Aztec treasure. Without the treasure he will be stuck with the necklace unable to remove it, unable to surf and – worse than that – every single living thing in the world will attack him. OK, so in a world where so many games involve random creatures trying to kill you for no apparent reason its actually pretty interesting to have a reason given here for why your character is homicidally pursued by birds, crabs, starfish and all manner of other creatures.

OK so I want to start by talking about the game play. Greendog is a platform game. You go from left to right jumping, swinging and traversing the levels, you have a Frisbee that you can throw at enemies. The real issue with this though is not in what Greendog can do, it’s in the way Greendog controls which can best be described as sluggish. Your button presses never quiet seem to work quite how you want, or quite as fast as you want. At its worst this game can be extremely frustrating. The Greendog sprite feels like a pretty large one really and the hit detection box around him feels like it is even bigger. Add to this his bad slow-motion feeling jumps which often end in either you taking damage that you feel is unjust and can cause people to seethe with rage or even worse instant death on occasion. If you think Greendog is hard to control on land then just you wait until you get him to go underwater.

I do have to give the game some praise though for trying to break things up a bit. There are skating levels, in which Greendog either jumps on a red skateboard or puts on pink rollerblades. And then you have levels with Greendog’s pedal copter, which he uses to travel from one island to the next. In these pedal copter levels you bash the C button repeatedly to remain airborne while using the B button to use the copter’s spring-loaded boxing glove weapon to attack enemies. The game is playable and it is completable despite feeling tough, because eventually you seem to get on board with its janky controls and learn to work around them. If you just watch someone play it and don’t feel what it’s like then you’d be forgiven for thinking that its a great game as there was certainly a lot of effort put into it.

Yes, you could say that Greendog is yet another platformer on the Mega Drive – a console that certainly is not short of 2D platformers, but to its credit I think it does enough to have its own flavour and therefore stand out as its own thing. The game has its Caribbean sort of style you find yourself traversing through jungles, across beaches, exploring an aquarium, visiting a native village and other places. It’s nicely varied while also managing to keep everything connected to a central theme and I think it does this very well. Along the way you will collect items, these are usually foods such as French fries, burgers and doughnuts, but you also get power-ups which upgrade your Frisbee or give you more protection from damage.

Lastly I want to talk about Greendog’s music. In all honesty I think it is simply excellent. Much like the graphics it sticks to this Caribbean style but it also offers a wide variety of tunes. Most importantly I think what is on offer really fits the games general theme, it works well with the graphics and gives the whole package a certain degree of charm. It’s just a shame that these good things about the game are not really backed up by the gameplay.

OK so I tried this game at 50hz UK and 60Hz US and I have to say that the game is more fun at 60hz as moving that little bit faster helps the way the game feels, and the music also sounds a lot better. I did think it was a little bit easier when it was slower though I guess that’s just because it allows for you to be a bit slower in your reaction to enemies, etc.

It is kind of hard to rate this game, I mean on the one hand it is really broken in some departments, but then its full of character and it does make a big effort to break up the action. There is a lot about it I really like and also a lot I dislike. I feel that what it really deserves is a six out of 10. It’s slightly above average and there was certainly all of the stuff here that could have taken it up to classic status but there was also far to much dragging the game back down.

If you really want to play it then complete copies seem to be around the £15 mark, with loose carts being about half this much. While not exactly bad prices there are much better games you could spend your money on.

Friday, 13 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #21: Exhaust Heat (aka F1 ROC: Race of Champions)

Exhaust Heat (released in North America as F1 ROC: Race of Champions) was a racing game developed by Seta for the SNES. It was released in 1992.

My Exhaust Heat SNES review 


The game had to work against the odds to get noticed having come after Nintendo’s own F-Zero. F-Zero had pulled out all of the Mode 7 graphical tricks that it could and had an excellent sound track and even more importantly a great sense of speed. At first, in comparison to this, Exhaust Heat seemed to be seen by most people as something of a let-down.

Initially you will notice the graphics are not up to the standards of F-Zero and the game doesn’t feel anywhere near as fast. Once you’ve progressed and completed a few races in the career mode though things start to change. You earn cash, and this gives you access to more powerful engines, better tyres, etc. You soon learn that with the right modifications and settings your car can move like greased lightning.

The career mode in this game is excellent. It’s less of a flash and bang racer which you will feel happy to spend five minutes on now and then, and more of an all-out consuming racer. This is its big strength. This is not to say that the game is boring because it is far from it. To compare this to a game I previously reviewed ESPN Speed World, in Speed World the minimum number of laps you can do is 10, and quite frankly after a race or two, 10 laps begins to feel like an eternity in some kind of realm of complete boredom. Here in Exhaust Heat my first proper race was three laps – three laps which actually felt exciting. In the first race I managed to come fourth despite the fact I thought I had put in a really good effort. For a second this was annoying as I didn’t really see how I could have done much better but then I remembered another game I had played not long ago and that was MotoGP 13 on the PlayStation Vita. In that game it had taken a fair amount of time for me to get into the game and some effort before getting a first place. This is the kind of game Exhaust Heat is, you need to put in the effort but sometimes you have to slog along a little, working till you can afford the upgrades, and till you can learn every curve of the track. It’s not an easy game ,but it is a very rewarding one.

If I was going to take a quick look at this game’s negative points I would have to say that it looks very plain. There is  little variety in the backgrounds and the cars themselves are small and lacking in detail. Add to this the fact there is no in-game music , which is a shame as the music featured in the game in other places is brilliant. The Grand Prix mode does not just last for one season, you seem to be able to carry on as long as you want.

One thing to bear in mind is that the game hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s still playable but it now looks very much like a dog. I would advise you not to let this get to you though, if you can get past the surface layer to the real depth of the game I think you’re in for a treat.

I would give this game a nice, solid seven out of 10. There are copies of this game cartridge only online for as little as £5 including postage. You can get fully boxed copies for under £15 if you want to go full on. At £5 anyone who has a SNES should seriously consider giving this game a bash.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #20: Cannon Fodder

Cannon Fodder can best be described as an action-strategy shooting game. It was developed by Sensible Software and originally published by Virgin Interactive for the Amiga in 1993. 

It got rave reviews across the board from pretty much every Amiga magazine at the time despite also causing controversy with its humorous take on war. Virgin soon ported the game to other home computer systems as well as to the Jaguar, Mega Drive, SNES and 3DO.

With my complaints about some other games being ported to the SNES people could expect me to get a bug in my butt about this game. After all, the controls pretty much show themselves to be mouse controls pushed on to a pad (play if for just one minute and you will see what I mean, you move a crosshair on the screen and then press a button to move to that point or another button to shoot in that direction).

The player directs troops through numerous missions, battling enemy infantry, vehicles and installations. The game is incredibly playable – sure, the controls might be a little strange, it might also seem a little basic and maybe in some ways it is, but it just works. What the graphics lack in quality they make up for by having an amusing cuteness to them.

Cannon Fodder doesn’t feature much music. There is no music during the missions themselves. Instead these are accompanied by sounds such as bird cries, and of course gunfire, explosions and the screams of the dying. There are a few tunes that play during the briefing and debriefing screens though and these really help to set the scene.


Cannon Fodder’s greatest strength is its dark humorous tone. This is what made some people originally love it but also caused a lot of controversy. Its creators always talked about how they intended it to convey an anti-war message, which some reviewers and fans at the time recognised and which seems obvious to me now. The problem is that certain newspapers and solider-related charities had real issues with it. They thought it was making war into too light a subject and taking the piss out of those who had suffered and died in war.
Cannon Fodder is definitely a game that I would refer to as a classic, and unlike some other games from this time period it is still very playable. That is in part down to its simplicity but you also need to thank its dark sense of humour. This was a rare treat of a game in the fact there was a message hidden behind the action, back when other games just wanted to sell themselves to you as mindless action, this game had a point.

Every time a gravestone appears on the hill, every time you have lost a man you cant help but mourn for his death. The soldiers are not just a group of faceless numbers, by giving them names, by allowing them to rank up and by a cross being added to the hill for every loss, you start to view them as people. You have favourites, not many other games achieve this with the exception of Fire Emblem and X-COM. I am going to have to give my first decimal score here. I can’t decide between seven and eight, so 7.5 out of 10 it is.

I was incredibly lucky with this game. I went to a retro store – one which is usually stupidly expensive (they charge £15 for the old NES Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt cart despite having three copies in stock for one) – and all they wanted for this was £4. Having looked online you can get the PAL cart of this game for about £13 or if you want to spend a little more you could get a boxed copy for around £25. Important things to note though are that this game was available on everything so you might be able to get a cheaper version on another format some of them such as the Amiga version have little things which are missing from the SNES version (the title song has amusing lyrics).

Saturday, 7 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #19: Pinball Fantasies

Pinball Fantasies is a pinball game which was originally made for the Commodore Amiga  by Digital Illusions CE, it was a sequel to there earlier pinball game Pinball Dreams (which was also ported to the Super Nintendo).

My Pinball Fantasies YouTube Video 

A further sequel was released in 1995 called Pinball Illusions but this never made it to the SNES, a remake of it called True Pinball did eventually make it to the ps1 and Saturn though and some of you may have played it.

Digital Illusions began in May 1992 in Sweden and consisted of four people who were formerly members of the demogroup The Silents. Demogroups are teams of people who make computer-based audio-visual works of art which are usually put into the public domain on disc. These were very popular in the Amiga and Atari ST days. If you owned an Amiga you probably sampled a few of these I remember ones with bouncing balls and techno-style music and ones which showed pictures of the Addams Family complete with MIDI music and all sorts. Digitial Illusions’ original office consisted of a small dorm room and this is where their pinball titles such as this were originally made. Eventually Digital Illusions became the company known today as EA DICE who are responsible for the Battlefield games so they’re still knocking about to this day. Apparently, Pinball Fantasies was ported to the SNES by a company called Spidersoft, which basically made a living converting games to different platforms. They also still exist to this day as a part of Rockstar and are now called Rockstar Lincoln. Heck, even the publisher of this game, GameTek, still exists today under the name Take-Two Interactive Software Europe. So I can happily say all companies involved in this game are still alive and kicking.

OK, back to the game at hand. This game has four differently themed pinball tables and they are as follows:
  • Party Land, which is a table based on an amusement park
  • Speed Devils, which is a table focused on car racing
  • Billion Dollar Gameshow, which is a table based on the idea of a game show, and then there is
  • Stones ‘N Bones, which is a horror themed table based on a haunted house.
The sound is functional. The controls although basic serve their purpose well and the graphics are bright and colourful. You would think it sounds like I like this game – well I kind of did like it a heck of a lot on its original platform the Amiga.


The problem is that the game when it was on the Amiga was on three disks and was about £10 as far as I can remember. So once you take these three disks and plant them on to a SNES cart they are suddenly trying to sell it for £40 and if anything it was a slight step backwards as the SNES did not seem to have as large a colour palette as the Amiga.

I suppose when trying to rate this there are several ways to look at it, I could mark it down for being a port from a non-Nintendo machine with no real effort to play to the machine’s strengths. I suppose though you need to look into what people’s options were at the time both on the SNES and on its direct competitor the Mega Drive. On the SNES you have Pinball Fantasies, Pinball Dreams and Super Pinball (I have never actually seen or played this one) and thats pretty much it for PAL pinball games. If you look abroad at Super Famicom games there is one called Battle Pinball which people tend to speak very highly about. There is also one called Jaki Crush which tends to receive mixed reviews, Super Pinball had a sequel that didn’t make it here. As you can see though your options as a SNES gamer were very limited when it came to pinball.

The Mega Drive had Psycho Pinball, Sonic Spinball, Crüe Ball, Dragon’s Fury, Dragon’s Revenge, all of which seem to be tailored much more to the hardware. I would argue if you want to look into retro pinball games you’re much better looking at the Mega Drive or the PS1 (There was an excellent import-only Power Rangers Pinball game on the PS1).

The game does control well enough and is good for a quick pick up and play session but then we now live in a world where you can pay a lot less then you would usually pay to track down a retro pinball game and get a couple of tables on a brand new pinball game on your console or PC within seconds. Pinball Fantasies is a bit of a hard sell in a world with things like Pinball FX, unless you’re really into your retro stuff.

I would have to rate Pinball Fantasies as a six out of 10. It’s not a bad game, in fact it is at times quite fun, but it doesn’t have any real, lasting value. If you have no one to play against, no one to beat, or to challenge to beat your high scores it all becomes shallow and pointless far too quickly. You can get a PAL copy of the game cartridge only for about £10. Boxed complete copies seem to settle around the £40 mark but like I have previously mentioned unless you are buying this as part of a collection or to fulfil a need for more SNES games then there are a lot of avenues where you might be better spending your money for a pinball fix.

Friday, 6 April 2018

#ChangeTheChannel ...Channel Awesome aint so Awesome under the surface apparently

OK so I have had some form of online presence for a long time, be it writing blog posts, making podcasts or YouTube videos, obviously I have never been big or this place would have a lot more visitors. I haven't just been making stuff though I have also been enjoying other peoples content, I have seen internet stars made and then seen others come crashing down from grace in what seemed liked seconds.

So now it looks like we are in the middle of another shit storm, basically Channel Awesome an internet site previously called That Guy with The Glasses  has been criticized by some of its former employees for allegedly mistreating its contributors. The allegations leveled at Channel Awesome have been circulating for the past few weeks so I guess I am a little bit late on this topic, I was totally unaware that the hashtag  #ChangeTheChannel had been trending with Videomakers such as Allison "Obscurus Lupa" Pregler and Lindsay ''Nostalgia Chick'' Ellis having gone on Twitter  to share their thoughts regarding Channel Awesome. In fact lots of popular video makers who had previously appeared on Channel Awesome started talking about the sites management, claiming that they left as a result of issues stemming from the behavior of its owners, Doug Walker, Rob Walker, and Mike Michaud.

Former contributors, who previously hosted their videos on the site, have been criticizing the attitudes of the Walker Brothers and CEO Mike Michaud, claiming that they were treated poorly during their time on the site. These complaints have ranged from criticisms of Doug Walker's alleged incompetence when it came to both his abilities or rather lack of ability to do technical things such as press record without seeking help and the way in which he handled the development of the site's feature-length films. To much deeper issues concerning the way Mike Michaud handled certain contributors to the site. To put it in simple terms if half of what has been claimed is true then the guy was and or is essentially a colossal douche pretty much whenever  it concerns women and talent he personally viewed as low rent.

A Twitter campaign called #ChangeTheChannel was started in an effort to convince Channel Awesome's management to alter its approach to how it treats its contributors, and seems to have gained a lot of attention  since being kicked off on March 14. In an extensive list of complaints about the site, CEO Mike Michaud was accused of sexism by Allison Pregler, who claimed: "Yes, he definitely does not like women. I believe he called me a "troublemaker" at one point.".

A huge document has been compiled which details pretty much all relevant complaints but I know most people don't have time to read through all of that, heck I have read it but I did it in a sort of casual skim through manner. Its not just people who have either walked or been fired moaning though, nope plenty of people have quit very recently over this including Todd In The Shadows, Suede, Diamanda Hagan, MikeJ, and Charles Sonnenburg and probably most importantly Linkara who I would argue is the sites biggest loss for many reasons. This is a pretty mass exodus of talent, and it leaves the site with a lot less to offer, the only person who has concretely said he wont be leaving is Brad aka The Cinema Snob.

I think its a shame to see the site fall apart like this but I actively support everyone who has left. It does seem like certain people made the site a very toxic environment to work for and those who have left have only done what I would advise anyone to do in a toxic environment and that's get the heck out of there as fast as possible both to escape the toxic place itself and before any bad mojo rubs off on them.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

150 Megadrive/Genesis Review:2 Beast Wrestler AKA Beast Warriors

Beast Wrestler YouTube Review

SO the game I am going to be talking about now is a game called Beast Wrestler AKA as Beast Warriors(in Japan). Did you ever have a game which as a kid you played so much it was a bit of an obsession, maybe it delivered just the right cocktail of things you were into at that precise moment in time that it just felt almost as if it had been made just for you. Well as a youngster this is how I felt about Beast Wrestler. I was massively into wrestling of the WWE favourite but I was also big into monster movies, so combine grappling with a creature feature and how can it be anything other than awesome? Load up the game and let it do its introduction and you will be greeted by the site of all manner of cool looking beasts and what I can best describe as some 16bit foreboding phantom of the opera style music which really sets the scene, hats of to the developers here they really did know how to get people pumped.

Apparently the game was made by a company called Riot, information on them appears to be rather limited but it turns out that Riot was a subsidiary of Telenet Japan. It came into existence in 1991 when Telenet Japan was expanding but when Telenet started to lose sales in 1993 it was closed with some of its staff being transferred, it was was best known for employing graphic artist and later director Eiji Kikuchi, and music composer Michiko Naruke. The game waqs published by Renovation Products which was basically Telenet Japan's US publisher of Sega Mega Drive games. Telnet would latter go on to be purchased by Sega themselves which is rather fitting seeing as they had heavily supported the Megadrive and only ever released one SNES game.

So with monsters and such you might think that this game is set in the past, well no according to the Japanese Manual this game is set in 2020. So two years from now, but heck when this game out in 1991 the year 2020 probably felt pretty darn space age, and basically well its all about genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has allowed scientists to develop specific life forms called ' dragon warriors' and basically trainers have used these creatures to fight in a wrestling championship. So Ladies and Gentlemen I guess you have two years to save up your cash and decide what kind of monster you would like to own. This is one of those games where if you grab the American version there is some absolutely fantastic Engrish, there are plenty of words pushed together missing adequate spacing and some excellent typos which managed to slip through the translation process, in fact before your first fight you will be called a ''bovice'' when offered your first monster. If your a lover of funny Engrish then this game is one to keep an eye out thats for sure.

The visuals in Beast Wrestler are very mixed in my opinion. I find the monster designs to be very interesting, they are reasonably detailed and there is a fairly good variety of them and I think that they show a great deal of creativity. It is kind of from here that things get worse though the arena is plain it lacks any real care or attention plus you probably noticed I said arena not arenas that's right there is only one so you better get used to looking at the same backdrop as you play. I am also sad to report that the graphics look even worse in motion than they do in static screen shots this is because the animation on the whole is pretty darn stiff and could seriously do with the frames of animation being doubled, it looks odd and well janky. It feels like someone took a lot of time to make the beasts and that they were then just poorly put into the game

The music in Beast Wrestler is far more consistent than the graphics though and more importantly it is in my humble opinion pretty darn great.. It has this fitting orchestral meets 16bit sort of feel, it really feels like the most of the Megadrives sound capabilities was used here. It really does help the game to try and create a dramatic atmosphere. The sound effects though they well I kind of think there a mixed bag the hitting noises are not to bad and the noise when the beasts hit the ground offers a nice satisfying feel but the noise used when one monster bear hugs or chokes another is pretty grating and all of the monsters roar the same when they are beaten. 

When it comes to gameplay, Beast Wrestler is once again a mixed bag. You move your monster/wrestler around with the D-pad with the A button being used to Punch the B button being used for Tail based strikes and the C button being your Special/Signature move button. The idea is to beat your opponents monster till it cries out on the ground 3 times, once you have managed this then you have won the fight. In order to do this you need to cause damage to your opponents monsters and you do this by punching, tail whipping, body slamming, and clotheslining the living heck out of them in total honesty though it is a bit of a button masher, it never seems to feel like quiet what you want is happening.

The game has two modes: match and tournament. Match mode is basically your versus or exhibition mode, in this either two players can go head to head with ten selectable beasts, or one player can fight a computer controlled beast. This is basically good either for just practising or having a quick go with a buddy. Now tournament mode is the real game, this is the story mode, here you use a pre-chosen creature and fight battle after battle. The game has three acts the Pro Test, Domestic Rank and World Rank. You don't have to finish the whole game in one sitting as passwords are provided but they are pretty long so that's worth bearing in mind.

After every other match you win, you get the chance to spend some of your winnings, you can use these gto get various items and serums that can help you raise your monsters speed, strength or stamina. At certain points you will also be forced to merge your beast with a choice of monsters you have already defeated, being told that your monsters badly injured and without merging it its life will be at risk. I think this is part of what really gripped me back as a kid and its something I dont remember experiencing in a game before and wouldn't again until I played Monster Rancher on the PS1 ( A game I would strongly recommend even if it is incredibly pricey).

So despite loving this game as a kid its time to let rip now. The game has a lot of issues the first being that the grappling and damage systems seem unreliable. A lot of the time who wins a grapple seems to be really random, you try to pound the buttons or press them at certain times and nothing quiet seems to help your situation. Apparently the American instruction booklet states that timing is key but in all honesty if there is some kind of proper way to time things I have never really worked it out.
Weirdly your character can face in six different directions, but can only attack in two of those directions. There is no block and no real dodge so there’s not really anything you can do defensively. Add to this that the hit detection seems to be a real mess. When you’re fighting the big upright monsters punches and tail whips hit well enough but don't work very well when your fighting against short enemies. Sometimes it looks like your blows really shouldn't be connecting and yet somehow they are. Soon you will find that your kind of managing to get by but its not because you have learned how to play the game its more like you have learned a little bit of the games broken logic.

OK so its a little bit hard giving this game a rating as it was a pretty big part of my childhood, it was a game I invested a lot of time on and yet I want to be totally honest, this game is a real mess, and for that reason I need to give it 3 out of 10. I don't think the game is without merit, there is in fact a lot of things I like about the game but it really feels like it needed a lot more work for it to be a good game. If you want to try the game well it never came out in Europe, and American copies very rarely seem to go up for sale so really you will probably be stuck with a Japanese version and the prices are all over the place I have seen fully boxed versions go for around £13 but some people seem to want a lot more than this for it. Really I wouldn't worry that much there are much better things to spend your cash on.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Steam World Heist Switch Review

For me Steam World Heist  is a 2d flat side on turn-based strategy game, which plays like a somewhat simplified XCOM, there is no base building or anything like that, you simple go from level to level using yourt brains to prosper. There is a lot more direct player skill here though, not only do you manoeuvr your team through the levels, figuring out how to best search the ships collecting as much loot as possible but you also try to dispatch your enemies while trying to avoid damage as much as possible. The skill in this really comes from how you attack your enemies; you manually aim each character’s gun and its not just always a case of aaiming it at the badies no you can ricochet bullets off walls to get around cover, and then if you can pull off a headshot you can bring enemies down faster.

You find new robots to join your team as you explore space with Different classes having different advantages, different types of robots can use diffrent kinds of guns and there are absolutly tonnes in the game with my personal favourate being one which refrences the prince song purple rain, keep an eye out for it It brought a massive smile to my face. 

The skill element is not just in how you shoot and move your men though you also have to0 make sure to Properly kit out your team as a well-balanced team can be the essential ingrediant to your success,... I think the game needs to be given serious bonus points not only for its story but also for the characters in it, each of them has there own wonderful little personality and you will find yourself warming to certain ones and wanting to have them by your side on missions.

experience points are only awarded to those who take part in a mission, and most characters really start to hit their stride after you level them up a couple times. the real upgrades come in the unique character abilities that greatly boost their effectiveness in certain situations. Each character becomes more unique as you develop them, and it can be genuinely exciting to see them evolve as you move them up. Suffice to say, you won’t be at much of a loss for options when it comes to team arrangement, and this also gives the game a fair bit of replayability as if your anything like me then youll find you want to go through the game again just to use some of the characters you dont feel you got to know so well the first time around

Monday, 2 April 2018

150 SNES games reviewed #18: ESPN Speed World

“EA Sports – It’s in the game,” as some of the old games used to say. I never quite got this. I didn’t quite know what it really meant. I presumed it meant that EA Sports games had great playability, a certain je ne sais quoi (a special quality which defies explanation).


 I never got this myself though. Sure from time-to-time I would enjoy a EA Sports title but most of the time I saw them as being a celebration of style over substance. It was less about what was really ‘in the game’ and what they could put around the gameplay. What they could add to the presentation which would make there game seem like the A* football game or A* american football experience.

This might have seemed a slightly strange start to this review when I tell you that the game I have been playing is ESPN Speed World and that the game was made by a company called Park Place Productions and was published by Sony Imagesoft, you’ll see what I mean with the rest of this review though. The game was released in 1994 exclusively in North America as it was based on a TV series of the same name that was shown over there. The game has an official ESPN license but despite being about racing, Sony didn’t gain a NASCAR license, so you’re racing NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars but the real-life drivers’ names and likenesses are not here. At the start of the race though your met with some digitised footage of ESPN sports broadcaster Dr Jerry Punch which I am sure back in the day looked and sounded amazing but to my eyes now it looks rather poor.

Everything seems to be there – the tracks, the cars, the commentary – it’s only when you start driving that you realise something is really wrong. You don’t feel like you’re in control of the car at all. You feel like your in control of a skidding line. With some practice you can start to score wins but it never feels fun, it feels like a chore from start to end. I have literally have had more fun on racing games on the ZX Spectrum than on this game. This is when you start to realise that people would have realised this game was a pile of trash much quicker if it wasn’t for the licence and the fancy digitised speech and graphics glued on to this basic mess. It is a real lesson in how video game companies tried to polish a turd with licences and a bit of fancy presentation.

I spent £5 on this game including postage. I basically bought it because I was looking for cheap games I hadn’t played or really heard of before. I figured that I would take a shot at this game, and in honesty I regret it. If you want to try this game either because you don’t believe me or you like bad games there are a few important things to consider. The first is it was only released in the US so you’ll need either an NTSC machine, a modified machine or an import converter,  and the second is that you’re more than likely going to have to import it from the US (buy it from an eBay seller over there). This means even if you can get it cheap there’s going to be a fair bit of postage, a pain in the butt weight and a larger risk of it getting lost in transit, or the post services trying to charge you some kind of import tax on it. I strongly recommend you don’t bother as I rate this game as a three out of 10 at best, its certainly one of the worst ones I have played for this series so far.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

150 Megadrive/Genesis Games Reviewed 1: Mercs AKA Wolf of the Battlefield 2


The game I am going to be talking about for my very first Megadrive/Genesis game in this series is Mercs, or to give it its original name Senjō no Ōkami II which basically translates as Wolf of the Battlefield II. I played this game back when I was a kid and never for a second realised that it was a sequel, in fact at the time I also didn't realise that it had been an Arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1990 before it was on the Megadrive/Genesis.In fact it had been one of the games on Capcom's Capcom Play System (CPS)arcade Hardware. 

For those interested in the inside of arcade machines the CPS was an interesting bit of kit. It was essentially a large arcade Jamma compatible board with the games then stored on removable ROM cartridges /boards. You could then if you were an arcade operator buy a new small rom cart with a different game on it and change this instead of having to buy a whole new large arcade board, its kind of a little bit like the NEO GEO MVS system SNK used, its most famous for being the hardware that ran the original street fighter 2, and I actually own a CPS board but I only have one rom board for it and that is PANG 3.(Capcom also went on to release an adapted console version of this board in Japan for home users, as well as two sequel boards for the arcades named the CPS2 and CPS3).

This game first came into my life when I got a cheap Japanese copy of it from my local Indy Games store called Gamesworld. I used to buy a lot of import games from here because when they were new and not out over here they were quiet expensive but as soon as the game was out over here the Japanese versions would be dropped to around £5 and I could usually either buy this with my £5 a week pocket money or I could just not eat at school and save up my dinner money to buy games with something I frequently did, I kind of wish I still owned that Japanese copy but oh well at least I still have a copy of it. It was years and years later that I realised that it had been in the arcades and that it was in fact the sequel to the 1985 Commando a game which I actually had played in the Arcades as well as a port of it on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer. I am always moaning like heck that various games deserve more sequels and this one actually got one in 2008 called Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 which was a downloadable game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I didn't actually play this till I got the Capcom Digital Collection which was a compilation of digitally released capcom games which had appeared on the Xbox 360, I am not reviewing Commando 3 but I will say its a bit of a lesser sequel in my opinion but still not too bad.

So what we have here is the 2nd part of a trilogy right? Well the answer to that would be Yes and No I guess. You see Mercs on the Megadrive wasn't actually made by Capcom at all, it was instead converted by Sega and they actually made quiet a few changes. Now most people would expect me to say that what happened was that Sega removed a whole bunch of stuff and made a weaker worse version that there console could more easily pull of right? Well there is a tiny bit of truth to this in that the arcade game was a one to three player third-person shooter game and well this game is a one player game. OK I know people are instantly going to think oh dear removing the multiplayer sucks, just look at how much it effected games like Final Fight on the SNES but really I think Sega did more than enough to cover this, sure a two player mode would have been nice but there is a lot to recommend about this game.

For a start there are two modes of play, one is called Arcade and the other is called Original. Arcade is basically a one player conversion of the actual arcade machine, it puts you in the shoes of one particular soldier, who can collect various different weapons throughout the different levels. Its good to see the arcade game on offer here even if it is restricted to one player mode, a lot of games would have given you this and then just shrugged off the fact that they'd cut out the multiplayer and gone, ''well it was the best we could do given the hardware''.

The way the arcade mode plays you basically take your guy and travel vertically up the screen shooting enemy soldiers, vehicles and turrets while trying to take as little damage as possible. At the end of each level there is a boss, for example at the end of the first level this is a fighter jet which shoots its machine guns down at the cliff you find yourself standing on while you try to dodge the bullets and take it out. The gameplay is deliciously old-Skool, its simple to pick up but with room to master, basically you move with the D-Pad and shoot with one button and then have a button which uses what is called the Mega-Crash, basically this is your screen clearing/heavy damage bomb button, which tends to be good either for when your surrounded and in danger or to deal heavy damage to bosses. The gameplay is really simple you basically shoot everything, you shoot enemies, you shoot item boxes to open them, and you shoot trees or gates or other things which hinder your progress, all while trying to get shot as infrequently as possible. During certain levels you will be able to get into certain vehicles these include tanks, boats and jeeps and as well as providing a little extra armour to you there also great fun and help to break things up a bit, if you enjoy arcade style games then your bound to get a fair bit of fun from this.

The Original mode, is sort of a rearanged mode with a few neat touches. Ok so first you start off with one soldier, you only have one life and your weapon starts of pretty darn pathetic. At first you feel seriously underpowerd to take on what the game will throw at you and this is much harder than the arcade mode. In fact at the end of the first level you basically have to defeat the arcade level one boss and take so little damage that you will have enough life to make your way into the second level. I would strongly recommend starting with the Arcade Mode and playing this as sort of game + kind of thing.

In this mode you wont find any extra lives but as you progress you will find fellow Soliders/Mercs. These Mercs will have different guns, basically they are the guns you can collect in the arcade mode but here each gun is tied to a different guy and once you have more than one you can tactically switch between them, thereby using the right guy for the right situation. As you gain more items the weapons you have will become a lot more powerful but you will need to decide which of your characters needs to pick up what is in front of you, be it food or power up icons. These extra guys essentially become your extra lives, but if you only concentrate on powering up one of them then when he dies well the others are basically screwed. You will collect medals on your journey and these become a form of currency you can use in shops in order to power your guys up. This added mode is a lot tougher to complete and I feel it adds a heck of a lot more to this title, in fact when I have gotten the arcade version of Mercs on various compilation collections I have often found myself feeling like id prefer to have the Megadrive Version which is something you seldom hear said about a conversion, its a shame that there has never been an enhanced version of Mercs for later systems offering all of the benefits of both the arcade (multiplayer) and Megadrive versions.

 For a pretty early Megadrive game this game has really good graphics, its the kind of thing that people would have wrongly called arcade perfect back in the day, they are in fact not identical to the arcades graphics but they are quiet frankly close enough for me to not care at all, everything looks correct and runs smoothly and when you throw in what I find to be a brilliant action packed soundtrack it all just fits and offers up what I would personally consider an amazing experience. I have actually found myself humming bits from this game long after I have finished playing it which for me is always a sign of a good video game soundtrack. As I try my Megadrive games on both a 50hz and 60hz console I want to briefly touch on that in my reviews, as far as Mercs goes it actually doesn't feel much different when played on either set up, although if you do play the game in a Japanese console you do get the alternative title and the story will be shown in Japanese.

OK so I suppose it is time to give Mercs a score out of 10, I happily give this game 9 out of 10. Its great fun and as well as brining the arcade game home it offers a mode with a little more challenge which helps it last longer as a home experience, I guess its just the lack of multiplayer which makes it loose out on the 10 out of 10 perfection score for me, but id still rather have this version than its arcade counterpart.

OK so if you want to buy this game how much is it likely to cost you? Well Pal carts seem to start around the £7 mark with boxed copies starting at roughly double that, both of which I think are good prices for this game. Obviously if you want to give it a bash I would advice you to look around and decide if you want a loose cart or a complete copy and then go for the best one you can find bearing condition and price in mind.