Star Wars: Rebel Assault II – The Hidden Empire

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden EmpireOrder this gameThe Game: Darth Vader, forever vigilant in his quest to destroy the Rebel Alliance, has apparently enlisted some new help – and it’s up to you, a lone Rebel pilot, to brave the odds against enormous flotillas of a new breed of TIE Fighters, blast your way through entire platoons of armored stormtroopers, and bring home the details of the new Imperial plan – and then return to the fray to defense the galaxy against this nearly-invincible threat. (LucasArts, 1996)

Memories: I have to hand it to ’em – Lucas Arts finally came up with a game set in the Star Wars universe which won my heart. Rebel Assault II is somewhere between a video game and a movie. There’s a lot of action and forwarding-of-the-story in the game’s numerous well-produced cutscenes, and the whole thing honestly does feel like an untold, yet worthy, entry in the Star Wars canon. There is a straightforward plotline, a set goal you’re trying to achieve, which rings true to this long-time fan of droids and Jedi Knights. Read More

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)

Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Read More

Frogger

FroggerBuy this gameThe Game: Frogger is back for another ribbeting chase through the traffic, and countless other locales as well. The object of the game is to rescue as many baby frogs as possible without croaking. Jump on anything that moves – provided it doesn’t eat you – to reach your goal. (Hasbro Interactive, 1997)

Memories: One of the earlier Retro Revivals to appear in the past couple of years, Frogger doesn’t quite live up to its arcade ancestry as an addictive, play-and-play-again game. My favorite screen is still the “retro level,” which is basically the arcade screen – a busy street followed by a hazardous river – given a 3-D makeover. Once you get past that screen, you might as well be playing a different game. Read More

Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi

Star Wars: Masters of Teras KasiOrder this gameThe Game: The Emperor, tiring of the constant Rebel threat to his plans for conquest, plays his hidden ace – Arden Lyn, a deceptively young-looking woman who is the last known master of the ancient martial art of teras kasi. Her mission is to hunt down Luke, Han, Leia and the other Rebels…and eliminate them. Little does she know that the Rebels are aware of the new threat to their cause, and are preparing for her arrival as well. (LucasArts, 1997)

Memories: How best to describe Teras Kasi? Think of MTV’s Celebrity Death Match set in the Star Wars universe, and you’ll have a pretty good idea, sans claymation. Teras Kasi could have been more easily titled Star Wars Ultimate Fighting and gotten the point across more succinctly (and probably would’ve sold better as well). Read More

Xevious 3D/G+

Xevious 3D/G+Buy this gameThe Game: Evil aliens are taking over the world and building heavily-fortified installations on land and undersea! Our last defense against them? You – and your well-armed Solvalou Fighter. You can repel air attacks with your lasers, and See the videotake out ground bases, missile launchers and tanks with your bombs. (Fortunately, you never run out of either of these!) Every so often, you’ll have to fight the odds to take out one of the aliens’ primary bases – and then you’ll have to deal with the huge “Bosses.” (Namco, 1997)

Xevious 3D/G+Memories: This somewhat obscure Namco title updates and revives their classic arcade title Xevious, which accumulated a cult following in 1983 when the game was released Stateside by Atari. Truth be told, Xevious 3D/G+ doesn’t rewrite the book or reinvent the wheel. For the most part, the game simply puts the original Xevious in a vaguely third-person 3-D perspective, adds some weapons and enemies (most notably the enormous and hard-to-kill Bosses), and kicks ass graphically. I liked this a lot. It has a great deal of respect and reverence for its source material. Read More

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors

Doctor Who: Destiny of the DoctorsOrder this gameThe Game: The Master strikes again! The evil Time Lord has trapped the Doctor’s first seven incarnations. You assume the role of the Graak, a telepathic entity created by the Doctor in the event of just such an emergency. You must travel to different time zones to rescue the Doctor’s various incarnations, battling Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Autons, Zygons and more along the way. You may be able to make telepathic contact with the Doctor periodically, or use the time-space telegraph to consult with the Brigadier. In the meantime, the Master challenges you to accomplish various hazardous tasks… (BBC Multimedia, 1997)

Watch a video of this gameMemories: Despite the fact that Destiny of the Doctors is essentially a Doom/Duke Nukem engine with Doctor Who settings, villains and soundbytes, I find this game strangely addictive. Even more than Star Trek, Doctor Who has been a part of my pop culture/sci-fi consciousness since childhood, and there’s something appealing about finally getting to plaster some Daleks for myself rather than watching someone else do it on TV. Read More

Dune 2000

Dune 2000Dune 2000Order this gameThe Game: The Padishah Emperor has declared open season on the planet Arrakis – better known as Dune. With no rules and no limits, the Houses of Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos are cordially invited to mine the precious Spice from Dune’s subsurface strata – and smash each other into smithereens with any and all weapons and technologies available. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1998)

Memories: Dune 2000 is an updated version of the Dune 2 computer game that has been around for a few years. I’ll warn you right now, and I’m only doing this See the videobecause I feel it’s a valid warning…Dune 2000 is extremely addictive. It’s right up there with SimCity and the Ultima games – proving that complex computer games can eat up just as much time as any ultra-simple arcade-style action game. Read More

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy – Strategic Command

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy - Strategic CommandOrder this gameThe Game: You’ve just embarked on the most challenging field of study at Starfleet Academy: Command College. Your instructor, the recently-promoted Captain Sulu (still two years away from his command of the U.S.S. Excelsior), arrives just a little bit late for his first lecture. Your initial missions include such tasks as destroying minefields, but your assignments soon grow in both complexity and risk. Not only must you battle alien threats in Starfleet’s most advanced simulator, but you must also get your crew to cooperate and learn how to lead them. (Interplay, 1998)

Memories: Though it’s mired in the mid-1990s trend of endless cutscenes and movies, inside Starfleet Academy is actually a fun little game, really more or less a 90s update of the old Star Trek arcade game with much flashier graphics (not the least of which is the full-motion video foreground of your crewmembers at the helm and at other stations) and a slightly different storyline. Read More

Star Trek: Starship Creator

Star Trek: Starship CreatorThe Game: Starfleet is looking for a few good Admirals. Despite the fact that these ubiquitous high-ranking officers are peppered liberally throughout the various Trek series, you’ve been recruited as one too – and your job is to be less Order this gameineffectual than most of the TV Admirals! You get to design, outfit and crew Federation starships to your specifications – within, of course, reasonable budgetary limits. Then dispatch your ships – one at a time, or an entire fleet – to do everything from study stellar anomalies to hold the line at the Cardassian border. The equipment you choose, as well as the interactions of the various crew members’ personalities, will play a part in the outcome of your fleet’s assignments. (Simon & Schuster Interactive, 1998)

Star Trek: Starship CreatorMemories: This sim-style game is almost exactly the same basic concept as the classic Apple II game Project Space Station, but in a science fiction setting. That game, too, put you in charge of designing, budgeting, populating and constructing a spacecraft. The only difference is that Starship Creator only allows you to monitor your ship’s activities from afar, not even able to advise. Project Space Station at least featured arcade-style segments in which you pilot space shuttles and construction pods. But if you give it any thought, Starship Creator is true to the Star Trek universe – you, the Admiral, are helpless to do anything but shake your head as those pesky, willful Captains in your fleet do their own creative rewriting of Starfleet regulations. Read More

Asteroids

AsteroidsBuy this gameThe Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of free-floating asteroids, but the job isn’t easy – Newton’s laws of motion must be obeyed, even by asteroids. When you blow a big rock into little chunks, those chunks go zipping off in opposite directions with the speed and force imparted by the amount of energy you used to dispel them. To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable hyperspace escape mechanism and a pesky UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and you’re between several large rocks and a hard place. (Activision, 1999)

Memories: Another entry in the race to revive as many video game classics as possible (at least the popular ones – I don’t see anyone reviving Bagman…), Activision’s update of Asteroids is fairly straightforward. This is the same company which produced such a winning resurrection of Space Invaders, so we can trust that these people know what makes for a good Retro Revival. Read More

Centipede

CentipedeBuy this gameThe Game: You are the chosen one! Cool, huh? Oh, wait…chosen for what? You are Wally, a bumbling elf who is apparently destined to rid the elven world of a vicious army of centipedes and other bugs. You travel from village to village in different locales to undertake your divine exterminating duties, armed with a hovering weapons platform/vehicle simply called the Shooter. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: Sometimes it seems as though the modern video game manufacturers are overdoing their attempts to bestow a Hollywood plot upon the simpler games of the past. Exhibit A: Centipede, based on the mega-hit Atari coin-op of the same name – a game which, to my knowledge, never really needed a plot because most people don’t look kindly upon wormlike creatures with a hundred legs anyway. Read More

Frogger

FroggerBuy this gameThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from drowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the screen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators! (Majesco, 1999)

Memories: Ah, the joys of Frogger. It’s still one of the simplest and most deceptively difficult arcade games Froggerever to come down the pike, and yet finding a decent port of it over the years has proven to be almost as difficult as getting the amphibious one across the road in the game’s sixth level. But ask anyone about favorite video games from the early 80s, and you’re almost certain to hear Frogger in that list. The popularity of the original Frogger is borne out by the fact that a series of licensees has attempted to turn out a modern-day descendant of Frogger, and while some of those have been fun in their own right, they’ve also barely lived up to the simple joy of the original. Read More

Q*Bert

Q*BertBuy this gameThe Game: Q*World is attacked by the evil purple snake Coily, and the apple of Q*Bert’s eye, Q*Dina, is abducted by Coily, along with several others. Q*Bert pursues Coily through several dimensions to rescue his friends. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 1999)

Memories: Another quest-style revival of an arcade classic, this new version of Q*Bert still manages to stay faithful to the original, perhaps even moreso than See the videoPac-Man World. While one never had to deal with the yellow fellow jumping, butt-bouncing, or rev-rolling, Q*Bert sticks to the mode of movement from the original game – hopping around diagonally. In short, if you could play the original, you can play this. Read More

Space Invaders

Space InvadersBuy this gameThe Game: 21 years after the first relentless alien invasion of Earth, the Space Invaders are back – and so are you, in a vastly advanced version of the ubiquitous “tank” which was so critical to the defense of Earth in 1978. But the aliens have made some improvements to their hardware too, and they still outnumber you by at least 20 to 1. Handy survival tip: start blasting, and keep blasting. (Activision, 1999)

See the videoMemories: Now this retro revival surprised me. Updating Pac-Man and Q*Bert, that I could see. Those games had Saturday morning cartoons, vague plotlines of their own (in fine print on the arcade cabinets), and so they’re easy to update. Space Invaders, on the other hand, had a T-shirt, and a legacy of many wasted after-school hours spent on the Atari 2600. The only plotline one could assign to Space Invaders was that you could fight and fight and fight, but you’d eventually perish in the battle. It was inevitable. There were just too many of them. (And you thought UFO paranoia only blossomed in the age of The X-Files and Art Bell?) Read More

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

South Park: Chef's Luv ShackOrder this gameThe Game: Chef’s got his own cable access game show where eligible bachelorettes can compete for his affections! However, in the total absence of eligible bachelorettes, Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman have shown up to play the game. They answer three rounds of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style trivia (only much more scatological than Regis usually gets) and then go into a randomly-selected “mini-game.” To the victor goes the Cheesy Poofs! (Acclaim Studios Austin, 1999)

Memories: This hysterically funny party game is a hit around the Green household. Now, just the presence of the words “South Park” will very likely tell you that this isn’t a game to get for your kids. With that in mind, it’s still a good game. Read More

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceMemories: As various heroic characters from the days when Jedi Knights still enforced justice in that galaxy far, far away, you must expose the danger posed to peaceful Naboo by the Trade Federation’s army of battle and destroyer droids, and escort Order this gameQueen Amidala out of the clutches of the invaders who would force her to surrender her world into slavery. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: Oh, what a frustrating game! The Playstation is a recent acquisition for me, and I like the wealth of Retro Revivals and emulations available for Sony’s nifty little game console. But this game and the Xena game just about drove me nuts…yet this is the style of game that most everyone seems to be trying to create these days. Read More

Star Wars Episode I: Racer

Star Wars Episode I: RacerThe Game: Strap yourself into the very fast, very dangerous world of pod racing. Rocket through dozens of different courses, facing off against opponents who Order this gamerange from patsies to cunning and ruthless adversaries. Save up your winnings along the way to make your pod faster and handle better. Aim for the Boonta Eve race on Tatooine and try to win it all. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: The first video game released in conjunction with The Phantom Menace is this racing game developed by LucasArts. This game holds the distinction of having one of the oddest titles (and dullest packaging) in recent years, but inside is a decent and fun little racing game. Read More

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior PrincessOrder this gameThe Game: An evil sorceress, in her plot to destroy the gods, needs to sacrifice a mortal queen – and decides that Gabrielle will do, since the bard is also the Queen of the Amazons. Xena must fight her way through numerous obstacles to challenge the might of the sorceress and defeat her – the world, and Gabrielle’s life, depend on her success. (Electronic Arts, 1999)

Memories: Xena is a natural property for a video game, and indeed, there have already been games on earlier platforms that explored the Xenaverse. But this multi-level, first-person fighting game is the first to attempt to match the scope of the television series, offering individual “episodes” to fight your way through en route to the final goal. Read More