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Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Williams Collection

Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Williams CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Visit a shrine to the greatest hits of Williams Electronics’ spectacularly successful arcade manufacturing venture of the early 80s. Spawned almost solely by Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, Williams’ arcade division spawned some of the most memorable hits of the golden age of video games – and these are just a few of them. (Williams/Midway [developed by Digital Eclipse], 1995)

Memories: One of the earliest classic arcade emulation collections for the Playstation, The Williams Collection was Williams Electronics‘ (now owned by Midway) answer to Namco‘s series of Namco Museum games, chronicling the greatest arcade hits of one of Williams’ biggest rivals in the early 80s. And for my money, The Williams Collection is better – no cheesy, unintelligibly bit-mapped photos of printed circuit boards here, kids; Williams brings you full-length video interviews with Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, the game designers/programmers behind such hits as Defender and Robotron: 2084, as well as the minds behind such other games as Joust and Bubbles. Continue reading

Galaxian3

Galaxian3The Game: An alien war fleet is closing in on Earth, armed with a powerful weapon that can eradicate the entire planet. You (and, if you happen to have some fellow gunners, four others) man the artillery batteries of an armed-to-the-teeth ship on a mission to take the fight to the aliens before they can bring it to Earth. If you successfully complete that mission, you can also move on to a second mission to defend the planet Gourb from the Galaxian fleet. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: This is the home adaptation of Namco’s theatrical walk-in video experience which appeared in arcades and amusement centers around 1990. How theatrical is it? The game’s literally in widescreen, with scoring information and statistics appearing outside of the letterbox area. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 1 (“N”)

Namco Museum Volume 1Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man at your side, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum, where you may examine classic video game sales brochures, promotional items, posters, and the arcade cabinets themselves – which contain, naturally, the actual games. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: A fantastic idea in a so-so package, Namco Museum‘s first volume on the Playstation is a mixture of picture-perfect emulations and a not-so-perfect framing structure. The thought of all the extra material is great in theory – and it has turned out to be one of the “compelling applications” for the DVD format. But in Namco Museum, these nifty ephemera from the 80s are presented to you as exhibits in clumsily bit-mapped hallways and rooms which aren’t even as convincing graphically as the Windows 95 “maze” screen saver. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 3 (“M”)

Namco Museum Volume 3Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated and encased in digital museums. Some game companies, like Namco, are big enough to spread their best titles out over five discs. With Pac-Man hanging around, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum once more. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: Namco Museum 3, reprinted in the “greatest hits” range of Playstation games, contains some of the biggest coin-op successes to emerge from Japan’s video game supergiant – but this volume, also known early on as “Volume M,” also sees the beginning of the Namco Museum collection’s shift toward fighting and action-RPG-style games. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (“A”)

Namco Museum Volume 2Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: The second volume (also known as Volume A) in Namco’s 5-disc collection of arcade emulations for the Playstation is the most difficult to find – one often sees it going for nearly twice its original retail price in eBay auctions – and yet it has some of Namco’s biggest “cult” hits… and yet only volumes 1 and 3 have been reprinted. Go figure. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)The Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest makers of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995, for Sony Playstation)

Memories: It’s hard for me to really justify blowing $25 on this particular import. Maybe it’s just the perversity of having two different versions of Namco Museum Vol. 2 when the American edition is hard enough to find as it is. Or maybe it’s because I want to be able to play as many classic arcade games as possible on my Playstation. Continue reading

Star Wars: Dark Forces

Star Wars: Dark ForcesOrder this gameThe Game: Former Imperial officer Kyle Katarn has defected and joined the Rebel Alliance – and they intend to use him as an undercover operative. With his knowledge of infiltration and Imperial procedures, Katarn is the perfect choice to wreak havoc from the inside. But getting back in to an Imperial facility is the trick isn’t it? And it’ll cost you a little something extra – namely, a lot of pain, and a lot of time spent hiding, running, and blasting away at hordes of stormtroopers and a few other enemies, including bounty hunters Boba Fett and Bossk. If you can help Katarn survive long enough, he may discover the secret of the Empire’s legion of darktroopers, a new breed of stormtrooper with more advanced weaponry and almost invincible armor. (LucasArts, 1995)

Memories: Though clearly inspired by the Doom / Duke Nukem genre of first person shooters, Dark Forces won many a fan simply by virtue of being a Star Wars game that doesn’t involve spaceflight. Continue reading

Nichibutsu Arcade Classics

Nichibutsu Arcade ClassicsThe Game: Three obscure but memorable cult classics from Japan’s Nichibutsu Ltd. are gathered in one collection, along with an updated version of each game. Crazy Climber, Moon Cresta and Frisky Tom are included, with their respective remakes, Crazy Climber ’85, SF-X and Tom’s Strike-Back. (Nichibutsu Ltd., 1995)

Memories: Much sought-after by collectors now, this Namco Museum-style compilation is the only way to get most of these games on anything that’s not MAME – and in the case of the updated versions, this is the only game in town. It’s also the source of a very humorous photo, shown before the main menu screen pops up, which I find very funny (see below). Continue reading

Hyper Crazy Climber

Hyper Crazy ClimberThe Game: You’re crazy-climbing the inner city no more. As one of a party of three adventurers, your mission is to scale mystic mountain peaks, Big Ben-style clock towers, and even enormous beanstalks, all to gather various items and move on to the next stop on your quest. Obstacles such as an avalanche of killer boulders and monkeys tossing bananas at you could send you plummeting to your death. The three characters along for the adventure have different rates of speed and endurance (as in endurance for things falling on their heads, though nothing will save you from a huge boulder). Watch out for falling rocks! (Nichibutsu, 1996)

Memories: This is one fiendishly difficult game. Normally, when I put together a Phosphor Dot Fossil, I play to get as far as I can in the game so you can get a glimpse of as many levels as possible. Not everyone reading this has all of these games, so I try to show you everything that I can. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 4 (“C”)

Namco Museum Volume 4Buy this gameThe Game: Namco has even more games they’d like us all to remember, only this time, you might not remember them half as clearly as Pac-Man, who’s still dragging you through the halls of the Namco Museum, eager to play each and every one. Oddly enough, you’ve probably never seen any of these games before. The greatest challenge in your path in Volume 4? Figuring out the controls for The Genji And The Heike Clans and Return of Ishtar. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Personally, I don’t remember any of these games, save for the bizarre scrolling exploration game Pac-Land and Assault, which I believe was licensed to Atari. Inspired by the ABC-TV cartoon series, Pac-Land may indeed be the only reason anyone might now try to track down the now out-of-print Volume 4 of Namco Museum. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 5 (“O”)

Namco Museum Volume 5Buy this gameThe Game: The Namco Museum is open for business one last time! Today’s exhibit features games of the late 1980s, and of course Pac-Man – being the prideful little single-celled organism that he is – simply must see all the displays. You wander the halls one last time, visiting some really cool themed rooms for each game, with the yellow one underfoot. Games included this time around are Metro-Cross, Pac-Mania, Dragon Spirit, The Legend of Valkyrie and Baraduke. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: For the final installment of their series of classic arcade emulations, Namco mined their late-80s games, concentrating on fighting and quest games primarily. The only relatively simple title included on Volume 5 (a.k.a. Volume O) is the final arcade appearance of Pac-Man in Pac-Mania, a very simple updating of the original Pac-Man set in a vaguely Zaxxon-esque three-quarter perspective. In a way, Pac-Mania is the direct predecessor of the 3-D “maze mode” of Namco’s recent retro revival Pac-Man World. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Tempest X3

Tempest X3Buy this gameThe Game: As in the original Tempest, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube as a strangely crablike creature, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and purple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things (swirly thing alert!!) which spin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should still avoid spikes. (Interplay, 1996)

See the videoMemories: My first reaction to Tempest X3 was “DUDE!” And that’s not even a “Dude! It sucks!” or “Dude! It rules!” Nope, it’s just a “Dude! What gnarly graphics!” This is kind of like the original Tempest, except psychedelically tie-dyed. To put it mildly, it’s a very…colorful updating of the game. The tube walls now have colorful (if subtle) patterns, and power-ups are hailed by more lens flares than an early episode of Babylon 5. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Namco Museum Encore

Namco Museum EncoreThe Game: All aboard! Now departing the Namco Museum aboard the spaceship Game Space Milaiya. Namco’s retrospective series literally takes off for its final ride on the Playstation with a collection of seven games, from the earliest days of Namco’s video game empire to more recent arcade titles. (Namco, 1997 – for Playstation)

Memories: For the final PS1 outing of the Namco Museum series, Namco turned out what easily could have been the user-friendliest volume yet, dispensing with the tedious “Doom minus the action” museum settings and otherwise simplifying things dramatically. In short: doing away with the extraneous trappings to make way for more games. Continue reading

ReBoot

ReBootThe Game: No one said it was easy being Mainframe’s Guardian, and this game is proof. You’re Bob the Guardian, trying to protect the citizens of Mainframe from a series of deadly tears unleashed upon the unsuspecting populace by an unholy alliance between Megabyte and Hexidecimal. Various characters show up along the way, like Mike TV, to offer advice, but aside from some vital health power-ups, you’re on your own. As you advance from level to level, a new ReBoot adventure is gradually revealed until you reach the end of the story – but if you fail in your mission to protect Mainframe, that episode’s going to come up short. (Electronic Arts, 1997)

Memories: What better property to base a game on than ReBoot, the all-CGI animated show from Canada which has never gotten a decent time slot in the U.S.? Originally shown on ABC in the early 1990s, ReBoot started out as standard kid-friendly fare. Its second season introduced some more violent elements, after which ABC dropped the show and its third season – complete with battles, psychological drama and character development aplenty – wound up in a dead-of-night slot on the Cartoon Network. (And this treatment of the show hasn’t changed – the fourth season was aired on the Cartoon Network, and went almost completely unpromoted.) Continue reading

Space Invaders Collection

Space Invaders CollectionThe Game: You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth… it’s all over. (Taito, 1997, for Playstation)

Memories: I can hear ’em already. “Okay, you’ve flipped your lid. There’s already a modern-day Space Invaders remake out there, there’s emulation, and then there’s the fact that Space Invaders has been emulated pretty faithfully all the way back to the Atari 2600 version. Why the heck do you need this version for the Playstation?” Continue reading

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). Continue reading

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