Donkey Kong Junior

Donkey Kong JuniorThe Game: Mario has Donkey Kong in captivity, and it’s up to Donkey Kong Jr. to rescue his dad by scaling vines and chains, avoiding nasty-toothed traps and pesky birds, and reaching the key to free the great ape from Mario’s clutches. (Nintendo, 1985)

Memories: A fairly popular arcade game like Donkey Kong Junior was bound to be ported to home consoles, and the translations ran the gamut from not-good-at-all to good enough. Surely if anyone could really capture the essence of the coin-op, it’d be Nintendo itself. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: How high can you go? Help Jumpman (Mario) save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches by climbing ladders and avoiding barrels. (Ocean Software, 1986)

Memories: Three years after the release of AtariSoft’s Commodore 64 Donkey Kong port, European software developer Ocean Software decided it was time for another Donkey Kong remake and accepted the challenge.

It goes without saying that the more familiar programmers become with a particular platform, the more advanced their games will look and play. This is generally why games released later in a platform’s lifespan often seem more advanced than earlier titles. Such is the case with Ocean’s version of Donkey Kong. With an additional three years of familiarity with the Commodore behind them, Ocean was really able to crank one great looking port. Continue reading

Uridium

UridiumThe Game: Destroy massive motherships while fighting waves of enemies and avoiding obstacles at breakneck speeds in this groundbreaking horizontal SHMUP. There’ll be time to rest when you’re dead. (Hewson, 1986)

Memories: Uridium is one of the fastest games I’ve ever played. At top speed, things whiz by you so quickly that your reflexes simply aren’t fast enough. You’ll have to memorize the levels to fly at that speed – too bad you can’t memorize where the next wave fleet of enemies will be coming from. Continue reading

Galaga ’88

Galaga '88The Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1987)

Memories: Where the Galaga sequel Gaplus turned some elements of the game play around, Galaga ’88 returns to the original rules and adds a lot of visual flair. Continue reading

Asteroids

AsteroidsThe 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 See the videoBuy this gamelittle 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. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: So you thought Asteroids didn’t become a creature of slick full-color graphics until the Playstation era, eh? Or maybe you didn’t think that. First off, Atari rehashed the game in colorful raster form as Blasteroids in the arcades, and then it included a copy of this rendition of Asteroids with every Atari 7800 console it sold. Continue reading

Diner

DinerThe Game: Chef Peter Pepper is back, and he’s been served up a second helping of inedible trouble. Roaming the vast, maze-like expanses of Ray’s Diner, the chef has to round up the scattered ingredients of dinner before he finds himself on See the videothe menu. For every four screen he clears, Peter Pepper gets a chance to catch more ingredients in a bonus round (but must avoid the flashing ingredients at all costs). The chef is also still armed with his trusty pepper shaker to stun his enemies briefly, and he can still replenish his short supply of pepper when bonus items appear. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: A loose collective of “survivors” of Mattel Electronic’s Intellivision division, INTV Corp. slowly but surely got off the ground to offer new titles to Intellivision owners by mail-order, even as the NES was taking over the world. INTV’s library of new titles wasn’t a huge one, but it was at the very least a respectable selection, including arcade games such as Dig Dug and Pole Position whoses licenses had once been exclusive to the now-all-but-dormant Atari. INTV Corp. had access to the back catalog of started-but-not-finished (and finished-but-shelved-indefinitely) titles that had been swallowed in the fall of Mattel Electronics, and it was from one of these unfinished games that Diner got its start…but you might be surprised to find out where Diner really came from. Continue reading

Galaga

GalagaThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: It took three years for anyone to bring this game to any home video game or computer platform. Who knows why? I never thought it was all that complicated, but apparently not even the ColecoVision or the 5200 were up to the task. Continue reading

Food Fight

Food FightBuy This GameThe Game: Poor Charley Chuck. He just wants to make it across the screen and eat that big, inviting ice cream cone before it all melts away. But there are a bunch of chefs who want to stop him. This, of course, means war – an all out food fight breaks out. Charley and the chefs can both grab whatever morsels are at hand and fling them at each other. If Charley beans a chef, that chef temporarily disappears, but if Charley gets nailed too many times, he’s force-fed a solid diet of game over. (Atari, 1984 – released in 1987)

See the videoMemories: Food Fight on the Atari 7800 almost has an unfair advantage: both the coin-op and this home version were programmed by General Computer, a subcontractor which handled many of Atari’s better home ports of arcade games. In addition to their usual skill in transferring arcade games to home consoles, this time they had intimate knowledge of the original too. Continue reading

Winter Games

Winter GamesThe Game: The Olympic torch is the warmest thing to be found in this multi-event recreation of the Winter Olympics. Downhill skiing, luge, slalom skiing and other events are represented here, and See the videoplayers can even pick which country they’re representing as they go for the gold. (Epyx, 1987)

Memories: One of the more elaborate attempts to recreate Olympic events on the Atari 2600, Winter Games benefits from a few additional years of knowledge on overcoming that system’s limitations. But it’s also, largely, an afterthought: Epyx made its real money from Winter Games on the Commodore 64 and other home computer systems. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the See the videomothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: Y’know, the more games I get for my trusty little 7800 – admittedly a recent acquisition in my gallery of classic consoles – the more I’m convinced that the Tramiel regime at Atari did the video game indsutry (and the consumers and players) a vast disservice by mothballing the 7800 and then not unveiling it until the NES had dominated the landscape. Continue reading

IK+

IK+The Game: Face not one but two simultaneous opponents in what many consider the apex of Commodore 64 fighting games. IK+ supports one or two players, eighteen different moves, and more fighting action than all of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies combined. (System 3, 1987)

Memories: IK+ is considered by many to be the best fighting game available for the Commodore 64, but the history leading up to the game is almost as interesting as the game itself. IK+ is actually the sequel to International Karate, released by System 3 in the UK in 1986. International Karate is a one-on-one fighting game with many similarities with Data East’s game, Karate Champ. In both games, two fighters dressed in red and white uniforms battle. Both games use the same scoring system, awarding either half or full points to successful moves and declaring the first combatant to reach two full points the winner. Both games feature a scoring judge and backgrounds featuring different locations. Continue reading

Skate Or Die

Skate Or DieThe Game: Don’t be a poseur! Skate hard or die trying in the ultimate skateboarding game for the Commodore 64. Practice or compete in five separate events that will lead you over ramps, down streets and even into abandoned pools. (Electronic Arts, 1987)

Memories: Throughout my teenage years, I had three distinct career paths in mind. The first one was professional breakdancer. When I realized that probably wasn’t going to pan out, I began planning on a more obtainable, more realistic goal: professional ninja. This was of course during the big ninja craze of the mid-80s. When that career path didn’t pan out, I set my sights on a third goal: professional skateboarder. Continue reading

Wonderboy

WonderboyThe Game: Wonderboy’s girlfriend Tanya has been abducted and it’s up to you to get her back. You’ll have to be pretty crafty to avoid the dangers of Wonderland in this classic Sega platformer. (Activision, 1987)

Memories: Call me isolated, but for almost two decades I had no idea the classic platformer Wonderboy for the Commodore 64 was actually ported from an arcade game. While I knew the game was licensed from Sega and written by Activision, it wasn’t until just a few years ago when I happened across a Wonder Boy cartridge for the Sega Master System that I realized the game was released for multiple systems! Continue reading

Pete Rose Baseball

Pete Rose BaseballThe Game: Batter up! We’re live from the baseball diamond with TV sports-style camera angles that switch to show you where the action is. (Absolute, 1988)

See the videoMemories: An extremely late entry for the 2600, I’d wager that this NES-era baseball game is actually one of the better attempts to bring the sport to Atari’s aging hardware. While I’m still not sure what Pete Rose has to do with this video game, you can bet it delivers a good baseball experience. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend and hauls her up to the top of a building which is presumably under construction. You are Mario, dodging Donkey Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and “foxfires” in your attempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Kong. You can actually do this a number of times, and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Atari, 1988)

Donkey KongSee the videoMemories: Before Nintendo made its own inroads in the American home video game market, it happily let homegrown companies take the license and run with it. Coleco won the license for Donkey Kong for the cartridge-based console market, while Atari snagged the rights to release Donkey Kong for various computer systems. When Coleco folded (after the expensive Adam Computer debacle), Atari did the corporate equivalent of going through Coleco’s wallet and picking up its licenses. Continue reading

Galaga: Demons Of Death

Galaga: Demons Of DeathThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships See the videowhich arrives with each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Bandai, 1988)

Memories: Despite being one of the most consistent arcade hits of the early ’80s, Galaga seemed to be left out in the cold for years before coming to the home console scene. The first attempt, Atari’s passable Galaga cartridge for the Atari 7800, didn’t quite have the audiovisual flair of the arcade version. By the time the NES version was released, it was clear that things had changed – for all intents and purposes, this was the arcade game, and it looked and sounded and played just like the original. When the litmus test of ’80s consoles was arcade authenticity, you just couldn’t do better than that. Continue reading

Star Wars

Star WarsThe Game: You’re an intrepid X-Wing pilot participating in the last-ditch Rebel attempt to destroy the Death Star – before it destroys the Rebel base on Yavin IV. TIE Fighters try to intercept you, but you can destroy them (as well as See the videouse your own lasers to blast their incoming fire out of the sky). Then you move in to attack the Death Star itself, with its incredibly hazardous system of gunnery towers and bunkers. Once you’ve gotten past the surface defenses, you dive into the trench that will lead you to an exhaust port which is the only means of destroying the Death Star – but there are defenses in the trench as well, and your deflector shields can only take so much… (Domark / Zeppelin Games Ltd., 1988)

Memories: Years after Parker Brothers’ lumpen version of Atari’s Star Wars arcade game, someone finally had the decency to bring Atari’s hit game home to Atari’s home computers in a form that’s worth playing. And as luck would have it, North American Atari 8-bit owners didn’t get to see this one – it was a British exclusive release. Continue reading

Off The Wall

Off The WallThe Game: A worm-like dragon taunts you from atop a multi-colored wall, one which you must topple to reunite your divided village. To accomplish this task, you must bounce hurled projectiles into the wall. Collecting power-ups along the way will affect the behavior of the projectile, from making it a weapon capable of wiping out See the videolarge portions of the wall to making it return to you repeatedly, like a boomerang. You advance to the next level by eliminating the wall. (Atari, 1989)

Memories: In the beginning, there was Breakout, a game which Atari itself cloned and put through endless permutations; even Warlords, a favorite among classic gamers everywhere, was a stepchild of Breakout and QuadraPong. Eventually, after turning out Breakout and its clones for the home video game market, Atari turned to other ideas. In the late 1980s, Taito unleashed Arkanoid – essentially an updated version of Breakout – and brought the breaking-down-brick-walls genre back into the public eye. Continue reading

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