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

Dark Chambers

Dark ChambersThe Game: You control a lone adventurer on a quest through twisty mazes and open battlegrounds, descending through the dungeon depths in search of treasure (and a chance to escape in one piece with that treasure in hand). Zombies, See the videoghosts, and monsters naturally roam through the dungeons as well, more than happy to attack any treasure-hunting interlopers such as yourself. (Atari, 1988)

Memories: Released on both the 7800 and 2600, Dark Chambers was an attempt to cash in on the “action RPG” genre that had recently been made popular by Nintendo’s The Legend Of Zelda. Atari’s arcade division happened to have a hot arcade property in that genre already, but since the arcade operation – now called Atari Games – and the consumer division were now two separate entities, Dark Chambers winds up being a “near-beer” version of Gauntlet. 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

Super Burgertime

Super BurgertimeThe Game: Chef Peter Pepper is back, and boy, is he kawaii. As in the original Burgertime, the chef has to climb ladders and cross levels – while being chased by deadly ingredients – all in the pursuit of building the perfect giant burger. If he drops the burger on them, the chef’s opponents can become part of the meal. He can also spray them with pepper, as in the original game, or grab bonus weapons (such as a frying pan with which to brain them) from the sides of the screen when they intermittently appear. If enemies are on a bun, patty, etc. when it’s dropped, they’re temporarily taken out of play. Players advance a level by completing construction of all of the burgers. (Data East, 1988?)

Memories: Sometimes revising a “retro” title results in something really cool. And then there are the times that it doesn’t. Audiovisually, Super Burgertime is a huge step up from the original game, but the payoff for the finer graphical details and cute music is that the game play seems a little bit off. Continue reading

Ninja Golf

Ninja GolfThe Game: You face a test of your skills in the time-honored way of the Ninja: you must survive a game of golf. But you’re not the only Ninja on the course, and apparently you are the only Ninja who’s got a bullseye painted on his back. Before you can say “Crouching Tiger Woods, Hidden Dragon,” you must fend off See the videoattackers, including pesky gophers and alarmingly large frogs, in between putts. When you reach the green, a large dragon will attack you, as large dragons are wont to do on the green. Defeat the dragon and you advance to the next hole; do not defeat the dragon, and it will leave a hole in you. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: This utterly bizarre little game is almost like somebody’s idea of a spoof game, something you’d see if there was a Weird Al Signature Series for the 7800. But no, Ninja Golf was an actual mainstream 7800 title – well, that is, if you consider the 7800 mainstream – and proof that someone, somewhere at Atari, was thinking way outside the box. Continue reading

Ribbit!

Ribbit!The Game: Two frogs, Bull and Pip, set out on a hazardous journey…to find some flies to eat. They must grab yummy flies while avoiding several lanes of poisonous spider “traffic”, and they also have to cross the occasional river on See the videothe backs of turtles and logs, snatching more flies out of the air without falling into the water. Each screen is cleared by the frogs eating the required number of flies. (Sega, 1991)

Memories: It’s not Frogger. It’s not even officially a sequel to Frogger (by this time, Konami, the originators of that game, had reasserted their ownership rights). But I’ll be croaked if Ribbit! isn’t at least “inspired by” Frogger – how that one didn’t get the lawyers suited up for an amphibious mission, we may never know. Continue reading

Klax

KlaxThe Game: It is the nineties, as the intro screen says, and there is time for this home version of Klax, in which players try to stack colored bricks according to on-screen instructions: horizontal, vertical and diagonal rows may be required. The conveyor belts carrying the bricks gradually speed up until the bricks are zipping toward the bottom of the screen at a dizzying pace. Allowing too many bricks to slide off the bottom of the screen without catching them will forfeit the game, as will failing to come up with the configuration of stacked bricks demanded by the on-screen instructions. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: A late attempt to keep the Atari 7800 relevant in an age where the NES had firmly dominated the home video game landscape (even the Sega Master System enjoyed a larger market share than the 7800), this adaptation of Atari Games’ arcade sleeper hit Klax seems fitting somehow in retrospect: Klax was a puzzle game also-ran, trying to catch up with Tetris. And Tetris had already been snapped up by Nintendo, which was handily beating Atari with both the NES and the new Game Boy, making the 7800 an also-ran too (and let’s not talk about that whole dust-up over Atari Games’ arcade Tetris and the Tengen version of the game for NES). As if there needed to be a way to make Klax even less relevant in Atari’s fight against Tetris, there’s one more wrinkle: this version never actually hit the stores. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Dalek Attack

Doctor Who: Dalek AttackThe Game: As one of three incarnations of the Doctor (only Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy are offered), and with the option of a second playing assuming the role of either Ace or an unnamed (and yet somehow Watch a video of this gamefamiliarly mustachioed) UNIT soldier, you must navigate various environments from the sewers and streets of London to the Dalek-conquered ruins of once-proud cities like Tokyo and New York, defeating the Daleks and their allies to remove the evil scourge from Earth. Ogrons, hideous monsters, Dalek-possessed Robomen and ninjas, and – perhaps most terrifying of all – robo-sumo wrestlers will try to prevent you from completing your mission. (Alternative Software, 1992)

Memories: The first Doctor Who video game marketed for anything even vaguely resembling a modern PC (though other versions were available for such then-still-common platforms as the Amiga, the Spectrum Holobyte and even the Commodore 64), this straight-shooting scrolling quest game unashamedly goes straight for the classic arcade jugular, with game play and eye candy worthy of such all-time classics as Super Mario Brothers. It also displays a loving reverence for Doctor Who old and new, which is enough to tug at the heartstrings of the most cynical fans. Continue reading

Hyper Pacman

Hyper PacmanThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Large red dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear in the maze, and See the videoyou can consume these for additional points and power-ups. (Semicom, 1995)

Memories: Take Pac-Man, add a Lode Runner-style “only one way to solve this maze correctly” puzzle mentality, add NES-era power-ups, boss battles and vaguely 3D graphics, and the result is Hyper Pacman (note the spelling/punctuation there – a complete divergence from any of Namco’s first-party output). Continue reading

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of See the videomonsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man? Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Amok!

Amok!The Game: You’re alone in a maze filled with armed, hostile robots who only have one mission – to kill you. If you even so much as touch the walls, you’ll wind up dead. You’re a little bit faster than the robots, and you have human instinct on See the videoyour side…but even that won’t help you when SmileyBot, a deceptively friendly and completely indestructible smiley face, appears to destroy you if you linger too long in any one part of the maze. The object of the game? Try to stay alive however long you can. (John Dondzila Classic Gaming Creations, 1998)

Memories: One day, an avid programmer named John Dondzila decided to program a new game for the Odyssey – or, more precisely, for the Odyssey2 Emulator created by Dan Boris. The game turned out well, and Dondzila offered the game for sale in cartridge form through his web site. The result was the first new game cartridge for the Odyssey 2 since the mid 1980s. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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?) Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starfleet Command

Star Trek: Starfleet CommandOrder this gameThe Game: As the captain of one of Starfleet’s ships of the line, your assignments range from routine patrol duty to full-on combat with Klingons, Romulans, Hydrans, Lyrans or Gorn. You may eventually even attain control of a small fleet, issuing orders to each ship in turn to accomplish your mission. Standard 23rd century armaments like phasers and photon torpedoes are at your disposal, as are other offensive measures as sensor decoys and suicide shuttles. But remember, since Starfleet’s the good guys, the enemy will always have more wicked weapons than you. Stay on your toes, Captain. (Interplay, 1999)

Memories: How close did this game come to being classified as a Retro Revival? It’s based on a pencil-paper-and-dice turn-based tactical game that’s older than even Pac-Man. We’re talking, of course, about Star Fleet Battles, which served as the inspiration for this really snazzy bit of Trek gaming. Who doesn’t remember the 20-sided dice, the hex-grid maps, and the starship markers and miniatures with the hexagonal bases? I’d go so far as to say that Star Fleet Battles kept the Trek franchise alive in the minds of fans the same way that Kenner’s action figures kept the faithful adhered to the Star Wars saga, even after the third movie passed with no signs of a seuqel or prequel to come. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite ForceOrder this gameThe Game: As Ensign Alexander (or Alexandria) Munro of the elite Hazard Team of the U.S.S. Voyager, you take the missions that no one else wants. You have a phaser rifle in your hand, your teammates at your side, and Captain Janeway counting on you to get the job done. Now go forth and show that alien scum exactly what Hazard Team’s Prime Directive is! (Activision, 2000)

Memories: Here’s a game that I’m sure all true Star Trek fans have been waiting for with bated breath: a first-person shooter in the grand traditions of Doom and Quake set in the Star Trek universe. Elite Force fulfills that desire quite admirably. Continue reading

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