Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairBuy this gameThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the Smithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Capcom, 2001)

See the videoMemories: In the pre-Game Boy Advance days, developers were pushing the envelope of what the 10-year-old handheld system could do. 1999’s Star Wars Racer included a brief, soundless black & white video clip in its intro sequence, and Dragon’s Lair – a holy grail of retrogaming that had only recently been done justice as an interactive DVD game – promised to pack the fully-animated arcade game of the same name into a Game Boy Color cartridge, an astounding technical feat. Continue reading

Mario Kart Super Circuit

Mario Kart: Super CircuitThe Game: It’s a big day at the races, with a field of drivers selected from the Mushroom Kingdom: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Bowser, and even Donkey Kong Jr. are among the racers vying for the top spot. From the grassy Mushroom course to the punishingly muddy Star course to the oceanside Flower course, there are challenges, hairpin turns and obstacles. Whoever can learn to navigate each course the fastest without ending up out of bounds struggling to get back on the course will be the winner. (Nintendo, 2001)

Memories: A better-than-merely-passable handheld version of Super Mario Kart, this game may actually exceed its inspiration by offering new environments, new drivers and other neat twists. For the most part, it’s a genuine improvement. Continue reading

Pac-Man Collection

Pac-Man CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Namco raids the archives once more, offering up arcade-perfect handheld adaptations of Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, one of the first-ever home versions of Pac-Man Arrangement, and the Tetris knock-off Pac-Attack. (Namco, 2001)

Memories: Namco has offered some dandy attempts at bringing Pac-Man home from the arcades. They tried with the premiere volume of the Namco Museum series for the Playstation, which suffered from having its display savagely reduced in size to include a lame bitmapped version of the original side art. They tried again with the Game Boy Color version of Pac-Man, and got damn close. Even their battery-powered 5-in-1 TV Game is close enough for government work. But I’ll be gobbled by a quartet of colorful blobs if this ain’t the closest thing this side of MAME to real live honest-to-God Pac-Man. Continue reading

Atari Anniversary Advance

Atari Anniversary AdvanceBuy this gameThe Game: It used to take a pocket full of quarters to enjoy some of the finest arcade games from Atari’s golden age, but now it just takes a pocket full of Game Boy Advance. Included are Asteroids, Tempest, Centipede, Battlezone, Super Breakout and Missile Command, along with a dandy trivia game focusing on Atari’s history and most famous games. (Atari / Infogrames, 2002)

Memories: What should be one of the better classic game compilations on the Game Boy Advance turns out to be a classic example of a mixed bag. The audiovisual side of things is great – though a few of these games have been “reformatted to fit your screen,” to quote the dreaded pan-and-scan movie disclaimer, all of the games look great – very authentic – only this isn’t really the display they were intended for. Missile Command and Super Breakout are somewhat “scrunched” to fit into the available space, and Asteroids is a case where too much effort was poured into preserving the original game’s graphics: everything is shrunken down to the point where smaller asteroids, or incoming fire from an attacking UFO, can be hard to spot because they’re so tiny. Tempest, Centipede and Battlezone, on the other hand, look fantastic. Continue reading

Godzilla: Domination

Godzilla: Domination!Order this gameThe Game: As the lone monster not affected by the mysterious magnetic waves being released from Magnetic Meteor X, it’s up to you to fight your way through a series of crazed monsters and defeat the ultimate villain, Mecha-King Ghidorah. (Infogrames/Atari, 2002)

Memories: There’s a fine line between adding to a genre and simply copying it, a line that Godzilla: Domination is never quite able to cross. The makings of a fun game are all here: giant monsters battling throughout multiple interactive playfields, but unfortunately the formula has been done before, better. Continue reading

Ultima III: Exodus

Ultima IIIThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Sosaria, and Lord British calls for your service again. You set out with four adventurers on a quest to gain the experience that will be necessary to survive the long voyage to a volcanic island where the source of all the evil plaguing the world is said to be. (Sven Carlberg, 2002)

Memories: Programmed as a homebrew project, this unofficial version of Ultima III ports the massive home computer RPG to the Game Boy Color. If even half of the game survives that translation intact, that’s a stupendous achievement. But how does it play? Continue reading

Intellivision 25 TV Game

Intellivision 25 TV GameThe Game: 25 choice cuts of Intellivision goodness are crammed into something about the size of a modern-day console controller. Games include Astrosmash, Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling, Buzz Bombers, Chip Shot Super Pro Buy this gameGolf, Hockey, Hover Force, Motocross, Night Stalker, Pinball, Shark! Shark!, Skiing, Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball, Snafu, Space Armada, Space Battle, Space Hawk, Star Strike, Sub Hunt, Super Pro Football, Super Pro Volleyball, Thin Ice, Thunder Castle, Tower Of Doom, Vectron, and World Championship Baseball. (Techno Source, 2003)

Memories: And it sounded like such a neat idea when it was first announced. Really, it is still a good idea. Pack 25 games into a $25 standalone game that plugs into your TV or VCR’s auxiliary audio/video ports, and make them as true to the Intellivision as possible. The real problem here is that they only get so close. Continue reading

Namco 5-In-1 TV Game

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameBuy this gameThe Game: It’s like Namco Museum in the palm of your hand: some of the venerable Japanese arcade innovator’s all-time best quarter-grabbers from the 1980s are gathered in the form of a standalone joystick that plugs into your TV or VCR’s A/V jacks. Games built into this system are Pac-Man, Galaxian, Rally-X, Bosconian and Dig Dug. Batteries are not included, but the fun is. (Jakks Pacific [under license from Namco], 2003)

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameMemories: After I reviewed the dandy Techno Source Intellivision 25-in-1 TV Game, at least one e-mail suggested that I wasn’t being critical enough in my review. I praised that dandy self-contained gadget for capturing the flavor of those 25 classic Intellivision games, even if a lot of the finer details were left out. Those of you who thought I was going easy on that game should just stop reading this review now. Because I kinda dig this quintet of Namco goodness – with some significant reservations. Continue reading

Pac-Man Vs.

Pac-Man Vs.The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, one player maneuvers around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters, up to three of which are controlled by his fellow players, who can eat Pac-Man on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots enable Pac-Man to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period of time. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and Pac-Man can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to the chase. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster. The game continues until a preset target score is reached, or until Pac-Man is caught by one of the monsters; the player controlling that monster is then handed the Game Boy Advance to take over Pac-Man’s role. (Namco, 2003 – for Nintendo Gamecube)

Memories: Let me just come right out and say that I have a bit of bias toward this game. Pac-Man is an all-time favorite of mine, the very reason I’m still as into video games now as I was 20+ years ago. You just can’t go wrong with Pac-Man – well, then again, maybe you can. In recent years, the character has gotten to star in a series of platform quest games, boldly going where Mario and Luigi have already gone before plenty of times themselves. As much fun as the original Pac-Man World could be, that game’s killer app was still, undoubtedly, that it could play the original arcade Pac-Man, or a slightly 3-D remake of it in “maze mode.” There hasn’t been a really good use of the Pac franchise in years – until now. Continue reading

Centipede / Breakout / Warlords

Centipede / Breakout / WarlordsBuy this gameThe Game: Shoot, break and destroy your way through Centipede, Breakout and Warlords, three classic Atari games now available for your Game Boy Advance. (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: Two of DSI’s retro compilations for the Game Boy Advance are fairly similar in composition: there’s this one, the Centipede / Breakout / Warlords package, and the Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander compilation. Centipede and Millipede (its sequel) are comparable, as are Breakout and Super Breakout (again, a sequel), making the main difference between the two packages Warlords vs. Lunar Lander. Continue reading

Gauntlet / Rampart

Gauntlet / RampartThe Game: DSI strikes again with Gauntlet and Rampage, two nearly perfect arcade conversions for the Game Boy Advance. In Gauntlet you’ll trade shots with ghosts, demons, and Death himself. In Rampart you’ll defend your ground and exchange buckshot with more worldly enemies. (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: Gauntlet will be forever imbedded in my mind as the first four-player cooperative quarter eater. From the day I first saw it way back in seventh grade, the game has always held a special place in my heart. At least that’s the story I told my wife as I was moving a vintage Gauntlet arcade cabinet into our home gameroom. Continue reading

Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander

Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar LanderThe Game: Relive exciting arcade action on your Gameboy Advance with the latest game pack from DSI Games. Millipede, Super Breakout and Lunar Lander, three classic games from Atari, are waiting for you! (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: DSI Games‘ latest game pack consists of three games, Super Breakout (1978), Lunar Lander (1979), and Millipede (1982). DSI has a consistent track record of offering gamers two newer games (Gauntlet/Rampart, Paperboy/Rampage, Spy Hunter/Super Sprint) or three classic games (Pong/Asteroids/Yars’ Revenge, Centipede/Breakout/Warlords) per pack. This pack contains three classic Atari games, although none of them will hold your attention for long. Continue reading

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