Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: As space pilot Buck Rogers, you pilot an agile star fighter across a hazardous alien landscape, dodging buildings and destroying enemy vessels. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Bearing only the most superficial resemblance – just the design of the star fighter – to the television series of the same name, Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom may seem like nothing terribly special these days, but at the time, it was a breakthrough in 3-D, not-quite-first-person aerial/space combat video games – from the same people who brought you Zaxxon, the first vaguely-3-D game. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla…but first you have to traverse craggy outcroppings, cross See the videotreacherous bridges, hop across a river on the backs of hippos, duck the attacks of charging rhinos, all to set Bongo’s toes on fire as he sleeps… and then the whole thing starts again. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Possibly the single rarest Intellivision game that doesn’t require extra gear such as the ECS computer keyboard, Congo Bongo was Sega‘s singular foray into providing home versions of its arcade titles for Intellivision players. Sega had already been collaborating with Coleco for some time, but had recently gone it alone with Atari 2600 and 5200 editions of such games as Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator and Congo Bongo. If Sega had a single problem with its early attempts as a software publisher in the American market, it was timing: most of its games arrived just as the video game industry crash was forcing retailers into a no-win scenario of price cuts and losses. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: You’re a jungle explorer hot on the trail of Bongo the Ape. The first level in your quest is a hazardous assortment of ramps and levels and a waterfall to jump across. Be careful of pesky little monkeys who can weigh you down so See the videoyou move slower (and jump lower). And watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across a river using lily pads, the backs of hippos, and other floating objects – just try not to miss! (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Egads. Didn’t Sega learn the lesson from Coleco’s horrid VCS version of Zaxxon? Guess not, because their in-house attempt to translate the equally elaborate Congo Bongo arcade game for the 2600, while a bit less of a graphical and game play train wreck than Zaxxon, is still a train wreck. Continue reading

Star Trek

Star TrekThe Game: Welcome to the bridge. Your mission is to travel from sector to sector, eliminating Klingon incursions into Federation space without getting your ship and crew destroyed. Friendly starbases offer aid and allow you to make resupply stops so you can keep up the good fight – and you do have to keep a careful eye on your phaser, shield and warp power… (Sega, 1983)

See the TV adMemories: Sega‘s own adaptation of its arcade game wasn’t bad. Though the Atari VCS, by its very nature, tends to force programmers to make trade-offs for game play that rob arcade adaptations of some of their luster, this one actually came out okay. If anything, this version of Star Trek was simpler than its arcade forebear – and since “bear” is the operative word for the coin-op, for once this isn’t a bad thing. Continue reading

Tac-Scan

Tac-ScanThe Game: Commanding a fleet of ships, you use their combined firepower to wipe out an onslaught of alien ships (which, perhaps not at all surprisingly, are firing back at you). It only takes one hit to lose one of your own fleet, and when your fleet is completely wiped out, the game is over. Until then, do as much damage to the enemy armada as you can. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: I always had a certain fascination for the arcade game that inspired this somewhat hard-to-find 2600 cartridge, but it seems to have lost something in the translation…oh yes, the split-second control required to play the bloody thing, that’s it. Somewhere in the definition of “frustration” must be “playing Tac-Scan on the Atari 2600.” Continue reading

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

Star Trek: Strategic Operations SimulatorThe Game: Your mission is to travel from sector to sector, eliminating Klingon incursions into Federation space without getting your ship and crew destroyed. Friendly starbases offer aid and allow you to make resupply stops so you can keep up the good fight – and you do have to keep a careful eye on your phaser, shield and warp power… (Sega, 1984)

Memories: Some of the games ported to the Atari 5200 are a bit perplexing when they’re hardly a step above the same title as released for the Atari 2600. Sega’s 5200 edition of its own arcade game doesn’t improve much on the graphics of the 2600 version, and doesn’t even take advantage of the 5200’s controller keypad to control things like shields and warp power (that’s actually a bit disappointing there). Continue reading

Tapper

TapperThe Game: As a beleaguered bartender, you have to serve drinks to an endless onslaught of bar patrons, never allowing them to reach the See the videoend of the bar. You must also pick up empty glasses as they slide back toward you, and you can also grab a tip whenever one briefly appears. Clearing the screen of all pixellated hardened drinkers – erm, sorry, soft drinkers – takes you to the next screen, and other scenarios, including outdoor sporting events. (Bally/Midway-Sega, 1984)

Memories: When the U.S. video game industry fell on hard times, Sega sold off its American division to Bally/Midway. Having previously tried to maintain more direct control of home versions of its arcade games through an overall licensing deal with CBS Electronics‘ game division, Bally/Midway now had a more direct pipeline to the consumer market by using the home video game division that Sega had launched to exploit its own arcade titles (such as Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom and Congo Bongo). Continue reading

Zaxxon

ZaxxonThe Game: As the pilot of a lone fighter infiltrating a spaceborne fortress, your mission is simple – survive long enough to vanquish the evil Zaxxon robot hidden deep within the fortress, and take out as many of the defenses as you can in the meantime. (Sega, 1984)

Memories: In 1984, Sega entered the home video game business for the first time, with their first Stateside products being games for the Atari 2600 and 5200. Some of the titles released – Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom and Zaxxon specifically – had already been licensed by Coleco for the ColecoVision, and Coleco had even released Zaxxon for other systems such as the 2600. But Sega wanted its own piece of the pie, and not just licensing percentages, when it came time to release more of their properties for home video game systems. Continue reading

Super Zaxxon

Super ZaxxonThe Game: As the pilot of a lone fighter infiltrating a spaceborne fortress, your mission is simple – survive long enough to vanquish the evil Super Zaxxon robot hidden deep within the fortress, and take out as much of the defenses as you See the videocan in the meantime. (Sega, 1985)

Memories: Just as Super Zaxxon in the arcades was merely a rewrite of the code for the original Zaxxon, it’s somehow fitting that the same is true for Super Zaxxon on the Apple II. But while it may have saved Sega some development time to reuse the code from Datamost’s version of Zaxxon for the Apple, it didn’t exactly result in a satisfying gaming experience. Continue reading

Zaxxon 3-D

Zaxxon 3-DThe Game: As the lone pilot daring enough to breach the defenses of Zaxxon’s space stronghold yet again, you take on a fleet of perimeter fighters, some of whom helpfully leave power-ups behind when destroyed. Then it’s into the See the videospace base once more, bristling with gun emplacements, fuel tanks that gas up your fighter when they’re shot (we haven’t quite worked that one out either), and walls that you can run face-first if you’re at just the wrong altitude. Just beyond the walls of the base lies the new and improved Zaxxon itself; if you survive that encounter, you begin again. (Sega, 1987)

Memories: With so many major Japanese game makers committed to the Famicom and NES, the Sega Master System didn’t have quite the impressive array of arcade titles in its library. But one thing it could have that everyone else couldn’t was Sega’s own in-house games and updates thereof – hence, this updated, almost-first-person remake of the groundbreaking Zaxxon. Continue reading

Ultima IV

Ultima IV: Quest Of The AvatarThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Britannia, and Lord British calls for your service again. You start out alone, accumulating traveling (and fighting) companions along your journey, striving to live by the Eight Virtues that See the videogovern conduct in the kingdom. Along the way, numerous creatures, both evil and simply pesky, challenge you. As you go forth on the quest, you must also collect the mantras of each Virtue, travel to the corresponding Shrines, and meditate there until you reach enlightenment. With enlightenment and experience come the strength to rid Britannia of evil – but beware the dark side… (Sega / Origin Systems, 1989)

Memories: I’ve played Ultima IV on both the NES and the Sega Master System, and hands down, the Sega edition comes out on top. For such a relatively complex game, the Sega version of Ultima IV keeps the controls incredibly simple, with a menu-driven system that has a lot of options and yet never overwhelms the player. 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

Pepenga Pengo

Pepenga PengoThe Game: Pengo the penguin is trapped in an ice maze with seals, walking snowmen and other predators. Pengo can defeat his enemies by pushing ice blocks toward them, crushing them in the process. Pengo can also create new ice blocks via some biological process that’s perhaps best left unexplored (and if he doesn’t leave the spot where he generates ice blocks immediately after starting that process, he’ll be temporarily frozen to that spot); those blocks can also become ammo in a pinch. Treats such as dollar signs and popsicles – both valuable commidities to penguins – appear from time to time. Defeating all enemies on a given level advances Pengo to the next screen. (Sega, 1995, for Japanese market only)

Memories: Released only for the Sega Mega Drive (the Japanese equivalent of the Genesis console), Pepenga Pengo is a nice update of the original, not only enhancing the graphics but including new game play elements that don’t “break the universe” of the original. Continue reading

Godzilla Generations

Godzilla: GenerationsThe Game: Smash your way though half a dozen cities as one of several incarnations of Godzilla. (Sega, 1999)

Memories: Some people claim the Dreamcast tanked due to the release of Sony’s Playstation 2. Others say the Dreamcast failed because of widespread piracy of the system’s games. My own personal theory is that the Dreamcast failed because Godzilla Generations sucked so badly. Continue reading

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