Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1985)

Memories: Almost a dead ringer for its arcade inspiration graphically, the NES edition of Elevator Action actually loses a few points for having lousy sound – something I rarely count off points for, truth be told. But by the time of the NES, the means were there to replicate the arcade sound – take a listen to Super Mario Bros. for proof. Continue reading

Qix

QixThe Game: You are a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the ever-shifting Qix touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are drawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Nintendo/Taito, 1990)

See the videoOne of the few completely abstract arcade games ever to catch on with the public, Qix is very hard to get wrong, and this adaptation – an early first-party Game Boy cartridge patterned after a similarly first-person NES version – certainly doesn’t get it wrong. It’s pure Qix, without any added bull about having to uncover a picture by claiming area on the playfield. Continue reading

Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1991)

See the videoMemories: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, audiovisually (and, for the most part, game-play wise as well), the original B&W Game Boy’s version of Elevator Action is incredibly faithful to the arcade game. On the other hand, there are major changes to the structure of the game that I’ve never been crazy about. Put simply, Elevator Action on the Game Boy adds some NES-era conventions to a game that just didn’t need them. 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

Builder’s Block

Builder's BlockBuy this gameThe Game: Eat my dust, SimCity. Builder’s Block doesn’t ask you to build a city that conforms to any notions of political or environmental correctness. It just asks you to build it fast – damn fast. Match up color-coded blocks to expand the size of your buildings, use other special blocks to eliminate blocks whose colors won’t allow them to integrate them into buildings, and use the “clear level” block to collect your bonus and move to the next level before more blocks pile up than you can do anything with. It’s sort of like Tetris meets SimTower. The game includes puzzle, battle and arcade modes; the latter is the most graphically dazzling, betraying the game’s roots in the mid-1990s Taito arcade game Landmaker. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: Originally released a few years ago, Builder’s Block is now reappearing in bargain game bins once again, so it seemed like a good time to revisit it. I’d never heard of this game before, and it’s surprisingly addictive with a strong old-school puzzle game vibe. If you dig Tetris, you’ll like this one. Continue reading

Qix Adventure

Qix AdventureThe Game: A boy named Speedy ventures through a mystical land, taunted by cute animals. Somehow this quest is expressed through a series of challenges in which the player tries to claim as much of the playing field as possible by enclosing areas of it. If the ever-shifting Qix touches Speedy’s marker or an uncompleted boundary, a life is lost and the boundary must be built again. Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of already-enclosed areas of the screen, can also cost Speedy a life. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: In 2000, two trends collided within this one game. Trend #1 was the fading glow of a few years’ worth of retro video gaming nostalgia, a trend that brought of lots of arcade compilations and lots of “remakes” of classic arcade games, especially on the then-ubiquitous Playstation. Trend #2 was simple and obvious: jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon. Continue reading

The Invaders (Space Invaders)

The InvadersThe 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. This edition adds two new modes, a timed game with a slightly updated retro look, and a 3-D mode which puts the player right behind the cannon, now expanded to a giant 3-D representation. (D3 Publisher [under license from Taito], 2001)

Memories: This budget title from 2001, to be fair, was largely a re-release of Taito’s earlier PS1 Space Invaders Collection just four years before this game’s release. But this time, you actually get more for that low, low price. Continue reading

Qix Neo

Qix NeoBuy this gameThe Game: Players control a ship capable of claiming area of the screen by “drawing” boxed-in enclosed spaces. The catch? Numerous enemies roam around the screen who want to keep this from happening, and naturally they pose the greatest threat when the player’s ship is exposed while it tries to “draw” an area. Anytime the player’s ship is away from a solid area, hanging by a thread, it can be destroyed. The player has shields that offer minor protection, but they can eventually be depleted entirely. The player has to claim enough of the screen that it equals or exceeds a pre-determined percentage of the screen area, and then the long, drawn-out battle begins anew. With each new level comes a new enemy with different offensive capabilities, until the player’s small fleet of ships is exhausted. (Mad Duck / Taito, 2003)

Memories: Marketed in the U.S. as Qix Neo, this game is actually the U.S. localization of a budget PS1 port of a Japanese arcade game vaguely related to Qix, Volfied. (Playing “Qix Neo“‘s “original” mode even shows the intro cutscene from Volfied, unchanged from the arcade edition.) But for fans of Qix, Qix Neo is close enough to the mark to count as a sequel. Continue reading

Taito Legends

Taito LegendsBuy this gameThe Game: Taito, the developer behind classics games such as Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble, is the latest videogame developer to release a retro arcade compilation. Taito Legends brings 29 classic videogames direct from the arcade to your Xbox, PS2 and PC. (Taito, 2005, for Xbox, Playstation 2 and PC)

Memories: While skimming the list of games included in Taito Legends, I realized that I have memories associated with almost half of them. I remember playing Rastan at the local bowling alley, Operation Wolf at the skating rink (while wearing roller skates, no less), Bubble Bobble at the corner convenience store and Space Invaders at Photon, our local laser tag arena back in the 80’s. There’s no denying that Taito has been a driving force in the arcade industry since its inception. Throughout the 1950s and 60s Taito produced pinball machines, arcade cranes, and jukeboxes, but it wasn’t until the release of Space Invaders in 1978 (released in the US by Midway) that the company became a blip on America’s radar. Continue reading

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