The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension

Buckaroo BanzaiThe Game: Players control the actions of rock star brain surgeon (or is that the other way around?) Buckaroo Banzai, who starts the game in Yoyodyne Headquarters and must quickly accumulate the necessary gear to embark on an adventure to fend off the evil Red Lectroid’s latest bid to destroy the Earth. (Adventure International, 1984)

Memories: After virtually starting the home computer adventure gaming craze in the late 1970s, game creator Scott Adams was in a crowded field by 1985. The original Adventure International games – which paired simple graphics with concise, no-nonsense text descriptions – had since been duplicated and surpassed. Sierra On-Line‘s early Hi-Res Adventures were in much the same vein, and Infocom took the text/interactive fiction idea and ran with it sans graphics (at least for a while), but once adventure games were married with real-time action elements (the Ultima series, the Apshai games, King’s Quest, and let’s not forget that whole Zelda thing over on the NES), the days of text-with-illustrations adventures such as those turned out by Scott Adams were numbered. Continue reading

RACTER

RACTERThe Game: The player engages in conversation with RACTER (short for raconteur) in normal English sentences via the keyboard. RACTER responds with phrases that may (or may not) be relevant and may (or may not) make sense as part of a cohesive conversation. (Mindscape, 1985)

Memories: RACTER had a build-up of hype like no other non-sequel, non-movie-based program in its day – as well as a set of consumer expecatations that it probably had absolutely no chance whatsoever of meeting. After all, could a program running on a floppy disk on a home computer equipped with 64K of RAM really boast true artificial intelligence? Continue reading

Transformers

TransformersThe Game: The raging battle between the Autobots and Decepticons continues in this exclusive title for the Commodore 64 computer. Take control of five different Transformers in the Autobots’ quest for Energon. (Ocean Software, 1985)

Memories: Back before fantastic graphics and CGI cut scenes, videogames often included additional paper documentation to explain who the characters where and what you were supposed to be doing. Atari, for example, packaged comic books with many of their games to add depth and back stories to their titles. Some early games relied so heavily on this documentation that without it, the games were difficult to play and didn’t make much sense. Ocean’s Transformers title was one of those games. Continue reading

Joust 2: Survival Of The Fittest

Joust 2Buy this gameThe Game: Mount up that ostrich and ride into battle once more, this time in strange new environments such as “The Altar,” “The Blues,” a deadly mechanical warrior which can be dismantled by lancing strategic points, and crystal caves filled with killer bats. If all this sounds like too much for an armored guy on a lousy See the videoostrich, you’re right, it is – and this is why you can transform into a Pegasus, which is a larger target and harder to keep in the air, but can take out more armored guys on lousy ostriches – and they can’t turn their steeds into flying horses. Beware, buzzard bait! (Williams, 1986)

Memories: I have to admit, I only became aware of the existence of a sequel to Williams’ immortal Joust in the late ’90s…and even now that I’ve gotten to play it, the jury’s still out. Joust needed a sequel about like The Matrix needs a sequel – meaning not at all. Both were fine as stand-alones, and didn’t need to be turned into franchises. Continue reading

Super Qix

Super 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 Dragon and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the jumpy Qix Dragon touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are See the videodrawing, 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. (Taito, 1987)

Memories: The beauty of the original Qix was that it was a simple-but-difficult, instinctive puzzle game, and it was gloriously abstract. No motives were assigned to anything or anyone; the helix-like Qix was automatically your antagonist because it would stop you from drawing your stix (in essence, as Daily Variety might say, nixing your stix pix). Simple as that. Continue reading

Pole Position

Pole PositionThe Game: Prepare to qualify! Fly to the finish line in a fierce field of Formula One competitors in a qualifying lap. Leaving the track is trouble – and hitting one of the billboards dotted around the edges of the Mt. Fuji track is a sure way to See the videomiss out on the subsequent race. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: Pole Position has suffered a few indignities before; an arcade game that was a huge evolution for first-person racing and boasted stellar graphics is bound to hit a few speed bumps on the drive home. But the Intellivision version of Pole Position is a gigantic pothole that’s likely to relieve most players of their drive to recreate the arcade experience. Continue reading

Godzilla: Monster Of Monsters

Godzilla: Monster Of MonstersThe Game: It is the year 2XXX (don’t worry, we couldn’t find it on our calendars either), and Planet X has declared war on Earth’s solar system, sending its finest kaiju into the fray. In this time of our most desperate need, Godzilla and Mothra step forward to defend the Earth and fight for humanity, taking out enemy installations, spacecraft and even those pesky enemy monsters. But even Godzilla and Mothra can only take so much damage… (Toho Studios/Nintendo, 1988)

Memories: Not exactly Godzilla’s finest hour, Monster Of Monsters is a fairly average side-scrolling fighting game that just happens to feature the King of Monsters as its star. And while there’s a certain thrill to having Godzilla as one’s on-screen avatar, the game itself doesn’t do a lot to distinguish itself from the glut of similar side-scrolling fighters that was out at the time. Continue reading

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V: The Final FrontierThe Game: Sybok, a charismatic Vulcan cult leader, has tried to disrupt the peace process on the neutral planet Nimbus III. Players take control of one Enterprise crewman at a time to: retrieve the Nimbus III hostages (Sulu), save Kirk and Spock from a cell aboard the Enterprise (Scotty), pilot the Enterprise through asteroids and attacking Klingons (Sulu again?), and finally make a mad dash into the heart of the lair of the “god creature” (Kirk). Running out of life energy aborts the mission; fortunately, Dr. McCoy is standing by at all times and the mission can start from scratch. (Bandai, 1989 – unreleased)

Memories: After the surprise hit that was the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Paramount Pictures was ready to entertain any and all licensing ideas for the next movie, 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (which was therefore perversely considered the worst of the original series movies). Bandai bid for the video game rights, and then proceeded to create a rather uninspired run-and-shoot platformer around what would appear to be an early synopsis of the movie’s plot. (To be fair to Bandai, the movie wasn’t exactly the most inspiring entry in the Star Trek captain’s log, so the fault doesn’t lie entirely with the developer.) Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerBuy this gameThe Game: Frogger is back for another ribbeting chase through the traffic, and countless other locales as well. The object of the game is to rescue as many baby frogs as possible without croaking. Jump on anything that moves – provided it doesn’t eat you – to reach your goal. (Hasbro Interactive, 1997)

Memories: One of the earlier Retro Revivals to appear in the past couple of years, Frogger doesn’t quite live up to its arcade ancestry as an addictive, play-and-play-again game. My favorite screen is still the “retro level,” which is basically the arcade screen – a busy street followed by a hazardous river – given a 3-D makeover. Once you get past that screen, you might as well be playing a different game. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors

Doctor Who: Destiny of the DoctorsOrder this gameThe Game: The Master strikes again! The evil Time Lord has trapped the Doctor’s first seven incarnations. You assume the role of the Graak, a telepathic entity created by the Doctor in the event of just such an emergency. You must travel to different time zones to rescue the Doctor’s various incarnations, battling Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Autons, Zygons and more along the way. You may be able to make telepathic contact with the Doctor periodically, or use the time-space telegraph to consult with the Brigadier. In the meantime, the Master challenges you to accomplish various hazardous tasks… (BBC Multimedia, 1997)

Watch a video of this gameMemories: Despite the fact that Destiny of the Doctors is essentially a Doom/Duke Nukem engine with Doctor Who settings, villains and soundbytes, I find this game strangely addictive. Even more than Star Trek, Doctor Who has been a part of my pop culture/sci-fi consciousness since childhood, and there’s something appealing about finally getting to plaster some Daleks for myself rather than watching someone else do it on TV. Continue reading

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceMemories: As various heroic characters from the days when Jedi Knights still enforced justice in that galaxy far, far away, you must expose the danger posed to peaceful Naboo by the Trade Federation’s army of battle and destroyer droids, and escort Order this gameQueen Amidala out of the clutches of the invaders who would force her to surrender her world into slavery. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: Oh, what a frustrating game! The Playstation is a recent acquisition for me, and I like the wealth of Retro Revivals and emulations available for Sony’s nifty little game console. But this game and the Xena game just about drove me nuts…yet this is the style of game that most everyone seems to be trying to create these days. Continue reading

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior PrincessOrder this gameThe Game: An evil sorceress, in her plot to destroy the gods, needs to sacrifice a mortal queen – and decides that Gabrielle will do, since the bard is also the Queen of the Amazons. Xena must fight her way through numerous obstacles to challenge the might of the sorceress and defeat her – the world, and Gabrielle’s life, depend on her success. (Electronic Arts, 1999)

Memories: Xena is a natural property for a video game, and indeed, there have already been games on earlier platforms that explored the Xenaverse. But this multi-level, first-person fighting game is the first to attempt to match the scope of the television series, offering individual “episodes” to fight your way through en route to the final goal. 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

Space Battleship Yamato

Space Battleship YamatoThe Game: In the year 2199, Earth is beseiged by radioactive planet bombs launched by the Gamilons. When two junior officers happen upon alien wreckage on Mars, including a message intended for Earth with details of new propulsion and weapon systems, and the promise of a device which could restore Earth to its former beauty, the wheel is set in motion for mankind’s final desperate gambit for survival. The WWII battleship Yamato is repaired and made spaceworthy with the new technology, and Captain Okita hand-picks a dedicated young crew to fly the ship to the planet Iscandar – the source of the message – and back. That’s where you step in for Okita – using a rotating ring of character heads, you can give characters such as Susumu Kodai, Yuki Mori and Daisuke Shima their orders, get their advice, and engage in combat with the Gamilons in space and on the surfaces of various planets. (Bandai, 2000)

Memories: Oh, how I wanted to love this game. An epic adventure game based on Space Battleship Yamato? Count me in.

Sadly, this isn’t an epic adventure game. It’s two-thirds CGI movie, and one-third plodding turn-based combat game. Continue reading

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?Order this gameThe Game: You know the routine! You and one other player (in this age of the Playstation multi-tap, why not a bunch of players?) compete to see who can give Regis the fastest finger (he’s a New Yorker, I’m sure he’s well accustomed to it by now). Whoever comes out on top earns the right to blast through sixteen increasingly frustrating trivia questions, aided only by two helpful lifelines and one marginally useless one. As the game progresses, gravity begins to fail with alarming regularity in the studio, as demonstrated by your repeatedly flying out of your own chair into the floor, ceiling, and all points in between. (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2000)

Memories: I admit, my summary of the long-awaited Playstation version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? may be a little sarcastic, but I actually expected more – and less – from this game. Continue reading

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar GalacticaOrder this gameThe Game: Help Ensign Adama and the rest of the remaining humans defeat the Cylons and save humanity in Battlestar Galactica, the space-shooting prequel set 40 years before the popular televsion show. (Vivendi Universal, 2003)

Memories: Like millions of kids, my life changed forever back in 1977 when my parents took me to go see Star Wars for the first time. I loved Star Wars, I lived Star Wars. I had Star Wars toys, Star Wars cereal, and Star Wars Underoos. And for the first time on television, the following year we got… Battlestar Galactica. Ok, so it wasn’t Star Wars, but if you squinted your eyes just right Vipers looked like X-Wing Fighters and Cylons resembled shiny Stormtroopers. Between that and the fact that my parents told me that Starbuck was Luke Skywalker’s cousin, Battlestar Galactica became my “bargain bin” version of Star Wars. Continue reading

Tecmo Classic Arcade

Tecmo Classic ArcadeBuy this gameThe Game: Turn your Xbox into a virtual 80’s arcade with Tecmo Classic Arcade, the newest retro compilation disc to hit home consoles. (Tecmo, 2005, for Xbox)

See the videoMemories: Someone has definitely not been saving the best for last. Tecmo Classic Arcade follows a long line of classic arcade compilations which have been released this summer, including Capcom Classics Collection, Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, Taito Legends and Midway’s Arcade Treasures 3. Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it, Tecmo’s game collection simply doesn’t stand up against the competition. Continue reading

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