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

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was a time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through See the original TV addozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As well-intentioned as Coleco’s translation of the Centuri-licensed Konami classic was, and even as powerful as the ColecoVision is, it wasn’t quite up to the challenge of Time Pilot. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was See the videoa time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through dozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Coleco‘s home version of Time Pilot for the Atari 2600 is one of the company’s better arcade ports for that machine, and yet so much of what made the arcade game such a memorable experience was left behind. I can accept the watering-down of the game’s graphics, especially when an effort was obviously made to keep them flicker-free – an impressive feat for this game. But some of what’s left out includes the game’s very objectives. Continue reading

Cavern Creatures

Cavern CreaturesThe Game: Why do mountain climbers climb mountains? Because they’re there. Why are you flying a spacecraft into a vast complex of subterranean caverns? Because they’re there, and apparently because you want to blast the multitudes of critters who lurk there. The bad news: there are a lot more of them than there are of you. The good news? Your ship’s cannons fire in four directions simultaneously. Given that fact, and your ship’s maneuverability, you might just survive this little bit of aerial spelunking. (Datamost [designed by Paul Lowrance], 1983)

Memories: These days, the ‘net is loaded with tributes to video games past and present. But Cavern Creatures was one of the first tributes to classic games, and it’s an interesting tribute – it too is playable. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, See the videobombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. (Mindscape, 1983)

Memories: In the arcade, Xevious ushered in a whole new genre of vertical-scrolling shooters, a category that would grow to include hits like 1942, Dragon Spirit and Exed Exes – it would actually become a pretty crowded field. But the graphics and sound hardware of the Apple IIe, using a command set grandfathered in from the late ’70s, wasn’t exactly ideal for this new genre. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Based on a Namco import distributed under Atari’s banner in the U.S., Xevious may be about as close as one could get to replicating the arcade game with the 5200’s hardware. Curiously, though the copyright on the main menu screen is a year later than that on the unfinished 5200 Tempest proto, Xevious is a more complete game, fleshed out to a fully playable state. Continue reading

Super Xevious

The Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and Buy this gamedeadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Atari [under license from Namco], 1984)

Memories: The original arcade Xevious was no pushover, but like several of its Namco stablemates, it was possible to outwit the machine by using some of its own pattern-based programming against it. With Super Xevious, this was more difficult, because the game’s internal A.I. was adaptive and could throw more at the player based on his demonstrated skill level. But some players had discovered a solution to this adaptive enemy intelligence, and games lasting more than ten minutes on a single quarter were not uncommon. Continue reading

Time Pilot ’84

Time Pilot '84The Game: You’re back in the hotseat as the Time Pilot, but this time an even more fearsome breed of ships from the future is after you. The good news is that you have a new weapon at your disposal – guided missiles – but the bad news is that the enemy has them too. Blast enough enemy planes out of the sky and lure their See the videocommand ship out of hiding; if you can survive long enough to blow the missile-spewing command ship to pieces, you’re off to the next level. (Konami, 1984)

Memories: Bearing the deliciously Engrish-esque subtitle “Further into unknown world,” Time Pilot ’84 is a re-interpretation of the original game, with a few more bells and whistles in both the audiovisual and game play departments. Those accustomed to just constantly blasting away with both barrels in the original Time Pilot have to adjust to the proper use of the missile guidance system (don’t waste a missile until your screen paints a viable target), but other than that, it’s the same game with a new coat of paint. Continue reading

Vulgus

VulgusBuy this gameThe Game: Piloting a lone space fighter, you carve a leisurely path through an endless onslaught of alien marauders, none of whom seem to be in any particular hurry to go anywhere either. Despite all this lack of hustle and bustle, however, it must be noted that they’re still shooting at you, and you still need to shoot back, using lasers or a limited supply of missiles. Some aliens will line up in a vertical formation that, if taken out with a missile, means big points, though you should also be saving some of your heavy ammo for larger alien ships that, if lasers were used, would require several shots to kill. (Capcom, 1984)

Memories: Another of Capcom’s long line of vertical-scrolling shooters – a design craze that can be traced back to Namco’s Xevious – Vulgus may seem like it’s terribly leisurely, but it’s actually one of the most grueling hand-eye coordination challenges since Robotron. Continue reading

River Raid

River RaidThe Game: You’re piloting a fighter jet on a canyon run through enemy territory. You can’t fly outside the canyon walls, so stay over the river and blast everything in sight. Well, almost everything – flying your plane on top of “FUEL” buoys See the videoinstead of shooting them puts a little bit of gas in the tank, and if you run out of fuel, you might as well just swallow the next enemy bullet, because you’re goin’ down. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: A dandy upgrade from the Atari 2600 River Raid, the Colecovision edition plays much the same. There are some audiovisual improvements, but it’s also surprising to see what’s been left alone in the graphics department too: these elements of the game weren’t broken, so there are no “fixes” for their own sake. Continue reading

Revenge Of The Jedi Game I (Return Of The Jedi: Ewok Adventure)

Revenge Of The Jedi Game ISee the videoThe Game: They’re responsible for the deaths of countless Imperial officers in battle, and served as a vital ally to Luke, Han, Leia and the Rebel Alliance in their darkest hour. Surely every gamer wants to join their ranks and experience the battle of Endor from their perspective! That’s right, you’re an Ewok, flying a primitive hang-glider behind enemy lines, avoiding AT-ST fire and trying to take out as many Imperial troops as you can. Stormtroopers on speeder bikes are both tempting targets and formidable foes for you; if you can, try to fight your way to the Imperial bunker and clear the way Ewok Adventurefor your friends. Good timing can allow you to temporarily take over the Empire’s walking terrors and use them against their own forces. Face it: you’re a short, stubby teddy bear, armed with rocks, and the fate of the universe depends on you. (Parker Brothers, 1984 – never released)

Memories: A real curiosity, this was planned to be the fifth in a series of Star Wars cartridges for the Atari 2600, and yet it never saw the light of day. A prototype of the game exists in completed form, as does a prototype of the packaging, bearing the obvious work-in-progress title of Revenge Of The Jedi Game I. (There was a Game II as well, of which more in a moment.) Continue reading

Exed Exes (a.k.a. Savage Bees)

Exed ExesBuy this gameThe Game: Bees are attacking, but they have more than just the sting in their tail, to mix an insect metaphor. These are alien bees with energy weapons and some serious technology to back them up. And guess how many ships are going to fight these buzz-bombers off? You got it – just your ships, one at a time, flying in and blowing up everything in sight. While you’re limited to flying one ship at a time, remember that the bees are attacking in graceful and deadly waves. Occasionally, you’ll encounter “high point areas” where hitting a “pow” marker will transform bees or indestructible skull obstacles on the screen into a fruit that you can collect harmlessly for bonus points. But the bees have a backup plan, too – hive-shaped carriers that appear from time to time, offloading a whole fleet of enemies for you to contend with. (Capcom, 1985)

Memories: I love Exed Exes (released in the U.S. as Attack Of The Savage Bees). But there’s nothing especially original about it, you know? The game play reeks of Xevious, with elements of Mario Bros. (the “pow” power-up) and even Pac-Man (bonus fruit) thrown in for good measure. The enemies appear in waves very much like those of Galaga and Gaplus, even down to their sneaky trick of attacking you from behind at the bottom of the screen. Continue reading

Super Xevious

The Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and Buy this gamedeadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Nintendo [under license from Namco], 1986)

Memories: Adapted for the Nintendo Vs. arcade cartridge system, which used the same technology as the NES console, Super Xevious underwent a transformation, trading in its extremely vertical view for an extremely crunched horizontal/almost-square screen, typical of games which were ported to the Vs. system. Continue reading

Jr. Pac-Man

Jr. Pac-ManThe Game: As the offspring of a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a bigger maze than your parents ever had to deal with, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Six large flashing dots in the maze enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted toys will begin hopping through the maze, turning every uneaten dot they touch into a larger dot which yields more points, but also forces little Pac to slow down to digest them. (Atari, 1987)

Memories: A few years after releasing an excellent port of Ms. Pac-Man, during the twilight of the 2600 platform, Atari visited the Pac-Man well one more time with Jr. Pac-Man, a game which rehashed the basic Pac-Man concept, only this time with a much larger, scrolling maze. Jr. Pac-Man was Atari 2600 Pac-nirvana. The graphics, the music, and the sounds were absolutely spot-on. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the See the videomothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: Y’know, the more games I get for my trusty little 7800 – admittedly a recent acquisition in my gallery of classic consoles – the more I’m convinced that the Tramiel regime at Atari did the video game indsutry (and the consumers and players) a vast disservice by mothballing the 7800 and then not unveiling it until the NES had dominated the landscape. 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

Crazy Climber 2

Crazy Climber 2The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a skyscraper in a major metropolitan area, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as falling jam boxes can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nihon Bussan Co., Ltd. [Nichibutsu], 1988)

Memories: This is a bizarre, and largely graphical-only, updating of Nichibutsu’s addictive classic, Crazy Climber. The game play remains much the same as the original, but the graphics are a major evolution of what was there before. Animated flags flap in the wind, highlights and shading give Crazy Climber himself a 3-D look, and detailed billboards and neon signs glow. Continue reading

The New Zealand Story

The New Zealand StoryBuy this gameThe Game: You might think this will be the story of Captain Cook and British settlers setting in motion the fall of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, interpreted as a video game, but…that’s not it. It’s the story of a walrus who See the videowaltzes into the zoo and abducts every Kiwi bird there, stuffing them into a huge sack and then leaving. One Kiwi bird escapes, and you have to guide him on his quest to free all the other Kiwis. (On the other hand, perhaps it’s metaphorical somehow.) Fortunately, you happen to be the kind of Kiwi bird who can fire a bow and arrow, use a flamethrower, and can fly a little hovercraft around maze-like vertical structures. Other animals try to outfox you, gravity is against you, and your little Kiwi has only three lives. (Taito, 1988)

Memories: This very strange little game from Taito seldom escaped from Japan until emulation and retro collections came along. Thanks to the latter, everyone can now enjoy this strangely compelling little game. Continue reading

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