Gateway To Apshai

Gateway To ApshaiThe Game: The player controls a weary adventurer weaving his way through a dungeon populated by treasures and deadly danger. Starting out with the clothes on his back, a short sword in hand, and adding what he can along the way, the player’s adventurer progresses through twisty mazes, vanquishes an See the videoincreasingly dangerous rogues’ gallery of foes, and tries to gather a wealth of treasure… but even opening those treasure chests may reveal traps. (Epyx, 1983)

Memories: The Apshai computer RPGs form a kind of holy trinity of early adventure gaming along with the Ultima and Wizardry series of games. Gateway To Apshai is actually a prequel to the runaway hit Temple Of Apshai, which debuted on Tandy’s TRS-80 computer before cross-pollinating to every other platform under the sun. Gateway is missing Temple‘s famously wordy descriptions of its on-screen chambers, and as such feels completely different from the earlier game. But in hindsight, Gateway is an important step on the evolutionary road for the “action RPG” genre – paving the way for The Legend Of Zelda. Continue reading

Gaplus / Galaga 3

Gaplus / Galaga 3The Game: The Galaxian/Galaga saga continues! You control a solo space fighter against unending hordes of alien attackers who dive, weave, and evade your fire, while trying to nail your ship with their own shots. But one of See the videoBuy this gamethe aliens is hauling precious cargo: a device used to generate a tractor beam. In Galaga, the aliens used this weapon to capture and control your own fighters, using them against you. Now you can turn the tables by destroying the alien ferrying this precious piece of technology (but don’t shoot the device itself!). You’ll be able to capture an entire row of alien ships, using all of them to fire simultaneously at the next wave of attackers. If alien fire destroys one of your captured ships, the others, and your ship, survive; if they manage to draw a bead on your own fighter, however, all bets are off. (Namco, 1984)

Memories: This sequel to Galaga was titled Gaplus in Japan (and in its limited original release in the U.S., if I’m not mistaken). In an attempt to draw more attention to it by tying it to a familiar property, Namco rechristened the sequel Galaga 3 for widespread American distribution. Whatever you call it (I tend to remember it as Gaplus myself), it’s a very difficult game. Continue reading

Grobda

GrobdaThe Game: You’re piloting a lone tank trapped in an arena with numerous indestructible obstacles – and quite a few hostile tanks. The moment you’re sent into battle, those other tanks converge on you immediately, so survival usually Buy this gamehinges on finding an advantageous configuration of obstacles to use as a makeshift fortress from behind which you can try to pick off enemy tanks without giving them a clear shot at yours. When you blast an enemy tank, it’s best not to be too close to it, because the shockwave of an exploding tank can catch nearby tanks and share the destruction, sometimes allowing you to fire one shot and set off a screen-clearing chain reaction. (Also, exploding tanks leave behind craters that slow you down if you try to cross over them.) You have a shielding system that offers very temporary shelter from enemy fire and from the explosions of nearby enemies, but constant firing and shield use will drain your precious energy reserves, and if that happens you’re as good as dead. (Namco, 1984)

Memories: Not one of the most original games in Namco’s history, Grobda borrows game play concepts left and right from some of the all-time arcade greats, boils them into one stew, and speeds things up considerably. Continue reading

Ghostbusters

GhostbustersThe Game: The only video game in history that turns you into Bill Murray, Ghostbusters gives you a taste of the lucrative franchising opportunity that is supernatural paranormal investigation and elimination. You start the game out with a supply screen and – naturally – a limited budget. Pick up all the ghostbusting gear you can afford and get to work. Much of the game is played out on a map of several city blocks of the Big Apple, where haunted buildings will flash red. You respond to each call by going there, which takes you to a brief “driving” game in which you can vacuum up free-roaming ghosts (if you’ve installed a ghost-vac on your car). Once you arrive, set the trap and position your two busters carefully (so as not to cross the streams), and snag the ghost before it simply leaves or slimes you. Trapping ghosts will net the big bucks, which you need to continue your franchise. Letting the paranormal activity in New Your City continue unabated will result in the unleashing of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, who’ll stomp entire city blocks (and earn you a hefty fine). If the city’s PK (psychokinetic) activity meter reaches 10,000, the game is over. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: An addictive little game, this, and probably one of the best movie-to-video-game licenses ever brought to life. Ghostbusters on the big screen was big money when this game was released, and Activision had to deliver a decent game. Continue reading

Gyruss

GyrussThe Game: The aliens are taking their complaints to the home office! As the pilot of an agile space fighter, you have to blast your way through the alien forces from Pluto all the way back to Earth. Occasionally you can boost your ship’s firepower, but that’s the only help you’re going to get. The rest is up to your speed, your strategy, and your ability to nail those suckers in mid-dive. (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Memories: A valiant attempt by Parker Bros. to translate Konami’s smash hit shooter to the 2600, Gyruss wins points for effort and attention to detail, but still manages to lose something in the translation. Continue reading

Garfield

GarfieldThe Game: You are the world’s most famous lasagna-munchin’ mouser, hopping from fencepost to fencepost, grabbing airborne hamburgers (!!?) and dodging potted plants being thrown at you. Eventually you reach home, where you can antagonize Odie the dog, who has somehow made his way to the top of Jon’s house. (Atari, never released [developed circa 1984])

Memories: Who here didn’t love Jim Davis’ Garfield comics 20+ years ago? I loved ’em. Of course, I too had an unpredictable, feisty, and every-so-slightly overweight striped feline of my own, so I was a little biased. Atari’s unreleased Garfield game fell under the axe of the great video game industry crash, which is a great pity – it would have made a very nice kids’ game, with its easy and not-even-remotely-violent game play (the worst that can happen to you is that you seem to “bulge” when hit by a potted plant). It also had some rather nice graphics, with recognizable renditions of Garfield and Odie. Continue reading

Garry Kitchen’s Game Maker

The Game: You decide what the game’s going to be. From creating your own characters, animating them, building their world (and the physical rules that govern it) and setting up the conflicts and limits, you have a powerful game-making tool at your disposal. Use it wisely, make something fun, and learn a little bit about how video games are conceived and programmed. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: Almost a transcendental work of genius, Game Maker is one of those programs that, if you were around (and of a certain age) when it was released, you remember it vividly. This is one of those things that probably changed a few lives. Continue reading

Ghostbusters

GhostbustersSee the videoThe Game: Supernarural, paranormal investigations and eliminations are the order of the day, as you open your own ghost busting franchise. You start with a finite budget and have to make some savvy choices about vehicles and gear; then it’s time to strap on a proton pack, get behind the wheel of the Ectomobile, and cruise around the Big Apple watching for flashing red buildings (telltale signs of a poltergeist party in progress). When you arrive on the scene, a little bit of driving is required, which gives you the chance to mop up a few free-roaming full-torso vaporous apparitions off the streets, Ghostbustersbefore you arrive at your destination and try to trap a ghost without crossing the streams. All the while, supernatural forces are converging on a site formerly known as the temple of Zuul, and when the paranormal powers there reach a critical mass, it’s time for roasted marshmallow – or the end of the world. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: A nice balance of arcade action segments and some resource-management strategy, Ghostbusters manages to capture the inherent humor of the movie (failure to capture a ghost results in one or both of your men getting “slimed”) and yet succeeds as a game too. Continue reading

Galaga ’88

Galaga '88The Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1987)

Memories: Where the Galaga sequel Gaplus turned some elements of the game play around, Galaga ’88 returns to the original rules and adds a lot of visual flair. Continue reading

Galaga

GalagaThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: It took three years for anyone to bring this game to any home video game or computer platform. Who knows why? I never thought it was all that complicated, but apparently not even the ColecoVision or the 5200 were up to the task. Continue reading

Galaga: Demons Of Death

Galaga: Demons Of DeathThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships See the videowhich arrives with each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Bandai, 1988)

Memories: Despite being one of the most consistent arcade hits of the early ’80s, Galaga seemed to be left out in the cold for years before coming to the home console scene. The first attempt, Atari’s passable Galaga cartridge for the Atari 7800, didn’t quite have the audiovisual flair of the arcade version. By the time the NES version was released, it was clear that things had changed – for all intents and purposes, this was the arcade game, and it looked and sounded and played just like the original. When the litmus test of ’80s consoles was arcade authenticity, you just couldn’t do better than that. 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

Galaxian3

Galaxian3The Game: An alien war fleet is closing in on Earth, armed with a powerful weapon that can eradicate the entire planet. You (and, if you happen to have some fellow gunners, four others) man the artillery batteries of an armed-to-the-teeth ship on a mission to take the fight to the aliens before they can bring it to Earth. If you successfully complete that mission, you can also move on to a second mission to defend the planet Gourb from the Galaxian fleet. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: This is the home adaptation of Namco’s theatrical walk-in video experience which appeared in arcades and amusement centers around 1990. How theatrical is it? The game’s literally in widescreen, with scoring information and statistics appearing outside of the letterbox area. 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

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launched – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: Oof. As good as Galaga: Destination Earth turned out for the Playstation (and yes, I do realize that not everyone will agree with me on that point), the Game Boy Color port is honestly one of the weakest games I’ve seen for the portable platform. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launch – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. Now, however, you wage war on the bugs from one of three perspectives: Alpha configuration (an exceedingly difficult first-person vantage point), Gamma configuration (a side-scrolling shooter, a la Defender), and Delta configuration (an upward shooter like the original Galaga). You can also capture the aliens’ tractor beam device and use it against them, capturing their own ships and commandeering them. (Hasbro Interactive [under license from Namco], 2000)

Memories: This game has been much pooh-poohed by the modern gaming press, as well as by several classic gaming outlets. I’m here to break ranks with the masses – who are all too ready to declare that a new title sucks anyway – and let you know that Galaga: Destination Earth isn’t that bad. Continue reading

Gatchaman: The Shooting

Gatchaman: The ShootingOrder this gameThe Game: The five who act as one – well, minus one character who doesn’t appear in the game – get their marching order from Dr. Nambu – get out there, infiltrate enemy bases, defeat enemy mecha, and kick as much ass as is deemed necessary. In practice, the game is exceedingly simple – advance upward through enemy territory, take out as many of Berg Katse’s masked men as possible, and live to face a huge mechanical boss. Four missions of increasing difficulty are included. (Bandai, 2002)

Memories: A nicely dressed-up scrolling shooter – think along the line of Taito’s 1980s coin-up Front Line – is at the heart of Gatchaman: The Shooting, one of an almost infinite number of similarly budget priced licensed-character shooters churned out by developers D3 Publishers for the Japanese market in recent years. Aside from the game’s simple but nicely-drawn and animated 2-D characters, the only real Gatchaman-specific content is a gallery of character artwork and some non-animated intro screens which appear between levels. 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

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