Night Driver

Night DriverThe Game: You’re racing the Formula One circuit by the glow of your headlights alone – avoid the markers along the side of the road and other passing obstacles…if you can see them in time. (Atari, 1976)

Memories: Aside from the very cool cockpit cabinet of the sit-down version of Night Driver, there’s a reason why it earns a spot in video game history. Go ahead and see if you can guess what it is. Give up? It’s the first time that a representation of depth appeared in the graphics of a video game. Until this point, home and arcade video games had presented their playing fields as strictly two-dimensional spaces: they were seen from straight overhead, or from a side-on view. Continue reading

Night Driver

Night DriverBuy this gameThe Game: You’re racing by the glow of your headlights alone – avoid the markers along the side of the road and other passing obstacles…if you can see them in time. (Atari, 1980)

Memories: Just as the simplicity of Night Driver in the arcades was necessitated by the hardware limitations of its time, it was a perfect VCS title for the same reason. Though the arcade game boasts a slightly finer visual grain, it’s not by a large margin. The most distinguishable difference is the trade-off of the arcade game’s overlay artwork of the car for a blocky foreground car graphic at home; on the other hand, the home game trumps the coin-op by having color graphics. Continue reading

New Rally-X

New Rally-XBuy this gameThe Game: As the driver of a high-powered race car, you rocket around corners and down straightaways, trying to pick up every yellow flag in the maze-like course and avoiding deadly collisions with pursuing red cars. Special flags (marked with an “S”, of course) offer big points bonuses, while Lucky flags (“L”) give you bonus points based on how much fuel remains in your car’s gas tank, so it’s best to find them as quickly as possible. Watch out for rocks, and use your smokescreen only when necessary to distance yourself from the red cars. (1981, Namco)

See the videoMemories: Not even really a sequel to Rally-X, which hit the arcades at roughly the same time as Pac-Man, New Rally-X was an attempt by Namco to give its cutesy overhead racing game a little more “oomph” to Rally-X in the hope that it might pick up steam during the arcade boom that Pac-Man spawned. Continue reading

Nimble Numbers NED!

Nimble Numbers NED!The Game: You are NED, hopping over boulders and, with each obstacle overcome, tackling progressively more difficult math questions and pattern-matching exercises. You can select what kind of math you need to work on See the video(addition, subtraction, etc.), and if you don’t solve a problem correctly the first time, it’s broken down into smaller parts to help you work out how it all goes together. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: This game was originally going to be called Math Potatoes! – and as inauspicious a title as Nimble Numbers NED! may be, you have to admit that Math Potatoes! probably would’ve been too bizarre to entice parents looking for suitable educational software for their kids. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerBuy this gameThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a limited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and the spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot See the videothe bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1982)

Memories: A devious and nerve-wracking little maze chase of a game, Night Stalker is a great game if you’re up for an endurance contest, but not so much if you’re looking for a game where you actually stand a chance of winning or advancing to a new maze. The playing field you see is the playing field you get, and you’re stuck there – until you die. Continue reading

Nova Blast

Nova BlastThe Game: You’re the pilot of a fighter plane whose job is to patrol the sky at supersonic speeds and eliminate alien threats to the cities on the ground below You have a radar screen spanning the entire globe at your disposal, and endless See the videoarsenals of weaponry. If all of the cities are wiped out, your mission – and your life as you know it – are over. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: Imagic had done a much better job bringing Donkey Kong to the Intellivision than Coleco did, with Beauty And The Beast being almost incalculably better than Coleco’s official Kong port. So why not do the same for Defender? Continue reading

No Escape!

No Escape!The Game: Jason, having made off with the Golden Fleece, has enraged the gods, who trap him in a temple along with a never-ending supply of Furies. Players can move Jason from side to side to avoid the Furies’ fire, and to fire back – but shooting a Fury directly will create another Fury rather than destroying it. Carefully-timed shots at the temple’s roof, however, will dislodge bricks that can permanently eliminate any Furies that they hit. Jason (and, presumably, countless screaming Argonauts) will advance a level when all of the Furies on the present level are destroyed. Taking too much damage from the Furies (or from chunks of the roof that he himself has caused to fall) will cost Jason his life. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: One of the lesser-known Imagic titles for the 2600, No Escape! was titled Escape From Argos for much of its development cycle. It combines the tried-and-true elements of slide-and-shoot games and brick-busting games such as Breakout, but does it in such a novel way that it manages to be fresh. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a See the videolimited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games. Continue reading

The Newsroom

The NewsroomThe Game: Not really a game at all, The Newsroom is a primitive – and yet very flexible – example of early desktop publishing. Clip art can be added, or imported from hi-res graphics files. Headline banners and other specialized items can be added as well. (Springboard Software, 1984)

Memories: I know this one really stretches the envelope – after all, Phosphor Dot Fossils is supposed to be about games, isn’t it? – but to me, The Newsroom was the source of so much fun (not to mention instigating some critical early career interests in my teenage life) that it’d be hard for me to not talk about it here. 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

Ninja Golf

Ninja GolfThe Game: You face a test of your skills in the time-honored way of the Ninja: you must survive a game of golf. But you’re not the only Ninja on the course, and apparently you are the only Ninja who’s got a bullseye painted on his back. Before you can say “Crouching Tiger Woods, Hidden Dragon,” you must fend off See the videoattackers, including pesky gophers and alarmingly large frogs, in between putts. When you reach the green, a large dragon will attack you, as large dragons are wont to do on the green. Defeat the dragon and you advance to the next hole; do not defeat the dragon, and it will leave a hole in you. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: This utterly bizarre little game is almost like somebody’s idea of a spoof game, something you’d see if there was a Weird Al Signature Series for the 7800. But no, Ninja Golf was an actual mainstream 7800 title – well, that is, if you consider the 7800 mainstream – and proof that someone, somewhere at Atari, was thinking way outside the box. Continue reading

Namco Arcade Classics 3: Galaga / Galaxian

Namco Arcade Classics 3: Galaga / GalaxianBuy this gameThe Game: A two-fer! In Galaxian, attacking formations break off from the usual rows and columns of invaders to dive-bomb you. And in its sequel Galaga, you’re up against another 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 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. (Namco, 1995)

See the videoMemories: Along with the release of a newly revamped PC and Playstation edition of Galaga – one of Namco’s best-loved classic titles, a new Game Boy version of that game has arrived in stores as well.

This is not a review of that game. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 1 (“N”)

Namco Museum Volume 1Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man at your side, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum, where you may examine classic video game sales brochures, promotional items, posters, and the arcade cabinets themselves – which contain, naturally, the actual games. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: A fantastic idea in a so-so package, Namco Museum‘s first volume on the Playstation is a mixture of picture-perfect emulations and a not-so-perfect framing structure. The thought of all the extra material is great in theory – and it has turned out to be one of the “compelling applications” for the DVD format. But in Namco Museum, these nifty ephemera from the 80s are presented to you as exhibits in clumsily bit-mapped hallways and rooms which aren’t even as convincing graphically as the Windows 95 “maze” screen saver. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 3 (“M”)

Namco Museum Volume 3Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated and encased in digital museums. Some game companies, like Namco, are big enough to spread their best titles out over five discs. With Pac-Man hanging around, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum once more. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: Namco Museum 3, reprinted in the “greatest hits” range of Playstation games, contains some of the biggest coin-op successes to emerge from Japan’s video game supergiant – but this volume, also known early on as “Volume M,” also sees the beginning of the Namco Museum collection’s shift toward fighting and action-RPG-style games. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (“A”)

Namco Museum Volume 2Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: The second volume (also known as Volume A) in Namco’s 5-disc collection of arcade emulations for the Playstation is the most difficult to find – one often sees it going for nearly twice its original retail price in eBay auctions – and yet it has some of Namco’s biggest “cult” hits… and yet only volumes 1 and 3 have been reprinted. Go figure. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)The Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest makers of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995, for Sony Playstation)

Memories: It’s hard for me to really justify blowing $25 on this particular import. Maybe it’s just the perversity of having two different versions of Namco Museum Vol. 2 when the American edition is hard enough to find as it is. Or maybe it’s because I want to be able to play as many classic arcade games as possible on my Playstation. Continue reading

Nichibutsu Arcade Classics

Nichibutsu Arcade ClassicsThe Game: Three obscure but memorable cult classics from Japan’s Nichibutsu Ltd. are gathered in one collection, along with an updated version of each game. Crazy Climber, Moon Cresta and Frisky Tom are included, with their respective remakes, Crazy Climber ’85, SF-X and Tom’s Strike-Back. (Nichibutsu Ltd., 1995)

Memories: Much sought-after by collectors now, this Namco Museum-style compilation is the only way to get most of these games on anything that’s not MAME – and in the case of the updated versions, this is the only game in town. It’s also the source of a very humorous photo, shown before the main menu screen pops up, which I find very funny (see below). Continue reading

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of See the videomonsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man? Continue reading

  • IP Disclaimer

    All game names, terminology, logos, screen shots, box art, and all related characters and placenames are the property of the games' respective intellectual property holders. The articles herein are not intended to infringe upon their copyright in any way. The author(s) make no attempt - in using the names described herein - to supercede the copyrights of the copyright holders, nor are these articles officially sanctioned, licensed, or endorsed by the games' creators or publishers.