Last month, while grinding out weapon trophies in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, I’d play Pac-Man Championship Edition DX as a palette cleanser. Much in the same way Ms. Pac-Man expanded upon the formula introduced by Pac-Man in the early 1980s, this 2010 release expands upon Bandai Namco’s 2007 original. That’s to say the changes, new maps and features, are minor but solid improvements on an otherwise fantastic game. When I focused solely on improving my score, I was able to lose myself to the mesmerizing flow of continually changing mazes and satisfying sounds of points racking up. These positive feelings were mired only by my desire to obtain the game’s trophies and subject myself to repetitious challenges. Continue reading Pac-Man Championship Edition DX [PlayStation Network] – Review→
The Double Dragon series is one that I have no particular fondness for. The maiden entry was originally released as an arcade game in 1987 and ushered in what most consider the Golden Age of the beat ‘em up genre. It was an extremely successful game, spawning a live-action film, cartoon series, and unsurprisingly, many sequels and home conversions. Playing through the Sega Master System version with a friend this past week served as my first hands-on experience with the series and it was a little underwhelming. The depth of combat and stage variety was a drastic improvement over the primitive Black Belt but my natural tendencies resulted in an initial playthrough that was less entertaining than later entries in the genre, such as Streets of Rage. Persistent sprite flicker and vague hit detection didn’t help matters. Continue reading Double Dragon [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
Although I’ve long been aware of Space Harrier, playing through the Master System version provided my first hands-on impressions of it, for better or worse. Originally released by Sega as an arcade game in late 1985, it was one of the first games designed by the now legendary Yu Suzuki. The following years saw a multitude of ports to popular home computers but it wasn’t until the 1987 Master System port that one of them had the distinction of being handled internally at Sega, helmed in part by the similarly iconic Yuji Naka. The resulting version faithfully adapted the fast-paced shoot ‘em up gameplay, vibrant stages, and varied enemies of the original release, despite the technically inferior Master System hardware that could’ve been a devastating drag on quality. Continue reading Space Harrier [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
For all intents and purposes, this is a review of Namco Museum Vol. 3 for the PlayStation, bearing in mind I’ve played it twice for about an hour total. That being said, I’m confident in knowing what it has to offer based on prior experiences with most of the compiled games. After a fruitful evening of game hunting with a friend, this is the title I subjected us to. Well, that’s what he may describe the experience as but for me, someone who relishes the opportunity to play just about any game, it was an entertaining romp through the past. Considering this is a compilation that only contains six games, it proved to highlight a strong selection of Namco’s arcade lineage.
This, the third installment of the Namco Museum series on the PlayStation, was originally released stateside in early 1997. Most sources point to Now Production handling the development/porting with Namco publishing it here. As mentioned, six arcade games are included: Galaxian, Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position II, Dig Dug, Phozon, and The Tower of Druaga. Most readers are likely familiar with all but the last two, but the weight is definitely carried by the headliners. Regardless, these are all arcade-faithful ports and the package is buoyed by a virtual museum to walk through, highlighting low resolution scans of the games’ original Japanese marketing materials (plus an entertaining introduction video!).
Of the games included, I’m most familiar with Ms. Pac-Man. That was one of the go-to Super Nintendo games in my household growing up. Heck, even my mom played it with us! She’s actually the reason we had it since she was familiar with the arcade release and knew it’d be more family friendly than say the copy of Killer Instinct that came bundled with our console. The version on display in this compilation is the arcade version, so it’s limited on features compared to the Super Nintendo port I’m used to. Nonetheless, Ms. Pac-Man is a riveting game with or without any bells or whistles. In fact, when my friend and I played, this game in particular sparked a bit of a high score competition.
I was first introduced to Dig Dug through its Xbox Live Arcade release, although I’ve played much more of the Mr. Driller series. A single-screen action game like most of the other games on this compilation, Dig Dug sees players assuming the role of the eponymous Dig Dug (also known as Taizo Hori) as he digs underground in order to defeat the wandering Pookas and Fygars. This can be easily done by exploding them with an air pump, although strategically dropping rocks on them can result in chained kills and extra points. Defeating them further down also yields more points. It’s a straight-forward action game but as described, there’s ways to wring strategic elements from the game to promote score-chasing.
Galaxian is perhaps most succinctly described as a combination of Space Invaders and Galaga. It was, after all, Namco’s heavily inspired attempt at a Space Invaders game and the predecessor to the much improved Galaga. That’s not to say that this isn’t a worthy game in its own right. Namco took the Space Invaders formula and expanded upon it incrementally by designing more aggressive enemies… and adding color. Damn, Galaga is so much better… Destroying the waves of enemies still remains challenging but after the first wave, players will have seen pretty much everything they’re going to see.
Like Galaxian, there’s little to say about Pole Position II. It’s a solid racing game and it runs beautifully although nothing differentiates it from the hundreds of racing games available throughout the 1980s; it’s still a precedent setter. That leaves me with Phozon and The Tower of Druaga. This compilation represented the North American debut of Phozon as it never left Japan when it was released in 1983. I didn’t particularly care for it, although the pseudo-3D rendering of the antagonist looked good. Forgoing the game’s unique verbiage, players control an atom and collect drifting molecules aiming to recreate the shape displayed before each stage. A sole enemy is almost always present and a life is lost if it connects with the player’s atom. Essentially, recreate shapes while playing cat and mouse.
Finally, there’s The Tower of Druaga. From the title alone this one sounds epic and it was understandably inspired by Middle Eastern mythology. Controlling the hero Gilgamesh, players are tasked with rescuing Ki from said tower. This plays out across 60 floors of mazes with each floor hosting a locked exit, a key, as well as enemies and treasure. Again, this is a pretty straight-forward game whose difficulty continually increases. I wasn’t able to get too far into the tower but one tip I can share is to hold the attack button. With it held, Gilgamesh keeps his sword drawn and can walk into enemies to defeat them. A marked improvement on simply swinging the sword, trust me.
With there being so many Namco Museum titles nowadays, it’s hard to recommend this one over the more comprehensive collections for newer consoles. Still, at the right price, this is worth snatching up. I have multiple Namco compilations but $0.99 for a loose copy was too good to pass up. I will say I was surprised by the museum content, I wasn’t expecting that and don’t recall similar information in the newer compilations. And that darn introduction video really got me jazzed up too! If anything, I’ll keep my eyes peeled on the other PlayStation Namco Museum releases in the hopes of getting more of that content, if the price is right.
Lastly, here is a video that my friend and I recorded while playing this game. The best part by far is the Ms. Pac-Man competition which commences about halfway through and runs to the end of the video. It’s not very serious, but I still won, and that’s what counts.
For a month or two, Power Drift sat in a backroom corner of PJ Gamers. Not functioning, there wasn’t a reason to place it alongside the likes of Gyrussor Star Wars Trilogy Arcade. It was around this time that I was experiencing Shenmue II and developing an appreciation for Yu Suzuki. Being one of his lesser known games, I was interested in playing it. Released in 1988, I’d only recently read about it in a Retro Gamer profile of Yu Suzuki. Thankfully, it’s operational now, and although it lacks the fun hydraulic cockpit (it’s a stand-up cabinet), it’s unique.
What makes it unique amongst other racing games that could’ve been found in an eighties arcade are the roller coaster-inspired race tracks. These tracks feature massive climbs and drops and every turn is an opportunity to kick out the rear wheels and drift around competitors. The visuals helped sell the roller coaster feel of the tracks thanks to a sprite-scaling effect. As the name implies, the sprites grew and shrunk seamlessly as I played the game. This was doubly impressive as the game ran at a very fast clip. Watching the tracks rise, fall, and twist was mesmerizing – like watching a snake slither in the sand.
As with most arcade games, it didn’t take me long to understand what to do and how to do it. Progressing in the game became tough quickly though. I forewent ever hitting the brakes and instead began massaging the gas pedal around corners. Falling off ledges and colliding with other drivers was the key to success. The latter was challenging; I didn’t feel like I had the level of control over my racer as I’d like. Of course I also was zooming around stages NEVER HITTING THE BRAKES! Sometimes the hit detection seemed a little dodgy too, perhaps forming my opinion of the controls. It’s clear that to get a higher score and experience more stages, I’ll need to evolve my strategies. It’s a fun and unique game, especially to watch, but the loose controls took me a while to adapt to.
Having grown up in the 1990s and 2000s, I didn’t really have the opportunity to spend time at an arcade. When PJ Gamers opened up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and did so with dozens of arcade cabinets, I was excited. More so than any other, Gyruss has captivated me. It’s a 1983 space shooter emulating the gameplay styles of Galaga and Tempest, in fantastic fashion. Besides featuring pure gameplay that’s so common in most arcade classics, a high score competition between my friend and I has kept me hooked.
Controlling a spaceship and having it revolve around the screen in a tubular manner took some getting used to. The spaceship mirrored the position of the joystick, which I haven’t experienced too often. Likewise, the waves of enemy spacecraft entered the screen any which way across the twenty unique stages. There were enough enemy types and wave formations to keep the game fresh and the sole power-up was fun to obtain, and definitely worthwhile. Another holdover from Galaga were the challenging stages breaking up the pace. Memorization proved to be influential in succeeding, but so too were quick reflexes and calmness.
Having spent enough time learning the gameplay and adapting to the rule set, success was ultimately, in my hands. After a month or so, my friend still reigns supreme with a score only 10,000 or so more than 200,000 odd points. I’ve lost the fire to try multiple times a week, but I do give it a shot every time I visit PJ Gamers. Gyruss has tuned into one of my favorite arcade games and I believe it to be incredibly indicative of the golden age of arcades. This, because of its pure, simple gameplay and rule set and its emulation of the pioneers that came before it. Ironically, these elements make it feel unique, while still feeling so similar to its golden age contemporaries.
As with the last Game.com game I discussed, Williams Arcade Classics is a collection of multiple games. Unlike just about every other game I’ve played on the system, this one isn’t half bad.
Collecting together Joust, Defender, Robotron, Stargate (Defender II), and Sinistar it’s not a collection to scoff at – these games are arcade classics. Because these games are so old, they’re emulated fairly accurately on the system. Now they’re not perfect, but they’re close enough to still appreciate that special something that made these games so great in the first place. Still, these games are easily available on many, many other platforms, emulated much better, and usually in larger collections of games.
Revisiting these classics reminds how instantly fun and challenging they are. They’re not perfect on the system and they suffer from the system’s motion blurring effect, but these games are still worth playing, but on a different system.