Star Fox, Super Nintendo

I’m going to use the Japanese and North American name for this game – Star Fox – rather than the European name (Star Wing, which was chosen because the name “Star Fox” was apparently too similar to a German company called “StarVox”!).

Star Fox was a Japanese/British co-production between Nintendo and Argonaut Software that was released on a cartridge with a special chip on it – a co-processor called the Super FX chip. This gave the Super Nintendo a power boost when it came to graphics processing, and allowed the developers to use polygonal 3D graphics on a console that wasn’t really suited to them. And, although Star Fox doesn’t use the entire screen during play (resulting a black border – helping to keep frame rates acceptable), and doesn’t have particularly high frame rates (it must dip to somewhere around 10fps when the screen is busy), it is still fun to play and bold and dramatic in its presentation.

Using animals as characters adds an undeniable charm, and using them as wingmen is neat. You can instruct your wingmen to do things for you. You can also lose them if you don’t protect them.

Star Fox is quite old now. It was first released in 1993 and has been far superseded by the most intricate of space shooters (just look at Elite: Dangerous), but – in retro gaming terms – it is still hot property. The music; the sounds effects; the graphics – they all come together to make something unique, comforting and timeless.


Medal of Honor: Infiltrator, Game Boy Advance

The second Medal of Honor game on the Game Boy Advance, and a fantastic, all-action overhead shooter, first released Electronic Arts in 2003.

Medal of Honor: Infiltrator puts you into the boots of Corporal Jake Murphy, and throws you into miniature versions of some of the most famous battles of World War II. Gameplay is mostly third-person, although there are some first-person sections where you’re shooting things with an aiming recticle.

The graphics in Infiltrator are detailed and colourful, and the music and sound is quite good too, with some decent tunes driving the action along.

Overall: Medal of Honor: Infiltrator is a hugely fun game, with plenty of militaristic destruction and grenades and tracers flying everywhere. Taking control of a machine gun is particularly memorable. Being able to sneak up on the enemy and stealthily knock them out is fun too. It makes the action a bit more strategic than simply blasting away.


King Arthur’s World, Super Nintendo

Argonaut Software‘s 1992 release (through Jaleco) – King Arthur’s World – is an interesting and challenging real time action game with strategic overtones.

King Arthur’s World is basically a side-scrolling war game with you controlling King Arthur (and his small army of soldiers, archers and wizards), and who must lay siege to various enemy outposts, and survive to complete a series of tests and missions. Your troops (and King) are controlled via a menu and some icons. King Arthur is the only essential character. When he dies, the game is over, so you have to protect the King at all costs.

The learning curve on King Arthur’s World is just about right, although later missions are very tough. The game is visually and sonically appealing, and the gameplay is compelling enough to warrant attention. If you’ve never played it before: definitely worth a look.


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, PC

First released in 2015, CD Projekt Red‘s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a third-person, open world Role-Playing Game that is based on a series of novels by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

Obviously it is the third instalment in the series (and last, according to the developers), and in it you play a monster-hunting detective badass called Geralt – a Witcher; a carrier of two swords (one steel, for killing humans, and one silver, for killing monsters); and a superhuman solver of problems with acute senses and no emotions.

Continue reading The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, PC

Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, Game Boy Color

This colour remake of Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge was released as part of the Konami GB Collection Vol. 4 compilation in 2000.

The extra colour does revitalise the game somewhat, although there is no difference in the gameplay. A classic Game Boy game given a gaudy make-over.

See also: Original black and white Game Boy version.

More: Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge on Wikipedia


Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back, Commodore 64

The sequel to Cauldron, Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back was a brilliant ‘curveball’ from Palace Software, back in 1986, and is still a great game to play now.

Whereas the first Cauldron game put you in control of a witch who was searching for the ingredients of a potion to defeat the evil “Pumpking”, Cauldron II puts you in control of a bouncing pumpkin survivor of the Pumpking’s defeat, and whose aim to defeat the witch who deposed him. The game takes place in the witch’s castle and hidden around the various different rooms are items that enhance the pumpkin’s defensive and offensive capabilities.

Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back is known for its high level of difficulty, but the key to survival is in finding those defensive items as soon as possible. When you start the game you can begin in any number of different places, so having a map to hand might help you quickly orient yourself.

Cauldron II is a Commodore 64 classic from British software house Palace Software.

More: Cauldron II on Wikipedia



Twinkle Star Sprites, Neo Geo

SNK‘s Twinkle Star Sprites was released for the Neo Geo in 1996 and is an interesting mix of vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up and head-to-head puzzle game. Yes, I know that sounds weird, and this game IS weird, but weird in all the right ways…

The idea is: you compete against another player (or the computer AI if you don’t have any friends) in a split-screen environment. Enemies come down the screen in waves and shooting them in chains (combos) sends fireballs (and other special attacks) towards your opponent, and vice versa. Combo attacks can also be reflected back a number of times, creating indestructable enemies and even summoning a Boss Battle. Whoever loses all their “life points” first loses the game. So Twinkle Star Sprites is less “bullet hell” and more “opponent hell”.

Graphically, Twinkle Star Sprites is full-on, Japanese, mega-cute Manga, and the humorous and wildly-colourful visual style suits the manic gameplay perfectly.



Warlords III: Reign of Heroes, PC

Is Warlords III: Reign of Heroes the best video game ever to come out of Australia?

No. That accolade goes to Shadowrun by Beam Software in my opinion, but Warlords III is definitely still up there with the best of them.

I remember this coming at me like a bolt from the blue when I first played it back in 1997. I hadn’t played the first two Warlords games, and was quite surprised by just how good Warlords III was. Back then: the world was shaking to id Software’s Quake, and turn-based strategy games were starting to look rather old. But Warlords III bucked the trend and breathed new life into the genre, before fading back into obscurity again as the mediocrity of a tsunami of first-person shooters swamped the PC games market.

What I would say to anybody who likes tactical fantasy war games (and a nice challenge) is: have a look at Warlords III. The gameplay is simple enough to be fast and intuitive, and deep and varied enough to be addictive.

Warlords III: Reign of Heroes has stood the test of time rather well, considering the beardy-weirdy nature of the subject matter.

More: Warlords III on Wikipedia

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, Game Boy Color

Which came first? Oracle of Seasons or Oracle of Ages? The answer: neither. They were both released at exactly the same time (February 2001), and both games are companion pieces to each other.

Oracle of Seasons focusses more on action (Ages more on puzzle-solving), although both games are essentially sequels to the classic Link’s Awakening and share many of the same gameplay features.

Both games are worthy additions to Nintendo‘s famous Zelda series and – uniquely – can be linked to activate alternative story paths.

More: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Wikipedia