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Rampart, Arcade

Atari Games1990 arcade game Rampart is a strange but compelling single-screen castle-building action game, with artillery-based shooting sections.

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Beyond Good & Evil, PC

Michel Ancel (the creator of Rayman) and his team produced a video gaming classic in 2003 with Ubisoft‘s Beyond Good & Evil.

It is a pseudo sci-fi fantasy, third-person action/adventure where you control a young woman called Jade, with a pig sidekick called Pey’j, and who is battling against the sinister “DomZ”.

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Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, PC

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is the 1991 sequel to the classic The Secret of Monkey Island and is arguably even better than its fondly-remembered predecessor.

Created by essentially the same team as the previous game, Monkey Island 2 once again follows the exploits of Guybrush Threepwood and his adventures into pirating and comedy. And once again he is up against his arch nemesis, LeChuck, only this time LeChuck is a rotting zombie due to him having been killed in the last game and brought back to life in this.

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The Secret of Monkey Island, PC

This is the original MS-DOS classic, as released by Lucasfilm Games (later to become LucasArts) in 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island is a humorous point-and-click adventure introducing wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and his evil arch nemesis the pirate LeChuck.

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SimCity, Super Nintendo

The 1991 Super Nintendo version of Will Wright‘s classic SimCity was developed by Nintendo themselves, so is somewhat different to previous versions. It’s actually one of the best versions of SimCity around.

SimCity is about city-building, land/power/transportation management, taxation, and dealing with natural disasters. Basically: keeping your growing (or maybe even declining) population happy.

The viewpoint is overhead, and you build your city by clearing land and laying tiles on the scrolling landscape. You build roads, rail tracks, residential areas, industrial areas, and commercial areas – not to mention your own house – and must attract people to come live with you. When you reach a certain size you can then build more advanced structures, such as airports and sports stadia. Of course, you need power stations and police departments, and maybe even a port if you’ve got some coastline.

Nintendo‘s involvement added a lot of nice touches to SimCity on the SNES that aren’t in other versions, not least of which is a Bowser attack on Tokyo! Aping the Godzilla attack of the original game… Or the golden Mario statue awarded for reaching a half million population. Or the special buildings that are awarded for reaching certain milestones, such as casinos, amusement parks, and expo centres. Some of these ideas were incorporated into SimCity 2000 later, so it was prudent of Maxis to approve Nintendo‘s own development of their precious game, in exchange for new ideas.

A regular game of SimCity is an open-ended ‘sandbox’ affair, where you choose a random map and just build on it until you run out of steam. There are also six different disaster scenarios to “beat” – earthquake, pollution, crimewave, nuclear meltdown, coastal flooding, and the aforementioned monster attack.

Not as boring as it looks, SimCity is a classic SNES game and still a lot of fun to play.

More: SimCity on Wikipedia

Raid on Bungeling Bay, Commodore 64

Raid on Bungeling Bay was Will Wright‘s first ever video game and it was released for the Commodore 64 by Brøderbund in 1984. Will Wright – in case you didn’t know – was a co-founder of Maxis and also designer of SimCity and The Sims.

Raid on Bungeling Bay is an overhead helicopter shooter and the basic aim is to set off from your aircraft carrier to bomb six enemy factories found located among a chain of islands. They’re of course heavily defended, and they also ‘develop’ as the game unfolds, giving you a time limit to stop them from taking over the world.

You have a front-mounted cannon which can blast boats, ground emplacements, aircraft, and other ground vehicles, but you need to drop bombs on the factories to destroy them. The process is to find a factory, clear the area of enemy defensive positions, then place yourself carefully over the top of a factory, before dropping your bombs. You can hold nine bombs per sortie and each factory pretty much takes a full payload of nine to destroy. Landing back on the aircraft carrier will replenish your bombs.

Other things to watch out for: enemy aircraft attacking your carrier (you have to go and fight them off), and an enemy battleship that is gradually built, before setting off to intercept your carrier. The battleship resents your presence and will fire homing missiles at you if you are within range.

I have a soft spot for this game, even though it looks quite dated now. I played it for hours as a kid. I just loved the feel of flying around in the chopper – viewed from overhead – blasting stuff on the ground. And it still feels good to play now… I picked it up and played it recently and almost completed it. It’s a nice little self-contained action game with some interesting mechanics and a wonderful control system.

MSX and NES versions of Raid on Bungeling Bay exist, but – rather strangely – none anywhere else. I say “rather strangely” because Bungeling Bay is a great game and would probably have worked well on other platforms.

More: Raid On Bungeling Bay on Wikipedia

Steel Alcimus, PC

Another excellent Hijong Park retro tribute game – this one possibly his best so far – Steel Alcimus is an overhead helicopter shooter with either twin-stick joypad, or keyboard and mouse controls. I played it with mouse and keys and found the control system to be really quite ingenious.

This game is a bit more complex than Park‘s other games, Rolling Bird or Frantic Dimension, so requires a number of tutorial missions be flown before you can start a campaign. Which is fine because the tutorial is well designed, fun to play, and much easier than the missions themselves!

When you finally get to some actual missions you really then start to see how good Steel Alcimus is. It’s a game that’s been made with real love and care, kept simple and playable, and polished like a game with a Nintendo Seal of Approval. Which it doesn’t have of course. But maybe should have. 🙂

Steel Alcimus – like Hijong Park‘s other games – is very interesting to play, but devilishly difficult to master. And – like his other games – it has a distinct graphical style. And it feels great to fly the helicopter around and blow stuff up. Steel Alcumus reminds me of a few good old games: Raid On Bungeling Bay, Cyclone, and Carrier Command, to name but three.

Steel Alcimus is on Steam now. There’s a free version, and also a very low-cost donationware version. If you like helicopter action games you should give it a try, and if you enjoy it you should consider buying the donation version. I did, because I like what Park‘s doing – he’s making fun games that are worth playing (he’s actually making the type of games I’d make myself if I could code). And I support that wholeheartedly.

More: PsychoFlux Entertainment on Steam
Steam: Steel Alcimus on Steam

Dragon Quest VIII, PlayStation 2 [Part 2]

Okay, so I couldn’t just leave it at that with regard to Dragon Quest VIII, so here’s another set of screenshots showing later in the game. In particular: the Dragovian Trials – an unlockable quest in which you take on a series of ever more powerful dragons, for unique rewards at the end of the game.

Fighting through the seven (count ’em) dragons is a real challenge, and the very last battle makes you fight all seven again, one after the other, without any escape (or healing) in-between. Winning the battles is helped by attaining a rare power, called ‘Dragon Soul’, which becomes available to the Hero at level 65. Yes, that’s 65… Thankfully, reaching level 65 is not that difficult if you’re good at harvesting Metal King Slimes. The only problem is: Metal King Slimes run away 50% of the time in combat. So getting one to stay in order to kill it and gain the 30,000 Experience Points it awards is hard. Unless you’re playing in an emulator with access to quicksaves…

Beating the Dragovian Trials gives you the opportunity to unlock the instant alchemy pot (which creates things instantly, instead of having to wait for them), and also a Legendary Monster, called Hev. Not to mention a set of special armour, and a unique sword.

You don’t have to do the Dragovian Trials to complete Dragon Quest VIII, but you do have to complete it to 100% the monster list and be awarded the Gospel Ring (a ring that, when worn, allows you to run around without triggering random battles), and also to get the “good” ending. The good ending is worth it though. In spite of the cartoony graphics and rather simplistic storyline, the ‘good’ ending will no doubt warm the heart of anyone who’s played through this great Japanese Role-Player.

See also: Dragon Quest VIII [Part 1]

More: Dragon Quest VIII on Wikipedia

Dragon Quest VIII, PlayStation 2

There is no doubting that this 2004 release from Square Enix is the best JRPG on the PlayStation 2. At least, in my mind.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a colourful and detailed re-imagining of the Dragon Quest franchise, with Cel-Shaded graphics and tons of monsters – many of them familiar – to fight it out with in turn-based combat.

Don’t be put off by the ‘cartoony’ graphics – this is a ‘hardcore’ RPG. From the outset you are in grave peril and gaining a foothold in the game takes some effort. And some grinding. But it’s worth it, because Dragon Quest VIII is a game that opens-out beautifully as you progress. Alchemy – crafting new items by combining old ones in an alchemy pot – plays a big part in this. And – while your characters do have limited inventories – you also have a separate bag with limitless holding capacity, so not being able to carry stuff never becomes an issue. Which is great because there are some fantastic items to discover in the game.

The game is played with a party of four characters. There’s you – the Hero – who you can name at the beginning. There’s Yangus; a Cockney ex-bandit and your devoted sidekick. Later on a female spellcaster called Jessica joins the team, and even later a Templar Knight called Angelo joins. And you keep these four characters all the way through the game. Each character has their own set of abilities, spells and skills to invest in, and levelling-up always rewards the player with skill points to spend (on skills, obviously), a bump up in general attributes (Resilience, Agility, Strength, etc.), and from time to time the award of new abilities. Yangus, for example, picks up the ‘Whistle’ spell quite early in the game and this is both useful and humorous at the same time. Basically, when it’s used it calls an immediate battle (if you’re in an area where random encounters happen), which is useful for grinding, and for other reasons.

Combat in Dragon Quest VIII is both involving and fun. At first you’ll struggle to survive, but building levels soon ensures that the tables are turned.  The sheer number and variety of monsters in Dragon Quest VIII is pretty amazing in itself. Some are actually quite funny; doing weird dances that impair your party members, or failing badly at special moves and falling flat on their faces. One (Kalamari Kid) even doodles away in the middle of a battle, which tickled my funny bone, as it probably will yours.

One of the best things about Dragon Quest VIII are the Boss Battles. There are lots of them, and some of them are very difficult to beat. Which is great: you want a Boss Battle to give you a challenge. And you want the Boss Battles to be varied and interesting. Dragon Quest VIII‘s bosses tick all those boxes, and then some.

Dragon Quest VIII is full of superb little touches, and some big ones too. Like, for example, the fact that – after you complete the game the first time – you can save and reload a special file that puts you back before the final battle, but with new, unlocked places to explore and quests to complete. I’m speaking specifically about the “Dragovian Trials”, which is arguably the best thing in the game; like an extended game for advanced players – a reward for completing the game once. And I haven’t even mentioned the Monster Arena; another great side quest where you collect famous monsters and pit them against other monster teams in a gladiatorial arena

I could go on about Dragon Quest VIII, but I’ll leave it at that for now. For me: a brilliant game. An excellent level-grinder, and one that endures to this day.

See also: Dragon Quest VIII [Part 2]

More: Dragon Quest VIII on Wikipedia