The Commodore 64 conversion of Defender of the Crown is a celebrated retro gaming classic. Apart from loading times, there’s little to fault about it.
An RPG with a funny name, based on the AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Menzoberranzan is a 1994, first-person, party-based adventure game developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc.
Released in 1994, Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession was developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc. and was distributed by US Gold in the UK.
I remember it well because I reviewed it for PC Player magazine back in the day.
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.
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.
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.
This 2003 remake of Namco‘s SNES classic Tales of Phantasia was the first time the game had been officially translated into English.
While much of the game remains the same, there are a few differences. Firstly, the screen ratio has been changed from the 4:3 of the SNES original to the ‘widescreen’ 240 x 160 of the GBA screen. Which makes it look more modern, even if the resolution is actually lower (the resolution of the SNES version is 256 x 224). The lower resolution of the GBA is not an issue though as many of the in-game characters have been re-drawn to make them look bigger in the play window. This becomes most apparent during combat, when all the figures appear significantly larger than in the SNES version. This is not a problem, though, because most combat is fought horizontally, and not vertically, so making the main characters larger has not had a detrimental effect on gameplay. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The only real criticisms I’ve read about this game are that the random battles are too frequent (didn’t seem too bad to me), and the combat system is “unrefined” compared to the ‘Tales‘ sequels. Well… No sh*t, Sherlock. That’s bleedin’ obvious. And a bit unfair.
Tales of Phantasia is a lovely game that still has a lot of appeal now and is worth a play if you can find a copy. With this GBA version being an official translation, and with its updated graphics, I’d give it a higher rating than any of the fan-translated versions of the SNES original.
Tales of Phantasia is an RPG developed by Wolf Team, and first published for the Super Nintendo by Namco in 1995. As JRPGs go, it’s quite memorable.
It’s a time-travelling, party-based adventure with real-time, random combat. Yes: real time combat. Which is quite rare in this genre. The combat sections play like a side-scrolling action game, with your party being attacked from either the left or the right, and the direction of attack dictating who’s closest to the enemy. So you learn to put your more vulnerable characters in the middle! The real-time combat system in Tales of Phantasia is a refreshing change from the usual style of turn-based JPRGs and is I think what gives this game its unique appeal.
That said: there’s more to Tales of Phantasia than just the combat. The story isn’t bad, and neither is the dialogue, and the six playable characters available for recruit are all fairly interesting. There are lots of great little touches too, like the ripples and reflections in the water. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do in this game and it’s frankly more than worth the investment of time.
A Game Boy Advance remake was released in 2006 and was the game’s first official English translation. It’s somewhat different to this, though, with a widescreen display and larger character graphics during combat. Background graphics and gameplay are the same though.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation was developed by Heartbeat for Enix and released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 in Japan. It is the sixth instalment in the Dragon Quest series, if you aren’t familiar with Roman numerals.
Again: the writers of Dragon Quest have made a pretty good story to fit into an RPG. And again: it’s simple but effective. Without giving too much away: you appear to die a short way into the game! Haha. It’s hardly a spoiler – more an attempt to entice you to play the game… but it is part of the plot. I think Japanese RPG-makers may be obsessed with death, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing… As J.R.R. Tolkien once said: love and loss are inextricably linked…
Graphically, Dragon Quest VI is a bit more interesting than the previous game, although you don’t seem to be able to walk behind certain objects in this (that you should be able to walk behind, according to the isometric viewpoint), which is a little frustrating. All the houses, towns, and cute characters are beautifully drawn in that inimitable, colourful SNES style though.
Combat is a bit more interesting than in Dragon Quest V. You have more options available to you, including a ‘Skill’ choice that makes individual character skills available as they unlock. It does take a while to assemble a party, though, which isn’t ideal. Something else that bugged me: you can’t see how much money you’ve got in the status menus! Which is quite an oversight… The only time you see your current money count is when you’re talking to merchants. Dragon Quest VI practically requires you to grind to afford certain armour and weapons (as most RPGs do), and not being able to see your money totals in the field is frustrating at best.
One final thing to mention – a good thing: Dragon Quest VI was the first game in the series to introduce the concept of a “sack” where you can store items outside of your usual limited inventory. That made a difference. It also has a fairly complex class system, which is unlocked at a key point in the game.
Dragon Quest VI was the best-selling game of 1995 in Japan, shipping over 3.2 million physical copies in its first year of release (of which 2.5 million were sold in December, it’s month of release!) – an insane number, and indicative of the series’ popularity worldwide.
In spite of its shortcomings Dragon Quest VI is still a great game. It’s been remade a few times (Nintendo DS, Android and iOS) and is still worth playing if you love Japanese RPGs.
Note: These grabs are from the original Super Nintendo version, having been fan-translated. An official English translation of Dragon Quest VI wasn’t released until 2011.