The second video game based on Disney‘s famous 1982 movie, Tron, released into arcades in 1983 by Bally Midway. The first one is here.
Lasso is an obscure arcade game, developed and manufactured by SNK Corporation in 1982. In it you play a rancher/cowboy trying to round-up his cattle with a rope.
Theron’s Quest is a modified version of the incredible Dungeon Master, released for the PC Engine in Japan in 1992 and the TurboGrafx-16 in North America in 1993.
Developers FTL/Software Heaven changed the premise of the main quest (this time you specifically play a named character, called Theron, who must find seven parts of a set of knight’s armour); they also changed the layouts of all the dungeons (although some places might seem familiar to DM fans); they added cut sequences between levels (kind of unnecessary, but they don’t detract too much); they made the game easier (by reducing the frequency of monsters, and also by replacing the save option with plenty of resurrection points), and of course they also made it playable on a gamepad (for one person).
If you sit down and play Theron’s Quest intently, like I’ve done, you’ll know that “making the game easier” doesn’t necessarily equate to “making the game easy”; and even in a emulator I’d say that Theron’s Quest is a decent challenge. In fact: I rate Theron’s Quest very highly. A lot of people dismiss it as “just Dungeon Master on the PC Engine“, but it is in fact a little bit more than that – it’s a completely new Dungeon Master sequel, and (thankfully) doesn’t go in the same “ultra hard” direction as Chaos Strikes Back…
Theron’s Quest does a very good job of making a brilliant game more accessible to mainstream gamers. And it also allows Dungeon Master pros to flex their muscles in an environment they love, but don’t have to commit too much time to beating. It’s a ‘win-win’ for everybody. 🙂
Released into arcades in 1987 by Technos Japan, Double Dragon is a legendary one or two-player scrolling beat ’em up, starring twin brothers – Billy Lee and Jimmy – who are on a rescue mission for Marian – Billy’s girlfriend who has been kidnapped by a gang of thugs called The Black Warriors.
This double team punch and kick (or headbutt) their way through four different stages, a city slum, a factory, a forest, and a gang hideout. On the way they can pick up weapons such as baseball bats and whips and use them on seven different types of enemies.
What is interesting about Double Dragon is that if both players make it to the end, they must then fight each other for the affections of the rescued girl! Considering that it was Billy’s girlfriend they were supposed to be going in to rescue, it makes his twin brother’s challenge all the more incendiary. Families, eh? You can never predict them…
Double Dragon is a retro-gaming classic that is still great fun to play now.
IJK Software released Rocketball on the Commodore 64 in 1985. It is based on the infamous 1975 film, Rollerball.
Just like in the film, Rocketball is played on a oval, inclined rollerskating track. Two teams of skaters must collect a rolling ball that is fired into the arena and throw the ball into the correct hole to score a goal.
There are four teams to choose from in the game: Houston, Madrid, Tokyo, and Moscow.
One big downside to Rocketball is the fact that there are two goals, which is very confusing and often leads to own goals (I scored a last minute own goal to give my opponent the match on one occasion). The goals are colour-coded, but it’s not clear at all which is yours. Rocketball would have been better with one goal, but then again: it’s ridiculously simple anyway and removing one goal might have made it too simple.
Rocketball is an entertaining distraction for an hour or so, but not much more than that. It would obviously have been better with motorbikes in it (like in the film), and it might have benefited from a few more player moves, or at least a bit more depth to the gameplay. As it stands, Rocketball is alright – nothing special.
Note: It’s funny to see the advertising boards in the game, including one for the now defunct fizzy pop brand “Quatro”. There’s an ad for IBM, Kodak and one for Coca Cola too, so I’m guessing they were paid-for slots.
Konami released Arumana no Kiseki in Japan in 1987. It is an action platformer with a cool rope mechanic that you use to climb to out-of-reach platforms.
Arumana no Kiseki is a surprisingly good game when you get used to the controls. The lead character, called Kaito, feels good to control, but his regular jump is a bit feeble. Which is why he has the rope, I suppose – to make up for this. Kaito can pick up and use various weapons to kill the many baddies, but only has a limited supply.
Gameplay is similar in some ways to Konami‘s own Roc ‘N Rope, and Capcom‘s Bionic Commando, but there is no fall damage in this, which is good because it frees you up to experiment with leaping around a bit more.
On the down side: the first boss battle is pathetic. If it was a dragon I fought, it looked like a petrified one… Thankfully the fight was over quickly and later bosses are not quite so stupid-looking.
Arumana no Kiseki gets the thumbs-up from me overall, though. Another hidden gem on the Famicom Disk System and one that needs no understanding of Japanese to play all the way through.
Known in its native Japan as Nazo no Murasame Jō, The Mysterious Murasame Castle is an action adventure released by Nintendo for the FDS in 1986.
It came not long after the first Zelda (also released on the Famicom Disk System) and uses many Zelda gameplay elements in its design, except with a ‘Feudal Japan’ style setting.
Unfortunately the game was never released on the NES outside of Japan. An English fan translation does exist, though, and that’s the one I’ve featured here. For some reason it is called “Riddle of Murasame Castle” on the title screen.
The Mysterious Murasame Castle is a challenging action/maze game with pleasant graphics and atmospheric music. At times the game can be unforgiving, but – like all Nintendo games – there is more to The Mysterious Murasame Castle than at first meets the eye.
Go To Hell is a horror-themed maze game, designed by John George Jones and published by Triple Six Software on the ZX Spectrum in 1985.
The aim of the game is to collect seven crosses that are hidden within the maze, in order to rescue a person “near and dear to you” that you’ve ‘cursed’.
Contact with walls, or moving sprites, or stationary objects, will rapidly drain energy, and when that energy reach zero the game is over. Your only defence against any of the many creatures that are after your blood is to throw crosses at them. A direct hit will not only destroy them, but it will also replenish your energy a little.
Go To Hell generated some controversy upon its initial release, because of the horror-themed graphics. Some reviewers called the game “vile”, “nasty” and “disgusting”, but – in reality – this criticism was nonsense (as this kind of criticism always is) because the stylised graphics were neither realistic nor particularly gruesome. Like the “video nasty” hysteria of the mid Eighties, the idiots pointing the finger of outrage at this game were utterly wrong in their convictions.
Designer Jones also created a follow-up (of sorts), in 1987, called Soft & Cuddly.
Atari‘s Food Fight is an interesting arcade game. It was initially developed by a ‘rival’ company, GCC, who were involved in a legal battle with Atari. The legal dispute was settled out of court, leading to an agreement that GCC would produce games for Atari, and Food Fight was one of the games made for that deal. It was released into arcades in March 1983.
Food Fight is a neat food-throwing game and in it you play a small, blonde kid called Charley Chuck (unfortunately not the mad-haired UK comedian). The idea is that you simply have to reach the on-screen ice cream cone, before it melts. Standing in your way are a bunch of chasing chefs who will kill you if they touch you. They can also pick up and throw food at you, just as you can do to them. There are holes in the ground too, which you must avoid falling into.
As you’d expect: early levels are straightforward. Later levels – anything after level ten – are much more difficult. You have to do some serious ‘jinking’ to get past the chasing chefs and onto the cone.
Food Fight also had a unique joystick that allowed the player to run and aim very quickly, which helps when playing on an actual arcade cabinet, but makes emulation somewhat tricky.
There are 125 levels in total and later levels are insane, as you’d expect. After a certain point, though, you can’t really do much apart from run and try to reach the cone. Food Fight is a simple, classic, cute game, but with limited longevity.
I would love to see someone take the Food Fight characters and concept further, with a more involving sequel! 🙂
Taito released Parasol Stars for the PC Engine in 1991.
It is the third game in the Bubble Bobble series and features Bubby and Bobby – the two human characters from Rainbow Islands – both armed with a multi-purpose parasol and the ability to chuck water around with them.
Each stage takes place on a single screen of platforms (sometimes slightly bigger than the play area, so the screen scrolls) and the aim is: to kill off all the monsters by throwing things at them. You can collect water drops on your parasol and throw those, or collect them into one large droplet and throw that – resulting in a water torrent cascading down the screen (as in Bubble Bobble). Later on you can also pick up special electricity or fire droplets to zap or burn your opponents. Oh, and you can stun your enemies by hitting them with your parasol, which then allows you to pick them up and throw them. Parasol Stars features a lot of throwing, but it is great fun chucking your opponents around.
There are eight themed worlds to play in Parasol Stars – each with seven stages and a boss fight – plus two secret hidden worlds that must be unlocked by collecting Star Items and opening a door in the final world.
Parasol Stars was a PC Engine exclusive – it never appeared in arcades – and is arguably one of the best games released for the system. Ocean Software released a series of conversions in 1992 although none are as good as this original PC Engine version.