12 December 2014


Publisher/Developer:  Sega/
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 128K
Rarity:  4
Game Type: Isometric Racing
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Wii Virtual Console (SMS)
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 Button Pad Capable.

Price I Paid: 5 Dollars
Price I Would Pay: 5 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: OK
My History:  Bought roughly as I started the project.  One of my first pickups.

  Enduro Racer is an arcade conversion, but a conversion in the NES school.  Since it couldn't remotely match the arcade game which was another of the Sega Scaler styled third person view games (even though they tried a large amount of times on the SMS, and a number of 8 and 16 bit microcomputers of the day got ports trying to play like the arcade game) Sega decided to make an isometic racer instead to maybe compete with Excitebike  on the NES.

Next three shots are from an actual SMS

Next two shots are from a Genesis with Power Base Convertor

  Except without course editors or multiplayer.  And everywhere outside of Japan apparently only got half the courses.  Yes.  Sega cut their game effectively in HALF outside of Japan.  

  You see in this game you race your dirt bike over ten courses trying to beat the timer which sometimes adds in a few rollover seconds to the next course.  In between races you get points you can spend on one race upgrades for your bike, including the mysterious ITEM which fixes some damage to your ride.  (The only real carry over between each race.)  These points are gained via passing the dumb as bricks AI vehicles who are the only thing that really changes on races 6-10 where you replay the first five tracks only with a shorter time limit.  They become more aggressive and ruin your racing line.  

  Oh yeah, and you cannot touch them.  You touch them you crash, costing you valuable seconds. You can also have this similar effect via hitting walls, large rocks, pits, or going for a glub glub sinkage in water hazards.

Next seven shots are from the Kega Fusion emulator.
  Catching big ass air while on the same track as a bunch of dune buggies.  That makes sense.

 I crashed into a thing.  Was it an AI rider or the stonework still on the track?  I dunno. 

 Mistakes have been made.  And now my rider has a sinking feeling.

 Since this isn't a 70's movie my bike merely slides down and doesn't tumble and explode at the bottom.

 The graphics honestly are quite nice for a 1987 game.  Provided you play it in an emulator or have a Genesis with Power Base Convertor and all that PVM nonsense with the SCARTS or whatever the hell else one uses.

 Doing a pretty good run here.

Now the dune buggies are gone.  In their place are a bunch of annoying ass dirt bikers who keep getting in the way of my near perfect racing line.  Jerks.

  In general your goal is to memorize each track to keep your speed as close to maximum as you can which is slowed down via things like going off the track, driving over rough terrain, smaller rocks (which also cause a few minor points of bike damage), and other such annoyances.  In a few of the tracks there is a nearly ideal line you barely have to deviate off of once you get your slightly difficult to see bike on said line.  Given the isometric 8 bit perspective it is not always perfectly clear if you are lined up perfectly.  And of course most of the tracks do things to keep you from just holding the gas button and just driving in a straight line.  (The manual says you can keep your speed decreasing from ramp landings by adjusting your bike on the ground contact but if it does anything I sure as Hell can't tell!)  Memorizing the tracks is also essential so you know when and where to use your upgrade points for the next race. The points can only be used once and the upgrade is only for that race so you gotta be smart.

  Control is pretty solid otherwise, with some big air you can catch and even control your movement during so which is kind of fun.

  The problem is?  There just isn't much to it all.  I haven't even completed it.  I have made it to the second run of the tracks but have no real desire or interest to master the game to the point of making it through them since if you time out it is GAME OVER, no continues.  

(And while I DO sometimes use save states in emulation to make it further in these games for the reviews I just don't have that great of a desire to do so this month for the reviews.  This is my slack month.)

  Master System Play:  It seems to pretty much look the same as the Genesis with Power Base as the screenshots above show.  The Genesis has slightly less bleed but in general it doesn't really effect things at all.  Control is solid with everything besides the Master System Pad.  Genesis 6 button pad and the SMS stick work lovely though.

So for this game I can honestly give it only an OK.  It isn't awful but there isn't a whole lot to it and there isn't much to keep you playing it.  Even if it had all ten tracks it would still rate the same, but it would be a more solid OK as opposed to the OK I am giving it.   Its just a minor and irrelevant diversion that really doesn't do anything WRONG, but doesn't really do anything RIGHT.  Its just middle of the road in pretty much everything.

 Next Review:  We continue Bike Month with HANG ON since it is even simpler than Enduro Racer sadly, though it at least tries to keep it like the Arcade original.  I might even have some comparisons with the arcade port I have on my copy of Shenmue and the Saturn Hang On GP which I purchased last week along with the Racing Wheel as I just don't have enough ridiculous game accessories clogging up my house.

25 November 2014


Publisher/Developer:  Sega/Irem (arcade original)
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 256K
Rarity:  2
Game Type: 2d Brawler
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Turbografx 16 (Version on Wii Virtual Console), PC (Arcade Emulated and a free fan remake), Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 Button Pad Capable.

Price I Paid: 8 Dollars
Price I Would Pay: 5 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: BAD
My History:  Bought about a year before the project began.

  Vigilante has so much in common with the previous game I reviewed this month (Black Belt) it isn't even funny.  Like the previous review it is a 2d walk left with no real terrain to traverse and you just punch and kick dudes to reach a boss with a life bar like yours to kill to go to the next one till you rescue your lady because in the Grim Darkness of Reagan and Thatcher's 1980s Women are Merely Objects.

  Also like Black Belt the game is short as hell and throws an unfun difficulty curve at you to turn a 15 minute or so run into hours of frustration instead of fun and interesting game content.

  Where Vigilante is different is first off in the setting.  It is modern day in that oh so infamously crime ridden New York City like land before they got all the Porn off 42nd Street.  (Reagan and the Iron Lady merely gave the suits more ways to be criminal jackasses instead of poor people.)

  Also the graphics are GREAT.  I mean they are some of the prettiest 8 bit graphics I have seen in a game.  Every level looks pretty good with some being fantastic.

  Where this game is really hurt however is the CONTROL.  Oh god is the control in this game terrible.  While most of the controllers I used played decently enough (outside of the Master System Control Stick anyhow) the two button control when three are clearly needed make doing jumps difficult, and doing jump kicks or punches practically IMPOSSIBLE.

  Thankfully there is only a single boss that requires some jumping attacks though playing the game without exploiting the design probably would have been nice.

  As you walk through each of the stages you can find a weapon to pick up and you WILL NEED IT as the worst part of the game might not even be the control but the hit detection, something the weapon doesn't have to worry about.

  You see much like the NES classic Kung FU one of the most common enemies are these annoying guys who try to hug you to death like an evil version of Olaf from Frozen.

  And apparently they have Olaf's abilities to ignore physics.  You see your punches and kicks only connect with a single enemy at once.  And the Huggy Guys require nearly PERFECT placement of said kicks or punches for the attacks to register, leading you to have multiple guys glomping you like you are a hot cosplayer girl in a Chun Li outfit at a Nerd Con.

  Oh and did I mention many enemies have multiple wounds or ranged attacks?  And that they tend to get knocked back by your hits?  And that they generally won't attack you close in until you are getting hugged where they then take cheap shots?

  Yeah.  This game goes there.

  Thankfully you have unlimited stage continues and if you have extra lives you have a pre boss checkpoint.  Though in many cases you want to walk back and go grab the nearest weapon pickup and hope you don't take enough hits to lose the weapon before you can curbstomp the boss with it.  Without the weapon many of the bosses become very difficult indeed.

   If you MUST play Vigilante get DotEmu's Irem Arcade Hits collection and play the arcade original.  It sounds a lot better, the control is a LOT tighter and your hits connect to Huggy Guys much better.  However the bosses are harder and you take a lot more damage per hit than the SMS port here.  But you continue on from exactly where you lost a life which helps a lot.  Plus you can COIN IN TO VICTORY if you really want to.  I'd say go play Kung Fu on the NES, or Bad Dudes on your favorite Arcade Emulation solution or the Wii Data East collection instead.  Those are good fun for 2d Beat em Ups.

 (Next three shots are from a Genesis with Power Base Convertor.  I think.)
 I'M PUNCHING THE DARKNESS!  Might as well really.

 The first boss.

 Before I learned to stop worrying and avoid exploding motorcycles.  As you do.

I paid like 5 bucks and got a TON of DotEmu games including a ton of fairly decently emulated Irem arcade games.  The program that runs them isn't PERFECT by any means but.. it'll do.  (Buy it for Gunforce and In the Hunt.)

The arcade game has less colorful but nicer graphics.  And meaty sound.  In general it is better than the home port in every way.  Except you die in like 3 hits.  Look above.  That's a SINGLE GRUNT HIT ON YOU.  Seriously.  On the upside no checkpoints and you pop up on the spot.

Arcade cutscene.  I guess they really don't like the Material Girl's religious weirdness...

(Next three shots are from the Master System.)
 Junkyard in a jumper.

 Hmm.. this isn't supposed to take place in New York City or anything right? (This is the title screen if it wasn't completely obvious.)

This is.. unfortunate.  Also the motor bikers are annoying.

The rest are Kega Fusion shots.
 Well its MARIA now and the bad guys have gone equal opportunity.

 How to deal with annoying huggy SOBs and bad hit detection?  Just jump above them and they keep on truckin!

 Well they kept the cutscene bits pretty much.  So bonus?

 What you will understand about this game: DUDES GANGING UP ON YOU.

 How to beat all the bosses.  Crouch and use nunchaku.  This sometimes involves walking left instead of right before you fight the boss.  Don't try fighting the bosses without your wobbly black tube.  Gamecube not included.

 Good old 80s videogames.  Where women were just things to save.

 Don't have the Michaelangelo Special?  Long reach bosses own you.

Ding Gratz now you don't have to play the game.

  Master System Play:  It seems to pretty much look the same as the Genesis with Power Base as the screenshots above show.  The game is so good looking and colorful the normal SMS Bleed doesn't seem to crop up as bad as it does in other titles.

  So like Black Belt this game can only be rated as BAD.  The dodgy control and annoying hit detection make for a game that feels bad and merely ends up as frustrating and not fun.

 Next Review:  Next month is a busy one because of Holiday Hell.  Extra hours at work plus the holidays reminding me how lonely and miserable I usually am while any poor schlub who works retail gets to have their time taken away from their families even more than I did when I still had a lot of family alive.  So I am gonna review some games I have already played enough of so I can get em out quickly.

 So December will be WHY THE HELL DID YOU GET JUNIOR A MOTORBIKE FOR CHRISTMAS ITS GONNA KILL HIM Month.  Hang On and Enduro Racer will be taken out for a spin before Once Upon a Time's Ice Queen Cougar turns New England into a snowy wasteland of Masshole drivers driving so slowly as to make me go backwards on snowy hills to work.

  Instead we can just let out the throttle on 8 bit bikes!  Look forward to it or something.

12 November 2014


Publisher/Developer:  Sega
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 128K
Rarity:  2
Game Type: 2d Brawler/Fighting game
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Original Japan Mk3 version as Fist of the North Star.  Wikpedia mentions it being on Nintendo Virtual Console but it is not listed for the Wii or 3DS.
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 Button Pad Capable.

Price I Paid: 6 Dollars
Price I Would Pay: 5 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case
Game Rating: BAD
My History:  Bought a couple months before the project began.

(First 5 screenshots are from the Genesis)
Title Screen

Stage 1 Grunt enemies with some life restoring sushi in the air.  Confusing no?

One of the first stage mini bosses.   All but one of these guys are generally pretty easy, with a two pack on the last scrolling stage a bit of a chore.

Stage 1 Boss.  He hates being punched in the face.

 Stage 2 Boss.  He throws wussy boomerangs at you. Here Riki is doing a Fist of the North Star multi hit finishing move on him because the game is a reskin of a license game.

(Next three images are from a Master System)

 SMS flicker in effect!

Game contents

Kega Fusion shots are the remaining images
 Bosses hit harder than you.

 Time to fight off these WWF rejects.

 The third level boss is what will let you know if you like this game or want to destroy everything you can get your hands on.

 In the future Grace Jones got cloned.  And steroids. 

 The last normal level boss.  She cheats.  All the bosses cheat.  This game doesn't like you.

Yay we saved the princess.  This is basically all the missions in mid 80s games.

  In Black Belt you play reskinned Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star Riki out to walk left and right through 5 levels of punching and kicking.

  The basic gameplay involves a button to kick, one to punch, and depending on how you press the control pad two levels of jumping. (This sort of thing will hurt a lot of games in the 80s.)  Most of the time you walk right kicking and punching one hit grunts who show up in as many numbers as they can without causing too much flicker.

  Sadly these main gameplay stages are simple looking, but a nice parallax scrolling trick helps it not be too ugly looking.  But outside of beating up baddies the only obstacle is managing a down pad/up pad combo press to jump up to grab life restoring sushi or the other floating object ( a Japanese glyph) which gives you a number of invulnerable hits.  Of course these objects are floating quickly by .  Score gives you a number of extra lives which you WILL need because there are no continues and the other gameplay section all but require as many as you can get.

  While during the scrolling part of each level have a few mini bosses that are mostly easily killed, the six end bosses (one for each level and then the final boss) are really the opposite.

  Like I am talking cheesy and unfair.   Like Mortal Kombat or King of Fighters endboss levels of complete BS buggery.  Even using some save states to give the bosses some practice wasn't helping after a point.  

  The first boss is easily figured out once you realize punching him in the face is all you need to do.  The second is a pushover.  But then the Sumo dude on the third level shows you what the game has in store for you.  You are dead in three or four hits while you have to either exploit broken game AI, or figure out just exactly what you have to do.  Bosses 3-6 really are unfair!  In fact the fifth requires you to figure out that you have to use a set of attacks in order, then repeat it.  

  This is bad game design.  No real clues, merely exploiting the AI because it doesn't even have patterns to memorize.  It just makes a 15 minute game of walking to the right and hitting things that explode into triangle parts almost unbearable as you are forced to replay things over and over and over until you figure out how to defeat each boss, have someone tell you how, or throw the cartridge out the window out of sheer frustration and repetition.

  It is just.. half a game.  I have heard that most Master System games were programmed and released in three or four months.  By 1986 this really just wasn't going to cut it on consoles.  While cheaply priced UK microcomputer games could get away with this over there this just doesn't work on games you have to pay five times or more the cost for.  

  No platforms to jump or environments to explore.  Just brutally unfair bosses after some time walking across a flat plane punching or kicking some dudes.

   What's sad is the graphics aren't bad and neither is the control outside of the jumping being a bit of a pain to do.  The sound is ok, and the game feels solid to play.  But.. the bosses and the sheer lack of anything to do or see kill this game.

Master System Play:  It plays fine on the Master System.  While the images are of course a bit color bleed happy as the MS normally is, everything is clearly visible.  The Master System Pad plays well as does the 6 Button Genesis.  The Epyx 500xj plays this well too.  The Master System Control Stick is terrible, being almost incapable of making forward jumps, which you NEED to be able to do to fight some of the bosses.   The Genesis Power Stick plays it fantastic.  

  So... I am sad to say but the game is BAD.  It just doesn't have anything to offer outside of frustration.  It isn't completely awful but it just isn't worth anyone's time now if it was even worth it then.

Next Review:  Another game much like this one.  VIGILANTE.  Will it be better?  Let's find out in two weeks eh?

30 October 2014


Publisher/Developer:  Sega/Activision
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 128K
Rarity:  2
Game Type: Action Business Minigame.
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play: Commodore 64, NES, PC Fan Remake, Atari 800 series, Apple II, Amstrad CPC, MSX, PC Booter, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 Button Pad Capable.

Price I Paid: Don't remember, got it like 6-10 years ago on Ebay.
Price I Would Pay: 12 Bucks US
Condition: Game, Manual, Case
Game Rating: GOOD
My History:  Played C64 edition in the mid 80s, got this port within the last 10 years sometime.

(First 5 shots are on an actual SMS.)
 (Title Screen, including the Ghostbusters theme song with bouncing ball lyrics.)

 (Selecting your fly hooptie.)

(Multiple ugly little spuds.)

 (Stay Puft is here too.  Go in from the right side unlike in between his legs in the C64 version.)

(Code if you want to play with more money next game.)

(Next six shots are Genesis with Power Base Convertor.)
 (If you want to be Ghostbusters Stig you obviously aren't doing it on the first playthrough!)

 (David Crane built this city on Z80 and 6502 code.)

 (No matter what car you get you always see the iconic Hearse.)

 (Now the roads have things to kill you and take time and money.  Least now you can see how far you have to go.  This city is HUGE.)

 (Until Stay Puft smooshes part of it.  Luckily two button control fixes that a bit eh?)

 (Climbing the tower as three of the four ghost types take my Ghostbuster down.)


  In Ghostbusters you take control of a new franchise to protect a city from ghosts and make fat stacks of cash in the process.  Starting with 10,000 dollars you buy a vehicle to drive through the city to catch ghosts roaming on the roads and in buildings, eventually avoiding the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and then climbing a ghost infested skyscraper to shoot Gozer to win the game, where you can then repeat the process over and over again.  

 Provided you have enough money to pay back the bank of course.

  A conversion of the original microcomputer version, this is a major improvement in almost every way over the C64 original, outside of no digitzed speech and the lack of glorious SID chip music.  Where in the original the driving scene was basically a pointless waste of time outside of sucking up ghosts to slow the timer's countdown to the end game (more time: more money to make), this remake includes a distance meter to show you how far you have to go, cars and other obstacles to avoid, and the ghosts you catch now provide the player with additional money alongside actual buildings on the side of the road.

(Remaining screenshots are from an emulator.)
(Sadly your gear isn't shown on your car at all in this version.  Of course now your ride doesn't take up 70% of the screen either...)

  Unlike the original roaming about the city map has more of a purpose than merely trying to run over ghosts to stop them so you can capture them on the car minigame and trying to stop the dreaded MARSHMALLOW ALERT for money.

(With a two button controller you can actually catch almost every Marshmallow Attack in time.)

  Now the Keymaster and Gatekeeper walking over you causes you to lose money as you drive on your route to red blinking ghost sites, HQ (to replenish traps, downed 'Busters, and recharge your Proton Packs.), and the Shop which allows you to buy all sorts of equipment during the mission, most of which are either from the computer original or are super upgrades of the classic gear.

(And like most Ghostbusters games, Winston stays home apparently.)

But the main "meat" of the game is the same as the original: getting to a red blinking block and catching the ghosts there.  

 (Setting up the trap.)

  Where in the original the two 'Busters would try to trap a single ghost with angled beams trapping the normally hard to see critter without running out of beam charge or crossing the streams, this version has the beams going straight up, about halfway up the building provided you have the team members flush to the wall.

 (And there are now multiple ghosts to deal with.)

  You then as always activate your packs and use the beams to herd the handful of ghost sprites (more than one this time, though it seems to just be green or yellow varieties as opposed to just Slimer types in the original) above the trap where you open it, and a catch bubble shoots up and down, hopefully catching them all.  Unless you have some of the special equipment even if one ghost isn't caught it will slime one of your three 'Busters, meaning losing another one requires a trip back to HQ, wasting valuable busting time.

   Unlike the slow moving digital counter in the original, this version uses three colored bars at the top of the screen going blue, yellow, and red where at each level more and more is happening faster and faster, doing a great job of simulating the original movie as the supernatural activity got more and more intense throughout the running time.

  Should you keep things under control and use the equipment you buy to keep your ghost hunting shenanigans in top shape as long as you have more money than you started with you go to the three final mini games, two of which are new to this version.


  Once you get two 'Busters past a giant bouncing Marshmallow Man, you then have to take your three men up the building, shooting ghosts who will reappear after a number of seconds, helpfully blinking in to let you know they are arriving.  You can shoot your Proton Pack at a 45 degree angle or straight ahead depending on which button you press.  With four types of ghosts who naturally can float through the floors you will be kept on your toes trying to get to the top.  Some float lazily towards you, some bounce in an arc, others throw plates you can avoid or shoot.  

  Provided at least one guy gets up the building, the final minigame activates:

 (Somebody didn't check their spelling...)

  You then shoot your beams at Gozer, avoiding his/her shots and random fireballs from the Devil Dogs.  Do enough damage with a single 'Buster (Gozer's life bar regenerates if a 'Buster gets taken out.) and you have not only won the game, but you get an extra bonus.

(And a slightly different set of scrolling text.)

  Graphically the game is excellent for the time with very little flicker.  Everything is nice looking and has a ton of extra colors compared to the mostly single colored sprites of the original or NES version.  The music and sound aren't too bad, with the movie's theme playing throughout most but not the entirety of the game which keeps it from getting quite as much on one's nerves as the original.

  It is just a FUN little game that is well worth your time now and then.  Sadly, the game's content is rather limited so once all the mini games have been mastered and a player has tried out all the various gear he or she can buy there is very little reason to keep playing.

  It is about 3-5 hours of actual game content all things considered, and even less if you play in an emulator and savescum to master the final three mini games instead of going through the rest of the game as intended.  (And this means trying to make more and more money becomes moot, which is a fun part of it all.)

Master System Play:  Overall the SMS video output isn't too rough on this game overall.  It controls fairly well with the Control Pad but pretty poorly with the Control Stick.  The Epyx 500XJ was damn solid for it.

  So its really GOOD.  It isn't remotely as bad as most reviews make it out to be, though I say a major reason for this is the NES version being so infamously terrible. (Sad fact of electronic gaming is most people think Nintendo is the Alpha and Omega of games and nothing else existed or mattered until maybe the Genesis but not really until the Playstation.) The SMS port is fantastic and outside of the fan made modern era remake probably the greatest version of the game.  I loved the C64 edition as a kid and outside of the music the SMS port is basically the same game only after a six pack of Red Bull.  Sure it is a pile of mostly disparate mini games that are bog simple to play but combined they really work and feel like you are running a Ghostbusters franchise.  You won't be playing it for hours a day or anything but it is like a cup of tea or cider for me.  Just a comforting blanket of pleasurable nostalgia you will come back to for an hour or so every now and then.  When mass hysteria strikes I think we know who to call.  (Hint: It involves playing this game.)

Next Review:  Continuing with the games I have never played before voting options I gave Something Awful and the #retrochat channel on SYNIRC, we will be covering BLACK BELT.

So join me in November for FIGHTIN MAN MONTH!! (Also starring VIGILANTE.)