Game Reviews


Turbo Review Tuesday! Journey to save the princess in Dragon Spirit!

Image result for dragon spirit turbografx 16

It’s a plot device as old as storytelling itself; The princess has been kidnapped by a dragon, you must venture to save her, vanquishing ghouls, monsters, and dragons along the way. In 1987 Namco decided to take that story and tweak it just a bit, the ending result, a vertical fantasy shooter known as Dragon Spirit! While this game was ported from arcade cabinet, to multiple home consoles, this review is going to focus heavily the TurboGrafx port of this incredible game.

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In Dragon Spirit you play a warrior named Amul as he journeys to save princess Alicia after she has been kidnapped by Zawell, a serpent demon that has escaped after a thousand years. He points his sword to the sky and vows to save the princess, in doing so his sword is struck by lightening and he is transformed into a blue dragon. After defeating eight of Zawell’s strongest beasts you are given the opportunity to fight Zawell himself and rescue Alicia for the kingdom.

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Dragon Spirit approaches the vertical shooter genre in a way that not many had thought of at the time, and many still forget to take advantage of. With the “shoot-em-up” genre being over saturated with lone pilots battling in the dark void of space against an alien horde, you are piloting your dragon through rich forests, caverns, and dungeons. You are able to move Amul in 8 different directions, breath fire at oncoming enemies, drop bombs as predators below, upgrade your firepower with over 13 different power ups, and have your dragon grow multiple heads! All of these features combine to make for a breath of fresh air to the genre.

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While this game was ported to other home consoles around the same era, the TurboGrafx port is arguably the best. The 16-bit GPU of the TurboGrafx made it possible for the game to remain relatively unchanged from the arcade version. While the arcade version as one more level and boss to fight before getting to the end, the home console version held its integrity with the stunning graphics, speedy gameplay, and a unique aesthetic that made it stand out among the competition. All in all this game is enjoyable for first time players or gamers wanting to try something new!

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Score:

9/10

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Turbo Review Tuesday! Take a journey down Tiger Road!

Welcome to Turbo Tuesday! We’ll be reviewing different TurboGrafx games, the first being Tiger Road.

tiger-road-title-pictureOriginally released for the arcade in 1987 by Capcom and later ported to the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16, this action platformer focuses on the story of Oh-Lin after being attacked by the “warriors of the Dragon God.” With his own warriors defeated, pupils kidnaped, and secret scrolls stolen, Oh-Lin journeys to piece his life back together. At the time the game was hailed for its improvements over the arcade version and fast paced gameplay for the time. The original game was so well received that it was ported to the Playstation 2 as part of the Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2 in 2006, along side other Capcom household names like Street Fighter II, Strider, and more.

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Tiger Road consists of five stages that the player must not only navigate but fight their way through. With enemies ranging from enemy ninjas, monsters, and more, the character sprites are lively and rather refreshing for the era. Each level differs from the environment, enemies, and even gameplay, with some sections of levels turning into a 2d scrolling shooter of sorts. As you traverse through the stages and defeat the onslaught of enemies you begin to acquire power ups, new equipment, and clues leading you closer to the Dragon God. After defeating the Boss in each stage the player retrieves one of his lost belongings and continues his journey, much like Mega Man or other notorious action platformers of the 16-bit decade.

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One feature that sets Tiger Road apart from its TurboGrafx competition is the ability to save your progress throughout the game. With the hardware restrictions of the TurboGrafx-16 most games were unable to save natively, rather you need the assistance of a TurboBooster, or TurboGrafx-CD attachment. Tiger Road has a back up save state feature built into the game placing it among the minority of games that natively support save states. Other features that separate Tiger Road from its original arcade release are the updated graphics, faster gameplay, and all in all smoother gameplay.

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All in all Tiger Road is a memorable and affordable title for anyone looking to expand their TurboGrafx experience. The gameplay is responsive and reminiscent of all the other great action platformers of its generation. The graphics of the TurboGrafx-16 make it stand out against its arcade predecessor, and the save state feature is a life saver when it comes to taking a break. If you are looking for a challenging yet enjoyable title, I would recommend this game to gamers new and old alike!

Rating: 8/10

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Super Nintendo Saturday – Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Today is Super Nintendo Saturday and each week we will be featuring a different SNES game. Feel free to email us with any requests and we will put them in our queue.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors, 1993

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) is a “run and gun” game released for SNES (and Genesis). The game centers around Zeke and Julia, who must explore 99 levels and rescue their neighbors from zombies and other horror-esque characters. Every level has a different setting, the neighborhood, the mall, etc. You are armed with a few not-quite-weapon weapons: soda cans, squirt guns, weed-whackers, silverware, and other random items.

Throughout the levels, your neighbors have spawned in sometimes hard-to-reach places. You must use keys you find to unlock doors, jump on trampolines over hedges, rely on chainsaw-wielding maniacs, or use the weed-whackers to get through blocked off areas before the zombies/monsters do. Unfortunately, it only takes one touch from a zombie/monster to kill one of your neighbors, so plan your rescues accordingly.

This definitely isn’t a shoot-em-up, gory zombie game. It’s really just a lot of fun and has quite the cult following. A sequel was released for SNES called Ghoul Patrol. If you can’t find this game in the wild, you can download the digital release in the Wii Virtual Console.

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Introducing Turbo Review Tuesday!

Welcome to Turbo Tuesday! We’ll be reviewing different TurboGrafx games, but first we decided to give you a breakdown of the little-known console.

Back in 1987 an up and coming software company known as Hudson Soft partnered with NEC Home Electronics to create a video game console known as the PC-Engine. Almost 2 years later the United States saw a redesigned, renamed, and all in all revamped release of the same hardware named TurboGrafx-16. In a little over a decade NEC went on to create other consoles, hardware attachment upgrades, as well as pioneered many aspects of the video game industry we all know and love today. The Turbografx-16 saw a lively but brief lifespan in the early console wars, and much like Sega, Atari, and other video game companies of yesteryear, NEC eventually discontinued all hardware and software production for the brand. In this new review series will be taking a look back on the software and hardware that led to this incredible machine’s massive cult following. As our Introduction to the series we will be breaking down the different hardware variations, and compatibility between different game formats on them. If you are developing interest in the NEC family of video game consoles, need a refresher course after finding your childhood console, or just generally curious about this key piece of video game history, we hope this article offers something for everyone!

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Core Consoles and Upgrades:

-TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine
Initially released on October 30th 1987, and August 29th 1989 in the United States, the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 are the most well known of all hardware and have the largest library of games in the family of consoles. Both variations of hardware had a 16-bit GPU and an 8-bit CPU making it the first console of the 16-bit generation. The improved 16-bit graphic capabilities of these systems, paired with a CPU that rivaled Nintendo’s, put NEC ahead of the competition in the visual department. Both hardware variations only support RF connection but were later able to connect via AV cables using system attachments. While the PC Engine thrived in its respective market, even outselling the Super Famicom briefly, its stateside counterpart failed to catch on and ultimately contributed to the companies discontinuation of the product line.
Game Compatablilty:
-Region locked; HU Card

-TurboGrafx CD/PC Engine CD-ROM2/PC Engine Super CD-ROM2
In 1990 following the initial release of their base consoles NEC were the first to utilize CD-ROM hardware and CD-ROM discs as a medium for game storage. The attachment launched with a price tag of $399 and did not include any pack in games, making it a hard sale for western audiences. Both CD-ROM attachments require a core console as well as a CD System HU card in order to work properly. Later CD-ROM based games required more RAM than was available within the system and as such NEC released a series of Arcade and CD system cards that provide the necessary upgrade for the games to run. Games that require a Super System or Arcade Card were released as CD-ROM2, Super CD-ROM2, and Arcade CD-ROM2 format and will not play using a standard CD System HU card.
Game Compatibility:
-Region locked; HU Card, Super CD-ROM, TurboGrafx CD.

-TurboExpress/PC Engine GT/PC Engine LT
Continuing on the topic of video game “firsts” brings us to the TurboExpress and PC Engine GT/LT. These systems are portable, self contained adaptations of TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine consoles containing identical hardware as their at home counterparts. Boasting to be the most advanced handheld of its time, these consoles were compatible with all HU Card games released for their respective region, something that even Sega couldn’t say until 2 years later with their Nomad portable. The most obscure of these portables is the PC Engine LT, which featured a briefcase design, and the ability to connect to the PC Engine CD attachment, as well as the ability to hook other media devices to the on board screen.
Game Compatibility:
-Region locked; HU Card, CD-ROM (with attachment)

-SuperGrafx
Only released in Japan, this variation on the PC Engine featured four times the ammount of RAM within the CPU, and a second video chip providing its own RAM. Only seven games were released to take advantage of the hardware revisions making it less known than many of its console family members. The console however will play all previously released HU Card format games for the PC Engine.
-TurboDuo/PC Engine Duo/Duo R/Duo RX

-PC-FX

-Super System 3.0 Card/Arcade Card Pro

Game formats:
-TurboGrafx
–HU Card/TurboGrafx CD/Super CD-ROM
-PC Engine
–HU Card/SuperGrafx HU Card/CD-ROM2/Super CD-ROM2/Arcade CD-ROM2
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Sega Genesis Sunday – Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

Today is Sega Genesis Sunday and each week we will be featuring a different Sega Genesis game. Feel free to email us with any requests and we will put them in our queue.

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, 1993

Sega Genesis Jurassic Park

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (MBM) is a puzzle game for Sega Genesis that was developed by Compile with three gamplay modes: scenario, two-player versus, and exercise mode. The game features Dr. Robotnik, whom younger fans of Sonic the Hedgehog may know as Eggman. The TLDR of the Robotnik/Eggman name change is that in Japan he has always been Eggman and the Sonic Team decided to unify and only refer to him as Eggman worldwide. Surprisingly enough, even though Dr. Robotnik is a part of the Sonic storyline, Sonic is not featured in this game at all.

While MBM is a puzzle game, it does have a storyline.  Dr. Robotnik wants to ensure there is no fun or music on Mobius and built a machine that turns the beans into robots. The screen shows two Tetris-like boards where beans fall from the top of the board. There is also a display of the next beans coming up. The object is not to clear your board (left), but to fill your opponent’s board (right) by clearing your beans. In order to clear beans, you must rotate and stack to make groups of at least four like-colored beans. This is the basic gameplay that spans across 13 levels. Two-player versus mode pits you against a friend, in the same gameplay as versus mode but without the robotic story. Exercise mode is just practice. This puzzle game is not especially hard, but it is fun.

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Super Nintendo Saturday – LoZ: A Link to the Past

Today is Super Nintendo Saturday and each week we will be featuring a different SNES game. Feel free to email us with any requests and we will put them in our queue.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, 1992

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (LoZ/ALTTP) is the third installment of the Legend of Zelda saga and the only in this series available on the Super Nintendo. You play as Link (or whatever you decide to name him) on his journey to save Princess Zelda, who called to him telepathically. The story thickens, however. Once you save Princess Zelda, you must seek out the Master Sword by retrieving the Pendants of Virtue. Once wielding the Master Sword,  Link must attempt to defeat the evil wizard Agahnim, who has kidnapped the princess once again. After the attempt to defeat him, Agahnim pulls Link into a the new Dark World. This is the first LoZ game to feature a light/dark world, which is then a staple in subsequent releases. Link must rescue Princess Zelda and six other maidens from various dungeons and defeat various bosses before facing Agahnim once again, and finally defeating him and Ganondorf, the leader of thieves who stole the Tri-Force and transformed the land.

One of the most fun aspects of this game is the ability to explore the land of Hyrule. There are many hidden items, heart pieces, and characters to find. While some of these do lend to the progression of the story, exploring a little will not hinder gameplay. It is very easy to get lost just having fun. Asides from this, the game is neither easy nor difficult. The dungeons which you must quest through are often times like a puzzle you must solve. That said, the puzzles are not impossible to solve and defeating each dungeon boss is relatively easy using the special items Link attains throughout his journey.

ALTTP also pushed the Super Nintendo to all the limits. The 16-bit graphics allows more depth to be given to the overall world, as well as giving it a more realistic look. This game in the series also has a masterful soundtrack – much of which is carried throughout the other games in the saga.

ALTTP has incredible replay value that absolutely stands the test of time. While beating it once in adolescence, adulthood has warranted I play again for the sake of nostalgia. There was simply nothing better than the little girl in me staring at the TV after defeating Ganondorf and obtaining the Tri-Force. Perhaps adult me just wanted to make a wish. This game is definitely a must play game for everyone.

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Sega Genesis Sunday – Jurassic Park

Today is Sega Genesis Sunday and each week we will be featuring a different Sega Genesis game. Feel free to email us with any requests and we will put them in our queue.

Jurassic Park, 1993

Sega Genesis Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is a game based off the hit movie for Sega Genesis that was developed by BlueSky Software. The game features two modes of gameplay – playing as Dr. Alan Grant or as a Velociraptor.

While playing as Dr. Grant, you must navigate through Isla Nublar to the Visitor’s Center to escape the island via helicopter. Grant receives a variety of weapons to combat the dinosaurs that are free from their enclosures. These weapons require ammo, which can be found scattered throughout the levels.  This mode of gamplay has seven levels.

Alternatively, players can play as a velociraptor on the hunt to eliminate the humans from Jurassic Park. This mode spans only five levels. Along the way, other dinosaurs and humans can harm the Raptor, but a hearty diet of meat will replenish its life. The Raptor can only attack by biting or using claws in close proximity, but he can run faster and jump higher than Grant.

This game is definitely a must-play. The graphics are fun for it’s time and the game modes are unique. While it doesn’t necessarily take anything from the movie other than humans vs. dinosaurs, it is a great inspired title. There is a password save option, but each game mode is short enough to play in just a couple of hours.

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Super Nintendo Saturday – Demon’s Crest

Today is Super Nintendo Saturday and each week we will be featuring a different SNES game. Feel free to email us with any requests and we will put them in our queue.

Demon’s Crest, 1994

Super Nintendo Demon's Crest

Demon’s Crest is a side-scrolling platform game for Super Nintendo that was developed by Capcom. The game features Firebrand, the devilish enemy from the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, as he travels through the Demon Land.

The plot of the game is relatively simple. There are six crests – magical stones – each with an elemental power (Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Time, and Heaven). When the crests are combined, the Crest of Infinity appears and the holder gains infinite power and the ability to conquer all the lands. In an attempt to acquire the Crest of Infinity, Firebrand gets badly injured and is ambushed by Phalanx, another demon who takes all but one of the crests.

Though a side-scrolling platformer, Demon’s Crest actually relies on hovering and climbing as its main source of movement. As Firebrand progresses through the Demon Land and regains the crests, he is able to morph into different gargoyles, each with different abilities. If determined, the game is short enough to beat in one sitting.

It should also be noted that Demon’s Crest had horrible sales and even went negative at points. Parents likely didn’t like their children playing as a demon and returned the game to retailers even though it was rated E, only warning of animated violence. The game retailed for $14.99 when it was originally released, but is now considered a hidden gem for the Super Nintendo.

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