Category Archives: Essentials

A collection of articles highlighting noteworthy or interesting games from the libraries of lesser-appreciated, rarer or retro systems, and in specific genres.

Petal Crash: Like the Game Boy Colour Never Left

One of the things I miss the most about eras of gaming gone by is the way that different platforms had their own distinct capabilities — and, by extension, their own distinctive look and feel for their software.

On the flip side, one of the things I enjoy the most about gaming today is the fact that a lot of developers are very keen to pay tribute and homage to these platforms of the past while incorporating modern design philosophies. In many ways, this idea of “enhanced retro” gives us the best of both worlds — the comfort of a classic platform’s familiar aesthetic, coupled with all the things developers and players alike have learned over the course of gaming’s history.

A great example of this at work is Petal Crash, a new puzzle game from Friend & Fairy, published by Freedom Planet developer Galaxy Trail. Let’s take a closer look!

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Blazing Lazers: Pew Pew PC Engine

If you love a good shoot ’em up, you should find yourself some means of playing games for the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 (just “PC Engine” hereafter for simplicity’s sake). Konami’s PC Engine Mini is a great choice, as you’ll know if you’ve enjoyed our podcast episode on the subject.

Core to the PC Engine’s library of smashing shooters is Compile’s lineup of excellent blastathons, including three installments in the Star Soldier series, as well as spin-off title Blazing Lazers. It’s the latter we’ll be taking a look at today.

First released in 1989, Blazing Lazers remains one of the most popular, well-regarded games on the platform even today. So strap yourself in, grab that joypad and rev up your itchy trigger finger — we’re going in.

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Double Dragon II: The Revenge – Who Needs Arcade Perfection?

Much like its predecessor, the NES version of Technōs Japan’s classic beat ’em up Double Dragon II: The Revenge is a distinct affair from its arcade-based counterpart.

This was an era of gaming where arcade-perfect ports on home platforms weren’t really possible — so in a fair few cases, developers simply opted to make brand new games that were true to the spirit of the arcade original rather than simply attempting to ape the quarter-munching experience.

In many cases, this resulted in more substantial games that provided an experience with much more longevity for home play — and while it has a few design features that might make modern gamers wince, Double Dragon II: The Revenge for NES is one such example. And conveniently, you can enjoy it in several ways right now: as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES app; as part of the Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch; and as part of the Technos Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform.

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Burnout 2: Point of Impact – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Any More

A few days before writing this, I must confess that I hadn’t played Burnout 2: Point of Impact for quite some time. I had fond memories of the series as a whole, but hadn’t revisited any of them — including last installment Paradise — for many years.

Recording an episode of The MoeGamer Podcast on arcade racers (which you can watch and/or listen to right here) inspired me to dig out some old favourites, though — and Burnout 2 was high up my priority list.

After several hours of utter racing joy flew by without me noticing, it made me realise — or perhaps recall — that Burnout 2: Point of Impact is one of the finest arcade racers ever created. And even with the recent resurgence of interest in the genre thanks to spunky indies, they really do not make ’em like this any more. Let’s take a closer look.

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Star Ixiom: Still Shining

Let’s take a moment to catch up. Star Luster is a space combat game by Namco, originally released for Famicom in 1985. Despite it being an obvious homage to an incredibly popular Western game — Atari’s Star Raiders — it never came West.

35 years later, Star Luster finally got a worldwide release as part of the Namco Museum Collection 1 cartridge for Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming system. This was my first contact with a game that I ended up absolutely loving — and after looking into it further, I was surprised to discover it got a sequel for PlayStation in 1999. A sequel which got a fairly middling reception because the press of the time compared it unfavourably to its rough contemporary Colony Wars — and, of course, because relatively few people in the West had any clue that Star Luster existed.

35 years after the release of Star Luster and 21 years after the release of its sequel, I find myself in possession of a copy of that sequel: Star Ixiom, a game I’ve been looking forward to playing since I was first blown away by Star Luster’s sheer playability. So let’s take a look at what this space-based blastathon has to offer — and how well it holds up today.

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Exploding Fist: The Way Fightin’ Used To Be

Like most game genres, fighting games went through a period of experimentation and flux in their early days as developers and publishers attempted to figure out the “best” way to do things.

In the days of 8-bit home computers and consoles, we saw a variety of different games attempting to simulate martial arts with varying degrees of realism — and certain elements of these early titles can be traced all the way forwards to today’s most competitive fighters.

One early, influential title was Beam Software’s The Way of the Exploding Fist. This is best known in its home computer incarnations for Commodore 64 and 16, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC and Acorn Electron, but there was also supposed to be an NES version. For one reason or another, this console version never saw the light of day, but more recently Piko Interactive managed to rescue this prototype, clean it up a bit and release it to the public. And now you can enjoy it on the Evercade retro gaming platform as part of the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge. Let’s take a look!

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Log Jammers: Less Wind, More Log

One of the most common arguments in favour of pocket-sized handheld gaming devices is that they’re eminently suitable for bite-sized nuggets of gameplay that will keep you distracted for a few minutes at a time.

The Evercade retro gaming platform is no stranger to this concept, with plenty of the games across its complete library ideal for a quick rag on while you wait for your Pot Noodle to finish festering, your significant other to get out of the bog and/or Amelia Watson to start streaming. And many of these “quick hit” games can be found on the eighth cartridge in the library: Mega Cat Studios Collection 1a compilation of “modern retro” titles where today’s developers make new games for yesterday’s systems.

A fine example is Mega Cat’s self-developed Log Jammers, an exceedingly unsubtle homage to Data East’s Neo Geo title Windjammers, originally released for NES in 2017 and now available for fun on the go thanks to the Evercade. Grab your axe and let’s get rolling!

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Prehistorik Man: Titus Made Good Games Sometimes

Titus, it’s fair to say, is not one of the most fondly regarded names in classic gaming — though a fair amount of their work was at least memorable for one reason or another.

That doesn’t mean it was a company completely incapable of putting out a good game, however. And in fact, when Titus was on top form, they actually made some really good titles that still hold up very well today.

One of those games is Prehistorik Man, originally released for Super NES and now brought to a whole new audience as part of the Interplay Collection 2 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform. Let’s take a closer look!

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Dragon Spirit: The New Legend – In Case of Emergency, Use Dragon

The shoot ’em up genre is, it’s fair to say, fairly dominated by spaceships. It makes sense — a sci-fi tale allows for pretty much unbridled creativity, taking the player on a journey through the stars into the great unknown, battling off hordes of unimaginable horrors from many light years away.

But the fantasy genre is ripe for exploiting in this way, too; much like the more outlandish side of sci-fi, a lot of fantasy has never seemed too concerned with respecting the usual laws of physics, time and space. And as such there’s no good reason why we couldn’t have just as satisfying a time blasting our way through a fantasy tale as we could if we were behind the controls of some sort of comically overpowered spaceship.

Namco evidently felt this way back in 1987 when they released the fantasy-themed vertically scrolling shoot ’em up Dragon Spirit to the arcades. And then they remembered it was still a very good idea a couple of years later when they released quasi-sequel Dragon Spirit: The New Legend for Famicom in 1989, with a North American NES version following in 1990. And this 8-bit home console version can now be enjoyed by a whole new audience today, thanks to its inclusion on the Namco Museum Collection 2 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system. So let’s take a closer look!

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Midnight Resistance: Under Lock and Key

Throughout the 8- and 16-bit home computer and console eras, we saw numerous developers “paying homage” to one another’s work — and often developing their own interesting twists on the formula in the process.

One cannot look at Data East’s 1989 release Midnight Resistance and not think of Konami’s Contra from two years prior, for example, but in practice the two games play quite differently, developing their own distinct identities in the process.

These days, Contra is by far the better known game, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore Midnight Resistance for yourself. And, as luck would have it, Midnight Resistance can be found in its Mega Drive incarnation on the Data East Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system — so let’s take a closer look!

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