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.

Double Dragon: Defining the Brawler

Every gaming genre out there has that one title that helped to codify — if not establish — conventions that would continue to be followed for many years to come.

For the beat ’em up genre, that game was Technos’ Double Dragon, a title that is widely regarded to have kicked off something of a “golden age” for the genre with its innovative mechanics, simultaneous two-player action and large, chunky sprites. It also got an NES version developed by Technos themselves which doesn’t get talked about nearly as much. Which is a shame, because it’s an interesting game and most certainly isn’t just a straightforward attempt to ape the arcade machine on limited hardware.

Fortunately, we can now enjoy this intriguing take on a classic in a couple of readily available ways if you don’t have an NES to hand: via the Double Dragon and Kunio-Kun bundle released for modern consoles by Arc System Works, and as part of the Technos Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform.

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The Immortal: How To Kill Your Wizard

If you are a glutton for punishment, or just feel that modern video games are a touch on the easy and/or fair side for you, it’s high time you checked out Will Harvey’s classic 1990 title, The Immortal.

As it happens, at the time of writing it’s just become easily accessible in not one, but two different places: you can now play the NES version as part of a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, and the Mega Drive version appears as part of the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system.

It’s the latter version we’ll be focusing on today, but expect similar amounts of death in both. Roll up your sleeves, and let’s get mortal.

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Super Painter: Simpler Times

The platform game genre has been around for many years at this point, and, like most other types of games, it has gradually increased in complexity as time has passed.

That hasn’t always been for the better, however. While the shift to 3D with titles such as Super Mario 64 was praised as a huge leap forwards for gaming as a medium, as time continued to tick onwards, a lot of developers felt the need to continually increase the things a player had to think about while they were playing. Eventually we ended up with Rare’s Donkey Kong 64, a game that, while not bad as such, had diluted the simple pleasures of the genre so much with its myriad collectibles that a lot of people bounced right off it.

So sometimes it’s nice to return to simpler times. Times when platform games unfolded on a single screen at a time, and required you to do nothing more than reach a particular point, collect all the things on screen or, perhaps, paint every inch of the level in a particular colour. Enter Super Painter from Retro Souls, part of the Mega Cat Studios Collection cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform.

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The Brainies: Furry Balls

As we’ve seen a number of times already at this point, Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming platform is home to a wide variety of obscure titles that many people probably haven’t played — and which certainly haven’t been rereleased many times over the years.

Some great examples can be found on the two Interplay Collection cartridges, which include not only games that are associated with Interplay themselves, but also titles hailing from developers that subsequently ended up under the Interplay umbrella.

Interplay Collection 2, for example, plays host to a rather entertaining puzzle game featuring small, round, furry creatures. Let’s take a closer look at The Brainies, also known in some territories as Tiny Skweeks or The Tinies.

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Warpman: Another Lost Namco Treasure

Probably the best thing about Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming platform is the fact that the releases so far have specifically eschewed hugely well-known retro titles in favour of hidden gems, lost treasures and just plain previously unlocalised titles.

A great example of this can be seen on the Namco Museum Collection 2 cartridge. Have you ever heard of Warpman? Chances are, unless you collect Famicom games, probably not; it’s a 1985 Japan-only sequel to a fairly obscure 1981 Namco arcade game called Warp & Warp, also known as Warp Warp for its North American release.

Warpman (and, by extension, Warp & Warp, which it closely resembles in gameplay terms) is a particularly interesting game, because it introduces a specific mechanic that, today, is more commonly associated with a later game from a completely different company. But Namco did it first! So let’s take a closer look.

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Inertial Drift Sunset Prologue: A Bold New Take on Arcade Racing

I love me a slippery-slidy, drift-centric arcade racer, as you’ll know very well if you followed the extensive Ridge Racer Cover Game feature from a while back, or indeed were kind enough to watch my playthrough of Split/Second Velocity on YouTube.

As such, I was immediately interested when PQube announced its upcoming racer Inertial Drift, developed by an outfit known as Level 91 Entertainment. This game promised a ’90s style aesthetic, exaggerated arcadey racing action… and what sounded like a rather unusual control scheme.

How exactly does a twin-stick racing game work anyway? I fired up the Inertial Drift Sunset Prologue interactive demo to find out.

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Titan: Break Out, In and All Around

How do you improve on a classic formula? It’s a question many artists have explored over the years, and an easy answer for a lot of them seems to be “add more stuff”.

Atari’s Breakout is an immensely influential game, which subsequently begat Taito’s wonderful Arkanoid and all manner of other imitators from over the years.

French developer Titus Interactive observed that most Breakout clones over the years stuck rigidly to the “paddle at the bottom, single screen of blocks” formula. So in 1988, they set out to make something a bit different. The result was Titan, a title that has been newly resurrected for modern audiences thanks to the Interplay Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system.

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Rigid Force Redux: An R-Type By Any Other Name

The mechanical genre that we refer to as “shoot ’em up” actually covers a number of different gameplay styles. And, as with everything else in this world, it displays distinct fashions and trends as the years go by.

Back in the early days of gaming, the fixed shooter was king. Then we moved into the beginning of the horizontally and vertically scrolling age, the former of which in particular flourished throughout the 16-bit home console age. The rise of polygons brought with it a shift to “2.5D”, where 3D graphics were combined with 2D gameplay for added spectacle. And today, many — though not all — shooters focus on the elaborate choreography of the “bullet hell” or danmaku subgenre.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but the fact remains that we see fewer shooters in the style of those from the late 16-bit and early 32-bit eras than we used to. Which is why Rigid Force Redux, a recent Nintendo Switch and Xbox One release from German developer com8com1 Software, was such a pleasure to explore.

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BurgerTime: The Original Foot Lettuce

Ah, the early ’80s — a time of exploration and experimentation in the world of video games. What subject matter would make for a good game — and particularly, what would make a good arcade game that would encourage people to part with all the small change in their pocket?

In 1982, Data East came up with BurgerTime, an unusual game that casts players in the role of chef Peter Pepper (no relation to his near-namesake who, it is said, once picked a peck of pickled peppers) and tasks them with making burgers by… uh… walking on them.

Does it make sense? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Yes. Is it monstrously difficult in both its original arcade and NES incarnations? Hell yes. And you can enjoy the latter version as part of the Data East Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system, too. So let’s take a closer look!

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Xevious: Are You Devious Enough?

Namco really were trailblazers back in the early days of gaming; so many of their titles were true pioneers.

Much of the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre as it exists today owes a lot to 1983’s Xevious, for example. Xevious established or at least popularised genre conventions such as making use of different weapons for different targets, regular confrontations with powerful enemies and dynamic difficulty scaling.

Namco’s port to the Famicom became one of the system’s first “killer apps”, selling a mighty 1.26 million copies — and it still plays great today. And wouldn’t you know it? You can play that 8-bit console version on the Evercade retro gaming system thanks to the Namco Museum Collection 1 cartridge. Let’s take a closer look!

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