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.

Taito Essentials: Super Qix

Super Qix is an immensely irritating follow-up to an immensely irritating game.

And, like all the really good immensely irritating games of the world, there’s a magic ingredient in there that keeps you coming back for more.

Super Qix is also an interesting game from a historical perspective, in that it’s a game that Japanese developers decided to build on after an all-American original.

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PSP Essentials: Dungeon Explorer

I enjoy beating games, particularly when they have a good story and especially when they have a dramatic finale.

But sometimes it’s nice to have a game on hand that you can just dip in and out of pretty much indefinitely. Arcade-style games fill this niche pretty nicely, but it’s also cool when you find something with a bit more in the way of “persistence” — something that you can continue playing over time and continue to discover new things about.

Recently, I fired up Dungeon Explorer by Hudson for the PSP, a spiritual successor (and, technically, prequel) to the company’s 1989 PC Engine/Turbografx classic of the same name. And… I think I’m going to be playing this game for a long time.

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PS2 Essentials: Under the Skin

One aspect of gaming we’ve lost sight of a bit over the course of the last couple of console generations is the idea of a game that is “nothing but fun”.

I’m talking about mechanics-centric games where the aim is to just have a good time and challenge yourself; games that aren’t trying to “say something”; games that aren’t trying to be artistic in a narrative sense.

This kind of game hasn’t died out completely, of course, but at the time of writing they remain primarily confined to the independently developed, digital-only sector. Capcom’s Under the Skin for PS2, meanwhile, reminds us of a time not so long ago (2004) when this type of experience would get a full retail release and no-one would bat an eyelid.

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Namco Essentials: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

Poor old Pac-Man’s been put through the wringer since his first appearance in 1980.

He’s gone on adventures, been platforming, attempted to educate the masses and even kicked the snot out of his fellow video game icons. But somehow it always comes back to doing what he does best: munching his way through mazes while attempting not to, in turn, get noshed off by ghosts. (Although some people are into that.)

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is Namco’s latest attempt to put an interesting twist on the original Pac-Man formula. And it’s a ton of fun.

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N64 Essentials: Pilotwings 64

I grew up with flight simulators, primarily due to my father being both a proper propellerhead and a writer for a computing magazine — in other words, we got a lot of review copies of such games.

One thing that struck me about the genre was that it was rather rare to see games based around just flying; instead, prolific developers such as MicroProse tended to emphasise the military angle, simulating exciting aircraft such as the F-16 “Fighting Falcon”, the F-15 “Strike Eagle” and the somewhat-less-exciting-but-appeared-in-a-movie A-6 Intruder.

There was Microsoft Flight Simulator, of course — or subLOGIC’s Flight Simulator as it was known in the early days — but that was slow-paced, rather complicated and, according to my father “not a game”. Clearly there was room for something in between the two extremes.

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Namco Essentials: Rolling Thunder

Proper “spy games” are something I don’t feel like we see a lot of any more, perhaps since fascination with the concept waned somewhat with the end of the Cold War.

That said, there are tons of awesome “spy games” from back in the day that we can still enjoy, and Rolling Thunder, a 1986 arcade game from Namco, included on the Nintendo Switch version of Namco Museum, is a great example.

Initially appearing to be a fairly straightforward, early example of “run and gun” gameplay, spending a little more time with Rolling Thunder reveals a tightly designed game that shows first impressions aren’t always entirely accurate.

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Wii Essentials: Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth

Well, friends, it’s finally happening: as of the time of writing, you can no longer add credit to your Wii Shop Channel account, meaning that if you don’t already have some on there, you can’t buy anything.

With this in mind, I loaded up on points the day before the payment processing facility was shut down for good and downloaded a number of Wii-exclusive digital-only games that, come 2019, will no longer be available to buy at all.

One of those games was Konami’s Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth, a remake of Game Boy title Castlevania: The Adventure. So, was it worth the last-minute scramble for 1,000 Wii Points?

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