Arcade-era Namco was good at sequels. Not from a story perspective, mind — the sequel to “shoot the aliens” tended to be “shoot more aliens” — but definitely from a mechanical perspective.
One of the best things about arcade-era Namco’s handling of sequels was that they remained recognisably true to their source material while innovating in their own right. Galaga ’88 (also known as Galaga ’90, Galaga ’91 and Galaga 2 depending on where and how you played it back in the day) is one of the best examples of this, as the fourth installment in the Galaxian series.
Galaxian built on the basic premise of Taito’s Space Invaders by featuring a more dynamic arrangement of enemies. Galaga built further on this format with more dramatic enemy formations and movements. Gaplus — one of the few games in the series to not get many home ports, particularly back in the day — added powerups and vertical movement. And Galaga ’88… well, read on.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Galaga ’88
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.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Super Qix
Ah yes, Continental Circus, the game which UK magazine Sinclair User declared “Cock-Up of the Year” in 1988 for the assumption that its peculiar title had rather prominently misspelled “Circuit”, only for it to become apparent sometime later that this was, in fact, deliberate.
The term “Circus” has been used over the years in both French and Japanese motorsports, and indeed there was even a 1972 French documentary called Continental Circus, which Taito’s 1987 arcade racer rather cheekily lifted a voice sample from to mark the beginning of each race. Although you can see how Sinclair User might have got confused; many of the original arcade machines for Continental Circus were actually branded with the title “Continental Circuit”.
The game itself is a “vanishing point” racer that attempts to build on what Namco had been doing with its Pole Position and Final Lap series since 1982. And, despite appearing superficially similar to those classic titles, it remains, to this day, a unique take on the racing genre with some very interesting ideas.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Continental Circus
Dig Dug represents a type of game that doesn’t really exist any more, at least in its original form: what I shall refer to from hereon as “Dirt and Boulders” games.
The idea of a Dirt and Boulders game is that you dig through a bunch of dirt while trying to accomplish something, attempting not to get squashed by inconveniently placed boulders, and occasionally trying to use said boulders to your advantage.
Dirt and Boulders games were big in the ’80s, with titles like Mr. Do!, Boulder Dash and numerous clones of both keeping people entertained both in arcades and at home. But 1982’s Dig Dug was the game that established the template for all subsequent Dirt and Boulders games to follow — and a template that modern offshoots of Dirt and Boulders games, such as Minecraft, Terraria and suchlike, have somewhat drifted away from in favour of crafting and exploration.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Dig Dug