It’s been a good few years since the point-and-click adventure was a “mainstream” part of gaming now. That’s not to say the genre is dead, mind — more that these days it tends to be the exclusive preserve of smaller, independent developers rather than big studios like LucasArts.
And those games from smaller, independent developers aren’t in any way “lesser” than the games from the golden age of adventure games, either — in fact, in the case of games like Brok the InvestiGator, they represent what would have been the natural evolution of the genre if the mainstream hadn’t become so obsessed with gritty photorealism and cinematic open-world experiences.
In short, Brok the InvestiGator, whose Prologue chapter is presently available for free from both Steam and GOG.com at the time of writing, is something very special indeed. And it deserves your attention. So let’s take a closer look!
Despite being the franchise that pretty much defined a whole genre, the Double Dragon series has had its share of troubles over the years.
One particularly troubled installment was 1992’s fourth game in the series, known as Super Double Dragon in the West, and Return of Double Dragon in its slightly enhanced Japanese release. This Super NES-exclusive title suffered from an all-too-common problem in the games industry that we still see to this day: the developers being forced to rush the game out before it was completely finished.
Even the enhanced Japanese release was missing some of the material that was originally supposed to be in the game, but for now it remains the definitive version of the game. Lucky that we now have easy access to this version thanks to the Technos Collection 1cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system, then, isn’t it?
It’s time to kick some ass with the excellent NES version of Double Dragon, which as you’ll know if you’ve read my piece on the subject, is deliberately different from the arcade version.
This version, found on the Technos Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade — number 10 in the collection, if you’re counting — is a solid brawler with some interesting mechanics, and remains fun to play today, even with its numerous rough edges.
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 1cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform.
One of the things I’ve always been rather fond of from the ’80s and early ’90s is how literal a lot of video game titles were, particularly on Atari consoles.
In Casino, you play casino games. In Race, you race. In Canyon Bomber, you bomb a canyon. And in Ninja Golf, you are a ninja who plays golf.
No, I’m not making that last one up. Indeed, for many people this 1990 release from BlueSky Software (who would later go on to develop Shadowrun and the two Vectorman games for Sega Mega Drive) is one of the crown jewels of the underappreciated Atari 7800’s library. And now you, too, can experience its highly entertaining gameplay thanks to the Evercade retro gaming system and its Atari Collection 1 cartridge!
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 1cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform.
Ah, Streets of Rage 3. Probably the most notorious entry in the franchise due to how heavily it was altered between its original Japanese release as Bare Knuckle III and its Western incarnation.
Thankfully, modern compilations such as the Sega Mega Drive Classicscollection make it very easy to access the Japanese version — though it’s worth taking a look at the Western release too for an extreme example of what unnecessary localisation due to external pressure looks like.
For many players of a certain age, Blaze Fielding would have been one of the earliest high-profile female characters we got to spend some time with — one who made no secret of her gender, anyway!
She stood out — not only was she an attractive young woman, which obviously appealed to those who appreciate such things, but she was also highly capable of kicking vast amounts of booty on the streets without any need for support from smelly old men. Although, of course, if you had a friend who didn’t mind playing as a smelly old man, she would always welcome the backup.
With the long-awaited Streets of Rage 4 now out for everyone to enjoy — and my Limited Run copy still not here at the time of writing — let’s take a moment to celebrate one of the most ass-kicking ladies of 16-bit gaming.
Speak to pretty much anyone familiar with the Streets of Rage series, and chances are their favourite installment is probably the second.
While the first game may have set the template for the series to follow by being a beat ’em up designed for the home rather than the arcade, the second is where it well and truly hit its stride. Streets of Rage 2 demonstrates what the humble Mega Drive is truly capable of in the hands of real masters of their craft.
And it’s a game that is still relevant, enormously playable and impressive to look at, even to this day. So let’s take a closer look.