REVIEW – Rastan Saga (Taito, 1987)

Rastan Saga, originally known in Japan as ‘ラスタンサーガ’, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Taito and released to the arcades in 1987. ‘Rastan Saga’ is based on themes of fantasy and mythology and was released simply as ‘Rastan’ outside of Japan. It was a popular arcade game and was subsequently released on many home platforms.


Rastan Saga LOGO


Personal RecollectionI first came across an upright version of the arcade game in the Student Union of Halesowen College in 1987. It was right next to a standard upright version of ‘Outrun’ and whilst ‘Outrun’ initially received more of my attention, I quickly completed ‘Outrun’ and found ‘Rastan’ to be the more challenging game.


The Story

In the game you play as ‘Rastan’ a barbarian warrior who will recapture a kingdom for a princess by embarking on a quest to slay a dragon. Upon your journey to the dragon’s lair you encounter all manner of monsters and hordes based on mythological creatures such as harpies and chimeras.

rastan intro

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade introduction (Japanese version)

The following introduction is largely based on the text provided with some of the home conversions of the game, in which the story is somewhat changed:

Rastan, barbarian King of Maranna/Ceim is the only man tough enough to liberate his kingdom from the evil influence of the wizard Karg. In an attempt to gain control of the barbarian race the nefarious necromancer has released a host of beasts and demons upon the land.

Protected only by leather and bearing his trusty sword, Rastan hacks his way across a horizontally scrolling landscape of underground passages, grim citadels and rocky cliffs. Unexplored parts of this hostile terrain are connected by flights of steep steps and ropes swinging perilously over lakes of fire. Remote areas boast deadly streams and lava flows: contact with either of these results in instant death.

The wizard has enlisted a grisly crowd of allies, ranging from docile looking lions to ghoulishly aggressive demons. Their instincts are to attack on sight, and the more humanoid beings have seemingly unlimited shot power.

Rastan can find and collect a number of helpful items including more powerful weapons, bonus shields, mantles and also medicines which reduce vulnerability. Some enemies carry jewellery which bear a variety of mysterious powers, and more devious opponents attempt to fool the warrior king by carrying poison in the form of a magic potion.

Each level hides a particularly powerful adversary which must be defeated before passing on to the next. A beating heart and attached energy gauge record health status and should all of Rastan’s five incarnations be lost, the player is given the option of starting again on the last level visited. This option is offered three times after which Rastan’s quest is started again from the beginning.

The barbarian king’s mission reaches its climax in a final confrontation with Karg himself. The wizard takes on the most powerful form he knows: the body of a soul-sucking dragon. Only the most legendary of heroes has the power to pierce his hide.


Gameplay

You control our hero using an eight-way joystick complimented by attack and jump buttons. By using the joystick in combination with the jump button, the player can control both the height of Rastan’s jumps, as well as the direction.

There are a total of six rounds, each consisting of three areas: an outdoor scene, a castle scene and a throne room where the player must confront the individual stage’s boss.

rastan level 1

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 1

The outdoor areas are themed around fantastical landscapes with changing colours, details and sky effects. The bosses encountered at the end of each stage consist of ‘Graton’ (a robed but skeletal warrior who wields a halberd), ‘Slay’ (a demon swordsman who can sprout wings), ‘Symplegades’ (a wizard), ‘Laios’ (a dragon knight), the ‘Hydra’ (a five-headed snake) and the final boss, the ‘Dragon’.

Rastan_round 1_2

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 1, Castle entrance

Rastan_round 1_3

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 1, inside the Castle

rastan_round 1 End

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 1 end boss ‘Gratan’

You can pick up items by walking over them; new weapons are obtained by striking them with your current one. All of the weapons and power-ups are only equipped for a short period of time. Icons appear the bottom of the screen to indicate which weapon or power-up is currently equipped and disappear when item’s effect has expired. This is also where the number of lives left, life gauge and ’round’ indicator are shown.

Rastan can only wield one weapon and one piece of armour at a time. Weapons consist of a sword, a mace, an axe and a special fire sword that can also shoot fire balls. Armour consists of a shield, a mantle or a body armour. Other items, such as rings and necklaces, are simply decorative but also add to the cumulative score.. ..they can also be worn at the same time as the current weapon and armour.

Rastan_round 3.png

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 3 in the catacombs

rastan level 3

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 3 in the castle

Rastan_round 6

‘Rastan Saga’ arcade version, round 6 the final boss!

Many of the enemies drop jewels that add bonus points if collected.. ..there are also potion bottles that will either restore or deplete the player’s health depending on their colour. A much less common item dropped by some enemies is a golden sheep’s head which will completely restore Rastan’s health.


Hints and tips

The following ‘tips and hints’ can really help to complete the arcade version of ‘Rastan Saga’ and ‘Rastan’. If you want to go simply for a ‘speed run’, keep moving forward and ignore the caves (the game can be completed in a little over 20 mins by really experienced players):

  • If you are playing with a decent sound system you can actually hear your heart beat getting faster and louder as you run out of health. This matches the heart icon on the health bar which also pumps faster as your health  weakens;
  • Pushing up and the jump button together will cause Rastan to jump higher than pushing the jump button alone. A common feature now, this was quite revolutionary at the time of the games release;
  • Always go after the special weapons where possible; if special weapons run out, jumping and striking doubles the damage done with the sword;
  • If you are going for a high-score, always ‘pick-up’ the poisons. They are worth a lot of points;
  • In ‘Rastan‘ the game attract sequence does not reveal the purpose of the rod. If you are carrying it, killing an enemy of any type causes all other on-screen enemies of the same type to die.. ..cool eh!;
  • The ring can always be obtained in the first round castle. Proceed past the 3 ropes used to traverse the first large fire pit, down the next long chain and then up the next long chain. Slowly nudge this chain off screen and two guards appear on the left-hand side, one of which always carries the ring;
  • Chains in castles can often be traversed upwards much quicker by repeatedly jumping against a nearby wall. Others needing to be traversed downwards can be missed by jumping off and falling. The round 4 boss is virtually impossible to defeat unless this tactic is used;
  • The ‘mud pits’ first encountered on round 2 will not kill you, they just cause you to sink, requiring many quick jumps to escape them;
  • Repeated high vertical jumps are a good method to ‘stall’ on slopes approaching bouncing fireballs.

Regional differences

The original Japanese version entitled ‘Rastan Saga’ features a really nice opening sequence, which thoroughly explains the purpose of Rastan’s journey. This opening is absent from the other versions released worldwide. In addition, when the player completes a round the ‘victory’ screen text continues the story-line in the Japanese version, which is simply generic text in other versions, stating “You are a brave fighter to have cleared such a difficult stage“.

rastan saga title

‘Rastan Saga’ title screen, Japanese arcade version

rastan title RestOWorld

‘Rastan Saga’ title screen, US arcade version

However, the non-Japanese versions do feature a different attract sequence which shows all the items that can be obtained by the player along with their effect.. ..but this still offers little in regard to what the actual story is about.

Finally, in the original Japanese ‘Rastan Saga’ there are far fewer bats in the castle of Round 1 than in overseas territories.. ..which is great as they are an unnecessary nuisance.

The corollary of all of these changes is that the original Japanese version of the arcade game, ‘Rastan Saga‘, is slightly more enjoyable to play, overall.


The system

Rastan’ is based around a fairly complex PCB that has many similarities to the Capcom CPS1 boards, but is actually unique to Taito. The main CPU is a Motorola 68000 with a Zilog Z80 acting as a co-processor. The excellent music and effects are provided by Yamaha YM2151 and OKI MSM5205 sound chips. Whilst all of this is the same as the CPS1 system the roms are not simply replaceable as a ‘cartridge’ on the Taito board.

The board adheres to JAMMA standards and has proven relatively resilient.. ..although there are numerous reports on arcade forums of graphical aberrations, which are fortunately fairly easy to fix by re-flashing the appropriate eproms. As to be expected such issues are usually exacerbated in the bootleg versions of the game.

rastan_pcb

The fairly complex ‘Rastan Saga’ main PCB

Both ‘Rastan Saga‘ and ‘Rastan‘ were supplied as upgrade kits for other Taito machines, where the main PCB board, marquee, screen bezel and control panel stickers were provided. Some of the machines therefore have either the wrong side-art, no side-art or simply a generic Taito artwork.


Trivia

Rastan’ is obviously inspired by the ‘Conan the Barbarian‘ saga novels, by Robert E Howard, both in terms of his looks and motivation. Indeed the player select screen shows a clearly aged Rastan sitting on a throne which mirrors the ending of the 1982 film.. ..making it clear that Rastan, like Conan, is not embarking on his quest for purely altruistic reasons, there is a price to be paid by the princess for slaying the dragon.. ..her kingdom.

Rasyan US flyer

US arcade flyer

In the background of the first stage, giant stone statues can be seen which bear more than a passing resemblance to the statues that featured in ‘The Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring’. While the film was produced several years after ‘Rastan’, these statues are based on artwork that featured in the deluxe addition of the Tolkien’s original 1968 book. Clearly the book influenced their inclusion in the game.

Here are some other interesting features of the arcade version:

  • The main character, Rastan, appears as a selectable character called ‘Miracle Rastan’, in ‘Champion Wrestler’, another arcade game by Taito;
  • There were two sequels to the game – the largely disappointing ‘Rastan Saga II‘ and ‘Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III‘. The latter of which also contained additional playable characters and was played across two screens;
  • The game contains several bonus items that are not normally dropped by enemies – a golden armature, a brown scroll and a yellow scroll. Graphics for these can be seen in the games tile-sets. Indeed, changing the game’s code can cause them to be dropped. The golden armature acts like the existing armature, however, the scrolls do nothing;
  • The game contains a built in test mode, activated by the value of two bytes towards the end of the games code. By changing these invincibility can be selected, causing ‘NO-HIT’ to be displayed at the bottom of the title screen. The starting level can also be modified;
  • The game forbids players entering the initials ‘SEX’ on the high-score table. If you try, they get changed to ‘AHA’.

The soundtrack

The arcade versions of both ‘Rastan Saga’ and ‘Rastan’ contain the same excellent and exciting sound track, composed by Naoto Yagishita and Masahiko Takaki, which really brings the game ‘alive’ (although ‘Rastan’ omits the intro, which also has a really nice track associated with it). Added to this are some really nice sound effects and a powerful rumbling bass.. ..listen out for the excruciating cry of pain, when you lose a life.

Pony Canyon/Scitron released a limited-edition soundtrack album for this game in 1988 and Zuntata Records (Zuntata is Taito’s ‘in house’ band) also released a limited-edition soundtrack in 1999.


Rastan flyer UK

An unusual ‘Rastan Saga’ flyer for the UK territories


Ports to other systems

Due to the popularity of the arcade version, ‘Rastan’ was ported to the Commodore 64Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC in Europe by Imagine Software in 1988 (which had recently been famously taken over by Ocean Software Ltd.).

Rastan_ZX

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum version

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum version was particularly well regarded and awarded 9/10 in the July 1988 issue of Your Sinclair. Indeed, it was placed at number 54 in the Your Sinclair’s Top 100 list.. ..although it plays well and is a good approximation of the arcade original I find the enemies tend to blend in to the detailed backgrounds a little too much; as a result you die rather unfairly. In contrast, the Commodore 64 port was rushed and is rumoured to be unplayable due to an impossible platform jump about half-way through.

rastan-msx

MSX2 Version

Taito later exported a fixed version of the Commodore 64 port to the United States in 1990, releasing it alongside two additional versions for the IBM PC and Apple IIGS. Both are poor.

In 1988, Taito also developed its own conversions of ‘Rastan’ for the MSX2 in Japan and the Master System in North America and Europe (both versions feature redesigned levels, with the Master System also containing some alternative boss characters). The Master System version is particularly good and was later ported to the Game Gear and released exclusively in Japan in 1991.

A demo version for the Atari ST was produced, but the game never was released commercially on the 16 bit computers.

Finally, after these largely substandard ports a practically arcade perfect version of the ‘Rastan’ arcade game was included in Taito Legends Vol. 1, which was released for the Sony PlayStation 2Microsoft Xbox and Windows PC in 2006. These are still easy to find and easily one of the best ways to play the game today, without resorting to the murky world of emulation (although they are also, of course, emulated versions of the game)!

Near perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original roms.


Rastan Arcade Upright

‘Rastan’ upright arcade cabinet, with generic side-art


Retrollection recommendation

Rastan’ is a fantastic game.. ..fast, exciting and addictive. The gameplay, whilst simple is really satisfying and the soundtrack and effects really add to the overall experience. This is a game that needs to be played with the sound cranked-up loud so you can really feel the bass thumping away.. ..driving you forward on your quest. Fortunately, the ‘Taito Legends Vol. 1’ version of the game is fairly easy to find – so purchase, focus and get ready for a real ‘thrill ride’ of a game.. … totally recommended!


CC logo Fair use ‘Rastan Saga’, ‘Rastan’ and ‘Taito’ are registered trademarks
‘Rastan Saga’ and ‘Rastan’ ™ & © 1987 Taito Corp., All Rights Reserved
Page layout, content & design © 2017 Retrollection.net; please refer to the terms and conditions 

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REVIEW – Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Capcom, 1988)

‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ was originally released in Japan as ‘大魔界村’or ‘Daimakaimura, the literal translation of which is “Great Demon World Village“. It is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Capcom and released to the arcades in 1988. It is the second game released in the ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise and was arguably more successful than its predecessor both in terms of sales and revenue. As a result it was eventually ported to a number of other platforms.


GnG-arcade-logo


Personal recollectionI first came across an upright version of the game in a bar called ‘ Moriarty’s’ (long since gone) on Queen Square in Wolverhampton in 1988. I was at University at the time and whilst everyone else was getting drunk and generally talking rubbish, I would occasionally have a quick blast on this excellent, but taxing game.


The story

Once again, as in ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ you play as Arthur, a knight who is on a quest to rescue his beloved princess, Prin Prin. Three years have passed and the princess, along with many other local villagers, have been possessed and incapacitated by the evil dark lord Lucifer (renamed Loki in the English-language Mega Drive and Master System versions).ghouls_flyer_trans

Gameplay is similar to that of ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ in that you control Arthur through a series of demonic and gothic horror inspired levels, fighting off all manner of demonic and undead creatures in your quest to restore the villagers and rescue the princess.

The gameplay is evolved somewhat from its predecessor in that as well as weapon pickups there are also different types of armour, which can give more fire power. Arthur can now also fire up and down (whilst jumping), in addition to left and right.

The player has to traverse five levels before they can enter the sixth and final level, Lucifer’s chamber. As is the tradition in most of the ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘series, the player has to complete the main levels (one to five in this case), twice. One the second play through Arthur is able to obtain a special weapon, which is needed to defeat Lucifer.. ..in addition to having equipped both the magic armour and the Psycho Cannon, the player must have also successfully defeated ‘Beelzebub’ the ‘fly boss’ at the end of the fifth level in order to be finally allowed into Lucifer’s chamber.

GnG Arcade Title.png

‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ title screen, arcade version


The levels

Ghouls_'N_Ghosts_Map

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in game map, arcade version

As with the original ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ the player is shown a fairly detailed in-game map at the start of each new life.

Level 1 – The Haunted Graveyard and the Haunted Hill

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Level 1, arcade version

Level 2 – Village of Decay and the Village on Fire

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Level 2, arcade version

Level 3 – Baron Rankle’s Tower and the Horrible Faced Mouintains

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Level 3, arcade version

Level 4 – The Crystal Cave and the Icy Descent

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Level 4, arcade version

Level 5 – Lucifer’s Castle (parts 1 & 2)

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Level 5, arcade version

Level E – Lucifer’s Chamber

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Level E, arcade version


Treasure chests and the evil magician

Evil magician

The Evil Magician!

Throughout the game, traversing certain locations will cause a treasure chest to be unearthed, which can then be broken open with the current weapon. When opened, the treasure chests can reveal special armour or another weapon. The special armour allows you to ‘charge’ Arthur’s current weapon (by holding the fire button) to release a powerful magical attack (e.g. lightening), which varies according to the weapon being currently used.

There are, however, two exceptions to what can happen when opening a treasure chest:

  • More often than not an evil magician will materialise from the treasure chest. If not immediately killed by Arthur, the magician will cast a spell on him turning you into either an old man on crutches or a duck. Whilst both are very amusing to watch, the player is left defenceless against attack from the various enemies on the screen. The spell wears off after a while returning Arthur to normal;
  • If Arthur is in possession of the special weapon, it will not charge up and have a special attack, unlike all the other weapons.

The soundtrack and audio effects

The excellent and spooky original soundtrack and audio effects for the arcade version were composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. Many ports of the game to home computers in the late 80’s include an alternative soundtrack by Tim Follin which consists of some new arrangements. Follin’s soundtrack on the Commodore 64Atari ST and Amiga versions has received much critical acclaim (the selection of pieces and some scoring differs slightly between the different systems).


The CP Arcade System

The arcade version of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts‘ runs on the Capcom CP System (システム), one of the early arcade system boards that ran games from replaceable roms. The system is also known CPS1 to distinguish it from the successor CPS2 system. The ability to change games by simply replacing the roms and the cabinet artwork was a very welcome development and made the systems cheaper to produce and reduced overheads for arcade operators. However, the system was quickly plagued by a multitude of bootleg roms; in some regions these were more common than the official Capcom ones.

The system is based around a Motorola 68000 running at 10Mhz with a Ziolog Z80 running at 3.579 Mhz acting as a co-processor. The very competent sound abilities of the system were provided by a Yamaha YM2151 and Oki OKI6295 chips. The system adheres to JAMMA standards.

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The Ghouls ‘n Ghosts logic board, a Capcom CPS 1 System


Insight – the Capcom CPS Changer

Because of the replaceable nature of the game roms the CP System was used as the basis for the unsuccessful and largely forgotten Capcom Power System (CPS) Changer. This was Capcom’s attempt to enter the domestic markets, similar to and aimed to compete against, the NeoGeo AES.

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The Capcom CPS Changer

The CPS changer is little more than a SuperGun JAMMA TV adapter in a box with Super Famicom controller ports attached. Protection against using the arcade version of the roms in the home system was achieved simply by changing the physical shape of the game cartridge.

CPS C stick top small

The Capcom Power Stick controller

Capcom also released the Power Stick Controller around the same time as the CPS Changer, which along with the games completed the system. The Power Stick Controller was also compatible with the Super Famicon/Super Nintendo due to it using the same underlying hardware as Super Famicon controllers and their connectors. The CPS Changer was only released in Japan and was not successful.. ..only a handful of games were ever released for the CPS Changer and unfortunately they did not include ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts‘.


GnG US Arcade Flyer

US Flyer for the arcade version of the game


Ports to other systems

Due to the popularity of the arcade version of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ it has received numerous ports to other systems over the years:

Various ports were released in Europe in 1989 for the Amstrad CPCCommodore AmigaAtari STCommodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Unfortunately, they were all developed by the same team (Software Creations) and are pale imitations of the arcade original. Whilst this is acceptable, indeed somewhat to be expected on the 8-Bit machines, even the versions on very capable 16-Bit systems like the Amiga are poor in comparison.

Ghouls_'N_Ghosts_Amiga

‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’, Level 1 on the Commodore Amiga

This is particularly disappointing as the Amiga port of the original ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’, coded by Elite Systems, was almost arcade perfect as the Amiga hardware is relatively similar to that of the arcade machines.

Other notable conversions have included:

  • daimakaimura megadrive

    The SEGA Mega Drive version

    SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis port of ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ was also released by SEGA in 1989 in Japan and North America; and in 1990 in Europe. SEGA handled the conversion ‘in house’ and whilst lacking some detail compared to the arcade original, it is very close and one of the best games on the system. Due to the popularity of the arcade original the Mega Drive version was also one of the most expensive games on the system, retailing for £45 in the UK upon release. This version was re-released as a handheld TV game with Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition in 2005 and as a downloadable Virtual Console game for the Wii in 2007.

  • SEGA also released a Master System version of the game in 1990. Due to the lack of processing power on their 8-bit system, significant changes were made to the game play. The power-up system was modified, allowing the player to enter secret shops and upgrade parts of their armour. In addition, armour now includes helmets, chest plates and boots, which give the player access to new weapons and magic or allow the player to sustain more damage or increase their speed, respectively.
  • An excellent SuperGrafx port of ‘Daimakaimura’ was coded and released by NEC Avenue in 1990 and is one of only five games released for this short-lived system. Whilst it captures the arcade game-play well, the music is slightly off as are some colours.. ..however, some would argue that the music is actually nicer in this version.
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‘Daimakaimura’ for the NEC SuperGrafx

  • A pixel perfect version of ‘Daimakaimura’ was released by Capcom in 1994 for the Sharp X68000. This is no surprise as Sharp’s system was very close to the arcade machines of the time and Capcom actually used them as CPS development units.
  • In 1998, Capcom released Capcom Generation 2 for the Sony PlayStation and SEGA Saturn in Japan, a compilation which included ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ along with ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ and ‘Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’. The PlayStation version of this compilation was re-released as a bundle in Europe with three other volumes entitled ‘Capcom Generations’ under the title of ‘Capcom Generations: Chronicles of Arthur’. Capcom later released ‘Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox in 2005 in North America and Europe and ‘Capcom Classics Collection: Reloaded’ for the Sony PlayStation Portable in 2006, which includes all the ‘Capcom Generations’. Whilst the emulation on these compilations is very good and in the main represents pixel perfect renditions of the arcade originals, the screen display is often a little too dark on some of them.
Capcomgenrations_PS1PAL

‘Capcom Generations’ for the PAL Sony PlayStation.. ..disc 2 is of interest!

Near perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original roms.


GnG Arcade upright cabinet

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts upright arcade cabinet


Retrollection recommendation?

Whilst as infuriatingly hard as its predecessor, there is just as much to enjoy here. I would say that in general ‘Ghouls n’ Ghosts‘ is slightly easier than ‘Ghosts n’ Goblins‘, particularly in the middle levels, but the first stage is tough.. ..especially when you are ascending the ‘Haunted Hill’. Nonetheless,  I love playing ‘Ghouls n’ Ghosts’ and the additional features and graphical upgrades are spot on.. ..this is a no brainer recommendation.. ..go rescue princess Prin Prin, again!


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‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ ™ & © 1988 Capcom Co., Ltd, All Rights Reserved
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REVIEW – Carnival (Sega, 1980)

‘Carnival‘ is an arcade game created by Sega in 1980, it was published by Gremlin and Sega. It is a fixed shooter  which refreshingly moved away from the (then) conventional space themes. It also holds the distinction of being the first video game ever to feature a bonus round.

‘Carnival’ is an electronic re-creation of the traditional fairground shooting galleries.

Carnival attract screen

‘Carnival’ attract screen, arcade version

You control a gun, which has a limited amount of ammunition, the game ends when you run out of ammo. To gain points you have to successfully shoot moving targets, that scroll in alternating directions across the screen.. ..there are three rows of targets which include ducks, rabbits, owls and extra-bullets (represented by the number of bullets to be awarded in an inversed square). The higher and therefore more difficult targets to hit, award more points; values are shown to the right of each row. There is also a quaver symbol which if hit will toggle the music on and off.

If a duck reaches the bottom row without being shot, it will come to life and begin flying down toward the player, quacking as it comes. If you fail to shoot it before it reaches the bottom of the screen, it will eat some of your bullets.. ..so you really need to get rid of them quickly when they start to fly.

A large pop-up target above the top row can either award or subtract bullets or points when hit.

Carnival flyer

American ‘Carnival’ flyer

There is also a spinning wheel with eight ‘pipes’ that sits in the centre at the top of the screen. All of the targets and the ‘pipes’, must be hit to complete a round.

Additionally, a bonus counter also increases by the value of every target shot in each of the three rows. The letters of the word “BONUS” are scattered among the targets; shooting these in order awards the bonus. The bonus stops increasing as soon as any letter is shot.

At the end of each round, you receive bonus points for all your unused bullets.

Carnival bonus

‘Carnival’ bonus round, arcade version

Between each round there is a bonus screen in which a bear marked with a target walks across the screen. Each time the bear is shot, it rears up for a second, then turns and walks more quickly in the opposite direction. The object is to shoot the bear as many times as possible until it escapes off the screen.

Following this bonus round, the next (faster, more ducks, fewer extra bullets) more difficult stage begins. Later bonus rounds also add more bears to the screen.

Carnival’ was released as upright and cocktail versions, the latter of which replaced left and right directional buttons with a two-way joystick.

Carnival PCB

PCB from the upright version

During the game Sobre las Olas (Over the Waves) by Juventino Rosas is played, a tune that is commonly associated with carnivals and funfair’s. This was achieved using a General Instruments AY-3-8910 chip, which allowed for a relatively complex rendition, along with the inclusion of numerous sound effects; including three different duck quacks and the bear’s roar.

Carnival cabinet

‘Carnival’ arcade cabinet

Carnival‘ was unusual as the upright and cocktail versions of the game have different PCB designs. The boards were based on the Sega VIC Dual design and utilised a Zilog Z80 CPU running at 1.9 MHz.

Carnival‘, whilst not widely popular in the arcades, was deemed good enough to be converted for the Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Mattel Intellivision in 1982. There were also numerous clones on the home computer systems of the 80’s, some of which used the ‘Carnival‘ name, even though clearly being unlicensed.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.

Retrollection recommendation?

Oh yes, I really like ‘Carnival’. Obviously not a game that is going to keep you amused for hours on end, but in short bursts this is great fun.. ..its such a simple game, but keeps you coming back for more!


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REVIEW – Phoenix (Amstar Electronics, 1980)

Phoenix’ is a fixed shooter video game which was developed by Amstar Electronics. It was released world-wide by Taito (licensed by Centuri in the US) in 1980. It follows a similar outer space-themed environment to ‘Galaxian‘ (released a year earlier) but adds some interesting additions such as different play fields and a boss battle.. ..indeed, ‘Phoenix’ has been credited with establishing boss endings in video games.

Phoenix title screen

‘Phoenix’ attract screen, arcade version

Phoenix’ gets its name from the location of Amstar’s factory, which was in Phoenix, Arizona. Little seems to be known about the company and it appears to have only lasted for a short period of time.. ..’Phoenix’ was the only arcade game they ever produced.

You control a spaceship that has horizontal movement at the bottom of the screen, firing upward. As the title suggests, your enemies are different types of alien birds. There are primarily two types of avian enemies which appear in formations above your ship, shooting at you and periodically diving bombing you and attempting to kill you with kamikaze tactics.

You can equip yourself with a force-field which shields you from enemy fire and their attempts to crash into you. However, you cannot move whilst your shield is active and must wait c. two seconds for it to deactivate.. ..you then have to wait a further c. five seconds before being able to use it again.

You start with either three or six lives, depending on the DIP switch settings.


Each level has five separate stages. The player must complete a stage to advance to the next:

Stages 1 & 2 – These are the stages that are highly reminiscent of ‘Galaxian’ – you must destroy formations of alien birds, some of which will fly down kamikaze style, in an attempt to destroy your ship by crashing into it. If you successfully hit a bird flying diagonally towards you, you are awarded a bonus. Birds are yellow in round 1, pink in round 2. The speed pf the game and rate of fire increase for stage 2, where the birds also fly somewhat more unpredictably.

Phoenix stage 2

‘Phoenix’ stage 2, arcade version


Stages 3 & 4 – Flying eggs float in formation on the screen and seconds later hatch, revealing larger alien birds, resembling phoenices, which swoop down at the player’s spaceship. The only way to fully destroy these birds is to hit their bodies; shooting one of its wings merely destroys that wing and if both wings are destroyed, they regenerate. From time to time the birds may also revert to an egg for a brief period. The birds are blue in stage 3, pink in stage 4.

Phoenix stage 3

‘Phoenix’ stage 4, arcade version

On these stages you can also achieve a massive bonus in you are quick.. ..as the birds are flying away from you in a diagonal direction, spreading their wings, shoot three within c. three seconds for a 200,000 point bonus. Normally, they only score 200 points each.  The easiest stage to do this on is stage 4 as you are able to fire more rapidly.


Stage 5 – The final stage where you have to destroy the alien mothership, at the center of which is an alien. To complete this stage, you have to first create a hole in the conveyor belt-type shield to get a clear shot at the alien. Hitting the alien with a single shot then ends the level. The mothership fires missiles at the player, whilst moving slowly down the screen towards you. There are also alien birds (from stages 1 and 2) protecting the mothership. Defeating all of the birds will simply produce a new wave.

Phoenix stage 5

‘Phoenix’ stage 5, arcade version

Subsequent levels continue with increasing speed and unpredictability of the birds attack patterns.


There are two pieces of music featured in the game – ‘Romance de Amor’ also known as ‘Spanish Romance’ by an unknown composer and ‘Für Elise’ by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Phoenix flyer

Front and back of a flyer from Centuri

The ‘Phoenix’ PCB is, predictably, quite simple consisting of an Intel 8085 CPU running at 5.5 MHz with the audio being created via a Matsushita MN6221AA chip. The video controller circuitry was discrete, utilising multiple EPROMs and bipolar PROMs.

Phoenix PCB

The ‘Phoenix’ PCB

Phoenix‘ uses a unique wiring harness, which isn’t known to be compatible with any other games.

Most ‘Phoenix’ machines were released in a standard Centuri woodgrain cabinet, but several other cabinets exist, due to the game being sold by multiple companies at the same time. ‘Phoenix’ arcade machines typically did not have joysticks; the control panel being made up entirely of buttons.. ..with exception of the Italian made model and some cocktail versions.

Phoenix arcade cabinet

‘Phoenix‘ arcade cabinet

Phoenix‘ was available in both upright and cocktail cabinets. A DIP switch setting allows the game to be moved between these two formats.

Phoenix wall mount

Unusual European wall mount version

There were also some rare wall mounted versions produced for some of the European markets.

Atari gained the rights to produce a version for the Atari 2600 in 1982. Imagic produced a similar game called ‘Demon Attack’ and were subsequently sued by Atari, later settling out of court.

Taito appears to currently hold the worldwide rights to the game. In 2005 ‘Phoenix’ was released on the Microsoft XboxSony PlayStation 2, Sony PSP and the PC as part of ‘Taito Legends in the US and Europe, and ‘Taito Memories II Gekan‘ in Japan.

A pretty good clone was produced for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum entitled ‘Pheenix’; developed by Martin W. Ward and published by Megadodo Software in 1983.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.

Retrollection recommendation?

This is a great fun, a classic shooter that keeps you coming back for more.. ..’Phoenix‘ won’t last you long, but is superb whilst it lasts.. ..I like to keep the PSP version handy for quick fixes!

Pheenix title

‘Pheenix’ on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Also check out ‘Pheenix‘ on the ZX Spectrum, whilst visually not a patch on the arcade version, it is a really good clone that works remarkably well.. ..you almost get that ‘arcade feeling’!


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‘Phoenix’ ™& © 1980 TAITO Corp., All Rights Reserved
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REVIEW – Splatterhouse (Namco, 1988)

Splatterhouse’ or originally ‘スプラッターハウス Supurattāhausu is a side scrolling, beat ’em up arcade game developed by Namco and published in 1988. It plays homage to the slasher film craze of the 80’s and is clearly influenced by many Western horror films including Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Evil Dead II.

As the game combines two of my favourite ‘pop culture’ phenomena – video games and horror, I was captivated when I first saw it.


Personal recollection

My introduction to ‘Splatterhouse’ was an upright cabinet which suddenly appeared in the Student Union at the Dudley campus of what was then [part of] Wolverhampton University (now Dudley College). The Dudley campus was eventually sold to Dudley Technical College, but it has since been sold for housing and built over with new homes. I clearly remember my friends at the time stating that “Woody is on that weird horror game again“, instead of spending time with them.

There are rumours circulating on the web that the game was never released outside of Japan, which based on my knowledge, is clearly untrue. I also know the game was released in the U.S., so it seems that it did receive a global release.. ..but likely limited; it was certainly not a common machine.


Spatterhouse title

The scarcity of ‘Splatterhouse‘ may be due to the fact that it was apparently banned from many arcades due to its gory and graphic content.

Although the content of the game was considered somewhat controversial (at the time), there were no age limit warnings on the arcade machine itself.. .. although the PC Engine console conversion did state “the horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children… and cowards“.

SH West Mansion

‘Splatterhouse’ intro West Mansion, arcade version

SH Stage 1

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 1 catacombes, arcade version

SH Stage 3

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 3 chapel, arcade version

Exploring the West Mansion

You control the main protagonist of the game ‘Rick’.. .. a student who has become trapped inside a mansion, set deep in the woods. ‘Rick and his girlfriend ‘Jennifer’ have taken refuge there from a violent electrical storm.. ..what they don’t realise is that this is the West Mansion, otherwise known as the ‘Splatterhouse’.. .. due to the rumours of hideous experiments purportedly conducted there by Dr. West, a renowned and missing parapsychologist.

As soon as they enter ‘Jennifer’ can be heard screaming, presumably being abducted; ‘Rick’ is knocked unconscious. ‘Rick’ finds himself in a dungeon after being resurrected by a ‘Terror Mask’, which is in fact a Mayan sacrificial artefact from West’s house which is capable of sentient thought. The mask attaches itself to ‘Rick’, fusing with his body and transforming him into a monster with superhuman strength. With the mask’s encouragement, Rick goes on a rampage through the dungeon, mansion and the mansion grounds, killing hordes of monsters in a vain attempt to save his girlfriend from a grisly fate.

SH Stage 5

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 5 Jennifer transforms, arcade version

SH Stage 6

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 6 womb, arcade version

There are seven levels to traverse, which take you through the mansion, outside, back in and finally back outside. You have the ability to jump, punch and kick. You also have a ‘special attack’ at your disposal, where you perform a drop kick and slide along the ground.. ..damaging enemies as you go. ‘Rick’ can also perform a low kick, low punch, and jumping attacks, as well as pick up and use various ‘slasher’ weapons placed around the levels.

Your life meter is represented by four, almost anatomically detailed, hearts which deplete when hit by an enemy. When you successfully complete a stage another two hearts are added.. ..there is no other way to increase your life energy or lives, which are represented by ‘Horror Masks’.

All seven levels consist of walking left to right, with occasional auto-scrolling segments. However, alternative pathways through sections of the house do exist (mainly in the middle levels) and are passible by falling down through holes or jumping up onto ladders. At the end of each level there is a boss fight which takes place at a static location, usually within a single room. A twist when compared to traditional side-scrolling fighters is that ‘Splatterhouse’ boss fights have varying objectives and styles.

SH Stage 7

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 7 Hell Chaos, arcade version

Unlike most arcade games in the genre, ‘Splatterhouse’ sends players back to checkpoints after losing lives or reaching game over, discouraging ‘credit feeding’ as a method of overcoming the various challenges. If you stand still for too long, or do not kill a boss quickly enough a electrical mist advances across the screen and will kill you on contact. On some levels this can also be associated with the appearance of blue orbs, which also signify your impending death.

SH Blue Orb

‘Splatterhouse’ stage 5 mist and blue orbs, arcade version


What on Earth is going on?

When you play the game it can initially be confusing as to what is happening in the story, so here is the explanation:

After exploring the West Mansion for a while and defeating foes, you eventually find ‘Jennifer’ surrounded by a throng of creatures that retreat upon your arrival. However all is not well and ‘Jennifer’ has obviously now been ‘treated’ by Dr West as she transforms into a giant, clawed monster who attempts to kill you; whilst continuing to beg for your help. As such, you are forced to kill your once beloved girlfriend, who transforms back to normal.. ..but promptly dies.

Infuriated and seeking revenge, you track the remaining monsters to a giant, bloody hole in the mansion’s floor. Upon entering it, you discover that the mansion is itself alive. You then travel down a bloody hallway to the house’s ‘womb’, which produces fetus-like monsters. Once you finally destroy the ‘womb’ the house bursts into flames and ‘dies’.

Escaping the burning mansion you come across a grave marker. The ‘Terror Mask’ then releases energy into the grave, reviving a giant monster named ‘Hell Chaos’ that claws its way up from the earth and attempts to kill you.

Upon destroying this monster it unleashes a tormented ghost that dissipates into a series of bright lights. As the lights vanish, the mask shatters, turning you back to normal.. ..you then quickly flee as the house burns to the ground and the credits roll.

However, after the credits end, the ‘Terror Mask’ reassembles itself and laughs evilly, staying there for 45 seconds, with the word “END” appearing on the bottom right corner of the screen.


Splatterhouse PCB

‘Splatterhouse’ PCB, a Namco System 1 based board

The hardware

The arcade game is driven by a Namco System 1 board, which adheres to the JAMMA standards. It was quite a complex board featuring three Motorola M6809‘s and a Hitachi HD63701. Sound was produced by a Yamaha YM2151, a DAC and custom chips. The boards have proved to be very resilient to ageing.


Insight

Splatterhouse’ was quickly ported from the arcade to the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16FM Towns and PC.. ..indeed many people never realised there actually was an arcade version. The ports suffered the usual loss of graphical detail and removal of some sound effects due to the reduced grunt of the hardware. However, the ports were not at all bad, giving a close approximation of the arcade original.

But there were edits, made to both the Japanese PC-Engine and the US TurboGrafx-16 versions of the game:

  • The arcade version opens with ‘Rick’ and ‘Jennifer’ running through the storm and into the mansion, followed by an exterior shot of the mansion and the sound of screaming. The console version opens simply with the exterior of the mansion, and no sound effects;
  • The weapon in Stage 1 and Stage 2 is a meat cleaver instead of a wooden stick;
  • In general the violence and gore is toned down; enemies bleed less and the sound effects are less gruesome;
  • The weapon for the Stage 4 boss is a golden meat cleaver instead of an axe, the only cleaver in the game;
  • The crawling hand in Stage 5 no longer flashes the middle finger;
  • The death of the womb boss of Stage 6 is changed from a graphic spilling of embryonic fluids into a generic fiery explosion;
  • The final boss uses different attacks;
  • The end cut scene is changed from the original arcade ending, in which the mask breaks from ‘Rick’s’ face, followed by a shot of him walking away from the burning mansion and an additional cut scene showing the mask reform and laugh. The ending in the TurboGrafx-16 version only shows the mask explode, followed by a picture of West Mansion burning while the credits roll, and finally a large red and orange “End” is displayed.

The following edits are exclusive to the US TurboGrafx-16 version:

  • The ‘Terror Mask’ is changed from a white hockey mask to a red mask with black accents.. .. to prevent ‘Rick’ from looking too much like Jason Voorhees and leading to copyright violation claims;
  • The cathedral arches are removed from the Stage 4 boss chamber background and the altar is removed from the following cut-scene;
  • The inverted cross boss of Stage 4 is replaced with a severed head;
  • The final boss’ grave is changed from a wooden cross to a tombstone.

The TurboGrafix-16 version was released on the Wii’s Virtual Console in Europe on March 16, 2007 and in the US three days later. The arcade version was released on May 26, 2009 on the Japanese Virtual Console.. ..there are currently no plans for a global release.

The 1992 FM Towns version, ported by Ving Co. was only released in Japan and is a pixel-perfect rendition of the original arcade, with no substantial changes apart from a new menu interface in the title screen.

The arcade original was ported in 2010 to mobile phones and iOS to coincide with the release of a new remake. The only change made was in that in the Java based mobile phone version, the mask is modelled after the one present in the 2010 remake. This change is not present in iOS version of the game. However, the iOS version includes a ‘Splatter Rush’ mode where enemies continuously spawn from both ends of a wide screen.

Splatterhouse arcade flyer

‘Splatterhouse’ Japanese arcade flyer

The original arcade game is also included as an unlockable extra in the 2010 remake.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.


Retrollection recommendation?

Personally, I love this game, mainly due to the subject matter.. ..but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a great game. Lucas Thomas from IGN captured some of my feelings about ‘Splatterhouse’.. ..“putting aside the aesthetic design and just looking at the game on the merits of its mechanics, ‘Splatterhouse’ is lacking”. Frank Provo of GameSpot reinforces this view, stating “ultimately, the problem with ‘Splatterhouse’ is that there’s not much to it.. ..there are only seven levels, and you’ll finish each one in just a few minutes“. All of which is true.. ..the enemies follow easily memorised patterns, making the game very easy to complete.

However, for me focusing solely on the gameplay is somewhat missing the point.. ..OK ‘Splatterhouse’ is not an amazing game.. ..but the style, imagery and sounds are fantastic. What Namco really achieved with ‘Splatterhouse’ was to create one of the first games to receive real attention (mainly from concerned parents) which inadvertently paved the way for other horror-themed games to emerge. If you look at it from this perspective it is a triumph.. ..go on, give it a try.


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‘Splatterhouse’ ™ & © 1988 Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., All Rights Reserved
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REVIEW – Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Capcom, 1985)

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ or originally 魔界村 Makaimura or ‘Demon World Village‘ in Japan, is an arcade side-scrolling platform game developed and released by Capcom in 1985 (mainly distributed by TAITO Corp.). The game created a number of sequels and franchises and was ported to a range of home computer systems, mainly by Elite Systems Ltd.

GNG Title

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ attract screen, arcade version

I was originally going to hold off reviewing this game until Halloween, but there are loads of things I can review or talk about when we finally get to the ‘witching’ season.. ..I really wanted to have a ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ review early into the blog.

You control ‘Arthur‘, who is a Knight who sets off to rescue Princess Prin Prin, who has been kidnapped and is being held by Satan, King of the Demon World. Along your way you have to master difficult jumps and fend of all manner of evil foes, including zombiesogres, demons, cyclops, dragons and other monsters.

GNG Level 1

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 1, arcade version

GNG Level 2 Pants

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 1, arcade version

GNG Level 2

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 2, arcade version

GNG Level 4 end

Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ level 4 boss, arcade version

To help you on your task you can collect extra suits of armor and different weapons. However, the weapons are effective in different ways, depending upon who or what you are fighting.. ..this brings in an important tactical element to the game.

You can take two hits from enemies before you loose a life.. ..with the first hit you hilariously loose you your suite of armor leaving you running around in your pants (briefs) until you die or find more armor. The death animation is also great!

Even so, make no mistake, this is a difficult game, especially by arcade standards. Firstly there are usually only two start points for each level, so upon loosing a life you can end up almost half way back through the level or back at the start. You are also running against a c. 3 min clock, which counts down at the start of each life (or level) and will result in death if it completely runs down.

In addition, and rather frustratingly, you can only defeat the final boss with either the ‘cross‘ or ‘shield‘ weapon. If you do not have either you are returned to the start of level 6 to complete the final two levels again. To then add insult to injury, even if you do have the necessary weapon and successfully defeat Satan you are informed that it was “an illusion” and you are forced to replay the game again. The second time round is played at a harder difficulty level, but this time you can defeat him and complete the game.

GNG Level 6

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 6 bosses, arcade version

GNG Level 6 Message

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 6 wrong weapon message, arcade version

GNG Level 7 end

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ meeting ‘Satan’ level 7, arcade version

GNG Level 7 Message

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ level 7 message, arcade version

If this sounds slightly ridiculous.. ..it is! If it were not for the superb game play, the game would have been relegated to the trash-pile of arcade history. However, ‘Ghost ‘n Goblins‘ is great fun to play and so can be forgiven somewhat.

GNG C64

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ Commodore 64 version

The home computer ports were often a poor reflection of the arcade original; many being limited by their hardware. Notable exceptions were the Commodore 64 and Amiga versions, which were very good.. ..the Amiga version being a very good approximation of the arcade original but never quite eclipsing the popularity of the C64 version.

The arcade version of the game is also included in the ‘Capcom Generations Vol.2: Chronicles of Arthur compilation for the Sony PlayStation (in Japan and Europe) and the Sega Saturn (in Japan only); which also included ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and ‘Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in the collection. These three Capcom Generation versions were later also ported as a collection as part of Capcom Classics Collection for the PlayStation 2, PSP and Microsoft Xbox. The game was also featured in the compilation ‘Capcom Arcade Cabinet’ for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.

GNG Cabinet

Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ arcade cabinet

The success of ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ spawned a series of sequels and spin-offs, eventually selling over 4.4 million and becoming Capcom’s 8th best selling game franchise. The sequels include ‘Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, ‘Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and ‘Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins in addition to the ‘Gargoyle’s Quest and ‘Maximo spin-off series. Furthermore, although originating as an arcade title, the franchise has since been featured in a variety of PC and video game consoles with the latest entries in the series, ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Gold Knights, released on iOS and Android.

GNG PCB

The ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ arcade PCB

GNG Flyer

A ‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ flyer from TAITO Corp.

The franchise also makes frequent cameo appearances in other Capcom works, particularly the character of Arthur; the most common of which being the ‘Marvel vs. Capcom‘ franchises.

Retrollection recommendation?

Although infuriatingly difficult at times, this is classic arcade action that makes you keep coming back for more, again and again. It is also easy to find via the various collections available for modern game consoles.. ..what are you still reading this for? Go save Princess Prin Prin!


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‘Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ ™ & © 1985 Capcom Co., Ltd, All Rights Reserved
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REVIEW – R-Type (Irem, 1987)

Next up for review is another arcade ‘shoot ’em up’, don’t worry I will move on to other game types soon, it just happens to be that some of my favourite old arcade games belong to this genre.

Anyway, what’s not to like about ‘R-Type‘, its fantastic!

R-Type Title Screen

There that was a short review…

…only kidding – what makes ‘R-Type‘ a classic video game? It has varied levels, varied weapons and that ‘just one more go’ addictive quality. Notoriously hard, it keeps you coming back again and again, as you ‘inch’ forward through each level. Much of its excellent replay value was due to the fact that you can learn the best routes though each level by trial and (a lot) of error. The game just never lets you go.

R-Type Level 1

‘R-Type’ game play screen – stage 1 ‘Encounter’, arcade version

R-Type Stage

‘R-Type’ game play screen – stage 7 ‘City in Ruins’, arcade version

R-Type‘ was side scrolling shooter produced by Irem in 1987 (distributed by Nintendo). You control the ‘R-9’space fighter (the first eight were apparently prototypes) and defend the human race against an invading alien species known simply as the ‘Bydo’, in the 22nd Century. You have to travel through 8 levels until you finally defeat the Bydo. Most levels end with bosses, some taking up most of the screen (as above). The level 3 boss is several screens wide and constitutes most of the gameplay for that stage.

There are many types of enemies to fight off – space ships, mecha and all manner of biological monstrosities. Initially all you have to defend yourself with is a rapidly firing ‘wave cannon’, but you can hold the fire button down and ‘charge’ the cannon to produce a much bigger, more destructive blast. Very quickly you pick up power ups which will increase the speed of the ‘R-9’, give you side shooting missiles and most importantly your ‘force’. This ‘force’ has nothing to do with Star Wars but is instead an indestructible orange orb.

R-Type PCB

The complex ‘sandwiched’ PCBs of the arcade version of ‘R-Type’

The ‘force’ adds so much to the gameplay because of what you can do with it.. ..it can be attached to the front or rear of the ‘R-9’ and act as a shield and give far greater fire power, depending on the last power up. It can also be shot off to shoot, independently, in hard-to-reach places.

R type force

How to use the ‘force’, which can be front or rear mounted or detached!

Power ups will give you either a rebounding laser cannon, a helical laser beam or a series of fire balls which hug the edge of the playfield. All of these are needed to proceed through the game as the changing levels are made easier with the use of the correct weapon. Missiles are fired from smaller forces which float above and below the ‘R-9’ and can also be used as shields. Sound complicated? It is, sort of.. ..but it is very easy to use in practice and is combined with simply fantastic control mechanics.

R-Type Arcade Machine

‘R-Type’ upright arcade cabinet

R-Type‘ was critically acclaimed, but often noted for its difficulty.. .. I hate to think how many 10p coins I put in the thing in the 80’s!

There were several OK ish ports to the 8-bit home computers, but the Sinclair ZX Spectrum version produced by Electric Dreams in 1998 deserves a special mention. How the programmers managed to achieve what they did is almost beyond belief.. ..it is not only a good version of the game, it is easily one of the best shooters on the ZX Spectrum, period.

R-Type ZX Spectrum

The amazing ZX Spectrum version

The PC Engine and Sony PlayStation ports are also notable for being close to arcade perfect. Clones are available via Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo’s Virtual Console. An largely accurate, but difficult to control port has been released on iOS and Android.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME, if you own the ROMs.

There are numerous sequels to this fantastic game, across a wide range of platforms, and we will be taking a look at some of them in future reviews.


Insight – ‘R-Type’ pranks

Irem has used the ‘R-Type’ universe for some of their well know April Fool’s Day pranks. In 2000 they ran phony adverts for ‘traditional Japanese sweets’, containing the force; there were three flavours available based on ‘R-Type Delta‘ variants. In 2003 they had a website where you could apparently buy different versions of the ‘R-9’. In 2004 they did a ‘Irem Burger’ prank, where they displayed various ‘Bydo Burgers’ some with ‘R-Type‘ related game discs. In 2005 Irem ‘launched’ a phoney console, the ‘EXIDNA‘ – one of the launch titles was ‘R-Type Final 2’, which could be used with their triple-wide “Bydo Monitor” peripheral. The jokers!


Retrollection recommendation?

Oh yes! Find a copy and play it.. ..fantastic!


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‘R-Type’ ™ & © 1987 Irem, All Rights Reserved
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