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Joust Review

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Joust.  Yes, that ostrich game you may have read about in the fiction novel Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. Well I’m going to talk about it today because the site needs more arcade love and its about time Joust had a review. Full disclosure, I did review this game across a few emulators including MAME and multiple Midway Collections on Mega Drive (Genesis), PSP, and Xbox. This review will feature some brief discussion on the cabinet itself, which I have been fortunate enough to try at retro gaming conventions.

Released in 1982 by Williams Entertainment, Joust is single screen joystick and one button flapping mash fest. You play a knight riding on the back of the magnificent ostrich. With a lance in hand, your goal is simple: take out every enemy rider on screen. Then you repeat that wave after wave until you run out of lives. The single button on the cabinet is responsible for flapping wings of your feathered beast. You have to rapidly press the button to get your bird off the ground, but once you have the momentum going it becomes quite the skill to take down the other riders. You need to be slightly above the other rider and hit them to take them down. Once they are out of action an egg will drop which you’ll need to collect before it re-hatches a new rider and you have to take them out all over again. It becomes a juggle of priorities, choosing to take out the other riders or collect the eggs. The first wave, titled “Buzzard Blitz,” is fairly easy. Just three opponents spawn to ease you into the game, but like with a lot of these Williams games don’t be disappointed if you do loose all your lives on the first wave. It can take a few attempts to come to grips with the controls and figure out your strategy. By this point – back in the arcade days – you would have sunk a decent chunk of change into the cabinet.

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Written by jamalais

July 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

Come Out To Play-yay: How Fighting Actually Ushered In Arcade Camaraderie

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Final Fight by Capcom

The arcade was a diverse place chock full of different experiences.  Looking back at the early 80s it was comprised of single screen experiences, some scrolling and some not, mostly geared around challenging a player’s skill in hopes of consuming quarters in mass quantity.  Conceptually most games were simple but addictive, which is why you see many of the programmers from the classic arcade days transitioning into free-to-play mobile games with ease.  While there were games that involved a second player or massive cabinets, they were few and far between, just another part of the arcade’s myriad of experiences.  Then one day that all changed.  The arcade was about to become a place where large groups formed around a single cabinet and no game was complete without a second player.  Instead of ridiculous challenges leveled against a lone player, it was a machine against whatever talent was walking in the crowd.  It was a taste of things to come and it all started with the basic concept of beating someone up.

Stylized Male Violence

Roger Ebert used the above phrase to describe Paramount Picture’s 1979 thriller The Warriors, itself based upon the 1965 book of the same name by writer Sol Yurick.  In the film, the gangs of New York City assemble to discuss a truce between them so that they can gang up and outnumber the police.  During this meeting, Riffs leader and meeting coordinator Cyrus is shot dead and the Warriors are framed for the murder.  The meeting and murder take place in Van Cortlandt Park, which is located in the Bronx, and the Warriors turf is in Coney Island.  Those not familiar with the five boroughs of New York should note that Coney Island is about 30 miles directly south of the Bronx and therefore the Warriors find themselves a long way from home with every gang in the city eager to kill them.  You follow the Warriors throughout the film as they battle these gangs in an attempt to make it home safe and then clear their name.  The film relies heavily on street gang culture from the 60s and 70s that predominantly involved fists and melee as opposed to guns and knives, although the latter are definitely present in some altercations.  The Warriors has an unquestionable cult status among American moviegoers and expands to a larger worldwide audience.  Of those, a young Japanese game designer by the name of Yoshihisa Kishimoto loosely gets the idea for his 1986 arcade game Nikketsu Koha Kunio-Kun (Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio), which would be renamed in the West as simply Renegade.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 30, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Arcade, Features

DoDonPachi Resurrection Review

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dodonpachi_resurrection_1

For whatever reason, the West gave up on the scrolling shooter genre back in the 90s.  Sure, games came and went after the 32-bit generation, but for the most part series that had existed for decades like GradiusDarius, and even R-Type ceased development.  In Japan, however, the shooter – sometimes called shoot-em-up or the divisive shorthand of shmup – has evolved along with new franchises and coveted developers.  Otaku, weeaboo (foreigners obsessed with Japanese culture), and shoot-em-up fans like myself remain aware and hungry for the new and challenging titles that come from the East.  Of those modern franchises, there are few developers more notable than Cave and there are few franchises more recognizable than DoDonPachi.  The name is a pun on both the literal meaning, angry leader bee, and the fact that “don” is onomatopoeia with bullet fire in Japanese.  The story is somewhat irrelevant at this point, mostly because we never saw a release of any of the DoDonPachi series outside of limited release in arcades, but suffice to say it revolves around fighting various human fighters under the control of a large bee set on world domination.  The “don” is fitting as well because your ship will be putting out literally hundreds of bullets every second and a sea of bright pink and blue bullet-fire will be coming back at you in retort.  This sub-genre is known as danmaku (“bullet hell”), which is a fitting name given the minute-by-minute gameplay.  Why does any of this matter?  Because we’re finally getting a Western release of DoDonPachi DaiFakkatsu (aka Resurrection) on Steam that is part of an impressive resurgence of the genre for this region.  DoDonPachi Resurrection is gorgeous, brutal, and feature packed to the point that both the veteran shooter fan and newcomers can find plenty to do and enjoy every potentially frustrating second.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

DoDonPachi Resurrection Quick Look

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DoDonPachi Resurrection will premiere on Steam October 14, a title previously exclusive to Japan.  Here Fred takes a look at the initial stages and describes basic gameplay.  This footage was captured at 4K/UHD resolution (3840×2160) and then downsampled to 1080p.

This quick look was originally posted on The B-Team Podcast (www.thebteampodcast.com) and have partial co-ownership with this site.  This is re-posted with permission.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Podcast: The Astyanax or Lord of the Kings

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Developer Aicom had a slew of interesting titles in the late 80s and early 90s, one of which was called The Astyanax or Lord of the Kings in Japan.  Oddly enough the game also had one of those infamous ports to the NES that changed and extended the original arcade concept, which Fred loved as a kid.  In this episode Jam and Fred discuss their discovery of the arcade original and a replay of the Nintendo port.


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Old Console, New Hardware (Part 2)

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This week the mod conversation continues as the guys move into the CD-based consoles and the wonderful world of modchips.  There were many ways to get different things done in the Playstation era and beyond.  Finally the show wraps up with soft modding and the various things that can be done from consoles only a few generations old.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

Altered Beast Review

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altered_beast_attract

Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots.  Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising.  I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home.  I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game.  When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly.  In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past.  This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.

altered_beast_arcade_beast_modeThe premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped.  Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level.  Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time.  Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less.  Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span.  When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.”  Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first.  Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme.  While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much.  That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series).  Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

Street Fighter (Fighting Street) Review

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One of the most common questions I have been asked in regards to fighting games is, “why is Street Fighter II a sequel?  Where is Street Fighter?”  An understandable question, especially when you consider that the original Street Fighter was released in arcades a whopping four years later, plays completely different from its sequel, and was called Fighting Street in its only US console release (on the Turbografx-CD no less).  If you’re a fan of Street Fighter II, the concept of getting to see where the series starts is tempting to say the least (and now completely possible without expensive hardware thanks to the virtual console and Capcom Collection), but you’ll soon find that Street Fighter is much more of a proof of concept rather than a fighting game that pre-dates the record setting sequel.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Mk3

Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Podcast: Arcade Memories

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This week Fred and Jam wax nostalgic on their favorite arcades from the past.  It’s always been our belief that not only were the cabinet games themselves impressionistic, but the particular arcade you would visit and games you selected at those arcades to be just as significant.  We talk about the locations, interiors, moods, feel, and of course our favorite games.


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Written by Fred Rojas

March 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Arcade, podcast

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