Video Game Review: Altered Beast (Arcade)

While I’ve played the Sega Genesis port of this game countless times, it’s been a really long time since I’ve fired up the original arcade version.

I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t much difference between the two.

Although, I feel like the rom that I played may have been an earlier version of the game, as I could only transform into the werewolf on each level and I wasn’t able to turn into the other were-creatures. After watching the arcade playthrough video below, I saw that the other animals did indeed exist in the arcade version. So why mine only had the werewolf is a mystery, I guess.

If you’ve got insight on this, leave a comment.

That being said, this was still fun to play, even if werewolf mode made it damn hard to beat some of the bosses that were tailored more for the special attacks of other hero monsters.

This is a very simple beat’em up game with minor platformer elements. It’s side scrolling and moves at it’s own pace. The only real objective is to beat stuff up, collect power-up orbs and turn into a badass were-creature to fight each level’s boss. The game has five levels.

Altered Beast was never great or even all that engaging. It was just a really cool game that was fun to play, had neat graphics and sound for the time and also allowed you to transform into pretty generic but powerful monsters.

As a kid, I used to wish it was longer because I’d usually beat it in fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, it didn’t get a sequel until years later. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the 16-bit era.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Star Wars (Arcade)

I don’t know if this was the first arcade game I played as a kid but it is the first one I remember falling in love with.

I don’t know if my love of it was because of the great gameplay, the cool wireframe graphics or simply because it was Star Wars and Star Wars was the biggest thing in my life at the time.

Recently, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, a place I go to every year or two, and I found an original sit-down Star Wars arcade machine in the Pinball Museum there. It was the first time I had played this in over two decades and I found out that when it comes to mastery of this game, I’ve still f’n got it!

Bragging aside, playing through this and beating it again was a hell of an awesome experience and it made me appreciate just how good of a game this was for its time.

There are only three levels but to truly beat it, you need to start on the easiest and then work your way through them all.

The game is pretty simple in that it is a rail shooter that keeps you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter. Initially, you fight TIE Fighters in space and then you reach the Death Star, where you have to hit the exhaust port and blow it up.

Each level is the same sort of thing but there are different TIE Fighter formations in the space battles, as well as different parts of the Death Star to explore.

Star Wars is still one of my favorite games of all-time. It’s simple, fun, challenging and it’s aged remarkably well for something as simple as it is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars vehicle shooters, primarily those early ’90s ones on PC.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Arcade)

The Double Dragon games were a massive part of my childhood. At least the parts that were spent at the video arcade or playing the original Nintendo.

My fondest memories were of the original game and Super Nintendo’s Super Double Dragon. However, when this game first came out, I was ecstatic that my favorite beat’em up side scroller of the time was getting a sequel.

Sadly, this one disappointed, even if I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself it was awesome.

My biggest gripe with the game is how they altered the controls. How you attack depends on how you are facing the enemy, which made attacks from multiple sides a pretty infuriating experience. I could play this for hours and my brain still couldn’t adapt to the bizarre and terrible change.

Playing this now, I turned it off about two-thirds of the way through because even on MAME, where I can alter the controls to my liking, I still couldn’t get the game to work in a fluid and fun way. I was bogged down by the shitty combat system.

Also, the enemies in this game just seem a lot more annoying, which is only compounded by the awful controls.

On top of that, this feels more like a rehash of the first game with shittier and more generic level design. Where the first game inspired imagination, this one just felt like one of the dozens of games that ripped off Double Dragon. This really added nothing good to the game series and in fact, made it worse.

However, the Nintendo version of the game is much better with some pretty good level design and additions. Sadly, it’s still got these shitty controls though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: BurgerTime (Arcade)

BurgerTime is a pretty simple early ’80s arcade game that got ported to just about every computer and console during its heyday.

But it was deserving of that, as it’s a great time waster and a lot of fun, even if it can get frustrating with evil food minions trying to hunt you down. Although, if sausages and eggs were chasing me, I’d grab a fork and knife.

Anyway, at its core, BurgerTime is a simple puzzle game. You play a chef and you run up and down ladders and across platforms that hang on to different layers of a burger. The object, is to knock down each layer and build burgers out of them.

The layouts change with each level and the difficulty increases as you move through the game. Levels get more complex and enemies get faster.

While a lot of similar games have come and gone and are long since forgotten about, BurgerTime is well designed and, in my opinion, has successfully stood the test of time as a solid, action packed puzzle game that never gets old is still worthy of revisiting every now and again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory, Super BurgerTime and Diner.

 

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade)

Being that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game was nearly perfect, I wanted to play the arcade version of its sequel.

Now I have played Turtles In Time before but it was always the version for home consoles and not its superior arcade counterpart.

This was a blast to playthrough though, as it plays just like its predecessor. The controllers and look of the game are the same and the only real difference is that this comes with new levels, new bosses and the time travel element thrown in. If anything, it’s an expansion of the great first game.

My only real complaint is that the boss battles in this one weren’t as good or as memorable as the first game. I missed beating up on the more popular baddies, as this chapter gives us mostly second and third tier Turtles villains.

However, the final boss fights were a lot of fun. The battle with Krang felt fresh and new and not just a rehash of what was done in the previous installment. Also, the final fight with Shredder was more challenging and the cherry on top of this superb banana split of awesomeness.

Overall, I liked this one less than the first game. However, it is a solid compliment to it and it kept things fresh enough to allow it to stand on its own as a worthy side scrolling beat’em up.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.

Video Game Review: Gauntlet II (Arcade)

From memory, Gauntlet II was just more of the same in regards to how it plays when compared to its predecessor. However, having now played both of the games in their original arcade versions, I can say that they aren’t exactly the same and that this one improves over the first one.

The level design in Gauntlet II is fantastic and a lot more maze-like than the original. Also, there is more visual flair in the designs with stunningly vibrant colors, as well as new kinds of walls and floor tiles. Playing this just after the first game really shows you how much this one has stepped forward in its overall look and style.

The game also seems to have more diverse groups of enemies to swarm you. Everything is almost the same regarding enemy types but they seem to be mixed up better. Instead of levels that are primarily ghosts, you now have ghosts, demons and trolls all coming at you from multiple spots in pretty close quarters.

If anything, this one was definitely a quarter thief.

I think the addition I liked most was the dragons. Every half dozen levels or so, you will encounter a pretty large, fire spitting dragon. They do massive damage but they also add a whole new level of coolness to the proceedings.

Gauntlet II is everything the original game was and then some. It’s a shit ton of fun and thankfully, I don’t have to dump actual quarters in it anymore.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the original Gauntlet and then the later sequels.

Video Game Review: Elevator Action (Arcade)

This was one of those games I dumped a lot of quarters into. It was always at my bowling alley and skating rink as a kid. While the video arcade had better video games, you had to take what you could get elsewhere, especially in a small town.

But that’s not to diminish the awesomeness of this game. I loved the hell out of Elevator Action. So much so that I bought the port of it for the original Nintendo.

While it may look simplistic, it’s a pretty challenging game, especially as you work your way through it. I’m not sure if it is beatable, as I’ve never beaten it and it seems to go on forever.

In the game, you start each stage by grappling onto a roof, then you work your way down every single floor from the rooftop to the street level. You can use elevators and stairs but you have to dodge the bullets of the baddies while also trying to shoot them yourself.

My only gripe about the arcade version is that the controls can feel wonky and slow to react sometimes. Still, once you play it enough, your brain kind of adjusts to that. But that also doesn’t excuse the fact that you just can’t dodge in time.

Elevator Action is mostly just mindless entertainment and a good time killer. But for what it is, it is one of the best of its era. And despite being pretty straightforward and a bit basic, it’s still a good challenge.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: games like Lode RunnerBurger Time and Elevators.