Video Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade)

I really dug the hell out of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade game, Tower of Doom. That one felt like it was greatly inspired by the awesome Golden Axe series, except they really expanded on what those games did and created something with more diverse enemies, great looking levels and multiple paths to reach the end.

This game, Shadow Over Mystara, is a direct sequel to Tower of Doom and with that, was created in the same style on what I would assume was the same engine. It reuses elements of the previous game but also expands further, making this one hell of a fun experience to play.

Additionally, there are so many character choices you can play as in this game. Even just experimenting with them all as you progress is a lot of fun. Each character has its own set of pros and cons like a regular table top Dungeons & Dragons campaign should.

Furthermore, the game is chock full of so many baddies of various types. The boss battles are also a lot of fun and simply progressing through this game gives you a good sense of accomplishment.

This is just a really great game and while it does take a good amount of time to beat for an arcade beat’em up, the time flies by pretty swiftly.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Golden Axe games and Altered Beast.

Video Game Review: Final Fight (Arcade)

Final Fight is a pretty badass side scrolling beat’em up game from the era where I spent a lot of time in arcades. The era that was probably the peak, as far as arcade games were concerned but then arcades started to fizzle out not too long after.

This game exists in the same universe as the Street Fighter series and a lot of the characters from Final Fight would appear in Street Fighter-related games over the years.

With that, this is an incredibly well-crafted, fluid, fun, smack a bitch kinda game.

Final Fight is just a blast to play and it’s aged really well and is definitely one of the best games of its type. While I enjoy Double Dragon a bit more, Final Fight beats out the vast majority of its competition from the same era.

The characters all look cool as hell, the levels are neat and the overall playing time and pacing of the game is damn near perfect.

This would go on to spawn sequels and to see its characters used, again and again, in other Capcom games from the early ’90s till current day.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Final Fight games, as well as similar side scrolling beat’em ups like the Double Dragon series, the Streets of Rage series, Crime Fighters, etc.

Video Game Review: Karnov (Arcade)

I played the arcade version of Karnov a few times, back in the ’80s. I barely have any memory of it, though and I guess that’s because the original Nintendo port was a damn good port.

Playing this now, it’s damn near identical to its 8-bit port, other than the graphics are a bit better and the gameplay is slightly smoother.

I used to play the NES game a lot. But it’s nice getting refamiliarized with this one.

Karnov is a cool character that was also featured in other Data East games to the point that he essentially became their Mario. He’s actually the first boss in both versions of the Bad Dudes video games.

Since the character became so prominent for Data East, it’s surprising that this game never got a sequel. It’s unique, cool as fuck and as I’ve already pointed out, features a prominent character for the developer.

These games remind me a lot of the Rygar games, as it features a unique hero in a very unique but interesting fantasy setting. Both games have cool landscapes, awesome beasts to battle and present a serious challenge that isn’t unbeatable but requires the development of great skill to do so.

Karnov is just a blast to play, even if it’s difficult to adjust to its playing style. Frankly, this should’ve birthed a long-running franchise. Maybe if it became that, Data East would still exist today.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling fantasy action games for the arcade and the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Contra (Arcade)

As much as I have played Contra on the original Nintendo, I hadn’t played the arcade version in decades. I always remembered it looking better and having better sound but I wanted to replay it just to see the differences between this original version and its more widely known NES port.

So this obviously does have better graphics and sound but it also has smoother gameplay.

Beyond that, the levels feel more condensed and the bosses take less hits to defeat.

However, even though you have the ability to continue after death, those continues are limited, so it’s extremely hard to actually play through the game in its entirety. In fact, I kept getting put down on the snow level, about midway through the game.

Still, this was a hell of a lot of fun and it should be considered an arcade classic in the same vein the NES version is considered an original Nintendo classic.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the arcade and classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes Vs. Dragonninja (Arcade)

I’ve played through and beat the original Nintendo port of this game at least a dozen or so times in the last three decades. However, I haven’t actually played through the superior, smoother arcade version since the late ’80s.

There was actually a Bad Dudes arcade cabinet in a convenient store right next to my cousin’s house when we were kids. We dropped a fuck ton of quarters in that machine.

It’s a game that was just too f’n cool for words when I was a kid. Ninjas were awesome! And here, you play as one of two buff Jean-Claude Van Damme looking dudes and smash color coded ninjas by the dozens.

You also got to do it in greatly designed levels where each had a unique look and vibe about them. The moving semi truck and freight train levels just added an extra dose of badassness to the already badass proceedings.

The arcade version is also the best version. It plays smoother, has better graphics, better sound and just exists on a higher level than the NES version, which was watered down by the limitations of the console.

Bad Dudes is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite beat’em up side scrollers of all-time. Revisiting this version of it just solidified that even more.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.

Video Game Review: Crime City (Arcade)

Crime City is something I surprisingly never played back in the ’80s. However, I stumbled across a video of some gameplay and I immediately went to my RetroPie to see if this was on it. It was!

The game is a simple side-scrolling shooter similar to the RoboCop arcade game. Visually it kind of reminds me of Bad Dudes and Rolling Thunder. But these are three games I really like, so this one is in good company.

This is fast paced and energetic. Ultimately, you just jump over obstacles and duck for cover as you progress through levels by filling assholes with lead. There are different weapons you can get throughout the game. The machine gun is a lot of f’n fun.

My only issues with the game is that the level design is a bit weak and the screen feels cramped, a lot. Also, the game is pretty short. I feel like I beat it in under fifteen minutes of total gameplay.

Still, it’s fun and action packed. It looks good, sounds good and plays good. What more could you want?

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up/shooters where the hero is thrashing scumbags and thugs.

Video Game Review: Rygar (Arcade)

I had thought that I had played this version of Rygar, back in the day, but having now blazed through it, I don’t think that I did.

This is not the same game as the more famous Nintendo version, which is still one of my all-time favorite games. This isn’t about exploring a massive world and switching between side scrolling and vertical scrolling, bird’s-eye-view areas. Nope, this game is just a side scrolling action game with quick stages you have to blow through against a timer.

This is a hell of a lot of fun and it keeps the Rygar aesthetic, which is just cool and unique. However, it lacks the challenge and scope of the Nintendo game, which felt like an epic adventure in the 8-bit ’80s.

I think that fans of the Nintendo game will still like this, as it looks great, has great sound and music and it features smooth gameplay and similar mechanics, albeit more fine tuned.

The arcade Rygar is a fine game on its own and a different experience altogether.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the original Nintendo version of the game, as well as the PlayStation 2 Rygar. Also, other side scrolling fantasy action games of the ’80s.

Video Game Review: Shinobi (Arcade)

Shinobi was a really cool game when it was released in 1987. Ninjas were at their all-time height of coolness and chucking dozens of stars at gutter punks and gangsters was definitely worth a quarter or seventeen.

I never got very far in the game, though. However, now playing through the thing, I know that I used to get about halfway through it before running out of money or giving up in frustration.

The game has pretty good graphics for the time and the gameplay is really smooth. None of the ports of this game did it any justice on home consoles, honestly. However, the console ports did give you a health bar instead of dying on a single hit.

And that’s my only real gripe about the arcade game, as it’s really hard to get through with one-hit deaths. Furthermore, you get knocked back to a checkpoint upon death, which is how not to do side scrolling beat’em up style games.

I guess I could also point out that the game is fairly short, if you can play through it without getting shellacked. I think that the average person will still get a solid half hour out of it, though, as long as they’re not some superstar that can blaze through it like an actual ninja.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other games under the Shinobi brand, as well as the Ninja Gaiden games.

Video Game Review: Captain America and The Avengers (Arcade)

If you were a kid or a teen in the early ’90s, chances are that you’ve played this game either in the arcade or on the Sega Genesis, where it was ported and ported rather well.

If you haven’t played this but played the early ’90s X-Men arcade game, this is incredibly similar.

In fact, the graphics are really close, as is the game play, controls and general aesthetic.

This is a side scrolling, beat’em up game where you get to choose between four Avengers characters: Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Vision. You also get some assistance from other Avengers throughout the game. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the lineup and thought this could’ve used more playable characters but it’s still fun, regardless.

The game is also littered with a ton of villains, some minor and some major. The big bad of the game is Red Skull but he definitely forged a solid alliance with some of the Avengers greatest foes and a giant Sentinel robot.

The gameplay is straightforward but there are some different modes. Some level let you fly a vehicle or just fly around as Iron Man or Vision as you battle aircraft and flying robots.

Most of the game still relies on the standard beat’em style, which was super popular at the time.

All in all, this isn’t a bad game; it’s actually pretty cool. My only real complaint is that I wish it was a bit longer and that you had more characters to use.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the X-Men arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.