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: Golden Axe II (Sega Genesis)

As I kid, I seemed to like Golden Axe II slightly better than the Sega Genesis port of the original game. However, as an adult, I see this as just more of the same with the only difference being a few new sprites for new enemies and new levels. Other than that, the graphics and the gameplay didn’t improve and this was very obviously just made using the original games assets with some tweaks.

That doesn’t mean that this is bad or a waste of time. The original game is pretty great for what it is and this is just more of that. It’s really just an extension of that already solid game, which is probably why it sold really well and there weren’t too many complaints from players.

I thought that the game was still a lot of fun and I actually found it a bit easier than its predecessor. But then again, I’ve been blowing through all the Golden Axe games, lately, and maybe my skills are just coming back to me after all these years.

In the end, if you’re a fan of the series and specifically the original game’s Genesis version, there really isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this one too.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Golden Axe games, as well as the Gauntlet series and other sword and sorcery video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

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: Golden Axe (Sega Genesis)

Since I played some of the Golden Axe arcade games, I wanted to also go back and revisit the versions that were released on the Sega Genesis.

This, being the first, was a port of the original arcade game.

So it plays pretty similarly and has the same general level design. However, you can see where they had to simplify the graphics in parts, as you can’t run an arcade level game on a 16-bit home console and expect it to run as smoothly or at all.

It’s not a big issue, honestly. If I hadn’t just played the arcade version first, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

I feel like the gameplay, the mechanics, controls and smoothness were pretty consistent with the arcade version. Also, this version is longer and isn’t as quick of an experience as the arcade game, which I blew through rather quickly.

One of the reasons why this was longer and may be even superior to the slightly better looking arcade version, is that it added in a new level. There is also a fun duel mode added to the game, which basically allows you to use these characters in the same way you would in a standard fighting game.

All in all, this is probably one of the best arcade-to-console ports ever made. Its additions outweigh its losses. I only wish I could get infinite continues like I was playing the arcade version with infinite tokens.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Golden Axe games, as well as the Gauntlet series and other sword and sorcery video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

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.

Video Game Review: Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (Arcade)

I couldn’t get my arcade version of Golden Axe II to play on my RetroPie, so I jumped to this one, which was next in the chronology of Golden Axe arcade releases. I will go back and play Golden Axe II (and III), when I finish up the arcade releases and then start working through the Sega Genesis ones.

As much as the first Golden Axe is my favorite due to nostalgia and how it effected me, as a kid, this one is a pretty cool, expanded version of what they did with the original game.

In this installment, there are more character options. I tend to just stick to the standard barbarian character but the pitchfork guy was an interesting addition, as was the centaur lady, who replaced the Valkyrie character from previous games.

Also, this game has multiple paths to the end. In this, you get to choose which roads you want to take at a few different points. There are also extra rooms to explore in some areas.

The gameplay is essentially the same. However, there are more things you can ride from creatures to powerful, mobile weapons.

This is also a longer game than the original, which I thought ended rather quickly.

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is probably the most refined game of the series up to its release. It also has the most options and allows you to have more choices between characters and and where to go.

All in all, this is a solid edition to the series that didn’t just give you more of the same with a few new levels and baddies.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Golden Axe games, as well as the Gauntlet series and other sword and sorcery video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

Video Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (Arcade)

I had no idea that there were Dungeons & Dragons arcade games until I came across them on my RetroPie. It looks like there are two that I have on there. I started with this one because it looks like it came out first.

This is probably something I missed because it came out around the time that the massive arcade near my house closed down. I also moved to a much smaller town right after that and having a vast array of arcade games at my disposal became a thing of the past.

Anyway, this reminds me a lot of the Golden Axe series of games. However, it gives you more character types to choose from and it has multiple paths you can take to reach the end of the game.

I thought that the graphics and sound were solid, as were the game’s controls and general mechanics.

Man, this was a lot of fun and it also featured a ton of neat, unique bosses that were fun to fight.

In fact, nothing in this game was really frustrating except for the length, as I felt like I was playing this for hours. There’s no way I would’ve had the money or time to beat this in the arcade, back in the day.

Overall, this was a really fun and badass gaming experience. This is certainly something I will come back to over the many years I have left on Earth.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the Golden Axe games, as well as Altered Beast.