Video Game Review: Captain Silver (Sega Master System)

I had no idea what this game was because I don’t have a lot of playing experience with the original Sega console, the Master System.

However, I now have access to tons of these games thanks to my RetroPie, a supremely worthwhile investment for anyone into retrogaming.

This is a simple side-scrolling action game where you play a heroic swashbuckler fighting real threats and fantastical ones like lion men wearing fancy clothes.

I went into this blindly so I wasn’t sure what the objective was but you pretty much have to collect letters dropped by defeated enemies and spell out “Captain Silver”. You can do this multiple times per level by walking back and forth but you are also timed and need to reach the end of the stage before the time runs out.

It was fairly fun but the one-hit death kind of sucks and makes the game more challenging than it should be. I didn’t play it to the point of beating it but I got a few stages in.

I tried to beat it on several attempts but after 45 minutes to an hour, I thought I had a good grasp of everything.

The mechanics are decent but the platforming was a bit rough, especially when having to jump from moving object to moving object. Plus, a water fountain killing a swashbuckling hero seems really lame.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game but it’s not great. I thought it looked good and it was amusing for awhile but I’m not sure if it’s anything I’ll play with any sort of regularity.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: RoboCop 2 (Arcade)

I reviewed the first RoboCop arcade game awhile back and intended to review the sequels, as well, but that task fell down the memory poop chute.

Anyway, while playing my RetroPie, I came across this and was then reminded of the task I failed at. So I immediately fired this one up and then realized, I had never actually played it, even way back in the day.

The action and mechanics are pretty close to the first arcade game, except you are able to move up and down the ground area and it’s not like your stuck walking on a rail.

The graphics and sound quality are about the same and the game is actually fairly quick if you’re pretty good at it. But the learning curb isn’t steep and playing this through MAME, you never run out of quarters.

My only real gripe is that the jumping and shooting combo you need to use on the harder bosses is kind of wonky and annoying. Also, the bonus stages are kind of cool but pointless and somewhat tedious. If you can get anything close to a perfect score, you are the greatest gamer that ever lived.

Overall, not a bad followup to the first RoboCop arcade game but I still like its predecessor a bit more.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters and beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Rolling Thunder (Arcade)

I used to play Rolling Thunder a lot back in the ’80s when I’d blow all of my allowance at the arcade. I honestly forgot about it though until I heard it mentioned on a podcast discussing arcade games from the greatest generation of video arcades.

I was glad to find this on my RetroPie, so I fired it up to re-familiarize myself with its pure, unadulterated awesomeness.

Well, I was glad to discover that it has held up tremendously well. It was fun as hell to play, the gameplay mechanics were damn solid and I loved the sound, level design and the general action elements.

My only real complaint is that continues send you back to a checkpoint instead of respawning you where you died. It adds an extra level of challenge to the game but since you can’t take very much damage, as is, I found myself stuck in a really difficult area.

Despite that, I played this for well over an hour, which is a long time for arcade games from this one’s era.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action shooters of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

Video Game Review: Kung Fu (NES)

Kung Fu was one of the first Nintendo games that I owned. My cousin had the system about six months before I did but when I got mine later that year at Christmas, this was one of the games that “Santa” dropped off with it.

loved this fucking game and used to play it for hours, even though you can actually beat it in like ten minutes. I didn’t care about how repetitive it was and how basic as fuck the level design was, it was just a badass game with a badass dude throwing lightning fast kicks and unimpressive punches. Just use the kicks, man!

I also noticed, as a kid, that this was a lot like the plot to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, where the hero has to fight through five levels of a pagoda, facing a tough boss on each level. I’m pretty sure this took its inspiration from that film’s general premise but it also adds in lots of baddies and unique bosses that weren’t trying to emulate the character from the Lee film.

For the time, the mechanics of this game were superb. While you can get overwhelmed by enemies if you aren’t precise, most mistakes are due to human error and not the game being a piece of shit.

There’s not a lot of strategy to this game. Just kick and don’t get hit. When you fight the bosses, sweeping the leg works for most of them. Just unload lightning fast leg sweeps and be done with them.

While this is one of the best side scrolling beat’em ups from the earliest days of the original Nintendo, it did get overshadowed by games like Double Dragon. 

Still, this is one smooth game that packs a punch and is still fun to blast through every now and again.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em action games for the original Nintendo.

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: Spelunker (NES)

I never knew about Spelunker until I came across a video of it recently. Being that I love the hell out of 8-bit era action puzzle games, I wanted to play it.

However, this is far from the near masterpiece that is Solomon’s Key.

To start, the game has great level design and it looks fantastic. I was really excited when I fired this up.

However, my enthusiasm was completely wrecked by the terrible mechanics and controls. The in-game physics are wonky at best and it almost feels like this was deliberately designed to infuriate you from the get go.

Still, I tried to get passed the learning curve but the mechanics are just so shit that I eventually gave up.

So I didn’t play this through to completion or had to stop because I found myself at some impossible roadblock. I just got burnt out trying to make the character on the screen do what I wanted him to do.

In the end, this had the makings and level design to be something incredibly fun. Instead, it’s a really wonderful looking bag of dicks.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other action puzzle games for the original Nintendo and earlier Atari systems.

Video Game Review: Wolverine (NES)

I never played this game when it was released, as it came out after I moved on to 16-bit consoles. But it plays a lot like the NES Spider-Man game.

It’s a simple, side-scrolling platformer full of action and some of Marvel Comics’ most iconic X-Men related characters.

The game is fairly weak though, due to only having a handful of rather short levels. Additionally, the levels are pretty basic and not well designed.

Wolverine could’ve been better with more complex design and not just longer levels but more levels.

Also, you only get to fight two iconic villains. In this game you face Magneto and then the final boss, Sabretooth. Honestly, that feels like it’s backwards, regardless of Sabretooth being Wolverine’s biggest rival. Magneto is a much stronger threat with a real trump card when it comes to dealing with Wolverine and that’s his magnetic powers versus Wolverine’s metal skeleton.

Anyway, this was still enjoyable enough not to hate. I’d call it basic bitch shit and uninspiring but for a game based on a licensed property, it’s still better than most and infinitely better than the NES X-Men game that came out a few years earlier.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling comic book games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.

This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.

Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.

This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.

As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.

The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.

Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.

Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES