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: Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES)

The first Golgo 13 for the original Nintendo is a game I used to love playing. But I hadn’t picked it up in years. Since I’ve been thinking about doing a deep dive into Golgo 13‘s anime series and movies, I figured I’d revisit the video games, as well.

This is still a lot of fun and I really liked games like this that didn’t just have one playing style. Here, you have a side scrolling shooter but then you get to use vehicles, go on sniper missions and also go underwater.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode has a lot going on for it. Each stage of the game brings something fresh and unique and for a NES game, this is pretty long and takes a few hours to beat if you know where to go and what to do. Back in the day, I had to explore and figure out which steps to take.

For the time, the graphics are pretty good and the sound is great. However, it’s the story that makes this such a cool game.

This came out in an era where games didn’t have complex stories like they do in modern times. But this game took it to a level gamers hadn’t seen in 1988. This sort of has RPG vibes to it in how you talk to informants and other NPCs, get clues and directions and more pieces to the plot. While I think much was lost in the English translation, as was common with old NES games, the story still lured me in when I was a wee li’l lad.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a neat game. It’s held up well and is still engaging and fun, even if all the first-person shootout sequences do become a bit tedious and annoying after awhile.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era, as well as the second Golgo 13 game and Rescue: The Embassy Mission.

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: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Sega Master System)

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was the first sequel to the hit Ghosts ‘n Goblins game. This port to the Sega Master System actually came out a year after it was ported to Sega’s more advanced Genesis console.

However, this version of the game added in some cool stuff that the arcade and other ports didn’t have.

The Master System port features a unique upgrade system. The biggest thing that stands out is that the player can now enter shops and purchase better armor, weapons and magic.

The graphics on this version are also pretty impressive considering that the Master System console was a step behind the Genesis. This game looks visually better than the more comparable Nintendo Entertainment System’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins game from a few years earlier.

I thought that the controls were a bit wonky, though. Then again, they’re not that different from the older NES game that I spent hours upon hours playing in the late ’80s.

Like its predecessor, this game is also really damn difficult and frustrating. I didn’t get anywhere near completing it before giving up in frustration to go smoke a joint and grill a steak.

Despite being a visually alluring installment of the series, this one does fall kind of flat. It’s more frustrating than fun, the levels aren’t that great and the overall level design is kinda meh.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other games in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise.

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: 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.