100 Greatest Retro Games part 3
Long before the magical Colin McRae took over the rally game market, it was Sega’s arcade classic that ruled the roost. Choosing from a trio of vehicles, you compete over a quartet of challenging tracks filled with jumps and seemingly unbeatable bends. While today we expect rally games to all be as realistic as possible, Sega Rally’s focus was on fun and playability. The game comes into it’s own when two machines are linked up allowing for top head-to-head action.
One of the games that helped shift the original PlayStation, Lara Croft’s debut adventure ushered in a new era of ‘Girl Power’ as our heroine travelled the world grabbing ancient treasures. Before the series was diluted with rushed and unimpressive sequels, Lara did actually spend her time raiding tombs (seems obvious, but this dynamic was forgotten in later chapters), and the puzzles were ingenious and tricky. In terms of its influence over the genre and a million substandard adventures since, Tomb Raider was arguably the last generation’s most iconic title.
Who can forget those days huddled over the arcade version of this fighting classic? The two-player action revolves around Billy and Jimmy Lee – two brothers who set off to save Billy’s girlfriend from a notorious street gang – taking us from the slums of New York to a forest green area before the final showdown with the big boss. As well as punching and kicking their way through the game, the siblings can also use any items they find lying around. One of the finest co-operative gaming experiences in history, Double Dragon spawned a plethora of less-impressive sequels and even a big screen adventure, which is probably best forgotten.
Proof, if any were needed that not all gamers are gun-obsessed psychos, and that not all software is brimming with brainless violence, Civilization revolves around becoming the king of the world, instead. Once you’ve explored and begun developing your colony, the creation starts in earnest with cities being built, different technologies brought into play and a military presence established. Basically, if it happens in the real world it happens in the game. Oh, the days we wasted playing this; we’ll never get that time back. Of course, if we did get it back we’d only waste it playing The Sims.
Sonic & Knuckles
There’s always the risk that if you try to add another major character to an iconic series, it’ll water down the property. However, Sonic managed to pull off this trick not once but twice, first with the introduction of Tails (although he was a little too goody-two-shoes for our taste), and then with Knuckles who got top billing in this entertaining and challenging sequel. Gameplay was the same fast-paced ring collecting as before, with Robotnik attempting to acquire the biggest Chaos Emerald of them all and thus gain absolute power. A unique element of the game was the ability to combine it with your copy of Sonic 2, making Knuckles a playable character in the older game. Clever.
The Secret Of Monkey Island 2
One of the finest adventure series of them all, the Monkey Island games combined devilishly intelligent puzzles with genuinely humorous dialogue. Monkey Island 2 also features impressive, hand-painted graphics that help to bring the pirate world to life. It’s the characterisation that turns Monkey Island 2 into a classic, though, with the return of Guybrush Threepwood – the dashing hero of the previous game – as well as the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. Add a cast of disturbed and demented pirates and you have one of LucasArts’ finest moments.
A turn-based wizard adventure for the Spectrum, Chaos was written by Julian Gollop who later became famous for the X-Com series. Chaos sees up to eight wizards fighting it out, summoning creatures and wiping out their fellow magicians. In the turn-based adventure, wizards can be controlled by humans or the computer, and each has a three-phased attack: the selection of spells, the casting of magic, together with the use of combat. While the game was nothing special to look at, the action was totally addictive and, as its position here proves, Chaos remains much loved among strategy fans.
One of the Amiga’s crowning moments, Cannon Fodder stands with Lemmings and Worms as one of the most revered and devilishly fun party games of all time. Unlike the majority of war games out there, Cannon Fodder has its tongue firmly in its cheek at all times, and rather than having to learn strategies and plan for hours, you just send your guys in and cause instant havoc. As well as vehicles, including tanks and helicopters aiding your cause, your soldiers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, ranging from grenades to hulking bazookas. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s brilliant.
The New Zealand Story
One of the platform games that brings a smile to the faces of an entire generation of gamers, The New Zealand Story remains one of Taito’s finest arcade favourites. As the feathered hero Tiki, you must free your friends who’ve been kidnapped from a New Zealand zoo by a nefarious sea lion. A classic platform adventure that uses every cliché in the book, and yet still manages to be challenging and fun. Despite the sickly sweet graphics and colourful characters, The New Zealand Story packs quite a punch in the difficulty stakes and is still tough today. Grab Taito Legends to see what we mean.
Is there anyone alive who hasn’t wasted years of their lives trying to stop herds of little green-haired goons falling to their deaths? We imagine not. On paper the game may sound over simplistic – just keep the lemmings alive – but like all the greatest games, there are so many hidden depths here that even a decade on, you’ll still discover new tactics to clear the levels. The Amiga version may remain the best-remembered, but Lemmings has graced pretty much every console, from the original mono Game Boy right up to Sony’s PSP.
The Commodore 64 had its fair share of space adventures, but few were as deep and atmospheric as Paradroid. Taking control of robots, it’s a case of exploring spaceships and trying to survive in a futuristic environment. Each space freighter is made up of sections that must be cleared one by one; once you’ve eradicated all the druids in one area you move to the next, and when the whole ship is clear you’re beamed onto the next craft. Paradroid is simple to play, but thanks to the massive maps, you won’t be completing it in a hurry.
In the middle of the arcade revolution of the early Eighties, Robotron arrived and blew gamers away with its fast and furious space-based action. You are Earth’s only hope against the evil Robotron and must blast at anything in sight. Luckily you’re well equipped to take them on, with eight directions to fire in and an innovative two-joystick control method. The game is all about movement and finding ways to avoid the enemy who constantly spawn around you. The graphics are basic yet colourful, but it’s the playability which makes Robotron such an iconic title.
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
This Bitmap Brothers sequel is a sports game with a difference. Whereas many sporting titles go for realism and authenticity, Speedball 2 rewards you for taking the rulebook and throwing it out the window. It’s a game where ‘only the strong survive’, as this futuristic league kicks off. A case of getting the ball in the opponent’s goal by any means necessary, and this means smashing through the opposition, breaking bones as you go. One of the best multiplayer games of the Amiga era, Speedball 2 may not be sporting, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Treasure’s debut on the Mega Drive features some of the best graphics ever seen on the system, as well as gameplay that gives Neo Geo classics such as Metal Slug a run for their money. Just when Nintendo fans were claiming that the Super Nintendo had pretty much finished off the by now antiquated Mega Drive, Gunstar Heroes showed what could still be done with the technology. Facing huge hulking bosses who move constantly, the camera zooms in and out creating more tension as you stagger toward the impressive climax where all the previous bosses watch you try and defeat the ultimate enemy… brilliant.
A classic Rambo-style story mixed with intense shooting action created one of the Neo Geo’s crowning moments; the popularity of Metal Slug is proven by its appearance on pretty much every machine since. Traverse the jungles, blasting at anything in sight; from enemy soldiers to helicopters to hulking great bosses, Metal Slug has it all. Saving POWs has never been this much fun. Despite its war scenario, Metal Slug features a hefty amount of humour throughout, with sight gags galore. Don’t be fooled by the cartoony look, this remains one tough cookie.
There’s really no way of improving upon the genius gameplay of the original Tempest, so for this update on the much-maligned Jaguar, Atari kept the spirit of the original alive rather than watering down the action with some sort of lame 3D update. If anything, Tempest 2000 was even harder than the original, with all the old enemies returning as well as new adversaries. The biggest change is the way that the whole playfield undulates and ripples, creating all kinds of bizarre effects as you play. There’s also a decent two-player mode and, of course, the original arcade game is available in the package too.
Daytona USA came to two separate Sega consoles – the Saturn and the Dreamcast – and remains one of its most loved racers. The game is noted for the intelligence of fellow drivers who react to not only your driver but also other computer-controlled foes as they all jostle for position. While in order to win the race you’ll have to avoid them, one of our best memories of the game are the multiple car pile ups – we’d like to say that we can smile as we speed past the lumps of metal, but normally we’re in amongst the debris.
How do you follow up one of the most revered platform adventures of all time? If you’re Miyamoto, you remove the central character and let one of his faithful sidekicks take centre stage. And this being Miyamoto, it worked a treat. The story sees Baby Mario separated from his brother and helped back by a group of friendly Yoshis. Even though the N64 was drawing ever closer when the game was released, Yoshi’s Island still stunned with its colourful and detailed graphics. The best thing about controlling Yoshis is the fact they can actually eat enemies and then spit them out, bringing smiles to the faces of gamers everywhere. The only downside as everyone here agrees, was when Baby Mario fell off Yoshi and you had to listen to him cry.
Who can forget the thrill of descending into the perilous dungeons in this groundbreaking RPG? With your quartet of brave warriors, you go down into the depths of the dungeons and traverse the darkened corridors, fighting creepy foes of all descriptions. Dungeon Master improves upon the combat systems of similar games of the time and the inventory system is also much easier to decode than others in the genre. In fact, the interfaces here greatly influenced most titles of this sort for many years to come.
Pure shoot-’em-up nirvana, Gradius (aka Nemesis) was a mainstay of the mid-Eighties arcade and has stood the test of time more than most. Gameplay is classic ‘destroy waves of enemies’ fun and requires you to have cat-like reflexes if you’re to survive. Once a barrage of foes is taken care of, power ups can be collected and there is a choice of enhancements ranging from a speed up for your ship to bombs and lasers to increase your firepower. Gradius proved so popular that Konami even released a parody entitled Parodius, where the aliens and space environments were replaced with pastel colours and cats. Also fantastic.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
A Saturn triumph, Panzer Dragoon Saga filled the RPG-based-around-dragons hole that we never knew was there. The cinematic adventure, the third and final part in the trilogy is notable for the decent voice acting and impressive FMV sequences, and also for its incredible size – Panzer Dragoon Saga spanned a quartet of game discs.
The deep story revolves around Edge, a young gun for hire and a mysterious and beautiful girl with many secrets. One of Sega’s greatest non-Hedgehog moments, we can often still be found immersed in Panzer Dragoon Saga’s hypnotic world.
With the simplest of control methods and the slightest of stories, Manic Miner thrilled a generation of gamers, and remains one of the platform genres finest moments. Our hero Willy has stumbled down a mineshaft and, as you do, discovered a new civilisation. Of course, what this means is running and jumping his way around a huge number of rooms avoiding all kinds of bizarre foes, collecting cash and opening the portal to the next challenging cavern. While the colourful but basic graphics may have been improved upon, the pixel-perfect jumping remains unbeaten – the thing with Manic Miner is that when you fail, you KNOW it was your own fault.
The Secret Of Monkey Island
We’re not surprised that this slice of the hilarious series has leapt above its followers in the chart because, while the sequel guaranteed laughter and incredibly convoluted puzzle logic, it was the original chapter (which introduced us to Guybrush Threepwood and his attempts to become a pirate) that really stood out as proof that LucasArts was onto something big. While passing the trials necessary to become a top pirate, Threepwood falls for Elaine, but just when things seem to be going his way she’s kidnapped by the ghostly pirate LeChuck and a gaming legend is born… albeit one who’s weapon of choice is a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.
The king of scrolling shoot-’em-ups, R-Type sees increasingly tricky aliens attacking you from all angles. Your ship may be small, but by holding down the fire button (a trick that’s tougher than it sounds considering how many enemies are on screen at all times) your shot becomes all-powerful and can slice through enemies like a hot knife through butter. The most memorable part of R-Type is the strange and grotesque bosses. They may not equal the pus-filled mutants of the Contra series for horror, but they are some of the hardest we’ve encountered, forcing us to part with every ten pence we possessed when this classic hit the arcade.
Accelerate. Steer. Dodge. DON’T CRASH. Oh, how we love OutRun – never has a racing game managed to feel so American and so darned cute as you cruise down the highway with a hot babe in the passenger seat and the wind in your hair. OutRun is set up so that you can afford maybe one crash, but anything more than that and you’ll be crying as you watch the timer hit zero while you’re mere centimetres from the finish line. It’s the ultimate ‘just one more go’ challenge. Add to this multiple routes, colourful graphics and a great soundtrack (Magical Sound Shower, anyone?) and you have a great Sega treat.