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150 SNES games reviewed #36: Super Strike Eagle

Super Strike Eagle for the SNES was both developed and released by MicroProse. Yes, that MicroProse.

MicroProse was a US video game publisher and developer, founded in 1982 by Bill Stealey and the one and only Sid Meier. It developed and published numerous games, many of which are fondly remembered either to this day as groundbreaking or as titles with huge cult status, examples being the Civilization and X-COM series. The majority of its internally developed titles were often either vehicle simulation games or strategy titles.

The name MicroProse still exists today but it has basically nothing to do with the original company, all of the big names and talent from the original MicroProse left and formed Firaxis Games in 1996. The name MicroProse was acquired through the original company having been bought up when it was struggling and the people who brought it at Hasbro have since sold the rights to the name and various other assets which have been sold on and on till they ended up in the hands on someone who wanted to use it.

The basic story behind this game is that you are a fighter pilot flying for the United Nations whose overall objective is to bring various governments around the world back into cooperation with the UN basically by blowing the crap out of them. Yes this could be termed as diplomatic negotiations James T Kirk style, or at least it could be if there was a mini-game involving sex with hot alien women, but I digress.

The game uses three different perspectives. When you take off the game starts you off in third person, utilizing its Mode 7 graphics to give you an interesting interactive take off. Then once you’re up in the air the view switches to an overhead world map, where the plane can be moved between objectives. In this view you can see enemy jets and missiles and if you can keep your distance then you’ll stay in this view. When enemy planes get close to you the game switches briefly to a first-person cockpit mode. This is kind of like Wing Commander, in that you chase the planes and try to get them in your sights. This is kind of the most realistic looking part. When you find yourself near to mission-critical targets (ones which you have to bomb) then the game again switches view, this time to an overhead bombing mode, this is where the game uses its Mode 7 scaling and rotation abilities the most.

I find the game fun. It kind of just leaves you to it though and doesn’t hold your hand much which is either a good thing or an awful thing depending on how you like your games. Also the switching of views is something which some people will probably like, others will probably be confused by. In my opinion though this is one of the things that makes the game really interesting and different. Some of the graphics are amazing for when this game came out but they are a little bit dated now. There is a real sense of effort with this game though, like they tried to throw every trick in the book at it in order to make it stand out. Back in the day I remember this game getting a lot of 65%-type ratings. To me there seemed to be a general attitude of this game not being the kind of thing that belonged on a console. Now days though we have seen just about every type of game possible both on PC and on console. Yes, some might lend themselves to one slightly better than the other but I always feel the need to salute people who try to get a new trick out of an old dog, who try to break convention. For this reason I give this game seven out of 10. Back in the day If I had played this game I would have scored it even higher than that I believe.

I bought this game specifically for this review because I managed to get a US copy boxed with manual for £6 including postage, and at that price I have to admit I am incredibly happy with this game. There are a few copies online now knocking around the £8 to £12 figure for boxed US copies. As for UK PAL versions though they seem to be few and far between with people asking up to £25 for a cart alone. This game is an easy import it played on my modified machine and through a regular cheap converter with no issues at all so it might even be cheaper to get a boxed copy and a cheap import converter rather than go PAL.

150 SNES games reviewed #34: Power Drive

When I buy retro games they tend to belong to one of three categories. They are games which I owned as a kid and want to get again because I have fond memories of them, games I remember friends owning and which I have fond memories of playing at their houses, or are games which I can get cheap and figure what the heck I will give it a bash.

Today’s game comes from the second category. I had quite a few friends at school and all of them owned one console or another, but the most owned console was probably the SNES. Not everyone had the same taste in games though. So sometimes when I would go to visit a friend’s house I would get to play a game that I otherwise wouldn’t have got to try. One particular friend was mad on sports – cricket, football, boxing, motor racing – and unless it was a crazy sports related title like Punch-Out!!, he would have it.

One day when I went round he had a new game, one I hadn’t really heard much about and that game was Power Drive. The first thing I noticed on its case was that it was published by U.S Gold, but at the time I had never heard of the developer Rage Software.

U.S. Gold was founded in Birmingham in  1984 as the publishing division for a software distribution company called Centresoft. Its primary reason for existence was to republish popular US computer games in the UK. For ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC users the U.S. Gold logo became a big part of our lives. U.S. Gold no longer exists and nor does Rage Software. Rage’s first title, Striker, sold more than one million copies and established Rage as a major creative force in the interactive entertainment industry. But ironically the very thing that started them off – a football title – would ultimately be its undoing. In 2000, Rage began to expand into publishing. Due to a long run of games that did not sell as expected, the lack of sales and costs associated with their  David Beckham franchise tends to be considered to be what ultimately led to the company going bankrupt in 2003.

When my friend popped Power Drive into the cartridge slot I have to admit that it was nothing like what I expected. Putting it simply Power Drive is an arcade racing game based around rally driving. There is not a great deal of opening presentation to the game, you pick your car from an initial choice of two and then you start your career.

The graphics are isometric, you can see the whole of your car almost as if its a remote control car that you’re looking down at. This might seem to be a little basic at first but with the tricks under the game’s bonnet such as full sprite rotation and super smooth screen scrolling in every direction you soon realise that what looks on paper like average graphics actually look a hell of a lot better when moving. There are a few tiny issues with screen flicker but this mostly happens when the arrows that warn you of upcoming turns appear over the top of other objects. It’s only a momentary issue and you can still tell what direction the arrow is pointing so it doesnt really affect your game. There are night levels, and the following might sound like a strange thing to praise but the car’s headlights are handled brilliantly. Both of the headlight beams are animated separately, which just looks brilliant. The two lights overlap each other and it’s just a brilliant little touch which I can’t help but mention. That’s enough about the cars and their headlights, it’s time to talk about the backgrounds. They at first seem a little bit basic. The tracks and the scenery both look a little plain at first but they are full of subtle little details which take into account the characteristics of the country you are in.

The music is typical early nineties game music. I can’t claim it’s amazing but then again it’s not bad. Basicaly it does its job which is to be moderately exciting and to muffle the engine noises, etc so that they dont became a pain in the butt. You can turn the music off if you would prefer to hear your engine or if you’re going to play your own music while you play.

The game has three types of stages, they are individual time trials, head-to-head races against the computer, and skill tests. There are eight rounds of gameplay, set across a range of countries. As you race you get prize money for winning races but it is important to note that the cost of repairing your car is very realistic compared to other games, meaning if you have repeatedly ping-ponged your car off of the walls then 90% of your prize money is going to be spent on knocking your car into shape. You can race with a knackered car, but it becomes harder and harder to control and slower so it’s not really recommended.

At first this game will seem hard because it doesn’t control like a lot of other SNES racers, or at least not many of the wildly popular ones. If you have played either RPM Racing or Rock n’ Roll Racing then Power Drive would be down your alley. Once you get used to the controls though it becomes a challanging but fun driving game. I would give this game eight out of 10. I really enjoy it still today and can easily throw it on for a quick hour again and again. This game can be got for around £10 to £15. If you want to try it I would keep my eye on the various sites and try to grab a copy as close to the £10 mark as possible. The game is not wildly talked about and doesn’t seem to have any particularly big cult following.

150 SNES games reviewed #29: The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse was the best known character in the whole world, but back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Mario was just about everywhere – and not just in his video games.

He had his own cartoon series, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, and then it spiraled from there to the point he had his own action figures, stuffed toys, shirts, candy, and even a breakfast cereal. At one point in time you couldn’t do anything without seeing Mario.

On the other side, Mickey Mouse in comparison wasn’t seen as much. Sure he was on t-shirts and at Disneyland but he wasn’t quite as up front and in your face as he had been. Television channels tended to air the more modern Disney cartoons of the time such as DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, TailSpin, Darkwing Duck, and such.

Disney teamed up with Capcom and brought a fair few titles to the NES, most of which are considered classics, such as DuckTales. Disney’s relationship with Capcom didn’t end with the NES though. Eventually the union brought us the game I am going to talk about today The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse (known in Japan as Mickey’s Magical Adventure).

The game is a bright, colourful platformer with the player taking on the role of Mickey. It’s part of a trilogy released by Capcom although we Europeans only got two out of three games (in fact, Japan was the only territory to see the third one, at least until they got GBA remakes). You move in the same sort of fashion as in most typical platform games, and you can defeat enemies  by jumping on them but you can also attack them by grabbing blocks and other stunned enemies spinning them around in Mickey’s hands and then using them as a projectile.

One of the gameplay features this game is most known for is the ability to find new outfits for Mickey, which give him different special abilities. For example, you get to play as firefighter Mickey who can use his hose. Sometimes this feeds into puzzles as well as being an option for attack. For example you might have to put out a fire to progress. It reminds me of the Mega Drive title Kid Chameleon, which seeing as I love that game is not a bad comparison at all.

The graphics are great, full of colour and character. The sound is cheery and matches the overall feel of the game. The controls are good – I don’t think they are quite Mario good, but they certainly more than do the job. When it comes to complaints some people would bring up the fact that The Magical Quest is quite an easy game, but that’s understandable since it stars Mickey Mouse. Capcom clearly knew a lot of kids would be playing this, so if it was Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels-hard it would have just led to mass complaints and screaming children. It’s not completely unchallenging, there are a few skills and basic patterns to learn and it’s kind of nice to find a game which focuses on the fun and doesn’t penalise you for anything. You have unlimited continues, when you die you start again with a full set of hearts and don’t lose any of your coins.

If you like fun platform games I would urge you to try this game. It’s a brilliantly uncomplicated slice of fun. It might be a little easy, and it might be a touch short – in fact, its length is the only real thing keeping me from giving it a huge score. All things considered I think I need to give this game a 7.5 out of 10.

If you’re after the game I tend to see it going for around £10 for the cart, although big warnings have to be given about the fact that the second one is rarer, and if you want to play the third SNES one you’re going to need to go down the import route. One way around this is to go for the Game Boy Advance remakes. They are more or less the same games with a few extras thrown in and they might be a little cheaper and easier to get your hands on (Plus you can get a European version of number three for the GBA).

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