Tag: retro games

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 #35: UN Squadron

U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooting game which came out in arcades in 1989. It was programmed by Capcom and released for use on their CPS arcade hardware. I won’t explain what this was but if you look back at my Final Fight review there is an explanation there.

The game was released in Japan under the name Area 88, the same name which was used for the Super Famicom (Japanese version of this game).

The game is a typical side-scrolling shooter, unlike many of Capcom’s other shooters around this time such as their 1940 series which are vertical-scrolling shooters. It was based on a Manga series Area 88 which never really came to these shores. But the game has a nice intro which explains the rough idea behind the story.

Unlike some shooters which are one hit and you’re dead this game is a little different. If you’re hit then your plane is damaged but if you can keep it safe from harm for a little while then you’ll be fine. This actually adds to the excitement, you will find yourself going: ‘OK I have got to keep away from the enemies as you keep trying to dodge incoming fire and hold on’. When you manage it you will thump the air in triumph, and when you fail you will curse yourself for not having quick enough reflexes but the main thing is it always feels like any failures are down to your own lack of skills.

Before starting a level you get the option of purchasing special weapons or added defense options from the shop. As you shoot down enemies you gain cash and at the end of the level any special weapons you purchased and did not use get converted back in to funds and added to your cash reserve. This is a great little addition as once you get better at the early levels you can try to challenge yourself with the added benefit of an easier time in later missions by trying to complete the earlier ones on a strict budget allowing you to hold back enough money to kit your plane out with lots of special weapons for the later missions.

If you were a big fan of Capcom then the SNES was definitely the machine for you to get your arcade fix on back in the day. If you have read my Final Fight review then you might be asking what has been dropped from the original arcade version?

Well the SNES version is not an exact replica of the coin-op. Yes, it is a port and yes, this port does have certain things missing and disappointingly one of these missing things is once again the two-player mode. Some of the game’s levels are different or modified from the arcade version but it is not always in a bad way. It’s not really a worse version. it’s more of a slightly remixed version. In this case they didn’t just strip things from the game, there are actually a few additions including some more weapons and the chance to purchase different aircraft. Ignoring the missing two-player mode this game is no worse than the arcade machine, it’s just a little bit of a different version.

With bright graphics, enjoyable music and epic action it is hard to see what this game could do better. The end of the level will see you meeting some kind of large end of level boss which you will have to defeat. At this point you better hope you have held something back to save the day.

I would have to give this game eight out of 10. It’s a darn good scrolling shooter. The only thing it is really lacking which would make me bump the score up would be a two-player mode, at this point some of you must be wondering if Capcom ever managed to bash out a high-quality SNES game which catered for more than one.

If you want to try this game you will most likely be paying £15 minimum for a cart of it. I managed to get one for £10 but it took a heck of a lot of looking around and waiting. Capcom have actually made quite a few of those classic collections but U.N. Squadron has never seemed to make the cut, and this is probably one of the reasons it holds its price.

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.

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