Thursday, 7 December 2017

Dragon's Revenge (Mega Drive)

So, you might remember a while back, when I reviewed Jaki Crush, the sequel to Devil Crush. Well, in a convoluted sort of way, Dragon's Revenge is also the sequel to Devil Crush. You see, it was Tengen who brought the Mega Drive port of Devil Crush to the west, and while they did so, they also changed the name to Dragon's Fury, and removed pentagrams, coffins, crosses and various other things, so as to avoid offending any 17th century witchfinders that might have bought a copy for their kids. Despite all that, the sheer quality of the game shone through and it was enough of a hit for Tengen to make this weird semi-official psuedo-sequel to their bowdlerisation of someone else's game.

So, Dragon's Revenge takes a lot from its forbear: a three screen high main table, various bonus stages, even things like having a dragon's head on the bottom screen, a woman's face in the middle and a skull on the top. Though the woman and the skull are pretty different to the ones in the first game. The woman was a regular old pixel art sprite in the first game, and gradually turned into a snake monster as you did stuff, but now she's made up of digitised photos of a real woman's face, and as you do stuff, she wakes up and starts talking and going "ooh!" like she's in a carry on film, then she kind of floats around the table at random for some reason too. The skull is still pretty much the same as it was before, functionally speaking (it's a portal to a bonus stage), but it does look like a cool demon goat skull, so that's nice.

The bonus stages are a lot like the ones in Devil Crush, too: you hit either a big monster or lots of little monsters with your ball to kill them. None of them feel as fun though, and they all have a very cheesy 80s fantasy novel cover look to them, too. I guess the one where a bunch of little goblin men stand on a waterfall and throw their endlessly-regenerating heads down the screen is funny, though. It seems that there's some kind of plot business going on regarding the bonus stages, too, as whenever you exit one, you're shown a screen where a witch and some monsters loom over a bunch of orbs (if you successfully complete one of the bonus stages, which seems to take forever, the orbs are revealed to have generic fantasy heroes trapped inside them).

You can describe a lot of things in Dragon's Revenge as being "like Devil Crush, but inferior", which probably stems from its cash-in, almost mockbuster origins. It's uglier, less fun to play and the music isn't as good, and to top it all off, it really doesn't have an identity of its own. I could go on and on listing every little thing I didn't like about it, but that wouldn't be interesting for me to write, or for you to read. I don't recommend you play it, except out of grim curiosity. Play any of the actual Crush games instead, or even Kyuutenkai Fantastic Pinball, which, other than the name and the cute theme, is essentially a fourth (fifth?) Crush game.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Coaster Race (MSX)

It's always impressive to see games on old computers do things that those computers just weren't designed for, like parallax scrolling, or, in this case, a pretty good bit of faux-sprite scaling, in an Outrun-esque racing game. It's even got hills and, true to its roller coaster theming, loops! Plus it plays pretty well, too.

So, on the title screen, you're presented with three modes: 1P SKILL 1 and 2, and 2P GAME. The 1P options are the single player game, but SKILL 2 starts you on the third track instead of the first. The 2P GAME option is even stranger, as rather than being a head to head race, or even a takey-turny time trail affair, it's a strange arrangement in which one player drives on a track using the joystick, while the other makes corners and loops appear by pressing keys on the keyboard. I couldn't figure out what the point of this mode was, as it didn't seem to have any obvious win conditions for either player.

The game itself is pretty standard for an arcade-style racing game of the mid-80s: you're racing against the clock to drive four laps each around five tracks. Hitting other cars results in your car exploding and a few seconds being wasted as you reappear on the track, and you get ten points for each car passed and a hundred for every second left on the clock at the end of each lap. The first thing that struck me when I started playing was how cute this game is: your car is a slightly futuristic, toyetic vehicle, with a big turbine on the back that spins faster as your speed increases. The tracks are cute too since they're all meant to be roller coasters, the backgrounds all look like theme parks. There's a lot of reused elements in the background, so I assume that all the tracks are part of the same park, and you can see differrent bits of it from each one.

The loops and steep hills on the tracks work really well too, which is impressive: you lose speed and accellerate more slowly when going uphill, and then go vastly faster going down the other side. Loops work pretty much the same, but with the added spectacle of the background scrolling vertically, coming back upside down, then coming back again the right way up. I haven't described it very well, but it is a really effective effect for an 8-bit game from 1986. Another nice little touch is that there's also differen times of day! Track one takes place during the day, two and three at sunset, and the final two tracks take place in the dead of night.

Coaster Race is a fun little game with a ton of charm, and I recommend you go and play it. There's even a little surprise waiting at the end of track five to look forward to too!