I have really enjoyed trying out all these games for the PC-Engine / TurboGrafx CD. Some of the games I even played all the way through. I’m looking forward to trying out more of them. I this article, I will test each one the same as last time: by playing each and every one of them for a period of time and then deciding if I like them or not. I will only concentrate on CD-based games for now.
Games I liked
Doraemon - Nobita no Dorabian Night
This game starts off rather childish but turns out to be a nice platformer. You travel through time to save your friends and collect different weapons and power ups during during each level, which you can select and switch in game by using the select button to access the menu. The graphics are okay, although the main characters are rather simple. I guess this is due to the style of the TV series this game is based on. Overall, I rather enjoyed this game. Althodaugh it’s completely in Japanese you can figure things out rather quickly.
As you travel through different stages, a door waits for you at the end of each level that leads to the next stage. On the stages you can collect your bonus items, often found inside doors or caves. Occasionally you’ll find a mini game where you can get one of four items, including an extra life which is quite handy.
Double Dragon II - The Revenge
This really brings back memories of old times. I used to love Double Dragon games and played them all the time. I really like this one. The game has nice graphics, supports two player cooperative play, and the music and sound effects are also okay. In between levels and before the game starts, you have nice cut-scenes and although they are completely in Japanese you should understand what is going on. The cut-scenes give the game a nice touch. After them, it’s back to some good old kicking and punching.
Download 2 is the first shooter on these systems that I really sank a lot of time into. The graphics are nice with a lot of parallax scrolling in all levels, and even the scenes between levels. The game is completely in Japanese which means I don’t understand a single word of what is being said in the cut-scenes, but that doesn’t diminish the overall fun. The sound is good; I like that the music is fitting for a shooter game (although not ground-breaking). You have a total of 4 different weapons: a very fast pea shooter that will spread to a three directional shoot when upgraded; a laser type weapon that goes straight through all objects, and ranges from one to five lines of laser, depending on your upgrades; homing “missiles”--they look like balls, so I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be missiles--that can fly in any direction and auto attack all enemies on screen (the higher the power-up you have, the more you have you fire at once), and last is a very short but extremely strong electric shock, which does the most damage but it’s reach is so short that you often get killed if you try to use it. However, it can be very handy in boss fights.
Aside from weapon power-ups, you can collect speed-ups which let you move your ship faster. This can also be negative, as some levels require you to navigate very precisely. Being to fast can make you hit objects by accident. There are also satellites to collect which shoot homing attacks and protect you from taking hits. You can collect a shield that can absorb different kinds of bullets from your enemies. The game is very good, and I highly recommend it if you like shooters.
Dragon Ball Z - Idainaru Son Gokuu Densetsu
I have to admit that I’m a huge Dragon Ball Z fan and probably know all the Dragon Ball Z episodes by heart. When I first started this game I was instantly amazed! This game has some of the best graphics I have ever seen in a Dragon Ball game from that era. The cut-scenes are AMAZING! They even included the complete series intro in PC Engine graphics which is VERY, VERY close to the original intro despite only being standing pictures and animated sprites. You really feel that the developers put a lot of effort in this game.
Some scenes are so well-animated that you think you’re watching the TV series. Of course, everything is in Japanese, but this time my passion for the series was all I needed to know exactly what’s going on. You instantly recognize every character, and I think they even used all the original voice actors of the Japanese original.
The music is everything you would expect--the same tunes you know from the TV series. The cut-scenes are a huge highlight of the game and strive to replicate the TV series as close as possible without being an actual full motion video.
The gameplay took me a while to figure out. It was quite frustrating at the beginning. Once I figured out the basics it got a lot easier, but I still don’t know everything about this game. Since it took me a little while to figure out what I found, I’d like to share it, as I think it’s a game worth playing.
If you look at the first picture, you will see the game’s standard battlefield. Your character can move on three planes back and forth during the fight. A fight can be drawn out for quite a long time, although at first it won’t see so, as you will probably get beaten down quite fast and quite often, but you and your enemy have plenty of health and it takes a while deplete.
Let’s talk about the different bars and icons:
- The pulsating orange and blue gauge at the bottom: This is your advantage bar. It fills to one side or the other depending on who has the upper hand in a fight. If the gauge fully goes to one or the other side the respective player has an attack chance, as seen in the second picture.
- Above the advantage gauge is your health bar. Currently you only see yellow blocks in the picture. If you get damaged, they will turn red and after red they become black. That is when the game is either won or lost. As I said, this will take a while.
- Above that, the blue gauge is your power meter. It represents the amount of Ki you currently have. This bar is diminishes during battles and special attacks, but can be refilled by pressing and holding both buttons on the controller.
- Underneath your picture there is a colored icon. It has 3 colors: green, red, and black, which have different properties and can be changed by pressing up or down on the controller. A. Red is your attack stance. If you are on red and attack the enemy, the advantage gauge is likely to fill more in your favor. B. Green is your charging stance. If you are on green and hit both buttons to refill your Ki, it will regenerate MUCH faster than on red or black. If you’re fighting in that stance you won’t get any advantage over your enemy. In fact, as seen in the picture, it will be the other way around as I have nearly full Ki using green in this situation doesn’t help. C. I haven’t figured out what black stands for yet, but I’m positive I will find out eventually.
When you completely fill the advantage gauge in your favor, you get a screen similar to the one in the second picture, which is your attack chance. You’re on the left side of the screen and the enemy is on the right (no matter who had upper hand).
If you have the upper hand you can select a Japanese symbol which represent a different type of attack. Then adjust the bar at the bottom which indicates how much Ki you want to use for the attack. The combination out of these three will create different kind of attacks which can do different damage.
If you’re the one being attacked you can only adjust your Ki bar, which you can use to counter your enemy’s attack. If you use more energy than your enemy and he attacks you, there’s a chance you can counter the attack or simply avoid it. A successful attack will reduce the health bar, deciding the outcome of the match. It’s a little bit complicated, and compared to the Bodukai series, it doesn’t really count as “real combat”, but it’s quite fun once you get the hang of it.
Dragon Slayer - The Legend of Heroes
Another of the system’s few RPG games that play similar to the old Dragon Quest games. It is also completely in English, and even comes with cheesy voice acting. Although the graphics are not as impressive as other games, the gameplay and the music totally compensate. There is a lot of grinding involved but luckily the game also has an auto battle feature which speeds the fights up and you to do other things on the side--like writing articles for the ODROID Magazine. At some point the game even tells you how much you should grind by telling you what level you need to a certain mission to accomplish. The level-ups are also quite nice: not only do you get better stats, you can also fill up your HP and MP each time. The number of monsters that attack you adjust to your strength and the size of your party. This is quite neat, as it also increases the amount of Gold and Exp you get out of fights. Meanwhile, the enemy’s strength does not increase greatly. I personally found having good armor is almost, if not more important than having a good weapon, as it greatly reduces the amount of damage from enemies. I would rather hit an enemy three times to kill him and get 1 damage for each round than kill an enemy in one or two hits, and receive 20 damage each hit.
All your party member have a healing spell right from start which makes grinding even more easy. You have a limited number of spell slots so you might have to exchange spells later in the game. If an enemy turns out to be to strong and your party dies in battle the game is not over; you can restart the fight or return to the last town you visited. I suggest restarting the fight as this also allows you to run from a fight and replenishes your health to it’s pre-fight state. Returning to town will give you a party with 1 HP per character and there is no guarantee that there is an Inn to sleep for the night. I have enjoyed playing the game so far and have spent several hours grinding already, getting my party some nice equipment, all while writing on this article.
The Dynastic Hero
This is a port of a game better known as “Wonder Boy in Monster World.” It is very much the same as other games found on consoles under that name. In fact, it looks nearly identical to the Genesis/Mega Drive version, with some minor changes.
The main character gets a minor redesign and the colors are a little bit darker on the PC Engine compared to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. I’ve also noticed a slight difference in aspect ratio. The PC Engine has slightly wider graphics than the Sega version. I’ve also seen some parallax scrolling on the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which doesn’t seem to be included in the PC Engine version. These are all just minor changes, the game itself is pretty much the same on both systems. It looks very good; in my opinion, one of the best action platformers for the PC Engine.
The PC Engine version comes with a very nice intro and a lot of CD quality music in the game. It’s up to you which one you prefer--they are somewhat different and many people prefer the rough sounds of the Mega Drive over other consoles. This is definitely a recommendation of mine. If you want to see more about the two games in comparison, I recommend watching the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7D2bYgA5IA.
When I first tried this action-RPG I was not very impressed. After a long and mostly good-looking intro with English voice-over, it started off with a top-down view of your character in a town. The graphics were far from impressive, even if not as bad as other games.
Once I gathered my party and went to an Oasis, I found myself in a trap which changed the game from an RPG style game to an action platformer with significantly better graphics. Instantly, I found the game much better than before. Sadly, this didn’t last very long as I soon found out I was weak, enemies took many blows to kill, and they were approaching very, very fast. Even if I managed to kill them, there were spots where enemies just kept spawning and no sooner did I finish a fight than I was in another one. Just one untimely hit with my sword and I got damaged. After a few minutes it was already game over.
This was where I stopped trying during my first effort. However, for this review, I forced myself to continue through with it. Thanks to some saving and loading, I got past the very first dungeon with much frustration. After, I went back to down, looked a little bit around, and bought some better equipment for my character. This improved things slightly, but not much. The next section started off hard as well, with enemies taking four to eight hits to kill, while I still went down after three or four. While fighting and jumping through the level, I suddenly had enough exp to gain a level up, and everything changed drastically. Where it first took four to eight hits, it now took only one or two hits to kill an enemy. I got more HP as well and could withstand a lot more hits myself. Since experience points came in fast, I soon had another level up and everything went up again, allowing me to kill every enemy I encountered with just one hit. I found a sweet spot where enemies spawned constantly and got another level or two.
I soon felt very confident and ventured on. The second boss I encountered was easy compared to the one in the first dungeon. The first boss I had to kill required constant jumping and precision hits. After about 25 hits or so--please remember, three or four hits got me down, so this was very hard--the enemy was down. The second boss was so much easier. By the time I could easily withstand 15 or 20 hits, fighting a boss that went down after 10 hits or so, the game got a lot more interesting and fun to play. Later enemies offered still more of a challenge. Eventually, I came to enjoy the game a lot and was looking forward to trying the second game in the Exile series. Inside the game, a girl advertised the sequel, stating it was coming out in Super CD format for the PC Engine.
Exile II - Wicked Phenomenon
Although announced as Exile II – The Revenge as an Easter egg within the first game, Exile II was released under a different name. “What else is different?” you may ask. I’m looking into that.
First of all, the graphics have improved quite a bit, both on the top-down part of the game as well as on the side-scrolling action scenes, which now offer some parallax scrolling which is quite nice. The gameplay is l similar to the first game, but with a few changes.
Traveling between places will always put you into the side-scrolling action part, where in the past it was more like a dungeon system where the side-scrolling bit only took place when you entered certain buildings or places. The game now starts off even harder than the first game. Two hits is all it takes to kill you.
Learning from my experience playing Exile, I took my time to make sure I got a level and sure enough, things got better although not to the same extent. I could take more hits, but the damage I inflicted was still pretty low at this point. You can now see how much HP the enemy has when you them, which shows you how much longer you need to bash an enemy before he goes down, which especially nice to have when battling bosses. This game got a lot harder though, since as good as level-ups are, they are not as powerful as before and there is no easy way to grind, as all monsters are dangerous to you.
A nice change is that you can now control all four characters (which also appeared in the first game) in the action side-scrolling part of the game. Each character has its own advantages and disadvantages. Rumi is very fast and agile and has a ranged attack throwing daggers. She is not very strong though. Kindin is a huge man, and fights with his fists. He is very strong but has almost no reach so he can be hit easily by enemies. Fakhyle uses ranged magic to attack. Both he and his attacks are rather slow, but his auto-aim means he can hit the enemy even if they’re above or below you. This provides some nice tactical options in fights, but also means you need four times the items to equip your party. Luckily, they all share the same exp so you don’t need to level them separately. Although I found Exile II a lot harder than Exile, I still recommend them both.
Fantasy Star Soldier / Star Parodier
This classic cute-em-up is one of many shooters for the PC Engine. I enjoyed the vivid graphics, with parallax scrolling and all types of effects. It comes with three playable characters, one of which being Bomberman, and another being the PC Engine itself. The developers clearly had fun making this game. Fantasy Star Soldier is the American version for the Turbo Graphix and Star Parodier is the Japanese version. Although essentially the same game, the Japanese version has an intro that was removed from the American version, so if you want to have the full experience I suggest trying Star Parodier, as the game really doesn’t need any explanation. It’s not that hard of a shooter and you’re looking for something fun and kid-friendly, this is one of the best games out there. I highly recommend it.
This Japanese action platformer features a female main character in a pink armor that goes out to defend the land and people from evil. For this she has some kind of flail that she can use to attack in different directions, as well as a rope to reach higher places. When you jump, if you press down and hit the attack button she swings her weapon around in a circle around her. It’s also the only way to launch the three special attacks that you can collect via green, red, and blue orbs dropped by fairies provide all your items in the game.
The green orb will shoot three bubbles in an arch in front of you, hitting in a wide angle. The red orb will shoot three blasts straight ahead from where you started the attack. The blue orb will spawn three wide-spread blasts from the ground which go straight up over the entire screen. The graphics are nice, the music good, the controls are spot on, and the fighting is fun. The developers were a little bit on the naughty side, as the main character loses her armor when hit (like in Ghouls and Ghosts or Ghosts and Goblins), but when hit again, she’s completely naked. Then she dies. Overall, the game is fun to play and if you are a fan of action platformers and not too offended by some naughty pictures, this is probably a nice game for your library.
Fray CD Xak Gaiden
This game came out in 1994, very late in the system’s lifetime, and this is probably the reason why it looks rather good. This action game features Fray, who is fighting through the levels with her magical weapon, killing monsters, collecting gold to buy better equipment, and finding items in treasure chests. Sadly, it’s completely in Japanese again, but I could always find a way to proceed even without understanding what was being said. The presentation is nice and a little bit on the cute side, as the main character is an anime girl with quite some funny faces now and then. Cut-scenes are rendered nicely and overall the sound, graphics, and music are superb. The game is also quite funny. I just wished I could understand enough to get all the jokes in the game.
Games I found OK
Davis Cup Tennis
This tennis simulation is okay; the graphics are nice, it supports up to four players, the voices in this game are superb, but for my taste it’s way too hard. I got frustrated with it after about 10 to 15 minutes of playtime, as I only won a single match when the enemy hit the net with every serve. I guess it’s not the worst sports game I ever played, but I much prefer Virtual Tennis on the Dreamcast over this version.
Dekoboko Densetsu - Hashiru Wagamanma
This racing game is interesting and supports up to five players. It’s a kind of crash-rally game that is quite hard, especially if you play against the PC. If you press select on the start screen you can cycle through the game difficulty. I’d suggest starting at beginners level, as this game can be hard.
Hitting an enemy from behind will take a hit point from the enemy. But if you hit an enemy at the wrong angle you will lose a hit point yourself. You can try to push them off the track or into obstacles which are plentiful. It looks a little bit like micro machines. The enemy sadly is rather perfect, so for beginners it’s hard to get the hang of, but I think this could be a very nice party games with your friends.
Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari
Also known as River City Ransom is a very interesting fighting game similar to Double Dragon. I especially like it since it shares the character style of my favorite NES game “Nintendo World Cup” (aka Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Bu - Soccer Hen). It has but one very big downside. It’s completely in Japanese and I can’t really understand what I’m doing. There are things I can buy and use, but I don’t understand what they are for, so this is very annoying, as I have the feeling I’m wasting my hard earned money on things I don’t need. The game itself is fun to play. The controls are okay, with one button for kick, another for punch and both buttons to jump. Still, it’s not easy and you can go down faster than you expected if you’re not careful. It’s still fun, I just wish I knew what I’m doing.
Dungeon Explorer II
This game starts off with a very nice animated intro and English voiceover that tells you the backstory as well as showing you some scenes from the first game.
The graphics in the intro are beautiful and detailed, but in the game it’s not as detailed. Dungeon Explorer II is a dungeon crawler in the style of Gauntlet. The most interesting part is that you can play it with up to five players in total. It’s an action-RPG with some nice music, thanks to the CD format. Aside from that I can’t say much about it. It was fun for a little while, but I would probably have had more fun playing it with some friends.
Dungeon Master - Theron's Quest
This game is a typical first-person dungeon crawler like Eye of the Beholder, Elvira Mistress of Darkness, and the like. I’m normally not a big fan of these, as they often require a lot of backtracking and a good notebook to write down all the hints and notes you find, as your inventory is always to small and any information you find doesn’t help for another hour or two. It’s not a bad game and runs fine, it’s just not my type. It has a lot of ambient sounds, but no music from what I could tell.
F1 Circus Special - Pole to Win
This racing game starts off on an interesting note with some digitized photographs of Formula 1 racing history. It’s quite cool to see, although I did not understand what they were saying, as it was completely in Japanese.
The game itself is not bad on the eye but also not very impressive either. One thing for sure is that this game is FAST! Maybe I’m too old or I never really was in these kind of games, but this game is way too fast for me. I constantly came off the track or bumped into things. Do that hard or often enough and it’s over. The game also has a simulation aspect to it where you can modify your car for different improvements just like in the real Formula 1. It’s a nice game but simply not my type. There’s actually a 3-D variant of this game available directly for the ODROID called F1-Spirit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7I4K3-DlW34) which apparently I have forgotten to publish and should do that in the near future.
When you first start the game you’re greeted with a very lengthy, looping intro with lots of naked skin and detailed graphics. When you hit the start button and begin a new game, you have a second type of intro, shown in in-game graphics with a lot of people talking to you and each other, some of which are voiced very nicely.
(Figure 15 - One of the first fights in Fiend Hunter. This guy can be pretty tough, but once you figure out his pattern, the fight gets quite easy)
There is but one issue with this: everything is in Japanese, and I have no clue what’s going on or what I’m suppose to do. After fifteen minutes in the game ,I’m completely lost, so I decided just to go straight to one end of town just to see what happens. Sure enough, I left town and found myself in a very good looking 2D action platformer. I have no clue if I’m ever suppose to go back to town or what all these people said to me, but I’m slowly figuring out the action part of the game. I found I could walk around, climb on ledges, jump between gaps and the like, but I couldn’t do much further than that. At one point I reached an area and suddenly a fight started. Now I had a sword, and the little companion that was flying around me the whole time and I were able to attack this enemy. I could take a lot of hits so I went for it and killed the enemy, losing about a fourth of my HP in the process. Not bad, I’m assuming.
After killing an enemy, that enemy drops a crystal. This crystal can be used to increase your stats, vitality, mental ability, the power of your psycho blade, psycho arrows, and psycho spark. The latter two I assume appear later in the game, as I haven’t seen either of them yet. You can also upgrade “Exy the Photon Fiend”--the little companion of yours that follows you around and also attacks the enemy. Exy also has abilities you can use. You can fly him around, or use him as a source of light in dark dungeons. The fights are not that easy and I admit I used the save and load feature quite a bit, but every enemy has a pattern that allows you to defend yourself from their attacks and wait for your turn to counter-attack. Exy is very helpful here, as he will attack the enemy as well which can often save your hide. I probably would have put this in the “Games I Like” section, but since I don’t understand what’s going on, I think I’m missing some important things.
Final Zone II
This is a mix of a run-and-gun, like the old Commando or Ikari Warriors games, and a vertical shooter. The cut scenes are completely in English and though they are well-drawn, I wouldn’t say they are “good”. In fact they are quite cheesy and the voice acting is rather terrible. They don’t make much sense, nor do they develop any story or characters. However, the shooting action is rather fun and reminds me of early shooters like Ikari Warriors. Each of the different characters you can play have the same main weapon--a vulcan gun--and a different secondary weapon. You start off as a guy with a bazooka which does minor area damage. The second character has some kind of laser instead. No splash damage, but it can shoot through objects. The third one in the horizontal shooter scenes was flying a helicopter with “missiles” that do a lot of damage, but are rather short. Maybe later in the level there are other characters and weapons, but I’m not sure yet. I’m looking forward to finding out.
Some enemies drop power ups, either a “H” for health which restores your health, or an “B” for the secondary weapon. This just restores your weapon; it doesn’t give you more than what you started with. Later levels give you a chance to pick up either a “P” which will increase your maximum health or an “S” that will restore your health to the maximum. The game only has seven stages and is over rather quickly. In later levels you can choose which character you want to take to battle, which is nice. Overall the game is average at best.
This game starts off rather strange with an intro that has a lot of voiceover but little in the way of animation and graphics. Some of the graphics are good, but many others are rather simple. When you press start, the game has a black screen for several seconds, which is apparently just a very long loading screen. This was nothing I had ever encountered before on the system. The menu gives you three options:
- A one-on-one battle mode lets you play either against another player or a computer, or lets you view a demo mode where computer fights against computer. Before you start you can distribute some attribute points like offense, defense, and speed and then it starts.
- There is also a “Scenario” mode, which is your story mode of the game--and damn, did they put a lot of story in there. Before each fight you have a lengthy cut-scene with people talking to each other, which sounds hilarious but since it’s completely in Japanese I don’t understand a word. Since most of it is just static pictures with little to no animation you can’t even guess what they are all about. I ended up skipping them all together. In Scenario mode you have a series of fights, and can again distribute your points over offense, defense, and speed, but after a couple of fights your character levels up, and you have higher base stats. You already start rather high, on level 8 or 9 character, so you probably won’t see much difference.
- The last option you have is “Advance.” Here you start with a level 1 character of your choice, pick the battles you want to fight, and earn money and experience. When you have enough money you can buy items from a shop to further increase your character. This mode I found most interesting and played the longest.
A rather strange option for this fighting game is the option to choose between Auto and Manual mode in both Advance and Scenario mode. This means the computer is taking over your character and fights against another computer opponent. Odd, but it works, so you can just watch instead of fighting yourself if that’s what you want. The graphics and animations in a fight are rather good, with some mild parallax scrolling on the battlefield.
This was kind of a mediocre side-scrolling shooter with very little variety, bad voice active, and a lot of repetition. It has an auto-fire function, so you only need to “turn” your weapon to shoot in the direction you want to fire. There is a shop where you can go and buy upgrades like health, armor, or weapons, but that’s the most exciting part of the game. The graphics are okay. There is no parallax scrolling and in some areas not even a background. It’s fun for a short while though.
Games I disliked
This shooter was really not one of my favorites. In fact, I think it’s quite buggy. There are some trucks that when drop weapon upgrades or special attacks when you shoot them, but sadly half of the time they weren’t working at all. The entire second stage was completely empty for me and I just flew through. The game was not very fun. I didn’t like that I could gather some weapon upgrades, but no different weapons. It’s blunt and not very entertaining.
This game is hard to describe. You are a ball with a face on it (hence the name), and you’re thrown into a 3D maze and have to either hunt other faces (Battle mode) or collect eggs (no clue where they come from) and bring them to a wall that blinks to get points for it (Race mode). Neither mode is very fun in my opinion, and although the music is nice and seeing 3-D graphics on the PC Engine is kind of interesting, this game just couldn’t keep me entertained enough to keep playing it.
Ever wondered why the Street Fighter series started with “Street Fighter 2”? What happened to “Street Fighter 1”? There really was such a thing and believe it or not, Fighting Street for the PC Engine is pretty much an exclusive port of this game to a home console. Sadly, the game itself was never really good to begin with. The controls are terrible and the voice acting was copied 1:1 from the arcade which is even worse. The soundtrack got an upgrade and is CD quality but that doesn’t fix an overall not so great game. If you ever want to know what the original Street Fighter looked like you can try it, but there are much better fighting games out there.