Doing the research for the most recent installment of this series was amazing! I knew the system had some really good games, but I was really surprised how many games I enjoyed playing. There were only 3 games that I did not like in the last part, and I wonder if this winning streak will continue this time as well. So far, I really enjoyed my experience with the PC-Engine / TurboGrafx.
Games I liked
Galaxy Keiji Gayvan
I really like this comic styled beat ‘em up which reminds me of Double Dragon or Street of Rage. It’s quite fun and has very nice graphics. If you like these kinds of games you should definitely try this one. Button one is attack, button two is jump. If you press select, your character will transform and wear a battle armor, which increases your speed and the amount of hits you can take. You can switch back and forth between the armor and normal mode any time, but you lose energy (“cor. bar” in the lower left corner) when you are using the armor, which will be replenished either by collecting red spheres, or slowly automatically when you are in “normal” mode. You can select between two characters one male (Hiro / Gayvan) or fematle (Mittchi). While both are nearly identical, they have a few moves that differ from each other (crouching kick for example).
As the name already suggests, in this game you play a F-123 attack fighter and the game itself is a classical side scroller. First I wasn’t really sure if I liked the game, even considering that the graphics are quite good with some level of parallax scrolling, but I did die rather quickly, and couldn’t even finish the first level. It took me a little while, but I didn’t give up, and after a while, I got a lot better and enjoyed the game much more. There are several different power ups you can collect, from your weapons upgrade (which have different colors for different weapons), speed ups, homing missiles, bouncing balls (instead of missiles), little ship that follow you and provide extra power, shields which render you invincible for a short time, and many types of different special attacks that are great to kill off bosses. Overall, the game has a lot of variety and since graphics, sounds and music are all very good, it’s overall a good experience, and I enjoyed playing the game.
Iga Ninden Gaiou
This game reminds me a little of Ninja Gaiden, but has its own unique style. At first I wasn’t sure if I would like the game, since the intro and every cutscene is completely in Japanese which is a bummer, as the story seems to be kind of interesting. In this action platformer, you walk through the level wielding your trusty sword and throwing knives, fighting off monsters that have different patterns.
Many of the monsters do respawn after a few seconds, and you can kill them again, which can be helpful to grind for items. There are small hearts which will replenish a little bit of your health, big hearts which replenish a lot of your health (~50%), there are scrolls you can collect for your special attack (lower left corner of the screen), and you can even collect an extra life from monsters, so sometimes grinding can actually save you. If you hold the attack button, you charge the bar for your throwing knives, and once it’s full, you will throw a knife, which is quite inconvenient, as it takes rather long to charge it, and it’s rather weak, while hitting your enemy with the sword does more damage. After you have completed a level and normally defeated a boss of some kind, you meet with your friends I assume (once again everything is in Japanese) and they’ll give you upgrades, new swords, new throwing knives (the second one at least strikes through multiple enemies the first one is really nearly useless), improve your armor, or give you a new scroll for a new “super attack”. This attack can be triggered by pressing Start (Select will bring you in some kind of menu where you can switch your equipment), if you collected a scroll for powering up first. Later, you must collect multiple scrolls to increase the power of your “super attack” or to cycle through the different scrolls you have. There are two jumps: one is performed by just hitting the jump button, and the other requires you to press upwards as well as the jump button. The latter does a big jump which is much higher and farther, and can also be used to jump on buildings or walls. Overall the game is really fun, especially when you figure out the pattern of a boss and are finally able to beat him.
Image Fight II – Operation Deepstriker
This game starts off with a really nice introduction. It has English subtitles for the completely Japanese voiced intro. All other cutscenes are also just Japanese, but lack the subtitles, which is a little bit of a shame as the game has really quality cutscenes which feel more like an anime.
In the game, you have your standard vertical shooter, but it’s very nicely drawn, with colorful, albeit sometimes a little dark, colors. Music and sound are really good and fit the mood of the game. You can collect several different items starting by your “options” that surround your craft and increase your fire power as well as protecting you from enemies and bullets. There are two types of options: blue and red. Blue ones always shoot straight ahead, and red ones turn depending on where you move, where it actually moves to the opposite direction of you. Aside from that, you can “mount” a special gun which will replace your standard “pea shooter” with something different, like a strong laser, rockets, or spreading shoots. There are TONS of these, and it’s interesting to find out what mount does what. The weapon you mount in front of your ship also counts as a one hit shield and explodes instead of you when hit. It’s also a downside as you have to destroy it (by getting shoot or ramming into a wall) to attach a new weapon to your ship. The game is quite fun and has many different level, enemies and bosses, so it comes with a lot variety which is very nice.
Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 3 – Ikai no Princess
This was one of the first games I ever played for the PC Engine and although it’s entirely in Japanese, I instantly fell in love with it. This action platformer can be played with up to two players, and both of you have a sword and some kind of energy ball attack. The sword is used if you smash the attack button, and the energy ball comes out if you hold the attack button for a few seconds (it’s rather fast but you don’t have an indicator when it’s ready). The energy ball is actually your stronger attack and probably what you rely on when fighting bigger enemies and bosses, or if you want to break something. Press and hold attack after you fire the ball again, and you can now control the direction of the energy ball and even make a 180° turn if you want to. The game has amazing graphics with a little bit of parallax scrolling here and there. The bright colors are very friendly and enemies change often. Some of which are tiny while others are huge. At times, you can mount different vehicles progressing through the level in a mecha suit for example. This makes the game really fun to play and gives a lot of variety. Music is really good as well. I highly recommend this game.
In between levels you have nicely animated cutscenes that look fantastic, but unfortunately they are all in Japanese as usual. You can play this game alone or with a friend, and can select between a guy and a girl as the main character the cut-scenes will change according to your selection.
Kaze Kiri – Ninja Action
Similar to Iga Ninden Gaiou and Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 3 – Ikai no Princess, this is an action platformer, where it’s closer to Iga Ninden Gaiou or Ninja Gaiden. In short, this game is amazing, and the visuals are impressive with several layers of parallax scrolling which is quite nice for a game like this.
The fighting is spot on. If you attack from afar you are throwing knives, but when you’re closer you automatically attack with your sword or even grab the enemy and throw him over your shoulder. Enemies are also not completely defenseless; on the contrary, while the first enemies are easy to kill by a knife, most enemies of the second stage will already block your knives, and some enemies will even block your sword slashes, which is why you constantly have to change tactics: jump over them, attack from behind, or slash at them from above. It’s really fun to see that you not only get better while playing, but that also your enemies get stronger, and you need to improve your skills to beat them. Also, they will be able to take more hits, and you might have to fight multiple enemies at once. Bosses are similar, they often even look like you and have similar capabilities and tactics, but they also have special abilities which make them slightly stronger than you. Still, even they can be picked up and thrown over the shoulder which gives them not this “all mighty overpowered” feeling that most bosses in other games have.
Your health bar is constantly recharging, so in worst case you can even sit tight and recover your health. This health bar is also used for your attacks. Throwing a knife will reduce the bar for one point, but it recovers rather quickly. You also have the ability to turn yourself invisible (and with that invincible) for a few seconds, which is great to avoid attacks. Overall, this game looks and plays fantastically, and I highly recommend it.
Games I found ok
Gain Ground SX
This game is a little bit hard to describe. You have a selection of fighters and either have to kill every enemy in the level or bring all your “soldiers” to the exit. The enemy normally attacks rather slow, so you can run away or just avoid their attacks. In some levels you find small miniatures, and if you collect them they follow you and you NEED to go to the exit with them so that you will have them available on the next level. If you instead kill all enemies, you will not get the extra character for the next level.
Some level have multiple miniatures to “collect”, while others have one or none at all. Most of them have different attacks, ranging from spears, to bows, to guns and even rocket launchers. They also often have two different attack modes and actually may have totally different attacks that way (for example pistol + grenade). It’s getting harder quickly though, and you may end up losing your fighters quickly in later levels. I’m not quite sure why it uses the CD format, since it has no voice acting, no cut-scenes that I could see, and the graphics are not that impressive either. I think a HuCard would have been enough for this game.
Garou Densetsu II – Aratanaru Tatakai / Garou Densetsu Special (aka Fatal Fury)
These are actually two games, but I found them both similar, since they are from the same series, with Garou Densetsu Special being the superior game of the two in my opinion, with better graphics and more characters to choose from. Still, I found both games rather hard. It uses SELECT and START as additional action keys, as the PCE only had two action buttons (I and II) but they “solved” this issue by using start and select as additional buttons, and were able to map low kick and punch and high kick and punch depending on your layout over these 4 buttons. There is some voice sampling for the announcement of the character and some nice music, but overall it’s probably easier to play it for the NeoGeo. Still for the PCE, these games are amazing, and if you like fighting games, this might be one for you, if you want to go all out on the PCE.
Ginga Fukei Densetsu – Sapphire
This is one of the many shooter games that this system is so famous for. You can select one out of 4 anime girls, which all have different aircraft and can collect a few power ups, which are limited to either an extra bomb or to one of the power ups for your weapon. Each weapon can be upgraded multiple times, and you can switch to another weapon if you wait for the power up to change color (red, blue, or green). Each of the 4 ships handles the weapons and power ups slightly differently, so you have a total of 12 different weapons with multiple power levels. Aside from that, there’s not much to say about this game. There are tons of enemies and bullets on the screen and you have several mid bosses and an end boss at each stage. It is fun game for blowing stuff up, but not very unique. At least the music is rather good.
Despite its somewhat German name, the game is completely in Japanese and, as usual, I don’t understand a thing. It starts off with Japanese text, and if you press start here, you skip the rest of the introduction. In the intro, you see a young woman abducted by evil forces and monsters, then a group of soldiers head out to defeat the monsters, and all but one got killed. The game start with a very short show off between the one sole survivor and a huge demon (probably the evil overlord or something?). They both kill each other, and the girl that was at this moment hanging from chains in the background when they were fighting is suddenly free. She picks up the sword of the fallen soldier, and this is where the game starts.
Now the small girl, with a sword from a soldier, heads out to get home (I guess), trying to pull of what an entire army couldn’t do. Confusing, right? Anyway, the game is played in isometric 3rd person perspective, and has TERRIBLE controls. You walk around, climb up and down stairs and ladders, kill an enemy every now and then, you can push object, pick a few objects up (like a giant sledge hammer to smash stones), and just aimlessly roam around the tower that you’re in. The graphics are OK, but not very impressive, but the sound is good, although you have very little aside from some ambient sounds (like ringing bells) and some sword swings and the like. When you kill an enemy, there’s a nice effect where it dissolves in all its pixels and disappears which is cool to look at, but aside from that, there isn’t much to the game. It has no map, no goal, and you have no clue what to do, except for trying to find a path you haven’t already walked ten times already. Not sure if I dislike it or just don’t much care about it, but I think this could have been a lot better.
God Panic – Shijou Saikyou Gundan
This is a kind of a cute ‘em up but has very little variety. There is only one ship and several level of power ups for your weapon, but no different weapons. The graphics are nice, and the music is ok. It’s overall an OK game, but nothing special.
Well, what can you say about it: it’s a rather good port of Golden Axe with added CD music and some intros for the three characters you can choose from. Graphics are a little bit darker than on other ports, but aside from that, it looks good enough. If you’re a fan of Golden Axe, you won’t be disappointed.
Gradius II – Gofer no Yabou
Once again, if you know Grandia 2, you know this game. It’s a really nice arcade port, with good quality of sounds and music, and a very nice animated intro. It’s a very hard game, which is one of the main downsides for me, and since this review is based on my personal opinion, I rank it on the “it’s ok” side. The fact that you only have 3 lives and no continue makes the game very hard for me, and I started it over and over again. Maybe with more practice I would enjoy it more, but it’s a little too hard for my taste.
Hellfire S – The Another Story
This is another of the many side scrolling shoot ‘em ups for the system. It has a very nicely animated intro and overall rather good graphics. This game also allows the use of the “Turbo Switch” (L2) to work properly. You have a couple of different power ups like speed and weapon powers but no special “bombs”. By pressing the second button you switch the direction of your weapon. You can fire forward, backward, up and down, and diagonal in all 4 directions. This is required as enemies come from all directions and some can only be hit if you fire backwards or straight up and down, especially bosses with which you need to use this often. Switching through all the weapons is “different” but not always helpful. Overall the game is really not bad, but is also quite hard.
Hihou Densetsu – Chris no Bouken
Once again this is a game fully in Japanese. Even worse, the introduction is only shown in pictures (with no animation whatsoever) and explained in voice acting, which is rather good quality but completely in Japanese, with no subtitles of any kind. The game looks rather nice overall and is an action platformer. Since the main character is a female, apparently going after her father exploring ancient temples, you might guess what I was thinking when I first played it, and it has some topics that are shared with Tomb Raider: you collect ancient coins when defeating enemies, and there are a lot of jumping puzzles which require timing and precision. In fact, timing is very critical, as you only have a limited amount of time for each level. You also wield a sword/dagger that you can use to break objects or kill enemies. This dagger by itself is rather short in reach and most enemies will take more than one hit, but it can be powered up by different orbs that you can collect, and apparently the combination of two different orb colors define what type of weapon upgrade you will get. Some of which are close range (or extensions of that), while others even allow you to shoot at enemies. Overall, the default weapon is very weak, and enemies often have a greater reach than you have, so upgrading that weapon is essential. Still, I found the game very hard, as you are limited in time and have to rush through the levels and often get hit in the process, which will lead to an early demise. At the end of each level, you fight a boss monster, and each level has two stages it seems. After each level, you have another cutscene progressing the story. As I said, the graphics are quite nice and the music is very good. I probably would enjoy it much more if it wasn’t that hard and you wouldn’t have that short time limit per stage.
This is another action platformer in which your hero is heavily armed and fights off all kinds of monsters (probably all from Chinese Horror Stories). The graphics are ok, although not impressive, and the background is constantly scrolling, continually pressing you to go forward. It’s not too hard though; once you figure out that you have a double jump, your life becomes a lot easier, as your double jump is probably 3 to 4 times as high and far as the regular jump, and without it you would have a very hard time. You can collect a few power ups: “P”, for example, will give you a “Shield” if you collect 3 of them, which is basically a armor that can take one extra hit before you die (normally you die if anything touches you). Others will give you different weapons, from lasers, three-way-shooters, flame throws and the like. It can be played alone or with a friend. It’s fun for a little while with good music, but nothing that kept me interested for long.
Human Sports Festival
This is a combination of three sports games on one disc: golf, soccer and tennis. All three games are solid and look good for their time. Controls are fine, music is good. I’m just not a big sports fan, especially not of the early titles, and once again it’s available in Japanese only.
Hyper Dyne SideArms Special
This game has two different options at the start screen: “Standard” and “Before Christ”. Both seem to have the same level layout but are controlled slightly differently, with different types of weapons and slightly changed graphics. In “Standard”, you get power ups quite often, and you can shoot them to change into other weapons types, and can pause the game to switch through the different types of weapons you selected. In “Before Christ”, the weapon ups are quite rare and change automatically from one option to the next, which means you have to time when you pick it up in order to increase the weapon you want, or to get the weapon you want. There is no option to switch through weapons here. Button I will shoot to the right, and button II will turn your character to the left and shoot to the left. The graphics are good, but not impressive, and the music is rather nice and fits the game perfectly.
It Came From The Desert
This game is an interactive adventure with some action scenes in a run and gun setting. It’s actually quite impressive as it’s the first time I have really sees full motion videos on the PC Engine. The color pallete is greatly reduced though, which makes it kinda hard to look at, since there’s maybe 8 colors at a time that you can see in the video. Also, the videos are very grainy. Some of the graphics in the game also look like digitized photos, which are have a little bit better quality but are nothing compared to the cartoon graphics normally on the system. Most part of the games are just talking to people and visiting places. With everything being FMV, this feels more like an interactive movie than a game which is quite unique. The game is also completely in English, so you can sit back and enjoy the show for the most part.
J League Tremendous Soccer ’94
This soccer game has really good graphics, in fact it has the widest screen resolution I’ve seen on all the games I’ve tested so far. The graphics are colorful, the action is fast paced, and the voices are in English, but the menu is in Japanese only. I also found the game very hard, but that could be just me being bad at it. Overall, it’s a very nice game, and if you like soccer, you should try it.
J. B. Harold Murder Club
In this detective game you try to solve a murder. You visit different places in order to ask people what they were doing and what they know by interrogating them and so on. It plays similar to the Snatcher game on the Sega CD, but uses mostly photos of people and places, which makes it look more grainy. You have the option to have narration either in English or Japanese, but this will significantly slow down the game as you have to wait until they are done speaking. Overall it’s a very interesting game, yet alone I don’t have the time to play it or else I’d probably enjoy it more.
Jim Power – In Mutant Planet
I recognize this game from the Amiga, and the version of the PC Engine is very close to the Amiga experience, but also has some improvements. For example, there was an intro added which explains what you’re doing, which is very cheesy but OK. One big upgrade is probably the CD quality soundtrack. Although you don’t have many different music tracks, the ones that exist are rather nice and fit the setting. With the cartoony graphics and bright color, this game is a really looker, similar to the Amiga version.
Similar to the Amiga version, pressing the “up” button causes the character to jump, which means if your D-Pad is not working correctly, you might jump more often than you want to. You still have a secondary button to jump as well. As with most European platformers, hitting anything (even a drop of water) means instant death. Still, the game is quite amazing, and if you like action platformers, you should give this one a try.
Juuouki (aka Altered Beast)
I know this game from many platforms and this one is actually a rather good port, but I had a very big issue with it. Whenever I collected the 3rd sphere and transformed into a beast, the game stopped progressing. You were able to kill all enemies in one section of the game, but after that the game just stopped. You could walk, jump, attack, whatever, but the game would no longer scroll and you were stuck on the scene you’re on. This was really annoying. Maybe it’s my version that had this issue, but it made the game a lot harder than it should have been.
Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu / Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu 2
These games are similar to the first Ys games and are part of the Dragon Slayers series. The intro of the first part is very impressive. You can check out the very lengthy introduction at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXXxiyn4aWY). As usual, the game is completely in Japanese, which is the biggest downside. The first game’s “in-game-graphics” are not as impressive and not even nearly as good as the stunning intro. In fact, they are rather bland. The second game improved the “in-game-graphics” and gameplay A LOT and I like it much better. Still, since the game is completely in Japanese, I have no clue on what to do and where to go to. It was easier to figure some stuff out in the second game, but it’s still a big let-down for me.
The fighting style is like in the early Ys series, which means you run into the enemy, and if you hit them head-on, you damage them, but if you are not aligned correctly, or an enemy hits you from behind or from the side, you take damage. There is no attack button involved and you just run into the enemy. I think if I could understand what’s going on, the second game in the series would keep me busy for hours to come.
This nice mecha-styled shooter game comes with a nice introduction and a big variety of weapons. You can cycle through all weapons by pressing the second button, and the first button will attack. Stop attacking, and it automatically will charge a special attack depending on what weapon you have selected. The graphics are really good, and the sounds and music are good as well. The game is a little hard as you fight enemies from all directions, and only one or two weapons can actually attack enemies behind you, so switching between weapons is required and can be difficult in the heat of battle. Overall, the game is quite fun and probably even deserves to be ranked under games I like, but I couldn’t play it as long as I would have wanted to decide this.
I can’t say much about this, except that it’s quite decent. It has good graphics and a good number of frames for the animations. It also has training camps to improve your character and so on. It even supports more than just two buttons. It’s not my favorite type of game, but for what it’s worth, it works quite well, and if you like these kinds
of games you should definitely check this one out.
Kuusou Kagaku Sekai – Gulliver Boy
When I first saw the FMV in “It Came From The Dessert”, I was already impressed that this was possible, but this game here surprised me even more. The videos in this game are anime, and aside from a little bit of graininess, the videos look perfect. They are really high quality and there are actually several minutes of uninterrupted movie shown. This, and the overall presentation of the game (graphics, sounds, and music) show that it’s a very late title in the systems lifetime (1995), and the developers by then really knew how to get the most out of the system. To be honest, if I could understand what’s going on (as usual, everything is Japanese only), I wouldn’t stop playing the game until it’s completed. This feels more like a Sega Saturn game from the quality rather than something like the PC Engine. Unfortunately, since I don’t understand what’s going on, I can only poke around in the game. It’s really a shame though.
Games I disliked
This mecha-like fighting game was really nothing that I enjoyed. You can’t even skip the all Japanese text-only introduction which is rather annoying. After that, it has a nice rendering introduction with good graphics, and the game looks like it could be fun. Once you’re in the game, however, this changes. The graphics are still ok, but the gameplay is really bad. You control a mecha that can only hit with his sword or jump, and have to kill enemies which are insanely fast and constantly hit you, which means you lose health on nearly every enemy. The fighting is dull, with nothing interesting and no variety except for the monsters itself. You can die quickly, and I didn’t find much fun in the game.
Granted, Godzilla might not be a bad game, since the music and graphics are nice. The cut scenes actually look quite good, but this fighting game in Street Fighter 2 style is simply not my type of game. The characters are slow, and even on the first level, the enemies easily beat me and I couldn’t do much about it. I could pull of a few special moves, but when your special move is barely longer than a regular hit with your arm, and the enemy can shoot you all over the screen, that seems a little bit unfair for me.
Gulclight TDF 2
This round-based tactics strategy game is somewhat hard to understand, and I don’t mean because it’s completely in Japanese, although this doesn’t help much either. In this game, you can move around your units plan attacks and switch between weapons. It’s similar to games like Fire Emblem or Shining Force, but also somewhat different. In fact, if you try to attack an enemy, you’ll probably end up losing rather quickly, while the strategy of digging in and waiting for the enemy to attack will probably get you through the level, so you’re really in disadvantage if you’re attacking, which is very odd for such a game. Aside from that fact, the game just throws you into seemingly random battles. You don’t know why you’re fighting there or what the goal is, so it’s frustrating and I didn’t like it.
This is a compilation of 3 homebrew games made in the early 2000s. Implode is a rather well-known game where you click on a block, and all blocks of the same color that are connected to the block you clicked on will disappear, and you try to get the lowest number of remaining blocks. The second game on the list was similar to blobby volley for those who know the game. It’s a volleyball “simulation” with some extra twists, like moving the net left or right and making it higher or lower. The PC is extremely good and very hard to beat. The last one is a racing game of some kind where you try to avoid hitting the other players car which is basically impossible. None of the above are really fun in my opinion, but it shows that there are still people out there creating games for the system.
Jack Nicklaus Turbo Golf / Jack Nicklaus World Tour Golf
There isn’t much I can say about this: golf simulations are normally not my thing, and neither are these. It has some voice acting explaining what course you play on, but as I said, it’s a golf simulator. If you like these kinds of games, try it.
John Madden Duo CD Football
I’m not really a fan of football or football simulation games. This one is rather good from what I can tell, and it also uses some FMV when showing coin throws and comments. The gameplay itself seems to be fine as well, but as I said, I’m not a huge fan of that genre, so I really don’t know how to rate this game. It just does nothing for me.
Kakutou Haou Densetsu Algunos
This fighting game looks rather good and has a lot of different characters to choose from. In battle mode, you fight against another human player, while in story mode you fight against the PC. Although the game seems to have support for up to 6 buttons, I couldn’t use more than two. The characters are also sized very differently, and size matters. If you have a tiny character with a reach of about 1-2 inches on the screen, imagine how you handle yourself against a character that has a reach over 1/3 of the screen where you can’t even get close before you hit them. The enemy is constantly blocking your attack while you will probably receive one hit after another. Maybe it’s just me, and I’m terrible at this type of game. The graphics are very good and music is also rather nice. The sound could have been a bit better, but I guess it’s fine. Overall, I don’t like the game due to the unbalanced gameplay.