In the last part of the series, I played some really great fighting games as well as some of the great shoot ‘em ups that the console is known for. It was a mixed bag of games, but there were only a few I really didn’t enjoy playing. Overall, the system up until now has many, many games that I very much enjoyed, and only a few spoiled apples in it that I didn’t like at all. I found many interesting games are only available in Japanese, which was expected, but is also sad as I’m missing out on some great games.
Games I liked
I am not sure if you want to call it a cute ‘em up or just a shoot ‘em up, but it’s actually quite fun. L-Dis has bright colors, nice parallax scrolling, and very fast action. You can collect satellites which act as a shield as well as fight with you, or they can be used with the second action key (for example dropping a screen clearing bomb).
This game is fun, and that’s not only due to the fun gameplay, but actually due to the terrible voice acting. Really! The game got famous for its terrible voice acting, both in the game before the boss fight as well as for all of its cutscenes. At https://youtu.be/XpQWDWtXgsQ?t=306, you can find a very good example of this and also a great review of the game. Killing enemies and fulfilling your mission objectives will give you experience points, which are used to level up, meaning that the more you kill the more you level up, the more hits you can take and the better weapon you’ll get. Since in many spots enemies just keep spawning, you could actually grind yourself some level if need to. I can only highly recommend this game for it’s charm and laughable voice acting. The graphics are ok; nothing special but also not bad. The sound and music is good, so overall this game is a nice package.
Loom is one of my all time favorite games and the PC Engine / TurboGrafx port is very solid and good. Graphics-wise, it reminds me a lot of the Amiga port or EGA DOS version of the game, but with the added benefit of the CD soundtrack. Unfortunately, it came out before the talkie version of Loom was released, and therefore all dialog is just written text, but that’s the way I’m used to play it. The sound effects are good and not messed up like in the FM-Towns version. Overall it’s Loom in all its glory, and if you never played it, the PC Engine / TurboGrafx version is a nice way to experience the game if you don’t want to boot up the ScummVM.
Lords of Thunder
This nice shoot ‘em up is the successor of Gates of Thunder, which I introduced in the first part of this series back in January, although this game looks and feels a lot different than its predecessor. The game has parallax scrolling in all stages, the graphics are nice and detailed, and before each level you can choose between one of 4 different armors which have different attack types and special attacks. In the upper left corner you have two bars: the blue bar represents your health, the bar above it represents your power level which changes from red to yellow and finally green. Each color will increase the strength of your attack and is reduced if you’re being hit. Most of the time you shoot at an enemy, but if you’re getting close to an enemy, your character will use a sword slash which does additional damage and is enough to kill most enemies with one hit (except for bosses and big/strong enemies). Enemies mostly drop diamonds in either blue or red which will add to your “credits” which can be used before each level to buy items that either increase your strength health, or provide a shield or special attack. Some enemies (especially stronger ones) drop items that can increase your overall strength or refill your health. You can choose the order in which you want to play the levels yourself. The game has a fantastic metal soundtrack and overall sounds are good as well. There is another port for the Sega CD which has remixed sounds and music and is slightly easier than the PC Engine version, in case you want to try it.
Mad Stalker - Full Metal Force
At first, I was unsure if I really liked this game or not. It starts off with a very nicely animated intro with lots of details and animation going on. It’s one of the best games for the system, but it’s once again completely in Japanese, so I have no clue what’s going on, which is a shame. After the intro, you get introduced to the three characters you can choose from, each with some differences in their fighting style. Throughout the level you fight off many different enemies, some of which later on change color to indicate they are a stronger version of the previous one, but overall there’s quite some variety of the enemies. Every now and then an health canister appears which will restore part of your health. Bosses are very similar to yourself. They have a health bar just as you have and can take as many hits as you can, which makes them hard to beat, as they often also have better weapons or attacks than you have. Still, this makes the game interesting. I decided I like to play the game when I already finished the first 5 stages while doing this review. It’s very nice and has some replay value due to the different characters you can choose from.
Mugen Senshi Valis - Legend of a Fantasm Soldier
The Valis series will most likely pop up later again, so I’m sorry if I forgot I already mention this one by the time we get to it.
This game starts off with a very lengthy intro about a school girl attacked by monsters, being handed a magical sword and then starting to fight off these monsters. Everything of course is in Japanese, so I don’t understand anything! The quality of this intro varies. All characters are very well drawn, but the level of animation varies a lot, from smooth animation to a series of standing pictures being displayed in a row. There are a lot of videos, especially between each stage. You can collect different items. Letters represent your different attack styles with your sword and tiny hearts that fill a little bit of your health. Sometimes you find a big heart that will fill up everything or a 1up for an extra life. The boss fights normally all follow a “simple” pattern that once you figured it out, you can use to easily defeat a boss. If you have a lot of health left at the end of the stage, simply slashing contentiously at the enemy is all that is needed to defeat them. You also have magic attacks that can be activated by pressing “up” and the attack key, and pressing up and jump will render a higher jump than usual. If you collect the same weapon icon that you’re currently using, the power of your weapon will increase, which will also be available for any other weapon you choose so once you reached level 3 (see the sword icon on the bottom of the pictures), you can switch between any weapon you like and are fully leveled with that weapon. The music is nice, although not impressive, and suits the game perfectly. If you like these kind of games you should definitely try it!
Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Bu - Soccer Hen
If you ever played “Nintendo World Cup” for the NES, then you know what this game is about it’s a very similar game, but with improved graphics and CD quality soundtrack. There are some anime cutscenes here and there as well and a motivational speech (all in Japanese of course). The terrain also varies a lot between stages, and you can play on rocky, or even icy fields. On the NES this is my favorite game. The gameplay the music and art-style is just so fun for the NES, and seeing this game on the PC Engine, I was very happy. It does have some changes though, since in the NES version you can choose which team you want to play, and on the PC Engine version, you pretty much only have one team and follow more of a story-line around this team. Of course, the game is also entirely in Japanese, so it’s good if you played the NES version before so you know what the options before you start a match actually mean. The game is here on the list mostly for nostalgia reasons. I doubt everyone would consider this a must have game, but for me, it brings back fond memories of the NES version, but with improved graphics and some nice new features and screens between matches. It even looks better than the Sega Genesis version. The game music is probably the most arguable point of this game. There is no doubt that the music quality is much better than the NES version being all CD soundtracks and such, but you can clearly hear the main tune of the game that I am so fond of in the NES version. So why would you discuss what’s better? The chip tune of the NES version has its own unique charm, and packs quite a punch, and some might prefer this over the clear CD soundtrack. Overall it’s an awesome experience which I can only recommend if you like the NES version of the game!
Games I found ok
Unfortunately, this is one of these games again that are completely in Japanese, and I think I would enjoy much more if I would understand more of the game. Generally the graphics in this one are good, although the level of animation is rather limited. It’s a mecha-styled tactics game similar to the Battle Field series or other round based strategy games, although in this game you are not switching between your turn and the enemy turn, but between units, and it can also happen one unit can have multiple turns or has another turn after just a short while. It takes only a little while to learn the different commands, but since I have a hard time understanding the rest of the menu I probably miss out of a lot of customization before a fight. Overall, the game is playable with the little I understand, but since voice acting and all texts are in Japanese, I missed everything that is important to the story of the game.
This shoot ‘em up was hard for me to decide where to put it. When I first started the game, I hated it right away. It took less than 5 seconds and I died, as soon as I was back and the blinking of my ship stopped (invincibility) I died again, and right after that again. I couldn’t believe how bad I was. I restarted the game like 5 or 6 times not getting anywhere, then I just blew through my continues, and rarely managed the first boss, with about 10 lives (and two continues) wasted just on this one enemy. Soon after that, I died again with no more continues. I started over a couple more times and started to make heavily use of the save and reload function of retroarch to “cheat” myself through the first part without wasting too many lives. At one run, I got the spread shoot (which starts as a two-way but can be upgraded to have even more), and with that the game finally started to become “kinda” fun. On the first boss, I probably saved and loaded around 20~50 times until I got it without dying and losing all of my weapons. It went on like this. Saving making sure you don’t lose a life and your weapon, and with that the game became much better. This game is very fast: if you let an enemy get past you they come back from behind you and either crash into you or shoot you from behind, cause they do not shoot when they come from the front only from the back where you can’t shoot them. It’s hard and challenging, but also very fun. At the start of each level, you have a guy talking in English at you, which is probably meant to progress some kind of story, but it’s not like you have time to pay attention to what he says as you try to survive. In this game the Turbo Switch for the attack button is a must have, or else you’re going to die even faster.
I played Lemmings first on my Amiga and I liked it a lot back then. The PC Engine port is very decent with good graphics and sounds and as expected the music is great as it’s played from CD. The controls work fine, although if you use a controller, it’s fast enough and responsive. If you want to play a good Lemmings port on your ODROID this is one of the best you can get. Lodoss Tousenki, Record of Lodoss War, Lodoss Tousenki 2, and Record of Lodoss War 2 These games are very close tied to the anime with the same name, and not like the Sega Dreamcast version that does not feature the same characters. The cut-scenes are very well drawn, and it even has the intro music and other musics of the Anime. The game itself is a nice RPG, with you being able to visit different towns, fighting monsters on the map. It even has an auto fight mode. Aside from the cutscenes and the time you speak to characters in towns and such, the graphics are not very impressive, but also not too bad. The second game is actually an improvement over the already good animation and cutscenes of the first game. The graphics also get a slight boost in the second game. However, both games are completely in Japanese, which makes is quite hard to play, as I don’t know what different options mean or how to proceed. I don’t understand the story. which is a shame, as the lengthy intro and cutscenes really add to the experience if you would understand them. Lords of the Rising Sun This game is quite interesting and a mix of strategy and action game. You move around your armies and try to conquer town and fortresses and the actual conquer part is done in real time with you walking around breaking doors, killing your enemies with a sword. It’s also fully in English, including the lengthy intro and cutscenes, so it’s actually easy to understand. What I’ve played so far I enjoyed, but I imagine it gets a lot harder later in the game. I look forward to trying out more of it.
Magical Fantasy Adventure - Popful Mail
This version of Popful Mail is weird. It’s one of my favorite games for the Sega CD, but this version has a video cutscene that is missing in the Sega CD version, which actually helps with the plot. A few other things also look better, as some of the characters have animated close-ups when you talk to them which are actually quite nice. Overall the graphics are not as good as on the Sega CD version. The character sprites are much smaller than on the Sega CD and also have reduced frames of animation. The gameplay also totally changed. In the Sega CD version you swing your sword as you need it, while the PC Engine version works pretty much like the early Ys games, where you just ran into the enemy to attack them. Jump them on the head and actually keep standing there, or just run into them. The later one can be good for bosses, as you may hit bosses many many times by just running into them, but many enemies should be rather jumped on, as it’s safer in most cases. Still, it has its charm, but since everything is in Japanese once again, you’re missing most of the plot and dialog, which can be quite funny if you know what they say. I would definitely go for the Sega CD version though.
This is an awesome RPG with lots of animated cutscene good graphics, and the gameplay and controls are really nice. You can either play as one or two players, and can select which player you want to use from either a boy or a girl, who are both magicians. The music and sounds are also very good, and I really enjoyed playing the game. So why is this game only under “games I like”? Simply cause it’s entirely in Japanese, and I have no clue what I’m doing. I just walk around aimlessly and wait for things to happen. I knock on every door and talk to everyone, even though I don’t understand what I’m doing. I imagine this game must be very good if you can actually understand what’s going on.
Martial Champion is a fighting game in the likes of Street Fighter 2. You can choose between 10 different characters, which is quite nice, and you can also adjust the hardness of the game with difference difficulties and levels. The game uses two layers, so the background scrolls a little differently than the foreground when you jump. But aside from that, there isn’t much going on, and there are no animations in the background at all. The characters only have a few frames per move as well (two or three at most) so it’s not the best fighting game out there in terms of graphics. Still, the overall presentation is quite decent, the character control works rather well, and all have different fighting styles. Overall it’s an “ok-ish” game, just not top-notch. If you like fighting games like Street Fighter, you should try it.
Metamor Jupiter is a classical shmup. What makes it stand out is that you can “morph” your spacecraft and with that, change the weapon that you use between a powerful laser, a spread shot, and a more concentrated straight shot with additional powerful laser to straight up and down. You can also turn around and shoot backwards. You can take quite some hits from enemies or obstacles, and every now and then a energy crystal floats around that you can collect to replenish your health. Overall I like the game, the intro is very well animated but as usual only in Japanese. It’s not bad, but also not impressive.
Meteor Blaster DX
This is a fairly new “production” from 2000-2004 and consists of three games Meteor Blaster DX, Loop and Implode caravan version. All made by “MindRec”. Meteor Blaster DX is a Meteor clone with ok-ish graphics, and the sound and music is nice enough. You have features such as shield and warp to make your life easier (although they are limited). It’s a fairly nice port of Meteor and fun to play. Loop is a pipe game where you can turn pipes to create a “loop” therefore the name. Connect pipes so they in the end connect with the starting point again and you get points. The longer the loop, the more points, but once the entire field is filled with pipes you lose. Implode is where you pop blocks of the same color that are connected. The rest will fall into place where you removed the blocks. Clear the entire board for extra points. It’s an endless game until the board is filled completely. This is a nice little collection of games, and it’s good to see that some developers worked on games for the PC Engine long after it was discontinued.
Might and Magic III - Isles of Terra
This is a classic RPG game where you play from first-person perspective and walk through dungeons, solving puzzles and fighting monsters. The game has very good music, and the graphics are rather good for a game of this type. Still, it’s not my favorite genre, and you’ll need quite some time to complete this. The Might and Magic series is very well known, and is held in the highest regards in its genre.
What can I say: It’s minesweep, love it or hate it. Large boards can look rather tiny on the system, but they still work. I am not a particular fan of this game, but it works fine and has good music. It looks very much like the Windows 3.1 version.
Mirai Shounen Conan
This is a funny little platformer especially for kids, as the main characters are also all children. It’s nothing special though. It has some nice cutscenes and animations in it, but as it’s all Japanese, I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a rather decent platformer though; not impressive but good. It’s worth a try and is something for your children if they want to play something that is not too brutal.
Also known as Wonder Boy III, Monster Lair is a run and gun arcade game. In fact. it’s very close to the original with only the background not scrolling as the arcade version. I wonder if this was done intentionally or not, as it should have been quite possible to do so. For me, this version seems actually a little harder than the arcade version but is still fun to play. The turbo switch can be quite useful when you fight bosses.
In this game, you control a bird that collects eggs that lay around on the map, which from then on will follow you. These eggs hatch after a while and will run to your “home” which will give you points. The one with the most points wins the round. There are other birds (computer or human player) which try to do the same. You can fight each other by charging and running at each other, as well as collect different kind of power ups, which make you walk faster, hatch faster, stop your enemies for a short moment, and such. It’s a nice competitive game and you can choose if you want the listen to the CD tracks or synthesized music via the internal sound chip.
This run and gun features 4 different characters with different types of attacks to choose from. Stop shooting, and you charge your attack doing more damage when you release it, although often a large amount of small attacks can do more damage then charged attacks. The music is ok, and the sound can be annoying at times when the same attack sound repeats over and over again. There are different power ups you can collect, and you can even collect one of your companion as support who follows you around and shoots at random directions as well. The graphics are not very good in my opinion. The intro is nice, but in game is rather bland, and not much going on. It’s ok for a little while though.
Nekketsu Koushinkyoku - Soreyuke Daiundoukai
This game is very similar to Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Bu - Soccer Hen. It has a similar art style, offers similar characters, and also is somewhat similar in gameplay as you fight through different stages, beating up your opponents. This game allows up to 4 players (the rest will always be handled by the PC) and starts off with some racing tracks where you have to run from one window to the next avoiding obstacles and your opponents, as well as trying to reach the finish line first. For thi,s there are several weapons and items that can be used as a weapon laying around on the levels, like a baseball bat, a bowling ball, or brass knuckles. After a couple levels of running, it turns into a brawler where the last one standing wins. It’s quite fun, but I haven’t wrapped my head around it fully yet. The graphics and sounds are really good as well, so I think you can’t go wrong with the title, except for that everything is in Japanese again.
Once again, this is an entirely Japanese game, but with not much going on in terms of story or text to read. This game is your basic strategy game, very similar to Advanced Wars for the GBA. It’s roundbased: first you move all your units, then the enemy does. You can use the terrain for different advantages, like better cover or attacks. Actually, if you don’t use the terrain to your advantage you most likely going to lose the battle. It’s not bad, graphic-wise. I really like the animation and the details of the combat when units fight each other. Aside from that, there’s not much to say about the game.
This space shooter starts off rather bland and a little bit hard, but once you start to collect your power ups, it gets much easier and more fun. The game has nice music that really fits the settings. The overall graphics are good, but nothing groundbreaking. It’s nice to see a fair number of large enemy spaceships that look more like carrier ships, and some of them actually carry smaller ships if you don’t destroy them before they can be deployed. Every now and then, a big ship “jumps” into the system which is a rather nice animation. You die rather quickly (one hit and it’s over), so it’s best to keep these power-ups in check, and maybe use the save function of the emulator now and then. You have several different power ups that you can collect, starting with a shield that will absorb one hit (and cannot be stacked), to auto aiming missiles and spread shots, which are pretty standard. Overall the game is nice, although not overly impressive.
Games I disliked
Langrisser - Kouki no Matsuei
This is another all-Japanese tactical game in the likes of Fire Emblem and such, but much more chaotic. When you get thrown into the game, you have a hard time even figuring out which are your units and which are the enemies unit, which is even harder when they clash at each other in combat. I often saw what I thought was me decimating the enemy just to found out, oh no, those were my units that just died. The game has an auto-battle mode where the PC will take over your units for you and fight the enemy. Guess what the result of this will be? Anyway, I didn’t like the game at all. It’s all in Japanese and not easy to understand, there are hundreds of units to move which takes forever, with hard to understand menus and fighting style.
Lord of Wars
This game reminds me a lot of “Advanced Wars” on the GBA, but with much worse graphics and gameplay. It’s also completely in Japanese, and for that alone hard to understand. It’s also not very fun to play in my opinion. The amount of animation in cutscenes and mission meetings is quite good, but the actual game is the complete opposite, and the graphics and level of animation is reduced to the absolute minimum and looks more like an early Game Boy game than a game for the PC Engine.
Magical Dinosaur Tour
The game is not that bad, but it’s actually not really a game at all. It’s a multimedia encyclopedia about dinosaurs, some with just text and pictures, others with narration and others with animations. It’s interesting but more aimed for children that are interested in learning more about dinosaurs.
This game is literally a “Point and Click” adventure, as the only thing you can do is point at something and click, after which “things” happen. It has nice classical music and here and there different sound effects (you can even sing “The ABCs” in this game). The graphics are not very impressive, and look like someone drew them in paint. The text in the game is in English, but the speech is in Japanese. Overall it’s a strange experience with lots of exploring and looping. Not bad, but also not my kind of game.
This racing game reminds me a lot of micro machines, but only because everything is tiny and not because you are racing in a “tiny world”. The most impressive part of this game is that you can play it with up to 5 players. Racing the PC is incredible hard (at least for me), and coming in last in every single race is nothing that I consider fun. Nekketsu Legend Baseball Despite the name, this game has not much in common with the other two Nekketsu games in this series, but is instead an RPG-styled baseball game where fights are fought with baseball games, so if an enemy attacks you, you throw balls at him as in an baseball game. If they miss, they lose HP, and if they hit, you lose HP. It’s somewhat confusing, and since everything is in Japanese (which is rarely good in a RPG game, at least for me) I have no clue what to do.