Friday, 13 September 2013

16 bits, 2 bytes - Fourth Event

Phalanx, Kemco 1992

The Enforce Fighter A-144 in A.D. 2279 Project ‘Climax’, code name ‘Phalanx’.

What a waffle right?  We’ll just stick to calling it by what everybody knows.

The target is Delia Planet and it’s up to Pilot Wink Baufield to oppose and destroy the alien forces.

Missiles, pea shooter, specials and laser weapons are available to help your cause and once got, can be freely selected and the option to alter ship agility is there should you wish.

When changing arsenal, your craft will change its look, with or without rotating pods.

The music is fairly rubbish but for some strange reason, I like it.

Does that make sense?  Well, possibly and maybe.

A more than generous number of levels await and theoretically, environments sound interesting enough as they include biological caves, a cloud city, asteroid belts and the generic mothership goliath.

Yes that’s fine but there’s one giant administrative cock up - the colour choice.

The SNES has a palette of 32,768 and is capable of displaying 256 at any one time.

With such a rainbow assortment readily available, why the assholes decided to exploit every fucking shade of brown definitely baffles.

Why brown?  It’s one of the most depressing colours out there.

Who knows, maybe it’s a euphemism.

Hyper space, underwater and clouds manage to be splashed with crud.

Enemies are the standard mechanical/biological types and while none will particularly excite, some aren’t too bad.

The same can’t be said for the mid level and/or official bosses as they are frankly embarrassing.

Maybe that’s why a caution and/or warning are issued before each appearing to prepare you for unparalleled brilliance.

The good news is that action comes fairly thick and fast but is hampered by some pretty atrocious flicker which always irritates and frustrates.

Forget quality; forget inadequacy and general mediocrity, this is legendary for a certain surreal and nightmarish image of a banjo strumming, dungaree wearing, stoned hillbilly.

Mortal Kombat, Sculptured Software 1993

Nintendo pissed everybody right off as Midway’s controversial one on one fighter came to the SNES laughably censored as it was released before the family friendly policy was kicked into touch.

It meant that on this occasion, Sega were laughing all the way to the building society…

Let’s recap and make sense of all the madness.

From a technical aspect, the port was an ‘excellent’ and even ‘flawless victory’.

Seven digitised actors comprising of Sub Zero, Kano, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Scorpion, Raiden, Sonya Blade together with bosses Goro and Shang Tsung all retained the original look of their coin gobbling cabinet.

The moody music and voices complete with yelps, groans, grunts and screams are all audible but there was something immediately amiss during a brawl.

Tomato ketchup became brown sweat.  I don’t really think you could describe it as anything else.

Also, the spike pit was deprived of severed heads.

If that wasn’t weird enough, the success of ‘Finish Him’ or ‘Finish Her’ brought the ridiculous.   

Those directly affected are Cage, Sub Zero and Raiden.

Cage delivered a kick to the stomach instead of an uppercut decapitation;
Sub Zero freezes and breaks a frozen sprite instead of the famous spinal cord rip; and
Raiden uses electricity to reduce the vanquished to ash instead of using voltage for a head explosion.

Scorpion and Sonya are untouched as incineration was apparently ‘acceptable’.

Liu Kang’s terrible cartwheeling uppercut was a non-event to begin with and to really tickle tummies; Kano’s heart removal occurs but is appallingly censored.

I can’t remember the name of the magazine but screens of brand new fatalities were faked claiming they could only be performed by using an Action Replay Cartridge.

Those responsible even received complaints when the gullible realised it was all just one big joke.

Censored or not, this is a horrific game as the gameplay has more imperfections than a diamond.

All the chars play the same, move the same and cover the same distance when jumping.  Therefore, the numerous specials mean virtually jack shit.

An ultra cheap win is made all the more easier as normal attacks take off vitality.  While a special in any fighting game had the same effect, this always made more sense.

Midway deny any opportunity for combo potential but don’t worry as the uppercut remains the game’s most effective move.

Of these ‘specials’ and ‘fatalities’, what a joy they are to perform as motions are given the boot and require unpleasant d-pad and button taps.

Also, why do you need a separate button in order to block?  What the fuck is wrong with ‘back’ or ‘diagonally down’?  Capcom, SNK etc must be stupid…

The computer’s artificial intelligence is absolutely fantastic as it’s either full of give, nil take with nothing in the middle.

There is no elegance, skill, style, grace or satisfaction in winning and despite it playing like stale shit, the world didn’t care as a brand was born.

Mortal Kombat II, Sculptured Software 1994

This was one of the most anticipated sequels of all time and the world was labelled insane.

I have massive problems with this but I’ll get to that.

As Nintendo’s balls had finally dropped, it appeared in all its bloody glory with uncensored finishing moves.

Commercially successful, critically acclaimed and now a joy to play with all the original’s problems solved.

Yes, yes, no and fucking no.

At least it was a proper sequel with elements substantially improved.

First off, the char roster was beefed up with twelve playable chars who apart from Sonya and Kano, all returned.

These absentees are seen chained in Shao Kahn’s arena.

The new peeps of Kung Lao, Reptile, a youthful Shang Tsung, Jax and Baraka make up the boys with Mileena and Katana backing up the girls.

Good news week continues as some chars can boast up to three fatalities.  Further to this, taking a bath in acid, getting the point on a spiked ceiling and a new look pit ensured no happy landing.

Apart from new backgrounds, this also introduced friendship, friendship and babality.

Why have I written friendship twice?  Just listen…

The armoured Kintaro and the pot bellied Shao Kahn are bosses cheaper than an out of date loaf of bread.

Along with Smoke and Jade, the secret char Noob Saibot are surnames in reverse of game creators Ed and John respectively.

Things look and sound authentic to its arcade counterpart which is a triumph in itself.

It began as a fairytale but that’s were it ends.

All chars still play the same, move the same and yeah, jump the same (including distance).  Therefore, specials still mean virtually jack shit.

The combinations for most specials and/or finishing moves are now all the more terrifying and unnatural.

If the original was awkward, this is a truly mind-blowing experience and makes eating razor blades coated with poison seems trivial.

So if your mind wasn’t more scrambled than an egg, swallow this.

“Yer’ know those background fatalities?”
“I’ve heard of them.”
“Well what would you say if every char had a different combination to achieve the same bastard move?”
“You’re shitting me, right?  Please tell me you are.”

Why oh fucking why?

Having a generic rule that works for all would only mean three thumb breakers but thirty six?

Fatalities can now ask you to:

Hold block for 5 seconds, back, down, low lick, release block, high kick, hold low lick for 17 seconds, high punch 15 times, marry a donkey, back, back, back, forward, perform a handstand, juggle flaming torches, jump 12 times, have an affair with a cow, crouch for 14 seconds and hey fucking presto, you might have a chance.

Of course we need some kind of a command but as this is obviously the main attraction to play, why make everything so fucking uncomfortable?

Take the morph master Shang Tsung.  Apart from one, two or three flaming skulls, all his specials are for changing char, so mix all that up with fatalities, background fatalities, friendship and babality...

Oh my, I just want to cry.

Apart from teeth grinding complexities, some executions require you to be already doing something or standing in a specific position before gore can be attempted. 

Up close, at sweeping distance or a jump away from the swaying char just does it for me, I really fucking love it.

So much so, it’s not a case of ‘Finish Him’ or ‘Finish Her’, why not do me a favour and finish me?

The mental torture persists...

Mortal Kombat 3, Sculptured Software 1995

Chew this fact harder than concrete.  It’s somehow gotten worse.

Is it possible?  The short answer is yes.

More chars, old and new, enter more soul crushing gameplay.

Noobs include robotic ninjas Cyrax and Sektor, Nightwolf, Stryker, Kabal, Sindel and the multi-limbed Sheeva.

Shao Kahn always has a bitch and centaur Motaro volunteers.

Both will undoubtedly kick several asses as they’re so cheap, you could practically give them away.

Backgrounds can have a different section and connecting with the trademark uppercut brings what lies above into focus.

Apart from new ways to force scenery to kill and ubiquitous punishments, animalities bring out the beast in you.

When persuaded, chars will morph into animals such as a spider, tiger, shark, snake, bull or scorpion to dish out some red stuff.

Combos?  Wait, this actually has combos?  Well pop my balloon, it really does but do they work?

I’m fairly sure that there is a set command to achieve the best combo and experimenting with self creation won’t encourage much success.

We now have a ‘run’ button that unless blocked or somehow avoided, is used to get your opponent in a spin and be temporarily stunned.

The idea behind it is that during this state of helplessness, a combo should be entertained but more than likely, most will just enjoy a nice uppercut.

This ‘extra’ button is not just used for dashing…  Uh oh!

For the first time, this is when the transition from arcade to console suffered as graphics are noticeably worse.

In theory, things sound more interesting but believe me, this is when the series should have been finally flushed down the toilet.

The new elements were designed to inject innovation but instead just brought further anguish.

Incredibly, Midway thought ‘if you can’t beat Street Fighter, join them’ and released Ultimate Mortal Kombat in 1996.

This was handled by Avalanche Software and I’d describe it as Mortal Kombat 3 ‘Champion Edition’.

Apart from more chars and combos, the update boasted some unseen arenas and the inclusion of brutalities, both of which couldn’t be found in the arcade.

The new fatality involved beating a char to a pulp with a series of blows.

Despite this, backdrops were reduced overall and various other compromises were made.

The SNES’s interest in Kombat ended here but did it ever become Kool?

That’s a resounding negative but of course, die-hard fans would argue this until they became blue in the face.

Fighting arenas inevitably made the dimension jump with exploits including a DC crossover, Shaolin Monks and turning Gold on the Dreamcast.

Factors included different fighting styles, custom fatalities and able to wield unique weapons.

The strangest game of all was Mythologies: Sub-Zero as it dealt with side scrolling gameplay.  That is obviously different but wow, what a piece of shit.

Mortal Kombat 9 was actually quite good as for once, gameplay felt fluid.

Clones appeared, and lots of them.

It’s unbelievable that the same guys behind Way of the Warrior on 3DO would step into Uncharted territory and become The Last of Us.

Mortal Kombat is an awful franchise made famous and freakishly popular because of the ability to dismember and generally make people go pop in a variety of gruesome and commendable exits.

Midway were clever enough to realise that quality can take a backseat, as long there’s enough controversy to brainwash.

On the day that Mortal Kombat II was released, thousands of vegetables were seen entering and leaving their local video game stockist and any form of communication proved fruitless.

Race Drivin’, Tenjen 1992

For any morsel that cares, this is the sequel to Hard Drivin’.

Pre Super FX or not, this is among the worst examples of revving an engine.

It is wanted for a string of offences namely atrocious graphics, despicable controls, an excruciatingly painful engine squeal and oh, one other thing.


There is no need for cross examination or for the jury to retire and deliberate as the decision to condemn was made before cartridge touched connectors.

Lester the Unlikely, Visual Concepts 1994

There is no other way to describe this game apart from a catastrophic calamity.

To offer some kind of explanation, I have to bask in the diarrhoea canal.

Lester is a kinda sleepy, teenage geek who wishes he could afford all 52 different covers for the latest issue of super duper hero squad comic.

Most of us fantasise about untold wealth, he wants comic book covers

Well what a wonderful and thought-provoking story that is sure to become a long and overdue Hollywood ball busting spectacular.

True to his personality, the flaccid dick falls asleep at the harbour and is accidentally stowed away.  When the vessel is attacked by pirates, she’s going down and our hero swims to shore.

Platform games can be horrific for a variety of reasons but playing this streak of paralysed piss just makes me heave.

Lester is meant to be an absolute joke and if the application was correct, that could be cooler than a cucumber but fails even as a depiction of desperation.

Our man (if you can really call him that), walks like a demented meercat and runs with arms flailing.

Could you laugh at this sorry sack of shit?  Well possibly, if pity throttles.

Wait, it gets even better.

When an enemy approaches, the limp wristed lettuce is programmed to run away.  I am receptive to innovation but that is just ridiculous.

He does get more confident on progression but if anybody claims ‘personality’, they need a wake-up call.

Can you imagine if other video game chars wore these shoes?

What about if Mario ran away from whatever or Jill and co legging it from the sight of an Umbrella experiment?

The heavy gale of bullshit continues with teetering on the brink of a ledge and is met with the meek reply of ‘no’.  Even when you manage to drop from a reasonable height, one should expect pain as the only possible way for you not to take damage is by lowering yourself down.

It’s slow, tedious and becomes very fucking irritating, quicker than a fly around shit.

This does feature Prince of Persia rotoscoped animation but I already feel guilty about associating Jordan Mechner’s classic and influential franchise with desultory disdain.

So can this asshole fight back against stock enemies such as turtles, bats and crabs or does he simply shit his pants and cry for mummy?

Well apart from picking up objects to throw, he instils fear with a laughable shin kick.

Devastating!  Yeah, pretty much like this game.

For the supreme masochist who perseveres, crystals are required to bypass each guardian and interacting with others chars will bring information and tasks.

Appalling visuals, deplorable sound and idiotic controls equates to non-existent entertainment and whole wad of cash down the fucking drain.

I suppose some may find it different and funny to control the worst video game protagonist ever conceived but they’re all locked up in padded cells.

Spanky’s Quest, Natsume 1991

The quest undertaken by the aforementioned primate brings a whole new definition to spanking the monkey.

It’s like a multi-screen Bubble Bobble and be prepared to jump, ‘several’ times.

This is all about bubble bouncing and colour co-ordination.

Therefore, it’s not quite Bub Bob, as a bubble is thrown and destroys not only enemies but also platforms.

Once loose, a bubble is subject to head tennis after which, expands in size and changes colour.  Depending on when it goes pop, footballs and basketballs dictate death on whatever.

Enemies include a healthy offering of orange, lemons, strawberries and apples (on legs).

A certain amount of keys are needed to open doors to progress onwards.  Golden types are hidden by blocks and give access to bonus areas.

The bonus area involves bouncing a large bubble to get points and brings little excitement.

Apart from bubbles, you can don hats which give extra abilities such as protection, gliding and preventing slippage.

Birds and boulders are objects controlled only by switches and both you and enemies can benefit or irritate a situation.

In order to move on, a boring boss stands in your way which apart from the witch; are also of the fruity variety.

This isn’t well dressed and emits drab sound but the bubble bouncing gameplay saves face because it’s surprisingly good fun.

Alien 3, Probe Entertainment 1993

Don’t get me started on David Fincher’s film as it made Aliens pointless.  The idea of a bunch of profanity spewing double Y chromosome prisoners scarpering from a dog hybrid was such a disappointment.

Alien Resurrection was even worse but I guess there was no get-out clause in Sigourney’s contract.

This version remains the best in terms of visual and audio quality.

A nice intro sets the scene and makes account of how Ripley got impregnated in hypersleep.

‘Status interrupted, fire in, cryogenic.’

We see the facehugger drop on her cryotube but as it doesn’t crack, how the fuck did it gain access?

I guess by some kind of xenomorphic telepathy…

Whatever, her escape pod crashes on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161.

Remember, this is a maximum security prison and we have no weapons of any kind.

If you didn't already know, Probe refuses to stray from a tired formula of password and mission briefs.

Apart from the licence, the principle remains but with numerous liberties.

For each of the six stages, look to the terminal and select whatever task to complete before moving on.  I don’t think these have to attempted and/or completed in any particular order.

To save the ball ache of playing a broken record, a simple password is given after each stage.

As nothing much works here, objectives are of a perfunctory nature and include repairing fuse boxes, rescuing prisoners, welding doors and destroying eggs.

They can also repeat or be variations of what went before.

If there was a blackout stage, I’d say:

Torches, do we have the capacity to make fire?  Most humans have enjoyed that privilege since the Stone Age.

Yes there is a need to be sarcastic, bitch.

To assist your brief, blueprints more than help out and are basically the map.

Ripley has access to a flamethrower, grenades and her personal friend, the pulse rifle.

There are hundreds of the correct ‘running’ types along with those that like to hug faces.

Even the scenery takes a ‘don’t give a fuck if it wasn't present in the film’ attitude as mist surrounds secreted resin in the alien corridor.

Among the bullshit, authenticity is admirably captured as Ripley will traverse inside and out the prison facility consisting of the medic bay, bugwash, assembly hall and furnace.

Our bald headed warrior is pleasantly animated and until they become repetitive, backgrounds are pleasing to the eye.

This is backed up by alien shrieks, gunfire and things that go bang.

I can handle frequent face huggers, eggs and even fictitious weaponry but the end sequence simply takes the shit cake.

The Queen Bitch is forced into the lead by a machine to what we assume to be the pistons.

It’s definitely a head scratcher because the only egg layer in Alien 3 was growing inside of Ripley and died almost as quick as it was born.

At least she does take a descent into the void…

Perversely, the best part is when Hudson announces ‘Game Over Man’.

Are we to detect that Alien 3 didn't have any classic quotes, hence why they reverted to Aliens?

That’s a positive…

As a side note, the guys behind the Amiga, Mega Drive and NES game were smoking crystal meth as apparently, Ripley left Fury 161.

Ha ha and what the fuck?

Sega’s 1993 arcade exclusive, Alien 3: The Gun was the most outlandish of the bunch with ‘super’ aliens, floating gun drones and mechanical types popping a cap in your ass but like any lightgun game, was totally satisfying.

Regardless, a neglected turd has more quality than Colonial Marines.

Super Double Dragon, Technos 1992

It’s Double Dragon and it’s super so how can you go wrong?

Well it has essential two player simultaneous action and is even pretty active.

Apart from the usual biffing, bashing and boffing, you can also block.

The Lee brothers serve their own form of justice in an airport, the bright lights of a Vegas casino, Chinatown, a forest, temple or moving train.

These are at best, very mediocre.

Martial arts types and brawlers possess weapons such as nunchuk, swords, staff and er, boomerang.

Persuading these dogs to drop allows the tables to be turned so you can either swipe or let fly.

The classic inferno burns bright but uninspiring sprites, shite bosses and terrible tunes bring the whole situation down.

However, there are some nice remixes of themes from the 1987 original so that can only be a positive.

Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls, Leland Interactive Media 1994

Fuck this shit and fuck this game.

There’s rancid putrescence and there’s this.

It qualifies as being one of the worst one on one fighting games ever shat into existence that even the toilet couldn’t flush.

Incredibly, this isn’t even the worst example…

Apart from Billy and Jimmy Lee, the others who form this charade make it less funny than a kick in the bollocks.

With names such as Bones, Sickle and Trigger Happy, could they be any more stock?

Judging by his voice, even the ubiquitous announcer sounds like he’s ready to end it and frankly, who could blame the poor bastard when forced to oversee such depressing proceedings.

Specials are extremely corny, the backgrounds are laughably terrible and coughed up blood succeeds in having more personality than anything featured.

All in all, performing acupuncture on one’s self with six inch nails seems a smashing alternative.

The spin-off Neo Geo game is exactly the same principle and succeeds in being far more entertaining.

Secret of Mana, Square 1993

Here we have another RPG that boasts of ‘slight’ excellence.

The cause of all things evil stems from the removal of a sword in a stone and in order for harmony to be restored, the hidden seeds of Mana have to be sowed…

The power of Mana allowed civilisation to grow strong and was used to create the ultimate weapon, aka the Mana Fortress.  However, this pissed off the Gods and they sent beasts to destroy it.

A violent war rocked and rolled and subsequently, Mana’s power seemed to vanish.  One hero will once again wield the Sword of Mana to make all things fine and dandy.

Lest we forget, time flows like a river and history repeats…

A young boy named Randi is the principal protagonist who unwittingly unleashes all evil by yanking out the village protecting blade when led by a mysterious voice.

You shouldn’t fume about the obvious similarity in regards to the famous sword as one of its aliases is Excalibur.

Whatever, all monsters can now attack.

For his fatal curiosity, the Elder banishes him from Potos Village and it’s to you and others to help right his wrong.

The reason why the sword could be removed was because of Mana’s Power had grown weak and in doing so, the balance of power shifted.

If the Empire uses the seals from seeds to awake the Fortress, this would be a bad thing…

The sword chose you and the burden of becoming a hero rests on your young shoulders to restore balance.

Reactivation of each seed in all eight palaces is your ultimate aim but like always, it’s not going to be a stroll in the park.

Combat is not random and prefers real-time.  In fact, it almost feels as if there’s a Link to all this…

When dishing out punishment, a gauge has to build and to add extra spice; your aim is affected if done before 100%.

A classic perspective is entertained along with dashing, levelling up and extra health on progression is guaranteed.

You can buy/sell items from the usual shop including food and armour.

The quick pick system allows a peek at equipment, statistics, weapons and health.

Chewing the fat with a host of friendlies is always a necessity and a little Q & A session should be expected.

Also, several status effects also feature that can be inflicted upon enemy and vice versa.

Baddies can assume an item disguise and opening chests either brings the reward of dosh or the inconvenience of booby traps.

Wow, that instantly reminds me of a variation on Spectrum classic Booty as collecting whatever trinket can contain something that quickly goes bang.

As with any game of this ilk, the diet of dispatching a huge variety of quirky baddies is unchanged.

The Mana Sword requires power and is generated by collecting orbs which are found by killing those who oppose.

As the sword’s power and skill level increases, this has a knock on effect to ability.

It’s not just the Mana sword that can be wielded as many other pointy sticks can be found.

These grow and regain power and those acquired include spear, broadsword, javelin, axe and whip.

Not stopping there, different varieties of most exist and can be handily changed via quick pick.  These can also be forged when speaking to right geezer.

Orbs for a specific weapon are got after defeating a boss.

When you do this – Way to Go!

Bosses aren’t exactly brilliant but include vampire, jabberwocky and dragon.

Areas are signposted and people provide enough assistance in guiding you towards pastures new.

Those more pertinent explain story development and provide essential information.

We all need a break and for a small charge, there’s always room at whatever inn…

A separate screen brings all manner of trademark RPG junk where XP for next level, your current level, mana power, money, strength, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and agility can all be found.

Do you believe in magic?  The Lovin’ Spoonful do and so will you.

These creatures include Lumnia, Gnome and Undine who offer magical properties for you to exploit.

Spells are unsurprisingly at the cost of magic points and vary from defence to attack.  Finally, certain people are partial to specific magic.

If your plates of meat are crying out for a rest or if you prefer an alternative means of transport, the cannon will more than satisfy.

Becoming a human cannonball only launches and lands at fixed areas so hitching a ride on hairy dragon Flammie allows unlimited access over a typically great Mode 7 world map.

You can summon him without restriction using his favourite toy, the Flammie Drum.

He reminds me of the bonus dragon from Sega’s Space Harrier.

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone.  Get Ready!

Remember high octane action and moving seat?  Great times!

So you've blithered and bumbled about this vast world and hoorah, you've reached a palace holding the prize. 

When you are near the seed, it and the Mana sword will become one which allows you to seal the seed with the sword.  You will then gain Mana power from the seed which will channel through you and the sword.

It’s certainly more convoluted than typical self sufficiency of sowing the seed, nature growing the seed and then eating the seed.

The Mana Tree is revealed to be Randi’s mother and the history of your father is also brought.

Matters climax in the Fortress and although teased, we learn who’s responsible for such unrest.

Thanatos is the head of a secret organisation that plans to overthrow the kingdom.

It turns out he’s an ancient sorcerer who sold his heart to the underworld.  He benefits from eternal life force but needs a physical body to exist and feeds on hate and destruction.

He needs a willing volunteer so he can take the Fortress and rule the world.

In truth, he’s a cloaked floating skeleton who looks rather dandy.

The true end boss is the Mana Beast which arrives to destroy the Fortress.  It resembles Flammie in appearance but not personality.

While others are obviously useful, Randi rules supreme and the key to winning this battle is unleashing magic.

Losing is not an option and the adventure comes to an end.

What separates this epic effort from the rest is 3P simultaneous action.

Of course, making the best out of a great situation requires a Multitap.

Sightseeing brings fantastic touches as grass dances; clouds pass overhead, water flows, mist forms, overcast trees cast shadows and sparkling ice is enough to ensure your jaw trails.

Surrounding delights include villages, caves, castle grounds, forests, cherry blossom and the tropics.

The visual result is nothing shy of splendour.

To squeeze more highlights from a remarkable game is the superb soundtrack, courtesy of H. Kikuta who composes a perfect concoction of emotion, sadness and joy.

Simultaneous play is extremely novel for an RPG and causes few ripples in the gameplay department.

It’s a truly beautiful experience and because it’s square shaped, expecting anything less would be slightly obscene.

Paperboy 2, Tenjen 1991

Was the 1984 Atari game the world’s first video game to encourage vandalism?

The arcade had players gripping handlebars to accelerate and brake.

Okay, this was amazing but memory serves that pedal power proved pretty difficult to manoeuvre.

Although the C64 port had some control issues and the Speccy was filmed in blue and black, they more than sufficed.

This was something of a coo as no matter which version you played, you never had to insert coin to play…

Regardless, nothing much has changed as either a male or female grabs a bike and prepares to traverse insanity.

You should aim for subscribers and those of the non variety should be avoided.

Each day of the week translates as a level for each route and fictitious rag The Daily Sun describes the bullshit.

No exorcism could hope to cleanse this neighbourhood as it is the stuff of a psychologically demented nightmare.

Dangers and/or obstacles hoping to cause our boy or girl to have a little accident include:

Runaway prams, pensioners in swing chairs, cars, sewer monsters, mummies emerging from coffins, crows, demon statues belching fire, delivery men, converted castles with mounted cannons, vehicles, dogs, crows, ghosts and the law chasing fleeing burglars.

Can you imagine living and breathing this shit?

"Mum, I'm just whipping out to meet up with Fred."
"Okay darling, but be careful.  You know how dangerous it is out there."

No shit Sherlock.

It’s one of the few occasions that taking illegal hallucinogens would fail to alter reality.

Anyway, since when did you associate mummies with coffins?

Either they ran out of sarcophaguses or the programmers were more smashed than a broken bottle.

They say assumption is the mother of all fuck ups but in this case…

Shooting papers at locals and potting windows for extra points may go some way to recover sanity.

The training ground obstacle course is a brief rest bite from the madness as literal target practice becomes available.

Graphics are average, sound is almost as nightmarish as the situation itself and while pumping those pedals is no longer original, I’d gladly risk a croggie rather than telling this to get on its bike.

Pocky & Rocky, Natsume 1993

Believe it or not, its alias Kiki Kaikai started life as a 1986 Taito arcade.

Taito handed the licensing reins over to Natsume and the result is the same generic but great stuff.

Shrine girl (or Miko) Pocky, along with pal Rocky the raccoon are on a mission to defeat the evil Black Mantle as he is responsible for casting a mind bending spell on the Nopino goblins.

I wonder if Rocky Raccoon ever read Gideon’s Bible…

Pocky and Rocky go at it ether singularly or co-operatively to defeat the possessed and traditionally wacky.

Consumers should enjoy every moment as the six stages contain fairly relentless action.

We delve into a top down vertical and sometimes horizontally scrolling shmup as throwing cards and fireballs are aimed in the enemy’s general direction and a stick is shook when up close and personal.

Ofudas and Harai wand were censored for the English release.

Sliding acts as a dodge manoeuvre and really helps out during normal play and during an inevitable boss battle.

Each stage is perfectly suited to each occasion as a haunted shrine, enchanted forest; cemetery and forbidden castle are such delights to witness.

Environs benefit from classy effects which include rainfall, trippy mindwarp and thickening fog.

Threat stems from zombies, fish, pumpkins, monkeys, Karakasa, jester, Cyclops, spiders, magicians, bats and pirates.

End of level baddies hammer on the zany door as we fight bald turtles, bamboo and a genie.

A visual story connects progress so this brings mild quirkiness.

The big cheese is a cloaked red eyed magician and succeeds as a suitable final challenge.

With the curse of the Blank Mantle lifted, all is tranquil on the Shinto Front.

This is essentially the original with high-tech licks of paint and proves to be a great action game with tasty visuals, sound that fits like a glove and inoffensive gameplay.

Okay, the look does smack very much of Konami’s Mystical Ninja but it’s impossible not to appreciate.

Pocky & Rocky 2, Natsume 1994

For this satisfactory sequel, proceedings don’t quite tickle feet as much as its predecessor but still does enough to please.

While visiting the harvest festivities, Princess Luna is kidnapped by Impy, on behalf of his master Dynagon.

Even her rabbit escorts are powerless to prevent him from taking her to Demon’s Castle so we have to snatch her back by whatever means necessary.

Stages are now expanded to nine, 1P or 2P simultaneous play is again purely down to preference but Pocky and Rocky have got playable company in the form of Little Ninja and Bomber Bob.

When not in 2P, the CPU can be found by shooting enemies who will reward by following and shooting when the mood takes.

Visiting humble abodes can also bring other CPU chars such as Scarecrow, Ottobot and Tengy.

These new found friends can easily die but the game fixes it that this is only temporary…

Local peeps bring ‘whatever’ information and you shouldn’t look a gift horse when it comes to items.

So that’s the new but business remains the old which is fine with me.

Locales are nicely intricate so expect to see fields, roads, bridges, lava, winter wonderland and the Demon’s Castle.

Beasties are still loopy and a nice variety includes tomb stones, demon masks, ghosts, ninjas and fire.

As before, some kind of story rumbles on...

Bosses featured are a fox, Impy and a demon floating on a cloud.

It’s not just Parodius that is partial to a portmanteau as fighting a Canimal clearly demonstrates.

Shmup stages see Gordon the Dragon bringing you close to clouds and riding a mad dog cranks up the variety.

Dynagon himself is similar to the Blank Mantle but more human looking, as he causes a general nuisance floating about and summoning magic.

You could say that the graphics are an improvement as material is chunkier than before but remains debatable.

Names were changed for Blighty and co-op play has become a bit messy, as the computer doesn't pull its finger out as often as you’d like.

The original smelled of Mystical Ninja, whereas this positively reeks of it…

Both games feature enough panache to warrant investigation but just don’t expect either to be a particularly lengthy journey.

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