Dynamite Dux (MS): COMPLETED!

Bit of a random choice this. I think I’ve played a demo on the Spectrum once before, but that’s all I know of it.

And it showed, because it took ages for the “hold punch to wind up your attack” mechanic to make sense. Once it did, though, it was a very easy game.

It plays a bit like Double Dragon crossed with Alex Kidd, if Alex was a duck and could pick up machine guns and rocket launchers. Maybe NARC in a cute suit.

Also it had Colonel Sanders in it for some reason. No, you can’t punch him.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land (MS): COMPLETED!

Is he Wonder Man yet?

Another game I’ve completed before, but not recently and certainly not as frequently as Mega-lo-Mania.

Helpfully, I totally missed getting the bell so had to rely on mainly faulty memory to make it through the castle at the end. I’d stocked up on Thunderflashes though, which makes taking out the dragon a lot easier when I finally got to him.

Great game, but overshadowed now by the far better Dragon’s Trap remake.

3D Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (3DS): COMPLETED!

Fanta Sea.

To the untrained eye, it would appear that I’ve already completed this game already, just a week or so ago. But you would be wrong, as this 3D Fantasy Zone II is actually the Master System version, whereas the other one was the (later) arcade version. They are both on the Sega 3D Classics Collection though.

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I actually tried to completed this before the other one, but I made a terrible mistake buying a load of smart bombs with all my money going into the final boss fight, and when I died lost all my power-ups and didn’t have any money to buy anything else. Not even Big Wings, which made one of the end bosses (there’s a SuckySuck Bit(TM)) impossible. Rather than start all over again at that point, I went on to the other version of the game, returning to this now.

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Although the game is effectively the same, there are some differences. Each level is seemingly larger, with up to 5 areas joined by warps (rather than two versions of each level, swapped between via warps). The bosses are mostly similar with a few variations, and you have an energy bar (which can be refilled and extended with power-ups) rather than a single hit kill.

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It’s obviously on less powerful hardware, but some slowdown and less impressive (but still excellent) graphics aside, it’s at least as much fun. It’s odd, that back in the day the Fantasy Zone series never appealed much, whereas now I love them. I feel I’m going to have to dig out the Mega Drive version soon now…

3D Fantasy Zone (3DS): COMPLETED!

Get Ready!

No, not 3D Fantasy Zone for the 3DS, 3D Fantasy Zone. For the 3DS. This one is one of the ten games on the Sega 3D Classics Compilation, just like the other one is, but this one is a 3D port of the Master System version of Fantasy Zone, whereas the other was the arcade version.

Still with me?

fantasy zone

Thankfully, the Master System version was much, much easier and instead of taking eight hours to complete, it took just one. It’s almost the same as the arcade version, only with a couple of boss changes and seemingly a lot more money to collect – which made stocking up on lives and heavy bombs simple to do.

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All of the bosses seemed easier as well, especially the final one which took me $hlmun tries before, but just two here. It’s much slower, I think, so easier to avoid and attack.

Now to finish the other nine games! Even though I have half of them already.

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Running Battle (MS): COMPLETED!

Run Baby Run

Oh my is this a crap game. I picked it on a whim, expecting (for no real reason) for it to be like Rolling Thunder or possibly Last Battle. In fact, it’s not as good as either of those.

running battle

Starting out more like Streets of Rage but after one level it turns into the most repetitive single-plane side scrolling punchkickjump game ever. Sometimes you get guns which you can’t use when jumping or crouching. Or on bosses. Aside from the first section, all the other levels are virtually identical with a slight change of layout or palette.

There are several bosses, the first of which is near impossible, the second and third are walkovers (just trap them in the corner and keep crouch-punching them), and Milacle Man (no really, that’s his name) can kill you in a single hit but is easily beaten once you know how. Then the final boss, M, is a rehashed Dr Wily machine from one of the Mega Man games.

Running Battle is utterly dire, has no redeeming features, and I completed it so that you don’t have to.

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The Lucky Dime Caper (MS): COMPLETED!

Platformers are a (lucky) dime a dozen.

Since I’m currently loving Master System platformers, I decided to give The Lucky Dime Caper a go. I don’t think I’ve ever really properly played it before, certainly not past the first couple of levels, anyway.

Lucky Dime Caper

Of course, it’s going to be compared to Castle of Illusion and sadly it isn’t as good as that. Donald’s levels aren’t as well designed, mainly having more straightforward platforming than the odd puzzle bit Castle of Illusion had. Donald’s main attack, usually a mallet, is tricky to time as enemies have to be really close for it to connect, and the frisbee he sometimes picks up is better but I found quite a few baddies – mainly bosses – it didn’t damage.

Speaking of bosses, they’re all very easy with the final boss being the easiest boss in any game ever. You literally jump on one spot for three seconds, before she can even properly start attacking you, and that’s it – you’ve beaten her. Pretty disappointing. The other bosses are more taxing, although not much more, but annoyed me as there’s no way of knowing how much damage you’ve done to them, or in some cases, if you’re even damaging them at all.

Lucky Dime Caper

The levels themselves were standard platform faire – forest, ice, volcano, water, Egypt, castle… in fact, some of the graphics seem to be ripped directly from the Illusion games. Or maybe the other way round, I suppose – I didn’t check the release order!

That said, The Lucky Dime Caper isn’t a bad game, it just isn’t as good as the Mickey Mouse titles or Asterix. It’s better than Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars though!

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Asterix (MS): COMPLETED!

“Getafix” was a drugs reference all along.

Asterix
Definitely not a Thwomp

Yes, it’s another 8bit platformer. But you know what? It’s another good one! When I originally played Asterix on an actual Master System (actually, that’s not true – I played it on a Mega Drive with a Power Base Convertor) I remember it being very easy, once you knew the levels, up until the section near the end of the game with the leaf ride in the wind and the spikes. Imagine my surprise when I realised my brain had totally made that level up and it didn’t appear anywhere in my playthrough.

Asterix
Save keys to open doors

How had I remembered something that didn’t exist? It’s my main memory of the game! That part was so hard that it’s stuck in my head for ever more, and yet it isn’t there. Bizarre.

For this play, I went through entirely as Asterix (aside from level 1-1 where you have to play through as both him and Obelix) as I seem to recall it’s easier and more fun. Mind you, I’d already misremembered a whole level so who knows.

Asterix
Dogmatix bonus stages are hard

I’m pleased to say that, a bit of slowdown aside, Asterix is still a pretty good platformer. Some levels – mainly forced scrolling ones – are less fun than others, but there’s a lot of secret areas to find and a few levels have alternate routes. It’s very much like the Mickey Mouse …of Illusion games, which I’d not really noticed before, but that’s no bad thing.

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Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (MS): COMPLETED!

They’re not “stars”, they’re “miracle balls”.

I’ve completed two Alex Kidd games before – Miracle World on the Master System, and The Enchanted Castle (which is essentially a remake) on the Mega Drive. Neither were anything special, but they were both reasonably good platformers. I’ve briefly played some other Alex Kidd titles, but never finished them. However, I’d never played The Lost Stars before today.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
A couple of pointers

It’s a very simple platformer. Alex Kidd doesn’t have his big punch move, the collision detection is ropey and although the levels are varied none of them are particularly impressive. The graphics are big and chunky and very colourful, so I expect this was a decent show-off title to NES owners back in the day even though it’s nowhere near the same level as things like Super Mario Bros or Duck Tales gameplay-wise. It also suffers from flicker and slowdown a little, although not so much that it bothered me.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Bow Wow Wow Yippie Yo Yippie Yay

Alex runs and jumps through the levels (and swims, in one of them) from left to right mainly avoiding enemies although he can fire a limited number of whirlwinds at them with the right power-up. Other power-ups include a time-limited higher jump and an item that replenishes the health/time bar. Yes, just like Wonder Boy, The Lost Stars has a stupid combined bar which slowly depletes by itself, buy also loses a chunk when you get hit. It was rubbish in Wonder Boy and it’s rubbish here.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Bit garish

Speaking of Wonder Boy, at least one of the levels here appears to be a homage to it. Some of the other levels also seem to borrow from other Sega games – I’m pretty sure there’s a Zillion themed area for one, and there’s an Opa-Opa hiding one of the “miracle balls” you have to collect.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
“Find the miracle ball!” says the speech sample

On the final level, which has very low gravity making all the jumps incredibly easy, there’s no miracle ball, but completing it throws you back at the start of the game again. Only, unlike Teddy Boy, the levels become harder and there’s a second set of miracle balls to collect. Only by running through all the levels again (which I did) do you get the True Ending: a black screen with the words “The End” on it. That’s it. Thanks, Sega!

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Wow.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is a mediocre game with very little in common with the other Alex Kidd games, it would seem. There are plenty of better Master System platformers (Miracle World, Sonic, Asterix, The Lucky Dime Caper, Castle of Illusion… the list goes on) so there’s very little here to recommend it. Still, it wasn’t terrible, so that’s something? Oh, and the FM sound is lovely, so make sure you use an emulator with that turned on if you do play it.

I’m still confused as to why it’s called The Lost Stars when it’s actually Miracle Balls you have to collect, though.

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Teddy Boy (MS): COMPLETED!

Not the Showaddywaddy type of Teddy Boy, it would seem.

Teddy Boy
Shoot ALL the ninja

Teddy Boy was one of the first Master System games I owned, mainly because it was under ten quid new, but I actually quite liked it. I’d never completed it though, and in fact I didn’t think you could complete it – I just thought it went on forever like arcade games of this sort generally did. However, over on RetroCollect someone posted they’d just completed it and I asked how – and it turns out the levels just loop round after level 50. Technically beating that level would count (to me) as completing the game then.

Teddy Boy
Level 51 with some lives left!

Way back when, I think a level somewhere in the 40s was about as far as I ever reached, so imagine my surprise when I managed to reach – and finish – level 50 on just my second attempt. On the first attempt I only made it to level 12 or so, but I quickly learned to be slow and cautious where possible, keep an eye out for the crocodiles especially, and always collect the little token things that come out of the baddies when shot otherwise they gobble up the time after a while. And the yellow bread things? You can’t take on more than one at a time.

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I found Teddy Boy to still be fun game, much to my surprise. It’s very jolly and cute, even if very simple.

Rainbow Islands (MS): COMPLETED!

The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 (So “Bubble Bobble 2” then)

I got very close to completing Rainbow Islands on the Spectrum once. I think I put a cheat mode on and made it to a high level but it crashed. Since then, although I’ve played many versions thoughout the years, I’ve never come close as it’s just too hard.

Rainbow Islands
Aw! Look at the cute little ladybirds! KILL THEM ALL.

Or so I thought. I read somewhere that the Master System version was, for whatever reason, quite a lot easier than other versions. Having played it, and (obviously) completed it today, I think whoever wrote that was right because it is. Sure, it’s not a walk in the park, but it was relatively straightforward.

I found that once you have the power-up that gives you a double rainbow (I presume the missing triple rainbow is due to technical issues – the game suffers greatly from flicker and slowdown as it is), providing you’re careful, almost every level is quite easy. All the bosses are pushovers with a double rainbow too, whereas when I’ve played before they were nigh on impossible. Of course, if you die you lose it, but another power-up to give it back tends to come along soon enough.

Rainbow Islands
I vant to suck your rainbow.

Another reason it’s so easy is that the water that forever chases you higher, and serves mainly to make you panic and die, takes much, much longer to make an appearance. I saw it just once in the entire game, and that was near the end when I fell about four screens downwards – I still outran it without difficulty though.

However, easiness aside: I didn’t get all the diamonds. That really is too hard. What I did do, though, is complete the seven worlds and then use the code that provides you with to unlock the eighth and final world, and then completed that. I may not have found all the diamonds but I did beat all the levels and bosses, so that’s good enough for me.

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Psycho Fox (MS): COMPLETED!

He doesn’t seem like a psycho to me. Look at his ikkle furry ears! Awww.

Psycho FoxI’d completely forgotten how easy the bosses were in Psycho Fox. In fact, I’d completely forgotten anything about the bosses at all, and I wasn’t even 100% sure there were any! Admittedly, much of the rest of the game is quite difficult (mainly because of so many leaps of faith or baddies that appear too quickly to react to), but the bosses? Complete walkovers.

That said, because I’m awesome and somehow managed to remember the locations of two warps despite not having played the game in probably 20 years or more, I actually skipped all bar two of them – the tigery one and the end of game boss.

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I’d also forgotten just how many lives there are to collect, finishing the game with more than twenty – and I didn’t even get any in the after level bonus game! One part of the final level actually has three lives in eggs right next to each other. It probably helped that I managed to take the highest routes in most of the levels as that’s where most of them lurk.

Psycho Fox
Winner!

It surprised me how good the game still is after all this time. The jumping takes a while to get used to (you jump very high, but not very far at all unless you take a run-up) and you’re a bit skiddy, but apart from that and the very old school rule of the game not scrolling left, it was still excellent and holds up well.

I think I’d like to give Kid Kool on the NES a go next. It’s a very similar game by the same team, and I’ve never played it.

Legend of Illusion (MS): COMPLETED!

Taking the Mickey.

And with that, the 8bit Mickey Mouse trilogy is complete! Well, I say it’s a trilogy, but apart from having Mickey and the name Illusion in it, Legend of Illusion isn’t really part of the series.

Legend of Illusion
Worst. Boss. Ever.

At first it seems like it is, but as well as how the story isn’t remotely linked, there are also a few things which set it apart. The main one of these is that Mickey can no longer bum-bump on baddies’ heads to defeat them. Instead, he throws soap (no, really) a feeble distance, a massive step back for the series and similar to one of the reasons I dislike the Mega Drive Castle of Illusion, where you throw apples. Further steps back include no more finding new routes through previous levels (like in Land of Illusion), no more power stars to find (you’re just handed the equivalent item instead), some rubbish bosses which require you to repeat the same attack some 10 times or so (in previous games it varied or was about 5-6 maximum, final boss Pete here was terrible), and the whole game is a complete walkover.

Legend of Illusion
The top and bottom of this screen are Portal-style portals. Portals!

There’s also an additional issue where it isn’t a proper Master System game. It’s a back-port of the Game Gear version, and suffers from a much smaller viewport than the earlier titles (it’s bigger then the Game Gear one, but is badly implimented), and some odd glitching in the top “block” of the screen which I’m pretty sure isn’t related to the emulator I’m using.

It’s not quite all bad though. There are some nice new platforming gimmicks (like north and south magnets that repel or attract other as you’d expect), but they’re underused as the levels are pretty short. The rainbow level is very, very pretty and appears to squeeze more colours than is possible out of the Sega system, but again, is short and actually very dull to play.

What a shame a pair of excellent games had such a mediocre followup.

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Land of Illusion (MS): COMPLETED!

Stars in your eyes, little one / Where do you go to dream / To a place, we all know / The land of make believe.

Oh, spoilers I suppose. It was all a dream! Remember when seemingly half the games ever made were “all just a dream”? Land of Illusion is one of them.

Land of Illusion
She’s got herpes you know, pal.

It’s just like Castle of Illusion, only more! The levels are more varied and there are a lot more of them, for starters. You also have to return to earlier levels to find new routes once you’ve finished other levels: You gain various powers which allow access to previously unreachable areas, such as being able to climb walls, or shrink to get through narrow gaps.

It makes for an even better game than the original, although it isn’t really any harder (only longer). Legend of Illusion next? You knows it.

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Castle of Illusion (MS): COMPLETED!

Hey Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you’re a Parker Accountant, or possibly even a Parker Needlepoint.

Castle of Illusion.
Aww. What they don’t realise, is there’s a cat just outside. Waiting.

I have always maintained that 16bit Disney platformers (and, actually, most of the newer ones than that) are dire. Without exception. Yes, even Aladdin. Even World of Illusion. Even Quackshot. All of them. 8bit Disney platformers, however, are a different class. On both the Master System and NES, there’s a massive selection of quality Disney titles, and one of the best, is Castle of Illusion.

Castle of Illusion

It tells the same story as the Mega Drive game with the same name, and broadly visits the same worlds as you try to save Minnie from the evil witch Mizrabel. The Master System version obviously looks cut down and isn’t as pretty as the 16bit version, but it plays so much better. The levels have more platforming to them, the carrying items mechanic adds a bit more to the game, and Mickey doesn’t throw apples for no reason at all.

Castle of Illusion is fun from start to finish, with some excellent bosses (I’d never noticed before how the chocolate boss rips off a classic Mega Man mid-boss before though!) and clever level design. There’s a bit in the clock tower level where you have to use the same key twice via two different routes which I thought particularly ingenious. It takes a slight shortcut hiding two of the seven necessary Rainbow Gems in the levels rather than have seven levels (therefore having just five), but that’s hardly a big complaint.

Land of Illusion next? I think so…

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Sonic the Hedgehog (MS): COMPLETED!

Sonic Got All The Chaos Emeralds

Sonic the Hedgehog
Impossible.

Sonic the Hedgehog on the Master System was, at the time, quite an achievement. It may not have been as technically polished as the Mega Drive original, but it was a good approximation given the more limited hardware, and it steered away from simply being very, very fast by focussing more on the platforming. I quite enjoyed it at the time.

It has been quite a long time (read: over a decade, I expect) since I last played 8bit Sonic the Hedgehog, and several things surprised me: It was just as easy as I recall. It stands up better today than I expected. Mostly, I was amazed at how I still remembered where all of the hidden Chaos Emeralds were. Except for the one in Scrap Brain Zone which I stumbled across, luckily.

Those electricity pylons are really weedy compared to the Megadrive ones.

It’s a fun platformer with some excellent music (Jungle Zone was always my favourite, and still is) and one of the best games of its type on the Master System. When you compare it, technically, to earlier games like Psycho Fox and Alex Kidd (both still excellent) this does things unheard of on the console at the time.

And that’s it completed, with all the Chaos Emeralds in tow. Excellent.