Commodore 64 Nostalgia: Kung-Fu II: Sticks of Death (or Caveat Emptor)

Despite the long name, I really don’t have all that much to say about Kung-Fu II: Sticks of Death as I barely remember it.  To be honest, I didn’t remember it at all until I pulled out the “reference card” and looked up images online.

Cover Art Bait and Switch

I’m sure the reason that I don’t remember it is that this is one of the first games that I had that helped teach me caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware”).  If you look at the cover art of the game, it features a Bruce Lee “clone” fighting another man with a bo staff.  As I was into martial arts, having taken karate, I was always on the lookout for martial arts inspired games.  As my weapons were tonfa and the bo staff, this game seemed right up my alley.

Tonfa_BlackBeltMagbo_staff_BlackBeltMagAmazon.jpg

However, it was not be as the game, in truth, had little to do with modern day karatekas and ninjas than it does as an “ancient Egyptian brawler” where you fight ancient Egyptian men and “dog”-faced enemies.  Very disappointing.

Fighting Warrior Conundrum

Okay, after researching this game for this post, I now understand why the game looks as it does–it truly was “bait and switch.”  The game itself is called “Fighting Spirit” and is based on ancient Egyptian deities and monsters.  It doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, but apparently it was renamed for the American market.  I’m assuming that the box art was attempt to cash in on the martial arts craze of the mid 80s with the popularity of movies like The Karate Kid.

As I didn’t really have the money in my allowance to subscribe to magazines per se (I just purchased them ad hoc every month and rarely the same type for variety’s sake), I wouldn’t have known that this game was not what it purported to be.

I barely remember playing it and what I do remember is that that it wasn’t very fun. And judging by the lack of buzz online (few YouTube videos, no Wikipedia entry, very few sites talking about it), it looks like I wasn’t the only one with that impression.

Sidney




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Commodore 64 Nostalgia Review: World Karate Championship

So, World Karate Championship (Internation Karate in Europe), by Epyx was one of my favorite C64 games growing up.  I absolutely adored it and I am convinced (although I could be mistaken–I haven’t actually researched the development of the game to know for sure) that it and its competitor,  Data East’s, Karate Champ (which, in looking it up to verify the name, I discovered had sued Epyx claiming that the games were too similar, but apparently lost) had an influence on the modern fighter and games like the original Street Fighter as it exhibits many of the same characteristics–announcer, rounds, tournament fighting, etc., but in a “proto-form.”

The game is a traditional round-based fighting game.  It features a best two out of three system, but like a Karate tournament, you can have half-points (for smaller hits) and full points (for more devastating hits).  You can fight in different stages (areas) across the world, and has “bonus” stages in between the action in order to break bricks/boards for extra points.  What I liked at the time is that it had a belt system, and started your character at a white-belt and moved up through the rankings as you progressed, with higher colored belts meaning more difficult opponents.

I may have mentioned it before, but as someone who took martial arts and was interested in all things martial arts at the time, I took to this came right away.  The control scheme was its only downfall, as it only worked with one button and many of the moves had to be executed with a combination of the joystick and button and it was very imprecise and “sticky” compared to games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat which came along a little later and solved the “control” problem. That is why you see so many “misses” in the footage above.

My uncle and I used to have epic battles when playing two player against one another.  I’ll always remember the fun times I had while playing this game–and yes, that “soundtrack” did loop over and over constantly.  I’d forgotten just how repetitive the music was until I heard it on loop as I was writing this blog, but boy, does it bring back the memories.  And that’s sort of the point of this nostalgia reviews, isn’t it? 🙂

Have a great day!

Sidney



 

Commodore 64 Nostalgia Review: Super Cycle

So, Super Cycle is one of my favorite games.  It isn’t my favorite game, but it up there.  I really enjoyed playing it and wish that the series had continued into present day.  It is a racing game (which, when done right, is always a crowd pleaser with me).  It featured racers on motorcycles who raced across the country in various settings.

It wasn’t anything too special and it wasn’t very unique.  It was just a motorcycle racer, in various environments (which were really just green for meadows, yellow for desert and bluish black for night), in which you raced the clock to get to the next checkpoint before time expired while avoiding other racers and obstacles on the side of the road.  It essence, it was a motorcycle “clone” of the very famous and very popular Pole Position video game (which was similar in design, but featured a “unrecognizable” jumble of pixels that was supposed to represent a Formula One/Indy car).

It didn’t have the depth as some of the racing games that I bought and enjoyed, but I always enjoyed putting the disk into the C64’s disk drive for a good while and I always remember that I had fun with it even when I wasn’t doing so well (crashing and the like).  I think the only thing that could have made it better for me would have been more stages/environments.  I think the C64 version topped at 3–meadows, desert, and night (although I could be mistaken).  Regardless, I don’t remember it being able to capture my attention long-term (for hours) because of the quickly repeating stages/courses.  Still, I remember it fondly and it is one of the reasons why I still gravitate to the racing genre in games even today.

Here is a YouTube Video for the game (ah, that intro music really brings me back) 🙂

The game was developed by Epyx, a studio that I don’t know too much about–they were never really profiled in magazines like hot new studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Activision and Imagic were at the time (I suppose I can do a google search and report back on what I find at some point), however I remember the few games that I got from them–I know I have at least one more–their games were pretty good–always above average in terms of quality and fun factor.  Like Super Cycle, I wish they were still around and programming/producing games as a Design Studio.

Well, that’s all for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney
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Battlestar Galactica: Then and Now

Battlestar-Galactica_Then_FutureWarStories

Battlestar Galactica TV Poster,

Battlestar Galactica: Then
I suppose this is my “when I was a child . . .” posting where I rant and rave about these “darn kids” and how the new generation is messing everything up.  It is isn’t really, but I do want to briefly talk about Battlestar Galactica (or BSG as it is referred to these days).  I am lucky enough to have seen the original as a child and (some) of the newer series (more on that below) as an adult and one can see how media can shift over a generation.  I love the idea of BSG.  Yes, it was inspired in that wave of “knock-offs” where TV execs of the time wanted a “Star Wars“-like show to capitalize on the popularity of the movie.  BSG was one of many such endeavors, but it stuck around because even though the stories are “hokey” by today’s standards, they still revealed a pathos and a sense of “fun” that was endemic in late 70s/early 80s TV.  This was the Sci-Fi equivalent to The Love BoatFantasy IslandQuincy M.E., Alice, and The Facts of Life to name a few.  Even though it was on in the early 80s, it was just before the “New Wave” of 80s show exemplified by Magnum P.I., and Miami Vice, both of which, while having fun plots, had a much harder edge to them at the time.  BSG‘s plots were mostly sci-fi in nature, but with a social tinge to them.  However, they were mostly about family (Boomer & Boxie) being the main giveaways.  They could go dark (I seem to remember a character died in the show), but for the most part they were fun stories that shows like Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda harkened back to.

 

Battlestar-Galactica_Now_FriendlyFireGameCenter

Battlestar Galactic: Now
However, BSG’s new series was critically acclaimed and lauded as one of the best shows on TV.  I watched the Mini-Series and was fairly impressed.  I knew that they would update the themes and the like, so I wasn’t expecting a “saccharine” version of the original.  I think the mini-series was very well done.  I could have gone without the fascination behind Baltar’s sex life or the rumination on Religion and the “Sins of the Father” that they use as a theme for the show, but the science fictional story/set-up was great and the music was exceptional (still influencing sci-fi shows and games to this day).  However, when the actual series started and season 1 began, it went downhill from there with me.  The science fiction lessened and the social, political, and religious elements took forefront in the stories to such an extent that I was only able to last midway through the first season.  I would periodically check in on the show by checking out various odd episodes, but I was never able to get back into the series.  The science fiction, when they focused on that, was top-notch.  Seeing the Galactica plummet in the atmosphere of a planet as it gives aid before jumping back out again is one of the strongest examples of sci-fi I have ever seen on TV and is seared into my mind.  Yet, in many ways, it helped to usher in the whole GrimDark idea that shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones took and ran with as there were many times when I saw Bad Things Happen to Good People on the show and while others might argue that is “sophisticated” and “realistic,” I argue that it is exactly the opposite, “churlish,” and in “poor taste.”

I happened to watch the Mini-Series again on Amazon Prime and was reminded of the potential that the show had–potential to really focus on the greatness of humanity.  While others will say that the potential was realized–to be fair, it has more Emmy wins than I even have publications.  However, based on the way the original BSG fired my imagination as a child and helped to mold me into the reader/writer/lover of Sci-Fi that I am today, I can’t help but wonder it that is really true.

Sidney




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Nostalgia Review: AD&D Pool of Radiance (SSI Goldbox AD&D Game) for the Commodore 64

This is quite possibly one of my Top Ten games that I played in my childhood.  It was the first in the loosening of the D&D/AD&D brand that I can remember.  D&D/AD&D (from now on abbreviated as D&D) was a tightly controlled brand as I recall.  I had the original D&D board game and somehow found (at a reasonable price) the AD&D Players Handbook (1st Edition), so I’ve always been a D&D player.  There were some small attempts to match D&D to the new world of home/personal computers as they were rising in popularity at about the same time.  However, Strategic Simulations’ (SSI) “Gold Box” games (so called because of the “gold” coloring on their boxes) were the PERFECT realization of the D&D ruleset at the time.  No other games series had taken all of the rules (from spell memorization, to spell effects, to combat, to handling ability roles, etc) and so completely merged them into a game that had fantastic combat along with a mysterious story.

Me and My Uncle Loved D&D
Okay, so this might be a slight exaggeration.  loved D&D and my uncle tolerated it, but as we got other RPGs such as The Bard’s Tale II, he also began to be a fan of the genre.  So when I got this game, we both created separate parties and did solo runs of the game and we both beat the story with our individual characters, passing strategies and tips back and forth on the best way of beating certain monsters.  Imagine playing chess, but instead of competitively, you played it cooperatively, each against a computerized foe that was out to destroy your lowly band of digital creations–that was part of the fun of the game.  A sort of “multiplayer” experience before online was even a “thing” in gaming.

 

 

Friends in High School Loved D&D
Okay, so this is actually true, although it wasn’t everyone.  We had a core group of “RPG” players who played D&D and Warhammer Fantasy RPG and who allowed me to be GM.  I was a fan of the Palladium Books series of Games (Rifts, Heroes Unlimited) and they dutifully switched whenever I bought a new game system and wanted to run it–looking back, I realize they were a patient lot!  However, a few of us had computers so we also began playing Pools of Radiance at the same time, so there was shared experiences as we would (again) talk about strategies and tips from what we learned in the game.  Even then, however, I was fairly resistant to spoilers, so I don’t recall talking a lot about the plot of the game, but even still, it was still awesome to be invested in this game on multiple fronts.

 

 

While I went on to buy other games and branch out from the “Gold Box” games, I still remember Pool of Radiance specifically as one the best times that I’ve ever had in gaming and will always have fond memories of this game.

Sidney



Barbarian At The Gates–Barbarian C64 Game (Nostalgia Review)

So this is one of those games that I didn’t really play a whole lot growing up.  I got it based on the strength of reviews and screenshots from a Computer Magazine, but it was based on the Amiga version and back in the early days of computers, there could be a whole world of difference between one system’s game and another (not like today where most games produced by companies other than Sony or Microsoft have virtual parity with their counterparts),  Barbarian (Commodore 64/C64) was a game that was essentially a side-scroller.  As I recall, you moved right or left and tried to defeat enemies on the way to a specific objective.  I don’t really recall all that much about it–except that I remember being disappointed that the game didn’t have more depth to it.

Compare the Differences

This is the Commodore Amiga Version:

and this is the Commodore 64 version:

You’ll notice that the title of the C64 video is Bad Conversions.  This is very accurate as the game does not stay true to the original and was poorly executed.  I remember that this game was released not too long after the original Conan The Barbarian movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and while the Amiga version recreated the experience of the movies as faithfully as possible at the time, the C64 version did not.  I can’t recall if this was a Christmas present or a Birthday present–like most children, I got my games as gifts as presents and I remember the potential of this game being so great (I was, of course, into He-Man, Conan, and even Red Sonja along with all things warrior related at the time).

This is why I now rely on Reviews rather than screenshots–I learned early that media, especially advertisements can be manipulative and that it is up to the buyer to beware.

Caveat Emptor!

 

Nostalgia: The Last Ninja (Commodore 64)

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The Last Ninja Intro. Screen, Image Source: http://www.lemon64.com

So watching TMNT: Out of the Shadows got me thinking about other “ninja” related things that I’ve enjoyed and one of those was an old C-64 game called the Last Ninja.  It may have been out on other computers/platforms, but I played it on the C-64 and had a blast.  It was an isometric adventure game and there were simple elements of combat and exploring (and some slight puzzle elements in figuring out how to defeat traps and barriers in order to progress).

The main character was a ninja (dressed in full ninja garb–which would have been like catnip to me during my teenage years).  The game, as I remember it, was both fun and hard.  You lost life quickly in battles and in the devious traps laid out by the designers.  Taking a trip through the game’s manual, I see that there are six levels in total.  I think I only ever made it to level 3 and I’m not really sure to be honest (I may have only made it to level 2).  I seem to remember completing level one a couple of times, but as I recall, it was a very rare occurrence.

In many ways, this game was the “Dark Souls” of the day.  It was insanely difficult, but it was so beautiful that I would often come back to it again and again to try my luck at it, hoping that “this time, it would be different and I could get deeper into the game’s levels.”  Most of the time that didn’t happen–the dragon trap on the first level was particularly insidious–but every now and then I managed to have a good run.  Perhaps The Last Ninja–and other games like it–are the reason why I don’t play Dark Souls today; perhaps I’ve sated myself on ridiculously hard experiences while gaming and I’m looking  for things that are fun to play (which isn’t to The Last Ninja wasn’t fun, but it was very frustrating, much like the Dark Souls games are today).

The game was published by Activision and had several sequels (which, as I didn’t buy/subscribe to gaming magazines back then due to a limited allowance, I didn’t know about until the rise of the internet).  I probably would have bought the sequels had I known about them, but it surprises me that Activision has never tried to modernize or bring back this old series (if they indeed do hold the rights) like Ubisoft did with the Prince of Persia series.  While game development has perhaps passed The Last Ninja by due to exorbitant budgets and massive development schedules, I’d love to see what an open-world ninja game might look like–something like Assassin’s Creed, or something totally different that we can’t even conceive at this point in gaming?  It’s interesting to speculate, but if nothing else, discussing this game was a fun trip down memory lane.