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Thursday, 20 April 2017

FRGR #09: Bomulus and the Lost Crown (Teknopiste, 1986)

Written by Sampo Suvisaari for the MSX/SVI computers, and published by Teknopiste in 1986.

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INTRODUCTION


Our timetravels today will take us back into 1985, which was when the Finnish computing wares importing company Teknopiste started publishing Finnish-made games, mainly for the MSX-compatible computers. One such case has already been dealt with earlier in the blog (Space Satellite), but today's game is the title that practically ended Teknopiste's run as a game publishing company, before the job of publishing Finnish MSX-games was more or less handed over to Triosoft. Bomulus and the Lost Crown is the final part in a trilogy of Bomulus games, but the first two games in the series, "Bomulus ja beduiinit" (translates literally to "Bomulus and the bedouines") and "Bomulus atomivakoojana" (translates more or less to "Bomulus the Nuclear Spy") are more difficult to find, so this is the only game in the series I am able to write about at the moment. Strangely enough, this is also the only game in the series, which uses English instead of Finnish for the displayed messages, supposedly in an attempt to get more international MSX gamers interested. This makes it all the more sad to say, that this shall be the last MSX game in the series, until more Finnish MSX/SVI games are found and/or digitized to an emulatable format... so let's make the best of it.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Into The Eagle's Nest (Pandora, 1987)

Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and Sinclair ZX Spectrum versions written by Kevin Parker, with graphics by Robin Chapman. Additional programming for the Commodore Amiga version by Nigel Edwards. Music for the Amstrad CPC version by Andy Severn and A. Brown.

Commodore 64 version written by Andrew Challis. Graphics by Robin Chapman. Music by Keith "Howlin' Mad" Harvey.

Apple ][ version written by Andrew Pines, based on the Commodore 64 version.

IBM-PC version developed by Visionware, Inc: Programming by S. Chan and Robin Kar. Graphics by Robin Chapman and Matthew Crysdale.

All of the above versions originally written in 1986, but published for the European market by Pandora, and for the North American market by Mindscape in 1987.

Atari 8-bit version written by Kees Beekhuis, with graphics by Robin Chapman. Published by Atari Corporation in 1988.

Unofficial conversion for the Commodore Plus/4 written by Mucsi, with additional graphics by Jeva. Released by Muffbusters in 1990.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


Previously on FRGCB: Sega tried to push themselves on the simultaneous four-player gaming market with something perhaps a bit too different from Atari's smash hit, Gauntlet. Today's entry takes the other path, and in a way, does Gauntlet in a single-player mode, and takes the action to World War II. Allegedly, Into the Eagle's Nest was heavily inspired by the movie "Where Eagles Dare", so naturally, I had to watch the movie for the first time in perhaps over 20, maybe even closer to 30 years. It's a great movie for its time, I have to admit, but I could only see some very basic resemblance in the game. The movie's screenplay was written by Alistair MacLean, while doing a novel of it simultaneously, so perhaps there are some differences worth examining, but I have no time for it right now, nor do I believe the comparison between the book and the movie to be fruitful in connection to the game. And in any case, the game is the more important subject here, so let's get on with it.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Quartet (Sega, 1986)

Designed by Rieko Kodama for Sega Enterprises, with music by Katsuhiro Hayashi. Originally released for the arcades by Sega in 1986.

Conversion for the Sega Master System (Mark III) written and released by Sega in 1987. Released in Japan as "Double Target - Cynthia no Nemuri"

Converted for the Commodore 64 by Sega: Produced by Jonathan Dean, Music by David Whittaker. Published through Activision in 1987.

Converted for the ZX Spectrum by Probe Software: Programming by Antony R. Lill, Graphics by Nick Bruty. Published through Activision in 1987.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Probe Software: Programming by Anthony Heartley. Published through Activision in 1987.

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GAME STATUS


Admittedly, this isn't one of Sega's most successful games of all time, particularly when it comes to the home conversions. However, due to its limited exposure, I thought Quartet would make for a nice alternative against all the more obvious games, and besides, there aren't too many games that begin with the letter Q that would be interesting enough to fit into the blog. But what makes Quartet a properly interesting game is the fact that it was released just a bit after Atari's Gauntlet - another four-player action game was doing high profit in both the arcades and home computers. Not too many game companies would have the guts to try and achieve the same level of success with something quite a bit different. As you might already know, the home conversions of Quartet left a lot to be desired on every platform, but can you really blame the conversion teams for their attempts?

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Well, I'll be...!



Over half a million visits this blog has had already, and the rate at which this number grows, only seems to be getting quicker. So, half a million thanks to everyone of you out there - let's see if we can't get it up to a full million within the next year, so we can have a proper celebration!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Congo Bongo (Sega, 1983)

Developed (at least partly) by Ikegami Tsushinki for SEGA Enterprises Ltd., and released originally for the Japanese arcades as "Tip Top" in 1983.

Converted and mostly published by Sega for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit computers, MSX, Sega SG-1000, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Mattel Intellivision and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A in 1983.

So far, the only known credits are:
- Commodore 64 and VIC-20: additional programming by Kevin Kenney; published by SEGA/US Gold.
- Intellivision: programming by Mike Noll
- TI-99/4A: published by Texas Instruments Incorporated

Also converted and published by Sega for the Apple ][ and IBM-PC compatibles in 1984.
Still also converted for the ColecoVision in 1984, and published by Coleco Industries, Inc.
Converted again for the Commodore 64 in 1985 by SEGA/US Gold.

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GAME STATUS


Here's another early Sega classic for you, and our game for today is perhaps not quite as obscure as the last one. This time, I'm picking up one of my friend Bob's favourite games, Congo Bongo, which was basically Sega's attempt at cashing in on the success of their earlier collaboration with Konami on Frogger, as well as Nintendo's Donkey Kong. According to Wikipedia, it wasn't much of a success when it was released, but despite of it, Congo Bongo was ported to nearly every major gaming platform at the time, and uniquely, the C64 was given two different official conversions, as if someone was trying to apologise and make up for making such a mess the first time around. Weirdly, as with most other Sega's early games, the game's developing and porting team credits are well kept secrets for the most part, but there are indications in the game's original arcade ROM to it having been likely coded at least in part by the company Ikegami Tsushinki, who also worked on Donkey Kong and Zaxxon. If anyone finds out more about the credits for any version, please drop a line in the comments section.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Up'n Down (Sega, 1983)

Designed by Yoji Ishii.
Developed by SEGA Enterprises Ltd., and released for the Japanese arcades by SEGA, and for the North American arcades by Bally/Midway in 1983.

Ported for the following home computers and video game systems in-house by SEGA Enterprises Ltd.: Apple ][, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit computers, ColecoVision and Commodore 64 in 1984 and IBM-PC compatibles in 1987.

ColecoVision conversion programmed by Paul Crowley. Commodore 64 music by Tony Vece. IBM-PC conversion by R. Leittner. No other credits are known.

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GAME STATUS


This month, I shall be focusing on Sega's old arcade titles, starting with this slightly lesser-known title to give some filler for the other end of the alphabetically ordered list. The popularity, or at least the becoming of more common knowledge among 80's gamers of Up'n Down, I believe, can be credited mostly to piracy. At least from what I can remember, it was one of those games that was most likely to be featured on any C64 gamer's collection of either turbo tapes or disks full of single-filed games. I'm pretty sure it must have been the same story for Apple ][, 8-bit Atari and IBM-PC communities back then, but I can only attest to the game's C64 spreading. Although Up'n Down along with a few other games from Sega were to be converted for both ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC, this was one of the games that sadly never got released, but we're still hoping for a prototype or something to appear. Not only that, but there was supposed to be an SG-1000 version of the game, which was reportedly advertised in Japan and Finland of all places - that one never appeared either. As it is, though, seven different versions is already a lot to take in and write about.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

FRGR #08: Golf Master (Hewson/Rack-It, 1988)

Written by Mikko Helevä in 1987 for the Commodore 64. Loading screen by Stephen "SIR" Robertson. Originally published through Hewson's Rack-It budget label in 1988.

Re-released as "Challenge Golf" by Prism Leisure Corp. in 1992.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


We continue the Finnish Retro Game Reviews series back in the expected realm of Commodore 64 games. This time, however, the game under inspection is the only commercially released game from a then-promising game developer, Mikko Helevä, whose only other game developing credit is an Asteroids-clone called Space Ace, also for the C64. Although Golf Master came too late in the 8-bit computers' time to make much of an impact, it was deemed good enough for a re-release by Prism Leisure in 1992, as well as freebies included in both February 1991 Zzap!64 Megatape and Commodore Force Reel Action #7 covertape (from 1993). Despite the relative success, and very likely due to Mikko's young age of 18 when his Golf Master was released, he never got back into game developing - at least not to anyone's knowledge. Golf Master's current rating being 5.1 from 14 votes at Lemon64, perhaps it's not much of a wonder that we haven't heard from Mikko Helevä since 1989. In any case, once again in a relatively short, but seamless review form, here's a proper look at the only currently available Finnish golf game - let's hope it serves a purpose.