Friday 24 December 2021

SPECIAL VIDEO: 12 Games of Christmas!

It was a close call this year, but here's the special Christmas video presentation, as promised. This year, I'm doing a quick run-through of 12 strictly Christmas-themed games for various retrogaming platforms, most of which have been mentioned in this blog already in some form or another.

With this, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas (or whatever holiday you happen to be celebrating), and a better next year! I'll be taking a relatively short break from posting anything here, but keep an eye on more FRGCB content around the end of February or early March.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Retrogame Talkshow Episode #8 out now!

Retrogame Talkshow, my other retrogaming-related project, co-created and co-hosted by my friend Bob Engstrand, is back in action with the 8th full-fledged episode! This time, we're digging deep into the history of PC's in both terms of hardware and games, travel through the beginnings of our personal PC gaming history and listen to lots of great music while at it. Here's the YouTube link to see some gameplay footage while listening to the episode, but it's also available as regular audio-form podcast on Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and loads of other podcasting platforms. Enjoy!

Monday 6 December 2021

FRGR #13: GOLF (Oy Hedengren Ab, 1985)

Written by Kimmo Mäkinen for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k in 1984, and published by Oy Hedengren Ab in 1985.



Happy Finnish Independence Day, everybody! Today, we have a truly special entry in the history of Finnish games, as it is a game that is effectively lost from wider public even currently. It was only ever reviewed in the Finnish computing and gaming magazine MikroBitti in May 1985, and even there, the review had no screenshots to see. I recently came by this game by an accident, when I bought a bundle of used Spectrum tapes from another collector, and Kimmo Mäkinen's "Golf" was included in the collection. After a long last I have now played it, so I can finally write a review of it. If nothing new is to be learned from this article, this review shall at least fix the hitherto lack of screenshots from public view, although of course I shall attempt to give proper attention to the game itself, as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Metro-Cross (Namco, 1985)

Originally developed and released for the arcades by Namco Ltd. in 1985. Designed by Masanobu Endo, Tatsurou Okamoto and Yukio Tahahashi. Programming by Kyota Tanaka. Graphics by Hiroshi Ono and Yuki Kasukawa. Sounds by Nobuyuki Onogi. Illustrations by Satoshi Kitahara.

Converted and released for the Nintendo Famicom by Namco Ltd. in 1986; no further information available.

Converted for the Commodore 64 by Probe Software: Programming and sounds by Brian O'Shaughnessy. Graphics by Vakis Paraskeva. Produced by Fergus McGovern. Published by U.S. Gold (EU) and Epyx (US) in 1987.

Also converted for Amstrad CPC and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Probe Software in 1987; no credits are known.

Atari ST version programmed by Timothy Moore, and published by U.S. Gold in 1988.

Converted for the Sharp MZ-700 by Kazuhiro Furuhata, and published by Namco in 1989.

The Atari ST version unofficially ported for Commodore Amiga by Wanted Team in 2013.



Back to more arcade cult classics. This time, the game under the magnifying glass, Metro-Cross, was the ninth-biggest arcade table in Japan in 1985, but it was rarely encountered elsewhere in the world. In fact, the International Arcade Museum website lists Metro-Cross as one of the least common games among collectors, with a 6 out of 100 in popularity based on census ownership records (1 being the least common). Taken that into consideration, all the European conversions must have been made after finding out about this game through the Famicom port from 1986. But that's just guessing. My personal introduction to Metro-Cross happened on the C64 around the mid-90's when the local C64 scene in my area had already turned more to Amigas and consoles, but because it never came up in anyone's collection on other platforms, it felt like such a hidden gem, which I still think it is.

Monday 25 October 2021

The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants (Ocean/Acclaim, 1991)

Designed by Garry Kitchen, Barry Marx, Dan Kitchen, Roger Booth and Henry C. Will IV for Imagineering Inc.
Developed by Arc Developments
Directed by Garry Kitchen
Produced by Colin Gordon
Story conceived by Barry Marx
The Simpsons theme song written by Danny Elfman
Original score by Mark van Hecke

NES credits:
Programming by Roger Booth, Barry Marx, Garry Kitchen, Dan Kitchen, Rob Harris, David Crane and Scott Marshall
Graphics by Jesse Kapili
Audio engineering by Alex de Meo

Other versions' programming by: Chris Coupe (SMD/GEN, AMIGA and ATARI ST); Julian Scott (SMD/GEN and ATARI ST); Tim Coupe (AMIGA); Colin Gordon (AMIGA); Byron Nilsson (CPC, SPE, SMS and GAME GEAR); Richard Underhill (C64); John Wildsmith (DOS)

Other versions' graphics by Paul Walker
Additional graphics for Commodore Amiga by Gary Tonge

Sega sounds by Mark Cooksey
Other versions' sounds by Jonathan Dunn
Additional sounds for Commodore Amiga by Byron Nilsson and Derrick Owens

Published by Ocean Software for Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, IBM-PC compatibles and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k, and Acclaim for the NES in 1991.
Published by Acclaim (Flying Edge) for the Sega consoles in 1992.



On the long run, horror games is not exactly a bottomless well for trying to find games specifically with comparison in mind for Halloween, so in the spirit of transforming October from a month of horror games to a month of Ocean games (hopefully starting properly next year), I chose to go with one of the most commercially successful tie-in games of the 8- and 16-bits era with some sci-fi/b-movie theme going on in it. And, well, I had to visit the 1990's for a change, didn't I? Well, hold on to your hats and eat your shorts while at it, because this is going to be an unusually long comparison.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Anteater / Oil's Well - the origins and variations

My attempt at writing a comparison of Oil's Well from Sierra On-Line fell short quickly, when I realized, how many other clones of this game there actually were. Not only that, but that the game was itself a clone of an arcade game that never got officially ported to home systems with the original title - Anteater. By another coincidence, it has been almost four years since my previous "origins and variations" entry about Bomberman, so it's definitely time for another one of these special entries.

The problem with these sorts of entries is, that the existence of clones based on certain games is documented very loosely, usually only mentioning the most well-known clones of any said game. So, inevitably, the amount of Anteater clones for this entry will not be as close to the truth as it could be, but you're very welcome to mention more clones in the comments section, that I might have missed during my research. Having said all of the above, it might not come as too much of a shock that this entry will not feature a companion video.

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Express Raider (Data East, 1986)

Developed by Data East Corporation and released for the arcades in 1986. Released in North America as "Western Express".

Commodore 64 conversion by Damned House: Programming by Zoltán Kanizsai, Zoltán Czigler, István Rátkai & Ferenc Frank; Graphics by Melinda Legradi; Music and sound effects by Istvan Toth Gy. Published by Data East (US) and U.S. Gold (EU) in 1987.

Amstrad CPC conversion by Paul Zsadanyi, Gergely Gyurkovits, Peter Kovacs and Laszlo Kovacs
for Homega Software. Published by U.S. Gold (EU) in 1987.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum conversion by Paul Zsadanyi, Paul Zsadanyi Jr., Attila Kertesz and Zoltán Farkas
for Homega Software. Published by U.S. Gold (EU) in 1987.



Some time ago, Reset64 magazine had a train theme on their 13th issue, which inspired me to dig out one of my old C64 favourites, an arcade original called Express Raider, which I had on a compilation called Arcade Alley, a relatively rare compilation with only games by Data East. Ported only to the three major 8-bit home computers, Express Raider seems to be somewhat of a cult classic that's rarely spoken of, but mostly with very rose-tinted glasses stitched over the old gamers' eyes.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Inside Outing (The Edge, 1988)

Design and main programming by Michael St. Aubyn.

Programming for Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum versions by Pamela Roberts for Timedata. Graphics for Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC versions by Michael St. Aubyn. Graphics for the ZX Spectrum version by Mike Smith. Music for the 8-bit versions by Wally Beben.

Originally published for Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by The Edge in 1988. Alternative titles were "Raffles" in Germany and Epyx's release "Devon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper" in North America.

Atari ST and Commodore Amiga versions:
Atari ST programming by Michael St. Aubyn, Commodore Amiga programming by Glyn Kendall; Graphics by Mike Marchant; Sounds by Dave Lowe. Published as "Raffles" in Europe by The Edge, and "Devon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper" in North America by Epyx in 1989.



FRGCB's long time readers might recognize my general indifference towards isometrically viewed 3D arcade adventure games, but the keyword there is "general". I do like them when they are comfortable to play, and The Edge's Inside Outing just about crosses that threshold for me, which is why I've had this game lurking for its moment on my to-do list for a few years now. A request from a Lemon64 forum user by the name of MinerWilly (apparently a fellow countryman, too!) forced me to finally let this beast have its share of blog space.

Saturday 17 July 2021

Vixen (Martech, 1988)

Developed by Intelligent Design
Music by Jason C. Brooke

Amstrad CPC:
Programming by Ian McArdle and D. Richards
Graphics by Malcolm J. Smith and Mark Eason

Atari ST:
Programming by Ian McArdle and Jonathan Howell
Graphics by Malcolm J. Smith and Mark Eason

Commodore 64 & IBM-PC compatibles:
Programming by Nicholas A. Jones
Graphics by Malcolm J. Smith and Mark Eason

Commodore Amiga:
Programming by Ian McArdle, Jonathan Howell and D. Richards
Graphics by Malcolm J. Smith and Mark Eason

Sinclair ZX Spectrum:
Programming by Ian McArdle and D. Richards
Graphics by Malcolm J. Smith

Also released as "She-Fox" in Germany.



Due to a request, I started looking into more run 'n' gun -type games, and didn't really find much to write about, unless you went for the REALLY big ones. I decided that since Contra in all its versions has been so well documented and compared elsewhere, I'll try to find a lesser-known game with enough versions to make it interesting. A childhood favourite of mine, and an unimportant curiosity elsewhere, by the name of Vixen popped into my head, which I decided to take a closer look at, since I hadn't played it in over 20 years or so.

Saturday 3 July 2021

A Day In The Life Of UPDATES

Yes, it certainly is time for yet another UPDATES entry, as the one from almost exactly a year ago was written in a relative absence of mind. No such celebratory occasions as last time will be coming in a while yet; 3 million visits is still looming in the distance of just below half a million. Since the Updates entry a year ago, many new remakes and demakes have appeared, and I also had the time to dig through a few game archives of machines that rarely get mentioned anywhere. Additionally, some of my old comparison articles have been updated with new (or new-found) videos by some of the YouTube channels that have given permission to link their stuff. So, let's get to it!

Sunday 6 June 2021

FRGCB's Let's Play series also continues!

Hello, readers and viewers alike! FRGCB's YouTube channel continues to spew more content out, this time with another Let's Play video, the first one for 2021. Just wanted to share that with you here in a more official manner. I shall attempt to make at least the same amount of these as last year, and for a different platform each time, but I still have no schedules planned, much like I didn't the two previous years. This year's Let's Play series started off with the C64 version of Batman the Movie, an old favourite of mine, of which I wrote a comparison of way back in 2014.

As for other news, I will be taking this month quietly again, first and foremost because the deadline for Reset64 magazine's contributions is getting close, and I haven't done squat, apart from having chosen the featured game. Secondly, a band of mine has released an album 5 days ago (Spotify link here), and I will be spending much of my free time on promoting it and making music videos whenever possible. So, apart from the video stuff, things will be quiet here at FRGCB this month, maybe even July. See you when things get less crazy!

Monday 31 May 2021

Motos (Namco/Dempa, 1985)

Design by T. Okada
Programming by Kosei Matz
Music by Norio Nakagata
Graphics by Satoru Chan
Engineering by SIG-EL
Debugging by M. Taguchi
Supervising by Sing Kozima
Originally released for the arcades by Namco/Dempa in 1985.

Developed for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Binary Design (1001 Ltd.):
Amstrad and Spectrum programming by Matthew Rhodes
C64 programming by Michael Delves
Amstrad and Spectrum graphics by Ste Pickford
C64 graphics by Lee Cawley
Music by Jason C. Brooke
Published by Mastertronic in 1987.

Converted for Sharp X68000 by Yodel, with sound by Hideya Nagata. Published by Dempa Microcomputer Software in 1989.



One thing Mastertronic never got properly recognized for was their arcade conversions, mostly because they didn't do all that many of them, and those that they did were largely made after they merged with Virgin Games in 1988. Prior to that, Motos represented one of Mastertronic's earliest ventures into arcade game licencing. This could have been one of the reasons why the eventual merging with Virgin was necessary, since Motos wasn't really one of the most celebrated arcade games in its time. Now, though, it makes an interesting study.

Monday 17 May 2021

Rollaround (Mastertronic, 1988)

Designed by Tony Kelly for Mr. Chip Software.

Commodore 64 version written by Tony Kelly, with title screen by Andrew Morris.

Amstrad CPC version written by Simon Wilson, with graphics by Andrew Morris.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Steve Parys, with graphics by Andrew Morris.

All versions were written in 1987, and published by Mastertronic in 1988.



I don't often feature isometric games on this blog, mostly because I'm really not a big fan of them, but there are some odd exceptions here and there. Tony Kelly's Rollaround is one of them, if only because it happens to be one of the first tape games I got by a chance in a bundle, when I started collecting C64 tapes after the emulation period had been going on for a few years and my C64 hadn't been properly in use for a while. It's also a fairly rare occurence, that an isometric action game was originally designed for the C64, which should make this comparison a bit more interesting than were it not.

Monday 3 May 2021

Ninja (Mastertronic, 1986)

Developed by Sculptured Software.

Designed and programmed by Steve Coleman, with music by Rob Hubbard. C64 loading screen by Jim Wilson. Originally released for the Atari 8-bit computers and Commodore 64 in 1986 by Mastertronic.

Converted for the IBM-PC compatibles by Bryan Brandenburg and Soft Arts in 1986.

Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Icon Design Ltd. in 1987.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Brian Beuken of Icon Design Ltd. in 1987.

Atari ST conversion: Programming by Steve Coleman, Graphics by Tanya Platt, Loading screen by Jez Nelson, Music by David Whittaker.

Commodore Amiga conversion: Programming by Rick Nooner and Bruce Milner, Graphics by Tanya Platt and Joe Hitchens, Loading screen by Jez Nelson, Music by Brad Dahl.

Arcadia conversion by Sculptured Software (further details unknown).

Released as "Ninja Mission" for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1987, and for the Arcadia in 1988 by Mastertronic.



Welcome to the second Mastertronic May at FRGCB! With any luck and time on my side, there should be three games to be dealt with this month, much like last year, and we shall start with a relatively big one: Ninja from Sculptured Software, designed by none other than Steve Coleman, who is also responsible for such classics as The Pharaoh's Curse and Rainbow Walker, as well as the 8-bit Atari conversion of Raid Over Moscow.

Saturday 20 March 2021

FRGCB on YouTube: My Nostalgia Trip Games continues

As if the title for this post isn't clear enough, let's just elaborate a little on that. The video series My Nostalgia Trip Games is back with a new "season", if you like to divide all the episodes into such. With the third season, you get more of the same old, with some enhanced features, such as new intro and outro jingles and graphics, and possibilities of more interesting backgrounds for my introductory hosting bits. There will also be some previously left-out platforms featured sometime along this season, once I get the equipment to record better quality videos, but for now, the new season of MNTG will start with a few regulars, with the MS-DOS compatible PC's being the first episode.

Friday 12 March 2021

TWOFER #22: Horace Classics (Sinclair Research Ltd, 1982)

Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing:

Developed and written by William Tang (Psion/Melbourne House) for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16k.
Published by Sinclair Research, Ltd. in 1982.

Commodore 64 conversions by Gregg Barnett. Published by Melbourne House in 1983.

Dragon 32/64 conversions:
Programmed by D. Jansen (a.k.a. Denver Jeans; to be confirmed). Graphics for Horace Goes Skiing by Russell Comte and Greg Holland. Published by Melbourne House in 1984.



The little blue ghostly armless character, well-known particularly in the Spectrum community by the name Horace, was one of the first home computer mascots, and deserves to be honoured with his very own entry here at FRGCB. To be honest, I never really considered the Horace games interesting enough to even consider they might be worth doing a proper comparison of, but on further thought, the character's historical value is enough to give it the full works. So, although I have listed this as a two-fer - mostly because the first two games are all that I'm actually able to compare versions of - this entry will feature chapters for the other available official Horace games, and some of the best fan sequels out there. So, despite its origins, this is going to be a (relatively) big one.

Monday 1 March 2021

Retrogame Talkshow makes a comeback!

After a largely unplanned sabbatical year, Retrogame Talkshow is back with a new episode! As was planned in late 2019, episode #7 is a tribute to the late, great Ben Daglish, a master game music composer most of us retrogamers know and love from his work on all the major 8-bit and 16-bit computers. Mr. Daglish passed away on the 1st of October in 2018, so the episode is a bit overdue, but as they say, better late than never, and his music is always worth listening to.

There you have the YouTube video version of the episode, and as a more traditional audio podcast format, it's available on iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker and practically every other podcasting platform available. You can also find Retrogame Talkshow on Instagram (@retrogame_talkshow), Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is where we mostly operate outside of the actual podcasting. Thanks for listening!

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Split Personalities (Domark, 1986)

Developed for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Ernieware:
Programming by Ruud Peske
Graphics by Ernest Peske
Music by David Whittaker
Other credit by Mark Strachan

Commodore 64:
Programming by Mark Greenshields
Graphics by Richard Naylor
Music by David Whittaker

Amstrad CPC:
Programming by Darren Pegg
Graphics by Jason Pegg
Music by John Brozovsky

The Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad versions all published by Domark in 1986.

Commodore Plus/4:
Programming by Mark Greenshields
Graphics and music by Richard Naylor
Published by Domark in 1987.

Rewritten for the Nintendo Game Boy as "Splitz" by Richard Naylor for Enigma Variations Ltd.,
and published by Imagineer Co., Ltd. in 1993.



One of my favourite puzzle games of all time has always been Split Personalities, and it's also one of the rare games I managed to play on the three main contestant platforms in their own time. The Plus/4 version was unknown to me until I decided upon making a comparison of this game. Learning about its origins was a long time coming, though - the latest bits of information have, indeed, only surfaced last year, which makes this a particularly interesting game to talk about right now, particularly as the animation show it was originally based on has made a bit of a comeback lately, after an absence of almost 24 years.

Tuesday 2 February 2021

4x4 Off-Road Racing (Epyx, 1988)

Designed by Ogdon Micro Design Inc.

Commodore 64:
Programming by Paul Nickels, Joe Simko, Ed Schoenberg, Steve Thomas and K-Byte
Graphics by Paul Vernon
Music by Jennell "Paul" Jaquays

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Steve Marsden and David Cooke.

Commodore Amiga:
Music by Chris Grigg
Miscellaneous stuff by Mark Riley

IBM-PC compatibles:
Programming by Ed Schoenberg
Artwork by Matthew Sarconi
Music by Jennell "Paul" Jaquays

All other credits are currently unknown.

Published for Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, IBM-PC compatibles, MSX and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Epyx for the North American market, and U.S. Gold for the European market in 1988.



Since restarting the comparison blog in late 2019, I've been trying to avoid writing about games that are bound to be heavy work for a comparison. But now that the comparison of Exploding Fist is done, the next logical step (if such logic exists) would be an Epyx game, but I didn't want to write about any of the other sport games quite yet, nor about Impossible Mission, because I've never really understood it, and there are just too many versions to bother with it. So, this presented a puzzle for a long while, until the answer was presented to me by a reader called Zaltys on the 5th of June 2020 - thanks again for the suggestion, and sorry for the delay! Not only does this bring another game into the numerals in the comparisons archive, but it also gives me a chance to really dive into a game I've long meant to, but have always postponed it due to lack of inspiration and time. Besides, it's about time an Epyx game, that is not part of their multi-event sports series, is featured on the blog.

Sunday 17 January 2021

The Way of the Exploding Fist (Melbourne House, 1985)

Originally designed by Gregg Barnett and written for the Commodore 64 by Beam Software:
Programming by Gregg Barnett and David Johnston, Graphics by Greg Holland, Music by Neil Brennan. Published by Melbourne House in 1985. Also published as "Kung-Fu: the Way of the Exploding Fist" in North America by Spinnaker Software (UXB).

Conversion for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Programming by Gregg Barnett, William Tang and Stephen Taylor, Graphics by Stephen Taylor and Greg Holland. Published by Melbourne House in 1985.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Gregg Barnett, Cameron Duffy and Dam, and published by Melbourne House in 1985. An upgraded version called "The Way of the Exploding Fist +" was released for the Amstrad CPC in 1986.

Converted for the Acorn BBC Micro and Electron by Michael Simpson, and published by Melbourne House in 1985.

Converted for the Commodore 16 by Richard Costello, and published by Melbourne House in 1986.

Unofficial (?) Sharp MZ-800 port written by Michal Kreidl, and published by MikrSoft in 1987.

Unofficial Commodore Plus/4 port "The Way of the Exploding Fist +4" written by Thomas Sasvari in 1993.

Unofficial port of the C16 version for the Atari 400/800 written by Fandal and Miker in 2017.

NES version was originally developed by Beam Software, with the last prototype being from 1990. The prototype was modified to be finishable, and the final release was made in 2019 by Piko Interactive. The Piko version has also been released for the Evercade handheld console in 2021.



If you have been following this blog for longer, you might remember I did a comparison of the much more adventure-oriented sequel to Exploding Fist for the Reset64 magazine many years ago. My excuse for putting off writing about the original game must be the lack of confidence in giving this classic game the high quality comparison it deserves, but since this comparison was also requested many moons ago, I have since started to make video accompaniments, which enables me to finally take the plunge and just get on with it. And while it's not particularly seasonal, I figured this would be a good way to begin 2021 with properly, so... Happy New Year!

Friday 1 January 2021

Happy New Year 2021 + special video about modern media storage devices


Merry late Christmas 2020 and best wishes for the year 2021, all you readers and YouTubers out there! Here's a little late Christmas thing for you to watch, although it's not a particularly Christmas-themed video. This video was constructed upwards from a request from a fellow on the Lemon64 forum, which hopefully gets his approval.