Monday 18 December 2023

New (Unique) CHRISTMAS Games!

For the 2014 Christmas season, I had prepared a special Unique Games entry on some of my favourite Christmas themed games for various platforms. Although I have found some more Christmas-themed games mostly from the olden days for the classic platforms, I decided to do a special entry on comparatively new unique and/or exclusive Christmas- and winter-themed games for old machines, most of these made within the last ten years, since there are plenty to be found. Links to games' pages provided as far as legally and/or officially possible.

As usual, I have tried to be as thorough in my investigations as possible, but it still could be that I might have missed some of even the more notable Christmas/winter-themed games from this list, so if you can think of anything to add, feel free to throw in a comment at the end of the post.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

FRGR #15: The Complete Works of Simo Ojaniemi (Amersoft, 1984)

For this year's Finnish Independence Day celebratory blog post, I decided to take a closer look at all four games by Simo Ojaniemi, who is one of the pioneers in Finnish game developing. He started out developing games on his brother Juha's Commodore VIC-20 in 1982, and ended his game developing career in 1984 after the release of his fourth game, RahaRuhtinas. All four games were briefly mentioned in the History of Finnish Games series in 2013-2014, so now is a good time to give them all more in-depth reviews.

MEHULINJA, HERKKUSUU and MYYRÄJAHTI written for the Commodore VIC-20, and RAHARUHTINAS written for the Commodore 64 by Simo Ojaniemi; all games published by Amersoft in 1984. MYYRÄJAHTI was released on the same cassette tape as HERKKUSUU.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Impact! (Audiogenic, 1987)

Written for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga by John Dale with graphics by Martin "Spiny Norman" Day. Originally released by Audiogenic in 1987. Also published as "Blockbuster" in North America by Mindscape.

Acorn BBC Micro/Electron conversion written by Gary Partis (in 1987). Amstrad CPC conversion programmed by Keith Prosser and Nigel Alderton; graphics by Dean Lester; sounds by Andy Williams. Commodore 64 conversion written by Steve Snake. IBM-PC compatibles conversion written by Brian Cotton. Sinclair ZX Spectrum conversion written by Steven Tucker.

All the conversions published by Audiogenic (EU) and Mindscape (US) in 1988.



I haven't made nearly enough comparisons of breakout-clones, perhaps because there aren't that many breakout games that have all that many versions of, apart from one. Obviously, I still haven't picked any of the Arkanoid games, because they still have too many versions to bother, but just so this wouldn't be too simple, I managed to pick a game that is available for IBM-PC compatibles, but doesn't work in DOSbox, so this should be interesting. Impact, with an exclamation mark, is a relatively unknown beast, that tends to generate wildly opposing opinions, but are the opinions more based on the played versions or is the game just an acquired taste in a more general sense?

Sunday 22 October 2023

Combat School (Konami, 1987)

Developed and published by Konami to the arcades in 1987.

Commodore 64 version:
Programming by David Collier and Allan Shortt
Graphics by Simon Butler and Shaun Ridings
Music by Martin Galway

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version:
Programming by Andrew Deakin and Michael Lamb
Graphics by Ivan Horn
48k Music and sound effects by David Whittaker
128k Music and sound effects by Jason C. Brooke

Amstrad CPC version:
Programming by James Higgins and Michael Lamb
Graphics by Ronnie Fowles
Music and sound effects by David Whittaker

Published in Europe by Ocean Software in 1987.

Arcade and Commodore 64 versions published in North America as "Boot Camp" by Konami in 1987 and 1989.

Converted for the IBM-PC compatibles by James R. Sletzer, with artwork by Brenda Johnson, and
published by Konami in 1989.



Since the early days of FRGCB, I have been wanting to do more comparisons of sports games that I have always enjoyed to some degree, but found them impossible to make reliable observations of, thanks to peculiarities of emulation. With my purchase of an Amstrad CPC 464 last year, these games are gradually opening up for comparisons, but there are still some aspects that cannot be taken into consideration. For example, the original Combat School arcade game had a trackball and two buttons, instead of a joystick, so I cannot actually do any reliable observations on that version. Happily, the global version, which was manufactured and released in 1988, had a joystick instead of a trackball, so I can use that in this comparison. It's been a long time coming, and now it has the honour of ending this year's Ocean October.

Sunday 1 October 2023

TWO-FER #25: Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Konami, 1984/1985)

Originally developed and released for the arcades by Konami Industry Co. Ltd. in 1984.

Acorn Electron & BBC Micro version written by Peter Johnson. Published by Imagine Software in 1985.

Amstrad CPC version written by Keith Wilson and Brian Beuken, with graphics by Brian Beuken. Published by Imagine Software in 1985.

Commodore 64 version:
Programming by David Collier
Graphics by Stephen Wahid
Music by Martin Galway
Published by Imagine Software in 1985.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k version written by Brian Beuken, with loading screen by F. David Thorpe. Published by Imagine Software in 1985.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k version written by Brian Beuken, Jonathan Smith, Mike Weeb, Paul Owens, Ian Martin, Tony Pomfret and Colin Gresty, with music by Martin Galway and loading screen by F. David Thorpe. (No further details are known.) Originally published as "Yie Ar Kung-Fu +2" in the "Stars On The 128" compilation by Imagine/Ocean Software in 1986.

Commodore 16/+4 version: no credits known, apart from being produced by David Ward; published by Imagine Software in 1986.

Game Boy Advance version released on the Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced (US) / Arcade Classics (EU) compilation cartridge in 2002.

Unofficial conversion for the Atari 320XE written by Krzysztof Gora, with music by Michal Szpilowski and graphics by Daniel Kozminski and Krzysztof Gora. Released into public domain in 2006.

Also, official digital downloads of more or less the emulated arcade version were released for Xbox 360 in 2007, Windows in 2010, and Sony PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in 2019. These versions will not be included in this comparison.

Completely re-designed for the MSX and Nintendo Famicom and published by Konami in 1985.

Game Boy version of the 1985 re-designed Yie Ar Kung-Fu released on Konami GB Collection Vol.3 compilation cartridge in 1997; the European version was released as Vol.4 in 2000.

The MSX version was ported to the ColecoVision by Opcode Games in 2005.

Unofficial conversion for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive based on the Famicom/MSX version written by Evgeny (with music engine by Shiru) in 2008.



This October, we're going to have a bit of a weird sub-theme. Since 2021, October has been the month of games released by Ocean Software, at least in some regions, or some of the versions of the games in question at any given time. We still continue with Ocean to some extent, but this time, we're taking on a couple of Konami arcade games Ocean released under the acquired Imagine label. So that's basically three different publishers responsible for these two chosen games.

Friday 1 September 2023

FRGCB's Let's Play series returns for another set of episodes!

While the comparisons are still on a break of sorts, it's time for another announcement. After an unnecessarily long break, we're back with another set of Let's Play videos. In case you haven't seen these videos before on FRGCB's YouTube channel, it's all unemulated gameplay footage with unscripted commentary of games I like to revisit more or less often.

This year, the plan is to get three more Let's Play videos out, with one platform that hasn't had a chance to get its place in the spotlight yet. For now, here's Saboteur on the ZX Spectrum. Enjoy!

Sunday 13 August 2023

Scuba Dive (Durell, 1983)

Originally written by Ronald Jeffs for the Tangerine Oric-1/Atmos.

Converted to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Mike A. Richardson.

Converted to the Commodore 64 by Nigel Dewdney.

All versions published by Durell Software in 1983.



While I was preparing FRGCB's special 10th Anniversary post, I realized I needed to focus more on games that would bring forth the superiority of versions made for other than C64. So, to start working on getting that balance more balanced, I start with another Durell classic that I used to play a lot back when I originally had a ZX Spectrum in the mid-80's.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

FRGCB - 10 years and still kicking!


Exactly ten years ago today, I launched Finnish Retro Game Comparison Blog, without having a clear idea, what I was getting myself into. Sure, the basic idea was to give retrogaming enthusiasts "less biased opinions, more balanced reviews", but just how long a journey getting from relatively undetailed comparisons of games I thought would be somewhat simple to tackle, to the video-accompanied
ridiculously detailed comparisons they are now, has it been? And was it all worth it? Well, if anyone is interested in this sort of a thing, click on to read more about it, and look at some statistics while at it. Be warned, though, there are barely any pictures in this post, apart from the animated gif thing above.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Stop the Express (Hudson Soft, 1983)

Originally designed and programmed for the Sharp X1 and Sony SMC-777 by Fumihiko Itagaki, and published as "Bousou Tokkyuu SOS" by Hudson Soft in 1983.

Ported to Commodore 64, Hitachi S1 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Hudson Soft, and respectively published in 1984 by Commodore Business Machines, Hudson Soft and Sinclair Research Ltd.

Ported to MSX by SoftBank, and published by Hudson Soft, Sony, Kuma Computers, HoneyBee Soft and Toshiba in various regions in 1984.

Unofficial conversion for Commodore Plus/4 by Csabo, with graphics by Chronos, and released by Legion of Doom in 2021.

Unofficial conversion for Mattel Intellivision by Carlos Madruga, with music and sound effects by Anders Carlsson, and released through Intellivision Collector in 2023.



Hudson Soft's games haven't been all that well represented here at FRGCB, so I thought I might tackle at least one of them now. If you're first and foremost a fan of either Commodore 64 or Sinclair's ZX Spectrum line of computers, chances are that you might have missed Hudson Soft either by choice or by accident. Their games for those two computers didn't really scream Hudson Soft at you, although they were certainly responsible for some of the earliest Sinclair classics. Stop the Express was not necessarily one of the most well-known ones of the lot, possibly because it was already made during the time when Hudson was prioritizing their efforts on the Japanese 8-bit computers like Sharp X1 and MSX, but it became some sort of a cult classic. Only in the last few years, Stop the Express has gone through a revival period, with new versions for Commodore Plus/4 and Intellivision already out, and rumour has it, there are more conversions in the pipeline.

Monday 3 July 2023

Gyroscope (Melbourne House, 1985)

Developed by Catalyst Coders.
Produced by David Wainwright.

Acorn BBC Micro and Electron versions written by David Wainwright and John Nixon.

Amstrad CPC version written by Tony Mack and Steve Lamb, with music by Gloryflow Ltd.

Commodore 64 version written by Mark "Dubree" Prosser, with music by Graham Davis and Rob Hartshorne as "Alphingwood".

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Steve Lamb, Tony Mack and David Dew, with loading screen by Mark Alexander.

All the above four versions published by Melbourne House in 1985.

A version was also made for Apple II, with no credits known, and published by Melbourne House (?) in 1986.



Marble Madness is one of Atari's most recognizable arcade classics, and has easily earned its status with no less than 15 (if not more) conversions in addition to the original. Isometric 3D games were big in late 1984, so having an isometric ball-rolling game with a trackball as your controller in the arcades must have been something very unique back then. Because of such an enormous amount of versions available, though, Marble Madness is likely to never be featured in this blog as a comparison. So, I decided to go with the next best thing: Gyroscope, which was developed for the 8-bit computers before the first home conversions of Marble Madness started coming out. This proved to be a relatively wise move from Melbourne House, since they later got the rights to port Marble Madness to some of the home computers.

Monday 19 June 2023

Grand Prix Simulator (Code Masters, 1987)

Devised and originally written by Andrew and Phillip Oliver for the Amstrad CPC in 1986.
Graphics by the Oliver Twins and James Wilson.
Amstrad music and sound effects by Jon Paul Eldridge.
Atari and Commodore conversions by Adrian Sheppard.
Commodore loading screen by Steven Day.
Spectrum programming by Surjit Dosanj.
Spectrum graphics by Mervin James.
Atari, Commodore and Spectrum sounds by David Whittaker.
Design and artwork by Nigel Fletcher.

All versions published by Code Masters in 1987.



In an attempt to make the Format Wars article series in Reset64 magazine slightly bigger, the already announced racing theme for issue #16 gave the opportunity to choose a game with more versions, but less content. I found myself two optional games to write comparisons of, and I chose to write them both - the other one is still waiting for the next issue of Reset magazine to be finished and eventually released, but I decided to release this comparison now, just to get rid of it. One of Code Masters' earliest hit games, Grand Prix Simulator, was designed by the Oliver Twins on their Amstrad CPC, but was ported to other platforms by developers other than themselves, which, if you read my comparison of Dizzy at FRGCB, should make GPS a much more interesting game to compare.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

NGOTY: Tenebra (Public domain/BOBR Games, 2021)

Designed and written by Ali "Haplo" Pouladi, with occasional level design by Marukpa.

Originally released to public domain for the Commodore 64 in 2021, and an updated version "Tenebra Extended" published by BOBR Games in 2022.

Tenebra Extended was ported to Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 2022, and to Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Commodore Amiga and MSX in 2023 by Haplo.

Rewritten for Windows, Linux and Macintosh by Haplo in 2022.



When I began writing this comparison, it was February 2023, and I decided to wait for the Amiga version of Tenebra to arrive, which was hinted about in January, before I finished up this comparison. Of course, once the Amiga version was finally released in April, work got in the way and delayed the release of this comparison/review, but here it is, finally. In case you're still out in the blue on what Tenebra is, it's one of the most praised puzzle games of recent years on all the 8-bit machines it has been released for so far, and was popular enough to spawn a sequel in October 2022 for the Commodore 64 and Plus/4. UPDATE! - 19th of June, 2023: Haplo surprised Tenebra fans today by released an MSX version of the game, so information on that version will be included as soon as I have written it (might be in already).

Saturday 20 May 2023

Panther (Mastertronic, 1986)

Designed and written by Peter Adams for the Commodore 64, and published by Mastertronic in 1986.

Converted for the Atari 8-bit computers by Chuck Peavey for Sculptured Software, and published by Mastertronic in 1987.

Music and sound effects for the Commodore 64 and Atari 400/800 versions by David Whittaker.

Converted for Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Tom Lanigan and Ed Knight for MC Lothlorien Ltd., and published by Mastertronic in 1989.



Even with my severe off-blog workload, I simply couldn't let May pass without at least one Mastertronic comparison, and so I picked one of the few ones left somewhat at random - a game that I had never given any notice before now. The single point of inspiration for choosing Panther was its positive comparison to a more classic diagonally scrolling isometric shooter, Blue Max, which was one of the first comparisons I ever made for FRGCB. The comparison is inevitable at any case, since the original C64 version of Panther was written by the very same person, who converted Blue Max from the Atari computers to the C64, Peter Adams.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja (Irem/Data East, 1986)

Developed by Irem Corp. and released to the arcades by Irem in Japan as "Kaiketsu Yanchamaru", and by Data East in North America in 1986.

Nintendo NES/Famicom version developed and published by Irem Corp. in 1987.

Apple II and Commodore 64 versions ported by Quicksilver Software, Inc., and published by Data East in 1988.



Kid Niki is not a game I have ever heard anyone really talk about, likely because it was never actually released in Europe, even for the NES. The only time I ever even tried the game out was the Commodore 64 version, which also goes by an alternative name, "Kid Niki to the Rescue", even though the cover art has the same title as all the other versions. That one time I tried Kid Niki out on the C64 was an experience I'm likely to never forget due to the game's cringyness. Now, I thought I might try the other versions out, because it's such an unusual collection of versions of a game of this type, and I'm hoping for at least the Apple version being equally cringeworthy to the C64 port. Let's see.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

FRGR #14: Mr. Seek - Kaivosseikkailu (Teknopiste, 1985)

Written by Jari Paulin for the Spectravideo SVI-318/328 and MSX computers, and published by Teknopiste in 1985.

The cover picture here is a composite of two images, as an attempt to recreate a clean image of the original packaging as closely as possible.



Perhaps a bit unexpectedly, we have a review of a Finnish game to separate the April of Abominations' two comparisons. The area of Finnish game developing history that has always baffled me the most is for the Spectravideo and MSX computers. Basically, the two systems walked hand in hand, and were somewhat compatible, but had to have their own versions released, if the creator wanted to expand their audience a bit. This incompatibility issue didn't really occur to me, until I bought a bunch of SVI tapes for my MSX collection, and found out they weren't compatible - two of the games also being Finnish, the other of which I have already written about a few years ago - Space Satellite. The other game is Mr. Seek - Kaivosseikkailu (A mining adventure), which has taken me a few years to get to play on my MSX, which then helped me to get the game working on MSX emulators. By no means, Mr. Seek could be considered anything close to the best Finland has to offer for the MSX and SVI computers, but it is perhaps one of the more well-known ones, seeing as there are dumps and documentation of it available online. Anyway, let's see what this little oddity has to offer.

Wednesday 12 April 2023

James Bond 007: A View To A Kill (Domark, 1985)

Designed by David Bishop and Chris Palmer for Tigress Marketing Ltd.

Commodore 64:
Programming by Grant Harrison
Graphics by Grant Harrison, Nichola Blades and Robert Ritson
Music arranged by Antony Crowther
Speech synthesis by B. Jones

Sinclair ZX Spectrum:
Programming by Tony Knight, Daryl Bowers, Gary Burfield-Wallis, Grant Harrison, Garry Knight and Argentino Trombin (with thanks to Sadie)
Graphics by Nichola Blades and Robert Ritson
Music arranged by Antony Crowther
Speech synthesis by David Aubrey Jones

Amstrad CPC version by the Software Technicians.

Tangerine Oric-1/Atmos version by Severn Software.

MSX version's credits are unknown.

All versions published by Domark in 1985.



Many years ago, I did a comparison of James Bond 007 by Parker Brothers, where I was pondering on whether I would ever bother to write about any of the Bond games by Domark, because they're most of them more or less unplayable. Well, because of an equally unlikely event happening, that I'm taking part in two James Bond theme song concerts here in my home town (the concerts are tomorrow and the day after), I decided to prepare a comparison of the first Domark Bond game to go with the other thing hand in hand. Let's just hope this proves at least as a learning experience - I'm not expecting any enjoyment out of it. Thus, a new month theme starts here at FRGCB: April of Abominations.

Friday 24 March 2023

Trailblazer (Gremlin Graphics, 1986)

Developed by Mr. Chip Software. Designed and written by Shaun Southern with additional graphics by Andrew Morris. Originally published for the Commodore 16/+4 by Gremlin Graphics in 1986.

Commodore 64 version also written by Shaun Southern with title screen by Andrew Morris; published in 1986.

Atari 400/800 version ported from Commodore 64 by Amin Hoque, and published by Gremlin Graphics in 1986.

Amstrad CPC, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and MSX versions: Programming by Chris Kerry, Peter Harrap and Shaun Hollingworth. Additional Amstrad programming by Greg Holmes. Additional MSX programming by Colin Dooley and Greg Holmes. Graphics by Terry Lloyd and Peter Harrap. Spectrum and MSX loading screen by Steve Kerry. Amstrad music by Ben Daglish. Published by Gremlin Graphics in 1986.

Atari ST version: Programming by Shaun Hollingworth, Greg Holmes, Peter Harrap and Colin Dooley.
Graphics by Steve Kerry. Published in Europe by Gremlin Graphics and in North America by Mindscape in 1987.

Some unofficial versions are included in their own section after the main comparison.



Because February was such a hectic month with three entries, I wanted to lower the pace and focus on just one big entry for a properly classic game this month. Actually, work on the comparison of Trailblazer started late last year already, but was postponed due to finding out about two relatively new unofficial conversions, one for a machine I had never even heard about before - Tesla PMD 85. Well, now is the time, and here's to hoping this classic ball-rolling game gets the comparison it deserves.

Friday 3 March 2023

YouTube update: My Nostalgia Trip Games returns!

Yes, you read that correctly, it's time for the fifth round of My Nostalgia Trip Games, and this season brings you a new theme tune, a new title sequence and the ultimately necessary inclusion of emulated gameplay footage, and some other minor adjustments.

The 61st episode is the first one to do so, as we travel into the world of arcade games, which are not only impractical/impossible to collect without a storage hall (and funds), but also impossible to record high quality gameplay footage from their screens. Of course, the main focus will still be on unemulated material, but since I really have no room for more retro gear in the house, this is the way to go. For what it is, I hope you still enjoy these trips down my memory lane.

By the way, if you know of some low-cost lighting equipment for using a green screen, feel free to throw in a comment. =)

Sunday 26 February 2023

SPECIAL: Telecomsoft Exclusives

The main excuse, of course, for bringing about a Firebird-themed month for this February was to continue the line started by the Mastertronic Exclusives special last May. Just as a quick reminder, the idea is to list games that were released by the publisher of choice, exclusively for certain platforms, whether or not they were actually unique in anyway, without listing any of the games already featured in the Unique Games series. As such, this list will not be a definitive one, but rather a look at the best of what Telecomsoft's labels Firebird and Silverbird had to offer exclusively for each represented platform. To my knowledge, the third label, Rainbird, never released any exclusive games, although they did do some odd publishing.

Telecomsoft's game publishing history was, while prolific and extremely memorable for us 80's gamers, unfortunately short, since they only existed from 1984 to 1989, before getting bought by MicroProse, who still continued to publish games under Telecomsoft's three labels until 1990. The majority of Telecomsoft's games were released for the two major home computers, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but they did have a good number of games on other platforms as well, even exclusive ones. However, the two major 16-bit computers, the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, shared all their games that did not get made for the 8-bits.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Collapse (Firebird, 1985)

Designed and written by Nalin Sharma for the Commodore 64.
Adapted for the Amstrad CPC by Paul Johnson.
Adapted for the Atari 400/800 by James Software Ltd.
All versions published by Firebird in 1985.



Happy Valentine's Day 2023, everybody! Since you can't really top Thrust very easily from Firebird's catalogue, I decided to dig a decidedly less exciting game for one reason, and one reason alone: Collapse was the first C64 game that I ever bought with my own money, and I tried valiantly to enjoy the game, without ever managing to do so. Before starting to work on this comparison, I hadn't even bothered to find out, if it had been released on any other platform, and to my utter surprise, I found two other versions.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Thrust (Superior Software/Firebird, 1986)

Originally designed and written by Jeremy C. Smith for the Acorn BBC Micro and Electron, and published by Superior Software in 1986.

Commodore 64 version written by Jeremy C. Smith, with music by Rob Hubbard and title screen by Bob Stevenson.
Amstrad CPC version written by Jeremy C. Smith, with loading music by Melvyn Wright.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by David Lowe, with graphics by Simon Clarke.
Atari 400/800 version developed by James Software Ltd.
C64, Amstrad, Spectrum and Atari 400/800 versions published by Firebird in 1986.

Commodore 16/+4 version written by Matthew F. Young (Lynsoft UK Ltd.) with graphics by Chris Young. Published by Firebird in 1987.
Atari ST version written by Alan Butcher, with music by Rob Hubbard. Published by Firebird in 1989.

Unofficial Atari 2600 version written by Thomas Jentzsch, published by XYPE in 2000-2003 as three different editions: Thrust, Thrust+ DC Edition and Thrust+ Platinum.

Unofficial Vectrex version developed by Ville Krumlinde and published by Classic Game Creations in 2004.



Here we go, FRGCB is back from the short break and ready for some serious comparing action! Following the idea of a Mastertronic month, it seemed logical to use a similar theme for another month for a change, if only this once. So, here at FRGCB, February 2023 is dedicated to Firebird games, ending with another list of exclusive Firebird games for various platforms. But as you have noticed, we start this month with Thrust, which was a game originally developed for the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro computers, and published by Superior Software, after which Firebird got the publishing rights for the rest.