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.

As you might expect, ratings for the Japanese computers' versions are practically impossible to find, at least with western vocabulary, but the MSX version has a promising four stars from 14 votes at Generation-MSX. The Commodore 64 version has been rated a 7.19 by 27 voters at Lemon64, while its more recent sister version for the Plus/4 has been voted 8.6 by 11 Plus/4 World users. From the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we find the original World of  Spectrum score having been 8.30 from 100 votes sometime in 2017, while the current equivalent at Spectrum Computing is 7.6 from 16 votes. Whether this is how we might expect the comparison to turn out, remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the Hitachi S1 version seems to be impossible to find at the moment, so it looks like I've suddenly developed a theme of sorts for this month.



Stop the Express is one of the earliest games that take place on top of a moving train. On a lesser note, it is also one of the rare breed of games, in which you move towards left instead of right. Unlike in many subsequent train-based action games, this time, the train has been hijacked by terrorists with red suits on, and you have been sent to recapture and stop the train. Of course, being Japanese, what we're dealing here is not a steam locomotive-type of a thing, but rather, the ITA Express is a modern electric bullet train with sleek design and all that jazz.

The game is divided in two parts, which play similarly enough. For the first ten train cars, you run on top of the train and avoid getting shot or captured by the villains, and you can use red snake-birds to defend yourself against the villains. The second half takes place inside the ten train cars before the locomotive itself, where you can use the hanging hoops to latch onto while jumping over the villains, although you can also knock the villains over if you land your jumps on their heads. After having stopped the ITA Express, the game restarts with a higher difficulty level.

It's a really classic arcade-style game, similar to Jungle Hunt and such, appropriate for its age. It's easy to pick up, takes a few tries to get the hang of it properly, and still takes a good while to master it. Ultimately, though, Stop the Express is no more and no less than good coffee-break fun, since you can complete a run in a couple of minutes. A classic piece of slightly lesser known Japanese game design history, which managed to become rather well-known in Europe as well, so I can only recommend it highly, if only for its international value.



Since I haven't been able to find cassette image files for all the platforms the game was released in cassette format on, we move straight to Playability and deal with the tape loading screens later. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate the Hitachi S1 version anywhere on the internet, but I suspect it's essentially the same as the other two Japanese versions.

You start the game by getting lowered down onto the roof of the last train car. You need to start running to the left, and jump over the gaps. Soon enough, red train robbers start approaching you from the right, shooting at you one bullet at a time. You can dodge the bullets by laying down, and for retaliating, you can knock them over by jumping on their heads, or you can catch a snake-bird and drop it off to attack the red men. You can only carry one snake-bird at a time, though, but one snake-bird can kill two men on the same run. As you get closer to the tenth train car, you will need to dodge some black-and-yellow lined gates. Once you pass the half-way point, you are taken inside the train cars, where you need to jump over more red men. The hanging loops are there for you to hang onto for a while by keeping the jump button/direction locked, if you feel the need to do so. Each train car is patrolled by a red ghost-like entity near the ceiling, which you cannot knock over, so you need to avoid collision with them, and follow their movements as well as the red men's. The last screen before you reach the locomotive features a bouncing screw, and a key you need to pick up from the middle of the screen. Once you have stopped the ITA Express, the game starts over with a higher difficulty level, which means a higher rate of enemy appearances and more bullets to dodge.

If you're familiar with the most usual scrolling technique in MSX games, that is how the scrolling in this game works: the scrolling technique is character block -based. Every creature in the game is also animated to move on the same basis, so it's a bit choppy, but you get used to it.

The only gameplay-related difference between the Japanese versions of Bousou Tokkyuu SOS is the keyboard controls. In the X1 version, you need to use the entire numpad to jump, walk and lay down in different directions, and in the SMC-777 version, you use the four cursor keys in combinations to achieve the same things. In other words, the SMC-777 version would certainly be more comfortable for modern PC gamers. But since joystick controls are also an option, there is no real problem here, unless you don't have a joystick. The SMC-777 version runs a little slower than the SHARP X1 version, but otherwise, it feels the same.

Moving on to the SPECTRUM version, the title screen requires you to choose either keyboard or joystick controls. For a joystick, only Interface 2 is supported, which can be annoying, if you only have a Kempston adapter. If you choose to play on keyboard, the pre-defined keys are I-O-P for jumping, J and L for walking left and right, N-M-comma for lying down, and Space Bar launches the snake-bird.

Compared to the SHARP version, there is some minor, but notable choppiness in the game's scrolling, but you only experience it when there's lots of action on the screen. The rate of red man appearances during the first half of the first stage is usually just slightly smaller than in the original, but there is an element of randomness there, so it's hard to make the distinction. The single most notable difference in gameplay mechanics here is, that you can send off the plucked snake-bird while moving; you need to stop in order to do that in the Japanese versions. For me, that is certainly an upgrade over the original.

The C64 version's controls are largely the same as in the SPECTRUM version, except for the keyboard controls' bottom row, you get M-comma-dot instead of N-M-comma, due to the way the C64 keyboard layout differs from the SPECTRUM layout. Also, joystick should be in port 1.

After playing the above versions, the C64 version feels oddly slow. Not unbearably slow, but there is a similar feel to a disco song with a tempo of 120 being played at a tempo of 112, and by comparison, the SMC-777 version feels like it's being played at 116. For an untrained ear, it's barely noticeable, but for the one playing the song, it feels kind of like running through mud. This is not a case of a game designed for an NTSC C64 being played on a PAL C64, because the difference between those two is not as great as the speed between the C64 version and any of the previous versions - particularly the Japanese ones. The only other notable difference is, that pushing the fire button stops your character, whether or not you are sending off a snake-bird. The halt is not necessarily as pronounced as in the Japanese versions, since the snake-bird can be sent off rather quickly, but it is there nonetheless.

The MSX version uses the same keyboard and joystick controls as the Sony SMC-777 version. The closest equivalent we can find from the previous contestants is, perhaps a bit unexpectedly, the SPECTRUM version, but the MSX version plays a bit smoother, and... at an insane speed! Really, if the C64 version was a tempo of 114, this is played at 160. It is fast, but just about playable; you just need to have quicker reflexes when looking out for flying bullets or knives, which are relatively faster compared to the other versions, which at this speed is a bit unnecessary. Of course, if you want challenge, then sure, you shall get some on the MSX, but to be brutally frank, they went too far this time.

Now, we get to the newer conversions of the game. The PLUS/4 version is immediately a surprisingly interesting version, since the attract mode in the title screen displays an ITA Express of a different length. In fact, the difficulty progression in the PLUS/4 version adds more length to the train upon each new round, in addition to the usual enemy appearance rate increase. Also, in the first round, the red ghost-like creatures inside the latter half train cars are missing, but are added in the next round. There is also a practice mode included into this version, in which you cannot die, but you also gather no score. The PLUS/4 version plays faster than the C64 version - quite close to the original, I think - and it uses the same keyboard layout as the C64 version. It really is a proper upgrade on the original, as it makes you wish the game was like this in the first place.

At the time of writing this comparison, the most recent conversion of Stop the Express is made for the INTELLIVISION. It is not freely available for download from any forum, nor is there a physical edition available for purchase, so in order to get your hands on it, you need to buy a digital download from Intellivision Collector for $15.99 Canadian Dollars, which at the moment is around 11 Euros.

Naturally, the INTELLIVISION version has its own peculiar kind of control system, and you are aided by a keypad overlay. There are three difficulty levels to choose from here, and the basic difficulty progression has been somewhat modeled after the COMMODORE PLUS/4 version, what with the train lengths and all. Enemy spawning has been more randomized here, which is a nice change. New gameplay features include gates of different heights, red men coming from both directions and ghost-like creatures on top of the train in later levels. On easy mode, the gates and the ghost-creatures don't appear for the first three stages. On normal mode, the gates and ghostly things start appearing in the first stage. In addition to all the things from normal mode, the red men are quicker and more aggressive in hard mode. What I don't like about the INTELLIVISION version is the controls. If you try to jump more than once in a row, your man will jump the next ones after the first jump on the spot instead of forwards. If you lay down, you need to jump in order to get up and continue. Most annoyingly, there are some collision problems regarding the red men on top of the train, as you might just as easily get killed while jumping on an enemy as the other way round.

You would think, that with a game like Stop the Express, there aren't too many things to go wrong, right? Well, make one big enough mistake, and the entire game is ruined. Happily, all the versions of Stop the Express are playable enough, albeit some of them more than others. Sure, the MSX version is very fast, with stupidly fast bullets, but you can get used to it, too, with plenty of practice. Of course, if you grew up with the MSX version, any other version would feel unbearably sluggish, but we have to compare against the original here, as usual. While I like some of the new elements in the INTELLIVISION version, the collision problems and sticky controls make it the least comfortable version to play. Mind you, I can only play it through emulation, so I'm not too certain that I'm getting a reliable experience that way. The C64 version is surprisingly slow compared to the others, and plays just about as well as the SHARP X1 original. Based on the available videos on YouTube, I'm assuming all the versions on the Japanese computers play very much the same. From the original releases, the SPECTRUM version beats the lot with its fine usage of fire button, and faster speed than the C64. However, the PLUS/4 version beats all others by having a perfectly re-designed difficulty progression, fast but not uncomfortable game speed, and the added practice mode.

3. SHARP X1 / SONY SMC-777
5. MSX



The brilliant thing about Stop The Express's graphics is, that all the versions of the game are built around a similar character map, or at least look to be that way, making it practically impossible to make the game look too far from the original. Of course, this makes the comparison a little less interesting, but happily, there are some differences.

Loading screens and title screens. Top left: Sharp X1. Top middle and right: Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Middle: Commodore 64 (incomplete). Bottom left: Commodore Plus/4. Bottom right: Intellivision.

Not that many versions were built to include any graphics in addition to what you see during play. The original SHARP X1 version draws a nice title screen once the game has loaded, showing the ITA Express crossing a bridge in a valley, before you are taken to the attract mode. The C64 tape loader displays a steadycam view of a passing ITA Express in PETSCII graphics, featuring different text for each of the train cars, including remaining loading time. The PLUS/4 version features a rendition of a loading screen that was originally made in 2017 by Andy Green for the ZX Spectrum as an alternative loading screen. There was also another SPECTRUM loading screen with a copyright for Psion, apparently drawn by Softlake with Chris A. Thornton, but the origins of that screen remain unknown. The INTELLIVISION version takes on a completely different style, as it has no attract mode, but rather just a publisher splash screen, followed by the title menu.

Cast of characters screens, except for the unique credits screen (bottom right) from Intellivision.
Top row, left to right: Sharp X1/Sony SMC-777, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64.
Bottom left: Commodore Plus/4. Bottom middle: MSX.
Before we move on to the action screens of the game, it should probably be noted, that after the end of the attract mode, the game displays a screen with an incomplete cast of characters. You see yourself, sometimes named Nonta, sometimes unnamed. The other characters you see on this screen are the train gang, also known as Redmen, and the snake birds in their two forms. The text bits are surprisingly varying, with the only version getting all the text bits exactly the same as the original being the C64 version, which might be a bit surprising. The MSX version gets the look of Nonta and the train gang the closest to the original, and the SPECTRUM and PLUS/4 versions compete with each other for the least similar look. The INTELLIVISION version has no cast of characters screen, but you get to see the game's credits, which require a lot more space here than on any of the other versions.

Screenshots from the Sharp X1 version.

The original SHARP version looks much like you would expect, if you have played any of the versions released in Europe. The characters are well-defined and colourful, although they do take their own necessary space, eating up any possible background graphics within the area of each character block used for the characters' designs. Nonta, our protagonist, has a purple hair, a red shirt, a green tie, blue trousers and turqoise shoes. The snake birds are mostly red, but with turqoise wings, before you have plucked them off. The Redmen's redness extends to their pompadour hair and jacket, but their trousers are turqoise and shoes purple. The strange ghost-like creature inside the train is rather unassuming, with no interesting features about it. All the animations are very basic, with most of them using only two frames at maximum for any given action.

As for the background graphics, the ITA Express' main colours are green, blue and red, with turqoise windows. The ITA logo is blue and white. There are some fine shading details going on in the metal parts between the train cars, the wheels and the tracks, as well as the metal pipe and the bouncing screw and the key inside the train. The gates you need to watch out every now and then are yellow-and-black striped, which I suppose is the universal cautionary marking. Above the ITA Express, you see a yellow moon crest, as well as a continuous dark blue shape, which might be either a dark forest or clouds or whatever - but they serve a nice place for the game's text bits to appear in.

Screenshots from the Sony SMC-777 version.

The SONY SMC-777 version looks largely the same as the SHARP version, except most of the metallic parts don't have any shading details - just the screw and the key in car #01. Also, the ITA logo has no colouring in it, just black lines. The HITACHI S1 is still completely out of reach, but it's relatively safe to assume, it should look much like one of the two Japanese versions.

Screenshots from the Commodore 64 version.
Looking at the C64 version after the SHARP version makes the C64 version feel a bit barren. There is no background graphics above the train, the finely detailed shading has been turned into solid colours, and all the characters have a less colourful appearance. Most oddly, the lives indicator at the top right corner of the screen has Nonta have completely different colours to his in-action appearance.

The ghost-like entity inside the train is more freaky, with its eye taking the entire top half of its body, which could be considered a good thing, if you like it like that. Another thing that could be considered an upgrade over the original is, that the number of the train car you're on or in is displayed on the train itself, instead of at the top of the screen in the info panel. Also, unless you're a fan of bad Engrish, the text messages are written in a more accurate English. The animations are similar to the original.

Screenshots from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum version.

The SPECTRUM version feels like a more direct port of the original, in that it retains the bad Engrish messages, as well as the train car number in the info panel. Also, some of the texture details are closer to the original than in the C64 version. However, the colours are somehow off, with Nonta now having a yellow hair and green overalls, and the Redmen being entirely red. The ITA Express itself has its main colours switched - where there was blue in the original, is now green, and vice versa, and anything even resembling yellow is now purple/magenta, and vice versa. The ghost-like creature looks similar to the C64 version's, though. And again, no background graphics above the train. It's not bad, though, just quite different from the original, and unluckily for the SPECTRUM, the machine's limitations are put on display. With modern game engines for the system, someone could make this game look fantastic.

Screenshots from the MSX version.
Quite as you might expect, the MSX version looks the closest to the SHARP original. You get some nice, if not exactly similar, shading colours in all the metallic things as in the original, and Nonta and the Redmen have an almost exactly the same look as in the original. Then again, the ITA logo and the front of the train share a similar look with the SPECTRUM version, aside from the opposite colouring, and the background graphics above the train are still missing. The speed of the MSX version renders it more pleasing to watch, even if it's considerably more difficult than the others, but even with its other merits, the MSX version is visually the next best thing after the SHARP original. However...

Screenshots from the unofficial Commodore Plus/4 version.

We now get to the unofficial modern ports, and the PLUS/4 version adds so much more to look at, that on balance, the SHARP version is in great danger here. There still is no background graphics above the train here, and there is no detailed shading utilised here, either, and the Redmen are not even red here. However, you get the train car numbers on the train cars themselves, and more importantly, you get a new train after every two levels. This adds greatly to the longevity of the game, even if, strictly speaking, it's not as pretty as the SHARP and MSX versions.

Screenshots from the unofficial Intellivision version.
If you happen to be familiar with the INTELLIVISION's graphics in general, it will not come as too much of a shock to see, how different the game looks on this particular system. The blockiness and the lack of shadings and details therefore could not be helped, but at least the colours are close enough to the original. Of course, it had to be written practically from scratch, because of the way Intellivision works. What has been drawn off from the original is the block-based movement of Nonta, which makes the train itself scroll along in a similar style, but practically everything else moves in a pixel-based manner. This has helped to give more animation frames for all moving things, particularly for the death animations of the Redmen. Overall, the INTELLIVISION version looks okay for what it is, and what I realize is possible on the system, but much of the game's charm is taken away along with the graphical details.

Because of the way the graphics of Stop the Express were built, the focus of this comparison must be in the smallest details. The most differing graphics from the original are, as you might have noticed, in the INTELLIVISION version, although the SPECTRUM version looks very different, too, thanks to its backwards colour choices. But there is no escaping the fact, that along with the somewhat more fluent animations in the INTELLIVISION version, comes the less balanced controls, and the blocky pixels don't really help the overall product. The C64 version is a bit on the slow side, but looks otherwise its part well enough, so I'd say its, on balance, on par with the SPECTRUM version. The MSX version is fast and therefore feels smoother, and has a bit more attention to detail than the C64 and SPECTRUM versions. The PLUS/4 version has more graphical content than any of the other versions, but it doesn't have the finesse of the Japanese versions, including MSX, so I'd say it's on par with the next up, which is the SONY SMC-777 version. The unsurprising winner is, of course, the SHARP X1 version.

3. MSX



What always fascinated me about Stop The Express, long before I learned of the game's origins, was the efficiency of the game's sounds. In true arcade style, the title screen, or the attract mode, as it's called in the arcades, has no sounds at all. I suspect the reason for this design in the arcades would be to lessen the amount of unnecessary noise in the arcade hall, when not playing. Using this design in a computer game makes less sense, but still gives the feel of the game's intended place to be a real arcade game.

In the original SHARP version, the first sound you will hear is a helicopter flapping noise, as you are brought onto the scene. Once you have been lowered, the helicopter noise immediately changes to a train chopping sound, which continues until you either reach the end and manage to stop the ITA Express, upon which the train chopping slows down until it stops completely, or when your Game is Over. You get incidental sound effects for jumping (blingngngng), picking up a snake bird (a quick fanfare-like tut-tu-du-dut), sending off a snake bird (a quickly ascending sweep), Redmen falling over (descending arpeggios), falling down to enter the second part of the level (a sequence of five or six descending notes), bonus score counting (a dual-note bip-bip-bip thing), a long ascending note sequence when moving on to the second phase of a level, a shorter one for entering the final train car, a "chink" noise for the bouncing screw, picking up the key (a five-note melody), a long air vent noise when the train stops, and a legato three-note melody (A, C, F) when you lose a life. All in all, that's quite a lot of different sound effects, and it still doesn't feel like a complete mess of noises.

The SMC-777 version sounds much like the SHARP version, but there are some minor differences. There's an overall lighter feel to the sounds, basically thanks to better focus on higher frequencies in sound design. The biggest advantage of this is a much more realistic train chopping noise, although the helicopter noise at the beginning of each life is a bit grating with its unnecessarily high squeal. From the other Japanese versions, the MSX version sounds almost exactly like the SHARP original, except everything plays quicker; and the HITACHI version continues to undauntedly still remain unavailable.

For the C64 version, a different approach was taken for the beginning of the game, which would work much better, if the sounds themselves were better. The thing is, as you are brought in by the helicopter, you hear two different noises simultaneously: the helicopter whirring and flapping, as well as the train chopping away under your feet. Once you are lowered and the helicopter takes off, it fades out instead of changing abruptly to the train chopping. What bugs me here is, that the helicopter noise is barely recognizable as what it is supposed to be. Most of the other sound effects are included; from what I could notice, only the jumping effect and the transitional sounds between the first and second half of a level were gone. Worse than that, though, is the muffled sound design, which was how the early C64 games used to sound like in any case. The only sound effect that has been upgraded is the death sound, which in addition to the "A - C - F" melody, which is now staccato notes, also features a downwards arpeggio played four times prior to the old melody. So, it could be worse, but it could be better.

As is only to be expected, the SPECTRUM version shies away from the noisier aspects of the soundscape, completely dismissing the helicopter noise and the constant wind-blowing noise as the train moves. As with the C64 version, the jumping sound is gone, but only one of the two transitional sound effects is missing. Considering these are Speccy beeper sounds, it's surprisingly faithful to the original, and effective enough, even if it doesn't quite reach the C64 version in its quality.

Coming to the newer ports of the game, the PLUS/4 version starts off with some music in the title picture, which continues on to play over the attract mode. The music can be switched off with the M-key, if you so wish, but the tune is very nice, combining choruses from Demjén Ferenc's "Mikor elindul a vonat" and "Szerelemvonat". Since you will only hear this music during the attract mode, you might as well enjoy it while it lasts. The quality of the sound effects falls just between the C64 and SPECTRUM versions, as you get no helicopter noise or wind noise with the train chopping, and the entire soundscape is only slightly more sophisticated than the SPECTRUM version. But the music definitely pushes the PLUS/4 version on par with the C64 version.

The INTELLIVISION version starts off with a rendition of Giorgio Moroder's "The Chase", which works just as well, since it's the theme from Midnight Express. More importantly, though, the sound effects have been diligently worked on to get them as close to the original as possible. The Intellivision's sound chip is well enough capable of handling helicopter and train noises, as well as a full library of melodic sound effects, although you never hear the train noises simultaneously with other sound effects, nor are they of quite as good quality as the original. But it's close enough, and the theme tune is a nice bonus to go with it.




It is very much a mixed bag this time. By a short analysis, there is no perfect version of Bousou Tokkyuu SOS / Stop the Express, particularly now with the Commodore Plus/4 version mixing the bag even more than before its existence. In all probability, were it not for the newest arrivals to this comparison, the Overall list would still look much like it does now, just the Plus/4 and Intellivision versions would be out of the equation. Then, as would only be appropriate, the Sharp X1 original would take the cake, although the Spectrum version would certainly be the one I would recommend otherwise, thanks to its better playability.

1. COMMODORE PLUS/4: Playability 6, Graphics 4, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 12
1. SHARP X1: Playability 4, Graphics 5, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 12
2. SONY SMC-777: Playability 4, Graphics 4, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 11
3. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 5, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 8
3. MSX: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
4. COMMODORE 64: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
5. INTELLIVISION: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 5

If you weren't too happy about the Spectrum version's score, no doubt thanks to its sound capabilities, you might be happy to know, that an unofficial upgrade for the 128k Spectrum was made by Jack Kudaev in 1994, with music by Alex Filimonov. Personally, though, I prefer the 48k version, because the AY-music (while good enough) is impossible to turn off in the 128k upgrade, and it plays over all the beeper sound effects, making the soundscape a bit messy and claustrophobic.

Since writing approximately 79% of the above, it came to my attention, that there are also unofficial ports for Russian PDP11-like computers. Luckily, or unluckily, I have found no access to them, else I would have had to include them in the comparison. From what I have managed to find out, the first of them, written for the Elektronika MS-0515 was by an unknown programmer in Lviv, Ukraine, in 1990, based on the ZX Spectrum version. There were also ports for UKNC and BC-0010 in the making, being worked on by Nikita Zimin, based on the MS-0515 port, but apart from some work in progress video footage on YouTube from 2017 and 2019, respectively, I have found no trace of these versions actually been finished. But then, I can't read cyrillics.

Screenshots from the BC-0010 (left) and UKNC (right) conversions.

Stop the Express also was honoured with a PC remake by David Cooper (a.k.a. Jetman's Dad) and oddbob0, which was released originally for the Retro Remakes competition in 2004, and later in 2005 updated to feature all the classic gameplay elements from the original. Even the 2005 version is still a bit buggy, though, and the speed balance leaves something to be desired, but overall, it's not too shabby. The remake can be downloaded from Internet Archive, if you care to check it out.

Screenshots from the Windows remake by JDGames from 2004.
As if all that weren't enough, after finding out the above, it came to my knowledge, that another unofficial conversion has been made for the ColecoVision, and as usual, it is based on the MSX port. The conversion is written by Crazy Boss, and published through 8 Bit Milli Games as "Runaway Train" in 2023. Because, as far as I know, it is only available as physical cartridge, and costs way too much for me to bother, the video demo on YouTube shall have to be proof enough, that it is, in fact, just about exactly the same as the MSX version, with some notable game speed adjustment.

Because things would be way too simple otherwise, Hudson Soft decided to work on a version of Stop the Express for the Nintendo Famicom as well, but decided that just having the same thing going over and over wouldn't be too much of a game on this new capable system, they built a whole new game with different kinds of sections over the initial Stop the Express bit, and called it Challenger.

Screenshots from the Nintendo Famicom spin-off "Challenger" from 1985.

According to MobyGames, Fumihiko Itagaki was not involved in the making of Challenger, and it might actually show in the final product, because it's a bit of a mess on the whole. Even the first section, which is called "Stop the Express!", derives from the original notably, as you start from the top of the locomotive, go to the right and throw knives at anything threatening you, drop down and go back to the locomotive while dodging things and throwing knives at more bad guys. The rest of the game is completely different, featuring overhead exploration sections and platforming in caverns. On the whole, it's not bad, it's just too different to be considered anything other than the illegitimate son to the original Stop the Express.

Now, what remains to be shown is the video accompaniment to display all the versions I could get my hands on. Links for videos of the unobtained versions provided in the video description.

So, even if this wasn't quite as complete a comparison as one would wish, it's as close to one I can get with the versions available online currently. Perhaps some day I will get to update this with the Russian computer versions and the Hitachi S1 version. I have also read a rumour about a version for the Atari 2600 being in the making at the moment, so that's something to look out for.

That's it for now, hope that was worth the bother! Thanks for reading and watching the video, see you next time with hopefully something less arduous. Until then, cheers!


  1. Unless you introduce some sort of handicap system for different platforms, your ratings are meaningless. But hey, keep having fun.
    And wow, who knew the Intellivision from 1979 could run Stop the Express?

    1. One of the salient points is exactly to make people read the entire thing after recognizing that the scores are more or less invalid. Then again, the given scores have never taken the hardware capabilities into account, but rather how each version stands out for themselves despite the hardware. I admit it's a stupid idea, but so is comparing all these 1980's games for any rivalry-like purpose. That's barely more than a side effect of a learning process, included in to make people more inclined to comment. Besides, the scoring system has been pretty much the same for the 10+ years this blog has been going on, and I doubt that there's too many years left of it, so I can't be bothered to change anything about it, thus necessitating re-scoring every game in the archive. But you're right - some sort of a handicap system could probably have been the way to go, had I thought of it back in 2013. Perhaps if some reader continues with a new Anonymous Retro Game Comparison Blog in a few years, a handicap system might be used, who knows.

      As for the Intellivision version, it was one of the reasons why I chose to even write this comparison in the first place. There are plenty of surprisingly good Intellivision games and ports from other platforms that have been released in the past decade that deserve to have more exposure. Compared to the original StE, the Intv remake is a bit too far off in playability, but I agree it's great that it even exists. It's a brilliant machine for its time.