Pages

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Updates - The Next Generation: Part MMXVI

Since it's been about one and a half years since my previous entry of updates, it's no wonder that new finds have necessitated another entry of updates, even though I clearly remember having promised that I shall only be updating the required entries whenever necessary. The thing is, I realised that these compiled Updates entries serve as a good reminder for me to do my research more thoroughly, as well as a good notifier for you folks out there to see what sort of information has been added to old entries, or more likely will (or will NOT) be added to them, depending on the nature of the new finds. As usual, proper updates on the original comparisons and other entries will be made after I have posted this one, and found some actual time for updating the old ones. Perhaps it will have to wait until my summer holiday, but whatever. Now, let's get to it. Hopefully, this will truly be the last one I will ever have to make, but I think the opposite seems more likely...

I'm going to do this entry in a chronological order, or to be more precise, in the chronological order of the entries posted on the blog. So, the first update will take us back to the very first game featured on the blog.

---

BRUCE LEE (SMS, MZ-800)


I wasn't particularly surprised to learn of a new conversion having been made of the old Datasoft classic, due to the recent revival of the game with Bruno R. Marcos' brilliant Bruce Lee II and its conversion for the C64 by Jonas Hulten. What did surprise me, was the platform, for which the most recent unofficial conversion was made.

Screenshots from the Sega Master System remake of Bruce Lee (2015)


Kagesan's SMS remake was released in 2015 to public domain, because otherwise there would have been serious copyright issues. Besides, the remake is not quite as faithful to the original as you would expect. For the most part, alterations to the game mechanics are very slight and hardly noticeable to anyone who hasn't played the original Bruce Lee a million times. To us veterans, even the slight changes make a huge difference, such as the fact that no-one needs to take the time to get up after having taken damage, or that Bruce doesn't stumble at all on those electric floor traps that you need to jump over. Some of the more important changes are that Yamo can now climb ladders, and you can attack from the middle of ladders, if necessary.

Unfortunately, there is one big problem with the SMS version, that at least in my opinion, should be fixed as soon as possible. The game can only be completed once, and that's it - there are no further difficulty levels. The lack of a two-player mode or a high score indicator isn't as much of a problem, but seeing as the original game is such an easy one to complete on the default easy level, the whole point of having more difficulty levels is to offer you a better challenge.

More screenshots from the Sega Master System remake of Bruce Lee (2015)


Graphically, this is a fantastic upgrade over the original, although one could easily argue that this version lacks the charm of the original blocky graphics. This one has smooth, almost 16-bit graphics, with everything looking as good as it has ever looked on an 8-bit version of Bruce Lee. Sonically, you get a fairly faithful rendition of the original theme tune where it's supposed to be, but in addition to that, there's new music playing throughout the game, as well as the obligatory sound effects, which of course sound a good deal better than in the original versions. But that's not much of a surprise, is it. If only for the audiovisuals, the SMS version should definitely be experienced, and don't get me wrong: while there isn't as much content to play, it's not a bad conversion. It just doesn't have the longevity of the original. As it truly is more of a remake, this one shall not be included in the original comparison entry.

Screenshots from the Sharp MZ-800 version of Bruce Lee (1988)


Rhod mentioned that there's a Sharp X-1 version of Bruce Lee out there, but I still haven't managed to find an image file of it. But instead, I found out that it was also released for Sharp's other 8-bit computer, the MZ-800. This version is pretty much a copy of the Spectrum version, only with some very notable changes to the game's colours, and the speed of the game changes dramatically in direct relation to how many other characters besides Bruce is on the screen. Requires getting used to, but it's not a bad version. This one, I'm probably going to have to include in the original comparison...

---

COMMANDO (C64)


Yeah, seems like there's always something new regarding Capcom's Commando coming up at least once every year. Not only do we have an updated version of Commando Arcade (from almost exactly a year ago) for the C64, a game which was dealt with in the previous Updates entry, but there was also a SEUCK game made in 2015, which uses visuals based on the arcade game. It certainly plays more like a SEUCK game, and there has been little attempt at making it feel as enhanced as Commando is as a shooter, since you only get one life, and the grenades have been left out... you don't even have a score to build up. If you were inclined to be gentle about it, S.F.S. (Special Forces Soldier) could be called the hardcore version of Commando - sort of a special challenge, perhaps.

S.F.S. - Special Forces Soldier (C64/SEUCK)


As for the already one year old Special Edition of Commando Arcade, from what I've read, it has these advantages over the original Commando Arcade: new graphics throughout the whole game by STE, even less flickering than in the previous update, more tunes and sound effects, as well as plenty of bug fixes and other little enhancements. It's really the new definitive arcade version of Commando on any home system.

Screenshots comparison of Nostalgia's Commando Arcade and the more recent Special Edition.

---

JET PAC (TI-99)


Jet Pac remake for TI-99/4A by
Walid Maalouli.
Now we're getting into the really recent updates. First, Walid Maalouli's fairly close conversion of the original Spectrum version of Ultimate's Jet Pac was recently released for the Texas Instruments' TI-99/4A computer. It definitely looks its part - all the graphics have been copied straight from the original. The sounds are more obviously native for the TI machine, but it's nothing to complain about. Gameplay leaves something to be desired, though: the game is comparatively slow, Jetman's movement is lacking gravitational inertia, and bumping into platforms doesn't bounce you off even nearly in a similar manner. Still, it's not a bad attempt. The only real problem is, how to actually launch the game, since it requires a TurboForth cartridge with the version number 1.2.2, along with 32K of RAM and a disk drive, unless you happen to have either an emulator that can actually recognize the cartridge image file for what it is (Classic99 is highly recommended in this case), or real TI-99/4A at hand, and about $35 to spend on a cartridge. Either way, I'd still stick with the original, if you're looking for a good and authentic Jet Pac experience.

---

SABOTEUR (Atari 8-bit)


The 8-bit Atari scene has a very active conversion worker, posting as mariuszw at the AtariAge forum. Marius has already released several conversions of such games as The Great Escape, Fairlight and Bobby Bearing, but now, his latest entry in the series is Saboteur, which, obviously, is one of the reasons for my update now. (Be sure to check all through the thread linked there for the latest updates of the game.)

Screenshots from the Atari 8-bit remake of Saboteur
The game itself is as close to the original as you would ever want it to be, albeit slightly slower in certain places, but graphically, it has some alternative colour choices, and there's not as many sound effects in here. The only bit of music can be heard in the new, separate intro, which includes some very nice greyscale graphics and a new title logo.

---

WIZBALL (Atari 8-bit + Thomson MO5)


A while ago, an anonymous hint was posted in the comments of my comparison of Wizball, which told us of an Atari 8-bit type-in version of Wizball. Sure enough, Zauberball by Oliver Cyranka felt like one. But for a type-in game, it's a surprisingly extravagant one. The graphics give enough away to see it's supposed to be a basic version of Wizball, but there are very little gameplay elements in common with the original. You do at least need to collect differently coloured drops with the Zauberkraft, but controlling both the Zauberball and the -kraft simultaneously is awkward at best, since you can't get Zauberball to stay still with an upgrade like you can in Wizball, and getting upgrades is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, it's an interesting attempt.

Screenshots from Zauberball (Atari 8-bit)
Since my recent introduction to the Thomson MO5 computer with Renegade, I had to browse the machine's game libraries a bit to see if I could find some games that I needed to update. There weren't too many that I found, but Wizball was one, and it's even an official conversion, so I really need to make a big update on this comparison when I find the time. Anyway, I'll do a short version of it here: the MO5 version of Wizball is even more impossible to play than the MO5 Renegade, and apart from the slightly different loading screen, it offers nothing that we haven't seen better in other versions. Well, I'll put more effort into that one when I find the time to update the actual comparison.

Screenshots from the Thomson MO5 conversion of Wizball.


---

KRAKOUT (Thomson MO5)

 

The second MO5 update was for a much simpler game, which works well enough on the platform. Krakout's French incarnation doesn't have much of options or anything fancy, though - it's just the game in its most basic mode, along with some sounds and small visual effects. At least the title screen looks considerably different from the other versions, but all in all, it's just a low-budget version of a game that thrived originally on visuals and gimmicks.

Screenshots from the Thomson MO5 version of Krakout.

---

ALTER EGO (Amiga)


One of the most widely ported modern retrogames got yet another addition to its family earlier this year, when the Wanted Team ported the NES version of Denis Grachev's brilliant 2011 platform-puzzler Alter Ego for the Commodore Amiga. Apart from the sounds and the control mechanism, nothing has changed from the NES version, which is a good thing... although, one could certainly argue, whether or not the new sounds are actually as good as those on the NES. Sure, they're samples, which is only to be expected, but at least in the version I was able to find from pouët.net, there was no music whatsoever.

Screenshots from the Commodore Amiga version of Alter Ego.

Happily, the currently available version is really just a preview version, which is only supposed to be just about 1:1 port of the NES version, and Wanted Team is still working on an enhanced version, featuring music and more lively graphics, so while a 1:1 port already exists, waiting for the enhanced version is recommended.

---

RIVER RESCUE (TI-99)


Now, this one I should have definitely noticed for my original comparison, because it's on display at TI Game Shelf. But I guess since it wasn't listed at MobyGames, nor did it have any links at WoS, Atarimania or Lemon64, I forgot about it. According to Wikipedia, the TI-99 version was never released, but by further browsing into AtariAge forums and other special websites, one can even find pictures of the official cartridge release from 1983.

Screenshots from the TI-99/4A version of River Rescue (taken from TI Game Shelf).


Although I have managed to load this game on two different emulators (Win994a and classic99), in neither emulator I have been able to get past the title screen, and frankly, I'm getting a bit bored of the TI machines because of their stubborn inaccessibility. Of course, it might well be, that this game is not even playable on an emulator, and I'm just wasting my time, but if anyone of you readers out there can give me a hand with this, I'd appreciate it - it would be nice to have actually played it before I update the original comparison. These screens have been taken from the TI Game Shelf website, but if you want to take a better look at the game in action, here's a handy YouTube link for that. You can tell from a quick look at the video, that the TI-version is clearly more advanced from the other versions of the game, now featuring more hazards in and out of the river, and you can even adjust your speed in this version, making it the only one beside the original VIC-20 version that features that ability.

---

BARBARIAN: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (CPC + SEGA)


Due to some Amstrad-related drama in the comments section, I got fed up with Barbarian for a while, and didn't want anything to do with it. So, when I realised I had to do one of these Updates entries again, I forced myself to pick up the previously left-out Amstrad 128k remake, and found myself enjoying the game rather more than I would have expected. Not that the remake is particularly different from the best versions out there - the good thing about it was, that it wasn't particularly different.

Screenshots from the Amstrad CPC 6128 remake of Barbarian/Death Sword.


The only real upgrade to the original game on any system was the animated Palace Software intro, which was a very nice surprise. The graphics have been improved from the CPC464 version, most particularly in the sense that now you don't have to load each background separately, but the remake is still missing the green goblin's laughter animation, and I'm still partial to the C64 and SPECTRUM versions' differently coloured snakes on both sides of the screen. Other improvements include slightly better music and sound effects, an improved game speed and balance in difficulty. No matter what graphicians say, gameplay is still the most important aspect in any game, and the CPC6128 version has it as much as the best of them.

UPDATE! -- 11th of April, 2016: Yesterday, I came across this Sega Master System remake of Barbarian, now titled Cimmerian. It was made by Ichigobankai for this year's SMSPower! competition, but it's still some lines of code from being finished. The most current version a story mode and a versus mode, 3 arenas, random player colours, a nice title screen and a unique high scores list. There's still plenty of things to be fixed and some missing things to be implemented, but it looks pretty damn awesome at the moment.

Screenshots from Cimmerian - the Sega Master System remake of Barbarian.
Also, I conveniently forgot this one earlier: some crazy French bloke who goes either by the initials FL or his forum handle barbarian.1987 has been somehow compiling many different versions of the game for the Sega Megadrive. Take a look at his website to see what's it about, because I don't think it's really necessary to show screenshots of this lot, since I've already covered the originals in my original comparison entry. That said, it's a cool idea to try and get all the versions for one machine.

---

JUMPING JACK (CPC)


Screenshots of ZX Spectrum's
Jumping Jack emulator on Amstrad CPC.
I might as well have done just a quick mention of this one, like I did of Jet Pac in the last update, because the recently released CPC version of Imagine's Jumping Jack is another emulated version of the Spectrum original. As with Jet Pac, you need the original Spectrum tape to actually be able to play this on a real Amstrad, but if you use emulators, you have the chance to generate a tape or a disk version of the game. Again, the colours are a bit wonky, but the important thing is, that everything else is exactly the same as on a proper Spectrum - and why wouldn't they be, since it's the Spectrum version you're playing. 40Crisis, the one behind these emulated games has also done the same thing for Skool Daze, Ant Attack and Maziacs, so if you have a CPC, and you're into this sort of thing, I can only give these my highest recommendations. I won't be updating the comparison entry, though, since it's still the original Spectrum version of Jumping Jack that you just now happen to be able to play on an Amstrad.

---

WORK-IN-PROGRESS updates:

I thought I might as well give some heads-up for a couple of conversions yet to be released, if only because there's a great probability that I might forget or not see them being released once they're out.

UWOL: QUEST FOR MONEY (Coleco)

Conversion for the Colecovision was apparently done by Jean-Michel "Girard in 2014, based on his own SNES conversion, and was supposed to have been released through Collectorvision in 2015, but according to this list at Colecovision.dk, the Coleco version of UWOL is still work-in-progress. The last we heard of this one was in last October, and at the time, it was almost finished, so it is a bit of a mystery, whatever happened to this one. Once it gets released, though, it will be the eighth version out there, yet there is no Atari version... wonder why? Anyway, once this one hits the streets (and the internet), I'll be updating the original comparison accordingly.

Screenshots of the unreleased Colecovision version of UWOL Quest For Money.


ALLEY CAT (SPE)

For me, one of the most interesting surprises of last year on the Spectrum scene was reading news about a conversion of Bill Hague's Alley Cat being made. The last we've heard of this one was in November, but my hopes are pretty high on this one. Most of the room graphics have been made, and most of the basic sprite animations and movements seem to have been implemented, at least to some extent, so it's looking good. Here's to hoping we'll see the conversion out by the end of this year.

Screenshots of the unfinished ZX Spectrum version of Alley Cat.


---

IN OTHER NEWS...


There have been some MSX to COLECOVISION conversions published by Team Pixelboy, Collectorvision and others, but I haven't been able to find more than screenshots yet, mostly because all of them are made for physical releases, also requiring the Super Game Module, an add-on for the Colecovision giving more RAM and better sounds. Perhaps I'm just not looking hard enough, but the games I've found that I've mentioned on my blog that have been converted are: The Goonies, Knightmare, Circus Charlie and Spelunker. The thing is, judging from the Coleco screenshots, they look exactly like their MSX originals, so I don't see much of a point of adding them to the original comparisons for any other reason, than to merely mention, that "there are now Coleco versions of these games". Well, it's certainly good news for Coleco fans, if nothing more. According to Colecovision.dk's release list, other new noteworthy retro remake releases for your Coleco gaming needs would be: Mario Brothers, Zippy Race, Pooyan, Chack 'n Pop, Ghostbusters, Pang, Donkey Kong 3, Elevator Action, Comic Bakery, Galaga, Track & Field, Pitfall II, Bank Panic, Wonder Boy, and so forth. Needless to say, the Coleco community seems to be very much alive.

Screenshots of various MSX-to-Coleco conversions.

Also, since having found out about the MZ-800 version of Bruce Lee, I decided to take a plunge into the SHARP MZ-computers' catalogues to see if I missed anything else. And that makes this a good lot to end this entry on a similar note that we started it with: a bunch of more cheap Spectrum conversions for the SHARP MZ-700 and MZ-800 computers, which previously went unnoticed by not only myself, but clearly by most of you readers out there as well. As I've said before, it's next to impossible to keep a track on all the possible machines and what games were released for them, and if the expert hobbyists will not update each game's Wikipedia and MobyGames pages, how are we ever to learn everything there is to learn about the games we love?

Screenshots from straight Spectrum-to-MZ800 ports of various games previously featured on the blog.


As difficult as it is to find these games and make them work on the currently available and compatible emulators, it's not even nearly as difficult as it is to find information on the conversion team and all the other necessary information to make these includeable on a highly informative blog as this is aiming to be. Anyway, what you see here, really is what you get - less colourful, straight Spectrum ports, which sometimes work, and sometimes not (Krakout in particular is horrible). Although, to be honest, some of these are slightly slower than the actual Spectrum versions, but these six games in the picture merely demonstrate the problem I'm facing here, and I'm not sure if I have the energy to actually go back in time and update all the necessary entries accordingly, after all this time. It's not as if these conversions were particularly different or interesting on the long run, due to their unquestionably close relation to the Spectrum versions, but we'll see.

---

A thankfully short entry, but that's it for now. I'll be taking a short break on actual comparison writing work due to these updates, and because I'm busy as hell with real life stuff for the next week, so until the next time, keep your pants on.

3 comments:

  1. I've found another game that is unique to the Amstrad. It's called Birdie. It plays kinda like Space Harrier, 'cept that you can't shoot a weapon. Here's the interesting part about it though - the tape version has loading music, which is rare to see in the Amstrad. Here's a video of gameplay (Note: this is the disk version, so the music at the beginning is different) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwTf9h-FBsA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  2. some passages of music remind this :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nHV6MAA1K8

    ReplyDelete