Category Archives: LBoG: Retrospectives

Double Dragon Is 30 Years Old

Released into arcades in June 1987 – Double Dragon became a big hit for publisher/developer Technōs. It was the first arcade game I ever completed and today, the game still sparks off fond memories growing up as a gamer in the 80s.

Right here – I’m going to take a look at the entire Double Dragon franchise over the last 30 years as well as some of the more infamous ports and spin-offs the series has offered us for three decades.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon

Telling the story of brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee. Double Dragon was a simple beat em’ up with a simple plot. Bad guys called The Black Warrior Gang turn up, punch Billy’s girlfriend -Marian in the stomach and kidnap her. Playing as Billy or Jimmy… or both with a friend – you had to fight your way through four stages of various enemies and bosses. You’d even find numerous weapons to use in your fight to save the girl. The final stage is the gang’s hideout where you eventually come up against the gang’s leader, Willy. Take out Willy, save Marian and you are a winner… except if you played 2-player where an unexpected twist has brother fight against brother.

Double Dragon was a smash hit and was soon ported to pretty much every game’s machine in the late 80s and early 90s. The NES, Master System, Game Boy, Atari Lynx Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC all had their own versions of the game. There was even a port on an unlicensed cartridge for the Mega Drive released in 1992. But the cream of the crop, top of the heap was the Atari 2600 port – it was… interesting.

Double Dragon 2600

The success of Double Dragon meant a sequel was inevitable, but who would know the franchise would still be alive 30 years later?

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Double Dragon II

The sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge was released in 1988 and to be quite frank – it was more of the same with a few bells and whistles. This time around The Black Warriors Gang and their leader, Willy don’t kidnap Marian. Willy outright murders her in cold blood. So of course Billy and Jimmy set out for revenge. Double Dragon II: The Revenge really is little more than just a graphical upgrade. The gameplay itself remained the same, save for a few minor tweaks and improvements. The game even re-uses a lot of the same enemies from the previous game.

Once again, the game was ported to pretty much every popular games machine at the time but sadly, no Atari 2600 port.

Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone

Double Dragon 3

1990 saw Billy and Jimmy Lee return and this time – they are joined by Sonny (whoever that is). Yup, this sequel brings with it several new ideas to the Double Dragon franchise. Not only is it simultaneous three player but the graphics have been given a complete overhaul and several new moves have been introduced. The plot this time involves the Lee brothers and Sonny (still no idea who he is) having to travel the globe in search of the titular Rosetta Stones. Starting in the United States before heading to China, Japan, Italy and finally – Egypt.

The game also featured a very unwelcome addition. You know how modern games have those dreaded ‘micro transactions’ – those things developers include to milk every last penny out of the player? Well Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone had this feature long before they became the norm today. This game featured item shops on the levels where you could buy new weapons, items, power-ups and even new characters… only you had to use real money to buy these and each item would be the same cost as a single credit. So if you wanted to make any progress in the game, you’d have to spend some serious real cash. This feature was removed from the later Japnese version due to negative feedback.

And yes, there were ports to the numerous gaming machines at the time too. Plus there was an alternate game called Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones released for the NES in 1991. This was not a port of the arcade game, but instead a whole new game made just for the NES and yes – this is where the whole ‘Bimmy’ thing started too.

Super Double Dragon

Super Double Dragon

This one was an exclusive for the SNES and fourth game in the franchise… though not actually Double Dragon IV – that explanation is coming up later…

The plot of this one is – well, there is no plot. Lead programmer; Muneki Ebinuma revealed in 2004 that this game was never finished before it was released. Super Double Dragon was supposed to feature cut-scenes telling a story. The story involved Billy and Jimmy investigating a criminal organisation known as the Shadow Warriors. The gang has been kidnapping various martial artists. Billy and Jimmy were tasked with fighting their way through seven stages as they rescue the missing martial artists before facing the gang’s main boss – Duke who was to have been revealed as being a childhood friend of the Lee brothers… but the story a lot of the game mechanics were never included in the final product due to time constraints.

Super Double Dragon is a very impressive beat em’ up in many ways. The fighting mechanics are pretty awesome as not only can you punch and kick, but you now have a block button and if you block just as you’re being attacked, you’ll grab your enemy in an arm/leg lock and continue to beat the crap out of them too. The weapons have been improved and updated over previous games too and some of the scenery is interactive. But you can also tell that the game is unfinished and lacking in so many areas – plus its painfully slow and sluggish. Its a shame because you can tell there is a great game here. The Japanese version (Return of Double Dragon) differs slightly and is ‘better’ than the Western version and I’d recommend playing that one instead if you can find it.

Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls

Double Dragon V

By the mid 90s – any and everyone was trying to cash in on the massive success of Capcom’s Street Fighter II. There were suddenly one on one, tournament fighting games everywhere and Double Dragon wanted in on the action too. Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls was released in 1994 and based on the animated Double Dragon TV series that aired around the same time. It was pretty standard stuff, Street Fighter II only not as good.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon Neo Geo

Yup, its just called Double Dragon and no its not a remake of the original. This 1995 released game is yet another Street Fighter II wanna-be. Inspired by the movie version of the game (so a game turned into a movie which is then turned into a game) as it takes plot elements, characters and locales used in the movie. This was also the last Double Dragon game made by original developers – Technōs before they went bust.

Released for the arcades, Neo Geo CD and Play Station. This Double Dragon ended up being a disappointment as it just didn’t measure up to the sea of similar (and better) fighting games around at the time. Plus, Double Dragon fans were thirsty for a proper Double Dragon game – not another Street Fighter II clone.

Double Dragon Advance

Double Dragon Advance

The franchise lay dormant from 1995 until 2003 when Double Dragon Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance. This one was a remake of the original arcade game, only given a graphical overhaul as well as update the move set to include fighting mechanics taken from some of the series’ sequels over the years. The plot is the same as it was in the original with you taking on the gang that kidnapped Marian. Four new stages have also been added to the original ones as well as several new enemies to punch and kick. This was the kind of game fans of the series had yearned after for several years and Double Dragon Advance is a pretty damn good Double Dragon game – well worthy of the name.

Double Dragon Neon

Double Dragon Neon

A modern retelling/reboot of Double Dragon released in 2012. This game is very tongue in cheek as it really plays up to its 80s setting and uses self-parody as its main source of humour. Yet it still manages to retain that classic 80s arcade feel and this one is definitely a must for any old school Double Dragon fan. Not an easy game to get on with at first – but once you unlock a few upgrades and get used to the fighting mechanics, this game is a pure blast full of retro goodness and gameplay.

Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons

Double Dragon II Wander

A remake of the original arcade game Double Dragon II: The Revenge – Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons is awful. I made the mistake of thinking this was a sequel to Double Dragon Neon… its not. This game is a clunky, unresponsive, and just an absolute mess. Its ugly to look at and even uglier to play. Not worth your time at all and is an insult to the Double Dragon name.

Double Dragon IV

Double Dragon IV

Okay – so now things are going to get confusing. This game released in 2017 is the official fourth game in the Double Dragon franchise. Released twenty seven years AFTER Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone and twenty three years AFTER Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. But it gets worse as Double Dragon IV is not even a sequel to Double Dragon 3 (either version) but in fact a direct sequel to the NES port of Double Dragon II instead. Confused yet?

As you can see for the screen shot, Double Dragon IV goes for a retro style and look based on the NES versions of the original games. The plot is pretty simple – The Black Warriors Gang from the original two games team up with an all new gang called The Renegades to finish off Billy and Jimmy Lee once and for all. In typical Double Dragon fashion, you punch and kick enemies in the face and take out bosses spread over several different stages. A distinctly average Double Dragon game that leans too much on nostalgia and not enough on gameplay.

1987 – 2017

So there you have it – three decades of face punching action from Double Dragon.

Double Dragon Logo

But before I end this retrospective, there are a few other Double Dragon games and spin-offs I want to give quick mention to.

1989s U.S. Championship V’Ball (aka; Super Spike V’Ball) for the NES featured both Billy and Jimmy Lee as playable characters. Arcade game WWF Superstars from 1989 had Billy appear in a cameo role. Battletoads & Double Dragon which was released in 1993 was a crossover game featuring characters from both titular franchises. 2002s Rage of the Dragons released for the Neo Geo is a one on one fighter that features Billy and Jimmy Lee as playable characters. And in 2013, Double Dragon Trilogy was released for  iOS, Android and Steam – a collection of the first three arcade games with a few minor tweaks added.

Well that’s me done then. Thanks to Billy and Jimmy Lee for the gaming memories. – I’m off to play some Double Dragon Neon.

Double Dragon Neon Characters.jpg

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Raiding Tombs And Shooting Endangered Animals In The Face, Its 20 Years Of Lara Croft

Back in October of 1996, the world was first introduced to now gaming icon legend – Lara Croft with the release of the original Tomb Raider. So I’m going to spend some time looking back at the main games in the franchise and its ups and downs as well as Lara herself over the last 20 years.

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The Original Trilogy

Tomb Raider was the game that started it all. Developed by Core Design while being published by Eidos Interactive. Tomb Raider was a melding of action, platforming, puzzles and exploration. Borrowing gameplay elements from the 1989 classic Prince of Persia. You play as Lara Croft who sets out to recover a mysterious artefact called the Scion. The first part of which she finds in the lost tomb of Qualopec in Peru.

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Lara is then send around the globe to seek out the rest of the Scion in locations such as; Greece Egypt and the lost city of Atlantis. Lara was a nimble character as she could run, jump, flip, climb, dive, swim and she also had a small arsenal of weapons too. Pistols, uzis, shotguns and even a magnum. Lara would spend most of her gun skills killing a variety of animals like; wolves, bats, bears and gorillas. There is even a T-Rex battle because… why not?

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The game was a huge success and the inevitable sequel, Tomb Raider II was released in 1997. This time, Lara investigates the legend of the Dagger of Xian a mythical weapon which was said to be used by an Emperor of China. It was pretty much more of the same with a bit more polish. Lara was as nimble as before and was packing even more weapons too like; a speargun, grenade launcher and an M16 rifle to kill even more animals around the globe. Lara’s travels took her to Venice, Tibet and China. She could also use two vehicles in the game a snowmobile while in Tibet and a motorboat in Venice.

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By 1997, Lara Croft had become a pop culture icon as she turned up on the cover of magazines often not associated with games as well as appearing in TV adverts for SEAT cars, Lucozade energy drink and even showing up at U2’s Popmart live tour in 1997.

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The last game in the original trilogy, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft was released in 1998. Lara’s move set had yet again been improved as she could now sprint and even ‘monkey swing’ on overhead bars and vines. This time, Lara’s globetrotting takes her to India, the South Pacific, Nevada, London and Antarctica as she searches for meteorite stones. This marked the end of the original numbered trilogy, but there was plenty more Lara to come.

The No More Numbers Trilogy

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was the fourth entry in the series, the start of the numberless sequels and was released in 1999. While in Egypt, Lara uncovers an ancient tomb where an Egyptian God was once imprisoned. She accidentally releases the god who threatens to unleash an apocalypse on Earth. So Lara sets out to entrap the god back into its resting place.

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To be honest, by the time this game was released – the whole Tomb Raider/Lara Croft thing was wearing a little thin. The games were hardly evolving and were little more than just Lara ‘wearing a new hat’. A handful of new features and cosmetics were all that was on offer. Gone is the globetrotting element of the first three games as this one takes place solely in Egypt. Aside from an opening prequel where you get to play as Lara when she was 16 years old set in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Oh and Lara is (supposedly) killed off at the end too.

But Lara didn’t stay dead for long as the release of Tomb Raider: Chronicles in 2000 proved. Set just a few days after Lara’s (supposed) death, a memorial service is held at Croft Manor as friends of Lara gather to reminisce on some of her past adventures… and this is where you get to play as Lara once more. The first story has Lara in Rome searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The second tale has Lara exploring the Pacific Ocean for the Spear of Destiny. Story three is set during Lara’s childhood where a 16 year old Lara is exploring the Black Isle of Ireland. In the final yarn – Lara infiltrates Von Croy Industries HQ in New York to gain possession of the Iris, the artefact that began the events of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.

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The game wraps up with an expedition in Egypt where an excavation of the collapsed temple Lara (supposedly) died in from the last game reveals Lara’s iconic backpack and the game ends presuming that Lara has been found alive.

Was the game any good? Well here is what Andy Sandham, a designer for the game stated years after it was made…

Tomb Raider 5 was effectively a load of old shit. That was the most depressing one for us. We were effectively just doing that for a paycheck because no other team wanted to take it on. So we had to do it, basically. By that time it had taken its toll. Three years of hammering it, and we were burnt out. That shows in the product.”

The game wasn’t very good and it looked like the Lara Croft bubble was about to burst. There was just a lack of innovation (again) and the Tomb Raider series was becoming stale – very stale. Core Design had developed every game in the franchise so far. The franchise was in need of some new ideas, but Core Design had one more game up its sleeve.

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The sixth and final game from original Tomb Raider developer Core Design was released in 2003. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness has Lara alive and now in Paris as she is dragged into an investigation of a serial killer known as ‘The Monstrum’. All of which tie into the discovery of some Obscura Paintings linked to black magic. Light RPG elements were added to the game as well as some instances where you could chose replies in conversations such as polite questions, bribery or even threats.

The game was delayed, twice and when finally released it met with average to poor reviews. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness was the worst selling game of the franchise so far, it was full of bugs and plans for a sequel called; The Lost Dominion were quickly scrapped.

Out With The Old And In With The New… Trilogy

The large criticism that Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness received prompted the Tomb Raider franchise publishers, Eidos Interactive, to replace developer Core Design with Crystal Dynamics. So what did they have planned to breath new life into the dying franchise?

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Tomb Raider: Legend was released in 2006 from developers, Crystal Dynamics. This one was a reboot to the series and disregarded all previous continuity. Lara searches for the mysterious Stone Dais that was responsible for the disappearance of her mother several years ago. Lara was back and Tomb Raider: Legend managed to revive the ‘dead on its legs’ franchise. The new game engine was sublime and allowed Lara to be much more athletic and dynamic. The core gameplay remained largely the same and yet it all felt very fresh at the same time too.

Crystal Dynamics successful reboot meant the future of Lara looked good. But who knew her future lay in her past?

tomb-raider-anni

Tomb Raider: Anniversary hit the shops in 2007. It had been 11 years since the release of the original Tomb Raider so what better way to celebrate than a remake of the very first game? Yes, Crystal Dynamics remade the original game… but did it work?

Well yes it did. It wasn’t just a graphical upgrade. This game used the much improved game engine from Tomb Raider: Legend and all that brought with it. The plot is the same as the original Tomb Raider with Lara travelling around the globe searching out parts of the Scion artefact. All the original’s game locales have been beautifully recreated and yes, that damn T-Rex is back too, only now looking a lot better…

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The third and final game in this trilogy was Tomb Raider: Underworld released in 2008. This one is a direct sequel to the first game in this trilogy, Tomb Raider: Legend. With the second game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, being a prequel… confused yet? This time around – Lara is tasked with finding the Entrance to Avalon, where she discovers a link between the Saxon Legend and Norse Mythology. As Lara seeks out the Hammer of Thor.

tomb-raider-underworld

When it was released, Tomb Raider: Underworld was met with positive reviews and critical praise. Lara was on top once more and the franchise was back on track. The Tomb Raider name then lay dormant in terms of main games in the series for 5 years before yet another reboot was released…

The New, New, New Trilogy

It was all quiet on the Tomb Raider front for half a decade until an all new Lara was reborn in an all new game.

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Tomb Raider was the second reboot the franchise and released in 2013. Lara is back but much more gritty and ‘realistic’ than before. Lara is on an expedition that goes very wrong and leaves the young and inexperienced Lara Croft stranded on an island. An island full of savage animals and bizarre cultists as Lara uncovers the mystery of the Shaman Queen, Himiko.

As previously mentioned, this one is much more grounded and Lara feels like a genuine character with real emotions and a personality. The violence is far more bloody, graphic and visceral then before. In fact, this is the first game in the franchise to be given an M rating in America.

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Tomb Raider was critically acclaimed and met with very positive reviews. Which all meant a sequel would be coming soon and in 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider was released.

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This one was pretty much more of the same as before, but with several refinements… which was not a bad thing at all as the previous game was great. This time around, Lara continues her late father’s research into myths of immortality. As her travels take her to the Siberian tundra where she crosses paths with a ruthless shadow organisation called Trinity.

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Once again, this title met with high critical praise. This sequel just built on what was already great about the the first Tomb Raider game… the second reboot first game from 2013 and not the original first Tomb Raider from 1996… confused again yet? The combat had been improved as well as the upgrade/crafting system. Even the acting and story was much better this time around too. Everything just felt much more fluid and natural which led to a more organic gameplay experience.

20-years

And that just about wraps up Tomb Raider’s 20 year legacy in games. Yeah there were a few spin offs and other titles I didn’t mention, but as I said at the start, I just wanted to concentrate on the main games in the franchise. But wait a second, didn’t I imply this was a new trilogy but only mentioned 2 games? Yes I believe I did. Well back in August of 2015, Square Enix of America CEO, Phil Rogers let slip that this new Tomb Raider reboot would be a trilogy. Then more recently, an image popped up claiming to reveal the title of the new game as being Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Its all rumour and speculation right now. But I don’t think a third game in this reboot would be a big surprise to anyone would it?

Well there you go – 20 years of Tomb Raider and I now feel old. I can’t believe it was two decades ago when I was first introduced to Lara Croft and her tomb raiding adventures. But just to finish, I’s like to take a quick look at the star of the show itself…

Lara Croft

lara-croft

Well, Lara certainly has changed over the years and I don’t just mean graphically. Her breasts have gotten less pointy and smaller as she has grown from a sexual gaming icon of the mid 90s that late teen early 20 somethings like myself drooled over, to a genuine and honest character with a real personality and emotions in more recent years. But did you know she was never originally intended to be female at all?

When Core Design first came up with the idea to create a game with an Indiana Jones inspired archaeologist that travelled the globe in search for artefacts. Lead graphic artist, Toby Gard originally pitched the idea for a male character complete with a fedora hat, bullwhip and everything. The original character design was Indiana Jones in all but the name. It was Core Design co-founder, Jeremy Smith who asked for more originality and that was when Toby Gard changed the character to female and created the Latino sociopath named Laura Cruz. Yes, the first idea for the now iconic Lara Croft was going to be muscle bound cold blooded killer called Laura Cruz.

laura-cruz

It didn’t take too long before that idea was dropped in favour of a more erudite character we have now, but where did they get the name from? Well, a phone book. Seriously, they wanted something that sounded like Laura Cruz but more ‘English’. It was publisher Eidos who pushed for the English angle and it was someone there who picked up a phone book for Derby, England and found the name Lara Croft. So technically, Lara Croft is named after a real person and there is/was someone living in Derby with a now very famous moniker.

lara-1996

The original Lara from Tomb Raider 1996 only consisted of around 540 polygons and the Lara from Tomb Raider 2013? Over 40,000. It was due to the tight polygon count for the original game the lead to Lara not having a ponytail in-game, though she did in the cut-scenes and promotional marital. It has also been said that Lara’s unnatural pointy and large breasts came about because lead graphic artist, Toby Gard was just ‘messing around with Lara’s model one day and accidentally made her breasts 150% larger’. He intended to reset it back to how it was, but others on the team saw the model and decided to keep it as it was.

lara-2013

Not only has Lara changed in-game, she has been played by numerous actresses over the years too. Starting with Shelly Bond in the original Tomb Raider from 1996, Lara has been portrayed in the games by Judith Gibbins (1997-2000), Jonell Elliott (2001-2006), Keeley Hawes (2007-2012) and finally, Camilla Luddington (2013 – present). As well as being played by a number of models outside of the games and of course Angelina Jolie in two live action movies.

I think it best to end this article now as its dragging on a bit. But I’d like to finish up by just wishing Lara and Tomb Raider a happy 20th anniversary… and end with a sexy shot of Lara just to remind me of when I was 20…

lara-sexy

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Wolfenstein: ‘The Grandfather’ Part II.

By now, Wolfenstein 3D had taken the gaming world by storm. We gamers were blown away and eagerly waited for another game in the franchise.

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Wolfenstein 3D and its add-ons were released in 1992, but we wouldn’t see another game for almost a decade. It wasn’t a sequel but a reboot.

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Return to Castle Wolfenstein: This time developed by Gray Matter Interactive (single player) and Nerve Software (multiplayer), published by id Software and released in 2001.

Once again, you play as B.J. Blazkowicz who teams up with a British operative known as Agent One. The two are captured and imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein by the Nazis while they were investigating rumours of a top secret project of Heinrich Himmler regarding the SS Paranormal Division. Agent One is killed during interrogation but Blazkowicz manages to escape and its up to him (you) to unravel the mysteries of ‘Operation Resurrection’ and escape Castle Wolfenstein.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein was a pretty decent game and it managed to update the franchise while still not forgetting its roots as it featured several nods and references to Wolfenstein 3D. Its an action packed shooter like its predecessor only this time it contains more of a story. The supernatural elements of Wolfenstein 3D are also played up much more and offer some depth to the plot.

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Reviews at the time gave the game pretty decent scores as a single player game, but it was the multiplayer element that received the most praise.

There were plans to make a direct sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but things didn’t quite work out…

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Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory: This was released in 2003, developed by Splash Damage and published by id Software. Originally planned to be a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein but there were problems during development, so the single player element was dropped from the game and it was released as a multiplayer only title.

Created to build on the success and popularity of Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s highly praised multiplayer. The game was released completely free to anyone. Originally, the game only contained six maps to play on. But thanks to a great gaming community, hundreds of user created maps were soon added. There are various game modes to play including; Objective Mode, Stopwatch Mode and Last Man Standing coupled with plenty of options to tailor the game’s settings to suit your style of play.

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There are various classes to play as each with their own skill sets, strengths and weaknesses. As you play, you’ll earn experience points which allow you to level up your skills. This was a pretty good multiplayer shooter… but it really had nothing to do with Wolfenstein at all. It was just a good WW II based multiplayer shooter and could have been given any name really.

So what next for Wolfenstein? How about an RPG?

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Wolfenstein RPG: Developed by Fountainhead Entertainment and published by EA Mobile. This oddity was a mobile only game for iOS in 2009 and programmed by id Software co-founder; John Carmack. Yes, an RPG based in the world of Wolfenstein because… why not?

William “B.J.” Blazkowicz is back and is being held by the Nazis. You must escape Castle Wolfenstein (again) and save the world by putting and end to the SS Paranormal Division (again). This game plays like an old school, turn based RPG but looks like Wolfenstein only given a bit of a comedic/cartoon slant. You roam areas, loot for items, kill Nazis, zombies, skeletons and even paintings of Hitler…

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If you have ever played a dungeon crawler style game like Dungeon Master, etc then you’ll know what to expect with this game. Its a slow paced game as its turn based, so no ‘running and gunning’ here and a big departure from previous games. But its also damn good fun and very addictive with a great black humour and an exaggerated comic book art style. The game was well received when released and well worth playing, but sadly its no longer available on Apple’s app store.

Well that was ‘interesting’ but now its time for yet another reboot.

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Wolfenstein: Yep, just plain old Wolfenstein. Developed by Raven Software and released in 2009. This was the second time the series was rebooted, but was it any good?

Yes, B.J. Blazkowicz is back once more to shoot Nazis in the face. Set in the fictional town of Isenstadt. Blazkowicz steals a strange medallion and unwittingly unleashes its power. He soon learns that the medallion requites crystals called Nachtsonne that are only found in a Nazi occupied town called Isenstadt. Blazkowicz goes to Isenstadt to find these crystals and meets up with a resistance group dedicated to freeing Isenstadt from the Nazis. A bigger emphasis is placed on the supernatural elements as you come into possession of the medallion that grants you certain mystical powers. The game also uses a pseudo-open world styled hub that you could explore at will to find secrets and hidden areas.

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This reboot was quite a departure from the classic Wolfenstein games in the past and didn’t feel quite right. Don’t get me wrong, its a pretty fun game to play… but it just doesn’t feel like Wolfenstein at all. The game met with average reviews at the time and that was about fair to be honest. It was just a very ‘okay’ game that lacked that Wolfenstein style and attitude.

So what next for the series? Well another reboot of course.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order: Developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks, released in 2014. This one was more of a soft reboot for the franchise as its often seen as a sequel to the previous game, but with a new timeline .

The plot here tells a story of an alternate timeline set in the 1960s where the Nazis won the Second World War and have enslaved the world. I don’t want to spoilt the plot here so I’m not going to reveal anymore. Once again taking control of veteran, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as you make your way all over Europe and explore various levels and of course, shoot Nazis in the face with a variety of weapons. Wolfenstein: The New Order brought back the stealth element from the original games as you could sneak around, use cover and kill enemies while trying to no raise any alarms… or you could just blast away with dual shotguns old school style. The game offered a great deal of gameplay mechanics as well as an interesting story and plenty of secrets to find along the way.

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Blazkowicz feels like a genuine character for the first time in the franchise as the story unfolds, he develops. There are decisions to make in the game that affect the plot, customisation for the weapons, alternate routes to find through the levels and even the chance to play maps from the classic Wolfenstein 3D but using the game mechanics from this game. There is a hell of a lot poured into this game as it mixes old style gameplay from previous Wolfenstein games but also adds a lot of new ideas that keeps the game feeling fresh and gets you wanting to try multiple play throughs and search out all those secrets.

Wolfenstein: The New Order met with critical and commercial success and received impressive review scores. A wonderful melding of classic Wolfenstein and modern Wolfenstein to make a successful return for an ageing franchise. I highly recommend playing this one if your’re a fan of the FPS genre and Wolfenstein. The game was followed up with a add on…

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: Again, developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks, released in 2015. This was originally going to be relased as two separate pieces of DLC, but it was decided to combine the two and release it as one whole add on instead.

Not too much to say about this one as its more of the same with it being an add on to Wolfenstein: The New Order and it plays the same. This one is a prequel to the last game and set in 1946 where you playing as Blazkowicz on a mission to once again infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein.

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There are a handful of new weapons to use and customise and one of the biggest is the introduction of a steel pipe. Yeah the steel pipe doesn’t sound very impressive, but the way it is used in the game is quite clever as it can be used to climb walls, pry open doors, break open walls or just to crack people over the head with. This is just more of the same and its just as good as Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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So there you have it, the Wolfenstein franchise in all its glory. From its humble beginnings as an early stealth game to earning a rightful place in gaming history as the ‘Grandfather’ of the FPS genre to riding high today with its modern entries. There have been a few ‘not so great games’ in the series though. But overall, its a great franchise and with rumours that a full sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order is being worked on. The franchise looks like its not disappearing anytime soon. I can’t wait for more Wolfenstein and William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as I do enjoy a bit of B.J.

William ‘B.J’ Blazkowicz:Here’s how this is going to work. I’m gonna ask you one question. You’re gonna answer that question in a way I find satisfactory and if you do not, I’ll saw your head off with this here appliance, you hear me?

You can also read my Wolfenstein 3D gaming overview.

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Wolfenstein: ‘The Grandfather’ Part I.

Wolfenstein 3D from id Software, cited as “the Grandfather” of First Person Shooters (FPS) and also mostly known as the first FPS ever created.

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Yeah, one can not deny the importance Wolfenstein 3D has in gaming history. But before I go on, I just want to rectify a couple of things. Wolfenstein 3D was not the first ever FPS, it wasn’t even the first FPS from id Software themselves as they had made Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D both in 1991 before Wolfenstein 3D. Plus there are other notable games from other developers that could easily claim the crown of the first FPS.
Its not even the first Wolfenstein game, there is a subtle clue in the title… Wolfenstein 3D. Its the third game in the series. And that is what this article is going to look at, the Wolfenstein series of games right from the very first title up to the newest entry as well as look a few interesting Wolfenstein tit-bits along the way.

Better crack on with the first Wolfenstein game.

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Castle Wolfenstein: Developed by Muse Software and released in 1981 for the Apple II, DOS, Atari 400/800 and Commodore 64. Castle Wolfenstein is a mix of action/shooting blended with stealth. This game was Metal Gear 6 years before Metal Gear even existed.

Taking place in the titular Castle Wolfenstein you have to find the war plans of the Nazis and escape. You start the game as a Private but go through the ranks up to Field Marshal as you play. You can move from screen to screen of which there are 60 different ones on 5 separate floors and the items and guards for each room are randomly generated at the start of the game, but the rooms themselves are always the same. For such and early game, there is a lot of variation and options open to the player. You can go all guns blazing and shoot all and every guard you see, or you can try to sneak past guards instead and leave little evidence that you are there.

Armed with a gun as well as grenades, but guards will react to the sound they make putting risk on you getting caught. If you take out a guard, you can search them and find helpful items such as extra ammo, keys, grenades and even bullet proof vests. You can even find items in the various chests scattered around the rooms though these are locked but can be opened with a lock-pick or keys. You might also find food and drink and can even get drunk via wine and Schnapps and this affects your aim with the gun. Aside from main walls and stairs, the rooms were destructible and you’ll find yourself having to blow up walls to gain access to other areas.

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If you didn’t want to go in shooting everyone in sight, then you can always sneak up on a guard with your gun drawn and force them to surrender. The game featured digitised voices as the guards would call out “Halt!” and “Kommen Sie!” if they spotted you. It all looks rather primitive by todays standards, but Castle Wolfenstein was very advanced for the time with its many options open to the player and with no one set way to complete the game as how you played was up to you, as well as all the little touches that are now common place in stealth games today. This featured plenty of replay value and I recall spending hours upon hours exploring and trying to find those damn plans from the Nazis. For 1981, this game was a revelation and without knowing it, it set the standard for a genre of gaming that would become massively popular in the 90s, the stealth based game. Hideo Kojima and his Metal Gear series owes a lot to this game.

Castle Wolfenstein was a pretty big hit for developer Muse Software and a sequel was released following its success.

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Beyond Castle Wolfenstein: Released in 1984 also from Muse Software, this sequel to the original game looked and felt pretty much like its predecessor but with a few gameplay tweaks.

The story had changed with you now having to explore and make you way through a secret bunker to find Adolf Hitler and assassinate him via the use of a bomb. The idea was based on the infamous “20 July plot” plot under Operation Valkyrie from 1944. The main gameplay remained pretty much the same as before but also brought with it some new ideas such as guards now asking you for papers and if you had the correct pass for each of the floors then they would let you pass. If you didn’t? Well they would raise and alarm or try to kill you. But you could always try to bribe the guards if you had the money to do so.

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You could also now drag the bodies of guards away to avoid them from being spotted by others. Another addition was being armed with a dagger which you can use to silently kill any guards in your way adding another layer to the stealth mechanic. More speech was also added as well as improved sound effects. But on the whole, this game was more of the same… which was not a bad thing at all as the last game was great as was this one too.

And that was it for the franchise as it lay dormant… until 1992 of course when the ‘Grandfather’ was released.

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Wolfenstein 3D: This was the big one, the game changer, the true ‘birth’ of the FPS genre. id Software came up with the idea of building on their previous FPS games but couldn’t decide on the setting. Then the idea to make a game similar to the first two Wolfenstein games came about as the team were big fans of them, but they knew they couldn’t afford to buy the license to use the name. It was soon discovered that Muse Software had gone bust a few years earlier and the Wolfenstein name was free to use… so they used it.

The game was not only hugely influenced by the original Wolfenstein games, but also by the classic Gauntlet from 1985. While this shared the Wolfenstein name, its gameplay was vastly different. Gone is the stealth mechanic of the previous games as the action is amped up in its place. With the focus being more action orientated for a faster moving game though the setting remained the same of Castle Wolfenstein. You now play as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an American spy of Polish descent… so he doesn’t much like Nazis. The game is split into three different episodes with each episode having its own story inspired by the original Wolfenstein games.

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Episode 1: “Escape from Castle Wolfenstein” has you, wait for it… being captured and having to escape Castle Wolfenstein. Episode 2: “Operation: Eisenfaust” in which you discover plans the Nazis have to create an army of undead mutants and Episode 3: “Die, Führer, Die!” you have to infiltrate a underground bunker and kill Adolf Hitler… who is in a robotic suit equipped with mini-guns. Each of the three episodes feature multiple levels for you to make your way through. The gameplay is very similar to that of Gauntlet as you have to make your way through various levels, killing enemies and collecting keys to make it to the exit, but the view point is now that of a first person. The levels themselves are full of secret areas for you to discover where you can find treasure to add to your score as well as ammo and weapons.

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It was a simple enough game and definitely ‘dumbed down’ over the originals by removing all the stealth gameplay… but that was not a bad thing at all as Wolfenstein 3D was a fast placed, bloody/gory, gun filled extravaganza. Again, not the first ever FPS but this was the game that cemented and popularised the genre. You know how you kids are playing the latest Call of Duty game? Well that exists because of Wolfenstein 3D.

But the fun didn’t end when you completed Wolfenstein 3D as two prequels were released as add-ons. First was; The Nocturnal Missions and like the main game, it too was split into three episodes. Episode 1: “A Dark Secret” where you pursue a weapons research scientist. Episode 2: “Trail of the Madman” and here, Blazkowicz has to find the maps and plans for a chemical war. Episode 3: “Confrontation” has you confronting the Nazi general in charge of the chemical warfare initiative. Then finally there was the other add-on; Spear of Destiny and its episodes that included; “Return to Danger” and “Ultimate Challenge”.

Wolfenstein 3D changed gaming forever and put id Software on the map. The game was a revelation and you really had to be there to understand the impact it had on the industry. It reinvented the FPS genre and its influence can still be found in modern games today. id Software went on to (again) change the face of the FPS genre with another franchise about some space marine and some demons from hell, but that will have to wait for another time as I have a lot more Wolfenstein games to cover. But before we move on to all of that, how about some Wolfenstein trivia?

One of id Software’s earlier games was a called; Commander Keen and he starred in four games; Invasion of the Vorticons, Keen Dreams, Goodbye Galaxy and Aliens Ate My Babysitter.

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They were quite popular platform/action games. But what does this have to do with Wolfenstein? Well a fourth game was planned at the time and it was originally going to be a 3D version of Commander Keen but that became Wolfenstein 3D. Also the star of Wolfenstein, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, is said to be a direct descendant to Commander Keen.

Nintendo asked id Software to work on a port of Wolfenstein 3D for their SNES console which they did do. However, Nintendo censored the game in a HUGE way removing all the blood, Nazi imagery and even replacing the dogs in the game with rats. This censorship angered id Software, so they gave the game’s source code to another company (Wisdom Tree) so they could make an unofficial Nintendo game…

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Super 3D Noah’s Ark was released in 1994 for the SNES and it was Wolfenstein 3D with a graphical change and a religious theme.

In Episode 3, floor 10 and Episode 6, floor 10, there are secret areas that reveal an homage to some very specific famous, classic game characters…

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Yes, the Pac-Man ghosts are in Wolfenstein 3D.

There was even a direct sequel planned for Wolfenstein 3D from id Software and it was quite far in development before they turned their attention to another project (DOOM). But that sequel was eventually released, just not as a Wolfenstein game.

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The game was reworked and released as; Rise of the Triad in 1994. The game even still has a Nazi theme as the plot tells a story of the fall of Hitler (which would have carried over from Wolfenstein 3D).

I’ll end part I here, but in part II Wolfenstein gets rebooted for the first time, but not the last.

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Its never going to get any better than this (A brief history of video games).

I grew up in the late 70s and through the 80s, growing up playing games as long as I have. You get to see many, many changes over the years. There have been several times when I’ve played a game and thought to myself that ‘its never going to get any better than this’ only to be proven wrong further down the line.

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So here, I’d like to round up those games that, for as long as I have been playing games, for one reason or another. Whether it be graphics, gameplay, story or some other reason, have impressed me.
In no particular order and I’ll be jumping around the years as I go and yes, I would have mentioned several of these games elsewhere on this site already too. Here are my ‘its never going to get any better than this’ (A brief history of video games).

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Space Invaders – Atari 2600 (1980): Holds the distinction of being the first ever licensed arcade to home machine port. This was always a simple game and one of the all time classics in gaming. But what amazed me about it was the simple fact we could now play arcade games at home, of which Space Invaders was the very first and opened the floodgates to other arcade/home ports like Asteroids, Defender, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and so on.

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While this version was not an arcade perfect port by any means, just the simple fact we were playing this on our own console at home was a dream come true. Plus the Atari 2600 version came with 112 variations on the classic game offering hours upon hours of replay value.

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Prince Of Persia – Amiga 500 (1989): This game just had to be seen to be believed back then. The super smooth, rotoscoped animation was unreal and unlike anything we had seen then. A platforming game like no other at the time and would go on to not only be the inspiration for other many hugely popular IPs later, but also become its own successful franchise in itself. Prince of Persia didn’t just offer amazing animation but also managed to blend into the mix platforming action, sword fights and puzzle solving. The game was simple but tough and relied on the old ‘trial and error’ style, so the more you played, the more you learned and progressed.

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It gave birth to the sub genre of (what I call); ‘The cinematic platform games’, as this offered an almost movie like story experience that unfolded as you played. With other games like; Another World (AKA; Out of this World), Flashback, Nosferatu, Blackthorne (AKA; Blackhawk) and numerous others that borrowed form the Prince of Persia formula. Would we ever had gotten; Lara Croft and the entire Tomb Raider series without this game? Plus the fact that Assassin’s Creed began as a spin off to Prince of Persia called; Prince of Persia: Assassin. Prince of Persia was/is certainly influential.

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Half-Life – PC (1998): Okay, I have to be honest here, I’m not a big fan of Half-Life. People are always going on about Valve finally releasing a Half-Life 3 and to be honest, I couldn’t care less. But I am more than willing to admit that I was impressed with the original when I first saw and played it… but not for its core gameplay.

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While I didn’t think much of the gameplay of Half-Life, what did impress me was the introduction. Just that whole opening of going to work felt epic and unique at the time as introductions were just something you watched (and occasionally skipped) before the game began. But the introduction to Half-Life allowed you to play and interact as the story was slowly set up. It all helped to make introductions to games important and a great way to set in place the style and tone for what was to come later.

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Midwinter – Amiga 500 (1989): One of the very first true open world/sandbox games that are everywhere these days. While not the first of this sub genre (that one is coming up later), Midwinter (and its sequel; Midwinter II) paved the way for games like GTA, Saint’s Row, etc that we have today.

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Played from a first person view point, the map was big (for the time) and the dazzling amount of ways you could get around was unmatched. You could ski, use hand-gliders, skidoos, cable cars, snowcats, etc. Then the missions themselves could be approached and handled in various ways. Yeah there was a story to follow and objectives to complete, but you didn’t have to do them and could explore the map, find new locales and meet new people. Just the freedom the game allowed you to have was stunning at the time.

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Gauntlet – Arcade (1985): The cabinet itself with its 4 player set up was an amazing sight to see, allowing you to team up with friends and play together. One of the very first drop in/out, co-op multiplayer games. The way each character was unique and had their own strengths and weaknesses was also quite new at the time and offered a character to suit your play style.

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The memorable (and quotable) speech during gameplay, the endless levels urging you to keep on playing to see how far you could get. One of the most perfect arcade games ever created and an arcade game that shaped and moulded co-op gameplay decades before it became popular. I just never could resist popping in a few 10p coins into this monster of a game whenever I saw it.

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Super Mario World – SNES (1990): In my personal opinion, this is the greatest platform game ever created. I really can not think of another platforming game that was as well designed and as much fun to play as this. The closest game that comes to mind it its own prequel; Super Mario Bros. 3. It was beautiful to look at back then and offered a dazzling variety of gameplay and fun with a huge world full of taxing levels to play in and explore trying to find all those little secrets and hidden levels.

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The bright and cartoony styled graphics were jaw dropping at the time, but this was not just a game that looked pretty, it was a game that played even better. Each level seemed to be so well crafted and felt genuinely fun to play. The massive over-world map that held its own fun secrets to find. The multiple endings and secret areas you could hunt for in the levels that would open up short cuts, hidden areas and even a whole ‘new’ world… everything about this game is just so well designed and implemented, for me (as I said) the greatest platforming game ever made.

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Skool Daze – ZX Spectrum (1984): Another early game that had that open world/sandbox style. A game that was very unique at the time with it being set in a school. But the things you could do, the mischief you could get into and the freedom the game offered was a thing to behold back then.

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This game allowed you to bend and break all the rules you couldn’t get away with at school. Want to punch that annoying ‘know it all’ kid, stand up to the bully, hit your geography teacher with a slingshot, write rude words on the blackboard? Well you could do all of that and more in this game. And like many open world/sandbox style games, yes there was a story/plot to follow and a main goal to achieve… but you didn’t have to. You could just play around with all the little things the game had to offer and find new and interesting ways to cause havoc in school without the risk of getting into real trouble.

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Populous – Amiga 500 (1989): You got to play as a God, which in itself was pretty unique at the time. This Peter Molyneux classic (from when he was a great game designer and not a purveyor of lies and empty promises) spawned an entirely new sub-genre of gaming; The God Game.

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The power you had was unmatched in any other game, you could sculpt the land to help you people build ever increasing homes, build your power and army to unleash God-like attacks on your enemy such as earthquakes, typhoons, blight the land with swamps and so on. Until you destroyed your puny rival and took over the land. Each map was different and offered a fresh new challenge, with changing scenery and obstacles to work around. A refreshing and interesting first for its time and was the game that opened my eyes to the strategy led games of that era.

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Star Wars – Arcade (1983): The 3D vector graphics were stunning back then, coupled with the voice samples taken directly from the film as we took down Tie Fighters in our X-Wing with the Death Star looming in the background. Then once all those pesky Ties were dealt with, onto to Death Star the take out the towers before reliving the climatic trench run from the film. All of this was just awesome and really made us feel like we were X-Wing pilots.

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This game was the first I remember that felt like we were playing a movie. The action was nonstop, the graphics were (at the time) impressive and the digitised sound and music taken directly from the film just added to the overall experience, I’m pretty sure the impressive art work on the cabinet helped a lot too. If there was ever a gaming experience that made me think ‘its never going to get any better than this’, then Star Wars was it.

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Elite – BBC Micro (1984): This, this is the game that is (arguably) the grandfather of the open world/sandbox sub genre of gaming. What this game managed to archive in terms of game design in 1984 was just though of as being simply impossible back then. Developers; David Braben and Ian Bell were quite simply pure geniuses.

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To be honest, to do this game justice, I really need to do its own in-depth article (and may do so one day). What this game offered was just unheard of then, a true revolution in gaming. It was game of unparalleled design, depth and one that offered such amazing freedom of gameplay that it is still held up in such high regard today. With you playing as Commander Jameson (though the name could be changed) and starting off with a meagre 100 credits and a lightly armed trading ship. You are free to do whatever you want within the game’s impressively large universe… and it is a universe. You can become a Han Solo style space smuggler/trader. Dabble in perfectly legal goods, or maybe you want to earn more money going a more illegal route? Mine asteroids for materials. Become a well respected space trader or a nefarious space pirate. Take part in dogfights, go from planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy over an entire explorable universe via hyperspace travel. Earn more money and upgrade your ship, its weapons or even buy an all new ship with even more upgrades available. As I said before, I could do a more in-depth look at this game as it rightly deserves as what I’m writing here doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Elite changed gaming for decades and really showed what could be done with a little imagination and impressive development skills. What was in Elite was just not thought possible in 1984… but there it was. The game went on to become its own successful franchise with; Frontier: Elite II, Frontier: First Encounters and more recently a reboot for the current generation with; Elite: Dangerous (which I highly recommend if you want a great space exploration game) as well as opening the doors for games like Wing Commander (series), Privateer, Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and the countless other space combat/exploration games that followed it. David Braben and Ian Bell changed the face of gaming forever with Elite and the ripples it caused are still being felt today.

So there you go, just a handful of games that made me feel ‘its never going to get any better than this’. To be honest, there are literally hundreds of others I could include and may very well do just that in a follow up article or seven later. While all of these were games from the 80s and 90s, there are still games being made in recent years that manage to impress me for one reason or another. I have just learned over the years that ‘it will always get better then this’ with the advancement of technology and ever increasing game designers with fresh and exciting ideas.

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Ghostbusters in gaming

Still going with my Birthday/Ghostbusters celebration as I now take a look at the many and various Ghostbusters games over the years. From the simpler times of the Atari 2600 and ZX Spectrum to modern day with the PS4 and Xbox One.

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There have been quite a few Ghostbusters games, more than I first realised in fact. Some I have fond memories of and some I wish I could forget.

Let’s get stuck in with the first ever Ghostbusters game and the first one I remember.

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Ghostbusters: Designed by David Crane and produced by Activision, released in 1984. Originally made for the Commodore 64 and Atari 800 but later ported to various computers and consoles including the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari 2600, Sega Master System and NES.

Based on the events of the first movie. This one was somewhat popular at the time and was ported to pretty much every popular computer and console at the time. I still remember the first time I played back in the 80s. It was on a friend’s ZX Spectrum before we got a copy for our Commodore 64 later.

You start by selecting your equipment from ghost traps to a vacuum… yes a vacuum. In some versions of the game, you could even select different cars. But why would you want to play a Ghostbusters game with a car that wasn’t Ecto 1? Once you have your vehicle and equipment, its time to bust some ghosts. You then find yourself on a overhead map like screen that looks kind of like Pac-Man with you controlling the Ghostbusters logo. Unless you know what you are supposed to be doing, this was very confusing at the time.

Basically you have to wait until a place need help from ghosts and move the Ghostbusters logo to the building. This is where the game changes to a more ghost busting action scene. You control two of the team and have to angle your proton streams to force that ghosts toward your trap. Once you are satisfied you think you can trap the ghosts, you would trigger the trap and capture the ghosts. The more ghosts you trap, the more money you make and the more money you have, the better equipment you can buy. It’s pretty simple stuff. Rinse and repeat until you have the best possible equipment. As the game progresses, eventually the main Zuul building will flash and this is your main goal of the game. When at the Zuul building, you have your guide two out of three of your Ghostbusters in between the Stay-Puft marshmallow man’s legs to enter. This is the end of the game in the original versions but it would give you a password in the form of ‘an account number’ which would allow you to start the game again but with the cash you earned from your previous play through. It was an early example of what we would not call a game+ mode.

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There was also a driving stage mini game as you travelled from place to place. And this is where that vacuum came in handy as it would suck up any ghosts that got near your car and you’d earn some extra cash.

The game was pretty good for the time… again, depending on which version you played. The original Commodore 64 version is often regarded as the best of the lot. The later console ports like the NES and Master System added some new and interesting elements to the game play. Though the NES version is infamous for being terrible with one of the worst end game screens ever…

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By today’s standard the game is very limited. But back then it was quite revolutionary and a good use of the license. It has many fans and has even been remade with updated graphics for you to play on your PC. Well wroth checking out.

Next we have the first game based on the popular cartoon.

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The Real Ghostbusters: Released by Data East in 1987 for the Arcades. Then ported to the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum later. Based on the popular animated TV show of the same name.

With this one, up to three people could play with each player controlling one of the main Ghostbusters characters from the cartoon. Opting for a top down view, you had to explore fully scrolling levels and shoot and then try to trap and suck up ghosts. Various power-ups could be found including; shot and beam boosters a protective Aura. Even that little green bastard, Slimer makes an appearance who would work as a shield that would orbit around your character.

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A total of 10 levels in the game full of a variety of numerous ghosts to bust. Clear the level of ghosts and move onto the next level. This one was pretty simple arcade fare, I suppose it was a little similar to the classic Gauntlet. No real depth to the game and it was basically a ‘shoot anything that moves’ kind of game, but it was fun… especially with a friend or two.

Its the turn of the film’s sequel and this game had different versions for the computer and console market.

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Ghostbusters II: The first computer version was released by Activision in 1989 for the PC for DOS. After a lengthy text scroll that recaps the story of the first film and gets you up to speed with the opening events of the sequel up to the court room, the game finally begins.

The gameplay starts in the courtroom with you tasked to getting rid of the Scoleri Brothers ghosts where you just blast them until their energy is low enough to trap them. Once the ghosts have been trapped you move onto Ghostbusters HQ and you have to gather red slime to test, so you next find yourself under the city in the sewers gathering red slime wile avoiding ghostly hands trying to grab you. You’ll also receive phone calls while at Ghostbusters HQ that allow you to take on ghostbusting jobs to earn some spare cash, these jobs are similar to the opening courtroom scene but with different graphics based on various locales around New York like Central Park and the Dock where the Titanic has arrived. The more damage you do to the scenery, the less money you earn from the job.

You keep gathering and testing red slime, receiving calls for jobs to earn cash until have enough cash to build a slime blower and enough red slime to animate the Statue of Liberty. The game then changes to a scene with you controlling Lady Liberty (complete with a NES controller) with you looking down trying not to crush and kill civilians in their cars via her mighty feet as you make your way to the museum. Once at the museum and when midnight comes around, you then have to blast the painting of Vigo while trying to avoid projectiles. Once Vigo has been defeated, its game over and you are rewarded with a pretty entertaining end game sequence.

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The game also featured a fun mini game where, if you failed any slime gathering or busting ghosts scene. You would have one of the Ghostbusters committed to an asylum and the remaining crew would have to try and break their friend out. It also featured some nice (for the time) digitised images and soundbites from the movie. A pretty decent game for the time though short and quite limiting.

But there was a different Ghostbusters II game relased for other computers.

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Ghostbusters II: This other version was also from Activision but relased the following year in 1990 for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. This version differed from the PC/DOS version in several ways. The game begins with a pretty damn good remixed rendition of the famous Ghostbusters theme (on the Amiga) and is accompanied with various digitised stills from the movie and some quick text to get you up to speed on the story.

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You eventually take control as to have to abseil into the sewers trying to avoid and blast various ghosts on the way down. Once at the bottom of the sewer, you gather the slime and its onto the next scene. This scene cuts straight to the Statue of Liberty section and things take on a side scrolling shooter style as you fight your way to the museum blasting ghosts along the way in this overtly lengthy section. When you finally get to the museum, the game switches to an isometric view as you have to help all four Ghostbusters abseil into the museum from the roof. This then take on an almost strategy slant as you have to position the Ghostbusters the right place to defeat Vigo. At which point, Ray gets possessed and you have to then defeat him before you get the end game sequence which is very short and not as much fun as the PC/DOS version. This game was notoriously hard and only had three levels. It was just not as much fun as the other version.

Finally, the NES had a Ghostbusters II game too.

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Ghostbusters II: Again from Activision and released in 1990. This version is massively different from its computer counterparts. After a quick intro featuring Vigo you are thrown directly into the action.

This one is more of a side scrolling shooting all the way through. The first level is set in the sewers where you blast and avoid ghosts as you make your way to the end of the level. Next up you take control of Ecto-1 again blasting ghosts and avoiding obstacles. The next level is set in the courtroom and is the same as the first, next up is another Ecto-1 level… and that is how the game continues, same basic gameplay with the level graphics just changing between scenes.

GB II NES US screen

Eventually you do get to the Statue of Liberty and its more of the same blasting ghosts in some side scrolling action in a stupidly long section that seems to never end. Yet, eventually you make it to the museum and its more of the same as the first level but with different background graphics, only this time you have to repeat the same level four times to get all of the Ghostbusters to the Vigo painting and then you are greeted with a VERY short end game scene. Some call this game tough, personally I just found it dull. Same bland gameplay level after level and it all becomes tiresome.

That’s it for Ghostbusters II… or is it?

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New Ghostbusters II: This was yet another Ghostbusters II game relased for the NES, only this one was from HAL Laboratory and only released in Europe and Japan in 1990. Very different from the other NES game and far superior too.

This game allowed you to play one or two player and chose from five Ghostbusters… yes five. The original four of Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston. But you could also choose to play as Louis Tully. The gameplay was simple, but fun. Presented with a top down view, you explore the levels inspired by scenes from the film (the first level is set in the courtroom). All you have to do is blast and trap every ghost in a level before you can move onto the next one. Once a screen is clear, a big arrow points you toward the next screen. When every screen is clear of ghosts, you move onto the end of level boss, defeat the boss and you move onto the next level.

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If you chose a one player game then the second Ghostbuster would be controlled by the AI. Two player allowed one person to blast ghosts with the proton pack while the other was in control of the trap. While the basic gameplay remained the same from start to finish, each level was graphically and geographically varied and well designed offering plenty of variety. The final boss is Vigo and once he was defeated, you are rewarded with a fun end credits sequence shown in a cinema where various characters from the game take part in amusing scenes. Much better Ghostbusters II game for the NES than that other one and well worth checking out.

Next up is Ghostbusters… again?

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Ghostbusters: This one was a Mega Drive only release joint developed by Compile and SEGA. Published by SEGA in 1990. Inspired by the original film but with some ‘creative licence’ that brings with it a new story. This one allows you to play as one of the three Ghostbusters, choose from Peter, Ray or Egon (no Winston… racist?). Each of the three characters have slightly different speed and stamina stats. The game opens with a nice cut scene setting up the story.

You are then greeted by a simple map screen that has various locales you can select including the Ghostbusters HQ, an item shop, a weapon shop and the main levels the action takes place in like a haunted house, an apartment and a castle, plus others. Each level is quite large and offers some exploration as you jump from platform to platform busting ghosts to earn cash. You can also play any level in any order you wish, though later levels are tough without the right equipment. The cash you earn can be spent on upgrading your weapons and buying new items to help you in later levels. Each level is guarded by and end of level boss and once you bust them, the level is complete.

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The graphics are cartoon-like and the Ghostbusters themselves have an amusing big-head aesthetic. The weapon/item shops add some level of strategy as you have pick and choose the right tools for each level. When you complete each of the main levels on the map an all new and final level opens up and of you manage to defeat the boss at the end of this one you are rewarded a simple credits scroll and cheering crowd. This game is good fun and well worth finding a copy of if you enjoy Ghostbusters and platforming/shooting action.

The Real Ghostbusters return for another attempt in gaming next.

TRG GB cover

The Real Ghostbusters: Developed by Kemco and released in 1993. This puzzle/platforming game is actually a graphical/license swap of a pre-existing game. In Europe this game was Garfield Labyrinth and in Japan it was known as Mickey Mouse IV: Mahō no Labyrinth, part of Kemco’s Crazy Castle franchise.

You play as Peter Venkman who falls into an underground labyrinth and you have to find your way back out (Ghostbusters?). To clear each level you must find stars on each stage and once all the stars have been found then the door to the next level opens up. Peter is equipped with a proton pack which can be used to destroy certain blocks that can be removed to get to hidden stars or even alternate ways through the level.

TRG GB screen

Each level contains various enemy ghosts which cant be harmed by your proton pack but with bombs (Ghostbusters?). You have a health bar and time limit and if either of these deplete to zero before you can finish a level, you lose a life.

There really is not much to say about this one. Its not a terrible game but it is just very average, its just not Ghostbusters and quite clear the licence was attached just to try and appeal to Ghostbusters fans. Play the original Micky Mouse or Garfield versions instead, same game and you are not missing anything.

The sequel series to The Real Ghostbusters show got a few games too.

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Extreme Ghostbusters: Released in 2001 for the Gameboy Color only in Europe. This game was from Light and Shadow Productions. You can play as the various members of the Extreme Ghostbusters including; Eduardo Rivera, Roland Jackson, Garrett Miller, and Kylie Griffin. Each character has their own stats and abilities.

EGB GBC screen

Set over more than 20 levels, you make your way through these side scrolling/platform levels busting any ghosts you come across. You will find various items to help you in your Ghostbusting task such as; Proton Canisters, a P.K.E. Meter, Ghost Traps and even Slimer. Clear each level of ghosts and move onto the next.

This game is notorious for being bad. Stiff controls, bland gameplay and terrible level design. Definitely one to avoid. Lets move on…

The second in the trilogy of Extreme Ghostbusters games next.

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Extreme Ghostbusters: Code Ecto-1: Again from Light and Shadow Productions, this time for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. This game is a mix of shooter, platforming and even a little driving action too. The driving sections are a top down viewpoint, but the main action is a side scrolling/platforming style.

You only get to play as either Eduardo or Kylie in this game as the big bad of this one, a half-human/half-demon Count Mercharior has kidnapped Roland and Garrett and that is the basic story. You have to blast your way though the various levels in an attempt to rescue your kidnapped teammates. You can switch between either Eduardo or Kylie on the fly and the two characters have different abilities and weapons so switching between the two is essential to progress through each level.

EGB Ecto screen

Make your way though each level, take down ghosts and defeat the end of level boss, move onto the next level. Pretty basic stuff, but this one is a huge improvement over the previous game with better controls and even improved gameplay. Things tend to get a bit repetitive and redundant as there is very little variety here, but its a decent action/platformer.

The final game in the ‘Extreme’ trilogy.

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Extreme Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Invasion: Yet again from Light and Shadow Productions only this game was for the PlayStation and released in 2004 only in Europe. Remember those light gun games that were popular in the 90s like Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, etc? Well this game used the same concept, in particular Time Crisis with its cover system.

EGB PS screen

You can play as any of the four main Extreme Ghostbusters team who are selectable at the beginning, though each of the four characters play the same anyway. As you make your way though each level in an on the rails style that these light gun games were known for. Shoot ghosts and hide behind cover, shoot ghosts and hide behind cover… it goes on and on. As the game was on the PlayStation, it utilised the CD technology and came with animated cut scenes taken right from the TV series.

Not a terrible game, not a great game. Just okay but by the time it was released, the light gun game was all but dead so people really didn’t care about this much back then.

Well that was the Extreme Ghostbusters trilogy of games. But we finally get to what is considered the best Ghostbusters game ever.

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Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Developed by Terminal Reality for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Other ports were developed by other studios. Published by Atari and relased in 2009. This game has the added bonus of the story being written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as well as getting pretty much the entire original cast back. The game is a third person shooter.

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Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson all allowed their likeness and even voiced their respective characters. Also returning from the movies are William Atherton and Annie Potts. Hell, they even got Max von Sydow to reprise his role as Vigo from Ghostbusters II in a cameo. The game even used the film’s locations and props as models for the 3D modelling in the game.

Set in 1991 about 2 years after the events of Ghostbusters II. You play as an unnamed new recruit to the Ghostbusters team. New York is hit by a large PKE shock-wave and ghosts are running riot all over the city, including the return of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. You are only known as “Rookie” as the team don’t want to get to attached to you in case something should happen, are expected to test out any new equipment and upgrades the team make. The Ghostbusters go around New York busting ghosts and slowly learn that certain buildings around the city are being used as nodes to connect the real world to the ghost world in an attempt to bring forth another great destructor similar to Gozer from the first film.

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The team have to destroy the nodes and capture the guardians from around the city from various familiar locales like; The Sedgewick Hotel, the New York Public Library and the Museum of Natural History… which just so happens to be hosting a Gozer exhibit. If you haven’t played the game yet, I’ll leave the plot summary there as to not get into spoilers.

Some interesting behind the scenes titbits of the game…

The game originally started out being developed by ZootFly, who began work on a Ghostbusters game despite not having the license from Sony Pictures. ZootFly showed early footage of the game via You Tube sometime in 2006. They were ultimately not able to secure the Ghostbusters licence and so they altered the game and changed it title to TimeO.

Then in 2007, Sierra Entertainment and developer Terminal Reality met with Sony Pictures to discuss the possibility of developing their own Ghostbusters video game. Terminal Reality even used the early videos of ZootFly’s You Tube videos to show how a Ghostbusters came could look. The pitch worked and Sony Pictures allowed the use of the Ghostbusters licence. Terminal Reality began work on their official Ghostbusters game.

The game was put into limbo when Vivendi merged with Activision to form Activision Blizzard and then Activision Blizzard (the publisher of Vivendi’s and Sierra’s titles) stated that several games they were working on would not be released. The Ghostbusters game was one of the titles said to be cancelled. This announcement sparked outrage from fans and by the end of 2008, it was revealed that Atari would publish the game to be released in 2009.

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It was also announced that the game would be a PS3 timed exclusive in Europe meaning the Xbox 360 version would not be relased until several months later… however, the Xbox 360 version was not region locked and meant people could import the American version and play that ahead of the European release.

Sigourney Weaver was asked to return as Dana Barrett, but it was reported that she never felt comfortable working on a video game. It was only when Weaver learned the other cast members were attached to the game that she decided to return, but the game was already too far into development by then and too late to include her character. Weaver seemingly learned from this and did return as Ripley in the Alien: Isolation game.

The game’s plot uses some ideas left out of the original movies as well as a few concepts from Dan Aykroyd’s early draft for his Ghostbusters II: Hellbent script. Dan has even said that the game is basically Ghostbusters III.

The game was very well received and often cited as the best Ghostbusters game ever and I have to agree… but I think the game is flawed in many ways. I found the game a bit repetitive, the levels are too linear and lack any real depth. The story mode is very short and can be completed in around 5 hours. Yet it is very authentic and you really do feel like a Ghostbuster. The voice cast and likenesses of the actors definitely helps and the story being written by Dan and Harold is a massive plus too. Yeah, it really is a great Ghostbusters game, but I can’t call it a great game in itself. Still, it is well worth checking out for any Ghostbusters fan. Its a shame we never got a sequel…

Well we did kind of get a sequel… kind of.

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Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime: Released in 2001 and developed by Behaviour Santiago, published by Atari. This did start out as a full sequel to Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but financial problems at the time at Atari meant a sequel was put into limbo and they decided to release this stripped down/arcade game instead. Environmental assets, such as the cemetery level and even character assets such as the ghosts were reused from Ghostbusters: The Video Game for this title.

You play as any of the four main new members of the Ghostbusters, as the last game ended with the suggestion of setting up a Ghostbusters franchise with all new members. The original team do appear in the game, but as non playable characters in the story sections of the game. The game allows you to play up to four players simultaneously, if you don’t have three friends to play with then the AI plays as the other characters. The game is a simple shooter with semi explore-able levels and secret collectable to find.

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Its an okay game at best, but a big disappointment after Ghostbusters: The Video Game and a shame this is what we got instead of a full sequel.

That is pretty much it for the Ghostbusters games. I didn’t cover EVERY game, there are a few mobile games like; Ghostbusters: Paranormal Blast, Ghostbusters: Beeline and a Ghostbusters mobile game from 2006. There were a couple of pinball machines and a few others too.

But there are more Ghostbusters I want to quickly mention.

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Ghostbusters: Inspired by the new remake. Developed by FireForge Games and published by Activision. Said to be set after the events of the new film where you play up to four players and none of the characters from the film are included.

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Its basically an updated version of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime just inspired by the 2016 film.

Ghostbusters: Slime City: Another mobile game to be released this year. Which sounds like a typical ‘free to play’ cash grab, pay to win mobile game that are everywhere now.

I think that is every (main) Ghostbusters game covered and as I said before, there were more than I originally remembered. The Ghostbusters have had quite a mix bag of a life in gaming. There have been some good games, some decent games and some just plain terrible games. Highlights for me are the original Commodore 64 one, the Mega Drive Ghostbusters and of course the Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Oh I almost forgot about Ghostbusters making their LEGO debut in LEGO Dimensions…

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There is still more to my Birthday/Ghostbusters celebration. If you haven’t already, please check out my behind the scenes look at the making the Ghostbusters movie, a look at the failed attempts to make a Ghostbusters III as well as my overviews of the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II movies.

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The Street Fighter legacy, part IV

Ryu evlution

Street Fighter certainly has evolved over the years. From the simple but great ground work of the original from 1987, the revolutionary Street Fighter II in 1991 to the Marvel vs Capcom sub-series in the 2000s, right up to today with the latest editions of the Street Fighter franchise. Speaking of which…

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Street Fighter IV: The next title in the official Street Fighter series and also the return of original creator Takashi Nishiyama. As Nishiyama left Capcom after the release of the original game to join SNK where he helped create Street Fighter rival games such as; Fatal Fury and King of Fighters.
The arcade version was released in 2008 with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 ports in 2009.

While the fourth numbered game in the franchise, chronologically this is set somewhere between the Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III. This game was a welcome return to form after Street Fighter III. It was more streamlined, refined and accessible. A real sequel to Street Fighter II if you will. The home ports offered more playable characters than the arcade version with a total of 25 in all. The game’s style was more like the Street Fighter EX series, with the use of 3D polygon characters and backgrounds but still fighting on a 2D plane. Only the graphics where much more smother and detailed.

Classic, fan favourites like; Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, M. Bison and Akuma all return with the inclusion of Dan, Fei Long, Sakura, Cammy, Gen, and Rose. The game also introduced new characters; Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus, El Fuerte, Seth and Gouken.

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Street Fighter IV received universal critical acclaim with many people claiming it to be the best in the franchise since Street Fighter II. Now with such high praise and acclaim, of course Capcom milked the game for all it could. As with previous games in the franchise, Street Fighter IV had various revisions and updates.
Super Street Fighter IV (2010) added new stages and even more characters; T. Hawk and Dee Jay return from Street Fighter II. Guy and Cody from Final Fight make an appearance. Then there was the inclusion of; Adon, Ibuki, Makoto, Dudley, Juri and Hakan. Then Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (2010) was released which was a version of the previous Super Street Fighter IV for arcades (hence the title) and brought with it a few more enhancements and more characters. This version was later released as both a standalone game and as a downloadable update for the home market. Not done yet as; Ultra Street Fighter IV (2014) was released for arcade, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This one added a few more new stages, new characters (now a total of 44) as well as a few new game mechanics.

SF IV characters

There were also versions of the game for iOS and Android devices as well as a version for the Nintendo 3DS called; Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition.

Is that enough Street Fighter IV now? Time to take a look at the latest in the franchise.

SF V start

Street Fighter V: Wait, straight into the next in the franchise, no new sub-series, no Street Fighter: Alpha Mega EX Ultra Edition? Okay then. Yes, after the success of Street Fighter IV, Capcom got the next proper sequel out with little to no fuss. This time only relased for PC and PlayStation 4 this year, just a few weeks ago.

While Street Fighter IV was a runaway success and met with great praise…not the same could be said about this one. Street Fighter V was rushed out to coincide with the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) an annual esports event that focuses exclusively on fighting games. Due to this rushing out, the game was released unfinished. Okay, so the basic and much loved Street Fighter formula was in tact but most of the game itself was just “missing”. Aside from some minor bugs and glitches, the game was relased with no arcade mode (a staple in the series from the very start), no story mode, as well as missing almost every basic feature you’s expect a game of this type to have. Capcom stated they plan to release all the missing content later via DLC, but most fans were just not happy paying full retail price for a game that was clearly rushed out and missing so much content.

Only a total of 16 characters this time around (I can’t be bothered to do another list, the usuals are here) with more characters being added via DLC later.

SF V screen

What with Street Fighter IV actually being set between Street Fighter II and III, where do you think this one is set? Well its not a sequel to IV but actually set between III and IV. So Street Fighter IV is really a sequel to II and prequel to III, while V is a sequel to III prequel to IV…I think. Rocket science is easier to follow than the chronology of the Street Fighter franchise.

Street Fighter V plays well enough, but again, its just not a full game. Yet it did receive positive reviews anyway.

So there you have it the (almost) entire Street Fighter franchise though (almost) 30 years. But there are still more Street Fighter games which I’ll quickly highlight some of now.

In 1994, Capcom teamed up with Universal Pictures to make a live action film based on Street Fighter II.

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This film is bad. How bad? Well it stars Jean-Claude Van Damme playing all American Guile…yes with that accent, we are supposed to believe he is all American. Plus one of its stars, the great Raul Julia, died before this film was released. This film killed Raul Julia.
Anyway, why did I bring this terrible, terrible film up? Well Capcom had the idea of making a game based on the film…

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Street Fighter: The Movie: Yes, Street Fighter the game, based on the movie…that is based on the game. Released for the Arcades, PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1995. This one uses digitized images of the film’s cast playing their characters from the film, except for Raul Julia who died before he could start work on this.

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This was a slow, clunky mess. While the basic gameplay mechanic of the Street Fighter franchise was there, it just did not work.

Next!

SNK

Capcom vs. SNK: Similar to the previous Marvel vs Capcom series, this was yet another series running within the Street Fighter franchise. This time featuring characters from various SNK games against various Capcom famous characters including some from the Street Fighter series.

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This vs series featured a total of six standard fighting games and even spawned yet another sub-series within this series of card collection games called; SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters with four games in that series.

Next!

TvCap

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Yes, another vs series. This time its various famous Japanese anime series/characters going up against some of Capcom’s finest.

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Same old schtick. This vs series only managed two games with; Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars.

Next!

SFxTek

Street Fighter × Tekken: This one is quite interesting as its a crossover game that uses the infamous Street Fighter formula, but includes Namco’s Tekken series, putting their fighters into the world and style of Street Fighter. Think Street Fighter IV’s style and gameplay with Tekken characters thrown in.

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So far, there is only one game in this rather unique concept. However, it has been said that Namco are developing their own game where it will be Tekken x Street Fighter. So a Tekken game with its style and gameplay that features Street Fighter characters. But that was first announced in 2010 and it may never happen, though Namco say they are still working on it…

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Next…actually, no more. Not that there are no more Street Fighter related games/series for me to take a look at (Street Fighter X All Capcom, Capcom Fighting Jam, Super Puzzle Fighter, Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix/Pocket Fighter, Namco × Capcom, Street Fighter: Puzzle Spirits, Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation and others too). I’m just a little Street Fightered out now.

I just wanted to cover the main games in the franchise as well as take a look at some of the more interesting series within the franchise…and I think I have done that, plus this retrospective is long enough already.

Street Fighter is a king among fighting games. Sure, it has had its ups and downs over the almost 30 year history of the franchise. It has spawned other notable franchises and crossovers (Final Fight). Even after all this time, Street Fighter II is regarded as one of the very best (if not THE best) of the one on one/tournament fighters out there. Street Fighter II changed the gaming world when it was released and is still just as playable now as it was back in 1991…no matter which of the dozens of different versions you play.

The game franchise grew to much more than just games too. Movies (some terrible, some pretty good), board games, toys, clothing, soundtracks, collectable coins, artwork. There is even a Street Fighter Monopoly…

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When you have your own Monopoly, you know you are a successful franchise.

Street Fighter II was my teenage years as it was for so many others.
Happy fighting people.

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