Author Archives: J.C

New Retro Vault: Treasure Adventure Game

Treasure Adventure Game has been around for at least five years and is by and large an excellent metroidvania adventure. So it’s a bit of a crime that we haven’t covered it yet.

With a full-blown commercial redo now released, I thought it was high tide to don my paper pirate hat and mention the original freeware gem that inspired it.

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The Lair

There hasn’t been a great deal of beat ’em ups that used RPG mechanics. There sure have been some good ones – the old arcade D&D games and River City Ransom were pretty cool. Zombie Smashers X and Castle Crashers were some pretty interesting indie attempts, circa the early 2000s. Yet, overall, not many have tried their hand at the unpopular genre-fusion.

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The Lair takes a step to reconcile this, though it’s more a nifty little RPG-flavoured beat ’em up than true fusion of dungeon crawling and combo juggling. Still, it’s pretty darn fun, with impressive graphics for the minimalistic game-making tools used. Yes, I like this. More, please.

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Sigma-Finite Dungeon

The remarkable thing about zero-budget indie RPGs made by guys in their basement is that can compel us to still play them under the shadow of top quality million dollar triple-A ventures. Case in point: I recently acquired The Witcher III, and yet here I am, playing Sigma-Finite Dungeon. That’s not to say the Witcher isn’t great, because it is, but there’s always room to indulge in that sense of old-school satisfaction that pushing yet another pixelated goblin to its death in a spike trap elicits.

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Sigma-Finite Dungeon is an intoxicating mashup of Final Fantasy Tactics party-based battles with roguelike dungeon crawling, with a party to equip, skills to leverage, and monsters to slush. It’s not quite as deep as FFT or Nethack, but its tactical combat provides some solid satisfaction.

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Magna Driver

I have a confession to make: I don’t really miss JRPGs all that much. After gluttonously gorging on Final Fantasy‘s heyday (6 and 7 in particular), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and more, I’m incredibly blessed. But I don’t really want more.

Yet… If it’s one thing I really do miss from those days where trifling matters like paying taxes were not on my radar, it is the FF5/Tactics style job system. That shit was awesome. JRPG derivations are a dime-a-dozen now, but this one enticing element is never authentically replicated.

Magna Driver heard my call, though, emerging at my darkest hour. It may be a prototype-level demo, sure, but that same addictive crack-like quality of the job system is still there, and I devoured it gleefully for about an hour until I had unlocked every job and ability for each character.

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Remake Roundup: Super Mario Bros. – Part #2

Welcome back to part 2 of our Remake Roundup feature looking at redo’s of the classic 1985 turtle-smashing game Super Mario Bros.

Last time around, we looked at some pretty straight-up remakes that, for the most part, took the original formula and merely spruced it up with better graphics or gameplay elements, but kept things mostly the same.

This time around we dive deeper into the abyss to look at games that take the original Mario concept and start to alter it in more interesting ways. There were no hard rules on what fits for this round, but I generally looked for games that added something innovative but kept the implacable Mario spirit.

Let’s a-go!

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L’Abbaye Des Morts: Megadrive Port

Retro is surely a relative term, since the last event I went to considered Mario 64 as being particularly old-school and anything earlier than that as “ancient school.” That felt jarring to me, but then again, Locomalito’s excellent horror-tinged chapel platformer L’Abbaye Des Morts‘ ZX Spectrum look’n’feel always felt a bit too ancient for me to really get into. Luckily, they’ve shifted things up 8 gears and released a Megadrive port, enabling me to slip seducitvely into a more comfortable bracket while still maintaining enough decrepitness to maintain snarky comments about “kids these days.”

If you want to go the extra level, they’re also appeared to go ahead and make a physical cartridge release for playing on an actual Megadrive (curses mum for giving it away…), though from what I can tell on the Spanish-only page, it’s some sort of Kickstarter campaign at the moment.

Apart from that, as far as I can tell, nothing else has been changed about the game aside from the graphics and sounds, but if you haven’t already played the original version then this just might be the last push you need to dive into a church full of demonic horror.

L’Abbaye Des Morts | Download

The game is a Sega Megadrive ROM file (.bin) so you will need an emulator to play it. I recommend KEGA Fusion.

You Have to Win the Game: Steam EGA edition

You have to win the game… Again! Minimalist indie classic You Have to Win the Game was a sweet little hit back in 2012. If there were an alternative universe with a DOS-based 286 metroidvania, this game would have been it. It was one of the first games I posted about, and I loved what it managed to pull off with the otherwise eye-gouging CGA graphics limitation.

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At some unknown point, YHtWtG moved onto Steam, and then added a bunch of new features including an equally lovely EGA mode, boasting a whopping 16 colours! It also includes more difficult remixed campaign and a playable cat character, you know, for people who are into that sort of thing. And best of all, it’s still 100% free (note: there’s a $1 option on Itch.io if you want a permanent Steam key, which is otherwise not available for free games.)

You Have to Win the Game | download steam / itch.io

 

Bold Blade

Those anime protagonists sure know how to wield a massively oversized impractical sword. You’d think that by the time they actually manage to lift it, a ninja would’ve already stabbed them in the face a few times, but apparently not. Nevertheless, Bold Blade puts my theory to the test, with gameplay entirely swiveled around (pun intended) the art of sweeping a screen-clearing hunk of metal through wave after wave of monsters.

Bold Blade clearly channels the impractical sword-wielding antics of Ginormo Sword, but where that effort happily jumped into a lo-fi psychedelic deep end without abandon, Blade is far more polished in appearance and follows a much more grounded 90s arcade approach, and I could easily see myself playing this on the SEGA Megadrive as an angst-filled teenager, when giant swords where the best solution for most problems.

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Fortify

Fortify is a classic tower defense game, reeking of late 90’s indie. From the MS paint style graphics to the somewhat clunky interface, everything takes a distant backseat to the detailed gameplay and challenging learning curve.

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The Lost Cover Disks: Elf

lostcoverdisks_elf

Back in the day elves were seen as cheery little bastards, known for helping lost travelers find their way, constructing toys for old fat men in subzero temperatures, or being Will Ferrel.

Elf, a 1991 game developed by Nirvana Systems and published by OCEAN, is not about those kinds of elves. Elf hates you and your family and wants you to die a confusing, pointless death, again and again. But it looks fantastic while doing so.

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