Tuesday 11 November 2014

Strider - Sega Mega Drive - 1990 / Strider Hiryu - Sharp X68000 - 1992

Strider (or Strider Hiryu as it is known in Japan) is a hack ‘n’ slash platform game released into the arcades in 1989.  I acquired it for my Atari ST and like R-Type and OutRun it was a disappointing conversion.  I’m guessing the same is true of the other European home computer releases as none of them appear on my shortlist. 

The two versions that are on my shortlist are Strider for the Sega Mega Drive from 1990 and Strider Hiryu for the Sharp X68000 which was released in Japan in 1992.  The X68000 arguably hosts the most faithful conversion of Strider including some nice speech between stages.  The Sega Mega Drive release has larger sprites, slightly inferior graphics and a different ending but is equally as playable.
Mecha Pon on the Sega Mega Drive (left) and Sharp X68000 (right)

The game is set in the near future – 2048 to be precise – and the world is ruled by a tyrannical dictator known as the Grandmaster. You are cast as Hiryu, a member of an order of ninja-like agents known as Striders.  It is your task to fight your way through the games five stages in order to bring an end to his reign.

The basic aim of the game is to traverse each stage from left to right.  Hiryu is controlled by the d-pad and two buttons.  One button allows him to jump and the second to attack.  The main means of dispatching enemies is the plasma sword.  Pressing down and the jump button simultaneously makes the character slide to get under obstacles and take out weaker opponents.

Strider Hiryu is very versatile character.  He can climb sheer walls, hang from ledges and platforms and perform a long cartwheel jump.  Each stage has been designed to make the most of these abilities seeming as tall as they are wide.
Part of the second stage involves leaping between aircraft (X68000)

Power ups can be found scattered around the stages and are dropped by certain enemies.  These include increasing the range of the plasma sword, adding to the health bar and providing extra lives.  The power ups can also include robotic helpers.  These comprise an eagle that can dispatch aerial enemies and droids that can take out ground based opponents.  There is also a robotic tiger that follows Hiryu but didn’t seem to help much.  The final power up gives Strider a couple of short-lived doubles that make him invincible.
The robot eagle helps take down airborne enemies (X68000)

Every time Hiryu is hit his health gauge is decreased.  When this is depleted he will lose a life.  He can also lose a life if he falls off the bottom of the screen or when the time limit runs out.  When all lives are lost each version contains a couple of continues.

Although these two games represent the best versions of Strider at the time, neither is perfect.  Both suffer graphical glitches when the screen gets busy (though not as glitchy as my example gameplay video).  I also found Strider starts to get very difficult during the second level, but I guess that’s the nature of the coin-op original.  It’s still a great game and I am finding it difficult to separate the two versions.
At the end of stage one the Russian Parliament forms into a hammer and sickle wielding centipede (Mega Drive)

Example gameplay from the Sharp X68000 (a combination of my screen recording software and youtube makes the graphics more glitchy than normal (especially at the end))....

Saturday 1 November 2014

Splatterhouse - NEC PC Engine - 1990

Splatterhouse is a 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up published for NEC’s PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 consoles.  It was converted from Namco’s 1988 arcade machine.  I have opted for the PC Engine release as the North American version has been toned down slightly including the look of the main sprite.  Gameplay is otherwise identical.
The hockey mask is better suited to this game than the red one in the US version.

The story is set when Rick and Jennifer, two parapsychology students, enter the mansion of mad Dr West to take refuge from a storm.  The mansion is known locally as Splatterhouse due to rumours of gruesome experiments being performed by West.  As they enter, the door slams shut behind them, Jennifer vanishes and Rick is rendered unconscious.  Rick later awakens in a dungeon wearing a possessed mask that bestows superhuman strength and sets off in search of the missing Jennifer.

Gameplay is ‘by the numbers’ side scrolling beat ‘em up with Rick able to jump, punch and kick his way through the seven levels of the mansion.  Weapons such as meat cleavers and spanners can be used to help dispatch the multitude of undead, possessed and/or just plain unpleasant nasties that stand in your way.
Getting attacked by possessed furniture

You start the game with three lives but can take several hits determined by the number of hearts remaining in the life meter.  Losing a life means you restart the current level from the beginning.  If you lose all your lives there is an option to continue.
WTF?  Ewww

Although Splatterhouse courted some controversy on release, it is pretty tame by today’s standards.  The game still plays well with tight, responsive and simple controls.  The graphics are good and the sound is fine, if not memorable.  It’s also not a difficult game so doesn't become frustrating and you always believe you can do better on the next go. Besides which, stoving in the head of a zombie with a length of 4x2 never gets old.
You're not even safe from your own reflection.

Example gameplay.....