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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Congo Bongo (Sega, 1983)

Developed (at least partly) by Ikegami Tsushinki for SEGA Enterprises Ltd., and released originally for the Japanese arcades as "Tip Top" in 1983.

Converted and mostly published by Sega for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit computers, MSX, Sega SG-1000, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Mattel Intellivision and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A in 1983.

So far, the only known credits are:
- Commodore 64 and VIC-20: additional programming by Kevin Kenney; published by SEGA/US Gold.
- Intellivision: programming by Mike Noll
- TI-99/4A: published by Texas Instruments Incorporated

Also converted and published by Sega for the Apple ][ and IBM-PC compatibles in 1984.
Still also converted for the ColecoVision in 1984, and published by Coleco Industries, Inc.
Converted again for the Commodore 64 in 1985 by SEGA/US Gold.

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GAME STATUS


Here's another early Sega classic for you, and our game for today is perhaps not quite as obscure as the last one. This time, I'm picking up one of my friend Bob's favourite games, Congo Bongo, which was basically Sega's attempt at cashing in on the success of their earlier collaboration with Konami on Frogger, as well as Nintendo's Donkey Kong. According to Wikipedia, it wasn't much of a success when it was released, but despite of it, Congo Bongo was ported to nearly every major gaming platform at the time, and uniquely, the C64 was given two different official conversions, as if someone was trying to apologise and make up for making such a mess the first time around. Weirdly, as with most other Sega's early games, the game's developing and porting team credits are well kept secrets for the most part, but there are indications in the game's original arcade ROM to it having been likely coded at least in part by the company Ikegami Tsushinki, who also worked on Donkey Kong and Zaxxon. If anyone finds out more about the credits for any version, please drop a line in the comments section.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Up'n Down (Sega, 1983)

Designed by Yoji Ishii.
Developed by SEGA Enterprises Ltd., and released for the Japanese arcades by SEGA, and for the North American arcades by Bally/Midway in 1983.

Ported for the following home computers and video game systems in-house by SEGA Enterprises Ltd.: Apple ][, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit computers, ColecoVision and Commodore 64 in 1984 and IBM-PC compatibles in 1987.

ColecoVision conversion programmed by Paul Crowley. Commodore 64 music by Tony Vece. IBM-PC conversion by R. Leittner. No other credits are known.

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GAME STATUS


This month, I shall be focusing on Sega's old arcade titles, starting with this slightly lesser-known title to give some filler for the other end of the alphabetically ordered list. The popularity, or at least the becoming of more common knowledge among 80's gamers of Up'n Down, I believe, can be credited mostly to piracy. At least from what I can remember, it was one of those games that was most likely to be featured on any C64 gamer's collection of either turbo tapes or disks full of single-filed games. I'm pretty sure it must have been the same story for Apple ][, 8-bit Atari and IBM-PC communities back then, but I can only attest to the game's C64 spreading. Although Up'n Down along with a few other games from Sega were to be converted for both ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC, this was one of the games that sadly never got released, but we're still hoping for a prototype or something to appear. Not only that, but there was supposed to be an SG-1000 version of the game, which was reportedly advertised in Japan and Finland of all places - that one never appeared either. As it is, though, seven different versions is already a lot to take in and write about.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

FRGR #08: Golf Master (Hewson/Rack-It, 1988)

Written by Mikko Helevä in 1987 for the Commodore 64. Loading screen by Stephen "SIR" Robertson. Originally published through Hewson's Rack-It budget label in 1988.

Re-released as "Challenge Golf" by Prism Leisure Corp. in 1992.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


We continue the Finnish Retro Game Reviews series back in the expected realm of Commodore 64 games. This time, however, the game under inspection is the only commercially released game from a then-promising game developer, Mikko Helevä, whose only other game developing credit is an Asteroids-clone called Space Ace, also for the C64. Although Golf Master came too late in the 8-bit computers' time to make much of an impact, it was deemed good enough for a re-release by Prism Leisure in 1992, as well as freebies included in both February 1991 Zzap!64 Megatape and Commodore Force Reel Action #7 covertape (from 1993). Despite the relative success, and very likely due to Mikko's young age of 18 when his Golf Master was released, he never got back into game developing - at least not to anyone's knowledge. Golf Master's current rating being 5.1 from 14 votes at Lemon64, perhaps it's not much of a wonder that we haven't heard from Mikko Helevä since 1989. In any case, once again in a relatively short, but seamless review form, here's a proper look at the only currently available Finnish golf game - let's hope it serves a purpose.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Drelbs (Synapse Software, 1983)

Designed and written by Kelly Jones for the Atari 8-bit computers in 1983. Converted for the Apple ][ by Jonathan Tifft. Converted for the Commodore 64 by Miriam Nathan and William Mandel in 1984.

Published by Synapse Software in the North American market and by U.S. Gold in the European market.

Remake for the Commodore Amiga written by Simon Chin, and released into public domain in 1995.

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GAME STATUS


Here we have another cult classic from Synapse Software's catalogue, this making it the sixth game from Synapse to be featured on this blog. It is perhaps a bit odd that it took so long to come to this one, at least from my point of view, because it's one of the games that was requested early on in the blog's life, but for a long time, I wasn't aware of the unofficial Amiga remake or even the Apple ][ version. I remember this game having been a great favourite of mine and also a few of my friends back in their active C64 days, which makes it strange to realize that it wasn't much of a hit back when it was originally published, so in the hopes of spreading out the good word, here's my contribution to advertising this game.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Garfield: Big, Fat, Hairy Deal (The Edge, 1987)

Designed and written for the Commodore 64 by Stephen Cargill. (This has not been divulged anywhere, but it's an assumption based on information in other versions.) Music by Neil Baldwin and sound effects by Jas C. Brooke. Released by The Edge in 1987.

Converted and released for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1988: Design and programming by Stephen Cargill, with additional programming on the Amiga version by John Jones-Steele. Amiga and ST graphics by Jack Wilkes, Amstrad graphics by Mat (Sneap, perhaps?) and Spectrum graphics by Neil Strudwick. Amiga music and sound effects by David Whittaker. Released by The Edge in 1988.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


The first of many games featuring everyone's favourite overweight feline was expected with some enthusiasm in 1987, and not only because the first attempt for the Atari 2600 was cancelled three years prior, and the second computerized version of Garfield wasn't a game at all, but a cartoon studio of sorts. The company to take over the first Garfield game to actually be released was The Edge (currently Edge Games), later to become more known for their enforcing trademarks relating to the word "edge". But at the time, The Edge were still known to produce some pretty good games like Bobby Bearing, Fairlight, Brian Bloodaxe and Mindstone. So, when Garfield was announced, there was promise of high quality cartoon graphics and an adventure worthy of Garfield's name, and these promises were even fulfilled to some extent. Having a beloved cartoon (or comic strip) turned into a computer game was still somewhat of a novelty at the time, so it didn't bother too much that the game was practically a modified version of Pyjamarama. Deeper within the surface, though, Garfield's first proper game proved to be a more brutally aggravating game for some than what one would have expected from a Pyjamarama variant, and has been considered either a lost opportunity or a wasted effort by many. My experience of the game has been woefully limited to the C64 original so far, so this entry is not just an attempt to prove that it's still a rather playable game, but also to educate myself and others like me of the differences between all five versions of one big, fat, hairy computerized deal.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

FRGR #07: Kultakuume (Triosoft, 1986)

Written by Marko Aho and Kari Aaltonen for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 1985, and published by Triosoft in 1986.

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DESCRIPTION & STATUS


The series of Finnish Retro Game Reviews continues from where my series of a History of Finnish Games began. This will probably be the shortest entry in the history of FRGCB, because it's a review of a text adventure game. Well, at least it has some graphics, so it's not going to be a completely barren entry in that way. Too bad the cover art and the loading screen have been lost in time, and the only downloadable version currently available is a .z80 file (inside a .zip archive) at Marko's old website, which was last updated in June 2007. In any case, Kultakuume (Finnish for "Gold Rush") was the only commercially released Finnish text adventure game for the ZX Spectrum, and it was made with Gilsoft's The Quill Adventure System from 1983 and The Illustrator from 1984. It was also one of only three commercially released Finnish ZX Spectrum games, the third of which is a golf game which hasn't been found yet.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Blades of Steel (Konami, 1987)

Originally developed and released by Konami for the arcades in 1987. Sound editor: Kazuki Muraoka. Cabinet graphic design: Don Marshall. Further credits are unknown.

Conversion for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Konami: Directed by Shigeharu Umezaki.
Programming by Shigeharu Umezaki and Satoshi Kishiwada. Character design by Setsu Muraki and T. Nishikawa. Music by Shinya Sakamoto, Kazuki Muraoka, Atsushi Fujio and Kiyohiro Sada. Released in 1988. Also released for the Famicom Disk System as "Konamic Ice Hockey".

Conversion for the Commodore Amiga and IBM-PC compatibles by Novotrade: Programming by Peter Agocs, Judit Buczolich and József Szentesi. Graphics by Zoltan Hoth. Released by Konami in 1990.


Converted for the Commodore 64 by Antal Zolnai for Novotrade, and released by Konami in 1990.

Converted for the Nintendo Game Boy by Konami: Directed by Y. Nakanishi. Programming by Y. Nakanishi and S. Tamate. Character design by Nobuaki Matsumoto. Music by Hidehiro Funauchi and Akiko Itoh. Released as "Konamic Ice Hockey" by Konami in 1991 in Japan. Released as "Blades of Steel" by Ultra in 1991 outside of Japan.

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


Happy New Year, everybody! Let's start 2017 with something cheerful and fitting for the season: ice hockey! Since the blog has already featured my all-time favourite hockey game - Hat Trick, there is only one other game of this particular sport that can be considered good comparison material. Curiously enough, my initial research into Blades of Steel faced a peculiar obstacle: no source seems to have any knowledge on the team behind the original arcade game. Even the "thank-you" sections in the NES and Game Boy credits list the original arcade team as exactly such. Mysterious, isn't it?