Thursday, 11 February 2010

Arcade Conversion Madness - 5 of the best Arcade-Spectrum conversions

The golden age of arcade gaming came about in 1984. It brought with it Mikie, Gradius, Rush 'N' Attack (Green Beret for us westerners) and Pac-Land. Kids pumped their quarters and 10p's in the slots, trying to get that bit further. The following years brought with it the classics R-Type, OutRun, Afterburner, Sunset Riders, NARC and the game that revolutionised the 1v1 brawler, Street Fighter II and again, people became interested in the arcades. Of course, People like you and me could only dream of having these games in their arcade form in our homes, but software houses like Ocean (and their Imagine brand), U.S Gold, Konami and Tengen (Domark) decided that they would have a stab at re-creating those games for the home market. Whereas some succeeded, some fell flat on their arse like a drunk at a disco. These are my 5 of the best, that are nearly or just as good as their arcade fathers, for the humble Speccy.

5 - R-TYPE (Irem -Converted by Software Studios and published by Electric Dreams, 1988)

Some people thought this would be just like the conversion of Nemesis on the home micros (poor) with awful collision detection and dire controls. But, it came as a bit of a surprise when it turned out to be just as good, if not better, than the Arcade version. The Spectrum version especially, featured all the levels, all the bosses (including Dobkeratops and the Airship level) and rather excellent graphics, it didn't even have any slowdown when loads of enemies featured onscreen. But it done it's job, and some people say it's harder than it's arcade parent, which I'm not even going argue with. The only casualty was the C64 version, which was rushed.

4 - Golden Axe (Sega - Converted by Probe Software and published by Virgin Games, 1991)

Released late in the Speccy's life, Golden Axe was your typical side scrolling hack 'em up. You slap people around the head with your sword, collect magic to use on bigger foes and generally avenge your family/people. It wasn't all that different for your normal run of the mill slap 'em up, but it played great. The home conversions were just as good. The Amiga was, surprise surprise, almost identical to the arcade version in every way. The 8-bit ports did suffer, but coped rather well, even the Speccy. As always, they managed to ramp up the difficulty making it harder than french kissing a cobra, but it was still enjoyable. The graphics matched their arcade counterpart very well indeed and played just as well. The Spectrum could never be able to do an exact replica of arcade games, but this certainly came close.

3 - Shadow Warriors (Tecmo - Converted by Teque Software and Published by Ocean, 1991)

Being one of the toughest arcade games I've ever come across, it also became one of the toughest home conversions. Shadow Warriors (Ninja Gaiden in Japan) sees you as the last Shadow Warrior (all your pals who also posses the same powers have been taken control of by a demon) and must go around beating the shit out of your former comrades. With moves like the Phoenix Backflip and the Flying Neck Throw, you must traverse through 6 levels, 5 end of level guardians and finally, the Demon himself. You can make use of poles to kick from, can smash phone booths and barrels, tightrope walk across pipes and cross a very packed road. The Spectrum shows that it can do large sprites, but this game shows that it can also do speed as well, even with 2 enemies on screen with you. As I said before, the game is rock hard, but if you can find the sweet spot (where you can't get hit at all, but you can still hit the enemies), then you've got it licked. It doesn't work against the level guardians though. This is a competant port of a good, if rock arcade game.

2 - Strider (Capcom - Converted by Tiertex and published by U.S Gold, 1989)

Tiertex and U.S Gold normally spells the words Crap, Game and Conversion (look at Strider II). But, for some reason, they hit the nail on the head with this. It plays like the arcade game, with all the levels and looks like the arcade game as well. As with some aracde-Speccy games, there is a huge status bar at the bottom. But, with this, it just looks right. It fits right in. There's not a sound of music but there is some sound, like when you use your sword, but when you get engrossed, it doesn't really matter. This, along with their conversion of Thunderblade, rank as the only Arcade-Speccy games to, at the very least, try.

1 - Chase HQ (Taito - converted by John O'Brien, Bill Harbison and Jonathon Dunn and published by Ocean, 1989)

Without a doubt, one of the most ambitious conversions ever, Spectrum Chase HQ is a masterpiece of Spectrum coding, with speech, speed and flashing blue and red lights on the display when your chasing a suspect! The game plays just as well as its arcade forbear, only without the wheel (boo!) pedals (hiss!) and gear stick (sod it!) but that doesn't get in the way of a solid game with graphics that match the arcade and a scaling road with more twists and turns than an episode of Ashes to Ashes. So, fire up the Quattro (well....Porsche) and go after those armed bastards like a bat out of hell and dish out some good, old fashioned justice.

Let's go, Mr. Driver!!....and why not?

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