Tuesday, 24 May 2011

We have the power: The Commodore Amiga 500

One of Commodore's most successful home computers (along with the Commodore 64 Micro Computer), the Amiga 500 was a home based brother of the A2000 business computer. I got one myself  for christmas in the late 80's (roughly 1988-89), and it came bundled with the Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants, Captain Planet & The Planeteers, Lemmings and Deluxe Paint III (the latter being used by me to draw many faces, with speech bubbles with the word 'ARSE' in them). Not a big line up of games, I grant you, but being 6/7 years old, you'd be pretty excited at the prospect of arcade-quality games in your own home (considering the Mega Drive was about 2-3 years away), and even conversions or arcade games themselves. The bundled games were a mixed bag: Lemmings was just great and frustrating, Bart Vs The Space Mutants was good and frustrating, and Captain Planet was just frustrating in its under averageness. Sure, it looked good, but it played awfully, and was the weakest of the three games.

One of the first games I'd actually bought for the machine was Treasure Island Dizzy. Now, the only experience of a Dizzy game I had was on the humble ZX Speccy, in the form of Fantasy World Dizzy, and Magicland Dizzy. The game was ok and was sodding hard to boot, with me still not knowing how to solve some of the puzzles. The other one was a game that I had originally sent through the post, and again played on the Speccy, and that was the lush graphics fest of Shadow of the Beast. It looked and sounded awesome, with an excellent opening sequence consisting of images and subtitles to tell the story. But, it was unfairly hard (which was common on those days, but this was even more so), with many paths. On the upside, at least it came with a free T-shirt (which I do in fact still have :) ). This was a taste of the things to come on this brilliant home computer. I got my hands on many more brilliant games, namely Rod-Land, Batman The Movie, Prince of Persia, Sensible Soccer, Desert Strike (ported from the Mega Drive in 1993....or was it 1992?), Apocalypse, Sensible Golf (am I the only person to love this game?) and Putty. But, one game, which would give the console shooters a run for their money, was made by Manfred Trenz, and was ported to the Spectrum, C64, Amstrad (I think :s) and later the consoles in Mega and Super flavours. That game was Turrican, and has since become somewhat of a cult classic.

Turrican showed what could be squeezed out of the 512k (1mb with the upgrade) of ram and its awesome sound chip. Playing the lead character, you run and jumped through dozens of levels, shooting a variety of aliens and end of level bosses (a giant, spiked hand, anyone?). It did show what the Amiga was truly capable of, and was an outstanding game in its own right. The mags of the time obviously thought so too, with glowing praise for it.

Yes, I do still have an Amiga 500 to this very day (admittedly, it is my fourth. The first blew up, the second one, an A600, just threw a wobbly and stopped working and the second A500 did the same and took its ball and went home), but due to space and time, I haven't the time to play it as much as I'd like. Still, there is emulation, and for that, I'm thankful, as I can now play the games I owned, own or want to own, and remember the memories the machine has given me over the past 23 years, and it's something I will pass on to my kids so they can enjoy the games I played when I was young, and let them enjoy them as much as I do.

Amiga 500: 1985 - 1996 RIP :(

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