Here’s part two of our series on ’90s classics to get for your new Mini or TheC64.
So the machine isn’t back in the cupboard yet, eh? Ours neither. If you’ve played your way through our suggestions from last time, here are five more games to side load onto your new and very tiny C64 or its keyboard boasting full-sized brother.
If you don’t know how to do that, or even what side loading is, go and have a look at part one, and – bosh – Infinite fun! Er, except when the files don’t work. Hmm (shut up – Ed). Right. Off we go. Five more games from the ’90s you might’ve missed if you’d already upgraded to an Amiga…starting…now!
6. FIRST SAMURAI
- Released: 1992, UBI Soft
- Genre: Platform slasher
- Original CF rating: 96% (issue 17)
By 1992, too many releases were mediocre cut down versions of their Amiga and console counterparts. The excuse was that the C64 just wasn’t powerful enough anymore.
Clearly, nobody sent that memo to First Samurai programmers, Vivid Image. This game’s as big as the lead 16-bit version on the Amiga and it reeks of care and attention to detail.
The setting is Eastern Asia. You’re a young Samurai. One day, a demon King arrives and razes your village to the ground. You’re the only one left, and with the help of a wizard you’re sent to the future with a magic sword to avenge the death of your master.
Now you might think that this is the cue for some relentless slashing. And there is a lot of that: the game’s frantic pace never lets up. There’s always something to fend off or dodge. But this game is thoughtful: to progress, you need to regularly call on your spirit master to solve certain puzzles. For example, there’s a waterfall in level one. To pass it, you need to find and collect four logs. Then, you ring a bell. Your guide will appear, placing the logs across the gushing water and allowing you to cross.
You start the game in the wilderness of your village. Cherry blossoms fall. You pass statues of Buddah. The skies aren’t the oh-so-familiar deathly black of so many 8-bit games. They’re a hazy purple, with trees native of Asia silhouetted in the background. Later, you navigate a speeding train before taking to the grotty backstreets of a Bangkok style city and drop into the sewers. Finally, there’s a futuristic landscape which is pure Bladerunner. It’s an absolute joy to navigate.
Everywhere in First Samurai there are puzzles to solve, demons to beat and things to collect. The game’s enormous. So many 8-bit titles lack Samurai‘s true feeling of space and the ability to wander around and do what you want in whatever order. If you get stuck, there’s a pretty smart hint system. But it’s unlikely you’ll ever get frustrated. There’s more than one way to suss the game, and it’s so beautifully presented you’ll be enjoying yourself far too much to care.
7. SMASH TV
- Released: 1991, Ocean
- Genre: static screen shoot and collect ’em up
- Original CF rating: 97% (issue 15)
Turn on, tune in, drop dead!
Ocean’s frantic 1991 shooter was all about a violent game show of the future. Contestants get killed in the pursuit of big, big prizes. That’s entertainment, eh?
You guide your contestant through a maze of rooms, each of which are filled with stuff that can royally screw you up: there are killer droids, tanks, bombs and minefields. There’s no way out of a room until you finish off everything that moves!
Along the way (and when you kill stuff), you pick up prizes: there are giftwrapped TVs, money, gold, and bonuses that will give you extras lives or bombs or shields. Occasionally, a door will appear tempting you into a bonus room with yet more prizes – but it is difficult to reach and you could die trying to win that speedboat.
As Commodore Format’s review of the time says, easily the most impressive thing about Probe sofware’s conversion of this arcade game is the sheer speed of the thing. It never seems to let up no matter how many sprites get onto the screen, and pretty much everything from the coin-op original is there.
“The only thing missing was the snake boss”, programmer Nicholas Jones told us on our Facebook page. “It was coded and working in the game but there was absolutely no memory for the sprites. This was the only thing that I remember had to be taken out”.
That is the only real concession in an absolutely huge, unique, slick slab of game that you really can’t go wrong with. CF
- Released: 1991, Storm
- Genre: Static screen platformer
- Original CF rating: 82% (issue 13)
It’s generally thought that the British games industry took its eye off the ball in the late ’80s, just as the Japanese creators were starting to get up to full speed. We saw some of the best work on the SNES, of course, but simple, gorgeous, thoughtful arcades were getting converted to the Commodore by the early ’90s too.
Rod-Land, known in Japan as Yousei Monogatari Rod Land – 妖精物語ロッドランド – is a 1990 coin op from Jaleco. Storm got the micro computer rights, and this straightforward Bubble Bobble inspired game is almost too simple to be fun. But it is. Each screen is full of flowers, which the fairy you play – either Tam or Rit, or both in two-player – must collect. Get them all, and move on to the next level. Each stage is full of unusually cute and manga-esque baddies: fluffy rabbits, “cuddly” sharks and elephants. Pushing fire activates Tam or Rit’s rod; that bashes the enemies from side to side, and when they’re dead they’ll leave all manner of weapons you can activate by walking over them. You’ve got the ability to use a magic ladder to reach the next platform, too, by pushing fire and up. Only one at a time, though, and the baddies can use the ladders too.
The end-of-level guardians are like something from a ’90s console: giant whales, elephants and bunnies. It’s this constant cute-yet-evil dynamic that gives the game real character. It’s easy to pick up, infinitely playable and you’ll want to again and again.
9. MAYHEM IN MONSTERLAND
- Released: 1993, Apex
- Genre: Side scrolling platformer
- Original CF rating: 100% (issue 38)
What list of ’90s essentials would be complete without mention of the game that, through no fault of its own, is one of the most controversial classics of all time? Having chronicled the progress of this speedy platformer from the creators of the Creatures series, Commodore Format arguably did the game more harm than good by awarding it a perfect 100% score in late 1993, leading to literally years of discussion about the final score rather than the beautiful game itself.
“I remember being blown away by how good Mayhem was”, remembers CF editor of the time Andy Hutchinson. “And, in all honesty, I couldn’t believe that the Rowland brothers had made something so cool for the little old C64. It seemed to me like this perfect full stop at the end of the C64’s history – a classic, well-honed little platformer, exclusive to the 64. Let’s not forget that this was at a time when the Megadrive and SNES were huge and I’m sure the Rowlands could have got work with any number of coding teamswith their skills, but they didn’t, they worked their arses off on that game.
I remember us talking about the score for it. I can’t remember exactly, but I don’t think Simon and Clur agreed with me and I don’t blame them because it’s bats-arse isn’t it? Nothing is ever completely perfect, is it? But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the score was right. I gave it 100% not because it was perfect but because it was the last great game on the last great 8-bit home computer. It was like its swan-song. I wanted it to go out on a high and, as I mentioned, I honestly thought I’d be the last editor. What better end can there be for this awesome computer than a last amazing game?”
You’ve got to see Andy’s logic within context of the time; nobody could have forseen that the C64 would actually go on to see something arguably greater 25 years later in Sam’s Journey, for example. But look, here we go again: talking about the score of this gorgeous, slick platformer rather than the fun you can have with it yourself. Check out our dedicated pages, download it, and enjoy.
10. TURRICAN 2
- Released: 1991, Rainbow Arts
- Genre: Shoot ’em up
- Original CF rating: 96% (issue 6)
We’re used to lengthy cut scenes and introductions in videogames these days, but C64 Turrican II was ahead of the curve in 1991. Its slick, fifteen minute (!) opening sequence (check it out in the video above) was a technical masterclass. Yet it merely whets the appetite for what is to come…
Legendary coder Manfred Trenz said that this platform blast ’em up was to be his last ever game for the Commodore 64. And like so many titles from 1990/’91, a programmer who’d had so many years to get to grips with the machine was able to squeeze out every last drop to leave us with something very special.
The game is huge in every respect. “So massive the main sprite needs a Portaloo, really”, said reviewer Andy Dyer. The twelve stages move in every direction and are full of parallax scrolling. Enormous enemies are literally screens high. There is lapping water and ferocious fire, dense forests and deep water.
Spiders drop onto your head; deadly fish leap from waterfalls. There are dozens of things to avoid or kill – each with a pleasingly meaty sound effect.
And to counter them? You have weapons. Oh, so many weapons. There are lasers. Things that fire 360 degrees. A protective “wall of death” that you can fire up to shield yourself. And so many others to discover along the way. It plays – and almost looks – like a console game from the future.
It looks good, it sounds good, and it’s packed with variety. What more to say? It’s A Corker. CF