Retro: GAIAPOLIS (Konami’s beat-’em-up game)

Konami’s arcade beat-’em-ups are the stuff of legend, with huge pulling power thanks to licences such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. However, the genre quickly began to lose ground when one-on-one fighters like Street Fighter II hit the scene, and were all but killed off when 3D games took over. This is a shame, because it left a great number of worthwhile games like Gaiapolis to die a commercial death.

Gaiapolis was Konami’s attempt to change its approach to beat-’em-ups, adopting a top-down perspective, a fantasy setting and some RPG-style elements to go with it. There’s a story at work, illustrated with cutscenes between stages, and the game even has a password system to allow players to resume their games. You can tell that Konami was attempting to create something of an epic here, and it works quite well. That having been said, the action is that of a standard beat-’em-up with added elements, rather than a more complete hybrid.


Each stage sees players wandering around, smacking up bad guys and collecting items. The game offers a variety of pick-ups – some are standard health items while others grant experience, allowing players to level up for more health and stronger attacks. The best ones are the assist characters though, as they provide diminutive helpers who will attack enemies either autonomously or as directed. We particularly like the little lizard knight, who knocks enemies down with a hammer.

Everything about Gaiapolis suggests a high quality production. The soundtrack ramps up the tension nicely and the visuals are amongst the best 2D visuals of their era, with varied stages and impressively large bosses to fight. The game also maintains its pace, not slowing down even with a variety of enemy characters are on-screen.

We’re not sure why this was never converted – it might not have the depth of a true role-playing game, but it certainly provides something different enough to be worthwhile. Even if the 16-bit consoles couldn’t have handled it, it would have made a good early release on the PlayStation or Saturn. Evidently, we’re not the only ones who liked it, as the game did eventually receive an unofficial Famicom conversion from the prolific pirate group Sachen.

CONVERTED ALTERNATIVE

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: TOWER OF DOOM 1993
Capcom’s attempt to bring the t high fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons to arcades resulted in a similar beat-’em-up format to Gaiapolis, though Capcom’s game retained the more traditional side-scrolling format.The game was bundled with its sequel on the Saturn in 1999, and on console and PC download services in 2013.

Flashback PC Retro Review

From Out of this World, Delphine’s extra-dimensional action hit for Interplay Productions, the Wrench developer now takes gamers on a far-future shoot-out with superbly rotoscoped graphics and diabolical aliens which are definitely “out of this world.” In Strategic Simulations, Inc.’s Flashback: The Quest for Identity, the protagonist is a young scientist extraordinaire, top athlete, and all-around good guy. This character, Conrad IV Hart, has discovered that Earth is being invaded by shape-shifting aliens with genocidal intentions. Naturally, it is up to the gamer to guide Conrad safely through 200 screens of action, intrigue and suspense in order to penetrate the mystery of the alien invaders and prevent the destruction of mankind.

Conrad, suffering from a massive memory loss, begins his adventures in the midst of a dense, steamy jungle on the Saturn moon of Titan. Before he can save the world, he must recover his identity and rediscover the alien plot that landed him in this strange environment. Though his memory fails him, Conrad is blessed with the combined athletic skills of a Tarzan and a Terminator, and his inventory includes a remarkably lethal and inexhaustible pistol. Mis graceful coordination and quick trigger finger will be needed to light killer robots, deadly cyborgs, corrupt police and sinister aliens.

In the course of his quest for identity, Conrad will travel back to Earth and then, to the aliens’ home planet. There, the fate of the world will be decided by Conrad’s quick thinking and sharp reflexes. With skill, determination, a bit of luck and many “saved” games, Conrad just might succeed. The alter native, of course, is abrupt termination, followed by another start from the previous saved game.

On The Levels

The dense leaves, twisted branches and dripping water of the first level evoke the organic atmosphere of the jungle. Each screen of the level is seen from a two-dimensional cross-section, and the lush background graphics form a consistent continuum throughout the level. Completion of the jungle level accomplishes two things. First, the player will gain skill at running and jumping, and also at avoiding or eliminating the omnipresent antagonists found at every turn. Second, the plot will unfold, revealing a story to match some of the most ambitious “B” sci-fi movies.

Levels I and II take place within the Titan city, New Washington. This city is built underground, complete with its own subway, bar and shifty denizen. Whirring ventilation fans, metal panels and a mix of concrete and steel walkways evoke a somewhat sterilized cyberpunk feel. Just arrived from the jungle, Conrad is penniless and must earn his keep by running errands, killing a deviant cyborg, and miraculously saving the city from an errant power turbine. Unfortunately, players will soon learn that a ticket for the necessary passage to Earth is exorbitantly expensive and must be procured in some other way. Fortunately, a TV studio is awarding starship tickets for Earth to those players who can complete a deadly game show, not unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man. After battling cyborgs and killer robots before a galactic TV audience, Conrad just might earn the First Place Prize of a free voyage to Earth.

The Earth of 2142 (levels IV and V) is not much different from some inner-cityscapes of today. Grimy concrete walls, near-dead trees, and bits of trash litter the walkways. Corrupt police patrol the polluted streets of Washington, itching to snoot Conrad on sight. The plot thickens considerably when our hero discovers the secret plans of the aliens and their scheme to invade Earth! These aliens arc not easy kills, absorbing repeated blows and changing shape to confuse their attackers. A truly hideous adversary, they!

The final levels find Conrad being tele-ported to the home world of the aliens, a grotesquely different environment than any Found on Earth. Strangely colored globes glow in the dim light, giving eerie shadows to the terrain. Oozing plants and weird rock formations surround the passageways that lead into the depths of this world. The player will soon discover that the aliens are not the only deadly entities to be found here. It will take Conrad many attempts before he can decipher the mystery of the planet, and so change the course of history forever. Long live Conrad! Long live Earth! Save often!

Flashy Sights And Sounds

Flashback really excels in the graphics department. Each screen is rendered in sharply detailed VGA graphics. As in Out of this World cinematic sequences bridge together the plot and give the player a much needed rest from the action.

What really stands out, though, is the fluid movement ol the characters. The game boasts impressive animation derived from 24 frames-pcr-second rotoscoping—a truly uncanny thing to watch! Conrad jumps, rolls, twists and runs with ease and grace. With a little imagination, the player might even see the muscles rippling under Conrad’s drab clothing. And the superb graphics don’t stop with just our hero. All the baddies are endowed with the same smooth movements. The aliens slurp along like hideous purple blobs, but with the quickness of a cat. Cyborgs stride with robotic precision then suddenly transform themselves into a speeding blur, impossible to track with weapons.

The game designers earn extra “attaboys” for the interesting interactive environment in Flashback. Stones, passkeys, ID cards and other nifty devices are scattered throughout all levels and must be used to interact (in a limited way) with other characters, switches, electronic doors and elevators. In many places the screen flashes a modest “alert” icon, just to make sure that Conrad doesn’t overlook one of these devices.

From the opening scene of the game, players with sound cards will be well rewarded. Flashbacks supports Sound Blaster, Ad Lib and Roland sound cards. The haunting cries ol jungle birds, explosive blasts from Conrad’s pistol, and the gurgling screams ol dying aliens reverberate dynamically over the loudspeakers.

Glaring Errors

All that Hashes is not gold, however, and Flashback has a few glaring Haws within its jeweled framework. A real problem is the awkwardness of the interface, whether with keyboard or joystick, which results in unnecessary frustration for the beginning gamer. The “A” and “B” buttons are used for certain actions, bur at times their functions were reversed. This needless confusion brought poor Conrad to his death more often than not.

Another significant problem was the lack of a game saving feature that can be accessed at any time, rather than only at pre-determined points in each level’s scenario. Temporary save-game opportunities were scattered throughout the game, but each level is quite lengthy and difficult. If a gamer is near completion of one level and becomes interrupted, he or she can only begin that same level from the start. In Europe this may be common practice, but many American gamers will find this unacceptable.

Final Flashes

Flashback is an excellent game that truly creates a sense of reality. The plot, farfetched at times, is better than most other action/arcade games. And, while Flashback does have its blemishes and save-game frustrations, the actual game play is superior to many, and the graphics and rotoscoped movement arc tops! Flashback should brings flashing smiles to everyone who enjoys a good shoot’em-up.

Out Of This World Review

Gallic games generally get a rough ride outside their native France – the spectacular Cinematique adventures of Delphine being something of an exception. Originally on the Amiga as Another World (the name it’ll eventually come to the UK under), it’s now available for the PC on import and looks sure to win a whole new set of fans…

INTO THE PLANET OF THE APES (WELL, NEARLY…)

1. Clinging to a submerged piano(!), Les
must reach the surface before the tentacles close in!

2. Made it! You’ve escaped the squid,
but it’s a bit of a case of out of the
frying pan into the fire…
3. Ick! These giant leeches are disgusting –
and deadly! Kill them by kicking them before
they reach you. 
4. Down boy! Local dogs are prowling,
and it’ll take more than a bowl of
Bonios to keep this one happy…
1. Out of This World is all about this chap, one Lester Knight Chaykin, a
young (and rather dashing) nuclear scientist. Little does he know, he’s on the
verge of a big discovery…

2. Here’s how it happens. One stormy night our hero arrives at the labrotory in his
flash motor to process the recults of his latest experimentals or something
(it dosen’t really matter…)

3 & 4. Les enters the top secret security code to let himself in. He sits
down at his computer, but lightning strikes the building, something goes horribly
wrong and… whammo!

5. Another dimension, here we come…!

TRAPPED – BUT NOT FOR LONG…

1. Caught by the aliens, Les has been
stuck in a swinging cage along with a
local crim of some type
2. Your cell-mate wakes you from your
troubled sleep – straight into a
real-life nightmare!
3. Time for a bit of a team up! Biding
their time, Les and his new buddy make
their  bid for freedom!
4. There’s a special gun to be grabbed
here – you can’t overestimate how useful
it’s going to be!

POWER UP YOUR WEAPON: HAPPINESS IS A BIG GUN

1. This electricity in this chamberd charges more
than just your hair – and Les just can’t get enough of it!
2. Tahoo! Now holding down fire for a few
seconds will shoot out this powerful
R-Type-style blast!
3. These soldiers marching past you in the
foreground show some of what Cinematique can do.
Good, innit?
4. Don’t worry you’re not too likely to get lost.
The game is, by necessity, fairly linear in
structure…

UP A CREEK, WITHOUT A PADDLE…

1. Whoops! Flood ahoy! Les is about to go
swimming, unless he looks sharpish.
Your best bet is to turn ’round here and run like hell!
2. Phew! Looks like our hero was just nimble
enough to avoid the torrent of water – this time.
Next tricky situation coming up…
3. Getting past these falling rocks is difficult…at first.
Practise (and frequent death) makes perfect.
4. Right, that’s all sorted. Time to wander off and see
what other trouble we can get into, I guess…

YET MORE POSSIBILITIES FOR INSTANT DEATH…!

1. Think you’ll be able to hold your breath long enough
to get through this underwater passage…?
2. Oops! Les plunges to this death for the 123rd time.
By now you’ll be getting used to this short of thing!
3. ‘Hey, don’t leave me!’ Don’t worry – this
Seeming desertion is only part of a cunning plan…
4. Much later on: Les is now in control
of a tank-like thing, driving ’round some
sort of Roman arena!

GOOD, BAD OR UGLY?

It’s difficult to classify Out Of This World – nothing quite like it has appeared on the PC (or, indeed, any other console) before. The recent Prince of Persia (see Player’s Guide this issue) is perhaps it closest cousin, but only because both games feature brilliant life like animation, and main characters that take a fair amount of getting used to to control. It’s not just working out how to get our hero to do something that’s tricky here, but when: it’s a limitation of this graphics system that it leaves a slight time lag between you telling the guy to do something and him actually doing it. This isn’t always a problem, but there are points in the game (the bit where you’re trying to dodge falling rocks, say) where you’ll need to know his reaction times well enough to compensate, or things will start getting very annoying indeed.

Still, that aside this is gread fun. Out Of This World is playable, enjoyable, very more-ish, and I prefer it to the original Amiga game – mainly because the superior PC Soundtrack really helps build up the atmosphere. Music is used very effectively here, changing pace to suit what’s happening on screen, and conveying the feeling of tension brilliantly. Sound used to complement story so well is something of a rarity. True, this version is slower in places (the Amiga is simply a faster machine at handling polygons), but not so much so that it becomes unworkable. Otherwise this is very similar game to the Amiga one, with few graphical changes.

A nicely presented, involving cart, then, but (you guessed it) there’s one big problem, and that’s the lack of long-term playability. This game simply isn’t going to last you a long time. To complete each section, a repetitive trial and error approach has to be adopted – there’s no other way to do it – and to make this sort of mucking around acceptable, frequent passwords are given out. The problem this creates, of course, is that with only 14 sections to get through, and so much user-friendliness, you’ll finish it in no time. Whether you buy or not depends upon your priorities – it’s a lovely game, and a delight to own, but good value it ain’t.

Verdict: 81/100

Beastlord Review

Shold you free this guy, or is there a
reason for him being locked in a net?

Take Shadow Of  The Beast 2, remove some of the visual excellence, add a bigger and more involved game and you’ve got Beastlord from Grandslam – surely one of the weakest arcade adventures yet seen. The plot waffles on about a myhical forest full of squirrels that is kept in check by unicorn, a hawk and a beam of light. One day, however, the unicorn is tied up, the hawk turned to stone and the beam of light stolen and the forces of darkness take over the forest. Who steps forward to reclaim the land? No, not the Dutch. You – the Beastlord.

The game is played out over three parallax scrolling levels, each splayed over huge maps during which you hit people, eat a lot, occasionally order dogs and squirrels to fetch things for you and hold very simple conversations with very simple people. just as well really, as you have to keep your mind on quite a few things. Time runs a lot faster than usual in this game, so your energy reserves can drop quite rapidly. The only real way to gain food is to beat people up, so you’ll find yourself fighting a hell of a lot of the time just to stay alive.

The design of the game means that you’ll need to do a lot of searching about and mapping before you can really get into the swing of things – many locations can’t be entered without specific objects, so be sure to fing everything you can first For example, on the first level, you can’t enter the witch’s house without the cloak of invisibility or you’ll get zapped.

The controls are a little suspect, to say the least. The control of the main character feels slack and unresponsive, and the mouse-controlled bank of items makes the game impossible to play with a hand-held joystick. It isn’t bad, and touches like the ripple effect caused by the cloak bring it up above the average mark, but only just.

Verdict: 51/100     

Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

Platform Ms-DOS/PC Genre Shooter Styles Overhead Free-Roaming Shooter Developer JAM Productions, Inc. Publisher Apogee Software Ltd. Release Date December 5, 1993 Controls Keyboard /Joystick/Gamepad/Mouse

Rating: 2,2/5

Blake Stone expandes on the Wolfenstein 3D game engine vvith nevv vveapons (neutron & plasma rifles), more_detailed graphics, & dangerous nevv enemies. Advance_through the warious levels using an_elevator requiring_key cards.

Duke Nukem II

year:93 – PC game / Duke Nukem II is everything you’d want from an action game. An incredibly sophisticated game engine gives this high-action game the power needed to ‘nuke’ your computer! Duke blasts his way through your screen with enough firepower to wake your neighbors.

The original Duke Nukem, released June 1991, soared to the top of the Shareware Top 10 list, where’s it’s been camped for 22 straight months–no other shareware program (of any type) has been this enduring and popular. But the reason for Duke’s extraordinary success is simple: It delivers the action players love, with state-of-the-art animation and graphics. The new Duke Nukem II once again sets the new standard for arcade/action games.

In this latest saga, Duke Nukem, while being interviewed on TV about his best selling book, “Why I’m So Great”, is suddenly abducted by aliens. Duke’s alien captor explains that Duke’s brain will be drained of all his knowledge, which will be used to formulate a master plan to seize control of Earth. Duke has two choices: He can be turned into a zombie by the EncephaloSucker, or ‘kick-butt’ like there’s no tomorrow!

You guessed it! Our hero is ready for action. Duke must escape his alien prison cell, then battle to end the hideous plans of the Rigelatins.

The Chaos Engine

The Chaos Engine is a top-down run and gun video game developed by The Bitmap Brothers and published by Renegade Software in 1993. The game is set in a steampunk Victorian age in which one or two players must battle the hostile creations of the titular Chaos Engine across four landscapes and ultimately defeat the Chaos Engine and its deranged inventor.

Vegas Stakes Review (1993)

Vegas Stakes is an excellent example of how to do a casino game on the console format. Instead of merely aiming for the gambling crowd, the developers included several surrounding characters to inject some life into the game. To encourage replay value, there is an adventure element as you try to make your way to Laurel Palace and shoot for the $10 million goal. While a few more games is preferable, the selection is diverse enough to give players a feel for casino gambling. All of the rules are here as well, so you can can double down, split and buy insurance in Blackjack and call, raise and fold with up to three other computer players in Seven-Card Stud Poker. An added benefit is that each casino has different themed backgrounds and music (although the music gets extremely annoying since it loops over and over again).

The most distinguishing aspect of the game is the use of characters who will talk to you from time to time. After you begin the game, you’ll enter your name in the hotel’s registry and call a friend from your “room.” Choose a companion to accompany you in your travels and select one of the five games to play. You’ll then be taken to the game of your choice and can place your bet by moving the dials of your money register in the top right corner of the screen (under your name). Once you start winning consistently, a few people will start “talking” to you (a menu screen will pop up with a character’s portrait, name and question).

These encounters will give you the opportunity to earn some more money or lose it through foolish decisions. For example, if a woman asks to wipe a spot off your shirt, she could be trying to pickpocket you! Politely decline and the woman may become upset, commenting on how she was just trying to be nice. You’re given a second chance to allow the person to clean your shirt, but don’t be surprised when you lose half of your bank account! Other opportunities exist when characters want to pawn jewelry or bet on certain sports games. Make the right decision and you can add to your wealth.

If there is but one drawback to the title (aside from the handful of games), it’s that it is not very difficult to amass $10 million. Since you’re allowed to save at any time, you can just bet everything on one blackjack hand and double your money. Exit the game and keep saving after each win and you’ll quickly amass a fortune, especially in some of more exclusive casinos. Once you gain access to Laurel Palace (you’re invited after reaching $100,000), you’ll be rolling in the dough in no time. Of course, this strategy can be used in any casino game that allows you to save your earnings after every wager. Regardless, the overall package is well designed and a safe bet for anyone remotely interested in the genre.

Graphics

The graphics aren’t anything to shout about — most screens are digitized still pictures. Cards might be hard for some players to read as they are a bit on the small side.

Sound

While each casino has its own theme song, it repeats endlessly and there’s no way to turn it off. Make sure you have your thumb close to the remote control’s mute button! Some voice clips would have been appreciated…

Enjoyment

Some of the games may not appeal to all players, but the ones included are well done.

Replay Value

Battery backup will save all of your money so you can continue your adventure at a later time. Unfortunately, the game ends once you reach the $10 million goal. It would have been cool if you could keep going!

Documentation

Everything is explained in full-color, including the different odds and payout charts for each game.