Last year, although pretty sucky for most people around the world for a wide variety of reasons, played host to not only some truly great games, but also one of the most exciting new console launches of all time. I’m not talking about any of that nonsense from Sony and Microsoft, naturally — I’m talking about the Evercade!
If you’ve not come across the Evercade before, it’s a handheld gaming device that makes use of collectible old-school cartridges rather than digital downloads or optical media. Each cartridge comes packed with a wide variety of different games, making it very easy to build up a library of retro classics to enjoy wherever you are, whatever the occasion.
With some great value Evercade bundles available from our friends at Funstock, it seems like a good time to show what might be of interest to the Japanese gaming enthusiast on the platform. Let’s take a look at five top picks from the current collection as of the time of writing!
Star Luster (Namco Museum Collection 1)
Star Luster is noteworthy because it’s a Japanese retro game many of you may not be familiar with — it never got released in western territories back in the day. Its PlayStation sequel Star Ixiom did, but we’ve never seen the Famicom original in an official capacity until this Evercade release.
Star Luster is a game that combines strategy and action as you pilot your starship around the galaxy to defeat alien invaders. You’ll need to make use of the galactic map to plan your movements around the galaxy, because your enemies won’t wait for you to pick off their friends — they’ll continue their advance on your starbases and friendly planets even while you’re in the middle of combat!
There are three ways to play Star Luster: the quick Training mission gives you an opportunity to practice the controls; the Command mode challenges you to clear the whole map of enemies with minimal damage to friendly installations; and the Adventure mode tasks you with tracking down secret codes to locate the game’s true final boss.
Featuring fast-action space combat and presentation that holds up surprisingly well today, Star Luster is one of the shining stars in the Evercade’s current lineup of Japanese retro games. Plus if you fancy falling down a dangerous rabbit hole, you can check out Namco’s frighteningly comprehensive official timeline of how most of its classic games fit together from a narrative perspective!
Mappy Kids (Namco Museum Collection 1)
Found on the same cartridge as Star Luster, Mappy Kids is another Famicom game that never came west back in the day — the Evercade version is the first ever official localisation!
In Mappy Kids, you take on the role of the son of policemouse Mappy, who is on the hunt for a wife. Unfortunately, we live in a capitalist society, and no ladymouse will approach son-of-Mappy if he hasn’t proven his material worth by buying a bunch of crap for his house to display his wealth. Thus begins a grand adventure to acquire as much money as possible — and avoid losing it to the evil cats who want nothing more than to ruin a hardworking mouse’s day.
Mappy Kids combines side-scrolling platform action with minigames and puzzles, and rather controversially in one scene featured a white hood hanging on a washing line that was often mistaken for a certain item of racist headgear. It’s actually a hood from one of the enemies in Mappy Kids’ stablemate Rolling Thunder, but one can see where the confusion might have arisen; a small tweak (the removal of the eyeholes) has been made to the visual in the Evercade version to prevent further misunderstandings. You know what the Internet is like these days!
Side Pocket (Data East Collection 1)
Data East’s Side Pocket is a game that combines the basic structure of various billiards games with arcade-style scoring, power-ups and challenges. In order to progress through the game by scoring enough points, you’ll not only need to play a solid game of pool, you’ll also need to do things like potting multiple balls in succession, or potting numbered balls in sequence. There are several versions of the game out there; the Evercade version is based on the well-regarded Super NES release.
The game features a clear and easy to understand interface that is friendly to billiards newbies, but also provides the flexibility for seasoned players to pull off more advanced shots with techniques such as massé. The real pros can challenge an extensive Trick Shot mode and really prove their skills with some highly demanding courses to clear!
Side Pocket is great fun due to its chilled-out presentation and solid, challenging gameplay. It’s a great game to while away a few minutes with on your Evercade — though it’s also very easy to get drawn in and end up playing for hours!
Burning Force (Namco Museum Collection 2)
As you can probably tell by the inclusion of three titles from them in the list, the Namco titles are a huge highlight of the Evercade’s current library — particularly if you’re a fan of Japanese games. Burning Force is one of Namco’s slightly lesser-known games, but it’s a fantastic quasi-3D shooter vaguely reminiscent of Sega’s Space Harrier.
Taking on the role of the pink leotard-clad United Government Space Force cadet Hiromi Tengenji, it’s your job to successfully complete the rather demanding finale to her training regime. This involves riding her futuristic space-bike, blasting enemies, occasionally transforming into an aircraft, collecting shiny things and taking down enormous bosses.
For Namco nerds, Burning Force, like Star Luster, is part of the unified UGSF Series Timeline that Namco has developed over the years. The former unfolds a full 218 years before the latter — and 149 years after Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere. Now you know.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Technos Collection 1)
Finally, we come to some classic beat ’em up action. The Technos Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade deliberately eschews the arcade versions of the company’s classic brawlers in favour of the NES releases. This is because those NES releases weren’t straight ports — they were full-on, completely new games specifically designed for home play, albeit with some clear inspiration having been drawn from the arcade originals. As such, they’re eminently worth preserving in their own right.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge on the Technos Collection 1 cartridge is a great example of this, combining the series’ iconic beat ’em up action with some light platforming and some challenging levels. There are a few surprises along the way, too, so you’d better be ready for them — this probably won’t be a game you can clear first time unless you spent a lot of time with it back in the day!
If you’re a fan of WayForward’s recent (and excellent) River City Girls, this cartridge is a great collection to get your hands on, as it’s a fine way to explore the roots of both the Kunio-kun and Double Dragon series. And Double Dragon II: The Revenge is one of the most enjoyable titles among the lineup.
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