Doubtless when scrolling through the digital storefronts on your console gaming platform of choice, you’ve stumbled across the vast quantities of games in the “Arcade Archives” series by Hamster. But have you explored this library of games? There are some real gems in there — as well as some oft-overlooked classics worthy of greater attention.
We’ve picked out five favourites from the complete range — but of course there are plenty more well worth your time and money. If you’ve got any particular titles that you’re rather fond of, be sure to let us know down in the comments, via the usual social channels or in a note for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
All right. Let’s begin!
Arcade Archives: Moon Patrol
Haling from 1982, Moon Patrol is one of the earliest games by Irem, who would go on to create the legendary R-Type series. Moon Patrol is not only a great game in its own right, but also the first game by Dimps president Takashi Nishiyama.
Nishiyama is a legend of gaming: he’s the man who pretty much invented the beat ’em up with Kung Fu Master, and then went on to play a leading role in defining the modern fighting game with his creation of the Street Fighter, Fatal Fury and King of Fighters series.
Moon Patrol is an early example of what we might call an endless runner or auto-runner today — taking control of a moon buggy that is always moving to the right, you must jump over craters, destroy enemies and determine the best way to deal with the obstacles in your path. It’s a challenging game, but a highly rewarding one — and you can definitely feel its influence in many of Nishiyama’s later works.
Arcade Archives: Rally-X
Namco’s ’80s arcade games are all well worth a play, but some of them tend not to get as much love as others. One of those more underappreciated ones is Rally-X, a game from 1980 which was designed as a spiritual successor to Sega’s maze chase game Head On and its numerous clones such as Atari’s Dodge ‘Em.
Interestingly, prior to release Namco thought that Rally-X would appeal more to a western audience than Pac-Man did, but Pac-Man went on to be a much bigger success. Rally-X is still worth a play, though, particularly if you like Pac-man, because it’s an interesting twist on the “maze chase” formula.
In Rally-X, you control a blue racing car in a scrolling maze, and it’s your job to track down all the yellow flags before the red cars crash into you. You have a radar screen which shows the relative positions of the flags and enemy cars to you — but not the maze walls — and the ability to emit a smokescreen to stun your opponents, but you have to be quick — you’ve only got limited fuel to accomplish your goal!
Arcade Archives: Typhoon Gal
Now we’re into more obscure territory. Typhoon Gal, also known as Onna Sanshiro, is a Taito game from 1985 that gets talked about so little it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. But it’s an interesting game regardless — and well worth a look if you want to see an interesting early intersection between the beat ’em up and fighting game genres.
In Typhoon Gal, you take on the role of Yuki-chan, a young girl who opens the game by flinging off her school uniform behind a tree and revealing a fetching pink martial arts gi beneath. From hereon, it’s your job to help her beat the snot out of a series of sneering, arrogant dudes in several different martial arts dojos, and prove that Strong Female Protagonists™ always prevail in the end.
Typhoon Gal adopts a control scheme similar to that seen in other early ’80s fighting games, in which every direction and a button press does something different. By pressing one of the two buttons and pushing a direction, you can punch, kick, throw and grapple with your opponents — with many of the moves being satisfyingly humiliating. It combines these controls with the “2.5D” element of most beat ’em ups, making for an interesting blend of genres that is tricky to learn but fun to master.
Arcade Archives: Rod Land
Single-screen “kill ’em all” platformers were quite fashionable for a time in the arcades, with the most well-known being Taito’s Bubble Bobble. Jaleco’s Rod Land from 1990 is a personal favourite, though, with its enjoyable mechanics and endearing sense of cute humour.
In Rod Land you take on control of the fairies Rit and Tam as they attempt to ascend the Maboots tower and rescue their kidnapped mother. Standing in their way are hordes of enemies, who must be stunned with a magic wand and then beaten senseless by smacking them back and forth on solid ground.
A huge range of levels, a fun two-player mode and some super-cute graphics mean this one will keep you busy for quite some time if you let it. This game was arguably more well-known back in the day for its excellent ports to home computers — the Arcade Archives release marks the first time it has been re-released ever since then.
Arcade Archives: Soldam
The 1992 sequel to Rod Land is anything but more of the same — it’s a completely different kind of game, and absolutely worth spending some time with in its own right. Adopting the same cutesy pixel art aesthetic as its predecessor, Soldam is a falling block puzzle game with some distinctive mechanics that you might not have seen before.
Specifically, it’s a game based around the principles of the board game Othello, Reversi or Renegade, in which you change the colours of pieces by “surrounding” them with their opposite colour. By creating complete rows of a single colour, you clear them, and, in true puzzle game tradition, clearing multiple rows at once nets you significant bonuses. These distinctive mechanics really make Soldam stand out amid the many other puzzle games from the period.
Soldam has a modern remake available for both Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 but the arcade original is still worth a play; its balance and difficulty factor is a little different, and it includes some different ways to play. Plus the 16-bit pixel art (including one of the finest pixel art asses you’ll ever see) is hard to resist, as adorable as the cartoony look of the modern remake is!
So there’s our five picks for today — and it’s over to you! What are your favourites from this extensive series? Care to challenge anyone to a race up the leaderboards…?
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