For the arcade game fan who plays arcade games at home,Jess Ragan's "MAMExpose" presents you with the many joys - andpitfalls - of emulation, specifically those found while using our favoriteprogram in the universe: MAME.

Welcome to part one of a two part series covering unnoticed sequels to popular classic arcade games.  In this installment, we'll look at the sequels to Robotron, Bosconian, Crazy Climber, and Elevator Action.

BLASTER (Williams, 1984)


This was intended as a continuation of the events in Robotron, but the two games couldn't be more different.  While Robotron was an intense overhead shooter, Blaster takes its action to the skies and beyond, playing more like Sega's Afterburner.  Sadly, it doesn't play nearly as well... this demanding 3D game was released on early hardware, and as a result the gameplay is jittery and imprecise.  Also, the crosshair movement is frustratingly slow, making it difficult to line up shots and dodge your enemies' many attacks.  Williams should have held off for a couple of years before releasing this... there are some great ideas in Blaster, but they're hard to enjoy when the gameplay is off.  I give Blaster a six.

BLAST OFF (Namco, 1989)


You may remember "Blast Off" to be the first words spoken in Namco's sleeper hit Bosconian.  It's also the title of this sequel, released in Japan.  Unfortunately, Blast Off doesn't play much like the game that inspired it.  It's a pretty standard- and boring- vertically scrolling shooter without the freedom of Bosconian.  The only innovations Blast Off has to offer just make the game more irritating.  Your ship has a variety of different firing patterns, but only half of them are useful, and you have to toggle between them with just one button.  There are also scenes where your ship will infiltrate enormous enemy cruisers, but these are more bothersome than exciting because all the sprites are doubled in size, giving you less room to dodge bullets.  Bosconian deserved a better sequel than this.  Fortunately, there's an enhanced version of Bosconian on the X68000 computer that perfectly fits the bill.  That game is great... but Blast Off only deserves a rating of four.

CRAZY CLIMBER II (Nichibutsu, 1988)


At last, I get to review a worthy sequel to a classic game!  Crazy Climber II has everything you loved about the original, plus much better graphics and even more humor.  It seems like all those nudie mahjong games Nichibutsu designed in the past had rubbed off a little on Crazy Climber II... you'll discover the occasional risque sight gag as you make your way up the building.  Attractive young ladies hang outside their windows, waiting to pull you into their apartments for a big kiss (and bonus points).  Also, you'll find large signs with barely dressed women on the front.  These seductive beauties are as dangerous as they are gorgeous... you'll want to climb past them quickly, or else they'll kick you right off the building!  Past that, it's the same old Crazy Climber you remember from the early 80's, except with more detailed and expressive artwork that gives the game a welcome cartoon atmosphere.  I give Crazy Climber II a seven.



I had the pleasure of playing this on the Saturn several years ago.  To this day, I still feel that it's a complete improvement over the first game.  It's a given that in every classic remake, the graphics and sound will be much better than the original's.  However, in this case, even the gameplay is improved... the player no longer has trouble entering doors and isn't forced to press up once they're finished ducking under bullets.  Stylistically, Elevator Action Returns is the complete opposite of the first game.  Elevator Action was cute and cartoony, but the sequel is much more gritty and realistic.  When you shoot enemies, they scream and drop to the floor in a heap rather than falling over and vanishing in a flash of light.  You'll find graffiti on the walls, bottles of beer hidden behind doors, and toxic waste barrels that catch the floors and anyone unlucky enough to be near them on fire once they rupture.  It's a much more intense experience than the original Elevator Action, which is part of the reason I give it an eight.

FUN FACTS:  Some very popular video games were actually sequels to more obscure titles.  For instance, Bubble Bobble was a spinoff of a goofy platformer called Chack 'n Pop.  If you look closely, you'll find Chack in nearly every Bubble Bobble game, including the Bust-A-Move series.  As you may have expected, Street Fighter II is also a sequel to an earlier game... unfortunately and a little surprisingly, the original Street Fighter wasn't very good.  Final Fight and Saturday Night Slammasters are also part of the Street Fighter series... in fact, Final Fight was originally going to be called Street Fighter '89 until the designers decided it was better for the game to stand on its own.

In the next edition of MAMExpose, we'll conclude our coverage of obscure arcade sequels with reviews of Time Pilot '84, Pitfall II, Return of the Invaders, and Vanguard II.

A new "MAMExpose" can be found herearound the 10th of every month!

For "back issues" of this column, click HERE.

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Last updated: Saturday, April 23, 2005 07:48 AM

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