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 the second part of our coverage of obscure sequels to popular arcade games. We'll wrap things up with coverage of three different shooters and an arcade version of the Atari classic Pitfall.



Ever wonder how Pitfall would have turned out on the Sega Master System? This will give you a pretty good idea. Pitfall II may have been released in arcades and based on a game for a much older system, but Pitfall II still has the instantly recognizable look and feel of a Master System game. The graphics are very cartoony; much more so than the previous Pitfall games. Everything's colored in pastels, Pitfall Harry looks like Indiana Jones' tiny grandson, and even the trees have silly faces!

Despite the artistic liberties Sega took with the license, Pitfall II is nevertheless very faithful to the first two Pitfall games, with all the challenges you'd expect from the series and a whole lot more. In addition to rolling logs, gaping pits, and alligators, Harry has to dodge flaming rocks, falling stalactites, and um... acorns. Who knew they were dangerous?

Pitfall II is a bit frustrating at times, but anyone who actually managed to finish the first two games on the 2600 will appreciate the challenge. Just about everyone will agree that Sega's version of Pitfall is a whole lot better than its NES counterpart. I give it a seven.



Before Fatal Fury or even Ikari Warriors, SNK made a name for itself in arcades with a unique side-scrolling shooter called Vanguard. And before colossal blunders like Fatal Fury 3 and Ikari Warriors 3, SNK released another disappointing sequel, Vanguard II.

What this "sequel" has to do with the original is anyone's guess. Vanguard II is an entirely different game, playing like a lackluster cross between Xevious and Bosconian. Your ship skims across the surface of an enormous military base, dropping bombs on missile silos while dodging an assortment of generic space ships. Once you've hit enough targets, you'll be given clearance to attack the central core of the base. If you can destroy it (and that's a big "if", because it's extremely well defended), you'll be rewarded for all the targets you've destroyed and sent to attack another, stronger military base.

The only thing about Vanguard II that's at all memorable is its complete derivation from the play mechanics and storyline in the first game. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the game was conveniently renamed to capitalize on the popularity of the original Vanguard.

Vanguard II's graphics and sound are pretty bland. The parallax scrolling is a nice touch, making it seem as though the military base is suspended over the surface of the Earth, but the artwork is drably colored and uninspired. The sound effects don't make an impact at all... and unfortunately, the same thing can be said about the gameplay. Perhaps Vanguard II wouldn't be such a disappointment if SNK hadn't labelled it as a sequel to an entirely different game, but since it was, I can't help but give it an average rating of five.



The worst mistake anyone can make with a work of art is to tear it from the hands of the artist who created it, then ask someone else to finish what they've started. We all remember what happened to the animated series Ren and Stimpy after the creator of the characters was fired from his own show. What you may not know is that the designer of Time Pilot suffered a similar fate. After demanding reasonable compensation for his work, Yoshiki Okomoto was fired... and Konami designed the sequel to Time Pilot without his input.

The result was a game similar to the original, but with an entirely different artistic direction. There are no more wispy clouds to fly through or brightly colored biplanes to blast; just constant battles over the surface of a dead planet covered with craters and gleaming metal highways. The enemies are tougher and more numerous than before... many are impervious to your bullets, forcing you to use a new weapon, radar guided missiles, instead. Simply point the nose of your ship at the enemy to lock onto them, then fire away!

Time Pilot '84 plays quite well, and for that reason alone it's a satisfactory sequel to the original. However, the new futuristic setting is likely to leave players with mixed feelings. Some will consider the slick new graphics an improvement, while others will feel that the fixed setting completely ignores the reason the game was called "Time Pilot" in the first place. Since I tend to gravitate toward the latter opinion, I can only give Time Pilot '84 a rating of six.



It's unfortunate that the one game that introduced the most innovation to the Space Invaders series is also the one least likely to be remembered by Space Invaders fans. Return of the Invaders was an important evolution of the series... nearly every feature you've seen in later Space Invaders games was first introduced here. The UFOs at the top of the screen carry power-ups, and the invaders have learned a variety of devious new patterns, ranging from marching straight downward to flying in ever-widening circles like a flock of hungry vultures. There's even a bonus round, uncovered by targetting specific invaders.

Return of the Invaders is a huge improvement over the previous two games. It's not only in color now, but in rich vibrant color Space Invaders fans from the 1970's wouldn't have expected in their wildest dreams. The aliens are both highly detailed and beautifully shaded, to say nothing of weird... you'll have a tough time figuring out what some of them are, especially in the bonus rounds. The music is just as memorable, with the entrancing new age rythm you'd expect from Zuntata (Taito's famous sound team, also responsible for the soundtracks in Darius and Bust-A-Move).

Return of the Invaders' only flaw is that the gameplay may be too complicated for its own good. The barriers are particularly frustrating... only a small section of each one can be chipped through with bullets... the rest continues to absorb bullets without taking damage, until an indicator light on the left side of the barrier eventually turns red and burns out. Once this happens, the entire barrier blows up! It almost seems like the barriers are there for the invaders' protection, rather than your own. Almost as annoying are the invaders which reflect your shots back at you... if you don't fire directly into their centers, there's a strong possibility that you'll be blown to bits by your own ammunition. You can only imagine how "fun" this is when you're forced to battle a screen full of these enemies...

Even these annoyances aren't enough to keep Return of the Invaders from being one of the best (and certainly one of the most important) games in the Space Invaders series. I give it an eight, and strongly encourage you to try it for yourself.

MAME TIPS: Hate the disclaimers you see whenever you run a game for the first time? Don't we all? "You must own the ROMs, blah blah blah..." Yeah, whatever. Fortunately, you can turn them off in the most recent versions of MAME. Click on Options in the menu bar, then Interface Options in the drop down menu. Click the "Skip Disclaimer" checkbox, and those nags are gone forever! Now if only it was this easy to keep your parents from nagging...

Grab that brightly colored spandex outfit, because in the next edition of MAMExpose, we're taking a ride with video gaming's most powerful transforming robots!

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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