Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

The crater extends into that space?! Grrr. You’re going to make me cancel the selection, manually move my units, and build halfway off the foundation aren’t you? -_-

Game Name: Dune II : The Building of a Dynasty (1992)
Developer: Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer, Emperor: Battle for Dune)
Platform: Amiga, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis  (reviewed on Sega Genesis emulation)
Categories: Old School, Real Time Strategy, Back to Basics, Challenging, Base Building, Research, Fog of War, Resource Harvesting, Turrets/Walls, Protracted Blob Warfare, Superweapons, Poor UI, Tedious Unit Selection, Infantry, Tanks/Vehicles, Iconic Audio and Visual Design, Level Codes, Multiple Factions, Multiple Campaigns,
Worm Sign the likes of which even God Has Never Seen

May Appeal To: cavemen who haven’t upgraded their computers in a looong time or had their head stuck in the sand about how cool the franchise is.
May Repulse: gamers with strategy game options and experience. Anyone that cringes at the idea of selecting units without a bounding box or is decidedly opposed to the deliberate, sluggish pacing of the original movie are forewarned to steer clear of Dune II.

Comparable To: other Westwood products, which was par-for-the-course in the ’90s. Command & Conquer/Red Alert followers will slip into the familiar routine immediately though this game throws curveballs in the form of hostile environmental factors like sandworms, spiceblows, and degraded building health (similar to the harmful Tiberium fields and visceroids in Tiberian Sun). Warcraft, similarly, had unwieldy unit selection and an unmanageable scale of battle during its worst moments. Despite all the cool stuff in Dune II, Dune 2000 ultimately bested it across the board with a modernization of identical concepts into a slick, memorable (and controllable) experience. Fast forward a few hardware generations of improvements and you might have Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, which is essentially this classic game mainlining horse steroids.

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Top Gear

Wielding the bare essentials with finesse, Top Gear pushes your needle to the limit.

Game Name: Top Gear (1992)
Developer: Gremlin Graphics (Guantlet, Hero Quest, Jungle Strike)
Platform: Super Nintendo (reviewed on SNES emulation)
Categories: Heart Throttling, Adrenaline Pumping Racing. Blinding Speed, Epilepsy Warning, Consistent Framerate, Always Split Screen, 2 Players, 4 Cars, Fuel Tracking, Manual/Automatic Transmission, Excellent Tunes, Level Passcodes, Slight Control Lag, Variable Difficulty, AI Loser Assist, No Damage, Nitro Boosts, Photo Finishes, “Realism”

May Appeal To: bots, artificial constructs, video game endurance champions, people with naturally moist eyes, and those with minimal thumb latency.
May Repulse: the tired, lethargic, and any who haven’t cast off the human need to blink.

Comparable To: Super Mario Kart but with less personality or replayability; this game has a fantastic sense of speed like in F-Zero but the tracks feel narrow and more difficult to navigate; Stunt Race FX had worse framerate and was incredibly difficult to control. Cruis’n USA’s topography and locales come to mind despite the tone being completely different. Continue reading


Vertical tanks, levitating rocks, and football players on a waterfall? Contra – confirmed.

Game Name: Contra (1988)
Developer: Konami (Gyrus, Gradius, Castlevania)
Platform: Arcade, NES, MSX2  (reviewed on NES emulation)
Categories: NES Classic, Run ‘n Gun, Side Scrolling, Some 3D Levels, Bullet Hell, Environmental Traps, Platforming, Power-Ups, Mega Bosses, Predator/Rambo Inspired, Geiger Aliens, Cyber Baddies, Slappin’ Tunes, Colorful Artstyle, Speedrun Worthy, Multiplayer, Shamlessly Shallow, Konami Code, Addictive, Easier Than its Reputation….
and the Notorious Spreadgun!

May Appeal To: headbangers, power trippers, jungle commandos, button mashers, and bandana-ed Stallone/Schwarzenegger heavy weapon dudes.
May Repulse: thoughtful, cautious, and slow-responding people who lack a friend to pick up the second controller.

Comparable To: a more forgiving and mobile Rush’n Attack, better art direction and music than Super Contra, more straightforward and action-packed than Contra Force, more stable than Ikari Warriors, less frustrating and better hit detection than TMNT, easier than Ninja Gaiden or Empire Strikes back, and Contra is the grandpappy of Metal Slug. Continue reading

Mechwarrior (SNES)

It’s not a giant Galactus tiara so a grognard has assuredly written a sternly worded treatise about this image’s canonicity. The pilot better be wearing an 80s thong bikini bottom or else!

Game Name: Mechwarrior (SNES version, 1993)
Developer: Beam Software
Platform: SNES (reviewed on a SNES emulator)
Categories: Remake of the 1989 release – Not a Port, Battletech Inspired, FPS Mech Sim, Merc Contracts, Objective Variety, 50+ Missions, Performance Rewards, Revenge Plot, Heavy Customization, Punishing Difficulty, Auditory Mess, Flashy Sprites/Effects, 3D Battles on a Flat Map, Open Arenas, Clunky Controls, RPG-Style Intermissions, Quirky Characters, Immersive World, Surprisingly Cyberpunk for this Universe

May Appeal To: Battletech diehards, Shadowrun junkies, just plain ol’ SNES owners
May Repulse: PC owners and people with discretionary gaming options

Comparable To: the hideous bot design and coloring found in Rise Of The Robots, the seedy bar sequences with mysterious characters like in various Shadowrun incarnations, “Tank! Tank! Tank!” without special abilities and you’re the sole target. But I found the largest similarities with the classic action of Battlezone – if you could blow off enemy limbs. This has less mission complexity than Mechwarrior 2, less everything than Mechwarrior 3, and more personality than Mechwarrior 4.

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Mechwarrior 3050

I half expect to see some scrawny farm kid run by with an anthropomorphic frog in his backpack.

Game Name: Mechwarrior 3050 (1994)
Developer: Tiburon Entertainment (Soviet Strike, Nuclear Strike, Madden NFL)
Platform: Sega Genesis, SNES (reviewed on a SNES emulator)
Categories: Stompy Mech Combat, One Man Army, 3/4 Isometric Perspective, Customized Loadouts, Nuanced Attack Patterns, Precision Bullet Counting, Bullet Hell, Hard as Hell, Hella Satisfying, Niche Gaming, Finicky Controls, Few Missions, Exceptional Animations/Graphics, Repeat Play Experimentation, Weird “Multiplayer”, Laudable Cheats, and Level Completion Codes

May Appeal To: Battletech grognards, practical mecha fans, battlebot audiences, spec ops military commandos, ammo conservationists, holistic enjoyment gamers
May Repulse: Battletech grognards, Gundam-style mecha fans, conventional military theorists, run-and-gunners, spray-and-prayers, nitpickers

Comparable To: …. Jungle Strike. This game is positively a mech-ridden, slow paced Jungle Strike but with varied loadouts and a hefty boost to the enemy count. The “authentic” ground-pounding feel of Armored Core is alive and well but with more numerous enemies. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is Dynasty Warriors: Gundam swarms of enemies and projectiles but there is a definable bullet hell element to the game at its pinnacle, up there with the entry levels to a classic alternative take on WWII like the 1945 arcade title. Strangely enough, I frequently remembered the ammunition conservation like the true “survival” games in the Resident Evil series. Finally, the lop-sided power in taking down so many tanks, helicopters, hovercraft, turrets, and a sprinkling of mechs is iconic to the Mechwarrior series, primarily MW3/MW4 and Mech Assault . Mechwarrior 3050 was the second game with “Mechwarrior” in the title but made huge improvements to the aesthetics, mechanics, pacing, and fun of the original.

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