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What the heck is on this $10 Retro Game handheld? Let’s find out!

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Spelunker is one of my favorite Famicom kusoge. It's infamous in Japan for how punishing it is to play. But the game is designed around its unfairness, so if you can get into the swing of it, it's a good time.

So popular in Japan, it got a PS3 remake!

Apropos of nothing, I'm just delighted by the Moai head's journey from mysterious South Pacific statue to inexplicable SF shoot-em-up donut laser emplacement to adorable platformer mascot.

He would also eventually drive a go-kart.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)


472. SPY VS SPY

The two spies (of Mad Magazine fame) must run around a maze collecting items and periodically trying to kill each other, either by traps or simply punching.



473. SQOON


An underwater shoot-em-up where you shoot torpedoes from your submarine at all the fish. What did the poor fish do to you? (Wikipedia says that they’re actually attacking aliens, not fish.)



474. SQUEE

The full title appears to be Squeezer, and the game appears to be Hearts. I couldn’t find any references to this one online.

475. CROSS FIRE

One more Circus Charlie for the tallies! (I think the list title is because you're literally jumping across fire.)



476. STAR LUSTER

Warp around space looking for clusters of enemy fighters to shoot down in a first-person view. It actually handles pretty well, given the technical limitations at the time.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Sqoon may have the single greatest leap between how cute the game is and how grim the content is; aliens have completely destroyed the Earth with rampant flooding and are using the last vestiges of humanity, kept alive in underwater domes, as livestock. And you rescue them taking them to a few surface refuges in between bouts of rampant torpedocide of orcas and mermaids
 
Wow, I haven't thought of Spy vs Spy in a long time. I remember playing the Game Boy one but it was a friend's game so I never got that far.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Star Luster is another one I found out about because it's part of that group of early Namco FC games.



It's the first one in the set, I think, which is completely original to the console, with no arcade analogue at all (Warpman and Battle City preceded, but I believe they're both related to existing Namco coin-ops, albeit with different names). It does owe its existence to Star Raiders for the Atari 2600, as I understand.

Anyway it's worth a play. Like Beowulf says, the game works surprisingly well for when it was made. There's just enough variety of options and enemy types to keep it interesting. The different difficulty settings each add a layer of complexity to your missions. When you finish (either by losing or by completing the mission), the game gives you a military rank and title based on how much fuel you used, how much damage you took, etc. And it looks and sounds fantastic for when it came out.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
The logo on that one made me wonder whether the menu title was a misread of "Star Juster", but apparently not given the kana on the box. And yeah, definitely looks like it's in the old Star Trek space combat sim lineage via Atari's Star Raiders.

I was always kind interested in the NES Spy Vs Spy but have never played it. Good to hear it's actually fun!
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)


473. SQOON

An underwater shoot-em-up where you shoot torpedoes from your submarine at all the fish. What did the poor fish do to you? (Wikipedia says that they’re actually attacking aliens, not fish.)

One of those NES games that snuck tiddies past the Nintendo of America Prude Squad. (The Mermaids. They even have single-pixel nipples.)

In a way, I kinda think of this as Irem's precursor to their later In the Hunt, but I don't think there's any crossover between the actual developers, Homedata, and the team at Irem that became Nazca.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Spy vs Spy is a fun game especially two player. It's not super deep but it is still a solid simple little game.

The logo on that one made me wonder whether the menu title was a misread of "Star Juster"
I was thinking the same thing.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
One of those NES games that snuck tiddies past the Nintendo of America Prude Squad. (The Mermaids. They even have single-pixel nipples.)
Given how early in the NES's life Sqoon was, it might've been one of the reasons why NoA formed the Prude Squad in the first place. A lot of the earlier stuff had content that Nintendo would not let fly later on.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)


477. STAR SOLDIER

Another Xevious-inspired, horizontal-scrolling space shoot-em-up. I was entertained by the bizarre ugly head miniboss.



478. SUBMARINE

Very clearly a Nice Code hack from their port of Air-Sea Battle. You drop depth charges on all the submarines.



479. FALLING

A Nice Code game we’ve seen before (as Burbles, #213): Use your jeep-mounted cannon to shoot down the paratroopers before they land, or your HP will decrease.



480. SUPER CHINESE

This is a mind-boggling mix of Mario and Zelda and general arcade pieces. I have some trouble lining up the hitboxes, but I think I love the concept? (I know nothing of this history of this title and wish to be enlightened.)
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I often confuse Star Force with Star Soldier. This isn’t the one that made Master Higgins famous, I think.

Suoer Chinese/Kung Fu Heroes isn’t a game I have particular fondness for, but the Super NES sequel Super Ninja Brothers got a lot of rentals back in the day. That one was an RPG that had beat-em-up gameplay for random battles, platformer gameplay for dungeons, and regular-ass JRPG fights for bosses.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
480. SUPER CHINESE

This is a mind-boggling mix of Mario and Zelda and general arcade pieces. I have some trouble lining up the hitboxes, but I think I love the concept? (I know nothing of this history of this title and wish to be enlightened.)

Isn't it so odd how this game swipes sound effects from Mario and some other stuff?

On Famicom, this game was released by Namco, and it's in that same set of early-box titles that I love so much:



But it's actually a Culture Brain joint, possibly their first. Culture Brain went on to make several sequels to this game of increasing quality, looping in other genre elements like Octo describes. The first game is fascinating in that early Famicom sense, where there's lots of hidden areas and secrets you unearth by walking over random tiles. I enjoy it, but it's definitely not for everyone.

Culture Brain is responsible for what feels like the semi-related Flying Dragon series, which features an interesting mixture of double dragon-style beatings and martial arts simulation battles where you hit specific inputs to target different parts of an opponent's body. The third game in the series has impressive visuals, great music, and Power Rangers-esque transformations. At least one of the games was ported to NES, but I think it was heavily changed from the original.

Of all of Culture Brain's work, the single game I think most NES players would recognize is Magic of Scheherazade.

There's a running theme in their games of characters with big, buggy eyes.

I often confuse Star Force with Star Soldier. This isn’t the one that made Master Higgins famous, I think.

Both are, in fact!

Star Soldier is considered to be a spiritual successor to Star Force and both were widely played in Hudson's summer caravans. The gross head boss Beowulf mentioned is Star Soldier's variant of Larios, the boss from Star Force which gives you a huge bonus if you kill it in the right way. In Star Soldier, I think you need to have an eight-way shot powerup and shoot all of his pieces as they fly toward you.

I have a hard time playing Star Soldier. The main reason is because of a strange mechanic they introduced where your ship can fly under the background scenery. It makes you invulnerable, but you also can't shoot anything, and there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to when your ship decides to duck under some space debris. So what usually happens to me is I fly under something by accident, then the screen swarms with enemies I can't shoot, and the moment I pop back out I get shot by the too-many enemies who are now on screen. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to predict this mechanic.

Regardless, the game was fantastically popular in Japan, and Hudson went on to make a number of sequels, mostly on PC Engine, including the godlike Soldier Blade.
 

I actually had the chance to play the arcade version of Chinese Hero a long, long time ago, in an amusement park somewhere in Illinois that had a ton of obscure arcade games. It's one of those titles that LOOKS like I would love it, but unfortunately that's not the way things worked out. Collision detection in Chinese Hero is nebulous, and you never know how you can attack the enemy without winding up dead yourself. I think the NES version, Kung Fu Heroes, had a little bit of digitized speech, but the arcade game has a lot more, with constant yips, yowls, and screams.
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)
Isn't it so odd how this game swipes sound effects from Mario and some other stuff?

On Famicom, this game was released by Namco, and it's in that same set of early-box titles that I love so much:



But it's actually a Culture Brain joint, possibly their first. Culture Brain went on to make several sequels to this game of increasing quality, looping in other genre elements like Octo describes. The first game is fascinating in that early Famicom sense, where there's lots of hidden areas and secrets you unearth by walking over random tiles. I enjoy it, but it's definitely not for everyone.

Culture Brain is responsible for what feels like the semi-related Flying Dragon series, which features an interesting mixture of double dragon-style beatings and martial arts simulation battles where you hit specific inputs to target different parts of an opponent's body. The third game in the series has impressive visuals, great music, and Power Rangers-esque transformations. At least one of the games was ported to NES, but I think it was heavily changed from the original.

Of all of Culture Brain's work, the single game I think most NES players would recognize is Magic of Scheherazade.

There's a running theme in their games of characters with big, buggy eyes.
Culture Brain brought two Hiryu no Ken (Flying Dragon) games to the NES, the first and a neat hybrid of the second and third game. The first is known here as Flying Dragon: The Secret Scroll, and the second Flying Warriors. One title for the SNES made it over as the heavily changed Ultimate Fighter, and Flying Dragon was resurrected for the N64 as well, probably the least altered since the original.

They still exist as Culture Brain Excel, and are contributing titles to the Switch Online apps (hopefully Magic of Scheherazade makes the job sooner than later).
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I will also note that the SNES games have been recently translated. We got the first title over here as Super Ninja Boy. We also got Super Chinese 2 on NES as Little Ninja Brothers.


The NES Flying Warriors melded aspects of Hiryu no Ken 2 and HnK3, but made a lot of changes that were ill-advised. Some of the enemy placements are complete garbage. I'm rooting for a fan translation of both those titles, as the bit I played of HnK2 seemed much better than what we got.

Also, @Dracula is right, Soldier Blade is the bees knees. I legit cleared it this month, but already loved it even when just save-stating through.
 
While we're talking about Culture Brain (what is a "Culture Brain," anyway? It sounds like someone accidentally dropped a petrie dish into someone's open skull...), we can't forget about the comics based on their games, which frequently appeared in GamePro magazine.

https://oldgamemags.tumblr.com%2Fpost%2F56423786063
My favorite part of the Flying Warriors series was when the Mike Haggar Power Ranger shouts "Oh gosh! I must defeat you!"
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I wish I'd had access to more of those comics. I had a couple of them, and thought they were awesome, even if that dialogue was... something else.

EDIT: Oh, hey, that's actually the first issue I had!
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Also, @Dracula is right, Soldier Blade is the bees knees. I legit cleared it this month, but already loved it even when just save-stating through.

Congrats! That's a tough one.

One of my favorite gaming experiences was doing a mini summer caravan with a group of people from Instagram. We all competed for the high score in Solder Blade's caravan mode, which presents a special time-attack stage. There were a number of specific tricks and secrets to maximizing the score, and it was a lot of fun to explore that with a bunch of people supporting each other to get the best score.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I'm not much of a score-chaser, but that definitely seems like the ideal way to get into it. A little friendly competition goes a long way. :)
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Star Soldier is considered to be a spiritual successor to Star Force and both were widely played in Hudson's summer caravans. The gross head boss Beowulf mentioned is Star Soldier's variant of Larios, the boss from Star Force which gives you a huge bonus if you kill it in the right way. In Star Soldier, I think you need to have an eight-way shot powerup and shoot all of his pieces as they fly toward you.

Donn Nauert of the US Videogame Team has the tips you need!


And how to get a SECRET LASER WEAPON.

 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I think I had that video way back in the day. Isn't that the one where they go through one really complicated cheat code and then there was a graphic of a head rolling across the screen or something like that?

Flying Dragon, Flying Warriors and Super Ninja Bros were games that I was always interested in but was never able to afford / get a hold of. I don't even remember even seeing them at a rental place.

Kung Fu Heroes is fun but is definitely obtuse and a bit janky.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Oh man. those videos are pure gold. I'm gonna probably end up watching them all the way through.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
I got four hours of sleep last night and woke up to Photobucket charging me a second time and completely borking my photo collection. So...there may be some delays.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I got four hours of sleep last night and woke up to Photobucket charging me a second time and completely borking my photo collection. So...there may be some delays.

Photobucket still ruining lives in 2021. Somehow I'm not surprised. Good luck!!
 
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