Arcade – Punk Shot

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Punk Shot comes in either a two-player or four-player version.

Note 1: This arcade PCB was attached to an HDMI Supergun.  It was played on a 39-inch HD-tv.

Note 2If you like basketball games, check out my reviews of Nekketsu Street Basket, Capcom Sports Club: Dunk StarsDunk Dream, and Dunk Dream ’95!

Brief HistoryPunk Shot was released by Konami for arcade cabinets in 1990.  There are two different board versions – a 4-player version and a 2-player version.  My  PCB is the 2-player version.

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Two-Player co-op?  Outstanding.

Gameplay: Punk Shot is a two-on-two basketball game, featuring only two teams: The Ramblers and The Slammers.  On a two-player board, if playing together, Player One and Player Two will control the Ramblers, and in VS, Player One controls the Ramblers and Player Two the Slammers.  All players perform identically, with no defining attributes like speed or defense separating them.  Games are split into four quarters, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.  If the score is tied at the end of the 4th quarter, the game ends in a tie – there is no overtime in Punk Shot.

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No OT, so handle your business in regulation.

Environments: Punk Shot is a ‘street’ basketball game akin to Dunk Dream, and three different locations are available: The Park, Downtown, and the Harbor.  You can select which one to start in at the beginning of the game, but after each quarter, the game moves to a different location, so you’ll see all of them over the course of a game.

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Three environments, each with unique obstacles, await in Punk Shot.

Control: On offense, Button I (the first button on your arcade stick) passes, and Button II shoots.  On defense, Button I punches the opposition to steal the ball and Button II jumps up to block a shot.  Also on defense, pressing both buttons together executes a flying clothesline on the opposition to dislodge the ball, or, if you hit them squarely (easy to do), executes a German-suplex on them!  Also, you only control one member of your team, but you can ‘give commands’ to the other team member by pressing the appropriate button.

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A variety of obstacles can prevent you from scoring – like a crate smashing you into the pavement!

Obstacles: As you play, various ‘obstacles’ will occasionally prevent you from scoring.  For example, try for a jump shot, and you may find a bird conveniently flies in the way of the basket just as your shot is going in!  Step on a broom that an old lady has thrown on the court, and you’ll trip and lose the ball.  Making a fast break?  Well, slow down, because a dog ran on the court and pulled your pants down!  There are quite a variety of these obstacles, some you can avoid and some you can’t, but they don’t happen frequently enough to become irksome and really add some charm to the game.  Also, they happen to the opposition as much as they happen to you, so use them to your advantage!

Energy: You have an ‘energy bar’ that serves as your ‘play time’.  This is adjustable in the DIP settings, but basically, when it runs down you’ll need to press Start to enter another credit.

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Hope you like two-point shots, because that’s all you’ll get in Punk Shot!

Scoring:  Slams, jump shots, and down-court heaves are all appropriate means of scoring.  However, there are no fouls (and therefore no free throw shots), and more surprisingly, no three-point shots!  This is a bit jarring at first (particularly when you hit a long shot and are still only awarded two points), but you’ll quickly find that it doesn’t mean you can’t close the gap on the opposition quickly.  Soon into a game, you’ll notice that as soon as someone scores, the other team immediately takes possession of the ball under the basket, and is ripe for an attack.  There were numerous times when I had a decent lead on the CPU when they’d get a basket, punch the ball right out of my hands as I was getting ready to ‘in-bounds’ the ball, and lay it back in.  Four points for the CPU in like 1 second!!!  You have to be on your toes the whole game, and no lead is safe!

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Playing aggressive defense is the key to winning.

Game Settings:  If you consult online, or if you have the arcade user manual, you can adjust the settings of the game on the DIP switches.  However, my manual is incorrect somewhat, stating that you can adjust the quarter times between 2 and 5 minutes; this is incorrect, as it’s actually between 3 and 6 minutes.  There are also four difficulty levels – the CPU gets a bit more aggressive as you increase the difficulty, but even on Easy, you have to stay aggressive yourself to win.

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The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: B+ It’s nothing particularly special, but Punk Shot is incredibly fun to play, particularly if you have another person.  The control is great, and the replayability is high.  It’s outstanding that, like Dunk Dream ’95, you have co-op in this arcade basketball game.  On the downside, there are no three-point plays, and the control setup with the first button being ‘pass’ and the second button being ‘shoot’ is opposite from what a lot of other basketball arcade games use (takes about one quarter to get used to, however, then it’s smooth sailing).  No, there’s no tournament to win, no different teams to select from, and no alley-oop team moves, but Punk Shot is great for a quick arcade basketball romp that is sure to have you coming back for one more game.  Other than Arch Rivals, how many basketball games allow you to throw a haymaker at the opposing team’s players?  

 

Arcade – Dunk Dream ’95 (Data East’s Hoops)

 

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Dunk Dream ’95 played through an HDMI Supergun.

Note 1This game was played by using an HDMI Supergun.  It was connected to a 32-inch HD-tv.

Note 2I apologize for the quality of the pictures.  The game looks amazing when played through this Supergun, but I have no way to pause the game, so a lot of the pictures are blurred due to being taken during the action of the game.

Note 3If you like basketball games, check out my reviews of Nekketsu Street Basket, Dunk Stars, and Dunk Dream.

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The sequel to the Neo Geo’s Dunk Dream

Brief History: Dunk Dream ’95 (also known as Data East’s Hoops) was released in 1995 as one of only four games for Data East’s MLC Arcade System.  It is the sequel to Dunk Dream for the Neo Geo, and it improved upon that game in many ways.  Additionally, a Version ’96 of Dunk Dream ’95 was released the following year in Europe, although what, beyond the starting screen is different, I do not know.

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Finally – 2P co-op!

Modes: In 1P mode or 2P Team Mode, you play an international basketball tournament to see if you can take down all competition. During the tournament, you’ll play 12 teams, including a mirror match against your own team.  Difficulty gradually increases with each team that you face.  Additionally, there is a VS. Mode.  Depending on the setup of your arcade cabinet or Supergun, between two and four players can face off.

Gameplay: Like it’s predecessor Dunk DreamDunk Dream ’95 is 3-on-3 basketball.  There is only one half of basketball instead of two, and you can adjust the length in the Test menu between two and four minutes.  The clock moves rather quickly, so games are fast and furious.  The game begins with a tipoff, where you furiously beat button A (if you’re using a Neo Geo stick for a Supergun – this would be the ‘first’ button on an arcade cabinet, I imagine) to tip the ball to one of your two teammates.  From there, you’ll try to shoot, slam, block, and steal your way to victory.

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Does offense or defense really win championships?

Teams: Each of the 12 teams has their own strengths and weaknesses among four categories: Dunk, 3 Points, Steal, and Block Shots.  If a team is high in a certain area, they are more likely to achieve that particularly feat during a game.

Controls: On offense, A shoots and B passes.  Hitting A + B when you’re on your end of the court and have another player under the basketball executes an Alleyoop (you’ll need to hit A again to catch and dunk the ball when it is thrown up).  On defense, A jumps to block a shot when you’re opponent shoots (if you time it right, you’ll snatch the ball out of the air – you can also stand near the goal and pick off shots – there is no ‘goaltending’ or any other foul).  Button B steals by snatching at the ball or throwing an elbow at an opponent when he is near.  Pressing Toward, Toward quickly executes a spin/juke to get around a defender – it works amazingly if you can time it for when an opponent is going for a steal.

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Super Dunks can only be stopped by Super Defense!

Power Meter: As you make shots, your power meter will fill.  Once you’ve hit a couple of shots, you can execute a ‘Super Dunk’ by quickly hitting A twice if you’re inside the 3-point line.  If you’ve made three shots, your power meter will hit another level for a ‘Super Three.’  If you quickly hit A twice when outside the 3-point line, yet on your half of the court, you’ll execute an explosive three-pointer.  Finally, on defense, if your meter is full from your offensive play, you can elect ‘Super Defense.’  This only works on Super Dunks though – you can’t stop Super Threes.  To execute Super Defense, wait until your opponent has begun their action for a Super Dunk and quickly hit A twice if you’re in between your opponent and the basket.  Your player will leap up and reject (and steal) the ball!  It’s all very easy and awesome-looking!

Overtime: If the game is tied at the end of regulation, you’ll play one 30-second overtime period.  Winning the tipoff is really important now because you won’t have many possessions!  If the game is still tied at the end of OT, the game ends in a draw (meaning you lose).

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The controls are simple, but a (skippable) helpful tutorial plays before the game starts.

Improvements: Dunk Dream ’95 greatly improves things over the already excellent Dunk Dream for the Neo Geo.  Here is a list of the things I noticed:

(1) 2P Co-op!!!  I thought this was the case, but I couldn’t confirm this before I received this game.  In the original game, you could only play VS, but now, you and a friend can play through the tournament together.

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Instant Replay!

(2) Replays – If you make a particularly good shot, the game will give a quick replay (typically only happens once per game).

(3) The super meter has separate levels for dunks and 3-pointers (as mentioned, it takes longer to fill the meter for 3s).  In the original Dunk Dream, while making two-pointers didn’t fill the meter as much as three-pointers, once your meter was full, you could execute either a Super Dunk or a Super Three.  Now, you’ll have to give great consideration to using your Super Dunk as soon as your meter is full or waiting to try and fill it for the Super Three.  Basically, there’s more strategy involved with the power meter now, particularly with the addition of the Super Defense maneuver.

(4) Zoom ins – Dunk Dream ’95 sometimes zooms in on the action in dramatic fashion, the way the original never did.

(5) The Spin Move – being able to elude defenders without passing the ball is a definite improvement.  This move wasn’t present in the original, but it now adds another strategic layer to a simple arcade basketball game.

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Stats are provided at the end of each game.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A+ Dunk Dream ’95 is a spectacular game.  The control is perfect, for starters.  While the game is generally an updated version of the excellent Neo Geo Dunk Dream, the improvements are all just that – improvements, not regressions.  It’s a similar game as well to Dunk Stars (see my review), which I also love, although it’s better than that game if for only two reasons – the 2P co-op and the fact that the alleyoop feature works better.  The Test menu allows you to adjust the difficulty from 1-8, adjust the game time, and even play 4-player if you’re setup allows (mine doesn’t, but it’s still a great 2P affair).  The game cartridge saves your settings as well, so you don’t need to readjust every time you turn on the game.  Another slam dunk!

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Plenty of helpful options exist for varying your play experience.

 

Controllers – Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad

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The Honey Bee Control Pad for use with the Sega Master System

My Brief Sega Master System Controller HuntIf you’re new to the Sega Master System, as I was until recently, you’ll not find a multitude of options outside of the original controller readily available.  As far as hunting on eBay, I’ve found the somewhat uncommon Ultimate Beeshu Control Stick (arcade style joystick), which looks like it would be awesome if you wanted a joystick, the odd left-handed-only Master System joystick, and of course you can use Sega Genesis/Mega Drive controllers for your Master System, with buttons B and C taking the role of buttons 1 and 2.

Not having used the arcade joysticks, I cannot speak to how well they function for playing Master System games, but I was not entirely pleased with the original model controller nor a Sega Genesis controller.  The main problem with the original controller  is with the D-pad – it’s a flat pad rather than the more traditional ‘cross’ you find on D-pads of other older consoles.  While in some games, I found that the pad worked perfectly, but in others, my on-screen character didn’t consistently crouch/climb/move when/where I needed him to.  I found a Sega Genesis controller to be preferable (particularly ones that had a built in turbo feature), yet even that was not as enjoyable, and I didn’t like the mapping of the buttons to B and C rather than A and B.

The Honey Bee ControllerAs far as I could tell, the Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad was not released in the U.S.  I ordered mine new from Greece, and it was one of only a couple I could locate online.  According to the excellent website smstributes, a nearly identical controller called the ‘Competition Pro’ was released in the UK.

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The original Master System controller really isn’t such a bad controller – it’s just not a fair fight by any stretch when compared to the Honey Bee.

Comparison to the original Master System Control Pad:   Compared to the original controller, the Honey Bee is far superior, and for multiple reasons.  First, and most obviously, the Honey Bee includes a traditional ‘cross’ D-pad.  The difference between the consistent accuracy between the Honey Bee D-pad and the original Master System D-pad  is night and day.  I noticed this immediately when playing Mortal Kombat – for example, to do a ‘leg sweep’ in the game, you must hold Down/Away plus button 2.  With an original controller (and even using a Sega Genesis controller), I could NEVER, say, execute multiple leg sweeps in a row – I might do just one then execute a regular kick despite not having done anything different on the controller.  With the Honey Bee, I could leg sweep one hundred times in a row if I wanted because the D-pad worked perfectly.  In the overhead action RPG, Gollvellius: Valley of Doom, my onscreen character would sometimes not turn exactly when I needed him to when using the original controller – with the Honey Bee, this never happened, and the game subsequently became more enjoyable.

Next, the buttons on the Honey Bee are concave, rather than convex, much like the original NES controller most of us grew up on.  Here, I actually preferred the original Master System buttons, but that’s really only personal preference, because using buttons 1 and 2 works perfectly on either controller.  Also, the buttons appear to be the same size, so it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to take an original controller apart and put its buttons into the Honey Bee if I wanted to.

Next is the addition of built-in turbo features on the Honey Bee.  Much like the Turbografx-16 controller, the Honey Bee lets you set Turbo or Auto fire features without the need of the cumbersome ‘Rapid Fire’ attachment piece that was originally released for the Master System.  This built-in feature is amazing, as games like Vigilante become vastly easier when you don’t have to pound a button over and over, but instead can simply hold down said button.

Finally, the Honey Bee is slightly thinner and slightly shorter than the original Master System controller, and it’s edges are slightly smoother as well, making it, ergonomically  speaking, a bit more comfortable to hold for extended periods (the original model controller is far from uncomfortable to hold, mind you, as compared to say, the pointy edged original NES controller).

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Compared to the NES Dog Bone and Turbografx-16 TurboPad, the Honey Bee is still behind a bit from a comfortability standpoint, yet it’s smoother edges still keep it ahead of both the original rectangular NES controller and the slightly less comfortable original Master System pad.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeA+ The Sega Master System Honey Bee controller is the controller that should have been released with the Master System.  It’s highly reminiscent of the original NES controller, yet more comfortable.  The build-in turbo features are outstanding and convenient, and the D-pad works exactly as you need it to in video games – accurately.  Of course, none of this resolves the lack of a Pause button on any of the controllers (the ‘Pause’ button is located on the console itself). *As a side note, I know there is a website online that will mod your console and sell you a controller that is a hybrid/modded NES controller that will allow you to pause from the controller.  Personally, I have come to love the 2 button-only setup of the Master System, and have gotten quite used to just getting up when I need to pause a game.  I didn’t truly appreciate the Master System until I used the Honey Bee – true enjoyment of many of the games hinges on the accuracy a controller like this gives you.  If you can find one, I highly recommend getting it.  

 

Sega Master System – Double Hawk

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Double Hawk for the Sega Master System

Note 1: This review was done using an original model Sega Master System.  The Master System was connected to a 55-inch HD-tv.  I used the HD Retrovision Model 2 Genesis component cable (with a small adapter piece to allow the Master System to be connected).  I then ran the 240p signal through the Retrotink box, which converted the signal to 480p, a signal my Vizio could detect and output through an HDMI input.  It really all sounds complicated, but works flawlessly if you have the right devices, and the picture is magnificent.

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Use an HD Retrovision Genesis Model 2 component cable (with adapter for a Master System)  combined with a Retrotink device to display your Master System in beautiful 480p on your modern HD-tv!

Players: 1 or 2 co-op

Brief HistoryDouble Hawk was released only in Europe for the Sega Master System (it is fully compatible with a U.S. Master System, however).  It never saw a release in the U.S.

Story(back of the box) You control the action as John and Jack, two warriors hand-picked by the United Nations – attempt to bring down a terrorist organization which is responsible for a worldwide wave of violence!  The terrorists are capable of launching attacks from the sky, the sea, and by land.  Are you the one person who can end this reign of terror?

Gameplay: Through 5 Missions, you have to gun down the enemy terrorists and take down their machines of war.  As John or Jack (who bare an uncanny resemblance to some 1980’s action movie heroes), you move along the bottom of the screen, dodging enemy fire.  By holding down Button I, you can fire an unlimited number of bullets at approaching soldiers, tanks, choppers, and other enemies (an onscreen reticule is present to show where you’re firing).  You can’t move while firing in this manner however, so you have to stop to move away from bullets and then open fire again from a different spot.

Each Mission contains four scenes – the first three have you blowing away (or evading) the bad guys until a timer expires and you move on to the next scene.  In the final scene of each mission, you battle a Boss – a military base or armored vehicle of some kind, typically.

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The game’s best feature is, by far, the five Boss fights against heavy artillery.

Power-Ups: As you shoot the enemy, occasionally, Power-Ups will appear and float down in a straight line from the top of the screen.  If you move Jack or John underneath them, they’ll temporarily give your soldier a boost in one of these categories – F (speeds up your movement), R (faster bullets to eradicate the enemy quicker), S (wider reticule for shooting targets), or B (bombs that can be lobbed with Button II to finish the enemy faster than bullets – they come in supplies of 10).

Lives: You get three lives, and unlimited continues.  You also get points for taking out the enemy, but high point totals don’t add any extra lives.  If you lose all 3 lives, you simply have to repeat that particular scene if you elect to Continue – this is nice as you don’t have to go all the way back to the first scene of every Mission each time you die.  One unusual program decision, however, regards the 2-player mode.  Each character gets 3 lives, yet when one player loses all of his, he automatically steals any remaining lives from the other player.  So basically, what you have to do to enjoy co-op is to tell yourself (if playing with someone who may be less than skilled) that you have only 1 life and your friend gets 5 because that’s basically what it amounts to.

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The co-op mode is fun, but know from the start that you will automatically give any remaining lives you have to your partner should he or she lose their own!

MusicThere is a nice little ‘You beat the scene!’ jingle that plays at the end of each scenario, but in game, there’s nothing but the sound of your gun and bombs, plus a few other sound effects.  This is unfortunate, as even a decent tune would have added to the ‘war’ atmosphere or the imposing threat of a Boss fight.

Difficulty: There are two levels of difficulty – Easy and Difficult.  In the Difficult mode, there are more enemies and they fire more bullets.  In Easy mode, you’ll get through most of the scenes outside of the Boss fights easily, as shooting and dodging the enemy isn’t too tough.  The Boss fights typically take multiple tries as you figure out which part of an enemy base to take out first, or how best to position your soldier onscreen.  Boss fights generally involve dodging far more bullets than you do in the scenarios that precede them.  The only one that gave me fits was the last one in Mission Five.  After about 100 tries (seriously), I finally, by luck, discovered that if I took out the two lower left cannons and one upper left base first, then there was a ‘safe spot’ on the left side of the screen I could position my soldier to safely pick off the rest of the guns on the base.

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Double Hawk breaks the formula for an 8-bit shoot ’em up, and it does a decent job at at.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: B  I wasn’t overly impressed with Double Hawk at first, but I came back to it and came around.  The control is absolutely perfect, and I like the strategy of firing, moving, and firing.  The Power-Ups add a nice mix-up, as your soldier becomes much stronger with them, and if you have them for Boss fights, you’ll win quicker.  The absence of music is really disappointing, but it’s not a major problem since the gameplay is good.  The two difficulty levels add some replay value, although those soldiers fire much more quickly on the higher of the two!  Also, there’s great replay value if you’re going for a high score – your score resets to zero every time you continue, so seeing how high you can get on 3 lives is a fun challenge.

*A neat feature of Master System manuals, I have found, is the presence of ‘High Score’ tables in them for you to write in your scores.  While I don’t do this with any manuals that don’t previously have writing in them, and I always rely on notebooks or printed tables for high score keeping so as not to mar old manuals, Double Hawk has one of these such tables, and I just thought I’d mention it – I wish more manuals would have included these back in the day, as trying for a high score always adds replayability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turbografx-16 – Blue Blink

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English-translated version of Blue Blink for the Turbografx-16

Note:  This game was played on a Turbografx-16 console that has been modified to output in 240p component video.  It was connected to a 32-inch HD-tv.

Note 2: This game is an English-translated reproduction.

Brief HistoryReleased in 1990 for the PC Engine in Japan, Blue Blink is based on a Japanese animated series.

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The Emperor has kidnapped your father in Blue Blink.

StoryAccording to the story that will scroll down the screen after you watch the game’s demo, a boy named Kakeru saved a blue horse named Blink who fell from the sky.  Kakeru took Blink home, only to find that Kakeru’s father, Hiruhiko, was missing.  They hop onto a bus along with two thieves and are told by the driver that the Emperor has captured Hiruhiko.  Accompanied by the two Thieves, a Sailor, and a princess named Kirara, Kakeru and Blink set out to defeat the Emperor and rescue Kakeru’s father.

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An unlikely band hop in a bus and challenge the power of the Emperor.

Gameplay: Blue Blink is composed of 5 Stages located on 5 map screens.  You drive the bus to a location (Level) on the map screen and must beat it before moving on.  Not every Level in a Stage needs to be beaten, however; your main objective is to locate a hidden Red Key in one of the Levels that will unlock a Boss door in the stage’s final Level.  You can replay any Level (except after winning a Boss fight in each last level) as many times as you want in order to find the Red Key or collect other items.  Some Levels autoscroll, while others are your traditional platforming Levels.  The 5 Stages are called: Rose Town, Ivory Tower, Yellow Town, Rainbow Town, and Gurosu Castle.

When you begin a Level, Button II fires a projectile, and Button I jumps.  For every Level you play, you will have a pre-selected arrangement of the game’s 5 protagonists (non-including Blink the horse, who is only available for Boss fights): the boy Kakeru, the princess Kirara, the Tall Thief, the Short Thief, and the Sailor. You will have a party of 3 of the aforementioned, and each plays differently in terms of the projectiles they toss or in how high they can jump.  You can rotate between each of these three characters by pressing Select.

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5 Stages have multiple Levels to beat

Items: In addition to finding the necessary Red Key in each of the game’s 5 Stages, you can also collect gold by slaying enemies, Speed Boosts good for one Level, Hearts that replenish your energy, Poison that drains your energy, extra lives, or Blue Keys that are used to open chests that may contain any of the aforementioned items.

‘Leveling Up’: You can increase the number of Heart Containers you have by collecting gold.  You accumulate gold by slaying enemies or opening chests, and you can have up to eleven Heart Containers.  Because you can replay Levels as many times as you want, it’s a good idea to spend some time ‘gold grinding’ in order to increase your life bar.  For every 100 coins you collect (which come in 1s, 5s, and 20s), you’ll add a Heart Container OR an extra life (more on this immediately below).

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Citizens often offer useful advice…or not.

Blink: Blink the horse serves as your ‘lives’ in Blue Blink.  If you run out of hearts (die), or fall in a hole (die), Blink will fly on screen and revive you, restoring a small portion of your hearts.  You can accumulate extra lives (Blinks) by collecting money or by finding items (small blue orbs) that count as extra lives.  Pay attention to how many lives you have – once again, it’s smart to ‘gold grind’ to accumulate Heart Containers and extra lives.

**Important note on Blink:  A character mentions this at the beginning of the game, but leaves out a crucial step.  Instead of dying and waiting for Blink to fly on screen and restore a portion of your life, Pause the game when you’re about to die (this is useless if you fall in a hole, but awesome if you know you’re about to die from being hit by an enemy).  While the game is paused, hold Button I – your ENTIRE life bar will be refilled!  This is why it is important to ‘gold grind’ so you have as many Heart Containers as possible – they will all be completely refilled every time and the game becomes much, much easier.

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The five Bosses are the game’s highlights – duck, dip, dive, and fire Stars from the saddle of Blink the horse!

Bosses: There are 5 Bosses in the game.  When you unlock the Boss door, the game immediately switches to Kakeru riding Blink and firing Star projectiles at the Boss.  Score enough hits, and the Boss will explode and leave you some gold, Blue Keys, and health replenishment items.

Saving?  Unfortunately, no.  No save file using the Turbobooster-Plus, passwords, or even a level select code that I could find.  Still, it’s not an overly long game.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: C+ Blue Blink is not an overly amazing game by any stretch of the imagination – it’s average, in terms of fun and replayability.  The English translation is amazing, as finding the Red Keys to advance to the next Stage would be more difficult without it – as it is, citizens you meet tell you almost exactly where to look.  The difficulty is medium – using the tips I mentioned helps tremendously.  The Boss fights are probably the best part of the game, as each boss has a unique look and pattern, that, while not entirely predictable, makes for a decent challenge.  The ‘switching’ characters concept is executed decently, although after awhile you may end up preferring the game had just stuck with one character only as the switching can become tedious and even frustrating at a few points.   

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Do you have what it takes to save your Pop?

 

 

 

Top 15 Turbografx-16 Games

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For awhile now, I’ve wanted to create a ‘Top [insert number]’ list for the Turbografx-16 console.  Since I started this website/blog several years ago and subsequently began collecting and playing various console games, the ones that I’ve come back to the most are the ones for the TG-16.

The TG-16 that I use has been modded to output in 240p component video; it’s difficult to find an HD-tv these days that accepts that signal, and I’ve recently ordered a device known as the ‘Retrotink’ that should allow me to connect this particular console to  larger, more modern HD-tvs other than my older, Symphonic 32-inch one.  If you’re interested in the TG-16/PC Engine (the name of the console in Japan), I highly recommend you have it modded for component video or SCART because the picture is absoultey outstanding.

Additionally, I have a Turbobooster-Plus attached to my console for saving high scores/files on applicable games – this is a necessary accessory for full enjoyment of the console, in my opinion.

Finally, the only games I play are Hu-cards/Turbochips.  I’ve twice owned CD-attachments for the TG-16, even reviewing Double Dragon II, but I’ve had too many problems with keeping the CD attachments running – I NEVER have problems with the Hu-cards.

There’s something about the games for this console that, for me, are particularly enjoyable – more so than the Neo Geo, NES, SNES, Genesis, FM Towns Marty, or any other of the consoles I own or have owned.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never owned this console when I was younger, and nearly all of the games were/are completely new to me.  There’s also something else about it – I think it’s that the graphics are somewhere, generally speaking, between the NES and SNES.  As great as the NES is, I don’t play it often because the games and the graphics seem a bit too simplistic; the SNES, which I do enjoy, often seems too busy.  The TG-16, on the other hand, falls right between them.  I like the standard two button controller paired with beautiful, colorful graphics in games that are not overly complex.  That may not make a lot of sense, but that’s how I can best describe it.

What is a ‘Top 15′ list, anyway, and how can such a thing even be created on something so subjective?  I love reading others’ ‘Top [insert number]’ list when it comes to games, and of course, it’s all based on the opinion of the writer.  I don’t play games on emulators, so clearly I have not played every TG-16/PC Engine game in existence.  I own roughly 50 games, and these are my Top 15 based on what I’ve played.  The criteria for me essentially boils down to a few factors, not all of which need apply to a single game: (1) Is it fun? (2) Can it be played in short increments? (3) Do I play it often?  (4) Is there any type of save/password feature? I hope you enjoy reading this, even if you completely disagree!  I’ve provided some basic information about each game.

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15.  Chew-Man-Fu

Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15: Chew-Man-Fu is a deceptively entertaining game.  The basic premise requires you to defeat monsters by pushing four giant, colored balls onto their respective colored-platforms to complete single screen stages.  The game becomes addictive quickly as you learn the mechanics of rolling, kicking, and blocking monsters with the balls.  The best part?  If you have the Turbobooster-Plus, the game will save your progress, and the game has over 550 levels!  I beat the first 50, and then it was on to Round 2!  The game has that just one more game factor to it, and it has two-player co-op.  The difficulty eases upwards slowly and strategy and luck sometimes play crucial roles in whether or not you beat a stage.  Additionally, this game allows you to access the data banks on your Turbobooster-Plus to see what games you have saved, and delete any old files as needed.

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14. Legend of Valkyrie

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15I’ve reviewed Legend of Valkyrie, but in short, this game is a fantastic hybrid RPG/Shooter/Adventure game.  It also has a short password system to prevent you from having to beat it in a single setting.  You’ll need to get the English translation to really appreciate this gem.

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13. Vigilante

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15Vigilante is a game that you can literally beat in 12-15 minutes.  It’s an arcade port that is amazingly accurate (I own the jamma pcb, and can attest to that – it is only missing short cutscenes).  What makes the game so fun is its amazingly simple control – walk right and kick, punch, jump-kick or nunchuck the bad guys.  Playing the game enjoyably absolutely depends on using the TG-16’s turbo switches.  If you have them turned on, then you’ll have no trouble pummeling the bad guys – have them turned off, and the game becomes overly difficult and not much fun.

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12. Magical Chase

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15This side-scrolling shooter has fantastic control, bizarre characters, and great replayability.  Blasting your way through several stages successfully requires learning where to place your ‘Star Maidens,’ two stars that accompany your witch protagonist.  Stopping at shops mid-level allows you to ‘level up’ your character by adding hearts or buying more powerful projectiles.  Beating the game on the Medium and Hard levels will require multiple playthroughs, yet the game never enters into the ‘impossible’ realm.

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11.  Bonk’s Adventure

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Bonk’s Adventure is probably the most well-known game for the console, and it’s a fantastic simple Platformer.  The game is not overly difficult as you run over, around, and through the bad guys using Bonk’s giant head as a weapon.  This game represents the best in the series, in my opinion, as its two sequels were overly long and a bit more convoluted.

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10. Super Dodge Ball

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Players: 2, competitive

Why it’s in my Top 15: Super Dodge Ball is another port of an arcade game, but it is actually an improvement (see my review).  The game proper can be beaten in approximately 15 minutes once you learn the controls, and there’s just something innately satisfying about smacking the other team with dodge balls.  Hopefully, someone will translate the names and the short ‘story mode’ one day, but the Japanese language that is present does not prevent the game from being outstanding.

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9. Devil’s Crush

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Players: 2, Alternating

Why it’s in my Top 15Devil’s Crush might be the best pinball game on any console, as I’ve yet to play one that I would qualify as even being close to this one.  That graphics on the board are suitably dark, the control and music are great, there are multiple bonus stages, and there are two ‘speeds’ for the ball that essentially allow the game to have an Easy and a Normal mode.  The game also saves your high scores on a ‘Top 5’ table if you have a Turbobooster-Plus!  Although I should note, it does not automatically save your score.  First, you’ll need to set a score that makes it on the table and enter your initials, then start a new game.  Pause the game, then press Select.  Then press Button I to save to one of the files.  Then reset the game, and Load the save file.  This makes for additional replayability as you try to beat your previous high scores without having to write them down somewhere!

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8. Cadash

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Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15: Cadash is probably the game I come back to the most often to beat.  Once you understand the simple nature of the game, it can be beaten in just over an hour.  With four distinct characters to choose from, the replayablity, while not outstanding, is present as each character has strengths and weaknesses.  You can ‘level up’ your character by defeating monsters and buy new equipment in shops.  You only get one life (although you can find elixirs that fully restore your life when you’re killed), so you’ll need to spend about 15 minutes in the first area grinding and strengthening your character.  The one thing I would have added to this game would have been a save file or password feature, but since the game isn’t overly long, that aspect isn’t missed too sorely.   I’m not sure why this game is so addictive – I think it’s the Dungeons & Dragons type characters and setting, the ‘leveling up’ aspect, and the simplistic ‘defeat the evil bad guy who is destroying the kingdom’ story.

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7. Neutopia

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: I’ve previously reviewed the sequel to this game and provided some additional ‘tips’ on beating this one (see my reviews).  I love Neutopia because of its insanely simple RPG/adventure nature.  There is absolutely nothing complex about the game’s setup.  You are tasked with defeating the evil Dirth and acquring ‘medallions’ in labyrinths, which are being held by bosses whom you must defeat.  The Overworld and labyrinths are easy to navigate, but the game is not a complete cakewalk as you will need to learn to manage your character’s health and try a few different strategies to defeat some labyrinth bosses.  Your are able to save your game using passwords or the Turbobooster-Plus save files, making this a great ‘pick up and play in short increments’ RPG.

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6. Splatterhouse

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Splatterhouse, aside from Bonk’s Adventure, is probably the most well-known game for the Turbografx-16.  It’s a port of an arcade game, and one that was done quite well.  The game’s creepy atmosphere and excellent play control are what make it fun to come back to again and again, even after you’ve already mastered it.  The game’s soundtrack is also incredible and adds to the already spooky nature of the game.  Punching, kicking, bashing, and blasting your way through the monsters in the game on your way to save your girlfriend in Dr. West’s mansion is fantastic entertainment.

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5. Parasol Stars

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Players: 2, co-op

Why it’s in my Top 15Parasol Stars is an amazingly addictive single screen platforming game, and it’s really all about getting High Scores.  Using your magical parasol, you’ll catch, blast, and block various bizarre bad guys and bosses as you attempt to save various planets.  The control is great, and learning how to maximize your points by mastering the parasol is crucial to setting a high score.  Best of all, if you have a Turbobooster-Plus, this game will automatically save your Top 5 high scores!

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4. Rastan Saga II

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15In other reviews I’ve read, almost no one thinks this game is any good.  It’s a port of an arcade game as well.  I think my initial reaction to it was, “Nope, too hard.” But after playing it a few times, and getting a bit further each time, I loved it.  The music isn’t great, but the spites are huge and the enemies suitably ‘evil looking.’  The game gives you 15 lives (2 continues) to beat 5 stages.  Mastering the game, which can be beaten in about 20 minutes, means finding which weapons work best (short sword & shield, claws, or broad sword), learning how and when to block, and memorizing the short stages and their hazards.  Boss fights also require several tries until you figure out how to defeat them while minimizing the energy or lives you lose.

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3. Soldier Blade

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15: Soldier Blade is one of many Shooters for the Turbografx-16 – and it’s the best one I’ve played.  Unlike others, it’s a cinch to jump right in and feel like you’re a master of the genre.  The graphics are vibrant and the control is spot on.  Best of all, the game will save your Top Five high scores in the Normal Mode, AND it will save your high scores in 2-minute and 4-minute ‘Challenge’ mode.

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2. Gekisha Boy

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Players: 1

Why it’s in my Top 15There’s no other game quite like Gekisha Boy.  Essentially, your job is to take pictures of bizarre things that occur in 9 stages, or ‘Takes.’  Your character slowly strolls to the right in each stage, and you have a limited amount of film.  While you can control your character, you also control an onscreen reticule, or cursor, to snap pictures.  Snapping different pictures depends on timing, and you may be rewarded with more film, a speed increase for your reticule, or an increased size of your reticule, making it easier to snap pictures.  Each stage requires you to hit a certain score in order to advance to the next stage.  The game is amazingly addictive, and can even be a high score game once you learn to blaze through all stages after memorizing patterns.  I recommend the English translation version.  Additionally, the game does have some very inappropriate stereotypical images of people in a couple of the stages – had the game every been officially released in the U.S., these certainly would have been removed.

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  1. Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition

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Players: 2, competitive

Why it’s in my Top 15: I’ve reviewed this game previously, but this is an amazing port of the arcade game.  While there are no shortage of consoles to play this game on, I particularly like this version, if for no other reason than the challenge of playing it with the Turbografx-16 two-button controller.  While most would find this far less than ideal, I found it a fun challenge, and learned how to master the game using this unorthodox setup.  To me, this was always the best version because of it’s inclusion of the ‘boss characters’ (while still keeping a ‘small’ roster) and the absence of the turbo speed feature.

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Arcade – Capcom Sports Club: Dunk Stars Review

The CPS2 arcade game Capcom Sports Club attached to an HDMI-supergun

Note 1: This arcade game is a Japanese CPS2 arcade board. CPS2 boards are made with a battery that, if not replaced before it dies, will cause the arcade board to no longer function.  This game’s dead battery was removed and, to my knowledge, repaired with something called the avalaunch code, which no longer makes the CPS2 board require a battery at all.  *This is not the same as a ‘phoenixed’ CPS2 board. There is a lot of great information on the internet about CPS2 arcade boards and the issues with their ‘suicide’ batteries and ways to repair them or have them repaired.

Note 2: This arcade board was connected to a HDMI-supergun (a device that allows you to play arcade games/boards on your television).  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv.  The supergun device has 2 controller ports for Neo Geo arcade sticks.  I could probably do a review on the HDMI-supergun itself, which is an incredible device in its own right.

Note 3: I do apologize for the quality of the ‘action’ pictures of the game.  You cannot pause an arcade game, so getting a great picture, using my simple methods, is tough.  The game itself, especially played through a HDMI-supergun, looks spectacular, as I hope you can see from the pictures I have included.

Dunk Stars is one of three sports games in Capcom Sports Club.

Note 4: Capcom Sports Club includes 3 games: Dunk Stars (Basketball), Smash Stars (Tennis), and Kick Stars (Soccer).  This review is only for Dunk Stars, although I do have this to write about the other two games.

Dunk Stars and Smash Stars are incredible winners.  Kick Stars? Not so much.

Smash Stars – Amazing tennis game where you choose a woman from among multiple countries and play in a tournament.  Win 3 games, and you’ll be the champion!  Fantastic control, awesome gameplay, and a great variety of women to choose among, each with her own strengths and weaknesses.  A great game that I intend to play more often and discover its nuances.

Kick Stars – The worst game of the bunch.  A mini-soccer game that also plays in a tournament style, with 3 games-to-the-championship.  Oddly, unlike Dunk Stars, the players are very ‘clunky’ in their movements and the game lacks the fluidity of the basketball game.  Passing is often difficult to accurately execute, and a weird ‘jump’ button is included that is mostly unneeded, and would have better served being a ‘turbo’ or ‘air pass’ button.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to enjoy it or find something redeeming about it, but it’s just not that great, and certainly not compared to the other two outstanding games included on Capcom Sports Club.

You’ll get ‘hints’ following wins or losses from the ‘Coach.’  You’re not missing much by not understanding the language, and this is the only in-game Japanese you’ll find.

Brief History: Capcom Sports Club was released in 1997.  The game was released in various regions, but the version I am reviewing is the Japanese version (Japanese CPS2 boards came in the green shells, while U.S. and Europe CPS2 games came in blue shells).  The only parts of the game that include Japanese are little messages the female ‘coach’ character gives you after you win or lose a match.  While it seems like these are supposed to be some helpful hints, they in no way impact your ability to figure out how to play any of the games.  Additionally, CPS2 arcade boards have a ‘Test’ button on the side that allows you to alter certain game options, like difficulty level, how many coins to enter for a play, etc.  All of these directions are in Japanese as well, but with a little bit of common sense I was very easily able to figure out how to set the game to ‘Free Play’ (meaning you don’t have to press the ‘insert coin’ button at all) and set the difficulty (‘1’ is the easiest and ‘4’ is the hardest).  The board will save your settings for next time, too (unless you play another CPS2 game, or ‘B’ Board). *Later, I actually used ‘Google Translate’ to screen shot the Japanese Test menus for even more clarity on what options were available.

The CPS2 ‘Test’ menu is in Japanese, but it’s not tough to figure out how to set things like ‘Free Play’ and difficulty level.

Gameplay: There are two play options in Dunk Stars: 1 Player Tournament and 2 Player VS.  In the Tournament mode, you’ll choose from among 8 international teams: Japan, Korea, China, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and the USA.  Each team is composed of 3 players.  After choosing your team, you’ll play an 8-team bracket tournament.  You start in a quarterfinal, then move to a semifinal, and ultimately the championship game.  Each game lasts for 2 minutes, and there are no “halves” like in other basketball games.  Win the 3 games, and you’ll be the champ!

Pass, shoot, block, steal, use turbo speed – simple and fun gameplay!

Controls: Dunk Stars uses 3 buttons, aside from the joystick.  Since my supergun uses a Neo Geo controller, that’s how I’ll be describing each button’s function.  On offense, Button A shoots, Button B passes, and Button C uses your ‘turbo,’ (makes your player run faster, and is unlimited).  Additionally, you can perform an ‘alley-oop’ (complete with an incredibly bad English “AH-REE-OOP!” soundbite by pressing A + B).  In order for this to work, you’ll need to use it when you have one of your teammates near the basket to grab and dunk the ball – otherwise, the ball will fall pitifully short of the basket and your shooter will hang his head in shame – it’s hilarious.  Wait for a player under the basket to ‘signal’ the shooter by waving his hand – then immediately hit A + B to throw it up for him.  On defense, Button A blocks (used when an offensive player shoots – you’ll jump up and attempt to block the shot – if done correctly, you’ll literally snatch the ball out of the air), Button B steals (used when an offensive player is dribbling the ball – you’ll swat or throw an elbow to dislodge the ball and take possession of it), and Button C uses your turbo.

Find a team with the kind of players you think make champions!

Teams: The 8 teams in Dunk Stars are all different, although it’s not so obvious just how different until you play a few games.  Each team is composed of 3 players, and each player falls into 1 of 4 cateorgies:

1. Guard – The fastest players on the court (they can move as fast as Forwards without even pressing the ‘turbo’ button!), but the absolute worst shooters.  You can count on them for dunking and close-range jump shots, but FORGET about taking three-pointers with them.

2.  Forward – The 2nd fastest players on the court.  Average shooter, but not a high percentage 3-point shooter.

3.  Center – The 3rd fastest players on the court.  Good shooter from nearly anywhere and can make 3’s more consistently than a Forward, but it’s never guaranteed.

4.  Shooter – The absolute SLOWEST players on the court.  Really, really slow compared to the others.  But they can BURY 3-pointers consistently if you can give them a good look.

Some teams have 3 different types of players, while others have 2 of the same types of players (China, for example, has 2 Shooters), so it’s really fun to explore the game and find a team that works best for you. On the court, a letter (G, F, C, or S) appears above the head of whoever you’re controlling for convenience.

Courts: A few different courts are available, including a traditional blacktop, seaside court, and a court that is made on top of a skyscraper construction site!

Win the Tournament and accrue over $200,000 and you’ll be challenged by the Golden USA Team.

Golden USA: Based on how badly you beat your opponents, you are given “money” after each of your 3 games in the Tournament.  If that sum total goes over $200,000, you will be challenged by the Golden USA team following your third game.  They are TOUGH and AGGRESSIVE.  You play them on a special ‘street’ court at night, and it’s by far the best court in the game.

Golden USA is TOUGH, and they play on an awesome looking street court.

2 Player VS: 2 Player games vary a bit from the 1 Player Tournament.  Instead of being only 2 minutes, VS. games are 3 minutes long.  Before the game begins, you can choose to ‘handicap’ one team by giving them a set number of points before the game even starts.  So, for example, if you’re playing with someone who’s never played before you can start the game with them already having 6 points and you having zero.  The game also keeps track of your win streak in 2 Player VS.

You’ll get brief stats after games.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeA+ Dunk Stars is an incredible arcade basketball game.  It’s fast, the controls are outstanding, the graphics are cartoony and ‘loud’ (all kinds of explosions go off when you dunk, or ‘fans’ jump in front of the screen when you make a good shot).  There are some outstanding ‘bad English’ voiceovers during gameplay that add to the charming nature of the game.  You can set the difficulty if it gets too easy, although even on the lowest difficulty Golden USA is a beast to beat.  It’s a shame this game has never gotten any attention, seemingly from anywhere, because it’s that good (in the amazingly simple way arcade games should be).  Recommended.

Dunks and great shots result in explosive celebrations.