PC Engine Super-CD Rom – Startling Odyssey II


Startling Odyssey II for the PC Engine Duo

Note 1:  This game is an English-translated reproduction disc.  As far as I’ve read elsewhere, the game was ‘machine translated,’ and I had no problem playing through the game, as the translation, while often structurally awkward, was just fine and understandable.  Thanks to whoever did this!

Note 2: This game was played on a PC Engine Duo that has been modded to output in component video.  It was connected to a 40-inch HD-tv.

Note 3: This will be a short review!

Brief History: Startling Odyssey II was released in Japan in 1994.  It is a prequel to Startling Odyssey, which was released the year before.

Overview: Startling Odyssey II is an overhead, turn-based RPG that can be completed in approximately 25-30 hours (that was my experience).  You control a party of four (once you meet the other characters) and spend the majority of the game traveling in an overworld from town to town, buying weapons, fighting enemies, and exploring landscapes.


The game follows a Town-Tower-Boss pattern again and again.

Story: In the game, you play the role of Rob Salford, the ‘Blue god of Death,’ and are tasked with fulfilling your destiny by stopping the evil Kirubeito, who is creating/modifying Dragons to destroy the world.  The ultimate Dragon is Babylon, whom you are trying to prevent from reviving.  You and your party have to collect 8 amulets that will help in accomplishing these tasks.

Gameplay: You’ll spend the majority of the game walking (later sailing and flying) across landscapes, through caves, and over mountains, uncovering new information in each new town you come across.  You’ll level up your characters through frequent random enemy encounters, and you’ll buy armor and weaponry in each town or find them in chests.  Generally, in each area of the game, there are towers that need to be explored, a boss to beat, and a significant item to be obtained before the next area opens up.  Also, each area contains a town or a castle with numerous characters to talk to in order to advance the story.

Cut Scenes, Voice Acting, and the English translation: I would estimate that 75% of the game is told through written dialogue boxes, all of which are translated to English.  However, the other 25% of the story is told through excellently animated cutscenes with spoken Japanese dialogue, or spoken Japanese dialogue in some significant scenes in lieu of dialogue boxes.  At no point did the Japanese voice acting impact my understanding of the story to a frustrating level, and its amazing how much one can discern simply from listening to an actor’s tone and inflection without actually having knowledge of the language.


The cutscenes are beautifully animated and voice-acted in Japanese, although the animation tells the story well enough for you to follow without an understanding of the language.

Difficulty: For the first third of the game, I found Startling Odyssey II to be extraordinarily easy.  The frequent enemy encounters kept my levels moving up, new weapons and armor purchases in towns gave my stats needed boosts, and the acquisition of magic spells (that occur when certain character levels are hit) made normal enemy and boss encounters easy.  A handy Auto Battle feature makes battles a cinch as well.  However, toward the end of the game, I found enemies and bosses to become far more difficult, and I needed to spend some time grinding before facing final bosses.

Saving: You save your game at inns in each town, or handily placed Save Squares in caves or towers.  Saving at either location has the useful addition of fully restoring your HP and MP, meaning if you have a Save Square just before a boss encounter in a tower, you can spend some time leveling up on normal enemies before fighting the boss if you’re not initially ready.  The game saves to the internal memory of your PC Engine or Turbografx Duo/CD attachment.


I lost count of how many dragons I fought in this game, but it was A LOT, and each one looked awesome and significantly different from the one before.

Rating:  I didn’t know anything about Startling Odyssey II before I played it, except that it was an obscure RPG that was translated to English for the PC Engine Duo.  Wow, though, it’s amazing how different games were that were released in Japan as opposed to the U.S.  This game would have needed to be heavily censored had it been released in the west.  There is frequent language, character deaths, innuendo (the main character is frequently the object of desire amongst many female characters), numerous alcohol references, and even brief nudity in several cut scenes.  If this game was a movie, it would definitely receive an R rating, and I would imagine it would get something like a 17+ game rating today.  This is NOT a game to play around younger children.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:  Startling Odyssey II is an average RPG.  Compared to numerous other turn-based RPGs I’ve played over the years, this one didn’t quite measure up.  The game got annoyingly repetitive with the brush-rinse-repeat pattern of town-tower-boss again and again without significant deviations.  The English translation makes the game easily playable, but many of the dialogue scenes, be they text box or voice acting, are extremely long and become tiresome.  The CD music is generally good, but the tracts (particularly during boss fights) are too short, and repeat every 30 seconds or so.  From a personal standpoint, I found the game to be a bit too distasteful and lude far too often (enough to make it distracting instead of amusing), although others may enjoy the game’s sense of humor more.  Even if the story were less vulgar, however, I still would not have enjoyed the gameplay anymore than I did.  Average RPG.


ColecoVision – Children of the Night Review


Children of the Night for the ColecoVision

Note 1: This game was played on the Collectorvision Phoenix console.  It was connected to a 40-inch HD-tv via HDMI.

Genre: Action-RPG, 1-Player

Brief History: Children of the Night was released in 2017 for the ColecoVision; there’s some great info on teampixelboy.com on the people who developed this game (Hikaru Games) – Thank you for your hard work!  This game requires the SGM expansion in order to be played on an original ColecoVision; the Collectorvision Phoenix includes this built-in feature.  The SGM allows the game to have enhanced graphics and music over standard ColecoVision games.

Story: You play the role of Drakul, the Master of Vampires.  You have been awakened forty years after being willingly defeated by Van Helsing, and you set out to uncover the reason for your re-awakening and the truth behind a new dark power that is arising.  You’ll soon discover that you must collect 6 Relics to beat the ‘god’ who is coming to cover the world in darkness.


Graveyards, Palaces, Towns, and Ruins make for a vast world to explore in Children of the Night.

Control:  I’ve been playing the game using an NTT Data Super Famicom controller because the Collectorvision Phoenix has a Super Famicom port, and frankly, this is the most comfortable and convenient way to play the game.  The numeric keypad can be used to input the 20-digit password you’ll receive to save your progress (you can select the numbers the old-fashioned way, but entering the code with the numbered buttons is much faster).  The B button fires Drakul’s projectile, the A button runs or flies, once you have acquired the appropriate item, and the *asterix button pauses the game and brings up your Spirit menu.

Music: There is some truly amazing music in this game! Based on new areas you uncover, the tunes often change from creepy, to suspenseful, to surprisingly light-hearted.

Gameplay: As Drakul, you’ll awaken in your castle, get a brief tutorial on how to advance in the game as a means of escaping your castle, and you’ll soon be off in the Overworld.  In the Overworld, you’ll collect items, visit towns and talk to residents, and explore ruins/graveyards/palaces.  You’ll have to solve (usually simple) riddles to open new areas.  All the while, you’ll be battling monsters, ghosts, and Nazis(!) non-stop!

Saving: You will save your progress in the ‘Nexus,’ a space-age looking area designed by Van Helsing that exists, to paraphrase here, ‘Somewhere between Heaven and Hell.’  To access the Nexus, you’ll find blue staircases (often that appear once you defeat a certain enemy on screen) that lead there, and the red computer screen, Athraia, will give you the password.  Passwords save your current level, how many Relics you’ve collected, and what Spirt powers you’ve obtained!


No save batteries to worry about! Children of the Night utilizes a handy 20-digit numeric password, easily input by using the NTT Data controller (if playing on the Collectorvision Phoenix) or the original ColecoVision controller.

Leveling Up: To increase Drakul’s life bar (pictured as red ‘hearts’) and increase his Spirit points (stars), simply fight, fight, fight!  Every enemy you defeat gives you an experience point or two, and they constantly re-spawn (not in an annoying way, fortunately, as they’re typically easy to kill).  You can see how many points you need to obtain your next level, and gaining a level always refills several hearts.  You can also regain Drakul’s life by standing still – slowly, but it comes in handy if you can find a safe, out-of-the-way spot.

Spirit Points: As you advance in the game, you’ll uncover new items that can be ‘equipped,’ assuming you have enough Spirt points.  It works like this – the first Spirit you obtain is the Wolf Paws.  You can equip it if you at least one Star available, which you will at the beginning of the game.  As you advance in the game, and you level up (slowly gaining more stars/Spirit points), when you acquire new Spirits, you’ll be able to equip some of them as well.  Here’s a short list of some of the Spirits you’ll obtain in the first half of the game, and what they do:


Wolf Paws – Drakul moves faster if you hold button A (his life slowly decreases though)

Wolf Fang – Drakul can cross bridges

Bone Ripper – Moves Columns

Far Shot – Drakul shoots his projectile further if it’s equipped

Shu Shot – Drakul can shoot his projectile through obstacles

Ogre Shot – Drakul fires a more powerful projectile, but walks slower

Bat Wing – Drakul can fly if you press the A button

Bat Fang – Drakul can shoot while flying if you equip this


Difficulty: As I was playing Children of the Night, I couldn’t help but think of the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.  This game has a similar look to it of course, but also the linear-ish yet still open-world feel of the game was Zelda-like, but with one big difference – this game was easier to figure out!  There are enough clues to keep you generally pointed in the right direction.  Mind, a lot of backtracking is necessary at times, as you’ll be asked to obtain a particular item in one area and then return with it, but with enough patience and general memorization of the game’s map (there is no actual map in game, which would have been cool), the challenge is just right.  While you will need to grind to keep Drakul’s power growing, you will find yourself doing this as you explore the game naturally, as enemies are abundant.  The entrances to Nexus for game-saving are plentiful enough, although it’s important to note you can’t just up and save on a whim, so make discovering the entrances a priority as you play.


Exploration, riddle-solving, grinding, and discovery – Children of the Night is an in-depth Action-RPG for the Colecovision.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeI pre-ordered the Collectorvision Phoenix back in June of 2019 for one reason – to play Root Beer Tapper in high definition.  After pre-ordering, I really began exploring the ColecoVision homebrew scene and was delighted to find this gem, and have been amazed at its quality, from graphics, to music, to the story (which is surprisingly in-depth and grammatically perfect with fun nods to Star WarsThe Walking Dead, and Blade Runner) to excellent gameplay.  The only downside I found to the game was the lack of boss fights, but I didn’t find myself missing them too much as the game was so generally enjoyable.  The game also has a “good” ending and a “bad” ending based on your accomplishing certain objectives and having the right items equipped.  This is easily a 10+ hour RPG adventure, and a must-have for the (fairly) recently revived ColecoVision scene!  A+

*Bonus – Here’s a little Children of the Night walkthrough to get you started – these were just some notes I wrote down while playing.

  1.  Drakul’s Castle – get Fenrir’s Paw before you leave
  2. Get Fenrir’s Fang from the chest to the right of Drakul’s castle
  3. Go west to Bran Village and talk to Van Helsing to get Dark Control
  4. Go south to Lich Graveyard – then west to Hershell and Michonne’s for the Bone Ripper
  5. Go immediately back east in Lich’s Graveyard – a rock will be gone that was blocking your way, and you can obtain the Far Shot from the chest
  6. Now head north from Drakul’s castle.  Go north and east until you reach a sign that tells you you’re being timed to get to the entrance of the Shu Ruins.  Walk back west, south, then east to the three columns – the Bone Ripper will move them – head north and west to get to the entrance to Shu’s Ruins
  7. In the Ruins, in the first room with the ‘Release my soul’ line, kill enemies until the soul releases and a stairway appears.  Descend to obtain the Shu Shot, which you should immediately equip to advance in the Ruins




Arcade – The Legend of Makai Review


The arcade game, The Legend of Makai (1988)

Note:  This game/jamma arcade board was played using an HDMI Supergun connected to a 40-inch HD-tv.

Original Release: The Legend of Makai was released for arcades in 1988 by Jaleco.

Genre: Action-RPG Platformer

Players: 1 or 2-player (alternating)

Story:  (from the arcade manual) The Princess has been kidnapped by the evil undead Wizard of the Makai Wastelands.  The people have lost all hope because it is said that the wizard cannot be killed.  You must prove them wrong as you travel through the forests, hills, and caves of Makai seeking the letters of the Spell that will end the Wizard’s evil forever and free the Princess of Makai. 

Options/DIP switches: You can change the difficulty from four levels, set the game to ‘Free Play,’ which gives you unlimited credits, change the number of lives per credit from two to five, and even turn on ‘Immortal’ mode where nothing can hit you!  There is a slow clock that runs in each stage (typically three or four minutes), but nothing in the DIP switch settings allows you to lengthen or stop the clock.  However, in Immortal mode, not even the ‘Evil Eye’ that comes to kill you when the timer runs out can touch you!  It’s kind of like a game genie cheat code!


Collect gold to buy weapon upgrades and clues in Shops.

Gameplay: In The Legend of Makai, you control a warrior who must battle through multiple stages, defeating enemies and end-of-stage bosses, collecting keys, buying weapon and armor upgrades, and searching for clues that will enable you to learn the ‘Spell’ that will enable you to kill the wizard that is terrorizing the land.  The game is not strictly linear with you battling from one side of the screen to to the other, as you have to frequently explore different areas in each level to uncover a key or trigger a conversation with an NPC that will allow you to finish a level.

Control: Button I swings your sword/fires your projectile (if you’ve bought one).  Sometimes, however, swinging your sword is not always necessary – by simply having your sword extended (which it automatically is), many enemies will impale themselves upon it when you approach them!  Button II  jumps.  You can jump on the heads of most enemies to kill them, and from there jump again (kind of a ‘double jump’ feature).  Down crouches.  When you crouch in front a door, you’ll enter it.

Gold: As you explore each level, you’ll collect varying amounts of gold (in the form of jewels) that can be used in Shops.  Gold is pre-placed in each level, and you do not obtain any from slain enemies.  It’s easy enough to accumulate, and you’ll definitely want to, as the best items can be quite pricey.


Stopping in shops for items is crucial to beating the game.

Items: In shops, you can purchase healing potions, strength potions (temporary invincibility), and jump potions (temporary higher jumps).  You can also purchase better swords, shields, boots, projectile weapons, and the feather that allows you to use a helpful ‘floaty’ jump.  Finally, you can purchase ‘clues’ that tell you where to find important NPCs or keys.  Occasionally, an item you purchase turns out to be ‘fake,’ and you don’t get your money back for it either – this stinks.  Buyer beware.

Keys: Green, Blue, and Red keys can be found scattered throughout each stage – they’re usually in out-of-the-way places, like in treetops or hidden in caves.  You don’t always need to collect each colored key to access the door to a stage’s boss, but you occasionally cannot advance until you find a particular one.  Other times, you’ll find treasure colored treasure chests that can only be opened with the appropriate key – these usually contain a healing potion or gold.

Checkpoints:  Your warrior can only take three hits before dying, at which point he goes back to a nearby checkpoint – most of the time.  In later stages, you’ll need to be better at staying alive, as the game may put you back at the beginning of the stage if you die!

Hidden Doors/Talking to NPCs multiple times: The first few stages, despite having to do a bit of exploration, are fairly straightforward and easy to figure out.  However, beginning with the fourth stage, the difficulty ratchets up as you try to decipher the sometimes-cryptic messages to uncover hidden doors leading to crucial NPCs or keys.


Each stage ends with a boss – fortunately, if you die, you’ll respawn at the same spot, and the boss’ energy will still remain depleted.

Two Endings: As you explore each stage, searching for the key to the boss door, you’ll uncover the hidden letters that enable you to get the ‘good ending’ if you beat the game.  When you get to the final boss, you’ll be able to input this six-letter password (I won’t spoil it for you by providing it).  If you don’t know it because you haven’t found each letter, you can still fight the boss, but you’ll get the ‘bad’ ending.

Difficulty: Even on the lowest difficulty (‘Standard’) Legend of Makai is quite challenging.  You won’t have much trouble in the first half of the game, but after that, you’ll run in circles for awhile trying to figure out exactly where to go.  However, with persistence, you can defeat each stage without the need of consulting a walkthrough guide – we’re not talking Castlevania II-style impossibility here, as the clues are sometimes a bit vague, but not completely misleading.  In the later stages, the difficulty is more often in staying alive long enough to uncover the path to beating the stage.  It’s not a bad idea to use ‘Immortal’ mode to beat the game the first time.  This game is designed for multiple playthroughs in order to memorize where to go.  Once you do that, it becomes far more enjoyable.


You’ll be seeing this screen a lot, so it’s best to set the board to ‘Free Play.’

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: B The Legend of Makai is a decent action-RPG.  I first looked into it because I wanted something similar to Cadash, another action-RPG that I love.  This game is not as good as Cadash, but it’s also older, so that may not really be fair.  It’s got some good things going for it, and the challenge, while frustrating at times, is not impossible, and makes for a different experience than most other arcade games out there.  A small but important feature, to me at least, is the fact that the slow clock allows you to take short breaks from time to time if you’re in the middle of a playthrough.  The music and graphics are quite basic, but Legend of Makai does have an understated charm to it that fans of game’s like Zelda II, Magician Lord, or Cadash may find appealing.  



3DO – Lucienne’s Quest


The uncommon (if not rare) Lucienne’s Quest for the 3DO.

Note 1:  This game was played on a Panasonic 3DO, FZ-10 model.  It was connected to a 40-inch HD-tv with composite (yellow, red, white) cables. *As an aside, I recommend getting an S-video cable (and possibly a connecter that converts the signal so you can run it through an HDMI input if you have a newer TV).  S-video would look much better than composite; unfortunately, I did not have an S-video cable at the time of this review, something I will be rectifying before playing any other 3DO games.  

Note 2: This will be a mini-review.  There are some other great websites with information about this game as well!


Adventure awaits in Lucienne’s Quest.

Very Brief History: Lucienne’s Quest was released for the 3DO home console in 1996.  It is one of only a handful of RPGs released for the system.

Story:  Lucienne, the young apprentice of the powerful Kokindo, a sorcerer, is on a quest to defeat the evil Death Shadow.  The beginning of the game sees Lucienne, following her master’s mysterious depature, set off on her journey with one companion, Ago, a young man cursed with becoming a werewolf at night.  The quest begins with the simple task of curing Ago, but soon Lucienne becomes embroiled in a much bigger story, meeting companions and discovering more about the mysterious Death Shadow as she travels across the land.


The strongest in front, the weakest in back!

Gameplay: Lucienne’s Quest is a traditional RPG.  The game is split into a couple of different modes.  Lucienne travels the Overworld on foot, walking from town to town (or handily using magic to transport).  When entering towns, buildings within towns, or dungeons/towers/caves, the game switches to an (obviously) more confined screen, allowing she and her party to interact with other characters or explore.  Battles occur randomly, and relatively frequently, both in the Overworld and within dungeons/towers/caves.  When a battle occurs, the game switches to an isometric viewpoint.  In battle, Lucienne and her party must vanquish a party of foes (or attempt to escape battle) before moving on.


Grinding, in Lucienne’s Quest, is necessary, but doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Leveling Up:  As Lucienne and her companions (you meet and are joined by several over the course of the game) fight and win battles, experience points are awarded.  A decent amount of grinding is required to strengthen your characters, and is usually a good idea before entering dungeons/towers/caves, where a stronger boss character may await.

Weapons and Armor: Lucienne and her companions begin the game with low-grade weapons and armor, but through acquiring money from victory in battle, they can purchase new armor and weapons from shopkeepers in towns in the Overworld.  Better weapons and armor are occasionally found in treasure chests or won in battle as well.


Find weapon and armor upgrades in shops, chests, or even from defeating foes!

Magic: Lucienne can perform a variety of magic spells, from attack spells to cure spells to a useful teleportation spell that will instantly transport you to any of the locations you’ve previously visited.  Other characters can use magic as well (they have MP, after all), but often in a more limited context – ‘magic items’ that are found can be used by any of Lucienne’s companions, if they have enough MP.

Saving: The game can be saved anytime Lucienne is in the Overworld.  Typically, after a battle, it’s a good idea to ‘Rest’ (also, only done in the Overworld), which restores all of your party’s HP, then ‘Save.’  The game records how long you’ve spent playing, as well.  You cannot Rest or Save anytime you enter a town, building, or anywhere else on the Overworld (although you can stay at an Inn in town, which restores both HP and MP).  Because of this, it’s always a good idea to Save prior to entering an area you know is dangerous.  Or, it’s a good idea to leave the area occasionally before trying to beat the entire thing, Rest then Save.


The 3DO has internal saving – save anytime you’re on the Overworld!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:

B –  Lucienne’s Quest surprised me after an hour or so.  My first reaction was, ‘Pretty good, nothing special.’  And mostly, that’s probably true, but I soon became engrossed in the game, and time flew by!  As far as RPGs go, it is quite linear – I never got stuck for more than one minute trying to figure anything out (there are occasionally light ‘puzzles’, like moving a bookcase to uncover a door).  You basically move from one location to another on the Overworld map as you progress through the game.

The grinding, which some may like and others may not, I would describe as ‘An average amount.’  One complaint I do have is the lack of variety in enemies that the game throws at you – it could have used a lot more than what’s here.  I loved the musical tracks, however, and while some got a bit repetitive, it was mostly enjoyable.


The 3D world, overall, looks great!

The 3D nature of the game was a bit jarring at first, but mostly because that’s not the type of game I personally usually play, and particularly not ones from the 1990s.  I got used to it though soon enough. I should also note, during battles, the game has a unique feature where ‘obstacles’ (like trees) are sometimes in between you and your foes, and you must either navigate a path around them to attack or run into them and miss your foe.  I wish the developers would have done away with this aspect, as the 3D nature of the battles sometimes makes knowing how to attack an enemy unnecessarily confusing, although far from unplayable.


Yes, the Black WORRIER.  And no, that’s not his name, because outside of battling him, he’s called the Black Warrior by the other characters.  Amazing auto-correct program they had back in 1996, I suppose.

The characters themselves are what make the game truly worth playing.  While there are much deeper 1990’s RPGs out there, this one has enough character development to be enjoyable.  Lucienne herself is a bit of a fireball, and the game makes a good effort to get you to care about her and at least some of the other characters.  Some of the exchanges made me genuinely smile or occasionally even laugh, although I should point out that there are some grammatical errors in this game that really should have been caught and fixed before it was released.

Looking for something different that’s not overly long or overly complicated?  If so, then I definitely recommend Lucienne’s Quest.  Overall, I absolutely enjoyed it.


Lucienne’s Quest is a solid, although not spectacular, RPG.  Sometimes, however, that’s just what the doctor ordered.


Arcade – Punk Shot


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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)



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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!


Plenty of helpful options exist for varying your play experience.


Controllers – Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad


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.


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).


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.