When you boil it down, I suppose Funky Jet isn’t much more than a fun 30 minute jaunt with some lively visuals, but it achieves that humble goal with such aplomb that I can’t help but think it deserves much more credit than it gets. The formula it strives to improve upon is a tricky one to touch since it’s the kind of thing that was practically perfected from the jump, but Mitchel Corporation really found a way to make it their own. It’s kind of genius how they took two genres with such straightforward fundamentals and figured out that they’d work together so well.
Ganryu isn't the greatest game ever made, but it's exactly the kind of game that I enjoy and it's a dang good one if you ask me. It's a quick romp through feudal Japan that uses an interesting conceptual hook, features lovely visuals that thrive off of inspired choices instead of what's conventionally impressive, offers action that's both challenging and strategic while maintaining an excellent balance the whole way through, and it takes ideas from other games that I happen to really like and uses them effectively. I think it's one that's quite underrated and absolutely worth your time if you enjoy any of its inspirations.
While the bells and whistles of the NGPC version are very much appreciated and do a lot to give you more reasons to come back, the arcade game’s tighter controls, more balanced speed, and fairer opponents just feel a lot better to deal with when the game is in your hands. Aesthetics are great and all, but ultimately, this is a game with arcade roots, so how it feels to play for continued periods of time is what I would consider to be the most important thing. Faults and all, Crush Roller is more than just a “Pac-Man Clone” - it’s an interesting spin on the ever-enjoyable maze game genre and even if you’re like me and you don’t jive with it a whole lot, you’ll probably find an idea or two to appreciate in your time with it.
Gate of Doom
I know I’m playing armchair game designer here, but I really feel like Gate of Doom would become something great with just a handful of changes. Increase the default movement speed, rebalance some enemy damage output (or just give players full health when respawning), make magic usable in boss fights, and make the power-up items permanent and you’d have a much more reasonable game that actually feels like a proper blend of action and RPG elements. As it is now, Gate of Doom wears the skin of a D&D campaign and does so very well, but when you actually get your hands on it, it just feels like a less polished and poorly balanced take on contemporaries like Gauntlet, Cadash, and The King of Dragons that were all doing the same thing more effectively, to say nothing of the excellence that the Capcom D&D games would achieve just a few years later.
Ninja Assault has so much to offer between its multiple stories and gameplay modes, but perhaps most importantly of all, it's the kind of game that makes you feel cool just by being a part of it! Every time you play it, you learn new tricks, can react to and counter foes that gave you a hard time previously, and you score higher than you previously thought was possible. This is a game I played through four times and still feel the desire to go back to because I know I can improve upon my game or do the rest of those missions. I love how it breaks past the boundaries of conventional Light Gun games to offer something more bombastic and exciting than what we're used to. Even if you don't have access to a Light Gun, give it a go and you'll have a good time!
Mighty Guy is enjoyable enough to get into the zone with, focusing purely on survival as you charge upward and wipe out anything in your path, but there isn't much to it and it's all over too quickly even for arcade standards, with a single loop taking about 10-15 minutes. It's surprisingly reasonable to make it to the end with just a bit of effort and see everything it has to offer too, which I imagine made it not so lucrative in the arcades that actually had it set up. It's the kind of game that begs for a sequel or an updated version for "super players" that would really put your skills to the test, but with how obscure it is today, it's safe to say that isn't happening. Your mind won't be blown playing this one, but it's a quick and fun romp that offers some interesting ideas. In a way, thinking about the ideas it has on offer and how newer games have adapted them is more exciting than the game itself!
Nightmare in the Dark
As a game that wears its influences on its sleeve, Nightmare in the Dark is both a tribute to a mostly abandoned genre and a breezy, fun time that's worth firing up just to see its impressive bosses and enjoy its strangely jazzy soundtrack...