Amidar, Arcade

Konami‘s 1981 arcade classic, Amidar, is a maze game with a difference.

Rather than moving through a maze (a la Pac-Man), you instead move along the edges of a series of interconnected boxes, trying to ‘paint’ them a different colour (or pick up coconuts, depending on the level). If you manage to paint around all four sides of a box it fills itself in, and the ultimate aim on each level is to fill every box on-screen. Which is not easy because there are a variety of chasing monsters and they are tricky to avoid.

The key to getting anywhere in Amidar is to learn the movement of the enemies. They move ‘deterministically’. Meaning: to set, recognisable patterns. The game calls this “Amidar movement”. Regular enemies are called “Amidar” and these move left and right, and up and down the screen. A single enemy, called a “Tracer” moves around the outside of the maze at the same time. If you watch enemy movement carefully you can avoid them and go about your painting duties. That is, however, until the Tracer has done a certain number of ‘laps’, after which point it starts to chase you.

You do have a ‘jump’ ability to help you, although pressing jump makes the enemies jump – not you. They jump, and you move underneath them. Which is weird, but it works well enough and can save your skin when in a tight corner. You start with only three jumps but can be awarded more.

Another useful thing to remember is that you can attack the Amidar if you colour all four corner boxes in the maze. The Amidar change colour and you have a short space of time in which to touch them to kill them for a bonus.

As the game gets harder the mazes become more complex, and more enemies are added. And if that wasn’t enough, the time it takes before the Tracer starts chasing you reduces – to the point where it only has to do one lap before homing in on you.

Amidar is another classic Konami arcade game that takes a simple idea and turns it into a challenging and compelling video game. And for that it should be fondly-remembered.

More: Amidar on Wikipedia

Frogger, Arcade

Konami‘s Frogger was released into video game arcades in 1981 and was an instant hit with gamers.

The basic premise of Frogger is to guide a hopping frog over a road and a river, to reach a safe haven on the other side. The road is full of dangerous traffic that will squish the frog on contact. The only way of crossing the river is by jumping on a series of floating logs that move from left to right at varying speeds. It’s basically an amphibian assault course…

Get five frogs to their homes on the other side and you complete the stage. Bonus points are also awarded for catching and guiding other frogs home.

Every new stage sees the introduction of new and more dangerous hazards. The first stage is relatively easy, with a quiet road and fewer dangers on the river (there are diving turtles that you can only stand on for a limited time). By the second stage, the road is much busier, and there are now alligators to contend with on the water. Later stages also introduce otters and snakes as frog predators. There are so many ways to die in this game…

Frogger is a very simple game to play (requiring only a single joystick – no fire button needed), but feels very satisfying – the game is a masterwork of timing and design and is both challenging and absorbing. Frogger has seen a number of sequels over the years, plus the usual torrent of clones and tributes. It is undoubtedly one of the best and most fondly-remembered games of the early arcade years, and is still worth a play today.

More: Frogger on Wikipedia

Jail Break, Commodore 64

Jail Break is a conversion of the Konami arcade game of the same name, and was developed and published by Konami themselves in 1986.

It’s a very spartan run-and-gun game where you’re basically a lone policeman, up against waves of escaping convicts.

Rescuing fleeing civilians will gain you an extra weapon – a shotgun or a bazooka – though neither really makes any impact on the gameplay. Which is truly awful.

If there was an award for worst sprites in a video game, the Commodore 64 version of Jail Break would be in contention. The expanded characters look ridiculous, frankly, and are animated just as badly.

The game’s only saving grace is that there’s some colour variation in the different stages. And it has a nice loading screen/tune. Woopie… Otherwise, it’s a pile of retro-gaming excrement. Konami really took their eye off the ball with this one…

More: Jail Break on Mobygames

Super Castlevania IV, Super Nintendo

Released in 1991, Konami‘s Super Castlevania IV was one of the earliest releases for the Super Nintendo console – and one of the best.

And it remains one of the best – to this day – with spectacular, horror-themed platforming action, full of deadly ghosts and monsters, and demanding boss battles.

The Super Nintendo‘s famous Mode 7 graphics rotation and scaling is used to great effect too, with drawbridges raising and falling smoothly, and entire levels rotating around effortlessly at certain points.

Super Castlevania IV gave the series the boost it needed to go on to become legendary, and Simon Belmont’s quest to defeat Dracula is still enjoyed by gamers to this day.

More: Super Castlevania IV on Wikipedia

Salamander, Arcade

Konami‘s Salamander is a classic scrolling shooter first released into arcades in 1986. It is part of the Gradius/Nemesis series and features both side-scrolling and vertically-scrolling gameplay set over six different levels.

Unlike Gradius, Salamander has a simultaneous two-player mode. Player one controls the Vic Viper from Gradius, and player two controls a new ship called Lord British (as far as I’m aware: this has nothing to do with Richard Garriott – founder of Origin Systems – who also calls himself Lord British and has done since the late ’70s).

The progressive weapons power-up system has been simplified in Salamader (over Gradius). Now you don’t have to activate a weapons change – it happens automatically when you pick up a dropped power-up. Salamander does retain the extra firepower pods, and the speed-ups, from the first game, but expands on the weapon types.

Ask anyone who’s played Salamander and they will probably mention the fire levels as being the ones that really stand out. As you move left to right, huge solar flares blast out from the fiery surface and you have to avoid being roasted. If you’re skilled enough you might even be able to fly through them…

Salamander is fairly unremarkable at the beginning to be honest, but does improve rapidly as the graphical tricks start to show themselves. The early levels are relatively easy and – of course – the later levels truly are ‘bullet hell’.

A number of home computer and console versions have been released over the years. The Commodore 64 version, by Imagine Software, is known for being very high quality. As is the PC Engine version. More modern re-releases are mostly emulated versions of the original arcade game, so are considered authentic.

More: Salamander on Wikipedia

Space Manbow, MSX

Space Manbow is an original MSX2 release from Konami. It first came out in 1989 and it ‘wowed’ home users with it fantastic graphics and smooth scrolling. Unfortunately it was never released outside of Japan.

Despite that, Space Manbow has garnered many admirers over the decades, and it is looked up on with great respect. It’s fairly easy to find and to play. BlueMSX is a brilliant emulator. You could try that.

Note: what is curious about this game is the title. Your ship is named after a fish called a “Mambo“, but Konami decided to change that to “Manbow“. You could say that something has been gained in translation in this case, rather than lost.

More: Space Manbow on Wikipedia

Hyper Sports, ZX Spectrum

This British conversion of Konami‘s Hyper Sports arcade game is a smash hit ZX Spectrum game – arguably one of the best Spectrum arcade conversions of all time.

Swimming, skeet shooting, vaulting, archery, triple jump, and weightlifting all feature – just like in the arcade game. Don’t be too put off at the prospect of a lot of joystick waggling. Thankfully Hyper Sports is more than just a button-basher. There’s also some skill and timing involved too.

Beautifully programmed by the late Jonathan Smith, Hyper Sports was initially published by Imagine Software in 1985.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyper_Sports

Hyper-Sports-Imagine-artwork-by-Bob-Wakelin

Hyper Sports artwork by Bob Wakelin.

Mikie, ZX Spectrum

A beautiful conversion of the cult Konami arcade game, Mikie, programmed by Jonathan Smith and published by Imagine Software in 1985.

Mikie features six single screens of action, starting with a school classroom, then a locker room, then a cafeteria, then a dance studio (!), then finally a garden. “But that’s only five!” I hear you scream. Yes: true, but each of those screens is inter-cut with a different horizontal corridor chase screen interlude scene stage, so I’d call that screen six.

Mikie on the Spectrum is playable and smooth and a reasonable amount of fun if you know what you’re doing.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikie

Mike-artwork-by-Bob-Wakelin

Mikie artwork by Bob Wakelin.

Hyper Sports, Arcade

Hyper Sports is the iconic 1984 sequel to Konami‘s arcade hit Track & Field.

It once again features multi event sports challenges for one or more players, this time featuring swimming, clay pigeon shooting, vaulting, archery, triple jump, and weightlifting. And maybe pole-vaulting, although I didn’t see it in the version I played.

Jolly music, exuberant player sprites, and bad translation characterise Hyper Sports, but the arcade original is still a really solid challenge for those who like sport-themed button-bashers.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyper_Sports

Prince of Persia, Super Nintendo

Developed by Arsys Software for Konami and published in 1992 this Super Nintendo conversion of Prince of Persia is arguably the best out of all of them.

The game has been expanded and seriously enhanced with superb graphics and stereo sound. The levels follow the original Prince of Persia relatively faithfully, but have extra areas to make the tower seem bigger and the task in hand more grand and heroic.

The task isn’t impossible however, and the SNES version features possibly the easiest gameplay – at least in terms of gradually building up the difficulty. I particularly like the first level which has been expanded to included a short cave complex en route to your first sword. Sword fighting is easy to control too, which is not always the case with Prince of Persia conversions (or even the Apple II original), but in this is simple to execute and not too troublesome.

The variety of the levels as you progress is impressive too. There are even some cool boss battles; a ‘best time’ scoreboard for level times; and a password feature that contains a few interesting cheats.

Overall: Prince of Persia on the SNES is a brilliant game and a brilliant conversion. Arguably one of the best games on the SNES, and that is saying something.

In fact: in my mind the only thing close to this in the Prince of Persia canon is Prince of Persia 2. It’s that good. Find it; play it; enjoy it.

See also: The 10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia