Dungeon Master: Theron’s Quest, PC Engine

Theron’s Quest is a modified version of the incredible Dungeon Master, released for the PC Engine in Japan in 1992 and the TurboGrafx-16 in North America in 1993.

Developers FTL/Software Heaven changed the premise of the main quest (this time you specifically play a named character, called Theron, who must find seven parts of a set of knight’s armour); they also changed the layouts of all the dungeons (although some places might seem familiar to DM fans); they added cut sequences between levels (kind of unnecessary, but they don’t detract too much); they made the game easier (by reducing the frequency of monsters, and also by replacing the save option with plenty of resurrection points), and of course they also made it playable on a gamepad (for one person).

If you sit down and play Theron’s Quest intently, like I’ve done, you’ll know that “making the game easier” doesn’t necessarily equate to “making the game easy”; and even in a emulator I’d say that Theron’s Quest is a decent challenge. In fact: I rate Theron’s Quest very highly. A lot of people dismiss it as “just Dungeon Master on the PC Engine“, but it is in fact a little bit more than that – it’s a completely new Dungeon Master sequel, and (thankfully) doesn’t go in the same “ultra hard” direction as Chaos Strikes Back did…

Theron’s Quest does a very good job of making a brilliant game more accessible to mainstream gamers. And it also allows Dungeon Master pros to flex their muscles in an environment they love, but don’t have to commit too much time to beating. It’s a ‘win-win’ for everybody. 🙂

More: Dungeon Master: Theron’s Quest on Wikipedia

Spy vs. Spy, Commodore 64

Back in 1984 Spy vs. Spy was a revelation. It was – and still is – a shining example of two-player versus gaming. Two spies, each searching for the secret plans, and each laying traps in order to stop the other – it tended to bring out the devious side (and the trash talk) of anyone who played it. Myself included. Many hours were spent playing this game against my brother back in the mid Eighties, and Spy vs. Spy quickly became a cult favourite for myself, and for many other Commodore 64 owners.

Of course, this being a split-screen game, each player can see what the other is doing, which adds another level of deviousness and trickery to the gameplay.

Spy vs. Spy is beautifully presented, with humorous animated graphics based on the MAD Magazine characters of the same name. Placing traps is achieved by cycling a pointer over a bank of icons on the right-hand side of the screen. There are six different types of traps and each has to be set up by first hiding it in either a piece of furniture, or inside a door. And when your unwitting opponent triggers a trap you laid: it’s kaboom. Or course: the same can happen to you as you’re searching for the plans.

There are eight levels of difficulty, with more rooms being added as the levels go up. There are also five levels of computer AI for the single-player game, so Spy vs. Spy has some serious replay value.

It’s still a brilliant game to play now and is definitely a Commodore 64 classic!

More: Spy vs. Spy on Wikipedia

Goof Troop, Super Nintendo

Goof Troop is an attempt at a Disney-based Zelda-style game, by famed Japanese developer Capcom. It’s based on a ’90s television series of the same name and was first released in 1993.

The emphasis in Goof Troop is more on solving puzzles than gaining experience or collecting money, and (of course) you play the famous Disney character Goofy, who is the lead character in the TV series. A second player can play simultaneously as Max – Goofy’s sidekick. Max moves more quickly than Goofy, but Goofy can deal more damage to enemies.

Graphically, Goof Troop is wonderful. The characters are all beautifully-drawn and animated, and the backdrops are also clean and colourful. Nothing gets in the way of the gameplay, which consists mostly of finding your way through a maze of screens by locating keys; opening doors; disposing of enemies; and defeating the boss at the end of each level. There are five levels in total: Spoonerville Island beach, a village, a haunted castle, an underground cavern, and a pirate ship (where you must finally defeat the Disney arch villain, Pete).

One interesting thing about Goof Troop is that it was designed by Shinji Mikami – the director of Resident Evil (and its sequels) – and it was one of the first games that he worked on.

Goof Troop is still a great game to play now – particularly two-player. It’s an oft-forgotten SNES and Capcom classic!

More: Goof Troop on Wikipedia

Gauntlet II, Arcade

Gauntlet II is the 1986 sequel to the classic four-player arcade game, Gauntlet. It was made by pretty much the same Atari Games team that made the first game, so retains a lot of its qualities. Which is great, because the first Gauntlet was brilliant and fans wanted more of the same – only with enhancements. Which is exactly what they got.

There are quite a few new features in Gauntlet II. Most interesting and unique of which is the “You’re It!” addition to the gameplay. Just like the infamous schoolyard game, individual players can be made “it” by a floating ball thing that comes after you on certain levels. Whoever the ball touches becomes “it” and monsters will then gravitate towards that particular player. Not a good place to be in if you’re that player, and a ‘nice-but-evil’ addition from the dev team. 🙂

Other new features include: transportability (transporting through walls), rebounding shots, fake exits, ‘Super Shots’ (kill multiple monsters with one shot), repulsiveness potions (which cause monsters to run away, which is hilarious), stun tiles, movable blocks, poison that makes you wobble around uncontrollably, thieves who steal your food and items, plus traps, traps, and more traps! Also: each player can now choose between each of the four available characters, which you couldn’t do in the first game.

Gauntlet II has aged very well. Graphically and sonically it still looks and sounds great. If you’re looking for a good four-player party game: look no further – Gauntlet II has all you need.

More: Gauntlet II on Wikipedia

10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

LISTS: as decided by His Majesty The King of Grabs, in order of greatness:

1. Super Nintendo (1992)
2. PC Engine/Turbografx-16 (1991)
3. Commodore 64 (2011)
4. PC MS-DOS (1990)
5. Atari ST (1990)
6. Amiga (1990)
7. Sega CD (1992)
8. Sharp X68000 (1991)
9. ZX Spectrum (1996)
10. Megadrive/Genesis (1993)

And of course there’s always the Apple II original, which is ‘The Daddy’ of them all.

All Hail The Prince of Persia, and all hail Jordan Mechner!

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

All versions of Prince of Persia on The King of Grabs:
Apple IIAmiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, PC MS-DOS, SAM Coupé, Sharp X68000, PC Engine/Turbografx-16, Sega Master System, Sega CD, Game Boy, Super Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, Megadrive/Genesis, Game Boy Color, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum

Prince-of-Persia-Cover-Apple-2

Prince of Persia, ZX Spectrum

Since I’ve included one ‘unofficial’ port in our Prince of Persia Special (the Commodore 64 version), I’ve also got to include this 1996 ZX Spectrum conversion by Nicodim (because it’s so good).

The Russian coder has done a remarkable job of converting Prince of Persia to the Spectrum and the game conforms to all the important PoP rules (like: not falling off the edge of a ledge if moving carefully towards it). The levels are authentic (with the odd subtle change here and there); the graphics are excellent with good use of colour; and the sword fighting requires some skill and isn’t a walk-over, which is good.

On the downside: the game does slow down quite a bit when there’s a lot going on on-screen, and also the controls don’t seem responsive enough when you need to make a succession of quick jumps. Plus: there are the odd bugs (I fell two screens in height and landed on my feet with no health loss on more than one occasion), but nothing that really badly dents playability.

Prince of Persia on the Spectrum requires a 128K machine to run, but it’s well worth finding and playing – especially as it’s free to download and play.

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

Prince of Persia, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Prince of Persia is not an official release, but a 2011 ‘homebrew’ game created by Nostalgia (not the perfume – the team). And it is quite astounding!

Although it does require use of an ‘Easyflash’ cartridge on real hardware, most C64 emulators will run it with no issues.

Commodore 64 Prince of Persia could well be the best 8-bit conversion around – I can certainly find little wrong with it. It plays perfectly well (there are none of the control issues seen in some of the other conversions), and it looks great – even adding more colours to the different levels (which is welcomed).

Although team Nostalgia had time on their side when they made this game (it coming almost three decades after the peak of C64 software releases) there is no doubting that Prince of Persia on the Commodore 64 is a fantastic piece of programming and design. Not only have they managed to convert the game faithfully, but they’ve also managed to improve on it too.

See also: The 10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia