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Konami Run and Guns

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Aliens - Arcade (1990)

American Arcade Flyer

The Alien movies were a huge inspiration for Konami's Contra, so it would only make sense that eventually they'd pick up an official license for it. Strangely, this game - based off the second movie, Aliens - was only released in the arcades in 1990, a few years after the release of the movie. The characters are technically unnamed, but you can logically assume that you take the roles of Ellen Ripley and Corporal Hicks as you fight through an infested industrial compound. The game plays like a combination between Contra and a beat-em-up - while it's all shooting action, you can move up and down in the scenery, and you have a life bar. You can't jump, but you can duck and fire, making you a smaller target.

Aliens

Your default weapon is a machine gun, but you can find rocket launchers and, of course, flame throwers. There are also grenades, which are found in limited quantities, and there are a few choice areas where you get to climb into the loader suit (from the end of the movie) and awkwardly battle enemies. There are also a few segments where you climb through an enclosed tunnel, and a radar appears on the top of the screen. It's useless in the first encounter, considering you can see the enemies coming directly at you, but it's more interesting later on when the aliens start bursting through the ceiling. A few stages are first person scenes where you're driving the armored vehicles and shooting at aliens in the road.

It captures the feeling of the movie perfectly, and it's always fun tearing apart legions of vicious aliens with a machine gun or setting them ablaze. The ending scene where you eject the Queen alien out of the airlock, complete with scaling effects, looked damn awesome in 1990. The only issue is that the game looks and feels a bit choppy, as if it's running at a lower frame rate. Although it was never ported and there technically aren't any direct sequels to it, Capcom's Alien vs. Predator is somewhat similar, although it's closer to a beat-em-up than a shooter.

There are actually two different versions of Aliens. The Japanese version (probably the initial release) is lacking the APC stages, as well as Newt. The game in general is a bit easier, with enemies taking less hits, and power-ups are much more frequent. There are a few new minor enemies, and some of the other ones appear at different points. The final battle is actually harder, with the Alien Queen having an attack that sends out multiple images of herself, as opposed to the acid spit in the other version.

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Aliens (Arcade)

Aliens (Arcade)

Aliens (Arcade)

Aliens (Arcade)


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Sunset Riders (サンセットライダーズ) - Arcade, SNES, Genesis (1991)

American SNES Cover

In 1990, Konami was wiping up the arcade industry with its massively popularity Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles beat-em-up. The draw was more than just the license - it was also the four player simultaneous action. With that in mind, Konami created Sunset Riders, a Wild West-themed run and gun. It expands from the same formula as Surprise Attack (and by extension, Rolling Thunder and Shinobi) by having two-tiered stages you can jump between. There are even doors you can run into to get power-ups. The major difference is that you can shoot upwards, downwards, and even diagonally. This versatility, along with the looser controls and faster pace, makes the action feel a bit more like Contra. That game was crazy enough by itself, but when you have four players firing bullets at nearly half a dozen enemies, coming out from all angles, and it gets pretty chaotic, especially since you die with a single hit. The four heroes each wield two types of weapons - Steve and Billy carry six shooters while Bob and Cormano use shotguns. There are items that increase the rapid fire capabilities, or give you an extra weapon for dual-wielding awesomeness, essentially giving you a spread shot.

Each of the eight stages begins with a "WANTED" sign, showing off the boss of the level, each of whom has some unique distinction. Simon Greedwell is a rich tycoon that cries out "BURY ME WITH MY MONEY!" Chief Scalpum is a Native American, who is protected by sister before delivering the final blow, claiming "DON'T KILL HIM. HE WAS ONLY FOLLOWING ORDERS". To which your character replies "OKAY MA'M, WE WON'T SHOOT HIM." (Despite the fact that you spent the whole battle shooting at him, but we'll disregard that.) The final boss is a British gentleman named Sir Richard Rose, who fakes his death after several hits, removes a bulletproof plate from under his shirt, and proceeds to take more damage before dying for real, when he dramatically tosses his rose lapel aside. The whole thing is obviously very tongue-in-cheek and adds a lot of personality.

There are lots of cool little features which fit in with the Old West theme. The first stage has you trying to avoid stampede by running on the backs of the bulls, a few other stages have you riding horses. Running inside certain doors will grant you some whiskey for extra points, or "refreshments" (!!) from one of the town ladies. Certain enemies will throw dynamite, which can be picked up and thrown back at them, if you're quick enough. The stages are also littered with barrels, boulders, and other bits of scenery that can be pushed and used to drop on bad guys. There are also a few first person shooting galleries that act as bonus stages, foreshadowing Konami's western-themed light gun game Lethal Enforcers II: Gunfighters. One entire stage is a boss fight in a saloon, which ends with a Can Can dance show as a reward.

The SNES version is remarkably faithful, though not quite perfect. The four player functionality is gone. Most of the graphics have transitioned well, although some of the fancier effects are absent. It's quite a bit easier, with less going on screen at any given time. The music is almost perfectly replicated and all of the voice samples are in, subtitled so they're easier to understand.

More interesting are the things that were censored. The female enemies - the ones that tossed in the dynamite in the arcade version - are now male. All references to alcohol are gone. All of the girls now wear slightly more wholesome outfits. One of the levels in the arcade version consists entirely of Native American enemies. This was changed in the SNES version so they're all regular bad guys, probably to avoid any of uncomfortable genocidal overtones. The end level boss, another Native American, remains mostly unchanged, although his name was changed from Chief Scalpem to Wigwam.

The Genesis version is so completely stripped down that it's almost a completely different game. There are only two playable characters, and a total of four stages. The level themes include the town, train, mountain and mansion levels. The layouts themselves are different and quite a bit longer, being divided into halves. The only remaining bosses are Simon Greedwell, Paco Loco, Chief Scalpum and Sir Richard Rose. The graphics are heavily downgraded, with a solid black status bar at the top of the screen. The music also takes a bit, although it still sounds okay, but nearly all of the voices are gone, too. The bonus stages have been replaced with horse riding segments, where a girl tosses items from a covered wagon. There's also a new two player versus mode, for all the good that does. If this were a standalone game, it wouldn't be too bad, because it technically plays just fine, but it's so downgraded from the other versions that it feels like a waste.

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Sunset Riders (Arcade)

Sunset Riders (Arcade)

Sunset Riders (SNES)

Sunset Riders (Genesis)

Sunset Riders (Genesis)


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Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa - Arcade (1992)

American Arcade Flyer

Based off the mostly-forgotten cartoon series about a bunch of anthropomorphic cows in the wild west, C.O.W.-boys of Moo Mesa may as well be a sequel to Sunset Riders. Obviously, this one is a bit sillier... not that Sunset Riders even took itself seriously. The basic gameplay is more or less the same. There are four characters - Cowlorado Kid, the Dakota Dude, Marshall Moo Montana and a completely new character, Buffalo Bull. (Most of the character names had awful cow-related puns as well.) Like Sunset Riders, two characters wield pistols and the other two wield shotguns. It allows for four player simultaneous action and tons of enemies, naturally. Fitting the theme of the game, there's stampede maneuver, which can be used to bowl over enemies or break certain rocks. There are also rare bonus weapons which send axes flying all over the screen. The characters all have life bars too, making it a bit easier overall than Sunset Riders.

After the first stage, you can choose any stage you like, although there's no benefit to following them in any particular order. Most of the levels feature two boss encounters which are usually quite inventive, per usual Konami protocol. One is a vulture who uses a shovel, whose backend doubles as a shotgun. Many other ones are bizarre combinations of cows and other creature, like this weird bovine spider thing. (Ryan Brown, one of the original artists of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic and creator of the Moo Mesa series, reportedly worked closely with the development team for a lot of these new creations. Like Sunset Riders, there are a few clever moments throughout, like when you past by three identical looking "wanted" posters, only to have the last one spring to life and attack. There are also a few shoot-em-up segments where the cows are carried by some particularly strong birds.

The music is supplied by Michiru Yamane, before she began work on the Castlevania series, although most of it's forgettable. The background graphics aren't that much different from Sunset Riders, but Konami's arcade developers were masters in replicating the look and feel of the cartoons their based were on, and Moo Mesa is no different. The theme is obviously pretty silly - sillier, yes, then even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - but the sprites are large, colorful, and expressive. It also runs on more powerful hardware, as it uses the same board as the amazing XEXEX, although it doesn't push the visuals quite that far. Yet, despite some of the weirder enemy design, it somehow lacks the punch and charisma of Sunset Riders. At any rate, the only major issue is that many of the bosses were clearly designed to be fought with multiple characters, because they tend to take way too many hits in single player mode. At least there's a boss lifebar, a rarity in these type of arcade games.

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Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (Arcade)

Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (Arcade)

Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (Arcade)

Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (Arcade)


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Mystic Warriors: Wrath of the Ninjas (ミスティックウォリアーズ -怒りの忍者-) - Arcade (1993)

American Arcade Flyer

Moving away from the western theme of Sunset Riders, Mystic Warriors is a takeoff on cheesy 80s martial arts movies. Up to four players can pick from five different characters - an American ninja named Spyros, a leotard wearing kunoichi named Yuri, a kabuki warrior named Keima, a samurai named Kojiro, and a street cool monk named Brad - although functionally, they're all identical. The fifth unchosen character ends up being kidnapped by the enemies, providing the motivation for our heroes to jump into action. Locales range from city streets to undergrounds mines to airplanes to ski resorts - all of the usual video game stages, and then some. It certainly has more visual variation than Sunset Riders (which it pays tribute to on a drive-in movie theater in the background), although the music isn't quite as memorable. It has all of the typical Konami over-the-top flair, like when the first level boss crashes through the scenery in a huge truck and sets the background on fire. The second level boss fight takes place while snowboarding down a mountain. It has an interesting twist roughly halfway through the game, where your characters are dehabiliated, only to be saved by the fifth, kidnapped hero, who gets him-or-herself killed in the process.

Mystic Warriors

The action is roughly the same as Sunset Riders, right down to the power-ups that double your firepower. Mystic Warriors borrows a few more elements from Shinobi, most notably the melee attacks that will automatically execute when you're close to an enemy, and the ninja magic that lies around the stage. These will either kill all of the enemies on the screen or make you temporarily invincible. They're activated as soon as you pick them up, though, making their use rather limited. Like Moo Mesa, you can also take three hits before dying. And like Contra III, you can also climb up walls, although there aren't many situations that make use of it. It's a pretty fun game overall, with tight action and a likable vibe, which only goes unrecognized because Konami never ported it.

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Mystic Warriors (Arcade)

Mystic Warriors (Arcade)

Mystic Warriors (Arcade)


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G.I. Joe - Arcade (1992)

American Arcade Flyer

Konami was practically the king of licensed arcade games back in the early 90s, striking gold with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bucky O'Hare, and X-Men. Instead of going the beat-em-up route like all of these, G.I. Joe is more like an evolution of Devastators. Four years in a long time in the video game industry, and it's amazing how much better G.I. Joe looks and feels than its spiritual predecessor. The generic Contra-esque dudes and army setting is replaced with the more colorful look of the popular cartoon. The floors are now textured (for lack of a better word) and the stages themselves much, much elaborate. All of the smooth 3D sprite scaling almost makes it look like something Sega would've put out circa Thunder Blade or Galaxy Force II. There are a total of three missions, each divided into a handful of smaller missions which flow continuously into each other. Some of the bosses include Tomax & Xamot, Metal Head, the Baronness, Major Bludd, Destro, and of course, Cobra Commander. The music makes liberal use of the "GOT TO GET TOUGH, YO JOE!" slogan from the cartoon theme song, and yet sounds all the more awesome for it.

G.I. Joe

The controls have changed quite a bit too. Your commandos are always running forward, so no need to push them. You control both your character and cursor simultaneously, and can aim anywhere on the screen, similar to Cabal, another earlier, similar game. However, there still aren't any evade manuevers like Nam 1975, which would've been nice. The four Joes - Duke, Snake Eyes, Roadblock and Scarlett - all have identical weapons, wielding both machine guns and a rocket launcher, the latter with limited ammo. This is one of the few games of its type that allows for four player action, so it's pretty crazy, but it's all a lot of fun, especially since everything dies and/or explodes so satisfyingly. Unfortunately, there was never a home port for the same reason that The Simpsons arcade game never reached a console - Konami only owned the rights for arcade games, with the console rights owned by Taxan (and later, Capcom, once they went under.) A total shame, of course.

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G.I. Joe (Arcade)

G.I. Joe (Arcade)

G.I. Joe (Arcade)


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Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Jail Break
Labyrinth Runner
Dark Adventure
Devastators
Crazy Cops
Surprise Attack

Page 2:
Aliens
Sunset Riders
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa
Mystic Warriors
G.I. Joe

Back to the Index