• Graeme Mason

The Antstream Arcade Years: 1987

With the Antstream Arcade search facility capable of narrowing the selection of retro games by year, there’s a great way to discover all the particular releases from a time you remember especially fondly. In the latest of this series, we take a look back at one such year and the noteworthy games that make it a fantastic time worth travelling back to on Antstream Arcade. This month, we pop into our retro time machine and zip back to 1987, when the arcades ruled and the 8-bit home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 were still pumping out classics as programmers pushed these machines to their very limits.


Rastan

We begin our trip to 1987 with a journey to the arcades and Rastan – known as Rastan Saga in its native Japan. This hack ‘n’ slash side-scrolling adventure is a fantastic arcade game, and a successful chomper of 10p pieces throughout the year and beyond. Starring the eponymous beefcake barbarian, a horde of horrible monsters await this burly warrior – can you help Rastan slay the malevolent dragon and restore freedom to his realm?


What They Said: “Rastan is fast-paced and the action doesn’t let up for a minute… the game has all the ingredients to make it a winner.” – Computer & Videogames, May 1987.


Zynaps

We zip zanily to the ZX Spectrum now and Hewson’s R-Type beater, Zynaps. Piloting the odd-looking yet lethal Scorpion fighter, there are several scrolling levels to negotiate, each one infested with alien craft both on land and in the air. To help the Scorpion are a range of power ups, gained when enemies are destroyed. From quicker speed to increased laser fire and a bouncing bomb, careful management of these bonuses – plus of course nimble reactions and a keen trigger finger – are pre-requisites if you want to survive long in this colourful and marvellous shoot-‘em-up.


What they said: “A first-rate shoot-‘em-up with the magical ingredients for high addictivity.” – Crash Magazine, July 1987.


The Last Ninja

The Last Ninja is one of those captivating Commodore 64 games that has its name whispered in revered tones by fans of the retro computer. Set on the beautiful island of Lin Fen, The Last Ninja is simply stunning to look at, and a great game to play once you get to grips with the control mechanics. With its brilliant chiptune music (courtesy of Ben Daglish and Anthony Lees), 150 screens, stunning views and an evocative plot, this is one of the finest Commodore games of any year.


What they said: “The Last Ninja is one of those rare games which offers hours of consistently puzzling and enjoyable gameplay.” – Zzap!64 Magazine, August 1987.


Pacmania

While this arcade game from ’87 retains The Last Ninja’s isometric display, that’s where any similarity ends! The famous maze from the 1980 game is now much bigger and scrolls as Pac-Man bounces throughout, gobbling dots and dodging spooks. Still present are those valuable power pills that enable Pac-Man to turn the tables on his pursuers and the occasional fruity bonus which can be collected for extra points. New to this game is a natty jump which helps Pac-Man to evade capture as well as an extra regular ghost named Sue. As the ninth game in the series, Pac-Man isn’t exactly a fresh phenomenon in 1987 – yet this groovy game still attracted punters and 10p pieces in their droves!


What they said: “This combination of Olde Worlde addictiveness and up-to-the-minute detail will have you diving for your dosh.” – Commodore User Magazine, December 1987.


Exolon

On the 8-bit computers in particular, British publisher Hewson dominated 1987, releasing a series of graphically outstanding games. Coded by the legendary Raffaele Cecco, Exolon is the story of Vitorc, a human soldier who, when upgraded to the hyper-alloy exoskeleton, becomes a lethal and heavily-armed combatant known as Exolon. With his laser gun for flying and ground enemies and grenades for larger obstacles, Exolon is one of the greatest Spectrum run ‘n’ gunners.


What they said: “Exolon is superb – no question. Its graphics, gameplay and sheer excitement make it a genuine joy.” – Sinclair User Magazine, August 1987.


Double Dragon

But enough of this home entertainment – let’s get back to the arcades! 1987 saw the debut appearance of two martial arts brothers known as Billy and Jimmy Lee. The Black Warriors gang has kidnapped Billy’s girlfriend, Marian. Enlisting his bro to help, Billy sets out to rescue the maiden, travelling through the verminous and dingy streets. Each level of Double Dragon scrolls continuously – a revelation in this year – and with the addition of cut-scenes, there’s a real cinematic feel to the game.


What they said: “This just has to be the best game of its kind around. It’s action all the way and thoroughly addictive.” – Crash Magazine, October 1987.


Barbarian

Dubbed The Ultimate Warrior, Barbarian is the grandest one-on-one sword fighting game on the Commodore 64 computer and is one of Antstream Arcade’s most majestic 8-bit games. In a plot reminiscent of many an Eighties fantasy flick, the evil wizard Drax has kidnapped the comely Princess Mariana and it’s up to the titular muscled warrior to overcome a series of dangerous opponents. Off with their heads – literally!


What they said: “There are a variety of convincing moves and tactics, perfectly complemented by the realistic sound effects.” – Zzap64! Magazine, July 1987.


Wizball

Wow – this is some year for the Commodore 64, and here’s another stupendous game nestling away in bedrooms throughout 1987. Released by Manchester software house, Ocean, this is one of the most original and engaging shoot-‘em-ups of any era, created by the splendid minds at Sensible Software. Playing Wiz and his brave feline companion, Nifta, the mission is to restore colour to the land of Wizworld by zapping enemies and collecting blobs of colour to mix in your cauldron. Innovative and supremely playable, Wizball is a Commodore 64 classic, also available on ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga on Antstream Arcade.


What they said: “A superlative piece of software. Slick in virtually every aspect, wholly original and immensely playable.” – Zzap64! Magazine, July 1987.


More 1987 games on Antstream Arcade: gory adventure game Dracula; Jeff Minter’s Return Of The Mutant Camels; 8-bit legend Head Over Heels; Codemasters’ Ghost Hunters and Grand Prix Simulator; and an array of arcade masterpieces such as Xenophobe, Xybots, Operation Wolf and Dragon Spirit. What a year!


And as the wiggly lines return, that’s it for another Antstream Arcade year as we are dragged back to the present day. Stay tuned for another Antstream Arcade Year soon!

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