With the Antstream Arcade search facility capable of narrowing its 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 the year 1988. 8-bit home computers the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 are now rubbing shoulders with the Commodore Amiga while dedicated gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System are gaining popularity. And the arcades, full of the sounds and glowing images of amazing videogames, are still the most wondrous places for all gamers.
We begin our little jaunt back to the Eighties at home with the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Originally released on PC a year earlier, lucky NES owners got to experience this amusing point ‘n’ click classic in 1988. Starring Dave Miller and two of his friends, the aim is to explore the spooky house of the title and locate Dave’s girlfriend, Sandy Pants. Amusing, accessible and delightfully cartoon-like in looks, Maniac Mansion is a true trendsetter of its genre.
What They Said: “When all is said and done, Maniac Mansion on the NES is a breath of fresh air.” – Nintendo Times, October 1990
Ace coder Raffaele Cecco refined his skills further with Cybernoid, the shoot-‘em-up that many regard as the finest of its kind on the ZX Spectrum. Having impressed with his earlier Hewson game, Exolon (see Antstream Arcade Years 1987), Cybernoid retains the flick-screen style while putting the player inside a sleek craft, looking to destroy a bunch of nasty space pirates with its laser cannon and bombs. With its upgrades and compulsive gameplay, Cybernoid is a genuine Speccy classic.
What They Said: “An arcade game in your own home - you'd better believe it. Cybernoid is one of the most addictive, playable, attractive and downright unbelievable games you're ever likely to meet on the Spectrum.” – Crash Magazine, April 1988.
The Last Ninja 2
We stay at home but switch to the Spectrum’s rival, the Commodore 64. The Last Ninja had already caused a stir the previous year, and its success meant a sequel became inevitable. Expanding the story to the USA, specifically New York, this ultimate martial artist must rid the city of an evil menace in order to stop it totally dominating the world. No pressure, then!
What They Said: “Last Ninja 2 is a brilliant combination of martial arts combat and arcade adventure puzzles, and as such, is unmissable by fans of either genre.” – Zzap!64, September 1988.
P47: Phantom Fighter
Let’s nip down to the local arcade now, a place that in 1988 is brimming with wonderful glowing arcade videogames. Shoot-‘em-ups are as popular as ever, and the World War II themed P47 is an ace shooter from the marvellous minds at Japanese coin-op merchant, Jaleco. Take on a horde of Nazi tanks and aeroplanes in this fast and furious arcade game before BMXing home in time for tea.
What They Said: “With brilliant addictive blasting and impressive graphics, this one looks set to be Jaleco’s most successful product to date; it’s certainly their best.” – Commodore User, August 1988.
1988 was a fabulous year for the Commodore 64 so it seems apt that we have a go on another magnificent game for this famous computer. Up next in the cassette player/disk drive is Armalyte, the Gradius-inspired shooter from Thalamus. Boasting power ups, multiple bosses and a throng of bullet-spitting enemy craft, this is a tough yet addictive shoot-‘em-up that’s as beautiful as it is deadly.
What They Said: “Well all I can say is it’s brilliant. I’m being as quick as I can to tell you how staggeringly good it is so I can have another go!” – Zzap64!, November 1988
What a year for the Commodore 64! While it is also available on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga, it’s this C64 original that we love the most. Fantastic rotating graphics and gripping gameplay are fully incorporated in this tale of the frog-like Pogo and his mission to destroy the eight invading towers that threaten his watery planet. Released in 1987, we are playing here the Commodore Amiga version from a year later.
What They Said: “Nebulus is one of those rare games which is not only original, but also enjoyable. Don’t miss it.” – The Games Machine, December 1988
It’s sequel time again as we drift back to the plucky Sinclair Spectrum, now in its 6th year as the UK’s home computer of choice. Unlike its predecessor, Target Renegade is not based on an arcade game and is instead a home computer exclusive. Out for revenge after the death of your brother, the target is Mr. Big and his goons. Take to the streets, pick up anything that can be used as a weapon and exact your vengeance!
What They Said: “Great to look at and better to play. Fast, wince-making at points, top notch.” Sinclair User, June 1988
Time for another slice of the Commodore Amiga pie here with the game that put the Bitmap Brothers firmly on the map. In this vertically-scrolling shoot-‘em-up, the USP is the player’s metallic craft which can shift between land tank and flying jet with the tap of a button. With power-ups to pick up and a mazy landscape to negotiate, Xenon is an exercise in high-excitement shooting frenzy.
What They Said: “It’s difficult for me to tell you how good Xenon is. All I will say is that in five years of reviewing computer games this is the best shoot-‘em-up I’ve played.” C&VG, March 1988
US Championship V’ball
For our final game of 1988 we return to the arcades and a game that perhaps not many people will have heard of. Developed by Technos, the player or players takes control of George and Michael, two beach dudes up against a series of opponents in a beach volleyball tournament. Original, fun and attractive, it’s well worth seeking this cabinet out, should you find yourself stranded in an arcade in 1988!
What They Said: “I think that this one will especially appeal to fans of the game, but it should also attract anyone who likes plenty of speed and action without blasting aliens.” – Your Sinclair, Oct 1988
Not happy with our picks? Here are some more 1988 games on Antstream Arcade: experience high-kicking action with Data East’s Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja; System 3’s beat-‘em-up Bangkok Knights; Interplay’s dramatic reimagining of the board game classic, Battle Chess; puzzle games Deflektor and Sophistry; and more arcade games such as Operation Thunderbolt, Cyberball and Bloody Wolf. Finally, check out the isometric Spectrum classic, Where Time Stood Still.
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!