Saturday, March 28, 2020

GIANTS



Giants? I'm expecting Atari ST titans...

This might come as a shock, but I don't own any Atari ST compilations. Until now that is! Giants was released in 1989 by US Gold and is "a mammoth compilation of world beaters" according to the box. Inside a sturdy plastic case are lots of floppy disks for four big names - which only goes to prove how cool the 1980s were:

+ Out Run - I cannot believe this is by the same guy that gave us Enduro Racer!
+ Gauntlet II - an Atari ST classic developed by Golden Axe legend Richard Costello.
+ 1943 - developed by Probe... No, wait! Come back, this one is a good 'un!!
+ Street Fighter - Tiertex gave us Strider so I'm hopeful for another gem. Ahem.

Now then, one of these is an arcade beauty on the Atari ST but what about the other games? Let's see...



- OUTRUN -

So let's begin with Out Run. Oh, dear... Yup, I'm not sure what to say about this because we have all moaned about it for many years. Personally, I thought the perspective didn't work on the home computer versions. I know we're in a Ferrari but there ain't enough pixels for such a low position. However, it's that framerate that hurts the most. This is supposed to be a fast-paced rush through the sunny streets but it feels more like a jerky slideshow.

Ignoring the dreadful framerate, the visuals aren't too bad and look bright, colourful and sunny. Of course, the music is fantastic and that's thanks to Jason Brooke. However, it's that framerate that destroys everything this could have been. I wasn't expecting an arcade-perfect conversion but whoever programmed this should be shot.

Stay clear of this game. There are so many other - far better - racers available for the Atari ST.

Thankfully, there is light at the end of this horendous tunnel, thanks to Manic Miner legend Peter Jørgensen who is in the process of upgrading Out Run for the Atari STe. It will use the Blitter for better framerates along with new sprites, music and more. This is a work-in-progress and is already a million times better than the official game, which is a car-wreck. Watch this space...


The road ahead is blocked by four trucks. Yes, four trucks. And I'm almost outta time too!!



- GAUNTLET II -

Unlike the other two Gauntlet games, this one is oddly missing from our archives so Giants has nicely plugged that gap. Come on, what a fantastic game this is, and also something every Atari ST player knows and loves dearly. Whether you are playing solo or with (many!) friends, this is a brilliant conversion of the arcade game.

From the moment its cabinet appears - with that foot-tappingly cool music - we are in love. Chose a character from four heroes: be it a brute like Thor, the cunning Valkyrie, a powerful wizard or a wise Elf. Each has its style and all will find it tough clearing the crowded dungeons of evil monsters, ghosts and other demons.

Use your weapon, kill everything and leave nothing alive. This includes those generators popping out all kinds of monsters from the depths of hell. Look for potions to help against the tougher beasts - like death or a massive hoard. But there is also treasure and food along the way to keep yourself wealthy and healthy.

What a brilliant and exciting game this is. One of the greatest Atari ST arcade games you will ever play!


One of the best Atari ST arcade conversions there is. Right? Of course, I'm right!!



- 1943 -

1943 follows on from (wait for it) 1942 and is another vertically-scrolling shooter. However, this conversion is initially extremely difficult and I was saddened by how much I hated it. The gameplay feels too fast so I spent ages ramming into the enemy - and their bullets. It's almost like I had a kamikaze gift for getting myself destroyed.

I also miss the real estate of a portrait display but that's hardly the STs fault. Nor is reaching over for the spacebar to use a bomb during those difficult moments. However, stick with it and don't be put off because this is actually a faithful and frantic conversion with tons of enemies to kill and power-ups to collect. Also, I must say that I absolutely love the energy bar which I thought was superb - and certainly helped prolong my games!

Graphically, we've not been given a perfect clone but it's no ugly beast. The sprites are nice zooming around your screen but the backgrounds are pretty lame. However, that is compensated by parallax scrolling - using fluffy clouds gliding down the screen like melting butter. Music was YM-composed by Jason Brooke and is just brilliant.

Boot this one up for a good hour of frantic joystick-breaking action! An excellent shoot 'em up.


Oh no, the enemy is attacking from multiple directions? Argh, I'm bound to die pretty soon!!



- STREET FIGHTER -

Anybody that knows me, knows that I'm no expert in this genre. In fact, I know very little until having recently dipped my toes in the water a few years back with Double Dragon 3. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it and found the whole experience rather mind-blowing. What had I been missing all these years?

Sadly, things aren't (ahem) quite as impressive here. Street Fighter's gameplay is slow, very slow and the controls simply don't feel right. To me, it's like I'm blindly bashing the button in a desperate hope to punch or kick at the right moment. Also, the opponents never truly feel like they have much AI but, when they do attack, they're possessed by Chuck Norris!! The balance is off so I dare anyone to beat your first opponent - without cheating!

Graphically, it looks fairly nice with neat backdrops and huge sprites. However, the game moves dog-slow and the sprites feature little animation. I'm not sure why everything is so eye-burstingly jerky because there's actually very little going on. I'm not going to mention the music other than to say how much it grates. Ugh!!

Everything about this conversion feels like a wind-up. Have I been given a beta by accident? Surely this is a joke? Imagine paying the RRP for this lol. Play something else and don't waste your time booting this one up!


Looks quite nice I think. Though fighting in slo-mo is made even worse by a ridiculous difficulty.



- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

It's obvious Gauntlet II was always going to be the star of this collection - and it is. But I'm shocked how much I enjoyed playing 1943 which is a seriously crazy shooter. Okay, I initially hated it, but after many agonising attempts, I finally got the hang of it. I still need a cheat for infinite lives but I loved every second of it.

Sadly, that leaves two stinkers. OutRun is a terrible racer with a headache-inducing framerate that makes our Atari ST run slower than an Amstrad CPC. So I'm (more than) relieved we have Peter's Atari STe upgrade in the pipeline. Street Fighter is something else. I'm not sure what to say other than shockingly poor programming.

Overall, I would have been pleased with this compilation back in the day. It's obvious that I would have spent most of my time playing Gauntlet II whilst occasionally booting up 1943 for a quickie - and probably not lasting very long. However, the other floppies would have been reformatted and used for the latest Automation disks!!

GIANTS is available to download from AtariMania.

6 comments:

  1. You gave us a comprehensive overview of these 4 games. 1943 was definitely the best of the 4. It fulfilled its contract (cute graphics and smooth scrolling despite a small screen area). I remember US gold and its average arcade conversions with nostalgia 😁. Thanks mate.

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    1. Thanks man, it's always nice to hear feedback. Cheers :)

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  2. And it's always nice to see that there are still enthusiastic people ready to share their knowledge of the ST World! Thank you again!

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  3. This was the absolute First ST compilation I purchased in the USA, imported from Europe. 1 Great game, 1 Good, 1 Ok, and 1 Awful in order:
    Great: Gauntlet 2
    Good: 1943
    OK: Outrun
    Awful: Street Fighter

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    1. lol that's pretty accurate ;-)

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    2. Unknown above is me (Jeff from Into The Vertical Blank)

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