Monday 19 July 2021

Piko Interactive Collection 1 Review (Evercade)

Piko Interactive are a company that specialise in collecting unloved IP and then packaging it for modern platforms. Sometimes they get IP outright and sometimes they spend the time to acquire prototypes, unfinished or foreign language games and then work on them to get them ready for market. This first collection from the company for the Evercade contains a wide range of games from different genres and backgrounds and is the very definition of eclectic.

Seven of the twenty included games fall into the realm of platformers. 8 Eyes is a relatively poor NES game much in the vein of the original Castlevania titles and Radical Rex and Dorke and Yimp are fairly lose in terms of their controls and are more frustrating than fun. Jim Powers is a SNES game which has been completed by Piko Interactive and must be among the most difficult games ever made.  But, there are some hidden gems here. Power Pigs is colourful and fairly solid but for us the two standouts are Tinhead and Switchblade.

Tinhead is a very Amigary platformer (think lose controls), but it’s inventive and the save states help alleviate the ‘memory test’ elements that many games of the time where known for. It’s certainly a game we have been going back to often and well worth playing. Switchblade takes a bit of getting used to but once you work out its single button combat system (another game with home computer roots), it’s an engaging and addictive adventure platformer where you explore one huge level looking for pieces of a magic sword.

Aside from platformers there are also a host of games which involve punching people in the face. Power Punch is a truly awful Punch Out clone and Way of the Exploding Fist is the NES version of the game which Piko Interactive has again taken the time to complete from its prototype. It’s fairly solid but does lack some of the character (and the bonus stage), from the other versions.

The Water Margin on the other hand is an excellent side scrolling beat’em up. This really is the definition of a hidden gem and it has been localised here for a Western audience. It’s big and bold with great special moves and is a must play. Also well worth playing is Iron Commando. Another really solid side scroller it has bags of character and is only let down a touch by the fact it’s a bit unbalanced in terms of the difficulty.

For those that want to go adventuring the cartridge also has you well catered for. There are two traditional RPG’s (officially translated for the first time) with Canon: legends of the New Gods taking the Fire Emblem like approach and Brave Battle Saga the more Breath of Fire/Dragon Quest route. Canon is incredibly tough due to players not having access to information such as how far enemies can move. But it’s pretty solid throughout and fans of the genre should get on with it well. Brave Battle Saga is excellent and if you are into your traditional JRPG games then this will keep you busy of around forty hours which makes this cart very impressive in terms of value for money.

3D adventuring is also well covered here with Drakken and its sequel Dragon View included. Make no mistake, both games are tough as nails but also great fun to explore. Drakken uses the more traditional four player party system whereas Dragon View changes to a side on action game once destinations are reached. Just make sure you’ve got a guide nearby unless you want to become truly lost in the wilderness.

Isometric adventure fans aren’t left out either with cult Mega Drive game The Immortal also here. It’s clunky and slow but there’s still very little like it out there and is a massively ambitious game for the system. Again, the save states are very handy here for alleviating any mounting frustration. If you have some patience with it you should be rewarded with another solid quest.

Four unique games round out the package. Top Racer (Top Gear), is a solid SNES racing game, but the far superior sequel is included in the second Piko cartridge. Even though, it’s still good fun and has the added depth of being able to upgrade your car.

Magic Girl is a short but sweet vertically scrolling shooter that’s good for a quick blast and The Humans is a unique take on the Lemmings format. Again, its natural home is on a computer system with a mouse but despite the slow pace it certainly has a charm to it. Yet again the save states are here to save the day as well.

The final game on the cart is Nightshade which is an ambitious NES game that’s part point and click adventure and part action. It has a great atmosphere and look to it but the NES was never the natural home of this type of game so again, some patience is required to get the most out of it. It is worth sticking with though.

Overall, the first Piko Interactive Collection is a weird and wacky selection of games from all sorts of sources. There is bound be something that you gravitate towards here and equally games you will never touch again. The good stuff far outweighs the bad though and the inclusion of real heavy hitters such as Brave Battle Saga and The Water Margin backed up with cult classics and solid games such as Drakken and Tinhead means it deserves a place in any Evercade owners collection.


Overall -

Brave Battle Saga                                                            4/5

Cannon – Legends of the New Gods                               3/5

Water Margin                                                                   4/5

Iron Commando                                                               3/5

Way of the Exploding Fist                                              3/5

Power Punch II                                                               1/5

Tinhead                                                                           4/5

Radical Rex                                                                   2/5

Jim Powers – The Lost Dimension                               2/5

8 Eyes                                                                            2/5

Power Pigs of the Dark Age                                          3/5

Dorke and Yimp                                                            2/5

Switchblade                                                                   4/5

Dragon view                                                                   3/5

Drakken                                                                          3/5

The Immortal                                                                  3/5

Magic Girl                                                                       3/5

Nightshade                                                                       3/5

Top Racer                                                                         3/5

Humans                                                                             3/5

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