Evercade Cartridge Preview: Piko Interactive Arcade 1
You have no doubt noticed by now that our two next Evercade cartridges are now available to preorder! Piko Interactive Arcade 1 and The Sydney Hunter Collection are coming your way in early August, so be sure to place your order with your favourite retailers and be ready to play on release day.
Ahead of the release of these cartridges, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to some of these games in a little more detail that we’ve seen so far, so you know what to expect when the new collections finally release. To that end, we’d like to welcome you to a new semi-regular feature on the Evercade website: the Evercade Cartridge Preview, in which we run through each and every game on an upcoming cartridge and tell you what it’s all about.
Let’s kick off with a look at Piko Interactive Arcade 1, which is set for release on August 11, 2023. In true Piko tradition, this cartridge collects together a variety of games that perhaps aren’t all that well-known to the gaming community — but which have definite potential to be counted among your favourite “hidden gems” once you’ve spent some time with them. In this case, we have six titles from South Korean arcade developer Unico, plus three European titles. And between them, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
Likely the most well-known game on the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 cartridge, Dragon Master is a one-on-one fighting game that originally released in 1994. This was right in the middle of the fighting game boom that was established by Capcom’s Street Fighter II, and indeed Dragon Master will be immediately familiar to those who have played fighters from that era.
Dragon Master’s unique selling point is its “spirit meter” mechanic, whereby as well as managing your fighter’s vitality, you also have to keep an eye on a second status bar. The higher your character’s spirit meter is, the more damage they do and the more effective their special moves are, so it’s in your interests to keep it topped up as much as possible.
The tricky thing is that it’s a lot easier to drain your spirit meter than maintain or charge it. Landing throws, special moves and even some normal attacks will drain your spirit meter, as will getting hit by the enemy. The only way to recharge it is to stand still and hold one of the attack buttons — which obviously leaves you very vulnerable.
Thus, success in Dragon Master is at least partly determined by who can manage their spirit meter better, and finding suitable openings to “charge” becomes an important part of the game’s overall strategy. It’s an interesting wrinkle in the usual fighting game formula that helps Dragon Master stand out from its peers, despite superficially appearing similar.
Master’s Fury is better known in its 32-bit home console incarnation as The Masters Fighter, where it is widely regarded as one of the worst fighting games ever created. Thankfully, the arcade version is a lot more fun — and, like its spiritual predecessor Dragon Master, brings a few interesting and unique things to the table.
Historically speaking, Master’s Fury is noteworthy because this arcade edition only really surfaced for preservation in around 2020; prior to that, most people who didn’t play the game back in the day were only familiar with the home console version. Once again, we’re delighted to work with Piko Interactive to bring a title that was in serious danger of being lost forever to a whole new audience!
One of the interesting things about Master’s Fury is that because it languished in obscurity for so long, some of the game mechanics are still not fully understood by a modern audience — and no documentation from its original arcade release appears to have survived. Thus, this new Evercade release of the game provides an opportunity to learn the game as if it was brand new — and perhaps you can be the one to benefit the community and write the first fully comprehensive online guide!
Even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on, though, Master’s Fury is still a well-presented, very playable fighting game that is fun both solo and against a friend, so be sure to spend some time with it when Piko Interactive Arcade 1 is in your Evercade.
Fancy World: Earth of Crisis
Judging from the public reaction to the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 reveal trailer, Fancy World: Earth of Crisis seems to have caught the eye of a lot of people. And well it should, because it’s a super-fun example of an “elimination platformer” in the vein of other classics such as Rod Land and Tumblepop.
Like many of Unico’s other games, Fancy World features English text throughout despite being a South Korean release, although the in-house translation is… let’s just call it idiosyncratic to be polite, shall we?
From what we can determine, though, the plot revolves around a mad scientist threatening the Earth and, frustrated at having their favourite idol’s performance on TV interrupted by Dr Weirdo’s announcements, it’s up to our cat-eared heroine and her headband-sporting companion to save the day.
The name Fancy World presumably stems from the fact that our heroes’ quest takes them on a journey all across the globe for no discernible reason, with each set of stages in the game featuring famous landmarks in the backdrop, as well as unique enemies to deal with.
Gameplay unfolds as you’d expect for a game of this type, with our heroes being armed with energy balls to destroy their enemies. Clear out each screen to progress, and every so often you take on a boss. It’s simple, enjoyable, well-implemented fun.
Another elimination platformer from Unico, Magic Purple casts you in the role of an anthropomorphic duck (or possible duck-like thing), initially armed only with a formidable punch. As you progress through the stages, you can find various different weapons to use against the enemies, as well as a variety of other useful treasures.
Like Fancy World, Magic Purple is a game whose concept you’ve likely seen before, but its few distinctive twists on the formula make it stand out. The combination of punching and shooting action gives its gameplay a pleasantly satisfying feel, and its overall presentation is very good, with both player and enemy characters packed with personality.
As for why it’s called Magic Purple? Your guess is as good as ours; like most of the other Unico titles in this collection, most of the original materials that relate to this game have simply been lost or not adequately preserved, so once again we’re delighted to work with Piko Interactive to give this game a well-deserved home release via the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 cartridge for Evercade, and a second chance to become someone’s favourite.
The Legend of Silkroad
We change gears somewhat for The Legend of Silkroad, one of Unico’s slightly more well-known games on the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 cartridge. This is a beat ’em up for one or two players, offering three different playable characters and 25 different types of enemy to deal with.
The Legend of Silkroad’s unique selling point is its pre-rendered computer graphics characters, giving the game a very distinctive late ’90s look and feel to it. It was a strange and somewhat uncanny period of video game visuals, where character design in particular occupied a curious position somewhere between the cartoony, stylised nature of pixel art and the attempts at “photorealism” that developers are still striving for even today.
Visuals aside, though, The Legend of Silkroad is a solid, satisfying beat ’em up with some fun mechanics. Probably most notable is the fact that each character has five different special attacks that they can perform — and rather than these simply being assigned to a button as in many other beat ’em ups, they instead use fighting game style input commands to perform.
Thankfully you don’t have to figure all these out for yourself; the game’s attract mode shows you how to perform most of them, so be sure to take a moment to watch the demonstration if you really want to master your character of choice. Or just mash buttons if you prefer; it’s up to you!
Probably one of Unico’s strangest games — and another title that makes use of prerendered visuals for that delightful late ’90s look — Burglar X is a maze chase game in which you’re tasked with tracking down shiny coins and avoiding the unwanted attention of your pursuers.
Rather than being a Pac-Man-style game, though, Burglar X instead tasks you with smashing open objects in order to find the goodies contained within. A Rally-X-style radar helps you track down both your enemies and the shiny things you’re after — and you’re armed with a basic attack, bombs and the ability to fart like a wild buffalo to defend yourself.
Burglar X also mixes things up every few stages, too. After three stages of collecting coins, you’ll have an outright chase to the exit. And after that, you’ll have a boss to fight! You’ll need to bring everything to bear — including your flatulence — to bring these fearsome foes down.
Yes, Burglar X is probably the silliest game on Piko Interactive Arcade 1 for Evercade — and we love it for it. We reckon you will too.
Moving on from Unico’s contributions, we have Ultimate Tennis, a game developed by a Belgian outfit known as Art & Magic. This company is probably best known for its work on the visually stunning Amiga title Agony, but sadly that was their only contribution to home computer gaming; from thereon, they moved exclusively into the arcade space.
You shouldn’t be too sad about that, though, because Ultimate Tennis is a really solid sports game, featuring impressive TV-style presentation, polished graphics and atmospheric sound effects. It also comes with a “beginner mode” for those new to sports games, providing additional visual cues to help you out.
The game offers three different types of shot to perform, which vary according to the context in which you perform them, and you can play against either a series of computer-controlled opponents or a friend. There’s a lot to like here, and those who enjoy good quality sports games are sure to find Ultimate Tennis a highlight of the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 cartridge for Evercade.
Developed by Electronic Devices Italy and released in 1994, Steel Force will likely look familiar to fans of Alien Breed. This is no clone, however; while Team17’s classic series focuses on labyrinthine levels and exploration as much as alien-blasting action, Steel Force instead focuses more on the action angle, with more linear levels and more intense confrontations against the Space Pirate antagonists.
Each level is a race to the finish as you follow the arrows through the stage, collecting coins along the way to power up your weapons. There’s no hunting down of keys to open doors here — just blast on through, taking care to watch for deadly traps!
Whether you’re playing solo or in cooperation with/against a friend, Steel Force is sure to become a favourite among players of the Piko Interactive Arcade 1 collection for Evercade.
Finally, we come to another Electronic Devices Italy title: Diver Boy. The simplest way to describe this game is that it’s Tecmo’s Bomb Jack, but upside-down. Rather than leaping high into the air, you’re diving beneath the waves — and rather than defusing bombs, you’re collecting clams.
Like in the Tecmo classic, you can race to complete the level as quickly as possible, or you can take your time and collect the clams in the order that they open on screen, which will net you a much higher score.
There’s also a unique twist in that you can gain access to a barrel submarine, which provides you with a bit more protection and the opportunity to blast pesky enemies out of the way. You need to be careful, though, because it doesn’t make you completely invincible!
If you enjoy simple, straightforward but highly addictive action games, Diver Boy will doubtless be a Piko Interactive Arcade 1 title that will keep you coming back for more!
Piko Interactive Arcade 1 is set for release on August 11, 2023. You can find out more and preorder now here.
With over 260 games available