Retro vs Remake: Elevator Action … Gooooing Up!

Today's Retro vs Remake Games: Elevator Action vs Elevator Action Deluxe

Hotel floors filled with doors and elevators; a common movie setting for comedic chase scenes. But a video game based on doors and elevators? It works better than you might think.

Elevator Action is a 1983 arcade game developed by Taito. You play as a spy named Agent 17, or Otto (no, not Evil Otto;), tasked with infiltrating an enemy complex and stealing confidential information. The complex though, happens to be full of doors, elevators and guards. Being a spy that prefers traveling light, you’re armed only with a small pistol and your wits. Using a traditional four-way joystick and two buttons (jump and shoot) you must navigate the vertical buildings collecting documents from red doors while avoiding the guards that come out of blue doors. Fortunately you can take out the guards using a variety of methods such as shooting, jump-kicking or elevator-crushing. Unfortunately, as you progress through each level, the guards become more agile and their returning shots faster and more frequent. Elevator Action may be a fun game, but it is not an easy one. As with many games of its time, your character is a one-hit wonder and will drop dead with so much as a scratch (or short fall) on his adorably covert sprite.

While there have been several sequels and ports of Elevator Action over the years, Elevator Action Deluxe is the first “true” remake of the arcade classic.

Once again, Otto (or his female counterpart) is tasked with retrieving secret documents from the red doors while avoiding guards. Only this time the buildings aren’t always vertical and they aren’t always hotels. You’ll be slinking through factories, mines and military bases avoiding everything from enemy agents (some of whom summon more agents if they spot you) to soldiers, robots and bombs. Along with the wider variety of stages, hazards and enemies you also get an expanded arsenal of attacks. You still start off with a basic spy pistol, but you can collect weapon upgrades like machine guns, rocket launchers and lasers. You also have a new melee attack so you can bop enemies on the head should they get too close. Or if you’re the stealthy type, you can hide behind a blue door and wait for an enemy to pass by before flinging the door right into his back. Otto also must be wearing Kevlar armor this time around as he can take three shots to the chest instead of one and can even recover lost hits via “heart” doors.

There’s also an expanded multiplayer mode where up to four players (local only) can take on the fifty campaign missions together or duke it out in competitive mode.

Finally, the music in Deluxe is mostly cliched & often silly sounding “Mission Impossible” or “Bond” style tracks that fit the game’s corny atmosphere quite well. The game also mixes in many of the arcade original’s sound effects with the “realistic” sounds making it a treat for nostalgic ears.

So, final verdict? While Elevator Action is fun in its own right, Deluxe just adds so much more gameplay while keeping (most) of the core elements in tact that I’d have to say I enjoyed playing Deluxe far more than I ever did the original.

What do you think? Are Deluxe’s gameplay additions too convoluted or unbalanced? Or is the arcade original too limited and unforgiving to be much fun after ten minutes?

Retro vs Remake: The Speed of Molasses

Don't blink, or you might miss him.

Today’s Retro and Modern Games: Sonic 1 & 2 vs Sonic 4

Sonic the Hedgehog took the gaming world by storm when he sped onto the console scene in the early nighties. He propelled the struggling Sega Genesis console to mainstream stardom and completely unseated Mario as the reigning video game mascot.

Sonic’s game was a simple platformer, much like Mario; move left to right, avoiding enemies and obstacles to reach the goal. What Sonic did that Mario didn’t was the sense of speed and action. While Mario was trudging and hopping his way through the Mushroom Kingdom, Sonic was blazing through unique and colorful worlds like his feet were on fire. The Spin Dash move, where Sonic would curl up into a ball for extra speed, also lent itself to some unique level design and exhilarating loop-de-loops. And finally, Sonic’s “spin” on the health bar or lack thereof was a nice departure from the one-hit-wonder Mario. Instead of dying after one (or two) hits from an enemy, Sonic merely dropped all the rings he had collected throughout the stage. As long as you could hold onto at least one ring, Sonic was nigh invincible. Of course if the stage or boss level didn’t have any rings to collect, you were back to the one-hit-wonder.

That little brown furry guy does indeed have two tails.

Sonic 2 was the perfect sequel, improving on the previous game in almost every way. Sonic was leaner, meaner, and this time he brought back-up. Tails the fox follows Sonic through nearly every level providing minor assistance against Robotnik and his baddies. If you happen to have a second controller, a friend can drop in at any time and control Tails themselves. Sonic could also perform/charge his famous “spin dash” move while stationary so you wouldn’t get stuck if there was a steep incline. Sonic 2 also featured a massive variety of levels, many more than the original. From the traditional Emerald Hill and Chemical Plant to Mystic Cave and Flying Fortress, you never quite knew what to expect around each corner. The Special Stages also received a, in my opinion, much needed overhaul. Instead of the dizzying, rotating, float-y mazes from Sonic 1, your sped through quasi-3D half-pipe tracks, trying to collect the required number of rings to earn the Chaos Emerald. Also as an upgrade from Sonic 1, if you managed to collect all seven emeralds, they don’t merely unlock the “good” ending to the game, they give you the “ultimate” power-up in the game: Super Sonic. Once you have all the emeralds, as soon as you collect fifty rings within any stage and jump, you transform into a glowing, invincible, yellow version of Sonic that can leap to the moon and move at ludicrous speeds. No seriously, if you’re not careful when controlling Super Sonic, you could easily send yourself off a cliff and to your death. As a way to temper this power, you don’t get to keep it indefinitely. As soon as you transform, your ring count begins to drop one a second and when it reaches zero you become normal Sonic, with no rings. So rings not only become your source of life, but your source of ultimate power.

It looks promising...

Ok, so Sonic 1 & 2 are incredible games, even today, but what about the recent Sonic 4? Originally heralded as “Project Needlemouse” this game was suppose to hearken back to the Sonic games of old. So how did it do? Let’s start with the graphics.

The visuals in Sonic 4 are beautiful HD renderings of the stages from Sonic 1 & 2. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, certainly not for nostalgia, but for a game that is suppose to be a “sequel” seeing the exact same levels from the first two games is a bit odd. Enemies and bosses are also ripped straight out of the first two Sonic games. The design and layout of the actual levels is decently done, but there are several cheap “death traps” that serve only to frustrate and drain all your hard earned lives.

This game has all the makings of a good remake, except for one thing: physics. The physics in Sonic 4 are atrocious. Sonic runs like he’s trudging through molasses spread across black ice, he jumps like a lead weight and his homing attack, a carry-over from more recent Sonic games, feels clumsy and unreliable. Even the special stages, a direct clone of the spinning maze from Sonic 1, suffer from whacked-out physics.

While Sonic 4 has all the indications of an awesome remake/sequel, the blue blur ultimately falls flat on his face, surrounded by memories of what was and what could’ve been. As a devote Sonic fan, I have to say that the original Genesis Sonic games beat Sonic 4 to the goal by a long mile.