1 Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD - WiiU/CEMU/Steam Deck
2 Overboard - Steam Deck
3. Mr Fast - Steam Deck
4. A Short Hike - Steam Deck
5. Sonic Adventure - Dreamcast/Retroarch/Steam Deck
Strap in, this is a long one. Actually, I'll spoiler it because it is really long.
6. Combat School - Spectrum 128k/Fuse/PC
Part one - the nostalgic waffle
ZOMG Spoiler! Click here to view!
The first ever issue of Your Sinclair that I got was the one with Combat School on the cover (Dec 87, I think). I'm assuming my dad bought it, and he probably bought it because it had a game on the front - he would occasionally pick up games on the way home from work, but he had very little interest in the Spectrum (Space Raiders he could handle, but anything more than left, right, fire was too much for him, and he'd have been younger than I am now) so it was always pot luck based on what actually looked interesting in the shop. This method somehow led to him bringing home a copy of Manic Miner, but also a copy of Mastertronic's Election - "it looked like a maze game from the cover". It wasn't.
A two page feature headed "cover game" went on to preview Combat School, while I got quite excited as I took this to mean that the game I was reading about was the one on the cover tape (which was actually the isometric bat and ball type thing Play for your Life). Still, so excited was I to get my hands on a copy of Combat School that when I next had the opportunity to buy a Spectrum game, with exactly enough money to buy one game, I walked out of the shop a proud owner of Jack the Nipper 2...
I did eventually get the game, although I have no recollection of where or when, so let's get on with it.
Part 2 - the game (finally)
ZOMG Spoiler! Click here to view!
I probably spent longer getting this to work than I did completing it. Firstly for some reason my launchbox was set up to use some zx81 core for my Spectrum games, then when I changed it to Fuse, it defaulted to 48k mode, then when I finally got the game loaded, the keyboard didn't work, so off to Google for how to fix that. Then defining my keys as the faithful BNKML (I'll come back to this), I discovered that Retroarch uses K to pause, so I shifted the keys over a bit, but H resets. I wasn't in the mood for working my way through Retroarch's impenetrable menus to see if I could disable the hotkeys in the event that the machine I was trying to emulate had an actual keyboard, so I got myself a stand-alone copy of Fuse, went through the 48k is default scenario again, and finally, we're done. Define keys, start game, player doesn't move.
Ah, I didn't choose keyboard, seems a bit of a faff to define keys and have to choose the keyboard separately. Oh, keyboard isn't an option. It all comes flooding back to me as only player 2 can use the keyboard, so I start a 2 player game and just let player 1 fall at the first hurdle (almost literally).
Oh right, the actual game. I was unaware at the time, but this was an arcade conversion, which I did play sometime later, but found the trackball controls a bit fiddly for level three. The game fits quite well into Ocean's late 80s repertoire, as each level is a different type of game (a bit like RoboCop, and, er, maybe some others).
Level 1 is the assault course, so bash left and right as fast as you can and jump/scale the walls. Presumably as a quirk of the aforementioned level 3 where you have to run up the screen, as well as move left and right, when playing on keyboard the game lets you hold down, er, down, and just keep pressing up as quick as you can. This is where the BNKML method comes in, stolen from a friend of mine who shunned QAOPSpace to use ZXKML, this allows you to run on level 3 as you normally would, but also keeps the left and right buttons under your fingers so you can use them when required, and also gives you a "normal" control method for the other levels.
The other levels then, 2 is a firing range where targets can appear anywhere (although they always appear on a horizontal row, and it's possible to set your height so you only ever need to move left and right).
Level 3 is an ironman course, you have to run up screen, jumping or dodging rocks and other obstacles.
Level 4 another firing range, this time a series of tanks descend from the top of the screen and you have to shoot them. At this point, I'll mention the penalties, as this was the point I got them. Each level has a qualifying target, the more you beat the target by, the bigger bonus you get, if you fail, it's game over, unless you only just fall, in which case you get to do chin-ups as a penalty and then carry on.
Level 5 is an arm wrestling contest, presumably designed to bump off either player 1 or 2 so they have to put another credit in. If you're quick enough, you can win this in about 2 seconds, if you're not, it's basically a tedious wait until the 10 second mark (so 50 second in) when your opponent eventually collapses.
Level 6 is another firing range, the gimmick this time is your get 5 targets to shoot at, but some contain pictures if your instructor and if you shoot those, you're frozen out for that round.
The final level is to take nothing you've learnt so far and battle your instructor. You've clearly learnt something though, as there were three heights of wall in the assault course level and you could only jump cleanly over the smallest, but now you can effortlessly bound over your instructor's head. So that's what we'll do, with a well-timed kick to the head as we go past, he only manages to retaliate 50% of the time, so it's an easy victory.
Ah, but now we come to "The Mission" aka the bit I could never do (although there's the possibility I have already done this through emulation and save states at some point, I've just forgotten). It's not so much that it's hard, but if you die, it's game over, even with save states there was a few bits of "oh, I know that's coming now, I won't get caught out next time", if you had to replay the entire game just to get back to that point, I can understand why I never finished it.
So, The Mission then, use your new find skills to walk up to people and kick them before they kick you, occasionally using your immense jumping abilities to jump over knives that are thrown at you, before kicking the knife thrower before he can throw another. Then you get to the "I hope nobody gets this far, because we haven't playtested it" bit. You come to what looks like a warehouse (bearing in mind this is a Spectrum and the whole level is in black and white), and then a woman tied to a chair (I think the mission blurb said something about hostages, I wasn't paying attention), the scrolling stops and "the boss" enters. He doesn't look any different to any of the goons I've taken out on the way here, but I shouldn't have been fooled by his appearance as he confidently walks up to me and kicks me in the shins, causing me to fall over and lose 1 block of energy (I assume that's what would happen if any of the normal goons hit you, it's just the knives and Molotov cocktails that are insta-death). I stand up, attempt to time my kick a little better, but get booted in the shins for a second time. I decide that my mistake is taking the battle to my opponent, crammed up on the left of the screen (for whatever reason this was a right to left scroller), so I back off to give myself more space. However, he chooses to remain off-screen in a cowardly fashion (yes, I know I'm the person that just defeated my instructor by leaping across the screen and kicking him in the face as I went past). I move back to the left to try and coax him out, but he's seemingly done a runner. I aim a kick in his general direction (which, depending on your perception of the 3D might have hit the hostage in the face) and the game locks up. It would have been bad enough having to play through the entire game again to get back here, can you imagine having to load the whole thing in as well?
Fortunately, we're not troubled by such insignificances, and soon I'm back in the warehouse, ready to stay firmly on my own territory (i.e. the right hand side of the screen). This time, I know exactly what to do, and using all my training, I get kicked 7 times in a row and die. My excuse is that every time I got hit, the background graphics corrupted a little bit more, so the game over screen came as a bit of a relief.
Third time lucky, and time for some new tactics, rather than attempting an elegantly timed kick, how about I just bash the fire button on an attempt to recreate Chun-Li's lightning kicks, yeah, that works. And the words "You made it" appear on screen (as they do at the end of every level, you either get "you made it" or "you blew it") followed by the Game Over screen. Spectacular. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes.
Anyway, that went on for a bit, but that's what you're all here for right, in-depth analysis of 35 year old computer games, with some nostalgia about my dad's purchasing methods and my dubious decision making skills.