Now this is a special review... Not only is this my 50th review, this is also my first Homebrew review. I actually only own one Homebrew game, and I think I have one of the best, that being Spiceware's Draconian. I love Namco's Bosconian, even though I'm not very good at it, so when I saw Draconian on the AA store I was immediately smitten. I bought it almost as soon as I saw what it was, Bosconian on the 2600, and when it arrived I was not disappointed. This has got to be one of the most advanced and polished 2600 games I've ever had the honor of playing, (and no I'm not saying this because I know Mr. Spice. Jr, reads my reviews on occasion). This definitely is a contender for the title of "Best Game" on the 2600, I beseech all who read this to go out now and buy this game from the AA store, and please try to avoid the scalpers on Ebay and Etsy. But without further ado lets play this thing!
Never before have I had the actual arcade cabinet with me to do a comparison, but today... I still don't, but I have the next best thing, a plug 'n play console, which just so happens to have Bosconian on it. Now that I have the actual arcade game here to compare with I can safely say that Draconian is as perfect a conversion can be when it comes to the 2600. Every ship, every asteroid, mine, enemy base, enemy formation, is recreated excellently. Everything in the arcade is represented in the game, and the game has a few nice little tweaks, the menu screen being chief among them, not only does it look better than the arcade's, it also lets you set your TV color palette between NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, (that's a nice touch). The one main detractor Is have is that almost all of the sprites are monochrome, the second is the flicker, even though it's quite minimal, and only when there is a lot of things on the screen at once. When compared to everything this cartridge holds however, the excellent minimap, the best starfield I've ever seen, and the ridiculous amount of stuff they managed to cram onto the screen, the good crushes the bad, especially when compared to the only other game of this type on the system, which is Bit Corp.'s Mission 3000 A.D., which I just so happen to have written a review about, It's like a kindergartner's clay bowl compared to Michelangelo's 'David', there is no comparison, Draconian will always win, except in obscurity. But could there anything that could top the graphics? In any other game I'd say no, but today...
This game can speak, no not like in Quadrun, this game says words which you actually understand with your ears. I know speech on the 2600 is nothing new, especially with the emergence of the AtariVox, but Draconian doesn't need an expensive attachment to speak, it can do it right out of the box. The game can say five phrases, and yes they are the same as the arcade, and play in the same situations as the arcade. It can say "Blast off" when you start a new round,"Alert! Alert!" when an enemy is on screen, "Battle Stations" when a formation of enemies is comin' for you, "Spy ship sighted!" well that one is pretty self explanatory, and "CONDITION RED" that's when all hell breaks loose. All the other sounds of the arcade are recreated in glorious low-def sound and as such are not as 'good' as the arcade's, but I must say I like the shoot sound effect of Draconian a bit more that Bosconian, it's just a bit grittier, and I like that. Now lets get into the meat of things, the gameplay...
I you like Bosconian you're gonna love this, it is the same formula: Either shoot all six weapon pods of the enemy bases, or shoot their cores to destroy them, destroy all the enemy bases in the sector, while avoiding and shooting enemies, asteroids, and mines. Once all the bases in the sector are destroyed you move on to the next sector, rinse and repeat with steadily increasing difficulty. Bosconain and Draconian share a very unique gameplay element, you can shoot in front of and behind yourself at the same time, some people might think this makes the game too easy but trust me it is quite necessary. Instead of being a simple conversion Spiceware went above and beyond, they added: diagonal movement, which was sorely lacking in the original, a difficulty select on the main menu for kids to pros, and 48 unique stages, which you can select on the menu screen. But what is a game without baddies to blast? I can safely say they nailed this aspect as well. There are four types of enemies: The P-Type patrol ship, it's not very aggressive and tends to fly into asteroids and mines when not halfheartedly chasing you. There are the I-Type Interceptors, these guys will chase you to the ends of the universe, if you don't blast them from a distance they will try to ram you. There are the E-Type exterminators, they usually are ejected straight from the cores of enemy stations in a desperate bid to block your shot, they will also fly in formations and hunt down. Then there is the elusive spy ship, it's yellow very stealthy, when you see these guys destroy them immediately, if they manage to get off screen Condition Red will be initiated and you will die, while having a lot of fun. Unfortunately, like the arcade, enemy ships have considerable difficulty avoiding obstacles, many times you will see a spy ship or an Interceptor fly headlong into an asteroid, which is very funny, I like how in the manual it says you'll still get points "even if the enemies accidentally take themselves out."
Needles to say I love this game, it's a great time no matter what mood I'm in, good or bad, it'll brighten my day either way. If you get the opportunity to buy this game please get it with the box, the manual is one of the best (and funniest) I've ever seen. It is worth the 50-55$, even the scalpers aren't asking too much for it. BUY IT!!! BUY IT I SAY!!
Now this is unusuall... a sixth paragraph? what is this madness!?! well this is something a little special, it's a thank you... to those who made this masterpiece... Thank you... Darrell Spice. Jr., Chris Walton, Fred Quimby, Mike Haas, and Nathan Strum. Another thank you to the folks who designed the games sectors: Anders Carlsson, Alessandro Ciceri, Chris Derrig, German Gonzalez-Morris, James Earl O'Brien, and Steve Damon. You guys are the best... and don't worry it's unlikely I'll ever get this sentimental again so live it up while you can.