Well, I guess my Tempest 2000 journey is about finished. I've done the Jaguar, Saturn and PS1 (in Tempest X3) versions, and I've even finally finished Tempest X3 itself. The only other ones I needed to try were the PC versions (I don't think I'd be able to get access to the Mac port). So, I ordered both the MS-DOS and Windows 95 versions of the game, received them last week, installed them and ran into problems with both.
The MS-DOS version, despite finding my sound cards in multiple machines, will not actually play sound effects and so I ditched it for the moment (more on that later). The Windows 95 version was a mixed bag. On my Windows 95 machine it played, but was probably around 25fps and so it wasn't particularly enjoyable. On my Windows 98 machine (much more powerful), the game seems bugged and runs at a slideshow pace, one or two frames per second (no joke). Totally unplayable. Interestingly, this game seems to scale its visuals to whatever your desktop resolution is set to, so it can look very sharp. The image quality is also better than the DOS version with your score and lives looking smoothed out in comparison. Sound-wise it strictly uses the CD soundtrack with no midi support whatsoever (contrary to the DOS version, which can use both the CD music or an Adlib midi soundtrack). I'll probably try this one on my Windows XP machine later on just to see if it's bugged like on 98, or if it magically works correctly.
A couple of nights ago I fiddled around with the MiSTer and was able to transfer an ISO of the DOS version of T2K over to it, got it installed via the ao486 core and low and behold, it actually worked, sound and all! So last night I made an attempt to roll through the entire game from start to finish, all levels like I've done in each of the other versions.
Well... that was a disaster. I received my first Game Over at level 63, then proceeded to make tiny stints of progress, brute forcing my way through the game, continuing once every couple of levels. It was kind of painful. Something about this version just feels "off". For one, the color pallette is much lower than other versions, capping at 256 colors, so everything looks more muted than other versions. I was also playing on a CRT monitor which didn't help this, with everything looking extra dark. Enemies tend to blend into the backgrounds and all the particle effects really get in the way of seeing what's coming up the web. This is an issue in every version, but it's especially bad here. Level 95 was my breaking point and after close to five hours of gameplay I threw in the towel. I just couldn't manage to get past it. I thought to myself, "Well, let me go a couple levels back, get three warp triangles, beat the bonus stage and skip ahead five levels." Well, that didn't work. I'm not sure if this is true in other versions as well, but it seems like if you're around level 90 or up, the game won't let you skip ahead five stages. I was on level 93, completed the bonus stage, and was dropped into level 94 instead of level 98 or 99 like I was supposed to (the idea was to try to skip 95 all together). This version just seems a lot harder than the other versions I've played. I think it has more to due with the dark pallette and it being more difficult to see. Also, my controls felt a little laggy, so I wasn't as accurate with my movements or shots as I would be in other versions. This could very well simply be due to how I was interfacing a controller with the MiSTer (a Retro-Bit Saturn pad, then mapping buttons on the controller to keys on the keyboard).
Anyway, here are some things I noticed about the DOS version. This port is in a lot of ways closer to the Jaguar version than others mechanically-speaking, but like other ports, is different in areas.
Note: The MiSTer ao486 core was set to mimic a 486 processor running at 90mhz. This could have an effect on performance and so I'm not sure how this game will differ on more or less powerful setups.
- Game displays in 256 colors. Color usage is muted overall compared to other versions and objects can look very drab in places, not to mention blend in with the background on darker displays.
- Webs are filled with solid colors. They do cycle to different colors, but there are no melting effects or shading, they are fully solid.
- You have the option to turn off the score and lives displays. You can also disable the starfield and web color fills.
- The Adlib soundtrack only has a few tunes taken from Tempest 2000 proper (the first two web sets, then a couple of bonus stages). The rest of the soundtrack is all new tunes. You can still use the CD soundtrack if you want, which should be the same as the other CD versions of the game (I intentionally played with the Adlib music so did not verify this 100%).
- Sound effects are more "crunchy" and in some cases are different from other versions. The pitch of voice callouts, especially in bonus stages, is incorrect as well.
- Gameplay-wise, it seems pretty close to the Jaguar game. I suppose this makes sense as it was done by Imagitec (High Voltage did the console ports). Details that are there in the Jag game seem to be replicated well here. For instance, this version features both solid green spikes and rainbow spikes. Green spikes can be quick-killed in this just like the Jaguar version, a feature missing from other conversions. This makes spikes less of a nuisance and feel better to rip through. The reflect enemies also look how they should and bounce back unique, reddish projectiles like in the Jag game.
- The bonus levels are visually different from other versions. The wavy floor/ceiling of the first set of bonus stages doesn't look anywhere near as smooth as the Jag game (see attached screenshots). The green track bonus stage looks extremely blocky (and it ran at a very poor framerate for me). The blue ring bonus stages are gone, replaced with a modification of the first bonus stage type. This one consists of you flying through wireform square rings. The floor/ceiling is gone and the controls have been modified, adding lots of inertia and making you feel more like you're piloting a ship of some kind.
- Game seems more difficult than other versions. I noticed slightly laggy controls, but this could be due to how I'm interfacing with the MiSTer. Enemies come up the playfield quite quickly and I felt overwhelmed more often than I was in other versions. I may have to try it again while setting a lower clock speed in the MiSTer core just to make sure the game isn't running too fast.
- Level design seems faithful to the Jaguar game. Level 64 is still there, unlike its modified version in T2K in Tempest X3.
- Bonus level end screens are flat and unimpressive.
You know what, I just realized I've never gone through Typhoon 2001. Maybe I need to try that next..