Piracy The Early Years

Gamestyle Archive intro: well I wrote this but cannot remember doing so, a real oddity pulled out. I guess the site was a constant stream of reviews and we were fully aware of that. Reviews, previews the endless debate whether we should do news and if we did, that we had to support it fully. Keeping that fun without it becoming a chore was difficult as with any hobby that slowly takes over.

This feature dates from August 2001 and was probably thrown together to break up the review production line. Plus any excuse to write about the Spectrum days!

 

Piracy has been around since the days of the Spectrum in Britain and has grown into our gaming culture ever since.   The lads at Gamestyle have been through it time and time again but this taboo subject is worthy of an article, as everyone seems to have a different opinion of the pros and cons.

We all have our first memories of pirate games, at school it was a blessing to have this option as pocket money was probably only enough to splash out on booze nevermind videogames.   I rarely saw an original game in my Spectrum era at school and on average for everyone sold perhaps ten copies were made.   The only original games that I can recall owning during this period were Skooldaze, Booty and Elite, the rest being spread across a pile of C10 cassettes.   Did Clive realise the ease of which you could copy games on his system?  Was a blind eye turned to the problem back then?  I would think so as it no doubt contributed to the sales of machines and blank cassettes and the problem was left squarely at the publisher’s feet.   Perhaps that is too harsh at a time when a universal and cheap format such as cassette most likely seemed the only was to release videogames.

The knock on effect of the widespread piracy was the increase in retail prices with many games rising to the £9.99 price point.  Don’t laugh kids, that was a fairly large wedge in those days.   Publishers reacted in different ways and with no universal body to represent them everything seemed hit or miss.   The only attempt that I can recall combating the problem can with Elite when it was released in 1985.  The publishers were a company called Firebrand who was part of British Telecom.  Anyone opening the box for the first time was in for a shock because they had to use the Lenslok device.   The idea was novel but the execution was very poor, from my own Elite boxset, follow these instructions complete with emphases words:

1.      Once the program has loaded, press ENTER, the screen will change and you will see three vertical lines appear on the screen – don’t worry about anything else on the screen at this time.

2. Place the UNFOLDED LENSLOK holder length ways on the screen, between the two outmost vertical lines. Using the cursor keys “5” and “8”, adjust the two outermost vertical lines until they are the same as the LE

3. Fold the LENSLOK holder back (as indicated on the holder) place the holder on the screen, (with TOP on the holder, uppermost) and align the centre line of the lens with the vertical centre line on the screen. Now by closing one eye and looking directly at the screen through the lens, you will see the letters “O” and “K” appear.

4. If you are unable to see the letters clearly, use the adjustment keys to “fine tune” the display until “O” and “K” are seen more clearly.

5. When you are satisfied that you can see the “OK” message properly and whilst keeping the holder in the same position, press ENTER. Two more characters will be displayed.   Type these in and the protected program will run as normal.

If, however you make a mistake, two more characters will be generated and you should type these two new characters in. You are allowed three attempts before the computer will reset, making it necessary to re-load the program.

Right is that clear enough?   Ask anyone who played Elite back then to name the two most annoying features of the game and it’s a cert. that their reply will include docking a ship and the Lenslok.   The lens itself was 3.5cm by 2cm, imagine trying to square it up between your much larger television and your squinting eye, with one finger on the keyboard.   More often than not you blew the three chances and had to reload the game again.  Not so bad if it was a cart or one of the recent consoles but the Spectrum was infamous for its loading times.   Clearly Lenslok was not the answer.

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Gamestyle Retro

Gamestyle Archive into: we’re reaching the end of our Gamestyle Offline Magazine special edition issues with a release that came towards the end of the series; retro. With a distinctive look harking back to the classic Spectrum magazine of the 80’s this is the team’s homage to retro. The last page also hints at GSO Issue 9. I’m sad to say I cannot even remember if we reached issue 9, material was certainly submitted for a 9 or 10 and this formed the part of the ‘missing edition’ series that was published online during 2008.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the GSO issues that have stood the test of time rather well. In this era of instant downloads and reading on the move there does seem to be an opportunity to revive this sleeping giant.

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N64 Knocking on heavens door again

Gamestyle Archive intro: here’s the second and final part of our Nintendo 64 summary from 2001

There plenty of N64 bargains to be had in retailers and on the various Internet auctions sites at the present time.   The console itself must number one when it comes to the different variations available.   We’ve had Mario, Pikachu, Goldeneye and Donkey Kong to name but a few.   In the previous article I mentioned the limited Mario console version currently on sale and as I found out Nintendo have cut a few corners on this version.   While not evident to everyone this version does not support the S-Video signal and the controller lead and connections don’t look as sturdy as earlier versions.   You won’t notice these till you plug it in at home and Nintendo have obviously cut costs on the final version.

Jet Force Gemini                                            
Rare                                                             
1-4 Players

A unique space adventure that unfortunately wasn’t to everyone’s tastes and didn’t sell as well as it deserved.   You must save the world by blasting various bugs all over the galaxy.   A top adventure by Rare with plenty of challenges and extras to work for however a disappointing multiplayer mode that just doesn’t work in third person.   Features some of the unique Rare humour that was so evident in Conkers Bad Fur Day, fancy going down the alien disco anyone?

Mischief Makers                                            
Treasure                                                            
1 Player

Took me ages to track this one down but it has been worth the effort.   Yes it’s a 2D side on view title, which doesn’t push the N64 to any degree however it’s by Treasure and that means a skyscraper of gameplay.   A unique refreshing experience, if you give it time.

Mario Golf                                                     
Nintendo                                                     
1-4 Players

I hate golf, I hate the whole dumb idea of it, I hate those quiet crowds and officials, golf is nasty and evil, yet I love Mario Golf.   Set on golf courses that should be built, the game injects life into a boring and mundane genre.   As with most Mario games the premise is simple as are the controls but you soon become aware of the fantastic depth and skill on offer.   Plenty of challenges are on offer in the single player mode and the multiplayer option will create as many arguments as Goldeneye.   The game also links up to the Gameboy version, which by doing so, opens up new characters, and can improve your statistics.

Mario Kart 64                                    
Nintendo                                                      
1-4 Players

Whether or not you believe the SNES version to be superior, there is no denying what a fine game this is on your own or against friends.   Don’t judge it by its cartoon looks and try it out for yourself.

Mario Tennis                                                  
Nintendo                                                     
1-4 Players

I hate tennis, I hate the whole boring idea of it, bland, uninspiring, Cliff Richard, and Wimbledon should be burned down.   Yet this game along with Virtua Tennis is one of the most enjoyable and addictive games that I have played in recent times.   The simple control method hides a great amount of depth and with plenty of hidden extras and a fantastic multiplayer mode creates a great game.   Even better than the real thing.

Perfect Dark                                                   
Rare                                                              
1-4 Players

A game that had too much to live up to and struggled to meet the hyped expectations of those who had waited for so long.   Perfect Dark does have a strange storyline, which perhaps overshadowed the excellent level design and ideas on show.   Forget about its predecessor, this is still one of the finest games of last year and has a multiplayer mode to die for.   The expansion pack was needed to fully play the game.

Pilot Wings 64                                   
Nintendo                                                        
1 Player

At times an addictive and relaxing game that could suddenly become infuriating due to the almost impossible challenges that you could undertake.   As with many Nintendo games this was often copied but never beaten and the visuals are still good when you consider the age of the game.

Ridge Racer 64                                              
Namco                                                         
1-4 Players

A long time in coming but finally the N64 had a decent arcade driving game in its ranks.   The game moves at a frantic pace and everything is solid although the analogue stick just didn’t feel right.   Still with your mates around, this game is worthy of your time.

Sin & Punishment                                          
Treasure                                                            
1 Player

A Japanese only release, earlier this year from Treasure who with the help of Nintendo take their first steps into a fully 3D game.   Once you get past the unique control method and start coming to terms with the difficulty you will regard Sin & Punishment as one of the best titles not to make it out of Japan.   With so much happening on the screen (all in 3D) it may look like a gun game but its not.   A true test of ones gaming skills, decision-making and reactions.   Blast your way to victory but are you good or bad at heart?

Super Mario 64                                              
Nintendo
1 Player

Easily one of the finest games ever created and the first fully 3D world that we had the opportunity to play in.   It’s hard to describe my feelings on first seeing this game and the amazement in others when it was first released.   The visuals may have become dated but it still has that undeniable gameplay and is laden with ideas and innovation.   It’s a sad reflection on others that the camera system here has yet to be equalled and the next instalment from Miyamoto on the Gamecube will set another precedent.

In general I dislike games with platform elements but here the design is flawless and Mario is tuned to perfection.  The control system feels so natural and covers a wide range of moves.   A classic that will keep you occupied for months.   Press start to play!

Wave Race 64
Nintendo
1-2 Players

The only realistic looking on water racer still to date often copied but never equalled.   As you’d expect from Nintendo, fantastic game design and implementation.   Once mastered you can show off to your hearts content, great stuff.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Nintendo
1 Player

Features some of the ideas that just couldn’t be put into Ocarina and is more of a side story rather than a completely new game.   As you would expect there is plenty to see and do in order to save the world from certain disaster.   For some the time travel feature will be the highlight but sometimes it feels like you are making no progress at all.

Zelda Ocarina Of Time
Nintendo
1 Player

This one was in development for so long that many began to wonder if the N64 would have a Zelda game or that it would ever be finished.   What we have here isn’t the envisaged game due to time constraints but my god, what a game Zelda is.   The world of Hyrule is brought to life with a great storyline, soundtrack, design and with so much to see and do, the Zelda experience is one that you will never forget.

Close but not good enough

There are plenty of games, which didn’t make it onto the above list for one reason or another yet they do deserve a mention and are well worth picking up.   So just behind the front-runners we have:

Banjo Kazooie

Body Harvest

Diddy Kong Racing

Donkey Kong 64

Lylat Wars

Mystical Ninja

Quake II

Rogue Squadron

Shadowman

Silicon Valley

Snowboard Kids

The World is Not Enough

Wipeout 64

We’re on the highway to hell

An N64 cartridge has a million and one uses if the game isn’t that much cop, from propping up a wobbly table to becoming a dangerous missile – the cart is useful if the game isn’t.   Even with this in mind, you would have to be certainly mad to pick up one of the following and don’t believe that Nintendo seal of quality:

Aero Gauge

Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes

Carmageddon 64

Clayfighter

Daikatana

Fifa 64

Fifa ‘98

Fifa ‘99

Fighting Force

Mortal Kombat Mythologies

Paperboy

Power Rangers

Rampage World Tour

Rampage Universal Tour

Rugrats in Paris

Rugrats Treasure Hunt

Superman

What Next?

Even with titles such as Dinosaur Planet disappearing off the release schedule no doubt to rise again on Gamecube, the N64 does have some titles worth watching out for in 2001.   Such games as Paper Mario, Indiana Jones and finally Excitebike will be (hopefully) welcome additions and there is always the chance of importing some great Japanese releases.   At the end of the day, not much beats an N64 and 4 pads when your mates visit.

N64 Knocking on heavens door

Gamestyle Archive intro: This article dates from 2001 or even earlier. It was around the time when the Nintendo 64 was slipping away and gamers were only just beginning to realise some of the great games on the system. In this initial feature (1 of 2) we plucked out some of the best one more time.

We do have the other article in the archive and this will be online later this week.

Whether you think the N64 has long since passed away or is on its deathbed, one thing is for sure – it has played host some of the most wonderful games you can experience.   While Gamestyle does not have an N64 section we are all owners of the machine and cannot wait for the Gamecube & Game Boy Advance.

If you are looking for a bargain, now is the time to buy N64 especially when 2nd hand consoles are so common – thanks to the current trade in towards a PS2 policy on the high street.   With this in mind we’ve put together a list of games, which you should look out for while cruising the racks.   Many N64 titles have long since been deleted and therefore some carts in their cases in mint condition are at a premium especially due to those awful boxes.   With all the current consoles available I would suggest that the N64 is still the king when it comes to offline multiplayer games and is worth picking up for that reason alone.

Nintendo have just released a very limited Mario N64 in the UK, I’ve only seen it twice so far but if you have the cash it’s a worthwhile purchase rather than the old black or Mac variations.   If the game needs an expansion pack, we’ll mention so.   As we’ve mentioned elsewhere when a console reaches the end of their shelf life, you and I in Europe miss out on some great games.   Unlike the Psone all you need to play imports is a converter cartridge and a UK game to plug into the back of the converter.   These often come with Action Reply features built in but to play the latest games such as Sin & Punishment you will need the N64 Passport Plus III.

1080 Snowboarding                      Nintendo               1/2 Players

It took its time arriving on these shores but was well worth the wait.   This is THE snowboarding game, fantastic levels, sublime control, amazing rumble and a challenge that will keep you occupied for months.   The sequel will be on the Gamecube.   SSX no thank you!

Blast Corps                                      Rare                              1 Player

One of the early releases for the system and long since deleted.   Still to this day overlooked, which is such a shame as this game is challenging and hugely enjoyable.

The basic premise is that two defective nuclear missiles en route to a detonation site have begun to leak.   The carrier locks onto the most direct route in order to decrease the risk.   This will take the missiles through urban, rural and industrial areas and if the carrier hits an obstacle – game over!

It sounds simple but with a wide range of vehicles at your disposal and fantastic level design you won’t be able to put this one away.   We hope for a sequel on the Gamecube.

Conkers Bad Fur Day                    Rare                        1/4 Players

This game is very much with the older generation in mind and harking back to the good old Spectrum days of wonderful oddities.   I haven’t laughed so much with a game (not at) in years and this is the best-looking non-expansion pack game on the system.   It also uses MPEG technology in order to bring you audio for every character.

Not the most original of games but the jokes and dumb things you participate in make this one of my favourite releases of 2001 so far.   It also has some of the most unique and just plain crazy multiplayer modes you will ever see.   Kill the teddies!

F Zero X                                            Nintendo               1/4 Players

Another classic resurrected for the N64 by Nintendo and this game is a pure speed, edge of your pants thrill ride from start to finish.   Outrageous tracks with loops, twists, and huge jumps, fly on them or underneath them.   The aim is simple, beat the other 29 ships and finish on top.   Of course it was never that easy but the end reward of a random track generator was is worth the effort.

The multiplayer mode still shifts at 60fps even with four players and if you have enjoyed other racing games on rival formats, this should top your list.   Even when you crashed out of the multiplayer mode, a slot machine allowed you to influence the ongoing game.  Class.  A game that will keep you coming back time and time again, roll on F Zero Advance for the Game Boy Advance!

Goldeneye                                         Rare                       1/4 Players

This game on its own probably sold more N64 machines than any other.   It took a film license and the first person shooter and rewrote both of them.   A fantastic single player mode, with so much depth and extras to open by achieving time targets that it will engulf you for months.   I lost a good summer playing this non-stop.

The multiplayer mode was rumoured to be an afterthought unlike so many we see today.   Rare team created a masterpiece and if you haven’t experienced Goldeneye you must.

Harvest Moon 64                             Natsume                     1 Player

Although at one stage scheduled for release in Europe, Harvest Moon 64 never made it outside of the American and Japanese markets.   You will need an adaptor to play this game but its well worth the extra money.

This is a unique Japanese RPG except it is based around farming, yes growing crops and raising livestock.   The two Game Boy versions only contained the farming aspect of the game and while enjoyable, the depth on offer here is far greater and much more fun.   The game has traditional RPG element but along with the farming also includes a dating simulation.   Here the aim is to impress the local lassies and eventually try to keep them happy in marriage.   Trips down to the local inn to down a few with your fellow farmers do not impress the girls as I’ve found out to my cost.   Hangovers also mean you wake later the following morning thereby missing out on valuable farming time.   Harvest Moon is a unique and funny game with plenty of charm that is well worth importing.

ISS 2000                                           Konami                 1/4 Players

We can argue which is the better series of ISS on the Nintendo & Sony consoles however what is without question is that ISS reigns supreme on both.   As you would expect from the series this game is a product of many years of experience and dedication to football.

What makes this version unique on any format is the inclusion of a career mode – a football RPG is you will.   While limited it is a great addition and a nice change from playing the game.   By using the expansion pack with this game you can use a higher resolution however as it affects the frame rate I wouldn’t bother.

Coming Next

In our second instalment not only will we be looking at further titles worth buying but also ones to avoid, those that almost made it onto the list and some of the releases to look out for later this year.

Radiant Silvergun

Gamestyle Score intro: a game so great I actually mentioned it in my wedding speech in 2004. A marvellous experience that arrived on the Sega Saturn in 1998 and received an overdue revamp for Xbox Live in 2011. To this day stunning. Dating this review is difficult however I’d expect it to be from around 2000.

Writer: JJ

Published 2000

Radiant_silvergun

Radiant Silvergun – no doubt you’ve heard of it, a couple may have seen it and perhaps a lucky few may have even played it. One of the unwritten rules of gaming is that often towards the end of a consoles’ life, some of the best games will appear and many of these won’t be released outside of their native country – for instance Treasure’s latest title (Sin & Punishment N64) won’t be seen outside of Japan.

This happens to every console and no doubt more examples will be seen on the N64 & Dreamcast in the coming months. Radiant Silvergun is by Japanese developer Treasure who since their formation in 1989 have created a reputation amongst developers and gamers for their originality and gameplay. Radiant was released in 1999 to excellent reviews world-wide however due to the flat-line status of the Saturn abroad it was considered commercially unviable to release the game in the West. Since then it has gained a cult reputation as being one of the best shooters (if not games) ever made and a title that made the Saturn sing like no other. For a shoot ’em up Radiant has a decent plot driven by anime sections and radio communication between the main characters. The story is set in the future where scientists have discovered a diamond shaped object and attempt to open it on earth. Upon opening the object a massive destructive power is unleashed, destroying the planet. Not all is lost however, above the planet, residing in orbit are a group of pilots who after discussion decide to travel back in time and prevent the disaster from happening. Treasure tends to do things their own way and for Radiant they introduced a whole range of weaponry, enemies to fight and secrets to discover.

As with all of their games Radiant is difficult at first, perhaps even sheer impossible without the use of continues however you soon realise the ingenious game design. You have a selection of seven unique weapons which you can fire using various combinations on the pad, each has their own specific purpose. Through experience and playing the game six of the weapons levels can be increased, eventually making the earlier levels fairly easy with your increased strength. For the spectacular bosses you will require all the fire power that you gained and even then its still challenging. Your seventh weapon is the Hyper Sword that can be used once you have collected enough power balls. This is the most devastating attack in your arsenal – it hits everything on the screen, causing immense damage and proves very useful when the screen is full. Not only is the gameplay exceptional but the actual visuals are stunning (both 2&3D), proving that the Saturn was perhaps the ultimate 2D console.

The game moves at a constant rate with hints of slow down during the clashes with end of level bosses. The collision detection can also be suspect at times but this is more of a bonus. Some of the effects in the game will have you looking down to check which console you are using. I have played most shooters available on the Dreamcast and Psone but few come close to the standard set by Radiant. The soundtrack is truly one of the best that I have heard and in the options you can sit back and enjoy the tracks or you could have downloaded them from Napster. Yet despite all my praise I would think that many of you will still be thinking its just another shoot ’em up? It certainly is, however Treasure have taken the original genre and injected much needed dose of class A drugs. This is gameplay at its finest.

Not only does the game support two players, it also has a different route if you perform badly on the earlier levels and you can collect dogs! In the options you will notice your kennel which contains the number of dogs that you have discovered and they’ll be there barking at you. By collecting these four-legged friends you open up hidden extras making the game last longer than most. To collar one you need to use the radar attack, which is the only one capable of finding and hitting dogs. They are hidden in certain locations on levels, which may increase your chances of destruction but its well worth it. You will also notice that your enemies are divided into different colours and by only hitting the same colour you will build up your chain bonus but it isn’t easy! The game is built for replay value. Be warned that you and your friends will become easily lost in Radiant Silvergun and without realising it waste at least three hours. I’m very critical of everything in general but this is the game I go back to the most – even though it caused the destruction of my last Saturn through overheating!

Gamestyle Score: 10/10

WWF Wrestle Mania

 

 

Gamestyle Archive intro: a real short oddity this which comes from an early form of the Gamestyle retro section. Short and sweet, the review makes its point before leaving by the side-door. Written by Graham Hanks this might be an example of a team member who only stayed around for a couple of reviews before moving on. We did have a few of those however we have the reviews to remember them by.

Writer: GH

Published: unclear other than this is a very early review so 2000.

snes_wwf_wrestlemania_front

Choose your favourite wrestler from yesteryear and see them fight it out in the ring, or out if you prefer on the first wrestling game on the SNES. This game started of the trend that all wrestling games had to be a button bashing affair and long periods of play could only end in blisters.

The game uses a system of for buttons, one for run, punch, kick and grapple. When you grapple you have a choice of four different moves to do in that position. If there is one word that describes this game well it is limited. The moves are limited (why have separate buttons for punch and kick when they do exactly the same thing.) The game options are limited, you can only fight either one on one, tag, or survival (four on four.) Combine this with the lack of moves and you have a very short lasting game.

Chances are after half an hour from switching it on you will be thinking ‘is this it’ and then realise it is and switch it off. It could have been better if the characters controlled any different to each other but unfortunately they all handle exactly the same with no differences whatsoever which is unforgivable really. The graphics are dire and the characters are poorly animated, there is no skill to winning the game other than being able to tap a button fast, the sound is dire and the effects are poor.

So basically there is nothing to recommend this game to anyone, instead buy the sequel Royal Rumble which added more variety, signature moves for the characters and a ton more lastability. Steer well clear unless you are a masochist.

Score 3/10

Star Wars

Gamestyle Archive intro: this review stems from another discovery; a set of spreadsheets that may hold some of the earliest Gamestyle reviews. The site had a great retro section during its early incarnation and now we’ll be able to put some of this back online – there are some drawbacks but we’ll tackle those in a separate article. In essence we cannot say when this review was posted online but we know the writer is Lee Bolton. Welcome back.

Writer: LB

Format: Mame

starwars

(As I started this review, Episode II’s title has been released, Attack of the Clones, A title which harks back to Flash Gordon serial days which in all is a good thing but back to the early 80s…)

Here’s I’m looking and playing the superb Atari 1983 arcade release, Star Wars which at the time boasts the top whack vector graphics and superb sound FX. Atari then, Were the biggest arcade developer and Star Wars was a welcome addition (Until then we had to play the rather good but limited Star Fire (Exidy), A game that ripped off SW ships that as a kid I knew no better) Star Wars puts the player in charge of Luke Skywalker on his battle against the evil empire and the dreaded Death-Star. Set against three levels, Luke must first dog-fight the TIE-Fighters and Darth Vader in battle around the Death-Star. Luke then hits the surface and has to nav between towers and fireball spitting towertops to reach the trench in which he must dodge catwalks and laser-bases and even more fireballs. Luke’s ultimate aim is to reach the all-Important port which he must fire two deadly missles into to blow the Death-Star away. You only have 6 sheilds to protect yourself with against attack (or fiddle around with MAME great dip-switch settings for 9 shields if thats your bag) and these must be guided wisely.

All this is shown in superb Vector Graphics. Now Vector Graphics are a love or hate affair. Anyone old bloke who remembers such C64 and Spectrum titles as Elite (Firebird 1985) or Starglider (Rainbird 1986) either remember the chunky slowness of it all or another world..but in lines! Star Wars used this to a tee. The Graphics wizz around with such speed, it gets all of a frenzy as the TIE-Fighter float around the screen giving you hell. The Sound is another plus point, For 1983 this was the bees knees and it still is. Anyone dare put 10 pence into the slot and hear Ben shout out “May the Force be with you” will remember THAT gaming moment.

The sound is sampled straight from the movie which adds anormous atmosphere to the game and even adds tension (Lee was shooting down fireballs in the dogfight on Level 5, fireballs and TIE’s attack, Luke shouts out “I can’t take”, Vader “I have you now”…and Lee crumbles to the floor, that sort of thing). Cool stuff indeed. The game is a faultless one, I’ve played loads of Arcade games and only one has ever come close to this (Atari’s underrated I-robot) But I will save that for another time, Star Wars shows that classic games never go out of style and that goes with good game design. Yes, the game repeats itself but as a sure-fire blaster nothing comes close. If you see it in an old arcade somewhere, play it and see how games should be made.

Star Wars Facts: Star Wars was constructed from a two year old game project, Warp Speed. Strange Like the films, Empire SB was also a great arcade game, Return of the Jedi was not. Although released by Atari through a hardly seen rom release for C64 and Atari machines, The official Coin-op conversion to home computers came in late 1987 many years after the arcade game first appeared by Domark and was pretty poor. Play the MAME emulated version.

Score 10/10