Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…

I’ve played Psikyo’s seminal 1996 future-feudal Japan horizontal shoot ‘em up Tengai to death over the last month or so, and while I’ve now seen the end a few times, I’ve still had to feed way more credits into the last two levels than I’d normally prefer to consider a game complete. It was a rogue entry into my schmup for beginners journey though, and way above my pay grade, so I’ll take that, and I’m simply glad to have found another unique, fantastic game in this genre so many years after the event that I doubt I’ll ever stray too far from now.

Speaking of above my pay grade, I’ve gone back to the more bullet-hell variety of horizontal shooter with Cave’s steampunk epic Progear, where my initial progress was interrupted by the big-impact appearance of Tengai a while back, but I’ve a feeling that might have actually aided it in the long term. I’m definitely mastering the first half of the game now, and have surprised myself a couple of times with some success in its end game, which needs a bit more learning but is already becoming a perfect mix of exhilaration and zen-like focus. This is turning into a really special game!

While a bit of practice never hurts, neither does a nice new 8BitDo arcade stick for your 50th birthday, and as well as on Progear, it’s been given a decent workout on Capcom’s 1990 fantasy hack ‘n slash arcade game Magic Sword! I’d never even heard of this one until last weekend, and while it does nothing especially original, it does it with so much style and so much fun! It’s classic muscleman with a sword and a bit of magic, collecting treasure and keys to free your imprisoned allies to help you fight dragons and stuff. Kind of a sideways Gauntlet! I really enjoyed discovering this, although it does get seriously hard from the second boss onwards – which is a good place to give the outstanding SNES conversion a go, and while there’s not much choice on the home port front, you couldn’t ask for more!

More fantasy this week, but this time it’s Cotton Fantasy on PS4, which we reviewed a couple of days ago (as well as Empire Strikes Back – C64 Fan Remake), so I won’t go too mad here again, but while I’m still over the moon we’ve finally got a brand new Cotton cute ‘em up after twenty years of waiting, and while it’s still a very good Cotton game, a few days removed from completing it the second time, I think last year’s Cotton Reboot is better looking and more fun. Maybe the Collector’s Edition on Switch will swing my opinion when that eventually arrives!

Some pinball now, with Pinball Dreams, one of the pack-ins on the Amiga A500 Mini; and specifically, were talking the space flight-themed Ignition table, which, despite having played the game on all kinds of systems over the years, I’ve never really touched. Actually, the only table I’ve ever really touched is the Nightmare one because I like graveyards, but it turns out I’ve been seriously missing out! While ball physics have come along a bit since this was the pinnacle of virtual pinball, being fun is still the same, and Ignition has a great, simple retro layout, some lovely sounds to hear and loads of stacked-up scoring opportunities that might even be more fun than a graveyard!

And then there was more pinball! Since I had the PS4 on the go again for Cotton Fantasy (and another game we’ll hear about very shortly), I fired up Pinball FX3 while I was there, spending a bit of time on various Star Wars tables, but then I had a real hankering for the Jaws table which is over on Switch, because, frustratingly with Zen Studios’ paid additional content, never the twain shall meet! Anyway, once we’d made the jump, that table is one of my favourites. It’s so small but, like its inspiration, is just so perfectly formed! There’s very little success by luck here, with a challenging depth that needs perseverance just to decipher, let alone master! Or you can just mash the flippers and enjoy the sights and sounds of the movies crammed into this abstract metal ball playground!

Finally this week, Cobra on ZX Spectrum has been reminding me what a wonderfully brutal experience that particular Stallone movie tie-in still is! Actually, its reputation for that is a little unfair – with a bit of practice and a bit of patience you can get to the last level, but then it’s gloves off (literally, as there’s more Rocky references in this game than there are Cobra!) and it will beat you down with its relentless parade of armed goons, strange Victorian ladies with bazookas (again, just to be clear, literally) and, er, lethal prams! Great game though, and we’re going to have a deep dive into it here in a few weeks… Which we won’t be doing with the Commodore 64 version, which I genuinely believe might be the worst game I’ve ever played!

Before we get to that though, a quick preview of what’s coming here next week, and yet another new(ish) game review! It’s the PS4/5 release of Rolling Gunner and its formerly Japanese-only Over Power DLC in a new complete edition. It’s full of late-nineties bullet-hell shoot ‘em up pedigree too and is pretty incredible, so be sure to check back on Wednesday for that!