TAITO Milestones 2 Review

It’s time to put on those rose-tinted spectacles and dive into another selection of ‘classic’ games from a former arcade giant. This time it’s perhaps the lesser-known Taito Corporation, a company that originally started in 1959 by importing vodka. Skip forward twenty or so years (and the Communist takeover of China) and Taito released its first game, Elepong, a video game version of table tennis. From there the company grew and released some of the most beloved arcade games of all time including Space Invaders, Mr Do!, Chase HQ, and Bubble Bobble.

This latest collection, as with many such compilations, has some big hits and titles you may never have heard of. The usual features include mid-game saves, online rankings, button remapping, and a host of display settings including filters and wallpapers, and while it’s nothing special on that front, it’s good to have them. Without further ado, let’s take a look at those games which, in the interests of clarity, I’m going to list in order of worst to best.

First up is The Legend of Kage, a precursor to Sega’s classic Shinobi and features a ninja who skips around the screen, climbs trees, and throws shuriken’s around like they were candy. It’s very basic and the random nature of the enemies means you have to be on your toes at all times. Graphically this is the most dated of all the games in the collection with our titular hero having just two frames of animation for walking. It’s more of a curio than anything worth playing for along time.

Solitary Fighter is a rather basic beat ’em up which mixes the one-on-one style of Street Fighter with a smidgen of Streets of Rage as while you are fighting your main opponent, secondary characters may join in and start throwing boxes at your head. You just have two attacks, punch and kick, but you can perform a special move by pressing both buttons at the same time. There’s not much more to say about this, punch and kick your way to the boss and that’s about it.

Dinorex answers the question “What if Street Fighter had dinosaurs instead of humans?”, a question we all needed answering. Created using stop-motion animation you play as a range of dinosaurs who then kick, swipe and bite each other until one remains victorious. It’s very silly and like Solitary Fighter, very basic, although it does have a few destructible environments to liven up gameplay. That said, it’s hard to play, with sluggish controls and an incredibly steep difficulty curve. A great idea but badly executed.

Ben Bero Beh was released in 1984 and is the only game on this compilation I have never heard of before. You play as Dami-chan who has to rescue his girlfriend, Nao-chan, from a burning apartment. The game is a single screen platformer for one or two players and finds Dami-chan armed with a hose to put out fires and a jump button to leap over holes in the floor. The controls are rather fiddly and due to the random nature of the fires you might not even make it to the second floor on the first level before it becomes ablaze. It is frustrating and clearly very unfair but even with that it still retains that ‘just one more go’ addictive nature of classic arcade games.

Kiki Kaikai is a precursor to the rather more famous Pocky & Rocky and in a very modern twist you play as a female rather than a butch bloke. Obviously, she can’t be seen rescuing men so she’s off to rescue some Gods instead. The game does look like it should be an old Zelda clone but is actually more akin to the likes of Ikari Warriors or Commando with the maiden hacking her way through waves of enemies before being locked in to an arena for a boss battle. You can fire in eight – yes, count ’em, eight! – directions and your magic scrolls can be enhanced by power ups. A fairly basic shooter but really quite fun in two player mode.

The introduction to Gun Frontier is rather bleak and seems to indicate the game will be some sort of Western, packed full of cowboys and six gun shoot outs. It’s not, it’s a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up set on the planet Gloria with the usual tanks, planes, and armoured trains as enemies. When this was released in the arcades it was met with mixed reception and to be honest that’s how I feel now, it’s a fairly standard shoot ’em up without anything really special to elevate it. A good game if you have twenty minutes to kill on the commute to work.

Darius II is without a doubt a cold, hard, shoot ’em up classic so you might be wondering why I’m ranking it near the middle of the compilation. It’s nothing to do with the game, that is still a brilliant shoot ’em up, it’s a design decision. This compilation is Nintendo Switch exclusive and for some utterly mad reason they have given us the three-screen version of Darius II. If you don’t know what that is, it was an attempt to do widescreen gaming with old cathode ray television sets. As they couldn’t make the TV’s a different size they just put three of them side by side, creating one long strip the video game could play on. Now imagine trying to fit that one long strip on a Switch screen: Whilst the game is just about playable you lose so much detail with bullets, and indeed some enemies, being squished down to just a few pixels. Obviously it’s much better when you Switch is docked but as a handheld game it’s a very odd choice.

Metal Black, a side scrolling shoot ’em up started life as Gun Frontier 2 but has very few links to to the original game. What it does have is a unique power up system, rather than picking up different types of weapons you just collect Newalone molecules to power up you beam weapon. Get to a certain level and you can unleash a devastating super beam which wipes out enemies but the catch is the major boss types are also collecting the same Newalone molecules to enhance up their own weapons. If both you and the boss fire at the same time you go in to a ‘beam duel’ and must mash buttons to try and defeat the boss. It’s a really neat concept and challenges you to play in a completely different style to other shooters.

New Zealand Story is an absolute gem of a game, and one that many older gamers may know as it was ported to almost every home computer system at the time, including the ZX Spectrum. The game is basically a remix of Bubble Bobble but without the bubbles, our hero Kiwi is armed with arrows, lasers and other weapons. The gameplay is very similar to Bubble Bobble in which you kill the enemies, collect the fruit and power ups for scores, and platform your way through the levels before time runs out and an invincible enemy chases you to the exit. The big difference is that the levels scroll over multiple screens rather than being a single screen.

Finally we have Liquid Kids, one of the most modern game in the compilation and it certainly shows with big cartoon style graphics and great sound design. While New Zealand Story is Bubble Bobble without the bubbles, Liquid Kids is New Zealand Story with bubbles, mashing up the multi-screen platforming from the Kiwi classic with the water bubble power ups from Bubble Bobble. By far the best game in the compilation this could easily be released today without requiring any sort of polish. It’s easy to play, has loads of secrets and tactics to discover, and is just simple, joyous fun.

A mixed bag but worth buying just for Metal Black, New Zealand Story and Liquids Kids. It's a shame the rest of the compilation has been padded out with obscure titles such as Dinorex and Ben Bero Beh when TAITO have so many classic titles such as Operation Wold, Chase HQ and Mr Do! Perhaps we'll see them in Taito Milestones 3.
  • Some stone cold classics.
  • A couple of interesting less well known games
  • Good emulation with no issues.
  • Three screen Darius 2 is a silly choice for a handheld.
  • The fighting games have not aged well.
  • The Legend of Kage is just rubbish.
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News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.