Not another top 10 list you moan, I’ve seen them all before you say. Others will be moaning a top 10 list is not practical you really need a top 20. Well stop your moaning, why? Because I said so and because here is, the Amstrad CPC’s best arcade game conversions and they’re just as stunningly gorgeous and fun to play on an 8-bit as they were when you shelved out all your coins and played them on the original arcade versions all those years ago.
The difference with my top 10 list is that I am going to tell you who is number 1 from the beginning, instead of doing the count backwards like most if not all top 10 lists do, I will do my count forwards and secondly most people are right you can’t really have a top 10, so I’ve rated and reviewed a top 14 arcade conversions to the Amstrad CPC and provided some other games worth mentioning at the end.
Just so we are all clear from the start this list is of my own opinion having played the games and not the opinion of anyone else. Everyone has their own opinions so please respect mine as I will always respect yours. Furthermore I really can’t separate a lot of these as they were all so very good. You will notice there is quite a discrepancy in the AA ratings each game received as to where I placed them on the list. I have not based my top arcade conversions on the AA ratings or any other publication at all, it’s just a guide as to what they received from Amstrad Action all those years ago.
This is a list, only of commercially released games and does not include remakes such as R-Type 128k (coded by Easter Egg group- Fano, Toto and iXien) or Bubble Bobble 4CPC (developed by CNGSOFT), which are both brilliant games and are so much better than the commercially released arcade conversions to Amstrad CPC.
Number 1: Smash TV, 1991
AA75, overall 96%
Smash TV was brought to life in the arcades in 1990 by Eugene Jarvis and Mark Turmell for Williams video gaming. The plot revolves around a futuristic game show in which players compete for various prizes as well as their lives.
Smash TV converted to the Amstrad CPC, was one of only six games that achieved the an AA game rating of 96%, (which was the third highest score AA gave out) but it’s so worth it and a whole lot more, I tell you right now, if it had more levels I would be giving it 105% out of 100%. Coded by those awesome Amstrad CPC legends at Probe (David Perry and Nick Bruty,) and released through Ocean, Smash TV is just so much fun to play. Run through different rooms, shooting everything and anything, saying its action packed doesn’t do it justice, incredibly action packed would give it justice and it’s just so fast. Wave after wave of all kinds of enemies come at you from all angles, huge explosions fill the screen as you destroy them, a large variety of weapons to pick up and use and then there is the color it’s just bursting with it. The end of level bosses are really cool and sometimes I feel they shouldn’t be destroyed because they look awesome, nah just kidding, the enemy bosses have to be blasted too! Awesome graphics and sounds it’s a gem of an arcade conversion and i still continue to enjoy it and play it today.
AA29, overall 82%
Published in the arcades in 1987 by Konami, it is also known as Contra in some parts of the world but distributed as Gryzor in Europe and Oceania. The year is 2633 and the plot revolves around the evil Red Falcon Organization who have set a base on the Galuga archipelago near New Zealand in a plot to conquer the world. Two commandos, Bill and Lance who are specialists in guerrilla warfare are sent to the island to destroy the enemy forces and uncover the true nature of the alien entity controlling them.
In all my years involved with the Amstrad CPC, Gryzor is one game that everyone loves to play and can all agree that it is a fantastic conversion to the Amstrad CPC. Even though the screen scrolling is not the greatest scroll you have ever seen it doesn’t deter from what a great game it is to play. The graphics, sprites, colors, and tunes are brilliantly converted and have that feel as though you are playing the arcade machine itself. Amstrad Action only gave this an overall of 82% but I must disagree, it is a superb conversion that was underrated.
AA70, overall 93%
Also known as Buster Bros, Pang is a co-operative two-player arcade game, released in 1989 by Capcom. The buster brother’s task is to finish a round the world trip destroying balloons that are terrorizing some of the world’s best known landmarks.
It’s an absolute stunning conversion, using the Amstrad CPC+ / GX4000 extra features and hardware brilliantly. You first get hit by the gorgeous graphics, you really don’t feel like you’re playing an Amstrad CPC at all. Then you fall in love with gameplay and it has so many levels and that just one more go and I can pass it addiction to it. Then there’s the catchy tune….. You get hooked.
As arcade conversions to Amstrad CPC go, Pang is very faithful to its arcade original, the background graphics of the world’s landmarks are beautifully drawn, the gameplay is very challenging, so much so, it might be too hard and it even has the two-player co-op mode. Pang is a wonderful arcade conversion to the Amstrad CPC and will have you playing for hours and hours.
AA66, overall 75%
Golden Axe, was released in the arcades by Sega in 1989 and converted to Amstrad CPC in 1991 by David Shea and Jason Green for Probe Software and released through Virgin.
The plot takes place in the fictional medieval land of Yuria, where the evil Death Adder has captured the King and his daughter, and holds them captive in their castle.
Amstrad Action’s overall score of 75% didn’t surprise me as in the same issue Golden Axe was up against the likes of North and South and Robocop2 on cart which received critical acclaim and high scores. In James Leach’s AA review of Golden Axe, he said “The game is very slick indeed. The graphics are beautiful, much detail, movement and colour”. “Sound effects were also marvelous”. The second opinion from Adam Waring said “the gameplay is a bit too slow and jerky”.
That was their opinion and I respect what they said, it is a graphically beautiful and has great tunes and it may seem a little jerky on the controls, but i believe it is a faithful arcade conversion. Cut scenes are included as is the choice of selecting one of the three characters to play the game as. There’s also the potions to collect and special move for each character to perform and its done with really good affect, the screen shaking resembles the arcade game just as well.
The sprites are quite small and it is quite a challenging game but jumping on and riding those dragons torching all the enemies is just great fun. It’s quite a long game and has a cool ending as well.
AA40, overall 89%
Released in the arcades by Taito in 1987, Operation Wolf is a one-player shooter, that used a real life sized (plastic molded) automatic gun as your control instead of a joystick. The player takes the role of Special Forces Operative Roy Adams who must rescue the five hostages in a POW concentration camp that comprises 6 levels.
Converted on to the Amstrad CPC in 1988 by Andrew Deakin, Ivan Horn and Johnathan Dunn for Ocean Software, it proved to be a massive success.
Not a 100% faithful to the arcade conversion but it still had all the main elements that made it a great game to play. The sprites were life like and just like the arcade version. Full colour graphics and sprites were used and it didn’t slow down the action or speed. The game play is just like the arcade version and its nonstop enemy all over the screen and shoot them down before they shoot you.
In the arcade version there’s some more cool cut scenes and you get to select the level of the camp you wanted to visit next but unfortunately that was left out of the Amstrad CPC version a minor oversight, but it didn’t take away much from the game at all, just would have been nice to have all those extra touches for a true arcade conversion.
AA25, overall 90%
Released in the arcades by Taito in 1986, Renegade was the one that started it all, it introduced several trademarks of the beat em up genre, including 4-directional control, punch-jump-kick play action, and enemies which can sustain multiple hits and is considered one of the most influential titles of the video game industry.
The plot revolves around a vigilante who fights a variety of street gangs on his way to save his girlfriend.
Converted on to the Amstrad CPC in 1987 by John Brandwood, Mark K. Jones and Fred Gray for Ocean / Imagine software. The only annoying thing i don’t like about this arcade conversion to the Amstrad CPC is that you have to press the space bar to jump and use the joystick to move around and perform other moves. I would have more than likely rated Renegade higher if it didn’t have this feature.
A true and faithful conversion that plays just like the original arcade game. Graphics and sprites are just as cool looking even though a little blocky, its full of colour and all the moves are there, a great tune plays, the bad guys are just as bad, Big Bertha is still a real bad ass and it can be quite challenging judging your jumps when attacking the bikies on their motorbikes.
Released in the video game arcades by Sega in 1987 which had a specialized joystick to use while you were seated in a fighter jet to add to the realism.
The plot revolves around controlling an F 14 Tomcat jet, which must destroy a series of enemy jets throughout a number of stages.
Converted on to the Amstrad CPC in 1988 by Keith Burkhill, Saul Marchese, Tony Mak, John Paul Eldridge and Nick for Activision software.
A really stunning and beautifully executed conversion form arcade to Amstrad CPC. Faithful in all respects. The graphics and gameplay have that true arcade feel to it. The cut scenes are all there. The Sega Enterprise air craft carrier looks great and the re-fuelling with the jumbo airplane in the air is just as cool as it is in the arcades version. With 23 fantastic levels there’s a lot of shooting and a lot of flying fun to be had.
It’s not an easy game by any means it is quite difficult, your ammo can run out quite quickly and it can be hard to see the enemy firing their weapons and missiles at you but all in all a fabulous conversion and a great game to play.
Released in the video arcades in 1987 by Sega, Shinobi is a side-scrolling action fighting game. The player controls a ninja, Joe Musashi. He sets out on a mission to rescue his student friends from a group of terrorists called “Zeed”.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1989 by Richard Alpin, Drew Northcott and Tiny Williams for Virgin Games.
The Amstrad CPC conversion is fantastic to play. All the arcade game elements are there some though are not exactly the same as the arcade but it manages to get away with it somehow. In game speech, big bad bosses, the jumps, the bonus stages, the challenging gameplay all remain faithful to the arcade version. The Amstrad CPC version is graphically accurate, fast and full of colour.
Really well drawn sprites and animation make Shinobi an excellent arcade conversion.
AA54, overall 90%
Released in video arcades by Taito in1988. In Chase HQ, the player assumes the role of a police officer named Tony Gibson and with his partner, Raymond Broady, from the special investigations unit they must stop fleeing criminals in high-speed pursuits.
The plot revolves around who they are pursuing and they must apprehend the criminal before their time limit expires.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1990 by Jon O Brien, Bill Harbison and Johnathan Dunn, for Ocean Software.
Amstrad CPC 128k machines included speech such as “let’s go Mr. Driver” at the start of a level. The graphics and colours were almost arcade perfect you would have to say, a little blocky looking but fantastic sprites and that Chase HQ arcade game feel.
The turbo boost was really well done by the coders and gave you the exact same arcade feel to it. I find the steering is a little jerky which is its main negative other than that, Chase HQ is an excellent arcade converted game with lots of addictive gameplay.
AA16, overall 91%
Released in video arcades in 1985 by Sega, Space Harrier is a third person shooter game.
The plot is set in the “Fantasy Zone”, a surreal world composed of bright, colours, checkerboard-styled ground with unique enemies such as prehistoric animals.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1986 by Paul Hunter for Elite Software.
While the Amstrad CPC conversion played just like the arcade version it didn’t look like the arcade version. There was no checkerboard-styled ground, no prehistoric animals, instead it used vector styled graphics for the on screen sprites.
The conversion is colourful and fast and has a catchy tune and oozes fun gameplay. I suspect if Space Harrier had been released by Ocean or coded by probe the conversion would have been more faithful to its arcade version. Although not a true arcade conversion it played just as well as its arcade version and it had you coming back for one more go.
AA75, overall 91%
Released in video arcades in 1989 by Konami, it was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in Europe but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) outside Europe. It is a side-scrolling beat em up based on the first TMNT animated series and released in 2 player and 4 player cabinets.
You choose from one of the four Ninja Turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael and the plot revolves around rescuing your television reporter friend April O’Neil and your ninja master, Splinter, who have been kidnapped by the evil Shredder. Converted to Amstrad CPC by Dave Semmens and Doug Townsley of Probe Software for Image Works / Mirrorsoft software. Called Turtles 2 coin op on the Amstrad CPC because Mirrorsoft released a turtles game about a year earlier that is not related to the coin op version.
A beautifully adapted conversion to the Amstrad CPC. Sprites aren’t as big but the game screens, colour and graphics give it that TMNT video arcade feel. Not a great lot of moves for your character to perform but it makes up with it with gameplay and the challenging end of level bosses. The Amstrad CPC conversion includes allows you to play the two player mode, choose one of four different turtle characters and there is lots of levels to play through.
AA10, overall 84%
Released in video arcades in 1984 by Tehkan, Bomb Jack looks like a superhero ant with a cape who fly’s around the playing screen and must de-fuse 24 bombs at famous world landmarks such as the Sphinx whilst avoiding enemies that include birds and turtles.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1986 by Andy Williams, Paul Holmes and Karen Trueman for Elite Software.
Sprites are a little blocky on the Amstrad CPC version, but the colour and gameplay from the arcade version is there. Its got the same fun factor as you wiz and fly your way around de-fusing the bombs and avoiding the enemies. A faithful conversion that is a lot of fun to play.
AA50, overall 92%
Released in video arcades in 1987 by Taito, Continental Circus was released in North America as Continental Circuit.
The plot revolves around driving a F1 car and winning your way through 8 different races tracks. To advance to a new track you must drive your F1 car into a certain position and within the time allocated. The more tracks you successfully complete the harder the game becomes.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1989 by Bill Caunt, Pete Hickinson and Mark Edwards for Virgin games.
Continental Circus on the Amstrad CPC is a fast paced and fabulous conversion and has all the arcade version hall marks such as the pit stops, the changing weather, the tyre blow outs and the grid girl holding up the banner.
Superb animation, fantastic looking sprites and graphics and full of colour. Only one major gripe and that is all the cars are yellow. Don’t worry about that because it’s an awesome racing game.
AA41, overall 82%
Released in the arcades in 1986 by Konami, Wec Le Mans was the first racing video game to depict the 24 hour Le Mans race, and the lap of the Le Mans video game is split up into three sections, during which the time of day changes from day to dusk, dusk to night, and night to dawn.
The plot revolves around realistically simulating car driving, with the car jumping up and down, turning back and forth, and spinning up to 180 degrees.
Converted to the Amstrad CPC in 1988 by Jon O Brien, Robert Hemphill, Mike Lamb and Johnathan Dunn for Ocean / Imagine software.
Unfortunately the Amstrad CPC conversion didn’t have the time of day changes, nor the awesome colourful arcade sprites or graphics. The Amstrad CPC conversion is played in monochrome colours of blue, grey, green and black. All the cars were the same colour as well, which put a rather big blight on the game and i can see why Amstrad Action only gave it 82% overall.
I do like Wec Le Mans as a game because it played really well, it was full of speed, the animation was good, it simulated the racing gameplay of the arcade game quite well indeed and had those really big car rolls when you crashed at high speed.
** Notable mentions of Amstrad CPC arcade conversions that didn’t make my top list include – Yie Ar Kung Fu AA92%, Gauntlet AA93%, Powerdrift AA91%, Rainbow Islands AA88%, Operation Thunderbolt AA89%