Tag Archives: taito

Chase HQ Arcade Game by Taito

Chase HQ was an arcade racer that was very much of it’s era, so 80’s in its style that it could have been directed by Jerry Bruckheimer, starred Eddie Murphy, and had a soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer.  Playing like cross between Sega’s classic OutRun and the film Beverly Hills Cop, your role is to chase the bad guys through busy streets and bring them to justice by ramming them off the road.  So for a brief moment, you felt like you were the star in a buddy cop movie – that was the magic of Taito’s 1989 classic Chase HQ.

Chase H.Q. Arcade Flyer
Chase H.Q. Arcade Flyer
The cabinet itself was an elaborate affair, the stand-up version having both foot pedals and a wheel, as well as the hi/lo gear selector with turbo boost button.  Sirens would blare from the machine in attract mode and during the game, accompanied by flashing lights above the screen.

Insert a coin and you would be given your instructions by police dispatcher Nancy, including the description of the felon you are to apprehend and the vehicle he is driving.  Jump in your Black Porsche 928, floor the pedal in low gear, and you are off down the road in pursuit of your target, accompanied by blaring 80’s synth music.  A graphic shows your proximity to the car in front as you dodge traffic to the accompaniment of shouts from your partner.

Chase HQ Arcade Screenshot
Chase HQ Arcade Screenshot

Passing traffic on tarmac covered sections, via branching paths that take you through part finished roads littered with barricades and cones, you soon catch up with the criminal. Now you need to ram his vehicle to damage it, the level of damage indicated on a progress bar at the top of the screen.  Keep your eye on other traffic and obstacles as the guy in front can get away from you if you are not careful, and each collision causes a slight skid, using up precious seconds on the countdown timer.  This is where the turbo boost comes in, allowing you to quickly recover the distance between you and the target vehicle before he gets away.  Deliver the requisite amount of damage before the timer runs out, and the criminal is forced to the side of the road and taken away in handcuffs, his expensive sports car in flames.   Nancy in dispatch will then present you with a new criminal to apprehend in a faster, more robust vehicle.

Through the game, if you have either the skill or the cash to keep playing, you will encounter sports cars ranging from a Lamborghini Countach to a Lotus Espirit Turbo – clearly the criminal element have great taste in getaway vehicles, and a few quid to spare. Each enemy was more difficult than the last to take down, the Chase HQ cabinet was designed to keep you pumping the machine full of coins in order to progress.  That said, a skilled player could complete the entire game in around 10 minutes, with each of the 5 cars having to be defeated in under 60 seconds.

Chase H.Q. ZX Spectrum
Chase H.Q. ZX Spectrum

The Chase HQ arcade game was a blast, and the inevitable home conversions were always going to be challenged, given the powerful graphics and audio, not to mention the bespoke driving controls of the original machine.  The rubber keys, limited graphics and tinny sound of the Spectrum would not therefore on paper make a good home for a Chase HQ conversion.  The reality was however a different story, and whilst not a perfect conversion, the Spectrum version of Chase HQ by conversion experts Ocean was actually pretty good.There were also conversions for pretty much every home computer and console available, including releases by Ocean for the Amstrad CPC and Amiga, and by Taito for the NES, Game Gear and Sega Master System.

There were also some arcade sequels in Special Criminal Investigation, and Super Chase: Criminal Termination, but neither had the impact of the original Chase H.Q.

The dangerous driving mechanic has been seen throughout video game history, with games such as Road Rash on the Sega Megadrive, and more recently the Burnout series of games on the XBOX.  Chase HQ however remains the most perfect and polished arcade racer, something that has to be played on an original cabinet to really be appreciated, and it’s one of my all-time favourite arcade games.

Snow Bros. Nick and Tom Retro Arcade Review

There are some games which I hesitate to write about, as they are so good I just don’t feel I will do justice to them, and I put them off to another day. On this list would be the original Star Wars arcade game, as well as the classic Track & Field, neither of which I am quite ready to tackle. Snow Bros may not be as well known as these games, but until now it was also on my list.

Snow Bros. Arcade Screenshot
Snow Bros. was released by Toaplan in 1990, whilst I was at University, and my first experience was playing in the basement of the Student Union. My first thought was that the game was very similar to Bubble Bobble, with the bubbles being replaced with snowballs. My second thought was that I may have to ditch my afternoon lecture on microprocessors to play this game, it was that good. 20 years later and I am still playing Snow Bros, now on my recently completed MAME cabinet, and a recent late night game session prompted me to finally write this retro review.

Snow Bros Arcade Marquee

Snow Bros is a platform game starring two brothers, Nick and Tom, whose mission is to rid the world of monsters, using the power of snow. Each level, which features different platform and monster combinations, requires you to destroy all of the enemies in order to progress to the next. Your Snow Brother achieves this by throwing snow at the monsters until they turn into snowballs, incapacitating them for a period of time. Kick the snowball, and it bounces around the screen and destroys the monster when it reaches the bottom, as well as killing any other monsters it encounters along the way.

The trick with Snow Bros is to turn as many monsters into snowballs as you can, without kicking them, and then kick one at the top of the screen to destroy all of the monsters on the way down. This generates a big bonus, in the form of currency which drop from the top of the screen and need to be collected quickly before the level ends.

There are various monsters to be found as you progress, each with different characteristics, requiring different approaches to destroy:

  • Red monsters can move around the screen in the same way as the Snow Bros, and can only kill you by touching you
  • Yellow monsters can run on all fours and move quicker than Red Monsters, killing you on contact
  • Green monsters move slowly but breath fire, which can kill you from long distances
  • Blue monsters spin like mini-tornados, and can move through platforms and attack you directly

Take too long to clear the screen, and you will be attacked by an invincible pumpkin-head monster, which can only be slowed down with snow, not destroyed.

Destroying monsters gives you bonuses which come in two forms, either a piece of sushi for extra points, or a bonus potion that will give you extra powers, including faster movement, big snowballs and increased throwing range. A green bottle provides a special bonus, where your snow brother inflates like a balloon and whizzes around the screen killing everything he comes into contact with.

At the end of every 10 levels, which in classic Donkey Kong style, progress upwards, you will encounter a boss. These boss levels provide a break from the platform levels, and take some time to work out. There are 5 bosses to be beaten across the 50 levels in the game, including a giant lizard, a big pink head, and a pair of yellow birds, who can be destroyed by turning their weapons back on them. Each boss will have a different projectile to throw at you, and by turning these into snowballs, they can be kicked at the boss to cause damage, indicated by a health bar at the top of the screen.

Like many classic platformers, there are multiple ways to complete Snow Bros, and developing the optimum approach for each screen is part of the challenge if you want to progress to latter stages. Even then, this game is going to take some beating, with later levels a veritable minefield of enemies approaching you from all angles.

Home Conversions

Snow Bros for the Megadrive

Few home conversions were made for this game, but there were good versions produced for the NES and the Sega Megadrive (Genesis), with the Sega version being the most authentic. There was also a version for the Gameboy that is worth a play.

Returning to the game now, I instinctively repeat the tactics learned on and off over twenty years, almost on auto-pilot, until I get to level 20 and above, when all tactics go out of the window and I switch to survival mode.

Snow Bros. may have caused me to miss a few university lectures, possibly cost me a grade or two, but it was worth it.