Taito Milestones – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – originally developed by Taito and powered by Hamster Corporation through their Arcade Archives engine, Taito Milestones is a collection of 10 arcade titles from Taito in the 80’s. This collection has been published by ININ Games, with digital and limited physical versions available from Games Rocket/Strictly Limited Games (while stocks last). You can find links to both the digital and physical versions of the release at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Taito Milestones that was used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. Since this is a compilation of games with different gameplay styles and genres, I shall be covering each title with a summary of that game and its gameplay in order of year of release.

Qix – 1981

The player controls a diamond shaped marker that they must use to capture territory on screen, drawing lines from one point to another with fast draw or slow draw. The slow draw lines are orange and worth double points, whereas the fast draw lines are blue and worth only half of the orange. To clear the stage, the player must capture at least 75% of the screen while avoiding the Qix (a colorful figure in random motion) and Sparx (sparks that chase the player) that will kill the player if contact is made.

The gameplay is simple, yet works very well, with only two buttons and the movement required. The difficulty of this game can seem steep when first playing, but will get easier with some practice, along with the option to alter difficulty and number of lives in the settings.

Space Seeker – 1981

The player controls a ship that roams over the planets overworld map, with six enemy forces made up of two distinctive play styles. The first is a side scrolling action mode, where the player ship fires at enemies in the air and drops missiles on those on the ground, ending when the ship reaches the goal or a life is lost. The second is a shooting segment that has a first person perspective, battling a fleet of enemies only proceeding when all enemy ships are defeated or the player is shot down.

This title is distinct in the use of two different modes, however, it is very difficult with the speed of the action and depth perception of the first person mode. The difficulty of Space Seeker is quite high, with the unfortunate problems of depth perception and some twitchy controls. The level of difficulty can be lowered a little through the in game dip switches, but it will take time to adapt.

Alpine Ski – 1982

In this release, the player controls a Downhill Skier, moving left and right to avoid hazards with the ability to increase player speed on the slopes. There are three stages that the player can challenge, with a simple downhill course, a slalom course and a ski jump competition to set the highest score possible. The stages are timed with the timer being extended as scores are met, refreshing the time when it hits zero but a game over will occur if extend scores aren’t met.

While this can be a simple and easy to pick up game with a basic premise, get to the bottom as quickly as possible and avoid the obstacles the time limit is tight. However, the time limit and bonus time settings can be modified to make a little easier to keep playing. The movement does feel unresponsive at times, as the direction has to be held down to move the player, which makes the controls feel lacking in precision.

Front Line – 1982

Playing as a lone soldier, the objective for this title is to proceed through a vertically scrolling stage, battling the enemy forces while trying to reach their fortress. To accomplish this, the player has a gun and grenade that can be used in eight directions, as well as two different types of tank that can be used while progressing up the screen. When the fortress has been reached, a grenade must be thrown into it on foot in order to destroy it and clear that level.

This release uses a twin stick style of play which can be to the detriment of the gameplay experience, due to the difficulty of aiming the weapons effectively for an attack. There is an option to switch from twin stick to a single stick, but it doesn’t make the aiming any easier in battle on foot, but it does make the control of tanks less troublesome. It is a tough game when first starting, but like others it can be fun to practice and keep playing.

Wild Western – 1982

As the sheriff, the player is tasked with protecting a train that is being attacked by bandits while riding his trusty steed. This must be achieved while dodging enemy fire, the obstacles that can get in the way and jumping onto the train to fight off the bandits that manage to climb aboard. If three bandits manage to get aboard the train, then the game will end. There is a bonus stage that occurs between rounds to score bonus points.

Unfortunately this is the weakest title of the collection, as the controls feel uncooperative, the movement feels the stiffest of all and the aiming is very difficult due to the use of the twin stick setup. Much like Front Line, the controls can be altered to be only a single stick for both moving and aiming, this doesn’t really help the experience as it is still difficult to move and aim. All that can really be done to lessen the difficulty is increase the maximum lives as there are no continues in this game.

Chack’n Pop – 1983

The player controls Chack’n, a yellow creature that travels through a series of single screen mazes, walking on the ceiling and climbing steps by stretching his legs. The player can drop bombs to fight the Monstas that hatch from eggs on the ceiling, as well as breaking cages containing hearts to clear the stage by freeing them and reaching the exit. If Chack’n is hit by the smoke of his bombs, an enemy or the timer runs out the player loses a life, when all lives are lost the game is over.

This release can be a little confusing to start as the stretching mechanics are unusual, the way that bombs move is unpredictable and maze navigation can be complex. The difficulty is mostly balanced when the mechanics are adjusted to with a tutorial level at the beginning. This game provides a decent challenge for the player, alongside special bonus objectives to take on. The settings for this game can be adjusted, increasing lives, the frequency of power-ups and scores to reach for extra lives.

Elevator Action – 1983

Assuming the role of the secret Agent Otto, the player uses elevators and stairs travel through a 30 story building, collecting confidential documents and fighting enemy agents. The player has access to the several types of attack, a gun to shoot enemies/light fixtures and a jump kick to attack at close range. To clear each level, the player must collect all of the secret documents and make it to the bottom, failing to do so will return the player to the highest floor with an unclaimed document.

Elevator Action is a very simple platform run and gun, with four directional movement and two button inputs to jump/shoot. There are some minor hiccups with the movement, when pressing down to crouch the player must press up to stand which takes some getting used to. The game does feel slow and difficult to control sometimes, with the way that elevators, stairs and doors function which can take some time to get used to. The ability to alter settings does make the game a little easier.  

The Fairlyland story – 1985

As the witch Ptolemy, the player takes on enemies in single screen platforming action. The objective of each stage is to use magic to turn enemies into cakes, pushing them off platforms to possibly squash other enemies for bonus points or crumble them with additional attacks. Bonuses can be earned from chaining drops, collecting items that appear on screen and extra lives can be earned for specific scores. New enemies will appear over time as the game progresses through a total of 101 stages.

This title has a good feel to it, with responsive platforming making it very easy to pick up and play. There is a gradual difficulty curve to this release, with the complexity and challenge of stages increasing as the round number does. This is one of the few games in the collection that allows continues to be used, letting players try again if they run out of lives, giving everyone a chance to make it to the end.

Halley’s Comet – 1986

Defend the solar system in this vertical shooter, as a brave space fighter, shooting down enemy ships and comets that attack the planets. The player must attack the comets that fly across the screen and enemy ships, as any that get past the player will result in damage to the earth, ending the game if damage percentage reaches 100%. Stages are split into different sections, with mid-boss and boss battles for each area of the solar system, with power-ups that increase the power of the ship.

Halley’s Comet has a very distinct gameplay style to it, with the planet damage mechanic that adds an element of anxiety and stress to the experience. It is a very tough game as there is a maximum of four lives and no continues, the enemy patterns are erratic making learning patterns difficult. The ship also starts off slow, making it difficult to dodge the enemies and projectiles that attack the player, causing a steep initial difficulty spike at the start.

The NinjaWarriors – 1987

In a dystopian future martial law has been implemented by the president, now the cybernetic ninja warriors must fight back. This title is a side scrolling hack and slash style action game, with simple attacks and shuriken to fight wave after wave of men. The super-wide screen allows large numbers of enemies to spawn, with tense battle sequences against boss enemies, ranging from enemy ninja and samurai to heavy artillery tanks.

This is probably the best title on the collection, with two player co-op action and the three screen super wide display. The action is tense and challenging with the sheer number of enemies that can appear on screen. The collision detection does feel a little off in some places, with the player characters moving slowly across the screen, which can make the time limit feel a restrictive but doesn’t impact the experience. The game can be continued infinitely, letting players keep going to get to the end.

Now with each game in this collection covered, I will be discussing the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – for the most part, the controls for each of the games work well, but unfortunately there are some issues. The two games that use the twin stick style of gameplay don’t work the best, especially with Wild Western as the jump and shooting inputs are only mapped to the face buttons. There is an option to change the control method to work with a single stick, along with the ability to remap controls, but these don’t make the controls any more responsive.

Presentation – the visual and sound emulation for this compilation is fantastic, with a complete 1:1 translation from the original hardware to the Nintendo Switch hardware. This shows with the NinjaWarriors game, which uses a three screen system that has been carried over very well. There is also a selection of settings to alter the look of the display, with scan lines, resizing and even the ability to have the game displayed vertically in classic “Tate” mode.

Final Thoughts – this compilation has a varied selection of titles, with some better than others. The standouts of this pack are The Fairyland Story, Qix and The NinjaWarriors, which is a stark contrast with the weaker titles like Alpine Ski and Wild Western. The quality of the gameplay and replay value with each game in the pack also varies, which can be off-putting to some players as there is little in terms of bonus content aside from leaderboards.

I have some experience with the arcade archives software that powers these games, which made it a little disappointing to see that the bonus game modes were missing. These titles are available as standalone releases, which have High Score and Caravan modes which are unfortunately omitted from this pack, however the quality of life improvements remain. I can recommend this pack to players who want these games all in one place or collect retro compilations, as it offers a lot at a decent price.

In the end, I give Taito Milestones a final score of 4/5. This is a good celebration of the history of Taito, with some standout titles but some unfortunately weak ones in the pack. The use of the arcade archives software emulates the games perfectly and provides quality of life improvements, but unfortunately lacks the additional high score and caravan modes.

Link to Digital version (HERE)

Link to Physical Games Rocket version (HERE)

Link to Physical Strictly Limited version (HERE)

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