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Thread: Acorn Archimedes

  1. #1

    Acorn Archimedes

    If you didn't grow up in the UK then chances are you haven't seen one of these computers in real life. It was overshadowed by other systems like the Commodore Amiga and IBM PC, and didn't have a huge number of good exclusive games, but it has enough cool stuff to intrigue me. This thread is devoted to the Acorn Archimedes computer line.

    Various models were released between 1987 and 1992. I'm not going to talk about each one but the wiki gives a list, and some later models don't use the Archimedes name.

    This was powerful hardware in the late '80s. It had a 32-bit RISC processor and was able to handle 3d graphics well for its time. For the system's launch, the technological showpiece was Lander, a demo of a polygon shooter unlike anything the home market had seen before. The full game was released under the name Zarch. It's a cool game but the controls take some getting used to. It was later ported to other computers as Virus and spawned imitators like Zeewolf and modern remakes.

    Zarch was followed by another title using the same engine, a tank action game called Conqueror.

    Both Zarch and Conqueror were developed by David Braben of Elite fame. And speaking of Elite, the Archimedes got a remake of it in 1991. Space sim/trading games aren't my cup of tea (and as groundbreaking as the original was I think it kind of overshadows its arguably more impressive contemporary, FTL Software's SunDog: Frozen Legacy) but the Archimedes remake has gotten a lot of praise from fans with many considering it the best version.

    Another game I consider ahead of its time is Software 42's Ixion from 1992. That was a huge year for first-person games on PC because of id's Wolfenstein 3D and Blue Sky's Ultima Underworld. Ixion may not have the notoriety of those but like them, it was a like a glimpse into the future. It was a smooth scrolling, 3d FPS/Adventure game with open-ended design. It had vehicles you could enter, both indoor and outdoor environments, and NPCs to talk to. It continued on the foundation laid before it by companies like Novagen, Incentive Software, and Bethesda.

    Ixion has no relation to the unreleased Sega arcade game with the same name. Sega's influence is noticeable in an earlier Archimedes game, though. The Fourth Dimension's E-Type was a driving game very much in the vein of OutRun. I found its mouse controls awkward but for a home racing game from 1989, the graphics are impressive, very smooth.

    It was also available on older Acorn computers and got a sequel on Archimedes in 1994.

    A bunch of Fourth Dimensions' games were made by Gordon J. Key. He followed up E-Type with a polygon F1 racer in 1990 called Powerband and also made a 3d shooter called Apocalypse that year.

    Some other Fourth Dimension games: Chopper Force, Saloon Cars, and Stunt Racer 2000

    I haven't played much of it yet but Dream Software's 3d shooter Guile seems pretty neat. I believe it's from '92.

    One of the most well known Archimedes shooters was Starfighter 3000, a free-roaming, mission-based 3d game. It was remade a couple years later for 3DO, DOS, Playstation and Saturn but by then it had a lot more competition and so those versions never stood out as much. I prefer the visual style of the Archimedes version anyway.

    By 1995, consoles (and current PCs) were doing some really impressive 3d stuff so the Archimedes didn't stand out much. Ixion co-creator Tom Cooper was still supporting the platform, though (although he was soon hired by Psygnosis/Sony). Published by Eclipse, DarkWood was a colourful 3d action-adventure before they had become mainstream.

    So far I only mentioned 3d stuff but there were plenty of 2d games on the system. Tom Cooper made a lot of cartoony Archimedes games but the one that stood out the most for me is Hamsters. On the surface it just looked like another one of the millions of '90s mascot platformers but the gameplay wasn't so typical. It's hard to explain but both attacking and jumping are done with the same hammer swinging move. If an enemy's there, you'll crush it. If just the ground is there, you'll flip when your hammer hits it causing you to jump so positioning is important. I'm not fond of the premise which is smashing the guts out of innocent animals before the time runs out but it was an addictive game.

    Fourth Dimension's Nevrvon from 1990 was the Archimedes' answer to Irem's R-Type. I couldn't find this to try it but it looks decent enough.

    Superior Software's Technodream (1993) was also inspired by R-Type.

    It's a late budget release (from around 2000) but I really want to try Overload. The publisher's website is long gone so I'm having trouble finding the demo or game to try. It looks like an awesome take on Rare's Jetpac series, Lunar Jetman especially.

    Another game that fascinates me is the remake of the 1987 System 3 classic The Last Ninja. Previous ports stuck close to the visual style of the original Commodore 64 game but the rare 1992 Archimedes version by Superior Software looked completely different despite keeping the 3/4 isometric perspective. The graphic detail was way higher. I thought it looked great but it's just not the signature Last Ninja visual style not to mention it has an inferior (but still decent) new soundtrack. The lack of joystick support (as far as I can tell) ruined the controls for me. It was just an odd version of the game.

    Unlike The Last Ninja, the majority of ports on the system stuck closely to their source materials. Here are pictures/videos of a bunch of ports of popular Amiga, PC, and arcade games -

    Alone in the Dark

    Cannon Fodder


    Dune II





    Simon the Sorceror

    More of AcornGamez's videos of Archimedes games can be found here -

    So what do you think about Archimedes computer games?
    Last edited by NeoZeedeater; 19 Dec 2008 at 09:21 PM.

  2. I'm one of those guys who had never heard of it, until a few years back Retrogamer magazine did a The Last Ninja feature which mentioned the Archimedes version. It sounded very interesting but I never followed through with looking into it more. I really like the look of a lot of those games.
    I take it there is a decent emulator for it?

    edit: you need to fix your first youtube tag

  3. I don't have any experience with the system, but the name makes me think of that part in Sword in the Stone where Arthur gets turned into a squirrel.

    And that's pretty awesome.

    Archimedes was one rood awl.

  4. Quote Originally Posted by Some Stupid Japanese Name View Post
    I take it there is a decent emulator for it?
    Yeah, it's called RedSquirrel.

    The Archie is a neat system, seems like it well outpaced the AGA and whatever else it was competing with at the time. I've never played Ixion, but you're description really makes me want to.

    But I totally can't get into Starfighter 3000, as much as I try (Archie version or the later remake, I've tried both). The ultra-loose controls are too weird for me.

  5. I really dug the 3DO version. I remember ranting about how it was better than the PSX version, which proved the 3DO was just as capable as the PSX.

  6. Yeah, I was playing the 3DO version recently. Controls still drive me nuts though.

  7. #7
    Archie Elite is fantastic. It's odd, but that version is the most immersive Elite port because doesn't make all the action centered around the player. You'll see police Vipers flying in formation, miners shooting asteroids, pirates attacking larger cargo ships (and if the police are flying near them, you'll see the police break out of formation to do a coordinated attack). Couple that with graphics that are the equal of Elite Plus and some fantastically responsive mouse controls, and it's clear that ArcElite is the best version of the game.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Frogacuda
    Yeah, it's called RedSquirrel.
    That's the first one I tried a few years ago and it's good. For some reason, I can't get it to work anymore but Arculator's a good emulator, too.

    I've never played Ixion, but you're description really makes me want to.
    I need to spend more time with it when I'm in the mood to play something like it. It's one of those games that would have been much better to play back when it came out given the advancements of similar games since then but it's certainly still cool to check out.

  9. Quote Originally Posted by Frogacuda View Post
    But I totally can't get into Starfighter 3000, as much as I try (Archie version or the later remake, I've tried both). The ultra-loose controls are too weird for me.
    I love Starfighter. I need to set Freedo back up to play this again, and check out Red Squirrel for a nice compare/contrast. It took me a while to get used to the controls but I find them pretty natural to use nowadays. This is my most-wanted remake for XBLA game.

    The PS1, Saturn, and PC versions sucked hard, though. What the hell were they thinking with the fog? Getting rid of pop-in and slowdown at the expense of the joy of flying was the worst trade possible.


  10. Good topic.

    I think the Saloon Cars YouTube tag needs to be set right.


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