An easy way of telling if someone is a hardcore gamer is to throw the PC Engine into the conversation. If they look at you blankly youâ€™ll know that theyâ€™re video game history is sorely lacking. The PC Engine was a console designed jointly by NEC and Hudson and at the time it was nothing short of staggering.
The PC Engine was an 8-bit console, but it wiped the floor with all the 8-bit competition at the time. In fact the PC Engine was the very first home machine that could honestly claim to give you arcade perfect game conversions. Anyone who played R-Type on this machine knows exactly what Iâ€™m talking about. But itâ€™s not one of the PC Engine arcade conversions that has made my top five list, itâ€™s a far more ambitious and ultimately brilliant game called Dungeon Explorer.
Dungeon Explorer came at a time when multi-player gaming was in its infancy, with the arcade machine Gauntlet banding groups of gamers together while they battled through dungeon after dungeon. Dungeon Explorer took the Gauntlet idea not so much to the next level, but more to a completely different plane.
For a start Dungeon Explorer allowed five people to play simultaneously rather than four. This was no mean feat considering that the PC Engine was the size of a CD box and had only one controller port. You see, even though the multi-tap is generally associated with the PlayStation, it was actually pioneered on the PC Engine. Armed with a multi-tap, five controllers and five friends, Dungeon Explorer was one of the, if not the most compelling action adventure game of its time.
You can choose to play as a fighter, a thief, a warlock, a witch, a bishop, an elf, a bard or a dwarf. Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses, but unlike Gauntlet, Dungeon Explorer let you improve your characterâ€™s stats as you progressed through the game. At the end of each dungeon you would face a boss and once he was dealt with, you would be rewarded with a jewel that would increase your abilities â€“ something that youâ€™d need if you were going to make it through the next dungeon.
Another great feature of Dungeon Explorer was the inclusion of a password save system. Because the game was so sprawling and long, you wouldnâ€™t necessarily be able to complete it in one sitting (although my friend Jon and I did just that on many occasions). The password save gave you the ability to quit the game, but continue from that point at a later date. The only downside to this was that any extra abilities you picked up along the way would be lost when you loaded the save.
Unlike Gauntlet, Dungeon Explorer didnâ€™t just keep going forever, there was an ultimate goal to strive for, but even when youâ€™d battled through every dungeon and killed every boss, it just made you want to start again from the beginning.