Saturday 25 November 2023

TV Shows #31

Halo Season One (2022)
Developed By: Kyle Killen & Steven Kane
Starring: Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone, Yerin Ha, Kate Kennedy, Olive Gray, Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Bentley Kalu, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Jen Taylor, Bokeem Woodbine

Certificate: NR Running Time: 40-59 Minutes per Episode (approx), 9 Episodes

There are some films/shows that I follow the development of and eagerly await right from them getting greenlit all the way up to their release, especially examples of the sci-fi genre. Halo was not one of these. I ultra-know about the games, of course - I've even played one of them a little (the first one for the original Xbox, as detailed here) - but the show? I didn't even know there was one until it had already been out for a while, and when I did find out, I wasn't super excited since videogame adaptations generally suck donkey balls anyway, and any residual excitement I might have had for the show was quickly tempered by the almost-unanimously negative reactions it had earned online. These things happen often I suppose, especially to things with existing 'fandoms', but it still wasn't a good sign.

Monday 20 November 2023

Arcade Adventures #7

Lord of the Sword (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

For the second review in a row I've found myself in the not-unstartling position of apparently having had a game's genre wrong for 35-odd years! Last time was It Came From the Desert and now it's this MS exclusive from Sega. It got rather mediocre reviews in its day so I've never shown a huge amount of interest in it, but from screenshots I always assumed it was a Rastan or Legendary Axe type deal. It kind of is I suppose, but it's a more adventurey kind of game than those two. We'll come to that later though. You play through the game as a fellow known as Landau. I assume this isn't meant to be classic actor Martin Landau, star of Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999 amongst many others, probably including even more examples with colons. No, this Landau is just some guy with long hair.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Memorable Bosses #4

Big Core MK I
Game: Gradius & some sequels

Big Core's first appearance on the PC Engine...
Of all the bosses found in the many shmups we've seen over the years, this fairly unremarkable craft is not one that leaps into your mind when thinking of memorable examples, I suspect. But there are two reasons why it does leap into mine. First of all, it was, to my knowledge, the first ever proper boss in the genre that soon came to be known as shoot 'em ups, so it has historical relevance. Secondly, its imminent arrival is heralded by one of my favourite game choons of all time! One might argue it's not really an appropriate composition for a boss battle of any kind, never mind such an important one. It's a short and simple track, as you might well expect from the era, and it sounds rather too jolly and upbeat to really suit the on-screen confrontation. You hear it almost every stage too, since the mighty Big Core is the boss on most of the stages (chortle!), but I don't care about any of that. It holds nostalgic value for me, particularly the excellent PC Engine version which is by far the one I've spent most time playing, but it is also genuinely a memorable boss regardless. The fact that it has reappeared in later Gradius games is testament to that. There have been far more impressive bosses over the years but Big Core Mk I still holds a special place in my gaming affections.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Arcade Adventures #6

It Came from the Desert (1989)
By: Cinemaware Genre: Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Amiga
Also Available For: PC, PC Engine

I mention the old games magazines I used to read in my younger years quite often here at Red Parsley, and indeed they continue to provide me with many warm memories. One game I always remember seeing was the scarily-titled It Came From the Desert - scary, perhaps, more due of the giant ants that featured in screenshots of the game and adorned promotional material than the name itself. I remember seeing reviews in several magazines such as C&VG and Ace and I wanted to play it despite not owning anything that could play it, and not even really knowing what kind of game it was since neither system I owned (Spectrum and Master System) featured anything like it to my knowledge. By the time I actually had an Amiga, I guess I had forgotten about this distinctive game, and it has remained unplayed by me for all these long years since. That is... until now!

Friday 30 June 2023

TV Shows #19 - Part 2

Hanna Season Two (2020)
Developed By: David Farr Starring: Esme Creed-Miles, Mireille Enos, Yasmin Monet Prince, Dermot Mulroney, Áine Rose Daly, Anthony Welsh, Cherrelle Skeete, Gianna Kiehl, Katie Clarkson Hill, Emma D'Arcy

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 47-53 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

I had been very enthusiastic about watching the first season of Hanna since I liked and still like the film original very much. My wife and I watched the series adaptation with interest pretty much as soon as it was available, and while it probably had too much filler, we both enjoyed it nonetheless. Happily, season two was soon given the greenlight too, which would surely take us into wholly uncharted territory since the events of the film were covered in the first season (albeit slightly differently). It has taken me a long time to get around to watching it - so long, in fact, that I decided to first rewatch the whole of season one to refresh my memory, and doing so made me think I was a little harsh on it in my review. I think part of it is that I've warmed up to Esme Creed-Miles in the main role. Whatever the reason, I was very much up for season two. My wife didn't join me this time (waiting for her is part of the reason it took me so long to watch!), but I was nonetheless eager to see where Mr. Farr took the story.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Splendid PlayStation Music #3

I've been collecting game music for a good few years now. It started thanks to a combination of emulators and their splendid 'sound test' features along with recording programs such as Audacity, and I also used to download some examples using P2P file sharing thingies like Kazaa. For many moons I had a song called Moon Over the Castle which I acquired using the P2P method. It was excellent but I didn't know which game it was from. Admittedly, I didn't put too much effort into finding out and instead just assumed it was from a Castlevania game owing to its name and style.

I can't remember how, but I found out many years later where this great song came from, and it wasn't a Castlevania game at all - it was (and still is) actually the main theme to the Gran Turismo series! Judging by the musical style, a racing game would have been the last type I would've guessed, even one so mighty as Gran Turismo! It was written by Masahiro Andoh of T-Square and was, as far as I can tell, only used in the Japanese versions of the games until the fourth instalment which goes some way to explaining how I didn't know it was the theme to a game I'd played extensively! Anyway, however I might've encountered it, and wherever I thought it was from, it's a fantastic piece of music and I encourage you to embrace it accordingly!

Special Note: I didn't record this great tune myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit goes to the original composer

Monday 19 June 2023

Awesome Nature #24

Type: Bird  Lives In: New Zealand  Conservation Status: Vulnerable

There are many awesome animals in the world but the kiwi is one I keept forgetting about, then when I'm reminded of it I wonder why. They do of course only live in New Zealand which could be one reason why, but there are, surprisingly, five distinct species of them there. They look pretty similar of course, and they are a bit bigger than I'd realised (similar in size to chickens) but are still far smaller than most other members of their family (ratites) such as ostriches, emus and rheas. In fact, their closest relative is the now-extinct Elephant Bird. They are cute little fuzzballs in any case, who spend mostly-nighttimes scrummaging around forest floors looking for seeds, insects, worms and fruits to eat, and they have a remarkable nose located at the end of their long, slightly curved beaks with which to find these things. They have several other rather strange characteristics too, most likely due to how isolated they were for much of their existence. I'm not sure my behind could handle the amazingly-long flight needed to catch sight of one of these flightless flappers in person but I sure would like to bear witness to one. I wonder if they would let me pick them up? Very reluctantly, I'd say, judging by the end of this short National Geographic video I saw!

Why It Is Awesome: It's a fuzzy brown sphere with a beak!

Sunday 11 June 2023

Indie Nuggets #7

Adventures of a Radish (2016)
By: Sorceress Game Lab Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm always liked seeing fruits and vegetables in games. Usually they are just pick-ups for bonus points or a power-up of some sort, but how many games actually let you play as a fruit or vegetable? I can't think of too many but Adventures of a Radish is definitely one such game! I can't remember how I first discovered it now but it's another one that has lain dormant in my 'games to review' folder for many years of men. Actually, that's not strictly true - I have played it on and off but the review has clearly not been forthcoming. Upon returning to it for this post I realised it doesn't seem to have a backstory, so I guess you're just... a sentient radish. I'm not complaining, of course - there are undoubtedly worse things to be - but some games require stories or objectives to provide motivation to play them.

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Cover Art Face-Off #2

Oh hey, what's going down? If you've visited this ridiculous page recently you might recall a post I made featuring the various famous Sega IPs that, for one odd reason or another, appeared on their own console's rival, the NES. They were mostly of reasonable quality, though of course inferior to the versions found on the mighty Master System, but it was interesting to take a look at them. While on the subject, however, I also looked into the cover artwork for the NES releases since they were unlikely to be using the MS's white grid covers, and indeed they were not. So I figured I might as well make a follow-up post about those too! Therefore, behold:

After Burner (1987/89)

This was one of the first ever games I had in my possession and therefore one of the first game covers to dwell on my shelf so it holds some nostalgic value for me, but let's face it - it looks like something a low-level factory worker doodled in his/her lunch break! The NES offering was for the US market and features a much more impressive-looking F-14 fighter front and centre. I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about US military hardware to know how accurate it is, but it sure looks cool here, especially surrounded by tracer fire and explosions. It even has the title in its correct font! Though it pains me slightly to say it, there can only be one winner here...

Sunday 28 May 2023

TV Shows #30

Reacher Season One (2022)
Developed By: Nick Santora
Starring: Alan Ritchson, Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald, Chris Webster, Bruce McGill, Maria Sten, Currie Graham, Kristin Kreuk, Harvey Guillén

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-54 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

Usually I find it somewhat irritating when people complain about a book adaptation straying from the source material. After all, if the screen version is different enough, it just means you potentially have two things to enjoy rather than two different forms of the same thing! One recent(ish) example I remember was Jack Reacher, released just over ten years ago starring Tom Cruise as the titular character. I personally didn't even know there were Jack Reacher books at the time but it turned out there were many, they were very successful, and their many fans were incensed at the casting choice to play their beloved hero. Moviegoers seem to have a bit of a love/hate view of Cruise at the best of times but here he was playing a character who, in the books at least, is 6ft5 and 250lbs. I've always been a fan of Cruise, at least as far as his movies are concerned, but for all his talents and abilities, being 6ft5 and 250lbs is not among them! The film did okay but most Reacher fans stayed away.

Saturday 13 May 2023

NES Shmups #5

Burai Fighter (1990)
By: KID / Taxan Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 121,120
Also Available For: Game Boy

There are an absolute ton of NES games that I've heard of but know bugger all about. This is due to a combination of buying multi-format games mags back in the day such as Mean Machines, and not having an NES and therefore paying little attention to reviews of said games. One of them, you may be shocked to hear, is Burai Fighter. I've known of the name for over 30 years but I wasn't even sure what genre it was until my interest in it was recently piqued by its soundtrack - its most derided aspect, I've subsequently discovered (not sure why though). It turned out to be a (mostly) horizontal shooter in the same vein of Side Arms and Forgotten Worlds, and that's no bad thing since both are at least decent games. It's also a game that, much like the recently-reviewed Dragon Ninja, is named after its bad guys rather than the hero. Indeed, the Burai are apparently a 'race of super-brains' who, for thousands of years, have used their intellectual gifts to conquer the universe. Can't accuse them of lacking ambition, I guess!

Saturday 6 May 2023

Top Five MegaDrive Overhead Racers

As mighty as the MegaDrive is, it's not a system I would associate with overhead (or 'top down' if you prefer) racing games - I suppose there aren't any systems that one might specifically associate with them now that I think about it - but Sega's legendary machine does play host to a surprising number of them. I actually had the idea for this post a good few years ago and did some preliminary 'research' accordingly, only to find my enthusiasm dampened by the general quality of the titles available. I recall not really finding one that I really liked, never mind five! That opinion was mostly confirmed when I returned to this post recently - most examples are interesting and have good points, but also some apect that ruined my enjoyment somewhat too. Since I haven't been too prolific with the Top Fives lately, however, I figured I'd go ahead with the post anyway. So, feast your eyes on what could be more accurately described as the Five Least Annoying MegaDrive Overhead Racers...

5. Combat Cars

I don't remember seeing anything about this one in its day but it got a European release as well as a US one. Oh well, wherever it was back then, I 've spent a fair bit of time playing it for this post and... well, it's a good example of what I was talking about above. I kind of get the impression it's set in a post-apocalyptic world but it's hard to be sure since there doesn't seem to be a backstory. Nonetheless, you can choose from eight characters, each of whom has their own car with it's own special ability (speed boost, weapon, smoke, etc), and it initially looked as though it could be a contender for the top spot here. The slidy-but-grippy car handling is superb and there are a decent number of courses (24) over which to race against the other characters, and there are of course multi-player modes too (just two players but better than nothing), with team or head-to-head options on offer. The graphics aren't bad either and the music is great. The thing that ruins it a bit for me is that it just gets too hard too quickly - you basically have to race nearly perfectly within two or three races or you won't have a chance. I was getting lapped! It's a good game for skilled and/or dedicated players but I'm not sure I'd ever get through it.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Film vs Book #1

I have long been one of those people who loves books, has many books, buys new books often, but doesn't actually get around to reading them that often. The Japanese even have a term for people like me: tsundoku. Short attention span, hand aches from holding book, easily distracted - these are all reasons/excuses for my idiotic behaviour, but I have been improving of late. I also realised I have a lot of books that were adapted into films or were inspired by or related to films, so I've concentrated on these in order to make a few posts here. In pretty much all cases I will have seen the film before reading the book so the emphasis will be on the former. First up is the book that accompanies one of my favourite films, and it had an unusual start.

Contact (1985 - book, 1997 - film)
Book By: Carl Sagan Film Directed By: Robert Zemeckis Starring: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett

Certificate: PG Length: 144 Minutes / 429 pages

Tagline: "A message from deep space. Who will be the first to go? A journey to the heart of the universe" (film) "We are not alone" (book)

I'm usually slow to adopt new technologies - I fear change, I guess, to paraphrase Garth from Wayne's World - but one notable exception was DVDs. I forget the year now. It must've been 1997 or 1998, but whenever it was, I was almost immediately taken by the new movie format and spent a fortune (credit card, of course) on what was probably the best player available at the time, the Sony DVP-S715. At the time there were only about 20 films available on the format and not too many interested me, but the shop where I bought the player had three titles that looked acceptable - Face/Off, Assassins and... yes, that's right, Contact! I didn't know much about it prior to buying it, I just wanted a few new films to play on my shiny new player and a sci-fi selection is usually a safe bet for me. Plus, you can rarely go wrong with Jodie Foster, right?

Wednesday 19 April 2023

First Look PC #8

Victory Heat Rally by Skydevilpalm (202?) - PC

As someone for whom retro games hold great value, one of the best things about the indie scene for a good few years now is the number of 'homages', or games inspired by other famous old games. There are tons and more turn up seemingly on a weekly basis. This one caught my eye quite a while ago (I believe it has been in my 'games to review' folder for about two years now) as it initially looked to be a Mario Kart-inspired racer. Upon playing it, however, I soon realised it has much more in common with Power Drift and even Out Run 2! There is only a demo so far in which you can choose between two racers and then race over three courses, and it's these that remind me so much of Sega's buggy racer as they are twisty-turny with sharp turns and elevated sections, just like AM2's classic!

Sunday 16 April 2023

MSX Games #3

Knightmare (1986)
By: Konami Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: MSX First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

Not the most exciting title screen...
Back in the 80s which, as everyone knows, was the undisputed king of decades, there was a children's adventure game show here in the UK called Knightmare. Episodes featured a team of four youths, one of whom would don the vision-obscuring 'Helmet of Justice' and is then placed into a fantasy medieval environment while the other three attempted to guide him or her through obstacle and puzzle-filled dungeons. It was rather ahead of it time too, featuring some CGI and even some virtual reality bits and was pretty cool. More recently, word reached me of an MSX game called Knightmare too. What was a game based on a British adventure game show doing on a Japanese home micro? As it turned out, it wasn't. It appears to have nothing to do with it, in fact. Naturally, this both confused and intrigued me considerably so I immediately (i.e. a few years later) sought to find out what the devil it actually was.