Monday, 3 December 2018

Awesome Nature #21

Type: Mammal  Lives In: Central and South America  Conservation Status: Least Concern

Unlike a lot of awesome creatures I've warbled on about here, I have first-hand experience of these amusing rascals. I first saw one in Brazil: we had rented a villa near the beach and were eating at the outdoor table one evening when I saw one in a tree gathering fruits. I was excited to see it but that was nothing compared to my more recent encounter: I was on holiday with my wife in Mexico, staying at a resort this time, and I saw what looked like a coati from a distance. It later turned out the resort, and indeed that part of the world generally, was absolutely teeming with them! Everywhere we went in the resort, we would see them running around with their ringed tails sticking straight up in the air. They were usually in large family groups all at once too - outside our window digging for food with their long claws, running around the pool area looking for scraps, even invading the breakfast buffet hoping someone would share some fruit with them. This was something my wife and I did regularly during our time there and the little things were adorable, following us around, usually with youngsters in tow, squeaking constantly as they went. They have immediately become one of my very favourite animals!

Why It Is Awesome: They are squeaking cuties and they're everywhere!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Gaming Memories - Part 17

I think I've been into video games ever since I first discovered them back in the 80's thanks to OutRun, but if there was one period where I fell out of touch, it would've been around 1994-1995-ish. I still don't remember the reason for this - I don't think anything very dramatic was going on in my life at the time beyond my continuing to stew in the realisation that being an adult sucked - but whatever the reason, the result was I missed out on an important and eventful period of time.

This included the demise of some wonderful systems like the Amiga and PC Engine, the introduction and equally quick failure of fancy new systems like the Jaguar and 3DO, and even the polygon-filled 3D boom. Okay, I didn't miss all this stuff completely - I was kind of aware of most of it to varying degrees so I guess I was still following things, but there was one pivotal transition I have barely any memory of - the end of the 16-bit era and the introduction of their 32-bit replacements. The MegaDrive and SNES's final year saw some flashy and innovative games which wrung every last ounce of strength out of their ageing innards before the focus was shifted to the new systems. Relative newcomer Sony had been readying their almost-Nintendo machine, the PlayStation, while Sega had finally finished pissing about with the Mega CD, 32X, Nomad, Multi-Mega, and lord knows what else, and had their system ready too.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Film Round-Up #24

Like many, I grew up watching the James Bond films. Roger Moore was the man in the tuxedo during my younger years but of course the Connery-era films continued to receive frequent screenings on TV as well, and I loved them all. It has been a while since I saw most of them though, so I figured it might be a decent opportunity to watch them all through again. Uncharacteristically, however, I have not started at the beginning but rather at the end, so here's a look at the four films (so far) to feature Daniel Craig's version of the world's most famous super spy!

Casino Royale (2006)

The first film for a new James Bond is always going to attract a lot of attention. Even more intriguingly in this case, it would be the first proper adaptation of Ian Flaming's first Bond novel. It begins just as Bond is earning his 00 status. Soon after, he inadvertently thwarts a dastardly plan by Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), an evil terrorist-funding banker. In an attempt to recoup his sizeable losses, Le Chiffre sets up a high stakes poker tournament - a tournament in which Bond is entered with instructions to win, or at least stop Le Chiffre from winning, with help from Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). That doesn't mean the film is one long poker game though - we visit Uganda and Madagascar, then the Bahamas before arriving in Montenegro for the tourney, and also take in the sights of Venice too. Of course, Bond also finds time for some recreation by bedding Solange (Caterina Murino), a bad guy's wife, and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Retro News - PS1 Classic Lineup!

I don't usually cover stuff like this here but, having missed out on many PS1 games at the time due to my fierce Sega allegiance, this latest 'mini' console release is one that I have at least a bit of interest in. It was initially announced a few weeks ago accompanied by few details. Apparently the dinky console would come with a pair of original (non analogue) controllers for two-player splendidness, and twenty original PS1 games would be loaded onto it but, no more info was forthcoming.

Actually, that's not true - a few of the bundled titles were divulged at the time of the announcement but a majority remained a mystery. That is, until now (tootle tootle)! Indeed, the full line-up has now been unveiled and the reaction has been... somewhat mixed. I imagine most interested parties will have compiled wish-lists in their heads over the intervening weeks and I'm no different, but I figured I'd take a look at the official selection.

This 'look' will naturally be from the perspective of someone who has never been a big Sony gamer, and certainly not a fanboy (i.e. me), so it will probably be inane drivel unfit for the eyes of even a comatose marrow farmer, but that's okay since no one visits here nowadays anyway (guffaw/cry). Nonetheless, here is a look at the lucky few titles which will be split into three sections - the games included in all regions, the games only included with the console's Western release, and the games that only the Japanese players will get, and I thought I'd follow it up with my own picks.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Arcade Platform Games #5

Pac-Land (1984)
By: Namco Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 33,620
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Lynx, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum Download For: iOS, Wii Virtual Console

My many regular visits to the local beachside arcades I was fortunate enough to live close to during my youth yielded many delights but one game I always looked forward to was Pac-Land, the first game to star the yellow muncher since his curious mutation, perhaps the result of exposure to radiation of some sort, which bestowed upon him a brand new set of limbs the likes of which most of us take for granted. Thanks to these limbs he is apparently able to finally escape the confines of the endless mazes that comprised his earlier games. What's the first thing you would do in his position? That's right - go for a run and test out those gangly protrusions! Unfortunately for him, however, those pesky ghosts have also found a way to liberate themselves and set out in hot pursuit, aiming to spitefully ruin Pac-Man's fun.

Friday, 5 October 2018

They Might Be Giants - Chiptuned!

Most things I post here at Red Parsley will only be of interest to a small number of people, but even with that in mind the subject of this particular post really will be of limited appeal. For the tiny core of people with the right combination of interests, however, it will be a truly wondrous post worthy of wine, women and song!

Before we get to that, let me just say, I've been a fan of They Might Be Giants for many years now - nearly 30 years in fact, ever since an old friend made me a tape of their first two albums back in our school days (don't worry - I bought the originals soon afterwards) - and they've pretty much been my favourite band ever since.

Yes, I know in more recent years they've made several educational albums for the kiddies, but their 'proper' albums are still among the few music albums I actually look forward to the release of these days (for yes indeed, they are still going strong). One of their most popular albums remains Flood released in 1990 which contains 'Birdhouse in your Soul', still probably their best known song.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Film Review #105

Red Sparrow (2018)
Director: Francis Lawrence Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 140 Minutes

Tagline: "The road to forgiveness begins with betrayal."

It has been a while since I watched a decent spy thriller so I was looking forward to seeing this one, even more so with the usually-reliable Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role. The fact that it's based on a novel by Jason Matthews, a former CIA agent himself no less, only adds to its credentials. I guess novels don't always make the best movies but it should at least mean there's a decent story here. It has to do with 'Sparrows', the product of an SVR (formerly the KGB) programme of so-called 'sexpionage' operatives trained to seduce and gain the trust of targets with a view to exploiting them, usually by divulging compromising information or items. Lawrence is Dominika Egorova, a celebrated Russian ballerina who uses her earnings to support her ill mother. When she suffers a career-ending injury (mid-performance no less), however, it looks as though both of them are destined for destitution.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Star Control - Part 9

Generally I need little excuse to burble on about the Star Control series - it is one of my favourite of all game series' after all, particularly the skillish second game - but I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there? Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves!

Seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species, and while many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling was around the same time, in fact), they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts. This will be the second of two posts featuring the friendlier half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)


You remember the Shofixti from the first game - the idiotic bears with the crap ships that could blow themselves up? Well, they don't feature so prevalently in the sequel but they are here. Well, I say 'they' but you will probably only get to meet one of them - Captain Tanaka, apparently the sole surviving member of his brave race who can be found pootling around his home system still trying to see off all interlopers.

That will include you too, unless you're able to calm him down in time, but it's good fun talking to him either way. It's quickly revealed that Shofixti culture is modelled on Japan, specifically the way of the samurai, with everything from their names and accents to their sense of honour and fearless attitudes reminiscent of that country's feudal era. They must've made brave (albeit nominally effective) warriors in the first Ur-Quan war, so you'll be filled with both sadness and respect when you hear Tanaka's tales of their demise. Bow before the noble creatures.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Manga - A Beginner's Look #1

Iinari Princess (2008-09)
By: Yumi Nakata (Story & Art)
Volumes: 1 Chapters: 9 Total Pages: 210

Genres: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, School, Seinen

Yet another one of the many things I have been wanting to take a look at for years but never got around to is manga. Recently, however, I received a Kindle Fire tablet as a gift from my lovely wife so I figured it was a good opportunity to try some titles out. I found a good stock of digital examples and pretty much just picked a bunch at random based mainly on the name and cover art. A bit shallow perhaps, but with a handful of exceptions I don't really know of too many, and I couldn't really be arsed to spend time looking it in advance either. One of the chosen few was Iinari Princess. It isn't the first manga I read but it was the first one I had a strong opinion about, and not a positive one I'm afraid. This was disappointing as it sounded quite appealing from its brief synopsis which has to do with the young lady of the title who is indeed a real live princess. As she reminds us often, she is first princess in line to the throne of the Principality of Rivetaria which is 'a small North European country', and she has, for some reason, transferred to a Japanese school.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Golf Games #7

Naxat Open (1989)
By: NAXAT Soft Genre: Sports Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing

The mighty PC Engine is positively heaving under the weight of shoot 'em ups and arcade conversions of other types so it's not really the first console to come to mind when it comes to golf games. There are actually a few though, and since the Naxat name is a favoured one in here RKS Land, I thought I'd look at this one first. Typically, it's very simple and arcadey, offering two modes of play - Stroke Play and Match Play (probably - the choices are in Japanese) which are single and multi player modes (up to four) respectively. You get to choose your name, your handicap rating (in Match Play), and a set of clubs, and then you're off. The two controller buttons work as 'select/action' and 'cancel/back' which makes playing the game just as quick as getting started - you just choose the direction you want to hit the ball, choose a club (if you don't want to use the default), and take a swing.

Friday, 21 September 2018

PS4 Purchases #2

Rabi-Ribi by CreSpirit / GemaYue / PQube (2016)

Games with anime art on the cover and/or promo material usually grab my attention. This example is no different and upon learning more about it, it went straight onto my Steam wishlist. In addition to the aforementioned anime influence which includes lots of cut-scenes, the pixelly 2D graphics were also appealing for the obvious reasons. Even better, it was described as a fusion of retro-ish platforming and bullet-hell shooting. I'm not even sure how that would work but I'm very interested in finding out! Before buying it via Steam, however, I learned of the PS4 release which included a splendid physical release which I'm happy to say I stumbled upon just a day after returning from my recent holiday, and for the bargain price of £10 too, which even included a soundtrack CD. Suffice to say, I swiftly purchased it! Now comes the never-ending challenge - finding the time to play it...

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Film Review #104

Suicide Squad (2016)
Director: David Ayer Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 123 Minutes

Tagline: "Justice has a bad side."

For their first two 'cinematic universe' movies, DC wisely chose to focus on their two best known characters, but this third offering is a bit different. It features a cast of characters that will probably be mostly unknown to non-comic buffs (like me), and that's a pretty brave move considering how many options they must've had. The characters in question are basically a bunch of the ghastliest supervillains being held in supermax prisons around the US. Rather than waste their 'talents' in squalid 7x12-foot prison cells however, government agency A.R.G.U.S. (kind of like DC's equivalent of Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. I believe) feels they could be put to better use as a special task force - the creatively named Task Force X no less - to be used under strict supervision to tackle threats beyond the abilities of the normal agencies. I'm not sure how sensible that sounds but it apparently made a pretty great comic-book series!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Indie Games News/Previews #12

Streets of Rage 4 by Liazrdcube / DotEmu (2018/19?) - PC

Blaze vs three enemies, all instantly recognisable...

So there I was, jetting off on my latest holiday (and the first one for a while), enduring hours of road travel, an uncomfortable long-haul flight, etc, before finally arriving in my hotel room, and upon logging onto the wifi here, what was the very first thing I saw? Yes that's right, it was an announcement for Streets of Rage 4! It's almost as if the Good Lord Almighty had taken pity on me for enduring the rigours of intercontinental travel by rewarding me with this super-skillish, though totally unexpected news! Unless of course it was all a cruel ruse, perhaps orchestrated by his opposite number, but that seemed unlikely given the screenshots and reveal trailer released by the splendid Lizardcube/DotEmu.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Currently Playing...

Ninja Princess by Sega (1985) - Arcade

As anyone who owned or even just played on Sega's mighty Master System in its day will probably know, one of it's too-infrequently-celebrated gems is The Ninja. Many believe it to be a Master System original but it's actually a mostly-accurate conversion of an arcade game released the previous year under two names - Ninja Princess in Japan and Sega Ninja over here in the West. I've long been a fan of The Ninja so I've been intending to give the original a try for some time now and have, as you may have guessed, finally gotten around to it!

For those not familiar with the MS version, the game places you in control of the mysterious assassin of the title some time during Japan's Edo period (17th century-ish) with the aim of taking down an evil warlord and restoring peace to the land. With fire in your heart and nerves of steel (hopefully), it's your job to guide this heroic saviour through a number of unforgiving vertically-scrolling areas on foot, dispatching all the immediately-hostile enemy combatants (mostly other ninjas, as well as a few horses, naturally) who rush onto the screen at the appropriate moment or pop up out of their hiding places. Defeat the boss at the end (or 'top') of each stage and it's on to the next area, each of which poses its own unique challenge to test your mettle.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Game Art Gallery #1

The Bob Wakelin Collection - Not so long ago, shortly after the untimely passing of legendary artist Bob Wakelin, I rustled up a Top Five of what I felt were the finest examples of his game art. There were many pieces to choose from though, most of which will be fondly remembered by us 80's gamers who doubtless saw them in the pages of our favourite game magazines in the form of adverts, and in stores (or on our game shelves) as the covers of some games themselves.

It was genuinely tough to narrow it down to only five pieces though, so here is a fine gallery of what I believe to be all (or nearly all) of the skillish game advert/cover artwork he produced. Bask in the magnificence of his talent thus: