Monday, 30 March 2015

Currently Playing...

Neo Turf Masters by Nazca Corporation (1996) - Neo Geo

I try to cover a decent range of games and systems here at Red Parsley but I really don't feature enough Neo Geo games - it is after all regarded by many as the ultimate hardcore gamers' machine - so, only a few nights past, I decided it was high time I looked at another of its fine titles. This was not, however, Neo Turf Masters which, as long-time readers may be aware, I've already reviewed!

When gamers visit the Neo Geo it's most often for one of its fine fighting games or shmups, but the game I've spent most time with is this one. I'm probably the only gamer in the world that can say that but I don't care, I have always been very keen on arcadey golf games and, aside from the mighty Everybody's Golf series, this one has long been my favourite.

That makes it easy to get distracted by it when I'm meant to be looking into some new titles to review! It features Match Play and Stroke Play options for one or two players, four decent, similar-looking courses based in USA, Japan, Australia, and Germany to explore, and six golfers to do it with - but this stuff is all par for the course with golf games really (pun definitely intended - chuckle!).

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Puzzle Games #18

Be Ball a.k.a. Chew-Man-Fu (1990)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Puzzle / Maze Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 232,810
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Puzzle games can often be among the stranger titles hosted by their respective systems and this PCE release by Hudson is definitely no exception. A brief perusal of the American instructions (Be Ball is the Japanese version) reveals that 'the people have been deprived of their favourite foods - fried rice and egg rolls - by the evil Chew Man Fu'. To what end? Your guess is as good as mine, but luckily 'two feisty twin sisters' named LaLa and LingLing have bravely stepped up to 'turn the tables on the wrong-doers'. Jolly good then! Of course, as you probably already guessed, this is done by... moving four coloured balls around. Obviously. Each stage, you see, features four different coloured balls and four plates of matching colours. Your job is simply to move each ball to the corresponding plate before moving to the next. This may not be as easy as it sounds, however, especially when you learn that there are supposedly a somewhat bewildering 550 stages to battle through.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Busy Year Ahead...

Oh hey, how's it going chums? :) As some of you may have noticed, it's been a while since I've had a chance to post something here at Red Parsley. Well, you may have noticed I haven't posted anything for a while, at least, and that's because I haven't had a chance to (believe it or not), so I figured I'd take the opportunity to ramble on incoherently while I've got half an hour or so free.

Perhaps surprisingly, the lack of new posts of late isn't down to laziness either. Well, not just down to laziness anyway. As much as I'd love to do it for a living, blogging is strictly a part-time gig for me and has to be fitted around everything else that occupies my insufficient free time. Recent weeks in RKS Land have included a short period of illness, several birthdays, the acquisition (and subsequent use) of a new mountain bike (a rather fancy one too), and other time consuming pursuits, and the remainder of the year doesn't look like affording me a great deal of blogging time either. In just a few weeks my brother-in-law will be visiting my wife and I from Brazil for a month, and at the end of the summer we'll be taking a remarkably spiffing holiday to (muthafukkin) California too. Perhaps most detrimental to my blogging, however, is something that comes along ever year around this time - work.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sonic X-Treme... At Last?

I can’t really speak for any of my overseas friends but Sega’s poor old Saturn had a torrid time here in the UK. Among the many reasons given for its relative failure was the lack of a proper Sonic game. Sega’s hyperactive spiker had, after all, been a big factor in the success of the Mega Drive, and most Sega fans, some still reeling from the disappointment of the 32X, were expecting not only an amazing new console but also an amazing new game starring their hero. It did not arrive but, as many gamers know all too well, one was in development, and it looked pretty good.

Poor quality but shows the famous fisheye lens effect...
Sadly, after being besieged by all manner of problems, both technical and personnel-related, during the course of its (more than) two year development time, Sonic X-Treme was cancelled. Instead, us poor old Saturn owners had to make do with Sonic 3D Blast, a conversion of an isometric Mega Drive game, Sonic Jam, a compilation of Sonic's other MD adventures accessed via a rather limited 3D 'Sonic World' area, and Sonic R, a racing game starring our nippy blue hero along with a few of his friends. All three games were okay but definitely not what we were promised nor expecting. Over the intervening years, snippets of information and a few grainy screenshots from the failed project emerged which only compounded our frustration - it actually looked like it could've been really good! God damn Sega and the chaotic mess that followed their most successful period...

Monday, 9 March 2015

Top Five Will Ferrell Films

Until recently I thought Will Ferrell was pretty much universally regarded as one of the funniest men alive. Since leaving Saturday Night Live, nearly all his films were well received, he was featured on countless magazine covers, and he seemingly had the comedy world in the palm of his hand. In more recent years, however, that seems to have changed. Was he just a flash in the pan? Have the quality of his films dropped by that much? Or was he never really that loved to begin with? I suppose it's most likely a combination of all of those to varying degrees but I've definitely gotten the impression lately that he's something of a love/hate kind of actor.

Even though he's tried his hand at more serious roles (and he can actually act), he'll always be a comedian first and foremost, and I suppose his brand of immature idiocy may well be an acquired taste. Perhaps viewers have even gotten tired of it. I still find his antics mighty chortlesome though, and there's no doubt that he had a hell of a run during the 'noughties' when he and his fellow 'Frat Pack' alumni were lobbing their films out left, right and centre. Unsurprisingly then, it's from this period that all my favourite films of his come, and these are the five I enjoyed the most:

5. Old School (2003)

Although perhaps not specifically a 'Will Ferrell film', this amusing Frat Pack effort still gives him a starring role as Frank 'The Tank', one of three depressed friends who try to re-live their much-missed college days by starting a fraternity. Much partying and tomfoolery later and all seems to be going well, until the College Dean - and the victim of their bullying from their actual days at college - decides to try and kick them out, resulting in an attempt to prove that they are a real fraternity. Although his two friends (Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn) are probably more likeable characters, Ferrell unsurprisingly plays the most immature and idiotic of the three, and therefore gets the most laughs (including the famous streaking scene and a hilarious mishap with a tranquillizer-gun) but this is an enjoyable enough romp with some great scenes, and it's hard not to will-on the hapless trio despite the questionable nature of their endeavour.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

ColecoVision Round-Up #1

Well, it's been quite a while since I 'Explored' the ColecoVision - over 18 months now actually (oops!) - so I guess it's time I got around to checking out a few more of its games. Here are five I chose at random because I like their names :)

Space Panic (1983)

Unknown to many, this is actually a conversion of a very important and historic game, for the arcade version of Space Panic was the first ever platform game! Despite this iconic status though, I was never very keen on it so I didn't expect to like this either, but it's actually not bad. The object is to clear each single-screen stage of enemies by digging holes in the platforms, letting them fall in, and then filling in the holes. This is fairly easy at first - the tomato enemies are a bit dim and just walk straight into your traps - but the other two types take a bit more work to outwit! The number of them per stage also gets pretty hardcore before long and while you're digging holes for advancing enemies to fall into, others are approaching from behind. There's a time-limit, too, in the form of finite oxygen for our brave tomato-planting hero, so it can be a pretty hectic game at times, but appealing graphics and sound effects and superb controls make it a very enjoyable one as well. Good fun and surprisingly engaging for the first ever game of its type... 8/10

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mobile Games #8

Radiant (2014)
By: Hexage Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android First Day Score: 517,106
Also Available For: iOS, Windows Phone

Shoot 'em ups have surely proven to be one of the most enduring of the early game genres, but if there is one modern format they aren't really suited to it's that of touch-screen devices. Some do exist - quite a few actually - but I haven't been brave enough to try any of the more hectic ones yet. For my first I thought I'd try something a bit simpler, and as if my magic the next game I happened upon was Radiant which looked like fitting the bill superbly. It is most definitely a shmup, but one based more on the earliest form of the genre - the gallery shooter game (i.e. Space Invaders, Galaxians, etc). That doesn't seem like it should require a terribly complicated control system, and so seemed about as ideal for this format as any shmup could. Let's hope my vision proves to be correct...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Memorable Gaming Moments #1

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap by Westone / Sega (1989) - Master System

As was the case with many games, it was my good friend Luke who introduced me to the marvels of Wonder Boy III, which was also, in fact, my first such experience with any Wonder Boy game. That meant I was not aware at the time that it takes place immediately after the previous game, and it also meant I didn't know what was going on. All I knew was, after being handed the controller, I found myself with a young green-haired fellow before me, brandishing a sword and standing in a decidedly castle-like corridor while some dramatic music played. Venturing along this corridor led me to my first enemies which were easily vanquished courtesy of some swift slashes, and before long I had even reached my first boss - a somewhat metallic dragon who, in typical dragon fashion, seemed to enjoy bathing inferior beings in his fiery breath.

Friday, 27 February 2015

New Blog!

Yes that's right! As some of my longer-term readers may well already know, another subject I'm interested in besides video games and films is astronomy. I've posted a handful of related features here before but I know most of you come here for gaming-related stuff so I've kept them to a minimum. It remains a subject I'm very interested in though, despite being hopelessly ill-equipped to comprehend much of it, so I decided to create a separate blog just for spacey stuff.

It won't be updated as often as Red Parsley - I only have so much free time after all - but if you have any interest in the subject, I invite you to check it out now and then. Click here to see!


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Crap Games #8

Shadow of the Beast (1989)
By: Reflections / Psygnosis Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Master System, PC Engine CD, FM Towns, Lynx, Atari ST, C64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

If you could go back in time to the end of the 80's and took a stroll to your local computer retailer (and yes, those little independent shops did used to exist), there's a very good chance the window displays would include, amongst other things, an Amiga running Shadow of the Beast. Its release was very quickly followed by all and sundry heralding its wondrous audio/visual delights and, naturally enough, many shop keepers swiftly seized upon these qualities in an attempt to sell more Amigas. Who could blame them? It certainly made an impressive sight. Before too long, however, the game developed a reputation of being all style over substance. Some even called it a glorified tech-demo. Not that anything is wrong with tech-demos of course, they've been used to sell hardware since there has been hardware, but most of those aren't then put on sale as full games at about three times the price of a normal release...

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Film Review #75

Divergent (2014)
Director: Neil Burger Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Christian Madsen, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ansel Elgort

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 139 Minutes

Tagline: "What Makes You Different Makes You Dangerous."

The movie world has been seeing quite a number of war-ravaged Earths reinventing themselves in the last few years, or at least particular parts of our poor old planet anyway. Most recently we've had the districts and oppressive Capitol of Panem which have hosted some exciting adventures and a potential coup d'état, and now comes the first film adaptation of another trilogy of novels set in a not-entirely-dissimilar-looking world. Here, our precious home has been subjected to a vast, unspecified war - much was devastated and even the climate has been changed, to such an extent that lakes have dried up. The survivors live in what's left of downtown Chicago which has been sealed behind an enormous, all-encompassing wall, and here, society has been divided into five factions.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Collection Rarities #1

I don't have a tremendously large retro collection these days, much to my sorrow. There are several reasons for this including limited space, a video-game-hating wife, and this very blog (I spend a large portion of my gaming time on emulators grabbing screen shots), but I do still have a few decent items left. One of my favourites is rarest console I own - a 'Skeleton' Saturn, as they have become known.

As anyone into retro gaming knows well, Sega's Saturn was a fantastic system with stacks of top-quality titles available. Many of them were only released in Japan, however, which means any serious player or collector needs to either have their UK/US machine modified to play Japanese games, or go the whole hog and buy an actual Japanese system. As is often the case with our Far Eastern friends, there were several models of Sega's 32-bit powerhouse including one with white casing and another with grey casing, but by far the most interesting models to collectors are the so-called 'skeleton' Saturns which have smoky grey transparent casing, allowing you see the various bits and pieces inside. These were the final Saturns to be manufactured and came in two guises.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sega Super Scaler Games #3

Enduro Racer (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 1,617,848
Also Available For: Master System (variation), Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

When most gamers recall arcadey motorcycle games, or indeed Sega motorcycle games if you want to be more specific, they immediately think of Hang-On. Perhaps younger gamers might be more familiar with Manx TT Superbike, but one game that often seems to get forgotten is Enduro Racer, and that’s a bit peculiar. It is, after all, different enough from both of those games, and from anything else that was around at the time, to be worthy of remembering, surely? Well, I've only remembered it myself recently, and I was never fortunate enough to find the 'proper' version of it in any arcades to begin with - I enjoyed the Speccy version long ago and, as some of you may remember, I have already looked at the Master System version here at Red Parsley which was basically an entirely different (but decent) game - so I'm looking forward to giving this arcade original a try.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Hack 'n' Slash Games #3

Völgarr the Viking (2013)
By: Crazy Viking Studios Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Apple Mac, Linux, Xbox Live Arcade

The indie gaming boom of the last few years has given us lucky oafs more choice and variety than ever before. That can only be good news, of course, and I have taken particular delight in the many retro flavoured titles that have been steadily appearing lately. Some of them have been sequels/reboots, whether official or unofficial, while others have clearly been inspired by favourites from the past, and Völgarr the Viking definitely falls into the latter category. Völgarr is a great warrior who fell in battle 'to overwhelming numbers defending his homeland after slaying hundreds of adversaries.' His mortal life is restored by Odin, however, on condition that he rid the land of the terrible dragon Fáfnir who has been sowing chaos throughout the land of Midgard. If Odin is powerful enough to do that, it does make you wonder why he didn't just flick Fáfnir away himself though.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sega Model 1 Games #2

Virtua Fighter (1993)
By: Sega AM2 Genre: Fighting Players: 1-8 (via machine link-up) Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: MegaDrive, 32X, Saturn, PC, PlayStation 2

Though polygon graphics had been around for some years already, it was Sega’s seminal Virtua Racing that really kickstarted the gaming industry’s obsession with them. Though it may have merely been a glorified tech demo, it still proved to be a mighty enjoyable game as well. If the new technology was to evolve and achieve any sustained success, though, it needed to be proven by more than one game, so Sega soon cooked up another, and wisely went for a totally different kind of game too. The result was Virtua Fighter, a one-on-one fighting game born partly out of this need to show off the Model 1 board some more, but also no doubt due to the ongoing popularity of the genre prompted by Street Fighter II a few years before. Capcom’s game is a rather cartoony and unrealistic affair, of course, but Sega were aiming for more realism with their game to go with the more realistic graphics too.