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) :)

Shofixti

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:


Friday, 17 August 2018

Top Five Jennifers

Being something of a film fan (as well as certain types of TV shows) I noticed some time ago the surprising proliferation of actresses named Jennifer, going as far back as the 80's and perhaps beyond. I don't know too many Jennifers in real life - none, actually - so this struck me as a strange coincidence. Nonetheless, such is their prevalence I have occasionally given some thought to which of the many examples were my favourite. Behold, therefore, the fruits of my pointless musings:

5. Jennifer Carpenter

This is a Jennifer I have only recently discovered after watching Dexter all the way through, and her character of 'Deb' is easily one of the best in the show, even outshining Michael C. Hall's titular serial killer himself on numerous occasions. The talented actress brings many qualities to the character but, as fans of the show will already know very well, her most memorable moments are unquestionably thanks to her outrageous potty mouth! It's entirely possible that she's the sweariest character I've even witnessed in any TV show or film, which is quite an achievement when you think about it. Since then she has popped up here and there, mainly on the small screen and notably in the lead female role on the short-lived TV version of Limitless. Here's hoping we see more of her soon though.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

First Look PS1 #1

Akuji the Heartless by Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Interactive (1998) - PlayStation

It has been a while since I played a Tomb Raider-style adventure so I thought I'd have a quick look at this one. There are no English hotties with enormous boobs here though - instead I found myself in control of a scary voodoo dude who rather unkindly has his heart ripped out on his wedding day. That must've put a dampener on proceedings! He has one chance for happiness - traverse the realms of hell collecting souls. Gather enough he will be freed - probably just in time to save his better half too. This is where things become more familiar as our presumably-undead hero runs and leaps around the gloomy world that makes up the game's three main areas. I've only explored the first one so far which is rather dark and spooky, but it doesn't look as bad as one might expect hell to look. There are no rivers of lava or tortured souls to torment you anyway!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Computer Shmups #6

Fire Track (1987)
By: Aardvark Software / Electric Dreams Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: BBC Micro First Day Score: 98,380
Also Available For: Electron, Commodore 64


Not the most beautiful title screen ever...
While the BBC Micro might not be known in the retro community for shoot 'em ups (it's not really the first system to come to mind as far as gaming is concerned generally, I suppose), it did play host to a few, and one of the better known examples is probably Firetrack. It was programmed by Nick "Orlando" Pelling - known for Frak! among others - and takes the form of a spacey vertical scroller somewhat akin to the likes of Star Force. You, in command of a sleek attack craft, are charged with taking down eight mining colonies in the asteroid belt which have broken away from Earth. The ungrateful rapscallions certainly seem to have formidable defence capabilities for mere colonists though, with fleets of attack craft determined to put you down, as well, presumably, as any other Earth scum who pass by.