Thursday, 29 April 2010

Music #1

Accidental Music Discovery!

My affection for Japan isn't just restricted to their videogame industry. The country has a rich and fascinating history and culture, of course, but I also have a fondness for their food, anime, music, and cinema too, and it is a combination of the last two that led me to discover this piece of music. One of my favourite Japanese movies is Azumi, a story of a group of assassins attempting to kill off warmongering rivals to their leader. Aya Ueto (pictured) plays the best of the assassins and looks right at home kicking everyones's arse (or rather, slicing them up with her sword!), something which belies her petite and dainty nature. After discovering her in this film and its sequel, I discovered that she is also a J-Pop singer. Since then I have been trying to find some of her music, but to no avail. After searching BeeMP3 for one of her songs, the only thing I could find is the song titled 'Aya', below. After listening to it, I think it's safe to say it's not a J-Pop song, and is almost certainly not anything to do with the lovely Aya Ueto either - I've no idea who it's by, where it's from - but it was a pleasant surprise! Now, I'm not usually into this kind of music, but give it a listen and see what you think! In the meantime, my search for Aya Ueto's elusive music continues. Anyone?

aya - Aya - Aya .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Crush Series - Part 2

Devil's Crush (a.k.a. Devil Crash) (1990)
By: NAXAT Soft Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 18,756,300
Also Available For: MegaDrive / Genesis
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

If you cast your mind back to the first time you noticed pinball videogames, there's a good chance you'd think of this game. Digital Illusions had some success in the early 90's with the realistic but playable Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies, and sure, Alien Crush was popular, but it was this sequel, which arrived approximately two years later, which really got the genre noticed among the console gaming fraternity. Brought to us by Naxat again, the basic premise is obviously very similar to before. Instead of the evil aliens from the first game, however, this game is based, perhaps somewhat controversially, on the occult! The main table, for there is only one again, is three screens high this time, medieval themed, and is crawling with hordes of satanic demons, dragons, and monsters beyond description!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Game Music #1

Star Control 2 - The Precursors Remixes

Anyone who's played the awesome Star Control 2 (a.k.a. Ur-Quan Masters) will be familiar with the high quality of its audio. Not just music, but many fantastic and memorable sound effects, and hours of speech from the game's various races too. But, yes, the music was particularly grand and has been a permanent fixture on my Cellphone/MP3 Player. Whether it's making the long journeys across hyperspace more interesting, increasing the already prevalent feeling of fear when the pack of anonymous ships chasing you turns out to be a fleet of Kohr-Ah Maruaders intent on 'cleansing' you, filling you with a sense of determination as you face enemies in battle, or making you feel like a pioneering explorer as you discover new planets in the furthest corners of the galaxy, all the music in Star Control 2 is fantastically composed, atmospheric and suits the situation it's used for perfectly.

Overhead Racers #1

Super Sprint (1986)
By: Atari Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-3 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: NES, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

The overhead viewed racing game certainly didn't start with Super Sprint - the genre goes right back to the ancient pre-microprocessor, black and white games of the 70's - but it does share their lineage and today remains possibly the most fondly remembered example of this all but dead genre. In the eighties and early nineties, there were a lot of these games around. Some were variations on Super Sprint, such as Super Off Road, others experimented with games that only showed a small part of the course at once, such as Motoroader for the PC Engine and, of course, the popular Micro Machines series which required lightning reactions by the player, and there were some which were viewed from an isometric viewpoint like Rock 'n' Roll Racing for the SNES.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Top Five Chocolate Bars

After a brief hiatus, I have recently regained my enthusiasm for eating lush chocolate bars and have been eating far too many lately, much to the benefit of local clothes shops. To that end, however, here is my top five favourite at the moment:

A long, thin, caramal flavoured bar, this isn't strictly speaking a chocolate bar, but retains its status thus on account of its size, shape, and the fact that it's sold alongside all the more traditional bars. Caramacs have become increasingly rare, at least near me, and those that have been found appear to lost the bargain price tag they once held. Nonetheless, they remain a delightfully sweet snack. I wish they'd bring back the yellow foil wrapper though...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Thunder Force Series - Part 2

Thunder Force (1984)
By: Tecno Soft   Genre: Shooting   Players: Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC-98 
Also Available For: NEC PC-88, NEC PC-6001 Mk II, Sharp X1, Sharp MZ-1500, Fujitsu FM-7

During the course of my long struggle to finally see and play the original Thunder Force game for the PC-88, I saw some screenshots of the PC-98 version, which appeared to have fancier graphics, so I decided it might be a good idea to include that version in this feature too. I soon regretted it, of course. This turned out to be even harder to get to play than the the PC-88 version! However, after a long and arduous struggle, fraught with many problems, and once again with the help of some splendid fellows from the Retro Gamer forum, I managed to get it running.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Crush Series - Part 1

Alien Crush (1988)
By: NAXAT Soft Genre: Pinball Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version:
NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 11,173,400
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Pinball has diminished in popularity a great deal since the advent of videogames, and pintables are now rarely seen anywhere but decent sized arcades and specialist retro establishments, but thanks to the entertainment medium that saw their demise, they can continue to live on! Which brings me, in a typically long-winded RKS stylee, to Alien Crush. I’m a bit of a pinball fan and I frequently venture into my local pizza restaurant, which is the only place for miles that still has any pintables, but pinball videogames, in my view, too often tried to accurately emulate proper pintables rather than taking advantage of the fact that they are no longer governed by the sometimes-restrictive rules of pintables. That is until Alien Crush came along.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Film Review #1

(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Marc Webb Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Chloe Moretz

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 91 Minutes

Tagline: "Boy Meets Girl. Boy Falls In Love. Girl Doesn't"

I'm sure we've all been in the uneviable situation that faces Tom (Gordon-Levitt - 10 Things I Hate About You) in this unconventional rom-com from Marc Webb - that being, his unrequited love for new work colleague, Summer (Deschanel - Yes Man, Failure To Launch). He is attracted to her immediately upon meeting her, a new employee at the greeting card company at which he has an unfullfilling job, but thinks her out of his league. That is until a chance encounter in the office elevator which reveals they have the same taste in music (in this case, The Smiths). And so begins their relationship, building slowly from friendship. But will she ultimately feel the same way as Tom?

The story is told over the titular 500 days, which indicates the period of time since Tom met Summer. They are not followed in any order and the films flits backwards and forwards between them showing at the one end, the good times as the new couple enjoy drunken karaoke sessions, a magical Ikea adventure, and long blissful conversations about nothing in particular, and at the other end, Tom's broken heart and moping around after their breakup.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Thunder Force Series - Part 1

Thunder Force (1984)
By: Tecno Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC-88
Also Available For: NEC PC-98, NEC PC-6001 Mk II, Sharp X1, Sharp MZ-1500, Fujitsu FM-7

Yes, this is the title screen in all its glory!
It has long been my intention to cover entire game series' from start to finish here, in addition to odd games, so to satisfy my own curiosity I thought I'd start with this classic and much heralded series of shooters. Pretty much all Mega Drive fans are already more than familiar with the series, no doubt, with the second game being one of the better launch titles for the console here in the UK, and the stonking third and fourth games remaining particularly popular among shoot 'em up fans, but what of the original game from which the others evolved? Before the days of the internet it was a complete mystery to me; I had heard many conflicting rumours but no definitive details and had certainly seen no screen shots, so solving this mystery seemed like a great place to start my humble blog.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Top Five Lady Gaga Outfits

Every time someone like this comes along, I usually take an automatic disliking to them. I don't know why. Perhaps it's a fear of being 'one of the flock', i.e. liking things, or pretending to like things, just to be fit in or be popular, leading in turn to a natural resistance to 'cool' and 'trendy' things. More than that though, most of these trends are generally so stupid I can't understand how they became popular to start with! Often, one of the biggest indications that someone/something 'new' has come along is that crappy tabloids like The Sun start saturating coverage of them. And so it was with Lady Gaga. She'd been all over the tabloids, gossip magazines, and TV for many months before I heard any of her music, so it came as a pretty big surprise when I finally did, that she's actually pretty good!

Songs like Paparazzi, Poker Face, Bad Romance, and Just Dance are catchy and infectious numbers in themselves, but Ms Gaga isn't just about the music, oh no. She's like a one-woman circus, and, ridiculous or not, her costumes have started making bigger headlines than her music! It's strange too. Based at least partly on them, I always assumed she would be one of those loud-mouthed, obnoxious, profanity-spewing 'rock stars', but she her image apparently belies her demeanour. On a rare occasion I saw something on TV, I saw her accepting an award of some sort, and she's actually (or appears to be) a humble, softly-spoken, gracious lady. It's so annoying seeing some of these stars trying their hardest to be all 'rock & roll', so it was a nice, refreshing change to see how she is. However, those outfits of hers do defy belief sometimes. She's actually pretty attractive, but you wouldn't guess it from some of the things she wears. She must spend all of her earnings having them made! When 'researching' this Top Five, I found more than 25 costumes of hers you could at least call 'unorthodox', but here are my five favourites:


Sunday, 4 April 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 5

It's been a pretty busy last week or so here in RKS Land, so sorry for no posts for a while. I have decided in the intervening days that I should expand my Top 30 Favourite Games to a Top 50. I've simply thought of too many great games that would have to be left out of a Top 30! So, as the five games I'm posting here bring the total so far to 25, I think I'll take a break from the favourite game list for a while and try to establish some of my other planned types of posts. So, tomorrow (hopefully!), will be the first of my silly Top Five lists! In the meantime, here's the next five of my Favourite Games...

Gradius - PC Engine (1991)

Or Nemesis, to use its correct UK title, but I always preferred the Japanese name. Regardless of what you call it, no one can deny the effect it has had on the genre it helped to define. Some say it was the first shoot 'em up to feature power-ups; others claim it was the first to feature end-of-level-bosses. It certainly had unique and creative stages for such an early game. The PC Engine version is my favourite and is almost arcade-perfect. In fact, it even has a whole extra level and an awesome remixed soundtrack! For a while, the Speccy version was the only one that I'd played, and, based on that version, I steered clear of others. However, when I got it for free with my PC Engine, I figured I'd give it another try, and I'm pleased I did! Whilst very tough going, and suffering from a bit of slow-down when things get busy, it's a supremely playable shooter and features lovely crisp graphics, great music, and enough variety and hectic shooting action to keep any fan happy for a good while!