Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Gaming Memories - Part 3

Soon after arriving home from the family holiday mentioned in 'Gaming Memories Part 1', I was suddenly obsessed with the videogames I had previously had little interest in. Chief among my obsessions was the amazing OutRun. It wasn't long before I discovered that this 'Sega' company who made OutRun also had available a home console, much like the Atari VCS I had briefly flirted with at a friend's house. After some investigation I found that there were three variants available - the Master System, the Master System Plus, and the Super System.

Apparently this flashy-looking box of tricks also had some flashier-looking accessories. Namely, the 'Light Phaser', which, excitingly, looked like a blaster from Star Wars, and the '3D Glasses' which looked cool even before I found out what they were for. The basic Master System pack was just the console with a control pad and a built in-game. The Master System Plus also came with the Light Phaser and featured an additional built-in game. Lastly, included with the Super System was both the Light Phaser and 3D Glasses, and a built-in game that took advantage of both. Naturally, I decided I wanted the latter! The day I found all this out was an exciting one. I stayed up all night trying to work out how I could have this great console. I didn't want to wait for Christmas, I wanted it straight away!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Platform / Puzzle Games #3

Circus Lido (1991)
By: Unipost Company Ltd Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing

I've always been a big fan of these so-called platform/puzzle games despite seldom being very good at them, so I'm always happy to discover a new one, and this is a pretty obscure one! I've been able to find out very little about it but it appears to be a Japan-only release which could go some way to explaining that. As you probably hadn't guessed from the somewhat peculiar title, the star of the game is actually a little chameleon who goes by the name of Leon. Under your control, it's his job to clear each of the single-screen stages of insects. To do this, he must lick them up with his long sticky tongue, carry them one at a time to the deadly (not to mention hungry) carnivorous plants that also populate the stages, and then proceed to regurgitate them so the plant can eat them! The insects are of course scattered around the screen in some awkward corners which necessitates our hero clambering around the many platforms. The only problem here is that he can't jump!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Puzzle Games #3

Baku Baku Animal (1996)
By: Sega  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn  First Day Score: 17,250
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Master System, PC

After the unprecedented success of Tetris, a good few companies jumped on the 'falling block' puzzle game genre, and one of the biggest offenders was Sega. After buying the rights to Columns, it soon snapped up Puyo Puyo too. None of these addictive games, however, was to appear on their new Saturn console - not outside Japan at least - so Sega gave us another option, and quite an original one it was too! The King (of somewhere) is apparently looking to hire a zookeeper to look after the animal-mad Princess's pets! The game is basically a test at a job interview. If you win, you'll get offered the job! Like the games before it, the action takes place on a single screen divided vertically down the middle. Player one controls the action on the left, and player two or a CPU opponent controls the right. As is usually the case with games like this, the concept behind the gameplay is a simple one. Sets of two blocks drift down the screen, one after another. Pictured on each single block is either a food or an animal. All you have to do is match the food with the animal that eats it!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Top Five 3DO Games

The poor old 3DO was hardly a run away success, was it? It was released during a difficult period. Change was coming, but not quite ready to be embraced by the gaming public. The fact that it cost as much as a car didn't help matters either, of course! Consequently it doesn't have the biggest of software libraries. With this in mind, instead of doing a genre-based Top Five for some of its games, I have little choice but to simply select the five best games on the system from all genres. Behold:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Return Fire (1995)

Released somewhat belatedly as a sequel to the popular Amiga strategy shooter, Fire Power, this fiendishly addictive game was among the best the 3DO could offer for two-player thrills. The move from Fire Power's overhead viewpoint to a slightly angled 3D perspective was slight but Return Fire looks a lot prettier, and it retained and expanded upon its prequel's enemy-flag-capturing fun. There are four vehicles you can employ to capture your enemy's flag - tank, jeep, helicopter, and an armoured missile launcher - and each is accompanied by it's own classical music! There are a good few stages, or 'maps', to battle through here, but the game was also later supplemented by a 'data disc' called Maps O' Death which contained 100 new stages too. Return Fire is good fun for the solo-gamer, and I've spent a lot of time playing it by myself, but it was always intended as a two-player game, and in this capacity it's one of the most enjoyable games I've played.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

F-Zero Series - Part 2

F-Zero Grand Prix 2 (1997)
By: Nintendo EAD  Genre: Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Super Famicom Satellaview  First Day Score: 23,900
Also Available For: Nothing

You know, it can be really frustrating, but Japanese gamers so often seem to get a much better deal than European, or even US gamers, frequently receiving extras that the rest of us have to do without. A good example of this was the Satellaview system for the Super Famicom (SNES). Looking much like the proposed SNES CD-ROM add-on, the Satellaview was a device that allowed Super Famicom owners to download updates for some of their games, or even new games altogether. They were usually released in weekly installments, and one of the highest profile games to receive the Satellaview treatment was the mighty F-Zero. Initially, a limited 'remix' of the original game was released in several installments via the service, but before long a 'proper' sequel became available too.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Film Review #12

Sunshine Cleaning (2008)
Director: Floria Sigismondi Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Jason Spevack, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins Jr

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 91 Minutes

Tagline: "Life's a messy business"

There are a few films that, rather than ease you in with a plot-teasing hook, instead go for the explosive opening to drive home a point. This is one of those films. The point it demonstrates? That death can be messy! The film opens with a normal, middle-aged, respectable-looking white guy who, after spraying breath freshener in his mouth, calmly walks into a gun shop of the type that are so prevalent in the US, asks to see a specific type of shotgun, and proceeds to spray the contents of one of its shells into his mouth as well. The resulting mess, we learn with the help of police detective, Mac (Zahn), is hard and time-consuming to clean up. Enter sisters, Rose (Adams) and the younger Norah (Blunt). The former is a single-mother and part-time cleaner who life hasn't really worked out for, and the latter is a lazy waster who hasn't really tried to work out life.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

3DO Games #2

BattleSport (1995)
By: Cyclone Studios / 3DO  Genre: Future Sports  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: 3DO
Also Available For: Saturn, PlayStation, PC

Future sports games have been around a good while now, but it's a funny genre. It's bound by practically no rules, unlike most 'real' sports games, and so has almost limitless potential. Imagine the possibilities of not only creating a new sport from scratch, but having it use technology that hasn't even been invented yet! There's almost nothing that you couldn't incorporate, realistic or not. So how is it most of them suck ass? There are a few exceptions, of course, such as Speedball 2 (although I never got into it personally) and others, but the genre has few offerings of note. BattleSport, for a short time a 3DO exclusive, was one of the first to try things in 3D, but did it work?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Run 'n' Gun Games #1

Atomic Runner a.k.a Chelnov (1992)
By: Data East  Genre: Run 'n' Gun  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Arcade, X68000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Having recently looked at an 'on foot' vertical scrolling shmup in Elemental Master, this seems like a good opportunity to look at a horizontally scrolling game of the same type, and it's a game that got off to a some- what dubious start. Originally released as an arcade game titled Chelnov in 1988, it seemed to take its inspiration from the Chernobyl nuclear incident! After surviving a catastrophic explosion at a nuclear power plant, Chelnov, a coal-miner, finds himself highly irradiated and the recipient of some new abilities. Seeking to harness his new abilities for their own questionable ends, an evil organisation attempts to capture him. In order to evade their clutches, Chelnov must fight, using his abilities to defeat the organisation. Needless to say, this story didn't really go down too well, particularly in light of the game featuring Soviet iconography too!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bomberman Series - Part 1

Eric and the Floaters (1983)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 1,240
Also Available For: Nintendo NES, MSX, Sharp MZ-700, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-88

A very informative title screen...
There can't be many people that haven't played a Bomberman game at some time or another. The series has gone through many iterations and changes over the years, some good, some bad, but if you asked the average gamer, you'd probably get nothing but praise for the series. Known primarily as crazy multi-player extravaganzas, the Bomberman games are a curious mixture of action and strategy and are among the most widespread of any game series, appearing on pretty much every system ever made, and most of them are fantastic fun too! The series now numbers over 60 games, but where did the it originate? Many gamers would probably count the first PC Engine game to be the origin of the series. However, while this release and its sequels may have popularised the series, they weren't the first. More astute gamers may even name the NES version as being the first, but even this wouldn't be correct. As hard as it is to believe, the genesis of the great Bomberman series was a Speccy game called Eric and the Floaters!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Top Five Pasta Shapes

I'm pretty sure there can't be many people out there who don't like pasta. I'm a huge fan, which could be why I have a huge waistline, and as long as it's not desecrated with disgusting cheese of any kind I'll rarely turn it down. There is, however, a great variety in the shapes that pasta comes in and this can be instrumental in its preparation and enjoyment. I expect everyone has their favourite shapes/styles. Here are mine:

5 - Spaghetti

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Budget Games #3

Deviants (1987)
By: Players Software Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 57,360
Also Available For: Nothing

After recently playing Impossible Mission as part of my 'Exploring the Commodore 64' piece, I found myself remembering this little-known Spectrum budget title. Although it was a proper budget release, I originally received on a cover-tape provided by the ever-kind chaps at Sinclair User, which was nice as I probably wouldn't have discovered it otherwise! So what has it got in common with the much more famous Impossible Mission? Well, besides both being flick-screen platform games, they both feature puzzles that I can't work out how to solve! In the case of Deviants, the prologue explains that the titular race have been confirmed as the source of an attack on a colony world, 'Krause'. A squad of 'Star Warriors' were sent to the asteroid from which the attacks originated to plant thirty bombs. However, their mission was only a partial success - they planted the bombs, but were killed before they could arm them. So, it's your job to make your way through the asteroid complex and arm the bombs.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Film Review #11

The Runaways (2010)
Director: Floria Sigismondi Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Riley Keough

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 106 Minutes

Tagline: "It's 1975 and they're about to explode"

The 70's must've been a fascinating time to live. Granted, I saw some of its years but I was far too young to notice anything much and had to discover it all later on. Among these things was music. A lot of music. The decade is now remembered for many reasons but one of the prevailing legacies of the 70's is not only the number of talented musicians to emerge, but also the amount of innovation and new styles that appeared. The end of the decade is probably most famous for the punk explosion but their preceding years were also notable. I'm sure pretty much everyone has heard of Joan Jett but I for one was far less aware of the band in which she previously performed - The Runaways.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Master System Shmups #1

Fantasy Zone (1986)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Master System  First Day Score: 9,100
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, MSX, X68000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Love them or loathe them, videogame mascots were big business in the 80's and 90's. Every system needed one and most of them received one too, for good or ill. Well, they did until ultra-violent First Person Shooters became the staple of each machine's lineup, at least. Anyway, Sega is best known to most for Sonic, but before they conjured up that pesky blue hedgehog they tried out a couple of other potential characters. One of them was Opa-Opa, a curious sentient spaceship type of creature. He didn't last long as head mascot though - Sega soon switched their attention to Alex Kidd before he too was forgotten, but Opa-Opa is an endearing little chap all the same whose games remain fondly remembered today. This is the first.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Top Five PC Engine Shmups

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any PCE shmups in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don't appear in this Top Five because I hadn't played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Image Fight (1990)

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. Okay, I guess it's not quite as innovative or distinctive as R-Type, and it's not the flashiest shooter ever either. The graphics aren't particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it's possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

MegaDrive Shmups #2

Elemental Master (1990)
By: Techno Soft  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 145,770
Also Available For: Nothing

If you mentioned the name Techno Soft to, say, ten retro gamers, it's a safe bet that at least nine of them would reply with the words Thunder Force, with the remaining reply possibly mentioning Dragon's Fury or perhaps even Herzog Zwei. I'm confident, however, that none of them would mention this game, and that's both odd and a bit of a shame for it's a little known but far-from-shabby vertical-scroller that is well worthy of anyone's time. Having owned the Japanese version since it came out, though, I've never been too sure about the story, but it was quite clear that it was set in a world about as far removed from Thunder Force's futuristic space battles as possible, with this conflict being waged over ground by sorcerers wielding magical arts, not to mention hordes of mindless-yet-malevolent evil minions they've managed to summon to their cause!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Shinobi Series - Part 1

Shinobi (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Platform/Fighting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 74,610
Also Available For: Sega Master System, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade

Ninjas are cool. Everyone knows that, it's just one of those facts everyone automatically accepts. These masters of stealth have many abilities beyond the use of martial arts and the awesome weapons they employ, not least their magical abilities which include invisibility, teleportation, shapeshifting, command over birds and beasts, and various others. How could they not rule? In the 80's they became popular in the West thanks largely to their depiction as mysterious yet highly skilled warriors, either good or bad, in various low-budget films such as the classic American Ninja. Inevitably various videogames followed soon after, although on this occasion with good reason - ninjas characters are ideal to build a game around, and there were many superb offerings. One of the earliest and most popular was the intriguingly-named Shinobi.