Saturday, 30 April 2011

MegaDrive Platform Games #2

James Pond: Underwater Agent (1991)
By: Millennium Interactive / Electronic Arts  Genre: Platform (kind of)  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 1,118,740
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn Archimedes

During the game mascot boom of the early 90's there was a big influx of potential new heroes for consideration by the gaming public. Many were spurred on by the huge success of Sonic but it was going on long before him too. There were lots of mostly rather implausible anthropomorphic creatures thrust into the spotlight and we ended up with a veritable Noah's Ark of odd candidates including a mouse, bat, elephant, possum, ant, squirrel, duck, bobcat, dog, bee and lord knows what else, but there's one who beat them all to the punch. And he was... a fish? Many of these odd platform hero wannabes would realistically found it difficult to clamber around the environments typical of a platform game but a fish doesn't even have limbs, nevermind the inconvenience of air in place of their more natural environment! The obvious answer would be to set the stages underwater, but would it even still be a platform game then?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Top Five Stallone Films

Poor old Sylvester Stallone has never had it easy really, has he? He might be a bit of a mumbling beefcake but that's far from the extent of his abilities. As well as being a surprisingly talented actor, he's also an accomplished screenwriter and director as well. Sure, he had a rough patch around the time of his ill-advised remake of Get Carter, but for most of his career a 'Stallone film' has been a near guarantee of entertainment and he's rarely disappointed.

I'm sure not everyone will agree with my choices here. Yes, some of the action films he's starred in such as Cobra, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, and Daylight are very enjoyable as well, and probably remain some of the films he's best known for, but most of them would potentially be just as enjoyable with a different action star in the lead role. The films that comprise this Top Five, however, are in my view the kind that Sly excels at and which wouldn't be quite the same with someone else starring...

5. Over the Top (1987)

A guilty pleasure of mine back in the day, this one, plus it's a favourite of my wife's so I'm honour-bound to include it! Sly plays the splendidly-named long-distance trucker, Lincoln Hawk, who spends his time entering arm-wrestling competitions for extra cash between trucking jobs. However, his wife, who he left a decade before, is now gravely ill so he soon finds himself lumbered with their son. Cue a father-son bonding road-trip punctuated by the odd arm-wrestling competition which offers the young boy ample opportunity to cheer for his old man, which of course culminates in a final confrontation with an old rival at the World Championships in Las Vegas. Sure, it's all pretty corny and predictable stuff but Sly makes you cheer for his down-trodden losers like no one else and I just can't help but enjoy this lesser-known example.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Game Gear Games #1

Halley Wars (1991)
By: Taito  Genre: Shooting  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear  First Day Score: 32,310
Also Available For: Famicom Disk System

Any geeks around my age probably remember the last appearance of Halley's Comet well. It was 1986 and the arrival of this celestial wonder in our skies was met with much fanfare and merriment, and with good reason - it was quite a sight. Fast forward a few hundred years, however, and its return on this occasion brings with it a rather unwelcome surprise. The armies of the conveniently-named Lord Halley are using the famous old comet as cover to launch an attack on the free peoples of Earth! I expect that raised a smile, but unlike most shmups (near enough every one ever released, in fact) this seemingly nonsensical premise does actually serve a purpose in the game, and it's a pretty darn good idea too!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Exploring the NES - Part 4

In my time as a gamer I've owned, or at least used, most of the major computers and consoles, but of the ones I haven't, I think the NES was the most seriously neglected. I'd like to think over the course of the last couple of months I've gone some way to making amends for that here at Red Parsley. With the help of some of my fellow bloggers I've tried and enjoyed many games for the system (although surprisingly still not some of the biggest names), with each instalment featuring the recommendations of one of them. This is the final part of the series and it features the games recommended by Bryan Ochalla (check out his great blog here). So, thanks, Bryan, here's how I got on with your recommendations! :)

Final Fantasy (1987)

Of course, I've heard this one mentioned infinity times over the years but, and this is a bit of an embarrassing admission actually - this is the first time I've played any Final Fantasy game! I did nearly get caught up in the hysteria surrounding the seventh game but the one that started it all off is a very different game, as you might expect. I've heard that it's not aged well and, although I haven't spent a huge amount of time with it yet, I think I've got a pretty good feel for the game and have to agree with that assessment. The graphics and music are quite nice but it's very basic as RPG's go. Of course, it was one of the first ones so it's nothing to hold against the game but to be brutally honest I just don't often have the time for games like this these days, as much as I'd like to. Still, it saved Square and was a smash-hit so I'll persevere for a while more out of respect...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Mobile Games #4

Bubble Shoot (2010)
By: SPElements  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: Nothing

There's a good few talented individuals out there making original, brand-spanking-new games for the various mobile platforms but it's only to be expected that there's also a good few rip-offs and rehashes of existing classics doing the rounds too. This is fine, of course, as long as no one's getting hurt as they say, and the best part is - most of them are free!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

MegaDrive Shmups #4

Kuhga - Operation Code Vapor Trail (1991)
a.k.a. Vapor Trail: Hyper Offense Formation
By: Data East / Telenet Japan  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 336,700
Also Available For: Arcade

I've played a lot of MD shmups. Back in the late 80's and early 90's they were probably the genre that occupied the most of my time and the console I spent the bulk of my time on was inundated with them. I guess the subsequent content here at Red Parsley reflects that to a degree but I've noticed that I still keep getting asked why this game, simply Vapor Trail to its fans, hasn't received any attention. The simple answer to that is - it's one that I've never played... that is, until now! I've never really been overly concerned with playing it due to the rather indifferent reception it received in the magazines of the day, but it's time to look past all that and give the game its chance to impress me. Who knows, maybe I'll even have to re-work the Top Five MegaDrive Shmups list...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Gaming Memories - Part 4

I loved my Master System. It was my first ever console and it's arguably still the system I have most affection for. My pivotal encounter with OutRun which led to my purchase of Sega's great console may have been the catalyst for my subsequent interest in videogames but I did have a few gaming experiences prior to those. Perhaps they failed to captivate me as much - I suppose I would've hassled my parents for a computer or console earlier otherwise - but I still look back on them fondly all the same. Here at Red Parsley I've already had a fond look back on some of my gaming experiences, but this time I'll be going way back to recall my first ever encounters with videogames.

My earliest memory of any videogame was when I visited my sister's friend's house. Here I found the friend's younger brother playing a curious black & white tennis-like game which I soon learned was called 'Pong'. I played it for a short while with him but wasn't especially taken by it, but I did leave thinking that his family were rich. Soon after this I went to stay with at my auntie and uncle's house for the weekend and soon discovered my cousin's prize possession - an Astro Wars game. Now this did interest me! I was instantly transfixed by its colourful Galaxian-style gameplay and noisy sound effects, so much so in fact, that I did precious little else that whole weekend than play Astro Wars. Even as my parents came to collect me I was still playing it in the car before reluctantly handing it back to my lucky cousin! This encounter led me to a brief flirtation with some similar arcade games of the day.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Overhead Racers #8

Enduro Racer (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1   Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 8
Also Available For: Arcade, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For:
Wii Virtual Console

Sega sure had a fine run of arcade hits in the mid-80's and perhaps the most popular of them were their 'Super Scaler' faux-3D games. This advanced technology was ideal for making racing games and many of those that appeared are now looked back on as classics, but one of them has seemingly been forgotten about. Poor old Enduro Racer isn't spoken about with such reverence as Hang On or OutRun nowadays, it's hardly spoken about at all in fact! It certainly isn't from a lack of availibility - it was converted to most home systems of the time, and fairly accurately too for the most part. One, however, saw a significant change, and ironically it was the one for Sega's own console...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Top Five NES Shmups

My previous Top Five Shmups features have so far been for systems I'm very familiar with and have used a lot over the years. Accordingly, I've compiled the lists based on my previous experiences with the systems in question, although with a view to re-doing them at a later date if any previously-unplayed games are discovered which deserve inclusion. As regular readers will know, however, I do not have much experience with the NES. In fact, before starting this feature, I'd never played a shoot 'em up on the old grey toaster. I've therefore had to start from the beginning and try out lots of shmups to find the best ones. I'm sure I missed a few good ones but here's what I found:

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. Section Z (1987)

I have distinct memories of this one being released to rather indifferent reviews at the time but I rather like it. It immediately reminded of Side Arms, and the two Capcom games do share a few features - both feature a flying spaceman holding a big gun which he can shoot forwards and backwards for example, but I found that this effort, which is actually the older of the two, has a few nice features that weren't carried over to the more famous game. For one thing it's made up of sixty stages! Admittedly they're pretty short ones but each ends at a transporter which lets you choose one of two next stages. Not all stages need to be cleared and some transporters will take you back to a stage you've already played but it's a great idea as it gives multiple routes through the game. Most other aspects of the game are good, if unspectacular, but I had a lot of fun with this one.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bomberman Series - Part 5

Bomberman a.k.a. Dyna Blaster (1990)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1-5  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 70,200
Also Available For: Sharp X68000, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, PC

The Bomberman series is a lot more extensive than many gamers realise but the style of game that most of us are familiar with today was born right here with this release. I remember being shown it briefly on a friend's Amiga, where it was known as Dyna Blaster, but it was years later I belatedly played it properly. This time I played it on the PC Engine and it was this system which many fans come to consider home for the series. Nearly all the characteristics which would go on to define the series became popular here starting with the appearance of our hero himself, White Bomber. Whilst being recognisable in some previous games, he never looked or moved as he should. Here, the endearing chap becomes the character we all know and love for the first time! However, no sooner has he gotten used to his new togs than his sibling, Black Bomber, has kidnapped the daughter of their creator!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Film Review #25

Moon (2009)
Director: Duncan Jones  Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (voice), Dominique McElligott, Rosie Shaw, Kaya Scodelario

Certificate: 15  Running Time: 97 Minutes

Tagline: "250,000 miles from home, the hardest thing to yourself"

I don't know what it is about science-fiction films but they seem to have a funny way of alienating certain people. I know a couple of people personally who won't even look in the direction of a film if they believe it has anything remotely to do with space. I suppose they narrow-mindedly assume that it'll be some far-fetched laser-blasting alien war type scenario and that they'll instantly become 'infected' by geekiness if they watch it. Genre prejudice or not though, some sci-fi can be pretty cringe-inducing I must admit, but it's not all like that. Many examples can be just as gripping and entertaining as any Earth-bound film and some don't even feature much of that scary 'space' stuff. Moon is one of these films.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cover Art: Master System - Part 1

I've always found it intriguing how dramatically cover art can vary from one territory to another, but in this new Red Parsley feature, I will take a look at a few comparisons. Can you guess which console I'm going start with?

Yes, that's right, the good old Master System! Some of you may have noticed that I feature Sega's fledgling console quite a bit here at Red Parsley. This is mainly because of my affection for it, being the first console I owned and all, but it's also a great little machine generally and I'm very happy to have tempted a few readers into giving it a go.

One thing the system was known for here in the UK, however, was the poor quality of its cover art, but until recently I've know very little about the Japanese version of the system, the Sega Mark III. Having done a bit of research recently it seems that, as is often the case, the Japanese versions of many of my Master System favourites received very different cover art to the versions I had...

Fantasy Zone: The Maze / Opa Opa (1987)
One of my favourite two-player games on the MS is one that actually had reasonable UK cover art as well. It demonstrates most aspects of the gameplay well enough, perhaps better than the Japanese cover which could see players mistake it for a platform game! The latter still looks better though and, importantly, shows the second player as well!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Awesome Nature #1

Golden Lion Tamarin
Type: Monkey  Lives In: Brazil  Conservation Status: Endangered

This distinctively-looking marmoset has long been a popular attraction at zoos and was always one of my favourites when I regularly visited Marwell Zoological Park when I was younger. In the wild they live only in the few tiny areas of Atlantic coastal forests that remain around the Rio de Janeiro region of Brazil. They are perfectly suited to this very specific kind of environment but since only 2% of their original habitat is remaining, they are now sadly at risk of extinction in the wild. They are typically around a foot long (30cm), not including their long tail, and spend most of their lives in trees where they live amongst thick vines which provide protection from the snakes, cats, and birds of prey who will kill them if they get the chance. They live in small groups and mostly dine on insects and fruit. Destruction of their habitat is also seeing numbers of this striking monkey fall and there are now only around 1500 left in the world.

Why They Are Awesome: Nearly all monkeys are awesome by default but just look at them!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #3

The Ninja (1986)
By: Sega  Genre: Run 'n' Gun  Players: 1-2   Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 78,900
Also Available For: Arcade, SG-1000

Ninjas are awesome, everyone knows that. The late 80's to early 90's saw their popularity in my part of the world peak and this naturally translated to the videogames market perfectly. There were many games based on their exploits released but most of these were side-viewed run 'n' gun style games. One of Sega's earliest offerings did things a little differently. It was similar in style to Capcom's Commando, which was released around the same time, but replaced the various soldiers with ninjas and other Japanese warriors, and like Commando was first released in the arcades. At this point the game was known as Sega Ninja but in Japan it went by the slightly more appealing name of Ninja Princess.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #2

Obitus (1993)
By: Psygnosis  Genre: RPG  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC

Right or wrong, certain systems are often known for one genre of game more than any other. You could say the SNES was most associated with Mode 7 or SuperFX games but for me it was RPG's. The MegaDrive had a few good ones but it couldn't compete with games like Terranigma, Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire, the Final Fantasy series, and of course A Link to the Past. If I know this, Psygnosis must've known it too, so they must've either been feeling brave or very confident to release this game on Nintendo's machine. At first glance it looks and feels more like an Amiga game so it's no surprise to find that it was originally! That's not necessarily a bad thing of course - the Amiga is home to some fantastic RPG's but are any of them really suited to what was at the time the flashiest console yet seen?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Top Five Tough Chicks

It takes a special kind of actress to convincingly pull off the role of a 'tough-chick'. Some, such as Michelle Rodriguez (one of my favourite actresses), are almost exclusively cast in such roles, and whilst it's clear she could beat the living crap out of any woman, and probably most men too, she doesn't actually do a great deal of arse-kicking in her films (not even in Girlfight). Others, such as Sigourney Weaver, particularly in her Ripley guise, prove themselves to be more than the helpless girly they initially appear and can rise to the occasion when needed.

However, the kind of female heroine that can not only take care of themselves but also lay waste to scores of bad guys whilst still looking good? That takes a special talent which goes beyond merely learning a martial art, sword-handling, or gun-play. They have to be good actresses, of course, but it's also an attitude or aura they project. You just know, even if they're only talking, that they could take out an entire room of sneering, gun-wielding goons in the blink of an eye and then continue chatting away as if nothing had happened. Some actresses look ridiculous trying to act tough, but for others it comes naturally. Here's my personal Top Five toughest:

Possible Spoiler Alert: this feature obviously assumes that you've seen the films in question so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5 - Trinity

The only lady on the list whose repertoire doesn't include a blade of some description, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) makes up for it by being more than proficient at pretty much everything else! Okay, she has the rather sizeable advantage of being able to upload new skills and combat techniques directly into her brain almost instantly which is probably the only reason she's not higher on the list. That's far from the only thing that makes her a genuine tough chick though. She's an efficient and very creative arse-kicker and I can't see anyone but Morpheus or Neo standing toe-to-toe with her for more than a second, but all that aside, she'd be worth including simply for "Dodge This!"...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

PC Engine Shmups #4

P-47 the Freedom Fighter (1989)
By: Jaleco / Aicom Corporation  Genre: Shooting  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 197,200
Also Available For: Arcade, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Whilst undoubtedly being a source of untold horror and sadness for a majority of the participants and their loved ones, the two World Wars (so far) have provided more than ample opportunities for video games, and specifically ones where you are charged with shooting stuff. Nowadays, of course, these are invariably realistic and complex First-Person Shooters with lots of intricate, 'proper' missions, squads to command, etc, but in the days of yore they were more often far simpler vehicular-based shmups. A majority of these were vertically scrolling ones such as Capcom's superb 194x series but P-47 is one of the few side-viewed offerings. Placing you in control of one of the USAAF's famed P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers, the object, predictably enough, is to single-handedly take down the German army and air force over Europe during World War Two. Sounds like a piece of cake...