Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Exploring the Neo Geo - Part 2

As an avid fan of arcade games it's inevitable I'll have played some Neo Geo games at some point. I did, however, miss out on many of the system's earliest releases owing to my allegiance to Sega's magnificent MegaDrive which was of course ousted as the most powerful home console by SNK's powerhouse (as well as arguably the SNES but that's a topic for another time). Still, time heals all wounds as they say, and here is where I've been taking a look at some of the very earliest games that were released on the Neo Geo hardware to see if they really were better than those available on my beloved MD. Four of the first five I looked at in 'Part 1' were decent enough and now I'll take a look at another five, including:

Fatal Fury (1991)

One-on-one fighting games are arguably what the Neo Geo brand is best known for so it's a wonder it's taken me this long to finally play one! Well, I've played a few before but this is still a first for Red Parsley! I believe this is one of the cheapest AES carts around and that's presumably because it's sequels are so much better, but I still enjoyed this original. I was surprised to find that only three characters are selectable but it still plays well enough in the same sort of way as the original Street Fighter 2 does compared to later games. The graphics and music are quite nice with each fighter's stage fairly memorable. The room for improvement is clear to see but it's a good start for the series and least it actually is one-on-one, unlike those stupid tag battles that tarnish many of the later incarnations. The absence of Mai is hard to get used to though...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

First Look PC #1

Kamui by SiterSkain (1999) - PC

After recently dipping my toe into the previously untested waters of doujin shoot 'em ups, I was immediately recommended this game which, as it turns out, is not free like many games of this type. So, pending purchase of the full game (which is rather tricky to find as I understand it), I'll take a look at this two stage trial version, and first impressions are very good. It's a Japanese game and even the menus and everything are in Kanji but it's not difficult to work things out, and the presentation is great. The game itself is a 'bullet-hell' vertical scroller (as many doujin games are) and has a nice visual style, looking a little like a SNES game with lots of sprite-scaling going on, and at the same time also looking like a modern shmup with millions of bullets all over the screen, giant battleships moving around, and lots of flashy weapon effects. There are few power-ups as far as I can tell but your ship does have an awesome rechargeable 'thunder cannon'. The action isn't particularly original but it is hectic, relentless and, more importantly, well-designed, with nice music and graphics. I'm not sure how much this fine game costs but Kamui is as good as many full-release shmups I've played. Give it a try if you haven't already!

RKS Score: 5/5

Download the two stage trial version here

Friday, 26 August 2011

Early Driving Games #4

Antarctic Adventure (1984)
By: Konami Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: MSX First Day Score: 26,190
Also Available For: NES, Game Boy, ColecoVision
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Okay, so it's not really a 'driving' game but this amusing little title does feature racing through its entirety. As you've probably already determined, however, it is not vehicle-based racing. No, the action here instead sees a fleet-footed penguin called Penta trying, for some reason, to circumvent our most southerly of continents by racing from one research station to the next. Penta went on to great fame, especially in Japan where he became Konami's mascot, and his first game is an interesting one. There are ten stages to challenge him, with the stations representing the various nations that lay claim to the icy continent, but the way between them is increasingly fraught with danger. The Antarctic is hardly the safest place in the world to begin with but the paths down which Penta must travel are littered with holes in the ice.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Master System Shmups #6

Quartet (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting / Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Arcade, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

In the late 80's when I was a proud owner of a Master System I only had a handful of games but I was immensely fond of them. Inevitably though, there were others I used to see in magazines that intrigued me and one of them was Quartet. So little did I know about it that, even until recently, I thought it was a platformer, but once again my humble little blog does its job and rights another of my oversights! Like many early Master System titles, this one was originally an arcade release which was released the previous year as a game that could be played by four players simultaneously. Finally getting around to playing this conversion, which supports only two players, reveals that, while it is a game that features some platforms, and you can walk on them, it's actually more of a shmup than a platformer.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Budget Games #5

Spiky Harold (1986)
By: Andrew Rogers / Firebird Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

He may have been a household name for many years now but Sonic wasn't the first hedgehog to star in his own game. Take this fairly well-known budget classic for example, which was released on the 'big three' 8-bit micros some five years before the blue blur first appeared. Harold is a much more traditional hedgehog than Sonic ever was though, for instead of taking on evil dictators and destroying machines of war, Harold is instead more occupied with gathering food for his winter hibernation. It is this vital survival process that forms the premise behind his game which takes the form of a flick-screen adventure where you must simply help Harold collect enough food to hibernate in peace and comfort. This is, however, easier said than done as you probably guessed!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Awesome Nature #5

Type: Forest  Lives In: Canada, Northern Europe, Russia  Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Nope, it's not an obscure way of spelling the largest cat's name. The Taiga is actually an entire biome largely made up of vast swathes of forest that stretch across the entire northern hemisphere from Alaska, across Canada, continuing on the other side of the Atlantic across Scandinavia and the entire length of Russia. As you might imagine, that equals an extremely large number of trees! Many of them are pines and conifers but there's also some broad-leaved varieties too. In total, the trees found here make up some 29% of the entire world's forest cover which consequently makes a huge contribution to the very composition of our atmosphere. It also means the Taiga supports a large number of plant and animal species so it's a vital ecosystem to preserve. Considering how much of the planet's surface it takes up, it's surprising how many people don't even know the Taiga exists, but now you do know, try to see it for yourself!

Why It Is Awesome: It changes the whole atmosphere!

The extent of the Taiga...

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Computer Platform Games #2

Switchblade (1989)
By: Core Design / Gremlin  Genre: Platform/Fighting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Atari ST  First Day Score: 9,240
Also Available For: Amiga, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Whether you love or hate Rick Dangerous, there´s no question that it was a memorable game. Anyone wanting more of the same would have to wait for its sequel which would arrive a year later, but released the same year as Rick's first adventure was this game. It's similar in looks and gameplay so it comes as so surprise to find that the same team was responsible for both games, but the setting has changed. This latter effort takes place ten thousand years in the future rather than the recent past, and it appears to be an anime-influenced future 'cyber world' called Thraxx where the Undercity is now ruled by the evil Havoc who has shattered the Fireblade and filled the city with his minions.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Crap Games #4

Greendog - The Beached Surfer Dude! (1992)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 271,000
Also Available For: Game Gear

At the peak of the game mascot craze it wasn't just sentient animals who got their chance to be heroes. This effort, starring the laid back 'surfer dude' of the title is very much an American take on the subject and it's a game I always remember as being crushingly average. Okay, so it didn't exactly get ripped to shreds by the critics of the day but I don't recall ever having heard it spoken about with much enthusiasm or affection either. It always seemed to me that it was a game that had potential but, in the end, might as well have never been made. I never played it for these reasons but it does look quite intriguing so it's time for the Crap Games series to return to the poor old put-upon MegaDrive and see what this thrill-seeking nincompoop can offer.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Puzzle Games #8

Clu Clu Land (1984)
By: Nintendo Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 14,780
Also Available For: Famicom Disk System, Game Boy Advance
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

For many years now, I've been highly intrigued by this game whilst simultaneously knowing almost nothing about it. I'm quite sure that it's the unusual name that grabbed my attention but perhaps it's time to learn some more about it. My first attempt yielded little of note so it's time to do some checking. Returning, armed with the necessary details, I have more luck and it turns out that the name isn't the only unique thing about Clu Clu Land. For those as clueless as me, it's an action/puzzle game starring a bubble fish called... umm, Bubbles. This creatively-named orange blob, who doesn't actually look much like a fish, must make her way through twenty single-screen stages spread over five levels which don't appear to be submerged in water. Each stage is timed, viewed from overhead, and features a grid-like layout. Nothing too strange there, you might think, and you'd be correct.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

PC Engine Platform Games #3

PC Kid a.k.a. xC Genjin, a.k.a. Bonk's Adventure, a.k.a. BC Kid (1989)
By: Atlus / Red Company / Hudson Soft Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 64,470
Also Available For: Arcade, NES, Game Boy, Amiga
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

I suppose I can only cover PC Engine platform games here for so long before I get to this famous rock-head who rose to prominence as the mascot for NEC's mighty console, but he actually started life as a comic character in a Japanese games magazine. His popularity swiftly enabled his promotion though, and the result has come to be known by a good few names including PC Genjin (this Engine version), Bonk (American TurboGrafx versions), BC Kid (Amiga), FC Genjin (Famicom), GC Genjin (Japanese Game Boy release) and so on. However, the name I was always most fond of was perhaps the only combination of letters known to man that wasn't an official name - PC Kid! This is the nickname the Japanese games received, at least here in the UK, and it's the only name I've really known the slap-head by, but his series of games is one that I'm ashamed to have never properly played. Until now.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Top Five Mafia Films

It's been around for a long time now but the Mafia, Cosa Nostra, Mob... whatever you want to call it, is still a fascinating subject to most of us. Of course, the closest a vast majority will get to it is through the films, TV shows, books, etc, offered by some talented individuals. Some of these are fact, some are fiction, but most are a mixture of both. Regardless of their accuracy, the subject is one which is both entertaining and tantalising. After all, not many of us enjoy being "an average nobody and having to live their lives like a schnook". There have been many superb films on the subject but these are my personal favourites. Incidentally, if anyone else has others in mind, let me know. Maybe I haven't seen them!

5. Bugsy (1991)

This is the film I've seen most recently out of the five on this list and it was one I enjoyed a lot. As is often the case, it's based on a true story and follows the story of New York mobster, Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty), and his attempt to transform Las Vegas from a dusty little town into the 'Entertainment Capital of the World' that we now know (and love?). Of course, it takes some sizeable liberties, including the omission altogether of the man most responsible for setting everything in motion, but it's still a superbly scripted film with great performances by Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, and lots of others. There's not as much killing or racketeering as many other films of the type so even the missus might enjoy Bugsy!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Doujin Shmups #1

Storm Caliber (1999)
By: S.S.P. Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 19,484,280
Also Available For: Nothing

Hello and welcome to another new feature here at Red Parsley! I've been meaning to take a look at some 'doujin', or fan-made shmups for quite some time but it's not a scene I know a great deal about yet so please bear with me if you'd be so kind. But what made me start the feature now, you ask? Well, upon the recent acquisition of a new laptop, I was tidying up my existing PC to prepare for a back-up and transfer of data. I had a quick look in the 'games' folder, which I seldom venture into, and a folder called 'Storm Caliber' caught my eye. Strangely, I don't even remember putting it there but I gave it a try anyway. I didn't even realise it was a shoot 'em up at this point but it wasn't long before it had ensnared me.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Commodore 64 Games #1

Paradroid (1985)
By: Andrew Braybrook / Hewson Consultants Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 1,275
Also Available For: Atari ST, Amiga, Archimedes
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Well, I suppose it's time I got around to reviewing some Commodore 64 games here at Red Parsley. My unfamiliarity with the system makes choosing one something of a 'lucky dip' though, so how do I choose? Most of what I know about this game is a result of the coverage the remake that appeared on the 16-bit computers received in my favourite magazines of the day. This C64 version is the original though, and many fans would insist that it's still the best, so let's see what the fuss is all about. The game is apparently set on a fleet of spaceships, each of whose various decks, which are viewed from overhead, are populated by lots of droids which have been turned hostile by some malevolent asteroids. It's therefore your job to destroy them. Sounds simple enough!

Friday, 5 August 2011

SNES Shmups #2

Syvalion (1992)
By: Toshiba-EMI / Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 448,390
Also Available For: Arcade, Sharp X68000

Considering how many shoot 'em ups have been made over the years, it's a little strange how few of them put you in control of anything other than a generic spaceship or plane/helicopter. One of the coolest alternatives must surely be a dragon and it's this mythical creature that takes centre stage here with Syvalion. Taito aren't the first to try it of course - Namco gave us the rock-hard Dragon Spirit a few years before and Jaleco offered the thoroughly delightful Saint Dragon too, and it is the latter that Syvalion is more similar to. This is primarily because they are both viewed from the side, as opposed to Namco's vertically-scrolling effort, and they also both feature a highly manoeuvrable metallic dragon (which I suppose defeats the object somewhat) but it's here that the similarities end.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Film Review #31

Unstoppable (2010)
Director: Tony Scott Starring: Denzil Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Lew Temple

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 98 Minutes

Tagline: "1 million tons of steel. 100,000 lives at stake. 100 minutes to impact."

There's been a few films like this one recently. By that I mean ones with generic, meaningless names that do little to inspire interest, mainly because they tell you nothing about the film. Most of them are stupid action films whose directors seem to think that no one will notice the glaring absence of story or acting if they throw in enough explosions or fighting or something. However, this particular film, which came to me by way of a gift, could perhaps show me that I shouldn't be so judgemental. That said, there's not a great deal of plot here either but since it's based on a true story it's not their fault this time, and they've got a great cast to fall back on too. As is often the case, the emphasis is very much on the 'based on' part here but it's a story which was always going to be ripe for Hollywood treatment.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #5

Virocop (1995)
By: Graftgold / Renegade Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 69,550
Also Available For: Nothing

Imagine if in the future it was possible to take holidays without leaving the comfort of your own home. This concept has been explored in films before, such as Total Recall, but in games? I don't know actually but that's exactly what forms the basis for this game. Virocop was released late in the Amiga's life and until recently my only experience with it was via a magazine cover-disc demo. I remember liking it a lot but I only had one stage to try out so I've been meaning to delve more deeply into it for years now. The story is actually quite detailed but it involves a virtual game park which has been invaded by many viruses. Sent in to clear the park so virtual holidays can resume in peace is not just a Virocop but the very best Virocop of them all - D.A.V.E.