Saturday, 29 December 2012

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again and, although I'm a bit late in saying so, I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! This is now the third 'festive season' since I started Red Parsley and, unlike last year when I was in Brazil for a month, this year I'm spending it all at home. For that reason, I didn't bother 'saving up' any features or reviews to post over the holidays like last year as I assumed I would have time to write some. This has turned out to not be the case as a few regular readers here have noticed! As well as spending time with my lovely wife, we actually have some friends staying with us which has been really nice but has also unexpectedly deprived me of any blogging time I might otherwise have had!

Helpfully, however, our guests include a great friend of my wife and her husband who, as chance would have it, is a big gamer himself. Unsurprisingly, this means he likes PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii rather than twenty or thirty year old games like me but it has given me another of the pushes I so often need to try some of the so-called games for one of these new fangled machines, namely my seldom-used PS3. The results of this will probably make up a post here in the near future but for now I just wanted to offer my thanks to all my regular readers for your support and to convey my warmest seasonal greetings, even if I am rather late on one count!

It's been quite a year here at Red Parsley - there was the 200th review a while back and the 500th post just recently, amongst other things - and I hope you'll join me in making it an even better year next time around.


Friday, 21 December 2012

500th Post!!

Well, like it or not, Red Parsley has been clogging up the world of retro-gaming blogs for over two and a half years now and I've now arrived at my possibly-prestigious 500th post! I won't start spouting clichés like 'where has the time gone?' or 'seems like yesterday that I started' because, to be honest, they're not true. I can barely remember not having this splendid excuse to play loads of classic (and plenty of not-so-classic) retro games and babble incoherently on about them. It almost seems like I've always been doing it and I'm not really sure what I spent my spare time doing before. Having said that, Red Parsley was started at almost the same time as I switched from a very physical night job with long hours to an office day job so I'm sure the sudden increase in my spare time has helped.

Red Parsley has made me pretty busy nonetheless, but I've also enjoyed it very much. I would say I've enjoyed every minute but some games I've looked at have really stunk the place up! I'm gradually increasing in popularity though, with more page views per month now than I had in my first eight months combined which I hope means I'm doing something right! I even get spam emails now - surely a sign that I'm becoming famous?! Anyway, enough about this nonsense, I figured I should do something to mark the occasion, but what?

Well, since the whole point of Red Parsley is to broaden my gaming experiences, I had an idea. Up until I started blogging, I was already a very keen gamer, focussing almost exclusively on retro games, having lost interest in 'modern' systems after the demise of the Dreamcast. However passionately I might've pursued my interest though, it was done in a rather blinkered way - mostly arcade style games on mostly Sega consoles with a few others included. But some of the most popular systems of all-time were ones I'd never even tried until recently. So now that I have, I think the most appropriate thing I could do is reveal the biggest revelations I've had about these things since starting Red Parsley. Behold:

People Like Lists!

Or 'Top Fives' lists as far as Red Parsley is concerned. With the occasional exception - usually articles that snag a mass of search 'bots of some sort which is most likely a coincidence - the most popular posts here by far are always the Top Five lists I create, even some of the more nonsensical ones. I was actually going to start a separate blog purely featuring all manner of weird Top Five lists originally, but I'm now glad I didn't - Red Parsley probably would've fallen flat on its face if I had! So, rather than competing with each other, they're now part of one and the same blog. I've tried to alternate between game and film related lists and other more obscure ones, but they always end up with more 'hits' than any other posts of the respective month. It's getting tougher to think of more game-related ones, at least without extensive research, but rest assured list fans - I still have plenty of ideas yet! So, what next? Top Five Bums? I know who would win that one...

Monday, 17 December 2012

One-on-One Fighting Games #2

King of the Monsters (1991)
By: SNK Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 47,640
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES, MegaDrive, SNES
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

The Neo Geo has gained a great deal of fame and adulation over the years for a variety of reasons but much of this has come from fans of its many one-on-one fighting games. The flagship series must surely be King of Fighters, but fighters are not the only thing it's possible to be king of! All these human-based games are all very well but even the most creative minds can only do so much with our soft, fleshy, watery bodies. What we need is for someone to open their mind to the possibilities that other beings could bring to the genre. No, I'm not talking about robots, I think we've had just about enough of those metallic buffoons clanging into each other (eeek!). Something with the unpredictability of nature is still required I think, but a good helping of muscles, fangs, and a bit of primeval ferocity wouldn't hurt either. Sounds like a job for the Japanese...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Top Five Movie Moments #6

#6 - The Matrix (1999)

It's rare these days that a film barely anyone has heard of or knows anything about comes along and smacks us round the face, and one of the last I recall to have a really big impact was The Matrix. It received so little hype or build-up that I hadn't even heard of it prior to its cinema release. It got rave reviews though, of course, so I made it a point to buy it on DVD despite still knowing bugger all about it.

Watching it for the first time was definitely one of the more prominent of my "What the hell?!" movie moments but it was immediately clear that it was something special, both in terms of its story/premise as well as its floopy special effects. Numerous rewatches were both required and desired and it quickly became one of my favourite films which makes choosing its five most outstanding moments tough, but here are the one's I've selected:

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the film in question or don't mind knowing about its most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5... The Attempted Escape

We'd already been introduced to 'Neo' by this point and caught a glimpse of his shady night life as a master hacker, but the next morning is when we meet Thomas Anderson, a 'program writer for a respectable software company' who doesn't seem to see eye-to-eye with his boss. Shortly after receiving a dressing-down for being late, he receives a package containing a mobile phone which immediately starts ringing. On the other end is the mysterious 'Morpheus' who is quick to alert Mr. Anderson to the arrival of the authorities who are looking to take him 'down town'. The solution is to escape, but even with the help of Morpheus, it won't be easy...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

NES Platform Games #4

Milon's Secret Castle (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Game Boy
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Poor old Hudson Soft. They've long been one of my favourite developers, particularly on the PC Engine (a console they helped to develop, no less) but earlier this year they were 'absorbed' into Konami and effectively no longer exist. Boo hoo! Fortunately, there are still a few of their games that have escaped my attention and one of them is Milon's Secret Castle, a scrolling platform game set in and around the structure of the title, known as Castle Garland. This vast fortress is located in the land of Hudson (chortle) where residents use music to communicate with each other, except Milon who apparently lacks this ability. Whilst trudging through the countryside in search of others like him, he decides to visit Queen Eliza, but instead finds the castle being attacked by 'Evil Warlord Maharito' who has imprisoned the queen, stolen everyone's musical instruments, and captured the seven Magic Crystal Balls. Milon quickly volunteers to stand against Maharito and restore the happy world of Hudson to its former glory, but it won't be easy...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Arcade Shmups #16

Truxton a.k.a. Tatsujin (1988)
By: Toaplan / Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 80,720 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, PC Engine

Although quite a few of Toaplan's games saw releases in the West, there aren't really that many that remain celebrated today for some reason. Of the ones that are, most are of course shoot 'em ups and one of the most acclaimed of these is also among those that I've played the least. Despite being a feature title all the way back at the Mega Drive's launch, I still somehow missed it for my entire tenure as an owner of Sega's console. Before rectifying that embarrassing error, however, I figured I may as well take a look at the arcade version first! The back-story could be taken from any number of shmups of the time but does feature some pretty good names. The planet being preyed upon on this occasion is called 'Borogo' and the evil aliens doing the preying, known as 'Gidans', are led by the evil 'Dogurava'.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Overrated! #5

Micro Machines (1991)
By: Code Masters Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, SNES, NES, Game Boy, CDi, PC, Amiga

There's some great presentation throughout...
People will always have differing opinions of things. Whether it's games, films, music or anything else you can think of; there will always be at least one person that worships something and another who hates it with just as much passion. However, generally speaking, good things are regarded as good by the majority and likewise bad things remain bad. This is as true of video games as anything else but there's bound to be a few people that dislike well-regarded games and that includes me - it was the whole reason I created the 'Overrated!' feature here at Red Parsley of course. I've only covered four games so far though, which suggests it isn't something that happens too often, but if there was one game I always had at the back of my mind to add to the feature, it would be this one. I don't think there's any game so universally lauded that I dislike, but I caught a lot of flak for its omission from my recent Top Five so I figured it was as good a time as any to address the issue!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

SNES Driving / Racing Games #2

Top Gear a.k.a. Top Racer (1992)
By: Gremlin Graphics / Kemco Genre: Racing  Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

There were many reasons that gamers of the world were excited about the arrival of the SNES but one of the main ones was the ultra-hyped Mode 7 graphics trickery. We were told it would revolutionise 3D gaming, or at least games that appeared to be 3D thanks to the wizardry it would offer. The greatest benefactor of this was the driving/racing genre - titles such as F-Zero immediately showed what was possible, so it was very strange that it wasn't used by more developers. A great example of this is Top Gear, a seemingly new game exclusive to Nintendo's new machine, but one which had its roots firmly planted in the dark and gloomy world of systems bereft of Mode 7 splendour. Indeed, as the keen-eyed among you may have already spotted, Top Gear is a direct descendent of celebrated Amiga series, Lotus Turbo Challenge. This was probably not what expectant Nintendo fans had in mind prior to the system's launch.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Maze Games #7

Magic Serpent (1991)
By: Software 2000 Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commmodore Amiga First Day Score: 27,962
Also Available For: Nothing

For a good number of years I absolutely hated mobile phones, or more specifically their users. Sitting next to me on the bus or at work bleeping and blooping and cycling through their bloody ring-tones… Grrrr! They used to drive me up the wall! Nowadays they are more acceptable – most likely a consequence of the rapid increase in their power and uses. One result of this is that they’re now becoming a legitimate gaming platform but back in the dark days their games were about as advanced as those on a calculator. One of the most popular was Snake which I'm sure most of you know far better than I do owing to the fact that I never owned a phone which hosted a version. Something you may not know, however, is that Snake is actually based on one of the very earliest arcade games known as Blockade, variations of which have appeared on many computers and consoles over the years. One of the last to appear before mobile phones re-popularised them was Magic Serpent.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Electronic Arts or Electronic Farts?

In the long and jumbled history of video games, has there ever been another company like Electronic Arts? They're now among the very richest and most successful developers/publishers of all time but if you asked the average hardcore or retro gamer for their opinion of EA, most would probably have a venomous retort already scripted and ready to vent. I am firmly entrenched among them I have to say (as long-time readers here will already know), but it wasn't always that way.

Although founded waay back in 1982 by Trip Hawkins, I was only vaguely aware of them during my Speccy and Master System gaming years. It wasn't until the era of the MegaDrive had arrived that I really started to have sufficient information to form an opinion on the company, and that opinion was... actually a very positive one! That's right, back then EA were a splendid company whose name was held in high regard worldwide, even by me. They became a prolific supporter of Sega's 16-bit monster, pretty much from the off, and new releases were always eagerly anticipated. How could they not be when they had the quality of Battle Squadron, Starflight, The Immortal, Rolo to the Rescue, F-22 Interceptor, Desert Strike, and the James Pond series? Their releases weren't all 'Mean Machines Mega Games' of course, but the quality and, vitally, the originality and creativity were of a consistently high enough standard for EA to be regarded as one of the best and most reliable game companies around.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Awesome Nature #13

Ash Tree
Type: Tree Lives In: Northern Hemisphere Conservation Status: Endangered

Ones of the things the English countryside is famous for is its gorgeous woodland. Many types of tree can be found in them but, after the population of elms was decimated by Dutch Elm Disease during the late 20th century, now another familiar woodland sight is under threat. Sadly, after ravaging ash tree populations across mainland Europe for the last couple of decades (Denmark has lost 90% of its ashes), the deadly fungal infection know as 'chalara fraxinea', which causes ash dieback disease, has now reached our shores as well. There are over fifty types of ash tree in the world. All of them are flowering trees of varying heights, most of them are deciduous, and all live in the northern hemisphere, but only varieties in Europe seem to be affected by this devastating fungus with Asian varieties proving resistant. Let's just hope the European varieties survive long enough to develop a resistance as well. If you have any near you, treasure them while you can.

Why It Is Awesome: Well, I suppose they aren't any more awesome than most trees from the same region but they might be gone soon! :(

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Dizzy Series - Part 1

Dizzy (1987)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 53,800
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

One of my favourite Speccy loading screens :)
Many dozens of computers and consoles have come and gone since the late 70's but only a few of them prove as loved, as enduring, and as legendary as the ZX Spectrum. This is mainly applicable here in the UK of course, where the mighty fine Speccy was invented and consequently also where it was most popular. It still retains a strong following of fans here, some of whom are merely nostalgic former owners, while some others are mighty talented fellows who've continued to release original games for it. However, if you asked a random group of fans what their most favourite and least favourite Speccy games are, you would probably hear the same title mentioned in answer to both questions - Dizzy! Many gamers from outside the UK will have no idea who he even is though, so allow me to elaborate.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Top Five MegaDrive Two-Player Games

It’s no secret here that Sega’s mighty MegaDrive is probably my favourite console, and accordingly it’s the one I’ve spent the most time with and played the widest variety of games on. Included among these have been many fine two-player games – more than I remembered prior to starting this feature actually, which made it harder than I had expected to choose the five titles below. To help me narrow it down a bit, I’ve ruled out arcade conversions as has become normal with these lists (there are more than enough to these on the MD to have their own list) and I’ve also tried to choose five games which are actually enhanced by the addition of a player rather than simply allowing a second player to join the otherwise unchanged action. To that end, 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. ToeJam & Earl (1991)

Coming at a time when Sega were at their peak in my opinion and seemingly acutely aware of what their customers wanted, ToeJam & Earl was and remains a unique and original arcade adventure starring the two 'hip and cool' rapping aliens of the title who have crashed their ship on Earth and must now scour the surface for all its component parts. The game world consists of a succession of weird floating islands which are randomly generated. This increases the longevity in either one or two player mode but the stages can get rather large too, so it certainly helps to have two sets of legs scooting around. There are lots of strange power-ups to search for as well, also random, and the peculiar characters and music make this a very memorable game. In my experience, there's never been anything quite like it and exploring its unusual world with a friend is fantastic fun.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Arcade Classics #3

Donkey Kong (1981)
By: Nintendo Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 17,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: ColecoVision, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, Intellivision, Apple II, NES, PC, Amiga, Commodore 64, VIC-20, MSX, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

It was apparently Nintendo's desire to establish a foothold in the lucrative US games market that saw the birth of Donkey Kong. To say that it helped them achieve that goal is something of an understatement - it was an instant smash hit and made Nintendo hundreds of millions of dollars - but it was also a landmark game for many other reasons too. It wasn't strictly speaking the first ever platform game but it was certainly the first really popular one and established several features that would go on to become staples in the genre. It was also designed by a certain Shigeru Miyamoto under the supervision of Gunpei Yokoi, both of whom would go on to become rather successful!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sega SG-1000 Round-Up #3

It's been a while since my last look at the SG-1000 so let's return to Sega's very first (and least successful?) console for another lucky dip. The random selection on this occasion has proved the most fruitful yet and includes three different kinds of shoot 'em ups and two nice platformers. Take a look:

Exerion (1983)

Like many SG-1000 releases, this one is a conversion of an arcade game, and like many of that time it's a single-screen shooter from the Galaxian school of swoopiness. It must've been a tough one to convert though, as the arcade version features a rather neat rolling planetary landscape at the bottom of the screen. Apart from this, it's business as usual with various formations of alien ships (and creatures?) appearing from the top of the screen and whirling around taking pot-shots at your small craft which can fire unlimited double-shots, but only one at a time, or single rapid-fire shots for a limited time. It also moves with inertia so can be tricky to control, but this version still proves to be a fair bit easier than the arcade game with one exception, which is a familiar one with the SG-1000 - the limited colour pallette means sprites sometimes get lost in the background. It's still an addictive blaster though, and Sega's machine even has a brave attempt at copying the rolling landscape. Good fun... 7/10

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lynx Games #1

Electrocop (1989)
By: Epyx / Atari Genre: Maze / Run 'n' Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 15,475
Also Available For: Nothing

Atari's mighty Lynx was a funny machine. It was a 'handheld' which was rather too big to be comfortably used as one for starters, but it was a powerful piece of kit for sure. It soon gained a glowing reputation for the surprisingly faithful arcade conversions which formed the bulk of its software library, but there were a few original releases too. Many of them were by Epyx, the co-developer of the Lynx itself, and most of these appeared at or soon after the machine's launch - presumably they were developed especially for the occasion to give the system a slightly more varied line-up. One of these was Electrocop. It gained a decent reputation at the time but it never seems to get mentioned these days any time the Lynx is mentioned. Has it dated that badly or has it been unfairly neglected in the intervening years?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Licensed Games #3

Doraemon: Yume Dorobou to 7 Nin no Gozans (1993)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 16,155
Also Available For: Nothing

Everyone who has ever been lucky enough to encounter Doraemon immediately becomes aware that he's the King of Everything, but sadly he's only really famous in his homeland of Japan, as well as a couple of other countries nearby, so his miraculous wonder remains unknown to so many, and that includes the videogames based on his exploits of which there are lots. Some of them do emerge in 'The West' but only in reworked forms bereft of Doeraemon altogether, which seems a bit odd since they're usually designed specifically to take advantage of his splendour. I've already investigated one of his games here at Red Parsley which falls in this category, but most pass by without our knowledge altogether. I'm not even sure how many there are in total but one of the best known ones is this MegaDrive effort which predictably takes the form of a side-viewed platformer.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Film Review #45

Prometheus (2012)
Director: Ridley Scott Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our end."

Few films were as influential or have gone on to be as revered as those of the Alien series. First arriving in 1979 courtesy of an unknown director, the original film was a revelation, and quickly reinvigorated not just the sci-fi genre but several others as well. Unsurprisingly, this success soon saw several sequels appear, some official, others less so. Like a few other cult franchises though, the quality of each instalment has dropped with each respective release, with the possible exception of the second film which is quite different to the first but probably equally as good. This decline has also seen the reputation of the franchise suffer so it wasn't too surprising to hear that Ridley Scott himself had plans to 'reboot' the series he created by way of an official prequel. As the film neared production, however, its producers began to distance the film from the Alien series. Could it be happening again, or would fans finally have another classic?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

NES Platform Games #3

Wizards & Warriors a.k.a. Densetsu no Kishi Elrond (1990)
By: Rare / Acclaim Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

I've mentioned here at Red Parsley a number of times how I pretty much missed out on the whole NES phenomenon due to my allegiance to Sega but I did actually own an NES at one point, albeit rather late on in the system’s life. I bought it from a charity shop with around 12 loose games. Sadly, it turned out that the grey toaster didn’t work so I never got to play any of the cartridges I had which included some of the classics and some I was less familiar with. Of the latter type, there was one in particular I was eager to try out and that was Wizards and Warriors, a title released by Rare in the late 80’s exclusively on Nintendo’s machine. I often find myself drawn to games with a fantasy setting and the simple-but-revealing title had intrigued me. I had imagined some sort of deep and involving ‘Metroidvania’ style arcade adventure, and now I have the opportunity to to find out if I was right.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Top Five Studio Ghibli Films

There's not really much point in me reviewing any Studio Ghibli films other than to be yet another voice extolling their many wonderful virtues; most of them would probably get 10/10 anyway! Something that's much harder to do is settle on a Top Five. I haven't yet seen every single one of them, admittedly, and I may have to amend this list accordingly once I have, but I've seen most of them and only one was anything less than overwhelmingly wonderful. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say Ghibli films should have their own category, so superior are they to all other animated films, anime or otherwise.

Part of the reason for this is their unmistakable style, thanks largely to the amazing dedication of key man, Hayao Miyazaki, who has directed and/or overseen many of their productions, the consistently extraordinary quality of which has seen the studio dubbed the 'Disney of the East'. Their films tend to have noticeably higher production values and audio/visual quality than most other anime - the soundtracks are usually original compositions and Miyazaki-san overwhelmingly favours hand-drawn animation over the use of computers. He personally checks countless thousands of hand-drawn images and he often draws many of them himself as well.

Most of the films share certain basic themes too. Many feature a young but ultimately strong female lead, usually undergoing some sort of right-of-passage or coming-of-age transition. They also rarely fail to feature at least some otherworldly spirits of some sort, and there is usually an element of pacifism as well. However, as much as you might be able to analyse the films, their characters, the themes explored, etc, doing so is far from necessary to gain immense enjoyment from watching them and being drawn into their respective worlds regardless of age.

So, as hard as it was to settle on only five films to include, if you haven't seen any of these, do yourself a favour - don't dismiss them as childish or unrealistic, just watch them. And then thank me! :)

5. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

A few of Studio Ghibli's films are based on novels but this one is, slightly surprisingly, based on an English one. I feel so proud that Miyazaki-san knows we exist! You'd probably never guess its origins though, as the story seems pure Ghibli from start to finish! Although Howl, a young and enigmatic wizard, may have his name in the title, it's a young hatter called Sophie who takes centre stage when she's cursed after encountering the Witch of the Waste. It's while pursuing a cure for this curse, which has turned her into an old lady, that she happens upon Howl's castle which does indeed move. Sophie's quest through her war-torn land comprises a film that differs considerably from the book on which it's based but that doesn't stop it from ending up as one of the most memorable films I've seen, with some of my favourite Ghibli characters, too, including Calcifer the fire demon, an asthmatic dog called Heen, as well as the eccentric Howl himself. A wonderful film and a great introduction to Ghibli for any newcomers.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Strategy Games #1

Worms (1995)
By: Team 17 / Ocean Genre: Strategy / Shooting Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: I'm a Worms master so I always win! :)
Also Available For: Amiga, CD32, Apple Mac, Game Boy, MegaDrive, SNES, PlayStation, Saturn, Jaguar

Even though I'm technically old now, I still consider myself fairly young, but the video games industry has changed beyond recognition even in my living memory. Games these days cost many millions to develop and often take years to reach fruition, and that’s with teams of a dozen or more developing them, but many years ago the opposite was true. Some of the best-loved retro games were created by only one or two people, often from the comfort of their own homes, or even by solitary students coding away into the early hours before oversleeping for their morning classes. Those days are long gone now, with regards to full releases for current systems at least, and one of the last successful examples I remember was the first in the now extensive Worms series.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Puzzle Games #12

Wetrix (1998)
By: Zed Two / Ocean Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64 First Day Score: Inconsequential :(
Also Available For: Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PC

It doesn't happen too often in the gaming world, especially these days, but every now and then an example comes along, usually out of the blue, which proves to be so staggeringly successful that nearly every developer around is almost immediately rushing to get in on the action too, frantically trying to come up with their own takes on the idea. One of the biggest examples of this was Tetris. Although appearing as early as the mid-80's, its own sequels, unofficial clones, and all manner of games 'influenced' by the Soviet classic were still appearing well into the 90's. One of the last of these was Wetrix, released by the Pickford Bros near the end of the decade and initially on the N64 exclusively before receiving ports to a few other systems of the day. It's a game I've often meant to try out... and now I have.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Splendid MegaDrive Music #2

Battle Squadron (1990)

Time for some more splendid MegaDrive music and I've gone for another shmup. This particular shmup, however, is one that's more famous on the Amiga. Being completely impartial of course, I am able to recognise the superiority of the MegaDrive version in most regards, and one of those is its music. Battle Squadron has never been blessed with many tunes but those that do exist are all outstanding. Originally composed by Ron Klaren and later remixed by Robb Hubbard for the MD version, my favourite tune is probably the main in-game theme. Enjoy its splendour thus:

(full Battle Squadron review here)

Special Note: I didn't record this great tune myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit to, firstly the original composer, and secondly the YouTube user who uploaded it!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Top Five F-Zero Games

As regular readers here may have noticed, I’m rather keen on Nintendo’s splendid F-Zero series. It therefore makes me mighty sad that they’ve ignored the series for a worrying eight years now (and counting). Fortunately, unlike fans of some other forgotten series’, we F-Zero fans at least have a decent number of games to flange around with. None of them are bad games in my opinion, and I’ve now covered each of them fairly in-depth here at Red Parsley so I’d like to think I’ve got a good overall impression of the series as a whole. So, as a final evaluation of the series, here’s its Top Five entries:

All the individual F-Zero reviews here at Red Parsley can be found here...

5. F-Zero GX (2003)

Anyone who’s perused my F-Zero reviews here will know that GX received the lowest score of any of them, so why’s it here in this list? Well, as I said at the start of the feature, no F-Zero games are actually bad, just varying degrees of good, and although GX disappointed me considerably, it’s still the most technically advanced entry in the series and therefore offers the kind of hyper audio/visual experience that even the N64 game can’t match. Everything is significantly more detailed, especially the previously-plain backgrounds, and the attention-to-detail is remarkable – you can even see the pilots operating the controls through their cockpit windows! Sadly, the gameplay didn’t see a similar level of improvement – quite the opposite in fact. It’s still an exciting racing game but the precise controls and intricately-paced action has largely been replaced by a fluorescent, adrenaline-surge of an experience. It is quite an experience though!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Film Review #44

Battleship (2012)
Director: Peter Berg Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Gregory D. Gadson, Hamish Linklater, Jesse Plemons, John Tui

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 131 Minutes

Tagline: "The Battle for Earth Begins at Sea"

Some of the harsher film critics around have been saying for years now that Hollywood is running out of ideas. I suppose with the mass of remakes, reboots, and pictures based on video games or TV shows, they may have a point, but this is the first film I've seen that's based on a board game! Indeed, it's not just the name they share - this film is actually directly inspired by the paper and pencil game created over 80 years ago and even endorsed by its original creator, MB Games. Even with a concept as open as this, though, it would surely be too easy to have two naval forces facing off against one another. Instead, the forces of Earth are presented with a much more otherworldly foe, and to this end the producers sought the help of a far more recent, not to mention significantly more scientific phenomenon - extrasolar planets.

Friday, 19 October 2012

PC Engine Shmups #8

Violent Soldier a.k.a. Sinistron (1991)
By: IGS Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 200,900
Also Available For: Nothing

Supernovae are elusive things. They're discussed often by brainy fellows, often sporting beards, but rarely glimpsed from our humble planet. Accordingly, their majestic destructiveness is seldom featured elsewhere, not even in highly fictional theatres such as videogames, which makes Violent Soldier a real rarity in that regard. Indeed, the basis of the game is one of these very spacial phenomena which hurls a variety of debris our way. After some chaotic scenes, it's determined that the metallic flotsam was actually an attempted invasion! To counter this, an attack fleet called the Violent Soldier(s?) is hastily constructed and then sent to the source of the supernova where they find the remnant of an advanced cybernetic civilisation. Henceforth, fiery vengeance shall rain down upto them - cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war! Or something...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Arcade Round-Up #1

More often than not here at Red Parsley, when taking a look at a game, especially one I haven't played much (or at all) before, I try to first visit its original incarnation. For many, that is of course the arcade version, but for one reason or another it's sometimes one of the conversions that gets featured instead, so starting with this 'Round-Up' I'll be looking back at the arcade versions of games already reviewed. To start things off, here are five horizontal shmups!

Heavy Unit (1988)

This is a game I'd heard of for a while before playing the PC Engine version, but once I did play it, it immediately became a game I wish I hadn't heard of! In my review of that version I mentioned that if its savage difficulty level was toned down, it would still merely be an average game and that's pretty much what this original is. Unusually, thanks to a greater generosity with the power-ups and slightly weedier enemies, it is notably easier than the PCE game (although still hardly a walkover) and as such it is more enjoyable, but it's still nothing special either. It was quickly apparent that graphically the Engine received a very good conversion, but given the high number and quality of shmups available on NEC's system, it probably wasn't the best home for it. The arcades are (or were) home to an even larger number of shmups and this one doesn't stand out at all, so perhaps it wasn't really welcome anywhere... 5/10 (PC Engine version reviewed here)

Monday, 15 October 2012

First Look PlayStation 3 #1

Everybody's Golf World Tour by Clap Hanz (2008) - PlayStation 3

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m a big fan of arcade-style golf games and some of my favourites have been the various instalments of the spiffing Everybody’s Golf series (known as Hot Shots Golf in the US). The PSP version took up a startling amount of my time so when I bought a PS3, World Tour was one of my first stops. First impressions of it, however, have proven more mixed than I had expected. The graphics have been significantly improved as you might expect with some beautifully presented courses, but some of my favourite things about previous games have not seen improvement. Quite the opposite in fact, based on my first impressions. There's a new shot/power gauge system which takes some getting used to (although it's optional, luckily) but the characters are now rather irritating, especially their comments and post-shot animations. I also greatly enjoyed unlocking and using all the many nonsensical accessories on the PSP version and that is apparently gone from here altogether. It's still a highly enjoyable game with some nice touches though, and there's a lot to it. It's just not as magnificent as I was hoping.

RKS Score: 3/5


Friday, 12 October 2012

One-on-One Fighting Games #1

Budokan: The Martial Spirit (1990)
By: Electronic Arts Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Amiga, PC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum

Whilst born in the arcades and probably always most successful there, the immediate popularity of one-on-one fighting games meant that original titles were soon appearing on the home machines as well. I've already started looking at some of the arcade offerings, so in this new feature here at Red Parsley I'll start taking a look at some of the many computer and console exclusive ones as well. Most of these are clones, or ‘inspired by’, the arcade titles as well but some are wholly original, even creative. The first one that popped in my head for some reason was Budokan, released by EA back before they started sucking. It's been a while since I played it but I remember it being pretty good, if rather tough. This was before I got drawn into Capcom's brash, over-the-top world of Street Fighter derivatives though, so I wonder how well EA's game holds up today.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

TV Shows #2

The 4400 (2004 - 2007)
Created By: René Echevarria & Scott Peters Starring: Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Patrick Flueger, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Laura Allen, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Chad Faust, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Samantha Ferris, Jenni Baird, Brooke Nevin, Conchita Campbell, Karina Lombard, Bill Campbell, Peter Coyote

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "Abducted. Returned. Changed"

I must admit, I'm pretty picky when it comes to watching TV shows. When I first saw The 4400 advertised I immediately thought 'blah, blah, blah', another stupid 'ordinary people with special powers' show and dismissed without a second thought. Until, that is, a couple of months ago when I noticed it was one of few shows available to stream via Netflix. This is probably the greatest advantage of a service like Netflix – I can try one episode, or even just the beginning of an episode, instantly without any trouble, rather than having to risk some cash or go to the effort of catching it on TV. After reading a brief synopsis of the show and realising that it sounded at least potentially non-crap, that was exactly what I did.

The basis of the show involves the return of 4400 people of all shapes, sizes, races, and nationalities, who were missing and presumed dead. It turns out that they were actually abducted over a period of about fifty years but now they’ve all been returned at once on Highland Beach at the foot of Mount Rainier, close to Seattle, in a ball of light which was initially assumed to be a comet... until it started slowing down! All 4400 of them are dropped off in the same place at the same time so they’re understandably confused and disorientated, particularly since as far as they’re concerned no time has passed since their abduction and accordingly they haven't aged a day either.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Arcade Classics #2

Scramble (1981)
By: Konami Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 12,710 (one credit)
Also Available For: Vectrex, Commodore 64, VIC-20, Tomy Tutor
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade

As I mentioned in the first post of this new Arcade Classics feature, its primary purpose, much like that of Red Parsley as a whole, is one of discovery. There are far too many games for anyone to have played all of them but I’ve played far fewer than most people who call themselves gamers. In many cases this is a result of owning a rival system, not knowing about a particular game, or simply never having gotten around to it, but some of the earliest games were missed because I was too young to realistically play them, and it’s these games I’ll be covering here. One that I’ve heard about frequently over the years but never played, or even seen running, is the mighty Scramble.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Awesome Nature #12

Type: Amphibian Lives In: Mexico Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

I'd never heard of this unusual creature until very recently but was immediately captivated by its unique appearance. Although its name means 'Water Dog', and it has also earned the nickname of 'Mexican Walking Fish', it's actually a kind of salamander. Most reach a size of around 20-25cm in length and can be found in a variety of colours including grey, brown, black, and yellow, but I think you'll agree the kind pictured here is the most eye-catching! My dear wife thinks it 'looks like a demon' but it reminds me more of some wacky creature from a Studio Ghibli film or something. Whatever you may think of its looks, though, it may not be around much longer - the entire wild population was confined to two lakes near Mexico City but one of those has now been artificially drained (for the convenience of the humans living there, of course) so the poor old Axolotl now lives only in Lake Xochimilco, itself severely diminished from its former size. Their plight doesn't seem to bother this one though!

Why It Is Awesome: It looks very happy!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Scrolling Fighting Games #9

Renegade (1986)
By: Technos / Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 29,800
Also Available For: Master System, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Poor old RKS has a tough life as a gamer. Despite being relatively normal in most ways, I only have few friends who share my interest in this particular subject and only one who also likes retro games, and he lives far enough away that I don’t see him often. When we do meet up, one type of game we nearly always play is scrolling fighting games, but it only occurred to me recently that we always play the same few: Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, etc. Upon realisation of this, I decided to give a few other examples a try to vary our rare gaming sessions a little. One of the first games I thought of was Renegade – one of the first such examples of the genre and supposedly also one of the best which, alarmingly, is yet another title I’ve never gotten around to trying. Playing it for the first time for this feature, however, revealed that it’s not strictly speaking a scrolling fighting game at all. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

NES Shmups #2

Argus (1986)
By: Jaleco Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 44,700
Also Available For: Arcade

The NES isn't really the first system that leaps into my mind when thinking of shoot 'em ups or arcade conversions but it does have a surprising number of them. One of the less well known ones must be this one, converted from a Jaleco coin-op of the same year and released only in their homeland, but initial impressions of it indicate a somewhat older game. It's an overhead-viewed game but to call it a vertical-scroller isn't completely accurate as your small generic aircraft can also fly sideways. That's pretty much a given in games of this nature, of course, but here the play-field is about two screens wide and loops infinitely as well. The object is still to go forward though, and there are nine stages to do this through, each filled with swarms of enemy vessels and guarded by a large boss. There's even some 'looping' going on here as well though - if you manage to conquer all nine stages, which is a tough ask, you'll simply return to the first stage again. Bah, what a swizz!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Atari 2600 Games #1

Yars' Revenge (1981)
By: Atari Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari 2600 First Day Score: 41,934
Also Available For: Nothing

Amusingly, for a self-professed retro gamer, my experiences of the console often considered the retro console - the Atari VCS (or indeed 2600) - are rather limited. I had one friend at school who had one and I have vague memories of playing a few titles on it (including the splendid Frostbite), but that's about it. I did take a look at a few titles here at Red Parsley a while back for an 'Exploring' feature but it's taken me until now to get around to having a look at some other games properly. The first one I chose, as is probably fairly obvious by now, was Yars' Revenge - a decision based purely on the fact that I've heard of it (rather a lot, in fact), but I hadn't played it prior to this review. Looking into it now reveals that it's the work of the infamous Howard Scott Warshaw, later responsible for the game that came to symbolise crap games everywhere - ET. It was also originally intended as a conversion of the Cinematronics arcade game, Star Castle, but it was soon realised such a conversion may be beyond the humble VCS. The result was this original and exclusive game which soon became known as one the best on the system.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

PlayStation Driving / Racing Games #1

Total Drivin a.k.a. Grand Tour Racing '98 (1997)
By: Eutechnyx / Ocean Software Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation 
Also Available For: Nothing 

When the 32-bit console era came to pass I was still a devout Sega fan-boy, but the new fangled hardware brought with it some of the finest racing games yet seen which, with the sudden absence of shmups and platform games, quickly became one of my new favourite genres. Sadly, my lovely Saturn wasn't home to many great examples of these. Sure, it had a few, mostly conversions of Sega's own arcade games, but there wasn't really anything I could get stuck into. It was mainly for this reason that I finally relented and bought a PlayStation. This pesky system hosted some fantastic examples of the genre, both arcade-style ones as well as more serious simulatory ones, and one of the first I really got into was Total Drivin which was a curious mixture of the two.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Arcade Classics #1

Hello and welcome to another new feature here at Red Parsley! As is usually the case, the title is fairly self-explanatory, so instead of explaining that, let me instead tell you why I decided to start covering games that almost every self-respecting gamer in the world has probably already played to death, or gamers of a certain ‘maturity’, at least.

The late 70’s were of course when videogames were born as a popular and affordable entertainment medium and they really hit their stride in the early 80’s. This automatically means I missed out on some of the earliest ones as I was barely able to walk, nevermind play any hardcore coin-guzzlers! Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but I did get into gaming a bit later than others of a similar age. Anyway, the point is – there are still plenty of really early arcade games I never had a chance to play; a situation easily remedied and documented on this very blog! So, as is often the case with my tomfoolery here, these posts will be more for my own benefit than that of you splendid readers, but if any of you enjoy reading about my exploits anyway, all the better!

To start with, I thought I’d refresh my mind (as well as my reflexes) by playing the five games which are arguably considered the five most iconic classics of all-time. Surprisingly, these five are included among the classics that I have actually played before, but not for a good few years so I wonder if they’re still as hectic and addictive as once they were…

Space Invaders (1978)

Although the oldest game featured here, this Taito great almost immediately became a household name and helped kick-start the whole gaming boom, so it's not too surprising that even to this day its pixelly invaders have become an immediately identifiable symbol of videogames generally. As a game in its own right, though, it's probably the example that's aged the most out of the ones included in this feature. I used to play it in two places – the youth club my parents insisted I join where instead of interacting with the other ‘youths’, I spend most of my time shooting evil aliens. They also had a machine in a local shop of which my mum was a frequent patron which meant these remain some of the few shopping trips I ever actually volunteered to go on (chuckle). As I said, it has aged a bit – I prefer playing Galaga by a long way, personally – but it’s still an addictive and enjoyable trip down memory lane which is at least better than most of the official updates and sequels (with the probable exception of the crazy Space Invaders Extreme for the PSP/DS) ... 7/10

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Top Five Vegetables

Reviled during our youth and begrudgingly accepted in our adulthood, vegetables are seen by some as a necessary evil of sorts. Even today, I will accept them only as a supplement to a meal rather than as a meal themselves, but some are unquestionably nicer than others. Plus, it's always worth looking for other reasons to make them more appealing too, and here are the best ones that I've thought of so far :)

5 - Carrots

They help you see in the dark

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Licensed Games #2

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1990)
By: Tiertex / US Gold Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

As mentioned in the first post for this feature, I've always been very wary, scared even, of games based on movies. This fear is well-founded for the most part which is why I'll be looking at most of them as briefly as I can in 'Round-Ups'. A few of them will be granted my full attention however, if there is a merest whiff of quality about them. So for the second part of this feature I thought I'd take a look at an example I hadn't played previously but which is supposedly non-horrifying. In fact, I even remember it getting a few glowing reviews including one in the high nineties! I'm quite confident that's not really the case but we could have a very rare example of a decent movie tie-in here nonetheless. Doesn't stop me from feeling nervous though...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Puzzle Games #11

Uo Poko (1998)
By: Cave / Jaleco Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 558,600
Also Available For: Nothing

It’s a sad fact for many of us that arcades have become a critically endangered species in recent years. I live in a seafront city which actually had many arcades and still has a couple, but the number of actual games in them is now very few. Over in Japan, however, the situation is a little different. It makes sense I guess – most companies that still make these kinds of games are Japanese, and one that has developed a strong cult fan-base in the last fifteen years or so is Cave. I’ve heard the name so many times but haven’t really had the opportunity to play any of their games… until now. However, considering their fame is exclusively down to their unique brand of crazy bullet-hell shmups, it’s ironic that my first taste of Cave-ness comes via their first, and to my knowledge only, puzzle game!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Film Review #43

Nude Nuns With Big Guns (2010)
Director: Joseph Guzman Starring: Asun Ortega, David Castro, Perry D'Marco, Maxie J. Santillan, Ivet Corvea, Aycil Yeltan, Emma Messenger, Bill Oberst Jr, Xango Henry

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 88 Minutes

Tagline: "This Sister Is One Bad Mother"

I've always bought a significant quantity of videos and DVDs across a wide variety of genres but after recently joining the splendid Netflix service, my options have become broader than ever before. I've been reminded of dozens of films I've meant to watch but then forgotten about, but I've also been introduced to some I've never heard of before, much like the bluntly-titled Nude Nuns With Big Guns. If I encountered a film like this one in a shop, for example, it’s not something I’d buy. I’d probably pick it up, look it at, perhaps snigger over its name (and humorous tagline) with any friends I might be with, but buy it? That’s assuming it’s even available on DVD of course, but regardless of that, it is a film that catches the eye when scrolling through a list on the TV screen. How could it not? Weighing in at a trim 88 minutes, I figured it was worth a shot, for comedic purposes if nothing else!

Monday, 17 September 2012

F-Zero Series - Part 8

F-Zero Climax (2004)
By: Suzak / Nintendo Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Game Boy Advance
Also Available For: Nothing

It sounds quite scary to say but, at the time of writing the F-Zero series has reached a somewhat startling 22 years old! In all that time, the concept of the game has changed very little over the course of eight releases on four very different systems (or five if you count the 64DD) but has the series evolved technically? The first three releases were all rather ahead of their time from this point of view - the SNES original wowed gamers worldwide with its use of Mode 7, the N64 game was blisteringly fast and turned the previously flat courses into nauseating roller-coaster rides, and the GameCube title brought all the details and special effects bang up to date, but aside from the 'data disk' releases, the other games in the series have been exclusive to the Game Boy Advance and have accordingly reverted to the style of the original game. F-Zero Climax constitutes what is to date the last game to bear the famous name, but does it continue this trend, or give the series the send-off it deserves?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Gaming Memories - Part 10

Most of my gaming memories, certainly the ones documented here at Red Parsley, involve the acquisition or early use of a certain system or game, but I was recently reminded of a gaming memory of a slightly different type. I'm sure over the years we've all had our favourite gaming haunts. For those of us lucky enough, that probably included an amusement arcade or two. I grew up on the coast of southern England so I was fortunate to have access to several such emporiums, as detailed in the very first post of this series of features no less. In addition to these (or perhaps in the absence of them), I expect we all had a favourite game shop as well.

In my case there were three, each of which quite neatly covered a separate period of my gaming life. This was long before the days of 'Game' or even 'Electronics Boutique' and most game stores were independently owned and operated. The first one I ever spent any time in was also the closest one to my house.

Vigilante - the first PCE game I ever saw running...
It was known as Microland and was a small shop whose size belied the wonders that dwelt within! The left and right walls were both laden with examples of the latest computers including Speccys, Commodore 64s, and early PCs. Later on they started to be dominated by fancier PC's, Atari STs, and Amigas, most of which were usually seen running amazing demos or playing very loud music. The most memorable of these was the time I first saw Links 386 Pro on a PC, and the music produced by the Amigas was the most distinctive - it could usually be heard long before actually entering the shop! These banks of computing power were separated by a tall shelf laden with all the latest games, and the window display and glass cabinets near the counter were where all the console-related stuff could be found. It was here that I caught my first glimpse of NEC's immense PC Engine console which even wowed my dad to the point that he nearly bought one for himself! Sadly he didn't, but several of my systems were bought here including my Speccy, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy, and Amiga.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

PSN Downloads #1

Retro/Grade (2012)
By: 24 Caret Games Genre: Rhythm Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation 3 First Day Score: 2,902,770
Also Available For: Nothing

Sadly, I've still been struggling to embrace the modern era of gaming but one aspect that appeals to me is that of the homebrew/indie games available for download on the current systems. The first one I tried, thanks to an advert on the very first PlayStation Store screen, was this very game. I was of course initially intrigued by the inclusion of the word 'retro' but it turns out it's literally a retro game as well as being somewhat retro-ish in style. This is because, you see, it's a shoot 'em up... in reverse! What this means is, you have to play through the game in reverse 'un-firing' all your shots while avoiding all the enemy's shots which they are also in the process of 'un-firing'. Confused yet? I was too, so allow me to explain.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arcade Shmups #15

Insector X (1989)
By: Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 259,300 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, NES

The differences between the gaming cultures in Japan and the 'West' really are quite amazing sometimes. Obviously certain genres are more popular in certain parts of the world but even some that are universally popular, such as shoot 'em ups, can be quite different. The Japanese like bright, cute, and often very weird games while us Western gamers apparently have darker, more realistic, and often more violent tastes. A great example of this peculiar trend is Insector X by frequent purveyors of cuteness, Taito. Accordingly, this original is colourful and full of cute characters. Most Western gamers know it as a MegaDrive release, however, and this version features much more realistic graphics devoid of cuteness. When I recently decided to reacquaint myself with the game, this time by sampling the arcade version, it was this kind of game that I was expecting, but as you've probably already determined, it's not the type of game I found.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bomberman Series - Part 8

Bomber King Scenario 2 a.k.a. Blaster Master Jr. (1991)
By: Aicom / Sunsoft Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy
Also Available For: Nothing

It's not uncommon for games released in Japan to make it overseas in reworked, or at least renamed forms. Quite often it's because the original game is based on an anime series or something else that's popular in Japan but unheard of elsewhere, but sometimes the reasoning behind it is difficult to understand. Take the prequel to this very game, for example - released as part of the splendid Bomberman series in Japan but rejigged into an all-new game called RoboWarrior for its release elsewhere. This was strange as Bomberman was already a well-known and well-liked character, even outside of Japan. Strange or not though, a potential new franchise had been created so when the sequel appeared in Japan, again Bomberman themed, surely it would be released as RoboWarrior 2 in the US and Europe? Actually, no. Bomber King 2 was actually turned into a semi-sequel to hit NES game, Blaster Master, which has nothing to do with Bomberman, even in Japan!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Top Five Tony Scott Films

As some regular readers here may have already noticed, I don’t usually make posts inspired by current events, anniversaries, or special occasions, even when it’s something I have a personal interest in, but this time I feel so inclined. The recent and sudden death of Tony Scott shocked the movie world, both those who work within and us fans who watch from afar. The exact details of his suicide are still far from certain – they may always be – but the fact remains that we’ve lost a remarkable talent. His friends and family will of course feel the loss the most but for the vast majority of us who didn’t actually know him, the extent of our loss will be felt by the absence of more of his distinctive, thrilling films.

Although well known as the younger brother of Ridley as well as in his own right, he actually started his directorial career before his sibling. It wasn’t until the mid-80’s that he hit the big-time though, with the same film that also propelled Tom Cruise into the stratosphere at the same time. Unlike his brother, the films that followed, right up to recent years, were usually action blockbusters featuring some of the biggest stars in the world including regular collaborators such as Cruise and Denzel Washington. There were and are of course numerous directors doing this but Tony’s films usually had one big difference – they were good! I’m sure we all have our favourites from his filmography, such is the success and popularity of his movies, but here are my picks:

5. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

I've always felt that this was something of an underrated actioner. It brought in a fairly decent return at the box office I believe, but it wasn’t exactly hyped like most big-name action films were in the day. Indeed, the first I heard of it was when it became my dad’s latest addition to his VHS collection! It stars Bruce Willis as a disgraced ex-Secret Service agent now working as private investigator and Damon Wyans as a former US 'football' star, both of whom unwittingly wind up working together and involved in a sports gambling conspiracy. Like many such films, and many of Scott’s films in fact, the story isn’t complicated and none of the actors will be winning any Oscars, but it’s got a decent script full of witty one-liners and is directed really stylishly. Damon Wyans' fashion sense may have dated somewhat but it's a tremendously entertaining film which remains one of Scott's most rewatchable efforts.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

N64 Driving / Racing Games #2

Snowboard Kids a.k.a. Snobow Kids (1997)
By: Atlus / Racdym Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64 
Also Available For: Nothing 

Although most gamers fall into the former camp, Super Mario Kart has always been something of a love/hate game for me – absolutely brilliant and incredibly frustrating in equal measure. However you feel about it though, one thing cannot be disputed – its enormous success quickly led to countless similar games appearing on pretty much every system available at the time and for a good while afterwards as well. Indeed, this was still going on with the subsequent generation of consoles including the N64. By now, however, another type of game, also derived from the racing genre coincidentally, had become very popular as well, this time based on the ‘radical’ sport of snowboarding. Even though Nintendo had already unveiled their long-awaited sequel – Mario Kart 64 – as well as their own snowboarding game – 1080° - that didn’t stop Atlus from putting their own spin on both burgeoning sub-genres – with the same game! The result, as if you hadn’t guessed, was Snowboard Kids.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Master System Round-Up #3

As recently touched-upon with the start of the 'Licensed Games' feature here at Red Parsley, titles based on movies, TV shows, etc, are generally not of a very high standard to say the least. For this reason, with the occasional exception, I'll be taking a look at them here via these 'Round-Ups' to save myself any potential trauma. Who knows, maybe I'll stumble upon a decent game or two in the process! Here's the first random five selected from the Master System's library:

Back To The Future II (1990)

After the wondrous delights of the first film, I always felt that BTTFII was rather disappointing. Game-wise though, expectations were already low and it soon became apparent when playing the game that this was a more than justified stance! Marty's adventure here is split into five themed segments - the first and last consist of Paperboy-inspired scrolling hoverboard chase/avoid sequences, the second charges you with retrieving Jennifer from her house via an overhead puzzle stage, the third is a scrolling fighting stage, and the fourth is a sliding puzzle. Sadly, none of them is particularly enjoyable, and that's assuming you even reach any beyond the first which is unfair and highly frustrating. The music and presentation are pretty good but the in-game graphics are quite poor which, along with the annoying/boring gameplay, means this game probably won't even appeal to fans of the films, nevermind anyone else... 4/10

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #7

Magical Cat Adventure (1993)
By: Wintechno Co. Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 128,700
Also Available For: Nothing

As embarrassing as it probably should be to admit, as a gamer I’ve always been partial to cute, happy, jolly games, especially platformers. I’m not always in the mood for them of course, but at the right time there’s nothing like a relaxing, colourful journey across some wacky, distant, and mysterious land. Identifying previously unknown games of this type by name alone is often fairly easy too – they usually contain a telltale animal-ish name and also often feature words like ‘magical’ and ‘adventure’, and it was via this highly scientific method that this latest addition to the ‘Random Game’ feature here at Red Parsley was discovered. However, upon giving it a try I soon realised that not only had I never heard of the game but not even the company that released it. An unknown game by an unknown company could spell big trouble...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

TV Shows #1

Prison Break (2005 - 2009)
Created By: Paul Scheuring Starring: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies, Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper, William Fichtner, Paul Adelstein, Robin Tunney, Wade Williams, Peter Stormare, Lane Garrison, Rockmond Dunbar, Silas Weir Mitchell, Marshall Allman, Chris Vance, Jodi Lynn O'Keefe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "Escape is Just the Beginning"

Any film or TV show set in a prison is automatically awesome, everyone knows that, but even with that in mind, few shows have become as immediately popular and successful as this one. The prison of the title is the fictional Fox River State Penitentiary (at least initially) in which Lincoln Burrows is being held on death row, awaiting execution for the murder of the Vice President's brother. His younger brother, Michael Scofield, is a brilliant structural engineer and is convinced of his brother's innocence. To that end, he formulates an elaborate plan to get himself incarcerated and then bust them both out of the maximum-security prison, but he won't be able to do it alone...