Monday, 30 April 2012

First Look MSX #1

Valis: The Fantasm Solider by Telenet (1990) - MSX

Like most Western gamers, my first experience of the Valis series came courtesy of the various MegaDrive ports that appeared in the US but the series first appeared on the MSX, so it was here that I had intended to reacquaint myself with the series. After booting the game up on the mighty fine BlueMSX emulator to grab a shot of the title screen, however, I had a quick try of the game and was immediately so turned off by it that the review has lain dormant in my 'drafts' section for weeks ever since as I've been too scared to return to it! I finally summoned the courage to give it another try just this past weekend but alas, I still found it to be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. This is largely due to the repetitive, flickery graphics which somehow renders the infinite enemies intermittently invisible. The main character is animated unappealingly as well, and the awkward controls make the apparently never-ending first stage an absolute chore to play through, so I'm afraid I've had to relent and seek refuge in the MegaDrive version which will instead feature in the forthcoming review! Sorry but I did try!

RKS Score: 1/5

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Arcade Fighting Games #1

Yie Ar Kung-Fu (1985)
By: Konami Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 70,400
Also Available For: NES, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron

It's quite remarkable to think that I've been babbling on about retro games and stuff here for over two years now and I've still not taken a detailed look at a single one-on-one fighting game! Well, I think it's time to change that and what better place to start than with the first game of this type I ever got into. Konami's mid-80's classic was converted to quite a few systems of the day - it was the Spectrum version I played to death (and I was actually quite good at it too!) as it came on the ultra-spiffing Magnificent Seven compilation - but as was so often the case, I never got a chance to try the arcade original despite living in a coastal city which is (or was) the natural habitat of amusement arcades! Boo hoo! :( Oh well, never mind, and at least it gives me the pleasure of experiencing the original now, but will it be a pleasure, or was the good old Speccy conversion a good port of a smelly game?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Gaming Memories - Part 8

I know this series of features here at Red Parsley is entitled 'Gaming Memories' but I'm really struggling to remember when, why, or even how I obtained my Atari Lynx, but own one I did. This last part is especially confusing as I'm sure I was at college at the time which means I had no money to speak of. I seem to have a vague recollection of receiving the sizeable console in the post though, which suggests I conned/nagged my mum into ordering it from her catalogue. That takes care of the 'how', albeit rather inconclusively. That also helps me place the time of the purchase somewhere in the early 90's which is further verified by my certainty that it was the original and larger version of the Lynx that I owned to start with. So, that just leaves the 'why'. What is it that made me so desire this new handheld so much?

I suppose that decision was probably reached in the same way as many other decisions of my earlier and far less responsible years, which usually had something to do with the tantalising coverage and images in the magazines of the day. Atari's name still carried a little weight in those days and news of their first foray into the world of the handheld console, a market newly revealed and duly exploited by Nintendo, was met with a great deal of interest from press and gamers alike. However, Nintendo's marvellous little machines truly was a handheld whilst the beefy Lynx, originally conceived and developed by American software house, Epyx, before being sold to Atari, was much larger, heavier, and had a crippling power-usage (six 'AA' batteries would last around two or three hours!). As a result, for me as well as probably most other Lynx owners, it was almost exclusively a machine to use at home with the mains adaptor or take to friends houses to be used with a similar power source. Unless your dad worked for Duracell or something of course. Mine didn't, and I soon discovered how much of a hindrance this would be.

Monday, 23 April 2012

NES Shmups #1

Crisis Force (1991)
By: Konami Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: Don't know - it's not displayed during play!
Also Available For: Nothing

Of the Top Five Shmups lists I've compiled so far here at Red Parsley, the one that's garnered the least attention was probably the NES one. Not too much of a surprise there I suppose - unlike the likes of the MegaDrive and PC Engine, Nintendo's console is hardly renowned as a shmuppers paradise. It does host some impressive examples though, and of the attention its list did receive, most of it was asking was Crisis Force wasn't included. One answer to that perfectly valid question is that, because the game was only released in Japan, I wasn't too familiar with it. The better answer, however, is that I simply preferred the games there were on the list! However, that's not to suggest that Konami's game is a stinky pile of plops though, and it's high time it was dissected in more detail. Due to its exclusively Japanese nature the story wasn't immediately obvious, but further investigation reveals that it's actually a battle against the forces of Atlantis!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

MSX Round-Up #1

As a gamer of an almost exclusively retro variety, it's strange to look back on a system that I know bugger all about like the MSX. I suppose it's quite arrogant to assume that something must've been a failure simply because I haven't heard much about it, so although it was just that in the US and European markets, it's surprising to discover not only how popular and influential it was in the Far East, but also how many top titles and franchises found their way onto it, and in some cases started life there as well. In this series of posts I'll be taking a look at random selections of them to discover just what I've been missing, and here is the first:

Time Pilot (1983)

I've actually played this one somewhen before but I can't remember on which system. VCS perhaps? I guess it didn't leave much of an impression on me in any case. It's a multi-directional shooter which places you in charge of a jet-fighter of some sort which is sent through five different time zones where you must destroy a set number of enemy craft, as well as rescue friendly pilots drifting through the danger-zone by parachute, before the boss ship arrives. Defeat this and travel to the next period. That's about it! Time Pilots is regarded as one of Konami's best early games, and some of these really simple shooters are very addictive and great fun, but this one just doesn't do it for me. The background doesn't change until the last stage so it gets very repetitive, both to look at and to play, and it's just strangely unsatisfying to play, for me at least. It must've been a very early MSX release but surely they could've expanded the concept a little? ... 5/10

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

MegaDrive Platform Games #5

Flicky (1991)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 117,270
Also Available For: Arcade, Sega SG-1000, MSX, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-88, Sharp X1

Originally released in the arcades way back in 1984, Flicky is perhaps one of Sega's lesser known titles but there's a good chance you've seen a bit more of the tiny creatures that you might expect. Flicky himself is a small blue bird and protagonist of this game which marks his first appearance. However, it seems that the name may actually refer to a whole family or species of bird, for many multi-coloured versions of Flicky have appeared in later and more well-known games. Most notable among these is a particular game starring a far more famous blue creature, this time with spikes rather then feathers, and it even featured their name - Sonic 3D: Flickies Island! It therefore seems likely that the nippy little things have flourished since this first game, so let's take a look at where it all started for them.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Puzzle Games #10

Eggerland Mystery (1985)
By: HAL Laboratory Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: MSX First Day Score: 865
Also Available For: Nothing

The MSX is a funny machine to me. From a personal point of view, it actually has a lot in common with the NES - both systems were very popular in Japan but neither was remotely successful here in the UK, for example. As a result, I knew little about either machine until more recent years since when I've made a conscious effort to rectify this oversight. Many splendid NES games have been played in pursuit of this and one series I've been enjoying is Adventures of Lolo but it seems that games starring the blue sphere did not originate there. So which system did he first waddle onto? That's right, it was the ever-mysterious MSX! As with other games in the series, it seems that Lolo's object of desire, the princess Lala, has been kidnapped and hidden in the evil enemy underground stronghold of Eggerland. So, for the first of what would turn out to be many times, Lolo must summon the wits and courage to solve the complex labyrinth and save his beloved!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Cover Art: PC Engine - Part 1

As much as I enjoyed looking at the diametrically differing standard of Master System cover art, I think it's time I moved on to another system, and if there's one that immediately pops into my head as having almost as severe differences in regional artwork, it's NEC's box of tricks. Of course, in the case of this fine machine it's not just the game covers that differ so much in aesthetic splendour - the console itself was completely redesigned for its North American release.

The sexy, compact white console, famously photographed next to a packet of crisps in C&VG magazine, was almost doubled in size to become the TurboGrafx-16. Why? I guess only NEC can answer that question but sadly the redesigning didn't end there. The TG-16 games frequently came with very basic and unpleasant cover art far removed from the spiffing Japanese covers. Here's a selection of some that I've happened upon so far:

GunHed / Blazing Lazers (1989)

Not only is this game one of the finest vertical-scrollers on the Engine but it's one of the best I've ever played! The Japanese cover, while not especially brilliant in itself, has become hugely iconic and loved among shmup fans. This is probably due to a combination of the large, bold, distinctive font used for the title, and the fact that the game effing rules! The ship looks pretty cool and imposing as well though, and the background, which partially features blueprints of probably the same ship, isn't bad either. The American effort on the other hand, as well as unnecessarily changing the name to some generic nonsense, also features a much less cool ship aiming a shot toward a distant and largely undecipherable ship. It is a ship which features in the game, admittedly, but it's still a pretty stinky cover for a cracking game. Bah! (full review here)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Scrolling Fighting Games #8

Wonder Momo (1987)
By: Namco Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 16,600
Also Available For: PC Engine Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Somewhat surprisingly, leading female protagonists in video games are still quite a rare thing but in the 80's they were about as common as unicorn poop. Some games like Ms Pac-Man barely made a token effort while others like Metroid cleverly concealed the truth but one game that did neither of these things is Wonder Momo, a strange Japan-only game by Namco. It's apparently set in a theatre where you, as a young girl called Momoko, take centre stage. It's viewed as if sitting near the front of the theatre but, of course, it's no ordinary stage. Approaching young Momoko from either side are numerous costumed enemies whom she must despatch before a larger and stronger enemy character appears. I'm not sure which kind of audience this show is aimed at but it must make for some intriguing viewing!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

MegaDrive Shmups #7

Curse (1989)
By: Micronet Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 3,628,000
Also Available For: Nothing

Considering its heritage and reputation among shoot 'em ups fans, it's surprising that Sega's MegaDrive has so few games of that type that weren't available anywhere else, and even less that only appeared in one of the main territories. This game however, a fairly early release from Micronet, is one such title. Only Japanese MD owners had the option of playing it (legally) but that didn't stop it from getting some space in one or two of the gaming magazines I frequently perused around that time. It never seemed to get spoken about with much affection but I always remember it looking lovely in screenshots. Playing it for this review confirmed that I remembered this detail accurately but would it also confirm why the reviewers of the day didn't like it? It didn't appear so, at least initially...

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Splendid Nintendo 64 Music #2

Space Station Silicon Valley (1998)

As regular readers will know, Red Parsley recently celebrated not only a two year anniversary but also the posting of my 200th full game review! Hooray for me! To honour the occasion I decided to review one of my all-time favourite games - Space Station Silicon Valley. There are many reasons why I like this game so much - it's a nearly perfect blend of so many things I like in a game but none of them really stands above any of the others. However, one aspect that I can single out a little more easily here than any of the others is its music. The fantastic soundtrack by Stuart Ross is one of those rare ones that comes along every now and then which completely encapsulates the zany game that it accompanies. I've never been very good at categorising music though, so couldn't really explain it in the review. Most tracks are upbeat and feature the likes of organs, pianos, and snare drums and stuff like that and they're all very catchy! So much so, in fact, that I had a tough time deciding which to feature here. So, if you enjoy this selection, listen to some of the others on YouTube! :) (full Space Station Silicon Valley 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!

Friday, 6 April 2012

200th Review!

Space Station Silicon Valley a.k.a. Evo's Space Adventures (1998)
By: DMA Design / Take-Two Interactive Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64 First Day Score: Ongoing...
Also Available For: PlayStation, Game Boy Color

No, your eyes do not deceive you! Not only has it now been almost exactly two years since I started publishing my inane and nonsensical ramblings here at Red Parsley, but this anniversary also happens to coincide with my 200th full game review as well - hooray! During this time I've covered some of my old favourites, finally played titles I've been meaning to try for years, and even discovered some games I'd never previously heard of. It seems like it's been even longer than a mere two years actually, but in order to sufficiently recognise such a special occasion, I need a special review, or more accurately, a review of a special game. The title I've selected is one which arrived in the N64's prime and proved to be one of the few decent games that wasn't by Rare or Nintendo themselves. It was well-received critically and yet almost no one bought it which is both strange and a great shame. It also means it's a game of which I sometimes think I'm the only fan, so allow me to enlighten you...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Top Five Tarantino Films

It was about twenty years ago now that the world first heard the name of Quentin Tarantino. The former video-store clerk achieved what so many in his position want but so few manage - to make his own films. Some people were quick to dismiss him as a copy-cat artist, taking the work of others and putting his own spin on it, but but these people are missing the point - he's a geek and like many geeks his age he grew up watching movies so it's inevitable that they'll have influenced him as a film-maker.

Not all his inspiration came from others though and he soon forged a very distinctive style of his own with the results seeing him quickly become one of the most famous writer/directors around. I think I speak for a lot of movie fans when I say the imminent release of a new Tarantino film is an exciting time but he takes so long to make new ones that we have plenty of time to digest his previous efforts too. Here are my five favourite:

5. Jackie Brown (1997)

For his third full film, QT adapted Elmore Leonard's novel, Rum Punch, and it constitutes his homage to the 'blaxploitation' films of the '70s. It also sees him continuing his apparent habit of resurrecting the careers of former big names and stars Pam Grier as the title character, an air hostess who supplements her income smuggling money for gun-runner, Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). Also starring Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda as dopey goons roped into helping Ordell, Robert Forster as a bail bondsman, and Michael Keaton as an ATF agent, Jackie Brown is a more linear film than we're used to seeing from Tarantino and lacks some of his trademark touches, but it proves to be an intelligently-crafted and superbly-paced film with lots of memorable scenes.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Game Gear Games #2

Magical Puzzle Popils (1992)
By: MTJ / Tengen Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear
Also Available For: Nothing

Of all the hand-helds released in the wake of the Game Boy's monstrous onslaught, none were particularly successful but I think you'd have to say the most successful one was Sega's effort. However, although slightly superior to the Master System from a technical point of view, games released on it were mostly ports of titles on Sega's older console. Exclusives were much rarer but there were a few, and one of them was this unusual puzzle game which, curiously, arrived courtesy of the usually-multi-format publisher, Tengen. As is often the case with puzzle games, they've seen fit to incorporate a story of sorts which really doesn't make an awful lot of sense, but it doesn't hurt to try I suppose! The nameless boy whose actions you direct, you see, recently met a beautiful princess and they fell in love. No sooner had that happened, however, then the jealous Wizard of Forest Popil kidnapped her and trapped her in his labyrinth!