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...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ultimate: The Collected Works - Part 3

Tranz Am (1983)
By: Ultimate Play the Game Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: Not much :|
Also Available For: Nothing

The platformy action games that comprised Ultimate's first two releases were well received and are fondly remembered today, but probably weren't the kind of thing they would become most famous for. Some of their titles, however, seem to get forgotten altogether by some. Arguably the most ignored of them all, of their Spectrum releases at least, is Tranz Am. Is that because it sucks donkey balls or is it simply because many of their other games were so much better? It was a bit of a departure for them but their trademark simplicity remains intact for it's an overhead-viewed driving game where the object is merely to collect trophies. Browsing through the instructions/inlay, however, certainly gives the impression that a great deal more thought was put into than it may initially appear.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Overrated! #4

Strider (1989)
By: Capcom Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Master System, X68000, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get crucified for this one, but... am I the only one who could never quite see what all the fuss was about with Strider? With the exception of the Street Fighter games and a few more recent franchises such as Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, it's arguably Capcom's most famous game ever, so it must be fantastic, surely? Well, I've played it in the arcade, on my good friend Luke's Amstrad CPC, and most extensively on my MegaDrive where is was apparently close to arcade perfect, so if that version didn't do it for me, surely none would? To find out, I shall return to its origins - the arcade version - and take my most detailed look at the celebrated somersault-fest yet. Will I regret including it in the 'Overrated' feature? Only time will tell...

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Doujin Shmups #6

Hydorah (2010)
By: Locomalito / Gryzor 87 Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 69,040
Also Available For: Nothing

There really are an amazing number of talented, dedicated fellows out there making these doujin shmups and, while their quality is understandably variable, something that almost all of them have in common is that they’re vertically-scrolling games. As I discovered with the last post in this series, however, there are exceptions. Isometric games are quite rare regardless of genre or who made them but horizontally-scrolling shmups are, or at least were, as popular as their overhead brethren, so it’s rather bizarre that there are so few fan-made examples. Luckily, there are one or two as I recently discovered completely by accident.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Anime #2 - Revolutionary Girl Utena

When I first started watching anime it wasn't particularly popular here in the UK, to my knowledge at least, so rather than reading the non-existent articles and reviews in magazines, I had to more or less choose them randomly and hope for the best, and this is exactly how I discovered Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Part of the appeal of RGU was admittedly the suggestive nature of some of the associated artwork (tee hee!) but it's actually a considerably darker show than it might initially appear and has a rather complicated storyline that requires more than one viewing to even understand, at least for dimwits like me. The star of the show is unsurprisingly the girl of the title, Utena, who is indeed revolutionary, or supposedly so anyway. She is a pupil at Ohtori Academy, a fictional Japanese high-school, where she is an unusual student. She lost her parents at an early age and was consoled by a mysterious price who left such an impression on her that she decided to become a prince herself which resulted in her unique dress sense and mannerisms. While some pupils and teachers at the school find her a bit strange, most of the girls idolise her. As well as wearing what is described in the show as a boys uniform (although no one else in the school dresses like her, boys or girls), she attempts to conduct herself in as honest, gallant, and noble a way as possible, and it is in pursuit of this that she inadvertently lands herself in trouble.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Early Driving Games #8

Pitstop II (1984)
By: Epyx Genre: Driving Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore 64
Also Available For: PC, Amstrad CPC, Atari 800, Apple II, TRS-80
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

One of my many objectives when starting this humble blog was to finally force myself to try out some titles on the systems that have gone largely ignored by me over the years. The first one to enter my mind was the mighty C64. I may have become somewhat distracted since, but the process began with the pair of 'Exploring the C64' posts for which I requested some game recommendations from seasoned C64 veterans. One of these recommendations was Pitstop, a game that turned out to be so bad I immediately thought I'd been the victim of a practical joke. Subsequent research, however, has revealed its sequel to be substantially better thought of. It's taken me a good while to work up the courage, but here I shall find out if the 'Pitstop' name has been redeemed...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Top Five First-Person Shooters

Now, many regular readers here at Red Parsley will have already gotten a good idea about my gaming tastes and preferences – namely that I’ve generally stuck to consoles of the 80’s and 90’s (or arcades, when lucky enough to find one) and almost always play arcade-style games mostly consisting of shmups, platformers, racing games, and a sprinkling of puzzle and fighting games. There have been some fairly sizeable casualties as a result of these stringently upheld habits with some of the biggest including my neglect of genres more usually found on home computers or modern consoles such as RPG’s, survival horror, strategy and simulation games, and of course the one that currently comprises about half of all games released – the First Person Shooter. The paltry number of FPS’s that I’ve actually devoted more than a few minutes to could literally be counted on the fingers of one hand and could accordingly be summarised in a Top Five list right here! So, taking the form of a comedy Top Five, here are my five ‘favourite’ FPS’s:

5. Killing Time (3DO - 1995)

I’m quite confident in saying that this is the first FPS I ever owned and it was bought only on the strength of a decent review in the short-lived 3DO Magazine that I used to buy. It was all rather new and intriguing to me but I also didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. The story casts you in the role of an Egyptology student searching for a lost artifact somewhere within the estate of a wealthy heiress located on an island in Maine. This involves snooping around the large play-area which is soon discovered to be filled with lots of spooky ghosts and undead creatures! There are a number of weapons available, including the usual pistols and machine guns, and lots of areas to explore as you gradually uncover the story of the occupants of the island and the heiress herself. One notable aspect of the game is its graphics which were very impressive in their day. The locations are pretty nice and most of the sprites are FMV-based which help make Killing Time a very atmospheric game with some genuinely unsettling moments!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Almost 3D Shmups #1

Aqua Jack (1990)
By: Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 28,650 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Whilst the question of when 3D videogames first appeared is an oft-asked and seldom answered one, I don't think anyone would disagree that true 3D games had to wait for systems to become powerful enough and for game media to offer sufficient storage space for them - i.e. the CD-ROM era. However, programmers have been using hardware and software tricks to achieve a similar effect since pretty much the dawn of gaming itself. Some systems were better at it than others of course - the SNES's Mode 7 being an obvious example - but some simple scaling techniques could achieve good results on near enough anything. In this new feature at Red Parsley, I'll start taking a look at some of them, specifically shoot 'em ups (for now). However, rather than start with an old favourite that I already know well, I thought I'd start with a game I'd never heard of until recently and which I discovered by accident!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Film Review #42

Ip Man (2008)
Director: Wilson Yip Starring: Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Simon Yam, Gordon Lam Ka-tung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Fan Siu-wong, Xing Yu, Chen Zhihui, Li Ze

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "The celebrated Kung Fu master of Bruce Lee"

Even after all these years, the biggest martial arts screen icon is surely still the immortal Bruce Lee. He was born with a lot of natural talent which was put to good use during his short life, but any amount of talent needs to be nurtured and refined. Who did that for Mr. Lee? That would be Wing Chun master, Ip Man. We meet him in the 1930's as a 40-something resident of Fushan, a southern Chinese city which is home to many martial arts schools. As an independently wealthy man, none of them are run by Ip (Yen), but he is the most skilled and respected martial artist in the city and frequently trains and spars with local masters. Aside from that, he spends his time in a fairly slouchy manner with his friends or family. This near-idyllic life is, however, brought to an abrupt end by the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Next-Gen Driving Games #1

Burnout (2001)
By: Criterion Games / Acclaim  Genre: Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: Infinity
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, Xbox

As many regular readers here may know, the demise of Sega’s fantastic Dreamcast took with it my enthusiasm for all ‘modern’ gaming as well. Consequently, a vast majority of systems and games released since then went largely ignored by me. Still to this day I’ve used a PS2 only very briefly, and I’ve never used an Xbox, but the GameCube is a bit different. My appreciation of racing games is also well-known and it was these games that consumed the bulk of my time with my shiny Dreamcast so my interest in modern gaming was again briefly piqued by a magazine cover I saw. The magazine was Edge whose cover was only usually awarded to notably important or prestigious subjects so when I saw one dominated by a new racing game called Burnout, I took immediate notice, particularly when I saw the text accompanying the image – "OutRun meets 3DO Need For Speed"…

Friday, 3 August 2012

SNES Platform Games #3

Hagane: The Final Conflict (1994)
By: Red Entertainment / Hudson Soft Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 23,970
Also Available For: Nothing

Like many systems, the poor old SNES saw a lot of decent games released near the end of its lifespan which were missed by many gamers with the eyes on the next generation of consoles. I took a look at one of these in the last post for this feature and, like that game, Hagane is another one I knew almost nothing of until many years later. If I told you it's a game featuring lots of ninjas and rival warrior clans you'd be forgiven for thinking it was set many hundreds of years ago, but this ninja game is a little different. There are two main clans - the Fuma and the Koma, both of whom have mastered various mysterious and magical arts, but one of whom is of course evil. The object of their desire is the Holy Grail which has "a power that can destroy the world". I'm not sure how it made it to Japan, nor why the Koma clan should seek to use it to destroy the world - surely if they did that, it would take them with it? Oh well, nit-picking aside, it's time to cower in fear as they've managed to half-inch it from its guardians, the Fuma clan!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Splendid PlayStation Music #2

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Few original PlayStation games are as revered as this one so I'm very pleased to say it's one of the couple of dozen that I actually own! I very much doubt I'll get around to giving it the coverage it deserves for a good while yet but it is of course a thoroughly splendid game in pretty much every way. One particularly noteworthy way is its amazing soundtrack by Michiru Yamane which features over thirty songs spread over a typically eclectic variety of styles including classical, rock, techno, and jazz. My favourite tracks, however, are the gothic ones like this fantastic piece:

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!