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.