Monday, 29 September 2014

Star Trek #7

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Seven

Well, as the show's final episode says so poignantly itself, all good things must come to an end, and after outlasting The Original Series by quite some margin, Star Trek: The Next Generation did indeed finally end with this seventh season. I'm not sure if anyone, Trek fans or otherwise, were sure how it would be received or if it would be a success, but I doubt even the most optimistic predictions would've gauged just how popular, enduring, and culturally significant it would end up being.

It wasn't a perfect show though, obviously, consisting of a good few stinky episodes amongst the more numerous splendid examples, and oddly enough this final season is not considered one of the show's finest. I don't have any particular issue with it but it probably was a bit easier to narrow my selection down than it normally is. I was never a huge fan of either Descent of Gambit, for example; both two-parters featuring a rebel Borg army (controlled by Lore) and Picard working undercover to bring down some criminal mercenaries respectively. Other delights this season include a remote control Geordie, Data stabbing Troi (but not in the way so many crew 'members' were doing last season), Picard and Crusher nearly getting it on, before the latter shags a ghost in a subsequent episode, and Troi's irritating mother returns struggling to conceal a dark secret.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

First Look NES #2

Lot Lot by Irem / Tokuma Shoten (1985) - NES

I've been playing video games for a long time now and I'd like to think I've got a pretty good general understanding of them, so it's not often I play a game that baffles me beyond recourse. When I gave Irem's puzzler here a try, however, I was and remain stumped. The object is to guide the many pellets from the top of the screen down to one of the 'scoring pits' at the bottom of the screen by moving them from cell to cell, making sure to avoid the evil orange crab in the process who is eager to grab as many pellets as he can. This is done by using two arrows. One is under your control, the other mimics its actions with a four-second delay. The only trouble is, I've been unable to find any kind of connection between what I do with the arrows and how the pellets move. This has proven mighty frustrating to say the least! I've watched clips of the game being played and looked for instructions online but all of them make it seem as though it should be obvious how to play. Can someone explain to me how in the blue blazes this game is played? Unless I'm just too stupid to learn, obviously... :(

RKS Score: N/A

Friday, 26 September 2014

Currently Playing...

Splinter Cell (2002)
By: Ubisoft Genre: Stealth Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Microsoft Xbox
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, GameCube, PC, Mac, Game Boy Advance, N-Gage

Well, I suppose it had to happen eventually didn't it? My experience of all post-Dreamcast consoles has been limited, and I've intentionally avoided several genres including all these pesky 'stealth' games but, after the acquisition of an Xbox and the subsequent purchase of games for it, I soon realised I should at least try one of them, for blog purposes if nothing else. This game, the first in the series of the same name, was the first one I found and was available for a wallet-busting 35p so I figured it was a good place to start.

As expected, it's one of those games that thinks it's a film, and accordingly I found myself cast in the role of Sam Fisher, a veteran covert field operative, who's been recruited by the NSA and sent into Georgia (the country, not the American state), initially to investigate the disappearance of two CIA officers, but of course that quickly snowballs into a convoluted plot involving presidential assassination, a subsequent coup, genicide, and a potential war amongst many other things, and it's up to Sam (and only Sam) to save the day. In most comparable games that I'm already familiar with, that would mean charging around shooting the crap out of everything with an extravagant array of weaponry, but things here are very different.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Master System Round-Up #4

After recently reviewing both the arcade version and Mega Drive 'super' conversion of Sega's splendid Golden Axe here at Red Parsley, I found my mind wandering back to the earliest version I ever played, which was of course the version hosted by the mighty Master System. I recall enjoying it very much but I've also more recently heard a multitude of unpleasant comments about it as well. I therefore figured this was a good time to revisit it as well as check how well the trusty MS handled a few other conversions of arcade fighting games as well. Therefore, behold:

Golden Axe (1989)

I was introduced to this game by my good friend Luke and we both thought it was fantastic, but nowadays it seems to be derided somewhat for the stuff it's missing rather than appreciated for what was squeezed in. The biggest of casualties are Tyris Flare and Gilius Thunderhead, both of whom are absent - only Ax Battler remains, but you can still choose any of the original magics for him to use. He can no longer perform his twirly sword super-attack either, and the two-player mode is also gone. Apart from these points, however, this is still a great version of the popular game. All the stages are present and correct and a decent effort has been made to replicate the music and graphics. The controls are responsive too (except while riding dragons), with Mr. Battler even moving faster than the other versions. I suppose the best way to sum up MS Golden Axe is to say: average conversion but great game... 7/10

Monday, 22 September 2014

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #11

Pu.Li.Ru.La (1991)
By: Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 22,010 (one credit)
Also Available For: Saturn, PlayStation, FM Towns Marty, PlayStation 2 (part of compilation)

Who in the blue blazes came up with this name?
Over time, video games have been based in all manner of fantastical lands with with an equally diverse range of names, but I think I've just discovered my favourite one ever. PuLiRuLa you see, which is an impressive enough name itself, is set in a rather peculiar place called Radishland. The fact that there are apparently very few radishes in Radishland makes it an even more awesome name, but something else there is little of here is time which has stopped. This vital component of everyday life is controlled by a magical 'time key' which has sadly now been stolen by an as-yet unidentified rapscallion. Leading the fight to restore the flow of time (and somehow unaffected by its inactivity) are Zac and Mel (a boy and girl respectively) who are pushed into service by an old man who furnishes each of them with a 'magic stick' with which to... smash stuff.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Film Review #68

Lucy (2014)
Director: Luc Besson Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 89 Minutes

Tagline: "The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%."

I'm sure we've all heard about how our poor primitive human brains only make use of 10% of their ultimate capacity. When I was younger this used to amaze me. I used to think "Wow, just imagine what we'll be capable of once we learn/evolve to use the rest!" and imagined all sorts of superhero-like abilities. Of course, this 'fact' turned out to be nonsense and completely devoid of scientific merit, but that hasn't stopped Luc Besson from basing his latest film around this fantastical concept. Unsurprisingly, it revolves around the titular character, played by the lovely Scarlett Johansson, who is an American living and studying in Taipei. After being tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a package to a Korean mob boss (Min-sik) there, Lucy is captured and forced to work as a drug mule by having a packet of a synthetic drug called CPH4 sewn into her abdomen and sent to Europe along with three other mules.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Saturn Driving / Racing Games #1

Touge: King the Spirits a.k.a. High Velocity – Mountain Racing Challenge (1995)
By: Cave / Atlus Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn
Also Available For: Nothing

The birth of the 32-bit consoles is when driving games really took off so it's a bit ironic that the Saturn was so poorly served in that department. Most owners had to make do with the conversions of Sega's own arcade titles like Sega Rally and Daytona but there were a few who wanted more. One such possibility came in the form of the splendidly-named Touge: King the Spirits. Though not particularly well known or successful, Touge was nonetheless touted by some enthusiastic gamers as the Saturn's answer to Ridge Racer. That would make it an overrated pile of poop to me but, in the interests of impartiality, I approached it with an open mind. Okay, I may have been secretly hoping it was far superior to Namco's immensely limited racer, but that's as good as it was going to get! Don't let me down, mighty Saturn...

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Quest To Like a Football Game #1

Match Day (1984)
By: Jon Ritman & Chris Clarke / Ocean  Genre: Sport  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: Lost 0-2 :(
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro

As many who know me would most likely agree, I can be quite an odd fellow, for better or worse. One example which is relevant in this case is my lifelong appreciation of football (the version most of the world likes - you know, the one where the players actually kick the 'ball' with their 'foot'). Being a fan of such a popular sport doesn't make me particularly odd but what is slightly odd is that I've also liked video games for most of my life as well and yet I've never managed to combine the two interests as so many other gamers have. That's right, for unknown reasons, I've never really enjoyed any football games that I've played. Due to this realisation, I haven't actually played too many examples so I thought I'd once again put this staggeringly awesome blog to good use by attempting to find one I do like.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Awesome Nature #17

The Wave
Type: Geologic Formation Located In: Arizona Conservation Status: N/A

The diverse range of creatures and plant life on our struggling planet is really quite bewildering but they are not all that Mother Nature has to offer. Every now and then we're reminded that the planet itself is alive too, and it is capable of some pretty awesome feats all by itself. Take this remarkable floopy rock formation for example. It's known as The Wave and is located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, an exposure of Jurassic sandstone in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. It dates back 190 million years and is primarily composed of two major troughs, each around 16m long, which were formed by erosion - water to begin with, then wind, with some parts even having been shaped by trampling dinosaurs! It certainly makes for a dramatic sight too, but good luck visiting it - only twenty people per day are permitted and they are selected by lottery. Maybe one day... :(

Why It Is Awesome: Curly rocks!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Early Driving Games #10

Crazy Cars 2 (1989)
By: Titus Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 1,532
Also Available For: Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Alright, let's tell it like it is - after the substandard (to put it politely) Crazy Cars there was only one reason any gamers were interested in its sequel - it had a Ferrari F40 on the cover. The fact that it was, at the time, the fastest production car in the world was awesome but it didn't matter as much as how cool it looks (I still think it's one of the best looking cars ever)... but was the game any better than the ghastly prequel? Well, owing to the aesthetic splendour of the F40 I decided to find out by trying what should be the flashiest version, as hosted by the Amiga. It certainly has an appropriately attractive loading/title screen and there's a fairly reasonable backstory this time which sees you cast as an unnamed FBI agent attempting to smash a stolen car racket. The only trouble is, the guys behind it are corrupt cops.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Platform / Puzzle Games #5

Toki Tori (1992)
By: Two Tribes B.V. / Capcom Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy Color
Also Available For: Nintendo 3DS, PC, Android, iOS
Download For: PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console, Wii U 

Early 80's platformer, Chuckie Egg, is undoubtedly an all-time classic and has been one of my favourite platform games for a great many years now too, so when I recently stumbled upon the superbly-named Toki Tori it was hard to avoid noticing a few similarities between the two games. The most obvious is that the objective of both is to collect all the eggs on each given stage, but whereas the older game cast you as Henhouse Harry who was presumably a farmer seeking to collect and sell the many eggs produced by his possessive (and deadly) cluckers, this more recent effort casts you as the former occupant of a recently hatched egg who has bravely taken upon himself to liberate his as-yet unhatched brethren who were whisked away by a mysterious and no doubt evil force. Spying the eggs from atop a cliff (as seen in the brief intro sequence) which are now being held in and around a spooky castle, Toki Tori (for that is our hero's name) ventures forth undaunted...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Film Review #67

Europa Report (2013)
Director: Sebastián Cordero Starring: Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Dan Fogler, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 89 Minutes

Tagline: "Fear. Sacrifice. Contact."

There seems to have been a spate of 'realistic' sci-fi films in recent years - Moon and Gravity are two great examples - but one that managed to initially slip by unnoticed is Europa Report. It's about the first manned mission to Europa, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter that has long been suspected of harbouring a vast ocean beneath its icy surface... and possibly even some form of basic life. It's a subject I've long been interested in too, so I was eager to see what they found. The six-person mission has been sent to land on the moon, drill down through the ice, and see what's there. The 'report' part of the title comes from the way the film is presented which recounts the mission using footage from cameras mounted in and on the spacecraft and the crew's environment suits interspersed with interviews with the CEO of Europa Ventures, the private company that funded the mission.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

First Look PSN #3

Elefunk by 8bit Games (2008) - PlayStation Network (PS3)

My interest in this game originally stemmed pretty much entirely from the curious elephant used on its cover image, and in particular its amusing 'stomping' animation, but I had absolutely no clue what kind of game it might be. I guessed it might be a platform game and that turned out to be the case... kind of. It turns out, however, that you are required to build the platforms yourself! Well, they're actually bridges you must build - each stage features a ravine or waterway or something and at least one elephant (though often several) that needs to get to the other side. Your job is to build a bridge by choosing from a set selection of small pieces made of metal, wood, and even rope. It needs to be strong enough though, or the poor elephants will fall through to their deaths.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Super Conversions #1

Golden Axe (1989)
By: Sega Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 216.3
Also Available For: Arcade, Master System, PC Engine CD, WonderSwan Color, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console, iOS

Back in the 80's and 90's arcade conversions comprised a significant portion of the software libraries of most computers and consoles. Their quality was of course highly variable but the best ones were often regarded as being among the finest titles for their respective systems. These were generally the ones that were as faithful to their arcade parent as possible but it wasn't until Sega's MegaDrive was unveiled that I encountered the first such conversion that was actually better than its forebear. That conversion was of course Golden Axe, already a very popular game in the world's arcades and now a launch title for Sega's mighty new console. If it was handled well it would go some way to not only demonstrating the abilities of the new machine but perhaps even securing a good few purchases as well. Happily for me and other Sega fans, it was handled very well.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Babylon 5 Wallpapers

For a while now I've been making various sci-fi-related posts here at Red Parsley in between all the retro gaming stuff, and many of these have been about one of the first names that the term conjures up - Star Trek. However, my first love as far as this subject is concerned has always been Babylon 5 (well, since it first appeared at least), and while fooling around with my PC lately I discovered some old wallpapers I made many moons ago. What was I to do with these old and pointless occupants of my hard drive? Why, post them here of course! Therefore, for your (possible) viewing pleasure, please browse through (and click/enlarge) the fine images below!

Special Note: I would think it obvious but just to confirm - I didn't actually create the images themselves, I just found them online and fashioned them into these basic (and small - I was using an 800x600 display back then!) wallpapers. They might be worth browsing though anyway though! :)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Red Parsley Charts - Part 1

Oh, hello there. In a flash did the idea come unto me one hazy afternoon of late; an idea so resplendent in its simplicity that one cannot fail to gibber in a curious mixture of awe and bewilderment. This idea was, to add another tab/page to the top of this modest blog featuring charts of the highest rated games and films!

These charts will feature only such titles that have already been reviewed here at Red Parsley so far and are therefore likely to change over time as I encounter more and more splendid examples (hopefully). Here is the first such chart which is none other than an overall Top Ten Games :)

**Last Updated 16/12/15**

10. Bomberman '93 by Hudson Soft (1992) - PC Engine

Any Bomberman game is special (well, almost any - see the Bottom Ten Games!) and this is definitely the best one I've reviewed here so far. Wonderful, colourful, varied graphics, appealing music, and not only an immensely enjoyable game for one player but one of the finest multi-player games ever made. (full review here)