Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Retro News - PS1 Classic Lineup!

I don't usually cover stuff like this here but, having missed out on many PS1 games at the time due to my fierce Sega allegiance, this latest 'mini' console release is one that I have at least a bit of interest in. It was initially announced a few weeks ago accompanied by few details. Apparently the dinky console would come with a pair of original (non analogue) controllers for two-player splendidness, and twenty original PS1 games would be loaded onto it but, no more info was forthcoming.

Actually, that's not true - a few of the bundled titles were divulged at the time of the announcement but a majority remained a mystery. That is, until now (tootle tootle)! Indeed, the full line-up has now been unveiled and the reaction has been... somewhat mixed. I imagine most interested parties will have compiled wish-lists in their heads over the intervening weeks and I'm no different, but I figured I'd take a look at the official selection.

This 'look' will naturally be from the perspective of someone who has never been a big Sony gamer, and certainly not a fanboy (i.e. me), so it will probably be inane drivel unfit for the eyes of even a comatose marrow farmer, but that's okay since no one visits here nowadays anyway (guffaw/cry). Nonetheless, here is a look at the lucky few titles which will be split into three sections - the games included in all regions, the games only included with the console's Western release, and the games that only the Japanese players will get, and I thought I'd follow it up with my own picks.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Arcade Platform Games #5

Pac-Land (1984)
By: Namco Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 33,620
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Lynx, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum Download For: iOS, Wii Virtual Console


My many regular visits to the local beachside arcades I was fortunate enough to live close to during my youth yielded many delights but one game I always looked forward to was Pac-Land, the first game to star the yellow muncher since his curious mutation, perhaps the result of exposure to radiation of some sort, which bestowed upon him a brand new set of limbs the likes of which most of us take for granted. Thanks to these limbs he is apparently able to finally escape the confines of the endless mazes that comprised his earlier games. What's the first thing you would do in his position? That's right - go for a run and test out those gangly protrusions! Unfortunately for him, however, those pesky ghosts have also found a way to liberate themselves and set out in hot pursuit, aiming to spitefully ruin Pac-Man's fun.

Friday, 5 October 2018

They Might Be Giants - Chiptuned!

Most things I post here at Red Parsley will only be of interest to a small number of people, but even with that in mind the subject of this particular post really will be of limited appeal. For the tiny core of people with the right combination of interests, however, it will be a truly wondrous post worthy of wine, women and song!

Before we get to that, let me just say, I've been a fan of They Might Be Giants for many years now - nearly 30 years in fact, ever since an old friend made me a tape of their first two albums back in our school days (don't worry - I bought the originals soon afterwards) - and they've pretty much been my favourite band ever since.


Yes, I know in more recent years they've made several educational albums for the kiddies, but their 'proper' albums are still among the few music albums I actually look forward to the release of these days (for yes indeed, they are still going strong). One of their most popular albums remains Flood released in 1990 which contains 'Birdhouse in your Soul', still probably their best known song.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Film Review #105

Red Sparrow (2018)
Director: Francis Lawrence Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 140 Minutes

Tagline: "The road to forgiveness begins with betrayal."


It has been a while since I watched a decent spy thriller so I was looking forward to seeing this one, even more so with the usually-reliable Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role. The fact that it's based on a novel by Jason Matthews, a former CIA agent himself no less, only adds to its credentials. I guess novels don't always make the best movies but it should at least mean there's a decent story here. It has to do with 'Sparrows', the product of an SVR (formerly the KGB) programme of so-called 'sexpionage' operatives trained to seduce and gain the trust of targets with a view to exploiting them, usually by divulging compromising information or items. Lawrence is Dominika Egorova, a celebrated Russian ballerina who uses her earnings to support her ill mother. When she suffers a career-ending injury (mid-performance no less), however, it looks as though both of them are destined for destitution.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Star Control - Part 9

Generally I need little excuse to burble on about the Star Control series - it is one of my favourite of all game series' after all, particularly the skillish second game - but I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there? Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves!

Seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species, and while many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling was around the same time, in fact), they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts. This will be the second of two posts featuring the friendlier half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)

Shofixti

You remember the Shofixti from the first game - the idiotic bears with the crap ships that could blow themselves up? Well, they don't feature so prevalently in the sequel but they are here. Well, I say 'they' but you will probably only get to meet one of them - Captain Tanaka, apparently the sole surviving member of his brave race who can be found pootling around his home system still trying to see off all interlopers.

That will include you too, unless you're able to calm him down in time, but it's good fun talking to him either way. It's quickly revealed that Shofixti culture is modelled on Japan, specifically the way of the samurai, with everything from their names and accents to their sense of honour and fearless attitudes reminiscent of that country's feudal era. They must've made brave (albeit nominally effective) warriors in the first Ur-Quan war, so you'll be filled with both sadness and respect when you hear Tanaka's tales of their demise. Bow before the noble creatures.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Manga - A Beginner's Look #1

Iinari Princess (2008-09)
By: Yumi Nakata (Story & Art)
Volumes: 1 Chapters: 9 Total Pages: 210

Genres: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, School, Seinen

Yet another one of the many things I have been wanting to take a look at for years but never got around to is manga. Recently, however, I received a Kindle Fire tablet as a gift from my lovely wife so I figured it was a good opportunity to try some titles out. I found a good stock of digital examples and pretty much just picked a bunch at random based mainly on the name and cover art. A bit shallow perhaps, but with a handful of exceptions I don't really know of too many, and I couldn't really be arsed to spend time looking it in advance either. One of the chosen few was Iinari Princess. It isn't the first manga I read but it was the first one I had a strong opinion about, and not a positive one I'm afraid. This was disappointing as it sounded quite appealing from its brief synopsis which has to do with the young lady of the title who is indeed a real live princess. As she reminds us often, she is first princess in line to the throne of the Principality of Rivetaria which is 'a small North European country', and she has, for some reason, transferred to a Japanese school.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Golf Games #7

Naxat Open (1989)
By: NAXAT Soft Genre: Sports Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing


The mighty PC Engine is positively heaving under the weight of shoot 'em ups and arcade conversions of other types so it's not really the first console to come to mind when it comes to golf games. There are actually a few though, and since the Naxat name is a favoured one in here RKS Land, I thought I'd look at this one first. Typically, it's very simple and arcadey, offering two modes of play - Stroke Play and Match Play (probably - the choices are in Japanese) which are single and multi player modes (up to four) respectively. You get to choose your name, your handicap rating (in Match Play), and a set of clubs, and then you're off. The two controller buttons work as 'select/action' and 'cancel/back' which makes playing the game just as quick as getting started - you just choose the direction you want to hit the ball, choose a club (if you don't want to use the default), and take a swing.

Friday, 21 September 2018

PS4 Purchases #2

Rabi-Ribi by CreSpirit / GemaYue / PQube (2016)

Games with anime art on the cover and/or promo material usually grab my attention. This example is no different and upon learning more about it, it went straight onto my Steam wishlist. In addition to the aforementioned anime influence which includes lots of cut-scenes, the pixelly 2D graphics were also appealing for the obvious reasons. Even better, it was described as a fusion of retro-ish platforming and bullet-hell shooting. I'm not even sure how that would work but I'm very interested in finding out! Before buying it via Steam, however, I learned of the PS4 release which included a splendid physical release which I'm happy to say I stumbled upon just a day after returning from my recent holiday, and for the bargain price of £10 too, which even included a soundtrack CD. Suffice to say, I swiftly purchased it! Now comes the never-ending challenge - finding the time to play it...
 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Film Review #104

Suicide Squad (2016)
Director: David Ayer Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 123 Minutes

Tagline: "Justice has a bad side."


For their first two 'cinematic universe' movies, DC wisely chose to focus on their two best known characters, but this third offering is a bit different. It features a cast of characters that will probably be mostly unknown to non-comic buffs (like me), and that's a pretty brave move considering how many options they must've had. The characters in question are basically a bunch of the ghastliest supervillains being held in supermax prisons around the US. Rather than waste their 'talents' in squalid 7x12-foot prison cells however, government agency A.R.G.U.S. (kind of like DC's equivalent of Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. I believe) feels they could be put to better use as a special task force - the creatively named Task Force X no less - to be used under strict supervision to tackle threats beyond the abilities of the normal agencies. I'm not sure how sensible that sounds but it apparently made a pretty great comic-book series!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Indie Games News/Previews #12

Streets of Rage 4 by Liazrdcube / DotEmu (2018/19?) - PC

Blaze vs three enemies, all instantly recognisable...

So there I was, jetting off on my latest holiday (and the first one for a while), enduring hours of road travel, an uncomfortable long-haul flight, etc, before finally arriving in my hotel room, and upon logging onto the wifi here, what was the very first thing I saw? Yes that's right, it was an announcement for Streets of Rage 4! It's almost as if the Good Lord Almighty had taken pity on me for enduring the rigours of intercontinental travel by rewarding me with this super-skillish, though totally unexpected news! Unless of course it was all a cruel ruse, perhaps orchestrated by his opposite number, but that seemed unlikely given the screenshots and reveal trailer released by the splendid Lizardcube/DotEmu.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Currently Playing...

Ninja Princess by Sega (1985) - Arcade

As anyone who owned or even just played on Sega's mighty Master System in its day will probably know, one of it's too-infrequently-celebrated gems is The Ninja. Many believe it to be a Master System original but it's actually a mostly-accurate conversion of an arcade game released the previous year under two names - Ninja Princess in Japan and Sega Ninja over here in the West. I've long been a fan of The Ninja so I've been intending to give the original a try for some time now and have, as you may have guessed, finally gotten around to it!

For those not familiar with the MS version, the game places you in control of the mysterious assassin of the title some time during Japan's Edo period (17th century-ish) with the aim of taking down an evil warlord and restoring peace to the land. With fire in your heart and nerves of steel (hopefully), it's your job to guide this heroic saviour through a number of unforgiving vertically-scrolling areas on foot, dispatching all the immediately-hostile enemy combatants (mostly other ninjas, as well as a few horses, naturally) who rush onto the screen at the appropriate moment or pop up out of their hiding places. Defeat the boss at the end (or 'top') of each stage and it's on to the next area, each of which poses its own unique challenge to test your mettle.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Game Art Gallery #1

The Bob Wakelin Collection - Not so long ago, shortly after the untimely passing of legendary artist Bob Wakelin, I rustled up a Top Five of what I felt were the finest examples of his game art. There were many pieces to choose from though, most of which will be fondly remembered by us 80's gamers who doubtless saw them in the pages of our favourite game magazines in the form of adverts, and in stores (or on our game shelves) as the covers of some games themselves.

It was genuinely tough to narrow it down to only five pieces though, so here is a fine gallery of what I believe to be all (or nearly all) of the skillish game advert/cover artwork he produced. Bask in the magnificence of his talent thus:


Friday, 17 August 2018

Top Five Jennifers

Being something of a film fan (as well as certain types of TV shows) I noticed some time ago the surprising proliferation of actresses named Jennifer, going as far back as the 80's and perhaps beyond. I don't know too many Jennifers in real life - none, actually - so this struck me as a strange coincidence. Nonetheless, such is their prevalence I have occasionally given some thought to which of the many examples were my favourite. Behold, therefore, the fruits of my pointless musings:

5. Jennifer Carpenter

This is a Jennifer I have only recently discovered after watching Dexter all the way through, and her character of 'Deb' is easily one of the best in the show, even outshining Michael C. Hall's titular serial killer himself on numerous occasions. The talented actress brings many qualities to the character but, as fans of the show will already know very well, her most memorable moments are unquestionably thanks to her outrageous potty mouth! It's entirely possible that she's the sweariest character I've even witnessed in any TV show or film, which is quite an achievement when you think about it. Since then she has popped up here and there, mainly on the small screen and notably in the lead female role on the short-lived TV version of Limitless. Here's hoping we see more of her soon though.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

First Look PS1 #1

Akuji the Heartless by Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Interactive (1998) - PlayStation

It has been a while since I played a Tomb Raider-style adventure so I thought I'd have a quick look at this one. There are no English hotties with enormous boobs here though - instead I found myself in control of a scary voodoo dude who rather unkindly has his heart ripped out on his wedding day. That must've put a dampener on proceedings! He has one chance for happiness - traverse the realms of hell collecting souls. Gather enough he will be freed - probably just in time to save his better half too. This is where things become more familiar as our presumably-undead hero runs and leaps around the gloomy world that makes up the game's three main areas. I've only explored the first one so far which is rather dark and spooky, but it doesn't look as bad as one might expect hell to look. There are no rivers of lava or tortured souls to torment you anyway!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Computer Shmups #6

Fire Track (1987)
By: Aardvark Software / Electric Dreams Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: BBC Micro First Day Score: 98,380
Also Available For: Electron, Commodore 64


Not the most beautiful title screen ever...
While the BBC Micro might not be known in the retro community for shoot 'em ups (it's not really the first system to come to mind as far as gaming is concerned generally, I suppose), it did play host to a few, and one of the better known examples is probably Firetrack. It was programmed by Nick "Orlando" Pelling - known for Frak! among others - and takes the form of a spacey vertical scroller somewhat akin to the likes of Star Force. You, in command of a sleek attack craft, are charged with taking down eight mining colonies in the asteroid belt which have broken away from Earth. The ungrateful rapscallions certainly seem to have formidable defence capabilities for mere colonists though, with fleets of attack craft determined to put you down, as well, presumably, as any other Earth scum who pass by.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

TV Shows #17

Big Little Lies Season One (2017)
Developed By: David E. Kelley Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling, Kathryn Newton, Iain Armitage, Darby Camp

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 52-58 Minutes per Episode, 7 Episodes

Tagline: "A perfect life is a perfect lie."


As I mentioned in a recent review, some shows are able to secure my interest in the simplest of ways - a twelve-ish word synopsis was all it took with the example in question. Pretty much the opposite is true of Big Little Lies, however. That tagline is semi-intriguing but the synopsis didn't sound too enticing to me. It talks about lives of 'success, affluence and privilege' being undone by 'lies, secrets, rivalries, and deception'. It just sounds like a soap opera, and hearing rich people complain about their drama is rarely the most appealing of prospects, even if it is based on a best-selling novel (by Liane Moriarty). Ordinarily I might've even passed it by altogether. That is, until I saw the cast which is pretty remarkable for a mere TV show.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Indie Games News/Previews #11

Cathedral by Decemberborn Interactive (2018) - PC

A few years ago I saw a new indie game featured somewhere which caught my eye. A small amount of investigation revealed it was an NES-inspired arcade adventure called Cathedral and was soon to be released on PC via Steam and the like. Further news, however, was not forthcoming, and then, a game that should not have been forgotten was lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for three and a half years, the game passed out of all knowledge. But lo, by the will of some craft, whether fair or foul, I recently found myself mournfully recalling this game and decided to look it up once again, only to find that it not only still exists but is soon to be released!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

PS4 Purchase #1

Sonic Mania by PagodaWest Games / Headcannon / Sega (2018)

I don't usually warble on about new games I've bought here, partly because most of them are just retro-flavoured indie download titles from Steam or Good Old Games these days, but I've decided I will do with my PS4 purchases. This is mainly because I like the PS4 and the support it is receiving from many indie developers, and having physical copies of the games in question makes me feel warm and fuzzy too.

In typical Red Parsley fashion, I've got a bit of catching up to do as I already have 12 or 13 games, but I thought I'd start with this one which arrived from Amazon today. I think I'm right in saying it's the first game I've ever pre-ordered in my life too. I've bought loads of titles on the days of their launch over the years but I never really felt compelled to actually pre-order any. I have been very keen to play Sonic Mania though, and resisted the temptation of buying it on Steam in the hopes that a physical copy might be released for... well, something I own. And since I accidentally ended up with a PS4, it seemed like the best candidate. Much to my delight, shortly afterward I found out that this was indeed destined to happen. Not only that but it was to be a special version called Sonic Mania Plus too!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Crap Games #11

Bimini Run (1990)
By: Microsmiths / Nuvision Entertainment Genre: Racing / Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 23,660
Also Available For: Nothing


Not very bright but quite a nice title screen...
There aren't too many speedboat-based games around so a good few MegaDrive owners took an interest in this one leading up to its early-90's release. Sadly, however, it didn't fare too well with reviewers of the time and has barely been mentioned by anyone since. It popped back in my head recently while watching Dexter though (he takes his boat to Bimini at one point which is apparently a district of the Bahamas), so I thought it would be an opportune time to feature it here. But did it deserve such... apathy? Well, I had a quick go a couple of years ago and I thought it was dreadful, but playing it again now, in more detail this time, it's actually not that bad. The backstory certainly makes it seem promising - we're in real Miami Vice territory here. I'm not sure if the Hawaiian shirt-clad protagonist is a cop actually, but there's plenty of chasing bad guys and secret hideaways and all that.

Monday, 9 July 2018

New Arrival - PlayStation 4

By jingo, here's a post I never expected to be writing! Those who know me will know of my general disdain for modern gaming, especially the so-called 'consoles' which barely even are consoles these days, requiring an astounding amount of 'updating' and other such nonsense. Trying to play a game on one is even more ridiculous with sometimes hours of downloading, patches, updates, and installations required to get them running. Then of course you find that a ton of stuff has been left out, most likely on purpose to make future 'updates' seem worthwhile, and that half of the stuff that is there has to be bought separately!

Here it is, being watched by Luca, my ferocious guard cat...
Good heavens above, it drives me up the wall but many seem to lap it up - gaming is probably more popular today than ever before so I'm certainly in the minority (what else is new!). That doesn't alter the fact that, with the exception of the hyper-splendid (and ever-expanding) world of indie games, I have pretty much completely failed to embrace any new system since the mighty Dreamcast. I did get a PlayStation 3 quite late on, but that was primarily for its Blu-Ray and later Netflix abilities which have together accounted for probably around 95% of its use, but I had no plans whatsoever to get a PS4 or Xbone. I already had virtually no interest in them but I had also heard from Facebook friends that they were supposedly even worse than their predecessors in terms of all the faffing about (updates, etc).

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Flicky Flicks Round 4

Oh hey, how's it going? Yes, amazingly we are back again! Not only that but it only took us three months this time (as opposed to a year with the last round), although it looks as though we've lost Dave (Grumpy McUnt) in that time who, despite keenly nominating a film for this round, completely failed to even watch any of them never mind write any reviews! Never mind good sir, we understand. Even Chip, the de facto leader of Flicky Flicks didn't manage to get half of his reviews written either.

Nevertheless, puffing along like an asthmatic bulldog though we may be, we have now (for the most part) finished the latest round which was, as chosen by Pinbot who was once again victorious, based on the films of Sigourney Weaver. These covered a wide range of genres as well as decades and were also of varying quality, but here are the films we plumped for. As always, the winner will be ceremoniously revealed (by way of tootles) at the end of the exhaustive post!

Alien (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Nominated By: Neptune King of the Sea Running Time: 117 Minutes


When the crew of the cargo ship Nostromo are woken from stasis by 'Mother', their huge ship's computer, they are forced to investigate the planet the caught its attention. It appears rocky and barren but is transmitting a signal. The subsequent investigation ends when a crab-like creatures attaches itself to a crew member and, unknown to the crew, implants a larval alien creature which is soon hunting the rest of the crew as it grows ever larger and more lethal...

Friday, 15 June 2018

How Much? Turning Racing Games Into Reality

Well, kind of. Racing games have pretty much always been among the most popular of all games, and examples over the years have featured vehicles of all sorts of different shapes and types. Many of the most iconic of these are of course mental track cars like the F1 and LMP types (Continental Circus, WEC Le Mans, Winning Run, etc) which few of us will even have the chance to get run over by never mind drive for ourselves. Many others are not even real (Road Blasters, Daytona USA, Ridge Racer, Burnout, etc) so it doesn't matter how much we might want them.

Some, though, are real, so if you really wanted to, the potential is there to live out your fantasies and recreate your favourite game in real life! In a more realistic and responsible manner, naturally, but still, it's not beyond reason that some of us could be able to drive or even own one of our favourite cars from our favourite game of yesteryear. I decided, therefore, to see just how realistic this might be by looking at a handful of examples along with the price potential buyers might expect to pay.

Ferrari F40
As seen in... Turbo OutRun & Crazy Cars III (amongst others)


A jaw-dropping revelation when it first appeared and still widely regarded as one of the best supercars ever made, Ferrari's celebration of itself (it was designed to celebrate their 40th anniversary) was immediately iconic. It was therefore not an enormous surprise to see it represented in the world of gaming soon after its real unveiling. The first game I remember seeing it in was Sega's splendid Turbo OutRun but it was also featured prominently in Titus's home computer release, Crazy Cars 2, although in this case most gamers quickly realised its inclusion was the only good thing about the frankly rather awful game.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Steam / GOG Downloads #5

Venture Kid (2018)
By: FDG Entertainment Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, iOS


Almost three years ago now I had a look at a spiffing new retro-style platformer from those splendid folk at FDG. I can't quite believe it has been that long actually but happily the game has not disappeared into oblivion in that time as one might have feared and is now complete and available to buy! As mentioned all those long years ago, it's a platform-shooter inspired by some of the finest 80's examples of the type such as Mega Man. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is also therefore based, from a technical point of view, on the system on which many of these games appeared - the NES. That should already give you a good idea of what it's like, even if you haven't looked into it previously, and it also gives it a lot to live up to. The NES games were among the most beloved of the era after all!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Wifey's Watches #1

Once Upon a Time (2011 - Present)

I must admit to having misgivings about this show prior to seeing it, simply due to its premise. All the fairy tale stuff just seemed a bit too childish for my liking, even with the interesting twist they've put on it - namely, that the characters taken from the various fairy tales and folk stories have been robbed of their memories, transported to our real life present-day world, and left to live new, unchanging lives in a fictional town in Maine called Storybrooke. All this is of course part of a dastardly plot by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) who used a powerful curse obtained from Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). About the only person in the town unaffected by all this magical tomfoolery is Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a newly arrived bail-bonds person who, along with her son, must break the evil queen's spell, return everyone's memories, and generally save the day.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Arcade Shmups #25

Plus Alpha (1989)
By: Jaleco Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 254,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing


It's unusual for me to find a shoot 'em up I've never heard of, what with them being one of my favourite genres and all, but here's one from Jaleco which popped onto my radar only recently thanks to the RGF Shmup League. It wasn't very popular with those guys as I recall, but I quite liked the look of it so... let's take a look! Lord only knows if it has a back-story - I assume so judging by the title screen film reel which shows a few stills of stuff happening - but it was released in Japan only as I understand it, and converted to no home systems, so it's likely I'm far from the only one who has never heard of it, and detailed info on the game and/or its background appears to be rather on the scarce side!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Retro News - Psyvariar Returns!

Psyvariar Delta by Dispatch Games (2018) - PS4, Switch

Well, kind of. Most shooter fans will no doubt recall the year 2000 excitedly, for it was the hallowed year Success Corporation unleashed the mighty Psyvariar on Japan's arcades (who remembers those places?). A few years later it was ported to the PS2 and also received a sequel, but that was all we saw of the series. Now, however, it's set to return to thrill and/or vex another generation of gamers! Sadly it's not a brand new sequel/reboot as I'd hoped and is instead a port of Psyvariar Revision, an updated version of the original, but it's better than nothing. Switch and PS4 owners will be the lucky recipients from this summer when it's scheduled to arrive, all guns blazing, and this time is seems gamers in the oft-neglected Western Hemisphere will have the chance to buy it without resorting to a 'grey' import too (chortle). There's no word yet on any possible new features, which will hopefully include new game modes and/or even some new stages, but I'm sure fans will be lining up to buy this regardless. Well, the digital download equivalent anyway. Unless it gets a physical release. Which would be nice. Anyway, just a quick shout out to you bullet-hell aficionados - start counting the days if you haven't already! (unless you're an Xbox owner - tee hee!)

Thursday, 3 May 2018

TV Shows #16 - Part 2

Wayward Pines Season Two (2016)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Jason Patric, Nimrat Kaur, Josh Helman, Tom Stevens, Kacey Rohl, Hope Davis, Djimon Hounsou, Charlie Tahan, Shannyn Sossamon, Tim Griffin, Melissa Leo, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "Who shall inherit the earth?"


Even though the first season was expected to be the only season, and despite it ending with what could be considered a (fairly) satisfactory conclusion, a second season of Wayward Pines did nonetheless stagger into view eventually. As we discovered around the middle of the first season, the shocking truth mentioned by Sheriff Pope was indeed 'worse than anything we could imagine', or worse than the poor old residents of the town could imagine at least - namely, that it's now the year 4028 and the human race is all but extinct, having evolved (or devolved?) into snarling carnivores with sharp claws and fangs known as 'abbies' (short for aberrations) who now run rampant over, presumably, the entire planet.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Sonic the Hedgehog Series - Part 1

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
By: Sonic Team / Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis First Day Score: 194,390
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance (ports)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC (on compilations)

Download For: Android, iOS, Wii Virtual Console


There have been a lot of 'landmark' games over the years. I remember the release of many of them - the excitement as their release neared as well as the furore that usually followed - but as a console gamer of the mid-to-late 80's and early 90's (predominantly), one of the examples I remember the best was the original Sonic game. Most who played it agreed it was a fantastic release - groundbreaking from a technical point of view and great fun to play. Some even claimed it saved Sega from certain defeat by Nintendo. How close that is to being true I'm not certain but one thing is for sure: it helped shift a crapload of Mega Drives (and Master Systems) and firmly cemented its turbo-charged star in videogaming folklore. From the opening 'SAY-GAA!' to the iconic title screen with its punchy theme tune, it was an instant hit with players before they'd even... well, played it.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Space Stuff - Messier Objects Part 3

Charles Messier (1730 - 1817) was a French astronomer who spent much of his life identifying various star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and other notable occupants of our glorious heavens. Ironically, it wasn't even his aim to create a comprehensive list or catalogue of interesting sights - he actually did it purely as part of his efforts to hunt down comets which was his primary goal - but make a list he did, and such was the importance of it and the many discoveries on it, the list of 'Messier Objects' has remained in regular use to this day by amateurs and professionals alike.

This could be down to the fact that the list contains many of the biggest, brightest, and best-known (and therefore most popular) objects to be found. Indeed, many of us will have grown up seeing or hearing about a lot of them, myself included, without ever knowing what they are or even what they're called. There are 110 objects in Messier's catalogue too, which means simpletons like me often forget about some or get others mixed up, so I figured it might be worth listing them here. The third such post is therefore thus. The pics should all be 1200x900, hope you like them :)

Part One can be found here; Part Two can be found here

M81 / Spiral Galaxy
"Bode's Galaxy"
M82 / Starburst Galaxy
"Cigar Galaxy"

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Splendid Arcade Music #2

Space Harrier (1985)

So there I was, sitting at my desk at work, back aching as I tipped and tapped away on my keyboard doing my largely inconsequential work while also thinking about all the blog stuff I want to do but don't have time for, when I realised something. I was listening to a variety of music as I worked and when I got to Space Harrier it made me think: it's a pretty old game now, from an innovative era where tech and ideas evolved quickly; could it be the earliest game to actually have great music?

Now, before you all start reeling off lists of examples, I'm very well aware of lots of earlier games that featured appealing, catchy tunes and jingles, but while I was listening to the awesomeness that is Space Harrier's main theme, I was struggling to think of any games that featured what you might actually call a high quality musical composition that predate the 1985 release of Yu Suzuki's classic shooter. You know, the kind of music that's so good you might play the game just to hear it...

I'm probably wrong of course, as is frequently the case, but it certainly doesn't hurt to shine the retro spotlight on this stonking game once again, and particularly its (underappreciated?) music which, like the more celebrated Out Run and After Burner, is the work of the supremely talented Hiroshi Kawaguchi who is now one of the few staffers of that era still at Sega. It might not have a fancy name like Magical Sound Shower but this must surely be one of first truly great pieces of game music?

(full Space Harrier 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, 11 April 2018

TV Shows #16 - Part 1

Wayward Pines Season One (2015)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Hope Davis

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "A place to die for."


With some TV shows it can take a lot to secure your interest but with others it's incredibly simple. This was the case, for me at least, with Wayward Pines. It's based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch and also bears the name of M. Night Shyamalan heavily on promotional material who was indeed involved in the project to bring the novels to our screens, acting as executive producer and also directing the first episode. That already made it sound promising and I wouldn't have blamed myself for being pulled in by that superb cast either, but it was actually just a brief 10 second synopsis that did the trick. I can't remember exactly what it was now, oddly enough, but it was something along the lines of "Guy wakes up in some weird town and is unable to leave again" and that does kind of sum up the show, or the first half of the first season anyway.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Star Control - Part 8

It has been a while since I took a look at the wonder that is Star Control 2 - still my favourite of all time - but news that my good friend Luke had finally started playing it after 20-odd years of periodic urging by me had brought it back into my spotlight, and that means I felt inclined to burble on about it again. But what else is there to write about? I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there?

Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves! Okay, maybe it's just an excuse to post about my favourite game yet again but I think it's a pretty good one - seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species. Many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling around the same time, in fact), but they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts, the first two of which will feature the friendlier half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)

Ariloulaleelay

These excitable fellows, known as Arilou for short, are the Star Control universe's equivalent of 'little green men', having dropped by our humble home on many occasions over the years. Although they are likely responsible for the spate of abductions during the 20th and early 21st centuries, they only revealed themselves to us when we joined the Alliance of Free Stars, disappearing just as suddenly at the end the first Ur-Quan war when we were slave-shielded on Earth.

Quite why they've taken such an interest in our race they haven't revealed, but they seem keen to ensure no harm comes to us. You get to visit their homeworld in the game too, which takes some finding - it isn't even in 'normal' space! The quicker you find them though, the faster you can progress through the game (the first time at least), for they have lots of helpful info and tips to offer including some vital locations. They even give you a few of their zippy little Skiff ships.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Top Five Cars I Remember From My Top Trumps

They might not be videogames but I bet I'm far from the only one who spent a lot of time playing Top Trumps during my formative years. Perhaps their appeal came from their simplicity, with players simply comparing stats on cards featuring all manner of different themes. I had a good few packs, most of which featured motor vehicles of some sort - I had a Formula 1 pack, a rally pack; even trucks and superbikes. One pack was my definite favourite though, although I can't actually remember the name of it now. Sports cars, maybe?

Hmm, anyway, whatever it was called it featured some cracking cars through the deck - mostly sports and supercars from the late 70's up to about the mid 80's, and there were also some crazy customised 'normal' cars included - I particularly recall some insane VW Golfs - but there were a certain few cars that have become iconic for me, simply because of the game and how often I used to play it, usually with my good friend Luke who I suspect will also remember it well. Out of all the wonders included, these are the five that have stuck in my mind most firmly:

5 - Lamborghini Countach

This sleek black speedster looked more like a spaceship from some far-fetched sci-fi film back in the 80's and it moved about as quickly as one too! It was just as notable for us Top Trump players - whomever had this card held a big advantage for the rest of the game thanks to its amazing stats. As I recall, it was the fastest car in the whole deck at a mind-blowing 188mph. I don't think it was quite that fast in reality but it's still a highly memorable car for all kinds of reasons...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Adult Games #8

Imouto Paradise! (2011)
By: Moonstone Cherry Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, DVD


The first title screen I've ever had to censor here - eeek!
Despite the best of intentions, my experience of visual novels has remained fairly limited since I first discovered them a few years back. The few I have tried all seem to have some sort of pervy content too, and few more than this one. I think it aroused my interest (no pun intended) when I saw a few screenshots somewhere and liked its visual style. Upon playing it, however, I quickly found that it's premise was one of a highly questionable nature. You play as high school student Soichiro Nanase who lives with his parents and five younger sisters. The game takes place during the summer holidays at a time when their parents have gone on an overseas trip leaving the six siblings alone. This leaves you, as Soichiro, to pursue inappropriate relations with whichever of his sister takes his fancy.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Flicky Flicks Round 3

Oops! I think after a strong and enthusiastic start from the six of us who collectively comprise Team Flicky, our film-watching exploits known as Flicky Flicks kind of went off the rails a bit. We were supposed to be doing a round per month, which might in retrospect have been a bit ambitious since we all have families and full-time jobs and all that, but it has been over a year since we started this round. Oh dear :(

Nonetheless, we are still kind of puffing along and this third round - the theme for which was sequels - was pretty much concluded just before Christmas for most of us (although it looks as though Dave (Grumpy McUnt) has now bowed out), but it has taken me this long to write my mini-reviews for each film. Oops again! Anyway, here are the films we chose - the winner will as always be revealed at the end!

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Morgana King, John Cazale, Marianna Hill, Lee Strasberg

Nominated By: Liam Running Time: 200 Minutes


Following the violent conclusion to the acclaimed original film, this sequel picks up soon afterwards with Michael Corleone (Pacino) now firmly in place as head of the crime family bearing his name, but his life is becoming complicated, with an attempt made on his life and problems with new business arrangements in Cuba, while back home he is facing a government investigation into his family and related business dealings. As this is going on, a series of flashbacks shows how his father (De Niro) rose to power upon his arrival in the U.S. around 40 years earlier...

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Streets of Rage: The Movie!

As we all know very well by now, the Streets of Rage games are unquestionably the finest such examples of their genre as can be found in the splendid world of retro. The first game blew the socks off us MegaDrive owners when it arrived in a flurry of punches and kicks back in 1991 and the sequel which arrived only a little over a year later was, quite frankly, astonishing. Not only had Sega managed to better their already-superb original but in so doing had pretty much perfected the genre in what is still regarded as one of the greatest games ever made.

The third game, perhaps inevitably, couldn't quite live up to these lofty standards but it was still a corking brawler. Sadly, it would also prove to be the final entry in the short-lived series which has gone on to become one of the most revered and best-loved game trilogies of all time. Pretty much any gamers around during the time of their releases will speak excitedly about them but some fans have taken their passion for the games to new heights by creating their own live-action tributes!

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I first stumbled upon one of them, probably while looking for a SOR soundtrack to listen to at work. Instead I found the video below which is, for all intents and purposes, Streets of Rage: The Movie! It features just Axel at first but he is soon joined by Adam then Blaze as they run around various locations in what is presumably their home city duffing in various friends posing as hoodlums and bosses from the SOR games, and the results are truly wonderful for any fans of the games. These aren't just a bunch of idiots trying to become the next internet sensation; they are clearly huge fans of the games themselves and it shows.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Action RPG's #2

Golvellius: Valley of Doom (1988)
By: Compile Genre: Action RPG Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: MSX, MSX2
Download For: iOS


Most gamers over here in the West know the Compile name well. This is most often down to the splendid shooters they produced such as Zanac and the much loved Aleste series but they did also conjure up a fair few RPG's. Sadly, not many of these made it to our shores but one that did is Golvellius. It first appeared on the MSX in '87 where it... wasn't great, quite frankly. Happily, a much nicer redesigned version was soon ported to the Master System, swiftly followed by another version, again redesigned, for the MSX2. It's that MS version that most of us know though - even if we didn't own it, the screenshot showing a green squiggly background and large worm/snake-thing could be found on pretty much all of the MS's promo flyers and adverts. Indeed, it was a pretty well-known and liked game, but how does it hold up all these years later?

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Film Review #103

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Director: Edward Zwick Starring: Tom Cruise, Coby Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper, Jessica Stroup

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "Never give in. Never give up. Never Go Back."


Despite being based on the first of a whole series of books, the first Jack Reacher film wasn't exactly a roaring success, even with the charismatic Tom Cruise in the lead role, so I wasn't really expecting to see a sequel, even if there is plenty of source material. But lo, arriving four years later to little fanfare, that was exactly what we got. It's set an unspecified period of time after the first and sees Mr. Reacher continuing his drifting and occasional vigilante tomfoolery. After establishing that with an opening bust taking down a human trafficking ring, we get down to the business at hand which will feel immediately familiar to fans of the first film. Reacher, you see, has struck up a friendship with Major Susan Turner (Smulders) who is based at his old military HQ but when he goes to meet her face-to-face for the first time he finds she has been arrested and detained as she awaits trial on charges of espionage.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Top Five Bob Wakelin Arts

If you grew up in the 80's here in the UK and were the proud owner of an 8 or 16-bit home computer, there's an excellent chance your eyes regularly glanced upon the splendid artwork of Bob Wakelin, even if you didn't know it at the time. His work was most often found in the form of adverts and cover-art for many of Ocean Software's releases and was among the most iconic and recognisable around.

As many of you may well have heard by now, Bob sadly passed away recently after a long illness. I didn't know him personally but many did as he was active in and very popular with the retro gaming community, and was regularly seen at various retro events. He leaves behind many happy memories for some of us but even those who didn't know him can still appreciate his wonderful artwork which must've surely helped shift a fair few copies of the games it adorned all by itself.

His style was varied and could be found in most games magazines from the mid-to-late 80's as well as on store shelves all over the country and beyond. I love most of his work but, while everyone will have their own favorites, these are in my view his finest efforts which lit up my early gaming years. Rest in peace, Bob...

5. Where Time Stood Still (1988)

This game was notable for being one of the very few 128K-only games for the Speccy which was, to my great pleasure at the time, deemed to be the only 8-bit system that could even manage a version of the game at all. Something else the game was famous for, though, and not just the Speccy version this time, was the splendid artwork that adorned its various covers and magazine adverts. The cynical among you might highlight the flimsily-clothed hottie who stands (almost) centre stage as being the reason for that but the rest of it was fantastic too - the heroic pilot stood next to the blonde stunner, his crashed plane, the scary dinosaurs and angry natives, and that large bold title seemingly carved from ancient rock collectively did an amazing job setting the stage for this epic and memorable adventure.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Space Stuff - Messier Objects Part 2

Charles Messier (1730 - 1817) was a French astronomer who spent much of his life identifying various star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and other notable occupants of our glorious heavens. Ironically, it wasn't even his aim to create a comprehensive list or catalogue of interesting sights - he actually did it purely as part of his efforts to hunt down comets which was his primary goal - but make a list he did, and such was the importance of it and the many discoveries on it, the list of 'Messier Objects' has remained in regular use to this day by amateurs and professionals alike.

This could be down to the fact that the list contains many of the biggest, brightest, and best-known (and therefore most popular) objects to be found. Indeed, many of us will have grown up seeing or hearing about a lot of them, myself included, without ever knowing what they are or even what they're called. There are 110 objects in Messier's catalogue too, which means simpletons like me often forget about some or get others mixed up, so I figured it might be worth listing them here. The second such post is therefore thus. The pics should all be 1200x900, hope you like them :)

Part One can be found here

M41 / Open Cluster
M42 / Nebula
"Orion Nebula"

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Steam / GOG Downloads #4

Brilliant Bob (2015)
By: Zonitron Productions Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC


A great thing about Steam is that it's so easy to discover obscure indie games that you might never otherwise encounter while looking through its many pages, and that's exactly what happened here. Brilliant Bob caught my eye, most likely due to its lush green locales, and it was cheap too, so I thought I'd give it a go! The greenery I had spotted is actually the happy land of Sekotwana where Bob and his kin live. Life there is apparently great, but only until the evil, or perhaps more accurately, the unhappy Dr Magazi drops by to steal all of Sekotwana's happiness. Bob and his family were resilient and refused to give up their happiness but his parents got themselves kidnapped leaving Bob to save them, and indeed the save the day all around from the ghastly Dr Magazi.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Film Review #102

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Director: Gareth Edwards Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Genevieve O'Reilly

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 133 Minutes

Tagline: "Save the Rebellion. Save the dream."


I think I speak for a good few film fans when I say that news of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm a few years back was something I was cautiously hopeful about rather than immediately excited. The announcement of three sequels to the much-loved original trilogy was welcome. What caused more trepidation amongst fans was the additional news that a series of spin-off films was also on the cards. For some, the more Star Wars we can get the better, but some were worried that Disney might just be trying to immediately cash in on their new baby and that so many new films might end up saturating demand. The other possibility of course, is that the films could just suck donkey balls. Simply putting the Star Wars name on a film is guaranteed to earn you lots of dough, to start with at least, but it isn't an instant seal of quality, as we discovered to our horror with those pesky prequels.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Merry New Year!

Oh hey, what's going down y'all? Just a quick message to wish everyone a Happy New Year! :) The past year has again been a challenging one in RKS Land and as a result there has been an all-time low in the number of new posts here. This is mainly due to my job - I've been with my current employer for just over a year now, and I'm very grateful to have the job, but it does take up a sizeable percentage of my non-sleeping time, and that's before you consider all the overtime I've been doing - time that may well have otherwise been spent on Red Parsley-related tomfoolery.