Friday, 9 December 2022

Sega SG-1000 Round-Up #7

It's been far too long since I last visited Sega's splendid début console, thanks in the most part to my oafishness, but finally I have returned after checking out another selection of titles. The games were selected largely at random but fortunately they represent a decent range of styles and mostly include games I haven't played before. Here is how I got on with my latest five choices:

Hyper Sports (1985)

I was surprised to find this famous multi-event sports title in the SG's library since Konami have rarely given much support to Sega over the years. It turns out it's rather different to the arcade version and many of its conversions though, instead bearing resemblance only to the MSX version. Accordingly it has just the four events - diving, long horse, trampoline, horizontal bar - and... well, they're not easy, at least for me. Only the d-pad and one action button are used so the controls are at least simple but no matter how much I wiggle my d-pad (snigger?) I can't seem to make the guy move very quickly. Maybe I don't have a suitable pad for a game like this, maybe I'm just crap. You can't choose events either - they are in a set order and you have to reach a qualification score to advance to the next. I just about managed to squeak through the first time around though, and it's clear the game is pretty good fun at first, though it soon gets repetitive. It's therefore a shame it lost some events. The graphics are okay though, virtually identical to the MSX version, in fact, and there aren't really any alternatives on the SG anyway... 6/10

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Hack 'n' Slash Games #4

The Legendary Axe (1988)
By: Victor Musical Industries Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

Many of the PC Engine's first run of games press the nostalgia button firmly for old oafs like me as, at the end of the 80s, they were featured heavily in the import sections of magazines such as C&VG, making us all covet them accordingly. One example that I remember well and also wanted to play quite badly was The Legendary Axe. This might be because its name reminded me of Golden Axe, of which I was a fan, but unlike that game it's actually more of a platformer. Since you use an axe, however, and indeed the game is named after it, I thought I would include it in my somewhat neglected 'hack 'n' slash' feature instead. It wasn't until long after I played Sega's classic that I finally got to give it a go either, and even then I never really bothered to learn the character's aim or motivation. Not that it often mattered too much with most games in those days I guess, but it does have a backstory. It takes place in a 'faraway land', and presumably also long ago, where an evil half-man half-beast named Jagu holds sway over the weak and pathetic population. Oh dear.

Saturday, 12 November 2022

TV Shows #26

The Sinner (2017-21)
Developed By: Derek Simonds
Starring: Bill Pullman, Jessica Hecht, Jessica Biel, Elisha Henig, Carrie Coon, Matt Bomer, Alice Kremelberg, Christopher Abbott, Natalie Paul, Frances Fisher, Michael Mosley, Hannah Gross, Dohn Norwood, Joe Cobden, Chris Messina, Abby Miller, David Huynh, Eddie Martinez

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 40-54 Minutes per Episode

Tagline: "Some sins don't stay buried."

Crikey, I think the last time I saw Bill Pullman was in Independence Day Resurgence, and the time before that was probably all the way back in Independence Day. No, wait - he did make an appearance in Battle of the Sexes as well, but he hardly seems the most prolific actor, certainly in recent years. And yet, here was his face, looking moodily sideways as though in a Scandinavian drama, on Netflix. Or was it Prime? One of those anyway, and the premise sounded interesting enough, so I figured it was worth a shot. As I soon discovered, the premise only applies to the first season as The Sinner was only meant to be a miniseries originally, but it proved sufficiently popular for more seasons to be made. In all of them, Pullman stars as Harry Ambrose, a police detective who becomes obsessively committed to resolving mysterious deaths.

Saturday, 22 October 2022

Super Conversions #2

The Need For Speed (1996)
By: Electronic Arts Genre: Driving Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: 3DO, Saturn, PC

The arrival of the fearsome 32-bit CD-based consoles in the mid-90s was a fascinating time for a gamer. There were several choices, some from newcomers, and in those days each offering needed a 'killer app' to succeed. In many people's eyes, Trip Hawkins' innovative 3DO had one in the shape of The Need For Speed - an immersive, technically stunning point-to-point driving game featuring a roster of real cars which could be driven over varied environments and landscape types against a rival. It persuaded many to commit to the hefty outlay required to play it and was a big hit with those who could afford it (or, more to the point, the expensive console which ran it). The sneers of smug 3DO owners were short-lived, however, as within a couple of years, Electronic bloody Arts had ported it to the PlayStation and Saturn, and it wasn't too long after this the 3DO itself went down as well.

Sunday, 16 October 2022

Currently Playing...

Gauntlet by US Gold / Atari (1990) - Master System

I've been a fan of Gauntlet for many moons now. I first discovered it on my trusty Speccy thanks to... I can't remember what, actually. I thought it was the 'Giants' compilation but a check reveals that it only contains the second game. Oh well, I had it on my Speccy somehow anyway, and then, a little later, I was lucky enough to find the ultra awesome arcade version with simultaneous four-player support. All I needed was three friends and I was off (chortle!). A little later still and it made an appearance on my beloved Master System and I vowed to buy it henceforth.

Buying console games wasn't that easy at that time, however, as I was still at school, and by the time I could buy games for myself, Gauntlet IV had been released for the Mega Drive which was a conversion of the first game as well a new adventurey thing too. No matter how good the MS conversion might be, the MD one would be better, surely? That was my reasoning at the time, and it was very wise reasoning for it was indeed a very excellent version of the game, but as these many years of men have passed, and much that once was has been lost, my yearning for Gauntlet MS-stylee has remained undimmed by the passage of time. And now, I'm happy to say it finally graces my MS collection!

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Film Round-Up #38

The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005 - 2012)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard

Certificate: 18 Running Time: Approx 457 minutes

If there's one thing I've noticed as a movie fan over the last decade or so, it's that superhero movies are big business, and if you go virtually anywhere online and talk about them, you'll find two main groups - Marvel fanboys and DC fanboys - who seem to enjoy spending their time insulting each other and trashing each other's movies. Despite being dismissed as childish by the DC fans, I think it's safe to say that Marvel fans have had the bragging rights as far as the overall quality of their movies is concerned. As I've mentioned here before, I've never really read any of the comicbooks and hadn't even heard of at least some of the characters that have risen to prominence in recent years prior to them appearing in movies, so it would be a reach to call me a Marvel fanboy, but I've certainly enjoyed their films more. The DC fans have had one line of defence against their nemesis over the years.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Scrolling Fighting Games #16

Rival Turf a.k.a. Rushing Beat (1992)
By: Jaleco Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Nintendo Virtual Console

There are many reasons old games may be remembered today - being great, being crap, doing something new, costing a bomb to buy now, etc. In the case of Rival Turf, is was (and is) for having hilariously bad cover artwork (the US version, of course, the Japanese one is pretty decent). Actually, 'artwork' is the wrong word as it's actually just a photo of two normal guys who are presumably meant to be badass gang members or something, but they just look like two typical 90s youths. Nonetheless, the backstory is the usual rival gang/kidnapped girlfriend business, and there are two characters you can choose from - Jack Flak who seems to be just some regular dude who can't protect his girlfriend, and his cop buddy Oozie Nelson who apparently has no qualms about putting his career/pension on the line to help Jack. Pick either one of them (or both in a two-player game) and proceed to kick the crap out of all the hoodlums that stand between them and the creatively-named Big Al who is currently enjoying Heather's no-doubt radiant company. And boobs too. Possibly.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Currently Playing...

Tetris Worlds
By: Radical Entertainment / THQ Genre: Puzzle
Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Microsoft Xbox
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC

Despite good old Nintendo being knobbers about the license back in its early days, virtually every system since the early 90s has had a version of Tetris, so when I was having my 'cheap Xbox game splurge' a few years back and saw a Tetris game was available, I thought why not? After all, any game with 'Tetris' in its name is a pretty safe bet, surely? Especially one called Tetris Worlds. It's a name that conjures an image of a vast and timeless game with lots of depth and options, and the more Tetris we can get, the better, no? There is a backstory, somehow. It is some sort of nonsense to do with 'unlocking the secret of the Tetrions' who were apparently a long-forgotten spacefaring species. The only evidence of them is the existence of special Gateways which orbit distant stars, and they can only be opened by those intelligent enough to unlock the secret of the falling blocks. There is more too, something about a mechanical species called the Minos and terraforming various planets, but does anyone really care?

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Indie Nuggets #6

Clam Knight (2020)
By: Hector Toro & Bibiki Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 1,052
Also Available For: Nothing

It must be two years or more since I regularly nosed around Facebook (or indeed any other social media), but shortly before my self-imposed exile, one of the many retro pages I follow mentioned this game which caught my eye due to its appealing graphics. It's was made in just 11 days by Héctor Toro (with audio assistance from Bibiki) for the 2020 Summer Game Jam tournament and, though made only for PC, is modelled on the games for Sega's wonderful Master System. It has a backstory from that era too. It's set in a place called Summerland where tales are told of the legend of the Clam Knights who held the forces of the Crabbers at bay for centuries, but were finally defeated. Since then the pesky crustaceans have held Bikini Beach’s castle, but a young clam named Marvin has stepped forward, determined to become a Clam Knight and rid the castle of their filth. Who will help him with this brave, perhaps foolhardy quest?

Friday, 3 June 2022

Film Review #120

Stowaway (2021)
Directors: Joe Penna Starring: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette, Shamier Anderson

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 116 Minutes

Tagline: "Millions of miles from home. Survival comes from sacrifice."

You could be forgiven for thinking a film with a title like this might be about one of those attempted-immigrants who sneak into the landing gear of airliners or something. I suppose it could've been a good premise for a film but it's actually about a very different kind of stowaway. Presumably set some time in the near future, this stowaway story, much like the TV show I recently took a look at here, concerns a manned mission to Mars; the first such mission I believe. This would've been reason enough for me to watch it but it also stars the adorable Anna Kendrick as well, who I'll watch in virtually anything (not Twilight though, no no no). Her endearingness and often-quirky demeanour can light up any film, but would she suit a sci-fi drama. I was ultra-interested to find out, especially since she was heading a very small cast.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Cover Art: Mega Drive - Part 1

For me, and I think I can safely say a large percentage of other Western retro game enthusiasts, even the existence of Japanese versions of our favourite console games only became apparent in the early days of the Mega Drive. The main reason for this was that most games for Sega's mighty console originated in Japan, and most were also released there considerably earlier than we got them in the West.

This meant we often ended up buying 'grey import' versions of games rather than the official versions, and one thing many of us noticed was that they often had better box artwork. Not always, mind you, but often. This obviously made them an appealing prospect for these comparison posts that I haven't done for many moons, so here is the first of what will undoubtedly end up being several posts on the subject. If you have any suggestions or requests for titles, let me know in the comments :)

Thunder Force II (1989)

I still maintain that this is an ultra-underrated game, but that might just be nostalgia talking since it was one of my first MD games. Both covers share the weird font that I always thought looked more like 'Thunder Farce II' but it's actually the UK one that's better, and that's not nostalgia talking (I don't think). It has an action-packed cover showing what I assume it a depiction of one of the overhead-viewed stages, and it looks great. The Japanese cover, featuring the extra 'MD' in the title since TFII was originally an X68000 game, has a bit of a whiffy-looking ship. It is flying over what I assume is the fifth stage but you would have no idea what it was if you hadn't already played the game. I'll stick with my UK copy of this one thanks! (full review here)

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Pinball Games #3

Revenge of the 'Gator (1989)
By: HAL Laboratory  Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy First Day Score: 278,570
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Nintendo 3DS

I'm not sure why I never got 'into' the whole handheld console scene but as a result there are millions of cracking games I missed out on, and continue to miss out on until I eventually look at them here. One I remember getting lots of positive press in its day was Revenge of the 'Gator which, despite the strange name, is actually a pinball game! This is well skillish since... Well, I was going to say since I like digital pinball games thanks to the Crush series, but they are about the only examples I played extensively in their day. This effort arrived a year after said series debuted with Alien Crush so it's possible it was 'inspired' by the Compile classic, but it's immediately apparent that it's at least a decent one, perhaps even a corking one. It even has a two-player link-up option but alas, I don't have any friends with Game Boys. I don't have any friends with any handhelds, in fact, so I will have to focus on the one-player mode, although I suspect there are few who have ever played it any other way.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

TV Shows #25

Developed By: Andrew Hinderaker
Starring: Hilary Swank, Josh Charles, Vivian Wu, Mark Ivanir, Ato Essandoh, Ray Panthaki, Talitha Bateman

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44-57 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "Home Can Never Leave You"

My previously-glowing opinions about Netflix have slowly been changing over the last year or two but back in 2020, the news that they were working on a brand new, original sci-fi series made me giddy and excited and I had to sit down and think about fungus and other things of an oozy nature in order to calm down. I was going to start by saying it's set in the near future but do they ever actually state that in the show? I can't remember now, but I assume it must be as it's about the first manned mission to Mars. The crew due to make this historic flight is, naturally, one of a multi-national nature but I'm sure it won't come as a shock to find the mission commander is an American; namely, NASA astronaut Commander Emma Green played by the excellent Hilary Swank, which is great since she is an actress I haven't seen in anything for a while.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

First Look PS4 #1

The Witness by Thekla, Inc (2016) - PS4

I'm often a bit wary of games that require more than perfunctory use of one's grey matter, chiefly, I suspect, because I have little in the way of processing power in that area, but when an offering is free as this one was last year from the PlayStation Store, I'm more than happy to give them a go. For a few minutes, at least, until I get stuck (chortle!). The Witness is a puzzle game but it definitely doesn't have much in common with the shape/colour matching games that we generally think about when people say 'puzzle games' which, let's face it, aren't really puzzle games at all. No, this one is an actual puzzle game, and a mighty challenging one at that, which puts the player in the shoes of an unnamed human (or at least humanoid) who we'll call Grimpleforth.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Overhead Racers #17

Super Cars (1990)
By: Magnetic Fields Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga
Also Available For: Atari ST, NES, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I have been meaning to review this fab game for many years now as I have happy memories of playing it at my good friend Luke's house on his Atari ST, and accordingly I was going to look at that version here. However, as is often the case when I'm preparing reviews here, I had a quick look at some other versions too, and was slightly started to find that the Amiga version appears to be a jolly sight nicer in all regards, so I have instead decided to focus on that version like the graphics tart I didn't realise I was. None of the versions are terribly complicated though, admittedly. Simply load the game, enter your name (which must be four letters long, it seems, so I went for 'boob', naturally), choose one of the nine available tracks, and off you go.