Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Film Round-Up #26

I suspect many others shared my appreciation of fighting films while growing up in the 80's, with classics like Bloodsport and Best of the Best to watch repeatedly, but I guess I kind of grew out of them. Not so long ago though, I happened upon a YouTube clip of some guy performing all sorts of crazy flippy spinny jumps and kicks on various hapless opponents. I soon identified him and the film in question and had to watch it. It turned out it was part of a series though, so I figured I might as well watch all of them and report back here with my largely inconsequential verdict!

Undisputed (2002)

The story in this original film in the series is centred around George 'Iceman' Chambers (Ving Rhames), the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion who is sent down for rape and ends up in supermax. Of course, it turns out the prison holds its own boxing matches and has its own 'undisputed' champion in Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes). Astonishingly, the betting syndicate that oversees the fights there are keen to see the two champs go head-to-head. The pompous and cocky Chambers is also eager to assert his dominance, and after a few snags (like Monroe ending up in the SHU) the fight is confirmed, with arrangements handled by ageing mob boss Ripstein (Peter Falk). There isn't really much here that's going to surprise you though. The premise is pretty good but there is basically only two proper fights in the film, and while both Rhames and Snipes look reasonably proficient in them (to my inexperienced eyes at least), that means you'll spend most of your time with the generic characters and bland script. I guess it's not too bad for what it is but don't go expecting a knockout (chortle!)... 5/10

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Retro News - N64 Gets a Boost!

The Nintendo 64 isn't the most respected system in retro gaming circles - mainly, I suspect, due to its shortage of 2D titles, not to mention its reputation among the more snobby elitist gamers as little more than a kids toy (something I looked at here a few years back). I've always liked the N64 though, and I know a good few others still do too, so for the benefit of us, here's what will most likely be good news!

Check out the awesome N64-themed box...
Gamers who are either unwilling or unable to have a bulky CRT TV front and centre of their collection have long been burdened with an unsatisfactory picture quality when using their old consoles on modern TV/monitor screens, and as its critics seem overjoyed in pointing out, the N64 was often blighted by rather 'fuzzy' graphics to begin with. However, help is at hand, for N64 fans at least, thanks to Eon, a company previously responsible for a GameCube HDMI adaptor called GCHD. Now they have announced the Super 64, a similar plug-and-play adaptor for the GC's predecessor. It's due for release on July 22nd and will allow N64 owners to play their games on HDMI displays in lagless 480p - the highest quality possible using the system's native hardware, and twice its original resolution.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Gaming Flashbacks #3

Ask ten different retroheads what their favourite Atari arcade game is and you will be guaranteed two things. Firstly, that everyone will have an answer, but also that you'll probably get ten different answers. They had so many classics, from the early years with addictive coin-guzzlers like Breakout, Asteroids and Centipede, up to what in my opinion was their heyday in mid-to-late 80's with innovative titles such as Paperboy, Marble Madness, STUN Runner, and the marvellous Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters, but my vote would usually go to Gauntlet.

It was originally released way back in 1985 and, over the intervening years, I've played just about every version of it to have seen release. The first version I played, though, and still probably the one I've spent the most time with, was the stonking conversion the Speccy received. Despite being a pesky multi-load game it was indeed a fine version of what was already considered a classic. It offered simultaneous two-player action - an option that was duly pursued enthusiastically by myself and friends. As wonderful as the Spectrum was, though, it did sometimes struggle as a result of its meagre 'spectrum' of colours (chortle!), and as a result, the colours of many of the sprites and backgrounds are different to the arcade original. This kind of thing was standard with conversions on the 8-bit micros, naturally, and some enemies such as the ghosts and demons were the correct colours anyway, but one that wasn't was the 'grunts' which were originally brown, but here they were... pink!

Friday, 21 June 2019

TV Shows #20

Cobra Kai Season One (2018)
Developed By: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Starring: William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 22-36 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

As I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, there have been a lot of reboots and belated sequels to old classic films and TV shows in recent years. Some have worked, others have been disasters, so when Cobra Kai was announced I suspect "Here we go again!" was the reaction of most people who cared enough to have one. It is of course based on the Karate Kid film series of the 80's, primarily the original movie which arrived a mind-crushingly vast 35 years ago, and that was a bit of a worry. It is a precious film to many who grew up with it, after all. One of my friends counts it as his favourite film of all-time, for example. Even more concerningly, the new show would be centred around the two leads from the original movie - Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka as his enemy and rival, Johnny Lawrence.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Sega Game Gear A-Z

It didn't take long for Sega to jump on the handheld bandwagon, and their effort was pretty much a balance between the Game Boy and Lynx. A lot of its games were Master System conversions, but it also received a decent amount of original titles, especially in its native Japan. Here I will be looking at them all:

K is for...

Kaitou Saint Tail by Sega (1996)

Like many GG games, this one is based on a manga/anime series and was only released in Japan. It's therefore not super-easy to follow but is basically a collection of mini-games (tile-matching, etc) set around an overworld town/field. Probably one for fans or collectors only. The presentation is nice though.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Top Five Elephants

Few of the wondrous species that inhabit our increasingly-abused planet are as vital to the continued health and longevity of its ecosystem and general environment as elephants. These colossal trampers have been around since not too long after the dinos got obliterated by a giant asteroid, and they've flourished ever since. Well, until our idiotic species came to prominence and started wiping them out, anyway. Here are the five most notable types to have trumpeted their way across the land:

5... Asian Elephant

The pipsqueak of the elephant family is this smallest-but-still-large variety, averaging around 2.6m tall and weighing in at around 3-4 tonnes. It's found in Asia, believe it or not, and is easily recogniseable in pictures due to its smaller ears. It's often also known as the Indian Elephant but is actually found across much of the Sub Continent and South East Asia, even making it to islands such as Sri Lanka and Borneo. Despite having been exploited by mankind since pretty much forever,as well as being considered sacred by some countries, we are still apparently doing our best to cause its extinction, mainly through destruction of its habitat.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Run 'n' Gun Games #8

Green Beret a.k.a. Rush'n Attack (1985)
By: Konami Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 37,050 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES, Famicom Disk System, MSX, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, Atari 8-bit, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum (ports)
Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 (on compilations)

Although very popular at the time, and converted to every format under the sun, I'd still only played Green Beret on my trusty Speccy prior to this review. I didn't really like it too much back then either, even though I had it on disk for my mighty +3 which meant I could have it up and running within 30 seconds or so. Despite this, for no readily apparent reason it popped into my head spontaneously the other day, so I figured I'd give it the once over here as part of my run 'n' gun feature. This may make some people's eyes widen in shock but I would say it still counts as a run 'n' gunner - you do run around platforms taking out never-ending enemies after all. There isn't much in the way gunning though, I must admit, with the nameless stock military dude under your control here (we'll call him Gavin for review purposes) apparently preferring bladed weapons. So, it's a run 'n' stabber then? That's good enough for me!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Film Review #108

Bumblebee (2018)
Director: Travis Knight Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Dylan O'Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 114 Minutes

Tagline: "Every adventure has a beginning"

Like many 80's kids, I was very excited when I heard Michael Bay was making a Transformers film back in the mid-2000's. As it turned out, also like many 80's kids, I was distinctly underwhelmed and didn't even bother watching its sequels after hearing virtually unanimous vitriol directed towards them. However, announced around the time the fifth film in the series was in the cinema was Bumblebee which was, surprisingly, being touted as a reboot. Whatever they decided to call it though, I wasn't really interested in watching it back then. After all, Transformers films suck - that was, by this point, the rule. But then, reports began to surface that it was, in fact, not crap. Could it be true? Well, Michael Bay didn't direct it so there was at least a chance. Could there really be a Transformers film that doesn't suck ass?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Top Five Streets of Rage Characters

For many, the Streets of Rage name is synonymous with the very finest of scrolling fighting games, even eclipsing Final Fight, the game it was originally created to rival. One of the many great things about the series is its playable characters of whom there are six across the three official games in the series. That admittedly makes this Top Five somewhat pointless as only one of the characters will miss out, but as always it's just a bit of fun. The big question is, who's the loser?

5. Skate - Appeared in SOR2 & SOR3

This little pipsqueak debuted in the second game and is apparently kid brother to Adam from the original. Given his size and age, he would've been fast anyway, but he also has a pair of roller-blades so he is, by some margin, the fastest character in the game. The trade-off is power of course, but despite his speed making him effective nonetheless, he is still slightly unsatisfying to use. He has a nice breakdance-inspired special move though.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Sega SG-1000 A-Z

Sega's first console was only released in Japan and soon faced strong competition in the form of the NES as well as several home micros. It received a reasonable number of releases though, and I will be featuring all of them in this listing. This is the first of four parts and features all games beginning with letters A through C:

Bank Panic by Sanritsu / Sega (1984) - My Card release

I remember this one better as a Master System release but the arcade original was also apparently converted to the SG too, and it works pretty well. The Wild West theme is well used, placing you in the shoes of a sheriff attempting to thwart bank robbers. Not a bad game but a little repetitive. (mini review here)

Thursday, 16 May 2019

TV Show First Look #4

The Act (2019)

As I'm sure many would agree, the films/shows based on true events are quite often among the most compelling, and the latest one to come to prominence is The Act, a Hulu original consisting of eight episodes. It concerns the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a teenage girl raised by her mother Dee Dee to believe she was wheelchair-bound and suffering from all manner of debilitating illnesses and syndromes. As this show explores, however, she gradually discovers that her overbearing mother may not have been entirely truthful about her many conditions. This inevitably leads to considerable tension between them as well as suspicion from their few neighbours in the secluded suburb they live in.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Computer Shmups #7

Agony (1992)
By: Art & Magic / Psygnosis Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 93,136
Also Available For: Nothing

Shmups have come in all manner of shapes and sizes over the long years of their existence, which is as many years as videogames have been around themselves, in fact. Most of them put you in command of an aircraft or spaceship, some cast you as a lone wizard or warrior of some sort, taking on the evildoers on foot, but there have been very few animal-based shooters. The Amiga is home to two notable examples however, both of which were released in the same year. Almost certainly the most memorable of the two, all things considered, was Agony. Even on a system not particularly associated with arcade-style shooters, it earned attention from all quarters, at least here in the UK during what was probably the genre's heyday. Most marvelled at the impressive artwork, both promotional and in-game, but how does it stand up today?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Indie Games News/Previews #13

Panzer Paladin by Tribute Games (2020) - PC, PS4, Xbox One

Tribute Games have been one of my favourite indie developers since they first arrived about 8 years ago so I'm always looking forward to new releases by them. Their latest is the intriguingly-named Panzer Paladin which is, to quote Tribute themselves, "an engaging action-platformer with fun and intuitive swordplay". There isn't any actual gameplay footage yet but, judging by the screenshots, it looks like it could have a bit of a Castlevania feel to it. It also looks pretty awesome, with Tribute's trademark lovely pixel art visual style very evident once again, even at this early stage. The game will undoubtedly have a bit of an adventurey tang to it as well. It's at least a year away yet but it seems like Tribute could have another corker on their hands here. More to follow...

No trailer or game footage yet but keep track of developments at the official site here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

TV Shows #19

Hanna Season One (2019)
Developed By: David Farr Starring: Esme Creed-Miles, Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Rhianne Barreto, Justin Salinger, Benno Fürmann, Katharina Heyer, Andy Nyman, Joanna Kulig
Certificate: 15? Running Time: 47-55 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

There haven't been a huge number of films in the last 10-or-so years that I've loved enough to add to my long list of all-time favourites, but one that I did enjoy immensely and have rewatched many times since is Hanna. For those who don't know it (why not?), it's a high-octane chase thriller centred around the unique and highly-skilled 15 year girl of the title. It features a superb central performance from Saoirse Ronan, strong support from the rest of the fine cast including Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, fantastic cinematography, and a great soundtrack, all of which results in a tense and captivating thriller. Suffice to say, anyone producing a TV show based on it would have their work cut out for them. Reassuringly, the man behind it is David Farr who also co-wrote the film so there is certainly some authenticity there, but film-to-TV transitions can still be tricky so I was keen to see how he got on.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Retro Gaming Zoo #3

Humans are stupid. Animals are always better than stupid humans, everyone knows that, and it's something that's also true in the world of video games. A tremendous variety of weird and wonderful animals have starred in games over the years and here I'll be taking a closer look at some of them. Next up is:

Creature #3 - Rolo of Rolo to the Rescue
Type of Creature? Elephant  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

Much of my MegaDrive years was taken up by platformers and most of my favourites featured animals of some sort. This one was a challenge, not least because of its size and lack of save or password facility, but it was enormous fun anyway. One of the many reasons for this was the amusing animals contained therein, several of which you could control. Chief among them was Rolo, a brave trumpeter seeking to escape the oppression of circus life. He faced many dangers across the many, many stages that make up the game, but he mostly approached them as only an elephant could. He's not particularly athletic but he can use his trunk to suck stuff up or squirt it out, he can squash enemies beneath his substantial grey mass, and he is highly adaptable to a variety of potentially hostile surroundings. I'm not sure his perpetually-cheerful demeanour (or fondness for hats) is especially elephant-like but I think we can overlook that since he's such a kind-hearted tramper. It's just a shame this was the only time we saw him. Time for a Steam-based reboot?

Is His Game Any Good? Yes, it's spiffing! It was exclusive to the MegaDrive so those idiotic Nintendo and Amiga owners never got to sample its delights, despite the fact it was by the guys behind the James Pond series which appeared on many formats. It made owning an MD that bit sweeter though. You might even call it a hidden gem! Impressive considering how many rivals it had. Check the full review here.