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.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Xbox: The Time To Collect Is Now - Part 2

Even if there is still anyone reading this blog, I doubt anyone has been reading it for long enough to remember my last post about my Xbox collection. It came some seven years ago; shortly after I was given the splendid green console by my wife for Christmas, in fact. I bought many games for it at very low prices in a short space of time after discovering just how cheap most of them were. I also had many others on my radar, however, and intended to buy them all equally quickly and make a follow-up post accordingly. This was achieved for the most part. Well, the part about buying the other games, anyway. But the post about them here was not forthcoming.

Discounting my usual laziness and procrastination, the cause for this exccessive delay was my desire to purchase all of the games I wanted before making my second post. Most of these were bought swiftly but some, including the more pricey ones, not incoincidentally, were continually put off over and over until it became... years. There were a few reasons for this but the biggest one was the change in policy by CEX, a game/movie store here in the UK. It was from there I bought most of the Xbox games I already had (as well as games for other systems). Quite a few I bought in person in my local store but many of them I bought online via their website.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

TV Shows #24 - Part 1

Dexter (2006-13)
Developed By: James Manos Jr. Starring: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar, C. S. Lee, Desmond Harrington, Geoff Pierson, Aimee Garcia

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 45-60 Minutes per Episode

Tagline: Takes Life. Seriously.

I have always found the subject of serial killers fascinating for some reason, as apparently many others do too. I don't admire or excuse what they do, obviously, but I do find it interesting hearing about their upbringing, the reasons they commit their horrendous acts, how long they keep going before getting caught, and what exactly it is that eventually trips them up. There have been a few good films on the subject over the years and I've seen most of them, so it's a bit surprising I put off watching Dexter for so long. I did eventually watch it about 3-4 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it overall, and was sad that it ended. For anyone who doesn't know, however, a revival was announced a while back which sees the return of the titular character after an absence of nearly a decade. With this in mind, I decided the time was right to watch the show again.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Shinobi Series - Part 7

The GG Shinobi (1991)
By: Sega Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear First Day Score: 000,000
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: 3DS Virtual Console

This great, now-celebrated series was only four games old but it had already started looking as though it was heading downhill. The original game and the MegaDrive sequel were both widely acclaimed (with good reason) but Shadow Dancer (both versions) less so, and Cyber Shinobi, the series' only Master System exclusive, was not well received at all. The next title would need to be a corker or Musashi-san might be heading for the gaming retirement home. Luckily for keen assassins such as myself and no doubt many of you, it looked as though the title in question might restore Joe's crown as gaming's top ninja! In an effort to push their shiny new handheld, Sega made the game an exclusive for it. Known simply (and slightly confusingly) as 'Shinobi' outside Japan, fans always refer to it these days by it's Japanese title - The GG Shinobi - and here's a look at it.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Arcade Shmups #28

Raiga - Strato Fighter (1991)
By: Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 116,620 (one credit)
Also Available For: Xbox (compilation)

I suspect there's a decent chance many of you won't have heard of this obscure shooter, and that's a surprise. It arrived at a time when the genre was immensely popular and it was bestowed upon us by a well known arcade developer. It was even available in the West (US only, no release for us European oafs), so why wasn't it known to more players? Well, I suppose it may have gotten crowded out by the sheer number of similar games available, but aside from that I've no idea. Of course, your resident herb-flavoured retrohead knew all about... okay, I admit - I hadn't heard of it either! I discovered it simply due to spotting its cool name (Strato Fighter? Yeah!) in my MAME list and giving it a go. With that in mind, I guess it should be part of my 'Random Game' feature, but it was probably around 7 or 8 years ago that I saw it and it has remained on my 'to review' list ever since (hey, in my defence, there are about 1,000-odd games on it!), but I've finally gotten around to playing it.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Film Review #119

Directors: Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver Starring: Tom England, Joshua Ford, Arjun Singh Panam, Ben Vardy

Certificate: PG Running Time: 128 Minutes

Tagline: "Only they will hear. Only they will believe."

Every now and then, when I'm struggling to find something I feel like watching, I'll scan through the offerings on the streaming services to which I currently subscribe, as many others also do I'm sure. A frequently perused genre is sci-fi which has probably been my favourite genre since I first discovered Star Trek as a child. Most efforts that show up in searches that I haven't already seen are ones with such catastrophically bad ratings that I don't even chance them, but one hitherto unknown film recently caught my eye during such a search that sounded very intriguing. It may be worth pointing out at this point that Contact, the 1997 sci-fi film starring Jodie Foster, has long been among my very favourites. For those who don't know, Ms. Foster plays a radio astronomer who intercepts a signal from another world - a subject that has captivated me for many years - and it was this premise that also formed the basis for Cosmos, a fairly recent British indie film made with literally no budget at all.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Return of the King

Oh hey, how's it going? It has once again been a busy time here in RKS-Land; maybe more so than at any time since I started this faltering page, in fact. This has definitely been the longest period without a post since I started the page 12 long years ago. I even forgot about it altogether for a while and hadn't been here for so long I had about 900 billion spams in the 'comments' section amongst other things when I did eventually saunter back here. BUT!! My return isn't what prompted the title of this post - that would be a step too far in the direction of vanity. No, it refers to a thing, not a person at all. Not just any thing though. Perhaps the greatest thing.

But first a bit of background which includes the main reason I have absent for so long - I have moved house! Well, I say 'house' but I was in a flat previously. A pretty good one it should be said, but it was in a shitty area filled with loud, super-annoying people of a remarkably undesirable nature (to put it politely). Our new place was larger and in a far better area, but the actually process of packing and moving, then unpacking and organising takes an extraordinary amount of time, as I'm sure anyone who has done it will testify. Then there were numerous small jobs that needed doing such as 'mounting' (snigger) my large TV on the wall - a prospect that scared me - but I did actually end up doing it myself and... the TV is still there! But suffice to say, I've been busy, and on the occasion I've had some time to pootle around here, I just haven't been in the mood for one reason or another.