Sunday, 31 October 2010

Game Gallery #2 - Part 2

Bubble Bobble (1986)
Arcade Version

After a long and arduous struggle (which took somewhat longer than expected), I've finally managed to finish this damn fine (but also damn long and difficult!) game. Regrettably, I'm not as skilled as I once was as far as playing games is concerned (getting old I guess), and even at my peak I never had the talent that some players have. Like those who can complete this classic with just one credit, for example! Suffice to say, I got stuck a few times (hence the delay in posting Part 2) and had to seek the guidance of an expert or two.

Only then, however, did I discover that those crafty scoundrel's at Taito don't give you the proper ending unless you finish the game with two players. So back I went to complete the game again, after adding a few credits for a non-existent second player, so I could detail the 'proper' ending here. Then I find out that I've still not earned the full ending! To do that I have to decipher the mysterious code that I received on earning the 'Happy Ending', but I think I'll leave that for another time! Taito sure know how to get the most out of a game, huh? As I mentioned in my review, this is a game full of intricacies and secrets!

I'm informed that, on top of all this, there is also a 'Super Mode' which sees some of the levels change colours and some of the enemies switch places. Perhaps I'll look into that for a potential 'Parts 3 & 4' though! Jeez! Anyway, behold I bestow unto thee part two of the much fabled Bubble Bobble Gallery!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Top Five Movie Moments #2

#2 - Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery (1997)

Spoof movies... you either love them or hate them. Well, except me - I love some and hate others! Being subjected to travesties like the Scary Movie series, Date/Epic/Disaster etc Movie, even the recent Vampires Suck, is a trauma that's hard to recover from, and one that continually threatens to destroy my love of the movie-making business altogether. Even accidentally viewing part of a trailer for one of them can be a horrifying experience, but when they're done right, by genuinely talented people, they can be movies of comedic genius, and the movie world is filled with potential candidates.

James Bond films are generally fantastic entertainment, but they are also one of the candidates mentioned that are particularly ripe for spoofing, especially the earlier films. To be honest I'm surprised it took so long, but the combined talents of Mike Myers and Jay Roach did eventually bring us the highly amusing shagathon featured here, which not only represents the birth of the (soon to be 'rebooted') series, but which also remains the best film in the series. Well, in my opinion, anyway! As with the film featured in my first Top Five Movie Moments, choosing the five best moments from this film was tough, particularly as many of the gags are visual, but here are my choices:

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the film in question or don't mind knowing about its most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5... "We'll Hold The World Ransom For..."

Friday, 29 October 2010

PC Engine Shmups #3

Air Zonk a.k.a. PC Denjin Punkic Cyborg (1992)
By: Red Company / Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 1,184,160
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Zonk and his 'Friends' dominate the title screen...
As the era of the game mascot came to pass the PC Engine was at its peak, so it's no surprise to find that it was the recipient of its own platform hero in PC Kid (or Bonk, as he was known in the US). He was an amusing character, and the star of some outstanding games, but apparently Hudson decided he had uses beyond that genre. But how do you adapt a prehistoric platform game starring a caveboy into a shoot 'em up? Well that's easy - make him a cyborg! Whilst probably a cynical ploy to make PC Kid 'cooler' in the wake of Sonic's rise to fame, it also facilitated a shmup with great potential. The primary antagonist here remains the same as in the PC Kid games - King Drool. This time he has sent forth legions of maniacal robots to take over the world. Having discovered his plan, Zonk and the rest of 'Team Cool' set out to stop him at any cost!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Shinobi Series - Part 2

Shinobi (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Platform/Fighting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 331,150
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade

The original version of Shinobi was a fantastic game for its day and proved to be extremely popular, but for many years the only version of it I knew was this version that Sega treated all of its loyal Master System customers to. It's one of the few conversions handled by Sega themselves and happily it's a splendid version of the arcade great, arguably the best, but it's not identical. The game's story is still the same, which involves the children of the Oboro clan (or of various world leaders, according to the Western versions, as I recall) being kidnapped, but unlike the arcade version where rescuing the children was mandatory, here you don't actually have to rescue them. You can though, if you want, and it's a very good idea to do so anyway, for each one bestows upon courageous Joe a reward of special magnificence!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Top Five Arnie Quips

Arnold Schwarzenegger: love him or loathe him, few could deny that a vast majority of The Governator's films are immensely entertaining. He's been around a long time now, and from his chortlesome beginnings in the late 70's with the likes of cheese-fest, Hercules In New York, up to his attempts to flex his comedic muscles with Kindergarten Cop, through self-parody in The Last Action Hero, right up to the underrated Collateral Damage, his career has proven to be rife with memorable moments.

Regardless of the rest of his filmography, however, his most popular films have always been the loud, explosive action films he starred in, and what a run it was! Starting with sci-fi classic, The Terminator, through Commando, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies... the list goes on. These films have remained enjoyable to this day and have many great qualities, but one of my favourite things about them are Arnie's groan-inducing quips! Here are my favourites, which coincidentally all relate to a bad guy's death...

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the films in question or don't mind knowing about their most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5 - Sully's Demise (Commando)

Diminutive Sully doesn't make a convincing bad guy, just a bit of an obnoxious dick, but of all Bennett's cronies, Matrix (Arnie) dislikes him the least, telling him "You're a funny guy, Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last". However, after a pursuit across a mall followed by a car chase, Matrix runs him off the road in a high mountain pass. Grabbing the dazed Sulley, Matrix holds him by the ankle off the edge of a cliff to scare him into revealing information regarding the whereabouts of Matrix's kidnapped daughter. After believing he has exhausted his resource, he asks Sully "Remember I said I was going to kill you last? I lied" and then drops him from the high cliff, watching him fall to a certain, unpleasant death. Returning to his car, his bit of stuff, Cindy, asks "Where's Sully?". Matrix's calm response?... "I let him go".

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Film Review #14

The Station Agent (2003)
Director: Tom McCarthy Starring: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, Raven Goodwin, Paul Benjamin, Jayce Bartok, John Slattery

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 89 Minutes

Tagline: "Loneliness is much better when you have got someone to share it with"

Every now and then I discover a film, usually by accident, that just speaks to me. These films generally turn out to be indies, usually feature lesser-known or even unknown actors, and they are often the kind of films where nothing much actually happens. The Station Agent is one of these films, and one of the main reasons I wanted to start writing reviews of films. I think this is mainly because I’ve never met anyone else who’s even heard of it, nevermind seen it - I wanted more people to know about it, to appreciate it, to love it the way I do. But at the same time the prospect of reviewing it made me nervous. What if everyone who read my review hated it? I don't want anyone to dislike this film, I feel protective of it! However, now that I'm approaching my 100th post here at Red Parsley, and having watched the film for the umpteenth time recently, I thought it was time to finally try to give it the review it deserves.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Arcade Shmups #2

Gun Frontier (1990)
By: Taito  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 20,330 (one credit)
Also Available For: Sega Saturn

As most of us already know, shmups are one of the most common types of games around, or at least they were in the 'good old days'! A majority of them featured basic stories merely to facilitate the action which usually revolved around some sort of evil dictator/alien invading a country or planet or something, perhaps kidnapping someone important in the process. So leave it to Taito to come up with a shmup story as off-kilter as this one! It's set in the year 2120 when Mankind has escaped the confines of Earth and started colonising other planets. One of them, Gloria, is rich in gold, but it cost most settlers everything they had to reach it, so the planet has ended up with a civilisation somewhat akin to the American Wild West! Thanks to the abundance of gold though, Gloria provided a comfortable home to its inhabitants.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Single Screen Platform Games #3

Bomb Jack (1984)
By: Tehkan Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 186,620
Also Available For: Sega SG-1000, GameBoy, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Atari XL/XE, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

You know, given the overwhelming popularity of super heroes and the potential they have for starring in great games, it's ironic that there are so few decent ones around. One of the few good ones, not to mention one of the earliest, is Bomb Jack, and he was created especially for the job! I first discovered it on a school friend's CPC 464 (complete with green-screen monitor) and I've been hooked on helping him save the world ever since! I'm sure he's far from miffed himself - I imagine life must get pretty boring for a superhero when there's no supervillains around to vanquish. Luckily for Jack, an unnamed scoundrel has placed bombs at some of the world's monuments and tourist spots, so he has to dust off his cape and fly off to save the day!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Overhead Racers #4

Drift Out (1991)
By: Visco Corp  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Super Famicom (variation)

Overhead racing games were one of the earliest types of games to appear, with their history extending as far back as the 70's, so as you can imagine the genre has undergone quite a few changes in the intervening years. One of them is obviously the standard of graphics, but there's only so much that can be done using the Super Sprint style view. The best way to improve graphical quality was to zoom in closer to the action. It might seem obvious but it didn't become commonplace until the 90's. Many of the titles that then appeared were rally games, and Drift Out was one of the first. It's actually Neo Drift Out that I'm personally more familiar with but in the interests of chronological accuracy I'll look at this one first! I don't know how well-known it was at the time - I at least never saw it, but it was a very pleasant surprise!

Friday, 15 October 2010

PC Engine Shmups #2

Heavy Unit (1990)
By: Kaneko / Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 6,900
Also Available For: Arcade, MegaDrive

If you were asked to think of a Taito shmup, there's a good bet you'd immediately think of a Darius title. This is largely understandable due to the number of games in that series if nothing else, particularly on the PC Engine which was groaning under the weight of shmups of varying quality, but they did make a few other games of that type too. Among them is Heavy Unit, which is again a horizontal scroller converted from their arcade original. The story is pretty similar to that of the Darius games in that one of Mankind's planets has come under attack and needs defending. In this case it's our first artificial star and planet, Le Tau, which a race of genetically modified alien monsters has designs on! Naturally, it falls to you to vanquish this evil (and scary-sounding) foe by making use of the 'Heavy Unit', a heavily-armed transforming spaceship/mecha.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Top Five SNES Two-Player Games

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Rock n' Roll Racing (1993)

This game may have been more famous for its soundtrack when it first appeared but that's far from its only positive attribute. After choosing one of the six racers available, you then get to race their 'rock car' around the simple, undulating circuits trying to blow everyone else up! It's possible to upgrade your car between races with all the usual stuff - engines, tyres, shocks, shields, etc, as well as equip it with various weapons such as missiles and mines. It's great fun with one player but even better with two, and I'm also pleased to say it doesn't use the annoying 'catch-up' feature here, instead opting for the split-screen view which makes proceedings far more enjoyable if you ask me. And yes, the soundtrack is good too, featuring instrumental renditions of various hard rock classics. Probably the best overhead racer on the SNES.

Monday, 11 October 2010

SNES Driving / Racing Games #1

Exhaust Heat a.k.a. F1 ROC: Race of Champions (1992)
By: Seta Co.Ltd  Genre: Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

After I'd had my SNES for a while and played the first few games I had to death, I started to gradually add a few more to my collection, and one of the first games of my second batch was this F1 racer. After playing F-Zero so much of the previous year, I had high expectations of this, especially given its glowing Mean Machines review. Granted, on paper an F1 game doesn't sound as exciting as a futuristic racer featuring hovering jet-cars that blast around the obstacle-filled courses at speed in excess of 400kph, but being a big fan of F1, I was looking forward to it all the same. First impressions after turning the game on were good - the title screen is nice and the presentation over the menu/options screens is really nice, but once I made all the selections I needed to and actually started playing the game my heart sank.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Master System Shmups #2

TransBot a.k.a. Astro Flash (1986)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Master System  First Day Score: 36,940
Also Available For: Nothing

Despite being pretty popular here in the UK, the Master System was never really the most popular console of all-time. The comparative lack of games could be one reason, the NES was awash with thousands of games after all, but it's still a shame as Sega's sleek-looking console was pretty innovative for its time. Among the bright ideas it housed was a 'Smart Card' system, adapted from an accessory for Sega's earlier Japan-only console, the SG-1000, which was an alternative to the high-cost ROM cartridges used for most games. The card system was effectively home to a budget range of games early in the Master System's life before being dropped, but considering the number of games released on the format barely reached double figures, it didn't really matter too much!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Film Review #13

Zoolander (2001)
Director: Ben Stiller Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, Jon Voight

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 85 Minutes

Tagline: "3% Body Fat. 1% Brain Activity"

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but does that apply to movies too? I'm not sure it should as one look at the cover and tagline of this one should tell you all you need to know! Set in the glamorous / preposterous (delete as appropriate) world of the fashion industry where top designers who rely on cheap child labour in Malaysia are panicked by the Prime Minister of that country declaring that he intends to outlaw such practices. The industry bigwigs then order top designer, Mugatu (Ferrell), to find a male model stupid enough to be brainwashed into assassinating the Prime Minister before he can make his decree. Enter world famous veteran male supermodel, Derek Zoolander (Stiller), who is struggling to deal with brash upstart, Hansel (Wilson), stealing his limelight. But is anyone really that stupid?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Game Gallery #2 - Part 1

Bubble Bobble (1986)
Arcade Version - full review here

I'm pretty sure there aren't too many gamers who would challenge the generally held belief that Bubble Bobble is one of the greatest videogames ever made. The fact that it's composed of a massive 100 rounds of action certainly doesn't hurt, but it does mean it's a lengthy trek to play through the whole game. Some people are somehow able to play through the entire game without even losing one life. Others, like me, are not so gifted and can only reach round 40 on a good day! It was therefore an enormous challenge for me to play through the game for this piece (which may have involved the odd 'save states' or two!). It was also a privilege and a pleasure, however, to see this great game in its entirety and I happily present the the fruits of my labour over the next two posts. Here are the first fifty stages :)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Top Five Movie Moments #1

#1 - Goodfellas (1990)

Hello and welcome to another new Red Parsley feature! I love retro videogames but they aren't the only thing I love. In fact, I've probably spent more of my time watching films that I have playing games! So, rather than do an in-depth review of some older films that are already well known, I thought I'd instead present what are to me their greatest moments, whether it's a brilliant moment of acting, a jaw-dropping special effects sequence, some pant-wettingly funny dialogue, or anything else. I hope you like it! :)

My good friend, Luke, and I greatly enjoy gangster/mob type films. There are several directors who excel in the area, but one of the contenders for best must surely be Martin Scorsese's adaption of Nicholas Pileggi's novel. This amazing movie is surely a contender for greatest ever gangster film and is chock full of brilliantly memorable moments, so picking just five is a tall order, but here are my choices:

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the film in question or don't mind knowing about its most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5... "You broke your cherry!"

After Henry gets pinched for selling 'jacked cigarettes, it's not facing his parents that scares him - it's facing Paulie and the rest of his crew. Presuming they'll all be mad with him for getting caught, their actual reaction brings home to him just how different life in his new family is, and he likes it!

Jimmy: "Here's your graduation present" (slips some money in Henry's pocket)
Henry: "What for? I got pinched"
Jimmy: "Everybody gets pinched, but you did it right. You told them nothing and they got nothing"
Henry: "I thought you'd be mad"
Jimmy: "Mad? I'm not mad with you, I'm proud of you. You took your first pinch like a man and you learnt two greatest things in your life. Look at me, never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut"
(walks through the doors to find Paulie and the rest of the crew gathered)
Paulie: "Ohhh, you broke your cherry!"
(much hugging and merriment ensues)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Single Screen Platform Games #2

Bubble Bobble (1986)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 180,180
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Saturn, PlayStation, X68000, NES, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, FM Towns Marty, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, MSX, PC

What more can be said about this all-time great? Whilst perhaps not as well known as Mario or Sonic, the cute dinosaurs of Bubble Bobble are just as iconic to many gamers, myself included, and have now appeared in a lot of games on nearly every system ever created, in one guise or another. My first encounter with the bubble-blowing twins was in 'Kwiki Meals', the cafe near my college. It was here that I ventured every lunchtime to play Bubble Bobble (and eat a burger), and I was often late back to class! It was the game that first brought the great Taito to my attention and they've been one of my favourite companies since. Sadly, both Kwiki Meals and the arcade masterpiece it once housed are now long gone but I've had a regular fix of Bubble Bobble ever since.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Top Five Clouds

Anyone who's lazy and spends a lot of time daydreaming like me will surely love clouds. It truly is one of life's simplest pleasures laying on some grass on a nice day, maybe with some nice relaxing music playing quietly, gazing up the various different arrangements of clouds. It's also interesting that merely looking at them can not only tell you what the weather is like, but can also warn you of impending weather too! To that end, here is my Top Five:

5 - Noctilucent
These are the highest of all clouds and are almost beyond the extent of the atmosphere altogether! They can only be seen in high northern and southern latitudes, and even then only for a short time after the sun has disappeared below the horizon. They weren't even discovered that long ago and there is still little known about them. Plus, they look nice :)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Thunder Force Series - Part 5

Thunder Force 3 (1990)
By: Techno Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 1,269,320
Also Available For: Arcade, SNES (variations)

The first two Thunder Force games were pretty innovative but no one could really say they were smash hits. For all their original ideas and addictive gameplay, the series was still only really known outside of Japan for the second game on the MD, and even then it was hardly viewed as a masterpiece. Then, however, Techno Soft quietly unleashed the monstrous sequel we have before us here, and the rest, as they say, is history! I'm rather keen on TF2 (for the MD - the X68k version is too hard!) but even I have to admit it pales in comparison to this game which is actually a less complicated outing than before. So, is there anything in particular that Techno Soft did to raise the series to such heights, or did it just take some flashy graphical effects to get everyone's attention?