Thursday, 31 March 2011

Crap Games #2

Jinmu Denshou Yaksa (1989)
By: Big Club / Wolf Team  Genre: Shooting  Players:  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 3,500
Also Available For: Nothing

Any Space Harrier fans here? Good. Now, imagine playing that great game but without the benefit of the invisible jetpack. Sound good? I'd have to agree with you if you're sceptical but that's exactly what we've got here from Big Club / Wolf Team. Yaksa, as I knew the game until now, is apparently a little-known game which I remember reading a scathing review of in C&VG magazine back when Mean Machines was just a humble little section in the back of the mag, and it's another one I've often wondered about. It's comparisons to Sega's mid-80's classic are understandable. Both games place you in control of a lonesome fellow who must advance into the screen, faux-3D stylee, and take out hordes of attacking enemies. The main difference between the games is the setting.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Scrolling Fighting Games #4

Dynamite Dux (1988)
By: Sega  Genre: Fighting  Players: 1-2   Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 26,940
Also Available For: Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

No matter when fighting games are set, whether past, present, or future, they're nearly always serious affairs, if not always necessarily realistic. There's usually some sort of personal revenge involved and someone typically needs rescuing too, more often than not a damsel in distress who has become an unwitting pawn in the schemes of a dastardly maniacal tyrant, evil crime boss, or something equally heinous. A wide variety of muscle-bound male and sexy female heroes have come and gone but what of that cute and nonsensical 'crazy Japanese' style of game that has graced so many other genres? Shoot 'em ups, platformers, racing games, RPG's, even sports games are catered for, but this unique and amusing style seems to have given this particular genre a wide berth. Or has it?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Arcade Shmups #6

Slap Fight a.k.a. Alcon (1986)
By: Toaplan / Taito  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 74,960 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

You could at first be forgiven for thinking that this early Toaplan release was a fighting game or perhaps something rather more bizarre, given its rather strange name, but it's actually an almost totally un-weird game! As I'm sure most of you now know, Slap Fight is actually a shoot 'em up, much like most of Toaplan's releases. This one is a fairly standard vertical-scroller set in 2059 which of course charges you with saving Humanity. It's not Earth this time though but a colony in another galaxy which has come under attack from those pesky aliens. As an 'Allied League of Cosmic Nations' pilot, it's your job to fly the catchily-named SW475 star fighter and take down the advancing fleets of alien attackers.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Exploring the NES - Part 3

With the help of my NES-loving friends, Eric and Sean, I have now had a good taster of a wide variety of games for their favourite console. In the process, however, I also received numerous other recommendations from others. So despite the fact that the 'Exploring the NES' feature is now technically concluded, I figured I might as well take a look at the games recommended by others too! These five are the favourites of a splendid fellow you may know as Stiggy (check out his great blog here)...

Double Dragon II (1989)

The entirety of my Double Dragon gaming has so far been done on the Master System's great but flickery port of the original arcade game so I was very interested to see how the sequel fared on the MS's great rival. To my dismay, it's even better! Although differing substantially from its arcade parent, the objective in this version remains the same which sees the Lee Brothers on a mission of revenge after their shared beyatch was killed by the wretched Black Warriors gang. Oh well, at least the game is great fun to play! The music is superb while the graphics, using the distinctive NES colour pallette, are are also great and feature far less flicker than they would on the MS. I was particularly impressed with the stage design which is creative for a game of this type. The first stage, for example, see you climbing up progressively higher rooftops of buildings via ladders until you meet the boss on the top floor! On first impressions, a superb fighting game that I'll definitely return to.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Early Driving Games #2

Rad Racer (1987)
By: Square  Genre: Driving  Players: 1   Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES  First Day Score: 20,414
Also Available For: Nothing

In 1986, Sega did more than just release OutRun - they completely revolutionised the racing game genre itself. Over the years Nintendo have established themselves as the innovators of home gaming but in the comparatively early year that OutRun appeared it was clear that their console didn't have an equivalent. Luckily for them, Square were on hand to quench NES owners thirst for this newly popular genre and the result was... Rad Racer! Interestingly, it was developed by the same team who would go on to create the revolutionary (and company-saving) RPG, Final Fantasy, but fret not - there's no random battles or magical monsters here. In fact, it's about as far from that fantastical world as you can get. Accordingly, it's a game that's predictably short on story or exposition but it does offer an opportunity to drive fast and recklessly and little else. But that's often enough...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Top Five Master System Platform 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. Lucky Dime Caper (1991)

During my time as a Game Gear owner, this was probably my favourite game and having now spent some time playing the MS version I'm happy to see that it's pretty much identical. Starring you as Donald Duck who's charged with rescuing Huey, Dewey, and Louie as well as retrieving Uncle Scrooge's titular lucky dime, it's a pretty standard platformer but that shouldn't suggest it's not a good one. You can choose which nephew to rescue first, each of whom is being held in a different exotic location around the world of course, each of which is populated by various terrible creatures. It's a very enjoyable adventure though, filled with memorable moments and topped off with fantastic graphics and music.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Film Review #24

Kick-Ass (2010)
Director: Matthew Vaughn  Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloë Moretz, Nicholas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Lyndsy Fonseca, Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Michael Rispoli

Certificate: 15  Running Time: 117 Minutes

Tagline: "Have fear. They're here"

In all the years there have been superheroes - in comic-books, in films, and wherever else - why has no one ever tried to be one in real life? This is the perfectly plausible question posed by Dave Lizewski (Johnson). By his own admission, he's a completely normal, totally unremarkable teenager - not terribly popular but has a few friends, is ignored by the girl on whom he has a crush, etc. After getting hassled by local hoods for the umpteenth time and seeing others routinely turning a blind eye to such injustices, he decides enough is enough. Despite the somewhat glaring oversight of possessing no superpowers or special abilities of any kind, Dave decides to become a real-life superhero. Well, that's the plan, anyway, but it doesn't take a supergenius to see the flaw in it...

Friday, 18 March 2011

Overhead Racers #7

Grand Prix Simulator (1987)
By: Code Masters  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1-2   Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64

Although they'd been around for quite some time before-hand, the popularity of overhead racing games can be largely attributed to Atari's Super Sprint, but despite the fact that it received good quality official conversions to most home systems of the time, lots of other companies still tried their hand at making similar games. Enter Code Masters who around this time were making a good name for themselves with their mostly decent range of budget games including their trademark 'Simulator' series. It didn't take them long to realise that Super Sprint and the 'Simulator' series were a perfect combination and so Grand Prix Simulator was soon born, courtesy of the splendid Oliver Twins. But how could a mere budget game stand up to a well-established arcade behemoth? Very well as it turned out!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bomberman Series - Part 4

Bomberman Special (1986)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: MSX  First Day Score: 000,000
Also Available For: Nothing

After the horror of my previous look at the Bomberman series (and a mentally-scarring first use of an MSX), I approached this next installment with great trepidation. Admittedly, the main reason for this is that it's once again hosted by the MSX. However, much to my relief it seems that Hudson have mercifully abandoned the brief foray the series took into the third dimension with this release. It was again exclusive to the multi-company micro but this game is much more akin to the first NES game of the series which was the first time many Westerners got a glimpse of the character we now know and love. Despite my reservations however, I couldn't help but be intrigued (and a little scared) by that 'Special' in the title.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

SNES Shmups #1

Cosmo Gang: The Video (1992)
By: Namco  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES  First Day Score: 1,411,060
Also Available For: Arcade
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

I think it's fair to say the first true smash-hit videogame that took over the world was Space Invaders. Its simple style and addictive gameplay has been copied and improved by many designers and companies over the years but my favourite of these has always been Galaga, specifically Galaga '88 for the PC Engine. However, that could be about to change. My appreciation of cute, crazy Japanese games is well known and here Namco have given their own classic series of Space Invaders-style games a cute 'n' crazy makeover! The basic premise behind Cosmo Gang varies little from that of Galaga as you might expect. It replaces the evil alien insects from Galaga with strange characters called Cosmo Gangers and the predictably simple objective of the game is to clear each stage of these peculiar creatures before they can clobber you!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Top Five Mr Men

I don't know about young whippersnappers these days but there's a good chance that everyone around my age grew up reading the Mr. Men books. After their creation by Roger Hargreaves in 1971 they were an instant success and went on to sell many millions of copies. An initial six books based on the titular characters were created first and the series went on to include forty-seven Mr. Men books, thirty-four Little Miss books, and many other special editions, and the series is still going strong today. I still have all my original Mr. Men books from the 70's (I wonder if they're worth anything now... probably not!) and I have great memories of reading them all. I'm sure we all have our favourites but here are mine:

5 - Mr Dizzy

Poor old Mr Dizzy. Not only was he not blessed with a great deal of intelligence but he also lives in Cleverland! Not a great combination I'm sure you'll agree, and he is regularly teased by a smart pig and elephant. Despair not, however, as he get his own back after drinking from a magical wishing well and becoming clever himself. Hooray!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Crap Games #1

Last Battle (1989)
By: Sega  Genre: Fighting  Players: 1   Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 32,500
Also Available For: Amiga, Commodore 64
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Whether you're an oldie like me or a young whipper-snapper, I'm sure if you're a gamer, especially one with limited resources, you regularly check out reviews of games for your system(s) of choice. If one gets great reviews you'll probably buy it, or at least want it, but if one gets bad reviews you'll probably avoid it like the plague. That was certainly the case with me when I was growing up. There's lots of average or good games that I haven't gotten around to playing yet or course, but when something gets universally slated it's a name I remember but never want to play. But could the magazines have been wrong? In this new Red Parsley feature I will bravely take a look at some of the games I thought I'd never play to see if they really are as crap as they're supposed to be.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Shinobi Series - Part 3

Shadow Dancer (1989)
By: Sega  Genre: Platform/Fighting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 146,100
Also Available For: Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Shinobi is still regarded as one of the all-time classic games from Sega's sizeable back-catalogue, and rightly so. It was a game perfectly suited to its time and still plays as well today as the day it was released. Rather than shamelessly cash-in on its popularity, however, Sega took its time with the sequel and released a fresh-feeling game with a few new ideas, and yet despite this it never even approached the success of it predecessor. Is that because it was crap? No, it's not, but considering I was one of the ones who paid the game so little attention upon its release I'm not really sure what the problem was! Thanks to the wonders of retro gaming, however, I've got the chance to make amends.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #2

Crack Down (1990)
By: Sega  Genre: Run 'n' Gun  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 57,200
Also Available For: Arcade, Amiga, Atari ST
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Those infernal mad professors are a right pain in the arse, aren't they? Always deluding themselves that they're the best leader for the world and bollocks to everyone else. Then again, I suppose if it wasn't for them, all the many selfless, heroic American government agents wouldn't have any opportunities to show us all how brave and daring they are by saving our worthless behinds and would instead be reduced to sitting around eating pizza. Luckily for Special Service agents, Ben and Andy (must be their special covert operative names), but unluckily for all us non-hero types, Mr. K has unleashed his army of killer robots equipped with advanced artificial intelligence to rid the world of pesky Humans! Can Ben and Andy save us all from Mr. K's diabolical scheme?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Film Review #23

The King's Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper  Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Claire Bloom, Derek Jacobi

Certificate: 15  Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "The nation awaits"

I used to hate the Oscars. Well, not the awards themselves so much, but more the kind of films that used to win them. They generally featured some outstanding acting displays, lavish costumes, and all the rest of it, but they're not often much fun, are they? More often than not they're true stories of someone overcoming some sort of adversity or something like that and I used to actually avoid them, condemning them all as dreary dramas with little of interest. I guess my tastes changed over time though and I realised how many great films I'd passed on simply due to the particular kind of recognition they'd received. Films like The King's Speech, which was nominated for and subsequently awarded pretty much all the major Oscars this year. Ten years ago I would've avoided this film like the plague. Today? I wouldn't say I was super-excited at the prospect of seeing it but I was certainly willing to give it a try. But does it live up to all the hype?

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Exploring the NES - Part 2

You know, when I decided to write this feature and ask for some recommendations, I immediately thought any NES fan I spoke to would say Super Mario something, Zelda, Mega Man something, Metroid, etc, etc. The only game I ended up playing that I actually expected to have recommended to me was Contra, but thanks to my Facebook friend and NES fanatic, Eric, I've now had a varied taster of NES-related tomfoolery anyway. However, since the console has such a huge number of games I thought it would be a good idea to ask someone else to recommend some more. Enter my fellow blog-writing friend, Sean (see his fantastic blog here), who had some suggestions even more obscure than Eric's! Here's how I got on with them:

Adventure Island (1986)

The Wonder Boy / Adventure Island games have a very convoluted lineage and indeed, I've actually already spent a fair bit of time playing this game, albeit under its 'correct' name on my Master System! It's been interesting to see another version of it though, and a direct comparison between a game on the two systems should help with my evaluation of the NES. This version certainly doesn't look as nice, but let's face it - the Wonder Boy sprite has never been very appealing, and this isn't really the flashiest game on any format either! The music is as catchy as ever though, and the game plays just as well as I remember, which is very well. It's a very simple game, requiring you to do little more than press 'right' and hit a button every now and then, but it's great fun and very addictive. I'd probably return to the MS version to be honest but both versions play as well as each other.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Mobile Games #3

Tank Hero (2011)
By: Clapfoot Games  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: Nothing

Considering how awesome many of them are, it's strange that tank-based shoot 'em ups are so seldom encountered. The last one I really enjoyed was Mass Destruction for the Saturn but this new Android release drew its inspiration from a much earlier source. Whilst the tanks it uses may bear more of a visual resemblance to those found in the Saturn game, the game itself plays more like an update of Tank, Atari's popular arcade game from 1974! It's set in a series of enclosed arenas but there's no story or detailed instructions of any kind. All you need to know is - you're in control of a green tank, and every other tank is the enemy.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Ultimate: The Collected Works - Part 2

Pssst (1983)
By: Ultimate Play the Game  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 15,070
Also Available For: Nothing

As one of the most popular and fondly-remembered early Spectrum games, Jetpac was a huge success for the Stamper Brothers and it didn't take them long to follow it up. Released later that same year, Pssst was a game that had a similar premise but its setting couldn't be much more different. The aim of both games is to shoot interlopers in order to protect a valued but stationary object, but whereas before it was your spaceman's rocket ship your efforts were concentrated on, this time it's... a flower! It's not just any flower though, but a prize Thyrgodian Megga Chrisanthodil, and its proud owner is Robbie the Robot! In order for this special plant to be nurtured into full bloom, you must help Robbie fend off the hordes of evil Interstellar Space Slugs, Scuttling Leeches, and Menacing Midges who want to eat it!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Top Five Isometric 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!

Special Disclaimer: In case anyone says anything - yes I know Retro Gamer magazine has just done a isometric games feature but I've actually been planning this post for a while, I didn't copy them (despite the opposite seemingly happening now and then!)

5. Knight Lore (1984)

Probably the automatic choice for Number One for most gamers but I became a Speccy owner fairly late and missed out on most of Ultimate's games including this one. I have since discovered it and played it of course, and it's a fantastic game, but it was never going to have as big an impression on me as it would someone who was around when it was first released. The graphics are still impressive though with neatly laid-out rooms, and the game is superbly designed with a great atmosphere. The only thing I don't like about it really is the 'transformation' between normal and werewulf states every few minutes which can get pretty annoying. Knight Lore is still unquestionably a superb arcade adventure though, and one of the Speccy's best.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Golf Games #1

Top Player's Golf (1990)
By: SNK  Genre: Sports  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD

I can certainly see why they wouldn't appeal to everyone but I really enjoy a good golf game now and then. Not the kind that takes an hour to set up a shot of course, I'm not that serious about them, but arcadey ones or, even better, those Japanese anime-style ones are fantastic fun and a welcome break from fast-paced shmups or racing games. I already have a few favourites games of this type, including another for SNK's splendid console, but this series of features will hopefully uncover more for me to enjoy. This one, an early release for the Neo Geo arcade and home system, is certainly arcadey by its very nature, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good.