Friday, 30 September 2011

Scrolling Fighting Games #5

Dungeon Magic a.k.a. Lightbringer (1993)
By: Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 112,490
Also Available For: Nothing

You know, it's pretty amazing when I stop to think about it, just how many games pass by going completely unnoticed by some, and this one is a great example. I like scrolling fighting games and I like nearly anything released by Taito, and yet, somehow, I had absolutely no idea this game existed until a couple of weeks ago! Of course, sometimes games are ignored on purpose as they suck arse, but surely a scrolling fighting game by Taito won't suck arse? It's a fantasy game with a medieval setting meaning there's a good helping of swords and sorcery, and, fittingly, there is also apparently an evil magician on the loose plotting to take over the Kingdom and generally spreading ill-will. He's even kidnapped a big-boobed princess for good measure and it's up to you to get her back!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Budget Games #6

Super Robin Hood (1986)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 14,630
Also Available For: NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

The Oliver Twins might be most famous for the splendid Dizzy series, but their first foray into the the world of published games was this budget effort which was first released on the good old Speccy. I'm not sure what made them choose the legendary outlaw from Sherwood Forest as the basis for their first game but the result has seen poor old Maid Marian kidnapped once again by that super-cad, the Sheriff of Nottingham. It's therefore your job to fill the boots of our gallant hero and make your way through Nottingham Castle, battling against fearsome adversaries and overcoming cunning traps in order to free her. Followed, presumably, by a celebratory ravaging. Like many such games, Super Robin Hood is a flick-screen platform adventure, and standing between Robin and Marian are over forty screens of tough action.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Top Five Babylon 5 Ships - Part 1

As great as the various incarnations of Star Trek are, everyone knows the superior show to watch from beginning to end is Babylon 5. This is of course mainly down to the amazingly intricate and enthralling story, superbly developed characters, and the ongoing arc that progressed them all, but it certainly didn't hurt that it had superb alien make-up and a realistic portrayal of the future of mankind, all the corrupt, war-starting lot of it! Something else it had over Star Trek is decent-looking spaceships and here are the best ones in my view:

5 - Earthforce Starfury

The main attack fighter of the Earthforce fleet, this little one-man craft is a superbly versatile thing. What it lacks in raw firepower it more than makes up for with its immense maneuverability. Each of the four 'wings' has a thruster on the front and back and any combination of these can be fired at any time making the Starfury capable of making pinpoint maneuvers and can turn on the spot, even performing one-eighty degree turns while flying in a straight line. It is perhaps for this reason that NASA actually expressed an interest in making it for real. It's not very tough but it looks nice and I get the impression it would be riot to fly one!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Arcade Shmups #8

Darwin 4078 (1986)
By: Data East Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 38,740
Also Available For: MSX

After the wonder of my recent experience with Genetos, its evolutionary theme reminded me of a shoot 'em up I used to enjoy on my MegaDrive. It was a conversion of a Data East coin-op, Super Real Darwin, which as I discovered much later, actually turned out to be the sequel to this very game featured here. It takes place inside a gigantic spaceship which was created using Evol, the lifeforce of the planet Lakya which was unwittingly unleashed by the advanced inhabitants and harnessed by their neighbours from the planet Cokyo (nice name). What this all basically comes down to is a vertically-scrolling shooter in which you must pilot a biological ship through the giant ship over no less than sixteen stages, taking out as many of its defences as possible as you go.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Golf Games #3

Putt & Putter (1991)
By: SIMS / Sega Genre: Sports Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear
Also Available For: Master System
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Considering how little variety there is in the actual sport, it's surprising how many different kinds of golf games there are. As regular readers here will know, my favourite kind are the cartoony Japanese ones that started appearing around the early 90's, partly because they can be played at a non-sleep inducing pace, but also because their creators are generally much more inventive with their design. Another kind of golf game that could tick both of those boxes is the kind based on mini, or 'crazy' golf. In fact, given the nature of the game, it would be fairly easy to make these games among the most creative of all sports games. The first one I ever played was this little-known title which was one of the few games I had for my Game Gear. I remember getting a lot enjoyment out of it back then but how kind has time been to it in the fifteen years or so since I last played it?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Doujin Shmups #2

Genetos (2009)
By: Tatsuya Koyama Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 2,842,840
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm sure the recently started doujin feature here at Red Parsley will introduce me to some fantastic games by some talented guys (and gals?) that I may never have otherwise played but a big part of my motivation for starting it was to finally force me to get around to playing this game. I think it's probably fair to say that it's the most famous doujin shmup but does that make it the best? This is of course impossible for me say since I've only played one before it, but I will give it good going over anyway, and its popularity is immediately obvious! It's a game, you see, which is in part a retro homage to the shmups of old, but which is also a much more modern take on the genre, and its biggest trick is how it gets from one to the other.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Commodore 64 Games #2

Mayhem in Monsterland (1993)
By: Apex Computer Productions Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 71,950
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As loyal as I was to my delightful Speccy, by the time the nineties had arrived I had moved on to Sega's glorious Mega Power. Of course, even in the years prior to this, Sir Clive's finest was my main system of choice. These factors combined meant that by the time Mayhem in Monsterland had been released I scarcely even heard about it nevermind played it. Indeed, so late was the hour of its arrival that Apex's creation was played by few gamers. It's arguably a game that has become more famous as time has gone on, but why? Platform games were everywhere in the late 80's and early 90's so what makes this one so special? The very fact that I don't know means I think it's time I finally found out.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Top Five Neo Geo Shmups

I think it's fair to say that the Neo Geo is best known for the masses of fighting games available for it, as well as perhaps the splendid Metal Slug series, but it's also played host to some corking shooters. Like most games on the system, they're hardly the pinnacle of originality but it's tough to complain when the quality is so high! Here's the best five (in my opinion, of course!):

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. Viewpoint (1992)

I've actually got the PlayStation version of this splendid game which I'm told is far inferior to this Neo Geo original but, aside from slightly different graphics and a new soundtrack, I'm struggling to tell them apart. Both versions are isometrically-viewed blasters with the same enemies and stage layouts, and both are harder than ten angry Chuck Norris's, and it's this savage difficulty that prevents the otherwise original and addictive game from featuring higher on this list. Perhaps tellingly, the six stages aren't very long, but they're sure packed with some unique features and tough enemies, and should last a good while. The graphics are very polished and look lovely throughout while the soundtrack is fantastic. The Zaxxon-inspired viewpoint (no pun intended) takes a bit of getting used to, but play this for a few minutes and you'll soon find yourself hooked.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Film Review #32

One Day (2011)
Director: Lone Scherfig Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Tom Mison, Romola Garai, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall, Ken Stott, Jodie Whittaker

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "Twenty years. Two people."

After a sizeable break since my last visit to the cinema I was fully expecting to return this month, swiftly followed by a review of Captain America, a film I remain eager to see. However, circumstances have dictated that I have instead been to see this romantic drama with my wife. This kind of film often scares me but having seen a trailer for it beforehand it didn't look too bad. And I suppose Anne Hathaway's not too bad to look at either, is she? For the ladies there's Englishman, Jim Sturgess, and together or separately they share the vast majority of the screentime as Emma and Dexter whose story has been taken from the pages of the popular novel by David Nicholls (who also wrote the perfectly reasonable Starter For Ten). The film begins on July 15th 1988 (St. Swithin’s Day), the day of their graduation.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

PC Engine Shmups #5

Ordyne (1989)
By: Namco Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 35,600
Also Available For: Arcade
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Although one of the first of the Japanese arcade companies, Namco are perhaps better known today for their endless variations of Ridge Racer and Tekken. However, in between these two periods they released a lot of slightly more obscure but arguably more interesting titles, and one of these was Ordyne. It is, in the words of Namco themselves, a "comical action shooter" which brings to mind a certain psychedelic shmup by Sega, and the two games do have quite a few similarities. As you can probably see from the screenshots, both are side-viewed and both are based in bright, cartoony game worlds. However, the hero this time is not an anthropomorphic spaceship but a genius scientist, Dr. Yuichiro Tomari, whose fiance has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Kubota who has also taken the Ordyne nuclear reactor for good measure. Now it's up to Dr. Tomari and his loyal assistant, Sunday, to save the day!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Splendid Nintendo 64 Music #1

Blast Corps (1997)

As the final cartridge-based console, the N64 was also the last non-handheld system without the benefit of CD-based audio. On top of that, it didn't even have a dedicated sound chip, with the audio responsibilities instead falling to the system's 'Reality' co-processor, so the number of games featuring top soundtracks is all the more impressive. One of the best of these must surely be the fantastic series of tunes composed by Graeme Norgate for Rare's criminally under-played demolition game. The soundtrack consists of twenty-one tracks altogether, many of which feature twangy banjos more akin to a hoedown, but somehow they suit this superb game down to the ground. Here's my favourite:

Special Note: I didn't record this great tune myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit to, firstly the original composer, and secondly the YouTube user who uploaded it!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

MegaDrive Platform Games #3

Chuck Rock (1991)
By: Core Design Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 230,525
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Mega CD, SNES, CD32, Amiga, Atari ST, Archimedes, Commodore 64

It's not the kind of thing that's easy to check but I believe Hudson's PC Kid was the first major platform game to immerse itself in a pre-historic setting. Since that game was not particularly well known here in the UK however, it's influence is hard to gauge, but it can't be a coincidence that a few more games of that type started appearing soon after, and one of the most well known, at least over here, was Chuck Rock by Core Design. Like many platform games, and indeed PC Kid, the setting is approached in a completely non-serious way. It stars the pot-bellied caveman of the title who is the frontman for a rock band also featuring his wife. One day, however, she is kidnapped by the jealous Gary Gritter and it's up to Chuck to get her back before Gary has his way with her.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Adult Games #2

Divine Sealing (1991)
By: Studio Fazzy / CYX Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 128,200
Also Available For: Nothing

Unsurprisingly, the first entry in this series of features proved to be rather popular so I think another entry is in order! This time, the game in question is a shoot 'em up, which isn't a genre you might think of as a potentially adult one (not even the superb Sexy Parodius!) but this unlicensed release manages to achieve it with ease. Studio Fazzy have somehow housed the promiscuous girlies in a vertically-scrolling shmup, but since it's a Japanese-only game I have no idea why. There seems to be a fairly lengthy story which is detailed before play begins and between each stage where you'll see a scantily-clad young lady before many pages of Kanji text. Luckily it's possible to speed them up, and doing so will finally reveal a game!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Maze Games #3

Cameltry (1989)
By: Taito Genre: Maze / Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 125,550
Also Available For: SNES, FM Towns

There have been a few unlikely heroes to feature in games over the years but this apparently little-known Taito effort which appeared at the close of the 80's stars one of the strangest. The hero here, you see, is a glass ball! He doesn't appear to be a mere object either but a sentient being with hopes and dreams of his own which it's up to you to help him fulfill by steering him through a number of floating mazes. Doing this is a simple enough job which requires you to rotate each maze around the ball until he has found his way to the exit. Of course, this all has to be done within a strict time limit and the mazes feature numerous traps and hazards, most of which are seemingly intent on halting your progress.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Top Five Nebulae

Nebulae are a fairly commonly-recognised sight thanks to sci-fi shows like Star Trek (where they usually end up buggering up the Enterprise somehow) but how many actually know what they are? I suppose not many really care but I do and have always been fascinated by these colourful clouds which come in several different forms and an infinite number of shapes and arrangements formed from clouds of hydrogen, helium, and various other ionised gases. There are hundreds of beautiful and eye-catching nebulae throughout our galaxy and beyond, but here are five of my favourites:

5 - Southern Ring Nebula (NGC 3132)

This striking cloud is a planetary nebula which is formed when a star blows off its outer layers as it transforms into a White Dwarf. It's located about 2000 light years away in the Vela constellation (of Star Control 2 fame!) and looks more like a portal to another dimension. Eeek!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Isometric Games #1

Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters (1989)
By: Atari Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 151,300
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Sam Coupe, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I've always liked isometrically-viewed games. They're not all great of course but the good ones count among some of my favourite games. I even made a 'Top Five Isometric Games' feature, so it is with the utmost contempt and disgust with myself that I now realise I forgot to include this game in the list! The late 80's Atari classic is a homage to the many sci-fi B movies that appeared in the 50's and 60's but, despite seeing release on most systems of the day, it's a game that up until this review I've only played in good old monochrome on my trusty Speccy. I bloody enjoyed it but I've also long wanted to give the arcade original a try so, after a period of buggering around to get it working, I have the chance to find out if it was worth the wait!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Overhead Racers #10

L.E.D. Storm a.k.a. Mad Gear (1988)
By: Software Creations / Capcom Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 170,258
Also Available For: Arcade, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Adverts take up just as many pages as actual content in most magazines these days and they're mostly complete crap but back in the 80's and 90's when I used to read so many games mags, they often featured superb and memorable artwork which lingered in my mind for years. One of these adverts was for L.E.D. Storm which showed a distinctive, futuristic-looking orange car leaping from a broken section of road. My only experience of the actual game was somewhat less memorable and it today appears to be a game most keenly remembered for its music (do a YouTube search on its title to see what I mean!). However, a good few years have passed, so in the best traditions of Red Parsley, it's time to take another look at it, and this time the mighty Amiga version where the car actually is orange!