Saturday, 29 October 2011

Isometric Games #2

Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (1990)
By: Software Creations Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

Pesky wizards, sometimes I think they're more trouble than they're worth. It seems that for every good and helpful beardy, there's another who's cruel and evil and generally troublesome. In the case of this splendid British game, released for the NES exclusively, the culprit is an unpleasant fellow who goes by the rather tell-tale name of Morbius the Malevolent who's kidnapped the probably-buxom Princess Eleanor amongst other things. Luckily for all us princess lovers there's a more helpful wizard in the area with the slightly more mysterious name of Shadax who has volunteered to get her back. In order to do this, however, he must find his way through the treacherous fortress of Kastlerock to find the six pieces of the Staff of Demnos, the only weapon capable of defeating Morbius.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Top Five Annoying Things About Star Trek

Some people love it, some people hate it, but no one can deny the impact Star Trek has had on the entertainment world. I personally like it, but even as a fan I certainly can't claim that it doesn't have faults. Here are five that I always notice when I watch the show:

5 - Failure to introduce new characters...

One of the appealing things about Star Trek is the group of main characters. Each incarnation of the show has a distinctive and varied bunch and many of the sub-plots involve their interaction with each other, but the group of characters that starts the series is invariably the group that finishes it too. Okay, there's a few exceptions, more often than not brought on by actors leaving suddenly or something like that (such as Denise Crosby), but how many major characters are introduced mid-way through a show's run? Again, there are a few exceptions but would it really hurt to add a decent amount of new blood? And yes, I remember Seven of Nine but adding a blonde with big knockers because the ratings are falling isn't really the same thing, is it? One of my favourite almost-new characters was Ensign Gomez (played by Lycia Naff who you might remember as the hoe with three boobies in Total Recall) who appeared in a couple of episodes of Next Generation. She and many like her should've received prolonged runs in their respective shows. Listen to me dammit!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Doujin Shmups #4

Blue Wish (2005)
By: X.X Game Room Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 1,346,200 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Hooray, it's time to look at another doujin game! I've been greatly enjoying the ones I've found so far and here's another one I stumbled upon by accident. It's actually one of several games offered by a Japanese individual or group who call themselves X.X Game Room and, accordingly, all information I've found about the game, including any kind of story or set-up, is in kanji. However, as with most shmups, this isn't enormously important anyway. Like most of the games offered by the splendid fellow(s) at X.X, Blue Wish is a bullet-hell style vertical-scroller. The first thing I noticed when it loaded was that its display options are rather limited - it either plays in a very small windowed mode (the same size as the screenshots here) or a 'full screen' mode which is only about two or three times bigger than that.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Exploring the WonderSwan

I think it's safe to say that if any one company can be credited with not just pioneering handheld gaming, but near enough creating it, it would be Nintendo. The Game & Watch series wasn't really my cup of tea, at least not by the time I got into gaming in the mid-80's, but I was in the minority and it proved to be a big success. Towards the end of that decade the Big N unveiled the spiritual successor to the G&W series, the Game Boy, and this was an even bigger success and has ended up being one of the most successful systems of all-time, handheld or otherwise. Both Atari and Sega tried to get in on the act and both failed. Surely, someone would have to be very brave or just plain crazy to try again?

When I first heard about the WonderSwan, aside from some initial chuckles at the expense of the somewhat unorthodox name, I thought its creators, toy company Bandai, were indeed plain crazy, for here was not just another handheld console vying for a share of the Game Boy's market, but one that was technically inferior to its competition! Okay, its specs made for pretty impressive reading - it had a 16-bit CPU over the 8-bit one in Nintendo's machine, for example - but it had a black & white display for heaven's sake! The long-awaited Game Boy Color had been released the previous year so the decision to launch the WonderSwan with this antiquated screen was frankly baffling. However, when you stop to consider that it was developed by a certain Gunpei Yokoi, the not-insignificant fellow who designed the Game & Watch and Game Boy, then it would be foolish to immediately write it off. Yokoi-san was tragically killed before his latest vision was released but, immediately after its release in 1999, it actually didn't get off to a bad start in Japan.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Film Review #34

The Three Musketeers (2011)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Starring: Matthew Macfayden, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 110 Minutes

Tagline: "Every legend has a new beginning."

A number of the works of famed French author, Alexandre Dumas, have been adapted over the years but none more so than this tale of D'Artagnan and his new friends, the Three Musketeers. This latest realisation of Dumas' story opens with our three heroes Athos (Macfayden), Porthos (Stevenson), and Aramis (Evans) in action in Venice accompanied by Milady (Jovovich), Athos' lover. It isn't long, however, before they find themselves tricked and betrayed by the dastardly Duke of Buckingham (Bloom). Events are picked up again a year later where we first meet D'Artagnan (Lerman) who is headed for Paris to become one of these famous Musketeers only to find they no longer exist. He instead encounters the three former heroes rather despondent and down on their luck.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Arcade Platform Games #1

SonSon (1984)
By: Capcom Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 61,780
Also Available For: NES
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

There's been millions of completely original games over the years but developers are also happy to take some help now and then. Accordingly, there's also been a huge number of games based on films, TV shows, celebrities, and goodness know what else, but classic Chinese literature? Apparently so, for this early Capcom game is based on the 16th century novel known as Journey to the West! Actually it didn't really surprise me all that much once I learned that the novel has been adapted before and is more commonly known, in the West at least, as Monkey! The story is a potentially great source of entertainment though, whether that be film or game-based, and SonSon is of course the latter. Due to its age, is a rather basic interpretation but, much like the amusing TV show, it's also one that's proven to be an enduring cult favourite so it's high time I had a more detailed look at it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Star Control - Part 4

Well, it's been a while since I've had a look at anything Star Control-related so I think I'm well overdue for another more detailed look at the splendid series. The first game was a great little strategy game which I played repeatedly over many years on my trusty MegaDrive but it's more keenly remembered these days for the Melee one-on-one starship battle mode that accompanied it. This saw two opposing groups of seven alien races pitted against one another - the heroic Alliance of Free Stars and the evil Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The last two posts in this Red Parsley series have taken a detailed look at the seven ships available to each side but the amazing and far more detailed sequel to Star Control introduced a varied selection of new races with ships of their own as well as the new Super Melee mode to use them in. In this two-part post I'll take a look at these additions to the series.

Chmmr Avatar

After the events of the first Star Control, the Chenjesu and the Mmrnmhrm - two fairly similar races who were long-time friends and allies and who also shared the same region of space - decided to genetically merge their two species into one new race - the Chmmr. Rather than continuing to use the awesome Broodhome and respectable Transformer ships, however, this new hybrid species created a brand new warship, and the result is one of the finest ships in the entire game - the Avatar.

This fearsome craft is a little cumbersome to move around, in part due to its large size, but it's quite fast and has also has a few tricks up its sleeve. The main weapon is its devastating Terawatt 'Heavy X-Ray' Laser which is immensely powerful but, like the other laser-equipped craft, has a limited range. To combat this, however, the Chmmr also fitted their new ship with a strong tractor beam which can pull any faster or more manoeuvrable ships into range.

Both the laser and the tractor beam do of course eat up the Avatar's fuel reserves pretty quickly but it also has among the fastest fuel regeneration speeds around. As if all this wasn't enough, the ship is also circled by three ZapSat escorts which fire their own homing lasers at anything within range as well. An awesome ship which is so good it's almost a 'cheat' ship!

Ship Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Puzzle Games #9

Zoom! (1989)
By: Discovery Software / Sega Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 4,440
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amiga, PC

We've already taken a look at a few of the MegaDrive launch titles here at Red Parsley. Many of them were state-of-the-art at the time with flashy graphics and amazing soundtracks, but there were a couple that were somewhat less befitting the power and prestige of the world's first 16-bit console (okay, the first proper 16-bit console) and one of them was Zoom! A conversion of a simple puzzle game which first appeared on the rather less powerful Commodore 64 hardly seems like the best choice of game to showcase Sega's swanky new hardware, though, and it isn't an especially original game either! However, as us retro gamers know better than anyone, fancy graphics and ingenious concepts certainly don't hurt but few games actually require them to be enjoyable.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Film Review #33

Dave (1993)
Director: Ivan Reitman Starring: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 105 Minutes

Tagline: "In a country where anybody can become President, anybody just did."

Times are hard once again here in RKS land, and with no recent cinema visits I thought I'd take a look at another old favourite in the hopes of turning more movie fans onto its charms. It's a film that stars Kevin Kline and... umm... Kevin Kline (chortle) with the two Kevins playing both the character of the title, Dave Kovic - a nice, charming, helpful, everyday guy who runs a temping agency, as well as the President of the United States, Bill Mitchell, who isn't quite as pleasant. Dave's agency is his main source of income but he also makes a few 'bucks' on the side doing impersonations of the President, so he's already aware of the similarity he bears towards the Commander-in-Chief but perhaps he's not aware of just how close the resemblance is.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

SNES Shmups #3

Strike Gunner S.T.G. (1992)
By: Athena / Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Mediumd
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: I don't know, it doesn't give you a chance to record it!
Also Available For: Arcade

Since I started writing this blog it has served two main purposes. The first has been to stir some of my many fond memories of the games and systems I played while I was growing up. The other is to introduce me to titles I missed for whatever reason the first time around. The time I've spent playing Strike Gunner over the last couple of weeks has done a little of both. I have a vague recollection of it receiving very little attention in magazines of the day, maybe the odd unenthusiastic review in the corner of a page, so it went under the radar of most SNES gamers, including me. I can't even remember what brought it back to my attention just recently but I went in expecting little. Shoot 'em ups were ten a penny on the 16-bit consoles after all, so if this one was much good, we'd have all heard about it long ago, surely?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Top Five Spectrum Arcade Conversions

Most of us retro gamers look back most fondly on one particular 'generation', or era in the history of videogames and one of my favourites is the arcade scene of the mid-to-late 80's. Many of the games we played on our beloved-but-far-inferior home systems were born here and the unveiling of a new one was often met with both wonder at the (usually) lovely graphics and sounds, but also a little worry at how our meagre computers and consoles could possibly handle a conversion.

Since Dreamcast days, the increasing power of home systems has enabled them to produce games better than their increasingly rare arcade counterparts but in the days of the 8-bit micros it was a different story. One of the most challenging systems to covert these arcade monsters to must surely have been the humble ZX Spectrum. As much as many of us loved Sir Clive's finest, it was hardly blessed with the most extraordinary processing power. Accordingly, many conversions were decent games but had little in common with the original and some were just a mess from start to finish, but there were a few that were different. A few talented programmers were able to defy the odds and produce amazingly playable and accurate conversions. In the start of a new series here at Red Parsley, here are five of the best...

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. Arkanoid (1987)

Okay, this Breakout clone was hardly the most groundbreaking game to begin with, visually or conceptually, so the conversion probably wasn't too taxing from a technical point of view, but that's certainly never been a guarantee of a decent port for the poor old Speccy. Happily, the boys at Imagine did do a fantastic job with this Taito classic, in my opinion at least. There's some clear differences like the less varied and detailed backgrounds, and a few less obvious ones such as a slightly different number of bricks on each stage, but this game arguably took up more of my Speccy gaming time than any other game. It's colourful (a precious commodity at the time), packed with some great and fiendishly-designed stages, and is extremely addictive. Even better - I was actually pretty good at it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Single Screen Platform Games #6

Qwak (1993)
By: Team 17 Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 210,500
Also Available For: CD32, Game Boy Advance, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron

Most video game developers and publishers have a 'golden age' at some point and few would argue that Team 17's was on the Amiga. They produced a string of fantastic games for Commodore's powerhouse during the latter half of its life covering almost every genre, and one of them was Qwak. Unlike most of their other games, however, this is one that I didn't play until fairly recently, and it was then that I was surprised to find that it wasn't an Amiga game at all. Well, not originally, anyway. Indeed, this amusing little game by Jamie Woodhouse first found release on a couple of Acorn systems in the late 80's before Team 17 resurrected it for 16-bit gamers to enjoy and, as you might expect, they also applied a significant coat of polish while they were at it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Splendid PlayStation Music #1

Viewpoint (1996)

Originally released by Sammy Corp on the Neo Geo, like many games for that rather exclusive console, Viewpoint was later ported to a few other systems including the PS1. Although I've played and like both versions, many seem to dislike this conversion. However, regardless of your opinion, no one could deny that the CD-based nature of the console provided the opportunity to improve upon the already-splendid soundtrack of the Neo Geo version.

Rather than remixing the existing soundtrack, however, Visual Concepts Entertainment, who handled the conversion, charged Music 'Director', Mark Chosak, with assembling an all-new soundtrack from choice house/trance picks of the day. The result is a cracking selection of tunes which suits the punishing shmup action down to the ground. Getting to hear all of them is a challenge in itself so it's perhaps fitting that my favourite is the first one which is a Todd Terry track called 'This Will Be Mine' (1995). See what you think...

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!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Neo Geo Shmups #1

Andro Dunos (1992)
By: Visco Corp / SNK Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 52,650
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES

One of the many subjects recently under the microscope here at Red Parsley was that of shoot 'em ups for SNK's monstrous arcade and home console system. It hosts some damn good ones for sure but here I'll take a more detailed look at one of the ones that didn't make the cut and, like a surprising number of Neo Geo shmups, it was released early on in the system's life. It's a game that isn't looked upon with much affection by the Neo Geo fanboys either. In all fairness, I suppose when you have the likes of Pulstar and Blazing Star to get your teeth into it has a lot to live up to, but what little I've known about the game prior to playing it for this feature made it seem inoffensive enough, and thanks to a recent visit by my good retro gaming buddy, Luke, I had the chance to finally give it a good going over.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Crap Games #5

China Warrior a.k.a. Drunken Master, a.k.a. The Kung Fu (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 22,400
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

The 'Crap Games' feature here at Red Parsley has thrown up few surprises so far. It seems increasingly likely that most games that get crap reviews and crap reputations actually are indeed crap and thoroughly deserving of the scorn that they receive, but this particular example was a craply-reviewed game that surprised me a lot at the time. The PC Engine was a new and exciting console so its games must've all been equally amazing, surely? This was certainly the case for most of the early titles which wowed many of us jealous C&VG readers here in the UK, so how could Hudson of all companies release a stinker? To find out if Drunken Master, as I knew it at the time, really is as wiffy as I've been led to believe, I've bravely decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Doujin Shmups #3

Torus Trooper (2008)
By: ABA Games Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 913,674
Also Available For: Nothing

Racing games have been around almost as long as videogames themselves have existed, so the variety between them and the numerous sub-genres that have appeared isn't surprising. What is a little surprising is how few examples of some of these sub-genres there are. Take tunnel racing games for example. How many have you played? STUN Runner is an obvious example but the most time I've spent pelting down tunnels has been while playing the awesome F-Zero X. Now, however, courtesy of indie developer, ABA Games, we have another opportunity. Whilst more of a shoot 'em up than a racing game, Torus Trooper is nonetheless a game that sees the player charged with flying down a succession of pipes and tunnels at insane speeds, but to what end? Who knows but I'm interested already!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bat 'n' Ball Games #4

Alleyway (1989)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy First Day Score: 2,745
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: 3DS Virtual Console

For some reason the Game Boy's launch is one that I still have very clear memories of. Maybe it's because it was one of the few console launches that enticed me enough to buy the system in question. Actually, I think it was the unanimous praise being heaped on Tetris that most persuaded me, but what of the other launch titles? I didn't get around to playing many of them but I do remember they all looked ideally suited to the little grey handheld including this Breakout clone developed by the Game Boy designer himself, Gunpei Yokoi. It literally is a Breakout clone too, with everything being kept very simple by Nintendo's legendary designer. Games have come a long way since Atari's classic though, even ones of this type. Could he work the same magic on games as he could on the system that hosted them?