Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Run 'n' Gun Games #4

Kenseiden (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Run 'n' Gun ... or is it Platform? Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 40,500
Also Available For: Nothing

Has anyone here actually played Kenseiden? I have, as you might imagine since I'm writing about it, but I still find myself troubled as to deciding what genre it actually is. Most reviews and articles on the internet seem to think it's a platform game, as does as least one reader of this very blog who complained about its absence from the 'Top Five Master System Platform Games' feature. I, however, do not. I've always categorised a platform game as one in which the emphasis is on traversing platforms rather than being troubled by what's on them. But if it's not a platformer, what is it? I would have to say it's more of a run 'n' gun game, even though it features no guns, since the emphasis of the gameplay is more on defeating the enemies that are on the platforms. Read on for clarification!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bomberman Series - Part 7

Bomber King a.k.a. RoboWarrior (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: Without cheating? No idea, grrrr!
Also Available For: MSX

Well, the splendid Bomberman series is coming along nicely so far but I'll take a short diversion here and look at one of the spin-offs, and like many such obscure Japanese spin-offs, it's one that was released in the West under an entirely different guise. This is understandable, however, since the series was only just becoming established in the US and Europe and this game is indeed a markedly different affair, in both looks and gameplay. The first change you'll notice in the game that became RoboWarrior for the NES is that it doesn't actually feature Bomberman at all, or at least, not as we've seen him before. It actually features a... robo warrior, funnily enough, whose job it is to blast his way through each stage in a familiar fashion. These stages, however, are much larger than those found in the usual Bomberman games and there's a few more unfamiliar features here too.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Awesome Nature #6

Type: Mammal Lives In: Central and North America Conservation Status: Least Concern

I imagine some of my North American friends won't be too keen on these mischievous creatures but since I don't live that side of the Atlantic they are rather intriguing to me! Much of their appeal no doubt comes from their distinctive appearance, but are they friends to us stupid Humans or are they foes? I suppose they're a bit like foxes are over here - they're about the same size, albeit with much shorter legs (while sharing their ringed tails with lemurs), and both are furry, omnivorous, nocturnal animals that are native to wooded areas, but which now also live in urban areas thanks to our recklessly-increasing population. This means many regard them as pests since they forage in people's gardens and steal their food! If they are pests though, I can't really see anyone else to blame, and they certainly look nice. Any readers across the Atlantic got any amusing raccoon tales to tell?

Why It Is Awesome: It wears a bandit mask!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Arcade Shmups #9

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams (1991)
By: Success / Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 78,370
Also Available For: PC Engine CD, Sharp X68000, PlayStation, Neo Geo Pocket Color

Unlike most unpleasant Western examples, witches in Japanese culture generally seem to be quite perky and cheerful characters. This could be because they're often represented by teenage girlies of course, rather than old green hags who've had years to dwell on their misfortunes in solitude, and their exploits are often charted in manga and anime publications (such as the splendid Kiki's Delivery Service). As far as videogames are concerned, the pickings are noticeably slimmer, but there are a few feisty examples doing the rounds, or more accurately, there were, and Cotton is unquestionably the most well-known example of this exclusive group. She's a red-haired young lady who has a fondness for a candy called 'Willow' and it's her pursuit of this elusive confectionery that forms the basis for her numerous adventures, including this one.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Star Control - Part 5

Even if you're not interested in the (superb) strategy/adventure elements in the Star Control games, there's still a huge amount of fun to be had from the Melee mode which sees two ships engage in one-on-one combat... to the death! The first game featured two sides of seven ships each - the Alliance and the Hierarchy. The second game added a lot including eleven diverse new races, complete with their own ships, whose allegiances could be determined by your actions in-game. In the last post in this series I looked at six of them so this is the last five:

Slylandro Probe

These pesky things will be one of the first types of ship you encounter in the main game and they're a pain in the arse! Their inclusion in the Super Melee mode is probably for the sake of completion as they do serve a purpose in the main game, but actually trying to use one in battle is a haphazard affair to say the least! They're very fast-moving things which 'tumble' through space at their maximum speed automatically, so pressing the 'thrust' button simply reverses its course rather than increasing its speed. They turn at very sharp angles as well so piloting one takes a lot of practise, especially as their only weapon is a short-range one!

For this it discharges bolts of lightning which don't fire particularly quickly, and when the Probe's meagre fuel supply is gone it needs to hunt out any nearby asteroids which it can 'break down' and convert to fuel by way of its secondary ability. It's a very unusual ship whose existence is better explained in the main game, but trying to use it in battle takes a lot of practise. It's a nuisance rather than a real danger to fight against one and even if you get the hang of using it, there's plenty of better ships around.

Ship Rating: 2/5

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Top Five OutRun Games

There's been surprisingly few long-running series' of racing games, but of those that have been doing the rounds there's one that continues to elicit both tremendous excitement and expectation from the many fans that continue to worship the series. The name of the series is of course OutRun and continues to be one of Sega's most popular. By my count, there's now been ten games in the series but here are, in my view, the best five:

5. OutRun Europa (1991)

Unusually for an OutRun game, Europa was never found in an arcade and wasn't developed by Sega either. It did see release on Sega's Master System console though, as well as most of the home micros of the day, courtesy of Probe Software, and was something of a departure for the series. It charged the player with racing across Europe using a variety of vehicles, including a motorbike, jet-ski, and a powerboat, in addition to the usual sports car, to retrieve some 'secret documents' or some such nonsense. Doesn't sound much like an OutRun game I'll agree and perhaps it shouldn't have carried the name, but it is a surprisingly enjoyable and nicely varied game in its own right which even had a bit of combat thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Computer Platform Games #3

Nebulus a.k.a. Tower Toppler, a.k.a. Castelian (1987)
By: Hewson Consultants Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 7,230
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo NES, Game Boy, Atari 7800, Acorn Achimedes
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As far as gaming is concerned, when you think of fancy visual tricks you might immediately think of Mode 7 on the SNES or maybe some extravagant demo on the Amiga, but John M. Phillips achieved a pretty nice one as early as the 8-bit computers with this memorable platformer for Hewson. It's a game set in a rather watery world (so Kevin Costner might turn up unannounced) and stars a green space-hopper type creature called Pogo who gets sent by his boss to investigate and destroy a series of cylindrical towers which have sprung up almost overnight. To do this he must make his way to them in his amusing little submarine and climb to the top of each in turn, and they rotate as he walks around them!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

MegaDrive Shmups #6

Hellfire (1990)
By: Toaplan / NCS Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 3,959,060
Also Available For: Arcade, PC Engine CD

Eeek, even the title screen is all fiery!
If you're a regular reader here at Red Parsley you may have noticed that I have a fondness for retro shoot 'em ups. Before starting my humble blog I had played comparatively few but many of those that I had played remained among my favourite games of all-time. Some of these were by the awesome Toaplan who were founded as a subcontractor of the great Taito before releasing their first game in 1984. They lasted almost exactly ten years and a majority of the games they released during that time were shmups, most of which went on to be regarded as classics. My discovery of one in particular can, like so many others, be attributed to the enthusiastic coverage in the pages of Mean Machines magazine. The game in question is also arguably one of Toaplan's most underrated games - the splendidly named Hellfire - which is also my personal favourite.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Single Screen Platform Games #7

Chack'n Pop (1983)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 8,550
Also Available For: Sega SG-1000, Nintendo NES, Fujitsu FM-7, MSX, NEC PC-6001, Sharp X1
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Any gamer who's not a moronic buffoon knows all about Taito's immensely fabulous Bubble Bobble. It was a game that took mid-80's arcades by storm and, unlike so many other games of the era, remains as popular today. It wasn't a particularly advanced game for its day but it was one of the first to demonstrate that design is more important than technical wizardry. It's also a game that's had a good few sequels over the subsequent years but, much to my surprise, I've recently discovered it has a semi-prequel as well which was released three years earlier. After spending the last few days playing it, there are clear signs of the game that would follow, but it doesn't play much like it. Both games are platformers consisting of multiple stages, each one screen in size, and they share a few character designs, but apart from that they're quite different games.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Lush Food #1

Adventures With Chillies - Part 1

If I may be permitted a brief diversion from the kind of subjects I typically cover here, allow me to relay a recent food-related adventure. Ever since my teens I've been very fond of spicy food. This has mostly consisted of Indian curries which are so prevalent here in the UK but apparently quite rare in other European or American countries. I was introduced to them indirectly by two friends, one of whom sadly passed away recently, who started buying Chinese curries and sharing them with me. I soon moved on to the Indian variety and proceeded to work my way up the scale of hotness, ending with the coveted chicken Phall.

Soon, I was seeking ways to make other foods I liked spicy too. One of my first stops was the pizzas I had recently started eating. Spicing these up seemed simple - buy some chillies, chop them up, and sprinkle over the top! This is exactly what I did for many years and continue to today with the kinds of chillies most readily available to me which I have recently learned are called Anaheim Peppers and Poblano Peppers. Just last week, however, I made an unexpected pizza purchase and had no chillies available. Eating it without them was not a option so I had to venture down to my local 24/7 store to see if they had any. They did, but only an unfamiliar variety called Scotch Bonnets.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #6

Berzerk (1980)
By: Stern Electronics Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 5,740
Also Available For: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Vectrex

I'm crap as you can see, but consistently so!
Is this an overhead run 'n' gun game? I'm not totally sure it counts to be honest but I'm not too concerned if it isn't, it still gives me the excuse to play it! And play it I did, for the first time since my good friend Luke had his Dragon 32 all those years ago which, subsequent research indicates, did not host an official version either. So, this is my first experience with 'proper' Berzerk and it was one which I'm sure will leave a lasting impression on me. It's a game that was supposedly born in a dream of Stern employee, Alan McNeil, who imagined fighting rooms full of hostile robots. The subsequent game was released soon afterwards and malevolent automatons did indeed play a pivotal role. The object of Berzerk, you see, is simply to avoid meeting your maker at the hands of one of the pesky cycloptic metal monsters.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Overhead Racers #11

Motoroader (1989)
By: Hudson Soft / NCS Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-5 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

I think it's safe to assume that overhead racing games, as one of the very earliest videogame genres, were fairly well-established by the time this offering was made at the tail-end of the 80's, so in order to be noticed it would have to have something special in store for gamers, wouldn't it? Well, it certainly wouldn't hurt either way and Hudson had just such a trick up their sleeve with Motoroader - a simultaneous five player mode! That's right, up to five whole players can take part in the racing action at one time here and it's for this reason that the game swiftly gained an enthusiastic following. This is another of those games I distinctly remember reading about in magazines of the time, and most of the reviews in question were full of glowing superlatives too so I'm sure I have nothing to worry about here. I can instead relax and enjoy the discovery of another Engine classic! Can't I?