Monday, 30 January 2012

Top Five Movie Moments #5

#5 - Jurassic Park (1993)

There are few films that have been released in my lifetime, that I'm able to remember from personal experience at least, that have had a bigger impact than Jurassic Park. For a long time it was among the very highest-grossing films of all-time and the franchise's name still carries a lot of weight today, to such an extent where the oft-delayed fourth instalment in the series still gets me excited! The second and third films were pretty damn entertaining but surely everyone agrees that the first remains the best. I've watched it a good few times now as well, and here are my Top Five favourite moments from it:

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... Feeding the Brachiosaur

The arrival in the park itself unquestionably fills you with awe and wonder, but if there's one scene that really transports you back into pre-historic times, it's the unexpected sight of a group of giant Brachiosaurs, their necks poking high above the treeline going off into the distance. I'm not sure if they really did sing like whales, and I can't decide if the snot joke adds to the moment or ruins it, but it's a poignant scene for sure.

Friday, 27 January 2012

SNES Platform Games #2

Skyblazer (1994)
By: Ukiyotei / Sony Imagesoft Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

The arrival of the monstrous 32-bit consoles in the mid 90's may have brought lots of flashy polygons and lighting effects with them but something else their arrival did was to overshadow a good few of the later releases for the trusty 16-bit machines, and among them was this offering from Sony which must surely have been one of the last games they made for someone else's console. It takes the form of a platform/adventure game and is actually pretty flashy itself which is just as well since its story is not. It's an adventure that sees you take the role of a young scamp named Sky, believe or not, which presumably means his adventure will take the form of a 'blaze' across the magical kingdom in which he lives; a magical kingdom, incidentally, which is now bereft of its princess, Ariana, who has been kidnapped by the nefarious 'Lord of War', Ashura, who intends to use her magical properties to summon Raglan, an ancient creature of unspeakable terror. The story gets a little more detailed with the odd piece of dialogue here and there but the basic objective is - rescue Ariana and smack Ashura upside the head!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #7

Alien Syndrome (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 96,400
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Like many game companies in the mid-to-late 80's, it seems almost certain that Sega were also bitten by the 'Alien' bug, so to speak. That is to say, they drew inspiration from the Alien movies for one (or some) of their games. The fact that this release came the year after the super-successful sequel to the classic 1979 film would tend to back up that theory as it's a game that may seem familiar to some fans. Rather than a gound-based colony, however, it takes place in a series of seven spacecraft. These were presumably craft operated by humans but they have become overrun by hideous alien creatures of various descriptions and their human crew taken prisoner. It therefore falls to Ricky and Mary, two suspiciously Space Marine-like soldiers, to liberate each ship in succession and eradicate the alien scum that now dwells within.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Awesome Nature #8

Type: Bird Lives In: Central and South America Conservation Status: Least Concern

These strange-looking creatures have long been my favourite birds and it's not hard to see why! There are around forty different species of Toucan in all, varying in both size and colour, but my favourite, and also probably the best-known species is the one pictured - the Toco Toucan. It lives in South America across much of Brazil with its range also overlapping a few of Brazil's neighbours. Sadly, none of my own trips to Brazil have yielded a sighting of this splendid bird but there's a lot of them out there, mainly in the areas that are seldom touched by mankind (and long may it stay that way). I guess their poor flying ability could be one reason I haven't seen one in the wild but there's plenty about in zoos and the like, even here in the UK, where they can be seen hopping around, passing food to each other, and clunking their giant bills! I'll have to take a trip to the Pantanal one of these days where I might actually spot a few of them (or get eaten by a Jaguar).

Why It Is Awesome: Because they pass berries to each other!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

F-Zero Series - Part 7

F-Zero GP Legend (2003)
By: Suzak / Nintendo Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Game Boy Advance
Also Available For: Nothing

Everyone knows the F-Zero series rules more than any other racing game series in the history of the universe so it's slightly odd that Nintendo hasn't thought to expand the franchise to other potentially profitable areas. Until now, that is! Indeed, unknown to me (because it didn't make it to the UK, as usual) there was an F-Zero anime series produced in 2003 known as GP Legend which centres around good old Captain Falcon, Dr Stewart, and a new 'good' character called Rick Wheeler (or Ryu Suzaku, depending on where you live) and their battles against Zoda, Black Shadow, and the other 'bad' characters. It was a good idea which, at the very least, adds more to characters from an already character-heavy series and, in a move that would make Capcom proud, it wasn't long before there was a game of the series of the game too!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Film Review #36

Colombiana (2011)
Director: Olivier Megaton Starring: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Lennie James, Callum Blue, Jordi Molla, Beto Benites, Jesse Borrego, Amandla Stenberg

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "Vengeance is beautiful."

A while back here at Red Parsley I took a look at some of Hollywood's finest arse-kicking chicks. I'd like to think it was and remains a fairly respectable list but I've discovered a few more ladies lately who might also be worthy of inclusion. One featured in the superb 'Hanna' and it seems we may have another here in this thriller directed by the awesomely-named Frenchman, Olivier Megaton. The character in question is called Cataleya and is played by rising star, Saldana. We first meet her in Colombia as the child of Fabio (Borrego) who's a gangster trying to leave the employ of drug baron, Don Luis (Benites). Predictably, Fabio's intentions do not go down well with Don Luis who has him and his wife killed, but not before he passes a 'valuable item' wanted by his boss to his young daughter who of course manages to escape and find her way to the American embassy. Once she arrives in the US she seeks out an uncle, Emilio (Curtis), in Chicago who agrees to train her to fight and to kill.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cover Art: Master System - Part 3

I was supposed to be taking a look at the cover art of some games for a different system next but the first and second parts of this series were pretty popular and I'm quite keen on doing a few more Master System cover comparisons too, partly because it enables me to see some more lovely (and previously-unseen) Japanese cover art but also because those non-Japanese ones are often so amusing! So, here is another selection for your viewing pleasure...

The Ninja (1986)
I guess the name pretty tells you all you need to know about what kind of game this is. Few games involving ninjas are anything but combat games but even so, clearly very little effort was put into the UK/US cover. If it wasn't for the shuriken (and its giant companion in mid-flight), this guy would look more like a medieval executioner than a ninja. The Japanese cover is far more appealing, featuring a good indication of the kind of peril and intrigue our hero can expect as well as an example of the kind of locale in which he can expect to receive it. The main character doesn't look much like the one in the game though...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Arcade Shmups #10

Star Force a.k.a. Mega Force (1984)
By: Tehkan Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nintendo NES, Sharp X68000, MSX, Sega SG-1000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Most of the games I feature here at Red Parsley seem to fall into one of three categories: either old favourites from my youth that I'm fondly revisiting, classics I've known of for many years but never gotten around to playing, or obscure, little known games I've never heard of. This early Tekhan (Tecmo) release, however, falls into a much rarer category. It's apparently a very-well known and influential game, but one of which I previously had no knowledge! Eeek, how did that happen?! I suppose the fact that it wasn't converted to any home systems I owned at the time is a slight excuse but still! Luckily, thanks to the wonders of emulation I am now able to rectify this glaring oversight!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Lush Food #2

A Rare Treat

As those who know me will already be well aware, my favourite food of all-time is without question curry. Whilst keen on most varieties found on Indian restaurant menus, I tend to stick to hot chicken-based ones such as the Vindaloo and usually have several a week, whether home-made or preferably from a takeaway. For me to go longer than this without a curry is almost unheard of and one of the only times I do is when.... I'm on a long holiday!

The mother-in-law's fine pastels garnished with chillies!
As some of you may know, I'm currently into the fourth and final week of a trip to a far-off land (Brazil) where curries are unknown and, accordingly, times like this can be a source of great difficulty for me. However, where on the one hand the lack of many of my favourites are causing me to endure withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand I can look forward to special treats that cannot be found in the UK but which are commonplace here. Chief among these are the delightful 'pastels' I discovered on my very first trip to the country in Rio de Janeiro. Contrary to popular belief, these are not merely delicately coloured crayons but are also a mighty lush foodstuff that originated in Portugal. Subsequent research reveals that several other mostly Hispanic countries have foods that share the same name but it's definitely the Brasilian variety that appeals to me.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Splendid MegaDrive Music #1

Hellfire (1990)

Shoot 'em ups were certainly pretty abundant on Sega's 16-bit power-house and they were definitely of varying quality but one of the finest must surely be Hellfire, one of Toaplan's few horizontally-scrolling efforts. It was never the flashiest game around but it did have one vital ingredient - a great first impression - and a big reason for that was the fantastic music, composed by Toaplan stalwart Tatsuya Uemura, that blasted out at you as soon as you undertook your mission. Games like Thunder Force 3 and Super Fantasy Zone have better overall soundtracks but few shmups on any system get you pumped-up for the alien smackdown like this one does. See if you agree! (full Hellfire review here)

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!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Exploring the Sega SG-1000

Like most gamers, I first encountered the Sega name in various amusement arcades where they had been developing games since the early 80's before hitting the big time with their series of 'Super-Scaler' games. After a good run of success in this demanding environment, it didn't take them long before they decided they wanted a slice of the home-gaming pie as well.

For many years I believed, like many, that their first offering in this field was their splendid Mark III console, better known to those outside Japan as the Master System. If I'd stopped to think about it, however, I would probably have thought... if that's the Mark III, then what happened to the Mark I and II? The obvious answer to this equally obvious question is of course that there were two consoles before it, and the first of them was named the Sega Game 1000, or SG-1000 for short. It was a modestly-powered machine which run from a clone version of the legendary Zilog Z80 processor which means that, like most computers and consoles of the time, it was 8-bit. Its graphical abilities included a resolution of 256x192 and a pallette of sixteen colours. It wasn't blessed with much memory though, so most games were rather basic. The SG-1000 was replaced the following year by the SG-1000 II which was near-enough identical under the hood but had seen an external redesign and was gifted with a less-crippling controller.