Saturday, 29 September 2012

PlayStation Driving / Racing Games #1

Total Drivin a.k.a. Grand Tour Racing '98 (1997)
By: Eutechnyx / Ocean Software Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation 
Also Available For: Nothing 

When the 32-bit console era came to pass I was still a devout Sega fan-boy, but the new fangled hardware brought with it some of the finest racing games yet seen which, with the sudden absence of shmups and platform games, quickly became one of my new favourite genres. Sadly, my lovely Saturn wasn't home to many great examples of these. Sure, it had a few, mostly conversions of Sega's own arcade games, but there wasn't really anything I could get stuck into. It was mainly for this reason that I finally relented and bought a PlayStation. This pesky system hosted some fantastic examples of the genre, both arcade-style ones as well as more serious simulatory ones, and one of the first I really got into was Total Drivin which was a curious mixture of the two.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Arcade Classics #1

Hello and welcome to another new feature here at Red Parsley! As is usually the case, the title is fairly self-explanatory, so instead of explaining that, let me instead tell you why I decided to start covering games that almost every self-respecting gamer in the world has probably already played to death, or gamers of a certain ‘maturity’, at least.

The late 70’s were of course when videogames were born as a popular and affordable entertainment medium and they really hit their stride in the early 80’s. This automatically means I missed out on some of the earliest ones as I was barely able to walk, nevermind play any hardcore coin-guzzlers! Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but I did get into gaming a bit later than others of a similar age. Anyway, the point is – there are still plenty of really early arcade games I never had a chance to play; a situation easily remedied and documented on this very blog! So, as is often the case with my tomfoolery here, these posts will be more for my own benefit than that of you splendid readers, but if any of you enjoy reading about my exploits anyway, all the better!

To start with, I thought I’d refresh my mind (as well as my reflexes) by playing the five games which are arguably considered the five most iconic classics of all-time. Surprisingly, these five are included among the classics that I have actually played before, but not for a good few years so I wonder if they’re still as hectic and addictive as once they were…

Space Invaders (1978)

Although the oldest game featured here, this Taito great almost immediately became a household name and helped kick-start the whole gaming boom, so it's not too surprising that even to this day its pixelly invaders have become an immediately identifiable symbol of videogames generally. As a game in its own right, though, it's probably the example that's aged the most out of the ones included in this feature. I used to play it in two places – the youth club my parents insisted I join where instead of interacting with the other ‘youths’, I spend most of my time shooting evil aliens. They also had a machine in a local shop of which my mum was a frequent patron which meant these remain some of the few shopping trips I ever actually volunteered to go on (chuckle). As I said, it has aged a bit – I prefer playing Galaga by a long way, personally – but it’s still an addictive and enjoyable trip down memory lane which is at least better than most of the official updates and sequels (with the probable exception of the crazy Space Invaders Extreme for the PSP/DS) ... 7/10

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Top Five Vegetables

Reviled during our youth and begrudgingly accepted in our adulthood, vegetables are seen by some as a necessary evil of sorts. Even today, I will accept them only as a supplement to a meal rather than as a meal themselves, but some are unquestionably nicer than others. Plus, it's always worth looking for other reasons to make them more appealing too, and here are the best ones that I've thought of so far :)

5 - Carrots

They help you see in the dark

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Licensed Games #2

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1990)
By: Tiertex / US Gold Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

As mentioned in the first post for this feature, I've always been very wary, scared even, of games based on movies. This fear is well-founded for the most part which is why I'll be looking at most of them as briefly as I can in 'Round-Ups'. A few of them will be granted my full attention however, if there is a merest whiff of quality about them. So for the second part of this feature I thought I'd take a look at an example I hadn't played previously but which is supposedly non-horrifying. In fact, I even remember it getting a few glowing reviews including one in the high nineties! I'm quite confident that's not really the case but we could have a very rare example of a decent movie tie-in here nonetheless. Doesn't stop me from feeling nervous though...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Puzzle Games #11

Uo Poko (1998)
By: Cave / Jaleco Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 558,600
Also Available For: Nothing

It’s a sad fact for many of us that arcades have become a critically endangered species in recent years. I live in a seafront city which actually had many arcades and still has a couple, but the number of actual games in them is now very few. Over in Japan, however, the situation is a little different. It makes sense I guess – most companies that still make these kinds of games are Japanese, and one that has developed a strong cult fan-base in the last fifteen years or so is Cave. I’ve heard the name so many times but haven’t really had the opportunity to play any of their games… until now. However, considering their fame is exclusively down to their unique brand of crazy bullet-hell shmups, it’s ironic that my first taste of Cave-ness comes via their first, and to my knowledge only, puzzle game!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Film Review #43

Nude Nuns With Big Guns (2010)
Director: Joseph Guzman Starring: Asun Ortega, David Castro, Perry D'Marco, Maxie J. Santillan, Ivet Corvea, Aycil Yeltan, Emma Messenger, Bill Oberst Jr, Xango Henry

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 88 Minutes

Tagline: "This Sister Is One Bad Mother"

I've always bought a significant quantity of videos and DVDs across a wide variety of genres but after recently joining the splendid Netflix service, my options have become broader than ever before. I've been reminded of dozens of films I've meant to watch but then forgotten about, but I've also been introduced to some I've never heard of before, much like the bluntly-titled Nude Nuns With Big Guns. If I encountered a film like this one in a shop, for example, it’s not something I’d buy. I’d probably pick it up, look it at, perhaps snigger over its name (and humorous tagline) with any friends I might be with, but buy it? That’s assuming it’s even available on DVD of course, but regardless of that, it is a film that catches the eye when scrolling through a list on the TV screen. How could it not? Weighing in at a trim 88 minutes, I figured it was worth a shot, for comedic purposes if nothing else!

Monday, 17 September 2012

F-Zero Series - Part 8

F-Zero Climax (2004)
By: Suzak / Nintendo Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Game Boy Advance
Also Available For: Nothing

It sounds quite scary to say but, at the time of writing the F-Zero series has reached a somewhat startling 22 years old! In all that time, the concept of the game has changed very little over the course of eight releases on four very different systems (or five if you count the 64DD) but has the series evolved technically? The first three releases were all rather ahead of their time from this point of view - the SNES original wowed gamers worldwide with its use of Mode 7, the N64 game was blisteringly fast and turned the previously flat courses into nauseating roller-coaster rides, and the GameCube title brought all the details and special effects bang up to date, but aside from the 'data disk' releases, the other games in the series have been exclusive to the Game Boy Advance and have accordingly reverted to the style of the original game. F-Zero Climax constitutes what is to date the last game to bear the famous name, but does it continue this trend, or give the series the send-off it deserves?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Gaming Memories - Part 10

Most of my gaming memories, certainly the ones documented here at Red Parsley, involve the acquisition or early use of a certain system or game, but I was recently reminded of a gaming memory of a slightly different type. I'm sure over the years we've all had our favourite gaming haunts. For those of us lucky enough, that probably included an amusement arcade or two. I grew up on the coast of southern England so I was fortunate to have access to several such emporiums, as detailed in the very first post of this series of features no less. In addition to these (or perhaps in the absence of them), I expect we all had a favourite game shop as well.

In my case there were three, each of which quite neatly covered a separate period of my gaming life. This was long before the days of 'Game' or even 'Electronics Boutique' and most game stores were independently owned and operated. The first one I ever spent any time in was also the closest one to my house.

Vigilante - the first PCE game I ever saw running...
It was known as Microland and was a small shop whose size belied the wonders that dwelt within! The left and right walls were both laden with examples of the latest computers including Speccys, Commodore 64s, and early PCs. Later on they started to be dominated by fancier PC's, Atari STs, and Amigas, most of which were usually seen running amazing demos or playing very loud music. The most memorable of these was the time I first saw Links 386 Pro on a PC, and the music produced by the Amigas was the most distinctive - it could usually be heard long before actually entering the shop! These banks of computing power were separated by a tall shelf laden with all the latest games, and the window display and glass cabinets near the counter were where all the console-related stuff could be found. It was here that I caught my first glimpse of NEC's immense PC Engine console which even wowed my dad to the point that he nearly bought one for himself! Sadly he didn't, but several of my systems were bought here including my Speccy, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy, and Amiga.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

PSN Downloads #1

Retro/Grade (2012)
By: 24 Caret Games Genre: Rhythm Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation 3 First Day Score: 2,902,770
Also Available For: Nothing

Sadly, I've still been struggling to embrace the modern era of gaming but one aspect that appeals to me is that of the homebrew/indie games available for download on the current systems. The first one I tried, thanks to an advert on the very first PlayStation Store screen, was this very game. I was of course initially intrigued by the inclusion of the word 'retro' but it turns out it's literally a retro game as well as being somewhat retro-ish in style. This is because, you see, it's a shoot 'em up... in reverse! What this means is, you have to play through the game in reverse 'un-firing' all your shots while avoiding all the enemy's shots which they are also in the process of 'un-firing'. Confused yet? I was too, so allow me to explain.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arcade Shmups #15

Insector X (1989)
By: Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 259,300 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, NES

The differences between the gaming cultures in Japan and the 'West' really are quite amazing sometimes. Obviously certain genres are more popular in certain parts of the world but even some that are universally popular, such as shoot 'em ups, can be quite different. The Japanese like bright, cute, and often very weird games while us Western gamers apparently have darker, more realistic, and often more violent tastes. A great example of this peculiar trend is Insector X by frequent purveyors of cuteness, Taito. Accordingly, this original is colourful and full of cute characters. Most Western gamers know it as a MegaDrive release, however, and this version features much more realistic graphics devoid of cuteness. When I recently decided to reacquaint myself with the game, this time by sampling the arcade version, it was this kind of game that I was expecting, but as you've probably already determined, it's not the type of game I found.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bomberman Series - Part 8

Bomber King Scenario 2 a.k.a. Blaster Master Jr. (1991)
By: Aicom / Sunsoft Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy
Also Available For: Nothing

It's not uncommon for games released in Japan to make it overseas in reworked, or at least renamed forms. Quite often it's because the original game is based on an anime series or something else that's popular in Japan but unheard of elsewhere, but sometimes the reasoning behind it is difficult to understand. Take the prequel to this very game, for example - released as part of the splendid Bomberman series in Japan but rejigged into an all-new game called RoboWarrior for its release elsewhere. This was strange as Bomberman was already a well-known and well-liked character, even outside of Japan. Strange or not though, a potential new franchise had been created so when the sequel appeared in Japan, again Bomberman themed, surely it would be released as RoboWarrior 2 in the US and Europe? Actually, no. Bomber King 2 was actually turned into a semi-sequel to hit NES game, Blaster Master, which has nothing to do with Bomberman, even in Japan!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Top Five Tony Scott Films

As some regular readers here may have already noticed, I don’t usually make posts inspired by current events, anniversaries, or special occasions, even when it’s something I have a personal interest in, but this time I feel so inclined. The recent and sudden death of Tony Scott shocked the movie world, both those who work within and us fans who watch from afar. The exact details of his suicide are still far from certain – they may always be – but the fact remains that we’ve lost a remarkable talent. His friends and family will of course feel the loss the most but for the vast majority of us who didn’t actually know him, the extent of our loss will be felt by the absence of more of his distinctive, thrilling films.

Although well known as the younger brother of Ridley as well as in his own right, he actually started his directorial career before his sibling. It wasn’t until the mid-80’s that he hit the big-time though, with the same film that also propelled Tom Cruise into the stratosphere at the same time. Unlike his brother, the films that followed, right up to recent years, were usually action blockbusters featuring some of the biggest stars in the world including regular collaborators such as Cruise and Denzel Washington. There were and are of course numerous directors doing this but Tony’s films usually had one big difference – they were good! I’m sure we all have our favourites from his filmography, such is the success and popularity of his movies, but here are my picks:

5. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

I've always felt that this was something of an underrated actioner. It brought in a fairly decent return at the box office I believe, but it wasn’t exactly hyped like most big-name action films were in the day. Indeed, the first I heard of it was when it became my dad’s latest addition to his VHS collection! It stars Bruce Willis as a disgraced ex-Secret Service agent now working as private investigator and Damon Wyans as a former US 'football' star, both of whom unwittingly wind up working together and involved in a sports gambling conspiracy. Like many such films, and many of Scott’s films in fact, the story isn’t complicated and none of the actors will be winning any Oscars, but it’s got a decent script full of witty one-liners and is directed really stylishly. Damon Wyans' fashion sense may have dated somewhat but it's a tremendously entertaining film which remains one of Scott's most rewatchable efforts.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

N64 Driving / Racing Games #2

Snowboard Kids a.k.a. Snobow Kids (1997)
By: Atlus / Racdym Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64 
Also Available For: Nothing 

Although most gamers fall into the former camp, Super Mario Kart has always been something of a love/hate game for me – absolutely brilliant and incredibly frustrating in equal measure. However you feel about it though, one thing cannot be disputed – its enormous success quickly led to countless similar games appearing on pretty much every system available at the time and for a good while afterwards as well. Indeed, this was still going on with the subsequent generation of consoles including the N64. By now, however, another type of game, also derived from the racing genre coincidentally, had become very popular as well, this time based on the ‘radical’ sport of snowboarding. Even though Nintendo had already unveiled their long-awaited sequel – Mario Kart 64 – as well as their own snowboarding game – 1080° - that didn’t stop Atlus from putting their own spin on both burgeoning sub-genres – with the same game! The result, as if you hadn’t guessed, was Snowboard Kids.