Thursday, 29 August 2013

MegaDrive Platform Games #7

Alisia Dragoon (1992)
By: Game Arts Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: Worm Master (>.<)
Also Available For: Nothing

A good while ago now I borrowed the 'second chance' feature theme from that splendid fellow, Bryan, over at The Gay Gamer, whereby a supposedly great game that failed to 'grab' me the first time around is given another chance to do so. On that occasion the game in question (Gynoug) earned a small measure of redemption, and now I think it's time to return to another game from my MegaDrive days which I really wanted to like, and should have too, judging by the reviews it received, but... didn't. The game is of course Alisia Dragoon which features several stories of magic and intrigue and other fantastical stuff, depending on which version you play. I had the UK version and as a result I was charged with helping Alisia to take down Baldour, the 'very embodiment of evil', who's soon to awake from his hibernation and wreak havoc as he last did 13 years ago - a reign of terror which cost Alisia's father his life.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Cover Art: PC Engine - Part 2

Despite my promise in the last post of this nature that more instalments would soon be forthcoming, it's actually taken me over a year to get around to doing it. Oops! Nonetheless, retro game cover art remains a subject in which I have much interest and the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 feature some of the very best and very worst examples, usually respectively! Here's another selection of both types:

Legendary Axe (1988)

This classic hack 'n' slasher was among the PC Engine's very first releases back in the late 80's and its Rastan-inspired platform/combat action went down a treat with curious gamers of the time. The covers of both versions are actually fairly similar for a change, featuring a brave barbarian-like hero facing a giant spider (which does feature in the game), but ironically, in a reversal of the usual trend, it's the Japanese cover which is more serious while the US version is a little more cartoonish (though still slightly scary, even though the spider's head looks more like an ant's). They're pretty good though, and both must've piqued the interest of potential buyers.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Maze Games #11

The Pit (1982)
By: Zilec / Centuri Genre: Maze / Strategy Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 24,000
Also Available For: Commodore 64

I'd like to think I'm fairly knowledgeable on the subject of video games but the earliest days are not really my speciality. Just this past weekend I was preparing to start the review process for a classic game that I have little experience of (yes, another one!) when I discovered that it was actually based on a game I have even less experience with - The Pit. Therefore, in typically OCD-ish Red Parsley tradition, I figured I should first take a look at this game. It casts you as an unnamed 'astronaut/explorer' who, upon starting the game, lands on the upper-left corner of the single-screen stage in his flying saucer. From there he has to tunnel down to the bottom of the stage to retrieve precious gems, then make his way back up to his ship, by way of the titular pit, before it's destroyed by the catchily-named 'Zonker', a hostile tank located in the top-right of the screen which gradually shoots away at the mountain that separates the two vehicles. As well as this 'time limit', there are many dangers lurking in the subterranean world as well, including enemies, lots of rocks and stalactites, as well as the pit itself. As you may have already guessed, The Pit therefore bears a passing resemblance to Dig Dug, released by Namco around the same time, and was also the inspiration behind multi-platform hit, Boulder Dash.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Exploring the ColecoVision

Once video games were invented it didn't take too long for home gaming to get established too. A few 'electronic' games had started appearing in the 70's before the first actual home consoles arrived starting with the Magnavox Odyssey which, despite achieving limited success, spurred on others to try the same. Fairchild had their Channel F and later Mattel's Intellivision had been doing respectable business, but it was of course Atari's immense VCS that had destroyed all who stood in its way. By the early 80's even that was starting to look a little old and tired though, and this new breed of enthusiasts known as 'gamers' were eager for a more advanced successor.

This soon arrived in the middle of that decade's third year courtesy of another American company - Coleco. Despite their name, which was a contraction of Connecticut Leather Company, and their history of producing plastic and indeed leather products, they were no strangers to the exciting realm of electronic entertainment. They had already produced a range of standalone consoles in the late 70's called Telstar which each featured a few pre-programmed variations of existing games such as Pong and Tank. Their latest effort was called the ColecoVision and, unlike the Telstar range, offered games on inter-changeable cartridges. In fact, it was bundled with one such game, a conversion of the popular arcade hit Donkey Kong, no less, and its quality soon showed that perhaps this new contender was the system gamers had been waiting for.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Scrolling Fighting Games #10

China Gate (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 511,380 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Sometimes I forget how prolific Taito have been over the many years, actually decades, since their inception. So many of their fantastic titles are now household names (in my household at least!) that it's easy to forget there are dozens of less well-known titles that bear their name as well. The example featured here is one I'd barely heard of and never played until recently - perhaps since it received no conversions - but it caught my eye immediately once I investigated it for this feature. Details of its story are scant but it seems that it's set in some sort of fantastical realm or another where the sacred Book of Sanzo has been stolen. Charged with returning it to its rightful place are three brave heroes - Gocoo (a monkey), Hakai (a pig), and Gojoe (a hawk, or some sort of bird of prey), who are armed with a staff, a trident, and an axe respectively. As these weapons (and the post title, I guess) may indicate, that means China Gate is a fighting game, and there are many enemies to fight before the mysterious book can be reclaimed and all that is good is restored.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Awesome Nature #14

Type: Mammal! Lives In: Ecuador, Colombia Conservation Status: Unknown

It's been a while since I did one of these but this curious-looking creature makes it more than worth it! The olinguito, you see, it a newly discovered animal, and the first such mammal in 35 years. It had previously been spotted, and even 'samples' had been taken, but scientists have only just realised that it's actually an unclassified creature. The credit for noticing this goes to zoologist, Kristofer Helgen, of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, who is apparently more alert than many of his contemporaries! One reason for missing it may be its remote home in the lofty mountainous forests of the Andes mountains in Colombia and Ecuador where it spends most of its time in the trees. It's around 14 inches long, with a tail of more than that again, and is the smallest member of the raccoon family. They're nocturnal and technically carnivores but mostly eat various fruits and even nectar. Dr Helgen might not have too much longer to further study it though - sadly over 40% of the forests that make up the olinguito's home have already been levelled.

Why It Is Awesome: Because it's brand new (kind of)!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bat 'n' Ball Games #7

TRAZ: Transformable Arcade Zone (1988)
By: Cascade Games Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 10,625
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC

My first encounter with bat 'n' ball games, or 'brick breakers' as some prefer, goes back to the original Arkanoid game which I had for my Speccy, but as much as I might have enjoyed it I didn't have the opportunity to play too many other examples, owing mainly to the various systems I owned in my younger days. Since starting this series of features at Red Parsley, however, I keep hearing the same word in the comments after each post - Traz. These comments exclusively talk about it with reference to the Commodore 64 so I've always assumed it was one of those games I missed out on as a Speccy owner. Looking into it for this review, however, reveals that it was released on all of the 'Big Three' 8-bit micros, so how did I miss it? Could it be because it sucks arse? Are these C64-owning oafs playing an ill-mannered prank on me? If they are, it's their version I'm going to slate so let's find out (hee hee!).

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Dizzy Series - Part 3

Fast Food (1987)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 1,832
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Enterprise 64/128

Love him or hate him, no gamers around at the time could deny that Dizzy's first game was a success, and the sequel that followed hot on its heels was an even bigger hit, so what does any sensible developer do next? That's right, release a spin-off! Fast Food was originally made to promote a fast-food restaurant chain but, mid-way through development, the Olivers simply removed the bits of associated branding and replaced the main character with their increasingly popular ovular hero. The game itself remained more-or-less the same though, and that involved a series of thirty single-screen mazes around which can be found numerous items of foodstuffs. Dizzy's job is simply to collect all of the items in each maze before moving on to the next which, as I'm sure you've guessed, makes it nothing more than a Pac-Man clone. But is it a good Pac-Man clone?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Top Five Citrus Fruits

Everyone knows the best kind of fruits are the citrus varieties but there are so many marginally different kinds that trips to the supermarket can be mighty confusing. Therefore, your favourite non-food-related blog is happy to simplify the matter for you. Forget lemons and limes, grapefruits are too big - look for anything orange (except pumpkins and carrots) and fill your basket accordingly:

5 - Clementine

Friday, 9 August 2013

Next-Gen Driving Games #2

The Need For Speed a.k.a. Over Drivin (1994)
By: Pioneer Studios / Electronic Arts Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: 3DO
Also Available For: Saturn, PlayStation, PC

As one of the very first video game genres, I think it's safe to say that driving games have come a long way since Atari's Night Driver, the first into-the-screen example and released all the way back in '76. Since then there have been some great games released, as well as a good few not-so-great ones, but as enjoyable as they may or may not have been, they were never terribly realistic. Of course, as technology got more advanced their realism slowly improved and today's console efforts appear almost photo-realistic and often require tutorials to even 'play' properly. Between these two points though, the first example of the genre I encountered that truly felt like an actual driving game was The Need For Speed, the first of the now-extensive series that's still going strong today (there's even a movie on the way!), and for this reason it's the game I've always considered the first genuine 'next-generation' driving game.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Film Review #52

The Wolverine (2013)
Director: James Mangold Starring: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 126 Minutes

Tagline: "When enemies rise... when immortality ends... the ultimate battle begins."

Expectation and reality are often two completely different things in the movie world (and indeed most other worlds I guess). I can't count how many times I've expected a film to be great only to find it sucked arse, and happily the reverse has been true a few times as well. However, if I told you there was a film that featured samurai, ninjas, yakuza, and Wolverine, can you honestly tell me there would be any chance that it sucked? Amazingly, this isn't just the stuff of wild fantasies either - such a film does now exist and its name, as if you hadn't guessed, is The Wolverine! Therefore, if there was anyone reading this who hadn't already decided to see the latest X-Men film regardless of any reviews, I expect you now have, but allow me to elaborate a little anyway.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Golf Games #5

Zany Golf (1990)
By: Sandcastle / Electronic Arts Genre: Sports Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Apple IIGS

The MegaDrive was launched with some cracking titles here in the UK but one that failed to capture the attention of many gamers was this mini, or indeed 'zany', golf game. I was one of those who turned my nose up at it in favour of wonders like Golden Axe, Thunder Force 2, Revenge of Shinobi, etc, and for all these years have known it only for the very average magazine reviews it received and the same screen-shot that seemed to do the rounds in said reviews which showed a large hamburger of all things (the designer must've been hungry or something). My interest in golf games has greatly increased in the intervening years though, so I would say it's finally time for me to give this oft-ignored launch game a try, and seek out this most famous of fast food items in the process.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Arcade Shmups #18

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 (1989)
By: SNK Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 82,900 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

There really have been too few games to take in the mysterious wonders of the prehistoric world in my opinion. Sure there are a few platform games like Toki and Chuck Rock, but not much else which is a shame. All those lush primeval landscapes, plants, and enormous scary creatures beyond count could've made for some mighty enjoyable adventures. But wait... on the horizon, something's coming... it's SNK to the rescue! Indeed, and far from providing another platformer, they have actually bestowed upon us a shmup that allows us to blow the crap out of all those mysterious wonders of a bygone age! On further investigation, however, it turns out it's not actually set in said bygone age after all but in 1930 (I guess the clue should've been in the title) whereupon the good old US government has sent an expedition into the Bermuda Triangle to investigate the disappearance of many ships over the years only to discover an 'uncharted landmass' which they name Greenhell Isle. Slightly disappointing, then, to find it's not a 'genuine' prehistoric game, but it still has the potential to feature a shedload of cool stuff.