Thursday, 28 November 2013

Run 'n' Gun Games #6

Cyber-Lip (1990)
By: SNK Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 26,600
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD

If you asked a random bunch of retro gamers what their favourite run 'n' gun game is, some would probably name a Contra title, one or two may go for Gunstar Heroes, but most will probably start talking excitedly about a Metal Slug game. It's a series the Neo Geo is famous for but before it came Cyber Lip. It was one of the first Neo Geo games and it's not one that's often spoken about with much affection. Like the aforementioned examples it's a two-player game; the heroes in this case are named Rick and Brook (snigger) and they are apparently our last hope to save Earth! The year is 2020 and our colonies in space have suffered several attacks. To defend them we built a military supercomputer but unfortunately both it and the army it controls have started malfunctioning which has seen hordes of crazy androids and lords knows what else go on the rampage back home!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Film Review #57

Rampart (2012)
Director: Oren Moverman Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 95 Minutes

Tagline: "For One Cop Corruption Knows No Limits"

Who's watched the splendid cop drama known as The Shield? No, I don't mean Agents of SHIELD which I haven't seen (yet) - I mean THE Shield. I have and found the exploits of detective Vic Mackey and his ultra-corrupt 'Strike Team' to be mighty entertaining. It wasn't until a little later that I discovered the team was loosely based on the real-life 'CRASH' team of the LAPD's Rampart Division, and that the original title of the show was in fact Rampart. It was therefore with much interest that my keen eye fell upon this film in the discounted section of my local supermarket. I hadn't heard of it before but if it, too, was based on the Rampart scandal, as surely it must with a combination of its name and a mention of corrupt cops on the cover, then it could potentially rule almost as much as The Shield did! And so, with much hope, I bought it and wasted little time in watching it...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Must Learn Japanese! #1

Hyper Battle Game: Zen-Nippon GT Senshuken (1995)
By: Banpresto / Kaneko Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

One of the things I like most about writing this blog is when I discover an uncommon, obscure game that I'd previously never heard of which turns out to be awesome. More often than not these 'surprise' titles tend to be one of the many that were released only in Japan. Of course, in these cases it can sometimes be difficult for me to find out if they're awesome or not owing to their understandable-but-inconvenient use of Japanese writing. Some genres such as RPG's are always a no-go but with most others it seems to be pot luck. It doesn't present a problem in some cases, and other times English text is even used for some reason, but every now and then I encounter a game like Zen-Nippon GT Senshuken (which means 'All-Japan GT Championship' if you're interested). I can't even remember how I first discovered it now but its screenshots revealed it to be a pretty sweet looking overhead racer - a genre I'm rather keen on - so I had to check it out. Upon doing so, however, I found it to be riddled with tonnes of menu screens in... you guessed it, Japanese!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Next Next Generation Is Here - Are You Excited?

Even if I hadn't mentioned it numerous times, I expect regular visitors to Red Parsley have managed to work out that I tend to prefer using older computers and consoles to more modern ones but this hasn't always been the case. I suppose that would be impossible if you went back far enough and indeed, in the 80's and early 90's I greeted news of upcoming new systems with as much interest as everyone else, particularly when they were new Sega systems.

Sega's Dreamcast: the last good console ever. This is fact...
Probably the new hardware launch in which I had the most interest ever was that of the Dreamcast. My beloved Sega had suffered a combination of bad planning and plain bad luck when it came to the Saturn but I was confident the Dreamcast would address all these issue and more, and owing to the scarcity of new games for their 32-bit machine during its final year or so, magazines such as the Official Saturn Magazine were filled with little more than Dreamcast-related hype. Never before had I been so excited about a system launch - I was certain Sega's new machine would take the world by storm. But alas... despite being very popular with those in the know, it failed to achieve mainstream success, and when it went down it took the vast majority of my enthusiasm for the gaming industry with it. From that point on, I've had little interest in new systems, even if I've (occasionally) wanted to.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Film Review #56

Gangster Squad (2013)
Director: Ruben Fleischer Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Mireille Enos, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Sullivan Stapleton, Jon Polito

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "No names. No badges. No mercy."

They seemed to be a dime a dozen at one stage but it's been ages since I saw a good gangster film so I was rather excited when I learned of the upcoming release of Gangster Squad. It's set in the late 40's and early 50's and, unlike most examples, takes place in Los Angeles which, since the end of WWII, has increasingly fallen under the control of ruthless Jewish boxer-turned-gangster, Mickey Cohen (Penn). Although affiliated with the American Mafia, specifically the Chicago Outfit, Cohen had begun taking violent steps to distance himself from his former associates including the current boss of LA, Jack Dragna (Polito), to ensure his sole control over not just LA but the whole of the West Coast. Most of the cops and judges are in his pocket too, so on the odd occasional an honest cop acts against Cohen or his men, they're back on the street before the bars have even slammed shut.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gravity Games #2

Gravitar (1982)
By: Atari Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: Atari 2600
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade

While it's true that the first video games to employ the combination of a space vessel and a landscape with a fairly realistic interpretation of gravity came earlier than this one, the first one you could really call an actual game was Gravitar. Like the earlier Lunar Lander and Asteroids, it makes use of lovely vectors to create its landscapes and other bits and pieces, and this time they're in glorious technicolor! Unsurprisingly for a 'gravity game', it's also set in space and involves cleansing several star systems of the many gun emplacements, or 'bunkers', that are sprinkled across the surfaces of their various planets. Your ship is a small blue thing somewhat reminiscent of the craft in Asteroids and is controlled by five buttons. Two turn it left or right, one shoots its feeble but invaluable cannon, another thrusts its engine to counteract the gravity, and the last activates its shields.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Gaming Memories - Part 12

My past as a Sega fan-boy is well known here at Red Parsley and this was never more prevalent than during the early years of the Mega Drive's release. Sega's powerhouse was certainly not the first popular 16-bit system though of course - Atari's ST and Commodore's Amiga had already been available for several years and it was when I started college in the early 90's that I met someone who was and remains the biggest Amiga fan-boy I've ever known.

Many discussions, comparisons, light-hearted mocking, and of course arguments filled many of our days which probably would've been put to better use actually studying, but after a while the inevitable happened and my new friend's enthusiasm for his favourite gaming system got to me. Games that were featured on both systems were superior on the MD, naturally, but there were a few really decent-looking titles on the Amiga that I had no access to. There could only be one answer to that dilemma, but could I bring myself to actually do it?

Rather than demonstrate blatant betrayal by asking my parents to buy me an Amiga outright (I was still at college, remember – no money!), I instead covertly let it be known that I wasn't opposed to the idea of Amiga ownership. My subliminal approach worked too, as that Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a brand new Amiga 600! Commodore’s machine was already getting old by this point of course, and the days of packaging it with dozens of average titles were long gone. Mine came with the trusty old warhorse, Deluxe Paint III (which I no doubt used as much as other Amiga owners), as well as a title I had previously played on a friend’s Atari ST, and one that I already knew was splendid – the immortal Lemmings. I had also bought a few budget games (or at least budget priced games) in anticipation of my impending ownership including another title I'd already played which was to become a favourite.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Early Driving Games #9

Crazy Cars (1988)
By: Titus Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 4,701,520
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC

Hmm, the ZX Spectrum... As much as I loved mine, I'd be the first to admit that into-the-screen racing games weren't really its forte. Accordingly I didn't have many but one that I did end up with, semi-involuntarily, was Crazy Cars which was included on the fairly splendid compilation, The In Crowd. I can't say it was the title I was looking forward to trying the most but I was reasonably optimistic that it would provide at least a few thrills 'n' spills, but it soon became clear my optimism was ill-placed. Apparently 'you're in Florida and you've got to get to Arizona'. No reason or motivation of any kind is given (I hope we're not aiding and abetting a fugitive!) but if you choose to take up the challenge regardless, you'll be facing five sections of open road which are each divided into nine stages. To move from one stage to the next you simply need to reach it before the timer runs down. And that's about it. Okay, maybe there's a little more to it but not much!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Film Review #55

Star Trek (2009)
Director: J. J. Abrams Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Deep Roy

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 127 Minutes

Tagline: "The Future Begins"

As sad as it may be to admit, I'm getting on a bit now, but I've been a fan of Star Trek since all the way back before I hit my teens. The Original Series made my Sunday mornings something to look forward to, then the Next Generation Arrived before Paramount started getting really Trek crazy, introducing multiple shows at once. Most recently there was Enterprise, a much-maligned instalment in the franchise but it was still Star Trek and that was fine by me. Its unfortunate cancellation brought an end to a long run - some eighteen years in fact – of new Trek on our TV screens, and any further movies looked unlikely too. This was a sad period for us sci-fi geeks during which there was little to keep our spirits up. Then, however, news broke of something Trek-related and it would be brand new - hooray!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

SNES Shmups #4

Flying Hero (1992)
By: Sofel Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 128,300
Also Available For: Nothing

The surprisingly extensive and very often crazy world of Japanese gaming continues to send surprises my way. The latest example is the ultra-peculiar Flying Hero which, whether good or bad, would surely have caught my eye had it ever passed before it. If it had done I expect my reaction would've been similar to the one I had this past week when I did start playing it - largely one of bemusement! I couldn't tell you what the story involves, although judging by a short intro sequence it seems that some female creature has been kidnapped by some evil creature or some such nonsense, but it does mean the 'hero' of the title springing into action. I'm not quite sure what he is - he looks like a cross between Kirby and Opa Opa to me - but he seems cheerful enough considering the tragedy that has apparently befallen him which leaves him with eight vertically-scrolling levels to battle through. Who is brave enough to guide him to what I can only assume is his loved one?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Film Review #54

Faster (2010)
Director: George Tillman, Jr. Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Moon Bloodgood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tom Berenger

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 98 Minutes

Tagline: "Slow Justice Is No Justice"

If there's one type of film you can usually rely on to be at least reasonably entertaining, it's the revenge thriller. I've therefore watched quite a few of them over the years but I've never seen one get out of the blocks as quickly as this one. Our dealer of justice is known only as 'Driver' who comes in the imposing shape of Dwayne Johnson and the film opens with him pacing impatiently in the prison cell he's occupied for 10 years for his participation in a robbery. It's the final day of his stretch though, and immediately upon his release he begins running up the quiet, dusty road outside. Before long he reaches a yard filled with cars. One of them – a pristine Chevrolet Chevelle SS – has apparently been left there for him complete with gun in the glove-box. He speeds away before eventually stopping outside an office building. He then strides intently inside, looks around, heads towards a particular cubicle, shoots the occupant in the head, and strolls back out again.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Overrated! #6

Ecco the Dolphin (1992)
By: Novotrade / Sega Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Mega CD, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance, PC
Download For: Apple iOS, Wii Virtual Console

Although they had already been around for a good while, the 16-bit console era represented the peak of the animal game characters. We'd already had a good few weird and seemingly-illogical examples so when Sega announced that yet another was on its way, most gamers didn't really show much enthusiasm. When screenshots started turning up though, it was clear that we weren't in for yet another generic platform game - Ecco was different. Unlike most other characters, Novotrade has bestowed almost no human traits upon him for one thing. Indeed, the intro for his game shows him larking around with his fellow pod-members in a typical dolphin-ish fashion until... !!SUDDENLY!!... while Ecco is in mid-air showing off his leaping abilities, a strange vortex appears and drains the sea of its creatures! Ecco is then left alone and must solve the riddle of what happened and where his friends are. So, no platforms involved either. Intriguing...

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Blu Ray - What's The Big F*ckin' Deal, Bitch?

Although I have long been a keen retro gamer, it’s not just video games that I'm lagging behind on. Much of the music I listen to is by bands I enjoyed in my youth, or even from earlier than that, and I'm happy to wait to see most films and TV shows, even ones I've dying to see (which is probably why there are few 'new release' film reviews here at Red Parsley!). It also takes me much longer than most to embrace new technology. I still don't own a tablet (and have no intention of getting one) and I didn't even get my first mobile phone until about six years ago; even now I've only had three different ones.

Most of my Blu Ray collection (and PS3 too!)
With all this in mind, it's probably not surprising that it's only been in the last year that I finally got around to replacing my trusty CRT television with a flat-screen model, and as I've mentioned here before, I complemented this purchase with a PS3, primarily for its ability to play Blu Ray discs. This obviously facilitated my introduction to 'High Definition' entertainment but I've recently found myself wondering... is this it? What’s the big fuss all about? Ironically, one of the few times I've 'converted' quickly to a new technology was when the DVD format was unveiled. During the height of my irresponsible credit card days I bought my first player for £600 at a time when there were only around 10 films available on the fancy new discs (and half of those were single layer 'flippers') of which I bought three – Contact, Assassins, and Face/Off. The latter was the first one I watched and the difference in picture and sound quality was immediately obvious.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Star Trek #3

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Three

The great and highly-anticipated return of Star Trek to the small screen resulted in a tentative first season, a decent (and better) second season, but it was in this third season that the show really found its feet. The sexiest redhead in Starfleet returned to the Enterprise's sickbay for one thing, which means everything is now present and correct as far as the crew is concerned, but the episodes reached a greater consistency in quality too.

The selection this time around includes the usual spatial anomalies, questionable alien policies, a powerful and scary race of whom nothing is ever seen again, as well as the increasingly common sight of Klingon and Romulan ships. The crew get their fair share of action too - Captain Picard scores, Data gets stolen, and Counsellor Troi even gets her kit off (although sadly so does her irritating mother)! It's a great and varied season then, and the best one yet. Here are my favourites:

Friday, 1 November 2013

Indie Nuggets #1

Cavenaut (2012)
By: Bruno R. Marcos Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Crikey! No sooner have I reviewed one game featuring a 'spelunker' - the game named after the rather hazardous pursuit, no less - than another one veers into my radar's bloopiness. Unlike the previous example though, this adventurer has slightly more noble intentions. Our nameless hero is apparently a famous explorer and, during his no doubt many and varied trips and expeditions, he discovers strange signs in the 'misty mountains of Peru' (in 1950 if you're interested). What else can he then do but head off into the spooky peaks and investigate?! This results in a very basic flick-screen mazey game which you start above ground in a thinly forested area. Our stick-figure hero can walk only in the four basic directions and accordingly you can steer him any way you like from the first screen. Your first job, however, should be to find a shovel which has two main uses.