Saturday, 30 August 2014

Star Trek #6

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Six

Well, it's unintentionally been a while since I took a look at TNG's fifth season and it was probably the hardest one so far to narrow down to a mere five episodes. That, however, has now changed as this sixth and penultimate season has proved even more difficult. Admittedly, there isn't really many all-time great Trek episodes here but there are a lot that I personally find memorable and enjoyable, and accordingly I couldn't decide which ones to leave out.

"Ah, Commander, come in. My bed is still warm..."
Some that didn't make the final cut include the latest zany adventures of the amusing Lieutenant Barclay who is scared of creepy crawlies he swears he can see during the transportation process, another 'transporter accident' episode which sees Picard, Ro, and Guinan revert to childhood (am I the only one who'd like to slap the youthful version of Picard?), and near the end of the season the crew even discover a duplicate of Riker which was created some years earlier by... you guessed it, a transporter accident! Our heroic, chair-vaulting Commander also manages to go insane while performing a play, but slightly less disturbing is Data looking out for a bunch of floaty robots who may or may have become sentient and, in another episode, practising his small-talk to hilarious effect while the Enterprise is subjected to a 'baryon sweep'.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

PlayStation Shmups #1

Airgrave (1996)
By: Santos Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation First Day Score: 156,200 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Foom, peeyoww! The greatest title screen of all-time?
Sony's debut console might not be most famous for shmups but there are quite a few available for it, many of them exclusively, and yet one that I've barely heard anything about is Airgrave. This could mean that it sucks arse of course but, whatever the reason, my curiosity to learn its secrets has hastened the start of this series of features! It was a Japan-only release so the story is largely incomprehensible to me but it's clear that we're in the usual territory. It's a military-style vertical scroller (as opposed to a spacey one) and it seems your objective, as laid down by some gruff-looking general type, is to destroy various targets on a pre-stage map screen, presumably bases and strongholds of some dastardly evil dictator or something. You get to choose between four different craft for this testing mission, each varying in terms of its ground attack, air attack, mobility, and defence, as well as its pilot.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Gaming Memories - Part 14

As a slightly strange person, there are many things about me that are odd, and that includes some gaming stuff. Indeed, ever since I discovered video games I've been interested in every system around to one degree or another, and I've owned most of them some stage too. However, despite numerous attempts, I've never really managed to embrace any handheld systems.

The first one I owned was Atari's Lynx which, though technically impressive and home to many decent games, failed to keep my attention for too long, so I decided to try the less advanced but much more popular Game Boy. Indeed, even though in my eyes Nintendo's machine was little more than an updated Game & Watch (which I also never really got on with), the various games magazines of the time were constantly burbling on about it to such an extent that figured it was worth a punt. It was duly acquired, along with Tetris or course, and even I, as a seasoned Sega fan-boy, could concede it was a decent bit of kit. It looked quite nice, the batteries lasted a while (unlike my Lynx - eeek!), and even better, it fitted perfectly in the inside pocket of my leather jacket which meant I could carry it around effortlessly and 'whip it out' at a moment's notice, looking undeniably cool in the process - reason enough to own one by itself!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Top Five Traditional Biscuits

Now that I think about it I'm really not sure how popular biscuits are in other parts of the world - I get the impression that it's mainly various kinds of cookies - but over here in the UK nearly everyone enjoys munching on tasty biscuity treats regularly, and usually one of the 'traditional' kinds too. I can scarcely imagine a day at work without having a pack handy, and preferably one of these delightful varieties:

Special Note: I personally have no interest in 'dunking' so the suitability of these biscuits for that nonsensical act has not been considered when compiling this list.

5 - Rich Tea

They have 'Round Biscuit' written on them

Friday, 22 August 2014

SNES Driving / Racing Games #3

Uchuu Race: Astro Go! Go! (1994)
By: Meldac / Kaze Genre: Racing  Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

I think it's safe to say by now that even occasional visitors to Red Parsley will be well aware of my appreciation of Nintendo's stonking F-Zero series. I'm therefore quite flabbergasted that the existence of this catchily-named game only just reached me this very week. The reason for my surprise, in case you hadn't already guessed, is that it's a game that has more than a little in common with the classic series, and in particular its SNES debut. It actually appears to have been directly based on Nintendo's game as far as its visual style is concerned but it doesn't take long to realise that it's quite a bit weirder than its source of inspiration too. Lord only knows what the back-story could be - the game is a Japanese exclusive (although a US version was planned) so I don't have the luxury of reading the instructions - but the first thing I thought of while exploring it was... F-Zero meets Fantasy Zone! That automatically sounds like the greatest thing ever, so let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Indie Nuggets #3

The Assault of Space Mutants from Arctic Rainforests (2013)
By: Jani Nykänen Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 556,950
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm sure by now many of you have heard about those game-making contests that some websites hold. They have become very popular in recent years and one example I stumbled upon not too long ago is called NESJam. The rules were simple: games must be made by just one person from start to finish within a week and they must be made in the style of an NES game (resolution, colour pallette, etc). One of the most eye-catching entries I saw, probably at least in part because of its amusing name, is this one which was made by a talented chap called Jani Nykänen.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Sega Super Scaler Games #2

Space Harrier (1985)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 6,625,540
Also Available For: Saturn, 32X, Master System, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, Sharp X1, PC Engine, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

These cyclops mammoths rule! How can they be enemies?
Sega's iconic Space Harrier might have just missed out on being the first Super Scaler game released, but it quickly became the most popular arcade game around at the time, and remains one of the most fondly recalled today. However, some say its greatness can only truly be experienced in its native setting - in other words in the large sit-down machine with all its hydraulic wibbling. It's a fair point I suppose but I resolved to find out by giving it my first proper play for a good number of years. Actually, now that I think about it, Sega never really gave this game much a back-story, did they? I suppose it's not really necessary for what was essentially intended a tech-demo, but one thing they did do was to base their fancy adventure in a bizarre land called the Fantasy Zone, later to be populated by Opa-Opa and overthrown by the evil Menons of course.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Film Round-Up #4

Yes that's right, it's time for another Netflix round-up! Much of my time with this splendid service is spent watching TV shows (more posts on them later) but the wife and I do watch a few films too - in fact, all but the first of these were chosen by her (she doesn't like all my sci-fi 'nonsense' so I have to watch that on my own) which means some romantic mush had to be endured, but it's not all been bad...

The Heist (2009)

Also known as The Maiden Heist, this is a film that had a troubled release due to the bankruptcy of its distributor, but it has a strong cast which is what drew me to it. Christopher Walken is the star but he has extensive support from Morgan Freeman and William H. Macy, the three of whom are all security guards at a museum and have each become obsessed with particular pieces of art displayed there. So obsessed, in fact, that when they learn of plans to move the collection to Denmark they resolve to steal them, replacing them with hastily-crafted replicas. The problem? None of them have a clue what they're doing! That doesn't stop them from formulating a supposedly simple plan to make the switch during the removal process but, of course, not everything goes quite according to plan! It's all very silly of course, and is more of a light-hearted comedy than a 'proper' heist film, but it's great fun all the same, especially with such an appealing cast at the helm... 7/10

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

NES Platform Games #6

Yume Penguin Monogatari (1991)
By: Konami Genre: Platform / Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

Penka turns her back on her bulky beau...
There are several kinds of animals that are always welcome in video games. One obvious example is monkeys but I've come to realise in recent years that another one is penguins. I can't personally recall a single bad game starring a penguin so I had high hopes for this odd example which was released only in Japan by Konami. Accordingly it features their usual flapper known as Penta (of Antarctic Adventure amongst others) who it seems has let himself go somewhat since his earlier exploits. Indeed, the once-athletic penguin is now a portly waddling behemoth whose beloved girlfriend, Penka, has just dumped him for evil top hat-wearing rival, Ginji. Our hero doesn't take his misfortune lying down though, and quickly resolves to get back into shape and win Penka back. This involves collecting as much 'Fat-B-Gone' as possible which Ginji and his 'gang' have stashed across the six stages that now lie between Penta and Penka. And so begins the 'Story of the Dream Penguin'.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

First Look PlayStation 3 #2

Heavenly Sword by Ninja Theory (2007) - PlayStation 3

Exclusives are hard to come by for the 'main' consoles these days but one such release that had PS3 owners warbling excitedly a good few years back now was Heavenly Sword. Unsurprisingly I've only just gotten around to sampling it myself and was far from shocked to find that it's a hack 'n' slasher through which the player controls Nariko, a red-headed young lady who also happens to be a big-boobed hottie wearing a typically skimpy outfit. In between jiggling around and flashing her legs, much of her time is spent fighting the forces of King Bohan, a tyrannical ruler bent on subjugating the various tribes that inhabit the mystical world in which the game takes place.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Top Five N64 Racing Games

Nintendo's mighty 64-bit monster was a fabulous console to be sure but if you asked the average gamer what their enduring memory of it was, most probably wouldn't mention racing games. I'd say that was testament to the fantastic standard of its first party games, as well as Rare's superb efforts, rather than any particular lack of quality in that area though. Indeed there are some great examples to be found once you stop fannying around with Mario and Zelda, many of which can only be found on Nintendo's machine. To that end, here are, in my opinion, the best ones to try:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Excitebike 64 (2000)

Nintendo's decision to do a follow-up to their classic NES title was a surprising one, especially so late in the N64's life, but it was also one with a lot of potential. It continues the motocross theme of the first game, although more realistically this time, obviously, and features tonnes of mostly off-road courses packed with various hazards and obstacles as well as millions of jumps as you would expect. The controls take a bit of getting used to - some of the bikes are a bit temperamental, for example, and the going can be rather slow and frustrating at times, but the courses are interesting enough and the racing exciting enough that I still enjoyed this one a lot. I missed this game the first time around (I was excitedly stroking my Dreamcast at the time) but I'm glad to have played it now. It's not perfect but is good fun, especially with multiple players, and is very addictive too.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Awesome Nature #16

Pallas's Cat
Type: Mammal Lives In: Central Asia Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Just when you probably thought all the most awesome cats of the world had been well-documented, along comes this rather awesome creature! Named for the German naturalist who discovered it, Peter Pallas, these small felines are only found in the remote mountainous and steppe regions of Central Asia where they live alone in caves and burrows. They spend most of their time in these hidey-holes (which are often 'borrowed' from marmots or foxes), usually emerging in the late afternoon to hunt the various smaller creatures they like (including the equally-amusing pika). It must be pretty damn cold there too, as they're covered in long, thick fur which not only makes them the fluffiest cats I've ever seen but also makes them look like the porkiest! Sadly but unsurprisingly, this luxurious coat also means the manul (as it is also known) has been hunted in fairly large numbers over the years and is now being intentionally poisoned as well. Good old humans...

Why It Is Awesome: It's a super-fluff cat!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Scrolling Fighting Games #12

Cyber Cross (1989)
By: Face Corporation Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 16,500
Also Available For: Nothing

When most of us Westerners think of superheroes our minds instantly go to one of the assorted bunch offered by Marvel or DC, but our Japanese friends are rather keen on their own brand of heroic saviours. This PC Engine exclusive stars one such hero whose exploits are inspired by the mighty Super Sentai series (on which the Power Rangers are based). His name is apparently Cyber Cross and the ghastly foe to befall him for the duration of this adventure is known as Dr. Nozumi (another supervillian with a doctorate, it seems!) who has unleashed an army of insectoid monsters from outer space - oh noooooo! They have reportedly infiltrated the entire globe but our hero only has to clear their filth from six side-scrolling stages. The first takes place in some city or other before subsequent stages take in a park, a rail yard, a rocky ravine, and a forest, before moving into more dangerous underground complexes and enemy installations and ultimately the final showdown.