Saturday, 6 June 2020

Sabbatical or Retirement?

It seems like forever ago but I started this blog almost exactly ten years ago now. As I've probably mentioned here at some point during that time, it was my wife's idea. She doesn't like videogames much, you see, and was fed up with me burbling on about them. I don't remember doing it that much but she suggested I start this blog anyway, and get my gaming fix that way instead of bothering her.

So that's exactly what I did, and it has occupied a sizeable slice of my free time ever since. In all that time, I have posted something at least once every calendar month, usually many times, but that's until now. As the few regular visitors here may have noticed, it has now been over three months since I've posted anything. That doesn't mean I have fallen victim to a certain virus pandemic that's doing the rounds, I'm happy to say, but it has been a cause of concern for me nonetheless.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog Series - Part 2

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
By: Ancient / Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Mega Drive, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance (ports)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC (on compilations)

Download For: Android, iOS, Wii Virtual Console

The title screen is a bit duller than expected...

Despite being released soon after its MegaDrive big brother, and that I still owned my Master System at the time, for some reason I gave this port of the instantly-famous MD platformer a wide berth. Harsh in retrospect perhaps, but in those days flashy audio/visuals were as captivating as they have always been, before and since, so who could blame me for being taken in by the dazzling tour-de-force that was Sonic the Hedgehog MD? But yes, I still should've come back for this highly-rated version many moons ago, so I come before it now, humbled, and much less influenced by the flashy technical abilities of one system over another. I guess more than that stuff, though, the big question will be: can it possibly be as slick, stylish, and simply as much fun as that legendary MD version?

Monday, 24 February 2020

Atari Lynx A-Z

Developed years earlier by former Amiga designers who by then worked for American developer Epyx, the 16-bit Lynx was much more powerful than Nintendo's Game Boy, but that extra power and its colour screen came at a cost. It has some corking games though, and this listing will include all official releases. This is one of four parts and features all games beginning with letters O through R:

Pac-Land by Atari (1991)

Namco's pill-popping yellow pie-chart has received many sequels to his 1980 classic, and this is probably the best-loved of them all. Giving him arms and legs (and a hat) was a no-brainer and the platformer that he was given to run and jump through was a cracker. Happily, this Lynx version is nearly as good too.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Film Review #114

The very, very cool cover...
Ninja (2009)
Director: Isaac Florentine Starring: Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii, Togo Igawa, Todd Jensen, Miles Anderson, Garrick Hagon,

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 83 Minutes

Tagline: "A silent warrior, a lethal mission"

I don't think there has ever been a time in human history when ninjas haven't been cool (except as far as anything to do with Google is concerned, of course) but their heyday, at least as far as films and videogames and stuff are concerned, was definitely the 80's. Perhaps in an attempt to renew their popularity, however, a small American studio called Nu Image conjured up this direct-to-video effort. It features Scott Adkins in one of his first lead roles as Casey Bowman, an American orphan who was adopted into a martial arts dojo in Japan. While there he adopts the way of bushido and earns the respect of his sensei, Master Takeda (Igawa). His dedication does not, however, earn the respect of the dojo's top student Masazuka (Ihara), who is jealous of the attention Casey receives from Takeda, and also from his hottie daughter Namiko (Hijii). And where jealousy exists, conflict is rarely far behind.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Retro News - Online Console!

There have been a number of attempts in recent years to launch new formats. Most of these sensibly don't try to take on the might of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, but instead devise more humble systems dealing primarily with indie and homebrew titles. These are about the only modern games I like so I often take an interest in these formats/services, but they don't usually last long, sadly.

However, the latest example I've found is an interesting one. It's called PICO-8 and is described by its creators as a 'fantasy console'. That doesn't mean it only exists in your mind though. According to the blurb on their website, it's "like a regular console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware". Many gamers, especially ones that collect and/or play retro stuff, are rather fond of physical consoles and games of course, and certainly wouldn't find them an inconvenience, but I get what they mean and it still sounded very intriguing to me.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

MegaDrive Shmups #10

Gley Lancer (1992)
By: NCS Corp / Masaya Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 310,500
Also Available For: Nothing Download For: Wii Virtual Console

The mighty Mega Drive was a very stonking console for shooter fans as we all know, and happily most of them found a way to Western shores too, but there were a few allegedly decent ones that didn't. The one that always intrigued me the most is probably Gley Lancer. Being the victim of an incorrectly-translated name isn't the most notable thing about it nowadays though. Like many MD games, and indeed like many games generally from the days of retro-ness, it unfortunately now commands such a high price that it's not enormously realistic for normal people to buy it. Of course, no game that changes hands for triple or even quadruple figures among collectors is worth such a sum to a humble gamer. All we want to do is play games, not ogle their sealed cases. Luckily, there a few other avenues available for retroheads and shooter fans, and it is via one of these that I have recently been playing the game for the first time in many moons.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Film Review #113

Ad Astra (2019)
Director: James Gray Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, Donnie Keshawarz, Sean Blakemore

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "The Answers We Seek Are Just Outside Our Reach"

It's a good time right now to be a sci-fi fan. There are several great TV shows on the go and high-profile films seem to be popping up more regularly than I can last remember. One particular example I've been waiting patiently-but-eagerly for is Ad Astra. It's an original story written by director James Gray along with Ethan Gross and is set in our planet's near future. It's a time when we've developed sufficiently advanced technology, in particular a new propulsion type, to have explored and colonised our solar system, but no further. The existence of alien life is still a question that remains unanswered and one man in particular is obsessed with finding an answer - famed astronaut H. Clifford McBride (Jones) who, 29 years prior to the events of the film, is sent by SpaceCom (U.S. Space Command) to Neptune in command of the Lima Project with the job of finding out if anyone else is out there.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

PS4 Purchases #8

If anyone still visits here, they may remember a post I made almost exactly a year ago detailing five games my good friend Luke had recommended to me. One of them I already had in my Good Old Games library, a review of which will be arriving soon, but the others all required expenditure on my part. Two of them I still haven't gotten around to buying (hopefully soon!) but there are two I have purchased. And so, it is with medium levels of pleasure I present them to you thus:

Rise of the Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics (2016)

Even though when I spoke to Luke recently he had forgotten which Tomb Raider game he included in his recommendations, it was this one, although it wouldn't have mattered to me much anyway as I haven't played any since the 1996 original! Happily, this one was at a pleasingly low price with Amazon (a mere £15) so I snapped it up pretty sharpish, and was looking forward to giving it a try. When I finally got around to playing it, I unsurprisingly found that the series has moved on somewhat since the original. Lara's boobs are now boob-shaped, and a much more realistic size too, and they move through some spectacular locales along with their owner. Indeed, I was ultra-impressed with the delightful scenery graphics, even if Lara's ass did prove a little distracting, but aside from these wonderful graphics I'm still a bit unsure about the actual game. It seems to be more linear than I had expected, and apparently consists of periods of running in between numerous QTE-type bits. I thought the days of QTE's were long gone! Oh well, it matters not as Boromir might say, it's worth playing anyway for those graphics.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Arcade A-Z

As much as I love arcade games, and a good few of my fondest childhood/teenage memories are of amusement arcades, there's no way in the world I'll ever have time to cover all arcade games ever made. That would be ultra-unrealistic, even for my standards. Therefore, for these listings I will try to feature most of the main games as well as some less well-known titles, including a few Japan-only games that aren't too language-heavy, but I will obviously miss a lot too.

Left out on purpose will be the scores of Japanese mahjong games and anything similar. Also, while I've played a lot of arcade games in person, it's not very realistic to expect me to have played all of them in their native environment. Games for this list will therefore be mostly played via emulation, so I will also be leaving out games I can't get running on an emulator, and also ones that can't realistically be played (such as ones that need a machine-specific control method).

That will still leave hundreds, probably thousands of games for me to cover here though, so I'd better get started. Next up is:

O is for...

Ocean Hunter, The by Sega (1998)

I am lucky enough to have played this one for real but it's not common, perhaps due to its size. It's a Model 3-powered light gun game pitting you against all the terrors of the deep and more besides - basically House of the Dead but underwater - and the cab comes equipped with a big screen and two mounted guns.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Game Boy Games #4

Mr. Chin's Gourmet Paradise (1990)
By: Romstar Inc Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy
Also Available For: Nothing

In the days of yore, I often found that games that had anything to do with food were pretty great. Perhaps not as great as a really hot curry or a meat feast pizza but pretty great. This particular example is, I believe, a little-known Game Boy release which casts the player as the titular Mr. Chin, apparently a Chinese gentleman who has "come all the way from China" in pursuit of his favourite treat - luscious gourmet peaches. Where he's come to is anybody's guess but, while this mysterious land may be rich in curvy peach goodness, getting his hands on them may not be quite as simple as all that. Most of them, it seems, are actually terrifying creatures known as Momos which are apparently a special branch of the fruit family, and they aren't quite ready to be turned into peaches. Luckily, our hungry Chinese friend does have one fairly effective way of doing this - zapping them with his 'Demoe Beam' - but even this can be a little tricky too.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Film Round-Up #27

Although she didn't really even get started until her 30's, the lovely Julianne Moore has nonetheless cemented her status since then as one of the finest actresses of her generation. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she continues to score lead roles into her 50's and (soon to be) beyond, and continues to be comfortable playing 'sexy older woman' type roles as well as the 'emotionally troubled women' she is perhaps best known for. She has been one of my favourite actresses since I first saw her in The Lost World and Boogie Nights back in 1997, and I continue to seek out her films to this day. Here is a selection of some of the ones I've watched recently:

Chloe (2009)

The oldest film in this round-up is this one which casts Ms. Moore as Catherine, an increasingly age-conscious wife who has begun to suspect her husband David (Liam Neeson) may be cheating. In an effort to confirm/quell her fears, she hires a young call girl she has observed from her office window who calls herself Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), and asks her to try and seduce David and report back. I expect you can guess how this goes, but it quickly becomes clear that Chloe prefers spending time with Catherine over David. Unfortunately, her interest seems abrupt and is never really explained which just makes it seem weird rather than compelling. Both lead performances are decent enough, particularly Moore as the conflicted Catherine, but the plot is too vexing to really be enjoyable. It's worth watching if you've ever wanted to see Moore or Seyfried getting down to some good old HLA, but it will most likely prove too bewildering otherwise... 5/10

Friday, 17 January 2020

Visual Novels #3

Aozora Meikyuu (2016)
By: Yume Creations Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

After the thorough disappointment of the last visual novel I tried, I didn't have a huge amount of hope that the next one I tried would be much cop either, but this is the one I went for. The protagonist is Aoi Takamatsu, a young man who has dropped out of school and become a shut-in, spending much of his time playing dating sims and VN's probably not too dissimilar to this one. The reason for this dramatic change was the devastating blow of rejection upon confessing his love to his high-school crush. Now he has sworn off love, and indeed personal relationships of any kind, preferring instead to isolate himself and live through his computer. Naturally, however, someone has just quite literally dropped into his life unannounced, giving him a chance to reevaluate his priorities.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Exploring the PC Engine CD

As most gamers in my neck of the woods will probably agree, the PC Engine was an instant legend from the moment it appeared - nothing had ever been more desirable, not even Counsellor Troi from Star Trek The Next Generation (possibly). But alas, it never saw a proper release in our humble territory. Worsening the despair felt by us considerably was the announcement and subsequent release of the CD-ROM unit for the same console a year-or-so later, which made NEC's box of tricks even more desirable. How could it not? It was a CD-ROM... for a games console!

The now-famous image that so tantalised us in C&VG...
Like the Engine itself, images of the CD-ROM unit began appearing in the mighty C&VG magazine during 1988, and more so upon its release late that year. Technology such as this was still very new at the time and thus had a rather futuristic air about it. What sort of wonders could be in store for lucky Engine gamers? Well, first they would have to pay the hefty sum to import one from Japan (unless they lived in Japan), and this sum was often significantly more than that of the Engine itself at first. Oof! Not many gamers in Europe could even afford to import the PCE itself, never mind its expensive 'other half', but there were a lucky few with sizeable bank balances (or parents with sizeable bank balances, at least) who instantly earned mythical status by owning this dream duo.