Thursday, 12 November 2020

Visual Novels #4

Noble Works (2010 - Japan, 2015 - translated)
By: Yuzusoft Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

I haven't had the greatest of luck with visual novels so far. Most of the ones I've tried have either been way pervier than I had expected or simply weren't very good due to short lengths and/or limited routes. I was determined this wouldn't happen again so this time sought out a highly-acclaimed VN that I could spend some time getting stuck into. One I saw mentioned a lot was Noble Works, released a few years ago in translated form. In a shocking twist from the norm, it sees you take on the role of a schoolboy, in this case Fujishima Takumi. As seems to be common in manga/anime, despite being of school age he lives on his own for one reason or another, and struggles to hold down part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. BUT THEN!! Fate decides to intervene.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Master System Round-Up #5

They're probably looked back on now as a bit of a gimmick; a silly novelty gadget of limited use, but the Master System's 3D Glasses were actually quite an innovative peripheral for their time. Unlike Nintendo's pointless R.O.B. (Robotic Operated Buddy) for their Famicom/NES, or ridiculous third-party nonsense like Mattel's Power Glove, Sega's glasses actually did something for one thing.

Indeed, by using some manner of spooky wizardry involving shutters in the glasses and flickering images on the screen, they were able to give the impression of actual 3D graphics in games that were made to take advantage of them. You might think that a dazzling, cutting edge technology like this would cost a bomb but, as I recall, they cost a little more than a standard game at the time. When my ultra-splendid parents agreed to help in my acquisition of my soon-to-be-treasured Master System back in 1987/8 (I forget exactly when now), I was lucky enough that they separately added a pair of 3D Glasses to my bundle - a result, I suspect, of my OutRun infatuation - but some lucky MS owners such as my good friend Luke received them with the console itself in the form of the might Super System set! I can't remember if he ever got around to getting any games that actually used them though, besides Missile Defence 3D which was built into his console (I'll have to ask him), but I certainly did.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Film Round-Up #30

The emergence of Keira Knightley in the early 2000's was quite a big thing here in the UK as I recall. Although it wasn't her first film, it was Bend It Like Beckham that did it I think. I never saw that one though, it was the original Pirates of the Caribbean a year later when I first gazed upon her loveliness, but I haven't seen too many other films of hers if I'm honest. Sounds like a great excuse for a 'round-up' here at Red Parsley so let's get moving! Here are the first films I went for...

The Hole (2001)

I originally watched this because of Thora Birch - I hadn't even heard of Knightley at the time. It was one of her first films though, and she was only 15 when it was filmed. Appropriately, she plays a hottie schoolgirl - one of four students who apparently decide it would be a good idea to spend the weekend in an abandoned nuclear fallout shelter only to... !!SHOCK!!... get trapped! After some time spent partying and shagging Miss Knightley, they soon start getting increasingly scared over their predicament and inevitably turn on each other. Miss Knightley and Miss Birch are joined here by Daniel Brocklebank and Desmond Harrington, and all four do a decent enough job, although despite flashing her tits early on, Knightley probably gets the least focus of the four of them. Indeed, it's Birch's film really, her character is a bit of a nutcase, but she is very good here. The film itself is pretty good too - suspenseful, nicely claustrophobic, and with a couple of not-entirely-unexpected-but-effective-anyway twists near the end. A good one-time watch... 7/10

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Crap Games #12

Off-World Interceptor (1994)
By: Crystal Dynamics Genre: Racing / Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: 3DO First Day Score: 195,800 (cash)
Also Available For: Saturn, PlayStation

Most of the titles that are included in the 'Crap Games' feature here at Red Parsley were so chosen due to near-unanimous scorn at the time of their release from magazines of the day, but this one is a little different. I decided to include Off-World Interceptor mainly because of the intense disappointment I felt towards it personally. It hardly received glowing reviews anyway I guess, but I was enjoying my 3DO and its remarkable 3D abilities at the time, in particular The Need For Speed which was so far ahead of any other racing game I'd played. It was still just one game though, and I wanted another racing game for my powerful new console. Unfortunately, there weren't too many options available for it but I saw screenshots of Off-World Interceptor and thought it looked pretty good at least, so figured it was worth a try. Happily I was able to find it at my local games store, and at a bargain price too, and I was eager to get started on my... umm, off-world intercepting.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Indie Games News/Previews #16

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World by ININ Games / G-Choice (2021) - PS4, Switch

Fans of Westone's spiffing Wonder Boy series must have already been ultra-happy with the revival the series has had over the last few years, and apparently it's not over yet! Joining the original Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy 3 remakes is this, a remake of Monster World IV which was originally only released in Japan for the MegaDrive and starred a young girl named Asha rather than our usual hero. Some members of the original Wonder Boy dev team are working on it and, while there doesn't seem to be much in the way of info or screenshots yet, there is a trailer as below. I'm not 100% sure I like the visual style but I'm confident it will a great game regardless. Release is planned for early 2021 and will apparently be available only for PS4 and Switch, although I would imagine a PC version will also be made available, surely? We'll have to wait and see I guess! Definitely one to look out for.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Film Round-Up #29

If there was any actor that virtually no one seems to dislike, it would surely be Tom Hanks. Knowing people these days, I'm sure there are some 'edgy' knobbers out there who would publicly express disdain toward him simply to be 'controversial' (i.e. get attention) but even they wouldn't be able to find much to say. Not only is he a fantastic actor but all evidence points to him being a genuinely nice, funny guy too. All the films I've seen him in are at least pretty good so I wondered if they all are. There are a lot I haven't seen after all. So why not find out? This first round-up features three I've seen before but not for a long time, and two I've never seen.

The Money Pit (1986)

I often forget that Big wasn't the first Hanks 'vehicle', and like most of the ones that came before it, The Money Pit is one I had never seen until now for this feature. It stars the main man opposite Shelley Long as unmarried couple, Walter and Anna, who are kicked out of the house they're borrowing and need to find somewhere else fast. Almost immediately they're offered a million dollar mansion for a bargain price because the granny living there needs a quick sale, so they thank their lucky stars, beg borrow and steal every penny they can, and buy it. And then it all starts going wrong, literally - everything they touch seems to collapse, explode, or break somehow, even the trees in the garden! It is of course ridiculous that it all happens the minute they move in though. I know it's a comedy but it's a bit silly for my tastes, and predictable too. It isn't helped much by Long's character either, who becomes extremely annoying in the second half. The Hanks charm is here though, and you probably won't regret spending this 90 minutes with him... 6/10

Friday, 25 September 2020

Exploring the PlayStation 4

I have had my PS4 since November or December 2017 which, as the mathematically-gifted among you will know, is getting on for 3 years now, and for pretty much all of that time I've been meaning to write this post. I've already made a 'new arrivals' post, itself coming some 7 or 8 months after the console found its way to me. This was basically detailing what I got, how I got it, and my first impressions, but this post was meant to detail my impressions after more prolonged use.

I guess 2 years could be classed as 'prolonged' but, typically, I still haven't actually used it all that much. This isn't because I've gone off it though. The main culprit is that one that causes me to miss so many other things, gaming-related or otherwise - time, or lack thereof. Another of the culprits for missing stuff - money - is also to blame for the ultra-lateness of this post as well though. I have amassed a reasonable collection of PS4 games as far as title-count is concerned, but most of them have been physical copies of indie games I like. I was planning on buying a 'Triple A' big budget studio game as well, to give myself a more well-rounded PS4 experience. The game I opted for was the apparently-excellent Horizon Zero Dawn but I just... haven't gotten around to buying it yet.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Single Screen Platform Games #17

Lode Runner (1984)
By: Broderbund / Irem Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: NES, Game Boy, SG-1000, PC Engine, PC, Apple Mac, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, Vic 20, Amstrad CPC, MSX, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Pravetz 82/82M
Download For: Wii Vitual Console, Xbox Lives Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android, iOS

I've been reviewing games here for a long time now, and a good few of them have been platform games as they're one of my favourite genres, perhaps my very favourite, but I don't think I've ever come across a game that was ported to more systems than this one. Just look at that list - I haven't even heard of one of them! Despite this, however, I never really encountered it in its day (I was still largely-dependent on my parents for new games back then, or even magazines to let me know about the games), but I still keep hearing its name after all this time so I figured it was finally time to give it a proper once-over. I had assumed the arcade version would've been the first, as it usually is, so I got stuck in to that version only to find out the game actually debuted on several American home micros first. Oops! Oh well, too late now!

Friday, 21 August 2020

PS4 Purchases #9

Redout by 34BigThings (2016)

Racing games have long been one of my favourite genres, particularly ones of the futuristic type since I discovered F-Zero, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones. I only heard about Redout a couple of years ago and it had been on my Steam wishlist ever since. But then I happened to see it for a bargain price (£15, I think) on Amazon for the PS4, and a physical copy of the 'Lightspeed Edition' no less, which I assumed meant it included DLC or some other modern-gaming mumbo jumbo, but it doesn't look like it does. Oh well, suffice to say, I needed little persuading to buy it anyway and was excited to try it out. Sadly, I was quickly disappointed. The graphics, presentation, music, and game modes/options are all excellent but... it's just so damn hard! I'm usually pretty good at games like this but I haven't even finished anywhere but last yet (and some way back too). I'll give it some more time and post about it again here later but... geez, I hadn't expected this type of issue.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Film Round-Up #28

Amy Adams is considered by many one of the highest-profile actresses working today but when I actually stopped to think about it, as great as she is, I couldn't really think of too many big-name films of hers. I supposed therefore she also made her name with various smaller roles in lesser-known films, so I decided to use this as an excuse to gaze upon her loveliness while investigating. Here are the titles I went for:

Standing Still (2005)

Probably one of Ms. Adams' lesser known films is this rom-com in which she heads an ensemble cast also including Adam Garcia, her soon-to-be husband, Lauren German, her lesbian (and secret) ex-lover, as well as Aaron Stanford, Melissa Sagemiller, Jon Abrahams, Mena Suvari, James Van Der Beek, and Colin Hanks as various friends of the couple. The film follows the ladies and gents' respective parties the night before the wedding, and then the big day itself. There is of course the odd bit of strife here in there in the shape of an amorous ex-lover, a secret pregnancy, an unwelcome guest, and various other things to keep things interesting. Films like this, though, succeed or fail on the strength of their characters, and not many of the ones here are too appealing, unfortunately. They have their moments, sure, but few of their woes have the making of an emotionally-engaging film, and the laughs are few and far between too. Amy Adams is solid (if unspectacular) though... 5/10

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Steam / GOG Downloads #7

Retrowave (2020)
By: RewindApp Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Many of us retro gamers have been accused of living in the past. This may or may not be true, but if it is, it might not just be the games of the past in which we seek refuge but perhaps other things too, such as music. As we already know, the music of the 80's was/is awesome but it was only a few years ago that I discovered the wonder that is synthwave - music made in recent times but in the style of 80's synth and electro music. It truly is the greatest thing ever, I listen to it all the time, and it is becoming more and more popular. Synthwave songs have already appeared in some mainstream films (the splendid 2011 release, Drive, being a good example) and the gaming world seems like an even more suitable home. One example that recently caught my eye was Retrowave and I was keen to give it a try.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Awesome Nature #22

Double-Collared Sunbird
Type: Bird  Lives In: South Africa  Conservation Status: Least Concern

Remarkably, there are 56 species of these colourful flappers, but the one pictured is known as the southern double-collared sunbird. It lives almost exclusively in South Africa (a small number can also be found in Swaziland) and mainly eats nectar such as that found in these lovely rocket pincushion flowers which are nearly as eye-catching as the birds themselves! I guess there's nothing particularly special about them though - they are common throughout most of their range and can be found in scrubland, forests, and even gardens in residential areas. In fact, I'm probably only posting about them here in order to share/preserve this wonderful picture I found, but that certainly shouldn't detract from their splendour. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that these dazzling fellows (it's just the males with the colour) hang out, I'm sure your days are brighter than those of the rest of us!

Why It Is Awesome: Colourful garden friend!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Game News - Most Expensive Game Ever!

As any of us who try to collect retro games these days must already know very well, prices have been steadily increasing for years to the point where now it's just not realistic to covet certain titles, with more joining that number daily. I always wanted to collect all the decent PC Engine games, for example (or at least the ones that can be played by non-Japanese-speakers), but many of those now go for three-figures. Bah! Things are obviously much worse for anyone that collects factory-sealed games too, as this news that found its way to me today proves.

Indeed, for during a public auction of vintage comics and original comic art held by Heritage Auctions in Texas on July 10th, a copy of the original Super Mario Bros for the American NES went under the hammer. This was not, however, a normal version of what is, let's face it, one of the most common games in the world. This copy was in fact complete with its original factory seal and hangtab - something which made it the highest graded (9.4) copy ever sold and which also, unsurprisingly, increased its value significantly. The result was a final sale price of..... $114,000!! This eye-watering figure quite comfortably makes it the most expensive video game ever sold at public auction!

Quite what the buyer (who wishes to remain anonymous) plans to do with the game is therefore anybody's guess but I suppose its most likely fate is to sit on a shelf or in a drawer (or safe!) gathering dust, but let's hope it at least has an interesting view. I suppose this huge price shouldn't be all that surprising though - as they get older it's inevitable that some copies of games will earn higher and higher prices, so we can probably expect this new record to be broken again in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Must Learn Japanese #2

Zig Zag Cat (1994)
By: Suntory / Den'Z Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

While it's true there's only so much you can do with the bat 'n' ball (or 'brickbreaker' if you prefer) genre, there have certainly been some interesting attempts to breathe a bit of life and originality into them over these long years. This one is a rather obscure example, to Western gamers at least, not least because was it a Super Famicom exclusive, but it was also a late release meaning many players, even in Japan, may have missed it. It's also one of those really weird games that probably wouldn't have received an overseas release anyway! Lord only knows what the backstory is about (for there is indeed one) but you play as a young boy who has a pet cat - a cat that apparently has shape-shifting abilities! As most of us would probably do if we found ourselves with the companionship of a shape-shifting pet, this boy makes use of his unique cat (who we'll call Rex and Freep respectively for the purposes of this review) by having him turn into a ball who he then hits with his green bat into an apparently-invading octopuses horde. Obviously.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Indie Games News/Previews #15

Battle Axe by Henk Nieborg (2021) - PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

A lot of indie games originate from Kickstarter these days, and while many of them look fantastic and have ended up in my collection, I've never actually pledged to one before - until now! I first saw Battle Axe when someone was spamming it on Facebook. I was initially drawn in by the art style but it didn't take long for other aspects of the game to look appealing to me as well. It struck me as looking like a cross between Golden Axe and Gauntlet, for example, and since they are two of my favourite games, you can probably imagine my enthusiasm! The action is set, appropriately enough, in a mystical land too. This one is known as Mercia (presumably not the one in the UK's Midlands) which has grown dark since an evil sorceress called Etheldred came to subject all inhabitants to her dominion.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

TV Show First Look #5

Sally4Ever (2018)

I was recently pootling around on the Rotten Tomatoes site and saw a list they had made of the best HBO shows. Despite being a British show, it was the first time I'd even heard of Sally4Ever, but I have generally liked the HBO shows I've seen before so that was enough for me to try it out. It's the brainchild of Julia Davis, apparently a well-known and regarded comedian here in the UK, and features Sally (Catherine Shepherd) who has lived a dull suburban life for ten years with her nebbish boyfriend David (Alex Macqueen). Clearly bored and unhappy in life, she finds herself drawn into a relationship with Emma (Davis), a charismatic women she first meets on the train. Before long they are living together, with David having been given the boot, and Emma is running riot over pretty much all aspects of Sally's life.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Overrated! #8

Destruction Derby (1995)
By: Reflections / Psygnosis Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 (via link-up) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation First Day Score: 108
Also Available For: Saturn, PC

Unlike the poor old Saturn, the PS1 had a good few decent titles available at launch, including some that did a great job of showing off what the system could do. One of the more popular was Destruction Derby, a vehicular combat game developed right here in spiffing Blighty! Sadly, this was not enough to win my favour, and it wasn't even to do with my strong Sega allegiance as the Saturn got a version too! Indeed, as boring as it might be, I didn't like the game at the time, simply because I didn't enjoy playing it much. I was clearly in the minority though, for it was enthusiastically received by gamers of the time, many of them eager to impress all-comers with their fancy new consoles, and the series is fondly remembered today as well, so I thought it was high time I went back for another, perhaps less scornful look.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Top Five PC Engine Racing Games

Although it certainly didn't start as such, this has almost turned into one of the old 'comedy' Top Fives I used to do. The main reason for this was down to how difficult it turned out to be to even find five half-decent racing games for this usually-excellent system. I know the mighty PC Engine is hardly known for this genre - its legendary status is more to do with its outstanding shmups and platformers - but I still didn't think I've have as much trouble as I did. So, I guess you should probably instead consider this the Top Five Least Crap PC Engine Racing Games instead!

Special Note: This list does not include overheard/top-down racing games as they are different enough and numerous enough to have their own list.

5. Power Drift (1990)

If I'm honest, I've never been the biggest fan of Power Drift, at least compared to other Super Scaler games, and porting it to the Engine was ambitious, but it's actually not too bad. It does deviate from the arcade version a little in that it basically gives you a championship mode in place of the arcade mode, meaning you have to work your way through the courses rather than just choose any you like. It works quite well though, and it's technically quite impressive, all things considered. It does suffer from the same faults as the arcade version (or what I always perceived to be faults anyway) - namely, the undulating log sections of track often making it hard to see where you're going, and the large cars making it hard to overtake (or be overtaken). But that does at least mean it's a good conversion I guess, and it's pretty good fun to play now and then too. The graphics are probably about as good as you could expect too, although the music isn't so great, but this could easily have been a lot worse, as some of the other versions were.

Friday, 26 June 2020

New Arrival - C64 Mini!

Okay, this one isn't really an ultra-new arrival. In fact, if any evidence was needed of my apparently-unavoidable procrastinistic (is that a word?) tendencies, it's that this 'new' arrival was received from my lovely wife as a birthday gift - eleven months ago! Fear not, I have used it quite a bit; it's just the posting about it here part that I'm somewhat behind on, but better late than never?!

She actually bought if for me due to a mix-up. She thought she had heard me talking about the C64 a lot and bought if for me based on that. All I can think of is that she heard me talking about the N64 (she wouldn't know the difference), but whatever the reason, I am actually glad she made the mistake because, even if there was an N64 Mini, I've played most of the top games on that console extensively, whereas my Speccy allegiance in the 80's means I've played very few of the C64's most renowned titles. I had of course originally intended to rectify that issue here, but while I have played some well-known as well as some less-well-known games on Commodore's brown breadbin since then, I have not really done so to anywhere near the extent I had intended. Perhaps this mighty gift will be the catalyst?

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Film Review #115

Becky (2020)
Director: Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion Starring: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 100 Minutes

Tagline: "There once was a little girl..."

New film releases have been somewhat thin on the ground this year for obvious reasons, so you would think any that do somehow make it out would be heralded far and wide. However, this one came out a few weeks ago (according to Wikipedia at least) and I haven't heard a single peep about it! Oh well, luckily I happened upon it anyway, and I quickly found a premise that appealed to me. It stars Joel McHale and Lulu Wilson as Jeff and Becky, a father and daughter attempting to reconnect after the death about one year earlier of their wife/mother, although this desire seems to be more Jeff's than Becky's who is upset, angry and still grieving. Jeff takes Becky to the family's lakeside cabin where he has also invited Kayla (Brugel), his new girlfriend, and her young son, for he has apparently decided a good way to reconnect with his daughter and help her get over her mother's death is to tell her he's planning to marry Kayla. This goes down about as well as you might expect and Becky legs it into the woodland surrounding the cabin.

Monday, 8 June 2020

First Look Arcade #2

Gee Bee by Namco (1978) - Arcade

My hunt for so-called 'brick-breaker' games has revealed many examples to me. I've not even heard of some, like this one which was released way back in 1978 - only two years after the progenitor itself, Breakout. Sadly for me, it's an arcade exclusive (not that there would've been much to convert it to anyway), and like many such games it uses a paddle to move the bat so I can't play/review it properly, but it seems pretty innovative for its day. It looks and plays a little more like a pinball game than a Breakout clone too. There are bumpers, channels at the side for the ball to fall down, a twirly thing and lights to turn on, etc, but there are also numerous bricks and not one but two paddles (one at the bottom of the screen, the other about halfway up), and the object at least appears to be to take out all the bricks. It's hard to say for sure as, 1) it's extremely hard to play the game with a control pad (even one with an analogue stick), and 2) the bricks seem to replenish themselves every now and then. It must be bloody hard though, even with the correct controller, as the ball gets really fast quite quickly, but it's definitely an interesting title, especially considering its age.

RKS Score: 3/5

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.