The Collectors Corner: New Famicom Carts

Famicom carts

I received in the mail a bunch of Famicom carts. They were all enjoyable except for Toy Story which didn’t work although I knew it would not work anyways. The one that was the most playable was King Kong 2. That game is crazy! You use King Kong to destroy everything in your path. Your goal is to destroy everything because of your rage and find King Kong’s girlfriend? Yeah the intro shows a lady Kong being trapped somewhere. It’s a very cliche story but what matters is the gameplay.

The kitten also agrees that King Kong rocks! Oh yeah Ghostbusters sucks!

Games coming out in March 2011 for Consoles

Crysis 2 wallpaper

It is March Madness and I am not just talking the NCAA. There are a number of good games coming out this March so I hope you have paid off all of your x-mas debt because it is time to open that wallet or purse.

Dragon Age II – Mar 8th


BioWare is back for the next full chapter in the Dragon Age series. This RPG will feature updated graphics and gameplay and a continuing storyline.

Major League Baseball 2K11 – Mar 8th


I got some feedback for not mentioning sports games so here It is. We know 2K sports does it well and even if you are an EA fan you know 2K will make a good game and it looks as if MLB 2K11 will live up to the legacy.

Homefront – Mar 15th


PS3 fans rejoice because now you have a chance to play this story-driven first-person shooter set in the year 2027.

Top Spin 4 – Mar 15th


I was always a fan of the Top Spin tennis series and it is good to see it back for the next gen consoles. You can select over 25 pros and play in a ton of stadiums around the world and even create your own tennis star. Another hit from 2K Sports.

Crysis 2 – Mar 22nd


Remember the benchmarking game called Crysis? Okay, it was not a benchmarking game, but it did make a ton of people upgrade their computers. For us console owners this first-person shooter returns powered by the CryEngine 3 and looks as incredible as ever.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars – March 22nd


You have to give it up to the Lego series, even if you were not a fan of the Indian Jones and Batman Lego games the Star Wars series has always been fun to play. This time we enter the clone wars with overhauled visuals and new gameplay including cooperative action.

Shift 2 Unleashed: Need for Speed – Mar 29th


The unleashed series combines what we love the most about racing, fast cars and crashes. It is this mix of racing and violence that made Burnout fun and looks like it works for the Need for Speed series as well.

 

 

WWE All Stars – Mar 29th


One large complaint from the Smackdown versus Raw series was the fact that you could not play many of the classic stars from the WWE’s past. With WWE All Star the entire game is dedicated to the legends of the wrestling world and you can pit them against todays superstars.

Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday – Mar 29th


Yes, this is a PSP game and yes it takes the Parasite Eve series and makes it more like a shooter than an RPG, but there are some redeeming elements including story that makes this game worth the buy if you already own a PSP.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Mar 29th


The Witcher 2 is a direct sequel to developer CD Projekt’s mature-themed fantasy role-playing game based on the works of author Andrzej Sap.

Back in Debt

There you have it, our list of worthwhile games to check out and perhaps buy. We will be back next month with a brand new list and trailers on games to buy, obsolete gamer style.

 

Top Five SNES Shoot em ups

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!

If I review any SNES shmups in my upcoming features that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

Macross Scrambled Valkyrie - gameplay screenshot

5. Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie (1993)

I didn’t discover this one until fairly recently as it was only released in Japan but I was certainly glad I did find it! It’s based on an older anime and as such you can choose between three characters, each of whom has their own variation of the ‘Valkyrie’ fighter with unique weapons, all of which can be upgraded. The ships have an energy meter rather than lives and they can also switch between three different forms at will too, each of which is more useful in certain situations than others, as you might expect. There’s a good few other nice features here too (including enemies with tractor beams – grrr!) and that, combined with the superb graphics and decent soundtrack, makes this a pretty damn fine shmup. It would be higher on the list if only it wasn’t so bloody difficult though!

Pop n Twin Bee - Gameplay Screenshot

4. Pop’n’ TwinBee (1993)

There had to be a ‘cute em up’ on the list somewhere and this is surely the finest on the SNES! Indeed, although there had already been numerous games in the TwinBee series, this was the first one to be deemed worthy of a release outside of Japan. It’s the easiest game in this list by far too, which makes it a nice break for one thing, and it’s certainly a rather unique game too. Either one or two players can play at once piloting the strange creatures, TwinBee and WinBee, through the unusual stages filled with both airborne and ground-based enemies including all sorts of oddities. It’s probably not the most technically proficient game here but the backgrounds and sprites are beautifully drawn making it the nicest to look at anyway, in my opinion, and the music is fantastic too. This definitely won’t be your thing if you dislike cute games but for everyone else it’s a superbly entertaining and original game.

R-Type 3 - Gameplay Screenshot

3. R-Type 3 (1994)

Despite its name, this is actually the sixth game in the great R-Type series and for many people the best. It would be nearly impossible for it to have anywhere near the impact of the first title but it adds a lot to the existing games. Not least is the ability to choose from three different Forces, each with its own weapons, and it must also surely rank as the finest shmup on the SNES, graphically. It features none of the slowdown that blighted the otherwise awesome Super R-Type but adds bigger sprites, some fantastic backgrounds, and superb bosses. The levels, too, are pretty creative with not only the usual kinds of enemies but also all manner of moving scenery which actually causes more problems than the enemies do. Indeed, this is a notoriously tough game and one that I’ve never managed to finish but I’ve sure enjoyed trying!

Axelay - Gameplay Screenshot

2. Axelay (1992)

Konami unleashed this amazing game pretty much out of the blue and it took SNES owners by storm, myself included! There could be many reasons for this including the graphics which are at worst good, and at best jaw-dropping, or the fantastic soundtrack, but it must surely be the innovative and varied stage design that clinched it – there’s a few new ideas here which work really well. For starters the game alternates between vertically and horizontally-scrolling stages. The former makes use of a pseudo-3D viewpoint combined with Mode 7 graphics to create an amazing scrolling landscape effect and the latter is packed full of moving scenery, barriers, and lots of crafty enemies that try to halt your advance in any way possible! Axelay hasn’t aged at all and remains a superb and varied shmup that still commands a strong following today. Just one question… Why no sequel?

Super Aleste - Gameplay Screenshot

1. Super Aleste (1992)

Some may disagree with me but I still think this is one of the best vertical-scrollers of all time, and certainly the best shmup for the SNES generally, and the reason for this is simple – there’s pretty much nothing about it that isn’t awesome! The graphics may not be quite as flashy as some other shmups but they’re still superb, detailed, and varied. The second stage in particular is noteworthy, featuring a distant enemy base that gradually gets closer and closer (using some splendid Mode 7, of course), all the while firing missiles at you from afar, until if finally gets close enough for you to shoot up! The sound is also fantastic too, with some great music, speech, and some very bassy explosions. There’s also eight varied and customisable weapons which can all be powered-up, twelve long, well-designed stages, but best of all it has the most perfectly-pitched difficulty curve of any shmup I’ve played. A truly awesome shooter.

Retro Cheat page: S.W.A.T.

Swat cheat sheet- cheat codes
Here we have even more cheats for your enjoyment. We have lots of Nintendo cheats this time around with a little bit of everything as usual. My S.W.A.T. merchandise is running low so I’ll have something new coming up in the coming weeks. Take care! 

Street Fighter 2 Turbo

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Street Fighter 2 Turbo

One of the most influential fighters for any fighter game in particular is none other than Street Fighter 2 and what could make it a better experience? Turbo! The game went to the next level as the savvy creators (Capcom) decided it would be a good idea to let you play as the boss fighters(Bison, Vega, Sagat, and Barlog). As many of you know, the original Street Fighter 2 for the SNES came with some bugs that were later fixed in this version which is why I picked it rather than the original one. You not only get more playable fighters but you also get the turbo setting which increases the speed of the game. I do have to agree that the original Street Fighter 2 was kinda of slow but that’s for today’s standards. Back in the day, it used to kick ass and we just couldn’t wait for our fighter to land that flying kick that would take like an hour to land. It was just awesome…..

Street fighter 2 turbo - hyper-fighting - Title Screen

Part of the game is also to pick your fighter. I have and will always pick Ryu as the fighter of choice for myself. I like him mostly because he is the easiest fighter to play with and has very interesting and effective moves. Of course, all fighters have their strengths and weaknesses to keep the game balanced. I used to know a couple of freaks that loved playing as Dhalsim and kicked my ass with that Indian fighter. Like I said, it’s only a matter of finding which fighter suits you best and most of all, learn their strengths and weaknesses.

Street fighter 2 turbo - hyper-fighting - Gameplay Screenshot

Yeah this game is full of interesting features such as the ending with all the fighters posing which you can only get if you don’t take damage through the whole game and you have to beat it with the highest difficulty, yeah it’s not much. Even if you are a Sega fan, the Genesis version is also a good choice. It all depends on which one you like and feel more comfortable with.

Street fighter 2 turbo - hyper-fighting - SNES Box

Well there is not much to say that many people have mentioned before. If you get a chance you can check out the arcade machines if there are still any left or better yet, buy yourself a 3DO console with the Street Fighter game but that will cost too much. The 3DO version is also the closest to the arcade and almost perfect. That should do it for this week.

Top Five Spectrum Compilations

Spectrum Compilations

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s and had a classic 8-bit micro would have worshipped the game compilations that appeared regularly throughout the latter half of that decade, and with good reason – a single new game would cost us upwards of £8, so who could say no to a collection of five, sometimes even more, games for a pound or two more? Whoever thought them up was a hero to all of us Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64 owners! I was a proud Spectrum owner and of all the years I enjoyed gaming on it, a large percentage of this time was spent with compilations and the treasures contained therein. Here are my favourites:

Spectrum Compilations - The In Crowd 2

5. The In Crowd (1989)

I remember for many years my favourite Spectrum mags were going on and on about this one but it was one of the few ‘big name’ compilations I didn’t own. It wasn’t until the 8-bit era was coming to an end that I finally managed to get hold of a copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, it has some decent games that’s for sure: Karnov, Gryzor, Barbarian, Crazy Cars, Predator, Combat School, Platoon, and Target Renegade. While it’s true there’s not many classics on here, this compilation still proved amazing value for money by sheer weight of numbers!

Spectrum Compilations - Arcade Muscle

4. Arcade Muscle (1989)

This is another one I got quite late on, but given my love of arcade games and conversions of them, it was inevitable it would make an appearance here! There’s a bit of everything too. Platform fans get the rock-hard Bionic Commando to vex them, car (and shooting) fans get the never-ending Road Blasters, shmup fans get one offering of each type with the fantastic Side Arms and 1943, and lastly fighting fans are also catered for by the original (and oft-forgotten) Street Fighter! Quite amusing to see after playing the later games in the series, but it’s a decent enough Speccy brawler all the same. A nice variety of highly playable games from US Gold.

Spectrum Compilations - Giants

3. Giants (1988)

Say what you want about the OutRun conversions, but I still enjoyed the Speccy effort included here, monochrome graphics and all! The only game here I didn’t play much was 720 and that’s just because I didn’t really ‘get’ it. California Games is here and as much fun as ever (I particularly enjoyed the BMX event on this version) and Gauntlet 2 and Rolling Thunder are both fantastic games, and great conversions too. The latter is rather hard but very playable, and Gauntlet 2 is… more of the same old Gauntlet action really, but who’s complaining?

Spectrum Compilations - Magnificent 7

2. Magnificent Seven (1988)
A bit of a stupid name considering it had eight games on it (although one them was ‘free’ to enable Ocean to still use the catchy moniker). I had this one for near enough the entire time I had a Speccy. I remember my sister and I having great fun trying to work out what to do in Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s minigames thanks to this one, and it also led to my lasting affection for Arkanoid and Head Over Heels. The other games weren’t bad either – The Great Escape, Yie ArKung Fu, Wizball, Cobra (by the late, great Jonathan ‘Joffa’ Smith – RIP), and the slightly wiffy Short Circuit. Cracking compilation and nice variety too!

Spectrum Compilations - Taito Coin-On Hits 2

1. Taito Coin-Op Hits (1989)

Yeah, good old Taito! A compilation featuring eight games is good enough, but eight Taito games? They have long been one of my favourite games developers and this is one big reason why (or eight). I was already a big Arkanoid fan by the time I got this, so to find Arkanoid 2 included alongside the first game here was great news, and there’s some equally great news if you’re a vertical scrolling shmup fan with the amusingly-named Slapfight as well as the blinding Flying Shark included, both receiving great conversions, particularly the latter. Fans of close-quarters combat are accounted for with Rastan, Renegade, and Legend of Kage providing many hours of violence. Lastly, we have the immortal Bubble Bobble. The only thing that could’ve made this collection even better is the inclusion of The New Zealand Story! Taito Coin-Op Hits is, in my opinion, the Spectrum compilation with the consistently highest quality of games on it. I’d certainly be impressed if there’s any better!

Puzzle Bobble

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Title Screen

Puzzle Bobble (a.k.a. Bust-A-Move) (1994)
By: Taito Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 190,900
Also Available For: PlayStation, 3DO, SNK Neo Geo, Neo Geo Pocket, SNES, GameBoy, GameBoy Color, Sega Game Gear, PC, Bandai WonderSwan… also featured on various compilations and download services

I think it’s safe to say that Bubble Bobble has stood the test of time well and is rightly regarded as an all-time classic. It’s also safe to say that it has perhaps remained Taito’s most popular series. There have been numerous conversions of the games to home systems, particularly Bubble Bobble itself, and some of these conversions have appeared on newer systems in just the last few years. There have also been a number of ‘updates’ or ‘remixes’ of these famous games such as the Evolution/Revolution games on the PSP and DS. It’s odd though, that there had been no all-new, original games from Taito starring their most beloved of characters until Puzzle Bobble appeared. In spite of the fact that the second and third games in the original platform-based series (Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars) feature Bub and Bob as their real human selves, is it their appearance as dragons in the original that most gamers most fondly remember. It is fitting then, that the latest game to feature Bob and Bob returns them to that popular guise.

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 1

As you’ve probably guessed from its title, Puzzle Bobble is a puzzle game. It draws its influence from Columns and its ilk but it’s far more that a mere clone of Sega’s classic colour matching game. It is played on a single screen which, when play begins, is occupied by many bubbles of differing colours. They hang from the top of the screen and descend in various patterns depending on the stage. At the bottom of the screen is Bub (the green dinosaur). He is in control of a bubble-firing contraption of some sort which is located in a fixed position at the bottom of each stage alongside Bub and can be rotated left and right in a circular motion through 180 degrees. The object of the game, you see, is to clear the screen of bubbles.

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 2

This is where the main Columns influence comes into play. You are given mere seconds to fire each bubble from your bubble-firing device (otherwise it’ll fire automatically) and their colours are random, though you do get the advantage of a ‘next’ indicator. Each time you fire a bubble into two or more of the same colour, they’ll pop. If you manage to pop some bubbles that have others of different colours hanging from them, the stray bubbles will fall off the screen (they need something to hold onto, after all). This is called ‘dropping’ bubbles. The more bubbles you can ‘drop’ in one go, the higher your score will be. All the while that this is going on, the ceiling of the level is gradually descending too, which obviously pushes the bubbles closer and closer to the bottom of the screen (which can induce a Space Invaders style panic!). If any bubble(s) fall below the level of your bubble launcher (this limit is called the ‘deadline’) then it’ll be game over.

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 3

In the ultra-popular two-player mode, the screen in divided vertically down the middle. Bub occupies the left-hand screen and Bob occupies the right, and both players have control of their own bubble-firing devices. Each time you clear a reasonable quantity of bubbles in one go, your opponent’s playfield will be liberally sprinkled with random bubbles. The more you clear, the more they will receive! If a player clears all of his or her bubbles first they are the winner. If a player’s bubbles dip below the ‘deadline’ first they are the loser. Pretty standard stuff really, but who cares when it’s so much fun! And let’s face it –  it’s the two-player mode that most gamers will play almost exclusively anyway!

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 4

The one-player mode is pretty easy, comprising of 30 rounds, but it’s still great fun and relaxing to play. It initially appears to be one of those games that any old monkey could be good at, but it does have its testing moments with some screens crammed full of bubbles in no discernible pattern! Some others, however, can be cleared with a single well-aimed shot, and bouncing the bubbles off the side walls of the stage is an extremely useful art to learn. The first stage you play of each new credit will see your bubble launcher equipped with what basically amounts to a laser-sight, which shows the trajectory the bubble will take. This is particularly useful for rebounding shots and is a good training feature. Puzzle Bobble can get rather repetitive for one player though, but it’s also pretty damn addictive too.

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 5

Being a single-screen puzzle game, I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that Puzzle Bobble is hardly a jaw-dropper, graphically speaking. As I often say, however, it doesn’t need to be either. Bub and Bob remain as charming as ever and the screen is usually very colourful thanks to the many bubbles that fill it. When they pop, they explode in twinkly flashes of colour and some of them even contain enemies from the original Bubble Bobble! The background and playfield-surrounding areas change in appearance every three levels and are mostly different coloured patterns. The background on rounds twenty-five to twenty-seven is different though – it features several star constellations and scrolls vertically, increasing in speed the longer you play for! Sound-wise, the game is pretty much as you would expect from Taito. There’s not many tunes but those that are here are typically catchy, happy tunes, and the sound effects are great.

Puzzle Bobble - Bust A Move - Gameplay Screenshot 6

One thing Puzzle Bobble is renowned for is having been converted to nearly every home system to ever exist in one guise or another. It’s certainly simple enough to be played on nearly anything (even a mobile phone) and yet remains supremely playable in nearly every instance! You’ll probably get bored of the one-player mode pretty quickly (although it is still addictive) but when you’ve got a friend around, you could do a lot worse than give this a go! Its sequels made a few improvements but the core gameplay has remained unchanged since this original. There’s good reason for this, however – its quick, simple fun, end of story.


RKS Score: 7/10

FC Genjin

Genjin - Famicom - Title Screen

Well another week and another edition of retro game of the week. This time around I’m basing it off a game for the Famicom/NES that I just got in the mail not long ago. FC Genjin(Bonk’s Adventure) for the Famicom is surely one not to miss. The game is your typical platformer that’s unique in many ways. In this game, you take control of umm Bonk which is a big headed cave boy!

 

Genjin - Famicom - Gameplay Screenshot

Anyways, here we go with the game! The game like I said is your usual platfomer. Probably the best part is when you find a piece of meat and eat it! Then Bonk goes crazy! Kinda of like the star power in Super Mario Bros. Afterward, Bonk stays in a tan color which gives him more powers. You can you Bonk’s head to create an earthquake and destroy all the monsters that are currently in the screen. Your powers will be gone in no time so you have to use them to your advantage. The game plays a lot like say Joe and Mac for the same console. So I’m hoping this is enough to make you guys pick it up unique title. I’m sure that the TG-16 fans will agree the superiority of the Bonk games for that console. Since I haven’t played them, I can’t make a comparison. Hopefully, one day I will be able to pick those games up(even though I had the chance at a flea market and let it go….). Until next time!

Genjin - Famicom

 

Also credit for the photos goes to good old Nintendo Dork(Tyler) har har har

 

Could Blizzard’s Next MMO Titan really be a Halo MMO?

Let me preface this article with a warning.  Everything I am about to post could be considered rumor or coincidence but that doesn’t mean it is not true.  Ever since Blizzard’s Product Slate was leaked and showed the name “Titan” with an anticipated release in Q4 of 2013, people have been speculating about this new game.  We already know that Blizzard is officially working on a new “secret MMO” project.

Blizzard Game List

First, let me give you some insider information that I received over a year ago from someone inside the gaming industry.  This person does not work for Blizzard but does have a career position at a major gaming company.  This person told me three things that he knew about the game that he learned from friends inside Blizzard.

1.  It will be an FPS based MMO (at minimum in part).

2.  It will most likely be set in space.

3.  The design has a “cyber-punkish” feel.

First, I know what you are thinking.  WTF is “cyber-punkish?”  I know, I thought the same thing and honestly it could mean an infinite number of things.  However, this information could be useful in the conspiracy theory which I will explain below.  Let me also point out that this information is definitely second hand to me so take the above with a grain of salt.

The Conspiracy!  Is Blizzard’s new MMO ‘Titan’ really Halo MMO?

 

Ok, let me go through the slew of coincidences that we have.

1.  The original Halo MMO that was being designed by Ensemble Studios was code named ‘Titan.’  Also, Ghostcrawler (Blizzard Game Developer) happened to be a former employee of said company.  Blizzard’s secret MMO is titled ‘Titan.’  Coincidence? Maybe.

2.  In February 2007, an episode of 30 Rock entitled Hardball aired and in the credits it said, “Promotional Consideration Furnished by Blizzard Entertainment.”  What makes this interesting is that no Blizzard products were featured.  No Warcraft.  No Starcraft.  No Diablo.  No World of Warcraft.  However, Halo was featured in the show!  So Blizzard was advertising for Halo in 2007?  This was right before word got out that Blizzard was working on a brand new MMO and they started hiring “Science-Fiction Texture Artists.”  Coincidence? Maybe.

3.  As we know Bungie and Activision (now Activision-Blizzard) are in a 10 year partnership and some terms of the agreement were not disclosed.  Coincidence? Maybe.

4.  Jeff Kaplan, a Blizzard employee was quoted as saying “All of those combined” to the following question in an MTV Multiplayer Interview:  Will the next Blizzard MMO be “sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, or historical?”  Now, all of the above would definitely apply to Halo.  Coincidence? Maybe

 

Taken one at a time, these are just mere coincidences.  However, combine them all and you have a legitimate conspiracy on your hands!  So?  Are all of these mere coincidences? Is Blizzard planting these seeds to troll everyone?  Or maybe, just maybe, the secret is out and Blizzard’s new MMO is a Halo MMO!  All I know is, what my insider friend told me matches all the conspiracies listed and goes hand in hand with a potential Halo MMO.  For now, only those in Activision-Blizzard (and maybe Bungie) know the truth, but we are free to speculate.

Titan Halo

I want to give credit to GBTV and CrossEyedGamer for their investigative reporting which I made use of in this article.  Keep up the good work guys.

The Pirates Cove: Famicom Carts

Here they are my latest Famicom finds and they are all pirate carts!! Oh yes these are all pirate carts for some pretty fun games:

Famicom Pirate Cartridges 1

That game you see with the airplanes is actually Tetris. I don’t know why there are airplanes all over the cart but I guess they were trying to make it look cool. There is also Adventure Island, Sky Kid, and some Namcot baseball game.

Famicom Pirate Cartridges 2

Then finally the top games of this find. Behold are Contra, Super Mario Bros, Yu Yu Hakusho + Dragon Ball Z, and some strategy game. These are actually the carts that cost me that most. The Yu Yu Hakusho is pretty unique which lets you play the whole dark tournament saga and maybe even more since I haven’t gotten that far yet. You can also pick which fighter you’ll fight with and they also have their own unique powers!!
Famicom Pirate Cartridges 3

Well that’s about it. Lots of good stuff here and there. There will be more new things in the future so stay tuned.

Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday Trailer

Parasite Eve The Third Birthday

In this latest trailer from Sqaure Enix we begin with Aye laying just outside of a church bloodied wearing a wedding dress. We then dive into gameplay footage once again showing that this game is more run and gun, action oriented than the previous PE’s that were more action RPG related. Switching back to CG the trailer shows that Aye has to remember how it all started. Perhaps we will learn more about the backstory of PE. Keep in mind the Parasite Eve series began as a follow-up to a novel.

So for those who spent the cash on a PSP and are fans of the Parasite Eve series this game could still be worth the purchase.

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatchIf you are like me then you probably do not have the latest gaming PC out there. Even if you built a new machine it will probably have at least one obsolete part easily within a month or two. Because of this dilemma I have created the following gaming PC benchmarking criteria, which has some modern games and game engines as well as some older ones which still scale well.

A problem a benchmarker will face, especially when comparing an older machine with a newer one is that sometimes the older machine will not be able to run whatever game or benchmark as opposed to the new machine. Not necessarily saying the whole program won’t run but saying that it won’t run at the exact settings that the program runs on the faster, newer machine. Some settings will simply never run because the GPU will never ever have the ability to render those settings as it’s limited at a hardware level.

The specifications for my main gaming PC which is now old are:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

My concern was to create a benchmarking guide that a normal person that is not running the latest hardware AND does not have an unlimited budget can use to test their system against ours and all the upcoming gaming PCs and parts we plan to review. How to do that? It’s rather simple. I sat there and hunted down many free games and demos that are currently available on the internet for download.

These benchmarks are run at a reasonable resolution that will yield great graphics while getting high frame-rates which a real gamer will use in a real world without risking to suffer lag in a (ranked) game.

As far as my picks go, I could have picked to run other games and just have FRAPS show my the framerates but FRAPS uses the hard drive a lot, especially to record and that would quickly become a bottleneck.

I will discuss why I picked those programs to benchmark now rather than some others which might be more popular. The list is the following:

The RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test has the following settings:

Demo: 1/5 Global Illumination Compare
Resolution: 1280×1024
Shadows: On
Reflections: On
Anti Alias: On
Depth of Field: On
Volume Lights: On
Radiosity: On

Download it from: http://www.realstorm.de/

This is the default benchmark option for this old benchmarking tool that is now discontinued but it will destroy the living shit out of any system out there. This benchmark uses straight-up RAW CPU processing power. It does NOT have multi-core support and it will simulate the max speed a single core will deliver in a system. Not every program has multi-core support and it’s still extremely important to have each core be as fast as possible. To a limited degree this benchmark does test the RAM as well but it’s mainly for the CPU. It stressed the living shit out of the system by making the CPU render everything, ignoring the GPU.

On my system, under the settings I listed above my computer yielded 2569 raymarks (the raw score used only by this benchmark), as well as 2.61 fps (frames per second) average, a minimum score of 1.7 fps, and a maximum score of 9.27 fps. Yes, that’s really really low but go ahead and run the benchmark on your own system. I hope you have good cooling, because you will need it! ;]

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1024×768
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

I picked this part of the test to run at 1024×768 because when I play the game competitively and most of the time, I run it only at this resolution to get the max amount of framerates and no lag.

At this resolution my system put out an average framerate of 9.2 fps, a minimum framerate of 3.4 fps, and a maximum framerate of 54.9 fps.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The Battleforge 1280×1024 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

The same as above except with better eyecandy because of the higher resolution.

My average framerate was 6.8 fps, my minimum framerate was 0.5 fps, and my maximum framerate was 53.5 fps. Do you see now why I play it at a lower resolution? The game looks almost the same to me anyways, so might as well avoid lag!

The Dirt 2 1280×1024 max settings test has the following settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Ultra
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://www.codemasters.com/downloads/details.php?id=39424

In my opinion, you cannot get more intense for beating up your gaming system than playing a racing game OTHER than playing a real flight simulator game with all the options on. Think about how fast a system needs to render what’s going in a racing game, especially 200 MPH or higher being scaled realistically and you will see how these games are system killers.

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

Although I play it usually at a lower resolution, I tested it at 1280×1024 just to stay consistent with my future gaming PC reviews as well as my upcoming new gaming PC that I plan to buy this year so we can see the before and after results. My average framerate was 15.7 fps and my minimum framerate was 13.4 fps.

This IS the game that made me realize I needed to upgrade my machine to a newer system.

The demo (although I have the full game) includes a built in benchmarking tool so it’s a great test.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX 1280×1024 max settings test:

Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.bigdownload.com/games/tom-clancys-hawx/pc/tom-clancys-hawx-demo/

My friend Chris Mosso, which was my top Lieutenant in my massive guild in Auto Assault, always kept recommending for me to try out Tom Clancy’s HAWX saying it was an amazingly fun game and of course, he was completely right. I hadn’t had that much fun playing a game like that where you fly around fighting for your life since Descent: Freespace. The game is a permanent adrenaline rush and is simply total eye candy. I’ve shown this game to some friends of mine that are not gamers and it got them dizzy from just staring at the screen when I play.

Anyways, although this game is super eyecandy, it does have an AMAZINGLY efficient game engine. I like to include this game in the benchmarking guide because it represents for me what a well written game’s performance would be like with a typical game system. My system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps.

The fun demo includes the benchmarking tool, so it’s totally worth getting.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280×1024 max settings test

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

My friend Ramiro became a huge fan of the X series after I lent and gave him a copy of X Beyond The Frontier many years ago. As kids, we grew up playing Elite 2: Frontier on my Amiga 600. We thought it was the most epic game every made and and I played it religiously exploring star systems and reading up on their composition and learning a lot about astronomy as well as doing missions nuking planets from space as well as other crazy things like assassinations. I even dabbled with Privateer 1 and 2 later on, but those games were much simpler than both Elite 1 and Elite 2: Frontier.

Anyways, although I played X: Beyond The Frontier a lot and a little of X2, I kind of gave up on that series, especially when I later got into playing Eve Online and found it kind of pointless to play a game like that single player. The people who make the X series have ALWAYS impressed the living hell out of me with how efficient their game engines are as well as how scalable, detailed, and completely beautiful they are.

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC.

Let’s see the numbers… My system only got a framerate of 17.012 fps in this benchmark but believe me, considering the settings and how beautiful everything looks, that was still higher than I expected it to be. Still, I would maybe play X3 when I get my next gaming machine.

Trackmania Nations

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmania.com/

Trackmania is still one of my favorite racing game series of all time. This benchmark is done using the game Trackmania Nations that has always been the free version of Trackmania and the one that most people in the world play. I highly recommend getting Trackmania United if you are serious about having FUN in playing a racing game MMO.

This game is a massive physics simulator and it has looked good right from the start. The game engine is probably even as efficient as probably the Unreal engine except that Epic Games doesn’t put out free games! At 1280×1024 my system puts out an average framerate of 31.8 fps.

Okay, so there’s the list. Yeah, you might say that who cares because my system is running Windows XP and therefore DirectX 9 but the way I see it, gaming is a lot like racing cars in the real world. You might run DX11 on your Windows 7 box but if you barely run stuff and my system gets higher framerates than yours, that’s pretty sad. Only real results matter in the real world! I say fuck it, compare apples to oranges. I just care if the system will be able to run a game 100% stable as well as with decent performance.

So that about wraps it up. I hope you use my February 2011 benchmarking guide to test out your system and post some results below as comments. I know my system is a 2007 average price gaming system but let’s see what my next PC yields! And let’s see what the gaming PCs I will review soon will show us. Will these brands defend their speed claims when being tested in the real world? Stay tuned!

Marvel vs Capcom 2

Marvel versus Capcom 2 - Montage

Probably one of the best console fighters ever, MvC2 is just a gem of a game. Overall, many people have said that the Dreamcast version is the best one of them all. Luckily, that’s the only one I have come across so I can’t complain or make a judgment about what people are saying about each version (XBOX, PS2, and DC). Anyways, this game comes with a massive haul of characters spanning through Capcom’s most popular games! There are too many to mention but I’m sure there is a character you can relate to. The game is still fun to this day and with the price drop on its price, it shouldn’t be a problem getting a copy. You can also get it through the virtual hardware of your next gen consoles. I’m not sure if it’s available for all of them so good luck.

This time around, unlike MvC, you get to pick three characters rather than two. This makes the battle more intense and strategic. I always place the character I’m best with as the third option just in case I ran into trouble early on in a match. There is so much variety that you’ll be playing for days and days until you find your perfect team. The game has many other options but I don’t think it’s my job to tell all of you about them, I think it’ll take the fun away.

 

Battle Squadron

Battle Squadron - Title Screen

Battle Squadron (1990)
By: Innerprise Software / Electronic Arts Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 200,700
Also Available For: Amiga

The days of the 16-Bit Console Wars were an interesting time to be a gamer. If the SNES was better at one type of game, the MegaDrive was better at another. One area in which many agree the MD had a firmer foothold is that of the shoot ’em up. Yes, the SNES had some blinding examples of the genre, but the MD won the day through sheer weight of numbers. An early example of the vertical scrolling shooter on the MD is Battle Squadron, a product of the bygone era of bedroom coders which saw many talented enthusiasts try their hand at that programming lark. Most games resulting from these endeavours were of course very limited, but on the odd, rare occasion, something much more interesting would emerge. Battle Squadron’s success was probably not that immense, but Martin Pedersen did well enough from it to enable him to help form Innerprise Software who subsequently went on to develop several more titles.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Originally released on the Amiga, Battle Squadron is apparently the sequel to fellow Amiga blaster, Hybris. This installment sees you facing off against the evil Barrax Empire, which initially appears to be nothing more than a bog-standard pretext to a bog-standard vertical-scroller. Actually, to be fair, it’s not the most remarkable shmup ever, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeves! For starters, there are no levels. Well, kind of. You start above ground fighting off swarms of enemy fighters as well as lots of ground-based vehicles and gun turrets. Before long, you’ll come to a big crater or chasm of some sort in the ground which you can enter. You don’t have to though – you can fly straight past if you want to as it will return over and over again. You’ll need to enter eventually though, and upon doing so you’ll be faced with an underground area crawling with different types of enemy craft and installations, at the end of which is a boss. Once you defeat the boss you’ll return to the surface again. If you enter the underground section at the first opportunity every time, you’ll eventually fight through three surface sections and three underground sections before you get to face the Ultimate Alien Force of Evil. To quote the instruction book: “You will face Surlotech in the final battle. He’s known for cruelly toying with enemies and laughing at their feeble attempts to destroy him”. Sounds like a charming fellow.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 2

When playing this game, there’s one thing that quickly becomes apparent – Battle Squadron must be one of the most enemy-laden shooters ever – they’re everywhere! It’s lucky then, that there is sufficient weaponry available (though barely so) to ‘convince’ them that their agenda is a flawed one. You start the game with the Orange Magma Wave. This is just about sufficient at the start of the game but needs to be powered up pretty quickly. Once this is done, it becomes a formidable weapon which has a fairly powerful forward shot as well as four less powerful shots which fire at diagonals. Other weapons are the Green Emerald Laser which is very powerful and fires rapidly, but has a very limited range (straight forward), Red Magnetic Torps, which covers most of the screen, but aren’t too powerful, and the Blue Anti-Matter Particle Beam. This weapon also fires very quickly, and shoots both forwards and backwards, but again, has a limited range.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 3

These tools of destruction can be found by destroying the Barraxian gunships that carry ‘X’ capsules. Once freed, these drift back and forth across the screen changing colours as they go. Collecting them will give you the weapon of that colour and collecting another capsule of the same colour will power it up one level. If you’re destroyed, your weapon’s level will be reduced by two, though thankfully you don’t have to restart the level! One helpful way to avoid being shot down, however, is to deploy a ‘Nova Bomb’. These swirling waves of destruction, more commonly referred to as smart bombs, destroy or damage everything on the screen (except your ship, obviously). More importantly, they also rid the screen of enemy bullets. These can be stockpiled by collecting the ‘M’ icons that result from the destruction of an entire squadron of enemy fighters (which appear increasingly frequently), and it’s a very good idea to save as many as possible – you’ll need them later on!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 4

But what of the enemies? Poorly designed ones have been known to ruin otherwise decent shooters, so thankfully that’s not the case here! There are fourteen different alien attackers altogether – not a huge number I’ll grant you, but there are some highly creative ones among this contingent. Some are your standard gun turrets or formation-flying, few-shots-to-kill aircraft, while others are far meaner. One original feature of Battle Squadron from which it derived much of its fame is its ‘Chameleon’ ships. These are sister ships to the standard fighters, except they’re invisible! They can be detected by the funny noise they make when your weapons strike them, and by a slight shimmering of the area over which they’re flying (in a similar style to the titular creature from the Predator movies). Some enemies (mostly the various kinds of gun turrets) leave behind green ‘X’ icons when you’ve destroyed them “exposing their jewel caches”, and each one gives you a thousand points at the end of the ‘section’ (i.e. when you go underground or back above ground).

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 5

Despite the fact that Battle Squadron was first released on the Amiga, this version is near enough identical. That doesn’t mean it looks bad though. On the contrary. Though there’s not many backgrounds, and one of the later ones will make your eyes bleed (not to mention render enemy bullets near invisible!), the graphics are very decent. The sprites are varied and some of them pretty sizeable, and there’s some lovely parallax scrolling on the underground sections (something the Amiga version lacks). Scrolling is also smooth, even with 15 or more enemies on the screen at once! It’s not just your eyes that get a treat here either. Game music fans will be pleased to hear that the sounds accompanying this manic shooter come courtesy of the great Rob Hubbard, which pretty much guarantees top quality music. Whilst there aren’t many tunes, the ones that are here are memorable and of typically high quality, as are the superb sound effects.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 6

One of the first things you’ll notice about this game is undoubtedly its difficulty. Whilst it’s true that the number of lives, credits, enemy bullets on screen at once and enemy bullet speed can all be altered, even on the lesser settings, this game is still tougher than a disgruntled Chuck Norris. There’s not a single enemy in this game that goes down from a single shot, so until you’ve powered up your ship, prepare to practise your bullet-dodging skills! Even once you’re powered up things are no picnic either. Undestroyed gun turrets can still fire at you from behind after they’ve left the screen, Chameleon ships appear from holes in the ground (sometimes right on top of you), and there’s even heat-seeking missiles that can’t be shot down! With a bit (or a lot) of perseverance, however, some lengthy and impressive blast-a-thons can be enjoyed. One extra special thing about Battle Squadron is that it has a simultaneous two-player mode! A rare thing indeed for a shooter. It’s just as hard with two-players though, so don’t go forcing a friend into playing just so you can see the ending!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 7

Overall, this is a tough game, but not unfairly so. Okay, so invisible ships appearing beneath you don’t help matters but it’s not like it’s one of those ridiculous ‘bullet-hell’ games! One thing’s for sure – you won’t get a second to relax when playing it. It’s like a gaming equivalent of one long sweaty-palmed adrenaline rush! There’s always something going on and its difficulty will keep all but the most awesomely skilled of gamers going for a while, and all but the most pathetically skilled will most likely want to keep trying to beat it.

RKS Score: 8/10

Flea Market Finds 1

Here are some really kewl finds I was able to find at the flea market. I got them for real cheap ahh you can’t beat the flea market prices. Anyways, here are some photos:

 

Gamebox classic box with Games

The Gameboy is in great shape! It’s a great find in my opinion! It also came with these 3 games which is a nice plus. The cart in the top right is a cleaning kit for the gameboy. I never seen one of these before so it’s a nice treat, in fact I didn’t know one of these existed.

 

Game Genie for Sega Genesis and Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Now I have to show you a game genie for the Genesis and Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES. They are both OK finds and I really can’t complain.

I hope the future brings me more finds to be able to grow my collection of classic gaming related items.

The Music Hall: Instant Remedy

Instant Remedy Logo

Instant Remedy

As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of videogame music, particularly of the retro variety. It was around… hmm, I guess 10 years ago now, that I started my collection, initially by recording MegaDrive tunes using the splendid Gens emulator, but I didn’t discover the remix community until a bit later. It was while searching for the original OutRun music that I first encountered Instant Remedy, and it opened the door to an unimaginable number of songs.

Instant Remedy is Martin Noriander (formerly Martin Andersson), a Swedish guy born in 1976, and a Commodore 64 fanatic who has spent a good deal of his time and effort remixing some of his favourte SID tunes. Now, one of my biggest embarrassments as a gamer is that I’ve never played, or indeed even used a Commodore 64 – I was always a Speccy fanboy until I moved onto consoles – so I’ve never even heard any of these famous SID creations everyone keeps raving about, but that didn’t stop my elation at hearing Magical Sound Shower, one of my all-time favourite game tunes, in an exciting new way! And so began my collection of remixed game tunes. Instant Remedy was the first and I soon discovered just how many more talented enthusiasts were up to the same sort of thing!

I’m now proud/embarrassed to admit that I have somewhere in the region of 120Gb of game music, and much of it is awesome remixes (or ‘arrangements’) of all manner of classic game soundtracks. A vast majority of them, including Instant Remedy, are done in a dance/trance style, as you might expect, and I hope to cover some of the other awesome musicians here at some point, but for now, wrap you ears around the one that started it all for me…. Instant Remedy OutRun!

Instant Remedy – Outrun Instant OC ReMix .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

And if you like this track even nearly as much as I did, it might be worth you investing in some of Martin’s other Instant Remedy tracks, available here. Apparently, Martin also has a CD available featuring the same tracks (listed below with original composers in brackets), so grab a copy of that if you get the chance too!

1. Last Ninja – The Palace (by Antony Lees) 1987
2. Flimbo’s Quest (by Reyn Ouwehand) 1990
3. Comic Bakery (Extended Version) (by Martin Galway) 1986
4. International Karate (by Rob Hubbard) 1986
5. Game On (Issue 09 to 89) (by Markus Schneider) 1989
6. Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Trance Version) (by Mark Cooksey) 1986
7. IK+ (by Rob Hubbard) 1987
8. Last Ninja – The Wastelands (Club Version) (by Ben Daglish) 1987
9. Trolls (by Adam Gilmore) 1993
10. Warriors (Club Version) (by Thomas Mogensen) 1989
11. Commando (V2) (by Rob Hubbard) 1985
12. West Bank (V2) (by Fred Gray) 1986
13. Last Ninja – Wastelands (Extended Version) (by Ben Daglish) 1987
14. Comic Bakery (by Martin Galway) 1986
15. Commando (by Rob Hubbard) 1985

The Interview: Andreas Heldt: Solar Struggle

Solar Struggle - Survival Box

Solar Struggle

At one time or another, all of us have come across a space shooter that we just loved. For classic gamers it can be mega hits like Space Invaders or Galaga. For some more modern gamers maybe it was one of the Star Wars games or something from the Decent series. The space shooter is a staple of video game play and the legacy of great space shooting games continues with the Solar Struggle series.

Solar Struggle: Survival was recently released on the Xbox live platform and Obsolete Gamer had a chance to sit down with Andreas Heldt, CEO of Z-Software to talk Solar Struggle and gaming.

Can you start off by giving us an overview about the game Solar Struggle?

Andreas Heldt: The Solar Struggle world is settled in the 2169th year where the world population is divided into three fractions: The military, who maintain stability, the Consortium, a big commercial power, and the Outlaws, who fight against the suppression of the Consortium. The main character in the original Solar Struggle game joins the Military to serve a higher purpose but over time he discovers that the Military’s point of view doesn’t coincide with his own ideas.

How did you come to want to create a game of this type?

Andreas Heldt: We’ve always been attached to space-themed video games. As we saw the “Solar Struggle” project, which was maintained by one man, we almost instantly decided that we had to support the game! Ever since did we extended the game and also introduced the “Skirmish” mode, which is the main element of the new “Solar Struggle: Survival”. We just weren’t happy with the original implementation of the skirmish mode and felt that the players wanted a more arcade-style game.

With many space based games 3D is the normal, but you decided to mix a 3D environment with a 2D plane, can you explain the thought process behind that decision?

Andreas Heldt: Navigation in full 3D space is pretty complicated and you can quickly get irritated. The complex movement controls also weren’t suited for a pretty fast paced, arcade-style game. All these problems are solved by the 2D approach that we chose for Solar Struggle.

Solar Struggle - Asteroidenfeld

Can you tell us about the development process behind the game?

Andreas Heldt: The game has been developed by a single programmer for a long time. We found the project at the games convention 2008 in Leipzig and decided to support the one-man project to get it done faster and improve the asset quality. In the last months before the release we increased the number of people working on the title so we could add a lot of polish in a short amount of time.

What is it like creating a game for the Indie Games section of Xbox live?

Andreas Heldt: Creating games for XBLIG is a real comfortable process. The tools from Microsoft allow us to make quick iterations and maintain a fast development pace. Sadly, if you’re developing for the Xbox, you won’t get access to all of the features which the “big games” have, like leaderboards or achievements.

All the reviews we have read praise you for such a polished game, what steps did you take to insure the game would be the best it could be?

Andreas Heldt: The whole game balancing has undergone a meticulous testing process. This makes the game challenging as well as keeps the frustration to a minimum. Furthermore, for “Solar Struggle: Survival”, we put in a lot of effort to convey the mood of the game. We switched from the vibrant graphic style of the original Solar Struggle game to a more stylized look.

Solar Struggle - Boss_1

While the game might be considered a space shooter there is a very good storyline associated with the game can you tell us about how you created the story and implemented it into the game?

Andreas Heldt: The story has been thought out with the goal of giving the player the opportunity to play as part of each of the three different fractions. A linear story mode was chosen to carry the story better with surprising moments. On the game side, all missions were laid out with a level editor and scripted with C#.

One of the few criticisms was that the time limit mixed with the wave of enemies made it difficult to focus on the mission, was this your intent with the design?

Andreas Heldt: It was intended, the goal was to keep the action going. The player should immerse himself in the tense battles.

Tell us about the award system and the way you got around the center server system?

Andreas Heldt: Unfortunately, you don’t get access to Leaderboards or Achievements when developing an Xbox Live Indie Game. But we wanted to incorporate “Achievements” into the game so we searched for a way to circumvent the lacking abilities of the XNA framework. We came up with a solution where the player is served with a unique award code which resembles all the awards he has been unlocked while playing.

The award key is then entered into our awards center website (http://awards.solarstruggle.com/), where you can compare your progress with other gamers. Unfortunately, the system has not been used very often. Possible reasons are that most Xbox gamers won’t copy a code from the TV and enter it on a PC in a website and that the code is pretty long and you have to remember a lot of characters.

Solar Struggle - GameOver

Can you tell us a little about the gaming background of the team?

Andreas Heldt: Most of the developers who worked on the title are passionate gamers themselves – also everyone has their own favorite game genre.

Were there any games that inspired the creation of Solar Struggle?

Andreas Heldt: The games Wing Commander and Battlestar Galactica inspired the game design.

What was your favorite classic space shooter?

Andreas Heldt: Wing Commander!

What’s next for the team?

Andreas Heldt: We’re currently working on a yet unannounced game which will be released for the PC only (sorry guys), but there are still plans to expand the Solar Struggle universe in a later project.

Solar Struggle - Kampf_2

Solar Struggle: Survival is available now on Xbox live for 80 Microsoft points. You can find the original Solar Struggle game on Xbox Live for 400 Microsoft Points.

Arcade at the flea market

Well as we took a break from shopping last Sunday, we decided to check out the arcade inside the flea market. It was awesome! Lots of different machines! Also, some misleading ones…check it out!

Classic Arcade - Ms Pac-Man Cabinet

This is a very misleading arcade game. You can see that donkey kong is the game in it instead of the Pac Man game….I want my quarter back!

Classic Arcade - Arcade Cabinets
More machines around here.

Classic Arcade - Die Hard, King of the Fighters and california Speed
and more…
Classic Arcade - House of the Dead and Gauntlet Legends
even more…
Classic Arcade - X-Men versus Street fighter and Jurassic Park III
and more..

Me and my friend ended up playing some Die Hard game which was really fun. I also played Xmen vs Street Fighter but the buttons didn’t work that well so I lost real fast…oh well…

F-Zero

F-Zero - Title Screen

F-Zero (1990)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 27,200
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s gameplay that counts, not graphics, hence my love of older games (increasingly in preference to new ones, in fact). This is my view and I stand by it. However, if there always seemed to be one genre that belied that stance, it’s that of the racing/driving games. Gameplay was and is still very important in these games of course, but due to their very nature, older machines rarely saw them due to their technical limitations. When they did, with the exception of a small number of classics, they were often cack. Either too much effort was put into making them look pretty and the design and gameplay ended up being tacked-on afterthoughts, or they simply couldn’t make them look remotely convincing to start with. Then along came the SNES.

F-Zero - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Mode 7 is what they called it – a new graphics-rendering trick never seen before, pioneered by the wizards at Nintendo and unleashed in the SNES. It’s hard to explain but awesome to behold. It essentially allows a 2D texture-mapped playfield or background layer to be scaled, rotated, and manipulated in all manner of ways. One of the biggest advantages of this is that the 2D playfield can be flipped into what appears to be a 3D perspective and rotated 360 degrees around whatever sprites appear on the screen at the time, creating the illusion of looking into the distance. This technique is perfect for racing games – instead of the vehicle negotiating the course, the course is rotated left and right around the vehicle, and it was first seen in….. you’ve guessed it!

F-Zero - Gameplay Screenshot 2

F-Zero (short for Formula Zero), is in essence what Formula-1 may possibly be like in the future (assuming we haven’t blown ourselves up before then). The Grand Prix mode is a racing series consisting of fifteen courses spread evenly over three leagues – Knight, Queen and King – and any league can be selected from the start, although they get progressively harder as you might expect. Each race has four jet-car things, or ‘machines’ as they’re referred to in the game – yours, and three main computer-controlled opponents, and each varies in its specification and handling. Simply choose one of them, then choose a league, and away you go! The races are also populated by a large number of identical-looking drone cars, presumably only to hinder your progress, and some of them are flashing, indicating that they’re one hit away from exploding, so they’re basically racing mines! As mentioned, each league consists of five courses and progression to the next race is determined by your finishing position – each of the five laps in a race has a higher ranking requirement you must fulfill to avoid disqualification. Beware however – if at any point you fall below 20th place, you’re automatically disqualified.

F-Zero - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Each course is varied and contains some original features. Jumps are quite common, but some of them occur shortly before a gap in the track – miss them and you’ll plummet down to your death! Boost pads, slow-down zones, land mines, pull-down magnets, track-side magnets and slip zones are some of the other features, and all but the first are there to cause you problems! The courses themselves also deserve special mention – they are fiendishly designed and contain some of the sharpest corners you’ll ever negotiate, including frequent 90 and even 180-degree turns, as well as long sweeping curves, hairpins, chicanes, narrow straights – everything you can think of really. The sides of all courses are secured by anti-gravitational guide beams, which don’t do anything except stop you from falling off the edge of the course. Hitting them makes you lose precious energy however, especially if you crash at high speed – you can end up bouncing around like a pinball from one side to the other if you’re not careful. Thankfully, your craft’s finite supply of energy can be replenished in the pits. Another handy, often vital feature is the Super Jet. You get one of these at the end of each lap and it provides a temporary, though substantial increase to your speed, so only use it on straights!

F-Zero - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Obviously the Grand Prix mode forms the bulk of what F-Zero has to offer but it’s not the full extent. Also available is a Practise mode, which allows you to do just that on seven courses from the various leagues against a chosen opponent, or no opponent at all (making it a time-trial mode, essentially). One problem with many racing games in my experience is the difficulty curve. Happily, it’s nigh-on perfectly pitched here. Sure, this can be a pretty frustrating game on occasion, but it’s also one that rewards perseverance. Plus, there’s three difficulty settings too (and a fourth if you finish the others), so there’s really no excuse! Each course (nearly all of them, at least) has its own tune and they are for the most part fantastic – many of them are still celebrated and remixed today, especially the old favourite, Big Blue!

F-Zero - Gameplay Screenshot 5

This game was a genuine jaw-dropper when it was first unveiled. Truly, nothing like it had ever been seen before – it was a revolutionary game! However, like most games that represent a leap in technical achievements, F-Zero has aged somewhat in the intervening time, and it’s now possible to look past what it achieved to see some of the things it didn’t. The biggest gripe has always been the absence of a two-player mode – as entertaining as it is, F-Zero is strictly a solo experience. Another problem is that Mode 7, for all its unique trickery, is unable to provide anything other than a completely flat racing surface, meaning, of course, no hills or banked turns or anything of that nature (something which the sequel rectified and then some!). Legitimate gripes or just nitpicking? Probably a bit of both is the cop-out but honest answer! Looking back, as good as it is, there’s no denying F-Zero could’ve been even better, but it certainly hasn’t decayed into a mouldy stain on Nintendo’s record either. This is an exciting, frenetic, fun, adranaline-rush of a racing game, and remains, in my view, one of the first must-have racing titles for any console.

RKS Score: 8/10

Sonic 2

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Sonic 2 is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. ~Luis Zena

Sonic 2

Sonic 2 defined the way we looked at sonic games. This is probably the best sonic for the Genesis (Sonic 3 comes real close) because of how many memories we had with it. For me, it was the first Genesis game I ever played, in fact, it was the first time I ever saw the Genesis and it was all thanks to the popularity of this franchise. The game is breath taking from beginning to end with some of the best level design in any Sonic game.

Sonic 2 - Gameplay Screeenshot 1

The game consists of three levels per world and a boss fight. If I remember correctly, there are eight worlds with three levels each. I myself haven’t reached the end but one of these days I will try to accomplish it. Either way, anyone can pick it up especially since the game is so common to find and usually has a collector value of .50 cents so there really shouldn’t be any problem picking it up. The reason this game was so common was because Sega packaged it with the Genesis console to help pump up sales which worked for a while and gave Sega the lead over Nintendo during the early 90’s console wars. Furthermore, the game has excellent sound and peculiar bad guys that turn into animals when you kill them.

Sonic 2 - Genesis Box

To conclude, this is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. I also suggest if you don’t want to buy a genesis get the recently released Genesis Collection disc for the next gen consoles. It brings tons of games and will definitely satisfy your Sonic needs. Until the next retro game of the week.

The Interview: Jonathan Biddle: Curve Studios

Explodemon Screenshot

Curve Studios

A few weeks ago, we told you about Explodemon, a classic gaming inspired platformer to be released on the Playstation Network, Xbox Live and WiiWare. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Jonathan Biddle, design direct at Curve about the game and his gaming background.

Can you tell us about your gaming background?

Jonathan Biddle: I was basically raised by games! They have far and away been the most prevalent form of entertainment in my life. I started gaming on the early black & white paddle-based tennis games, which we had as far back as I can remember, progressing through to the ZX Spectrum, and eventually to the Atari ST (unfortunately my dad didn’t buy an Amiga). I moved onto consoles at that point, owning every major home console from Mega Drive & SNES through to the PS3 and 360, and doing some especially heavy importing during the PS2 era.

I was also a frequent arcade visitor, most notably for Street Fighter II, around the time of SSFII Turbo and Alpha 1.  I did miss a large part of classic PC gaming because I didn’t own a home computer until about 1997. That meant I originally missed out on X-Com, Doom, Quake and so on. When I did get a PC, I focused mostly on emulators, playing as much stuff as I could on MAME, ZSNES/xSNES9x, Neo-RAGEx, ePSXe, Final Burn, Project 64, etc. I remember telling someone that I had access to a six-figure count of games at my flat at one point. Obviously this was before I was a father!

What was it like working on the game before bringing it to Curve?

Jonathan Biddle: It was amazingly enjoyable. I’d never been able to code before, so it was all a huge process of discovery. At every stage I just thought to myself ‘I wonder if I can do this?’ It seemed that the answer was always ‘Yes’ as long as I just kept at it, so that’s what I did. I pushed the game far beyond what I thought I was capable of. I could pick and choose various gameplay elements from the games I’d been inspired by and just try them out. It was really empowering.

 

Explodemon Screenshot 1

Can you expand more on what inspired you to create Explodemon?

Jonathan Biddle: I don’t know why, but I’m constantly driven to create. If I’m not making something, I get fidgety, agitated; ideas start to bubble over and I just have to get them out. When I started Explodemon, I was feeling particularly unfulfilled in my creative work, and so desperately had to seek some kind of outlet. That ended up being Game Maker, and Explodemon.

When did you begin working on Explodemon?

Jonathan Biddle: I started the prototype at the beginning of November 2005. There was then a long and complicated road to starting the PS3 version in November 2009.

How long was the development process?

Jonathan Biddle: I worked on the prototype over two main periods. The first chunk of work, which spanned from November 2005 to March 2006, was purely done in my spare time. By the end of that period the game was pretty much fully formed, but a bit rough around the edges and needing some features to flesh it out. I then did a couple of months more that summer – adding some features and kicking the game into a much more finished shape, based on feedback I was getting from players.

The PlayStation 3 version took about a year to finish, but Christmas slowed things up and we had a bumpy submission with a few tricky bugs, so we weren’t on the PlayStation Store until this Feb.

What makes a great platform game?

Jonathan Biddle: You could write thousands of words on this! There are many elements that go to make up a platform game, and these are shared across many game types. At a base gameplay level you could ask; what mechanics are at play? How many options does the player have? Are these options interesting? Do they complement each other? There are no right answers here, but a great platform game gets the balance right between the number of options open to the player, how they interact with each other, and how enjoyable the actions are to perform.

It goes without saying that great platform games have to have great controls. If you can’t trust that your intended input is going to result in your expected action, you’re going to get frustrated. However, it’s fine for controls to require a bit of practice before getting to this sweet spot. Mastery of a game’s controls can be its own reward, and can add an extra layer of depth to a game.

Finally, a great platform game is nothing without excellent level design. If you have lots of lovely mechanics, but the levels presented to the player don’t maximize the potential of those mechanics, then what’s the point in having them in the first place?

 

Explodemon Screenshot 2

Why do you think the classic platformer has not been used more in today’s games?

Jonathan Biddle: I think it’s been used just plenty! There’s definitely been a resurgence in the classic platformer in recent years. If we look at remakes or retro revivals such as Bionic Commando Rearmed, Rocket Knight, Mega Man 9 and 10 there’s a trend to bring back exactly those kinds of games experiences. Mario is still around in his classic 2D form as recently as last year in New Super Mario Bros Wii, Contra was recently released on the Wii, Hard Corps Uprising is a classic game in the same vein, the new Rush N Attack also leans heavily on the retro style. Indie platformers of the moment are also very much influenced by this period, such as Fez, VVVVVV, Braid, Limbo, Spelunky, and so on. If anything it might be overused!

What was your favorite platform game?

Jonathan Biddle: I have a very soft spot for Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. The game was stuffed full of great ideas, all made with great passion and polished to perfection. Nintendo have loomed large over the humble platformer, with some incredibly inspiring works. It was amazing to be able to work with them on a platformer of our own, Fluidity/Hydroventure for the Wii, and even greater for it to be the highest-rated Nintendo-published original game of 2010 (according to Metacritic at least!). Honestly, if I could’ve told my 20 year-old self that same fact while I was playing Yoshi’s Island the first time, I think the younger me might have done an Explodemon.

Can you tell us about working at Curve?

Jonathan Biddle: It’s a great working environment here. We’ve got some very talented people; some extremely experienced and others more fresh-faced. It’s a creatively-driven company; everyone has something creative to contribute, and it leads to a great atmosphere in the studio. We’re working on some very interesting stuff too, which certainly helps motivate us all!

Are most of the development staff gamers themselves?

Jonathan Biddle: Absolutely! Everyone has their own preferred genre or type of game, of course, but we’re all passionate about the medium, both as players and creators. The level of knowledge of gaming history you find here is sometimes astonishing. There’s always some heated discussion going on about the relative merits of new or old titles. It’s a great place to learn about games you’ve never played.

Explodemon is available now on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii console systems.

Seppo Santapukki: Prank Ltd

Prank ltd logo

Name: Seppo Santapukki

Company: Prank Ltd.

Profession: Creative Director

Favorite Classic Game: Mega Man 2 (NES).

Quote: The second Mega Man was my first encounter to the series, igniting a love that still keeps growing after 20 years – thanks to Mega Man IX and X. It taught me patience, dexterity, and above all: trying even harder upon failure. Additionally, one can only respect the fact that the music is still in a league of its own. In case you don’t believe me, just check out the video!


Bio/Current Event: After a long while in the making, finally seeing Prank’s first game – Ant Raid – becoming closer and closer to its final form.

Cataclysm: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

World of Warcraft Cataclysm Logo

Without a doubt, Cataclysm was another home run hit for the power gaming company Blizzard.  Selling a stunning 3.3 million copies (including pre-sales) on the first day and 4.7 million by the end of the first month (including pre-sales) was not as shocking as some seemed to say it was.  The most popular and played MMORPG of all time is going to have extremely high sales figures especially since Blizzard added in pre-sale digital downloads for the first time ever.  The apparent controversy surrounding these numbers is unwarranted.  Pre-sales are part of any game release and Blizzard is fully entitled to count them towards first day sales in my opinion.  And let’s be honest, does it matter? No, over 5 million people have already purchased Cataclysm and that number is sure to grow.  A better question would be, Will Cataclysm peak over 12 million subscriptions like its predecessors? or has the game peaked overall? and how long until it fades into gaming oblivion?  Sorry, that won’t be covered in this article but expect me to tackle the topic in the future.

The Good.

As you know, Blizzard has been catering to the casual gamer more and more.  Why? Simple, money.  Blizzard does not want to lose clients because they feel the game is too hard or too time consuming.  Just go to through the account cancellation process and you will see many different prompts that seem to ask why you are quitting and many are tailored towards the casual gamer.  Now, I know we are in “The Good” category but let me say that this “casual” policy has both positive and negative effects on the game and it’s players as I will discuss throughout the whole article.

Blizzard wanted to make raiding simpler and thus they have designed everything so that you don’t need a full 25 man raid to compete.  You can gather 9 friends and compete on an equal plain with everyone else in the world.  I personally love this move because it allows you to play with more of your close friends if you so choose.  This reduces the amount of pugs you have to get and usually reduces the severity of the headache you will suffer during a failing raid.  Of course, Blizzard is not naive and to appease the more hardcore gamers, they designed it so you get more loot proportionate to your raid size in 25mans compared to 10mans.  Even though that feels like a “lame” fix, it was probably the best Blizzard could do considering they put 10 and 25 mans on the same pedestal.  Either way, the casual gamers rejoiced in this change and overall, it has had a positive impact.  As for the “pride”  factor between major guilds competing at the top level for world firsts, 25mans still seem to be the cream of the crop but even the best of the best have been switching to 10mans for certain encounters!  All the major content has been completed and here is how it played out among the world’s elite.

Top 10 PvE WoW Guilds

Leveling is finally enjoyable!  You heard me right.  I for one am not a fan of leveling and never have been especially in World of Warcraft but the leveling redesign has even changed my mind.  Don’t get me wrong,  I am not going out and leveling alts for the hell of it but I am also not dreading the boring, monotonous grind that was leveling.  The overhaul to the zones and quests has streamlined the process.  Moreover, the changes to spells have given you diversity at the lower levels.  I did not enjoy spamming just one or two buttons to level as it felt like I could fall asleep while doing it.  Now, it feels like I can actually take some pleasure in leveling.  While this was something that wasn’t necessary to change, it was a very positive overhaul.  Of course, you could say that the change was specifically designed to help the casual gamer level easier, faster and with more joy!  Blizzard is sneakier than you might imagine.

Finally, let us talk about the servers.  They were great.  Illidan, one of the most popular WoW servers, where I leveled to 85 was completely stable.  No major lag spikes, no crashes and no downtime.  Moreover, the servers came up on time.  Blizzard wanted to ensure that Cataclysm was launched without a hitch and they nailed it home.  As for server queues, they were terrible early on but everyone expected that so I don’t need to harp on it very much.

The Bad.

With great power comes great responsibility.  Oh wait, this isn’t Spiderman, its WoW: Cataclysm.  How about…With great homogenization, comes great laziness.  I am definitely not one to favor the complete homogenization of classes that seems to be happening with more and more frequency.  While I like the idea that buffs are being spread around to more classes on paper, I hate it in reality.  I know Blizzard would like 5man and 10man dungeons and raids to have a majority of the game buffs but I think that is a bad idea.  One of the inevitable drawbacks of having less people in a group or raid is the reduction of potential buffs.  Thus, players need to design their groups accordingly.  At the rate Blizzard is going, in two expansions, my 10man is just going to be 10 paladins with every buff in the game dominating every encounter.  Yes, I am laying it on a little thick but it is for good reason.  Let us look at some of the homogenization we have seen with Cataclysm.

First, buffs are being spread around to more classes.  Second,  bloodlust/heroism is now usable by three classes.  Honestly, having bloodlust/heroism on just one class was probably not the greatest idea but I don’t think that bloodlust/heroism is a well-designed mechanic anyway.  I know that it is a great part of Warcraft lore but I think it could have been implemented differently because it has been insanely powerful since it went live.  On a good note, Blizzard did finally decide to remove it from arenas.  Third, it seems that every melee has a spammable interrupt.  Why do I dislike this?  Mainly because the classes that didn’t have them before didn’t have them for a reason and now that they do, they seem overly useful in both PvE and PvP.  Either way, I think that Blizzard could use some of that infinite pool of money they have to diversify the game more instead of homogenize it.  Once again, it all comes back to the positive and negative effects of the “casual” gamer syndrome.

For me, five man dungeons and heroics on my main were extremely simple.  I almost always ran with a pre-made 5man so we just queued up and destroyed whatever we got.  However, this was not the case for many people, especially those trying to gear alts.  First, if you are not a tank or a healer, have fun waiting in a 30minute queue to do one heroic.  Second, if you are a tank or a healer, make sure you abuse the system by selling queue pops all day in trade chat.  While this is now fixed, it was way too late.  Third, how is it that if you solo queue you always seem to get the absolute worst players in the world in your group?  Not only do they have gear that is terrible but they have no idea how to do any of the fights.  I can’t really blame Blizzard on that one but I sure can vent some minor frustration.  Overall, I like the simplicity in the fact that you can just queue from anywhere in the world at anytime, but if you are running solo, there is a strong change that you will just be wasting an hour of your time.

World of Warcraft Dungeon Queue Time

I will keep my dislike of the PvP situation short as I plan on doing a full write-up of it in the near future but it has to be mentioned briefly.  I don’t know if I would say that arenas have hit a low point because I thought they were pretty bad when you could kill someone inside of one GCD in WotLK but they are not prospering by any means.  Of course, you will always have people complaining that their class is too underpowered but when top players are re-rolling because they just know their class it too weak to compete at the top level, then something is probably wrong.  For the first time ever, mages seem to be underpowered unless you like jumping around spamming ice lance all day!  Maybe underpowered isn’t the write word, but they do seem to have a nice big target on their back.  Melee teams seem to run a train on them all day and since all the healers have dispel and frost armor is not nearly as useful as it was, they appear to be in a dire situation.

While I think they might deserve it considering how strong they have been in the past, their situation just highlights the fact that with Blizzard’s homogenized design is leading to negative impacts in PvP.  Now, I don’t think Blizzard cares much about the PvP scene anyway but that doesn’t mean that it should be the way it is now.  I personally think that HP is actually too high in many cases but it may be a result of the new completely underpowered healing debuffs.  I always thought 50% healing reduction was too much but with classes having this much HP, I think 10% is too low.  Blizzard really needs to overhaul the whole PvP system if they ever want to truly fix it.  HPS and self-healing (DK, Ret Pally, etc) are also way to high for my taste.  Anyway, more on this in a future article.  For now, just know that PvP, specifically arenas appear to be in a not so good state.

The Ugly.

I am still not a fan of the games graphics even after this overhaul.  While I know that the original game platform is getting older, it doesn’t change my opinion.  I don’t think the graphics are bad enough to hurt anything in the game but I don’t find them particularly breath taking either.  Will Blizzard create a completely new engine for their cash cow?  Unlikely but they could if they really wanted to.  However, it is more likely that instead of creating a new engine for WoW, they would just put a new project together to start design WoW 2 (if they haven’t already).

Looks like the same game to me.

It also feels like the identity of some of the old servers has been lost.  With all the new players coming in over the years and all the transfers, something about the old nostalgia seems to have faded.  While this is not a result of Cataclysm, I feel that is something that can be mentioned in this section.  If you played vanilla and are still playing today, you probably know what I mean.  It was nice early on when you thought you knew a lot of people and possibly had some clout on the server but now, the game seems to be moving at a pace that removes this.  The best way to put it is to say that the identity of the servers seem to have faded into a blur of inconsequence.

Finally, I will end on another topic that Blizzard has no control over.  The Elitist Jerks (EJ) forums also have a negative impact on the game, specifically, on new players.  When you are in a pug or just see “go to EJ” spammed in trade chat when someone asks a question, you have to get annoyed.  Instead of actually learning something in the game or asking someone who might know, you are directed to a website that tells you how to play and spec your class.  So much for the subtleties that you notice after playing your main for a long time.  So much for actually learning a class and enjoying that process.   Long gone are the days where there was some mystery or secrecy to playing WoW.  To clarify, EJ can work wonders for those who have been playing the game for a long time and understand it’s nuances.  However, if you are new to the game or a class, you skip the basic learning process and just learn the “perfect rotation” instead.  Who cares that you died in fire or didn’t shield or didn’t misdirect or didn’t do 1 of 100 different things that are more useful than just spamming damage.  The sad fact is, WoW has turned into a numbers games on many levels and I understand why it has, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Conclusion

Cataclysm is fun at first but the sheen of a new game is quickly replaced by the same old car smell from before.  What made WoW good in the past is the same that makes WoW good now.  The social atmosphere and friends you make along the way still entrap players.  For many people, the time you log in game is controlled by the social structures: when you do your dailies, when you are raiding, etc.  The bonds of friendship people form which result in teams and guilds being formed push the never ending cycle that is a beast  of game known as World of Warcraft.  If you enjoyed the repetitive cycle that WoW presented in past whether it be through raiding, PvP or any one of the other things Blizzard created, then you will surely find joy in Cataclysm and play it as you had played all the other WoW expansions in the past.  However, if you were looking for something brand new that would make your eyes pop and your pearly white teeth show,  then unfortunately, you will have to keep looking as Cataclysm is simply a new name, not a new face.

Top Five Saturn Fighting Games

After revitalising the fighting game genre with Street Fighter 2, the mid-90’s saw a huge influx of titles. The 16-bit consoles got a lot of good (and not so good) ones and this continued with the 32-bit systems with the added bonus of some fancy new 3D ones too. Many franchises popular today were born during this period, with the Saturn as well as the PlayStation getting some top titles. Given the unfortunate lack of success for the Saturn outside its native territory, many of its best games never left Japan including a lot of fighting games. Consequently there’s still a lot I haven’t played, but of the ones I have played, these are my favourites:

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. Vampire Saviour (1998)

This third (and so far, final) entry in the Darkstalkers series from the awesome Capcom was only released in Japan so I wasn’t really able to play it until I finally got my lovely Skeleton Saturn. My copy of the game unfortunately came without any instructions too, so I had to try and work out most of the moves myself, but it was worth the effort! This highly creative series never really seems to get the plaudits that Capcom’s other franchises do which is strange as its horror/monster themed character roster gives it huge potential which is largely realised with some outrageous combatants and special moves. The graphics and music are also of the usual Capcom high quality and there’s really no bad points to be found here. Another one please, Capcom!

Vampire Saviour

4. Marvel Super Heroes (1997)

Capcom and SNK were both great supporters of the Saturn but it was releases by the former that dominated mine. X-Men Children of the Atom was good but the game suffered somewhat during the PAL conversion process, as was often the case. Marvel Super Heroes, however, was also a fantastic game but also received a top-notch port too. Despite featuring some typically flawless play-mechanics, let’s face it – there’s one reason why this game has such appeal and that’s the opportunity to smack people up as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Magneto, and all the rest! It’s a pretty short game, and pretty easy for Capcom standards, but the graphics and music are awesome and the moves given to these famous characters are supremely satisfying to execute.

Marvel Super Heroes

3. Last Bronx (1997)

Not many people seem to know about this one for some reason which is a bit odd considering it kicks arse! Converted from the arcade game of the previous year, Last Bronx is a weapon-based fighting game set in a alternate Tokyo run by vicious street gangs. There are eight selectable characters battling for supremacy as well as a final boss, and each uses his or her own weapon. Graphically this is among the Saturn’s best – it runs in high-res mode and with 60fps and the backgrounds are in full 3D. There’s even motion-blur on the weapon attacks! Yes, you could say it’s Virtua Fighter 2 with weapons but I much prefer this to the more well known game. Featuring a nice selection of characters, some superb moves, and a decent challenge, this violent brawler is well worth your time.

Last Bronx

2. Fighters Megamix (1997)

Virtua Fighter 2 or Fighting Vipers. Which do you prefer? For me it’s the latter, hands down. To be honest, I just can’t be arsed to spend months learning all the intricacies of the characters in VF2. Vipers is far more accessible for me with its amour-cracking, wall-smashing mayhem. Then again, Sega, if you’re going to give me both in the same game I certainly won’t complain! Celebrated upon its release as a possible saviour for the Saturn and still sited as one of its ‘killer apps’, Megamix truly was a treat for Sega’s loyal and long-suffering fans. It featured, what was at the time, a staggering array of characters, play modes, and secrets and remains without question one of the system’s most entertaining titles.

Fighters Megamix

1. Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)

Sorry, maybe it’s predictable and not terribly daring but the simple fact is, I’ve played this more than all the previous four games combined! I just love the Street Fighter ‘universe’ with all the distinctive characters and their back-stories and this is one of my favourites. The graphics are top-notch too with superbly drawn sprites and backgrounds and the energetic soundtrack really adds to the atmosphere. As is usually the case, I’m not sufficiently skilled to make the most of the highly intricate gameplay that is typical of the series but that doesn’t stop me from getting a lot of enjoyment from repeatedly playing through the game as Ryu, or even being daring and trying another character! A near-flawless fighting game, and probably my second favourite ever!

Street Fighter Alpha 2

Special Note: Apologies for the quality of the screenshots here, I haven’t yet worked out how to grab my own for Saturn games so I’ve had to rely on alternative techniques! P.S. if you’re one of the ones I borrowed a screen shot from, thanks for not being one of dicks who tags theirs!

Outrun

It was on a family holiday that videogames first got their hooks into me. Sure, they were around before that, and I was vaguely aware of them, even ‘dabbling’ on occasion, such as when I played the table-top classic, Astro Wars, for practically the whole weekend I stayed over at my cousin’s house, for example, or when I played Frostbite on a school friend’s Atari VCS after school now and then. At that point though, they were never anything more than a passing distraction.

Torbay - The English Riviera

The aforementioned trip was my first vacation and would see us visit the land of my forebears. Namely, the Torbay area of Devon, and we would stay in a rented cottage. I was around 11 or 12 at the time and was very excited about my first trip away, it sounded fantastic, even if it would be occurring in the school summer holidays, thereby failing to ensure that I’d miss any schooltime! For those who don’t know, Torbay is a beautiful area of the Devonshire coast known as “the English Riviera”. It enjoys a mild climate and is home to a sizable marina, some top beaches, three lovely resort towns – Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham, which collectively feature many sights and attractions of magnificent splendour. I, however, ultimately saw very little of all this after I first wandered past an amusement arcade.

OutRun Deluxe arcade machineUp until this point I’d had little interest in arcades. Sure, I’d seen most of the big-name machines like Centipede, Asteroids and the like dotted around here and there and I had a bash on occasion like when my dad would give me a few 10p coins to use on the Space Invaders machine at my youth club, but videogames were still a niche subculture at this time – some games had intrigued me but none had ever truly captured my imagination. Until, that is, I happened upon one of the several arcades in Torquay and something caught my eye. I saw a machine, big, bright red, gleaming like a….. Ferrari! Now cars were an interest of mine at that time. This magnificent-looking machine grabbed me by the ears and pulled me in.

I arrived beside the dauntingly large machine. I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Amazing images greeted my young eyes. It was fast and colourful. The sounds came booming out of the speakers. There was actual music… The arcade games I’d seen before were pretty impressive, but I’d never seen anything like this – it was amazing! After moaning at my parents for what seemed like an eternity, they yielded and bestowed upon me a shiny fifty pence coin. I finally lowered myself into the large seat armed with the coin and immediately felt more important. I deployed it and selected the music – Magical Sound Shower of course – and began the game. The excitement as I floored the accelerator and zoomed away from the start line was immense.

OutRun game Start screen

I soon reached the first corner of the exquisite Coconut Beach Boulevard, started to turn the wheel and – oh my God! – the whole seat moved! I managed to get as far as the uphill chicane before succumbing to the ever-precarious tree-lined roadside. Upon hitting them for the first time, the whole machine shook around! To say that this was unexpected would be to put it mildly – this was quite incredible! Unfortunately this revelatory experience didn’t last much longer as my time expired, but it was to become an important experience for me. Suffice to say, and the rest of this holiday was predominantly spent in the various arcades of Torquay, and most of that time, sat in an OutRun machine’s seat.

It’s hard to explain how much Outrun means to me. It was the first videogame I ever really played properly – the beginning of what was to become a passionate, not to mention expensive hobby, which has been vigorously pursued ever since. It’s a real possibility that had this encounter not taken place, I may not even be a casual gamer now, let alone the hardcore gaming nerd that I became and remain. The holiday had to end though, and upon returning to Hampshire, the source of my obsession was nowhere to be found. This situation was soon rectified, however. After a hard fought campaign, my parents finally bought me a Sega Master System, on which I had discovered I could play Outrun. I had to pay them back of course, so three years of paper rounds ensued, all proceeds going to this cause. It didn’t matter though – I had Outrun!

OutRun Marquee

The Caves of Doom

Caves of Doom, The (1985)
By: Mr. Chip Software / Mastertronic Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 112
Also Available For: Nothing

Caves of Doom title

“Whilst exploring the planet Doom you were captured by the guards of the ruthless Lords of Darkness. You are now imprisoned in caves deep within the bowels of Doom but are determined to escape. To do so you must find five keys, one of which is in three pieces, which are scattered around the caves. However the odds are laid against you as the Lord of Darkness has laid traps in the caves and has sent many thousands of his bloodthirsty minions to thwart your mission. You are unarmed and, therefore, must use your wits to avoid certain death on Doom…” Well, that’s all according to the cassette inlay, anyway! You’d think with a name like ‘Planet Doom’, people would be a bit more cautious, but noo, some people just have to start poking their noses in, don’t they?!

Caves of Doom screenshot

So, having been given the unenviable task of guiding the foolish, unnamed spaceman to safety, it’s your job to make your way through 40-odd screens of the worst terrors the ‘Lords of Darkness’ can throw at you. Taking the form of a flick-screen platform game, Caves of Doom is a fairly generic game of its type. As mentioned in the inlay quote, you’re unarmed, so it’s merely a case of making your way through each screen, avoiding the dangers in each as you go. And there are dangers aplenty too (although perhaps not to the scale the instructions imply!). There are various autonomous sentries that move up and down or left to right in regular patterns, wall-mounted guns, and all manner of spikes and parts of platforms that will kill you. Your most formidable adversary, however, is a simple-looking stick man who automatically (and quickly) homes in on your location as soon as you enter any room that he’s in. In fact, nearly anything you can touch will kill you instantly! Luckily, however, you’ll just restart the screen you died on rather than go back to the beginning.

Caves of Doom screenshot

To make his way around the rooms, your spaceman can obviously walk around on the flat platforms but he can also fly too. Some sections are blocked off by coloured barriers which you must collect the corresponding keys to get past. Flying uses fuel however, which must be replenished by collecting the magenta triangles which, of course, are often located in the most inconvenient places possible, surrounded by spikes and the like! In fact, this game is very much from the Manic Miner school of precision movement, i.e. playing the same screen over and over again until you get it right! Suffice to say, it’s a real tough game and one which I’ve never managed to finish. As you might expect for a budget game, particularly an early one, Caves of Doom is fairly basic in appearance, but, besides a bit of colour clash, it’s certainly neat and colourful. Sound is almost non-existent with just a few sound effects, including an annoying ‘death noise’, although it might just be annoying purely because of how often you hear it when playing!

Caves of Doom screenshot

I have a lot of memories of trying to conquer this bloody game and in the intervening years but it has not gotten any easier! It’s addictive though, and remains enjoyable to play in short bursts. It even has a screen editor which lets you mess around with the screen layouts and then play them! Overall, it’s a simple game, but it is a budget game and was well worth a bash for its price back then. If you like hardcore platformers like the Miner Willy ones, give it a try.

RKS Score: 6/10

Chronos

Chronos (1987)
By: Mastertronic Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 36,950
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC

Chronos title

Back in gaming’s distant past, a phenomenon known as budget games was born. Budget games were something that, until Sony came along and introduced their ‘Platinum’ range of older titles, had never graced the console market – they were restricted to the now-classic home computers of the day. They were at their most successful during the days of the battle for 8-bit computer supremacy and, at this time, they usually cost £1.99 or £2.99. They included, either top-selling titles which had been on release at full price for a while already (much like the Platinum range), or they were original but often somewhat limited games whose developers felt wouldn’t shift many units at full price, and thus released them for a knock-down price. Some budget games were indeed substandard, or even mind-numbingly crap, but there were also many better than average, or even awesome titles available too. Chronos was among these.

Chronos screenshot

Even in its day, Chronos was one of the most basic shoot ’em ups seen for years. It’s a horizontally scrolling affair spread over six fairly long levels. It features no power-ups, very basic and repetitive enemies, and little else. It should be complete crap, but for reasons I find myself completely unable to explain, it’s not! The first level features two kinds of enemies. The first are flying aircraft things which fly in a straight line and explode, either when you shoot them or when they hit part of the scenery. The second kind is a simple sphere which does much the same thing, but doesn’t move as quickly. The level is over when you reach the ‘Chronos Zone End’ marker, at which point the next level begins and the monochrome graphics change colour. Each new level brings with it a new kind of enemy. Level two for instance, sees the introduction of the ‘tumbling’ squares. These erratic fiends are much harder to avoid or shoot due to their unpredictable flight path and they often seem to lie in wait, popping up at the most inconvenient moments! All the enemies seem to appear randomly too, and often in or from rather strange parts of the levels.

Chronos screenshotThe levels themselves are quite interesting. They feature an abundance of scenery – some of it along the top and bottom of the screen, as is standard, some of it simply floating in the middle of the screen, and much of it pretty sizeable and arranged in such a way that you’re rarely able to fly along in a straight line. At a few points it even offers two different routes, but one of them generally ends in a dead-end! Amusingly, many parts of the scenery also display various non-game-related messages, presumably as a result of the programmer larking around while writing it! This doesn’t represent the extent of the levels’ features either. The first of the obstacles you’ll encounter are segmented barriers, which can be destroyed a section at a time by shooting them. They are numerous and appear in all sorts of locations – sometimes they are only one or two sections high inside a tunnel or small gap in the scenery, other times they appear screen high (on the rare occasion that’s possible). They are replaced by honeycomb-like barriers in later levels too, which effectively do the same thing. There are also energy barriers which span the distance between the top and bottom of the scenery. These are taken out by shooting them at the top or bottom which disables the beam. A more aggressive feature, which can be found increasingly frequently as the game wears on, are the gun emplacements. They are usually found near the bottom of the screen and shoot directly upwards. Just about the only other feature of note is the bonus letters which appear every now and then. They gradually spell out B-O-N-U-S (what else) and give you extra points.

Chronos screenshot

There’s not a lot more to it that that. Chronos is a basic shooter to say the least, but it unquestionably has a certain something. But what is the hook? One of the most appealing things about it is its appearance. Each level is presented in a monochrome style – one colour for the space background, which is littered with stars moving at different speeds, and the other colour for everything else. The first level features a black background with yellow scenery and sprites for instance. While technically far from the pinnacle of Spectrum achievements, Chronos’ graphics are very neat and suit the game well. The only bad point here is the somewhat jerky scrolling. Like many Speccy games, the sound is far less impressive, however. The only tune in the game is present on the title screen and during play there are all of three sound effects – your ship’s shooting noise, explosions, and when you collect the bonus letters.

Chronos screenshotAs far as the gameplay is concerned Chronos should be a bit of a stinker, but for some reason it’s not. I’m not sure why this is but I’ve always enjoyed playing it, from right back in 1987 when I first got it up until this very day. I think at least part of this is down to the highly imaginitive scenery. Shooting the aliens almost takes a back-seat at times to navigating your way around the screen, down tunnels, and taking out or avoiding obstructions – the game always keeps you on your toes. The six levels won’t challenge you forever and I’ve finished this game several times, but it’s a good game to return to due to its high-score potential. There are a fair few enemies on the screen at any time and you can’t cover the entire screen the whole time. Therefore, if you can’t destroy all of them, the possibility to improve your score will always exist, as there are always points missed.

Chronos screenshot

When you see Chronos in action for the first time, you’d know it’s a budget game. It doesn’t have the ‘presence’ of a full-price title, but the truth is I’ve spent far more time playing this than I have almost all other Speccy shooters, full-price or otherwise. But at the same time, it would be slightly unjust to give this game a huge score, due mainly to the existence of far more polished Spectrum shooters such as R-Type, Side Arms, Salamander, and Flying Shark. The mere mention of those titanic games should see this game immediately fade into obscurity, but for some reason I can’t stop myself from liking this cheap and cheerful, but highly enjoyable little game.

RKS Score: 8/10

On a footnote, such is the love for Chronos, there’s a decent PC remake available. Download it from the excellent World of Spectrum remakes page, here.

My Favourite Games – Part 5

It’s been a pretty busy last week or so here in RKS Land, so sorry for no posts for a while. I have decided in the intervening days that I should expand my Top 30 Favourite Games to a Top 50. I’ve simply thought of too many great games that would have to be left out of a Top 30! So, as the five games I’m posting here bring the total so far to 25, I think I’ll take a break from the favourite game list for a while and try to establish some of my other planned types of posts. So, tomorrow (hopefully!), will be the first of my silly Top Five lists! In the meantime, here’s the next five of my Favourite Games…

Gradius – PC Engine (1991)

Gradius – PC Engine

Or Nemesis, to use its correct UK title, but I always preferred the Japanese name. Regardless of what you call it, no one can deny the effect it has had on the genre it helped to define. Some say it was the first shoot ’em up to feature power-ups; others claim it was the first to feature end-of-level-bosses. It certainly had unique and creative stages for such an early game. The PC Engine version is my favourite and is almost arcade-perfect. In fact, it even has a whole extra level and an awesome remixed soundtrack! For a while, the Speccy version was the only one that I’d played, and, based on that version, I steered clear of others. However, when I got it for free with my PC Engine, I figured I’d give it another try, and I’m pleased I did! Whilst very tough going, and suffering from a bit of slow-down when things get busy, it’s a supremely playable shooter and features lovely crisp graphics, great music, and enough variety and hectic shooting action to keep any fan happy for a good while!

Bubble Bobble – Saturn (1996)

Bubble Bobble – Saturn

What more can be said about this classic? I first enjoyed this game when I received the excellent Spectrum version as a gift many moons ago. I found it really tough going but loved every minute all the same. Then, a good few years later, I got the Sega Master System version which, for one reason or another, seemed to be quite a bit easier, and I got right to the end of the game. Maybe it was easier, maybe I was just better – it had been so long since I’d played the Speccy version it’s hard to say! Then came the arcade-perfect Saturn version, bundled with Rainbow Islands, which gave me plenty of oppotunity for practice again. Since then, I’ve played through the game on MAME, grabbing a screenshot of each of the 100 stages in the process. Now THAT was hard! Still, it never seems to matter how hard this game is, it’s always super-playable. That could be down to the highly intricate secrets, which sees bonuses and collectibles change depending on how you play, but it’s most likely because it’s simply such a great game. And that damn music!

Streets of Rage 2 – Mega Drive (1992)

Streets of Rage 2 – Mega Drive

It’s testament to this game’s greatness that countless Sega fans and fighting game fans alike still pine for another game in the series after all these years! It’s little wonder too. I remember when the first SOR game came out – it was a revelation, intended to rival Capcoms Final Fight on the recently released SNES, but in the mind of many it was superior. After such a groundbreaking first game, I for one wasn’t expecting a great deal from the sequel. But, as we all now know, it was amazing! Bigger, better graphics, another fantastic soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, more playable characters (including the lovely Blaze once again!), and an even larger game to play though. SOR2 is still counted among the greatest games of its type, and universally revered, and it’s easy to see why.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike – Dreamcast (1999)

Street Fighter 3 Third Strike – Dreamcast

Capcom sure took their sweet time with this! A lot of years, and countless variations of SF2 passed before it finally arrived. I haven’t played either of the previous versions of SF3, but if this DC version is anything to go by, they’ll certainly be passable! The character roster in this game is arguably less appealing (though also less sterotyped) than the fighters in the great SF2, but their nuances also take longer to learn, not to mention master, and be mastered they must, for this is a pretty tough game! I can just about finish it on default difficulty using the ever-reliable Ryu (now complete with a ruling new side-kick), although the final boss character, Gill, is a right bunghole! Various intricate new features also arrived with this sequel of the kind that I have trouble mastering, such as the much-praised ‘parrying’ system, but even if you’re as crap as me, you’ll still find a lot of hyper-fighting action here!

The New Zealand Story – Mega Drive (1990)

The New Zealand Story – Mega Drive

This is another one I first played on the Speccy. I still recall the time I was having a really good session one morning before school, so I paused it (using my fancy Multiface 3) so I could resume when I got home, only there was a big storm which caused a powercut! Grrrr! Anyway, a few years later, I was lucky enough to obtain this awesome Japan-only MD version from my friend Stu and his brother Darren. The first thing that struck me about it was that the levels were different! I’m still not sure why, actually, but I’ve played this version so many times now, I almost can’t remember what the original level designs were! Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter too much. The key ingredient with games like this is the gameplay and addictiveness, and NZS has both in abundance! As Stu will testify, it can be a damn tough game, but it’s also among Taito’s most playable.

Yeay! 🙂 I finally finished the next post! It’s taken me a while due to certain unforeseen circumstances, but hopefully a more regular posting service will resume now! Next time, I’ll try something a bit different and resume the Top 30 (now the Top 50!) another time…

My Favourite Games – Part 4

Wow, these things take longer to write than I thought they would. And to think I was going to post all thirty in one go for my first post! I’m glad I decided to write just five a day (yes I know it hasn’t been every day!), hope you’re enjoying them (if anyone’s even reading this!)…

Galaga ’88 – PC Engine (1987)

Galaga 88 - PC Engine

I’ve always preferred this series of shooters to other games of the type such as Space Invaders. There are countless versions of Galaxians/Galaga/Gaplus, but few could argue that this PC Engine update isn’t the best. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say this is the Engine game I’ve spent most time playing ever! The fact that my good friend, Luke, gave me the HuCard for free certainly didn’t help matters – it’s addictive as hell! The graphics are hardly pushing the Engine hardware to its limits, but they are very appealing nonetheless. The sprites are well-defined and colourful, and there are now nice backgrounds too. The Challenging Stages from the original Galaga return here, beginning with an announcement of “That’s Galactic Dancin'”, and accompanied by some nice music! Anyway, nice presentation aside, it’s Galaga, you know what you’re getting. Simple, addictive fun. Right up my street!

Pang 3 – Playstation (1997)

Pang 3 – Playstation

I still find it pretty amazing that the Pang games weren’t more popular here in the UK. This third offering, released here on the PS1 as part of the Super Pang Collection, is my favourite of the series. The same basic gameplay is prevalent – that is, destroy the bouncing balloons by shooting them with a harpoon gun, splitting them into ever smaller pairs until they’re gone – but this time they’ve managed to tack on a story mode! You can choose between four characters – Don Tacos, Pink Leopard (my favourite), Captain Hog, and Sheila the Thief, each of whom fires a different type of harpoon, and also has an additional skill. Pink Leopard, for example, is able to go unhindered by the various enemies on each stage. It is then your job to journey around the world collecting various works of art by popping balloons! It’s a crazy game but it’s addictive and great fun!

LocoRoco – PSP (2006)

LocoRoco – PSP

I knew from the first moment I saw a screenshot of LocoRoco that I wanted to play it! I had no idea what sort of game it was, of course, but that didn’t matter. Just look at it! It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I finally got a PSP, having convinced a guy at work that his one wasn’t really worth much and I’d help him out by taking it off his hands! Hee hee! Anyway, the next thing I did was to trade in all the EA Sports crap that came with it, for LocoRoco. Finally it was mine! It was worth the wait too, what a crazy game! It’s basically just a collect ’em up set in the happiest, most colourful game world of all-time, but instead of controlling any characters, you simply tilt the landscape back or forth, rolling the spherical, singing LocoRoco’s around. It’s great fun, features some very imaginitive levels, including more secrets than I can count, and a highly amusing soundtrack is the cherry on the cake! If you want to play a funny, happy game for a change, instead of all the violent nonsense around these days, give it a try!

Tee Off – Dreamcast (2000)

Tee Off – Dreamcast

Yep, it’s another golf game! I do really enjoy these Japanese cartoony style ones, and this is one of my favourites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find them very relaxing and enjoyable, and perfect for the times when I don’t feel like dodging millions of bullets or making pixel-perfect jumps whilst fighting some evil monster. This one, by Bottom Up, is clearly based on Everybody’s Golf for the Playstation, but that’s no bad thing, and features five courses of varying difficulty – Japan, USA, Australia, Scotland, and South Africa. Each course has it’s own look too, and there are several characters to choose from, and various game modes to play through. Granted, there’s nothing terribly spectacular about this game but it suits me down to the ground!

Desert Strike – Mega Drive (1992)

Released a short while after the first Gulf War, it doesn’t take a genius to see where the inspiration for Desert Strike arose! However, regardless of its dubious genesis, surely even those most critical of its origins couldn’t fail to be impressed by such a splendid game! Far from being an all-out shooter, Desert Strike is a free-roaming isometric-viewed game with more than a smattering of strategy tucked into it’s rapid-fire cannons. Controlling a shiny new Apache Gunship chopper, you must complete a set number of missions per level. Some serve military ends, some political, but all must be completed before you have an opportunity to shove a Hellfire missile up “The Madman’s” bunghole (clearly based on Saddam). The sequels added a lot to the formula, not least more vehicles to control, but it’s this first game in the ‘Strike’ series that most gamers, myself included, still hold most dear.

That’s it for now! RKS is tired and will have some dinner before retiring for a while. Next five will be here soon, as well as the first in my ‘Top Five’ series that I’ve been ‘researching’ today… 😉

My Favourite Games – Part 3

Hello, I’m back a day late! I was too tired to post anything yesterday, I had a nice looong sleep for the first time in a while instead! And that means I’ve just worked, slept, and worked again since last posting, so I don’t have anything interesting to say! So, to resume with my favourite games:

Thunder Force 3 – Mega Drive (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Mega Drive

Back in my Sega fanboy days, I used to love it when a game like this came along. It would give me more ammunition to use against those who would seek to besmirch the good Sega name, and would almost always overshadow similar efforts on other machines (at least until the SNES came along!). I can fondly recall many arguments with my Amiga fanboy friend at college. Try as he might, he could never convince me that Project X was a patch on this game! I didn’t have to argue hard either. Featuring lush graphics, an awesome rocking soundtrack, kick-ass weaponry, big bosses, and eight varied levels (including the awesome lava stage, pictured), there’s not really much more a shoot ’em up fan could ask for here. Many people prefer the fourth game in the series, but it’s the third title all the way for me. Perhaps my fondness for this game comes from the fact that I rule at it, but there can be no doubting its quality. After all, how many other shooters are so good they have an arcade version made after they come out?

Datastorm – Amiga (1989)

Datastorm Amiga

There aren’t too many Defender clones as blatant as Datastorm, but it is without question my favourite, even including Defender and Dropzone. In fact, when I started playing it, I hadn’t even played Defender yet! A friend’s Amiga was the setting of many of these early sessions, and when I finally got my own Amiga, this was one of the first games I sought out for it. I remember buying it in a second hand store and the guy in the shop accidentally put two copies of the game in the case. Hee hee! Anyway, it’s similar in style to those aforementioned great games. The object is to collect at least one of eight pods drifting along the ground of each ‘wave’ and deliver it to the portal, then destroy the many and varied aliens. That’s about it. It’s not as insanely difficult as Defender but does have a few extras such as power-ups, bosses, etc, and it’s addictive as hell.

Head Over Heels – Spectrum (1987)

Head Over Heels Spectrum

There can’t be many Speccy owners who didn’t play this celebrated classic by Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond, it’s almost as famous as the Speccy itself! I have always been absolutely useless at it, but that never stopped me from loving it! Controlling, first either Head or Heels, then later on both at once, you are tasked with the liberation of the five planets of the Blacktooth Empire. The story doesn’t really matter a great deal though, it’s the gameplay that counts, and Head Over Heels has it in bucketloads! The stages are creatively designed and full of imaginitive touches and the graphics, though monocrome, are nicely defined and full of character. It is a bit tricky though, I can’t even finish the first planet! It’s amazing that I like it so much and I’ve not even seen 1/5th of its 300 screens! Maybe some day, huh?

Everybody’s Golf – PSP (2005)

Everybodys Golf PSP

Until recently, this ‘slot’ was filled by Neo Turf Masters on the NeoGeo Pocket Color, a fine game by any standards, and probably my favourite golf game too. That is, until I got this little gem for my PSP! Generally speaking, there are two types of golf games. The serious, take-an-hour-to-prepare-each-shot type game (eg, Tiger Woods series), and then there’s this kind. The arcadey, fun, not-so-serious cartoony sort that come from Japan. And it is this kind which is by far my favourite. The series debuted, of course, on the PS1 some years before, but this effort, which was a launch title for the PSP, is a significant improvement over that already fun effort. It’s a lot more forgiving for one thing, but, perhaps more importantly, it has a lot more longevity. Many, many tournaments are available to play though, and there’s more unlockable items than seems possible to begin with. New characters are among these items, but they mostly consist of often nonsensical things to customise your chosen character with. Nonetheless, they are a lot of fun to collect, and give an excuse to keep playing! Just need to find a bikini costume for my favourite, Yumeri now!

Worms Armageddon – Dreamcast (1999)

Worms Armageddon Dreamcast

It’s almost impossible that no-one has played at least one game in this classic, not to mention sizeable series of strategy games from Team 17. It’s also likely that there are better offerings than this one, such as one of the online play versions, but this is the version I’ve spent the most time playing, and therefore, at time of writing at least, my favourite. I’ve most often played this in two-player with my good buddy, Luke, but it can be played by up to four people at once, which can lead to some chaotic but entertaining battles! Admirably, Team 17 have also tried to improve the single player game by including a mission-based game mode, but it is the main game you’ll return to most often, even if you’re on your own! Nothing beats creeping up on a lairy CPU-controlled worm, dropping a bundle of dynamite next to him, and sneaking off again! Hee hee hee!

Back with the next five tomorrow…

 

My Favourite Games – Part 2

Well, much of today has been spent in the fruitless pursuit of an obscure Japanese game and an emulator to run it on. I’m starting to think it’s impossible to find the combination of desired game rom and the relevant emulator, despite the help of couple of good chaps from Retro Gamer forum. Anyone know how to emulate the Sharp X-1, or the NEC PC-98, or goodness know which other previously unknown 25-year old Japanese computers?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out!

And so, to continue with the fairly unremarkable list of my favourite games, numbers 6 -10… Behold!

Super Mario World – SNES (1992)

Super Mario World

Proclaimed by many to be the greatest platform game of all-time, who am I to argue? After spending all of the preceding generation as a Sega fan-boy, I really didn’t want to like this game, but I finally relented and got myself a SNES along with this game, and I was soon converted! Despite looking far less flashy than a certain blue hedgehog’s debut on the rival Mega Drive, this game soon proved to me that looks aren’t everything! I can still remember the first time I completed it, I was so proud of myself but my parents didn’t even care about my achievement! Consisting of a sprawling 96 levels (many of which are secret), I felt justified in being proud of myself too! Despite its size, it never failed to consistently introduce new and creative features either, not least of which was Yoshi, now almost as famous as Mario himself, but the game was just so enjoyable to play through, and has so many nice touches. Has it ever been bettered? Not in my opinion…

Star Fighter – 3DO (1996)

Star Fighter 3DO

Now here’s one that most people haven’t even heard of, nevermind played! I bought this from the 3DO clearance bin in my local second-hand games store towards the end of the 3DO’s brief life for a mere £5, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded it, but then came one of just a few genuine ‘wow’ moments in my gaming life! It was the first free-roaming 3D flying game I had ever played, and it was amazing! Sure, visually it’s looking pretty ropey nowadays, as all early polygon games are, but back then it was a revelation! Originally an Acorn Achimedes game, this spruced up version is, at its core, a mission-based 3D combat game, but it’s not just an out-and-out blaster, no siree! Strategy plays a big part too, especially during later missions, and there’s so much to do. Star Fighter was way ahead of its time; I’ve still not played anything else quite like this, and I’d dearly love to! If you want to try it out though, just steer clear of the horrifying Sega Saturn and Playstation versions!

F-Zero X – Nintendo 64 (1998)

F-Zero X N64

Along with Burnout 2, this is easily my favourite racing game of all-time. Nintendo took the controversial decision of reducing the graphical detail in the game (especially backgrounds) in order to keep it running smoothly at 60fps. Was it worth it? You’re damn straight it was! This could be the most exciting, edge-of-the-seat, sweaty palms, racing game ever made! Racing at speeds of up to 1500kph over courses that often look more like rollercoasters, I’m sure you can imagine why too! There are over 20 varied courses, each race is contested by 30 distinctive racers, and there’s even a four-player battle mode, so there’s no danger of getting bored anytime soon either. Simply the fastest, most exciting racing action to be found anywhere!

Space Station Silicon Valley – Nintendo 64 (1998)

Space Station Silicon Valley N64

This is another under-appreciated classic which I discovered thanks to the short-lived magazine, Total Control. I can’t even find any reference to that magazine with a quick Google search, but I’m glad it did exist or I may never have played this game! It’s a 3D platform/puzzle game in which you control the microchip of a malfunctioning robot called Evo, damaged when the ship he was on crashed into the titular space station it was meant to be landing on! Populating this space station are many robotic animals, which you can take over by leaping into them. Each animal has unique (and often very strange) abilities and, using them, you must perform set mission objectives (also often very strange) before you can move onto the next. It’s a highly original, creative, and funny game in which you never know what’s around the next corner!

The Revenge of Shinobi – Mega Drive (1989)

The Revenge of Shinobi Mega Drive

Or Super Shinobi, as it’s known in Japan, and this was the version I first played. When visiting my good friend, Stu’s, house one day after school I was excited to see that his brother had a gleaming new imported Japanese Mega Drive sitting in his room. It wasn’t long before Stu and his brother, Darren, were demonstrating the power of this new console, and this was the game they used to do it. And it worked! The awesome intro sequence, the breathtaking graphics, the now legendary music… I was still used to my Sega Master System and trusty Speccy at this time, so the effect this game had on me was profound, and it still holds a lot of good memories for me. And after all these years, it’s clearer than ever that this wasn’t all window dressing either, it still plays like a dream. Still the best game in the Shinobi series if you ask me!

Next five to follow tomorrow…

Cosplay: Hyper Combo Finish

In honor of my purchase of Capcom versus Marvel 3, this weeks Cosplay will be dedicated to all the lovely ladies of the Street Fighter series. Enjoy!

 

 

Chase HQ review

Chase HQ Title screen

Chase HQ (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,723,860 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Master System, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Before the days of polygons, it was pretty rare to find a decent driving game. Even in the arcades they were pretty rare. If you asked any gamers around my age to name their favourite, most would probably say OutRun, and with good reason – it was a revolutionary game that made a huge impact. There was a few other good examples from around that time as well though, and one was Chase HQ. This effort from the awesome Taito was clearly influenced by OutRun – what else wasn’t in the years after its release? – but it’s not just a shameless rip-off, no sir. Whilst the basic gameplay has shades of Sega’s classic, Taito also injected it with themes taken from some of the American buddy cop movies and TV shows which were so popular at the time. It sure sounds like a perfect combination but how does it stand up today?

Chase HQ screenshot

Taking on the role of police detective, Tony Gibson, it’s your job to pursue one dangerous criminal on each of the game’s five stages. They have all commandeered some sort of powerful sports car and are fleeing out of the unnamed city (which is probably LA), They have got a head-start too so you, along with your partner, Raymond Broady, need to move quickly to make up the lost ground. After a briefing from the lovely Nancy back at ‘Chase Headquarters’ you’ll get sixty seconds to catch up with each felon in your black Porsche 928 Turbo. Once you’ve reached him, you’ll get another sixty to smash his car up until they stop (they’re all men – women don’t commit crimes, remember)! Your ride is equipped with three helpful turbo boosts per stage/credit which can either be used to catch up with the ‘con’ quicker, or to smash into him more aggressively once you already have.

Chase HQ screenshot

You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of fun, but you may also have thought that it sounds rather short. Well, you’d be right on both counts, but the latter point is pretty much the only bad thing about the game. Rather than attempting to craft a longer lasting, more subtle kind of driving game, Taito have instead gone for an intense ten minute blast of a game. It’s not particularly difficult either but some replay value is added by the accumulative bonus you receive for passing each of the many civilian cars the roads are filled with without hitting them. Technically the game is a noticeable step up from OutRun too. The sprites are probably a little better and more varied and the game plays a bit faster, but the biggest improvement is in the stages themselves.

Chase HQ screenshot

Rather than sticking to one backdrop each, the backgrounds and scenery here change numerous times per stage and are pretty varied too. The courses are also much less flat than OutRun’s and each features a fork mid-way through with one route being longer than the other. The audio is also pretty half-decent. The music, whilst perfectable fine, could never hope to best Hiroshi Miyauchi’s immortal tunes, and the effects are okay too, but Chase HQ’s most noticeable addition is the speech. Your partner is pretty vocal throughout the game, willing you to drive faster and getting excited once battle commences, and good old Nancy has a fair bit to say for herself, both during the briefings and over the police radio during the game too.

Chase HQ screenshot

Such is the glorification of crime and violence these days, I’m confident that if this game was released today you would play the role of the criminal, most likely with the object not only to escape from the pursuing police officers but to kill them too, and bonus points scored for killing civilians too, or some such nonsense. As it is though, this is very much a ‘good guys sim’ and remains one of the most memorable cop games released. The combination of OutRun and cop film was a superb idea for a game and makes this play very differently to the former. It also creates a fantastic atmosphere and makes it a different enough game to stand proudly next to OutRun instead of in its shadow. It won’t take you long to see all Chase HQ has to offer but it’s such a fast, exciting rush of a game, you’ll be back time and time again. A genuine classic.

RKS Score: 9/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - NES Box

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

There is not much to tell that many people have already mentioned before. This game is a lot of fun with a second buddy and a real challenge as well. Too bad this game wasn’t made for four players but it’s understandable because the NES hardware would go nuts if there were four turtles in the screen.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - NES Gameplay Screenshot

Moving along, this game is a lot of fun either way especially for TMNT fans. You get to fight your old buddies from the cartoon series like Bebop, Baxter, and some polar bear that froze New York City……yeah all of them! The game does get a little boring after killing off over five hundred foot soldiers but the atmosphere and the attempt to make the game feel like the arcade game(which rocks) keeps it interesting.

To finish things off, this game is a must pick up for any fan of beat em ups since it really contains a lot of it! I recommend picking it up but please don’t spend too much money on it as it is a highly common game. Also, be sure to check out the sequels and the first part as well.

Did you know? The pirate Famicom cart of this game starts you up with five lives rather than three? Really helpful if you are just starting up!

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer - Title Screen

Ridge Racer (1994)
By: Namco Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PlayStation
Also Available For: Arcade, PlayStation 2 (as part of compilation)

Every now and then, you’ll get an arcade game that takes the world by storm. Everyone, everywhere is talking about it, playing it, or talking about playing it. Ridge Racer was one of these titles. When it was announced as a launch title for the PlayStation, its fans went into hysterics. “We can now play the best racing game of all-time in the comfort of our own homes!” they all exclaimed with glee. It arrived – they all bought a Playstation and a copy of it, played it for a couple of hours, and realised that Ridge Racer was far from the best racing game of all-time, after all. A valuable lesson to us all then, that good arcade games do not always make good home console games.

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exageration, but it’s true to some extent – at least as far as some of the games that don’t receive any or many substantial improvements / additions are concerned. That unfortunately, is where this port of Ridge Racer falls down. Of chief concern is the number of courses on offer here: one. Okay, it’s a good course, and a pretty big one, but even for an arcade game, one course just doesn’t cut it. Some fans of this game defend its appalling number of courses by claiming that Namco had a very short amount of time to develop it, having to rush it out in time for the PlayStation’s launch. This may be true, but I don’t think it’s the real reason – Ridge Racer Revolution – the sequel to this game, is not a significant improvement, after all, and Namco had plenty of time to get things right with that one.

Ridge Racer - Car select screen

As mentioned though, the course is more than half decent in itself. It is quite a large one and takes you from the city over bridges and through tunnels past such views as a construction site, mountainsides and a beach. Before racing on it, you must choose a car, and there are four available. Actually, one nice feature of this conversion is that while it is loading, you can play a single-screen version of Galaxians. If you manage to shoot all the aliens before the game loads, the quota of cars is trebled. Regardless of how many cars are initially available (all of which are fictional), each has differing attributes – acceleration, traction, handling and top speed all vary from vehicle to vehicle, and the usual manual or automatic transmission can be selected. With the car selected, it’s onto the race.

Ridge Racer - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Races are contested against eleven computer controlled opponents (you always start at the back of the grid, of course), with the difficulty level you select determining the number of laps of each race and the top speed of the computer-controlled cars. The highest difficulty setting also sees night races introduced and adds a small, more challenging section to the main course, and later on, some races are also contested over mirrored or reversed versions of the course. In the last race, you’ll have the opportunity to race the mysterious black ‘Devil Car’ which is the fastest in the game. Beat it and you’ll have completed the game, as well as having gained access to the black car yourself. The only other play mode is the time trial where you must try and beat the best lap times for the course in its various configurations.

Ridge Racer - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Graphically, Ridge Racer is impressive for an early title. Aside from a slight reduction in background detail and polygon count, it’s damn near arcade perfect. A helicopter follows your car around the course as you race, and after the race, you can watch a replay of your performance as seen from the helicopter. Races start at different times of the day like sunrise, midday or dusk, so some nice lighting effects and colours can be seen throughout, and the cars look nice, though they can’t be damaged. The in-game view can be switched between a front bumper mounted camera and a behind car camera. The ‘techno’ music selected for the game will probably be awesome or terrible, depending on your taste. It consists of six ‘bangin choons’ which you can choose from before racing. I suspect though, that even if you like this kind of music, they will begin to grate after a while. The composer obviously thinks highly of them though, as there’s a ‘music player’ feature on the option screen which shows cars racing around while the music of your choice plays. Luckily, the music featured here is not mandatory. In a fairly innovative feature, you can put your own music CD’s in your PlayStation and listen to them for a while instead. Sounds effects are completely forgettable and the engine sound is awful (lawnmower?), and unfortunately, an annoying commentator rambles on throughout each race too, saying the same stuff all the time (such as “Wow, what a start” regardless of whether you made a good start or not!).

Ridge Racer - Gameplay Screenshot 3

As for the gameplay… it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. The cars handling style has obviously been retained from the arcade version, i.e. ultra loose and power slidy. In fact, this game may well be the inventor of the now famous and much copied power slide, but it sure as hell didn’t perfect it first go! It’s hard to explain, but when grip is lost the car will most often start pivoting left and right around a central point of the car until your speed decreases substantially and you can start accelerating away again. It’s ridiculous, annoying, and completely unrealistic. Yes I know this is an arcade racer and realism is not the order of the day here, but some sort of basis in reality wouldn’t go amiss. Another annoying aspect of gameplay is that contact with other cars or the side of the course, even if it’s slight, results in a severe reduction in speed, and once you’ve hit one once, particularly as far as the roadside barriers are concerned, it’s very easy to keep bumping them, thereby ruining any chance of a decent finish. This obviously gets very annoying after a short time. Having said that, the challenge on offer here isn’t really befitting a game with one course – you’ll win the first race within your first three attempts to very little fanfare. But those (fairly major) points aside, Ridge Racer, as limited as it is, is very enjoyable for a day or two before it becomes boring. Of course, a two-player split screen mode would help matters, but there’s none of that here either!

Overall, Ridge Racer was an enjoyable arcade game, but is unsuitable as a home game without a radical overhaul, which this conversion has not received. There really is very little to return to here, after the first few days – the desire to improve lap times is something that prolongs the lifespan of most driving games, but when that game only has one course, it’s not nearly as attractive a proposition. When this first came out, I’m sure it had a big ‘Wow’ factor – after MegaDrive and SNES racing games, it was a genuinely impressive sight, but it didn’t take long before there were some decent alternatives – Gran Turismo, Colin McRae, Total Drivin’, Test Drive 4 & 5, Toca Touring Cars, Porsche Challenge, Need For Speed and many others are much more enjoyable driving games, and much more worthy of your time. It’s a shame too, there was real potential here. If Namco added just a few more courses, this could’ve been a half-decent game. If they tinkered with the car-handling, it could’ve been even better. Later games in the Ridge Racer series showed what was possible on the PlayStation – the stupidly-named Ridge Racer Type 4 has 8 courses and a two-player mode, for example, and is a great racing game. This original is not.

RKS Rating: 4/10

 

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon - Title Screen

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon

Sometimes when you make something good you keep making it that way. That reasoning is why many games are made on the Unreal Engine and back in the nineties there were a number of games that emulated the style of Capcom’s Final Fight and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon was one of them.

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon - Select Screen

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon was an arcade beat em up game developed by Gazelle in 1995. The game was based off the anime character from Sailor Moon. The game itself played almost like Final Fight from the way the level design was created to how the life bar of the character and enemies were displayed.

You can pick one of the five main characters from the game or you can play two players together. While each character has her own special moves and attacks, most of the basic moves are the same. Just like Final Fight, there is a lot of button smashing and tons of bad guys after you also from the Sailor Moon series.

The game itself is pretty straightforward. You guide your character through multiple levels taking on random bad guys who are really only a threat to you if they surround you. Like in Final Fight if you learn to keep all the enemies in front of you and throw the bad guys into each other the game can be a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, unlike Final Fight where you smash oil drums and phone booths for food, in Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon candy drops randomly from bad guys that replenish some of your health.

Your standard attacks are a series of punches and kicks. You can also do a little charge attack and you can jump kick your enemies. The best method for killing bad guys is to hold them and punch them a few times before throwing them into their friends. In addition, a little trick from Final Fight that is useful in this game is to count a second in between your attacks, this will allow you to keep them stunned but not knock them down until they are out of health. This works best in one on one situations.

Each character has a special attack. You start out with the ability to use it once and can collect crystals from enemies to not only do them more often, but make them more powerful. When you hit the special attack button you get a little animation of the character saying something and then all enemies on the screen take damage.

When you reach the end of a level, you face a boss, which most of the time is not much harder than a normal bad guy but their attacks are much stronger. Sometimes Tuxedo Rose shows up and tosses a rose that causes damage and then leaves, quite the hero.

In a nutshell that is all to the game. You fight your way to the final boss and that is it. Unlike Final Fight, there are no weapons and nothing really to break. The music to me is quiet annoying and does not match the game, but perhaps it is a Sailor Moon tune, I really do not know. The sound effects are pretty standard and if you like the sound of Japanese women being hit then you might really like this game. As for me, it was a subpar rip-off of Final Fight with little girls in school uniforms.

Exploring the NES – Part 1

As I briefly mentioned in my ‘Exploring the Commodore 64‘ feature, the computers or consoles we look back upon with most affection are usually the first ones we got, and these are usually gifts from our parents for Christmas or something similar. Just as I missed out on C64 gaming by virtue of receiving the splendid gift of a ZX Spectrum, I also completely missed out on Famicom / NES gaming by becoming a Master System owner. Although it wasn’t a gift this time (the details surrounding the purchase can be found here), the enjoyment my MS provided soon turned me into a Sega fanboy who looked upon the ‘inferior’ NES with scorn.

Of course, the fact that the NES was a bit of a flop here in the UK just reinforced my belief that I had chosen wisely, it was irrelevant that it was crushing all before it in Japan and the US, and in a coincidental parallel of my Speccy situation, I didn’t know a single person who owned an NES. This meant I missed out on Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Castlevania, and all the other classic franchises born on this famous console, but I didn’t care at the time – it took the SNES to break my disdain for Nintendo and by then the NES was old news. Fortunately however, it turned out my evolution as a gamer meant that once I’d reached the Dreamcast and my beloved Sega had gone down (well, as a hardware manufacturer), I fell out of love with modern gaming and instead sought refuge in gaming’s past.

Before starting Red Parsley I had, somewhat startlingly never played an NES game. I have since played a few here and there for the odd review or feature, but the console remains largely unknown to me. It was mainly for this reason that I asked Eric, Facebook friend and purveyor of fine NES reviews and features website, Nintendo Legend, to recommend five games that he felt would give me a well-rounded experience of his favourite console. Though there will be a follow-up to this feature at some point, here I present my first impressions of the games Eric chose and of the console generally.

Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)

Okay, yes, I’ve played this one before, albeit as part of Super Mario All-Stars on my SNES, so I already know how frickin’ awesome it is! Having said that, the ‘Best Mario Game’ argument often comes down to this or Super Mario World, and I have to confess, I prefer the latter. But that’s like trying to decide what’s best between two Ferrari’s – neither is exactly a pile of crap! Like most Mario games, it’s possible to just casually pootle through each of the many stages that make up the eight worlds here and then play something else but just as much fun comes from trying to uncover all the many secrets the game holds too. In my opinion, as a Master System owner I had access to a game as equally fantastic as this in Wonder Boy 3, but it’s possible I may change that viewpoint after a long-overdue delve into this amazing game.

Maniac Mansion (1987)

I confess, there’s not many game genre’s I don’t really get on with but ‘point and click’ adventures are one of them. I know how well regarded this game is though, so I approached it with an open mind and… it’s not bad! It’s set in an evil professor’s large mansion of some sort from which you must help Dave rescue his girlfriend. Joining him are two friends who you can choose yourself from six who all have unique abilities. I’m sure I’m just preaching to the converted here though! It’s easy to see why this game was so popular in its day – it and its sequel still command a loyal following today, as well as many other LucasArts games. The graphics and music are pretty nice but the most fun comes from exploring the mansion which has a lot of replay value thanks to the multiple characters. I may not finish this game, being something of a genre beginner, but I’ll certainly give it a go! Much more fun than I thought it would be!

Dragon Warrior (1986)

Long have I known of the immense popularity of the Dragon Quest series in Japan but I haven’t actually played any… until now! I was a bit nervous too. I love action RPG’s like Zelda, Grandia, and the Shining series, for example, but this is a proper RPG, you have to actually learn how to play these things! My first 30 minutes or so playing this was great though. I generally like games with fantasy settings and it’s no exception. The graphics and music are rather basic, even for a NES game, but everything is neat and tidy and it’s an enjoyable game world to explore. Well, until I left the first town that is, where I encountered the infamous ‘random battles’ syndrome whereby monsters appear every five seconds or so! Luckily it’s not mandatory to fight each of them (although I initially tried and was soon defeated!). It will of course take me much longer to make any significant progress into this game but I like it a lot so far.

Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Hooray, an American Football game, thanks Eric! It was actually thanks to gaming that I became interested in this sport and I remain a loyal 49ers fan to this day (for my sins). The first thing that struck me about this offering from Tecmo, which is notable for being the first sports game to be officially licensed and therefore able to use all the correct team and player names, was its superb presentation. I’ve played US Football games older than this before but Tecmo really put a sheen of polish on it to show up all competitors. As with most complicated sports games, it took a while to get the hang on this one, but once I did I couldn’t stop playing it! Witness my 80-odd yard touchdown run against the stupid Packers to the right! It’s not been hard to see why this game is still popular today.

Contra (1988)

It’s rather ridiculous that I’ve never played a Contra game quite frankly, especially given my appreciation of other run ‘n’ gun games such as the Shinobi series. Nonetheless, I guess it’s fitting my first one is the first one and it was immediately obvious to me why this series has always been held in such high regard. It’s not a very complicated game and mere seconds after starting it I was running, jumping, and shooting through the first stage as though I’d been doing so for years. That’s not to say it was easy though, far from it. I’ve heard many complaints from gamers over the years about how tough these games are and they appear to be well founded! I feel sure though, that if I’d had an NES in my youth rather than an MS, this game would’ve occupied a lot of my time. The graphics are pretty good, the music is fantastic, but it really is superbly playable, not to mention addictive. Top stuff!

That’s it for now! These first five games have all been great fun to discover. Although I’ve played similar games to Dragon Warrior and Tecmo Super Bowl on my Master System, the others were not really something for which MS fans were catered. I’m not finished yet though. Given the rather extensive back-catalogue that NES owners enjoyed (and something the poor old Master System could certainly have done with), I’ll be covering five more games in the next part of this post along with a final verdict of the much-loved NES. Perhaps my fellow blogger, and Famicom collector, Sean, will be kind enough to suggest the next five? 😉

Top Five Sega Master System Two-Player Games

Sega Master System console

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. Super Off Road (1992)Super Off-Road Screenshot 1

Unlike the arcade version (and NES version), the MS port of this spiritual successor to Super Sprint does only support two players simultaneously (as opposed to three and four respectively), but that doesn’t massively detract from the enjoyment of racing around these bumpy, pot-hole-ridden courses. Exciting, fast-paced fun for beginners and experts alike.

4. Gauntlet (1990)Gauntlet Screenshot 1

Some say that Gauntlet was never meant as a one-player game and is no fun when played alone. I don’t agree, I’ve always loved playing it, by myself or not. There can be little doubt, however, that it’s much more fun with a friend in tow, even if the age-old problem of deciding who gets to choose their favourite character never seems to go away! The MS version of this arcade classic was a revelation when it came out and still holds up fantastically well today.

3. Double Dragon (1988)Double Dragon Screenshot 1

The arcade version of this one was much loved, but the home conversions have been a real opinion-divider! I can still remember the arguments about which ones were good and which weren’t. This MS version, renowned for horrifying levels of sprite-flicker, it may be (so much so, even getting a usable screenshot is a challenge!), remains one of the best. Two-player scrolling fighters are few and far between, but ones this slick and playable are to be treasured!

2. Spy vs Spy (1986)

As much fun as a two-player co-operative game is, I think most people will agree that outwitting (no to mention beating the crap out of) a friend is even more fun! And what better way to do it than the fantastic MS version of this classic? Of course, you’re supposed to be rushing around the rooms looking for the items you need to escape, but most people end of spending their time setting booby-traps to catch your friend out, then cackling as they get fried/blown-
up. And with random room and
item placement, you’ll never get
bored of doing it!

1. Fantasy Zone the Maze (1987)Fantasy Zone The Maze Screenshot

Unusual choice? Maybe, but my good friend Luke and I have spent so much time playing this under-appreciated gem, I just had to put it in the number one spot! I must admit, a Pac-Man-inspired collect-the-dots game wouldn’t have been the most obvious use of the Fantasy Zone name, but it works really well. Collect the coins, use them to buy weapons to get further in the game. It’s simple, addictive, and awesome fun. Plus, it’s too hard in one-player mode, I need some help!

Captain Tsubasa 3

Captain Tsubasa 3 - Box

This time around I will suggest any of you to pick up a copy of Captain Tsubasa 3 for the Super Famicom. This game is unique in many ways. The most unique way this game separates from any other game is because it has a Soccer/RPG genre glued to it. How can this work together you say? Well the geniuses at Tecmo did it with high success.

Many people who have played the whole saga throughout the years will tell you that this is the one everyone must have in their collection. The game plays very simple as you receive the ball and then use the d-pad to move around the soccer field. The bottom of the screen has a radar look since it shows where you and your team mates are as well as the other team. Once you approach a member of the other team you will encounter him and will have to make a decision on what you want to do. In some cases, you can try and dribble the ball past by him although this will depend on how good the player holding the ball is. You can also pass it to another team member among other things.

Captain Tsubasa 3 - Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, there is a lot of interesting aspects to this game including a player vs player mode where you can go against a friend with the games’ all stars. I highly recommend this game as well because of the fantastic soundtrack it holds. If you are still unsure you want to pick this game up, I suggest you try the rom via-emulator and see for yourself if this game is worth the money.

Did you know? This game has been hacked into various versions including one that was translated to Spanish? One day I’ll find a copy to show the world!

The Daily Vid: Hot Chicks Perform Street Fighter Ultra Combos

Street Fighter Cosplay - Rose Cosplay

Our video of the day features real life women preforming Ultra Combos from Street Fighter. This one is Fappathon worthy.


Hot Chicks Perform Street Fighter Ultra Combos – Watch more Game Trailers

The Music Hall: Star Control 2 – The Precursors Remixes

Precursors Remixes - Star Control 2Anyone who’s played the awesome Star Control 2 (a.k.a. Ur-Quan Masters) will be familiar with the high quality of its audio. Not just music, but many fantastic and memorable sound effects, and hours of speech from the game’s various races too. But, yes, the music was particularly grand and has been a permanent fixture on my Cellphone/MP3 Player. Whether it’s making the long journeys across hyperspace more interesting, increasing the already prevalent feeling of fear when the pack of anonymous ships chasing you turns out to be a fleet of Kohr-Ah Maruaders intent on ‘cleansing’ you, filling you with a sense of determination as you face enemies in battle, or making you feel like a pioneering explorer as you discover new planets in the furthest corners of the galaxy, all the music in Star Control 2 is fantastically composed, atmospheric and suits the situation it’s used for perfectly.

The Precursors project is the brainchild of a Finnish gentleman by the name of Riku Nuottajärvi. He was the composer of some of the original songs from Star Control 2 itself, and he had the idea of remixing all the 69 (giggity) songs found in the game. This would of course be a lot of work, so he recruited some help from the fan community. Although many helpers came and went while the project was underway, the core group of composers would eventually become Riku, Jouni Airaksinen (also from Finland), and two Norwegian fellows called Espen Gätzschmann and Tore Aune Fjellstad (I’m guessing SC2 is popular in Scandinavia!). Between them they have remixed over 40 full-length songs, as well as various shorter tunes and ditties from the game, and as far as I know, the project is ongoing. I hope so because the results so far have been outstanding!

The remixes so far are mostly in a dance/trance/techno style, which suits the game pretty well. They are a mixture of alien race theme songs, and other songs such as the hyperspace, quasispace, battle themes, etc, and are free to download, so you have no excuse not to listen to them! Granted, neither game music or dance music are to everyone’s tastes, but those of you who enjoy either are advised to check them out. It just goes to show how dedicated the Star Control fan community is!

Click below to hear one of the remixes:

Precursors – Mycon – Rebirth .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

The Precursors remixes are free to download from their homepage here.

Further fan remixes (non-Precursors ones), not to mention loads of other Star Control-related stuff, can be found at The Pages Of Now And Forever here.

Æon Flux

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Æon Flux

For those that may not know Æon Flux started out as an animated series on MTV. During its run, Æon Flux gaming popularity and in 1996 a video game was announced. The game was loosely based on the television episode titled “The Demiurge.” Æon Flux was to be developed by Cryo Interactive and was to be published by Viacom New Media.

Unreleased - Æon Flux - In Game Screenshot

 

The game did show up at the 96 E3 and a commercial for the game was added to the series release for that years Æon Flux. Viacom and Virgin Interactive merged about halfway through the game development. The merger led to the cancellation of Viacom’s development, which subsequently led to Cyro losing the rights to Æon Flux.

aeon flux game

In the end, Cyro still had access to the games assets and so the game was reworked into the 1997 title Pax Corpus. The game still played and even had the plot elements from Æon Flux, but was just different enough to avoid copyright issues.

Defenders of Oasis

Defenders of Oasis - Box

This week I have a real treat and probably a game many of you didn’t knew about. Defenders of Oasis is a Dragon Warrior(Quest now) RPG that involves a kingdom going at war. It’s the cliche storyline but wasn’t this what the games were and still are about back then. Who cares about a cliche story when you have such fun gameplay. This game is challenging in many factors but mostly in battle. I got killed five times at the first dungeon before I was able to get past it….yeah it’s a challenge at least for me.

Defenders of Oasis - Screenshot 1

Furthermore, the game has decent music and good graphics for a game gear title. I suggest playing it with an emulator if you are having trouble looking at the game gear screen. I personally like playing it on my good old blue game gear rather than an emulator but that’s just me. After all, this game will cost you around fifteen dollars if you buy it off ebay but if you have the extra cash, I suggest picking it up.

Defenders of Oasis - Screenshot 2

To wrap things up, this game is nothing that great but also nothing that bad. It’s your typical RPG with RPG elements and RPG “stuff”. The characters also have Anime style characters which was something interesting back in the day.This game is a must have for any old RPG fan though, it’ll keep you entertained. There are not that many RPGs for the Game Gear to say the least and it’s a real shame….

Super Sprint

Super Sprint - Title Screen

Super Sprint (1986)
By: Atari Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 3 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: NES, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

The overhead viewed racing game certainly didn’t start with Super Sprint – the genre goes right back to the pre-microprocessor, black and white games of the 70’s – but it’s possibly the most fondly remembered example of this all but dead genre. In the eighties and early nineties, there were a lot of these games around. Some were variations on Super Sprint, such as Super Off Road, others experimented with games that only showed a small part of the course at once, such as Motoroader for the PC Engine and, of course, Micro Machines (most popular on Amiga and Megadrive), which required lightning reactions by the player, and there were some which were viewed from an isometric viewpoint like Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing for the SNES. All of these variations on the original blueprint were exciting and good fun, esepcially in multi-player, and I’ll be looking at some of them later in this series of features, but it’s Super Sprint and its sequel, Championship Sprint, that old timers like me most fondly recall.

Super Sprint - Select Screen

There can’t be too many people that don’t know all about Super Sprint, and there’s not really too much that you can say about it. It was a simple game, even compared to others of the time. It’s based on either Formula One or Indy/Cart racing (probably the latter considering how unpopular F1 is in the US) and can be played by between one and three players simultaneously, whilst a fourth ‘drone’ car is controlled by the computer. This was before the days of linking machines together of course, so this is achieved by presenting each course in its entirety from an overhead perspective. The races are contested over four laps by four cars regardless of how many human players there are. If there are less than three players, the remaining places are taken by additional drone cars. Though there are only eight courses, the competition can go on for as long as the player(s) like, since the courses just keep repeating over and over again. The object is obviously to finish in as high a position as possible, but only the first three positions score points; the higher the position, the more points are awarded, but if you finish fourth, you’ll soon have to insert (giggity) more coins.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 4

As can be seen from the screenshots, each of the courses feature a wide track, and they pretty much fill the screen. Since the whole course has to be shown at once, however, there are lots of bridges and sharp corners (including some 180 degree, and even a few 270 degree turns!). There are also a few features that are not exactly common on F1-style circuits. Some of them hinder your progress such as jumps (if you fluff it, at least!), tornadoes (which make your car spin around if you drive near them), and pools of oil (which do something similar to tornados), and some are there to help you like short cuts, bonus points, gold wrenches and gates. Not all courses have gates but when they are present, they allow you to take further short-cuts. Beware though – the gates aren’t always open – they open and close in regular patterns (and often seem to favour the computer-controlled cars). If you head towards one at high speed and it closes just as you get there, you often can’t avoid it in time and…….. BOOOOOM!

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 1

When you start the game you don’t get to choose which car you want to drive as they’re all identical (except their colour), but every time you pick up three gold wrenches, you can choose one of four upgrades. Three of them – higher top speed, turbo acceleration, and super traction – can only be chosen up to five times each, but the other, which gives you bonus points, can be selected as often as you like. Be careful if you upgrade your speed too much though, as hitting a wall too fast will result in your car exploding. A replacement is soon ‘choppered’ in enabling you to continue on your way, but it all takes time. It’s also possible to make the others cars crash by driving into them and knocking them into the wall, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, they can also do this do your car.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 2

As mentioned earlier, Super Sprint was a pretty simple game, even back in 1986. There’s precious little music (including none in-game) and a few weak effects, and, while the colours are bold and the title and presentation screens are nice enough, the graphics aren’t particularly impressive either. The courses all look damn near identical (aside from their layout, obviously), the cars and other objects are all small and not especially detailed, and animation is almost non-existent, but this is one of those games that doesn’t need flashy or detailed graphics to be playable. Even far more modern variations on the theme don’t usually look particularly great – playability is all that counts here, and fortunately Super Sprint has that by the bucket-load. The cars here handle very precisely and have tight and quick turning circles. In fact, since the track is mostly very wide (compared to the cars) it’s easy to turn too sharply and end up driving backwards or something! This just adds to the fun when racing against friends though, and is rarely annoying. What is a little annoying, however, is something that’s commonly annoying in racing games – the computer-controlled cars. They’re inconsistent in their performance and are ‘magically’ unaffected by the hazards present on each circuit, like the tornados, but this was always intended as a multi-player game anyway. The courses are nicely designed for the most part though, and are varied enough in their layout to keep things interesting too.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Racing/driving games are among the most enjoyable multi-player games there are today. The strong sense of competition, not to mention the ability to fight dirty by making your friends crash, have helped to prolong the lifespan of many games that would otherwise have started gathering dust long before, and this game proves that this has been the case for almost as long as there has been videogames. They may have changed dramatically over the years, particularly as far as their appearance is concerned, but their roots run deep, so to speak. Super Sprint may be almost 25 years old but it has stood the test of time better than many much newer titles.

RKS Score: 8/10

 

Alliance versus Horde: The PVP Debate

Alliance_vs__Horde_by_Dawnchaser

Being a long time player of MMO’s since the Ultima days I pretty much grew up through my late teens playing these types of games. I can easily tell the different in not only my playstyle, but also my dedication to games, as I got older. While there was talk of kids versus adults in Everquest, it was nothing compared to the debate that rages on in World of Warcraft. This may be new to no one, but there really is little difference between the horde and the alliance when it comes to Player versus Player.

I for a very long time played Alliance and I have played in a ton of battlegrounds and have heard the calls from angry players about how bad the alliance is and that it is full of children. By now, we know that calling people children is like calling someone Hitler; it has been over used and really does not mean anything anymore. However, in all the screaming and nerd rage there is truth to many of the complaints, but the problem is on both sides.

I admit when I began playing on the horde side I expected to win many more BG’s and truth be told I do win more, but that does not mean the same mistakes happen on both sides. Let us look at some of the complaints and break them down.

Alliance does not follow instructions

Not following instructions

Alliance: Sadly, this is true, but the reasons go far beyond it being that they are kids. While it is true that more kids began playing alliance it is just as true that older people and people new to MMO’s also play alliance. Much of the time the reason instructions are not followed is many of the people are new to the BG and really do not know how to ask for help. The second reason is when someone screams calling you a noob and that you should die in a fire you really do not want to ask for instructions.

Horde: On the horde side you have children who believe the horde are bad and bad to them equals bad ass so you have just as many kids wanting to be the “pretty alliance” as you do that want to be the “evil” horde. Second players that are more experienced will go horde, this can be good and bad because sometimes they think they are too good or they think they should lead. What happens is everyone has an opinion and the fight over it and because of that instructions are never fully followed, but in the end more people tend to follow than on the ally side and so that is one reason for more wins.

Alliance gives up

Surrendering_kahjiit_vampire_by_katuysha

Alliance: I have found this to be true in some cases. Most of the time if the alliance really gave a strong push, say in Arathi Basin and the horde pushed back taking the lead from them I have found many will give up. Again, I think this is because of people who do not know the game and mixed in are some who just want easy wins. Age does play into this because often a child wants everything handed to him or her and if they try and look like they will fail, they give up. The result is everyone else suffers including those who are not experienced in BG’s.

Horde: I see less giving up on the horde side and a lot of the time it is due to the fact that the horde are used to winning and believe they can pull victory from the jaws of defeat. This can also work against them because some are so used to winning that if they think they will lose they want to quit and lose quickly so they can move on to another BG. In addition, many horde players almost border on role-play with how they believe the horde should not ever give up just because they are horde.

Alliance cares about HK’s and KB’s

Honor kills in World of Warcraft

Alliance: If the battle group loses a lot and they are used to it many alliance players admit they go for honor kills and killing blows over the win. Alliance will also work on getting achievements that do not require a win. When the allies are used to losing they just go for “fun” and sometimes that just keeps a losing streak going.

Horde: The horde weakness comes in when a player takes a kill seriously. Most of the complaints I hear are about a specific player who is either hard to kill, over powered or killing the same person over and over. I have also found if you offend a horde by doing a gesture when you kill them or heaven forbid using that flag of ownership, you can goat the horde player and sometimes even fellow team members into forgetting the goal of winning the game in order to get payback on a player.

Alliance do not gear properly

PVE gear in PVP

Alliance: Unfortunately, I have found this to be true especially in the lower levels. Many alliance players see PVP as an option where horde sees it as important as PVE. When you add in the younger and inexperienced players, you end up with many alliance players going into BG’s with PVE gear and finding themselves going up against a PVP geared opponent.

Horde: You will always find some people who do not gear up, but many of the horde know that since they win more BG’s then they lose they have extra honor points to spend and they do gear themselves. In the end, this helps the horde more adding to more wins and more gear.

The Turning Point

World of Warcraft PVP motivational poster

There is much more I could go into, but let us hit the key point. Many of the horde players are experienced in MMO’s and specifically PVP, once it was established that horde wins PVP the PVP’ers went horde and so it made them stronger. The point about kids versus adults does not come into play however because horde can be just as vulgar and obnoxious as any alliance, but these guys even if not children are man-children ranging from age 15 to 35. The bottom line is experience and if a young, older or inexperienced alliance player does not really care about PVP, they already start off at a disadvantage.

The horde side fights in the roads in AB, rush Van in AV with towers still up. The horde also ignores healers and tries to kill the tank and they care about the flag more than the bases in EOTS. The horde can leave the flag carrier along in WG and kill players instead of DEMO’s in SOTA and so on and so on. I have just found I end up with those who need to win more on the horde than the alliance side and that’s why I have more honor points than I can spend.

Alien Crush

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I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? ~Simon Lethbridge

Alien Crush

Pinball has diminished in popularity a great deal since the advent of videogames, and pintables are now rarely seen anywhere but decent sized arcades and specialist retro establishments, but thanks to the entertainment medium that saw their demise, they can continue to live on! Which brings me, in a typically long-winded RKS stylee, to Alien Crush. I’m a bit of a pinball fan and I frequently venture into my local pizza restaurant, which is the only place for miles that still has any pintables, but pinball videogames, in my view, too often tried to accurately emulate proper pintables rather than taking advantage of the fact that they are no longer governed by the sometimes-restrictive rules of pintables. That is until Alien Crush came along.

Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Released by Naxat Soft exclusively on the PC Engine, Alien Crush is an original, not to mention supremely playable pinball game that would be completely impossible for an actual pintable to replicate. Its table, you see, is viewed from an overhead perspective, is two screens tall, and is awash with many scary alien creatures and devices! The bottom section of the table is dominated by a large alien creature with many eyes (which looks like the queen from the awesome ‘Aliens’ movie). All around it are various smaller aliens poking their heads out and insect-like creatures scurrying across the table occasionally, tempting you to destroy them before they scamper away, and further down the table on either side of the flippers are two cocoon things that act like bumpers, but if you hit them enough times they will open setting loose the evil monsters within!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 2
The top section of the table has two main features. In the top-left is a brain, which doesn’t really do much besides flash every time the ball hits it, but if you can get the ball right around the side and top of it, a blocker will appear between the flippers. The brain also opens up occasionally to unleash some horrific alien beasts. On the right of the screen is what appears to be a large mollusc or squid-type alien, into which you can also shoot the ball for points. Between these two objects at the top of the screen are three vertical dividers. Passing the ball through them turns lights on and off, and below them are three bumpers whose positions are determined by a mystical eye at the side of the screen. There are of course further aliens abound here too, to further complicate matters!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 3
The last feature of note in Alien Crush is the existence of several bonus tables. These can be reached by shooting the ball into one of the pockets situated around the table, which are usually aliens mouths or something, when the arrow pointing at them is lit. The bonus tables are all one screen in size and the object of them is generally to destroy all the aliens that reside on them. There is one that’s devoid of aliens, however, and they are replaced by lots of bumpers arranged in various positions. It is of course possible to amass considerable points on these tables, but, as every pinball connoisseur should know, everything on a pintable does something, and there are countless ways to amass huge scores on the main table too.
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Graphically, the game is a real treat, especially considering this was an early Engine game. I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? The sound, too, is decent enough. There’s the choice of two tunes before playing – Lunar Eclipse and the splendidly-named Demons Undulate, and the sound effects are suitably befitting of the game’s style. Gameplay-wise, there’s not really much more you could ask for. As with any pinball game, the most important thing is the ball physics, and happily that’s top-notch here. Movement around the table is reliable and impact with enemy sprites is rarely too unforgiving. There’s even a ’tilt’ option for added realism! As you might expect, this is an awesome game for ‘score attacks’ too. New ways of achieving bonus points are seemingly discovered every game – I’m still finding new tricks and devising new techniques all the time! Overall, yes, some could argue that Alien Crush has been superceded now (by its own sequel, for one!) but it still plays a pretty mean game of pinball and is well worth a bash.

RKS Score: 7/10