Mr Driller

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Mr. Driller

Love it or loathe it, Dig Dug is (correctly) regarded as an all-time classic arcade game and, despite being converted to a large number of home systems, it has not been one of the franchises that Namco has furnished with a large number of updates or sequels. It received a rather anonymous second installment in 1985, but the series wouldn’t be revisited for another fourteen long years.

Originally intended to be Dig Dug 3, the transition during its development to Mr Driller also included a change in the protagonist. The hero of Dig Dug was Taizo Hori but taking his place here is his son, Susumu Hori! As the highest ranked Driller in the world, he was the first one the panicked people called when the cities became overrun by mysterious colored blocks rising from underground…

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This flimsy, and largely unnecessary, premise does of course set the scene for another colored/shaped blocks puzzle game. Once you’ve chosen between a 2500ft or 5000ft challenge, the arcade mode throws you straight into the action with Mr Driller falling on top of a huge pile of colored blocks. He can drill in all four joy-pad directions and doing so causes drilled blocks to vanish. As he drills down, untouched blocks may fall downwards if the blocks supporting them are drilled. This can of course result in Mr Driller getting crushed and losing a life.

It’s not quite as hard as it sounds though as falling blocks shake for a split-second before falling, giving you a precious chance to get out of the way. Falling blocks also stick to non-falling blocks of the same color if they touch them, forming larger blocks. There’s only four different-colored blocks as well, so some blocks can get pretty big!

Luckily, larger blocks are destroyed from a single drill-strike, much like single blocks, and any four or more falling blocks of the same color will vanish once they land. This can of course cause big chain-reactions so it’s best to make sure none of them land on your head! Speed is of the essence for more than one reason too.

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Mr Driller has an ever-decreasing air supply so he must drill strategically but quickly. Air capsules are readily available which top up his supply by 20% but sometimes they’re tricky to reach. They are often near brown ‘X’ blocks. These take five drill strikes each to destroy and also take away 20% of Mr Driller’s air, so it’s not really worth breaking one except in an emergency. Mr Driller can clamber up blocks either side of him, but only if they are one block high. This is invaluable for reaching air capsules or escaping falling blocks, but sometimes it’s not enough!

As well as the arcade mode, Mr Driller players also have access to a survival mode and a time attack mode, both of which are fairly self-explanatory. The basic gameplay doesn’t change a great deal, but it doesn’t need to either. I don’t think I was alone in finding Mr Driller a rather unlikely release by Namco on the fancy new Dreamcast, but any initial disappointment soon faded.

It may look like a game that could’ve been hosted by a console from the previous generation, perhaps even the one before that, and it’s not even particularly original, but Namco ensured Mr Driller had it where it counted. It’s bright, colorful, and loud – the music and sounds effects are great. But more importantly, it’s just immense fun. And addictive. Very addictive. If you haven’t dabbled before, Mr Driller comes highly recommended.

Skies of Arcadia

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Format: Dreamcast Genre: RPG Released: 2001 Developer: Sega (Overworks)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Skies of Arcadia

Yes, that’s right another Dreamcast game for the list – no complaining back there. Hey, look, it’s not my fault that a signficant proportion of THE BEST GAMES EVER MADE were released on one particular console. (Funnily enough, I was never a big fan of Sega consoles before the Dreamcast came along, but I became a bit of a DC fanboy after I got one. Ah, Dreamcast, you were taken far too young! May you rest in peace in forgotten console heaven…)

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In terms of set-up, Skies of Arcadia is pretty much your standard Japanese RPG fare:  a young boy from a small village is summoned by destiny to save the world by fighting random, turn-based battles across strange new lands filled with a multitude of manga-style characters, and so on, and so forth. We’ve been here before (Grandia, Final Fantasy, etc. etc.), but the difference with Skies is the sheer imagination that has been poured into the game world, along with the strong sense of ownership you feel over the characters.

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The game world is composed of a series of floating islands that you navigate between using your trusty flying pirate ship. I couldn’t really find the screenshots to do it justice, but this floating world looks fantastic, and there’s a real sense of wonder as you explore new continents and find hidden treasures. In fact, finding the hidden ‘discoveries’ became such a distraction for me that I regularly abandoned the main plot in favour of locating these hidden gems, which were revealed by vibrations of the joypad.

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Then there’s your ship’s crew – as you progress through the game you can recruit more and more members to your crew, each of whom provides some sort of boost when battling an enemy ship. (Incidentally, the ship battles are fantastic, and make for a diverting change from the usual monster battles – see the video below for an example.) The personalities of each of the characters really shine through, and by the end of the game you find yourself becoming quite attached to your motley crew of air pirates.

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The big downside to the game for me was the random battles – I’m not totally against random battles per se, but there should be an option to avoid them if possible. Later on in the game you can purchase items that let you avoid all confrontation, but earlier on you have no option but to plough through whatever the game throws at you, which got frustrating at times. The hardest part of the game occurred about a third of the way through, when you were tasked with finding an item among a series of floating rocks. The trouble was, you were constantly attacked as you flew your ship between the rocks, and this one section became so frustrating that I almost jacked the game in right there. Thankfully I perservered, which was a good thing since the game got a whole lot better from then on in.

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It’s difficult to say exactly what sets Skies of Arcadia apart from its JRPG ilk – it could be the imaginative setting, or the neat mixture of ship and monster battles, or perhaps the excellently crafted characters. Whatever it is, it had me totally hooked, and if you’re an RPG fan it’s an absolute must buy. (NB. If you’re planning to get it, you might want to look out for Skies of Arcadia Legends, an improved version that was released for the GameCube/Wii.)

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and story-lines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favorite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’ ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting back-story, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguisher refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

 

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ’4′ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the back-story to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

Five Video Games To Play In Summer

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When the temperature soars outside, there is only one thing to do – turn on the air-conditioner and grab a video game that will keep you cool and simulate that summer experience.

Wave Race 64 [N64]

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Grab your jet-ski and hit the waves. This early N64 title has realistic water effects and an array of differing environments and courses that will keep your heart racing. Play on your own or call a friend over, you will have an absolute ball. Bonsai!

California Games [Lynx]

california-GamesWhen you think of California, you think of sun, surf and lots of obscure sports, right? California Games on the Atari Lynx brings four events which will have you playing till the batteries run out. Connect the Lynx to a power outlet and have some fun in the sun.

Virtua Tennis [Dreamcast]

Virtua Tennis
With all the Grand Slams being in summer, it is perfectly natural to pull out your Dreamcast and start playing Virtua Tennis – the best tennis video game ever, period! Practice makes perfect, and the mini games are equally entertaining as blasting your opponent on clay, grass or even hard courts.

Summer Games II [C64]

Summer Games II
No summer games list can be complete without Epyx’s seminal favourite. From the triple jump to the cycling event, grab seven of your mates, a sturdy joystick and have some fun! Make sure you watch the closing ceremony fireworks – a perfect touch to a perfect game.

Out Run [PC-Engine]

Out Run
Jump in your red Ferarri, crank up the stereo, swing past your girlfriend’s place and hit the road. Feel the wind in your hair as you race down the highway to make it to the next checkpoint. Make sure you enjoy those cool and refreshing tunes along the way.

Well, there you have it. These are just a few video games to keep you cool this summer. Which video games will you play?

My Favorite Games: Part 10

And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)

Wiz n Liz - MegaDrive

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!

Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Goldeneye 007 - Nintendo 64

Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!

Soul Calibur
– Dreamcast (1999)

Soul Calibur - Dreamcast

Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.

Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)

Operation Wolf - Arcade

Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.

Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)

Sonic 2 - MegaDrive

Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!

The End…

What are the best-selling video game consoles of all time?

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With the holiday season upon us, it appears each modern-day video game console is primed to do more big numbers.  While this is nothing new to video gaming throughout most of the past three decades, the sheer numbers are telling of just how much the industry has grown and how much more it may grow before it levels off.

The original “must have” game console was the Atari Video Computer System, later called the Atari 2600.  While it didn’t catch on right away, the 2600 was the clear sales leader of the early generations, selling around 30 million units in it’s lifetime, six times more than competing consolesIntellivision and ColecoVision sold combined.

Even with such numbers, however, the lifetime figures of Atari’s classic console have been beaten many times over.  While 1996’s Nintendo 64 failed to catch on like retailers had hoped, it still managed to outsell the 2600 in the end my almost 3 million units.  Nonetheless, it was tagged a failure by Nintendo compared to previous consoles.

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The biggest Nintendo console for some time was theNintendo Entertainment System, which moved almost 62 million consoles in it’s lifetime, saving the video game industry in North America.  Only recently did Nintendo manage to defeat it’s own sales record with the Nintendo Wii, which has now hit the 90 million unit mark.

The NES may come down the lifetime charts by the end of some other console runs, however.  The XBox 360 is nearing the 58 million unit mark with Sony’s PlayStation 3 not far behind it with over 55 million units sold as of this writing.

Even though it is in last place in the current console generation, the PlayStation 3 may still reach the top five selling consoles of all time by the end of it’s run, giving Sony three of the best selling consoles ever.  The PlayStation 2rules the roost with a whopping 153.5 million units sold, a mark that beat Sony’s own record with the originalPlayStation, which shipped over 102 million consoles.

While this article isn’t including handhelds it is interesting to note that the Nintendo DS has sold 149 million units (not including the 3DS model), a number that means it’s already trumped the unreal sales numbers of the original GameBoyhandhelds that had ruled the market for over a decade.

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Here is a list of the top selling consoles of all time, according to Wikipedia.  Where do your favorite systems rank?

1.  Sony PlayStation 2 (2000) – 153.5 million

2.  Sony PlayStation (1994) – 102.49 million

3.  Nintendo Wii (2006) – 89.36 million *

4.  Nintendo Entertainment System (1985) – 61.91 million

5.  Microsoft XBox 360 (2005) – 57.6 million *

6.  Sony PlayStation 3 (2006) – 55.5 million *

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) – 49.10 million

8.  Sega Genesis (1988) – 39 million

9.  Nintendo 64 (1996) – 32.93 million

10. Atari VCS/2600 (1977) – 30 million

11. Microsoft XBox (2001) – 24 million

12. Nintendo GameCube (2001) – 21.74 million

13. Sega Dreamcast (1998) – 10.6 million

14. NEC TurboGrafx-16 (1987) – 10 million

15. Sega Saturn (1994) – 9.5 million

* = Console still in production as of press time.

Retro Love: Buy a Dreamcast

Sega Dreamcast Logo

It’s been quite some time since I’ve got my brand new, but also (and that’s quite an oxymoron) second hand, SEGA Dreamcast, and let me tell you, I am as happy a punter as one can be. I’m a 100% converted and a newborn SEGA fanboy (well, not a boy in the full sense, but you get the idea… at least I’m not in my thirties just yet). I’m also rather thankful to the Dreamcast Junkyard for fuelling my DC obsession.

All things considered I’m thankful to dear Mr. Elderly too, for providing this blog’s comments space with a healthy dose of Irish surrealism, but that’s definitely none of your business. All you should focus on is buying a Dreamcast (unless of course you already got one, in which case you should consider buying a second). Why? Well, because…

1) It’s a matter of price.

The Dreamcast is dead cheap. You should be able to buy a brand new one for less than 80$ (that’s 60 euros) over at Lik-Sang (try clicking on the banner at the end of the article to see for yourself), or follow my example and buy a second hand one, either at e-bay or at your local second-hand-store-bazaar-whatever for quite a bit less than 50$. And this is paying for a 100% current-gen console.
Sega Dreamcast Console
the Dreamcast (via)

2) It’s the bleeding hardware

It doesn’t only look smart, it is smart. SEGA’s Dreamcast is miles ahead from both the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation, even though it’s not as powerful as the PS2 or the GameCube. It sports a RISC 128bit CPU capable of 360 MIPS (N64 ~120 MIPS, PS1 ~30 MIPS), a special edition PowerVR2 graphics processor, that can cope with 10 times PS1’s polygons, 16MB of RAM, a 1 Giga “GD-ROM” (aka fancy, fast and easily pirated CD-ROM) drive, brilliant 64 channel audio and a modem. Yes. The first console modem ever. Oh, and European players will apparently enjoy full 60Hz PAL support.

Sega Dreamcast Motherboard

the insides of the beast (via)

3) It’s the brilliant (and admittedly very cheap) games

With more than 300 games, the Dreamcast has something for everyone, except perhaps for us poor football minded maniacs. Most used (and abused) games should be picked up at ridiculous prices of 5-10$ (less in euros, even less in pounds), while published titles include such brilliant gems as Soul Calibur, Rez, Sonic Adventure 2, Rayman 2, Phantasy Star Online, Quake 3 (you might even be able to track down Half-Life), Metropolis Street Racer, Shenmue, Ikaruga, Crazy Taxi 2, Jet Grind Radio and the quite legendary Samba de Amigo.

Soul Calibur - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Soul Calibur

 

I could actually go on and mention at least a dozen more distinctive and defining games, but I’d rather mention something else. Dreamcast games are still being produced! Have a look at the 2006 released Under Defeat or the forthcoming Last Hope shooter.

Under Defeat - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Under Defeat

4) It’s the innovation and the quirkyness

And I’m talking innovation, beside the Internet connection or the PAL ting. The Dreamcast controller featured a brilliant analog stick, the now-standard shaped triggers and interestingly the Virtual Memory Unit, or VMU. This VMU thingy was far more than a memory stick. It plugged into the controller and used its little LCD screen to display relevant game information or graphics and even was a wee version of Gameboy, as it also functioned as a completely separate portable handheld gaming device (from hell). VMU games can be found right here, but searching and googling around will lead you to quite a few more cyber-stashes.

Sega Dreamcast VMU

the VMU (exposed)

 

As for quirkyness, one could mention the DC Keyboard, the Fishing Rod, the quite new-at-the-time Vibration Pack and above all Dreamcast’s Wii capabilities.

5) It’s the scene

By saying the scene I’m talking of the vibrant DC emulation, demo, homebrew and even amateur journalism community. On the Dreamcast you see, one can play anything from old arcade, to MegaDrive, Amiga, Atari, Gameboy, Playstation or NES games. There’s even a ScummVM port that makes those old Lucasarts adventures of yore DC compatible. Then again one can listen to MP3s, watch DivX videos, see the Dreamcast get pushed to its limits and play zillions of Tetris versions. All of these courtesy of the scene.

To start tasting sweet freeware offerings (you will need DiscJuggler to burn things on CD) try the following links: DCEvolution.net, Dreamcast Homebrew, IGN Dreamcast, Dreamcast @ pout.net.

6) There is no 6

Go on. Buy one! It’s cheap and powerful, but also quite the retro machine. Oh, and the Wii isn’t out yet.

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…

 

Games to Buy: Console Edition: Nov 21 2010

video games store
video games store

A new name and a new way of doing our weekly report on games coming out the following week. With so many games out there the fact is some will be worth the cash and some will not be. Beyond that some games may be worth picking over the others and so we have come up with a dollar sign rating system. One $ means it can wait until it’s in the bargain bin and five $’s means you should be waiting in line to purchase it.

This week we have a good mix of new games and classic games being released, in fact pretty much every game is either a follow up of the old or a remake of an old game. This is just more proof of how important classic games are. So sit back enjoy the trailers and commentary and get your wallet warmed up.

Gran Turismo 5

With over 1000 cars and 71 courses to choose from Gran Turismo 5 is a racers wet dream. Sure, there has been a ton of delays for this game but with the way it looks now it seems to be worth the wait. Of course you will be able to race basic cars from Honda and Ford, but you will also be able to get behind the big boys like the Lamborghini Murcielago and McLaren F1. A ton of brand new tracks have been added including the Top Gear test track and many more tracks offering night driving and the new dynamic weather system. All in all if you are a racing fan or just a car aficionado and have a PS3 then you have to pick up this game.

Buy Worthiness: $$$$

Donkey Kong Country Returns

I have to bow to the Wii on this one because I loved the original DKC and this version looks incredible. Donkey and Diddy are back and you have never seen two apes go through so much for some bananas. The game is as massive as it is beautiful offering various lands including a jungle, beach, ruins, caves and a forest. As with the classic Donkey Kong Country the environment matters from knowing where and when to jump to the assortment of enemies on the screen and in the background.

This game brings back all the love and frustration of the original. Honestly, if you are not a pro platformer or haven’t played DKC before you might have a hard time because this game is tough. The mine cart level alone can drive you as crazy as Ninja Gaiden did me. In addition, even the boss fights will not be simple and it takes timing and recognizing the right pattern to win. However, it is totally worth it and with the visuals, the music and the awesome controls Donkey Kong Country is a must have for fans of the series and platform game lovers.

Buy Worthiness: $$$$

Splatterhouse

If you love beating the holy hell out of demons and monsters then this game is for you. The folks over at Namco Bandai have taken a bit longer than expected to release this game and they have gone through some troubles, but all in all the new Splatter house looks to be a fun game.

The game pretty much is a reboot and you play as Rick who was murdered when his girlfriend Jennifer was kidnapped by the evil Dr. West. As you lay dying a demon mask bonded with your body brining you back and now the two of you need each other. Rick needs the masks power to make his way through the horde to his girl and the mask needs rick to feed it the blood of pretty much anything.

The visuals look really good and the game is more than just blood and guts, though that is most of what it is. There is also a puzzle component to the game and you have to take time moving through some levels. However, what makes the game is the gore and you can pull of spectacular murder moves on your enemies and use the environment to take them out as well.

All in all if you liked the original and have a flair for eviscerating people then this game is worth a pick-up.

Buy Worthiness: $$

Honorable mentions

We have a bonus this week, two classic games that are sure to give you some enjoyment.

Crazy Taxi

The incredibly fun taxi driving game from the Dreamcast is back. Choose your driver and transport your passenger across town in the craziest manner possible. This game is loads of fun and it’s good to see this Dreamcast game coming to the 360.

Worms: Battle Islands

War on an epicly small scale, take control of your worms and battle against your friends using tons of different warfare tactics. Believe me, don’t let the cute voices and visuals fool you. In Worms you have to have some strategy or you will be…err worm food.

Low Balance

So that’s this week’s top buys. We will be back next Tuesday with another rundown on what games to buy.

Phantasy Star Universe to close English PC/PS2 Servers

Phantasy Star Universe
Phantasy Star Universe

Last week General Manager Edward Sega announced that the Playstation 2 and PC servers for the English version of PSU will be closing on March 31st 2010.

On the PSU official forums he added:

“SEGA would like to extend its sincere thanks to those who have played on the PC/PS2 servers over the past several years. The final update for PC/PS2 servers will be this January 29th, 2010, which will start the long-awaited MAG+ event. This event will receive the same updates & web support as the event on the Xbox 360 servers.

Please note that after January 29th 2010, no new PSU subscriptions will be available for purchase for PC/PS2. Those who are subscribed as of that time will be able to play, for free, until service closure.”

Those that still play PSU on the Xbox 360 will continue to receive support with regular updates including previously unreleased content.

The schedule is as follows:

• January 29th 2010: MAG+ event begins for PC/PS2 and Xbox 360 servers.

• January 29th 2010: No new PC/PS2 PSU subscriptions will be available for purchase.

• January 29th 2010: Free play for PC/PS2 PSU begins. No more billing cycles will take place on or after this date.

• March 31st 2010: PC/PS2 servers / service closure, the PlayStation2 and PC versions of Phantasy Star Universe online play will not be available after this date, however, please continue to enjoy the Single Player version of the game.

This was a game I enjoyed since the Dreamcast and though it lives on with the 360 it is sad to see it go.

RIP English PC/PS2 PSU

October 24, 2006 – March 31, 2010