Street Fighter Alpha

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Street Fighter Alpha

When I was a kid Street Fighter II was one of the coolest games we had on SNES. The series had seen many editions, spin-offs, and sequels, but this is the first time I really played the Alpha series. Since PSN has classics for the original Playstation, I thought I’d start with first Street Fighter Alpha.
street fighter alpha
Alpha was called Street Fighter Zero in Japan, as it is a prequel. Though it’s really the first real successor to Street Fighter II. It’s also more similar to II than III or IV. You have a fair amount of characters with a couple of stages. Old favorites like Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li are here but new ones like Charlie and Rose join the cast.
street fighter alpha
Overall it plays like a sightly superior Street Fighter II though some of the characters I didn’t care much for. There also isn’t a whole lot to the game either. Just an arcade mode and a versus mode. Typical for a fighting game in the 1990s, but now we expect a tad more.
street fighter alpha
I think Street Fighter Alpha is a great game, though as a fan of the series it does feel a bit like deja-vu. Why I was a bit curious to see what the original Alpha was like, I’m now regretting going to it instead of the the third game. I hear it’s got a lot more characters and improvements than the original.

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

I had played Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO on Gamecube many years back. I’ve never played the original game though. I was kinda surprised my girlfriend had an old copy of the game. Not terribly excited to play the original, but I’ll give it a shot.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
The game is basically the same version as the one in the arcade except with a few new features and whatnot. It was a pretty big deal back in the day since it was the first time Ryu could fight Terry Bogard or Chun-Li could fight Mai Shiranui. It offers a suprisngly large cast of characters. I remember being far more disappointed in the original Marvel Vs. Capcom for such a small cast in comparison to the 2nd game.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
It’s basically what you would expect from Capcom in the past 15 years. Since I already played the 2nd game to death, I was a tad unthrilled at the offerings on the table. I was also mad that they didn’t include analog control even though the PS1 version was released in 2002. I loathe the PS1’s D-pad, and during fighting games my hands feel cramped and the stiff buttons prevent me from reaching my true potential. If you’re not bothered by the PS1/PS2 controller’s D-pad then this a decent fighter, but there’s plenty of better ones to choose from.

Score: 7 out of 10 

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

So another week and another game of the week! This time around we have a very obscure classic that had a too little, too late release during the Playstation’s ending life time. Behold, Dragon Ball GT Final Bout! Why is it worth a mention? Just read on and find out!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The music is quite popular and unique for Dragon Ball games but this one is more of a hit n miss. There are some tunes that are quite catchy but other ones are just totally bland. It would’ve been real wise to bring the songs from the series into the game. I mean, it was a no-brainer. Overall though, you have a decent soundtrack and worth a remix or two if you are into that type of stuff. On the other hand, the voice acting is truly amazing as they had the real voice actors represent their respective characters. Makes you think, why not make the music from the series as well!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The game has very good graphics. The 3D is very detailed but of course it would’ve been a lot better with some more work. There are times where objects disappear but it rarely happens. The different battle fields are OK at the most. They do resemble parts of the anime series but somehow always fall flat. A little more animation would’ve helped a lot. Overall, just OK graphics and character animation is good at most. The voice acting does help but not as much.

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The gameplay suffers a lot in this game. If you don’t have any patience then you’ll be looking to turn this game off as soon as possible. The game has a very odd control scheme but you can get used to it in time. The best part is when you go against the computer or a friend and battle it out with a button mashing power shooting extravaganza!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

This game is always great when you have your friends over. It’s so crappy at times that you’ll want to get drunk in order to enjoy it even more. Believe me, you’ll enjoy it. It has a lot of other options such as a level up system where you can train your own Z fighter and then save the information on your memory card, take it to your friend’s home and use your memory card saved fighter data to go up against your friend’s created fighter. A little confusing? Nah, I don’t think so!

Overall, this game is a very good gimmick. You’ll end up enjoy it from time to time. There is a lot to love about this title especially in nights where you just wanna step back into the prime of the Dragon Ball series. The game has three different versions as well. There is the original that came out in Japan back in 1997, the release here in 1997, and the re-release which I believe came out in 2003. Get either one and you’ll be alright. Until next week!

John Getty: Exato Game Studios

exato game studios logo

Name: John Getty

Company: Exato Game Studios

Profession: Executive Producer & Lead Game Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Final Fantasy Tactics

Quote: “It’s all about the game.” – Ernie Calhoun, Video Game High School

Bio: As an entrepreneur and gamer by nature, I always wanted to create video games. It started very early in middle school as I modded games like Starcraft and Command and Conquer: Red Alert, then dabbled a little in RPG Maker and flash. When I got to college, I met a good friend who shared a similar interest and with very little deliberation (we were both very excited), we started Exato Game Studios.

guncraft

Project: Guncraft

Project Info: Guncraft is a voxel-based first person shooter that boasts fully destructible environments, the ability to construct individual blocks or full structures in a single click, tons of killstreak rewards such as helicopters, tanks, jetpacks, bunker buster missiles, drones, and turrets, and a fully featured map creation tool that also features a voxel map importing function (using the Substrate C# engine). Play traditional modes like Deathmatch and CTF, or totally unique modes like Lava Survival, Siege Mode, and the coop-enabled Onslaught Mode. On top of that, there are standalone servers, peer hosted servers, clan support and friends lists, in and out of game chat, leaderboards, and much, much more.

Doom

So here we have a game that needs no introduction. Every other FPS developer today should have a portrait of this game in their studio. Doom changed the way we looked at FPS and turned out to be a classic for the ages. Is it still fun to this day? Lets find out!
Doom - Sony Playstation - gameplay screenshot
Doom as very popular for many things and the music was one of them. With such a great soundtrack, the PC version turned out to be the most played shareware ever. This was even before internet became a household name! Turning to the Playstation version, I was shocked that they took out the soundtrack but instead added a very interesting soundtrack. You mostly hear monsters and what not in the background with a mix of environmental music. It’s quite freaky at times especially when you are in very dark rooms. I must say it doesn’t make me miss the PC version’s soundtrack and gives a twist to an already twisted game.
Doom - Sony Playstation - gameplay screenshot

Graphics in this game are everything you could hope for. The blood is there, levels are detailed, and everything looks to be in place. Overall, you have a very fun and viewable version of Doom that will keep you in pace to the finish line. I’m sure you won’t get lost. Also, I’m glad you can still shoot near the acid barrels to blow up your enemies to pieces. That’s always so enjoyable.

Doom - Sony Playstation - gameplay screenshot

The developers of this game were savvy enough to make good use of the Playstation controller. Not only are not going to miss your keyboard but you’ll also have an easy time getting used to the controller. You’ll be using R1 and L1 buttons quite often as they are the ones that make you move left or right in order to dodge your enemies attacks especially those fireballs. You will be able to battle any enemies with easy movement! In the end, this is Doom! You can’t any better than this.

Doom - Sony Playstation - gameplay screenshot

This is probably one of the most replayable FPS games ever. You can go through it, get your password, and continue later. You then finish the game and start the game again. The thing is that this game has such enjoyable gameplay especially with blowing up your enemies that it becomes addictive. You can always go back to this game and replay each level, discover its secrets, and have a great time. You must find all the secrets period!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TYMI6gD19Y[/youtube]

To conclude this entry, the game is a perfect port of the PC version and would be a great addition to any FPS fan especially from the golden age of FPS. You will have lots of endless hours of fun with this one. If you really want to be mega old school, you can always get another Playstation with another TV set and another copy of Doom to play against each other. This is how things were done back then! Hope you enjoyed this week’s pick!

Yu-Gi-Oh Forbidden Memories

Yu-Gi-Oh!_-_Forbidden_Memories-PS1-Gameplay screenshot

In commemoration to my return to playing the good old never ending confusing Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game, I decided to dig this game up and talk a bit about it. This game is one of the first to be released here in the states when the crazy Yu-Gi-Oh! trend took off. Believe it or not, I though that the rules of this game were also the same rules for the trading card game and I was real wrong. It was funny to play this game for a while and then pick up a deck and play with those rules. It did made things interesting but I guess there was some satisfaction in summoning a Blue Eyes White Dragon with no sacrifices needed. Also, the rule of having five cards at all times in your hand made the game very interesting to play but uneven in many ways.

Yu-Gi-Oh!_-_Forbidden_Memories-PS1-Gameplay screenshot

But enough about old embarrassing memories, the game itself does play in very confusing fashion and it’s nowhere similar to the card game so for those of you who know how to play the card game, forget those rules and listen to this. Each monster contains elements which you can combine to give you advantage over other monsters. It’s like when a type of monster is stronger than the other one like in Pokemon. You have to fuse your cards together to obtain stronger monsters. You can also use magic cards and trap cards. The rules on this game though only lets you use one card from your hand per turn. That means you can either fuse a bunch of monsters together or use a magic card, or set a trap card. This gives you a lot of headaches especially when you don’t know what the effects of some cards are. Believe me, you’ll be as clueless as I am.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65iiHICGmQo[/youtube]

 

To conclude, the game is not that long and it’ll only take you a short time to master these rules and gather the cards you need to create a real strong deck to defeat the pharaoh. You can also add cards from your deck(From the real early sets) To the game and use them in your duels for a great advantage. I suggest getting a Blue Eyes White Dragon in there. Make sure you duel with style because your duels will be measured according to how good you dueled. Overall, this is a very interesting game to pick up for the trading card aficionado, and one for those who don’t care about the card game at all because believe it or not, you don’t need to know the rules to play this game. Until next week!

Crash Bandicoot

Crash-Bandicoot-PS1-Box

Crash Bandicoot was sought out to be the mascot of Sony just like Mario was the mascot of Nintendo. It worked for a while, until the games went down hill. The best part is that you don’t have to hear about the crappy Crash games, I’ll talk about the good ones here yay! Crash Bandicoot is what a platformer can be if done correctly. This game involves Crash who is trying to defeat this scientist yada yada yada doesn’t matter, it’s the gameplay that counts most of the time, then again some games need to give you a reason to keep playing them, err RPGs anyone?

crash_bandicoot_ps1-gameplay-screenshot

Crash Bandicoot gameplay is very simple. There is the jump button and the spinning attack button and well I think that’s pretty much it. Of course you move with your D-pad! From my experience, this game is a lot of fun and also full of secrets. This was a big hit for Sony back in the day and good thing it was, the game and franchise helped them get an image to compete against Sega and Nintendo. Too bad it was fucked up years later on the PS2…..but lets not change the subject again, Crash 1 for the PS1 is full of nostalgia. The game is what you will expect from a platformer, it has interesting levels, secrets, and crazy bosses. There are things here and there that you might not find appealing but good thing there is a sequel.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3Bn4L-FCr4[/youtube]

 

So that should be it for now, the game contains high marks on music, control, graphics, and gameplay. You can’t lose with this one! Pick it up as it’s mad cheap on eBay. Look for it at your local flea markets and thrift stores as well. Until next time!

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

About 2 weeks after the launch of the PS1 in the USA, a buddy of mine who bought about every console in those days, said “We need to get the new Sony console. I read great stuff about how good it looks. Plus, we can link them up!” I was still pretty heavy into my Genesis, and didn’t know if I wanted another console, but after playing Ridge Racer at the store, I was sold.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot
A launch title (Namco 94-95), with 7 other games (I bought 2, and will talk about the other tomorrow), Ridge Racer truly felt like an arcade game. The graphics were a huge step up from my Sega product, and with the nifty music blaring on my 26 inch RCA (still have it), I finally had a good-size monitor to enjoy the 3D-goodness.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

In Ridge Racer, there were the usual game modes, Time Trials and easy/medium/hard. You raced with 12 cars, trying to beat them (to unlock) and your previous low times. The music pumped throughout, and in a new twist, you could take out the game CD and put in music of your own while still playing. The different cars didn’t vary much, and they seemed to control about the same…except for the elusive Black Car.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot
The Black Car was the Holy Grail of the game. After you defeated the other modes and cars, you were able to take on the evil one. If you could defeat it, you would own it. Namco’s version of The Crossroads. One of the most difficult ‘bosses’ I ever faced, the only way to win was to run a perfect race…meaning if you scraped a wall, or skidded too much on a turn, the sumbitch would pass you and you’d never catch up. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that challenge, and still fondly remember the day of victory. With the powerful engine and control of The Black Car, you could improve your times even more.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPw8-A-k8M0[/youtube]
Other goodies included turning around and driving the tracks in mirrored-look, as well as changing your driving view.

Overall, it was a special game that was needed at that time. The console that (in my opinion) was the biggest jump in technology from the previous ones started off with an almost-perfect arcade port. It was beautiful and it was fun. It may not stand the test of time with a ton a sequels that were pumped-out, but will always hold a special memory for me.

Top Five PlayStation: Racing Games

I’ve always been of the opinion that fancy graphics are far less important than a well-designed game. I think my continued love or retro games and enduring disdain for modern gaming is evidence enough of this, but there’s always been one exception – driving/racing games. Try as they might, developers in the 80’s and early 90’s were rarely able to fashion both a playable and convincing into-the-screen racer outside of the arcades, and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many I personally liked. That is until the CD-ROM-based consoles appeared. The Need For Speed on the 3DO was perhaps the first indication of what this medium could do for the genre but it took the release of the Saturn and PlayStation for it to reach full bloom, with the latter system producing both the most numerous and most impressive examples yet seen.

I personally got into PlayStation gaming late, sticking loyally with my good old Saturn for as long as there were games made for it, but eventually I had to join the ranks of the competition. When I did, a majority of the time I spent on it was spent playing driving games. I certainly didn’t play all of the ones on offer but of the ones I did play, here are in my opinion the Top Five:

Special Note: A big thanks to Martyn Carroll, Facebook friend and editor of the original version of Retro Gamer magazine (and contributor to the current incarnation) for providing me with a working PlayStation emulator for this piece. Yes, I own the originals of the games featured here, but I needed the emulator to get the screenshots, so… thanks Martyn, I owe you one!

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 PS1 driving games in my upcoming feature 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!)

5. Total Drivin’ (1997)

Total Drivin

I bought this game cheap with no prior knowledge of it on the off-chance it might be worth the risk. Luckily it paid off! Whilst far from the pinnacle of the PlayStation’s graphical achievements, it is pretty innovative in other ways. The championship mode, for example, features races in various locations around the world and consequently on a variety of surfaces. To this end, there’s not just one type of racing here but five – Rally, Sports, Indy, Buggies, and Dakar Rally! One of my favourite things about this game is that your opponents aren’t just bunched up behind you waiting for a mistake – the better you race, the further ahead you’ll get. You can even lap them if you’re fast enough! This is a great and underrated racing game with a lot more variety than even Gran Turismo.

4. Porsche Challenge (1997)

Porsche Challenge

This was the first game I ever got for my PlayStation when I finally gave up hope for my beloved Saturn, and I was very pleased with it. Admittedly, looking back, the graphics are a little ropier than I remember – the car models are nice (as you would expect from a game with an official license) but the draw distance isn’t great and there’s a fair bit of pop-up, but luckily it still plays very nicely. The only car available to drive is the Boxster but there are six different coloured ones to choose from, each driven by its own character, some of whom exchange banter between races. There’s only four courses to race over but they’re pretty long and there’s many variations of each (mirrored, reversed, extra sections, with shortcuts, etc), and all are very enjoyable to drive around. A not-too-hectic racer that provides a really pleasant driving experience.

3. Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998)

Ridge Racer Type 4

I don’t care what anyone says, Ridge Racer sucks big floppy donkey dicks and so does its ‘sequel’, Revolution. Rage Racer, however, was where Namco started rectifying this situation and RR4 (complete with ridiculous and unnecessary Type in its title) is arguably where the series peaked. Featuring a huge number of courses (for RR standards) and billions of car variations, it’s already infinitely better than the stupid original, but it also vastly improves the horrifying handling problems that blighted earlier efforts too. It has a number of play modes including an excellent career mode, and in my opinion is one of the best looking racing games to appear on Sony’s debut console with races taking place at various times of day meaning some lovely lighting effects. Ridge Racer finally becomes a must-play!

2. Colin McRae Rally (1998)

Colin McRae Rally

Yes, the second game in the series (also on PS1) is technically more impressive but I’ve always preferring playing this original. It pretty much kickstarted the whole rally game craze by itself, and with good reason – driving Mr. McRae’s iconic blue Impreza around the world’s rally courses was a fantastically enjoyable experience. Near enough any kind of driving surface (and weather condition) you can think of is catered for here and the attention to detail is amazing – watch your car get progressively dirtier throughout the race (and damaged if you keep hitting trees!). There’s no in-game music, no opponents to race against (on-screen, anyway), just precision driving, and it had arguably never been done better.

1. Gran Turismo (1998)

Gran Turismo

I’m sure a majority of PlayStation gamers would opt for the second game in the series as the peak of the genre on their favourite console but I’m not sure any driving game had as much of an impact on me as this original. It pretty much rewrote the rule book on what could be achieved in a driving videogame with its license tests forcing you to earn the right to race in the game’s various classes, huge range or real cars to buy, race in, and customise, near-photo-realistic replays, and hugely intricate championship mode. It’s amazingly playable and addictive too – I had great fun gradually building up my Honda Prelude to an all-conquering rice-rocket! There was more to this game than most racing fans could dream of at the time and it still impresses today.

Portable problems

PSP - Playstation Portable

Sony had the chance to shake up the portable console market and to maintain its grip on gaming. Somewhere along the line things went wrong after such initial promise. The latest iteration, the PSP Go, has boosted sales but does it have a long-term future?

When Sony announced a portable Playstation the specs were interesting, promising PS2-quality games in the palm of your hand, wireless multiplayer and much more on a clear, wide screen. Many experts did see a potential flaw in the plan, Sony’s new UMD format. The much-maligned optical disk brought technical problems and slow access, and the film companies did not fall in line to support it.

Sony also fought a running battle with the hackers and the homebrew specialists. The processing power gave the chance for great emulation, and the use of memory sticks opened the door to illegal downloads. Firmware updates were met with fast responses from the hackers, the process aided by replacement batteries and other hardware hacks.

Giving the console a make-over quickly proved both a good idea and a drawback for Sony. The PSP Slim models (the 2000 and 3000) both gave a brief increase in sales but made very little real change to the hardware. Sales of games slowed whatever the model, with many stores discounting them and UMD movies soon after release.

More problems hit Sony as its marketing plans backfired. Graffiti ads in America caused controversy, ads for the white PSP were considered racist and the “All I Want for Christmas is a PSP” campaign was embarrassing. The ad company started blogs and put up supposedly amateur videos of kids who wanted the machine for Christmas – only for the gaming community to pour scorn on the whole thing.

One of the biggest problems for Sony was tailoring games to the handheld console. Too often developers tried to shoe-horn a large game more suited to playing at home into a UMD. Gems such as Loco Roco and Patapon were hard to find among the predictable movie licenses and multi-format failures. The Monster Hunter series did wonders in Japan but was slow to propagate worldwide. Gamers bemoaned the lack of a second analogue stick, but did appreciate the ability to download old PS1 games.

The PSP Go was a badly guarded secret that was finally given substance at E3 in 2009. Gone was the UMD drive and in came a new wave of games. The likes of Rock Band Unplugged and LittleBigPlanet showed some ambition. There was still no second stick, the screen was smaller and the sliding mechanism (to hide the controls) seemed like a gimmick too far. Another nail in the coffin came from retailers who refused to stock it due to the lack of additional game sales – since all the games have to be downloaded from the PSN. Room (the PSP equivalent of Home) may just be another bad move. Will existing owners upgrade? Sony threw another spanner in the works by announcing plans for users to trade in UMDs, only to cancel the idea and generate a lot more bad press.

So does the PSP have a future? It will be up to gamers to provide it, but Sony needs to look carefully at its strategy.

 

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…

 

The Magic of a Good Game Trailer – Prince of Persia

I still remember the time when I was still struggling to fiddle with my 2+ years old PS1 when all of a sudden through random surfing the net I came across the trailer of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. The game I think had just launched and I knew that PS2 is widely available across my neighborhood too. When I saw the trailer for the very first time it literally made me go high with such strong adrenaline rush that that way old feeling is still survived to sustain in me for all these years and I can still start the game from scratch despite of the fact that I rarely repeat a game once when I have finished it. The Godsmack soundtrack – I stand alone being played in the background, the awesome-most art which one could witness at that time of gaming era, the wonderful composites of HD and real-time rendered game play, plus the story which was so intriguing even for a gamer who had no idea of the first installment of the game, was so damn good collectively that I couldn’t sleep for days!

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

The trailer kept looping in my head again and again and I kept talking to my friends about it who had no idea of what am I talking about. I was so madly in love with the overall feel of the trailer alone that I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game. So I kept pushing and asking my dad to please buy me the PS2 now that is the most advance and that it is going to help me in my future studies (as a 3D-Artist). But deep inside I knew that I have found a something to love for so long that I cannot resist it for more days. So finally under a couple of weeks I was able to game my dad for getting me a brand new PS2 and the first game that I plugged it in was POP: Warrior Within only. And the game didn’t disappoint me at all. It matched my expectations quite perfectly and as a gamer I was so overwhelmed by the overall thrill a title alone could provide. This game alone initiated my curiosity for the first installment of POP, also known as Sands of Time.

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

So what all did a good game trailer accomplished here? I know I am only one of those other million gamers who get motivated to go and buy a game console after seeing something which is as short as under 3 minutes of duration. Here lies the art of making a good trailer. All the factors mentioned before contributes collectively in the marketing and promotion of any good game. And I think I have seen many games go down just because they didn’t have a good video trailer but has a good game play and all the other factors which actually makes a game “fun”.

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

A good trailer automatically gets shared. People love it and share it with their friends. Word of mouth publicity comes into play and the developer team gets a good response even before the game is launched. The studio hits its target, the sales rise but the gamer will eventually get disappointed if the game fails to score in terms of fun. But that is something totally off-stream of what I really want to put out here. So my plea to all game developing studios out there is to focus on the trailer too if they feel that they have made a game with 50+ artists who have dedicatedly put their hearts and mind into the project and they understand that the success of the project is not only of studio but is of them too. Don’t rush things in the end. Don’t put up a crappy edited walk-through trailers on web. Take your time. Categorize the art direction for a trailer as something of top most priority. Direct and stream it well and make sure those 120+ seconds count as we really don’t want to miss that awesome game you develop next just because you weren’t able to find time to make a good trailer of it.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention how beautiful Kaileena looked with the voice-over of beautiful Monica Bellucci.

Prince of Persia Kaileena
Prince of Persia Kaileena

Check out the trailer I’m talking about here:

The Interview: Steve Gray

Steve Gray
Steve Gray

Steve Gray

When you have a gaming resume with names like Electronic Arts, Squaresoft and THQ there is little doubt that you know gaming. Obsolete Gamer was given the opportunity to talk with Steve Gray about his gaming career that started with EA Canada his time at Squaresoft and his work on Parasite eve. From there he created his own studio (Heavy Iron) which he sold to THQ in 1999. From there he returned to EA where he worked on many games including The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Third Age and Tactics. Currently Steve Gray is the executive in charge of production at Tencent who is China’s largest developer and publisher and operator of online games.

We wanted to get a behind the scenes look at his time in the gaming industry and his many accomplishments from his work in Video FX to building the first Motion Capture Lab at EA Canada.

EA Canada logo
EA Canada logo

Obsolete Gamer: When did you know you would want to work in the video game industry?

Steve Gray: I originally wanted to be a Rock Star (just like Tremmel) and I played the clubs a lot in LA and up and down the California coast.  At that time I also worked in the feature film special effects business.  Which I continued to do until the early 90’s when I was VP Technology at Digital Domain (that’s when we made True Lies, Interview with the Vampire, Apollo 13, …).  When the PS1 came out I decided I really wanted to get into video games instead.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your first exposure to games?

Steve Gray: Asteroids in the arcades.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the first video game that hooked you?

Steve Gray: Asteroids in the arcades!!

Obsolete Gamer: Now before beginning work in the gaming industry you had quite the career in Visual Effects and working in television and movies can you tell us about that time?

Steve Gray: I worked at Robert Abel & Associates when I first moved to LA (to be a Rock Star).  Entry Level Rock Star doesn’t pay very well, actually… not at all.  RA&A worked on Tron, Star Trek 1, and a ton of really cool CG TV commercials.  Also with Omnibus and Digital Pictures we were really the first big CG effects house.  It was a great place to work, everyone was really young and crazy… we worked super hard, partied super hard.  It was a good time… late 80’s in LA was a fun time and place.  Guns and Roses was playing the clubs, the Sunset Strip was rockin’.  Then I went on to work at Rhythm & Hues as head of the Software department.  We wrote all our own CG tools then, because there really weren’t any commercially available packages yet.  I mostly wrote partical systems and rendering code, along with managing the team.  After R&H I moved over to Digital Domain, which was a lot of crazy house.  But we worked on really great movies… and working with Stan Winston and Jim Cameron was pretty amazing.

Obsolete Gamer: So you began the video game part of your career at Electronic Arts Canada, how did that job come to be?

Steve Gray: Digital Domain wanted to get into the video games business… so me and Chris McKibbin (then CFO of DD – different Chris than Chris Tremmel) went around to all the big game companies in the US and Japan trying to get someone to do a project with us… no one really wanted to do that because they (rightly) said we had no idea what we were doing.  Don Mattrick offered me and McKibbin both jobs at EAC.  So we thought about that and both took his offer.

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working at EA Canada?

Steve Gray: It was really interesting. I learned a lot there.  A lot of really talented guys.  But unfortunately I discovered that making sports games wasn’t really my thing.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you think of the changing in video game technology at the time with the PlayStation One and the use of full motion video in games?

Steve Gray: We all though FMVs in games were super cool.  And actually I eventually built a game at my own company Heavy Iron that used FMV backgrounds in a “Resident Evil” type of game… except our backgrounds were pre-rendered videos instead of pre-rendered stills.  But that was on PS2.  It was the first Evil Dead game that THQ released.  But fundamentally I now think that FMVs kind of suck.  Or at least over use of FMVs kind of suck.  I like what we did in “Lord of the Rings The Third Age” with the transitions from FMV to In-Game Cinematic to Game Play.  And I’m definitely more of a fan of in-game cinematics now, especially if the player can customize his or her avatar, and that customized avatar shows up in the In-Game Cinematic.  But in general, I’m not a huge fan of linear content in games anymore.  Of course, working at Square we made tons of FMVs… but Square’s console RPGs are almost more of a big movie with some game play bits squeezed in there.   Which I still like.

Obsolete Gamer: What were the day to day activities of running the software tools group at EA Canada?

Steve Gray: Not really that interesting.  Just managed the tools group, tried to make sure that we really built things that were useful for the projects right now… no “ivory tower research” allowed.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about building the first Motion Capture Lab at EAC?

Steve Gray: In the beginning the EAC guys didn’t believe in it so we had basically no budget and had to rent out the auto-repair stall to use as our capture studio.  The guys in the auto repair shops around us all through we must be shooting porno movies because we brought in all this high-end camera gear… they kept wanting to know when the girls were going to be there.  Unfortunately it was just a bunch of geeky game developers.  Later we got a bigger a much nicer warehouse to work in…

Squaresoft logo
Squaresoft logo

Obsolete Gamer: How did the transition from EAC to Squaresoft take place?

Steve Gray: I knew some Square guys from various places in the past, plus I’ve always been a fan of their games.  When Sakaguchi-san asked me to join the company I couldn’t say yes fast enough.   Some of the other guys at Square invited me to Tokyo to meet Sakaguchi and we were in a private booth overlooking the massive dance club called “Welfare”, he asked me to join square and put out his hand… I shook it and the other Japanese guys asked me “do you know you just signed the deal”, to which I answered “yes”!!

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time at EAC?

Steve Gray: I think the day we installed the flying-faders audio mixing board in the sound lab was the best day.  Back then those things were super crazy expensive, and as a musician I’d always wanted to have one to play with.

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working at Squaresoft?

Steve Gray: Working at Square was the best of times and in some ways the worst of times.  Working with Sakaguchi-san was extremely challenging because his standards are insanely high.  Which is a good thing, but it can be tough.  Also the cultural and language differences between the Japanese and Western teams we not really understood or managed very well.  I’m sure we were one of the first projects to be developed by a “mixed” team.  Of course now this is happening more and more, and people have gotten much better at managing those situations, but we were really on the bleeding edge, so to speak.

Obsolete Gamer: What were some of the challenges in directing Parasite Eve?

Steve Gray: The biggest issues were really finding consensus and understanding between the Japanese crew, many of whom had been at Square for many years and were used to their style of working… which was actually very “agile” though they didn’t call it that.  The Western team was much more into what’s now referred to as Waterfall project management… which we didn’t call it that either.  We didn’t really think about this sort of thing, and didn’t understand the differences, and basically made a big mess.  But the game did quite well when it came out, so that’s great!

Obsolete Gamer: Now the game was a sequel to the book correct?

Steve Gray: The game wasn’t a sequel really, it was based on a Japanese novel.  There is also a Japanese movie based on the same book… with some cool VFX from Toyo Links (Japanese VFX company).

Obsolete Gamer: There are many fans who loved that game, but some felt it did not get the attention it deserved, do you feel that way as well?

Steve Gray: It sold over 2.5 million units world wide I think, and sold something like 1.6 million units in like a week in Japan or something crazy like that.  Not quite Final Fantasy numbers, but pretty good.  I’m happy with it.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you think of Parasite Eve 2?

Steve Gray: I think the graphics and FMVs are probably better… I haven’t really played it all the way through, so I don’t have a lot to say about the game.  I was a little bitter with the way things ended up at Square, so I cop’ed an attitude and only played it a bit.

Obsolete Gamer: There were rumors of making a Parasite Eve 3 but it did not happen would you want to see a part 3 made?

Steve Gray: Only if I make it!!!  I don’t know.  Don’t really care.  I don’t think the franchise really took off enough to warrent a whole long series of games.

Parasite Eve box
Parasite Eve box

Obsolete Gamer: You also contributed to Final Fantasy 7 while at Square, can you tell us about that?

Steve Gray: Mostly I just helped another team at Square LA work on some maps.   Square LA did a bunch of maps for FF VII.  I don’t remember how many or what percentage of the total maps were done there.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time at Square?

Steve Gray: Ha.  The stories I have to share involve other Square employees, cute Japanese girls at various locations in Tokyo at night.  They are not fit for public consumption… so I’ll let you guys imagine some of the trouble we got into.

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to open your own game development company?

Steve Gray: After we finished PE1 at Square, a core group of us thought we were super badass game developers and that publishing companies would fall over themselves to give us projects and money.  That was not entirely true.  We worked on a bunch of games that never saw the light of day, and then finally landed the gig with THQ building Evil Dead 1.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about Heavy Iron Studios?

Steve Gray: It was originally called Chemistry Entertainment.  For a while we partnered with the Canadian VFX Company called Rainmaker.  Heavy Iron didn’t really 100% work out as we hoped.  But a bunch of really great people worked there, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the game industry… for example my partner Marcel Samek went on to be CTO at EALA for many years.  Shiraz Akmal ran the central outsourcing group at THQ… Matt Coohill continued to work at Heavy Iron for a long time, and is now up in Seattle at Microsoft working cool stuff there.  And many others…

Obsolete Gamer: How did it differ from running your own company than working at EAC and SS?

Steve Gray: We had no money.  I didn’t really like running my own company that much… I thought it would give me the freedom to work on the kinds of projects I really like.  But instead I got to be an administrator and was always managing cash flow and trying to make payroll.  Not cool.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you make the decision to sell to THQ?

Steve Gray: When we were starting on Evil Dead 1, it was going to be one of the biggest projects THQ had ever done… and they really wanted to have us be part of THQ so that they would be building equity in the team.  And honestly, Marcel and I were a bit tired of managing the company instead of making games, so we decided to join THQ.  Of course, we also got paid some money (stock).  When I left THQ, their stock was at an all-time high… this was a good thing.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time with Heavy Iron Studios?

Steve Gray: When we were finalizing Evil Dead, I was basically living at the office.  We had a group of THQ QA guys in the first floor, and they would find bugs, we’d fix them… I’d burn new test disks… they bang away at them.  It was a crazy project.  But then many things I’ve worked on have been crazy and hard… but that’s what makes it fun.

Obsolete Gamer: Then it was a return to EA what was that like?

Steve Gray: I came back to EA to join my original Digital Domain friend, Chris McKibbin, to help run what was called the “Worlds Channel” in EA.com.  We were all the entertainment products, meaning all the MMOs.  I guess younger readers may not know about EA.com – EA.com was EA’s first big jump into online games, and think we were a bit ahead of the times… EA.com didn’t work out, and got closed down, and many of the people merged back into the other EA Studios.  That was pretty rough because many people were also laid off, and as one of the senior guys there it fell to me to do a lot of layoffs.  But it’s lame to feel bad for yourself in that situation because it’s 100x worse for the people getting laid off.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the development process with creating the Lord of the Rings games?

Steve Gray: We kicked some serious ass on Lord of the Rings.  First out at Stormfront, then internally at EA Redwood Shores.  Those were great games, beautiful games, built on very tight schedules under difficult circumstances and they were really good.  I credit my time and Square and my experiences working with Sakaguchi for my ability to really focus on quality… and of course, Neil Young was a great EP on the first two, I learned a lot working with him as well.  I have very happy memories of that time… though I did get diss’ed pretty hard in the infamous “EA Wife” blog.  I think our FMV->game play transition stuff which I mentioned earlier was a first for the industry, and we really set the standard for quality in movie games… a standard that has rarely been met since, in my opinion.

Heavy Iron logo
Heavy Iron logo

Obsolete Gamer: How did your experience with EAC, Square and owning Heavy Iron Studios factor into your return to EA and working on those games?

Steve Gray: I really credit Sakaguchi-san for helping me understand how to build great games.  I have to say that at the time, when I was at Square, I didn’t really agree 100% with how he wanted to do things… but in the following years I came to really appreciate how his approach to game development is able to consistently create such high quality product.  Now I’ve rarely (never) had the freedom he has as a developer, but his ideas fit into development even if you have to pay more attention to the schedule.  Heavy Iron gave me a lot of respect for how hard it is to run a business… and at EA I learned a lot about why publishers work the way they do, and why publishers make what seem to the developers like evil and unwarranted decisions.  That changed my understanding of the game business a lot.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your work on Neverwinter Nights 2?

Steve Gray: This is a mistake in some profiles on me… I never worked on Neverwinter Nights 2.

Obsolete Gamer: With all your time in the gaming industry which prior of your career did you enjoy the most?

Steve Gray: I really really enjoyed working on the Lord of the Rings games.  The team was so fantastic.  Everyone was great to work with and super talented.  We may have had our struggles and moments of anger with each other, but I wouldn’t trade that time with those people for anything.  I am also really enjoying working at Tencent…

Tencent logo
Tencent logo

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about what you are working on currently?

Steve Gray: I am currently Executive in Charge of Prodution at Tencent in China.  Tencent is China’s largest developer, publisher and operator of on-line games, we have a huge IM client (over 1 billion accounts), we run China’s largest portals, etc…  I work with all of our Studios, of which we have 9… with about 3500 employees across all of them.  But there are some projects I’m particularly focused on.

Unfortunately I can’t really tell you about them, because most are unannounced.  However one I can mention is NBA 2K Online, which is a co-development project with 2K Sports in the US.  It’s a bit weird because I didn’t really like working on Sports games at EAC… but this is really more of a Sports RPG or something like that.  It’s really cool… it’s going to be a monster hit here in China.  Working with Visual Concepts (the 2K Games Studio that builds NBA2K) is really great, working with 2K China is great… our team in Shanghai is great.

It’s really fun.  It’s amazing how Tencent builds online games and how big we are (we have 4 games that have more than 1 million people playing simultaneously every day).  We get to work so closely with our customers… in a way you can never do on a console game.  Also the scale we operate at is just stunning… QQ IM (our IM client) routinely has over 100,000,000 people logged into it every day.  Yes – that’s the right number of zeros… 100,000,000.

Obsolete Gamer: With all that you do you must have little free time, but when you do if you play any games what are they?

Steve Gray: I rarely play any games other than the games I’m working on, or directly competing product… which I can’t say what they are, because that would be a dead giveaway of what we’re building.  I don’t really play games for “fun” in my free time… well, what free time, for one thing.  But I have a lot of fun playing the games I’m building or those few other games I play to understand what the competition is up to.

Villian Spotlight: Kefka Palazzo

Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster
Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster

Kefka Palazzo

Since the dawn of video game culture, there have been a lot of subjects you don’t bring up unless you want some greasy, unhygienic, nerd frothing from the mouth with a rabid induced rage. One of these subjects that is commonly brought up by RPG geeks which ends up in a heated debate is who is the greatest Final Fantasy villain? Normally, the debate is stomped by a wave of Sephiroth loving assholes. For some reason, long white hair, trench coats, and absurdly gigantic katanas are cool. Not just that, this guy’s freaking theme song is an orchestra chiming in death and destruction. The problem a lot of people seem to not realize is that the question asked who is the GREATEST villain in Final Fantasy. People seem to confuse cool with greatness.

I’m unsure if the sway towards Sephiroth is because a lot of people played FF VII as their first real RPG and considered anything before that garbage or mediocre. I do agree that Final Fantasy VII was a fantastic game and that Sephiroth was indeed a cool villain. The thing is, he didn’t accomplish much and his role as a villain was rather one dimensional. His creativity for slaughter was usually left with a sword swing and some fire. His actual development as a character was rather bland and nonexistent.

I know. I know.

Take a deep breath.

It hurts to hear this kind of criticism about the One Winged Angel but I’m about to open your eyes to a true villain. Someone who’s appearance was comical but their lust for destruction was their only drive in life. There wasn’t a waking moment where this monster didn’t think about the end of the world. Many villains feel this way but he isn’t a Cobra Commander or Doctor Claw replica. Where many villains fail and constantly try again, Kefka succeeds. Here’s a look into the devilish antics performed by the supernatural sociopath known as Kefka Palazzo.

As the game begins, Kefka Palazzo is only known as the Emperor’s Court Wizard and doesn’t seem to be more than just some queer looking clown. The Emperor decides to begin a process of infusing Magitek into humans. Kefka decides to volunteer for this process and is able to wield magic. Come to think of it… how was this guy the Court Wizard if he couldn’t control magic to begin with? Anyway, an obvious homage to Captain America occurs and Kefka becomes Captain Magitek and stops the World War that is plaguing the planet and is pronounced the savior of the world.

The End.

Things didn’t work out that way, sadly, for Kefka and he turned into a psychopath who deemed that everything ever in the entire world had to die. He became the Joker with magic. He forces Terra, the main character in the story, to wear a slave crown and attack a town that claims to have an Esper in their mines. Terra manages to escape the enslavement and runs off. Kefka, obviously angered by this decides to burn down an ENTIRE fucking castle just to kill a bitch. Pretty hardcore right? Sephiroth lit up a small secluded town but Kefka razed a whole castle.

Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison
Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison

After burning down a castle what else should you do? Grow impatient obviously! The Empire decides to attack the Kingdom of Doma and begins a long and drawn out siege. What does Kefka do to make things move a long faster? Does he impale a girl in the back with a sword? Hell no. Kefka poisons the kingdom’s water supply killing everyone inside, including Cyan’s, one of your party members, wife and his children. I don’t remember any Final Fantasy villains poisoning the innocent because they were consuming too much of their schedule.

When you’ve poisoned an entire kingdom what else can you do at the end of the day? Drink a cold beer and watch some TV? Take a hot shower and go to bed? Or freeze all your enemies in place and order one of them to prove their loyalty and kill their friends? The latter sounds like the best idea for this bad ass motherfucker. Unfortunately, the character he ordered to prove their loyalty stabbed him instead. But guess what? Big whoop. Instead of getting medical treatment he kills his king and draws in the powers of a couple of magical statues to become a God.

Looks like your team fucked up, huh? This guy is God and you know what his first order of business is? He isn’t going to hang a meteor over your most populated city. He reshaped the entire planet pushing it into a post apocalyptic world and then demanded people to worship him. You know what happened to the millions of people who said “Fuck that!” collectively? Independence Day. He burned them down with enough force to carve scars into the planet’s surface.

He became a God and forced people into his worship and still that isn’t good enough. This cum dumpster decides it’s a damn good idea to just end life since that shit is meaningless to him. Sure he’s defeated by the heroes of the story but that’s the point! He didn’t care if he died. In reality, he probably let them win because he was too much of a bad ass to die. He figured he was way to cool for the world of the living anyway. His death was his final “F U” to the world since he already fucked it up and now he’s dead and doesn’t have to bother to clean that shit up.

By now, I’m hoping your frothing has ended and you realize the error of your ways. I know it’s going to be hard to put away your Sephiroth figurines and wall posters but you have finally been educated or rather re-educated in the makings of a true monster and villain. You may subconsciously still blurt out Sephiroth’s name like a slutty wife screaming out her secret lover’s name when the question arises as to who is the greatest Final Fantasy antagonist but you will feel that itching in the back of your mind. You know you’re wrong and some day you can even accept that.

UFO: Enemy Unknown

UFO: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical strategy game with managerial and role playing elements published in 1994 by MicroProse Software on PC and various Amigas and later on on Playstation.

X-COM_-_UFO_Defense_Coverart

I wondered for a while how does one properly explain what ingenious creation like UFO is, compared to other similar games. And found no answer… So I decided to give it a whirl, play it for a while and see how I felt about it after years long brake from seeing it last. That was a HUGE mistake! A catastrophe on an unthinkable scale! I can’t stress how much time I’ve „wasted” playing it, though it was not a waste per se. Well, as you might have guessed by now, the game is not bad by no means. In fact when I started playing it I couldn’t stop until I beat it. And beating UFO takes a lot of time and patience as the game in its early stages especially is quite unforgiving. Going through it however, with all its ups and downs left me with a clear view of what I wanted to share here with you… So, let me get to it straight away…

In the beginning there was chaos…” And there is loads of it in UFO as well, especially for a first time player. There’s tons of screens, stats and settings that may seem a bit overwhelming for a person looking for a quick strategy fix, but if you decide to take your time with it and learn everything that there is to learn about the game it will reward you hundredfold! With long, deep (Oh, yeah, I said it!) adventure, that when completed will leave you disappointed… Badly… Because you’ll instantly want MORE!

UFO or X-COM as they call it in the US is a product built upon the idea that could’ve easily been transformed into three different, smaller games. First of, there’s the strategy – Globe View – in which you build your bases, send intercepting ships to shoot of alien vessels and direct your troop transport crafts to various missions – like alien terror attack, alien bases or earlier mentioned shot down UFOs. Sounds cool? Good, because it is!

ufo_enemy_unknown_01

Then there’s a micro-managerial – Base View – where you decide on your base’s buildings placement and purpose. Each building has it’s price, time it takes to put up and also provides certain commodities – like living areas, research laboratories, defences, hangars or even alien interrogation rooms, so thinking the layout through is a must. In here also, you buy, sell, research & manufacture various kinds of weapons, ships, equipment & technologies. And this is where you train, equip and prepare your troops before they get sent on a mission that most of them may not come back from.

And last but most definitely not least – Tactical View – where whilst on a missions you’ll lead your soldiers turn by turn to their painful and bloody deaths… I mean to victory against bad and ugly alien invaders, which vary in kind power and abilities! Yes… Well, initially some of your troops are bound to meet their maker in the field of battle when put up against overwhelming alien force. As they progress in game though – earn experience & gain skills, each mission will become more and more bearable until eventually with help of high tech equipment and armor designed by your team of smart bottle-bottom-like glasses wearing scientists you’ll start earning a bit of advantage. I wouldn’t hold on to that hope from the start though as that will not happen until you’re many, many hours into gameplay.

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Because UFO punishes the slightest mistakes in tactical approach, you will have to be prepared for some serious losses when playing X-COM for the first time. That is good however as if it was not so challenging it may have not end up being so AWESOME… After all, it is fun to spray long series of bullets through purple coloured alien brains. But what’s even more enjoyable in my opinion is starting your way with your soldiers brains being spread on a pavement and slowly earning your way through the alien horde whilst learning their genesis, weak and strong points and researching means to counter them effectively.

In UFO: Enemy Unknown one can see many influences by the earlier games, games like Laser Squad or Civilization, from which UFO took what’s best and mixed into something even better. Funny enough Civilization was released by Microprose as well and Laser Squad was developed by the same team that wrote UFO. Coincidence? I don’t think so… Anyway, as I mentioned before UFO could very well be three separate, good in their own kind games but instead Microprose opted for mashing it all up into one tough but entertaining behemoth of a creation that takes many evenings to complete and keeps you on your toes through out it until the very last minute of gameplay.

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All versions of the game are virtually the same gameplay-wise with only some minor engine differences. Differences like Amiga version having two separate release branches, one with 32 and another with 256 colours graphics (all other systems get 256 only) and a bit better music and sound effects. Playstation outing being least playable out of the lot due to the limitations of pad control compared to the mouse. All that said, any version you manage to pick up will provide you with dozens of hours of fun and challenge, and that’s what UFO is all about!

MicroProse released two continuations to UFO – X-COM: Terror From The Deep & X-COM: Apocalypse. First being direct sequel with some minor gameplay setting tweaks & alterations and second released in high resolution but with reduced micro-management scale from the whole World to one huge Metropolis. There’s been some spin-offs developed as well but mostly were not worth any attention as they fared into different genres, badly I must add. Independent Developers have been craving to shadow the success of original, releasing many similar games, especially over the last few years. Unfortunately none of them came even close to perfecting balance of gameplay and its mechanics, and MicroProse’s original is still King of the Hill when in comes to tactical anti-alien warfare.

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It took me two weeks of serious gaming before I beat the game and I only managed to do it on normal difficulty level. Can’t wait to see what happens if I raise it a bit even though UFO was challenging enough the way I played it. Overall I want to give UFO: Enemy Unknown 15 out of 10 but I can’t, so I’ll settle for what’s available at hand…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dupngnAS6yk[/youtube]

PC version is still on sale (well, again not still) and can be purchased on STEAM either separately or as a part of the Complete pack where it is sold along with both successors. Alternatively if you still own your original disks they can be easily used to install and run it through DOSBox. As for Amiga outing, the game same as the platform has been forgotten for years and is only available to download as an abandonware at Planet Emulation website.

Defeat the Boss or Drop a Duece?

Final Fantasy IX characters
Now with more characters!

Defeat the Boss or Drop a Duece?

Once upon a time, a boy named Umar was playing Final Fantasy 9 and was about to beat the game. Before embarking on his journey to vanquish Kuja, Umar decided it would be a wise idea to eat lunch. The idea was sound at the time and surely nothing would hinder the ending experience Umar had vanquished so many Tonberries for. It wasn’t until sitting down and unpausing the game to begin the final scenes against Kuja that Umar realized he had orchestrated his own folly. You see, Umar was like a human duck. If he ate, it was only mere moments later that shit will be begging for sweet cataclysmic release. A dire time bomb situation ignited in front of the boy. Should he defeat Kuja or take a shit? Who would purposely prairie dog themselves when there is a toilet twenty feet away? After serious deliberation, the decision was set in stone. Kuja was going to die.

As if his ass began its own Final Fantasy random encounter, his turd became a Tonberry that slowly progressed forward toward the light. Umar knew he had to end Kuja and quick or it was “game over” for his Mom’s carpet. The battle began. Casting his protection and haste spells, war was waged. Sweat began to drip from his brow as he quickly realized Kuja was no pushover. The encounter was going to take longer than 2 minutes and the Tonberry situation grew more grim. Biting down on his lower lip, he unleashed all hell upon the transexual foe of the story. Bubbles were erupting and crying out from within his body, lashing like molten lava waiting to cover the land of Pompeii. His choice began to become a blur and regret began to sink in.

In some situations, it would be wise to ease out a fart at this time. Believing this to be true for this instance, the action was clear. He knew it was a double edged sword but he couldn’t just pause the game and run to the toilet. No, that would be illogical! Slowly, the gas which composes part of Venus’s atmosphere slid out. It was subtle and safe for the most part until an unrelenting quake erupted. “Oh no”, Umar exclaimed as he realized that this big burst could’ve produced a bacon strip on his underwear or far worse. Tightening up, he decided not to check his drawers and proceed to vanquishing Kuja.

Numerous Ultima’s were being cast as this angry reimagining of David Bowie from Labyrinth attempted to wipe out the boy’s party. Zidane entered a Trance which spelled hope not only for Vivi and Dagger but for Umar’s ass as well. Kuja was slain and the ending CGI sequence would begin. “Yes!”, an exasperated Umar managed to mutter as the screen began to fade to black. His toes were now curling up and he had entered a dance that somehow lessened the need to let it all go. As Kuja laid slain, Umar knew he could finally enjoy the climax of the adventure. Then, the unthinkable happened…

Kuja was the penultimate boss. Rather deceitful isn’t it? There was no mention of this Necron individual and now he stood in front of Umar, mocking him and his anus. History was rewritten for this moment. There was no Necron in Final Fantasy 9 at all. Not until now, at least. No one remembers that Kuja was the true enemy at the end of the game because the malevolent Gods of gaming decided to toy with this mortal boy who dared defy them and not run to the toilet while he had a chance. He had come this far and that shit had to wait. It was only Umar and Necron. Only one would walk out alive.

The Gods knew how the tale would end though. The boy was not ready mentally and physically for this obstacle and Necron dispatched him. His party fell in combat like lemmings running toward a cliff. The sound of metal stretching and pulling echoed through Umar’s body as the game over music played. Tears streamed his cheeks. Not the cheeks of his face but his ass for it was sweating holding back the apocalyptic spill it was suppressing. Finally running to the toilet, Umar opened the portal to the mouth of hell as fecal demons erupted forth. The Moon began to bleed and horrors raped the Earth. His failure was the doom of us all. Sitting on his throne of shame, he realized that he had lost.

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Have you ever had to make such a dire and overwhelming decision while playing a video game? Tell us about your adventure so that your legend can be echoed in the Halls of Valhalla.

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