Classic Gaming at E3 2013
Classic gaming is alive and well at E3 2013. For the last few E3’s there has been a great section reserved for retro gaming. Each year it has grown and this year it was better than ever!
Classic gaming is alive and well at E3 2013. For the last few E3’s there has been a great section reserved for retro gaming. Each year it has grown and this year it was better than ever!
When people think of Japanese Saturn games, they quite rightly call to mind classics such as Capcom’s 4MB-enhanced beat ‘em ups, shmups like Battle Garrega and Radiant Silvergun, and the sequels the West wanted but never got (I hate to bring up old wounds, but I must mention Dragon Force 2 and the remaining Shining Force 3 scenarios). The Saturn had far more Japanese games than just these cult classics though and while the quality naturally varies from game to game there’s still plenty of interesting titles waiting to be played, often for $10USD or less.
Take Real Sound: Kaze no Regret for example – there are literally no graphics at all in this game (and only minimal optional stills in the Dreamcast remake), the reason being that it was designed to be a game that could be enjoyed just as well by blind gamers as it could able-sighted ones. The game is an interactive sound drama and plays out much like a visual novel with the player making decisions at key points.
If that’s a bit too esoteric how about Black/Matrix, an SRPG series by Flight Plan (creators of the Summon Night series and DS SRPG Shining Force Feather) that started on the Saturn and spawned two remakes (Dreamcast and PS1), a direct sequel (PS2), a prequel (GBA), and later a remake of that prequel (PS1) – yet these games are hardly discussed anywhere! What’s especially enticing about this game to a curious import gamer is that it’s rather linear meaning more time can be spent enjoying the battles rather than scouring FAQs for the NPC you should have spoken to in the last town but completely missed.
Japanese Saturn fans even got all-new exclusive sequels to quintessentially Western games too: Dungeon Master Nexus is the final game in FTL’s classic dungeon crawling RPG series and finally brought the series into true 3D while still retaining many familiar features from the previous games. Alex and his lock picks, Screamers, the rune system… just about everything’s present and correct, and the dungeon is as challenging as ever.
Even ports of more typical games are worth looking at – the Saturn versions of Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle have additional voice acting not found in any other version and while Suikoden was released over two years after the Playstation original Konami made up for it somewhat by giving the game a bit of a tweak and touch up, arguably making it the superior version of the two.
The best part is that these titles are barely even the tip of the iceberg – never heard of Linkle Liver Story? It’s an ARPG by Nextech, the creators of Ragnacenty (AKA Soliel, AKA Crusader of Centy). Soukara no Tsubasa: Gotha World uses a unique “Personal Time System” to give turn based combat a real time twist in a Porco-Rosso-with-fantasy-leanings setting. Sakura Taisen – a series so successful that the cast have filled the Budokan twice with their stage shows – and yet only the final one out of the five main titles (and about fifteen spinoffs, excluding ports and remakes) has been released outside Japan. Gamers not comfortable with the language barrier have plenty to look at too – bonkers shmup Game Tengoku, puzzler Puyo Puyo 3, Bomberman Fight!, the Virtual On-like Steeldom… the list goes on and on.
Being objective, these games are not the absolute greatest titles to grace the system nor are they lost treasures that will silently increase in price until only the most dedicated of collectors own them – but they are quirky and fun games that will entertain and amuse those curious or brave enough to give them a go, and certainly deserve better than to be consistently passed over for more familiar titles. So next time you’re browsing the web for imports, why not give something new a try?
Perhaps the best definition of a Christmas game, Christmas Nights into Dreams was released as a promotional sampler disc during Christmas 1996 for the Sega Saturn. While labeled as a sampler disc containing only new versions of the same stage the disc itself not only came with a cool Christmas theme but a ton of bonus content that never came with the original version of the game. Honestly, it played more like a standalone game than a demo.
The reason it was considered a sample was that it contained the first stage of Claris dream, Spring Valley and both players could play on it. If you selected Elliot you could take a different path that was only on that disc. However, the coolest part was that if you changed the Saturn’s internal clock the game looked different depending on the time you selected.
During the holiday season, the snow can change depending on what time you set the internal clock to.
3:00 AM – Lunar eclipse
6:00 AM – Northern Lights
7:00 AM – Bright sun
9:00 AM – Crescent moons
12:00 PM – Rainbows, clouds & confetti
3:00 PM – Candy
6:00 PM – Strange stars
9:00 PM – Bright stars
12:00 AM – Hearts
The story takes place after the original Nights and during Christmas time. Elliot & Claris are exploring the Christmas decorated city, but notice the star from the top of the Christmas tree is missing. The duo head off to Nightopia and find NiGHTS to help them retrieve the star. In the end you defeat the boss and find the star, but in the end it was all just a dream.
One of the coolest parts of the disc was depending on when you set the date, the game had the chance to load something other than Christmas Nights. Now the changes were small meaning it only effected the appearance and music of the main game, but still, pretty cool.
Fans of the classic Sega Saturn game have something to celebrate as HD release of Nights into Dream will be coming this fall. About 16 years ago, July 5th, 1996, Knights was released for the Sega Saturn featuring a unique gameplay style, beautiful graphics and an awesome soundtrack. The HD release will feature updated graphics and features such as trophies/achievements, and leaderboards.
Chris Olson, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA, said in the official announcement: ”The SEGA Saturn offered many unique gaming experiences, and NiGHTS into dreams… stands out as one of the most recognizable titles that found a home on the system. We’ve gotten a lot of requests about this game over the years, and are very happy to be able to give both former Saturn owners and new players a chance to play it in its most beautiful form to date this fall.”
Currently we only know that the game will be released in the fall for the PC, PSN and XBLA. As we get a firm date, we will bring it to you. The retro releases continue out of Sega HQ as word of a HD release of Jet Set Radio is slated to be released around the game time.
The Bomberman series is unquestionably one of my favourite series’ of all-time and it’s almost unanimous that this Saturn-exclusive version is the best. Unlike many who view the Bomberman games exclusively as multi-player games, I personally really enjoy the single player modes on most of them too. The simple pleasure of trapping enemies and blowing them up, gradually powering-up our White Bomber hero, and progressing through the stages is one that I enjoy a lot, and the stages in this release are the most inventive and feature-laden yet. However, no one can question the frenetic fun of a multi-player Bomberman session and this is another area in which SB excels – it’s possible to have up to ten players simultaneously battling away here and it’s among the most fun that can be had in any game!
For some reason water-based racing games are few and far between to begin with, but good ones are unfortunately even rarer. For this reason, I thought Midway’s Hydro Thunder may be a special treat even before I first gripped the steering wheel, but a few short, heart-pounding, sweaty-palmed minutes later I knew for sure! There’s no fancy options screens or championship modes to mess around with here – simply choose from the selection of ‘space boats’ and blast away! The courses are fantastically themed and designed, and are full of features, shortcuts, huge jumps, and other racers to jostle for position with. The water physics here aren’t as convincing as something like Wave Race but that’s not really the point – this is a fast-paced arcade racer through and through, and what a rush!
Released by EA before they sucked, this sequel to the entertaining underwater adventure, James Pond, bore little resemblance to its forebear aside from the inclusion of the main character himself, and even he is barely recognisable! To enable our hero to engage in non-water-based tomfoolery, he has been equipped with a robotic exoskeleton, but the Robocop puns end there as he embarks on a bizarre platform-based quest across many large, strangely-themed levels to save Christmas from Dr Maybe! As well as being a superbly designed game, Special Agent Bond’s second mission is a treat for the eyes and ears too. It may not have as many background colours as the Amiga version but it’s superior in pretty much every other way, and provides a long and entertaining challenge with a surprise around every corner.
Given my well-known intense dislike of EA, some may be surprised to see this here, but I didn’t always hate them. In the MegaDrive days in particular, EA were awesome and one of their best games was John Madden Football. This was the first version of the series to appear on a 32-bit system and, as great as the MD games were, it made a big difference. Bigger sprites, great commentary from Madden, video clips, countless game options and stats, more plays than ever, a floating camera that follows the action closely, and the ability to play as legendary teams from the past made this the definitive US Football game to have ever been seen at that time, and it’s still my favourite to play. Some games are great fun but too arcadey, some are too intricate and take too long to learn. This was just right. Plus, it’s the only game where I’ve actually managed to win the SuperBowl!
Few platformers were as popular as this one in their day. Every version that I’ve played is at least good, but the rather garishly-coloured Dragon 32 version is the one I’ve spent by far the most amount of time playing. My good friend Luke had a Dragon around the time I first met him and we would spend many hours trying to play through this. The game apparently cycles through the eight single-screen stages five times but I’ve had the skill to prove this. Luke was always better at Chuckie Egg than me but even he couldn’t get that far! Still, despite its hideous background (which seemed perfectly normal at the time), this is a great version of the egg-collecting classic, and the only version Luke and I have played which enabled you to perform a few little tricks which greatly helped our progress!
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.
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.
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.
Baku Baku Animal (1996)
By: Sega Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn First Day Score: 17,250
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Master System, PC
After the unprecedented success of Tetris, a good few companies jumped on the ‘falling block’ puzzle game genre, and one of the biggest offenders was Sega. After buying the rights to Columns, it soon snapped up Puyo Puyo too. None of these addictive games, however, was to appear on their new Saturn console, so instead Sega came up with their own game, and quite an original one it was too! The King (of somewhere) is apparently looking to hire a zookeeper to look after the animal-mad Princesses pets! The game is basically a test at a job interview. If you win, you’ll get offered the job! Like the games before it, the action takes place on a single screen, in this case divided vertically down the middle. Player one controls the action on the left side of the screen, and player two or a computer-controlled opponent controls the right. As is usually the case with games like this, the concept behind the gameplay is a simple one. Sets of two blocks drift down the screen, one after another. Pictured on each single block is either a food or an animal. All you have to do is match the food with the animal that eats it!
There are five different animals in the game and each will eat only his favourite food when he lands on some (monkeys eat bananas, mice eat cheese, etc), but since food blocks appear more often than the animal ones it’s best to group foods together as much as possible. This is the best way to play the game as chain reactions can occur this way resulting in not only larger scores for you, but will also see a load of random blocks dumped on your opponent’s side of the screen! This will obviously not only screw up their attempts to do the same to you, but will also push them closer to the top of the screen which results in game over. The longer the game goes on for, the faster the blocks will fall down the screen. Occasionally, a pair of coins called ‘BB Coins’ will appear in place of a food/animal block. These will make any blocks they touch, and any other blocks of the same type on that player’s play field disappear.
There are two play modes to choose from in Baku Baku (plus a secret third one) – Arcade and Ranking modes. Arcade mode is the same as the arcade version as you might imagine. Here, you will challenge a series of opponents until you get to challenge the Princess. Beat her and win the game! Arcade mode is also where the two-player action is to be found. The ranking mode is for one player only, and is more or less the same as the arcade mode except your opponents carry on forever. Beat as many as you can and then receive a ranking for your playing skills such as number of attacks, number of chain reactions, and the least amount of time elapsed. Also featured is a hall of fame and a movie viewer, both accessible from the options screen where it is also possible to alter the difficulty level and increase or reduce the number of different animal types.
As with most puzzle games of this nature, its simplicity means the technical strain on the host system is kept to a minimum. It’s a nice, colourful, happy looking game though, and features a decent rendered intro detailing the story. The animals themselves are particularly amusing when they grow bigger to eat the foods! The music and sound effects are also suitably happy and upbeat (there’s even a ‘bangin’ dance remix hidden on the disc), and that’s pretty much the case throughout the game. You know what you’re getting with games like this and, whilst there are no real surprises and the one-player mode won’t last you long, this is still one of the best games of its type. Everything about it is top quality and it’s a lot of fun, especially when challenging a friend. A novel and amusing take on the much-copied falling block game and one well-worthy of your time.
RKS Score: 8/10
Mass Destruction (1997)
By: NMS Software Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn First Day Score: 205,425
Also Available For: PlayStation, PC
The poor old Saturn had a bit of a torrid time in the UK and US but it met a little more success in Japan and it’s the titles released only there that have made the system something of a collector’s favourite. Among the most prestigious and desirable of the sexy system’s Japanese exclusives are the large number of amazing 2D shmups it was blessed with, most of which could not be fittingly represented on any other machine of their time (and yes, that includes the PlayStation – hee hee!). So, for the first game of this new Red Parsley feature focusing on the shmups released for Sega’s 2D powerhouse, I’ll very sensibly start with… one that has 3D graphics and was released in all major territories around the world!
Worldwide release or not though, Mass Destruction has never been a game that has garnered much attention and it’s my mission to change that! Taking its cue from the multi-player, flag-capturing frolics of Return Fire, NMS’s game ditches the multi-player mode and adds a loose mission-structure instead, plus a story has been tacked-on too (although little mention is made of it in the game’s instruction book) which revolves around your attempts to bring down a ‘fanatical tyrant’ and his army known as ‘The Republican Army’. This involves a series of free-roaming missions, viewed from an angled overhead perspective where your objective, as you may have guessed from the title, is to destroy everything!
Actually, that’s not strictly true. You do get mission targets which must be razed, but what I probably should’ve said was you can destroy anything, and let’s face it… most of us will! Yes, enemy tanks and missile launchers, all manner of buildings from houses up to skyscrapers, even trees – absolutely anything can be shot and blown up here! Regardless of whether you stick to your mission targets or go on a free-for-all, however, you’re going to need some serious hardware. Your permanent means of offence, and indeed defence, throughout the game is your tank and you get a choice of three, each with obligatory ‘scary’ names – the ‘Viper’ (average speed and armour), the ‘Cobra’ (slow but strong armour), and the ‘Cheetah’ (fast but weak armour). Near the start of the game, any of these can be used effectively, but in later missions you’ll need to choose more carefully – some missions will suit one tank much more then either of others.
One area that the tanks are the same, though, is in their weaponry. Each has a rotating turret and comes with a cannon and chain gun as standard, both of which have unlimited ammunition, but the other weapons only become available when you pick them up. Sometimes they’ll appear in the ruins of destroyed buildings or installations and other times they can simply be found lying around, but once you’ve obtained them you’ll have access to some much meaner and more destructive firepower. There are six others available including hi-explosive shells, mines, mortars, a flame-thrower, guided missiles and the Vortex Bomb (a smart bomb), but all have limited ammunition. Only the chain gun, mortars, or guided missiles can be used for destroying aerial targets, but the others are more than adequate to handle everything else the RA can throw at you.
Once you’ve chosen a tank it’s time to get destroying! Your next choice is which mission you want to tackle first. There are five rows of ‘folders’ on the mission select screen (which presumably contain your orders) and you can initially select the first from any of these rows. Once you’ve chosen, a mission briefing will follow outlining your primary and secondary targets. If you forget them, there’s a radar in the bottom-left of the screen during play that will show you what’s nearby or you can access a map that will show the entire level including the location of all targets. Once you’ve finished a mission you must find the ‘extraction zone’ which is marked on the map, although to finish a mission ‘properly’ you must also find and destroy the bonus mission targets which aren’t mentioned anywhere (except probably some internet cheat sites).
Each mission is set over one of four different landscapes – Arctic, Desert, Suburban, and Rural. Each of these is obviously different in appearance, but more importantly each is home to some unique features. Arctic missions, for example, are the only places you’ll find nuclear reactors or airports, and Suburban missions are where tower blocks, communication sites, and military bases/camps are exclusively found. It’s not as simple as trundling in and shooting up everything, though. Each area is populated by numerous enemy vehicles (mostly other tanks) and soldiers who fire rockets and throw mortars, and their key installations are even more heavily defended as you might expect, with such armour-piercing monstrosities as rapid-fire anti-tank rocket launcher batteries. All of this pummelling does take its toll on your tank too. Each of them starts the game with a thousand armour points but luckily there are Red Cross crates dotted about here and there, one of which replenishes a hundred armour points and the other less common one replenishes five hundred.
And that’s pretty much it! It’s not a complicated game and despite its free-roaming nature Mass Destruction is very much a shoot ’em up, albeit one with a bit more depth than most. Most of the stages here are pretty sizable and there’s also a good few secrets to uncover in them but the biggest lure of playing this game is the immense satisfaction it gives! This is of course helped by the splendid graphics and sound. There’s some nice variety between the landscapes and each is home to its own features. There’s some nice water effects too, and the sprites are pretty decent, but it’s those amazing pyrotechnics that’ll impress the most. As mentioned before, practically everything in the game can be shot and blown up, and when you do, things explode in spectacular showers of sparks and flame, and they can even be blown up twice!
The music is also top-notch with a selection of electronic dance-style tracks that can be selected, or if left alone the game will cycle through them, and the sound effects are even better, particularly the agonizing screams of the soldiers if you shoot them, set them on fire, or run them over, and all the shooting and explosions are nice and bassy too. There are a few things that could’ve made this game even better such as a two-player mode, different vehicles (like Return Fire), a more in-depth mission structure, etc, but as it stands it’s still a superbly enjoyable game. The enemy AI is good (soldiers hide from you or run away if you go after them, for example) and control over the tank is flawless. All in all this game may not be very well known but in my opinion you could do a lot worse than give it a bash. It looks and sounds nice, is amazingly good fun, but above all that – who doesn’t enjoy blowing shit up?!
[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRUyr26wKcE[/youtube]
RKS Score: 8/10
After revitalising the fighting game genre with Street Fighter 2, the mid-90’s saw a huge influx of titles. The 16-bit consoles got a lot of good (and not so good) ones and this continued with the 32-bit systems with the added bonus of some fancy new 3D ones too. Many franchises popular today were born during this period, with the Saturn as well as the PlayStation getting some top titles. Given the unfortunate lack of success for the Saturn outside its native territory, many of its best games never left Japan including a lot of fighting games. Consequently there’s still a lot I haven’t played, but of the ones I have played, these are my favourites:
Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!
5. Vampire Saviour (1998)
This third (and so far, final) entry in the Darkstalkers series from the awesome Capcom was only released in Japan so I wasn’t really able to play it until I finally got my lovely Skeleton Saturn. My copy of the game unfortunately came without any instructions too, so I had to try and work out most of the moves myself, but it was worth the effort! This highly creative series never really seems to get the plaudits that Capcom’s other franchises do which is strange as its horror/monster themed character roster gives it huge potential which is largely realised with some outrageous combatants and special moves. The graphics and music are also of the usual Capcom high quality and there’s really no bad points to be found here. Another one please, Capcom!
4. Marvel Super Heroes (1997)
Capcom and SNK were both great supporters of the Saturn but it was releases by the former that dominated mine. X-Men Children of the Atom was good but the game suffered somewhat during the PAL conversion process, as was often the case. Marvel Super Heroes, however, was also a fantastic game but also received a top-notch port too. Despite featuring some typically flawless play-mechanics, let’s face it – there’s one reason why this game has such appeal and that’s the opportunity to smack people up as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Magneto, and all the rest! It’s a pretty short game, and pretty easy for Capcom standards, but the graphics and music are awesome and the moves given to these famous characters are supremely satisfying to execute.
3. Last Bronx (1997)
Not many people seem to know about this one for some reason which is a bit odd considering it kicks arse! Converted from the arcade game of the previous year, Last Bronx is a weapon-based fighting game set in a alternate Tokyo run by vicious street gangs. There are eight selectable characters battling for supremacy as well as a final boss, and each uses his or her own weapon. Graphically this is among the Saturn’s best – it runs in high-res mode and with 60fps and the backgrounds are in full 3D. There’s even motion-blur on the weapon attacks! Yes, you could say it’s Virtua Fighter 2 with weapons but I much prefer this to the more well known game. Featuring a nice selection of characters, some superb moves, and a decent challenge, this violent brawler is well worth your time.
2. Fighters Megamix (1997)
Virtua Fighter 2 or Fighting Vipers. Which do you prefer? For me it’s the latter, hands down. To be honest, I just can’t be arsed to spend months learning all the intricacies of the characters in VF2. Vipers is far more accessible for me with its amour-cracking, wall-smashing mayhem. Then again, Sega, if you’re going to give me both in the same game I certainly won’t complain! Celebrated upon its release as a possible saviour for the Saturn and still sited as one of its ‘killer apps’, Megamix truly was a treat for Sega’s loyal and long-suffering fans. It featured, what was at the time, a staggering array of characters, play modes, and secrets and remains without question one of the system’s most entertaining titles.
1. Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)
Sorry, maybe it’s predictable and not terribly daring but the simple fact is, I’ve played this more than all the previous four games combined! I just love the Street Fighter ‘universe’ with all the distinctive characters and their back-stories and this is one of my favourites. The graphics are top-notch too with superbly drawn sprites and backgrounds and the energetic soundtrack really adds to the atmosphere. As is usually the case, I’m not sufficiently skilled to make the most of the highly intricate gameplay that is typical of the series but that doesn’t stop me from getting a lot of enjoyment from repeatedly playing through the game as Ryu, or even being daring and trying another character! A near-flawless fighting game, and probably my second favourite ever!
Special Note: Apologies for the quality of the screenshots here, I haven’t yet worked out how to grab my own for Saturn games so I’ve had to rely on alternative techniques! P.S. if you’re one of the ones I borrowed a screen shot from, thanks for not being one of dicks who tags theirs!
Well, much of today has been spent in the fruitless pursuit of an obscure Japanese game and an emulator to run it on. I’m starting to think it’s impossible to find the combination of desired game rom and the relevant emulator, despite the help of couple of good chaps from Retro Gamer forum. Anyone know how to emulate the Sharp X-1, or the NEC PC-98, or goodness know which other previously unknown 25-year old Japanese computers?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out!
And so, to continue with the fairly unremarkable list of my favourite games, numbers 6 -10… Behold!
Super Mario World – SNES (1992)
Proclaimed by many to be the greatest platform game of all-time, who am I to argue? After spending all of the preceding generation as a Sega fan-boy, I really didn’t want to like this game, but I finally relented and got myself a SNES along with this game, and I was soon converted! Despite looking far less flashy than a certain blue hedgehog’s debut on the rival Mega Drive, this game soon proved to me that looks aren’t everything! I can still remember the first time I completed it, I was so proud of myself but my parents didn’t even care about my achievement! Consisting of a sprawling 96 levels (many of which are secret), I felt justified in being proud of myself too! Despite its size, it never failed to consistently introduce new and creative features either, not least of which was Yoshi, now almost as famous as Mario himself, but the game was just so enjoyable to play through, and has so many nice touches. Has it ever been bettered? Not in my opinion…
Star Fighter – 3DO (1996)
Now here’s one that most people haven’t even heard of, nevermind played! I bought this from the 3DO clearance bin in my local second-hand games store towards the end of the 3DO’s brief life for a mere £5, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded it, but then came one of just a few genuine ‘wow’ moments in my gaming life! It was the first free-roaming 3D flying game I had ever played, and it was amazing! Sure, visually it’s looking pretty ropey nowadays, as all early polygon games are, but back then it was a revelation! Originally an Acorn Achimedes game, this spruced up version is, at its core, a mission-based 3D combat game, but it’s not just an out-and-out blaster, no siree! Strategy plays a big part too, especially during later missions, and there’s so much to do. Star Fighter was way ahead of its time; I’ve still not played anything else quite like this, and I’d dearly love to! If you want to try it out though, just steer clear of the horrifying Sega Saturn and Playstation versions!
F-Zero X – Nintendo 64 (1998)
Along with Burnout 2, this is easily my favourite racing game of all-time. Nintendo took the controversial decision of reducing the graphical detail in the game (especially backgrounds) in order to keep it running smoothly at 60fps. Was it worth it? You’re damn straight it was! This could be the most exciting, edge-of-the-seat, sweaty palms, racing game ever made! Racing at speeds of up to 1500kph over courses that often look more like rollercoasters, I’m sure you can imagine why too! There are over 20 varied courses, each race is contested by 30 distinctive racers, and there’s even a four-player battle mode, so there’s no danger of getting bored anytime soon either. Simply the fastest, most exciting racing action to be found anywhere!
Space Station Silicon Valley – Nintendo 64 (1998)
This is another under-appreciated classic which I discovered thanks to the short-lived magazine, Total Control. I can’t even find any reference to that magazine with a quick Google search, but I’m glad it did exist or I may never have played this game! It’s a 3D platform/puzzle game in which you control the microchip of a malfunctioning robot called Evo, damaged when the ship he was on crashed into the titular space station it was meant to be landing on! Populating this space station are many robotic animals, which you can take over by leaping into them. Each animal has unique (and often very strange) abilities and, using them, you must perform set mission objectives (also often very strange) before you can move onto the next. It’s a highly original, creative, and funny game in which you never know what’s around the next corner!
The Revenge of Shinobi – Mega Drive (1989)
Or Super Shinobi, as it’s known in Japan, and this was the version I first played. When visiting my good friend, Stu’s, house one day after school I was excited to see that his brother had a gleaming new imported Japanese Mega Drive sitting in his room. It wasn’t long before Stu and his brother, Darren, were demonstrating the power of this new console, and this was the game they used to do it. And it worked! The awesome intro sequence, the breathtaking graphics, the now legendary music… I was still used to my Sega Master System and trusty Speccy at this time, so the effect this game had on me was profound, and it still holds a lot of good memories for me. And after all these years, it’s clearer than ever that this wasn’t all window dressing either, it still plays like a dream. Still the best game in the Shinobi series if you ask me!
Next five to follow tomorrow…
There are thousands of great games across all platforms that we as gamers have enjoyed for many years of our lives, but what about the people behind them. Just as there are fans of games there are the game makers themselves who weave a concept into code to be displayed on your system of choice. Many times the idea that became the mega-hit game of the year came to the developer or designer in the middle of the night, but from there it was many sleepless nights to turn that vision into reality.
One of Obsolete Gamer’s main purposes is to get the story behind the game and we do this by speaking with the designers, developers and publishers who helped bring us oh so many hours of enjoyment. Sometimes it begins with a gamer profile where we just find out a game they like and from there a dialog starts and soon you find out all kinds of wonderful information.
This is what happened with our gamer profile of Chris Tremmel. I discovered him through his clothing store, Gamer Cultoure and when he submitted his gamer profile with the game BoogerMan I wanted to find out why he liked that game and what I found out was he was one of the main creators of it. After that I had to learn more and Chris was very accommodating in answering our questions.
Obsolete Gamer: Let’s start with a little history, what was it that got you into gaming and working in the gaming industry?
Chris Tremmel: When I was a kid, my parents hooked me up with a Texas Instruments\99-4A computer. I was already a gamer thanks to PONG, and the AT2600, but the TI-99 allowed me to begin making my own games! I think I started with “porting” my choose your own adventure books into interactive form. 🙂
Obsolete Gamer: When did you begin working at Interplay?
Chris Tremmel: I officially started working at Interplay in 1992 I believe. It’s funny because I first interviewed for a tester spot. I didn’t get the job because my “autoexec.bat, and config.sys” knowledge was a bit rusty. I went home, studied up, and returned for a 2nd interview a month or two later. This time I got the job. The 1st games I tested were the original Alone in the Dark on PC, and the Lost Vikings on the Amiga.
Obsolete Gamer: Who else did you work with primarily at Interplay?
Chris Tremmel: I initially worked in the testing department but quickly made friends with a couple of designers and producers, primarily Mike Stragey and Alan Pavlish.
Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working for them?
Chris Tremmel: I hate to sound really cliche’, but working at Interplay in 1992\1993 was “magical”. I was in awe of everything being made and was thrown right in to working with some of the brightest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with. It was an amazing time as I was being taught my core design fundamentals by great guys like Mike and Alan. I knew this is what I wanted to do forever.
Obsolete Gamer: When did you first start working on Boogerman?
Chris Tremmel: I believe we started Boogerman in early 1993? It’s hard to remember exactly.
Obsolete Gamer: Who else worked with you on Boogerman?
Chris Tremmel: My boss, and the man that hired me out of test Michael Stragey. 🙂 Also Alan Pavlish was the executive producer who we would run stuff by on a regular basis. We also worked with an external animation house called Little Gangster, as well as some in-house artists, and additional programming support, but primarily it was Mike and myself.
Obsolete Gamer: How did you come up with the concept and story behind Boogerman?
Chris Tremmel: Interplay came to Mike and said “we want to make a gross-out game that appeals to the Garbage Pail Kids demographic.”
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little bit about the development process?
Chris Tremmel: Conceptually we knew we wanted to make a “gross” game. Mike came up with the idea of a gross Superhero and off we went! The ideas just starting pouring out from Michael and myself, I would say we were never short of ideas for characters, locations, etc.
As for the design of the characters, we worked very closely with Little Gangster and went through dozens of designs until we finally settled on what you see today. Funny enough, several of the bosses in the game including the main boss BoogerMiester were originally design concepts for Boogerman himself.
Obsolete Gamer: When Boogerman was ready to launch did you believe you had a hit on your hands?
Chris Tremmel: Ya know, this is a weird thing… I was so new to the industry and so excited and stoked every day to be making games that I never really thought about “hits”. We knew we had something fun, and we knew people responded to the content the way we wanted, so that was enough for me. I still remember our very 1st magazine preview EVER. It was in Diehard Gamefan, they dubbed it an “instant classic”, we were happy.
Now some gaming sites and magazines game you high marks while others gave you more middle of the road scores. Do you think they just didn’t get it or what was the disconnect?
I think we were pretty happy with the reviews. We had some serious competition that year with Earthworm Jim being released at the same time. I think Boogerman got the scores it deserved, it was a good game, just not everyones cup of tea.
Obsolete Gamer: What was your feeling about winning the grossest character of 1994 award from Electronic Gaming monthly?
Chris Tremmel: Honored for sure. The entire Boogerman universe is still very close to our hearts to this day (Mike and myself). I still believe the franchise has a lot of potential.
Obsolete Gamer: Was there a plan to make more Boogerman related games?
Chris Tremmel: Yes, absolutely. AND a cartoon. The cartoon was actually started, at least script writing, character design, etc. but I believe in the end Universal went with the Earthworm Jim cartoon that was in development at the same time. Which btw, I am a massive EWJ fan and I loved loved loved the cartoon.
There were clocks made, t-shirts, and even a Boogerman phone. In addition we DID start the sequel on the Sega Saturn. We had a basic design document done and had contracted some amazing matte painters to start working on backgrounds. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Michael and myself left Interplay to pursue work with another company, I think we both wish Boogerman 2 could have been made. We had some really fun ideas.
Obsolete Gamer: How was it to see Boogerman released for the virtual console in 2008?
Chris Tremmel: Neither Mike or myself were involved in this. I believe this happened after Interplay changed hands. We were incredibly happy to see it up there though, downloaded it immediately!
Obsolete Gamer: Did you play Boogerman a lot yourself and do you still play it today?
Chris Tremmel: Absolutely! Mike and I both played all the time while making the game, AND after the game was released. Out of all the games I have made, this one probably got played the most. I definitely still bust it out once or twice a year. I like looking back and try to figure out what the heck I was thinking with a particular layout, or just to laugh at some of the character designs. Lot’s of laughing during the development.
Obsolete Gamer: After Boogerman what came next for you?
Chris Tremmel: Mike and I left Interplay to make a game for EA based on a Saturday morning TV show called “Bump in the Night”. Unfortunately this game was never finished\released, although we did have a rad demo running on the Saturn. I ended up at Virgin Interactive after that working on the N64.
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little about Gamer Cultoure?
Chris Tremmel: Sure! Gamer Cultoure is a side project I have started that is clothing centric. It’s really a basic line of T-shirts, hoodies, etc. that are gaming themed. The line is really small right now, but I intend to continue to grow it over the next year or two. After leaving Activision early in the year I decided to take a little time off and try something different for a little while. It has been a fun, rewarding process for sure.
Obsolete Gamer: What do you think of gaming today in comparison to gaming back in the early to mid nineties?
Chris Tremmel: Oh no, this is a loaded question. 🙂 It is definitely different. The process has become more complicated, usually requiring a large number of people to make something significant. The money involved in some of the triple A games is staggering with some budgets now reaching 100 million dollars. That naturally changes everything in terms of peoples priorities, and agendas. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. One of the nice things though as of late is seeing the rise of the “indie” studios, small teams executing on great ideas. It is very easy to get distracted now a days when making something. The bar has been raised so high, and with so much money involved it takes some serious planet-aligning powers to take something killer to market. All of that being said, I hope the younger guys and girls that are in the industry today feel the same sense of magic that I felt in 1992.
Obsolete Gamer: Are you working on any video games at the moment?
Chris Tremmel: As of right this second, no. Expect that to change very soon. I will definitely keep you posted any news. 🙂
I quickly wanted to give a shout out to all the people I worked with at Interplay. Thanks Mike, Alan, Brian, Rusty, Tim, Burger, Kerry, and way too many more to list. All of you guys helped me get started on this amazing journey and I appreciate it to this day.
Obsolete Gamer would like to thank Chris Tremmel for taking the time to answer our questions.
Name: Michael Pole
Profession: Co-Founder and CEO
Company: Trilogy Studios
Favorite Game: World Series Baseball – Sega Saturn
Quote: It was the best baseball game of its time. While the graphics and features in today’s game have advanced tremendously, I still believe (and play every so often) that the Sega Saturn version of World Series had the best feel of any baseball game ever developed.
Ah, the game that made me break one of my many Sega Genesis’s. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was released to the arcades in the spring of 1988. Maybe by Capcom, it was the popular sequel to the 1985 arcade smash Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
In Ghouls ‘n Ghosts the heroic knight Arthur must once again faceoff against the demonic hordes of Loki. After an attack on his kingdom Arthur’s lover, the lovely Princess Prin Prin, is killed along with many innocent civilians. To avenge the death of his love and restore her soul and the souls of the others Arthur will have to take down the big man Loki himself.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts plays pretty much like Ghosts ‘n Goblins it is a platform run and gun type of gameplay meaning you have to always be on your toes firing away at the enemy and avoiding traps and pitfalls. Luckily this time around Arthur can fire upwards and while jumping fire downwards which is a must in this game. In addition Arthur has an array of weapons at his disposal including a mega axe, a golden sword and even golden power armor.
When Arthur jumps in certain spots on the map a treasure chest will pop out of the ground. If Arthur destroys the chest he can find two things. First is an evil magician who turns him into a duck. As the duckyou are pretty much undead chow because you have no armor or weapons. The best thing to do is avoid any enemies until the effect wears off.
The second thing that can appear from the chest is Arthur’s golden armor. The golden armor allows any weapon Arthur currently has to gain a charged power up move that unleashes a special attack. Sadly, the golden armor works just like the normal silver armor where as if Arthur is hit it will break apart leaving him pretty much naked.
Once you work your way through five levels you discover you need a special weapon in order to defeat Loki. This restarts the game and you must fight your way through the same five levels and back to Loki’s chamber.
The game is extremely fun to play, but it can be very unforgiving at first, but once you learn your jumps, attacks and timing you can make it through the game without too much trouble. I can say this now, but when I first played it I had an awfully hard time and ended up punching my poor Genesis to death.
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts had some great music composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. The bosses were well designed along with the levels making sure your twitch level was high. In addition to great arcade success GnG was ported to several systems including the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, CP System, Commodore 64, X68000, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, SuperGrafx, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Virtual Console, ZX Spectrum.