I don't usually place the greatest emphasis on bosses in my reviews but, while they may only be small parts of much larger games, many stay with us much longer than the stages they block exit from, so I thought it might make a spiffing new series of posts to take a look at some of them in more detail. Many horrifying abominations were considered but what better place to start than with arguably the most famous and memorable boss of them all, certainly from the vast world of shoot 'em ups - the ghastly Dobkeratops. Some won't know his name but pretty much everyone who played video games in the mid-to-late 80's will know him by appearance. His likeness did after all adorn pretty much all adverts, flyers, and cover art for the ultra-popular shooter, so it would've been hard not to!
Gloop Troops(2010) By:Little Shop of Pixels Genre:Platform Players:1 Difficulty:Easy Featured Version:ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 22,500 Also Available For:iOS
When I gave the wonderful mobile game I Am Level a good going over last year its Speccy-style graphics and presentation made me realise something. For most of the time I have been running Red Parsley, I've covered a few doujin games here and there as well as a number of indie/download titles for PC and PSN, but I don't think I've played a single homebrew game for the Spectrum in that time, much less reviewed one. This is odd since the continuing passion shown by these talented, dedicated gamers never fails to impress, and the Speccy is of course one of my favourite systems too. So it's about time I started taking a look of some of them, and the first one I've chosen is Gloop Troops which was released back in 2010 by Little Shop of Pixels (also known as Andrew Oakley and Simon Franco). I can't recall where I first saw it now but it clearly did something to catch my eye.
Captain Fantastic (2016) Director: Matt Ross Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Ann Dowd
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 118 Minutes
Tagline: "Family values. Power to the people. Stick it to the man."
Shunning modern Western civilisation and living off the land in seclusion is a very appealing prospect for some, and one that's likely to become more and more appealing as the years of one's life wear on and the banality of it all sinks in, I'd wager. This kind of life and the people that favour it have been the subject of several films over the years and Captain Fantastic is the latest example. It is written and directed by Matt Ross and stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash who for ten years has lived with his wife Leslie and six children in a log cabin in the forested Washington wilderness. Their children are taught survival skills, educated in science, history, philosophy, and undergo regular 'training' to keep them physically fit.
Oops, it looks as though chastising myself last time I did one of these posts ended up doing little good, it's been nearly as long between posts as it was that time! Oh well, never mind. This will (probably) be my final look at the often-amusingly differing standard of PC Engine/TurboGrafx cover art anyway, partly because four posts offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject, but also because it seems there just isn't that many TG16 games (and resultant covers) for me to mock! So behold, here is (probably) my last selection of fine(?) PC Engine covers:
The Engine might not have been home to quite as many RPG's as its contemporaries but it did have Neutopia, and it was pretty cool too! Both of its regional covers are successful in indicating its genre but, unusually, I think I actually prefer the US version featuring a brave knight shielding himself from a ferocious dragon's fiery belch. It may not be 100% game-accurate but it would certainly be more likely to catch my eye in a game store than the rather dreary Japanese effort. It has a cool logo, I can't argue that point, and the hero is probably quite accurate (although he has brown hair in the game), but it's dark and murky image of a generic knight does little to capture my imagination... (full review here)
Spider Fighter(1982) By:Activision Genre:Shooting Players:1 Difficulty:MediumFirst Day Score:5,840 Featured Version:Atari 2600 Also Available For:Nothing
I would like to think I research my Top Five lists reasonably thoroughly considering I'm just an amateur doing this in my spare time, but when I posted my Top Five Atari VCS/2600 Shmups list a month or so back there was one title people kept asking me why I left out. That title was Spider Fighter and the reason I left it out was, quite honestly, because I hadn't heard of it and didn't encounter it in my research. Having now been made aware of it by these bemused Atari fans, however, I figured I should probably take a look at it to see if it really was deserving of a place on the list of not, and if its backstory is anything to go by I already do! Your job, you see, is an exterminator of some sort who must keep what is apparently an orchard free of fruit-destroying bugs. This is done in the form of a single-screen shooter with your 'Bug Blaster' gun at the bottom of the screen and the various fruits at the top. You can fire off several shots at once and you can 'steer' them too - something that proves very necessary as swooshing around above it are the many terrifying bugs.
Man of Steel (2013) Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe
Certificate: 12 Running Time: 143 Minutes
Tagline: "You Are Not Alone"
I think we can safely say by now that Marvel's shared 'cinematic universe' of films has been a success so it was inevitable that DC would follow suit at some point. What I didn't realise at the time of its release, however, is that Man of Steel was the first of their own series. I had thought it simply (another) reboot of Superman but no, it was actually meant to be DC's equivalent of Iron Man - the one to get the ball rolling. To that end, it's an origins story in the truest sense of the word - the first since Christopher Reeve's film of 1978 if I'm not mistaken - and like that film it begins on the planet Krypton which is on the brink of annihilation. Shortly before it blows up in a highly spectacular fashion, Jor-El (Crowe), who for years had warned of the impending disaster, manages to launch his newborn son into space aboard a small craft.
Considering a great many retro games originated in the arcades, I have perhaps been a bit neglectful of the motherland with these Game Music posts. Spurred on by my recent review of the stonking After Burner, however, here is the very first such post.
As mentioned in the full review, my favourite of Hiroshi Miyauchi's compositions is Red Out and I was going to feature that ace choon here, but while listening to it on YouTube at work, that stupid autoplay feature played more After Burner tracks, and after a couple of these it came to a rather cool fan rendition of the intro theme.
I'm not sure who the performer is beyond his YT username of 'haibanhunterk' but he's clearly a very talented guitarist - his channel features a number of other guitar-based renditions of popular game music - but I can't see any of the others being more awesome than this one. Check it out along with the original:
Binary Land(1985) By:Hudson Soft Genre:Puzzle / MazePlayers:1Difficulty:Medium Featured Version:Nintendo NES First Day Score: 153,400 Also Available For:MSX, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-8801
I don't get game-related gifts for Christmas that often but this year my wife bought me a cool little clone handheld thingy. It looks like a PSP but is actually filled with NES games along with an emulator, and the first one I've spent much time with is Binary Land, an early Hudson Soft puzzle/action game which tasks you with reuniting two penguin lovers. This is done over a series of single-screen stages, each formed from a grid of 15x10 blocks and viewed from overhead, in which both penguins - Gurin (male) and Malon (female) - are dropped in separate locations. Your job is to bring them together at their special meeting point - a heart at the top of each stage which grows cold and diseased in a harsh metal cage until their combined splendour liberates it. The twist is, in an unusual and initially-confusing move, you control both of the stumbling flappers simultaneously, with the movements of one mirroring those of the other!
Beyond (2017) Developed By: Adam Nussdorf Starring: Burkely Duffield, Dilan Gwyn, Jeff Pierre, Jonathan Whitesell, Peter Kelamis, Michael McGrady, Romy Rosemont, Alex Diakun, Jordan Calloway
Certificate: 12A? Running Time: 45-50 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes
There really are more TV shows right now than ever before, with new ones appearing every day, or so it seems. The first new show of 2017 that I've tried is this one and surprisingly it's not a Netflix offering either, arriving instead courtesy of ABC, and is another one of those mystery/conspiracy shows that are so popular lately. This one starts off by showing us two friends - Holden and Kevin (Duffield/Calloway), both 12 - hanging out one summer evening when Kevin's bullying older brother Jeff shows up, resulting in a chase that ends with Holden unconscious in a spooky wood. Moving forward 12 years we find that Holden has spent the intervening time in a coma - a coma that he is just now waking from, apparently with no ill effects. News of Holden's recovery spreads fast and he finds himself a celebrity in the small American town in which he and his bewildered family live. Or possibly a small Canadian town since the show is filmed there.
I'm a bit late with this but finally I've gotten around to the now-traditional 'Games of the Year' post! As mentioned in another recent post, it's been an eventful year for me, and one that's seen a few changes too, not all of which were welcome, and as a result, what was looking like a good, productive year blog-wise actually ended up fizzling out in a largely unspectacular and somewhat frustrating way.
I'll be back though, hopefully with a vengeance as there are still tons of things I want to write about here. As always, whether you are chance visitors or long-term readers of my page, I hope you continue to enjoy my various posts. Feedback is always welcome, positive or negative - what would you like to see more of or less of? In the meantime, here are the Top Ten Best Games I reviewed during 2016:
10. Wonder Boyby Sega (1986) - Arcade
This Sega classic was actually supposed to be the first game I ever reviewed here at Red Parsley, I'm not sure why it took me so long. Oh well, least I got to it, even if it did take me 6 years! It was worth the wait too - the runny leapy action might be a bit unforgiving but it's great fun, and it still plays really well. (full review here)
By:Sega Genre:Shooting Players:1 Difficulty:Medium-Hard Featured Version:Arcade First Day Score: 24,000 Also Available For:PlayStation 2, 32X, X68000, FM Towns, Master System, PC Engine, Game Boy Advance, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Games such as Hang On and Space Harrier were big hits for Sega and helped cement their reputation as purveyors of technically impressive arcade games that were also great fun to play, but few games would ever equal the impact that OutRun had. It is still fondly remembered today as one of the true greats but in the mid-80's it was simply jaw-dropping, so the game Sega followed it up with would have to be truly spectacular. It came just over a year later and saw players leave the tarmac behind and return to the skies. This time, however, they weren't colourful skies filled with peculiar alien creatures but were our own skies here on earth. That game was of course After Burner and it would go on to huge success itself. Some players, perhaps improbably, even preferred it to its predecessor.
Passengers (2016) Director: Morten Tyldum Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Certificate: 12A Running Time: 116 Minutes
Tagline: "There is a reason they woke up"
The wonderful world of science fiction has given us many possible solutions to the problematic nature of interstellar travel over the years but generally they tend to fall into one of two categories. Firstly we have faster than light propulsion as featured in various forms in films and shows, notably stuff like Star Trek, and secondly we have cryo-sleep or suspended animation or whatever else you might want to call it, which involves effectively 'freezing' someone for the lengthy duration of a slower than light speed trip. It is the latter that Jon Spaihts, the writer of Passengers, has gone for with his story which was written back in 2007 and features an enormous ship called the Avalon. On board are a number of crew members and 5,000 passengers who are all on a one-way trip to colonise a planet dubbed Homestead II. A trip that is set to take some 120 years.
As a gamer I've been more or less exclusively playing retro stuff for years now. The last 'current' console I was genuinely excited about was the Dreamcast and its quick demise made me sad. Even then, though, I still spent a lot of time with my many older systems. Since then, I've dabbled with the odd newer game of course - a few original Xbox and PS3 games for example - but even then there is one aspect of gaming I have practically no experience in: online gaming.
I'm sure at least most of you reading this, even those who think of yourselves as hardcore retroheads, probably still play modern games as well, and these days that generally means at least some degree of online tomfoolery. Some games like Titanfall and Destiny give you no other option, but I have somehow avoided doing this almost entirely. I'm not quite sure why if I'm honest, I don't hate the idea or anything like that, it's just something I've never gotten around to trying properly.
Granada (1991) By:Wolf Team / Telenet Genre:Shooting Players:1 Difficulty:Medium Featured Version:Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 496,784 Also Available For:X68000
The MegaDrive is justifiably famed the world over for its ultra-splendid selection of shooters but most of these are of the usual horizontal and vertical scrolling varieties. One game that bucked that trend by offering more ground-based, free-roaming action was Granada (not 'XGranadaX' as it's often called, understandably). It wasn't a well known game over here in the UK, largely on account of the fact that it wasn't released here, but it was a game that intrigued me enough to seek it out at my friendly local import emporium, and I had a lot of fun with it. And how could I not? After all, we're not just in control of a mere tank here but a 'Hyper Cannon Tank' brimming with advanced weaponry which you must guide through some sort of unspecified battle being waged on 'the peaceful streets of Tobora' (though maybe not right now) where you'll face 'the giant flying battleship Astarsha' as well as Valsic, another HCT.
One trend I've noticed in the last ten years or so is that a lot of film actors/actresses have moved on to the small screen as stars of new TV shows. One of the first instances of this I remember is Kiefer Sutherland in the super-awesome 24 - a casting choice that surprised me a bit in the day, even if Mr. Sutherland was no longer the draw he had once been - but it must have worked as the show was a smash hit with his performances regularly singled out. Soon, other former and current movie actors were doing the same, but one recent example that still surprised me a little when I first saw it advertised was Extant. How on earth did they manage to get an Oscar winning actress like Halle Berry to appear in what was apparently a sci-fi TV show? By giving her an executive producer credit? I'm not sure if that's what did the trick but who cares? It's never exactly a hardship to see the lovely Ms. Berry again, and a new sci-fi show is always welcome around these parts. Surely the two combined will result in a show of true majesty?