Friday, 18 August 2017

Game Music #3

The time of the 16-bit console wars was a glorious time to be a gamer. The die-hard Sega and Nintendo fans spent more time arguing the virtues of their chosen system with their each other than they did actually using their chosen system, or so it often seemed, and the subject of these arguments included just about every single aspect of ownership. Everything from tech specs and graphical prowess to individual games were discussed, but one subject I often found myself focusing on was the respective audio abilities of each company's powerhouse.


It was a topic worthy of discussion too, in my opinion - both systems had distinctive yet quite different sounds. Sega's MegaDrive made use of the Yamaha YM2612, an FM sound synthesiser chip which could produce some cracking synth choons, while the Super Famicom was armed with Nintendo's S-SMP, a sampler that could pump out some impressive orchestrations with a highly recognisable style. One of the most common arguments I heard from Ninty fan-boys, in fact, was regarding the supposed superiority of the SFC's and how the mere MegaDrive would be hopelessly lost trying to replicate them, and I often felt compelled to concede this particular point.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Indie Games News/Previews #10

Racing Apex by Lucky Mountain Games (2017) - PC

Those of us who are old enough to remember the birth of 3D gaming will no doubt have a fondness for the earliest examples with their chunky polygons, crude textures, and scenery pop-up galore. Even in their rather limited forms they were still jaw-droppers in their day, and it seems the talented folk of Lucky Mountain Games recall them as fondly as anyone, for they have been hard at work making the forthcoming Racing Apex, a super-arcadey racing game based on some of those very pioneers. The example that appears to have most keenly influenced them, at least visually, is Sega's seminal Virtua Racing, but there is much more here than we had in the Model 1 stonker back in 1992.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

TV Shows #15

Terra Nova (2011)
Created By: Kelly Marcel, Craig Silverstein Starring: Jason O'Mara, Stephen Lang, Shelley Conn, Christine Adams, Allison Miller, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Ashley Zukerman, Rod Hallett, Alana Mansour

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44 Minutes (per episode), 13 Episodes

Tagline: "There is no paradise without sacrifice."


I think there's one thing that all modern, future-set movies and TV shows can agree on, and that's the inevitable demise of our environment owing to our own stupidity and shortsightedness. This is also the case with the version of earth found in Terra Nova. The brief time we spend in the show's vision of 2149 reveals a world much like the one we're headed towards. Human greed and recklessness have continued unchecked and our world is now an overpopulated one ravaged by pollution and environmental issues. As a result, people need to wear breathing units while outdoors, and there is also a strictly-enforced two-child-per-family rule. Things are not looking good for our near future, never mind longer term. As if in answer to these problems, a temporal rift is discovered that leads back to earth's Cretaceous Period where the air is clean and the landscape unspoiled.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Single Screen Platform Games #16

Manic Miner (1983)
By: Bug-Byte Software Ltd Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 11,800
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, C64, C16, BBC Micro, Dragon 32, MSX, Oric 1, Memotech MTX, PMD 85, Sam Coupe, Amiga, Game Boy Advance


Okay, time for another Red Parsley embarrassing confession. I am of course highly familiar with Manic Miner, the towering masterpiece of Matthew Smith, and have played it before, but I've never really played it properly on its home turf. I think I even completed one of the other versions but the Speccy original has been sadly neglected by me. Thinking about it now I genuinely have no idea how I missed it in its day, what with the game's already legendary status and all that. Its release came before I joined the ranks of the home computerers but you would still think a game this popular would find its way to me anyway, even a few years later, but no. I don't recall seeing it on sale and I'm pretty sure I never saw magazines going on about it excitedly either. It really is quite strange looking back but the end result was that I, a self-professed Speccy fan, wasn't even aware of one of its most recognised, landmark titles until many years later.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Top Five Amy Adams Outfits

I seem to have found myself on a bit of an Amy Adams kick lately. Not due to her aesthetic qualities you understand - she's a very talented and engaging actress and most of her films are pretty superb too, generally - but it's impossible to avoid acknowledging that she's also a very beautiful woman. I also, coincidentally, found myself accidentally perusing pics of her online (chortle!) and noticed that she often has a tendency to wear somewhat eye-catching attire to her various premieres and award ceremonies and the like as well. Here are (possibly) the five best:

          5... Vanity Fair Oscar Party, 2015


Friday, 28 July 2017

Indie Nuggets #5

Ghosts'n Demons (2013)
By: BonusJZ Genre: Platform / Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 41,800
Also Available For: Dreamcast, WonderSwan Download For: Android, iOS


Capcom have often seemed a little reluctant to return to the Ghosts'n Goblins series over the years which is a little strange considering how popular the original arcade games were. Sure, we got SNES and PSP sequels (of sorts) and a couple of spin-offs in the Gargoyle's Quest and Maximo games but not many 'proper' sequels, especially when you consider how hugely popular they are. Just think of the potential for a proper full-on new adventure on one of the current systems - whether an indie-style 2D game or a flashy 3D example, it could be the most awesome thing ever! Sadly, nothing major seems to be forthcoming but they did release a little-known entry in the series on the WonderSwan called Makaimura, and thanks to talented fan BonusJZ, it had now been coloured-in and released on PC (and Dreamcast) for everyone to enjoy!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Non-Retro News - New Racing Game From Sega!

To be honest, I don't often pay all that much attention to Sega these days. It's a pretty sad thing to admit but they've been slowly declining for some time which is a sad thing to see too. Every now and then, however, some news from them reaches my ears and breaches the security measures meant to filter out the mundane. One thing that's likely to do that is news of a new Sega arcade game.

We've already had a similar announcement from them last year regarding Daytona 3 Championship USA which was mighty welcome - not sure what happened to that actually, the only news since then that I've heard is that they've now dropped the '3' from the title - but anyway, the latest news coming from Sega's arcade division over in Japan is also about a racing game, but this time we're getting a brand spanking new one!

As far as I'm aware, Sega haven't even revealed any screenshots yet nevermind in-game footage, but they have released a few details. It will be called Sega World Drivers Championship and is based on what is apparently the most popular form of motor racing in Japan - the Super GT touring car series. They have already visited this series before with the appropriately-named Sega Super GT (a.k.a. Scud Race), so I guess you could consider SWDC a 'spiritual' sequel to their famously-unconverted mid-90's racer, and like that game it carries an official license which means it will feature all the teams and cars from the real Super GT series including the mental Toyotas, Hondas, Lexuses, Subarus, and Nissans you may (but probably have not) seen on TV hacking around various circuits.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Film Round-Up #21

Crocodile Dundee (1986 - 2001)
Directed By: Peter Faiman, John Cornell, Simon Wincer Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, David Gulpilil, Reginald VelJohnson, Hechter Ubarry, Juan Fernández, Charles S. Dutton, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks

Certificate: 15 Running Time: Approx 298 minutes


Fish out of water films are usually quite a reliable source of mirth and one of the most famous ones when I was growing up was Crocodile Dundee. Apparently born of star Paul Hogan's desire to establish an Australian folk hero and inspired by real life 'bushman' Rodney Ansell, Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee was a beer swilling, bar fighting, croc wrestling master bushman and survivalist and all round man's man. Apparently raised by Aborigines and now hailing from the tiny, remote Australian bush town of Walkabout Creek, he has somehow managed to catch the attention of a New York newspaper who want to do a story on him. Enter the reporter sent to get the low-down - Sue Chartlon (Kozlowski) - who just happens to be a blonde hottie ripe to be impressed by Dundee's manliness, obviously. It wasn't just her who fell for his charms though - the first film was a big hit, quickly earning its stars worldwide fame (and fortune, presumably).

Sunday, 16 July 2017

3D Platform Games #1

Ninpen Manmaru (1997)
By: Tamtam / Enix Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn
Also Available For: Nothing


Most retro gamers these days love the Saturn, and with good reason, but in its day owners were crying out for more 3D games, specifically some of the 3D platform games that owners of the PlayStation and N64 had been enjoying. As it turns out, it was receiving at least a few of them, it's just that us poor old Western gamers didn't get to play them! One example that has gone on to prove quite popular with collectors in the intervening years is Ninpen Manmaru. Unsurprisingly for a Japanese exclusive, it's based on a manga/anime series which stars Manmaru, a trainee at a ninja school. He is a blue bird of some sort, perhaps a penguin, while the other students consist of foxes, raccoons, monkeys, and dogs, many of whom you see in the game's intro and frequent cut-scenes. I can't tell you what they're about of course, but it seems that it's down to Manmaru to do... something.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Film Review #100

Deadpool (2016)
Director: Tim Miller Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "Wait 'til you get a load of me."


Ever since this recent deluge of superhero films began, most of them have been heavily hyped and eagerly anticipated by fans regardless of which characters were involved, but I don't think this has ever been more the case than it was with Deadpool. I of course knew little about him prior to the hype assault; I'd barely even heard the name before in fact, but it quickly became apparent that he is beloved by his many fans. This is most likely because he's a superhero for 'grown ups' in that he is more of an antihero who makes copious use of profanity, sexual references, and employs extreme violence, usually by way of swords and a variety of firearms, while going about his vigilante-related duties, many of which are carried out in an unusually jovial fashion and injected with lashings of adult humour as well.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Retro News - The Console That Never Was!

As I have no doubt mentioned here more than once previously, my favourite period in gaming is definitely the mid-80's to the mid-90's (roughly), with the odd exception. I have many wonderful memories of this era and most of my favourite games and systems (including, or some might say especially, the arcades) come from it, and it's also where much of my focus goes when planning features for this very blog.

One of the most prolific developers at this time, in arcades as well as on home systems, was Taito who had been one of my favourites ever since my parents had bought me the awesome Taito Coin-Op Hits compilation for my Speccy. In fact, I'd even say they were second only to the mighty Sega in my affections in those days; their generally spiffing titles were nearly always worthy of attention, and I remember thinking on more than one occasion about how cool it would be if they had their own home console. It might not sound terribly realistic for a mere software developer to have their own home system but that's exactly what Sega had done with the Master System, as had SNK with their monstrous NeoGeo 'Advanced Entertainment System'. I still never thought it might actually happen though, so it came as a great surprise to discover not too long ago that they very nearly did have one!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Wonder Boy Series - Part 2

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (2017)
By: Lizardcube / DotEmu Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Whatever name you might know it by, and it has had a few, Wonder Boy 3 (as I've always known it) is one of those rare games that seems to be universally loved. Not everyone has played it - it was only available on the Master System and PC Engine in its day after all - but those who did were forever taken by its considerable charms and have remained loyal fans ever since, eagerly extolling its virtues to any gamers unfortunate enough to have never been touched by its brilliance. Unsurprisingly, therefore, us fans were more than a little intrigued to hear news of a fancy new remake from those splendid fellow at Lizardcube and DotEmu as well. Would it be a fitting tribute to a much-loved classic or a ghastly desecration fit only to soil its memory?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Film Round-Up #20

I recently had the opportunity to see an old favourite film of mine for the first time in lord only knows how many years. It was still splendid, I'm happy to say, but it also gave me the idea to seek out what might hopefully be some similarly entertaining films of the same type - i.e. road-based dramas/thrillers - for my latest film round-up. My selections included another old favourite I'd almost forgotten about and I also squeezed in three examples I've never seen before. Check them out :)

Duel (1971)

Though most well known today as Steven Spielberg's first feature, for me Duel has always been the film I stumbled upon on TV when I was a kid that so thoroughly captivated me, and in the process, I suspect, caused my life-long love of films generally as well. It weighs in at a trim 89 minutes and the premise is just as slight - ordinary salesman guy is stalked by large mysterious truck across long, barren desert roads - but it's the atmosphere it builds and sense of mystery that makes it such a gripping film. The trucker, for example, is never seen, and the reason for him (or her, I guess!) terrorising the driver is never discovered, leaving us just as bemused and scared as he is. The choice of vehicles was great too. The driver doesn't have a monstrous muscle car that could easily outrun the truck, and the truck itself is suitably intimidating. Dennis Weaver was also well cast in the central (and almost only) role of the mild-mannered driver slowly being driven crazy by the deranged trucker. It loses none of its impact watching it again today either which is high praise in itself. Still one of the best road-rage movies around... 9/10

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #13

Hachoo! (1989)
By: Jaleco Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 54,400 (one credit)
Also Available For: None


Bless you, Jaleco, looks like you're coming down with a bug of some sort there. Chortle! Yes I know, I'm very humorous, but the rather odd name given to this arcade-only release is not meant to represent a sneeze - it's actually meant to be a Bruce Lee-style kung-fu cry. You may now have begun to suspect, therefore, that Hachoo! is a game involving unarmed combat of some sort and you would be correct in that assumption, for it is indeed a fighting game; a scrolling one, no less, in the finest traditions of Double Dragon and Final Fight and all of those kicky punchy mostly girlfriend-rescuing escapades. Unlike those, this one is set in ancient China, and the basic back-story reveals, via a series of still images in the attract sequence, the reemergence of some sort of scary (and blue) demon creature. Naturally, you are selected (along with a near-identical twin in two-player mode) to stop this ghastly oaf in his tracks and cast him back into the fiery chasm from whence he came.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

First Look PC #4

Project CARS (Pagani Edition) by Slightly Mad Studios / Bandai Namco (2015) - PC

Driving games have always among my favourites and it has pained me to miss out on some of the more recent ones. One that has looked as good as any in recent years is Project CARS but I don't own any of the consoles it's on and I was far from confident my PC would be able to handle it. An opportunity to find out came recently, however, when Steam offered a special cut-down version of the game for free! It is this, the Pagani Edition. I imagine it is meant as a kind of playable demo for the full game but however it was intended it was a nice surprise. Even more of a surprise, though, is that despite its apparent minimum system requirements exceeding the abilities of my PC, it actually works very well!