Friday, 20 April 2018

Space Stuff - Messier Objects Part 3

Charles Messier (1730 - 1817) was a French astronomer who spent much of his life identifying various star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and other notable occupants of our glorious heavens. Ironically, it wasn't even his aim to create a comprehensive list or catalogue of interesting sights - he actually did it purely as part of his efforts to hunt down comets which was his primary goal - but make a list he did, and such was the importance of it and the many discoveries on it, the list of 'Messier Objects' has remained in regular use to this day by amateurs and professionals alike.

This could be down to the fact that the list contains many of the biggest, brightest, and best-known (and therefore most popular) objects to be found. Indeed, many of us will have grown up seeing or hearing about a lot of them, myself included, without ever knowing what they are or even what they're called. There are 110 objects in Messier's catalogue too, which means simpletons like me often forget about some or get others mixed up, so I figured it might be worth listing them here. The third such post is therefore thus. The pics should all be 1200x900, hope you like them :)

Part One can be found here; Part Two can be found here

M81 / Spiral Galaxy
"Bode's Galaxy"
M82 / Starburst Galaxy
"Cigar Galaxy"

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Splendid Arcade Music #2

Space Harrier (1985)

So there I was, sitting at my desk at work, back aching as I tipped and tapped away on my keyboard doing my largely inconsequential work while also thinking about all the blog stuff I want to do but don't have time for, when I realised something. I was listening to a variety of music as I worked and when I got to Space Harrier it made me think: it's a pretty old game now, from an innovative era where tech and ideas evolved quickly; could it be the earliest game to actually have great music?

Now, before you all start reeling off lists of examples, I'm very well aware of lots of earlier games that featured appealing, catchy tunes and jingles, but while I was listening to the awesomeness that is Space Harrier's main theme, I was struggling to think of any games that featured what you might actually call a high quality musical composition that predate the 1985 release of Yu Suzuki's classic shooter. You know, the kind of music that's so good you might play the game just to hear it...

I'm probably wrong of course, as is frequently the case, but it certainly doesn't hurt to shine the retro spotlight on this stonking game once again, and particularly its (underappreciated?) music which, like the more celebrated Out Run and After Burner, is the work of the supremely talented Hiroshi Kawaguchi who is now one of the few staffers of that era still at Sega. It might not have a fancy name like Magical Sound Shower but this must surely be one of first truly great pieces of game music?

(full Space Harrier review here)



Special Note: I didn't record this great tune myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit to, firstly the original composer, and secondly the YouTube user who uploaded it!
 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

TV Shows #16 - Part 1

Wayward Pines Season One (2015)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Hope Davis

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "A place to die for."


With some TV shows it can take a lot to secure your interest but with others it's incredibly simple. This was the case, for me at least, with Wayward Pines. It's based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch and also bears the name of M. Night Shyamalan heavily on promotional material who was indeed involved in the project to bring the novels to our screens, acting as executive producer and also directing the first episode. That already made it sound promising and I wouldn't have blamed myself for being pulled in by that superb cast either, but it was actually just a brief 10 second synopsis that did the trick. I can't remember exactly what it was now, oddly enough, but it was something along the lines of "Guy wakes up in some weird town and is unable to leave again" and that does kind of sum up the show, or the first half of the first season anyway.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Star Control - Part 8

It has been a while since I took a look at the wonder that is Star Control 2 - still my favourite of all time - but news that my good friend Luke had finally started playing it after 20-odd years of periodic urging by me had brought it back into my spotlight, and that means I felt inclined to burble on about it again. But what else is there to write about? I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there?

Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves! Okay, maybe it's just an excuse to post about my favourite game yet again but I think it's a pretty good one - seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species. Many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling around the same time, in fact), but they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts, the first two of which will feature the friendlier half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)

Ariloulaleelay

These excitable fellows, known as Arilou for short, are the Star Control universe's equivalent of 'little green men', having dropped by our humble home on many occasions over the years. Although they are likely responsible for the spate of abductions during the 20th and early 21st centuries, they only revealed themselves to us when we joined the Alliance of Free Stars, disappearing just as suddenly at the end the first Ur-Quan war when we were slave-shielded on Earth.

Quite why they've taken such an interest in our race they haven't revealed, but they seem keen to ensure no harm comes to us. You get to visit their homeworld in the game too, which takes some finding - it isn't even in 'normal' space! The quicker you find them though, the faster you can progress through the game (the first time at least), for they have lots of helpful info and tips to offer including some vital locations. They even give you a few of their zippy little Skiff ships.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Top Five Cars I Remember From My Top Trumps

They might not be videogames but I bet I'm far from the only one who spent a lot of time playing Top Trumps during my formative years. Perhaps their appeal came from their simplicity, with players simply comparing stats on cards featuring all manner of different themes. I had a good few packs, most of which featured motor vehicles of some sort - I had a Formula 1 pack, a rally pack; even trucks and superbikes. One pack was my definite favourite though, although I can't actually remember the name of it now. Sports cars, maybe?

Hmm, anyway, whatever it was called it featured some cracking cars through the deck - mostly sports and supercars from the late 70's up to about the mid 80's, and there were also some crazy customised 'normal' cars included - I particularly recall some insane VW Golfs - but there were a certain few cars that have become iconic for me, simply because of the game and how often I used to play it, usually with my good friend Luke who I suspect will also remember it well. Out of all the wonders included, these are the five that have stuck in my mind most firmly:

5 - Lamborghini Countach

This sleek black speedster looked more like a spaceship from some far-fetched sci-fi film back in the 80's and it moved about as quickly as one too! It was just as notable for us Top Trump players - whomever had this card held a big advantage for the rest of the game thanks to its amazing stats. As I recall, it was the fastest car in the whole deck at a mind-blowing 188mph. I don't think it was quite that fast in reality but it's still a highly memorable car for all kinds of reasons...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Adult Games #8

Imouto Paradise! (2011)
By: Moonstone Cherry Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, DVD


The first title screen I've ever had to censor here - eeek!
Despite the best of intentions, my experience of visual novels has remained fairly limited since I first discovered them a few years back. The few I have tried all seem to have some sort of pervy content too, and few more than this one. I think it aroused my interest (no pun intended) when I saw a few screenshots somewhere and liked its visual style. Upon playing it, however, I quickly found that it's premise was one of a highly questionable nature. You play as high school student Soichiro Nanase who lives with his parents and five younger sisters. The game takes place during the summer holidays at a time when their parents have gone on an overseas trip leaving the six siblings alone. This leaves you, as Soichiro, to pursue inappropriate relations with whichever of his sister takes his fancy.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Flicky Flicks Round 3

Oops! I think after a strong and enthusiastic start from the six of us who collectively comprise Team Flicky, our film-watching exploits known as Flicky Flicks kind of went off the rails a bit. We were supposed to be doing a round per month, which might in retrospect have been a bit ambitious since we all have families and full-time jobs and all that, but it has been over a year since we started this round. Oh dear :(

Nonetheless, we are still kind of puffing along and this third round - the theme for which was sequels - was pretty much concluded just before Christmas for most of us (although it looks as though Dave (Grumpy McUnt) has now bowed out), but it has taken me this long to write my mini-reviews for each film. Oops again! Anyway, here are the films we chose - the winner will as always be revealed at the end!

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Morgana King, John Cazale, Marianna Hill, Lee Strasberg

Nominated By: Liam Running Time: 200 Minutes


Following the violent conclusion to the acclaimed original film, this sequel picks up soon afterwards with Michael Corleone (Pacino) now firmly in place as head of the crime family bearing his name, but his life is becoming complicated, with an attempt made on his life and problems with new business arrangements in Cuba, while back home he is facing a government investigation into his family and related business dealings. As this is going on, a series of flashbacks shows how his father (De Niro) rose to power upon his arrival in the U.S. around 40 years earlier...

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Streets of Rage: The Movie!

As we all know very well by now, the Streets of Rage games are unquestionably the finest such examples of their genre as can be found in the splendid world of retro. The first game blew the socks off us MegaDrive owners when it arrived in a flurry of punches and kicks back in 1991 and the sequel which arrived only a little over a year later was, quite frankly, astonishing. Not only had Sega managed to better their already-superb original but in so doing had pretty much perfected the genre in what is still regarded as one of the greatest games ever made.

The third game, perhaps inevitably, couldn't quite live up to these lofty standards but it was still a corking brawler. Sadly, it would also prove to be the final entry in the short-lived series which has gone on to become one of the most revered and best-loved game trilogies of all time. Pretty much any gamers around during the time of their releases will speak excitedly about them but some fans have taken their passion for the games to new heights by creating their own live-action tributes!

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I first stumbled upon one of them, probably while looking for a SOR soundtrack to listen to at work. Instead I found the video below which is, for all intents and purposes, Streets of Rage: The Movie! It features just Axel at first but he is soon joined by Adam then Blaze as they run around various locations in what is presumably their home city duffing in various friends posing as hoodlums and bosses from the SOR games, and the results are truly wonderful for any fans of the games. These aren't just a bunch of idiots trying to become the next internet sensation; they are clearly huge fans of the games themselves and it shows.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Action RPG's #2

Golvellius: Valley of Doom (1988)
By: Compile Genre: Action RPG Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: MSX, MSX2
Download For: iOS


Most gamers over here in the West know the Compile name well. This is most often down to the splendid shooters they produced such as Zanac and the much loved Aleste series but they did also conjure up a fair few RPG's. Sadly, not many of these made it to our shores but one that did is Golvellius. It first appeared on the MSX in '87 where it... wasn't great, quite frankly. Happily, a much nicer redesigned version was soon ported to the Master System, swiftly followed by another version, again redesigned, for the MSX2. It's that MS version that most of us know though - even if we didn't own it, the screenshot showing a green squiggly background and large worm/snake-thing could be found on pretty much all of the MS's promo flyers and adverts. Indeed, it was a pretty well-known and liked game, but how does it hold up all these years later?

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Film Review #103

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Director: Edward Zwick Starring: Tom Cruise, Coby Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper, Jessica Stroup

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "Never give in. Never give up. Never Go Back."


Despite being based on the first of a whole series of books, the first Jack Reacher film wasn't exactly a roaring success, even with the charismatic Tom Cruise in the lead role, so I wasn't really expecting to see a sequel, even if there is plenty of source material. But lo, arriving four years later to little fanfare, that was exactly what we got. It's set an unspecified period of time after the first and sees Mr. Reacher continuing his drifting and occasional vigilante tomfoolery. After establishing that with an opening bust taking down a human trafficking ring, we get down to the business at hand which will feel immediately familiar to fans of the first film. Reacher, you see, has struck up a friendship with Major Susan Turner (Smulders) who is based at his old military HQ but when he goes to meet her face-to-face for the first time he finds she has been arrested and detained as she awaits trial on charges of espionage.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Top Five Bob Wakelin Arts

If you grew up in the 80's here in the UK and were the proud owner of an 8 or 16-bit home computer, there's an excellent chance your eyes regularly glanced upon the splendid artwork of Bob Wakelin, even if you didn't know it at the time. His work was most often found in the form of adverts and cover-art for many of Ocean Software's releases and was among the most iconic and recognisable around.

As many of you may well have heard by now, Bob sadly passed away recently after a long illness. I didn't know him personally but many did as he was active in and very popular with the retro gaming community, and was regularly seen at various retro events. He leaves behind many happy memories for some of us but even those who didn't know him can still appreciate his wonderful artwork which must've surely helped shift a fair few copies of the games it adorned all by itself.

His style was varied and could be found in most games magazines from the mid-to-late 80's as well as on store shelves all over the country and beyond. I love most of his work but, while everyone will have their own favorites, these are in my view his finest efforts which lit up my early gaming years. Rest in peace, Bob...

5. Where Time Stood Still (1988)

This game was notable for being one of the very few 128K-only games for the Speccy which was, to my great pleasure at the time, deemed to be the only 8-bit system that could even manage a version of the game at all. Something else the game was famous for, though, and not just the Speccy version this time, was the splendid artwork that adorned its various covers and magazine adverts. The cynical among you might highlight the flimsily-clothed hottie who stands (almost) centre stage as being the reason for that but the rest of it was fantastic too - the heroic pilot stood next to the blonde stunner, his crashed plane, the scary dinosaurs and angry natives, and that large bold title seemingly carved from ancient rock collectively did an amazing job setting the stage for this epic and memorable adventure.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Space Stuff - Messier Objects Part 2

Charles Messier (1730 - 1817) was a French astronomer who spent much of his life identifying various star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and other notable occupants of our glorious heavens. Ironically, it wasn't even his aim to create a comprehensive list or catalogue of interesting sights - he actually did it purely as part of his efforts to hunt down comets which was his primary goal - but make a list he did, and such was the importance of it and the many discoveries on it, the list of 'Messier Objects' has remained in regular use to this day by amateurs and professionals alike.

This could be down to the fact that the list contains many of the biggest, brightest, and best-known (and therefore most popular) objects to be found. Indeed, many of us will have grown up seeing or hearing about a lot of them, myself included, without ever knowing what they are or even what they're called. There are 110 objects in Messier's catalogue too, which means simpletons like me often forget about some or get others mixed up, so I figured it might be worth listing them here. The second such post is therefore thus. The pics should all be 1200x900, hope you like them :)

Part One can be found here

M41 / Open Cluster
M42 / Nebula
"Orion Nebula"

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Steam / GOG Downloads #4

Brilliant Bob (2015)
By: Zonitron Productions Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC


A great thing about Steam is that it's so easy to discover obscure indie games that you might never otherwise encounter while looking through its many pages, and that's exactly what happened here. Brilliant Bob caught my eye, most likely due to its lush green locales, and it was cheap too, so I thought I'd give it a go! The greenery I had spotted is actually the happy land of Sekotwana where Bob and his kin live. Life there is apparently great, but only until the evil, or perhaps more accurately, the unhappy Dr Magazi drops by to steal all of Sekotwana's happiness. Bob and his family were resilient and refused to give up their happiness but his parents got themselves kidnapped leaving Bob to save them, and indeed the save the day all around from the ghastly Dr Magazi.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Film Review #102

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Director: Gareth Edwards Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Genevieve O'Reilly

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 133 Minutes

Tagline: "Save the Rebellion. Save the dream."


I think I speak for a good few film fans when I say that news of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm a few years back was something I was cautiously hopeful about rather than immediately excited. The announcement of three sequels to the much-loved original trilogy was welcome. What caused more trepidation amongst fans was the additional news that a series of spin-off films was also on the cards. For some, the more Star Wars we can get the better, but some were worried that Disney might just be trying to immediately cash in on their new baby and that so many new films might end up saturating demand. The other possibility of course, is that the films could just suck donkey balls. Simply putting the Star Wars name on a film is guaranteed to earn you lots of dough, to start with at least, but it isn't an instant seal of quality, as we discovered to our horror with those pesky prequels.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Merry New Year!

Oh hey, what's going down y'all? Just a quick message to wish everyone a Happy New Year! :) The past year has again been a challenging one in RKS Land and as a result there has been an all-time low in the number of new posts here. This is mainly due to my job - I've been with my current employer for just over a year now, and I'm very grateful to have the job, but it does take up a sizeable percentage of my non-sleeping time, and that's before you consider all the overtime I've been doing - time that may well have otherwise been spent on Red Parsley-related tomfoolery.