Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Maze Games #6

Pit Pot (1985)
By: Sega Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 93,700
Also Available For: Nothing

The Master System was quite an unusual console in some ways. One of these ways, and the one currently on my mind, was Sega's decision to accommodate two separate storage media - the traditional ROM cartridge of course, but also the Sega Card which were small credit-card-sized things known as 'My Cards' in their homeland. There wasn't a huge number of releases on the latter format though, and those that were released, due to the more restrictive nature of the cards, were smaller or more basic than their cartridge-based brethren and released at a cheaper price accordingly (here in the UK, at least). One 'My Card' game I've always wanted to try is this very game, mainly due to its amusing name, but while it was released as a standalone game in Japan, us UK gamers had to track it down elsewhere.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Top Five Trees

Trees rule, I don't care what anyone says. They could even be among the greatest anythings ever. Not only could do they look nice, provide somewhere for us to climb as children, and offer homes to countless creatures, but they also continue to supply us with a never-ending supply of oxygen as well. It's a great system really - we need what they have and they need what we have - a match made in heaven! It's for these reasons and many others that it upsets/angers me so much when people cut them down, or even just cut their branches off as so often happens to the rare inner-city trees here in my home town. Boo hoo, never mind, luckily I live near some splendid wooded areas and even a few forests so I can always get away and join my friends, the oaks, beeches, ashes, birches, horse chestnuts, sycamores and all the rest of them whenever the feeling takes me. Choosing a Top Five Trees is a largely nonsensical pursuit of course, but here are five highly noteworthy examples :)

5 - Monkey Puzzle Tree

I've already sung the praises of this spikey conifer and I can still never avoid smiling when I see one. Which isn't very often here, of course, since they come from the South American mountainous regions where they grow substantially larger than the ones 'introduced' to Europe and other less suitable parts of the world. They're hardy things too - they can survive on the barren, windy, Andean slopes for up to 1,000 years so many of them will be around long after our stupid species is gone...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Arcade Fighting Games #2

Street Fighter (1987)
By: Capcom Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 55,500
Also Available For: PC Engine CD, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum (also available on compilations for PS2, Xbox, etc)
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Unusual to see the logo without numbers after it...
It's hard to believe there's now been over twenty distinct games released bearing the legendary 'Street Fighter' name, not even counting the dozens of related titles, but we often forget that the series started right here with this 1987 release and, unusually for me, not only is it a game that I've played, but it's one I had spent quite a bit of time with before Capcom even unveiled its sequel! Although I managed to play the game to completion on my Speccy, my first encounter was with this version in my local arcade and it was the first one-on-one fighting game I'd played there. It was also one of the first times I'd seen a game with a 'special' control method (not counting racing and lightgun games, of course). More on that later though. For now, I'll take a more detailed look at the game that started it all, propelling Capcom's name into the stratosphere in the process, and it'll be my first look at the game since all those years ago too.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

First Look Master System #2

Galactic Protector by Sega (1988) - Master System

Considering the Master System, or rather Mark III's spectacular lack of success in its homeland, it's surprising to find that a few of its titles were not released anywhere else, even ones featuring popular characters. In some cases this is because they were designed for use with the equally Japan-exclusive paddle controller. I took a look at one of theses titles in a previous First Look post, and here is another - a Fantasy Zone game I knew nothing of until recently! Well, it's a bit of a stretch to call it an FZ game but it does feature Opa-Opa, and presumably Upa-Upa as well since it's a two player game. The little ships are responsible for guarding a series of planets from orbit and attempting to shoot down all the enemies and objects that head their way. It's a simple, no-frills game with basic graphics and sound and repetitive gameplay, and it's almost impossible to play with a standard controller, but I still like the look of it - I can see it being a lot of fun in short bursts. Now to find a paddle controller!

RKS Score: 3/5

Monday, 23 July 2012

Gaming Memories - Part 9... umm, still...

Well, Sega tried what I can only assume was their best but the Mega-CD didn't really set the gaming world on fire, despite hype to the contrary. Mine was bought before all this though, of course. Back in those days, a good friend of mine and his brother used to buy all the latest consoles and computers as soon as they were released before (usually) quickly tiring of them and selling them on. It was via this source that I acquired several of my consoles including my MegaDrive itself and later my 3DO.

The lure of the Mega CD was of course too much for them and they duly bought one at the first opportunity. As usual, it didn't last long in their hands so I, helpfully, once again relieved them of the burden of trying to sell it! Shortly after haphazardly transporting it home on my wonky moped, I eagerly set it up next to my splendid and worn-out MegaDrive. It did come with a handful of (multi-named) games as well and they were thus:

Sega Classics Arcade Collection (1992)

Silly old Sega - they really didn't do themselves any favours by making this the pack-in disc for their new system, did they? As you may suspect from the 'collection' and 'classics' parts of its title, it's a disc containing a collection of some of their past classics - namely, Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi, Super Monaco GP, Columns, and Streets of Rage. As you may not suspect from the 'arcade' part of the title, however, all games are the normal MegaDrive versions bereft of any modifications or improvements! Good games they may well be (except for SMGP which I never really got into) but they were also pretty old by this point as well as being among the MD's most popular titles which of course meant a majority of new MCD owners had already played them, or in my case still owned them! Oh well, it got a bit more mileage out of some games that were indeed classics, and you never know - they might've been new to some gamers!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Gaming Memories - Part 9

Back in 1992, Sega were at the very height of their powers. Business was booming for their arcade division and they had turned around their initially faltering fortunes as a console manufacturer as well, releasing the mighty MegaDrive at the end of the 80’s which went on to dominate in most of the world’s territories. This period also unsurprisingly coincided with the height of my Sega fanboyishness too. Never was I more convinced of their superiority and it seems they bought into it somewhat themselves as well.

What should a company do when things are going so well? Expand, innovate, anything but stand idly by raking in the cash, however much of it there may be. It certainly wasn't their idea - many computer manufacturers were seeking to expand into the burgeoning world of CD-ROM based upgrades. One console had already been furnished with a flashy device of this nature - NEC's magnificent PC Engine, which had been making pretty good use of the format for some time already. Spurred on by this success, as well as the desire to prolong the life of their 16-bit wonder, it wasn't long before Sega announced their own CD-ROM upgrade, known as the Mega-CD (except to those perpetual name-changers in the US where it was simply called the Sega-CD) and there were high hopes for it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

MegaDrive Shmups #8

Gynoug a.k.a. Wings of Wor (1991)
By: Masaya / NCS Corp Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 255,400
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As I'm sure many of you already know, a splendid fellow by the name of Bryan runs an equally splendid blog over at The Gay Gamer. One of his features is called 'Second Chance' where he revisits a game from his past which is supposed to be good but which he didn't really 'get', to see if it grabs him at the second time of asking. If I were to 'borrow' this feature for use here at Red Parsley, I think the first candidate would be Gynoug. The main reason for its strong candidacy is my fondness for shmups which arguably started with my MegaDrive. I used to read near enough all of the magazines of the day, always keeping my eyes open for the next great example. One which consistently scored well was... you guessed it - Gynoug! Inevitably, I soon had a copy of my own and yet, as soon as I started playing it I was wondering what the fuss was all about. I'm determined to 'get' it though so Bryan, if I may borrow your idea... Gynoug, here is your Second Chance!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Lush Food #3

Adventures With Chillies - Part 2

For most of my life I've been very keen on spicy food but, as recounted late last year in the first post of its type here at Red Parsley, this interest was accidentally bolstered by my discovery of some rather hot peppers. This incident has since seen a strong resurgence in my love of all things spicy, and it's a resurgence that has already yielded some fine results.

The five peppers of incredible power and mystery...
For a while I merely continued buying the recently-discovered scotch bonnets but, even though they continued to provide the scorching experience I had been unknowingly missing, I was intrigued by the apparent existence of far hotter peppers. As if in answer to my prayers, I recently changed upon an enticingly-named store: Akram's Spice Centre! This would surely be like a treasure trove to me, a Mecca for me all other spice lovers in my area! Venturing inside, I quickly gazed upon the most extensive range of chilli sauces I'd ever seen. Further browsing revealed all manner of unknown products imported from the Middle-East, Subcontinent, and Far-East. I even noticed some unusual fruits and vegetables familiar to me from my time in Brazil, including Jaca - huge spiky things which can kill you if you're unlucky enough to be beneath one falling from a tree!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Action RPG's #1

Neutopia (1990)
By: Hudson Soft / NEC Genre: Action RPG Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

Ahh, RPG's! Contrary to the firm belief of several friends, this isn't a genre I dislike or have some sort of issue with. My biggest problem, and the main reason for my limited time with games of this type is... time, or a lack thereof. Well, that, and a short attention span I suppose! I have played a few over the years though and it’s a genre I really need to see more of, so with this in mind it’s high time I started covering a few here at Red Parsley. For my first, I thought I’d go for one that I’ve heard of but know very little about - Neutopia, released exclusively for the mighty PC Engine by one of my favourite companies, Hudson. It's a game renowned as a Zelda clone but it's hardly alone there! Original or not though, something vital for the enjoyment of RPG's is an engaging story and characters. This is something else that's not very original here so let's hope it makes up for it...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Crap Games #6

Dark Castle (1991)
By: Three Sixty Pacific Inc Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Macintosh, CDi, Commodore 64, MSX, Apple IIGS

Poor old Dark Castle, I nearly blocked it from my memory... Along with the previously-reviewed Ace of Aces, it remains the recipient of the lowest magazine review score I ever remember seeing in the usually-generous magazines I used to read - in this case little more than twenty percent! I've been understandably wary of the game ever since but in the best spirit of Red Parsley, it's time once again to be brave and find out if it really is... that bad. The premise is at least a reasonably promising, if rather unoriginal one - predictably, it's set in the titular fortress where the evil, tyrannical Black Knight resides. The courageous Prince Duncan, however, has had enough and decides to topple the cretinous knight from his throne. This, of course, entails successfully making his way through the castle which is fraught with dangers beyond count.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Top Five Van Damme Films

I've got a pretty sizeable collection of DVD's but even a big collection can seem boring at times. It was during just such a period of boredom and indecision that I decided to join the much-heralded Netflix for some additional entertainment options.

As impressed as I immediately was with the service and user-interface, the selection available was a bit disappointing - nearly every title I searched for was 'unavailable to stream'. Based on my searches, however, it recommended that I watch Kickboxer. Hmmm, here was an old favourite that I hadn't watched for... probably at least 15 years, so why not!

Not only did I enjoy it once again but it also reminded me of the former splendour of Jean Claude Van Damme's films. To such an extent, in fact, that I was soon re-watching some of his other earlier films! In most cases I was again met with the already-dreaded 'unavailable to stream' but luckily this didn't stop me! Here are my five favourite from the late 80's/early 90's action legend:

5. Timecop (1994)

This sci-fi actioner was, unknown to me prior to writing this list, based on a comic released earlier the same year, which may account for it being by far JCVD's biggest hit at the time and, surprisingly, it remains his highest grossing film so far. It's also probably one of the best-remembered of his earlier roles. It stars him as a 'Time Enforcement Commission' agent who is charged with policing the recent discovery of time-travel, which of course has already been misused, whilst fighting the urge to misuse it himself to save his wife who was murdered some years before. Cue all manner of corrupt politicians and various other nefarious characters giving him the run-around through the years! Like most time-travel stories, there are a number of plot holes and inconsistencies but they don't stop Timecop from being an exciting and enjoyable nonsense-fest.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Me? Modern Gaming?

As those of you with whom I'm friends on Facebook will already know, as of this past weekend I not-altogether-enthusiastically joined the ranks of the modern gamers! Well, that's not actually correct yet but I do now possess a current generation console, namely a PlayStation 3 - eeek! But what brought this on? What could make a self-professed 'retro king' step foot into the camp of the accursed enemy?

Just about found space for the PS3 beneath the new TV!
Up until now, my experience with the current consoles equates to a few hours with a friend's Wii (mostly playing Sports Resort and Animal Crossing), around an hour with an Xbox 360 at the Replay Gaming Expo back in November 2010 (playing the splendid Split/Second), and a few hours with one of those guitar games on a friend’s PS3 during my last visit to Brazil. None of these brief experiences impressed me enough to ‘take the plunge’ and actually buy one of the system’s in question but I’ve always held the 360 in the highest regard of the three. This is primarily due to the splendid retro-flavoured updates and sequels on offer for Microsoft’s Live Arcade service as well as the mental bullet-hell shmups getting released for it in Japan so I always thought that if I did buy a current system, it would be that one.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #6

Ponpoko (1982)
By: Sigma Entertainment Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 24,820
Also Available For: Nothing

After recently struggling through the immensely difficult Choplifter again for the latest Arcade Shmup review here at Red Parsley, I was in dire need of something a little more relaxing to play so, what better time to search for and play another previously unheard of game?! These are often selected on the basis of an intriguing or eye-catching name and so was the case once again here. The main reason this particular title caught my eye is thanks to the splendid Studio Ghibli film, Pom Poko. Could this be a game based on it? That would be pretty cool but alas, as soon as I saw the '1982' on the title screen it became apparent that this was not the case. It does cast the player in the role of one of the creatures found in the film though - a tanuki or Japanese racoon dog, which are strange and mythical creatures of mysterious powers. Sounds intriguing so far...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Awesome Nature #11

Sunflower Seastar
Type: Echinoderm Lives In: North-Eastern Pacific Ocean Conservation Status: Least Concern

Not only are starfish pretty awesome creatures but they're also very strange ones too. They're not actually fish, for one thing, which is probably why they're more commonly known as Seastars these days and the Sunflower Seastar is the biggest of them all. Indeed, it can reach a metre in diameter and, unlike most seastars which have a mere five arms, this monster can have up to twenty-four! It can be found in a variety of colours and can also move very quickly for a seastar using thousands of tube-like feet that cover its underside and they are used to good effect for it's an aggressive predator to the many smaller creatures that share its home off the west coast of North America where it is found it not inconsiderable numbers. Few of its neighbours pose a threat to it except for one: the king crab which can rip off the seastar's arms! Like most seastars though, this giant can simply regrow lost limbs meaning they're unlikely to disappear any time soon...

Why It Is Awesome: It's like a floppy sea-vacuum!