Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Top Five Films For 2017

Deary me, I'm a bit late this year with my now-tradition look at the five films I'm most looking forward to over the coming year. So late, in fact, that one of them is already out (only just though, and I still haven't seen it) - oops! Well anyway, it's looking like a pretty good year, especially for comic/superhero fans with two DC efforts and three from Marvel. Will the DCEU finally be able to make up some ground on the relentless Marvel leviathan? There are also a few good (looking) sequels, remakes, and even some all-original films on the way. It should be an entertaining year for film fans anyway, with a lot to choose from. These are probably the five I'm most looking forward to seeing. What are your choices?

5. Alien Covenant (May)

The franchise remains a treasured one for many but the Alien series been through the wringer a bit over the years. It's still only the first two films that are really good isn't it? I rather liked Prometheus too, personally, but many didn't so I imagine this sequel may well be approached with caution by them. I'm looking forward to it though, especially as it sees Ridley Scott's return to the series for the first time since the original, waaay back in 1979. It looks quite similar to that classic too, except it mostly takes place on terra firma: brave explorer finds room full of eggs, face-hugger says good morning, alien bursts out of chest, many others get picked off one-by-one, etc. I can't imagine too many were expecting much else though, and as long as it's done well I'm confident it will be spiffing. (see official trailer here)

Friday, 21 April 2017

1,000th Post!

I've been writing and posting here at Red Parsley for a long time now - about seven years in fact. A lot more has happened in this seven years than most of the seven years that preceded them, mainly on account of being married which has been my 'relationship status' for eight years now. My wife struggles to tolerate my interest in gaming, even when it doesn't involve the expense of buying all the latest consoles and games, most of which I have very limited interest in. It was, however, rather ironically my wife who suggested I start this blog.

I can't even remember why now - it can't have been because I bored her with game talk or hogged the TV playing all my old classics - it's very unlikely I would've gotten away with that! Oh well, whatever made her suggest it, I did indeed start this very blog all the way back in 2010. I doubt she expected it to last very long; I'm not sure I did either to be honest - I've got a history of getting really into something only to lose interest just as quickly - but here I am still going all this time later.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Film Review #98

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016)
Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 181 Minutes

Tagline: "Who will win?"

Despite my undeniable appreciation of the masses of superhero films we've had in recent years (or most of them), I've put off watching this one for a while now. This is mainly on account of the DC fanboys who I've learned are among the whiniest, most immature group of fans I've encountered. Okay, I guess not all of them, but many of them are apparently unable to tolerate the consistently poor reviews and feedback received by this highly-anticipated meeting of their two most treasured characters. Many blamed Rotten Tomatoes for their supposed 'Marvel bias' (despite the fact that they're merely a review aggregator and don't actually review films themselves), and these and their many other tantrums on social media soon became so overwhelming that they overshadowed the film itself for me.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Too Old For Retro?

So, I was walking along the other day, as I often am, when I went past a retirement home. Peering momentarily through the window revealed a sight familiar at many such establishments - a variety of old people sitting in big comfy chairs watching whatever nonsensical bullcrap happens to be on the television at the time which may or may not be numbing them to all of life's ills and easing their passage out of our world, or possibly even compelling them to hasten their departures.

An old person...
Nothing unusual there I agree but it did remind me of a discussion I once had with my best buddy Luke. He postulated, and I agreed, that the world of video games, even just the ones we would call 'retro' nowadays, contains so many titles that, short of winning the lottery or something else equally improbable, we simply won't have time to play most of them, perhaps ever. There might be one golden opportunity to do so, however, and that is when we retire. At the time we had the conversation, Luke and I were confident that we would still be very much into retro gaming by the time we reach our retirement age, which is likely to be around the 70 mark by then, and that we would relish the opportunity to spend our days catching up on old classics, but my recent epiphany while out walking made me question that. I mean, will we really still care about playing old games then? We will be getting on for the year 2045 by then and who knows what wonders may be around?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Puzzle Games #22

Quarth a.k.a. Block Hole (1990)
By: Konami Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: MSX2 First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Boy, NES, X68000, NEC PC-9801, Master System (unofficial)
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Near enough every game over the years has been fairly recognisable as belonging to one particular genre or another but there have also been quite a few hybrids too. That is, games that result from the fusion of two or more often very different genres. Some of these have been pretty weird but I can't think of many stranger unions than a block falling puzzler and a shoot 'em up, but that's exactly what we have here courtesy of Konami! No doubt there is some peculiar back-story intended to explain the weird set-up but since most versions of the game were Japanese exclusives (all but arcade and Game Boy I believe), it's hard to say. All I can tell you is, it places you in control of a somewhat bulky blue spacecraft located at the bottom of the screen (you actually get to choose between four craft but it makes no difference) which apparently achieves flight by way of an angel attached to either side!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Film Review #97

Jack Reacher (2012)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Joseph Sikora

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 130 Minutes

Tagline: "The law has limits. He does not.

I'd never heard of the Jack Reacher books I must confess but there is apparently a whole series of them (some 21 so far). They are centred around the titular character who was a Major in the US Army Military Police Corp until he suddenly quit, instead choosing to live on the road as a drifter, taking odd jobs when and where necessary, and occasionally helping out in suspicious or dangerous situations. This is the first such film to be based on those books and stars Tom Cruise as the hero in question who is called upon by James Barr (Sikora), a former US Army sniper who has supposedly just shot and killed five people on a peaceful riverside in Pittsburgh. However, although he knows of Barr from his time in the army, Reacher isn't friends with him, isn't sure why he has been requested, and has no interest in clearing him.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Splendid MegaDrive Music #5

Thunder Force 2 (1989)

My new job sadly doesn't leave me as much spare time as my last one did, and that in turn means I have less time to do blog stuff, but one of the perks is that I can listen to music all day. Naturally I've therefore spent much of this time listening to stonking game soundtracks, and one that I find myself returning to often is Thunder Force 2, probably the most neglected installment of the celebrated Thunder Force series. Tomomi Ohtani's synth-rock soundtrack contains lots of great choons but I think my favourite is the one that accompanies the first side-scrolling stage. It's called 'A Ray of Hope' (in the X68000 version at least - the MD's tracks don't have names) and is quite awesome. Check it check it! :)

(full Thunder Force 2 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!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Single Screen Platform Games #15

Baluba-Louk No Densetsu (1986)
By: Able Corp Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,??? (one credit)
Also Available For: NES

Since starting this feature, all the way back near the time I started the blog itself no less, I've been surprised by just how many candidates are out there. There are still at least ten more I intend to cover eventually, so it's perhaps a bit odd that I've opted to take a look at this little-known mid-80's example next. The reason it's odd is because it's not strictly speaking a single-screen platformer at all! That is to say, its many stages are not confined only to the size of a single screen - each one is actually nearly two screens wide and scrolls accordingly - but they play very much like the typical single-screen plaformers I, and perhaps you, know and love, so it's still well worth covering here if you ask me.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

TV Shows #14

The Grand Tour Season One (2016)
Developed By: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Andy Wilman Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Mike Skinner

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44-71 Minutes per Episode, 13 Episodes

I can't imagine there are too many TV shows that have been as divisive as Top Gear. To many, the show was infantile nonsense at best, and hosted by three ageing cretins who should know better. Controversy has never been far away from the immature antics of James May, Richard Hammond, and particularly Jeremy Clarkson, with some even throwing labels such as 'racist', 'homophobic', and 'sexist' in their direction. Conversely, however, the show also had a great many fans who adored the troublesome trio responsible for it, and I was one of them. I almost feel like I should apologise for that, what with the misdemeanours (alleged) of its stars. I don't actually like them that much outside the confines of the Top Gear format, and I don't even like some of the things they say/do on the show either, but I can't pretend I don't find them amusing much of the time.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Memorable Bosses #1

Games: R-Type Series

The first appearance of the fearsome creature...

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!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Speccy Homebrew Games #1

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.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Film Review #96

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.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Cover-Art: PC Engine - Part 4

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:

Neutopia (1990)

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)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Atari 2600 Games #4

Spider Fighter (1982)
By: Activision Genre: Shooting Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium First 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.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Film Review #95

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.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Splendid Arcade Music #1

After Burner / After Burner II (1987)

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:

Friday, 3 February 2017

Puzzle Games #21

Binary Land (1985)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Puzzle / Maze Players: 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!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

TV Shows #13

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.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Games of the Year - 2016

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 Boy by 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)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Sega Super-Scaler Games #5 - Part 1

After Burner (1987)

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.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Film Review #94

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.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Gaming Flashbacks #2

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.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

MegaDrive Shmups #9

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.