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Archive for February 2013

Podcast: Video Game Capital of the Universe

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twingalaxies_post

This week we have special guest Matt Bradford from Video Game Outsiders on to discuss his former employer Twin Galaxies.  We cover the genesis of Walter Day’s high score database, the golden age of professional arcade gaming, controversy over the King of Kong, and future endeavors with new owners Jordan Adler and Richie Knucklez.

Opening song – You’re the Best by Joe Esposito

Closing song – High Score by Ski Beatz featuring Da$h

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Written by spydersvenom

February 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

Review: Capcom Arcade Cabinet (XBLA/PSN)

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cac_boxWhenever I hear about another announcement for another arcade collection to be released individually I always think back to Game Room.  Here we go again.  Not only that but you would be hard pressed to not point out that Capcom has released these arcade gems before, most if not all of them (there are some games I don’t yet know about) appearing on the Capcom Classics Collection that appeared on Xbox, PS2, and PSP.  Despite all of that against it – your interest and want in the specific games notwithstanding – Capcom Arcade Cabinet offers exactly what retro gamers purchasing arcade games on today’s consoles look for and all at an easy impulse buy price.

At its core it’s a lot like Game Room in that you navigate a main screen that displays the available games you have to play.  Games that you have not purchased or that aren’t available yet are blacked out.  Of the titles you do have, you can read a quick background paragraph on the game or enter its specific menu.  As of now the selection is an interesting mixed bag of highly popular and relatively unknown titles from 1984-1987 – currently the three titles from 1987 have been released: Black Tiger, 1943, and Avengers – and the overall package looks to be consistent with that structure moving forward.  Whether or not you want these games is entirely up to you and probably responsible for whether or not you’ll pick up anything, but this review isn’t about each individual game but rather the options and package you get with Capcom Arcade Cabinet.

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Within each game you will receive a myriad of options that I expect in all my retro re-releases, but sadly rarely receive.  There’s the eye-catching features like concept art and original manual cards that you think you’ll show interest in and yawn off, but once you enter the options screen it’s quite impressive.  Most controversial on that options list will be the visuals – as retro games continue to be released graphical options can become a touchy subject for purists and contemporary gamers alike.  You can do anything with the original style visuals, complete with functions like stretch, pixel-to-pixel, and full screen options, smoothing can be tweaked, scanlines can be integrated, custom dimensions for the screen, you can toggle on and off coin deposits, and additionally all of the dipswitches from each game are integrated into the gameplay menu.  You are also free to change the controls and sound options to your liking.  Basically everything in the MAME list is here and ready for you to change to your liking.  You also have the option to play the games in a training, casual, and actual mode allowing you to breeze through titles just to see the ending or challenge yourself to get to the end as intended.  As you start up each game it looks and feels exactly like you wanted it to, provided you took the time to customize your options, and plays silky smooth just like the arcade game.  It’s not really some marveled achievement, truth be told, but it’s something that most companies don’t seem to get right in these ports.

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At the end of the day it’s going to come down to whether or not you want to fork over $5 for a pack that contains at least one of the games you want.  If so, the benefit is that you can create the type of experience you want out of your home television and it’s easy to play and get friends involved in, something that MAME definitely is not.  Capcom gave its arcade titles the treatment they deserved for a price that may actually generate sales and for that I commend them.  If you’re still not sure whether the customization is to your liking, download the game for free and play the included game Black Tiger to see if it provides the arcade experience you’re looking for.  As for me, it’s just another option among many that stands out because those responsible for the port took pride in bringing back a classic in the most flexible form.

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Capcom Arcade Cabinet is available for free in the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network stores and includes one game, Black Tiger.  Game packs will be made available that can be purchased for $5 each in the upcoming weeks.  This title was provided to our site for review purposes and we spent more than five hours playing all of the currently available games.  Both the XBLA and PSN versions were played with no noticeable difference between them.

Written by spydersvenom

February 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Podcast: 1 Coin = 1 Credit

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insertcoin_post

Fred and Trees discuss the wonderful world of arcade games.  As this is a broad topic, all format is thrown out the window and discussions include what makes up an arcade, arcade title eras, arcade games vs. home consoles, atmosphere of arcades, MAME, and of course more games than can rightfully be named here.

Intro song is Pac-Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia

Outro song is 1980 by Dirt Nasty


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Written by spydersvenom

February 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Snake? Snake! Snaaake!

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podcast

This week Fred and Trees celebrate the release of Metal Gear Rising Revengeance with a podcast about words that don’t exist… Er, scratch that.  Instead, we discuss Hideo Kojima’s classic stealth franchise Metal Gear.

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Written by spydersvenom

February 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

Retro Game Challenge: Super C (NES)

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superc_boxConsole: NES
Released: April 1990
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $9.03 (used), $179.95 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – as Super Contra on arcade, PCs (microcomputer and IBM compatibles)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console for Wii (NES version) and XBLA (arcade version)

Per a request from reader Quark, our follow up from the Contra retro review.  Now we complete the sequel.

Written by spydersvenom

February 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Review: Deus Ex (PC)

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deus_ex_boxConsole: PC
Released: June 2000
Developer: Ion Storm
Publisher: Eidos
Instruction Manual: Not necessary
Difficulty: Moderate
Played when it released? Yes
Other Releases: Yes – PS2 (as Deus Ex: The Conspiracy)
Digital Release? Yes – Steam ($9.99) and gog.com ($9.99), both are the Game of the Year Edition

Deus Ex is an interesting game for several reasons. The way various factors all came together at its inception, it almost feels like a lucky form of happenstance that it worked at all. Those that played it when it released will tell you it’s a must play title that will blow you away with its innovation. On one hand they’re right, like other heavily influential games in history it does set precedence and introduces gaming to many staples we see today. On the other hand, it’s the earliest version of many of these ideas and will always be tied down to the conventions of gaming at the time. Those that give it a chance, grind their teeth to learn the gameplay techniques, and resist the urge to cheat will find a strong cyberpunk tale that doesn’t disappoint.

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This is the typical view when playing Deus Ex

Deus Ex was developed by Ion Storm, an industry favorite that was founded by then popular developers John Romero, Tom Hall, Todd Porter, and Jerry O’Flahtery. While the releases that pre-date Deus Ex, including Daikatana, weren’t that impressive, the company had acquired Warren Spector and he was working hard on a new concept. As a long time developer of Ultima titles and the creator behind science fiction classics Wing Commander and System Shock, Spector had grown tired of the genres he was working on but noted that he loved certain features of each. It was with this in mind that he went about creating a neo-futuristic first-person shooter that would incorporate elements of RPGs and adventure games. After almost three years of development, Deus Ex hit the market in 2000 and told the tale of a sordid world of conspiracies that actually exist. It was unlike anything we had seen before and gave way to a fascinating new concept for gaming that blockbusters like Mass Effect and Skyrim definitely owe credit to. It’s for this reason that the game holds up well today and modders have gone out of their way with updated texture kits and patches to make sure it migrates into the present as smooth as possible. Like most HD remakes we see on the market, you can do a decent job at making Deus Ex look as good as today’s games, but it definitely doesn’t play like them – this is best demonstrated when compared to the recent prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

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Often times the dialogue is just as important as the action sequences.

It’s nearly impossible to get into the plot without spoilers so I’m going to go bare bones. Basically you play an agent from UNATCO, a branch of the United Nations that utilizes nanotechnology augmentation (nicknamed “augs”) to artificially improve a human’s performance in the field. It’s a controversial topic, those for and against augs and the overall fusion between man and machine, to the point that terrorism is a major factor on both sides. As you play through the game you can level up Denton by adjusting the augs he has and the strength of each one. This is a large part of the RPG aspects that Spector had imagined for the game and various areas of a level are accessible or inaccessible depending on the class of character you create. In addition, you will partake in dialogue options, various routes, and even large binary decisions that affect the way the plot unfolds. It may be commonplace now but back then it was crazy to go exploring a level and find a way to get in and out of a facility without alerting anyone unless the game was specifically designed to do so, like Metal Gear Solid. In Deux Ex you can perform missions completely silent or go in guns blazing and make a mess of the entire level, leaving no one alive. You’re even given the option with most boss battles as to whether to capture them, kill them, and sometimes even let them go. Actions aren’t without consequence though, and the characters and plot will react to the way you handle a mission and the body count you rack up. This feeling of choice combined with massive levels that had multiple routes to get where you needed to go really revolutionized the genre.

The New York City skyline comes to life in the first mission.

The New York City skyline comes to life in the first mission.

Spector claimed he gave it the first-person perspective because he wanted the player to feel immersed, as if they were Denton. While that may have been his intention it contrasted with most other games of the same perspective and disappointed some shooter fans. Back then the genre wasn’t known as FPS, it was better known as a “Doom clone,” and what better company to usher in the next exciting shooter than the very team that brought you the original Doom. But Deus Ex is not another Doom clone. It has more in common with Ultima and Wizardry than it does with Doom or Marathon. But as previously stated it was coming out of a design team known for shooters, originators of Doom, and pretty exclusively still in that genre. As a result I think Deus Ex gets bogged down by interface problems and gameplay mechanics that are a detriment to its goals and probably micro enough to slip through the approvals coming from Spector. I don’t know that for sure, I’ve not read any interview that claims one way or the other about it, but it just feels like some of the gameplay choices were made by a shooter fan and not someone hoping to fuse the most popular genres in gaming at the time. Thanks to these decisions, a lot of your combat moments – and there are a few that are mandatory for all players – are sluggish. You can end up in a simple firefight or approaching a single goon to knock him out and have an interaction that claims half of your health or more (and not quickly coming back). This would be fine in a shooter because the number of enemies is abundant, your overall goal is to kill everything, and pick-ups like health are a dime a dozen. In Deus Ex none of those things are true, especially in the health category. I’m guessing it’s one of the largest reasons why people quit this game, because it came off as too hard. I died several times just walking the perimeter of the Statue of Liberty (first mission) before getting the mechanics down and successfully sneaking my way about. For this single instance, assuming you have self control, my best recommendation is having the 100 percent health code handy and typing it in anytime you end up in an accident that cost you almost all your health. I was able to balance that between mistakes and justified deaths (especially in boss battles), but you will need to fight the urge to give yourself a little health boost when your patience dwindles. That’s another justified gripe of this game – it’s big and long. Before you go snickering like a 10-year-old, I mean that the levels are massive and have no clear linear path (save for a single point you are to find eventually) and all the conventions of early shooters are present and accounted for, especially getting lost and backtracking. In addition, the campaign itself can vary between 15-30 hours (or more) and with very little exposition within levels it can make the slog through some of the middle levels, especially Hong Kong, feel endless. I love long story driven games as much as the next player, but it feels a bit like grinding in a JRPG. If you can handle these minor issues, Deus Ex still has a lot to offer to today’s player.

Ion Studios created a game that not only complimented The Matrix and cyberpunk’s temporary rise to pop culture, but bent the rules to all of the major genres in a true mixed bag. When it released gamers were in an interesting period where the 32/64-bit consoles were losing steam and everyone was eagerly anticipating the next batch of consoles. Those that couldn’t wait or those that stuck with PC as a platform were handsomely rewarded with Deus Ex. It was as action-packed as a first-person shooter, as stealthy as Metal Gear Solid, and as epic as most other RPGs with branching storylines and decisions that affected the plot. Like so many other classics, it’s easier to take in with nostalgia but can be serviceable for anyone who will take the time to get around the gameplay gripes. Hell, I even played it this time around on the PS2, which has a very interesting button map to get around an entire keyboard of functionality, and it was still great. Granted, it offers few innovations to the gamers of today and requires more patience and time than most of us have, but if you let it, Deus Ex will reward your diligence.

 

Written by spydersvenom

February 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Podcast: Game Club – Crash Bandicoot

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Willywombat

Fred Rojas and Rob “Trees” discuss the 3rd party Playstation 1 title that basically became the mascot for Sony throughout the generation.  The sordid past and creation of the eventual bandicoot is discussed as well as the full campaign and relevance.  We also announce this month’s game club title: Ico.

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Written by spydersvenom

February 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

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