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Apogee Software and GoG Are Giving Away Rise of the Triad

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Today at 4:00 PM GMT (that’s 12:00 PM EDT and 9:00 AM PDT for those who need it easy) game distribution site Good Old Games is giving away Rise of the Triad for the first 30,000 people who request it.  Now what’s funny to me is that the press release says they’re giving away the 2013 version of Rise of the Triad whereas I would have assumed it would be the original The Dark War version from 1994 but who knows, for now I would trust it’s the newer (and better) game.  After the first 30,000 go it’s still going to be available at 80 percent off, which is a steal for that game.  As my review in the link will explain, if you want the 90s brought back to life with modern controls and graphics, this long 20+ hour FPS with a campaign and frag-fest multiplayer is a gem.  If you want to be prepared, you may want to zip over to the site, make a username if you don’t have one already, and be signed in and ready to refresh your browser at the golden hour.  It’s free, what have you got to lose.  Also if you’re curious to read up on what started life as the sequel to Wolfenstein 3-D, feel free to check out our historical context article on the development of the original.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 16, 2015 at 10:30 am

Opinion: Re-Releases, No One Understands Them

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dt_remasteredThis weekend I sat down and spent some time with Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered and while the responses were mixed, it dawned on me that no one – publishers, developers, gamers – has a clue as to what they want out of a re-release.  It sounds funny and foolish at first, but the concept of the re-release has, in recent years, become quite the quandary.  As a fan of the past and games of those time periods, I can’t say that I even know what I want and this shines light on the daunting task of trying to make sound business decisions around it.  Furthermore, the vocal minority don’t often account for the way sales work out, and often times, are the exact opposite of what actual sales data states.  Couple all of this with the stubbornness, and I do mean that term specifically, of gamers who would rather a publisher waste time to bring an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game to the Xbox One or Playstation 4 simply because they didn’t hang on to their old system is – in an exaggerated overstatement – a sin.  To be clear I’m not even talking about games like The Last of Us Remastered or Halo: The Master Chief Collection, because at least those games were redone and improved upon visually, but rather direct ports of simple games like the arcade port of Double Dragon on XBLA coming to Xbox One.  It’s a waste of time and it won’t generate more than a few thousand sales, stop wasting everyone’s time asking for it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 9, 2015 at 11:29 am

Posted in Blog, Remakes

Retro Game Night: Fahrenheit Indigo Prophecy Remastered

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This week we take a look (in glorious 1080p) at the remastered edition of Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy).  After recently booting this up for our review, I’m not quite sure who this particular port is for.  It looks just like Fahrenheit, plays just like it too, and I could be wrong but I think the original could be pushed to 1080p on PC (where this version is currently exclusive to) so I think they just did some re-rendering of textures, glossed it up, and slapped it online.  Perhaps that was all we should expect, I don’t know.  Anyway, check it out for yourself in the video below.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Resident Evil HD Remaster Under 3 Hour Speedrun

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Completing a longer game in a speedrun can be not only an accomplishment but also quite rewarding.  In the case of Resident Evil, completing the game in a speedrun is literally built into the programming with the expectation that after you’ve explored the game a couple of times you will jump right into it.  The recent Resident Evil HD Remaster came out and while I found the game quite difficult in my recent playthrough and it took me over 11 hours to complete, I dared leap into an under 3 hour speedrun (albeit with the gracious help of a guide from GameFAQs).  I also decided to capture it and offer voiceover so that you can not only enjoy watching a speedrun, but see what is done and why to somewhat bend the timeline of the game to be as short as it is.  I’ve embedded the first video below and you can see the entire playlist here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

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Fred’s Take

After long last it appears that Resident Evil, specifically the Gamecube remake from 2002, is making a widespread appearance on modern consoles complete with increased resolution, performance, and controls.  This is significant because the number of people who owned a Gamecube was relatively small and the Wii port had such a limited print run it was a bit difficult to find.  Not only that, but at 12 years old, the game itself has plenty of dated setbacks that most gamers I talk to refuse to put up with.  Thankfully this new version is digital only (no need to hunt down copies), adapted for today, and relatively inexpensive ($19.99 on all platforms).  With all the tweaks made to this game it is so close to being worth the money I can’t see any fan of horror games or the original series not wanting to pick up this new version.  Besides, it’s January, what else is coming out?

If you played the original to death – and pretty much anyone who owned the game back in 1996 did as we waited two whole years for the sequel – it’s a pretty rudimentary journey at this point.  You know where everything is, you probably know most of the tricks, you don’t need to save often, and your completion time will be somewhere in the 3-6 hour mark.  On the other hand, the limited release of this game and the cumbersome systems it can be found on means that you probably aren’t that familiar with it.  This is no graphical coat of paint over the original design, it’s a brand new experience.  The mansion’s layout has been changed, most of the puzzles are different, there are new enemies, and everything is scattered in completely different places.  That doesn’t mean that experts of the original can’t jump in and easily conquer this title from start to finish, but it’s going to take you some time.  Even more impressive is the fact that despite me completing the original at least once a year since it released, this version was able to get some tense and great jump scare moments out of me along the way.  It’s a new Resident Evil and it’s worth replaying.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Now & Then: God of War 1 and 2

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God of War feels like a series that just exploded in popularity but has now been lost in the gaming community abyss. Last year the God of War Collection (featuring the first two games in the series) was released to the Playstation Vita to such a poor reception that a lot of friends were generally surprised it was actually released. Then again the same group of friends were gob smacked that Borderlands 2 also came out on the Vita. Now, it could be argued that this lack of enthusiasm may be due to the lack of interest in the Playstation Vita. But forgotten or not, I’ve played through both God of War games so it’s time to see how they hold up today.

gowhydraI was originally a massive fan of the very first God of War game on PS2. When I was first introduced to the game by a friend I got so into it we played through the entire game together in one single sitting, something that I rarely do with a video game. We spent a lot of the experience just gob smacked by how the PS2 was able to include great graphics and set pieces. Of course a lot of the great visuals are attributed to a fixed camera control and the set pieces being controlled entirely by quick time events (a feature I’m glad has started to disappear in the gaming industry). The game felt like a breath of fresh air. Although the game did not introduce a completely original experience it seemed to take elements that worked with other games like an anti hero storyline, hack and slash gameplay and upgrading your character with orbs. The game was not perfect, even for the time people criticised some of the challenging sections in the game most notably the infamous Hades area where you had to get pass various traps and obstacles. If you were hit just once you died instantly, leading to some massive gamer rage grinding your enjoyable experience to a complete halt. What made God of War stand out at the time was the epic adventure, where you travel into areas no man can supposedly enter (and the game clearly displays this by having dead bodies littered everywhere). You really felt like you were on this impossible quest. Every time you beat a gigantic boss or got pass a deadly trap you really felt a sense of achievement. The bosses were also enormous like the infamous hydra, a fantastic way to open the game and a design feature that seemed to carry over to all future games in the series as well. The game was well received by critics and gamers so it pretty much guaranteed a sequel. The developers seemed confident of this as well as the message “Kratos will return,” appears once the credits have finished at the end of the experience.

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Written by jamalais

January 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Review: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition

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Earlier this week I posted a review on All Games for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers completely redone by creator Jane Jensen’s own Pinkerton Road studio.  For fans of the original or those that have never experienced one of the best examples of the point-and-click adventure genre, this version may well be worth checking out.  Click here to be taken to the review.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: NES Remix

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Despite all the piracy and archival purposes of emulation, my personal favorite addition to the gaming landscape was the ROM hack.  ROMs are the name for the entire program contained on a game cartridge and so naturally a “ROM hack” is taking a game we all know and love and changing it.  Nintendo hasn’t really dabbled in this until now – sure, the 1994 World Championship cart and a few SNES competition carts exist, but they are rare and thus hugely expensive.  NES Remix takes 16 established early games from the legendary 8-bit system (listed at the bottom of this review) and runs you through a series of challenges to compete with yourself, your friends on the couch, or the world online.  While it’s mostly just a derivative of WarioWare, this has to be one of the most addictive games for someone who grew up playing the NES.

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From the first series of challenges you can tell that NES Remix is based on the hardest parts of games, most advanced tactics, and interestingly enough exploits and secrets.  You may be tasked with defeating a dragon in The Legend of Zeldaafter which you need to jump three barrels in the opening level of Donkey Kong, and finally racking up 10 1-ups at the end of level 3-1 in Super Mario Broswith the bouncing turtle trick.  That’s the thing about NES Remix, it really hearkens back to your childhood and acts as nostalgia in a simple 10 second package.  In addition, there are “remix” levels where the hacks really come out to play.  You may need to beat the first level of Donkey Kong as Link from Zelda or play a level of Mario Bros in shadows, all of which are odd but fun mix-and-matching that appreciate the core of ROM hacking.  At the same time this also means it’s going to be tough to justify if you didn’t grow up in this era.  The NES is old.  Like, almost 30 years “old”, and I’m curious how many of the millions of NES gamers have returned to the Wii U for a title like this.  In order to properly appreciate this you can’t be much younger than 30 or much older than 40, so it is quite the limited audience.  Countless times within these challenges my wife, who participated as well, would ask me how I knew where the 1-up mushroom was, where the vine was, how to beat Dodongo (Legend of Zelda reference), or how I knew the 3-1 trick I mentioned earlier.  My answer was simple and unforgiving: I grew up with it.

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What was playground legend, something straight out of The Wizard, or a super secret reveal in Nintendo Power is now the rule set for NES Remix, which puts any newcomer or even 16-bit era gamer at a severe disadvantage.  On that same note the lack of explanation to the tasks you’re being asked will often times throw you as well.  Along with the console, these games are old.  Most will recognize and know Donkey KongSuper Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, but how many of those people know the secrets and inner workings of Ice Climber or Balloon Fight?  This makes it difficult to perform the task being asked of you, especially given that none of these games offer instruction manuals or pre-challenge environments with the original game.  There is a video that somewhat explains the tasks at hand – I’m sure Nintendo would also recommend you downloading each game that is conveniently available in one or multiple virtual console iterations – but it’s a basic overview for challenges that are high level.  Again, for me this was no big deal, I was soaking up any game I could get my hands on back in 1987 so I’m acutely familiar with these titles, but even my cousin of only five fewer years knew almost none of these games.  It’s makes for an obtuse combination that I still think best fits those that know the games.

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Therein lies the rub of how to properly review, recommend, and score this title.  While I admit this review is a bit more of a debate and conversation with the reader as to what fits best, I can’t possibly see how you can be all-encompassing with a game like NES Remix.  This title is early NES in a bottle that enjoys, appreciates, and challenges the gamers of those glory golden era titles when Nintendo ruled supreme and video games were no longer a passing fad.  Given my personal past I have no choice but to view this title through the eyes of a gamer who grew up with these games and spent endless hours trying to conquer each one.  For someone like me, NES Remix is a breath of fresh air that takes a handful of classics and allows me to replay them in bite sized challenges that I can’t seem to walk away from.  Not only are these the classic games, but the new (albeit bare bones) challenges allows me to re-visit the past without completing the same task from the last 29 years.  In short, I can’t put this game down, and once I’ve completed all 200 challenges (I’m somewhere in the upper 170s with all challenges unlocked), I’m going to go back to get 3 stars and possibly even try to beat my previous times for each.  While it’s not for everyone, and probably has a more niche audience than you would expect, NES Remix is one of those core games that retro enthusiasts need to download the moment they get a Wii U.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Games in NES Remix:  Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., DonkeyKong 3, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros, Pinball, Super Mario Bros, Tennis, The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion, Wrecking Crew.

NES Remix was purchased on the Wii U eshop for $14.99 and the reviewer was not given a review code.  It has been played for approximately seven hours at the time of writing.  This title is only available on the Wii U and only digitally via eshop.

Review: Strider (2014)

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strider_boxYet another in a long line of modern re-hashes on cult favorites, I went into Strider with a bit more optimism than than other titles to date.  Aside from spruced up graphics the game appeared to be faithful to the arcade original, which my retrospective and the podcast last week contested is the best iteration of the series.  Couple that with the development being handled by Double Helix – a very popular developer with success not only in Killer Instinct 3, but also was purchased by Amazon for an unannounced project – and the open map MetroidVania game design, things were shaping up to success.  Having completed the game, I must admit that just like the anomaly of the original, Strider is a melting pot of prior series staples that gets it right from start to finish.

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The scale of the overall world is massive and can be stunning.

If you sit still too long in the original arcade game, you will die.  Best laid plans are to push forward (ie: to the right) and just attack anything in your path while trying not to fall off a ledge.  In the new game that theme is aggressively applied with herds of enemies so thick they will literally be a blocking point for you at times in the game.  As a member of the Strider clan, Hiryu is able to cut down most adversaries with the greatest of ease and the balance between enemy hit points and his acrobatic abilities result in a fast paced romp.  I never had down time in Strider and felt like a masterful ninja with frantic but controlled moves as I navigated the game’s massive map.  While I can concede to the basic MetroidVania label, I would say the game more closely resembles Rondo of Blood rather than the hybrid genre.  Even when you have a full moves list at your disposal these hiding places are more off the beaten path rather than the wide open areas you uncover in other titles of the genre.  What results is a game that is more linear than anything else, and despite it being a huge map the development team broke it up into different areas complete with a boss battle and new weapon at the core, so basically it’s just like having levels that you can return to.  Strider is no stranger to this method of map design, the original NES title was quite similar and a small following prefer it to the traditional “run to the right” design of the arcade title.  In the end I grew tired of looking too hard for too much because I was having such a blast following the marker to the next step of the main mission that I played it exactly like a linear game.

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Two bosses on opposing sides are no problem for Hiryu.

You will get many weapons and abilities and the pacing is a great way to teach you how to utilize and master each moveset before adding another.  While it probably would look hokey in real life, across the course of the game you go from being a basic jump and slash ninja to a masterful warrior that confidently charges into anything in his path.  While I feel the different plasmas were a foolish way to gate off areas throughout the campaign, there’s no denying the cool nature of them.  With each new plasma comes a new ability for your throwing weapon, the Kunai, that allows the 5-item spread shot to either bounce off walls, set explosives, or even freeze enemies, and assists in maximizing your options for dispatching the little guys that stand in your way.  When it comes to the bosses, however, you will instead be using Cypher techniques to deal the biggest bang for your buck.  These special moves cross the screen and deliver massive amounts of damage, which can be used against basic enemies but the recharge rate is slowed to the point that I never found myself doing it throughout the campaign whereas some bosses cannot even be hurt unless you unleash the technique.  I have to say that boss battles were quite hit or miss.  Some wanted you to utilize a bombardment of blind attacks while avoiding getting hit while others wanted you to learn pattern and techniques that weren’t referenced at all – thankfully someone in QA must have noticed this because a prompt will show on the screen telling you how to overcome them if you’re not getting it.  Strider’s past in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise definitely assisted both the gameplay and art department in how he has been customized and frankly I think the game is better for it.

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Look like anyone you remember?

There is still no denying the fact that Strider was utilized for this game in hopes that nostalgia will garner interest, which is best proved by the fact that I think this style of game has better examples like 2009’s Shadow Complex or even 2012’s Dust: An Elysian Tail.  If you’re familiar with the original in the least you will recognize the familiar setting in a socialist Eastern European land, cold mechanical cyberpunk aesthetic, and great new renderings of familiar faces.  It almost seems as if the Double Helix design team sat in a room with a list of things they loved about the other three games (we don’t recognize Strider Returns as cannon at this site) and in the end walked away with all of them still on the list.  I can’t tell you how new but also similar the game looks and feels in comparison to the original, which is now almost 25 years old, but yet how fun it all is.  I describe the dichotomy of the original being both empowering and brutally difficult and how that was somehow fun back then and now the dichotomy of how this title is both a recycling of the old game and an integration of emerging contemporary genres – it’s not supposed to work, but yet it does.  You will enjoy this game whether you’re familiar with Strider or not, but to have played the original, especially recently, enhances your enjoyment.  I still think it’s a shame that the PSN release of Strider 2 from the original Playstation (which included the original arcade game as well) doesn’t seem to be happening because that would couple this release perfectly.

On paper Strider isn’t doing anything new in the least and the combining of old concepts with a new reboot really reeks of a cash grab.  To my surprise this title feels like anything but, with enough care given to the look and feel that it’s really just a faithful recreation of the original (sans difficulty curve, thank God).  As I try to get hung up on or nitpick the faults there just aren’t enough and to a degree that it really matters.  At $15 the 4-6 hour campaign, which probably doubles if you find everything, is just a ton of fun.  The variety, scale, and clean coding makes for an experience that just works and sets no lofty expectations.  I kind of wish more games came in a package like this because it’s the perfect package for anyone and appeals to everyone.

Final Score: 4/5  (Review Guidelines can be found here)

Strider was provided by the publisher via review code on the Playstation 4.  It is available for $14.99 on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, PS4, Remakes, Reviews, Xbox 360, Xbox One

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Podcast: Guardian Heroes Game Club

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This week we are joined by Horseplay podcast’s Yogi Lopez (@Yogizilla) and freelance retro writer Jam (@Jamalais) to discuss Sega’s gem for the Saturn Guardian Heroes.  A surprisingly deep hack-and-slash with RPG elements and even a fully controlled NPC, this title ushered out 2D sprites and a genre that was much beloved in the early-to-mid 1990s.


Download this episode (right click and save)

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

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