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Podcast: Ready, Aim, Fire!

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This week Fred and Jam tackle the wonderful world of light gun shooters.  What started as a mere carnival game evolved into one of the more interactive – and for some of us fun – genres that has not withstood the test of time.  With the advent of newer screens, the technology that made light guns possible is now ruined by delays of no more than a fraction of a second.  In this episode we discuss the history, technology behind, and our fondest memories of the games that utilized the light gun peripheral.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Test Your Might

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This week Fred and Jam are throwing around fighters of the 90s (that aren’t Street Fighter II or Tekken, we did a show for those already).  In the 1990s, the fighter genre was the most popular type of game available (like First Person Shooters today), and among those that have withstood the test of time there were plenty of others that played the field.  From Mortal Kombat to Soulcalibur you had plenty of arcades (and home ports) to drink your quarters in arcades.


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Podcast: U R Not [RED] e

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This week Fred and Jam are joined by Andy from 42 Level One to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Sony Playstation.  This CD based console is responsible for so much ushering into the next iteration of game development, hardware, media, and game libraries.  It touched each host in his own way and deserves to be celebrated on its second decade of existence.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Ripto – Trilogy of the Dragon

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In a widely requested topic, this week Jam and Fred discuss the Spyro the Dragon trilogy on PS1.  After briefly telling the story of the origins of developer Insomniac, the guys delve deep into the young dragon that played one of the only open world 3D competitors to Nintendo’s Super Mario 64.


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Written by Fred Rojas

November 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Podcast: Zombies Ate My Podcast

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Traditionally horror and comedy are entwined, faithfully representing a laughable moment of relief to accompany the graphic depictions of death that follow.  Although more rare, there is also room for comedy with horror elements and this week Fred and Jam are celebrating the games that get it right.  From some of LucasArts classic hybrids to bikini clad samurai warriors, there’s no lack of hilarity in gaming for those not looking for a scare.


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Podcast: Ghouls, Ghosts, ‘N Goblins

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This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer).  Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend.  Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.


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And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:

Podcast: Silent 3vil: No Escape

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This week Fred and Jam feature special guest Vos5 to discuss the third installment of both the Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series.  Where RE3 was more of a side story to try out new mechanics, Silent Hill 3 returned to its roots to be the official sequel for the original and maintained most of the gameplay mechanics.  Both have high regards with the fans but are also shadowed by the more popular predecessors.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

Now & Then: Silent Hill

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sh_coverConsole: Playstation
Released: 1999
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $20.87 (disc only), $33.99 (complete), $130.00 (sealed)  per Price Charting

Note: I did not have screen shots available from my last play and it appears all screens online are from emulation.  This title does not look this good on the PS1.

Dichotomies exist in all forms of media.  Whether it’s Elvis or the Beatles, Shakespeare or Marlowe, Alien or Aliens, and even Star Wars or Star Trek, the rule remains the same: you are allowed to like both but you always prefer one.  In the realm of survival horror, the clear competition is Resident Evil or Silent Hill.  Longtime readers and listeners know where I stand (RE), but that’s not to say the Silent Hill isn’t just as easily justified, if not moreso, as the better game even if it’s not necessarily the more popular one.  Despite the original Resident Evil being a living haunted house, the game still rooted itself into a world of intense action, the ability to kill just about every opposing force, and a heavy science fiction/biological manipulation concept – proven even more by the game’s Japanese title Biohazard.  Silent Hill, on the other hand, is classic unexplained horror and phenomena at its best.  Where Resident Evil employed pre-rendered backgrounds and forced camera perspectives, Silent Hill was fully rendered and seemed to follow the player, thus linking the character on screen with the player.  This makes it more terrifying because what happens to Harry (your playable character) seemingly happens to you as well.  Not only that, but the perspective of the title is completely different.  Harry is a regular guy, not a soldier, and he’s frantically trying to find his missing daughter, not to simply survive.  It’s all just a different perspective to the horror game where instead of trying to scare you with jumps and big gross monsters (although you will get those in this title), Silent Hill thrives on the unknown and maintaining tension instead of random fear.  In short, it’s Alien to Resident Evil’s Aliens.

sh_2Harry Mason wakes up to find that his car has gone off the road and his daughter Cheryl is missing.  Not only that, but he’s in the woods on a cold snow-covered night, and in searching the local area for Cheryl comes upon the town of Silent Hill.  With that basic setup you are tossed into a world that is almost like a Stephen King novel come to life.  A heavy fog surrounds the entire town limiting your view, there are no signs of life, and nearly every door is locked.  Eventually you see something emerging in front of you, but once it clears the fog you discover its a hideous bird-like creature with sharp fangs and talons coming right for you.  A pipe works to ward off the beast, but as soon as one goes down another replaces it.  You frantically navigate the town for any alleyway or door that offers shelter, but almost everywhere you turn there are blockades or locks to stop you.  Eventually you find a refuge in an unblocked stairwell, unlocked door, or making your own way through with items available to you, but this only lends to put you in a worse situation than before.  This is Silent Hill.

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I think what’s most compelling about this journey is that Team Silent, an internal group at Konami that would later go independent due to creative limitations put upon them, has properly captured the feel of being the character without the first person perspective.  It contradicts most of what you know about horror: fear of the unknown.  There’s no unknown in Silent Hill.  It flat out shows you what wants to kill you, makes it mortal, and even gives you the means to kill them instead.  What’s compelling is that it surrounds you with visual, audio, and gameplay cues that create tension and unsettles you very effectively.  Director Keiichiro Toyama created the scenario and specifically focused on David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks) and the occult for tone, despite Toyama not being a natural horror buff (he also integrated UFOs, but that’s only if you think the dog did it).  He must have succeeded because Silent Hill will consistently make you confused just before it frantically forces you to react on the situation at hand, which is usually jarring.  You will combat dead children in a dilapidated school, wonder the eeriest hospital I had seen at that point, and eventually watch it flip to a rust-covered prison completely overrun with gory creatures.  At various points you may wonder how in the world Cheryl can still be alive in all of this, which only makes the game’s climax even more compelling.  I must sadly admit that the game’s weakest point comes from the puzzles developed by Hiroyuki Owaku, which are more like riddles than anything else, and will most likely be the only obstacle that could make you put this game down.  If you stick with it, Silent Hill will continually freak you out.

sh_1Nowadays the game doesn’t quite hold up as well as it used to.  Since the sequel would release two years later on the Playstation 2, the visuals and controls had been greatly overhauled between generations and it makes the sluggish gameplay of the first game hard to take in.  If you frequent the late 90s Playstation scene, it shouldn’t be much of an adjustment (and may also be of the best controlled titles for the time), but most gamers who look back tend to throw out the old description of “tank controls”.  It’s also a muddy mess visually, which was about as good as that era could do, but especially on large HDTVs you may have a hard time figuring out what you’re looking at.  Thankfully the reduced high resolution screens of the PSP and especially the Vita have been quite kind to Silent Hill and you shouldn’t have any problem knowing what you’re looking at or where to go.  That doesn’t mean, however, that in a world with waypoints, indicators, and arrows telling you where to go that Silent Hill won’t come off as confusing.  You will wonder aimlessly trying locked doors and in some cases get stuck with every apparent path explored before finding that one spot in the room you’ve already been to that has the item you need to proceed forward.  In this first outing it’s few and far between, but it is a concern.  You might also find yourself unable to move on because you wasted all of your ammo too quick and come to an area where you are forced to fight and have no means for which to do so.  Thanks to melee weapons you may have an opportunity to still take out the beastie, but it can be much harder and lead to more deaths than if you had simply hung onto a handful of shotgun rounds.  If you persevere, keep an FAQ bookmarked on your phone, and do your best to immerse yourself in the world of Silent Hill before cheating your way into solutions, you will find this game is as effectively tense and scary now as it was 15 years ago.  Resident Evil may have won the Playstation battle, but even I can’t argue that Silent Hill captures the base words “survival” and “horror” much better than the competition ever did.

If you would like to hear more about Silent Hill, we covered it in our Survival Horror podcast and our Silent Evil podcast.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Version: Doom

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I was gonna write a retrospective on this, but honestly in podcast form we’ve covered Doom not once, but twice!  From those episodes came a project that has taken six months and over six hours to put together in one near 15 minute video.  I compare the PC, 32x, Jaguar, SNES, PS1, 3DO, Saturn, and GBA versions of Doom so you don’t have to, complete with bad language and snarky remarks (sorry parents).  Check out this version of Versions for Doom, but fair warning: there is some adult language.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: Dino Crisis 2

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Dino_Crisis_2Console: Playstation, Windows
Released: 2000
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $14.00 (disc only), $25.00 (complete), $50.00 (sealed) per Price Charting

Dino Crisis 2: The Lost World. Okay, it’s just Dino Crisis 2.  Just a year after the first game, we get the second game from Capcom, and this time the developers decided to stray away from the survival horror gameplay and try take the series into a unique direction.  This is where the series started to experiment and take a new direction in terms of gameplay and mechanics. So was the game a development success or should it be a forgotten fossil?

dc2_1Dino Crisis 2 has a rather complex plot from its predecessor.  A city has vanished in time which was working with “third energy” and the survivors are now having to put up with some rather hungry Dinosaur residents.  Regina from the first game and a team called TRAT (another great Capcom name) are sent through a time portal to rescue survivors.  Surprisingly you begin the game as Dylan a generic looking army guy from TRAT. Throughout the game you will swap between Dylan and Regina who both use their own unique weapons.   The plot is explained at the end of the game in a very long cutscene but it’s unlikely you will particularly care, the story really comes across as an after thought in this game.

On your very first dinosaur encounter you realise the focus of the game has shifted to action over survival horror.  Initial impressions of the game are positive, plus you now have a Hud which displays your health status and your ammo. You can also move not only with your weapon readied and while you shoot as well as having tons of ammo to cope with the ridiculous amount of enemies you’ll be blasting. In fact, its fair to say you see more raptors in the first segment of Dino Crisis 2 than in the entire campaign of the original game.

When you enter an area dinosaurs will spawn constantly and as opposed to running away you’re now encouraged to shoot everything. It can feel frustrating as the dinosaurs sometimes leap out of bushes and damage you, which feels cheap and unfair. You rack up “extinction points” and can even increase these points by getting combo kills and exiting an area without receiving any damage. Extinction points can be used at computer terminals which are scattered throughout the game. You can buy new weapons, ammo, upgrade the ammo capacity of a gun, buy health items and upgrade items for your character. You can also save at the terminals as well.

Controls are practically identical to the original game. The main differences are you can press L1 to aim at a different target thought I found this useless in the game and just didn’t seem to work. It was easier just to re press R1 and you would aim at the nearest target. As opposed to a primary weapon you now used a secondary weapon like a machete to attack enemies in close quarters. This was very useful especially when being attacked by multiple enemies. The game also mixes gameplay up with a few on rails turret sections which mix the action up and are a nice change of pace.

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Puzzles this time around are essentially find a key and put it in the right door or buy a item from the computer terminal to progress through a section of the level. Though none are taxing on the mind some of the keys are hidden in horrible places that require you to backtrack through the game quite far to find them. The good news is I found on multiple play throughs you could pick these items up early if you know where to look.

The graphics return to pre rendered backgrounds in this game, so all screens are static and no more 3D models in the level environments. This probably was for the best as the game looks great. The environments are now a lot more varied, you’ll be running through jungles to larva filled caves. There is even one section where you will put on a diving suit and explore underwater which was very interesting. Of course occasionally you will hit a research facility to investigate but with the pre rendered backgrounds they look so much nicer this time around. The character models are as to be expected by this stage. The dinosaurs look fantastic especially with the variety of beasts you will encounter this time around.

Since the game is less about horror and more about shooting dinos in the face the game includes a full soundtrack. The music is surprisingly catchy and suited to the environment your exploring. Yes, the terrible voice acting returns with some really brilliant Capcom one liners this time around. The dinosaur sound effects are absolutely superb.

dc2_3It’s very much worth pointing out both Dino Crisis 1 and 2 introduced mechanics that would become standard affair in later Capcom titles. Dino Crisis brought 3D environments, 180 turns and the dreaded quick time even. Dino Crisis 2 brought a point system which could be used to buy and upgrade weapons. As gamers we have a lot to thanks (and in some cases hate) the series for.

Dino Crisis 2 is not a very long game. You will probably finish the first time through in around six hours and this will significantly decrease with multiple playthroughs. The game is not particularly difficult but crank it up to the hardest setting and it will keep you busy for a while. There are no multiple endings but you unlock the Dino Colosseum this is a mini game which allows you to play as characters and even dinosaurs from the series in a mini game where you have to wipe out multiple waves of dinosaurs. You can also unlock a VS mode where you and a friend can choose a dinosaur and fight to the death. There is also Dino Files to collect through the main campaign finding all of these unlocks a special card which lets you play through the game with unlimited ammo.

Dino Crisis 2 is a fantastic sequel taking the series in a direction that is different but better. The game builds on practically everything from the original. More dinosaur types from 5 to 11 so your not just shooting raptors for a change. More weapons for each character. More varied environments and just generally more fun. What the game does focus less on is puzzles. Funnily enough the audience who may dislike this game are the hardcore survival horror fans, which is funny as that’s the audience I recommend the first game to. The game is entertaining and very simple to pick up and play. Even after your done it is likely you’ll occasionally re visit the game to casually playthrough again.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (Review Policy)

Also be sure to check out the Gaming History 101 Podcast Game Club episode where we discuss both Dino Crisis 1 and 2.

Written by jamalais

August 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

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