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Review: Power-Up

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powerup_boxConsole: Xbox 360 (XBLA Indie Games)
Released: September 13, 2013
Developer: Psychotic Psoftware
Publisher: Psychotic Psoftware
Difficulty: Hard
Price: $1.00
Similar Titles: Sine Mora, Deathsmiles, eXceed

In full disclosure I have been watching Power-Up since it was first discussed about a year ago, along with my push to support the game on Kickstarter, and contact with the developer.  Still, like so many other games one can get jazzed about in concept art and developer interviews it really comes down to the released product (and I never show favor to a project I back).  I assumed that with the title and art design Power-Up was going to be a Gradius clone – which definitely isn’t a bad thing since I’ve been dying for a true sequel – but what I received instead was a delightful surprise.  Power-Up has a hook that feels unique, and coupled with the beatiful art, aggressive design, and a momentum-inducing soundtrack it stands alone as its own property.  The fact that it sells for a mere dollar only stresses even more that developer Psychotic Psoftware is almost giving away a product that would be a steal at ten times the amount.

powerup_1Naturally as the title implies, Power-Up is a side-scrolling shmup that is all about building up weapons and raking in the highest possible score.  What’s unique about the way it handles power-ups is the fact that you have five weapons to choose from, all available from the beginning, and it’s up to you how you upgrade them.  Swapping weapons at will is easy, simply tap the left or right bumper to move to the previous or next weapon, and whatever you have active when you collect a power-up will level it up.  While this may seem somewhat simple, especially since most shmup players are acutely aware of their preferred shot, the level and enemy spawn design forces you to utilize each weapon at certain times.  This combination of having all the right tools at your disposal and requiring you to know when and how to use them is why I’m so impressed with this game.  All of the so-called rules of shmups are broken, enemies flying in from every direction attempting to shoot down or even kamikaze their way into your ship makes for a frantic game of cat and mouse.  Not only that, but play tactics depend solely upon you, so if you can handle enemies from behind without relying on the reverse shot or above/below without a vertical shot then success can really be had any way you want it.  There are times – namely boss battles, flurries of enemies, or scenarios – where I couldn’t see how you wouldn’t use a specific weapon, but if there’s one thing I know about shmups it’s that nothing is impossible.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 30, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Podcast: The Life of Hiroshi Yamauchi

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asscreed

On Thursday, September 19, 2013, we lost a pivotal man in the history of video games: Hiroshi Yamauchi.  Known to many as the “Father of Nintendo” he used pride, stubbornness, and aggression to literally force his products to market.  Responsible for taking a growing playing card and distribution company into the gaming powerhouse that not only flooded into Japanese households, but defied the so-called “gaming crash” of the United States with the NES.  Here is his story complete with family line, birth, and the lifetime of one of the most forward thinking and intimidating men in video games.

Opening Song – Main theme fromTenchu

Closing Song – Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s Father Forever by Jonathan Mann


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 25, 2013 at 11:00 am

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Podcast: Heed the Call of the Creed

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asscreed
As a change of pace, we are discussing a current generation series that is widely regarded:Assassin’s Creed. This week’s guests are Chip Cella from the B-Team and Ali from 42 Level One and the entire series thus far is covered.  Join us as we delve into the next generation of the Prince of Persia series about historical events in the ongoing battle between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Knights.  All music is from the soundtracks of each numerical title.


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***Due to technical issues we had to re-record this podcast with just Fred and Chip, the original with sync issues that is longer and includes Ali can be found here.***

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

Review: Final Fantasy IV

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ff4_us_boxConsole: SNES (as Final Fantasy II in the United States – title changed in later releases)
Released: November 1991
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Difficulty: Hard
Price: $24.67 (used, cart only), $70.57 (used, complete), $300.00 (new)
Additional Releases:Wonderswan Color (Japan only, updated graphics), Playstation (Final Fantasy Chronicles, new translation), Gameboy Advance (Final Fantasy IV Advanced, upgraded visuals, new translation/conversion to more closely resemble Japanese version), DS (full 3D remodeling, new dungeon), PSP (Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, updated 2D visuals instead of 3D, includes The After Years and a new campaign Interlude to bridge gap between the events of IV and The After Years)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (SNES version, $8), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $30), iOS/Android (GBA version, $16)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II

Please note: This was originally released as Final Fantasy II in the United States and later re-named to the appropriate numbering system.  The actual Final Fantasy II Japan-only Famicom (NES)release review will be live shortly.

ff4_1Despite the numbering of this game (and Final Fantasy VI) to be completely messed up in the US, Final Fantasy IV is a must play for fans of the series and JRPG genre.  As George Lucas would put it, this is the “definitive version” of the game director (and series creator) Hironobu Sakaguchi originally wanted to make.  It learns from its three predecessors and weaves in a powerful story almost unheard of at this point in gaming.  Originally intended to be a final NES title in the series, budgetary and scheduling issues forced the 80 percent complete title to be scrapped and re-made on the new Super Nintendo (SNES) console with some of the original ideas integrated.  The elemental concepts of the original, heavy story elements of the sequel, and job system of the third (it would be better utilized in Final Fantasy V however) were all mashed together with a new active time battle (ATB) system to create the most compelling game yet.  ATB ditched traditional turn-based combat for a timer that allowed characters to attack at their own pace based on the type of warrior they were.  This continues to be a staple of the series today and even snuck into other RPGs like Chrono TriggerFinal Fantasy IV hit early in the SNES and celebrated mass critical and financial success worldwide and is considered a favorite by many series fans.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Review: Final Fantasy

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ff1_nes_boxartConsole: NES
Released: 1990
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: $13.49 (used, cart only), $48.50 (used, complete), $288.00 (new)
Additional Releases: MSX2 (Japan only), Wonderswan Color (Japan only), Playstation (Final Fantasy Origins, updated graphics), Gameboy Advance (Dawn of Souls, upgraded with additional dungeons, new translation), PSP (original title, includes Dawn of Souls content with updated visuals and soundtrack)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (NES version, $5), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $10), iOS/Android/Windows Phone (PSP version, $7)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II

ff1_nes_1If you ask most Americans what the first true console RPG was probably one of the most common responses would be Final Fantasy.  Not only is Square’s epic tale of four warriors taking on a timeless being that plans to destroy the world memorable, but it stood well above the competition of the time.  The Legend of Zelda may have taken around 10 hours to complete, a size and scope only possible with the ability to save that was unheard of prior, but it was nothing compared to the massive world and 30-50 hours you may spend conquering Final Fantasy.  Aside from that, the 1986 Famicom title Dragon Quest (changed to Dragon Warrior in the US for its earlier iterations) had just received a slight upgrade and released to North America in 1989, less than a year before Final Fantasy.  It was great but couldn’t compete with a game that was made three years later with the lack of classes, a party system, and various other differences.  It should be noted that in Japan Dragon Quest II had already released and Dragon Quest III came out in February 1988, a mere two months after Final Fantasy, which had slowly built up most of the game’s staples such as a party system, exploration, turn based battle system, and both games had similar class systems.  That doesn’t mean that Final Fantasy doesn’t have its own identity, it’s far superior in terms of graphics, nothing like the airship showed in the first three Dragon Quest games, and instead of sending you back to town when you die like Dragon Quest you would instead get a game over and go back to where you last saved.  Final Fantasy also shipped with a map and huge manual that got players more invested in exploring and completing the campaign, not to mention a cheap and huge Nintendo Power strategy guide that released shortly after.  For me, it was the near perfect conversion of the Dungeons & Dragons universe – some of the characters are literally stripped from the Monstrous Manual  – and converted it into a single player experience.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Podcast: CIB – Complete in Box

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cib_post

This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team and Derrick H of All Games and Dead Pixel Live fame to discuss how games used to come packaged.  This includes the box, instructions, and a bunch of freebies we pay good money for today.

Opening Song – Joe Esposito You’re The Best

Closing Song – Iron Maiden Run to the Hills


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Legends of Rayman

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rayman_post

This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team Podcast to discuss one of the few colorful platformers born completely from the 3D generation, despite the first game playing on a 2D plain.  Ubisoft’s Michel Ansel all but saved the then struggling developer/publisher and gave way to a challenging but fun series starring a character with no limbs.

Opening Song – Rayman Theme from the original Rayman on PS1

Closing Song – Madder by Groove Armada (Fred incorrectly refers to this song as Hoodlum in the show)


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