Archive for May 2016
When I was younger and talked to friends about games I was often asked the question that would come up regularly, “how long is it?” If I followed up, “well, not that long bu…” I would usually have lost their interest and they would dismiss the game entirely despite me possibly recommending the game whole heartily. In this article I wanted to explore the topic of game length and give some personal thoughts.
As I’ve grown older I went through a few phases with my perception of game length. When I was very young without a care in the world and I messed around on the Amstrad and the Mega Drive, I didn’t care diddly squat about game length. I was small and just happy to mess around with this fascinating medium. To quote Dylan Moran from a a episode of the hilarious Black Books TV show, “He looks surprised, all children look surprised, the world is new to them.” This was absolutely me as a youngster everything just amazed me. I wasn’t allowed to play games for extensive lengths of time because my dad did accounts on the Amstrad computer and I was interested in other things like rocks and bugs. When I did game I didn’t care about length, I didn’t care about completing the game I was just having fun. I rarely would finish a game because I was young and pretty dumb, this probably pleased my parents as it meant that they didn’t have to buy a whole lot of new games.
The high quality version can be downloaded at: https://archive.org/details/chroncd_ep2
ChronCD is the comprehensive coverage of all CD-based console games in chronological order. Episode 2, while shorter, covers more games that make up the holiday season of 1989. More historical context is provided and a plan for regular future episodes is outlined.
00:00-00:42: Opening Credits
00:43-01:59: Episode 2 Intro
02:00-07:15: RomRom Karaoke (Vols. 1-5)
07:16-09:31: Gambler Jikochushinha
09:32-14:10: HyperDyne Side Arms Special
14:11-23:52: Ys Book I & II
23:53-26:08: RomRom Stadium
26:09-30:15: Last Alert
30:16-31:52: Closing Remarks and Future Episodes
CD player sound effect by user NLM from Freesound.org and used under Creative Commons license for non-commercial use. Sound can be found here: https://www.freesound.org/people/NLM/sounds/144054/
Recently I came across an article which called into question the point of playing older games when there are plenty of better newer games released today. I’m not going to link this article since it seems to be gaining a lot of negativity on the Internet, which is a shame as everybody is entitled to there opinion. In this article I’m going to simply give my personal take on the subject and why I still play retro games to this day.
I’ve mentioned in previous podcasts and articles that I started playing retro games even when I had modern systems. When I used to play the Mega Drive when I was younger the two games that got a lot of play time from me were the Midway Arcade Collection (which included Defender 1 & 2, Joust, Sinistar, and Robotron 2084) and another collection of older games that included Pong, Centipede, and Missile Command. I’ve always had this fascination with the past. Outside of gaming I love to go to museums and watch historical documentaries. For me personally, its always just been a general interest to learn about the games I play and see how they have evolved over time.
Altered Beast is a somewhat sacred part of Sega’s arcade past that fans will blindly defend. Some of those fans may be surprised to know that there was a reboot of the franchise on PS2, but it never came to the states. This video takes a look at this Europe/Japan only title and discusses why it never coming to North America was probably a good thing.
The 1980s was a weird time for movies. It seems like during this time period that younger kids between the ages of 8-14 were a demographic that was heavily marketed to. While I concede that films of today like anything animated by Pixar or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are marketed to kids, it doesn’t seem like the movies are specifically created to speak to them. Cloak & Dagger is a film I can’t imagine was marketed for anyone other than young boys that were into G.I. Joe, played video games, and struggled with their parents. So, yeah, every young boy. It tells the tale of an 11-year-old Texas boy named Davey (played by Henry Thomas just after his big debut in E.T.) that is obsessed with a spy role playing game Cloak & Dagger starring a James Bond type named Jack Flack. One day Davey witnesses real terrorists trying to deliver confidential government materials in an Atari 5200 video game cart and of course the world doesn’t believe him because he’s already annoyed them profusely with his imaginary spy nonsense. What I love about this movie is that it speaks to kids at their level and, believe it or not, sneaks in plenty of after school lessons that will hopefully better equip them for handling the real world. If you are into brand marketing the way we all were in the 80s, you won’t be able to ignore the glut of Atari references. This film released in the summer of 1984, which is quite an ironic time to have a film engulfed in Atari marketing since the crash of 1983 was in full effect. I’m sure when it was filming and when the deals were signed, this was at least a year earlier when Atari ruled supreme. Nowadays you will want to watch this film not because of its entertainment merit per se, it is still a movie made for and talking to pre-teens, but more because of the hybrid of going back to your youth and nostalgia for the time period.
Retro Gaming Round-Up, a podcast about the classic days of early gaming often pre-dating the NES, has a new section that I’m finding just wonderful. It’s hosted by Simon Butler, a well known developer during the microcomputer days that worked at the beloved Ocean Software. Some use the term “legend” and he’s credited with over 260 releases on Giant Bomb and Moby Games, not to mention his personal claim of around 300 games. It turns out he’s a somewhat angry, off-putting, foul mouthed, hilarious storyteller. That’s why Butler getting his own segment on Retro Gaming Round-Up, dubbed “Dinosaur Pie,” has me hooked.
It all began in 1989 with developer Reflections Interactive showing a tech demo to British publisher Psygnosis. With Psygnosis impressed by what they saw Shadow of the Beast was originally released on the Commodore Amiga and was graphically mind blowing for the time. With several colours on screen at once as well as up to twelve levels of parallax scrolling backdrops, the game looked like it was from an arcade machine. Martin Edmonson, one of the founders of the company, was fond of very difficult video games. He wanted to be challenged and have to play a game multiple times to be able to master it. The score for the game was composed by David Whittaker, which was very atmospheric and left a lasting impression on fans. The cover art for the game was from the talented hands of Roger Dean who was well know for working on album covers for Yes, Asia, Budgie, as well as several others. Roger Dean merged a stone age look with technology to create a very unique look to the cover of Shadow of the Beast. He would also later go on to redesign the logo for Tetris.
As times change so do video games with developers and publishers scrambling to keep up. There are several ways to handle a classic franchise presented to a contemporary audience, which is fully covered in at the beginning of the show. Of the most scrutinized is the reboot. In this episode Jam and Fred debate the definition of a reboot and then get into the many attempts that have been made in the world of gaming to make what is old become new again.
In the U.K a surprisingly good place to hunt for old games are charity shops. In the U.S most will know these as Goodwills or a Salvation Army store. Charity shops are not generally very large. They’re small little retail units which mostly sell clothes but some often have a little section in the back where they keep DVDs, CDs and yes video games. This article is going to cover some general tips when hunting for games in charity shops.
Shadow of the Beast is a reboot of a 1989 Amiga title that I’m not quite sure ever released outside of Europe until the Genesis port hit North America in 1991. Even then, the port wasn’t given the proper shift from the base 50hz of Europe to the 60hz of North America, so this already difficult game ran 20 percent faster and was nearly impossible. I bring all of these factors up because it’s a weird title to reboot and an even weirder title to have the backing of a worldwide release from Sony, but that’s exactly what happened. I think I can see why. Shadow of the Beast is a timing-intense action title that manages to balance the nostalgia for the original while also retaining the changes in game design over the last 27 years to make a standalone experience everyone can appreciate. This is what it means to reboot a franchise and make it better than the original.
At its surface the game does retain its origins – and my American may be showing a little, but these are origins I was completely unaware of and I was still able to appreciate. You play as Aarbron, a warrior with an unknown past (you can unlock) that seems linked to the worlds you are exploring, however you have been changed. Now you are unable to understand the language of the beings that speak to you (also an unlock) and the only common tongue seems to be violence. You are a tall, fit warrior with twin spikes protruding from your hands that appear to be made of bone. Despite having modern 3D rendered graphics, Shadow of the Beast is a 2D side scroller that will frequently put your navigation and combat skills to the test in a balance of the left and right sides of the screen. I was impressed with how basic the combat system was until your realize that this game, like its protagonist, isn’t bogged down with complexity but rather tactics. You will have to think in the moment to react with the wave of enemies approaching you or you will suffer being volleyed back and forth from a series of foes. It’s daunting at first and by the end of the first level I thought I didn’t stand a chance against the reboot of a title already known for having a punishing difficulty and unfair traps. That’s not the case here, but you will need to practice and learn the full spectrum of your move set through advancement of the campaign and unlockables you purchase between levels. I wasn’t pleased with this decision at first – one my biggest gripes with the MetroidVania formula is that it gates you for not having what you don’t know exists – but these levels are brief and exciting enough that I managed to excuse this decision. By the end of the second level you won’t have the full body of options, but you’ll be robust enough to tackle a majority of the game’s challenges.