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Upcoming Retro game Challenge: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

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Greetings All:

As you’ve probably heard by now we are going to be playing through the entire campaign of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, live streamed on Twitch.  Later on I’ll edit it together into a fun little highlight video that’s only about an hour long, but the entire 10-12 hour campaign will be streamed with sarcastic commentary.  Here’s the schedule:

  • 11pm – 3am Sunday, November 23rd
  • 9am – 5pm Monday, November 24th

And if Fred doesn’t see the credits by then we will come back Monday night sometime (he has another podcast tomorrow night) and wrap it up.  Stay tuned here for all the info.  You can check out our twitch channel at twitch.tv/gh101.

Please Note: Due to the nature of the content in Conker’s Bad Fur Day and the language potentially used in commentary, you will be required to accept a mature content gate to access the stream.  This is purely to prevent visitors from unwanted vulgarity.  Thank you.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 23, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Mario Kart 64 vs. Diddy Kong Racing – The Ultimate Retro Racing Game Debate

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The two notoriously addictive and challenging 3D racing games produced for the Nintendo 64 were Mario Kart 64, developed by Nintendo and released on February 10th 1997, and Diddy Kong Racing, developed by Rareware and released on the 21st of November 1997. Both games skyrocketed in sales and popularity, with Diddy Kong selling over 4.5 million copies and Mario Kart selling over 9 million copies. The outrageous sales of Mario Kart 64 was arguably due to the fact that the characters were previously known and established by Nintendo in previous games, whilst the characters featured on Diddy Kong Racing were generally new installments.

In fact, Nintendo used Diddy Kong Racing as a platform to set up new characters to be released in other Nintendo games; these were characters such as Banjo the bear (the Banjo Kazooie series following) and Conker the Squirrel (the infamous Conkers Bad Fur Day followed). But the age old debate between old school and retro gamers remains: which was better? There are hardcore advocates and arguments on both sides, some of which we will take a look at.

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Written by Drew Rapley

May 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (XBLA)

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GS_origFor those not aware of the microcomputer craze in Europe that dominated the late 80s, the name “Giana Sisters” may not mean much. By the time the NES came out in Europe many had already invested in a microcomputer and parents were not eager to purchase a new console, so having games on popular computers like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 was essential. The Great Giana Sisters was a widespread clone of Super Mario Bros. that provided a great side-scrolling platformer alternative to Nintendo’s classic. Unfortunately due to its highly similar content, including an opening level that literally cloned 1-1 from Super Mario Bros., Nintendo’s legal involvement got the game pulled off store shelves. Since then it has lived on as a rare holy grail for some gamers and having played it myself I must admit that it doesn’t steal as much from Super Mario Bros. as the initial level would suggest. Now the Giana Sisters are reborn in one of the first Kickstarter projects to benefit and release from the crowd-funding program and it is clear that Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is anything but a clone. In fact, Super Mario Bros. could learn a thing or two from this gorgeous modern platformer.

gsis_4Twisted Dreams is a sequel to this controversial original, which did see a legal re-imagining on the DS in 2009, and picks up an original story that thankfully does not require knowledge of the original. Maria, Giana’s sister, has been kidnapped by an evil dragon and it’s up to Giana to enter the dream world and rescue her. Now a teenager, Giana is capable of utilizing the power of her two personalities – an interesting take on the changes one experiences in those awkward teenage years – allowing her to transform between a bright “Cute” persona and a rebellious “Punk” persona at will. Most interesting about this transformation is that it comes not only with new powers, but the entire world changes on the fly along with her. This dichotomy of not only the play style, but also the aesthetic of the entire game, creates a unique formula for each level. It allows the platformer to escape the confines of relying on level design and instead allows small simple spaces to become obstacle courses that will challenge your mind and reflexes. It’s not about dodging the pit and jumping on the enemy anymore, you need to think and think fast to make it in Twisted Dreams.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Games You’ve (Probably) Never Played: Tiny Toons Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (PS2)

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If you’re not familiar with this Playstation 2 title it’s probably because it never came out.  On our most recent podcast, we discussed the developer Treasure, responsible for a slew of great and popular titles but the company itself is quite lesser known to those in America.  With a resume that spans almost every console from the 16-bit era on, there are some odd releases that Treasure is also responsible for, namely Tiny Toon Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (which will be referred to as DotU from now on and was also at one point Defenders of the Looniverse).

Conspiracy Games, a somewhat obscure publisher that is responsible for a bunch of licensed and lower budgeted projects on the PS2, Wii, and PSP, must have acquired the Tiny Toons license because it was and has developed a few games for the series.  Conspiracy specifically works with developers that want to make a game but do not have the financial backing to do so.  This title was to be a somewhat large collaboration that had Tetsuhiko Kikuchi (aka HAN), best known for the great Saturn brawler/RPG Guardian Heroes, as director and even its own web site: http://www.dotu.com.  Very little is known about the development cycle, struggles, or overall issues about the development of this game, but what started as an early PS2 release in 2001 eventually was delayed 3 years into 2004 (according to IGN) and eventually canceled.  Because deals with publishers and developers often result in delayed processes and forced decisions that the creative team does not like, it’s really anyone’s guess why this game spent so long in development and was eventually sapped.

Somehow, a prototype of the game was recovered and released on the Internet for all to enjoy.  In order to play this “game” you need to either have a PS2 emulator on your computer (that runs marginally well) or burn the game to a disc and play it on a modded PS2.  I have a modded PS2 so I check it out on the latter.  Below is a video of the gameplay and pretty much the entire prototype (I was one or two screens from the end), which appears to be simply a demo.  It’s pretty interesting that the game seems to support up to four players taking on each other in a hybrid co-op/competitive team game to save the Universe.  DotU seems to harken back to the N64 days – at the time of initial development somewhere around 2000 this would make senses until a publisher comes in and explains that the N64 is dead and to release a game is far too great a risk and cost.  I don’t even know if the 4 player multi-tap for the PS2 was out yet, but you can see where Treasure would have made great use of it.  I wish there was more to this game – I’ve heard this is a nearly completed version, which sounds completely wrong since there’s only about half an hour of content on this disc and half of it is cutscene.  Still, had they continued on and increased the dynamic of team play while also adding the challenges of beating the group, I could see this being one of those licensed games we discuss that was “ahead of its time.”  As it stands the title remains unfinished and unreleased, lost to the annuls of history and just another holy grail of people like myself that want to experience as many prototypes as possible.  If you have the capabilities to play it, especially with multiple controllers, you may want to check out this early knock-off of a Mario Party title.  For the majority of you, here’s 18 minutes of a game that never saw the light of day.

Podcast: Ultimate Play The Game

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Fred and Rob “Trees” discuss Rare titles.  We actually mean the developer Rare as opposed to video games that are considered “rare.”  Originally formed as Ultimate Play The Game, we go over the history and game library of one of the most influential and abundant 2nd party developers on Nintendo’s platforms.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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As promised, here’s gameplay footage of Nightmare on Elm Street for the NES:

Written by Fred Rojas

January 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

Games You’ve (probably) Never Played: Zombie Nation (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1991
Developer: KAZe
Publisher: Meldac
Famicom? Yes (as Abarenbou Tengu Translation: Hooligan Tengu)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? No
Value: $187.49 (used) $127.61 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Digital Release? No

Aside from the steep price tag, there are few games on the NES that are like Zombie Nation.  Not only is it it an original horizontal scrolling shmup, but it does many technical tricks not often seen on the console.  Starting with the title screen, which has a line effect that resembles many arcade shmups of the time period, there is a lot happening onscreen at any given time.  The NES would often suffer stuttering or slowdown when the screen was flooded with only a few enemies – heck, Double Dragon couldn’t have more than three characters on screen at once!  Zombie Nation has far more than that with little slowdown and even background effects with everything from burning buildings to guiding lasers.  Additionally the boss battles and frantic later levels would dowse the screen in bulletfire, making it a precursor to the popular “danmaku” genre of shmups that emerged in the mid 90s.    Did I also mention it’s fun as hell?

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Review: Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (PC-E CD)

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Console: PC-Engine CD (Japan)
Released: 1993
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Japanese Title: Akumajo Dracula X: Chi No Rondo – English Translation: Devil’s Castle Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Hard
Played it as a child? No
Value: $83.00(used) Unknown – this usually indicates none have ever been sold (new) (pricecharting.com)
Price: $90-$120 (used) N/A (new) on eBay
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console and remake on Dracula X Chronicles (PSP) – $9.00 (VC), $15.00 (PSP) digitally

Akumajo Dracula X: Chi No Rondo is one of those games that you either know about or you don’t.  As a side story to the series, appearing on the PC-Engine CD no less, I don’t think Konami ever intended the game to be popular but what it does for the Castlevania formula is worth noting.  Rondo of Blood (as it is known in English) follows Richter Belmont, a descendent of Simon and Trevor, in a side story where he seeks out Dracula to recover his girlfriend Annette.  It takes place in Germany, I think (I’ve never played the game in English), and the cutscenes even contain German dialogue with Japanese subtitles.  Thanks to the RAM and CD format of this title, it also features amazing sound design and an anime-like style.  Oh yeah, and until recently it was never released outside of Japan.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Darxide (Frontier)

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Darxide is a game that probably few people know about given all of the obstacles it faces to get into gamers’ hands.  First off it was released on the 32x…only in Europe…and it had a very limited print run.  I haven’t been able to find out how many carts were produced, but the game fetches hundreds of pounds in its native land.  I found one on eBay for about $700 (and that doesn’t even count the fact that the game will only run on a PAL/European 32x) and the gaming store I borrowed the game from sells the game with a European/PAL Mega Drive/32x combo for $900.00.  Assuming you can get beyond that expensive barrier for entry, you’re supposedly awarded with a decent shmup.  Now that I’ve played it, I’m not so sure I can agree.

Darxide was developed by Frontier Games as a launch title for the Sega Neptune, which was a hybrid Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and 32x combo console in one.  In truth, you can do a little work arounds and get a 32x to fit into a Genesis 2 case still attached if you remove all the plastic components, but due to some issues with a permanently installed 32x (a few Genesis games and all Master System games won’t work with 32x) I never actually did it.  Either way the failure of the 32x for several reasons we’ve covered, resulted in the cancellation of the Neptune and Darxide without a good release window.  Being a native United Kingdom developer, my guess is that it was cheapest and best to launch the game first in Europe and based on its success to release it worldwide.  Well in 1995 the 32x and Darxide failed in tandem, resulting in the game’s overall rarity and exclusivity.  I must say having played it that it takes on a similar arcade on-rails shotter feel like Star Wars Arcade and Star Fox, but with cleaner, more impressive graphics.  It also runs very smoothly in comparison to its more popular brethren.  The gameplay, on the other hand leaves much to be desired.  I guess you should just see for yourself before I say more:

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm