Friday, 4 November 2011

World's Favourite Search Engine Goes All Spintendo...

It seems the cultural impact of video games shows no signs of slowing down, so much so, that the instructive words of Starfox 64's Peppy Hare have had a lasting impression on the designers over at Google. What am I talking about? Well head on over to Google, type the legendary words: 'Do a barrel roll' into the search bar and gawk in amazement.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Game Designers Are Really Nice People...

That age old aphorism 'never meet your heroes' has no place in the overtly humble world of the video game industry, and no event is more acutely aware of this than Nottingham's GameCity. A festival I'm sure whose feelings would be hurt if you didn't want to meet them. Now in its sixth year GameCity is the world's only festival to celebrate video game culture by provoking thought and discussion on what video game experiences mean to their creators and audiences alike.

As the ever enthusiastic and witty festival creator Iain Simons introduced this year's event to the select audience gathered in the lavishly turned out marquee on Nottingham's Old Market Square, he was happy to point out no less than three influential game designers, all stood within metres from myself, mingling within the crowd, with none of the pomp or self importance that is the usual reserve of more established creative industries. First onto the stage was Robin Hunicke producer of ThatGameCompany's PSN hit Flower and soon to be released Journey, her sentiments echoing those of the festival. Her altruistic vision: to inspire new generations of game designers, citing that 'what is important are not the events of GameCity 14, or GameCity 20, but of GameCity 1000' and the game designers that will be influenced by the endeavours of the festival far into the future, seeing GameCity as the catalyst to mould new thinking and fresh perspectives for future generations. And if the previewed trailer of her latest game Journey was anything to go by, Hunicke and ThatGameCompany are sure to succeed: 

Back on the stage and Iain Simons was quick to introduce the second of the evening's modest luminaries, Richard Lemarchand Co Lead Designer on Unchartered 3: Drake's Deception from Santa Monica based developers Naughty Dog. And while Lemarchand didn't take to the stage he did take the reception to his latest endeavour with considerable grace, no mean feat when we're talking about one of the biggest blockbuster franchises to grace the Playstation 3:

The third and final designer was the ever popular and wonderfully celebrated Eric Chahi, creator of Another World, Heart of Darkness and the recently released From Dust for Xbox Live. Eric has been invited to curate the first day of the festival beginning his 'boot cycle' tomorrow with events as far reaching as music workshops involving the Tenori-On, a visual instrument developed by Elektroplankton creator Toshio Iwai. A 60 person dinner for which Eric has created the menu and will discuss his gaming career throughout and an evening of game inspired music with Nottingham musician Exile promising to provide Wii remote controlled visuals and video game sampled beats, bloops and beeps.

After the introductory speeches and the declaration of the event being officially opened (in which Iain Simons literally fell to his knees to present Eric Chahi with the key to the festival) there was a chance for the fans to meet the makers, and the makers to meet the fans, continuing that fine tradition, nay, mission statement of GameCity as a platform for discussion about the things we hold dear about our favourite pass time, or in my case just a chat about the weather and the local pubs in Nottingham with Eric Chahi, but I must have made some kind of impression on him as he signed my game with the following inscription:

Translation: For Matt, with friendship, Eric.

What a thoroughly nice bloke.

GameCity 6 runs from the the 26th to the 29th of October in venues throughout Nottingham City. Check the Official schedule for details.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What? Really? £2.35...For Some Of The Best Games The Famicom Has To Offer? Surely There's A Catch?

OK, So my intention was never to talk about pirated software on here, but I recently stumbled upon a few websites claiming to sell games that 'Simply reminds you the old good times' and with a such a warm and thoroughly Chinglish welcome, my new AV Famicom sitting there with no new games and prices for original Famicom carts rising daily on eBay, how could I resist. My immediate reaction was to scour the internet for souls braver than me who had already taken the plunge, already thrown down their £2.35 per cart and thrown all caution to the wind in an attempt to unearth some Famicom gems and hopefully shed some light on what was actually meant by titles like SD Fighter, Contra 6, Three Eyes Prince and Silk. But alas, it seemed nobody had been brave enough, except for the odd maverick here and there on Youtube, who had bought the odd one or two of these cartridges and been gracious enough to do us a little video review. But I was still left scratching my head at the titles, what was I actually going to find, if at all anything, on these horridly moulded lumps of plastic (at least I think its plastic, all the cartridges appear to have the looks and equivalent strength of a material that shares more in common with a vegetable derivative rather than oil, but the delicacy with which you have to handle these things is part of the fun, right? Right?). Well dear reader it appears that it was down to me to take that the plunge, and I felt it was my God given duty as a gamer to share with you what I found on these tiny little circuit boards, in the hope that this post may aid weary internet explorers in the future. Trust me...there really were a few pleasant surprises in there... So without further ado...


Game One: labelled THREE EYES BOY. Actual Game: MITSUME GA TOORU Natsume/Tomy (1992)

Mitsume Ga Tooru is surely the jewel in the crown of this cartridge's collection and worth (Perhaps 30 times) the asking price of £2.35. Based on Astro Boy creator, Osamu Tezuka's manga and anime of the same name (literally translated as The Three Eyed One) the game pits protagonist Hosuke Sharaku in the usual quest to free a kidnapped girlfriend from the clutches of an evil nemesis (interestingly enough also sporting a third eye). It is worth noting that the game was developed by Famicom veterans Natsume and was done so quite late in the machine's life cycle, so expect top notch platform antics, flourishes of excellent game design and the stretching of the hardware to the limit to deliver one of the Famicom's greatest action platformers rivalling much of the 16-Bit output of the time.

Game Two: labelled SILK. Actual game: SILKWORM Tecmo/Sammy (1990)

Tecmo's horizontal arcade shmup allows you to take either a helicopter or Jeep into battle against swarms of enemies.

Games Three & Four: labelled DRAGONBALL FIGHT 2 & 3 Actual games: Unlicensed Pirate 1-on-1 Fighters

These final two games on the cartridge appear to be your usual button mashing one on one, pirate fighter fair. I don't belive they are pirates of actually released titles, but I would be happily corrected if anyone out there knows any better.


Game One: labelled KAGE. Actual game: KAGE / SHADOW OF THE NINJA / BLUE SHADOW Natsume/Taito (1990)

The first of two stand out titles on this cartridge. Kage is again action platforming nirvana from Natsume, with ninjas, weapons, wall crawling and boss fights galore in a similar vein to Famicom favourite Ninja Gaiden.

Game Two: labelled MONSTER IN MY POCKET. Actual Game: MONSTER IN MY POCKET Konami (1992)

Konami's decent side scrolling platformer based on the late 80s toy range.

Game Three: labelled STREET FIGHTER 12P. Actual Game: Unlicensed Street Fighter Clone

Game Four: labelled SUMMER CARNIVAL. Actual game: GUN NAC Compile/Tonkin House (1990)

The second of the stand out titles rounding out this compilation is Compile's Gun Nac an incredibly pacey vertical scrolling shmup guaranteed to keep trigger happy shooter fans engaged.


Game One: labelled CONTRA 6. Actual game: SUPER CONTRA / SUPER C / PROBOTECTOR II Konami (1990)

Much like the widespread original pirate Contra cartridge known as Contra 24 (and reviewed below) this version of Super Contra allows you to start the game with all manner of cheats applied, be it different weapons, level skips or with the infamous Konami Code cheat for 30 lives. The game can also be played in its original untouched state. Again a sterling entry in the Contra series and one of the greatest run and guns on the Famicom.

Game Two: labelled KAGE. Actual game: KAGE / SHADOW OF THE NINJA / BLUE SHADOW Natsume/Taito (1990)

Game Three: labelled FINAL MISSION. Actual game: FINAL MISSION / S.C.A.T. / ACTION IN NEW YORK Natsume (1990)

Final Mission is another sure fire hit from Natsume, and an increasingly hard to find game. Natsume's side scrolling space marines vs. aliens shmup evoking memories of the Capcom classic Forgotten Worlds employing an adjustable second weapon for peripheral damage. Sweet.

Game Four: labelled CONTRA 2. Actual Game: CONTRA FORCE Konami (1992)

While I'm not totally familiar with Konami's Contra Force. This seems to be a hacked version of the game giving the characters the names of Guile, Rocky and Ryu. The sprites also seem to have been swapped. Still its perfectly playable.


Game One: labelled BUBBLE BOBBLE. Actual game: BUBBLE BOBBLE PART TWO Taito (1993)

The continuing adventures of Bub and Bob just doesn't seem to have the wealth of collectables, two player support or indeed the charm of the first game in the series.

Game Two: labelled KICK MASTER. Actual game: KICK MASTER Taito (1991)

Taito's Kick Master while developed in Japan only received a North American release. This side scrolling martial arts fest is another hidden gem in the Famicom's crown, and is similarly hard to find on the collector's market. Its perfect blend of chop socky action and RPG elements making it a firm favourite with retro fans.

Game Three: labelled SD FIGHTER. Actual game: MIGHTY FINAL FIGHT Capcom (1993)

Only a couple of years after the underwhelming release of Final Fight on the Super NES came this amazing, super deformed version of the game for the Famicom complete with a whole new backstory, a huge cast of enemy characters, new levels and most importantly the choice of all three original characters. Again a gem in the Famicom library and a game any self respecting brawler/Final Fight fan should play.

Game Four: labelled STREET FIGHTER 12P. Actual Game: Actual game: Unlicensed Street Fighter Clone

Cartridge Five: JX TV.GAME CARTRIDGE: KV-2001 CONTRA 24

Game One: labelled CONTRA 24. Actual game: CONTRA Konami (1988)

Like the Super Contra edition bundled in the cart above, this cartridge is like having your own copy of Contra with a Game Genie permanently strapped to it allowing you to play all manner of variations of the original run and gun classic. Start on any level, start with any weapon, start on any level with any weapon, start with the Konami code activated or just play the 'balls hard' classic as it was meant to be played with no cheats whatsoever. With Contra 24 the choice is yours. 


Games One, Two & Three: labelled THE ADVENTURE ISLAND II, III & IV. Actual games: TAKAHASHI MEIJIN NO BOKUN JIMA / ADVENTURE ISLAND II, III & IV Hudson Soft (1991-1994)

Contained in this wonderful little package is the almost complete collection (except the first game) of Hudson's Wonderboy mimicking platformer series Adventure Island. What is of most interest here is the inclusion of Adventure Island IV, previously only released in Japanese territories the game was the very last release for the Famicom in 1994 and a deviation from the standard platforming fair of the previous games, including more of a sprawling Metroidvania style adventure complete with fetch quests and mini games galore. Recommended. Plus tracking one down on eBay will cost you in excess of £100.00.

Cartridge Seven: JX TV.GAME CARTRIDGE: YH-3130 SUPER GAME 3-IN-1

Game One: labelled SNOW BROS. Actual game: SNOW BROS Toaplan/Capcom (1990)

Toaplan's single screen arcade game shares many similarities with Taito's Bubble Bobble, but has enough charm and invention of its own to make it stand out from the crowd. The increasing rarirty of Snow Bros. games on all platforms (and subsequent high prices) and the excellent quality of this arcade port make this an attractive addition to the cartridge.

Game Two: labelled TEKKEN. Actual game: TEKKEN SPECIAL. Unlicensed 2D Tekken Clone


Wow. So that turned out to be a much longer, much more informative and much more garishly coloured post than I had originally intended. It is not usually my thing to geek out with lists and facts and serial numbers etc. But I felt it necessary to highlight some of the classics that are available via these some what questionable avenues after finding it genuinely frustrating to discern what these cartridges contained when making my own purchases. For the Famicom fan that truly appreciates the aesthetics and ergonomics of playing on the original hardware these compilations offer perhaps a last chance to play some of the genuinely harder to find games the way nature intended. Far surpassing any experience you could ever have with emulation. The real reason I have brought these games to your attention is that as of the time of writing, these cartridges are still available via a number of websites and it would be a missed opportunity for any Famicom enthusiast to miss the chance to play these games at a fraction of the prices beings asked for the originals. It is also important to bear in mind that I have only reveiwed the seven cartridges I bought, but there are around 50 of these cartridges available across different sites. It is also nice to see a lot of the later Famicom titles represented on these cartridges, as compilation carts often only catalogue the same archaic titles from the Famicom's launch line up that often haven't stood the test of time. So without further ado, here's the information you've been waiting for. The websites where you can order these beautiful slices of gaming history:

You will notice a running theme through these sites, mainly that they seem to offer the exact same products, and often in currencies/domain addresses from Western countries like the UK and the US. But Don't be fooled, they are Chinese based warehouses and this will mean long postage times to the West. Also I cannot vouch for the 3 other sites I have listed here. But I ordered from Acekardsale and postage took around 3-4 weeks and my items arrived in good condition. As always I will stress the importance of due diligence when shopping online, but I had no problems with my order. So apart from wishing you happy shopping there's just one thing I'd like to leave you with. Its this incredible use of the English language used to describe these carts on most of these websites. Enjoy:

"Simply reminds you the old good times.

Still remember the time when we were kids scattered around the house and fight for the chances to play the games in turns Still remember that we need good co-operation for the Contra and Jackal And for God's sake, I still remember we tried so hard for the Contra, till we knew there was a cheat code for 30 lifes, then we can finally went through all the battles. LOL

All the games from PS3, Xbox 360 cannot bring me this kind of good memories. LOL, so buy the machine now, and try to get back to those good old days, or share with your son then he knew how we played games when we were young."

Don't it make your bottom lip quiver...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Who Needs A Flashy 80s Hydraulic Arcade Cabinet When You Can Do This In Your Living Room

Developers Sabarasa have made one of the balliest moves yet on Nintendo's undersubscribed Wii Ware service. Their new on rails shooter Horizon Riders employing not only the Wii Zapper but the criminally underused Balance Board to pilot your lone merc against a planet under military control from a maniacal Artificial Intelligence. Wowsers. The game looks like a blast, and is an incredibly inventive move from the fledgling developers to employ so many of the console's peripherals that are surely gathering dust in cupboards and attics across the world. This heavy reliance on hardware however seems to be being met with opposition from more economically challenged players, the standard control method tasking you with navigating via gyroscope controls whilst aiming with the Wii remote. But Soiboughtalllthesegames tips our cap to Sabarasa for trying to inject something new into this niche genre. Who knows maybe one day we'll be able to play the cancelled Dreamcast Space Harrier sequel Planet Harriers this way. Afterall there's no way you can get one of those original arcade cabinets in your living room without taking a few walls out. Welcome to the Fantasy Zone? I think I'm living in it.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Mushroom Is A Lie

Indie developers seem to have come up with an answer to that burning question nobody ever asked. What would happen if you gave Mario a portal gun? Currently in development: Mari0 (yes, spelled with a zero) applies the mind twisting physics of Valve's first person puzzler to the distinctly 2D environs of the Mushroom Kingdom. According to the best part for us gamers is that its gonna be free for everyone and be supported by Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating systems. In the meantime feast your eyes on this neat preview and find out more about the game over at the official website:

Friday, 30 September 2011

In The Words Of Kojima: "The Equivalent To The Big Bang Of Our Gaming Universe": Game 0014

The past twenty five years have been extremely good to Nintendo's game changing platformer along with its unlikely yet likeable protagonist. Since its arrival on the Famicom the game has not so much aged, as matured, the secret to its 'simple to pick up, difficult to master' play mechanics remaining as closely guarded as a junior lab technician carrying the recipe for Merchandise 7X on his first day at Coca Cola. Miyamoto's fourth game as director introduced many of the now commonplace staples of the genre and its immediate and lasting influence on the industry is testimony to the game's original, impeccable design.

At a time when most developers were reeling from the video games crash of the early eighties, Super Mario Bros. signalled a wake up call to consumers and a call to arms for developers to see the potential of the Famicom hardware. While not the first side scrolling platformer, in an industry swamped with single screen competitors the scrolling nature of Super Mario Bros.' worlds brought a genuine sense of freedom to the medium. The goal was no longer a repetitive, claustrophobic battle for elusive high scores but a genuine hero's quest, complete with requisite damsel in distress, a dastardly villian with his eye on the Kingdom, clouds to explore and dungeons to uncover. A lesson in perfection, stretching out in front of you across eight beautifully scrolling worlds.

Today the game remains as fresh as it ever was. The Mushroom Kingdom proving a virtual playground of distractions in Mario's quest to rescue the princess. And as fun as these distractions are to uncover, Super Mario Bros. is truly at its best when levels are being navigated at break neck speeds, the risk of impending death from a rogue green shell or a flaming fire pit never a moment away. For most gamers the levels of Super Mario Bros. are ingrained in the psyche, such is the lasting popularity of the game. The challenge no longer simply being to beat the game, but to play 'that perfect game' of Super Mario Bros., stomping every enemy, collecting every coin, exploring every pipe and consistently hitting the top of that increasingly difficult to reach flagpole. As with all of Miyamoto's creations, Mario and his supporting cast of heroes and villains brought a sense of characterisation to a genre that had been terribly one dimensional. Afterall, how many other games can you recall where you can scream at the entire cast of enemies by their individual names? Adding to this sense of character was composer Koji Kondo's now iconic musical score. Perhaps the most recognisable score in video game history, Kondo's short melodies having been created so that they could be endlessly repeated without sounding repetitious to the player. A trait that would become synonymous with the Composer's work throughout his career.

Twenty five years ago the original Super Mario Bros. set a bar so high that even Nintendo themselves must have had sleepless nights about how to follow it up. Third party developers of the time rarely achieved the design or success of Nintendo's crowning franchise and its this strive for perfection from the start that has made Mario such an enduring figure. So popular is Mario's legacy that it echoes the global impact of long term popularity challenger Mickey Mouse. It follows then that, If Jumpman in Donkey Kong was Miyamoto's Steamboat Willie, then surely Super Mario is his Sorcerer's Apprentice.  With a consistently high standard maintained in the games that have followed since the original, Super Mario Bros. has long since been surpassed, refined and perfected. However, much like the ever popular Zelda series the blue prints for Mario's success were set in stone in this first Famicom outing, validating Miyamoto's often overused but wholly deserving moniker as the 'Walt Disney of Video Games'.

Favourite Moment: My favourite moment with Super Mario Bros. was not specifically with the game, but rather with the format I recently played it on. Running at a full 60Hz on a Japanese AV Famicom, is the only way to experience this original outing if you, like me, were unfortunate enough to have grown up with the decidedly slow 50Hz PAL versions of the game. To play Super Mario Bros. the way it was intended was a genuinely refreshing experience, giving me a renewed interest in its legacy.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Modelling Card? Check. Glue? Check. Scissors? Check. Craft Knife? Check. Patience Of A Saint? Ahh...

It seems there are a dedicated number of Nintendo fans out there for whom the 3D wizardry of the 3DS just wasn't 3D-ey enough. (Still with me?). These papercrafters, as they are collectively known, prefer to swap polygons for paper to recreate authentic real world models of their favourite Nintendo characters. There is a whole scene of papercrafting, and it is not just limited to Nintendo. Pretty much anything it seems can be crafted from paper. Everything from scale recreations of Digital SLR cameras to complex Gundam mech robots have been made by this ardent band of cutting and folding devotees. Papercrafting is the true evolution of the ancient art of Origami, and something you may even want to try for yourself after we take a look at the best of the Nintendo papercraft models out there.

All these papercraft models have been made by priniting the individual pieces on modelling card and piecing them together following detailed instructions. Lots more Nintendo Papercraft examples and the resources to print the models for yourself to try (Lets face it, that Fox McCloud model, standing at an envy inducing 50cm, is the closest any of us are going to get to owning the Fox McCloud puppet of the original SNES art) can be found at the following blogs:

Finally here are a couple of videos showing you the (painstakingly animated) process involved in creating the Super Smash Bros. Brawl Super Mario model and the jewel in the crown of Nintendo papercraft. This incredible life size Super Smash Bros. Brawl Link. Enjoy.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Keerrrrroooueechsht, Keaaeeerrrrrrrrroooueeeechsht: Game 0013

Parker Brother's Spider-Man is not so much a game you beat as get bored of, very quickly. Its simple mechanics hail from a bygone era, some may call it classic, where its not so much your synapses that are being stretched but the rusting circuit boards of your ageing VCS. You play everybody's friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and its your job to rid New York's skyscrapers of The Green Goblin's Super Bombs, threatening to destroy the entire city. Gameplay takes place on vertically scrolling skyscraper levels, where you must use your webslinging abilities to scale the building, catch criminals, avoid time bombs and that flying bastard Green Goblin and finally diffuse the Super Bomb at the summit. Wow. I actually made it sound quite good, but believe me, its not really. Don't get me wrong, I owned this game the first time around and to my 4 year old self, sat in front of the 'Big Telly', the only thing illuminating the otherwise dark living room (it was probably nearing bed time), I was Spider-Man. But I'm afraid that nostalgia alone isn't enough to mask the simple control scheme and (barely) functional graphics of Spidey's video game debut.

On the subject of the visuals, while basic to say the least in terms of their design, to their advantage they are wonderfully colourful, the primary palette doing its best to replicate a comic book colour scheme inkeeping with the cartoons and comics aimed at kids of the time. The sound on the other hand is reduced to a start of level midi jingle introducing you to your frequently impending 80 storey plummet to death, invariably on your back. Ouch. The game's other sound is the screaming techno grind of your web, shooting its way around the skyscraper backdrops. Its a most odd sound indeed and one I'm not sure I can do justice to with words (despite trying desperately to phonetically spell it out in the title of this post) , It is also one of the most grating noises to ever grace a video game, and a sound that bears no relation to the classic 'thwips' of spidey's trusty web shooters.

The aim of the game is clearly to shoot for high scores, your score increasing by busting criminals in the many windows that line the walls and reaching the top to diffuse the Super Bomb. Doing so will start Ol' Webhead at the foot of yet another increasingly difficult skyscraper and so the game repeats, until you lose your designated three lives. Unfortunately the repetitive gameplay is enough to make you shoot for the off switch rather than that coveted high score.

When all said and done Spider-Man isn't the worst game the Atari VCS has to offer, but for gamers that don't remember this from the first time around, there won't be much that won't have you reaching for the volume control within minutes and the off switch minutes after that.

Favourite Moment: Diffusing the bombs does have a certain level of satisfaction to it. Quickly marred by placing you at the foot of another largely boring building full of scumbags all hellbent on pushing your yawn receptors. That was my favourite moment.

On The 1s and 2s and Super Mario Bros. 3s. Bounce With This For A Hot Minute

Though I don't always mention it here, I am a huge hip hop fan and am really impressed with Heath McNease's 8-Bit styled mix tape, fusing old school beats, oodles of Nintendo samples and extremely sharp, brilliantly executed lyrics that reference everything from the Konami Contra Code to Fred Savage in the Wizard. Excellent stuff. Enjoy it here for free:

In the words of the author:

A freakin' ridiculous mixtape using Nintendo samples, pop culture references, a shoestring budget, anabolic steroids, and a lot of love


Released 03 July 2011

Heath Mcnease, ForBeatsSake, Davey Rockit, Playdough, Manchild, Red Cloud, Okwerdz, Cas Metah, KJ 52, Sivion, Fab Da Eclectic

Disney Pixar Swaps Processor Intensive Render Farms For Circuit Boards, Capacitors And Eproms In New Movie 'Wreck-It Ralph'

It would appear that Disney Pixar's latest eponymous anti-hero Wreck-It Ralph is set to do for classic video gaming what Woody and Buzz did for toys in their latest animated offering of the same name. Much like everyone's favourite cowboy and space ranger came to life when no one was around, the plot of the movie is set to follow video game antagonist, and Donkey Kong wannabe Ralph after the lights in the video arcade go out, and his attempts at shaking his bad guy image as he ventures into more modern video games to lend a helping hand.

If the above video is anything to go buy Disney Pixar appear to be bringing their trademark eye for detail to the project. The above Donkey Kong styled upright arcade was installed at the D23 Disney Expo 2011 and showed an unplayable attract mode only version of the fictional game to whet fans' appetites. Everything from the bevel and machine decals, the colour schemes of the cabinet, to that faithfully recreated 8-Bit Nintendo look of the graphics sings attention to detail and a genuine love of the medium. The more diligent among you may also notice the arcade manufacturer's moniker 'TobiKomi' which is Japanese for Jumpman, Mario's name in the 1981 original. 

A four minute preview of the film at D23, revealed that well known licensed video game characters, including one of the Pac-Man ghosts, will be along for the ride. Lets hope that Nintendo's strict licensing agreements can be bent to accommodate Pixar's whims, as it would be a shame to miss out on seeing the influences the film and its creators so clearly hold dear.

The film is pencilled in for a November 2012 release, until then we wish veteran Futurama and Simpsons Director Rich Moore, his cast (including John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch) and the entire Pixar team the best of luck.

Monday, 22 August 2011

EDGE Were Just Wrong OK. Everyone Has Off Days...What? Who's Committed A Cardinal Sin?: Game 012

Much has been made of Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami's latest collaborative project: Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows Of The Damned, often to the point of overshadowing the fact that neither of these creative powerhouses actually directed this seminal post modern, balls to the wall, foul mouthed quote fest through Hell's backyard. It was European industry veteran Massimo Guarini a name you may be less familiar with, that took the helm acting as the creative go between for Suda's punk rock ethics and Mikami's veteran action credentials, and it shows. What has emerged between the three of these talents (Guarini's previous work including credits on critically acclaimed but criminally undersold DS titles Soul Bubbles and Moon) is a world that is a wonderful fusion of East meets West. A glorious hybrid of Venetian gothic architecture and rain soaked neon Tokyo streets. Of oversized screen hogging boss battles and the more intimate moments between our protagonists, reading (often badly in the case of Garcia) bedtime stories to each other. As a result, its a world that isn't instantly recognisable from any other place you've ever visited before in a video game. And yes...that's a good thing.

This culture clash extends to our two leads. Self proclaimed: Garcia 'Fucking' Hotspur, a hotheaded romantic Mexican demon hunter with a penchant for purple leather jackets and well to do English, reformed demon Johnson who handily doubles as Garcia's increasingly absurd arsenal. Yeah you heard it, a big weapon called Johnson. Its in this 'Viz: Bumper Summer Special' vein of juvenile double entendre that most of the game's humour continues. Ranging from genuine laugh out loud moments to injoke's that are clearly the wet dream of Suda and Mikami's love for their own medium. What Guarini, Suda and Mikami have created in these unlikely bedfellows is perhaps video gaming's first ever comedy double act (no the Bonanza Bros. don't count) an Eric and Ernie for the 'Saw' generation, incredibly well fleshed out characters that often show their weaker sides or, more often than not, just their plain embarrassing ones.

The same subtle nuances however have not been applied to the game's lone plot device, its that age old adage, guessed it: 'Our princess is in another castle'. But while It may be the most well trodden path in video game lore, Shadows Of The Damned takes more than its fair share of blood soaked back roads and prickly thickets to keep the path seeming fresh. As penance for slaying too many of his demons, Fleming, the lord of the underworld has not only stolen Garcia's beloved Paula, he's cut off her head, possessed her to attack our boys and made his minions repeatedly burst from inside her beautiful flesh. But none of that is going to stop Garcia from trying to get her back. Much like Mikami's previous outing Vanquish, who's mechanic centred around a balancing act of speed versus slow motion, Shadows of The Damned similarly plays off the opposition between light and dark (where the dark harms Garcia and the light harms demons) handy then that Johnson comes equipped with a light shot to disperse said darkness. Understanding this interplay between light and dark becomes the main thrust of the gameplay and can be used to traverse the games scant puzzles, often complex combat and gigantic boss battles. Alcohol (what else?) also plays an important part in the game. Replenishing Garcia's energy during lengthy stand offs with the games various enemies and prolonged exposure to the darkness.

While a relatively linear and somewhat short experience (the game's 5 acts clocking in at around 8 hours of gameplay) Shadows of the Damned is a game that loves trash culture and video games as much as you do. More than making up for its shortcomings with flashes of inspiration such as collecting strawberries and gems like you were Bub and Bob, forcing you into a couple of 2D shmup stages (think Chinese paper puppet theatre meets Forgotten Worlds), recreating a classic scene from The Evil Dead and introducing you to trusty demon William, who will not only save your game for you but shoot into the sky emitting a steaming, fizzing turd as he does so.

If Mikami, Suda and Guarini have made any kind of statement with their ultimate popcorn B-game its a big two figures up to the establishment. A steaming hot turd in the eye of the corporate best sellers that many may not find funny. But if you're not in on the joke then you'd probably be more at home with a more conventional shooter, perhaps a game in which you mow down real life soldiers based on real life wars from our shadowy history. But in my opinion that is both way more offensive and far less funny than what's on offer here.

Favorite Moment: In a game with so many stand out set pieces and genuinely hilarious moments its hard to choose one. But my money is on handing Johnson the phone to a sex line that causes him to extend into The Big Boner, complete with Carry On style sound effect. That and the resulting chant from Garcia that invites two storey high demons to 'taste my big boner' every time he shoots at them. Juvenile? Yes, but it never fails to raise a smile.

Step Aside Operation Rainfall, This Guy Says It Better Than You Ever Could

Okay, so many of us European gamers have sneered at the ill fated attempts of Operation Rainfall to get Nintendo of America onboard and release the Big 3 Stateside. While we recline comfortably on our sofas (probably sipping cocktails) and brandishing the Monado at screen devouring spider bosses all our US partners can do is constantly call, e-mail and in the most extreme cases write letters to Nintendo's customer service workforce who probably would have a hard time picking Mario out from a line up, let alone Xenoblade Chronicles' Shulk. Don't get me wrong I'm all for what they stand for, but its a little poetic justice for Euro gamers after years of being shafted with late and often never appearing releases. Operation Rainfall's pathetic begging and self righteousness as table turning release schedule crusaders is also beginning to wear thin, not to mention clogging up my Facebook wall. My sympathies for the cause wore very thin as the day after the European release of Xenoblade Chronicles, Operation Rainfall patronisingly thanked European gamers for buying the game on their Facebook status and inappropriately patted themselves on the back as though we would have never had the backbone or insight to do it without them, despite Nintendo having confirmed the game's European release way before the germination of Operation Rainfall:

We want to extend a huge thanks to everyone that helped us out today.Thank you, Europe, for purchasing the game (you didn't need us to tell you how awesome this game was!)
Thank you everyone around the world who helped us make a statement to Nintendo of America, we appreciate all the enthusiasm that was shown today for these amazing games.
We can only hope that Nintendo of America took notice as well.
Either way, as gamers, united we stand.

Its for this pathetic outpouring that my sympathies are no longer with our American cousins, I don't want to hear another word about their sterling efforts to the community especially when Pandora's Tower and The Last Story get their 'already' planned European releases later in the year. In the meantime, enjoy the above video. This guy is more persuasive than a million Operation Rainfall followers bothering NOA's frankly indifferent workforce.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Oh God...andorf!

Oh, errrr, oh no. I just puked in my mouth. The original N64 advertising may have been sexist but this is offensive on so many more levels. Still at least Americans don't have to put up with Ant & Dec & family, or the 'Dragon Quest loving for cash' J.L.S.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Enlarge Your Johnson

The more information that is drip fed about Mikami and Suda's Shadows of the Damned the more excited I get. As if it wasn't enough to know that original punk band The Damned are pairing up with Final Fantasy composer Akira Yamaoka for the soundtrack, this latest trailer comes along and smacks you in the face with bags of humour on how to enlarge your johnson and increase performance. Everyone maybe getting excited for Ocarina of Time's return tomorrow. But come the 21st of June its this brilliant game from some of gaming's greatest minds that is a) Gonna have those in the know talking and b) Probably end up as bargain bin fodder cause those that did talk, didn't talk loud enough. So on that note: any one not talking about it can just fuck off. Well punk.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Willst Thou Get The Girl...Or Sweep All The Controversy Under The Carpet?

Its interesting to see Nintendo return to their original 'Willst Thou...' campaign for Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D on the 3DS, as its use in the original marketing caused quite the little storm of controversy back in 1998, something that Nintendo have been quick to sweep under the carpet over the intervening years. Afterall no one wants to associate the most critically acclaimed video game of all time with a scandal do they? The original campaign was spear headed by the slogan: 'Willst Thou Get The Girl...Or Play Like One?' something which was met by opposition from female gamers of the time for being openly sexist and down right rude, and rightly so. Perhaps this new campaign tips its hat to that minor hiccup all those years ago by way of a little apology. I'd like to think so. For the curious: step into the Temple Of Time and experience the original campaign from all those moons ago.

Shin'en Multimedia Goes All Molecular On 3DS With Nano Assault

German based developers Shin'en Multimedia continually push the boundaries of what is thought technologically possible on the various platforms they develop for. On the Gameboy Advance they wowed us with the psuedo 3D shoot 'em ups Iridion 1 & 2,  and on Nintendo DS they impressed us with the actual 3D shmups Nanostray 1 & 2. While technologically impressive some concern however has been levied at their lack of spark in the gameplay department, however latest Wii Ware offerings Art Of Balance and FAST: Racing League have proven to gamers that Shin'en can deliver on all fronts. This all bodes extremely well for their jump back into the cockpit in Nano Assault on 3DS. A spiritual sequel to the Nanostray franchise that sees your ship reduced down to molecular level, as a tooled up piece of nanotechnology on a mission to rid a body full of viruses in a homage to 60s sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, or if you're too young to remember that, 80s sci-fi classic Inner Space. Check out this promising looking video of the game in action from E3 2011. I Also like the way this is running on a 'portrait' HD Monitor, if anyone out there knows how I can pimp my 3DS up to do that...Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Spin Off From A 32 Bit Title Whos Main USP Was The Music? On Game Gear? Pass The AA Batteries, And A Couple More, Aaaand A Couple More: Game 011

Originating on the 'already doomed at release' Sega Mega Drive add on (no not that one, the other one) the infamous 32X, Tempo is a platformer from developers Red Company the people behind the PC Genjin/Bonk's Adventure series, and several other notable gems along the way. While the 32X version burst from your speakers with its own fully vocalised rap track and incredible sampled music, the Game Gear version, rather unsurprisingly does not. But is that all that is missing from this cutesy portable port?

The first thing that strikes you about Tempo Jr. is the large and beautifully animated sprites, Red have gone all out to at least retain the hand drawn art style and presentation of Tempo 32X and what is on offer here is impressive for the ageing 8-Bit handheld. Tempo himself, walks, jumps, runs, hovers and most notably dances with amazing fluidity, even giving Kirby, the pint sized Michael Jackson of end of level dance routines a run for his money. Sadly the game doesn't live up to the presentation however. This is the most basic of exploration platforming. Never tasking the player with a serious test of their mettle, or often with much exploration for that matter. Tempo Jr.'s major flaw is that perhaps he has too many abilities and while impressive that they have arrived on the handheld intact from their 32 Bit big brother, they mean that you can often and quite easily save yourself from death. The float ability is the worst culprit, but unlike Yoshi's limited climb and fall technique, Tempo can continue to do it indefinitely. Add to this the fact that most defeated enemies leave you an energy power up and that falling off the bottom of the screen doesn't result in instant death (the most basic of platforming law) and you'll be pretty hard pushed to lose a life. Boss battles break up the aimless wandering, but often present no more of a challenge than the regular level cannon fodder. Minigames break up the boss battles, but are again rather underthought pattern repetition tasks masquerading as primitive rhythm action games. The only prizes for completing these games: More lives that you'll never get to use.

Ultimately Tempo Jr. fails to impress as a game in its own right, but is interesting as a spin off from a rather obscure Sega series that by all accounts has a couple of gems in the canon. Its one for the completists, but if your new to the series I'd highly recommend starting with its 32 Bit counterparts Tempo 32X or Super Tempo on Sega Saturn. Though either game may cost you a pretty penny to track down these days.

Favourite Moment: Defeating one of the many boss battles sees Tempo the funky cricket joined by Katy the dancing butterfly in a fully choreographed dance off together. The impressive animations showing off the capabilities of the breeze block of 8-Bit handhelds

Monday, 13 June 2011

Wait A Minute Who Pressed Start? Am I On The Left Or The Right? What? Well Which Colour Am I?...Oh I'm Dead Now

Last night finally saw the long awaited meeting of six men who for certain unfathomable reasons (and some reasons slightly more fathomable like geographical location, family commitments and the need to keep mortgage companies and debt collectors off their backs) don't get the chance to actually play the precious games they hold close to their hearts. And surely that's the point of a game isn't it? Play.

The night also marked a reunion of sorts for the talented folk who brought you Screenplay, Nottingham's, the UK's and the World's (clarification needed here) first ever weekend long video game festival with the sole purpose of celebrating video game culture. The evening was also a dry run for a potential public event tentatively titled Retro Arcade, to bring classic multiplayer tournaments to as yet unconfirmed venues in Nottingham. But more on that in the future. The line up: Myself, Paul Drury (journalist for Edge and Retro Gamer and friend to the stars, well Billy Mitchell), Jamie Salmon (game reviewer for The Evening Post and several online publications), Noel Murphy (artist, musician, cinema projectionist and all round AV wizard), Leigh Heathcote (Game fanatic with an incredible talent for breaking consoles) and Rich (errm...all round nice guy).

The evening kicked off with a couple of rounds of Treasure's superlative shooter Gradius V projected on to a huge wall of Nottingham's Switch Studios, as the beer flowed (and spilled) we took a look at God Hand, Vib Ribbon and Amplitude all the while our competitive spirits reaching new highs and our command of the Queen's English reaching new lows. Capcom Vs. SNK took us over the edge, the well worn disdain for Ken reared its ugly head. But before actual flaming shoryukens could start flying trusty Leigh sat on a PS2 pad cable, flipping the machine on its head and rendering the console useless. We'd had our first casualty, but thanks to Leigh it wasn't a human one. We salute you.

The tension was so thick you could cut it with an LCD handheld, so that's exactly what Paul did, 12 of them to be exact. Wasting no time he offered up his 'Handheld LCD Score Attack Challenge' (TM) that pitted all six challengers to select a handheld, shoot for their best score, pass on to the next player and repeat. It was a joy to hear the blips and beeps of Christmas morning circa 1986, buzzing around the studio, but it also gave me a new found sympathy for my poor parents who had to endure that sound all day long. I grabbed Tomy's Caveman (ooer), a favourite from my childhood and was immediately drawn in by its colourful display and surprisingly still engaging mechanics. As I struck the dinosaur and stole his eggs my score climbed: 500, 600. I attacked the pterodactyls, struck the dinosaur again, squirrelled the eggs away in my cave: 1200, 1300. I dodged the lava from the erupting volcano, attacked the pterodactyls now swooping for my eggs, struck the dinosaur again, my cave now bursting with dino eggs: 1900, 0...0?...Fucking 0? I appealed to my fellow challengers my score had reset, but there was a more pressing issue, Leigh sat with a suspiciously unnoisy version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in his hands. The guilty, uneasy expression said it all. We'd had our second casualty. But God bless him. It was probably rubbish anyway. His uncanny anti-Midas touch was a thoughtfully time saving move as now there were only five handhelds to get through each. Leigh, we salute you.

In the mean time the others were getting to grips with the games of yore, the challenge more akin to Wario Ware, than the actual challenge of the games themselves, the first few lives often spent figuring out what the hell anyone was doing. Also in the mix were Nintendo's Turtle Bridge, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. Cement Factory and Rain Shower. But it seemed clear Jamie and Noel were taking the leaderboards by storm, While we sat and twiddled our thumbs they furiously attacked D-pads and jabbed buttons with theirs. When the scores were finally calculated our suspicions were correct. For the finale Paul pulled out all the stops producing from his bag of dreams one of the highly sought after 2 player Game & Watches...Wait for it...Punch Out.

As Jamie and Noel duked it out on one of the slickest looking vintage Game & Watch's in existence, Myself and Leigh were tasked with rigging up a six player Saturn for the night's main event. I know what you're thinking. Leigh and electronics. But in a bizarre twist of fate everything went smoothly. Leigh, we salute you.

Noel emerged victorious from the mini slug fest, and was crowned king of the 'Handheld LCD Score Attack Challenge' (TM), first prize a copy of Horace and the Spiders for the Speccy, the runner up prize for Jamie a gold Midway pin badge. All courtesy of Paul's overstuffed vintage game cupboards, or maybe just from stuff he'd found under the bed. Either way, what a generous chap.

So the Saturn was set up, the multi tap and six pads turning the usually rather boring looking slab into an ominous looking giant black squid. Grabbing onto the tentacles: six guys with a score to settle. The final game of the night was Jamie's choice and perhaps the most bizarre and probably the most elusive Easter egg ever conceived. Death Tank Zwei is the dream child of Lobotomy Software, creators of Exhumed and is only available via a couple of strange routes. Destroying every toilet in Duke Nukem 3D on Saturn will unlock the game, or failing that creating a save file in Quake on the Saturn system, then launching the Duke Nukem 3D disc will make the game selectable from the menu. I advise Saturn owners with a multitap to go to the lengths to track down copies of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D as what we witnessed after this rather elaborate setup left quite an impression on the six of us.

Death Tank Zwei is a simplified version of the Worms style 2D combat game, however unlike Worms, battles are played out in real time on randomly generated terrains and can only be fought in multiplayer. The game is incredible fun, tasking you with judging the distance needed to launch and land your missiles (or whatever weapon you have selected) on target, and little else. The mini skirmishes are set to an ever eroding landscape, meaning as the fight goes on, that stronghold you started out with behind the mountain, is reduced to rubble leaving you and your standing opponents often in a furious machine gun shoot out to the death. The battles themselves are over in minutes, if not seconds so its lucky (?) the game defaults to a 'best of' 50 matches. Between these battles, points earned for performance can be spent on weapons and upgrades. Foolishly the others squandered their hard earned points on poultry nukes and air strikes. But I knew that I would be the envy of the battlefield when I had saved up enough points for the 'Death's Head'. Little was known of what this, the most expensive gem in the Death Tank Zwei arsenal could do. But based on the name alone, I waited, as the rounds came and went, I saved cautiously while the others spent frivolously. Finally I had the 250 points needed, and made no hesitation. The next round I cued up my Death's Head, and pushed the A button. Oh sweet pixelated death rain, it was glorious, flattening not only my opponents but the entire hillside in seconds, and well worth the wait. Make no mistake: Death Tank Zwei is a great party game, and was conceived long before party games were the sole endeavour of JLS and Ant & Dec. The game offering those essential two factors true of all the best party games: easy for newcomers to pick up, impossible for the initiated to put down.

Noel once again emerged victorious and we all declared that in a concerted effort to ensure Noel didn't win again we would call it a night. In terms of the future of Retro Arcade: things are looking promising and rolling out this kind of fun to the general public would be a blast. Plus I didn't even get the chance to pull out my designated game for the night: A Gamecube and GBA with Pac Man Vs. Until next time...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Starfox 64 Finds A New Voice On 3DS...Literally

Fanboys and girls appear to be up in arms again at the release of Nintendo's latest trailer for Starfox 64 3D. What's the matter this time? Well their precious voice actors have been rerecorded and sound slightly different from the original game. OK, I have to confess I do have a soft spot for the original voice cast and admit a certain element of nostalgia will be lost without them. But its not as bad as the teenage contingency of Youtube are making out. Afterall, no one seems to mind the graphical overhaul of these remakes, but try to upgrade the sound quality and the Youtube furore quickly spirals from being slightly dismayed at Nintendo to race hate and bigotry towards anyone not from White Middle America. Other new improvements to the original include full motion controls via the 3DS system, meaning you can pilot your Arwing by moving the console alone. Another neat little touch is a live feed from the internal 3DS camera showing as an icon above your competitors in multiplayer battle mode. Nothing like seeing the actual frustration on your friend's face as you tear his Arwing to pieces with laser blasts. Do a barrel roll!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Oh No, He's Ranting Again

I'm sorry, but I have to share my frustrations with you. Some game collectors actually make me swear at my computer. I don't know who's worse, them and their ridiculous little worlds or me for discovering their ridiculous little worlds. The last time I felt like this I had found a forum thread with pictures of a guy's horrid little pokey bedroom, probably in his mum's house, that showed you his ramshackle collection of consoles sat on an old chip board hi fi unit, challenging the reader to comment on his set up. Like I give a shit. But somebody actually did. He'd actually got into a debate with someone about whether the XBox 360 would look better stood up or on its side, and neither party was taking the piss. Oh and then there was that time that a guy on Youtube reviewed the shape of the Sega Genesis cartridge (???). Here's my review of the Sega Genesis cartridge: Does it fit in the Genesis cartridge slot? Yes. Brilliant, 10/10. And that's already too many words wasted on the topic. So what's got your goat this time Matt? Well it just happens to be a forum topic over at Racketboy's site (don't get me wrong Racketboy's site is an incredibly well researched and invalauble resource) entitled: How to properly wind up controller wires?

Just think about that for a second...


Here's how: Round your neck really tight. Idiot. Don't believe me? Knock yourself out:

Actually Depressing Update: Really sorry but there's more and an inexplicable urge to share it with you. These forum threads are strangely addictive. The worst thing about this one? This guy's really depressing lack of just general tidiness or a pride in his living quarters. Who actually lives like this? I have a lot of video games but I would never let it get to this? Its like someone asking you what you thought of their kitchen, then showing you a picture of said kitchen that had just been left for months, no washing, nothing clean, dried egg on the surfaces, bits of mould on top of old glasses of orange squash. I couldn't care less about other people's games collections at the best of times. But when they are presented like this:

Anyone else imagining his place smells faintly of ketchup? But still they comment, virtually patting this fool on the back and offering pleasantries about how to clean up after himself with storage solutions. These folk are weird. But you don't need to take my word for it...

You've Really Got To Take Your Hat Off To Nintendo

OK, OK. So we've all seen the keynote speech, marvelled at the new controller, wondered what Nintendo has in store for us in the glossy hardcore HD future and looked slightly bemused at the lacklustre redesign of the original white box. So I'm not gonna talk about any of that here when hundreds of others have said it better and in more depth elsewhere on the internet. But nobody has yet reported on the absolute genius of the Wii U's marketing strategy. Many scoffed at Nintendo for roping in granny, mum, dad and the kids for a family afternoon of Mario Kart followed by a slightly sanitised, and decidedly unsweaty work out regime. But boy do they have the big boys by the balls now. Nintendo's strategy is simple:

She likes Zumba Fitness, He Likes Call Of Duty

Nuff said. Here's looking at the indispensable video game system of the future. What? You didn't see that coming Sony and Microsoft? No none of us did. So here's to Nintendo and its recapturing of the hardcore, and the retention of your new found audience. Afterall when they told you last year that Mario has been 'part of the family since 1985' you believed them didn't you? That's not how it went down in my house in the 80s, we didn't even have a Nintendo, I say we, my family had no bloody interest in my Commodore 64.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Cosplay's Not What It Used To Be...

In honour of my recent review of the 'live action' Street Fighter: Real Battle On Film, I thought I'd bring you this veritable smorgasbord of other real life Street Fighters. Remember, don't try this at home, or by a lake, or in a back garden or at school, and especially not when there is a flip camera around...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Surreal Fighter II: Hyper-Condriac Edition. No You Are Not Ill... It Really Happened: Game 0010

OK, this one's just odd. But where else can you watch a poor man's Scott Bakula do a dragon punch? take into battle the scrawniest 'digitised' versions of your typically muscley World Warriors? and feast upon Kylie Minogue's first and last ever appearance in a video game? Only in legendary developer Capcom's bizzarro series offshoot: Street Fighter: Real Battle on Film, their ill judged attempt at making the game of the movie of the game, phew. After all I can think of no more a fitting tribute to the late Raul Julia then digitising his stunt double to star in a game that would be released just as his actual body laid still cooling in the morgue. His family must have been touched.

So is the game really as bad as it should be? The answer is a resounding and rather pleasing no. Developed by Capcom of Japan the game is a pretty faithful recreation of the Super Street Fighter II Turbo game engine, employing all the mechanics of the above installment and doing so with the solid controls expected of Capcom. It's clear that the game was developed as a product to export to the West, cashing in on the (debatable) success of the Street Fighter movie. Similarly its digitised visuals are a clear attempt to compete with Midway's Mortal Kombat, that fleeting threat to the beat 'em up crown of the early nineties. Though I have always maintained that anyone who championed Mortal Kombat as a serious contender must have been something of a Kock.

Graphically the animations are not as fluid as the hand drawn sprite work of the previous games in the series, with low frame rate animations and equally horrible environment graphics that are often laughable. The familiar riffs and beats of the series have also been ditched in favour of more generic music filler. But I really can't say I didn't enjoy the whole experience. For all intents and purposes this is a perfectly playable Street Fighter II, albeit a rather surreal one. Fans of the series should definitely give it a look, if only for the fact that Capcom will never take this kind of risk again.

Favorite Moment: Its often a hoot to see the actors giving it their best shot at replicating poses ingrained in most die hard fans memories. But there's just nothing menacing about a skinny bloke with a neat side parting in over sized red pyjamas grimacing at you after a fight.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Official Shinobi 3DS Announcement Trailer Released

OK Griptonite, I take back my threat about the 3D shuriken bonus stage. This looks great.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Joe Mushashi In The Third Dimension. Lets Hope That Means A 3D Shuriken Firing Bonus Stage

Fresh from Youtube, comes this supposedly 'leaked' trailer for the new Shinobi title on Nintendo 3DS. Complete with burnt in timecode and file name of Shinobi_Trailer Smacks of a marketing stunt most fanboys and girls would wet the bed over. But what do I care? What it means to me is a brand new instalment of my favourite franchise ever. In 1987, when I was 9 years old, nothing mattered to me except racing around on my BMX, playing computer games and practising the ancient art of Ninjitsu in the local nature reserve, no surprise then that the original arcade Shinobi just seemed to speak to me, and sowed the seeds of a 24 year (minus the odd dud in the canon) love affair. Lets just hope developers Griptonite and Sega have had the foresight to take the gameplay back to its side scrolling, ninja magic casting, two tiered, action roots. And listen Sega, I'm really not joking about the 3D shuriken throwing bonus stage. You'd be fools not to. That is all.

Update: Digging around the internet I found this tantalising screenshot:

Monday, 23 May 2011

Stop Press: PS2 'All Star Fighters' Stars None Other Than Giant Pin Up: Riho Futaba

My time spent with Tamsoft's Demolition Girl this weekend (see review below) has left me yearning for more of Riho Futaba and her crazy monster life in Tokyo. Digging around Youtube I found this clip of All Star Fighters. A Playstation 2 budget beat em up that stars many of the characters from D3 Publisher's Simple 2000 series published in Japan. A number of these titles were localised to Europe by 505 Games Street often loosing content from a squeeze of the original game down to a size that would fit on CD to make costs even cheaper and no longer under the Simple 2000 moniker. The game looks like great fun, sort of Marvel Vs. Capcom for B-game characters. In the clip you can watch Riho fight Aya, bikini zombie slayer of Onechanbara fame and an E.D.F. foot soldier from the Earth Defense Force series. The eBay hunt begins.

Update: Managed to bag a brand new copy of All Star Fighters from Amazon for £9.99. Sweet deal. So expect a review of the game in the coming weeks. Also found that Riho Futaba has been moonlighting in a second PS2 title: Fighting Angels is an all female wrestling game from D3 Publisher. Jeez that girl gets around. This game was a staggering 25p on Amazon. Woah! See a video of the action at this link:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Plan 9 From Way Out East: Game 0009

Just as B-movies came to the fore as an opposition to the glitzy, high budget, Hollywood studio fare of the 50s, in recent years we have seen a trickle of B-games being released far from the front lines of the mainstream video game marketplace. This sub-genre has its pioneers in designers like Swery and Suda 51 the self styled 'cult' directors of interactive entertainment. And much like the handful of directors of those old B-pictures that have endured, this new wave of gamemakers are fast becoming regarded as the medium's auteurs. While no such praise should be showered at developer Tamsoft, Demolition Girl's attempts at subverting the sci-fi/monster movie genre, its acute Japanese sensibilities and its fine line between intentional and accidental humour display all the trademarks of this recently applauded subgenre.

Demolition Girl (barely) tells the story of pin up model Riho Futaba, who after being bitten by a tiny alien on a photoshoot (?) has grown to a seven storey giant intent on laying waste to Tokyo, firing Hadoukens at you and taking every opportunity to show you her bikini clad, hill sized jiggling breasts and hillock sized wiggling ass. Did I mention it was Japanese? You play the army and its your job to gather information on the creature, subdue her and ultimately defend Miss Futaba from an imminent alien invasion intent on destroying oversized bikini models and the rest of the world (probably).

Fans of similar B-game titles Mr. Moskeeto and the Earth Defense Force series will know what to expect from this ridiculous yet charming slice of fanciful Japanese culture. The game displaying genuine moments of comedy that often overshadow the rather cumbersome control layout. One such stand out scene involves measuring the size of Riho's breasts. Fortunately your helicopter is fitted with a double barrelled giant breast sized measuring ray. Thank heavens. Its impossible not to take the whole game with a pinch of salt and the promise of ever more ludicrous scenarios from the six missions on offer is enough to keep you glued to your pad. This isn't Shakespeare, but when you're tasked with measuring boobs, injecting a giant woman in the ass, fighting off alien skull caps and dogfighting aliens to save a subdued, helicopter winched Miss Futaba, who cares?

While not in the same league as the modern works of the B-game auteurs. Demolition Girl throws some interesting ideas into the mix with a wry smile and it may just become a title with some historical significance if the B-Game genre continues to gather momentum.

Favourite Moment: In order to aid in measuring our bulging bikini model's parts the army have issued you with special weapons. A pull of the L1 trigger fires a huge bomb capsule, bursting to reveal a sports stadium sized slice of strawberry cake. That'll slow her down, all girls love cake, right?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Capcom Assembles Crack Team For New Action RPG: 'Dragon's Dogma'

Capcom's latest project, an open world action RPG, brings together many of the developer's greatest talents, including direction from Devil May Cry series helmer Hideaki Itsuna and Resident Evil 4 producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi. Capcom boast that this is the largest development team they have ever employed on a project, that's no surprise if they are to meet their optimistic release deadline of early 2012. In the meantime take a look at this opinion splitting trailer seeming to deliver distinctly western looking visuals, fast paced action and a Shadow Of The Colossus style battle in the air. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Which One Of Those Dots Is Me?: Game 0008

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is sure to split anyone who plays it into two firm camps. Those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh, that game just raped my eyes' and those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh that game just raped my eyes'. The difference? Whether the player grins from ear to ear jabbing the start button for another try, or simply stands there scratching their head much like asking neanderthal man to describe his favourite iPhone app. Let me make this very clear: Bangai-O is NOT for everyone. Developer Treasure's over the top shooter/puzzler hybrid is now in its third incarnation and its not the easiest series to get to grips with. Those expecting a traditional mech-shooter need not apply. However those that persevere past its 'uber bullet hell' exterior will be rewarded with one of the most innovative and addictive video games ever to grace a console.

In Bangai-O going in guns blazing is never a good strategy. The series is and always has been a test of patience, of risk and reward, a subtle blend of exploration, experimentation and all out fireworks when things get seriously heavy. Like Platinum's Vanquish, the game's mechanic rests on a knife edge balancing act of resources. Playing things steady and slow, before finding an opening to unleash screen filling counter attacks. These counter attacks work in relation to the number of enemy bullets or missiles in your vicinity. If your surrounded by 100 bullets when you retaliate, you'll fire 100 missiles back, get surrounded by 1000 bullets and you'll fire 1000 back, forcing you to steer yourself into 'seat of your pants'/imminent death territory in order to unleash level destroying retaliations. The largest of these attacks triggering a satisfying 16-bit 'slow down' effect letting you indulge in the majesty of the damage you're about to unleash. Your mech is also equipped with two switchable guns (the types determined by the levels themselves) and dash and freeze attacks, that can push threw or halt enemy fire respectively and as with all Treasure's greatest titles you'll need to employ every single trick up your sleeve to finish the game's huge selection of 100 levels.

The levels themselves are selectable in any order from the off, meaning that trickier challenges can be left and then revisited as you progress further into the game. Bangai-O HD takes all the anarchy laid down by the previous games and pushes everything up to eleven. The super smooth 3D graphics not straying too far from their sprite based origins as to be unrecognisable, but allowing for ever more complicated Spiro-graph inspired missile explosions. Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury really is an incredibly accomplished video game celebrating, in true Treasure style, what it means to simply be a video game. No other developer would dare to twist the mech shooter genre so far as to reduce your 5 storey high mech to a mere centimetre, have you collect fruit like you were Pac-Man, or volley a sports centre worth of footballs at robots considerably bigger than you. And you've got to love 'em for it. Its Bangai-O's fiendish tests of mental dexterity however that clearly stands the title out as something quite individual. Like the best puzzle games, the challenges on offer force you to try, re-evaluate your strategy and try again, and do so with that often elusive 'one more go' ingredient.

Favorite Moment: Early sections of some stages often serve up tiny cityscapes, that when blasted reveal a plethora of power ups. Drilling these tiny conurbations with missiles unleashes a satisfying string of Wilhelm screams as the occupants inside crumble with their buildings.