Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Manic Miner (ZX Spectrum)

Manic Miner ZX Spectrum loading screen
Today I'm taking a brief look at classic platform game Manic Miner, prequel to the slightly more infamous Jet Set Willy, and still fairly notorious in its own right. It'll be 30 years old this year and has been ported across to a dozen systems so far, from the C64 and BBC Micro to the Game Boy Advance and Xbox 360, though I'll be playing the original ZX Spectrum release because it's the most genuine article.

Most of the time I'm playing these games blind, but I have to admit that I know a bit about this one already. Manic Miner and I go way back. Though I never did get past the level with those damn toilet monsters, so If I can just manage that then perhaps I'll feel like I've actually achieved something.

WARNING: The game over screen flashes like crazy. Do not stare directly at my inevitable game over screen gif. In fact, it's a ZX Spectrum game so it's probably best to not look at any of the screenshots at all.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force (PC)

Star Trek Voyager Elite Force logo
The Star Trek franchise hasn't quite done so well as its arch-nemesis Star Wars when it comes to games over the years, perhaps because Trek has always been about working through problems and moral dilemmas, something that's tricky to adapt. On the other hand Star Wars is more about using the force and locking s-foils in attack position, things that can directly translate into straightforward action games like Jedi Knight or TIE Fighter. Though I'm sure the fact that George Lucas owned his own top tier developer probably helped.

For Elite Force though the Trek license was entrusted to Raven Software, the people who brought the world Heretic and Soldier of Fortune (and would later go on to make Jedi Knight II). So of course they decided to take a series about a group of enlightened pacifists who travel through the stars trying to solve problems with diplomacy and reason, and turned it into a first person shooter with the tagline "SET PHASERS™ TO FRAG".

They could've made a Mass Effect style RPG or a Walking Dead style adventure game, but nope, it's a pure FPS built with the Quake III engine. So let's see how well that worked out for them.

(Most pictures can be clicked to enlarge, though they'll still be covered in ugly nasty jpeg compression artifacts.)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Walker (Amiga)

Walker Amiga Title screen
Walker is one of DMA Design's post Lemmings, pre GTA games, released 20 years ago alongside Lemmings 2. It'd be fair to say that DMA were primarily Amiga developers before they moved to consoles (and eventually changed their name to Rockstar North), but everything they'd made up to this point had all gotten a multiplatform release eventually. Poor Walker on the other hand never made it off the Amiga for whatever reason, dooming it to a lonely future of relative obscurity.

I actually had a go of this a few years back so there's no way you could call this a blind playthrough, but I'm playing it again anyway. Just because I can.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Final Fantasy II 2 SNES US title screen
I'm kind of disappointed this logo doesn't have a animated shine going across it. I guess I've been spoiled by games like Link to the Past and Silver. Also for anyone following the site chronologically, you might have noticed that this is the 5th shiny metal logo in a row. Pure fluke, I promise you.

Alright today I'm taking a look at Final Fantasy IV, (aka. Final Fantasy II) on the Super Nintendo. This was actually the first game in the Final Fantasy series to get a near simultaneous US release, coming out less than sixth months after the Japanese version. They achieved this miracle by just missing out the last two NES games entirely and skipping ahead, renumbering this to FFII and hoping no one noticed. It could've been Final Fantasy I in Europe following that method, but alas us poor Europeans were skipped over entirely once again. Still, I'm just happy the game actually got an English release somewhere this time, as it'll save me from translating it from Japanese as I go, one message box at a time.

My associate Ocean already wrote up his thoughts on this game in a guest post last year, but I've been playing through the series in order and I didn't want to miss this out, so please ignore his hard work and insights, and consider this the one true FFIV article on the site.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ken's Labyrinth (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

What do you get when you combine the long-standing Epic Games, makers of the Unreal engine, with Ken Silverman, who single-handedly created of the Build engine used in 3D Realms' Duke Nukem 3D?

It's gotta be a recipe for some high-action, tech-packed excitement!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

BlaZeon: The Bio-Cyborg Challenge (SNES)

BlaZeon SNES title screen
Today as requested, I'm taking a quick look at BlaZeon: The Bio-Cyborg Challenge, a SNES arcade port with a shiny chrome logo and absolutely zero title screen music. Looks like it should be called Blaze-On, but isn't.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Snake Rattle N Roll (NES)

Snake Rattle n Roll title screen NES
And the award for twinkliest title screen goes to...

Alright, here's another requested game, Snake Rattle n Roll on the NES, created by legendary developer Rare back in the days when they made games instead of Xbox Avatars.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Spider-Man (GBA)

Spider-Man: The Movie title screen
At last, the game that no doubt everyone's been waiting for: the GBA version of Spider-Man (The Movie)! Though this title screen music definitely ain't the Spider-Man: The Movie theme. Sounds like it'd be more at home in Spider-Man: The Old Amiga Game.

This is another case of a handheld game released alongside a console game with the same title, same cover art, same everything... except for the actual game inside the box. I get why they do it, they want to sell two games with a single marketing campaign (plus in this case it's a movie tie-in as well), I just wish they'd give each version a subtitle or something so it's clear that they're different products.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Master of Orion (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

Master of Orion is a game I’ve heard mentioned many times. I’m slightly rule breaking with this one, as there was actually a section in a game guidebook that I had in the nineties which broke down this game, alongside others such as Masters of Magic and Sim City 2000. However, I don’t remember any of the pearls of wisdom from that guide at all.

Well… except for the fact that this is a game about SPACE.

As I load the game up, the title screen certainly goes along with this one thing I know. At this point I still don’t really know what Orion is. A planet? A galaxy? Wait, I think I remember ‘Orion’s Belt’ being a space thing.

No time for speculation however, as without a moment’s pause this fiery giant is attacked by a space armada!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Rescue on Fractalus! (Atari 8-bit)

Well there goes the once mighty LucasArts, shifted by Disney from 'internal development to a licensing model' a few months after their acquisition to no one's great surprise. Sure you could argue that not much has changed by this as they've basically just been licensing out Star Wars games for a good while now, though somehow I never lost hope that they could turn it around and recapture some of their former glory (and maybe even make us a damn Star Wars point and click adventure already.)

But nope, three decades after LucasArts' first appearance with Rescue on Fractalus! and Ballblazer for the Atari 5200, the last games with their name attached ended up being Angry Birds Star Wars and Kinect fucking Star Wars. If they'd been the developer for those titles I'd say it was practically a mercy killing, but they were actually busy making the awesome looking Star Wars 1313 when the axe fell. So tragic.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars (GBA)

Zone of the Enders Fist of Mars Title Screen
Here's another requested game for y'all: Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, for the Game Boy Advance. A relentlessly, fervently and strenuously requested game in fact. Hopefully now I've finally gotten around to playing it I'll be able earn myself some peace.

I honestly don't know much about the Z.O.E. franchise, except that it's about giant robots shooting at each other, though I have a feeling that they tend to be 3D third person shooters. But that isn't usually the GBA's style so I don't know what to expect from this. Judging by the music I'm guessing... Ridge Racer style racing game.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Final Fantasy III (NES)

Final Fantasy 3 title screen famicom
I took a look at Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II on the NES recently, so Final Fantasy III seemed like the logical next step, but I've stumbled across slight snag in my scheme: It turns out that Square never actually released the game in English. At all. The game wasn't ported across to the WonderSwan like the last two due to it being huge, so there was no PlayStation Origins release and no Dawn of Souls style port for the GBA.

Okay sure it got a full 3D remake for the DS in 2006, but that's not really the same thing. I want to see what the original game was like in all its low-tech pixelly glory and rule #3 in the column on the right says I can't play a fan translation. But I'm too stubborn to just skip the game entirely and move onto FF4, so I'm gonna do this the hard way: with a chart of Japanese letters and Google Translate.

I bet I don't even make it past the first quest.

Semi-Random Game Box