Monday, 31 August 2015

This Months Video Game purchases: August 2015

Ok so it is that time of the month again, the time when one month is almost over and a new one is about to begin so it is time once again to look at the retro purchases I have made. I may also at the end this by talking about some of the more modern games I have picked up along the way just to let you all know that I am not stuck completely in the past.

So I started off on the first of the month by buying a Playstation 2 for £10 with its pad and all its wires. I think price wise this is a pretty good purchase but I guess the main reason I did it is because the one in my collection is missing the guard from its CD tray.

It was only a few days after this on the fourth of the month that my daughter called me to let me know that they were selling off some games in a semi local charity store. Cant split the cost of these on an item by item basis as they told me if I just grabbed everything I wanted and made them an offer they wouldn't bother pricing them up individually. I spent £20 on the games below.

Dynasty Warriors 2, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, Jak 3 (Platinum), Tak The great Juju Challange. Winx Club, Malice, Sonic Gems collection, Yu-Gi-Oh - The Duellists Of The Roses, Tokobot Plus, Stitch Experiment 626, Peter Pan - The Legend Of Neverland, Animaniacs - The Great Edgar Hunt, Super Monkey Ball Adventure, Mystic Heroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja: Mutant Melee For the PS2 all complete, Astonishia Story and Daxter for the PSP complete and New super Mario Bros and Fossil League for DS complete.

I was quiet surprised to find that of these games Winx Club was the one with the highest supposed worth selling for around £15 online complete on its own. I looked up the approximate amount the above would tend to sell for and it was around £80 which made me quiet happy overall.

A day latter I got Sclaer, Bionicle heroes, Disnyes Piglets big game, Garfield 2, Casper and the ghostly trio, robots and Stuart little 3 big photo adventure (A Reviewers copy) all for PS2 complete and Nintendogs Labrador and friends complete for DS for £10.

Over the next week or so from there I ordered a cartridge only copy of Ringside Angels for £6 including postage, Race Driving cart only for the snes for £3.50 including postage and TOYS, Complete for the snes, it was advertised as being an NTSC American copy but turned up and was Pal, it was £4 including postage.

Towards the end of the month I have found myself picking up CID The Dummy, M.A.C.H: Modified Air Combat Heroes, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for £8 only downside is Kingdom hearts doesn't have the manual. I also grabbed a copy of Super RC PRO-AM cart for gameboy for £1 a complete copy of everybody's golf for psp for 25p. I got the following for £1 each on Playstation 1 Syphon filter 2, Quake 2 and Ape Escape (platinum) and Resident Evil code veronica X, Grand Theft auto 3 and Grand theft auto vice city all for Playstation 2 all complete at £2.50 for the lot.

I would say in general that this was a much better month for grabbing Retro games than last month, I probably wouldn't have brought the few bits and pieces I did from ebay and would have just relied on what I found but I ended up buying the Japanese wrestling game because I owned it as a kid and someone reminded me of it, I saw a copy cart only for the cheapest price I had seen it in a long time and decided it might be a now or never moment. If not for this conversation I would probably have given it a miss. The Snes games I also mostly brought so that I could review them, neither of them were things I had fond memories of or a real desire to try but I thought they would help me make decent reviews.

As you might have been able to guess from some of my reviews and opinion pieces at the beginning of the month I brought Rare Replay, largely just because it was a way to play a whole bunch of my favourite old games in one place. I cant remember exactly what I paid for it but it was like £17 or £18 pounds which I considered great value for money. I have also brought one other game new and that was Scream Ride from Argos mostly because it was only £13.50 and was something a little bit different to a lot of the games I already own for the machine. I grabbed a second hand copy of Diablo 3 for the Xbox One from a pawn store for £15 and then ordered Dying light from game during a promotion where I paid £21 for dying light and got a pre-owned copy of Assassins creed unity for £1.

I imagine that next month will be a lot less exciting when it comes to game purchases, for one it is my fiancĂ©es birthday month so need to hold something back to treat her right, I also think I might have ran out my retro luck for awhile but I guess we will just have tot wait and see. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A debate about separating the Art from the Artist

It wasn’t long ago that I was talking about Hulk Hogan and his removal from the WWE and I don’t really mean to repeat that blog even if it might seem like I am but bear with me and this will all make sense I promise. Now some people would disagree with me here but wrestling is an art form, in fact it is not all that different from the world of dance, it is about selling choreographed movements which tell a story. Now while some people are appalled that Hogan there childhood hero is a racist they still don’t think that his matches should be hidden away, they can in their minds separate Hulk Hogan the person from Hulk Hogan the wrestler, the performer , the artist.

It is not exactly the first time wrestling fans have had to deal with a report which cracks one of their heroes’ halos Lex Luger was first arrested on April 19th, 2003 for beating his girlfriend and wrestling celebrity Miss Elizabeth he was charged with a misdemeanour count of battery and released on $2,500 bond. Both of the Hardy boys have been done for drugs charges, Stone Cold was arrested in 2002 and charged with the domestic abuse of his wife. Then of course there is everything that happened with Chris Benoit this is just a small sample of things but the truth is this kind of behaviour is not limited to wrestlers.

I was talking to someone else roughly my age when the Hulk Hogan news broke and his first comment was ‘’oh sheesh not another one, is there anyone from my childhood who hasn’t done something, Savile, Rolf Harris now Hogan who next? It is just not safe to like anyone in any way shape or form is it?’’

The thing is when you stop and really think about it the chances are good that if you were to look deeply in to the private lives of all of the artists you have ever appreciated or admired you would more than likely be able to find something which would in some way sour your view of them. If you were to then decide that you wouldn’t watch anything featuring anyone who has offended you on any level then it’s quite possible that you would drastically cut down the amount of things you could watch, listen to, read or experience.

A lot of people look at things such as operation Yewtree and all of the other incidents that seem to have come to light since then and think that we are in some kind of worst point in history. The real truth is that when you look back at it history is absolutely full of tales of artists behaving badly or being somehow less than what we might hope they are. Composer Richard Wagner was apparently an anti-Semite. Famous Novelist Charles Dickens of A Christmas Carol fame apparently lied and basically led a smear campaign against his wife so that he could throw her out of her home and shack up with a younger woman. These are just two examples if you dig a little deeper you can find many more.

The truth is that I don’t things have gotten any worse the simple truth is that we live in an environment where people have less and less privacy and if you say something the chances of it being recorded or found out in one way or another are much higher. There have always been rumours and jokes making out that Walt Disney was both a racist and a misogynist but the truth is that whatever he did or did not say which gave people this opinion was done in a time when we lived under far less scrutiny not only that it was during a time when it wasn’t that unusual for a man to be that way. We didn’t have much in the lines of real evidence for this until Abigail Disney, the grandniece of Walt Disney addressed the whole situation by saying that while her great-uncle was a visionary, he was also anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic. Sure some could claim she was lying but if anything you’d expect a relative to back up there relative especially when it’s a very famous long dead relative. So I guess if you want to feel guilty about watching wrestling matches staring the likes of Hulk Hogan then you need to feel equally guilty about watching anything that comes from the house of mouse.
I suppose some of it comes down to what the person actually did and how deeply the idea of it affects you. I can watch Hulk Hogan matches and take them for the art they are. Lots of other people were involved in those bouts not just his opponents but ring announcers, script writers, bookers and the same sort of thing can be said about the early Disney productions. It wasn’t like Disney wrote and hand drew everything he was just part of it, maybe an important part but still only a part. Hogan and Disney might have been racist or even just said racist things during moments of weakness but still I find it easy to push them to the side and enjoy the art.

Many people will have grown up with Disney and the idea that ‘’when you wish upon a star it makes no difference who you are, your dreams come true, much in the way that Hulkamaniacs will have thought that they could do anything if they ‘’say their prayers and take their vitamins.’’. Hulk Hogan the man might be or have been a racist but Hulk Hogan the hero the legend wasn’t after all he ‘’fights for the rights of everyman’’.  Yet it is easy to take this attitude when someone has effectively just been an asshole, when they have said or thought something that they probably shouldn’t have.
I for example can’t watch a Benoit match without being crushed by the knowledge of what he did, sometimes I start out well thinking hey that was a perfect suplex but then at some point something in me will just click and tell me this man killed his wife and child. Sometimes it is even worse I remember enjoying a film called ClownHouse as a young teen and then latter on I learned that the director Victor Salva had been molesting the film's 12-year-old star, Nathan Forrest Winters, during production, and suddenly it made me view entire segments of the film in a different way. There would be scenes where a young boy would have his top of for no reason and I would stop and wonder was the reason was connected to Salva’s desire for this child. When the artists crimes make you question parts of their work and wonder if there work was in some way inspired by the same thoughts and emotions that led to them committing there crime it is a lot harder to swallow particularly if it is a crime which personally upsets you.

So should you separate the art from the artist?  It is hard to say, I think if you were to never watch anything which featured the work of anyone who had done anything wrong then you’d have to lock yourself in a dark room and ignore everything ever released more or less but I think if you know someone has done something that deeply upsets you to the core and you look at their work and it affects you negatively then this is a perfectly normal reaction. Should the matches that involved Benoit be banned, should a film like clownhouse be banned when we know what we know about Victor Salva? Well Benoit is dead and so he cannot profit from these matches which on the one hand helps with the argument for letting people watch or buy them but then I don’t really like the idea of someone making money on them, maybe the only decent answer is to make any profit that comes from there purchase or viewing go to support a charity which will help people and in some small way bring some good from an awful situation. As for Clownhouse well I guess I feel the same, I do not want Victor Salva to profit from any future release or viewing of the film but then I also recognise that the film is the work of far more people than just him, it might in fact be some actor or crew members only contribution to the world of film. In the end sometimes there are no easy answers because unfortunately the world is not an easy place to live in.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Light in the Darkness: Chapter one... A sample of my writing.

OK so I have mentioned before on this blog that I am a writer and with this in mind I thought I would share a little bit of my work. This is not taken from one of my books nor is it a finished piece, it is a draft of a first chapter, a draft which if ever used will most likely go through a process of rewrites and corrections. With that in mind here it is and I hope you enjoy it.

The Light in the Darkness
Chapter one

The coastal town of Lands’ end was thought to be a somewhat plain place as far as everyone seemed to know nothing much had ever happened in its long history. Yet for its beauty it has often attracted many holiday makers. It was certainly true that the area was filled with natural beauty, jagged rocks and perfect crystal blue water. Sticking out of these waters was an impressive structure a lighthouse which now stands abandoned, yet still remains strangely magnificent. It had been damaged and rebuilt several times, but yet there it remained standing in one form or another, always there always shinning out in to the sea, at least it did until the day it was finally turned off, until the day the light went out for the last time and the horn sounded its final cry into the night sky. Yet despite this there have always been rumours quietly mumbled in the darkest corners of local drinking establishments, rumours that this impressive tower was once the centre of a dark tale. The kind that would bring a shiver to ones spine.

The light had been turned off for the last time with not so much as a sigh or a whimper, nobody seemed to care. At the time the area had enjoyed almost full employment, times were prosperous and the joy seemed to be almost endless. Yet here in the now things are very different, so as the 20th anniversary of the day it was turned off drew closer people were told that it’s a cause for celebration a reason to embrace not only its history but the history of the area in general. Most people were more than happy to accept any invitation to raise a glass in hard times but yet alongside its intended purpose of spreading some much needed joy the announcement of celebrations also seemed to cause a rebirth of the old stories, the tales of incidents of paranormal activity began to be talked about again, only now the stories were not stuck in the darkness coming out of the mouths of drunks, they were being talked about by everyone in the light of day.

The tales told of a time long ago when the light which was supposed to be used to help keep wary travellers away from the rocks was instead perverted by five men, they were called the founders of the town. They used the lighthouses light to deliberately mislead ships, to cause them to collide against the rocks, to sink them in the hope of plundering there goods. These dark legends told of how the profits garnered from this twisted enterprise was used to expand the area, not only did it line the men’s pockets, it allowed them to live comfortably, to have families, to raise children, and this seed of evil was what the town grew out of.

Just a short drive from this point the rain was rhythmically bouncing of the roofs of the houses, some people would think this was a horrid sound, it would signify a sense of captivity.  It would mean that they were stuck inside held prisoner by the weather with no idea when it might stop, of when they would once again be free to step outside. Not everyone see’s rain in the same way though, to one particular young lady it was rather soothing. Jasmin had grown up in a large house with a big family, she was the youngest, and in fact she had later learned that really in some ways she wasn't supposed to have even exited. The doctors had told her mother that she would be unable to have another child but then three years latter against all of the odds her mother had fell pregnant. The birth had been a complex one and it had made her mother rather ill, hearing about this latter Jasmin would feel a sense of guilt but this wasn't the way her mother talked about it, her mother always refer to her as her special little miracle even when she wasn't so little anymore.

Her family might have been large but they certainly were not poor, in fact if she was asked she would have to admit that she had been rather lucky for she had come from a somewhat well-off family. There had never been anything she had been left wanting for, her mother and father had done their very best to make sure she had everything she needed but she knew that all good things must come to an end for she would need to make her own way in the world. It was with this in mind that she had applied to a university with a small campus in Cornwall an area which although wasn't the furthest point away from her family was far enough away for her to be a total stranger, for no one to know who she was or how she had been raised, this was a chance for her to see who she really was when she was away from everyone and everything she had ever known. In a way it seemed like she had only just left home and yet here she was having just finished her 2nd year of university. She had more or less only just turned twenty four as well although she had largely ignored this fact choosing instead to focus on here studies. It had been a hard few months her recently studying for her exams and staying up late in order to write the best essays she could possible write but it had turned out well, she had managed to achieve excellent grades on all of her essays and she felt confident that her exam results would come back with similarly impressive scores. All she knew now was that she had six weeks to calm down to put the past year behind her and to get ready for her final and most important year.

Jasmin had contemplated taking a break over the summer in fact in her mind she had always planned to spend the time doing some travelling.  When she had finished her exams and began to pay attention to her bank account through it soon became apparent that she simply could not afford to go travelling to strange new places so this was simple out of the question. She did consider visiting her parents after all this would not cost anything apart from the price of a train ticket and it had its advantages. Jasmin knew that if she visited her parents were she would be able to eat their food, watch there large television without having to pay for the electricity and would not have to spend a single penny on pretty much anything. At first this seemed like a great idea but then Jasmin thought about it about being back at home. She would have to hear her parents talk about how well her older sister Alisha was doing in her new job, how her and her fiancĂ© were doing so brilliantly. Then there would be the questions, sure she could manage them asking her about her marks and if she had considered what her options would be when she had finished her course but what she couldn't deal with were the personal questions. Why had she never brought a boy home? Didn't she like boys? Was she perhaps a lesbian? 

Going home and spending time with her parents was not the perfect solution after all as it presented its own problems. Jasmin always felt smothered by talk of her wonderful sister who had already finished university, who already had a dependable trust worthy boyfriend and a full savings account. Sure it would be nice to see her folks but she wasn't sure if she could put up with spending the summer in her sisters shadow once again. It was more than that though. She had grown up in what she would describe as a large but warm family, a family filled with love but this was no longer quiet the case. There was her brother Adam. He had grown up in the same environment as her under the same rules and with all of the same chances and yet he had squandered them. He had gotten some young girl pregnant and had several problems with the law. Not only would her mother preach to her about how wonderful her sister was, she would have to listen to her mother curse and moan about her brother. She wasn't sure which was worse in all honesty. It was hard to be told how much better her sister was doing but it was also hard to hear her brother be talked about in such a negative way, especially when her own thoughts and feelings on the matter were always so confused. Yes he had made mistakes, yes he had used poor judgement yet she knew that deep down inside he had a good heart. Their relationship had been so different when they were younger he had been her big brother but he had been so much more than this he had also been like a second father to her in some ways and then she had also idolised him like a super hero. It was hard to focus on who he was now and the things he had done when it clashed so much with the childhood image of him that she had held deep in her heart for so long. Even with the small amount of cash she had, she guessed if she stayed in the local area or maybe took a bus or two there would be things she could see and investigate, after all she might have been in the area awhile but how much time had she really spent wandering? Most of her time had been spent in various lecture halls and in either her flat or the library buried under a sea of course literature. Maybe she would even go to the lighthouse celebration some people had mentioned that was happening close by, after all one of the reasons she had picked this area to attend university in was a longing to be close to the sea. Still she had plenty of time to think about it there was a whole six weeks’ worth of holiday and so she decided to sleep on it before making any rash decisions.

As Jasmin was falling asleep the night was only just beginning for Rochelle, while one girl was tasting toothpaste the other was enjoying the feeling of sweet white wine trickling down her throat. A diet of white wine while walking and dancing on 6 inch heels wasn't the brightest idea that had come in to her head recently but then this moment in her life wasn't about being bright it was about letting go and cutting loose. Some people would have seen her there dancing in the club drinking cheap wine and shaking her ass in a mini skirt and thought that she was some dumb young slut, this couldn't be further from the truth. Jasmin was a girl who was sure she was going places not only was she tall with a beautiful olive complexion a model would kill for she was also a university graduate, she knew she was going places she just wasn't sure where yet. 

There was a lot that Rochelle and Jasmin had in common, they both came from well off families but unlike Jasmin Rochelle was a lonely child. She had no brothers and no sisters, she was her Mum and Dad’s only child they called her there special little princess. They were so happy when she had gotten in to university and even more so when she had begun getting her marks back. This wasn't the only thing that was different between them Rochelle had grown up in this area not only did she know every pub and club she knew every road, ever lane and every back alley, these were her streets and so she never felt any fear about travelling them at any time. She had plans upon plans for what she would do if someone tried to corner her, she had a map in her head of every twist every turn and every bolt hole in the area. She was a confident young lady and it was this confidence which let her step out from the club, that made her feel no hesitation at the prospect of walking from one night spot to another.

Yet somewhere else somewhere not to far away there was a figure stumbling in the night, surrounded by a fog in the darkness not a dull grey rolling fog but instead a fire-lit, ash-dusted fog which moved flowing along with the figure.  A noise seems to come from this fog at first it sounds like a man talking but no there were more layers to it than that, it isn’t the sound of a man it is the sound of a dark choir moaning and sighing in an almost rhythmic fashion, it is a symphony of pain and suffer, a pain and suffering which has continued on beyond the grave. This thing could smell the living, it could taste them in the air so as Rochelle left the club it knew it. Somehow it could taste her sweet perfume even through its own smell a smell which was as dark and disgusting as her perfume was sweet and light enveloped it. It wanted her and yet it didn't quite know why it just knew that she would take away the pain, she would make things better for a time at least. It had to feed things were always much clearer when it began to feed.

Rochelle was simply walking now, as far as she was concerned she was leaving one club and heading to the next. At first she didn't know she was being followed, the fog stayed far enough behind that in her inebriated state she didn't pay any attention to it, in fact the first thing she knew was that the temperature seemed to be rapidly dropping. It had felt almost warm when she had first stepped out and now it seemed to be getting colder by the second.

Suddenly she realised that she was being enveloped by some kind of fog, at first she tried to reach out to find a wall or something she could feel, something she could use as a guide but nothing seems to be near her. Soon she has turned around and stumbled so much that she doesn't even know which way she was originally facing. Then she begins to think that she can hear a sound, she thinks she can hear a voice and the sound of footfalls on the ground. Her heart beats faster and she starts to think that she should run, but she can’t even tell which direction the sound is coming from, this is when she realises that there are lights in the fog, lights which are all around her circling her getting ever nearer. This is when she begins to try and make a run for it, she starts to move quickly now her heels making a noise which sounds almost like a horses gallop but as loud as the noise is the voice has now become louder, not only this but it is now coming from multiple directions, it is not one voice but a choir of voices she can’t make out what they are saying but it scares her, she is so scared that she will freeze in place again so she does the only thing she can think off and clamps her hands over her ears.

Rochelle trips and comes crashing to the floor, the pain is unbearable she looks down at her ankle and realises that she won’t be able to stand on it, but this soon proves to be unimportant because now the lights are upon her. Soon she can see nothing but light, its hot and blinding and it seems to be entering her body at first she is scared but then the voices which were previously harsh seem to become soft and enticing ‘’Join us Rochelle, give in, join us, join us.’’ The voices pleaded and pleaded and what at first seemed scary suddenly seems somewhat pleasant.  The light is replaced with images of some of the most pleasant memories in her life she can simultaneously feel the joy and emotion of the time she was five and she got her first bike alongside her first kiss at fourteen alongside hundreds of other moments of joy and pleasure. For a second she raises her hand up and she can see it is glowing almost as if it is on fire, but there is no pain there it feels good in a way which is beyond words almost as if it was being massaged tenderly, kissed from top to bottom simultaneously at the same moment and bathed in a warm bath. Every nerve seems to be being stroked and teased and pleased all at the same time the feeling spreads throughout her entire body and then in a final flash of light she is gone and the fog begins to retreat slowly dissipating, for now it is satisfied its hunger has been fed and it can think straight again, but more than that it is able to understand things it didn't before it has become somehow more. 

Rochelle’s parents would never know what had become of her, without a body to find they would never even know she was dead, sure they would guess she was dead and yet hope that she was alive but they would never know. Her life had ended in a wave of pure pleasure put the ripples of her passing would create nothing but misery for those who had known and loved her.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Kerbal Space Program is Coming to Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One. Now you might be asking but what is Kerbal Space Program or you might have been one of the lucky ones to have played the game when it first became available on PC through Steam's early access program back in March 2013.

For those who haven't played it well its a game where you control a space program on the behalf of a race of little green goofy guys called Kerbals, The game starts at the Kerbal Space Centre, on their home world of Kerbin. The gameplay consists of constructing various rockets and other types of space craft from the bits and pieces you are given.Once a spacecraft is built, it is placed on the launchpad and is ready for launch. You have to control the ships thrust turn on the stabilisers and disengage used engines. Everything you do has an effect and it actually feels like you are learning more every time you play.

I originally played this game at a Video Game convention and it was a very early build in which things were not very clear, but even at that point I could see the potential. In fact I wrote a large blog post on my last blog talking about the game and how I couldn't wait to play it in greater depth. I got home and brought it but my laptop although it could run it seemed to splutter a little bit more than I would like. Still I spent a fair degree of time trying to achieve my goals. At first I was just simply trying to make a rocket that wouldn't explode at launch or turn over mid flight and crash in to a lake. Soon I progressed on to actually managing to get the rocket in to space and then in to orbit, and then I was attempting to break orbit and head towards there closest moon.

Sure there have been games like this with building vehicles etcetera and using them before but none of them have had the physics this has or the need for intelligence. If you just throw a bunch of pieces together then your spacecraft may very well spin out of control and crash into the ground or even worse over heat and explode on the launch pad. This game even in its early stages was like all of my childhood dreams of going to space condensed in to a single video game which feels both fun but also hard and real enough to make your every success feel like an achievement. Actually managing to get a rocket in to orbit and then getting my Kerbal back safely on the ground not only made me hugely satisfied it also made me feel like I had actually achieved something and if this can make an adult feel clever imagine how great this would make a young child feel even if they do it with a little help.

Back when I was playing the game it was very impressive but was also kind of aimless yet now it has missions with set parameters to meet starting with ones such as achieving orbit, and progressing to landing on the various moons and planets.

I have already spent a lot of time playing this game with my daughter but I am actually looking forward to the prospect of playing it on a console where I am sure it will be a lot more stable than it is on my laptop but even more than this I am looking forward to seeing how well the game plays now it has more of a mission structure to it as opposed to being more of a adults physics toybox.

Hopefully its release on to console will see this game reach a much larger audience, it is also nice to have one more game which I can raise in argument when people start to mention how games are nothing more than murder simulators which do nothing but let children practice shooting people in the head. 

The game has been noted by several scientific institutions with scientists and members of the space industry displaying an interest in the game including NASA. This kind of publicity makes a nice change from the usual press video games seem to get in the newspapers trying to link them to crime and issues with children's mental health. I have also heard of schools using it as part of various science lessons its a big step up from the BBC micro games we got to play once in a blue moon that's for sure, if something as cool as this had been pulled out in one of my science classes I think I would have absolutely lost my mind with joy.

I am excitedly looking forward to this games release and if you haven't already then I strongly recommend you look in to it either if you have children or if you just want to try something a little bit more thoughtful and intelligent than your average video game.

Now who wants a race to the moon called Mun?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

SNES game review 88: Super Return of the Jedi

It is an interesting time to be a Star Wars fan. There is a brand new movie starring pretty much all of the actors from the original trilogy plus some new faces coming out this Christmas but there is also a new big Star Wars game Star Wars battlefront to look forward to on PS4, Xbox One and PC. I was reading about a special limited edition PlayStation 4 that is being released featuring a fully customized PlayStation4 and DualShock4 wireless controller inspired by Darth Vader, a copy of Star Wars Battlefront and a voucher containing download codes for four classic Star Wars games Super Star Wars, Star Wars Racer Revenge Star Wars Jedi Starfighter and Star Wars Bounty Hunter. So what has this got to do with reviewing SNES games? Well Super Star Wars is a SNES game, yes I have already reviewed it but it’s still exciting to see it get re-released on a modern format but its more than that it’s the possibilities its release opens up. There were 3 games in the Super Star Wars trilogy as well as a game based on the first three Indiana jones films released so if the one is coming out surly this opens the door for the others. If a SNES game can be released on the PS4 what is to stop SONY approaching other third party developers who had titles out on the SNES and offering them the chance to put them up for sale in SONY’s PlayStation store?

Obviously this excited me but more than that it convinced me it was the perfect time to review another game in the Super Star Wars trilogy, now I know what you’re thinking, Ok he is going to review Super Empire Strikes Back (or at least you would be if I didn’t throw the title of my review up above my review) but there is a certain bitter sweet thing I have to admit here and that is despite the fact that I really love the game and I am a diehard Star Wars fan I don’t actually own a copy of it and as I said I would only be reviewing games I owned and could play on actual physical hardware well yep you’ve guessed it I jumped to the next one Super Return of the Jedi.

Originally I played Super Return of the Jedi very close to its release because an older friend of mine was a diehard star Wars fan, he collected the old figures (as I also did) he had the posters in his room and he waited patiently for more Star Wars be it film or book or game. We had spent so many hours together watching the films, playing the old Atari 2600 games and talking about it that I guess he felt he needed me to be a part of his experience so on the very day he got the game he rushed over and we jumped in to it.

The main thing to take note of about the third and final SNES adaptation of the original Star Wars trilogy is that it is very much more of the same if you have played either Super Star Wars or Super Empire Strikes back then really what you are getting is more of the same. I think there are a lot of tweaks and a lot of layers of polish added to this game in this way it reminds me of another game, I have talked about another third part to a Trilogy and that is Donkey Kong Country 3. You can see clearly in places that the game is more refined than its predecessors but in being a sequel based on what you could call an upgraded engine it wasn’t as original and as hard hitting as the first in the series. People were generally surprised that Super Star Wars was as great as it was but they walked in to Empire and Jedi expecting nothing less. Just like in the case of Donkey Kong country 3 I feel this game was a little bit shadowed by the PlayStation, sure this game came out about five months or so before the PlayStation but it was to some degree shadowed by the new machines hype, I knew people who were busy selling their Super Nintendo stuff in an attempt to be ready to make the jump to the next generation of machines and these people didn’t stop to look at what was coming out in the here and the now.

Much like in Super Star Wars this game has excellent presentation. The game succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of the film just as well as its prequels did, it has all of the same little touches the opening text crawl the wonderful 16bit rendition of John Williams’ classic music there are also areas in where this game excels above and beyond its predecessors. A much larger cartridge was in fact Super Return of the Jedi came on a 16-Megabit cart which is twice the size of the cart used on the original Super Star Wars. The game needed it as well with far more playable characters, more levels and even more effects.

Something a lot of people talk about with this trilogy is the difficulty, they are often referred to as hard games. In fact when it came to the original I think there was a definite issue with its difficulty curve, with the game seeming to have some rather hard levels early on before you had properly gotten to grips with it there was also some climbing in the game where one bad move could see you screaming as the last fifteen minutes of gameplay was torn out from under you and these issues seem a lot less present in Jedi, strangely to me at least it feels like a much easier game.

In conclusion, do I think this is a better game than Super Star Wars and what kind of score do I think it deserves?  This is a tough question to answer as a sequel it is very much a case of bigger better more and that should make me instantly go yes its better so I guess from that point it is yet I don’t think I can give it a higher score or recommend it over Super Star wars so I find myself stuck giving it the same score 8 out of 10. These games are ideal when treated as parts of a bigger whole. If you want to sample this game it is available on the Wii’s virtual console however if you would like a physical copy unless you’re lucky and find it out somewhere in the wilderness you will be looking at paying about £15 to £20 for a loose pal cart or around £40 for a boxed version. There are certainly far worse games you could spend your cash on.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Horror Discusion: Is Nightmare on elmstreet 2 Freddy's Revenge a Gay movie?

So is Nightmare on elmstreet 2 Freddy's Revenge a Gay movie?

First before discussing this I want to make a few things clear. One I have always really enjoyed this film, I am not using the term gay to try and tarnish the film nor am I trying to claim that being gay is in any way wrong.

Well I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge when I was honestly not really old enough to see it certification wise. So when I watched it I didn't pick up on some of the things other people have mentioned about it, and the only real thing I thought about the central character being a male was that it was a refreshing change of pace compared to all the slasher flicks filled with various female scream queens. Even thinking back about it the things I remembered the most were Freddy's nails scratching the top of the bus, his lines like ''you've got the body I've got the brain.'' The thing is I always watched the nightmare films for Freddy.

So latter when people started saying that the film was full of homoerotic subtext this claim flew straight over my head. I did a little digging and from what I can understand David Chaskin the screenplay writer deliberately wrote homo-erotic subtexts in to the screenplay however the films Director Jack Sholder was completely unaware of this. The male lead Mark Patton who was cast was actually a homosexual but again it seems like this was unknown to the director at the time. The film definitely seems to feel like the director followed the screenplay without ever stopping and thinking ''wait a minute is this a little bit different for a horror film'' who knows maybe he just thought the differences would make it stand out one way or another. I can certainly see why a lot of people would ask questions about things like the main male lead screaming like a girl, was this a way of trying to make him seem gay or was the intention merely to make him seem like a scared child who was no match for a monster like Freddy?

I have seen the fact that the lead dances around in his bedroom to cheesy music wearing glasses and a silly hat used as something used to try and push the gay subtext idea, people have said that a straight teenager would never do this. This in my opinion is a stupid argument to make, after all we all do things in the privacy of our own room that might seem a little silly or goofy, acting an idiot and singing into your own mirror or bouncing on your bed in you underpants is hardly limited to one gender or sexuality. Yet there are subtle things I have noticed which make me believe that more than just one person was trying to feed little bits of  homo-erotic subtext or window dressing in to this film. When Jessie and Lisa are tidying his room there is a little sort of easter egg of sorts where she picks up a green jumper and a red jumper together and puts them up on a high shelf, but if you notice she puts them on top of a board game, a game called Probe. Now you could argue that they just grabbed any old game to put in his room but this is not a game I ever saw all over the place, in fact I don't think I have ever seen a real copy with my own eyes, in fact I had to look it up on the internet to make sure it was real.

Now the film is full of very homo-erotic moment Jesse entering what can best be described as a largely gay bdsm bar, his coach being tied up in the showers and his bare ass being whipped with towels before he is killed. The way Jesse's mum pleads with him to talk to her about it and the way Jesse says he doesn't want to, it all seems to just smack of someone who is unsure of the way they feel, it could very easily be seen as some kind of stand in for his uncertainty about his own sexuality.I could go on and on and break this film down scene by scene but a small blog post is probably not the place to do it.

Writers will often offer the advice to other would be writers write about what you know. I do wonder if the screenplay writer David Chaskin was either gay or was at least at one point unsure about his own sexuality or maybe he knew someone who was. Did he basically write a story about a guy feeling confused about his feelings and his possible sexuality and then work the character of Freddy in to it, using him as a tool to further deal with these issues in a somewhat hidden way? I have looked for interviews with the writer in an attempt to investigate this but can not find anything.

I think it would be impossible to deny that the screenplay for Freddy's revenge wasn't very heavily filled with homo-erotic subtext and through what can probably be best called ignorance on the part of the director this heavily bleeds in to the film itself. To call it merely a piece of homo-erotica though would be to undersell it, it is also in my opinion a brilliant horror film which deals with so much more.

It is also very amusing though to listen to some of the lines that actually made it into this film references to Freddy being inside of him and wanting to take him again, you do wonder how the director could watch the filmed scenes and just not click or at times even laugh.

Is Freddy's Revenge a gay movie?  Yes and No. It is a horror movie and I remember something John Carpenter said about horror films/stories they focus on one of two things the evil out there or the evil inside, maybe he wasnt quiet right though maybe it is not the evil it is the fear of what is out there or the fear of what is inside. I think this movie tries to deal with the fear and confusion a young person might feel about there own sexuality by repackaging it into something less heavy in much the same way classic shows like Star Trek try to deal with issues such as racism and politics by covering them in a heavy coating of science fiction I believe that Freddys revenge tries to deal with the issue of sexuality by covering it in horror so that you can either pay attention to the subtext or can ignore it and simply enjoy the film for some mindless fun it provides

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Games I think get too much hate. 2: Saints Row in general.

I am always one to praise the Saints Row games and to get excited when a new one is released but on most occasions and in most groups I tend to be the only one. I hear people mention the fact that the first saints row was nothing more than a Grand Theft Auto clone and that every Saints Row ever since has just got more and more ridiculous, but this is the very reason I like them. I guess this means in defending Saints Row I will have to talk about GTA quiet a bit but I just want to get things straight I enjoy a lot of the GTA games just not all of them.

Sure the first was just a GTA clone but when the Xbox 360 was out and incredibly popular and Rockstar seemed to be dragging there feet when came to getting a GTA game out on a new system and capitalising on the 360's position. With this in mind can you really blame someone else for seeing that gap in the market and trying to profit off it? I enjoyed the original for what it was but I never viewed it as a classic, I viewed it as a smart business move but also recognised that if they didn't do something to capitalise on this then the game would drop into obscurity the minute a real GTA game was launched.

I had spent many hours messing around on GTA, GTA 2, GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas I loved the games but I appreciated them the most when they didnt take themselves too seriously. When GTA 4 came out it was this grey and brown game, with cars which from my perspective felt almost too realistic in the way they handled, you were constantly getting phone calls from people who you were compelled to spend time it felt to dull too drawn out and too much like real life. This seriousness was a Million miles away from Vice City and its bright lights, 80's music balls to the wall fun.

In Saints Row 2 you get to make your own character, you customize how they look physically and then latter on you get to buy them all manner of clothing, I prefer this to the character of Niko Bellic from GTA 4. Add on to this that GTA 4 stars with meeting your cousin Roman the guy who can charitably be described as the biggest drain of fun in the game, and less charitably described as a moaning bumbling arsewipe who will dog you via your in game mobile until you want to batter yourself to death with your own controller. In Saints Row 2 you start off with an awesome jail break. Yes you can say GTA 4 takes time to get going, it tries to build characters but I will take the explosive fun instead thank you. Its not that I am unsophisticated and cant appreciate a drawn out gripping story, I recently read and enjoyed To Kill a Mocking Bird however a story about gangsters fucking each other up doesn't really need to try and be a literal classic in game form. The first five Grand Theft Auto games were pretty much the video game equivalent of a pulp fiction novel and it didnt do them any harm.

Saints Row 2 was ridiculous but it was fun, the characters in it where over the top and the game could best be described as bat shit crazy. This for me was the game where the Saints Row Series got into its stride where it began to make characters you would care about, they can best be described as a collection of crazy misfits, the psychopath Johnny Gat who thinks he can solve everything by shooting someone in the face, and Pierce the fast talking con-man entrepreneur for example. The great thing about the game as a series though is that someone who is a minor villain or a relatively unimportant character in one game can return in a latter game with a bigger more fleshed out role. When you look at Saints Row 4 in particular there doesn't seem to be a single character from the previous games who has been forgotten more or less everyone at the very least gets talked about.

Grand Theft Auto 5 has actually addressed a lot of my issues with GTA 4 and is a much stronger game than its predecessor in my opinion but its still pretty much a game that stand alone. Every game in the saints row Series fits together, its like enjoying a long running Television series you love, you will play your way through the games and the DLC  and get to see what the characters have been up to. Even though they are humours games some of the characters do go through a lot of development from game to game and this makes you feel connected to them more than you might realise.

The Saints Row games seem to be made with a mantra of ''concentrate on what would be fun and fit the story, the characters and the game around this fun''. Yes they can be over the top, rude, crude and tacky but they are fundamentally silly and fun. You will find yourself doing crazy missions like spraying shit all over rich peoples homes to lower there houses worth, committing insurance fraud by throwing your seemingly indestructible body in to the way of passing cars in order to scam them out of insurance money, If you start from the beginning and go through the games you will find yourself fighting gangsters, wrestlers, zombies, aliens, gimps, leather wearing dominants and even hell-spawns it wont always make sense but it will always be fun.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Summer Slam 2015 pre-event discussion

Summer Slam 2015 Is nearly upon us. So with that in mind I thought it would be nice to discuss my thoughts and in some cases predictions for some of the matches. I could talk about all of them but the truth is I find it really hard to care about some of them. To be honest I will probably end up looking back on this realizing that I have massively missed the mark but then really its all just a bit of fun.

So here is what we have to look forward to Brock Lesnar accompanied to the ring by his manager Paul Heyman against The Undertaker in singles match. Personally I think they are both good wrestlers/entertainers and I think that it will be a decent match but I firmly believe that The Undertaker will win, mostly because after Brock beat the streak if you allow him to cleanly beat Taker then they are really just dumping on Taker. Taker needs to win to save face. A loss wont hurt Brock you will never be able to take away the fact that he is the man who ended Undertakers famous streak.

Randy Orton against Sheamus in a singles match. I have no idea who will win this, in truth I am not invested enough in either of them to have any understanding of there win and loss record against each other or why they are being pitted against each other. If I was to go back to calling it the way I did as a youngster, just saying who I wanted to win because I like them the most then I would be chanting Orton for the course of this match.

Seth Rollins against John Cena in a title versus title Singles match for the WWE United States Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I guess that in doing this title for title they are trying to make some huge event of it, trying to go for some of the excitement of Warrior Versus He who shall not be named in there title for title bout from Wrestlemania 6. I am afraid neither of them are as big as there counterpart. I do think though that Cena has achieved so much that he really doesn't need the push of winning both belts, so personally I think the best move would be to have Rollins win, but knowing the WWE I wouldn't be surprised to see it end in some kind of double count out or disqualification which enables both parties to keep there belts. I would much prefer a good straight win and then watch them remove the lesser belt from the victor whoever it might be after a week or two and put it up in some kind of tournament.

Ryback versus The Big Show versus The Miz in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Now I have always thought the Big Show was pretty cool, yeah he is a big guy and at times his move set can seem to be a little limited but well that never did Andre any harm. I have problems caring about The Miz, they seem to try to be making him in to some form of douche type character but I just dont care enough he doesnt sell the hate. There were times I wanted to kill heel wrestlers like The Million Dollar Man and Ravashing Rick Rude and the Miz just doesnt cut it for me personally, not sure if its something the WWE are doing wrong or something the Miz is not doing. I have to be honest and tell the truth that I have no clue how this match will end.

Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett in a tag team match. Now I could say oh look at the WWE trying to use a famous actor to push a wrestling show yet again they have been doing this kind of crap since the lead up to the first Wrestlemania but I have seen Stephen Amell on RAW, the man was selling it really well, unlike some of the famous people who they have shoehorned into matches and events I am actually looking forward to this. I imagine that either Stehen Amell and Neville will win or they will loose in a way which allows them to still come out the cheered heroes of the match. I do wonder if Stephen Amell will just be on the outside of the ring for ninety percent of it, maybe throw one punch and mostly be there for show or if they will have had him in training learning a move or two, he is an athletic guy who apparently does a lot of his own stunts on the show Arrow. I have never been much of a fan of Neville but I do respect some of the high flying work he does. On the other hand I am very happy to see them making some use of Stardust.

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro in a singles match. Both of these wrestlers seem decent, I have seen them perform some good moves but they just haven't been sold enough to me for me to really care what happens or who wins.

Team Bella (The Bella Twins and Alicia Fox) versus Team B.A.D. (Naomi Knight, Sasha Banks and Tamina Snuka) versus Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch) in a Three-Team Elimination match. I don't mean this in a sexist way at all, in fact I would love there to be some credible female wrestling on air but this is not WWE's strong point.

I find it hard to care about any of the tag team matches the truth is I think the golden days of Tag team wrestling are so far behind us that we are never likely to see anything close to them again. If it was up to me the WWE would focus on rebooting the whole tag team division and it would start with honouring Demolition at the next Hall of fame for there contribution to the world of tag team wrestling and the various records they have held. From there I would look at developing brand new wrestlers who only wrestle as a part of a team, people who train togther whoise ambition is purly to put on the best tag matches possible who are happy to sell themselves to a team instead of trying to be part of a team one minute and a solo wrestler the next. I will end things here as I have gone off on a bit of a tangent.

Friday, 21 August 2015

SNES Game review 87: Kevin Keegan's Player Manager

Whenever a sim related game seems to come to a console I always hear terms on the lines of ‘’oh it’s been dumbed down for the console retards.’’ The truth is yes some things will have to be altered when bringing a game or type of game which has previously relied on the use of a mouse and a keyboard with over 50 keys on it on to a system which uses a joypad with a d pad and only around eight buttons. This doesn't always have to be a bad thing though there are certain games which have made the jump from PC to console which I have really enjoyed. One example would be Sim City, I actually prefer the SNES version, another example would be the original X-Com Enemy unknown, I think that worked really well on the original PlayStation.

Now Kevin Keegan's Player Manager was based on Player Manager a game released in 1990 for the Amiga, Atari ST and PC. Player Manager was the first game to combine both managing and playing. The engine used for the actual football playing part of the game borrows heavily from the match engine used in the Kick Off which was developed by Dino Dini and Anco Software, who also created Player Manager. The best way to describe it is as a very light and quick kick about. The ball doesn’t stick to your feet like in some games, you actually need the skill to move with it, overall it feels very basic and out of your control, it feels sort of like a NES game but really the playing is not supposed to be the focus of this game, it’s a management game that happens to let you play the games as well, at least that’s the way I see it.

This is one case where I wish things had been dumbed down more, when putting the cart in and trying to play it without a manual it really becomes a game of guesswork, a bit of clicking here and there and I soon managed to play a match. You see one of the big draws of this game was supposed to be the fact that you could manage and you could play, but they certainly didn’t dumb things down that much, and they certainly didn’t think that anyone might one day pick this game up without a manual. I am there trying to play the game and I am met with icons. I find myself clicking one thing to see what happens finding myself on another screen full of icons, being met with a dead end in one case and then seeming to come full circle with the frustration growing. Eventually I managed a few matches and to make a little progress but the game really has not aged well. I wanted to just watch the games be played and make the behind the scenes decisions but couldn't work out if this was possible.

I try to review games fairly taking in to account when they were released and trying to sample as much of the game as possible but in this case I just found it all frustrating. I didn't enjoy what I did play and I just wanted to put it down straight away and load up one of the various much better football management games I have on my PC. If you’re not worried about having the newest of the new then you can get a football manager game through steam for a couple of quid. I feel bad giving this game a score, I mean at the time on the SNES if you wanted a football management game it was kind of a case of like this or lump it, forced to rate it though I would give it a 3 out of 10, I really didn’t rate it. I can say though if you have a SNES and are looking at collecting games then unless you can get a copy with a manual it might be worth giving this one a miss and getting a football management game on a different system. I paid £1 for my cart from a pawn store so I don’t feel like I have lost much. If you do want a cart of this a pal cart tends to go for about £5 online including postage but copies with a manual are usually quiet a lot more. Honestly give this game a miss.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

SNES Game review 86: Race Drivin

Sometimes part of reviewing games is about buying things to review. I am going to review 150 SNES games I said, instantly I was met with people asking if I would be reviewing this or that. Now if I was using emulators and illegally downloading games then I could review anything but I made a few early decisions including that I was going to play on an actual system using real cartridges playing with a real joypad. There is no glorious story of how and when I came in to contact with this game I simply brought it purely to review it and one of the key reasons it was picked was due to its price, I paid £3.69 for the Pal Cart and postage which I guess in a way already tells a bit of a tale of what I am in for.

So as you will have already guessed from the photo above the game I will be reviewing today is Hard Drivin. Hard Drivin was originally an arcade game but it made its way to a fair few consoles in the case of the SNES it was programmed by Imagineering Inc and published by THQ.  I have touched on Imagineering recently so will just bypass talking about them besides there name is hidden away in the odd credit line with THQ and Tengen (the creators of the arcade version) being the names seen on the cart and in large print in the game.

THQ Inc. is a company I am sure many of you will be familiar with for a number of reasons now I might be wrong but I think this could be the first time I have mentioned them so here is a quick bit of information on them. THQ was a former American video game developer and publisher. They were founded in 1989, they developed products for video game consoles, handheld consoles, and personal computers. Their name stood for “Toy Head-Quarters”, they had offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

The company published both internally created and externally licensed content and they would later become very well known for the likes of the Saints Row series, the Red Faction series, and others. Although they had some titles which were making gang busters levels of money others were literally losing more cash than you could imagine. This is why after several years of financial struggles THQ declared bankruptcy in December 2012 and its assets began to be liquidated the following month, with several properties either being acquired by other developers.

Loading this game I was automatically reminded of an Amiga game I used to play called Stunt Car Racing, as both are sort of polygon based racers with stunts in them, unfortunately all comparisons end there. Think about all of the things you want from a racing game, get a pencil and a piece of paper and make a list. Now I am almost certain that my version and your version of this list of needs would be very different but I am sure that both lists would contain ‘’a sense of speed’’. This is where this game instantly falls down I swear that a child could make a better sense of speed with simplified car drawings in a flick book. Now day’s people moan if a game doesn’t manage 1080p with an almost constant 60 frames per second frame rate. Now I am not mathematician so I haven’t worked out the exact rate at which this game runs, if I was to put it on an emulator and run some tests maybe I could do it, but instead I will just talk about the way it feels. It feels like the game lurches from a slow 5 frames per second to an absolutely crippled 3 frames per second. Yes the graphics are for the time kind of advanced in the fat that it’s a 16bit system using polygon based graphics without any special on board chips as far as I know however the graphics are still bad and as basic as can be. Squares everywhere flat square cows by the square roadside lots of very plain backgrounds lots of green and grey. I think really in truth we just were not ready for what they were attempting at the time. It would have been better to have had simplified graphics and to have tried to keep some of the spirit of the arcade machine.

On to the gameplay more. Well to start with you can pick one of 4 cars, 3 have a manual transmission where you’re responsible for changing the gears and the remaining 1 is automatic but beyond this I cannot tell any real difference in how they handle. Ok so you have picked your car the next thing is to pick your track, well there is not a lot to think about as there is a grand total of 3 to choose from. There is an Autocross track where you just drive then there is a Stunt track, with jumps, and loops. Lastly, there is what is called the Super Stunt track, in this track you go around diagonal corners and drive up on to a raised road you can fall off. The screen itself is sort of split into 3 parts the bottom shows you the cars dashboard, you can see your hands on the wheel and they move the way you’re telling the car to move on the pad and the speed and RPM dials move but this is actually the largest part of the screen. At the top you have the bit above your head in the car and you can see a part of a mirror and then your score and best and lap time are displayed on the upholstery. The actual view of what you are doing, your actual game window is in the middle and it’s a slit which takes up about a third of the screen real estate if that.

This game could be fun with the stunts and the jumps but they have decided to make it sort of over realistic, if you go for a loop or a jump and don’t do it at the perfect speed and land it exactly your windscreen cracks and it puts you back to try it again.  This is where they needed to make things a bit looser a bit less true to reality, this is a game people and a games main reason to exist is to be fun, having to be 100% precise to land a jump going just at the right angle just at 35 miles per hour to see a perfect realistic landing is not fun. Sure maybe the first time you manage to actually do it there is a sense of pride but what most people honestly want to do in a game is to floor it and hit that son of a bitch at 90 and land with a bounce the other side and carry on, we all want to pretend to be Evel Knievel not the amazing practical driver. If you want a game that actually makes you feel like good old Evel then I recommend you look at the Joe Danger games as they have gotten the feeling spot on.

Ok so what about the games music? Well in honesty there really isn’t much, you could say that there's 5 pieces in the game, the title, the name input screen music, the car selection screen music, the instant replay music and the game over theme but most of them are little more than short jingles of several notes. As for sound effects there’s a crash noise and there is an engine noise which sounds like it’s been taken from the Atari 2600 version of pole position.

Ok this is quite simply one of the worst games I have reviewed for the SNES it doesn’t do the system any justice at all. I would score this game 2 out of 10. If you are crazy enough to want it then you should with a little bit of looking be able to find a copy in the region of £3.50 to £6 including postage but please spare yourself.  Look at the free PC version of the previously mentioned Stunt Car Racer for a far better time  or look up one of the other decent SNES racers I have reviewed like TopGear, PowerDrive or Exhaust heat for example.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

SNES Game Review 85 Ranma 1/2

OK so I will apologise in advance, as is often my style this review will be a mix of review, video game history lesson and my memories. So video games have also been a big part of my life, they were when I was a child and they are now but they are not the only thing I am into.  When I was about 4 my Dad started buying these video cassettes of Japanese cartoons for me. He knew that I was crazy in to Transformers so he went to try and find me other things like them what he found me was Grandizer,Guyking, StarAvengers and Danguard Ace. I watched these cartoons and loved them to this day I still do so when I was older and everyone started to get into Manga Home Videos like Dominion Tank police and such I was in my element. We all got into anime films and series and one of the ones I found and particularly enjoyed was Ranma ½.  So when I came across a pal cart with Ranma ½ wrote on it on a flea market I was incredibly excited. I never expected to see a game based on one of the anime I had been watching, I had never seen the game on the shelves in any store, never heard anyone talk about it so it came as a huge shock. I paid for it straight away without trying to ask if they would take less or without working out how I would get through the rest of the week if I spent all of my pocket money in one go. The answer was very simple I needed this game and if I needed any more money for anything else then I’d have to pocket my school dinner money, go without eating at school and tell my parents I had, yes I did this quiet often.

It would be an understatement if I said that when I got home I excitedly popped the game into my Super Nintendo, and played it for a bit. The market I used to get some of my games from was held on a Thursday night, it started at 6pm and I literally ran home and put the game in my SNES and played it none stop until my parents came in my room and told me to turn the damn machine off and get some sleep as it was a school night, this was around 11.30. I guess this statement in and of itself makes it sound like the game is something great and well it kind of is and it kind of is not. The game is just a standard fighter game in some ways it is sort of just another Street Fighter 2 clone but this time one with Ranma characters. I suppose what you think of this game depends on your tolerance for street fighter clones and also your attitude to Ranma and its characters.

I was shocked that there was a Ranma game on the SNES but the truth is in Japan there were actually 5. The first was a game called Ranma ½: Neighborhood Combat, the game we got was actually a direct sequel to this game. So Did America get the first one? Yes and No Combat Chapter was altered by Irem, it had all of the Ranma characters stripped out of it, the graphics and audio altered and became a game called Street Combat. Now I don’t own Street Combat so I won’t be reviewing it I have however played it and it is dire. To the best of my knowledge it never came to Europe. Japan also got a sequel to the game I am reviewing the Sequel was called Ranma ½: Super-Skill Wild Dance Chapter, this was actually supposed to be released in the USA and possibly Europe afterwards under the title of   Ranma ½ Anything Goes Martial Arts, however the company that owned the rights for it went bust leading to its cancellation. So all we ever really got was part 2 of a 3 part fighting franchise (Japan also got a Ranma RPG and a Ranma Puzzle game).

OK well back to the game. This game looks great. The characters are all brilliant sprites who are instantly recognisable and look just like they do in the anime. It goes deeper then this though the graphics are full of brilliant little touches, you can see the wind blowing in the one of the female characters hair, you can also see leaves moving, light blinking all of which adds so wonderfully to the atmosphere.  The music really fits in well with the game and its graphics, it also I believe really in the correct style for the anime this is based on. The music is really bouncy and up tempo. It really sets the tone for what is a humorous fun game. Every level has its own song adding to the variety. On top of this there are the sound effects. Just like you would expect all of the actions such as punches and kicks are met with the sort of sounds you would expect and on top of this most specials are  accompanied  by what sounds like a  Japanese voice actor screaming the attack name in pretty broken English, which I actually considering the origin of the source material love.

As for the game itself well you get a choice of characters, sure there is not loads of them but they all do tend to feel unique, there are 10 characters to start with and 2 boss characters one of which is unlockable. Each character has their own reason for fighting which will be explained with text and pictures after you pick them. I think this is great as even if you haven’t watched or read any Ranma it helps draw you in and make you feel a connection to the characters, you want to play your way through the fights to see what happens to them, to see if they get a happy ending or not. This actually gives you a reason to try and get better with the characters that you are not that keen on and so adds to the replay value.

The default controls are a little strange, especially given the fact that there is a jump button instead of just pressing up, this can be changed in the options but if you want to change it then you will need to do so every time you put the game on. The characters are very responsive and the attacks are easy enough to do. The attacks are a little limited in comparison to something like Street fighter 2 as you basically only have a strong attack and weak attack button. Like mortal kombat blocking is assigned to a button as opposed to just pressing back. This does make this a somewhat simple fighter but the game does benefit from the way it sticks so well to its license and makes the most of it. It’s a fun game which although it is not going to change the world is worthwhile if you like fighters or if you like Ranma. This is a game on its own account not some awful street fighter 2 clone.

I am really struggling to give this game a score, it has its strengths and its weaknesses to the point that it has made me bump out my first quarter score so here it goes 6.75, it is a fun game, it’s not a bad fighter but it’s not brilliant, if you want a fighter which is not a Street Fighter, a Mortal Kombat or a Killer instinct you could do a lot worse than this. So if you do want this, well the best way I have seen to get it would be from ebay, the copies I have seen selling in England have been most often ridiculously expensive for what it is but if you look at pal copes from other European countries you can get it for about £15 including delivery. I guess if it’s worth it or not comes down to how much you like fighters and if you’re looking for a new one you don’t have.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

SNES Game review 84: Super Mario All-Stars

I didn’t own a NES on release for many reasons, but I did get to play on one now and then as my older brother’s friend owned one. At the time when the NES was about I was playing on a combination of 128K Spectrum and Atari 2600. I would put a game to load on the spectrum and play the Atari until it managed to load, this was largely because the spectrum games where better but Atari’s cartridges where more instantaneous. So when I got a megadrive and then a SNES it was amazing to have such an increase in quality alongside that instant ability to play. I had played the NES Mario games but I had never owned them. So when Super Mario All-Stars was announced it was an excellent chance to get four games in one go on one cartridge. I did later get myself a NES and begin collecting carts but that’s another story.

At the time I had played Super Mario brothers and Super Mario brothers 3 but I had as far as I can remember never played Mario 2, on top of that there was Super Mario Bros the lost levels which hadn’t been released in this country before. Amongst my friends that was the part of the package which attracted the most hype, the release of a never before released in the UK Mario game, a game which was supposed to be so hard it had been deemed beyond are abilities. By this point we had all beat the living heck out of Super Mario World the SNES launch title but we couldn’t get enough of it, we all tried to be the first one to unlock every level, the person to have the quickest time in a certain level, we would all find every way possible in which to push ourselves and to challenge our friends. So even before this game came out we were all positively itching to get our hands on this cart to prove our skills to be the first one to conquer it. I find it amusing that one of the key things that made us want this collection was the very reason we never got Lost Worlds in the first place, its brutal difficulty.

I am sure that most people have heard this story before and know that the Super Mario Bros 2 we got was a retrofitted version of a Japanese Famicom (NES) game called Doki Doki Panic. If I was to try and review and rate the Lost worlds on its own it would be a somewhat difficult thing to do. It is at points challenging to a brutal level, to a level where it is almost at times no longer fun. If it had been released now I think it would have been called the Dark Souls of the Mario universe. Also by modern standards this game is almost more of a level pack/piece of DLC than a new game. Even taking it on its own basis and reviewing it as a game for when it came out I think I would end up giving it a 7 out of 10 and saying if you love a challenge add a few points to the score and run and grab a copy, if you hate hard games knock a few off and run away. As it stands though as a piece of a bigger whole I think that it is simply amazing. You can start on the original Super Mario Brothers that most know and love, you can enjoy that grit your teeth on it and then if you feel that your skills have gotten so good you could beat anything then you have Lost Levels to get stuck in to.

Although Super Mario Bros wasn’t the first Mario Bros game it was the first one which held the basics we now consider a staple of the Mario series, scrolling levels, mushrooms and fire flowers, jumping on top of enemies to kill them and jumping on to the flag poles at the end of levels. The music in the game is unforgettable, the main theme is one of those songs which lives in the collective consciousness of most games around my ag, it was and still is a fabulous achievement as a game, some old games I pick up now days and they have not aged well, and while this title might look a little rough around the edges it still plays like an absolute champion, everything else falls by the wayside and it just flys on its pure playability. Everything you learn in the original Super Mario Bros game will see you through most Mario based games. The two games together Super Mario bros and the Lost Levels make the perfect one two punch combo and that’s before you remember that this only accounts for half of the games on this cartridge.

I think more or less everyone had played on Super Mario Bros 3 on a NES and had been amazed, I remember being shocked at what Nintendo managed to get out of the NES with the game, in fact ever since the release of Mario world the debate had raged which was better Mario 3 or Mario World. A port of Mario bros 3 on its own probably would have sold carts to people who had missed the NES and had only got on board the great starship Nintendo with the release of the Super Nintendo and yet it was here as a part of a collection of games. The game is incredibly fun, the introduction of a map screen letting you work out your way through the road would be a staple this title added to the franchise but the game was also the king of the power up. Before Mario had been able to have his fire flower and invincibility star but here he also had the racoon suit, the frog suit, the hammer bros suit, the tanooki suit the P wing. The introduction of the Koopa kids/generals also helped add character to the game. This game sat alongside Super Mario Bros helps to show the evolution of the series. I would argue that this game alone printed on a SNES cart would be worthy of a solid 8 minimum, there are many SNES titles that can’t even live up to part of this game and here it is in a collection.

Then there is Super Mario Bros 2 also known as Super Mario Bros USA. This is the game that Europe and America were given as Mario 2. Like lost levels playing this on my SNES was my first experience of this game. Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 2 had been at times included with a NES so if you knew someone with a NES the odds were high that they would have at least one of these games, this was never to my knowledge the case with Mario Bros 2 so really only people who had gone out of their way to get it had it. All of my friends and people I know knew before the release of Super Mario All Stars that our version of Super Mario Bros 2 was the game Nintendo had blown us off with, the game they had faked for us because of their view of our joypad incompetence, it was viewed to some degree by us as an insult in cartridge form. I am sure others who had sampled it on the NES felt differently about it. From my point of view most of the people who had gotten Super Mario bros 2 in the UK on the NES had not known that it was a different game to the one in Japan, as far as they knew it was Just Mario 2. It was various magazines reporting on the upcoming All Stars Compilation which had explained the origins of the Lost Levels to us and guided us towards some of our feelings.

So what do I think of Super Mario Bros 2/ Mario USA? Well it took it virtually no time at all to grow on me. I started very much with an attitude of ‘’well I have paid for it might as well try it’’ to an attitude of I love this game. It had so much cool stuff going for it the choice of four different characters who all felt different, the fact that it’s the only game in the collection which doesn’t really feel the same, this made it a breath of fresh air. It was cool to have different enemies who were not in the other games and to have a boss who was not Bowser. Yeah it feels a bit weird how you don’t kill things by jumping on their head, all of the vegetable throwing and the sort of Arabian feel to it but I find all of these things eventually become strengths, it is the kooky fun cousin to the regular Mario games, in some ways it might feel less polished and refined than Mario 3 but it has its own style and sense of fun. I think if I had been a NES owner and I could have picked my own Mario bros 2 between this and the lost levels then this would have been the game I would have picked.

Placed together these 4 games make one of the most awesome SNES carts you can find. Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 provide some of the most playable platformers known to mankind, games which have aged like fine wine, Lost levels provides a huge challenge which will either drive you to madness of let the most diehard of players test their skills and Super Mario Bros 2 is the quirky fun different game which you can play when you fancy a change. I cannot recommend this cart highly enough. I would give it a perfect 10 out of 10. I cannot see how you could really do better than this. If you wanted to get this game online then you would be looking at around £15 which I feel is a very good price. I have seen boxed copies go for around £40 if you like to have your games like that. It was also released for the Wii which you can find for as little as £15 sometimes boxed complete if you’re lucky. Either way it’s a brilliant collection.

Friday, 14 August 2015


Toys was a 1992 fantasy comedy film directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robin Williams one of the in my opinion most talented comedians people have had the pleasure of seeing on film yet even though it hurts me to criticise something staring the man the film was pants. This is not just my opinion though the thing tanked at the box office at the time of its release, despite having not only Williams but an impressive cast in general and a forty three million dollar budget.  The film was criticised for a lack of plot focus and poor direction even to the point that its director was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Director. The real thing it proved though was that despite his amazing talent Robin Williams could be in a flop and that his raw talent was not enough to turn any old mess in to gold.

Now it is a sort of unwritten rule in the world of video games and to be honest this was even more true back in the SNES days that if it is a movie license then nine times out of ten it is going to be a steaming bag of manure. So before this game came out no one expected anything of it after all it was a video game not only based on a film but based on a bad film.

So Toys was an Action game based on the film, developed by Imagineering Inc which was an in house develop for the publishing company Absolute Entertainment. It was released in 1993. In general all the company had ever released on Nintendo platforms was a bunch of games that either had received either very mixed or very mediocre reviews  including a bunch of Bart Simpson based NES games and TV quiz based NES games so as far as I remember expectations were absolutely in the gutter. This being true I avoided it like the plague, I remember seeing it on store shelves for £40 and then less and less and less until it was like £5 in bargain bins and I still didn’t try it. Sure at this very moment I am considering buying one of the apparently worst PS4 games released so far for £5 to see if it’s as bad as people claim but back when the SNES was out I was having to use my pocket money to get games or I was having to ask for them for Christmas, £5 I would have spent on this would have been £5 I couldn’t put towards a game of some actual worth. So here I am now trying this game for the first time years and years after its release. It could be argued that I am going to judge it on nowadays standards as opposed to based on how it stands when compared to games of its time but trust me I will keep what things were like back at the time very much in mind.

Ok so popping it in the first thing you are met with is the intro sequence which is nothing special at all it literally just tells you the story with blinding white and light blue text which seems to come out of a static elephant statue as words written in water. Now one thing they did right was to not try to make the whole film in to a game scene for scene, some parts of a film just wouldn’t really translate to a game as it stands the game basically starts in the last third of the film with you infiltrating the Zevo Toy Factory that is being run by General Leland Zevo.

The kindest thing I can say about the graphics is that they are extremely average for when this game came out, sure I might just have played Donkey Kong Country 3 one of the finest looking game on the SNES but don’t worry I popped a few games in the slot between this and that to cleanse my pallet and still came away with average being the nicest thing I could say. The music's also can kindly be described as average but it is also totally 100% forgettable. The sound effects are best explained with the term mixed bag, sure some of them are kind of nice but others are just plain awful. The controls don’t actually feel bad at all, which is what I usually find is the thing which makes for a bad game. I mean if it’s good to play and can hook you in then average or even bad graphics and sound can be forgiven and/or ignored.

The basic idea of the game is that you use happy fun children’s toys to try and attack and beat war based toys, so you’re shooting at tanks and helicopters with an elephant head peanut firing gun, or sending spinning tops or toy robot ducks at them. This could be fun, I mean look at other games such as Zombies Ate my neighbours were a wide variety of weapons all have different strengths and weaknesses, but the truth is all of these weapons seem to do nothing to the enemy, it really does feel like you’re throwing peanuts at a tank and hoping it will somehow blow up. In fact on my first go the only thing that seemed to die from my attacks was the walking bombs. On my second go I did get a little bit better, I collected more types of toys and worked out where to stand so I could hit things more than they hit me and I did manage to kill a jeep or two but the cameras you need to get rid of are surrounded by tanks and I literally used everything I had to try and destroy a tank and got nowhere. I even tried to attack the thing I am certain is the camera in case I could just run in destroy it and jog on before the tanks could kill me and that didn’t work. I actually cannot make any progress in this game at all and this sucks the very fun out of what in theory could have been a good fun game.

I have to score this game pretty low and I would not recommend it to anyone unless they are a diehard collector who just wants everything and then I would say make sure you get it cheap.  It doesn’t feel as broken as other bad games I have played like Ultraman and The Rocketeer but I think I actually got less fun out of it and was more frustrated, rocketeer might have been a mess but with effort I made some progress. Bearing all of this in mind and the fact that the main purpose of a game is entertainment I feel I have to give this a score of 2 out of 10. If you’re a glutton for punishment or a collector the cheapest I can find it for online at this very moment in time is £10 for a cart. I paid £4 for my copy, £4 with free postage complete and in fairly good condition my fiancee actually helped me purchase it so here is just a small acknowledgement and shout out for the magnificent lady who helps and supports me with my game collecting and associated hobbies. The copy I got was advertised as an NTSC version which I think might have helped but when it arrived it was PAL. Do I regret buying it? Not really I like to see what exists for a machine both good and bad and at least now I can have my own opinion rather than having to just say ‘’well I have heard its bad’’.

If you want a fun game based around toys then I would strongly recommend Toy Soldiers on the Xbox 360 live arcade which sells for the excellent price of £6.75 , it also has two sequels the first of which I have also tried and loved and the second of which I am strongly considering purchasing. I recommend you look the series up.