Monday, December 07, 2009

Boss Rush: A Shmup that the Exact Opposite of What You Think it is

As much as I like shmups, there is a certain point when they all start to blend together. It doesn't help that most recent entries into the genre are all bullet hell games.

Don't get me wrong, I like the challenge of weaving through a massive wall of bullets.  It's just that I like some variety to my shmup palette.  Which is why an indie game called Boss Rush seems so appealing to me.

The warning messages are a nice touch

Now looking at the above image you might be thinking, "So what?  The game looks like every shmup ever."  This would be true except that you're not playing as the lightly armed (and even more lightly armored) ship trying to kill the giant boss armed with more guns then god.  No, you're controlling actually the boss and using your excessive firepower to swat the annoying fighter that's trying to paper cut you to death.

It's such a neat and obvious inversion of the tradition shmup formula that I'm surprised no one's really done before.  The only other game I can think of that attempted anything similar was an obscure arcade game (even by my standards) by Sammy called Change Air Blade, and there you could only temporarily control a boss in the game's versus mode.

Boss Rush on the other hand, seems to be all about playing as the boss (though there seems to be a versus mode if you want to rain bullets on a friend).  It has five different engines of death for you to control as was a bunch of challenges and a survival mode if you want to see just how long you can last.

While the game is technically done it hasn't been released yet since the developer is looking for a sponsor.  Hopefully the developers will get a deal soon, because I'd love to be able to play the full game.

Paper Dino via A Little Bit on the Awesome Side

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A (Sports) Game to Actually Remember

Obviously someone's not too familiar with the retro game market. Very few people think to talk about old spots game, save a select few such as Tecmo Bowl. When Gamestop still carried older platforms, the majority of the titles game were sports titles.

Still, perhaps it is unfair that older sports titles get disregarded by core gamers (and to clarify, when I say "sports games," I mainly mean licensed sports games. Games like Mario sport series are completely different beasts). I'm sure if you actually sat down and played through a bunch of them from different eras there would be a clear evolutionary gameplay trends to them.

The problem is that any gameplay trends tend to be overshadowed by the selection of teams. It's probably safe to say most people buying the latest version of Madden are doing less for the gameplay innovations and more to play as the most current version of their favorite teams. Sure, EA could slow down the cycle and let people download the latest team stats, but why would they want to when the game sells like gangbusters every year?

The conundrum reminds of the one that surrounds games based on other licensed property. People will buy a Harry Potter game, regardless of whether or not it's any good because it's Harry Potter. People buy Madden because it lets them play as their favorite teams. The situation existed long before EA's NFL exclusivity contract, though that certainly doesn't help the situation.

Frankly, I can't see a way to easily change the situation. I myself don't really play sports games, so any suggestion I have would probably be detached from the reality of the situation. Granted, the reality of the situation is why I don't play those games so it's a pretty vicious cycle of indifference there.

in reference to:

""Do you really think, five years from now, you're gonna hear ‘Is Grand Theft Auto on PlayStation 4 as good as Grand Theft Auto on PlayStation 3? Will Halo 6 people really say, ‘Is this as good as Halo 1?'" Justice muses. "I don't think so.""
- Maybe the Greatest of All Time, but not In Its Time - Sports - Kotaku (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, October 26, 2009

GeoCities Closes Doors, Receives Most Attention in Years

Today we've officially reached the end of an era for the Internet: GeoCities is dead.  Yes, Yahoo finally pulled the plug on the free web hosting service.  While the news is sad, it's certainly not unexpected.  How many people out there actually visited, much less created or maintained, a GeoCities site in the past five years?

This is pretty much every GeoCites Page ever

While GeoCities ultimately became cesspool of bad layouts, broken images, blinking text and those little animated "under construction" gifs, it still deserves some respect.  GeoCities attempted to provide an outlet for the major creative outpouring that occurred at the beginning of the public Internet.  Their ambition wasn't just to create a free hosting service though, they wanted create a virtual global community.  If you have any doubts, then just look back at some of the original terminology they used.  Their users were called "homesteaders" and their sites were grouped into "neighborhoods."  Heck, their very own name embodies the idea of a single global city.

In retrospect, they were doomed to fail from day one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Games I'm Playing: The Funny Animal Edition

Bit more productive with games this week.  It's amazing how not being sick increases your ability to do stuff.  I even managed to finish another game this week, which means I've actually managed to beat at least one game every week since I started this (Rocket Knight Adventures and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past would be the past two).  That's shockingly productive as far as I'm concerned.  Anyhow then:

Klona: Empire of Dreams (GBA) - About a month ago I got the remake of the original Klona for the Wii.  After playing through that I started to revisit some of the other games.  Currently I'm on this one, which is also the first Klona game I owned.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Klona series, having first discovered the series through a in-store demo for the second game on PS2.  Unfortunately I did not have a PS2 at the time, so I was unable to jump into the series until this game.

Unlike Klona's console incarnations these games are much more puzzley.  There's been a couple times where I had to pause for a few minutes and wonder how the heck I was supposed to proceed.  I'm still going through it faster then my very first playthrough, especially since I'm skipping the forced scrolling and hoverboard stages.

Overall the game is still as fun as I remember, though I'm noticing how it lacks a lot of the charm and polish of its console brethren.

Sparkster (Genesis) - The second Rocket Knight game (or third, depending on how you're counting) brings a lot of new elements to the table, thought not all of them are improvements sadly.

Changes that are awesome: The rocket pack automatically charges, and you can now boost consecutively.  This means Sparkster can effectively fly in most stages, opening up a lot of new options for the player.

Changes that are not awesome: For some reason Sparkster lost his projectiles, and is left only with a very slow sword slash.  This makes combat a lot more awkward then it needs to be since you have to get so close to enemies now.  Also collecting gems now activates an item roulette, which largely gives you items that are either superfluous or even dangerous most of the time.

The game is still pretty good, but I'm not enjoying it as much as I did Rocket Knight Adventures.

I also played a bunch more of Sonic Chronicles, but since I actually finished that one I'll talk about that separately.  What I will say that it is a bizarre game that feels both highly polished and yet very amateur at the same time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sony Address Critical Playstation 3 Hardware Problems by Completely Ignoring Them

This console generation has been rough to Sony.  They went to the trouble of trying to make an uberconsole in the form of the Playstation 3, only to watch it get its pants beat by Ninendo's underpowered, yet lovably oddball Wii.  Then they had to stand by and watch as their third-party exclusive titles like Devil May Cry IV and Final Fantasy XIII suddenly suddenly became less exclusive.  And let's not even get into the emotional ball kick that was the announcement of Dragon Quest IX would be a Nintendo DS exclusive.  That had to drive more then a few Sony employees to go drown their sorrows.

My point is that Sony has to take their comforts where they can get them, like how their console isn't prone to catastrophic mechanical failures like that other guy's one.  After all, Sony would never put out a product without checking for massive design flaws, right?

Oops: The Last Word you Ever Want to Hear in Engineering

What you're looking at is the Yellow Light of Death, which occurs when the soldering on the Playstation 3's motherboard overheats.  This renders the system completely inoperable, short of a trip back to Sony for repairs.  A trip that will cost you about $150 if your system is out of warranty, which is likely given that it only lasts for a year.  If this problem seems oddly similar to the Red Ring of Death suffered by Microsoft's Xbox 360 console that's because it's the exact same thing.

Sony is handling the problem with the grace an dignity of any large corporate entity, which is a nice way of saying they're sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling, "LA LA LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

In Memory of Captain Lou Albano, the voice (and face) of Mario for a Generation

Do you remember the Super Mario Bros. Super Show?  Of course you do.  Anyone who had an NES and a pulse watched that show religiously back in the day.  They ignored the fact that the plot lines were contrived fairy tale/movie/whatever parodies of the week simply because it was Mario in cartoon form.

Nowadays though, most people deride the show cheap cash in it basically was.  It didn't help that since every episode was a parody of something, they often felt like they had nothing to do with Mario (Nintendo must have noticed this too, since later Mario series would be much more game orientated).  If there is any part of the show that is remembered with any fondness though, it was the show's live-action segments featuring wrestler Captain Lou Albano as Mario.

It kind of amazing that Nintendo got him to shave his beard for this

Unlike the cartoon, these segments were more like a sit-com with Mario and Luigi (played by Danny Wells) siting at home, while occasionally receiving celebrity guest stars including Vanna White, Magic Johnson and Sgt. Slaughter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter Moore Says Disk Based Media is a "Burning Platform." Surprisingly, not Making a Joke about 360s

When Sony got rid of Ken Kutaragi, I thought it would leave an unfillable void of hyperbole in the gaming industry.  I hadn't counted on how many other execs would come rushing to fill it.  Like Peter Moore, Microsoft's former chief PR guy, who claims that disc-based systems are a "burning platform" and those that stay on the platform "face certain death."

Seriously, just look at this:
“The core business model of videogames is a burning platform,” said Moore, speaking at the 5th annual PLAY Digital Media Conference.
“Look at the platform we’re on, it’s a burning platform,” said Moore. “As a concept, do you stay on the platform and face certain death, or do you jump into the water and face probable death? Most of you would choose probable death, so you start moving towards a hybrid model of digital distribution.”
“As digital distribution becomes more and more, we’ll continue as an industry to work with retail and to ship discs, but more and more of the content will be in the ‘cloud,” added Moore, as reported by consumer website IGN. “More content will be delivered daily, weekly, or monthly, and less will be of the old model of cartridges and discs.”

What makes this really funny, is for all his bluster of digital distribution, EA isn't exactly leading the pack on this front.  On digital distribution site Direct2Drive they an impressive 75 items available, but not all of those items are games since the search didn't filter things like bundle packs, DLC and a strategy guide for game EA doesn't actually publish.  They're showing on other digital distribution sites is even more lackluster, with only 20 titles on Valve's Steam and about five on Stardock's Impulse (I'm not exactly certain because you can't search by publisher on that one for some reason).

Perhaps Mr. Moore should get off of the platform before he yells at everyone else about it?

GamesIndustry via the Armchair Empire

Friday, October 16, 2009

Games I'm Playing: The Plague-Born Edition, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Dark World

Well this is somewhat awkward. I make a big show about how I'm going to give gaming snapshots every week, and then I go and mess things up by playing practically no games the following week.

There are many things I could blame this on, but the most appropriate target would be the fact I was sick for the better part of the week.  While I was never sick to the point I stayed the whole day in bed (the fact I'm only working temp being a contributing factor), I was sick to the point I had trouble gathering enough focus to write.  In between the time I spent coughing up lungs and feeling generally miserable, I did have time to play one game...

The one everyone but me likes

In that past I've been rather...unkind to this game, to put it mildly (link to come when I can actually find it).  The reasons for my dislike are long and complex, so I won't go into detail with them right now. Instead I will give the highly-abridged-but-concise version: I was being dumb.  Really dumb.  In fact, I was being so dumb, I made the Zelda CDi games seem like a good idea.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Games That I'm Playing: The First Set

I've recently realized for all the time I spend talking about games, I don't really talk about what I'm actually playing.  Occasionally I might do a review/opinion piece on a game after I finish it, but due to time and forgetfulness these come few and far between.

So I'm going to try and change that by posting weekly snap shots of the game I'm currently playing.  Be warned that they might be somewhat eclectic, because sometimes I'll just jump between games for no good reason.  I'd also mention some of them might be a bit obscure, but that's kind of a given for me.

So without further ado...

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood - This is the game I've sunk most of my gaming time into lately. It's one I've actually been meaning to play through for a while, but I didn't really have an opportunity until I saw the game in a bargain bin.

While the game overall is pretty fun, it does have some surprisingly large flaws that I won't go into now.  I'm about three-fourths of the way through the game, so hopefully I should finish it so I can write a more detailed piece.

A New Age, Retro Game Approaches

There's been a bit of a Renaissance in gaming lately as developers old styles of games and revisit them in a new light. The best of these, such as Bionic Commando: Rearmed, take the solid underpinnings of the original game while updating some of the peripheral elements and presentation for a modern audience.

Some purists have taken issue that many of these game eschew traditional sprite-based graphics in favor of polygonal ones.  They feel the only way to properly make a 2D game is with 2D graphics.

I wonder how those people feel about 3D Dot Game Heroes, which is a 3D game done with 2D graphics.  Well, actually more like the 2D graphics are being done in 3D.  Look, just look at the video to understand what I'm saying:

Crazy looking, isn't it?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Koopa Kids Return to Kick Ass and Fire Smoke Rings, Though One Does Not Preclude the Other

I haven't really been paying attention to coverage on New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  This isn't because I'm uninterested in the game, quite the opposite really.  Nintendo had me the moment they said "four-player Mario co-op," so really there was nothing more previews could offer me.  At best they would simply reaffirm that I had to get this game, and at worse they could spoil little things about the game I'd want to discover for myself.  As a result, it wasn't until just now when I discovered that the Koopa Kids were going to be in the game.

Helpfully labeled, because even I can't remember all their names half the time

Yes, Bowser's often-forgotten offspring are returning to harass Mario and Co. for this game.  There aren't any pictures or videos of the fights online to my knowledge, but according to a preview on 1up the fights are similar to the Kid's Super Mario Bros. 3 experience, with a slight twist.  In the fight with Iggy for example, he still bounces around on his ball and shoots stuff out of his magic wand, but parts of the floor will rise and fall.  And before the fight even begins Kamek from Yoshi's Island shows up and ensorcells the room, which changes the floor to ice.

Basically what I'm trying to say is the boss fights sound like they're going to be crazy awesome.

While the inclusion of the Koopa Kids in any new Mario game makes is 100 times more awesome (it's worth noting that the only other recent game to use them, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, was also awesome), it also fixes one of the big problems with the original New Super Mario Bros.  Namely how the reoccurring antagonist role fell solely in Bowser Jr., who in addition to being a less interesting character design was also incredibly boring to fight.

This raises the inevitable lingering question: are the Koopa Kids supplementing Bowser Jr., or replacing him? 

Does anyone care if it's the latter option?
Story via Retronauts
Picture via Brandokay Productions

Stop the Presses: Monopoly Can Go On Forever!

Ah Monopoly, the classic board game of finance and negotiations.  A game of high risks and competitive play that captivates the world over, at least until you get down to the last two players.  For most people, this is either where they stop playing Monopoly, or where other people make them before the game goes on forever.

Of course, these concerns are more figurative then literal.  Surely all games of Monopoly have to end sometime, right?

Not according to a study by researchers at Cornell University.  According to their research there is a 12 percent possibility that a two player game of Monopoly can continue forever.

Think about that for a second.  They're basically saying that if you play a two player game of Monopoly there is a better then 10 percent chance that the game will be impossible to complete within the remainder of your life.  For those smug people in the back, please refrain from the "I could have told you that"s.

True hell would be if you had to play Monopoly forever, but could never land on Free Parking

Realistically speaking though, the odds of a Monopoly game continuing infinitely are nonexistent.  The world record for the longest Monopoly game is 70 days, but most people would probably kill themselves then even consider playing just seven hours.

As an interesting corollary to the story is that of all the places an infinite Monopoly game could occur, it's unlikely that it will happen at higher levels of play.  Apparently in professional-level Monopoly game (and it really shouldn't surprise you that there is such a thing) games are so aggressive that they don't last more then an hour.

San Diego Union Tribune

Sparkster: Konami's Lost Mascot, Recently Rediscovered

One of the most heart-wrenching moments of retro gaming is when you find an obscure title that's completely awesome, and then discover that its been more or less forgotten by its creators.  Such is the case with Rocket Knight Adventures, a platformer for Genesis by Konami.

 Platforming in this case involves rocket packs

The game came out during the animal mascot game era or gaming, among other such contemporaries such as Bubsy and Aero the Acrobat.  The mammal du jour of RKA is a possum named Sparkster, who blasts through a vaguely steampunk world saving other possums from an army of pigs while occasionally fighting his rival, Axel Gear.

More games need to let you fight your rival in giant robots

 Like most mascot characters, Sparkster pretty much disappeared by the 32-bit era, which is a shame since his games were notable among the genre in that they were actually good.  Aside from some odd cameos here and there it seemed like Konami had forgotten about Sparkster.  Which made it all the more surprising when I saw that was doing a cover story for a new Rocket Knight game.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

NES Screensaver: Gaming for the Indecisive

Fact: There were a lot of games for the NES.  Like easily over half a thousand.

Theory: Most people will never get a chance to see, much less play every NES game ever made.

Hypothesis: If there were a way to view multiple NES games simultaneously, then it would be easier to for someone to randomly play one.

Conclusion: Someone should make a screensaver that displays multiple NES games in progress and let you jump into one at any time.

What your looking at is M \ K Productions NES Screensaver, which displays a combination in-game demo modes with emulator-recorded movies to create a wall of clips from NES games.  At any time you can click on one of the tiles and start playing the game in an emulator (specifically UberNES, which was made by the same people).

Scope: Play with Your Toys, But with Rules!

There's something elementally pure about tabletop wargames.  Sure, the mere mention of the term brings up images of sweaty men crowded around tables loaded with pewter miniatures, who spend most of their time measuring distances and arguing about positioning.  However, if you tear away all the obsessive military recreations and space marines, then you're left with a game where you pit your toys against another person's toys.  The only difference between a wargame and what you probably did as a kid is that wargames have rules.

Lots of rules, actually.  Which are pretty expensive.  So are the miniatures, for that matter.  Especially when you add in the cost of paint.  Makes you wonder why most people prefer to play video game?

I bring this up because of Scope, an project that attempts to use augmented reality (which is essentially virtual reality's practical younger brother) to create a tabletop wargame with the streamlined interface of a video game.  What really makes this project interesting it the you supply the minatures for the game in the form of your old toys.

As far as I can deduce, the game works by using a combination of special markers and a camera-equipped, head-mounted display.  The camera reads the symbols and feeds them back to a computer, which in turn feeds images to the glasses.  Actually picking the symbols seems to be done by focusing on them.

The end result is you have basically have a wargame with a video game-like interface that effectively deals with hassles typically associated with wargames (most of them involving distance in some form).  Furthermore, the game is can also take obstacles into account for things like cover, which you can supply in the form of boxes, old building blocks or anything along that line.

Perhaps the only bad thing about Scope is the same problem associated with any augmented reality project: the technology involved is probably too expensive to seriously consider as a retail product.  At least it doesn't risk potential safety hangups like some other augmented reality projects.

Scope via GameSetWatch

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Now is the Beginning of a Fantastic Story!

The hardest part of any work is starting it.  The beginning of anything needs to carry a certain amount of gravitas that doesn't need to be present in the rest.  Be it either the opening chapter of a story or the first post of a blog.

This first post is kinda of interesting in that it is the first post of this blog, but actually the third or fourth "first post" I've ever done.  It also has the advantage of being written by a writer who is more wise then he was when he wrote those other first posts.

I guess where I'm going with this, is that for the first post of my "professional" blog I felt I should go with something more then looking over video game news.  Everything else should be less pretentious and more personal from here on in.