Tuesday, May 31, 2016

8-bit Fridays - The Diaries: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone! Oh, and yes welcome to the unofficial start of summer!

This may not be the first three day weekend to occur since I've been writing these but it is the first that has given me an open schedule to do some gaming. For this particular weekend it hasn't been Friday or Saturday so much that has given me the opportunity to game as it has been Sunday. With Sunday falling dead center in the middle of these Monday holiday weekends, it often has the feel of a Saturday to it and it's easy to forget what day it is sometimes. 

This Friday's (Weekends) Buys:

Black Belt (SMS) - Departing from my last few Friday buys I didn't get any SHMUPS this weekend. It's not that I've run out of them it's just time for me to try to play through the ones I have. With that said enter Black Belt. From what I know it's kind of like the SMS's version of the NES's Kung Fu but just different enough to not be a direct rip off. I look forward to seeing just how different (for better or worse) it is. 

Pin Bot (NES) - Pin Bot is based on a very real pinball machine by Williams. Although I've never encountered this machine myself, it's said to be one of the best pinball machines of all time. Of course pinball emulation on video game consoles is nothing new and goes back as far as the Atari 2600's Midnight Magic, so here too with Pin Bot we saw an emulation on the NES. The game itself has mixed reviews but most seem more positively spun than negative. Currently being the owner of a pinball machine I look forward to experiencing pinball in a video game form with new perspective. 

Math Gran Prix (Atari 2600) - First of all, stop laughing. This is one of this titles I had on my 2600 as a kid. Did I learn math from it? Well, I used it to brush up if that counts. Of all the titles I've chased down over the past few years for my 2600 that I owned as a kid this most be one of if not the final games that I haven't recollected. Sure it's math but from what I remember it actually was pretty fun. 

To say the least its been a true 8-bit weekend with my buys covering both the NES, SMS, and Atari 2600. No Atari 7800 games though sorry the last few I need for my collection are on the rarer side. 

This Weekends Play's 

Vice: Project Doom (NES) - I actually had this one in last weekends playlist but it needed a good cleaning. Not a bad game and definitely on the return to list. VPD is somewhat reminiscent of Ninja Gaidan in its difficulty, right down to the bird creature hitting you and pushing you back as the platform falls away. But that's also what you would come to expect out of and action adventure platformer out of this era. 

As far as plot it's somewhat generic. It's the whole secret agent trying stop an evil corporation thing you see a lot in video games. This time it's about alien DNA and evil experiments. Of course I wouldn't suggest playing it for plot anyway, it's just a fun game to play. 

Batman Forever (SNES) - This one is ok at best. For me, what really kind of sets me off about this one is the whole blue screened sprites (alá Pit Fighter). As I said it's an ok game, but I don't see myself returning to it anytime soon. 

As far as plot watch the movie Batman Forever and contort it to where the plot has nothing to do with the movie in true video game fashion. 

Earth Defense Force (SNES) - Its pretty common to hear this one is "one of the best SHMUP's on the SNES!". So I know this statement is going to be a bit controversial for me to say, but in an apples to apples comparison Phalanx is the better game, sorry! Yes, EDF seems a little flat to me, I mean it's a good game and all and looks good on the SNES, but it just doesn't seem as imaginative as some of the other SHMUPS on the SNES. There is also the matter of the visible slow down that occurs when there are too many sprites on the screen. I mean I've detected slow down with games like Phalanx but this is actually pretty visible and noticeable. Maybe improvements where made with Earth Defense Force II which I hear is supposed to be pretty good as well. 

As far as plot, I'll just let you guess what it is.

Vortex (SNES) - This is one of the few titles to feature the "Super FX" chip originally developed for Star Fox. Essentially the chip (which is on board the cart) gave the SNES the additional processing power to run polygonal games, such as Star Fox and Vortex without slowdown. For their time these games where true technical marvels for a console, but they haven't aged well. In playing Vortex this was something I had to keep in mind. In a lot of respects it reminds me of Sierra-Dynamix Battledrome on PC from roughly the same era, but unlike Battledrome, Vortex has the uniqueness of allowing the player mech to transform from a mech to an aircraft or land vehicle. It's actually pretty impressive when you think about it. Rumors originally plagued this game that it was a salvaged Transformers 2 game project, or that it was put together with remnants cut from the original Star Fox but in both cases neither was true. To say the least it may not be the most impressive game I've played this weekend, but it is of note. 

As for the plot it revolves around a super computer being stolen by "barbarians for Aki-Do", and you have only so much time before they hack the computer and know the secrets of your empire. So you must pilot a new kind of mech a "morphing battle system" and recover the super computer pieces. Not a bad plot line overall, video gamey, yes but not bad.  

Of course I'm still closing the weekend with a huge pile of games to go though, but I'm just impressed I was able to sneak a few hours of uninterrupted play in. So with that said I hope everyone had a great weekend, and I hope you all took some time to remember the true significance to the holiday and thanked a veteran or active member of the military for what they did or are doing for us.

See you all again soon.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

8-bit Fridays - The Diaries: May 20th, 2016

Friday May 20, 2016

Well, its been a long five weeks since I posted last. A combination of long Fridays, and traveling have lead to my game play plans basically taking a backseat as either just not being around, or being too tired to stay up late, have lead me to taking some time off from late night gameplay. With that said it doesn't mean things haven't been eventful on a gaming level. For instance three Fridays back I picked up my first arcade machine and old Namco Air Combat system complete with cockpit. Than the Friday after would mark the first time I was finally able to get the machine into a spot where I could play it in my garage, and last Friday finally down to my basement. I've also added new games over the past few weeks including some Friday buys, but since those Friday's are past I will only mention them if they're played. 

This Friday's Buys

R-Type (SMS) - To continue on with my current flirtation with SHMUPS I decided to add this one to my SMS collection. According to the podcast Master System Masterpieces this game actually plays and looks really good, even if the backgrounds and enemies can look a little disturbing (as in true R-Type form). Overall though, it's said to be a credit to the Master System and the R-Type franchise. I can't wait to play it. 

Space Engineers (PC-Steam) - Imagine MineCraft set in space and with physics playing a much larger role in game play and you have Space Engineers. This was on sale this weekend through Humble Bundle, and my son has been pestering me a while about getting it. From what I've seen of the game on YouTube it looks pretty good, and I can't wait to play with it a bit before handing it off to my son just in time for Summer vacation.

This Weekends Play's

SHMUPS R'US! Over the past few weeks I have added a more than a few SHMUPS to my collection for the SNES, NES, PS1, PS2, XBOX 360, and Sega Saturn. For the most part these follow such famous SHMUP franchises as Raiden, Gradius, R-Type, and Capcoms 194x series, but I have added a few other  SHMUPS as well. Of course I have also added some non-SHMUP titles too including last Friday's buy Friday the 13th  for the NES, in honor of last Friday's date. 

Life Force (NES) - This NES classic is also known as Salamander and is a spinoff of the Gradius series. The basic plot of the game as I understand it is that you are attacking some sort of monster in space from the inside out. It's kind of got some of those gross bodily aspects to it like R-Type. 

After a few minutes of playing it I could see why it's considered a classic, but with that said though I did have some issues with game play. For instance I found movement to be a little stiff, and the weapons weren't exactly as intuitive as I have seen in other SHMUPS, even those on the NES. Overall, it's a good looking game, and I will probably return to it later. 

Urban Strike (SNES) - The "Strike" franchise of games are also considered SHMUPS, but with that famous "2.5D" perspective. Basically it's somewhere between a SHMUP and a helicopter flight sim. In case your unfamiliar with the "Strike" franchise, it's basically a series of helicopter shooter games with varying missions all of which have "Strike" in the name. Urban Strike is just one of three of these titles on the SNES, with Desert Strike and Jungle Strike being the other two (both of which are in my play pile). The plot of the games in the "Strike" franchise are all pretty much the same, your a special forces helicopter pilot out to destroy the bad guys super weapons, foil their evil plans, and rescue people. 

Despite the hackneyed plot line it's actually a pretty fun series. For me the controls felt off a bit for this one, but perhaps that's the Retron 5 controller, or maybe it just takes time to get the controls down. Overall, it's not bad. 

Cyberia (PS1) - This is actually a pretty good looking and fun little game, and I wish I could have spent some more time playing it. If you know anything about the PS1 and the era it came out in,  it explains a lot about this game. This after all was an era that was Goldeneye and Perfect Dark crazy, plus Cyberpunk was all the rage too. This game which I believe was originally developed for the PC has all those elements in it. Essentially the plot revolves around industrial espionage and stealing a nanotechnology device known as "Cyberia". I'm sure the game goes deeper than that, but it's as far as I got.

As far as game play it should be first person, but it's not, rather its third person and your main character can only move in four simple directions (forward, back, left, right), which seems counter-intuitive with game play in that era. Once you move past that though you find out pretty quickly that this is more of a story telling adventure, and FPS type controls aren't really needed. Overall, I would say it's worth adding to your collection if you want a game that epitomizes the era of the PS1, and is easy to pick up and play, as well as come back to.

With that said I really didn't get a chance to play any additional titles for this weekend, but hopefully there is always the next. I did however get the chance to play with my iCade this weekend, which has really undergone a lot of changes and had additional apps added to it since I played it last, but that's an article for a different time. Hopefully next weekend I can kick off the holiday with some heavy game play, good eats, and Tiki drinks but its a long way till next Friday, so its time to just bear down and hold in there. Till then!