Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Update #2 - 10/30 - Alone in the Dark, Project Firestart, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Clive Barker's Undying/Jericho, Shadow of the Comet/Prisoner of Ice, Zombie Raid, Parasite Eve 1, Braindead 13, Folklore, DreamWeb, Fright Night

In case our last update didn't disturb you enough, we're continuing our coverage of the macabre with a second, massive batch of articles. The largest of them is Alone in the Dark, widely considered the originator of survival horror and the game Resident Evil very deliberately copied its concept from. But there is actually an older game that fulfills all criteria for survival horror, and that is the C64 cult classic Project Firestart. This is an expanded reprint of a Making Of that originally appeared in Retro Gamer, so it includes a lot of quotes from co-designer Damon Slye and other people involved with the production. Amnesia: The Dark Descent on the other hand is a much more modern examples of the genre, and certainly one of the best in recent years since both the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series have more or less jumped the shark.

Not survival horror but first-person shooters are the two games made with creative input from renowned horror writer, director and producer Clive Barker, Undying and Jericho. Another duo, Shadow of the Comet & Prisoner of Ice are two Call of Cthulhu-based point & click adventures by Infogrames. The article has previously appeared in The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures, and now finally makes its transition to the site. We couldn't get a House of the Dead article this time, but we're running Zombie Raid by Sammy, which might as well have been a long-lost precursor to SEGA's series. We don't have that much lightgun shooter coverage on HG101, so this is gonna redeem that a bit.

We usually tend to cover only complete series, but we made an exception for Parasite Eve 1, in an entertaining analysis by Pat R, author of our humorist retrospective on the Final Fantasy series. Contuing towards even brighter tones, Braindead 13 is a very cartoonish FMV-based game in the vein of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. Folklore might also seem a bit misplaced on first looks, as it's set in a phantastic world vaguely influenced by Celtic mythology. But so is Halloween in a way, and Folklore revolves around the pagan festival of Samhain, which used to take place on October 31st, and many consider the originator of modern-day Halloween.

For our spotlight we've dug out the disturbing psycho thriller DreamWeb, since it's been recently made available as freeware after its addition to the list of games playable in ScummVM. Your Weekly Kusoge this time is Fright Night, a crappy, movie-licensed Amiga game where you run through your house as a suburban vampire and suck the blood from dozens of intruders into your home. And of course our iOS shooter coverage continues with page 20.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1 - OutRun

While we're battering down the hatches on the east coast for the upcoming mega hurricane, I've been putting the finishing touches on an upcoming Sega project which should be announced shortly. In the meantime, you'll probably be seeing a few blog posts detailing some of the more obscure things I've dug up.

I hadn't previously played much with the Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1 disc - this release was a book that came with a Dreamcast GD-ROM including many of his games, and I'd never bothered with it because most of the included games were already included in Shenmue. In updating the article, various places pointed out that the car model had changed slightly in these versions, from a Ferrari F40 to something that resembled a Testarossa, so I decided to grab some comparison pictures in an emulator.

What I also found out is that it runs in a higher resolution than the arcade game, though it's hard to really see the difference. But, it's noticeable in the below screenshots:



I'm not sure if it's an issue with the emulator or the original software, but the colors are darker in the Dreamcast version. I adjusted the brightness to more closely resemble the arcade version, though you can still see the darker road. The shadows don't work right in the emulator either, seeing how they're just pink blobs randomly strewn about.

The most important thing to notice is that the signs in the starting line are actually legible. What's more, a few of them even changed slightly - that one in the lower-right corner of the arcade version has an OutRun logo, but it's been changed to a cat in the Dreamcast one. There's also a sign that says Treasure in the Dreamcast version, and while the arcade one is illegible, it seems to say something different.

The sprites still look low-res in general, so it's probably no more than the artists slightly touching up sprites here and there, since the game is running at 640x480 rather than 320x224.

You can pick up other details too, like the trees looking slightly less jagged, and so forth. I think everyone's been under the impression that these ports ran the game with the original graphics and then just applied a smear filter when running at a high resolution. I think that's only half true - they may have applied some filters (rather than nearest neighbor) when individually resizing the sprites, but it's also clear that they retouched and redrew most of them, to fill out the detail and reduce the blurriness that such techniques usually suggest.

I'm not really clear about the other games on the disc - Power Drift and Hang On seem identical to their arcade versions, and After Burner II and Space Harrier don't function on the emulator, so OutRun may be the only one with any real alterations.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Update #1 - 10/19 - Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Kyros, Illbleed, Night Slashers, Downfall, Horror Zombies from the Crypt

Welcome to Halloween Gaming 101! As we're approaching the end of October, we're kicking off a huge two-part special full of horror and mystery. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a hellishly fun co-op monster mash by LucasArts for 16-bit consoles, squeezing together tons of classic horror movie references. Our article covers both the original and its sequel, Ghoul Patrol. It includes interviews with ZAMN creator Mike Ebert and Ghoul Patrol director Kalani Streicher, among other things revealing a very little known inspiration for the series: A forgotten arcade action game by Alpha Denshi, called Kyros, which we honor with its own article.

Furthermore, we're covering Illbleed, one of the craziest horror games out there, featuring gallons of fake blood, evil crashtest dummies and a Toy Story spoof, Night Slashers, a horror brawler by Data East full of early-'90s charme, and Downfall, a morbid indie adventure with intriguingly-looking hand-drawn backgrounds. The kusoge for this update is Horror Zombies from the Crypt, a ridiculously brutal action platformer for 16-bit home computers, while the spotlight is taken by Roberta Williams' Phantasmagoria, updated with the improved text from The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures.

Of course we didn't forget our other regular featues, even though we couldn't make them Halloween-themed in time: The Game Club 19XX podcast deals with Crystalis, SNK's Zelda-clone for the NES, and the iOS Shooter article is up to page 19 now. The Games of the World section also got updated, mostly to feature a translated article on the games industry in Malaysia (which ties in nicely with the ZAMN-article, since Ghoul Patrol was co-developed with a studio over there), but also some smaller contributions, like a photo stretch from arcades in Pyongyang, North Korea.

A look at... Tamagotchi clones?

Let me sneak this in before the big update... We've been having a lot of fun in the HG101 magazine scan thread. New forumite Corsair has contributed many a great scan. Wishing to help the effort I went and scanned (photographed) an entire supplement that came with CVG, covering all the Tamagotchi clones released at the time. I don't have an interest in virtual pets, but it's still kinda interesting to see how many companies tried to cash in on the craze. Plus you don't often find scans of mag supplements. If you've got any interesting or rare magazine scans, stop by the thread and share them. I also uploaded one on how Saturn Power magazine was made.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Game Club 199X Dispatch - Hybrid Purgatory

The Game Club 199X pick for October is Hybrid Heaven, which basically involves the mysterious Mr. Diaz waging a one-man war on an underground facility full of freaky creatures who know martial arts and professional wrestling moves. Except not really, but that's all that can be said for anyone who doesn't play past the first two areas. It gained some degree of notability (and a cover spot for Nintendo Power #123) for being one of the VERY few RPGs on the N64, a console which is otherwise barren of that particular genre. However, it's not really a straight RPG, more like a turn-based beat-em-up interspersed with third-person shooting segments and a bit of non-linear exploration. There really is no other game like it, but I really have yet to determine whether or not that's a good thing. Hybrid Heaven is like a flawed diamond that you eventually come to realize is a perfect zircon; it has a lot of stupid design decisions and general weirdness, but you come to appreciate it for what it is after the absurdity of it all sinks in after enough playtime.

The screenshot above may deceive any first-glancers into thinking it's a third-person shooter along the lines of Winback (another good potential GC9X candidate for the future), but get to an actual enemy and the game initiates a semi-real-time combat system. You can move around freely, but actually attacking or defending halts the action as you get to decide what your next move is. It's a novel concept, but it does seem a bit overblown to wait several seconds and build up power just to toss out a single upper right punch. You can also grab or be grabbed by enemies and be subject to moves that would make Ric Flair proud. Being taken down by a pigman's shoulder buster really puts the merit of this game in perspective. The unorthodox combat does beg the question: Would HH have been any better if it were just a straight beat-em-up? While novel, fights do feel far slower than they ideally should be and get decidedly boring once you realize that out of all the strikes and throws you learn, you only really need about five of them. Interspersed with fights are more active segments that involve some shooting, taking down droids and missile pods with a weak laser pistol that gets no upgrades throughout the game. The least these bits could have done is include a dodge button to alleviate some of the stiffness. Some stages don't always indicate where your next destination should be, and the automap is almost no help at all. 

Yet in spite of all those faults, you can tell that the developers at least tried to make HH the most unique and twisted game it could be. That effort alone is what earns its place on the N64's veritable "hidden gems" list. That, and it's penny-cheap on eBay. The gameplay is actually strangely fun once you know what you're doing, and even if repetitive after a prolonged period of time, it's fun to piledrive abominations in short bursts. Without spoiling too much, my personal favorite thing about it is the ridiculous plot, which is like a Metal Gear story boiled down to its absolute minimum with a heavy dose of Independence Day-style science-fiction thrown in. While ultimately window dressing, it tightrope-walks the line between legitimately entertaining and insanely stupid. Hell, HH as a whole IS both entertaining and stupid, and it's definitely worth at least one play for anyone looking for something different by N64 standards, let alone standards defined by ANY other game (perhaps except for Vagrant Story).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Update 10/8 - Tracing the Influence, Guide to NES Maintenance, Gateways, Panic Restaurant, Fire Bam, Superman 64

One of the biggest criticisms of our hobby today is that video games are trying too hard to be like movies. In truth, it's always kind of been like that - numerous games from the 80s and 90s have ripped off famous Hollywood actors, most coming from overseas and hoping no one would notice. Derboo's feature article Tracing the Influence takes five pages and probably a few hundred images to dig through the many "inspirations" from movie posters, stills, and other bits of artwork. The Metal Gear/Terminator one is perhaps the most well known, but there are tons and tons of other examples, and is full of a lot of "OH SH-" trivia.

Another feature article too is Ike's Guide to NES Maintenance. Written by one of our forum members, this in-depth guide includes numerous photos on how to clean and keep your NES in working order.

For game articles, we have a review of the recent indie hit Gateways, a Metroidvania take on Portal developed by Smudged Cat Games, the folks behind The Adventures of Shuggy, both of which are available on the Xbox 360 and Steam; Panic Restaurant, one of those absurdly rare/expensive late NES release by Taito (similar in that respects to Little Samson); and Fire Bam, an interesting action-RPG for the Famicom Disk System. And Page 18 of the iOS Shooter article covers UFO Attack!, Space Falcon Commander, Ace Shooter and Flare Elite.

Our spotlight article is Sparkster / Rocket Knight Adventures, for no other reason than one of our longtime readers discovered a cameo of the high-flying opossum in the Konami dating RPG Mitsumete Knight. And your weekly kusoge is the infamous Superman 64.