Blaster Master is a game I’ve heard abunch about when I was a kid, and when I ended up accumulating a bunch of bookson video game strategies – none of which were officially licensed, including a few written by Jeff Rovin, who would later go on to write Tom Clancy’s Op Center series. The game interested me, though often the books I was reading didn’t have pictures to show me what the game looked like, so I had to make assumptions on what the game looked like.
So, when Nintendo Power #3 had a preview of Blaster Master, I felt like it was woth giving it a try. The premise of the game is fairly simple. Your pet frog is mutated by radioactive waste and goes down a giant hole in the ground. You chase after him and fall down the hole yourself. There is no sign of your pet frog nearby, but there is super-high tech tank nearby, which you hop into to rescue your pet and hopefully bring him back to normal. Continue reading → Quality Control – Blaster Master
We move on to Nintendo Power’s third issue, and it’s first holiday issue, for November and December of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Track & Field II, and the page count has come back up to about 110 pages. As always, the magazine moves straight to the features and strategies from the page after the table of contents.
Track & Field II Strategy Guide: Well, right off the bat, the game’s got a bunch more events than the original Track & Field. For example, we’ve got fencing, archery, swimming, pole vaulting, high-dive, shooting, horizontal bar, canoing, and taekwondo. The controls of the game look fairly simple, for example, in fencing one button controls attacking, one controls defending, and then the D-Pad handles movement and combining one direction with a button performs a certain attack or defense. It isn’t exactly Street Fighter, but it’s got a bit of complexity to it. Anyway, we get strategies (and the controls) for each event. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #3
This week’s installment of the EGM reviews takes us forward to Issue #36 for July of 1992. Our cover art for this issue is Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight in Batman Returns – new Batman movie, new licensed games. A trend that would continue until The Dark Knight, which didn’t have any licensed games on consoles (phones don’t count). Our page count (for this issue) is 133 pages, though on the cover they bill “over 160 pages” – so unless my copy is missing an ad-insert, something is up. If anyone knows if my copy is missing pages or if it’s a misprint on EGM’s part, please let me know.
Anyway, our first ads are for Super Castlevania IVagain, and then an ad for the Toxic Crusadersgames (as in the film by Troma) for the NES, Game Boy, and SNES. What I want to know is this – with Nintendo’s draconian licensing policy for content in games, how the helldid a game based off a Tromamovie get on a Nintendo console. They became famousfor their use of over-the-top gore to the deliberate point of comedy, as well as grotesque character designs. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly Issue #36
So, today I will leaving on my grand vacation. From today, Thursday, May 14th to the following Thursday, I will either be in Hawaii or on my way to/from Hawaii. Fear not, dear readers, for I have scheduled content to come up on the site on the course of my vacation, so you needn’t worry about 7 days of dead air. There may still be dead air on Saturday, but my Where I Read posts and my Quality Control posts will continue apace. Once I get back, and once I have some digital pictures I can put up, I’ll try to get a post togeather with an accounting of my vacation or something.
For our next issue of GamePro we skip ahead a few months to issue #7 for February of 1990, billed as their “Insane Sports” issue, which, as you can tell from the cover art, has the dumbest cover art in the history of video game magazines. The issue is about 100 pages long. Our first ad for the issue is for Demon Sword, a Swords-and-Sorcery style adventure game, with one of the most absurdly stupid swords I’ve ever seen in the history fantasy art. To counter act it, we have an ad for Wizards & Warriors II, featuring Fabio on the cover! All things considered, this cover art isn’t too bad. Oh, and we get ads for Operation Wolf, Goal (Jaleco’s soccer game), Stealth ATF another NES Flight Sim, and a 3 page Genesis ad. That’s 8 pages of ads before the actual magazine has started. Continue reading → Where I Read – GamePro #7
So, for Issue 2 of Nintendo Power, I picked for my game of choice Life Force by Konami, which was billed as the spiritual successor to Gradius.
To be frank, it has a lot in common with Gradius – both in terms of the ship design, most of the weapons in the game (laser, missile, option) and the power-up system in general. In general, the game controls pretty well, though I’m playing this with the X-Box 360 controller rather than the the NES controller, so I have an Analog Stick to work with. Anyway, the weapons work very well, and the game’s new weapon, the pulse cannon, works significantly better than the similar weapon from R-Type.
Ultimately though, if you want to make a good shump, what you need is good combination of solid controls, good level design, good weapon selection (and the weapons don’t have to be original, necessarily, they just need to be useful), and good enemy design – with both the generic enemies and the bosses, and both in terms of their movements, and in terms of their attack pattern (how do they move, do they fire bullets, if so how many bullets to they fire, how fast do they travel, and so on). Oh, and you can’t have slowdown. Continue reading → Quality Control – Life Force
Now, onwards with our Nintendo Power recaps with Issue #2, covering Castlevania II, which was the first Castlevania game I ever played. This issue is about 105 pages long, which is actually a drop in the page count from last issue, which is different for most gaming magazines. Normally the second issue is longer than the first issue (but not always).
Bionic Commando Strategy Guide: So, we have a strategy guide for the original version of Bionic Commando, which has been since been remade for the X-Box 360 and PS3 as Bionic Commando: Rearmed which you can get through X-Box Live Arcade, and through the Playstation Network. I’ve already purchased that game, and it’s decent (though it’s hard). It’s one of the first action platformers I recall that was non-linear in it’s path to the conclusion (Capcom would later borrow the map system from Bionic Commando for their second G.I. Joe video game), and it didn’t let you jump – but instead it gave you an alternative in the form of your grappling arm, as opposed to, say, Robocop which did precisely jack. In the course of my discussion of this game, I’ll go over any differences I observe from the NES version of the game to the re-make. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #2
We continue with our Electronic Gaming Monthly reviews with EGM #16, to fill some of that rather large gap we’ve got between issue #6 and issue #25. This issue, which came out in November of 1990, and is significantly shorter than the issues from #20 on – only about 97 pages in this issue. The cover art for this issue is for Super Mario World for the SNES, which currently has a working title of Super Mario 4.
Our first ad for the issue is for Pac-Mania from Atari/Tengen, which looks lot like Pac-Man with an isometric camera angle, different environments, and jumping. Tengen really seems bound and determined to run the Pac Man brand to the ground. We also get ads for the game Skull & Crossbones, where you play a pirate trying to rescue a princess from a wizard and his undead warriors. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly Issue #16
I’m not the guy writing the review for Bureau42 – which means that my thoughts on the movie go up here. So, it all comes down to this simple question – it’s technically an odd numbered Trek movie, whether you consider it number 11 or number 1. After all the hype, after seeing the re-designed ship, seeing the cast list, learning whose directing it, and reading the prequel comic. There is only one question that needs to be answered – is it good?
Note: I’m going to try to avoid spoilers – I may not succeed. So, for those viewing this on the site, I’ve got the meat of the review below the cut. If you’re reading this through the RSS – be warned. I may include some material from the Star Trek: Countdown comic as being “not-spoilers.”
So, I’ve been doing my “Where I Read” posts for a little over a month now – now for a brief review to go over a few things we’ve learned about the evolution of this magnificent (heh) hobby we call gaming, from the various magazines I’ve read. I’ll be be doing similar installments every few months, as the series (plural) go on.
As for now, here’s the first 3 things we’ve learned.
So, as part of my continuing mission to chart the path of the early days of gaming, and hopefully put those titles available through the Wii’s virtual console or on the shelves of your local game retailer that sells classic games (or available on eBay), I’m also expanding my magazines I’m recapping to GamePro. GamePro is, at present, the only video game magazine on the market that isn’t attached to a retailer (like GameStop and Game Informer). GamePro’s first issue came out in May of 1989, the same month that EGM’s first issue came out. Unlike EGM’s first issue though, the cover art doesn’t specify any particular game, and the magazine is only about 65 pages long, which is a little shorter than EGM’s first issue, but not by much. Our first ad of the magazine is an ad for Atari’s first-party fan club, the Atarian Club. The ad in general looks really dorky – complete with an ultra-scrawny Atari-themed superhero (with cape and Atari-Shield) holding up a moon. The next ad, for Bubble Bobble from Taito, is a step up. Continue reading → Where I Read: GamePro #1
So, for my recap of Nintendo Power last issue, I decided to select RBI Baseball from Atari/Tengen. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have chosen to select a baseball game. NES baseball games in general had one major problem – their fielding controls stunk wholly and utterly. Batting usually worked well. Giving instructions to the runners usually worked well. However, I have yet to encounter a Baseball game for the NES that didn’t have absolutely horrid fielding.
As you can tell from the last sentence, RBI Baseball’s fielding is pretty bad as well. Specifically, it runs into 3 problems – well, technically 4 problems, but I’ll get to the 4th in a minute. Firstly, when you’re controlling fielders, you’re controlling blocks of fielders – you’re either controlling all of the outfield, or all of the infield. This makes getting the ball to the base where it’s needed more difficult, and makes catching fly balls more difficult. For that matter, the fielders you control don’t include basemen, so, among other things, I saw a baseball slide bounce right towards the space between my 3rd baseman and the shortstop. I went to move the 3rd baseman to catch it, and the shortstop moved instead – the computer got 2 runs in.
The second problem is that once the outfielders get the ball, whenever that will be, they never throw the ball to the infield hard enough, even if it’s center field throwing to 2nd base. Invariably, the ball will strike the ground several feet before it reaches the necessary base, bounces in to the basemen. If you’ve ever watched Major League Baseball, you know this never happens. I’d be willing to forgive poor fielding, if once I got the ball, I could get it where I needed to go quickly, and thus do damage control. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Third, getting fly balls is extremely difficult – whenever the ball goes up, it goes out of camera frame, and gives no definition on the arc for the ball – and whether it’s going, going, gone – or if it’s going to plop down a few feet outside of the infield. Again, this leads to more runs given up, and more runners on base, for really stupid reasons.
Finally, the fourth problem that I was saving for last, is that all of the concerns I just raised do not apply to the computer. This isn’t a case of “oh, I suck”, this is a case of the computer playing pro baseball, and because of the difficulties of the controls, the graphics, and the “physics”, I’m playing like Charlie Brown’s team. All in all, it makes the experience significantly less fun.
Now, there is a 7 game season available (one game against each team), and if you lose a game it isn’t a game over – however, there is no option to save your game and no password mode, so you have to play 7 games in one sitting. Just to make things slightly more annoying – there is no one-game two-player mode, just a best-of-7 series. You can still turn the system off or restart it after one game, but it’s still a nusance. For all the gripes I had playing the Bases Loaded series when I first got into gaming, RBI Baseball is worse. Don’t play this game.
All that said, it is interesting to see this game, and see how baseball games have evolved over the years of play. The genre has improved a lot.
So, I’m going to expand on my Where I Read threads some. Basically, throughout my EGM recaps, I’ve tried to contextualize the content of the magazines with my knowledge of gaming from what was going on in the world around that time, as well as what has gone on in the world since then, and general things that we, as gamers, have learned in hindsight. However, what I’d like to is to expand on that even more, by contextualizing the magazines, even further, it helps to read more magazines. So, to play off this theme, I’m going to basically add a few more gaming magazines to my recaps, not all at once, but slowly over time.
To give you an idea of how I’ll be including these recaps – EGM will be my “lead” magazine – I won’t recap any of the other magazines I do any further than I’ve progressed with EGM. If I haven’t reached the first issue of another magazine yet, I won’t start recapping it until EGM gets there. Oh, and one more thing, I’ll be including “House Organ” magazines in my recaps – Nintendo Power, as well as official Sega magazines as well (if I can find them). For each of those recaps, I’ll be doing a side feature which I’m going to refer to as Quality Control. The purpose of this feature will be to find a game that was previewed in that month’s issue and play it, and see if it lives up to how well the magazine hypes it. The game chosen will be selected by 3 criteria, of which it must fit at least 2.
I must not have played it before.
It must not be a “classic/landmark game” – one which is universally known as being good-to-perfect. None of the first 3 Sonic games, not the first Castlevania game, none of the core Mario Brothers games, not the first Final Fantasy.
It must be interesting.Specifically, it must catch my interest.
I will then play the game, (though I don’t have to beat the game), and then I’ll give my thoughts on the game, and whether the game the magazine in question was full of crap or not.
The first magazine I’ll be recapping is Nintendo Power #1. The first issue came out in July of 1988. At this time, Nintendo Power was a Bi-Monthly magazine, and it’s first issue was only about 114 pages long. It’s first cover was a nice looking clay Super Mario Bros. Diorama, which also got Mario’s hat’s color wrong (on the picture it’s blue with a black M in a red circle – in the games it’s red with a black M in a white circle. It’s a nitpick, but it makes the picture look off. The game getting top billing in the magazine is, no surprise, Super Mario Bros 2, a.k.a. Doki Doki Panic, with the playable characters from that game changed to be Mario, Luigi, Peach (who is getting a name for the first time), and Toad. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #1
We continue onwards with our EGM Recaps, with our review of EGM #35. I’ve also gotten EGM #15 as well from Retromags, but I’m going to hold off on that one for my next recap (as I’ve already unzipped this issue). Our game on the cover this issue is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4 – which has yet to received it’s subtitle of “Turtles In Time” though the time travel element is already evident in the cover art. Our page count for this issue is up from last issue, at about 180 pages. Our first ad of the issue is for Super Castlevania IV, and another ad for Hook for the NES. Now, before I get on to the articles, I just want to mention one little thing that either is an error on Sendai’s part, or a practical joke they did late – on the page for the editorial (Insert Coin), they have the credits for the magazine. For this issue, the credits are mirrored. Now, this issue is for June not April, so it’s not their prank. So, I have no idea what they’re doing here – hopefully they’ll explain later. Moving on…
Insert Coin – Editorial: Our column for this issue is by Steve Harris, about the upcoming Summer CES, which is for the first time open to the public. To Steve’s credit, he does not approach the news with the dread that you’d expect among modern game journalists, that the unwashed (sometimes literally) masses would flood upon the floor, and keep them from doing their job and playing the upcoming games so they could cover them (which is the train of thought that lead to the death of E3 in the first place). We’ll see the EGM editorial staff changes their tune. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #35
Travel documentary series, while at times they can be enoyable, aren’t necessarily my thing. Often times, like Travels in Europe, by Portland native Rick Steves, or Globe Trekker, the people hosting the show are people who travel professionally – they write about it, and often times they take the time to get to know an area, and thus they have all the tricks and tips to pass along to you to make your stay more comfortable. I’ve also found that these end up making the documentary a little less approachable. They’re being told by an old hand. So, in the course of my travels and travails through Netflix, I found a travel documentary series by Michael Palin – Around the World in 80 days. Being a fan of Monty Python (as is any self respecting geek), I watched it. Now, what did I think about it? Continue reading → DVD Review – Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days
So, we continue with our Electronic Gaming Monthly recaps and reviews with issue 34 – the issue after what was, perhaps, EGM’s most famous April Fool’s Joke Ever! Did anyone get the joke, or did people around the world feel the wind rustle through their hair and wonder what that was?
Our cover art this issue is for Super Double Dragon. That’s right, the founding brothers of the beat-em-up are back, and now in 16-bit. Can the Double Dragon franchise (one which is, as of this writing, dead, beheaded, and buried at a crossroads with a wooden through its heart, a holy wafer in its mouth, and a crucifix pressed into its cold hands – right alongside the Battletoads. This issue is about 148 pages long, smaller than last issue. Our first ad is for Ultra Golf, for the Game Boy – from Ultra (which isn’t apparently, as dead as I thought it was last issue). Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #34
When one thinks of cinematic action-platformers for the NES, the first one that comes to mind is Ninja Gaiden. It is, probably, the first game to feature out-of-engine cut-scenes in-between levels, to frame the story. To be frank, not a lot of games during the 8-bit era aspired to the heights set by Ninja Gaiden in the presentation of its story (which was, to be fair, ankle-deep at best).
One of the few that tried to go where Ninja Gaiden went before was Vice: Project Doom for the NES from Sammy. It tries to expand on Ninja Gaiden both in terms of story and gameplay by changing the setting to something closer to 3o-seconds in the future (with an police officer protagonist), and by adding additional gameplay elements such as driving shump sequences and shooter segments. Does the game achieve the same level of quality attained by Ninja Gaiden, does it exceed it’s quality, or does fail to attain those lofty heights?
So, continuing with my EGM Recaps, I move on to Issue 33, for April of 1992. For those whose calculators are broken, that would be a 6-issue gap from Issue 27. Once I get issues that will fill any of these gaps, I will fill them. This is, currently, the first Street Fighter 2 cover for any issue of EGM I’ve done thus far. Not too surprisingly the art is provided by Capcom. As an interesting touch, it shows Chun-Li fighting Blanka, with Ryu knocked out cold in the foreground. I say that’s notable, because most of the other Street Fighter games after Street Fighter 2 have featured Ryu standing triumphant, as basically the mascot for the franchise. The issue is about 165 pages long which is a bit of a step down.
Our first ad for the issue is for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project – which is the first TMNT game to be put out by Konami, as Konami, rather than through the Ultra brand, which Konami used as, basically, a shell company/label to get more games out through Nintendo’s draconian licensing projects (which I’ve discussed at length in previous reviews). We get another ad shortly afterwards which is notable in a different respect. We have an ad for M.C. Kids, from Virgin Interactive – which is ignoble because it is a McDonald’s licensed game for the NES – we are reaching that point in the NES’s lifespan where, basically, the development teams that made the Castlevanias and the Legend of Zeldas, and the other classics of the 8-bit generation, have moved on to the 16-bit machines, which is what needs to happen if the 16-bit generation is going to thrive. Well, you know it’s April, because they’re fucking with us already on the “Insert Coin” page – the staff list is entirely in Japanese. Not all Kanji (I’m seeing what I think is Katakana), but all Japanese characters. So, if there’s anyone new this issue, you’ll have to tell me. So, let’s move on to the actual content, shall we? Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthy: Issue #33
There have been many excellent documentary series about our cosmos and how it works. Many of them, particularly Cosmos, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, and The Elegant Universe, have been hosted by noted astrophysicists, astronomers and cosmologists, such as the late Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Green (respectively). They’ve also generally been on public broadcasting, or on channels like the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel – which focus on science programming. The History Channel has now started running The Universe, a series on our universe and our solar system, how it works, and what it’s like, and how we know what we know about it. So, the question is, is the show on par with the documentaries I’ve already mentioned, or does it kind of fumble the ball like The Dark Ages did?
Covering everythng from how our solar system formed, to the properties of the various planets, to the threat to our planet from Near Earth Objects and Gamma Ray Bursts, to The Big Bang and how we learned about it, the show covers a multitude of topics about our Solar System, using visual analogies, computer generation representations of planets, asteroids and events, and interviews with cosmologists, physicists, and astronomers to explain how the universe works. Continue reading → DVD Review – The History Channel Presents – The Universe: Season 1
Thanks to the wonders of “Netflix Watch It Now”, I’ve been able to catch up on some great documentaries that I missed because I don’t have cable. I’ve also caught up on some not-so-great documentaries that I missed because I don’t have cable. This documentary fits into one of those categories, and I’m not entirely sure which.
Covering the period from the fall of Rome to the start of the Crusades, this documentary tries to cover basically all of the basics of European History during this period, using accounts from historians who are experts in the period, as well as footage of actors re-creating life during the period known as the “Dark Ages”.
So, I previouly wrote a letter to the Spokesman, arguing against those who would reject skateboarders out of hand, and argued in favor of a new skate park. Aparrently I was not the only one who felt this way, as last week Monday some of Wilsonville’s skateboarders and their families came to the city council meeting to argue in favor of a skate park. I can’t give any specific information on what was covered, as video of City Council meetings are only available through their cable access channel, which, as is the nature of the beast, you can only have access to if you have a cable subscription, and the Work Session isn’t covered. Consequently, if you don’t have a cable subscription (or instead have Satellite or FIOS TV), then you can’t watch the meeting if you weren’t able to attend. No, there isn’t any streaming video available.
Isn’t transparency in government great?
Fortunately, the Wilsonville Spokesman did an article about the meeting, so I was able to find out some of what was discussed, and the discussion at the council meeting lead to a seperate meeting with council members Stephen Hurst and Michelle Ripple, as well as representatives of the parks department to discuss what actions skateboarders and their families (and me) can do to get a skate park together. I managed to get enough notice on this one (8 hours notice – from the article in the Spokesman) to attend this one.
So, World Wrestling Entertainment, which is currently the largest wrestling promotion on earth, also holds the largest match library on earth, the matches from many of the major promotions in what is known as “the territorial era.” To cash in on this they have put out the DVD “The American Dream – The Dusty Rhodes Story”, following the career the one of WCW’s major stars from their early days (and the second they’ve put out a DVD collection about) – “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.
Moving on with the EGM Re-Cap to Issue 27. The cover of this issue features “Super Mario Brothers 4”, which would be later released as Super Mario World, as well as screen shots of Terminator 2 Arcade and the Lucasfilm Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back games (Lucasarts hadn’t officially been formed yet). Our page count for this issue is taking us to the 200 page area.
The first ad of the issue is Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge for the Game Boy. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, this is one of the Castlevania games that has been removed from the canon, followed by an ad for F-15 Strike Eagle for the NES – most of my prior experience with actual fight sims on the NES demonstrated that the NES didn’t work for that genre at all. We get an ad for “Treasure Master,” another NES game – with one of the hooks for the game is that if you beat the game you get a password you can use to enter in a drawing to win fabulous prizes like tickets to a concert or sporting event of your choice, a fully outfitted entertainment center (which, going by the description, would have been pretty good rig up until HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, at which point you’d have to replace the TV with one that had HDMI connections)
Guitar Hero: Metallica, the second game the Guitar Hero franchise to be based around a specific musician is now out. I, being a cheap gamer, can’t afford to get that at the moment, and being a cheap bastard, decided to pick up a new copy of Guitar Hero Aerosmith from Gamestop for $10. That and I like Aerosmith. Now, I had my reservations about Guitar Hero 3, particularly with the game’s learning curve, and how well it handled anything above “Easy” in difficulty. Does the Aerosmith-based spinoff of Guitar Hero 3 address my complaints?