Wednesday, 30 December 2009

3D Bomberman

Managed to get a hold of the Sharp X1's entire library of games... I think. There's no doubt that it was a terrible system, but it did get a few strange obscurities in its several year run. Obscurities such as...

3D BOMBERMAN. Yep, back before Hudson had even given their character the classic "robot" look they were toying with the idea of bringing the series into the third dimension. Obviously attempting to pull it off on systems like the Sharp X1 meant the end result is pretty horrible, but the series hasn't done anything like this since so it must count for something.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Truth be told I hadn't played Super Mario Bros. 3 until fairly recently. I wasn't part of the American generation that dragged their parents to the cinema to see The Wizard and that damned Power Glove, and as a Sega fan I didn't see much of a reason to play as the plumber until the days of the Dreamcast came to an end. Thanks to the wonders of emulation in the space of the last six years I've come to know pretty much every Mario title to date, from the dangerously mainstream, to the obscure, to the spin-offs, to the rip-offs and of course the pirates, hacks and homebrews. Admittedly I never saw a reason to dabble in the sports series much, and Mario Party wasn't my thing, but you name a Mario platformer and I'll have probably seen or played it, and then I'll proceed to name ones you haven't.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Hurt me plenty

Saxman of ProSonic fame is writing a program that'll let you transfer WADs to and from the Sega 32X port of id's legendary FPS, Doom. It's still at a preliminary stage but as a proof of concept release here's Doom II's first level running on Sega's craptacular add-on:

Can't get that on Nintendo... yet. The textures aren't all there and things like the music are still relying on the original game, but it does pave the way for 32X ports of Final Doom and of course, Chex Quest. And what better way to spread Christmas cheer than pixelation and horrible music conversions.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Sharpen up

The tORP Super Mario Bros. Special page has been updated. I may have to do a similar thing with Punch Ball Mario Bros. in the future, but that probably won't be quite as interesting.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Super Mario Bros. Special: The Sharp Edition

Remember Super Mario Bros. Special for NEC's obscure PC-88 computer? Well turns out it spread into Sharp territory as well.

Presenting the hideously rare Sharp X1 port, kindly pointed out by local legend Techokami. Like the PC-88, the Sharp X1 is a fairly obscure computer that didn't get very far outside of Japan, but because the Sharp X1 has the advantage of being a better bit of kit, this time the game is actually bearable.

Though it's mostly the same game, the X1 port benefits from slightly better graphics, "Zelda-like" scrolling (as opposed to the static screens of the PC-88 copy) and significantly less lag. It also seems to have introduced several new enemies and powerups, inspired by the Arcade classics Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, and is the first Mario game in history to sport a "flight" powerup. It's actually quite a good game, which is a lot more than can be said of its awful NEC-licensed cousin.

I'll be going into more detail with this in due time, which may possibly involve some sprite ripping like the good old days. Until then, spread the word that this thing exists, because it's been hidden from the mainstream general public for the best part of twenty-five years.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


You can never guess where the obscure Mario titles will pop up next. "BROS" for the Atari 800 computer, a public domain release by German group "KE Soft" in 1989. Initially bundled with a bunch of polish demos on a double-sided disk, this game has largely escaped the gaming public, probably because like the MSX, nobody really cared for what the Atari 800 had to offer in terms of forgotten titles, and because it was a demo infringing Nintendo's copyrights it won't have been widely distributed in the first place.

Friday, 27 November 2009

You got your Mario in my Street Fighter II


More fun for me when I inevitably update tORP. A while back I attempted to create some sort of timeline with Street Fighter II pirates but it was horrific to sort out. Lots of similar dumps splattered all over the net in various locations, undocumented and in many cases, unemulated outside of the likes of FCEU or Nestopia. As far as I'm aware nobody has made a decent stab at trying to make sense of these pieces of garbage, but this will certainly help bridge a gap.

Essentially it's Master Fighter III with Mario (and a Little Nemo background) added. It's nothing spectacular, but these sprites were all carried through to Mari Street Fighter III Turbo so there was clearly some sort of underlying relationship going on here.

Along with this dump, yet another Mortal Kombat pirate popped up, this time going under the name of "Mortal Kombat V Pro". The second outing for our good friend Zoo.

I suspect it pre-dates "Mortal Kombat V Turbo 1996" which I've already written about, though strangely this seems to run at 60 frames per second unlike its sibling, making it the better choice.

Isn't piracy just grand?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Super Aladdin

I'm having to resort to broken builds of FCEU due to a lack of updates on the Nestopia project. A shame I suppose... Nestopia is probably the best NES emulator out there... but anyway look what popped up recently

It's Aladdin on the NES... again. Back in 1992 the Mega Drive title was a phenomenal success as it was one of the first examples of pairing smooth Disney-like animations with a video game. Though DOS and Amiga ports were understandable, for some crazy reason it was ported to the NES... badly, and released only in Europe. In between then and now, two other NES ports have popped up; the hideous "Aladdin 2" which I've talked about briefly in the past, and "Super Aladdin", which has been around a while apparently but only got my attention recently.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Fedora 11

A Linux review on Blog Squirrel?! Bet you never thought you'd see the day. I didn't think I would see the day in this decade, but once you're blessed with sixteen times more RAM you find you're able to see a lot more... but anyway once upon a time I struggled to run one operating system - now thanks to Sun's VirtualBox-inator 3 and the rise of the Virtual Machines I can run half a dozen at once. We can thank Gordon E. Moore for that.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The glitch that stole Christmas

It's safe to say I've worn out Clickteam's "The Games Factory". A follow up to 1994's "Klik 'n' Play", TGF was a reasonably successful game creation tool of the late 90s. In 2001, Multimedia Fusion rolled along, and nowadays MMF2/TGF2 are the ways to go about creating similar applications. TGF is, and has always been, immensely buggy, but somehow I've let myself get by. One such bug is this, which popped up for no particular reason this afternoon:

I can't adjust animation speeds anymore, which pretty much forces me to either upgrade or stop producing garbage for kicks. I've chosen the latter, since MMF's interface isn't half as fun and I'm on a course learning C++ anyway. The SHPDMGWL4 series owes its life to this program, as do many, many other early indie/fangame classics, some of which I may end up releasing for the hell of it (I do have half a decade's worth after all). 13 years is a very long lifespan, and to be honest, it was only really me keeping it alive.

One slight concern was that I was due to make my annual christmas special within the next month. TGF was unlikely to make its way to any future computers of mine, so it would have been abandoned in 2010 regardless, but now all I can give you for christmas is this screenshot:

We're all out of gum.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

CD-i emulation in MESS

Your resident Squirrel doesn't have the internet speeds nor the patience to play with 100MB downloads right now, but the Multi Emulator Super System project (MESS) has recently added preliminary Philips CD-i support. It's the second emulator ever to do so, and the first that's fully available to the public for free. A bit of a surprise, since because MESS is ambitiously attempting to emulate every console in existence at once, it tends to lag behind in the emulation scene a bit.

The Philips CD-i is one of the worst consoles ever made. It came at a time where CD-based games were the bees knees, but the equipment to run CD-based games was sub-par. Its creation was the result of Nintendo's demands to create a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo, similar to what Sega's Mega Drive and NEC's TurboGrafX were offering, but the deal was never fully realised. Both Sony and Philips were tasked with the job, Sony's attempt resulting in the long running PlayStation line while Philips resulting in this pile of molten garbage. There are very few decent games for the CD-i - most are haunted with very poor quality FMVs, long loading times and terrible controls due to a terrible controller, not to mention most of its software isn't even targetted at a gaming market.

But there are a few interesting features of this console, such as the dodgy Mario and Zelda titles and various one-hit-wonders. Anyway the point is up until now the only way to emulate this stuff was to dish out €25. Now it's free.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Revenge of Shinobi prototype found

Sega are known for releasing half-assed Mega Drive emulators to the public. You may think it's a fairly new thing, but it actually dates back to the late 90s, just a few years after the emulation scene began. During this time Sega released several "compilation packs" (mostly in America), throwing in a few ROMs and an emulator in the hopes of achieving a few bucks. Sega PC Smash Pack was one of their PC attempts, relying on Steve Snake's first Mega Drive emulator from 1997, KGen.

Do note though, a "good emulator for 1999" tends to suggest that it's a terrible choice today. KGen was considered good because it was the first emulator to have a decent amount of compatible games and Yamaha YM2612 sound emulation, both of which are a standard in all modern emulators, even the ones adopted by Sega.

One of the bundled games in Sega PC Smash Pack was Revenge of Shinobi, a 1989 classic. RoS has been ported to numerous platforms over the years (not to mention it was re-released on the Mega Drive half a dozen times too), but this was its first PC outing. And a strange outing it certainly was.

Turns out for whatever reason instead of using the final US version, whoever created the pack opted for a Japanese prototype, hence the title "The Super Shinobi". Surprisingly, nobody noticed, and in fact the box art actually calls it "Super Shinobi" despite the fact it was NEVER called that in the US.

There was clearly a distinct lack of testing within the walls of Sega of America at the time, because this prototype is surprisingly early. It's missing a lot of music, a couple of bosses and various copyright screens. A level select is enabled by default, and there's a "No death" mode selectable, so not only was it poorly emulated the game wasn't even complete.

Recently the ROM has been extracted and can be run on most emulators. There's probably a load of differences I haven't mentioned, but I'm not a massive fan of the game outside of the music and crazy bosses. Hilarious stuff that something so broken could be released to the public though. Too bad they didn't learn from their mistakes when the Game Boy Advance's Sonic Genesis got put on the shelves.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

When emulation goes too far...

... you find yourself emulating menu systems to old computers you used to use such as this (click for a bigger picture). PowerMenu by Brown Bag software was the GUI of choice when Bedlington's council offices were powered by DOS computers in the late 80s/early 90s. One of those computers arrived on our doorstep after a clearout in 1994/95 and served as my "gaming computer" for half a decade before this machine came along and rendered it, and it's Windows 98 step-sister inferior.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Yes I'm a gamer, but being away from home means I don't actually have games to play, or rather, I haven't installed any programs for taking perfect optimised screenshots. What I do have, however, is a TV, and my TV can receive...

Dave, the home of witty banter. Dave is probably my favourite digital channels at the moment - it pretty much took all the great shows from the BBC (plus some from Channel 4, Five and other lesser channels), added some great stuff of its own and rolled them into one nice package with elephants and indoor marching bands.

This review was created for the BBC, chosen by Blog Squirrel.

Friday, 9 October 2009

X-Men 32X

The MegaDrive emulator Kega Fusion has been updated to version 3.63. Though Kega has been out-performing the competition since Christmas 2008, it's now doing so with significantly less memory consumption, and as there's been a lot of work in the 32X department...

X-Men 32X will run! Sega Saturno released this one a month or two ago after some donations, however no emulator could run it so we were reduced to a few off-screen YouTube videos, which wasn't really sufficient for an unreleased and potentially groundbreaking game.

Friday, 2 October 2009


There's not going to be as much activity from yours truely for the next coming months. 'Tis the first year at university and I'm having to make do with a connection that varies between <1 and 20Mbps, as opposed to my usual constant 7.6Mbps. I call it the "kitchen dependant connection", because both the WiFi and radio seem to struggle when someone is cooking up a mess. The move affects my entire internet career and is likely to screw up the sending of emails and uploading of files so don't expect the craziness of the summer where I was able to do 42738942 internet tasks a day.

I'm likely to still be around at weekends though... such as now.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Catacomb 3D

When people talk about "the first First Person Shooter" often the discussion turns to Wolfenstein 3D (unless they're educated and then it usually involves Maze War). This is fine, because Wolf 3D is a great game, but there were FPS games before it. And good FPS games at that, such as...

Catacomb 3D, one of the early works of id Software. Of course it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise that id Software were behind a revolutionary FPS - they did make Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. What is a surprise is how good this FPS game is, despite having to rely on the wonderous 16 colour EGA palette.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue

Remember Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion?... No?... Really? I mean it is freeware these days so there's nothing stopping you from playing it... oh well. This is the sequel.

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue, a.k.a. Dangerous Dave III. Despite Dave being a character created by industry legend John Romero, DDRR was made by an entirely different team at Softdisk, because by the time it rolled by in 1993, John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall and Adrian Carmack had formed id Software and were making things like Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D (and later Doom). Softdisk saw Dangerous Dave as a powerful asset so they made another two games without the Dave 2 team, this and Dave Goes Nutz!. Of course, I'm not entirely sure how powerful they thought the guy was, because despite wielding a shotgun and driving a pickup, the games aren't exactly Mario or Sonic beaters.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Castle of Illusion

Oh look, another Mega Drive classic to add to the pile.

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, a game developed by Sega AM7 in order to help maximise the Mega Drive's audience before their blue hedgehog came to town. Minnie Mouse has been captured by the evil witch Mizerabel, and Mickey needs to save her. Personally I'd cope with the loss but then again I'd have got the local police service involved and have this mess sorted out without fairly quickly. And I wouldn't spend 90 years walking about half dressed.

Jump Around 2: Hopping Mad

And now I've covered the sequel, Pocket Monster II, also for the Mega Drive. If I'd known I could have got this done so quickly I'd have bundled it with the last post. Speaking of which, I've managed to match up the second level of that game with the fourth from Mr. Nutz. So I guess this is the first squirrel-related post on Blog Squirrel.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Jump Around

I have a tORP update for you

Yet another Pokémon pirate homebrew, this time it's "Pocket Monsters" on the Mega Drive. I just can't wait to see what the deformed platforming Pikachu turns up in next! This particular pirate wound up on the Super Nintendo as well, and later scored a sequel, "Pocket Monsters II" (though I've yet to cover that). It's not particularly new, but coverage has been so poor that people have been labeling it as public domain for some bizarre reason. Make sure you're not one of them I guess.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


You can't help but admire Sega Saturno - they've given us prototypes of three unreleased games in as many months, even if X-Men 32X doesn't run in any emulators.

Their latest catch, Lobo, a fighting game based on the D.C. Comics anti-hero of the same name. It was due to be released for the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo in 1996, but was cancelled despite Nintendo Power devoting six whole pages to the thing. It's the Mega Drive version that's surfaced first, and though it's largely complete, it's a rather dull and somewhat ugly fighter with a grand total of six stages.

One of the strangest features is rather than making the start button pause the game, it'll switch Lobo's moves between kicking and punching. You shouldn't need to use this method if you've got a six button controller, but the game seems to forget that these extra three buttons exist after the first stage. It also has a very strange "round" system similar to boxing games that in this version reeks of incompleteness. Crazy. On the plus side, the music isn't too bad, and I'm guessing the graphics may have been better in the SNES version. It had the potential to be a decent game, even if it wasn't one of 1996's greatest hits.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

de Blob

"Wii" and "third party" don't seem to mix well. You tend to get this strange hue which looks nice for the first few seconds... until you realise it won't match any of your furniture. But occasionally you get a title such as de Blob, which doesn't really need to match your sofa since it's always changing colour.

Initially the lovechild of nine dutch students, de Blob was released for the PC a few years ago as freeware. The deal was simple; paint de city by running over de people and slamming into de walls, while avoiding de INKT police. It was an interesting concept, so interesting in fact that the rights were picked up by THQ, who got developer Blue Tongue Entertainment to spice it up for the Wii, making a pleasant change no doubt from Blue Tongue's usual supply of licensed shovelware. Luckily de Blob Wii has managed to improve tenfold on its PC counterpart, and has proved to be a good reason to turn my Wii on for the first time in months.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

tORP 3.0

It was my Birthday two days ago, and I was going to post this closer to that date but sadly 110mb's servers thought it would be fun to break. Again. But now that it's not being stupid...

tORP 3.0: Now with 100% more CSS positioning

The Obscure Research Project now has a fancy new layout (well, "fancy enough" anyway - I wasn't attempting to win any web designer awards). Could be worth a look, though not so much if your browser isn't a fan of web standards. Lots of pages have been re-written and there's been a heap of fixes HTML/CSS wise too. I've also saved about a megabyte of space by optimising images. Hurrah.

Articles such as Sonic Jam 6 now have a lot more meat on the bones. Back when that article was first written the only Mega Drive emulators that would support its brother, Super 1998 Mario 2, were crazy ones like HazeMD, but since Kega Fusion took it under its wing, we can start making baseless theories about timelines and whether Mario protects the tube stopper in Hidden Palace Zone.

Despite claiming that I probably wouldn't cover this game, I've gone ahead and made a Pocket Monsters Red NES article. I went about as far as I can go without having to teach a Pokémon gardening skills, but comparing this thing to the Game Boy classics is a job for more "intense" Pocket Monster fans. At the end of the day, if devoting Wiki pages to LM4 is deemed acceptable by the Pokémon community, I can't see how tearing this NES game apart isn't.

tORP is also the first site to have a nice comparison between both versions of Pocket Monsters: Go! Go! Go!!. Awkward naming schemes both on the Pikachu and the Smurfs sides of things has meant this game has been documented quite badly by the internet. But hey, I made the same mistakes too, hence why I've re-wrote it.

V.R. Fighter vs Taken2 is now a lot more presentable. Dunno what was up with me a year or two ago but I was really writing some tripe. It's looking like a decent meal now. There's plenty of other re-written pages as well, including Rocman X/Thunder Blast Man and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and of course the promised Tiny Toon Adventures 6, which I've matched up with its Game Boy counterpart.

Some pages aren't going to be brought to the new world of tORP however. I saw no reason to keep the outdated Mortal Kombat II for NES, nor any reason to keep the StarFox 2 SNES/Sonic Crackers articles when other sites are doing a much better job at covering those games.

So, have fun with this I guess and feel free to post feedback (though don't expect fixes for old browsers). If your browser can pass The Acid2 Test you should be fine, and all the main browsers do.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Super Runabout

The Dreamcast's 10 years old today in North America (and it would have been 10 in Europe too if it wasn't for that last minute delay), and what better way to celebrate that fact than review some seemingly random Dreamcast game of years long past.

Today's pick, Super Runabout. A frightening game, because recently I found out it was part of a series. Released in 2000 by Climax Entertainment, Super Runabout came to the DC between the release of the godsend that was Crazy Taxi and the period where Grand Theft Auto 3 made waves on Sony's console. Not a particularly great time for a game that fared lower than Sega's efforts, because GTA3 raised the standard far beyond what Super Runabout could have achieved. It's like if you released a FPS game that was worse than Wolfenstein 3D just months before Doom came along. Bad luck, or a rubbish business plan?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos

I've been re-writing my Sonic the Hedgehog 4 page on tORP, which requires actually playing the Speedy Gonzales game it was based off rather than just making guesses about the game like before. I suppose it's a bit sad, because more people on the internet seemed to have played the pirate hack featuring Sonic than the official, untouched Speedy Gonzales game.

Developed by Sunsoft and published by Acclaim for the Super Nintendo, Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos is a platformer involving the cartoon mouse on his quest to save other cartoon mice from some cartoon cats. As you can guess, it's a "fast" platformer and takes a few ideas from Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog series, hence why it was such a good match to throw Sonic in and market it as Sonic 4 for the SNES.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Coming soon

I've been doing quite a lot of CSS work at MFGG, experimenting with the wonders of the preliminary border-radius attribute, among other things. It's amazing what you can do, and also amazing what Internet Explorer can't do.

However, The Obscure Ripping Project is mess when it comes to things like CSS, hence it's getting a makeover that's both easier on the eyes and easier for me to maintain. It's also got a new logo, and a slightly new name to reflect the shift from sprite ripping to game research. It's tORP-riffic.

What I can't guarantee is whether it'll work properly in browsers such as Internet Explorer 6, so I'm not going to. As with most things, I'm recommending Mozilla Firefox 3.5 for the full experience, but you should be fine with Safari/Chrome and well... anything that's more advanced than IE6 really. If there are massive problems, at least this time it'll be an easy fix, but I'm not going out on a limb to support outdated browsers, so if you're using that relic, it might be a good time to upgrade.

On the plus side it's given me an excuse to bring the older pages up to spec. You know how it is when you're young - you think you're the second coming of Shakespeare, but then you realise Shakespeare wouldn't be playing Punch Ball Mario Bros. on the PC88 - he'd be writting sonnets about women above his average or something... I dunno. Initially these articles were supposed to be brief, hence the short length of some of them, but that doesn't help anyone and lengthening them takes time.

Of course I endorse Firefox now, but I've seen the plans for the 3.7 UI redesign and it doesn't look pretty!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dragon's Curse

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap is probably one of the Sega Master System's better titles, and also one of the better titles in the whole strangely numbered Wonder Boy series. Because of this it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Sega are planning to port that game to the Wii's virtual console... except...

It's already been there a couple of years in the form of Dragon's Curse! You see, Sega owned the trademark "Wonder Boy" and wanted to keep it primarily on Sega hardware (well... they did after the second game anyway). Westone, the developers of the Wonder Boy games, owned the code though, so they were able to approach Hudson/NEC with the same games for release on the TurbografX-16 (PC Engine in Japan) but with different characters and title screens. The benefits? Well... the TG-16 outclasses the SMS in almost every way imaginable, so Dragon's Curse outclasses Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap. This happened a lot in the early 90s and any description I try to write about it will be flooded with Sega's stupid Wonder Boy naming scheme, so look it up elsewhere.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Rack 'Em

I've recently started making Wikipedia better by submitting pages for computer/video games I own, since the world tends to hate classics such as CrimeWave, Electro Man and Grid Runner. How dare those Wikipedians make me have to visit multiple sites! Unfortunately my works just missed "the three millionth English article" award, but at least I know they represent about 0.00016% of Wikipedia's list of topics.

One page I'm particularly proud of is my Rack 'Em page, which just a few days ago was bound for deletion as it wasn't "noteworthy" enough (though Accolade's other reasonably obscure title Mean 18 was!). Who'd have thought a couple of American newspapers would save the day?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Squirrel scores the jackpot

One of the benefits of having a really old computer from 2001 is that it's still got a built-in 3½ inch floppy disk drive, so when a cleanout happens and I'm re-united with the hoards of DOS games from years long past, I can have a proper search through for gems. Along with the expected original Duke Nukum and various other common games (such as Squarez Deluxe which went freeware a few years ago), there were a few disks that sparked my interest.

It's clear that despite supposedly going through these games half a decade ago, my dear old dad was keeping a few things secret. There's a corrupted strip poker game for DOS and a couple of other NSFW disks cleverly marked as "SPARE" and "MORE SPARE". Ironically despite being not safe for work, chances are these came from work, but it doesn't really matter as sadly these disks are probably headed towards a landfill site now. But since this is the only active computer with a floppy disk drive left and it too is due to be replaced, I can't see anyone losing sleep over it. There's also a copy of Leisure Suit Larry 6. I knew there was a Leisure Suit Larry game hanging about somewhere in this house but I didn't think it would a one from as late as 1993. The things you learn.

But on the SFW side of things, I've safely copied over two DOS games from my early childhood:

"Noddy", in it's graphical rollercoaster entirety and

"Shoe People". I'd go into great detail about these edutainment "classics" but since they're a lot worse then I remember I might just send them off to abandonia or somewhere if there's a demand.

Other interesting things were the appearance of Commander Keen 2, 3, 5 and 6 (full). Though it looks as if they were written onto floppies in 2002 (possibly by myself) this particular version of Keen 6 was a better copy than the one I had on this hard drive, lacking the copy protection enemy guessing stuff. Nice. There's also a broken copy of what appears to be a Space Invaders game relying on the PC's internal speaker - I might look into that one further because everyone loves Space Invaders.

Finally one of the more impressive treasures

Mean 18 for DOS. A golf game developed by Microsmiths and published by Accolade in 1986. It's a game I didn't even know we owned, but there it was, split across two disks having been left for dead for the best part of twenty years (and would have stayed that way if it wasn't for DOSBox). Sadly two of its colour options are now redundant, relying on composite monitors that nobody has anymore (and DOSBox can't emulate it). It means I'm left with the not-so-nice looking 4 colour mode, but aside from this it's a pretty nifty golf simulator that also held up well on the Atari 7800 and Apple IIgs.

As with many of these games, a few years down the line this thing got ported to better systems, in this case, the Amiga and the Atari ST who both run rings around the DOS version, but who cares - this is a long lost computer game found in a cupboard, and that's not something that happens very often. Now if there was an Atari ST in this cupboard, that would be something, but I'll have to make do with a book about shorthand, a TV from the 70s and VHS tapes featuring Sooty and Co.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Street Racer

And now, a game that requires a long introduction - it's the semi-obscure racing game Street Racer, developed by Vivid Image and published by Ubisoft.

Street Racer turned up in 1994 for a variety of platforms that couldn't handle it. The Sega MegaDrive, Commodore Amiga and Game Boy all got a version styled similarly to the likes of Super Monaco GP or Super Hang On, (i.e. like OutRun, but not as good). The game attempted to throw in a few items and was more appealing to kids, plus it could be argued that it was quite an impressive achievement on the hardware, but on consoles that couldn't handle sprite scaling such as these, it quickly faded into obscurity due to blandness. However, one port released at this time for the Super Nintendo was a success, mainly for its use of mode 7. Though still overshadowed by the likes of Mario Kart and F-Zero, Street Racer was able to put up a good fight, having a different styled battle mode and even a "soccer" minigame to keep things fresh. Still a distinct lack of "streets" on all these ports however.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Magic Boy

I should invest in some Kennels.

Magic Boy, a game I have on a disk for DOS somewhere but I keep forgetting exists. Developed by a company known as "Blue Turtle" and published by Empire Interactive (or JVC for the SNES version), this game was released for a heap of "similar" platforms back in 1993 - Commodore's Amiga, the Atari ST, DOS and later, the Super Nintendo. Having had a bit of success back in the day, Magic Boy has largely been thrown aside and forgotten about, only occasionally being dug up by strange people like me.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Devil World

Urban Champion, Tennis, Baseball, Pinball, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Volleyball, Soccer... tell me when you can guess what all these games have in common. Here's a hint, they all came from the early days of the NES when small carts were common. Kirby's Adventure, one of the last NES games released a decade later, was produced on a 768kb cart - that's 32 24kb Urban Champions for the price of one. This blog post will probably be bigger than some of those games.

Why do I mention this? Because these games are terrible, and not even in a good way. They've been ported to various different consoles due to their small size, sometimes more than once, but never improved on or updated, despite the fact they should have been left to rot (or at least combined into one title rather than sold spearately). It's surely criminal to sell these games for the same price as say, the majority of the NES catalogue that were between 5 and 13 times the size of these things, but it happens. There's not even a discount due to the fact that they generally suck.

But there are a few exceptions which I'm willing to stretch for, such as Devil World.

Devil World is a reasonably early Famicom game that bypassed the US markets due to crazy religious censorships in that region at the time. It did, however, reach Europe in 1987 (after a three year delay I might add), making it one of the only first-party Nintendo games EVER to skip out the yanks in favour of us. But that's not exactly a good thing, because Europe hated the NES. Europe was Sega's fun-zone, and it took up until 2006 for Nintendo to actually start leading the pack for once (and even then "leading" could be mistaken for "positioning themselves at the front to collect all the shovelware"). Devil World, having had its references removed from Super Smash Bros. Melee for some reason, fell into a world of obscurity. And even though it's available on the Wii's virtual console, history is repeating itself simply because nobody knows what Devil World is (and at the end of the day, all NES games are very, very old).

Following in the footsteps of PacMan, the player follows a green dragon called Tamagon on his quest to erm... attack the "Devil's world". You do so by eating dots and then putting books in holes. You're hunted down by the Devil's minions who can be killed by using the POWER OF CHRIST (or just crosses/bibles) and the Devil sits at the top of the screen making two other minions scroll the screen about, trying to crush you. Unlike PacMan, there's a two player option and there's a few different maps rather than the same thing over and over. A nice time waster, and yes it was made by Shigeru Miyamoto, unlike the likes of Golf.

But it's still a shame for this to be yet another entry to my ever growing list of underdogs. It's a step above most of the games released for the NES at the time (by "the time" I mean 1984, the Famicom release... 1987 put this game at a slight disadvantage due to titles like Super Mario Bros.), and if it hadn't been filled with Devils and crosses, chances are this would be a common addition to any normal person's NES collection in the US. But from what I gather, it isn't, so give it a go at some point.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

SHPDMBGWL4 4 on hiatus

Though it might not be a massive surprise that progress has been slow - usually I'm boasting about my craptacular game whenever the opportunity arises. I've had a bit of a creativity block as of late and this plus the lack of motivation to program in some more levels probably means that SHPDMBGWL4 4 won't see the light of day in 2009 at the very least. I do have my annual Christmas specials to do you know!

SHPDMBGWL4 4 was a massive project despite its initial aim to be smaller than the last title, SHPDMBGWL4 3 EX. What was going to separate this from the earlier games was the role of Quackers, who would eventually become so twisted over time he'd evolve into the game's main villain. It was due to get a tiny bit complicated and have different versions of Space Korea escaping the boundaries of their respective parallel universes to rage war on the multiverse with Quackers, who would become so twisted that he could effectively control the thing. Very ambitious.

Though I can't safely say this game is "cancelled" as such (I may pick it up again in a few months... who knows), if I do decide to pull the plug chances are I'll release some content to the public so they can finish it off if they so desire. I'm hoping to start and complete a course in computer games programming so who knows, maybe Quackers will come to your home and be voiced by Eddie Murphy or someone, and have far too many in-jokes to be taken seriously. And the Jengo Fett alternative can go around predicting low Metacritic scores and commenting on poorly rendered areas and glitches. And the game can be a cross between an RTS and a one-on-one fighter. And the game comes strapped to a cat.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Champ Kong

I still administrate the better half of Mario Fan Games Galaxy and it's my job to sift through the constant flow of rubbish submitted by people who haven't quite grasped how the internet works. Yesterday was mildly interesting, because someone who hadn't been eating from the intelligence tree decided to submit CHAMP Kong, a 1996 port of Nintendo's classic Donkey Kong by CHAMProgramming to DOS (though this particular submission was a bugfixed version from 1997). Who'd have thought that games largely considered abandonware would be submitted by their original authors to a fangaming website! Wait... no, nobody thought that and that's why it was declined.

Now, truth be told, DOS computers didn't really receive many Arcade ports, and often it was up to other companies to fill that gap with exclusive software. CHAMProgramming, a US-based company who appeared in 1992, gave themselves the task of producing renamed ports for the gaming public. CHAMP Kong wasn't their first title, but it was very accurate for the day and was the first, in what would become a regular feature, to have a "CHAMP" mode improving on the original game, as well as a classic mode attempting to emulate the original game as much as possible.

Though it was never guaranteed to be a perfect port, in 1996 this was pretty much the only way PC users could play Donkey Kong within their own homes. Emulated Arcade or NES (the logical back-up plan) ports wouldn't appear until 1997 when the emulators MAME and NESticle arrived respectively (and even then you'd need higher PC specs to run them), so if you were desperate for Donkey Kong, this was the only way to go. Ironically, considering newer versions of MAME have been screwing around a bit with games like Donkey Kong, it could still be considered one of the better ways to play today.

However, clearly nobody was desperate for Donkey Kong, or any other CHAMP games, as the company went out of business in 1998. Before they kicked the bucket, CHAMProgramming were promising CHAMP versions of Burger Time and Frogger, and further plans showed that they were willing to tackle 10 more classic titles too including Donkey Kong Jr.

So though it's not an accept-worthy submission, it's worth a mention. There's more details at this fan site (though the downloads are broken). I'm not actually sure whether these games were officially deemed freeware but chances are CHAMProgramming hadn't got permission from Nintendo/Atari/whoever anyway. As with most DOS titles, you'll need DOSBox or a reasonably old computer for the full experience.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The End

This seems appropriate.

"The End", a 1980/1981 arcade game by Konami which I only found out existed a few days ago. A space shooter, similar to Galaxian or Galaga, The End has you shooting at insect things who are after your "blocks". If they manage to get enough, they'll spell out "END" and the game will... end. Your job is to stay alive while making sure they stay dead.

Though the game is nothing to write home about, it's an interesting take on the genre and despite getting an American makeover (a few sprites and the position of the blocks were changed), The End has never been ported to any home systems. Not entirely surprising however, as many of Konami's shooters were similarly tossed aside, though a few have ended up on Yu-gi-oh cards. What is surprising is how poorly this is emulated through MAME. Is its native resolution really 7:24? Nevertheless I think it's about time Konami started releasing a few of these games in a real compilation. Gradius is fun but they have made others!

Oh and if you're thinking "The End" is one of the strangest titles a game has ever had, you've clearly not played "Name that Game" for the Atari 2600. That game has octopi, and at least this game has an "END".

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Independence Day

Remember that film starring Will Smith where aliens invade America and then America somehow defeats all the aliens? Well Radical Entertainment (now part of Activision) made a game about it and released it for the Sega Saturn, Playstation and PC in 1997 (and later mobile phones). Every now and then it pops up as one of the worst games ever made, but once more it seems to be a case where not many people have actually played it before passing judgement. So lets do this game some justice.

Of course, one of those reasons might be because the game, unlike the film, lacks Will Smith. Remember those "all range mode" segments in Star Fox 64 where you and your animal buddies go around blasting things? Independence Day is like that. All the time.

I have the Sega Saturn port and have had it for a number of years, but it's taken me until now to really give this game a good playthrough. One thing that's interesting is that despite Star Fox 64's big promotion that "no games before had ever done what Star Fox 64 does", Independence Day was actually released before the N64 classic. Nintendo had a team of very skilled programmers working on better hardware headed by Shigeru Miyamoto. Radical Entertainment were probably rushed to make a game for several platforms based on a movie (that didn't have the most interesting settings) to generate quick income (and Radical Entertainment were responsible for those edutainment NES classics that are Mario is Missing and Mario's Time Machine). Not to mention they didn't have the selling point, Will Smith, to help them out, so is it any wonder Independence Day looks bad in comparison?

There are some flaws that could have been addressed though. The draw distance is poor. So poor that you're never entirely sure where you're going, and often there's no fogging to compensate. The controls aren't as bad as people say but unlike Star Fox avoiding things is tricky. Yes you can barrel roll, but rotating in an F-18 fighter jet takes a lot longer than those of a fictional futuristic starship. And you have to remember, this game was made with D-pads in mind, not fancy analogue sticks. By the third level you almost permanently have a bogey on your tail, and because humans suck, the only way you can really do any damage is via missiles, of which there are few. And did I mention that in some cases enemies spawn from behind your starting position, meaning you're shot at before you've even had a chance to press a button?

And then there's also your comrades. They don't purposely fly into your bullets like in Star Fox, but they're there, repeatedly telling you the instructions of the mission and pointing out whenever anyone on the map has a lock on someone. There's a few sub-missions which I thought was quite cool, but then they just echo phrases like "you better get back to the main mission soon as time is running out!", repatedly. Oh and time isn't on your side. They're generous to give you plenty to actually tackle the main mission, but then they'll reduce it to one minute in order to destroy the core of the current spaceship floating above you. It seems to me that these aliens could destroy the city at any time they wanted, so why bother with the counter in the first place? And where the hell are your allies and why can't they do this?

It's also worth noting how insanely difficult this game gets. There are apparently 13 levels, but even completing level 3 is tricky (and this is on easy mode). This really is a challenging title though luckily there's a save system to help out (and for some reason you can only load your game via the options screen... which is an odd choice).

But even though Independence Day (the game) isn't due to win any awards, it's not bad. Not worth the £40 it would have originally sold for, but worth the couple you can find it on the market for today. Many of the problems I've encountered were simply down to the limitations of the Saturn, and the fact this was a very new concept at the time. Like how most of the 3D platformers before Mario 64 sucked, Independence Day simply drew a short straw here. Give it a year or two and this could have been great, but it's certainly not a game that deserves to be butchered as much as it is.