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.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

You persky hedgehog

Almost forgot to post about Sonic Rebirth, the late arrival to SAGE 2009. This game, along with Sonic Robo Blast 2, was heavily hyped at this year's expo, and why not? All of its screenshots and videos looked excellent, and it was promising to be a full release. You don't get many full releases at SAGE that aren't simple minigames or tripe.

There's still not many screenshots that can be taken that don't look good, but Sonic Rebirth turned out to be a bit sub-par overall. Yes it's still a Sonic fangame that outclasses the majority out there on the net, but when you bear in mind the engine was largely made by someone else, it has a lot to live up to. Rebirth attempts to re-create Sonic 1, improving it dramatically and adding features such as Tails and unlockable Sonic 1 8-bit levels. It's a good idea in theory, because Sonic 1 is probably the worst of the 16-bit platformers, but in practise it hasn't quite passed Sega's old standards yet.

The graphics are sexcellent in most places, though towards the end you do start seeing more and more tiles taken straight from Sonic 1 with no touchups at all. The OGG music (which started out broken) isn't too great and requires extra downloads, the collisions and level design, despite being based on the original Sonic 1, make the game significantly harder and frustrating than the MegaDrive original. I did not think it was possible to make Labyrinth Zone worse, but Rebirth managed to prove me wrong. The cutscenes are littered with poor English (yes the creator isn't English himself, but that just sounds to me like a reason not to put cutscenes in the game =P) and it just generally lacks polish. The game seems to have lacked any bug-testing, because some of these flaws are surely simple fixes.

To give Rebirth some credit though, it does generally look fantastic, and Tails is a plus. Not entirely sure why anyone would want to unlock the likes of Bridge and Jungle zone - they weren't exactly brilliant levels to begin with and Rebirth makes them a lot harder, but hey. Also kudos with those Scrap Brain Zone Act 2 spinny disc things - this is the first game I've played that handles those properly - even the original Sonic 1 is flawed. Also Tails' game is a bit more fun because he can fly over bosses.

So overall, Rebirth didn't live up to expectations, but I can't really criticize everything as there are a few things Rebirth does very well indeed. Here's hoping this game will be spiced up a bit in the months that follow.


Just finished uploading an article on Char's 100-in-1 GBA pirate onto tORP. 21% of the compilation was noteworthy for being pirates, hacks or homebrews. I haven't gone into a massive amount of detail this time around, because there's not much that can be said for graphic hacks and games I've already covered, but check it out sometime.

I am somewhat inspired to make a separate article on Sachen's "Pyramid" which appears in this compilation. As I said in the above page, the idea is good but the execution is lousy. However in this day and age I can't see why someone couldn't do a better job.