I recently completed Tomb Raider during a live stream. Fifteen brutal yet beautiful levels packed full of puzzles, wild animals, water, sand, oh and Pierre. Never before have I live streamed a game that stirred such strong feelings of nostalgia. This was something that I reflected on with my chat throughout every stream. What exactly was it that made the original Tomb Raider so special? Let’s take a Swan Dive in to the Core Design of Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider.
Solitary. That is how you / I start out on the very first level of Tomb Raider. After my Sherpa met an early death, I set out in the cold caves of somewhere in search of something. Even at this early stage of this beautiful work of art, Tomb Raider felt special. As I learnt the basic moves I felt confident in wanting to take my adventure further. The complex jumps across treacherous gaps still wreaked havoc with my vertigo but jump by jump I learnt to trust the process that Core Design had so perfectly built.
Tomb Raider introduced Lara Croft as their Ain protagonist. A female protagonist?! This was game changing back in the 90’s. More so, that Lara had a very pronounced triangle top half. Triangle tits became a slang phrase with my friends. Triangle tits? Did Core Design really do this? Was it on purpose? No matter what the intention, Lara’s breasts were a serious talking point that arguably helped to carry the Tomb Raider brand a long way.
Back in the 90’s we never left the UK. I did not travel abroad until I was an adult. Tomb Raider opened my mind up to the world, cultures and adventure. Jungles, tombs, sculptures, pyramids, waterfalls! Tomb Raider had it all. Some of my favourite memories are thinking back to playing Tomb Raider and feeling like I could escape and be in a foreign land.
I often hear a lot of Tomb Raider fans discuss how difficult the mechanics of swimming are. I found it to be a simple mechanic to pick up. I would go as far to say that Lara’s walking and jumping mechanics are much more difficult to master. I fell many times whilst trying to walk to the edge of a ledge (even whilst holding dow the walk button) and then there’s the moments when I jumped backwards and accidentally fell to my death. Swimming was the least of my problems. Back in 1996, we did not realise at just how blocky the controls were because there was nothing to compare it to. I am so tuned in to the fluidity of playing Shadow if the Tomb Raider that when I went back to Tomb Raider, I had to devolve my play style. Luckily, my muscle memory reverted back to my mid-90’s love affair with Tomb Raider. I was kicking ass!
Everybody has as least one memory from playing Tomb Raider on the PS1 or Sega Saturn. Or perhaps you played Tomb Raider on the PC? Back in the 90’s level five was my nemesis. I remembered the dreaded verticality and four doors. You had to unlock each of the four doors to progress to an area. At the end of the area you would obtain a key. During steam I was dreading this level but it turned out to be a breeze. I felt like I played through it seamlessly. My nightmare levels turned out to be, seven (Palace Midas), thirteen (Natla’s Mines), fourteen (Atlantis) and fifteen (The Great Pyramid). How did we manage to beat this game as kids? Natla’s mine had far too much fiery danger for my taste and an incredibly annoying mini boss that took me at least ten times to kill. Level fourteen felt like a level from Doom what with flying demons. I kept getting in to a new area and thinking “this has to be it. This has to be the end right?”. Nope. Level fourteen seemed to go on and on forever. Fortunately I had my live stream viewers to keep me company along the way.
Despite the difficult levels, there’s no denying the majestic nature of Tomb Raider and its long pasting legacy on my life. During my recent play through I could not help but think at how clever the level design was. Even more mind blowing was that Tomb Raider was created by six people from the original Core Design Team in Derby. Derby has a special place in my heart as it is my home city so I have often bragged that “me and Lara Croft were born in the same city”. As much as the game still resonates with gamers today, little can be said about the Core Design studios. Sadly is was closed and turned in to flats. Nothing is left of the original studio aesthetic.
The question is not about how much of an impact Tomb Raider had on me; it’s what would have been different if Tomb Raider had of never existed? Obviously I cannot give an exact answer. Perhaps Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series may never have existed? We certainly would not have had any Tomb Raider films. It was through the Tomb Raider films that I discovered Cambodia and the beautiful Temples of Angkor. Later in life I ventured to Cambodia to teach English. If the games had never been developed I wonder if I would have ever gone to Cambodia. Perhaps not. One thing can be said in all certainty, Tomb Raider is tremendous and I love it!
Blog post by: Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24
Retro Gaming is a huge passion of mine. There's nothing better than going to a retro gaming market and seeing your favourite childhood games and consoles neatly lined up ready for you to browse through and buy. More intricately, over the last five years I've noticed some gorgeous custom Super Nintendo's, Game Boy's, Game Cube's and more. Adding a splash of colour to a SNES Shell certainly adds a level of personality and charm I would have never expected. So when Rob from R.A.W Talent Art approached me to collaborate I jumped at the chance. I got the chance to catch up with Rob to talk about some of his work in the console modding community and we find out just what is it that inspires him?
So Rob, tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a 37 year old father of two. I live in Norwich, Norfolk but without the accent, luckily. I'm a creative sort that's a bit of a perfectionist who is currently learning the art of patience. I enjoy playing consoles with my kids and revel in showing them the Retro games I grew up with. Only when they get older will they realise that not every child has access to almost all consoles every released!
How would you describe Console Modding to someone who didn't know about it?
To me console customising and modding is a passion, an escape, therapy, hobby and a job I guess. Its most peoples wish to be paid for something they are passionate about and I've worked hard for almost 8 years to get to the level I'm at now.
What got you in to console modding?
Before I customised consoles I was an illustrator/artist. I was commissioned to make paintings of various things, namely Marvel characters, books covers, abstract work. I became disillusioned with the way I had to acquire work, bidding for jobs against other artists who could afford to do the work for less as they still lived at home with few commitments. I couldn't survive this way so buckled and became a driver for a big supermarket for a few years. This was OK but not my aim in life and soon felt like something was missing from my life. It dawned on me that that thing was creativity. With a full time job and two young children spare time was almost non existent. I started to think of a way to get back into being creative artistically with limited time. The paintings I made previously were VERY time consuming. I asked myself what my passions were, art was an obvious one and the other was gaming. So I came up with a way of combining my passions into a hobby.
Guest Blog Post by Jack @ThePnutbean
Remember the hype? The real genuine hype, not this meme hype of today. Hype like people buying Zone of the Enders mainly for the Metal Gear Solid 2 Demo? The hype around Tomb Raider and how channel 4 did a show during the release of ‘Last Revelation’ of Lara’s history? Remember that hype?
The cynicism behind todays marketing feels more like Stockholm syndrome than real, honest hype. As the hundreds of suites with a default face pound on my door, telling me “You like this game, buy this game, you like it”. Or maybe it is I, who is cynical, looking for something to connect me to my past, to simpler times, to fell once more.
One game always stood out during those times, a game every magazine publication could not stop talking about well after its release. That game was Resident Evil 2. A game today still loved by many.
Naturally, in today’s climate, such a classic cannot remain in its original form, and a remake was inevitable.
Most people will already know of the Capcom Resident Evil 2 Remake that garnered critical and commercial success.
But there was a second remake some gamers may not know about, more akin to the classic- SteamForge’s Resident Evil 2 The Board Game.
Upon opening the box, you are greeted with ‘This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore’, the exact frame from the original Resident Evil 2; a fine detail any fan would admire.
Inside the box you will find over 20 tile pieces designed with Racoon city and Police Department. Over 30 pieces to create the terrain elements such as walls, stairwells, doors, corpses, typewriter and item box. 30 sustained effects and gameplay tokens such as item tokens and wound tokens. Then miscellaneous tokens such as the weapon dials to count your ammo, boss health dial, health/poison condition marker, ink ribbons, side pack, and your health tracker.
After the tiles, you will find various cards, 50 item cards (item deck A and item deck B) with explanation of items use- like handgun ammo giving you 8 bullets.
Weapon cards display more information- such as the weapons range, how many and/or what attack dice are needed.
Each character has a specific character card that indicate what weapons they can use along with a evade counter (number of evade dice the player uses), and how many items they can carry. The card also displays the characters special ability, a once a turn or round ability to aid the team’s survival. But mindful, enemies have their own reference card with special traits too.
Last set of cards is the tension deck, a card where after each player turn that alter the game world; some cards do nothing, others spawn enemies or other various effects that can foil your plan. Later scenarios will see you replenishing the cards with ink ribbons and typewriters, otherwise it’s game over.
Die Hard Trilogy is much more than a game. It is an experience that many of us gamers smile about even in to 2020. I’m making specific reference to the Nakatomi Plaza campaign or rather the Die Hard campaign which sees John McClain jostle upwards through nineteen levels of terrorist action. Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengence both add some fun play time but nothing quite compares to the forty of Die Hard.
We start out in the basement of the Nakatomi Plaza. The goal is clear, kill the terrorists and reduce the hostages which sounds simple but it’s not. Using the mini map is crucial to survival as it reveals both hostages and terrorists. It is possible to complete a level without rescuing all of the hostages (as I accidentally killed many) but you must wipe out every terrorist At this point a thirty second timer ticks over the screen and we must quickly scramble to the designated lift exit. Some of the larger levels make for an adrenaline fuelled, intense scramble to the lift. The relief you feel when you jump in to the lift and make your way to the next floor is explosive.
There’s a decent array of weapons to find on every level ranging from a pistol to an Uzi to a hand grenade and more. Be careful though as letting go of a hand grenade in a tight space will cause you serious damage if not death! Sadly I did this too many times on my Die Hard live streams. When you can land some shots on the enemies they go down fairly easily.
Zombies or Zombies Ate My Neighbours as it is known in North America is available to play in a beautiful first person mode, well almost. A clever video game modder by the name of Dude 27th recreated the first three levels of the famed Super Nintendo / Sega Mega Drive title; Zombies. Inspired by the classic FPS; DOOM, Dude 27th serves up some phenomenal gameplay of his 16bit crossover. I learnt about this mod today but it's been around since the middle of 2019. As Dude 27th points out in his last YouTube update both Zeke and Julie are playable characters and eight of the familiar weapons have been recreated such as the water pistol, WeedWacker, soda cans and more. To add icing on the cake the original soundtrack and sound effects. Levels also match the exact original game layout. More details on the mod can be found here but also take a look at some of these official screenshots.
Guest blog post by Ben Rai @BenRai
Gamers let's dive head first in to the tale of the ReBirth trilogy, created by Konami for the now extinct Wiiware service on the Nintendo Wii's WiiShop channel. The series of games launched in 2008, starting with Gradius Rebirth, followed by Castlevania Rebirth and Contra Rebirth in 2009.
I downloaded all three of these titles, each averaging about £10. I was a big supporter of Wiiware and really encouraged the idea of developers contributing to the market with smaller ,shorter and relatively cheap games that were at least on par with the 16-bit Sega Megadrive or SNES era.
As consoles evolved, games had, and still continue, to become longer, much more complex, and time-consuming. Side-scrollers had basically become a thing of the past on mainstream consoles. This is changing somewhat now there are more indie game developers in the market, thankfully. However in the early 2000s, most of these smaller game developers were yet to exist.
I do believe that actually, despite some really enjoyable and well crafted Wiiware titles, that overall, the medium did not live up to its full potential. Far too many remote-waggling and silly party games existed in the library. I feel that Nintendo could have contributed to Wiiware a lot more too.
Why not produce a true Super Mario World sequel on the Wiiware shop to tide fans over until Super Mario Galaxy 2? It would have been simple to make, heck even fans make constant ROM hack versions online. Nintendo have said as much that they are afraid to produce a fully fledged F-Zero mainline game - so why did they not produce a Wiiware F-Zero game that basically looked like the popular SNES version, but with new tracks and cars? It would have been a very cheap endeavor and it would not only have given us a fresh take on a beloved SNES era game, but given Ninendo a gauge of interest in a potential bigger production. Nintendo dabbled in Wiiware with "NES Remix" 1 and 2, altering NES games - so why not do more with the SNES games?
That however is a whole other topic, but I am thankful that Konami made an effort in this case. While Contra as a series had been fairly quiet for a while, Castlevania had been mostly focused on its RPG style Metroidvania games. Konami also released Castlevania Lords of Shadow around this time period too. which personally, I am not a huge fan of. I like my Castlevania a bit more linear. I wanted to feel like I was playing a new version of Super Castlevania IV, or a new Contra 3. I got my wish with the ReBirth games. Now, let us take a look at the 3 Rebirth games.
First up, Gradius Rebirth. Now I will admit, I am not a huge Gradius fan. It is a series I have given very little attention to, and I am mostly aware of it due to the fact that you can play the first stage of one of the Gradius games as a mini game in "The Legend of the Mystical Ninja" for the SNES. However what I can say about Gradius Rebirth is that it is a solid and challenging game. By challenging I mean it is actually brutally hard in places.
Gradius Rebirth offers you a score mode on the main menu which hands you one life to get as far as you can. Highscores would go on to a leader board. Then you get the standard game mode with unlimited credits. You are able to select your ideal craft from a selection of 5 with their basic weaponry. Then you are launched into space to begin the adventure. Flying from left to right you will shoot enemies flying towards you while avoiding bullets and collecting power ups.
The first quarter of each stage begins with you flying through the vastness of space before smoothly transitioning into a new area, such as the insides of a spaceship or sand themed desert planet. The game consists of about 5 stages, with my favourite being the second, which is set in a classic shoot 'em up trope environment. The good old experiment ship full of pulsating pink brains, tubes with experiments floating inside them, barriers of flesh trying to trap you and floating alien bubbles. Topped off with a giant pinser clawed alien insect constructed of bones, pink slime and a big eye in the middle that is practically screaming "I am the weak spot!"
The game is constructed from varying remixed music and stages of past Gradius games, though it has some original bosses.Some stage salso have secret warp points that can allow you to skip an entire area and boss - but they are very difficult to locate. There is a very brief story, that is kind of placed into the game via text and images but it is nothing of real value, unless you are perhaps a hardcore Gradius fan who loves the series. And even then, I doubt you will care much, because this game and series is obviously about the fast paced, arcade shoot em up action - and the vibrant arcade styled music sure let's you know it.
Gradius Rebirth garnered mixed scores, averaging middle of the road to positive, due to a lack of multiplayer option, which would have been nice, and due to the issue of the game being very tough.
Silent Hill: Homecoming tends to be the forgotten game of the Silent Hill series. During recent live streams of Homecoming some of my viewers commented that they had never played it. Luckily there remains a core group of fans of Silent Hill: Homecoming, that have cemented its position alongside the likes of Silent Hill 2 and the original. Admittedly, Silent Hill: Homecoming is not as enthralling as Silent Hill 2 but perhaps that’s because Silent Hill 2 came out first? I guess you never forget those early loves and let’s face it, the creepy roads, apartment blocks, hospitals and schools of Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 were difficult benchmarks to follow with the proceeding games. That is, until, Silent Hill: Homecoming released in 2008. Of course all of this is my opinion and if you’ve played Homecoming and dislike the game I suggest you stop reading now. If you are looking for an intriguing horror game that is reminiscent of the first two Silent Hill games; please read on. Silent Hill: Homecoming released on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Silent Hill: Homecoming sees our main guy, Alex return to his home town of Shepherds Glen. His brother and father are missing. Alex’s mother is present in body but seems to lack in maternal lust for Alex. Her catatonic like state and distress over her missing son pretty much sums up her role in Silent Hill: Homecoming. The general look of Shepherds Glen reminds me of Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2. It’s foggy, it’s empty, there’s zero draw distance, broken roads and enemies with legs for arms and arms for legs, patrol the streets. Alex’s main objective is to find out what happened to Josh. At various points in the game Alex witnesses apparitions of Josh running in to various buildings. As you can imagine these buildings are often overrun with enemies and puzzles. I had a lot of help on stream in order to solve the puzzles but if you play alone I would say that the puzzles are a lot simpler that Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2. Ultimately if you are familiar with those games there will not be too many surprises in Homecoming.
The Sony PSX is rarely mentioned in the gaming world and that could be for many reasons. One of the most notable reasons for this was its inherent failure rate and due to very low sales numbers in the Sony PSX life cycle, the machine was never released outside of Japan. Now you might ask ‘how could a console made by Sony, at a time when Sony consoles were dominating; fail?’ The Sony PSX was a console secondary to being a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The hard drive was encrypted to the console which made it very difficult for the hard drives to be replaced one the PSX had broken. The DVR function was Sony’s efforts at penetrating in to broader markets that stemmed beyond the games room what with the DVR being able to record TV shows and more.
The Sony PSX plays PS1 and PS2 games (Japanese NTSC region titles). From a gamers perspective the Sony PSX is an attractive piece of kit. The downsides being that it weighs in at 13lbs, has blocky ergonomics and overheats very easily. You’d be very lucky to find a PSX in working order but it is possible. In 2005 the Sony PSX was discontinued and never left Japan commercially. When compared to the PS1 and PS2 consoles alike; both are much smaller, more reliable and run cooler. So why bother owning a Sony PSX at all?
Guest blog post by Ben Rai @BenRai
Sometimes you just need an adventure in life. Sometimes this urge for adventure can be fulfilled with a good video game. Graphics are becoming increasingly more life like and the worlds are open and seemingly never ending. The problem is not all of these modern games appeal, and we don't always have the time to explore these gigantic worlds due to the realities of life. This is where retro games come in handy. They provide an escape and can often be experienced in full within anything between 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Though as much as I do love retro games, sometimes I feel as if I am living in the past, completing the same retro games I am comfortable with over and over. This is a feeling you can easily experience with your personal life too. I wanted to look forward and escape my zone of comfort while simultaneously taking solace in something somewhat nostalgic. The truth is this 'adventure' that I had planned was something more than just simply wanting to play a game I had never played.
Ultimately playing a game is for fun, but the competitive side of me wanted to dedicate time to learning, mastering and conquering something within a month. I wasn't content just playing a game for fun I required a test of fortitude. I pondered what this could be for a short time.
Flicking on my brother's SNES mini while visiting his house I scrolled the games on offer. Contra 3. Finished it on hard mode. Super Mario World. Finished it 100% more times than I could ever count. Super Castlevania IV? Already played it this year. Super Ghouls 'N' Ghosts...never dared to play it. So that is what I decided to do, without any real thought. I wasn't really looking for it, but I had found it. I had a very limited experience with this game. I was just aware that it was notoriously hard and I had witnessed my brother die an unrelenting amount of times on it back in the 90s. A fire in my stomach erupted - I am going to do this.
I opened the options menu to see what the deal was — an otherwise simple black option menu with an obscurely over elaborate and majestic blue winding vine design with red gems adorning the screen's edges. Strangely beautiful for a game which is so willing to chew you up and spit you out even on it's "Normal" difficulty setting. Almost like an alluring treasure which once taken would trigger a hellish trap. The default difficulty setting alone is what gives a majority of people grief.
So to my surprise there was a hard and professional difficulty too. What maniac would ever try that? Isn't the punishing normal difficulty enough? Apparently it wouldn't be for me, and so the journey begins — on normal difficulty anyway.
The game (infamous for sending you right back to the beginning in order to complete it for a second time to get the true ending) begins in the classic Ghouls N Ghosts graveyard stage. You know — the stage 90% of people attempting to play this game give up on.
Despite it being one of the earliest games by Capcom on the SNES the pixel art looks fantastic and the music is absolutely haunting. In fact, it was composed by a female composer called Mari Yamaguchi, she also did the soundtrack for Mickey Mouse's Magical Quest. Strangely, as different as the games may be they share a very distinct sound and I came to the conclusion long ago that the same composer must have been involved. Mari has a way of painting the haunting landscapes of the frozen forests and stormy seas with sweeping mysterious melodies, while conjuring up a sense of dark menacing evil and urgency in the third stage's fire dungeon full of flames and bloodied spikes. There is always a sense of something foreboding or mystical.The soundtrack is one that did not hit me as immediately as other games. However the soundtrack began to really become highlighted during the trials and tribulations of completing the game. Remember, we were going to die a lot of playing this game — so we needed music that would be cast upon our minds in a residual way, as opposed to be a quick fast jingle which could become increasingly annoying with each restart.
Some Retro Games suck! That's right, there are some video games that completely missed the mark when it came to impressing gamers. This is not a good thing clearly. I want to be fully immersed in a game if I pop a cartridge in my Super Nintendo. I don't want to be struggling to get to even ten minutes of gameplay. Sometimes we have to admit defeat: some retro games suck. Here are five retro games that I feel are not worth your hard earned cash or valuable play time.
Shaq Fu (1994)
Imagine a famous basketball player becoming a character in Street Fighter 2. Now imagine that game game being absolutely awful in every way. Back in 1994 Shaquille O'Neal appeared in his very own 2D fighting game on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. If this wasn't torture enough Shaq Fu also found its way on the Sega Game Gear, Amiga and Nintendo Game Boy in 1995.
What makes Shaq Fu such a terrible game? Not only is the idea of Shaquille O'Neal becoming a legendary fighter a terrible one the gameplay is simply awful. The moves were very difficult to execute making gameplay feel more like a button mashing contest than a game based on skill. Not only that the punch and kick sound effects were incredibly dull. Multiply the button mashing with the dull, out of context sounds of kicks and punches and you pretty much have Shaq Fu. The music is also very painful and does nothing to heighten the experience of this wannabe fighting game. Luckily Shaq Fu does not grace my very own retro game collection, it would only serve to taint it.
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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