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.
The dust has finally settled. Not only are we getting a Sega Mega-Drive Mini (Genesis mini in the US) in just over 3 months’ time, we now already know all of the games that come with it. 42 titles, 13 of which are exclusive to the west.
As good news as this all is so far, there are reasons why the Sega Mega Drive Mini is both essential and, er, not. Starting with the good; Sega really seem to be aiming to get things right. M2 are handling the conversions, and given their expertise in that field it’s a sure-fire sign Sega aim to knock Sony’s lacklustre Playstation Classic out of the park.
The choice of games also heralds quite a few tasty surprises. Castlevania: Bloodlines, Mega Man: The Wily Wars and Contra: Hard Corps are among the rarer and desirable classics on offer, as well as a very welcome return of Road Rash 2. Who knew Sega and EA even still talked?
The console itself, at 55% the size of the original classic, certainly looks the part. Much like Nintendo’s mini editions, Sega’s effort looks aesthetically pleasing on the eye. It will come bundled with the traditional three-button controller, with support for the Retro-Bit six-button option, but hopefully Sega will listen and include a six-button as standard. Some of the games of course will demand one anyway.
On the downside, many of the titles are a case of same old, same old. Sega have been releasing various Genesis/Mega Drive collections since the PS2 era, with the latest edition only being made available on Switch last December. No less than 24 titles (57% no less) make a reappearance on the Mega Drive Mini.
But no one can argue that regardless of how many times they are released, many of these titles were key to the Mega Drive being a success. From Alex Kidd to World of Illusion, The Mega Drive Mini certainly looks to be worthy of our money and time. And so, in no particular order, here are the five inclusions I’m looking forward to the most.
Protests of the Extinction Rebellion across London to tackle climate change, something I personally feel strongly about because you know, it’s just the survival of all life on this planet. What a better way to celebrate humanity, when it comes to climate change then playing a game involving an earthquakes and tidal waves?
Ladies and gentlelads, I give you the PlayStation 2 cult classic, SOS: The Final Escape, also know Disaster Report for the folks across the pond and in Japan it is known as Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (絶体絶命都市 The Desperate City).
In SOS: The Final Escape, you play as journalist Keith Helm, an everyday kind of man as displayed by his first name (Keith!), who’s just on the way to his first day at work. An earthquake strikes Stiver Island -the games location- and truly wrecks the place. You wake up after being knocked out, trying to survive the rough terrain, you must find an exit but a long the way you will meet other various survivors and maybe there is more to this disaster than you think? Woooohoooooo.
A low budget and an early PlayStation 2 title, SOS looks pretty rough. It has that very square, bland texture look when developers where just starting to handle 3D environments. Though the game makes good use of it’s limitations by using some good camera angles by really capturing the set pieces cinematically and building the tension.
Throughout the game you will see Keith’s clothes get more and more haggard, a small touch that was starting to be introduced more in videogame from this era. However, it does add the sense of desperation within the characters and a sense of exhaustion.
The PlayStation Portable or rather PSP was launched in Japan in 2004 and later to the rest of the world in 2005. The PSP slid in to a market that was dominated by Nintendo on the handheld front. What with the success of the Game Boy since the late 80’s and at the time the Nintendo DS; the PSP really had a lot of work to do in order to solidify itself within the gaming world.
Now I’m not here to ramble on about the tech specs of the PSP as I would much rather discuss the PSP from a cultural influence rather than a technical one. It seemed to be a instant hit. What with compatibility with the PS2 and PS3 (already highly loved and valued consoles) the PSP was and still is loved by thousands of gamers. With a beautiful library of games from series like GTA, Metal Gear Solid and more; the PSP was forever becoming a classic handheld console.
Today gamers still boast the PSP’s credibility in the home-brew world of emulation. Whilst this is not what I would use my PSP for; I can respect the usability and popularity of such a feature. Here we are today in 2019 talking about the PSP but this time we are taking a look at a possible Hidden Gem game by the name of innocent life a futuristic harvest moon.
Before we dive in to Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon I want to ask: Have you payed Stardew Valley? If not then allow me to give you a brief overview. Stardew Valley is a farm simulation RPG. It is down to us to harvest and farm our own resources in order to build, grow and prosper. The game takes the form of a top down 16bit inspired style. It’s charming, it’s addictive and it’s captivating. Innocent Life for me is reminiscent of the Stardew Valley. Now, yes, Stardew Valley was released much later that Innocent Life but I feel we must draw the similarities.
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon takes place in 2022 in the colourful and aesthetic world of Heartflame Island. Known as Harvest Moon: Innocent Life. The game follows a robot boy who was created by Hope Grain. The game starts from the completion of the Robot Boys development. From there the game unfolds with tutorials which are based around learning to farm, interact and move around the world.
What makes Innocent Life so special? Not only is it rarely talked about; Innocent Life is full of charm. Its relaxing to play and feels charming throughout. If you can battle the, at times, long tutorial discussions I think you should really try and grab yourself a copy of Innocent Life.
The PlayStation Classic has not had the best start. The console was launched 24 years after the original PlayStation released in Japan on December 3rd 1994. Over the last 24 years the PlayStation has been host to classic games (and franchises) like Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon, Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo and more. In fact many, many more PlayStation Games have entertained us for years. I remember being completely stuck at the end of the first disc of Metal Gear Solid. Back then I did not have the luxury of checking out a guide/walkthrough on YouTube. I had to run down to a friends house to ask about the code on the back of the case. That will teach me for playing copied PS1 games.
Fast forward to 2018 and we are over five years in to the PS4 Generation of gaming (and of later years; PS4 Pro). Not only that we were all at the peak of excitement when Sony announced we’d be getting a PlayStation Classic. In essence; a mini PS1. How many games did Sony confirm? At the time of announcing the PlayStation Classic only five games were announced; arguably the stronger five. Without beating a regurgitating information we eventually got the list of PS Classic games:
If you’d have told me that a Sega Mega Drive game would be released in 2018 a few years back I would have told you that you were wrong. If you’d have also told me that that Sega Mega Drive game was going to be developed on original hardware like most other Sega Mega Drive games I would not have believed you. Well it happened and it happened in the form of Tanglewood. In an era where console gaming is dominated by the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch; it’s hard to believe that an actual Sega Mega Drive cartridge was produced on original hardware. One man is responsible for such an achievement and his name is Matt Philips. Matt is responsible for single handedly developing Tanglewood after successfully securing Kickstarter funding. Is Tanglewood a tangled-mess of a game though? I’ve been playing a lot of the game over the past week after being sent a press review cartridge.
Nymn is our fury fox like creature. Tanglewood starts with Nymn sound asleep only to waken being all alone. In an interview I did with Matt earlier this year he had this to say about Tanglewood:
“Tanglewood is a fantasy platforming game staring Nymn, a small creature who is lost from home. Nymn must try to survive each dangerous night alone in Tanglewood, by using his skills of evasion and trickery to escape the monsters that lurk in the dark.
“… The characters were designed as otherworldly, but fox and meerkat were the two main inspirations for Nymn. I wanted something that looked terrified, but was nimble and quick to escape danger. We experimented with many facial expressions and head shapes to get that scared and cautious look. The lore of the world involves another extinct race, that used to hunt down the Djunn for food whilst riding some of the monsters in game, but since they all passed away Nymn and his kind were able to live in relative peace - as long as they disappeared underground at night”
Tanglewood is simple yet extremely effective. If you choose to miss out on Tanglewood then you’ll be selling yourself short.
Star Fox or rather Starwing in Europe made a huge impact on Super Nintendo players back on release in 1993. Personally I remember being flawed by the 3D rotation combined with fast paced gameplay, ultra kick ass sounds and with incredible 3D visuals; Star Fox was like no other game from that time. Do you remember the first time you saw the 4 ships blitz down the tunnel to the sound of the overarching alarm? Then the camera switched to the outside of the tunnel on to Corneria and we were off doing barrel rolls like never before.
At the time the graphics looked incredible thanks to the Super-FX Chip; technology that was designed by Jez San’s Team; Argonaut. The Super- FX chip allowed 3D rotation and stretching of sprites and polygons. It was hailed a success by Nintendo so much so that a handful of Super Nintendo Games went on to utilise the technology such as Stunt Race FX and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Yoshi’s Island used a slightly more advanced version of the Super FX chip). Only a total of eight Snes Games used the chip. Arguably that is not a lot considering the size of the Super Nintendo Game library.
I often wonder if Star Fox would have been as great of a game if the Super FX chip was not included. Would it have been possible at all? I don’t believe it would. The graphics in Starfox perform well thanks to the Super FX chip even by 2018 standards. Starfox has not aged that badly. With the fast paced gameplay, explosions, rockets and enemies the frame rate seems reasonably consistent.
Right at the start of the game, Star Fox is frantic! Back in the day I remember having trouble trying to keep an eye on my team’s Starships when they got in to trouble. More often than not I’d be navigating through various flying objects, falling pillars and rockets in order to rescue Falco, Slippy and Peppy from peril! At times when I revisit Star Fox I realise that I had never quite mastered the art of saving my team as they always incurred damage.
Star Fox alternates between first and third person view. Right in the to second level we clamber inside to the cockpit view. A whole new challenge ensues with this. The physics seem a lot more sensitive when in first person mode compared to third. Personally I felt Star Fox opened up a lot more in the second level. Blasting through asteroids (amongst a ton of enemies) really made me feel engrossed in first person mode.
No matter which route you take on the map in Star Fox; there are four levels to beat in order to each reach the final stage: Venom. Once at Venom we face Andross. Back tracking slightly, the four previous levels contain sturdy boss battles of their own. As a kid I could never beat the third level. Sad times ultimately but looking back I realise at just how tricky Star Fox was. Having gotten my hands on a SNES Mini and played the legit release of Star Fox 2 I firmly believe Star Fox 2 to be a much less challenging experience.
There’s no doubt that Star Fox is a fast paced game. At times it may seem like a little too fast. For me this adds to the challenge at being able to navigate through and around the enemies whilst trying to stay alive.
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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