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.
Following on from a previous post of mine, covering my personal top 7 Survival Horror games, I thought I would fan the flames of controversy by reviewing Silent Hill 2 and explaining why it didn’t reach the number 1 spot on that list. After all, I value honesty when it comes to reviews, so that’s exactly what I am going to be with this one. There are some actual reasons for this too, and they don’t revolve around “I just don’t like it” or anything like that.
On the contrary, I actually really like Silent Hill 2. It was, for a long time, one of my favourite games. However, that changed as gaming moved on (even still within the PS2’s generation) and as I discovered other games. So, let’s take a look at what I love about Silent Hill 2, as well as what kept it from appearing further up that list.
There was a time when I thought that Silent Hill 2 was the absolute pinnacle of Survival Horror storytelling. Every single character had their own motivations and backstory that had led them to the terrifying town of Silent Hill. On top of this, almost every aspect of the story can be interpreted differently, meaning that people always have their own take on major plot elements. Admittedly, the main twist of the game is pretty clear-cut and doesn’t leave room for interpretation, but the rest of the story does.
That was one reason why the game stuck with me for so long. The depth of the storyline and the way that elements of the game’s world and enemies all connect to it was amazing. It still is, to be fair. Plus, the way in which Pyramid Head plays into the story just adds to the unnerving feeling that you get as everything unravels.
For those who don’t know, Silent Hill 2 follows James Sunderland as he returns to the titular town after receiving a letter from his deceased wife saying that she is waiting for him there. Once he gets there, he is confronted by all kinds of horrific creatures, maniacal characters and a little girl seemingly intent on making his life hell. Oh, and that’s only the beginning. He eventually meets a young woman called Maria, who looks like the spitting image of his deceased wife Mary… Yet she has a very different personality and is obviously not Mary.
As the game progresses, things because darker and more confused as the lines between realities seem to blur. That is until you reach the final twist and learn what is really going on. From there, you can get a number of different endings depending on how you progressed through the story. The plot, despite that terrible summary, is actually a work of art!
We should probably ring out a fanfare of some kind, as Silent Hill 2 is officially the first game I have reviewed that gets a 100% score on the storyline!
However, this was probably both the biggest draw for Silent Hill 2 but also the start of it falling short compared to other games. You see, it is obvious that a huge amount of time, thought and detail was put into the story – it would be impossible to make something so deep and complex if that weren’t the case. However, a game cannot survive and grow based entirely on its story… It can thrive for a long time and create lasting memories and fondness… But that can only go so far as game development moves on.
This is where things get a bit more muddled up. You see, when the game first came out it seemed amazing in terms of gameplay. The controls seemed to fine and everything seemed really polished. The monsters felt unique and different, which is always a plus. It just seemed so well crafted… At the time.
However, after playing other PS2 Survival Horror games like Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly or even the controversial Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Silent Hill 2’s gameplay lost some of its charms. Suddenly, it didn’t feel that unique or different anymore. In fact, when I went back to play it after those games, it felt a bit formulaic. The storyline still stood strong, but the gameplay didn’t seem to offer anything new.
The controls felt a bit clunky, although that could be put down to the fact that Silent Hill 2 was one of the first Survival Horror games on the PS2. But it was a bunch of little things building up together that really got to me when I went back to the game.
For example, although I know it is supposed to give you the feeling of isolation, the excessively long run at the start of the game just makes the world feel void of all life, even threats. Yes, it might build up a false sense of security, but then this doesn’t really have a pay off as the introduction to the first enemy is completely telegraphed by mini-cutscenes. On top of this, where the enemies used to feel unique and different, going back to it after a game like Fatal Frame 2 makes you realise how much you are fighting the same few enemy types over and over.
Then, when you compare it to games like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the base gameplay feels like Silent Hill 2 didn’t really add anything new to the genre. For example, in Shattered Memories the game psychologically analyses you through your interaction with the game world and the way you answer certain questions. This then leads to the story and gameplay changing, including the enemy designs. This was an awesome gameplay mechanic that was more than just some cheap selling point… It actually meant that people had very different experiences of the game. It was something completely new when it came to the Survival Horror genre.
Silent Hill 2, on the other hand, followed the more typical gameplay ideas for Survival Horror. In short, it felt like the first game but with better graphics and a more interesting storyline. The gameplay itself didn’t really change much. As someone who is a fan of experimentation in game design, this ended up grinding my gears a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Silent Hill 2 and consider it one of the best Survival Horror games ever made… That should be evident as it made my list of the best PS2 Survival Horror games. However, I think it doesn’t quite live up to the rose-tinted nostalgia that I once had for it.
It’s hard to believe I’ve never written about Sonic 2! Back in the prime time 16bit days Sonic was one of the most prominent characters in gaming. Typically it would be an argument between which console was better: the Sega Mega Drive or the Super Nintendo which led to a further argument of Mario Vs. Sonic the Hedgehog. Which ever was you look at it I believe it is hard to find a definitive answer. Ultimately I look back and laugh on those days that I chose to side with the Super Nintendo because I adore the Sega Mega Drive in 2018. What better game to sit down and discuss none other that Sonic 2.
With the bright green shine of the Emerald Hill Zone grass topped with the crystal blue of the sky, Sonic 2 starts with an absolute bang. Straight out of the staring blocks and I remember at just how vibrant Sonic 2 seemed in comparison with its predecessor; Sonic. Everything seemed more polished from the breakable TV screens, the palm trees, the launch pad springs, bridges and more. Sonic 2 really made a lasting impact on us all back in 1992 with its impressive looks and feel. Even today in 2018 Sonic 2 looks incredible considering its a game that’s over 20 years old. What would the Sega Mega Drive have been without such a powerful game? For me Sonic 2 provided endless challenges: trying to get all of the rings in the Special Zone, trying to keep Tails in check and dodge the merciless obstacles in zones such as Chemical Plant Zone. I could go on.
Guest Blog Post by @ The Every Gamer
Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. For as long as I have lived, he was huge; his music has and will become eternal as well as his oddities. Even after death, he’s still a star in the music industry, but when he was alive, you knew who he was. In my opinion, for someone who isn’t a fan of pop music, I have no issues with most of his music and I like most of them. Fun fact, I have a segment of ‘Who is it’ for my ringtone as a joke. Anyone can be inspired by Michael Jackson, but there can only be one Michael Jackson, I don’t think we’ll get someone like him again…can we?
Anyway, if he can do music, he can have his own movie, and somehow he only had the one, he only needed the one, and it’s one I actually grew up with. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, based on one of his (not-so) original dance moves that make you remember him. Released in 1988, it’s mostly an anthology movie of…to be honest, a bit of ego-stroking on Jackson’s part, mostly music videos, some odd moments, but the memorable part of the film is the last segment, Smooth Criminal and it’s just awesome. I mean the scene where he actually sings the song and that part is filmed well, the rest of it. Joe Pesci is just a guilty pleasure.
Did you know that Michael Jackson may have liked video games? I mean, he worked on SONIC 3 AFTER ALL AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Anyway, there were home computer games based on the movie…SEGA’S ARCADE GAME IT IS!
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, developed and published by Sega with audio-visuals made by Triumph International, it was released in 1990. The game was produced and designed by legendary…Michael Jackson; eh, he can do music, he can do movies, he certainly can do games, if only he was alive, he could have finally made Half-Life 3.
Guest Blog Post by Pablo @ Pablo's Tech Tips
Crazy Taxi is a quirky driving game developed by Hitmaker and published by Sega in 1999. Crazy Taxi was extremely successful in its initial arcade release, and Sega got to thinking that they would be wise to release it on their new Dreamcast home console, as well. The game saw release on the Dreamcast in 2000, and thanks to the hardware in the Dreamcast being very similar to the arcade version of the game's Naomi hardware, it was a perfect port. In Crazy Taxi you play the role of a taxi driver in a world where there are no traffic violations, and raw speed is the name of the game. Drive around and pick up customers in your taxi, weave through traffic, and get them to their destination as fast as possible, rinse, repeat. That's what crazy taxi is all about. The game is a race against the clock, which is constantly ticking down. Every time you pick up a customer, they add time to your clock. The trick to the game is to get customers to their destination as fast as possible, so that you have some of the time that customer gave you left over for the next ride. Good players can actually make the time on the clock go up over time, rather than down. Customers are colour coded depending on how far away their destination is and how much they will pay you. Red is closest, and least money, then orange, yellow, and green, which are the furthest fares. You get bonus money for brushes with disaster such as catching air or passing another vehicle too closely. Crazy Taxi has over 250 unique passengers scattered about the game-world, all looking to get somewhere as fast as possible. If you don't get a passenger to the destination fast enough, he or she will jump out of your speeding taxi in frustration. Ouch! Road rash!
Crazy Taxi proved wildly popular on the Sega Dreamcast home console, and has since seen release, along with its sequels, on PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, PC, Gameboy advance, and the Xbox consoles. Crazy Taxi's producer, Kenji Kanno, wanted to make a different kind of game where the length of play could potentially be limitless, if the player were sufficiently skilled. He wanted to create something different, where a high skill level really changed the way the game was played, and how long it lasted.
This year is shaping into a wonderful year for Independent developers around the globe, creating unique and beautiful gaming experiences on all platforms. The art styles have been growing in recent years; from motion capture graphics to 2D side scrolling sprites, 2018 is no different. 2018 is set for a fantastic year of pixel art based games and here are 5 that you should be purchasing this year.
Black Future ’88
Developer: Don Bellenger
Publisher: Don Bellenger
Release Date: TBC 2018
Black Future ’88 is a brutal cyberpunk action-roguelike game from game developer Don Bellenger. Released later this year on PC, Black Future ’88, is an action-adventure game set in an alternate version of 1988. This retro dystopia is set across 6 unique zones and is orchestrated by an original analog-synth soundtrack. The player must climb a procedural tower to kill its insane owner, only you must do it over and over again until it kills you. You have no future in a constantly evolving world. You must manage your weapons and make decisions on what to take with you and what you must not. Black Future ’88 will also allow you to experience the game with another player, creating a completely unique co-op experience. This game is set to be a must-play in 2018. Do not miss out.
The demo for the game will be available soon to those who sign up on the website. http://www.blackfuture88.com/
Let's party like it's 1995 again! Well if you were a gamer in the 90's then you'll be familiar with the 16bit console wars between the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in North America). What an era! With classics like the Streets of Rage franchise, Sonic, Final Fight, Turtles in Time; we had it all on the SNES and Sega Mega Drive. Now even though the 90's is long gone we were graced with the release of Starfox 2 in 2017 with the launch of the SNES Mini Classic. Who'd have thought that in 2017 we would be seeing a brand new SNES game release?
Now in 2018 it would appear that 16bit game development is in full force on the Sega Mega Drive. I reached out to the developer; Matt of Big Evil Corporation to talk to him about his new Sega Genesis game: Tanglewood. A brand new side scrolling adventure game whereby we take the role of Nymn, a young fox like creature whom is scrambling to get back to his pack:
Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
In the late 1980s, Nintendo was under pressure. Its 8-bit Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System in the West) had been upstaged by Sega’s Genesis. Their black beauty was cooler, faster, better looking and had a wide library of games including hits such as Altered Beast, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle and Golden Axe.
Despite the critical and commercial success of Super Mario Bros. 3, at the turn of the decade the world waited to see what Nintendo would come up with in response to Sega’s growing dominance.
The Genesis had been released in October 1988 in Japan, just a week after Super Mario Bros. 3 had hit the shelves. However, the response from Nintendo wasn’t instant. The company spent more than two years perfecting its next hardware offering, the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo Entertainment System elsewhere) along with its launch titles. One of these was to be Super Mario World, which made its bow on November 21st 1990 in Japan amid fevered anticipation.
When we rejoin Mario and Luigi, we found that they have left the Mushroom Kingdom for a much-needed holiday in Dinosaur land, but their vacation is interrupted by serial kidnapee Princess Toadstool being snatched by Bowser (for some reason or other).
It’s fair to say that SMW doesn’t exactly take the series in a new direction when it comes to its plot, but if that’s why you’re playing it then frankly you’ve got the wrong game. After a couple of introductory moments, the player is quickly into the game, with Mario setting off from Yoshi’s House. What hits you first is how great this game looks. A gorgeous colour palette, vibrant sprites and clean, polished backgrounds are complemented by neat little touches such as the way Mario’s cap wafts up when he descends from a jump, combining to form a feast for the eyes. Then there’s the sound. Koji Kondo once again creates music that fits a given level perfectly, from echoey underground themes to the bouncy, frantic ‘athletic’ music of the forced-movement stages. Aesthetically, the game is timeless.
The overworld map takes the original concept from SMB3 and extends it, allowing its layout to change as our hero progresses and uncovers new zones. The game also allows the player to access already-completed levels, whereas SMB3 didn’t have the capacity for backtracking to previous worlds at will.
The levels scroll vertically and horizontally and include a perfect blend of well-placed obstacles and varied enemies which, in accordance with Nintendo’s famously-perfect learning curve philosophy, get progressively tougher as the adventure goes on.
In many stages, the player is teased by the presence of dotted line blocks which, if solid, provide a mushroom or cape, allow access to out-of-reach areas or help suppress an enemy. These only become ! blocks when the corresponding switch palace is located, encouraging players to backtrack and re-enter levels.
The end of most levels is marked by giant gateposts with a moving finishing line between them. The player is rewarded depending on how high the bar is when crossed, with a maximum of 50 points available. Once the player has amassed 100 points, Mario enters a mini game where up to eight extra lives can be won.
Not that these should be needed, though, as players will earn far more lives than they lose for most parts. As well as collecting 100 coins within a single level, players can nab hidden 1-up mushrooms and exploit a top-secret area which yields infinite lives.
Blog post by Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24 (originally written by Gemma and published on Retro Collect)
Something wonderful happened on the Super Nintendo back in the mid-nineties. In fact a lot of amazing moments derived from that 16bit King Console. Long before the days of Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation 1, DMA Designs were hard at work designing a Super Nintendo game that I deem was one of a kind...
Unirally as it is known here in the PAL regions (Uniracers in North America) boasts some of the most eccentric ideas I can recall alongside Earthworm Jim. You take the role of a single Unicycle and your mission is to race your opponent to the finish line. What's eccentric about that? First off, the Unicycle's are completely riderless. It would seem that DMA Designs created each Unicycle with his/her own mind and personality not so much in unicycle's being to ride riderless but in the flamboyant celebrations after winning a race. I specifically recall my yellow Unicycle mimic a form of bow; a form of Chivalry I wouldn't expect to see from a Unicycle?! Nonetheless, this captures the essence of Unirally so well and it would seem that the fun never ended.
Unirally takes place on colour popping 2D tracks (another ingredient to the loud and bashful nature of Unirally) and operates over a split screen when in 2-player mode and single screen when played against AI. With just about every twist, turn and loop you can imagine it's up to us to gain as much momentum as possible to reach the finish line in first place. Executing stunts is a crucial part of the core gameplay mechanics as you're rewarded with a speed bonus. Speed can be both an advantage and disadvantage and herein lays the challenge of Unirally for even the most seasoned of players.
#1: High Speed can kill
It sounds like a TV advert: High speed can kill but in Unirally there has never been a truer point to discuss. As we gain momentum by landing tricks and stunts the speed seems to increase ten-fold. I often got a little too confident at these points by trying to pull off the most elaborate tricks and landing smack on my seat! What does this mean? That's when you lose all of your speed and the other unicycle flies ahead.
At times it feels like you're moving in slow motion to try and re-gain that momentum again. Adding insult to injury there's a really neat feature that shows you how many seconds behind your opponent you are. By making one mistake you can easily fall five to ten seconds behind which seems almost impossible to re-gain.
#2: Practice doesn't always mean perfect
The first track on Unirally is incredibly simple to win and win comfortably. It's a straight line which means you can pull off simple jump tricks to gather the all important speed. That's right! There's no need to fear the punishing twists, turns, loops and drops, that litter the proceeding tracks.
It seems no matter how much I play Unirally I never seem to master the tracks. Being able to anticipate the next turn or loop is crucial in planning what tricks to pull out. At times the tracks seem very tight which make plenty of room for error. Have you ever won a race (aside from the first straight track) on the first go? Perhaps you have but I would imagine that it would be a small number of people. DMA Designs must have had a heap of fun designing the levels in Unirally but it's very difficult to dislike.
Perhaps it's one of those games that was created with a deliberate attempt to just be difficult!?
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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