A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Game Collection: Hobby Games Gone Computer

Yes.  My grand project continues!  As this blog is primarily about hobby gaming, one would think I would have many of the translations of hobby games that were brought over to the various electronic systems out there.

And I do.

But one machine had more hobby games than any other.


I guess computer gamers were a better and more receptive market for these sorts of games, and developers who might like to make such titles are also the sort that would play them more often, especially in the 80s and early 90s where much of the console development was taking place in Japan whose hobby game market is absurdly small and unconnected.

(Earlier consoles couldn't exactly do anything resembling a proper go of a classic hobby game.  Look at the Intellivision AD&D games.  Take the name off the box and you really can't tell what it is at all!)

And since my hobby games on console machines and portables will show up during said collection posts, the mighty computer platform gets it as a subgenre all to itself.  (Which also helps make my massive PC game collection a bit less massive in scope.  My living room is covered in boxes waiting to be photographed but even with the hobby games translations removed it is DAUNTING.)

Let's start with Battletech!  Crescent Hawk's Inception was one of the earliest Battletech computer games and one of Infocom's first non text adventure titles.  Made by Westwood Studios (they of the lazy Order of the Griffon D&D game on the TG 16 infamy) it is sloppy, lazy, and a bit of a failure that could have been good.  Battletech Powerhits contains this game alongside its RTS sequel (Crescent Hawk's Revenge.  It.. isn't very good.), and the first Mechwarrior game in glorious 16 color EGA.  Mechwarrior 2 is where the Battletech universe got made popular and the real birth of the Mech Sim subgenre.  I also have the cluebook, and the expansion pack.  Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries was a standalone sequel that didn't involve playing a Clan Mechwarrior.  Mechwarrior 3 is another VS Clans game and not very good at all in my opinion.  The Gold Edition also contained the super rare expansion pack.

Activision ended up losing the BT rights to Microsoft who basically owns Battletech's IP now.  They made Mechwarrior 4 which was good, the Black Knight expansion which had an absolutely terrible story that turned all your party from 4 into cartoonishly evil villains, and their own Mercenary stand alone which was AMAZING and I have replayed it a ton.  They also made 2 mech packs for multiplayer games and a little use in the solo campaign.  (Other one in my BT megapost series.)  Mechcommander (Gold) was a RTS game based around controlling small unit tactics instead of the Command & Conquer/Warcraft style of base building.  Mechcommander 2 is the sequel.  I enjoyed both.

The Mech 3 Expansion and Mech 4 cluebooks I got cheap.  Mage Knight Apocalypse is an action RPG I got cheap just for the collection.  Magic Battlegrounds was a really interesting action strategy title.  The Microprose Magic game and expansion was an attempt to mesh an RPG with classic Magic the Gathering and almost succeeded given the tech of the era.  Heavy Gear 2 is a mech sim based on the hobby game and is the series Activision tried to use when they lost the BT rights.  It only got two titles so I guess we see how well that worked out.

Alone in the Dark & Prisoner of Ice are adventure games (the former being really the first Survival Horror game as we now know it) based on Call of Cthulhu.  Starfleet Command & 2: Empires at War are real time translations of the Starfleet Battles game but with a closer connection to normal Star Trek lore.  (3 is changed enough to not really be SFB at all.)  Ticket to Ride is the legendary boardgame with multiplayer options.  Realms of Arkania 1 and Drakensang are based off of the huge in Germany RPG series called The Dark Eye in English.  King of Dragon Pass is based on the Glorantha setting used in a number of RPGs and board games, Runequest being the most popular.  The GURPS Character Assistant is a character generator for GURPS.  That I no longer have as I traded it off for more Battletech stuff.

Now for Games Workshop translations!
Space Crusade is a near perfect to rules conversion of the not released in the UK Warhammer 40K game that was equivalent to Hero Quest.  Space Hulk however is a real time version of that game and suffers for it.  (As does the sequel below it.)  Final Liberation used the Epic scale without using any of the actual Epic rule sets.  Quite good even if it never got the planned expansions.  Rites of War was basically Panzer General's engine but you play the Eldar primarily.  Chaos Gate is sort of like X Com but you play Ultramarines fighting Chaos without the base building stuff.  Space Marine is a quite fun third person action game.  Sadly you play an Ultramarine in the solo campaign.

The Dawn of War RTS series!  1 and expansions are more of a traditional RTS game whereas 2 is more of a real time RPG where you control small units you upgrade and advance.  I enjoy both of them, though Dark Crusade and Retribution have the best campaigns as I can play Chaos all the way through a campaign.

Shadow of the Horned Rat & Dark Omen were early RTS games where there was no base building involved ala Dawn of War 2, Mechcommander, and Crescent Hawk's Revenge.  However they were both unfairly hard.  The basic design would lead into the Total War franchise though.  Hero Quest was.. Hero Quest but on a computer.  The original Blood Bowl was a poor translation of the tabletop game, being limited as hell with even a single sprite for every player on your team and no expansion rules content.  Mark of Chaos and its expansion were more modern and more enjoyable takes on the Horned Rat style of game.  Warhammer Online is World of Warcraft in the WHFB universe.  The new Blood Bowl and the Legendary Edition (Purchased at a discount online for owning original Dark Elf version so its just a DL file.) are better but not perfect versions of Blood Bowl as it really should have been the first time around.

Of course one franchise owned the computer game space more than any other:
Eye of the Beholder 1-3 are good overall Dungeon Master clones.  Dungeon Hack takes the same engine and turns the real time first person dungeon crawl into a single player randomly generated roguelike.  Shadow Sorcerer is an odd isometric real time game using the Dragonlance original trilogy novel setting.  The Gold Box series is the legendary turn based AD&D 1st ed rules RPG, with Unlimited Adventures being a Do It Yourself maker.  That was somewhat limited in comparison to the 9 Gold Box titles...

D&D Stronghold is a weird real time kingdom simulator, the Core Rules is an awesome tool for AD&D 2nd ed campaigns with all sorts of neato stuff.  Masterpiece Collection contains multiple late DOS era D&D games.  Ravenloft series/engine, Dark Sun, the Al Quadim action RPG..  a good little value.  So much has been said of the Infinity Engine real time series I don't need to repeat it.  Daggerdale is a poor action RPG I only got because it was cheap.

And we finish it up with the modern era.  And the sought after Dragon Magazine Archives with the first 250 issues of that magazine on PDF.  Plus my original editions of Baldur's Gate 2, Icewind Dale 2, the turn based but flawed Temple of Elemental Evil, the real time Neverwinter Nights series, and the collection of it including the few expansions I missed out on.

Of course as always there are new pickups here and there, which given my wont tend to show up next to other games so just ignore those for the new hobby game titles:

These were a couple pickups I got from either the same seller, or around the same time frame.  The D&D Starter kit is both 3.5 inch floppy editions of the low level AD&D Gold Box games AND their clue books all original and complete.  I do not have Heavy Gear 1 as of yet but it and the Icewind Dale book were so super cheap I had to grab it.  (In my collection aims I try to get the clue books as well as the game.  I don't care as much for original packaging but I do want the manuals and stuff.)  The Ultimate Fantasy was another cheapie hook up that I primarily bought to have Fantasy Empires but getting legit CD versions of a couple games I already have does not hurt given how floppies tend to die.  (And the papers make the copy protection easier to get through.  While still having my original manuals for gameplay use.)

Sadly this AD&D pack is from Wizard Works and isn't as rad as the SSI collection.  While it is the original games there are no cluebooks included.  However they are also older games now on 3.5 disk which at least helps me put them on the original machine.  They each have their own manuals but they seem to be shrunk in dimensions and have the command summary cards combined with the manual.  Curious.  Renegade Legion Interceptor is a proper turn based version of FASA's "Machine Sheet" wargame that is even MORE spergy than Battletech (armor is now in blocks.  Weapons do different damage to the blocks.  Some a direct line internal.  Others melt like a divot into it.  Some dig in and expand.  Others peel off the top.  Yeah.) but works great in a computer version.  Sadly they never made the capital ship or tank game in computer format.

(Tell me this isnt the BEST ad for a game ever: )

One thing I have noted over the years is many of these translations didn't use the rulesets or for some reason took a turn based ruleset and made them real time.  I never understood why as it rarely translates properly.  I understand wanting to get the most people playing but.. the license is supposed to be for that product.  Why make something turn based real time?  Is it to get those people who won't play anything that isn't constantly moving?  Am I just that messed up and slow thoughtful games are just for losers?

I don't know.

Anyhow there are plenty of games left to buy both console AND computer plus a couple hand held titles.
(Let's not even start on the digital only titles.  One of the reasons I bought an iPad Air was to play Eclipse.)

There is this little mini post I am working on where I explain the basics of how to continue a retro collection without breaking the bank or screwing yourself over in glorious consumer whore-y bliss.  One of the parts of it that I will like even if I decide the main subject is too preachy is where I list the TOP X titles I want and why.  Since Hobby Games Gone Computer is sort of a sub collecting hobby of mine I may as well just list my top 5 future purchases for both computer and console here.

See part of this post I may or may not make in its current format says it is good to have goals to search for so these sorts of lists can keep you on some sort of track as opposed to running around like a chicken with your head cut off spraying blood all over the place.  So knowing WHAT I want most will help me get it in some reasonable timeframe.


1: Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan: http://www.mobygames.com/game/tunnels-trolls-crusaders-of-khazan

I am a big fan of the tabletop Tunnels & Trolls game.  Of course I want the computer version!  Hell, I did the Kickstarter for the next edition of the RPG.

2:  War of the Lance:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/war-of-the-lance

It is a conversion of a long out of print and expensive D&D module.  Where you get to basically fight out the War of the Lance from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy.  I had it on the Commodore 64 back in the day.  I loved the Chronicles books as a teenager so it is also out of nostalgia.  And I do love me some massive turn based wargaming.

3:  Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/pool-of-radiance-ruins-of-myth-drannor

The infamous game that is both known for playing badly AND messing up your C: drive if you uninstall it from the wrong place.  There is a jewel case version that proclaims it is patched and a lot better.  Also I have done some looking.  It is pretty damned cheap overall.  Its just a matter of getting the jewel case 1.3 edition version so I can actually play it for myself!

4:  Space 1889: http://www.mobygames.com/game/space-1889

It might be one of the first steampunk computer games.  Based off one of the first steampunk RPGs.  (Which I do not own.  I do however have the more fanciful but less gamey Castle Falkenstein.) From like 1990 or so.  Before everyone thought it was cool to hate the genre.  (Ok its mostly SA Goons who seem to despise it.)  For King and Country!  Fight the good fight for England!  Cool.

5:  Twilight 2000:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/twilight-2000

Its from an RPG I DO own.  Its basically post WW3.  While widespread nuclear war never happened lots of chaos did erupt and it is 80s as hell.  The default setting is the PCs being part of the US army in Eastern Europe.  US command basically says "War is pretty much over.  Y'all are on your own get back home any way you can".  Its basically a sandbox in a setting somewhat less miserable than The Day After.

Honorable Mentions: Megatraveller 1-2, the Renegade Legion Space Fighter games, Spelljammer, Descent to Undermountain, Birthright, Nuclear War, Heavy Gear, Buck Rogers 2, Dragonstrike, Crimson Skies, the Drakensang expansion, Realms of Arkania 2 and 3, Skyrealms of Jorune.

Console:  Console hobby games gone electronic are not as common but sadly tend to cost more given how consoles are more popular regardless of quality.  And sadly more hobby games on consoles become barely connected gameplay wise to the source material.  I just don't get it.  But when DO I?

1:  Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance 2:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/baldurs-gate-dark-alliance-ii

It is another of the genre that won't die: ACTION RPGs.  You know the kind.  Run through dungeons killing tons of critters Diablo style.  I enjoyed the original but this one tends to go for a bit more than I really want to pay for what it is.  And like half the hobby games gone electronic I want for console tend to be this sort of game.

2:  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Cloudy Mountain):  http://www.mobygames.com/game/advanced-dungeons-dragons-cartridge

This is the FIRST official D&D video game.  It barely resembles D&D in any way.  It is ok and generally cheap since the Intellivision isn't usually a sought after machine for gamers or nostalgics.

3:  Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/dungeons-dragons-warriors-of-the-eternal-sun

Its an original D&D game that is sort of the sister to the Turbografx 16 one.  Like it this title tends to share some art assets with other Westwood/SSI D&D games but it is more a hybrid game with Eye of the Beholder style real time dungeons and top down turn based combat and exploration in the overworld.

4:  Buck Rogers Countdown to Doomsday:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/buck-rogers-countdown-to-doomsday_

Its an SSI Gold Box game.  Only sci fi!  And uses a version of AD&D that TSR modified for the first more "serious" Buck Rogers RPG and universe setting that didn't take off because nobody cared about Buck Rogers in the late 80s and early 90s for any reason.  (Outside of people who hit puberty when the late 70s show was on.  And that had more to do with a future Silver Spoons cast member in tight clothing than anything else.)  While it is apparently a bit cut down from the computer version it removes the first person exploration for third person and anything I do not have to map is GOOD.

5:  Dragonstrike:  http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/dragonstrike_

One thing that ticks me off is when the console and computer editions are not just tweaks of each other, but entirely different games.  If the Commodore 64 could handle the first person dragon flight combat, how come the NES couldn't?  Did they just decide the effort was worth making dumber games for the masses?  Could they not afford whatever memory mapper chips the cartridge would require?  It is a mystery.  One of many mysteries involving how the supposedly superior NES just couldn't handle games from the Commodore 64.  (And honestly sometimes vice versa.)  Computer ports just never seemed to fare well on the NES even if they became VASTLY more famous here.  (Wizardry, Ultima 3, Three Stooges, Skate or Die, Shadowgate, Maniac Mansion.. just to name a few!)

Honorable Mentions:  D&D Slayer, D&D Deathkeep, Iron & Blood Warriors of Ravenloft (one of the worst fighting games ever made next to that PS1 Star Wars game), D&D Heroes, Forgotten Realms Demonstone, Car Wars (Only sort of counts), Shadowrun SNES and Xbox 360 (terrible but there), Mage Knight on the DS.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Game Collection: Console Cluebooks (Also Dragon Quest Lovvin)

Something that in many cases is worth more than the game itself are the cluebooks, or as many like to call themselves now, Official Strategy Guide.  While back in the day these things were really the only solution to these games outside of gaming magazines or friends who may have completed the game, now Gamefaqs is the winner here and forums are a nice backup.  (Though given the horrid people who post on Gamefaqs one is recommended to never read any messageboard stuff there.)

These books have become nicer looking and have all the meaty info most publishers never bother to put in the manuals.  (If your game even comes with one any more.)  So now they are more like keepsakes than things you buy because they are super useful.  Why pay 15-35 bucks for the cluebook when you might only need a hint or two you can get online for FREE?

Of course as a hobby gamer these things are also useful resources for instant maps and dungeons, something to keep in mind.  100-300 page full color books full of maps and other nifty info one could mine when in a pinch to make up one's latest adventure.

Let's get to the list.  (This is primarily console game cluebooks.  PC will get it's own coverage.)

Here we have an official game guide (Chrono Trigger), an unofficial one (Pokemon), 2 bonus inserts from mid 90s game magazines (Megafan and Gamepro Code Book), a purchasable magazine guidebook (Megafan), and the two Nintendo books.  The Official Nintendo Player's Guide was like GOLD in the late 80s.  Magazines for games weren't really reborn until 1989 or so.  Outside of Nintendo Power and newsletters, a book like this was the only way to get maps and help for games.  Much like the Mega Fan book(let)s, sometimes back then many games never had any clue books or a newsletter with help.  These sorts of things were really the only help you could possibly get!  And with games like Metroid and Goonies II?  NO MAP YOU PROBABLY WON'T EVER FINISH THEM.  No in game map or help.  

The SimCity/SimEarth book is primarily for the PC versions but my editions of those games are the SNES and Turbo Duo versions respectively.  And they help.  But being a PC guide they are smarter and more in depth than later or even concurrent videogame books would be.  Sega Genesis Secrets is a decent all in one book by a games writer of the time.  Gamepro Hot Tips is more or less just stuff taken from the magazine and plugged into a book.  Beats buying or storing dozens of magazines released over a few years.  (You can tell its a little slipshod.  One of the pictures is art of Phantasy Star on the SMS.  I don't think a SINGLE SMS game is covered in here!)  The Lunar guide covers the Sega CD classic and has a pretty funny interview with Victor Ireland the infamous head of Working Designs.  The Phantasy Star III Hint Book, like the two Sega guides next to it look to be translated versions of Japanese hint guides.  Except the PS2 and Vermillion ones came free with the game (try completing PS2 without it.  I DARE YOU.) while the PS3 was a seperate purchase.  For some idiot reason I got the Transformers movie game hint book just for the DS TF game info and not its primary use for the console title which was quite different.   Sometimes I buy dumb things.

Another Pokeymans guide.  For a game I never finished.  Pokemon was really a one time game for me.  The Zelda guide covers all the Zelda games in a now somewhat sought after Gamecube collection.  I think I got it free for a Nintendo Power subscription.  I have NO idea why I bought the Serious Sam guide.  Its a First Person Shooter!  The Metroid Prime book is handy though I still haven't beaten the bloody game.  And now I own the Wii remake too.  Shenmue is another one I bought the guide for and still haven't finished it.  Star Wars Starfighter did help me a bit for a few bonus thingies but is another guidebook I could have skipped honestly.  Fantastic game though.

Beyond the Beyond only sort of helps with that mediocre early Playstation 1 RPG.  The Playstation Official Games Book mostly covers games one wouldn't need a cluebook for anyhow but its a nice historical document of the early PS1 era.  The Tactics Ogre cluebook is huge and should be a good help whenever I get to the game.   Same with the Resident Evil 5 book.  The Resident Evil Gamecube remake book has some amazing maps in it.  The Oblivion book was a later release covering the expansion content I don't have for a game I got bored of halfway into.  

The FF12 Limited Edition guide I got off a friend really cheap so no reason not to have it.  The Dragon Ball Z Bububu Tinklefart 2 guide is why I bought the game which I have barely done more than try out.  The guide showed a ton of playable characters and I am a sucker for such things even though I am no longer a fan of the franchise.  (I have been buying the edited series on DVD though.  Its like all the crazy space martial arts without all the padding.  Like the 30 good minutes of NFL Football with the 3 1/2 hours of replays, broadcaster banter, and beer/auto parts commercials removed!)  The Phantasy Star Online guide was an excellent resource while playing the game, and was handy for the Gamecube remake in split/quarter screen mode to look up weapon stats and the like.  The Zelda Twilight Princess guide I think was another subscription bonus because I still haven't put the thing in my Wii in spite of buying it with the system.  I can be incredibly dumb sometimes...

And now... Dragon Quest!

The Dragon Quest series first came over to the US as Dragon Warrior.  A simplified hybrid of Ultima's top down tile based exploration and Wizardry's first person menu based combat, Dragon Quest has for the most part kept the same core gameplay since 1985 due to fan demand.  (In Japan where it is insanely popular.  I believe the newest title is mostly a real time MMORPG however.)  This turn based RPG series is known for having a whimsical art style thanks to the guy responsible for Dragon Ball Z, and in general being more of a nostalgic game than constantly trying to reinvent itself like Final Fantasy does.  This puts it more in line with the Japanese Wizardry games which try to keep the gameplay mostly the same as the original title than the US ones which started doing like Ultima and reinventing the wheel with every new release.  (Which given how awful the later Ultima games were shows this does not always work.  Final Fantasy fans can get into massive flamewars over which game is best and worst.)

Dragon Quest tweaks it doesn't take bold steps.  And I love it for that.  They are good, fun, and dependable games.  While many of them will be seen in later collection pictures, a couple and their cluebooks seem right to place here.

My DQ cluebook collection.  The 4 and 6 Nintendo DS remakes, DQ 8 on the Playstation 2, and DQ 9 also on DS which was originally supposed to be more of a real time semi MMORPG but Japanese fan outcry changed the design for the better.  Sadly of the games shown in the picture, I have only completed 4 (whose NES version is one of my favorite games on that platform, this remake being even better), and haven't even played 6 yet.  I have them.  And am eagerly awaiting the remake of 7 to possibly get a US release as the Playstation 1 original was generally panned at the time and I didn't pick it up.

Why I haven't finished 8 is beyond me.  Perhaps I was distracted?

Dragon Quest 8's Jessica.  And the Twins.

Dragon Warrior 1&2 on the Game Boy Color (but also playable on original terrible Game Boy) have improved level and money advancement over the NES originals I sadly no longer own due to trades with friends (DQ 2 for Double Dragon 3?  Even in 91 that was a STUPID STUPID THING!) or stores (got squat for it.  Helped me get Phantasy Star 2 and Super Hydlide in 1990 for my birthday so not too bad).  I enjoyed both games a lot, playing the original US releases when new as I already loved electronic RPGs.  (For console folks Dragon Warrior never really sold till it was given away free with Nintendo Power subscriptions.)  I never had Dragon Warrior 3 though I had salivated over it for years having ownership of a walkthrough from Nintendo Power.  I always planned on getting it but never saw it.  Sadly this remake while amazing I first started playing in bed around 8-9am in the morning before bedtime.  On September 11th, 2001.  I woke up and got cleaned up to run my D&D 3.0 Dragonlance game only to find out what happened while I was putting off sleep with a new videogame.  Dragon Warrior 4 I bought at a Navy Exchange while in Norfolk VA in 1993.  I had to make a few calls from a pay phone to get through a few bits.  I also played a bit of it at a friend's apartment.  Even though he was married there was some evidence I wouldn't figure out until hearing other things later on that... Nintendo games weren't the kind of things he was interested in playing.  I'm kind of glad I didn't realize this till later. Things would have been awkward.  And it would have taken me longer to finish the game playing it at the Navy Rec Center NES machines.  

(The Dragon Warrior (now Quest like Japan names it.  Name change due to a US tabletop RPG called Dragon Quest.  NO JOKE.) III pages ripped out of a Nintendo Power.  A massive guide with even a bit of info from the previous titles!  Also the Pokemon like Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 I got cheap.)

As it stands and you will see, I have in some legit US form, Dragon Quest 1-6, 8, and 9 with a couple of the spinoff titles.  I do hope the 7 remake on the 3DS comes out in the US.  Also I recommend the Dragon Quest Youtube videos from "Clan of the Grey Wolf", and "Happy Videogame Nerd" if you want more information about this amazing series.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Game Collection: Some More Portable Lovin!

Let me continue to show you my portable game collection.
(Handy as much of my big system stuff has additional releases added to it.  Actually a lot of stuff does so expect at least one big OTHER PICKUPS post sometime.  The problem with doing my collection pictures is that it makes me want more stuff.)

We shall start with the most unfairly maligned portable system ever, the N Gage.

Nokia in 03-04 had an idea, a vision.  To make a portable videogame system that was also a cell phone.  Sadly their initial design cost 300 dollars, you had to remove the battery to swap games, it was normal cell phone screen ratio, and talking in it was like holding a plastic taco to your ear.

It did not.. do well.  They later on improved it with the QD which got rid of the taco phone element, made it about a 100 bucks in 05, allowed you to swap games without battery removal, and made the machine look nicer while merely having some mild audio system reductions.

It is still my cell phone.

It had some great games released later in its' life, mostly as online only ordering after the machine had been considered a joke.

See the N Gage is basically on par with the Sega Saturn.  Great 2d performance but not so hot 3d.  It is roughly as good as said Saturn too.

But let's see my games!

Catan is just that!  Settlers of Catan but on your phone.  Civilization is pretty much Civ 2 on the PC but again, its in your pocket.  (And better than the Civ Revolution games.)  Colin McRae Rally is a rather good 3d rally racing game.  High Seize is a complete rip off of Nintendo's Advance Wars series.  But its with PIRATES in the Pirate age.  Which makes it pretty awesome.  Mile High Pinball is a decent pinball game.  Pathway to Glory and its sequel, Ikusa Islands are AMAZING tactical wargames.  Brilliant titles.  Worth purchasing the system for.  (And the basic system was dumbed down for that 40K PSP game.) Rifts Promise of Power is a pretty good RPG using the Rifts game system.  Requiem of Hell is a meh Diablo clone.  Pocket Kingdom is.. weird.  It wants to be a funny version of Dragon Force but.. kind of fails especially due to a baaaad interface.  The Roots is another action RPG but I haven't messed with it enough.  Same thing with both Splinter Cell games.  Not enough playing of em.  They are a 2d and 3d stealth action game.  Glory in Death is the ONLY Warhammer 40K electronic game to actually use the Warhammer 40K ruleset.  (Late 3rd edition rules.)  Worms World Party is.. Worms.  Meaning its good.  Xanadu Next is an ok action RPG ruined by bad framerates.

Another portable system I have is the Game Gear!

Basically a Sega Master System with a reduced resolution but increased color palette, the Game Gear is notorious for eating batteries like a fat man eats food at an all you can eat buffet.  Also a huge percentage of titles were just cut down Genesis games or SMS ports.  And the capacitors inside it tend to die requiring repairs.

I had one, sold it, and later on got another from Ebay cheap.  Where most of these games came with it so I haven't played them.  

I pretty much bought it for the Shining Force game.   Dragon Crystal is a Roguelike.  I really only want the few RPGs made for it, and maybe the SMS converter so I have an easy way to play SMS games without dragging out the console.

Of course there are failures that people loved, such as the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

SNK's answer to the Game Boy Color, it was a revamp of the original Neo Geo Pocket which wasn't color, a stupid thing for the late 90s.  The Color was a great little machine that owned the utter licensed dross that infested (and usually still does) most of Nintendo's machines of the N64 and later era.

The NGPC has one of the best portable controllers ever made, a glorious clickly thumbstick perfect for fast action and precision controls.  It plays its games smoothly and they all look really good, though many fighting games have low color sprites.  

It was sadly cancelled when a gambling company bought SNK and decided to drop nearly every thing they were doing to help make Pachinko crap.  (Thankfully another company would get the videogame rights and are now known as SNK Playmore.)

Baseball Stars is a decent baseball game though not a patch on the NES classic.  Biomotor Unitron is an.. interesting RPG I never got around to finishing.  Bust a Movie Pocket is the glorious bubble popping puzzle game.  Card Fighter's Clash is a great CCG game using Capcom and SNK characters.  (The DS sequel isn't  half as good.)  King of Fighters R2 is a decent portable KoF with cutesy character sprites.  Faselei! is a really cool mech SRPG that uses a simple programming command system for combat.  (And was only released in English and boxed in Europe meaning I was lucky to get a copy for MSRP.)  Magical Drop Pocket is another puzzle game and it really kicks ass thanks to the amazing controller on the NGPC.  Match of the Millennium is possibly the best portable fighting game ever made with fun minigames, tight control, and a good variety of SNK and Capcom characters.  Metal Slug 1st Mission is Metal Slug for your pocket.  I still need the sequel though.  Neo Turf Masters is a decent golf game.  And Samurai Shodown 2 is another solid fighter.  (Meaning I really just need the all SNK women fighting game and I pretty much have all the games I really want for this machine.)

And we will finish it up with the most popular but least deserving portable game system ever, the Nintendo Game Boy (Color).  This machine line won early on for being relatively cheap and having a MASSIVE battery life.  However the original Game Boy has one of the WORST screens ever.  A pea soup green with so much pixel ghosting during anything its nearly impossible to play any action games on it.  A shame because it really had some great games.  Later on smaller versions with better screens arrived, culminating in the Gameboy Color which was a somewhat supercharged Game Boy with color added in.  And still smaller than the original brick machine.

The latter mostly sold on the late 90s Pokemon craze and lead to a massive glut of kiddie license shovelware junk which infests so much of Nintendo's third party releases.  

Sadly like the Game Gear, I had a Game Boy with a ton of good games and got rid of them all when I got out because DURR DON'T NEED PORTABLE GAMES ANY MORE, even though some of my favorite games have been on portable machines since.  Admitted, I could have gotten a Super Game Boy for my SNES and played the Game Boy titles better on a TV but.. I was younger, dumber, and going through a lot at the time.  And I did end up with a boxed copy of the now sought after Chrono Trigger for selling the portable games.  So it wasn't a total washout.

(Course with machines like the original Game Boy and Game Gear it is sort of understandable as they weren't exactly pocket sized and had serious limitations.)

My collection of original format Game Boy titles.  All of the Final Fantasy rereleases.  Adventure is actually the first Mana series action RPG, and the Legend series are actually SaGa Frontier series titles.  Pretty decent if weird RPGs.  Legend of the River King is a FISHING RPG.  Sadly it sucks.  Pokemon Red is the only Pokeymans game I ever finished and not in the GOTTA CATCH EM ALL sense.  I have 2 of the 3 original Game Boy Castlevania games though the third eludes me because at cheapest a loose no manual version goes for 32 bucks on Ebay in spite of it not being highly regarded.  (And it is no longer canon.)  Belmont's Revenge is the only one of the three considered good.  And its nigh unplayable on an original Game Boy.  Looks good on my Gamecube Game Boy Player though.  Which is how I beat it.  Donkey Kong is an action puzzle game.  It starts like a mostly black and white (uses some SNES GB Player color trick stuff encoded into it) remake of Donkey Kong, but after the initial 4 arcade levels it turns into a massively hard and devious action puzzler.  Fun, but it gets frustrating.

And my meager Color collection.  Heroes of Might & Magic 2 is HoMM 2 only portable and cut down to be on an 8 bit machine.  (But still good.)  Pocket Bomberman is an action platform puzzler and not a normal Bomberman game.  Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is the classic NES game plus the JPN only sequel with a smaller viewing area but bonus content.  Yars' Revenge is a remake of the Atari 2600 classic with tons of levels.  You will get tired of it though.  Tons of levels but after a point its basically more of the same.  Tower is a single player real time 1st person RPG in the Dungeon Master style.  I just.. didn't like it much.  Aliens: Thanatos Encounter is a top down Gauntlet styled game but.. not very fun at least on an actual machine.  Also inferior to the Alien Breed series on the Amiga and DOS PCs.  (Which was an Aliens ripoff.  But awesome.)

This covers all of my lesser portable machines.  The Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advance I have enough stuff to make each their own installment.   

Sadly for whatever reasons these portables I just do not own a lot for.  My wanting complete with manuals or super cheap sort of hurts me now, and back in the day the machines either went away too fast, or had very terrible libraries of games.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Game Collection: My PSP Games!

Well the holidays are approaching and I need to fill up my postcount so I hit that 52 post a year minimum I have generally set for myself.  Luckily I have backup stuff ready to go.  See my Game Collection thing began in the summer with a picture of my N64 and stuff I posted to show off on #retrochat on irc.synirc.net .  It has lead to this great reorganization, cleanup, and documentation of all my stuff that will probably take a year or two to both do and document.

I am doing video games, movies, music, and hobby games.

And like any good nerd I love me some video games.  And I have the most unfairly maligned system that was still somewhat popular, the Playstation Portable.  (PSP)

It had issues like a disk format on a portable machine and Sony's terrible memory card formats.  But.. its also got some KILLER games if you like Roleplaying and Strategy games.  (This blog shows where I stand.)

So.. let me show you my games!

 We have Activision Hits Remixed which has a ton of good Activision and Imagic Atari 2600 games with cool 80s hits to listen to while playing (Atari 8 bit and C64 versions of many are better but nobody cares about the good stuff..)  Adventures to Go is an ok SRPG.  Atari Classics Evolved has neat versions of classic arcade games but to unlock the 2600 games you need to complete ALL ACHIEVEMENTS.  No.  BS.  Blokus Portable is.. Blokus!  And this is good.  Capcom Collection is of course arcade titles from Capcom's glory days.  Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles has the Japan only Rondo of Blood in original PC Engine AND a modern remade form, and the beloved Symphony of the Night.  Darkstalkers Chronicle is more 2d fighting fun with a gob of Darkstalker characters.  D&D Tactics is the closest thing to a proper D&D 3.5 game we have ever gotten and is really good once you get past a few issues.  Dungeon Explorer is a lame Action RPG.  EA Replay is basically (sadly) a collection of SNES roms and is thus inferior versions of classic titles most of the time.  (SNES Ultima 7?  WHYYY)  Field Commander is an Advance Wars ripoff but fun.  FF 4 Complete Collection is a MASSIVE compilation of Final Fantasy 4 and the downloadable sequel installments.  But it still has you grinding like its 1991.  Haven't played Crisis Core FF7 yet.  Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the greatest SRPGs ever made this time with a good translation and bad load times.  Generations of Chaos is one of the reasons I bought the PSP as it is very similar to Dragon Force on the Sega Saturn.  Only not as good.

Ghostbusters is much like the PS2 and Wii versions with a cartoony style.  Hopefully unlike the PS2 version it isn't crash happy.  Gradius Collection is nearly every arcade Gradius title with save stating to get by how abusive the Gradius gameplay power up system is.  Gripshift is kind of like Trackmania but not as good.  Jeanne D Arc is a SRPG based around a fantasy version of well.. the Maid of Orleans herself.  It is good.  Jikandia is a cute looking and funny but unfun action platformer.  Lemmings is a remake of the classic puzzler.  Little Big Planet is the portable edition of the amazing platform game where you can make your own levels.  Lord of the Rings Tactics is an ok SRPG with not much RPG at all.  Lumines is a decent puzzle genre game.  The Macross Frontier games are Japan only action games and are quite fun if you are a Macross dork like me and enjoy replaying the anime series.  Mega Man Powered Up is a remake of the original Mega Man and also a construction kit.  Maverick Hunter X is just a remake of Mega Man X.  Both are pretty good and I am not even a big Mega Man fan.  Metal Gear Acid 2 is a SRPG that uses a CCG mechanism.  Its.. interesting but I need to give it more time.  Mytran Wars is a turn based wargame that gets really bogged down with points grinding and long drawn out mech on alien crystal mech thing fights.

Pangya is basically Anime Golf.  Fun because its Golf.  Kind of creepy because its anime.  Phantasy Star Portable 1-2 use the kind of sucky Phantasy Star Universe system of Action RPG.  But they are Phantasy Star so I am required by LAW to buy them.  Havent played Pololocrois which is an RPG, or Prinny which is an action game starring Disgaea's Prinnies.  (Penguins who are low level sinners in hell who basically are abused by everyone until they pay their debts back.)  R Type Command is a turn based wargame based on the R Type SHMUP series.  Its really good.  Rainbow Islands is a remake of the classic arcade game and pretty decent.  The game under my flash is Salamander Collection, a Japan only collection of the Salamander/Life Force SHMUPS.  I love me some Life Force.  I haven't played Spectral Souls which is a SRPG.  Star Trek Tactical Assault is similar to Starfleet Command and is a Real Time version of Starfleet Battles.  Except it doesn't really control well.  Star Wars Battlefront Renegade Squadron is a fun mission based Battlefield 1942 styled game only pint sized and with a fun story mode for us solo players.  Tactics Ogre I haven't played yet but its a SRPG many people recommend highly.  Valkyrie Profile is an absolutely AMAZING JRPG with platforming elements.  Control a Valkyrie who is preparing warriors for Valhalla!  Valkyria Chronicles 2 is a cool SRPG based on its amazing PS3 big brother.  This one has better gameplay but a waaay weaker story (high school military academy?  REALLY JAPAN?) and worse graphics than the game it is a sequel to.  Warhammer is a CCG based on the tabletop CCG nobody played because it wasn't Magic or Yu Gi Oh.  I haven't played it yet.

Warhammer 40K Squad Command is a decently fun turn based tactical wargame based on 40K though not using real 40K rules.  Sadly the game itself is a prettied up but dumbed down version of a pair of N Gage WW2 games (I will talk about them in a later post.)  Silent Hill Experience is more or less like DVD bonus features about Silent Hill games.  Trails in the Sky is an absolutely MASSIVE JRPG I have yet to finish but I do quite enjoy it.  Persona 2 I have just started.  The Shin Megami Tensei games are a series of JRPGs normally taking place in modern times but you still have demons and such to fight and have magic and whatnot.  The Persona subseries is about high school kids fighting them.  I haven't gotten too far and am not sure what to think about it, or its system where you can try talking to the monsters before most fights.  One of the characters in it is a white girl in Japan whose dad is a Japanophile but she loves Kung Fu movies and Chinese culture.  She is kind of hilarious and rad.  The three Ys collections are two remakes and one original game in the long running action RPG series.  Oath in Felghana is absolutely amazing and might be my favorite Action RPG ever.  1&2 Chronicle is pretty good but keeps the original Ys combat mechanic of just bumping into things.  7 adds in a party system but I reached a point where it was nothing but backtracking to nearly every dungeon in the game but only a certain way to reach said dungeons and I play slowly at work on breaks with portable games so just gave up.

And that's my PSP collection as it stands.  (I also have Ultimate Ghosts n Goblins but it can be featured in the follow up pictures I will be taking or have taken since the original collection photos were taken.  Retro gaming is a hell of a drug!) I like the machine but for some reason it was never well regarded.  Most of the titles I have you could only buy online or in Gamestops so most people never even heard of them sadly.

And that's kind of the problem.  Its a great enthusiast machine but a mediocre mainstream one.  Why play cut down versions of sports games you already have on the big machines?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Game Collection: Wargames! (Or: "Let's Talk about Hex, Bay-bee!")

Hex and Chit Wargames.  Never has something so complicated, so nichey, so old school been so entrancing to me.  These games are way more complicated (usually) than other boardgames or miniatures games but.. there is something ENTRANCING about them.

Given the barely existing player base, difficulty in finding these games to purchase, and my own limited money if I want to like pay bills and enjoy other things without spending all my time working I only have so many of these games.

But.. I shall show you mine and have some thoughts about them.

Note also I am leaving out the BEST hex n chit game as it will be its own post next year sometime (DAMN YOU KICKSTARTER!!!), mini games (again will get their own post), and kind of sort of wargames like Battle Lore, and the Machine Sheet genre.

If this gives you a fizzy feeling akin to James May when he drives certain cars you want to continue reading this post and looking at things I shouldn't have spent money on.  If you are confused and wonder why anyone would bother with games that aren't full of pretty miniatures and such?  It really is hard to explain so you might want to leave now.  Or join me for a game IRL sometime and learn why they can be such fun.

 We may as well start with the KING of Wargames.  The game that has sold more than any other (200K copies which makes it small potatoes for sales of products even in the gaming world.  But it shows you how HUGE it was for that wee market!), SQUAD LEADER.  A WW2 wargame where each counter chit was either a talented leader or a squad of 4-12 soldiers or a single vehicle.  It is a fantastic game, its high complexity for normal gamers but.. well.. We will get to that.

 The rulesbook, my copy I made of the rules to help have 2 copies on hand, one of the scenario sheets, the nice letter I got from the guy on Boardgamegeek who sold it to me for a fair price, and some of the paperwork Avalon Hill put in their games.  (Squad Leader is from the late 70s.  Its about as old as Star Wars!)  Unlike many modern games Squad Leader understood not everyone was a rules genius so they taught you the game in steps.  Read X number of pages/sections and now you can play this scenario.  Battletech also did something similar.  1983 Basic Dungeons and Dragons did this.  Its an AMAZING way to teach a game to someone without expecting them to be a genius or for someone to teach them the rules, a MAJOR mistake later wargames would fail at.

 Both sides of the reference sheet.  All you needed to play European Theater WW2 combat.  
 And the 4 "geomorphic" mounted mapsheets the game came with.  You could use part of a map, all of it, or combine them with any other map in multiple ways.  Rotate em!  End to end!  Top to bottom!  Bottom to top!  Any map connects to any other map like this.  Its awesome.

 All of the included counters, most in some 1.25 counter trays I bought online.  Its my inner anal retentive who demands this.  Organized stuff makes my brain happy.  Feng Shui for dorks really.

 MMP (Multi Man Publishing, current publishers of Squad Leader related stuff) remade the game that came before Squad Leader, Panzer Blitz/Panzer Leader.   See the original design was by Jim Dunnigan, who also wrote a book on Wargames I have but didn't bother to photograph (its a blue cover with text on it.  Why bother?) but it was from the early 70s.  This is more or less using the name and basic concept for a totally new game.  That took forever to get out of its preorder phase.  Still keeps the classy cover style the original games and Squad Leader used.

 An inexpensive introductory set to a slightly larger scale game Avalanche Press makes called Panzer Grenadier.  I haven't had the chance to play it and they kind of ticked me off during a holiday sale so I really don't buy anything from them now.

 Another MMP game, Fire in the Sky simulates the ENTIRE PACIFIC WW2 WAR.  Its a massive scope game and is a translation of a Japanese wargame.  They have a couple of these.  I would like more.  I would also like to have the chance to play them.  Most wargames kind of take longer than I have to play them.

MMP sometimes does sales and clearances and I got this game from them.  A Civil War game that takes place in an area that last I knew had a big Federation Commander player base.  

 This is like the third or fourth version of this battle Avalon Hill did, this being one of the last.  And being an amazing game. Its also really simple and easy to play making it a good introductory game.

 My other Avalanche Press game.  This one is a Roman Empire era game and this is the variant cover that is of the style so many of this company's RPG products used and were mocked for. T&A covers.  But it kind of amuses me to see a "hoochie mama" on a wargame, a genre mostly known for serious historical seriousness played by serious people.

 Two free wargames.  One that was just postage and handling from MMP (Target Arnhem), and the other is a little wargame the size of a postcard to advertise a magazine/wargame magazine.  See there were (and kind of still are!) history magazines that also came bundled with a complete wargame which would usually also be the theme of that issue.  This is a promotional goodie from one of them.  (Against the Odds in this case.)

But eventually Squad Leader got more and more complex in each expansion set with the playtesters (sadly) demanding more and more complexity and detail.  This eventually lead to Advanced Squad Leader, a game infamous for how ridiculously complicated and detailed it is.  Avalon Hill mostly let Squad Leader die outside of the original game (only to sometimes put the 3 expansions in reprints) and it was eventually a given someone else would teach new people how to play ASL as the rules were god awful at teaching you anything.  They also came in a binder for 40 bucks, with another 40 for the main game pieces component.  (Now its like DOUBLE that price, though the game pieces component comes with a lot more stuff now, as MMP has stupidly not kept Squad Leader in print.)

 So MMP'solution was this, the ASL Starter Kit series!  4 stand alone sets in increasing price and complexity to teach the basics of ASL without overwhelming people.  They sell incredibly well for MMP and constantly go out of print for a while.  

 The 4 rulesbooks.  1 was Infantry only.  2 added in ordnance weapons.  3 added in vehicles.  Expansion Pack is basically all 3 together but didn't come with a box or dice.  The salmon colored blocks are changes or additions to the rules for people moving from 1 starter set to the next so they don't need to reread everything.

 An example page.  Sadly the Starter Kits are TERRIBLE for teaching ASL as they quickly throw acronyms at you from like the third page.  SK 1 was 12 pages with covers.  If written in something that didn't sound more like program code it would have been 2-3 times as many pages.  And would have worked so much better IMHO.

 While SK 1 had about a page of acronyms, by Expansion Set 1 it was around THREE making it very hard to learn the game indeed!  You can see even the acronyms use acronyms!

 Other people on the Internet have done MMP's work for them.  The one on the left is the table of contents for a PDF explanation of the game rules in the SKs, the one on the right more of a general ASL overview.  Yes a 28 page rulesbook needs 130+ pages to explain in plain English.

 A historical notes booklet that came with SK 3, some of the chart sheets..

 And MORE CHARTS.  So many charts.  And remember.. this is just the STARTER KIT LEVEL.  Full on ASL has like a 200+ page rules binder.  Is it any wonder why the king of wargames has both helped shrink the hobby and given it a reputation for being for crazy people?

 The front and back box to SK 3.  I threw 2's box away not realizing I now have so much stuff it would actually be a more comfortable fit putting it all in 3 boxes.  (It probably won't be bad once I put the counters in trays.)

 The nice color (but not full color counters like many games use.  They didn't have that kind of tech and money in 1985 and they try to keep things consistent.) double sided counters for the game.  Lots of counters for lots of stuff.

 And MORE COUNTERS.  The two full size sheets are the backs so you can see the difference from the front ones above.

 Expansion Pack #1 was basically packaged in a plastic bag.  Its more or less just another version of SK 3 with different maps and scenarios.  But for a lower price since no real packaging costs.

 And the SK maps, using the current cardboard format over the lovely mounted mapboards of the Avalon hill era.  The SKs use a letter system to denote maps, all lower cases currently, going backwards from Z.  Again though fully compatible with ASL maps.

 Other than them being cardboard the other change is modern CGI art and higher printing quality so the maps look a lot sharper than their 70-80s forebears.

 Much like Squad Leader, scenario cards made of cardstock are used to set up battles.  Units needed, maps required, historical backgrounds, and special rules.  I have most of the S series currently out.  Maps S1-34, 41-50.  35 through 40 I do not have.  See some of the scenarios did not come with the game...

They came in MMP's infrequently released house magazine, Operations.

 The last two issues are in plastic bags because MMP took Operations to the route of those wargame magazines I mentioned.  They now contain complete games as well as normal articles and even supplemental counters for their existing titles, something those other magazines do not do.  The problem is each issue got more and more expensive (the final one is FOURTY DOLLARS) to the point they now make a magazine called Special Ops instead which is the same concept but has kept prices cheaper.  It was 2 a year but they have recently announced it is becoming an annual as it was taking too many resources away from their normal products.  (MMP like most wargame companies is a part time job in between one that makes you know, a livable wage.  People do these games because they LOVE them, not because it pays the bills.)

 This is from the second Special Issue.  2 countersheets (including counters for the complete game, for a Panzer Blitz Hill of Death map and scenario set, and some extras for their other games), and 2 big poster maps for the game and the Panzer Blitz scenarios.  
 What the magazine looks like inside.  Mostly text and much of it written by freelancers who like the games they are writing about.

 There is some color and graphics in there when needed though.

 But going back to ASL proper, Avalon Hill realized 80 bucks and super complex rules that assumed familliarity with Squad Leader or a good teacher was kind of silly so this set was made.  Paratrooper was cheaper than the 40 dollar core set as a way to ease people into the game.  And while the main set was Russians vs Germans primarily, this set had American units, giving one a taste of the Yanks before the US Forces (well one of the US sets anyhow..) set came out.  (ASL was very slow at releasing expansions.  But given the depth of detail and the insane amount of research done I cannot fault them too much.)

 Along with the countersheets, we get a new map board, the Armory (counter sheet reference really) to be put in the big rules binder..

 And this, the TRAINING MANUAL.  25 pages of programmed instruction written in normal people speak with a bit of humor involved.  Imagine Lee Emery of Full Metal Jacket fame teaching you how to play ASL.  Except with less offensive language.  Ok, Eddy Murphy Raw is less offensive language than FMJ's Boot Camp scenes.  But you get my point!

 No this isn't Rainbow Dash Fights Nazis.  Its a big historical module (meaning its basically about a certain battle and not really a required set like Paratrooper or the other sets) covering the Pegasus Bridge battles during the D Day timeframe.

 I got it on clearance but look!  Its got a Training Manual expansion, bringing the tutorial pages count up to 32.  Plus more counters, a HUGE mapsheet of the Pegasus Bridge and surrounding environment (see the little sheet on the right?  Now look at the folded map.  That's the upper right corner of the map!  The average Infantry counter has a 5 hex range for effective firing.), and a rule binder expansion with special rules for the bridge and so on.  More Scenario cards too.  

 When MMP took over doing ASL from Avalon Hill (which was bought out by Hasbro who didn't really care about most of what AH made, especially not nichey wargames for a tiny audience) they got lots of AH's backstock.  So I got as many mounted mapboards as I could manage when they were selling them for roughly 5 bucks a pop including shipping.
 Yes the same basic geomorphic setup is kept but many battlefield types await giving one nearly unlimited combinations!  (Just showing half of each map.)

 With Squad Leader coming with Maps 1-4, I have 1-9, 11-24,...

32-35, 39, 40, and 44.  That is a LOT of maps!  I have even used them for the hex n chit game I love more than any other that I mentioned I will post about next year.  (It would have been this month but.. scheduled release date on Kickstarter for the new version was a big lie.)

(EDIT: I also have Map P which came with a 10 dollars but now 40 on Ebay mini pack.  Has 3 of the scenarios in my numbered list and a page of rules on some of the terrain used in the Normandy invasion the scenarios take place at.  Also apparently the Chapter K tutorial stuff is now included in the ASL 2nd edition rules set.)

If you love history and love games where you work your mind and have to fight battles realistically instead of just army building a winning force of stuff, you might want to look into wargaming.  Its complex most of the time but.. there is just an... Appeal to it all.


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