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, December 28, 2012

Game Collection: Sega Dreamcast: The Omega

The Dreamcast.  A future looking system.  Ahead of it's time.  Quirky.   Full of unique and clever games.  Sega's last hope in the console marketplace.  Betrayed by Electronic Arts, the Sony hardcore, a skittish Japanese parent company, and consumers frightened off due to Sega's previous missteps.

The Dreamcast was a system with so many unique and interesting games it felt almost like a super powered version of the UK 8 bit Microcomputer scene.  It felt like it had a SOUL as many folks have said.  It sold a massive number of machines in a short time.  It had tons of great peripherals.  A cool memory card that also doubled as a tiny LCD screen on the controller.  Built in modem for online play and Web Surfing, something nearly UNHEARD of in 1999.  (There were earlier attempts and all but the Dreamcast was the first time it was built in and INTEGRATED into the machine and it's business plan.)

Yet it failed.  It should not have.  But fail it did.  And ever since Sega's spark has been gone.  The name continues but the heart is no longer there.  The company that did what Nintendidn't is slowly but surely going to become another acquisition of some other company as is the wont of all IP producers.

And our gaming world will be worse off for it.

This is what I have for the little white box with a spiral on top:

Alien Front Online is a fun little arcade styled 3d blaster you could play online.  It even came with a microphone!  Bangai-O is a crazy 2d SHMUP.  Bomberman Online was Bomberman but you could play others online.  Bust a Move was another version of that Puzzle game classic.  Capcom Vs SNK was a GREAT 2D Fighter in the King of Fighters tradition.  Chu Chu Rocket was the awesomely mad 4 player Puzzle game.  Crazy Taxi 2 was the sequel to the arcade racing classic.  Dino Crisis was Resident Evil.  WITH DINOSAURS.  Evolution 1 and 2 are JRPG takes on the Roguelike genre.  Grandia II is an excellent JRPG with a kick ass combat system.  Gundam Side Story is a mech sim but my disk is busted so no idea of how it plays.  House of the Dead 2 is a light gun arcade port.  Illbleed is a zany Survival Horror game.  Jet Grind Radio is a fun but hard 3d racing/exploration game.  Macross M3 is a 3rd person Action game with Transforming mechs.  (Need a converter disk to play as its an import title.  Harmony Gold says NO MACROSS FOR YOU AMERICA!)

Marvel vs Capcom 2 is the massive arcade 2d Fighter that I remember as a friend refused to ever let me copy his totally unlocked game because he is a jerk and I just downloaded a file from Gamefaqs.  NFL Blitz 2000 is that NBA Jam styled action sports game where fun matters over realism.  Power Stone 2 is a multiplayer Fighting game.  Record of Lodoss War is a decent Action RPG based on the anime.  Phantasy Star Online is basically 3d Diablo.  Only better in nearly every way.  Its no REAL Phantasy Star but it birthed its own subgenre really.  Resident Evil 3 and Code Veronica are some of the last Resident Evil games to use the original Survival Horror gameplay.  Re-Volt is a great RC Racing game.  Sega Marine Fishing is an Arcade Fishing game.  ON THE SEA.  Sega Smashpack is a collection of Genesis games but with a slightly off sound.  Has a great Arcade port of Virtua Cop though.  Shenmue is the interesting but expensive failure that was an early "Living World" game ala Grand Theft Auto 3.  Sonic Adventure is an ok Action Platformer in 3d.  Space Channel 5 is a weird music game, a proto Guitar Hero Meets Dragon's Lair thing.  Star Wars Episode 1 Racer is a fun 3d Racing game.  Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the first in that legendary series of "Extreme Sports" titles before Activision ran it into the ground.  Virtual On: OT is a decent follow up to the original Mech Fighting game.

The included Web Browser, plus the updated versions that came with the various magazine "Pack In" demo disks.  Sega really was a few years ahead of their time...

I like the Dreamcast.  I respect it.  I enjoy it.  But it could have been so much.. MORE.  It never got a chance.  What they tried Microsoft and the X Box would refine and then make it a GIVEN by the 360.

Yet Sega is on the ropes and X Box is nearly synonymous with Video Gaming.

And we are poorer for it.

Game Collection: Sega Master System: The Alpha

Well, Alpha in the USA anyhow.  The Master System was a revision and upgrade of an earlier Sega console which as far as I know was only released in Japan.  They made a computer version of this machine, then later on an upgraded console mostly compatible with the old one and named it The Mark III.

A version of this machine with not as good music came over to the US as The Master System around the same general timeframe as the NES.  It could show like 3 times the amount of colors on screen but it's controller only had 2 action buttons and left the Pause key on the console itself.

It had double options for games, one being credit card sized titles, the other being normal plug it in and play cartridges.  (The card port was also used for the 3d glasses.)

In the US it was not very popular at all, though it did quite well in Europe and Brazil, places Nintendo basically ignored in their usual self absorbed and elitist ways.

I originally skipped it as the NES had a ton of arcade titles early on I had seen or played at Riverside Amusement Park in Agawam Mass.  (Now another Six Flags outpost.  Bleh.)  I got my NES for Christmas 86 before anyone else I knew had one.  (I started seeing ads for it on WPIX 11 out of NYC like a couple weeks after getting my Atari 2600 2 years before.)  For whatever reason my NES was acting broken and we needed to return it which meant I would have a good 2-4 weeks plus waiting for Toys R Us to get in a replacement.  I was offered by my parents to instead get the Master System which was in stock.

Thankfully I said no.  Mainly as the NES would quickly be 90% of the US console gaming market and even when I got my Commodore 64 and later Genesis the NES would have the biggest library and games could be bought, rented, or borrowed from almost anywhere.

Three years later I would get Sega's followup, the Genesis.  My cousin who never really played games much or ever really took care of most of his stuff somehow got a machine and had the Power Base Convertor which allowed Genesis users to plug it on top of their machine and play SMS games on their Gennies.

He really didn't have anything outside of Monopoly and a 3d game that was basically unplayable without the glasses so it didn't leave an impression.

Till I played Phantasy Star 2.  One of my most beloved and cherished games.  And there was a prequel on the SMS!


Now I eventually expected to give the Convertor back but never did as it was never asked for.  (Again my cousin never really CARED much about games.  Or me for that matter.)  So I had to get a machine of my own.  For some idiotic reason, instead of just getting a PBC of my own I wanted the system itself.  Maybe to get original controllers and the Light Gun?

I saved up and somehow got one though Phantasy Star wasn't available, nor was it found when places were selling out SMS games at 20 a pop.  (PStar originally went for 75 dollars.  In late 80s money.)  A Freshman in High School when I was a Senior was gonna sell it to me, but decided to not show up the last day of school so I never got to buy or play it till the age of the Internet, first with emulation, later with my own copy thanks to Ebay and compilation packs to finally finish it.

And to think I stood my ground and refused to "grease" him as was the custom on our bus to and from the Votech High School. I even got punched in the face by a hypocritical Sophmore (who got greased a good half dozen times over his Freshman year, which is like 4-5 times more than anyone else ever did!) for throwing the concoction of perfumes back at him.

Oh well, the kid DID let me borrow his Game Boy so I got to play a number of GB classics.

Anyhow, on to my meager collection.  The SMS isn't the most common of machines to collect for, though its games look TONS better than their NES counterparts.  There is just less must have titles, especially as Sega's arcade ports were either closer on the Genesis, or now in emulation and compilation packs!

I mean would one want to play 8 bit versions of Golden Axe, Strider, Altered Beast, or Ghouls and Ghosts when 16 bit versions got much closer to the originals?

Alien Syndrome is a decent port of the arcade game, as is Double Dragon and Choplifter.  In fact DDragon may be the best home port till arcade emulation got going!  California Games, Ghostbusters, and Montezuma's Revenge are excellent to possibly DEFINITIVE versions of those 8 bit computer era titles.  Hang On & Safari Hunt were the pack in games with the SMS and are eh.  Arcade racer port and a light gun game.  Golden Axe Warrior and Golvellius are both Legend of Zelda styled Action Adventures with a top down style.  Lord of the Sword is an ok sidescrolling Action Adventure.  Miracle Warriors is a pretty good for the era proper RPG.

And Castle of Illusion?  One of the best "Mascot" Platformers EVER.

Phantasy Star is the amazing RPG I have talked about some before.  Rambo First Blood Part II is a top down Run and Gun shooter.  Rampage, Rastan, R-Type, Shinobi, Time Soldiers, and Vigilante are all pretty good for the machine arcade ports, with Shinobi in some ways being MORE fun than the arcade game.  Sadly Time Soldiers is a Run and Gun ala Ikari Warriors and used it's turning joystick in the arcades to move one direction while firing in the other that is not replicated here.  Y's is the best 8 bit version of that classic Action RPG series.  Zillion is an interesting Metroid styled 2d Platforming Action Adventure that was an anime tie in where it came from in Japan.  Monopoly is a decent console version of that beloved and derided board game.  Spell Caster is a neat mixture of 2d Action Platformer mixed with a Point and Click Adventure game.

I actually have a couple more games not shown here that I purchased since I started taking these collection photos back in July.  Once I finish up these posts as they are I will probably make a post just showing all the silly games I spent money on that I shouldn't have since then.

I am not even done with taking photos as the PC section will be stupidly large.

But this was the Master System.  A great for its time machine that never got the love in the US it probably should have.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mechwarrior Online: Mastering the Art of Mech Skill Trees

Into every Mechwarrior player's life there comes a time of contemplation.  A time to decide if the mech chassis you are piloting is making you happy.  When you find this magical machine you need to do it all over again two more times.  With versions that might have worse weapon hardpoints.  Not allow you the engines you like.  That just.. look uglier.

 As I may have mentioned, you get four mech bays with your account.  Every other mech bay you get costs 300 MC.  I spent 15 dollars US for 3000 MC so I could get some more bays and also some days of Premium Time.  Now I found the Awesome chassis to be miserable and unfun for me.  I had mastered the Catapult and chose to keep the C4 with its Energy and Missile Bays, and the mighty K2 for its Ballistic slots.  I did the grind for the Atlas, selling off the 2 other chassis after I had mastered the DC.  As I may have mentioned, you need to complete three tiers of XP skill levels.  One for each of three variants of the same chassis.  You have to complete all of a tier before you can enter the next one.  So once I had all the Atlas chassis I needed through Elite, I merely got the DC to Master skill and sold off the 2 other ones I had less use and desire for.  No need to use lesser mechs that mostly were versions of my main anyhow.

But.. my first mech was a Raven 2X waay back at the start of Open Beta.  I had completed Basic with it, and had gained tons of XP towards the next tier.  (As in maybe ALL OF IT.)  But I had sold it and went Catapult as it was at the time mainly a way to start getting GXP by the old system of XP and C Bill (money) gain.  (Its much nicer now.)

I chose to start it up again as one Raven type now finally has ECM.

 The view inside my Raven.  Note the free Nvidia Dawn Bobble on the side.  Not seen is me about to bring my hooptie up to 134 KPH before an Elite skill bonus.

 And my ride carefully painted out for nearly a million C Bills.  The mech itself cost me a good 2.5.  All the upgrades bring it up to 6-7.  (My old Warhammer 40K friends know what my color scheme is.)

 Like I said, I cannot use that glorious 25,000 XP to zoom through elite till I get the 5K or so I need to finish the 4X's Basic skill tree.  The 3L is my main but I do have to say the 4x can be fun too.  I thank my fellow Goons in the Word of Lowtax for the advice on a good build.  Normally I just play and tweak but this one I just followed some basic loadout and it became quite fun to play.

As I have enough XP to basically go through all of Elite, I don't even need to get back into this mech at all.

So I take it's engine out and sell it, getting me 536,000 C Bills back.   Its a loss when you sell back stuff but it takes the bite off when you need it, and helps get a few more C Bills for stuff you MUST HAVE.  As opposed to mechs you don't much like such as this one.  I am not even wasting C Bills to paint it.  Only my permanent rides get that.

 And I do pretty good in my two little birdies.  One is a high speed scout with ECM capabilities, the other is a quick support mech, capable of helping out where needed yet quick enough to get in and out in time to be of use with its big guns.

 Just make sure you don't hit your teammates no matter how much you want that hit or kill.  You lose some XP and C Bills for that.  (Sorry Hello.JPG.  I know you didn't much care but I felt bad.  Especially as you are the best and possibly only Commando pilot!)

For me, part of the appeal of the game is the objectives to finish XP skill trees, to build my mechs to be just the way I like them.  Right now without that and chatting with fellow Word of Lowtax players over voice chat I would have probably quit by now.

Once I get Master on my two Ravens unless there is a new mech in the Medium weight class I might like to pilot (for me this would currently be either the Enforcer, Griffin, or Shadow Hawk, none of which are announced) or some form of persistent warfare where my play makes an impact I probably won't play much at all.  

Of course I have played nearly 1000 matches so far over the months and almost no other game.  Between my retro collecting, Target clearance aisle vulture ways, and the odd pickup here and there my backlog has gotten SILLY.

And fan works have made old friends.. friendlier.

(Since I am unlikely to make another post till after Christmas I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate in this timeframe!  Enjoy a picture of the kind of silly sweets I make for my crew in these times: a Cheesecake with Pumpkin Pie Spice mixed in alongside some food coloring with a little Cinnamon sprinkled at the bottom of the crust.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scenes From Mechwarrior Online

A couple weeks ago I talked about Mechwarrior Online.
(As seen here:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2012/10/mechwarrior-online-closed-beta-some.html )

Well since then tons of bugs have been fixed, new content (mostly new mechs and tech items) has been added, and there was a massive uptake in game speed and performance.

Let's take a look at my continuing robot smashy space adventures, shall we?

 We start here with one of the extra mechs they have added over the months.  The Stalker!  Here showing off the camo patterns they have now, most of which cost real money.  You can also buy HERO mechs which cost a good 30+ bucks but provide a permanent 30% in game money bonus when using them.  They also have special paint schemes.

Here is the area map you bring up with the B key.  It is showing capture points from the new game mode, Conquest.  Which is basically the same as Assault but instead of kill or capture enemy base you have multiple capture points all over the map and points go up the longer you hold an area.  Whoever gets 750 points first wins.  Or like usual, kill off the other side.  This does help keep games from being a camping festival and keeps the fights moving as hiding out won't win you the match.  

Combat in Thermal Vision in a Conquest match.  Note the Atlas on the enemy side is glowing bright red while my teammate is mostly bright green.  The hotter your mech is running the brighter it glows in this vision mode.   (Which you can get to with the H key.)  On the top of the screen we see the Capture Points and who is in control of them plus the points score.  On our HUD we have waypoint indicators of where each CP is.

The most recent patch has also changed the economy.  Repair costs are OUT for at least the time being and the amount of money you get in a match is modified.  In general I seem to be making more money than before.  I sort of miss repair and rearm costs from a balance and realism standpoint, but only a bit.  Also you can see the bonus money for the CP points we earned, and the yellow Premium Bonus you can get for spending real money for a timespan of increased money and XP gain.  I bought 3000 "MC" for 15 dollars and a day of Premium is 250.  A new Mech Bay is 300.  The "Hero" mechs are 4000+, and some other things are anywhere from 50-2000.

They have added in map variants to almost all of the maps now for a little bit of variety.  Here is the "River City" map's night variant.  It might just be me but it seems to get lighter as the match continues, as if its night becoming day.

Sadly, Night Vision mode (N key) is still mostly useless and Heat Vision is the superior choice.  But.. it looks cool as hell.

And you can paint your mechs now and buy them various patterns like that Bone one on the Stalker.  I got the PC Gamer pattern from the magazine and it came with a couple extra colors.  As like half the colors you could use cost MC.  (You can see how much Premium Time I have left on the bottom left, with my remaining MC in the center bottom.)  You also have to spend in game money to use the free colors which is ok.  You can put 3 different ones on a mech.  Which is nearly 1 million C Bills (in game currency you don't have to spend the real money on).  So I only do it for my "main" mech of a chassis type.  In this case my Atlas DC with its shiny ECM package.

Ignore the odd graphics bug at the top.  This is the GORGEOUS ice map's night variant with a lovely Aurora Borealis type effect in the sky.  That's animated.  They have also added new terrain on most of the maps like this crashed ship you can hide in.  Provides more cover and more interesting battle situations.

Going back to night fighting in the city, sometimes you can make your own light.  Via shooting mechs a lot.  Here is a Stalker I have utterly lit up with my ECM in Disrupt mode to make me harder to spot on sensors, to lock on with missiles, and to even scan me.  You can hit the J key to switch it to Counter mode and go all ECCM to the ECM.  Nice when you have Streak missiles like me that NEED a lock on to fire.  ECM modules can only be mounted to certain mech types which is nice at making some mechs desirable in game.

Plus you can buy fun things to decorate your mech's cockpit!  (That you can look around in by holding the Left Control key and mousing about.)  Some are limited edition which I guess would be cool if you plan on selling your account later on if they allow account transfer.  All sorts of special collectibles.  I just have the PC Gamer and Nvidia bobbleheads.

You can have things like Christmas lights that even show up in Heat Vision, the PC Gamer bobblehead I mentioned, and stuff you can only see if you look around your cockpit.  Each mech chassis' layout is different so some things are harder to see than others.  I.. honestly don't really see the point in spending real money on this silly stuff.  But the free ones I am all over.  (I am in spectator mode here as my ride died.  I didn't drop 1000 MC on Xmas lights.  1970s tech Xmas lights.  In the year 3049. Huh...)

I am even running into old people from the Lum the Mad/Corpnews days!  Boogaleeboo was a big name on those forums back in the day.  Quite the character!  Sadly he is in the WORST mech in the game, the ignoble Commando, a mech so dire anything it does can be done better by every other mech.  It's only saving grace is how TINY it is compared to other mechs making it a pain to hit sometimes.  Unless you take Streaks like me and then just laugh at their pitiful high speed antics.  (Unless they have ECM and you don't...)

The game still needs a LOT more content and it still has issues and bugs but the foundation, the core, the ESSENCE of the game is excellent.  Stellar really.  I would still rather have a good single player game in a nice box but its really great for a "Free to Play" game.

And being on Something Awful.com as a member of the Word of Lowtax where we can use voice communications while playing and generally be silly makes it a TON of fun.  

Seriously.  Give Mechwarrior Online a shot!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Game Collection: Sega CD and 32X: The Path to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Peripherals.  In the case of the IBM PC and the DOS machines based off it peripherals and add ons helped fix shortcomings of the original laughably limited machines, expanding its abilities and functionality as technology and reality dictated.

Yet on so many machines it has been the opposite.  In general the first model of a game console or a computer is all that was ever required.  Whenever a machine either had an improved model or made a new peripheral almost essential the peripheral has failed, in many cases just becoming another pricey oddity that was used by a handful of software.

You see, whenever you make a new required doohickey, there will be those who buy it and can partake of the new bounties, and a larger percentage who will not.  You have divided the market and are competing with yourself.  Not only do you need the original machine, you need the add on as well.

However on one console an expensive add on became the machine's reason for existence.  The CDROM drive for the Turbografx/PC Engine.  This component which itself had THREE improvements over it's lifespan (The system driver software with additional RAM in each of the versions.) somehow not only survived, but basically became THE way to get software for the machine after a certain point.

Sega wanted in on this action.  People constantly wrote in to Sega asking about it.  In the US, the Turbografx came out with the CDROM drive released at the same time (though not really heavily pushed in the US till the system was failing, and a revised all in one model with the second system driver card built in) and came out nearly concurrently with Sega's Genesis.

So Sega, which needed to beef up the machine now that the Super Nintendo with its overall superior hardware outside of CPU speed, could fix hardware deficiencies and be able to match the losing machine at its own game and be better than its main competitor.

Yet, they failed.  And bad.



Instead of using CDROM's improved data storage over expensive cartridges to make bigger and better games, the technology was mostly used to play bad interactive movie games.  You know, like Dragon's Lair.  Technology that was around a decade old when the Sega CD came out.

Did people really want to pay 300 early 90s dollars for non games where you got to see super grainy low color "games" mostly based on pressing a button when something on screen flashed?

The answer was largely HELL NO.

The RPGs and more enthusiast styled games that would have sold to the hardcore mostly stayed in Japan as we got garbage like Make my Video, and the Digital Pictures crap.

In other cases we got cartridge games with maybe a couple extra levels and a really nice CD Redbook audio soundtrack.

It wasn't enough.  More people stuck to the base Genesis unit, and those who got the CD attachment found less and less worth buying, and given the existing junk software were less and less likely to give some new title a shot.

Which was a shame as there are some good titles for the machine.

Like many titles in my collection:

Originally the Sega CD was a motor tray driven underslung device that fit under the original styled Genesis, looking like a VCR.  During this timeframe Sega CD games came in ugly long cardboard boxes, with the CDs in plastic normal CD cases inside the box ala the Sega CD2 pack in game Sewer Shark.  (One of those god awful FMV games.)  Cobra Command and Time Gal were conversions of early 80s Japanese anime FMV arcade titles.  I kind of like Time Gal but it may be my 90s weeaboo self talking rather than that the game is genuinely worth a damn.  Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective 2 is an interesting attempt to use FMV as part of gameplay to let one be the great detective I don't find works well.  Final Fight CD and Monkey Island are really just excellent ports of an arcade title that was inferior on the SNES, and a PC adventure gaming classic.  Batman Returns was a port of the Genesis movie tie in with said good CD audio and an entire bolted on game showing off the new technical tricks the Sega CD could do, a full bore combat racing game.  The racing game would be great if it wasn't so absurdly hard and the sidescrolling part isn't very good at all.

Chuck Rock 2 is basically just a cartridge/Amiga port.  Dark Wizard is a great but quite hard hex based SRPG.  Dungeon Explorer is an ok Action RPG that doesn't have a patch on the Turbografx titles.  Dungeon Master 2 is the sequel to the real time first person RPG genre it's predecessor founded on the Atari ST in the late 80s.  Jurassic Park is an.. interesting point and click adventure game like Monkey Island, though all in first person with a few ok action sequences.  Lunar is the reason anyone owned the Sega CD in Japan.  A full bore massive JRPG.  Silpheed is a sequel to Game Arts' computer polygon SHMUP.  It was sold on being a fully polygonal counter to the SNES' Starfox but most of the 3d graphics were just streaming video.  Amazing Spider Man is a pretty fun 2d platformer with hilariously bad video and an expansion of the cartridge title.

The Terminator was a massively expanded 2d platformer over its cartridge counterpart with some of the best game music ever.  Third World War is a Koei styled management/war sim albeit one taking place in the modern age and with real time combat.  AH3 Thunderstrike is an action sim with a helicopter.  One with the scaling and rotating sprites style of proto 3d that the SNES was sold on and the Sega CD replicated.  Vay is a decent enough JRPG.

My Sega CD was the 2nd model designed to be a sidecar to the 2nd model of Genesis.  It was much cheaper and removed the motor drive tray for a physical disk holder.  

I bought it for a silly reason.

See Sega wasn't done with expensive peripherals.  Fully 3d polygons were becoming the standard in arcades with Sega's Virtua series leading the way.  32 bit consoles were still a couple of years off in the west so as a stopgap Sega released the 32X for 160 dollars.

It.. did not do well.  It was claimed to be the next big thing and would even mesh with the CD for really amazing titles.  In general the machine sold horribly and there were very few worthwhile games, and all the CD and 32X combo gave was the same awful FMV titles but now with bigger video and more colors.

Add in having a full Sega Genesis/CD/32X system was a morass of wires and cables behind the machine and it required THREE outlets that were generally their own thing thanks to the big brick type plugs they used and it was.. not pretty.

And then a year/year and a half later everyone started making games for the better true 32 bit systems.  Which didn't look like the back end of a PC.  And developers knew there would be enough of a market to bother.

While I have a few games mine isn't even hooked up.

Metal Head is an underwhelming Mech Action game.  Space Harrier is a nearly arcade PERFECT port of the classic.  From the mid 80s.  On a 94 release peripheral.  Virtua Fighter was a great for the time port of the arcade game but these days there is almost zero reason to play it over its better looking sequels on better hardware.  Virtua Racing Deluxe has the same issues.  For its time it was great but it was still a downgrade over the arcade game even if it added in new levels and cars the arcade missed.  And polygonal racers have evolved leaps and bounds over the arcade original much less a lesser port.

And that was the problem with the 32x.  Its best software was mostly just nearly perfect arcade ports of 8-12 year old arcade games, or great FOR THE TIME ports of arcade games.  And arcade games really aren't designed to be played for hours on end, so why spend all that money?  And now its even more useless.

In fact the main reason I bought it, as to be a cheap way to play DOOM over upgrading my DOS machine with a faster CPU and more RAM was a bit of a failure.  It runs slower in a smaller viewing window with a ton of levels and gameplay elements cut out to make it work.  (Something the PS1 and Saturn ports wouldn't have to deal with.  Even the maligned Jaguar got a better port.  The N64 got an IMPROVED semi sequel!)

But.. we should probably go back to the good times, shouldn't we?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Game Collection: The Sega Saturn, Harbinger of Destruction

The Sega Saturn is a sad tale.  A tale of Sega's continued mismanagement of their brand, hardware, game IP, and the good will of both gamers and retailers.

A system sold a good 6 months before the scheduled launch in the US just to try to beat out the Sony Playstation to market, yet with hardly any games, a high price tag, and a machine that while capable it was designed to be a good 2d machine that was hastily upgraded to polygonal 3d graphics it couldn't quite handle in comparison to the PS1 and later the N64.  (And even their 3d looks dreadful now.  The 32 bit era has aged the worst of all console generations.)

Add in Electronic Arts' issues with the company that would become worse in the next generation, and how nearly every developer that mattered supported the PS1 over this and you had a recipe for disaster, exacerbated by one of Sega's honchos at the time.  (Bernie Stolar.)

It wasn't a bad machine and its second controller was excellent, possibly one of the best D Pad type controllers ever made.  But.. it was a failure, one Sega quickly cancelled in the US to try to bet it all on the Dreamcast, itself a failure thanks to the Saturn and Genesis peripheral disasters.

Thankfully it did ok in Japan and is currently the easiest system to play import games.  With a cartridge port in the back top Save Data (to supplement the small and tiny battery saved internal memory), expansion RAM, and even region unlocking were possible.  (I have a cart that does all 3 and cheat codes.)

Which is good because outside of arcade ports from Sega and a few RPGs, most of the great games stayed in Japan.

Albert Odyssey and Dragon Force were RPG or Strategy Games translated by Working Designs, a company that got their start bringing over niche titles like this for the Turbografx 16.  They tended to try to stay basically true to the Japanese origins of the games they translated, though they tended to put in silly pop culture text and sometimes their programming tweaks made games all but unplayable.  (Exile 2 on the TGCD is one such example.)  Astal is a pretty but unmemorable side scrolling platformer.  Blazing Heroes is a renamed game (because it was similar to the D&D Mystara name), Fighters Megamix was a fun for the time 3d fighting game.  Gun Griffon was a pretty awesome mech sim.  Nights Into Dreams is a pretty fun platformer and 2d plane with 3d graphics mascot styled game that came with an analog controller.  Panzer Dragoon Saga was one of the last Saturn games released by Sega and had a microscopic print run for such an amazing RPG and is now worth stupid amounts.

Tempest 2000 is the Saturn version of Jeff Minter's classic remake of the Atari arcade classic on a system someone almost owned.  (Nobody owned the Jaguar.)  Shining the Holy Ark was a first person RPG in the style of Shining in the Darkness on the Genesis but being much better.  Virtua Cop 1-2 were translations of the fun 3d light gun shooters.  Virtua Fighter 2 was the solid port of the 3d fighting classic.  And Virtual On was the AMAZING mech fighting game of the arcade.

Yet this is all my English language software.  Some games I still want cost stupid amounts like Shining Force 3 part 1, or are impossible to get.  But with said cartridge I have many good games become available that we never got.  See the 32 bit era was really the last hurrah of the Japanese gaming industry.  Thanks to "bro gaming" and the increasing popularity of electronic games, the western market would quickly become more and more important during this era. 

(Unless you were a Japan worshipping otaku anyhow.)

Christmas Nights was a holiday themed version of the first level of Nights that was a mixture of demo and holiday gift to Sega fans.  Gradius Deluxe Pack was an arcade collection of the first 2 titles in that fun but massively abusive series.  Dungeons & Dragons Collection is the port of the popular arcade beat em ups that is sadly in Japanese only making the questions part of the branching levels a bit tricky.  Dragon Ball Z Super Budoten is a 2d fighter that had a massive roster for its time.  Godzilla Real Time Monster Attack Simulation is an RTS where you fight off Godzilla & company.  Its all in Japanese but I not only figured it out I also finished it!  Zeta Gundam and Macross are rendered graphics 2d action games.  Zeta having stupid difficulty and no way to skip the voiceover scenes you have to hear every time you die and replay that section.  Rockman X 4 (I had Limited Ed that came packed with a nice model kit) is the Japanese version of Mega Man X 4.  And Super Robot Taisen F is the first of a 2 part story in the Super Robot Taisen series of SRPGs.

Overall I like the Sega Saturn but it just didn't do that well and since I don't speak Japanese a lot of games are either barely or completely unplayable to me, especially in my main genres.  

But what lead us here?  What began Sega's decline?

We will get to that too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Game Collection: The Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance.  Nintendo's first modern era portable system, and evidence of their modern strategy of system design.  Make an original flawed system then a year or two later release the version the original should have been.

In the Advance's case, the original design used batteries and had a terrible screen in anything other than overhead fluorescent lights.  It was nearly impossible to see it in most any normal light source.  Luckily I played mine at work on breaks so I had that light most of the time.  Thankfully the original Nintendo DS (it in its own post) had good backwards compatibility which helped make using the system for its first year or so worthwhile until the good stuff came out.

The Advance, like the DS and DSi after it had Right Shoulder Button Decay Syndrome.  Luckily hotfixing the Advance was easy enough to do.  Unscrew it, put some paper on the button and it can then push the contact down properly.  Or you could just use the Game Boy Player on the Gamecube.  Or.. emulation which could be used to make Fire Emblem fun instead of abusive.

I bought my Advance to play Advance Wars and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.  I don't regret it in spite of it's flaws.

Let's see what I have, eh?

Advance Wars 1-2 are the amazing turn based war games, with 2 being my favorite game on the platform.  Breath of Fire 1 and 2 are ports of SNES JRPGs.  Not bad, but not amazing.  And 2 locked up in the middle of a 2 hour plus dungeon with no way to do anything other than go back and redo the WHOLE THING and hope it wouldn't lock up again.  No.  Capcom Classics is a collection of NES Capcom games that needed some allowances to being on a portable.  The Castlevania games are of the "Metroidvania" exploration/action/RPG style.  Defender of the Crown is an excellent remake of the C64 and Amiga classic.  Eye of the Beholder is a terrible remake of the Dungeon Master clone.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a kind of sucky sort of sequel to the PS1 classic.  Fire Emblem is the first English language game released of that venerable series.  And is designed to be mean and hate you.  Fire Pro Wrestling I never much got to grips with.  Golden Sun is an ok JRPG from the makers of the Shining series.  Kim Possible 3 is a great little platform game starring my personal hero, Ron Stoppable.

Konami Arcade Advanced is a collection of classic Konami arcade classics including TIME PILOT.  The problem is some of them run a touch slow.  Apparently there is a graphics enhanced mode I never knew about.  Lord of the Rings Two Towers is an ok action RPG.  Mario Golf was a quite fun Golfing RPG.  Mario & Luigi was a normal RPG in the Mario RPG style.  Mario vs Donkey Kong was a fun little action puzzle platformer.  Metroid Zero Mission was an AMAZING remake of the original NES Metroid.  Metroid Fusion was a decent classic gameplay Metroid.  Phantasy Star Collection was a somewhat shoddy port of the first 3 Phantasy Star games.  Playable, but very little allowances made to being a portable game.  And a couple of bugs in the SMS original.  Pokemon Sapphire is.. well the Pokeymans.  The magic of the Game Boy original was gone, and I skipped a generation.  Rebelstar Tactical Command was a good SRPG made by the original X Com creators.  Shining Force was a good remake of the Genesis SRPG.  Shining Soul 1-2 were ok action RPGs with one of them not available in the US.  Super Robot Taisen 1-2 are the excellent Mecha SRPG games from a series that usually used mechs from Anime.

Robotech is a decent enough SHMUP game with 2 gameplay styles.  Tactics Ogre is a fatally flawed SRPG with enemies that take forever to hurt who then heal themselves back up to maximum, turning it into a mega slog.  Tales of Phantasia is an interesting failure of a JRPG.  Tron Killer App is an ok isometric action game with the original arcade Tron games on it as a bonus.  Wario Ware is a clever little collection of mini games.  Wolfenstein 3d is.. Wolf 3d in your pocket.  With no allowances for being on a portable system.  Zone of the Enders Fist of Mars is a SRPG with an option for action based combat resolution made by the Super Robot Taisen people.  Wing Commander Prophecy is an ok port of the Windows 98 era action sim.  (Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 is mentioned in the Dragon Quest post.)

But the GBA had it's own dongle accessory so you could put a GB Player on your Gamecube then putting an E Reader dongle on that for maximum silly.  See the E Reader was a digital card reader.  You could use it to scan trading cards to play mini games or even multiple cards to play NES titles!  There were also goodies and bonus levels for some of the NES and SNES games that got dedicated ports to the GBA.  I got my E Reader on clearance, and most of the games on the cheap.

Most of the cards I have are for very early "Black Box" NES games.  The Joust clone Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong  and DK3 (unfairly maligned by many), Excitebike the classic racing game with a construction mode, and the others.  Most of these titles were pretty primitive to begin with and time has not been very kind to Ice Climber, Clu Clu Land, Mario Bros, Pinball, and especially Urban Champion.  But under 5 bucks a game beats the 25-30 the original US cartridge versions cost for the NES in 85-88 when they were largely available.

And that's my Game Boy Advance collection.  It was a flawed but fun system with many good games or almost good games released in between all the kid show licensed drek that always infests Nintendo systems.


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