Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Inventing A New Word

Title says it all and the word is Retrolicious, a combination of the words RETRO and DELICIOUS. Retrolicious - a word dreamed up by my good self for a social networking status update. A word to be repeated often here. And in main stream media if they have any sense.
Example: the awesome Ghosts n' Goblins appeared on home computers in all its retrolicious beauty....

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Original Retro Shells

One day way back when, a certain Gunpei Yokoi was sitting on a Bullet train, no doubt his mind on other things, when he spotted a fellow traveller (presumably bored) playing with the buttons on his calculator. (Make that definately bored.) This gave Gunpei an idea and lo and behold the Nintendo Game and Watch was born. I friggin' LOVED these handheld games back in the early 80s (they were produced from 1980 to 1991) and was positively obssessed with the orange Donkey Kong version. I even accidentaly put my foot through a toilet lid on my travels to get one (long story to be written another time.)
Unlike the handhelds of today which can play hundreds of games, the Game and Watch only had one game on a LCD screen along with the clock/alarm. Actually there were two games (game A & B) but B was simply a faster version of A. There were sixty made in all and they were such cool things to have back then, especially in school.

Photobucket Donkey Kong: My Ruin

The ones I had were Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong II, Donkey Kong Jr, Pinball, Mario Bros Factory, Parachute and Lifeboat. There might have been others but those were the stand out titles for this young (back then) gamer. I may purchase a few at some point again, when I am better able to justify shelling out £70 for what is in effect a dinosaur piece of kit. (Im certainly not at the moment as im halfway through buying an entire PAL Dreamcast collection.)
One could say it was these games that started it all off for me regarding videogames. They were the little lithium battery 'seeds' planted in my brain which would go on to bigger gaming things and indeed flower still to this very day.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My Game Is Death

Being the morbid ghoul that I iz I thought id compile a little list (or long one depending how it goes) of what games and songs (metal genre only) feature death row and executions. In regards to the games they don't have to be soley focused on capital punishment, just include some nod of the head to it.
I'll start with the music and first band springs to mind is Metallica with Ride The Lightning, a track which if you read the lyrics is decidedly AGAINST the death penalty. As is German metallers Tankard's tune, cryptically entitled Death Penalty. Great song but it has ridiculous lines like this - 'Death penalty, taking lives of our young' making it sound like capital punishment is an out of control killing machine.
Iron Maiden are much more sensible with their Hallowed Be Thy Name classic. Its still slightly on the side of the condemned but there's more thought (even philosophy whoo!) about it than the teutonic thrashers.
Others of note:
Judas Priest - Death Row
Sabbat - For Those Who Died (Not for inmates but witches burnt at the stake.)

Games are better because you actually get to visit death row, or even witness the execution yourself. Note: ghouls will only find this of interest. If you are this way inclined dear reader then read on for a tour of softwares DEATH CHAMBERS! *Cue the guy with the evil comedic chuckle* Mwa hahaha!

1. Manhunt - Rockstar's 2003 Playstation 2 outing. In the begining players see convict James Earl Cash being dragged into the death house and strapped to a gurney for lethal injection. Of course being the games anti-hero he's merely knocked out, awoken later and forced to take part in a grisly snuff movie. Thems the breaks huh?

Manhunt: death row hide n' seek gets out of control

2. Saints Row 2 - Volition. Out in 2008 for Xbox 360 & Playstation 3. After your character is almost killed in the first title, you come out of a coma in part 2 and find yourself incarcerated on the death row medical ward. Unsurprisingly so due to your free roaming murderous activities. Your first mission is to breakout. Hopefully like Thin Lizzy would have done it.

3. The Suffering - Midway 2004 for PS2 & Xbox. This one was a kicker for ghouls because not only was the entire game spent on Carnate Island (sounds divine!) in the Abbott State Penitentiary among electric chairs and gurneys but you could also use them on foes! People who previously worked there many years ago come back as vengeful spirits like the mad shrink Dr. Killjoy and former executioner Hermes T. Haigh. And this was a game where you could choose to be good or evil so if you fancied being Satan's little helper you could fry prison guards.

The Suffering: do you want FRIES with that celldog?

4. Kane & Lynch - IO Interactive 2007 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The start of this is extremely violent and sees you (as Kane) on your way to death row after being convicted of murder. In the prison van with you is psychopath Lynch, also due a lethal jab. Then it happens, a giant crash and heavily armed mercenaries come to your aid to recue you for their own nefarious ends. A mighty firefight ensues between villians and police in which officers' bullet riddled bodies lay all around like a war zone. Pretty it ain't.
And then before you can say 'carnage' you find yourself having to break INTO prison to help another of your violent chums avoid life behind bars. Naturally a firefight begins again between cons and prison officers. Best leave this title OFF little Timmy's Christmas list.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pac Man - A Legend That Is All Face

The 80's spawned a slew of classic videogames and when Namco released Pac Man in 1980 to a delighted audience, Pacmania took off like wildfire. (Can fire actually take off? Hmm answers on a postcard.) The game itself was simple; guide a yellow orb around a maze while being chased by ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky & Clyde) and eating dots and various fruit to get a hi-score. Eat one of the larger flashing dots and for a few seconds Paccy was able to chase and eat his pursuers.
To me it is arcade gaming in its purest form where it is all about the scores and 30 years on (where does time disappear too? *shudder*) I am STILL going back to it via a Playstation 3 download to try and beat my best score. (For the record it stands at a rather puny 20180 in 5 mins 23 seconds.) It never gets old for me. Frustrating at times when I get close to beating my personal best only to balls it up but never old. Its the typical timeless classic that resulted in an avalanche of spin off merchendise from lunchboxes and figures to duvet covers and shampoo. (Ive never actually seen the shampoo but its bound to be in Japan somewhere.)

the iconic intro screen

Pac Man is without doubt one of THE most recognisable videogaming mascots, in fact a great mascot for everything 1980's. The yellow guy is up there with breakdancing and Miami Vice. And who can forget that catchy music at the start of the game? Great stuff and for me the whole Pac Man package from arcade cabinet to cartoony images and bright colours heralded the arrival of computers and technology, announcing to the world 'This Is The Future!'
Regarding the games enemies, or ghosts, many casual players are not aware how clever they are. To onlookers watching Pac Man being played it looks like the ghosts are just following any path through the maze but this is not the case. Each of the four have different 'personalities' and styles. Blinky is the chaser, Pinky an ambusher, Inky is fickle and Clyde is the stupid one. Paccy creator Toru Iwatani said that he had designed each enemy with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play.
Some retroheads are divided in so far as the game itself is concerned, some are even bored of it but there's no doubting its impact on the entertainment world. Pac Man was/is HUGE! A giant amongst erm...yellow discs with big mouths. And don't forget there was Ms Pac Man (Pac Woman surely?) who also had her own games. Now how many game heroes can say they have girlfriends to go home to after a tiring day being set upon by neon ghosts? Not many. Wacca Wacca Wacca Wacca!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Double Dragon: The Fist Whisperer

Waaay back in 1987 Technos Japan developed the now legendary arcade game Double Dragon, a fighting title that would inspire other computer brawlers for years to come. And like Green Beret before it, this was one of my early pixelated 'loves'. (Steady on...worried ed.) I remember first seeing the cabinet (through starry eyes) in the arcade that was on Swansea marina. And so blown away was I by the great graphics and cool fighting moves that I regularly skipped school and jumped a train to Swansea just to play it.

Photobucket ♦ the famous intro screen ♦

The story was simple; twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee battle their way through the Black Warriors gang in order to save Marion, who curiously enough was BOTH the siblings love interest. (Hmm I bet conversation was interesting when those two hit the pub!)
There were four stages in all - City Slum, Factory, Woods and Bosses Hideout and players could either go solo playing as Billy, or a friend could join in as Jimmy in the two player cooperative mode. Doing it this way added extra moves like one could hold an enemy while the other used him as a punchbag. Neat.
A few things made this a fabulous title for me. Firstly it looked fantastic, characters were chunky and there were enough different types (whipcracking girls, green hulks etc) to keep it from getting boring. Even details like advertisements on brick walls impressed no end (see pic below.) Then of course there were the moves. Simple punch and kicks but also headbuts, grabs plus the ability to pick up bats, knives and whips. It was all very new and exciting back then trust me.

Photobucket ♦ check out the Scoop mini ♦

If you were successful in getting to the Boss Hideout at the end (and beating the Boss naturally,) one of two endings were triggered. If you had been playing solo then all would happen is Marion would fall into your arms and everything would be tickety boo, disappearing into the sunset and all that. If players had been playing in cooperative mode however then after beating the Boss, Billy and Jimmy fought each other for the honour of taking the delightful Marion's hand. (Some more interesting pub chatter between these two, after the blood dried of course!)
It was, and still is, a wonderful arcade game which inevitably got its fair share of conversions onto home computers. ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Sega Master System, Gameboy, the list goes on and on. And well it should because Double Dragon stood out even during a time when other future classics were jostling for prime space in the arcade halls.
You can still see the inspiration of it in this current age of ever powerful consoles, just look at the scenario mode in Tekken 6 for example, pure Double Dragon gameplay. Everytime I play this mode I smile to myself, remembering the golden era of videogames when thinking about playing arcade quality games in the home was a distant dream. We owe a lot to Double Dragon, it helped shape a genre.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Four Horsemen Of Metallica

Metallica are metal giants and like Iron Maiden elsewhere on this page, need no introduction. When San Francisco's Bay Area first started throwing up Thrash Metal music back in the early eighties, Metallica were at the front, carving the way ahead with mammoth bass lines and razor tinged guitar riffs.
I remember first getting hold of Ride The Lightning when it was released in 1984 on cassette and after pressing PLAY (and waiting for the leader tape to wind on) instantly banging my then bowl cutted mop of hair to every track, starting with the thunderous melody of Fight Fire With Fire until the beautiful The Call Of Ktulu closed things down. Epic as we say here in deepest West Wales.
Metallica's first four albums were ALL great, timeless gems every one. Surely bands releasing such quality material, four classics in a row, are a rare thing to come by? They took their collective feet off the speed pedal with later releases like St Anger and Re-Load (2008's Death Magnetic brought them back on track) but its safe to say that from 1983 when Kill 'Em All was released to the magnificent And Justice For All in 1988, Metallica ruled the metal waves.
Don't believe me? A quick list of songs from all four should set you straight; The Four Horsemen, Jump In The Fire, Whiplash, (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, Seek & Destroy, Ride The Lightning, Fade To Black, Creeping Death, Trapped Under Ice, Battery, Master Of Puppets, Leper Messiah, Damage INC, One, Harvester Of Sorrow, And Justice For All, Dyer's Eve. How's that for a blistering set? And obviously ive not named everything there.
None of the albums sound dated at all. Im listening to Kill 'Em All as I type this very piece and the cruel hand of time hasn't touched it. Not even close. Nobody's metal collection should be (could be) without these raging, melodious quadruplets. Go play them all now, back to back and you'll see what I mean.