Monday, February 21, 2011

Photos - John Madden Football Series on Sega Genesis

The screenshots move right down the series: John Madden Football (1991), John Madden Football '92, John Madden Football '93, Madden NFL '94, Madden NFL '95, Madden NFL '96, Madden NFL '97.

It's quite amazing to see how John Madden Football evolved during its years on the Sega Genesis, beginning with the original cartridge in 1990.  True, the football game began on the home computers, but it was Scott Orr and Mark Lesser's Genesis adaptation where the iconic classic was born.  And it's remarkable to see just how solid the original gameplay engine proved to be.

Today, the Madden series continues to dominate, but it's really only by default.  The games have been stagnant for years; perhaps this is because there are no competitors like NFL2K, perhaps this is because the video game sport has essentially been perfected.  I'll leave that for you to decide.  But there's no question that the Genesis titles continue to reign supreme.  This is where sports video games became great.

Since I've been playing a lot of Genesis Madden this past week, I'd like to write more detailed posts on each version.  For that, I need more playing time to better understand what makes one year stand apart from another.  Madden '93 was my favorite back in the day, and Madden '96 is the weakest in the pack, but they all play a great game of football.  Time for another round!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photos - NHLPA Hockey '93 (Genesis)

I've forgotten how much fun the NHL Hockey series on Sega Genesis can be.  Gratuitous violence has never made me laugh so much.  This really was the sports game that made EA's fortune back in the day.  I'm having a lot of fun getting back into the groove, knocking hockey players down, starting fights, causing massive head wounds from cross checks.

Today, it's commonly agreed that NHL '94 is the peak of the series on Genesis, if not the best hockey game ever.  It certainly strikes that crucial balance between the crushing barbarism of the early titles with the more nuanced strategy of later installments.  And one-timers absolutely make the game shine.  That said, I'd like to give a shout-out to the equally brilliant NHLPA '93.  This is the one with the massive head wounds and the fights.  And what more do ya want from video game hockey?

It's really something to see the days when an EA Sports sequel has new features worth noting.  NHLPA '93 lists over 20 additions and improvements over the original 1991 NHL Hockey.  Faster speed, new moves and animations, smarter AI, manual control of goalies, signature moves, shattering the plexiglass, yadda yadda.  I'm really impressed at how much work Hi Score Productions put into these titles.

For me, the first three NHL Hockey games are the best, and these Genesis carts are ridiculously cheap and easy to find, so it's easy to add each one to your library.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Justifiable Homicide"

South Dakota Republicans have a bill in the South Dakota legislature which would classify killing abortion doctors as "justifiable homicide."  This would roughly have the effect of making it legal to shoot doctors.

Personally, I think this civilization is doomed, anyway (lalala, no such thing as global warming), so at least I'll have some quality entertainment as the crazies drive us over the cliff.  A couple more shootings and mass killings is just what this country needs right now.

The Putting Six-Year-Olds Back to Work in the Coal Mines Act of 2011

This is why I love Republicans so much.  Missouri state Senator Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill in her state which would eliminate child labor laws.  Smithers, get those children back to the coal mines where they belong!

I'd just like to take this moment to thank the nation's voters, especially the "undecided" voters, for putting the Republicans back in charge of everything.  This was really well thought out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Revolution Number Nine

Bye Bye, Mubarak!  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.  And take The Dark Lord Saruman while yer at it.  Let there be no more tyrants and corrupt client states in our world.

A great day for Egypt and the Mideast.  The revolution in Tunisia sent a shockwave across the entire region, but that's nothing compared to this.  How many people in other Mideast nations will feel empowered to stand up for their rights?  Who's next?  Sudan?  Jordan?  Algeria?  Yemen?  Bahrain?  Dare I dream...Saudi Arabia and Iran?  As an American, I would gladly pay six dollars for a gallon of gas if it meant these people had freedom and democracy.  Let's hope for the best.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Photos - Battle Garegga (Saturn)

Continuing my Sega Saturn kick (can't ya tell?), here are some excellent screenshots from Battle Garegga, one of the system's finest arcade shoot-em-ups.  There are countless overhead scrolling shooters on Saturn, so it's easy to become lost in the crowd, but Battle Garegga is a masterful example of the genre at its finest, and very close to the classic Toaplan arcade shooters that I love so much.

Like all overhead shooters on the Saturn, this game has the option to play in regular 4:3 mode, or in sideways 3:4 mode (Tate).  Since the arcade games use monitors turned on their side, Tate mode allows for a fuller picture, uncompressed, and as close to the original game as possible.  The better Saturn titles will also allow you to shift the joypad controls 90 degrees, so you can play as a side-scroller, a very welcome move over the other option, which is to lie down on the couch and literally play the game sideways.  Heh.  Yeah, it's usually worth it if you have a larger television.

The goal of Battle Garegga is the same as every other shoot-em-up, pure adrenaline and reflexes and tense skill.  This is classic video gaming to its core.  Explosions, more explosions, and when you're successfully able to dodge impossible arrays of bullets and missiles...yet more explosions.  Truly, this is a pop culture monument to the ADHD Generation.  And you could get your thrills, for 25 cents a hit.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Street Fighter Alpha 2 on Saturn

My current go-to game on Sega Saturn is Street Fighter Alpha 2.  I've always been a big fan of fighting games, going back to Archer MacLean's International Karate Championship on the Commodore 64 and Atari 800.  Street Fighter remains the king, as far as I'm concerned, and thank heavens for Capcom's dedicated devotion to Sega's home consoles.  This is one of my favorite Sega Saturn titles.

I was a great fan of SF2: Champion Edition, but steadily lost interest with each successive revision and each new $70 cartridge that arrived on store shelves every nine months.  By the end of the 16-bit era, I was burned out, and I'm guessing most gamers were, too.  That's when Capcom began to branch out with different fighting games in a more anime style. Darkstalkers was the first one I remember, and that was a lot of fun; it was followed up by Nightwarriors, which is even better (and a rare opportunity for Saturn fans to have one over their Playstation friends).

Street Fighter Alpha was a good change of pace for the aging franchise.  I felt, at the time, that it was a bit too lean on the content side, not enough characters or environments or new fighting moves.  Fortunately, it seems Capcom was nurturing a healthy competition within their arcade ranks, with the Darkstalkers series and all the Marvel Comics fighters, each one better than the last.  Heck, if nobody else besides SNK was going to compete, then I guess Capcom had to compete with itself.  And in this environment we get Street Fighter Alpha 2.

I think it's easy to overlook Alpha 2 today, particularly with Alpha 3 and Third Strike waiting in the wings.  But I defy anyone to stop playing Alpha 2 once they've begun.  It has a certain charm all its own, that sense of newfound freedom, as though Capcom's designers and programmers were finally let loose from Street Fighter 2's long shadow.  This was now a new series, and it allowed for fresher ideas, faster action, more intense competition.  At this point, the Alpha series truly comes into its own.

The character roster is tilted a little too heavily towards the Shotokan fighters, which are all reworkings of the Ken & Ryu Dragon-Punch-Fireball arsenal.  But there are plenty of newer fighters who don't fit into the old paradigm, like Rose and Gen and all those cats from Final Fight.  I especially enjoy the Final Fight influence, which is bigger than ever.  Capcom fan-service in all its glory.

There's still a good balance between old and new techniques, and it's such a relief that all the controls fit withing the paradigm of quarter-circle moves.  I'm not being overwhelmed with too many moves, like I am with the Virtua Fighter-inspired 3D fighters.  I can never remember half the moves in Dead or Alive on the Saturn (a game I dearly love), and that's really not a problem with Alpha 2.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if there were gamers out there who enjoy Alpha 2 more than Alpha 3.  It's probably just a question of which arcade game you fed the most quarters and who you made friends with.  It's reassuring to know that the great video games never really go out of style or lose their edge.  This game sits in a nice, comfortable groove.  It's not the epic everything-but-the-kitchen-sink that is Alpha 3, nor the back-to-basics-but-not-really style of Third Strike.  It's just solid Street Fighter action, with enough familiarity to keep you from feeling lost, and enough new faces to keep you from becoming bored.  And Saturn fans have another 2D triumph to crow about.  The Playstation, mighty as it is with 3D polygons, could rarely compete in the 2D arena.  In that sphere, Sega was the king; a rare triumph for a contender on the decline.

Video - Mass Destruction (Saturn)

Now here's an oldschool video game that still kicks.  No story, no movie scenes, no Hollywood flash, no attempt at creating "art."  Mass Destruction is an action game that delivers exactly what the title promises: you pilot a tank and proceed to detonate everything in sight.  It's very satisfying to smash down trees, blow up buildings, fire rockets at enemy tanks, set a flamethrower on hapless soldiers, and run over the ones you've missed.  This is pure Rambo-style video gaming at its best.

Mass Destruction was released on PC, Playstation and Saturn, but the Saturn version runs in its glorious high-resolution mode (a sharper resolution than Sega Dreamcast, amazingly).  The programmers put the extra effort to really take advantage of the hardware, which very much went against the grain of that era.  Most PSX games were given short shrift on Saturn.  Kudos to the programmers for all their dedication and hard work.

Photos - Steep Slope Sliders

While searching the Google for anything related to Steep Slope Sliders, I found these excellent screenshots.  Thank goodness someone was groovy enough to preserve this Saturn cult classic on the internets.  In fact, I kinda feel like playing a couple runs myself...if only I had a copy.  I really have to find this videogame again.

Yes, the graphics are blocky and unshaded in that Sega Saturn way, but it has a certain charm.  The mountains definitely have character, moreso than the other snowboarding games I've run across.  Cave - yes, the shoot-em-up crew - designed some wicked clever courses.  There's a sense of real danger present, of the possibility of careening out of control...I love it.  Now if only there were some more violent wipeouts, like the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater (which seems strikingly similar to Steep Slope Sliders), we'd really be in business.

Video - Steep Slope Sliders (Saturn)

I found this terrific gameplay video of cult classic Steep Slope Sliders on Sega Saturn.  As a late-era Saturn title, it's really quite excellent, and the richly detailed environments continue to impress me in the year 2011.  Imagine that.  Many gamers consider this to be the best snowboarding game of the 32/64-bit era, and I'd have to agree.  It's easier to get a handle on these controls and just skate around, and that really makes all the difference.