Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for October, 2008

Retro Game Review: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

Posted by ptcgaming on October 31, 2008

Can’t you just, like, throw water on her or something?

Platform: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Released: 1990
Developer: Sega of America
Background: In honor of today being Halloween, I decided to review a game with a Halloween theme (I was going to offer a list of Halloween-themed games you could play tonight but ran out of time). There were a few other games I thought of reviewing, including “Doom” (too violent), “Halloween” for the Atari 2600 (too goofy) and “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker” (too weird!). But I settled on this little nugget because even your kids can read this review, and also because it’s actually not a bad game.

“Castle of Illusion” was released for the Genesis in 1990, before even Sonic the Hedgehog sprinted onto the scene, meaning this came out during the console’s early years (It was also released for the Sega Master System and Game Gear). In it, you play as Mickey Mouse, and your mission is to rescue Minnie from the evil witch Mizrabel. To do this, you make your way through a giant castle, acquiring gems as you go. These gems are necessary to reach the final battle with Mizrabel.

Graphics: 5/5

For being one of the Genesis’ early releases, this game really did shine visually. The levels are very colorful for the most part, and Mickey looks like, well, Mickey.
Sound: 3.5/5
Other than certain sound effects heard throughout the game, each level of the castle has accompanying music that isn’t too bad.
Controls: 3.5/5
Being your typical 2D side-scroller, there isn’t anything special that can be said. The Genesis only featured a directional pad and three “fire” buttons on its controller at this time, so function wasn’t much more than on the NES.
Gameplay: 3/5
This game is easy – very easy. So easy, you’ll probably finish it rather quickly. But if you’re a fan of side-scrollers and Disney you’ll enjoy this game. You’ll also get caught up in how good this game looks while you’re playing.
Overall: 3.75/5
If you like great 16-bit visuals and can get past the fact it’s a Disney game, “Castle of Illusion” is a great game to try. Otherwise, it doesn’t really set itself apart from other 2D side-scroller offerings of the time. It was one of a series of Disney-themed games released by Sega.
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Posted in Genesis, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Your guide to video game console generations

Posted by ptcgaming on October 27, 2008

Do you have trouble figuring out what people are talking about when they mention First-Generation consoles, Second-Generation consoles, etc.? Well today, I’m going to give you a small (yet very useful) history of video game consoles lesson. Listed below is every video game console generation and some of the most popular consoles you might know of from that time. And if you have one or more of these, now you can be sure what generation they’re from.

Note: I’m not listing every single console from all generations, since there are many most people haven’t heard of. If you own one that isn’t listed, you can cross-reference when it’s from by the year.

First Generation (1972-77)
Magnavox Odyssey/100/200
Atari/Sears Telegames “Pong”
Coleco Telstar

Second Generation (1976-84)
Consoles
Fairchild Channel F
Atari 2600
Magnavox Odyssey
Mattel Intellivision
Atari 5200
ColecoVision
Handhelds
Milton Bradley Microvision
Nintendo Game & Watch

Third Generation (1983-92)
Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Master System
Atari 7800
Commodore 64 Games System

Fourth Generation (1987-96)
Consoles
TurboGrafx-16
Sega Genesis
Super Nintendo
Neo Geo
Sega CD
Sega 32X
CD-i
Handhelds
Nintendo Game Boy/Pocket
Atari Lynx
Sega Game Gear
TurboExpress

Fifth Generation (1993-2002)
Consoles
3DO
Amiga CD32
Atari Jaguar
Sega Saturn
Sony PlayStation
Nintendo 64
Virtual Boy
Neo Geo CD
Handhelds
Sega Nomad
Game Boy Light/Color
Neo Geo Pocket

Sixth Generation (1998-2006)
Consoles
Sega Dreamcast
PlayStation 2
Nintendo GameCube
Microsoft Xbox
Handhelds
Neo Geo Pocket Color
Game Boy Advance/SP
Game Boy Micro
Nokia N-Gage/QD

Seventh Generation (2004-present)
Consoles
Xbox 360
Nintendo Wii
PlayStation 3
Handhelds
Nintendo DS/Lite
PlayStation Portable/Slim/Lite

Posted in Guides | 2 Comments »

Retro Game Review: Pong

Posted by ptcgaming on October 24, 2008

Say what you want about how this game looks, but you probably wouldn’t have many video games to play at all had this not been created.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1972
Developer: Atari Inc.

Background: Anyone who spends hours on end playing Wii Sports, Madden or NBA 2K can thank Allan Alcorn. Why, you ask? Because Alcorn developed “Pong” (even though Magnavox had earler developed a similar game and won a lawsuit in regard to it. Atari’s “Pong” is more well-known, anyway). Without this barebones (by today’s standards) video game, who knows whether or not the gaming industry takes off into the 1980s and becomes the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today? The instructions were simple: “Avoid missing ball for high score.” It was so popular, home console versions were also developed.

Graphics: 1/5
Let’s not kid ourselves here. All “Pong” consisted of was a group of white lines and dots on a black background.

Sound: 1/5
Nothing more than a couple beeps and blips.

Controls: 5/5
You moved your paddle with those famous round “paddle” controllers that were also popular with the Atari 2600 console. So easy the drunkest guy in the bar could figure it out (and I think that was actually the idea).

Gameplay: 3.5/5
“Pong” was hard: not “Mega Man” hard, but difficult enough. Your timing had to perfect to hit the ball right, and the ball bounced around at some funny angles.

Overall: 2.625/5
You’re not going to find yourself spending entire weekends in front of the TV playing “Pong,” but I hope you get an appreciation for it if you haven’t yet. Sure, it’s nothing at all to look at, but it does give a great example of how far video games have come. What were once nothing more than a bunch of lines and dots on the screen has evolved into realistic-looking games that narrow the line between what’s real and what’s just a game.

Posted in Arcade, Atari, Reviews | 1 Comment »

The first video game?

Posted by ptcgaming on October 23, 2008

Check out this story and video about “Tennis For Two,” a video game built 50 years ago. The lab where the original game was built is giving visitors a chance to play the rebuilt version of it.

Posted in Retro Gaming | 1 Comment »

Top 10: Games where you play as an animal

Posted by ptcgaming on October 22, 2008

Not all games require you to suit up as a sword-wielding knight or machine gun-toting mercenary to fend off all enemies in your way. Sometimes, developers take the wacky (and sometimes strange) idea of making the hero, or playable character, at least, an animal. Sometimes these ideas work. Other times – and I’m giving the evil eye to you, Ecco the Dolphin – it doesn’t. So here are 10 instances where the idea worked. And if anyone can fill me in on what the point of Ecco was, please feel free to let me know.

10. Quackshot Starring Donald Duck (Genesis): Treasure-hunting Donald Duck armed himself with quite a plunger-blasting pistol in this game that was actually a lot of fun to play. Be sure to check out the Indiana Jones getup he’s wearing.

9. Kangaroo (Arcade, Atari 2600 & 5200): Those “Punch the monkey and win $20” banner ads must have come from this game. Because there isn’t much that is more entertaining than a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves who knocks monkeys out in order to save her son.

8. Yars’ Revenge (Atari 2600): I know a Yar is supposed to be like a bug, so I counted it even though it’s apparently not an Earthly one. But any bug tough enough to eat through a barrier before aiming a cannon that makes the screen flash all kinds of colors is OK in my book.

7. Altered Beast (Genesis): OK, so you’re thinking this probably shouldn’t count because you don’t actually start each level is an animal. But are you going to tell the Golden Werewolf that to his face? Didn’t think so.

6. Lemmings (PC, NES): Believe it or not, Lemmings are real animals who live in or near the Arctic. The ones in the video game look more like Fraggles to me, but I don’t guess that really matters, except for the fact several of the games levels feature lava, which I reckon is much hotter than anything the Arctic has to offer.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES): I was never a big fan of Nintendo’s first foray into the world of TMNT, not because it was mind-numbingly hard, but because I expected more out of the commercial juggernaut. TMNT II has a much faster pace and better action sequences.

4. Donkey Kong Country (SNES): The best-looking Donkey Kong game at its time, DKC carried the franchise to previously unexplored territory: A side-scrolling platformer with faux-3D graphics.

3. Frogger (Arcade, NES, others I’m sure): Just get your little frog across the road then across the pond. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But as anyone who’s ever played Frogger knows, just crossing the road can make you want to pull your hair out. And if you’re not made into roadkill before crossing, you’re then up to be the guest of honor at some alligator’s feast.

2. Donkey Kong Jr. (Arcade, Atari 2600, NES): The original Donkey Kong didn’t make the list since you play as the spawn which would eventually become Mario (Jumpman). But in this game, it was Mini DK’s turn in the spotlight as he swung across vines to save his Daddy from the clutches of Mario. And you thought Mario was all good.

1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, Sega Master System): The blue blur blew his way into our lives back in 1991 and is still going strong today with new releases coming out. The anti-Mario was actually the second pack-in game sold with the Genesis (Altered Beast was the first). Sega struck gold with this guy, as the sequel to this game is the Genesis’ biggest-selling game. The first two Sonic games were also developed in 8-bit format for the Sega Master System, so Sega fans who didn’t own a Genesis console could still get their Sonic fix.

Posted in Top 10 | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Yie Ar Kung-Fu

Posted by ptcgaming on October 21, 2008

My money is on the little guy.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1985
Developer: Konami

Background: Yes folks, there actually were fighting games before “Street Fighter II” came along (There had to be an original “Street Fighter,” right?). Now truth be told, compared to SFII and “Mortal Kombat,” they weren’t that great. One of those early arcade fighters was “Yie Ar Kung-Fu,” a Konami contribution to the genre. You played as the fighter Oolong and had to defeat 11 other fighters over the course of two gauntlets. The fighters were faced in a set order and supposedly got harder as you went, but some of the middle fighters seemed easier to me.

Oh, and did I mention you only had three lives to do this? My bad.

Graphics: 3/5
It’s like watching Looney Tunes fight. OK, the fighters don’t look that much like cartoons, but they don’t look overly real either. The black outlines on the fighters’ sprites is so thick their movements look more like goo than anything. The backgrounds aren’t that bad, which saves this game visually.

Sound: 3.5/5
There is in-fight music, sound effects and a little bit of speech throughout.

Controls: 2/5
Don’t expect fluid movements while playing this. You can punch and kick, high and low, as well as jump. The problem is that when you jump, you don’t have much control over how high or how far. And kicking while in the air is difficult – scratch that – nearly impossible. The direction of your jump is shown by the little yellow arrow that follows your guy around.

Gameplay: 2.25/5
I’ll admit this game is fun to play – at first. But once all of its little quirks begin to come out, you’ll quickly become tired of it. And since it’s an early fighting game, the hit points on each character aren’t perfect, which means you might clock a guy in the head two or three times but only actually hit him once. I was torn between giving this game a 2 or a 2.5 for gameplay, so I settled for the middle.

Overall: 2.69/5
It’s no “SFII: Hyper Fighting,” but if you want to see how fighting games were in the early stages, check out Yie Ar Kung-Fu. You probably won’t be finding it in many arcades these days, but there are ported versions available on newer home consoles (Warning: the NES version is completely different from the arcade). It probably won’t dazzle you with top-notch graphics, sound and gameplay, but it’ll give you a good idea on how far fighting games have come.

Posted in Arcade, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Zeruda no Densetsu and the strange case of when classic gaming meets foreign languages

Posted by ptcgaming on October 17, 2008

Once you hear the music and take a look at the background, there’s no doubt as to what game you’re playing. The numeral “1” was added to the Famicom Mini version to clearly distinguish this was the first Zelda game in the series.

There’s a saying I heard several years ago that if you speak two languages you’re bilingual, if you speak three you’re trilingual and if you speak one you’re American. Now I know there are many people here in the States who speak more than one language, but how many people who were born here speak those other languages well? I mean I’ve learned some French, Italian and Latin in my time, but I’m in no way ready to have an in-depth conversation with the Pope.

And even though I can’t speak or read Japanese, I recently purchased the Famicom Mini version of “Zeruda no Densetsu: The Hyrule Fantasy,” commonly known here as “The Legend of Zelda.” The Mini version is a direct port of the 1990s version of the cartridge-based version for the Japanese Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES). It was originally released for the Famicom Disk System peripheral (only available in Japan) in 1986, long before we were introduced to Zelda here in the states. Not only did both have better package and label art than its North American counterpart (a common theme in Nintendo’s 8-bit era), but the FDS version was able to utilize the Disk System’s extra sound channel for better sound effects in some cases. Another reason I ordered this copy as opposed to the NES Classic Series version was price: it was cheaper to order the Japanese version and have it shipped from Hong Kong than it was to order a new or used copy from anywhere stateside.

Now if you’re afraid of playing this version of the game because you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry too much – if you fall into a certain group. Anyone who has played this game on their NES can make it through this version with little or no problem. Many parts of this version are actually in English. However, all of the in-game dialogue is in Japanese, so if you fall into the category of someone playing this for the very first time, you’re better off finding a North American version that’s completely in English. Check out eBay or Amazon for one.

You have to either know or remember what the old man, medicine woman or that bad guy in Level 7 is saying so you can solve some of the puzzles or obtain some of the items. (By the way, all the Japanese text on the menu screen says is “USE B BUTTON FOR THIS)

Checking out the Japanese versions of games such as this also gives you some insight into how games are packaged (as mentioned before) and explained in other countries/languages. As I mentioned before, Famicom games featured better, more artistic packaging and labels than those on the NES (which for Nintendo was rather sad, since many of the company’s early NES releases just showed blown-up screenshots on its covers and labels). I mean, a gold-plated Zelda cartridge is cool and all, but the artist in me would take that glorious Famicom box over “Goldie” any day of the week! The instructions for the Mini version did me no good, being in Japanese and all, so if it included the “invaluable maps and strategic playing tips,” I wouldn’t know (I don’t think the Famicom version had all the hints and cheats the NES version had included with the game anyway).
So if you’re looking to scratch that retro game itch while getting a little Japanese culture at the same time, pick up (or order) a copy of one of the GBA’s Famicom Mini series games. A few are still available in stock at Play-Asia.com, including Zeruda no Densetsu and Super Mario Bros. Playing an overseas version actually made the game feel fresh in my opinion, and having to remember what all the dialogue was in English really made me flex my brain muscles quite a bit. I recently completed the first quest and am now working on the second, which I didn’t remember was so difficult!
Side story: In the North American Zelda instructions, it says Pol’s Voice hates loud noises. However, the flute won’t kill them (only the sword or arrows will). The reason for this confusion is that the Famicom’s second controller featured a microphone in place of the Start and Select buttons. In Japan, in order to kill Pol’s Voice, you had to actually scream into the microphone. This was just never omitted from the English instructions. See, Nintendo was utilizing voice recognition in its games long before the DS!

Posted in Famicom, Japanese games, NES, Retro Gaming | 2 Comments »

Test your retro video game I.Q.

Posted by ptcgaming on October 14, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Pacing the Cage’s first-ever “Retro Video Game Quiz!” Listed below are 10 questions derived from video games of yesteryear, from 16 bits and back. Answers to the questions are listed at the bottom of this post. Good luck, and provide some feedback on subjects you might want to see in the future!

1) In the Nintendo Entertainment System version of “Pro Wrestling,” what real-life professional wrestler is King Slender based on?

2) When Mario made his video game debut in “Donkey Kong,” what was he called?

3) What three fighters appear in both the original “Street Fighter” and “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior?”

4) What is Mega Man known as in Japan?

5) In what video game does Mario play the antagonist (bad guy)?

6) What is the button sequence of the “Konami Code?”

7) What country was the classic puzzle game “Tetris” initially developed in?

8) Gilius Thunderhead originally appears as a character in what video game that debuted at the arcade and was subsequently ported to a home system?

9) “Keith Courage in Alpha Zones” was a title featured on what system, known as the PC Engine in Japan?

10) In what infamous Atari 2600 title did your character have to stay away from a scientist and FBI agent?

Answers:
_______

1) King Slender was said to be modeled after “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – “Whoooooo!”
2) Mario was called Jumpman in the original “Donkey Kong,” and he was a carpenter, not a plumber. He switched trades later on.
3) Ken, Ryu and Sagat were characters in both games. In the original “Street Fighter,” Ryu was Player 1, Ken was Player 2 in a 2-player game and Sagat was the final boss. In “The World Warrior,” Ken and Ryu were playable by anyone from the beginning. Sagat was the second-to-last boss before becoming a playable character in later SFII releases. Some characters from the original game reappeared in later “Street Fighter” games, including the “Alpha” series.
4) Mega Man is known as Rockman in Japan, and you knew that if you read yesterday’s post on Mega Man 9.
5) In “Donkey Kong Jr.,” Mario holds DK captive while Junior tries to rescue him.
6) The “Konami Code” is: up,up, down,down, left, right, left, right,B,A – and it’s not only used for “Contra,” either.
7) Tetris was developed in the former Soviet Union and released in 1985. It’s available today on just about every video game console and computer operating system.
8) Gilius Thunderhead fights using the Golden Axe in, you guessed it, “Golden Axe.”
9) “Keith Courage in Alpha Zones” was the (OK, but nowhere near great) pack-in game for the TurboGrafx-16 system. Believe it or not, the PC Engine was more popular than the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) in Japan. The opposite was true in North America.
10) Though it’s been called the worst video game of all time by many, you probably remember that in the video game version of “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” you’re not supposed to get caught by the scientist or FBI agent. The scientist will take you back to his lab, and the FBI agent will steal away your pieces of the phone.

How did you do? Input how many you got right onto the comments board so you can compare your score with others who took the quiz!

Posted in Retro Gaming, Trivia | 2 Comments »

Mega Man 9: A perfect marriage

Posted by ptcgaming on October 13, 2008

Mega Man 9 returns retro gamers to the style they’ve always loved. (Screenshot from WiiWare World)

It appears video game developers are starting to get it: Many gamers didn’t have their first gaming experience via PlayStation, where many times graphics trumped gameplay and fun. That’s why Capcom’s release Mega Man 9 might seem quite out-of-place for gamers who never picked up an original NES control pad. But for those of us who did, this new release brings back fond memories of the first few Mega Man games released back in the ’80s (while also reminding us of the bad cover art in North America). And actually, this game was said to be designed on the mechanics of Mega Man 2. Early side-scrolling Mega Man titles were punishingly difficult but fun, and early info on this one says it’s more of the same. So in honor of Capcom bringing a little 1989 into 2008, I’m going to break down Mega Man 9, wedding style!
Something old: It’s Mega Man in all its 8-bit glory. That big-headed robo-dude makes a triumphant return with side-scrolling 2D levels. Capcom even intentionally added screen flicker and other imperfections to really drive home that old-school feel.
Something new: A new group of robot masters stands in the way of Mega Man’s quest (There’s even a female robot master this time around). The game also has some challenges you can earn rewards by completing over the course of the game.
Something borrowed: Mega Man 9 is built along the lines of Mega Man 2, which changed a little bit from the original Mega Man. You can run, jump and shoot, and when you defeat a robot master you earn their weapon, just like always.
Something blue: It’s Mega Man – He’s supposed to be blue! (At least at the beginning, anyway) Since I really don’t have any other “blue” points to make, I’ll leave you with this little nugget: In Japan, Mega Man is called “Rockman” and has been featured in TV programs. There are also comics and collectibles that bear his name.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Retro Gaming | Leave a Comment »

Inside Scoop: Freaky Creatures

Posted by ptcgaming on October 7, 2008

You’ve got to love it when dragons and mutant birds collide. (Screenshot courtesy of Sinuate Media)

I don’t usually write about newer-generation games with enhanced graphics, but today I’m going to break tradition. So sit back for a minute while I introduce you to Freaky Creatures.
What is Freaky Creatures you ask? Freaky Creatures is a cross-platform, massively multiplayer online game set to hit stores in early 2009. The game will come on a reusable USB flash drive bundled with collectible action figures, according to the folks at Sinuate Media. By checking out the screenshot featured above, the game looks like a cross between Mortal Kombat and Final Fantasy, though it’ll be rated “E” for “Everyone” upon its release.
But there’s more to this Abandon Interactive Entertainment release than just picking a fighter and going toe-to-toe with another: Freaky Creatures will open up an entire universe. For starters, players will have the opportunity to build and customize their creatures to battle friends with. More than 3 billion combinations of parts, powers and objects for your creature will be available. From there, you’ll interact with your creature to grow a strong bond between the two of you. Of course though, the battle aspect of Freaky Creatures is what helps you achieve dominance.
But the Freaky Creatures universe goes far beyond just creature creations and battle. You’ll have the chance to interact with other gamers through character blogs, leader boards, mini-games, member contests, tournaments and polls. There’s also going to be an online comic! And the game will work on both PC and mobile platforms, so you can take Freaky Creatures on the go.
Want to get in on the action before 2009? By signing up on http://www.myfreakycreatures.com/, you can receive access to the Beta version of the game (Note: The required download is nearly half of a gigabyte). There, you’ll meet numerous other users who are already giving Freaky Creatures a try. Even if you don’t want to sign up for the Beta version, you can still check out the Web site for additional info regarding the game.

Posted in Mobile gaming, PC, Previews | 2 Comments »