Pacing the Cage

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

Character File: Ryu Hayabusa

Posted by ptcgaming on April 13, 2009


"Gee, that looks really far!" (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

"Gee, that looks really far!" (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

First appearance: “Ninja Gaiden” (Arcade/NES, 1988)

So your dad has disappeared and now you have to seek revenge on those who may have done him wrong. What is a ninja to do? How ’bout slap on the ol’ ninja getup and start kicking some serious tail, of course!

From the beginning, Ryu Hayabusa’s adventures haven’t just been full of butt kicking and wall jumping. They’ve also been pretty hard. The original NES trilogy has been deemed one of the most difficult series of games ever developed for the console.

Ryu is definitely one bad… dude. Using his mighty sword and the occasional Spirit Clone, Ryu can literally defeat demons and darkness. The problem is once he completes one game-long mission, circumstances require another one to begin. Of course, this leads to great job security.

In fact, Ryu is still a video game staple today. While his roots began at the arcade and with the NES and Sega Master System, he’s still trouncing foes today via the Xbox 360. The 3D environments on the 360 of course allow his character to appear more dynamic and much more detailed. He’s also been featured in the “Dead or Alive” video game series.

Ryu fans who also like “Halo 3” should be happy to hear there is an unlockable armor called “Hayabusa” in the game. The pieces of armor are earned by collecting all hidden Skulls in campaign mode. The “Katana” body piece can be earned by achieving a 1,000/1,000 gamerscore.


Posted in Arcade, Characters, NES | 1 Comment »

Our Favorite Games II: The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time

Posted by ptcgaming on April 1, 2009


Platform: Nintendo 64 Released: 1998

Right off the bat, I’m going to upset a whole lot of you. This game is overrated. Great? Yes. Perfect? Far from it. Manual targeting wasn’t that innovative at the time (PlayStation games were doing it at the same time. See: “Syphon Filter”)., “Super Mario 64” had already revolutionized 3D gaming on the N64, some of the enemies blended into the backgrounds and dear lord I wanted to kill the Navi thing about five minutes into the game. On top of that, it always seemed like a 3D version of the SNES classic “A Link to the Past,” still the best Zelda game in my book.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll be more positive, since this game has sold in the neighborhood of 7.6 million copies and I’m a Zelda nut who has played almost every installment to begin with. For those of you who don’t know, “Ocarina” was initially planned as an anchor game for a disk drive add-on for the N64. This peripheral was only sold in Japan, featured a grand total of nine (!) games and was deemed a commercial failure (Only like 15,000 of these puppies were sold. But there was a 3D polygon program for it that was like “Mario Paint” on steroids!). It was instead moved to the actual console, at the time the largest game Nintendo had ever created.

“Ocarina” features a vast Hyrule full of color, with custom music for each region of the land. Each region also seems to have its own personality and inhabitants. The addition of Epona to help quickly take you places is a plus, too.

Being the first Zelda game in 3D and with the new, non-linear combat system made the series feel fresh. The adventure is long, and the ending cut scene is more than 10 minutes long, but you’ll get sucked into the story while playing and forget about how long it’s taking. And it was good to see both Link and Ganon looking like “humans” for a change. Without Ocarina, we probaly would have never seen masterful graphics like in the GameCube/Wii Zelda contribution, “Twilight Princess.”

Believe it or not, as powerful and in-depth as “Ocarina” was, it may have been eclipsed by “Majora’s Mask,” another Zelda title for the N64 released just a couple years later. “Majora’s Mask” built on an upgraded “Ocarina” game engine (which, coincidentally, was  built on an upgraded “Mario 64” engine) and required an expansion pack containing additonal RAM in order to run on the console. It’s even more of a graphical treat than “Ocarina,” even though it wasn’t as popular. It did, however, receive comparably high scores.

Posted in Favorites, N64 | 2 Comments »

Our Favorite Games II: Star Fox

Posted by ptcgaming on March 31, 2009


Platform: Super NES Released: 1993

“Star Fox” pushed the envelope in the 16-bit age. Console video games weren’t known for their 3D capability. In fact, the Super NES console couldn’t handle a game so complex. So what do you do to fix the problem? Well, you build custom hardware into the cartridge, of course!

Thus, the Super FX chip was born. This powerful microprocessor, the first 3D graphics accelerator readily available for home console use, was built into “Star Fox’s” cartridge.

“Star Fox” was developed by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut Software. Shigeru Miyamoto, father of “Donkey Kong,” “Mario” and “Zelda,” was one of the game’s main designers. It was a 3D space shooter (Nintendo’s first 3D game ever) with a third-person perspective. You navigated your Airwing through several levels, and the difficulty was determined by the path you chose. In the game, which takes place in the Lylat system, Andross has attacked Corneria, and you control Fox McCloud in an attempt to thwart Andross and his army. “Star Fox” has seen its share of sequels made for later Nintendo consoles, even finding itself on the DS, where online play was an option.

Posted in Favorites, SNES | 2 Comments »

Our Favorite Games II: Doom

Posted by ptcgaming on March 30, 2009


Platform: MS-DOS (original) Released: 1993

While “Wolfenstein 3D” pioneered the first-person shooter genre, it was “Doom” that seriously put it into the mainstream.

“Doom,” originally developed by id Software, was as violent as it was popular. In Doom, you were a space marine basically blasting and chopping away anything in your path. Whether it was blasting possessed humans or destroying fireball-launching aliens, it was fast, run-n-gun fun. “Doom” was built using the appropriately-named Doom Engine, a new 3D game engine first used in this game. The game took some aspects of “Wolfenstein 3D,” also developed by id, and improved upon them, including but not limited to walls of varying heights and full texture mapping of all surfaces. Your weapon was fixed directly in front of you just like in “Wolfenstein,” and included everything from guns to a chainsaw to the plasma-shooting BFG 9000, one of the baddest weapons ever created in video game lore. “Doom” also featured a multiplayer “Cooperative” and “Deathmatch” mode.

“Doom” was the winner of multiple Game of the Year awards. However, the graphic nature of the game stirred a bit of controversy. It has been said that the two teens responsible for the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The game has also been part of other controversies over the years, but is still regarded as one of the most important video games in history.

Posted in Favorites, PC | Leave a Comment »

Why you may not have heard of the original Street Fighter

Posted by ptcgaming on December 27, 2008

If you’ve never played (or even heard of) the original “Street Fighter,” you’re not missing much. And yeah, that’s Ryu vs. Sagat, old-school style.

Capcom’s first foray into what would blossom into the explosion of a gaming genre back in 1987 was, well, clunky. That’s the best way I can describe the original “Street Fighter.” By saying it’s “clunky.”

I mean, the controls are about as responsive as a hibernating bear, movements aren’t all that crisp and it’s only enjoyable for long periods of time unless you have this infatuation to play as Ryu all the time, since he’s the main guy you fight with (unless you’re Player 2, then you get to be Ken all the time. And yes, all his moves are the same.

Now don’t get me wrong, this monstrosity introduced us to some SF staples, such as fireballs and such, as well as some other characters that would show their faces in the later “Alpha” series (Sagat is the main boss in the original, by the way. He gets his chest scar here). But “Karate Champ” on the NES was more responsive and perhaps more fun to play. And the only popular non-computer home console it was available on early in its life was the ill-fated TurboCD, which should tell you something. At least the arcade versions graphics look good (pictured above).

The idea of the game was straightforward: Beat everyone up so you can fight Sagat and finish the game. Yep, that’s it. Just like in just about every 2D fighter ever made. Really.

Most of the quirky elements from this game were fortunately fixed by the time “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” came out. There were more people to fight with, the graphics and music were even better and the controls were much better. But hey, if you want to see Ryu in his red-headed glory, take this little nugget for a spin and see how far Capcom went between “Street Fighter” and its still-popular sequel.

Posted in Retro Gaming | Leave a Comment »

Character File: Solid Snake

Posted by ptcgaming on December 26, 2008

In his early glory, Solid Snake wasn’t quite as appealing as he is in “Guns of the Patriots.”

First appearance: “Metal Gear” (MX2 computer/NES, 1987/1988 )

Sometimes it’s hard working alone. But when you’re in charge of completing a set of covert operations it can be cool (or so I’d like to believe). Well, at least Solid Snake makes it look cool.

Long before PlayStation 3 owners were wowed with the cinematic presentation that is “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots,” Snake was just a rookie spy for FOXHOUND in the original “Metal Gear.” And since then, he’s continuously fought to get his hands on the Metal Gear weapon.

Snake, whose real name is “David” early on, is the creation of Hideo Kojima. His early appearances and spin offs were on computers, home consoles and handhelds before really taking off in the “Metal Gear Solid” series during the PlayStation generation. He’s destroyed the Metal Gear, rescued kidnapped prisoners and more over the years. Putting all the “Metal Gear” titles together tells the complete story of Snake’s career. Snake helped make the “Metal Gear” series one the founders of the stealth-game genre.

Posted in Characters | Leave a Comment »

Retro Game Review: Pit-Fighter

Posted by ptcgaming on December 22, 2008

What fighting games looked like before steroid testing.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1990
Developer: Atari Games

“Pit-Fighter” was, well, I don’t know what exactly to call it – strange, risque, a cross between professional wrestling and a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie – I really don’t know. Strangely, though, this pre-“Street Fighter II” 2D fighting game was actually revolutionary – it featured digitized characters modeled after real-life actors. In fact, “Pit-Fighter” (gasp!) looks better than some of the latest fighters do. I remember first playing this game in a convenience store near the house I grew up in, and even then that guy in the leather mask seemed a bit odd to me.

Graphics: 5/5

I know, I know. But you have to understand I’m comparing this game to others that came out around the same time, so then it looks great. But the digitized character modeling, along with a crowd that actually looks like people, was the closest thing you got to realistic in 1990.

Sound: 2.5/5
There are a lot of generic sounds in this game. Otherwise, nothing much to write home about. While the graphics were top-notch, the sound was anything but.

Controls: 3.5/5

The arcade configuration was a joystick and three buttons (punch, kick, jump). Pressing all three face buttons at the same time resulted in your character performing a “super move.”

Gameplay: 3/5

You can pick from three fighters – Buzz, Ty and Kato (or Larry, Curly and Moe if you want them to be) – and each has its own fighting style. Then you have to fight eight opponents, capping off with a final match against the “Masked Warrior.” Meanwhile, people with knives or sticks would sometimes interfere with your match. And in a multiplayer game, all playable characters had to beat the tar out of each other to decide who fights the “Masked Warrior,” since only one person has the unfortunate opportunity – er, ultimate chance – to face the final match. By the way, don’t stay in the crowd too long – they’ll throw you back in!

Overall: 3.5/5

Using the composite of all the scores above to get this score can be misleading. Why? Because this game really isn’t that good. While looking back at how great it was for 1990, I still can’t defend this one today. I mean come on, have you actually played this?

Posted in Arcade, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Character File: Doctor Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik

Posted by ptcgaming on November 18, 2008

Hey, aren’t you one of the Rough Riders?

First appearance: “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Sega Genesis/Master System, 1991)

For almost 20 years now, Dr. Robotnik has seen the fall of many of his machines at the hands (and feet) of one Sonic the Hedgehog. But despite his many feeble attempts to destroy Sega’s blue mascot, the guy who turned cute little fuzzy animals into robots never seems to give up.

Robotnik, who was in part based on our 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (a more pudgy version, at least), is actually who made Sonic fast (and blue). And the pair were friends until an accident embedded the doc with chaos energy, transforming him into the antagonist we all know of today. Since then he’s acquired the “Pinky and the Brain” syndrome, where he tries to take over the world no matter how many times he’s unsuccessful in the process. He also apparently has a “Star Wars” fascination, based on the creation of his outer space-floating “Death Egg” in “Sonic 2.”

But this robust fellow hasn’t spent all of his time being trampled by Sonic and his friends. He was the central character in 1993’s “Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine,” a game more in the style of “Tetris” and “Dr. Mario” than a 2D platformer. He’s also been a playable character over the years while starring in animated shows and comics.

Posted in Characters, Sega | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Metal Slug: Super Vehicle-001

Posted by ptcgaming on November 17, 2008

Everything in “Metal Slug” is bigger and badder. And that’s a really good thing.

Platform: Neo Geo
Released: 1996
Developer: Nazca Corporation

Background: “Metal Slug” is “Contra” on ‘roids. That’s about the best way I can put it. The guns are bigger, the explosions are bigger and the bosses are bigger in this game, which retained all its arcade glory on SNK’s Neo Geo home console. Most of us couldn’t afford to fork out 600 bucks-plus for a Neo Geo, let alone the 200 bucks or so each game cost, but Nintendo Wii owners can download this piece of gaming glory for just 900 Nintendo Points (9 bucks!) – and, it’s compatible with the Wii Remote, so no additional hardware is necessary! The storyline in a nutshell is you and another player (in 2-player mode) have to mow down General Morden’s Rebellion army and recapture the Metal Slug tanks (which yes, you get to drive). But the storyline won’t grab you anywhere near the game itself.

Graphics: 5/5

There’s a reason the Neo Geo was so expensive: It was the guts of an arcade cabinet inside a home console. This game features hand-drawn elements (You heard me) with vivid backgrounds that feature little to no empty space. Even though this a a 2D side-scrolling game, it still has sort of a 3D feel.

Sound: 5/5

The background music is very well-done. It’s clear and doesn’t feel like a drill into the head after five minutes. The voices are done perfectly, which can also be attributed to the Neo Geo’s technology.

Controls: 4/5

You use three face buttons – one each for jumping, shooting and grenades/cannon. The joystick/D-pad movements are fluid. However, I knocked a point off for how difficult it is to shoot straight down or on an angle.

Gameplay: 4.5/5

This is a run ‘n gun, just like “Contra.” However, like I said before, everything is bigger – much bigger. And the weapons surpass everything “Contra” has to offer (with the exception of the Spread gun, of course). You start with a single-shot pea-shooter, but you can upgrade to such weapons as a heavy machine gun, flame thrower or even a rocket launcher (You rescue POWs for weapon power-ups). If an enemy gets too close, you can slash him with a knife. And most of the scenery can be destroyed, too. You mow through cities, forests, mountains and military bases, so the game never gets old.

Overall: 4.625/5

This game has just as much replay value as “Contra,” the run ‘n gun game I’ve measured all others against. In fact, this is probably the only one I feel is better than “Contra,” which is saying a lot. One thing I forgot to mention to all the parents and censors out there is “Metal Slug” is bloody – both you and your enemies bleed when hit – but the cartoony look and humor in the game (like shooting enemy soldiers while they’re camping) makes this game tons of fun but not all that serious. I can’t stress enough how much I think you should play this one.

Posted in Neo Geo, Reviews | 1 Comment »

One Sonic, three consoles

Posted by ptcgaming on November 13, 2008

Most people remember Sonic’s maiden voyage on the 16-bit Sega Genesis (left). But the blue blur also staked his claim on the 8-bit Sega Master System and handheld Sega Game Gear (right). There are several differences between the two, but both are solid in their own right.

The year 1991 could be labeled the “Year of Sonic.” It was that we saw the debut of Sega’s new “spokesperson” on not just one console, not two, but three different Sega consoles. After first dipping his toe in the pool that was the Sega Genesis, Sonic took a step back to the 8-bit era with releases for the Sega Master System and portable Game Gear. Although Sonic lost some power in the process, the 8-bit incarnation is still a solid game to play and doesn’t lose much in translation.
Today, I’m going to give a side-by-side comparison of the Genesis and Master System versions of “Sonic the Hedgehog” (the Game Gear version is very similar to the Master System version with a few exceptions). Before I begin, you have to understand that even though they bear the same name, the two titles are quite different. Other than obvious differences in graphics and sound, level designs and bonus stages are different, creating an all-new Sonic experience.
Graphics: The Genesis version features some of the best graphics of the 16-bit era (Sonic 2 pushed the envelope even farther). The 3D effect of running behind trees and posts, coupled with outstanding surface textures creates a great gaming experience. However, the Master System version features graphics I’d put up against any NES game any day of the week. Though not nearly as detailed as its counterpart, the game moves fluidly, and enemies are easily recognizable from the 16-bit version.
Sound: The music and sound effects on the Genesis are fantastic, some of the most classic in video game history. The Master System version features good sound as well (even though it’s in mono), but the console’s technology produces sounds that are at times tinny.
Gameplay: Sonic on the Genesis is fast, especially in some of the more straightforward zones. He’s pretty fast in 8 bits as well, although the game doesn’t feel it’s moving quite as fast. Eight-bit Sonic does share many of his 16-bit counterpart’s mannerisms, like when he starts staring you down because you haven’t moved in awhile. Also, in the 8-bit version, when you hit an enemy, you can’t retrieve the rings you lost. And though they share names with a few zones from the Genesis version, the entire 8-bit game was retooled so it isn’t a direct port. Bonus stages are different, too, and Chaos Emeralds are found within the zones. There is also a map in the 8-bit version that shows you what zone you’re on, and I think that’s because the text at the beginning and end of the zones isn’t superimposed over the game screen like on the Genesis. Overall control of Sonic is fluid on both consoles, though I think the Master System version of the game is more difficult to complete.
So there you have it, a short but concise comparison of the Sega Genesis and Master System versions of the original “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I could go on and on with more about the two, but you can get the idea by just checking out the screenshots above (By the way, those are two different zones from each of the games). Now don’t be deceived by the 8-bit version, as Sega thought it was good enough to build into some late versions of the Master System console. It’s available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console for just 500 points ($5), so it’s definitely worth a try if you’re able to get it.

Posted in Retro Gaming, Sega | 1 Comment »