Video 3
Notes

Sep 01,
2014
Posted 23 hours ago

Bonus post: The courts of World Beach Volleyball. Each of the game’s five stages is in a different locale—Okinawa, Sydney, Washington D.C., Miami and Rio de Janeiro—have their own court design, and while sand is pretty much sand wherever you go, the landmarks and people in attendance help to provide flavor, even if Playmark achieved that by resorting to such base representations as Geisha girls from Japan and Aborigines from Australia. I’m frankly surprised that Miami didn’t feature scantily-clad cheerleaders.

The D.C. arena provides an almost surreal experience, a volleyball court erected in front of the White House, flanked by military forces and even a tank, while you play a final showdown against military cyborg superwarriors. Darn, now I really do want to see that made into a movie. In 1985.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  World Beach Volleyball   Playmark   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Video 6
Notes

Sep 01,
2014
Posted 23 hours ago

Cutscenes and attract mode backgrounds for World Beach Volleyball, a (you guessed it) volleyball game released in 1995 by Italian developer Playmark, who we last saw here as the creators of the strange urban-themed Breakout-style game Power Balls.

The gameplay here is reasonably solid, and allows for up to four players at once (provided everyone ponies up their own money.) It’s no Kings of the Beach, but it gets the job done and if you’re looking for the ability to pull of some impossible shots, like serves that sail out of the enemy court and then curve backwards like a billiard ball with wicked English, you’ll find them here.

The story is nothing we haven’t heard a dozen times before: beach volleyball tournament is announced with a high prize; intrepid heroes enter the contest in order to score it big; our heroes defeat all comers before arriving at the finals to find themselves battling U.S. military cyborgs designed to lower the boom on all their unfortunate volleyball opponents. Actually, that doesn’t sound very familiar at all. It may be something I dreamed up one night while staying up too late and flipping between Top Gun and Universal Soldiers on television.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  World Beach Volleyball   Playmark   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Text 16
Notes

Aug 31,
2014
Posted 1 day ago
want me to tell you how old I was when you recorded this? because I don’t think you’ll like the answer. :D

Actually, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not one of those people bitter about old age and resentful of other, younger people—especially since I’m not old yet! Despite my occasional jokes about whippersnappers and their obsession with newfangled technology like raytracing, mip-mapping and reticulated splines, I would be thrilled if you told me you weren’t even born when I recorded me playing that game. Because that means you’re a young gamer following a blog about old games.

The crowning achievement of what I’m doing here would be to have an army of youngsters who, despite being raised in a world of mega-polygons, online PvP, DLC, digital rights management and other modern “advancements”, are still interested in games that are powered by bitmaps, sprites and synth sound. I believe that a lot of my followers probably weren’t even born when I first started playing video games in 1981, and that’s awesome. Because these people, who would have grown up in the era of CDs, DVDs—even Blu-Rays—still recognize that the value of a great game is in the gameplay, which is just as likely to be found in 1984 as in 2014. And that makes me smile.

LIKE
  -   REBLOG

TAGS: thepreciousthing  
Audio 11
Notes

Aug 31,
2014
Posted 1 day ago

Included on the back of the last post, here’s me playing through the second stage of Dr. Wily’s Castle in Mega Man II. Again, all sound effects are included. Although there are some parts where the tape suffers from being 25 years old and played a lot, the sound quality overall is better than what I got while playing Mega Man. If it wasn’t for, you know, being a recording pressed up against a TV speaker, this would actually be pretty nice because there’s a brightness and warmth in the transition that actually is lacking in even modern emulation of the music. Those curious about a direct comparison between this and a more “quality” recording can check out my post here which offers a near-perfect emulation of the NES chip.

By the way, I came this close to owning the boss in the stage. You can hear me take one lone hit less than a second before getting off the killing shot. Bah.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Mega Man II   Capcom   NES   1980s games  
Audio 7
Notes

Aug 31,
2014
Posted 1 day ago

By request - Here is an excerpt of the audiocassette recording of me playing Mega Man, in 1989. As I mention in this original post, this was achieved by placing an audiocassette recorder next to the television speaker and playing. If you are expecting hi fidelity sound, you will be sadly disappointed. If you were expecting commentary from a young (or even current) me, you will also not find that. This is pure gameplay, complete with all of the sometimes annoying sound effects. I understand that this is probably going to appeal to about three people, probably including those who asked for it, and understand that everyone else will quietly pass to the next Tumblr post on their dashboard.

This is the final stage of the game, where you take on Dr. Wily himself. A couple things to note here: yes, I am playing with a turbo controller. specifically my beloved NES Max (which I still own.) While I didn’t always use it back in the day, clearly when recording these I was not in the mood to wear my thumbs out. Also, during the early part of the Wily fight, there is this awful g’nee-g’nee-g’noo-g’noo series of sounds. This was from me pausing and unpausing the game repeatedly, using the well-known (even at that time) “pause” trick. Due to a quirk in the game’s programming, you could shoot an enemy with a penetrating weapon like the Elec Man bolt, hit them, and if you paused the game, their “invincibility frames” would still count down and wear out. Un-pause to let the next hit register, re-pause and so on. Apparently once I got to Wily’s second form, I stopped using that.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Mega Man   Capcom   NES   1980s games  
Video 16
Notes

Aug 31,
2014
Posted 1 day ago

Ancient Loot - unearthed from the depths! These audio tapes were found amongst the many boxes of things brought up to our house from Louisiana. I am in the process of digitally recording every audio cassette my wife and I ever recorded (or that someone else recorded and sent to us) and it is quite a process, let me tell you.

But back to the lesson at hand. You kids today, with your iPods and convenient MP3 purchases and your Spotify… You have no idea how good you have it. Why, back in my day… Well, as you can see, we used cassette tapes. That was how I got my game music fix on the go. Most of the tapes here are fancier ones that I did in the mid-late 90s, all hoity-toity with labels, high-quality expensive cassettes and everything. I probably connected game systems directly into the stereo setup at my then-fiancee’s home. The NES Collection may even have been recorded from NSF file emulation, since most of the games listed on the tape didn’t have in-game sound tests.

However, in the bottom of the third picture you can spot a true relic (only the first I have managed to uncover): the unlabeled, open-case tape is a recording that I made of me playing through Mega Man and Mega Man II, circa early 1989. The recordings were made by putting the cheap radio/cassette combo deck I owned up against the speaker of the television, and it shows. Warbly in places, totally unbalanced from an equalizer perspective, and nevertheless awesome. Of course, I am digitizing this tape as well, even though I can now replicate the music on my computer with near perfect quality. I just have to keep a record of this.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Ancient Loot   Video Game Music  
Video 7
Notes

Aug 31,
2014
Posted 1 day ago

Logos and background artwork for Viper Phase-1. This 1995 Seibu Kaihatsu shoot-em-up provides a hefty challenge strewn with enemy bullets like so many droplets like one of those sprinklers you know you shouldn’t run through on a hot summer day, but just can’t help yourself. The enemy variety isn’t that great, but blowing them up sure is satisfying. There’s a stage that, somehow, manages to incorporate Galaga-style bonus formations worth an ever-increasing amount if you can take them all out before they escape the screen. In an unusual move for the genre, the game even provides an explanation (albeit a rather ridiculous one when you actually think about it) for why you will infinitely loop back to the first stage after completing it.

However, I’m not sure that even these elements justify the self-importance the game assigns itself no less than four different logos that appear at various points. Maybe they just really liked that logo, I don’t know. At least they made the most of it; Seibu Kaihatsu never got another chance to use that logo, as there was no Viper Phase-2.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Viper Phase 1   Seibu Kaihatsu   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Video 8
Notes

Aug 30,
2014
Posted 2 days ago

Background tilemaps from Varia Metal, a 1995 shoot-em-up from Excellent Systems. This game doesn’t have much going for it. The challenge apart from one or two bosses is lacking, the gameplay is as bare-bones as it gets and the soundtrack is a dreadful series of songs that run about 10-15 seconds each, looping indefinitely in what must be a dedicated effort to drive the player mad. But the graphics, especially the backgrounds, have a quaint charm to them, straight out of the mid-80s. There’s a very 1986ish Capcom feel here, with definite shades of Legendary Wings coming through in not only the stylistic designs in the illustration but also the choice of muted color palettes with incomplete gradience. If the rest of the game had borrowed as heavily from the past, this could have been a retro-style winner.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Varia Metal   Excellent Systems   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Video 7
Notes

Aug 29,
2014
Posted 3 days ago

I almost didn’t cover Twin Cobra II, the 1995 shoot-em-up which happens to be the first game created by Takumi, one of the companies formed from the dust of Toaplan when they shut down in 1994. Although finished off by Takumi, most of the work was done while Toaplan was still active, which is why this game retains much of the spirit of its predecessor Twin Cobra and grandparent Tiger Heli. At first glance, there didn’t appear to be anything special to set this game apart from many I’d played before in the past. Then, as I often do,I played the game to see if there were any backgrounds or other graphics that I could extract (apart from the sweet helicopter/munitions image I’m using for the splash here), That’s when discovered something: there really is nothing special to set this game apart from many I’ve played before in the past and that’s okay.

Twin Cobra II is nothing more than a technologically updated take on games of the genre from the mid-to-late 80s, and it turns out that’s exactly what I was looking for today. The game offers pure, few-frills blow-it-up action, with no complex scoring mechanics or mental genius required to make the most of its mechanics. You have only three weapons, which can be upgraded only a few levels each, and lots of enemies to use them on. After the midpoint of the game, around the third stage, the challenge increases dramatically and the game heads into minor Bullet Hell territory, and that is something definitely to be aware of going in. The graphics here are clean, colorful and use subtle modern touches to separate themselves from ages gone by. For instance, the tilemap for every area is made up of three layers, but there’s no parallax scrolling; these layers are only there to provide depth to the field. Ground units like tanks will roll out from under treetops and become appropriately darkened when they move into the shadows cast by buildings—while everything in the air (including your helicopter) is unaffected. The soundtrack is really nice, with an impressive mix of slow, almost jazzy themes and faster. rock-inspired pieces. The sound balance is good as well; you can always hear the music even in the middle of unleashing fire on everything in sight.

The game isn’t without a couple of faults. The weapon selection is totally unbalanced; the green missile weapon is far and away the most useful in the game, since its heat-seeking ability counters the wide shot offered by the other two, and it does so much more damage than the others that using them makes killing enemies (especially the robust, multi-part bosses) almost a chore. Also, for the all the work you put in (and finishing this game is definitely hard), there’s no actual ending. I’m going to just spoil it here for you to avoid desk-slapping frustration: you’re only given a message that amounts to “Congratulations, you won” followed by “Game over” here. Even in spite of these qualms, Twin Cobra II is a nice demonstration of old-school ideas in a modern setting.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Twin Cobra II   Takumi   arcade   1990s games  
Audio 24
Notes

Aug 27,
2014
Posted 5 days ago

Ancient history - Game Sound Fusion. I came across this audio file while gathering up items for my video game radio station (which has seen some setbacks but will happen!) Apart from a single listen by my wife some years ago, the track has never been heard by anyone. Here is its story, which you may want to read before judging the questionable sound on display here.

In the late 90s, before MySpace existed, much less Tumblr, I was still trying to figure out my place in the larger world of gaming (as if I have now.) I was heavily invested in game music, and had designs on creating chiptune music (though the term hadn’t reached widespread use yet), before discovering just how difficult it was to get the music I could compose in my head into actual usage. The frustration, especially given the tools of the time, overrode any creative potential.

Instead, I considered another approach. What if I made video game arrangements? I’d heard some decent ones here and there, as well as some truly awful ones that destroyed the spirit of the originals (I’m looking at you, elevator music Rockman X Alph-Lyra), but I couldn’t play any music instruments. Then I considered remixing. That wouldn’t require me to have traditional “musical” ability but I could use the skills I’d developed in recording and editing video game soundtracks. I would take various official versions of game music and mix parts of them together. In theory, this would allow me to take the best sound portions and most notable voices from the arcade and various consoles and bring them together like some sort of hodgepodge orchestra. I needed a flashy, ridiculous name for it because that’s what the Japanese creators of soundtracks did for their productions as well. So, I called the idea “Game Sound Fusion.”

The first and only track I ever put together was this, the opening stage of Dragon Spirit. I used music from the arcade version of Dragon Saber (which includes Dragon Spirit musical tracks as a cheat code but unlike the original game’s hardware, splits the music into distinct channels which I could access in MAME instead of a single mono feed where everything bled together) as well as the Turbografx-16 version of the game and even a tiny, almost imperceptible hint of the NES port. I wanted to use the bright, vibrating C64 version as well, but at the time there was no PC playback software I knew of that would allow individual channels from the SID chip.

The process was lengthy. It took days and gave me huge respect for DJs and other music remixers, because it’s hard work. The result was not as nice as I expected. Although it’s a new way to listen to the great first stage music of the game, trying to sync up the instruments and beats of different releases, which could be off by just fractions of a second, was a trying experience. I eventually gave in and accepted a slight echo effect throughout the entirety. I also found myself without quite the breadth of musical sources I wanted which made adding to the arcade channels of the first half difficult. The second half of the piece, in which the lead voice of the Turbografx kicks in, is harsh and discordant (which is a sound I personally dig), but was the best I could do with TG-16 emulation at the time. I prefer the second half though because it does feel more like an ensemble piece, with percussion and background strings from the arcade, lead from the TG-16 and even a couple of bass selections from the NES.

I conceived of a whole album of tracks like this from games with sufficiently lengthy and memorable themes and which were ported to many systems—Space Harrier, Double Dragon, Final Fight, and so on. Will I ever get around to it now that emulation and computer technology has improved? Who knows.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Dragon Spirit   Namco   arcade   1980s games  
Video 31
Notes

Aug 26,
2014
Posted 6 days ago

Cutscenes and background images from TwinBee Yahho!, Konami’s 1995 entry in their TwinBee series. This was the last arcade installment of the series, and a great note to end on. While there have been later TwinBee games released over the years (one just came out last year for the mobile iOS), this was the last opportunity for arcade-goers to plunk quarters down and continue the saga of TwinBee and WinBee, the iconic, somewhat anthropomorphic ships of the franchise which answer the question of what outer space aliens in the Pac-Man universe might look like.

Don’t let the cutesy anime-esque faces and bright, pastelized colors fool you into thinking that TwinBee Yahho! is a cakewalk. That’s the same sort of venus flytrap-esque lure that the series has had from day one, but this final arcade game goes above and beyond the others in terms of challenge. It is quite remarkably difficult and will be beyond the capabilities of casual shoot-em-up fans to deal with. I went through several continues myself on the way to ultimate victory. Laden with the aforementioned arms, your ship makes a nice, fat target for enemies, who are quite aggressive. But the challenge of TwinBee Yahho! involves more than just quick reflexes; it’s about perception and awareness. There is so much going on in each stage that it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by enemies and their fire from all sides and angles. The game unintentiontionally makes things even harder with its power up system. For those not familiar, TwinBee games feature unique “bell” items that you shoot to change colors (as well as juggling them around on the screen) and grab when they are the right color for the power-up you want. That would be a game unto itself, but coupled with both destroying and avoiding enemies, it can easily get frustrating. The clouds that drop these bells absorb your fire, making it impossible to get to enemies behind them. Considering a shot-blocking cloud with bells descends every time you lose a life, it actually makes it harder to get past the enemy that just took you out.

TwinBee Yahho! isn’t technically a Bullet Hell game. In many ways, it’s harder. There’s no zen-like state to be achieved here as you weave through the nearly microscopic hole in a cascade of hundreds of enemy projectiles. Here, all is frenzied chaos. But it’s a beautiful chaos, an immense challenge, and a quality game that ought not be overlooked just because of its cutesy trappings.

Short of importing Sega Saturn, Playstation 1 or PSP games from overseas, emulation is your only chance at this oft-unnoticed title. Few games from the TwinBee line were ever localized. In fact, unless you played the ancient NES game Stinger (aka Moero! TwinBee, the second game in the series) or the rare arcade export Bells and Whistles (aka Detana!! TwinBee), you’d never know of the existence of the series outside of Japan, and that’s a shame.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  TwinBee Yahho   Konami   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Video 6
Notes

Aug 25,
2014
Posted 1 week ago

Welcome to the world of Twin Adventure, a 1995 gane from Barko that’s best classified as… Miscellaneous puzzler? It appears that a princess has been kidnapped by what appears to be a demon, and it appears that two young men (who are only twins insomuch as they both bear a disturbing resemblance to The Noid) will have to get her back—apparently, by performing various mental puzzle-related tasks.

I say “apparently” a lot above because you can’t be completely sure of what’s going on in Twin Adventure. It’s a game whose story and instructions were originally in the developers’ native Korean but then got translated into English for a worldwide release The result may be the most solid evidence yet of the existence of time travel because, with the exception of a typo, this sounds exactly like something out of Google Translate, which, of course, did not exist in 1995.

There are a lot of game types where you can get away with poor translations. Platformers. Fighting games. Shoot-em-ups. But a puzzle game, especially one which does not provide a demo tutorial when you begin playing, is not one of them. Actual instructions that preceded the first two of my randomly-chosen stages were, “Remember the thing in the morse of hippopotamus” and “Collect the above figure into the frikering box.” I eventually figured out that these were for a memory match game (hippopotamus faces would open, with things in their mouth you had to remember) and a sliding tile make-a-picture game (which does not in any way help me to understand the instructions.)

If you’re looking for an extra layer of challenge in your puzzle games—brought on by having to figure out just what the objective is in the first place—Twin Adventure has got you covered.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Twin Adventure   Barko   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games  
Video 29
Notes

Aug 24,
2014
Posted 1 week ago

Art and scenes from Time Crisis, Namco’s 3D graphics shooter from 1995. It’s the first game in the Time Crisis series, and some of the cracks you would expect from an initial installment show. It’s one player only, the (three) stages are a little on the short side, and the graphics, well, they’re polygon graphics from 1995, so you know what to expect. That said, while the characters animate rather stiltedly, they look surprisingly good for the time, better than Namco’s own Tekken 2 which was released that same year. There’s a certain charm in their appearance that seems to mesh well with the cheesy plot and dialogue present in the game itself.

I enjoy the gunplay in this game a lot. Not only is the use of “taking cover” a novel innovation, but the game designers really take the notion of invading an enemy stronghold seriously: you’ll find no innocent bystandars here slowly ambling through the stages and popping up at the most inopportune moments. There are only bad guys here. When you see a human being in Time Crisis, you shoot them first and don’t bother with asking questions at all.

Wondering just what that guy in the last picture is going to do now that you’ve killed his boss? You won’t find out here. Early in the third stage, my version of MAME ran into a (documented) bug which causes an enemy helicopter to become invincible. Since you have to defeat all enemies in order to progress through any scene, that was effectively the end of my game. On the other hand, that means any potential surprise endings haven’t been ruined for you.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Time Crisis   Namco   arcade   1990s games  
Text 7
Notes

Aug 23,
2014
Posted 1 week ago

Pinball Arcade on Sale

A quick heads up, pinball fans. Pinball Arcade has announced (three days ago—I’m a little behind the times here) a summer sale—“until September”—on some of their offerings. Here’s a quick rundown, according to which system you might be interested in:

Steam: 50% off Season One Table set/Season One Pro Table set
PS3/PS4/Vita: Free Base Table set (Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Theatre of Magic) - normally $8.99; 50% off Season One Table set/Season One Pro Table set
iOS: Free Base Table set (Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Theatre of Magic)
Android: Base Table set (Tales of the Arabian Nights, Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Theatre of Magic) for $0.99 [Android doesn’t allow free games]

The 50% off prices represent the lowest that the Season One sets have ever been, and I’m going to say right now that this price [$15 for the standard set] is a steal. The licensing costs and work involved in so many tables makes it extremely unlikely that we’ll see this set for a lower price in the foreseeable future. The Season One set contains 21 tables, my favorite of which is Twilight Zone, which I talked about way back in February of last year. The other tables in the set are: Theatre of Magic, Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Medieval Madness, Bride of Pin•Bot, Cirqus Voltaire, Funhouse, Monster Bash, Gorgar, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Black Knight, Harley-Davidson 3rd Edition, Taxi, Elvira and the Party Monsters, No Good Gofers, Scared Stiff, Big Shot, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Attack From Mars, and Genie. Included for free with Pinball Arcade by default is Tales of the Arabian Nights (a great game in itself.) All told, this is an astonishing array of tables that should keep pinball fans busy for hours and is really handy for scratching that “pinball” itch when you’re at home. If it still doesn’t sound like a bargain, consider that this is less than 75 cents per table to play all you ever want, and you would likely pay 50 cents for a single play on any of these in a real arcade (like our local Ground Kontrol.)

Season Two, which also has a strong (but not as strong in my opinion) set of 19 tables, is not on sale. It is still a decent deal at its standard price of $30, but nowhere the phenomenal grab that Season One is right now. Season Three’s pricing structure changed significantly after its two older siblings, and costs as much as Season One or Two, but only contains 10 tables for $30. It’s still cheaper in the long run than what you could spend in the arcade, but I can’t really recommend it until you at least have the other two sets and really want the tables it contains.

As mentioned, Pro Table sets for Season One are also on sale, and while the 50% off definitely takes a hunk out of its cost, I still don’t find it worth it myself, but your mileage may vary. These special sets allow you to change various dip switches and operator settings on the tables, view indepth tips about gameplay, and even free-form move around the table to view bits of it up close, as if you really owned it. Season One only has five such tables, so even on sale, you’re paying $1 extra per table you can use this ability on. There’s no option to alter table incline, flipper or bumper strengths, and playing the table with any Pro Mode changes disables scoreboards and achievements. I’m passing on that myself.

LIKE
  -   REBLOG

TAGS: Pinball Arcade   pinball   Farsight Studios  
Video 13
Notes

Aug 22,
2014
Posted 1 week ago

Models and some basic stats for the fighter craft of Strikers 1945, Psikyo’s first entry in their Strikers series, this one released in 1995, fifty years after its namesake. The game is good, although like most Psikyo titles it’s a little on the short side. But this isn’t a full-blown review (suffice it to say that shoot-em-up fans should try this) but rather, I’d like to wax philosophical a bit.

What is it with Japanese game companies and games featuring World War II military battles—particularly air and naval battles which they suffered so heavily in? In the interests of full disclosure, Strikers 1945’s storyline places it after the end of World War II, with the piloted craft taking up the fight against some New World Order-style group. But let’s not kid ourselves with semantics; you can’t have an air combat game set in 1945 that isn’t really talking about World War II. At least Psikyo doesn’t take it to the exteme that Capcom does with its 1942 and 1943 line of games, glorifying the player for how well they decimate specifically-named Japanese warships like the Akagi and Hiryu. 

If my country had incurred the kind of losses and tragedies that Japan faced during this time period, I wouldn’t be making video games that task the player with blowing up our forces. Consider that these games are developed and marketed first to the Japanese population and then to the rest of the world. Is all this a form of atonement or self-flagellation? A subconscious effort to ensure that Japan and the world never forgets its defeats? Or is it just that they know players like to be on the winning side of a battle and the conflicts of World War II provide such a rich atmosphere for gaming? A psychologist would probably come up with more qualified explanations for this strange phenomenon than I.

  LIKE
  -   REBLOG

  TAGS:  Strikers 1945   Psikyo   arcade   1990s games   Art in Video Games