I’ve always shied away from the topic of console mods. Perhaps because it’s the kind of discussion that can result in bannings from forums and websites, auctions being shut down on eBay, that sort of thing. It’s a legal grey area – not the act of modding itself, but what modding can allow for. At the risk of indicting myself, I’m writing about it here because I find it to be an interesting topic that I hear and read little about in mainstream circles. So to begin with, let’s talk about what modifications are out there, and why someone might want to modify their console in the first place, and then I’ll talk a bit about my modded Saturn and PlayStation. Continue reading
Happy New Year everyone! I have very few traditions on the blog but this is one I enjoy, always a fun way to kick off the new year. Alas here I am with preparing for my only end of the year tradition and I discover I didn’t even do one of these for last year, 2017! *sigh*
Never mind though and we’ll press on in the spirit of renewal. 2018 was a bit of an odd one: an unreasonably large number of the games I played in the first half of the year were disappointing. A lack of inspiring games is partly why I blogged very little – my socks just weren’t being consistently rocked by the stuff I was playing.
Then in the second half of the year things changed when I finally picked up a Switch. At the same time, reluctantly, I packed away my old CRT TV. Some weeks later I decided to re-dedicate myself to blogging, and since then I’ve been more thorough than ever before in terms of my output, writing about most of the games I played these past few months.
Given my journey this year and how consistent I’ve been with blogging lately, all of the games featured here I played in the first half of 2018, prior to my Switch purchase. Enough pre-amble, bring on the highlights! Continue reading
Soukyugurentai (aka Terra Diver) happens to be one of my all-time favourite games. Originally a 1996 Japan-only arcade shoot ’em up developed by Raizing, it was later ported to the Sega Saturn. Why do I love it so? Simply put, Soukyugurentai looks, sounds and plays like a dream. The gameplay is fast and furious, but not brainless; the game requires strategy and thought to master. Your ship handles great, with fluid and responsive controls. Last but not least, Soukyugurentai feels uniquely cinematic, with a dramatic musical score by Hitoshi Sakimoto and a striking visual style that holds up wonderfully to this day. Continue reading
It’s been a while, readers. But I’m back. That’s right, the PhD is over. Submitted and awaiting viva! Throughout these past few months, I haven’t stopped playing games entirely. Still, my enjoyment of life in general has increased dramatically now, and that extends to games too. After listening to a recent Retronauts episode about the Gradius series, I decided to dust off my copy of the expansively named Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus for the trusty Sega Saturn. I’d always been curious, so why not try these spin-offs of a beloved series?
Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus is a collection of three arcade games, namely Salamander, Life Force, and Salamander 2. The former two, which I’ll cover first, are variations on the same basic game released within a year of one another in 1986-7. Salamander 2, by comparison, released almost ten years later in 1996, and is a more modern iteration on the series formula. These games all riff on similar level themes, bosses and structure, many of these themselves nabbed from the Gradius series. For instance, every game alternates between horizontal and vertical scrolling stages, and contains a mix of biological and sci-fi themed stages. Continue reading
What is Deep Fear, in a nutshell? It’s a Resident Evil knock-off released in Japan and Europe in 1998, and actually the final Sega Saturn game to be released here in Europe before Sega shut up shop. Set in an underwater military base, the core gameplay is extremely Resi-like – using tank controls you navigate complex environments, fend off monsters, manage your ammo and solve arcane puzzles. Deep Fear’s one unique twist is an oxygen meter which requires you to find computer terminals to re-oxygenate areas where the oxygen is low. It’s a simple but effective mechanic which adds extra tension to exploring.
I have a soft spot for horror games of the tank-control-survival variety, and Deep Fear is very good at what it does. It’s not the most riveting game; I picked up the game about a year ago and put in a few hours with it before getting distracted and moving on. But despite having played for a short time, and the game being rather generic, there are two specific aspects of Deep Fear that make it extremely memorable and almost endlessly fascinating (to me anyway). First is the beautifully produced and composed music, while the second is the utterly abominable voice acting. Continue reading
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Megadrive/Genesis was a childhood staple of mine. I played it every which way, learning the levels and special stages, even though I never owned the game personally till the Gamecube era courtesy of Sonic Mega Collection. I don’t have that kind of hyper-nostalgia for Sonic as I do for a game like Goldeneye on N64, say, and I am well aware of Sonic 2’s flaws. But on a recent gaming podcast I heard someone describe their first experience with Sonic 2 as an adult, and their picking apart the game’s issues bordered on painful listening. It was so incredibly different to my own time with Sonic – a long, long time, made up of lots of short bursts spread over years of my life, my entire childhood…!
I wish I had grown up with Burning Rangers in the same way. Or if that’s too much to ask, just chatting with someone who had had that experience would be really fascinating. For me, coming to this game now, it just doesn’t fit into with my wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am gaming style of late (see the GGTOW manifesto for more deets). Continue reading
Introducing! A game! Mr Bones! This whole game for Sega Saturn has a certain odd, off-kilter feel, but a ways into the game Mr Bones takes a turn for the bizarre. And the level that introduces the insanity is called Glass Shards. The cutscene intro for this particular level shows our hero, a skeleton called Mr Bones, being absorbed into a portal. He finds himself in a psychedelic no-man’s-land, with only some unevenly spaced floating lilies to help him escape.
[Note: I couldn’t find any videos that contained the whole audio for this level fully except for this one, which has had some strange video filters applied for effect.]
As you can tell, music is a big part of Mr Bones. There’s a wide variety of gameplay styles in the game, and the heavy rock soundtrack by “famous” guitarist Ronnie Montrose (I’d never heard of him), is one of the few things that ties them all together. This time, in Glass Shards, it’s the usual heavy rock guitar stylings you’ve heard throughout the rest of the game, except with a voiceover. And what a voiceover.
As you wrestle with the controls and those obnoxious lily pads, the game subjects you to some of the most remarkable ramblings ever concocted on the topic of “the blues”. What words are there for a game that comes out with gems like “Jesus Christ had the blues, big time,” and “beyond all the land and sea and sky, there’s blues”?!
By way of a bonus, this next video provides a glimpse of what happens AFTER you defeat the blues. Or whatever it was you did in that stage. I recommend watching at least a minute or two of this next vid until the cutscene at the end of this stage, which features our skeletal hero Mr Bones seducing a half-naked ghostly siren with a guitar solo! (It would seem utterly strange if not for the madness before.)