|Issue #38 - July 2007|
Table of Contents
|02.||The Lost Faces of Pooyan|
|03.||NEScade -- Millipede|
|04.||Apple II Incider|
|06.||Old Wine in New Bottles|
|07.||Game Over|Attract Mode by Scott
I'm sure I'm not the only one. Every hardcore collector out there, whether of video games, or comic books, or toys... they've all done it before to. What am I talking about? An auction bender. A night of pure debauchery where the heart takes control of the wallet away from the brain. More than likely, you've experienced this the first time you tried eBay. Maybe you bid on one item. And you won, and it arrived and it was so easy that you bid on another, and another, and another. Until finally you realize just how much you've spent and you think, "oh deal lord, what have I done?" Yeah, eBay is an old story for me. Been there, done that. I've moved on to something more hard-core.
Sure, eBay is good for
the casual video game collector. A few rare items pop up once
and awhile, a lot goes up for auction that makes a good collection starter,
that's all well and good. But what holds true for video
game shops in Japan holds equally well for auction sites.
While eBay never hit it off in
site like http://www.japanauctioncenter.com/
and all of a sudden the treasures of Yahoo Auction
So here I
am with a new found ability to purchase goods from Japanese auctions, and a
moderately sophisticated way to search for what I'm looking for, (thanks in part
to sites like Jim Breen's Japanese Dictionary Server) and what
happens? I go nuts. A couple of hundred
dollars later and I am the proud owner of a huge collection of Famicom game
guide books, written completely in Japanese, none of which I can understand, and
loaded with pictures of Japan's retrogames. How I ever
thought I could make use is these is unclear to me now, at least I still think
that they're neat to own. And granted, isn't that why a lot
of collectors collect? The concept that the ownership of the
good is more valuable than their utility? I have to say that
I enjoy flipping through the pages and seeing how games were represented
differently by Japan than by our American magazine counterparts.
The line between magazine and comic book was much blurrier in
|Cool Pooyan marquee courtesy of KLOV.com|
|Coco screenshot courtesy of Moby Games.|
|Pooyan 2600 screenshot courtesy of AtariAge.|
Silver Medal: Atari 8 bit computer & Apple ][ (44)
|Atari 800 cassette box & screen shot courtesy of Atarimania.com|
|Apple ][ screenshot courtesy of Moby Games|
|C64 screenshot courtesy of lemon64.com|
Medal: Commodore 64 (46)
My first reaction is this title is most excellent, with a full musical score throughout with a different score for each screen, plus the frenetic music when 6 (and then 7) wolves are at the boulder. Gameplay is outstanding (9) with everything from the arcade. Addictiveness is (9) wonderful, with a pause <space bar> and gradual speed up in the difficulty. Graphics are well done (9) with great action, good details, color variety, graphics variety & backgrounds. There are nice displays and animation plus the best use of multi-color for enemies, obstacles, you, plus some background effects. Sound is superb (9) (+1 from my initial review) with 2 full musical scores and all the effects sound great. Controls are perfect (10) (+1 from my initial review). Echoing my Atari comments, I did not observe things as carefully before, so there are no points lost. Likewise this version is only found on diskette (cassette in Europe) and probably pretty hard to find an original. Too bad as most of you have missed this one at the arcade and the only cart version, 2600 is its weakest link.
Acknowledgements, Updates and Errata since last month.
You might be able to tell that Pooyan is one of my all time favorite games. I hope that you give it a try as it really deserves more credit for a lot of depth to the gameplay, packs a lot of great action, allows for strategy and offers a most excellent challenge.
On KLOV.com, they say the name "Pooyan" means "little pigs" in Japanese, not German as I had reported in the past.
I've not verified this but, play a JAVA emulated version of Pooyan is located at: web.utanet.at/nkehrer/JPooyan.html
I'm still looking for a disk copy of Apple ][ Xevious if anyone has one.
Come back next month for another 1982 review of the Many Faces of Xevious, released for the Atari 7800, Apple ][, Atari 2600, C64, Atari 8 bit and Atari 5200. Contact Alan at: Hewston95@NOSPAMstratos.net or visit the Many Faces of site: http://my.stratos.net/~hewston95/RT/ManyFacesHome.htm
|Amazingly one of the most forgotten arcade
to NES ports is that of a game that was extremely popular in its day and still
brings back fond memories to nearly all who have played it. The spiritual
successor to Centipede, Millipede crawled its way into arcades in 1982 from
Atari. You play the role of Archer, a sharpshooter armed with only a bow
and arrow. Trapped in a garden of giant mushrooms, it's up to you to
battle hoards of giant insects. Beetles, spiders, misquotes and more are
on the attack but most terrifying of all, the mushroom field is home to giant
millipedes which scramble down from the top of the screen. When the
millipede reaches the edge of the screen it reverses direction and drops down
one row closer, the same happens if it runs into a mushroom. As each
section of the millipede is hit by one of Archer's arrows it becomes a mushroom
and if the millipede is shot in the middle sections it will break off into
multiple smaller millipedes. Strategy comes into play since when each
destroyed section of millipede turns into a mushroom, the remaining millipede
behind will hit that mushroom and instantly drop to the next row. Each
section of millipede that reaches the bottom of the screen will cause an
additional section to spawn in the shaded area at the bottom of the screen where
Archer is able to move. Since Archer cannot leave this area, only move
within it, things get frantic fast once additional millipede sections begin to
appear. Keeping this area clear of mushroom growth is extremely important
so that fresh millipede spawn won't have a shortcut to the bottom, there by
spawning even more millipede sections. To help Archer out DDT pesticide
bombs appear throughout the mushroom field. Shooting one of these causes a
cloud of DDT to be released which destroys anything in its blast area including
mushrooms and otherwise indestructible flowers. Once the millipede is
completely destroyed either by Archer's arrows or DDT pesticide bombs the next
level begins. After every few levels a swarm of airborne insects will
swoop down on the playfield, causing massive mushroom growth in their
path. This of course gives the millipedes quicker routes to the bottom of
the screen on the subsequent levels unless the growth is thinned out by arrow
shots or DDT.
Six years after the original arcade release, Millipede appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System courtesy of HAL Labs who also ported the arcade classic Joust to the platform. HAL really had a knack for converting these arcade titles to the NES and Millipede is no exception. The first task at hand is reworking the control method. Millipede in the arcade used a trackball to move Archer around, of course this isn't possible on the NES. However if you didn't know better you'd swear this game originally used a joystick - the control on the NES version is that good. It is precise and smooth with the directional pad and perfectly responsive. The single fire button of the arcade is mapped to the NES control pad A button. Aside from the added pause feature, that's it, controls are perfect. Sound is done equally as well, with nearly every sound effect from the arcade recreated on the NES including the marching of the millipede and the unforgettable sounds of Archer dying and the mushroom field regrowing. When the game is running it really does sound as if the arcade machine is in your home.
HAL also did a wonderful job at recreating the graphical feel of the game. Everything is nicely detailed from Archer's arrows to the mushrooms themselves. Every enemy from the arcade is brought over and behaves exactly as they did in the arcade. Spiders randomly bounce around the lower part of the screen, inchworms slow down the action once hit, bees rapidly drop down the screen leaving trails of mushrooms in their wake, it's all done perfectly. The playfield is scaled down and moved off center so that the vertical presentation of the arcade can be recreated as properly as possible on a standard horizontal television. Score and remaining player status fills up the remaining space on the right side of the screen. While the levels don't perfectly recreate what one would see in the arcade version, they're close enough and the game over all just feels right. I will say however that NES Millipede seems far easier than arcade Millipede. Possibly the slight differences in screen dimension are what make the difference, perhaps it's the control method. Either way I've always been able to rack up far higher scores on the NES than in the arcade. Regardless, the game still has the same frantic pace and fun as the original, and that's really the point after all. One missing feature is the ability to begin the game with a higher starting score and difficulty based on the previous round of play. On the NES this feature has been replaced with a more difficult starting setting selectable from the title screen. This basically doubles the difficulty for the first dozen or so stages until the difficulty of the normal mode catches up to the "B" setting.
It is a shame that the NES version of
Millipede seems to have been swept under the carpet and forgotten over the
years. Without a doubt it is one of the highest quality conversions of any
classic arcade title, especially given the hardware platform. While it may
not be a perfect verbatim recreation of the arcade original, it hits enough of
the sweet spots to make it just as fun and entertaining. Millipede is one
of the greatest classic arcade games, there's no arguing that. When
building an NES arcade collection this game is simply a must have. It's
fun, plain and simple, the cornerstone of the arcade era itself.
|Welcome to this month's column. As I indicated last month, I am focusing on a relatively unknown members of the Apple II line, the Apple IIGS (Graphics and Sound).
Apple Computer released the Apple IIGS in late 1986. This was Apple Computer's response to the challenge of the new Commodore Amiga (later known as the Amiga 1000) and the Atari 520ST.
The following are the published technical specifications of the three computers. Thanks to OLD-Computers.com (http://www.old-computers.com/) for having the information so readily available for access!
Detached 80-key full stroke with 10-key numeric pad and mouse connector
CPU: Western Design Center 65C816 (16 bit)
2.8 MHz, switchable to 10 MHz
256 KB RAM expandable to 8 MB
128 KB ROM expandable to 1 MB
Text: 40 or 80 chars x 25 lines
Colors: Graphics: 320 x 200 (16 colors per line) / 640 x 200 (4 colors per line) + Apple II graphic modes (Low Resolution: 40x48 pixels in 16 colors. Double Low Resolution: 80x48 pixels in 16 colors. High Resolution: 280x192 pixels in 6 colors Double High Resolution: 560x192 pixels in 16 colors.
Sound: Ensoniq 32 with 16 stereo voices (+ 64 KB on chip RAM to store sound data), one voice is reserved for the system beep
full-size typewriter style, 89 keys, 10 function keys and numeric keypad
Co-Processors: Denise (video), Agnus (memory manager, blitter & copper), Paula (sound and disk access)
256kb RAM, upgradable to 512k internally. Extensible to 8.5 MB with extension card (512 KB CHIP RAM + 8 MB FAST RAM) and to 10 MB
8 KB ROM (The Kickstart isn't in ROM but loaded at the boot in RAM, where it takes 256 KB)
Text: 60 x 32 / 80 x 32
Graphics: 320 x 200 and 320x400 (32 colors), 640 x 200 and 640 x 400 (16 colors)
Colors: up to 64 colors among 4096 (EHB mode). The Amiga can display 4096 colors simultaneously (HAM mode)
Sound: Four 8 bit PCM voices, 9 octaves
520 ST / ST+ / STM
Full-stroke keyboard with numeric and editing keypads
CPU: Motorola MC68000
Co-Processors: 'Shifter' and 'Glue' custom chips
512 KB RAM (520 ST/STM), 1 MB RAM (520 ST+)
192 KB ROM
Text: 40 or 80 columns x 25 lines
Graphics: 320 x 200 / 640 x 200 / 640 x 400 dots
Colors: 16 among 512 (320 x 200) / 4 among 512 (640 x 200) / monochrome (640 x 400) this last mode needs a special monitor.
Sound: 3 voices, 8 octaves
At first glance, there isn't a ton of difference between the computers. All three machines had high resolution color graphics modes, good sound capabilities and higher speed processors as compared to the 8 bit machines that had been sold during the early to mid 1980's.
However, at a closer glance, there were significant differents between the IIGS and the Amiga/520ST. In an interesting choice, Apple went with the Western Design 65C816 chip which was compatiable with the 6502/65CO2 chips that were being used in a good number of 8 bit computers (Apple II, Commodore 64) at the time. The processor speed was measured around 2.8 Mhz.
However, The main feature upgrades in the IIGS would be it's graphics and sound capabilities. The capabilities were light years above and beyond what the 8 bit Apple II computers offered. 8 Bit Apple II computers had suffered with lower resolution graphics and poor quality sound for years. The Apple IIGS addressed these limitations in a big way with a 320x200 (16 colors) and 640x200 graphics (4 colors) modes out of a possible 4096 colors. While the initial specifications seemed a little limited, programmers discovered methods to display up to 3200 colors at a time on screen.
The use of a dedicated sound chip in the Ensoniq sound chip was also a huge boon. No longer would Apple II users have to listen to beeps and boops (or nothing at all) while playing their games. No longer would Apple II users have to buy external sound cards to listen to real music during games. The Apple IIGS's had plenty of power and then some to support great sound and music applications.
Yet with all of these positives, it became readily apparent the Apple IIGS didn't quite match up to it's Amiga and ST counterparts. For one, the 2.8 Mhz processor speed was a huge limitation. Apple initially countered by saying the 2.8 Mhz speed in the 65C816 chip was almsot eqvivalent in performance to the 68000 series of chips used in other computers. However, many users complained about the sluggishness of the IIGS and that eventually led to a many accelerators being introduced.
The introduction of the IIGS with 256 KB of RAM also proved to be a major limitation. Unlike the Amiga and ST, the IIGS did not have a dedicated graphics chip to help with animation and or graphics oriented processor work. Those programmers would have to use more processor power to perform tasks that the Amiga/ST had dedicated processors for. The limited amount of RAM, on top of the sluggish speed of the IIGS slowed the development of software during the initial months of the IIGS introduction.
Next month: The Apple IIGS could have have ruled the world. Why didn't it?
We're cruising right along, and I
think this month's batch of games are a bit more enjoyable than last months
selection, so let's get right to it.
Sqoon released by Irem on June 26th, 1986. Released in American in late 1986.
Sqoon is a bit of an awkward shooter. While most shooters take place in outerspace, this one takes place underwater, where suppoesdly a part of the United States has sunk under the ocean. You control a submarine with the ability to fire unlimited amount of torpedos forward and bombs down at an angle. Throughout each stage, you will encounter glowing objects close to the ground by several of the buildings. When blown up, they reveal people who are awaiting your rescue simply by picking them up. There is some limit to how many people your submarine can hold, but you can easily grant them their freedom by rising up to the surface of the water, where I can only image they wait for further rescue. The play mechanics of Sqoon feel a bit loose and sloppy. At first it's hard to tell what's friend or foe. The dolphins don't actually pose any threat to you, but they do kind of steal your rescuees away from you. (What do they do, eat them?) This is one early NES game that doesn't show much of the polish that other games had begun to show by this time.
Choplifter released by Jaleco on June 26th, 1986.
On one hand, it's hard to understand why such an American classic as Choplifter was not converted to the NES if it came out in Japan. On the other hand, it's not hard to understand at all. By 1986, the game had been released on so many computer platforms that no one seemed to want to try to cash in on the game one more time on the NES. Nevertheless, Choplifter is another game that probably doesn't need an introduction to the many readers of RTM. Originall developed by Dan Gordon and published on a variety of systems by Broderbund, Choplifter pits a rescue helicopter lines in a death-defying mission to rescue several P.O.W.s from bunkers that lie behind heavily defended enemy lines. And when I say heavily defended, I mean heavily defended on both the ground and in the air. You had to reach the bunkers unharmed, drop down to rescue anyone who escaped from them (exposing yourself to a lot of fire), lift back off the ground and return them safely to your landing pad. While some versions were harder than others, the Famicom conversion of the game was right up there with the least merciful. While it does provide a nice facelift to the graphics, somewhat on par with the 1985 arcade release of the game (developed by Sega ironically), the game play experience may not be as satisfying as some of the older systems that the game was originally published for.
Toukaidou Gojuusan Tsugi released by Data East on July 3rd, 1986.
The full title of this game roughly translates into the fifty-three post stations of the Tokaido, a highway that ran through Kyoto during the Edo period of Japan. And the gameplay is just as Japanese as the title is. And that's something that we're going to run into quite a bit as the Famicom gains more popularity over time throughout Japan, and the games get more complex. I'll tell you what this game is about to the best of my ability, although I have no doubt that I'll get some of it wrong. It appears to me that you are some early form of (rather slow moving) Japanese law enforcement, out to stop a gang of ninjas from terrorizing the Tokaido. You appear to start in some city at night where bystanders watch you either kill ninjas with bombs, or get killed by them. You can jump and toss bombs around. Besides killing ninjas, the bombs can also be used to reveal items like coins and swords and even sushi power-ups that turn you into a human bowling ball weapon against the enemy. It's an interesting concept for an early game, but easily outshone by others.
The Tower of Babel released by Namco on July 18th, 1986.
The Tower of Babel was a puzzle game released by Namco exclusively for the Famicom. It involved a man who was attempting to climb said tower, and he could only do it if he positioned certain blocks in just the right way so as to reach a doorway that was usually suspended off the ground, and lead to by a vine. The blocks that you manipulated were not symetical and this had a big impact on the solution of the puzzles. If you picked up a block from a certain direction, you had to lay it down to the left or to the right, but it would change direction based on the direction you faced. To make matters worse, you have a limit as to just how many times you can pick up and move objects around before your strenght runs out. Blocks have a tendancy to hang on each others corners, making the process of building staircases that much easier. However, most puzzle solvers will find the issue of orientation the most difficult aspect of the problem solving. This game was remade (again, in Japan only) on the first Playstation Namco Anthology disc, which contained four classic Famicom games right along side complete Playstation quality remakes of the same games.
I had originally planned this month to cover the Activision Action Pack. Released back in 1995, this was one of the first - if not the very first - successful Atari 2600 emulator for the PC. Unfortunately, I was unable to get it running. It is hard-coded for 8-bit graphics (256 colour) and none of the hardware I have access to can use that graphics mode. Fortunately, all of the games included, with the notable exception of Private Eye, were later re-released in other collections and compilations.
Instead, the retrogaming collection this month is the Atari Anniversary Edition Redux for the PlayStation. This collection was released by Infogrames in 2001. It is relatively common; the Digital Press guide ranks it as an R2 rarity.
This collection includes an even dozen original Atari arcade games. These include both vector games (e.g. Asteroids, Battlezone, and Tempest) and raster games (e.g. Centipede, Missile Command, and Warlords). Presumably for nostalgic reasons, the original Pong is also included.
The quality of the emulation is generally very good. Various difficulty-related options are available, depending on the specific game. The default controls map intuitively to the PlayStation controller (and can be changed if desired). The screens include a border reminiscent of the original arcade games. A helpful feature is the ability to pause (and save) games in progress.
The main weakness is the emulation of the vector graphics. The graphics are just not as sharp as in the arcade originals and the colours are not as bright. The raster games look much better and closer to my memories of the original arcade games.
There is also some great bonus content: Most significantly are the interview clips with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. He talks about the development of Pong and his role in origins of the video game industry. The graphics quality is unspectacular (it is probably a MPEG format), but the original PlayStation lacks DVD capabilities.
Other bonus content includes a lengthy excerpt from Leonard Herman's book Phoenix: the Rise and Fall of Videogames, again about Nolan Bushnell and the origins of Atari. While this is interesting material, reading many pages of text on the TV screen is not especially comfortable.
The most interesting bonus content consists of scanned images of various items related to the games in the collection. These range from advertising flyers and service manuals sent to arcade operators to buttons, pins, T-shirts, newsletters, and magazine advertisements. There are also some box scan and screenshots from Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800 versions of the games (where applicable). Some of this bonus content was later recycled in the Atari: the 80 Classic Games collection (reviewed in RTM #36). The material was scanned at a high enough resolution that the text can easily be read.
Next time, we will continue to look at arcade
emulation on the PlayStation with the
Feedback on this column is most welcome; special
thanks to everyone who have their sent comments and question. Please send e-mail