Review: SEGA AGES Space Harrier (Switch)

space harrier switch

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. GET READY!

Hell, even if I were to think I was born ready for it, back in 1985 seeing and playing Sega’s Space Harrier for the first time in an arcade was a total and unexpected blast. Granted, it wasn’t my first psuedo-3D sprite-based shooter (Willams’ still phenomenal BLASTER was an instant fave for me two years earlier), but Yu Suzuki’s even more instant classic made for a more lasting impression thanks to its more superbly detailed visuals, rock-solid 60fps gameplay and yes, a somewhat crushing difficulty level for beginners. Watching someone play any of the three cabinet version was thrilling enough. But as a player, if you lucked out and got one of the sit-down versions with that big flight stick and body-shaking tilt feature, it was pure gaming bliss that left you maybe a bit wobbly after a few too many replays. Ah, memories!

Still, Suzuki’s game was perhaps too well made, just like his other supremely reliable arcade hits some take for granted these days. This is a game that is flawless in execution, but might be seen by the more jaded gamers out there as “repetitive” because they don’t see the beauty past the lightning fast speed and brilliant use of color. Ever busy developer M2 has done another outstanding job in porting the game to Switch for the ongoing SEGA AGES project ($7.99 per title) in both its original form with a new stage select, optional visual filter and control additions and a new version of the game called KOMAINU Barrier Attack that adds infinite continues and two small stone lion statues to aid Harrier in his quest.

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Screenshots really don’t do this game any justice. Some heads will roll for that.

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Odyssey of the Oddity Concludes Somewhat Abruptly

I can actually recall the first time I heard Space Oddity on the radio. It was sometime after its 1969 release and if memory serves me correctly, it almost made me miss my school bus. Between the haunting acoustic guitar work and the otherworldly sounds emanating from the clock radio in my room, I was transported into that tin can floating in the void. Instant David Bowie fan from that point on and what and education that was.

Suffragette City made me look up that word (the first one, silly!) and in doing so before the age of the internet, got me checking out the dictionary and then a few encyclopedias as that rabbit hole opened up as I discovered other issues related to that word. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, union organizing, women’s rights (which I don’t think were listed in much detail as far as 70’s educational tomes were concerned) and other mind-expanding bits and pieces were in the process of being uncovered. One teacher I had noted my research and gave me a few newsletters to peruse from her college days. Of course, at that age (I was about ten or eleven at that point), most of that reading material was way above my brain grade but I absorbed them anyway. Continue reading

There’s A(nother) Rift Coming To The Gaming Scene…

Rift_Stuff

The “big” news to some in gaming this past week was the announcement of the final price and launch date for the consumer model of the Oculus Rift, one of a few virtual reality devices that look to be the next big thing in entertainment. $599 (not including shipping, sales tax or customs fees where those are charged) gets you the headset with built-in headphones and mic, sensor, an Xbox One controller and one Oculus Remote plus two games, Lucky’s Tale and access to the online multiplayer space combat game EVE: Valkyrie. Oculus plans another 100 games by the end of 2016 including at least 20 games exclusive to the Rift, but as with any new platform promising the moon too regularly to its rabid early adopters, those numbers are subject to change.

Lucky's Tale

As far as the news goes, that’s all good and well, but if you go into this Rift deal with big eyes as an under-informed sort of modern gamer thinking all you’ll be spending is that $600 (not including shipping, sales tax or customs fees where those are charged), you’ve got another think coming… Continue reading

Tech Review: Audio Technica ATH-ADG1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs gaming headsets go, Audio-Technica’s ATH-ADG1 High-Fidelity Gaming Headset is hands-down one of the best I’ve used, but it does come with some minor caveats. It’s wired, the open ear design means it’s more for home use than a set you want to bop around with in public (it’s your call, of course) and at $299.95, it’s not for budget-brained audiophiles.

Then again, I’d say the words “budget” and “audiophile” don’t quite go together, particularly when it comes to headphones of this outstanding quality. Sure, you can use them for their intended purpose (super high quality audio in your PC gaming experience), but if you’re like me, you’ll stick these lightweight wonders on your head every chance you get… Continue reading

Amazon Fire TV: An Interesting Must-Buy For Some. Just Not For Me, Though…

Amazon Fire TV 
Say “Hello” to the Amazon Fire! Sure, it’s only $99 and does that newfangled streaming thing everyone with a proper connection loves (despite some silly issues), but that extra $40 for a controller to play games? Bleah. Amazon could have subsidized that or at least made it cheaper, as I can see multiplayer gaming for families in the same room getting expensive with a few controllers (which this thing hopefully supports). Anyway, If I were to get one of these, I’d only use it for gaming, as the movies I like tend to not be on a streaming service at all or show up, but then disappear after a while, making it tough to have an actual “library” one could call one’s own.

I have a few other issues with this box (and any other “streaming” box out there), but I know most of you are drooling and whipping out that credit card. Well, if you DO grab this, make sure to shell out for that controller and ABSOLUTELY buy Telltale Games’ wonderful, well-written and frightening as hell The Walking Dead game. It’s quite playable even if you’ve never picked up a controller before and if you’re a fan of the comic and/or TV show, it’s a MUST because it introduces a whole new set of characters and situations that will have you hooked in right from the start.

Welp, VR Just Went Viral. Literally. Yuk.

RiftPeople, I’m speechless. THIS just happened and while some in the tech sector are giddy, anyone who had any thoughts about privacy using that Rift when it comes out has just gotten a “poke” to both eyes. Blech, Yuck, Argh and so forth and so on. Not to mention that people who will buy that thing and not clean it because they’re dopey about stuff like this will end up giving everyone in their homes and elsewhere some sort of eye infection or worse. Ewwww…

Now, I’m not a big VR supporter (I still recall when it was attempted with mixed results in the 90’s), but I was willing to give it a chance based on all the people I know who’ve tried both development versions of the Oculus Rift hardware. Now, I’d not touch the thing with a ten foot pole unless I was using said pole to bash those goofy goggles to bits with. Data mining through your entertainment isn’t new at all, but facebook getting it’s money gloves into EVERYTHING is getting to be extremely annoying. Let me shut up here and vent with some ice cream for a bit. Man, what a day… between this and Fed Ex jerking me around with a package they keep failing to deliver (I’m HOME you idiots!), I’m not having a good day today. Blaaaaah.

Maybe It’s A Half-Day Today…

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OK, you kids, I’m taking the rest of the day off (maybe), as I’ve a few games piling up that could use a review (whee!). I may be back later tonight just to add a Random Film of the Week(end), which in case you’re interested, will be Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 film TARGETS (a tough one to watch, but somewhat educationally intriguing in debates that are popping up about video games “causing” violence). Other than that and a few random posts I want to toss up before the month is done tomorrow, it’s been a busy March for me – over 200 posts this month when I’d planned 150. Hmmm… maybe I’m thinking too small or something. Well, whatever – use up those brain cells for constructive purposes while I can, I guess. Back in a bit…

E3 2009 Impressions (One): Controlling Interests

It’s a good thing I waited until the big press conferences (and the entire show) were over and done as there were plenty of surprises dropped that are clearly going to change the way the interactive experience in the near future and beyond. Of course the ton of new games on the way that still use traditional control methods will do nicely at assuring “hardcore” gamers that analog pads are not yet going the way of the dinosaur. The one important fact about what was shown at E3 2009: there’s absolutely no need at all for a new console generation for at least the next five or so years. Continue reading