Review: SEGA AGES Shinobi (Switch)

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Hey, that’s NOT a ninja weapon!

Switch Shinobi boxAnother flawless and essential port by M2 with a few excellent modern options, the 1987 arcade classic Shinobi ($7.99) sneaks onto the Switch, and it’s just as hard as ever. There’s an easier AGES mode that changes lead Joe Musashi’s garb to white and lets you take more that a single hit (as in the Genesis and Mega Drive follow-up Revenge of Shinobi) and you can choose to use the new rewind function if you like to make things a bit easier. I’ll admit that I didn’t touch it for a few days until it was tested for review purposes and yep, it helped a lot in a few areas. But it’s not necessary to clear the game if you’re averse to it and want to do it the old-fashioned way. Well, minus the feeding the machine part.

 

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Review Quickie: The Spy in Black/U-Boat 29 (1939)

U-Boat 29_MPLike a perfectly prepared fine aged steak, this Alexander Korda/Irving Asher production of The Spy in Black (or U-Boat 29) comes in hot, sizzling and rare, offering strong performances by its cast along with the first teaming of director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, who would go on to work on 24 pictures including a number of absolute classics across a few genres.

Conrad Veidt is excellent as Captain Hardt, a German U-boat commander whose given the task of meeting with a fellow German, a female spy, as they attempt to deal major damage to British Fleet at Scapa Flow, as war raged on in 1917. As the film begins, Hardy and a fellow seaman arrive back in Germany to almost depleted food resources, even at the finely set officer’s restaurant where steamed fish and carrots are the sole offerings. Amusingly enough, the local newspapers trumpet the country’s U-boats and their sinking of English ships that have allegedly been hitting food supplies there, but they seem a bit suspect in their retelling.

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“WARNING: Smoking can cause Victoria”

Hardt is ordered to to a bit of infiltration into Scotland, as a plan has neatly been hatched to dispose of a teacher planning to move to a sleepy village near The Old Man of Hoy and with the aid of a disgraced British Navy officer, former Commander Ashington (Sebastian Shaw), who is no fan of the service that did him wrong. Hardt doesn’t want to be a common spy, but orders are orders and surprisingly, his part of the mission gets off to a fine beginning. When he meets his partner in crime, Fräulein Tiel (Valerie Hobson), things go a bit sideways and she locks him in his room every night and as his new commanding officer, keeps him in check even as he makes small advances towards her.

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The Bearable Heaviness of Being

GE DIGITAL CAMERAThe other good news from yesterday was getting back from an appointment and discovering a package from Mega Cat Studios had arrived completely without warning (Thank you very much, James!). This is both excellent and somewhat timely, as it had a copy of the rather intriguing Devwill Too MD inside along with a nice note for me. This will get reviewed on the weekend, but when a game starts out with a quote from Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, you kind of realize it’s sort of special.

Here’s a little look at the trailer:

 

 

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Yes, you should!

I got a proper Krazy Kat meets Super Mario Bros. vibe here, but I’m a bit nuts, so you can decide on your own. Oh, also please go sign up on the Mega Cat site for info on the many other cool and sometime very unusual retro games they’ve released or are working on. A while back I made a small pledge to the Phantom Gear Kickstarter, so I can’t wait for that to be completed, as it looks pretty solid.

By the way, if you have or want a Steam account, you can even get free beta demos on some titles there as well for that platform, which is a good thing as Mega Cat is cooking up some really nice titles. If for whatever reason, you’re working on a retro-style game and need a publisher, well, I think they do that as well.

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Ghosts ‘N DJ’s: Monday’s Been Made, Charities Get Paid

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This is priceless. No, seriously, it’s going to be FREE.

Ghosts'n DJs artSometimes, you wake up and see something that makes your day, as as it’s a Monday, that goes double because it kicks off the week on a high note. I woke up earlier this morning to go to a medical appointment, checked my email and saw this game info, then the trailer and yep, my day was made instantly.

Solo developer and creator Daniel Manzano (aka Dr. Kucho!) has cooked up such a thing with Ghosts ‘N DJ’s, which… well, just take a look at the game trailer while I go put on a pot of coffee:

Screenshots and a good and lengthy game description are below the jump. I know you’re curious, so you get the long version this time.

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Random Film of the Week: Brainstorm (1983)

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What you really want to see when the nurses come for you…

brainstorm_MP1A few years back, The second thing I thought of when Facebook snapped up “virtual reality” headset maker Oculus was this flawed but still incredible 1983 sci-fi film directed by Douglas Trumbull. Unfortunately, Brainstorm slipped into theaters under the dark cloud of Natalie Wood’s mysterious off-set death as a work that some at the time debated should have been scrapped entirely. At the time, I liked Trumbull’s technical mastery more than the cast’s straightforward performances. Upon seeing the film again recently, I liked it more, but I also think it’s one of the few films where a modern remake would fix a few things such as sofa-sized and room-sized computers and those super-bulky tapes and that huge headset helmet prototype. Then again, that old tech is kind of what makes the film so effective, as it sure looks like all that wiring and doodads do something.

Despite some workman-like performances from its cast, Trumbull’s direction and his blending standard 35mm camerawork and outstanding widescreen shots of real life vistas and indoor locales plus assorted visual effects that predated IMAX in its use of dynamic screen ratio changes. The often stunning widescreen sequences were shot in Super Panavision 70 with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1 are the real stars here. Still, there’s an air of gloom that hangs over the entire film thanks to one character’s on-screen fate that makes you wish the thought-capturing device in the film actually existed, but had a ‘rewind life’ function added. As dry as the pedestrian plot is, the imagery is at times, some breathtaking stuff that mixes in mundane to high flying activities as the assorted fantasy to nightmare sequences play out.

(thanks, BreadCrustCouncil!)

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Review: Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (PC)

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“Adventure… the new fragrance by Cloven Hind…”

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Prepare to get schooled skulled if you’re not ready.

For a while, from the 1980’s into the 1990’s, it seemed that the original Wizardry series was destined to last forever. But by 2001 that wasn’t the case as developer of what would be the final game in the series, Sir-Tech Canada went down for the count after the mostly excellent but flawed foray into the fully polygon arena with Wizardry 8. The company still supported the game until they finally vanished in 2003, and was never able to do a proper followup before they left the scene. There have been quite a large amount of games since then that have taken many elements the series pioneered, polished up the visuals and are basically Wizardry games with different titles as the end of the day.

Other titles in the series had danced on the edge with polygonal environments but 8’s was the first with both characters and maps presented this way. In the US, the series was slowly being forgotten despite some excellent ports to the Nintendo and Super Nintendo consoles, but in Japan, the series flourished on PC and consoles as a number of different developers tried their hands at making dozens of Wizardry games from console ports and original games to mobile and online-only titles with mostly good results. Which brings us to the game in question, which is quite good especially if you’re a fan of the classics. It’s got a few issues the keep it squarely in the past, but we’ll get to them below.

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: DEAD END

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“I hear the marinara sauce is good in this joint…”

Dead End 1937 MPI love Dead End for a few reasons. It’s a great film based off a stage play that yep, both looks and feels stagey, but that works highly in its favor. It’s a classic Old New York City film just for the location it presents and the feeling that, staging aside, that place actually existed. It also marked the debut of The Dead End Kids who’d later morph into The Little Tough Guys, then The East Side Kids and then into The Bowery Boys with a total of close to 50 audience-pleasing fluff comedies made between 1937 and 1958. To some non-fans of the Boys, this only proves the law of diminishing returns should have been more strictly obeyed and enforced (ha and ha). But, I digress.

It also has Humphrey Bogart in an early knockout role as a slickly dressed but menacing thug who returns to his old stomping grounds with a brand new facelift for mixed results. Finally, it’s a nicely directed “message” film by the great William Wyler that works on many levels, some of which soak in only after a second or third viewing. Go grab your popcorn, pal. I’ll wait. Oh, you’re making it on the stove the old-fashioned way? Good. I’ll go get a bowl and meet you back here in five.

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Bogie lets McCrea know he can’t wear a hat AND a bucket at the same time.

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SEGA AGES Sends Shinobi and Fantasy Zone Westward

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Get ready for the tough stuff…

SEGA AGES on the Nintendo Switch gets more classics with developer M2 offering up two more Sega hits of yore with the developer’s stellar ports, and yes, each will arrive with new enhancements in tow that offer more accessibility options and new ways to enjoy these titles. First up, it’s the Ninja-packed action classic, Shinobi:

Ninjutsu master Joe Musashi returns in this classic side-scrolling platformer. He has been sent on a mission to single-handedly find and rescue all the children of the Oboro clan who have been kidnapped by a criminal syndicate known as ZEED. Utilize your sharp sword, shurikens, throwing knives, and even magic to defeat the enemy and free the hostages.

The challenging side-scrolling action title Shinobi strikes back with an AGES mode that gives a white-robed Musashi extra health and damage, and an added Melee button that lets you dispatch enemies up close and personal. And if the hordes of ZEED are proving too much of a test, difficulty and stage select options have been implemented, along with a reverse time feature.

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An Animated Discussion (Part 3)

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So, here we are again. Let’s see how, this time, we’ll see what else was in the bag of cartoons I loaned a friend. I added some stuff that wasn’t animated or not quite cartoons, but they all fit a theme.  So here’s the final countdown with a few surprises for good measure:

roujin-zRoujin-Z:  Here’s the thing. Both kids don’t like anime, but I decided to pop this into the lot because it’s a family film of sorts and I know both parents would be into it because  they’d “get” it and enjoy it even if their two Teen Titans didn’t. Lo and behold, not only did the kids take to it, they were both deciding that the genre was much more that what friends at school were hammering them in the heads over endlessly.

I should have gone with Ghost In The Shell as well, but this Otomo flick was more of an acceptable choice and I didn’t want to overwhelm them, although, yes, I had to field a few questions regarding the crazy ending. That said, I wonder how Akira or something as nuts as a Fist of the North Star would have gone over. That said, I think a Miyazaki film might be a better thing (I’m looking at YOU, Lupin!)

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Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Makes My Day (Or is it Months?)

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So, a Steam review code arrived about 20 or so minutes ago and I’m dying to play it, but I need to post a few articles before I get to the game as I won’t get to posting if I start playing first. Yes, even though I went through this one on the PS3, I’m more than happy to fire it up again after a few years away because it’s like the security blanket of games for me and I want to see if I can get through it with no walkthroughs in sight. Granted, the turn-based nature of the game means I don’t need to worry about failing because I’m old and slow these days, and I recall a lot of the floors here by heart.

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The traps, however? Hmmm… not so much, although the rather random nature of the encounters will make the game a perfect storm if I get overwhelmed. It feels good to revisit this again, so come back around for impressions at some point.

-GW