On Storytelling: 30 Seconds or Bust

So, yep, I’ve been a bit unwell these past few days, but things are looking up. Or rather, I’m looking up at the ceiling earlier this morning and remembering “Oh yeah, I have a lot of writing to do!” as assorted creaks and groans emanate from under the covers. If one’s body is supposed to be a temple, mine is the heart-wrenching (ow) Temple of Doom, minus the fun but deadly mine cart stage. Oh, it used to be there and a hell of a ride it was (a regular E Ticket experience, whee!). But you know how things fall apart over time? Well, that part dropped into the lava about ten days ago and along with all the King’s horses and most of his men. It’s so NOT good to be the King when this sort of thing happens, but we push on. When the going get tough, the tough… kinda go back to bed for a wee bit.

Anyway, as a quick writing exercise as well as a tick towards some much needed humor, I’ve decided to practice on an unwilling audience this form of torture that I hope you appreciate (whipcrack!). Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds (hopefully).

(Thanks, James Bond 007!)

Now, pay attention.

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SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

sega ages logo

And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: Mega Cats, MagiCats, and Other Critters of Note

Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:

little-medusa-sega-box Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.

As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.

Score: B+ (85%)

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Review: Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Heavy Burger (Nintendo Switch)

HEAVY BURGER

Holy… wow. this game is too freakin’ incredible. BUY IT. Or at least hope that Mr. Turbo has plans to get in onto a platform you can play it on.

 

Ahem. Every so often a good, well-made game of any genre makes me want to wax poetic, so here you go, a rhyming (not “rappin'” as I can’t do that at all unless it’s leftovers that need storage in the fridge) review of quite a fine Switch game you need to buy (ASAP, as its really, really good). Yes, the (very) old Bad the Bard alter ego has resurfaced from the grave, so expect the following verse to be cringe-worthy at best. Very cringe-worthy, apologies in advance…

(Takes out invisible lute and busted Casio VL-10). Er, go watch this rather conveniently placed trailer while I warm up… I’ll be back below the jump.

 

(Thanks, Flying Tiger Entertainment!)

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Intellivision Amico: Tommy’s Gunning For Supreme Nostalgia

Intellivision Ent logo

 

(Thanks, Intellivision!)

 

So, the Intellivision is making a comeback with a new console called Amico that will not only be relatively inexpensive (between $149 – $179 US), its games will run between $3 and $8, and will be exclusive to the platform along with what looks like a slew of new and remastered titles planned. Key to this project is the direct involvement of the multi-talented Tommy Tallarico along with a host of other industry heavy hitters.

Amico

While it’s a prelim, if the final design sticks close to this, I think it’ll look awesome near any TV set. I’d add in another USB port or two, but that’s because I just like ports everywhere.

I have to truthfully say this is the first time I’m actually excited about a pre-1980 games console making a comeback because the people behind it believe in it and it shows. That and, with a two-year stretch between now and the launch date, it’s bound to draw plenty of attention from classic game fans and modern gamers alike as more news drops over time on the launch lineup and future titles. Hey,maybe we’ll even see the return of TV PIXX as an online experience?  Er, okaaaaaay…. perhaps not, then.

Yep, a little game history goes a long way when the right folks are behind and in front of the scenes.

Go, Tommy, Go!

-GW

Return of the Obra Dinn: See-Worthy Ship-bound Mystery’s A Must-Play

Obra Dinn 01

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…”

Confession: I’ve never played the multiple award-winning Papers, Please (a game that’s been on my backlog of games to FINALLY get to once I whittle down my other backlog). but a few years ago (and two computers back) I downloaded an in-progress demo build of Lucas Pope’s next game, Return of The Obra Dinn and while it was a bit wonky in spots and not all the ideas were in place (as demos tend to be, well, DEMOS and not representative of the final product, it still made quite an impression. After a few years of hard work, Pope has finally completed and released the game, which is available for $19.99 on Steam, gog.com and the Humble Store.

Obra Dinn 02

“Now please pay attention and listen to me:
Give me some time to blow the man down!”

Check out the trailer and game description below:

 

 

An Insurance Adventure with Minimal Color

 

In 1802, the merchant ship Obra Dinn set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure based on exploration and logical deduction.

You had me at that “An insurance adventure…”, Pope. This one’s going to the head if of the line in the backlog, by the way.  Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to get back to my regularly scheduled (ha!) Monday.

-GW

Trilogy of Terror: Your Triple Case of Nightmare Fuel TV is Here

As I’m er, vintage enough to have been around to see it when it premiered back in 1975, it’s just great to see Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror getting a snazzy 4K version and unleashed on the masses by Kino Lorber. This flick put me in a sleepless zone for a while, but it also became one of my favorite scary films that’s lingered in the memory in terms of nailing a particular set of moods and generating a superb amount of tension.

While I kind of wish this restoration would have included Curtis’ nowhere as impressive 1996 followup, Trilogy of Terror II, I’ll take what’s here for the pure scare factor and still somewhat timely Richard Matheson stories. Kino sadly has no new trailer up, but this tiny snippet from the final episode of the anthology, “Amelia” is all you need to know about what’s coming your way when you place that order. The rest of what’s on the disc is listed below the jump.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The White Buffalo

It’s that time again, folks (Dangit, we need a THEME SONG):

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 final

Go get that popcorn going, this one’s quite a doozy.

The Whire Buffalo (Kino)While it’s not that much of an “obscure” film these days thanks to a few DVD and Blu-Ray disc releases over the years, J. Lee Thompson’s wild fantasy/horror western The White Buffalo goes way the hell out of its way to be as surreal as possible (well, within the confines of a Hollywood studio film, circa 1977). If you’re allergic to allegory and go in expecting it to be a more typical manly-man weekend special Charles Bronson flick, it may likely baffle you with its mystical and more surreal elements even though it definitely delivers the goods on the action front.

If anything, this Dino De Laurentis produced follow up to 1976’s (not quite as classic as the true classic) remake of King Kong suffers from too little scope due in part to a lower budget that, combined with a script that’s not fully fleshed out in spots, doomed it to death by a thousand critics slicing away with pen-knives and audiences who likely were expecting a more commercial flick. Today, it’s a different story as the film has garnered a bit of a cult following, warts and all.

Bronson and Buffalo

One of these hairy dudes is Bronson, the other looks more like a hippie jackalope. Uh, wait. a sec…

Still, it’s an excellent showcase for Bronson, as he completely inhabits the role of an ailing James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok (or, James Otis as his alias here), who, after having recurrent nightmares about the titular creature terrorizing his mind, sets out to kill the beast but good. His competition for the prize: Crazy Horse (Will Sampson), whose infant daughter has been killed along with many of his tribe after a bloody rampage by the seemingly unstoppable, mountain wrecking, avalanche-causing monster.

In a kooky way, it’s more or less Ahab (from Moby Dick) meets Quint (from JAWS), but I don’t want to get too far with the literary or cinematic references even though the film is based off the novel by Richard Sale (who also wrote the screenplay). Let’s just say not every idea gels here, and to quote the late Milton Arbogast,

“You see, if it doesn’t jell, it isn’t aspic, and this ain’t jelling.”

That said, when it does gel, it’s like that time you used three boxes of gelatin and too little water and got something sweet you could bounce a silver dollar off of and have it hit you in the eye (ouch). Painfully palatable is a good description.

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Head to Head (Sort Of): Fast Striker vs. FullBlast (PS4/Vita)

I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?

Fast Striker 01

Pretty, isn’t it? well, it’s also PRETTY FREAKIN’ HARD to an old gleep like me, but I keep playing these shmups because I used to be better at them back in the day.

fast striker PS4First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.

There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):

 

 

Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:

 

 

In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.

fast striiker LE

You’ll want to be a Fast Striker if you need this nifty Limited Edition exclusive from Play-Asia. Better pre-order this now before the scalpers snap them up to resell at ebay prices (ugh).

 

Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).

Score: B (80%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

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Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE: 4K, 3 Ways, On the Way in November

ZOMBIE_MP

If I’m not mistakes, we got a load of these posters in the NYC subways as well when the film was initially released in the US. I’d kill for a few to sell off now. Uh, figure of speech, that.

 

Yum. If you’re an old coot like me (or old enough to remember), this pair of TV ads for Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpiece, ZOMBIE. Hey, even though I was 15 at the time, they both kind of sunk into the memory like a… well, like a zombie munching on some fresh brains. I didn’t actually see the film until a few years later thanks to a friend who had it and a bunch of other horror flicks on a VHS tape he’d put together and, yeah, it was worth the wait.

Between the jump scares and general relentlessness when things got going, Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister) getting it in the eye like Moe Greene, but slower and with a rather pointy piece of wood (ouch), a zombie versus shark scene (no pirates, sorry… but that’s a real shark!), and the classic line delivery early on: “Hey, watch out for the sail!” that kind of starts off this gore-fest in the most comic of manners before things get grim. Yes, there are slow stretches, but the film delivers all the goods when it counts from the icky to the just plain weird (conquistador zombies, ftw!).

 

 

Anyway, the fine folks at Blue Underground and MVD Entertainment Group are releasing not one, not two, but THREE 4K cover variants of the film, newly remastered in 4K and set to crawl your way on November 27, 2018. Actually, there are a whopping SIX variants total when you add in the older 2K BR and DVD versions on the BU site listed here, here, and… wait a sec… HERE. Collect ’em all!

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