domingo, 26 de julho de 2015

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1992, MegaDrive/Genesis] Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#59

As a huge Indiana Jones fan, I was immediately addicted to the ZX Spectrum version of the Last Crusade released after the premiere of the movie, back in 1989.

This new Indiana Jones adventure was available for practically every single 8 and 16 bit systems available, and, on a few 16 bit computers, there was also a graphic adventure edition that I consider to be one of the best point and click adventure games ever made. One of my first videos was about the DOS and Amiga versions of the point and click graphic adventure of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so, if you’re interested to see one of my early reviews, just click on the rectangle.

I’ve, just recently, played the Megadrive/Genesis action game of the Last Crusade that was released 3 years later.  It has some pretty nice tweaks and little details that differ from those home computer ports from ’89.

So, let’s start it up and have a taste of Indy’s whip!

Produced in 1992 by U.S. Gold, it’s an obvious adaptation of the third Indiana Jones movie that I consider to be the best, and it was adapted from that older home computer video game that was released about the same time as the movie itself and took advantage of that. The Action Game of the Last Crusade can be really frustrating and extremely difficult when we try it for the first time, but if you’re an Indiana Jones fan like me, you just won’t quit easily! And, if you love the movie as much as I do, you’ll also enjoy this game!

Indy can punch or use his trustful whip to stun and get rid of all the enemies that prowl in all the five levels of the game. So, we’ll be searching for the Cross of Coronado in Utah, also in Utah try to escape a chase on top of this circus train avoiding the thugs and all the animals, explore the catacombs in Venice, ascend Castle Brunwald in Austria and, finally, get the Holy Grail and rescue Indy’s father from certain death.

Graphically, the megadrive/genesis version of the Last Crusade is simply the best.

Sprites of the enemies and even of Indy could be a lot better for a game that was released 3 years later that the original. But I can live with that, ‘cause the action just compensates that! As for the backgrounds, I found them pretty good and follow the scenes of the movie quite well and with a nice parallax scrooling that was absent from those early versions from 1989. That rain effect on the fourth level in the Castle of Brunwald is nicely done and, again, a better approach to the scenes of the movie.

Now, as for sound and music, some bits were adapted directly from the soundtrack of the movie but with a pretty bad result, and there’s some other tunes that have little or nothing to do with an Indiana Jones adventure. And Sega’s 16 bit console was surely capable of a lot better. As for the sound effects, those are nicely done and just do their job.

So, this multidirectional platform game is quite enjoyable, but for Indiana Jones fans only. It doesn’t bring any newer of fresher stuff to the genre. On the contrary, it brings new stuff to that 1989 original Last Crusade video game released for home computers. So, for this, I consider the megadrive/genesis version the best of them all.

I forgot to mention that in the end of some levels there’s a tougher enemy to kill, and if you’re willing to try it out and need some help to advance to the next level, there’s this combination of button strokes that will provide just that: when the LucasFilm logo appears, press A, B, C - B, C, A - C, A, B, and you’re good to go!

The game is not too bad as most gamers say, but there are a hell lot better platform games for you to enjoy! And, if you want to play an excellent game with Indy, try Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures for the Super Nintendo.

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domingo, 19 de julho de 2015

The Game Over Controversy [1987, multiple 8 bit systems] - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#58

Luis Royo is a Spanish artist, responsible for many astonishing fantasy illustrations published in so many media formats that range from art books and magazines all through music CD covers and video games.

So, in 1987 and in that last area, Dinamic Software hired Royo to create the artwork for their latest title that was about to be released: Game Over.

Adverts on magazines, not only in Spain but also in France and the United Kingdom, was all around and, in this last country, the drawing had a huge negative impact because of the offending portrayal of this awesomely gorgeous girl that was showing more than it would be probably allowed. The game was being published by Imagine Software and it caused a huge controversial wave of negative feedback that also helped selling the game!

Game Over is an amazing action run and gun platformer by Ignácio Ruiz, also know as “Snatcho”, where we play as Arkos, a mega Terminator once faithful to the beautiful and evil Princess Gremla, yes, that one! Our mission is to kill her and put an end to her cruel and oppressive leadership. To do that, we need to fight our way through this linear prison planet called Hypsis engaging these hordes of enemies and reach the end where a ship will transport us to the next planet.

Once arrived into this new world, the planet Sckunn, the challenge is bigger and not as linear as the first one. Gladly, instead of grenades, we managed to get a giant laser which destroys all that crosses our path. Unfortunately this laser is limited. We can only use it twenty five times.

Planet Sckunn is divided into two stages: the Forest and the Palace. We must be very careful not to drown in the first one, so we must avoid the lakes at all costs. Once arrived in the Palace, there are elevators that takes us, you guessed it, to different floors. Be aware of mines that are scattered around the palace and will obviously explode when touched!

But, before we slain the evil Princess, let’s take a deeper look into her controversial portrait. That original artwork appeared, 3 years earlier, on a cover of Heavy Metal, an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine that is around since April of 1977. Because of its “adult illustrated fantasy” content, there was never any type of fuss around its covers’ possible visual disturbance. But, when that same drawing ended up on an inlay of a ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX and Commodore 64 video game, intended for kids, and with Imagine’s quality seal, the negative impact was huge! Nonetheless, it also helped to sell lots of copies!

Something had to be done quickly to reduce that negative impact that Game Over’s cover made in the United Kingdom, even after a huge poster had been offered to the readers of issue 21 of Your Sinclair magazine. That meant that almost every bedroom in UK had a Game Over poster with Princess Gremla in all her glory!

Retailers demanded that cassette and disk inlays started being printed with Dinamic’s logo on top of the offending nipple and, as well in some covers with a screenshot of the game itself. At the same time, art editor of Crash Magazine, Oli Frey, was working over the original Luis Royo artwork placing a kind of steel plate putting an end to the controversy.. kind of.

Game Over ended up winning the award for best advert and best video game cover of the year by readers of Crash Magazine.

The game was also available for DOS, but only in Spain. This port was developed by Pedro Sudón and has graphics taken directly from the ZX Spectrum version.

I’ll soon be covering with more detail this topic about video game cover art from mid-eighties to early nineties that was, for me, the most incredible and competitive Era with so many great artists leaving their mark in the video game industry.

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segunda-feira, 13 de julho de 2015

Video Game Pickups #5 - 22 Games + Awesome Retro Stuff - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#57

Let's take a look at my new T-Shirt & the 22 video games, and other gaming related stuff, that I've added to my collection over the last three months! There's stuff for the PC, original XBOX, XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC!


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segunda-feira, 6 de julho de 2015

E3 Retrospective, Part 2: 2006-2015 - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#56

Let's take a journey through time and watch the 2nd Part of Pixel THING's E3 retrospective. In this one I'll be covering years from 2006 to 2015.

On last week’s episode of It's a Pixel THING:
• A silhouette on a window of a shaking cabin;
• Summer arrived in style;
• The War of the Worlds meets the Terminator;
• And a guy shoots this dude for riding is skate.

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii were the most coveted items of 2006’s E3.
By that time, Microsoft’s console was the only one that was already available in stores and its main weapon were the exclusives Fable 2, Halo 3 and Peter Moore’s announcement that Grand Theft Auto IV would have exclusive future episodic content through Xbox Live. Obviously, those were later also available for PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs.
However, all the attention was towards the Nintendo Wii. Huge lines, with up to four hours of wait time, formed just to try out this revolutionary console. Even Steven Spielberg wanted to test this motion sensitive controller that the Wii is best known for! It was, without any doubt, the center of all game related things at E3 that year. Wii Sports, a Wii adapted version of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3; these were Nintendo’s highlights. They’ve also announced the Nintendo’s DS Lite availability in US territory, never mentioning Wii’s price. This was reserved for later in the year, closer to its launch.
Microsoft’s press conference was all about games and, also, featured Bill Gates’ announcement of the Live Anywhere service that would bring closer together their 7th generation console and PCs via the upcoming Windows Vista operating system.
As for Sony, they’ve announced PS3 prices and revealed the SixAxis motion sensing controller that was later dropped off and swapped by the version 3 of the good old DualShock with vibration capabilities.
Besides all games mentioned before, there were others that also deserve some recognition: God of War II, Guitar Hero 2, Assassin’s Creed, Crysis, Battlefield 2142, Gears of War, Red Steel, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters.
July of 2006 was also stage for two awfully sad announcements by the ESA, the Entertainment Software Association: the transformation of the Electronic Entertainment Expo into an invite-only event, to reduce crowd; and the banishing of booth babes.

So, 2007’s E3 moved to Santa Monica and was consequently labeled as Media and Business Summit, dedicated to a restrict group of journalists. In consequence, after the 60 thousand visitors of the past year, 2007’s E3 had only 10 thousand people walking through these corridors during those 3 days.
Events and press conferences took place in various hotels in Santa Monica, rather than at a specific central location, and small independent developers were hampered and stifled by the big boys. This fact was highly criticized by Maxis’ co-founder Will Wright.
Spite these changes and controversy, E3 was stage of a few good video game announcements by Sony and Microsoft: MotorStorm, that would come bundled with a new 80 GB PS3, Halo 3 and Halo Wars, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Fallout 3, Silent Hill: Origins, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Bioshock, Gran Turismo 5, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Resident Evil 5 and Soul Calibur IV, to name a few.
On the Nintendo side, there were some peripheral announcements for the Wii: the Wii Wheel bundled with the brand new Mario Kart Wii, the Wii Balance Board and the Wii Zapper. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption were also demoed and deserve being mentioned.

Second year of the new E3 format that only had around 5000 attendees, 50% less than 2007’s event.
Again in LA, and apart from all that criticism, an exclusive Nintendo DS Grand Theft Auto game was announced – Chinatown Wars – that is still considered the best title for that handheld! It was later also available for the Sony PSP and other portable devices, such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and Android based smartphones and tablets.
Nintendo also announced the Wii Speak and the Wii MotionPlus expansion device, for more accurate movement. Also a Wii Music demo was presented, along with some other goodies: Animal Crossing: City Folk, The Conduit and Wii Sports Resort.
Besides announcements of big updates for Xbox Life and for the PlayStation Network, news from Microsoft and Sony were basically in the form of sequels for their greatest franchises: Resistance 2, Fallout 3, Fable 2, Ratchet & Clank (future): Quest for Booty, Gears of War 2, Resident Evil 5, Saints Row 2, Final Fantasy XIII and a tiny sneak peek of God of War III.

The old E3 is back! (Booth babes)
And, with it, awesome game announcements: Assassin’s Creed 2, Forza MotorSports 3, Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP, teaser trailers for Crysis 2 and Halo: Reach, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros Wii, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Heavy Rain, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, The Beatles: Rock Band, with the presence of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr themselves on the stage of Microsoft’s press conference, and Red Dead Redemption.
It was also the year for unveilings of motion sensor controllers: Project Natal from Microsoft and Sony’s PlayStation Move. Sony also revealed their new PSP Go handheld.
This year, UbiSoft and Electronic Arts had also press conferences of their own and was the first time we’ve had a glimpse to The Last Guardian, the spiritual sequel to Shadow of the Colossus.
Now… where were we? (booth babes)

Two days before the beginning of the actual 2010’s E3 event, Microsoft’s press conference convinced the audience with its presentation of the Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal, and various demos were presented live on stage: Dance Central, Kinectimals, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Star Wars. If that wasn’t enough, a new slimmer version of the Xbox 360 was also unveiled and the upcoming Gears of War 3 was announced.
Nintendo centered its conference on the new 3DS system and the re-release of classic titles like Donkey Kong, not forgetting the usual announcement of a new Zelda game: Skyward Sword for the Wii, but, due to wireless interferences, some technical issues occurred.
After Gabe Newell’s statement that it was “a waste of time” to develop games for the PlayStation 3, he made an appearance at Sony’s press conference to announce that PS3’s Portal 2 was the best console version! Another awesome moment was Kevin Butler’s inspiring message to all gamers (video)
There was also time for Konami’s disastrous presentation. I’m not gonna comment this. It’s so freaking stupid!
Let’s just forget that this happened and watch some highlights of a few of the most important video games present: Mafia 2, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Test Drive Unlimited 2, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Fallout: New Vegas, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the reboot of Twisted Metal. As you can see, reboots and remakes came a long way.

Another year for portable systems from Nintendo and Sony, leaving Microsoft a step back and completely loosing that year’s E3. But, spite weak Kinect demonstrations, the brand unveiled Halo 4, Forza 4 and the final release date for Gears of War 3.
Sony’s brand new handheld, the Vita, was announced and a partnership with AT&T was received with laughs by the journalists present at the brand’s press conference. However, this was probably the most impressive piece of technology present at E3 that year.
As for Nintendo’s Wii U, it was the first 8th generation console to be announced. It was also Nintendo’s very first high-definition system that features this unique gamepad with an embedded touchscreen that can, in supported games, be used independently of the main display. Aside from a bunch of Wii U demonstrations and the celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda (trailer of Skyward Sword), the 3DS also had their own spotlights: Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and Star Fox 64 3D.
This was a year of other big video game announcements: remember Duke Nukem Forever? It was finally released later that year! Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City, (The Elder Scrolls V) Skyrim, the reboot of Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

This was a quiet year. People were expecting major console announcements from Sony and from Microsoft. Nintendo, on the other hand, completely lost the opportunity to really stand out and only showed a slightly improved version of their U console, with some tweaks to its controller and main unit. However, three titles did impress the crowd: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3 and Rayman Legends.
So, the main attractions were the games! And, the one that made people’s eyes pop out was Watch Dogs, with its unique style of gameplay in this beautifully designed open world environment.
Besides Ubisoft’s innovative game, other amazing products were revealed: Beyond: Two Souls, Resident Evil 6, Forza Horizon, The Last of Us, Dance Central 3 – with a special demonstration by Usher (Microsoft Press Conference) –, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Assassin’s Creed 3, Crysis 3, God of War: Ascension, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Far Cry 3.

Finally, the 8th generation arrived in great style.. at least, for Sony!
2013’s E3 was one the most anticipated ever. But Microsoft’s recent announcement of DRM implementation and always-online requirement for its new XBOX One console automatically opened the doors to Sony’s PlayStation 4 ascent to victory, not mentioning Xbox One’s 499 dollars starting price against PS4’s 399.
Nintendo also had a bland E3 with few attractive moments. A new Pokémon (X and Y) for the 3DS and, for the Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros., Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8.
Nonetheless, Microsoft should be proud of their own Xbox One launch titles presented: Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, a brand new Halo (5) game and the reboot of Killer Instinct as a free-to-play title that has all game modes available but only one playable character. Its presentation, however, was stained by an unfortunate comment made during the on-stage demonstration.
Konami also celebrated its 40th birthday and showed off some titles like, for instance, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Other amazing video games were announced: Need for Speed: Rivals, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Trials Fusion, Battlefield 4, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Infamous: Second Son, Titanfall, The Crew, The Order: 1868, The Division, Gran Turismo 6, The Wolf Among Us, the remake of Rise of the Triad and the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 5.

Last year’s E3 was one of those that I really enjoy watching. So many games displayed, so many game announcements and so many promises from the main players.
Gamers were amazed by the quantity, but, mainly, by the quality of the titles that were showcased. Microsoft and Sony pulled off interesting press conferences with pretty solid announcements and video game unveilings. As for Nintendo and just like in last year’s E3, they’ve opted for a pre-recorded presentation of their novelties and made also some interesting announcements like: Hyrule Warriors, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Xenoblade Chronicles X, the next Legend of Zelda for Wii U, Mario Party 10 and Star Fox Wii U, not mentioning this fever called Amiibo.
So, I’m just gonna point out a few titles from a huge list of awesome games that were announced and others that had a playable version available at the show floor: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Batman: Arkham Knight, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, Bloodborne, The Evil Within, Elite Dangerous, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Driveclub, Halo 5: Guardians, Mortal Kombat 10, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Sims 4, Far Cry 4 and Alien: Isolation.
Also a trailer for GTA V was shown, announcing that a polished version of the game would later be available for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Grand Theft Auto 5 was initially launched in September of 2013 and sold, ‘til 6 of june of 2015, for all platforms altogether, more than 52 million copies. What a feat!

And we’ve reached 2015. And what a show it was, starting right off with Oculus VR hosting a pre-E3 press conference unveiling the Rift’s final version and showing off all its power through some on-stage demonstrations.
Bethesda also hosted its very first E3 press conference and ended up blowing everyone away with this DOOM trailer and the official announcement of the release date of Fallout 4.
But two of the biggest highlights of the show were Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox One backward compatibility and Microsoft HoloLens that was also nicely received by Minecraft fans, in which I’m not included. My thing is more towards this nice Rare compilation of old gems from the past (Rare Replay).
Then the Electronic Arts conference came along and I simply had to grab my nuts from the ground after this mind-blowing demo of Battlefront. Apart from this, I just can’t quite remember what really happened in EA’s conference... I remember Pelé being there trying to say something to the audience, and… that’s pretty much it!
I really hope that Electronic Arts had learned something from this year’s Ubisoft presentation. That was one hell of a press conference, with awesome and confident hosting from Miss Aisha Tyler that took us all through this journey of awesome titles: For Honor, (Tom Clancy’s) Ghost Recon Wildlands and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, besides others.
Now, as for Sony, it just set the whole place on fire: The Last Guardian haven’t died spite all the difficulties that the development team had while working on it for the PS3. It seems that Gabe Newell’s previous statement, back in 2010, was real! Then, the place completely exploded when Shenmue 3 was announced! And that wasn’t the end of it: Final Fantasy 7 HD Remake was unveiled! Looks like Sony had been listening to fans! And, to conclude this astonishing press conference, a rolling demo of Uncharted 4 was revealed. What a ride!
Oh! I almost forgot about Nintendo! What can I say about that pre-recorded video? Hummm… it was bad. Nintendo was completely unrecognizable this year. Practically passed unnoticed ‘cause Sony’s press conference was still in everyone’s minds! That was probably the biggest problem for Nintendo, from where I’m standing.
Moving on, other titles must be, as well, highlighted: Forza 6, Dark Souls 3, The Division, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gears of War 4, Need for Speed, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, The Crew: Wild Run, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Battlefield Hardline, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Mass Effect: Andromeda and King’s Quest.

And this wraps up my 20-year Retrospective of E3.

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