ARTICLE: Custom NES Consoles

The original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of the most iconic games consoles ever. For most enthusiasts keeping their consoles in pristine condition is paramount but for some people they prefer to make their NES one of a kind. This has lead to some stunning customized examples made by some truly talented people. Here are a few I have found primarily from Google.


Perhaps the customized NES is the “Nintoaster” made famous of course by the Angry Video Game Nerd.

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There are many who think that Zelda is the flagship franchise of Nintendo as opposed to Mario and so a number of fans have customized their consoles accordingly.

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Other franchises of course have their fans. Here is a TMNT example, a Punisher example and a stunning glow-in-the dark Tron example.

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Some have gone to the extreme of customizing their NES to look like other consoles. Here is an interesting Playstation 2 replica and one that appears to replicate the Sega Master System colours (the NES’ biggest rival).

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GAME REVIEW: Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere

Completing the reviews of the three Ace Combat games on the original Playstation Tony Wilkins reviews the final installment and discusses the sad story around it’s European and North American version.


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Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere was launched in Japan in 1999 with North American and European versions hitting the shops a few months later in early 2000. Since then it has become perhaps the most controversial title among fans of the franchise outside of Japan. An aggressive marketing campaign throughout 1999 promised that this was going to be a quantum leap over the well received Ace Combat 2 and in many ways it was. I shall go in to detail as to why it is perhaps the most notorious of the three PSX Ace Combat games later. Firstly, let’s review Ace Combat 3 in it’s PAL format as I had it.

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Everything about this game was a departure from the previous two titles. Instead of being a mercenary pilot fighting rebels in a semi-realistic world the story is set in 2040 A.D. and the player is a member of a military police force known as U.P.E.O. (Universal Peace Enforcement Organization). The job of the U.P.E.O. is to maintain peace between two super-corporations known as Neucom and General Resource who both have vast armies and are in a state of ‘cold war’. Recently however another faction has appeared, the mysterious Ouroborus terrorist organization, that has its own agenda.

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Gameplay is vastly superior to the previous two titles. This was the first game to feature the 360 degree camera angle which meant you didn’t spend lots of time with no enemies on your screen while you chased an arrow as was the case in the previous games. It also meant you could explore this futuristic world more fully providing you used the Dualshock controller. The engine was changed also to give each aircraft a more distinctive feel. You could also perform tail slides for the first time which better replicated real aircraft although you have to be mindful of this during low level flying otherwise you go slamming in to the ground. You also had some weapon options to equip your aircraft which was a welcome new feature to the franchise.

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It is clear that in 2000 the PSX was starting to show its age and looking at some of the ground scenes of this game you can see that Namco were really reaching the limits with what the PSX could do. At altitude the ground looked great but that quality deteriorates as you get down lower with very little curvature in the buildings and landscapes. In truth this is trying to be a Playstation 2 type game but within the limits of the PSX. The aircraft are beautiful however with a mix of modern and futuristic types and unlike in the previous games there is a more distinct feeling between them. The old HUD screen is gone replaced by a far more futuristic one that takes full advantage of the 360 degree capability.The game did include a small number of beautifully rendered cutscenes.

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On the surface then this game has more or less everything going for it. So why is there such disdain from western fans? Well what it boils down to is that what we got in the west was a bare shell of the game. The Japanese version of the game is a fully interactive affair with the player making choices in the battle that affect the outcome of the game. As such there are not just a greater number of missions but there are alternate endings. For most western fans however this is still not what is missed the most.

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The Japanese version was more than just a game where the player made decisions. It featured numerous animated cutscenes produced by the world famous Production I.G. studio responsible for the Ghost in the Shell movies and series. The whole story/game feels like it could be a part of that world as well as the Ace Combat universe. The game even came with a book outlining the histories of the characters. There was so much to this story and we missed it over here.

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Reasons that Namco gave for their decision to cut all this out of the western versions are the worst kind in that they do make sense for the most part. Firstly, Namco knew that the PSX days were nearly up as the Playstation 2 was coming out in 2000 and therefore they decided not to go to the expense of translating the whole game. There were also some unspecified legal obstacles that didn’t seem worth the hassle and these are presumably with Production I.G. as this was the only collaborative effort of the series. Namco also seriously underestimated the reception the game would receive in the west and probably knew they had made a mistake afterwards as Namco did acknowledge the disappointment of western fans. A real shame.

Ok – in summary. This game was a vast improvement over the much loved Ace Combat 2 with with its physics and options. Even in its limited PAL format the game is very fun and probably one of the most challenging of the entire franchise but not in a frustrating way like Air Combat was. Sadly this game’s production history has mired its enjoyment because you know there is so much more out there for it that unless you speak Japanese you can’t enjoy. I wish that Namco had held off on this and instead launched it on the Playstation 2 taking full advantage of that system’s power and justifying the expense of translating it. I think it would have produced it’s own series of games set in this realm which we haven’t been able to explore since.

REVIEW: Star Trek Enterprise “Cold Station 12”

Tony Wilkins continues his review of probably the best story arc of “Star Trek: Enterprise”, that of the Augments, with part 2. WARNING: This will contain spoilers (it’s about time I put one of these in the intro).


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“Cold Station 12” has the unenviable task of being the middle segment of the arc. There have always been risks with three-parters and more often than not it is a week middle episode. In the case of the Augment arc however this is largely irrelevant as the first episode concentrated so much on the Orion rescue story that it effectively had a stand alone feel to it. It is safe to say therefore that “Cold Station 12” is really where the Augment story arc truly begins with no more side stories. True we needed the introduction of our newest characters in “Borderland” but know we can get on with it.

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So let’s break it down. The episode is named after the facility where the embryos for the Augments were stored after the Eugenics Wars (presumably they were moved there from a facility on Earth after Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight). It is Soong’s plan to steal the rest of them and raise them elsewhere but in order to do that he must penetrate the station’s defenses. The station is now under the command of Jeremy Lucas, the man we have seen Phlox writing to in several episodes. Lucas holds out from revealing the security codes until Enterprise can arrive but despite Enterprise’s interference Soong escapes with the embryos.

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This episode is really the story of Soong learning what his ‘children’ have become without his guidance. You can’t help but feel for him at times as you watch the fatherly pride he had in “Borderland” start to break down as he sees the truth. It begins with him learning that Malik has killed his brother who was the former leader of the Augments but Malik lies about how it happened and while Soong suspects this he refuses to face that truth. As they take the station he starts to learn the cruel side of Malik and the Augments and this is topped by the discovery of ‘Smike’ – the Augment who was not good enough to stay part of the group back on the planet. This was one of the best aspects of this episode as Soong goes from being an unlikeable character to one that plays on your sympathies. Soong’s journey in this episode is crucial to a point that will arise in the final episode.

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In my review of “Borderland” I said that Star Trek Into Darkness felt like it was linked to the Augment arc in some way. Nowhere is this more clear than in a scene early on in this episode where Soong is discussing ways of getting in to Cold Station 12 with his ‘children’ and Malik recommends destroying the life support system and waiting for everyone to suffocate so they can walk in (in space suits presumably) unopposed. Now when I see this scene I can hear Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan Singh saying,

“I shall walk over your cold corpses”

It is uncanny how both Khan and Malik had a similar plan and while I know it wasn’t a deliberate link I do like that it is there.

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This was an above average violent episode for Star Trek. Whereas in most episodes characters get a punch and have a slight cut on their faces in this we see Lucas get a real beating with numerous cuts and bruises while suffering severe pain from internal injuries. If that wasn’t enough we also get a scientist getting killed in horrific fashion by one of the diseases stored there. It’s worth mentioning that a lot of this was cut out for airing in the UK so there were censors worried about it in what is still considered a family show. I would not say that the violence was gratuitous but was the right amount to serve its purpose of forcing Lucas to reveal the codes and to help further divide Malik and Soong.

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The action sequences in the asteroid field between the Bird-of-prey and Enterprise were stunning to watch and I would go as far as to say they are one of the best looking of the entire series. Sadly they are short in length as the bulk of the action happens on Cold Station 12. One continuing criticism I have of Star Trek Enterprise as a series is that Scott Bakula can’t do tough in my honest opinion. So everytime he appears to be sacrificing himself I just don’t believe it like I would if it was any of the other four captains. I hate saying it because I was a huge fan of Scott Bakula during his Quantum Leap days but he was not suited to the role of a Star Trek captain. He just doesn’t carry the authority of Patrick Stewart or Avery Brooks.

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This episode had some wonderful scenes to it. Of particular note for me was the scene in which Captain Archer discusses Denobulan uses of genetic engineering and how it has benefited their race. We can see already how we get from Earth’s total ban on genetic engineering in the 22nd century to how in the 24th century Federation policy is that it is to be used to correct birth defects and tackle diseases thanks to Denobulan influence. The same happens with the Vulcan’s non-interference directive becoming the prime directive.

This was a good episode with a lot of drama. It really was Brent Spiner’s episode and it’s to his credit that this one worked so well. Watching all three episodes back to back you really see why Soong decides to make the decisions he will make in part 3 and Malik’s growing rebelliousness is an obvious portent for the future. In truth it was obvious from the start as you ask “Will Augments so disgusted by ‘normal’ people really follow someone who isn’t an Augment forever?”

 

GAME REVIEW: Ace Combat 2

Tony Wilkins continues his reviews of the Ace Combat franchise with a review of Ace Combat 2 on the Playstation.


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Ace Combat 2 followed hot on the heels of its predecessor being released less than two years after the original Air Combat in 1997. As I said in my review of that title the game had lots of promise and to a large extent that promise was realized in this follow-up. So let’s dive in to Ace Combat 2.

Firstly the plot remains almost the same as in the first game in that you are a member of an elite mercenary group who have been called upon to help turn the tide against a well organized and equipped rebel force. When I played this back in my youth I will be honest and say that I rarely paid any attention to the story. These early games in the series were more about the action than the cinematic elements that came later. Another thing as well is that Namco has done a lot of retconing in recent years adding more detailed information to the story of Ace Combat 2 that didn’t actually feature in the game itself such as details over the Ulysses asteroid that makes its game appearance in Ace Combat 4. So in this case the story is just there to give you a reason to be fighting as in the first game.

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It is from here however that Ace Combat 2 becomes unrecognizable from the first installment. Almost every aspect of the game has been improved upon. The aircraft look sleeker and more detailed and have additional animation such as air brakes and moving wings for those aircraft like the F-14 Tomcat and Tornado F.3. The scenery is also a vast improvement on Air Combat being far more textured and detailed. The controls have been left virtually untouched so if you have mastered the fully three dimensional EXPERT setting of Air Combat then you will have no trouble playing this. The biggest change seems to be in the gameplay itself with the environment feeling much bigger and your aircraft can finally pull up without stalling at ninety degrees which was the biggest pain in the rear in the first game. Sadly two features remain the same and that is you still have only one type of missile which can be used against air and ground targets and the camera view remains fixed to the forward position.

This was the first game to introduce several features that would continue in to future installments. It introduced the concept of Ace enemy pilots that you have to shoot down to gain medals. It also introduced the series’ first playable super fighter in the form of the XFA-27 which has the unique feature of firing four missiles before reloading as opposed to two in all the other aircraft. It was also the first to offer the player a choice in mission route by joining one of two advances on the enemy each with their own mission path. Sadly however this would be the last time we got to see the Ace Combat Phoenix logo. I liked it.

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One complaint Namco took seriously was that Air Combat seemed to be rather short and so Ace Combat 2 comes with an abundance of missions. This is a good and bad thing however. If I was honest a few of the missions do feel a bit samey after a while and you start to wonder if there was any point to them other than to make the game feel longer. Some missions are really involving however and perhaps the most memorable is the shooting down of the cruise missile which you have to close in on and hit with guns. Tricky at first but once you have done it a couple of times you get the knack of it and it doesn’t become a problem. When you do fail though you are treated to a beautiful FMV of the missile with its multiple warheads destroying a city.

In conclusion Ace Combat 2 was the game Air Combat wanted to be. It is far superior to it’s predecessor but it would be Ace Combat 3 that would fully realize the franchise’s potential on the first generation Playstation but that has its own sad story which I will be going in to in my next review. If you do find this in a car boot sale or flea market somewhere I would highly recommend picking it up.

 

NEWS: Star Trek Axanar

Tony Wilkins looks at the exciting new Star Trek fan film series with its cast of sci-fi veterans from both Star Trek and BSG.

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Whenever people ask me what I am looking forward to in the future and I respond with “Star Trek Axanar” I usually get the same response, “Is that the new Star Trek film?” It’s then I have to explain that rather than a big budget Hollywood production it is in fact a fan film and that’s when they sigh. It’s true fan films (like fan fiction) is a mixed bag with some good and some bad. In the last few years however Star Trek fan films have not only increased in number but they have increased in quality. Gone are the Playstation One effects and dodgy sets. Fan series like the ever impressive “Star Trek Phase II” have raised the bar so high that many of them now have the quality of a lot of tv series these days. We are truly in the era of the fan film and this has attracted mainstream actors to volunteer their time (as these are non-profit affairs) to star in them either as a way of promoting their talent or because like us they too are fans.

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So now we have “Star Trek: Axanar” on the horizon and by looking at the recent trailer on YouTube we are in for a treat. According to the website for Axanar;

“Axanar” tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart.  Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time.

It is the year 2245, four years into the war with the Klingons.

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The story is certainly an ambitious one but if any cast can pull it off this one can. The cast line up is a list of sci-fi gold with veterans of Star Trek and the remake of Battlestar Galactica headlining the project. Richard Hatch who is best known for playing Apollo in classic BSG and Tom Zarek in the remake plays Klingon Commander Kharn. Kharn has a few lines in the trailer and boy does Hatch nail it. I think he will prove one of the highlights of this movie but he is not the only one. Kate Vernon and her BSG ‘husband’ Michael Hogan both make appearances with Hogan playing Captain Robert April who in Treklore was Captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 when it was first launched. J.G. Hertzler returns although for once he is not playing a Klingon and I am grateful they didn’t just make him Kharn. A surprise for me was seeing Gary Graham resume his role as Ambassador Soval from “Star Trek Enterprise”. Judging by the trailer this will be Tony Todd’s film however and he delivers a powerful, hair raising speech that caught me from start to finish.

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“Axanar” looks set for a 2015 release at the earliest it having already had to be put back a bit. I think it will be worth the wait. In my experience fan films are made by fans for fans and therefore often have the best stories and that’s why we love Star Trek. The look is clearly going for a hybrid of original series with elements of J.J. Abrams styles. Several ships are based on Abramsverse designs but are made to look more original series.

Check out the trailer and see for yourself.

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REVIEW: Star Trek Enterprise “Borderland”

In the first of a trilogy Tony Wilkins reviews the Augment story arc from the final season of Enterprise.


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It is safe to say that by the end of Season 3 of Enterprise Trekkies everywhere had become polarized by the show. They either loved it or hated it. Now I will confess I struggled to keep up with the episodes being aired here in the UK because it was the only Trek not to appear on the BBC instead appearing on Channel 4 which is notorious for never keeping a regular timeslot for shows like this. They did the same with Angel and Babylon 5 and it hurt ratings accordingly. This coupled with my general lack of enthusiasm from some of the episodes I had watched and my total boredom over the Temporal Cold War arc meant that Enterprise fell off my radar with my Trek times instead being covered by repeats of DS9 and TNG. In all honesty Enterprise was not the first of my beloved Trek that I lost interest in as there were many episodes of Voyager’s last series that I missed because that seemed to have run out of steam for me as well.

Anyway, skip forward about six years after Enterprise died (almost unnoticed by myself) and I find Season 4 on sale in a bargain DVD price bin and so I thought Why not. Having endured the God awful first episode with it’s only saving grace being the end of that Temporal Cold War arc, my hopes were not high for how much I would enjoy this series. Then I hit “Borderland”. Boy did my opinion change.

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“Borderland” continues to tell the story of the Augments such as Khan and the subsequent Eugenics Wars; a topic frequently discussed by Trekkies everywhere. DS9 had touched on the topic with Bashir and his group of misfits but that was in a 24th century context and didn’t really address the past. Now in a way my loss of interest when this first aired was an advantage as by the time i got the DVDs I had no idea about the story and more importantly no idea who was the main guest star. So from the moment the teaser starts and we see the two Augments kill an entire crew of Klingons in spectacular fashion I knew that if anything was going to change my mind about Enterprise it would be this. After the much loathed opening credits we then see the man himself Brent Spiner as Arik Soong. I was admittedly dubious about this at first as I wondered if I was only going to see Data the whole time but to Spiner’s credit I knew this was another character altogether after only a few lines of dialogue. Brent Spiner and Scott Bakula (Captain Archer) had wonderful screen presence in this episode. Watching the two of them working off one another was a real treat and I admit from the moment they left Soong’s cell I was intrigued. I was glued to my screen and nothing was going to get me away from it.

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From there on however the episode concentrates more on rescuing crewmembers taken prisoner by the Orions for being sold as slaves. At first I was a little annoyed by this as it distracted from the far more interesting story of going after the Augments but as the episode played out I realized it was necessary in order to give us time aboard the captured Bird-of-prey to get to know our Augments. So what do I think of them? The only thing I didn’t like was their costumes. They looked like they had been pulled off a Mad Max movie and I kept thinking that if they are as smart as they are supposed to be then surely one of them could sow. That was my only complaint though. Other than that I thought they were brilliant and while clearly an homage to Khan and his crew from “Star Trek II” they had their own dynamic which I liked. Malik was a true megalomaniac in the style of Khan himself although with a tad more recklessness. It’s clear that Alec Newman had a lot of fun playing him. Abby Brammell is insanely beautiful and deadly as Persis but at the same time she does have that vulnerable side to her and we will see more of that in later episodes involving Soong. At this point I should mention the ship which I think looked both mean and accurate for being a predecessor of the Bird-of-prey we first saw in “Star Trek III”. I would have preferred a more smoother D7-esque design to help establish a design lineage but that is nitpicking.

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I know I said earlier that I wasn’t that happy about the Orion slave rescue story but it was fun to watch. The Orions are old school favorites and their appearance in this episode is the first of a massive assault by the Enterprise writers in Season 4 to get the show to feel more like Star Trek (oh if only they had done that in Season 1). The rescue is comical at times particularly how Archer stops Soong from escaping. I did like how Soong was portrayed by the writers and Spiner. I genuinely felt like Soong was familiar with the Orions and not just saying so. I am not a wrestling fan but I guess I should mention that ‘Big Show’ appeared as one of the Orions picking up Jolene Blalock’s relatively tiny frame when she was on sale. To be honest he was a lot of fun to watch and really threw himself in to it.

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After the rescue they finally meet up with the Augments and Archer comes face to face with Malik. I have always loved Star Trek when there are two actors working off one another debating a good topic. That’s what Star Trek is about; philosophy. To prove this one of my favorite episodes of Trek ever is the DS9 episode “Duet” where Kira is interrogating a Cardassian war criminal. It was beautiful. In this episode we had two great scenes like this first with Archer and Soong and now with Archer and Malik. It is topped by Malik with the great line;

To quote one of your philosophers, Nietzsche: “Mankind is something to be surpassed”

The episode of course ends with Soong being rescued by his ‘children’ and the threat of all out war with the Klingons now seeming unavoidable. If that wasn’t bad enough then we find out Soong’s plan is to recover the rest of his ‘children’ at Cold Station 12. It was such a dark note to end on and I loved it. This really was the episode that revived my interest in Enterprise. It had action, drama, a familiar face and some philosophy rolled into a well paced episode. One final note; when I watched “Star Trek Into Darkness” for the first time I couldn’t help but feel like this followed on from the Augment episodes. Now that can’t be bad since in the new timeline only Enterprise remains canon because it happened before Nero destroyed the Kelvin.

 

GAME REVIEW: Air Combat (Ace Combat 1)

Tony Wilkins reviews the first of one of his favorite video game series.


 

OK I will get this off my chest right at the start – I hate the Afterburner series. I know that they have become arcade classics but it was a relentless shoot ’em up; A glitzier version of countless Atari games where you control a tank/gun/etc and shoot at hordes of enemies. BORING!

So when the Playstation arrived and with it came Ace Combat (Air Combat as the PAL version was called) I had my doubts. I feared another Afterburner clone like the Mega Drive’s G-LOCK. Then I saw the trailer which was actually the opening movie and boy did it look good. The opening video is excellent given its early Playstation era origin. It is smooth, clear and exciting. Suddenly I was excited about the game and had to play it. I wasn’t disappointed. Instead of a horizontally scrolling game shooting formations of enemies like Afterburner I was treated to a fully 3D environment with a variety of enemies. I was hooked and my love of the series grew and grew right up until it nosedived with Ace Combat 6 on the X Box 360 but that’s another article. Right now I am concentrating on the first installment.

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From the retro gamers point of view how does Air Combat hold up today? Well the truth is you can tell it is very early Playstation era in its gameplay. The controls are a bit clunky at times and I don’t think it really pushes the Playstation far beyond what was achieved by the SNES. There are two settings for the controls one of which gives you full control over pitch, yaw and roll while another is for those who find this setting difficult. In all honesty I found this NOVICE setting extremely frustrating as the aircraft doesn’t always roll for you and this leaves enemies racing underneath you. My advice is spend a few minutes getting used to the EXPERT setting I assure you it will be worth it.

The 3D environments remind me a lot of Star Fox in their layout but keeping it in context it is still pretty good. My biggest criticism of the environments is depth perception. If you are flying low you can suddenly find you have crashed without realizing how far away the ground was. One thing me and my friends absolutely loathed was the two player versus mode in which you fight it out in a giant crater that you can’t escape – WHY? You spend more time trying to avoid the crater walls than actually fighting it out which would have been much more fun. Fortunately this never made it on to any of the other games.

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The aircraft themselves have a swanky paint scheme which I wish was an option in the later games purely for nostalgia purposes as it does look pretty cool. For those who wanted a more traditional scheme for their aircraft there was a cheat code available to return them to their pre-purchase colours. The aircraft handle quite well although I sense some of the earlier aircraft have been deliberately stiffened to make the more advanced aircraft feel better. Pulling up almost always induces a stall at 90 degrees but you find ways around it by remembering to turn as you climb and keep the nose around 80 degrees with the power up. The aircraft have just one type of missile and this can be used for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Targets have varying degrees of armour so your main targets will require more hits than just your bog standard enemies. Failing that you can resort to your guns to finish them off.

I would have liked the story to be more involving somehow. This game established the elite mercenary theme for the series that remained for most of them only to get abolished altogether when it hit the X Box 360. Basically a civil war has erupted in some undisclosed country and you are one of the world’s premier fighter pilots who have been hired to turn the tide. I found it interesting as it reminded me of Area 88 one of my favorite animes and I wish there was more to it but that’s a minor criticism if I was honest about it.

In conclusion Air Combat was a breath of fresh air to the console flight sim genre (in that it was close to the combat PC flight sims as you could get). The games that followed this one in the series were marked improvements but this remains one I remember fondly if only for the fact that it gave us a taste of what was coming.

QUOTES; The Tick (Live Action) – “The Terror”

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SYNOPSIS; One year after The Tick arrived in The City his three partners in crimefighting meet up on the rooftop with a cake to surprise the big blue guy. Enjoying a drink and a bit of cake the four of them recount the events immediately after the pilot episode and in the aftermath of Apocalypse Cow’s attack specifically how Arthur knew he wanted to be asuperhero with Tick and the others while Captain Liberty reveals she didn’t immediately take to Tick. To prove it she challenges him to face the most feared villain in history – The Terror (played beautifully by Armin Shimmerman).

5. Arthur is broken! Gimme two hundred cc’s of tender loving care, stat!
– The Tick as Arthur is wheeled in to hospital after facing Apocalypse Cow.

4. Good Lord, man, retain that anus! One day its fruit may be the only thing that stands between us and total oblivion!
The Tick after Arthur admits he wishes he wasn’t so anal retentive.

3. Vending machine coffee…It has come to this.
– Batmanuel at the hospital before being gassed by The Terror

2. Look at me; I need a machine to poop but that’s not going to stop me. I’m going to get right back out there. Granted this machine will be a bit of a burden.
– Metcalfe in the superhero ward of the hospital

1. Bah, I’ll fold you in to my wallet and spend you on a whore
– The Terror threatening the Tick and Arthur

GAME REVIEW: The Flintstones

Tony Wilkins reviews the Flintstones game on the Sega Master System


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Realism – it has been the holy grail of the video game world from the very beginning. With each new console release at some point the words “…even more realistic than ever” is often thrown around in the marketing campaign. There are some games where realism is important such as simulation and racing games. But the Flintstones? On the Master System? By now you are probably wondering where this is going so I will tell you.

The first level is painting a wall.

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Yeah I’m letting that sink in a minute. In the first level you have Wilma nagging at Fred (you) to paint a wall but if that wasn’t enough then you have to watch Pebbles as well and she is determined to make the job as difficult as possible. Then to really add to the pain there is a time limit! Your wife wants a perfect job done in just a few minutes! How realistic is that? The version I was playing even had an interactive segment when my wife walked in to the room, saw what I was doing and said;

Tell you what; if you want to paint our bathroom finally I will give you 100 points and an extra life.

True story!

OK – let’s get back to the game review. The Flintstones is actually a series of mini games that make up the whole affair similar to Back to the Future III. There is no set format throughout and it takes some practice to master each level. The first level is the aforementioned wall painting level. After that there is a car segment where Fred and Barney are trying to get to the bowling alley before it closes but there are obstacles in the way that have to be avoided. And how do you avoid these obstacles I hear you ask? Why by jumping the car over them of course. How else? Anyone who has ever seen The Flintstones will know that those cars can’t be steered. If you hit an obstacle then a wheel falls off and you have to repair it by jacking up the car and putting it back on but that takes time and you don’t know until you reach the bowling alley if its closed or not because of how long it has taken to get there.

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Make it to the bowling alley on time and you are treated to the most bizarre bowling game layout ever. Instead of the traditional one screen from the point of view of the bowler you get a split screen with a side image of Fred and Barney on one side and the pins on the other side in the more traditional angle of head on. There are elements of luck and skill in this segment as its often difficult to associate the two screens. After that Pebbles has got herself in to trouble for some reason and its up to Fred and Barney to rescue her in a rather seen-it-before platform level where you have to go up to get her and bring her back.

And that’s it!

Just four levels/mini games but to be honest that’s enough. The difficulty of this game is rage-inducing. In the first level it’s the timer (or rather Wilma’s patience) that’s your enemy. In the car level its the fact that if you misjudge the jump by just a fraction that wheel is coming off. The bowling alley could be solved if there was some consistency in if you are going to hit the pins and the last level suffers from both a timer and clumsy controls.

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This review has been wholly negative but the truth is this did entertain me for quite a bit. Its difficulty was such that I developed a resistance to wanting to give up and instead I charged on trying to beat this thing but it had the last laugh. The ending doesn’t make you feel like you have accomplished anything and that’s lousy. There is an entertainment value to this but I would say it’s an acquired taste. Sonic the Hedgehog fans; this is not for you.

Thanks for reading…

 

GAME REVIEW: Ghostbusters

As the Order of Trinity continues its Ghostbusters themed weekend to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie Tony Wilkins looks back at the first video game of the franchise released on the Sega Master System


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Ghostbusters was one of those franchises that was universally loved. Comedy, action and romance it offended few and endeared many. How many movies can say that today? You can also see straight away that the movie was destined to become a video game. It had a lot for game developers in the 1980s to work with; proton packs, Ecto-1 and of course ghosts. The franchise was a gift for the rapidly advancing 8-bit games industry but what did they do with this gift? They threw it away.

I was 8 years old when I got my hands on this game for the first time. At that point in my early youth I was obsessed with Ghostbusters and that’s not an exaggeration. I really was. The cartoon was in to it’s 5th season and Ghostbusters II was still a ‘new’ film only just being released on VHS. Now for those of you who know your history you have probably come to realize that I got this game several years after its original release but back then you didn’t care about how old a game was you just got what you wanted and I wanted Ghostbusters.

So what were my thoughts then and what are they now?

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Well, even when I was 8 years old I was disappointed with this game. The main screen is a map of New York city and every so often you have to get to a city block where ghosts are attacking. First however you have to establish your ghost busting business. That’s right; you don’t play as the main characters but rather you establish your own company. You have four cars to chose from as your “Ecto-1” which you have to equip with certain items and from there on you face Gozer and his minions.  Once you are set up you spend most of the game chasing after ghosts in the flashing city blocks, emptying your traps and trying to keep Stay Puft from crushing the city and except for the final boss that’s it. The game is also notorious in gamer circles for its spelling mistakes as a result of its translation from Japanese to English.

From what I gather online you either love or hate this game. Personally; I hate it. The gameplay is primitive and not very exciting. It is actually described more as a business simulation rather than a ghost-fighting action game. Who wants that in a Ghostbusters game? Certainly not the 8 year old me and not the 29 year old me writing this review. This could have been far more action packed but instead we got a strategy game that irritates more than it entertains. You have to respect the developers for trying to capture the spirit of the movie but it fails to deliver. It is also insanely difficult to play and requires a patient gamer to get the most of out it.

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As a PC game this might have been better but as a console game it needed to be a faster experience with a bit more action and adventure. I would have preferred a game like Mario or Alex Kidd where you control a Ghostbuster and walk around catching ghosts with your proton pack before dragging them to a trap. Perhaps an Ecto-1 scene in between? I am as hardcore a Ghostbuster fan as they come but this is one I skip.

Thanks for reading…