Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why didn't someone tell me Square worked to port its Aliens MSX game to the Famicom Disk System and that the ROM had found its way on line?

Anyone new to this blog may not yet know this bit of oh-so-interesting news, but I am an absolute Alien nut.

Both Ridley Scott's 1979 film and James Cameron's 1986 sequel (called Aliens, naturally) are among my all-time favorite pieces of cinema.

Combine that with my love of video games, and you've got a situation where a person (that would be me) scours the globe in search of quality games that were inspired by the above-mentioned films.

Sadly, that lifelong search has turned up only a few worthwhile possibilities, such as Konami's side-scrolling action game from 1990, 1994's Aliens vs Predator title for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar, WayForward's Aliens Infestation for the DS and last year's Alien: Isolation for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Is the awkwardly named Aliens: Alien 2, made by Square for the MSX computer platform all the way back in 1987, another example? I've never played it, so I have no idea, but videos such as this one certainly make it look like a contender.

I share all of this because I just--well, a couple of days ago--became aware of the fact that the fine folks at Square worked on a Famicom Disk System port of Aliens: Alien 2 at some point in time.

For whatever reason, though, the company's higher-ups weren't happy with the effort and scrapped it before it could be released.

Amazingly, some wonderful person got his or her hands on the game's not-quite-finished prototype and leaked its ROM onto the Internet in 2011--another piece of news that only recently reached my ears.

If you, too, are an Alien buff and this is the first you're hearing of the Famicom Disk System port of Square's Aliens: Alien 2, you may get a kick out of the footage included in the video above.

Personally, I prefer the more minimalist aesthetic of the MSX original, although the FDS version is far from unappealing. What do all of you think?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy 4th anniversary, Vita!

I've got to admit: when Sony first announced it was prepping a follow-up to the PSP, I wasn't all that interested.

Which is strange, as I loved--and continue to love--the company's first handheld system to death. At the time, though, the 3DS (as well as the DS and the PSP) had a virtual monopoly on my gaming attention span.

Because of that, the poor Vita basically avoided pinging my radar in any kind of meaningful way until a year or two after its release.

Speaking of which, the Vita's Japanese launch took place four years ago yesterday. (It didn't hit North American store shelves until two months later, on Feb. 15, while other regions had to wait until Feb 22.)

That's an anniversary well worth celebrating, wouldn't you agree?

Assuming you feel the Vita's existence is one that should be honored, why do you think that is? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, if you've got the interest and the time.

On a related note, you might enjoy reading this previously published post of mine, which includes a few words about as well as a few photos of the pink-and-white Vita system I acquired earlier this year.

Or you may want to check out these "Shall We Do It?" write-ups, which feature a smattering of impressions of the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

PSP PSA: Nihon Falcom's Brandish is now just $10 on the PlayStation Store

I kind of can't believe I'm mentioning the above news here, as I've never played any version of this dungeon-crawler. (It first saw the light of day on some rather ancient Japanese computers--the NEC PC-9801 and the FM Towns, to be exact--in 1991 before being given a second chance on the PC Engine and Super Famicom in 1994.)

Don't take that to mean I'm indifferent to it. In fact, I'm quite interested in it. The only reason I haven't bought some iteration or other of Brandish yet is that I can't decide which one to pick up.

I have narrowed things down a bit, though. Specifically, I'd like to own either a physical, boxed copy of the Japanese PSP release or XSEED Games' recent English localization of it.

Because the former can be acquired for about $20 these days, it's probably my first choice at the moment. Or it would be if the latter weren't just $10 on the PlayStation Store. (It's playable on both PSP and Vita, by the way--in case you're curious.)

A video showcasing the gameplay of this most recent version of Brandish can be found above. After watching it, do any of you think you'll be adding it to your digital PSP or Vita collections?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shall We Do It? (Alien Syndrome, City Connection, Mickey Mousecapade, Parodius Da! and Super Mario Bros. 2)

Some of you may be wondering why all of the games mentioned in this post's headline are decidedly retro" Well, that would be because the only current game I've played in the last few weeks is Pokémon Picross.

OK, so I've also put some time--and money--into Nintendo Badge Arcade during that same period, although I don't know if I'd call the latter a "game." (It's more of an app, if you ask me.)

What about The Legend of Legacy and Undertale? I haven't played either of them in about a month, sadly. And I haven't even started Yo-Kai Watch, despite the fact that a copy of that 3DS title has been in my hands since I got it as a birthday present right after Thanksgiving.

Given all of the above, it may seem strange that I decided to spend a good part of this past weekend playing the following bunch of golden oldies. The only response I can come up with to that charge is "I needed it." And don't we all sometimes?

Alien Syndrome (Game Gear)--Considering my nearly lifelong love of the first two Alien films, you’d think I would have at least tried this similarly themed game ages ago. Actually, I have plunked a bit of time into various versions of this Sega-made title (which originated in the arcades) over the years, but for whatever reason the aesthetics and gameplay never sat well with me. Something changed in that regard this weekend, though, as I raced through three of the Game Gear port’s stages on Saturday morning and only gave up after seeing a satisfactory portion of its fourth.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Alien Syndrome, by the way, the gist of it is it’s a run-and-gun action game that’s clearly inspired by the original Alien flick. You run around each level--most or all of which take place on some sort of spaceship--and rescue stranded crewmates while avoiding (or blowing away) a whole host of nightmarish baddies. Oh, and a clock is ticking away all the while, which adds a certain sense of urgency to both of those tasks.

As is the case with most of the games I booted up over the last few days, some (maybe many) modern gamers are sure to find the Game Gear version of Alien Syndrome painfully dated, especially in the graphics department. Still, if you’re a fan of tense gaming experiences and extraterrestrial settings, you’d do well to overlook this title’s superficial stumbling points and give it a bit of love.

City Connection (Famicom)--Looking back on it now, it seems strange that as a kid I had access to an arcade containing a City Connection cabinet. After all, I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin—not exactly a hotbed of obscure Japanese games of any sort.

At any rate, I'm glad my local arcade (bowling alley, really) was home to this Axes Art Amuse-made and Jaleco-published oddity--for a while, at least. I played it every chance I got. Who could blame me? It's a platformer--of sorts--that shoves players behind the wheel of an adorable red sports car and then forces them to race and leap around a handful of stages, all of which are set in real-life cities. The point: why, to cover their roadways in paint, of course. (You do this do you can prove you've fully experienced each locale.)

I wish I could tell you how accurate the Famicom port of City Connection is to the arcade original, but I can't. I can say the former is a lot of fun, though. It's colorful, it controls well enough, it's challenging (but not overly cheap, as is the case for too many games from this era) and it has a soundtrack that's better than it has any right to be.

Mickey Mousecapade (NES)--Here's another game from my childhood. For some weird reason, this is one of the 20 or so NES games I owned as a kid. I say it's weird because I've never really been a big Disney fan. As such, I'm not sure what prompted me to buy (or, more likely, ask for it as a birthday or Christmas gift) Mickey Mousecapade.

Regardless, I remember liking this classic platformer--which curiously puts players in control of both Mickey and Minnie at the same time--well enough. I also remember finding it more than a smidge frustrating beyond its first stage. Which is kind of hilarious, as I got all the way to the game's third stage on my second try this past weekend, and without a whole lot of fuss. Sadly, that's as far as I was able to get.

Oh, well, I'm glad I finally revisited Mickey Mousecapade after all these years. It's far from a great game, and it's downright ugly in spots (I'm looking at you, annoying forest level), but the background music is nice and the overall experience is enjoyable enough that I'll probably return to it again ... in a couple of years or so.

Parodius Da! (PC Engine)--Would you believe this was one of the first Japanese games I ever imported? Detana!! TwinBee was another, along with Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI and Tengai Makyou II. Oh, and Pop'n TwinBee, too.

At any rate, this was my favorite of the bunch. (OK, so I was pretty fond of the two Final Fantasy games as well.) Which makes sense, as it's hard to play this wackadoodle shmup, which parodies Konami's genre-defining Gradius series (hence the name), without a huge grin plastered across your face all the while.

I spend most of my time with the PC Engine port of Parodius Da! playing its "Special" mode, by the way. It's a single-level, high-score romp that's perfect for short bursts of play--which means it's perfect for my ever-diminishing attention span.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)--Do you have a favorite Famicom or NES cart? Well, this is one of mine. To me, this bastard child of Nintendo's decades-old Mario series is the gaming equivalent of chicken noodle soup. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy in a way that not too many titles from any era can match.

Anyway, I was prompted to return to this pastel-shellacked platformer by the recently released Nintendo Badge Arcade. For the last few days, that 3DS app has offered up a slew of Super Mario Bros. 2 pins--every single one of which caused my mouth to froth in nostalgia-flavored glee. (OK, so maybe that's overstating things a tad.)

Although I somehow stopped myself from dropping $5 more into the Nintendo Badge Arcade, I wasn't able to keep myself from spending a similar amount to buy Super Mario Bros. 2 via the eShop. Which is just as well, because every 3DS needs to have a copy of this game stuck to its main menu and at the ready at all times, don't you think?

Have you played any retro games in recent days or weeks? If so, which ones--and what pushed you to spend some quality time with them?