Jan 30
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

In 2001, UK retailer GAME revealed plans to stock a new range of retro systems and software. This came as a surprise to many as it was still early days for the retro gaming scene. The Mega Drive and SNES remained fresh in gamer’s minds, and only the likes of the Spectrum and Commodore 64 were really seen as retro by this point. In short, the retro market had yet to explode.

Anybody expecting to see GAME’s shelves lined with ‘80s microcomputers and ’90s consoles from SEGA and Nintendo was in for a disappointment. GAME – still trading as Electronics Boutique in some areas – had simply acquired a considerable amount of surplus stock from specialist retailer Telegames, including brand new Atari Jaguars and refurbished Atari Lynx and SEGA Game Gear handhelds.

Telegames’ US arm swooped in to grab Atari’s liquidated stock in 1995, continuing support for the cult system with new releases, including Worms. The retailer routinely ran adverts in gaming magazines for many years after Atari’s demise, offering both the Jaguar and Lynx at knockdown prices.

As for the SEGA Game Gears, evidence suggests these were the revised, cheaper, models Majesco released in the US. Majesco had attempted to give the Game Gear a second lease of life in the States, promoting it as a low-budget ($29.99) alternative to the Game Boy Advance. Telegames had presumably also snaffled Majesco’s unsold stock at one point.

Come 2001, that unshifted stock was about to be unloaded onto GAME, and for a super low cost.

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Jan 29
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World is the first new number one of 2018. Sales were “far higher” than previous instalments in the series, and it’s also the highest charting entry so far, beating previous high note Monster Hunter: Generations (#3 in 2016).

It’s easy to imagine MH: W outselling Generations by a considerable amount, and with 5m copies already shipped worldwide, Capcom clearly has hopes of prolonged success.

Dragon Ball FighterZ also had a successful launch, arriving at #2; another franchise high. Dragon Ball Xenoverse was the previous franchise record holder, debuting at #3 back in 2015.

Making way for the new releases, Call of Duty: WWII falls to #3. FIFA 18 is at #4 while GTA V drops two places to #5.

Switch stalwarts Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Zelda: BotW take places #6 and #7, while online sensation PUBG goes from #6 to #8.

Rocket League makes a gallant return at #9, thanks to the recent Switch retail release. Then at #10 it’s another new arrival – Sony’s PSVR horror escapade The Inpatient.

The next new entry in the top 40 isn’t too far away – Pokemon Crystal’s retail release made #12, also topping the 3DS chart.

Square-Enix’s traditional RPG Lost Sphear failed to make the top 40, but it managed to make #16 in the Switch chart. Axiom Verge broke the Switch top ten, meanwhile.

Jan 25
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Fans of all things retro will probably appreciate this week’s eShop line-up. No less than four of the fifteen titles originated from the arcade.

Unsurprisingly, a couple of these are Hamster re-releases – 1993’s ACA NeoGeo World Heroes 2 and Arcade Archives Kid Niki Radical Ninja (£6.29 each), a colourful IREM action game from 1986.

Then we have a double-whammy of Psikyo shooters – STRIKERS 1945 II for Nintendo Switch and ZERO GUNNER 2- for Nintendo Switch (£6.99 each). Nintendo Life awarded the latter an 8/10 earlier this week. “When you consider how much the Dreamcast version of Zero Gunner 2 changes hands for on the secondary market these days, the fact that you can download a superior version on your Switch for a tiny fraction of that cost is worth celebrating,” they said.

As for the week’s big hitters, there’s Square-Enix’s traditional RPG Lost Sphear (£39.99) – which has gained a mixture of 7s and 8s – and Celeste (£17.99), a challenging pixel art platformer from the creators of Towerfall. Polygon gave it an 8.0: “Celeste feels like a very capably made platformer, easily on par with other masocore greats.” They said, referring to such games as Super Meat Boy and Spelunky.

We’re also going to give Earth Wars (£4.00) a shout out. It’s a rebranded version of Earth’s Dawn, a well-received Japanese action RPG that still sells for £25 on Xbox One and PS4. It looks like the difference in price is due to a change in publisher. At four measly quid it’s quite the bargain.

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Jan 25
By Matt Gander In Blog, Retro No Comments

If you promised yourself that 2018 will be the year you finally join a gym to burn off those love handles, then the following may be of interest.

Run Hundred has released a pair of workout mixes inspired by 8-bit music. After being handed a CD filled with 8-bit tunes, composer Chris Lawhorn found that the uplifting tempos came into their own when listened to during exercise.

“The characters in these games are models of fitness–constantly running, jumping, flying and so on. They seem to take such pleasure in moving around–doing it effortlessly and never tiring. To that end, it’s hard to hear these kinds of tunes and not feel some of that buoyant energy,” claimed Chris, discussing his inspiration.

8-Bit Mix I strives for retro authenticity, while 8-Bit Mix II throws in modern beats. Both can be had for $10, with all profits going to Run Hundred’s charity partners.

Jan 23
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The end of the month is almost upon us, and by the looks of things, publishers are hoping your pay cheque will be partly blown on a new game or two.

So much for paying off that post-Christmas credit card bill, eh?

We’ve rounded-up reviews for Square-Enix’s traditional RPG Lost Sphear, Sony’s PSVR psychological horror The Inpatient, and the hyperactive beat’em up Dragon Ball FighterZ. The consensus is that Lost Sphear is comprehensive if a little lacking in identity, The Inpatient is one of the better PSVR titles but runs out of steam near the end, and DBF is the best use of the license in a long, long, time.

Capcom’s Monster Hunter World is also out this week, standing a very good chance of topping the UK chart – it’s the first Monster Hunter title to reach western Xbox owners (the Monster Hunter Frontier series on Xbox 360 never left Japan), and the first on PlayStation since 2011’s multi-million selling Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. To say this current-gen instalment is a long timing is an understatement. Update: MHW review round-up added below.

Over on the digital services meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed Origins gets its first piece of significant DLC while Railway Empire makes a stop on both PS4 and Xbox One.

The Switch gains a handful of new retail releases too, including boxed versions of Rocket League and Axiom Verge, and the often-delayed Constructor Plus – a game System 3 originally planned to launch alongside the Switch itself. Like a cowboy builder with a long list of excuses, it’s finally finished, some ten months behind schedule.

New release showcase:

Monster Hunter World

Essential – Eurogamer: “Monster Hunter opens up for the most accessible, most detailed and most magnificent entry yet”

9.5 – GameInformer: “Intense battles, rewarding progression loops, and excellent multiplayer experiences make this the best Monster Hunter game to date”

5/5 – US Gamer: “Regardless of whether or not you’re a newbie or someone the series has pushed away before, don’t sleep on Monster Hunter World. Without a doubt, it’s the definitive Monster Hunter experience”

9/10 – The Metro: “The best Monster Hunter so far, and already one of the most compelling multiplayer games of the year – with an elegant balance between depth, difficulty, and accessibility”

9/10 – Destructoid: “If you’ve been skipping out on Monster Hunter games for a while because they seem to blend together, jumping into World is your chance to get in. Just know that Capcom hasn’t really shaken up the formula enough to piss off veterans or appeal to people who don’t welcome grinding with open arms”

Dragon Ball FighterZ – PS4/XO

9.0 – God is a Geek: “An exquisite feeling fighter that is both approachable and deep. Time will tell if it has staying power, but it’s the best use of the Dragon Ball Z name in quite some time”

9.0 – EGM: “From its breathtaking visuals to ease of gameplay mastery, the new fighter is a good stepping stone to expand the fan base of the genre. However, it may not satisfy players who are looking for complexity”

8.5 – IGN: “Dragon Ball FighterZ’s pairing of DBZ and Arc System Works is a match made in fighting game heaven”

The Inpatient – PS4

8.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “The overall plot does fall flat in the final act as the scares give way to a less-than-exciting conclusion, but the branching possibilities means that even after two playthroughs, untold stories of the sanatorium still await me”

6/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Despite it’s flaws, The Inpatient is still much better than many of the VR horror games available, so it’s worth checking out if you have an expensive fancy hat from Sony”

5/10 – Push Square: “The Inpatient’s strong opening is undone by a rushed finale, and while the various plot permutations add replayability, they come at the cost of a fulfilling narrative”

Lost Sphear

8/10 – RPG Site: “Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the genre or a newcomer looking for something accessible, you should give this one a try. Just expect nothing mind-blowing”

8.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Lost Sphear checks all the right boxes for those looking for a traditional RPG they can get lost in for the next 30 or more hours”

6.7 – IGN: “Lost Sphear is so cluttered with homages to classic RPGs that it fails to create an identity of its own”

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Jan 23
By Matt Gander In Retro 5 Comments

In his recent terrible game compendium Attack of the Flicking Skeletons, YouTuber Ashens reached out to various gaming pundits to discover which 8-bit titles they regretted buying during their youth.

It’s no surprise that everybody had a story to tell. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, publishers had the knack of luring in would-be victims, making false promises of arcade-style action and coating box art with fancy screenshots that in no way resembled the finished product.

My story is a tad different. I knew full well that I was handing over around six week’s pocket money for an absolute turkey. I was young, had a tenner burning a hole in my pocket, and had no idea at the time about just how bad certain games were. The worst game I’d played up to this point was probably plain old Tennis on the Atari 2600, which simply taught me that sports games weren’t my cup of tea.

This story begins in the run-up to Christmas 1991. The arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog, the biggest thing to happen in the gaming world during my youth, made it clear that my next console should be a SEGA. Had I asked for a Mega Drive, there’s a chance I may have received one for Christmas that year, as cheeky as that request may have been – the £129.99 asking price was a tad higher than prior Christmas presents. However, chances of finding an additional game under the Christmas tree would’ve been slimmer still. With Mega Drive games costing £40+ (SEGA was yet to launch their £20 budget range), the pack-in game would have had to suffice for, quite possibly, months.

So to avoid potential disappointment, and to prevent my poor old dad from working a few extra shifts that December, I decided upon a SEGA Master System. Lots of kids at school owned one, making lending and swapping games possible, and it had its own version of Sonic the Hedgehog. The fact that it wasn’t as powerful as the Mega Drive wasn’t an issue, as it was still a huge step up from the Atari 2600 – my current console, which was starting to look incredibly outdated come 1991.

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Jan 22
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Call of Duty: WWII has returned to the top of the UK chart, making it ten non-consecutive weeks in total. Just one more week is required to equal current franchise record holder Black Ops III.

With the anticipated Monster Hunter World and Dragon Ball FighterZ out Friday, it’s likely a battle for no.1 will occur next week. CoD: WWII may have to wait a few weeks to beat Black Ops III’s record. There’s little doubting it has the capacity to do so.

FIFA 18 moved up to #2 while GTA V – last week’s chart-topper – fell to #3.

Switch titles occupy positions #4 and #5 – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Zelda: BotW, respectively.

PUBG remains at #6 while AC: Origins fell three places to #7. Super Mario Odyssey rose to #8, up from #10. Star Wars Battlefront II dropped two positions to #9, meanwhile.

Then at #10 we have our first new arrival of 2018 – Bandai-Namco’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory. The original debuted at #11 roughly two years ago.

Street Fighter V Arcade Edition failed to make the top 40 – it’s a free update to existing owners, after all – but it did make #15 in the PS4 chart.

You may be aware both Asda and Tesco are currently clearing out old stock, with plenty of bargains to be found. This seems to have had an impact on the charts – Titanfall 2 and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens are back in the top 40, while LEGO Dimensions re-appears to claim #1 in the PS3 chart and #2 in the Xbox 360 chart.

Jan 18
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Last night’s reveal of Labo certainly provoked a reaction. Nintendo’s master plan to turn the humble living room into an arts and crafts den may be their most genius masterstroke yet. The price (£60 per pack) is a tad off-putting, though – why the software isn’t being included as a download code is beyond us. We can’t imagine the Labo’s second-hand market being particularly large.

As for the here and now, another 18 new Switch games hit the UK eShop this week. Giving consumers a choice for a change, two editions of Darkest Dungeon – a gothic roguelike turn-based RPG, starring a team of flawed heroes – are available. The standard edition will set you back £17.99, while the £25.99 Ancestral Edition includes the The Crimson Court and The Shieldbreaker add-ons.

InnerSpace (£17.99) is another big-name release, being an exploration-based space sim with abstract visuals and a relaxed vibe. Reviews are mostly positive, with one site (PlayStation Lifestyle) going as far to call it a potential 2018 ‘sleeper hit’ candidate.

Tales Of A Tiny Planet (£17.99) must be receiving a retail release somewhere in the world, as this physics-based puzzler is classed as a “digital version of package software”. It looks similar to the PSP classic LocoRoco, only even more minimalist.

Oh…Sir! The Insult Simulator and its sequel Oh…Sir! The Hollywood Roast may be cheapy cheap, at £1.99 and £2.99 respectively, but they’re also on the simplistic side. The idea is to form a witty insult from a pool of words, with extra damage dealt to rivals by exploiting their weaknesses and staying on topic. Like a five-year-old child telling you the same joke repeatedly, it becomes tedious very quickly. We gave the Xbox One version a lukewarm 6/10.

We also have a double-whammy of retro re-releases from Hamster – ACA NEOGEO POWER SPIKES II and Arcade Archives DOUBLE DRAGON (£6.29 each). Double Dragon needs no introduction, but Power Spikes II may be unknown to some. It’s a futuristic rendition of volleyball, released by Video Systems in 1994. Curiously, it graced the NeoGeo CD but not the NeoGeo AES, making it one of the few exclusives for the system.

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