Tagged "Sega"

Sega, Akihabara
Apr 26

Let’s go to Japan! Not literally of course, the last minute flights would be cripplingly expensive.

But it has been a while since Street Viewtiful – our regular jaunt around the world of games via the medium of Google Street View – went to Japan. For many it’s the spiritual home of the video game, not to mention the spiritual home of crazy – so there must be plenty of sights to choose from, right?

Not so much when it comes to games companies, because Japan is also the spiritual home of conservative corporate culture. Step forward Capcom, with their staggeringly anonymous Osaka HQ. Namco Bandai‘s big trapezoidal Tokyo building is a little more fun.

But let’s focus on Sega, and their Japanese HQ, also in Tokyo.


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Not the most exciting of buildings in and of itself, but observe how the Sega logo on a building over the road is reflected in the shiny exterior. It’s that sort of detail that makes you glad to be alive.

Thanks, Sega.

Rollcage tyre
Mar 22

Everyone loves something for nothing, so when some freeness is offered as a bonus for pre-ordering, or dished out at a games show, you’re not going to turn it down, are you? But you’re also not going to use it, are you? Let’s see what tat’s been languishing in a box in the attic for the last decade or two.

Yoshi’s Island soundtrack CD

Yoshi's Island OST

Ah, the soundtrack CD, a classic freebie – and still a common sight, even in these digital days. Sounds like a nice idea, but there aren’t many games that have music you’d want to listen to alone – mainly because that’s not what it’s for.

Yoshi’s Island is a case in point. It’s an incredibly (others might say insufferably) cute game, and the music is no different. The title, Love, Peace & Happiness, doesn’t exactly try to hide it.

The joy is almost deafening, and you’d struggle not to raise a smile when it first hits you. It’s another matter after that same tune has been recycled repeatedly in slightly varying musical styles. It must be tiring to be that happy all the time – it certainly is listening to it.

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Alien3T
Feb 13

Just in case you’ve been in cryogenic sleep since 1992, Alien 3 is the one where there was only one Xenomorph and not a great deal happened. The movie had a very difficult production and at one point was even being filmed without a finished script. This ultimately led it to it receiving very mixed reviews from ‘90s film critics and no doubt much anger from fans in AOL chat rooms.

Even the dedicated Alien diehards find this movie hard to bond with as aside from Ripley and the prison’s doctor there were very few characters worthy of concern. The majority of those being mauled to death were prisoners and I think it’s safe to assume that they weren’t banged up for petty crimes like inappropriate use of a Power Loader.

It is at least a very different movie from 1986′s Aliens. Due to the prison setting the only weapons on hand were fire axes and so Ripley and her cohorts spent most of the film trying to lure the Alien into various traps.

Unsurprisingly, massive liberties were taken with the various Alien 3 videogames. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Alien 3 (1992)Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, Amiga, C64

As Probe’s Alien 3 game was released on no less than five formats, it’s likely to be the one that most people are familiar with.

alien_3

Reviews were very positive for a movie tie-in, and rightly so – it was a genuinely good game. The brilliant fast paced music helped to induce a sense of panic, as Ripley tried to rescue prisoners from the maze-like levels before the time-limit ran out. Right from the start three different weapons were available, instantly giving something to experiment with. The grenade launcher would destroy aliens with one hit, but as ammo was limited it was wiser to save it for the harder sections and make do with the pulse rife and flame-thrower to get through the easier bits.

Alien3SMS

Controls were responsive, although it was quite easy to fall off ledges and moving platforms, plunging Ripley to her doom. Fail to rescue the prisoners and chest busters would put an end to them. You did however get to see where the prisoners were when this happened, thus giving a better chance of finding them second time round. Boss battles also helped to add a bit of variety, appearing every four levels or so.

Probe did a very decent job with the 8-bit Sega versions. Although the sprites were a lot smaller it retained the look and feel of the 16-bit iterations. We can’t quite say the same about the NES version though…

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iGame-Move
Jan 22

There’s a Hong Kong-based online retailer where, hidden away from the official console bundles and realms of third party peripherals, there’s a peculiar section titled “Other videogame consoles”. Here you’ll find a variety of dubious looking handhelds of all shapes and sizes, pre-loaded with hacks of NES games and more.

We don’t condone piracy here at Games Asylum – hence the lack of a link to the website in question – but the consoles found here are so brilliantly bizarre that we couldn’t resist taking a thorough look. Most of these devices don’t even have proper names, let alone adequate descriptions, so we’ve taken the liberty with some of them.

If curiosity gets the better of you, it shouldn’t be hard to spot the website’s name from the watermarks.

Angry Birds ZH-398

AngryBirdsHandheld

Costing less than £10, we very much doubt that the “Angry Birds ZH-398” has a particularly high build quality. Well known games such as Zumba, Plants vs Zombies, Pac-Man and “Anger Birds” are shown on the main menu. It’s existence is sure to anger Rovio, that’s for sure.

It’s impossible to tell if the 32 games it contains are genuine or bootleg clones, but we assume the latter.

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dcuk-wegotissuestop
Jan 09

It’s time for another of our regular look backs at a video game magazine of old. This time our incessant rummaging around the attic has unearthed Future Publishing’s unofficial Dreamcast magazine, DC-UK.

DC-UK Issue 03

Word – by which I mean Wikipedia – has it that Sony Computer Entertainment Europe stopped Future Publishing from pitching for the official Dreamcast magazine license. Which was presumably the only time that Sony were concerned by what Sega were up to with the Dreamcast.

So Future’s DC-UK ended up as an unofficial magazine, but like the Official Dreamcast Magazine, its first issue came with a video. Yes, an actual, real-life VHS cassette. 1999, eh?

There were some notable absences from DC-UK’s video, chief among them first-party games – for obvious reasons. It was third-party all the way then, but with the likes of TrickStyle and Power Stone it wasn’t all bad by any means. It did have a curious fetish for menu screen footage though.
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Aug 07

You won’t find Wonderboy or Alex Kidd on this list of Sega’s long lost heroes – we’re going even deeper into the depths of obscurity. Presenting eight former heroes that Sega have seemingly forgotten about:

Tempo

Despite starring in three different games on three different formats – Game Gear, 32X and Saturn to be exact – Sega’s music-loving grasshopper was rather under-loved. This could be pinned down to a couple of reasons – Europe only received the Game Gear version, while the Saturn version remained in Japan.

All three games were pretty good, though, being very similar to the original Rayman in terms of look, feel and difficultly level. The 32X version was one of the system’s most underrated games, and one of the few to make good use of the add-on’s enhanced sound chips.

Mr. Bones

Cast your mind back to 1996. The PlayStation was reportedly outselling the Saturn by 10 to 1. Although underpowered, it wasn’t so much a case of the hardware failing to impress but rather the range of software. While Sony were heavily promoting the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Rage Racer, Destruction Derby 2 and WipEout 2097, Sega were releasing obscure Japanese titles and 2D platformers that, when compared to the aforementioned, looked a bit passé.

Case in point: Mr. Bones, a cut-scene heavy 2D platformer which came on two disks and starred a nondescript skeleton.

The Three Dirty Dwarfs

And here’s another example of a game which was far removed what from Sony were treating PlayStation owners to at the time. Three Dirty Dwarfs was from the developers of Ecco the Dolphin, but rather than promote the game around this fact, well, it wasn’t promoted at all.

Taconic, Corthag and Greg were the names of the dwarfs, who had to fight through a post-apocalyptic rendition of The Bronx using mostly sporting equipment. Like Mr. Bones, it’s a game that’s hard to find and can fetch a handsome sum.

Psycho Fox

“Remember, you’re not an average fox, you’re Psycho Fox!” read the back of the box for this well-received Master System platformer. Psycho Fox wasn’t the only character in the game, however – players could change into different animals with their own abilities.

For quite an obscure release there’s a bit of history behind it – it’s the predecessor (of sorts) to Decap Attack on the Mega Drive, which was the westernised version of the brilliantly named Magical Flying Turbo Hat Adventure. It has been said that Psycho Fox was the inspiration behind Tails, although the truth of that is hard to ascertain.

Teddy Boy

Teddy Boy was one of the better games in Sega’s £9.99 Master System budget range, but even then that’s not saying much – none of their purse pleasing games were particularly excellent.

The Japanese version was known as Teddy Boy Blues and featured Teddy Boy holding a gun on the cover. The cover for the European release however featured just the top of Teddy Boy’s head, with a bug knocking his blue baseball hat off. Oddly, his hat was green in the game. And going by the Japanese version it was meant to be a beret rather than a baseball cap.

Teddy Boy may have been a pretty bland character but regardless it was quite a popular Master System game due to the low price tag.

Sir Tongara de Pepperouchau III

Sega took such a long time to release the Saturn in Europe that by the time it arrived launch title Clockwork Knight had already received a sequel in Japan. As such, the releases of Clockwork Knight and Clockwork Knight II in Europe were only months apart – the original was released in July and the sequel in October. Both games saw Sir Tongara de Pepperouchau III – or Pepper, for short – out to rescue the Clockwork Fairy Princess, Chelsea.

It’s quite easy to draw comparisons with the movie Toy Story – both were released around the same time. In fact, Clockwork Knight probably did very well off the back of it. 3DS remakes would be most welcome – we recently played the sequel and it still holds up well.

Bug

Bug was the star of another early Saturn platformer with 2D characters on 3D backgrounds. The similarities with Clockwork Knight don’t just end there – Bug! also received a sequel, entitled Bug Too!

With no Sonic game available at the Saturn’s launch, Bug! sold quite well. A 32X version was rumoured in one of the UK Sega magazines and probably would have turned out to be a faithful conversion – it wasn’t particularly a polygon heavy affair and even Bug himself was a 2D sprite.

We wouldn’t turn down a 3DS version of this, either.

Ristar

Ristar is perhaps the least obscure character on this list – it’s a game that has appeared on Sega’s retro collections and is also usually included on those licensed Sega handhelds. Sega fans hold the game in high regard too, as it’s a genuinely excellent platformer.

Ristar’s development history is an intresting one. Not just because it was originally going to be called Dexstar but because for a short period of time Ristar was going to be a rabbit who could throw enemies using his giant ears.

Proving that Sega do listen to their fans occasionally, Ristar made a very brief cameo appearance in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing in one of the DLC tracks. If only they’d listen to what fans wanted a little more they wouldn’t have to put up with petitions and the like asking for Shenmue III.

Next week: The forgotten heroes of PlayStation

May 24

Typical. We’ve been waiting patiently for SEGA Vintage Collection: Monster World only for it to arrive on Xbox Live Arcade the same day as SEGA Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co. This may not sound like a bad thing to happen but it really is. Our feeble brains can only handle so much nostalgia, you see. When SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection was released we spent the week thinking it was 1992 and went around telling everybody we saw to “Do the Bartman!”

We’ll focus on the Monster World collection first. This one features the arcade version of Wonder Boy in Monster Land and two Mega Drive Monster World adventures – Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV. We’re glad that the arcade version of Monster Land was used rather than the Master System version. Although it wasn’t a bad conversion, when low on health an ear-piercing siren sound-effect was played until your health was topped back up. For an arcade game there are quite a few unexpected RPG elements, such as the ability to buy items and armour and also stop in taverns and purchase some second-hand gossip.

Monster World IV meanwhile was never released outside of Japan, although an unofficial fan translation has been available online for a while. It’s quite the departure from the previous Monster World games – whereas the last two had a medieval theme, this one has an Arabic vibe with a female lead character. She’s able to grab hold of a floating creature to access higher areas. It was released in 1994 – the same year as Sonic & Knuckles – and as such it was one of the better looking Mega Drive games.

This is a likeable enough collection although we would have liked it just that little bit more if SEGA had included Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair in order to make it a complete Monster World package.

SEGA Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co. on the other hand has to be just about the oddest thing ever. What we have here is Alex Kidd in Miracle World on Master System, Shinobi on Mega Drive and the arcade version of Super Hang-On. If there’s a connection between those three games then we failed to see it.

Retro Gamer magazine had an article on Super Hang-On a few months ago and we were quite surprised to learn that it’s a game that does in fact have quite a few fans, so they’ll no doubt be pleased with its inclusion. It’s very much a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of game though – we thought it was dated even back when it was re-released as part of Sega Mega Games 1 early during the Mega Drive’s life.

Shinobi is a game that should need no introduction and has stood the test of time rather well. Its appearance on this collection is however overshadowed by Alex Kidd in Miracle World. This wasn’t just the best Alex Kidd game – even topping Alex Kidd’s sole Mega Drive adventure – but also one of the best Master System games. It’s a game that everybody with an interest in Sega’s back catalogue should play – it had lots of Mario-style elements, and the ability to pick up items and then use them when you saw fit was a unique idea at the time. The music remains toe-tappingly enjoyable.

As great as it is to see Alex Kidd on Xbox 360, it’s a very strange collection and at 800 MSP it’s quite pricey too.

Both of these SEGA Vintage Collections feature jukeboxes, leaderboards and a few other minor extras. While Xbox owners are getting them as two sets, over on PSN they’re being released as individual titles thus giving PlayStation owners the chance to pick and choose.

SEGA has another two Vintage Collections planned for release on 30th May. One features all three Streets of Rage games while the other contains the first three Golden Axe titles. It’s quite hard to get excited about these two packs – they’re set to cost 800 MSP (around £7), even though Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection can be found for around £10 and contains all of these games and more besides. SEGA have always had the rather bizarre habit of devaluing their own software. We guess old habits die hard.

May 09

Ten years ago movie tie-ins were incredibly lucrative and publishers were quite happy to make games out of anything they thought might turn a quick profit, even if the source material wasn’t ideally suited to being turned into a game. Looking back through the release lists, a decline in movie tie-ins has been happening since the PlayStation 2 started to die a slow death.

The question is why?

The easiest answer is that development costs are sky-rocketing and the formats that are cheap to develop for are slowly fading. The PlayStation 2 and PSP are dead while DS and Wii sales aren’t as strong as they once were. Once a publisher purchases a movie license, they’re usually left with a very small amount of money left out of their budget to actually make the blessed thing. Do you know why most tie-ins are rubbish? It’s because they are often given to the developer who offers to make them for the least amount of money.

Xbox Live Arcade and PSN development costs aren’t quite as high as retail releases, and as such we have seen a few movie tie-ins appear as downloads, like Real Steel and Battle for Los Angeles. The problem publishers face here is that the average price of XBLA/PSN games is about £7 (800 MSP), and the license cost still has to be recouped from that amount. Not only this but every XBLA game has to have a playable trial version – there’s no way for them to hide how bad a game is.

Sega and THQ have both recently announced that they’re ditching licenses to focus on quality software. In Sega’s case this was announced as soon as their deal with Marvel expired, the reason presumably being that their Thor and Captain America tie-ins didn’t sell as well as planned. As for THQ, it would appear that they’ve finally realised that rubbish games do not sell.

They should have looked at ex-publisher Brash Entertainment and learned this years ago. Brash were a company that snapped up the movie licenses that nobody wanted for as little money as possible, such as Jumper and Space Chimps, and put out games that were total garbage. After just a year on the scene, they ceased to be.

This brings us onto our next reason. The video game market has matured massively over the past few years and the average age of a gamer is higher than ever. With age comes experience. That experience in question being that most gamers have had their fingers burnt with movie tie-ins in the past. We’ve mentioned on Games Asylum before that we believe the actually pretty good Captain America and Green Lantern games didn’t sell well was because people assumed that they were rubbish.

Publishers have shat on their own doorstep, it would seem.

The last few years have also seen publishers focus on releasing fewer games but of a better quality. Aside from Harry Potter, EA hasn’t released a movie tie-in for a very long time, while Ubisoft and Take-Two seem quite happy to concentrate on their own IP. Eidos would put one or two out a year but since being snapped up by Square-Enix, they’ve gone back to their roots to reboot and revamp the franchises that made them a top publisher in the first place.

Publishers have also started to realise that character licenses are the way forward. Movie tie-ins sell well for the first month of release, then swiftly vanish from the top 40. The likes of Batman: Arkham City, Moshi Monsters and the LEGO games have sold better than any fly-by-night movie license could ever do.

Indeed, it would appear that now only half the publishers out there see movie tie-ins as money makers. Disney are in a different boat to most – their games often prove to be evergreen sellers due to brand popularity. D3 snapped up the licenses that THQ had ditched including Madagascar 3, which we assume they bagged for a reduced cost, while Activision has The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black due out soon. It should be duly noted that Activision doesn’t appear too concerned with quality control, unlike Warner Bros. and other publishers who have upped their game recently.

Will movie tie-ins rise again? There is a chance that in a few years time, once the 3DS and Wii U are well established and the next Xbox and PlayStation are on their second or third generation of software, that development costs will drop a little and there is a bigger leeway for publishers to make a profit.

If this isn’t the case, then most discerning gamers would likely argue it’s not a bad thing anyway.

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