Tagged "Sonic"

sonicgen_360_2dpack_frg
Aug 25
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

The last-gen formats have reached the age where they’re being handed down to younger siblings, with the Xbox One and PS4 taking pride of place under the main TV instead. Both consoles have also fallen in price heavily over the past year or so, making them affordable (and more viable) for children.

Unlike the Wii and Wii U, the Xbox 360 and PS3 never saw a steady slew of children’s games – just the odd movie or cartoon tie-in here and there, plus the usual LEGO, Skylanders and Disney Infinity games.

The aim of this guide is to highlight some of the alternative kids’ games out there while sorting the good from the bad. Contrary to popular beliefs, kids can tell the difference. They may not be able to exactly point out why a game is bad, but they know the difference between boring and entertaining.

With this guide you hopefully won’t be hearing “this game is boring” too often.

The obvious choices

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Let’s get these out the way first, as chances are your child already owns a few of these. We’re talking about the games that are always prominently placed in supermarkets and GAME, such as LEGO, Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Just Dance, FIFA Soccer and Minecraft.

Disney Infinity was axed earlier this year, meaning retailers are starting to clear out stock. The first DI features Disney and Pixar franchises and packed in a lot of content, with worlds based on Monsters Inc, The Incredibles and Pirates of the Caribbean. You do however need two characters from the same universe to play two-player in these worlds, which obviously goes against the whole ‘Infinity’ aspect.

Disney Infinity was axed earlier this year

The second DI favours Marvel superheroes and has a quickly cobbled together feel to it, with just one campaign that soon becomes tedious. The Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man add-on packs also scored poorly by the gaming press.

For the third and final DI, Star Wars is the theme and this iteration focuses heavily on the premium priced add-ons. Despite featuring characters from all different Disney lines, the majority can only be used in the Minecraft-style Toy Box mode…which is due to go offline next year. It can still be accessed, but the ability to share creations with the community will cease.

Children are likely to lean towards their favourite franchise, but for our money, the original DI is the one to go for. With three campaigns lasting around 3-4 hours each, it offers the most out-of-the-box value.

As for Skylanders, we recommend the recent Skylanders Superchargers – which has online co-op play and Mario Kart-style races – and Skylanders Giants, which wasn’t too demanding when it came to extra figures. Although Skylanders Giants is also knocking on a bit now, it’s the prices for the giant figures have hit rock bottom. A full set can easily be obtained for around £20.

While not bad games – the Skylanders games have a rare consistency to them – both Trap Team and Swap Force lock a lot of content away, with the former requiring £5 coloured crystals to capture bad guys in, and Swap Force adding new areas that only Swap Force characters can enter. These two are by far the most money grabbing.

LEGOMovie (1)

Then we have the LEGO games, which too are constantly good…and sometimes even great. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings are generally seen as some of the weaker entries, while Harry Potter, Star Wars, Batman, Marvel Super Heroes and The Avengers are perceived as the best.

LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga are the ones commonly found in bargain bins nowadays, both of which are recommended.

LEGO Dimensions stuff meanwhile is slowly starting to come down in price due to the arrival of season two. The starter set hasn’t quite hit the magical £30 mark yet, but it’s almost there. Out of all the ‘Toys to Life’ franchises, LEGO Dimensions is the most demanding on the wallet, and the upcoming second season looks set to be even more so with packs based on Sonic the Hedgehog, Gremlins, Adventure Time and dozens more. At least LEGO tends to hold its value, eh?

This leaves us with Minecraft, which needs no introduction. Several years from launch, it’s still a big seller and just as popular. Thankfully for parents, it isn’t a full price release – expect to pay between £15-£20. If your child is into Minecraft in a big way, also be sure to check out Minecraft: Story Mode – which features a collection of episodic adventures to play through – and Terraria, which is often referred to as Minecraft’s 2D cousin. It’s slightly trickier to master, but chances are your child has friends who’ve already learnt the ropes and will be keen to show off what they know.

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643844-x-men-game-gear-screenshot-cut-scenes
Mar 08
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

Regular readers will know that we have something of a soft spot for the SEGA Game Gear, having penned numerous 8-bit related features over the past couple of years. It’s one of those formats we could talk about all day long and for reasons aplenty.

We aren’t blinkered to the fact that the ageing handheld’s screen quality is atrocious when compared to today’s standards, but we do hold its software library in very high regard. SEGA was seemingly very picky about what games to publish in Europe, and because of this the handheld’s catalogue is rife with hidden gems and import-only titles almost entirely unheard of.

GameGear

Indeed, Europe really got screwed over when it came to the Game Gear’s release schedule. It’s understandable that publishers would shy away from releasing US sports sims and text-heavy RPGs, but denying the release of comic book tie-ins, arcade conversions and even a few big-name first-party efforts from SEGA Japan is another matter. A good example here is the 1994 racing spin-off Sonic Drift – the sequel was released in Europe under the guise of Sonic Drift Racing in 1995 – but the original never left Japan. Incidentally, and rather lazily, Sonic Drift Racing’s title screen still bared the name Sonic Drift 2.

This feature originally began as a straightforward list of games European Game Gear owners missed out on, but due to sheer number we ended up sorting them by category.

Next time you’re feeling miffed that some little-known RPG is passing western gamers by, just remember that European Game Gear owners didn’t exactly have the pick of the litter.

Arcade conversions

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Just like the Mega Drive, the Game Gear’s initial line-up comprised mostly of arcade conversions. The likes of Space Harrier – which was far more than a simple conversion of the Master System version – fared well on the system and were strong sellers. Namco’s Mappy however was never released outside of Japan, with the simple reason being that Namco didn’t publish GG software outside of their home turf.

Out of the nine games Namco released for the format, Galaga ’91 (aka Galaga 2) was the only one picked up for a western release.

Two from Taito escaped European gamer’s clutches also. It’s easy to figure out why Bust-A-Move didn’t make it – when it arrived in 1996 software sales were slowing down drastically in the US and pretty much non-existent in Europe – but as to why 1991’s Chase HQ didn’t make it is a mystery.

Movie tie-ins

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Battle hardened gamers will know that the vast majority of ‘80s and ‘90s movie tie-ins were terrible – it was a time when publishers could always bank on licensed software to turn a profit, even if the game itself was an abomination. Say hello to Cutthroat Island, Surf Ninjas, Cliff Hanger, The Last Action Hero and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. At least we got Acclaim’s True Lies tie-in, eh?

Majesco’s re-issue of the long lost Super Battletank notwithstanding, 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park takes the honour of being the Game Gear’s last ever release. If it wasn’t for FIFA 98, it would have been the last European Mega Drive game too.

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As mentioned already, by 1996 the Game Gear was fading fast. Clearly, SEGA must have thought that the license was so prestigious that even such a belated release would still generate some cash. Although the ability to play as a dinosaur holds some appeal, both the 8-bit and 16-bit Lost World tie-ins were painfully average.

Surf Ninjas, Cliff Hanger and The Last Action Hero weren’t up to much either, with Cliff Hanger in particular having all the hallmarks of a rush job. Acclaim’s Cutthroat Island – based on one of the biggest flops of all time – isn’t without merit though, borrowing more than a couple of elements from Prince of Persia. It’s one of those rare games that’s actually better than the film on which it’s based.

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metalslug
Jan 29
By Matt Gander In Retro 1 Comment

Regular readers will know that we’ve always had a soft spot for retro collection, and so we’ve rounded up eight of the best.

Inexpensive and often containing one or two games that would cost a small fortune if purchased for their original hardware, all of the below offer decent value for money as well as serving as invaluable portals back to misspent youth.

SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection – PS3 / 360

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SEGA’s sublime collection from 2009 is packed with so much content that you could say that they ‘ultimately’ ended up shooting themselves in the foot. Why pay £6.75 for the likes of SEGA Vintage Collection: Golden Axe and SEGA Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage on XBLA – or even £3.39 for one of the Sonic games – when they’re all present on this collection which can usually be found for around £10? Aside a possible desire to unlock the achievements they contain, we fail to think of a valid reason.

DynamiteHeaddy3

Whereas most retro collections tend to contain just the first game in a renowned series, this compilation more than lives up to its moniker thanks to containing every single 16-bit Sonic, spin-offs and all, the entire Golden Axe and Streets of Rage trilogies and a grand total of six Shining Force and Phantasy Star RPGs.

Fellow top-down role player Beyond Oasis (aka Story of Thor) is another highlight, while platform fans are very well looked after – Ristar, Dynamite Headdy, Kid Chameleon, Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head, Vectorman and its sequel – which was never released in Europe – all feature too. So many spinning collectables, so little time.

Unlocking achievements – which vary from stupidly easy to surprisingly creative – also unlocks interviews with key SEGA staff as well as a handful of arcade and Master System games from SEGA’s early days including the first Phantasy Star, RPG spin-off Golden Axe Warrior and the arcade versions of Altered Beast and Space Harrier.

The only real downer is that a few games from 2007’s PlayStation 2/PSP SEGA Mega Drive Collection are missing. Then again, Sword of Vermilion, Ecco Jr. and the Mega Drive’s wonky rendition of Virtua Fighter 2 were a bit rubbish to begin with and as such aren’t huge losses, leaving quality to prevail.

Taito Legends – PS2 / Xbox

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We’re so incredibly fond on the two Taito Legends collections that we’re going to take a look at them both. Although a few games have a whiff of filler about them (hello, Great Swordsman, Electric Yo-Yo and Volfied) they are thankfully outnumbered by stone cold classics.

And they certainly don’t get any more classic than Space Invaders, immortalised here in three different forms – the original, Space Invaders Part 2 and Return of the Invaders. As an extra bonus there’s a video interview with creator Mr. Tomahiro Nishikado, which is well worth watching.

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Operation Wolf and its often forgotten sequel Operation Thunderbolt, Rastan, Space Gun, Phoenix, Super Qix and Elevator Action likewise gobbled plenty of coins back in the day.

Then we have the ever colourful trio Bubble Bobble, New Zealand Story and Rainbow Islands. All three of these sold incredibly well when converted to home consoles in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and as such are rightly well remembered.

Fans of Konami’s licensed scrolling brawlers from the ‘90s should find solace in The Ninja Kids, a very similar side scroller to The Simpsons/TMNT with a rather distinct art direction. We found this to be the collection’s hidden gem. Puzzlers Plotting and Tube It hold up well too, made that slightly more frantic due to their tight time-limits.

As well as viewable arcade flyers, now defunct UK publisher Empire went beyond the call of duty and included one of six collectable arcade artwork postcards inside each box. It’s doubtful that anybody bought six copies just to own them all, but we do seem to recall retro collectors swapping and selling them on various gaming forums. A nice little touch on Empire’s behalf.

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Toy Fair 2014
Jan 24
By Jake In The Week In Pictures 1 Comment

It was Toy Fair 2014 at London’s Kensington Olympia this week. Video games didn’t exactly feature prominently, but Sonic was there.

Peter Shilton, Toy Fair 2014

You can see him above, loitering in the background of a photo of event manager Simon Pilling. Sega weren’t exhibiting, so it’s hard to say exactly what Sonic was up to. Apart from loitering.

But importantly, Sonic’s presence is pretence enough to bring you this slightly uncomfortable photo of Peter Shilton from the show.

From play to academia, and the Epic Games Centre launched at Staffordshire University this week. That’s not a case of academia trying to be all hip and young; it’s a collaboration with developer Epic Games. Here’s their European Territory Manager Mike Gamble standing in the centre.

Epic Games Centre, Staffordshire University

Looks nice enough, doesn’t it?

It’s not exactly a local tie up. With headquarters in North Carolina, and additional studios in Washington, Utah, Poland, Korea and Japan, it’s not going to be very convenient for the “key personnel” involved from Epic. Even the UK arm, which handles licensing services for Europe, is based in East Sussex. There are going to be some hefty expense claims.

Derby University

Just down the A50, Derby University also blew the trumpet of its game-related degree courses, as its graduation ceremonies took place.

The chap in the photo is Peter Innes, who completed the BSc Computer Games Programming last year with a 2:1, and is now working for Microsoft in the fancy USA, but flew back for graduation. And to stand in front of a lorry with a cracking billboard on and have his photo taken.

It’s also worth noting that the Programme Leader for that particular course is the improbably named Dr Tommy Thompson.

BBC News - Nintendo

And finally to Nintendo, who have been in the actual news with their loss warning and resulting share price drop.

BBC News wins the award for best accompanying photo, with this effort of a slightly sad looking man near a Wii U.

It’s the standard to which we all aspire.

HappyMeals
Apr 17
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

We could start this article by sharing our views on the morality of luring children into fast food resultants via free toys, but then we remembered our tagline: “finding the fun”. That subject would be precisely no fun at all to discuss.

One, believe it or not, allowed you to mould a moustache out of clay

Fun can be had though by looking back at the various videogame franchises that have been turned into McDonald’s Happy Meal and Burger King Kid’s Club toys over the years, especially after discovering that there are plenty of amusing adverts available on YouTube.

With Skylanders Happy Meal toys currently available in the US, and due worldwide soon, has there been a better time to take a lookback? No.

Super Mario Bros. 3 – 1990

Considering gamers flocked to cinemas in 1989 to watch The Wizard so they could catch a glimpse of Super Mario Bros. 3, it’s not hard to imagine that McDonald’s Super Mario Bros. 3 Happy Meal toys caused a similar commotion. After all, nothing can make a child happier than opening a cardboard box to find Mario’s face starring back at them.

That’s unless that cardboard box was home to a tramp, and located round the back of McDonald’s, of course.

We recall owning two of these – a Koopa Paratrooper that could hop by squeezing a red pad filled with air, and a Goomba that was supposed to back-flip via a suction cup. Mario meanwhile could leap in the air via a large spring shoved up his behind, while Luigi could whizz around by harnessing the power of a pull-back motor.

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XboxLiveArcade1
Jan 16
By Matt Gander In Features 6 Comments

Not only does Microsoft have a list of the best selling XBLA games of all time on Xbox.com, but they also keep it updated daily. We doubt it changes dramatically on a day to day basis, but it’s a touch that we didn’t expect to see.

Speaking of unexpected things, the official top 50 best sellers list does contain more than a couple of surprises.

UPDATE: It so transpires that Microsoft takes DLC into account, hence why Rock Band Blitz is so high on the list. It’s also worth pointing out that Microsoft has different best sellers lists for every region. This is the UK list.

50. Monkey Island: SE (2009)
Considering that are currently 532 XBLA games listed on Xbox.com, Lucasarts should feel no shame about this classic point and clicker clocking in at #50.

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49. Super Street Fighter 2 HD (2008)
Although a decent version of the classic globe-trotting brawler, it would appear fans prefer the original which can be found at #22. At 1,200 MSP this HD revamp is a little pricey also.

48. From Dust (2011)
You may not think #48 is very high, but this lovely-to-look-at God-sim has in fact managed to outsell many other Ubisoft games including I Am Alive, which received a significant amount of press coverage.

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May 29
By Matt Gander In Retro 6 Comments

Released: Unreleased
Format: Sega Master System

Frequent Games Asylum readers may be questioning why we’ve picked a Sonic game twice in a row for our monthly retro gaming feature. Although it’s true that we do have a soft spot for the ‘hog, the story behind the unreleased Sonic’s Edusoft (sometimes referred to as Sonic Edusoft) is a rather curious one that deserves to be told.

It’s a game that was very much made on a whim. After the release of the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Manchester-based Tiertex – who handled the Master System versions of Paperboy and Gauntlet – started work on an educational Sonic game aimed at 5 years olds and hoped that Sega would take a shine to it and snap it up.

Unfortunately for Tiertex, Sega simply weren’t interested. If this wasn’t the case then it would likely have been released between Sonic 1 and Sonic 2.

The playable ROM that’s available online suggests that development was pretty much finished. One of the programmers even said – via a forum post on SMS Power – that it even got as far as being play-tested at a local school. We wonder if those children know how lucky they were to get to play an unreleased Sonic game?

The aforementioned programmer has always remained nameless but has been more than willing to share Sonic Edusoft’s story. He originally added information about its existence to Wikipedia, only for it to be deemed a hoax. He then e-mailed a few screenshots to various Sonic fansites where, once again, fans refused to believe it was a real game. It wasn’t until the ROM was dumped online that people realised that their proverbial legs weren’t being pulled.

The game itself had some nice chunky visuals, and was based around a series of mini-games mostly involving maths and spelling. There were also three non-educational mini-games, presumably included to trick kids into wanting to play past the educational guff.

One of these mini-games was set in Green Hill Zone and simply involved avoiding objects that fell from the sky, while another saw Sonic jumping on a moving trampoline. A set of islands, viewed from an isometric perspective, acted as a hub, with extra areas that could be accessed once a certain number of the educational mini-games have been beaten. Sonic was also able to jump in a helicopter to get to different parts of the island. It was all very simple stuff, as you’d expect from a game aimed at children.

The fact that the NES had quite a few educational games similar to this would suggest that there was a market for such a thing. Our line of thought is that Sega put a lot of focus and attention into Sonic having a cool image, and perhaps thought that an educational game may have put a damper on that. Sega may have also been worried that it would divert attention away from Sonic 2, a game crucial in their strategy to winning the ’90s console war.

As the programmer said himself, it’s hard to say if Sonic’s Eudsoft should be classed as either an unofficial or unlicensed game. Tiertex started development on it without acquiring the Sonic license beforehand, but it doesn’t seem right to file it next to the many fan-made Sonic games that are available, as Tiertex were a very well known developer at the time. It’s a tricky one to pigeonhole, that’s for sure.

May 21
By Matt Gander In Blog 2 Comments

Now this is cool – Nike’s latest advert features a playable Sonic the Hedgehog mini-game set in the iconic Green Hill Zone.

Towards the end of the advert a billboard appears on screen featuring a red and white football boot along with the words ‘Sonic X Vapor’. Click on this and the mini-game instantly appears.

It’s an endless runner – like those found on the App Store – in which you have to prevent Sonic coming to any harm for as long as you can. Sonic has been kitted out with a pair of Nike’s latest footwear and can also punt a football along the screen to take out rows of baddies in one go.

The music should be familiar to Sonic fans. We’re not quite sure why they didn’t just stick with the Green Hill Zone music though.

Nike’s advert has currently been viewed a staggering 113,555,342 times.

We wonder how many of those viewers have missed out on this brilliantly hidden extra?

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