Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gunstar Super Heroes / Gunstar Future Heroes review


In the age of 3D game - where 'photorealism' is a highly sought after 'art', games often fall down on where it matters - the gameplay and pure unadulterated fun. This remake of the Treasure's 1993 classic Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US) 2D side scrooling shooter, Gunstar Heroes aims to rectify that.

Thanks to Treasure, many of you kids who has missed out on the glory years of 2D shooters, can now experience such wonderful gameplay that has always been lacking on 3D shooters. This isn't a simple port. It is a remake that bettered the original in almost every other way. Sprites has never looked more wonderful on the Gameboy Advance and the only other game I can think of that has better 2D graphics is Castlevania: The Dawn of Sorrow on the NDS platform.

The original game has stood well against time and with time like wine; the game has aged rather gracefully. However not many people has access to a Sega Mega Drive so the closest you can ever enjoy such a game is getting this. It does not matter because like I said, this version is much better. Forget Metal Slug Advance, this is the most ferocious action pack shooter on the GBA since Astro Boy: Omega Factor (also developed by Treasure). The graphic really does push the GBA to its limit with rotations, scaling and zooming all combined with explosive actions that grace just about every single animated pixel.

The sound is wonderful for a GBA game. But play on the surround equipped NDS and you will notice that it could have been better. That doesn't matter it is still awesome. The game itself is pretty short. You can look at about 1 hour of game time to complete the whole mission with a single character but that isn't the point. I remember replaying Contra and Prince of Persia countless of times and both never bore me. This won't too. Trust me.

You have access to two characters, Gunstar Blue and Gunstar Red. Both are very similar, the only differences are mainly cosmetic as well as some weapons. As well as charged weapons, both can dragon punch and slide kick.


Gunstar Green sprite sheet (more here)


Niggles aside (of which there aren't that many) this is a wonderful handheld game that aims to evoke memories of a time where we do not have to use our left brain. There are no yellow keys to find, no pseudo and cheesy voice over to allow our ears to suffer upon. Put it this way, Gunstar Future Heroes (UK title) is 500% more enjoyable than the last two 3D fps I played on the PC (Quake IV and F.E.A.R.) put together.


The original Gunstar Heroes on Mega Drive. (image source)

The only problem with the game is the rarity. You only have to blame the lack of publicity and the consignment of GBA games at the back of GAME and Gamestation stores (while the PSP section - mostly riddled with UMD films are on the front) for the rarity (in the UK). Even I had to search the local indie store up and down only to find a used cart to boot.

Likes:
Wonderful 2D graphics. The best looking sprites you will ever see
Great gameplay
Lacks depth

Gripes:
Lacks the two-player mode of the original
Lacks depth (but who cares)

8/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas telly

My very very last 2005 post. Seriously. A compilation on what's on terresterial telly.

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I am so glad that the bastards from T4 are far far away in Sydney. May they never return to Britain. Ever.

Christmas Eve

6.25pm Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC1) Strictly for the oldies only.
9.10pm Little Britain (BBC1) Final episode of the third series.
10.00pm Father Ted (Channel 4) The group of misfit priests finds themselves lost in Europe's largest lingerie department while out Christmas shopping.
11.55pm Carrie (Channel 4)

Christmas Day


12.20pm Tarrant in the Land of... the Polar Bear (ITV1) Chris Tarrant explores the Arctic Circle.
3.00pm Jamie Oliver's Alternative Christmas Message (Channel 4) Watch if you want another reason to hate this attention seeking twat.
3.00pm The Queen's Christmas Message (BBC1) Watch if you want a summary on what happened during the past one year and what the government is going to do about it (locking up people etc. etc. etc.).
3.10pm Shrek (BBC1)
3.25pm The Grinch (ITV1)
4.30pm Toy Story 2 (BBC1)
4.45pm Dances with Wolves (five)
5.30pm Christmas Creature Comforts (ITV1) Aardman Animations' creatures swap mindless pondering with gospel... and more debating.
6.00pm My Family Christmas Special (BBC1) The Harpers has the usual Christmas disaster.
7.00pm Doctor Who (BBC1) David Tennat debuts as the Time Lord in The Christmas Invasion, supposedly filled with anti-war messages.
7.50pm Tsunami: Where Was God? (Channel 4)Mark Dowd questions why god allowed the Asian tsunami disaster while Professor Richard Dawkins rationalised that there is no such thing as god.
8.00pm The Importance of Being Earnest (BBC2) Average remake of the comedy drama based on Oscar Wilde's play. Reese Whiterspoon is hot with her faux Julie Andrews accent.
11.05pm Little Britain: a South Bank Show Special (ITV1) Follow Matt Lucas and David Walliams in a documentary of their Little Britain production with comments by Elton John and Vic Reeves.
2.00am Cube (five) Excellent low-budget sci-fi horror where nerds die.
Muahahaha!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dell Axim x50v DC8XN61

update: item stolen is a Dell Axim x50v with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, service tag: DC8XN61 along with a 2GB Kingston Compact Flash flash card and a 512MB Sandisk Ultra-II Secure Digital flash card.

Last blog post for 2005

First of, yesterday was Winter Solstice (blog was posted 22 Dec despite the draft being written on 19 Dec), which was the shortest day of the year. Beginning today day time will begin to get longer.

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Well last Sunday I was having lunch at Nando's, Brighton with Jennifer. And some fucker nicked my black jacket (which contains some personal belongings of great value) from my seat. It was obviously a professional who did it as it was quick and I did not realise anything missing until I stood up to get a refill. I was fuming with rage on Nando's staffs who were apparently reluctant to do anything about anything. Manager? He is downstairs. Call him up! He is busy. On top of that they were casting doubt on whether I had a jacket in the first place. Are you sure you had a jacket? Did you bring it to the washroom? Etc. etc. etc.

Well hello, of course I had a fucking jacket...it's like so warm outside yesterday at the temperature of 0'C! A pathetic attempt to disown any responsibility was made by a waiter who pointed to a warning sign 'Do not let your personal belongings become take-away', which was hardly a disclaimer that meant 'We are not responsible for anything stolen'. So shut up about not owning up to the responsibility of protecting your clients of professional criminals. We pay your fucking wages you idiots. Nando's should hire lawyers who can produce proper disclaimers if they wish to fuck over their customers. A request to see the CCTV footages was also denied although I understand that the low staffs are not allowed access.

I spoke with a colleague of Jennifer on Monday, Kath, who was also a victim when her handbag was stolen on Friday at a pub. Apparently there is a professional gang making headway around Brighton this past few weeks (with three other bags stolen at the same pub that very evening) and they are quite successful in clearing up people's personal belongings. Nine flats near her place had their doors kicked in on the same day!

Anyway within the hour I had the incident reported to the friendly police of Sussex Police. Yes they (the police) were a many times more helpful than the staffs at Nando's. Anybody who purchased the stolen articles knowing or believing that the articles may be stolen (too good to be true, no packaging, etc.) will be committing an offence (Theft Act 1968) punishable by term up to 14 years imprisonment. Even then, purchasing stolen items without knowledge that it was stolen would still mean that those items are still my property (Sale of Goods Act 1979, amended by Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994).

I am pretty calm after what happened. Even then any anger that I possess seems to be directed mainly at Nando's Brighton. I realised what happened to me is nothing compared to the misery of others (Aceh, Iraq, New Orleans). The police have their hands tied doing more serious investigations that are more life threatening than this. I also realised that there is next to nothing I can do to get my stolen articles back but who knows what the future will bring. Weird things happens in this world and the next thing you could find yourself claiming legal ownership of a stolen product at a car boot sale. This is why knowing your legal rights can be helpful should such a situation ever arise.

Related post:
Starbucks: 15 seconds of fame

update: item stolen is a Dell Axim x50v with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, service tag: DC8XN61 along with a 2GB Kingston Compact Flash flash card and a 512MB Sandisk Ultra-II Secure Digital flash card.
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Last night we went to Odean to catch King Kong. I am not really in a mood to write up a review of it but it is okay. I can see where Peter Jackson is going but it all felt too long. My arse was fucking aching!

Unnecessary comic characters were also included. Effects were merely okay, with the dinosaurs looking more like the gawd awful US remake of Godzilla than Walking with Dinosaurs. You don't feel pity for Kong in the end like you do in the original. It is nice seeing the old New York in digital pixels but somehow it all still felt Star War'ish. Watching it, the film felt as though it was rushed ahead to meet its Christmas deadline.

My advise: wait for the Special Edition HD version instead, where hopefully Weta could run through a couple more effect passes.

6/10

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Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS rocks. It is worth paying for a DS and importing AC:WW from the US just to be able to play that game.

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Also, as this should be my last blog post for 2005, I probably won't blog for the next two weeks. So...




HAPPY CHRISTMAS
&

HAPPY NEW YEAR
I will be back in London for New Year's Eve. If anybody wants to meet-up for a drink text, e-mail me or leave a comment down here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas shopping

I always hate it when shops lie. You know - advertise something on offer to court you in, then trying to persuad you to get something else because there are none in stock! HMV has been doing it lately and yesterday I forced myself through Oxford Street (god I hate that part of Central London) visiting two of their larger stores - and none had the package I wanted (even though they have large ads for them and empty 'not for sale' boxes! Eventually I had to get it at GAME. The situation is similar to UK's XBox 360 preorder debacle, create a hype but unable to fulfill them.

Speaking of Oxford Street, the Christmas lights this year are much much better than last year's embarrassing and pathetic attempt. There are no longer any Harry Potter mumbo jumbos too thankfully, although Regent Street had character models of the Ice Age film on their lights. A good effort this year but sadly still ugly. Thankfuly I do not shop at the 'worst high street' much.

Oxford Street's eccentric resident religious preacher (or nutter, depending on your point-of-view), as always, was present. Last evening for the first time in years I did not hear his famous 'sinner or winner' catchphrases (eg. be a winner not a sinner)! The man with the megaphone was blurting something else instead. I stood by the side of Oxford Circus tube station waiting for the sinner/winner catchphrase because I kinda missed it - like the Tube map, and golf sales, sinner/winner is embedded in our psychi.

Since everyone is doing it I guess I might as well. I decided to draw up a list of what I really want this Christmas. Nothing clever or pretentious or anything, merely drawing attention to my dependency on consumerism and what I really want.

1. Six Feet Under season 2,3,4 DVD digibox boxset
2. Futurama season 4 DVD boxset
3. Peep Show season 2 DVD
4. Family Guy season 3 boxset
5. Age of Empire III limited edition boxset
6. 4Gb SD card (non generic)
7. Black Nintendo DS with Animal Crossing: Wild World US import
8. New pairs of good quality woolen socks

And for Christmas 2006:

1. Hellgate: London
2. Nintendo Revolution
3. Nip/Tuck season 3 DVD digibox boxset
4. Splinter Cell: Double Agent
5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
6. New rig
7. American Dad! DVD
8. Bush. Impeached.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Video Game Impressions: F.E.A.R. / Hellgate: London

I recently had a chance to obtain the Director's Edition of F.E.A.R. Dusting up my machine recently hammered by Quake IV, I knew that my rig is just too slow to even consider tearing through Monolith's F.E.A.R. But I did give it a shot. Running at a pathetic 640x480 medium setting resolution my GPU card was just too old to be able to churn out more pixels.


Screenshot from Guru3D

I went to a mate's home and fired it up there. His system, thankfully, was pretty good. I clocked up roughly one hour of gameplay before packing up. That was one scary hour with that girl in red appearing a couple of times. Plus all those good stuff said about the A.I. is true. Those bastards are really clever (as far as FPS games are concern). In open environment some of the little buggers would sneak away and try to ambush me from behind. This is unlike the other 99% of FPS games out there where enemies would all come running at you. At the same time.



For now I am keeping the game wrapped till Christmas when I head off to Brighton where a nVidia 6600 awaits. Hopefully, with soft shadows turned off I could yield a respectable framerate at 1024x768. The graphic engine is terribly demanding with Monolith themselves advising gamers not to run above 1024x768 on current generations of GPUs.


Screenshot from Guru3D

I am also quite shock that Monolith were able to produce such a creepy game. The last PC games I played that was made by the developer was No One Lives Forever 2, which was an outstanding 1960s spoof spy game (NOLF 1 is also good), and the rather appalling Alien Vs Predator 2. It is like being a character in one of those Japanese horror films.

Speaking of PC games, I just can't wait for Hellgate: London to be released. Just check out the screenies here. The level of detail that went into recreating London seems to be extremely well done. Just look at the screenshot below. Yes that is an actual recreation of a present day London street.



And this is a 1992 Tube Stock. The image has been inverted for some reason but you can still read the destination (Epping) and the unit number (91241). A little googling revealed an actual specimen right here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Boom!" Fuel depot explosion

I was sleeping when at around 6am my bed started to vibrate. I felt the room shake. Thinking it was probably some idiot falling down the stairs or someone has decided to continue construction this early on a Sunday morning, so I went back to bed. I also heard a large bang but merely ignored it because I thought it could be a thunder.

It wasn't until I got up at 10am and switched on BBC News 24 that I found out that a fuel depot in Hemel Hempstead has been hit by a couple of massive explosions. I am now sure that the vibration I felt was due to the fuel depot incident. It was supposed to be a nice day today with the sun cheering us up but right now London has been engulfed in smog. Even Jennifer in far away Brighton felt the tremor. Apparently the south east coastal city is experiencing a hazy evening too.

In other news I am experiencing some frightening moments playing F.E.A.R.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Film Review: Creep

Recently I had the chance to rent Creep on DVD. (It was released earlier this year in Britain but I didn't have the time to watch it in the theaters.)

The premise that attracted me to Creep was that it isn't only a horror film - it was a horror film set in the London Underground. Being a Londoner who frequently uses the Tube I just had to see it. It also happened to include Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), one of my favourite actresses.

Franka plays a Kate, a German socialite (her status meant it was easy to hate her) who lives in London. Hoping to bed George Clooney (who fortunately did not appear in this film) she attempts to head towards the Clooney party.


Creep (source: themoviebox.net)


Failing to hail a black cab, Kate decides to try her luck on the London Underground. She falls asleep on the platform (Charing Cross station*) and missed the last Tube train. She wakes up and guess what? The station is deserted.

Soon the distress damsel (and others - mainly no names soap actors) are running away from a nasty creature (great make-up) who happens to have skin problems. The creature by the way, did received a tiny hint of sympathy from me.

If there is a problem with the film it would be the lack of information on the loony creature. How did it survive that long? Why did they lock the station when Kate was still inside it? Why did a 1995 stock Northern Line train suddenly turned into a 1972 tube stock or the 1996 stock Jubilee Line into a 1967 tube stock? You know silly logics like that. But I wouldn't worry about that. It is just a fun film after all.

Creep is quite gory (not too much). In the age of "intelligent Japanese horror re-makes by Hollywood studios" it is quite refreshing to see a plain old gruesome film that does not try to be smart. It isn't scary but it isn't the absolute rubbish that some critics had panned it to be.

* If you are interested in the real star of the film (London Underground) then check out
this site for an in depth analysis on the locations of the film

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Video Game Impressions: Quake 4



Some 12 years ago I started killing Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D with my uncle's PC. Then there was the original Doom as well. Where other kids were playing Mario (well I was also playing that) on their NES I had Doom.

But as far as shooter games goes nothing has ever best id's other franchise to date - the Quake series. The first proper 3D fps I played was Quake on the family's Pentium Win 95 PC. Hell I am still enjoying the original Quake on my Pocket PC.

Well after roughly two months wait, Quake 4 retail price has dropped by half. This is probably due to the release of the XBox 360 version as the 'ultimate version'. (Have fun folks.) Quake 4 as some of you may know is the true successor to Quake II. Quake III Arena does not count as it lacks single player mission mode.

My system being a crappy Celeron stuck to a three year old graphic chipset, I had my doubts that it could crunch through. But after tweaking through the system I managed to get a respectable frame rate at SVGA medium setting. I had to disable some effects but I did leave shadows and bump mapping on. Not bad for a crappy system.


Quake 4 as seen through my crappy old system


Sure the quality could have been better but right now I am unwiling to spend hundreds of pounds to frag something. I am amazed that the engine was flexible enough to actually allow a Geforce4 card.

Update: Well I had a blast. I do wish we can do away with those chattering NPCs. It was rather easy even though there were great moments. It was too short. The story did not have the same level of depth that even the original Half-Life did. Visually it was great, but I just can't help thinking that Cormack needs to rethink id's strategy. You can only retell the same story so many times.