Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Game of the week: Uncharted Waters: New Horizons for SNES

Uncharted Waters: New HorizonsIn 1994, Koei released the game "Uncharted Waters: New Horizons," the second game in the company's Rekoeition. The game was released for the Super Nintendo Home Entertainment Systems as well as for some computer systems. Immediately the game began to grow in popularity, but mostly in Japan; unfortunately, the English version of this game never caught on. Which is a shame. Uncharted Waters: New Horizons deserves to be placed among the top, best SNES games of all time.

The game takes place during the age of piracy, so what can the player do in Uncharted Waters: New Horizons? The player can build up their own pirate fleet, or a fleet that hunts pirates. Or the player can perform more safe tasks such as becoming a merchant and trading goods from one sea port to another, or by sailing around the world to discover secret treasures and ancient artifacts. And when I say "sailing around the world," I really mean it. In this game you can sail to every continent, country, islands, etc., throughout the entire globe. In fact, your character can even get paid for mapping the globe.

Super Nintendo NES System - Video Game ConsoleExploration itself can be fun, as can the trading aspects of the game, but its truly in the combat where this game shines. The player character can sail the seas looking for ships to attack, or can take part in individual duels with ship captains. The winner of the sea battles and the duels goes away with tons of treasure. The loser often doesn't go away at all because he or she is dead. And you want to avoid being dead because it will end your game.

Another interesting factor with Uncharted Waters: new Horizons is that the player has six characters to pick from to play. Each character comes with his or her own background and skills, but with some training any character can go on to have a career in any number of venues. Each character does have a plot to follow, but mostly these plots are not restrictive and the player can go on to do whatever it is they want. But still, the plots can be fun to play out.

Despite the fact this game never took off big with the English-speaking gamers, it still has a loyal, niche following. To learn more about the game and its fan base, check out the UWNH fansite.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game of the Week: Star Castle

Star Castle Arcade Game Service & Repair ManualIn the annals of classic arcade game history, there are plenty of games still remembered. Pac-Man comes to mind, as does the likes of Donkey Kong. But then there are tons of games long forgotten, such as Gladiator or Pleiades. Among this lengthy list of games nearly forgotten is Star Castle.

Star Castle was, quite simply, one of the most fun games to play during its times. Basic gameplay was somewhat like the popular Asteroids arcade game in which the player controlled a spaceship that flies or floats around the screen while shooting at targets. In Star Castle, those targets included shields encircling a central enemy spaceship and mines launched by that enemy at the player's ship.

It sounds simple. It wasn't. Especially as gameplay rolled on. Each time the player's ship blasted away one of the layers of shields around the enemy mothership, another shield level would grow. This could continue indefinitely. The trick was to blast away nearly all parts of a shield, but to leave behind one small piece of a shield so that a new shield wouldn't generate. Oh, yeah, the player also has to avoid those mines shot out by the enemy ship at the center of the screen, which was no easy thing to accomplish.

Star Castle was originally released to the arcades in 1980 by the Cinematronics company. One thing nearly unique about Star Castle is it was one of the earlier vector video games to hit the arcades, in laymen's terms meaning the graphics for the game did not utilize pixels to draw images on the video screen.

Also, sometimes color overlays could be found on some Star Castle games to add to the experience, but often enough the games could be found without those overlays.

Star Castle only made it onto one home video gaming system, the Vectrex back in 1983, but it was a major inspiration for the famous Atari 2600 game Yars' Revenge. While Yars' Revenge and Star Castle at first glance seem nothing alike in gameplay, there are obvious similarities in the two games.

Thirty years after its initial release, Star Castle can hardly ever be found, but it was fun to play back in the day and is still fondly remembered by many retro and classic gamers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Game of the Week: Donkey Kong for Colecovision

Back in the early 1980s when home video game systems were still in their infancy compared to today's technology, next to none of the home versions of hit arcade games looked anything like their original arcade versions. For some games this didn't matter much because the gameplay was so simple; Frogger for the Atari 2600 comes to mind. But for other games it was kind of ridiculous, such as the Atari 2600version of Zaxxon, which appeared noting like its arcade version.

With the limited technology of the time, it was something of a challenge for game design to port good versions of arcade games for the home systems. Game players and collectors would sometimes pride themselves on having a home game that played somewhat like and appeared somewhat like the arcade version of the game.

For most of the very early 1980s, it seemed impossible that a home version of a game could come close to appearing and playing like the arcade version.

Then along came the Colecovision to prove everyone wrong with its fantastic home version of the Donkey Kong game.

Released by Nintendoin the early 1980s, Donkey Kong was a massive hit game in the arcades. It not only has spawned dozens of sequel games in the arcades and on computers and home gaming systems, but Donkey Kong also featured the first appearance of a video game icon, Nintendo's Mario, the little Italian plumber who has had tons of games featuring him or named after him.

The toy company Colecogained the rights to make and sell home versions of Nintendo's games, which included Donkey Kong. Soon enough verions of Donkey Kong appeared on the most popular home gaming systems of the time, the Atari 2600 and Mattel's Intellivision.

But that wasn't enough for Coleco. They thought they could go one better, and they did so by soon introducing their very own home gaming system, the Colecovision.

The Colecovision was a strong system, though some would argue it was not without its faults. For example, as with many early control schemes, it took a little getting used to the quirks of the Colecovision's hand controls. But once that was accomplished, the Colecovision truly was a solid home gaming system.

It was the graphics that really stood out on the Colecovision. No longer were there just a bunch of boxy colored squares bumping around on your television screen, because the Colecovision games actually looked like real video games from the arcade.

On top of all this, the folks of Coleco showed some genius by packaging the Colecovision version of Donkey Kong with the actual Colecovision itself. Just buying a Colecovision meant you had a game, one that not only had you heard of, but of which you had likely heard good things.

What kind of good things? Well, for starters, you'd probably heard the Colecovision version of Donkey Kong looked just like the original arcade version of the game. You'd also heard the gameplay was exact.

This was actually an exaggeration. The graphics and the gamplay for Colecovision's Donkey Kong weren't exactly the same as arcade version, but they were awful close, especially for the technology of the day. You could actually see Donkey Kong himself in all his giant gorilla glory on your TV screen, and not just some brownish, purplish blob that was supposed to be Donkey Kong.

So when you bought a Colecovision, you ended up with not only a great system, but with one of the best games for this great system. And back in the day that was the best a gamer could ask for.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Grand Theft Auto 5 might be revealed at E3

First off, if you don't know about E3, it's the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Still clueless? Okay, E3 is the biggest, baddest trade show in the world for video games. Anybody who wants to get a preview of the coming year in video games, E3 is the place to go. The 2010 E3 is at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 15 to June 17.

Grand Theft Auto? If you've not heard of Grand Theft Auto, you must have been living in a box for the last ten years. Or, at least, you don't play too many video games. Grand Theft Auto is a game where you get to roam around a city committing crimes. Yes, I said "committing crimes." You can do everything from jacking cars to shooting people to ... well, let's just say there's a lot to do. It's an adult game, you might expect. Much of the Grand Theft Auto games are free form, meaning you can do pretty much whatever you want whenever you want within the game world, but there are storyline missions to follow. And not everything is easy in the GTA worlds, because there are cops who will bust you or take you down and there are often gang bangers or mobsters who will shoot first and not ask questions at all. The current version of GTA in stores is Grand Theft Auto IV, made by RockStar.

Now we've got all that settled. You're in the know.

So what's the big news?

Actually, it's more like a rumor. According to several online sources, including Gamereactor International, RockStar is possibly going to unveil information about a new GTA 5 game. This information was apparently leaked from an internal Entertainment Software Association e-mail that lists exhibitions at the 2010 E3.

This is big news for fans of Grand Theft Auto. For one thing, RockStar is still living high off GTA IV and most fans and video game industry media did not expect news of a new GTA for at least another year or so, maybe longer. Admittedly this is just the beginning stages of its public relations campaign for GTA V, so RockStar probably won't have much to release about the game other than maybe a title and possibly a few pieces of artwork; it would be extremely fortunate if RockStar would actually make public images from the game itself, but that's not likely to happen.

Another interesting thing is that according to this alleged leaked e-mail, this next GTA game has the word "Vice" in the title. Though not totally unexpected, this could be even bigger news. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the second title released under the old GTA 3 series of games and to this day it has been one of the most popular GTA titles ever. And I personally have to admit Vice City was one of the most fun games in the series. So, could the GTA 5 game once more be taking players to the fabled land of Vice City? It seems more than possible. It seems downright likely.

Now I'm going to backtrack a little. In all fairness, rumors about upcoming video games are all over the Internet all the time. At least half of them turn out not to be true, but there's always the half that turns out to be real. I can't say for sure a new Grand Theft Auto will be shown at E3, but rumors keep flying, so maybe it will happen. Fans of the series can hope.