Ranger X, released in 1993 and published by Sega, it was developed by Gau Entertainment- a gun-for-hire developer with a long resume of competent console ports throughout the last two decades.
1993... that means I was 13 at the time. The Mega Drive, or Sega Genesis in the US, was the only console choice for me. I think I fell hook, line and sinker for the much-hyped "Cool" factor. It was this sleek, black and sexy thang that just looked right under a TV, like another stereo component. And it had bad-ass games, dangerous games that smoked, wore leather jackets and ignored the cutesy little SNES kids with their Yoshi's and inflatable pink blobs.
Of course I looked down on the SNES and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Sure I love the console now, but when you're a kid and you can only afford one machine, you're in a fight to the metaphorical death with anyone who might challenge your decision. This fanboy-ism remains to this day, with Sony and Microsoft the lead contenders in a never-ending war between the emerging tastes of teenage children.
So, what jabs could I throw in this fight? What spare change could I throw in my friends faces before I kicked them in the balls (a legitimate defensive move, BTW)? Well, Ranger X was one.
At the time, we hadn't seen a lot of the graphical tricks that this game threw at us. A lot of the onscreen chaos was reminiscent of a side-scrolling schmup, but with the bonus of controlling a giant fighting robot/exoskeleton. The design was imaginative, the sprites seemed far removed from the rounded cute edges of Cybernator (SNES) and the jet capacity of your character introduced a vertical play-field to many of the levels, used to stunning effect in one particular level that saw you fly up the side of a glass high-rise building.
A lot of these points remained in my memory when I spotted a cheap copy of the cart recently, at a local used game store and it made for an easy purchase. So how did the trip down memory lane go? Did I trip on a loose stone, due to the lack of maintenance, a sad feature for many of these old roads?
A brief cinematic intro shows a shadowy force just... hovering. But they're silhouetted, so they must be bad guys? Yep, they just flew four ships into a city and exploded without provocation. Bring on RANGER X!
You have some options, to be sure. Difficulty, controls- how do you want your 3-buttons configured?- and sound check. Classic. So, let's jump right in.
Our giant mech game begins with a checklist- that spells action! Well, no it's more like a shopping list that you still forgot to remember to write "toilet paper" on.
But it's brief and now we have vector graphics. Of... something. A city? Then... something. The leadership matrix of the Autobots?
Doesn't matter, we're in combat now, a giant robot and it's sidekick bird-bike thing with a gun.
By now, it should be painfully obvious to you that I have no idea what's going on here. Allegedly, most of the names, plot and background info is detailed in the instruction manual- which I don't have. So, no names means I'm making up my own for them. You've been warned.
Craig the giant robot is riding his proud steed, Mary Evangelista, the meanest bird-bike this side of the galaxy. His home, Chichester, is under attack from the IRS- obviously. The feds have deployed tactically-immobile-territory-suppressors, otherwise known as TITS, to attack Chichester as they believe that the town has been undervaluing it's assets and not withholding an accurate amount of payroll taxes.
Over the course of the game, you lead Craig through the various environments Chichester has to offer- one of the key features that makes the area such a wonderful tourist attraction. To aid in his righteous task, Craig can seek shelter within Mary Evangelista- here he can use her own separate shields to provide cover and change the load out of his special weapon.
That's right, you have a special. You start with a surprisingly powerful flamethrower, which is only hindered by it's limited range and ability to consume the power bar for your special weapon in a short amount of time. Said power bar is replenished when you bask in the sun, as many tourists in the area like to do as well, taking full advantage of the full five days of uninterrupted solar exposure the region enjoys in a calendar year.
I should mention at this moment, that the best special isn't even a gun. It's a psychotic metal bird that flies off your shoulder and attacks everyone in your sight, like a violent Bubo from Clash of the Titans.
When you aren't inside Mary, cowering in fear from the collection agents fearsome firepower that often-time clouds the screen, causing a stuttering effect in the graphics, you might be taking advantage of Craig's limited flight capacity. Said jets give you a short amount of time to hover or burst-jump over incoming fire, before you come crashing back down to earth. You'll need these jets to navigate later levels, where you're asked to navigate around slightly more complex levels than the initial side-scrolling ones.
This culminates in one of the best levels in the game- a flight alongside a high-rise building, where Craig takes the fight to the IRS on their own turf. You'll need to measure out your boost ability to land on ledges and floating platforms, while simultaneously taking on federal defense drones, to get to the top of the HQ.
But, back on the first level- after vanquishing the TITS, Craig comes head to head with... something. Whatever it is, you feel that you're putting it out of it's misery. Perhaps it's the IRS's attempt to genetically manipulate nature into creating the ultimate auditing machine. DESTROY IT.
Okay, enough. There's no plot. Shoot things, make go boom. It's a great game. Hovering around the screen, there's a feeling of weight to the controls. Some of your side-kick machines are more useful than others- is there much point to the floating platform, other than sunbathing? Yep, I wasn't joking about soaking up UV rays.
Some of the joys of the game are found in the little details. Before I even replayed the game recently, I recalled shooting fruit off a jungle canopy to regain health- sure enough, there it was. Yes, it made more sense when I was a kid, not too well educated on the dietary needs of a giant robot.
Another great moment- shooting flying frog-spawn underground, I accidentally caused the roof to cave in and light came crashing in, stopping Kermit's kindergartners in their tracks and finally cluing me into the fact that solar radiation was fueling my big gun! Fantastic!
There are some downsides. Well, two really. It's not easy- in fact, it's only easy to die. There's just so much stuff flying around the screen at any given time, you're bound to get dinged by some of it and the opportunities to regain health are few and far between, if not completely missing on some stages.
I've mentioned before about the occasionally choppy graphics. This isn't to say that that this isn't a fine-looking game, it really is. But so much can be happening on screen that it looks like the system has a hard time keeping up. It's visually ambitious for the Genesis, but I recall Gunstar Heroes being much more action-packed and not suffering from these kinds of issues. Still, it doesn't detract from the solid core of game-play to be found within.
In conclusion, this isn't a rare game, so when you inevitably find it gathering dust on a store shelf, it shouldn't take much thought to conclude that it belongs in your collection. Simple to pick up and play, hard to master but a fun way to waste an afternoon.
Lot of new games on the horizon, lot of new shit based on old shit, pretty much the same shit we've played but now it doesn't look like shit, instead it makes the old shit look like shit.
To play said new shit my rig (AKA, My Personal Computer) has undergone a few new upgrades. First, the power supply has climbed up to 550W. That was necessary to accomodate the Phenom II X6 processor and my most recent addition- a GTX 560. Sorry AMD, love your processors but your GPU drivers lick gods balls. Not satans balls however, because they're too good for you.
So, Witcher 2 shoots up to almost everything at full- a few things remain switched off, but that's alright because at even just low specs that game kind of pisses on my 360 and PS3.
C'mon Battlefield 3, Skyrim, et al... Do your worst.
Like all the good things in life, you didn't ask for it, but you're going to get it- an update. About me.
Crysis 2- Slow to start, better than expected. You feel pretty bad-ass, rather than a time-management obsessed spastic from the first game.
Fallout 3 has drawn me back in, thanks to a Gamestop offer on the GOTY edition. I want to live there- seriously. There should be a Deadwood mod and a MMORPG version and then I will never come out of my office space.
I have still not begun to read The Wise Mans Fear, despite being on edge for it's arrival for several years now. It's a strange thing I have- if I begin it, it's end becomes nearer and I don't want good things to end. Buffy TVS season 7, for example.
Life goes on. Time install Ubuntu on my notebook. Later.
PS: A Deadwood MMORPG is all win, all the time. Get on that, developers.
PPSSESOMG: Why the hell is there a chat window now?
Yeah, I'm hung over- I couldn't come up with a decent title for this.
Just a brief mention on the current fad of 3D- can it die already? I have no freakin' interest in this stuff. Just as TV manufacturers have found a way to repackage their product as something new for us, Nintendo decides to upgrade it's old stuff in an utterly pointless way. We've reached a point where most people are satisfied with the visual fidelity of 1080p (most people= avg consumer, not hardcore enthusiasts), so now we're moving onto gimmicks.
Making me cross-eyed didn't used to be something that a manufacturer tried to do- on purpose. It was usually just something they added a warning about at the beginning of instruction books. Ie; "Playing this game might make you find out you suffer from epilepsy. Oh, and the 3DS might make your young children boss-eyed forever".
Holographs, that might be acceptable. Actual 3D images could work- rather than overlayed. hyper-spazzed, low-res crap that requires everyone to look like they just left Eyeglass World.
Heh, it just occurred to me that in trying to avoid the need for 3D glasses on it's hardware, Nintendo may have created something that makes people need actual glasses for the rest of their life. I hope the sales cover the potential lawsuits!
P.S: Yes, I know the 3DS contains more powerful hardware and has some impressive graphics- but it still has that caveat of "for a Nintendo handheld". As in "Sure, it looks great... for a Nintendo handheld."
Not that I'm obsessed with geeks. Not that there's anything wrong with people who are. I'm just a geek. Obsessed.
Okay, we have the ballsed-up opener out of the way, what do I mean exactly?
I have a new PC- well, how long do you have to own something before it ceases to be new?- and I just can't stop tinkering with it. I've always done this, with almost everything I own. I have to have whatever it is running or operating at the best it can possibly run.
It probably started with my ZX Spectrum and just rolled on from there. Now it's anything- ANYTHING.
Video Game consoles seem to have less customizable features now. The PS3 leads the pack, kind of- if Sony could just leave it alone and stop picking at it. But bearing my prior admission in mind, that's a tad hypocritical of me to say so.
But I don't think it stops there. This could just be me, but I'm acutely aware of my ability to switch my focus from one new shiny thing to the next. Case in point, I have a 360 and a PS3 in my living room but I know that I damn well haven't used them for anything other than Blu Rays or Netflix since I finally got my PC into a usable state.
Maybe it's a mild case of autism- god knows I'm an unsociable bastard, but that would just be a nice excuse. It could be an offshoot of how modern marketing is constantly keeping us unsatisfied and off balance, deliberately to make us want the next big thing.
However, it's most likely just being a geek. Video game geeks in particular, we can't help but think about the next game. Sure, there are people still playing Battlefield 2 right now- and I might join you at some point- but I guarantee a lot of the mid-game conversations have been about BF3, even before it was officially announced.
When I was a kid in England, I used to read Mean Machines constantly. A multi-platform, highly irreverent magazine that, even if the copy was a year old, I'd pore over every page- reading magazines and comics from a young age probably improved my writing and English Language usage. But one thing I recollect now is that we never had the sheer volume of coverage we have now. We may have had just as many games that got one mention and then never appeared, but more often than not we only knew about something's existence in the very short space before it hit the shelves. I didn't even know anything about Landstalker before I saw it calling to me from a wall-display at the shop that has long since left the earth- yet I still remember pestering the shit out of my mom to get it for me.
Now, we hear rumors of games that haven't even begun pre-production now. This is like the milkman hasn't even took his sunglasses off before we can even witness the gleam in his eye. But it's cheap to do. The internet just needs rumor and then a thousand blogs can drum up demand. Proto-demand.
Does all of this have a point? Not really- made you look. But maybe I'm not alone in feeling never satisfied enough by stuff. There's a point in the film American Splendor, when the real Harvey Pekar is talking about going around yard sales, looking for obscure jazz records and says:
"I was always a collector. I admit to having an obsessive-compulsive quality in me."
And it just always rang true. Maybe it's just a god-shaped hole in me. If so, God shaped kind of like a Sega Megadrive/Genesis- which I NEED to have, BTW...
Jim Sterling calls Pirates thieves and points out that piracy might bring an end to an already shrinking market and the Pirates... well, the Pirates shit themselves. Verbally, mostly.
I've said it in the comment section of the aforementioned article, but I'm going to restate it and elaborate- no-one likes to be called a thief.
It's a label and not a good one at that- not like "well-endowed" or "lady-killer". Well, I admit that second one is pretty context-sensitive.
But it cuts the heart of the issue- the perception of said activity as morally unacceptable or frowned-upon. Some people honestly couldn't give a crap on how they're perceived and many more of the comments on the original article seem more pre-occupied with the idea of PC gaming being maligned as a whole, that the PC has been selected as the choice system of Pirates.
Which it has been. For decades.
Que the angry rebuttals. "I only Pirate games because the publisher hasn't released a demo". "Well, if they didn't have DRM on them". "I can only support Piracy of DRM-enabled games..." etc.... Excuse after excuse. Anything to avoid being called a thief, right? Because then it becomes something else. It's deligitimized.
And that seemed like the main point of the article- calling it what it is. Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. A Sanitation Worker is a Garbage Man. Piracy of video games is Theft. Whatever you have to tell yourself to justify something doesn't mean the action in question changes.