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9:56 AM on 01.04.2013

"Review"- Ranger X (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive)

(Republished from my own blog http://bits-n-pixels.blogspot.com/



A bit of history...

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?

The "Review"

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.

And TITS.   read


8:16 AM on 08.07.2011

Ready... ready for the big ride, bayy-beee....



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.   read


10:06 AM on 04.10.2011

Update: 4/10/2011

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?   read


8:05 AM on 02.27.2011

Something snarky about 3D and the 3DS...

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."   read


8:02 AM on 02.14.2011

Obsession, for Geeks.

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...   read


11:46 AM on 02.13.2011

The bear is walking and talking like a duck...

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.   read


8:50 AM on 02.06.2011

Yeah, that's why PC's don't dominate gaming anymore...

Admittedly, I'm coming pretty late to the party when it comes to finally having a desktop PC capable of running modern games. The entry cost seemed exorbitant, the specs always shifted and it appeared that support for PC-only gaming was waning.

Well, two out of three.

Building a PC from scratch lets you manage the cost quite well. I have a decent processor and a medium level GPU. I think the single biggest cost was my monitor at $120, so it's not bad on the wallet.

However, it seems like you need to have faith that everything will work together well. On paper, I seem to have a respectable rig, but Crysis- while looking nice and going along at a 30+ framerate- just seems to make it run like crap.
This single game alone has caused more error messages than anything else I've thrown at my PC, including a wonderfully heart-attack inducing system reset. I get the impression it's always been pretty buggy, patched or unpatched, but this is taking the piss.

Metro 2033? Runs fine- better than I expected. My old laptop had a GTX 260M and it felt like it was going to die from heat exhaustion. Comparably, my HD 4670 is running pretty cool- it hasn't even broke the 40c mark yet.

New games seem to be harder to find. The release schedule for PC gaming is as anemic as the PSP's.

I love my new PC. I'm just not sure that I'm ready to rely on it completely for gaming yet though.   read


5:41 AM on 02.05.2011

Random stuff masquerading as a new blog

Haven't written anything in a while, so here's thoughts off the top of my head.

I brought a Nook. My wife poured scorn on the idea of it not being a "real" book but then she started to use it and I've never seen it since. She even has a protective case for it now. Good thing I can read my stuff on my iPod app...

Built a PC from scratch- just an idea that came out of not knowing what to do with a Best Buy giftcard and my wife encouraging me to give it a shot. The theory was that I'd buy a piece or two every month and slowly work towards the complete thing, but then I just kept buying stuff from New Egg and I'd finished it in a month. I'd put all the specs, as many are want to do in lieu of putting their penis size as a quote, but I don't care. It's in a nice but cheap Cooler Master case, it's a quad core AMD and it runs under 29C most of the time and only really gets up to 36C under pressure- so good job done.

Having a new PC has lead me to completely ignore my 360 and PS3, but luckily we're still in a game drought- until Killzone 3 this month- so I don't feel like I'm betraying them. They sit there, idling and occasionally playing Blu Ray films or Netflix but they cannot charm me from Dawn of War 2 or Starcraft 2.

On that subject: Starcraft 2. Blizzard may be one of the finest developers of all time. Just the polish alone- I wish all developers could have the ability to say "When it's done" and really just wait until it feels right to let their child loose on the world, ravaging casual gamer and Korean PC-slaves alike.

Another thing I want to use Optimus- my PC- for, is to start writing again. I'm starting to get more ideas and I've been told that just writing for the sake of it is necessary to sharpen your skills. But, I procrastinate on EPIC levels so we'll see how this goes. I just decided not to call it a resolution- that doesn't at New Years or for the United Nations.

Later.

PS: Steam friends wanted, apply within.   read


9:03 AM on 05.20.2010

When getting $60 isn't enough...

http://www.destructoid.com/ufc-undisputed-2010-requires-code-to-play-online-update--174080.phtml

This shit annoys me. So much so, that it brought me out of retirement. That's right, 24 hours to crack the case or the sarge is going to tie me up with so much red tape that my badge will just be a butt ornament, because he'll shove it up my ass.

Vulgarity aside, when did publishers start find it acceptable to actively show their contempt for consumers? I know, Kotick is in some tall building looking down at humans like ants, rubbing his hands and whispering to himself "Buy all the DLC you can, peasants- I AM YOUR MASTER!"

Some will say that this is just an attempt to stop Piracy- which is, really futile. The gaming industries war on drugs. There's also the potential to get more people to buy brand new copies of games, removing the cost incentive from buying used by making you pay the difference to have a fully working game. I can see the benefits for publishers in either scenario.

Here's the thing- why does it always have to hurt the consumer? I have no problem with wanting to prevent piracy, but breaking a game and then handing it to us as and demanding money to fix the issue seems far more criminal and sinister. Free market economy aside, this is almost a protection racket.
Imagine if the same thing happened when you brought a car- the breaks are deliberately broken and the manufacturer just shrugs and says "The car will move, but you'll need to hand over more cash to get the complete driving experience". Who the fuck would buy that car?

Of course, this isn't going to stop people from buying the game. Also, it's not going to stop used game sales and the publishers know it. It's just going to be a way to milk more money from people when they don't realise they paid less money for a crippled game.

Feel free to whine at me for being a commie in the comments or that you buy new anyway and this won't effect you.   read


1:43 PM on 11.10.2008

An Open Letter... (Possible Gears2 Spoilers)

To the moron who thought an ice lake was a great feature for Gears 2,

Fuck You.

Sincerely,
Jim Yates



What an atrocious idea! Something to add a tad more longevity was it? I know, crazy thought ahead... make a longer game?
I know, that's just nuttier than squirrel shit.
All in all, an excellent game. A bit shorter than I expected and suffering from a case of overexposure from the previous game- as in, it's not as fresh as it once was- but still good, Locust-chopping fun.
Played it on my HDTV first- which is awkward, since my 360 is usually set up in my bedroom on an SDTV- and it looked fantastic. Not so sure about some of those much-vaunted upgrades to the U3 engine- the 'hordes' of Locust are only usually seen in the bigger vehicle sections and seem to have been crippled in the AI. Just pause a moment before blowing them up with the cannon on the mountain section and you'll notice that they just seem to be walking towards you- not too smart, eh?
Speaking of the mountain level, it felt very reminiscent of the similarly themed 'snowy-mountain ascent' level in Mass Effect- another U3 based game. However, this time Epic seem to be showing that your outdoor levels in U3 don't need to look nearly as bad as Mass Effect did. I'm starting to think that Silicon Knights and D.D might have a point- Epic make all other U3-based games look like ass. Still, I'm glad that the game doesn't suffer too much on a plain TV picture- kudos to them for that.

Not really a review, just a collection of thoughts unedited. And I mean it- Fuck You, nameless but possibly Cliffy B designer. That part of the level was just plain needless.   read


2:42 PM on 10.14.2008

Beta Frenzy!

WTF? I seem to be in demand all of a sudden. I, the socially-retarded by choice gamer, who doesn't really play online (well, maybe for Gears 2- the co-op).
I've had 3 beta invites within the week- Little Big Planet: Which actually put me off purchasing the completed game. It highlighted my ineptitude in designing levels, which I already knew about- so it's not really a good idea for me to buy something that revolves around that premise.
Call of Duty: World at War- A beta invite, out of the blue! Perhaps they're trying to win me over, due to my lack of enthusiasm for CoD3? Irrespective, this is for the 360 and that console remains in my bedroom, gathering dust until my wife decides to play Indigo Prophecy on BC. That one's probably going out to someone on my Friends List.
End War: I have to admit, this one's a pleasant surprise. I'm quite interested in playing a game operated by voice only (I think), just to see how it mashes up my English accent in relation to commands. I already have enough crap about it from customers at my job- phone support for tech companies. I can't wait to see the havoc it will wreak when it comes to defending the free world, digital-style. Again though, it's a 360 beta and I'm solely rocking out on my PS3. I don't currently have a headset for the 360, so that makes it doubly useless.

Still, I applied for the Resistance 2 beta so let's hope I haven't used up all my invitation luck on these three?

I have to add one more thing- the LBP beta could really have just done with being a limited time demo, available from the PSN store. It really didn't seem like a stress test environment- nor do any betas I've participated in within the last year or so. There's no ability to add feedback, even though I'm sure such things are tracked automatically. If the beta has become just a demo or another advertisement tool, then let's remove any kind of pretense of having some kind of effect. Sure, some companies have increased server capacities based on the stats they received- but that just seems to be an oversight that could have been corrected after the game went on sale.

The Beta- The modern demo/sales tool for online games.

P.S- I don't want to hand the codes out for these betas. It seems tacky and I'm not sure about the T's and C's, both here and on XBL, so please don't ask. Thanks!   read


1:57 PM on 09.26.2008

There's blood in your eye...

Or coming out of them. Whatever kind of symptom Wipeout HD might inflict on you.

Talk about a great value download! It's worth every shekel. Impressive graphics, smooth frame-rates, classic Wipeout controls and a typically great soundtrack- all for $19.99.
The strange thing is, is that I would have balked at that cost for pretty much any other downloadable game. Sure, I've brought a few XBLA games and MK2 from the PSN Store, but they were usually cheap impulse purchases. If only I used my 360, then $15 for Braid would be a cinch.

Value for money. Whip E Out has it.   read


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