Crazy Taxi! I really liked this game in the arcades and damn well LOVED it on the Dreamcast, but maybe the name wouldn’t fly these days?
And now here is a YouTube video:
Crazy Taxi! I really liked this game in the arcades and damn well LOVED it on the Dreamcast, but maybe the name wouldn’t fly these days?
And now here is a YouTube video:
It’s September, and that means two things: The wife starts going on about Sugar Free September (SO HELP ME I WOULD KILL EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD ON EARTH RIGHT NOW FOR A FREDDO FROG) and video game fans celebrate Shmuptember!
Shmuptember is where we take time to celebrate the good ol’ fashioned shoot ‘em up (or shmup as it was first coined in Zzap! 64) – the type of game where it’s you (or you in a spaceship) mindlessly shooting waves after waves of robots, aliens or whatever other generic bad guy that gets in your way of a new high score. They’re often not the most complex or strategical games in the world but there’s a great feeling of getting in the zone with a good, rock hard shmup and laying waste to anything on the screen.
And wow, some of them are just plain weird, and they’re the ones that tend to stick in my head the most. Here’s some of the zaniest ones around! Try playing them today, I’d love to know what you think!
Aero Blasters 2 is a pretty generic vertically scrolling shmup, but man, the characters are incredible. You can play the game as the world’s first dolphin pilot. You can play the game as a baby. You can play the game as a kareoke singer. It’s so stupid and that’s why I love it.
Rabio Lepus: This is a horizontally scrolling shooter in the style of Gradius, but you’re a rabbit. Well, actually you’re a space rabbit, and you have punching gloves, and you can shoot things and punch things and then collect weapons and space carrots. It is so freaking adorable!
Parodius: I love the Gradius line of shooters, for many they’re the definite word on horizontally scrolling blasters, but they’re pretty vanilla compared to Parodius or its PG-13 cousin, Sexy Parodius. It’s Gradius, but you can be a penguin, and there’s pirate ships with cat heads and it’s just mental as video game can rightfully get really. Plus the cartoony presentation still looks sumptuous today.
Gynoug: On the opposite end of the cute to ‘death metal album cover’ scale is Gynoug, which to me will always be the game where you blasted away at a train with someone’s head on the front. It’s like someone watched too many episodes of Thomas The Tank Engine while on a bad acid come down and decided to make a game about it.
Kolibri is the only horizontal shooter that I know of where you play as a hummingbird. That lone puts it on this list. A hummingbird. I’m up for that!
Pretty much my favourite shmup ever made is Virus, even though I have long proven to be absolutely useless at it. Imagine Defender, but in 3D, and instead of having to protect humans you have to protect the gigantic, patchwork quilt of a landscape from alien contamination. Enemy craft roam around the place spreading their otherworldly disease and you have to shoot them. Sounds simple, but the 3Dness of it all adds a thick layer of complexity, especially in tense dogfights. Pro-tip: Crank the sounds up. Even the noise made when you inevitably fly your ship into the ground is fantastic.
Smash T.V. is a twin stick shooter by the most important man on the planet, and what makes it odd is that it’s set in a reality TV show. Imagine if the contestants on Big Brother all had guns and audience members were invading the house, that’s basically the set up here. You take on bat-wielding grunts, suicide bombers and giant tanks with human heads strapped to the top. I love Smash T.V. and everyone I know and respect does too.
Long-time readers will already know that Wizball is my favourite video game of all time. It’s also a trippy, psychedelic shooter that is so much fun once you wrap your head around it. You’re a wizard, in a ball, and float around the sombre levels collecting paint drops (with the help of your cat, who is also in a ball), shooting the bizarre creatures along the way and adding colour to the world again. Once you get past the first level or two it becomes quite a tense experience, and my God THE MUSIC IS INCREDIBLE!
Attack of the Mutant Camels: Look, I could pretty much ANY Jeff Minter game here (Ancipital comes to mind), and I really, genuinely think you should play all of them (TxK for the PlayStation Vita, and coming soon to PC and PlayStation 4, is mind-meltingly mesmerising), but for many Minter fans Mutant Camels is where it’s at. Imagine Defender but…uh, there’s giant mutant camels. And that’s pretty much it, but WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM ATTACK OF THE MUTANT CAMELS?!
Finally, friend of Blow The Cartridge Ant Stiller has just released a seriously weird shooter, Sopwiths and Pteradons for the Commodore 64! You fly a World War I-era Sopwith Camel that has, for reasons that have yet to be explained by modern science, been transported to the era of dinosaurs and spear-throwing cavemen. It’s rock-hard and barmy and free and you could (SHOULD) download it right now!
OK, what have I missed? I love weird shooters, the weirder and shootier the better!
When we think about all the great games and systems we’ve enjoyed over the years, it’s all too easy to forget about the fallen pieces of hardware that lay in our wake. Such as:
SNES Pad: Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior is a great game, and you know how much I love playing it even though I’m terrible at it. But MAN, M. Bison in World Warrior was a cheap little PUNK. He’d pull out the Psycho Crushers at a moment’s notice and that flying head stomp thing would cross me up at every opportunity. And yep, I have to admit that I got so enraged by this continual stream of BS that I threw my SNES controller at the wall, smashing it into pieces in what could only be called “A God damn infantile temper tantrum”. So not only did the game cost me a small fortune to buy in the first place but I was out $40 for another controller too.
Commodore 64: One day I was reading a local gaming magazine and saw this bad boy:
No, not the koala – a real arcade-style joystick for the Commodore 64, with real arcade buttons and everything! Far out, that is seriously hardcore. I can’t remember if they were only available via mail order if they had a local store distribution deal but I do remember being insanely excited when I finally got my own Star Cursor joystick for the C64. Except one little problem: the bloody thing didn’t work.
For some reason that I could never understand plugging a Star Cursor into my C64 completely drove the C64 berserk, spamming the screen with keyboard commands and making every game unplayable. It was the weirdest thing, and then when I took it back to the store (oh, so I guess I did get it from a store then) to get a replacement the replacement fried my C64 so it never booted again. I guess I had faulty joystick ports or something. That’s the last time I bought an Australian-made joystick! 3 year guarantee my big bottom.
Sega MegaDrive: When the MegaDrive first came out there were cheat codes being printed in EGM and the like for games such as AfterBurner and Space Harrier that gave you unlimited lives – but you had to rip the cartridge out of the slot and put another cartridge in its place. (There’s a great list of these cheats here) Now, this seems like utter madness now but I was young and stupid and didn’t really get what I was doing. And yep, you guessed it, I broke a MegaDrive in the process of ripping a cart out. Instead of pulling Altered Beast out of the cartridge slot I ended up flinging the MegaDrive across the room and it never worked right since. What the hell, man? That was just DUMB.
Another Commodore 64: Speaking of cheat codes, the essential item you needed as a Commodore 64 gamer was a reset switch. This handy little gizmo was usually available as part of an Action Replay cartridge or similar, and basically let you jump out of the game back to the BASIC prompt where you could then enter POKE codes to change how many lives you had or whatever. Now, being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no access to an actual reset switch, I had to resort to McGuyvering my own reset switch with a paper clip carefully jammed into the computer’s expansion port. What I didn’t realise then that doing so basically connects the expansion sort with the power supply, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I fried the machine after a couple of weeks of doing this. I was an idiot who really didn’t deserve to have a computer.
Countless dodgy joysticks: The sticks that came with the Commodore 64 were pure garbage that didn’t even last a day, but they were freebies so who cares. There was a plentiful supply of cheap and cheerful sticks available at the local store, but they too were wrecked by ‘waggle the stick really fast’ games like Decathlon and Combat School. It’s like these games were designed by joystick companies to encourage kids to keep buying more joysticks.
Every pinball machine I ever touched: For some reason every time I go near a pinball machine something happens to it. A brand new machine fresh out of the crate will somehow develop a flipper issue within minutes of me playing it, or something goes wrong with the display, or the coin box stops working, or whatever. Damn it, I want to get into buying pinball machines one day but I guess I’ve fallen afoul of some ancient curse.
The first PlayStation 2 Sony sent me: “Here’s your review PlayStation 2, fresh from Japan” the nice PR person told me, “you can just use your regular PlayStation 1 cables with it”. Well, I promptly hooked it all up and turned it on. A few minutes into Ridge Racer and people around me started asking what the smell was. Oh, it turns out that the PR guy meant I could use all my regular Japanese PlayStation 1 power cables (110 watts) with it, not the over-powered Australian ones (240 watts). One completely fried PlayStation 2 later I was politely informed Sony would not be sending me a replacement. Greedy mongrels!
Guitar Hero Guitar: I was drunk. I was a jerk. I later regretted it. But man oh man did it feel good to finally get a perfect score on Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” in Guitar Hero 2 and then proceed to smash the living crap out of the guitar in true rock and roll style. I wish there was an achievement I could have unlocked or something.
PC monitors: Did you know that I blame my horrendous eyesight on Commodore’s line of incredibly blurry and bulky PC monitors? I thought they would have been awesome after how good the 1084 was (and still is!) but NOOO they were crap. HOWEVER, did you also know that it feels really, really good to throw Commodore’s line of incredibly blurry and bulky PC monitors into a dam? They’re heavy bastards for sure but make a satisfying CRUNCH against the concrete wall and then a big SPLASH a few seconds later. Wow, thinking back, that was a really dumb thing to do and I probably contaminated the local water supply for weeks. WHOOPS SORRY!
The house’s power supply: I had one (1) power point in my room growing up, and about 16 computers, consoles, computers and televisions all being powered from that thanks to a complex series of power point expanders and extension cables. At some point I decided, what the heck, let’s add some more power points to this mix so I can have an extra Amiga going. All I remember next was a loud bang and flying across the room, and then people being mad at me because apparently electricians are expensive? Pfft whatever I had to go without playing Elite for a while.
Daytona Arcade: Serious Daytona USA players don’t use the brakes to get around the tight corners – they just downshift the car for a second before going back up to regular gear and going on their merry way. Well, for some reason I found it really, really satisfying to wrench the crap out of the gearstick in the local arcade on my daily Daytona session, and then the damn thing broke. The greedy bastards who ran the arcade had the audacity to charge $2 a go, but then I’m the monster for breaking the gear stick? What a world.
My Grandmother’s Television: Christmas 1992. Imagine, if you will, a young me being ferried over to my grandmother’s house for the annual family reunion Christmas booze-up. I HATED these events. I didn’t really fit in with the rest of the family, who were all into sports and being loud and playing cricket in the back yard. All I wanted to do was play video games and read magazines about video games and draw pictures of video games I wanted to make one day. But! I had managed to convince the parents to let me take my SNES and new copy of Super Mario Kart along to play all day while everyone else had their own fun. And it was a great Christmas! Basically my sister, brother and I played Super Mario Kart and Game Boy by ourselves while 50 relatives drank and argued all day. But MAN, ever since then, TO THIS GOD DAMN DAY, my Grandmother STILL complains that plugging a Super Nintendo into her TV somehow broke it. She can’t even see TV any more and she still complains that evil video games destroyed her precious antique TV. IT WAS 22 YEARS AGO GRANDMA LET IT GO ALREADY.
Let’s all pour out a virtual 40 ounce for our fallen gaming hardware. Do you have any hardware failure stories?
Hello! Welcome to September! I have been especially good over the last few weeks and refrained from spending too much money on Kickstarter, but maybe that will change after seeing what’s new. LET’S TAKE A LOOK, SHALL WE?
Parkitect is basically a new Theme Park, but most importantly it seems to be trying to not only recapture the business and attraction layout aspects of the original, but also the all-important humour. I want games to be funny again! It looks like the team have their act together, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the final game will look like. I hope they have little skits where clowns come out and throw things at each other, that was awesome in the original.
Super World Karts has previously appeared on our Retrogaming Kickstarter Roundups, and the developer has taken notes from what worked last time and made a new campaign that looks even better than before! It’s basically Super Mario Kart with lots of animals and characters from other video games because why not, right? I wonder if I can convince them to put Presidog into the game?
Hive Jump is like “What if Contra IV / Super Probotector was somehow even better than Contra IV / Super Probotector?” and that’s a great idea for a game if you ask me. It’s also got X-Com style decisions made between missions and little numbers pop out of enemies when you shoot them so HEY SOLD HERE’S SOME MONEY GUYS.
Oh this is so clever! Tetropolis is basically Metroid BUT instead of being a super-awesome space mercenary you’re…a Tetris block. And you unlock new Tetris block shapes to gain access to new areas! And you can move parts of the map around as if they were giant Tetris blocks!
Aw! Swarm Striker is a little game that is inspired by Solar Striker and GameBoy shmups and also a bit of Raiden and really you can’t ask for more than that out of a game can you? It’ll even come on a cartridge that has a little USB stick inside it, which I think is just TOTES ADORBS as the kids say.
Maybe. I’m a bit out of touch.
And now, f you love gaming history (I do!) and you love football management simulations (I do!) then you should check out the History of Football Simulations. It looks at every single one of these games going all the way back to the Kevin Toms days to the present era, and examines how the genre evolved from simple text based programs that had to fit into 48 Kilobytes of RAM to the modern all consuming simulations that live online. It looks cool!
Finally here’s a history book with a difference: Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection renders in loving detail high resolution scans of the incredible artwork that graced many a SNES game in Japan. As someone who has used a certain high-profile piece of Japanese SNES box art for a book cover, this is right up my alley, and maybe it’s up yours too!
OK that’s it for this month – unless I’ve missed something that you want to let me know about – so happy Kickstarting, everyone!
A little while ago I wrote about the annoying, frustrating and just plain horrible things that we put up with in order to get our precious video games years ago, but forgot thanks to time and nostalgia.
I think it would be really unfair if I didn’t also talk about the stuff that truly WAS better back then. Turns out there’s quite a lot! SUCH AS:
Hidden Content: Did you know that in order to get your game rated by the ESRB / PEGI / Whatever Ratings Board You’re Dealing With you have to disclose any and ALL hidden content into the game, and failure to do so results in huge fines for everyone involved? This has led to a bit of a crackdown on hidden content making it into the final version, which…is kind of a shame, really. I enjoyed finding little hidden Easter eggs in games that the programmer thought not many people would find.
Plug ‘n’ Play: I’m pretty sure that even though I haven’t turned on my Atari 2600 in a few months I won’t have to wait for it to check the internet for system updates before it takes me to a menu where I can choose the game I just put into the console, and then wait some more while the game installs a series of patches that came out for it. Call me crazy but I think just being able to play the game I want within seconds of turning the power on is a good thing.
New Discoveries: Because of the pioneering work done by many talented people, gaming went from being just Pong to dozens of genres, styles and interests within two decades. It seemed like every year there was a new thing that we discovered games could be about, and then the race was on to find the next new thing. Games like Pac-Man, Tetris, Sim City and Doom got big because there was nothing like them beforehand, not just because they were good.
Same couch Co-op: Someone excitedly told me the other day that the new Diablo lets them play multiplayer with someone else on the same console at the same time, like it was something crazy and wild and new. C’mon! Back in the day every two player game was just expected to offer that as standard. No online subscription, extra machine and television set required. And because it was standard, so many games could derive the gameplay from having a multiplayer focus. Can you imagine Spy Vs. Spy, Super Mario Kart or Pitstop 2 without someone next to you to battle against?
Focus: Maybe it’s because we got so few games back then (unless you went to your local computer club) but it was common to spend a lot of time on a particular game because that’s all you had. Now I open up Steam and see hundreds of games I keep buying but will never play, ever, no matter how many people tell me they’re great.
Pay Once, Play Forever: Man, how steamed would I have been if they released extra characters for Street Fighter 2 Turbo for five bucks each? These days Downloadable Content and Game Of The Year Editions and Online Passes are just par for the course, and I wonder if in ten years new players will be able to enjoy any of it because the publisher’s servers will have gone down years prior. I just want to buy a game and not worry if I’m missing anything by not ALSO buying some extra content I didn’t know about.
Enthusiasm: Maybe I’m just a bitter old cynic, or maybe it’s that my years spent in the proverbial sausage factory has ruined my sense of wonder, but I seem to remember gaming in the old days being more about having fun rather than worrying about frame rates or resolution or any of that nonsense.
No Stupid Stories: Do you remember the rich, deep and fulfilling story of Rainbow Islands? OH WAIT THERE WASN’T ONE yet another reason why Rainbow Islands is pretty much the best video game ever. Did you play the Xbox 360 Rainbow Islands game they released a few years back? It has a stupid story tacked onto the front and man that still makes me so mad, not every game needs a story for you to skip through.
Arcades Used To Be Cool: Yes, Arcades were typically a dimly-lit, smoke-filled basements filled with shiftless layabouts who just wanted to play video games instead of getting a job, but damn it, that’s what made them great. Walk into an arcade now and they’re all “family entertainment centres” with redemption machines and parent-friendly lighting and it’s all been cleansed beyond all recognition.
The funny thing is that as I started writing this I expected the list to be a lot longer, but you know what? Many of the great things about the games we play as retrogamers – the ease of development, the cheap games, the simple visuals, the feeling that something great was just around the corner – can be found today in the indie / mobile gaming scene, and it’s something that we really should be grateful for. So we’re all winners!
People ask me all the time what the best era of gaming was, expecting me to start rabbiting on about how great things were when we all had Commodore Amigas or Super Nintendos and how modern gaming sucks blah blah blah.
But it’s just not true. Yes, there are lots of awesome games that came out years ago. But there’s awesome stuff today, too. And, just as importantly, there was a lot of crap we had to put up back then that we conveniently forget when we start talking about retrogaming.
Just like bell-bottom trousers, Reebok Pumps and hypercolor t-shirts are no longer considered acceptable fashion items in today’s society, most old games feature old-fashioned design aspects that would be laughed out of the room in a modern game. SUCH AS:
Configuring: Remember CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT? These were arcane text files that controlled how your PC works, before the days of Windows handling everything for you, and when being able to extract an extra ten kilobytes of RAM out of your PC’s extended memory (oh God, extended memory, that’s another thing that sucked) was the difference between being able to play your new game or not. And good luck figuring it out without any help!
No online: Did you know that back in the day, if you had a problem getting a game working, you couldn’t just Google yourself a solution? You had to learn how to fix computers yourself, or take it into the local computer repair shop and wait a few weeks, or bribe a mate with a case of beer to fix it for you. IT WAS TERRIBLE. I HATE SHARING BEER.
Saving: Do you remember having to play through Castle of Illusion right from the start every time you wanted to play because save files or even passwords weren’t a thing? We thought this was normal! We were idiots! I’m spoiled by insta-save now. If a newly-released game doesn’t let you save your progress at any moment it might as well go straight in the trash can.
Loading: I dare you to come up to me and complain about your Xbox game taking two minutes to get through the intro and loading screens before you’re able to play. TRY LOADING A COMMODORE 64 GAME FROM TAPE YOU POOR BABIES. That’s serious “go outside and kick the ball around for half an hour while The Last Ninja loads” commitment there. It’s beyond me these days.
Weird controls: Since classic video game developers were pioneers, they tended to experiment a lot with things we just assume a set of standards for now. There’s a lot of games that have control systems that, frankly, look like the work of a paranoid schizophrenic with severe anger issues. Even back when it was released the tank controls of Resident Evil were considered archaic, and they’re downright ludicrous today. Yeah, I said it.
Frustration: Compounding the anger generated by games that don’t let you save anywhere are games that kill you the second you make one mistake. Case in point: Dragon’s Lair is not a well designed video game. I kind of get the need for this kind of punishing difficulty in an arcade environment, but even the home versions suffered horrendously broken collision detection and punishing controls that made playing it a real chore and time has not been kind to it at all.
Waiting: Oh man, the waiting. You waited until your birthday or Christmas to get new games. You waited a month for a new magazine to come out which previewed games that weren’t coming out for months. You heard about games that came out overseas that didn’t come out locally until years later. You waited ages for a sequel to your favorite game to be announced, and then more waiting for it to actually come out. It seems barbaric now but back then it was just part of being a gamer.
Expense: I paid $130 for Street Fighter 2 on the SNES. Good grief! I can’t ever imagine spending that much money on a video game ever again. Heck, there’s consoles out now that cost less than that, and that’s without converting for inflation. $130 these days can buy you an entire library of games on pretty much every system going.
Rumors: One of the reasons this article took so long to write was that I spent the morning trying to get the Lara Croft Nude Code working, and I think I’ve almost got the timing right, because my cousin’s best friend’s neighbor’s dad works at Nintendo and he said they snuck a nude code into the game to get Sony into trouble. Etc. Good Lord, did we have to put up with so much of this nonsense before the internet came along. (Actually, we still do, but it’s easier to filter it out)
Crap Closets: Let’s be honest here – our tastes in games when we were kids were pretty much uniformly terrible. Most game purchases were made on the basis of a cool-looking cover or completely fictitious screenshots on the back of the box. Before too long we have entire closets full of games that suck but damn it we spent good pocket money on them, so they keep getting played over and over again as we stubbornly refuse to admit they were terrible. Then again, this kind of thinking led me to Super G-Man so it’s not all bad.
OK, now that I’ve done my best to smash everyone’s proverbial rose-coloured glasses – am I being too harsh?
Total Voters: 36