Saturday, 27 December 2014

GROW: Star Wars Rebel Assault

Review by ThoRn (@RetroGameRevive)

Designer(s)Vince Lee
Platform(s)Sega CD
Release date(s)November 1993
Genre(s)Rail shooter (Interactive movie)
Mode(s)Single player

What does Star Wars and Christmas have in common?..... Well...  Nothing really if you try and find the similarities between the two but for me Star Wars Rebel Assault, Christmas Holidays and my Childhood go hand in hand.  In Australia being in the southern hemisphere we obviously have our Christmas during the summer and naturally the summer holidays is the perfect time for an 11 year old to let loose, which consist of two main things:  Riding our bikes and playing video games.  Now, I was never fortunate enough to have a Mega CD of my own but luckily I had a friend that did (if you read my 'Night Trap' review...  Same friend).  It was the summer holidays between grades 6 and 7 and we spent 90% of that summer playing Rebel Assault.  

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we go back to 1994/1995 and get all nostalgic about some FMV Star Wars on my favorite console of all time.....

You are Luke Skywalk errrrrr?  I mean Rookie One, a moisture farmer from Tatooine (sound familiar?) who has decided to join the Rebel Alliance in an attempt to defeat the empire.  You start out with a couple of training missions to get you used to the style of gameplay but before you know it, you are in your X-Wing taking on Tie Fighters and making an attack on the Imperial Star Destroyer, Devastator after it has captured the blockade runner  Tantive IV.  

The story tries to follow as close as it can to Episode IV 'A New Hope' and Episode V 'The Empire Strikes Back' with the two main battles from those movies, 'The Battle of Hoth' and 'The Battle of Yavin' (Death Star Attack) both making it in to the game.  I will just note very quickly that the Sega/Mega CD version is missing a chapter based on the Imperial Probe Droids that is available on the PC, MAC and 3DO version but I honestly don't think it takes away from the game at all.

Even though the story does jump from Episode IV to Episode V and then back to IV again, it still makes sense to the plot of the game and after all, what could be more satisfying then taking down an AT-AT on Hoth and blowing up the Death Star?

As one of the first FMV games released it was a true pioneer of the genre, even though it was a genre destined for failure.  Nonetheless it was still a Star Wars Rail Shooter which immersed you in to the world of the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire.

The game consists of both flight and on foot stages (well, only one stage being on foot).  Both of these game types used the same cross hair style shooter mechanism although during the flight stages you are also required to to use the directional pad to maneuver the ship to avoid obstacles that would cause damage to the vessel.

If you have played any other rail shooters in your time, this game really doesn't differ a great deal and wont take too long to master.

As the High Priest of the Church of the Sega/Mega CD I find it very difficult to speak ill of my beloved Mega CD but when it comes down to it, we all know the limited 64 color pallet doesn't produce the greatest in video quality and unfortunately this game does lack in that department more than other FMV games released on the console.  You will encounter times when you cannot tell the difference between objects and will crash in to things which can become quite frustrating but after you have played it a few times you get used to the visuals and can start to enjoy the game for what it is.

It's CD quality Star Wars audio, need I say more?  From the very beginning you are treated with the Star Wars theme and a voice over narrative of the plot to get you in the mood.  The game is full of clear speech and great music but being an early CD game, you will have to deal with the break in music during a mission as the track ends and restarts but other than that it sounds great and really helps create an immersive environment during the battles.

This is the part where the game gets a lot of negative comments as it was originally designed to be played with a PC flight stick but I really think it's just a matter of getting used to the control style.  There are really only a couple of missions that would have made full use of a flight stick but LucasArts worked around it by using the diagonals of the game pad as a sharp turn and the standard 'left/right' as a softer turn.  It's a little hard to explain as I can't recall any other games using this style of movement with a digital pad but if you do decide to give this game a crack I do strongly advise you just be patient with the control learning curve and it will feel fluent soon enough.

But on the flip side you only need to worry about one action button.....FIRE!!!

I think the best advice I can give with Star Wars Rebel Assault is patience is the key.  Take the time to understand the color palette (basically distinguishing the difference between solid objects and shadows) and the controls.  It's by no means perfect but when you get the hang of things, this is one great rail shooter and easily goes down as one of the great Star Wars games of the 90's.

May the Force be with You.

Until next time...  Stay Retro

Sunday, 21 December 2014

GROW: Troddlers

Review by @madsdk

Developer: Atod Design
Publisher: Storm (The Sales Curve)
Platform: Amiga
Release: 1992
Genre: Puzzle platformer

This week's retro review if of a brilliant puzzle game that a lot of people have never heard of. The game is called Troddlers, and was developed by little known Swedish developer Atod Design. If you're into puzzle games at all, please give the video review a look, I'm sure you'll enjoy Troddlers. Don't fret if you're not into Amiga gaming - Troddlers was released on the Super Nintendo as well for you console loving people.

Merry christmas and a happy new year to all of you! I hope the new year brings you lots of retro gaming joy.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

GROW: Midnight Resistance

System: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis
Released: 1991
Developer: Data East
Publisher: Sega of America
Designer: Koji Akibayashi
Genre: Run 'n' gun

Midnight Resistance started out in the arcades back in 1989. It's a standard run 'n' gun game of the fairly easy kind, but what made it stand out in the arcades was its rotatable joystick - like in the popular Ikari Warriors, released in 1986. By rotating the joystick you control the direction in which your avatar is shooting, meaning that, unlike most other run 'n' gun games, you can move in one direction while shooting in another direction, which leads to some brilliant gameplay and excellent boss fights.

The Sega Mega Drive / Genesis version of the game is of course missing the rotary joystick, and the standard control setting (mode A) follows the more classic setting of shooting in the direction the joypad is pressed, but allowing you to freeze the shooting direction by pressing B. I bet you could get used to controlling the game like that, but for me the game plays as a hot mess when using control mode A, so the first thing I do when booting up this little gem, is to switch to control mode B-2. In the B-1, B-2, and B-3 control modes you rotate the gun by pressing the B button, and after a little while this becomes second nature. This way you can play the game _almost_ like it was meant to be played.

The story of the game is simple: Your family has been kidnapped by a mad scientist, so being the super buff mercenary that you are, you of course set after the bad guys to rescue them. The game takes you through a total of nine very different levels, taking you through a dystopian, and somewhat weird, future. What makes this a really strong title, is the great diversity in the stages - no two stages feel alike, and no two boss fights feel alike either, making this an all over enjoyable experience to play. The game is somewhat easy on the Mega Drive, but not too easy if you ask me, and if I have to be perfectly honest, it fits perfectly with my temper for playing old games. When you, like me, have other obligations and thus limited time for playing games, a game such at this one, that you can quickly pick up and master, fits just fine. It's a game you can learn in half an hour, and you can probably learn how to get to the final stage in a couple of hours, but in order to beat it on a single credit you'll still have to work on it for a while - I know I haven't gotten there just yet.

In each stage you collect a maximum of six keys, and these can be used at the end of the stage to upgrade your primary and secondary weapons. The primary weapon being your rifle, and the secondary being different versions of missiles and bombs. Sometimes you can even purchase extra lives. My primary weapon of choice are the three-way rifle that shoots one bullet straight out and two more at 45 degree angles - extremely useful for clearing the screen of bad guys. For secondary weaponry, I prefer the homing missiles. They do a fair amount of damage, and I don't have to worry about aiming them at anything :-) I'm sure that you'll find your own favourites, whether is be the flame thrower, the shotgun, the three-way rifle or another gun, they are all useful in their own right.

Being a very popular title, Midnight Resistance was ported to a number of home computer platforms apart from the Mega Drive. In my opinion, the home computer versions suffer badly from the bad controls though, seeing as they only have a single button on the joystick.

Midnight Resistance is an excellent title and one I think should take pride of place in any Mega Drive collection. If you've never before encountered a run 'n' gun shooter that decouples the direction of character movement from the direction of shooting, I'd strongly recommend that you give this game a try.

Until next time... Stay Retro.