Monday, 31 August 2015

Chaos Constructions 2015 - Speccy Game Lirus

Russian demo party Chaos Constructions took place this weekend and whilst not all the results are in yet, or at least up on, this winner of the game dev competition looks pretty promising. I look forward to playing it when I get the chance. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Obscure Systems Showcase : Casio PV-1000

Casio were an electronics juggernaut in the 80's. Watches, calculators, portable keyboards, personal organisers, you name it - if it took batteries and went beep, Casio made it.

It's no surprise then that Casio attempted to break into the console market, what is a surprise is just how badly they seemed to do. Their first attempt was the PV-1000, an eight bit system released in 1983 and discontinued soon after. Only around 15 games were released for the system and was apparently taken of the market within weeks of it's initial launch. It's no doubt safe to assume that it didn't sell well, but why it's life was so short is a bit of a mystery. The fact that it was released in the same year as the gaming juggernaut the Nintendo Famicom probably didn't help, but it seems odd that Casio abandoned it quickly, perhaps they just realised how outgunned they were. 

It does not seem to be another MSX clone as some sites have reported, as whilst it does have a Z80 processor it has different and less capable graphics and sound chips. There were a lot of 'almost MSXs' released in this era, machines based on similar hardware, but not fully compatible with the standard, but this isn't one of them.  The Casio's graphics and sound are controlled by the custom D65010G031 chip which is reportedly very different from the ones used in the MSX. 

The Video above was made with the ePV-1000 emulator by Toshiya Takeda, which is pretty basic but works well. MESS also emulates the system too.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Heroes & Cowards - The Pentagram of Power

Coward Edition
Another new release for the C64, this time with what seems to be an unusually elaborate physical release available from Protovision Software. The 'Coward Edition' at just 35 EUR comes with the game in a nice tin box, an 80 page manual and a keyring. The 'Hero Edition' at 55 EUR comes with all the above plus a certificate, CD, high quality pentagram and best of all a 'low serial number'. There will apparently be a download only version available in due course, without any of the goodies obviously.

Hero Edition
What's the game like? I have no idea, but it's good to see these kind of ambitious releases on old platforms.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Spectrum Vega - It's Vegaly Good

Well the box looks nice.
The first proper review of the Spectrum Vega is out, thanks to Eurogamer.  Expensive for a plug and play system, it looks to be slightly disappointing considering it's £100 price tag, lacking anything but composite out and not having the best section of games built in. As the Review points out, you can easily get a last gen console for that money or even buy a Raspberry Pi  with quite a bit left over.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Manic Miner Minor - Matt Smith's First Game Remembered

Matt Smith and his creation Manic Miner have taken on a legendary status recently, being featured on mainstream TV and Radio and even getting mentioned by former Labour Leader Ed Milliband during his less than successful election campaign. Mr Smith made few games before quiting the games industry in the 80's, but he does have more to his name than Miner Willy's adventures.

Delta Tau One was the first game he created, all the way back in 1982, for the very early home system the TRS-80. Apparently it was released commercially, selling 13 copies and netting him a profit of £50, presumably leading him on to bigger things. It's a game that rarely gets mentioned even amongst retro-fans, which is a shame 'cos it's quite fun. It's an obvious 'tribute' to Galaga, but it plays very well and is clearly a cut above the average BASIC coded bedroom arcade rip offs that were common in the formative years of the computer boom.

The TRS-80 is not a well remembered system in the UK, it didn't sell in any large numbers and was quickly overtaken by Sinclair and Commodore machines in the market. This probably helps to explain why the game is so little known, as even hard core collectors in the UK don't tend to bother with the old Trash 80. The fact that there are only 13 original copies out there could potentially make it a valuable collectors item if anyone cared enough to seek it out. I've tried looking for it for sale several times, but I all I seem to find is American college memorabilia! If it's out there it's well hidden.

The above video is one I made a while ago. There's no sound on the standard TRS-80, so the soundtrack is the utterly fantastic, but sadly still not officially released Buckie High by Boards of Canada.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

VectrexRoli and his electromechanical games.

VectrexRoli is a YouTuber I've never seen before, but this little view into this often overlooked bit of gaming history is very nicely done and his channel deserves more views than it seems to be getting. Worth a look if you have the time. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Katakis 3D Nintendo Gameboy Color Prototype On YouTube - PLUS Mario Kart Proto?

Manfred Trenz, creator of the Turrican games and mulleteer extraordinaire, apparently developed a fairly interesting looking Gameboy color game in the early 2000's which sadly never saw a release. Screen shots have existed for a while, but this seems to be the first footage of the game actually running. The game was to be a sequel to the technically impressive and well received C64 orginal and looks like it could have been a worthwile title. Dated 2001, it presumably came a bit too late in the GBC's life for any publisher to take it up.

Another video from the same YouTuber shows what appears to be an alpha of an unreleased Mario Kart game, also said to be the work of Manfred Trenz. This is more than likely an unsolicited tech demo than an actual shelved Nintendo project. Created as a sort of demo reel, most likely to try and get Nintendo's interest, rather than commissioned by them.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Touhou 15 - Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom

Released this week, Touhou 15 - Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, the latest in the long running Touhou Project series of Danmaku games.  There is of course already at least one one-credit-clear run up on YouTube.  

Like all the Touhou games it's a pretty relaxed casual sort of shooter, that definitely doesn't require Zen like patience, cat like reflexes and a sixth sense for luridly coloured bullets.

Monday, 17 August 2015

It Lives! New game release for the Electronika BK-0011M

First place in the 'wild' category at the DiHalt demo party and a rare new game release for obscure Soviet computer system, the Electronika BK-0011M.

Bomberman: Тест Милены - Whatever it means, this game is a nice action puzzle game, clearly inspired by Hudson's orginial Bomberman, but with it's own unique elements. It's a lot of fun to play if you like that kind of thing.

The Electronika BK range of computers were pretty weird machines, being based on the 16-bit DEC PDP-11 architecture, rather than the usual 8-bit microprocessors of most home machines of the era. The system seemed to have a fairy big following well into 90's, but unlike other machines popular in Russia, such as the Spectrum, it doesn't seem to have much support these days. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Penultimate - Don't Play the Game: The Stamper Brothers Lost Arcade Games

Coming next, the Stamper Brothers 'lost games'....

The Stamper Brothers, founders of Rare Inc. and the men behind some very fondly remembered games, are back in the news again thanks to the release of Rare Replay on the XBox One. This 30 game compilation has been pretty well received, getting good reviews and making it to the top of the UK charts, no surprise really as it features a lot of quality games. It's interesting just how far back this collections goes, as it includes not just the internationality successful Rare console games, but also early 80's home computer titles from Rare's predecessor, Ultimate Play The Game.

Blue Print - One of the 'lost games'

What this collection doesn't feature are the very first games that the Stampers created, before they made a name for themselves in the British home computer market. It seems that before founding Ultimate, the Stamper brothers worked for a British arcade game developer called Zilec, where they made at least three and maybe as many as twelve coin-op games. They also developed at least one more arcade game with their own newly founded company Ashby Computers and Graphics, which later became known as Ultimate.

The story is pretty murky and it's tough to find any reliable information about these early years, despite their massive later success. Whilst Jetpac, Knight Lore and the rest get a lot of nostalgic attention, these games seem to be almost completely forgotten.

The video above features the three games that seem to be most reliably credited to them. In two of them, Blue Print and Dingo, it's pretty easy to see some parallels with later games. Blue Print has the player collecting parts of a weird machine whilst avoiding nasties in a classic 2D maze, a mechanic that bears some resemblance to the much better known Jetpac. Dingo on the other hand seems to use the exact same font that was used in Atic Atac, released later the same year and it's maze looks a lot like the jungle sections in Sabre Wulf, another Ultimate classic.

Dingo - Similarities to Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf?

What about the other nine? Well, that's hard to say. According to this issue of Commodore user, the Stampers worked on Gyruss, the classic Konami shooter, though other more sensible sources (i.e. everyone) credit that to Yoshiki Okamoto. Zilec did develop quite a few games, some of which were licensed to better known games companies, but most of these came out long after Ultimate started releasing the titles we hear so much about. Were the Stampers moonlighting for Zilec whilst running Ultimate? Maybe, but it doesn't sound likely to me.

Why are these games so obscure? Well it seems like none of them were a huge success, sinking without trace in a very competitive arcade market. Blue Print had a few home conversions on various Atari machines, but this may have been more of an attempt to recoup losses by the distributor Midway, rather than due to massive consumer demand. The other two seemed to just fall of the radar after release, presumably not bringing in many coins.

Atari 2600 Blue Print

The fact that most of these games were developed for and licensed to other companies means that the Stampers probably don't retain the rights and may be unable to release them if they wanted too. It looks like these titles have been pretty much abandoned by both gamers and their creators.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

They do exist! BBC scene demo sighted at Sundown 2015

The BBC range of computers never sees much action with regards to the demo scene. Other systems from the era are always well represented, with the Spectrum and C64 seeing a lot of releases in the 8-bit arena. The BBC is left out usually. Why? The BBC was pretty much exclusively British and the demo scene has never been as big here as in other places, but other than that, I don't know. Even the Tangerine Oric seems to get more demos.

Here then is an unusual, but very nicely done BBC scene demo, which won a well deserved first place at the recent Sundown 2015 party.  

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

God-Fighter Zeroigar - PC-FX English Translation Patch

The NEC PC-FX was a Japanese exclusive console, never released in the west and home to a lot of verbose, text heavy games. Most of it's library is going to be pretty impenetrable unless you are fluent in Japanese and it's relative obscurity and reliance on FMV multimedia stuff makes fan translations rare.
God Fighter Zeroigar is one of the few decent action games available on the system and it now has a fully comprehensive English translation patch released this week, thanks to SamIAm over at  The only emulator currently capable of running it is Mednafen, but it should be worth a look.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Sharp X68000 TV Ads

There's something irresistible about Japanese TV adverts and these two for the very impressive, but largely unknown in the west Sharp X68000 are no exception. I think the fact that it's in Japanese hides the inevitable inanity of the copy and slogans and makes it sound mysterious and exotic when it's probably anything but.

I imagine this Dixons ad seems just as irresistible to people in the far east. But Maybe not.

Monday, 10 August 2015

PC6001 NEC's Other Obscure System

The NEC PC6001 was NEC's other 8-bit system form the early 80's, released along side the PC88 range it was based on the same Z80 processor but was not directly compatible them. It's tough to find information in English about these Japanese home computers, but I'm guessing the PC6001 was supposed to be the 'entry level' machine, being a bit less powerful that the PC88 range and making use of cassettes as a storage medium rather than the more expensive floppies.

Later versions of the machine had more ram and improved graphics and some high end models had floppy drives as standard. Most of the games in this video were designed for the upgraded mark II model which apparently has specs not too different from the Amstrad CPC. 

This video was made with the excellent PC6001VW emulator, one of the best computer system emulators I've used in a while and thankfully has a fully English mode for the UI.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Obscure Systems Showcase PC88

The world of 80's Japanese home computers can be pretty confusing, there were a lot of systems released in a short period of time, often with zero compatibility between product lines. The NEC PC88 series was one of the most popular and perhaps the biggest selling 8-bit computers in Japan. There was a lot of games released for it, many of them which require a good knowledge of Japanese, but more than a few that are very accessible to non speakers, including some interesting action RPG type games.

I played a lot of games whilst making this video, but the ones that really stand out were Door Door, a puzzle platformer and The Scheme, a Metroidvania type game with heavy RPG elements.

The always excellent Hardcore Gaming 101 has an in depth review of The Scheme here.