Saturday, January 23, 2016

Random game I feel like blogging about: Gran Turismo 2

As I mentioned  in my "How I became a retro gamer" article, racing games have been an important part of my gaming history. Starting off with Super Mario Kart on SNES... I also enjoyed Rock & Roll Racing on SNES.

As I got older I started to enjoy futuristic racing games such as Rollcage. But when I first discovered Colin Mcrae 2.0, I discovered "realistic racing simulators" (or so I thought). I really enjoyed the physics of this game, how you have to fight with the environment and slide around the corners. I played several other rally games such as Microsoft Rallisport Challenge. But it wasn't until Richard Burns Rally that I realized what a real simulation game was. Richard Burns was amazing, but also brutally punishing. If anything it was almost too difficult to play with a gamepad.

For some reason I have never really been able to get into gaming with an analog stick. I think the placement of the analogs on the Playstation controllers is terrible and not ergonomic. The closest I've gotten to appreciating them was I used to have an Xbox 360 controller. I used it some for Trackmania Nations.

But in general, I still prefer D-pad for driving. Call me oldschool.

So fast forward to around 2011, I was really wanting to play some realistic driving. I tried out this game called Gran Turismo 4 on my PS2. It was good and had a lot of potential... But I didn't really have a comfortable setup for the PS2. So I tried out the PSP version of Gran Turismo. It is excellent, it has a ton of cars and tracks. But unfortunately it doesn't have any kind of career mode. So it's basically just a challenge against yourself to see how much money and cars you can obtain, and how many tracks you can complete at higher skill levels. Gets kinda old after a while.

So I figured I would try Gran Turismo 2 for PS1, in emulation. Sure the graphics aren't quite as good as GT4 or PSP, but it's still a great game. It's got a solid career mode and the physics are quite excellent.

I've done some reading online about whether people consider GT games to be a simulator or not. Some people do, some people don't. Apparently there are more hardcore sims out there, but they are mostly for PC and probably are kind of sterile and wouldn't handle well with a D-Pad.

For me, GT is the ultimate combination of accessibility and realistic seeming physics, to seem fun.   :)

There's snow all over the ground at my house here. Instead of going out and driving like a fool in it, I'm gonna play some GT2 soon to get it out of my system  :)     Reason I still play GT2 is because my PC isn't powerful enough to emulate PS2, and I haven't really found any similar games that I enjoy for PC.

Here's some screenshots!!!

Subaru Impreza Rally car.... Oh yeah!!!!

Suzuki Escudo. Pretty much the most ridiculously overpowered car in the game
 Random start sequence

 Classic car (Lotus maybe?) on the Seattle circuit

In conclusion:
Gran Turismo 2, coming to my living room chair tonight!

Friday, January 15, 2016

How I (A-Lin) became a retro gamer

My first home gaming experience was on a monochrome Amstrad CPC464 with cassette tape, mid 80's. To play a game you first had to load it for 10 to 30 minutes. The other option was to type it from a book, which would take hours. :-)

I was instantly hooked. Every afternoon after school I would put a game to load, do my home work while the game was loading, then play for hours.

Barbarian (Amstrad CPC464) - Terrific gameplay

 Dragon Ninja (Amstrad CPC464) - Decent port of Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja

Gryzor (Amstrad CPC464) - Excellent port of Contra

Got an Atari ST a few years later. Just as much hooked, besides I was also composing Music with Equinox SoundTracker and coding in GFA Basic. I loved game and cracktro music and would launch games just to listen to them, record them on cassettes so I could listen to them on my walkman.

Turrican II (Atari ST) - One of favorite game of all times

Xenon 2 (Atari ST) - Excellent shump in spite of being slow

Prince of Persia (Atari ST) - A classic

Somehow got a Commodore C64 in the middle. After that, beginning 90's, I got a PC, played the classics of the time, Doom, etc, made music with FastTracker, as well as coded a few simple games and sound FXs processing in Turbo Pascal and C.

I kept playing games till 2002, the last one being Half-life. In 2003, after yet another blue screen of death I decided to get rid of Windows for good and started using Linux. I threw myself full force into programming and didn't play games for a couple of years. But eventually discovered MAME. This was a revelation to me, I was really craving for good games, which were hard to find under Linux. After discovering MAME I would spend entire week-ends not seeing the light of the day going through the massive library of games, replaying my favorite classics or discovering new old gems. I also started getting into shumps, as a kid I was rather impressed by this genre, wouldn't
dare to put my money because I knew I wouldn't last a second, and it seemed only young adults would play those. I was a young adult now, so it was my turn!

I kept on playing almost exclusively MAME games (as well as other old emulated systems) for a couple more years, till a special event occurred. But this MAME phase taught me something very important: good games age very well, and the technology is less important than the love and art that is put into creating a game.

In 2006 my wife bought me a game for my birthday. This game was Far Cry. So I setup a Windows partition and started playing it with no expectation whatsoever (she's not at all into video gaming, I thought it was most likely gonna be a mediocre game). But not before long I was addicted, and probably had some of the greatest video gaming blasting experience in my life. After finishing it I sought other FPSs but I couldn't find any that I would like as much, so I played numerous Far Cry mods, then eventually replayed the game with the hardest setting (and completed it in a shorter time than the first time!). When Crytek released Crysis, my wife bought it for my birthday (on my demand this time :-). I enjoyed Crysis a lot, about as much as Far Cry.

Far Cry (PC) - Blasting FPS fun, very life like

After that my last AAA gaming experiences were the Prince of Persia series. I then got rid of my Windows partition and played only retro games once in a while. Around 2007 I decided to go heavily into excergaming after discovering the Bodypad.

My plan was to play these awesome fighting MAME games with my bodypad but I couldn't get it recognized, so eventually I purchased a PS2 and played Tekken 5 exclusively. This was completely awesome. But after breaking all my bodypads (that is the main drawback of this game controller) I bought a Kinect in 2011, unfortunately I found the kinect experience was lame compared to that of the Bodypad (with minor exceptions like Kung Fu High Impact). The games themselves were not fun, and the Kinect had too much latency to feel any real embodiment (the Bodypad had no latency), so eventually my interest worn off.

After that I kept playing retro games, sometimes, till Organic IO challenged me to Battle Garegga and taught me the 1CC way, which multiplied the fun manyfold! :-)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How I became a retro gamer

Retro gamers weren't always retro gamers, you know.

I cut my teeth on DOS and NES games in the late 80's, which were modern at the time. It would have been odd for me to be playing Atari 2600 stuff at the time   :)

This article will explain my progression of gaming from the beginning through the time that retro games became more important than new games. Lots of screenshots at first, but there's more text below...

Some of my early favorites were formative stuff like:

Miner 2049er (PC, DOS)

Super Mario Bros (NES)

Contra (NES)

In the early 90's I continued progressing with SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, and PC games. Some examples:

Super Ghouls & Ghosts (SNES)

Kid Chameleon (Genesis)

Soul Star (Sega CD)

Hocus Pocus (PC, DOS)

In the mid 90's I started playing more modern 3D games, such as

Descent (PC, DOS) (My #1 game of all time)

Doom (PC, DOS)

Hexen (PC, DOS)

Magic Carpet (PC, DOS)

Lemmings 3D (PC, DOS)

At the time of me playing those 3D games, many of my friends were still mostly into 2D games, so I actually thought myself "more progressive" than they were (at the time). [In retrospect that was a pretty lame/elitist view to have and I regret it]

Later on those friends finally caught up with the 3D trend and we had many great LAN parties with games like:

Quake (PC)

Unreal Tournament (PC)

However I remember one particular instance around 1999 at a LAN party where I was sitting pretty in a comfortable recliner playing 3D games on my PC, and over in the corner were a few of my friends playing this weird 2D game on a small CRT TV. It was about a vampire guy running through a castle and killing all these enemies with a sword. It looked exceedingly boring to me at the time and I wondered why they were even wasting their time playing it.

That game was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

---How little did I know at the time---

In the late 90's early 2000's, Racing games became a bigger thing for me, stuff like

Colin Mcrae 2 (PC)

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 (PC)

Also some favorites were

Rune (PC) (for the multiplayer)

Thief (PC)

In addition to those, I was still playing some amount of 1st person shooters, and also now spending some time playing rhythm games like DDR.

Some time around 2002 or 2003, a friend commented to me and said "I just got done playing Gameboy Advance while laying down on the couch". And it got me to thinking, how awesomely comfortable that would be.

So I did a little research on handheld systems, and I discovered a Korean homebrew handheld called GP32. It could play emulators like NES and other 8 bit systems. This sounded pretty interesting, I could re-live some of the games of my youth, all while on the go! So I bought a GP32 in the summer of 2003. It was neat and good, but unfortunately I got the one without a backlit screen, so it was difficult to see the screen very well. Because of this I decided to sell it that fall.

In 2004, I continued playing many AAA PC games, I call it "The Year of the First Person Shooter". I played an unusually high number of FPS games that year, and also finished them all (which is rare for me).

That year, I played and beat:

Painkiller (PC)

Far Cry (PC) (This was my favorite game this year)

Doom 3 (PC)

Half Life 2 (PC) (Yes I liked Far Cry better than HL2)

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (PC)

I also played a bit of Thief 3, and Chrome, but didn't finish those.

After 2004, I was totally burned out on First Person Shooters.

In 2005, this thing called PSP came out. There also existed a handheld called Tapwave Zodiac, Nintendo DS, and of course the GP32 with a backlit screen was still an option. So I decided I was finally gonna get a handheld gaming console with the intention of playing some emulation on it, and some of the games designed for the handheld itself. It took me a little while to decide which one I was gonna get.

Once homebrew stuff became available for PSP around July 2005, I decided I was definitely gonna get a PSP (In retrospect, excellent decision and I don't regret it). Those first months with the PSP I played some PSP games, but also quite a bit of NES, Gameboy, Master system and other older consoles on emulation. SNES became fullspeed soon after that. For some reason it took about a year before there was a decent Genesis emulator on PSP, but eventually I was playing a ton of Genesis games on PSP as well. It turned out I was using the PSP for MOSTLY emulation and retro gaming.

The PSP remained relevant for a long time, into the 2010's.

But to continue the original timeline...

In 2006, I got a Geforce 7800 GS AGP for my PC, which was one of the fastest AGP video cards they ever made. I played a bit of Oblivion

 which had some really sweet graphics, but also got heavily into Trackmania Nations

 and played a lot of that in a clan online for the next year or two.

Around the summer of 2007, as I was going through the collection of Genesis games, I started getting a keen interest in shmups. In Fall 2007, I finally discovered bullet hell games such as

Dodonpachi (Arcade)

Terra Diver / Soukyuu Gurentai (Arcade)

Which led to the discovery of PC Doujin shmups like

Flew Fighter (PC)

Warning Forever (PC)

Blue Wish Resurrection (PC)

Shmup mania was in full effect, and my life would never be the same.

From 2008, I was using the PSP to play arcade shmups in emulation (CPS2 emulator) , and I would practice shmups at work on the PSP, and then I would make playthrough attempts at home on the PC. For example I 2CC'ed Gigawing by doing this. The PSP also had a couple interesting homebrew shmup ports like Noiz2sa and Rrootage. Great stuff!!

All the while it was being firmly established that I LOVED 2D platformers in general.

From 2007-2008 on, I was playing new AAA PC titles less and less. I think the last new mainstream PC games I cared about when they were new were STALKER and Bioshock, and they ran a bit slow on my computer.

After that point, I no longer spent money to regularly upgrade my PC's graphics card. I was no longer "in the race".

I bought a Playstation 2 (two) in 2008 so I could play some of the shmup ports for it. PS2 In 2008. PS3 had already been out for several years at this point.

I never bought a PS3 or Xbox 360 or anything newer.    Our family does have a Wii but I don't use it for my personal gaming.

So I would say the year I "crossed over" from regular gamer to "retro gamer" was 2007.

You know what?

It's great!

Now I enjoy indie PC games, and older games from arcade and all the older console systems. I also enjoy a lot of android games because many of them are simple pick-up-and-go type games with an action oriented retro feel. And you know the neatest/weird thing is that "retro games" are always getting newer. As time progresses eventually even PS3 will be considered 'retro' and I'll check that out then, but with no pressure to feel obligated to "Keep up with the chase".


One of the things that really helped me to enjoy retro games even more, is after I read this article about arcade culture. I've already mentioned it in the first post of this blog. Although I don't agree with everything he says or his condescending tone, it really did get me turned on to the idea of limiting the amount of credits that you put into the game. In other words, not abusing savestates. When you abuse savestates, you make the game too easy and take away the challenge/fun and sense of accomplishment of beating the game at its intended difficulty.

For example: If you play a MAME arcade game with unlimited credits, and blast through the entire game, it is not very rewarding. Whereas if you limit yourself to a few credits and get gradually better, it is very rewarding when you finally complete it.

Exactly the same if if you are using a ton of savestates on a NES platformer, saving multiple times during the middle of levels, before hard jumps, etc, then it is taking all the challenge and reward out of the game.

If you want to "detox" yourself from savestates, first try just by only saving at the beginning of each level. And then eventually never.   :)

In conclusion: New games suck and old games rule.  Just kidding, but I can't think of anything more profound or succinct to conclude with at this point   :)   Good thing only one other person reads this blog.