#ThrowBackThursday Daytona USA

It’s that time of the month again where we take a break from my Final Fantasy IX playthrough to cover the retro game I’d been playing over the past month as part of a Retro Games Club I join in with. For August we voted to play the classic SEGA racer Daytona USA. Ladies and Gentleman, Start you engines!

I’ve owned this on Saturn for years, in fact alongside SEGA Rally (also on Saturn) and F-Zero (on SNES) its one of the games I’d sneak into my brothers bed room to play whilst he was working. Anyway, I own the Championship Circuit Edition on Saturn but the disc has seen better days and could do with having a bit of a skim so my Saturn can read it properly. I also own the game on Dreamcast, which we’ll come to later, and PSN, which is the version I spent the most time with this month.

Actually, I didn’t get as much time with it as I’d have liked, even so, the blue skies SEGA racer feeling was the perfect solution for a game to play during this rather odd summer we’ve had. So the time I did spend on it I only really sunk into the famous Novice course: Three Seven Speedway. Apparently, and I didn’t try this, its possible to take a shortcut through the pits, but it only works on certain laps. One thing I did know about though is that as you approach Sonic Turn there’s a slot machine built into the rock that goes over the circuit. As you approach, if you press the select button on the PS3 pad (it works on Saturn too, but I can’t recall what button it is) three times, you can stop the wheels from turning, the aim being to get 3 three’s or 3 seven’s which then add that amount of time to the counter as a time bonus, you can only do it once per race and I couldn’t get it right on my attempts this month but I definetly recall doing it on the Saturn.

Another thing you can do is the famous powerslide, its only really worth doing at Sonic Turn and is initiated by dropping to second gear, turning heavily into the apex of the corner then working your way back up to fourth gear as you exit the corner. Again, I got good at doing this back on the Saturn and was getting some real good lap times back then, usually in high 15 seconds/ low 16 seconds, but this time out my fastest time was a 17.56 but usually I was hitting low 18 seconds.

On to the Dreamcast version and I remember not liking it back in the day, I certainly remember thinking they’d really messed it up. Returning to it though and it just doesn’t feel like Daytona USA at all. Oh don’t get me wrong, everything that should be there is there, but it doesn’t feel as over the top as the arcade/Saturn versions (the PSN version is a port of the arcade version with a few bits added) and the handling model is atrocious. There’s the saying that the mark of a bad race car is that it both understeers and oversteers in the same corner and thats exactly what happens with the cars in Daytona USA 2001, trying to navigate traffic is a horrible twitchy mess then when you get to a corner the car initially dives to which ever side you’re steering but then doesn’t continue that turn and goes in pretty much a straight line.

As part of the discussion around the game, a few of us discussed this, and the consensus was that it performs better using the Dreamcast steering wheel, which I’ve never owned, though one voice said it still handles like arse with the wheel.

In short then, if you want to play Daytona, don’t pick up the Dreamcast version, it may look lovely and sharp, but its just not fun to play, a replication of the arcade version is available on both Sony and Microsofts stores for PS3 and XBox 360 respectively (its wont work on PS4 but it is on the Backwards Compatability list for XBox One), so go with that one. It’s a game I’d love SEGA to return to though, I think gaming could do with more old-skool SEGA blue skies racing games.

Books, Close Encounters Book Club

A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

First Wednesday of the month means book club meeting time! For our September meet, so we read this through August, we covered the second of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings.

I’m going to start by saying that I enjoyed this one more than the first book in the series, I think I read the first book quicker, but then that one didn’t have the school summer holidays getting in the way of my reading. A Game of Thrones was, for me anyway, more about setting the world within the tale takes place, establishing its cast of characters and driving home their motivations and methods of achieving those. A Clash of Kings is, I think, where things really start moving.

Another reason I preferred it was because its not half as pervy as A Game of Thrones. This is what I had to say about this particular topic back in July

“Let’s get this out of the way early, its a bit pervy. I know that things were very different in the kind of era that this was set, but this is a fantasy piece of work, its not set in any kind of reality, so the attention to detail regarding the physical developments and sexual treatments of some of the female characters were really uncomfortable to read. Also, it doesnt even really feel like Martin was writing this stuff because “thats how it would have been”, the writing comes across like he’s enjoying writing about these young girls, Daenerys in particular. The strong focus on how Daenerys ‘ relationship with Khal Drogo develops (somehow) from him raping her (because lets not beat around the bush, thats what it was) to her consenting and falling in love with him feels voyeuristic and I dreaded Daenerys ‘ chapters for that reason.”

In comparison to that first book there was very little sex, I think there’s only really Tyrion with Shae, also some of Theon’s chapters where sex is written about and its done in a much more adult and less voyeuristic manner. Danaerys still has moments of being partially undressed and there’s alot of discussion about Cercei’s incestuous relationships, but it all feels like consenting and natural within the world Martin has created. There’s an obvious focus on Sansa Stark reaching womanhood and what that would mean for her, but again, it doesn’t feel wrong when she is having those thoughts and the subsequent conversations about Joffrey that she has with Cersei, in fact Martin does an excellent job of portraying the dread that Sansa feels.

On the subject of Sansa, I really didn’t like her in A Game of Thrones, but she grew on me a little in A Clash of Kings. She was still a little naive, but she’d also begun to wake up to the world that she was living in and how everything wasn’t all songs, flowers and noble Knights, I think that throughout the book she’s the one character that showed the most growth and I began to really feel for her plight and the relief she felt when Joffrey accepted the offer of marrying Margaery Tyrell, even if, as it turns out, that doesn’t mean that Joffrey is done with her just yet.

In comparison, I felt like a lot of Catelyn Stark’s chapters dragged the pace of the story down. Maybe this was on purpose, after all she’s the only one that has any sort of travel in her chapters, Danaerys goes to a couple of different locations, and Davos’ chapters mention that he has travelled to different places too, but we don’t learn of the journey between them other than in passing. Catelyn on the other hand, spends a lot of time on the road but its only really the time she spends with either of the Baratheon’s where the story grabs the reader. I think this was a decision that Martin made on purpose, elsewhere things seemed to move at a break neck speed, with the characters all having differing information on what was going on in Westeros, Catelyn seemed to be the glue that stuck it all together, not to mention her and Brienne were the only ones to witness Renlys death, but we’re witnessing a woman who is struck with grief over the family she has lost, whilst everybody else is busy making war with each other.

Lastly, we finally get to witness a proper battle. Martin seemed to skirt around these events in A Game of Thrones, giving us reports from characters that weren’t on the front lines. By the time we reach the final third of this book we’ve seen Jon involved in a couple of skirmishes and the Baratheon’s be on the verge of battle, though that is waved away by Melisandre’s actions, but we get to the Battle of Blackwater Bay and get to witness not only Tyrion (who was the only character to see action in A Game of Thrones) but Davos take up arms and get into the fighting which is told with an excellent amount of intensity and brutality that allows you really picture the battle at hand and the confusing nature of such a fight.

bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingies (Nintendo DS)

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingy’s introduces us to an unlikely trio of heroes, the clue’s in the title folks, a handful of zombies who rise from the grave to fight off an invasion by the Brain Thingy’s, an alien race of brains. Whilst celebrating his species victory over the human race, the aliens are oblivious to the fact three zombies have risen from the grave and their hungry.

Teenage Zombies is a platform/puzzle game in a similar manner to the 2D Metroid games, however the element of using each of the three characters unique abilities is the key to progress through each level, Finnigan “Fins” Magee can use pipes above him to get across tricky obstacles, all thanks to a squid attached to his back, he can also use a tentacle attack and do a Yoshi style consumption of items on the screen then spitting them out as projectiles. Lori “Lefty” Lopez has a stump for a left arm, to which she can attatch a variety of objects and she can jump twice as high as the other guys whilst Zack “Halfpipe” Boyd uses a skateboard to move around as he has no legs and is the token “small space” character. You can switch between each character by simply selecting them on the lower touch screen, meaning that no puzzle should be too challenging.

The game is presented wonderfully, using a comic-book style to further the story which also blends into the on-screen action well and everything on screen is very clear and looks pretty damn good for a handheld title, whilst Gameplay wise its surprisingly entertaining, not too challenging and has a retro feeling harking back to the days of Metroid, Super Mario Bros 2 and even a slight feeling of Metal Slug. Overall, a good little package that will keep even the most hardcore of retro side scrolling fans happy. Definetly reccomended.