Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday Rocky

Back in the early 90s I so wanted a Mega Drive, a bunch of my friends had them (as I mentioned last week when I covered Sonic 2) and I really wanted one too. I’d had an Atari (a 2600 junior) that a much older cousin had given me that I played alot of Centipede on, and I’d had my older brothers NES (which was stolen by a different cousin who was living with us at one point, he sold it before my Dad could do anything about it but was asked to move out shortly afterwards) when he had bought himself a SNES, but I wanted something the other kids at school were playing on and that was a Mega Drive. Instead one Christmas I opened up a cardboard box that had been wrapped up to find a second hand Master System II. I knew we weren’t well off and I was perfectly happy with it.

I don’t remember when I got Rocky, but I do know that at the time I was a little obsessed with Sylvester Stallone’s boxing franchise, I’d got one of those little punch bags that were on a plastic plate you stood on and I’d watch Rocky IV most weekends when I’d go over to my Mums house. When I got Rocky on my Master System I was incredibly happy and I played it a ridiculous amount (although compared to how most kids play games now it was hardly anything!), I must have worn down the d-pad on my controller as when I got a copy of Marble Madness I couldn’t get the marble to go right.

With this weekly feature in mind I returned to Rocky via an emulator on one of my PSP’s and just could not get past Clubber Lang. There’s actually only three fights in the entire game, Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago and you partake in some training mini-games in between fights which apparently improve Rocky’s skills but I couldn’t really tell any difference regardless of how I performed in the training sessions, although if you don’t meet the qualifying score at the bottom of the screen you aren’t allowed to progress to the next fight. The fights themselves are mostly about hammering the punch button to jab your opponent, you do have a hook and uppercut available to you too and both are easy to pull off, although their usefulness often feels as random as blocking does. The fights are over quite quickly, its possible to go to 15 rounds but its not something I achieved when returning to Rocky nor remember getting to when I played it around twenty-five years ago.

It looks good though, especially for a game made in 1987 (making it 32 years old, I got my Master System very late on, although I discovered recently that SEGA supported the console upto the mid-90s in the UK and I know they supported it much, much longer than that in the likes of Brazil!) and for such a simple game its still kind of fun to play.

Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday – Golden Axe

I’ve been joining in with a retro gaming club on a forum I’m on, the first month we played Links Awakening, but due to using my phone and emulators to play it I got too distracted by social media and the likes being available so readily that I didnt put much time into it.

For April we played Golden Axe, with us all playing on a variety of platforms. I played on two and I’ll come to those in a moment.

My memories of Golden Axe are split into two seperate experiences and I don’t really know which is the earliest. The shortest tale is of being in the waiting area of Jersey Airport and seeing the arcade cab and having a play on it there, my lasting memory is of the skeletons, which suggests I got a decent way in (I’ve no idea how many coins I pumped into it, sorry) as they don’t appear until the latter half of the game, unless it was a different Golden Axe I was playing, I’ve not knowingly played Golden Axe 2 or 3 so can’t comment if the skeletons appear earlier in those games or not.

My other memory is of sleeping over at my older sisters, shes around ten years older than I am and would have us over at the weekends so my Dad could go out to the pub with friends after working all week (my parents split when I was young and initially my Mum and her boyfriend at the time were living with his brother so my younger sister and I couldn’t stay over). My sisters boyfriend had a Master System II, as did I although mine had Alex Kidd built in, his had Sonic the Hedgehog. Other than having Sonic the Hedgehog he also had a copy of Golden Axe, and whilst I don’t remember it intricately, I do remember sitting up on the end of the bed playing on it until my sister would come up and tell me to go to sleep. Poor sleeping habits and videogames are pretty much a pattern for me as you may discover in later #ThrowBackThursday posts.

Let’s come back to the present then. My initial choice to play Golden Axe was via the SEGA Mega Drive Collection (or SEGA Genesis Collection if you’re in the US) on my PSP. For such an old game it really does look lovely on the PSP-2000’s screen, the sprites and colours are crisp and sharp and not in the least blocky, which is probably due to the systems size, I doubt it’d look this good on a television without some poking. It plays well too, again, largely thanks to the system as the d-pad on this 2000 model is excellent (as I discussed in last weeks KOF94 post), and the more I played and the more I learned the better the experience. I didn’t know about the special moves the characters have, for example, nor the differences in the characters beyond the level of their magic usage. Even so, I found the PSP Mega Drive Collection rather difficult and despite playing it in fits and drabs for a month, would only ever get half way through the last stage at very best.

The other version I played was the version SEGA ported to the XBox 360’s XBLA platform, although I played on my XBox One S. Admittedly I ramped up the number of lives, etc to the maximum that version allows, and managed to complete it twice on one continue each. Coming back to the games visual appearance, knowing that it would be played on the a larger HD compatible TV, SEGA have redone the artwork for the sprites and they look kind of painted. I can understand why they’ve done it, I remember rightly, back when this was ported, there wasn’t much in the way of enjoyment of pixel based artwork and everything had to be up-ressed, now it just looks blurry and a bit crap. Still, it plays well, the controls don’t feel as tight as they do on the PSP, my ability to pull of special moves or dash attacks wasn’t as consistent on the XBox One controller as it was on the PSP, but its still a really enjoyable game that doesn’t ever really feel too unfair, unlike alot of arcade games of this vintage.