Advent Calendar - December 9th.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Bottom of the Ninth (arcade/MAME)

I've got a soft spot for baseball... it started with HardBall! on the Commodore 64, dropped off for a while then returned with a vengeance while I was living in the States. Now that I'm back in England, I like to keep tabs on the game, and I've got ESPN America and like to watch games when I can, particularly when it's the Detroit Tigers playing.

Enough of the gymnastics, just throw the ball!

I do like videogame baseball as well... it's always difficult to play well, but you can just step up to the plate as a slugger and get in the odd satisfying hit every now and again. There have been so many efforts of varying quality over the years, but despite it being a small world these days, it remains mostly an American game and can be hard to get hold of in the UK. To that end, and despite it apparently being something of a franchise, I'd never heard of Bottom of the Ninth before.

The first thing I noticed was that, for an arcade game, this is very naughty indeed. What's the first thing you do with an arcade game? You drop your money in for a credit. Normally, you'd then play until your skills meant you were beaten, at which point you'd either chuck in some more money or walk off and find another game. Bottom of the Ninth gives you ninety seconds for your 25 cents (I doubt any found their way over here for anyone to put 10p into). Ninety seconds, in a game that lasts nine innings? What a rip-off! But I suppose it's the only way they could make much money... baseball games can last ages!

No point chasing that one... it's gone!

I would imagine that there are ways in which you can win extra time, although I didn't see any evidence of that while I was playing. The game itself is relatively simple, but it's possible to get into it to the point where you can't help adding more credits. That's easy enough to say, though... playing on MAME, you've effectively got an arcade machine set to free play. But although 1989, the year this was released, wasn't a vintage year for arcade games, I'd probably have preferred to save my cash for other games in the arcade than blow it all on this.

As for the game itself... it's baseball. You get a turn batting, where you get three outs, and then you get a turn pitching, where you have to get three opposing batters out. There's very little strategy involved... less even than the classic HardBall! But it's presented fairly well, and there's always a thrill in any baseball game whenever you belt the ball out of the park for a home run.

If you've read any of my other accounts of American sports games, you might see a pattern emerging in the scoring...

Bottom of the Ninth is an arcade baseball game, simple as that. I enjoyed my time with it (all two matches worth), but it's utterly disposable and less than memorable, and if I fancy playing an old basebal video game, I'm more likely to go back to HardBall! than this one.

Dragon Buster (Arcade/MAME/Namco Museum)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

There are a lot of games on the latest version of Namco Museum. Pity the interface is rubbish, because it puts you off playing any of them regularly. But this blog is not about regular; it's (mostly) about playing games that I've never played before. And there are a few on this compilation that I can say that about. Before today, one of them was Dragon Buster. Pity that's not still the case.

Oooh, where to go, where to go... I'd rather just go home, actually.

Dragon Buster is basically a rubbish cross between Rastan (which isn't that great to begin with) and Wonder Boy in Monster Land (which is). You wander around subterranean passages and get attacked by ghastly monsters. I say ghastly... they really do look horrible, but only in a drawn-by-a-five-year-old way. For 1984, these are terrible arcade graphics.

Hey you! Yes, you! I put it to you that you are a rubbish skeleton!

As far as the game goes, I suppose its ideas outstrip their implementation. You have a world map, with choices of route, which was probably fairly novel at the time. It's just unfortunate that, whichever choice you make, it sees you wading through a sea of cack gaming. It's usually a case of walk right, stop, do a Pete Townshend swing with your sword at a rubbish animal, and move on. Occasionally you might do something exciting, like drop off a ledge or something, but that's your lot. Every so often you'll come across a pathetic looking dragon, which you can smite with just two hits. There are bigger, much more impressiver dragons to be slain, but not a lof ot skill involved.

You're a dragon? Really? You're cute. Wanna be my pet?

And there we have it. Dragon Buster was, research finds, pretty well thought of in Japan, with conversions to home platforms, sequels and even a board game! I find that a bit odd... it's really not a particularly good game at all. I doubt I'll be loading this one up much in the future.

The Legend of Kage (Arcade/MAME)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

This might seem to be a bit of a left-field, from-out-of-nowhere choice, but there's a reason I'm playing it, so stick with me!

The Legend of Kage is not a game I ever saw in an arcade. The only reason I'd heard of it previously was when I read a review of the Commodore 64 conversion in ZZAP! 64. They seemed to think it was distinctly average, and I didn't bother hunting it down for a play.

Fast-forward, oooh, donkeys years, and I find myself playing it in MAME.

And it's alright, actually. A bit odd for an arcade game, perhaps... although thinking about it, it plays a bit like a precursor to Shinobi, which I have certainly enjoyed quite a bit over the years, or maybe Ninja Spirit.

Ugh! Get away! Get awaaaaaay!

Typically, the game starts with a princess being captured, and you drop into the scene to chase after her. As you would expect, ninjas fly about, chucking pointy stars at you. Luckily, you can throw stars of your own, and you have swords for dispatching anything that gets a bit close for comfort.

You're also possessed of an implausibly mighty jump. This game sees you flying around in treetops a lot, with the ninjas whizzing by all around you. It's quite good fun, if a little strange. Other enemies appear through the game, including fire-breathing Raiden-types, just to mix it up.

The Legend of Kage is quite a nice little arcade game, which probably offered something nicely different at the time, and yet was more than likely the one that sat unloved in a corner while everyone else was playing Gauntlet. Still, it set me up nicely for tomorrow's game...

LED Storm/Mad Gear (Arcade/MAME)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

A bonus game today, as my missus is watching some cack on the telly that I'm not interested in. I only have the laptop available for gaming, so I've gone back to the arcades for a blast on LED Storm. Or Mad Gear if you prefer - I don't, I think that's a rubbish name.

LED Storm is a futuristic update on the Bumping Buggies/Burnin' Rubber style of game, which sees you racing against other cars and obstacles over dangerous courses, in a kind of crazy Cannonball Run affair. You can smash other cars into the sides of bridges or canyons and destroy them, although this is a bit dangerous as they will bounce you back. Safer is the option to jump on them... but jumping brings its own problems, as many of the bridges have huge sections missing.

Of course, you have to jump over those to safety, but if you're mid-jump in an attempt to smash an opponent, you're knackered.

Left: it's all a bit frantic at the moment. Right: you've made the jump, but there are other problems to deal with...

There are other reasons to jump... bonus balloons float by, giving extra points for your score, but more important than those are the energy cans that you can collect to prolong your game. Occasionally, you'll see a green canister floating by... jump for this and you'll receive a shield for a limited period, at which point you can just barge everything out of the way.

LED Storm is a game that was well reviewed on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, but I don't think I played it. I have a vague idea that my mate may have bought it for the Amiga, but it's not in my games pile so I'm not sure. It's a pretty enjoyable game, and playing it and then writing about it has seen off the TV cack quite nicely indeed. I can see it being frustrating for some, due to the slightly trial-and-error nature of the jumping, but I'd have been happy to see this arcade machine in any of my local haunts.