December 25, 2007
I put my iPod on random play recently and out of the thousands of songs loaded, “Jump” by Kris Kross came up. I construe this as a supernatural sign that I can no longer avoid my duty of playing the notorious Kris Kross Sega CD game and entering it into MobyGames. This is something I have been putting off since I first started in with the Sega CD titles for this experiment last March.
I have long dreaded this day. But I recognize that if I can nail down just one of the games, the other ones should be fairly simple to write up and enter in the database. I can’t quite articulate why these games give me such pause. I mean, I’ve suffered through some real stinkers this year. But perhaps it’s the fact that I once tried to wrap my head around these so-called Make My Video games well before this experiment began, and I knew what was in store, trying to articulate this game for the sake of the database.
It’s not uncommon to hear jaded game geeks clamor for new, innovative types of gameplay. Be careful what you wish for. When CD-based games first hit the market, developers weren’t quite sure how best to use the capacity (I wager that there are similar growing pains right now surrounding the new Nintendo Wii controller scheme).
Maybe I should just get to the point. There was a series of 4 games called “Make My Video” released for the Sega CD system. Each one starred a different musical act popular at the time (circa 1992). The gameplay revolved around intense, real-time video editing. The four different games technically do qualify as games since there are goals to achieve. The goal takes the shape of editing together a video according to varying specifications.
The four acts in the different games are Kris Kross, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, INXS, and C+C Music Factory. That latter one went by a slightly different title than the rest, Power Factory Featuring C+C Music Factory, which has thankfully already been entered into the database. I thought it was an unrelated title until I did a deeper investigation today and recognized that it’s part of the same series.
I started with the Marky Mark title since I actually have the manual for that title. It doesn’t matter. The game, or rather the gameplay, makes so little sense that I would find it a wonder if any player ever succeeded in any of these video editing missions. Each game has some setup, some raison d’être for the task at hand. In this episode, teenage siblings (the brother played by Seth Green) argue about the ideal contents of a Marky Mark video. After much heated debate, they enlist the help of a boxer and his trainer, a trio of airheaded teenage girls, a garage band, and their own parents, all for advice on a perfect Marky Mark video.
Once you select a song from among 3 Marky Mark smash hits and have solicited specifications, you are thrust into the editing screen seen above. There are 3 video channels playing– one is the original music video and the other is random footage that, as Seanbaby hypothesized, is most likely public domain stock footage. You switch between the 3 channels using the A, B, and C controller buttons. The control pad allows you to select among various effects, such as color filters, blocking filters, strobes, freezes, lyric subtitles, and others.
The “level”, such as it is, lasts as long as the video does (4 1/2 minutes for “Good Vibrations”). When finished, the game torments you with the fruits of your own labor by playing the final product back for you. At the end, the girls have the audacity to criticize me, almost as if they’re forgetting that they’re the ones who custom-ordered a Marky Mark music video.
One down and 2 to go, but oooooooowwwwwwwwww, does this hurt! Christmas Day was not meant for this kind of misery. The setup in the Kris Kross game is that a radio disc jockey is hosting a radio program in which callers are helpfully offering advice about their ideal Kris Kross video. One woman essentially wants a version of their video for “I Missed The Bus” but without all the shots of alarm clocks because she disapproves of the devices. I must concede that this title offered a marginal improvement over the last since if I fail to deliver a video up to spec, the DJ refuses to play it back for me.
Is that supposed to be a punishment for me? Okay, getting close. I just need to listen to Michael Hutchence of INXS crooning about how he needs me tonight and I’ll be done. The setup for the INXS one is that 2 obnoxious women in a bar are monopolizing the pool table. Alternately slack-jawed and nerdy guys are trying to pick them up and some tough, leather-clad chicks are trying to earn the privilege to play their Megadeth videos on the bar’s TV (their Megadeth VHS tape looks so quaint these days). So the pool ladies do what comes naturally and challenge all comers to create superior INXS videos.
And as a point of fact, “Need You Tonight” is not one of the three videos available for editing here. For reference:
- Make My Video: Marky Mark: “Good Vibrations”, “I Need Money”, “You Gotta Believe”
- Make My Video: Kris Kross: “Jump”, “Warm It Up”, “I Missed The Bus”
- Make My Video: INXS: “Heaven Sent”, “Not Enough Time”, “Baby Don’t Cry”
- Power Factory Featuring C+C Music Factory: “Gonna Make You Sweat”, “Here We Go”, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”
The INXS selections make sense in light of the fact that the game was published in 1992, and the songs come from the 1992 album Welcome To Wherever You Are. In fact, that album’s cover art graces an early screen of the game.
Note that you don’t have to play in the competitive mode — called EditChallenge — where you create videos to spec (of course, you don’t have to play the games at all, ever, or even acknowledge that they even existed). There is also the U-Direct mode where you can just flex your editing skills as you see fit. Otherwise, the EditChallenges usually seem to consist of around 5 specifications — either types of footage to either include or omit, or different filter requests.
All in all, I have to give the game programmer credit (it appears to just be one programmer who wrote the engine that drives all 4 titles) for the types of effects he was able to pull off on such limited video hardware.
Kudos also to one Mark Wahlberg who exhibited the humility to actually shoot special scenes for his title:
None of the other artists made special appearances for their games. Of the subjects of all 4 games, I ask you: Who has the biggest career to this day?
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Interactive Movies,Sega CD Games | Comments (1)
December 23, 2007
Blackhole Assault for the Sega CD is another in a long line of games that I would have liked to like. I’m just a sucker for good looking graphics of the 16-bit console era, such as this space station against the backdrop of a Jovian moon:
In the next scene, the camera angle changes and moves slowly up the station, giving a feeling of depth to the lunar backdrop:
Unfortunately, the graphic style of the story scenes is perhaps the only redeeming quality of the experience. I had no idea what kind of game to expect going into this. It turns out that it’s a pure 1-on-1 fighting game. It seems that in the 22nd century, earthlings are trying to excavate resources from the rest of the solar system. Exploratory missions are disappearing “one bye [sic] one”, however, and at least one military commander is calling it like he sees it. “How can those fools say these are accidents when they’re obviously alien attacks?” I can relate– I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said the same thing in the course of my daily affairs. But earth has a powerful weapon to deal with these alleged alien attacks: Cybernetic Anthropomorphic Machines or C.A.M.s for short. And these C.A.M.s have to take on powerful alien robots one-on-one at scenic locations throughout the solar system.
Above is the Phobos level. Like I said, the game is pretty. I just can’t abide the poor, clunky gameplay, even if we are just dealing with giant robots. Fortunately, the game features an exhibition mode which allows players to customize matchups with any of the available robots and any of the game’s 10 backdrops. Further, this mode can be configured for computer vs. computer, which allowed me to cycle through all 10 backdrops for screenshot purposes.
One more pretty screenshot– this one is called ‘Asteroid’. The backdrops really do work better in motion, though.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Fighting Games,Sega CD Games | Comments (0)
March 28, 2007
I plugged away at a few more Sega CD titles this evening. I don’t think I meant to process so many of these flat, circular, bastard stepchildren that gaming forgot. But I did know that there is only perhaps a 50% chance of a Sega CD game working in Gens. Further, I realize that even if a game does boot up, there is an exceptionally slim probability that the game will hold my interest for longer than the minimum amount of time required for me to collect at least a small sampling of representative screenshots and write a marginally comprehensible MobyGames description.
Let’s start off once more with the games that I tried to make work but could not. First was The Adventures of Batman and Robin. This appears to be based on the early-mid 1990s Batman animated series. I can boot the game. I can start the game. I can watch the opening movie. But I can go no further. Still, with these few screenshots, a complete set of cover art, and the power of Google, I should be able to throw together some nonsense for a description. I’ve done it before.
The next failure of the evening was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I can only hope that this game is widely divergent from the previous Frankenstein-themed game covered in this experiment. I won’t find out tonight. I only have the disc for this game, a disc that does not like to be read. I am not entirely convinced that I have all the data correct to begin with. When I mount the ISO rip under Linux, I see some suspicious file entries such as:
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 12288 Oct 11 1994 men_sub.ovl
?????????? ? ? ? ? ? menu
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 38912 Oct 11 1994 muf_main.ovl
Moving along to stuff that worked even if it wasn’t very good: Powermonger. I somehow missed this last night when I was going through games already present in the database that only needed screenshots. Or maybe I blocked it out from my mind. I have the DOS version of this game (purchased as part of an Electronic Arts/Gravis collaboration for preording the Gravis Ultrasound sound card). I really enjoyed Powermonger’s predecessor, Populous. But I could never quite wrap my head around this one.
Powermonger is a realtime strategy game where you play an outcast warlord on a quest of world domination. You start out with a small following and start ravaging the countryside, territory by territory, taking what resources you can until everything belongs to you. I usually had the worst time controlling my armies who always seemed to be ambling off to pick flowers in the field or something other than marching off to battle like I thought I was ordering them to do. That’s why I took to calling this game the virtual cat herding simulation.
Given the technical capabilities of the Sega CD — or lack thereof — I’m rather impressed that the programmers were able to achieve Powermonger’s 3D effects on the console. How did they do it? Slowly, but they did it. It’s interesting to note that while my DOS version of Powermonger was delivered via a pair of 1.2-megabyte 5.25″ floppy discs, the Sega CD version expanded to fill the available capacity. The main data track is 320 MB large and there are 9 redbook audio tracks to boot. What to do with all that space? Why, FMV, of course. This is a different kind of FMV, though– it’s silent film FMV. Seriously, you sort of have to interpret what’s going on– no speech or subtitles:
Next game is Stellar Fire, apparently one in a long-running series of games under the Stellar 7 banner (I have yet another such game for the 3DO — Draxon’s Revenge — that’s not yet in the database). This game started out as a treat since the FMV on offer was actually very good. You’re humanity’s last hope, piloting a starship, yadda yadda, invading the Draxons’ homeworld and orbiting moons, blah blah. It’s a little more compelling when you’re actually watching the intro, of course.
You pilot something called a hovermorph. It’s supposed to be decked out with enough firepower to destroy a small solar system. That may or may not be hyperbole; the intro depicts this ship blowing up a Draxon capital ship. Too bad the ship’s pilot (you, I guess) hesitates until the Draxons had iced his 2 wingmates, a.k.a., the second- and third-to-last hopes for humanity, respectively.
Moving right along to the gameplay, the action takes place on a polygonally-rendered, first-person battlefield. The game’s box copy prides itself that it’s not an on-rails shooter but is instead real-time 3D. Hover around and shoot stuff with your lasers and missiles. There are flying creatures that are essentially drawn as 2 long arcs, similar to the way you used to draw seagulls as elongated McDonald’s arches when you were younger. The first fortified moon was teeming with the large beasts that I believe were called Xarz Voor. The disparity between the intro art and the in-game art reminded me mightily of the difference between Atari game cover art and the actual in-game character representations.
this is the artwork from the mission briefing
I think that polygon creature on the right is the in-game representation of the creature in the picture above
I can’t exactly figure out what the goal is in this arena, nor can I even find a way to die; I’m constantly knocked around but I don’t see any health meters diminishing. Indeed, if this ship really is tough enough to take out a star cruiser, it shouldn’t have a problem with these negligible opponents.
The final game tonight is Surgical Strike, one in a proud tradition of “FMV backdrop” shooters. I have a terrible, sinking feeling that this is going to suck notably. For the uninitiated, this type of game features an FMV clip playing, simulating intense 3D action, while you navigate a little target around the screen and shoot at opportune moments. One of the most in/famous examples of this sub-genre is Sewer Shark. (Aside: I know we’re supposed to reflect on these games now and cut them some slack because they seemed so novel and innovative at the time but I’m not playing along this time. I distinctly remember seeing Sewer Shark on display at a toy store when it was brand new and being wholly unimpressed.) Quick rundown: Middle-eastern madman launching rockets at civilians, U.N. secretary-general steps in to discourage this practice. You are assigned to pilot a heavily armored, advanced military hovercraft (built by a carpenter, according to the game credits) through war-ravaged cityscapes and hit highlighted hotspots at opportune times.
Fail and your commanding officer chews you out, while your teammates continue to cheer you up by offering some fairly generic advice. Fail too many times and even your peers abandon you, call you a bonehead and throw you in the slammer!
I admit: this game sucked harder than I was prepared to handle. Still, the most bizarre Sega CD titles are yet to come.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Interactive Movies,RTS Games,Sega CD Games,Shooter Games | Comments (3)
March 28, 2007
This comes from Revengers of Vengeance:
I’m trying to figure out the right adjectives to describe this. Self-referential, certainly. Not quite in the realm of absurd. ‘Kitsch’ might come close, but I don’t think it’s quite the right word.
A game geek has to love the picture nonetheless.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Sega CD Games,The Big Picture | Comments (0)
March 27, 2007
I went off the deep end with Sega CD games tonight. This is due to the fact that I got around to writing a Python utility that rips entire Sega CDs in a format suitable to play from the hard disk using the Gens emulator. You can find the Sega CD ripping script on my more technical blog. So I spent a bunch of time ripping games to the hard drive and concentrating on collecting screenshots for Sega CD games that are already in the database.
As best that I could, anyway. In the most ambitious evening yet of this project, I tried 7 different games. Only 3 worked. Among the ones that didn’t work:
- Sol-Feace: Space shoot-em-up with a large redbook audio soundtrack. I am listening to the energetic soundtrack ripped to MP3 right now and I am disappointed that I don’t get to try the game. It wouldn’t run in Gens. But at least it sounds like fun.
- Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO: I’m pretty sure this is based on the Power Rangers franchise. It, too, would not run in Gens.
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Severely multi-platform game based on the Coppola film, this game started to run but has trouble making it past the company logo movies; if it does, it never gets past the title screen movie. The problem is always the same: When the movie ends, the last second or so of audio gets stuck in an infinite loop. At least I got the title screenshot:
- Slam City with Scottie Pippen: This is actually a Sega CD/32X game. I’m not sure how well Gens is supposed to support the 32X hardware. The game does have a redbook audio track with the theme song which is performed by Pippen himself, according to the game’s credits. It’s a rap about respect that’s only 1.5 minutes long but feels much, much longer. I would post it for posterity but it’s not so much funny or embarrassing as it is dull. Definitely early-90s style, though.
Now it’s time to cover the games that actually did work. The first 2 are cut from the same cloth: Mad Dog McCree and Ground Zero Texas. While produced by different companies, they are both interactive movie-based shooters. McCree happens to be a little more straightforward in concept than Texas, but they’re both phenomenally obnoxious in their own ways. When I tried playing the DOS version of Who Shot Johnny Rock? with a mouse, I noted how difficult and tedious that was and I predicted how much harder it would be to play the same game with a control pad. I was right. McCree is from American Laser Games, same people behind Johnny (also for the Sega CD). What a chore! It’s less a game of skill than a game of memorization. You had better remember exactly where each goon emerges or be doomed to repeat the same level:
Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t matter if you know the precise coordinates of each crony. If you don’t hit precisely the right hot spot, your bullets have no effect. I routinely emptied my revolver squarely on the bad guy only to get plugged when my chamber was empty. I just played long enough to collect a diverse sample of screenshots and I was out. I often hear that this game was a huge hit in its day. I would like to hear more than second-hand testimonials to that effect.
Ground Zero Texas was a little more promising. The premise is that there is a covert alien invasion occurring in Podunkville, Texas, U.S.A. The military has sent out a minor military detachment to deal with this pressing end-of-the-world-type scenario and you are the new tactical ops specialist brought in. Your 3 predecessors mysteriously disappeared and the brass has thrown up its hands in frustration and declared, “If you can’t handle this, we’re nuking this Texan hamlet”. So there’s a sense of urgency. Your task is to sit at a console that is connected to four camera/gun combos in 4 locations in this tiny town. Watch for suspicious humans who are probably inhabited by alien invaders– they will spring up and shoot at the heavily armored gun.
Sci-fi fans will of course recognize the alien-host-inhabiting-human-bodies theme as a convenient plot device for avoiding having to create expensive alien costumes or effects. Anyway, the game was mildly promising until I found I was unable to switch to any other camera when I was done with a particular area. The A button was supposed to enable me to switch but that didn’t work. The A button responds fine in other games played in this emulator. So I got just enough screenshots to make this play time worthwhile.
Finally, it’s on to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective which represents the rarest of rarities: a halfway decent interactive movie! It even has the distinction of being one of the very first I-movies. Checking my master list of Sega CD titles, I would also have to qualify it as the best Sega CD game I’ve experienced thus far (admittedly, the competition is not especially stiff). The game boasts something like 90 minutes of FMV, and it’s reasonably well done (even if it’s necessarily tiny and grainy).
The aspect of this early genre game that struck me the most during my brief gameplay is the level of extraneous detail. For example, there is an extensive newspaper archive to which Holmes may refer. Each newspaper has marriages, deaths, classified ads, all in addition to actual news. There is a sizable directory of London citizens that Holmes may opt to visit. Granted, not all of them have corresponding FMV clips, rather just Watson informing Holmes that the person didn’t have anything to say. Still, the game is not on rails as you would expect from an interactive movie. This is truly just an adventure/mystery game supplemented with competent use of FMV.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Adventure Games,Interactive Movies,Sega CD Games,Shooter Games | Comments (5)
March 24, 2007
At long last, I’m working Sega CD games into this mix. I have at least 1/2 dozen Sega CD games in my pile that aren’t yet in the MobyGames database and a whole bunch more that are missing screenshots. I guess I have been a little hesitant to go to work on this matter since I know it can be a bit tedious to set up the Gens emulator for Sega CD emulation at first. You need to install ASPI drivers for CD reading, which I did, but still no luck. However, I went the other route which is to rip an ISO + series of MP3 files for the game to play from the HD. That worked splendidly and I can now cover my collection of Sega CD titles for this experiment.
And what a collection! Let’s kick it off with Revengers Of Vengeance. I’ll give you a few moments to re-read that title a few times. Revengers Of Vengeance. I found this in an eBay store while purchasing some other games. I had absolutely no idea what to expect as the CD-ROM surface (all I had to go on) doesn’t really give any clues. It bears an MA-13 rating from a system called V.R.C. which predates today’s omnipresent ESRB.
I think the game may bear the alternate title of Battle Fantasy; at least, that’s the title that Gens shows in the window title bar. The game is definitely fantasy in nature and kicks off with an awesome scene of griffons in the shadow of a castle:
From there, the game goes on to explain, rather generically and matter-of-factly, that the Devil King — who goes by the name of Venum — has gained the infinite power of evil. Despite that, it’s implied that you somehow have what it takes to bring this villain down. By what manner of gameplay will you achieve this feat? Well, that’s where things get tricky.
From what I can tell, this game represents a genre mashup of a 1-on-1 brawler game and a role playing game. So in addition to being the first Sega CD game in Gaming Pathology, it’s also the first RPG (or RPG-like game). Not that I have any aversion towards RPGs (although one brief evening of gameplay wouldn’t be enough time to do justice to the nominal RPG). But I suspect that the RPG genre as a whole tends to be quite popular with the type of hardcore gaming nerds that contribute heavily to MobyGames. Thus, the genre already has good coverage in the database.
But I digress. Aside from the options screen, there are 3 places to go from the main screen. The first is The Tournament. This allows you to select from among 10 unique fighters to battle it out with other characters against colorful, fantasy-themed backgrounds. It’s pretty tough, too, even on the easiest level:
Another route is the Arena Of Death which has the most curious logo of 2 Sega Genesis consoles fighting with each other. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this mode is for. All I could do with it was create fighter characters with custom stats and the pit them against each other in an automated battle.
“The Quest To Destroy Venum” is where the RPG element comes into play. You begin in an RPG-style town:
You have a supply of gold and you can purchase dresses and perfume in shops, or coffee or cola at the village Starbucks franchise (serious about the coffee purchase, though at a nameless pub). When you leave town, you are shown this map of locations to warp to:
I head to the waterfall since that sounds like a pretty background. I get my mythological rear handed to me in the first battle. Even afterwards, I am awarded an amount of gold and experience points and sent back to the original town. Ostensibly, I need to spend some time leveling up and perhaps equipping myself before I can possibly hope to have a chance in this game. I also spy a fitness club in town.
During the Quest mode, each of the 10 characters appears to be following its own storyline with corresponding cutscenes. It occurs to me that a lot of beat-em-ups try to have storylines for each fighter, but that storyline is only fleshed out in the character’s brief ending sequence. This game has a full storyline from the get-go and tries to carry the concept even further. (Come to think of it, Criticom also had a storyline cutscene inaugurate each character’s quest, but… look, I’m sorry I even brought up that game again.) Some character backstories are more involved than others. One, though, for an absolutely enormous were-rhinoceros creature is quite simple: he simply wants someone — anyone — stronger to challenge in a fight. Maybe the infinite evil dude will fit the bill.
I have located cover art scans on other websites that evidence that this game must have been released in the U.S. Given that, it’s curious that the name entry box has a bunch of Japanese characters to choose from when writing one’s own name. I don’t know what any of them mean but I feel obligated to use a few since they’re on offer:
I see from this review at Sega-16 that a) I really suck at the fighting sequences, and b) I’m missing one genre– a vertical shooting type of game. I’ll need to devote some more time to this title some night.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Fighting Games,RPG Games,Sega CD Games,Shooter Games | Comments (6)