Video Games

Beauty and the Best

Retro Review - Gate of Thunder

I'm about to say something very unpopular. The TurboGrafx-16 is an 8-bit system. That's right, it's an 8-bit system. Oh sure, it may have 16-bit GPUs but it has an 8-bit CPU. What does any of this even mean? I don't know but countless schoolyard friends became bitter enemies over the answers to questions like this or whether you can make Lara Croft's clothes disappear through a cheat. You can't, so stop trying! What we can say for certain is that the TurboGrafx-16 was the first home video game console to release an expansion that used used this crazy new storage medium known as compact discs.

Now even without this, the TubroGrafx-16 was capable of some amazing visuals due to its rich color palette and clever architecture, but with the expanded storage (and sometimes expanded
RAM), it was able to produce games that Nintendo Entertainment System owners could never have dreamed possible on an 8-bit machine. Recorded audio, full motion video and more sprites with greater amounts of animation were all now available in people's own homes.

As the first to adopt this new technology however, the price-tag was high when put on top of the cost already invested for the base console. So the system was later redesigned to combine the CD expansion into the stock unit and it came with several pack-in games to showcase just what it could do. One of these games was Gate of Thunder.

The first thing you'll see when starting Gate of Thunder is an
anime cutscene accompanied by the rocking soundtrack that sets the story. I'm sure this was all mindblowing back in the early 1990s but nobody cares about the story because this game is a shoot-em-up! Simply put, shoot-em-ups or " shmups" are games where you shoot everything. If that sounds too simple however, then there's a catch. You also have to avoid everything. In shmups if there is one golden rule it's "never get hit"

In many shmups, if you get hit, even once, then you die.  Gate of Thunder is a little more forgiving in that it only takes your power ups away - and then you die. Even with all the upgrades, you need to have crack reflexes to dodge the storms of bullets and large enemy spacecraft that fill the screen. So without them, you're screwed. There is always a lot going on which you have to be aware of and it's difficult not to focus too much on one thing or another because this game is just so pretty.

As I mentioned, TurboGrafx games are very bright and colorful but there's also animated background with parallax scrolling, and the sci-fi setting really opens it up for creative levels from alien worlds, to asteroid fields, then space stations and more. "That's great" you say, "but who the hell owns a TurboGrafx-CD?" I don't know anyone else who has one either but that's okay. It's available through Nintendo's Virtual Console service and because it was a pack-in game then you can find the actual disc for relatively cheap to emulate on your home computer or even on the original hardware if you are crazy enough to track down everything you need.

If you think you're "teh hardcorez" playing 
first person shooters then you need to test your skills against a good shmup and this is a great one. Maybe it's not the most difficult one ever made but it still requires a lot of patience, memorization, some psychic powers would be helpful as well as hand-eye coordination and when finished you'll know you're hardcore. Even if you never make it to the end then playing this is still a blast but whether you do or don't or how or where, you should play this game, Gate of Thunder.

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"Ghostbusters: The Video Game" Review


I really wanted to talk about something Thanksgiving related for AllGoodThings but there aren't any Thanksgiving songs that I know of, nor any movies about Thanksgiving either. Yet I do know a game that at least takes place on Thanksgiving. So get your cornucopia ready to have something to snack on while I talk about the greatest and only-est Thanksgiving game of all uh, Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes place during Thanksgiving 1991 where you assume your role as "the Rookie" who has been recruited by the original four to be their new experimental equipment tester. Not long after arriving at the firehouse however, an energy pulse spreads throughout
Manhattan, causing a surge in paranormal activity that only someone armed with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator and a high voltage laser containment system can take care of. You've got the tools but have you got the talent?

If you think you do then from there you'll travel to different locations around early 90s
New York City, zapping & trapping all manner of spooks, specters and demons while unraveling a century old plot intended to bring about the end of the world. It's extremely satisfying to wrangle a spirit in your proton stream then guide it into your trap. Doing so also earns money that can be used to buy upgrades for your various tech like the PKE Meter or Slime Blower. How this is done however depends on which version of the game you play

There is the version made by
Terminal Reality for Microsoft WindowsXbox 360Sony Playstation 3 which uses a realistic looking aesthetic, the version made by Red Fly Studio for the Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 2 & Playstation Portable which uses a stylized looking aesthetic not unlike something from a Pixar movie, and the version developed by Zen Studios for the Nintendo DS which despite sharing the aesthetic of Redfly's version, is pretty different in terms of gameplay from the other two. The other two however only differ slightly with details like Terminal Reality's penalizing the destruction of property while Redfly's version rewards it.

All three do have one thing in common and that is the excellent story penned by none other than
Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis. From both of them having written the original films GhostbustersGhostbusters II, it gives a real air of authenticity that a lot of movie licensed games don't have. The dialogue is sharp & funny as ever and the plot is deep & full of references to the other two. Of Course they also played the parts of Dr. Ray Stantz & Dr. Egon Spengler in the films respectively so have reprised those roles by providing their voices for all but the DS version. 

Remarkably they also convinced
Bill Murray to reprise his role as Dr. Peter Venkman, Ernie Hudson as the now Dr. Winston Zeddemore, Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz and even William Altherton as Walter Peck all do the same. So in a sense, this really is the Ghostbusters III that fans had been waiting for through the past 20 years. And I prefer it this way. I would rather see these characters as I remember them instead of seeing geriatric Ghostbusters in 2012 or Hollywood try to make hip new Ghostbusters starring Jack Black, Shia LeBeouf, Justin Long & Chris Brown. You know that's what they would do and it would it be horrible so this is the best possible outcome.

It's everything that a Ghostbusters fan could want. It has the original writers, actors, music (including hours of unused music that was composed by
Elmer Bernstein for the 1984 film) and the feeling of finally living that childhood fantasy of being a Ghostbuster yourself. The Wii version even has an added benefit of using the Wii Remote to aim like you were really carrying a Proton Pack. It's an extra level of immersion that you should consider trying despite it having that stylized aesthetic I mentioned.

However you play Ghostbusters: The Video Game though, play it (except maybe the DS version). There is an incredible amount of love and detail put in by all the people who worked on it. It came out a few years ago in 2009 from
Atari so now it can be found for only a few dollars and this year when you don't see any ghosts on Thanksgiving, you know who to thank. But if by any chance you do see one, who you gonna call?

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NiGHTS into Dreams HD Review

Poor SEGA. I used to be one of their soldiers during the Great Console Wars but it seems like they just can't do anything right these days. They keep releasing sequel after sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog and their open world series Yakuza to lower and lower scores. And when they take chances on publishing intriguing third-party games like Vanquish or The Conduit, people just don't buy them. It's sure not like the good old days but SEGA knows it. That's why they've started re-releasing HD updates of some of their classics on the PSN and XBLA. Now new audiences can experience SEGA's lost glory in full high definition.

The latest classic game to get this treatment is NiGHTS into Dreams. It isn't quite like anything that came before it or anything that has come since, unless you count its disappointing sequel for the Nintendo Wii - which I don't! In it, you play as either Claris Sinclair or Elliot Edwards as they fight off the demons of their nightmares with the help of Nights, an androgynous flying jester who merges with your player to collect Ideya crystals and defeat the evil six-handed Wizeman.

I've lost you haven't I? Don't worry about it, the stories in older games aren't as important as the experience and like I said, NiGHTS into Dreams isn't like anything you've experienced elsewhere. It is a 3D game which, for the most part, locks you onto a 2D side scrolling path. That sounds ordinary enough but remember, I also said Nights can fly. After walking your character to a shrine, you take control of the titular character who moves fluidly through the air, spiraling and circling past enemies while you collect as many points as possible.

This is done by defeating opponents, collecting items, doing gratuitous tricks whenever possible and getting a good time. Behind it all, NiGHTS into Dreams is a score attack game but one that is made extremely fun due to its intuitive controls. The original was even bundled with an analog controller before Mario 64 was ever released and it also had widescreen support in 1996. If you can say one thing about SEGA, it's that they definitely knew how to think forward because I barely knew anyone who had a widescreen television in 2006.

This is all brought together through a very colorful and cheerful presentation with the graphics and sound. Of course the visuals aren't as impressive as something brand new, even with the upgrades for its re-release but they're very refreshing compared to the brown and greys that make up the majority of today's gritty "realistic" releases. The 
music itself is extremely upbeat and catchy, stuff you might find yourself humming later if you aren't careful.

So if this already sounds good to you then let me tell you that it gets even better. The recent re-release also has online leader boards, for you to finally prove you're the best androgynous flying jester around and put those questions to rest forever, as well as content from the SEGA Saturn demo disc Christmas NiGHTS that includes specially themed levels perfect for the holidays around the corner.

If Prozac were a game, this would be it. I should add however, that this game has some really strange and appropriately nightmarish end bosses to its stages. It's nothing that would really scare any of your younger family members but it can be a startling juxtaposition and sudden stress inducer to figure out. This isn't a complaint, mind you, just something to watch for. In any case, I want you to watch for NiGHTS into Dreams whether it be on the original SEGA Saturn, the Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade or soon where it will also be available on on Microsoft Windows compatible platforms.

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