Archive for March, 2010

Jackie Chan

March 31, 2010

Jackie Chan

 

Born: 7 April 1954, Hong Kong

Birth Name: Kong-sang Chan

 

“I never wanted to be the next Bruce Lee. I just wanted to be the first Jackie Chan”

I’m a pretty big fan of all things Jackie Chan, especially his early films, from odd appearances as a stunt man to his more famous leading roles in movies such as Police Story (1985), Armour of God (1986), Project A (1984) and Drunken Master (1978).  Jackie attended the China Drama Academy at the age of 6 and was rigorously trained in music, dance, and traditional martial arts. A visiting filmmaker offered Chan his first bit part as a stunt player. His academy “brothers” include Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, Corey Yuen, Wah Yuen and Yuen Man Meng.

The first Chan movie I watched was Rumble in the Bronx (1994) and became hooked ever since, I decided to dig a little deeper into his background and history and found the book I am Jackie Chan a brilliant and informative read which I highly recommend for any fan of Jackie Chan.

One of my favourites, although I fully admit not one of his best movies, is City Hunter (1993) based on the Manga. City Hunter follows the adventures of detective Ryu Saeba (Jackie Chan) who in this case must take down Col. MacDonald (Richard Norton) who has taken over a cruise ship and is holding the passengers hostage. It’s a pretty silly movie but some of the fight scenes are awesome. I love the ‘Gambit-esque’ card player and the Street Fighter scene beats any of the live action Street Fighter movies to date, just for purely sticking to its source material so closely. See below!

There’s plenty to look up on Jackie Chan and tonnes of information on the web, including his official website, which covers a lot of his more recent events, appearances and movies etc. Strangely, for a more extensive list of his older movies see here!

Two of my other favourites are Who Am I? (1998) and Mr. Nice Guy (1997), which are both great Sunday night ‘switch off to’ entertainment. Richard Norton from City Hunter also plays the villain to Jackie Chan’s hero in Mr. Nice Guy. Please take a look at his IMDB page here!

Recent stuff on the world of Jackie Chan at http://jackiechan.com/ and Jackie Chan on IMDB.

Jackie Chan’s IMDB covers the long list of credits as writer, director and actor including his 1973 entry as ‘Thug in Prison’ in Enter the Dragon (1973) with Bruce Lee, check out the picture of Bruce and Jackie below!

Arcade Classic Reviews: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

March 16, 2010

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Coin Op

Manufacturer: Konami
Year: 1989
Genre: Scrolling Fighter

First a little background on Konami, a name and logo I’m sure a lot of people still recognise (although I didn’t realise that changed it recently). Gaming wise they can be associated with the Silent Hill series, Metal Gear Solid, as well as titles from back in the day such as Frogger and more famously Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Konami was founded on March 21st 1969 by Kagemasa Kozuki (current chairman of the board and Chief Executive Officer) and originally began as a jukebox rental/repair business in Osaka. Konami’s first actual game machine was not created until 1978. They began to achieve success with hit arcade games such as 1981’s Frogger, Scramble, and Super Cobra, many of which were licensed to other companies for stateside release, including Stern Electronics and Gremlin Industries.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (although for us more ‘sensitive’ Europeans – Hero Turtles) was a side-scrolling beat-’em-up released by Konami as a coin-operated video game in 1989. It is based on the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series which began airing in the fall of 1987. The original coin-op game was distributed to the arcades in two variants: a standard 2-player version that allowed either player to choose their character and a deluxe 4-player version with each player controlling a different character. The player chooses from one of the four Ninja Turtles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael (my personal favourite) and follows the usual story for our four green heroes. Shredder kidnaps annoying channel 6 reporter April O’Neil as well as their sensei Splinter.

The gameplay is such the Turtles battle their way through each level defeating an inordinate amount of the Shredder’s foot soldiers to reach a boss at the end of each stage. Each character has his own distinct style and weapon; Donatello has slower attacks but a longer range with his bo-staff, Michelangelo and Raphael have fast attacks but a short range, and Leonardo is a well-rounded Turtle with average range and speed. Each stage results in a fight, up against some of the Turtles recurring bad guy characters, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Krang, and Shredder.

Too many hours playing this (although I never completed it) and way too much pocket money spent, the original Arcade coin op is a classic, and, if one day I win the lottery or something, I would buy the original machine and invite everyone over to play it. Turtles provided hours of great gameplay and graphics and even better with a second player. I’ve wanted to go back and play it ever since… which brings me to my fascination with the Amiga conversion of this game below! Read on!

Amiga Coversion:

Genre: Arcade – Beat em’ up

Year: 1991

Developer: Probe Software, Image Works

The Amiga conversion is the only one out of the many out there I’ve played, so I’m not sure how others live up to the original coin op. Depending on how you look at this game, either comparing it to its Arcade counterpart, or as a standalone game, it doesn’t really appeal on any level, apart from the fact it was Turtles!

I always go back to this expecting it to be as good as it was in the arcade, loading it up in anticipation of the same great gameplay, special moves and upbeat intro sequence. I’m usually pretty disappointed after 5 minutes of play (and yet I still go back for more) mainly because it’s the only way I can get to play this game at home, sadly it’s as close as I’m going to get at this point in time to the original arcade version.

The graphics are pretty poor and there really isn’t anything good to say about the gameplay, animation in the intro sequence and music. You can distinguish between the Turtles mainly by the weapon they’re carrying and not much else. The lack of music means your ears are abused by the poor sound effects which have an awful echo (kinda sounds like dropping empty 2ltr coke bottles on a tiled floor) and doesn’t really improve beyond that.

The controls are painfully slow and the glitchy graphics make it difficult to see what you’re hitting or doing when there are multiple enemies on the screen.

Poor graphics, no music and terrible sound effects, awful gameplay the lack of special moves makes this conversion one of the poorest I’ve seen; home computers/consoles at this time promised to bring the arcade into your home, this one really didn’t (doesn’t want to use ‘cut the mustard’), um, do it for me. Even without the comparison I wouldn’t rank this game very highly. So why review it? Mainly because  I’m annoyed I can’t play this in the arcade anymore; I’m also annoyed I have to play the Amiga version to try and recapture some of that experience. Plus I loved the Turtles cartoon so who wouldn’t want to play a Turtles game?

53% from Amiga Action 29 (Feb 1992)

30% from AUI Vol 5 No 3 (Mar 1991)

Coin Op Screen shots and cabinet picture from the awesome International Arcade Museum! Please visit their site here!

www.klov.com

Also released on Arcade, NES, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum, Xbox 360 (XBLA)

Please also visit the Konami website!

Movie Review: Highlander

March 8, 2010

I know what you’re thinking, Highlander? He has to be joking? I’m afraid not people, Highlander is indeed one of my all time favourite films (next to Ghostbusters) so if you are of a weak disposition regarding this awesome movie please turn to another blog post now.

First time I watched Highlander was in the early 90’s and I didn’t really understand it, so I watched it again. Still didn’t get it, so I left it alone for a long time. When I started University in 2001 I decided to give it another go, this time on DVD, it certainly looked shinier than I remember and, apart from a few inexcusable 80’s hairdo’s, still felt like a recent movie.

I also realised it’s a film I can watch over and over again, no matter what. Always makes a good candidate for a favourite movie, one you can just sit down and switch off to (no pun intended), one you can feel good about afterwards, even if you know it might seem an odd choice to other people.

Highlander has certainly had to put up with a lot of criticism over the years, criticism which is unfortunately justified. The first film isn’t without its flaws but is superior to its successors in every way, truly “there should have been only one” However the series has been all but destroyed by a series of the worst sequels ever.

Highlander was directed by Russell Mulcahy and penned by Gregory Widen and released in 1986. If you didn’t know already, the film follows the story of Conner Macleod (Christopher Lambert) of the clan Macleod. He was born in the year 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel and is discovered to be immortal after being severely wounded on the battlefield by the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) After being banished from his village Macleod is found by Ramirez (Sean Connery) another immortal who befriends Macleod in order to teach him about the gathering and train him in order to win the prize and defeat the Kurgan.

The film skips between flashbacks of Macleod’s life in Scotland in the 16th Century, through the ages and to New York City 1985. The immortals are preparing for the gathering where the final battle will be fought by the last two and the winner will receive the prize. The only way the immortals can die is by having their heads cut off so swords are an essential weapon, also meaning there’s a lot of walking around with very cleverly concealed swords inside long jackets.

The sword choreography is highly watchable and over the top making it action packed and fun to watch. These scenes work in the same way as a martial arts movie, desperately waiting for linking dialogue to be over to get to the good stuff. The story is well conceived and despite a few plot points well executed, it flows relatively well, and unless you’re me, the story is pretty easy to follow.

I love the characters and the mythology behind them (something that was ridiculed and destroyed in the sequel rather than expanded upon and developed) and feel that it really should have been a standalone film and even has a perfect ending for it. I think Christopher Lambert does a brilliant job in bringing Conner Macleod to life as an iconic character. Given that English wasn’t his first language does a pretty sterling job at a Scottish accent, and also explains his non specific accent in the 1985 parts of the movie. He gives the character depth and potential for more “prequel esque” follow ups to the movie.

Highlander takes it charm from Lamberts portrayal and the urge to know about his past rather than his future. I think film makers after the first film forgot there was 450 years of history to explore behind this character. Sean Connerys’ inability to pull any sort of passable foreign accent out of the language hat is pretty amusing in any of his films, whether he’s playing an Egyptian Spanish metallurgist, an Irish cop or a Russian submarine commander, he’ll always have that Scottish accent in all its glory, but this is what we expect from Connery and he still plays a memorable and interesting character. Clancy Brown is awesome as the Kurgan and I wish this guy was in more movies, he really steals the scenes and becomes more and more animated and villainous throughout the film up to the final battle with Macleod.

I could probably gush about this film for a hundred pages but don’t worry I’m not going to go on too much longer, I could go into the awesome Queen soundtrack or Michael Kamen score, but maybe in another post! I will however mention the blu-ray release of this film which inspired this review. The extras have remained more or less the same from the special edition release on DVD, however the picture is awesome. For a movie that’s 25 years old 99.9% of it looks and feels like it was filmed yesterday. Only one scene stands out as being as little crude, the high definition picture emphasises the use of special effects and if you look to the screen closely you can tell half the castle, the horses, hills and fields are a matte painting, not really noticeable on VHS or DVD. Considering this scene is about 3 seconds long you’re not really losing out on a great quality transfer for such an old film. Whereas film transfers to blu-ray such as Ghostbusters were a disappointment and in my opinion not worth buying the blu-ray for Highlander is well worth the purchase.

For more Highlander I would recommend the series from 1992 with Adrian Paul as Duncan Macleod which wasn’t too bad. I also like the 4th in the series of movies “Highlander: Endgame” which see’s Conner and Duncan crossing paths and tries to recapture some of the charm of the first film with flashbacks to Conners’ life in Scotland (although don’t expect too much continuity).

Great article and more in depth look at Highlander can be found here!

Clancy Brown fan website here!

Visit here for a Christopher Lambert fan website!

QueenPrinces of the Universe” music video!

Top 5 Platformers (Amiga)

March 1, 2010

Top 5 platform games on the

Amiga

It’s always difficult to name a top 5, especially when there are so many great games on the Amiga to choose from. I’ve based this small list on games I love to replay, whether on my Amiga or emulated. They also tap into deep rooted childhood memories and good times to match!

I will emphasise this list “is in my opinion” (ah, the wonders of a blog) as with any “top list” on any subject it will spark debate, which is a healthy thing anyway and hopefully some of you will put forward some of your top platformers for the Amiga as well! 

After playing through a few of my favourites, and ones I haven’t played before, my list grew substantially from the initial 5. However, as much as I’d love to waffle on these games will be hailed as an honourable mention and came close to making my list; Superfrog, Rodland, Rainbow Islands, Harlequin, Gods and Wolfchild. 

 Flashback 

Flashback is an immensely good game with great graphics and great cut scenes to move the game along in-between each level. It moves away from the usual “bouncy, jumpy” platformer and provides more of an RPG feel to it. The controls are smooth and really run well with the graphics. The intense music really sets the atmosphere for the whole game and the sound effects throughout set the tone nicely. Gameplay and appearance is similar in style to Another World but Flashback has a longer, and in my opinion better storyline (the puzzles are trickier but also follow a logical pattern). A great mix of action and puzzle solving Flashback is one I can play over and over again, even the courier jobs in level 2 aren’t all that bad. I love the intro sequence to this game and it sticks firmly in my memory to this day, the graphics blew me away and with the upbeat music felt like you were watching the intro to a movie. Good times.  

Amiga Computing 62 (Jul 1993) gave Flashback 94%  

The Great Giana Sisters  

Whichever way you like at the Great Giana Sisters people will always shout out something about Mario, but I remember first loading this up on my Amiga and being hooked right away (for an eight year old boy the title screen was fascinating in itself). I felt no need to sit there and think “this is just like that NES game” and so I played through without the hindrance of over analysis that seems to limit the mind once you’ve reached adulthood. I took it for what it was, the graphics were bright and colourful, the gameplay fun and easy going but still retained that challenging aspect to it (timing some jumps was essential). It’s certainly not the easiest game to complete and the 2 player option is just basically the same thing over again but you’ll want to make it to the end, just because. It’s also one of the few games on my Amiga I remember my sister playing (alongside Monster Business, Magic Serpent and Chips Challenge) and as far as I remember she was able to get much further through the game than I could… probably had more patience. An awesome game and worth revisiting, the music is pretty lively too.  

Article in AUI Vol. 2 No. 9 (Sep 1988) for The Great Giana Sisters
 
Turrican II  

As soon as I read or think of the name Turrican the same funky signature theme tune pops into my head and I instantly feel the need to load it up. Turrican is a fast paced platformer and one where it’s not wise to stop for too long, the amount of enemies on screen doesn’t slow the game down and you’ll always find you’re up against an enemy. The game has a great variety of weapons in order to help you take out bad guys in more ways than one; namely bounce, laser and multiple, (add in the extra morph-ball move) and you have everything you need to make it through the games 5 distinct worlds, each with its own great piece of music by Chris Huelsbeck. I love it for its intensity and non-stop gameplay, the graphics look clean and polished and I find its one of the more challenging platformers for the Amiga. On more than one occasion this game has grabbed my attention, and is one of the few times playing it became more important than being called down for dinner. Turrican II is certainly my favourite of the series but I do have a soft spot for Turrican III, mainly for the cool swingy gadget.  

CU Amiga (Feb 1992) review of Turrican II scored 94%  

Magic Pockets  

I played this because I saw it being played on Saturday morning TV (either Motormouth or Going Live!). Either way during the shows the contestant played the game either by shouting the controls down the phone or by using a touch tone phone. I loved the little character (Bitmap Kid) and the ‘cool’ (for the 90’s) animated intro sequence. BK had a unique way of taking out the bad guys, although it never made much sense why a snail would change into a candy cane after being engulfed by a whirlwind which came out someone’s pocket… crazy as that sounds when you write it down it makes sense in this awesome game. Another great from the Bitmap Brothers! The game is long enough to keep you amused for hours, until you turn to look at the clock and realise your late for school (you then get to school and remember it’s a Saturday) and feel like a complete ninny, but with the added bonus you can return home and carry on playing. The level designs are brilliant and the secret passages add an extra puzzle element to the gameplay. The game includes an impressive variety of bad guys and extra levels to keep you reaching into to your pockets for a long time to come… ooo er.  

Amiga Action 25 (Oct 1991) gave Magic Pockets 93%  

James Pond II: Robocod  

Who doesn’t want to save a bunch of hapless penguins at Christmas time from the evil yet brightly coloured clutches of James Ponds arch nemesis Dr. Maybe? It’s certainly one of the most memorable platformers for me as I was a huge fan of the James Bond movies (still am, natch) and the first Pond game. In order to defeat Dr. Maybe (who has taken over Santa’s workshop in the North Pole) Pond is equipped with a robotic suit which allows him to extend is body and grip onto very high platforms, and then shimmy along them past all manner of bad guys and deadly traps. Robocod is a great game and a welcome improvement on the gameplay of the first game (I found the underwater controls far too sensitive and the gameplay very repetitive). Robocod also introduces a series of vehicles for our hero to use adding another dimension to the game, these include a car, plane and um, a bathtub. The game looks and feels polished and is definitely the best in the series (the third game felt like a combination of the first and second without the cool robotic suit) and for all its colour and overly cute level designs the game is the most challenging, and in some places just a little bit sinister.  

Amiga Power 7 (Nov 1991) gave James Pond II: Robocod 87%  

Hope found this Top 5 enjoyable and informative, 2 awesome resource sites for everything Amiga can be found here at Amiga Magazine Rack and Lemon Amiga!  

I have also previosuly reviewed Superfrog! Check it out here!