Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Uncensored "NFL 98" Review for Sega-16


Personally, I'm not that much of a fan. I've just never really been able to get into the sport, just because to me it's just plain fucking boring. Being an avid hockey fan, I've heard from tons of people that my beloved sport is too boring as well, but how in the hell can such a fast-paced game be considered boring compared to fucking football? Maybe it's just me, but a sport where you're flying up and down the ice slapping at a puck while beating the shit out of the guy trying to knock you over sounds a lot more fun to watch than a sport where you line up over and over again for a couple seconds of guys grabbing and falling all over each other to grab what's basically a dead pig and run with it.

Okay, that was a big rant that came out of nowhere. Now where was I? Oh yeah, I wrote a review of the surprisingly good "NFL 98" for Sega-16, so here's the uncensored review for your reading pleasure...and I think I need a zanax...enjoy!

NFL 98
Published by Sega
Developed by FarSight Studios

Ah yes, it’s that time of year. The time of year when guys across the nation get their recliners, easy chairs, and couches set up to watch good old fashioned NFL football, plus set up their fantasy leagues and even fire up the latest edition of the Madden franchise for good measure (also known as “tools”). When it comes to football video games, Madden has pretty much always been the first football video game franchise to come to mind whether they’re a fan of the sport or not, and for good reason considering the Madden franchise has been around seemingly forever. Back in the day though, before Electronic Arts scooped up exclusivity rights to make games featuring the NFL and its players (and actually have to put out good games to stay competitive in the marketplace, instead of shoveling out the same goddamn game year after year with little minor changes and tweaks), EA had some competition, and one of their best competitors was none other than Sega, who released their own NFL games for a long time, going all the way to having Joe “I fucked your mother” Montana as a spokesman to eventually just using the NFL moniker.

Since the early days of the Genesis, there was football. From the original Joe Montana-brand that would evolve into various Sports Talk-branded installments, to the more commonly-titled NFL 95 and Prime Time NFL Football, Sega always seemed to have their collective heads in the football arena. The franchise would skip a year with NFL 97 hitting the Saturn, with this last hurrah being a swan song of sorts. Yes, NFL 98 marked the end of an era in many ways. NFL 98 wasn’t just the last official football game to be released for Sega’s aging 16-bit juggernaut; it was also one of (and I think maybe the) last North American games to get released for the Genesis period. EA had already released their last football hurrah for the Genesis with Madden NFL 98, and it wasn’t long before Sega followed suit. Despite the long running Sega brand of football that had become a staple of the Genesis, NFL 98 really doesn’t do anything new or truly different at all than any of its predecessors, but what really shocks the shit out of me personally here is that isn’t necessarily a bad thing here either.

One of the things that always made Sega’s football games so accessible to me was the ease of being able to pick up the controller, fire up the cartridge, and just have fun on the field. You didn’t need to be a football expert or necessarily know what a Nickel play is or the pros and cons of lining up your offense in the Shotgun formation. Yes, there is a little bit of a learning curve for those who don’t know all that much about what all goes into playing on the grid-iron, but the accessibility of a number of games in the franchise don’t really hamper the overall gameplay and enjoyment out of Sega’s NFL games. NFL 98 follows the same kind blueprint, almost to a tee.

The football plays themselves come off as being a bit smoother than in the previous iterations of NFL 95 and Prime Time, with throwing the ball, running it, and running defensive plays just feeling simpler to do and pull off. Granted playing 16-bit football isn’t necessarily fucking rocket science, but with NFL 98 it just feels like this just feels plain right to put it bluntly. With the Sports Talk games themselves, I always felt like something was missing from them, and while the previously mentioned installments of the series improved on what had been lacking, NFL 98 feels the most authentic and complete of the whole bunch.

Graphically speaking, there isn’t anything in NFL 98 you haven’t already seen plenty of times before. The graphics engine by this time was really starting to show its age, but it still manages to work for what it is without coming off as archaic. Sound effects are pretty much the same recycled crowd cheers, grunts, and hits that have been around forever in the franchise, which isn’t such a bad thing really as it all still sounds relatively good. Game modes are typical including the Exhibition, Playoffs, etc., all of which was pretty much standard at this point when it comes to the football video game world.

All things considered, for every little thing in NFL 98 that we’ve seen and played over and over again before, this is probably the best iteration of the franchise to hit the Genesis. Holding a place in 16-bit history as one of the final American Genesis games to hit the legendary console makes NFL 98 worth checking out alone, but once you get past the aged aesthetics and recycled presentation, you’ll find yourself with a surprisingly deep football game that you’ll keep coming back to for a while. You can find it pretty cheap on eBay, and there are even groups of people all over the internet that have made numerous mods to the game to include updated players and teams. That in itself serves as proof that one way or another, Sega football left as much a lasting impression on gamers all over the country as EA’s Madden games leave on gamers and jock wanna-be’s wallets.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Uncensored "NHL 98" Review for Sega-16

In case you haven't noticed by now, I fucking love hockey. Everything about it, to actually strapping the skates on and making an ass out of myself, to popping in a good old hockey video game and playing as the video game versions of NHL players. "NHL 98" marked the end of an era, as it was the last 16-bit hockey videogame ever, and surprisingly one of the best. Here's the uncensored and unedited review of the game I wrote for Sega-16, so check it out!

NHL 98 (1997)

Published by Electronic Arts/T*HQ
Developed by High Score Entertainment

One thing that I noticed growing up owning a Sega Genesis was that for some reason, fighting and sports games generally always wound up being better on Sega’s console than they were on their 16-bit rival, the Super Nintendo. Hence my love for EA’s NHL series, which seemed to always deliver the goods in terms of 16-bit hockey action, even if the different yearly variations of the game didn’t appear to offer many differences from one another. NHL 98 is no different, as it helped send the Genesis off to the video game console afterlife by being the last hockey-themed video game to ever hit the system.

As I’ve already said, on the surface it appears that not much has changed cosmetically in terms of this edition of the series, and you’d be right to think so too. However, one thing that NHL 98 includes is a full-season mode, something that hadn’t been included before on previous games in the NHL series thus far for the Genesis. While playing throughout a whole 82 game season followed by the playoffs is the most standard mode of gameplay in hockey video games (or sports video games in general for that matter) today, seeing it unfold here back then was a 16 fucking bit revelation of sorts.

Other game modes include typical features like Exhibition, Playoff series, and a Penalty Shootout mode in addition to the Regular Season, plus NHL 98 also features the first appearance of the Carolina Hurricanes, who had relocated from being the Hartford Whalers of years past. Also included here are international teams which are spectacularly fun to play around with, albeit they aren’t the player rosters that were featured in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano since Midway managed to swipe the video game rights before EA could even attempt to. Despite that though, the international teams are a nice little bonus regardless, even if we’re relegated to having to use Darren “who the fuck am I” Turcotte as the starting Center of Team USA.

Graphically nothing has really changed from previous releases in the series, but there are other changes and improvements made here that really help make NHL 98 so good. There’s “on-the-fly” style coaching tactics during gameplay which was a whole new feature at the time, and really enhances the overall gameplay mechanics instead of the usual “shoot, pass, hit” style that gamers had grown so accustomed to by this installment of the franchise. This also involves a bit of a change-up with the game’s control scheme, which includes the removal of the usual “double-tap” that was necessary to perform certain actions in past installments. All of this adds up to being the fastest and most refined installment of the NHL series on the Genesis, which is kind of fitting considering that this was the last hurrah of Genesis hockey.

The game’s overall presentation has been slightly improved as well, offering a fairly decent representation of a television-based broadcast. Various player and game stats are provided during stoppages in play, rounding out the overall package. The commentating has seen a bit of an upgrade as well this time around, and there’s even some all-new dialogue to boot. Even the arena crowd seems to have gotten a bit of an upgrade in terms of exuberance; with louder and more frequent cheers and jeers to go along with the typical crowd chants and rhythms of yelling “defense” and clapping along with the arena music.

Also debuting around the same time on higher-powered consoles the Playstation and the Genesis successor the Sega Saturn, NHL 98 was sort of seen as an afterthought by Electronic Arts for releasing on the Genesis and its 16-bit rival, the Super Nintendo. So much so as an afterthought that EA decided to employ THQ with the task of distribution rights for both systems, as well as doing the same with the 16-bit 98 editions of Madden and NBA Live as well. Personally, I always kind of found it ironic that the hockey coda on the Genesis would be one of the very best sports games to grace the console. NHL 94 will always be my favorite installment of the series (and to this day the best video game take on hockey ever in my humble drunken opinion), just based on the fact that it was the very first hockey video game I ever played and truly fell in love with, but make no mistake that NHL 98 ranks a very, very close second.

As mentioned before, the graphical drawbacks of NHL 98 fail to detract from the overall superb experience to be found here. Even though it was released in the final days of the Genesis’ lifecycle, this installment managed to take what had already been done so well, and only improve on it. What’s really disappointing though is how few people know about this overlooked gem of a 16-bit sports video game. Newer, fancier, more powerful consoles were out and making an impact on the video game industry, so it really isn’t any surprise that the Genesis edition of NHL 98 got lost in the mix, but the good news is that the game can be fairly easily found to this day, usually with a cheap price tag. That in itself only sweetens the overall deal, especially if you’re a hockey loving Genesis enthusiast, and if you are, NHL 98 deserves to be in your collection.


Monday, September 12, 2011

George Lucas Gives "Star Wars" Fans the Finger...again

What’s there to say about “Star Wars” that hasn’t been said a billion times already. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise, casual viewer, or aren’t even a fan of the films and everything involved therein, you at least know a bit about the “Star Wars” saga. That’s because it’s become so ingrained in our culture and held near and dear by so many people that it’s practically become two steps away from being a fucking religion.

Oh yeah, the whole “Star Wars” saga is also being released on Blu-Ray for the first time ever…and creator George Lucas is making more changes and updates to his cash-cow in the process.

Fucking hell.

Now the fact that Lucas is making changes to the films themselves is little surprise, he’s been doing it for years. Way before the stink of his prequel films was ever smelt by anyone, Lucas already toyed around with the original film by altering the title of the opening scroll from simply saying “Star Wars” to “Episode IV: A New Hope”, along with famously altering the scene with Han Solo and Greedo by making Greedo shoot at Han first before Han blows his alien ass away. Over the years Lucas would release the original trilogy in “special editions” that would add new digital effects that he always wanted to do, but was limited by the technology of his time when the original films were first made.

When the original trilogy would hit DVD for the first time, Lucas made even more changes to the films. Most famously being replacing the actor playing the deceased Anakin “Darth Vader” Skywalker with a shot of actor Hayden Christensen in the closing moments of “Return of the Jedi”. We all figured that maybe this would be the end of Lucas tinkering with the finished products…but alas, we were wrong.

Among the new alterations to the original films are Vader ridiculously shouting “Nooooooo!!!!” when tossing the Emperor overboard in “Jedi”, Ewoks having moving eye-lids, Obi-Wan making a different sound to distract the Tuskan sand-raiders in the first film, extra rocks around R2-D2 (seriously), and Jabba the Hutt having a massive front door…yeah…what the fuck? Even the prequel films aren’t safe either, with Lucas removing the puppet-controlled Yoda from “Phantom Menace” and replacing him with an all-CGI take on the character, which is what he would opt for in the following two sequels…but still, why George, why?

It’s bad enough that Lucas has made so many alterations to the original films, but why the fuck must he keep on doing it for fuck’s sake? His reasoning is that these are “his” films, which undoubtedly they are, he created them and created a whole new franchise that has been cherished for decades now, but why must he keep on fucking tinkering with something so many hold so near and dear? With creating something to beloved, these films have become the publics to an extent. We love them, we love the mythology they spawned, and all the pop-culture resonations that popped up in the wake of them being released. In other words, stop fucking with our shit George.

When the films were first released on DVD, fans clamored the same sentiments that I am, with many begging for the chance that we’d get to see the original, unaltered cuts of the films we love so much. Lucas granted our wishes, more or less, by releasing them all separately in Letterbox format DVD’s that looked and sounded like they were recorded or burned from old VHS tapes. Yes folks, no matter what, George just keeps putting the dick to us, and he seemingly always will in one shape or form or another.

I’m not a die-hard “Star Wars” fan in the least, but I adore the original trilogy and hold them in an incredible high regard. All I can really say to the real die-hard “Star Wars” fans is to give Lucas the finger by not laying down the cash for the upcoming Blu-Ray releases of the “Star Wars” saga. Maybe if he sees how low the sales are for these altered takes on the films, he’ll take a fucking hint and really give his fans what they truly want. Then again…this is George Lucas we’re talking about, and he’s probably too damn busy counting all his money to really give a shit about what his fans want in the first fucking place.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Uncensored "Generations Lost" Review for Sega-16

Ever hear of a Genesis game called "Generations Lost"? Yeah, I never did either until really late in the life-cycle of the Genesis, but it managed to stick out in my mind for some fucking reason...that and I reviewed it for Sega-16 due to the fact that there aren't that many Genesis games left available to review, so I figured fuck it...and well, here we are.


Published by Time Warner Interactive
Developed by Pacific Softscape

The Genesis/Mega Drive offers a plethora of platformers that we all know by heart at this point. The Sonic the Hedgehog series, Vectorman, Ristar, and plenty, plenty more besides. Most of them are beloved titles that have stood the test of time and define Sega’s classic 16-bit juggernaut to this very day. In between all those beloved games however are a few that manage to slip in between the cracks of the console’s library and for whatever reason didn’t seem to attract much of an audience. Some are better left unnoticed, while some are real diamonds in the rough…and then there are one or two that don’t really fall into either category at all. They’re not that memorable, but they’re not flat out shit either. Generations Lost is one such game, as it doesn’t offer anything new to the platforming genre, nor does it do anything particularly bad either.

In Generations Lost, you assume the role of a warrior named Monobe, who is on a quest to “search for the past of his people”…or something…I don’t know, nor do I really give a shit either, let’s just get this show on the road. Your real quest is to dodge various environmental hazards and take on an assortment of blood-thirsty creatures and assorted baddies to make it to the end of each level. Along the way is a healthy amount of brain teasing puzzle elements that keep the game from getting too stale too quickly, and offers a nice change of pace to the usual platforming and taking out enemies elements. There’s also a healthy amount of locating secret switches, which in itself ends up becoming more fucking monotonous than need be.

Graphically speaking, Generations Lost offers some pretty decent graphics. Monobe himself is nicely detailed, as are the enemy creatures. They make up for the otherwise bland level visuals, which look like a hodgepodge of designs from past platformers, including an opening jungle stage that looks like it was ripped straight out of the first level of the first X-Men game on the Genesis. Things don’t really change much from that point forward though throughout the game’s six levels, as even though the stage location changes, yet somehow they all seem to manage to look like one another. This sort of betrays the somewhat awesome opening cut-scene of the game, which seems to promise some sort of futuristic action/adventure game, yet judging by the majority of the locations, we get anything but. Still though, the level design itself is solid and offers some pretty good platforming action as well.

Graphical flaws and shortcomings aside, Generations Lost does offer some tight controls. Monobe can do a variety of movements, including run, shoot energy projectiles, and swing and move from platform to platform with relative ease using an energy rope. Yes, Monobe is like Spider-Man but with energy-based technology and armor, and without any whiny musings about his troublesome red-headed bimbo girlfriend or his two-steps-away-from-being-a-fucking-mummy Aunt May (that’s right I said it). Using all these abilities and movements is surprisingly tight and responsive, albeit it takes a little getting used to at first, but after a while it becomes simple to do and pull off, and almost being a little reminiscent of Capcom’s classic NES game Bionic Commando in the process, which is not a bad thing to be compared to in the least.

The game’s difficulty however is a different story. Generations Lost has a steep learning curve, as mentioned before in discussing getting used to the game’s controls, but it doesn’t help matters when the game goes from being easy to increasingly difficult as the game progresses. Once you get through some the hardest parts in the game, things get easy again, before once again getting even fucking harder than before. This can range from the amount of enemies you encounter, to environmental traps popping out of nowhere, to some frustrating puzzles. I’m all for difficulty in a game and getting a good challenge, but when it keeps moving from one end of the spectrum to another and back again and again and again, you’ll be pulling your hair out and shitting your pants in frustration. Even if the game is only six levels long, you’ll be glad it is by the time you reach the end.

All its flaws aside though, Generations Lost still has a lot to offer for Genesis/Mega Drive owners. It has an intriguing enough story that is fairly original for a game of this type and era and a somewhat interesting protagonist on top of that, plus some appealing graphics and tight controls. Its difficulty fluctuation and visually bland levels end up dragging it down, but not to the degree of being unplayable. With all that being said, Generations Lost is a worthwhile enough endeavor to pick up and play. You can find it simply enough on eBay or even download it from a few different places on the internet, so there’s really no harm in giving Generations Lost a whirl.

Score: 6/10

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Death in the NHL

Derek Boogaard
Rick Rypien
Wade Belak

Those are the names of three NHL players who have all died during this summer. Three NHL players that all have something major in common besides the fact that they were professional hockey players: they were all fighters, otherwise known as “enforcers” or to use the old time hockey term, “goons”. They were all paid to go out on the ice for a few minutes of ice-time to do little more than rough up the opposition, to punch out opposing teams’ tough guys and get things going for their own team. Sheriffs of the ice in a way, and no matter what, always having a leadership impact on and off the ice.

Now all three men are dead, and the circumstances of their deaths are something else entirely.

Boogaard, in the first year of a four-year contract with the New York Rangers, died from a lethal combination of pain killers and alcohol, and was suffering from post-concussion syndrome and sat out most of his single season with the Rangers due to the injury.

Rypien, who had played parts of multiple seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and their minor league affiliate before signing with the newly resurrected Winnipeg Jets at the start of the NHL’s Free Agency period, had been said to have been a long-sufferer of depression, which is what is believed to have lead to his suicide only a few weeks ago.

Belak, a longtime and beloved pugilist who had announced his retirement from the Nashville Predators a few months ago in mid-season, was found dead last night in his condo. Belak, a husband and father, was known throughout the league as being a great guy in the locker room and outside of hockey, which makes his apparent suicide all the more baffling for the time being.

What the hell is going on in the NHL with its enforcers? All three players had varying degrees of injury history, with Boogaard being the only one that had major concussion issues, but the fact that all three died within such a short time of each other just makes things all the more heartbreaking, and all the more head-scratching as well. Does living the life of being an NHL goon take a toll on a person that no one can ever really know?

Only a few months ago, legendary tough guy Bob Probert passed away as well. Probert, who had substance abuse issues while he played in the NHL, desired that his brain be donated to science to be studied for the effects that concussions have on the human brain, after suffering a few himself during his career, a number of which being undiagnosed. Even before Probert passed away, and before any of these three players’ lives were cut short, the NHL was finally starting to take a serious look at the issue of concussions in the sport. Just this past year alone, we’ve seen players like Marc Savard (whose career looks like it’s over) and Max Pacioretty (who was the subject of a past blog after being almost two steps away from getting assfucked by Zdeno Chara’s hockey stick) suffered major concussions, as did league superstar and NHL poster child Sidney Crosby, who is still suffering lingering effects months later and is unknown when he’ll be able to play again after suffering what may be multiple concussions in a short amount of time.

The concussion issue is one thing the NHL needs to handle, and believe it or not, so is substance abuse. American football is certainly a brutal sport, but there is no other major North American sport that sees its players down painkillers like the NHL. It’s understandable, it’s not like many regular people could survive and absorb a hit from a guy like Shea Weber without feeling a little tingle, but the link between massive injuries that go undiagnosed and the use of painkillers is something that needs to be handled right the fuck right now by the NHL. Don’t believe me? Ask Eric Lindros or Paul Kariya what it’s like to get multiple concussions and still keep coming back. Look at Theo Fleury’s career often playing better drunk than his teammates could sober. It’s a problem that’s always existed in the league in one form or another; it’s just now that the situation is finally coming to light.

It’s just a shame that it’s come to this to make people and the league finally take notice as to just what the fuck is going on here.

Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak; R.I.P.