Thunderforce 4 Soundtrack on Vinyl Arrives

I’m a huge fan of DataDiscs and their video game soundtrack releases. I have bought many of their vinyl OSTs including Okami, Golden Axe, Panzer Dragoon and all three Streets of Rages. When they announced that they would be releasing the Thunder Force 4 soundtrack I was beyond excited. The game is one of my all time favourites and the soundtrack is amazing, one of the best on the Megadrive in my opinion. I pre-ordered it when the link went up a couple of weeks ago and it arrived today. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but will write a review once I have. In the meantime, here are some pictures I’ve taken of this impressive looking 3 disc vinyl collection.

Video Game Papercuts

I love video games and I also like taking photographs, so the idea of merging the two appealed to me. Over the past several months I have been taking characters from various video games and placing them in the real world and these are the results so far. It's a small portfolio but hopefully I'll add to it over time.

Top Chiptune Soundtracks You Don't Know

Soundtracks nowadays are similar in style and vein to movie scores, full of cinematic scope and bombast, which is great as it leads to fantastic scores like the ones for Journey, Thomas Was Alone or DMC. However there was a simpler time where space was limited and the sound files had to be compressed and optimised to fit on a cartridge with 8 or 16 megs. This economy of scale led to thoughtful and creative masterpieces that are still iconic even today.

Now we could rattle off the famous game soundtracks that usually fit into many of the 'greatest Megadrive / SNES / NES soundtrack compilations' which you can find on YouTube but I want to choose a few pieces that time has forgotten. This is away from the usual Castlevania, Sonic, Megaman and Mario soundtrack scores as everyone knows them and loves them. I'm talking about the rarely heard soundtracks of yore. Here are a few of my favourites, maybe you could tell me yours!

This music plays during the Underwater levels from the Disney game World Of Illusion. It also plays during Mickey's Coral Reef section.

Music from R-Type 1987 by Irem- this level could be described as looking like the contents of a stomach, possibly after eating genetically modified food.

Thunder Force 3 - Stage 5: Ellis. This music was so upbeat and rocking that I loved leaving it to last!

Technosoft Aqcuired by Sega

It is with great excitement that I bring the news that Technosoft games licenses have been bought by Sega. This may not seem particularly exciting but anyone in the know will be aware of the fact that Technosoft is most famed for its wonderful Thunder Force series which were highly praised and well-received shoot 'em ups on the Megadrive (Genesis) back when 16-bit consoles rules the world.
Thunderforce 3 and 4 were two of my favourite games on the Megadrive but I never got to play the later games in the series as it moved onto the Playstation and were rare or never released in England.

Technosoft had been acquired by Pachinko manufacturer Twenty One Company in the early noughts but the company didn't do much with the license at all so it's great news that Sega now has the license and may move the series forward. In Japan Sega will be releasing a compilation collection called Sega 3D Classics Collection 3: Final Stage on the 3DS, it will feature such heavyweight titles including Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes and Turbo Outrun.
Whilst this is a step in the right direction I would love to see Sega proactively use the license and resurrect this amazing series by creating some new games and getting the amazing composers back on the series. A new Thunderforce with retro style graphics and new Technosoft soundtrack... Yes please!

Mortal Kombat- Cult Film Review

Ah Mortal Kombat... or should that be MORTAL KOMBAT!

The arcade game arrived in a baptism of fire with controversy surrounding it in 1992. I enjoyed the visuals and gore and the game held me in thrall at a newsagents I frequented on my way to school. There were many times when I was nearly late for school due to playing the arcade game and getting quite far as I spammed Raiden's flying torpedo move. I loved the games series in the 90's on the Megadrive and when the movie was announced I was intrigued but not enough so to watch it at the cinema. Whilst looking through the available films on Amazon Prime I saw the film was available and so I finally had the chance to scratch this itch and so I took it!

This move made completing the game pretty easy.

The plot is basic fighting game 101; Mortal Kombat is a once-a-generation tournament in which fighters battle for the fate of their worlds. The evil sorcerer Shang Tsung and his evil underlings have won 9 tournaments in a row and if they win the tenth one, they will gain the Earth. Three humans are manipulated by Raiden, ably played by Christopher Lambert, to take part in the tournament and defeat this evil whilst also fighting their own demons (metaphorically speaking). Liu Kang, wants to avenge the death of his brother, actor Johnny Cage wants to prove that he isn't a fake martial artist and military officer Sonya Blade  wants to avenge her partners death at the hands of Kano, an underworld boss.

Will the ragtag group overcome their personal issues and win Mortal Kombat? Of course they will but it's the journey that matters in this story.

The movie is incredibly cheesy with one-dimensional characters but the well-choreographed action sequences make it all worthwhile. The dialogue, whilst corny, has Johnny Cage deliver a few great one-liners and the techno-trance beat soundtrack sits well alongside the high octane fight scenes. The film design should be praised as the atmosphere of the first 2 games is conveyed well with the set and the lighting in the film being quite impressive.

Overall the unpretentious nature of the film gives it heart, in its earnestness to tell the ridiculous story the film has a lot of personality and character. Paul W. S. Anderson is an able if unremarkable director, he is most famed for his sci-fi and video game film adaptations (the most popular of which is the Resident Evil film series) and this is one of his best adaptations.

If you are looking for a guilty pleasure then this film is definitely worth your time, it is good cheesy fun!

For the Love of Libraries

'Libraries give us power' extolled the Manic Street Preachers in their anthemic Design for Life and how right they were. The combined collective history of the world, the knowledge and wisdom thereof is contained within. I've always loved libraries, their peace, the smell of old books and the atmosphere they give... wonderful. I've always loved reading and read voraciously in my youth and formative years. Most Saturday mornings were spent going to Barking Library, heading off to Cash Converters to look at all the cool (probably stolen and resold- this is Barking after all) NES and Megadrive games then it would be topped off by a visit to my local comic shop, Rodneys Books and Games... But it all started with the library.

I would spend hours in there perusing the shelves, reading away in a comfy faux leather chair listening to my Jean Michel Jarre recorded cassette of Oxygene. Ah the memories. Well Beyond the Frame has created a marvelous mash-up celebrating the most wonderful places in the world. So what do your library memories consist of?

Video Game Soundtracks on Vinyl

Nostalgia normally works in 30 year cycles. In the 70's and 80's Happy Days was huge, looking back through rose tinted eyes at the 50's. Well now, having reached the ripe old age of 34 I guess I'm the demographic companies are trying to target by appealing for my nostalgia. To that end Data-Discs is releasing video game soundtracks of classic games Streets of Rage and Shenmue on vinyl. Both are the work of legendary Yuzo Koshiro, the influential composer who was particularly renown in the 80's and 90's for creating thumping rhythmic electronic and chiptune music on 8 and 16-bit machines.

In the words of Data-Discs:

We carefully remaster game soundtracks and present them as officially licensed, high quality packages. Our intention is to promote the work of game composers, which is all too often overlooked, and introduce people to an area of music that, despite being culturally significant in many ways, has seldom been available on any format, let alone on vinyl. We aim to release soundtracks that work as standalone pieces; albums that can be enjoyed by casual listeners as well as game fans, and showcase the creativity and ingenuity of the people behind them. 

I have spoken about my love of vinyl before but this is something different. The thought of hearing the tunes of my formative years on my record player is so exciting; this couldn't more hipster if it tried but I'm so in! My wife is buying me the Streets of Rage on vinyl as an Eid present and I can't wait. I have a couple of other video game soundtrack vinyls I hope to be getting soon including the Journey soundtrack by Austin Wintory,

These soundtracks being released got me thinking about other albums I'd like to see on vinyl and so I've compiled a video playlist below. Click away and enjoy. What video game soundtrack would you like to hear on vinyl?

Bullet Heaven- Shoot 'em Up Games

I picked up the latest issue of Retro Gamer and was excited to see that as well as featuring awesome art by Oliver Fray (who I have really like)  it had an article on shoot 'em ups. Whilst reading the article and munching on old skool treats I got to thinking about the genre. My first experience at the arcade was when I was 6 and it was at my local video store, there was Pacman and Space Invaders. I suppose that was my first intro to shoot 'em up games, that little sit down cocktail cabinet.

Retro Gamer and retro sweets, a winning combination.

They've always held a special place in my heart as once the enemy patterns are learnt and memorised you can look like a boss completing a game. I have a vivid memory of playing Rtype at Heathrow airport and getting to level 3, that huge base ship. I bought the game on the Amstrad CPC 464 and felt like a bad-ass as my little ship  took down a warship that was bigger than a screen, in fact it was a whole level in and of itself. Over the years I bought RType again on the Master System and then progressed to the Megadrive where I continued my love of shoot 'em ups.
Unfortunately over the last few years bullet hell games have taken over, I like them as I feel Zen when I play them but they are not the same as shoot 'em ups. Bullet hell games, especially the ones that have made their way West in the last few years on console including Deathsmile and Akai Katana have a place but they do feel stagnant compared to Dodonpachi and Ikaruga, the true exciting innovators of bullet hell. But generally bullet hell games have a different feel and mechanics.

So here these are some of my favourite shoot 'em ups, there are no SNES shoot 'em ups as I only had a Master System and Megadrive growing up and only got a SNES later in life. I'm playing some of the SNES shoot 'em ups now so this list will be updated later.


Fantasy Zone

Ranger X

Thunderforce III

Thunderforce IV

Zero Wing

Keeper of Classic Gaming

As a teacher and a parent many feel that it is my role to impart my knowledge and wisdom to the younger generation. However I got to a-thinking, apart from being older than those I teach what gives me the right to feel that what I say is correct or the choices I present are the correct ones for my wards? Rather shouldn't I help to educate the children so that they can make informed choices independently? These are profound questions which came from a very 'unprofound' place; gaming. What games should I introduce to my nephew as he gained an interest in gaming? My brother asked me to introduce his son to gaming as he had shown a keen interest in the PSP he had been playing.

Now being the Keeper of the Gateway to Classic Gaming, who am I to decide what games he should play? Of course I want him to experience stone-cold classics like Pacman, Sonic and Super Mario Bros. but maybe he should have a chance to experience gaming organically. This could include 'bad' games, like Dragons Lair on the NES or ET on the Atari.

In my formative years I played lots of 'bad' games but isn't taste objective? One only has to look online to find difference of opinion on just about anything. A prime example would be Deadly Premonition, I absolutely loved this game and in my opinion it was one of the best games of the last generation however in much of the gaming media the game was slated for being shonky and awkward. It was one of the most divisive games of the last generation garnering 10/10 on Destructoid whilst also gaining 2/10 on IGN.

Children are explorers, they like to find things out for themselves and decide what they like and don't like. I am not the Keeper of the Gateway of Classic Gaming, rather I am an observer and adviser. If the children ask me what games to play I can advise but I should not impose my tastes on them... let them explore and find their own interests organically.

Retron 5 Review

The Retron 5 has been a long time coming to the UK. Initially planned to be released in early 2014 the clone console was delayed, when the initial shipment was produced the machines went to America to fulfill orders there, unsettling those in the UK. And so we arrive, a year later than expected... But was it worth the wait?

First the preliminaries, the Retron 5 is a clone console which means it plays original hardware using emulation.
The machine has HDMI output and it is excellent, the picture clarity is superb and whilst it wont match the costlier upscalers it does a darned fine job making your old game gleam like they have never gleamed before.
The extensive menus also allow you to tinker with the visuals and add filters which significantly change the look of the game and you can screen capture images.

However its trump card is that it has 6 pad ports for SNES, Mega drive and NES controllers, for many this is the main attraction of the machine. This is just as well as the machine looks like a hideous toaster and comes packed in with a horrible controller which is best used to just navigate the menus.

Remapping joypad buttons is a treat for the games that had the jump button not keyed on for optimum ease and it also lets you save your progress at any time. For the Gameboy games you can change the screen colours and save your progress from cartridges with batteries (brilliant for saving your Pokemon progress from the mid 90s whose battery packs are dying, however this doesn't work at the moment but has been promised as a firmware update).
The machine has an SD card slot and it will only be a matter of time before some hackers figure out a way of allowing you to play the ROMs you want but may not have hard copies of.

So would I recommend the machine? In a word yes! Even though it is quite costly (£129.99) the Retron 5 is a space saving smart solution to playing your old games in the high fidelity you remember from your childhood but even better.

I have started a Retro Games Club in my school and we have been playing a different game each week. We started off with Street Fighter 2 on the SNES, then moved onto Golden Axe on the Megadrive and both games looked stunning on the HD 52 inch screen (for the article on this click here). This is what the machine is best for, not to replace your old original systems but to offer a way to play the games you loved in your youth in the simplest possible way,  As a soon to be father I want to make sure my child has access to the games of my youth to appreciate modern gaming. I look forward to sharing my passion for retro games without it taking over my living room and life.

Original Hardware, Emulators or Clone Hardware?

Playing old computer games is pretty easy nowadays with many games being available online through digital download services such as GOG, Steam and the numerous legal download services, as well as illegal emulator sites too. However when playing computer games there's nothing like to have the real thing, many of the retro games are available to play but the real problem lies with the joypads. There is nothing like playing a game with the controller it was meant for. Also for many gamers space is a premium and the problems associated with compatibility with modern television sets comes into play too.

The Retron5 comes in a very cool looking box

The Retron5 comes in a very cool looking box

I am a collector and have many of the original computers, consoles and games from my childhood but with my room being converted into a nursery for our imminent firstborn space is at a premium. So I purchased a Retron5 Clone Console, a machine that plays the original games AND uses the original controllers of the Famicom, NES, SNES, Megadrive, Gameboy, Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advanced. The aspect I am most looking forward to is the fact that it is usable on the current television sets and upscales to 720p. Also with fatherhood around the corner the use of Save States will come in very useful I'm sure.

I will be testing the system over the next couple of weeks and will be providing my opinions and feedback here.