#1 Raiden Trad (Mega Drive/Genesis)
For those of a certain age, Space Invaders conjures up many memories. Arcades used to have rows of Space Invaders machines - those big dark rooms lit only by the glow of the screens hugged you and made you feel part of something. The success of Space Invaders resulted in a great many games of that type being created; and for some time the vast majority of video games were of the "shooting" type. Indeed "Space Invaders" is still the generic name for video games used by some of the older uninitiated population. A genre was born when Space Invaders arrived and its a type of game I still love.
The underlying mechanics of these games haven't changed a great deal over the years and thus shooting games are very familiar - and for me plonking myself down in front of a good 2D shoot-em-up, or shmup, remains a great pleasure. This type of game is quite relaxing to me - no matter how manic the actual game is. The reason for this is that they demand total concentration and playing one is a great way to detox the mind from the rigours of the working day. Most shmups can be completed in 30mins or so - meaning they are a very manageable game - easy to fit into a day.
Shmups being one of the oldest genres around have a distinguished heritage and there are many series of games. One of the better ones is the Raiden series. Raiden has a pretty basic, some might say unimaginative look. Everything has a sort of futuristic military feel which was a popular way to go when this game first appeared. It offers many of the genre's staples including powerups and the ability to try different weapons - there's enough variety here to ensure you'll enjoy it no matter what version you try.
This particular version is a pretty workmanlike effort but its enjoyable enough and all of the series' features, including the highly accurate enemy fire, ensures your total attention will be directed at the screen at all times.
The Mega Drive (I live in the PAL region) played host to a great many shmups - more so than its contemporary rival the Super Nintendo (or SNES) and the Mega Drive handles this game very well. Its pretty bare bones - one player only - and given the age of the game there's no high score saving once you turn the console off - but the basic gameplay features of the Raiden series are all there meaning its worth picking up as it'll be really cheap.
My model 1 Mega Drive is rather nice - it has been modified so that it outputs a crisp RGB SCART signal and it also sports a 50/60Hz switch and a region switch allowing me to play games from any region. I won't get into any deep explanation of 50/60Hz displays here - another post perhaps. Basically it means the games run at full screen and full speed at 60Hz - as the developer intended - something non-importing gamers in the PAL region didn't experience until the end of the 90's when the Sega Dreamcast arrived on the scene.
Shmups also bring up other subjects such as use of continues and high scores which I will no doubt talk about in the future too--but I'll sign off now...
Like you I have access to 60Hz RGB glory, but I went ahead and imported a Japanese NTSC model. I did try that before and ended up with a PAL JAP model 2 which is actually quite handy to have. PAL games play in that at 50Hz and if they have no region lockout they work at 60Hz on the NTSC Model 1. I've them sitting next to each other but I would love to get my hands onto some sort of modded console like you describe. I've another PAL Model 2 sitting on top of the MegaCD extension so I am all set when it comes to Megadrive/Genesis. I was thinking about getting a Genesis but that's far less versatile as the cartridge slot is so narrow. The JAP NTSC / PAL models have a cartridge slot that is wide enough to take all carts and if you modify the lever inside that prevents non Jap carts from turning on the machine (Model 1) then you do have the ultimate machine.
Raiden is one of my favorite shmups, the 60Hz experience is definitely needed for this game. Can't wait for another entry. I think I am going to enjoy this a LOT! Excellent idea David!
Shooting games are awesome. I suppose someone could try to argue that the side scroller (mario style) is a traditional arcade style of game, but I think shooters are arcade games in their purist form. Just put in the quarter, press start, and go go go.
Looking forward to your next entry, David. Thanks for doing this.
One of the last game (in arcades) i mastered (err Raiden II actually) maybe the last game I played in an ACTUAL Plain old arcade. None around here anymore, well there is a kiddy one with WhackA Mole types stuff. I recentlly had my Jag fired up (TEMPEST 2000 may be the single best Jag game AND remake game ever!) and had Raiden in for about 4 levels.. once i died (its like riding a bike, you never forget) I quit. I do notice my button mashing ability has really went downhill, my poor thumb was a wreck after a few levels.
I'm 39 later this year and I remember fondly my early years with computers and consoles back in the late 1970s onwards. My uncle is a proper electronics boffin of 50+ yrs and has seen it all......and I was lucky enough to be there for some of that! He bought me my first computer a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K in 1983, so I could have one at home inbetween visiting him and using his stuff. I was totally hooked and proceeded to buy many magazines with program listings to type in etc, plus I bought as many commercial games as I could afford with my pocket money. I later bought myself a Amstrad CPC464 from my mum's home mail order catalogue at approx £2 a week for two years. I had owned or used just about every 8-bit computer around in the 80s, but the Amstrad was my favourite; I loved how it looked and the nice keyboard, plus the graphics looked excellent on my tiny 14" Panasonic TV. I later saw a CPC464 connected to a RGB colour monitor and it looked really awful. That monitor really made the graphics look chunky, blocky and with garish colours.......truly horrible! Yet somehow my 14" CRT TV fuzzed away the blockiness and the colours in some games looked more like the Atari ST (no I have not been drinking!).
When I turned eighteen I became less interested in computers and gaming and became a musician; learning guitar, keyboards and studio recording in the process. I did this on a daily basis up until the year 2000/1 but I then lost the use of the third bedroom as a studio, and what with having certain life issues I more or less came to a crashing hault and fell into depression and anxiety etc. I then decided to plug my old Atari STE into a colour TV, which is something I had never done as I had always used it with a Hi-res monochrome monitor for use with Steinberg Cubase in my recording studio room. Anyway this re-ignited my passion for 80s micros and I was hooked again! Fast forward to the present day and I now have the ZX Spectrum 48K again, along with three Atari STE and two Atari Falcon 030 machines. I also have spent probably nearly £2000 on all this including a myriad of hardware upgrades to add hard drives, CD writers, Ethernet and so on. I am also returning to playing the old games again and finding they are mostly as fantastic as they were back then.
I think the 80s games were truly fun and magical because they were more simple and relied more upon your imagination. Today games leave very little to the imagination which I feel is a huge negative. Also a lot of the variety has gone from games with far fewer genres than we had. Another point is that there was a real revolution going on back in the 80s, with the whole cottage industry thing where ordinary people were coding games in their bedrooms, and then putting them on cassettes and selling them through classified adverts in the back of magazines. Contrast that to todays big business model that is now the size of the mighty film industry. I prefered the smaller more personal feel to 80s gaming.
Finally I think there was a division between 80s home micros and consoles; they felt like very different beasts and I personally never cared for consoles. I watched the consoles take over in the early 1990s to the present day, but although the graphics became ever more impressive I felt the spirit of 1980s gaming had died completely. Games were now about realism and knock your socks off 3D brilliance, but the innocent fun was not there. It all felt and still does feel skin deep to me...
Anyway a really great blog and I look forward to reading more!