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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Megarace: About the Game

So Megarace came out in 1993. An age when 3D was in it's infancy, full motion video was the current craze, and virtual reality was the future. This game encompasses all three of these and creates a sort of Frankenstein's monster of an experience. At it's core, it's a racing game, The UP key accelerates, DOWN decelerates, LEFT and RIGHT turn, etc. You could also use a joystick if you so chose (I used the ThrustMaster Mark 1 personally). The gameplay appears to be a 3D racing game which in 1993 was a pretty big fucking deal.
My mind was fucking blown by this point
Obviously, getting that in real-time on a home PC during that period wasn't going to happen. Enter the FMV element! The tracks in Megarace are pre-rendered 3D animations that speed up and slow down depending on how fast you move your car, which is a series of 2D sprites rendered from a 3D model. The virtual reality element was really just part of the story. It was effective back then, and I ate this shit up with a spoon, greedily gobbling it up straight from the carton that Cryo shipped it in. It was everything that everyone wanted back then.

The object of the game is simple, yet not entirely like a racing game. It can best be explained by giving you a taste of the "story". You step into the role of "The Enforcer", a contestant on the hit virtual reality TV show, Megarace. Your host Lance Boyle, both chides, and complements you as you attempt to wipe out all of the vicious speed gangs plaguing your universe. Lance makes it crystal-clear that everything that takes place on the show is in a virtual reality world, so nobody really dies. Then he asks how many times someone's neurons can take that kind of pounding after you win a race by killing all of the other racers. So it's pretend murder that can lead to real bodily harm? Whatever. Your goal is to step into the virtual world and wipe out these misanthropic deviants one car at a time. That's right, only one car besides yours is ever on the track and more spawn as you blow up competitors. You have to either blast them with your laser cannon or hit them with missiles if your car can carry them and if you can find ammo (quick aside, I've NEVER found missile ammo), or you can pull up beside them and grind 'em into the sidewall. This is where it sort of fails to be a "race". You can't beat a track by passing your opponents. If you do happen to pass an opponent, their car will explode after about a minute which can, and probably will cost you a victory. To achieve this goal there are multiple power ups that litter the track from energy for your lasers to speed boosts. You can win prizes and shit that don't really matter. They're just gags to keep up the game show theme such as a professor's brain or covers for your car seats. The glue that really holds this bitch together though, is the host.
I still say that virtual TV is WAY more entertaining than reality TV
Lance Boyle, proof positive that a rainbow sherbet suit CAN work. I love this guy. His humor keeps the game moving and gives you a reason to trudge through some of the more aggravating courses. Even better, if you're sick and fucking tired of hearing him say the same old shit over and over again you can totally skip his dialogue and cutscenes! Take THAT Rock Star Games. Maybe I don't want to Watch an animation of John Marston skinning a dead wolf 400 fucking times! Lance says some crazy shit. Anything from calling you a pansy or awarding you with a night out with yourself paid for by Y-O-U, to plugging their sponsor "Bleed, the candy bar homeless people love to be a part of." I'm a sucker for Lance Boyle even now, but that's probably because my 10 year old self thought he was god-damn riot.

Next time on Retronick!
Nick talks about his history playing the nefarious Megarace and chronicles his journey to defeat this beast from another time. Can he prevail over this seemingly insurmountable task that has challenged him for over 17 years? Or will he suckle the acrid cream of failure from the dreaded teat of despair? Read next weeks chilling issue to find out!

The Breakdown

I know I've been gone for a little while and I'm not going to waste any time explaining why. This is the beauty of free entertainment. If you want a sure thing then pony up some bucks for a movie or comic book. Anyway, I'm sitting down to write the first article now, but I thought I would throw this entry in as sort of an explanation as to how these articles are going to be written. If you ever find yourself lost you can refer to it and get back on the path of righteousness.

Here's how this is going to work my lovelys. I'm writing these articles as part review, part log of my experience with the title. I've also taken the liberty of breaking down my experience playing the game into various categories. 

-My history with the title: This is a quick look at how I came to be playing this game in the first place. Details how long I've owned it, and a recollection of my original experience with it.

-Gameplay: A breakdown of the core gameplay (controls, object, style of play, etc.).

-My experience/did I beat it yet?: This is really the meat of the article. It details my experience playing the game either for the first time, or returning to it after a number of years. I also go into whether or not I think it still holds up today and if it still has an audience in this time of cinematic crap and super-scripted, linear bullshit.

Now that that's settled, writing "Megarace"!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Quest Begins!

I've returned from the great white north! I didn't get a ton writing done in Wisconsin, but what I did get down on paper I think made for some decent content to set the stage for today!  

While in Wisconsin, I stepped outside to use the Internet. Yeah, that sentence seemed a bit strange when I wrote it. It’s sort of like the front door was a time warp and it was 1989 inside and 2010 outside. Whatever, the point is I managed to download a Sega Genesis CD 32X emulator for the Mac called “Kega”, which actually works pretty well. Since I didn’t have my Sega CD 32X with me on this trip it was imperative that I found another way to enjoy the copy of MegaRace I picked up at the Mall of America.

Upon getting everything to work by finally saying fuck the directions and just putting the BIOS files on the desktop instead of in the application support folder; I was a bit miffed by the quality of the SCD port of MegaRace. As you know (I hope you do if you’re reading this), The Sega Genesis can only display 64 colors simultaneously. The Genesis with the Sega CD attachment could display… 64 colors. That’s right, besides adding greater capacity for game storage and some scaling capabilities the Sega CD does almost nothing to boost the old Genesis’ features. That is bordering on retarded when you’re talking about using live-action video and pre-rendered computer-animation in a game. MegaRace had a still slim palette of 256 colors on the PC, which -though ridiculous today- was still way more than the Sega fucking CD had! This game never really belonged on the system.

Perhaps this was Lance Boyle's blue period?

I’ll go into more detail about what’s wrong with this version in my next entry, but suffice it to say; I was a bit disappointed when I started playing the game. Then I remembered I still had my old PC copy kicking around my office. Upon my return from the north a feverish search began for my PC version of MegaRace. Not only did I find it, I found it with the original manual completely intact. I don’t think I can hook my old Thrust Master joystick up to my Mac Pro, but that would make it perfect! Please don’t ask me where the box is. Almost all of my boxes were thrown away when I moved east in 1999. It was not my decision…

MegaRace for Dos
The only problem that remained was the fact that this was a DOS era game and I’m on a Mac, which famously works with hardly any games. But one quick search online and suddenly I was playing the 1994 classic on a quad-core machine with six gigs of RAM and a 24” monitor using Boxer. Boxer is a DOS emulator for OSX based on the DOS Box emulator for Windows. Seldom have I felt such glee.

Never before had I thought it possible to play my DOS games on ANY Mac, Let alone my Mac Pro.
Thanks to this crap version of an otherwise great game, I’ve been reminded of what an avid PC gamer I was in 1992 through 1998 and have taken a look at my old DOS and Windows collection that I never thought I’d play again. I think some of these are a pretty good place to start on my quest to beat them all… or at least most of them. The first game on my quest shall be... MegaRace!

Though I've never beaten this game, I have played the shit out of it. I'm going to give it like 3 weeks before (in the interest of brevity), I say screw it and move on to the next game in my collection. This is the beginning!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Spectacle of Modern Commerce

Ok, so I was distraught at the thought of not bringing my Genesis 1 with a Powerbase converter to play me some Phantasy Star and report back; but let me explain. I knew there was only one TV here and I didn't want to monopolize it. I know, I'm a real sweetheart. That said, my thirst for classic gaming has not gone unquenched! First on our agenda was a trip to The Mall of America in Minnesota!

Bask in its materialistic glory.
For those of you who either don't live in the mid-north of the United States, or are simply out of the know (seriously, I grew up in Colorado and had heard of this place!); The Mall of America is a mighty monument to capitalism and consumerism. Located in Minnesota, it is the second largest shopping mall in the United States in terms of usable retail space. The only thing surprising about the mall is that there isn't a mammoth bronze statue of Sam Walton out front with a plaque bearing PT Barnum’s famous, “There's one born every minute”, quote and greeting consumers with a knowing grin out in the parking lot (that distinction goes to Kingfisher Oklahoma).

We were figuring out a plan of attack on the mall. I was driving when Stacy asked what I wanted to see in there while she was glancing over the directory in the backseat. I said “nothing” as I guessed there would probably be two Game Stops and nothing else. It was a good guess in that I was right, but an easy one... Why wouldn't there be two Game Stops in the second biggest mall in the country... There's two Game Stops down the street I live off of... Fuck I hate Game Stop. 

I meandered about the second biggest Mall in the country and had lunch at A&W. On the menu for me was loaded French fries and deep-fried cheese curds (a local delicacy). Yeah, one of those would have been fine by itself, but together I swear they aged me about five years. I still get a sick feeling looking at the image below.

Looking back, this was a terrible decision.
After punishing my colon for no good reason, I continued perusing the vast consumer wasteland. Then, far off on the horizon; I beheld a store that did not appear on any directory, yet there it was before me. My eyes widened and I let out a stifled "woot" under my breath as I saw first hand...

Words cannot express... *sniff
This place is probably the coolest store I've ever been to in a mall since Funco Land vanished, and definitely only one of two kiosks I've every actually bought anything from (man that other kiosk woman was pushy). The only irritating thing about it was that Game Stop gets two full storefronts, and in the same mall this place is relegated to a crumby kiosk by some shitty comedy club. Is there no justice? Still, despite being in a crappy location on Level 3 (of 4!), they did have an incredible selection of... Well everything!

The guy behind the counter opened this up for me and it even smelled new.
They had games for the Neo Geo, Turbo Grafx 16, Genesis, Sega CD, Saturn, Dreamcast, 32X, NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Cube, N64, X-Box, X-Box 360, Wii, DS, Virtual Boy, Atari 2600, and a bunch of Playstation crap and used DVDs. Really, the best selection I've seen outside of eStarland in Virginia. My mother in law had given me a $25 Visa gift card just the day before, and though I knew it went against my quest, I could not not support this store and the awesome business they run. I ended up buying two Cryo-developed games for the Sega CD: Dune and MegaRace.

Coincidentally the music for both games was composed by the talented St├ęphan Picq.
Call it a moment of weakness if you like, but I defy any one of you in the presence of such a thing to deny its siren call. Besides, I didn’t actually spend any of my money on these two. There’s some more images if you click the link below. You'll get the full effect and perhaps you too will succumb to her wild charms.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Traveling Abroad

Well I chose an awful time to start writing online. Not that in the beginning it matters much as the one person reading this is... Well me, but it will affect getting the ball rolling so to speak and finding an audience. That said, I suppose I owe an explanation to... well myself and the one troll surfing through the tubes late this night looking for something to complain about. Well, I don't really have a good excuse. I got sucked into my third play-through of Mass Effect 2 to gain the aptly named “insanity achievement,” with my second Shepard imported from one of my four saves in ME1. It's funny really, in Mass Effect 2 you must complete various loyalty missions to gain the loyalty of your team so that they can focus on the mission without distraction. That's sort of how I felt while going through my final play through of ME2. I can now focus on the mission, er, blog without distraction.

Nick Shepard with his trusty Dr. Pepper recon hood from 7-11. Truly the most stylish devil in the galaxy.

That's not quite the only thing though. I also forgot that I was going far north to Wisconsin to see my wife's family. If you’ve never been to Wisconsin I can sum it up this way. WIFI is sparse and it's typically cold. Beyond that, there are tons of delicious beers and cheeses, which are great for getting fat and shitfaced, but not so conducive to healthy blogging practices. There’s also plenty of serene, if not, “awe-inspiring” landscapes to scope out. 

This trip also reminds me of why I no longer watch television. What do I mean? I mean I don't pay for sports, movies, gameshows, shit reality TV, soaps, and biased news channels that I never watch. That's like paying a crazy old woman to yammer on about her irritating, going nowhere children all day! Why would you do that?! Tell me America, what's so fucking great on TV that I can't find on the internet? Keep this in mind; I hate game shows, sitcoms, sports, and wasting money on a service I didn’t use when I had it. Why would you waste your time waiting to get information from a flickering box when you can have the Internet at your disposal? Granted, there are some decent shows on air right now, but I’ve got Hulu for that, and I get em without commercials. The reason I'm even mentioning the degradation of American television in recent years and why it irks me is that there's no Internet connection where I'm staying. All of my favorite articles, videos, comics, all out of reach of my Mac Book. Sure I can still see the majority of the content on my iPhone, but AT&T's crappy 3G network doesn't really extend to the region of Wisconsin I'm visiting so everything loads at a snail's pace; and the screen is puny.

Beyond the television, her family's well, and I can't fault them for not having an Internet connection. It's not something they use everyday and they can get to the library which provides free WIFI broadband easily enough. When that becomes too much of a chore however, I think they should really look into getting the tubes hooked up to their place.

I've written this and the following few posts here in Wisconsin, but I will be posting them a bit more spread out than the last few. I understand that I still have yet to pursue my end goal of beating some of my games, but that IS coming, trust me on this. Hopefully the next few posts are entertaining enough and then we'll get to the point the thing!

Friday, September 24, 2010

This is Some Strange Shit

The name says it all
Alright, so I live in smaller town in the suburbs of DC (that's all you people need to know!). The other day I needed a haircut and I'd just as soon trust a bipolar schizophrenic with a hack saw and hammer to do a decent job as much I'd trust anyone at the Hair Cuttery near me. So I chose instead to take my custom to a smaller, more local venue. As I sat there waiting to get my locks trimmed I noticed a large glass display case to my right.

That box in the bottom looks familiar...
Curious, I went in for a closer look while she was finishing up with the other gentlemen. Upon closer investigation I would find...

Games! Turns out that along with being being purveyors of the tonsorial arts they make a tidy living selling used games and movies on the side. I attempted to get some more information from the woman, which proved futile as I speak English and she speaks... well it's not English. The one consensus we were able to come to was that games were $5.00 each with the exception of "View Point," for the Genesis which cost "maybe $10.00?". She called her supervisor to check the price of the game. When she couldn't get ahold of them she offered to call me back when she found out how much it was. I looked and saw that there was a line of people forming who actually needed her for her cosmetologist skills. As there were far too many pointy utensils strewn about for me to have a fair chance at defeating a ragtag group of grizzled, unshaven men in a miniature riot (not simply in the interest of common courtesy I assure you); I elected to just offer her the $10.00 and be done with it. The end result?

Epic Win!
Not only did I get a stylish new do, but I scored a mint copy of "View Point," complete in box :D. I know I'm not buying anything right now, but how often do you get to buy games from your barber, let alone Genesis titles? As for the game itself, it works as far as manufacturing goes. In terms of how the game "works". It's pretty fun and looks really good for a Genesis title. The one big issue I have with it is tremendous slow down. All the action takes place on an isometric plane with pre-rendered 3D enemies and energy blast all over the screen so it's no wonder why. Still though, definitely worth ten bucks.

A Gentlemen's Weapon

To everyone that has yet to play a Sega Saturn, I would encourage you to find one or someone who owns one and get ahold of one of these. This is the "Ascii Saturn Stick," far and away one of the finest arcade joysticks I've ever played with. It's one of my favorite pieces in my collection and gets the most use of any peripheral I own. I thought it appropriate to christen this blog with a shining example of how things should be done.

Most home "arcade sticks" utilize a great, big awkward ball on top with an often spring-loaded base. Not this monster. What you get here is an arcade-style steel stick with micro switches in the base to register your motion, 8 heavy-duty buttons, a steel base, and an overall solid frame. This is the same stick I've had since 1996 and I've yet to replace it. It is nearly indestructible! Every now and again I'll have to remove the base and clean dust from the contacts on the board, but other than that I haven't experienced any problems with it. It also makes this delightful click every time you nudge the stick.

Despite being a third-party peripheral, this thing dominates Sega's own "Virtua Stick." Sure there's no Turbo switches, but the stick's not only more accurate and comfortable to hold and use, it also still works. The "Virtua Stick" stopped working ages ago. If you like any kind of fighting game (especially the 2D Capcom variety that rocked the Playstation versions back in the day), then this is the stick for you! 

Games the "Ascii Saturn Stick" rocks the shit out of!

-Any Capcom 2D fighter
-SHMUPS such as Radiant Silver Gun, Galactic Attack, Darius Gaiden, etc...
-Arcade style puzzlers like Tetris Plus, Super Puzzle Fighter 2, Bust a Move 2, etc...
-It's also surprisingly good for a lot of platformers like Astal and Sonic Jam

See if you can find one of these things on ebay. Your smug friend will shit his pants when you roll up for some X-Men: Children of the Atom with this baby tucked under your arm.

UPDATE 12/30/2011: Not that you care, but my Virtua Stick just decided to start working again... Not a huge update, but I didn't want misinformation floating around going into the new year.