Friday, March 31, 2006

Mario 64

Readers may recall an entry I made on the greatest video games ever made. There, Mario 64 made more appearances in the compiled lists than any other. With a Nintendo 64 emulator installed on the PC, I felt it a great opportunity to sample it and see for myself.

Firstly, the emulation was accurate. Save for a few pop-ups, it was just like Mario 64 running on the N64 (The screenshot below is taken from the PC emulation). Although, the playability was admittedly slightly effected from using the keyboard controls as opposed to the analogue stick it was designed for.

It's now 10 years since the game was first released. And while the graphics must have certainly been revolutionary at the time, they aren't that special by modern standards. Though, the 3D environments still look quite good.

But alas, even using the keyboard controls this game was great fun to play. Exploration through the 15 3D worlds, combining so well with the game controls as to make it very playable. And no doubt even better with the analogue stick it was designed for.

What I also liked was the greater freedom it gave to players. No need to play through the entirety of one course in order to progress to another. Instead players could jump in to one course, grab a few stars and then jump into another and collect a few more there. Moving backwards and forwards through the courses in order to progress through the game.

The game offers a reasonable challenge. Although, collecting the 70 stars necessary in order to defeat Bowser wasn't that hard as you can play through and focus on collecting the more simple stars to reach. But certainly, finding all 120 stars and game secrets presents a real challenge that will take you a while to achieve.

So, is this the greatest video game? There is no doubting the quality of the title. When it was released, it started the 3D platformer and set the standard which to this day hasn't been eclipsed. It was the first of its kind, and that sort of innovation is what makes the classic games.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Scorched 3D

Well, for readers of this blog I have a little treat. I stumbled across this revamp of an old, but classic, DOS game (DOS version screenshot immediately below) available for download: Scorched 3D.

It involves war-games between units, the firing of a large array of arsenal until one of the units loses all its energy and is thus destroyed. The game has been completely revamped with a new 3D graphics engine but retains its basic play and concept. It also has multi-play and on-line play, which is great fun.

You can download the full game from CNET at:

Have fun!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A New Focus

It has been said, by one of the posters here, that this blog needs more focus. And perhaps that analysis is not entirely faulty.

The blog's title is, originally enough, my blog. Now, while that seemed okay to start with I feel it now needs a change. It will be changed to: Matthew on...

Matthew on The Gameboy, Matthew on The Best of the Web, Matthew on The Champions League, Matthew on etc etc. Is that not enough focus for this blog?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Simply the Best

You may recall I wrote an entry, not too long ago, regarding the most notable console flops in game industry history. All failures for various reasons, but what is the most successful games console ever released?

Take a wild guess. The NES perhaps? The Playstation maybe? How about the Atari 2600? These were all successful consoles. But none are THE most successful console ever released.

No, if you must know the answer, that accolade goes to the humble Gameboy. Yes, that's right, the Gameboy is the most successful video games console ever made having shifted an estimated 120 million units world-wide and still going to this day.

You may be surprised by this. For the Gameboy, technically, is one of the least advanced consoles there is. It has only a very limited colour pallet, restricts players to a very small screen and boasts sound that can just about manage reasonable audio.

So, why so successful then? Well it's small, cheap, durable and has a large widely recognized library of games. Most notably Tetris, which is believed to be the greatest video game ever released by some enthusiasts.

As a portable, it held a special appeal. A simple sit down and play anywhere, no need for cables or TV's. This enduring appeal has extended the Gameboy's life longer than any other console. All consoles have a limited life-span, so they say. But the Gameboy seems to defy this rule.

Of course, it had other portable rivals. Like the technically superior Atari Lynx and Sega GameGear. Both of which offered 'colour' displays. However these were a little larger, more bulky, more expensive, more demanding on batteries, a little slower, and lacked the Gameboy's extensive library of games. They came, tried for a short period, but then died away. Unable to make up for their short-comings.

The Gameboy, for all its lack, has dominated its domain like no other console. It is a classic example of the old cliche, "gameplay, not graphics." If ever proof were needed of the validity of that claim, the Gameboy is it.

Technically advanced consoles, aren't always successful. Often, the high price that they demand is off putting. Like, for example, the Neo-Geo when it was released. And, technical superiority counts for nothing if they don't have the quality games that make good use of their capabilities.

The N64 might have had better hardware than the Playstation, but it finished a distant second. The golden rules of value and choice belonged to the Playstation, even if it was slightly technically inferior. In much the same way as the Gameboy.

No doubt, Sony had taken more note of the reasons for the Gameboy's success than its creators, Nintendo. So let's hear it for the Gameboy, the most successful games console ever made - and one which proves that technology isn't everything.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Best of the Web

I have been using the web for about 7-8 years. Always, you are on the look out for good sites. But, which are the best?

The Web is huge. Predominantly, it is made up of unofficial personal websites created by enthusiasts using some sort of web publishing software. These websites can be good (some are), but due to the fact that amateurs are largely behind them are often poorly designed, under-construction and containing outdated content.

So, the majority of the web-sites on the Internet are crap then? Well you have to say, yes! There is a whole load of uploaded crap that is sitting on the internet in a jumbled mess. Eventually, it gets deleted or removed.

Mostly, money for clicks has seen the Internet degenerate into a "Click this link" frenzy. Adverts can be seen on almost every page.

So, getting aside that. What are the best sites on the Internet?

Website awards exist to recognise outstanding websites. However, these are largely for the ameteur domain and are numerous to say the least.

So, the answer lies with those sites that have a permanent presence on the Internet and a huge number of users. These are the official sites, the sites created by large organizations with a large number of resources thrown at them, designed and maintained by professional web-designers. A typical example would be Yahoo.

Yahoo, undoubtedly is one of the biggest on the Internet. Few can match it for depth of content. My feelings are however, that it falls a little short on the design front.

What else? How about CNN? Content personified with multimedia to boot. Great, but let us face it, it is largely a news site.

CNET has been sited as one of the best. It is one of the best sites for downloads certainly. Also it is up to speed with the latest technology. But what else?

E-bay has proven very successful. On-line auctioning at its best. It has attracted a large number of users. Excellence perhaps, but only serves auctioneers.

No, the best web site on the Internet surely has to be one that would have something on it for everybody. Is there such a site? Well yes there is/are.

ISPs try and do it with their web-portals. However for me, nothing beats the BBC site. This site has the depth of content to rival Yahoo and co, but also presented making use of the Internet's more advanced multimedia features. I believe it is the best web-site on the Internet. See for yourself if you don't believe me:

I challenge you to find a better site.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Champions League Round-up

Well, time for some thought and reflection on the now completed 2nd round. And I have to say that I was right! My cynicism surrounding the first-leg results entirely justified as Chelsea, Liverpool and Rangers were all eliminated from the competition.

Firstly, the defending champions Liverpool. The 1-0 away defeat proved immaterial as they also lost 2-0 at Anfield. 3-0 and the end of their Euro glory.

Rangers had a costly 2-2 draw at Ibrox. They secured a respectable 1-1 draw in Spain but this was not enough to overcome the 2 away goals conceded.

Finally, Chelsea. Though they did well to draw 1-1 at the Nou Camp they needed a second goal to level the tie. 3-2 to Barcelona.

All of which leaves Arsenal. Real Madrid proved they weren't an entirely spent force and gave Arsenal a good game. However, they were able to hold out and secure a 0-0 draw which was enough to see them through to the qtr-finals 1-0 on aggregate.

I must admit, I am pessimistic as to their chances of winning the Champions League. However, should they avoid Barcelona or AC-Milan, I would fancy them to make it through to the semi-finals against any of the other remaining teams.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Console Flops

If you ever thought the video games industry was a force for good, providing quality entertainment to the masses, you may want to think again. Sure, we all know about the NES, Super NES, Gameboy, Playstation, N64 and Playstation 2. But, did you know that there is perhaps a much longer line of crummy consoles that never quite made the grade? You may have never heard of them, so I present to you the biggest console flops ever:

Virtual Boy (Nintendo)

This was intended to fill the gap between the Super Nes and delayed N64. It was a rather unique console in that it came with a headset you put your eyes in, and presented games in 3d. However, the 3d environments were limited to red and black colours only. See below.

Nintendo tried with this one, bringing out a number of titles and market campaigns. However, the console never took off and held little appeal.

To make matters worse, the few who were foolish enough to buy it complained about eyestrain. Nintendo eventually gave up and focused on SNES games until the N64 was released.

Verdict: Nintendo at their worst.

Jaguar (Atari)

Ah, this was supposed to mark the comeback of Atari as a major force within the games industry. The console boasted that it was a 64 bit machine, however this was later open to question as most of the titles looked fairly cruddy graphically.

The console did manage a few good titles such as Tempest 2000 and Alien V Predator. But these were few and far between with the majority proving naff and un-playable. With the release of the Playstation and Saturn Atari eventually pulled the plug on it in 1996.

Verdict: Atari RIP.

Atari 5200 (Atari)

Another Atari console, released in 1981. This was the successor to the highly successful Atari 2600, but was to be the prelude to the games market crash.

It proved to be badly designed with a very poor joystick. The console also suffered from software incompatibility with the Atari 2600. The biggest problem however was competing with Colecovision's (main console rival) head start.

The crash in the industry in 1983 killed this one off, along with the Colecovision. It would take a mustached plumber to repair the damage.

Verdict: Beginning of the end for Atari.

Amstrad GX400 (Amstrad)

This console was released in 1990 and was Amstrad's short-lived attempt to enter the market. It proved to be a commercial flop and one of the least successful consoles ever made.

Why was this? Well, largely due to the fact that the console was based on 8-bit technology and was almost immediately superseded by the 16-bit Megadrive and later Super Nes. There was little available software with titles being released months late or cancelled entirely.

In all, 40 games were released for the console. It was only manufactured for a matter of months before it was discontinued.

Verdict: It was voted 'Worst system of the month' by readers of a popular UK magazine. Maybe it was even more than that...

Amiga CD32 (Commodore)

This was a 32bit CD Rom based console. It did have a few notable titles but unfortunately the console is widely regarded as unsuccessful ( a flop).

One reason for this is the lack of original software that was brought out on the console. Most games were simply re-runs of the old A1200 titles.

What became of Commodore after this ill-fated console? They filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) just a year after its release.

Verdict: Commodore, where are you?

Apple Pippin (Apple)

Ever heard of this one? It was touted as a cheap computer, in reality it was commonly identified as an expensive games console. It was licensed to third-parties and the only third party one released, the Bandai Pippen, entered a market already dominated by N64, Playstation and Saturn.

Ultimately it was a late entry into the 3d generation of consoles and was underpowered both as a games console and personal computer. Bandai's version only had a relatively limited release in the US and Japan and died quickly. Below is an image of the Apple Pippen.

Verdict: Erm, ever heard of this console?

Well, have you read enough? Or do you need more convincing? There are other less notable flops than these such as the Dreamcast, Neo-geo, 3DO etc. However, I really haven't the time to write about them all. Just remember these consoles when playing your Playstation or whatever. They are the worst 'consoles' you are ever likely to see.