Monday, April 28, 2014

You Input is Requested

Those of you who read the Twitter feed have already seen this, but I'm soliciting opinions from folks who have clear memories of playing SNES games on the real hardware.

You might be wondering why I'm asking about this. Please don't read anything into this. I'm just looking for input on representing SNES games.

The video below is around 8 minutes, and asks you to chose from three options on three different games. Your choices should not all the be same letter, so if you say "B is best on all three," I'll be suspicious. The best way to see the video is by downloading the full version from the link below. The video is pretty damn big, 500 MB but Mega usually downloads really fast.  Just click on "Download to your computer," and it will start downloading, and THEN ask you where you want to save the file. That seems backwards, I know.

https://mega.co.nz/#!b8B3nY4Q!M4dLltMAi1dADBSXkJQ2DH8JrgWO_jBRMxTQx85fnSE

If downloading is not an option, you can watch it on Youtube here: http://youtu.be/-D7ygcqTOXc

However, the YT version will be have been reprocessed and will look different than the original video.

Just tell me in the comments below, or on the Youtube comments, which version looks/sounds the best for each game. I'm curious about the colors on Zelda. I remember the colors being quite soft and pastel-like, but I'm not sure which version looks the most accurate.

Thanks for your assistance.

And, yes, I know how hilarious it is that I missed that first coin in Super Mario World. I haven't played that game in years, OK?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beertendo goes British!


Hello everyone! Today brings the return of Beertendo, with a very special episode. But first, a few announcements.

Don't bother checking the site for an April Fools Day post/video/etc this year. I think we can all agree that this kind of shit is played out. If I think of anything clever next year, maybe I'll work up a little somethin' somethin'. If you are absolutely starving for April Fools content, I suppose you can always rewatch the Chron-CD-i video.

Also, Chrontendo Episode 48 has obviously not dropped yet, despite it's promised arrival date of 3/21/14.  I was originally hoping Ep. 48 would be a quickie episode, but I've decided to add in the 1989 arcade game roundup. Anyway, it's coming along, and will hopefully be complete soon. To tantalize you guys further, I'll point out that Ep. 48 will feature American Dream, Coconuts Japan's pseudo-RPG slot machine game! Starring your favorite 8 bit mascot, Pachio-kun! Please contain your excitement.

Try to contain yourselves, people

Today, however, we are pleased to announce the thrilling fucking return of Beertendo, a recurring feature where I drink beers, and ... write about them. This installment will look at the wonderful, horrible world of British beers! To maintain the British theme, please keep Arne's Rule, Britannia on repeat while reading this post. Maybe picture me wearing a Beefeater outfit, or perhaps dressed like Austin Powers.



The story of British beer is one of glory and grandeur, followed by inevitable decline, much like the Empire itself. Many of the styles we Americans drink today originated in England: porters, stouts, pale ales, barleywines, etc. During the early years of the USA, British ale was the primary inspiration for our own beer, and this remained true until the influx of German immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. Like so many other things, brewing in the UK suffered during the rapid industrialization of the 20th century.  By the 1960s, a series of corporate buyouts, takeovers and mergers had consolidated the country's brewing industry into 6 major brewers. Today, many of the great British breweries have been absorbed into same multinational conglomerates that own the big North American and European beers. Additionally, lagers have displaced traditional ales as the preferred style among young British beer drinkers. As a result, if go into a typical London bar nowadays you'll find Heineken, Guinness, Stella Artois, Bud, and Foster on tap, just like you would anywhere else in the world. While quite a few traditional breweries still exist in the UK, many of the legendary British ales, such as Bass No. 1, Thomas Hardy's Ale, or Courage Imperial Russian Stout, stopped production some years ago. (Though after a 30 year hiatus, Wells and Young's began brewing Courage IRS again recently - for the US market. Though they did start selling it the UK again a year later.)

English beer fanatics rebelled against the lager encroachment in the early 70s. The Campaign for Real Ale was launched to promote traditional British brewing. The Great British Beer Festival, a yearly beer competition, was launched a few years later.  Today, "real" ale, meaning cask brewed ale, has a pretty solid fan base in the UK, and a decent selection of these beers are imported into the US.

Those of you who were around in the mid-90s might recall that British beers were considered pretty hip at the time. Drinking Bass or Newcastle* was a sign of sophistication. My wife actually liked some swill called Watney's Red Barrel.  Perhaps your town had, like mine, a British pub type establishment which served Fuller's, Courage and Worthington, along with fish and chips and shepherd's pie. Today, however, I''m going try a few smaller English beers, all of which fall into the "real ale" style.

Bluebird Bitter is probably the most well known beer from Coniston Brewing Company, a brewer founded in the mid '90s that specialized in ales for the CAMRA crowd. The bottle states that it is "Award Winning," and Coniston's site lists an impressive number of medals from various beer festivals.


It pours a nice orange color with a thin head of foam that resolves into a slender ring with a bit of lacing. I got very little smell from it. Bluebird has a relatively light body with that sort of creamy feel that British brewers seem to value so much.

It definitely has that distinct, British flavor to it. It might be the Challenger hops. It's a very pleasant, unassuming beer. Sort of a earthy malt flavor with a wee bit of bitter hops and a slight metallic taste. Alcohol is pretty low, 4.2%, though Coniston's website claims a shockingly low 3.6%.  Mild flavor. It's not really a memorable beer, however. It seems like an average pale ale style beer to me. I'd rate it "good" but it almost seems....just a little too timid.

Next up is Adnams Broadside. Adnams is a Suffolk based brewer that's been around since the mid 1800s. Broadside seems to be their flagship ale, and has won "Best Bitter" awards at the Great British Beer Festival, and similar festivals. It's a dark golden color, with a bit more alcohol that Bluebird: 6.5%.  Again, it produces a head that quickly disappears.

Sorry, had to use a stock photo.
Much like Bluebird, it's a very creamy, slightly sweet beer. As is typical of British beers, the malt is forward. Hops are pretty subtle. There's sort of a woody, nutty flavor. Just like the Bluebird it has this metallic aftertaste that seems characteristic of British beers.

Again: this beer is good tasting , but so polite, almost unassuming. It doesn't make you jump out of your chair and scream "damn! that is one fine tasting beer!"

Moving along, we have Fuller's 1845.

Another stock photo. I was ill prepared for this post.
Jeez, i guess the British like putting years on their beer bottles - Broadside sports a prominent "1672." Some major nostalgia for the glory days of the empire I'd wager. In the case of Fuller's, 1845 was the year the brewery was founded.

At 6.30 ABV it's a bit stronger than the typical English beer. 1845 is a bit darker than the other two ales, but has the same rapidly vanishing head, though the Fuller's starts out pretty thick and foamy at first.
Compared to Bluebird or Broadside, the Fuller's is bursting with flavor. Very prominent roasted malts and yeasts dominate. The hops are pretty slight, but one thing that stands out is the molasses flavor, with sort of a licorice aftertaste. There are hints of a old musty, woodsy taste. In my opinion, this beer is much more interesting than the two above. Fuller's seems a bit more aligned with the tastes of US beer drinkers. You often see it at British themed bars in this country, and a wide range of Fuller's brews are readily available in US stores. All the Fuller's beers I've had have been very tasty, with the Fullers Vintage being my favorite. The funny thing is that despite Fuller's being around for over 150 years, both Vintage Ale and 1845 were introduced in the 1990s.

My takeaway from this is that it's clear that beer geeks in the US and UK have pretty different tastes. Traditionally, European beers are very malt-orientated; in the US we tend to downplay the malty, bready flavors, and instead, hoppy beers are enormously popular.  The American beer scene is much less beholden to tradition, and bizarre beer experiments are the norm. Big, powerful, high-alcohol beers are prized in the US, while in the UK they tend to go for smoother, more subtle flavors. There are many, many fantastic beers from the UK, but many of the CAMRA-endorsed cask ales I've had were a little on the underwhelming side.



If you were to ask me what my favorite British brewer is, I'd say Yorkshire's Samuel Smith Brewery, without hesitation. Smith's greatest accomplishment must be the mighty, mighty Yorkshire Stingo. A "strong ale" at 9.0% ABV, Stingo is huge, bursting with flavors: malty, fruity, sugary, oakey. Pretty much everything you could want in a British beer. It's brewed only once a year, and is a bit pricier that other Samuel Smith ales, but it's clearly worth it. Smith's stuff is readily available in the US, and I see it even in places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. If you've never tried the Oatmeal Stout, Imperial Stout and Taddy Porter, get these beers NOW. They are a steal.

I'd rate these beers as:
Bluebird Bitter: B
Adnams Broadside: B
Fuller's 1845: B+
Yorkshire Stingo: A-

Checking on BeerAdvocate, I see readers rate these as 87, 86, 92 & 92 respectively. RateBeer gives them a 67, 91(!), 99 & 97.


*No longer brewed in Newcastle, and now owned by Heineken.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why?


Let me point out that, first of all, the new episode of Chrontendo is ready. You can download it in glorious 60 FPS in its purest version here on Archive.  Or you can stream an inferior, yet HD version on Youtube. Take your pick. I'll warn you that the Youtube version might screw up various flicker effects however.

Before I go into the specifics of the new episode, I'd like the discuss the obvious question that many of you might have, "Why was there such a huge delay with Episode 47? What exactly have you been doing for the last several months?" Should I even attempt to answer these kinds of questions? On one hand, Chrontendo is something I do on my own time, absolutely free of charge. I can stop doing it anytime I want, no questions asked. On the other hand, Chrontendo isn't really free. I've asked something very precious of you: your time. I've created these videos, and you've invested your time watching them. Since so many of you have graciously invested many hours of your own lives on Chrontendo, I feel I owe you a great deal.

An idea of how much editing goes into a long complicated segment like "Mother."

The simplest answer I can give you is that I've been busy with life in general. Dr. Sparkle is a guy with a wife, two dogs, a full time job,  a daily commute through traffic, a sink that is always full of dirty dishes, a mother who's not in the best of health, a mother-in-law and father-in-law who aren't in good health, a lawn where the weeds never stop growing, floors that always need the to have dog hair vacuumed off of them, laundry that always needs to be done...it goes on and on.  Every day I get up, rush off to work, arrive home in the afternoon, have a bit of time to relax, then start making dinner, eat dinner, do dishes, and then... the day is over.

Don't get me wrong; I do have free time to do things I enjoy. I often haunt the beer stores, looking for the latest beers to arrive. If you love beer, you need this kind of persistence, and sometimes it pays off. I was able to score a few bottles of The Abyss recently, as well six-packs of Bourbon County Stout, the Firestone Walker limited release beers; all kinds of great stuff. I also enjoy shopping for records. My town has about 5 good record stores, and good records are like good beers: they go fast. You need to spend a lot of time shopping. I also bought a fancy record cleaning machine recently, and let me tell you, scrubbing records takes time. I spend a lot of time listening to music, reading though music sites, listening to music on Youtube, checking sites for pre-orders of limited edition LPs, and so on. Music is a time consuming hobby.
This is what a fancy record cleaning machine looks like. And it's the first LP of All Things Must Pass, German pressing, in case you're wondering.

Another time-consuming hobby: playing videogames. Sometimes I like to like to play non-NES games. Also, watching movies. I'm paying for Netflix, so I might as well try to use it. I'm so far behind on my movies, I haven't even seen that last Batman movie yet. And don't even talk to about the stuff I've bought during Steam sales or on Humble Bundle. (Suuurre, I'll get around to playing Spelunky one of these days.)

It looks bad, then I remember all the Humble Bundle game codes I haven't redeemed yet...
Here's the scariest thing of all: as you get older, time seems to contract. For you younger folks out there: this phenomenon is real and it will take you by surprise. The older you get, the faster time moves. Weeks feel like days, months feel like weeks. I'm not joking. It will happen to you, and when it does it will be terrifying. At some point, you will realize you're used up about 50% of your life, and then the panic sets in. There's no way you can prepare for this, so consider yourself warned.

On top of all this, I think I got out of the habit of working on Chrontendo when I tore apart my office. The computer I use to create Chrontendo on was unplugged for a while, and once I got everything set back up, it wasn't easy to get back into the flow.  Not that I'm trying to blame outside circumstances. There's only one reason for the delay, and that's me.  Procrastination, laziness, bad work habits -- these things are what caused the recent slowdown.

I've made a commitment to get episodes out more frequently, and also to release more content on the Youtube channel. For the sake of the viewers I will do my best to fulfill that commitment.

I'll keep the rest of this brief. Three big games this episode:

Mother



Nintendo's first RPG. While Mother is clearly inspired by Dragon Quest, Nintendo attempted to make it stand out from the many other DQ clones by giving it a 20th century American setting and a storyline involving alien abductions. Mother was created by the Japanese writer/media personalty Shigesato Itoi, which gave the game a bit more prestige in the public's eye. The crazy thing about Itoi was that he became famous as a copy writer. That is, a guy who writes the text for advertisements. The idea of a famous copy writer sounds pretty absurd to us here in the West, but somehow in Japan it was a real possibility. Hardcore Gaming 101 did a pretty good look at Itoi recently. It's essential reading if you want understand who this guy is and why his involvement with Nintendo was a big deal.

Strider


Just like Bionic Commando, Capcom created two separate games called Strider: one for the arcade and one for the NES. The arcade Strider is non-stop action, while the home version focuses more on story and exploration. Unlike Bionic Commando, the NES Strider is clearly inferior to the arcade version. It's mostly a well made game, but lacks that little bit of magic that made the console Bionic Commando so great.

Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Grafitti



A bit of an oddity, SWG is one of those "parody" games, in which a serious game is given a goofy, super-deformed makeover. But this isn't a quickie knockoff of the original Splatterhouse; it's a completely new action platformer which borrows a number of elements from the original, but still manages to feel very different than the arcade game.

Also:

Cobra Triangle


Yet another NOA game developed by Rare. Once again we are treated to Rare's beloved isometric perspective. Also, the title seems to be two random words thrown together, in the classic Rare tradition.

Cosmic Wars

A rather obtuse military strategy game in the Famicom Wars/Military Madness tradition.  Cosmic Wars is mostly remembered for being a Gradius spinoff, though it seems pretty well constructed.

Takeda Shingen 2/Shingen the Ruler

The second game in Hot-B's short lived series of Nobunaga's Ambition knock-offs. In fact, this is the last game in the series. Unlike the first one, Takeda Shingen 2 received a US release. You might recall something very similar happened with the Black Bass series.

Moeru! Oniisan/Circus Caper


The weirdest game this episode, in terms of its release history. Moeru! Oniisan was an awful looking platformer based on an anime series. For reasons unknown, publisher Toho decided to have the game completely reworked and released in the US as Circus Caper. The extent to which everything in the game has been altered is surprising. Yet the resulting product is so unappealing and terrible, I don't understand why they bothered.

Captain Ed


Another extremely strange game, Captain Ed is one of the least visually interesting shoot-em-ups I've seen in a while. The mechanics are also quite strange, as the background poses a greater threat to you than the actual enemies do. Even odder, all these bizarre mini games are thrown in, which have nothing to do with the shoot-em-up sections.

Thundercade


Classic kusoge-style port of a Taito arcade game, courtesy of our good buddies at Micronics.

Kyuukyoku Tiger/Twin Cobra

Exact same thing as above, only the game is not as bad. We already saw a better port of this game in Chronturbo 3.

Defender of the Crown


Published on Konami's second label Ultra Games, this is a port of the 1985 Amiga hit. It sort of reminds me of a landlocked dumbed down version of Sid Meier's Pirates.

Magma Project - Hacker


Rather improbably, this is a port of Hacker, the old Activision C64 game, reconfigured into the form of an RPG. The lone FDS game this episode.

Melville's Flame

An unpleasant looking RPG/Strategy game hybrid that resembles Square's Hanjuku Hero (covered in Episode 38.

 Famista '89: Kaimaku Han!!

Namco's Family Stadium series has now officially been rebranded as Famista.

Meimon! Daisan Yakyuubu


A nicer looking anime tie-in baseball game from Bandai, developed by Human.

There we go. Another 15 games. Next time, we finish up August and move into September 1989.