&t Phil on Games: December 2012 <$BlogMetaData$;

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shooters Haven't Changed Since MERCS


Working on my computer again last night, I took the time out to fire up another one of my old favorite arcade games that I had never passed before, MERCS! I have fond memories of playing this game with friends at a summer school I went to at Mission College in Santa Clara, CA when I was in middle school. Lunchtime was all about pumping quarters into this game with my friends.

Playing it through, I started out thinking, "Wow, this would be cool if someone remade this." Then, after playing deeper into the game, I realized that most modern shooter games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor are essentially remakes of MERCS. They might look different on the surface, but they are basically the same gameplay structure.

1. Multiple weapons and powering up those weapons: The more you play MERCS, you get power-ups that increase the effectiveness of your weapon, and you get multiple chances in each level to choose a different type of weapon while retaining your power-up.

2. Drive and shoot from vehicles or gun emplacements: MERCS has multiple instances where the user can jump into a vehicle or man a gun emplacement to cause massive amounts of destruction.

3. Guided levels: MERCS has a specific path that it forces you down for each level, but lets you run around a bit within those boundaries to choose how you want to complete each level (admittedly, not to the same degree as a modern shooter, but the idea is there).

4. Trains and Elevators: In a few instances, MERCS places you on what is essentially a moving platform that takes you along for a ride, and forces you to shoot the enemies that pass by.

5. Themes for levels: Jungle/river, industrial, mountain, desert, blah blah blah

So in reality, I've been playing various, prettier versions of MERCS for the past 23 years (the original was released in 1990). I'm not sure what to make of that... part of me wants to chastise the gaming industry in general for not really pushing the boundaries of action games for more than two decades, but that wouldn't be entirely true. Also, I didn't really notice or care until last night, so is it really that huge of a deal?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Pinnacle of 2D Shoot'em Ups


Continuing work on my "ultimate gaming machine", with my classic arcade and console games emulated through HyperSpin (see my previous post), I took time away from continued set up to finally beat one of my all-time favorite games, Metal Slug!

Even by today's standards, the action is over the top, being a cartoon style homage to every '80's action film and side-scrolling action game of the past. I have no clue what the plot is, other than there is someone very bad out there with an army to back him up and a bunch of POW's that must be rescued. And every now and then you get to shoot a flamethrower or drive a tank.

The game is amazingly difficult if you are attempting to play it through without using a "continue", but luckily I don't care about that, and have unlimited "continues" since emulation frees me from being a slave to the number of quarters I have left in my pocket. If there is any fault to this game, it's that the difficulty becomes so unfair toward the end of the third level that it's obvious the game was designed to eat as many quarters as possible back when it ruled the arcades. The last level is especially guilty of this... I must have died every 2 minutes.

In the end though, I got to shoot a bunch of bad guys, rescue some bearded prisoners of war, drive a tank, and blow up a lot of structures. Good times. The art style and huge amount of animations for all of the characters helps to make Metal Slug something truly special. I plan on playing through the 5 sequels to get a better idea of how the series has evolved, and complete one of the finest shooter franchises in the history of video games.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Avengers Assemble!"

Again, time zooms on by and I realize I haven’t posted in a REALLY long time. Since my last post predicting the future of games would be through streaming, using OnLive as an example, OnLive went bankrupt and was purchased by some large investing firm. Though it is still running, it was sad news to me. However, it doesn’t change my mind that this is where the industry is ultimately heading for distribution. It will just take a while to get there.

This past year, I invested in building a tiny gaming computer, so I’ve been doing a lot of gaming on the PC. My current project has been to set up HyperSpin, a menu system for game emulators that allows you to select what games to play and then launches the appropriate emulator to run that game.


It is taking a long time to get it all fully set up how I want, but the results are fantastic! Just last night, I played the original arcade version of Captain America and the Avengers using an arcade stick I purchased and hooked up to the PC. While the game is much shorter than I remember it being, it was still a blast to play. The game itself is simple beat-em up stuff. Mash one or two buttons and dodge things that hurt you. The presentation is what really sets it apart from other games at the time; the graphics were never particularly amazing, even back when it was new, but the cool set pieces for each level, and the large number of enemies on screen with up to 4 people all playing together as a team. And it’s especially cool to see how the characters have evolved since then (especially with the Avengers movie being all the rage this past year). Of course, I had to use Iron Man all the way through to the end, because he’s awesome. I need to get another arcade stick so I can play it through multiplayer with someone, like it’s intended to be played.

So now that 2012 is coming to a close, and assuming the Mayans are wrong about tomorrow, I’ll be playing a lot more classic games from my past, and maybe I’ll be writing about them here. We’ll see.