Saturday, 15 October 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Sharpe (TV Series)

In 1981, British Author Bernard Cornwell penned a series of historical fiction novels called Sharpe. The first in the series was Sharpe's Eagle. The premise was based around the real life Peninsular War of the early 1800s that lead into the Battle of Waterloo. He created the fictional character of Richard Sharpe and placed him as the lead character, as he experiences all these real life events.

In 1993, ITV had picked up the rights to turn the books into a TV series. The series intially ran for 14 episodes, from 1993 - 1997. Then picked up in 2006 and 2008 for the final 2 episodes of the series. Filming took place in the Ukraine, featuring period accurate clothing and equipment. The series was made as feature length TV movies, rather than as shorts. Initially, Paul McGann was lined up to play Sharpe, as he matched the book's description of tall and black haired. However, a knee injury prevented him from taking part and the role was given to Sean Bean.

The series was well received for the time, being one of the most watched ITV shows. The show's popularity bought around a series of reprints of the novels with pictures of Sean Bean. An album of traditional 19th century songs was released to accompany the series, as well as a series of VHS tapes and DVDs.

Nerdversity Discussion: "Dear Fake Geek Girls......"

The above picture sums up what many people perceive to be the problem within the geek community. I was shown an article printed in Forbes magazine by Tara "Tiger" Brown, entitled "Dear Fake Geek Girls......"

In this article, Tara explains the difference between older geeks and modern geeks, in that older geeks shunned popularity in favour of hobbies, whereas modern geeks are interested in popularity and liking something that's cool, often despite having no real interest in the subject matter. Tara continues to make some interesting points about how before the internet, geeks had to learn everything from scratch and by hand. This ranged from sitting down and reading D&D codexes for nights on end and writing books worth of notes or sitting in a basement for nights and building that super computer for a large amount of money.

In the same way these days, that anyone with a tablet and Flappy Bird can call themselves a gamer, even though they only played it briefly once and haven't touched it in months, the way modern geekery has become, is that anyone who has a passing interest in Batman and buys a T-shirt to wear can call themselves a geek. This came from Patton Oswalt's article on wired about how we should force modern geek culture to die. 

In 2014, Comic artist Tony Harris, who had worked on a number titles, drew a lot of criticism for his rant on facebook. I have posted a copy of it for you to read. In his rant, he calls out fake geek girls. As he described them: hot girls that attend conventions in skimpy costumes, just for attention. This sentiment was echoed in Sargon of Akkad's rant about the subject. This brings us full circle BACK to the Tara article. In which she explains that a real geek girl is someone who is passionate and skillful in whatever subject she picks and is there to pass on information to others. She explains that being quizzed on subjects aren't a bad thing and the only people complaining are the ones who are trying to fake their way through the hobby and maximise the attention they receive.

So this brings us to you. What are your thoughts on this? should we follow Patton, Tara and Harris' idea of calling out the posers and push them out? Should we let modern geekery die, so we can start all over again? Do we leave things the way they are?

Nerdversity Reviews: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (NES)

Aside from well known movie adaptations, many companies decided to port over or create all new games based on popular TV series.

The Young Indy Chronicles was released by Jaleco in 1993. This was towards the end of the NES' lifespan and is based on the TV series of the same name. It loosely follows the plot of the teenage/young adult life of Indy, going through the Mexican Civil War and into his days fighting in the trenches of World War I.

The game plays largely like Castlevania. Indy is thrown into the level with just his fists. Items and weapons can be collected from crates scattered throughout each level. These also serve as Indy's health items, allowing him to take up to 4 hits before dying. Each hit takes away an item. 

Nerdversity Reviews: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito)

Nintendo had such a massive hold on the 8-Bit gaming market in the United States, that it could clearly dictate what games were going to be made for the system. The biggest selling genres at the time were arcade ports and movie licenses.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released by Taito in 1991. It was completely different to the Ubisoft version. However, there was no real difference between the game covers to differentiate the two. 

The game follows Indy through a series of branching paths and decisions. Right from the start, Indy can go after the Cross of Coronado or go straight to Venice. Each level is it's own different style. The Coronado level is a brawler. The Venice level is a puzzle to find a picture of the real grail. Brunwald castle is a maze, where Indy must avoid guards and find his father. The tank level is a timed battle, in which Indy must beat a set number of Nazis before the tank plunges off the cliff. The final level of the game is the Grail Temple, where Indy must navigate a series of traps. If the player doesn't spell "JEHOVA" correctly, they fall. If Indy takes too long, his torch goes out. If the player fails in an earlier mission, the diary heads to Berlin and Indy must get it back on a motorcycle.

Nerdversity Reviews: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft)

Video games based on movies were generally considered big sellers on the NES. That's why many companies made them

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released by Ubi Soft in 1989. It's based on the movie of the same name. The game is a straight up action platformer that follows key locations from the movie. Such as retrieving the Cross of Coronado from the Utah Mines, to recovering Henry Sr's diary from Castle Brunwald.

The game is a very basic action platformer and was ported to many other systems of that era. While it was a hard game, it was given negative press for being a game that was too short. Fighting was simply a case of avoiding the enemy until they'd passed and attacking from behind, where they'd die in one hit. On the home PCs at the time, the game was at number 2 in the charts, just behind RoboCop.

Nerdversity Reviews: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (NES)

In the 1980s, when the NES was out, Nintendo had control over 90% of the 8 bit market in the US. Many companies sought to capitalise on this by either converting arcade games or making games based on popular movies and TV shows.

Temple of Doom was released by Tengen and later Mindscape in 1988. Both versions of the game are identical. This game sought to capitalise on both markets at the same time, by converting an arcade game based on a popular movie.

The game starts players off in the mines undeneath Pankot Palace. Players assume the role of Indy as he traverses the mines, fighting off Thuggee warriors, to rescue the enslaved children of the mine and also find the Sankara Stones. Unlike the arcade game, Indy can jump this time round and is needed to traverse some of the more difficult sections. 

If the player takes too long, Mola Ram appears and takes all the items the player had acquired and they also lose a life. The player also loses a life if they touch an enemy, land in lava or fall from too great a height.

Nerdversity Reviews: Super Mario Bros. 3

There is no denying that many games that came out for the NES are considered to be the pinnacle of gaming. Be it for gameplay, graphics or sound. 

Super Mario Bros. 3 was released by Nintendo in 1990. This game had an entire movie promoting it, in The Wizard and it's own cartoon series. Mario 3 redefined not only the Mario series, but also what Platforming would become.

From it's excellent soundtrack, to unique worlds that were all different, to the inventory system, to the hidden secrets and even the card games, Mario 3 pushed the NES to it's limits and showcased what the console was capable of. It's no surprise why many fans consider this game to not only be the greatest NES game ever, but also among the top 5 best games ever made.

Nerdversity Reviews: The Legend of Zelda

RPGs were still a niche concept in the gaming world. However, when the NES came out, it bought th RPG genre into the mainstream.

The Legend of Zelda was released by Nintendo in 1987. It was the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto, who based the game on his epic adventures as a child. There are few Nintendo based franchises that have the impact and are as famous as The Legend of Zelda. It even had a replica gold coloured cartridge.

The game is a top down dungeon crawler, putting the player in the shoes of Link. He must traverse the kingdom of Hyrule to assemble the three pieces of the Triforce, defeat Ganon and rescue the princess Zelda. In a time without the internet to look up guides, fans of the game sought every means on how to beat difficult parts, from drawing maps, to calling the Nintendo Power Hotline and more besides. This is a game where exploration and patience paid off.

Nerdversity Reviews: Super Mario Bros.

When the NES was released in 1985, the US had 13 launch titles ready for it. Some were shipped with the console itself.

Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo in 1985. It was a quasi sequel to the arcade game of Mario Bros, Instead of arcade competition in the sewers, here, we had classic platforming action. When the NES was first released, it was the game that was packed in and shipped with the console.

Super Mario Bros set the bar for platforming games for decades afterwards. In fact, recent studies have shown that Mario is more recognisable than Mickey Mouse in some parts of the world. This is pure platforming fun and has a steep difficulty curve, that is designed for experienced players. However, the appeal is strong with this one, bringing in gamers of all skills to this game.

Nerdversity Reviews: Mega Man 2

The first few years of the NES' life cycle is considered by many, to be the best. This is when all the good sequels for games started coming out, as well as unique games and movie tie ins.

Mega Man 2 was released by Capcom in 1989. It was right on the heels of the first game, with less than a year's release between the first and second games. What fans found, is a rarity in the gaming world. A practically flawless sequel that turned out to be even better than the original. 

Gameplay was identical to the first game. Fans may have considered it too easy, even on hard mode, but looking beyond that, we have a game that presents a challenge,while looking and sounding top notch. The game bumped up the numbers of Robot Masters from 6 to 8. 

Nerdversity Reviews: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

The NES was the birthplace of many sequels, based on earlier games. Sometimes, they were spin offs from these games too.

Castlevania III was released by Konami in 1990. It would be the final game released in the Castlevania franchise on the NES and wouldn't pick up with the main series until Super Castlevania IV on the SNES. It came in that Konami silver box. 

Castlevania III went back to the more traditional style of gameplay. Instead of the RPG elements, we were back with the action platforming. The game was different though, as it had branching paths, where players could find all new bosses, events and even meet new characters in Grant, Sypha and Alucard. It took everything we knew and loved about the first game and ramped it way up.

Nerdversity Reviews: Metroid

Nintendo had been having a lot of early success with their launch titles and their own made titles released within the first year of the NES' life cycle.

Metroid was one of those titles. It was released by Nintendo in 1986. Metroid used the same engine as Kid Icarus, but focused more heavily on exploration. Instead of linear platforming like Mario, players were given a huge map to explore as Samus. It drew heavily from sci-fi horror at the time, like Aliens.

The game could be beaten with the standard equipment, but it was a challenge. The idea was to explore the map all over and find all the hidden items and weapons, as some areas could only be accessed with certain items. Still to this day, it is considered to be one of the best games in the NES library.

Nerdversity Reviews: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Arcade style sports games were gaining ground in this era of gaming. While many had tried to make accurate sports sims before, noone had really tried to make them as outlandish as possible.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was released by Nintendo in 1987. It was an updated version of the existing arcade game called Punch-Out!!. It's a boxing game, but isn't an outright simulation of a boxing match.

Players were put into the shoes of Little Mac, an underdog challenger from New York. Little Mac would duck, dodge, jab and uppercut his way from the obscure titles all the way up to facing Iron Mike himself. Players would need to learn how to fight each opponent in turn, to successfully beat them and memorise their patterns.