Sports games were never really my thing (excepting hockey games, that is!), so finding out that John Madden Football had a rare Genesis variant was quite a surprise!

Retro Sports Gamer World

Pre-owned Madden football games are everywhere.  When you have a series that has been churning out a title every year for twenty years, there are a lot of discarded games to be peddled.  The picked-through seller at the flea market is guaranteed to have a stack of PS2 Madden titles to sift through.  Your neighbor’s garage sale is going to have recent versions for next-to-nothing prices since everyone only wants to play the most recent iteration.  With a massive supply built across almost every console for gaming generations now, the previous editions of Madden football have an almost nonexistent resell value.  Outside of this mass production, there is one title that is not common and is one of the few sports titles that hold value for collectors.  John Madden Football Championship Edition was a rental store exclusive released in 1992 for the Sega Genesis and it is the…

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Forgotten Classics: Rise of the Dragon (1990)

“Forgotten Classics” is a celebration of obscure PC games that weren’t released to widespread fanfare – or simply fell of the radar of gamers at the time of their release – and deserve a second look. In this instalment: Rise of the Dragon, a cyberpunk adventure game originally published in 1990 by Dynamix, Inc (a division of Sierra On-Line), and designed by Jeffrey Tunnell.

Rise of the Dragon is set in Los Angeles in the year 2053.  It’s a surprisingly mature-themed game, with drug overdoses, criminal behavior, and gruesome deaths all important plot elements.  The player assumes the role of William “Blade” Hunter, a private detective tasked with quietly solving who gave the Mayor’s daughter a fatal dose of a new designer drug, MTZ.  It seems MTZ creates monsters by altering its users’ DNA, and the Mayor is very torqued that his daughter turned into one, but not enough to call for a public investigation.  That’s where Blade comes in.  Along the way, a dire threat to L.A. is uncovered involving MZT and the head of the Chinese mafia, Deng Hwang, “The Dragon.”

This game was a visual masterpiece, with its game backgrounds and portraits all hand drawn by Robert Caracol, of Dark Horse Comics fame, and ran in 256-color VGA.  The critics agreed, and Rise of the Dragon received the “Special Award For Artistic Achievement” in 1991 by Computer Gaming World, arguably the most influential PC gaming magazine at the time of the game’s release.

Rise of the Dragon plays out in a real-time environment.  Blade has only three game days to solve the mystery, and the clock is ticking.  Every action costs time, especially travelling from one area of the game map to another.  Strategic play is a must, here, as time of day is an important game element, and must be accounted for.  For instance, some locations are accessible only at certain times, such as City Hall.  More importantly, Blade isn’t a super-human, and needs sleep.  He’ll doze off around 1am every evening, no matter where he is.  This leads to the amusing instance of Blade collapsing on the street and falling asleep, which quickly loses its charm when you realize that he was robbed during the night and you’ve randomly lost important inventory items.  In short, it’s best to get Blade home before he turns into a pumpkin.

The real-time environment also plays out in character interaction.  What Blade says and does to each character will influence his future interactions with them or their friends (or enemies).  This can have devastating effects on game play as a snide remark that seemed so appropriate at the time can limit Blade’s access to important game areas, and make the game’s ending untenable. Again, it’s best to save before any character interaction to avoid running into a dead end (or use the hint book…but I digress).

Rise of the Dragon was a moderate success for Dynamix, neither setting the PC game sales charts on fire, nor being a dismal failure, and was released on several platforms: IBM-PC in 1990, Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga in 1991, and a modified version for Sega CD in 1993.  It sold well enough to warrant a sequel, Heart of China, set in the 1930s, but the sequel parade ended there.  Regardless of how it fared, Rise of the Dragon remains a classic PC game that the pcgamerverse has forgotten, but well-worth the time to replay!

Keeping the Heat on SOPA with Super SOPA Bros

Here’s an axiom: The Interwebs are filled with talented and creative folks.  The many ways that people found to express their distaste for the U.S. Congress’ attempt to censor the great Al Gore Superhighway are evidence of this, and none more so than the many games developed to showcase the epic fail that is SOPA.   In that spirit, be sure to check out the SOPAJam at Ludum Dare, where you discover games such as Super SOPA Bros., SOPA Invaders, or even Congress Chainsaw Massacre.  The multipage list of games submitted by talented game creators can be found here: SOPAJam.  Enjoy, and don’t forget that though they lost this round, the sponsors of the SOPA/PIPA legislation will be back.  They always come back.  Be vigilant!

The Anti-SOPA Internet Blackout

We’ve survived Hitler spoofs, lolcats, and youtube viral videos, but will a group of American lawmakers bring a totalitarian heel down upon the largest surviving bastion of intellectual freedom on Earth?  The two key words you need to know are SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), of which much has been written.  Please take a moment in your busy schedule to read more on what the US Congress is up to, and why.

If you are a US citizen, let me say without exaggeration that it may be one of the most important bi-partisan issues of your lifetime.  Don’t let it happen!

In just a few short hours from the point I’ve typed these words, a unique and widespread Internet-based protest will shut down significant portions of the the Interwebs, rendering the sites themselves dark with links to information on the American attempt at limiting and regulating the mighty Al Gore.   These sites include the US Wikipedia sites and google’s homepage.  Needless to say, large websites do not take this kind of action lightly, and speaks volumes to the seriousness of the situation.

More information on this can be found here, or from any casual google search on the topic.

Review a Bad Game Day Movement Gathers Momentum

Everyone who’s ever been a game player on any kind of gaming platform has experienced the bile-inducing wonder of a terribly made game. These are the games that made you want to send the offending game media through the wood chipper Fargo-style, and made you question the sanity and intelligence of the development team that produced such an epic piece of gaming garbage.  Wouldn’t it be nice if a group of game reviewers got together and presented their bad game experiences to the entire gamerverse?  And what if they all decided to do it on a single day?

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Mark your calendars, as already 45 game reviewers have signed on to participate in Review a Bad Game Day, scheduled for August 8, 2012.  There will be plenty of laughs, tears, and complete gaming fail for all involved!

Check out the press release from Eric Bailey, Chicago Vintage Video Games Examiner contributor, for more information (including how to add your own website to the event)!

David Bowie Turned 65 Today…

Today is January 8, 2012, and this is the day David Bowie turned 65 years old.  For those of us who have been listening to his music for decades, this is a sobering thought.  Mortality, something that seemed so far away even just a few years ago, is now a concept that seems much more concrete.  65 years old:  Grandpa Bowie.

David Bowie, Master of Style.

Putting aside his wonderful and prolific musical career, David Bowie has also been an actor with an impressive resume.  Among his many roles, he’s been John the doomed vampire in The Hunger, Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, Nikola Tesla in The Prestige, and the voice of Lord Royal Highness in Spongebob Squarepants.  His distinct appearance (his eyes appear to have different colors, though really one is permanently dilated from an injury suffered while fighting over a girl) bring a sense of otherness to his roles.   Bowie also dabbled in gaming, involving himself in the storyline, game design process, soundtrack, and acting in Omikron: The Nomad Soul, which was released in both Windows and Dreamcast format.

Box art for Omikron: The Nomad Soul

He’s had a great life. Married to Iman (who played the hot shapechanger in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), with talented children (his son directed Moon, a movie I enjoyed very much), a string of hit songs and a successful acting career, David Bowie is a man who reached for the brass ring and kept it clutched tightly to his chest.   And although I wish him a Happy Birthday (and laboring under absolutely no illusions that he will ever receive my well-wishes), I cannot stop thinking this one thought: David Bowie is 65 years old; where did the time go?

It’s odd what the individual triggers are that set us on paths of somewhat melancholic reflections of our own mortality.  I can’t say that I’ve followed any individual performer or artist with any sense of fanaticism, and couldn’t tell you any details that might be found by a thorough perusal of any of the gossip periodicals that can be found in the narrow aisles at the supermarket checkout.  Yet the fact that David Bowie turned 65 today has impacted with the force of a falling Sputnik satellite.  Somehow I’ve gotten older.  When did that happen?

Ending a blog entry with a morose outlook is not my style, so let me leave with an answer from the birthday boy himself: “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”  Indeed.

Advertising From Yesteryear…Dragon Strike

Sometimes an ad is more of a teaser, showing just enough to get the reader to investigate further.  This 1993 ad, found on the back of a Marvel Comic, is in this category.  Dragon Strike was a board game from TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons, released to compete with Milton Bradley’s popular HeroQuest.  It used miniature player tokens, 3-D tokens representing monsters, had multiple game boards for varying game play, and involved completing many adventures, killing monsters, casting spells, and gathering loot.  The ad, however, points out another interesting feature of Dragon Strike: it used a 30-minute VHS video to “set the mood” for playing the game.  To call the Dragon Strike video cheesy is to insult all Ed Wood movies.  It must be seen to be believed…but a warning: what has been seen cannot be unseen!

1993 ad for Dragonstrike