Sunday, 31 January 2016

An Update from Gareth

My son Teddy was born December 11th and everything seemed fine. A few days later we were admitted to Stoke Manderville Hospital with a suspected chest infection. Three days later Teddy almost died and was rushed into theatre. We were basically told he was going to die and when two of the nurses left the room crying, well that will stay with me forever.  As it turns out he had a very rare heart condition that only around five children a year are born with. Amazingly they managed to get him to hang on.

Teddy was then retrieved by the specialist Southampton PICCU unit who cover the whole of the south. We then spent 27 days in intensive care with him as they tried to get him ready for an operation. It turned out Teddy has a small left ventricle in the heart, a long narrowing and a defective Aorta. His surgery had to be brought forward as he reversed his circulation and filled his lungs with blood. An amazing consultant and doctor spent 24 hours with him keeping him balanced and he had different pulses all over his body. We were given a twenty percent chance of him coming through the operation which again he amazingly did.

After that things improved and he moved from intensive care to the ward and then eventually to Oxford Hospital. Incredibly, seven weeks later he is now at home and recovering. He will never be ‘normal’ and will have to be monitored for the rest of his life but he is like a baby should be at least for now.

The point of all this ( aside from just telling someone about it), is that two charities very much helped us through this. The first was Ronald McDonald House who provide accommodation around the hospitals for parents of sick children. Without them we would have had a four hour round trip each day to Southampton or simply slept in the car park. They helped us again at Oxford to stop our 100 mile round trip each day. The second charity is the Friends of PICCU charity which raises money for the specialist children’s unit at Southampton

What I need from you guys is some kind of gaming related fund raising ideas. I’m probably not good enough to break any world records so I was thinking maybe something more endurance based like completing Final Fantasy VII in one sitting or completing a game from each game system (I have access to most retro stuff). I’m open to ideas.

A few ideas I've had some far include:

1. Playing awful games for a marathon.
2. Picking a system and say 100 games, every time you die you change game and see if you can last 24 hours ect.
3. Playing normal games with the bath mat (but that excludes a lot of retro systems).
4. some kind of Street Fighter marathon.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Letter from Gareth

Hi all, it’s been an great ride for Retro 101 and one I hoped would continue for a long time into the future. We’ve had great support from both readers and developers and the site has been growing nicely. My first child was born on Friday the 11th of December and it soon became clear that everything was not as it should be.

My child is now very very sick with a rare and critical heart condition only seen in five children every year. As a result I can no longer act as Head Editor of Retro 101. One - because I don’t have the time and two - because at the minute it just isn’t that important.

My aim was always to create a fun site where people could think about retro games and newer games that brought back some good memories. I like to think the site did that to the best that it could.

I’d like to thank everyone for all their support and encouragement and I hope we will be back at some point. For now my life exists one day at a time down at the Southampton intensive care unit hospital accommodation and every day I’m here is another day my son is as well. At the minute that’s all that matters.

It’s been emotional.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- Review (PC)

 Written by Natalie Houghton
After what seems like almost an eternity, Guilty Gear is back with a bang and now smashing its way straight onto PC.
Fan favourites, Ryu & Ken… sorry! I mean Sol Badguy & Ky Kiske make their return, accompanied by a variety of other characters whose golas are interesting to say the least. Bedman, a mysterious assassin whose motivations are, funnily enough, completely unknown careers semi-unconsciously around the screen whilst strapped to a mechanical bed-like contraption which is fitted with all kinds of standard BDSM materials such as whips, spikes and chains. Elphelt whose only mission in life is to become a bride – her way of attempting achieve this is to pop champagne corks in the face of her adversaries, hit them over the head with a bunch of roses and then harass them into proposing to her. Then there’s Sin (the son of Ky), who is apparently not even 5yrs old, despite clearly looking like he’s around 18… I’m not quite sure what any fan girls might make of that. It’s certainly not boring.
The series looks absolutely stunning – a serious contender for the best looking anime styled fighter ever – staying true to its 2D roots, it has made the transition to a 3D cel-shaded fighter incredibly smoothly. The whole game runs at 1080p and 60fps (apart from a few character introductions which are deliberately slowed down a bit for the effect). At the core, it still plays like a 2D side scroller. There are 5 main attacking buttons – punch, kick, slash and heavy slash. Dust attacks also return for Xrd Sign – if they connect these allow you to instantly shoot your opponent up into the air, allowing a crazy barrage of attacks to be unleashed upon them in mid-air.
The colouring and special effects are volcanic, almost exploding off the screen themselves. In order to execute some of these impressive moves you’ll have to get training, sitting down and learning what is a very technical fighter which requires some very specific button presses. If like me, you’re absolutely useless at this kind of thing then there is a slightly comical tutorial mode where Sol schools Shin (he IS only 5yrs old, remember?), that can help to ease newbies into the fray. HINT: Use the analogue sticks – it’s a lot easier!
There’s also a challenge mode that tasks you with completing a series of more increasingly difficult moves for each character. Mission mode is slightly different and pits you against potential scenarios that you might experience in battle so that you can try out tactics against each attack allowing you to hone your skills even further.
The learning curve is quite steep, the moves, spectacular combos and all of the systems in play such as Roman cancels, the Blitz Shield, Danger Time and Instant Kills are all covered in the tutorial, however it will take some time before you’re used to all of this and can use them all to your advantage. Arcade mode is then where you can put everything that you’ve learnt into practice. There are a standard 8 opponents per arcade mode session with interspersed cut scenes every couple of fights, these are quite brief though and often contain a lot of unfamiliar terminology relating to Guilty Gear Lore. The plot is quite simple. a being named Ramlethal Valentine has declared war on the world and the cast rush to investigate exactly what this means, needless to say that Arcade mode doesn’t give a definitive answer.
Once you’ve completed arcade mode, if you want to know what happens to the story after that and are happy with sitting through what is essentially a 12 episode anime then feel free to start the story mode. Get your fizzy drinks and popcorn at the ready, this shares no similarities with the Persona 4 Ultimax or BlazBlue story modes as it is essentially a 5hr movie broken up into chapters for easier viewing. Unfortunately, the story is linear in nature and there aren’t any branching paths. If you like anime or are really into the Guilty Gear lore / story then you may like this, otherwise it may not be your cup of tea.
The usual training & gallery modes make a return, although I noticed that even if you spend hours practicing specific moves in the training mode listening to the same music over and over, it doesn’t get boring. The slightly heavy metal guitar riddled soundtrack suits the tone of the game well. The M.O.M (Mansion of Millionaires) mode is the surprise mode of the bunch, it’s essentially a massive brawl for coins where you can battle various characters spread out across a hexagonal grid and buy buffs and upgrades in a sort of RPG style way. The odds are seriously stacked against you here, forget easy mode, this is where things get real and there shall be no mercy as you struggle to keep in play against enemies with triple your health, bombs bouncing all around the screen, it’s an absolute nightmare but raucous fun nonetheless. Last but not least and also if you dare, there is an Online mode that has both ranked and casual battles which from my experience works pretty well if you can find a room with a free slot.
Overall, Guilty Gear is a fast paced, tremendously awesome sounding, deliciously luscious looking beat ‘em up for the PC, let’s hope that the next one arrives pretty soon. Heaven or Hell… it doesn’t matter, all I know is that it’s time to rock!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Dragon Quest: The Zenithia Trilogy Review (DS)

The Dragon Quest games have always been in the shadow of other RPG’s in the West due to rarely being released outside of their homeland. Dragon Quest VIII did make it across on the PS2 and garnered enough interest for Square-Enix to consider releasing their back catalogue. From 2008 to 2011 Dragon Quest IV, V and VI were remade for the Nintendo DS. Collectively known as the ‘Zenithia Trilogy’ (The name of the castle in the sky found in each game), they were renamed as ‘The Chapters of the Chosen’, ‘The Hand of the Heavenly Bride’ and ‘Realms of Reverie’ respectively.

Each of the three games is fairly similar in terms of core mechanics. Combat is turn based with party members having the option to attack, defend, use items or flee. Four party members can be used at once with others being able to be swapped in and out to allow the player to configure different types of configuration. Combat is initiated through random encounters as your party travels around dungeons and the world map

There’s nothing particularly complex to learn and the games represent a good starting point for gamers who want to get into RPG’s for the first time. They are also quite forgiving with death as players will find themselves back at the last save point they visited when they die with any experience points they have earned intact – though your gold will be halved. This means that you are never really losing any progress and if you stick at it long enough you will eventually overcome any obstacles. It’s a system that works well as it never punishes the player severely for pushing forward or exploring.

The stories of the games are based around the idea that a great evil is awakening and a nameless hero will eventually vanquish it. This involves traveling the world and finding sacred weapons and armour which allows entry to Zenithia. You will then be able to access the underworld where the evil awaits to be defeated.

There are of course differences between the games and they each have their own way of telling the tale and offer up different gimmicks to keep things interesting. ‘Chapters of the Chosen’ is split into five chapters with the player experiencing the story of different party members as they find their way to the hero. The fifth chapter then puts the group together for the final battle. An extra chapter becomes available after completion which furthers the story and allows a new character to join the party.  There is also a town building sub-game where players can persuade villagers to move to their town. However, this requires some input from other players via sharing which will be difficult now.

‘Then Hand of the Heavenly Bride’ follows the Hero through three stages of his life as he grows up. You will also pick a wife and your eventual child will also join the quest. Monsters can also be recruited to the party and players can find and display various knick-knacks that have been collected from around the world. 

‘Realms of Reverie’ changes things up a bit by giving players the ability to train their party in a wide range of different roles. It’s a similar job system to something like Final Fantasy III and alters the characters core stats and gives the unique learned abilities to them. Once a certain job has been completed more advanced vocations can be taken on which lead to some very useful tools for players to play with. Monsters can no longer be recruited at random by there are a host of slimes to be found in the world who you can talk to and get to join your party. There’s a dragon hidden away somewhere as well. There’s also a slim combat arena and fashion parade to get involved with if you so wish.

All the games contain the same visual style, shops and enemies. There is a church to save your game and resurrect party members, the inn, casino and various shops which serve the same purpose throughout the series. There are also wells which can be looked into and the mini-medals to be found which can be taken to a specific castle and exchanged for rare prizes.

Each of the games is focused on its main story and though there are things like building the town and slime arena there isn’t much out in the world in terms of real side quests. This is generally ok as each town you visit tends to be different from the last and the games move along at a pretty good pace. Each game takes around forty hours to complete and each then gives extra content like dungeons after completions for players to dive back into.

Overall, the three games in the series are pretty much all on a par in terms of their quality. They each offer up a solid adventure which has some good and bad moments as you go along. All the games are great for both newcomers and hard-core RPG fans and they all have great localisations with accents and humour coming through perfectly. If it’s a traditional RPG that you want then the three games here should offer up more than enough to keep you interested.

Overall –
Dragon Quest IV: The Chapters of the Chosen 8/10
Dragon Quest V: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride 8/10
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie 8/10