Saturday, September 14, 2013

Riddick (2013) [sci-fi, action] - POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!!

...and it sure did deliver at that

Well, to be honest I'm not into doing an elaborate review on this magnum opus of lame, so let's just say that I have discovered the Riddick franchise relatively recently, but quickly was suckered in and became what you may call a fan. I loved Pitch Black, even The Chronicles were better than everyone said, and Dark Fury was so so... it was okay. Have yet to play Dark Athena, but I have it all bought on Steam. So naturally, I was anticipating part 3 of the voyages of starship Diesel Prize, I followed the news, I was worrying for Diesel and Twohy to get enough budget money without resorting to Kickstarter, and after Riddick finally came out, I went to the theater and was royally disappointed!!! I'll just list what I did and did not like about it, because going through all the problems in detail (like it was with Prometheus) would not be worth it.

* The cinematography is very beautiful-looking, especially for the tiny budget they got
* The end action scene was hardcore, but... (see con 1)
* A compeltely pointless, yet cute full nue of a hot Goth girl, but... (see con 2)
* The machinery and weapons used by mercs and cops was awesome, with a realistic approach - they got this aspect of Pitch Black perfectly

* If the return to Pitch Black style means ripping off its iconic scenes, then Twohy did one heck of a job - not only he returned, he practically remade it. ...But why do that?!
* Lots of pointless gory and a couple of nude scenes made in just to get an R rating. However, if cut them out, the movie will lose nothing at all, if not become actually a little better
* The first 30-40 mins were boring as sin
* The humor was not only present, but it was some of the worst I've seen in years. Every joke was stupider than the previous one, to the point when they actually distracted from the plot!
* Karl Urban's 1.5 lines
* Riddick going all horny and picking up Dahl - wasn't it the same Riddick that treated women first and foremost with respect in all three previous installments (not counting Dark Athena, because I haven't played it yet)?! Did the franchise really desperately need all these sex jokes and Dahl's almost shark-jumping final line?!

My Rating: 6/10 (Twohy, I am disappoint)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

PC Engine [1987] (NEC, Hudson Soft)

When talking about the old-school video gaming consoles, pretty often I mention an unknown (for the speaker) device called 'PC Engine'. But I never got it why was such a machine got unsuccessful and pitifully lost in the shadow of SNES and Genesis. Its library of games is not that large, surely, but the quality of the most is just stunning at times. So right now, when someone nostalgically sighs remembering the NES days, I usually sigh at no ability to get the PC Engine in my possession in the past, now or in the future. Sure it didn't have hardcore CRPGs, flight sims and turn-based strategy games (with some exceptions), but what a massive array of shmups, platform games, RPGs, arcade ports were released on it - there was even an FPS! Such focus on arcade-style games was already enough to beat up Genesis, but alas... So today, I present you - NEC PC Engine!

Developers: NEC Corporation, Hudson Soft
Generation: Fourth
'Bits': 8 (main CPU), 16 (graphical processing units)
Release Dates: Oct, 30, 1987 (Japan), Aug, 29, 1989 (US)
Media: HuCards, CD



PCE was created by the NEC Corp. in the late eighties. In 1987 it was released in Japan, and in 1989 it came to USA and Europe (however, in the latter it was available only via import). Its sort of weird full name - PC Engine - may be a reference to the famous line of PC88/PC98 home computers created by the same company, a platform that gave birth to many now-famous video game franchises. However, in USA and Europe, the console was renamed to TurboGrafx-16. In a weird twist, its success worldwide was just as polar as the titles: PC Engine became a hit in Japan, subsequently outselling even the NES, but the numbers in the US weren't as hot, despite the aggressive marketing campaign, a mascot attempt named Johnny Turbo and constant picking on Sega Genesis. The whole bit war of 'NES vs Genesis', which later mutated to 'SNES vs Genesis', earned PCE the reputation of a niche product for hardcore gamers only.


The console was equipped with 8-bit CPU and 16-bit video system consisting of two chips, which led to average in complexity yet colorful graphical capabilities.

Here is the quick specifications comparison with NES and Genesis (the info is taken from Wikipedia):

Processor8-bit Ricoh, based on 6502 core8-bit MOS Technology 65SC02 a.k.a HuC6280 by Hudson16-bit Motorola 68000 (or compatible) + 8-bit Zilog Z80 (or compatible)
CPU Speed1,79 MHz (NTSC), 1,66 MHz (PAL)1,79 or 7,16 MHz (software-dependent)7,67+3,58 MHz (NTSC), 7,61+3,55 MHz (PAL)
Video ProcessorPPU, Picture Processing UnitTwo 16-bit processors — HuC6270 and HuC6260VDP, Video Display Processor
Screen Resolution256 x 240256 x 216Up to 320 x 224 (NTSC), up to 320 x 240 (PAL)
Max Onscreen Sprites646480
Max Onscreen Colors48 and 5 shades of gray512512
Video Memory2 Kb, can be expanded by the cartridge memory64 Kb64 Kb
Sound Unit5 channels (frequency, triangle, white noise, Delta-DAC)8 bit PCM stereo / 6-channel stereo6 channels w/frequency modulation, additional 4-channel PSG chip
RAM2 Kb, can be expanded by the cartridge memory8 Kb (32 Kb for TurboDuo)64+8 Kb
Storage CapacityUp to 48 Kb, expandableFrom 256 Kbit up to 24 MbitUp to 4 MB (32 Mbit)

For the storage media, PCE used an interesting brand of cartridges called HuCards (or TurboChips in the US), although something similar was already familiar to the gamer audiences with Sega Master System cards. But the real, true innovations introduced by the console, existed just as well:

1. The first CD-ROM console add-on in history. Yes, PC Engine is actually the first platform ever that used CDs to store its games. To play those, an additional module had to be purchased, dubbed PC Engine CD-ROM2 (interestingly, the US manufacturers instead produced a combo unit with CD drive included, branded TurboDuo). Thankfully, instead of stuffing the discs with grainy videos like Sega CD did, the developers took way better advantage of its capabilities, resulting in a lot of excellent titles - again, unlike Sega's counterpart.

2. 99,9% compatible portable version. PC Engine GT (TurboExpress in the US) was marketed as a separate system, and unlike Game Boy or Game Gear, it utilized exactly the same carts as the 'big' console. From the technological point of view, PCE GT was also superior to both competitors - for example, it supported TV output, a feature that became industry standard only recently. Unfortunately, what strangled this system was its price - $299 for a handheld is too much even nowadays. Ironically Nomad, a similar effort from Sega, was also a flop among gamers.


To this day, PCE holds a solid reputation of the number one console for shmup (shoot 'em up) fans, and it was gained for a reason. No other system may compete with it in this regard, having so many games of this genre in its library that are still fun, playable and considered great classics today. After all, it's the quality of proposed games that makes the customer decide to stick with one system or another, and PC Engine does not disappoint. Here's a brief list of my personal favorites:

- HuCard games:

Super Star Soldier - one of the more famous titles for the system. Amazing graphics, catchy music, hot dogfights with hordes of enemies and tricky bosses - awesome!

Soldier Blade - to be honest, it's my most favorite game on the system, also being my second favorite game in the shmup genre (next to Tyrian). Everything here is just perfect. Limit-pushing visuals, complicated segmented bosses, incredible soundtrack and perfectly balanced gameplay and difficulty curve - I'll never get tired of praising this game, it's that good.

Gradius, Salamander, Parodius - very good ports of the classic Konami shooters.

R-Type - another solid port of the legendary Irem shooter. By the way, this is likely the only cartridge-based video game in history that was released on more than one storage unit (two carts, in this case).

Turrican - let's mix up the lineup of classic Japanese shooters with a classic European shooter. Not exactly the best console port (that'd be the one for Genesis), but a great portable experience for the owners of PCE GT.

Download, Heavy Unit, Cyber Core - some more decent-to-good shooters. Download is especially remarkable for its hilarious obscene English on the Game Over screens.

Raiden, Image Fight, Chase HQ, Splatterhouse, Street Fighter II' - more good arcade ports, and not only shmups this time.

Bomberman series - that's right, here's where it all started.

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu - a great platforming game, with especially memorable musical score. There's also an equally solid NES port.

Silent Debuggers - this is the FPS I was referring to in the opening. OK, not strictly one, as it's more like a dungeon crawler, but still a decent game, complete with good graphics.

Adventure Island series - yeah, that's where this started, too!

Blazing Lazers - can't say that I'm a huge fan of this game, but I'm well aware that it is considered a classic. So worth a mention for sure!

Bonk's Adventure series - see Blazing Lazers.

- CD games:

Gate Of Thunder - believe it or not, the survival of the whole idea of having games on CD depended on this game's success. As evident from the games of today, it was a hit! This legendary shooter from Hudson looks worthwhile even today, with beautiful pixel graphics and the immortal soundtrack, recorded in crystal clear Redbook quality.

Lords Of Thunder - a spiritual sequel to the previous game, shifted towards so-called Euroshmups with their in-game shops, health bars and pretty tame difficulty. But there are highlights, including the fantasy setting and upbeat rock soundtrack. Was also released on Sega CD.

Akumajou Dracula X: Chi No Rondo - before the Dracula X Chronicles for PSP was released, this game was a forbidden fruit for gamers outside Japan. Of course, such fruits tend to be the sweetest, and it's very true here - by some (including myself) it's rightfully considered the best Castlevania game of pre-SOTN era.

Cho Aniki series - if you're not disgusted by such term as 'homoerotic space shooter with bodybuilders in speedos', you'll enjoy these pretty fun and campy games. They are actually well-made, there are some sequels on other platforms, and the music is, again, excellent.

Download 2 - a nice sequel to a nice HuCard game. Same good ol' cyberpunk and ridiculous (im)maturity - the main character smoking was actually a shocking sight back then.

Psychic Storm - yet another decently made shmup, a solid A-. Besides, it's the first shmup I ever 1CC'd, but that's not a big deal, since it's very easy - and it's not a bad thing, since in this case it's good for the beginners!

Ys Books I & II - sort of a port/remake of the first two games in Falcom's cult action RPG series, not the only one, but one of the more famous. This version is notable for having an official English localization, above-average voice acting and the ability to beat both games as one large adventure (which it is, practically).

Ys III: Wanderers From Ys - remake/port of the third Ys game. Again, considered to be one of the best.

Seirei Senshi Spriggan - a shmup from Compile, godfathers of the genre. Excellent graphics, interesting setting and, as usual for Compile games, a mind-blowing arsenal of weapons.

Valis series - very interesting lineup of platforming slashers a la Castlevania, more famous on the Sega Genesis. Unfortunately, unlike the Genesis entries, there were no official or fan translations for the PCE...


As you may've read between the lines, I really love PC Engine. Excellent hardware (first of all, the video system and the CD drive), excellent games, and hours of fun spent playing them - this is what comes to my mind whenever I think of it. Don't hesitate to familiarize yourself with it and its one-of-a-kind library, and you'll see how many more awesome retro games are waiting for you to beat!


Little Red Riding Hood - Gaming Edition (w/sinfearsilence)

This piece of Shakespearean gold is brought to you by yours truly and sinfearsilence.

Everybody knows the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, as well as its unlicensed NES adaptation promoted by AVGN. However, what if a game based on this fairytale was released nowadays and made by the world's top gaming companies?!

(note: may contain some obsolete jokes and subjective opinions)

  • Crytek: The Hood is walking slowly across the shader-y forest with a crowd of Wolves moving towards her just as slowly. Everybody is looking around at the leaves, counting the polygons they consist of. While at that, the Hood is shooting down some Wolves, doing MAXIMUM PATTY to herself.
  • Bioware: The Lumberjack is walking through the wood to chop some trees. While he's at it, he falls in love with the scantily clad Hood, experiences betrayal, vengeance, hatred, learns the he is a son of a god, with some humorous cutscenes here and there. Near the end, the Hood disappears.
  • id: Story in a fairytale is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.
  • Valve: The Hood is walking through the forest where she meets the vendors of hoods, patties and Wolves. The forest never ends.
  • Kojima Productions: The Hood meets the Wolf, and after a brief battle he shows her the way to Grandma's house and mysteriously disappears. When she arrives at the spot, it turns outhe helped her because he knew she would get there.
  • Capcom: The Hood is walking through the forest. In the sequel, she is walking through the forest to her Granny's house. In the next sequel, she's walking through the forest to her Granny's house carrying patties. In he next sequel, she meets the Wolf. And so on, and so on...
  • Electronic Arts: The busty Hood is walking through the mysterious forest with deliciously smelling patties in her basket, to where her badass Granny lives. Suddenly, the masculine pumped up Wolf appears and asks where she's heading in imperious tone. In the end, he steals the patties, and the Hood should get them back by racing against the Lumberjacks.
  • Blizzard: Little Red Riding Hood is walking through the forest. Little Blue Riding Hood is walking towards her. Little Green and Yellow Riding Hoods connect to the server.
  • Bungie: The Wolf is walking through the forest. The Hood is walking towards him carrying the pattI AM TYCHO! I SHALL DESTROY DURANDAL!!!!1111
  • Nintendo: Same as the original, but here the Wolf kidnaps Granny and gets defeated by the Lumberjacks. Afterwards, Grandma says 'Sorry Little Red Riding Hood, but your Granny is in another house!'
  • Cave: The Hood is walking through the forest. Over 9000 Wolves move towards her. The Biggest and Baddest Wolf is standing still, but 9000 more Wolves emerge from behind his back.
  • Konami / Double Helix / Climax: The Hood is walking through the forest and finally arrives in Silent Hill. There is no Granny... Then it turns out, the Hood is the Granny. She's carrying the patties to a house where her husband, the Wolf, died. But really, there are no patties. She eats them and dies. Or the UFOs arrive.
  • Activision: The Hood is going to her Granny with patties. In the sequel, she goes to her Grandpa. In the next sequel, she goes to her Mom. In the next one, the Red Cross goes to Iraq.
  • Atlus: Carrying a machete, the Hood is slashing through the wilderness to meet the Wolf, because everybody knows that afterwards she will arrive to her Granny's house where there'll be no thickets. But...
  • Bethesda: The Hood is walking through the forest, then through the town, then through the marketplace, then through the dungeon, then across the mountain, then through the citadel, then through the city docks, then through another forest, then through another town... Finally, she does a fasttravel across all these locations.
  • Rockstar:Da 'Hood meets an innocent Wolf in the forest, kicks his ass, takes all his money and buys some patties. Once done, she beats the fuck out of other harmless creatures and takes all their food supplies. And then she thinks: 'Why the hell do I need 'dat fucking Granny? I can open up a fuckin' shop here!'

Star Trek Movies Mini Reviews - The TOS Era [1979 - 1991] (Star Trek) - WITH SPOILERS!

This is the translated version of one of my older blog posts, where I'm talking about the Star Trek movies as I was watching them all in a row at the time. No idea why I didn't write a sequel post for The Next Generation, but hey, I still can do it. Oh, also some of the opinions I've originally expressed didn't hold up, so I had to update them... but you won't ever see the original Russian version anyway, so I'm all fine!

Studio: Paramount,
Director: Robert Wise,
Year: 1979
Contrary to its reputation, I consider The Motion Picture a definitive kickstart to the lineup of Star Trek movies. Yeah, it is slow-paced and borrows a lot from Kubrick's 2001, but who at the time didn't?! It's a solid representative of old-school science fiction at its best, still watchable and enjoyable today - for example, it's my GF's personal favorite!
Despite the jumbled introduction to Kirk at the beginning, the story is intriguing, mysterious and clever, leaving many aspects to think about as the credits roll - again, reminiscent of 2001. One particular thought that still bothers me - wasn't it the first mankind's encounter with the Borg?!

  • The acting! (I bet you're surprised)
  • The personalities are all there, even the one-time supporting cast like Capt. Decker and Ilia
  • As I've said, the plot is beyond decent
  • The effects are mind-blowing for the time

  • It's pointless to argue that the slow stuff is still slow
  • The first half an hour or so is kinda rushed

Studio: Paramount,
Director: Nicholas Meyer,
Year: 1982
The Wrath Of Khan is widely regarded as the best of TOS era, and it's pretty easy to see why. Unlike the detective mystery style of the first movie, this one is much faster-paced, action-packed and really suspenseful at times. Also, I may have a soft spot for Kirstie Alley - she was a cute Vulcan! Besides, how can you ever get enough of this infamous clip?!

  • The plot! Simple yet memorable as hell
  • As discussed, Lt. Saavik
  • Khan (aside from the fantastic performance by Ricardo Montalban) looks a hell of a lot like Pater 'Biff' Byford from Saxon! This is a hilarious touch
  • Fast pace and lots of action
  • One of the earliest examples of CG effects in a motion picture!

  • None registered

Studio: Paramount,
Director: Leonard Nimoy,
Year: 1984
The Search For Spock sort of picks up the tone and style of the prequel, but gets even darker in execution. Now it more resembles a thriller rather than the action movie Wrath Of Khan was. By the end it gets especially brutal and features a disturbingly memorable kill (not that the previous movie didn't have one) and of course, the end fight between Kirk and Kruge is awesome.

  • Lots of memorable moments and risks taken
  • The titular search does succeed after all

  • The story is not very well paced and gets boring at times
  • Why did Spock leave the imprint of himself in McCoy and not Kirk? And why does Sarek arrive to the Enterprise after Spock's funeral?
  • The way Spock is resurrected is kinda weird...

Studio: Paramount,
Director: Leonard Nimoy,
Year: 1986
The Voyage Home is more like an experimental entry in the series. Some love it for its humor and much lighter tone, some think it's the black sheep of the family. I think it's good for a sequel, but all the animal rights stuff could've been more subtle.

  • The humor and overall atmosphere
  • Engaging story
  • Chekov's antics ('nucular wessels' and stuff)

  • The 'Save the whales' moral is hammered in too hard
  • I have certain concerns about the way of time travel they chose

Studio: Paramount,
Director: William Shatner,
Year: 1989
Ugh, now that's a bad one. The Final Frontier started off as a promising project - I mean, our heroes were supposed to meet God - but ended up as a trashy mess with horrendous special effects, plot holes and really dumb humor. I didn't really like it as a kid, and it's still a pain to watch. But what's most disappointing is that the idea itself is very interesting!

  • The sole fact of God's presence in this is amusing
  • Some of the dialogue ('I know I would die alone') and jokes aren't that bad

  • When there's nothing to care or laugh about, it can be pretty boring
  • The plot is really forgettable
  • Sybok is a villain with interesting motifs, but this story makes him look ridiculous

Studio: Paramount,
Director: Nicholas Meyer,
Year: 1991
It made sense to commission the director of the best Trek movie so far, Nicholas Meyer, to make the final TOS film, as it is regarded as one of the highlights, along with parts 2 and 4. And yeah, the old Enterprise cast did retire with a bang to make way for The Next Generation. It has everything that was good about all the previous movies and fuses it into one solid blockbuster - the detective storyline of parts 1 and 3, the action of part 2, the comedy of part 4 and even one of the few pros that part 5 had, with Klingons not being stereotypical space bullies anymore. Add in some Oscar-nominated special effects, and this becomes one hell of a retirement!

  • The story is fast-paced and suspenseful
  • Hangover with the Klingons
  • General Chang
  • Kim Cattrall as Valaris! Talk about OH MY
  • Overall action-packed tone and awesome production value

  • There may be some, but can't remember right now. Probably, the story is overcomplicated at some points?..