Captain Commando

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I love a good brawler. Or a scrolling beat ’em up. You should be familiar with the genre; many folks’ favourite games come from within. Final Fight, Bare Knuckle (aka Streets of Rage), Golden Axe, Dungeons and Dragons, and various others.

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There are a few, particularly on the Super Famicom or SNES, that I didn’t play back in the day. The Rushing Beat series, Undercover Cops, Ninja Warriors Again, and Captain Commando, being the highlights. Those games all have something else in common – price. Insanely high prices, in fact. A loose cart of each will most probably cost you the wrong side of ¬£50 ($80). Captain Commando, however, was also released on the Sony Playstation. I had an eBay search going for both versions of this game for a few months, and somehow everyone else in the world forgot to bid on one that sold for $69. Honestly, that is almost 50% cheaper than normal. I felt very lucky.
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Anyhow, this game arrived today and I had a brilliant time playing it. I bloody love it … If you have the coins, please do yourself a favour and grab this mad but wonderful game!
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It is three player sim! That is fully awesome … I hope to cajole both of my robot daughters into playing it with me one day!

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The instruction manual has only this single screen shot! Weird.

IMG_0140.JPGBaby Commando! Sure, why not ūüôā

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Beware the trio of lesbians for they wield electric tuning forks, and they are not afraid to use them. Curiously fetching bunch, too; all called Carol.

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This gentleman is tough: interestingly his name seems to be Sh1t Rom Jr.

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Turns out a giant sword is pretty effective.

IMG_0144.JPGTime for some fun chasing ninjas on motorised surfboards. I’m in.

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Now to chase the mad scientist into the sewer! But of course.

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One scientist down!

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This large lady, with whom I’d have no quarrel, has 2 attacks; one is to hurl you forcefully across the screen and the other is to vomit a pool of purest green at you.

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And the last piece of the classic brawler puzzle – the fish-man with extendible claw hands.

SOMEHOW, YOU MUST PLAY THIS GAME!
My day one rating: 9/10.

Tales of Frustration Graces

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Tales games.
I should love them. I really should.
I’ve been playing JRPGs for over 20 years.
And I love them.
I love battles and item management.
I even like random battles.
Turn-based and strategy (grid-based) are my favourite types … Zelda is too “actiony” for me.

Tales games have action-based battles, but at their heart they play like a turn-based game. They always feature cool characters, great stories, lovely art, and superb music.

Why then do they make me so cross?
It’s simple.
Or rather, it isn’t.
The battle systems, especially of late, are over-complicated, and any break in play (which happens frequently if you have any semblance of a normal life) means you will most likely forget the subtleties and nuances of the crazy-deep battle more and be reduced to button mashing or setting people to “auto” ūüė¶

There was, in Tales of Graces F – clearly the “F” stands for Frustration, a dungeon that was simple (in concept) yet so samey myself (and my two JRPG daughters) kept losing track of where we were. AND THE INTERNET HAD NO MAP!!! No, really.¬†It’s true. NO MAP. Well, save one that was so hopelessly inadequate it might as well not have been there. There were a few instructions like “up, north, descend, east” etc. But that’s a bit crap if you’ve lost your starting point!

So we made a map and got minced¬†by the boss ūüė•

Wallbridge Tower Map

New Statistical Worst For England

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England suck

England are more than twice as bad as anyone else

We all know that England are rubbish. When they lose we (their fans) just know that they suck. And Wins are only the result of poor opposition, good players missing, great teams under-performing, or some horrible fluke.

Firmly believing this, I wanted to prove that England are the worst at bowling out 10th wicket partnerships. It wasn’t hard. Cricinfo has this wonderful list of the top 50 best, most horrible, 10th wicket stands. I figured that England appeared a lot in that list: as the victim –¬†obviously. After twisting a SUMIF statement I produced the simple table to your right. It tells you that England are easily twice as bad as everyone else at conceding runs to the worst batters in the other team. Whoops.

OK, I know that with historical cricket stats, England and Australia are likely to have skewed results because they have played more matches but,¬†even so, it isn’t something to stick on your bedroom wall. Unless you’re a REAL England fan.

England are OK

Do not look at this.

In the interests of fair play, I think England fans should ignore the table to the left¬†which shows that even though they are TERRIBLE at bowling out numbers 10 and 11, their own numbers 10 and 11 aren’t the worst. Shame on you England – stop being decent, I can’t cope.

What else stands out from¬†this table¬†is that, given how (relatively) few test matches that New Zealand have played, they’ve had more than a few decent digs from their rats and mice down the order – fear them.

<– (total runs scored by 10th wicket partnerships, per country, from the top 50)

 

Viewpoint – 3rd Level Does Exist

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Viewpoint Box ArtAbout 15 years ago I finally stumped up about ¬£70 (just over $100) for this beautiful isometric shooting game on SNK’s¬†fabled NeoGeo console. I couldn’t get the Japanese version (nicer box art) but I was more than content with the European version because the game was no different.

I loved everything about the game. The type of game is one of my favourites – a shmup – where you control a tiny ship and dodge bullets while shooting waves of enemies. I can’t help it, I’m childish that way.

The graphics are beautiful; the colours are bold, the animation is smooth, and there is a lavish attention to¬†detail. The graphics style is unusual, the game is viewed in “isometric 3D” … SEGA’s Zaxxon was (possibly?) the earliest shooting game to use this perspective. Even now, there are only a handful that do. Parasquad on SEGA’s 32X is one that spring to mind, but that uses what now appears clumsy 3D instead of, the still ever-so-fetching, highly polished 2D sprites of Viewpoint.

The music is very 80s, but screams of fun and somehow works perfectly to set scenes of joyous panic. And the sound effects don’t drown out the tunes … something that can irk me tremendously.

Actually, I lied. I don’t love everything about this game. There is one problem. A pretty big one too. The game is HARD. I mean REALLY BLOODY HARD. I have owned it for 15 years and today, for the first time ever, I reached level 3. LEVEL THREE. That’s really not very far is it? But I was BUZZING. Really pumped as, on my last life, I finally killed that bastard crab at the end of level two. I got so excited I took pictures – not sure if I feared I¬†dreamed it all, or that I would NEVER get there again!vp-lv3-01

This is the start of level 3. My ship was flashing at the start .. games of this ilk often give you a few second of invulnerability, at the start of the level, when there are no enemies about. Very kind ūüė¶ My previous highest score was about 128,000. Scores don’t really matter in games like this; it’s all about getting past a certain level. But¬†hey ūüôā Level 3.

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This big purple robotic slug was brand new. Obviously I had to shoot his (or her?) babies and dive into the black hole behind them.

Somehow, I threaded my way from one “smart bomb” to another and butt-clenched my way through waves of bullets. Did I mention that this was my last life? Meep.vp-lv3-03

Now this was level 3’s boss. A curious fly that was shooting at me and a rapid centipede like companion that was also shooting at me. I had no idea how their attacks would work. However, I had one trick up my sleeve – if I fired lots of little bullets the game slowed down just enough to give me a fighting chance. And I managed to damage it so that it turned around and showed me his posterior. For reasons of decency, I dare not share that image. Anyway, he killed me. Or his bottom laser did. But I was physically shaking .. so excited after just playing an old-fashioned game. And you know what? I still love Viewpoint. You should too – give it a go, be brave!

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My final death score

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem With Eoin

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Eoin Morgan has been, for a few years, one of England’s very best ODI cricketers. He hits the ball cleanly, and he stays in long enough to make hundreds. Clearly he isn’t daunted by the “big stage”.

Why then has he not managed to make the same impact at First Class or Test level? He scores slowly and can even get completely stuck. However, in the current round of county cricket, he made an aggressive 191 Рwith 29 fours and 2 sixes. Interestingly, this very impressive innings backs my theory.

I think he struggles to “tick over”, keep the score going, get off strike etc. This produces a perceived pressure and culminates in him making an over-attacking shot, which often goes wrong, and consequently he only scores big when he’s having a REALLY good day.

His innings of 191, from 265 balls contained 128 runs in boundaries … 67% of¬†his total. Contrast this with Joe Root’s recent test hundred – 200 from 298 balls, with 16 fours – only 32% of his runs in boundaries. Both batsmen scored at over 4 runs per over, yet Joe Root ticks the score along with relative ease and I believe this¬†helps him as much as it hinders Eoin. Root is thus able to play simple¬†shots to “tick over” that don’t require¬†the same degree of risk or difficulty.

England County Form XI

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So, what if the England XI for this upcoming test series vs Sri Lanka was chosen purely on county form? Sure there’d be some changes, right? But how many? Let’s have a look at the top of the batting & bowling tables. Of course, I¬†will remain unable to pick incredible imports like Saeed Ajmal. Below are my¬†picks, along with a pure guess at their chance of playing for England¬†in the next 12 months.

County cricket stats from early 2014

County cricket stats from early 2014

THE OPENERS – an easy choice here. They own the top two spots, and open for their counties.

Adam Lyth – Peanut.
Yorkshire – left hand bat..

Age 26 Рwith 5561 runs at 40.29, with 10 hundreds, 37 fifties.

A solid player who has really excelled in a few seasons, struggled last year (if memory serves) but I’m glad to see him back in form.

England chances Р10%

 

Daryl Mitchell – Mitch.
Worcestershire – right hand bat.

Age 30 Рwith 7748 runs at 40.14, with 17 hundreds, 34 fifties.

He always appears to score runs without screaming his name. The kinda guy that Worcestershire fans will love, but others might not know so well.

England chances Р0%

 

THE ENGINE ROOM – the middle order. Simply the next most highly scoring batsmen, which happily includes an all-rounder for that perfect balance that we all crave.

Ed Joyce – Spud.
Sussex – left hand bat.

Age 35 – with 14,688 runs at 47.38, with 36 hundreds, 79 fifties.

A quality player who has played at the top level, for England and Ireland, but never quite hit the same heights as he did domestically. A mini Hick/Ramprakash?

England chances – 5%

 

James Vince.
Hampshire – right hand bat.

Age 23 – with 4411 runs at 40.10, with 12 hundreds, 18 fifties.

A young lad who already has a solid record and a very impressive 50s to 100s ratio. He has already played for the Lions so an eye must be upon him already. Not yet having a nickname may go against him.

England chances – 15%
(His chances depend on the success of the current new boys.)

 

Samit Patel.
Nottinghamshire – right hand bat (slow left arm).

Age 29 – with 12,849 runs at 40.36, with 20 hundreds, 40 fifties.

Like Ed Joyce Samit has already played for England and many people wanted him in the squad. When he was younger, I hope he could be England very own Potato – you know – like the mighty Inzamam-Ul-Haq. I didn’t make that comparison lightly, Samit averaged over 50 earlier in his 20s. His offspin is also handy and adds great balance to any team as a 5th bowler.

England chances – 10%
(Only so low because Moeen Ali has been picking ahead of him in the current squad.)

William Bragg.
Glamorgan – left hand bat.

Age 27 – with 3513 runs at 31.08, with 2 hundreds, 23 fifties.

Listed as a wicket keeper but¬†currently batting at number 3. Clearly a great year for the lad, but one season doesn’t get you picked for your national team. Hopefully good form will continue and we’ll know his name better in the future.

England chances – 0%

THE WICKET KEEPER –¬†the highest scoring ‘keeper is Riki Wessels¬†but he currently does have the gloves for Notts, so his colleague makes my list.

Chris Read – Reados.
Nottinghamshire – right hand bat.

Age 35 – with 13,716 runs at 36.67, with 21 hundreds and 76 fifties.

He has been my favourite ‘keeper in the country for over a dozen years. Genuinely pugnacious, and appears to live nothing more than getting his team out of a tight spot. Arguably the best “gloveman” in the country. I still think England should pick him.

England changes – 0%

THE BOWLERS – without these guys you cannot win a test match. Fact.

Will Gidman – Gidders.
Gloucestershire – right arm medium (left hand bat).

Age 29 – with 186 wickets at 20.30 (also 2140 runs at 36.27).

More of an all-rounder than I’d previously realised and not to be confused on scorecards with his older brother who is also an all-rounder, but more of a batsman. Suffers from a terrible nickname, but it is a mystery to me, with bowling figures like this, why he hasn’t even featured for the Lions.

England chances – 15%
(I hope I’m wrong!)

Jack Brooks.
Yorkshire(!) Рright arm medium fast (right hand bat).

Age 30 – with 190 wickets at 27.15 (also 509 runs at 13.05).

A sweat-band touting and excitable bowler who powers the ball down as much by force of will as anything else. Draws the faces of the oppositions 3 most dangerous batsmen on eggs and eats them before matches. OK, not true, but it would be fun. He has played for the Lions … there are those that wanted him in this squad too. You get the feeling he’d never willingly let his captain down.

England chances – 25%

Mark Footitt.
Derbyshire – left arm fast medium (right hand bat).

Age 28 – with 137 wickets at 30.03 (also 354 runs at 7.69).

Possibly not reached the heights he hoped for having played for England’s U19 team. Derbyshire have produced a good few quicks over the years. Being a left armer suits this team down to the ground. not sure he’s on the selection radar right now, but there’s no reason he couldn’t get there. Obviously having a great season thus far.

England chances – 0%

Adam Riley.
Kent – right arm offbreak (right hand bat).

Age 22 – with 70 wickets at 31.30 (also 186 runs at 7.75).

The second of two batting rabbits, but they’re here for wickets! Not well known before this season where he has excelled. With English spinners thin on the ground, he could well get a chance . but probably not in the next 12 months.

England chances – 0%

 

SUMMARY

Even though this unorthodox selection method features no current England players, I hope it has introduced you to a few new players on the county season. This selection method would never work though, as current England players play fewer games for their counties. Still, when picking a replacement player, I deeply wish they’d pay more attention to current county form.

SCOTTY BORTHWICK for 12th man. Because I like him.

Graeme Swann, Geoff Boycott, and I.

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But mostly them.

Graeme made me scream happily, 255 times, for every 29.96 squirms – the most successful English spinner in the history of test cricket.

In the year 2000 (I was a fan of his county numbers) and I rang “Test Match Special”. I asked Sir Geoffrey Boycott if the young lad, who had scored a few first class hundreds and had a few score of first class wickets, would get a go …. “do you watch cricket” was the surly reply.

Eight years (and 255 wickets) later Sir Geoff could have eaten his words, but I’m sure it was me that was wrong.

Now Graeme has retired – and as England’s most successful test spin bowler in history. I freely admit that he is the type of cricketer that I always wanted to be – sarcasm and all. The confidence with which he gave the press exactly what they wanted but not quite the sound-bite that they were expecting, was lovely.

Graeme, thank you.
Boycott – don’t be so quick to judge.

GRAEME’S NUMBERS:
http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/20431.html

Thank goodness for piracy – kind of.

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I have Bari-Arm and it DOES NOT WORK.

The disc appears to be fine, all the music tracks play, yet as soon as I put it into my MEGA-CD the console freezes. The title-screen doesn’t even clear. This is not a region lockout issue. My disc has been buggered and I brought the damn thing so long ago that I can’t remember who to moan at.

I thought that maybe my MEGA-CD drive is a little tired and it can’t read the disc well. So I copied it onto a new shiny blank CD-R via my PC. Without any errors reported. Same problem. Exactly.

ImageSo I downloaded a disc image. Bad me. Sod off, I’ve paid for this game and it’s broken. All I can find is the American rom, called Android Assault. Anyhow, the image is weird. There is an ISO file and a bunch of MP3s in a RAR. So I burn the ISO, but it won’t let me add music. Crap. Whatever, I’ll go check if it works. It does!! Hooray. My first ever go and it’s GREAT. Shit though, I bet it’s a truckload better with tunes!

I search for another rom. I find one and this time it’s all inside two nice BIN & CUE files. Burn, baby burn. AND LO… this is me, with my happy face, playing Bari-Arm for the first time. I LOVE IT.

Thank you, piracy.
Kind of.

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FM Towns – 20 Years in the Waiting

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smarty2

Some 20 years ago I first saw incredible screen shots, in a magazine, of SEGA’s much loved game “After Burner II”. I had After Burner II on the PC Engine and it was a decent conversion of the impressive arcade original. The trouble was, at the time, none of the home consoles possessed what we called “hardware scaling” – the ability to enlarge or decrease hand-drawn sprites without a tremendous drain on the main CPU. This hardware scaling (and its cousin “hardware rotation” – the ability to rotate sprites without said drain) were key elements in the hardware of SEGA’s arcade machines. These great devices were able to throw sprites effortlessly and smoothly around the screen while leaving the main CPU to cope with all the other demands of gameplay. Home consoles at the time had no such capability and had to swap sprites of varying sizes, and rotations, at carefully timed ¬†intervals to attempt the same effect.

For this reason, after seeing a screenshot of After Burner II, with apparently hardware-scaled sprites, we were astounded, excited, envious, and troubled. How could we get one of the FM Towns computers? How much would it cost to get it shipped? This fantasy slowly faded from the foreground of our minds as we tried to cope with the knowledge that, because our favoured import stores didn’t stock such exotic beauties, we would never be able to own such a device.

As the years past, the FM Towns dream was never quite forgotten, there were more stories of “arcade perfect conversions” and vague whispers about other versions of the FM Towns; all in one super machines, and even a cut-down console-like ¬†contraption called a Marty. The concept became something between a dream and a myth. Off on a tangent, two other items that I didn’t believe were real once upon a time are Phantasy Star 1 on the Megadrive, and the rubbery wonder that is a ¬†Commodore 116.

Sorry for all that drivel, but if you’re still alive, awake, or interested, my hope is that it may suffice as a background to what occurred next.

A year ago, a facebook gentleman (HCK) living in Japan (possibly the best country I’ve never visited) was selling some of his wares (ie, super fantastic wonderful consoles) to gain coin to help a family member. Among the items has was shifting was … you may have sagely guessed … an FM Towns (the Marty version). As my birthday was approaching I decided that I would attempt to gather my funds and buy the device at long last (the price was extremely reasonable). Time passed. Slowly. Nothing showed up. Months went by. Nothing. THEN AT LAST … NEWS!! … it had been sent to the Americas in error! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. No. No NOOOOOO.

It made a second journey. But again, time was the only entity to move. Nothing reached me, or indeed anyone else. That Marty is, extremely sadly, MIA. So, about a month ago, the splendid gent agreed to send a 2nd Marty. We agreed to go via tracked EMS this time, and go halves on shipping. I was very pleased, for he knew not if I had ever received the first Marty, and I knew not if he had ever sent it. This time it would be tracked. This time we’d both know!

delivery

The bastards at customs did their absolute best to make a total mockery of EMS’s 3-5 day delivery. That poor, helpless, and defenceless FM Towns Marty was in Coventry, of all places, for longer than I have ever been and FAR longer than is fair to any electrical device. Those pricks also charged a ¬£13.50 “clearance fee” and ¬£27.74 import tax. Anyhow, sod it. I had, in my sweaty paws, a bloody FM Towns!!! And, after all these years, here she is *sniff*

thetowns

I love my wife for tolerating my fetish.
Love your spouse too, for we are weird!
And I love my FM Towns ūüėČ

ADDED 1 YEAR LATER:
NOW HELP ME CELEBRATE BY GETTING THIS T-SHIRT –
teespring.com/fmtownsmarty

No Ashes Momentum from ODI

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In 2005 the T20 win, and the ODI wins over Australia were vital victories before the Ashes. That is not the case, for either team, this year. In 2005 England were so terribly used to being beaten, well beaten, by Australia (then the number one team in the world by a mile) that a few must have doubted that any victory over them at all was permitted.Ash-1

The T20, where England scored 179 and Australia were reduced to 30 odd for 7, made some people believe that some of the Australians had human frailties. The Australians, with a degree of validity, brushed this T20 loss aside as insignificant and a bit of a laugh; after all, no-one was quite sure what to make of T20 at the time (it was the only the second international).

After that, during the one day triangular series with Bangladesh, England scored a victory, a loss, and a tie against the enemy. Even in spite of that loss England again ended the series with the feeling they were no longer a hopeless case, the final was tied and the series shared.

To follow were another three ODIs in a NatWest series Рwhich I had completely forgotten about! Aus won it by two thrashings to one hammering. But the important thing about all these series was that England had learned that is WAS POSSIBLE TO BEAT AUSTRALIA. For the entire preceding decade, this appeared not to be the case.

That self-belief meant that England knew beating Australia was not only possible, but likely¬†if they played their best cricket. The “momentum” they gained from the ODI series that year was vital as it removed age-old mental baggage.

This time, even for Australia, the level of mental scar tissue is nothing like as deep. As a result of this, there isn’t the same level of self-belief to be gained from a victory either way in the following ODI. Let us therefore, enjoy this ODI for what it is, a highly appropriate appetiser for the Ashes series to come!

“In 2005¬†Glenn McGrath missed two Ashes test matches.¬†England won the Ashes 2-1. In 2005 England beat Australia, but they did not beat McGrath.”