Breaking Down Mortal Kombat II

I’d like to spend a moment describing my experiences about the second Mortal Kombat game that was released for Sega Mega Drive in 1993. The game has some technical limitations as Mega Drive isn’t, and wasn’t even back in the days, the most powerful platform to release a game like this. Arcade version of this game might have been smoother but we aren’t going to go there today since it’s been too long time for me to talk about that here.

As a software developer graduate I can see some things while playing that I don’t know if they are so clear for people that don’t know computers, technology and programming so well. This small blog post is here for you to dive a bit deeper on how the game is played. I also understand that some people are way better at playing this kinds of games. I have only spent some tens of hours playing Mortal Kombat. Also I like to note that I am concentrating on Mortal Kombat II here instead of all two dimensional fighting games. Yes, there are many of them and I have to mention Street Fighter series here.

This stuff is very interesting for me. I can see how the game kind of “reads” your moves. The opponent, it is this time a computer, reacts to your moves. It can make a move that is most suitable for a certain situation. So the key to winning your opponent is to react with a move that is the best move in your situation. You have to time this move correctly. You have to be in a right position. And this isn’t all there is to it. You can make moves freely. You have to define when and at which position to make the move that is correct move for you to make the opponents health bar decrease.

Fighting games have come a long way since the days of 1993. It is very different to play against the computer than it would be to play against a player. I know that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are very popular as genres of electronic sports. So you can have a competition against human players. This is how the game was designed. It sometimes feels like the computer is cheating but what else would it do than read your input and position and react as fast and powerfully as possible.

But to talk more about the game. It’s a great game. I find it very fascinating. The graphics are better than the first Mortal Kombats were. It seems like the development team have done a great work. The game has twelve different characters that have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes the game even more interesting. To beat the game you have to know how to play with not only one character but many different characters that have their unique special moves and so on. You could actually compare and describe which characters are best against a specific opponent.

I am not sure what the basic attributes of all the characters are. I haven’t touched or even seen the source code. I am not aware if this code is available or is it “open source” or closed code. I know that Mega Drive didn’t have so much memory to use. Graphics and movement took a lot of processing from this gaming console also. When considering that this game was released in 1993 it is a game of very good quality. There is also a port for PC. If you are a big fan I can recommend to getting your hands on Mortal Kombat X. And to be honest I have to say that I just some days ago ordered Mortal Kombat 11 for PS4. I had to do it because the price was, I think, this time good. I hope this short blog post can give you inspiration wherever you are and in what situation with work or studying you might be.

How Basketball Games Have Evolved – From Super Real Basketball to NBA2K18

The first basketball game I ever owned was Super Real Basketball. It was released for Sega Mega Drive. Later NBA Jam came and it was maybe the best basketball game, or maybe title, of all time in sport games history. Let’s take a deeper look into how Super Real Basketball was played and how it was compared to the latest basketball game I have right now in my collections.

Super Real Basketball was fast paced game. You could move one player that had or didn’t have the ball. You had your defensive play and your offensive play. You could steal the ball if opponent tried to pass it to a teammate. When you had a drive to the basket there suddenly appeared an animation that required you to hit the shoot button at right moment. If you were on defense and you were near the player that was trying to score you could block the shot, again, by pressing a button at correct time. If you wanted to shoot a three pointer that was also possible.

The limitations of one of the first Sega Mega Drive basketball games were that although it promised a sense of reality it actually wasn’t very realistic. One thing there is that could have been designed better and that was the statistics of the game. The game didn’t have strong statistics. There weren’t real names of players of NBA or any other league. Names were just some basic names. You really couldn’t make much of a difference between players. Some players were faster than others or had better shooting skills. You just couldn’t name a player that was good with for example ball handling.

When it comes to the latest basketball games there is lots of improvements that have been made over the time as sport games have generally developed more. The latest NBA game I have is NBA2K18. The 2K series of basketball games has had good reviews, I think, since the release of NBA2K14. I think you can already trust the quality. When there is another season beginning there will be a good basketball game made with the latest players and teams.

Statistics ar great in NBA2K18. You basically play maybe two or three seasons and develop your player. You first choose some qualities of the player that don’t change like the name, number of the players shirt and height and even weight. You have to think what kind of a player you want to create. Will it be a 3 point shooter, point guard or play maker or do you want to become a center that has amazing blocking and defensive skills. After that you play the regulat season, one season is 82 games long and if you win enough games, you go to playoffs. Your player gets skill points that give you options to buy more stats for your player.

The gameplay is very nicely developed especially compared to the first basketball game I was talking about earlier. You can make steals, although you can get a penalty, if you are too much into stealing the ball, block a shot of an opponent in real time. Shooting is based on how open you are, what kind of a release you have and also how good is the ability of shooting of your player. You have a strong feel that you are actually the player. The Mega Drive game was about team play – the newer game is about individual player, but you have some game modes that enable you to play as a team or as a coach. I’ve only played NBA 2Ks, 2K14 and 2K18, as a single, individual, player.

So there is a lot of progress. I can tell you about NBA Jam also a bit. I first started playing it in an arcade. We had a great arcade that had games like NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat. So that was the first touch. I later played with a friend that had College Slam on his PC. That was cool. Lately I bought NBA Jam for Mega Drive. It’s still a great and fast paced basketball game that is played two versus two. There have been many versions and I like the PS3 version the most. It’s funniest when played with an opponent that is a human person. It’s not so much fun if played against a computer.

So these two basketball games are ones that I truly have myself played and I’ve played them a lot. It’s really nice to see how the sports games have been developing since late 1980s. And you can see how licensing, and I mean here that the players and teams have real names, affects the experience of the game. You can name a player that is good at shootiing three pointers for example. Like, to mention someone, Stephen Curry. It gives that certain touch to the games build aaround playing basketball. There are also games in which you can play on the streets. Maybe I have space and time to write about them some other time.

There’s Something About Space Shooters

There is a genre of video games that is called “shoot-em-ups” or “shmups” for short. These shooter types of games have been in my mind since I was a child. I am not sure where I picked up these memories. It was probably from some arcade, restaurant, bar or some other place that I spotted a game or few that were about space, shooting and monsters. The game I have in my mind, or the memory of it, takes place in some space related environment. There are blinking dragons and a flying star fleet ship that is shooting that thing.

Of course this isn’t any real game. It was some unknown game that I had seen somewhere. It is however true that there were games like this, space shoot-em-ups, in the end of the 80s in arcades (for example). When the hottest gaming device was Sega Mega Drive they marketed the gaming console with a promise that it would bring arcades to living rooms of our homes. Maybe the graphics weren’t as impressive but they were something at that time. They were a bit more detailed than those NES games we had seen some years earlier. And the sound that was generated was better in pure quality also.

The screenshot that is related to this¬† blog post is taken from a game that is called Gynoug. I’m not sure if it is qualified as a space shoot-em-up but it for sure is a shoot-em-up. This game represents the genre. Playing this game can give some view about the it. It is often said that Mega Drive games are hard to play and that they repeat themselves a lot. I am mentioning also the fact that there was no way for the player to save the game and this caused the game usually to be very repetitive. I can understand this better when I think about what kind of a deal it was to design and program a game in 1990s. So the game development methods weren’t as advanced as nowadays. Maybe someone should desing more new games for Mega Drive today?

The influence these games gave to the whole industry of game development is undeniable. The key to success inside space shoot-em-ups is to move to correct direction at correct time and shooting all of time and accurately. I can already see how programmers coded the behavior of the monster you are shooting. Often you can recognize the pattern. Then you move according to where you see you have the position that enables you to not get hit by a missile or any other particle that is headed at you. This can be fun. Nowadays you do see the limitations of the games designed in the past. Althought there is a lot to learn from these games. I definitely recommend you to play some shooter game like this. This game can be Zero Wing, M.U.S.H.A. or Gynoug but there are also other good ones.

My Recent Experiences of SEGA Mega Drive

I recently stumbled on a nice deal. I found that SEGA Mega Drive Mini was on sale. Its price was 59 euros. Of course my living, or gaming, room is full of consoles. So I had to buy also a new HDMI Switching Console to get some more devices connected to my television. I forgot to buy one more HDMI cable so I ended up unplugging my PlayStation Classic. I’m getting a new cable some time after the holidays. Anyways I got my “retro nostalgia” on again. Played a game of Streets of Rage II with my wife. She usually doesn’t play so much but this game inspired her a lot. We played some time maybe an hour or so. Mega Drive has so many great games.

Some might say that SNES is better than Mega Drive. In my opinion there isn’t “the best console” or “better console” just a different type of console. If someone says Mega Drive doesn’t have any reasonable, decent or good games, I believe is wrong. There is always this comparison. Mega Drive and SNES were competing hard. SNES seemed to capture younger audience with games and characters like Super Mario or Donkey Kong or Zelda. Mega Drive brought fighting and violence in the form of hockey games with fights and blood in games like Mortal Kombat. I’m not going very deeply in the technological differences of these two. Let’s just say that Mega Drive was released, in Europe, 1990 and SNES was released 1992. So I believe SNES was slightly better in purely technical view.

As I am saying these consoles were not bad or good. They were different. For me it was always Mega Drive. I remember getting it in maybe 1993. I still have the original box it came in. It is a bit worn out because I took my Mega Drive with me at times when spending time outside our homes living room when I was a child. It has so many memories. I played hours and hours. At that time games wouldn’t take ten to thirty hours to complete. They were smaller and often more difficult to play. So there really was no room for SNES inside my gaming hobby at that time. I have got to know SNES better as I grew more older and understood better its meaning as one of the most popular gaming consoles of the past.

Music and graphics are a bit old but at the same time very nostalgic. I don’t know if it’s reasonable to spend some hours to play these old games. Why do I keep coming back to Mega Drive? Because I like also about the fact that it was a part of history. It was part of my history and it was part of the history of gaming. The price for this purchase I made was low. If you consider that the price was about 100 euros, and 59 euros was the price I bought it,¬† and that this device had 42 games installed I think this was a very good deal and it brought many great memories to my mind. It is a reflection of the times of the 90s.

I am saying Merry Christmas for all the readers of this blog. Take a break. You have earned it!

Sega vs Nintendo – What was it all about?

Nintendo released a maximum mega hit gaming console back in the 80’s. It was called NES or Nintendo Entertainment System. Atari had released gaming consoles targeted to use inside customers living rooms. It was about the time when arcades were quickly challenged by these kinds of devices you could easily set up inside your own home. The trend was there. Personal computers, PCs, were becoming more and more popular also.

While Sega Master System wasn’t a very bad console it couldn’t fully challenge NES. Sega knew they had to release a better, more powerful, gaming console to compete with Nintendo. Mega Drive, or Genesis as it was called in the USA, was released at the end of 1980’s and in Europe right at the beginning of 90’s.

I remember clearly the commercial of Mega Drive. It was a promise to bring arcades to homes. It delivered graphics and sound at 16-bit quality instead of earlier gaming consoles 8-bits. If Master System didn’t have so many hit games Sega promised also to bring good quality software in the form of great games. Sonic The Hedgehog and Golden Axe II were some of the most popular titles back then with not forgetting some greatness that was brought to paying customers by games like Splatterhouse, Streets Of Rage and for example Kid Chameleon.

Nintendo had Super Mario. Can someone say seriously that Super Mario wasn’t a great game? I think no one would say or think that way. So he was the mascot of the whole NES and also Nintendo. The battle for the gamers hearts (and money) was ultimately bloody and sweaty. You can have, if you wish, a great debate about which console had better games then the other.

As the battle continued Nintendo seemed to take in consideration how violent some games were. They started to deliver fighting games with no blood, hockey games without fights and cute characters that might seem to appeal to younger audience. Sega instead was reaching for customers that wanted this kind of rawness in their games. They didn’t remove the blood or the violence. You have to remember that things were a bit different back then since games in general weren’t so realistic. Sega was also paying more attention to the packaging of their games since Master Systems games were catching critic on that issue.

So who won the battle? You can definitely say that both consoles and companies were doing great. Sega was successful and so was Nintendo. Later, Sega made some bad decisions and started to be in trouble. The last console that was released was Dreamcast. Nintendo instead has been bringing gaming consoles up to this day as Switch is their latest console. Dreamcast was released in the end of 90’s and Switch was released 2017.

 

Return to Golden Axe II

Golden Axe II has been one of my favorite games that I used to play back in the 90s with my Sega Mega Drive. I didn’t own a copy. I borrowed this game several times from a friend. I played it. I played it a lot. Today I have a Retro Trio that can be used to play NES, SNES and Mega Drive cartridges. So, some time ago I figured that I definitely should get a copy of this great game. Finally I made the purchase and it wasn’t even a pricey game. I bought it for 30 euros.

Golden Axe II was released 1992 as a PAL version in Europe. You just have to admire how well this game was made. It is an old game. I think there’s just the right mixture of fantasy and realness. There are dragons, axes and swords, magic and different kinds of monsters. Graphics were good when the game was originally released and they still feel pleasant considering it is a retro game. Playability seems nice. It is a beat-em-up game but you still find a rich environment that includes lots of fantasy elements. This game could have even some role playing game features but I think it wasn’t a time for that kind of a game to be released back in 1992. I think this combination of action, adventure and roleplaying was reached later when games like Diablo became very popular.

I have always been a bit doubtful on fantasy and roleplaying. I haven’t got in to this kind of material so much. I like FPS and racing games more. I just like to concentrate fully on the game and get rid of my everyday worries and stress. So, games involving deep fantasy elements aren’t so appealing to me. I also find fantasy books not so interesting. Maybe some day I pick up one of those Tolkiens books and start reading it. You may like roleplaying, stories and fantasy elements. It just isn’t for me.

One thing I haven’t really written about here in this post is that the first Golden Axe was a kind of a pioneer in artificial intelligence of enemies. It was among first games that used this kind of programmable variety of different kinds of actions. You can clearly see these elements when you are playing also the sequel. In the beginning of the game you have to make your choice about which player you wish to begin your journey with. You have a hero with a powerful axe but not so effective magical attacks and a hero with a sword and very powerful magical attacks. And I think the third hero is something in between of these abilities.

I finished the game in the roughest difficulty setting with the hero that had a sword and more powerful spells. I finished the game in maybe two hours but you have to take into consideration that I have played this game a lot. It is still one of my favorites when there is a conversation about Mega Drive’s best games. It’s a bit sad that there hasn’t been a modernized version of this game. I think it has a lot of potential. I can clearly see it to be improved a bit. It would be so cool if someone would include some elements of character development when for example experience points would be gathered. The levels could be larger. And if graphics and sound effects and music could be updated that would be almost surreal. I have to mention one more time that the world that Golden Axe brings is very interesting and pleasant in all of its details. In every way it would be amazing if a proper remake of this classic would some day be made.

Creating the sound of Mega Drive

Music has always been a big part of video games. From the earliest soundtracks of Commodore 64 to the CD quality output of the first Sony PlayStation this genre of video game music has been developing as time has progressed. PS1s sound cannot be classified as chiptune. We are here going to concentrate to earlier sound worlds of consoles and especially to Sega Mega Drive. If you didn’t already know I am going to also mention that Mega Drive and Genesis are basically the same. The name Genesis was used in USA. But the consoles are the same.

Commodore 64 wasn’t as powerful as Mega Drive. It still plays a big role in the development of video game music. Many good principles of making music were first introduced to music producers when there were C-64 games soundtracks created. Back in 80s the music was generated with applications called trackers. It differs in many considerations from music production today. Today it is common for a musician to have a fairly powerful personal computer, software and a keyboard and a microphone. At some times producers used hardware synthesizers and even samplers (mainly hip hop). Today it is common to have virtual intruments that are called VST instruments or to put short VSTi’s. There is also effects which are called VST effects.

So how does modern music production relate to retro games music? It is interesting because many artists or hobbyists are still interested in the worlds of sounds that were created over 20 years ago. They still sound freash. Even if they have this sort of a retro feel. It is still interesting how they actually managed to get quality sound out of these primitive devices. This sound is actually a genre that is called simply “Chip Tune”.

I am going to tell you how you can basically build this sound and compose as original chip tune artist. You first need a VSTi host app. I prefer free one so you can download a program called LMMS (Linux Music Making Studio) that runs on both Windows and Linux. I prefer also Linux and VSTis don’t even work today on Linux. Then you will need a proper free VSTi. We are going to use a synth called Genny. You can see this posts featured image. That is the GUI of Genny. Don’t be afraid of the look of this image – it has many ready-made presets so you don’t necessarily have to make your owns.

In LMMS you load a thing called VeSTige. That’s the actual host for VSTis. Then, if you have already Genny’s .dll-file downloaded, you can load it up to VeSTige. It’s that simple. Feel free to change presets and play sounds from your MIDI- or even regular keyboard. Nice! If you have any difficulties just try to search with Google for additional tutorials and tips. I am not going to tell you everything about VSTis and LMMS, but I am very sure that you will find information about these if you proceed to create your own tunes with these tools. This was just a few words about generating some chip tune music. Bye, for now!

Childhoods Favourite – NHL 94

I wrote recently about Sonic The Hedgehog and how it was my first Sega Mega Drive game. I am going to present to you another game that I liked to play on this gaming system. It was Electronic Arts’s NHL 94. I remember it well as a game that was fun to play and which delivered awesome playability and challenge. You could play just one game. There was possibility to play an All Star game. There were no national teams but I remember how I found many Finnish players on various NHL teams. I think best of them were Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne. Selanne played in Winnipeg Jets with another Finnish player Teppo Numminen.

You could also start a Playoffs series. I think there was a possibility to play the whole season but as there were no way to save your game that would have been pointless. You could adjust the difficulty level and the length of a period. Big part of this game were the statistics. Players had different abilities such as speed and shot and passing accuracy. Sometimes players were injured. The game kept record of user stats. I remember how I tried to make the crowd cheer more because I wanted to break the record of the desibel levels of the crowd.

I played this game a lot. I think it’s the game I played most on my Mega Drive. NHL 94 was released also on SNES and Sega CD. There was also a release for PC that was simply titled “NHL Hockey”. It had official NHL license. Wikipedia states also that many people think that this is the best sports game ever released. According to my text above I don’t think this becomes as a surprise. It was developed as two dimensional point of view. If you like to play older NHL games I can tell you that I also like NHL 97. Maybe I will write a post also about that game some day.

Solution for playing games on a smart phone

Smart phones are today very powerful devices. They are able to run many applications and it’s common to view video material and also to play games on these devices. There still do exist some problems. The touch screen of any modern mobile device including tablets is not the best way to control for example the main character of a platformer. There is a solution and I am going to introduce it to you my dear readers.

iPega is a chinese company that has brought an innovative solution for playing games on mobile devices available for consumers world wide. It is basically a small gamepad that uses Bluetooth technology to transfer players inputs and commands to the device. It has a battery included that can be charged with basic micro-USB charger. The battery lasts for long enough and if you want to make sure that it doesn’t shut down in a vital moment you can plug your gamepad to charger. You can do this to your phone also if you are conserned about how long will its battery last.

This gamepads model is PG 9017 S. There are many different models available. They don’t cost so much. I remember buying my gamepad for just under 30 euros. It uses Bluetooth, so you have to pair it with your phone and also connect to it. This happens by pressing two buttons for couple of seconds. There are different modes so you might have to test which mode to use for the connection. The gamepad has nice amount of buttons. It has axis-button, X, Y, A, B buttons and select and start buttons and two shoulder buttons on left and right. It also has two thumb buttons. It can signal the user when battery is starting to run low. The user can attach this controller with some kind of a clip. So the phone goes on top of this mechanical system placed horizontally. The clip is strong and it doesn’t allow the phone to slip out or move at all.

I haven’t any serious issues with this product. It’s a cool gamepad that you can take on a trip too as its battery doesn’t require so much power. You can install some emulators and transfer some ROMs to your device. Be aware of your phones memory capacity as ROMs can take some space. You can even buy a memory card if your phone is compatible. Just remember the thumb rule – if you don’t own the game don’t copy it. That’s illegal. But you can really have fun with this kind of a setup. You can for example play games of consoles like NES, SNES, Mega Drive or even Nintendo DS. Earlier gaming consoles don’t require so much from your hardware but when we are talking about more modern systems, such as PSP emulators, there might be some system requirements that you will have to take in consideration.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Just stopped my daily evening routines, or maybe I had some free time, to play some Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Mega Drive. This was actually my first game on this platform. And actually it wasn’t on the original system but on Retro Trio HD. I haven’t yet figured a way to get HDMI out of my Mega Drive. I should really dig into that some day. There might be a converter available for that specific purpose. But let’s get back to the game.

There exists tens of games that have the name, Sonic The Hedgehog, or at least Sonic, as their title. This was the first of them all. It was 1991 and Sega desperately needed some kind of a front figure or mascot to compete with Nintendos Super Mario. So Sega really made an effort to produce a quality game that would be able to compete with Nintendo. Sega had this issue of having a powerful console, more powerful than Nintendo then had, but it lacked good quality games. Nintendo had their Mario, Castlevania and Bubble Bobble games. Mega Drive games were thought to be too repetitive and not so appealling. That was partly true and even today this matter comes to mind when comparing these two gaming consoles.

So Sega made its best to bring to the game something different and in some way they even succeeded. Sonic was basically a platformer, just like Super Mario Bros, but it extended this concept a bit. Sonic had abilities Mario couldn’t even dream of. It could spin and it’s speed increased as it ran a little bit forward. It collected rings instead of coins. When an enemy hit Sonic, or the other way around, it lost all the rings it possessed. And…you could collect some of them back after you had been stroke by an enemy. This was something unique that had never seen before. Sonic had a wider and more approachable personality than Mario had. Sonic was maybe even cooler than its competitor.

As a game Sonic The Hedgehog isn’t as playable or enjoyable as for example Super Mario Bros 3. Even Bubble Bobble, that didn’t have these games scrollable screen, stands out as a better platformer. If you compare it to some good platformers that were released on later, newer, consoles, it loses to them. But Sonic has its own fans and it is clearly the most approachable mascot for Sega. The one thing you remember this company of. So it is honorable that they created this well known character.

I paused my life for a moment and played Sonic for about two hours today. I just had to take that picture with my phones camera and tell you a bit about this remarkable game. After all this the start. I have some other very interesting games that are having this blue hedgehog inside them. One of them is Shadow The Hedgehog that is a game I recently bought for original Xbox. And I’m now lucky enough to have a working Xbox 360 and I’m very satisfied that the game works on it also. Another very interesting game, which has Sonic, is Sonic Adventure, that was released on Dreamcast almost ten years after the debut of Sonic. So maybe I’ll tell you more about this character later. I have to go but we are going to continue with this blog in one direction or another as soon as I have some more time to spend and to write more…

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