Wooo! It's December! Which means it's nearly Christmas. Wooo! Just think - we can all spend hours upon hours walking around shopping centres, battling crowds and wracking our brains on what to buy for that special person, only for them to receive the carefully selected gift on the big day, rip the wrapping paper off and say "...oh, er, that's nice." Well, to that shit I say NAY! For this year, dear reader, I will be buying exactly nothing for exactly no-one. Now, I realise that's a massive double negative and actually infers that I, Tomleecee will actually be buying something for everyone...but you get my drift. Right?
Just as well I'm not buying in to the festivities this year really, as it leaves me with more money to buy firkins of moonshine (which will no doubt be consumed alone, in a cold, bare room on Christmas Day)...and Dreamcast games. The latter of which are things I've been snapping up with alarming regularity of late. The reason it's taken me a week to get around to writing this diatribe though is that I've been patiently waiting for all of these games to be delivered, as they were mostly purchased off of that there popular online auction site...as the BBC may refer to it.
These days I tend to go for the more unusual, harder to find games that were released for the PAL system, and this week I got hold of a game that I've been trying to get my hands on for ages. I realise that there are other, much more highly sought-after titles out there in NTSC-land, but I don't really dabble with the US/Jap side of things - I leave that stuff to the more learned amongst the DCJY team. And speaking of more learned team mates, Happy Birthday to Gagaman! It was his birthday on Monday but he kept it quiet, so feel free offer your condolences via the comments section. Cough. Getting back to the point, I tend to go after the blue boxed rarities rather than the orange ones, and this week's haul has united me with one such gem...but before I get to it, here's a quick run-down of the other stuff that arrived this week. Cheers postie! No more strikes, please!
Grand Theft Auto 2
Yep, long before Tony Whats-his-face or Nico Bellic were mincing about a fully 3D Liberty City, car-jacking and shagging hoes in alleys, GTA was firmly rooted in the realms of the 'top down shooter.' GTA 2 diverts from the original PSX game in that it's set in a sort of semi-futuristic world where several major gangs rule over the city, and you have to please each gang leader in turn to unlock new missions etc.
Let's be honest here - every man and his dog has played GTA in some form or another, so there's little point in me bleating on about how it works. What I will bleat on about though, is just how badly this game seems to have aged. Back when GTA 2 was released, nobody knew that the 3rd installment of the series would lead to a semi-revolution in the way all games were created, and the humble origins of today's titles seem a million miles away from the GTA we know and love.
From the top-down view (I still reckon the DC has enough grunt to handle a fully 3D version of this game, just look at Crazy Taxi for proof) and non-existent storyline, to the slightly bizarre control set up (the button configurations are ker-azy) and the disorientating way the vehicles handle, GTA 2 feels just plain odd to play nowadays. It still holds a lot of charm in a 'this-is-how-it-all-began' kind way, but to be honest I'd much rather play GTA 4 than this anyday.
MTV Skateboarding Feat. Andy McDonald
Hands up if you've ever heard of Andy McDonald? At first I thought this was a skateboarding game featuring that bloke who used to be in Coronation Street (sorry non-UK readers who haven't got a fucking clue what I'm on about), but it transpires that Andy McDonald is a skateboarder! Who'd have thunk it?! Hot on the tail of old war-horse Tony Hawk, Andy McDonald's title tries so, so hard to trump the master at his own game...but sadly (and rather inevitably) falls slightly short of the railing, bails and then smashes his teeth out by landing face-first on the pavement (or as Andy would probably say, sidewalk).
You know, I actually bought a real-life skateboard earlier this year, along with all the relevant gear (helmet, pads, trendy Vans trainers etc) because I somehow got it into my head that I wanted to learn how to do it properly. I went down to the local skate park and it quickly dawned on me that I was the only 27-year-old there...and that I couldn't ride the board for shit. The reason I tell you this slightly embarrassing anecdote is because if you took my skateboarding skills and made a game out of them, MTV Skateboarding is what you'd end up with: it's got the best intentions in the world (brilliant soundtrack, decent graphics, nice front end), but it hasn't got an ounce of the finesse of the professionals.
It actually looks quite good y'know. Shame about the Slow-mo pace.
And by this I mean that the controls suck beyond belief (there's about a 3 second delay between you pressing 'A' and an 'ollie' being performed on-screen), the frame rate makes it look like you're playing the game in half-speed (like on a DVD when you press pause and then play) and the various game-modes are hard as nails to actually get anywhere in. An example: in the 'Collect' mode, you have to collect MTV logos. Collect 10 and you'll open the next skate park. The thing is, if you collect a logo and then fall off your board (which you will - constantly), you lose it and it magically flies off back to where you collected it from! How unfair is that?! Bah - go away Andy McDonald and take your lame-ass Tony Hawk rip-off with you. Leave the soundtrack though, cock munch.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I gave the skateboard to a friend's 13 year old son. Kept the Vans for playing Speedball in though.
Basketball. Never really been interested in it to be honest, although I gather it's all the rage in the territories...erm, sorry 'America.' Anyway, before I cause a bigger outrage than that time when half of Liverpool wanted me dead for calling John Lennon a chav, let's get back to the task in hand: NBA Hoopz. Anybody remember NBA Jam? I had it on the Atari Jaguar many, many moons ago and back then - being a person of simpler tastes - I found it quite enjoyable. Well, NBA Hoopz is quite similar in that it features teams of 3 players 'balling' and 'letting rip' with outlandish special moves and dribbling skills. For me, the real life sport offers little because to my eye it just looks like a load of massive, muscly men running back and forth across a badminton court - but NBA Hoopz does offer some entertainment simply because it adds an air of ridiculousness to proceedings.
Reflections, motherfucka! Mr Ronseal's work is done here
The players themselves are slightly super-deformed, so you can pretty much tell from the off it's not going to be another super-serious NBA 2K2-athon - and you'd be right. The action is frantic and sometimes a bit hard to follow as the possession of the ball constantly switches sides and the size of the court leads to shots raining in constantly...which in turn leads to some very high-scoring matches. NBA Hoopz has everything you'd expect from an NBA title - licensed teams, squeaky sound effects and OTT play by play commentary. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the game...so if you're a fan of the subject matter then you'll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Fair enough?
Aerowings 2: Air Strike
Oh yeah. Now we're talking. Remember 10 minutes ago before you read all that shite about my skateboard and Nico Bellic? Those 10 minutes you'll never get back? Remember? I was on about a game I've been after for ages. This is that game! Aerowings 2! It's even got a cool sub-title: Air Strike. Just rolls off the tongue doesn't it? Don't answer - that was rhetorical. So here we are then, the last great Dreamcast game that I've been searching for. Oh, there are others I don't yet have in my collection, but they can wait; Airstrike appears on ebay but once in a blue moon, so to actually win the auction was quite a momentous occasion for me. Yes, maybe I do need to get out more, but I'VE FINALLY GOT AEROWINGS 2!!! So how does it play? Well...
Watch this space very shortly for a full-scale 'proper' review. Natch*.
*Credit to Amiga Power, circa 1994.