Tag: Amiga 500
I stumbled on to this old TV show last week and found it a fascinating insight. Yesterday’s world of computing is the focus of this blog as you would be aware, and these episodes of Computer Chronicles are a goldmine for a nostalgia buff.
I would have loved this TV show to be on air in Australia at the time. It ran from 1981 until 2002 and in its half hour, covered all computer topics from video games, software development as well as the big personalities in the computing world. I was always very uninformed as a computer loving child. I never had the chance to run my video editing business and end up a millionaire by 14.
I always knew that my Amiga 500 was special, but I like it when old TV tells me I was right.
Buying a video toaster seems like a good idea… even today!
One of the stranger games I’ve had the pleasure to play, is the enigmatic Captain Blood. Purchased by my Dad sometime in 1989-90, it was a part of an unusual compilation. The Precious Metal box had three other games, Arkanoid 2, Crazy Cars and Xenon.
Arkanoid 2 was fun but never awarded you extra lives so it was next to impossible to finish. Xenon has dorky music and sfx, but is more fun than its slicker sequel by a long way. Crazy Cars is a complete waste of time and is one of the dullest video game racers in history. Thankfully Captain Blood was a real oddball and a great game.
The premise alone is fantastic stuff.
You play as Bob Morlock, a fictional computer game programmer, known in the ‘biz’ as Captain Blood. He had just finished creating a new science fiction game, when (as always happens in the 80s) he got sucked into it.
Morlock was especially unfortunate, because the process of implanting him in the game world cloned him 30 times. It is now your job as the player to take control of Bob ‘Captain Blood’ Morlock and find these clones. Prior to the player starting the game, Morlock has absorbed twenty five of his clones over a period of 800 years, but he will soon lose all of his remaining humanity and be trapped in the game world. You have around three hours of game time to absorb the final five.
The game is mostly controlled with one of the best mouse cursors of all time, Morlock’s almost robotic grey hand. You guide this hand around his biological space ship, the Ark, to fly around the galactic map. Put Simply, Morlock needs to find out where these last clones are by asking the locals. Rarely in video games have such an array of fantastical aliens been present. However even more impressive is how you chat to them.
Captain Blood has its own language system. All the aliens speak their own languages which isn’t
English (or French in the case of this game’s developers). Their words are translated into different symbols, representing a concept, noun, emotion etc. You need to respond to them in such a way that they give you the information you need. Using the 150 or so symbols, you will be teleporting people and transporting them to new planets, destroying planets and hopefully finding out where to go next!
Probably the only downer of the game is that most of the planets are uninhabited and there is almost only one way to properly finish the game. The flying sections when you’re scouting planets for aliens are all very similar, but well animated and run very smoothly. Also the H.R. Geiger influenced visuals are a great inclusion and definitely enhance the game’s feel.
I always had difficulty knowing what the game wanted from me, and I never finished it as a result. I did understand what to do eventually, but I think it had taken a year or two of on and off playing and there were bigger and better things to play by then.
I was recently outbid on this game in an eBay auction. People are still ready to pay $40+ for this!
A couple of years ago, I posted a most amusing find on this blog; a piece of my childhood being auctioned off at a ridiculous premium. What I failed to do then was speak about this terrific game and my experiences with it.
Recent events have also led me to acquire a copy of Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday for the Mega Drive, a version I have been very curious about for close to twenty years, but I digress!
Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday was a complete triumph in SSI, TSR and all those concerned. It adapted a futuristic role playing setting (based loosely on the TV show and novels of the same name) into a traditional Gold Box Dungeons and Dragons rule set.
Besides the setting, there were two important changes between the Buck Rogers series and the older Forgotten Realms games. The player’s character ‘pieces’ were no longer customisable, but instead were picked from a selection of 40-50 preset designs. This might seem restricting, but the results were far more impressive. There was enough variation to make a great looking crew. Some of them even had headbands! Treasures of the Savage Frontier came out two years later and had far poorer looking icons.
The most important change in this game is the inclusion of class specific skills. Ten years later Third Edition D&D rules would introduce skills, but Buck Rogers would use this very well in 1990. Skills ranged from Rocket Piloting and Zero G training, to First Aid and Leadership.
The game features some idiosyncratic character classes, really capturing the comic book future. Rocket Jocks are your party leaders, rocket pilots and second tier fighters. Generally good with a firearm, it is best to not have them in the front lines.
Engineers keep your ship running, as well as being important in laying explosives as well as programming things. Rogues are the same as they are in regular D&D, except they bypass security doors/cameras as well as cut people when they aren’t looking. Medics, weakest of all, are vital as healing in Buck Rogers isn’t as simple as drinking a potion or sleeping for weeks inside a dungeon.
Apart from Terrans, playable races in the game are based on genetically modified humans. Venusians, Mercurians and Martians are all slightly modified or have simply changed over the hundreds of years living in and around their respective planets. More interesting are the Desert Runners (half beast men/women who inhabit the deserts of Mars) and Tinkers (half chimp mini people who are great engineers and medics, because of their dexterity and diminutive size).
The game gives you (after a few introductory missions) a whole solar system to explore, a multitude of secondary missions (all of which should be taken) and a great cast of characters. Buck Rogers himself makes an appearance. I have many good memories of this game back at the end of primary school, particularly how long it took Chooie and I to beat the second part of the game. No GameFAQS in 1992!
I saw this game, a year or so after playing the Amiga version, on a Mega Drive in a shopping center. It looked so different! Rather than static pieces moving across the game board, the characters animated when they walked, and the map view was isometric! This fascination stuck with me until last month, when a happy series of accidents happened and I managed to acquire a copy! When I get my Mega Drive up and running, I’ll report back!
This won’t be some retrospective on how this computer fits (fitted) into my life. I’ll leave the philosophising to the professionals. Today I’m thinking back to when my Amiga was bought and how much of an ordeal it was to get together.
I should be honest that it really wasn’t much of an ordeal for me, but more for my parents who had to do all the running around and stressing. Oh, and paying for it. You can’t forget the money.
Costing $900, the Amiga pack came with, among other things, a TV adapter. This large and frumpy plug served as a gateway between the serious computer user and the man on the street. This connector allowed the Amiga to connect to a television (much like the Commodore 64 before it). This removed a barrier that prevented many from affording a computer.
The odyssey began when we brought our first monitor home. Despite my dad asking and checking at the shop (K-Mart), it was not stereo. After we realised this, we had to RUSH it back before K-Mart closed. The monitor was returned and we got our money back. I am not sure why we had to rush. I think it was because we assumed they had a stereo monitor in stock. They didn’t.
So we had to put up with the TV for a few more weeks/months.
On the way back from my uncle’s property in Outrrim (Gippsland, Victoria), we made a stop at the K-Mart in Cranbourne. All I remember is sitting in the car for 10-15 minutes and then seeing my dad come out with a big box.
An Amiga monitor.
It might have taken a few months for to get our hands on one, but it was completely worth it.
My longest friendship started because of an Amiga. More properly, it was sealed because of an Amiga, it started because I wanted to play his Mario Game watch! It was trading games, playing co-op and being one of a few Amiga loyalists that really helped solidify our being ‘buddies’.
Chooie’s Amiga 500 was the same model as mine, and I think we bought it at roughly the same time, but it was shared between SIX people, not three. That it was able to last as long as it did impresses me. So many hands covered in mud and cookies pushing and pulling disks, touching the monitor and sticking forks in to remove jammed disks.
The hours we’d spend in front of it playing Wings, Dune II, Civilization, Boulderdash, Sim City and Lemmings probably add up to the thousands. The Gold Box AD&D games were also commonly visited on his Amiga, from the fantastic Pools of Radiance to the repetitive and cut back Treasures of the Savage Frontier, the Role playing game remains a favourite of ours.
I remember Chooie’s Amiga loaded more quietly than my mine, but was louder than my uncle’s Amiga. Such idiosyncrasies made each Amiga more than just a carbon copy of someone elses. I was prompted to recall these memories when I was helping move some furniture at his mother’s house when I noticed it, outside, in a pile of discarded objects. It didn’t look very well, and from what I gathered, no longer worked. I’m glad to have my Amiga, safely stored at my parents, but I know you can’t save everything. Although I have spoken about the Amiga in general a great deal, this Amiga had a special place in starting my most enduring friendship.
It will be missed.
Simplicity in a game is often key to it being enjoyable. The simple board games, or seemingly simple, are the ones that have the most appeal and can easily attract a large following. Simplicity, polish and hidden depth are all elements that contribute to Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf in being a flat-out amazing Amiga Game.
Developed perhaps to cash in on the popularity and coverage of Operation Desert Storm, Desert Strike places the player in charge of a single Apache attack helicopter. After picking your co-pilot you are given your first mission briefing. Co-Pilots vary slightly, with some being more accurate with weapons or faster with the winch. The winch is a vital piece of equipment as all power-ups need to be ‘picked up’ not just flown over to be collected. The briefing has the crew receiving intelligence from a General Schwarzkopf (RIP) look-alike. There are four briefings during the game, as there are only four separate missions, each divided into many smaller goals. Stormin’ Norman takes you through all the main objectives and the order to complete them.
The game’s four different missions are open for exploration in your helicopter, but it is encouraged to follow the mission order. Fuel is limited, and certain buildings must be destroyed to reveal those shiny barrels. Ammunition and Armour can be replaced through the same method. Flying around the desert you’ll find US soldiers (or Marines) cut off and fighting losing battles against Iraqi(?) forces. If you rescue them, you’ll have a passenger to take back to a forward landing pad. For each POW, soldier or agent you rescue, your helicopter will receive repairs. Once, I found a pilot next to his crashed F-15, whom I proceeded to take home. I fired a few shots at his flaming, but still intact, aircraft. It blew up, and my Dad commented disparagingly on my destruction of ‘friendly’ equipment. After the final objective is completed, a report from Schwarzkopf-alike runs through your score and penalties for the recent mission. It had +15,000 (or something similar) F-15 technology protected. I felt pretty smug.
Between missions there are a number of scenes with your adversary, the nefarious General Kilbaba. This man is based on Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin and Col Gaddafi all combined. I’m sure it is also no accident that his assistant is named Muammar either.
I found Desert Strike particularly difficult when I was younger and was unable to finish it. I am ashamed to admit it was one of the few games I resorted to using cheats to complete. It has aged very well and would be on par with a good quality independently released game.
It faced some controversy, being released so soon after the Gulf War. CU Amiga apparently heard of ‘veterans’ burning copies of the game. Apparently it had come out too soon, or some crap like that. The game has light-hearted moments, but it is quite serious and unlike Cannon Fodder, I can’t see anything that could insult a war veteran. If this did happen, I think it is unlikely those veterans played or even looked at the game. No doubt some Charlie Church told them it was insulting and they all went along.
Whatever dumb stuff people have done with the game, Desert Strike is perhaps the best example of the power of an Amiga compared to its contemporary consoles. Unlike Cannon Fodder it is a great conversion from Mega Drive, and not being an original Amiga game. They are very different games, but I think as far as action/war on the Amiga, these two games, one born of the Amiga, one adopted, represent that computer’s capabilities perfectly.
My Turrican II story is almost like an epic love tale. For nearly two years I had only the demo. This let me play the first (huge) level over and over. I got so good at it that I found a way to ‘hack’ past the first boss (after which the demo should end) and finish the level.
I finally got my clutches on the full game, in an obscure part of Big-W (a budget department store). I’d guess they’d been there a few years, but they were still good to me! Turrican II was mine for a low low price.
It was (and still is) a fantastic shooter platformer, slick looking and with some definite weight to the character. I’ve always found character weightiness to be pivotal to a platformer and is one of the most important factors in the success of Super Metroid. Perhaps it is my own substantial heft that has made me sympathetic to gravity affected heroes.
So I brought Turrican II home and played it for several weeks. It is not an easy game and you start with only a few lives. Death could come quickly since, in most games in this genre, an enemy would touch you, explode, die and take some of you health away. In Turrican II enemies draining your health continually upon touch WITHOUT them dying, the smallest insect could kill you in seconds. However, the game rewards you for replaying it often, since most often enemies come at you in the same waves and extra lives and health are in the same secrets areas.
What I felt set Turrican II apart from many other platform shooters (even Super Metroid) was the quality and feel of the weapons. You
begin with a fairly weak pulse lasery thing, along with a multidirectional ‘drill’. When you hold down the button for more than a second, Turrican man (Bren McGuire), plants his feet and fires the drill that can be aimed 360 degrees around you. This is very handy when facing off against a large number of weak enemies, often saving you from any damage. It also looks very impressive with Bren’s sprite moving around with the direction of fire. Sublime stuff for 1991. The bounce gun has a great sound effect, and the super laser is awesome, eventually cutting through everything onscreen and being larger than your whole body!
One afternoon while experiencing all of this, I got further than I ever had before, I think maybe to the second last world. Bren took an elevator down and then had boarded a spaceship and flown off through some tight corridors. I braced myself for some spaceship flying levels (which I had not expected) and I was very excited.
The disk drive clunked.
*Volume Turrican 2 has developed a Read-Write Error*
It was an appalling moment in my video game playing history, the game was lost. I tried taking it back to Big-W, but that had been their last copy. So I traded in the broken disks and box for ST Dragon. Which was… alright. But it was no Turrican II. Sure enough I was able to get a working copy of it emulated or even on the ‘electronic bay‘, however having it taken from me at that young age was deeply traumatic.
An important reminder, always backup your media.
What stuck with me about this game most of all was the music. The soundtrack is pure euro dance-hall trance. The way the title screen blends into the covered up game screen, urgent music covering the loading. Then the screen unfolds and the first level music The Desert Rocks kicks in. Video game magic courtesy of Chris Hülsbeck.
It’s better to have loved and lost than to have yadda yadda yadda. Let’s go to the arcade.
Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (or Battle for Arrakis in some areas) was a watershed moment for video games. It is the first ‘for reals’ Real Time Strategy game. I was lucky enough to have it for my Amiga back in 1993 (a million years ago.) It is KINDA based on the book series by Frank Herbert, but focuses more on a standard semi futuristic type ground combat rather than anything in the books. It certainly does not follow on from the first Dune game which was based on the David Lynch film.
There had been a few RTS games before 1992/’93, but this one brought everything together. The RTS checklist owes nearly everything to this game and almost all following games of the genre are loosely based on this.
The mission progression is very tutorialised, but with no real tutorial to speak of. This made the game very easy to pick up and play, without feeling like it was holding your hand at all. The first missions focused on collecting spice (the currency) and limited the combat to light vehicles and infantry. As the missions progress, more and more unit types become available adding to the complexity.
Choosing your faction is also an important part of playing the game and even if the three campaigns play very similarly, there was plenty of flavour for the mission briefings and cut-scenes. Roughly, the there factions are Atreides (Honourable), Harkonnen(Dastardly) and Ordos (Sneaky). The universe of Dune uses no computers, so each house relies on Mentats, who are human computers. Each of the different houses Mentat gives the player mission briefings and goes a long way to add flavour to what would be three similar campaigns.
Another staple created by Dune II is the special unit. While the three factions share about 90% of their units, each has two or three specials. They reflect the house’s traits, with the Harkonnen units being blunt and destructive, the Atreides being graceful and futuristic and the Ordos’ deceitful and stealthy. I always appreciated the differences in the houses units, but never found the Ordos’ indirect methods to be as satisfying as the other two. The Sonic Tank fielded by the Atreides in the later missions features an awesome distortion effect that greatly impressed my twelve year old self! An example of the flavour the Mentats give to the game is when you ask the Harkonnen Mentat about the Sonic Tank; ‘It seems the Atreides have found a humane way to destroy their enemies….’ Very dismissive!
As I so often was the case with RTS games, I played this very cautiously. Once, I used up all the spice on a map, and had to sacrifice my harvester to enemy turrets in the hope that when it exploded it’d give me a solider, someone surviving the wreck. It took a few attempts but a few soldiers were able to capture a single enemy turret and turn it on the remains of their base. Talk about a riveting afternoon! The last mission has the player facing off against the other two houses with the Emperor himself in support. Another friend told me of a huge enemy force having been dropped off behind my his base, seemingly assuring his destruction. However, an unfortunate Harkonnen Death Hand missile overshot said base and landed among their own troops. Hilarious!
I loved the shit out of this game, even though my Dad and best friend (Chooie) were better players. Thankfully it didn’t have any multiplayer to embarrass me. Mark Winstanley reviewed this for Amiga Power back in August 1993 and his closing remarks are still accurate.‘If you’ve any idea what Muad’dib or the Kwisatz Haderach are, then you’re probably going to split your stillsuit in excitment.’
I got the joke back then… barely.
I have put off doing this ‘greatest hits’ for a while. Since it has been a slow period for updates and has been two years since I started this site, I thought it’d be time for a deeper retrospective. I’ll refrain from putting this in any numbered order because I feel those ‘best of’ lists date quickly. I might change the order of the top ten, but the games themselves are unlikely to shift.
They all have different things that appeal to me, but in my heart are inherently equal.
I’ll be putting these up over the next two weeks.
Almost certain they are all in this video.
I’ve often found myself wanting to join the video game underground, but betraying them at the last-minute.
Late primary school I always wanted something Sega and a Mega Drive was top on my list. Yet when it came to getting a console a few years later, Mr SNES was my choice (and ruining my fingers on Killer Instinct). Both Sonic the Hedgehog and Wonderboy were left without me. I never considered a Sega Saturn or an Atari Jaguar, those were fringe consoles that never were properly promoted in Australia (that I noticed anyway). Since my friend had an N64 I thought I’d compliment that with a PlayStation. It was a good move, since I didn’t end up some Goldeneye expert who sucked at every game after.
The Dreamcast was something else that I considered, since my furious amounts of Penny Arcade reading did a lot to convince me of its merits. In this instance I didn’t even buy its more popular contemporary, the PS2 and a Gamecube until some six years later. From say, 1999-2005 I peaced out of the console scene. My PC was so much more capable.
Finally, I bought a Wii on launch day, but since that ended up a bit of a trash heap, I thought I’d delve into getting a PS3. Nahh, changed my mind and got a 360 instead, stuck with what was safe again I guess? You might even say I did the same thing in replacing my Android and getting an iPhone 4S. Blah that HTC Legend sucked.
I summation, if it wasn’t for my adherence to the Amiga for so long, I’d have very little so-called ‘indie’ cred. I came to every console except the Wii very late and until recently didn’t really buy much for them before returning to some open-ended PC game. Read this article for more info.
I learned a lot about Sonic from these two young men. Felt like I was catching up on a little that I lost.