Update and a (belated) plug

I’m running a little late on last week’s blog, but I’m aiming to have it up tomorrow. Let’s just say I’ve been all at sea (winks) writing this redress up…

In the meantime, I just wanted to give a belated plug to a review I did for the excellent Sega Does site, ran by Dylan Cornelius. Dylan has taken on the task of reviewing every SEGA game EVER and is doing a fine job so far.

I stepped in to help out with Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel. The link is here, if you want to read about a Japanese women’s wrestling game, played by a man with no understanding of Japanese.

If you get a chance, please give it a read and if you haven’t investigated www.segadoes.com or questicle, then you’re missing out. Great sites…however, both sites have made me add lots of games to the Redress list. Including Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel…

#2 – European Club Soccer

Shouldn’t it be ‘European Club Football?’

Guilty Party – Retro Redress

Crime – Dominating European Club Soccer on Easy and Medium, but being too much of a wuss to play the game on Hard difficulty

Redress – Win the European Club and World Club Cup on Hard difficulty in one attempt.

I loved European Club Soccer as a kid. To me, it was one of the best football games of the ‘pre FIFA’ era, back when football games were more about arcade gameplay than realistic features. The aim of the European Club Soccer was to win the European Cup and then the World Club Cup,  competitions I won several times, but only on Easy or Medium difficulty. Whenever, I moved the difficulty up to Hard, a crushing defeat would send me rushing back to the easier difficulty settings.

Well, now it’s time to redress this wrong; I’m going to try and conquer European Club Soccer once and for all…by defeating it on it’s toughest difficulty level. No passwords either, I’m gonna try and beat this bad boy in one go.

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First things first, I’ve got to pick a team. I’m an Everton fan, so I’m going with the Toffees. I’m not sure if this is a sensible decision or not, but they are my team and I’m sticking with them. Of the 170 teams in the game, I imagine Everton are pretty decent. European Club Soccer came out in 1992 after our 80’s glory years but before our 90’s lull….so we might not be too bad. My first job is to go into the kit editor and change the home kit socks to white as Everton should always play in white socks, always. The kit editor on European Club Soccer is an excellent touch and one that was a novelty at the time. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t let you add stripes or hoops, but as an Everton fan that’s not an issue to me.

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After sorting the kit out, it’s time to play some ‘pre-season friendlies’. I haven’t played this game in over twenty years and could probably do with some practice. So I decide to play two ‘friendlies’ before beginning my European Cup challenge. Two defeats later (5-0 and 5-3 to Mechlen and Panathinaikos respectively) and I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m warmed up and ready to go for glory. It’s difficult to concentrate on glory though when Everton’s No.10 is Wayne Campbell. Wayne’s World is one of my favourite films so it’s great to have Wayne up front along with dour veteran Scottish striker Peter MacDonald. That’s one of the reasons I love European Club Soccer – the charm of giving the fake players a backstory. No.11 Gary Reid is the local lad with all the skill in the world, but no discipline, Steve Sutton is the ‘never say die’ centre half who would take a bullet for the club and Brian Sutton is the goalkeeper who is prone to mistakes, but is popular in the dressing room. Sad as it sounds, I’m well acquainted with the ‘fake’ Everton team from this game and am fond of all of them. Apart from Sutton, who I blame for 75% of the goals we concede.

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The first round pits Everton against AEK Athens, which after the 5-3 defeat to fellow Greeks Panathinaikos, isn’t encouraging. However I score first, a nice volley from outside the box. In typical Everton fashion though, the lead doesn’t last long and AEK Athens equalise with a cracking goal, in off the upright. Second half sees AEK score two soft goals, the second of which literally goes through Brian Sutton and into the goal. I’m facing a 3-1 deficit in the away leg, unless I score three goals in the remainder of the half….which I somehow manage, courtesy of three headers. The first headed goal is bizarre as the AEK Athens keeper practically throws the ball at Peter MacDonald’s head, a chance the experienced Scot can’t miss. Generally, goalkeeper throws on European Club Soccer are a potential disaster, so it’s nice to see the CPU suffers just as much I do every time Brian Sutton attempts a throw. The third headed goal prompts jubilant scenes in the Retro Redress living room…I’ve actually beaten the CPU on Hard for the first time ever!

The second leg sees an overconfident Everton throw away a two goal lead and just about escape Greece with a 2-2 draw, sneaking into the second round 6-5 on aggregate. My English ‘long ball’ tactics (i.e. chip the ball up to either Wayne or MacDonald with C and hope they can head/volley it into the net) aren’t particularly skillful, especially compared to the CPU’s excellent dribbling and long range shooting ability. It’s the only way I can play European Club Soccer though – the game doesn’t lend itself well to flowing football. European Club Soccer doesn’t really play like real football you see, it’s very much a case of ‘kick and rush’. Players tend to watch play unless the ball is near them. There is no interaction with team mates either – no passing moves or great set pieces, just get the ball and head towards the goal. I do enjoy playing European Club Soccer, but having spent the last few years on FIFA and Pro Evo, it feels very dated. However, the appeal of European Club Soccer isn’t the gameplay, it’s the wide selection of teams, classic European Cup format and brilliant soundtrack. I’d argue the soundtrack might have some of the best original songs on a sports game ever, you’d be hard pressed to find any song that screams ‘early 90’s football’ as much as European Club Soccer’s musical selection.

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Second round and Everton have been drawn against Malaga. I’m not sure how good Malaga were in the early 90’s, but I reckon Everton should be better than them. Naturally this sort of thinking leads to me throwing away a two goal lead in the second half. 2-2 isn’t a bad result, but I can’t help thinking I should have ‘made the tie safe’ as they say. Luckily, I’m able to score a routine 3-0 home win in the second leg, thanks to my Sam Allardyce style long ball tactics. Constantly chipping the ball forward for my big strikers to head goalward is both easier and more effective than passing and moving.  

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Quarter Finals see Everton draw the mighty Aarau from Switzerland, a team I have never heard of before. I win a tense away leg 3-1, thanks to two second half goals from, you guessed it, headers. I’m feeling confident for the home leg…which is a big mistake. The unfancied Swiss team storm to a superb 2-0 lead and frankly I’m lucky it’s only 2-0. Brian Sutton is throwing the ball out to opposition players, my defenders are wandering around in a daze and I’m panicking. My tactic of launching the ball forward does pay off though as cagey veteran Peter MacDonald is able to volley a weak shot that trickles under the Aarau keeper on the stroke of half time. A nail biting second half sees me hang on to a 2-1 deficit that gives an 4-3 aggregate score in Everton’s favour. We’re through to the semi finals, but it’s unconvincing.

The semi final draw gives me Shamrock Rovers, who I am sure are the weakest team left in the competition. The other semi final is Bayern Munich vs Celtic, so I’m hoping for a Celtic win. I have a feeling Bayern will be a nightmare to play against. I quite like this format of the old European Cup that the game uses – unlike the modern Champions League every games counts and I’m finding it a tense experience.

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Onto the Semi Final….Shamrock Rovers have decided that they aren’t the weakest team left in the competition and feel the best way to prove that is to go 3-0 up in 12 minutes. I manage to pull the score back to 3-3 before both keepers gift goals to each team. I expect this from Brian Sutton…I’ve always tolerated his mistakes when I play European Club Soccer, but if this was FIFA and I could change keeper, I’d have dropped him years ago. A 4-4 score means there is still everything to play for.

Problem is, I’m not confident at all. Whereas the comeback against AEK Athens was a joyous experience, the comeback against Shamrock felt like a fluke. I know the game had me beat and I was lucky to escape with a draw. Shamrock start like a house on fire and I’m chasing the game from the off. However once Shamrock make it 4-2 with 20 minutes to go, I know it’s over. The dream is dead and I have failed to beat European Club Soccer once again. I make it 4-3 with a few minutes left, but Shamrock Rovers instantly make it 5-3, to crush my hopes of European Cup glory with a big ‘Do not pass go’ stamp. Naturally, I blame Brian Sutton for all nine goals over the two legs…

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Verdict – I wasn’t able to redress my wrongs against European Club Soccer. I’m a flat track bully when it comes to the game; good at the easier difficulty levels, but wanting at the top level. I did enjoy playing European Club Soccer again though. It’s not much of a football game, but the nostalgia and presentation make it a worthwhile experience. I’m sure I’ll try this challenge again one day. Maybe if I can find a way of replacing Brian Sutton…..

#1 – Dynamite Dux

Water off a Dux’s back?

Guilty party – Dynamite Dux

Crime – Disappointing a 9 year old child

Redress – Dynamite Dux is to be played again, to see if it can redeem itself

Before I go through my many gaming sins, I’m going to write about a game that probably affected my judgement of gaming purchases forever. Let me take you back in time, to 1993…

The scene is set in a branch of ‘What Everyone Wants’ in St Helens, Merseyside. A young Retro Redress is wondering what great (read: average game in discount shop’s range) Master System game to spend his hard earned £11.99 on. Enthusiastically, he grabs a copy of Heavyweight Champ and runs the decision by his mother. His mother reads Heavyweight Champ’s box blurb, which states that Heavyweight Champ only has four rounds and notes that Retro Redress should buy a game that will last longer. A game called Dynamite Dux is thrust into Retro Redress hands, it’s box blurb confirming that Dynamite Dux contains five rounds. Presented with this sound logic, Retro Redress decides to purchase Dynamite Dux.

Retro Redress then takes Dynamite Dux home….and promptly beats the game in an afternoon.

And back to 2017…I still feel robbed. I blame Dynamite Dux for wasting two months pocket money and giving me a fear of buying short games that persists to this day.

So the mission is simple – Dynamite Dux needs to prove it’s worth to me, so I will give it a second chance. Will I enjoy Dynamite Dux more in 2017 or will it disappoint me as it did in 1993?

Intro

The game starts with a boy and his girlfriend in a meadow, spending time together. We’ve all played enough video games to know that bad things happen to happy couples. Sure enough, an evil sorcerer called Achacha appears, steals the girl (called Lucy) and turns the boy (Mickael) into Bin the duck. So Bin now has to defeat Achacha in order to rescue his girlfriend and to be restored to human form. This plot is different from the arcade version of Dynamite Dux, where Bin (and his red mate Pin, absent from the Master System port) was Lucy’s pet. Maybe Sega thought Master System owners wouldn’t be motivated to play the full five levels to rescue a girl unless their character was dating her? I’m pretty confident that I’d be happy to beat things up playing as a duck, regardless of the plot. More importantly, why did Achacha pick on this young couple and turn the guy into a duck? Did the love of his life leave him for a duck? The mind boggles…

Level 1

The game starts in a generic city level, the type of bright, clean city that only exists in 8 and 16 bit games. My early impressions of Dynamite Dux are good though –  I’m impressed by the graphics and the game seems to play fairly well. In my experience, Master System arcade ports suffer from a condition I’ve labelled ‘Sega Master System Arcade Port Syndrome’. Basically, if Sega publish an arcade port for the Master System, the focus is usually on the graphics. Therefore, the screenshots look great on the back of the box, but the actual game is as smooth as a tortoise wading through treacle. Dynamite Dux seems to have avoided this terrible affliction, but the challenge is clearly lacking from the first screen. I noticed straight away that you can just walk past enemies. If an enemy can’t bounce into you, they will just happily keep bouncing until they are off the screen. Sure Achacha wouldn’t be too thrilled with his henchman letting the hero just wander to the end of the level?

To be fair to Achacha’s animal minions, they are not helped by the game’s programmers. Firstly, the player is given long range weapons…against enemies that can mostly only walk towards you. It’s like shooting fish in a really big, transparent barrel. Secondly, the collision detection is super random. It doesn’t benefit either the player or the computer, with hits decided via benefit of the doubt. Throwing a bomb in between two enemies? Both enemies die. You try to walk past an enemy? Nope, you brushed against the enemy and lose hit points. It’s a shame, because Dynamite Dux does have a great variety of enemies. You’re faced with snakes with boxing gloves, feline construction workers, rhinos in football gear…yet none of them make a lasting impression. Dealing with the enemies in Dynamite Dux is just a distraction from walking to the end of the level.

Level 1 sub boss

The levels of Dynamite Dux all follow the same format; wander past enemies, face a sub boss, wander past more enemies, then face the end of level boss. The sub bosses and bosses all follow a similar format of a central sprite firing/maneuvering projectiles. They’re not too inspiring  and can be beaten quite quickly. Unfortunately, you have to face the same three or four bosses throughout the game. I always think bosses should be the defining point of a game (i.e. Castlevania and working your way through the bosses up to Dracula) so to have to repeat the same dull boss battles doesn’t inspire me. Surely facing a boss should be a momentous challenge where you prove that you are developing the skills necessary to progress further into the game?  For example, the Fire Sub Boss above is easily beaten by dodging the little flames he throws and blasting him with the water gun. 

Level 1 boss

The end of level boss for Level 1 is the ‘Rock’ Boss, who can be defeated by hitting his spinning rock projectiles. I found a sweet spot on the bottom section of pavement where I can hit the rocks, defeating the boss fairly easily. So far, I’m pretty uninspired by Dynamite Dux – the game doesn’t engage the player at all. It’s neither an enjoyable game or a game that rewards skill and practice. You can blame the orignal Dynamite Dux arcade game for this gameplay, but surely Sega must have figured that there was little depth during development. I reckon they should have made it mandatory to defeat all the enemies, a la Streets of Rage 2, before advancing. I reckon this might have added more challenge to the game.

Level 2

Level 2, with it’s Oriental setting, is where the Dynamite Dux tries to up the challenge. We now have moles that can pop up out of the ground and foxes in military uniform that shoot homing weapons. However, I realised quickly that I can just jump away from them without getting hit. Level 2 is also where I started to notice Dynamite Dux’s slowdown – now we have more enemies on screen, the game really starts to chug. Mind you, the slowdown is more noticeable when I’m constantly jumping over and around enemies, so maybe it’s my fault.

Level 2 sub boss

The sub boss is the ‘Steel’ projectile boss, he’s tougher than the previous two bosses but still fairly easy. Bin has a super uppercut (a cartoon like wind up uppercut, executed by holding and releasing the attack button) where he is invincible during the punch animation. You can use this to glide through the projectiles and register damage to them. A cloud version of the level 1 ‘Rock’ boss ends the level, cursed by sprite flicker and my ability to spam super uppercuts. He’s defeated quickly as I move on to Level 3, hoping that Dynamite Dux can turn things around.

Level 3 sub boss

However, Level 3 (another generic US city) sees no change to the structure of the game. I’ve now established that it’s easier to jump and walk around the numerous if mindless enemies, rather than engage them. I don’t mind when a game is fun, but not terribly challenging, but an easy, dull game is a chore. The slowdown isn’t improving my enjoyment of the game either. This Star sub boss is an embarrassment as you can freely super uppercut him till he dies. Frankly, the foxes who fire homing weapons are tougher than Mr Star here. I feel sorry for those foxes, as they are at least trying to put up a fight. It’s tough for them though, given that the game keeps giving me lots of health pick ups and guns. The boss of Level 3 is the Fire sub boss from Level 1. He’s no tougher than he was previously and I take him out even quicker than last time because I know his attack pattern. I’m realising that Dynamite Dux is not going to redeem itself, but I’m going to play until the end.

Level 4 sub boss

Level 4 is the Wild West, where after a quick jog past the usual minions, I’m confronted by penguins, of all things.  A quick series of super uppercuts sees off the Penguin King and his minions, but I accidentally fell off a ledge on the next screen. This means I have to use a continue, restarting the level again. If there are ledges that might actually present a challenge, I might have to rethink my ‘outrun, outjump’ strategy. I quickly get back to where I died, dodge the usual valiant effort of the foxes and face the boss, a faster version of the ‘Stone’ boss. He’s tougher than before, but again, there is no difference in his pattern so he’s beaten pretty quickly.

Level 5

Level 5 is the obligatory ‘bad guy palace’ level all end bosses live in. No wonder the hero always finds them. At this point disaster strikes as the game resets to the title screen….I’m gutted until I realise that I’ve set myself a challenge and that I owe my 9 year old self some closure on Dynamite Dux. Motivated by pride and the fact Dynamite Dux is ten minutes long, I start up the game again…

A quick replay of the first four levels later and I’m back to level five. Upon my second playthrough, I realise how easy the game is…getting my health refilled after every level, defeated enemies giving up tons of health pickups, loads and loads of guns…the list goes on. At least I’m aware of the game’s flaws now, in 1993 I imagine 9 year old me really tried to enjoy this game; in 2017 I’m yawning and looking at the clock. I guess I was disappointed in 93 as I really thought Dynamite Dux was a good game, 2017 has shown me that it’s got the depth of a puddle in summer and I’m happy that it’s going to end soon.

Final Boss

The palace is fairly simple to get through, though Achacha has made sure to put loads of foxes in there. This is actually a good idea as  they are the only useful minions he has. Getting to Achacha doesn’t take long though and although he’s much faster and more erratic than the other bosses, he’s still not difficult to beat. I beat him first time, courtesy of the  collision detection giving Achacha nothing. A few shots from a rocket launcher and a wild series of uppercuts later and I’ve completed the game.

In typical Dynamite Dux form, we get a quick ending, where Bin becomes Mikeal again and jumps up and down in the meadow with Lucy…which is basically the intro again. So if I had just watched the first five seconds of the intro, I could have avoided all this. Personally, I would have preferred Bin to refuse to return to his human form and become a crime fighting duck, pummeling criminals with silly cartoon uppercuts, but whatever. We then get a roll call of the minions…which doesn’t include all of the minions in the game. When the baddie roll call at the end of the game is only half completed, you know you have a pretty half-arsed game…

Verdict – Did Dynamite Dux redeem itself to me? In a word, no. It’s a shallow game that can be experienced in fifteen minutes. However, I’m glad I replayed Dynamite Dux – it’s cleared up any doubts I had and means I can move on to better games. Better games that I need to make amends with…

 

So it begins…

So this is it, the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fulfilling quest, to revisit the games from my past and redress the wrongs.

My aim at the moment is to publish at least one blog post per week. Hopefully, I can maybe publish more posts than that, but it’s early days…my goal initially is just to get into a routine.

Comments and feedback is always appreciated – feel free to use the comments section, drop me an e-mail at retroredress@gmail.com or tweet at me.