My Shadowrun Story

December 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Image result for shadowrun snes logo

Sometimes a game just calls to you.  For me, Shadowrun on the SNES was one of those.  For years, it’s been an old friend patiently and repeatedly calling me up to spend time together, but for some reason, I was distracted and always just let it go to voicemail.  I’d hear it calling and I’d think “Ah, right, I need to get back to Shadowrun.  We have so much to talk about!  Soon, I promise.  We’ll do lunch!”  For nearly twenty years, it would try to get my attention.  Sometimes more loudly than others, sometimes more frequently than others.  And always the neglectful friend that I was, I would think “later.”

I first encountered Shadowrun for the SNES as a teenager, tinkering with emulators and trying out random ROMs.  I have no idea what inspired me to load it up, but I still remember playing it for the first time. I was immediately intrigued.  It just checked my boxes.  Maybe I tried it because I’m a sucker for cyberpunk–movies like Blade Runner, books like Snow Crash and Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Something about grungy, dystopian, techno-thrillers about shadowy, anti-authoritarian hackers and corporate corruption just appeals to my aesthetics.  Or maybe I tried it because I love point-and-click adventure games.  I grew up on the likes of Sierra and LucasArts classics like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Maniac Mansion.  Or maybe I tried it because I enjoy games with light RPG elements.  I love a bit of story and character development, but want to show me a 20-minute cut-scene and make me manage 10 different sub-systems, collect random items to craft my armor, and run fetch-quests for 100 hours?  No, fuck off.  Or maybe I just tried it because I have an odd soft spot for isometric-styled games, likely dating back to formative years playing Marble Madness and R.C. Pro-Am.

Whatever it was, I tried it.  I liked it.  And then I always thought “I’ll really dig into this later.”  Years went by.  I went to college, I graduated, I got a job, I bought a home, and I became a retro game collector.  I don’t remember what inspired it, but one day, I finally told myself “I’m going to do it.  I’m going to play Shadowrun.”  And since I was already a collector by that time, I had to play it for real.  I went on eBay and bought myself a boxed copy.  But there was just one problem – the manual was missing.  No biggie, right?  Well, when the game came, I loaded it up and immediately got destroyed.  Simply walking around the first city got me killed because snipers and hit men would shoot me and I had no weapons or armor to defend myself.  The memories of my initial emulator-based encounter with the game were hazy and I couldn’t remember what to do first.  “Alright, I need to come back to this later,” I told myself.  “And I want to do it right, with the real manual like a proper retro gamer does!”

Unbeknownst to me, it would be years more before my saved eBay search for “Shadowrun manual” would bear fruit.  By then, I would have quit my job, moved, started work on a PhD, and largely gotten away from collecting because of the combination of skyrocketing prices and drastically reduced income.  But that moment finally came last month.  Several years and $11 later, I now had a truly complete copy of Shadowrun for the SNES.  And with that, I also no longer had any excuses.  It was time to finally play the game.

And play it, I did.  I escaped from my slab at the morgue where I was left for dead.  I tracked down a pistol from a dead body in the sewers.  I survived being kidnapped and I defeated all challengers in arena combat.  I met my spirit guide.  (A dog, no less!)  I joined forces with a shape-shifting fox woman.  I killed a vampire.  I killed a dragon.  I hacked computers.  I made deals in seedy bars.  I invaded corporate skyscrapers and dank sewers and gang hideouts.  Ultimately, I prevailed.  I conquered not only the men who wanted me dead, but also my own neglect.  Shadowrun, I heard you calling.  I finally answered.  And it was good.

Impressions: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)

October 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingom

This post will be a spot for me to record my thoughts as I play through Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom.  The game is a graphical/text adventure in the same style as Deja Vu, Shadowgate, etc.  Keep checking back to follow my progress!  (Beware some minor spoilers, though!)

Day 1: I briefly gave Princess Tomato a try back when I bought it (a year and a half, or so, ago?) and I decided it’s time to dig in further.  The game so far is a pretty charming adventure game.  Its cheery fruits and vegetables theme makes it seem like it might be meant for kids, but there’s some weird stuff going on here.  A visit to a cabaret where you can buy a sexy Apricot and Lemon a round of drinks?  A drunken drifter passed out on a park bench who needs your help to cure what is clearly a hangover?  An underground network of resistance fighters trying to overthrow an evil pumpkin invader?  And I’ve only played the first two levels…

Day 2: Levels 3 and 4.  After playing through Zillion, I’m crazy happy this game has passwords to continue.  I’m getting into the meat of the game now.  The gameplay has been shaken up a bit with a couple unusual sections — some Rock/Paper/Scissors matches and a maze to explore.  I’m attempting to reach the Resistance base, but keep running into obstacles and puzzles. (In an adventure game!?  Imagine that!)  Some of them are a little too obtuse, though.  I don’t like how some destinations and objects don’t appear until you do otherwise obscure/totally unrelated actions.  But on the plus side, the game doesn’t seem to let you do anything to really screw yourself over.  It’s more of the LucasArts style of adventure, rather than Sierra, in that you can’t die or lose.  It’s nice to know you can experiment without fear of having to start over.  By the way, what’s with the “DUMP” action?  Why didn’t they call it “DROP”?  “DUMP” has… other… connotations.

Day 3: Level 5.  I breezed through this level.  I think I’m getting the flow of the game down — I’m getting used to retrying actions that previously failed after I trigger plot points.  Oh, that door was locked before, but now that I’ve talked to this seemingly entirely unrelated person, it’s still locked, but now I can break in even though I couldn’t before?  Okay, sure, why not…  But I am left with a couple questions.  Why are the numbers and letters on the password input screen ordered from top to bottom, right to left?  Is this some leftover from the Japanese release?  That screen was confusing until I realized what was up… Also, why is Princess Tomato’s sister human?  I don’t trust her. (Yeah, I’ll trust the talking Watermelon… But not the pretty human lady!)

Day 4: Level 6.  Another maze.  More Paper/Rock/Scissors battles. (PROTIP: The enemies have patterns in the battles.  They’re very easy if you pay attention).  Level 6 was harder than level 5, though.  Also, I’m not sure if the game’s puzzles are getting more logical or if I’m just getting better at the game.  I’m not getting completely stuck as often.  Realizing I can safely try anything without worrying that it will ruin my game has been a big help.  It’s also removed some of the challege.  At this point, most of the difficulty just comes from trying to figure out what will trigger the next conversation change/plot point.  It’s almost like I’m playing against the game’s internal programming logic and not the puzzles!  Interestingly, I think the fact that I’m a programmer is helping me “get” how the game behaves.

Day 5: Level 7 and some of 8.  I infiltrated a town, disguised as a Farmie but armed with my Resistance Crest to identify me to allies.  Nothing much of note here, except that I enjoyed some of the low-key humor you get when you check out all the stuff in the shop.  The level finishes with a simple maze (well, simple if you talk to the right people).  I actually got stuck in Level 8, making my way through the castle.  I must have missed something, but I thought I tried every single action and every single item on every single screen and couldn’t figure out how to get past the guard.  I will have to come back to this.

Day 6: Levels 8 and 9.  I managed to get through Level 8 this time.  I have to say, the flaws of this game really rear their ugly heads in the last couple of levels.  There’s a super long maze, several rock/paper/scissors battles, and LOTS and LOTS of cases where you have to repeat mundane actions for items and plot points to appear.  But still, not all of the game’s charm was lost.  They even snuck in a Milon’s Secret Castle reference!  But anyway, I’m all finished now.  The game was fun, but not without its flaws.  Look for a proper review in the future!

Impressions: Cosmic Spacehead (Genesis)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Cosmic Spacehead

Cosmic Spacehead boxart

Well, how about this… I’ve already beaten a game I got on Saturday at the Midwest Gaming Classic!  I was giving all my new games a quick test run and wasn’t planning on spending much time with them yet, but this one managed to grab me enough to keep playing.  A full review will come later, but for now, I thought I’d share some initial thoughts.

Cosmic Spacehead is a nice little game.  It’s a hybrid point-and-click adventure/platformer (kind of like Alex Kidd: High Tech World….. but not as bad). The story is that you’re playing as Cosmic, and you’ve just discovered planet Earth. The problem is that, when you return home to tell everyone, nobody believes you.  Now, you’re off to set the record straight.  You have to find a way back to Earth to take pictures and return home with proof so you can get the hero’s welcome you deserve.

Overall, the game is pretty easy and pretty short, but generally well-made.  I really love the colorful, cartoony graphics (it’s one of the few Genesis games with a great color palette) and the general tongue-in-cheek style.  Basically, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s always a plus in my book.  That’s all for now, stay tuned for a full review!