noiseredux vs.

Posted on Aug 3rd 2013 at 10:45:58 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2

Activision Anthology
2002, Activision
PlayStation 2

Remember when you were a kid and youíd wake up early Saturday mornings for cereal and cartoons while your parents slept? Iíve developed a similar habit recently. Thereís something about coffee and old 2600 games that really goes well with the weekend.

I personally have a very soft spot for the Atari VCS, as it was the first real console I owned (unless you count a C64 and small stack of edutainment titles). I acquired my VCS in the mid-80ís along with a big box of second-hand games. And although my household would have a NES not long after, it was those Atari games that seemed to really define gaming for me early on.

Sadly, my console and games are long lost to time. I honestly have no idea what ever became of them. Yard sale most likely, as my mom moved several times since I moved out of her house. I did eventually pick up another heavy-sixer at a yard sale a couple of years back, but ultimately decided to flip it as we were living in a small-ish apartment and didnít have the room to keep it hooked up, nevermind start another collection of games. Because of all this you can probably understand my fondness for these sorts of Atari collections. Without taking up much shelf space, Iíve got access to lots of 2600 games thanks to Activision Anthology (and a few other similar compilations). But Activision Anthology in particular really nails the potential for such reissues. No matter your take on retro compilations, thereís a lot to admire here. So letís take a look a bit at what Activision Anthology does right.

Presentation is of course a big deal to a compilation such as this. By the time the PS2 came along, emulators were mainstream. That meant that just dumping a folder of a ROMís on a retail disc wasnít going to impress anyone (although that still hasnít entirely stopped some publishers from doing just that). But Activision went above and beyond with their Anthology. Rather than just a menu, youíre greeted by a virtual bedroom. Here you can choose your cartridge from a phsyical stack (you can also examine the box art or read the manual for each game), you can view your collection of patches (basically achievements modeled after the actual patches you could get from Activision back in the day) and you can choose your music.

Oh thatís right - the music! Certainly you can choose to just listen to the original game sound effects if you so choose, but your room also has a boombox. And as such, Activision went ahead and licensed a dozen or so popular songs from the period to sort of put you in the context a bit more. Meaning, you can feel like you were back in the 80ís listening to your stereo while you play your VCS. Itís really a pretty brilliant idea that I wish more compilations featured. And as I said, itís also optional. You can adjust the volumes for the games and soundtrack as you wish which is also a welcome flexibility, as you're never ďstuckĒ with one or the other.

It may also be obvious, but thankfully Activision Anthology keeps high scores for your games. I say thankfully because itís shocking how many retro compilations are released that donít have this very simple (and highly desirable) feature.

If all this werenít proof enough of the labor of love that is Activision Anthology, I should also mention the myriad unlockables. By reaching various achievements within all the cartridges you will unlock all kinds of interesting extras including developer interviews and original TV commercials for the games. These visual extras are excellent bonuses for video game history buffs and are definitely motivation to keep playing games just to unlock more.

So there you have it... except we havenít even talked about the most important part of this collection: the games! Nearly fifty games are included here including a handful of homebrew titles (which is another stellar addition by Activision). So of that fifty, Iíd like to highlight some of the ones Iíve been spending the most time with lately.

Fishing Derby is a unique game where you and an opponent race to see who can catch the most fish. The tricky part is that thereís also a shark swimming around trying to eat the fish that youíre reeling in. And then thereís of course some strategy considering the deeper the fish you catch, the more points theyíre worth. I kind of think this game would appeal to me a lot more if I was playing against a human opponent, but the concept and scoring itself is still very impressive.

Surprisingly Ice Hockey has been a favorite that was new to me via this collection. You might think that hockey wouldnít work well on such primitive hardware, but the programming behind this one is mind-boggling. The game is setup as a two-on-two where each play has a goalie and a skating player. How this works is your goalie and your opponentís player is on the top half of the screen and vice versa. The puckís placement vertically on the screen determines if you control the goalie or your player. This might sound confusing, but itís actually flawless in its execution. Itís really amazing how perfect it works. Add to this that puck-handling, shooting and even hitting your opponent are also extremely intuitive.

Pitfall! is of course a classic - though amazingly one I had not spent much time with until just a couple years ago. I still find the complexity of this one staggering, and certainly can see it as a platforming milestone. Though I must admit, Iíve still never managed to beat it.

And a special shout-out to Demon Attack, another game I only discovered thanks to this anthology. Obviously Iím a big shmup fan, and although Iím a bit picky on early shoot-em-ups, this one is awesome. I love how much variety there is to enemy attacks and behavior. This one should really be played by any shmup fans that have overlooked it.

I should end by saying that even though Iím raving about Activision Anthology, that isnít to say there arenít any missteps. Thereís actually a few games that originally used a paddle (Kaboom! for instance) that should not even be included here as theyíre virtually unplayable with a DualShock. (Side-note: why did nobody release a paddle controller for PS2?) And this isnít a problem with the set, but why the heck is Tennis so impossible? I mean Activision nailed the AI on a lot of their other competitive games, but I have no idea how youíd ever get a point scored against the computer in Tennis. But nitpicking aside, I canít really see how any retro fans could go wrong with Activision Anthology. Even if you own every single one of these carts (doubtful considering stuff like Kabobber and Thwocker), all the extras really make the package well worth owning.

Posted on Nov 12th 2011 at 05:55:06 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2

So for some reason I started thinking about PS2 games that could go online. I decided to start researching which ones might still have their servers online, and I found a pretty awesome site: which is apparently still pretty active. I also did some poking around elsewhere and found that it was quite possible for me to take my PS2 games online even using my 60GB PS3. Considering how many of us have large collections of PS2 games, I thought it'd be fun to organize an informative guide outlining the process of getting online, and which games are still online so that we can all try to play some last-gen games together live.

Continue reading PlayStation 2 Online Guide

Posted on Jun 5th 2011 at 06:36:08 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Magazines, PlayStation 2, PSP

Like many game collectors, I truly enjoy thumbing through pages of old gaming magazines. There's something really fun about putting yourself back into the context of the time when the magazine was published. This week I got Issue 91 of PSM in the mail as part of a trade. I was thrilled to open the sealed magazine for the first time since its publication in December of 2004. As such, I thought I'd share some key pages with you.

(Spoiler: PSM in 2004 definitely liked boobs. You've been warned! See you after the jump...)

Continue reading PSM: December 2004, Issue 91

Posted on May 3rd 2011 at 01:22:07 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2, Mortal Kombat

There's a lot of talk right now about the new PS3 release of Mortal Kombat. And though I hate it when a game re-uses a title, rather than just being a proper sequel or spin-off, I have to say that everything I've heard about this new reboot of the series is rather exciting. I was a big fan of the original Mortal Kombat on the Genesis. Of course I was also fourteen years old at the time, so any game that came with a warning to parents and a "blood code" was going to be great in my book. Hindsight actually tells me that Mortal Kombat was a pretty lousy game. But hey, I'm not going to ask for the hours spent enjoying it back. In fact the second and third entries in the series actually turned out rather good. Enough so that I can still revisit those with no reservations. But sometime around the fourth, I just stopped caring. Or more precisely -- when the fourth game came out, I just stopped caring. I'm just not a big fan of 3D fighters, so any transition that a classic 2D game makes to 3D is going to feel suspect to me. It's funny, but true. I'm more prone to enjoy a 3D fighting game if it never originated in the 2D realm. Call me silly. I am what I am.

And that brings me to another point. I am what I am. And what I am is a total sucker for bonus discs. Now I don't mean like a demo disc tacked on and call it a day. I mean serious extra material. Stuff that makes your collection glow a little brighter. And although I'm not all that into Mortal Kombat: Deception or Mortal Kombat: Armageddon on the PS2, I am a bit of a fan of the premium editions released for each. You see strangely, the bonus discs and extra content actually seems to be a much bigger gift to fans of the series than either game can rightly claim to be.

Mortal Kombat: Deception's Premium Pack is actually a pretty cool package. Its outer cardboard box opens like a book and houses two DVD cases. The first disc houses the standard version of Deception, the better of the two Mortal Kombat titles we'll be discussing today. In fact, rumor has it that it's possibly the best 3D Mortal Kombat title to date. Of course, I don't know about all that. I just know that it has a similar feel to me as DOA: Hardcore, which is something I can deal with. Though I did find the addition of weapons a bit odd, and maybe reactionary to the success of the Soul Calibur series, I really can't say that I had any issues with Deception in the grand scheme of things. Sure it's missing that classic 2D feel that I grew up with, but as far as 3D sequels go, I could point to far worse examples.

Besides classic Arcade Mode, there's also a Konquest Mode which is a surprisingly good tutorial that's set up like an adventure. You must train and win fights based on certain goals -- all of which are there to help you learn the game. Really kind of a nice addition.

There are also several bonus games included with Deception. The first of which is a game entitled Chess Kombat, which is (in case you're really thick) a cross between Mortal Kombat and chess. To a certain degree, this could have been brilliant. It could have just been a game of chess using MK-style visuals -- a middle-finger to those who say that there is nothing cerebral about the series. But sadly, Midway dropped the ball on that idea. Instead they offer chess which requires you to then play actual MK battles in order to see which piece takes each square when colliding. Perhaps the strangest thing about this is that the battling is what ends up feeling tedious, as it breaks up the concentration of playing an actual game of chess. So although it's high-action, it tends to disrupt the strategic flow of what could have been a very cool looking chess game.

 The next additional game is Puzzle Kombat, an unabashedly obvious rip-off of Capcom's Super Puzzle Fighter II which uses the same format of super-deformed characters duking it out via dropping gems. Sadly, Puzzle Kombat just does not have the same level of perfection. Instead, it comes off as a pretty sub-par puzzler, made only slightly fun by the fatalities at the end of each match. It's sluggish and stiff and really not a fun puzzle game, instead feeling like a bit of a chore to get through.

The bonus disc is really where Deception's Premium Pack shines, though. Even though I pointed out that the original Mortal Kombat is really not a great game (it's certainly the worst of the original trilogy), there's no denying its importance to 1990's arcade history. Unfortunately back when Midway released their Arcade Treasures collections on the PS2, the emulation for Mortal Kombat was a bit buggy. Though both the second and third games were included in Volume Two, the original MK was left off. As such, this Deception bonus disc is the only way to obtain the original Mortal Kombat on the PS2. And really, it's a rather good emulation. I have no idea what it was specifically that held back its release on Midway Arcade Treasures, but it is nice that Midway cared enough to get it right.

The disc also contains some nice video footage. Not only is there twenty-five video character bios, but there's also an interesting documentary on the entire Mortal Kombat series leading up to Deception. If you're a fan of the franchise, or just a video game history buff, then in many ways this documentary will mean more to you than the entirety of the first disc altogether.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon followed close on the heels of Deception. However it was widely panned as a major low-point for the series. This is major considering the existence of Sub-Zero Mythologies. As far as the fighting goes, it's somewhat similar to Deception, but just not quite right. It's hard to put a finger on, but it's just not as comfortable to play. And then there's the odd omission of Fatalities. Seriously.

Luckily the focus of this blog post is actually more about the extras in these editions. Much like the Premium Pack for Deception, the Premium Edition of Armageddon has a lot to offer. The limited edition packaging this time is a thin, metal casing similar to that of the Premium Edition of Final Fantasy XII. Konquest Mode makes its return from Deception, as does online play and even an addition of a Kreate-A-Fighter feature. Of course the value of all of this will rely heavily on how much you enjoy the game proper.

The first bonus game on the first disc is Motor Kombat, a ridiculous Mario Kart clone. The game actually doesn't play too bad. And it offers up some nice graphics to be fair. But strangely, like Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat before it, Motor Kombat just feels slightly off and boring. The intentions are obviously good, and the effort is evident. But something is just not right, and instead of getting into each race you tend to loop around each track wondering when the game will finally give the sweet relief of ending.

Though the extras on Armageddon are far less in number than on Deception, the remaining ones on this set actually far outweigh the main game. Perhaps the biggest draw being the other bonus game on disc one:  Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. In truth, this game will probably give you far more enjoyment than Armaggedon. The roster is huge. The sprite work is great. It plays excellently -- oh, and this is the only way to obtain it on the PS2.

The bonus disc is somewhat anemic, however. It's actually a DVD rather than a PS2 DVD-ROM. And though it offers three bonus features, two of them are in regards to character "trading kards." The far more interesting inclusion is that of a documentary on the history of fatalities in the series. Here you get to hear many of the games' creators discuss the origins and making-of many of the franchise's favorite finishing movies. Babalities, Animalities, and so on -- they're all addressed. To a certain degree, this is my favorite part of this entire set.

Well, that was slightly exhaustive and yet I'm sure I've only scratched the surface. So what do you all think about these games, these editions, the series as a whole or the value of bonus discs? Remember: discussion is like exercise for our brains!

Posted on Feb 28th 2011 at 12:39:30 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2

King Of Fighters 98 was the game chosen for February's Together Retro game club title over at Though I'm a fan of 2D fighting games, the King Of Fighters series always seemed tough to keep track of as far as I was concerned. And even after putting in plenty of time to research it for the month, it came across as no less daunting of a task. Even this particular entry in the series was released and re-released multiple times, often with alternate titles (KOF 98 is even titled 99 on the Dreamcast!). However, I did my best to wrap my brain around it and put together some thoughts for your amusement dear readers.

Because I've been heavily concentrating on collecting PS1 and PS2 games lately I decided to devote most of my playing to King Of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match. Though even then there was a decision about which PS2 version to buy seeing as how KOF 98 was also featured on a compilation disc called King Of Fighters: Orochi Saga. In the end I chose Ultimate Match based mostly on the fact that I could find the game for a bit cheaper, it apparently contained more characters, and it included a nice KOF poster and bonus DVD. I'm a total sucker for "extras."

I have played a fair share of SNK fighters in the past -- namely Fatal Fury -- but all in all, I'm a lot more familiar and comfortable with Capcom fighting games. As it turned out King Of Fighters 98 played completely differently. The biggest thing for me to get used to was using three fighters out of a pool of characters that I really wasn't familiar with. This proved to be an especially daunting task to me, as I was used to the concept of choosing one character and familiarizing myself with their moves by experiencing lots of fights as them. Instead I was forced to pick three fighters from a huge roster and try to grasp how to use each.

The team that I created is pictured above. First I chose Terry Bogard, based totally on the fact that he was who I often used in Fatal Fury so I was pretty familiar with his moves. Then I chose Mai, because she's fast and has a rather fan favorite animation. And then finally I chose Choi because well... he reminds me of Freddy Krueger. Terry is pretty good. Mai is definitely awesome. And Choi is mostly crappy but fast. So whatever.

I'm still not really sure if the fighting system is just too deep for me, or if the AI is too cheap for me, or if years of Capcom fighters have just left me a total idiot when it comes to any other fighting system, but I just could not seem to make it far in King Of Fighters 98. Generally I'd do really well for one or two fights, but by the third I was just getting completely destroyed. But what's odd is that I didn't find it to be a fun challenge. Instead I just found it annoying. Perhaps a big problem is that I could never quite find a third fighter to get good at. Though Choi was usable, I wasn't great with him. So really I was hoping to beat all three opponents with just Terry and Mai.

Though I didn't love the game itself, I am still impressed with the wonderful graphics. All of the fighters are just drenched with character. It's all so very SNK. Also playing the game to the point of aggravation did unintentionally re-kindle my love of Capcom Vs SNK 2. In fact, I even started using Mai in that game -- adding her to my team of Morrigan and Chun-Li. Oh and speaking of Chun-Li, I was using her Street Fighter II anniversary fighting pad to play the game, which did lend a level of comfort.

Posted on Feb 25th 2011 at 01:32:59 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2

Shadow Of The Colossus has always been one of those games that I planned on playing. But never did. Sort of like those big classic books that you plan to read someday, but their size scares you off -- and there's always the possibility that you'll be let down after years of hearing how classic it is. Well, I finally decided it was time to cross this one off my list. And to sort of motive me to do so, I kept a log of my playing. I did so in the form of a forum thread at, but I've taken the liberty of editing my impressions together here (sans conversations) to chronicle my journey.

Lots of swearing and spoilers after the break!

Continue reading Shadow Of The Colossus

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