Author Archives: drew1440

Mac OS X Jaguar (10.2)

The third release of Mac OS X, let’s hope the bugs from the last version were fixed in this build. Some screenshots come from QEMU (4:3) and off a real PowerMac G4 (16:10)

The desktop, not much has changed from Puma, aside from a few new icons in the dock.

QEMU has a few issues running this build of OS X relating to the finder, where the main Finder window will not open correctly. As a workaround, you can click on the Go menu and then select the window you wish to open.

The emulated IDE controller also has a few issues with a blank/duplicate hard disk.

Install

Install procedure remains the same as the previous versions, with the ability to modify what components are installed. Print drivers were removed since we are never going to use them in QEMU, and we also dont need any additional languages.

Setup

After the install we are presented with the registration wizard.

Desktop

Appears mostly the same as Puma, although you lose the pinestripes out of the dock. Finder window appears to be the same as Puma, with some elements of Windows explorer included which gives it a browser-based feel with the back and forward buttons.

Rendezous is a feature that you will come across in OS X, this allows for local network devices to discover one another, typically used for media devices like DVR (Digital Video Recorder), and Printers. This was later renamed Bonjour, although the technology remains the same. In Safari you can view any local webpages offered by supported devices, such as the configuration webpage of certain routers, and in iChat you can use it to discover other users that have Rendevous enabled. Many OS X applications make use of this technology.

Sound: Works somewhat if you use the screamer audio builds from emaculation. It’s not very good quality audio with stuttering and crackling when playing mp3 audio via iTunes (This might have more to do with the emulated CPU running at 200MHz. Eventually the sound just gave up one time and I had to reboot the OS to get it back.

Applications

iTunes – Version 3 comes bundled with this release and serves as the default music player. This release predates the iPod and the iTunes store, and thus cannot sync without an update.

iChat – Apple’s alternative to MSN Messenger, which supports AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) accounts. works to some extent, whilst the online service will no longer allow sign-in from this client, we can enable Rendezvous chat to communicate with other compatible users, at least on the local network. iChat was originally intended to be used with AOL Instant Messenger.

DVD Player: Plays back DVD movies if your Mac is equipped with a DVD drive or a Combo (DVD Player with CD-R capability) or a Super drive. Also blocks screenshots when using the built-in grab tool.

iMovie: A basic video editor that lets you create home movies, complete with special effects using clips stitched from various video files, typically from a digital video camera. You can also add your own voice effects, allowing you to add commentary to your video. This is one of those apps that runs in full screen, hiding the dock.

iPhoto: Import pictures from your digital camera and organize them into various different albums, Different effects can be applied, and features a printing utility if you have a photo printer.

Address Book: Appears to have a brush aluminum appearance which would later influence the Finer window interface for Panther and Tiger

Sherlock: opens but refuses to load any channels, possibly its no longer online.

Photo Import: is a tool that transfers photos from a supported digital camera connected via USB, and can transfer files to your Documents directory. You can choose to import them all or manually select which images to transfer and if they need to be rotated. YOu can also set to delete the photos from the camera itself to free up space. A good utility but surely this could have been integrated into iPhoto.

Bundled in later updates:

Safari – Although mainly introduced in Panther, one of the OS X updates introduced Safari as an alternative browser. This was to replace Internet Explorer and would include its own rendering engine.

AirPort: Additional drivers are included in later releases of Jaguar, third-party cards are supported providing they are using a specific Broadcom-based chipset (The wireless card in my G4 is actually a BT Voyager branded PCI card). But you are still limited to WEP support, no WPA or WPA2.

Third-Party

RealPlayer: Popular video streaming application, before Youtube was king video clips and music videos were streaming using RealMedia .rm files. RealPlayer later evolved into a full-fledged MediaPlayer similar to iTunes or later versions of Windows Media Player

Opera: An alternative browser using the Presto rendering engine. This was from the era when Opera was a browser you had to pay for, but a free version existed that would show adverts.

Camino: A fork of Firefox designed to be built for use on Mac OS X, making full use and integration into the Finder.

Appleworks: Apple’s own productivity suite of applications that consists of a word processor, spreadsheet and desktop publishing. Technically this is first-party, but is not included with the OS install. Appleworks was never really popular, and many mac users would opt for Microsoft’s Office which had full compatibility with the mainstream file formats. In contrast, the CWK format was used to save text documents.

Norton Utilities: A must for early versions of Mac OS X, includes a set of tools to keep OS X running smoothly.

Fantavision

A PS2 techdemo turned into a game

It’s a simple game where you set off fireworks by combining various flares of the same colour together to set off a chain. You are limited to chaining flairs of the same colour together, but you can use the rainbow-colored flairs to combine flairs of a different colour. Bonus can also be combined to increase your score, and some will help spell out the word Starmine, which is used to enable a special mode to increase your score.
If you fail to set off a flare, you will lose a certain amount of life, which the game ends when this has been depleted, You can lose life even by chaining a few flares and have them go out since flares will last on screen for around 10 seconds. This does give a risk element when combining flares of multiple colours and means you will have to gamble between setting off your flares or waiting to see if you can increase your chain combo.

There is also a two-player mode which is similar to the single-player mode, but players have the ability to swap the screen with a unique powerup.

Red/Green/Blue: Common flair colours
Wild flare: this will be white and is one of the flairs that allows you to combine flares of different colors
Star item: Adds a letter to the Starmine meter below, appears as a star
Energy item: Replenishes your life meter, appears as the letter E
Bonus point: Multiplies your bonus score, appears as a letter B

After you complete a level, the game will automatically save a replay to your memory card which you can replay later, and can apply different effects and change the angle and the weather whilst you watch the fireworks.

When you complete all eight levels, the extra section is unlocked.

Music and Region differences

Each region has its own unique soundtrack which was meant to reflect the popular genre of the time. Europe as dance/trance-like music whilst the US has NewWave/Pop music. These also carry over into the cutscenes of the game.

On the topic of sound, this is one of the games that does not output audio over the PS2 Optical audio connection (sometimes known as S/PDIF) and you have to revert to the AV Multi out audio, I’m not sure why this is, or if the game is outputting audio my AV Receiver (Yamaha RX-V481D) does not understand.

Cutscenes

I’m not sure what relevance these have to the game, they seem to appear after every few levels showing a sub-urban family playing and talking with one another, set in a 1950s period,, yet you can see them playing with PS2 controllers. Since the later levels feature you being in space, maybe it’s a reference to the 1950s space race.

I’m more confused why the main menu has phonetic pronunciations of the above text?

A PS2 classic

Sony later re-released this game onto the PS4 as part of the PS2 classics, which is a collection of PS2 games running in an emulator. Here the game benefits from improved graphics as the emulator runs in a higher resolution and trophies.

Depending on your PSN Store region, you will get either the EU/ US or Japan version of the game with its own soundtrack. This can also mean if you’re in Europe, you’re still getting the PAL version of the game, complete with its 50Hz goodness, although it’s very hard to notice on the emulator (The PS4 will output 60Hz regardless of when the game is running)

Conclusion

Considering this was originally conceived as a tech demo, it’s a good title if you disregard the wacky cutscenes, and its music makes it compelling to play. Fantavision would be the only game of its type to be released on Sony, no sequels or ports to other systems were developed, shame since it would be ideal on the PSP or as a PSN exclusive title, a simple puzzle game that’s easy to get into.

DirecTivo

DirecTV partnered with Tivo to produce DVRs for the digital satellite TV services, alongside the UltimateTV. This would become the standard DVR for DirecTV subscribers from 1999 to 2005, when DirecTV introduced their own custom-developed units based on NDS middleware, similar to Sky+ in the UK. The last remaining Tivo DVR was the THR-22.

Typical Tivo units were manufactured by Humax, Sony and Hughes

Tivo channel banner

The channel information banner that shows what is currently being watched, a description of the current show, and icons on the right allow quick access to Tivo features

Tivo uses the thumbs Up/Down rating system for the user to provide feedback about the programs they prefer watching and the ones they prefer to avoid. This influences the Tivo suggestions that the DVR will record.

An iPreview icon, Pressing select or the thumbs up icon takes you to a Tivo Central message advertisement

The main EPG interface, Showing channels in a grid interface

Most of the Tivo menu are straight vertical lists and are easy to navigate with the remote control. You can customize the guide interface and set any additional filters

A list of recorder programs, when they were recorded and the channel they were recorded from

Tivo gives additional options when playing back a program, you can archive to a VCR instead, and you can prevent the Tivo from deleting the program if it needs more space.

DirecTV Tivo was integrated with DirecTV’s pay-per-view services, and movies/events could be recorded to its hard drive

You can add an additional buffer for recording TV programs to prevent them from being cut off in the event it overruns into the next program, similar to PDC (Program Delivery Control)

List of upcoming programs to be recorded

To Do List shows the programs Tivo is about to record as scheduled

You can filter to a specific genre of program

Choosing a channel and listing all the programs broadcast

Setting up a manual recording

Recording history for a show that was deleted.

Tivo will alert you if a program will not be recorded due to a schedule conflict, due to the limited amount of tuners

Tivos Recording history shows what was recorded, anything that didn’t record and what was deleted

Season passes are akin to series links, where the Tivo will record a series of episodes of the same show automatically. You can modify and remove these at any time

Upcoming episodes to be recorded, as part of a season pass

The time bar, shows how long you are into a recording, this appears when you pause, fast forward or rewind during a show.

The search feature, cab be used to find upcoming shows or movies

Wishlist main menu, you can set a Wishlist for a specific actor, and keywords (like the show title), you can then set a season pass to record any program matching that Wishlist keyword.

The results window when searching for a specific actor, any upcoming shows are listed that feature that actor

Again, very similar to the title keywords

Tivo showcases are like interactive apps containing clips that can be downloaded to your Tivo, they also serve as promotions for subscribers

Virtua Cop

An on-the-rails arcade shooting game, here you only have to worry about aiming and shooting and all the movement is done automatically. There is still a challenge though and fast reflexes are essential to get a good score in Virtua Cop. If you’ve played Time Crisis you will be familiar with the concept, but Sega have implemented different mechanics.

Don’t Shoot! Proceeds to run in front of player

By default you start off with the revolver, which is a standard pistol. Over the course of the game other weapons can be picked up like the shotgun or an automatic, which holds more ammunition and can fire more rounds without being reloaded, but can only be used through one ammo clip.
You will lose the additional weapon if you get shot by an enemy or if you hit a civilian, when this happens you will revert back to the standard revolver.

The whole objective of the game is to shoot the bad guys, whilst avoiding the civilians. Shooting a civilian will cause you to lose a life whilst shooting and disarming an enemy gives you a justice shot bonus. You can use the environment to help you, by shooting the red barrels you can create explosions that can take out several enemies.
Occasionally enemies will pop up on the screen and will throw an axe, you will need to shot them before their axe makes contact otherwise you will lose a life. These can take you by surprise, but remain consistent through multiple playthroughs, so over time you can memorise the enemy sequences.
Some enemies will also throw a grenade, you must shoot the grenade before it lands.

Levels:

There are three stages in total, at the end of each stage is a boss fight where you will need to shoot both the boss enemy and their projectiles.

Stage 1: Arms Black Market, Starts off on a shipping yard, where this is suspected criminal activity going on with the illegal import of weapons. The end boss is Kong, who uses a rocket launcher.

Stage 2: Underground Weapon Storage, Takes place on a construction site. Here the enemies start to become more frequent, with many popping up on screen, and environmental hazards involving vehicles now talking place. End boss here is called King (No, not the one from Tekken), and uses a flame flower that shoots balls of fire.

Stage 3: Gang Headquarters, We’re here in the EVL corporation headquarters. You fight shoot your way through the Skyscraper, through the various offices (equipped with Apple Macintosh Quadra 900s, guess we know what computers Sega was using back then). Here the enemies are a lot more quicker to react compared to the previous stages. At the end there are two gang bosses, Boss and Fang. Boss desk transforms into a mecha-suit that fires missiles, whilst Fang is an attack helicopter.

Versions

Arcade

Virtua Cop debuted on the original Model 2 arcade board and was a light gun based game. The player uses the gun to aim at targets to fire and shoot enemies. Reloading is done through aiming the gun away from the screen and shooting.
In total there are 3 stages, and can be played in any order. By default you have 5 lives, which can be amended in the games test mode. After all your lives have been lost, you need to insert credit in order to continue, but the game does allow you to pick up where you left off instead of starting from the first level again.

Sega Saturn

Sega ported the game to the Saturn in 1995 and was one of the fist games to be developed using the Saturn Graphics Library, which was intended to make it easier to develop games for the Saturn. Like other Model 2 to Saturn ports, the graphics quality has been reduced in order to adapt to the Saturn’s graphics hardware.
The Saturn does make use of pre rendered FMV for some of the opening sequences, however the arcade opening sequences is rendered in engine, although modified to account for the Saturn’s design.
The Saturn compensates for this with the addition of a couple of features like the training mode which helps you get used to the shooting mechanics by shooting a set amount of targets under a time limit. There is also a two player mode that can be access through the training menu.

The Saturn version also makes use of the Virtua Gun which is a light gun that functions only on CRT TV’s or the Saturn mouse.

Windows

Sega also ported the game to Windows in 1996 and makes use of DirectX X
Like the Saturn version it also features a couple of features. However it still lacks the visuals of the arcade, even though some high end systems of the time were capable of Model 2 like graphics. It’s likely Sega assumed most players would be using software rending as opposed to a dedicated 3D card, and designed the game as such rather than targeting high end hardware.

Settings screen in glorious Comic Sans, and when 640×480 was considered high res

The PC port does suffer from a few issue’s in regards to how it is controlled. Navigating the menus is a pain, as you have to use the keyboard arrow keys and the enter key to select, the mouse cannot be used at all. Seems like the game was designed to be used mostly with the gamepad. The mouse can be used to aim and shoot, with reloading being done by double clicking the right mouse button quickly.

In terms of support the game was meant to be used for Windows 95, but will also work with Windows 98. No support for NT (Not tested yet). The game makes use of DirectX 2 for its 3D API. There is also support for the Nvidia NV1 accelerator, which Sega’s early 3D PC titles had support for, this also makes use of a special executable that runs on that graphics card only. No modern API wrapper for that card exists, and many emulators (PCem/86Box/QEMU) have no support for this unique card.

As with all CD-ROM based games from this era, this makes use of CD Audio for the games background music. In order for this to play back you must have the game in a BIN/CUE format since this preserves the audio subchannel data. PCem and 86Box do support this form of audio when mounting those images directly into the emulator, providing the correct image format is used. On an actual system an IDE hard drive with the CD Audio header must be connected to the CD Audio port on the soundcard, otherwise the music will not play, modern SATA drives and onboard soundcards will likely lack this interface.

Ridge Racer Type 4

Widely considered to be the best in the Ridge Racer series, its soundtrack and the opening FMV are defiantly most memorable. This would be the last Ridge Racer game released for the original PlayStation.

The game improves on the mechanics from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, complete with eight brand new tracks and a soundtrack that’s a complete departure from the drum & bass themes from the previous instalment. Graphics-wise the game sees a shift that pushes the PlayStation hardware to the extreme, thanks to the use of Gouraud shading that gives a shade of depth to the polygons, giving the game a realistic appearance.

To keep a stable 30FPS, which was the game’s target framerate, certain changes are made to the enemy opponents, where you only have up to 4 cars on screen at the same time, of which the AI-controlled cars are more spread out across the track. In contrast to the early titles where you will pass multiple cars in the same area, in R4 the opponents feel spaced out and you pass by them in a linear fashion.

Grand Prix

There is a story mode of some sort, you can choose from four teams that will have their own unique manager representing the company. Here you have a direct dialog that gives more detail into the backstory of the teams and how they tie into the Ridge Racer Grand Prix. After every race you will have a meeting with them and their dialog is dependent on how you perform (which place you finish in). There is no dialogue for when you lose or fail to qualify, as the game will prompt you to retry or will go straight to a game over screen.
The team choice will also affect the ending epilogue (although on some emulators there is a bug that causes only the MMM epilogue to play)

The Teams

Four teams come with Ridge Racer Type 4, all of which are some reference to another Namco arcade game franchise.

Conversation with your team representative

Micro Mouse Mappy: A French racing team led by Sophie Chevalier. The easiest team in the game which is recommended for new players.
R.T.S: Lead by Enki Gilbert, He starts off as a perfectionist, expecting you to come in first place in every race but eventually softens u after learning of the Pac Racing Club’s entry. Its implied the manager looks to the player as a second son, due to his actual son being involved in an accident that cost him his life. Towards the end he wants the player to take the race easy, fearing history could repeat again like the death of his son.
Dig Racing Team: My favorite team since I like the underdog teams, They’re a struggling team that is under budget and as a result will enable to provide fast cars from a majority of the races, meaning you will need to rely on skill in order to get ahead of the competition.
Pac Racing Club: Lead by Shinji Yazaki, seems to only care about the results of the race, but will open up over time about a past Gran Prix where Enki’s son died during a race in which he was involved in.

The Cars

There are lots of cars included in the game, over 320 in fact. Many of these are unlocked by beating the Grand Prix modes across various teams and car manufacturers.

Garage cars are the cars you unlock during the Grand Prix events and can come from four manufacturers, across four different teams, giving 16 different design variations. However the game will reward you with a different car depending on your performance of the early events, ie, if you come 1st 2nd or 3rd during the first heat, will influence the type of upgrades you have, which the game counts as an additional car. Therefore in order to unlock all cars, you have to play the Grand Prix with the same manufacturer/team combo several times, coming deliberately in 3rd/2nd and 1st place for each run.
The garage can only hold a limited amount of cars, and will you have to swap out locked cars in order to play them in time attack or link/multiplayer.

There are also a few preset cars that are already unlocked for use in time attack or for two-player mode, these are also in grip or drift varieties. These don’t seem to have any defined name, other than Preset G3, Preset D4, etc. Most players will refer to them by the color, which comes in (red, black/Grey, white or yellow)

And then you have the cars unlocked using the extra trials, you can only unlock these by winning a Grand Prix with a specific manufacturer, although the team does not matter much, except for the performance tuning.

The Tracks

  • Helter Skelter: The first track you will probably play, set in Japan Yokohama and shares with Out Of Blue. A good track that serves as an introduction to the game’s drift mechanics and style. The song Pearl Blue Soul always plays on this course.
  • Wonderhill: The second track that is played on a late spring afternoon that gives a sunset sky. This track shares with the Heaven and Hell track that appears later in the game. The music on this track can differ if you are racing with the RTS team (Revlimit Funk plays), otherwise Naked Glow will usually play, and it really suits this course
  • Edge of the Earth: Set at night in an airport that leads into a small city, one of my favourite courses since you can go full speed, but also must be mindful of the courses.
  • Out of Blue: In contrast to the previous track, this one is set very early in the morning and shared with Helter Skelter, with OOB separating into its own path, which features locations near a shipping dock. Some of the scenery here reminds me of the original Ridge Racer track. The corners on this track can be brutal, so make sure you are used to the car’s handling.
  • Phantomile: It’s a very short course in comparison to the others, and the corners are rather savage. The Motor Species song always plays for this course. Also just so happens this race is set on the same day as my birthday.
  • Brightest Nite: Another course set at night time, this one also shares with Edge of the Earth. This one is set later at night and features a huge drop towards the end of the tack
  • Heaven and Hell: Shares with Heaven and hell, although it’s set earlier in the day which gives off a different feel of the track, being much brighter.
  • Shooting Hoops: The last track to race and it’s a good and simple one, set at midnight of December 31st 1999 on the eve of the new millennium. The song Movin’ in Circles always plays for this track and on the last lap you can see fireworks being set off as the new millennium is upon us (Cue airplanes falling out of the sky due to the Y2K bug)

Vs and Link Battle

Link battle adds the ability to play with up to four different players, across two consoles. This is similar to how early titles handled multiplayer where two consoles are connected together using the official link cable, along with two displays and copies of the game.
If the game detects another console connected using the serial link cable, the link battle option will appear in the main menu. Sadly in PCSX-R whilst we are able to establish a link between two instances with a Linux Virtual machine (running Ubuntu & Pop_OS), the speed is incredibly slow and unplayable, and whilst we can navigate the link mode menus, the game will display an error message when we try to start the race.

The regular VS mode can also be accessed by having two controllers connected to the console, where the game plays in a split-screen mode allowing for both racers to race at the same time through one console. You can combine this with the link battle to have a total of four players in a single race, with two players per console.

The multitap is not supported here, only a maximum of two players per console.

Further Information

Decal Editor

Like in Rage Racer, a decal can be created and applied to your team’s car which can be any pattern. Here the PlayStation mouse is best used

The Namco NeGcon is fully supported for steering and acceleration, in addition to the DualShock analog sticks.

A visual blur effect can be applied when a race is being replayed, activated by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons.

Tekken 3

The attitude era of Tekken

Taking place several years after Tekken 2 and featured several new characters and a few from the previous instalment. Tekken 3 introduces several new gameplay mechanics that take advantage of the 3D fighting environment, with the ability to sidestep

Versions

Like earlier installments, Tekken 3 was released to arcades first in 1996, then ported to the PlayStation in 1998

Arcade

The arcade version ran on an upgraded PlayStation based board, known as Namco System 12 which featured a higher clocked processor (48MHz vs 33Mhz) and slightly more VRAM (2MB vs 1MB) This game Tekken 3 had the ability to run at a higher polygon count allowing for more detailed characters, along with its background stages to me more detailed thanks to the increased VRAM. This gives a 3D-like effect to the background, and you can see them being more vibrant, especially on Howoarg’s stage. On King’s stage, there is a helicopter that does not show up in the console released, and on Xiayou’s stage, a moving carousel can be seen.
Sound is provided by the Namco C352, accompanied by the Hitachi H8 3002 processor. A unique feature of the sound is that the background music progress depending on the current round your character is on, reach round 2, and the sound changes to another verse/segment, round 3 and another segment plays before looping back to the start segment for round 4 onwards. This all depends if you have configured the game to have 3 or more rounds, by default Tekken 3 is set for two rounds (A third is possible if the opponent wins).

At the start, there are only a few characters playable, with the rest being locked/hidden. Namco implemented a time-based unlock that would unlock characters depending on the amount of time the arcade machine was left on. Thankfully there is a MAME cheat to unlock all characters instantly, so you don’t need to leave the emulator running. Also, all hidden characters share the same background music, due to how uncommon they are and the limited ROM storage, whilst the PlayStation port gives them their own unique music as part of the arranged soundtrack.


The arcade release would later be ported to the PS2, as part of a bonus feature of Tekken 5, This one retains all the graphic enhancements from the System 12 version.
The original Japanese arcade release had Jun as her own character, with her own portrait panel. But her character model uses Nina’s and has Jin’s move set. She will appear in the attract screen character usage statistics once you have completed arcade mode as her. Sake is another unused character but this one is more incomplete. Later arcade releases remove her and Sake as playable characters, and they do not appear at all in any home console release.

PlayStation

Compared to other Tekken arcade to console releases, Tekken 3 required some conversion time as the home console was a lot more contained compared to the arcade version. One notable difference was the change in the stage background, opting for a more flat box-like look compared to the detailed arcade background, The character models also went to a polygon diet and a minor reduction in resolution to keep the game running at 60fps.
However Namco made up for it with the added content, with a newly arranged soundtrack that remixes samples from the arcade original soundtrack, plus each unlockable character has their own background audio track.

Tekken Force is a new game mode that puts you in a beat-em-up environment. Your character has to progress through a series of stages (4 in total). Each stage has a boss character which will be one of the playable Tekken characters before they face Heiachi at the final stage.


Additional game modes include team battle mode, time attack mode, and a movie/music player that can playback ending movies for unlocked characters, and also supports Tekken 2 and the original Tekken if an unlocked save file is found.

Tekken 3 remains one of my favorite fighting games and is a joy to go back and play every now and then, for both the arcade and home versions. Whilst I still enjoy the modern Tekken games, they seem to be a bit too heavy and take a while to load and to get into a game. Tekken 6’s load times were horrible, even after installing it to an SSD.

Quick Comparison

X-Squad

One of the PS2 launch titles, try doing this on a Dreamcast

A third person sort of FPS where you shoot stuff. The main plot of the game is set in the year 2037, terrorists have taken over a military base and it’s up to the X-Squad to restore it, following the failure of the previous W-Squad mentioned in the game.

The game is similar in concept to SOCOM and Ghost Recon where you can issue squad commands to your teammates, typically 3 members. These are fairly basic as you can only command them to be oppressive or stealth/defensive.

The game UI, screams early 2000 era design and is where you can manage your inventory. At the end of each level you will earn points depending on the difficulty the level was completed at. You can use these to purchase new weapons, ammunition, shields and gadgets to help complete the next level. You can also find pickups, like leftover ammunition when you kill an enemy to keep your character going.

You can also manage your teammates inventories, and can juggle weapons, health kits between them.

The Squad

John Ash Connors: The main character and the only character you can control. Only 26 years old and has grey/silver hair.

Maya Esteves: One of your teammates who is with you the most, has a tendency to get shot and run out of health, which requires you to constantly transfer health packs to keep her in the game

Judd: A large son of a bitch, standing 6ft 8 and weighing 250 pounds. For his height he appears out of scale since compared to his squad mates, appearing only slightly taller.

Melinda Swanson: Not one for conversation from going by the cutscenes, both her and Judd will occasionally go and do their own thing mid-mission, leaving you stuck with Maya

Colonel Clifford: You encounter this geezer midway through level 4 and he becomes a teammate for the rest of levels 4 and 5. Although his health indicator is set on yellow, he cannot die thankfully, but he ain’t a good shooter.

Dr. Biana: Not a direct squadmate but you encounter her often. Walks around with a briefcase and talks about some Medusa project

As mentioned, Your squadmates can be ordered around to some extent, by giving them commands. You can choose for them to be offensive where they will attack when they come into contact with enemies, or defence/stealth where they will only shoot when attacked.
Each member has a limited amount of weight they can handle, which affects the number of weapons they can carry, with Judd being able to carry the most. It’s best to leave the heavy weapons with him.

The game gives off a very Unreal Tournament / Perfect Dark-like vibe when you look at the level design and the electronic/techno-inspired background music. The main characters also look like UT player models. Considering UT came out one year before this game did (1999), you can see they were influenced by it.

Levels

There are 9 levels in total

Most levels consist of you going from one area to another, in order to get to the end. Many have areas blocked off and require you to find a switch in order to unlock the door/lasers in order to progress through, some of which are located on the exact opposite of the level.

A Switch, you will encounter this often


The design of the levels isn’t very diverse, with you running around an underground tunnel/area. There seem to be no areas set outside

  • Level 1: Set in a waste disposal facility, a pleasant start to the game and an introduction to the game mechanics.
  • Level 2: Has nice chilled music to listen to as you explore the level which is nice since it starts off in a sewer and ends in a waste disposal unit.
  • Level 3: This one gets frustrating, since you are stuck in an ugly maze-like environment, it’s easy to get confused due to how similar the corridors look, with the only major difference being the floor colour. It took me half an hour to find all the switches needed to progress. There’s no end boss but you do have to free the prisoners at the end.
  • Level 4: Set in an abandoned tramway, here you meet the cornel and his side chick for the first time. The objective here is to escort the two of them to the lab using the tram tunnels. The end boss of this level is a horde of guards, so make sure you have plenty of ammo and health kits.
  • Level 5: We battle our way in a laboratory, this time we are missing Judd, who has been replaced with Clifford
  • Level 6: More of the same, it’s set in some sort of a recreation area, although it looks just the same as the other areas. Boss level is set again a large tank, of which your teammates will be incapacitated almost immediately.
  • Level 7: There are a few areas where you will be ambushed and will have enemies firing from all sides, thankfully there are spaces where you can take cover, although try telling your AI teammates that.
  • Level 8: This one was a bit awkward as some corridors are a bit tight, and some are set near ledges where you can fall to your death. You simply walk around the map flipping switches until you unlock the least door. There is one switch that is placed in an awkward spot, where your character can easily fall through and die. There’s no jump button so you have to run over the gap and hope for the best. The end boss is brutal, you get ambushed by four enemies that will continuously respawn even if you kill them, and Simpson who is equipped with an overpowered weapon.
  • Level 9: This is where the game shits itself. At the start, you have to contend with enemies that are triple shields, and a good amount of ammo is wasted just having to deal with these. Then you have a boss battle with a large chopper, which will fire heat-seeking missiles repeatedly. At this point the game becomes a glitch fest, in one instance I got landed with a Game Over screen even though my character was still moving and my health bar still have some life it in, Other times my character was alive but the camera had glitched out to an overhead view and was unable to shoot.

I’d say the game was rushed towards the later levels since there are quite a few glitches. Even in the ending cutscene on Youtube they had issues animating the mouth of the characters

Misc Notes

The game only supports 4:3 output, no widescreen here.

From browsing the games disc, Internally the game seems to compress most files into multiple BZP archives, this includes the levels and the opening movies themselves. I have not found a way to decompress these files, and its likely an internal format that EA/Square use.

Links

EA X-Squad Homepage

R.I.P

IBM Thinkpad X41

One of the last generation of Thinkpad laptops branded as IBM before Lenovo was introduced. Let’s take a look at what software was included with a typical IBM Thinkpad install.

Desktop after a fresh install, complete with an IBM custom wallpaper and a link to the Access IBM for the OEM Link.

Access IBM

A program that goes through the features of the ThinkPad and allows easy access to common functions that Windows does not typically cover. It also has links to various support topics and articles, acting as an electronic alternative to the bundled documentation.

A shortcut to Access IBM appears in the Windows Help & Support center.

IBM Update Connector

Checks for driver updates and any new versions of bundles software. In a domain environment you can also set up your own IBM update server where approved and tested updates can be distributed, instead of downloading from IBM directly.

Battery MaxiMizer Wizard

Helps monitor the battery health and how to get the best battery life.

ThinkVantage Technologies

Shows off the different features of your ThinkPad like the rescue and recovery software to recover any missing or corrupted files. The active protection system with shuts off the hard drive when a fall is detected, possibly a sensor is embedded into the laptop to allow it to detect this.

SONIC Expresslabeler

Adobe Reader

Appears to be present but not completely installed by default. Opening it for the first time reveals some sort of unarchiver. Also a look at an interactive wallpaper also provided by IBM, which displays a graphical view of the hard drive and its space used, and the calendar which shows the correct date (But not any schedules or reminders). There’s also a section for email, but I have yet to get this to show anything, possibly only works with Outlook Express.

InterVideo WinDVD

DVD playback software for the included DVD drive, this does not function in the virtual machine as it complains about the lack of copy protection. Even Windows Media Player had issues playing a DVD.

InterVideo WinDVD Creator

You can create and burn your own DVD video discs, intended for use for home movies (Through I wonder if DVD-rip torrents could be imported and burnt in this way). here we can create and manipulate the DVD home menu using its own design and navigation. Alternatively, a static slideshow can be created using photos captured from a digital camera.

IBM (Sonic) RecordNow!

A popular CD recording utility I’ve seen bundled on various laptops from this era (Toshiba A60). You can burn a regular ISO image or an audio or MP3 CD. Sonic would later be acquired by Roxio and would be integrated into their products.

Norton Antivirus / Internet Security

Typical virus protection of the year, Norton AntiVirus was bundled with various IBM products. Norton has the ability to scan and detect any virus embedded in email applications, providing you use an email client that Norton supports (Like Microsoft Outlook)

I’m surprised it even allowed a version this old to be activated, I doubt it would perform well against modern malware.

Desktop Themes

Two desktop themes come included, which feature their own sounds, desktop icons and wallpaper. Both will use the Luna silver theme

Wallpaper

Three wallpapers are included, with the second one being a dynamic active desktop wallpaper mentioned earlier.

Screensavers

A few screensavers that show off and advertise the features of the laptop.

Control Panel

Various control panel applets that have been preinstalled by IBM

IBM Active Protection: controls the freefall hard drive protection

ThinkPad Configuration: Supposed to change various options for your Thinkpad

Misc

The Simpsons Wrestling

It was the blurst of Simpsons games…

Poor Homer

A simple wrestling game inspired by the attitude era of WWE (or WWF), although the wrestling mechanic is implemented loosely. Matches are set in the giant ring set in various locations across Springfield, complete with their own theme tune music. background characters can be heard and will react to attacks you and your opponent will make.
Pinning is very basic and is how you win a match, you can pin everywhere and there is no way to block or reverse attacks. As such it’s not as complex as the WWE wrestling games.

Main menu

There are a few campaign options that are unlocked sequentially, these are a series of matches that you must play to unlock new characters and to complete the game.

The VS/Exhibition mode is greyed out and needs a second controller to be plugged in to be selectable.

Gameplay

The type of attacks that can be done is determined by the energy/stamina bar, which depletes when you execute a move.

Strike: done by pressing the Square button, deals a basic strike attack. When you have a 4 hit combo you can knock your opponent to the ground
Long Range / Alt Attack: Done by pressing the Triangle button, your character will typically throw or shoot a weapon.
Special: Done using the circle button, this takes a lot of energy but deals a lot of damage, or will unleash a series of uninterruptable attacks on your opponent.

Taunt: Knocking out an opponent gives you one taunt letter, collecting all five allows you to taunt your opponent which will stunt them and gives you temporally invulnerability.

Other/Combo attacks

Grappling is possible by pressing L1 when you are next to an opponent, you can then execute a grapple move.

The Cross button will allow your character to jump, and they can combine an attack using the Square, Triangle, or Circle buttons

Lastly, you can also attack using the ropes, which allows your character to execute unique moves, simply run into the ropes and press the desired attack button.

Charicters

  • Barney: The town drunk, fights with a glass full of beer and belches toxic gas that will reduce your health
  • Krustry: Throws creme pies and can summon a huge hammer as an attack.
  • Willie: Can set traps like a beartrap, a rake or garden scissors,
  • Apu: Likes to use the jump attack, a lot. Will sometimes throw his trademark squishee. Special attacks seems to be him having some sort of seizure.
  • Homer: Has a basic attack and can deploy bowling balls that roll throughout the ring, has special attat that will transform into a larger sized Homer who will deal more damage
  • Marge: Can deploy Maggie who will hold opponents to slow then down, marge can then wack em with her frying pan or headbutt them with her hair
  • Bart: Special attack is him rolling on a skateboard, can also fire using his
  • Lisa: Plays a saxophone that when done correctly, will stun the opponent character, must have a full energy bar to do this.
  • Moe: Has very fast attacks and can throw flaming Moe’s, which resolt in fire for a few seconds
  • Frink: Pretty strong character, can deploy random objects like a homing rocket, an exploding robot or an exploding mine
  • Bumblebee Man: Ok but has a fucking annoying pet chuwaw dog that will bite your charicter
  • Flanders: This is the character that breaks the game, most of his attacks are ok except for one where lighting bolds strike your character, draining your health unless you keep moving. His throw attacks are flying bibles which circle round the ring until they hit your character (I’ve heard of bible bashing but homing bibles takes it to another level). And to top it off he gets an extra life as when you try to pin him, he will resurrect back to life. Really don’t know what they were thinking with Flanders here. The only way to beat him is through luck.
  • Smithers: Another overpowered character, but is more fair than Flanders. Smithers can only be played in single player and has his own stage. Mr Burns will throw what appears to be radioactive mini-nukes into the ring which only affect your charicter, Smithers does not take any damage. Perhaps prolonged exposure has made him immune to the effects?
  • Kang & Kodos: The space aliens who have their own stage, these charicters are quite large and occupy a lot of space in the ring

Conclusion

As a wrestling game is a poor title, since it very liberally uses the wrestling genre, there are no ring-outs. Really if you’re looking for a good wrestling game, your not gonna get it with The Simpsons, and why would you expect anything more? Calling it one of the worst games ever is misleading, as there is fun to be had here, and what the game lacks in graphics it makes up with its soundtrack.
But for what it is, a Simpsons game is pretty ok, and worth a play if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. And it’s a lot more fun in Vs mode rather than single player, which can get mundane after a few minutes.


Also, why did we only get one Simpsons game on the PlayStation? (Technically two, Simpsons Bowling was an arcade game running on PS1 based hardware) Both were at the prime in the late 90s so you’d think we get a few games on the PlayStation, instead, titles like Virtual Springfield ended up exclusive on PC platforms like Windows and MacOS.

Ridge Racer Revolution

The follow-up to the PlayStation launch classic

Ridge Raver Revolution builds upon the original Ridge Racer game, set with a new course being added with a few variations. All three tracks are similar in how they start, but branch out into different directions and are named by the difficulty of the track itself (Novice, Advanced, Expert).

As with the first game, there is support for the NeGcon controller, so make sure to enable it in your emulator if you wish to take advantage of analogue steering.

Race Modes

Race: Normal racing mode, race 3 laps around the track and finish in 1st place for each one.
Time Trial: Same as Race mode but you have no opponents, the objective is to get the fastest lap time for each track. I’ve always found these modes boarding and don’t really play these much. Completing these modes will unlock a new car.
Free: You can run as many courses as you like. When you reach 99 laps, the lap counter display will stay fixed at 99 laps.

In terms of gameplay, it’s very similar to the original game, with the same graphics style and mostly the same drifting mechanics. Therefore you could consider this as a standalone expansion pack of sorts.

The soundtrack is the exact same as Ridge Racer 2 was released for the arcade, however, Ridge Racer 2 featured only the original arcade tracks, not the ones featured in Revolution.

Secrets

Spinning Point: When selecting time trial, hold down the X and Square buttons and select Start (Note: Not the Start button on the controller, the option on the screen), then when playing the track, Spinning Point will appear where you can spin and the game will score you based on how well you spun the car. This only functions in time trial mode and the scores are not saved.


Pocket Racer: A hidden mode that is enabled when you beat the Galaga mini game without wasting a shot. This mode would later spawn into an arcade spinoff that was released in Japan arcades only as Pocket Racer.


Mirror Tracks: to play in mirror mode for every track, at the start of the game accelerate forward slightly but turn around 180 degrees, then drive into the barrier at over 66MPH and the track will be in mirror mode, along with all the road signs.
Zoom In/Out: When in third-person view, pause the game and then press either the L1 or R1 buttons to zoom in or out respectively. You can then resume the game with the new viewpoint.


Title Screen: The spotlight can be manipulated by holding both the L1 & R1 buttons, then using the d-pad to move the spotlight.

Two Player Link

Revolution included a new two-player link that allows for two players to race each other through the use of two consoles, two copies of the game and two displays. This is not the same as the split-screen modes in the later installments of Ridge Racers, with only one player per console.
A link cable is required to connect both consoles together using the serial port located on the original PlayStation models. The smaller Psone branded consoles lack this port and cannot make use of the two-player modes, but can still play the single-player modes.

You can replicate the two-player mode using the NO$PSX emulator, or PCSX. PCSX was troublesome to work within Windows as starting the emulator as a client would just cause it to crash. Under Linux we have some luck but when we are able to re-establish a link, the performance is horrendous with both games running at around 2FPS. Possibly due to both emulators trying to run in sync with each other. I tried running both in a VM, running in a LAN segment but the performance was still the same.

The original Ridge Racer tracks can be played in this mode, as this functionality was missing from the first game.

Conclusion

The game feels like what Ridge Racer should have been when it was ported to the PlayStation. Presumably a lot of content was shifted to Revolution in order to meet the launch deadline since the original Ridge Racer only featured one track with two variations.

One of the main criticism of the original Ridge Race port was its lack of content featuring only 1.5 tracks (the second being an expansion to the original) and around 12 cars, which limited replay value. Here Namco has tried to add as much content whilst still making the game accessible, however I question why certain modes are hidden behind key combinations instead of being directly accessible.