Lords of Thunder – Beta/Review copy – MCD

I have had this nice and shiny MEGA CD-R gold disc for quite some time, gathering dust. This one is Lord Of Thunder from Hudson Soft, a port of Winds Of Thunder on the PC Engine made by Hudson Soft and Red. Winds of Thunder is a solid and challenging shooter and the SEGA CD version inherit most of its qualities with a few changes like a remixed soundtrack (that you may love or hate compared to the original PCE version.) slightly inferior graphics compared to the PCE… (For a full comparison between the versions check out this article from PC Engine FX.)

I have yet to see any differences between the final release and this disc, the first few levels and intro seem to be the same as the final product. The seller told me this disc originates from a now defunct US Magazine. The files written on the CD are dated from 20/12/1994 but on the final release they are dated from June 1995, the soundtrack is the same as on the final game but according to my hex editor the final and beta/review data part differ, probably  few code optimisations here and there.  Since the game is mostly a straight port from the PCE version, I wasn’t expecting massive differences between the two, here is a picture of the disc.


All there is to know about Forsaken 2

Some years ago, I acquired a disc on the ASSEMblergames forums labeled Forsaken 2, I didn’t think much of it at the time, I enjoyed Forsaken on PS1 but I had no idea that a sequel was ever in development let alone prototyped… I bought the disc, untested, the seller didn’t seem to care about it and since he had a good rep, I decided to purchase the disc. To my surprise, the disc turned out to be very real and contains a prototype of what the vehicles would look and feel like in this sequel of Forsaken.

Here are some pictures I took at the time:

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On my previous blog, a chap names Paul T. left me a comment on the original Forsaken 2 article I made 4-5 years ago, Paul claimed to be one of the guys who developed that piece of Forsaken 2 and indeed he was. We had a few emails exchanges at the time and I thought it would be good to share one of the conversations, here, unaltered. It gives an account of the development life of Forsaken 2 and some information about how Acclaim worked and its demise. Enjoy!!!

Hi Sabre,

Thanks for getting back to me. That’s really interesting. I knew there was some interesting stuff sold off when Acclaim collapsed in 2004, but we made the demo at the UK Teesside studio, which was closed early in 2002. I guess it was a copy that was sent out to one of the other studios, or perhaps was with some of the junk that got moved from Teesside to the Cheltenham studio.

Looking back, we seemed to waste so much time and effort trying to get games green-lit into full development. Anything we came up with at the UK studios needed approval from the powers-that-be in the ivory towers in the US, naturally, but it took ages to get an answer, and feedback was minimal or non-existent. The process was something like this:

Them: Come up with a game idea.

Us: <some time later> Here’s a design we’ve been working on, whaddya think?

Them: Not really what we’re looking for. What else do you have?

Us: Ok. <Three months later> Here’s another whopping great design document and demo.

Them: Nah, it doesn’t fit with our product range.

Us: … Alright then, how about *you* tell *us* what sort of game you are looking for, seeing as you apparently have something in mind, and we only have a vague idea of what the other studios are working on. Even just a hint would be great!

Them: <silence>

We made a couple of attempts at a Forsaken sequel. The first time around, we were looking at targeting PC and xbox, possibly xbox exlusive. We didn’t have any xbox dev kits at the time, so we were just concentrating on DirectX tech and hoping there wasn’t too much variation between PC and xbox. There was an early multiplayer demo, allowing multiple PCs to link up and fly around the same environment together. I can’t remember if we had any weapons working at the time. We were planning to allow split screen on xbox as well as internet play, so each connected xbox could support up to four players.

If I remember the timeline correctly, the Cheltenham studio had successfully converted Crazy Taxi from Dreamcast to PS2, and were seeing positive results from this. The powers-that-be decided this was a Good Thing, and decided we should work on a Dreamcast->PS2 conversion, too. They had the rights for converting Zombie Revenge, so we were told to shelve Forsaken 2 for the time being, and get cracking deciphering the Japanese source code.

Zombie Revenge was also shelved in order to shift us grunts onto the Shadow Man 2 project. Shadow Man 2 was initially planned as a fairly short project (12 months or so?), building on top of the existing Shadow Man game, but ended up with at least once complete rewrite and PS2 exclusive. They threw pretty much everyone at getting that game done, and what was supposed to be a couple of months helping out turned into a year long slog. Once Shadow Man 2 was complete, rather than put us back on Zombie Revenge, we were allowed to resume the Forsaken 2 project. I think the conversion rights for Zombie Revenge had a limited time span which had expired while we were tied up with Shadow Man 2.

This time, Forsaken 2 would be a PS2 exclusive game, so the earlier work we’d done was pretty much scrapped, except for some of the art assets and physics work. A new design was produced as well, which would make it considerably different to the original Forsaken. There was going to be more emphasis on fast, scripted, single player action, sacrificing some of the freedom of the predecessor. Also, the player could dismount the bike and tackle sections on foot which, unless my memory fails me, you couldn’t do in the original.

At the end, we had a fair sized team working on the project. I was the lead programmer, we had a couple of guys working on a brand new character animation system, one on AI, and a couple of general game systems programmers. There were about the same number of artists and designers, too. The demo you have is what we put together in the few months following the completion of Shadow Man 2. The race section was just a quick “something to do” we built on top of the bare bones of a renderer we were using for testing out ideas for the bike control. Having to work on the demo was kind of annoying, as it was taking away from time that should have been spent on the technical design of the game.

To be honest, I think that the powers-that-be had decided to close the Teesside studio long before Shadow Man 2 was complete and were just killing time working out how to do it. The Teesside studio was started by the Falcus brothers as an independent game studio, before joining forces with Iguana Entertainment, which was then bought by Acclaim. As I understand it, in 2000/1(?) they attempted to regain control of the studio from Acclaim, to become an independent once again. Acclaim refused, and the Falcus brothers and a number of staff were let go. The Falcus brothers went on to start up Atomic Planet, which inherited a fair number of ex-Acclaim folk over the years. I think this was when the future of Acclaim Teesside was decided – I think they kept the place open because they’d already invested too much in the development of Shadow Man 2. It seemed they were only keeping us busy while preparing plans for closing the studio and moving key personnel to the Cheltenham studio.

Once the studio closed, Forsaken 2 was permanently shelved and those who moved from Teesside to Cheltenham were reassigned to existing projects such as Alias and Extreme-G. It’s a sad end to a game with so much potential. I’m glad that the demo survived, though. Thanks for putting the video up on youtube!

I was there when Acclaim finally collapsed in 2004, albeit at the Austin, TX studio. Showed up to work at 7am one morning to find the doors locked and was turned away by a burly security guard. It took a few months before we were allowed back in to collect personal possessions. Four years later, we’re still waiting for the bankruptcy and legal processes to come to an end and see if there’s any money left to pay the unpaid salaries they still owe us. I’m not holding my breath!

I’m still in the industry – after a brief spell in cell phone games, I’ve spent the last three years working on Wizard101 (www.wizard101.com). It’s free to try, so feel free to jump in and have a look! Thanks, Paul

You now know as much as I do about this game, I hope you enjoyed this article, I will shoot a new video and a couple screenshot in the future, if you have any questions, feel free to comment.

Sturmwind – Preview

Sturmwind – Preview

In the land of shmups competition has always been fierce and abundant, the genre that brought us such wonders as the ThunderForce series, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, Donpachi, R-Type (to name a few) has been visited and re-visited time and time again. I remember the first shmup I ever played, Time Bandit on the MSX. I can still to this day feel the anticipation growing while waiting for the tape to load the first level which would feed my appetite of defeating bad guys made up of a few black pixels that I could only assume at the time were planes, a far cry from today’s ship 3D with multi-million polygon designs (I wish).

A shooter from another time…

The short-lived Dreamcast enjoyed a few nice shooting games during its life time but most of the amazing titles like Borderdown, Ikaruga and Under Defeat were released towards and after the end of its official life. I still regret that Tecnosoft didn’t release Thunder Force 6 on that system in the end and while the PS2 version was nice, I’m sure it was very different from what it was intended to be initially, nevermind…


Today, I want to talk about an upcoming Dreamcast shooter that’s gathering a lot of good reviews and momentum, Sturmwind. There’s already quite a few previews/video previews of this game floating the web, here are my 2 cents on this game.

A home-brew game, Sturmwind is the fruit of the labor of 2 incredibly talented brothers operating under the name of Duranik. Sturmwind was actually preceded by an impressive shmups demo called Native that was developed on the ill-fated Atari Jaguar CD. I never owned or was ever interested in the Jaguar but head to http://www.duranik.com/jaguar.html, that demo has changed my mind about this system forever!

Sturmwind is for the most part an horizontal scrolling shoot’em’up running on its own home made 2.5D engine built on KallistiOS. The guys at Duranik were kind enough to send me a near final version of the game, which I am previewing here.

After a lush introduction film in German (Hello Dracula X!) that sets the scene of the game very well, the action can begin. The start screen lets you choose between different game modes, options and bonuses (such as renders of the game). I have yet to ask Duranik about the giant Iguana sitting on top of  the start screen and its meaning.

What’s striking when you start playing this game is the beauty and the sheer amount of details of the graphics, for a moment I thought I was on the Xbox 360 playing an HD remake of Gradius V. Back in the days of the Dreamcast my SEGA fanboy self was quick to defeat any praises for the enemy PS2 but damn even in 2012, the good old DC can still hold its own!!! Sturmwind would have no problem putting to shame a large number of XBLA and PSN titles, power vs craftsmanship!!! In fact I strongly believe the guys at Duranik should release that game on XBLA and PSN, it is that good!!! Check it out:

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Shaken not stirred

Instead of re-inventing a genre, Sturmwind pays homage to a number of classic shooting game, the obvious ones being Axelay on the SFC for its giant bosses and weapon system, level 1 reminds me a lot of Gradius V, the ship design resembles the ship in Download 2 on PC Engine, obviously there are some R-Types inspired items like the drones, the weapon beam charge and a little bit of Thunder Force.What Sturmwind does best is combining elements from a lot of good games into what is the best shooting experience for the Dreamcast.

The game provides excellent value and packs 2 modes, Normal and Arcade with your typical difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, Hard):

– Normal mode which is the main mode contains no less that 16 levels, allows continues and saves your latest successful position, so in case you’re “Game Over” you don’t have to start the game over again from scratch;

– Arcade mode contains only 6 levels but does not allow saves or continues.

The game supports the Dreamcast Joypad but also the Arcade Stick, the VMU, the Rumble Pack which add another depth to the game and last but not least the VGA box so you can admire this game in all its visual glory!!! When released the game will also have a webcode system in order to share your scores over the internet, there is also a trophy system much like on the Xbox and the PS3 which unlocks content as you progress and I believe that extending the game with DLCs will be possible in the future via SD Card. Not bad hey?

So what’s it like?

Sturmwind plays much like a good old classic arcade game, shoot to kill everything, but it requires a bit of strategy particularly in the use of weapons.
There are 3 weapons available from the start of the game:
– a blue laser, which provides a good dose of firepower, my all-rounder;
– a vulcan red, that you can rotate around the ship, useful at certain points in the game;
– a green laser way which I find only useful when fully charged.
These weapons are upgradeable to up to three additional levels of power via containers that you can find along the way when shooting certain ennemies. Drones are also available and behave much like in Gradius and R-Type. You also start the game with one smart bomb (more can be collected) which offers a very destructive and visually amazing way of killing bad guys.
As I said before the game is visually stunning and complex, which creates a very immersive and inviting environment to play in. Everything moves smoothly without any slow down and flows continuously to keep you on your toes, if you succeed in killing wave of ennemies in the appropriate manner you will be treated to a wave bonus, just shoot the letters appearing on the screen to earn a star, completely unexpected and welcomed!!! The game is packed with little details and winks like that.
The controls are very smooth and responsive, the ship movements and weaponry are easy to grasp within a few minutes and make the most of the layout of the Dreamcast controller.
Audio wise… well I’m a big Thunder Force fan and I always expect shooting games to sound like an epic heavy metal orchestra with an 80s/90s sound with lots of synths!!! So at first the exclusively electronic soundtrack was surprising. Having said that after a couple of plays I’ve grown to love the soundtrack and it does complement and pace the gameplay extremely well. While I’m no expert in this kind of music, I can however safely say that the music is well orchestrated and packs layers of sonic goodness for your enjoyment. Sounds effects are some of the best I’ve heard in years with quite a few wind type effects to support the title of the game.

Sturmwind – Epilogue

From the day I saw the first screenshots to receiving my preview copy, I knew I was gonna love this game. When it comes to home-brew development, I naturally admire people who can code a game in their spare time without teams of dozens of people, the gear and capital investment. There are loads of good examples around and especially on the Dreamcast but Sturmwind is insane!!!

This game feels like a proper commercial release, in fact, it would put a lot of commercial games to shame. Sturmwind has been made with passion, love and dedication and not necessarily with financial gain and deadlines in mind. Sure game companies needs to make their numbers and churn a certain volume of games every year, that’s life. But in a world filled with FPS sequels arriving one after the other, New new new Super Mario Bros Ultra Special and build your social cattle farm type of games, Sturmwind is refreshing for the hardcore gamer that I am.

The fact that it is on the Dreamcast might sounds limiting to broaden the appeal of the game but these guys have extracted every ounce of raw power that this console has to offer, which re-enforces the common belief that the Dreamcast was retired way to soon!!! Damn you PS2!!!

In conclusion, as you can see throughout this preview, I cannot recommend enough this game, even if you don’t have a Dreamcast, just get one (they’re only cheap these days) and this game, you won’t be disappointed!!!

The game is slated for release in Q4 2012, you can pre-order the game from the publisher, RedSpotGames. The game is available in 2 editions, regular and limited edition.



Dear Visitors,

Welcome to my new blog!!! Some of you might remember my previous blog on WordPress (sabre470.wordpress.com) that blog is now long gone, long live SUPER CD·ROM² À GOGO!!!

Why the name, I hear you ask?

I have been a fan of PC Engine for the best part of 23 years now and the Super CDrom² attachment is my favorite add-on for this platform. A gogo? It means a lot in French but I use it mostly as a wink to my good friend Yakumo from SegagagaDomain ;)

Is the new blog only about NEC Systems?

No, it isn’t and there are loads of websites around already tackling this platform but don’t be surprised if there is content about NEC Systems :)

What are we going to talk about here?

Videogames of course!!! Here we will review games, released/unreleased, prototypes/beta, we’ll also talk about bits from my collection from the MSX computer up to the iPad, yes there a few good game on there too.

For now, we’ll get started with a review of Sturmwind for the Dreamcast and a post about a prototype of Forsaken 2 on the Playstation 2, enjoy!!!