Saturday, 21 April 2018

Curiosities Vol. 14 - SEGA Saturn Sample Program Ver. 1.00

So, this interesting piece of history was recently found and released by someone over at the segaxtreme.net forums. It is as the title suggests: a sample program for the Saturn that shows various different graphical tricks it can do. It starts with a menu featuring items such as "Scroll Sample", "Sprite Sample", and so on, and most of them have several options inside them.

First up is Scroll Sample, which lets you see various kinds of scrolling, obviously. You can have a bunch of random garbage scrolling across the screen, numerous blocks of letters scrolling around in layers, a kind of distorted blob moving over a picture of sonic and tails, and so on. The most interesting part of this menu is the option that has a seemingly infinite field of textured cubes floating in a heavenly white background.

Next there's Sprite Sample, which as a little more interactivity. In here, there are options that let you spin various simple shapes around, you can move an Opa Opa sprite around to see how the Saturn handles shadows, you can distort and warp an enemy sprite from Fantasy Zone, and you can spin and rotate a little polygon gem thing. Oh, and look at some spinning cubes demonstrating different kinds of shading the Saturn can do, too.

Window Sample is probably the least interesting menu, as it just lets you see sprites moving inside transparent windows, so we'll move straight on to Game Sample, which is a simple little 2D shooting game where you avoid bullets and shoot red triangles and sonic sprites for points. Nothing spectacular, obviously, but it is a thing that exists, at least. It's just a sample, showing that the Saturn can indeed keep track of things and allow players to control objects and generally all the bare minimum things expected of a games console.

Finally, there's the enigmatically named 2/14 Demo (which is presumably a demo, made on the fourteenth of February). This shows a cube thing with SEGA-related animated textures on each side, floating above a magic carpet, with mountains in the background. It's all very ~aesthetic~.

Obviously, something like this isn't going to provide more than a few minutes of entertainment for anyone, but of course that was never its purpose. It is interesting to see these kinds of primordial test programs from consoles' development cycles, though. Even though they're only a couple of decades old, there's something about them that feels immeasurably ancient and secret. Sorry if this is a bit of a lacklustre post, but I've been slightly unwell recently and I just didn't want to go too long without posting. I'm mostly better now, though, so there'll be a proper post in a few days.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Bunmei Korokoro Game Egg (Playstation)

It's really amazing that even though the Playstation is one of the most popular consoles of all time, and even though it's one of the systems that's been featured on this blog most of all, there are still weird obscure little gems to discover in its incredibly vast library. Of course, Bunmei Korokoro Game Egg is one such gem (the title, I believe, translates to something like "Civilisation Rolypoly Game Egg", in case you're wondering).

So the basic premise of the game is that you control some kind of cosmic god-egg, that rolls across flat, barren plains, leaving civilisation in its wake. Of course, you aren't alone in what I assume is a young, fledgling universe, as each plain also has another, differently-coloured egg rolling around in it. A cool little touch is that each colour egg has its own architectural style for the buildings that spring up whereever it goes, and they range from styles based on various realworld civilisations, to futuristic sci-fi type settings, bio-organic growths and even brightly coloured abstract solid shapes.

I haven't been able to play the Versus mode, so unfortunately I can't tell you about that, but the single player mission mode sees you taking on your rival eggs in a series of battles, each with different objectives, like an olympic games for ovoid dieties. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: first, let's describe the basic mechanics, or at least, as much as I've been able to figure out of them.

So, the game is turn-based, and you move your egg by selecting a direction, then chosing your speed on a moving power bar, like the kind you get in old-style golf or bowling games. Most of the time, when you move, you cause buildings to sprout up behind you, but not always! There are five options you can choose from before you move (though the offensive options aren't always available): the egg is the standard movement that lays buildings, the signpost lets you turn already-laid buildings into protective barriers over which your opponent can't roll, the ocean wave and sunrise both cause massive destruction in the surrounding area where your egg stops rolling, and the coloured zig-zags work similarly to the egg, except they cause earthquakes in your wake instead of growth.

It should also be noted that when an area of blank squares is completely surrounded by your buildings, that area will then completely fill up with your buildings too. The first time this happens in a stage, a strange spinning, swirly tower will also spawn. This tower will get taller and more elaborate the more area on the map you've taken over, too. Your egg can take damage, either by bashing into the walls around the edges of the map, by rolling other enemy territory, or by being bashed into by the opponent's egg. I'm not 100% sure on how healing works, but it seems that you slowly heal by rolling over and stopping in your own territory, and sometimes if you stop in a particularly large piece of your own turf, a big cryogenic chamber thing will appear around you, and you'll have healed a lot by the start of your next turn. But like I say, I'm not totally sure on how accurate these methods are, or exactly how to make the chamber appear. Your tower is something of a weakpoint for your empire, too, as if the enemy bashes into it, it'll shrink a level or two, and a whole bunch of your land will disappear.

Now on to the actual missions. I don't know how many missions there are in single player mode, but I got up to mission five, the objective of which I couldn't figure out at all. Each mission takes about 20-30 minutes to get through, as turns go by pretty slowly, and you usually have a pretty hefty task ahead of you. The first two missions are both simple enough to figure out: take over 30% of the map, and bash your opponent's egg until they crumble to bits. Mission three is a little more complex, as the mission is to wait until your opponent has built a tower, then destroy their tower. I had the most success on this stage by eschewing any kind of defensive tactic, and just going straight in to bash their tower down. Waste too much time, and you risk breaking your own shell before you've knocked their tower down. The fourth mission was interesting, but very easy: build your tower up to the maximum height (level nine), which you do by simply claiming a lot of land. The AI was really terrible on this stage, as they seemed more interrested in rolling over very tiny portions of my land to cause me almost unnoticable amounts of damage, while I just went about my busniess claiming more than half the entire map.

So that was a good few hours I got in on this game, and I definitely intend to play more of it, and hopefully get others interested in doing the same so we can all learn more about this strange and original game. Of course this means that this review is ending in an unquestioned recommendation, so go and track it down and play it at the earliest opportunity!