Michael Palisano

Jess Ragan

Ridge Racer
Review by Michael Palisano

The main reason why I bought a Sony Playstation is because of the many excellent driving games which are coming out for it. Between WipeOut, Destruction Derby, and Twisted Metal, driving fans will have no shortage of outstanding software to play. What do you do while you wait for these dream games to come out? Well, if you're like me, you'll play Namco's excellent translation of Ridge Racer. Ridge Racer came out the day the Playstation was released. Of course, it was among my "must buys" for the system. After hearing for months about how perfect the translation was, I was dying to see how good Ridge Racer would really be. How was it? Read on.

When you start the game, a quick game of Galaxian appears while Ridge Racer loads. If you destroy all the aliens before the game loads, the phrase "perfect" will appear on the screen, and you will have thirteen cars to choose from. Here's something else that's cool about this game: the cars all have monikers of old classic arcade games!! There's a Mappy car, the Bosconian, and the Nebulasray to name a few! Too cool! Just a minor note: I'm wondering, since Namco did this game, why there's no Pac-Man car... maybe in Ridge Racer II?

Once the game loads, you will be presented with the options screen. Here, you can choose which course to play and other options such as selecting your car, its transmission type, and the background music.

Ridge Racer is a straightforward racing game. You drive around a single track, competing against other, computer controlled drivers. There are checkpoints to pass which give you extra time. The objective is to finish first in each race.

You can choose from four cars if you suck and can't play Galaxian. If you are a halfway decent player, you can beat the Galaxian mini-game and get a selection of thirteen different cars. The cars are all different colors and each has its own unique characteristics, such as speed, acceleration, and handling. Picking the right car for the right race is essential. Pick a fast car with imprecise handling for the harder, later levels, and the slower, more accurate cars for the earlier levels.

Ridge Racer has only one track. This could be a bad thing, but the track is extremely challenging. It also changes from level to level. Each round of the game has four levels which must be completed. The earlier levels feature a short lap around the track, while the two harder levels add a dangerous section with hard curves and low visibility. With each level of difficulty, the top speed of your car rises. The first three tracks in the round are standard racing fare with you and a pack of twelve other cars vying for the lead. The hardest level is the Time Trial mode. This is where you and a single pace car race around the track at high speeds for three laps. Once you beat the first four rounds of Ridge Racer, a credit and ending sequence shows up... "Wow," you say, "that was easy!" Then you see the final message which reads, "Try Extra Game!" Gulp.

Now you go into the negative round. You are still racing on the same track but everything is reversed! Everything looks different when you're coming around the other way. Putting everything in reverse is almost like having a completely different course to play. Not only are the courses harder, but the obstacles are much more difficult. Instead of giving you plenty of leeway, Ridge Racer gives you less time to beat the reversed levels. Passing through the checkpoints gives you barely enough time to make it to the next one. There is no room for error in the negative zone. If you are truly an ace driver, you will go up against the black Lamborghini in the time trial mode. Beating "the black Diablo", as she is known, wins you the ultimate prize... a chance to drive this baby!

The most important element in any driving game is the control. Bad control takes the fun out of any driving game. It doesn't matter how good the graphics and scenery look. Very few video games can accurately capture the speed and thrill of driving. Good control like Ridge Racer's makes the player into a driver. That's a sharp contrast to other driving games, where you feel like you're piloting a cartoon car on a false road, with no prentense of reality. In most of the racing games I've played- even the good ones- the control is either too over or underresponsive to even be in the ball park of realism... Ridge Racer's is very close to perfect. Turning and dodging other cars is tricky, but the control is neither too over or underresponsive to the average player's movements. Most people will find that it won't take them a long time to get the hang of the game... it should take only three or four games for them to become proficient. All of the other racing games I have played have been plagued either by poor control or controls that weren't realistic at all. Ridge Racer is the first arcade driving simulation that accurately captures how a car handles.

On top of having some of the best control ever to grace a home racing game, Ridge Racer has outstanding graphics that set the standard for other 32-bit supersystems. I've played Daytona USA for the Saturn, and while it is good, it's grainy.

Ridge Racer has two views which the player can use. One is from outside the car, which is really annoying. The more effective first person view gives you a much better feel for the road. While there are some minor flaws, such as the pavement breaking apart from time to time, these aren't really noticable to the average player. The opposing cars look extremely realistic, although there is some annoying blockiness present in the close-up view. Each of the cars look very nice and drive realistically through the courses. The cars are all extremely colorful, and the decals on each one look fine. I really thought that the Mappy car was cool. The pavement scrolls by realistically as you zoom across the road. There are some fantastic changes in color and lighting as the time of day changes. It changes a bit too quickly for me, but what the hay.

The zooming and panning of the camera, especially in the outside view, is close to perfect. The detail and backgrounds, especially the helicopter hovering overhead, are great touches that make the game almost as cool to watch as it is to play. While the basic graphics do a great job of creating the illusion of speed effectively, the Playstation's ambient lighting abilities come through big time when you drive through the tunnels in the game.

The least important element in any driving game is usually the sound. Tire screeches, the roar of engines, and big explosions are usually all the sound you need. My hat goes off to Namco for going that extra mile and making Ridge Racer's soundtrack something special. You can choose from six different music tracks, though the best one is the standard Ridge Racer theme song. While I thought the idea of techno music was great for Tempest 2000, it just doesn't seem to fit a driving game very well. In addition to the tracks provided by Namco, the player can also choose to insert his own music CD when the game has loaded. This is a great idea, although it is flawed in execution. When you choose to play your own CD, the game will start the track in the middle of the selected song. To me, this makes no sense at all. If you're going to give the player the option to use his own CD, why limit how long the tracks can be? This is extremely annoying since the CD won't skip to the next track if your CD ends.

Finally, the most important element of any driving game is how much fun it is to play. This is where Ridge Racer goes from a great technical achievement to a sterling game that will be remembered as a landmark in gaming. It is not very often that you find a game with as much replayability as this one. Ridge Racer can be played over and over without losing much of its appeal. Like the classic games depicted on the sides of the cars and the Galaxian game at the beginning of the load, Ridge Racer is one of the most playable games ever made, and one that you will be playing for a long time to come. Me, I know I'll be playing Ridge Racer at least until I can beat the black Lamborghini... that means I'll be playing Ridge Racer until the CD breaks!

by Michael Palisano

The first meeting of classic game fans was last night in Howell, New Jersey at Video Game Connections. While it is still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd give everyone here an idea of what happened.

The drive from Conneticut was very long for me (three hours) but the sotre was easy to find. The Video Game Connection is surprisingly neat, with a lot of games for every system from the 2600 to the Playstation. The owner's prices were very good. I was surprised by how many boxed games he had! There were even some ColecoVision titles which are very hard to find (at least for me). It was strange seeing all these games on retail racks after all this time.

Mike, the owner, was a nice guy... he had set out chips and soda for everybody as well as helping people, including myself, who were bringing in their boxes of stuff to trade and sell.

Dave Stern was there with a million boxed games. Everybody was impressed by the selection he brought. He also brought a Vectrex 3D imager, which was one of the main attractions there. To be honest, I thought it was a little underwhelming. Dave was a nice guy and everybody sat around talking to him about classic games and collecting for a while.

Dave Kirchner was there... he's another nice guy. I traded an Imagic No Escape! cartridge for his Epoch handheld game, which was pretty cool. It was still in the box and definitely had that classic game feel.

Of course, the main reason everybody came was to check out the rarities and oddball stuff we had brought. Dave brought his extremely rare Ultravision T-Bar cart, Spider Attack (? I didn't really catch the name). It was a platform game, and the title character looked a lot like Mario. Dave thought it was a rip-off of something else and everybody thought it might be a modified version of Coleco dud Donkey Kong... the sound effects were similar as well.

Keita Iida had the best stuff at the meeting. He had a huge box full of all these rare carts like Chase the Chuckwagon (an actual cart, not a copy like mine), PAL carts, boxed rarities, and many 5200 prototypes like Xevious and Miniature Golf. That guy is so lucky! I almost fainted when I saw that Keita had a real Chase the Chuckwagon! He asked me if I had a lot of cool stuff since I was a collecting veteran as well. I blushed and said, "Aaah, no... not as cool as yours!" He is a very nice person, as well. Everyone asked him the same question: "Where did you get all those unbelievable finds?" Needless to say, we were all green with envy.

What did I bring? My super cool NES and 2600 multicarts... a few people got a kick out of playing my copy of Chase the Chuckwagon on the 2600. Everybody laughed when I said the game wasn't worth $250 (from a player's standpoint, it's pretty lame... all you do is navigate through a maze and avoid the walls and stuff. There's no sound, except that colossal crash from the speakers when you get hit). People also liked my NES multicart (Mappy got quite a workout!), although Mike couldn't get it to work at first. His mother wanted to unscrew it, but I told them to try it again. Luckily, it worked the next time!

Oh, I also brought a boxed Odyssey2, a bunch of boxed games, and some ultra common carts. Unfortunately, no one wanted these, either, since they were all big league collectors and had them already. That was kind of disappointing, since I was hoping to make some good trades. Dave Stein and I traded some stuff he won in my last auction for a new, shrink-wrapped 7800 Midnight Mutants and Planet Smashers. I traded another guy my Fire Fly for a boxed 2600 Midnight Magic.

I probably brought too much stuff and next time I will only bring a few unusual items... it was a real pain lugging all that stuff back home. I also bought a Lynx soccer game from the store. I wish I had more cash on me at the time, because I would have bought some other stuff... Oh well, next time!

The only real disappointment came when I had to leave earlier than everybody else, so I missed the Warlords tournament. That's OK, since I would have embarassed myself anyway!

After I got back, I E-Mailed Dave and asked him what happened after I'd left. They watched an old video tape which had hints and tricks for the 5200 version of Pac-Man, played some of Keita's 5200 prototypes, talked some more, and called it a night.

All in all, it was a fun time and was definitely worth the trip. I am looking forward to the next meeting sometime in January.

by Michael Palisano

There are loads of rare, almost impossible to find cartridges in the Atari 2600 library. Countless titles were made in such small quantities that the average collector will probably only find them once, if they are lucky. Luckily for me, I made a pretty good trade recently and was able to get an incredibly awesome 2600 multi cart with about 128 games on it from a nice man named Randy Crichfeld. Randy is the same guy who programmed Edtris, a Tetris clone for the Atari 2600. The multi cart operates with a series of dip switches at the bottom right of the front panel. You have to move these around to select each game.

The cart was chock full of the aforementioned rare and unusual games. While going through all 128 of them would be too time consuming, I will describe a couple of them in each issue.

Some of the games the 128-in-1 cart includes are: Boing (a great Q*Bert clone), Coconuts (remember the bonus rounds in Zoo Keeper?), Ram It, Gas Hog, China Syndrome, Demolition Herby, Final Approach, Mines of Minos, Tanks But No Tanks, Room of Doom, and Worm War I. If you are feeling jealous of me, remember that these are copies, which Digital Press says are worth nothing. I'd have to agree... I'd pay more for the originals if I had the money, but right now, from a player's perspective, the copies are just as good as the originals.

There were about half a dozen X-rated games on the cart. These included: Beat 'em and Eat 'em, Burning Desire, Custer's Revenge, Bachelorette Party, Jungle Fever, Philly Flasher, and X-Man. For the benefit of my readers, I will not get into the plots of these games... most of you would probably be offended by them. The games were all fairly simple, many of them being variations on standard classic game fare. In Custer's Revenge, the object of the game is to avoid arrows Indians are firing at you and walk across the screen to reach your goal. Once you get there, you earn points by pressing your button quickly. Each time you press the button, you get more points. There are two variations of Custer's Revenge, one involving cactus plants. The game was fairly good... you couldn't stop laughing at its prehistoric graphics and plot. Burning Desire is set in a jungle with you suspended from a helicopter. There's a prisoner below... you have to douse the flames and reach the prisoner. Philly Flasher was a really hysterical take-off on Kaboom. Well, you could use your joystick in this one. X-Man is a simple maze game where you have to avoid scissors to get to the surprise behind the door at the center of the maze. These games are absolutely hysterical. You haven't laughed until you get to see Custer from Custer's Revenge in all his glory. I must say, though, he sure has some bouncy body parts! He, he, he! The primitive animation is hysterical... it compliments the caveman plot of the game nicely. I felt like I was transported back to elementary school when I played these sophomoric games. I kind of liked X-Man from a player's point of view.

All right, we've had enough jokes and Leisure Suit Larry innuendoes for one issue. There were also a few of those other "controversial" games on the cartridge. Remember the wave of slasher flicks back in the early 80's, when movie producers tried to shock audiences with blood and guts? Wizard Video went with this approach as well, and their game, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre caused outrage among parents and self-appointed moral guardians like Joe Lieberman. This title was actually pulled from stores due to the public outcry. Fans of Mortal Kombat will be baffled, but America was much simpler back then. In this game, you are a serial killer, and the object is to kill whoever may be passing by. The graphics are blocky and primitive, but there are a few red squiggles when you kill one of your victims. It doesn't look realistic at all; in fact, it is a little amusing. The game itself is average... maybe once the shock value of seeing "fatalities" on the 2600 wears off, their appeal will die. I still like playing Halloween, so maybe it won't.

Next up we have a pair of games called Cubicolor and Atari Video Cube. Both of these games were influenced by the Rubik's Cube fad of the early 80's. I can't figure out for the life of me how to play either of them, so I can't really say if they are any good or not. Of the two, Atari Video Cube looked more interesting. There was a little green guy in it who ran around the screen changing colors and turning the cube. I wish I could find a real copy with instructions. Cubicolor looked confusing and strange; no wonder Imagic told Rob Fulop to release it himself.

Imagic's Shooting Gallery was a very simple game. It kind of reminded me of Carnival. I really liked it a lot. This game should not be confused with the rare Atari prototype Shootin' Gallery that Tim Duarte found a year ago.

Cat and Mouse was a weird game. I couldn't find it in the Digital Press price guide, but the game had a copyright of "1983 UA". This was another interesting cart. Cat and Mouse was a Pac-Man clone which also borrowed heavily from Lock 'n Chase. It was a lot like Pac-Man... you are a cat and the object is to eat all the dots and mice. Kind of a reverse version of Mouse Trap.

Another rare title that I now have the pleasure of owning is Ultravision's Condor Attack. The game is a pretty lame clone of Demon Attack... the sounds and graphics are below par and the collision detection is horrible. It's nice that I have a copy of this. It would have been a rip-off if I had paid fifty to sixty dollars for it in an auction.

"Galaga" was the biggest disappointment on the cart. I thought it would be a version of the Namco classic, but instead turned out that it was just plain old River Raid with the word "Galaga" at the bottom of the screen instead of the usual Activision logo. This was very upsetting. There were also numerous PAL games that made the screen roll. I didn't realize it until I went to plug in the cart. Whoops. I guess I'll just have to take one of the old games with the proper vertical controls anyway.

One of the biggest surprises on the cart was Coke Wins! This was a highly unusual game that Atari made back in the early 80's as a promotion for Coca-Cola. The game is a knockoff of Space Invaders. It plays and sounds just like the VCS version, right down to the bunkers. The aliens are replaced by the letters P-E-P-S-I, and there is a three minute timer. When the timer runs out, the words "Coke Wins!" flash on the screen. The concept of a game manufacturer taking sides in a cola war is pretty weird if you think about it. Imagine all the Pepsi fans who went out and bought an Intellivision out of spite!

Thunderground was one of the more interesting titles on the multi cart. It's a mix of Boulder Dash, Combat, and Dig Dug. You are a burrowing machine which can make paths in the earth... the enemy tanks cannot. The object of the game is to destroy the enemy tanks in the tunnels before they get you. At the top of the screen, there are six diamonds... you have to destroy all the diamonds to beat the level. Thunderground is a pretty good game.

This wraps up my VCS stuff for this month. Sorry if it's more brief than normal, but I just don't have the space. Have fun and don't let go of your classic games!



Hi! Just thought I should drop you a line seeing as I haven't in a while. I got the latest issue of your 'zine... good stuff! The only negative comment I have is possibly that you should drop the two-book format in favor of just one magazine. It might make it more readable.

Well, I suppose you have figured out that I'm starting to buy classic games again... I used to buy 'em and sell 'em at higher prices, but now I'm interested in playing them. I don't think I'll be making any huge finds like you, but hopefully I will amass a large collection of stuff... I just need to hit the right places like I used to. I don't even have any 2600 carts, so anything should pretty much work for me. That reminds me... can you picture kids ten to fifteen years from no, earnestly trying to sell three or four Saturns for five bucks each at a tag sale?

"Space" was really weird as usual, congratulations.

"Mail" was one of the better parts of the issue... the thought-provoking letters you get and the equally good responses are like having lengthy articles by outside contributors every issue. Adam Trionfo makes some good points about the 5200 (voices?), but he seems to have a real problem with Blockbuster Video... too much coffee? The only problem I have with Blockbuster is that they card you to get into their arcades... d-uh! "Mom, Dad... can you take me with you to the arcade tonight?"

The Jaguar IS 64-bit? What? If the Jag is 64-bit, then the Turbo Duo is 16-bit, which it's not... the Turbo has two 8-bit processors which work in tandem, and the Jag has two 32-bit processors. Atari says "Do The Math"? Okay... 32 bits plus 32 bits, plus seven games, plus one CD-ROM player, plus three big competitors, equals one dead system. No, you can't do Alien vs. Predator on the Super NES... but who said the Jag was 16-bit?

(Side note: the Duo is an 8-bit system with a CD-ROM... weird...)

Yes, there was a self-centering joystick for the 5200... and here's an article I found about it. The picture attached to this file is the entire article and picture... it's from the March 1984 issue of GAMES magazine. If you can't read the article in the pic, here's the whole thing (plagarism! plagarism!):

"Command Control Atari 5200 Analog Joystick (Wico, $35) cures the one serious defect in Atari's otherwise excellent super system. The joystick comes with a Y-adaptor which must be connected both the the joystick and to the 5200's original keypad controller. Virtually a must for maze games, this product will improve your enjoyment of almost any 5200 game."

You may find this really weird... Tiger, the company who makes all those LCD games, is bringing out two new product lines... one is the VRT-X LCD games, which are basically LCD games with backlighting and holographic backgrounds, and the R-ZONE, which is a virtual reality system that takes cartridges! One of the first games for both lines will be Mortal Kombat 3! How cool is this?... Well, they both just use that damned LCD technology, so it can't get that good...

Well, the Playstation is out at $299, so I assume you will be getting one soon. Myself and the other two people who still care about Street Fighter II are waiting for the Ultra 64. Lechmere's sucks... they have this big shrine to video games (this Greek Parthenon-like structure over the video games area), and they have all these Sega Saturns shoved into these little bottom shelves and like two Playstations sitting on a little shelf far away from the rest of the video games... dumbasses... Hey! since when is the Playstation Wrestlemania game supposed to be bad??? That thing looks cool! Check the back of the box.

Fusion sucks compared to Electronic Games... sorry, Arnie, it just does. Who gives a shit about the Mr. Burns web site?

Paddles games and NES baseball games... definitely a good mix. You could possibly head to FuncoLand and find some more of these, so you could do an updated edition. I enjoy that kind of thing. Of course, the Classic Gaming Update at the end of the issue was my favorite part. Demonstration Cartridge? Cool... Hopefully, I can find at least HALF of the stuff you have, although it will be pretty hard. When you die, just leave it all to me.

As always, the pictures were cool, and the review of Demonstration Cartridge was funny... the reviews of the classic games always take on a nostalgic note, which I like. Since I pretty much wasn't alive when any of this stuff was happening, it takes on a different feeling for me, getting into it all.

Amazingly, I think that's all I have to say... please write back soon.

Chris Kohler, Video Zone
Northford, CT

Chris- thanks for the letter, I really love getting letters from you... you at least read the issues thoroughly. Whaddaya mean the Jaguar isn't 32-bit? Are you smoking something? Is Sam Tramiel? Well, I can count at least three people who think Fusion sucks. I actually do have a Wico Command Control model just like the one you'd described. It's a godsend for a hard-core gamer such as myself. I remember the day I found one... I hadn't been that tripped out since the last time I did LSD! Tiger still makes those crazy games? And I thought Atari was in a freaking time warp! I guess for some people it will ALWAYS be 1979! I think Radio Shack still makes those LCD games as well... and we wonder why American companies can't compete with their Japanese counterparts. They seem to have a grasp of something called "technology". Of course, this isn't always true; look at the Virtual Boy! Thanks for the compliments on the issue. I try to cover all aspects of gaming as best I can in every issue, though this one is very small (for me), and since I do the letters first something or other is bound to get left out before I run out of space and time.

by Michael Palisano

The air is getting really cold. Trees and leaves are slowly dying, shedding their lives and changing color with each passing day. This ground which was once rich and soft is now cold and hard. As the last rays of sunlight are weakened by the inevitable tides of time, it gives only light and not warmth. The predictable cycle of death and hibernation comes at this time of year without fail.

This is the season I enjoy most of all. When the leaves die, they are absolutely gorgeous, and the sight of squirrels and other animals scurrying to gather food and sticks before the ice and snow comes reminds me that we all have to think ahead to truly be alive and thrive through hard times. There are far too many people who are trapped in a mythic past which no longer exists. Memories and nostalgia are fine, but you cannot drive looking in the rear view mirror all the time. It's easy to become blinded by nostalgia and far too simple-minded to hold on too tightly to things from the past. It's a bit sad to look in the mirror and see someone who hates the present and fears the future. There are many exciting faces and new challenges ahead.

On the other hand, it would be just as dishonest to deny the past and the happiness that lies there. Too many people in this disposable society are too quick to throw away the lessons of the past. The past isn't a solemn place, however. Instead of viewing it with a prespective of sadness over the fact that days gone by are irretrivable, I find it easier to realize that I take the memory wherever I go, while not becoming consumed by it.

Am I looking for a balance with my new journey? Yes, it has worked well before and accurately reflects my interests, so this will be a very important element in moving forward. Aside from this, there are moments when you need to break free of the traps that you build for yourself. Old ideas which fit like two year old shirts, frayed and faded, and anything which no longer fits should be discarded. Change for the sake of change isn't what this is all about. Accuse me of being impetuous if you want; I really don't see it that way. I feel that I have outgrown what I have been doing. I need to destroy the walls that I had built. I need to rearrange and throw away things that have outlived their usefulness. I'm going to keep what I think is good, which is why this won't be completely alien to those familiar with my last journey.

The planetarium is closed, and perhaps I don't really care about the empty space. I used too much space, anyway. I think it will be better now. Like the trees stripping themselves of excess baggage, or something like that. God knows, I felt fat and wasteful for the last two issues. It's time to do more with less. It's a different kind of challenge, not to mention the fact that it had become a little bit too pretentious and overblown for me. I need to wipe this slate clean and start anew. I can get back to the simple and better way I did things before I became obsessed by outer design and interior graphics. It was a lot of work, and I was running out of ideas. Worst of all, it was all beginning to look the same after a while. A few smaller pictures, maybe hand drawn art instead of the machine designed stuff, and less darkness is a better way. I know people liked it the old way, but there gets a point where you need to get out of the same old rut, especially after you feel that you have explored the old venues thoroughly and there isn't much you can add to them. It was no longer challenging... my hands grew tired of drawing the same old landscapes, and I could no longer lay my eyes on them. I have decided to cast my gaze anew toward the horizon.

There is an inner voice in my head... it is saying that I have been resting on my laurels for too long and that it is time to get up and run toward the unknown once again. It would have been easier to take the safe way out. I could have held onto the old, the comfortable, the well worn. That would have been too easy. I will not let myself rest because my voice has so much to say about so much else. So, consider this a new start on an ongoing journey... where will it lead? Where will I go? I cannot see that far ahead. All I know is that the last journey was completed a long while back, and I need to start over.

My journey has taken on a new name in order to signal my new start. My previous experiences will help guide me, but they will not trap me. I will hopefully explore new areas and find a place and a revelation I would never discover by sitting around comfortably and getting stale. So, what do you think? Maybe you think I'm crazy for abandoning the comfort and celebrity of an established, bloated, and completely bogus mythology. You can say that I have a restless spirit and I get bored easily. I could have cruised on auto-pilot forever, resting on the laurels of a reputation I long since stopped deserving. Instead of treading water through the same lakes and rivers, I'd rather try new things and experiment in new places. Some of this experimentation may blow up in my face, and some may not work at all, but so what? It's a risk I want to take, because I have found that it's hihgly likely that I will discover something that is really special and unique. As I begin this new adventure, I'm inviting you to come along. Before you join, you should accept that there may be some mistakes and dead ends. This journey will be travelled with an open mind, and without preconceived notions fostered by the professional magazines about what a fanzine should be.

I'm looking forward to this. I hope you will, too.


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