TOCA Championship Racing for the Playstation

TOCA Championship Racing for the Sony Playstation is one of the many gems I found through demo discs. I remember playing the demo for this game over and over again and loving every second of it, even with its limit choices. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found a copy of the full version, but it was well worth the wait.

Compared to other racing games on the Playstation TOCA may seem simplistic. An abysmal eight car choices (with an unlockable tank), although they are all real touring cars by real life manufacturers, and eight real life tracks on which to race. Your initial options are to decide how you’re wanting to play: Single Race, Championship or Time trials, all of which are fairly self explanatory but Championship is most likely going to be the main draw in the game.

Once you’ve made your choice it’s time to name your driver, select a car, select your favorite track and decide whether or not you want to qualify for a good starting position, or just start in the back of the grid and muscle your way to the front through fifteen CPU opponents. At the time fifteen CPU opponents was well above the usual count for racing games, usually being limited to eight, due to not being able to render all of them without massive lag, but TOCA does a great job.

Racing against these beasts isn’t easy, and by beasts I mean your CPU opponents. You will crash, or more accurately they will wreck you, and when you wreck there is damage done to the car. Sadly, or fortunately, the damage is limited to strictly structural damage on the car, your car can not sustain mechanical failure that I’ve found and believe me I’ve tried. Body parts will go flying and every pane of glass in the car will blow out so you knew how hard you had raced the car by the time you crossed the finish line.

Passenger side of car displaying broken windows and physical damage.

TOCA was among the first games that really forced me to learn how to line up a corner and how much gas and brake I had to apply at any given time. My, then, teenage mind was so used to Nascar games that never really required logic or any common sense, I just hit the gas and turned a single direction. With so many twists and turns, combined with TOCA’s unique handling, it took a bit of getting used to, but by today’s racing game standards it feels a bit more arcade than it did back then.

Besides being a completely different style of racing than I was familiar with, TOCA also offered a few features I had never seen in any other racing game before. The game adds variable weather ranging from sunny, cloudy, foggy, snow, raining or an all out thunder storm. Another really cool feature is the inside view of the car that puts you into the driver’s seat, which is far more common nowadays, but wasn’t so much back during the Playstation’s life. Finally all cars offer a working horn, and when I say working I mean it makes a noise, I seriously don’t think your opponents are going to move aside when you beep at them.

Even though TOCA isn’t as full featured as its racing game counterparts I still found it to be a very fun game to play. It taught me the basics of how to drive tracks that had many varying twists and turns and it taught me how to keep my tires on the track when there aren’t walls there to do it for me. Even though, due to the aging of Playstation Graphics, I find it hard to play these days, I will always retain the memories of playing the demo over and over again trying to get better and better with what was available.

Posted July 30th, 2018

Darkstone Review

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s RPGs were pouring onto the gaming market at an amazing rate. The SNES boom of RPGs was over and the original Sony Playstation had taken that crown, offering developers more space to create more epic adventures. The RPG market was rife with great titles such as Breath of Fire III and IV, Dragon Quest VII, an endless supply of Final Fantasies and FF remasters, Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Vandal Hearts, the start of the Suikoden series, Azure Dreams, The Legend of Dragoon, the list could go on nearly forever.

Among the sea of those memorable RPGs there was one by the name of Darkstone (Darkstone: Evil Reigns everywhere else in the world) that crept into the ranks and sat there, quietly and seemingly became forgotten without much notice at all. Released for both the PC and Playstation, Darkstone is considered an Action Adventure RPG, but I personally feel it adds some quality dungeon crawling into the mix as well.

In Darkstone you’ll be choosing one of four classes, which offer both male and female avatars, to seek out and collect the seven crystals which will form the Time Orb to defeat the evil Lord Draak, who has just awoken from a previous attempt to snuff out his existence. Since Lord Draak is now awake many of his minions inhabit the world of Uma now, bringing chaos and despair to many across the lands. Yeah, the story sounds cheesy, but every good RPG needs something to get players motivated.

Choose your class, and gender, name your character and begin the adventure! You’ll start out in the main town where you can learn spells, buy, sell, repair and even upgrade equipment and do all the normal things RPGs offer. The first thing you may notice is there are only three camera angles and none of them are particularly good, but that’s just the way many games were back in that era, so it’s not just this game it was just ignorance of the technology. Also, remember when I said you can upgrade equipment? Well there are limits to that, because the more powerful any given piece of equipment becomes the weaker it’s durability is, just something to be aware of.

Once you’re ready you’ll exit the town and be welcomed to the Land of Ardyl, in which you’ll begin battling many of Lord Draak’s minions, both above ground and while adventuring deep into loot filled dungeons. As you kill, you’ll gain experience and sometimes you’ll obtain loot such as articles of armor and weapons, potions, food, gold among other items. Some of this loot will need to be taken back to town and be identified by Madame Irma before it’s full potential is revealed. Once you’ve obtained enough experience you’ll gain a new level and be allowed to set skill points into four different attributes: Strength, Health, Magic and Agility.

To keep your adventures going you can purchase potions to replenish your health and your magic, as well as spells to regain health. Should you get into a battle and run out of magic or potions to keep yourself alive, don’t worry, you’ll just respawn minus some of your items and durability of your equipment. In Darkstone death is not the end, but it is a bit frustrating.

Some things I find surprising about Darkstone are, firstly, that the maps seem to be fairly good sizes and, since this is the beginning of disc based video games, the loading times that do exist don’t seem to take all that long. Also there is a rest feature, which can only be used when minions are not around, that allows you to recuperate health and magic. One of my favorite features is the fast travel system that allows you to fast travel to the entrance of places you’ve previously visited, making getting around much quicker and easier.

While not the most complex RPG, Darkstone is still quite an enjoyable RPG. There are plenty of dungeons and quests to do, but it may feel a bit much of the same eventually, it really depends on the person playing. My only real complaint would be how I felt the UI was a bit clunky until I became more familiar with it. Almost immediately after booting up my nearly 16 year old saves for this game the nostalgia came rushing back. I ended up playing for quite some time before I remembered I needed to buckle down and start writing the review. Darkstone is just a good old RPG that not many people seem to have tried.

Posted July 23rd, 2018

Retro Adapter for NES Classic Edition

So, the NES Classic Edition (AKA, NES Mini) has been re-released. I was able to score one after a short adventure to 2 different stores where 1 said they had 13 in stock but actually had zero. I suspect employees had them hidden in the back. I get home and unpackage the micro-console and I see the controller. Now, I knew going in, the controller was very short, but I wasn’t prepared for how short it actually was. It’s 24 inches long. 2 feet. Before I bought the console, in my head I’m thinking, that’s long enough. Then it sinks in when I see it in person. Did Nintendo expect people to sit 3 feet away from the TV to play? I mean, we all did that in the 80s and 90s didn’t we?

Before purchasing the console, I was looking at controller options and I came across the Pro Retro Adapter from Retro Fighters. It’s a controller adapter for the NES Classic, the Wii U, and the Wii. It allows you to use your original controllers on the aforementioned consoles.  I have controllers for the NES. They are the perfect length. It had 3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. I figure if it’s not very good, I’m only out $15. I order it on Amazon and wait the 8 days it will take to come since it’s not sold through Amazon so no 2 day Prime shipping.

So, let’s open the box.

Retro Adapter BoxRetro Adapter Box OpenInstruction Booklet

Here are my first thoughts:

  • The cord is longer than it appears on the box and the website, it’s 3 feet long.
  • It has some weight to it, so it doesn’t feel cheap (More on this later).
  • It doesn’t look ugly.

How is it in use?

Adapter in Pieces Well, it works as advertised. The first time I used it, left on the d-pad didn’t work. I originally thought that it was the adapter. It wasn’t, it was the controller. I’ve had the controller for about 20 years. It’s worn out. It worked with my other controller. As a matter of fact, it worked perfectly. I played Mario 3 with it. I’m not saying I’m good, but with the way I play Mario, if there was any lag, I would die quickly. I didn’t detect any lag. Now, my ONLY problem I had with it was a build problem. When I unplugged my controller from the Retro Adapter, I pulled it apart. I’m not sure if it was my controller or if it was the adapter being grippy, but I think it should be put together with Screws instead of clips. My suggestion is unplug carefully. It can be a pain to snap back together.

Final thoughts

Is it worth the $15 it costs
Yes, it’s a good deal considering a second NES controller costs $10 in stores and upwards to $30 online.
Are there any real problems with it?
I haven’t had any big problems with it except the problem I mentioned above.
Should I buy it?
Well, yeah. You want controllers that are long enough, dont you?
Posted July 10th, 2018