Thursday, 19 January 2012

It's Morphin' Time!

I thought it would be a good idea to take a break from all the gaming blog posts and talk about something from my childhood. I then thought that it would be great to talk about the very first TV show I watched as a kid, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

The original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

Yes, this show about six "Teenagers with attitude" was a huge part of my early life. When it first arrived on our TV screens all those years ago, there was nothing like it. I had brightly coloured superheroes, ugly monsters, magic, giant robot dinosaurs and a big blue head. It had everything you could possibly want in a children's TV show. Another thing that I think made Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers popular when it first arrived was the stars of the show, the Rangers. More specifically, the people under the spandex.

From left to right: Billy (David Yost), Trini (Thuy Trang), Tommy (Jason David Frank), Jason (Austin St. John), Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) and Zack (Walter Jones)
The reason why they were so popular with fans is that they are all different, yes, they do appear to be your stereotypical teenage characters, which are quite bland, but the circumstances that they are put in make them interesting and seeing them develop as the show goes on. Another thing that made these six characters so great is the chemistry that they had. As each character was purposely different, they were able to play off each other which meant that the characters were such a tight knit group.

  • Jason: The Red Ranger and leader of the Power Rangers. He was strong, compassionate and was always open to listen to his team mates. Twice in fans' polls, Jason has won the "Best Red Ranger of all time" award. A title he still holds. I have to agree, Jason is my favourite Power Ranger ever.
  • Zack: Let's get it of the way, the black guy is the Black Ranger. This was purely coincidental and there was no racist underlining. Zack was the goof ball of the group and was easy going, but always took his ranger duties seriously. He and Jason were best friends in the show and the actors, Austin St. John and Walter Jones, became very good friends.
  • Trini: Like with Zack, there was no implied racism from the show's producers. This is because Thuy Trang wasn't originally cast as Trini, an actress called Audri DuBois was. She wasn't the same race as Thuy. Trini was like the agony aunt of Power Rangers. She was usually the one the others went to if they had any perosnal problems. Trini was strong minded and always calm. She was rarely the focus of the team but didn't need to be. She was very underrated if you ask me.
  • Billy: He started off as the stereotypical nerd, but as the show went on he grew in confidence and even led the team on occasion. Billy was ridiculously clever and his inventions were invaluable to the team. Without him, the Power Rangers would have been screwed.
  • Kimberly: Originally, the character of Kimberly was going to be a ditzy, materialistic idiot. Thank god that was changed. Kimberly won the hearts of many young boys around the world, myself included. :) Kimberly wasn't your typical damsel in distress. She was a strong and capable ranger who was the saviour on numerous occasions. Plus, she is very pretty, which helps.
  • Tommy: What can I say about Tommy? Well he did start out as very shy, letting Kimberly make the first move in their budding romance. He was forgetful but he was a great fighter and let's be honest, he had the coolest zord. :P

Sadly, this never lasted for long. Half-way through the second season, Austin St. John, Walter Jones and Thuy Trang left the show. It is believed to be because of contractual issues regarding pay, although the real truth has never been revealed. Personally, I think that ultimately, letting them go and bringing in replacements, cost them more money than it would have to keep them. It is known that the actors on Power Rangers were payed very little.

 It's disappointing that it happened, especially where the movie is concerned, since chemistry is very important in movies with multiple protagonists but what can you do. As a kid, I never noticed it when Austin, Walter and Thuy had left the show and three stand-ins were used. Now, watching those episodes back today it's glaringly obvious.

Another thing that is obvious but you didn't notice as a kid is the difference between the footage. There is a big visual difference in the quality of footage between the original footage and Japanese footage bought by Saban to be used as the basis of the show. Power Rangers actually came from a show in Japan called Super Sentai. When Power Rangers creator Haim Saban first saw this show, he had the idea of adapting the show for a western audience. He tried for years but failed, until in 1992 Fox Kids agreed to buy the concept and the rest is history. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is based on the 1992 Super Sentai series Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger.

There are numerous differences between the two shows: First of all, Zyuranger has ancient warriors, not teenagers. Then there is the fact that Zyuranger has five men and one woman, whereas there are two female Power Rangers. The yellow ranger in Zyuranger is male, ironically named Boi, which explains why only the Pink Ranger costume has a skirt. Also, the Zords in Power Rangers are actually Gods in Zyuranger, and speak to the ancient warriors.

There is more, like how the Dragon Ranger, Burai, is the Tyrano Ranger Geki's brother and the fact that in Zyuranger, Burai actually dies and not just lose his powers like Tommy did.

There are similarites, Rita Repulsa is actually Bandora in Zyuranger. You can see the palace says "Bandora's Palace" in both, thanks to the use of the same footage. Goldar is Grifforzer, and the rest of the villains and monsters in Zyuranger are in the first season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Here are the Zyurangers in action:

Here is the same footage in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers:

There is more I could say about Power Rangers but I think that I've said enough. I think that it's a testament to the popularity of the show's premise and the characters that the show is still going nearly 20 years later. You can watch Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on Netflix now in the UK, so if you want a nostalgia rush, then you should watch it and memories will come flooding back.

Anyway, I'll leave it here for now and as Zordon says "May the Power protect you".

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

For a New Generation

When Sonic was released in 1991, it was Sega's answer to Mario. This is because Sega were looking for a mascot, a character to be the face of the company and give the brand the image of speed and athleticism, which contrasts with the image of Merio.

In 1994, the face of gaming was about to change, with the shift to 3D graphics, the possibilities for games was to be opened up immensely. Naughty Dog, who had been signed by Universal to make three games, set about on making a game for this new generation of systems. However, choosing which platform to put this new character and world on to would have to be right. It couldn't be on the Nintendo 64 because it would be going up against Mario, which is suicide for any new game. It couldn't be the Sega Saturn because Sega were self-imploding at the time. It had to be the unknown quantity, the new kid on the block, the Sony PlayStation.

Naughty Dog founders, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, along with Mark Cerny, who was a designer on Sonic 2, agreed that "Sonic's ass game" which Crash was jokingly known as during development, was a great idea.

Crash Bandicoot was referred to as "Sonic's ass game" because that is basically what it is. Think about it, both Sonic and Crash are linear platformers, both have brightly coloured protagonists, stupid villains and both were and still are great games.

Naughty Dog never intended for Crash to become the mascot for the PlayStation. This only happened when Sony agreed to become the game's publisher and market the game themselves. However, since Sony's rivals had one it was natural that a character from one of their games would end up as Sony's mascot. Crash fitted the bill. The first Crash Bandicoot also established a relationship between Naughty Dog and Sony, which led to Sony acquiring Naughty Dog in 2001. Today, Naughty Dog is seen as Sony's number one developer, thanks to the amazing Uncharted series. There will be a lot of eyes on Naughty Dog's latest title, The Last of Us, which has broken the cycle of one franchise per Sony console for Naughty Dog.

The Crash Bandicoot games made by Naughty Dog have stood the test of time. Even by today's standards they are still very fun to play. I think the developers who made those games deserve a lot of credit for that. It's really such a shame that Crash Bandicoot became what it did after Naughty Dog moved on to Jak & Daxter, but since all four of Naughty Dog's Crash games are on the PlayStation Network for PS3/PSP, you can still relive the glory days.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Beginning of a Passion

Since I play videogames a lot I thought I should talk a bit about it. Anyway, I have played games for a long time, most of my life, so I think it would be cool to share some of these games, and what they mean to me. I'll post about each game in a separate post so that each game gets it's own time in the limelight. :-)

I think the first game I should talk about its the very first game I ever played. Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 1991 and celebrated it's 20th anniversary last year. In that time, there have been numerous sequels and spin-offs. The series has had it's ups and downs but the little blue guy has kept on going.

I first played the original Sonic game when I was about 4 years old on the Mega Drive and knew that I was playing something special. The game was all about speed and there was nothing better than tearing through a level at immense speed. Plus, back then, there was a something seriously cool about a blue hedgehog. Sonic to me as a kid was much cooler than say, a fat Italian plumber, for example. ;)

I have had Sonic on various consoles and devices, which says a lot about the impact Sonic has had on my life, and Sega's change from a console maker to publisher as well of course.

Sonic was and still is Sega's mascot, and to me, was a symbol of the early years of my life, along with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (which could make a great blog post subject actually) and I hope that he it's around for many years to come.

Even if he isn't, I'm sure that there will be something that has the Mega Drive Sonic games on it. :)

I played many games as a kid but few have stuck in my mind as much as Sonic.