Retro Round-up for August 17

Retro Round-up for August 17

Written by Cyril Lachel on 8/17/2007 for PS3   Wii   360  

Every week Cyril Lachel comes down from his giant castle in the hills to provide the final word on all of the classic downloadable games and retro compilations. This is the Retro Round-Up, your official guide to the best (and worst) in classic gaming for the Nintendo Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Join us as we shed some light on what games are worth your five or ten dollars, and what games you should avoid at all costs. For more information about these games (and retro gaming in general) we invite you to check out  Defunct Games! This week we have the return of Samus Aran, a TurboGrafx-16 mash-up, one of the best RPGs on the Virtual Console, and Ecco the Dolphin. Find out which of those is the for the Virtual Console and which is for the Xbox Live Arcade when you read the newest episode of Retro Round-Up ...

 
Cratermaze (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Cratermaze plays like a best-of mash-up between Hudson's most popular TurboGrafx-16 titles. At first glance the game looks an awful lot like Bomberman, only without the wanton death and destruction. But upon closer inspection the game actually plays more like Lode Runner, where it's your job to dig holes to trap the enemies. Beyond combining the camera perspective of Bomberman and the gameplay of Lode Runner, you also have the crazy task of collecting enough treasure chests to open up a key and unlock the exit door. Despite being a hodgepodge of different concepts, Cratermaze is actually an addictive little game that is easy to pick up and play for short spurts. With sixty levels and a number of different power-ups, Cratermaze has quite a bit of gameplay waiting for those people adventurous enough to tackle this bizarre game.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
While the concepts hold up well, some gamers will no doubt grow tired of doing the same thing over sixty different levels. Thankfully there is some variety, but not nearly enough to keep you hooked for long stretches of time. To its credit there aren't a lot of games like this on the Virtual Console, and if you're one of those people that loved Bomberman but thought that it needed more Lode Runner influence then this is a perfect game for you.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
At $6 it's hard to feel too bad about trying out new games, especially if you're a fan of either Lode Runner or Bomberman. The problem with this game is that it's just too simple; the concept gets old after only a few levels. If you're the type of gamer who is looking for something to pick up and play for only a few minutes at a time then you might want to consider this forgotten classic, but everybody else may just want to see what else is on the Virtual Console this week.

Cratermaze
 
 
Metroid (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Ever since the launch of the Wii back in mid-November almost everybody has been clamoring for a Virtual Console release of Metroid and its stellar sequel, Super Metroid. Well, your prayers have finally been answered, because Metroid has finally been release (with Super Metroid dropping early next week). Culturally important for being the first Nintendo made game to sport "realistic" graphics (as opposed to their standard cartoony look found in Mario, Ice Climbers, etc.), Metroid is still regarded as one of the greatest games ever made. Metroid was different from all those other NES-based games of the mid- to late-1980s; it featured a fully realized world where you didn't have to worry about beating levels. Instead you ran around this world finding power-ups that would allow you access to otherwise unreachable areas of the maze-like world. Along the way you had to deal with some grueling monsters and memorize where you came from (and where you're going). Beyond its interesting take on game worlds, Metroid was also significant for featuring the first (spoiler warning) female action hero. And not only that, but it also introduced us to Justin Bailey, one of the most memorable video game passwords of all time. Everything you loved about Metroid has returned to for this Virtual Console release, which, as you're about to learn, is both a good and bad thing.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
I hate to come off as a jerk here, but Metroid has always been riddled with some pretty serious problems. That doesn't mean that it's not worthy of being a genuine classic, but some of the issues we were willing to put up with twenty years ago are front and center in this re-release. For one thing the game is awfully glitchy, to the point where it can hinder you when trying to work through the world. This is nothing new, the original Metroid was glitchy as well ... so if anything this Virtual Console version is just mimicking what was already there. On top of that it's also annoying going around and having to bomb everything in order to figure out where you're going to go. Thankfully this method of gameplay was fixed for Super Metroid, but it's definitely noticeable in this Virtual Console release.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
Despite its quirks, Metroid is still an amazing game that is well worth your $5. The only problem I have recommending this game is that you could just as easily go and buy Metroid: Zero Mission and get the same experience (and a whole lot more). But even beyond that, if you're looking for a $5 game for your Virtual Console then Metroid is the game to get.

Metroid
Shining in the Darkness (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Long before anybody had ever heard of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Shining in the Darkness was the go-to first-person role-playing game. Shining in the Darkness was the beginning of Sega's long-running "Shining" role-playing series, a franchise that also featured Shining the Holy Ark, Shining Force and Shining Wisdom. While this is a fairly typical dungeon crawl, what sets Shining in the Darkness apart from all those other games is the perspective and amazing characters. Although it has a somewhat weak story, there's certainly enough great gameplay here to warrant a trip to Thornwood. If you enjoyed playing through Shining Force a few weeks ago then this purchase is a no-brainer, especially since it will remind you just why the "Shining" series was so celebrated back in the mid-1990s. Shining in the Darkness is not the best role-playing game on the Virtual Console, but it's damn close.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Sega has always known how to make a solid role-playing game, and Shining in the Darkness is no exception. If you're not a fan of the traditional Japanese RPGs (slow moving, turn-based affairs) then you will probably get bored by this title, but there's a lot to love about the way Shining in the Darkness looks and feels. Despite some outdated graphics and music, this is one role-playing game that has managed to hold up surprisingly well.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
With recent re-releases of Shining in the Darkness and Shining Force I'm starting to question why Sega has decided to ignore their long-time role-playing fan base. These days Sega has been focusing on action/adventure RPGs that define the word "generic", and instead of giving us a new Phantasy Star sequel they keep dangling these faux-MMO Phantasy Star installments over our heads. Enough is enough, it's time for Sega to go back to the drawing board and start making role-playing games that are as fun and engaging as Shining in the Darkness. Oh, and in case you still wonder if it's worth your money, the answer is an emphatic yes!
 
Shining
 
Ecco the Dolphin (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
When Sega first introduced Ecco the Dolphin it hit many as a major revolution in game design. At that time in gaming history most titles were based around space shooters, action heroes saving the world, plumbers jumping on mushroom people, and fantasies that were far from final. Ecco the Dolphin was a breath of fresh air, the type of game you rarely saw back in the 1990s. It was a free-roaming adventure game where you played a dolphin on a mission to have his family and friends. Now that game has come to the Xbox Live Arcade, which feels a little out of place when put next to all of the classic arcade and PC ports currently populating the download service. The good news is that Ecco is just as much fun on the Xbox Live Arcade as it was on the Virtual Console; it's still a lengthy adventure full of great graphics and a majestic world to explore. Along with the soothing atmosphere and deliberately slow-paced gameplay, this Xbox Live Arcade Ecco the Dolphin features slightly smoothed out graphics and enhanced sound. You will also get some new achievements, which is just one more incentive for you to play through the entire game.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Let's just get this out of the way: Ecco the Dolphin is not for everybody. If you're the type of gamer who can't get enough Gears of War but felt that Rainbow Six Vegas was too slow, then don't even bother spending time with Ecco. If you hate the idea of exploring a world and solving puzzles, then don't buy this game. But if you're the type of person who loved Flashback, Out of this World or even ICO, then Ecco may prove to be an interesting way to waste some time. The story is bare bones (not to be confused with developer Backbone), but there's a simple charm that you don't get from other games on the Xbox 360. The gameplay may be simple, but the adventure is deep (no pun intended) and rewarding.Does It Still Hold Up?
 
Is It Worth The Money?
At five dollars the game is about half the price of what it was on the Virtual Console. You shouldn't buy this game expecting award-winning graphics and sound, but the adventure is long enough to warrant you spending your money on the Microsoft Points. Not everybody is going to love this game, so you might want to give the demo a go before you spend the 400 points it takes to unlock the full game.Is It Worth The Money?

Ecco

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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