Retro Round-up for August 1st

Retro Round-up for August 1st

Written by Cyril Lachel on 8/3/2007 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! But for now, here's your guide for the first week in August ...

Drop Off
What Is It?
Drop Off is what you get when you combine all the fun and excitement of Puzzle Bobble with Arkanoid, it's a 2D action game where you try and clear a screen by bouncing a ball up and down. While I have nothing against either Puzzle Bobble or Arkanoid, this TurboGrafx-16 game just isn't much fun to play. In Drop Off you are in charge of bouncing a ball with this small circle piece, as you bounce the ball around the screen you will delete the objects that you hit. The goal is to clear all of the pieces off of the board, either by hitting them individually or making then drop by deleting the blocks attaching the objects. It's a simple premise that is easy to learn and hard to master. But don't get too excited, just because the game is simple that doesn't automatically mean that it's fun. With its dopey story, ugly graphics and boring gameplay, Drop Off is hardly the most exciting Virtual Console game. You're better off just playing Break Out or Puzzle Bobble.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is simple and easy to learn, but the game itself just isn't a lot of fun. There are a few sparks of brilliance in this game, including some interesting objects and a few unique boss battles. But even with that going for the game, Drop Out is just not a very exciting game. Your paddle is far too small for this type of game and the control is somewhat sluggish. I've never been a huge fan of the Arkanoid-style of gameplay and this game just takes everything I hate about those games and ratchets it up a level. There are some good ideas here, but the game just doesn't hold up all these years later.

Is It Worth The Money?
Absolutely not! If this is your first exposure to games like Puzzle Bobble or Break Out then you might find some enjoyment with this title, but at this point you should have more than enough access to those other, better games. Six dollars is a bit much for the limited amount of fun you'll have with a game like Drop Off. Just avoid this one; it's the right thing to do.

Drop Off

Dynamite Headdy
What Is It?
It's Dynamite Headdy, Treasure's much ballyhooed follow-up to Gunstar Heroes. But Dynamite Headdy is not a Gunstar Heroes sequel; it's a very different game with a completely different set of characters and powers. Dynamite Headdy tells the story of a small puppet who is taking part in a giant stage performance full of risk and action. But this is no ordinary puppet, Headdy is the kind of puppet that can throw his head to kill enemies and solve puzzles. Headdy is also privy to a number of unique power-ups that all seem to have something to do with his ability to throw his head. For example, Headdy will be able to turn his head into spikes, a hammer, a war head, a pin head, and so much more. Beyond the weird power-ups, Dynamite Headdy stands out because of its weird (yet oddly beautiful) presentation. Being a stage performance you will often find backgrounds that look like they were pieced together by stage hands, in fact, from time to time you will even see those same stage hands come out and change the backgrounds (to get you ready for a boss battle or another level). Treasure has always been known for their crazy boss battles, and Dynamite Headdy is no exception. From start to finish Dynamite Headdy is a genuine classic, a bizarre action game that is as much fun today as it was a decade ago. If you're a fan of Gunstar Heroes (or just fun games in general) then Dynamite Headdy should be at the top of your list this week.

Does It Still Hold Up?
There just aren't a lot of games like Dynamite Headdy. This 2D action game is more than just good looks and great characters; it also has some of the craziest power-ups you'll ever see. We're talking about a character whose head comes completely off of his body to attack enemies, climb to high areas, and break down hard objects. Like Gunstar Heroes and all of those other 16-bit Treasure classics, Dynamite Headdy is an easy game to just sit down and play; you'll be using your head like a pro in no time. But beyond the memorable enemy designs, great bosses and cool level, Dynamite Headdy is just a fun action game with some amazing power-ups. When we look back at all of the me-too platformers that came out of the 16-bit era it's easy to forget that there are a few genuine classics that stand above the rest. Dynamite Headdy is that type of classic, and one could probably argue that the experience is better now that we don't have to put up with so many 2D action games. Does Dynamite Headdy still hold up? Is water still wet?

Is It Worth The Money?

Yes, yes, yes ... a thousand times yes! Dynamite Headdy is the reason we set up this retro section. Not only is this one of the best 16-bit games of all time, but it's also one of those games that a lot of people have passed over for one reason or another. Released right after Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy brings the same attention to detail and hyper-addictive action ... only this time with a dash of off the wall humor. This game is bizarre, but that's one of the best reasons to check it out. I've never been a fan of the $8 price point for the Sega Genesis games, but if there's one Virtual Console worth full price then this is it!

Star Soldier
What Is It?
Remember Super Star Solider for the TurboGrafx-16? How about Soldier Blade or Blazing Lazers? Well, this 8-bit NES game was the start of that long-running line of popular 2D shooters. There's an old adage about 2D shoot-em-ups: If you've seen one you've seen them all. While I definitely don't subscribe to that theory for all shooters, there's definitely some truth in it. Star Soldier is another 2D vertical shooter that plays almost exactly like the last 2D vertical shooter. This is a space shoot-em-up that has you flying over ugly locations, killing mindless enemies that fly in formation, and battling huge robotic end level bosses. But this is about more than just boring levels and stupid enemies; it's also about the lame power-ups and the slow pace of the combat. The good news is that Star Soldier does try to be different in one or two ways, for example Hudson tries to add some feel of depth by making you fly over and under certain levels. If you consider that exciting then chances are this game is for you ... but everybody else should just spend that extra buck buying Super Star Soldier or one of the other sequels.

Does It Still Hold Up?

There's a problem with releasing a game series out of order; once you've played the vastly superior sequels (Super Star Soldier, etc.) you'll never want to go back to this slow, ugly 2D shooter. That's not to say that this isn't a fine action game, but it pales in comparison to all of those other 2D shooters already available on the Virtual Console. Hudson would have been better off had they released this as a free bonus game attached to one of the $6 sequels, but as a stand-alone game there's no reason to play this.

Is It Worth The Money?
Why spend five dollars when you can pick up one of the superior sequels for just one dollar more? Star Soldier isn't a terrible game, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where somebody is excited to be able to download this NES game over the much-improved TurboGrafx-16 sequels. One could argue that this would have been an okay experience if you tried this game out first, but most of the sequels have been on the Virtual Console for a few months now, so what's the point? Don't waste your five dollars on this slow-paced shooter when you can buy one of the impressive sequels for only a few pennies more.

Star Soldier

Marathon: Durandal
What Is It?
Despite its lack of a number, Marathon: Durandal is actually the second installment to the Marathon franchise, the popular first-person shooter series released on the Mac back in the 1990s. The Marathon series is best known as the one (and only) great franchise found on the Mac, as well as being the predecessor to the popular Halo series. Seeing as it's best known as a Mac game, it might seem odd to some that Marathon would actually show up on a Microsoft product. But believe it or not, this isn't the first time Durandal has shown up on a non-Apple operating system. Back in 1996 Bungie ported Marathon: Durandal to the Windows 95 operating system, it was the only game in the trilogy to hit a Windows platform. Unfortunately by the time Durandal finally came out it was largely ignored by the legion of FPS fans that were more interested in the likes of Quake. Here we are a decade later and Marathon is getting a second chance on a Microsoft product. This Xbox Live Arcade port of Durandal features online multiplayer, a robust co-op mode, improved graphics, and an improved frame rate. You also get achievements, but that goes without saying.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Before I answer that question I have a question of my own: Where the heck is the first Marathon? As somebody who never had a chance to play the Marathon series growing up I'm a little disappointed that I won't be able to experience the games in order. Having said that, Marathon: Durandal still manages to be an engrossing first-person shooter with some great level designs and an interesting story. Unlike the other classic FPS game released on the Xbox Live Arcade, Doom, Marathon actually feels more like a modern shooters thanks to the ability to aim up, down and all around. The graphics are somewhat jarring at first (a lot of the time it looks like you're shooting cardboard cut-outs), but that doesn't make this game any less enjoyable. It's nice to see two different classic first-person shooters hit the Xbox Live Arcade that have held up, it definitely shows that these games were not only successful because of their era. I can only hope that the next classic FPS game will be the brilliant Half-Life, it would only make sense with Half-Life 2: The Orange Box coming out.

Is It Worth The Money?
OH MY EYES!! Usually this would be an easy call; Marathon is a classic first-person shooter with a lot of personality, some great multiplayer options, and the ability to play cooperatively. And on top of all that you also have improved graphics, easier controls, and a faster frame rate. But this game is hard to recommend for one major reason: It's going to make you sick! Due to the game's graphics and speed, Marathon: Durandal will likely give you motion sickness. I'm not the kind of guy who generally has problems with this motion issues, but this game is almost impossible to look at for an extended amount of time. Thankfully there's enough content to warrant the $10 asking price, but it might be in your best interest to take some Dramamine before you spend a lot of time with this game.

Marathon

* 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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