Retro Round-up for December 20

Retro Round-up for December 20

Written by Cyril Lachel on 12/21/2007 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 shoot some intergalactic baddies in Alien Storm, crunch some mechs down to size in Cybernator, kill a few dragons in Monster Lair and destroy whatever it is you destroy in Tempest. Talk about a busy episode. So quit wasting time by reading this introduction, it's time to check out this week in retro ...

Alien Storm (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
The first rule of playing Alien Storm: Don't confuse it with the infinitely more exciting Virtual Console release, Alien Soldier. Now that we have that out of the way we can focus our attention on something far more pressing - The Flintstones. That's right, instead of doing the normal thing (spending a paragraph describing what Alien Storm is); I've decided to compare this game to the classic Hanna Barbera TV show. You see, once upon a time there was this cartoon about a Stone Age family dealing with the same normal, everyday crap that you and I have to put up with. Two years after debuting The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera introduced the world to The Jetsons. It doesn't take a well-educated hamster to see that The Jetsons was nothing more than a futuristic version of The Flintstones. In a lot of ways Golden Axe is like The Flintstones. It's set in an ancient period, where men and women wore tiny clothes and battles with bladed weaponry. In contrast, Alien Storm is like The Jetsons. Instead of being set in an ancient time, Alien Storm is set in the future. One deals with dragons and evil warlocks, while the other deals with gooey aliens and plasma weapons. Add the laugh track and you have the newest Hanna-Barbera odd couple. Bad analogies aside, Alien Storm really is nothing more than a more contemporary version of Golden Axe, which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Sega has added a few new mini-games (first-person shooting, running stages) to break up the action, but when you really get down to it this is nothing more than Golden Axe with futuristic weapons.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Like Golden Axe, Alien Storm is nothing more than a traditional 2D brawler where you mash a lot of buttons and try and avoid getting hit. Thankfully Sega has learned a few things about pacing since the days of Golden Axe, but even with some odd diversions thrown your way, you're still basically doing the same thing over and over again. If you're the kind of person that enjoys this style of brawler, then you're going to love Alien Storm.

Is It Worth the Money?

Eight dollars seems like a bit much when you're talking about Alien Storm. We're not talking about one of the big hits of the 16-bit era, Alien Storm was a modest game when it was released and is still nothing more than a novelty product. It's nice to see these characters return, but I wouldn't spend $8 on what amounts to a short experience.

Alien Storm

Cybernator (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Cybernator can best be described as MechWarrior meets Contra. Now here's a game that takes place in the future, where evil corporations control everything and it's up to you to save ... blah blah blah. Look, all you really need to know is that this is your basic 2D shooter, only this time around you have a funky mech suit that can shoot in all directions. As a "giant" mech character, it's up to you to fight your way through a few futuristic levels and battle some bosses. There's nothing revolutionary here, this is your basic Contra clone from beginning to end. The one big problem I have with this release is the clumsy controls. While the amount of control you have is refreshing at times, it's also somewhat unruly when mapped to the standard Super NES control layout. That's not to say you can't get used to it, but the controls never feel quite right as far as I'm concerned. I also found that the game's surroundings kind of bummed me out; it would have been nice for a little more variety. While this is certainly a solid action game, it's not as easy to recommend as some of the other games it's desperately trying to imitate.

Does It Still Hold Up?

It's always fun to look back at a classic game and recognize that the very thing that made it so special 15 years ago is out front and easy to see. While the graphics and sound in, say, Super Mario Bros. may not hold up to today's standards, it's easy to understand why everybody was so excited for the game 22 years ago. Unfortunately Cybernator is not Super Mario Bros. With its dreary graphics, small characters, awkward controls and boring level designs; Cybernator is yet another one of those 15 year old games that hasn't held up well.

Is It Worth the Money?
Assuming you already own all of the Contra games on the system (and I include both Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier in that list), Cybernator may scratch that 2D shooter itch you have. This isn't as good as all of those games listed above, but it's also hardly the worst game on the Virtual Console. Cybernator is a solid action game that seems a bit overpriced at $8. Fun, but not something you will want to rush out and buy.



Monster Lair (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
A couple weeks ago we were looking at <a href="/shows.php?id=twidg-38 " target="blank_"><b>The Dynastic Hero</b></a>, the TurboDuo version of Wonder Boy in Monster World. Well don't look now, because we're getting yet another Wonder Boy game for NEC's CD add-on. Monster Lair is Wonder Boy III, the same game that appeared on the Genesis. Monster Lair is a strange game; it combines traditional Wonder Boy platforming with these weird 2D shooter elements. This marriage isn't as seamless as one would like, but it doesn't detract from an otherwise enjoyable action game. Unfortunately Monster Lair feels like a downgrade after seeing some of the other Wonder Boy games on the Virtual Console, but fans of the series will no doubt find something to love.

Does It Still Hold Up?

The shooting elements are just weird and the platforming feels dated. That just about sums up my experience with Monster Lair. The graphics are fine and the music is pretty good, but the game doesn't feel as fresh as Wonder Boy in Monster World.

Is It Worth the Money?
Yet again we're given a solid game that is not worth the full $8. If this game was a few dollars cheaper it might be one thing, but it's hard to justify the full price for Monster Lair. Those who do pick it up will find a lot of things to like about this classic TurboGrafx-CD game, but I'm not sold on the idea that it's worth the full price. 2008 will surely bring all kinds of great Virtual Console games, perhaps you should just hold on to your money until then.

Monster Lair

Tempest (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
Tempest is not only a classic 1981 coin-op, but it's also one of Atari's very best games. While much has been made about some of Atari's other offerings (including Asteroids, Missile Command, etc.), it's Tempest that everybody should be talking about. Tempest is not your basic shooter, it takes everything you know about the shooter genre and adds in some clever concepts that turn what could have been a stale experience into something amazing. You play a spaceship that is stuck on the edge of a long piece of geometry; it's your job to shoot all of the aliens that are slowly climbing their way towards you. Sound simple? Well it is, kind of. The game starts out basic enough (you will pretty much just have to spin around a large cone-shape level shooting everything in sight), but as the levels fly by the tension mounts and suddenly it's you who is in the defensive situation. Like all other Atari Xbox Live Arcade games, Tempest features both a "retro" and "evolved" version of the game. Does Tempest "evolved" live up to the fabulous Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar (or even Tempest X on the PlayStation)? Well, no. But it does give you a flawless version of the original game for $5.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Let's just get one thing out of the game. Tempest is still an amazing shooter than everybody should play at least once. Having said that, what were they thinking by not making the "evolved" version of this game Tempest 2000? They already have all of the work done for them (by Jeff Minter, no less), so why go off on your own and make something that doesn't quite stack up? It's not that the "evolved" version of the game isn't good; it's a perfectly acceptable shooter that looks and sounds fine. But Tempest 2000 added more than just new graphics, it offered new power-ups, a trippy new art style, bonus levels, better level designs and jumping. None of that is here; instead we have a half-assed HD remake of the original game. Thankfully the original game holds up well, but Atari made a HUGE mistake by not throwing in Tempest 2000 into the mix.

Is It Worth the Money?

Fans of the original 1981 arcade game will be happy to see that Atari has released a faithful port of one of the best shooters of all time. However, $5 seems a bit steep for a game you can play for free online. What you're really paying for is the "evolved" update, which looks and sounds a little better, but is not as cool as it could have been. Tempest 2000 is just another game that suggests that we need Atari Jaguar games ported to the Xbox Live Arcade or Virtual Console.

Tempest

This Week in GameTap
Every week I plan on taking a look at the classic games being uploaded on the GameTap service. Regardless of whether it's part of their free or premium service, GameTap offers a wide variety of old school games that is worth checking out. Here are the most recent games uploaded to their server, keep in mind that all of these games are free to play unless otherwise stated:

Street Fighter III: Third Strike (Dreamcast/Subscription Required) - It took Capcom six years to release Street Fighter III, one of the most anticipated fighting games of all time. Unfortunately Street Fighter III was released at a time when everybody was playing first-person shooters and nobody cared about the arcade scene. It wasn't until years later that Street Fighter III was recognized for what it is, one of the best fighting games of all time. This week GameTap is adding Street Fighter III: Third Strike to their ever-growing list of arcade games. This won't make the release of Street Fighter IV come any quicker, but it will give you something to do while you wait. Street Fighter III is definitely worth checking out.

SF2

* 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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