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
After a week off we return for an exciting double episode of the Retro Round-Up. This week we offer takes on two solid Virtual Console games, including a classic shooter and a very bizarre sequel. And if that's not enough, this week GameTap uploads the greatest video game of all time ... FOR FREE. Find out what comes out on top when you read another exciting episode of the Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
Yes, it's yet another 2D shooter for the Virtual Console. But don't stop reading just yet, because this is a solid game that is worth your time. And besides, this is the first 2D shooter of the new year. M.U.S.H.A. stands for Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor, which doesn't exactly help matters much. If you can get past the terrible name you'll find that this is one of the more compelling shooters of the Genesis era, offering enough fast action and cool power-ups to warrant a look. While a lot of shooters have you flying through space and over forests and oceans, M.U.S.H.A.'s set pieces involve a lot of Japanese-inspired locations. That is, you'll find yourself flying over a lot of very eastern-looking architecture, you'll even battle a weird Japanese fortress on wheels (don't ask). It's not perfect, but it's been a long time since we've had a shooter this good his the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Like most 2D shooters, M.U.S.H.A. holds up remarkably well. The game is speedy and rarely slows down, the levels are unique enough to warrant a look and the power-ups are cool. It's not the most original game on the planet, but it also doesn't feel so old that you would get bored playing it. The only thing outdated about this game is the terrible name, it's a shame they didn't stick with the superior Japanese title, Musha Aleste.
Is It Worth the Money?
Eight dollars is a bit much for this 2D shooter, but considering how few quality shooters we've seen lately I say go for it. While the game wasn't as popular as Gradius or Thunder Force, M.U.S.H.A. is definitely one of the top shooters on the Genesis. If you're a fan of 2D shooters and are getting antsy for another good one, then definitely don't miss this gem. Just ignore the title and spend the money, you'll be glad you did.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
(Virtual Console/Master System/$5)
What Is It?
Proving yet again that you never know what you're going to get with a Wonder Boy game, this 8-bit classic manages to be a compelling 2D platformer with just the right mix of role-playing goodness. Wonder Boy in Monster Land is the sequel to 1986 original, and while it shares the name that's pretty much where the similarities end. In this game you play a young soldier-like character, ready to do battle with his sword and armor. In a lot of ways the game feels like one of those classic Capcom arcade games, you walk from left to right hacking and slashing your way, all while picking up coins and trying to find the key to get out of the levels. What sets this game apart is the fact that you can buy all sorts of crazy accessories with your money, including new weapons, armor, shoes, and so on. You can also spend money on different special items that will help you on your quest. Though the graphics are extremely small and not very detailed, the game is surprisingly long and well worth going through. This isn't going to make you forget about Super Mario Bros. 3 and all of the other 2D platformers on the Virtual Console, but Wonder Boy in Monster Land is a great twist on the tried and true formula.
Does It Still Hold Up?
There are definitely things about this game that do not hold up, especially when you look at the limited gameplay and the mediocre graphics. However, those minor complaints are trumped by all of the items and accessories available to you as you play through the game. This game may not blow you away in a technical sense, but it's definitely a lot more innovative than many people give it credit for.
Is It Worth the Money?
At five dollars you can't go wrong, especially if you've never played it before. Don't be turned off by the original Wonder Boy, the difference between this game and that is night and day. While the original game was about dodging enemies on a tropical island, this feels more like a traditional 2D platformer mixed with a role-playing game. In a lot of ways this game feels like a more action-packed version of Zelda II ... only without all of the baggage. Wonder Boy in Monster Land isn't going to rank as the best game on the Virtual Console this year, but you would be a fool not to check out this genuine classic.
This Week in GameTap
Due to my absence I missed last week's GameTap goodies, and I'm sorry I did. Last week we got none other than Garou: Mark of the Wolves, the ninth (and final) game in the Fatal Fury series. I'm definitely sad that I missed that one, it's an amazing game, especially considering it was free for that week. But don't worry, because this week's free offering is even better. In fact, I'm going to go as far as to say that it's my favorite game of all time. The other two games aren't bad either, but they pale in comparison to this week's free game. Oh, and this weekend you can play all of American McGee's Grimm Season 1 for free. No, I'm not going to write a haiku about that one.
X-COM: UFO Defense (Free)
The best game ever.
I seriously mean that.
No, I'm not kidding.
This is bad advice.
Painkillers are addictive.
This add-on is not.
XIII Century: Dead or Glory
It's death or glory.
Are those my only choices?
I'll give up and watch!