Retro Round-up for January 4th

Retro Round-up for January 4th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 1/4/2008 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 take a look at a couple of classic Neo Geo action games, a couple of bubble blowing dinosaurs and a crazy action/role-playing game from Treasure. All that and more when you check out the first episode of the Retro Round-Up of 2008!

Bubble Bobble (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Long before Taito decided to turn it into a franchise, Bubble Bobble was just a fun action game that you and a friend could play together. It was nothing too revolutionary, it featured two dinosaur creatures blowing bubbles to trap enemies and earn points. Through one hundred levels the two characters (annoyingly named Bub and Bob) battled bad guys and collected fruit. In 1988 Taito decided to port the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Thanks to its attention to detail, Bubble Bobble became an 8-bit hit that actually worked better on a home console than it did in the arcade. Fast forward twenty years and Bubble Bobble has been resurrected for the Nintendo Virtual Console. While the graphics and sound are kind of annoying, Bubble Bobble still manages to be a great two-player action game. Not only does this game feature more levels than you can possibly play through in one sitting, but it's also fun to play with friends. At $5, Bubble Bobble is definitely the most tempting classic game of the week.

Does It Still Hold Up?
With its simple gameplay and endearing characters, Bubble Bobble remains a great action game. The game itself is fast and exciting, ultimately offering you a fantastic port of an already memorable coin-op arcade game. While there have been a number of sequels and spin-offs in the past, I would love to see Taito put some time into it and create a real sequel along the lines of Pac Man Championship Edition on the Xbox Live Arcade. However, as a port, this NES Bubble Bobble gets the job done.

Is It Worth the Money?
As a five dollar game you can't go wrong with Bubble Bobble. This is a solid action game full crazy level designs and two-player action. It's also a fantastic port, something you don't hear very often about an NES game. It's a shame they didn't release a better version of the game, but this works perfectly as a five dollar game. Now get on that true Bubble Bobble sequel already.

Light Crusader (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Light Crusader is not your ordinary Treasure game. While most Treasure games are all about fast action, interesting gimmicks and non-stop bosses, Light Crusader is more of an action/role-playing game, sort of a serious take on The Legend of Zelda or Landstalker. Unlike most Treasure games, Light Crusader features a decidedly European look, which flies in the face of the anime-inspired look many of their action games had. Beyond that, Light Crusader is really nothing more than a traditional Zelda-style action/RPG. You play a brave knight who sets out to solve some mysteries and slay some bad guys. The good news is that you get to do exactly that, slay dragons and solve mysteries. Unfortunately, you've probably already done a lot of this before. The game is played from this awkward isometric look, which not only looks bad but makes it difficult to navigate through some of the dungeons. While it tends to play a lot like the Landstalker series, Light Crusader has more of an emphasis placed on the puzzle solving mechanic. While these puzzles can be fun, I found that the large amount of brainteasers slowed down the pace of the overall experience. It's rare for me to not recommend a Treasure game, up until this point they have had one amazing game after another. But Light Crusader just isn't as exciting as it could have been, and in a lot of ways represents the very worst of Treasure's designs. You may still find something to like in Light Crusader, but this is one adventure game that left me scratching my head.

Does It Still Hold Up?
These days most games aren't played from an isometric viewpoint ... and for good reason! All it will take is a few minutes with this game to remind yourself why these isometric angles are such a bad idea. The game does have a unique look, but the controls, magic and puzzles never come together like they should. While most of Treasure's work still remains exciting and fresh today, Light Crusader just feels like a giant missed opportunity.

Is It Worth the Money?
If you've played all of the Zelda games (and the wannabes), then Light Crusader may be worth looking into. Don't expect a game on the same level as Landstalker or Neutopia, but there are some good ideas found in this traditional dungeon crawler. Fans of Treasure will surely be disappointed by this half-assed effort. All in all I would go back and replay Gunstar Heroes or Dynamite Headdy, that way you can remember why you fell in love with Treasure in the first place.

Top Hunter (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Top Hunter is kind of a weird action game. From the looks of it you would probably expect it to play a lot like Metal Slug, the other big 2D shooter on the Neo Geo. But it doesn't, instead this game feels more like a cross between Rolling Thunder and Bionic Commando. In a lot of ways Top Hunter is like every other 2D action game we've reviewed in these pages, you run from left to right killing all of the enemies that are attacking from each side. The gimmick here is that all of the action is played on two different plains, one that is right up front and one that is further back. While this gimmick is interesting, the idea of jumping into different plains is more interesting on paper than it is in execution. It's also worth mentioning that your character has an unnaturally stretchy arm, similar to Stretch Armstrong (or Dhalsim of Street Fighter fame). For the most part this stretchy arm is used to defeat bad guys, but you can also use it to activate traps and destroy parts of the background. Unfortunately most of the stretchy arm's potential goes unused, you never have to swing to safety or use it to climb up on tall ledges. It's nice that SNK was trying something new in Top Hunter, but neither of these concepts comes together in a pleasing way. Couple this with the fact that it's a short game with limited replay value and you have a game that probably isn't worth $9.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Even though it's a little slow, Top Hunter is still a solid playing action game. The controls are solid and the graphics are richly detailed. It's not as exciting as the Metal Slug series, but it's a lot better than many of the first generation Neo Geo games. At the end of the day Top Hunter holds up better than I expected, even if it's not the most exciting action game on the Virtual Console.

Is It Worth the Money?
Nine dollars is a bit much to ask for Top Hunters. Even if some of the game's issues were resolved it still wouldn't change the fact that this is a short game that isn't much fun. There's almost no reason to go through this action game more than once, and even the multiplayer stuff is pretty lame. There are a lot of great Neo Geo games worth adding to the Virtual Console, unfortunately Top Hunters is not one of them.

Metal Slug 3 (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
Metal Slug is a long-running 2D shooter franchise that was born on the SNK Neo Geo. In a lot of ways it's a Contra clone, only this game has a lot more character and far better graphics. You play an action hero who runs from left to right shooting soldiers, aliens, zombies and more. Oh, and you're supposed to save kidnapped homeless dudes. Of course, this is just a set up for non-stop action, amazing level designs and some of the best graphics and animation you have seen in this kind of game. But don't fool yourself; this game is really just a stylish Contra clone. This week Microsoft has decided to release Metal Slug 3 for the Xbox Live Arcade, adding HDTV support and online play. But don't worry, you don't need to play the first two Metal Slug games to feel right at home with this sequel, because at the end of the day if you've played on Metal Slug game you've played them all.

Does It Still Hold Up?
While Metal Slug 3 looks and plays like it's from the 1980s, this Neo Geo game is only eight years old. That would explain why the hand drawn artwork is so good. Unfortunately that doesn't explain why the gameplay is so archaic. Metal Slug is nothing more than you running and shooting your weapons, which is a hard thing to get wrong. But what puzzles me is why you can't shoot in diagonal directions. Not only would that make a lot of sense, but it would also make the whole game a lot more fun. If you can get past this minor gripe you will find an exciting action game that has held up remarkably well.

Is It Worth the Money?
I'm going to be honest with you; Metal Slug 3 is kind of a rip off. Up until now most of the classic arcade games have been priced at $5, which seems reasonable for a ten year old arcade game. The precedent has been set, games like Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Smash TV have all been released at a mere $5. Yet Metal Slug 3 is twice the price, coming in at a whopping $10. Now granted, this is better than the $40 version that was released on the original Xbox, but it's still a rip off when compared to the recent Metal Slug Anthology (PSP, PlayStation 2 and Wii). For $30 Metal Slug fans got seven different games, that's just over $4 per game. Had this Xbox Live Arcade game been priced at $5 I think it would have been understandable, but $10 is too much to pay for Metal Slug 3. Metal Slug 3 is a fun game to play, but you can get this game for much cheaper elsewhere.


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:

Art of Fighting (Neo Geo)
I didn't like this game when it first came out, I didn't like it when it was released on the Virtual Console</b>, and guess what, I don't like it now that it's free on GameTap. Art of Fighting is limited fighting game with poor controls and a lame story. Even if the gameplay could be fixed and the moves were easy to pull off, you would still be left with a cast of characters so boring that you'll be fighting to stay awake. The fact that this game is free does not change my opinion, if you need a good fighting game you have plenty of better options on GameTap.

Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle (Neo Geo)
Now here's an interesting choice for GameTap. Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle is one of those obscure Neo Geo games that didn't get a lot of press in the United States. It essentially plays like all of the other SNK fighting games on the Neo Geo (Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, etc.), only this time around you have the ability to tag in a partner to continue the butt kicking. These days that gameplay technique isn't that unique, everybody from Dead or Alive to Tekken has already done it, and Capcom has made an entire line of "Versus" games that use that very gimmick. But this is still a solid fighting game that is worth checking out. It's worth checking out to see how different it is from all of the other SNK fighters, but you might find yourself sticking around thanks to the solid controls and interesting characters.

Puzzled (Neo Geo)
Puzzled is absolutely one of the worst puzzle games of all time. Puzzled isn't exactly Tetris, though it does have you solving puzzles (that resemble the puzzle mode in the original Game Boy version of Tetris). Actually, to be fair, the game resembles Tetris Plus on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. You are trying to save your character from the trap he/she keeps getting themselves into. You are there to break their way out by breaking lines, just like in Tetris. And you have to do this through six separate stages, and 60 levels ... all of which are basically the same. The only problem is that this puzzle game is never enjoyable, and it's such a glaring clone of Tetris that you have to ask yourself why you aren't playing Tetris instead. I'm serious, go play Tetris and forget that Puzzled every happened.

* 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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