Retro Round up for January 9th

Retro Round up for January 9th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 1/10/2010 for 360   PS3   Wii  

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.

It's my first Retro Round-Up in several weeks, which means that I have a LOT of ground to cover. This week I look at six different Virtual Console games, including some genuine classics (Blaster Master, Earthworm Jim 2, Super Smash Bros.), a few slightly outdated gems (Pilotwings, Final Fight 3) and one stinker (Ninja Gaiden). The good news is that we have a ton of games to cover this week, the bad news is that you have to read another episode of the Retro Round-Up!

Blaster Master (Sunsoft/NES/$5)
What Is It?
Anybody who followed my weekly podcast, Cyril Reads Blaster Master, already knows that Blaster Master is the story of a boy who gets stuck in a giant underground world after chasing his pet frog. How or why Blaster Master became a big hit on the NES is anybody's guess, but it does manage to offer enough compelling gameplay options and levels to warrant a look. You play from two different perspectives - Blaster Master is a traditional 2D platformer when you're motoring around in the car, but the moment you step outside you are seeing things from an overhead point of view. After awhile the levels start to look the same and the bosses become predictable, but there's also a lot to like about the game. The game offers a cool story that is a lot more varied than I remember. If anything, Blaster Master proves that there are a lot of classic games ready to be uploaded to the Virtual Console.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The very first thing I noticed was how punishingly difficult Blaster Master was. I didn't remember the game being so hard when I was a kid, but sure enough I was constantly dying thanks to cheap hits and some frustrating level designs. The good news is that the controls are mostly accurate and I generally felt in control over my character (and his car). This game holds up, but I wouldn't mind seeing somebody go back and remake this in the way Capcom remade Bionic Command Rearmed.

Is It Worth the Money?
Blaster Master is absolutely worth your money. Even though the game ends up getting a little repetitive towards the final act, there's enough here to warrant the small five dollar price tag. I'm not sure Blaster Master is as good as I remember it being twenty years ago, but it's definitely a fun action/platformer that should have spawned more sequels. Hopefully this is a sign that somebody is thinking about rebooting the Blaster Master franchise.


Earthworm Jim 2 (Shiny/Genesis/$8)
What Is It?
Here we have Earthworm Jim's second (and final) 2D outing. Jim's beloved Princess What's-Her-Name is in trouble again, this time getting forced into an arranged marriage. All this is reason enough for Jim (and his brand new sidekick, Snott) to go halfway around the universe to save his one and true love. Of course, that means that you'll get into a lot of familiar battles all presented using 2D sprites and impressive animations. Thankfully Shiny hasn't forgotten the real star of the Earthworm Jim franchise - the sense of humor. Best of all, this sequel offers more diversity. You'll find yourself solving puzzles, navigating mazes and even racing for time. With memorable characters, solid gameplay mechanics and even more outrages jokes, it's impossible not to fall in love with Earthworm Jim 2.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Much like the first game, Earthworm Jim 2 features a fantastic control scheme that makes it easy to pull off a wide assortment of moves. Not only can you shoot in a bunch of different directions, you can now use your buddy Snott to help you get out of sticky situations. Best of all, the game retains the wicked sense of humor and even adds a few things to the gameplay, such as riding on small rodents. Even if it just feels like an expansion pack at times, Earthworm Jim 2 can still be enjoyed all these years later.

Is It Worth the Money?
Earthworm Jim 2 is easy to recommend, it has great graphics, easy gameplay and enough levels to make you feel like you are getting your money's worth. While there are a lot more things for you to do this time around, there are certainly moments when things don't feel especially fresh or original. The game spends a lot of time recycling things you did the first time around, which isn't such a bad thing when you see some of the new levels you get thrown into. I can't say that this sequel hits the impressive highs of the original, but it's also a solid 2D action game that is just weird enough to be worth your money.


Final Fight 3 (Capcom/Super NES/$8)
What Is It?
Talk about a missed opportunity. With 2010 upon us, it would have made sense for Nintendo to upload Capcom's classic (and timely) Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. Could there be a more appropriate choice for this new year? The good news is that even though we don't get Street Fighter 2010, we do get a Final Fight sequel. This is Final Fight 3, a game that singlehandedly makes up for the two disappointing installments on the Super NES. Instead of just giving us more of the same, Final Fight 3 adds a lot to the formula to become a spectacular 2D brawler. Unfortunately it has been criminally overlooked. It's easy to understand why gamers would be skeptical of this release; after all, Capcom managed to screw up both Final Fight and Final Fight 2, so why would they sudden get everything right? The truth is that it doesn't matter why they would get it right, just as long as they are capable of righting the sinking ship. Final Fight 3 finally adds some technique to the otherwise simplistic combat, allowing for some cool running attacks. Better yet, the game received some Street Fighter-influenced special moves, which really add to the depth of the gameplay. What's more, the graphics and music have been considerably improved this time around. I know it's hard to believe given Capcom's track record, but Final Fight 3 is easily one of the best 2D brawlers ever made. It gives you everything you wanted from the first two games, plus a few extras you never knew you wanted.

Does It Still Hold Up?
It's easy to dismiss the Final Fight series as nothing more than a bunch of button mashing, but Final Fight 3 gets it right. The controls are responsive, the levels are cool and you have a bevy of special moves at your disposal to take out your enemies. There's a lot more depth here than I expected, which is why this is easily the best of the Super NES Final Fight games.

Is It Worth the Money?
If you've been suckered into buying the other three Final Fight games (including Final Fight Guy), then I can understand being a bit hesitant about this game. But I assure you, Final Fight 3 is the version to own. It's two players, has loads of cool fights, the levels are spectacular, the graphics are strong and the gameplay is exactly what you've been wanting out of a Final Fight game. It may not be Street Fighter 2010, but Final Fight 3 is a great way to start out the new year.Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo/Arcade/$6)
What Is It?
It's the Ninja Gaiden game that started it all! No, not the 2004 Xbox game. And no, it's not the 8-bit NES trilogy, either. Instead it's the often ignored arcade brawler that ... zzz ... what was I talking about? Oh, that's right, we're talking about the old school arcade version of Ninja Gaiden, a miserable first stab at what would turn out to be an otherwise stellar action game franchise. In this game you (and a friend) mop up the town of similar looking goons and predictably tough bosses. While the NES games featured a rich storyline full of cool cinemas, this arcade game pretty much drops you into an urban landscape and expects you to fight your way out. Instead of playing out like the traditional 2D NES games, this 1988 arcade game feels more like Double Dragon. You are given a few interesting moves and there's a bit of platforming in each level, but it ultimately feels unsatisfying. What's more, the pace feels surprisingly slow. There's a reason why Tecmo never attempted to make another Ninja Gaiden arcade game.


Does It Still Hold Up?
It's tough going back to Ninja Gaiden all these years later. The game is awash with terrible gameplay decisions, including unruly controls, terrible jumping mechanics and a general lack of moves. Couple that with the repetitive nature of the game and the complete lack of a story and you have a disappointing first attempt at the Ninja Gaiden franchise.

Is It Worth the Money?
For the first couple of levels I was ready to recommend Ninja Gaiden. After all, I can get over some of the disappointing game mechanics and shoddy graphics. Heck, I even liked all of the platformer elements that were not in other brawlers of the era. But the more I played this game, the more I realized that it's just a little too repetitive and monotonous for me. Too often I was fighting the controls and not having a good time. I freely admit that there are people who will find this type of Ninja Gaiden game a nice change of pace, I couldn't stop playing it fast enough.


Pilotwings (Nintendo/Super NES/$8)
What Is It?
If there's one thing Nintendo is good at, it's giving us specially crafted games that show off the assets of each new game system. When Nintendo wanted to introduce the analog stick with the Nintendo 64, they turned to Super Mario 64. When they wanted to show off the Wii's motion control, they gave us Wii Sports. When it came to the Super NES's advanced 3D scaling and rotating abilities, Nintendo gave us Pilotwings, the tech demo-turned-real game that showed us that gaming was about more than jumping on platforms. In case you missed the game the first time around, Pilotwings allows you to take part in a series of sky-related mini-games that emphasize Nintendo's brand new Mode 7 technology. One minute you'll be skydiving trying to make it through hoops, while in another game you will be piloting your own hang glider. This casual Super NES game went on to spawn the mildly successful sequel, Pilotwings 64. Outside of this port, the franchise hasn't been heard from in over a decade.


Does It Still Hold Up?
Nintendo knows how to develop good looking and playing games, and Pilotwings is no exception. The controls are tight and the gameplay mechanics are unlike anything else on the Virtual Console. The only problem I have is in the lack of replay. The game only gives you a few things to do. It won't take long before you've seen and done everything there is in the game and will simply tire of the repetition. The graphics and sound are still good, but nothing about this game is going to blow you away in quite the same way that it did 19 years ago.

Is It Worth the Money?
When Pilotwings came out it was a must-own, if only so you could show off how amazing the Super NES was. Unfortunately what was impressive 19 years ago is nothing by today's standards. This is the type of game that got by at the time solely on its good looks and innovative gameplay. But these days these events are all old hat. The game is over too quickly and you'll no doubt question why this game was so successful at the time. This isn't a bad game by any means, but I suspect that a lot of people will feel ripped off by paying $8 for this minimal experience. I'm happy to see Pilotwings on the Virtual Console; however that's not enough to make me recommend it.


Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo/Nintendo 64/$10)
What Is It?
Who says Nintendo doesn't know how to give us a great Christmas girl? This is Super Smash Bros., the first time Nintendo decided to take their beloved characters and turn them into bloodthirsty fighters. This is not only one of the most requested Nintendo 64 games, but it's also the game that spawned two sequels playable on the Wii. In this decade-old fighter, four Nintendo characters go head to head (to head to head) in a small 2D arena. The object is to either knock them off the level or inflict enough damage to send them flying into the background. Much like the GameCube and Wii sequels, this 1999 original was full of classic references, a solid line-up of popular characters and levels that will bring a tear to your eye. Super Smash Bros. proves that even at their first try, Nintendo knew exactly how to design a fun (albeit casual) fighting game.


Does It Still Hold Up?
Perhaps the most striking difference between this original Smash Bros. and the two sequels is how far Nintendo went to skirt the whole violence issue. The very first thing you see in this N64 game is a cinema showing plush toy versions of these Nintendo characters, thus telling us that it's not really Link throwing a bomb at Mario, but rather some kid's imagination running wild with toys. If you can get over that cheesy sidestep, you'll find a good looking game that plays almost exactly like the two sequels.

Is It Worth the Money?
I hate to be the contrarian here, but there's something a little off about Super Smash Bros. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a terrific game that is easily recommendable at $10. However, seeing as you can already buy Brawl and Melee for the Wii, it makes me wonder why anybody would want to go back to this somewhat antiquated original. Outside of a few different modes and levels, there's not much in this game that you couldn't get in a better package. Either way, this Nintendo 64 game is top quality and worth the purchase, even if it has been done better on two other systems.

* 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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