Retro Round-up for July 18th

Retro Round-up for July 18th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 7/18/2008 for PS3   Wii   360  

Every Friday GamingNexus takes a look at the best and worst in classic games; we call it the Retro Round-Up. Unfortunately this week the GamingNexus staff is in sunny Southern California attending the annual E3 Media & Business Summit. That means that nobody had a chance to check out this week's Virtual Console games. Heck, we're busy dealing with a trade show; I doubt we even know what the Virtual Console games are this week. But don't worry; GamingNexus isn't going to let you down. Instead we're bringing you a brand new feature that takes a look at six classic games that will never come to the Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade or GameTap. We decided to have a little fun and talk about a few games that we remember liking 20 years ago. Will these games hold up? Find out when we spend the next two pages taking a serious look at everything from Batman to Michael Jackson in a very special episode of Retro Round-Up: Do They Hold Up?

NOTE: These are not the Virtual Console games for the week of July 14; instead these are six random games that I remember liking 15 - 20 years ago. We will return to our regular programming next week.

Batman (NES/1989)
How I Remember It:
I remember being so excited about this game when it was released. Not only did it have this dark look to it (a rarity for an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System game), but it was based on a movie I was DYING to see. In retrospect I can see the error of my ways, but this SunSoft game was netting strong scores from the game critics and looked like it might be better than all those other movie cash-ins. And the critics weren't wrong, from what I remember. I don't remember specifics about the game, but I do know that I had more fun with Batman than I did any other 8-bit movie game. Then again, I was pretty into Batman at that time, so my memories may be a little skewed. Either way, this is definitely one of my favorite 8-bit games and I'm interested to see how it is now.

How It Is:

Why is Batman purple?? I know that this movie's soundtrack was done by Prince, but this is ridiculous. The first thing I noticed was that this game doesn't really follow the plot of the movie. The enemies just seems to be random (albeit heavily armed) gang members, and most of the bosses have nothing to do with Batman the movie, comic strip or TV show. If you can get over that you will find that this is an exciting action game. Unfortunately it suffers from a lot of problems that plague these 8-bit titles. The game is extremely difficult, often to the point of frustration. The controls are fine, but it's a shame that you are stuck with only one weapon at a time. Thankfully these are minor problems and Batman proves to be a spectacular movie-based game, even if it's only loosely based on the Tim Burton movie.

Does It Hold Up?
I was fully prepared to be disappointed by this game, but Batman for the NES impressed me. It may not have much in common with the movie of the same name, but as far as I can tell this is a solid 2D action game. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

Batman

Tengen Tetris (NES)
How I Remember It:
Everybody says that Tengen's version of Tetris was far superior to the Bullet-Proof Software/Nintendo version, but now with twenty years between us is that still the case? The truth is that I'm a huge Tetris fan. If it wasn't for the original X-COM, I would definitely say that Tetris is the best game of all time. Yet, it's been decades since I bothered to dust off my original copy and plug it into my 8-bit NES. I do remember this Tengen Tetris having a decidedly darker tone, using dark reds and browns. Or maybe it's the controversy surrounding it that makes me think that it was a darker game. After all, this is one of those games Nintendo doesn't even want to acknowledge. Could I just be taking that history and letting it color my opinion of the game? There's only one way to find out, and that involves me actually plugging the game in and seeing if it holds up twenty years later.

How It Is:
Apparently you can't go home again. Tengen's Tetris is a fantastic game, there's no doubt about it, but it's not what I'm used to. Obviously this is just personal opinion, but for the last twenty years I have been playing the Bullet Proof Software developed versions for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Are other people wrong to think that this Tengen game is better than what Nintendo put out? Not at all, they are both solid games, but you go with what you're used to. The good news is that the controls are solid, the colors don't get in the way and the music isn't half bad. Then again, the same thing could be said about the Game Boy version. No matter which version you go with you're going to get a great game of Tetris. And better yet, neither game adds any of the unnecessary crap that future installments offered. Tetris is at its best when it's just a simple puzzle game.

Does It Hold Up?
Of course Tetris holds up, it's one of the greatest games of all time. However, if you've been playing another version of the game, then you might want stick with that one. That's not to say that you won't have fun with this game, but it's different enough to be a bit off-putting. Tengen's Tetris is a great game, but the only real reason to buy this game now is to allow is because it's rare collectible.

Tengen

Duck Tales
(NES)
How I Remember It:
Duck Tales defies all common logic. Here is a game that is based one of Disney's daytime cartoon shows, yet Capcom was somehow able to turn it into one of the best games of the 8-bit era. At least, I remember it being one of the best games of that generation. The truth is, this is one of those games that gets a lot of praise, but I'm not sure how many people are actually out there playing it. From what I remember Duck Tales took the basic Mega Man formula and added a wacky story about Scrooge McDuck traveling around the world. I also remember that he had a cool pogo stick move that allowed him to reach higher locations by suing enemies as springboards. One of the reasons I remember so much of this game is because every level was completely different. Not only that, but the levels were memorable. It was fun to see all of the enemies turned into vampires in the Transylvania level, or fight gorillas in the jungle, or battle aliens up in space. At least I think you did all that. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I remember this being one of the best games on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

How It Is:
I was definitely right; Duck Tales truly is a fantastic game. The title is not without some problems, but it's easy to see why so many people rave about this game 18 years later. For one thing the gameplay mechanics are actually unique. You not only use your walking stick as a pogo stick, but you can also use it like a golf club and fire rocks and treasure chests at the enemies. Better yet, the levels are actually designed so that you can smack just about anything and it will do something, so you're constantly looking for secret areas and enemies you can kill just by using your walking stick from long distance. The game does have a few problems, though. The biggest problem is that it's not always easy to kill enemies, so you're going to have to suffer through a lot of cheap hits. The game is also surprisingly short, considerably shorter than other Capcom games of the era. Aside from those concerns, this is a fantastic game that everybody should play.

Does It Hold Up?
You better believe Duck Tales holds up. Reviewing this game is somewhat bittersweet, because every time I want to gush about it I'm reminded that it will never show up on the Virtual Console. Thankfully there are other ways to play it, so you should definitely track it down and check it out for yourself. We're going to review a lot of games in this show, but Duck Tales is without a doubt the best.

Duck Tales
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Genesis)
How I Remember It:
Okay, I'm guilty of owning Thriller on vinyl and thinking that Michael Jackson was a pretty cool dude at one time, but Moonwalker was a little too over-the-top for me ... even at the age of ten. But I remember the game being a lot of fun, since it didn't shove terrible acting down my throat. Then again, I don't remember this game having much diversity. If I remember correctly (and I'm praying that I don't) all you do is walk up and down stairs kicking enemies. Oh, occasionally you get to throw your hat and do a dance move (which involved leaning), but at the end of the day it was nothing more than supped up version of Kung Fu (the NES game, not the TV show). Oh, and I think you turn into a robot ... or maybe that was just the weird overhead arcade version that has nothing to do with this Genesis game.

How It Is:
I never realized how similar to Shinobi this game is. Instead of featuring a masked ninja throwing shurikens, we have a gloved freak throwing (and kicking) fairy dust ... or is that magic? Hmm, what exactly is that stuff that Michael Jackson throws and kicks anyway? The fairy dust certainly doesn't look very menacing; at worst you're going to get the fairy dust in your eyes and then be blinded for a few minutes (maybe that's why Michael Jackson keeps getting out of his legal troubles). While Moonwalker is an interesting concept, I'm not sure it works as a video game design. Obviously a lot of it looks a little cheesy, but I suspect that a large part of that is the twenty years of Michael Jackson facts that I can't erase from my brain. But even if it was some other musician, the thought of dancing your enemies to death is about as silly a game concept as you get. The other problem I have with this game is how repetitive it is. No matter which music video-inspired level you are in, you're essentially doing the same thing over and over. That said, the levels are cool and I was excited to see where we were going to go next. All in all it's a guilty pleasure.

Does It Hold Up?
In this game's defense (and boy does it need one), Michael Jackson's Moonwalker the game is no more outdated than Michael Jackson's Moonwalker the movie. Then again, that movie feels like a relic from the distant past. Even if this game had amazing CD music I still don't think it would hold up well, the gameplay is too simplistic and the novelty of dancing your enemies to death wears thin almost immediately. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker definitely does not hold up, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to revisit.

Moonwalker

Mortal Kombat (Super NES)
How I Remember It:
I'll admit, I was never as invested into the Mortal Kombat franchise as I was with Street Fighter. Don't get me wrong, I love the atmosphere of the first two Mortal Kombat games, the graphics were pretty cool and I loved the blood and gruesome fatality moves. But when it came to actually playing Mortal Kombat it felt like everything started to unravel. To mask this problem Ed Boon and John Tobias used gallons and gallons of blood, giving the game this over-the-top feeling that made everybody forget how completely average the fighting engine was. To comply with Nintendo, the developers (Sculptured Software) had to remove all of the blood and guts from the game, essentially leaving us with just the fighting engine. At the time I remember being livid at the idea of game censorship, so I did what everybody else did - I bought the Sega Genesis version (which had blood). Beyond the lack of blood, I remember the Super NES port not feeling very true to the arcade game. I also remember it looking significantly better than the Sega Genesis port (which was developed by Probe Entertainment). I wonder if any of that will matter 15 years later.

How It Is:
I certainly wasn't wrong about the graphics, even 15 years later the graphics are surprisingly solid. The characters aren't as big and impressive as the original arcade game, but this is still a great looking fighting game. The problem is that it's not a very good playing fighting game. The moves are sluggish, the animation is poor and some of the special moves break the game's balance. In a lot of ways the sluggishness of this game reminds me of the early Neo Geo fighters, especially Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury. It's not that the game is sluggish by today's standards; the truth is that Mortal Kombat was sluggish from 1993 standards. Compare this to, say, Street Fighter II and it's a night and day difference. I also found while playing this Super NES port that I am still not over the censorship issue; while the blood didn't really add anything to the gameplay, not having it there makes this game feel unauthentic. It's like watching your favorite cartoon and having one of the colors deleted, it won't change the story but you sure do notice it. I also hate the idea of a company having to censor their game to conform to the standards of Nintendo. They say that time heals all wounds, but those people are wrong.

Does It Hold Up?
There is absolutely no reason to play Mortal Kombat on the Super NES, it's that simple. The gameplay is terrible, the moves are sluggish, the controls often feel unresponsive, and the game has been censored. I'm not saying that the Genesis version is any better, but at least it's not censored (assuming you know the code). We live in a day and age where there are dozens of worthwhile fighting games; nobody should have to go back to this archaic Super NES game.

Mortal Kombat

Super Star Wars (Super NES)
How I Remember It:
I have never been a big Star Wars fan. I know, I know, that's blaspheme to a lot of people, but there's just something about that universe that doesn't interest me. But even me, a non-fanatic, could appreciate that Super Star Wars was far and away the best 2D Star Wars game ever made. Then again, at that time Star Wars games hadn't been jammed down our throats, so I was a little more accepting of the franchise. Also, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of everybody else. My friends were all ecstatic over this game and it seemed like all of the video game editors had fallen in love as well. Then again, I'm sure they were all big fans of Star Wars and were more than a little biased. Either way, I remember having a great time with this game and can't wait to see how well it has held up.

How It Is:
I may not be a huge Star Wars fan, but I have seen the original trilogy enough to remember them. What I don't remember are long sequences where Luke Skywalker ran around the desert shooting at scorpions. Yet that's the very first thing you do in this game. Thankfully the game becomes a little more relevant as we get into lightsaber fights and dealings with Darth Vader. The problem I am having with this game is that it feels like every other 2D Contra clone, only this time it features Star Wars locations and characters. It's not a bad playing game, but I certainly don't see what all the fuss was about 15 years ago. After going through this 1992 game I ended up checking out both Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return of the Jedi. While those games definitely added something new each and every time, they all felt like standard Contra clones. Maybe it's just me, but I would take Gunstar Heroes over Super Star Wars any day of the week.

Does It Hold Up?
So let me get this right, the sequels were called Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return of the Jedi? By that rationale shouldn't this game be called Super A New Hope? I'm just saying. Regardless of the weird naming, Super Star Wars is a fun (albeit average) action game. Fans of the movie will probably get a kick out of playing Contra in space, but I just didn't care much for this game. Looking back on it now, there's really no reason for all of these magazines to gush over this Star Wars game. Then again, this is just about the best LucasArts has been able to do with this license.

Star Wars

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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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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