Retro Round-up for July 20th

Retro Round-up for July 20th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 7/20/2007 for PS3   Wii   360  

Balloon Fight (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
Think of Balloon Fight as a weird combination of helium and Joust. Unfortunately I hate Joust and I hear that huffing helium is hazardous to my health. Perhaps that's the reason I could never got into Balloon Fight, the long forgotten 8-bit Nintendo game from 1986. Then again, now that I've gone back and played Balloon Fight again (21 years later) I'm of the mind that this was never a very good game, not then and certainly not now. In Balloon Fight you play a kid who is flying over the surface trying to take down enemies with balloons. Beyond the fact that this plays almost exactly like Joust (which is certainly a knock against it in my book), Balloon Fight really doesn't make any sense. Wouldn't a dart gun be a more effective weapon to combat the evil balloon men? And why do I have to mash on the buttons to move my character up? You're using balloons; shouldn't you float without mashing the buttons? Like Soccer and Urban Champion before it, Balloon Fight is an early Nintendo title that deserves to be left in the past.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
If you think Joust is still a lot of fun to play then there's a good chance you'll love this far more innocent rip-off. Balloon Fight is one of those games that sounds like it should be a lot of fun ... but it isn't. The problem with a game like this is that if you don't like the first stage you'll hate the rest of the game, since it's really just the first stage repeated ad nauseum. I'm sure there are people out there that will enjoy this kind of monotony, but it's hard to be real excited about a game like Balloon Fight.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Have you ever met one of those Nintendo fans that feel like their favorite game maker can do no wrong? You know, the type of person who will cheer loudly even at the hint that Nintendo may have a new game. Well, if you're close to one of those raving lunatics then Balloon Fight is well worth picking up ... so you can show them that not everything Nintendo touches is golden. Then again, knowing most Nintendo fanboys they'll love it unconditionally. On second thought maybe you shouldn't pick it up after all.
 
 

Paper Mario (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
While it may not be as well known as Super Metroid or Super Mario Bros. 3, Paper Mario is one of those games Nintendo fans have been clamoring for on the Virtual Console. And here it is, the week after E3 wrapped up. Paper Mario is the pseudo-sequel to Super Mario RPG, a brilliant adventure game based in the surprisingly versatile world of Mario and Luigi. Paper Mario is a graphically innovative game that breaks from the confines of the RPG genre. Now slimmed down, everyone's favorite plumber flips, spins, jumps and hammers his way through scads of exotic worlds that teem with a huge and hugely entertaining supporting cast. Players control numerous old and new characters in a complex, nonlinear story that follows different scenarios depending on player choices. A dizzying collection of spells, attacks, skills and special items can be collected by players willing to thoroughly explore the lush 3D environments.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
If Balloon Fight is an example of a Nintendo-released game that hasn't withstood the test of time, then Paper Mario is the perfect counter showing us how good one of their games can be. The original Paper Mario is as good as it ever was, thanks to its unique graphics, endearing story, and creative gameplay. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this original Paper Mario may actually be better than the recently released Super Paper Mario. Nintendo knows how to tell a timeless story, so even if you're completely new to the franchise this game will be instantly accessible and just as much fun now as it was a decade ago.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Forget about any of the other Virtual Console games this week, Paper Mario is the only game you really need to buy. This is a rock solid adventure game that is full of life and entertaining puzzles. While some may complain that it's a bit too easy, the game's length more than makes up for this one minor shortcoming. Paper Mario is easily one of the best games of all time, which makes this $10 purchase even easier.
 

Silent Debuggers (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
You know how it's hard to play a fighting game before Capcom released Street Fighter II? And how pretty much every 3D racing game looked archaic before the invent of polygonal graphics? Well, Silent Debuggers shows us why we never cared about first-person shooters before Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Silent Debuggers is an old TurboGrafx-16 game that has been completely ignored by everybody ... including those of us who love the console. Silent Debuggers is a first-person dungeon crawler set in the future, sort of like the original Phantasy Star ... only not fun at all. It's your job to fight through hallway after hallway shooting giant insect-like alien creatures and making the space station save for humans to live. With its drab backgrounds and terrible level designs Silent Debuggers is hard to get excited about, especially if you're one of the many Wii owners waiting for a good (or at least competent) first-person shooter.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
In a world of Halo and Crysis it's hard to get excited about a first-person shooter that doesn't even let you aim. Silent Debuggers is an incredibly early FPS game, but don't confuse "early" with "classic". This game is hard to play, hard to enjoy, and hard to love. The controls are horrendous and the level designs are so bad that you'll want to stop playing after only a few minutes. There are good early-generation first-person shooter games (Faceball 2000 springs to mind), but Silent Debuggers is not one of them.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
If you like throwing your money away then this game is for you. The TurboGrafx-16 was home to a lot of great games, and Silent Debuggers is not one of them. If you're the type of person who loves inadequate maps, terrible character designs, long-winded dialog sequences and boring graphics, then Silent Debuggers is right up your alley. If you're somebody who likes fun video games, then perhaps you should just buy Paper Mario or something.
 
 

Sonic the Hedgehog (Xbox Live Arcade)

What Is It?
It's the game that made Sega a real contender in the home console market. Released sixteen years ago, Sonic the Hedgehog was Sega's answer to Nintendo's popular Super Mario franchise. Instead of focusing on hidden items and intricate level designs, Sonic the Hedgehog was about speed and pure energy. Sonic was fast and full of attitude, and at the time there was just nothing like that on the market. While it's easy to complain that the original Sonic was an overly simplistic action game with almost no depth, this Xbox Live Arcade version still demonstrates why the game was so popular in the first place. Sonic may have never reached the same heights as Nintendo's Italian plumber, but Sonic the Hedgehog is a classic game in its own rights. This Xbox Live Arcade version features achievements and slightly smoothed out graphics. Perhaps more important is the $5 asking price, which is actually three dollars cheaper than Sonic on the Virtual Console.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
If you're a fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series then it's hard to look at this game without yearning for the depth and complexity of Sonic 3. This original Sonic game is pretty shallow, especially when it comes to the stage designs. Most of the early levels can be beaten by simply running and jumping, while the later levels require a bit more memorization. The graphics and game play are still good, but this first Sonic isn't nearly as exciting as its sequels (which will hopefully make their way to the Xbox Live Arcade soon).
 
Is It Worth the Money?
I'm so used to complaining about the $8 asking price on the Virtual Console I'm almost not sure what to say about this Xbox Live Arcade game. While it's true that you can get this game cheaper on one of the Sonic collections, this version is only five dollars and comes with a few worthwhile achievements. I do like the fact that this Genesis game is only five dollars, but it would have been nice if Sega would have added more to the value. Either way, Sonic the Hedgehog if you can't find the Sonic Mega Collection and have five dollars to spend then this is one game worth picking up.

Golden Axe (Xbox Live Arcade)

What Is It?
Golden Axe was a Double Dragon-style arcade brawler that took the world by storm in the late 1980s. Instead of featuring rough street fighters cleaning up the gang-infested streets, Golden Axe decided to turn the brawler genre on its side and feature three rough characters fighting their way past trolls, gnomes, wizards and dragons. Although Golden Axe is best known for its original arcade game and the 1989 Genesis port, the series has actually spawned a number of sequels and updates, including a "next generation" reimagining that is set for 2008. This Xbox Live Arcade port features everything you came to love in the arcade version, as well as online multiplayer, leader boards and achievements. This was released at the same time as Sonic the Hedgehog, marking the first real push from Sega on the Xbox Live Arcade. 
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Like Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, Golden Axe suffers from the fact that the gameplay is largely repetitive. You fight through every level by mashing the same button and trying to avoid getting hit from the constant barrage of characters (most of which look the same). Golden Axe does manage to introduce a few new elements to the tried and true brawler formula, such as animal-like creatures you can ride and magic you can use to clear the screen. These new elements are nice, but they won't keep you from realizing that you're essentially doing the same thing in every level of this game.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Unlike Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe is one of those titles that hasn't been in a lot of Sega collections. While you could conceivably pick up the Sega Genesis Collection, this arcade-port is actually a bit stronger of a title and offers a few gameplay twists that are worth the money ... assuming you're into this kind of game. It's fun to play the game online with a friend, but keep in mind that the game is extremely short and repetitive. Still, this game is only five dollars (three dollars cheaper than the Virtual Console port released earlier in the year). If you're one of those people who loves a good brawler or just has good memories of Golden Axe, then this version is worth checking out. However, if you're the type of person that got bored while playing Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then you should stay far, far away from Golden Axe!
 
 

Yie Ar Kung Fu (Xbox Live Arcade)

What Is It?
While Street Fighter II was hardly the first fighting game, many consider it the genesis of the modern era of one on one fighting. Before Street Fighter II we had terrible games where the characters were hard to control, the special moves weren't very special and the battles were a mess. Thankfully Capcom stepped in and turned everybody around, showing the rest of the game industry exactly what you have to do to make a successful fighting game. Unfortunately Capcom's intervention didn't come in time for Yie Ar Kung Fu, the Konami one on one fighting game originally released in 1985. While Yie Ar Kung Fu did manage to lay the groundwork for better fighters, it was a mess of a fighting game that is almost unplayable by today's standards. The good news is that Konami's fighter was the first to do a lot of things. For example, it was the first fighting game to feature female characters (Star and Fran). This Xbox Live Arcade game is a good reminder of what the fighting landscape looked like pre-Street Fighter II. But since there are so many better fighting options on the Xbox 360 it's hard to justify actually spending the $5 on this archaic game.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
As is the case with most fighters from the 1980s, Yie Ar Kung Fu is almost impossible to control, doesn't really feature any special moves, and is no fun whatsoever. Like so many other classic games, Yie Ar Kung Fu has been made obsolete by modern fighting games. And not just the new fighters, either. The moment Street Fighter II hit the scene there was no reason for anybody to play Yie Ar Kung Fu. Couple in the fact that fighting games have come a long way in the 15 years since Street Fighter II and you are left with a game that not only looks outdated, but IS outdated.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
If you're one of those older gamers who grew up playing this fighting game you may have a good time with it, but I can't imagine getting much more than a few plays out of Yie Ar Kung Fu. Even five dollars feels too much for this outdated fighter. If you want to waste a few quarters (or buy it in one of Konami's collections) that's one thing, but $5 is a bit much for a fighting game that is absolutely no fun anymore. As much as I love a good fighting game, this is one I would definitely pass on.

* 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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