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 another ho-hum week in retroland. This week we take a look at one of the worst Virtual Console games released all year. Plus, we finally get to talk about Peggle and Crystal Defenders (it's about time). And if that doesn't do it for you, then check out our Fable: The Lost Levels review written entirely using haiku poetry. All this and more can be yours when you read this week's episode of the Retro Round-Up!
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
(Virtual Console/Sega Master System/$5)
What Is It?
If your 8-bit decision hinged on the merits of Alex Kidd versus Super Mario, then there's a clear reason why you great up a Nintendo fan. It's not that all Alex Kidd games are bad, but the ones that are of any noteworthy quality are simply lucky breaks. Alex Kidd is an extremely generic experience full of questionable level designs and lame characters. And The Lost Stars, Alex's second 8-bit outing, goes a long way to prove my point. It's not that Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is a bad game, but it manages to hit on just about every antiquated 8-bit cliche. Not only is it an incredibly dull action game, but it comes off as being incredibly lazy. For one thing, you will need to play each level more than once if you intend to beat the game. If this was a Super Mario Bros. game Nintendo would have designed another bunch of stages, but Sega opted for the easy way out by making you play each level over and over again. Since when did Alex Kidd because the star of Groundhog Day? Combine that with the lame level designs, the boring characters and the crummy controls and you have Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars. If Sega had any sense they would forget this franchise ever existed.
Does It Hold Up?
Maybe it's an unfair criticism, but Alex Kidd's biggest problem is that it doesn't feel like Super Mario Bros. The game is full of imprecise controls, lame attacks and gameplay that actually makes the game harder than it needs to be. If it wasn't for the terrible controls I would be able to put up with the game's many slowdowns and ugly graphics. But alas, I can't ignore all of these problems. None of the game's problems will prevent you from playing it to the end, but it's never as much fun as it could have been with a little tweaking.
Is It Worth the Money?
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is definitely NOT worth your money. And we were doing so well, too. For awhile there it felt like each week brought a better batch of Virtual Console games, but alas this Alex Kidd game knocks us back to reality. Those Sega Master System fans that grew up with the system may get a kick out of the nostalgia of this game, but anybody unfamiliar with Alex Kidd's exploits will be confused why anybody found this game fun in the first place. It's not the worst game on the Virtual Console, but you can just go right ahead and skip this ugly 2D platformer.
This Week in Xbox Live Arcade
Now that you've had your fill of the Virtual Console, maybe it's time to check out This Week in Xbox Live Arcade. This is the part of our show where we take a look at the brand new Xbox Live Arcade titles, and then review them using our unique POINT/COUNTERPOINT style. In these reviews I will make a solid point about a game, and then I will argue the other side just to confuse everything. What do I really think about this week's Xbox Live Arcade game? I guess you'll never know. Instead you get what has to be the single least useful review ever posted on this website. Check out this week's offerings, including Peggle and Crystal Defender.
(Xbox Live Arcade/$10)
Do I even need to make a point here? It's Peggle, one of the most addictive games ever released. It was a HUGE success on the PC, and now it's starting to come to the various consoles. This Xbox 360 versions features four-player support, achievements and even downloadable content. And even if you could care less about the addictive online gameplay, there are still dozens of levels to beat and plenty of high scores to top. No matter what platformer it's on, Peggle is a winner.
Sure Peggle is fun, but wouldn't you rather play this type of game on your PC or a portable game system? This Xbox 360 version is still highly entertaining, but I couldn't get over how inappropriate the venue was for a game like this. Oh, and what took them so long to upload this little gem? There's no way it could take a full year to develop an Xbox Live Arcade version, so what gives?
(Xbox Live Arcade/$10)
Square Enix's popular take on the tower defense sub-genre has finally hit the Xbox Live Arcade, and it comes with a bunch of cool extras. This Final Fantasy Tactics spin-off features color graphics, easy gameplay and plenty of fun levels. Best of all, many of the characters come from the Final Fantasy universe. Regardless of whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, Crystal Defenders is a fun game that will captivate your imagination.
What a bunch of hooey. I really hate how this is a spin-off of Final Fantasy Tactics, which in turn was a spin-off of the traditional Final Fantasy games. The graphics aren't so hot here, the challenge is only so-so and the only thing it adds to this genre is Final Fantasy characters. There are better tower defense games on the market, though none of them have hit the Xbox 360 as of yet.
Last Week in GameTap
Can't get enough Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade? Do you need yet another online service full of top tier retro games? Perhaps you should try GameTap
. Each week you'll find classic PC, arcade and console games uploaded to the GameTap servers. Some of these games are free; others are part of the Gold level membership. In this column we take a look at last week's releases. Why last week? Because GameTap no longer announces their Thursday line-up before these episodes go to press. As a result you get slightly out of date reviews of GameTap games, all told through the ancient art of haiku poetry.
Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun (Gold)
*This game is no longer free, but was last week!
Who killed Ms. Ruber?
Find the usual suspects.
I didn't do it!
Fable: The Lost Chapters (Gold)
This could have been great.
But Peter oversold it.
Sigh, what else is new?
Rogue Trooper (Free)*
A comic book game.
Fighting Norts and Southerners.
Whatever that means.