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 return to actually talking about classic video games. Due to the release of Nintendo's WiiWare, the Virtual Console was empty. And Nintendo wasn't the only one ignoring the retro scene; both Sony and Microsoft had nothing old school to offer us. And neither did GameTap. It was a very sad week in the world of classic console games. But this week is different, because we have a review of Sky Kid for the NES, a look at Star Soldier R for Nintendo's WiiWare and GameTap's newest Metal Slug game. All that can be yours when you read this week's Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
Now here's a genuine 2D classic that doesn't get enough love. On the surface Sky Kid looks like a lot of other 2D shooters of the time, the graphics are simple and the theme seems redundant (even back in 1985). But look again, because Sky Kid is actually doing a lot of interesting things, some of which we wouldn't see until decades later. The most obvious difference between this and other shooters of the era is the direction you are flying. In most games you go from left to right, but Sky Kid has you doing the opposite, from right to left. Each of the missions (and trust me, there are plenty of missions here) have you basically doing the same thing. It's your job to take off, pick up a bomb, and then use it to destroy a large building, boat, etc. It's a simple concept, but pulling all this off can be extremely challenging, especially when you're dealing with limited lives. Where the game excels is in its sense of humor, everything is very lighthearted and the backgrounds (while simple) are always fun to see. The levels are also packed with Easter Eggs, which will get you to come back time and time again to explore the surroundings. Sure there are already too many 2D shooters on the Virtual Console, but there's nothing quite like Sky Kid. If you somehow missed this wacky little shoot-em-up the first time around, then this is your chance to see what you've been missing.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The controls in Sky Kid are surprisingly good. I say that because so many of those old school shooters suffer from sluggish gameplay and no depth. But Sky Kid is different, and not only because you're flying from right to left. For example, instead of blowing up when you get shot, Sky Kid gives you a chance to save your little character and fly again. You also have a number of trick moves that you can use to get yourself out of harm's way (or just impress you easily impressed friends). None of these things are groundbreaking, but they add a lot to this game.
Is It Worth The Money?
Sky Kid is definitely worth your five dollars. I don't say that because it's the first good Virtual Console game in weeks. I don't say that because this is literally the only Virtual Console game this week. I don't say that because next week is probably going to suck. I say that because this is a solid action game that still feels fresh and original even twenty years later. Sky Kid does have its share of problems, but at $5 you would be crazy not to pick this long-forgotten Namco classic up.
Star Soldier R
What Is It?
This is not really a retro game so much as it's a weird upgrade-like game for Nintendo's newest download service, WiiWare. Let's get the specifics out of the way, this is not a remake of the original Star Soldier (a decent 2D shoot-em-up that would eventually spawn a number of superior sequels, such as Super Star Soldier). Instead this is a crazy score-based game created out of the ashes of Star Soldier. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to compare it to Pac-Man Championship Edition, a game that offered you a lot of time-based modes that had you constantly shooting for a high score. Basically this game is split up into a couple of different modes, most of which revolve around you playing the game for two or five minutes at a time. Unfortunately there isn't much diversity in these levels, either. This $8 (yes, eight dollars) game comes with only two levels, which doesn't help the lack of gameplay options very much. This is hardly the worst WiiWare title available, but you can do a lot more with your eight dollars if you ask me.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Seeing as this is more of a 21st century "update" to the classic, Star Soldier R manages to control a lot better than the original NES title. The gameplay is fast and exciting, the controls don't feel sluggish and the graphics look good (for the most part). The game doesn't have the depth of a new game that has been built from the ground up, but then again we're talking about a game that is 20 years old.
Is It Worth The Money?
Honestly, this is a tough call. This is one of those games that feels like it should be an extra mode tacked on to another full game, but it's not. And at $8 this is a real hard game to recommend. On the other hand, this isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. If you go into this game knowing that you're only going to be playing it for 2 to 5 minutes, then you probably won't feel as ripped off. Either way, this is a tough call for me. I didn't find this as addictive as Pac-Man: Championship Edition (which suffers from many of the same problems), but it's nice to see Hudson reviving some of their classics.
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:
Metal Slug 2
(Neo Geo) - Sure you could go out and buy the big Metal Slug Anthology
for $30, but the truth is that if you've played one Metal Slug game you've played them all. SNK fanatics may hate me saying this, but for the most part the Metal Slug series hasn't changed much since its first installment twelve years ago. It is an unabashed 2D side-scroller, sort of a Contra-like action game with incredibly detailed backgrounds and some imaginative humor.
Because of the fantastic graphics this franchise has managed to stay relevant, many will be surprised at how well this title actually holds up. Best of all, this worthwhile action game is currently free on the GameTap service. That's right; you (and a friend) can now see what all of the fuss is about without paying even a penny. Getting it for free definitely beats paying nine or ten dollars to get it on the Virtual Console or Xbox Live Arcade. Metal Slug 2 is a fantastic game that everybody should play at least once in their life.