Retro Round-up for November 30

Retro Round-up for November 30

Written by Cyril Lachel on 11/30/2007 for PS3   Wii   360  

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 take a look at Mario, Sonic, mutants, gambling and a flying character named Zonk. It's an episode you won't want to miss!

Ecco Jr. (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
While I have given favorable marks to the past Ecco the Dolphin games, this kid-centric Ecco game just bothers me. Released in 1995, Ecco Jr. feels like a cynical attempt by Sega to hook kids on the environmentally friendly adventure series so that they'll want to graduate to the more mature (and much better) Ecco games on the Genesis and Sega CD. Ecco Jr. is understandably easier, it's a very basic quest where you solve extremely easy puzzles and marvel at the beautiful underwater scenery. If you can get over the fact that this is nothing more than a gateway drug to harder Ecco games, then you will find that this is actually a pretty solid kid's game that is competently developed and generally good looking. The problem is that there are already better Ecco games on the market, so I would argue that kids should just go ahead and start with the slightly more difficult (but more fulfilling) Ecco the Dolphin game from 1993. If you already own one of the various Ecco the Dolphin games on the Virtual Console then you can pretty much skip this entry, and those who have yet to wade into the deep water should just go ahead and buy one of the Ecco Sr. games and not this crummy junior edition.

Does It Still Hold Up?

The graphics are good (though a bit more cartoony than what we saw in the previous Ecco games) and the environments are beautiful to look at. The controls are also solid; the game feels a lot like the Ecco Sr. titles. The problem is that this game just feels so unnecessary. It's not that the game doesn't hold up (because I'm surprised how well it actually does hold up), it's that there isn't much of a reason to buy this slightly scaled down Ecco game.

Is It Worth The Money?
Definitely not. The concept of making a slightly easier Ecco game to get kids hooked on the series is dubious at best. The problem is that I have a hunch that most younger gamers won't connect with this 12 year old game, so why not just go the extra step and pick up either of the other two Ecco games on the platform. I also hate the fact that this game is the same price of the other Ecco games, even though you aren't getting as much content (or challenge). If you haven't picked up an Ecco game yet then make sure and go with one of the other entries, it's better to just leave this kid's version alone.

Ecco Jr

Double Dribble (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Before there was NBA Jam, NBA Street and Ballerz, there was Double Dribble. This was Konami's arcade-style basketball game that took the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System by storm. With the game's solid graphics and quick game play it was easy to see why so many people loved it twenty years ago. But so much has changed in the last two decades and Double Dribble just feels like an ancient relic from the past. That's not to say that you can't still have a good time with it, but once the nostalgia wears off (which will happen within the first full game) you're left with a game that doesn't play particularly well, doesn't look good, has almost no options to speak of and can't compete with the modern arcade-style basketball games. In fact, this game can't even compete with the arcade-style basketball games from ten years ago. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the cool cinemas and effects that impressed us twenty years ago just look cheesy by today's standards. Not that this would be that big of a deal, but since the game itself doesn't play well it's just difficult to have a good time playing this old school basketball game.

Does It Still Hold Up?

While I can usually overlook outdated graphics, the thing I have a problem with is the crummy play control. This game just doesn't feel right, and as far as I'm concerned that keeps this game from being any fun at all. I can certainly understand why we all loved the game twenty years ago; after all, it was pretty much the only game like it in town and we can overlook some crummy design decisions because of how unique it was. But the same cannot be said twenty years later, especially now that we have games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. What's worse, there's almost nothing to do in the game. That is the biggest problem with those old school sports game, there's just nothing for you to do once you've played a few games.

Is It Worth The Money?
To some older gamers I'm sure the idea of picking up Double Dribble is tempting. After all, this is one of those games a lot of people loved back in the day and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a lot of retro gamers have a lot of good memories connected to the title. But don't do it. Resist the urge to relive your childhood with this classic game. Playing this game now will only ruin your memories and make you question your childhood. It's better to just remember this one from afar, otherwise you'll probably be a bit disappointed when you actually do play it again.

Double Dribble
Sonic 3D Blast (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Despite the name of the game, Sonic 3D Blast is not really a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Oh sure, it has the smartass hedgehog and his sidekicks in the game, but that doesn't make this the successor to Sonic 3 on the Sega Genesis. In truth Sonic 3D Blast is an atrocious faux-3D action game that was made only to sully the good name of Sonic the Hedgehog. It probably won't surprise you to learn that Sonic 3D Blast wasn't even developed by Sega, instead the game was farmed out to Traveller's Tale, the company best known for making those enjoyable Lego Star Wars games. Instead of being a fast-paced 2D action game, Sonic 3D Blast is a slow-paced action game that is shot from a slightly overhead perspective. In a lot of ways the game feels more like a puzzle game, only with more of an emphasis on running around and jumping. The camera perspective may set this game apart from other Sonic games, but it also takes a lot of the excitement out of the series. Sonic is so far away from the screen that you never really connect with the character and the biggest problem is that it just never feels like a Sonic game.

Does It Still Hold Up?

While the old school Sonic games tend to have this timeless feel to them (even if they are admittedly simplistic), Sonic 3D Blast just doesn't work on multiple levels. Even at the time of its release (1996) this game just felt old and unimportant. Worse yet, this exact game was ported to Sega's 32-bit Saturn, which was definitely not a good substitute for a real 3D Sonic game. I'm sure that there are some Sonic fans out there that may actually find something to like about this game, but you're the type of person that can't get enough 2D Sonic then you should probably steer clear of this title. In other words, no, this game does not hold up well.

Is It Worth The Money?
Why on Earth would Sega release this Sonic game instead of Sonic & Knucles, the pseudo-sequel/spin-off to Sonic 3? Sonic 3D Blast was the start of a whole line of really bad Sonic games. Unfortunately it's a line of bad Sonic games that still plagues us today, including (but not isolated to) the recent Xbox 360/PS3 Sonic the Hedgehog game. The good news is that Sonic 3D Blast is better than the recent next-gen Sonic games, but not by much. It's better you just let this Sonic title slip on by.

Sonic 3D blast

Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
For years I have been trumpeting the brilliance of the TurboGrafx-16 game, Air Zonk. Whenever anybody asks me what the best shooter on the Turbo is I usually point them to this wacky character-driven action game. But even though I am one of the biggest proponents of Hudson's amazing shooter, this is the very first I'm hearing about this CD-based sequel. How is it possible that I'm the last to find out about Super Air Zonk? But instead of beating myself up over missing this sequel, I am actually happy that this is the first time I've had a chance to play it. Usually when I go to write one of these articles I have a good idea of what I'm getting myself into already. Heck, most of the titles uploaded to the Virtual Console are games I already own on at least one or two other consoles. It's rare that I have a chance to enjoy a brand new retro experience, so thank you Hudson for not doing anything to promote this game the first time around. Super Air Zonk is a lot like the original game, it's still a colorful action game full of silly characters and great power-ups. One thing that sets this game apart from the rest of the pack is the fact that there are different power-ups for each level. And not just that, but you can also interact with the environment to create little helper friends and other odd things. The game is still a 2D shooter, but there's enough originality in this game to give you more than enough reason to pay a little more for this phenomenal shooter.

Does It Still Hold Up?
For the most part 2D shooters have held up better than just about any other genre, the concept of dodging enemy attacks and blowing up space monsters is a timeless one. But while some old school shooters tend to look and feel the same, Super Air Zonk has its own sense of style. The power-ups are exciting and unique, the levels are brilliantly done, and you'll always want to see what happens next. What's more, the game has great music to boot. Super Air Zonk is the one shining entry in a week full of terrible retro games.

Is It Worth The Money?
Because this is a TurboDuo game, Super Air Zonk comes with a premium price. But don't let the $2 increase keep you from picking up this stunning game, because this is easily one of the best 2D shooters available on the Virtual Console. And trust me, that's really saying something, the Virtual Console has more than enough shooters to keep just about everybody happy for the next two decades. But Super Air Zonk is different, and that's why this should be at the top of your list.

Super Air Zonk
Vegas Stakes (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Vegas Stakes is exactly what you think it is, a mini-game collection that offers you the chance to play a bunch of quickly assembled Las Vegas-style casino games. The concept is simple, you go to the casino with some money and then attempt to win big while playing craps, roulette, blackjack, poker and so on. Of course, you might also lose it all. But that's just how it goes when you gamble with fake money. While some of these games are mildly entertaining when playing by yourself, the problem is that there are a number of games that are just more fun when played with friends. Poker is a perfect example of this; I don't think there's a person on the planet that would rather play this card game with computer opponents instead of real people. Vegas Stakes is an accessible enough game, but it's not exciting enough for non-casino fans and probably not going to satisfy people who actually like to gamble. Worse yet, there are better versions of all of these games currently available for free on the internet.

Does It Still Hold Up?

The games found in Vegas Stakes are timeless, even if the gameplay and graphics aren't. It's not that the graphics are bad; it's just that they tend to feel uninspired. The gameplay isn't as intuitive as it could have been, but not bad enough to keep this from being playable.

Is It Worth The Money?
At eight dollars the price is entirely too high for this kind of mini-game collection. Most (if not all) of the games found in this compilation are already free on the internet, so why even bother paying for this old Super NES game. Vegas Stakes is hardly the worst game uploaded this week, but it's definitely not worth your time or money.

Vegas Stakes

Wrecking Crew
(Virtual Console)
What Is It?
If you own a Wii then chances are you are playing Mario's newest adventure, Super Mario Galaxy. The game is being heralded as one of the greatest Mario games of all time, the kind of game that can stand next to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario 64. If Galaxy is not enough Mario for you, then perhaps you should check out Wrecking Crew. On second thought, maybe you shouldn't. Wrecking Crew stars Mario as some sort of demolitionist running around a large open area destroying walls and such. This is the kind of early Nintendo Entertainment System game that has a lot of die hard fans, but for some odd reason I have never been able to understand the appeal. The game isn't particularly bad, but its simplicity bores me all the same. Perhaps I'm just looking at it all wrong; maybe Nintendo didn't put this game out there to capitalize on the overwhelming love for all things Mario, perhaps they sent it out to die because they knew everybody was too wrapped up in Mario Galaxy. Either way, this game kind of bores me.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is incredibly simple, you basically just run away from enemies and destroy stuff. The game is essentially a retread of Mario Bros., only this time you don't have turtles and you are pounding a lot of stuff along the way. The gameplay isn't bad, the controls are responsive and at first it's fun to destroy stuff while dodging strange looking creatures. But at the same time, the plain graphics and the repetitive mechanics make me not care much for this early Nintendo game.

Is It Worth The Money?

If you have fond memories of Wrecking Crew then this is probably a wise investment. For one thing it's only five dollars, and chances are the game hold up just as you remember it. But if you're one of those people who has never cared much for Wrecking Crew then this Virtual Console release isn't going to do anything to persuade you. This game is kind of hit or miss, this is a perfect example of the type of game that requires a free demo to see if you like it or not.

Wrecking Crew
Asteroids & Asteroids Deluxe (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
When it was released almost 30 years ago Asteroids was a groundbreaking game. With its vector graphics and simple, yet addictive gameplay it's easy to see why this game was so popular back in the late 1970s. There just wasn't anything like it at the time ... and to be quite honest, there's nothing quite like it today, either. But that doesn't mean that it's still fun to play, because it's not. I know, there are a lot of people who strongly disagree with me, but the game just hasn't held up particularly well. If you are one of those people who still loves Asteroids, then this Xbox Live Arcade title does offer you an arcade-perfect port of the original game. You also get a completely useless enhanced mode (I guess that's the "& Deluxe" part) that gives the game a slight facelift. And when I say slight I actually mean that they do as little as possible to upgrade the graphics in this game. Heck, the enhanced mode isn't even widescreen. Thankfully you ignore this new mode and just be happy that you have the original Asteroids on your Xbox 360. That's assuming you are a fan of the original.

Does It Still Hold Up?

Honestly, I don't think the controls in Asteroids hold up very well. Some might argue that the three button pad makes a lot of sense, but I just can't get used to holding a button to move around the board. The good news is that just about everybody on the planet has played Asteroids, so you already know if the game holds up or not. If you've always liked the way Asteroids plays then chances are you're going to like it here, if you're like me and you don't care for the controls, then you need not bother with this release. It's that simple.

Is It Worth The Money?
At 400 Microsoft Points ($5) the game isn't too expensive, though you are essentially buying a 30 year old game and a completely useless enhanced mode. To me this just feels like another half-assed retro release from Atari. It's really a shame, because Atari could be doing so much more with their back catalog of amazing arcade games.

Asteroids


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:

Mutation Nation (Neo Geo)
Mutation Nation is a Final Fight/Streets of Rage clone released on the Neo Geo fifteen years ago. Like most 2D brawlers of the era, Mutation Nation is the kind of game where you (and a friend) walk around boring environments fighting insanely stupid looking bad guys. What sets this game apart from the rest of the 2D brawlers of that era? Well, all of the bad guys are hideously mutated bad guys and you look like you came right out of an MC Hammer music video. Besides that, not too much separates this game from the countless other games in the genre. You should just pass on by this forgotten action game.

GameTap

* 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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