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
. Of all the terrible weeks we've had covering the retro scene, this week is easily the worst. Aren't video games supposed to be fun? You know, a great escape from all of the terrible news and bad weather you have to put up with day in and day out. Yet, none of the games talked about in this episode are fun. Heck, some of the games are so bad that it begs asking why anybody would even upload them in the first place. Find out how depressing this week is when you read another ho-hum episode of the Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
If you talk to the right person they'll tell you that Space Harrier was an arcade marvel when it was released in 1985. While the special effects were crude, they were light years ahead of the consoles and, more importantly, suggested some of the innovations that would become crucial for all future video game generations (such as scaling). However, even as an arcade game Space Harrier was simplistic and repetitive. Space Harrier is the type of game that is fun in short doses; a game that is technically impressive, but loses its charm almost immediately. You play a thin guy who is running (and flying) through a fantastical world full of robots, dinosaurs and cool scaling foliage. The basic gameplay is on rails, so all you're doing is shooting at what's ahead of you and trying to do anything that gets in your way. Throw in a few large snake-like bosses and backgrounds that change color and you have Space Harrier, a simplistic shooter that is more a showpiece than an actual gaming experience.
But let's be clear, the game I'm talking about is an arcade game. Unfortunately Sega tried and tried to fit this franchise on consoles that were never made to play such a technologically impressive game. Some ports were better than others, with the best being on the TurboGrafx-16. So is it the TurbGrafx-16 version we get this week on the Virtual Console? Not on your life! Instead we get the Sega Master System version. The Sega Master System? Are they crazy? Of all the consoles that couldn't put forth a faithful port of Space Harrier, the Master System is easily the worst of the bunch. They might as well shoved the Game Gear or Sega 32X version on the Virtual Console. I know we've had a lot of TurboGrafx-16 games pop up on the Virtual Console lately, but there's no excuse for uploading this inferior port over what is arguably the best non-arcade version out there.
Does It Hold Up?
Let me be clear, even if Nintendo had uploaded the TurboGrafx-16 version of the game, I still would have give Space Harrier a failing grade. Yes it's better on the 16-bit system, but that doesn't suddenly make the game good. Unfortunately this Sega Master System port is pure garbage, and anybody that has played games on the Master System already knows why. For starters, the game's scaling (which was such a big deal in the arcade) is reduced to choppy animations that will make your eyes bleed carrots. Also, the levels are basically the same from beginning to end, editing out some of the variety from the arcade game. And then there's that music, the kind of sounds that make you pray that your head explodes. In other words, Space Harrier does not hold up all these years later.
Is It Worth The Money?
We only have one Virtual Console game this week and THIS is the game we get? At least give us the TurboGrafx-16 version. It still would have been horrible, but it would have been leaps and bounds better than this mess of a game. Secretly I wish they would have ignored this game altogether and instead gave us Square's 3D World Runner, which is basically exactly the same game ... but in 3D (using 3D glasses). Nintendo, if you're going to only give us one game a week (as you have the last two weeks in a row), then at least give us something good. I know "good" is subjective, but I can't imagine there's a single person out there that ran home and downloaded this game when they heard that it came to the Virtual Console.
This Week in GameTap
Still not satisfied with what you're getting on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade? Then maybe you should head on over to GameTap
! With more than 100 free games currently available, GameTap is one of the best places to play classic games! And every week they are adding brand new titles to the service, including old school games for the Genesis, Neo Geo, Commodore 64 and much, much more. Won't you join us as we take a look at what's going on this week over at GameTap!
Oh boy ... we go right from talking about a terrible port of Space Harrier to talking about American McGee's Grimm. You know what? I'm not going to do it. You can't force me to tell you about American McGee's Grimm. By now you already know that the game is free for the first 24 hours. You know that you can go back and buy the other episodes for $3. You know that these are short episodes where they parody famous fairy tales. Heck, you probably already know that this week they are giving us The Singing Bone, which is a story I'm not familiar with. So if you know all this, then you also know that I didn't care for this game last season and this season hasn't won me over either. So there you have it, a new episode of American McGee's Grimm ... and that's all I'm going to say about it this week.
On top of American McGee's Grimm, Gold level members (aka paying customers) also get Red Faction II. A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of flying down to San Francisco and interviewing the good people at Volition Inc. about Saints Row 2. While I was there (and drunk) I decided to ask the developers some questions about the Red Faction series, such as why Red Faction II decided to ignore everything that was cool about the first game. They agreed. Although they wouldn't say it's a bad game, they did admit that they made a bunch of bad decisions that almost killed the franchise. Thankfully Red Faction III is coming next year and will, hopefully, rectify the problems. We'll see, but in the mean time you should head on over to GameTap and see just what is so wrong about Red Faction II.
Sadly there aren't any new games for non-subscribers to play, but those people can still take part in the back catalog of 143 solid titles (including the original Fallout). Hopefully GameTap starts uploading some great classic games to the free service; I'm starting to get awfully tired of talking about American McGee's Grimm. Man, I've said the name American McGee's Grimm so much that you probably think that GameTap is paying me for every time I utter the name. But they aren't ... or are they? American McGee's Grimm, American McGee's Grimm, American McGee's Grimm.