Retro Round-up for October 16th

Retro Round-up for October 16th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 10/26/2007 for Wii  

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 three crazy games for the Virtual Console, including one that was never released in the U.S., one that is a Golden Axe sequel, and one that has you playing billiards in space. I bet you can't guess which one is the best. Find out now when you check out this week's episode of the Retro Round-Up ...

Golden Axe III
What Is It?
Hey Nintendo, when I asked for more Japan-only games for the Virtual Console Golden Axe III is not what I had in mind. Believe it or not, Sega's third (and final) 16-bit Golden Axe game was never released in the U.S. as a Genesis cartridge. That's not to say that it didn't make it over here in one form or another, but certainly not as one of those overpriced cartridges we have hidden away in the closet. Instead Sega dumped this brawler on the Sega Channel, a TV station that acted like a predecessor to the Virtual Console. It's also worth mentioning that Golden Axe III was re-released years later on the Sega Genesis Collection for the PSP and PlayStation 2. Bummed that you missed out on this beat-em-up back in the mid-1990s? Don't be, because Golden Axe III is hardly worth your time or money. The problem Sega had with Golden Axe is that they had a solid idea but could never figure out a way of turning it into something more than just a button mashing brawler. By the time Sega got around to developing this third installment pretty much all of the characters had been used up and we had been every place interesting in the Golden Axe world. But that didn't stop Sega from churning out this lazy excuse for a sequel. Let's hope that Golden Axe III isn't a sign of things to come with Sega's upcoming reimagining of the franchise.

Does It Still Hold Up?
It's sad to see a good series like Golden Axe reduced to something like this. Golden Axe III fails to understand what made the first two games so memorable, and to make matters worse I get the feeling that Sega stuck their B-team on this one just to get it out to retail. Everything remains the same, only this time there's nothing interesting to keep you going. I suppose one could argue that the gameplay is no worse than the other two games, but it's certainly not any better. I'm not one of those people who thought the other two Golden Axe games held up particularly well, but this third installment is just embarrassing.

Is It Worth the Money?
Absolutely not! Not only is Golden Axe III a pale imitation of what was a solid action series, it's also not worth the full $8 asking price. Like so many other Genesis games released on the Virtual Console, Golden Axe III is offered on the Sega Genesis Collection disc for the PSP and PlayStation 2. What's more, for $20 you can get all three Golden Axe games, along with 27 other games. Buying all of the Golden Axe games on the Virtual Console will run you $24, so by buying the Sega Genesis Collection you are already ahead. But even as one of the thirty games in the Sega Genesis Collection, Golden Axe III is just not a very good game.

Lunar Pool
What Is It?
While the name sounds like this is nothing more than a swimming pool on the moon, Lunar Pool is actually an 8-bit game of billiards. I know it sounds boring, but trust me on this one; Lunar Pool is easily the best game on the Virtual Console this week. I don't think I need to get into too much depth here, Lunar Pool plays like a standard game of billiards, only with a bunch of funky pool tables that will test your accuracy (and patience). In a lot of ways Lunar Pool feels more like a miniature golf game, which is fine with me. From level to level the concept is the same, it's your goal to sink all of the balls in the right order. As you might have guessed, Lunar Pool also supports two players, so now you can figure out who the best space billiards player is. While the concept is incredibly simple, the different tables make this game an interesting take on the real sport. It may not sound like the most exciting game of the week, but you'll probably spend a lot more time with Lunar Pool than you would have guessed.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The biggest problem with old school pool games is that they tend to have awkward controls. Unfortunately Lunar Pool is no exception. Because the game is played using the original NES control, you have to line-up your aimer by pushing up, down, left and right. While that may not sound so bad, you'll quickly realize that it's an exercise in frustration. The good news is that you can overcome this with some practice, but it still doesn't make up for the fact that the controls just feel horribly out of date. If it wasn't for the crazy variety in tables I would say that the controls would almost ruin the entire experience.

Is It Worth the Money?
The game is only $5 so you might as well give it a chance. I'm not going to come out and say that it's the best game on the Virtual Console or anything, but it is a lot of fun and just about the only game this week worth playing. If you're itching to get a game this week you can't go wrong with Lunar Pool, unless you absolutely hate the idea of billiards (or putt-putt golf).

Ninja Jajamaru-kun
What Is It?
After the success of previously unreleased games like Sin & Punishment and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Nintendo has decided to fish out another Japan-only game and see if it will sell on the Virtual Console. This time around it's Ninja Jajamaru-kun, the bizarre 2D action game originally released on the Famicom in 1985. Best described as a cross between Kung Fu and Donkey Kong, Ninja Jajamaru-kun is an interesting game that focuses on a small ninja who is tasked with defeating all of the evil ninjas in each stage in order to save the beautiful Princess Sakura from the evil clutches of Damazu-Dayuu. Each level is split up into a number of different floors, and it's your job to break the bricks on the different floors so that you can kill the enemies and make it to the very top of the level. While you're doing this you will run into several power-ups, including a cart that will make you faster, a bottled substance that makes you invincible, and a red ball. Once you've killed all of the enemies and snatched up their spirits, you're off to the next level. On the surface it looks like this game has a lot going for it; the gameplay is relatively simple and everybody loves a good ninja game. But this isn't much of a ninja game, especially after playing last week's Ninja Gaiden update. I like the idea of Nintendo giving us unreleased games, but there are a number of titles I would ask for before something like Ninja Jajamaru-kun. This game is only for those collectors who need to have all of the rare games released on classic consoles.

Does It Still Hold Up?
22 years later it's hard to look at this game as anything other than outdated. While there are some games that have held up well over the last two decades, Ninja Jajamaru-kun is not one of them. The sad truth is that a lot of the reason people buy these classic games is because they remember them from their youth, yet here is an example of a game that none of us will have nostalgia for. That's not to say you won't have a good time, but the gameplay found in this import title has been upgraded in the last twenty years.

Is It Worth the Money?
Ninja Jajamaru-kun is the kind of game that seems fun at first but gets old incredibly fast. It won't take you more than a few levels to realize that you're doing the same thing over and over again, and it never becomes more enjoyable or interesting. Worse yet, since this is one of Nintendo's import Virtual Console games it comes with a $1 premium, so expect to pay a full $6 for the game ... which is a rip-off for a game that isn't even as good as most of the standard NES games currently on the download service. I definitely hope that Nintendo keeps giving us these rare titles, but this is just not one of those games I can recommend.

* 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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