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 form with two extremely interesting Virtual Console games. One is a great game that is easy to recommend. The other is a great game that I can't recommend. One is a Super NES game that could only have been on the Super NES. One is a Genesis port of a game that should have stayed on the Super NES. One is from 1993. The other is, well, the other is from 1993 also. Together they make for an exciting episode worth sticking around for. And if you get bored with Secret of Mana and Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition, then you can stick around for the GameTap. All this and more can be yours when you read This Week in Defunct Games!
Secret of Mana
What Is It?
Secret of Mana is not only a strong SquareSoft game; it was one of their best 16-bit efforts. While everybody was falling in love with their turn-based Final Fantasy sequels, Secret of Mana was becoming a cult hit thanks to its three-player support and accessible real-time action gameplay. In the game you (and your two friends) run around a Legend of Zelda-style world slashing monsters, casting magic and killing huge boss creatures. Better still; the game was absolutely gorgeous, pushing the Super Nintendo's graphics and color pallet to the limits. But the real draw of the game was (and still is) the three-person multiplayer gameplay, which forced you to work together. This was the type of game that introduced such an innovation, only to be one of the last adventure games to do anything of the sort. Considering how many fans and critics lauded Square for making a multiplayer cooperative adventure game, I'm shocked that we didn't see more games like this on the Super NES (and all of the systems that came out after it). At least we have Secret of Mana, a game that is just as good now as it was 15 long years ago. If you're the type of person who enjoyed The Legend of Zelda but wished you could play it with other people, then Secret of Mana is the game for you.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The story is a little silly and the graphics aren't nearly as gorgeous now that we've seen what Square can do, but this game is still a blast with three people. The gameplay feels tight and the boss creatures are among the best on the Super NES. Best of all, it's tough enough to really challenge you, while not being so hard that you give up half way through. The Mana series may not have gone on to bigger and better things (like the Final Fantasy franchise), but that doesn't mean that this game isn't worth playing. When you're sick and tired of Final Fantasy II and III, get two of your friends together and set up this amazing three-player adventure game.
Is It Worth The Money?
Square's games are among the most coveted titles for the Virtual Console, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that this is yet another must-buy. Sure it doesn't have the cache of a Final Fantasy game, but the ability to play it with friends is what makes this title so special. Chances are you haven't gone through this recently, so why not spend the eight bucks to go through one of the only multiplayer adventure games released for the Super NES? Secret of Mana is a phenomenal game that everybody should play at least once in their life. Sadly Square could never duplicate the magic of Secret of Mana, but at least they were able to make one solid release out of the franchise. Buy this game, even if you've lost all your money in the economic crash!
Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
What Is It?
It would be easy for me to just say that this is another Street Fighter II game and be done with it, but the Special Champion Edition requires a bit more context than your usual Virtual Console release. Back in the early 1990s Street Fighter II was THE game everybody wanted, so it shouldn't shock anybody that Nintendo pushed as hard as they could to make it an exclusive for the Super NES. Street Fighter II was a massive hit on the Super NES, at the time it was the equivalent of having Grand Theft Auto be an exclusive to your console. However, the game didn't stay exclusive for long. After several months of astronomical sales, Capcom announced that they would be releasing an updated version of the game on the Genesis, it would be called Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition and be bigger and better than the standard Super NES Street Fighter II game.
What does that mean? It means that it would allow you to play as the four boss characters (Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison) and offer all the new moves and endings found in the arcade game, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition. It also meant that Capcom would be making games for the Sega Genesis, something that felt like the Holy Grail at the time. Unfortunately Capcom decided to delay the game, and in the time before this Genesis game came out they opted to announce an even better game for the Super NES, Street Fighter II Turbo. Street Fighter II Turbo was based on the second arcade revision, and ultimately made Special Champion Edition less substantial. As you can imagine, this made every Sega fanboy's head explode. For once they thought they were going to have the best version of this popular arcade game, but in the end they had to (yet again) play second fiddle to the Super NES. Special Champion Edition was still worth buying at the time (it even prompted Sega to come out with a six-button Genesis control), but it was hard not to be a little bitter with the way Capcom handled the debacle. Fast forward 15 years and you'll find that nobody cares that Capcom effectively screwed Sega out of their moment in the sun, which is why I'm utterly perplexed as to why Capcom decided to release this game for the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Although it was meant to sound grand and impressive, when I heard the name "Special" Champion Edition I worried that it might be a little, well, you know. Due to the Genesis's aging hardware, Special Champion Edition never looked as colorful and crisp as the Super NES port. Worse yet, the controls felt a little off and the sound was about as bad as it could get. Sure you could finally play as the bosses, but you could also do that in the infinitely better Street Fighter II Turbo for the Super NES (which is currently available on the Virtual Console). The fighting aspect of Special Champion Edition is still sound, but there are far better versions of this game currently available on the Virtual Console.
Is It Worth The Money?
For Genesis owners Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition was a must-buy, especially since it was the best fighting game on the market. But seeing as the Virtual Console plays host to both the Super NES and Genesis, and we already have both Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Street Fighter II uploaded, there's really no reason for you to waste your time with this game. This is a relic of another console war, the kind of thing that impressed people 15 years ago but isn't important now. These days you can own a near-arcade perfect version of Street Fighter II on just about any console, so why bother with this strange port? As far as I'm concerned this was one of the darkest moments in Capcom's life, so I simply don't understand why they would remind everybody of that time by releasing this crummy port. There are plenty of other Capcom games on the Genesis that you can release (how about you give us that Genesis Mega Man game that was never released in cartridge form?), there's no place on the Virtual Console for another crummy port of Street Fighter II. As much as I love this franchise, I simply cannot recommend this game when there are better versions available.
This Week in GameTap
Last week I was too busy fretting over the state of the economy to think about GameTap, but it appears that I didn't miss much. The good news for non-GameTap subscribers is that there are a number of top tier games in the free bin this week. I'm talking about games like Fallout and Hitman: Contracts. But you better hurry up, because Hitman is only going to be free for the week. That should be more than enough time, right? If not, make sure and check out the other Hitman games free to play over at GameTap.
Fallout and Hitman not your thing? Then maybe I can interest you in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory or Ocean Express. Both of those games are now on GameTap's subscription service. I can't say much about Ocean Express, but Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is a phenomenal game that is worth downloading. On top of those games, you can also check out the adventure game Jack Keane and Sacrifice, which I also hear are a lot of fun. Unfortunately these games are only available for paid subscribers.
And last but not least, GameTap has just warned me that in two weeks we're going to be jumping right back into talking about American McGee's Grimm. That sound you hear is the complete indifference I feel for this news. Regardless of my thoughts, here's the complete list of the second season of Grimm: The Master Thief, The Signing Bone, King Midas, Cinderella, The Golden Goose, Iron John, The Pied Piper and A Christmas Carol.