This Week in Defunct Games 32
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
. Nintendo is just adding new consoles left and right on the Virtual Console. Last week it was the Neo Geo, and this week it appears to be the TurboDuo. Thankfully this week's selections are a lot better than what we had to play through last week, so get that credit card ready because you're about to spend some money on games like Gates of Thunder, Metal Marines and Ninja Gaiden II. But don't worry, this week we also look at two games that are free. So get that bad taste out of your mouth from last week and get ready for another episode of the Retro Round-Up ...
Gates of Thunder
What Is It?
Gates of Thunder is one of the two best 2D shooters on the TurboDuo (the other being the amazing Lords of Thunder). And that's not all, Gates of Thunder is also the first CD-based TurboGrafx-16 game released on the Virtual Console, a cause, as far as I'm concerned, to celebrate. Believe it or not, Gates of Thunder was actually a pack-in game for the TurboDuo, NEC/TTI's combination TurboGrafx-16, CD-ROM and Super System Card game system released in 1992. Like so many other TurboGrafx games of that era, Gates of Thunder was a 2D shooter with a lot of style, some cool power-ups and (literally) more enemies than you could shoot at. Gates of Thunder's claim to fame has nothing to do with its originality, though, it has more to do with the rocking soundtrack that sounds good even today. If you've played a lot of the 2D shooters already available on the Virtual Console then chances are you're going to notice a couple of things that make this game stand out, such as the highly polished graphics and the fact that the game is fast. I mean, this game is eye-blistering fast. Put it all together and you have a great game with a lot of style and replay, which is probably why many regard it as one of the best shooters on the TurboDuo. Thankfully time has been kind, because Gates of Thunder proves to be one of the very best (if not the best) shooter on the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Like most 2D shooters from that era, Gates of Thunder proves to be a timeless exercise in fun video gaming. While the gameplay is similar to that of most other shooters on the Virtual Console, the look and style of the game is completely different. The game also has some unique power-ups and enough bosses to keep you busy for the next few days. But even more than the bosses, power-ups and groovy style, this game is worth it just for the rocking soundtrack. No really, you've got to hear the game's rocking soundtrack!
Is It Worth The Money?
You better believe it is, of all the games released this week, Gates of Thunder is by far the best. I can certainly understand if you have shooter fatigue; after all, it seems like every other game released on the Virtual Console is a 2D shoot-em-up. But Gates of Thunder is different; it's one of the newest shooters and easily the best looking of the bunch. Best of all, it won't make you feel bad about also buying R-Type, Gradius and all of those other classic shooters you probably already own. After a few weeks of non-shooting action, isn't it about time Nintendo gives us another classic shooter to chew on? And thankfully they gave us one of the greatest 2D shooters of all time. The only thing they could do to top this would be to release Lords of Thunder.
What Is It?
When it comes to old school games I pride myself on having played just about everything, from the must-own titles to those games you don't wish on your worst enemies. But I'll admit to never playing Metal Marines, the weird real-time strategy game for the Super NES. Going into the game I was a bit skeptical that this game would hold its own (especially in a week filled with so many other amazing games), but I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had a lot of fun with this 1993 game. Released before Dune II and Command & Conquer, Metal Marines is a strange take on the real-time strategy genre. Instead of going out and doing all the combat, your main job in this game is to plan what you're going to do and make sure you place all of your units in the best possible locations. What sets this game apart from the rest of the crowd is that all of the combat is completely automated, so the entire challenge of the game comes from how you plan your assault. Not only is this a unique idea, but the way the game plays out feels more like a turn-based game than your standard action-packed real-time strategy game. But the difference is cool and worth playing. If you're one of those people who loves the real-time strategy genre but wants to see a completely different take on it, then Metal Marines is a great place to start.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The problem with most console RTS games is that they can never live up to their computer counterparts. This is mainly due to the console's game pad, which is just not capable of giving you the full control of a keyboard. But Metal Marines is different, it's not trying to be a computer real-time strategy game, it's something completely different ... in a good way. The concept is oddly intriguing, and even though the overall gameplay feels a bit dated, part of me wonders what it would be like if somebody took this idea and retrofitted it for the 21st century. It won't make you stop playing World in Conflict, but this is a solid game that has held up surprisingly well.
Is It Worth The Money?
The game is long and deep enough to warrant the full eight dollars, even if you're already playing more recent real-time strategy games. As I played through this forgotten gem I kept thinking that this would be the perfect way to get the real-time strategy genre on handhelds, especially when it comes to the touch sensitive Nintendo DS. The concept could use some tweaking, but the idea is sound and I had a lot of fun playing through this bizarre RTS game.
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
What Is It?
Stop me if this sounds familiar: When it comes to the Ninja Gaiden trilogy on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, the games started with an amazing game, had a solid sequel and then finished off with a disappointing finale. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is, you guessed it, the solid sequel that does everything the original did. This is still a cinema-driven action game where you play the combat prone Ryu Hayabusa as he tries to solve the mysteries and save his lovely girlfriend. Not to editorialize or anything, but if your job involves you going on some of the toughest adventures of all time and being hunted by pissed off soldiers and ninja hating eagles, then maybe you should leave the dating to all of those schmucks that aren't going to put their girlfriends in unneeded danger. I'm just saying. Regardless of the silly plot, Ninja Gaiden II features more of the same 2D combat we came to know and love in the original game, plus adds a few welcome new items (including Ninja Ghosts, which is something they ripped off wholesale from the superior Ninja Spirit). The best thing about this game isn't that it's more of the same action for Ryu, but rather that it's actually a lot easier than the first game. Unfortunately that's a relative statement, getting a perfect score on your SATs is an easier task than the original Ninja Gaiden. But if the original was unfairly frustrating, then Ninja Gaiden II is fairly frustrating. You'll still want to throw your control at your television set, but at least this time you'll have a smile on your face.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The game holds up about as well as the original game, which is to say that it's still a solid 2D action game with solid controls. A lot of the same problems apply with this game, though. While it may be easier, you are still going to have to put up with annoying gameplay decisions that make no sense in this 21st century world. You'll also find that the game's enemies can be so blood thirsty that they take some of the fun out of the platforming. You'll still get a kick out of the completely ridiculous story, but some of the fun of this game has been muted by the familiar nature of the game.
Is It Worth The Money?
Sure these games are hard, but they are also fulfilling when (or if) you actually beat them. Thankfully this one is a little more doable, thanks to the slightly better level designs and improved combat. Still, the game is only $5 so it's hard to say no to a game that many consider to be an 8-bit classic. I would have liked to have seen more done with this sequel, but complaining about that now is like saying that Gerald Ford should have done more with his presidency.
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 starting today:
Ghouls 'N Ghosts
If you've been reading this section for the past few weeks then chances are you already know that I'm in love with the Ghouls 'N Ghosts series. A few weeks ago GameTap decided to upload the original Ghosts 'N Goblins, an arcade game that, while fun, is definitely showing its age. This week we get the much-improved sequel, Ghouls 'N Ghosts. Without quest, Ghouls 'N Ghosts is one of my favorite platforming games of all time. This is a solid action game with plenty of cool weapons, a few interesting bosses, some exciting level designs, and a difficulty that is about twelve notches past unfair. But who cares if you can't beat it, Ghouls 'N Ghosts is still one of the best 2D arcade games of all time, and now is your chance to see why I love it so much.
Vampire Savior: Lord of Vampires
Released ten years ago, Vampire Savior is the third installment in the Darkstalkers trilogy. While the main look and gameplay hasn't changed much, this installment does feature a number of worthwhile new additions, namely Jedah (a weird bat-like character with terrible fashion sense), Lilith (a cute bat-like girl with terrible fashion sense), Q-Bee (a homely bee-like girl with bad fashion sense), and B.B. Hood (the greatest Darkstalkers character of all time). The game itself plays almost exactly like the other two games; you are still locked in a one-on-one battle between different monster characters. The original Darkstalkers has been available on GameTap for some time now, so isn't it about time you upgraded to this third installment? This is easily the best version of the game, even if they have taken out a few fan favorites (like Donovan, Huitzil and Pyron). Definitely give this one a play, especially if you're sick of seeing the same levels in the other two Darkstalker titles.