Retro Round-up for September 6th

Retro Round-up for September 6th

Written by Cyril Lachel on 9/6/2007 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 have an enormous show lined up for you, including four games for the Virtual Console and two for the Xbox Live Arcade. It's a week where anything can happen, including a visit from Master Higgins, an educational game with a giant ape, robot football, and the first SNK game to hit the Xbox Live Arcade. With so much to talk about maybe you should stop reading this introduction and check out this week's Retro Round-Up ...
 
Adventure Island (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Adventure Island (or Hudson's Adventure Island, as the box states) is something of a remake of Sega's popular Wonder Boy arcade game. Outside of the main character and some of the level sprites, the two games are virtually identical. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, because Wonder Boy was a solid game in the arcades and Adventure Island is, for the most part, a solid port. You play Master Higgins, a stupid looking kid with a small loin cloth on a journey to defeat the evil of the island and save his buddy. Along the way he'll have to deal with the deep forest, the ocean, ice, fire and pretty much every other cliche you can think of from a 2D side scrolling platformer. One thing that does set Adventure Island apart from the rest of the crowd is the use of the skateboard, which, for reasons I have yet to fully understand, comes from a giant egg. In fact, all of the weapons come from giant eggs. Apparently this shallow platformer was popular enough to spawn three 8-bit sequels and a couple of Super NES games.  
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Adventure Island was never one of the top tier 2D platformers; instead it was a looked at as a fun diversion between Mario sequels.  Having said that, you can have some fun going through Adventure Island if you don't set your expectations too high. The gameplay is very basic (you run, jump and throw axes), the levels are uninspired, and the only difference between the bosses is there head. 
 
Is It Worth The Money?
While there's certainly some fun to be had in Adventure Island, fans of the series would be better off paying one dollar extra for the slightly enhanced TurboGrafx-16 version that has been hanging out on the Virtual Console for a few months. You aren't just paying for better graphics, the game actually offers improved levels and more responsive controls. Some may argue that neither of these games is worth picking up, but if you really must buy one of them make sure it's New Adventure Island.
 
 
Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
I remember a time when the third installment of a game actually meant something. When you saw that three next to your favorite franchise you knew that you were in store for something amazing. Super Mario Bros. 3 is easily the best 8-bit Mario game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 managed to up the ante for Sega's blue mascot, and even Castlevania 3 was able to remind gamers why they loved that franchise in the first place. Does Bonk 3 do the same thing for Hudson's popular TurboGrafx-16 franchise? Unfortunately the answer is no, Bonk 3 is really just more of the same ... only this time it's grown boring and stale. That's not to say that Bonk 3 doesn't add some new features, this installment actually features a brand new multiplayer mode, new power-ups, and improved graphics. The biggest change to Bonk this time around is that you can grow real big and real small, a feature that helps you access brand new areas you could never reach as a normal sized Bonk. Does that sound familiar? It should, because New Super Mario Bros. did exactly the same thing 13 years later. Carping aside, Bonk 3 is still a fun game even if it feels like just more of the same. This is the final chapter in the Bonk adventure, it's a shame Hudson was never able to resurrect the franchise for something bigger, perhaps there's hope that in the future we'll see a brand new Bonk game, perhaps using state of the art next generation graphics or something.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
The game play is pretty much on par with what you saw in Bonk 1 and 2, which is both a good and bad thing. I have always felt that the controls in Bonk are a little floaty, but even worse is the fact that there just isn't a lot to do with these games. The level designs are standard at best and there aren't that many secret locations to find. It's nice to see Hudson attempting a few new power-ups, but even those don't change the overall game as much as I would like. If you're a fan of the first two games then chances are you'll enjoy this, but if you've grown as tired of this franchise as me then maybe you should just skip this and pick up something better this week.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
If this is your first Bonk adventure then you should definitely check it out, the two-player option is cool and the graphics are as good as the franchise would ever get. But this game just isn't that different from the other Bonk games, if you already own Bonk 1 and 2 then you really don't need to play this. There is a lot of fun to be had with this game, but it's not the best use of your six dollars this week.
 
Donkey Kong Jr. Math (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Just in time for back to school season, Nintendo has decided to upload one of the worst educational games of all time. The gaming landscape is littered with terrible educational products, and this early Nintendo Entertainment System game is no exception.  Donkey Kong Jr. takes all of the excitement of the Donkey Kong series and injects it with the most boring school subject of all time, math. It's as if the developers of this game sat around trying to figure out what was lacking from Donkey Kong Jr. and all decided that the missing ingredient was math. So get this, Donkey Kong Jr. Math takes one of the levels from the original game and instead of enemies they throw up a random assortment of numbers (from 1 to 9). It's your job to add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers until you get the answer Donkey Kong Sr. is looking for. No, I'm not joking, that's all this game is. And after you've done this five times in a row you are sent back out to the title screen. I'm not joking when I say that you'll have more fun just playing around on some cheap calculator.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Well, it's math. The math portion of the game certainly holds up, it's definitely important that you know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. But I'm not sure how useful this product really is, I didn't feel like I was actually learning anything while playing this game, and almost every level can be completed by just choosing random numbers. Things are only made worse when you realize that there are only two levels, neither of which is all that entertaining to look at. This game just doesn't hold up, but I'm not convinced the game ever was much fun in the first place.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
Even at $5 Donkey Kong Jr. Math just isn't a very good deal. You might as well just pay the extra money to get Brain Age, an infinitely better game about learning. I never thought I would feel ripped off playing a game that was only five dollars, but Donkey Kong Jr. Math has definitely changed my mind. I can understand why parents may want to invest in a game like this, but the only thing Donkey Kong Jr. Math is going to do is make your kid never want to add or subtract ever again. 
 
 
Landstalker: The Treasure of King Nole (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
How sad is this, I've been a huge fan of Landstalker since it was first released and I never realized it had a subtitle. In fact, when I got the email about Landstalker showing up on the Virtual Console I had to double check and make sure The Treasure of King Nole was the game I was thinking of. Thankfully it is, because Landstalker is easily one of the best games currently available on the Virtual Console. On the surface this looks like nothing more than a Zelda clone, but Landstalker is actually a fully realized adventure game full of new gameplay techniques, a cool new art style, and a camera perspective that you're either going to love or hate. You play Nigel, a young treasure hunter, who is led to a small island by his newly acquired Nymph friend, Friday, in hopes of discovering the legendary treasure of King Nole. As you can imagine, along the way you are put up against huge enemies, challenging platforming puzzles and pretty much everything else we've come to expect from the a 16-bit adventure game. Landstalker was developed by Climax Entertainment, the same people who is known for working on Shining Force, Shining in the Darkness, and Dark Savior. They are also the company responsible for the upcoming PSP adventure game, Silent Hill Origins. Climax is known for their deep adventure games, and Landstalker is no exception. If you've already gone through all the Zelda games and are looking for something that is more than just another clone, you definitely can't go wrong with Landstalker.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Landstalker is one of my favorite Genesis games; it was the first game Sega made that could really compete with the Zelda series. What sets this game apart from something like Neutopia (which I reviewed two weeks ago) is that Landstalker isn't really trying to be another Zelda game, this title really has a different style all its own. The only thing that could keep people from falling in love with this 15 year old game is the strange camera angle. Because the game uses the diagonals it never feels as natural as other overhead adventure games. What's more, gamers used to 3D-based games will probably be frustrated by the fact that you can't control the camera. If you can get past that one minor quirk then you'll be in for one of the best 16-bit adventure games of all time, the kind of game that can definitely go toe to toe with Nintendo's beloved Zelda series.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
After the excitement of Metroid last month I wondered if September would be a slow month, thankfully that does not appear to be the case. Landstalker is exactly the kind of game I've been waiting for on the Virtual Console, it's a game that has broad appeal being given a second chance to succeed. This is an epic adventure game that hits all of the right notes, and best of all it's one of those games you probably haven't played in a long time (or at all). Hopefully Landstalker will find a home on the Virtual Console because I'm still holding out hope that Climax might finish that long-delayed Landstalker PSP game they announced.
 
Cyberball  2072 (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
Now here's something you don't see very often, a classic sports game reborn on a new console. Outside of Tecmo Bowl on the Virtual Console, you'll be hard pressed to think of even one old school sports title making an appearance on the Xbox 360, Wii or PlayStation 3. Usually these kinds of games are locked down because of old licensing issues associated with player names, real teams, stadiums and the like. But that's not the case with Cyberball 2072, a futuristic football game played with robot athletes. You won't find any real players or real teams here (unless Atari knows who the popular players will be 65 years from now), instead you get an imaginative sports game played entirely with robotic people. Released as an arcade game in 1988, Cyberball 2072 replaces most a lot of the rules with over-the-top actions you could only get in a video game. For example, the standard downs system is replaced by an exploding ball. Players will also be able to defuse the ball in order to get extra yards. You also have to deal with robots that have different attacks and techniques, including players that will blow up and turn you into flames. These violent robot players really give a different meaning to Madden 08's "weapon system." This Xbox Live Arcade version comes with slightly updated graphics, achievements and online play. While you won't get the depth of a real game of football, Cyberball 2072's fast action approach to the sport should appeal to anybody who loved NFL Blitz (or robots).
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
The problem a lot of old school gamers have with modern football games is that they are so complicated. Electronic Arts has done an excellent job of adding depth and detail to Madden over the years, but this attention to realistic gameplay often makes it difficult for new players to pick up the control and have a good time. Cyberball 2072 is different, this is the kind of game you can actually pick up and have a great time playing. The problem is that there is no real depth to this game, so in a lot of ways Atari's futuristic football game is the opposite of Madden. Thankfully the controls are solid and it's fun to challenge people online. It's a shame nobody is bothering to update this kind of game for the next generation console, I wouldn't mind seeing a brand new version of Cyberball or Mutant League Football.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
This really depends on what you are looking for in a football game, if you're just going after fast (read: unrealistic) action and explosive gameplay then you may want to consider Cyberball 2072. But if you're one of those people who loves to get into the depth and extra modes found in Madden, then Cyberball is not for you. At $5 it's hard to be too critical of Cyberball, so check it out and see if this is your cup of tea.

 
 
Fatal Fury Special (Xbox Live Arcade)
What Is It?
Well it's about time! After a year of rumors, SNK has finally decided to start porting their Neo Geo arcade games to the Xbox Live Arcade. I'm pleased to report that the first Neo Geo game on Microsoft's download service is not a Metal Slug game; instead it's Fatal Fury Special. Fatal Fury Special may not be one of the numbered sequels, but it's just as important as the rest of the franchise. Released in 1993, Fatal Fury Special is something of an update to 1992's Fatal Fury 2. Special adds three new characters to the mix and makes the boss character playable for the first time ever. Although it's been ported to a number of different game systems, Fatal Fury Special has never been on a popular console. If you were one of the few people that owned a PC Engine CD, Game Gear or Sega CD you may remember this game, but for most gamers this Xbox Live Arcade version will be their first exposure to this SNK classic. While the game hasn't been updated in any way, this Xbox Live Arcade version will feature online multiplayer and achievement points. Hopefully if this Neo Geo game is popular we'll start to see some of SNK's other classic titles, such as Last Blade and Samurai Shodown.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
When compared to other 2D fighters of the era, Fatal Fury Special always felt sluggish. The animation was never that good and the actual fighting was never as fluid as some would like it to be. In the grand scheme of things this classic Neo Geo fighter hasn't held up as well as other SNK games, but that doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun. The game features a great cast of memorable characters and some really cool background graphics. While this is definitely not the best fighting game on the Xbox 360, there is enough here to keep you busy until something better comes along.
 
Is It Worth The Money?
Fatal Fury Special hit at just the right time, it's been a year since Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 hit the service and we have months to go before Capcom delivers their remixed version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It's also worth mentioning that this classic Neo Geo game is only $5, which is about $195 less than what it cost when it first came out. While this is definitely not the best fighting game SNK has to offer (that would be Samurai Shodown 2), this is easily the best version of Fatal Fury and the online play should make it tempting for any old school fighting fans. Is it worth $5? Of course it is, but probably not much more than that.

* 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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