Retro Round-up

Retro Round-up

Written by Cyril Lachel on 7/5/2007 for Wii   360  

Welcome to the first edition of retro round up, a weekly look into the downloadable console titles.  This is co-published piece with Defunct Games so i you you'll find the piece up on their website as well.

Ecco: The Tides of Time (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
When Sega introduced Ecco the Dolphin it hit many as a major revolution in game design. At that time in gaming history most titles were based around space shooters, action heroes saving the world, plumbers jumping on mushroom people, and fantasies that were far from final. Ecco the Dolphin was a breath of fresh air, the type of game you rarely saw back in the 1990s. It was a free-roaming adventure game where you played a dolphin on a mission to have his family and friends. There was almost no talking and very little combat, it was just you solving puzzles and sightseeing in a world we had never been before. This sequel is pretty much exactly the same thing, just you versus nature. The game does add one interesting element to Ecco's quest - weird 3D levels. While these don't ruin the flow of the game, they really don't add much to the game either. Ecco is not one of those games that everybody will enjoy, there's just something about the tranquil atmosphere and slow pace that turns a lot of people off of this adventure. But if you're one of those people that loved the original game, then this sequel should keep you busy for at least a few more days. It could be worse; they could have released Ecco Jr.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Going back and playing through The Tides of Time again I was surprised by how easy the controls were. I was also shocked at how difficult some of these puzzles are ... I guess I was just expecting to speed through this game thanks to all my years of playing adventure games. And that's when it hit me; there really isn't anything like this anymore. These days we're stuck with the same boring video game clichés that troubled us 15 years ago, action heroes, World War II shooters, etc. There's something about Ecco that feels refreshing all these years later, I suspect it has something to do with the leisurely pace and the completely original (and peaceful) locale. Either way, Ecco is still worth playing.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
So here is the part of the show where I make some predictable statement about the game's value. Yes, I love Ecco: The Tides of Time, I think it's one of the best adventure games that Sega ever developed ... but (and this is a big but), I feel it's a bit overpriced at $8. It's not that you shouldn't pay $8 for an amazing (and lengthy) game, but like so many other Sega games on the Virtual Console, Ecco: The Tides of Time is available for much less on the Sega Genesis Collection. For almost the same price as you would pay for both Ecco games on the Virtual Console you can buy the Sega Genesis Collection and get another 20 games (including Ecco Jr.). If you don't have a system to run that collection then this might be worth your time, but it's hard to justify one game for $8 when you could buy it along with 20 other games for $20.
 
 
Dragon Spirit (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
What's this, another shoot 'em up for the Virtual Console? You better believe it is, and this one is a real keeper! Based on an arcade game of the same name, Dragon Spirit (no relation to Ninja Spirit) is an overhead shooter that is just different enough to stand out. Dragon Spirit bucks the trend by staying far away from space; instead you're fighting over ancient worlds full of forests, mountains, lava, ice and water. You also aren't killing giant spaceships, but rather dinosaurs and crazy bird-like creatures. Better yes is the main character, which is a large dragon who grows multiple heads. It's also worth noting that Dragon Spirit is a lot more accessible than R-Type and Gradius, thanks in large part to a difficulty that is neither too easy nor frustrating. You could probably argue that none of these elements ultimately change the genre much, but they do add a lot to the character of the overall game. Dragon Spirit is an exciting action game, and unlike anything else currently available on the Virtual Console.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
The answer to this question depends entirely on how much you like 2D shooters. The good news is that the play control is spot on, the dragon is easy to maneuver, and the levels are a lot of fun to fight through. Of course, if you're not a fan of this kind of game then none of this is going to matter. Thankfully this game is saved from being just another overhead shooter by offering you more than a few compelling reasons to fly through these levels.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Unlike Gradius III and R-Type, Dragon Spirit is a game you probably haven't played. And even if you have, you probably haven't played the game recently. This is an action-packed shooter full of cool levels and fun boss fights. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the best characters found in a shooter, mostly because it's something more than a spaceship. For $6 it's hard to go wrong with this game, even if you are completely fed up with 2D shooters.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (Virtual Console)

What Is It?
Despite what the title suggests, Super Mario Bros. 2 isn't actually a Super Mario Bros. game. At least, it didn't start out as a Super Mario Bros. game. In fact, the game that everybody calls Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a Japanese platformer called Doki Doki Panic. Sensing that they wouldn't be able to sell the weird characters in the U.S., Nintendo did what any company would and transplanted their popular Mario characters (which included the Princess, Toad, Luigi, and Mario himself) into this very weird, very un-Mario adventure. It worked, because Super Mario Bros. 2 was a success and the Mario brand continued on. But just because this has our favorite plumber that doesn't mean that this looks, plays or feels like a Mario game. For one thing there is no Bowser; instead you fight a giant frog creature named Wart. You also don't jump on enemies ... unless you want to ride them. This Mario Bros. adventure is all about picking stuff up, from enemies to background objects to vegetables stuck in the ground. It's an interesting mechanic that was never seen again. One interesting addition that has been adopted by other Mario games is the idea that all of the characters have different attributes, such as the Princess being able to float and Luigi being better at jumping. The idea of using these characters to play each level (and get to new locations within the levels) is really cool and exciting, even if this game never really feels like a "real" Super Mario Bros. game.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
Because of the way it looks and feels, I was never a big fan of Super Mario Bros. 2 back when it was first released. I always preferred the other two 8-bit Mario titles (Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3) to this game, but it wasn't until years later that I really understood why. Over the last twenty years I have played through Super Mario Bros. 2 a number of times and each time I play it I like it a little more. At this point in my life I'm able to look past the silly renaming of Doki Doki Panic and accept that while it's not the best Super Mario Bros. game, this is still a solid action game that is a blast to experience once every few years. So I guess what I'm trying to say is yes, Super Mario Bros. 2 does indeed hold up.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Like all 8-bit NES games on the Virtual Console, $5 is a hard price to complain about. I suppose you could argue that you could go out and find a copy of Super Mario All-Stars for around the same price, but then again I could argue that Nintendo charged us $30 for this game when it was released under the moniker, Super Mario Advance. Seeing as it's a Mario game this really seems like a no-brainer, and even if you're on the fence about liking this game the $5 price point might just be enough to push you in one direction or the other.
 
 
Missile Command (XBLA)

What Is It?
Missile Command is one of those classic arcade games that I've always wanted to like but never could get into. That's not to say that the game is bad, it's just not my cup of tea. The concept seems simple enough; you control a crosshair that aims missiles at other missiles heading your way. It's kind of like the proposed missile defense program that our government has been trying to build for the last twenty years. But even with the simple gameplay there's just something about this game that never grabbed me like other arcade games of the era. But maybe there's hope for me, because this Xbox Live Arcade version of Missile Command is actually a lot of fun. It comes with two different versions, the classic arcade mode (which looks exactly like the 1980 smash hit), or the evolved mode (which uses fancy new graphics). The new version looks pretty sharp, what with its 3D rendered backgrounds and the interesting new look of the missiles. But wait, there's more! Both modes come with an extra difficulty called Throttle Monkey. This mode speeds up the game to an ungodly speed and makes everything very, very difficult. You also get the usual achievements and leader board.
 
Does It Still Hold Up?
For me the problem with this Xbox 360 version has nothing to do with the dated graphics of the original game or the bizarre changes they made to the evolved mode. Instead my problem is with the way the game controls. The original Missile Command was meant to be played with a trackball ... not the Xbox 360 game pad. The analog stick just doesn't feel right for this kind of game; it doesn't ruin the experience but it does keep this from being an arcade perfect port.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
At five dollars the game isn't horribly overpriced, but those of you who never cared much for the original arcade game will likely be apathetic towards this Xbox Live Arcade port. The new evolved mode sure does look nice, but it's hard to get past the fact that you're still just sending missiles into the air and hoping for the best. If you're a fan of the classic arcade machine then this is the best console version to buy, but everybody else may just want to wait and see what Microsoft has in store for us next week.

* 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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