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
. In this episode we discover why River City Ransom is actually the Scream of 2D brawlers and why you may want to think twice about downloading Phantasy Star III. And that's not all; we also take a look at GameTap's newest games. Find out what it is when you read This Week in Defunct Games!
River City Ransom
What Is It?
Before Final Fight could hit the Super NES, before Streets of Rage landed on the Genesis, and yes, before The Warriors came to the PlayStation 2, there was River City Ransom for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. While it didn't invent the genre, River City Ransom is best known for being one of the best examples of a 2D brawler on a home console. At its core it was an adorable little beat-em-up full of interesting characters and some great two-player action. By today's standards this is an incredibly simplistic fighting game (which is part of the reason the 2004 sequel/remake/thing disappointed so many life-long fans), but it's hard to deny the plight of Alex and Ryan. The real reason that so many people remember River City Ransom actually has very little (read: nothing) to do with the gameplay. The real attraction to this game is its great sense of humor, especially when it comes to the story and bad guys you fight. The dialog is constantly entertaining and you can tell that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. Best of all, looking back at it now it works as a parody of games like Double Dragon, similar to what Scream did to the horror genre and what Police Squad to those terrible 1970s/80s cop shows. Sure the gameplay is a little outdated, but it's hard to resist this incredibly fun brawler with a great sense of humor. In other words, River City Ransom is the Scream of Double Dragon rip-offs.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is a little rough in River City Ransom, which is partially due to the year of release (1989) and the lack of buttons on the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom control. The characters are often sluggish and the unwieldy, but you get the hang of it after awhile and it's worth suffering through in order to see how the story plays out. River City Ransom is definitely a relic of its time. What wouldn't have seemed like such a big deal 19 years ago is a game breaker by today's standards.
Is It Worth The Money?
If you grew up loving 2D brawlers then you need to go through this homage to the genre. Then again, if you've never been a big fan of games like Streets of Rage or Tuff E Nuff then you're probably not going to understand the joke here. Even with its problems I say this is worth the five dollars, it's an exciting action game that actually has two-player support (that's more than I can say about Final Fight on the Super NES).
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
What Is It?
After the release of Phantasy Star II a few months ago, it only seemed inevitable that Nintendo and Sega would upload Phantasy Star III on the masses. Unfortunately the best thing I can say about this sequel is that it's the necessary speed bump that we have to endure in order to get the far superior Phantasy Star IV (or Phantasy Star I, now that we can download Master System games through the Virtual Console). Phantasy Star III is often regarded as the ugly step-child of Sega's phenomenal role-playing franchise. Instead of building on what worked in Phantasy Star I and II, PSIII fixes things that didn't need fixing and ends up ruining an otherwise good thing. Couple that with the weak story, non-existent character development, a boring combat system, terrible continuity problems and the worst soundtrack of the series and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. That's not to say that everything is bad in Phantasy Star III. Perhaps the most unique gameplay gimmick was the daring (and inventive) "generations" system, which actually allowed you to play as the offspring of your hero. It's an interesting idea, but it's not enough to make me tell you that this is a must-own.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The graphics are fine and the gameplay is on par with any other 16-bit role-playing game, which is to say that there's nothing spectacular here. There isn't a glaring problem with this game, it's all of the small complaints start to pile up as you play through the overly long, overly boring story.
Is It Worth The Money?
If you enjoyed Phantasy Star II then you're probably going to want to pick this game up too. And maybe you should, since it does continue the story and it bridges the gap between Phantasy Star II and IV. But at the same time, this game requires too much work to be enjoyed. You're better off just waiting for Phantasy Star IV to show up. That's the Phantasy Star game you really want, that's the must-buy in this franchise. As it is, pick this up only if you absolutely must have a role-playing game and you can't wait for something better.
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 unless otherwise stated:
Super Street Fighter II
(Arcade) - We all know that Street Fighter II is one of the best and most influential games of all time, but what about Super Street Fighter II. While not nearly as good as Super Street Fighter II Turbo or just the regular Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II (the fourth iteration of the Street Fighter II brand) is still a solid 2D fighting game full of great characters, fun special moves and great backgrounds. And best of all, it's free to play on GameTap. If you've been waiting for a fantastic 2D fighting game to play for free, Super Street Fighter II should fit the bill handsomely.