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 finally get back to our normal grind of talking about more than two games. Oh sure, Nintendo is still being incredibly stingy with their Virtual Console releases, but at least GameTap and the Xbox Live Arcade is stepping up to fill in some of the voids. Not only that, but this week's games are all pretty good, save for some of the stuff on the XBLA and GameTap. You get some genuine classics, like Harvest Moon, Lords of Thunder and The King of Fighters '96. What more could you ask for? Find out what I think of each of these games when you read another exciting edition of This Week in Defunct Games!
What Is It?
It's the Super NES game that spawned Harvest Moon 64, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, Harvest Moon Boy & Girl, Harvest Moon DS Cute, Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, Harvest Moon: Rune Factory and that amazing Neil Young album from 1992. Okay, maybe it didn't spawn the Neil Young album (unless the "Godfather of Grunge" is actually a time traveler), but this was the game that introduced the world to the long-running franchise of cute farming simulators. But forget for a moment that there are at least two dozen sequels and spin-offs flooding your local game store, this Super NES Harvest Moon is worth mentioning if only because of how rare it is. Released in the U.S. in 1997 (a full year after the release of the Nintendo 64), Harvest Moon was almost entirely ignored by the general masses. Worse yet, there weren't many copies of the cartridge made. These days a sealed copy of the game can go for more than $150, assuming you still have one of these rare gems in your collection. Unfortunately you won't be able to get $150 out of this Virtual Console release, since now everybody who owns a Nintendo Wii can buy this game for a mere $8. Sure, it's not the same as having the real (and rare) cartridge for your Super NES, but it sure beat the heck out of paying $150 for a game that has two dozen sequels. If you're a Harvest Moon fan that has always wanted to experience the original game but didn't want to pay the high price for it, then this Virtual Console release should be right up your alley.
Does It Still Hold Up?
While Natsume has spent the last ten years refining the franchise, Harvest Moon has stayed the same in a lot of respects. You're still doing the same old things you've always done (farm, tend to animals, chores, etc.), only this time with Super NES graphics and a slightly more limited interface. But this probably won't shock longtime fans of the franchise, this is what the game looks like on the Game Boy Advance, and those versions seemed to sell well enough. There are definitely better versions of this game already on the market, but if you're asking me if the Super NES game holds up (and you are) then I would have to say it does.
Is It Worth The Money?
This is a tough one for me. On one hand I think this is a really good deal, it's a lengthy game full of depth for a mere $8. But on the other hand, there have been at least three dozen sequels and spin-offs since this game was released ten years ago. In fact, Natsume's E3 2007 line-up was nothing but Harvest Moon games (including a crazy puzzle game). With so many Harvest Moon games out there you're bound to find a newer entry for the same price. But then again, most people haven't played the original game, so why not give it a shot?
Lords of Thunder
What Is It?
It's the greatest 2D shooter available for the TurboGrafx-16. You heard me, this sequel to Lords of Thunder is the amazing sequel to Gate of Thunder, the pack-in game for the TurboDuo. Released only a year after Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder takes everything we loved about the first game (amazing graphics, diverse levels, that rocking soundtrack) and kicks it up a notch by including better power-ups and a Mega Man-style stage select. Lords of Thunder is about as good as a TurboGrafx-16 game can look; it was released as a CD, so a lot of the memory was used to detail the backgrounds (which look fantastic) and pepper the experience with a hard rock soundtrack. The problem with writing about Lords of Thunder is that I feel like I have already said as much as I can possibly say about 2D shooters on the Virtual Console. Between Air Zonk, Gate of Thunder, Blazing Lazers, ZANAC, Axelay, Super Air Zonk, R-Type, Gradius III and Xevious, it feels like I've said everything there is to say about 2D shooters. If after all of these games you're still a fan of the genre, then I suggest you give this one a try. If you're burned out (and I wouldn't blame you if are) then maybe you should hold off for a bit and pick this up when Nintendo eventually runs out of quality shooters to upload to the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
I hate to sound like a broken record here, but Lords of Thunder holds up about as well as any other 2D shooter on the Virtual Console. The graphics are slightly better than what you've come to expect from a 16-bit shoot-em-up and the music kicks butts, but this isn't really that much different from what you've seen from other 2D shooters on the system. Still, if shooters are your thing then you'll find that this is one of the fresher ones.1
Is It Worth The Money?
There's no doubt about it that Lords of Thunder is worth the eight dollars, it looks and sounds great and is deep enough for you to get your money's worth. The only problem is that it's easy to get shooter fatigue, especially with so many 2D shoot-em-ups populating the Virtual Console each week. Still, if you're looking for a great 2D shooter you can't go wrong with Lords of Thunder. This is one classic franchise I would love to see revived for the next generation consoles. Bring on the new 2D shooters!
Discs of Tron
What Is It?
If you'll recall, a few weeks ago we talked about the arcade port of Tron for the Xbox Live Arcade. Based on the classic Jeff Bridges movie from 1982, Tron was a weird mini-game collection that tried its hardest to recreate the best moments from the movie. Unfortunately it failed. Discs of Tron was released only one year after the original Tron game (and the Tron movie) and instead of featuring a bunch of mini-games, this game only featured the one experience. The good news is that the mini-game in Discs of Tron is a lot more appealing than what we saw in that other Tron game. In Discs of Tron you control a guy standing on what looks like a round target. It's your job to throw discs at the other person in an attempt to hit them off the target. Of course, it wouldn't be a game if the other person wasn't throwing discs at you and trying to do exactly the same thing. Back and forth it goes until somebody is hit several times. That's the whole game, that's all you do. Thankfully Backbone Entertainment has gone in and added a multiplayer mode, but even that may not be enough to keep people entertained by this somewhat limited arcade port. Then again, this is an arcade game from 1983, a time when simple games with limited gameplay were the norm. This may not be the perfect game, but it's definitely better than the original Tron game (not that that's saying anything).
Does It Still Hold Up?
The concept is simple and (for awhile) fun ... and then it gets incredibly boring. Some gamers may like the idea of beating their own score, but there's no way that anybody would sit down with this game and want to play it for more than five minutes. The graphics are understandably bad (I could be wrong, but they don't look much enhanced from what I remember of the original game) and the effects are cheesy, but the concept is simple and easy to get behind. Unfortunately it's the limited gameplay that sinks this title.
Is It Worth The Money?
If you're looking for a game you can put a lot of hours into, then Discs of Tron is not the game for you. The good news is that it's only $5, but if each play is worth a quarter then I'm not sure you're ever going to recoup your full investment. Discs of Tron is worth looking at for its historical value, but I'm sure most people can get their fill from just playing the demo. If Disney Interactive (the company that currently owns Tron) had added Discs of Tron to the original Tron arcade game and released it as a full package, then this would almost be worth the $5. Almost.
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:
In the past we've talked about 1941 and 1942, so it's only fitting that we eventually get around to 1943. Released in 1987, 1943 is the direct sequel to 1941; it's a classic 2D vertical shooter that emphasizes fast action and enemies that fly in predictable patterns. Personally I'm more of a fan of the other installments, but I really the fact that this game gives you a life bar and at least tries to add something different to the mix. Now it's time for GameTap to bring on 19XX.
Colony 7 is a long forgotten arcade game that combines the fun of Space Invaders with the controls of Missile Command. Unfortunately the game never manages to live up to either of those two exceptional arcade games, so you're left with an interesting concept that isn't much fun to play. Still, I like the fact that this obscure little arcade game managed to make its way to the GameTap service so that gamers can give it a second chance.
The King of Fighters '96
This is the third game in the long-running King of Fighters series. While you would never know it from the name, this installment of King of Fighters is actually one of better ones. This came out long enough after the first game to have added some important features, as well as adding a few new characters that would prove to be important to the franchise (go Psycho Soldier Team). There aren't a lot of 2D fighters currently on GameTap for free, so The King of Fighters '96 is definitely worth checking out (assuming you have a control that can handle it).
Little Puff in Dragon Land
Little Puff looks and feels a lot like a game we reviewed last week, Strangely Magic. If you'll recall (and I know you memorize every word I write in these episodes), Strangely Magic was an adventure game where you went around picking up objects and solving puzzles. This is what you do here, only it features a dragon as the main star and the controls have been improved. You still have to deal with pushing up to jump, but outside of that the controls are workable. Worth checking out.
MIG-29 Soviet Fighter
Given how disastrous the Commodore 64 platformers were, I was a little concerned about a game that sounded like a flight simulator. Now that I've put some time into MIG-29 you can color me impressed, because this 3D action game is surprisingly fast, responsive and, best of all, fun. You heard me; this game is a blast to play, one of the better Commodore 64 titles on the GameTap service. If you feel like you've been burned by the other C64 games, then you should really give this exciting (and hard) action game a try.
Murray Mouse Supercop
Like Little Puff and Strangely Magic, Murray Mouse is a 2D platformer masquerading as an adventure game. Oddly enough, this spy-based platformer is a lot wordier than its fantasy-themed counterparts. In fact, there's almost too much text in this game for its own good. The controls are on par with those other two games, so don't expect too much from this title. Worth checking out, but definitely not perfect.
You would never know it from the name, but Prince Clumsy is the poor man's Ghosts 'N Goblins. No joke, the levels are similar, the weapons are the same and you're killing a lot of the same enemies. The only problem is that Ghosts 'N Goblins is also available on GameTap for free ... and it's significantly better. This is worth checking out if only to see how similar the two games are, but in reality there's almost no reason to play this game over Capcom's better platformer.