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Retro Round-up for February 20

Retro Round-up for February 20

Written by Cyril Lachel on 2/20/2010 for 360   PS3   Wii  
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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. 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 return live with not one, but FOUR retro reviews! And what a diverse list it is, we take a look at Alex Kidd in Shinobi World for the Master System, the NES version of Princess Tomato in Salad Kingdom, Sonic & Knuckles for the Genesis and Ghoul Patrol for the Super NES. That's four games for four systems! The good news is that more than half of them are worth downloading; the bad news is that you'll have to read another episode of the Retro Round-Up to figure out which one to avoid!

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
What Is It?
I've always had mixed feelings about Alex Kidd. While I have enjoyed a few of his adventures, none of them are as memorable as most other classic platformers. Let's face reality here, there's a reason everybody remembers Sonic the Hedgehog and not Alex Kidd. He's a fairly bland character who exists in a world with terrible art direction and no sense of style. But for one game Alex Kidd becomes the hero I have always wanted. Well, actually, he becomes the hero of another, better Sega franchise. This is Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, a mash up that combines the platforming action of Alex Kidd with the martial arts of Shinobi.

The good news is that these strange bedfellows make an incredible action game, easily the best of the Alex Kidd sequels. You play Alex the Ninja, a sword-carrying master of his domain. He fights through four different levels (each with two sub-levels and a Shinobi-influenced boss battle) using his sword and a powerful throwing device (which he can pick up throughout each level). It's like most platformers, only with more of a violent tint to it. With the possible exception of the swimming levels, most of the stages feel like they are straight out of a Shinobi game. Only instead of gritty graphics, everything has been redrawn to resemble a carefree platformer. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.

Does It Hold Up?

There are definitely moments in the game where I was acutely aware that this is an 8-bit Master System game. Beyond the graphics, some of the gameplay doesn't hold up well. The sword is too short and wall jumping can be a real nightmare sometimes. Still, the general platforming feels strong and once you get the hang of the controls you won't have too much trouble playing all the way through it. Even with an outdated control scheme, I would say that Alex Kidd in Shinobi World holds up surprisingly well.

Is It Worth the Money?
As a huge Shinobi fan, I was happy to see that Alex Kidd didn't make a mess of the place. The game is short and a bit on the easy side, but that shouldn't keep you from having a good time playing through this enjoyable platformer. Five dollars is not too much to ask for what turns out to be Alex Kidd's greatest adventure.

Ghoul Patrol (JVC)
What Is It?
Last year I was surprised and delighted when Nintendo finally uploaded Zombies Ate My Neighbors, one of my all time favorite 16-bit action games. Although it's been months since I reviewed it, I have found myself going back to it several times a week, if only to collect everything and finally get around to beating this gem. Sadly it looks like my goal of finding everything will have to wait, because this week we get Ghoul Patrol, the spiritually successor to Zombies Ate My Neighbors. There may be fewer actual zombies and some of the action feels a little recycled this time around, but don't take that as a reason not to pick up this phenomenal follow-up to one of the best games of all time.

Ghoul Patrol stars a couple of witless characters who accidentally unleash a torrent of ghosts, giant insects, robot monsters, zombies and other ghoulies on the world. I hate it when that happens. Together they must rescue all of the civilians, beat back the bosses and find the exit to all of the increasingly difficult levels. The graphics and gameplay haven't changed much since Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but that shouldn't get in the way of navigating your way through the Gauntlet-style mazes that give each level personality. I'm still a little fuzzy on how a squirt gun can kill everything from a giant bug to a ghost, but I'm willing to go with it. Hopefully all of these recent Virtual Console uploads have prompted the license holder to consider making a Zombies Ate My Neighbors 3. If we can get another Rocket Knight Adventures, then why not this old school classic?

Does It Still Hold Up?
Ghoul Patrol is played from an overhead point of view, which works well for exploring the crazy levels and making your way through the mazes. Unfortunately, the perspective can make targeting and intense action sections a little tricky. The gameplay is fast and the controls are responsive, but there are a lot of times where I accidentally got hung up on a door or a table and sustained massive amounts of damage. Thankfully that isn't a deal breaker; it's just a minor complaint about an otherwise superb action game.

Is It Worth the Money?
There's a part of me that's a little disappointed that Ghoul Patrol isn't a more ambitious sequel. Don't get me wrong, I love the game, but in a lot of ways this just feels like an expansion pack. Still, at eight dollars it's hard to complain about more levels for an amazing game ... even if it's nothing more than an expansion. The challenge is still there and, like the first game, this makes for an incredible two-player experience. I doubt this game will rank as high on my list, but Ghoul Patrol is a worthwhile sequel to one of the greatest games currently available on the Virtual Console.

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (Hudson)
What Is It?

I hope you like food-related puns, because that's what Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom has to offer. This quirky 8-bit adventure game is different from most of the Virtual Console games. Instead of giving you level after level of fast action, this Hudson console title is more along the lines of the classic point and click adventure so popular on the PC. You control the game using a series of menu options, giving you the ability to look around, talk, take items, fight, praise, give and much, much more. You move your character one screen at a time, similar to games like Shadowgate and Myst. Where the game excels is in its clever writing and memorable characters. This is not a game for everybody, but if you give the game a chance you will find that the stories are intriguing and the sense of humor is just cheesy enough to be entertaining. I would also add that the graphics aren't half bad, even with the limited on-screen colors. There are a few translation issues and the slow-pace is going to turn a lot of gamers off, but I had a lot of fun juicing my way through the Salad Kingdom.

Does It Still Hold Up?

Much like Shadowgate and other Kemco Seika games, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom uses a series of menus to get the job done. For many this will be a turn off, since you are essentially cycling through a series of still images. On the other hand, the controls are responsive and the menus actually make a lot of sense once you get into the main adventure. The graphics and sound are obviously dated, but they do a good job of presenting the action and giving you all the detail you could want.

Is It Worth the Money?

If you're looking for a fast-paced action game, then this Hudson title should be avoided at all cost. However, there's enough good natured humor to keep you interested in this quirky title. I am a huge fan of games like Shadowgate and The Uninvited, so I was impressed by this non-violent, kid-friendly take on the genre. Even if you aren't convinced that this type of game isn't for you, the five dollar asking price isn't too much to take a chance on this adorable adventure game.

Sonic & Knuckles (Sega)
What Is It?
Just in time for the Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 announcement, Nintendo has decided to upload Sonic & Knuckles. This 1994 release is something of an expansion pack to 1993's stellar Sonic the Hedgehog 3. It uses the same engine and features many of the same power-ups, only this time around you get a bunch of new levels and a brand new playable character. When this game was first released it came with a gimmick, it featured a two-way cartridge that allowed you to plug both Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3 into its top. This super-sized cartridge gave you the ability to play as Knuckles in those two Sonic sequels, instantly giving you a reason to dust off the cartridges and play through the levels again. Unfortunately, the actual content in Sonic & Knuckles wasn't as compelling as its gimmick, something that is blatantly obvious in this Virtual Console re-release. On the other hand, it's still fun to go back through these levels, even if they often feel like Sonic the Hedgehog 3 b-sides. Sonic & Knuckles is a good, solid game. It will never stack up against the best games in the series, but at least it's not Knuckles Chaotix.

Does It Still Hold Up?

If you liked Sonic the Hedgehog 3, then you're bound to feel right at home with Sonic & Knuckles. The two games are practically identical, all the way down to the bonus level. In some ways that's a good thing, since Sonic the Hedgehog 3had great control and graphics that still hold up to this day. On the other hand, this game feels incredibly lazy. No matter what you think of this expansion pack, at least the character is responsive and it's easy on the eyes.

Is It Worth the Money?

I'm right on the fence when it comes to Sonic & Knuckles. On one hand I don't want to deny anybody the opportunity to play through a number of worthwhile Sonic levels, however, these levels are nowhere near as good as those found in Sonic's first three adventures. Furthermore, you can own this game on any number of compilation discs for a fraction of the price. This is a game that should have come with Sonic the Hedgehog 3, not a standalone product. If the price was cheaper I might rate this game higher, but $8 is too much to ask for this underwhelming Sonic game. I can only hope that Sonic the Hedgehog 4 will be better than this expansion pack.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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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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