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
Thanks to my two week absence (due to traveling to San Francisco and then a nasty illness), we have a lot of ground to cover in this episode. Look for reviews of Fantasy Zone II, California Games, SimEarth, Family Mini Golf, Battlefield 1943 and a half dozen other games. This is a packed episode, full of big reviews, haikus, limericks and more. So get ready to spend a few months reading through another exciting episode of the Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
A week after traveling to San Francisco, Nintendo surprises me with California Games for the Commodore 64. If you're an older gamer, then chances are you've heard of this game. Not only was this a C64 release, but you can find it on just about every other system released in the late 1980s and early 90s. The concept is simple, take three "extreme" sports and make a compilation out disk out of them. You get skateboarding, roller skating, surfing, BMX biking, hacky sack and flying disc (aka Frisbee). As you might imagine given the limitations of the hardware and original diskette, each event is extremely simple. When you select skateboarding, don't expect Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with bad graphics. What you get is a slice of skateboarding culture, mainly the half pipe part of skate competitions. Sadly, even that isn't very exciting. With so many sports to choose from, it's easy to see how the developer's time was split. Instead of making one or two really fun events, the game gives you six mediocre activities. Couple that with some bad control problems and ugly graphics, and you have one extremely disappointing game.
Does It Still Hold Up?
If you think Wii Sports is limited, wait until you get a load of California Games for the Commodore 64. I know I shouldn't complain about a 22 year old sports compilation, but I had the hardest time finding the fun in any one of these events. The controls are beyond terrible, which is a recipe for disaster when dealing with a sports game. I can handle ugly graphics and annoying sound effects, but at least get the gameplay right.
Is It Worth The Money?
You can't go back to California Games, that's for sure. With its poor presentation and terrible controls, California Games is one of those titles that was better on paper. Instead of focusing on so many disparate sporting events, I would have preferred a game with only two or three fun sports. I can do without hacky sack and Frisbee, for example. Both of those things are cheap and much more fun to do in real life. Spend that time working out the kinks in skateboarding and roller skating, two games that actually have potential. But that's not what happened, so it's hard for me to recommend buying California Games ... even at $5.
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa
What Is It?
I make no apologies for it, I'm an unabashed fan of Sega's wonderful <a href="" target="_blank"><b>Fantasy Zone </b></a> franchise. I loved the original Sega Master System, so by law I'm forced to love this 1987 sequel. Granted, this game is almost identical to the first game. It offers the same Defender-like gameplay, making you fly from left to right shooting down insects and other baddies. The game retains the Timothy Leary acid trip visuals. But despite these similarities, what you're really paying for is additional levels. This is nothing more than a mission pack, similar to buying Doom 2 or Final Doom. It's not going to change your opinion about Fantasy Zone, but it will give you a bunch of new content to play through. And at five dollars, it's hard to argue with the value of getting more levels for such an enjoyable shooter.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Fantasy Zone 2: The Tears of Opa-Opa is a strange, strange game. After playing dozens and dozens of me-too shooters on the Virtual Console, it's genuinely shocking to find one that is so radically different. It's not just the graphic scheme (which often reminds me of that Beatles cartoon, Yellow Submarine), but just the way the game plays. At its core this is nothing more than a fancy version of Defender, but that's not one of those games that has been beamed up to the Virtual Console.
Is It Worth The Money?
If you already love Fantasy Zone, then this is a no-brainer. Five dollars for another group of levels isn't too much to ask, especially with a game of this quality. However, if you're not a fan then you aren't going to be swayed by this sequel. The only thing that I don't like about this game is how long it's been since Sega has done anything with the franchise. Hey Sega, forget Sonic the Hedgehog and get to making a brand new Fantasy Zone game!
SimEarth: The Living Earth
What Is It?
After the success of SimCity, Maxis was desperate to duplicate the success on an even grander scale. Instead of taking the next step and making SimCountry, the developers decided to go ambitious and give us SimEarth: The Living Earth. And who can blame them? Who wouldn't want to play a God-like figure that can micromanage everything that happens on this wonderful planet? At least, that's what I thought before plugging SimEarth into my Super NES. Apparently what they don't mention is that after the planet is created, there really isn't a whole lot left for you to do. The game attempts to give you objectives and allow you to micromanage just about everything, but none of it is as engaging as SimCity. It's easy to relate to SimCity, since most of us are used to living in some sort of town or city (even if it's not a massive megalopolis). However, the things you do in SimEarth are more abstract. I never really felt connected with SimEarth, which is probably why I feel that this game is as much fun as watching grass grow.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Much like SimCity, SimEarth is a PC game that was designed for a mouse and keyboard. Maxis does a reasonable job mapping the buttons and menus, but it's not the same as playing it on the PC. SimCity could get away with this because it was a simple game. Sure it was a deep and involving game, but you weren't really sifting through that many menus or options. Here you are overloaded with menus. Throw in some performance issues and you have a game that doesn't feel like it was meant to be shrunk down to fit in the Super NES.
Is It Worth The Money?
Let's be honest with ourselves for a few minutes, the only good "Sim" franchise is SimCity. Some may argue that The Sims is also good, but it's not the same thing. While SimAnt, SimIsle and SimEarth are interesting, they just aren't good enough to actually own. SimEarth is especially bad, mostly because the game never really delivers on the intriguing (and ambitious) nature of the idea. With a little more structure and a few tweeks, SimEarth could be something amazing. As it is, it's yet another SimCity spin-off that fails to live up to the original.
Every week Nintendo announces their new Virtual Console offerings. But what you may not know is that they also announce the newest games for the Wii's specialized WiiWare channel. This is the place where you can download cheap smaller games, the type of titles you would only pay a few dollars for. Thus far we haven't spent much time covering these hidden gems, but today that's going to end. Starting today we're going to cover the WiiWare line-up just as we would any other section. To keep things consistent, we have decided to post all WiiiWare reviews in the form of a limerick. This week we look at more than a half dozen WiiWare games. I'm talking about games that come in all shapes and sizes. See for yourself below.
I once played a game called Bit.Trip: Core, and rockin' out is what it's for. It looks a little like Pong and the gameplay is strong, so I suggest you buy it from the WiiWare online store.
Drill Sergeant Mindstrong
I once watched a movie named Full Metal Jacket and those recruit really couldn't hack it. When the drill sergeant screamed much information was gleaned, and he made a very large racket.
Family Mini Golf
There's nothing better than a quick round of mini putt putt, especially when you're in a rut. But with families I fear that kids will be near and want them to keep their mouths shut.
I completely forgot about a game called NEVES Plus, but trust me it's not worth the fuss. All you do place tiles and it's supposed to bring lots of smiles, but all it made me do was spit and cuss.
Reel Fishing Challenge
Hey look, Reel Fishing Challenge made a pun. Too bad the game isn't much fun. All I did was wish for something that wasn't about fish, until I finally shot the DS with my gun!
Silver Star Reversi
I was going to review this Silver Star, but I didn't make it very far. When I sat down and played this game I wanted to trade, I decided it wasn't worth the mental scar.
I used to wage wars on the water, always doing what I could to get with the neighbor's daughter. I was forced to flee and admit that it wasn't to be, either that or get involved in a slaughter.
Not content with the Virtual Console and WiiWare, Nintendo has decided to offer up a THIRD avenue for downloading games. That's right, it's the DSiWare, and it's the best (and only) way to download games to your brand new Nintendo DSi. Each week we take a look at Nintendo's uploads through the form of poetry. Haiku, to be exact. Will these reviews help your purchase of DSiWare games? Nah, but they're a lot of fun to read. After a week of Mario Calculator and Mario Clock, this week's releases feel like a breath of fresh air. Well, one of them does.
Art Style: BOXLIFE
Don't escape the box.
I'm warning you, don't you dare!
Or you'll be BOXDEAD.
Sudoku Master (Hudson/$5)
Numbers hurt my head.
So does sound and the bright light.
I need an Aspirin.
Now that you've had your fill of the Virtual Console, maybe it's time to check out This Week in Xbox Live Arcade. This is the part of our show where we take a look at the brand new Xbox Live Arcade titles, and then review them using our unique POINT/COUNTERPOINT style. In these reviews I will make a solid point about a game, and then I will argue the other side just to confuse everything. What do I really think about this week's Xbox Live Arcade game? I guess you'll never know. Instead you get what has to be the single least useful review ever posted on this website. Up first we have Battlefield 1943, the Xbox Live Arcade port of one of the most successful PC shooters of all time. We follow that with one of the rarest SNK fighting games. And round out the episode with a very conflicted take on Worms 2: Armageddon.
This year it feels like the Xbox Live Arcade has moved from being a place to find casual games to a place where you can download real games that people want to play. Battlefield 1943 is one of those games. It's a 24 player action game full of great maps, impressive visuals and more action than you deserve for a mere $15. It's not a perfect exercise, but it does warrant a look if you're into this kind of thing. Battlefield 1943 is a blast.
While I'll give you that you get a lot for your money, I have to argue that this is the Battlefield game to get this week. Perhaps you haven't heard about Battlefield Heroes for the PC, the recently released cartoon-style war game that has everybody talking. Not only is it considerably more entertaining than Battlefield 1943, but it's also free. That's right, free. Plus you can play it on just about any computer. Why pay for this Xbox Live Arcade game when you can play a better version of Battlefield for free?
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
Don't know it by the name Garou? This is the famed closing chapter in the Fatal Fury franchise. Known for pushing the Neo Geo's graphics engine to its breaking point, Mark of the Wolves is one of SNK's greatest fighting games. Years ago I was forced to import the Sega Saturn version of the game, because this game is, for whatever reason, rarely released in the U.S. Thankfully now people have a better option for buying it. Plus, for a mere $10 you can play the game online with friends. If you're a fan of Fatal Fury, then there's no reason not to pick this game up.
So let me get this straight, you actually paid extra to import the game for the Saturn? Talk about being a loser. I bet you're the kind of guy that has to buy one of those mail-order brides, too. Look, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is an okay game ... as far as Fatal Fury games go. This is a series that has always been marred by poor controls and dopey character designs. Mark of the Wolves fixes some of that, but not enough to warrant a purchase.
Worms 2: Armageddon
Hey, screw you Team 17! Talk about a money grab, Worms 2: Armageddon is everything Worms should have been in the first place. Instead of releasing a robust Live-enhanced version of Worms in the first place, you guys duped us into buying a stripped down game before releasing the main course. Thanks for nothing. Don't think you can fool me this time around, I'll just wait to see if you guys finally get around to giving us Xbox Live Arcade fans everything that the old Dreamcast version is known for.
Whoa, whoa, whoa ... I think you need to calm down a little. Yes, I agree, this is the version that should have been released in the first place. Nobody forced you to buy the original game. You could try it out for free, just to see if it had all of the options that you wanted. But even if you did buy the gimped version a couple of years ago, all you're out is a maximum of $20. Is $20 too much to ask for two of the best multiplayer games of all time? I think not. So quit your bitchin' and download this gem, you'll love all of the new weapons and gameplay modes. Trust me, this sequel is much better than the original, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.