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 talk about one of the greatest games of all time ... as well as a few other games that are pretty damn cool in their own right. This is the week that brings us Super Mario Bros. 3, Alien Soldier, Virtua Fighter, Root Beer Tapper and Power Golf. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. So quit reading this lame intro and scroll down to see which retro games are worth your money, and which you should be avoiding ...
What Is It?
Only released in Europe and Asia, Alien Storm is one of those Treasure games that American gamers have been clamoring for. For most old school gamers the very mention of Treasure is enough of a reason to buy the game; after all, this is a company that has consistently developed amazing games (Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, Guardian Heroes, Ikaruga, etc.). But the fact that this is one Treasure game that most of the North American Wii owners have yet to play is just the icing on the cake. Alien Soldier plays a lot like Gunstar Heroes, which is to say that it plays a lot like Contra. You control this weird creature that can choose between four weapons at a time and can hover and float on the ceiling. But what sets Alien Soldier apart from most Contra clones is that the levels are extremely short. But just because the levels are short doesn't mean you won't get to fight a lot of bosses. Like all Treasure games, Alien Soldier is all about the boss battles, which run the gamut from being silly retreads of other Treasure games to being absolutely stunning. While not as good as other Treasure games, Alien Soldier is a must-buy for anybody that likes a good 2D action game.
Does It Still Hold Up?
There are definitely things about Alien Soldier that I would change if I had the chance (like how you change weapons), but overall this is one game that holds up well over time. The real reason you play a Treasure game is to see all of the crazy bosses, and you definitely won't be let down by the amount of big baddies that are out to ruin your day.
Is It Worth The Money?
Considering that this is one of those games that was never released in the U.S., I would say that $8 is not too much to pay. While the levels are short, there is a lot of action to be found in this little game. If you're a fan of 2D shooters like Contra and Gunstar Heroes then this should definitely be at the top of your list this week. It's not the best game released this week ... but it's the best game you've probably never played before.
What Is It?
Crimeny, just how many old school golf games does one console need? If I had a time machine and could go back to any moment in time I would go back to the 1980s (and early 1990s) and beg and plead with these video game companies that you shouldn't make a realistic sports game until the hardware can handle it. Well, okay, I would probably do that after I got done petting dinosaurs, figuring out who really shot JFK and deciding whether or not Cleopatra was all that. But I digress; Power Golf is yet another example of a realistic sports game that doesn't hold up particularly well. Part of the problem is that the system just isn't capable of doing what they programmers wanted, but it's also due to the fact that nobody knew how to recreate golf without it being as boring as watching C-SPAN with the sound turned off (or on, for that matter). Power Golf plays pretty much like every other golf game of the era, which is to say that you have to have your timing down and expect to be limited to only a couple of courses (all of which look exactly the same). The game does look slightly better than some of the 8-bit golf games of that time, but that won't change the overall gameplay much. Worse yet, I would almost argue that the cartoony golf games (like, say, NES Open Golf) hold up better because they aren't trying to look and feel like what you see on TV.
Does It Still Hold Up?
I guess I've already answered the question, but for the people that skip over the first paragraph in order to read the shorter (and more interesting) second and third questions, Power Golf definitely does not hold up well. That's not to say that it's a bad game, but it doesn't do anything different from the countless other golf games on the Virtual Console. Worse yet, the whole realistic vibe is hard to swallow now, it just doesn't look very good at all.
Is It Worth The Money?
If what you're looking for is another golf game and you've already exhausted all of the other golf games on the Virtual Console then by all means pick this up. For every sane person, this game is absolutely not worth your six dollars. I'm a fan of golf games, but this is not one that is essential for a good game collection.
Super Mario Bros. 3
What Is It?
Considering that Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the top selling games of all time, I doubt that I have to explain what this game is to anybody. But just in case you're one of those grandma gamers I keep hearing about or somebody who is suffering from amnesia, Super Mario Bros. 3 is on the short list of the best 2D platformers of all time. Heck, I would go one step further and say that it's in the running for being the best game ever made. It's the game where Mario (or Luigi, if you're playing a two-player game) dons a bunch of unique and entertaining suits (raccoon suit, frog suit, Hammer Bros. suit, tanooki suit, etc.) and does battle with Bowser and all of his kids in order to save the Princess. Of course, the fun of Super Mario Bros. 3 is all of the crazy levels gamers have to go through in order to save the Princess, from a world that is almost entirely underwater to a world where everything (except for Mario) is gigantic. But what makes this game so memorable all these years later is the amount of variety found in the game, there's almost too much to do and see in the game, and it's even fun to go back through the adventure just to try and beat the bosses in different (and often bizarre) ways. There have been a lot of Mario games since this title hit stores back in 1990, but none of them are as polished and endearing as Super Mario Bros. 3. Some would argue that Super Mario 64 and Super Mario World are on par, but for my money this 17 year old NES game is my favorite Mario adventure of all time. You can't go wrong with Super Mario Bros. 3!
Does It Still Hold Up?
I don't know where I would be if Super Mario Bros. 3 stopped holding up. I have a hunch that video games are going to have to go a long way before this Nintendo classic stops being one of the greatest games ever made. There's so much originality in this one game, and best of all there's no way you'll ever be able to do and see everything. This game is a masterpiece, and like the Mona Lisa or Citizen Kane, Super Mario Bros. 3 will continue to endure no matter what year the calendar says it is.
Is It Worth The Money?
There are a lot of great games available on the Virtual Console, but Super Mario Bros. 3 is in a league all of its own. The gameplay still holds up all these years later, the graphics are surprisingly solid, you probably still haven't found every secret the game has to offer, and at $5 there's no reason not to pick this game up. Well ... there is one reason. Chances are most gamers probably already own this game in one form or another (be it the original cartridge, the Game Boy Advance version or even when it was released on the Super NES on the Super Mario All-Stars compilation). But even if you already own the game, this is still a great game to buy. And better yet, this game won't look all messed up on your brand new HDTV. At $5 this isn't even an issue, so get out there and pick up (and rediscover) one of the greatest games of all time.
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:
Defender is the arcade masterpiece from Eugene Jarvis, the man that brought us Robotron: 2084 and Crus'n USA. Released in 1980, Defender is fast action 2D shooter that lets you race back and forth killing enemies and picking up bonus items. In a lot of ways this game was a precursor for games like Gradius, R-Type and just about every other horizontal shooter. While the game definitely feels dated, this is yet another one of those games you should check out just so that you know the full history of video games.
I've never been a fan of Joust, so it probably won't surprise you to learn that I'm not a fan of this GameTap port. The good news is that the game is pretty much arcade exact, so you can bring in a second player and fight it out. The bad news is that the game is still as boring as ever, with inaccurate gameplay and a level structure that is nearly as repetitive as the original Pac-Man. I know a lot of people who love this arcade classic, but I personally have never seen the appeal of this boring (and repetitive) action game.
Root Beer Tapper
Even if it doesn't feature the alcoholic punch of the original, Root Beer Tapper is still one of the most exciting arcade games around. In this game you play a bartender whose only job is to fill up pitchers of beer and then throw them at the people that want them. Actually, that's not his only job, because it's also important to catch the beer pitchers so they don't break on the ground. It starts off slow, but as you progress through the levels you'll find that this arcade game becomes almost impossible to beat. It's old school fun at its best, definitely worth your time.
Another arcade classic is uploaded to GameTap. Unlike Defender, Space Invaders doesn't hold up particularly well. The gameplay is slow and there isn't much of a challenge compared to today's shooters. In fact, most people will have to play for ten or fifteen minutes before the game even begins to get challenging. It's still worth playing just so that you can see where the shooter genre began, but most modern gamers will probably just want to move on to some of the more recent shooters on GameTap.
(Saturn/Subscription Required) -
This is going to be one of those times when I come across sounding like a real video game snob. While I know I should be happy that GameTap has added Virtua Fighter to their service, I can't help but be disappointed that it's not the far superior Virtua Fighter Remix. Remix was not just a little improvement; it managed to enhance every element of this game (from graphics to gameplay). Still, this is a fun enough game, but there are clearly better Virtua Fighter games from the Saturn era that should have been ported.