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 have some good ... but we also have some bad. Up first we have one of Nintendo's oldest puzzle games, Clu Clu Land. Thankfully we pivot from that to Super Mario RPG, a game that millions of retro gamers have been demanding. This week we also check out the happenings at GameTap and Xbox Live Arcade. Here's a hint: We're still talking about American McGee's Grimm. Find out what we think of all this when you read another exciting episode of the Retro Round-Up!
Clu Clu Land
What Is It?
Talk about a relic from the past, Clu Clu Land an early 8-bit puzzle game for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. On the surface this game looks like a simplistic Pac-Man clone, however upon closer inspection the game has very little to do with Namco's influential dot gobbler. Instead of fussing with a maze, you (and your sea urchin-thing) go through gates looking for hidden gems and dodging enemies. The concept and execution is simple, but it's also surprisingly challenging. On the other hand, the graphics are understandably simple and the controls are just a little too sluggish for my tastes. Clu Clu Land was one of Nintendo's early gems, but it's hard to go back to this frantic puzzler.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Absolutely not, the controls range from sluggish to impossible to use. In fact, I found myself having to play a few rounds just so that I could start hitting some high scores. The main character doesn't control like you would expect him to, and that creates all sorts of terrible situations. This is the kind of game that requires precise movement, but that is definitely not what we get in this game.
Is It Worth the Money?
Like so many early NES games, Clu Clu Land is definitely not worth your five bucks. The concept is simple and cute, but there's no way you're going to want to play this for more than a few minutes. Even those who remember this game fondly will have a hard time justifying the price tag.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
What Is It?
It's true what they say, if you wait long enough history will repeat itself. Don't believe me? Look at the similarities between 1996's Super Mario RPG and 2008's Sonic the Hedgehog Chronicles. Both games are from well-respected adventure game makers (Square and BioWare). Both games star well-known characters that everybody loves (Mario and Sonic). Yet, both games seem to be met with a lot of resistance. When you tell somebody that Sega is publishing a Sonic RPG you mostly get boos and heckling, but that's the exact same reaction people had when first confronted with the news about the Super Mario RPG. How can these characters weave an intriguing story? Who is going to want to play this? Will this be Mario's jump the shark moment? These were the questions stuck in people's heads 12 years ago. These are the same questions you would likely hear if you told somebody about BioWare's Sonic RPG. Well, Sonic RPG doubters, now is your chance to go back in time and check out the Super Mario RPG, a classic 16-bit game that features our favorite plumbers off on an adventure to save the princess. Oh, fine, you've heard it all before, but this really is one of the best games Square made on the Super NES.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Seeing as it's a role-playing game, the actual gameplay mechanics feel pretty natural. This game has a slight emphasis on the action, but fans of old school turn-based role-playing games will surely find something to like about this game. The writing is also strong, even though it's a Japanese game about Nintendo mascot characters. Oh, and the real reason that this game holds up so well? No Waluigi!
Is It Worth the Money?
Of course this game is worth your money, it's one of the best games currently available for the Virtual Console. The game isn't perfect by any stretch, but it's probably an adventure you haven't played through in a long time (if ever). Let's not forget that there was a time when Square could do no wrong, and this little gem was right at the tail end of that era. Super Mario RPG should give everybody hope that maybe BioWare can pull out a great playing Sonic RPG. Then again, I'm just waiting for Mistwalker to give us the definitive Bubsy the Bobcat RPG!This Week in Xbox Live Arcade
Well kids, the Summer of the XBLA has come and gone, which means that we're back to having piss-poor arcade releases. Actually, this week's games aren't that bad, but they pale in comparison to Castle Crashers, Braid or Bionic Commando: Rearmed. This week we get two titles, a shooter and a competitive dodgeball game. First up is Gamecock's silly Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball. It seems like this would be a winning formula, after all everybody loves ninjas, pirates and dodgeball. But there's something off about the game this game controls. The limited amount of modes and sluggish controls don't help this otherwise average title.
The other game this week is Shred Nebula, CrunchTime Games' crazy Astroids rip-off. The idea is pretty straight forward, you play the game from an overhead perspective and then fly your ship around using thrusts and shooting and anything that gets close to you. Understanding the power of your thrust and utilizing your environments is the secret to this game. Unfortunately the game's outdated influence isn't the only this disappointing about this game. With games like this and Pirates vs. Ninja Dodgeball, it's painfully clear that September is not as cool as August.
This Week in GameTap
Still not satisfied with what you're getting on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade? Then maybe you should head on over to GameTap
! With more than 100 free games currently available, GameTap
is one of the best places to play classic games! And every week they are adding brand new titles to the service, including old school games for the Genesis, Neo Geo, Commodore 64 and much, much more. Won't you join us as we take a look at what's going on this week over at GameTap
By now you already know what I'm going to say, because this is yet another week where I talk about American McGee's Grimm. Just in case you haven't been paying attention, I have discovered that I don't like this weekly action game. I've given them all a shot, but so far I just can't get into it. This week we get Godfather Death, which sounds promising ... but will probably suck. If you check out the game RIGHT NOW then you'll be able to play through it for free, everybody else can check it out for $3.99. After this we only have two more weeks of American McGee's Grimm. Let's hope GameTap has something good lined up after that.
Thankfully we get more than just Grimm this week. We also get the PC action game, Sub Commando, and the computer game version of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Judging by the fact that you continue to read this GameTap write-ups leads me to think that maybe you aren't smarter than a 5th grader. Just a hunch.