Neo Geo Station (B-)
Best of 2010:
Samurai Shodown, League Bowling, Super Sidekicks and The King of Fighters '94.
Worst of 2010:
Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and Baseball Stars Professional.
This brand new PlayStation Network store may be new, but you shouldn't hold that against them. In one day SNK Playmore was able to deliver ten classic Neo Geo games all with online capabilities. That's literally 1/3 of the Virtual Console output in all of 2010. This included mostly predictable faces from a variety of different genres. Of course we saw Fata Fury and The King of Fighters; it wouldn't be an SNK compilation without at least one of those hits. Art of Fighting also shows up, along with Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug. The hits are here, all formatted for your HDTVs.
The good news is that a lot of these games hold up. I had a lot of fun replaying each and every one of these games, even if there are a few stinkers in the mix. But the further away from the launch the more critical I became. While it's nice to have a bunch of online-enabled Neo Geo games, I'm a little disappointed by the game choices. Sure, these are the hits. But they are also the games we've seen dozens of times in cheap Neo Geo compilations. For the price of two of these games you can buy a brand new copy of the SNK Anthology disc that hit the PSP and PlayStation 2.
It's also disappointing that PSP and PlayStation 3 owners are essentially buying console-specific versions of these games for two different price points. Currently most PSone games can be played on both platforms, which will be true with the upcoming TurboGrafx storefront. So why not the Neo Geo? I'm sure there's a technical answer, but it negatively impacts my impressions of the store. It's also worth noting that only two of the ten games were available on the PSP in 2010, the rest were released in January of 2011.
SNK has made a good first step, however it won't take long before PlayStation gamers grow tired of these (mostly) first-generation Neo Geo titles. To date the company has announced a second batch of ten games, but they're going to need to do better than that if the Neo Geo Station is to be taken seriously. I've had enough Metal Slug releases, it's time for SNK to get serious and release Wind Jammers and Last Blade 2. I'm not going to be satisfied with twenty or thirty releases, I want the SNK Playmore to come as close to hitting all 154 games as possible. If they can manage that, then the Neo Geo Station will be a real contender in 2011.
Game Room (D+)
Best of 2010:
Food Fight, Detana!! TwinBee, Pitfall!, Jackal, Kabobber, Shoa-Lin's Road, Blades of Steel and Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns.
Worst of 2010:
Jungler, Baseball, Video Pinball, Oink!, Shark! Shark!, Venetian Blinds and pretty much every game that was originally meant for a 10-key control.
It's been a tumultuous year for Microsoft's newest game store. Launched early in 2010, Game Room managed to rack up an impressive 188 releases. Unfortunately Microsoft proves once and for all that quantity means nothing if the quality isn't there. Week after week we were bombarded with mediocre arcade ports made for the Atari 2600. Throw in the universal three dollar asking price and is it any wonder the service barely lasted a year?
To Microsoft's credit, Game Room does have a number of worthwhile titles. In spamming the Xbox Live Marketplace with every game they could license for cheap, Microsoft was able to land at least a dozen rock solid titles. Games like Food Fight and Jackal are a steal at three bucks. And even if you'll only play some of these games once or twice, it's nice to have the two Pitfall releases in your video game collection.
Unfortunately these must-own classics are surrounded by dozens of the worst games ever made. There's nothing wrong with offering 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, but you know something's wrong with that's the highlight of the week. To be fair, it wasn't always the game's fault. A lot of these games had complicated controls that are not easily translated to the Xbox 360 pad. Far too many games require players to map out a 10-key to various buttons, mostly for inane actions in an otherwise absurd game. It's not worth the hassle.
It's safe to say that a strong majority of these 188 games are not worth three dollars. Had they sold for cheaper or as part of a package, then things would have turned out differently for Game Room. As it is, it's a poorly constructed idea that failed to deliver games that people actually wanted. Rest in peace, Game Room.
Things do not look good for Microsoft's Game Room. What started with a lot of promise has fizzled out in record time. The bad news is that Krome Studios, the original team behind Game Room, has been let go by Microsoft. The best case scenario is that the deals have been done and we'll have games all throughout the year (even without a studio actively working on it). Sadly, the more realistic option suggests that we've seen the last of Game Room. We've already gone a few weeks without a peep. Where does that leave Sunset Riders? If Microsoft never makes the Konami classic available, then you can feel free to drop my entire grade by a full letter.
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