Retro Round-Up / April 4, 2008
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
. Think it couldn't get any worse than last week? Well, think again, because Nintendo has managed to dip even lower than King's Knight. This week Nintendo expects you to pay ten dollars for Cruis'n USA, one of the worst racing games of the last twenty years. The good news is that this week we get our first Master System game. The bad news is that it's a game that already exists on the Virtual Console. Thankfully GameTap is batting up one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures. Find out what it is when you read the Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
What is Nintendo doing to me? Last week I thought we hit rock bottom; I just got done sitting through a couple hours of King's Knight and wasn't feeling real good about this whole retro gaming thing. My only solace was knowing that no matter what we could only go up from here. At least, that's what I thought before seeing what I had in store for me this week. Ladies and gentlemen, let me make this quick ... this is Cruis'n USA, a game that wasn't good ten years ago when it was a launch game for the Nintendo 64 and it's not good now.
Originally released as an arcade game (a showpiece of the Nintendo 64's power), Cruis'n USA was largely panned by the critics when it was released in 1996. And for good reason, Cruis'n USA is an absolutely terrible driving game, a shallow arcade racer that is plagued by both technical and creative problems. The good news is that at least one problem has been resolved in the last twelve years; Nintendo has found a new location on the control pad for the acceleration button. Unfortunately that's the only nice thing I can say about this Cruis'n USA port. Looking back on it now the graphics are atrocious (it's all a blurry mess), the controls are hard to come to grips with and there's really no reason to play this more than once. To add insult to injury, Nintendo has decided that this game, this unforgivably bad game, is worth ten dollars! TEN DOLLARS!! It may be $60 cheaper than it was 12 years ago, but Cruis'n USA is still $70 too much if you ask me.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Even a decade ago when this game was new, Cruis'n USA was being held together by duct tape and prayers. There's an argument to be made for the arcade game, it didn't suffer from a lot of the technical problems associated with this cartridge (and you can sit down and have a few good minutes without spending $70), but even that original arcade game hasn't held up particularly well. A big part of the problem is that this game is wedged between an era of simple racing games (OutRun, Daytona USA) and a new batch of arcade-style racers. This game looks like it might be a forefather to Burnout, but it won't take more than a minute to realize that this game is firmly rooted in the Hang-On era of racers. Worse yet, it just doesn't control well. In other words, no, this game does not still hold up.
Is It Worth The Money?
Never have I felt that "no" just wasn't a strong enough word. As far as racing games go, this is one of the absolute worst. The graphics are bad, the frame rate isn't up to speed, the controls don't work and there's no reason to go back to it. What's the most insulting part of this whole experience is that Nintendo seems to think they can get ten dollars out of people. Nintendo would be better off just taking your 1000 points and not giving you anything in return. Buying this means that you are only encouraging Nintendo to upload more terrible games.
What Is It?
I'm starting to get the feeling that the Virtual Console may have a small man-crush on a certain Wonderboy. Unless I'm doing my math wrong, this is the sixth Wonderboy game released on Wii. Not bad for a guy who hasn't seen a new game in more than a decade. Even if you've never seen a Sega Master System in real life, chances are you've played Wonderboy in one form or another. A lot of people know this game as Hudson's Adventure Island, which took the level designs of this game and re-skinned them. Some would even point to New Adventure Island, the pseudo-remake for the TurboGrafx-16. No matter what name you know it by, the game is the same no matter who puts it out. The concept is simple; you need to save your girlfriend who is stuck on a tropical island. To do that you run from left to right throwing various objects and skateboarding (yes, on grass). That's basically the extent of Wonderboy, it's a basic 2D platformer that stressed level memorization as the key to getting to the end. Unfortunately it's the shallowness of the gameplay that keeps this from being a must-own action game, the level designs are too simplistic and there isn't enough to variety to keep things interesting. It's certainly nice to see Nintendo supporting the Sega Master System, but you'll need to think long and hard about picking up this game.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Wonderboy is plagued with a number of design decisions that are questionable at best. The biggest problem is the looseness of the controls; it's extremely difficult to make exact jumps with this character. Things go from bad to worse when you add in the skateboard, which is a "power-up" that doesn't allow you to stop. But the real reason this game doesn't hold up is because of how lazy it all feels. The levels are bland, full of repeating themes and enemies. Even the bosses are nothing more than the same character with different heads. The whole game just feels thrown together, which may be why it doesn't feel fresh twenty years later.
Is It Worth The Money?
For some odd reason I thought these Sega Master System games were only going to run us 400 points ($4)? Yet here I am looking at the first 8-bit game on the Virtual Console that was not on a Nintendo console and it says it's $5. Either way, Wonderboy was probably the wrong way to introduce the Virtual Console loving world to the Sega Master System. While this is a solid game (one that you may even want to spend your five bucks on), it's not the first appearance of this "franchise". When it comes right down to it there's no reason to buy this game over the other versions currently available on the Virtual Console. Still, I do like the idea of supporting the Sega Master System. It's a shame Nintendo decided against uploading one of the truly original Sega Master System games, something that might actually sell people on this alternative 8-bit console.
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:
It's not a great game, but I have always loved Rastan. The game is simple; you play a big muscley Conan-like character that walks from left to right swinging a large sword. You don't have too much control over your attacks (you can stab upwards and swing down when you're jumping), but your weapons are mostly large and strong, so it usually isn't much of an issue. Like all old arcade games, Rastan is unforgiving; it doesn't take long for you to meet your maker when playing this twenty year old action game. This is definitely worth a look, even if it is horribly outdated by today's standard.
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