Retro Round-up for December 11


posted 12/11/2009 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
Platforms: Multiple
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 take a look at two arcade classics. Up first is Shinobi, Sega's fast-paced ninja game and the first fresh Virtual Console Arcade game since March. And speaking of ninjas, Capcom is bringing us Street Fighter Alpha 2 for the Super NES. The good news is that this marks the final Street Fighter game released on the Super NES, but bad news is that you're about to read another episode of the Retro Round-Up!

Shinobi (Sega/Arcade/$8)
What Is It?
This is Shinobi, the 1986 arcade smash hit that spawned some of Sega's very best 16-bit releases. In essence this is nothing more than a copy of Namco's brilliant Rolling Thunder, only instead of super spies we get mysterious ninjas. You play Joe Musashi, a badass ninja looking to take down an evil organization called the "Zeed". To do this he will need to master the art of throwing ninja stars and CQC. No wait, that's Metal Gear Solid. Actually, Joe only really needs to master the shuriken and sword. He fights through five urban environments, avoiding slow moving bullets and fighting bosses that are no match for his superior ninja skills. But even more importantly, this is the first Virtual Console Arcade game since March that isn't a duplicate of another Virtual Console game. That's right, despite having multiple versions to upload, this is the first time the original Shinobi has appeared on Nintendo's upload service. As far as I'm concerned this is a minor victory.

Does It Still Hold Up?
As great as the original Shinobi is, it's a little hard to go back to it now that we have genuine classics like Shadow Dancer and Shinobi III. The gameplay is so simplistic that I grew bored after only two levels of repetition. The graphics are good (albeit outdated) and the sound shows a lot of promise. There's not much of a story here, but maybe that's for the best. If it wasn't for the one-note gameplay, I would definitely say that Shinobi holds up.

Is It Worth the Money?
I'm torn when it comes to the original Shinobi. On one hand this is the best version of this game available on the Virtual Console. However, there are far better Shinobi sequels for the exact same price. What's more, this game is featured on several of Sega's recent compilation discs. I definitely like that this isn't a duplicate and would love to support fresh content on the Virtual Console. I guess I'm just torn.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Capcom/Super NES/$8)
What Is It?
In 1996 there weren't a lot of people still playing with the Super NES. By that time the PlayStation and Saturn had been out for more than a year, and the Nintendo 64 was pulling a lot of the attention away from Nintendo's old consoles. But that didn't deter Capcom from releasing this questionable port of Street Fighter Alpha 2 for the Super NES. Interestingly enough, Capcom decided to skip past not one, but two different Street Fighter iterations when making this 1996 fighter. Not only did they not release Super Street Fighter II Turbo (something that was a 3DO exclusive at the time), but they also missed the opportunity to release the first Street Fighter Alpha installment. This sequel definitely makes up for that, giving us 18 exciting characters with a batch of new attacks and animations. Street Fighter Alpha 2 adds a few familiar faces, too. It's nice to see both Zangief and Dhalsim from Street Fighter II, as well as Gen from Street Fighter, Rolento from Final Fight and the first appearance of Sakura.

Does It Still Hold Up?
I didn't expect much going into Street Fighter Alpha 2. I'm so used to playing the game on newer consoles that I never even considered going back and playing this on Super NES. For what it is (a stripped down arcade port) it's actually not that bad. Granted, it's nowhere near arcade perfect, but the controls are solid, the characters look reasonably good and most of the backgrounds are intact. I'm not saying I would buy this version over an arcade-exact port, but it surprised me how much fun the game was all these years later.

Is It Worth the Money?
It's unfortunate that for many Wii owners, this Super NES port of Street Fighter Alpha 2 is the best they'll get. Here is a perfect example of a game needing a Virtual Console Arcade release, yet we Shinobi instead. If this is your only access to Street Fighter Alpha 2 then I say go for it; Capcom managed to retain most of the fun in this 16-bit port. However, if you own a PlayStation 2 or just about any other non-Nintendo system, pick up the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology or some other version of this game.

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