Retro Round-up for December 20

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posted 12/21/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
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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 shoot some intergalactic baddies in Alien Storm, crunch some mechs down to size in Cybernator, kill a few dragons in Monster Lair and destroy whatever it is you destroy in Tempest. Talk about a busy episode. So quit wasting time by reading this introduction, it's time to check out this week in retro ...

Alien Storm (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
The first rule of playing Alien Storm: Don't confuse it with the infinitely more exciting Virtual Console release, Alien Soldier. Now that we have that out of the way we can focus our attention on something far more pressing - The Flintstones. That's right, instead of doing the normal thing (spending a paragraph describing what Alien Storm is); I've decided to compare this game to the classic Hanna Barbera TV show. You see, once upon a time there was this cartoon about a Stone Age family dealing with the same normal, everyday crap that you and I have to put up with. Two years after debuting The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera introduced the world to The Jetsons. It doesn't take a well-educated hamster to see that The Jetsons was nothing more than a futuristic version of The Flintstones. In a lot of ways Golden Axe is like The Flintstones. It's set in an ancient period, where men and women wore tiny clothes and battles with bladed weaponry. In contrast, Alien Storm is like The Jetsons. Instead of being set in an ancient time, Alien Storm is set in the future. One deals with dragons and evil warlocks, while the other deals with gooey aliens and plasma weapons. Add the laugh track and you have the newest Hanna-Barbera odd couple. Bad analogies aside, Alien Storm really is nothing more than a more contemporary version of Golden Axe, which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Sega has added a few new mini-games (first-person shooting, running stages) to break up the action, but when you really get down to it this is nothing more than Golden Axe with futuristic weapons.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Like Golden Axe, Alien Storm is nothing more than a traditional 2D brawler where you mash a lot of buttons and try and avoid getting hit. Thankfully Sega has learned a few things about pacing since the days of Golden Axe, but even with some odd diversions thrown your way, you're still basically doing the same thing over and over again. If you're the kind of person that enjoys this style of brawler, then you're going to love Alien Storm.

Is It Worth the Money?

Eight dollars seems like a bit much when you're talking about Alien Storm. We're not talking about one of the big hits of the 16-bit era, Alien Storm was a modest game when it was released and is still nothing more than a novelty product. It's nice to see these characters return, but I wouldn't spend $8 on what amounts to a short experience.

Alien Storm

Cybernator (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Cybernator can best be described as MechWarrior meets Contra. Now here's a game that takes place in the future, where evil corporations control everything and it's up to you to save ... blah blah blah. Look, all you really need to know is that this is your basic 2D shooter, only this time around you have a funky mech suit that can shoot in all directions. As a "giant" mech character, it's up to you to fight your way through a few futuristic levels and battle some bosses. There's nothing revolutionary here, this is your basic Contra clone from beginning to end. The one big problem I have with this release is the clumsy controls. While the amount of control you have is refreshing at times, it's also somewhat unruly when mapped to the standard Super NES control layout. That's not to say you can't get used to it, but the controls never feel quite right as far as I'm concerned. I also found that the game's surroundings kind of bummed me out; it would have been nice for a little more variety. While this is certainly a solid action game, it's not as easy to recommend as some of the other games it's desperately trying to imitate.

Does It Still Hold Up?

It's always fun to look back at a classic game and recognize that the very thing that made it so special 15 years ago is out front and easy to see. While the graphics and sound in, say, Super Mario Bros. may not hold up to today's standards, it's easy to understand why everybody was so excited for the game 22 years ago. Unfortunately Cybernator is not Super Mario Bros. With its dreary graphics, small characters, awkward controls and boring level designs; Cybernator is yet another one of those 15 year old games that hasn't held up well.

Is It Worth the Money?
Assuming you already own all of the Contra games on the system (and I include both Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier in that list), Cybernator may scratch that 2D shooter itch you have. This isn't as good as all of those games listed above, but it's also hardly the worst game on the Virtual Console. Cybernator is a solid action game that seems a bit overpriced at $8. Fun, but not something you will want to rush out and buy.


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