Retro Round-up for December 28th

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posted 12/28/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
Platforms: Wii 360
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 look at the three games uploaded to the Virtual Console. These games include the popular old school hockey game, Blades of Steel, an amazing sequel to Rolling Thunder and the final game in the Donkey Kong Country series. Is this a good way to end 2007? Find out now when you read the very last episode of the Retro Round-Up for the year. See you in 08, Retro Gamers!

Blades of Steel (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
It's the first home console game that I ever played that featured real voice acting. While I doubt Blades of Steel was the birth of synthesized speech in gaming, it definitely wowed me when I first turned on my Nintendo Entertainment System and heard it. Of course, these days the voice is laughably bad. The announcer states "Blades of Steel" right at the start of the game, only the quality is so bad that you could easily mistake it as somebody saying, "Afraid of Eel" or "Raid and Peel." Regardless of the terrible quality of the voice (which has more to do with the NES hardware than anything else), Blades of Steel is a solid hockey game that, at the time, featured just about everything you could ask for in a sports game. Then again, the only things people asked for in 1988 was a hockey puck and fighting. Heck, most people didn't even care about the hockey puck, they just wanted the fighting. Blades of Steel delivers, even if the game hasn't aged as well as other classic sports games (namely Tecmo Bowl). At its core this is nothing more than a bare bones hockey game, it features a couple of single player modes, multiplayer and not much else. The good news is that the action still holds up and you're only spending $5 for what is (unfortunately) the best hockey game on the Wii.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Like most other old school sports games, Blades of Steel is as bare bones as it gets. There's not a whole lot of customization, the single-player mode is kind of lame and you shouldn't expect to play as the real NHL athletes. On the other hand, Blades of Steel is still a good playing sports game that is a lot of fun with a second player. While this game won't make you forget about more recent hockey games, it's not a bad deal for $5.

Is It Worth The Money?
When it comes to hockey on the Virtual Console you only have a couple of options. You can buy the dreadful Ice Hockey game put out by Nintendo, or you can make the right decision and pick up Blades of Steel. Of course, those aren't your only options. You do have the ability to play GameCube games on your Wii, so if you're looking for something a little more current then you can pick up one of 2K or EA's hockey games for dirt cheap. As old school sports games go, Blades of Steel is worth a look ... especially since it's only $5.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
It's the third (and, thankfully, final) entry in the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Nintendo and Rare would go on to develop other Donkey Kong games, but none of them were part of the "Country" franchise. Even though I was a big fan of Donkey Kong back in the day (you know, the one with "Jumpman"), I never really warmed up to this Super NES series. Don't get me wrong, they are fun to a certain extent, but they pale in comparison to Nintendo's other 2D platformers (Super Mario World and Mario 3 leap to mind). Donkey Kong Country 3 is more of the same, which is to say that it's a 2D platformer that is rendered with polygon graphics. This time around you play as Dixie Kong and Kiddy Kong who are on a journey to rescue Donkey and Diddy from some evil forces. The rest of the game is you running around breaking open crates, knocking out enemies and looking for hidden areas. If you've played the first two Donkey Kong Country games then you'll feel right at home here, which is to say that if you didn't like those games you probably aren't going to be won over by this retread.

Does It Still Hold Up?
I have a problem with Donkey Kong Country. It's not the ho-hum platforming action, the boring stages, the non-stop collecting of items or the fact that this is really just a re-skinned version of hundreds of similar games. No, my problem is that this game just doesn't look very good. Don't get me wrong, I understand that the game is 11 years old, but part of me feels that the CGI effects (which were an advantage at the time) do more of a disservice a decade later. At the time nobody could believe the graphics, critics and gamers alike were talking about how it was the best looking game on the Super NES. But looking back at it now I would argue that it was the sprite-based 2D platformers that had the edge. I'll take the look of Yoshi's Island or Super Mario World over this CGI mess any day of the week. Perhaps it's just preference, but there's something about this game that doesn't look very good. And at the end of the day I don't feel that this game holds up as well as other classic Nintendo games.

Is It Worth The Money?
Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who have never had a chance to play Donkey Kong Country 3. This Super NES game was released in late 1996, right around the time the Nintendo 64 was hitting store shelves. What's more, this game was released a full year after the Saturn and PlayStation had been released, so needless to say there were more important things going on. Perhaps that's why this game feels like it was a secondary thought. If you enjoyed the first two games then you might as well buy this game (since there's not a Donkey Kong Collection that has these games any cheaper). Just be prepared to have a very familiar (and safe) platformer experience. I'm not a big fan, but you could do a lot worse than Donkey Kong Country on the Virtual Console.

Rolling Thunder 2 (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Talk about a forgotten gem, Rolling Thunder was one of my favorite arcade games growing up. The concept was good, you played as Albatross, this super secret spy who was an excellent shot and able to jump four times his height. Basically every level was the same, you walked from left to right shooting enemies before they could shoot you. The reason that Rolling Thunder is so memorable is because it features a slower pace that was designed to allow you to find a hiding spot and only shoot when you had a safe line of fire. What's more, you could walk into various doors to rescue hostages and get more ammo. Oh, and you can jump real high. The reason this was useful was because the game was played on two different floors. You had enemies on both floors, so it was your goal to alternate between the top floor and the bottom killing everybody in sight. Rolling Thunder 2 is exactly the same thing, only this time around you can play as either a man or a woman and this game actually has a story (told through old school cinemas). This sequel takes advantage of the better technology by offering more exciting levels, cooler enemies, a two player co-op mode and more than a few cool surprises here and there. Better yet, this game is surprisingly long. It's not "Oblivion" long or anything, but the game continues long past where you would think it would end. Rolling Thunder 2 is a great game that should not be missed.

Does It Still Hold Up?
While the controls are a little sluggish, the game manages to hold up extremely well. The graphics and sound leave something to be desired, but it's as exciting as it was 16 years ago. The cinemas (which were exclusive to the console version) are a nice touch, even if the writing is beyond cheesy. While some may argue that it's nothing more than a gimmick, the concept of jumping from floor to floor still holds up today. Part of the reason for this is because nobody has done it sense. As far as I'm concerned Rolling Thunder 2 is the best game in the franchise; a franchise that desperately needs to be resurrected.

Is It Worth The Money?
You better believe it. I love Rolling Thunder 2; it's easily one of my favorite Genesis games. I have a hunch that there are a lot of Wii owners that never had the opportunity to play this game, so now is your chance. While $8 seems a bit steep, there is a lot to like about this game. It may not be one of those titles you come back to every day, but Rolling Thunder 2 is certainly worth downloading on the Virtual Console. Without a doubt, Rolling Thunder 2 is the best retro game of the week!





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