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 finally get back to our normal grind of talking about more than two games. Oh sure, Nintendo is still being incredibly stingy with their Virtual Console releases, but at least GameTap and the Xbox Live Arcade is stepping up to fill in some of the voids. Not only that, but this week's games are all pretty good, save for some of the stuff on the XBLA and GameTap. You get some genuine classics, like Harvest Moon, Lords of Thunder and The King of Fighters '96. What more could you ask for? Find out what I think of each of these games when you read another exciting edition of This Week in Defunct Games!
What Is It?
It's the Super NES game that spawned Harvest Moon 64, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, Harvest Moon Boy & Girl, Harvest Moon DS Cute, Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, Harvest Moon: Rune Factory and that amazing Neil Young album from 1992. Okay, maybe it didn't spawn the Neil Young album (unless the "Godfather of Grunge" is actually a time traveler), but this was the game that introduced the world to the long-running franchise of cute farming simulators. But forget for a moment that there are at least two dozen sequels and spin-offs flooding your local game store, this Super NES Harvest Moon is worth mentioning if only because of how rare it is. Released in the U.S. in 1997 (a full year after the release of the Nintendo 64), Harvest Moon was almost entirely ignored by the general masses. Worse yet, there weren't many copies of the cartridge made. These days a sealed copy of the game can go for more than $150, assuming you still have one of these rare gems in your collection. Unfortunately you won't be able to get $150 out of this Virtual Console release, since now everybody who owns a Nintendo Wii can buy this game for a mere $8. Sure, it's not the same as having the real (and rare) cartridge for your Super NES, but it sure beat the heck out of paying $150 for a game that has two dozen sequels. If you're a Harvest Moon fan that has always wanted to experience the original game but didn't want to pay the high price for it, then this Virtual Console release should be right up your alley.
Does It Still Hold Up?
While Natsume has spent the last ten years refining the franchise, Harvest Moon has stayed the same in a lot of respects. You're still doing the same old things you've always done (farm, tend to animals, chores, etc.), only this time with Super NES graphics and a slightly more limited interface. But this probably won't shock longtime fans of the franchise, this is what the game looks like on the Game Boy Advance, and those versions seemed to sell well enough. There are definitely better versions of this game already on the market, but if you're asking me if the Super NES game holds up (and you are) then I would have to say it does.
Is It Worth The Money?
This is a tough one for me. On one hand I think this is a really good deal, it's a lengthy game full of depth for a mere $8. But on the other hand, there have been at least three dozen sequels and spin-offs since this game was released ten years ago. In fact, Natsume's E3 2007 line-up was nothing but Harvest Moon games (including a crazy puzzle game). With so many Harvest Moon games out there you're bound to find a newer entry for the same price. But then again, most people haven't played the original game, so why not give it a shot?
Lords of Thunder
What Is It?
It's the greatest 2D shooter available for the TurboGrafx-16. You heard me, this sequel to Lords of Thunder is the amazing sequel to Gate of Thunder, the pack-in game for the TurboDuo. Released only a year after Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder takes everything we loved about the first game (amazing graphics, diverse levels, that rocking soundtrack) and kicks it up a notch by including better power-ups and a Mega Man-style stage select. Lords of Thunder is about as good as a TurboGrafx-16 game can look; it was released as a CD, so a lot of the memory was used to detail the backgrounds (which look fantastic) and pepper the experience with a hard rock soundtrack. The problem with writing about Lords of Thunder is that I feel like I have already said as much as I can possibly say about 2D shooters on the Virtual Console. Between Air Zonk, Gate of Thunder, Blazing Lazers, ZANAC, Axelay, Super Air Zonk, R-Type, Gradius III and Xevious, it feels like I've said everything there is to say about 2D shooters. If after all of these games you're still a fan of the genre, then I suggest you give this one a try. If you're burned out (and I wouldn't blame you if are) then maybe you should hold off for a bit and pick this up when Nintendo eventually runs out of quality shooters to upload to the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
I hate to sound like a broken record here, but Lords of Thunder holds up about as well as any other 2D shooter on the Virtual Console. The graphics are slightly better than what you've come to expect from a 16-bit shoot-em-up and the music kicks butts, but this isn't really that much different from what you've seen from other 2D shooters on the system. Still, if shooters are your thing then you'll find that this is one of the fresher ones.1
Is It Worth The Money?
There's no doubt about it that Lords of Thunder is worth the eight dollars, it looks and sounds great and is deep enough for you to get your money's worth. The only problem is that it's easy to get shooter fatigue, especially with so many 2D shoot-em-ups populating the Virtual Console each week. Still, if you're looking for a great 2D shooter you can't go wrong with Lords of Thunder. This is one classic franchise I would love to see revived for the next generation consoles. Bring on the new 2D shooters!
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