Retro Round-up for February 19th

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posted 2/22/2008 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 look at two classic sequels on the Virtual Console. Up first is Ninja Gaiden III, the ugly sheep in the long-running Tecmo franchise. And if you've been waiting for a great role-playing game to show up on the Virtual Console then your wait is over, because Sega has finally given us Phantasy Star II. Oh, and GameTap has a couple of crazy arcade games worth checking out. It's a solid week all around, and you can go ahead and read all about it right now when you check out Retro Round-Up ...

Ninja Gaiden III: Ancient Ship of Doom
What Is It?
Do you remember when Ninja Gaiden was a fresh series that the gaming world couldn't stop talking about? It was an incredibly exciting (and hard) action game that featured crazy bosses, an interesting story and some of the best cinemas of any 8-bit NES game. And do you remember how excited people were for Ninja Gaiden II? Well, this is Ninja Gaiden III, and sadly nobody was as excited about this game as they were for the first two. The problem with this game is that you've already seen just about everything there is to see with the first two Ninja Gaiden games, this one feels like nothing more than a lame expansion pack with a few new levels (some of which look awfully similar to levels from the first two games). What's more, the story this time around isn't nearly as interesting as the first two games. Not that the first two games were exactly Citizen Kane in the plot department, but the idea of having an intricate story with cinemas and unique characters was somewhat unique at the time. Unfortunately by the third game these stories were no longer unique, which is why it's hard to sit still every time Ryu Hayabusa says "...". Still, if you enjoyed the first two games you might as well check this one out, you won't get the same thrill from it, but it's nice to have the trilogy while you wait for Tecmo to unleash a brand new Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The action is perfectly acceptable, but the problem with this game is that it feels like we've done all this before. This third installment adds almost nothing new to the genre, which is a real shame given the pedigree of the first two games. The good news is that the bosses are interesting and the story can be fun in a cheesy kind of way, but this game just isn't as much fun to play as Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2.

Is It Worth The Money?
Die hard fans of the series have no doubt already picked this game up, so I doubt I'm really talking to those people with this review. But if you're on the fence about paying $5 for this game, ask yourself if you really need another game that is exactly like the other two Ninja Gaiden games. If you already own those titles then you might want to save your money (perhaps buy Ninja Spirit instead), but if you can't get enough of Ryu's exploits then by all means you should check this game out.

Phantasy Star II
What Is It?
While Nintendo always had the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest) franchises, Sega had the equally impressive Phantasy Star II. Although only a few people ever played the original Phantasy Star (which was released just over twenty years ago on the Sega Master System), it is still considered one of the best looking 8-bit games of all time. This sequel, while not as visually impressive, is also an impressive tour de force. While every other role-playing game was set in some fantastical past with swords and dragons, Phantasy Star was a sci-fi RPG full of cool technology and a futuristic story. Outside of the refreshing change of scenery, Phantasy Star II also features strong female characters, some of the most complicated dungeon maps of all time and an epic story that goes beyond anything Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior was doing at the time. While Phantasy Star II was significantly more popular than the original Master System game, chances are most of the Wii-owning gamers probably never had a chance to play it. If that describes you then this is your chance to check out one of the best adventure games of all time, a genuine classic that, although archaic in a few places, still holds up remarkably well. And better yet, unlike the original Genesis cartridge, this Virtual Console game doesn't come with a 112 page walk-through book that takes all of the fun out of the game.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Looking back at this 20 year old game it's easy to see things that haven't held up well, including the extreme difficulty, the boring random battles and the fact that every fight takes place on a strange holodeck-style grid. The biggest problem is that the game is unforgiving, so much so that the first few hours of the game aren't any fun at all. I found myself sticking close to the town trying to level myself up, only because I knew if I walked too far away I would be clobbered by a monster I couldn't defeat. If you can get over the early difficulty problems you will find this to be an incredibly rewarding game with a great story, but not everybody is going to make it that far.

Is It Worth The Money?
So here we go again, this is yet another amazing Genesis game that would be worth the $8 ... if it wasn't for the fact that you could buy this game (along with Phantasy Star III and IV) in the Sega Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 2 and PSP. If you buy that set then Phantasy Star II would cost you less than a dollar, not $8. But unlike Sonic the Hedgehog or other games that are on both the Virtual Console and Sega Genesis Collection, this one is actually worth the money. If you don't own a PSP or PS2 then you might as well spend the $8 on this game, you'll definitely get your money's worth. Bravo Sega or finally bringing some of the better RPGs to the Wii, now they are free to skip past the awful Phantasy Star III and go right to Phantasy Star IV.

This Week in Game Tap
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:

Lunar Rescue (Arcade)
Even if you don't remember the name, chances are you've played this classic arcade game before. If not then the concept is extremely simple, you play a space ship that is tasked with rescuing a bunch of people from the moon. In order to do that you fly down to the planet (dodging aliens along the way), land on one of the multi-point landing strips and then fly back up to the hovering space station. This all sounds easy, but those blasted aliens keep getting in the way and making this experience a lot harder than it looks. But don't worry, you'll get the hang of it in no time and find yourself having just as much fun today with it as you did almost thirty years ago.

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 (Arcade)
Before I even start this review I have to say that the name Prehistoric Isle in 1930 is one of the best names ever. I just love how descriptive, yet vague it all seems. Thankfully this is a solid game, though it's nowhere near as cool as the name suggests. This bizarre SNK shooter actually has some interesting ideas, most of which include you shooting down dinosaurs with your Red Baron-style airplane. The shooting elements are nothing new, but the change of enemy, scenery and power-up does the genre a world of good. This is one game that is definitely worth checking out.





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