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. 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 return live with not one, but FOUR retro reviews! And what a diverse list it is, we take a look at Alex Kidd in Shinobi World for the Master System, the NES version of Princess Tomato in Salad Kingdom, Sonic & Knuckles for the Genesis and Ghoul Patrol for the Super NES. That's four games for four systems! The good news is that more than half of them are worth downloading; the bad news is that you'll have to read another episode of the Retro Round-Up to figure out which one to avoid!
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
What Is It?
I've always had mixed feelings about Alex Kidd. While I have enjoyed a few of his adventures, none of them are as memorable as most other classic platformers. Let's face reality here, there's a reason everybody remembers Sonic the Hedgehog and not Alex Kidd. He's a fairly bland character who exists in a world with terrible art direction and no sense of style. But for one game Alex Kidd becomes the hero I have always wanted. Well, actually, he becomes the hero of another, better Sega franchise. This is Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, a mash up that combines the platforming action of Alex Kidd with the martial arts of Shinobi.
The good news is that these strange bedfellows make an incredible action game, easily the best of the Alex Kidd sequels. You play Alex the Ninja, a sword-carrying master of his domain. He fights through four different levels (each with two sub-levels and a Shinobi-influenced boss battle) using his sword and a powerful throwing device (which he can pick up throughout each level). It's like most platformers, only with more of a violent tint to it. With the possible exception of the swimming levels, most of the stages feel like they are straight out of a Shinobi game. Only instead of gritty graphics, everything has been redrawn to resemble a carefree platformer. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.
Does It Hold Up?
There are definitely moments in the game where I was acutely aware that this is an 8-bit Master System game. Beyond the graphics, some of the gameplay doesn't hold up well. The sword is too short and wall jumping can be a real nightmare sometimes. Still, the general platforming feels strong and once you get the hang of the controls you won't have too much trouble playing all the way through it. Even with an outdated control scheme, I would say that Alex Kidd in Shinobi World holds up surprisingly well.
Is It Worth the Money?
As a huge Shinobi fan, I was happy to see that Alex Kidd didn't make a mess of the place. The game is short and a bit on the easy side, but that shouldn't keep you from having a good time playing through this enjoyable platformer. Five dollars is not too much to ask for what turns out to be Alex Kidd's greatest adventure.
What Is It?
Last year I was surprised and delighted when Nintendo finally uploaded Zombies Ate My Neighbors, one of my all time favorite 16-bit action games. Although it's been months since I reviewed it, I have found myself going back to it several times a week, if only to collect everything and finally get around to beating this gem. Sadly it looks like my goal of finding everything will have to wait, because this week we get Ghoul Patrol, the spiritually successor to Zombies Ate My Neighbors. There may be fewer actual zombies and some of the action feels a little recycled this time around, but don't take that as a reason not to pick up this phenomenal follow-up to one of the best games of all time.
Ghoul Patrol stars a couple of witless characters who accidentally unleash a torrent of ghosts, giant insects, robot monsters, zombies and other ghoulies on the world. I hate it when that happens. Together they must rescue all of the civilians, beat back the bosses and find the exit to all of the increasingly difficult levels. The graphics and gameplay haven't changed much since Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but that shouldn't get in the way of navigating your way through the Gauntlet-style mazes that give each level personality. I'm still a little fuzzy on how a squirt gun can kill everything from a giant bug to a ghost, but I'm willing to go with it. Hopefully all of these recent Virtual Console uploads have prompted the license holder to consider making a Zombies Ate My Neighbors 3. If we can get another Rocket Knight Adventures, then why not this old school classic?
Does It Still Hold Up?
Ghoul Patrol is played from an overhead point of view, which works well for exploring the crazy levels and making your way through the mazes. Unfortunately, the perspective can make targeting and intense action sections a little tricky. The gameplay is fast and the controls are responsive, but there are a lot of times where I accidentally got hung up on a door or a table and sustained massive amounts of damage. Thankfully that isn't a deal breaker; it's just a minor complaint about an otherwise superb action game.
Is It Worth the Money?
There's a part of me that's a little disappointed that Ghoul Patrol isn't a more ambitious sequel. Don't get me wrong, I love the game, but in a lot of ways this just feels like an expansion pack. Still, at eight dollars it's hard to complain about more levels for an amazing game ... even if it's nothing more than an expansion. The challenge is still there and, like the first game, this makes for an incredible two-player experience. I doubt this game will rank as high on my list, but Ghoul Patrol is a worthwhile sequel to one of the greatest games currently available on the Virtual Console.
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