Retro Round-up for February 27

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posted 2/27/2009 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 don't get one Virtual Console game. In fact, we don't even get two Virtual Console games. Instead we get a whopping THREE Virtual Console games, which means that this is the first time since November of last year that we've had more than one Virtual Console game released in a week. Better yet, the three games are all from the Commodore 64, marking its triumphant introduction onto Nintendo's retro service. Find out what I think of these three games (and their pricing) when you read another exciting episode of the Retro Round-Up!

A Few Words About the Commodore 64
This week Nintendo genuinely surprised me. After spending the last two years complaining about their lackluster Wii titles and shift in focus to the so-called "casual" market, I found myself speechless when they announced that they were uploading not one, not two, but THREE games to the Virtual Console. I was even more amazed when I discovered that these games represented the first Commodore 64 titles on Nintendo's retro game service.

In full disclosure, the Commodore 64 was my very first game-playing machine. After some convincing, my parents finally gave into the idea that the C64 was more than just a console that would rot your brain - it was also a computer. It was because of this beast that I found my love for games, and thanks to my dad's love for a certain golf game, we quickly upgraded to a Nintendo Entertainment System, Genesis, Super NES and so on.

But while I still love and admire the Commodore 64, I realize that it has its shortcomings. After all, it's a computer that was released in the early 1980s, long before companies like Nintendo, Konami and Capcom redefined what a video game was. The C64's games are simple, almost always to a fault. Sure they are fun, but most aren't anywhere near the quality of what you can find on the Nintendo 64, Sega Master System, Neo Geo or any of the other game-playing machines on the Virtual Console. Understand that going into these (and all future) Commodore 64 reviews. If you're okay with paying five dollars for what is essentially a limited gaming experience that is nowhere near up to the standards of the other game systems, but I am not one of those people. Considering that five dollars is the cost of an NES game, there's no way that Commodore 64 gamers should be forced to spend that kind of dough. I'm not sure what the proper pricing structure should be, but I assure you that we're going to be spending a lot of time talking about Virtual Console pricing as Nintendo decides to upload C64 games.

International Karate (Virtual Console/C64/$5)
What Is It?
Mere days after Capcom released the Street Fighter IV, Nintendo decided that International Karate would be worth uploading. Not Street Fighter 2010 or Street Fighter Alpha, but International Karate. Huh? Even if you ignore the unfortunate timing, International Karate is NOT a good fighting game. But does that surprise you? It's a one on one fighter released six years before Street Fighter II. Throw in some crummy graphics, bad gameplay and some of the worst music on the Virtual Console, and you have a fighting game completely worth avoiding.

Does It Still Hold Up?
No. The game features crummy graphics, a lack of detail and, sadly, a terrible control scheme. For whatever reason you pull off moves by holding the attack button and pushing the direction you want to attack. This control scheme isn't just archaic, it's unplayable. And did I mention that you can't even turn around? It's true. That is just one of the thousands of reasons why International Karate doesn't work in a post-Street Fighter II world.

Is It Worth the Money?
Even if this game was only a buck, it's still not worth downloading. It's hard to believe how far fighting games have come in the last 23 years. With games like Soul Calibur IV and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, it's hard to even consider this a fighting game. For one thing, there aren't a bunch of characters. Nor are there any moves to learn. And that background you see when you first turn your game on? Yeah, you better get used to it. All this spells out a disastrously shallow experience, and that's just one of the many reasons why you shouldn't spend five dollars on this terrible game.

IK

The Last Ninja (Virtual Console/C64/$5)
What Is It?
The Last Ninja could have been a must-own game for the Commodore 64. It has good graphics (for the time), a compelling plotline and more depth than just about any other game on the platform. It could have been so good ... but then you play it and realize what a disaster The Last Ninja actually is. For one thing, the game is at a strange angle, so you are forced to push the diagonals on the D-pad. Another problem is the game's combat, which is hard to control and unresponsive. If you can get over these control issues you'll find a game worth playing. There is a lot to love about The Last Ninja, but it's marred by its terrible controls.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Using the diagonals on the D-pad is a pain, but not completely unique to the Virtual Console. You'll remember that I reviewed (and loved) Landstalker on the Genesis. The difference here is the combat, which is every bit as bad as what was found in International Karate. If you can't control the game, then it really doesn't matter how good this game looks or how deep the story is.

Is It Worth the Money?
I'm on the fence with this game. I was able to overcome the crummy controls and have fun, but that doesn't mean that everybody will. There are definitely things to like about this game, and of all of the C64 games released this week, The Last Ninja is the one most worth the five dollar asking price. Still, this twenty year old action game just isn't good enough to give a full recommendation. So you should definitely take a second to think before you decide to spend the Nintendo Points on this compelling title.

last ninja


Pit Stop II (Virtual Console/C64/$5)
What Is It?
Pit Stop II is a surprisingly fun "3D" racing game for one or two players. The game features six different tracks, plus a number of game-changing options. Of course, anybody who has played Rad Racer or Final Lap Twin will already know what's going on, this is as basic as a "3D" racing game can get. Still, the six tracks are fun and you can have a lot of fun playing with a second player. Just keep in mind that the fun will be over quickly.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is basic and the graphics are (understandably) bad. If you can get over that, you'll find that the two-player split-screen mode is solid and there are a surprising amount of options. Clearly this game is not going to hold up next to the Burnouts and Gran Turismos of this world, but then again those games aren't five bucks.

Is It Worth the Money?
While I'm certainly not going to recommend this game, I can't say it's bad, either. Pit Stop II does an excellent job at handling a two-player racing game, and that's all you can ask for. But there aren't enough tracks to keep you coming back for more, and there's no way this limited experience is worth $5. It's not bad, but not worth your money.

pitstop2


This Week in Xbox Live Arcade
It's time once again for the least helpful Xbox Live Arcade review on the internet. That's right, it's Point/Counterpoint, the show where I argue both sides and you decide who is right. Or maybe neither is right. The truth is, this review is a complete waste of time and you'll never actually learn anything about this week's release. That being said, check out my takes on Exit 2 by Taito!

Exit 2 (Xbox Live Arcade/$10)
POINT:
Oh my gawd, I loved the original Exit!! In fact, I was such a big fan, that I imported the PSP sequel. And then when I couldn't get enough of that I decided to check out Exit DS for the Nintendo DS. I just can't get enough, and I'm sure this Xbox Live Arcade sequel will be just as much fun. And it's only $10, that's way cheaper than importing the PSP sequel.

COUNTERPOINT:
Well don't get too excited, champ. Most of the "improvements" found in this game are from that PSP game you already own. And let's be honest, this so-called sequel is nothing more than a level pack. Sure it gives you a bunch of new levels and disasters, but they aren't all that different from what we had in the last game. Anybody looking for a brand new experience will likely be disappointed by Exit 2.

Exit2


Last Week in GameTap
Welcome to Last Week in GameTap, the show that is officially taking the spot of This Week in GameTap. Fans of this weekly show have no doubt noticed that we I haven't been reviewing the various GameTap games each week, and there's a good reason for that. It used to be that GameTap would send me the updates a day or two before their Thursday release, but thanks to a PR switch at GameTap, this is no longer the case. Instead I get the PR announcements long after I need to write this article.

Because of this switch I have thought about dropping the This Week in GameTap section altogether. However, over the last few weeks I've been inundated with tons of emails from fans wanting their weekly haikus. I can't let those people down, so I have decided to resurrect the section. Sadly these updates will no longer be current, but you'll still get your haiku reviews, and isn't that what matters?

Titan Quest
Got this game for free.
It looks like a lot of fun.
Maybe I will now.

Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition*
Sounds like a mixed drink.
Except for the mucho macho part.
That sounds like gay porn.

*This game is no longer free, but was last week!

Gametap