Retro Round up for January 9th

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posted 1/10/2010 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.

It's my first Retro Round-Up in several weeks, which means that I have a LOT of ground to cover. This week I look at six different Virtual Console games, including some genuine classics (Blaster Master, Earthworm Jim 2, Super Smash Bros.), a few slightly outdated gems (Pilotwings, Final Fight 3) and one stinker (Ninja Gaiden). The good news is that we have a ton of games to cover this week, the bad news is that you have to read another episode of the Retro Round-Up!

Blaster Master (Sunsoft/NES/$5)
What Is It?
Anybody who followed my weekly podcast, Cyril Reads Blaster Master, already knows that Blaster Master is the story of a boy who gets stuck in a giant underground world after chasing his pet frog. How or why Blaster Master became a big hit on the NES is anybody's guess, but it does manage to offer enough compelling gameplay options and levels to warrant a look. You play from two different perspectives - Blaster Master is a traditional 2D platformer when you're motoring around in the car, but the moment you step outside you are seeing things from an overhead point of view. After awhile the levels start to look the same and the bosses become predictable, but there's also a lot to like about the game. The game offers a cool story that is a lot more varied than I remember. If anything, Blaster Master proves that there are a lot of classic games ready to be uploaded to the Virtual Console.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The very first thing I noticed was how punishingly difficult Blaster Master was. I didn't remember the game being so hard when I was a kid, but sure enough I was constantly dying thanks to cheap hits and some frustrating level designs. The good news is that the controls are mostly accurate and I generally felt in control over my character (and his car). This game holds up, but I wouldn't mind seeing somebody go back and remake this in the way Capcom remade Bionic Command Rearmed.

Is It Worth the Money?
Blaster Master is absolutely worth your money. Even though the game ends up getting a little repetitive towards the final act, there's enough here to warrant the small five dollar price tag. I'm not sure Blaster Master is as good as I remember it being twenty years ago, but it's definitely a fun action/platformer that should have spawned more sequels. Hopefully this is a sign that somebody is thinking about rebooting the Blaster Master franchise.


Earthworm Jim 2 (Shiny/Genesis/$8)
What Is It?
Here we have Earthworm Jim's second (and final) 2D outing. Jim's beloved Princess What's-Her-Name is in trouble again, this time getting forced into an arranged marriage. All this is reason enough for Jim (and his brand new sidekick, Snott) to go halfway around the universe to save his one and true love. Of course, that means that you'll get into a lot of familiar battles all presented using 2D sprites and impressive animations. Thankfully Shiny hasn't forgotten the real star of the Earthworm Jim franchise - the sense of humor. Best of all, this sequel offers more diversity. You'll find yourself solving puzzles, navigating mazes and even racing for time. With memorable characters, solid gameplay mechanics and even more outrages jokes, it's impossible not to fall in love with Earthworm Jim 2.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Much like the first game, Earthworm Jim 2 features a fantastic control scheme that makes it easy to pull off a wide assortment of moves. Not only can you shoot in a bunch of different directions, you can now use your buddy Snott to help you get out of sticky situations. Best of all, the game retains the wicked sense of humor and even adds a few things to the gameplay, such as riding on small rodents. Even if it just feels like an expansion pack at times, Earthworm Jim 2 can still be enjoyed all these years later.

Is It Worth the Money?
Earthworm Jim 2 is easy to recommend, it has great graphics, easy gameplay and enough levels to make you feel like you are getting your money's worth. While there are a lot more things for you to do this time around, there are certainly moments when things don't feel especially fresh or original. The game spends a lot of time recycling things you did the first time around, which isn't such a bad thing when you see some of the new levels you get thrown into. I can't say that this sequel hits the impressive highs of the original, but it's also a solid 2D action game that is just weird enough to be worth your money.


Final Fight 3 (Capcom/Super NES/$8)
What Is It?
Talk about a missed opportunity. With 2010 upon us, it would have made sense for Nintendo to upload Capcom's classic (and timely) Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. Could there be a more appropriate choice for this new year? The good news is that even though we don't get Street Fighter 2010, we do get a Final Fight sequel. This is Final Fight 3, a game that singlehandedly makes up for the two disappointing installments on the Super NES. Instead of just giving us more of the same, Final Fight 3 adds a lot to the formula to become a spectacular 2D brawler. Unfortunately it has been criminally overlooked. It's easy to understand why gamers would be skeptical of this release; after all, Capcom managed to screw up both Final Fight and Final Fight 2, so why would they sudden get everything right? The truth is that it doesn't matter why they would get it right, just as long as they are capable of righting the sinking ship. Final Fight 3 finally adds some technique to the otherwise simplistic combat, allowing for some cool running attacks. Better yet, the game received some Street Fighter-influenced special moves, which really add to the depth of the gameplay. What's more, the graphics and music have been considerably improved this time around. I know it's hard to believe given Capcom's track record, but Final Fight 3 is easily one of the best 2D brawlers ever made. It gives you everything you wanted from the first two games, plus a few extras you never knew you wanted.

Does It Still Hold Up?
It's easy to dismiss the Final Fight series as nothing more than a bunch of button mashing, but Final Fight 3 gets it right. The controls are responsive, the levels are cool and you have a bevy of special moves at your disposal to take out your enemies. There's a lot more depth here than I expected, which is why this is easily the best of the Super NES Final Fight games.

Is It Worth the Money?
If you've been suckered into buying the other three Final Fight games (including Final Fight Guy), then I can understand being a bit hesitant about this game. But I assure you, Final Fight 3 is the version to own. It's two players, has loads of cool fights, the levels are spectacular, the graphics are strong and the gameplay is exactly what you've been wanting out of a Final Fight game. It may not be Street Fighter 2010, but Final Fight 3 is a great way to start out the new year.
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