Retro Round-up for July 18th

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posted 7/18/2008 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
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Every Friday GamingNexus takes a look at the best and worst in classic games; we call it the Retro Round-Up. Unfortunately this week the GamingNexus staff is in sunny Southern California attending the annual E3 Media & Business Summit. That means that nobody had a chance to check out this week's Virtual Console games. Heck, we're busy dealing with a trade show; I doubt we even know what the Virtual Console games are this week. But don't worry; GamingNexus isn't going to let you down. Instead we're bringing you a brand new feature that takes a look at six classic games that will never come to the Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade or GameTap. We decided to have a little fun and talk about a few games that we remember liking 20 years ago. Will these games hold up? Find out when we spend the next two pages taking a serious look at everything from Batman to Michael Jackson in a very special episode of Retro Round-Up: Do They Hold Up?

NOTE: These are not the Virtual Console games for the week of July 14; instead these are six random games that I remember liking 15 - 20 years ago. We will return to our regular programming next week.

Batman (NES/1989)
How I Remember It:
I remember being so excited about this game when it was released. Not only did it have this dark look to it (a rarity for an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System game), but it was based on a movie I was DYING to see. In retrospect I can see the error of my ways, but this SunSoft game was netting strong scores from the game critics and looked like it might be better than all those other movie cash-ins. And the critics weren't wrong, from what I remember. I don't remember specifics about the game, but I do know that I had more fun with Batman than I did any other 8-bit movie game. Then again, I was pretty into Batman at that time, so my memories may be a little skewed. Either way, this is definitely one of my favorite 8-bit games and I'm interested to see how it is now.

How It Is:

Why is Batman purple?? I know that this movie's soundtrack was done by Prince, but this is ridiculous. The first thing I noticed was that this game doesn't really follow the plot of the movie. The enemies just seems to be random (albeit heavily armed) gang members, and most of the bosses have nothing to do with Batman the movie, comic strip or TV show. If you can get over that you will find that this is an exciting action game. Unfortunately it suffers from a lot of problems that plague these 8-bit titles. The game is extremely difficult, often to the point of frustration. The controls are fine, but it's a shame that you are stuck with only one weapon at a time. Thankfully these are minor problems and Batman proves to be a spectacular movie-based game, even if it's only loosely based on the Tim Burton movie.

Does It Hold Up?
I was fully prepared to be disappointed by this game, but Batman for the NES impressed me. It may not have much in common with the movie of the same name, but as far as I can tell this is a solid 2D action game. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

Batman

Tengen Tetris (NES)
How I Remember It:
Everybody says that Tengen's version of Tetris was far superior to the Bullet-Proof Software/Nintendo version, but now with twenty years between us is that still the case? The truth is that I'm a huge Tetris fan. If it wasn't for the original X-COM, I would definitely say that Tetris is the best game of all time. Yet, it's been decades since I bothered to dust off my original copy and plug it into my 8-bit NES. I do remember this Tengen Tetris having a decidedly darker tone, using dark reds and browns. Or maybe it's the controversy surrounding it that makes me think that it was a darker game. After all, this is one of those games Nintendo doesn't even want to acknowledge. Could I just be taking that history and letting it color my opinion of the game? There's only one way to find out, and that involves me actually plugging the game in and seeing if it holds up twenty years later.

How It Is:
Apparently you can't go home again. Tengen's Tetris is a fantastic game, there's no doubt about it, but it's not what I'm used to. Obviously this is just personal opinion, but for the last twenty years I have been playing the Bullet Proof Software developed versions for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Are other people wrong to think that this Tengen game is better than what Nintendo put out? Not at all, they are both solid games, but you go with what you're used to. The good news is that the controls are solid, the colors don't get in the way and the music isn't half bad. Then again, the same thing could be said about the Game Boy version. No matter which version you go with you're going to get a great game of Tetris. And better yet, neither game adds any of the unnecessary crap that future installments offered. Tetris is at its best when it's just a simple puzzle game.

Does It Hold Up?
Of course Tetris holds up, it's one of the greatest games of all time. However, if you've been playing another version of the game, then you might want stick with that one. That's not to say that you won't have fun with this game, but it's different enough to be a bit off-putting. Tengen's Tetris is a great game, but the only real reason to buy this game now is to allow is because it's rare collectible.

Tengen

Duck Tales
(NES)
How I Remember It:
Duck Tales defies all common logic. Here is a game that is based one of Disney's daytime cartoon shows, yet Capcom was somehow able to turn it into one of the best games of the 8-bit era. At least, I remember it being one of the best games of that generation. The truth is, this is one of those games that gets a lot of praise, but I'm not sure how many people are actually out there playing it. From what I remember Duck Tales took the basic Mega Man formula and added a wacky story about Scrooge McDuck traveling around the world. I also remember that he had a cool pogo stick move that allowed him to reach higher locations by suing enemies as springboards. One of the reasons I remember so much of this game is because every level was completely different. Not only that, but the levels were memorable. It was fun to see all of the enemies turned into vampires in the Transylvania level, or fight gorillas in the jungle, or battle aliens up in space. At least I think you did all that. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I remember this being one of the best games on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

How It Is:
I was definitely right; Duck Tales truly is a fantastic game. The title is not without some problems, but it's easy to see why so many people rave about this game 18 years later. For one thing the gameplay mechanics are actually unique. You not only use your walking stick as a pogo stick, but you can also use it like a golf club and fire rocks and treasure chests at the enemies. Better yet, the levels are actually designed so that you can smack just about anything and it will do something, so you're constantly looking for secret areas and enemies you can kill just by using your walking stick from long distance. The game does have a few problems, though. The biggest problem is that it's not always easy to kill enemies, so you're going to have to suffer through a lot of cheap hits. The game is also surprisingly short, considerably shorter than other Capcom games of the era. Aside from those concerns, this is a fantastic game that everybody should play.

Does It Hold Up?
You better believe Duck Tales holds up. Reviewing this game is somewhat bittersweet, because every time I want to gush about it I'm reminded that it will never show up on the Virtual Console. Thankfully there are other ways to play it, so you should definitely track it down and check it out for yourself. We're going to review a lot of games in this show, but Duck Tales is without a doubt the best.

Duck Tales
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