Retro Round-up for March 27


posted 3/27/2009 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.

Remember all those weeks when I only had one or two games to review? Well, those days are long gone (at least this week). We started out the week strong with two solid Virtual Console games, and then by Wednesday Nintendo had announced another FOUR Virtual Console games. And not just any Virtual Console games, but the first four arcade games. Talk about a surprise. But the real question is, how good are these six Virtual Console releases? Find out now when you read a super-sized version of the Retro Round-Up!

Bomberman '94 (Virtual Console/700 Points)
What Is It?
Bomberman '94 was one of Hudson's final games on the TurboDuo, and easily one of the best Bomberman games ever assembled. In fact, some are willing to go as far as to say that this is the best Bomberman game ever, if not one of the greatest games of all time. I come down somewhere in the middle. This is definitely a great retelling of the Bomberman formula, but at the same time it adds a few gimmicks that I'm not a huge fan of. For one thing, the game adds dinosaurs, which, in my opinion, don't add enough to the already fun gameplay. The good news is that we get a bunch of fun worlds to play through, including a prehistoric world, a horror-themed world and the mandatory ice world. It gives us five-player action, a bunch of cool multiplayer options and all sorts of good, traditional Bomberman action.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Without a doubt. Bomberman '94 is definitely one of the best Bomberman games, and the birth place of the modern "white" design. You will probably notice a few options that don't make a lot of sense in this 21st century world we find ourselves in, but Bomberman '94 still holds up surprisingly well.

Is It Worth the Money?
If you already own Bomberman '93 on the Virtual Console then you may want to think twice about throwing down another $7. However, even then, I say go for it. It's been a couple of years since Bomberman '93 hit the console (contrary to its misleading name), so it won't be like you're buying one game right after the other. Plus, it definitely has a lot of new gameplay tweaks and options to play around with. If you have a bunch of friends and love Bomberman, then this updated version is a no-brainer.


Detana!! TwinBee (Virtual Console/700 Points)
What Is It?

While we all know and love Gradius, American gamers aren't nearly as well versed in Konami's other big 2D shooter franchises. For example, how many people can name one of the Salamander sequels? And is TwinBee a horizontal or vertical game? Well, it's a vertical game, and a damn good one at that. Detana!! TwinBee (yes, that's how it's spelled) is a whimsical shooter, full of colorful graphics and fun music. This PC Engine import is fun and full of energy, even if we've been here before in many other Virtual Console shooters. The real difference in this game is the audio, which, at the time, was a considerable improvement over the previous TwinBee games. Unfortunately that's not much of a selling point 18 years later, but that was the big push for the game back in 1991.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is fine. The graphics are fine. The levels are fine. But the music ... well, let's just pit it this way, it's hard to believe that this music was such a big deal two decades ago. It's not that the audio is bad, it's just not the reason I would have bought this game.

Is It Worth the Money?
Assuming you're not tired of the endless stream of 2D shooters, Detana!! TwinBee is a fantastic game you likely haven't played before. The gameplay is good and the graphics are colorful and fun, but the real joy is in its light-hearted sense of humor. Unfortunately this is not the best version of the game available. Fans of Konami shooters should be on the lookout for the import TwinBee compilation. There you will find an arcade-perfect port, along with slew of other must-own games.


Gaplus (Virtual Console/500 Points)
What Is It?
Talk about trying to confuse the market, at one point in our history Gaplus was known as two different names in the U.S. When it was first released it was known as Gaplus, but then later Namco released it as Galaga 3. And now here it is on the Virtual Console Arcade, simply known as Gaplus. They could have easily resolved this problem by calling it Galaga 3: Gaplus (or the inverted - Gaplus: Galaga 3). But no, Namco had to confuse everybody. Well, I'm not confused about this wondeful 2D shooter. Previously released in Namco's horrible Wii compilation, Namco Museum Remix, Gaplus proved that adding a dash of speed can really improve an old classic shooter. This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest 2D shooters ever made, and you should play it if only to see where modern shooters come from.

Does It Still Hold Up?
It may not have amazing detailed backgrounds or varied power-ups, but it is fast and a lot of fun. The controls feel right and it's nice to finally see real arcade games hit the Virtual Console (and not just those lame NES ports). The game does hold up, though just barely.

Is It Worth the Money?
When it comes right down to it the better deal is the Namco Museum Remix, which you can find for $20 these days. However, most of the games on that compilation aren't worth the money, and the 3D versions of the game are so bad that it undermines the whole disc. So, I say, buy the best game out of that collection on the Virtual Console Arcade for just a few bucks. Even if you're not a huge fan of classic shooters, Gaplus will be the one that changes your mind.


Mappy (Virtual Console/500 Points)
What Is It?
Cat haters unite, because Mappy is here. Taking after Mighty Mouse and Danger Mouse, Mappy is a crime fighting mouse that runs through the house trying to collect stolen items. Along the way he'll have to deal with a bunch of different cats (mewkies) and big bosses. The gameplay is simple enough, it's basically side-scrolling maze game, where you run from floor to floor opening doors, dodging cats and picking up the stolen stash. This is one of Namco's most popular arcade games, so it shouldn't surprise anybody to see the company to lead with this game. Still, Mappy's antics aren't for everybody and the gameplay can get a little repetitive.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay is a little stiff and the ultimate goal gets old quickly. There is fun to be had in Mappy, but I found myself getting bored after only a few levels.

Is It Worth the Money?
Remember how I just said that Gaplus was also on the terrible Namco Museum Remix? Well, so is Mappy. Unfortunately Mappy isn't nearly as good as Gaplus, so it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend this arcade release. That's not to say that you won't have some fun with it, but the repetitive platforming gameplay gets old quick and competing for high score isn't as much fun in this type of game. It's also worth noting that unlike Gaplus, Mappy has been on every Namco collection under the sun, so it shouldn't be hard to find this game for cheaper elsewhere.


Star Force (Virtual Console/500 Points)
What Is It?
Star Force is, that's right, yet another overhead 2D shooter. That makes this the third 2D shooter I've talked about in five games. Talk about overkill. Look, I have nothing against 2D shooters, but I can think of a few other classic arcade games you could upload to the Virtual Console to add some much needed variety. For example, where's Strider? Or what about Toy Pop? Heck, I would settle for a horizontal shooter. But alas, Star Force is yet another 1980s overhead shooter. As vertical shooters go, this one is pretty standard. The game features two levels of power-ups and a bunch of been-there/done-that levels. It's not a bad game, but with so many other vertical shooters hogging the light this week, it's hard for Star Force to set itself apart from the crowd.

Does It Still Hold Up?

The gameplay is extremely simple and you've seen all of these levels before. Then again, the gameplay is solid and there's a reason why the levels are familiar, they are mainstays of the genre. My gut tells me that the game does not hold up, while my mind says it does. It's really very confusing.

Is It Worth the Money?
While I have fond memories of Star Force, this shooter just isn't on the same level as Gaplus or TwinBee. I do like the price point; I think that $5 is reasonable for this type of game. There are a lot of good thrills in this download, but not enough for me to recommend it.

Star Force

The Tower of Druaga (Virtual Console/500 Points)
What Is It?
When it comes to the Virtual Console Arcade, most of the titles so far have been extremely predictable. I can certainly understand Mappy and Gaplus, and even Star Force makes sense ... but The Tower of Druaga? This forgotten gem plays similar to Gauntlet and other early dungeon crawlers. You play a hero who has to fight his way through a 60 story tower. Needless to say, that's a lot of walking. To do this he will need to navigate mazes to collect keys, all while battling bad guys and not getting lost. Interestingly enough, The Tower of Druaga isn't as rare as you might think. You can find the game on a lot of Namco collections, including ones for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS. The Tower of Druaga's overhead gameplay and maze levels sets this game apart from the rest, and, if you don't get tired of going through maze after maze, proves to be one of the better Arcade titles. It's not for everybody, but The Tower of Druaga is definitely a fun maze game.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The hacking and slashing portions of the game have been done better in newer games, but outside of that I would say that this game holds up remarkably well. The graphics are simplistic and there isn't much to the gameplay, but it is still fun in short doses.

Is It Worth the Money?

The price is right for this often ignored classic. The Tower of Druaga works as both a good action game and a fun mind game, since you're constantly forcing yourself to remember the path you took. My one complaint is that they chose to upload this version instead of the superior TurboGrafx-16 port. If you can get over that, you'll find that this is a solid maze game with a whole bunch of levels. This one is definitely worth your $5.


This Week in Xbox Live Arcade

Now that you've had your fill of the Virtual Console, maybe it's time to check out This Week in Xbox Live Arcade. This is the part of our show where we take a look at the brand new Xbox Live Arcade titles, and then review them using our unique POINT/COUNTERPOINT style. In these reviews I will make a solid point about a game, and then I will argue the other side just to confuse everything. What do I really think about this week's Xbox Live Arcade game? I guess you'll never know. Instead you get what has to be the single least useful review ever posted on this website. This week we have Uno Rush, the "sequel" to 2006's breakout hit, Uno.

Uno Rush (Xbox Live Arcade/800 Microsoft Points)
POINT: Boy do I love Uno. Over the last couple of years I must have put thousands of hours into that little game, loving every second of it. And it was cheap. Boy was it cheap. The five dollar asking price was perfect. It really was a must-own game for the Xbox Live Arcade, and it is still one of the best deals out there. That's why I'm so excited about Uno Rush, the "sequel" that tries to capitalize on the original's success. For the most part it's outstanding, offering fast gameplay and a few gameplay tweaks you don't get in the original Uno. If you love card games, then you can't ignore Uno Rush.

COUNTERPOINT: Wait a second ... ten bucks for Uno Rush? If anything this should have been a cheapy expansion pack you download for the original $5 Uno. The original game was successful because it managed to combine the fun of Uno with a price point that people couldn't resist. But not this game. This game thinks that it's good enough to be twice the price of the original, no doubt playing off of the first game's success. They think they can raise the price just because the first game was so successful? Well, I say no. Don't buy Uno Rush. This should have been a downloadable extra, not a $10 title.

Uno Rush