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 finally get a Neo Geo game worth buying. And that's not all, we also look at what makes Castlevania II so bad and why you should avoid Samurai Ghost. All that and a new GameTap game when you read this week's episode of the Retro Round-Up ...
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
What Is It?
Simon's Quest is the disastrous sequel to one of the greatest 2D side-scrolling action games of all time. This is the game that could have easily put a stake through Konami's franchise once and for all, but thankfully somebody was able to save the sinking ship with the release of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (which, sadly, we don't get this week). But before we're given the opportunity to enjoy an actual good Castlevania game, apparently we need to play through the rejects. On the surface Simon's Quest looks like all the other 8-bit Castlevania games, but if you look closer you'll see that this something far more sinister (and not in that good kind of way). For starters this Castlevania is not level-based; instead everything is connected together by forests and underground passages. While this works in some of the newer Castlevania games, here it's just a pain to get from one place to another. Worse yet is the fact that the towns people seem to go out of their way to give you wrong information. The biggest problem with Simon's Quest is that the puzzles are frustratingly random, and it's no fun to have to decide which townspeople are telling the truth and which are trying to send you in the wrong direction. Couple that with some terrible level designs, a control scheme that feels clunky by today's standards, relentless enemies and a complete lack of a coherent vision and you have one of the biggest disasters in video game history.
Does It Still Hold Up?
How can I possibly answer that, it never held up in the first place. Simon's Quest is a giant step back from the amazing original Castlevania, still one of the best games of all time. There are a few innovative ideas found in Simon's outing (such as an interesting clock that had both night and day enemies), but don't confuse innovation with quality.
Is It Worth The Money?
I know it's tempting to want to buy Castlevania II: Simon's Quest; after all, everybody has such fond memories of this franchise. But don't do it, don't put down money for Simon's Quest. It's always fun to reminisce about how great it was years ago, but Castlevania II is like that ugly girl you dated for a week that broke up with you and told everybody you were gay. You may have gotten her out of your life, but all it takes is a brief second to open the floodgates and remind you of how bad it used to be. I don't usually make judgment calls, but you're a sucker if you Simon's Quest (no pun intended).
What Is It?
Finally, a Neo Geo game worth buying on the Virtual Console! Magician Lord is one of the very first Neo Geo games released in the U.S. Chances are if you went to the arcades in the 1990s you probably saw this along with a half dozen other Neo Geo games all in one cabinet. But unlike Fatal Fury, World Heroes and Art of Fighting (three games released a couple weeks ago on the Virtual Console), Magician Lord is a 2D action game that has nothing to do with fighting. Oh, and it's actually pretty good. But be warned, Magician Lord may be a lot of things, but it's not easy. This is the kind of game where it's up to you to learn each level and understand where the enemies come from, that way you might actually stand a chance when trying to complete this epic action game. Thankfully you won't have to waste a thousand quarters trying to get to the end, instead you can buy this game for $9 and own it for life (or at least the life of the Wii). The game is full of interesting enemies and some pretty cool bosses, but the real charm is the character himself. Not only does this guy sport a fashionable blue witch outfit, but you can also turn into a crazy green samurai, Shinobi, or a dragon warrior. If that doesn't scream must-own nothing will. But all joking aside, Magician Lord is a great first-generation Neo Geo game and one a title you should seriously consider downloading on the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Let me just get one thing out of the way, despite the fact that I enjoy this game and am recommending it, I can't overlook how crummy Magician Lord's level designs are. I should also note that some of the gameplay mechanics are kind of sluggish and that every element of this game has been done better by some other 2D action game. Having said all that, I'm fully prepared to tell you to buy the game. Sure the game doesn't hold up as well as Gunstar Heroes or Landstalker, but it's a 2D action game that very few people have played ... and the sum of its parts can make up for a game that is lacking in some ways.
Is It Worth The Money?
While $9 may seem a bit steep, don't forget that the game cost $200 when it was first released back in 1991. And $200 from 16 years ago is actually more like $300 now (given inflation). I bet that $9 doesn't seem like too much money now, does it? Regardless of the cost, this is a solid title that is worth checking out. The game still looks good and it's fun to see early Neo Geo games that weren't Street Fighter clones. If you've been waiting for a Neo Geo game to buy on the Virtual Console, Magician Lord is the one to get.
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