This Week in Defunct Games 32
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
. Nintendo is just adding new consoles left and right on the Virtual Console. Last week it was the Neo Geo, and this week it appears to be the TurboDuo. Thankfully this week's selections are a lot better than what we had to play through last week, so get that credit card ready because you're about to spend some money on games like Gates of Thunder, Metal Marines and Ninja Gaiden II. But don't worry, this week we also look at two games that are free. So get that bad taste out of your mouth from last week and get ready for another episode of the Retro Round-Up ...
Gates of Thunder
What Is It?
Gates of Thunder is one of the two best 2D shooters on the TurboDuo (the other being the amazing Lords of Thunder). And that's not all, Gates of Thunder is also the first CD-based TurboGrafx-16 game released on the Virtual Console, a cause, as far as I'm concerned, to celebrate. Believe it or not, Gates of Thunder was actually a pack-in game for the TurboDuo, NEC/TTI's combination TurboGrafx-16, CD-ROM and Super System Card game system released in 1992. Like so many other TurboGrafx games of that era, Gates of Thunder was a 2D shooter with a lot of style, some cool power-ups and (literally) more enemies than you could shoot at. Gates of Thunder's claim to fame has nothing to do with its originality, though, it has more to do with the rocking soundtrack that sounds good even today. If you've played a lot of the 2D shooters already available on the Virtual Console then chances are you're going to notice a couple of things that make this game stand out, such as the highly polished graphics and the fact that the game is fast. I mean, this game is eye-blistering fast. Put it all together and you have a great game with a lot of style and replay, which is probably why many regard it as one of the best shooters on the TurboDuo. Thankfully time has been kind, because Gates of Thunder proves to be one of the very best (if not the best) shooter on the Virtual Console.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Like most 2D shooters from that era, Gates of Thunder proves to be a timeless exercise in fun video gaming. While the gameplay is similar to that of most other shooters on the Virtual Console, the look and style of the game is completely different. The game also has some unique power-ups and enough bosses to keep you busy for the next few days. But even more than the bosses, power-ups and groovy style, this game is worth it just for the rocking soundtrack. No really, you've got to hear the game's rocking soundtrack!
Is It Worth The Money?
You better believe it is, of all the games released this week, Gates of Thunder is by far the best. I can certainly understand if you have shooter fatigue; after all, it seems like every other game released on the Virtual Console is a 2D shoot-em-up. But Gates of Thunder is different; it's one of the newest shooters and easily the best looking of the bunch. Best of all, it won't make you feel bad about also buying R-Type, Gradius and all of those other classic shooters you probably already own. After a few weeks of non-shooting action, isn't it about time Nintendo gives us another classic shooter to chew on? And thankfully they gave us one of the greatest 2D shooters of all time. The only thing they could do to top this would be to release Lords of Thunder.
What Is It?
When it comes to old school games I pride myself on having played just about everything, from the must-own titles to those games you don't wish on your worst enemies. But I'll admit to never playing Metal Marines, the weird real-time strategy game for the Super NES. Going into the game I was a bit skeptical that this game would hold its own (especially in a week filled with so many other amazing games), but I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had a lot of fun with this 1993 game. Released before Dune II and Command & Conquer, Metal Marines is a strange take on the real-time strategy genre. Instead of going out and doing all the combat, your main job in this game is to plan what you're going to do and make sure you place all of your units in the best possible locations. What sets this game apart from the rest of the crowd is that all of the combat is completely automated, so the entire challenge of the game comes from how you plan your assault. Not only is this a unique idea, but the way the game plays out feels more like a turn-based game than your standard action-packed real-time strategy game. But the difference is cool and worth playing. If you're one of those people who loves the real-time strategy genre but wants to see a completely different take on it, then Metal Marines is a great place to start.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The problem with most console RTS games is that they can never live up to their computer counterparts. This is mainly due to the console's game pad, which is just not capable of giving you the full control of a keyboard. But Metal Marines is different, it's not trying to be a computer real-time strategy game, it's something completely different ... in a good way. The concept is oddly intriguing, and even though the overall gameplay feels a bit dated, part of me wonders what it would be like if somebody took this idea and retrofitted it for the 21st century. It won't make you stop playing World in Conflict, but this is a solid game that has held up surprisingly well.
Is It Worth The Money?
The game is long and deep enough to warrant the full eight dollars, even if you're already playing more recent real-time strategy games. As I played through this forgotten gem I kept thinking that this would be the perfect way to get the real-time strategy genre on handhelds, especially when it comes to the touch sensitive Nintendo DS. The concept could use some tweaking, but the idea is sound and I had a lot of fun playing through this bizarre RTS game.
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