Retro Round-up for September 13

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posted 9/14/2007 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. This week we have a crazy show lined up for you, including two different Sonic the Hedgehog games on two different systems! And that's not all; we also have a Zelda clone and a terribly outdated football title. And if that wasn't enough, we also check in with GameTap to see what they've uploaded on their servers! It's a packed show, so why sit here and read this boring intro paragraph, let's get on with the show ...
 
NES Play Action Football (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
It seems like just last week I was talking about how we never see sports games on the Virtual Console, and then all of a sudden Nintendo decides to upload NES Play Action Football. If I was a paranoid man I would think that Nintendo did it on purpose just to spite me. Either way, NES Play Action Football is one of those games that was impressive at one time, but just doesn't cut it by today's standards. When it was released 17 years ago it offered a brand new take on the popular sport, as well as real teams and real players. The game also offered some cheesy voice acting that we were all impressed with at the time. But looking at it now it's hard to see why anybody would be impressed with this boring, ugly and monotonous game of football. Unlike Tecmo Bowl, NES Play Action Football is played in a weird faux-3D isometric view, which actually makes the game a lot more challenging to play. For an 8-bit game, NES Play Action Football features a lot of moving parts, which was definitely cool back in the early 1990s. Unfortunately it's not cool any more, and I'm puzzled as to why Nintendo chose this as one of the games to upload this week.
 
Does It Hold Up?
The reason you don't see a lot of old school sports games on the Virtual Console (or Xbox Live Arcade, for that matter) is because they just don't hold up very well. While there are definitely exceptions to the rule (namely Tecmo Bowl), a large majority of these classic sports games are absolutely abysmal. NES Play Action Football is no exception, the controls are inadequate for what for they are trying to do, the camera angle makes it hard to actually play the game, and there aren't enough single-player modes to keep you going for much more than a game or two. While I certainly enjoy how simple the gameplay is, this style of football has been done better by many, many games over the last twenty years. It's not the graphics that bring this game down; it's how badly everything works together. No, this game does not hold up very well.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
Here's the other problem I have with buying sports games, since they come out every year the price of the older versions tends to drop substantially. I wouldn't be surprised if you could go out and buy a copy of last year's Madden for the Xbox 360 for the same price as NES Play Action Football. The problem here is that this game is not much fun by today's standards. Unlike Tecmo Bowl, NES Play Action Football isn't regarded as one of the great sports games of all time. Chances are you don't have much nostalgia for this game, so playing it now really won't do you much good. Not only are there better sports games out there, but there are better sports games on the Virtual Console.
 

 
Neutopia II (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
A few weeks ago we spoke of a classic TurboGrafx-16 game that looked and played almost exactly like The Legend of Zelda. That game was Neutopia, a breath of fresh air for NEC's forgotten system. Neutopia was released two years after that original Zelda clone, but despite the extra development time this half-assed sequel is just not as interesting as it was the first time around. The look and feel of Neutopia II are identical to the first game; the same items and interface are used; the same obstacles are placed in your path. It's almost as if the creators had taken all the same graphics and puzzles, put them in a bag, tossed it around and ... voila: Shake and Bake arcade adventure. The problem I have with this sequel is that it doesn't try to be anything more than a continuation of the 1989 game, which was essentially just a Zelda clone to begin with. It's as if the development team didn't even try to do something new or original, and that problem plagues this game from beginning to end. Had they waited a year or two perhaps they could have aped another Zelda game, such as A Link to the Past. But then again, had they waited another year or two there wouldn't have been much of an audience for a TurboGrafx-16 game.
 
Does It Hold Up?
Neutopia II holds up in much the same way the original held up. The gameplay is still good, but there's nothing new or original here to make me want to recommend it. If you already own the original Neutopia then you have basically played this game, there's really nothing unique about this experience. The gameplay and graphics may be exactly the same as they were before, but it's hard not to be disappointed that the developers couldn't have improved something about the game before shipping it to store. At the end of the day this is just a pale imitation of an imitation.
 
Is It Worth the Money?
While I strongly suggest every Zelda fan picks up the original Neutopia, there's really no reason to subject yourself to this disappointing sequel. There are so many better adventure games waiting to be downloaded on the Virtual Console. Go pick up Landstalker, it's a Zelda-style adventure that isn't a huge Zelda rip-off. Go check out Legend of Oasis. Both of those games are much better than what you will get if you buy Neutopia II.

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