Retro Round-up

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posted 3/28/2008 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
Platforms: Multiple
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 is yet another disappointing week when it comes to retro releases. Unfortunately we only have two games to talk about this week, neither of which is worth your time or money. First up we have a rare 8-bit game from Square, King's Knight. And if that's not enough (and believe me, it's not) we also have the Genesis version of Speedball. Yeah, it's kind of a lame week.

King's Knight
What Is It?
In case you haven't noticed, Square doesn't seem too keen on supporting Nintendo's Virtual Console. Up until now they have only released one of their classic titles, the spectacular ActRaiser. In an attempt to prove that not every old school Square game is as good as Final Fantasy and Rad Racer, the company has decided to unload King's Knight, a weird 2D shooter that takes its influence from the role-playing universe. On paper this pairing of RPG and shoot-em-up sounds promising, I'm certainly not one to say no to a weird crossing of genres. But King's Knight takes the worst elements of both genres to make an action game that is not fun to play at all. The shooter elements are plagued by sluggish controls and a lack of depth. Oh sure, you can shoot through objects and make new paths, but that isn't nearly as cool as it sounds. On the flipside, the role-playing stuff is boiled down to nothing more than familiar adventure-y locations (villages, caves, forests, etc.). With a great story and worthwhile controls I can see something like King's Knight working, but this 19 year old action game just isn't worth your five dollars.

Does It Still Hold Up?
While I would argue that both Final Fantasy and 2D shoot-em-ups have held up surprisingly well over the years, this mash-up doesn't quite feel as fresh. The problem is that this game is taking some of the most outdated parts of these genres to create a game that feels instantly antiquated. Even if this wasn't the case, I still wouldn't be able to get past the sluggish control and boring gameplay.

Is It Worth the Money?
While the kneejerk reaction for some is to support Square when they release Virtual Console content, the truth is that this just isn't a very good game. It's interesting to look back at it (the Square touches are seen all over the game), but this is definitely not worth a full five dollars. It's worth playing for a few minutes, but you'll get bored long before you hit the five minute mark.

Speedball
What Is It?
Talk about hitting me out of nowhere, I definitely didn't see the Virtual Console hosting Speedball any time soon. But here it is, only five months after the release of Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe on the Xbox Live Arcade (see <a href="" target="blank"><b>my full review here</b></a>. In case you missed that Xbox Live Arcade game or have never owned an Amiga, Speedball is a futuristic sport where players run the ball to a goal while beating each other up along the way. On top of the fast and brutal nature of the sport, Speedball also offers power-ups and a few special moves that can really change up the experience. This Genesis version does a solid job of recreating this popular computer game, but it's hard not to notice the dark and grimy graphics. And for whatever reason, the control doesn't feel especially good in this version, not that the series has ever offered the amazing control. And while I'm spending time being negative, it's worth complaining about the lack of online play. Sure this is no different from any other Virtual Console games, but after being spoiled by Speedball 2's online modes it's hard to go back to a local one-on-one match. That's not a deal breaker, though. If you don't own an Xbox 360 this may be worth checking out, but there's no denying the lack of value this game offers.

Does It Still Hold Up?
Like all futuristic sports games, Speedball is a fast-paced action game full of big plays and over-the-top violence. Oddly enough, it's this aspect of the game that holds up the best. The control, graphics, music and everything else just doesn't feel right when compared to modern games. But there is still a lot of fun in here, and the relatively simple rule structure makes this game feel timeless. Having said that, you could do a lot better than Speedball on the Virtual Console.

Is It Worth the Money?
If you don't already own an Xbox 360 and you absolutely must have a version of Speedball, this is as good as any. But it's hard not to compare this shallow 16-bit game to the robust Xbox Live Arcade sequel. This is the kind of game that begs for online play, so the fact that you can only play locally is kind of a bummer. The controls are also not very good here, something that has been ironed out in later installments. All in all this isn't a terrible game, but there are better versions for almost the same price.





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