Welcome to the Fointy Pinger Retro Special! This is a quick run down of some retro compilation games I've been having fun with recently. I've gave them all the usual FP mark out of ten, but the overall score takes into account the package as a whole, rather than the individual games. If you have any opinions of games of this type that you've played recently (I'm thinking Namco Museum 50th Anniversary/Capcom Classics Collection 2/Mega Drive Collection), why not send them to me and I'll upload them to this very page. Enjoy!
Developer: Capcom / Digital Eclipse
Release Date: 27/09/05
Few soft co's could compete with the quality of Capcom's arcade and home conversion output during the late 80's and early 90's. Similarly, this Capcom retro collection has so many classic coin-op's on its disk that there really aren't many others out there that offer such value for money. There's not much I need to say other than to reel off some names here, so let's do that.
All three Street Fighter II's are present and correct (though with some slightly annoying loading times in-between matches - but nothing as bad as Street Fighter Collection on the PSX), as well as the Ghosts 'n Goblins series (including a port of the classic Super Nintendo conversion) and 1942, 1943 and 1943 Kai. Then there's ace shooter's Mercs (excellent 3-or-2-player fun), Gun.Smoke, Commando and Legendary Wings. Forgotten Worlds is a weird and inventive side-scrolling shooter not to be missed, and legendary beat 'em up Final Fight is yet more 2-player aceness.
Problems? There's no 60Hz option unfortunately, and some games seem to be running (most notably Street Fighter II has some sound syncing issues) at a slightly faster pace than intended. But when there's so much quality on offer in Capcom Classic Collection, with decent emulation and options, save-able controls and unlockable artwork and secrets, there's little to complain about, really.
Eight out of ten
Release Date: 10/01/06
Sega Classics Collection is a collection of classic Sega games. Ahem. No, seriously this is actually a handful of spruced-up 3D titles from the Sega Ages 2500 range, previously Japan-only releases.
Racing games form the majority of things on offer, with the excellent updates of Outrun and V.R. being the standouts. Both of these are arguably worth the asking price alone - Outrun, with it's classic selection of music and bright graphics is particularly good; fast, difficult, it hides a challenge that's just as addictive as the original coin-op version. It's probably not surprising though, because it's again worth mentioning that these are just graphical updates after all. (Actually, V.R is all but identical to the arcade version, thankfully because no-one at Sega thought it necessary to improve those already-lovely chunky polygons).
There are some less than stellar additions amongst the good stuff though, notably awful versions of Golden Axe and Columns. Phantasy Zone offers fun for moments here and there, and the surprisingly charming super-charged update of Monaco GP has good replayability.
4-player puzzle game Tant R, Alien Syndrome and an excellent re-working of the classic futuristic blaster Space Harrier round off the package. Certainly worth picking up then, even if just for the arcade-perfect conversion of V.R., especially if you can spot it for a few pennies.
Six out of ten
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 1
Release Date: 10/01/06
Fans of Capcom's long-standing Megaman series will have had a resurgence of nostalgia and blood pressure back in 2004 thanks to Megaman Anniversary Collection (PS2/GCN), which contained the original 8 Megaman titles in one celebratory collection. It sold in huge numbers and prompted Capcom to release this compilation - a collection of (nearly) all of the Megaman "X" games.
Including X-X6 of the series, Megaman X Collection is as challenging and compulsive as any of the games from the previous package, but they benefit from some lovely spruced-up graphics, added storylines and dialogue and also a greater variety of gameplay. Megaman X and Megaman X3 remain some of the stronger games in the series, and the latter titles look particularly nice with some massive sprite work and 3D backgrounds. Thankfully, Capcom seem to have listened to the complaints levelled at the original collection, and features such as the inexplicably retarded button layout, lack of custom controls and save options have been pleasingly rectified. The emulation is also spot-on, so credit to Capcom is again due here.
The X games really do feel like the final evolution of the series' 20 year history. Despite (as ever) its crushing difficulty and also a distinct lack of unlockable content, it's definitely the most desirable Megaman collection there is. The omission of Megaman Soccer or a Megaman X7 or X8 is perhaps disappointing, but when the quality on offer is this high, there's very little to complain about. Although importing is the only way to get your hands on this one (even Megaman Anniversary Collection was a US-only release), these are 6 fantastic examples of some of the best 2D blasting action you're ever likely to find.
Seven out of ten
Release Date: 31/03/06
Now this is more like it. After the relative disappointment of Taito Legends, the companion compilation not only delivers better quality emulation and fully customisable controls, but the collection of games (nearly 40 of them) is arguably far more special as well. For a group of games worth well in excess of £400 if bought separately, Taito Legends 2 (at £20) is about the best value for money collection you're going to pick up for some time.
If you're a shooter fan, you're going to feel especially well looked-after with this retro package. With the likes of the superb Gekirindan, G Darius, Kiki KaiKai, Raystorm and a healthy selection of Space Invaders spin-offs, shooting action dominates the best titles on offer. There are some excellent 2-player beat-em-up's in the shape of Growl and Dungeon Magic and fantastic puzzling fun with Calmeltry and Puzzle Bobble 2 (the best in the PB series). Others such as Qix and Football Champ are thrown in for good measure, but unfortunately don't stand up as well as they once did.
Legends 2 convincingly demonstrates that great gameplay never dies. There are small problems with emulation on some of the games that the Xbox version doesn't have (mainly regarding auto-fire buttons). This and the fact there are different games between the PS2 and Xbox versions means the game just misses out on a higher score.
Finally, (because I almost forgot), I need to mention Taito Legends 2 includes Elevator Action Returns. Buy now.
Eight out of ten
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 14/10/05
Gems is the 'sequel' of sorts to the excellent Sonic Mega Collection compilation package that arrived on the GameCube in 2003.
You're only likely to be buying this game exclusively for the astounding Sonic CD, let's be honest. With Sonic R, Sonic The Fighters and a good handful of Game Gear Sonic games, there is plenty of variety on offer. The problem is, the non-Sonic CD games just aren't that great (or certainly not as great as we remember them). Sonic The Fighters is an arcade conversion with little depth and limited re-playability, and Sonic R is shown up again as the vacant and loose (albeit pretty) Saturn racer it was back in 1997. Several Game Gear Sonic games offer some genuine moments of fun, but why couldn't the Master System versions of Sonic 2 and Sonic and Tails 2 have appeared instead, which would have suited a television display much better? The inclusion of Vectorman and Bonanza Bros. are pleasing enough, but the addition of all three Bare Knuckle's is the second good reason you'll want to snap this up.
Sonic Mega Collection still offers the definitive selection of 2D Sonic games, but any fan without a Mega CD owes it to themself to pick this up. It's worth noting only the Japanese version contains the Bare Knuckle games (they are removed from the UK and US versions for classification reasons), so importing is really the only option if you don't have the original Streets Of Rage games, otherwise you're not really getting a great deal here. Oh, and of course PAL and US versions contain the shitty US-remixed Sonic CD soundtrack, so again: the Japanese version is essential.
So, take off three or four marks if you already own Sonic CD or a Bare Knunckle, then.
Seven out of ten
Release Date: 14/10/05
So, for just under 30 games for just under twenty pounds (that's just over 65p per game), I'd have to be quite cynical to moan about this compilation, right? But moan is what I'm going to do. A little bit.
First of all, the whole package is presented very nicely, with an intuitive layout and each game selectable from a spin-able menu, each containing hints and info about every game. The omission of customisable controls is lazy, but forgivable; the lack of PS1 stick support less so, (especially considering a lot of players will be used to playing these titles with a stick or lightgun in arcades), but what matters the most is that there are at least half a dozen stone solid classics on this package. Bubble Bobble and Space Invaders remain my absolute favourites, and the likes of New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands and Continental Circus provide excellent stop-gaps between them. With Elevator Action, Phoenix, Plump Plop and Exzisus also beginning to eat away at my time, there are plenty of hidden nuggets thrown in here: you get your money's worth that's for sure.
But why on earth does the emulation appear so poor? There's a distinct and all-too apparent blurry-ness on all of these games. The sprites are blurred and faded with no sharpness or clarity. I've no idea how long it takes to put these collections together, but if a company puts a lot of effort into the packaging and presentation of these "greatest hits" collections, surely the least you should expect is that the games themselves are up to the same standard? How much hassle is it to emulate games that are 15 or 20 years old on 128bit hardware? How much hassle is it to put the game on a DVD, instead of a constantly whirring, fan-overheating, disk-tray destroying CD?
The news that a sequel to Legends (already available as Taito Memories Gekan/Joukan in Japan) is to arrive next year (complete with the brilliant Darius and Hat-Trick Hero) seems to be another slap across the cheek just for good measure. Look beyond the problems though, and you still have a cheap and diverse range of excellent software from one of gaming's past giants, which delights and frustrates in equal measure.
Six out of ten
Release Date: 10/09/04
This is quite old (over a year now), but definitely worth tracking down. The game's "extras" and the general presentation of this collection is laughably piss-poor, especially compared to Taito Legends. The video interviews look like they've been ripped straight off the net, (probably files named "jarvis_defender_low.mpg" - you get the idea), and then slapped straight onto the disk, even though none of them sound clear or synch up to the video.
However, the games themselves, I cannot argue with. There's a lot of quality here, so where to start? Robotron: 2084, Defender, Marble Madness, Smash TV and Sinistar are primarily where it's at, with Joust, Super Sprint and Gauntlet providing some extra throwaway thrills. And they all play, sound and look superb. I love Robotron and Defender, even though I'm pretty useless at both. The controls work well for the majority of the games; Marble Madness is suited fairly well to the analogue stick in absence of a track ball, whereas the dual analogue setup of the PS2 pad again works favourably for Robotron and Smash TV. The flimsy-ness of the sticks is sometimes a little bit frustrating in games which require accuracy and quick reflexes, and although custom controls and PS1 arcade stick support are included, Midway Arcade Treasures can't truly emulate the two-stick or wheel setup required for a lot of the games in this disk.
But what is there, is gold. Smooth, crisp graphics, good (although sometimes varying) sound quality and a healthy array of ever-playable classics with a good smattering of options. Buy this, if only for Robotron and Defender. It's got to be worth it.
Seven out of ten
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Release Date: 30/08/05
Namco celebrated their anniversary in 2005, fifty years since the company first began running children's amusement rides on the rooftop of a department store in Yokohama. Half a century later, and the company remains one of the biggest and most successful videogame developers of all time, with a rich back-catalogue of quality titles spanning over 25 years.
The console versions of Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (due out in the UK in early 2006) contain nearly triple the amount of games found in this GBA collection. Dig-Dug, Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Rally X and Galaga are all well and good, but it would have been nice to have squeezed a few more into the cart, especially considering most of these games have already appeared on GBA in the original Namco Museum and the excellent Pac-Man Collection.
Still, with Galaga and Ms. Pac Man on the same cart, there's always going to be lots of fun found here. The conversions (or rather re-workings) are faultless, all looking and sounding great with some handy screen-option features for the Pac Man games. A save feature would have been nice for high scores, and overall this doesn't warrant a purchase if you have already played Namco Museum on GBA. Altogether better value for money might be found waiting in the 14-game PS2 version.
Five out of ten