February 2009 Archives
Top Virtual Console Picks for February — Ever Heard of the SuperGrafx?
28 February 2009 10:39 pm
This was a pretty tight month in terms of quantity and quality. Truth be told, Mercs just barely makes it onto the list. Though it’s a very solid run 'n gun in the style of Ikari Warriors, lack of co-op play is very disappointing. Fortunately, Sega compensates with an "original mode" in addition to the arcade port, effectively doubling play value. It’s definitely worth a download if you're a fan of the genre. The Last Ninja is also a bit of a debatable choice, since the even better sequels should be headed to the North American VC eventually. That said, The Last Ninja is very good and clearly the best of the initial three C64 releases for North America.  Double Dragon requires little explanation—it’s an honorable mention on the top 10 list for good reason. Despite many a port and sequel, including 16-bit varieties, the NES original amazingly wins out. Not too surprising, really, considering that Technos developed it.

Now we get to the really good stuff. Japan scored an entirely new console, the SuperGrafx, which redefined epic failure for hardware developers. Despite this, it launched with what is probably the most faithful console port of Ghouls 'N Ghosts ever. NEC Avenue did a masterful job reprogramming Capcom's arcade hit. The land of the Rising Sun was also treated to Tactics Ogre, one of the best tactical RPGs of the 16-bit era. It’s creator later joined Square and made Final Fantasy Tactics. And what would a VC update be without yet another shoot 'em up? I wasn't a huge fan of the early Gradius titles, but Life Force (a.k.a. Salamander) features major improvements: stages that scroll in different directions, better music, and even two-player co-op play. It's a must-download for the NES.

North America
North America
PAL Region & North America
The Mighty Commodore 64 Arrives on the North American Virtual Console
23 February 2009 7:35 pm

Nintendo is finally stepping it up on the Virtual Console, at least in North America, because today brings us three games for a most excellent computer system. The Commodore 64 was actually the best-selling personal computer during the mid-1980s. Hard to believe, when you look at the market today! Anyway, now we can enjoy the following:

International Karate
The Last Ninja
Pitstop II

All of the games are a pretty good deal, but one of them in particular stands out. Guess which one. The soundtrack, in particular, holds up extremely well today, featuring eleven different tracks of two- to five-minute length. It's an audio tour de force that you won't find for 500 Wii points anywhere else.

Why 8-Bit Music Rocks — Chip Tunes That Set the Tone Perfectly
19 February 2009 10:28 pm
Lots of people I know can't stand 8-bit music: my girlfriend, my sister, and numerous friends obsessed with the Xbox360. Maybe it's having grown up with both an NES and TurboGrafx-16 that makes me so prone to old school compositions. While often games of this era didn't have any music at all accompanying the title screen, it's incredible how the addition of a great musical score transforms your first impression and can draw you in immediately. Here are some of my favorite opening scores for TG-16 games. Click on any of the below to have a listen, and maybe—just maybe—you'll hear the same great sounds I do.
The Best Retro Compilation Ever — Perfection Was Within Reach...
16 February 2009 9:39 pm

I finally bought a game for my brother's Xbox 360 (it's also available for the PS3)—more like 49 games, really, when you include the unlockable arcade and Sega Master System titles. Why couldn't they just make it an even 50? Anyway, it has to be the best retro collection of games ever included on a disc, a ludicrously good deal for $30 that's sure to keep you playing for some time. You've got many more hours than dollars worth of value in just the four Phantasy Star games.

So far, I haven't found any areas where the emulation doesn't faithfully represent the original hardware. The graphics are not overly touched up, and thankfully they weren't stretched to fit widescreen TVs either. Each game has a simple in theme border to take up the extra space; for example Sonic has a blue gradient. Though many of the games were also included in the excellent Sega Genesis Collection for the PS2, the addition of the original Phantasy Star as well as the Streets of Rage and Shining Force trilogies are all great reasons to still pick up this new collection.

As good as this is, it could have been even better with a few adjustments. I would have loved online play and leaderboards to be included. Sonic & Knuckles is strangely dorked, unable to virtually serve as a pass-through cart for the Sonic trilogy. I also have to wonder why ToeJam & Earl didn't round out the list of classics. Finally, the arcade ports missed a few key gems, like After Burner and Out Run. An arcade perfect Golden Axe would have been nice, too.

Overall: 9/10
Monster Sega CD Update — From Arrakis to Waterdeep and Feudal Japan
12 February 2009 10:53 pm
While few people marvel at the Sega CD's game library, there are actually a surprisingly number of great titles, considering the console's short life span. Here we have two excellent PC ports of adventure games, one that takes place on a desert planet and the other on a not-so-deserted island. There's also an unusually good dungeon-crawler style RPG, a genre that's quite under-represented in cartridge form. And who doesn't love racing motorcycles while beating the crap out of other riders? This famous racer not one of those annoying slight upgrades of the cartridge, rather it's an all-new installment, similar to the 3DO version. You recognize this next game, because it's based on a famous movie starring the now Governor of California. Again, there's a cart out there with the same name, but the CD version stands on its own ground thanks to all-new levels and an awesome soundtrack. Finally, we have one of the best fighting games you can find on the Genesis. A different company, Funcom, handled the CD port of this Neo Geo classic, and once you learn to ignore the load times you'll be enjoying the most complete port of the era for this feudal Japan-based fighter.
One of the Best Ninja Games Ever — Revenge of Shinobi Review
11 February 2009 10:07 pm
About a week ago, I suddenly had this unbearable craving at work to play The Revenge of Shinobi. Why? Well, it was one of those games that I never quite finished back in the 16-bit era. I remember getting to the final boss, but I never managed to quite beat him. I've revisted the game, and while I still haven't quite finished it, I realized that it was more than worthy of a review. Enjoy!
Ode to Shmups — Thanks Hardcore Gaming 101!
8 February 2009 9:52 pm
Nothing original from me this time, I just want to highlight a rocking video available courtesy of one of my favorite video game websites.

HG101 Presents - Ode to Shmups from Frank Nicholson on Vimeo.
Nintendo Quietly Adds 11th System to Virtual Console — SuperGrafx!
7 February 2009 8:27 pm
Before you get too excited, let me confess that the SuperGrafx was the most short-lived console in the history of video games. In total, the SuperGrafx hardware took advantage of five different games. Yes, five. Half of ten. You have to give Nintendo credit, though, for stretching the Virtual Console to such obscure hardware. It's also fortunate that the best of these five games is the first—and considering the low quality of the other games might as well be the only—release: Dai Makai Mura (known outside of Japan as Ghouls 'N Ghosts). It's the classic creepy platformer as a near perfect arcade port. Japan-based gamers score yet again. The sceenshots below show Arthur sans armor, but that's only because I suck at this game. Maybe that's just as well, because I fear this VC title will remain stranded in Japan like the original...
Sega Master System Updated — There actually was a "competitor" to NES!
2 February 2009 10:01 pm
I've been neglecting the Sega Master System page for a while. The layout looked like crap, especially in Internet Explorer. But thanks to being sick (gotta find the silver lining in everything) I've had extra time, and the list has been totally reformatted for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
February 2009 Archives