Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…
After finishing definite game of the year contender Citizen Sleeper on Game Pass last week, I jumped to another on there that took my fancy when it came out a couple of months ago, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. Very whimsical aesthetic and pretty lighthearted to play too, with you out to get shot of your huge tax debt and generally bring down the corrupt vegetable government by exploring, puzzling and slashing your way through a load of dungeons that resemble the pile of soft-back Munch Bunch books I use to have (think fruity Mr Men), but maybe with a bit more menace! Less than three hours, not as cute as it makes out and really excellent, so give it a go!
Favourite racing game is a far more complicated favourite than most for me, and is very much dependent on a number of criteria… Does it matter what you’re racing? If not, then it’s SSX 3 on PS2. If it does though, then what about top-down racers because that would make it Super Sprint. Doesn’t count? Then what about Out Run? Not strictly speaking, a race? Just to be safe, there’s no question about Virtua Racing’s credentials, so I’ll stick on that! I don’t mention it in our weekly chats very often, but I do still have a quick game most days, and this week I’ve really got stuck into the definitive Switch version’s 20-lap endurance Grand-Prix modes on all three of its perfectly designed courses. However, back in regular mode, I’m also rather pleased with myself for a new record time, after 70+ hours of play, on my favourite of them, Big Forest. And that time is 3.13.36 if anyone is interested!
Something else I do every week that I try not to bore everyone else with is try out a few shoot ‘em ups I’ve never played before. For example, this week I looked at Cyvern, which has the instant potential to become a real favourite but I’ve not played enough of yet, and Raiden Fighters 2: Operation Hell Dive, which I have! It’s a vertical scroller by Seibu Kaihatsu in 1997, and seems to be more of the same of the first in the offshoot series, meaning regular Raiden turned up to eleven! The rave soundtrack says it all, and the whole thing is a thrill ride from the outset, with glorious chaos being thrown at you from all sides. I’ll be sticking around here for some time I think!
Jetpac is slightly less chaotic, but Raiden Fighters 2 will be doing well to stick around for a tenth of the time that this has! I’ve played more of the miraculous VIC-20 version over the years, but this week I’ve been playing the Rare Replay ZX Spectrum version on Xbox Series X… It’s the game it was made to play! Single screen, three platforms, three bits of rocket to assemble and some fuel to collect so you can fly it to the next. And a menagerie of aliens trying to stop you! Simple, timeless and endlessly addictive.
Together with Road Rash II, also on the Sega Mega Drive, Super Fantasy Zone is my definition of gaming comfort food. Whenever there’s football on the telly and I’ve got nothing better to do at half-time, it’s one of those two for fifteen minutes. And there’s the problem, because you don’t get any good at any shoot ‘em up fifteen minutes at a time, even when they look and sound as adorable as this one does! I’ll happily repeat the first stage a few times though, or even have a decent go at the stage two boss if I get a prolonged session on the go like I did this week! There are few shooters that feel as good as this to play, including Defender – which I also had a few goes on this week – from which this more or less evolved, though it’s a toss-up which one sounds better – one of gaming”s most iconic sound effects versus one of the Mega Drive’s finest soundtracks? Your choice!
I often tell anyone who’ll listen that I’m rubbish at games. It’s generally true too, but when I got to the end of Combat School again for the first time in a long time the other day, and then immediately did it again to optimise my score, I suddenly realised that I might, in fact, have a niche! Whether it’s this or Track & Field, Hyper Sports, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, Winter Games or Summer Challenge, I’m actually alright at these! That said, my firing range performance did see a very dramatic improvement when I switched to arcade, stick so maybe it’s not all in the wrist after all! Wonderful game, and one we’ll cover in way more detail here in a few weeks, when we’ll also question why you go through all that shooting training only to sent in to rescue the president totally unarmed in the very final section!
When we were doing the same for Shinobi here last week, I promised a whistle-stop tour of The Legend of Kage’s home conversions, so here goes! We’re talking side-scrolling hack and slash Japanese fantasy adventure from Taito in 1985. Beautiful game, and beautiful (albeit slightly too easy) ZX Spectrum port, which I also finished last week and is how we ended up here! Anyway, in the order I played them, Amstrad CPC is very sparse – one screen, one tree, tiny sprites, but what it lacks in any graphical fidelity it more than makes up for with absolutely brutal difficulty backed by some very nice music. Brown ninjas? It can only be the Commodore 64 version next! Difficulty is toned down like the Spectrum’s, but it’s way slower and has some trademark blocky sprites with some terrible animation; still lots of fun though, and there’s a few nice tunes tucked away in there too!
I don’t even know where to begin with the MSX version! Okay, it’s admirable that they made an effort, but the jerky scrolling and everything flickering make it hard to play, and it makes the Spectrum’s colour choices seem almost sane… The weird giant blue trees from the arcade game do look right at home here though! Last one is NES, and this is the one! Feels great to play, looks great, mostly sounds great too when it’s not doing that shrill NES thing, and overall this must be one of the best arcade conversions on the system. Even better than the Soectrum! We have a winner, but just for completeness, I didn’t get the Sharp X1 version running, but check out a video if you can because the music is exquisite!
Finally this week, Game Pass saved me yet another £20 with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and day one too! Honestly not had a huge amount of gaming time since it came out on Thursday, but long enough to tell you that this is a beauty! Take the original arcade game, infuse everything the devs did with Streets of Rage 4, and you’ve got varied and very fluid combat against some gorgeous backdrops and an equally gorgeous soundtrack. There’s a story mode, arcade mode and multiplayer, and all your favourites are here and more besides, with a hefty dose of nostalgia, although even that doesn’t make me hesitate in saying that so far this is the best Ninja Turtles I’ve ever played!
And on that bombshell, that will do us for this week, but on Wednesday we’ll not only be discovering the dangerously beautiful Prehistoric Isle 2 arcade game, but there’s also a (slightly belated) bonus review of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on Nintendo Switch. See you there!