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 dabbling with it handheld last week, I decided I wanted to have a proper run at 19xx: The War Against Destiny from the first Capcom Arcade Stadium on Nintendo Switch, and on a big TV with a big arcade stick! Just to recap, it’s a 1995 vertically scrolling successor to my old favourite 1942, set at the outbreak of a fictional 20th century world war that’s about to go nuclear. Beautiful graphics, decent soundtrack and a great learning curve to lead you through some very impressive set pieces and increasingly cruel and massive bosses. So far I’ve been experimenting with the three planes on offer, getting a feel for their movement and where their hit boxes are, and slowly working out bullet behaviour, and all of that is always my favourite bit of getting to grips with a new shoot ‘em up. I’ll report back on further progress next time!
I decided I wouldn’t keep going on about Darkstalkers on the Capcom Fighting Collection on Switch, but I don’t share many videos so I thought I’d make an exception! I’ve been playing the fifth instalment, 1997’s Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampire, which, like its predecessor, isn’t so much a new instalment as a character substitution; we went into all that nonsense when we looked at the third in the series (and genuine new instalment), Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire, if you’re interested. Anyway, I’ve gone back to my old favourite character, Morrigan, and while I haven’t quite seen the end with her in this version yet, I did land a very nice EX Finish on the Egyptian guy! I really, really love this thing but I will give it a rest here from now onwards unless there’s something new to say!
Midnight Wanderers is part of Three Wonders, the arcade compendium that came with Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium as a preorder bonus for the aforementioned Capcom Fighting Collection. We did have a first look here a few weeks ago, but now I’ve been back and I’ve got it finished in a reasonable enough number of credits. Beautiful run and gun platformer that plays great in the main; there were a couple of bits in the last couple of levels (of which there’s five) that went a bit over the top on enemy density, but overall this was a really cool few hours, especially for a freebie!
Chariot is the second of the compendium, and is presented as a sequel to Midnight Wanderers, but this time it’s a horizontal shoot ‘em up! It starts out okay, and throughout there seems to be some good boss fights, but unfortunately it’s mostly built on assets from the first game that are way more suited to platforming, and then midway through stage two you realise it’s already dragging and there’s just no motivation to learn to beat the rapidly escalating challenge. Worth a play if you’ve got it until you’re bored though. And in the unlikely event you’re wondering, the third game in the compendium, Don’t Pull, is a Pengo rip-off arcade puzzler where you’re pushing boxes at stuff. I don’t really like it, and unlike any Darkstalkers games, I can definitely promise I won’t be boring you with that here in the future!
This week we had a record-breaking review of the Taito Egret II Mini and all forty games on the beautiful thing, and next week we’ll look at the ten more that come with the Paddle and Trackball Expansion Set, but it’s not been all work and no play, and there’s a couple of games I’ve really spent some time with now! I’ve been chomping at the bit to get at legendary side-scrolling shooter Darius Gaiden on here since it was announced – a game I’m sure could be my series favourite by now had I simply played as much of it as I have its successor, G-Darius. Apart from a cool new mini-boss capture mechanic, I think it feels like a more traditional affair than that, which does it no harm at all, and puts even more focus on its spectacular psychedelic vistas and unsettling soundtrack. Controls brilliantly with this arcade stick, and is as rewarding as it is challenging. I imagine it might still be hanging around next week too, so I’ll move on!
A few weeks ago here we ended up on a tour of the home conversions of The Legend of Kage, and I even finished the very cool ZX Spectrum port, but there’s nothing like playing the original with an arcade stick, and the Egret II Mini has us covered for both! It’s hack and slash and jump really high in Feudal Japan from 1985 (although it feels later than that) as your ninja tries to rescue his kidnapped princess girlfriend. The original is way tougher than any conversion but also has way more to offer in return, with a variety of very evocative and interactive scenery to use to your advantage as you dual-wield short swords and chuck throwing stars at the mass of opposing ninjas and their bosses. The constant motion, the mixing up of weapons for defence as well as attack and the crazy mid-air battles with a load of enemies at once that you might find yourself in thanks to your mad jumping skills make this a unique treat even today!
From tabletop to handheld, and with a bit more of a vintage too – 1983, in fact! Yes, it’s my eBay holy grail, finally in my hands after several years of failing to win those all too rare auctions for a decent unit at a decent price… It’s BMX Flyer by Grandstand! My brother owned this at the time and we both played it to death -possibly literally – when it either broke or went into a box and never came out or something more sinister. It hasn’t re-emerged since whatever happened, but this new acquisition is pretty much perfect, and apart from where it looks like a label was torn off at some point, so is the box, which was a nice bonus. Its iconic mid-sized unit houses one of the best looking and most innovative games of the period, with incredible “Lasercolour” detail and intuitive variety in its pioneering auto-running endless bike chase. Stunning to this day, and I can’t believe it never got a conversion when these things were all the rage on mobile a few years ago!
After all that ancient history, we’re finishing right up to date again with Madden NFL 23, and the ten hour trial that’s recently come to Xbox Game Pass. Like last year, I still don’t think this is all that when it comes to graphics, and I didn’t really gel with the (optional) new passing system, but it still plays a fun if not totally realistic game of American football, whether you’re playing rookie or pro, arcade or sim or anywhere in-between. The opening is the real highlight though, with a full young Madden versus old Madden all-star team matchup, as well as a ton of background and tributes to the sadly recently-deceased legend behind the game. As usual, ten hours will do me fine until the rest catches up on Game Pass in a few months, but I will admit my resistance came closer to cracking than ever before this year!
That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out that huge Taito Egret II Mini review if you haven’t already, and as mentioned earlier, we’ll be following it up with a look at its paddle and trackball controller, as well as all ten games that come with it. Bit different to the last paddle controller I used with a game called Pong a very long time ago, but we’ll see how it stacks up against that next Thursday. And before that, on Tuesday, as it will just about be the end of the month by then, we’ll take our regular look at upcoming retro-related releases for September. See you then!