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… And it really doesn’t seem like long ago I was wondering when I could start calling this weekly feature “regular” but I’ve just realised we’re coming up on nearly a year of them!
Back to the present though, I’m about ready to call time on 19xx: The War Against Destiny, which, while I haven’t mentioned it here for a few weeks, I’ve now been playing for a couple of months inside Capcom Arcade Stadium on Nintendo Switch. I’m getting to the end in a reasonable number of credits, but nowhere near as few as I’d normally be ready to close an arcade shoot ‘em up on. For all the consistently impressive level design, some great set pieces and a lot of absolutely glorious sights and sounds, about a third of the game, preceding the last level, is just too much of a slog to make me want to spend long enough there to get properly better though. I mainly just didn’t click with the boss designs here – creatively repetitive but way harder now, often because I was struggling to even see some of their high-speed, low profile bullet patterns before they’d hit me. None of that is to say I haven’t enjoyed my time here though, and that jungle waterfall stage will never stop being both spectacular and exhilarating!
And another video… Unheard of! This time it’s a cool Show Time move from Darkstalkers, and I think it’s from the round preceding my first clear with Lilith on Vampire Savior 2: The Lord Of Vampire on the Capcom Fighting Collection on Switch, a couple of days after I did the same with her on its predecessor. Don’t know what it is about these scantily clad succubus characters…
I finished the absolutely marvellous 3D platformer Tinykin on Xbox Game Pass, though it’s really only more of the same as before to report. It’s how you want every game of this type to play, with almost zero frustration, second-nature controls, clear objectives and a logical path to completing them. About nine hours of absolute joy in summary, and probably a couple more to polish off everything.
I have had a quick go on a couple of other recent additions on Game Pass too… You Suck At Parking is like a top down racer but you only have to drive, drift and park through a series of themed levels full of quick and increasingly vindictive Trials meets Meat Boy parking challenges. Unfortunately I really want to like it more than I do, but while it plays well enough, the compelling try, fail, instant restart loop it’s so reliant on just isn’t grabbing me, and that’s so disappointing because it seemed to be right up my alley until I actually played it!
Next on Game Pass is Metal: Hellsinger, a fast-paced heavy metal rhythm-action first-person shooter, where your ability to shoot and reload on the beat will not only create more demonic destruction but also intensify the music, which features vocals from the likes of System of a Down, Arch Enemy, Lamb of God and Trivium. Despite the neat rhythm gimmick, it’s not exactly sophisticated, and it reminds me of Painkiller, a nearly 20-year old PC horror shooter, to look at, but that doesn’t stop it being loads of fun, at least in short bursts, and the soundtrack is fantastic, especially once you’ve built up enough momentum to force the vocals to kick-in.
Over on Switch, after last week’s Resident Evil Village cloud demo, which dropped at the recent Nintendo Direct, I finally got to a couple more cool demos from the show. First up, I had a good old go at the Harvestella Prologue Demo, for the brand new upcoming farming meets natural cataclysm RPG from Square Enix. There’s a lot of loading and a lot of cut-scenes as you do your best to explore a very-Switch fantasy world, making friends with the townsfolk, fighting enemies in dynamic combat and trying to unravel the mystery of the season of death, Quietus. Oh yeah, you need to tend your crops too! The demo gives you a generous couple of chapters in which at the very least you’ll quite probably get totally hooked on the farming and the fishing! The combat feels good, there’s a taste of an interesting character development system and everywhere is vibrant and occasionally really spectacular. Think this is out in November so I’ll be keeping an eye on it, even if I’m not desperate to drop £50 on it yet.
Not quite as brand new but still new to me, the last of my Direct demos was Sol Cresta Trial Version, the PlatinumGames shooter from earlier this year. It gets you to halfway through the first stage final boss in arcade mode and its middle boss in story mode, which is all good, but is it enough to get me off the fence and ready to follow-up my last experience of the series back in the late eighties? Not really, unfortunately! It’s enjoyable enough but not £36 enjoyable enough, when there’s a hundred other stone-cold classic shooters, old and new, on Switch for half or often a quarter of that price. In its defence, what it has got in its favour are some clever formation changing mechanics if you can get your head around them, and some very good looking moments too, even in this short demo, so at the very least I can recommend a download for that alone.
I actually also went back to its predecessor, Terra Cresta, because it’s been absolutely ages and I really did get into it when it first got ported to the ZX Spectrum in 1986! This really was peak Spectrum graphics at the time, with that super-smooth scrolling, richly textured iconic yellow and grey background, and I’d forgotten how good it sounds for a 48K Spectrum game too! It does deviate a bit from the arcade version, with the benefit of being slightly easier as a result, but all the same, this thing takes no prisoners! I guess there’s not a huge amount of variety once you’ve been playing for a bit, but it’s still a really fun vertical shooter and while it’s not quite up there with Light Force in my humble opinion, it’s definitely one of the best examples of the genre on the Spectrum.
Jumping forwards a generation, when my new old copy of Continental Circus arrived from eBay a couple of weeks ago, it was one step closer to the last of the handful of nice-to-haves still waiting to join my just about complete (as I always wanted it) Atari ST collection. While this arcade racer lacks some of the razzmatazz of the original, and for once a Quickshot joystick isn’t the ideal way to play, this really is a hell of a conversion! It more or less looks spot-on and moves great – possibly too great because I’m sure it ends up harder than the original as a result, and definitely more so than the Amiga version. It does share that version’s generous loading and start times to bring things back down to earth though! Everything else is all present and correct – the infuriating thunderstorms that only seem to affect your tyres and force you alone to change them, and the thrill of limping back to the pits after a crash before you’re consumed by flames, and all the tracks are familiar even if they are a little barebones at times. I did also just pick up Hydra on there last week, but I’ve just about had a chance to load it to make sure it works, so hopefully more ST action with that here soon!
And speaking of soon, next week we’re going to be covering our very first text adventure here as we discover Dick Turpin on the ZX Spectrum, which I’d never even heard of until recently but turned out to be a really pleasant surprise! That’s on Wednesday, and then on Friday we’re also looking ahead to the upcoming retro-related releases for November in our regular On the Retro Radar feature – there’s loads of stuff and all with trailers to watch too! And in case you missed it, this week we had a look at a Spectrum game I was very familiar with at the time, even if it was a bit overshadowed by another game, and that was Winter Sports. Hope you enjoy all of that, and see you again on Wednesday.