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… This one’s taking us up to a full year’s worth of these too, so I’ll try and make it a good one!
I’m going to kick off with a follow-up on some cool news from last week when Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo got a whole suite of colourblind options in the new Capcom Fighting Collection update for Nintendo Switch and elsewhere I guess. And it not only means I can actually play this one properly now, but it’s opened up a whole tile-matching puzzle genre that’s been mostly inaccessible since my brother had Columns on his Sega Game Gear! It’s really good too! I love the comedic nods to Street Fighter and Darkstalkers (especially my beloved Morrigan!), and it’s clever chain reaction mechanics, and it’s got a nice soundtrack, and is generally hopelessly addictive! Well done Capcom!
Speaking of addictive, I’ve been sucked right back into Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun, also on Switch, thanks to a few new songs that dropped, not that I ever need much of an excuse, and as much as I’ve loved playing the new Xbox game that arrived earlier this year, nothing beats using my real drum controller for this one. It’s an all-time favourite, and it’s madcap, ultra-Japanese drum-action will never fail to put a smile on my face, especially when I’m scoring a normal difficulty perfect for the first time this week – all good notes hit, none okay, none bad. Which is also none bad!
I like to play through Super Castlevania IV on the SNES at least once a year, but this time I ended up playing Bloodlines instead, starting with the uncensored and slightly easier Japanese version, known there as Vampire Killer, on the Nintendo Switch Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Once I’d remembered how to make it through that I jumped over to the American version, also on the same compilation, and got to the end of that without too many problems using the allocated three credits. And finally I got to The New Generation, the censored and slower European release on the Mega Drive Mini, just to complete the circle. Not my favourite in the series whichever the version, but all of that over a weekend must mean it’s got something about it!
When we looked at ZX Spectrum brick-breaker Batty a while back, we also had a bit of a rundown on favourites in the genre because, contrary to popular contemporary belief, that free copy you got on Your Sinclair magazine really isn’t your favourite. Play it again now if you don’t believe me and see how you get on once you’re past the second screen! Anyway, after careful consideration I came up with Krakout on Commodore 64 as my own favourite take on Breakout, and after playing a bit of Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh with the Taito Egret II Mini paddle controller this week, I decided I’d rather be playing that, so another Mini, the C64 one, has been plugged in all week and I’ve just had a really nice time playing it. Krakout, by Gremlin Interactive in 1987, is a literal spin on the usual formula by having you bounce balls off your paddle onto the bricks and various nasties from sideways on, either left or right depending on your preference, though if your preference is left then you’re some kind of pervert! It looks and sounds fine, but it’s just so well paced and controls great on a joystick rather than a paddle, which isn’t always the case with these, and is so hard to put down as a result!
GRID Legends on Xbox Game Pass has also really got its teeth into me, and I’ve got into the habit of a couple of races every night before bed. As mentioned here last week, I really didn’t get on with all the unnecessary razzmatazz around the racing in the beginning, but you’re soon able to skip all of that very easily, as well as all the crap in the menus along the top, and just focus on your career through masses of different race types on masses of different circuits in masses of different cars. The racing is more on the arcade side, but you do get into some really realistic battles and there’s always an unpredictably to the computer racers. One of the best-looking racing games I’ve ever seen too. Very glad I came back to it!
On a totally unrelated subject, I don’t like this escape room fad – nothing to do with being locked-up or trapped or anything like that though; it’s more about the type of people that seem to be into them – the same ones who drink craft beer, use beard oils and do those mud races! That’s why I only played Escape Academy because it was worth a load of points on Xbox Game Pass, and what do points make? Yes, £5 Microsoft Store vouchers that I forget are there until they’ve expired. Twice in a row. Anyway, the first stage was actually really good – work out the clues to unlock the next bit of puzzle and the next set of clues and so on until you’ve got a key and you’re out. All very logical and surprisingly enjoyable. But then you open the door and escape to this enormous room with more rooms off to the side, all full of clues but no clue where to start and I really couldn’t be bothered with that. Don’t like escape rooms!
What I do like the big Nintendo eShop sale that just happened, and among a few other things I haven’t really had a fair shake at yet was the Mega Man Zero / ZX Legacy Collection, which I’ve had on my wish list since it came out, just waiting for it to drop to half price at £12.49! Actually, while I was waiting for a sale because that was inevitable in the footsteps of all the other Mega Man collections on Switch, it was more about fancying to play through another one of these again, this time including Mega Man Zero, 2, 3 and 4, all originally for Game Boy Advance, and Mega Man ZX and ZX Advent which I think were for Nintendo DS. As well as all of the games as originally intended, there’s a a new kind of time attack mode, a casual mode and the only modern convenience I’ve gone for so far, an optional save-assist feature that adds slightly more friendly checkpointing to proceedings.
I’ve also only really sunk any time into Mega Man Zero as yet too, which is set a hundred years after the Mega Man X games, although Mega Man Zero himself was actually intended as the original Mega Man design! It’s all pretty much familiar territory either way, even though this particular branch of the series is the only one I’ve never played before. I wasn’t keen on the default controls, and the mission structure isn’t always that intuitive, but apart from this it feels great, with the difficulty pitched just right and some real highlight boss encounters too – I’d forgotten what a genuine joy learning those things are! There’s also a neat grading system at the end of every level, based on speed, kills and some kind of damage-done measure for a bit more longevity, though with all these other games here still to play that won’t be a problem anytime soon!
That’s going to do us for this week. I’d like to say we’ll be back for a proper birthday special next week, but it will, no doubt, just be more of the same, and that’s fine because that’s why we’re here! Anyway, before that, next Wednesday we’re not only finally discovering the very distinctive Gryphon on Commodore 64, but also the April 1985 issue of Computer & Video Games magazine where I originally discovered it! And in case you missed it last Wednesday, don’t forget to check out a deeper-dive than you ever thought possible on a 1983 handheld, Grandstand’s BMX Flyer. See you next time!