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…
We begin with a bit of both, and the new Winters Expansion DLC for last year’s Retro Arcadia game of the year, Resident Evil Village. I’ve only had a quick go on the new third-person view for the main game so far, but the Shadows of Rose story content was the main reason for getting this. It’s the main game’s protagonist’s almost grown-up daughter back to close her family’s arc in a warped take on some familiar sights. Really nice bit of Resident Evil too, more supernatural than last time out and an enjoyable bit of a stretch as a result, but most of all being back in Castle Dimetrescu and its surrounds just felt like coming home. Not sure a bit of DLC will count in the next game of the year discussion, but it’s genuinely the best few hours I’ve had in any game this year too!
As always of late, a bit of pinball action to report, and this time we’re talking The Walking Dead for Pinball FX 3 on Switch, which cost literal pennies on top of my 48p credit a couple of weeks ago in an eShop sale. It’s an interesting table – way more so than the snooze-fest TV programme it’s based on – although at times it is almost as slow-paced! There’s a cool sniper mini-game and some really demanding missions to track down, and all of this combines to make it one of the more thoughtful tables on there, but still full of all the usual Zen Studios bells and whistles, even if they do occasionally get in the way of your flippers on this one.
I’m still rooting around on the Atari 7800 too, and this week I’ll mention it’s conversion of one of my oldest arcade favourites, Kung-Fu Master, all the way from 1984, although this game arrived five years later. First scrolling beat ‘em up? Arguably yes, but regardless you’re punching and kicking your way through an army of thugs, midgets and dragons in flowerpots to save your girlfriend at the top of the Game of Death-style building she’s being held in in. And what a great-looking building we’ve got here! Loads of detail in the backgrounds as well as the sprites, and some nice music too. Just plays a bit fast and floaty compared to the original, but as ports go (keeping in mind that one of the worst ever exists over on the ZX Spectrum for this) it’s not bad at all.
I’m also still working my way through the sixty-one games on the Mega Drive Mini 2, and as well as becoming quite the Sewer Shark connoisseur in the Mega-CD section (see last week’s episode for more!) I’ll pick out a couple more highlights from this week. I’ve never really been into Sonic the Hedgehog but discovering the Sonic CD version here has been a real treat! This one was originally from 1993, also for the Mega-CD, and is the familiar running and jumping and collecting rings, but this one also has a time travel feature which allows you to reach different versions of the different stages you experience. The graphics and the sound are superb, and the frantic, breathless pace is incredible! I might not have spent long enough playing this yet to convert me, but I have seen enough to get a lie of the land and can see a real appreciation developing for this game when I’m done with dabbling with everything else on here. By the way, apologies as always for the dodgy photos of my dodgy TV screen when I’m playing these things!
Next up on the new Mini, I’ll also mention Granada, a kind of multi-directional shoot ‘em up meets Gauntlet from 1990, with you in command of a futuristic tank on some really inventive sci-fi maps full of enemy mechs to take down. I thought it was totally new to me too, but I’ve played a load of this somewhere before, to the point I knew the first stage without even needing to consult my little radar thing. It was originally an X68000 game but I doubt it was there, so maybe on an old Mega Drive compilation? Regardless, it’s still a very polished affair, with all sorts of weapons and power ups and far more fluid control of your tank that you’d normally expect from tank controls! The enemies are varied (and sometimes impressively large), with challenging bosses and nice strategy afforded by the intricate, maze-like level designs and the power-ups they’re hiding. This one’s a real winner, and a nice surprise even if it wasn’t really one in the end – I’ll try harder next week though!
A proper shoot ‘em up now, and one I’m definitely already familiar with, Lords of Thunder, on the PC-Engine Mini this time; actually, there’s a Mega-CD version of this too, and while elements of it are a bit lame in comparison, that would have been a great inclusion on the Mega Drive Mini 2 too! Anyway, I’ve come and gone with this one a lot since I first got my favourite of all the Minis a couple of years ago, but never given it the extended play-time it really deserves before now… It’s a horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up that was actually released as an unofficial sequel to Gate of Thunder on the TurboDuo in 1993, which was the American version of the PC-Engine Duo, an all-in-one souped-up update of the original console and its CD-drive add-on. Hell of a showcase for it too, with a superb rock soundtrack and some serious fantasy visuals moving effortlessly at a serious whack. Decent game too, and a pretty welcoming one considering, with RPG elements adding a real one more go compulsion. Always a pleasure!
Diablo Immortal has been sitting untouched on my phone for months now, and I finally got fed up of its icon staring back at me! Firstly, it’s a great game of Diablo – tons of loot, tons of enemies and you feel like a boss mowing through them all. Oh yeah, there’s some cool bosses too! It also controls great on a phone screen, although I do have a bit of form with this kind of thing from a few years back and I’ve never had a problem with touch controls done well. It seems pretty generous with the free-to-play mechanics too, although I assume that will come to an end sooner or later, and it’s already clear you want to be in it for the multiplayer stuff to get the most out of it too, but until then I’m really enjoying this even if I am late to the party!
Last up this week, it might be missing bits and pieces from the 1980 arcade original, but Phoenix on Atari 2600 isn’t just arguably the system’s finest “Invader” type games, but there’s no argument it’s one of its best conversions too. You’ve got to get through four separate waves of Phoenix war birds, each with their own attack patterns and becoming increasingly hard to take down, and then you come face to face with a huge mothership which you need to keep chipping away at until you can get at its pilot before you loop again. The gameplay is still sublime, the big, colourful enemies still impressive and that sound will forever be as sinister as it comes! Top game!
Wow. Far too much time on my hands according to that lot. Didn’t seem like it at the time though! Will do us for this week though, but don’t forget to check out what was a bit of an epic deep-dive into one of my top ten games of all time, Gauntlet on the ZX Spectrum, from last Thursday, as well as our regular look at retro-interest releases for the month ahead from Tuesday’s On the Retro Radar. And next Wednesday be sure to look out for something else that has Gauntlet on it, together with 24 other arcade originals, when we look at every single one of them on Midway Arcade Treasures for PlayStation 2. See you then!
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