Time for our regular roundup of quick-fire reviews and impressions of everything under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown has been sitting unloved in my Xbox game library for far too long – in fact, I don’t think I’d ever even fired it up before, so I did, and then a happy accident happened… While I’ll normally take the, er, “bounciest” option when I’m starting out on any new fighting game, this time I got a bit button-happy in the menus and ended up choosing the oversized sumo guy, Taka-Arashi, by mistake on my very first character-select screen. Rather than more menus, though, I thought I’ll try him out, and then we really clicked – hell of a brutal fighting style! We even got to the end of the arcade mode together. I don’t know much about Virtua Fighter beyond the first one, but I think this was a final version of the fifth from 2012, after several refinements and additions to both previous Xbox 360 ports and the 2006 arcade original. It’s still a looker, with some really fluid animation and a weighty feel to everything, and it’s pretty welcoming too, though I’m sure there’s way more depth than I’ll ever see, however long I keep playing!

Other games I’ve finished this week include the Shadows of Rose DLC for Resident Evil Village on Xbox Series X, and I assume I’m still not allowing myself to nominate this as game of the year even if it is the best few hours I’ve had since the original game took that honour last year! Honestly, I’ve been so happy going back there, almost as much as I am every time I go back to Silent Hill, and it’s such a perfectly self-contained reminder of what a wonderful, detailed, decadent gothic world it is whilst bringing something new but still very Resident Evil to the party too. Which I’m not spoiling but it was such a good time that I’m tempted to do it all again right now!

Maybe next time I’ll have finished Prodeus too, a recent Game Pass treat that’s an all-retro FPS with a few modern flourishes. Think original Doom, Nukem, Wolfenstein and the like but with dynamic lighting, dynamic music and some really juicy body horror as swathes of demonic enemies explode into a gory mess, literally all over the screen. Apart from those flourishes it’s joyously old-school, with a really meaty arsenal of weaponry to pick up, brilliant movement mechanics and some really exhilarating level designs. Once you’re done with the campaign there’s online multiplier and a ton of user-designed levels to mess with too. Really nice surprise that once again justifies always trying pretty much everything when it appears on the service.

Over on the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2, I’ve finally at least now had a go on all of the sixty-one games! There’s more I want to come back to as a priority, but one I did spent a load of time with this week was Silpheed, a just-about vertical but kind of tilted 3D shoot ‘em up, originally for an obscure NEC 8-bit computer in 1986 then ported to Mega-CD in 1993. The original PC-8801 version apparently also used the 3D polygons and pseudo-3D view we have here, but this one adds pre-rendered FMV on top, as well as non-stop speech and some very cool music. The gameplay itself, revolving around terrorists taking over the solar system, might not be massively original, but it does have a pretty unique repair pick-up system that creates some really tense moments waiting for one to drop as you rapidly and inevitably approach death when things rapidly get pretty frantic! Of course, given the graphical style, what was once jaw-dropping is now looking a bit dated in places, but it’s full of some big-scale set pieces that still impress and overall there’s just so much colour and so much going on, as well as some really solid, addictive shooting, and I’ll definitely be playing this for a while.

I noticed Vampire Survivors had come out of early access on Steam a couple of weeks ago and finally spent a bit of time on the full release. I have been playing it on and off all year as new updates have been drip-fed, but what jumped out at me this time was the energetic, very Castlevania music now accompanying you, new weapons, new characters and maybe a bit more polish in general. Otherwise, it’s the same genius, simple, supernatural rogue-lite as it’s always been, with just you, your directional stick and collectible, selectable power-ups for the automatic weapon system against the overwhelming undead horde! By the way, it’s out on Game Pass this week too so will definitely be having a go over there soon!

Finally this week, The new Commodore 64 cartridge for Evercade, THEC64 Collection 1, arrived just too late to be included here last time. I know I’ve got most of the fourteen “classics” here umpteen times elsewhere, although not currently connected to the big TV like my Evercade VS is, and on top of that I still love the curation and subsequent discovery that these always offer, as well as owning them properly on a cartridge. Not sure I’ll be able to squeeze in a proper review of this one any time soon, but I’ve grabbed a pic of what’s on there here, and what I will do is mention a few highlights here as I delve into it over the next couple of weeks, and for this week there’s only one place to start… Winter Games!

Winter Games is not only my favourite C64 game but also sits inside my top twenty games of all-time. And I have nothing new to say about it except I love having another reason to play it! It’s alpine sports by Epyx in 1985, and while it did come out elsewhere, including on a cassette for my own ZX Spectrum at the time, this always was and always will be the place to play it! It’s just so atmospheric. And was there ever a better looking set of trees in any game? Anyway, you’ve got hot-dog (stunt ski jump), biathlon, bobsled, ski jump and two doses of skating, which all adds up to one of the finest multiplayer games I’ve ever played. So simple by today’s standards too, built as it is around eight directions and a single button. Probably why I’m still relatively good at it…

We’ll end it on that high this time, but don’t forget another epic appeared at Retro Arcadia last Wednesday, for the second one in a row, when we looked at every single one of the twenty-four games on Midway Arcade Treasures for PS2, in spite of some very weirdly locked aspect ratios! And next Wednesday be sure to look out for some one-on-one 3D fighting action on PS1 and the wonderful (but definitely not Star Wars!) Star Gladiator. See you then!