Here we are again 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…. Plenty of dodgy old photos of dodgy old screens this week too!
No dodgy screens for this one now though! I’ve not spent a huge amount of time with any of this yet but was over the moon to be playing Tetris on my Switch just minutes after Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles were announced for Switch Online during the Nintendo Direct on Thursday! GBA games were actually the push I was waiting for to go for the Expansion Pass on the service, so expect more Nintendo 64 games here soon too; I know there’s also Mega Drive on there but we’re probably good on that already. Anyway, it’s been mostly Tetris and Mario Kart so far, as well as dabbling my way through everything else I’ve suddenly just got access to. And it’s wonderful!
Cyberpunk 2077 has been on the go since the start of December. On and off! I’m not a big fan of open-world games but every couple of years I forget about that and get sucked in to something like this. And I got it for my birthday last year so wanted to give it a chance. Eventually! Most of the famous bugs seem to be fixed now, although it still gets easily confused by doors! I think there’s always been a solid, well-acted story there regardless, and that’s what kept me coming back when actually playing the game started dragging about halfway through its twenty or so hours – there’s dozens more there but I only dabbled with a few of the hundreds of side-quests and won’t be going back for more. Very impressive and surprisingly varied world they’ve built all the same, a lot of which is now full of life and there’s even some occasionally jaw-dropping vistas to stop and admire too, as well as plenty of future-sleaze to appreciate! After all it’s been through it turned out alright. At least for as long as you forget you’re not a big fan of open-world games!
I think Ghost Song came out on Xbox Game Pass last year, and was one of several games sitting waiting on my hard drive I decided to try out once I was done with Cyberpunk. It’s classic indie 2D adventuring – you wake up on some distant, painfully atmospheric moon and embark upon a journey of self-discovery as you explore the ancient mysteries of its underground labyrinth. Or something like that! And as is usually the case with these things, for a while I was really impressed with its sumptuous graphics and tight platforming. The trouble is, from the outset I thought it was Hollow Knight meets Gris. And I think both of those are pretty much perfect, so therefore if I want to play anything like either of them then I should play either of them! Ghost Song seems pretty cool all the same but it’s just not a gap I need to fill any the moment. It did survive my cull way longer than Praetorian HD Remaster, For The King, Autonauts, Windbound and Gods Will Fall though, and for that alone if deserved a mention!
Stuff like Zaxxon or Desert Falcon rarely work out well for me – my eyes just aren’t wired diagonally! Viewpoint offers a similar viewpoint, although with less reliance on clumsy verticality I actually did okay with this one! It’s an isometric shoot ‘em up released by Sammy and SNK in 1992 for the Neo Geo MVS, which was then ported exclusively to the Sega Genesis in North America in 1994. It finally found its way to Europe and Japan on the Mega Drive Mini 2 last year, and that’s where I’ve been playing this week. First impressions weren’t good, with the first big flurry of bullets – obviously coming at you diagonally – being a repeated disaster. There was visible improvement each time though, just like the first boss when you eventually get there, and as mad as it’s going to drive you, it’s also impossible to put down! You just know you can beat where you currently are and get a bit further, and that a bit further will reward you with more visual vibrancy, more eclectic hip-hop sounds and more madcap enemies and obstacles. I’m reluctantly liking this Viewpoint!
After last week’s mini-odyssey into the series, I’ve still been Metal Slugging, but this time mostly Metal Slug Advance on Game Boy Advance. Quite the little marvel it is too, at least until you start hitting brick walls a few levels in! This one was an all-new entry in the series for the handheld in 2004, and the tried and trusted run and gun gameplay works great on there. There’s some new mechanics too, with a health bar replacing lives and a kind of RPG-system where you collect stat-boosting cards as you play. Lovely raucous soundtrack and some gorgeous, atmospheric and wildly detailed graphics, especially in the opening area, but it just gets so, so hard a couple of levels in. Okay, I’m not great at these, but there’s sometimes a bit too much that’s a bit too big to handle, especially when everything you just killed is respawning every time you retreat a bit. Great fun while it lasts though.
Nothing mini about my Sonic odyssey over the last couple of months, even if it has been a bit on the bland side of late! That’s mostly down to my recent foray into Sega Game Gear Sonics, first with Sonic Chaos a couple of weeks ago and now with its 1994 sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble. It’s very much the regular order of business for a 2D Sonic, with you protecting Chaos Emeralds from Dr Robotnik and a couple of sidekicks by running fast, jumping about and collecting rings. And it’s surprisingly good at what it does too, with far more in common with something like Sonic 3 on the Mega Drive than it’s handheld predecessor. There’s just nothing particularly memorable about it though, and not a huge amount of challenge either – technically impressive but hardly exhilarating, and unfortunately that’s the main thing I’m looking for… And I might have just found it in the aforementioned Sonic 3 on the Mega Drive, but I’ll save that for next time!
Last port of call this week is Gate of Thunder on PC-Engine CD, or, indeed, TurboGrafx CD, where it was actually the first game for that system in the new CD-ROM format released in North America. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up from Hudson Soft in 1992, and developed by former Thunder Force devs at Red Company, which is very much apparent in the weapon-switching gameplay as well as the overall polish and attention to detail. Similar nonsense storyline too, with your space cop called Hawk out to stop General Don Jingi and his Obellon armada from nicking a prized energy source from the planet Aries. As you can see at the top of the page, it’s very colourful, it’s full of life and full of movement with some very cool parallax effects on top, and there’s a great metal soundtrack to boot. It’s just a bit by the numbers and competent over thrilling though, lacking that magic of something like Thunder Force III or IV. It’s just as brutal though, and I don’t want to be too down on it because it’s a great shooter regardless and there’s a very slick opening cutscene too!
That’s going to be that then. In case you missed it the other day, be sure to check out our look at MotorPsycho on the Atari 7800, which is both more and less than the system’s answer to Enduro Racer but it does have some of the weirdest instructions you’ll ever see, even by Atari standards! There’s a bit of a tour of a few other 7800 highlights from my opening foray into the system too. And next Wednesday we’re going to discover Growl (or Runark if you prefer), the bonkers arcade beat “em up with a cause that I’ve been playing on Taito Egret Mini II and PlayStation 2. See you then!