We’re back 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…
As we ran long with everything on SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 on Nintendo Switch while I was away last week, I skipped some cool stuff I really want to mention now on the newly expanded Switch Online service and its Expansion Pass. Okay, I’m probably one of the few excited by a Game & Watch Gallery for Game Boy Colour (especially number three!) being included in the platform’s launch lineup here, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve played the Turtle Bridge handheld and this is a pretty good substitute! You’re controlling a “tourist” left and right to deliver items across a bridge made of turtles. Problem is, they can get distracted by the fish appearing beneath them and dive down after them, leaving a gap you can fall into, and that’s all too easy to do when you get more points for going faster. These compilations all include the original version and modern remixes, usually involving the Mario cast, but they’ve never really interested me. It’s all about the ludicrously addictive high score chasing I remember from forty-plus years ago! Quick note to say this one also includes Egg, Greenhouse, Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Jr. plus a load more to unlock too.
I’ve also just about got gold on every level of every grand prix on GBA Mario Kart: Super Circuit on there, and in reality at least 50% of my gaming time this week has been spent doing that, but I’ll save that for another time! Instead, let me tell you about the Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection for Switch, which my wife got me for Valentine’s Day! It’s got the original weapon-based fighter from 1993, Samurai Shodown II from 1994, Samurai Shodown III from 1995, Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa’s Revenge from 1996, a seven year gap until Samurai Shodown V in 2003 and Samurai Shodown V Special released the following year. Finally, if that wasn’t enough V, there’s the unreleased Samurai Shodown V Perfect, “a mysterious final version of Samurai Shodown V Special” which I think fixes a few gameplay niggles and adds some character backstory but got canned because no one told SNK it was coming when they were already busy with Samurai Shodown VI! It’s finally here though, as are both Japanese and English MVS arcade versions, loads of display options, save states and plenty of modes, but I’ve got to give a special mention to the Museum because it’s outstanding! Copious histories for every game and art for every character, developer interviews, all the soundtracks in a dedicated player, never seen before design documents and a load of pro-match videos as well. Incredible!
I normally like to dabble with everything on a collection before settling on an order of proper play but in this case, because it’s mostly all new to me, I’m going one by one, starting with the original Samurai Shodown. I’ll be sure to report back on the rest as I come to them though! This one finds us in 1788, where chaos is engulfing the world and a group of warriors are mysteriously drawn together to find its source. By way of a fighting tournament! Amazingly, this actually began life as a scrolling beat ‘em up but was reeled-in to become a stopgap fighter release between Fatal Fury and 3 Count Bout instead – told you the Museum was good! And the game turned out alright too! The weapon-based combat makes it a slightly more methodical affair than the average fighter, but that’s more than countered by the over the top violence on display. With just four buttons it’s easy to get your head around as you embark on a gauntlet of twelve opponents before a final boss, split up by mini-games, but of course there’s always more depth the more you put in, with some very cool specials and loads of variety across the characters. Loads of variety in the environments too, as well as life, with detail and fluid movement everywhere, supported by some absolutely wonderful sound effects and a decent soundtrack behind them. I know I said I’d get to the rest but I might be here a whole first. This is great!
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe landed this week, along with a demo (so don’t get too excited!), and it’s a new version of Kirby’s Adventure Wii, where, for just £50, up to four players can join Kirby and friends as they travel through Dream Land to help Magolor repair his crashed spaceship. You can also take a break from the adventure with returning sub-games such as Ninja Dojo and Samurai Kirby, and the all-new Magolor’s Tome Trackers. Sounds horrendous, but while Kirby has never been for me, I’ve really enjoyed playing the fairly generous demo! Not that I’ll ever buy it as a result, but it’s mega-polished, controls like a dream and appears to be full of ingenuity and, of course, those effortlessly intuitive sucking mechanics!
Away from the Switch and onto, er, PC, DoDonPachi is my favourite vertical shoot ‘em up but I’ve barely ever touched its 1995 predecessor, DonPachi. I’m pleased to report that’s no longer the case, although my colourblindness seems to have decided it was a fleeting experience! The first two levels were mostly okay once I’d worked out where stuff was generally coming from, and stage three was fine for the most part, which was for the best because this is where the difficulty ramps up and the bullets really start flying! Unfortunately the boss on that level is a different matter; the first two are pretty simple – stay in the middle and don’t panic – but this one is throwing bullets (including homing ones) all over the place and it was just too much for my dodgy eyes! To highlight the problem, I can barely see the word “continue” in the picture above, which is from as far as I got in this boss fight, and it’s the same colour as that mass of tiny, unpredictable bullets! And that means I’ll happily stick with the sequel!
Finally this week, not only a port of a pioneering arcade game from 1984 but also an all-time favourite one too, and that’s Pac-Land! It’s the original side-scrolling platformer, with Pac-Man returning fairies to the other side of Pac-Land through its various iconic environments, as well, of course, as avoiding its ghosts! The C64 port came in 1987, and while it’s probably the version I’ve played the least until now, it’s not a bad one at all! It’s been scaled down to sixteen levels and simplified in scope, so stuff like moving fire hydrants to find power-ups is gone, but it certainly looks and sounds the part, and it even scrolls, unlike its Spectrum counterpart! Really nice conversion, which is something you don’t say very often on this machine! Joking aside, it got a bit of extended play in preparation for something I’m planning on awesome arcade conversions for the Commodore 64 because there’s way more than the handful it’s often credited with… Well, a few more at least!
There’s actually another special Commodore 64 feature on the way here in a few weeks, also involving Pac-Land, but I’ll save that until nearer the time! In case you missed them, last week we had no less than two new release reviews here which are a tale of the bizarre if nothing else! But thankfully they’re a lot more besides because they both involve another all-time favourite of mine! First up, there were the five (or six – and that confusion was the least of its problems…) games comprising the pretty cool after all Ninja JaJaMaru: Retro Collection, and from there we jumped to the latest entry in the same ancient series, Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell. There’s another double-header coming next week too, as we take our regular look at retro-interest and more new releases for the upcoming month, On the Retro Radar, which is coming on Tuesday, then on Thursday it’s a deep-dive into Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which is the Street Fighter tile-matching spin-off I never thought I’d be covering here, but you can read it to find out why! See you next time!