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… Seventy-five of this nonsense too. Blimey!
And to celebrate, we’re going brand new and blockbuster to start with. Kind of! Resident Evil 4 Remake is finally slotted into my Xbox Series X and it’s everything I’d hoped for and more! Just to recap, the GameCube original from 2005 is my number three favourite game of all time, and while I haven’t quite beaten this version yet, so far everything that made it so great is lovingly present and correct and then some. The meandering story remains compelling, it’s pacing relentless, the tension likewise, and the characters never more tolerable, and on top of all that it looks more stunning than it ever did and the sound design is truly terrifying! It even plays like a modern survival horror – running and shooting at the same time, crouching and sneaking… What a time to be alive! And what a remake this is, not only taking the original and running with it 2023-style but somehow also reinforcing why it was and is one of the finest, most influential games of all time. Full review here as soon as I can next week! In the meantime, just so you’re prepared, it might be worth a look at my investigation into the original’s mystery in a green jacket if you haven’t already!
I’ve now spent hours and hours playing F-Zero X on Nintendo 64 care of Switch Online, beating all the Novice and Standard cups, but I’m still not sure how much I like it! Despite a few vibrant flourishes and stomach-churning track undulations, it’s very sparse to look at, and for a series known for its iconic music, the soundtrack is fine but really not very memorable. On top of that, I don’t think the Switch Joy-Cons do if justice, and you never quite feel in complete control, especially when the speed picks up. And there’s some horrendous pop-in and slowdown to boot! But for all of that, here I still am, gripped by the chaos that thirty racers on track often presents, and the last-second dashes to the line having cleared most of the entire field against all the odds on the last lap, not to mention the hair-raising risks you need to take to do so! Not my favourite F-Zero but it’s definitely F-Zero all the same.
Also on Switch Online, five new arrivals to mention! Okay, they might not all be the ones everyone still wants but I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve got on this service – as the combined 200+ hours on my Switch stats attests – so I was thrilled to be trying some new Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES and SNES games regardless! I guess the big one is Metroid Fusion on GBA, and that’s definitely where I’ve spent the most time, so let’s start there… This thing is incredible! It’s a 2002 successor to SNES Super Metroid, although chronologically I think Metroid: Other M on the Wii in 2010 fits between the two. Anyway, it seems a bit more story-focussed than Super Metroid was, and is more linear as a result, almost to the point of being mission-based, and for someone with no sense of direction like me that’s something to appreciate! Which is not to say there’s not tons to explore, loads of backtracking to take advantage of new-found powers, some cool puzzles and plenty of perfectly pitched sci-fi platforming. Stunning-looking game too, full of variety and atmosphere, with a decent, almost ambient soundtrack that really works in tandem with the regular story updates to create real tension at times. I’ll reserve final judgement because I’m not at the end yet but this is really wonderful so far!
Heading back to 1995 and the original Game Boy, next up in the new line-up is Kirby’s Dream Land 2. I’ve never really got into Kirby but I guess I see the appeal, and actually what started as just having a quick go to see what this was all about turned into a pretty enjoyable extended session and I reckon it’s another I’ll see through to the end now. It’s all nonsense platforming involving Rainbow Bridges and possessing cute animal friends to use their powers, and it’s a lovely thing, just as you’d expect!
But not as lovely as BurgerTime Deluxe from 1991! It’s the BurgerTime arcade experience you know squashed down into tiny monochrome but also expanded so it has to scroll as well, with you running about on increasingly complex platforms and ladders, avoiding renegade ingredients and stomping all over the burger parts until they’ve eventually dropped down onto the plates waiting at the bottom. Delicious! Looks great, sounds great, plays great, and another Game Boy arcade classic.
I love the that the NES and SNES libraries on here haven’t quite been left to gather dust yet, and we’ve got a couple of new games on those to close our Switch Online update here. First, another arcade conversion but this time the 1988 NES port of the iconic 1983 vertical shoot ‘em up Xevious, with you shooting stuff in the air and bombing stuff on the ground across various environments. Decent take on the original too, with things playing frantic but fair and everything looking and sounding like it should, although the background music here does push its luck at times.
Last up for this bit, we jump forward to another arcade conversion but on the SNES, where the year is 1993 and we’re playing Side Pocket, a 1986 Data East arcade billiards game offering a two-player Nine Ball Game, where you want to get the nine balls into the pockets while going for the lowest numbered left on the table before any other, then the more trick shot-focussed Pocket Game, which has a pan-American single player campaign. None of it’s very good I’m afraid though! Dreadful speech, an even worse lounge soundtrack and cringeworthy early nineties glamour presentation complement dull tables with imprecise controls and impossible to read numbers on the balls, even when hooked up to your biggest TV. Actually hitting the balls feels alright though, I suppose!
I can go years without playing Konami’s 1986 Gradius spin-off, Salamander (or Life Force) then I notice it again for some reason and I’m totally hooked until I get to the fire bit a few stages in, remember I can’t beat it then get bored trying and go away! And that’s what I’ve also done this week! It’s a tough as nails, scrolling in all directions shoot ‘em up with some spectacular settings (especially that fire bit!) and totally bonkers but enjoyably beatable bosses. The gameplay might be old-school but the graphics effects were way ahead of their time, and while I was mainly playing the arcade version on Nintendo Switch this time, the excellent PC-Engine version is always worth an outing for the music alone!
We’re running a bit long, so I’ll skip more chat on the new Evercade EXP and Alien: Isolation and save it for next week, but before we close, Retro Arcadia is finally on Instagram! Still work in progress but you can now check out my visual ramblings there too! Look out for @retro.arcadia if that’s your bag! That’s us then, but in case you missed it last Wednesday, this was one of those special all-time favourite pieces for me as we head back to the mid-eighties for spy games, roller discos and my life with Elevator Action in the arcade and beyond! And check back next Wednesday when I hope to have that full review of Resident Evil 4 Remake on Xbox Series X for you, although at this rate there might be a last-minute switch because it arrived way later than the retailer promised! Then on Friday, it’s the end of the month so we’ll have our regular look ahead to mostly (but not exclusively) retro-interest releases coming in April, On The Retro Radar. See you one way or another!