One Piece Mansion

One Piece MansionOrder this gameThe Game: You control Polpo, the fleet-footed landlord of a bustling apartment building. Tenants come and tenants go, and as new ones move in you have to make sure they’re not getting on the nerves of their neighbors and potentially chasing away other paying tenants. You must also be wary of mischief-makers employed by a rival apartment complex, intruding on your property to drive your renters away. Successful management will lead to expansion of your apartment building, but losing track of what’s going on can leave you with an empty building, no matter how big it is. (Capcom, 2001)

Memories: In this era, where it seems like most new games fall into one of just a handful of popular genres (fighting, driving, first-person shooter, combat sim, etc.), it’s so refreshing to get a completely off-the-wall gem like this Japanese creation, which caught me completely off guard by (A) being translated to the U.S. market in the first place, and (B) being hilariously fun. The One Piece characters have a major cult following all their own in Japan, so this is just one of a series of games in that country. Over here, it’s a one-off oddity, but its simple, strategic, addictive style warrants repeat play. Continue reading

Pac-Man Collection

Pac-Man CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Namco raids the archives once more, offering up arcade-perfect handheld adaptations of Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, one of the first-ever home versions of Pac-Man Arrangement, and the Tetris knock-off Pac-Attack. (Namco, 2001)

Memories: Namco has offered some dandy attempts at bringing Pac-Man home from the arcades. They tried with the premiere volume of the Namco Museum series for the Playstation, which suffered from having its display savagely reduced in size to include a lame bitmapped version of the original side art. They tried again with the Game Boy Color version of Pac-Man, and got damn close. Even their battery-powered 5-in-1 TV Game is close enough for government work. But I’ll be gobbled by a quartet of colorful blobs if this ain’t the closest thing this side of MAME to real live honest-to-God Pac-Man. Continue reading

Star Wars: Rogue Leader – Rogue Squadron II

Star Wars: Rogue Leader - Rogue Squadron IIOrder this gameThe Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Rebel Alliance calls on the hotshot pilots of Rogue Squadron for the toughest assignments – and that means you. You and your wingmen take on the defenses of the Death Star, buy time for a Rebel retreat from Hoth, beat Imperial forces away from Cloud City, and take on other high-risk assignments. A variety of ships is at your disposal, though initially you start out with a choice of the trusty X-Wing and the robust Y-Wing; if you advance to later missions, A-Wings and B-Wings become available too, along with a few others. (LucasArts, 2001)

Memories: It was hard to decide whether this game should be classified as a Retro Revival Review because in so many ways, the early stages of this game are the 1983 Atari Star Wars arcade game, resurrected with the benefit of 18 years’ worth of graphical advancement. Continue reading

3-In-1 Arcade Classics

3-In-1 Arcade ClassicsBuy this gameThe Game: Three classic Taito coin-ops are dragged into the modern day: the almost-text-based Crazy Balloon, the oft-copied Space Chaser (very similar to such games as Exidy’s Targ), and the abstract early ’80s classic Qix. Each game is presented with its original graphics, as well as new updated versions which – for once – just jazz up the existing 2-D graphics rather than dragging the whole mess into unnecessary 3-D. (Success Systems, 2002, for Playstation)

Memories: Between this and the already-reviewed Space Invaders See the videoCollection, the Namco Museum series, Irem Arcade Classics and the glorious Nichibutsu Arcade Classics, you may have gotten the impression that I really, really like how the Japanese put together retro arcade compilations. And you’d be absolutely correct in that assumption. There are two big reasons for this. Continue reading

Atari Anniversary Advance

Atari Anniversary AdvanceBuy this gameThe Game: It used to take a pocket full of quarters to enjoy some of the finest arcade games from Atari’s golden age, but now it just takes a pocket full of Game Boy Advance. Included are Asteroids, Tempest, Centipede, Battlezone, Super Breakout and Missile Command, along with a dandy trivia game focusing on Atari’s history and most famous games. (Atari / Infogrames, 2002)

Memories: What should be one of the better classic game compilations on the Game Boy Advance turns out to be a classic example of a mixed bag. The audiovisual side of things is great – though a few of these games have been “reformatted to fit your screen,” to quote the dreaded pan-and-scan movie disclaimer, all of the games look great – very authentic – only this isn’t really the display they were intended for. Missile Command and Super Breakout are somewhat “scrunched” to fit into the available space, and Asteroids is a case where too much effort was poured into preserving the original game’s graphics: everything is shrunken down to the point where smaller asteroids, or incoming fire from an attacking UFO, can be hard to spot because they’re so tiny. Tempest, Centipede and Battlezone, on the other hand, look fantastic. Continue reading

Turnabout

Buy this gameThe Game: A rotating box sits in the center of the screen, containing a maze, at least one mobile ball, and other moving elements such as sliding bars or boxes. Using the left and right D-pad buttons, players rotate the entire box, which will cause any of the mobile pieces to obey the laws of gravity and fall in that direction. The object of the game is to get all of the balls into contact with the jewel of the same color at the other end of the maze – which may not be as easy as it sounds! (Natsume, 2002)

Memories: As Sony eased its restrictions on Playstation licensing toward the end of the console’s life span (at this point, the PS2 was already on the market), heaps of cheap PS1 games hit store shelves. Some of these were pure shovelware, hastily cranked out to make a buck off that segment of the gaming populace that couldn’t afford to upgrade to the PS2. Quite a few were quickly-done localizations of games that had already been released – often as budget titles from the outset – in Japan. Turnabout is in the latter category, and unlike quite a few of the glut of games released in the PS1’s twilight, it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading

Godzilla: Domination

Godzilla: Domination!Order this gameThe Game: As the lone monster not affected by the mysterious magnetic waves being released from Magnetic Meteor X, it’s up to you to fight your way through a series of crazed monsters and defeat the ultimate villain, Mecha-King Ghidorah. (Infogrames/Atari, 2002)

Memories: There’s a fine line between adding to a genre and simply copying it, a line that Godzilla: Domination is never quite able to cross. The makings of a fun game are all here: giant monsters battling throughout multiple interactive playfields, but unfortunately the formula has been done before, better. Continue reading

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar GalacticaOrder this gameThe Game: Help Ensign Adama and the rest of the remaining humans defeat the Cylons and save humanity in Battlestar Galactica, the space-shooting prequel set 40 years before the popular televsion show. (Vivendi Universal, 2003)

Memories: Like millions of kids, my life changed forever back in 1977 when my parents took me to go see Star Wars for the first time. I loved Star Wars, I lived Star Wars. I had Star Wars toys, Star Wars cereal, and Star Wars Underoos. And for the first time on television, the following year we got… Battlestar Galactica. Ok, so it wasn’t Star Wars, but if you squinted your eyes just right Vipers looked like X-Wing Fighters and Cylons resembled shiny Stormtroopers. Between that and the fact that my parents told me that Starbuck was Luke Skywalker’s cousin, Battlestar Galactica became my “bargain bin” version of Star Wars. Continue reading

Intellivision 25 TV Game

Intellivision 25 TV GameThe Game: 25 choice cuts of Intellivision goodness are crammed into something about the size of a modern-day console controller. Games include Astrosmash, Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling, Buzz Bombers, Chip Shot Super Pro Buy this gameGolf, Hockey, Hover Force, Motocross, Night Stalker, Pinball, Shark! Shark!, Skiing, Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball, Snafu, Space Armada, Space Battle, Space Hawk, Star Strike, Sub Hunt, Super Pro Football, Super Pro Volleyball, Thin Ice, Thunder Castle, Tower Of Doom, Vectron, and World Championship Baseball. (Techno Source, 2003)

Memories: And it sounded like such a neat idea when it was first announced. Really, it is still a good idea. Pack 25 games into a $25 standalone game that plugs into your TV or VCR’s auxiliary audio/video ports, and make them as true to the Intellivision as possible. The real problem here is that they only get so close. Continue reading

Namco 5-In-1 TV Game

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameBuy this gameThe Game: It’s like Namco Museum in the palm of your hand: some of the venerable Japanese arcade innovator’s all-time best quarter-grabbers from the 1980s are gathered in the form of a standalone joystick that plugs into your TV or VCR’s A/V jacks. Games built into this system are Pac-Man, Galaxian, Rally-X, Bosconian and Dig Dug. Batteries are not included, but the fun is. (Jakks Pacific [under license from Namco], 2003)

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameMemories: After I reviewed the dandy Techno Source Intellivision 25-in-1 TV Game, at least one e-mail suggested that I wasn’t being critical enough in my review. I praised that dandy self-contained gadget for capturing the flavor of those 25 classic Intellivision games, even if a lot of the finer details were left out. Those of you who thought I was going easy on that game should just stop reading this review now. Because I kinda dig this quintet of Namco goodness – with some significant reservations. Continue reading

Qix Neo

Qix NeoBuy this gameThe Game: Players control a ship capable of claiming area of the screen by “drawing” boxed-in enclosed spaces. The catch? Numerous enemies roam around the screen who want to keep this from happening, and naturally they pose the greatest threat when the player’s ship is exposed while it tries to “draw” an area. Anytime the player’s ship is away from a solid area, hanging by a thread, it can be destroyed. The player has shields that offer minor protection, but they can eventually be depleted entirely. The player has to claim enough of the screen that it equals or exceeds a pre-determined percentage of the screen area, and then the long, drawn-out battle begins anew. With each new level comes a new enemy with different offensive capabilities, until the player’s small fleet of ships is exhausted. (Mad Duck / Taito, 2003)

Memories: Marketed in the U.S. as Qix Neo, this game is actually the U.S. localization of a budget PS1 port of a Japanese arcade game vaguely related to Qix, Volfied. (Playing “Qix Neo“‘s “original” mode even shows the intro cutscene from Volfied, unchanged from the arcade edition.) But for fans of Qix, Qix Neo is close enough to the mark to count as a sequel. Continue reading

Katamari Damacy

Katamari DamacyOrder this gameYou control the pint-sized Prince, whose dad, the massive King of All Cosmos, seems to have inadvertently blotted out every star in the night sky. Now, your old man is sending you on a mission to go down to Earth – a planet blessed with a lot of stuff – to gather that stuff into large sticky clumps called katamari. You start out small, picking up tiny everyday items like pushpins and matchsticks, but as your katamari grows in size, it can pick up larger objects – frogs and mice, crabs, dogs and cats, people, cows, cars, trees, and eventually even things like buildings and giant squids. At the beginning of each stage, you’re tasked to accumulate enough stuff to grow your katamari to a predetermined diameter, and once the timer runs out for that stage, your katamari is either launched into the sky to become a new star See the video(don’t ask us about the astrophysics on this one, because this game’s universe throws the whole hydrogen-and-helium thing out the window), or the King of All Cosmos returns to chide you for your puny efforts and makes you start again. There’s also a split-screen battle mode where two players can not only build up their katamari, but hurl their katamari at each other; a katamari of sufficient size can engulf your opponent and his katamari too! (Namco, 2004)

Katamari DamacyMemories: I love Namco. When I go looking up my favorite classic arcade games of all time, they’re almost all by Namco. And some of them are so strange. I mean, think about Pac-Man on a purely conceptual level. Or Dig Dug. Or Phozon. Now apply the same attempt at a logical explanation to Katamari Damacy. (Good luck.) Give up? Even a generation later, Namco’s still turning out some great, offbeat, innovative, fun games. Continue reading

Capcom Classics Collection

Capcom Classics CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Relive the golden years of arcades through the latest retro compilation disc, Capcom Classics Collection. CCC contains 22 classic arcade games along with tons of unlockable artwork, music and more. (Capcom, 2005, for Sony Playstation 2)

Memories: It is impossible to deny the impact retrogaming has had on the gaming industry. Those of us who spent our youth hanging out in smoke-filled arcades are now the prime videogame demographic. Many of us have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on games, and the companies from our childhood have figured out a way to tap into that cash flow – through retro compilation discs. It’s taken a while for companies to get the formula right; too few games or to high of a price, and consumers complain (or simply avoid) your package. Developers (particularly Sega) have experimented with “updated” versions of classic games, which have been met with mixed reviews. In 2005, manufacturers seem to have dialed in to what consumers want – arcade ports of 20 or more games for $20. Bonus features are a plus. Continue reading

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate DestructionOrder this gameThe Game: Hulk Smash. Okay, he runs, jumps, punches and throws stuff too in this action-packed game, but mostly he just smashes. Instantly theraputic for anyone who’s ever wanted to hit anything, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction allows players to use the Hulk (and just about any item he comes across) to destroy his enemies and the environment around him. (Vivendi Universal, 2005)

Memories: Within five minutes of launching this game for the first time, I had destroyed a dozen tanks with my bare fists, knocked two helicopters out of the sky by throwing boulders at them, and killed an enemy soldier by beating him to death with a cow. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary

Namco Museum: 50th AnniversaryBuy this gameThe Game: To commemorate their 50th Anniversary, Namco has released pixel-perfect translations of sixteen of their greatest classic arcade games, all on one budget-priced disc. (Namco, 2005)

Memories: Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary brings sixteen classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug directly into your living room. All the games play exactly like their upright counterparts, and they should by now; this is at least the third time Namco has released ported versions of these arcade games to the home console market. Continue reading

Taito Legends

Taito LegendsBuy this gameThe Game: Taito, the developer behind classics games such as Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble, is the latest videogame developer to release a retro arcade compilation. Taito Legends brings 29 classic videogames direct from the arcade to your Xbox, PS2 and PC. (Taito, 2005, for Xbox, Playstation 2 and PC)

Memories: While skimming the list of games included in Taito Legends, I realized that I have memories associated with almost half of them. I remember playing Rastan at the local bowling alley, Operation Wolf at the skating rink (while wearing roller skates, no less), Bubble Bobble at the corner convenience store and Space Invaders at Photon, our local laser tag arena back in the 80’s. There’s no denying that Taito has been a driving force in the arcade industry since its inception. Throughout the 1950s and 60s Taito produced pinball machines, arcade cranes, and jukeboxes, but it wasn’t until the release of Space Invaders in 1978 (released in the US by Midway) that the company became a blip on America’s radar. Continue reading

Tecmo Classic Arcade

Tecmo Classic ArcadeBuy this gameThe Game: Turn your Xbox into a virtual 80’s arcade with Tecmo Classic Arcade, the newest retro compilation disc to hit home consoles. (Tecmo, 2005, for Xbox)

See the videoMemories: Someone has definitely not been saving the best for last. Tecmo Classic Arcade follows a long line of classic arcade compilations which have been released this summer, including Capcom Classics Collection, Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, Taito Legends and Midway’s Arcade Treasures 3. Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it, Tecmo’s game collection simply doesn’t stand up against the competition. Continue reading

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront IIOrder this gameThe Game: Fight on the front lines of the Star Wars galaxy’s biggest battles. Choose your weapons or take control of a battle-ready vehicle. Battle across the ice fields of Hoth, the forests of Endor, the swamps of Dagobah, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the searing lava flows of Mustafar, and in the vastness of space. Play as a Clone Trooper, a Super Battle Droid, a Stormtrooper, a Rebel Soldier, a Jedi, and more. (Lucasarts, 2005)

Memories: This sequel to last year’s Battlefront promised a lot of improvements over that first game and whole new elements. The game delivers admirably on both accounts. Continue reading

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