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Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairBuy this gameThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the Smithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Capcom, 2001)

See the videoMemories: In the pre-Game Boy Advance days, developers were pushing the envelope of what the 10-year-old handheld system could do. 1999’s Star Wars Racer included a brief, soundless black & white video clip in its intro sequence, and Dragon’s Lair – a holy grail of retrogaming that had only recently been done justice as an interactive DVD game – promised to pack the fully-animated arcade game of the same name into a Game Boy Color cartridge, an astounding technical feat. Continue reading

The Invaders (Space Invaders)

The InvadersThe Game: You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth… it’s all over. This edition adds two new modes, a timed game with a slightly updated retro look, and a 3-D mode which puts the player right behind the cannon, now expanded to a giant 3-D representation. (D3 Publisher [under license from Taito], 2001)

Memories: This budget title from 2001, to be fair, was largely a re-release of Taito’s earlier PS1 Space Invaders Collection just four years before this game’s release. But this time, you actually get more for that low, low price. Continue reading

Mario Kart Super Circuit

Mario Kart: Super CircuitThe Game: It’s a big day at the races, with a field of drivers selected from the Mushroom Kingdom: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Bowser, and even Donkey Kong Jr. are among the racers vying for the top spot. From the grassy Mushroom course to the punishingly muddy Star course to the oceanside Flower course, there are challenges, hairpin turns and obstacles. Whoever can learn to navigate each course the fastest without ending up out of bounds struggling to get back on the course will be the winner. (Nintendo, 2001)

Memories: A better-than-merely-passable handheld version of Super Mario Kart, this game may actually exceed its inspiration by offering new environments, new drivers and other neat twists. For the most part, it’s a genuine improvement. Continue reading

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

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