Namco Museum Arcade_Pak
Publisher: Namco (2018)
I've purchased these Namco Museum compilations more times than I care to admit, but Namco usually tosses in just enough extras to string me along. In this case we get arcade-perfect versions of Splatterhouse and Rolling Thunder 1 & 2. Not too shabby!
Unfortunately playing classic arcade games isn't what it used to be. Upon popping in Arcade Pak you're forced to agree to about 100 pages of legal paperwork. WTF?!
It's one thing to be subjected to this garbage for online play, but these games are from the 80's!! Arcade Pak includes arcade-perfect versions of Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Rolling Thunder 1, Rolling Thunder 2, and Splatterhouse. Timeless fun! Less enticing are Tower of Druaga, Tank Force, and Skykid. Galaga '88 appears to be the arcade version Galaga '90
(T16, 1990) which is pretty terrific. There's supposed to be a four-player Pac-Man game but I couldn't get it configured for two players, much less four. The "museum" element that signified the early PS1 Namco Museums are nowhere to be found. That's lazy. And where are Galaxian, Pole Position, and Ms. Pac-Man?! If Namco is saving them as DLC, that's greedy. Cheesy background graphics are used to fill out some of the game screens. Was the original cabinet art not available? I assumed the digital pad on my Pro Controller would be the best way to play these games, but the analog stick works better. One cool feature that caught me off guard was the vibration. The subtle tremors you feel while chomping a ghost really do add to the experience. They went overboard with Galaga 88 however; that game actually tickles my hand!
The arcade modes save high scores but it's annoying how you're constantly prompted to upload your rankings. There's even a confirmation prompt after you say no! In addition to the arcade modes there are 3-minute challenge modes which are a total waste of three minutes. Rounding out the package is an unholy monstrosity called Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus 2P - a game every bit as complicated as its name! Somehow you're controlling two Pac-Men at the same time and it's just a big mess. I scored a few million points but had no idea what I was doing. Arcade Pak is at its best when you're enjoying the classics at their purest. It's afraid the collection was overshadowed by Namco's greed and sloth. Add in gluttony for Pac-Man and the lust for Ms. Pac-Man (don't judge) and Arcade Pak is working its way through the seven deadly sins!
I can't condone that. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Limited Run (2018)
Rating: Teen (blood, suggestive themes, violence)
In 1993 a Nintendo executive went on record stating that Night Trap would never
be released on a Nintendo system. This "filthy" early CD title allowed the player to toggle between cameras positioned around a mansion, viewing live-action video of seven rooms plus the front of the house. The object was to save girls at a slumber party from shambling creeps in black by activating traps at the right times. Night Trap starred the late Dana Plato of Diff'rent Strokes fame along a cast of scantily-clad hotties. While innovative for its time, Night Trap's grainy visuals and limited interaction led many to dismiss the game as a cheap gimmick. In fact, Night Trap is fairly ingenious. Its well-crafted storyline features scenes that unfold in parallel and you can even follow actors from room to room. Each play-through is a unique experience as you catch glimpses of different clips while gradually picking up bits and pieces of the story. Activating traps is satisfying as you drop goons through trap doors, suck them into walls, and catapult them off the roof. The dialog is campy and the Night Trap song is irresistably cheesy. Edgy guitar riffs kick in when baddies appear, adding tension and excitement. This newly-released Switch edition of the game is pretty much the same as the Playstation 4 version. The video quality is ten times better than the original Sega CD version yet still never rises above VCR quality. There's even static in certain scenes. The biggest advantage of the 25th Anniversary edition is your ability to view what's happening in every room at the same time
via the eight small screens on the bottom. It feels like cheating but frankly it would be hard to go back to the original version where you had to click on each room to detect activity. The game is still tough and will abruptly end if you don't bag a certain percentage of bad guys. The good news is that you can continue once you reach the 14-minute half-way point. The new survivor mode is a randomized mode that rewards quick reflexes and a keen eye. You also get the behind-the-scenes documentary featuring clueless members of Congress claiming Night Trap advocated violence against women. Extra features include a theatre mode and a playable Scene of the Crime prototype game. Unfortunately you need to complete a perfect game (?!) to unlock those. I would have preferred more customization options, like the ability to turn off the color codes for example. Still, I played the hell out of this game and loved it. I suppose I should feel ashamed for deriving so much enjoyment out of the most egregiously violent video game of all time. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 83
Ninja Saviors: The Return of the Warriors
Publisher: Arc System Works (2019)
Rating: Teen (blood, fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes)
This surprising physical release for the Switch is right in my wheelhouse. The original Ninja Warriors
(SNES, 1994) was critically acclaimed but has become increasingly hard to find over the years. Ninja Saviors offers a spruced up version with more characters, two-player coop, online rankings, and time challenge modes. Ninja Saviors delivers the kind of action I love, forging to the right while beating down one soldier clone after the next. Sprinkled throughout each stage are acrobatic hotties, terminator-style robots, and jump-kicking businessmen in three-piece suits. Of the three selectable characters "Ninja" is the most unlikely. He's a giant, hulking brute that doesn't even jump. He does however wield nunchucks and deliver a devastating elbow drop. Kunoichi is a traditional female ninja, with enough dexterity to effortlessly flip between enemies. Kamaitachi is a freaky skeletal robot with blade-like arms. There are two unlockable characters as well. The fighting action is linear and repetitive but I never get tired of smacking down these fools. Despite only three buttons (attack, jump, special) you'll discover a lot of nifty combos and special moves. The ability to hurl motorcycles, barricades, and exploding mines at groups of foes is supremely satisfying. Your special attack obliterates all enemies on the screen, but you'll want to use it strategically. The splashing "blood" is green so the level of violence is low. Since all the action takes place on a single plane the two-player coop mayhem can get a little confusing. Most of the stages are industrial in nature, but the upbeat music and layered scenery will captivate old school junkies. Your "score" is the time to complete each stage, which is odd because this isn't exactly speed-run material. Keeping with the old-school theme, the box includes a few fun extras like a color manual, cards, and small poster. Ninja Saviors isn't the kind of game you play for hours on end, but when you need to blow off a little steam this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha
Publisher: NIS America (2020)
Rating: Everyone 10+
A shooter-lover's dream, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha packs six sparkling 1990's-era arcade titles into one nifty package. These are the kind of frenetic shooters that gave birth to the "bullet hell" genre. This collection contains Strikers 1945, Strikers 1945 II, Strikers 1945 III, Sol Divide, Dragon Blaze, and Zero Gunner 2. The Strikers series combines WWII-era planes with shape-changing robots for explosive, rapid-fire mayhem. Although limited to a narrow strip of screen (to maintain their arcade dimensions) these games are so much fun. The challenge rarely feels insurmountable, especially if you use your bombs as a defensive mechanism. Playing all three Striker games in order lets you appreciate their incremental improvements in graphics, firepower, and difficulty. I love the snowy town in the first game, the terracotta rooftops of the second, and the bustling freeways in the third. The bosses in these games are relentless. Just when you think they're defeated, they reemerge from the wreckage assuming a new form. The next game, Sol Divide, marks an abrupt change of pace. Imagine a D&D beat-em-up where everybody is flying through the air. Armed with projectile and melee attacks, you'll swat away at griffons, wizards, and dragons while floating over feudal lands. This game was originally released for the Playstation and it looks the part with its soft, pixelated appearance. To be honest I'm not a big fan of this one. Fighting skeletons while standing on thin air just isn't very realistic. Dragon Blaze reprises the Strikers formula except it takes place in medieval times when there were dragons, magic, airships, and all that cool stuff. Zero Gunner 2 might be considered the "holy grail" of the collection. Originally released for the Dreamcast title in 2002, this fully-3D shooter is pretty amazing. I love the first boss who climbs between two towers and after being destroyed it plunges into the sea below. The problem with Zero Gunner is its awkward controls. You need to hold in a special button to adjust your trajectory because enemies tend to come from every direction. Most games in this collection support two-player simultaneous action. High scores are recorded locally and you can adjust the number of continues for each. Some games reset your score when you continue, so you may want to think twice before using one. I wish they kept the current high displayed at all times, considering all the unused real estate. The box contains a bevy of extras including art cards, a mini booklet, and a three-disc (!) soundtrack. It's hard to ask for a better shooter collection than Psikyo Alpha. The good news is, there's also a Bravo edition! What a time to be alive. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo
Publisher: NIS America (2020)
If you liked Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha don't hesitate to pick up the equally-strong Bravo edition, offering six more dazzling shooters from the 1990's. Samurai Aces kicks things off with vertical shooting in the same vein as Strikers 1945, except instead of a WWII motif you get traditional Japanese imagery and music. As a man gliding on mechanical wings you'll rapidly fire at floating shogun warriors, dragons, and boxes with freaky devil faces. I love the look of the game, especially when flying over quaint villages with gorgeous cherry blossom trees. The one frustrating part is how power-ups never float down to the lower part of the screen, practically daring you to move up and grab them. Tengai (aka Samurai Aces II) feels like a side-scrolling version of the first game with gorgeous parallax scenery that makes better use of the wide-screen format. Samurai Aces III takes the concept a bit further with story-driven gameplay and 3D polygon backgrounds. While it's quite exhilarating to be whisked through castles and up into the clouds, it also tends to be very distracting to the shooting action in the foreground. I also dislike the big pink projectiles and the unnecessary story that interrupts the flow of the game. The next two games, Gunbird I and II, practically justify the entire collection. Held in high esteem by collectors, I had to import the first one for my Saturn many years ago. These are engaging vertical shooters boasting some of the most appealing anime visuals I've seen. You control magical flying beings fighting mechanical monstrosities over bustling villages and castles teeming with activity. The explosions are fantastic! Gunbarich rounds things out but it feels like a throwaway title. In this strange breakout/pinball hybrid you deflect a ball against bricks using a set of flippers. The controls feel awkward and the constant colorful activity is blinding at times. All games in Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo are fully configuration and high scores are saved locally. I wish they would display the current high score as you're playing, but hey - you can't have everything. Most games can be played simultaneously with a friend, although that sends the level of onscreen chaos into overdrive. Bonus items include a tiny art book, six art cards, and a three-CD soundtrack. Psikyo Shooting Collection Bravo is yet another gold mine for shooter aficionados. I'd buy the Charlie edition if I could! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2017)
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a safe bet for puzzle-minded gamers with its colorful graphics, simple controls, and an avalanche
of variations. There are three general game types: Tetris, Puyo Puyo, and Fusion. Tetris might seem like old hat until you realize there's probably an entire generation of young gamers who haven't even heard
of it! Invented in 1984, its block-stacking gameplay remains timeless. I love how in this version you can press up to instantly cement the next block to the bottom. Puyo Puyo is also fairly long in the tooth, dating back to 1991. It involves stacking colored beans... um... blobs... er... what the [expletive] are those things anyway?
All I know is, they are squishy. When four puyos gell together they generate an explosion that can trigger chain reactions. Fusion is a combination of Tetris and Puyo Puyo. Sometimes you get bricks and sometimes puyos. Though fuzzy on the rules, I'm always mesmerized by this peculiar hybrid. Up to four people can play at once, each choosing their own game style. Sega took a minimalist approach with the graphics and I think it paid off. The sharp objects and bright colors look very inviting. A series of tutorials not only explain the basics but go over advanced strategies in detail. The controls feel crisp and the bubbly music has an infectious quality. The voices are repetitive but they add a nice punctuation when you clear puyos ("solved it!"
). What puts Puyo Puyo Tetris over the top may be its myriad of variations, too numerous to list. There are party modes that toss random objects into the mix. There's a swap mode that lets you play two games at once. I personally prefer "endless puyo" which lets me compete for a high score (sadly it doesn't save initials). The story mode looks like a throw-away but its rapid-fire CPU challenges had me hooked!
It may not push the hardware, but Puyo Puyo Tetris is a likable little title with universal appeal and seemingly endless replay value. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Team17 (2018)
The designers of Raging Justice were clearly inspired by classic side-scrolling beat-em-ups like Double Dragon
(NES, 1988) and Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991). As you venture through dark alleys and seedy bars you'll battle stereotypical street thugs, hookers, and pimps. Weapons like wrenches, bottles, and baseball bats litter the streets. Low on health? Eat a roasted chicken sitting right there on the sidewalk! You can even climb on a tractor and run people over! What's not to like? Well, the lousy character selection for one thing. You choose between a middle-aged white guy, a militant black woman, and some punk kid. The characters have a freakish claymation quality, calling to mind Clayfighter
(SNES, 1993). The animation is choppy and the collision detection could be better. Explosions send people flying the wrong way and attack dogs are constantly chomping on your leg. Every one of the characters is unlikeable and many are downright grotesque. I love smacking people with baseball bats as much as the next guy but it happens so often that the thrill wears off quickly. A little restraint would have gone a long way. You have the option of arresting criminals instead of beating them up, but where's the fun in that? Your score is kept per stage
, which makes no sense, and having nine continues removes any sense of tension or difficulty. The music is, for lack of a better term, rinky dink. I couldn't get into Raging Justice. Side-scrolling brawlers are generally my thing but I found this one unappealing. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
River City Girls
Publisher: Wayforward (2019)
Rating: Everyone 10+
You have to love this amazing new side-scrolling brawler inspired by the old classic River City Ransom
(NES, 1988). Though River City Girls might be considered a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre, it kicks ass with its exuberant style, laugh-out-loud humor, and unabashed old-school gameplay. As explained by its hard-rocking intro, two schoolgirls named Kyoko and Misako are out to rescue their kidnapped boyfriends. The mayhem begins in a school before branching out to a vibrant surrounding city. From the schoolyard to the mall to the downtown district, each area is brimming with activity and eye candy. The old-school pixel art graphics are rendered in a style reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
(Xbox 360, 2010). Enemies include security guards, prancing cheerleaders, wrestlers, and some hilarious
Arnold Schwarzenneger clones. The fighting controls are simplistic at first but new moves are gradually added like wall jumps, foot stomps, volleyball spikes, and even a Chun Li-style rapid kick. Pop-up hints appear often in the early going - a little too
often I think. As you undertake little missions around town a lot of backtracking is necessary and I had a hard time figuring out how the different areas were connected. Suffice to say I had to pull up the map a lot. That said, the old-school fighting never gets old and I love how you can smack around multiple enemies at a time. Weapons like shovels, chains, bats, and yo-yos pack a wallop and unlike other fighters they stick around for a while. You can even carry them between screens!
Defeated enemies drop cash that can be used to buy new moves as well as clothes and accessories to pump up your attributes. The production values shine with rapidfire intermissions, clever dialog, and superb voice acting. The subject matter is a little suggestive at times but the writing is brilliant. A pop soundtrack keeps the energy level high and when those vocals kick in you realize this game is absolutely killing
it. Smart, fresh, and fun, River City Girls is the coolest game you'll play on the Switch. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.