The Five Best Retro Games On XBLA and PSNBy Dan Seitz
One of the best unexpected results of game consoles being constantly connected to the Internet is an absolute explosion in retro games. Once the surviving publishers realized that there was an entire audience that grew up with their back catalogue, plus an audience that had been lectured for years by the older gamers about how awesome gaming was in the ’80s, it opened the floodgates. Here are five classics that you might have missed, but are worth every penny.
5) Bomberman Live
Kids today are spoiled by their online multiplayer and their multiple wireless controllers. Back in the day, if you wanted to play a game with more than one friend, you either alternated, went to an arcade, or bought “Bomberman”.
“Bomberman was the first console party game. Coming prepackaged with a multitap, “Bomberman” was a four-player game that catered to the most important aspect of any friendship; being able to blow the living crap out of your friends with bombs. Unfortunately, once the PlayStation era rolled around, Bomberman receded in favor of flashier games, although Hudson Soft gave it modernizing the franchise a shot with “Bomberman: Act Zero”, which tried to make Bomberman edgy.
Yeah, that didn’t end well. So we’re grateful that “Bomberman Live” brings back the retro style that we know and love. And now, all the kids that grew up with Bomberman can relive their childhood…only while drinking.
Comic books have long suffered when transferred to other media. Think about all the terrible comic book movies that have been made, or the horrible TV shows. But one medium that comics have always transferred well to have been video games, especially arcade games. And in the ’80s and ’90s, nobody did it better than Konami and Capcom with beat ‘em ups.
Among Konami’s salvos in the beat ‘em up arcade wars was “X-Men”, a ridiculously fun six-player monster that ate quarters like they were delicious silver candy. Partially that was because it was designed to chew through your life bar at ridiculous speed, but nobody cared, because you were blasting robots into pits and body-slamming the Juggernaut.
But, unlike many of these arcade games, this never got a port to consoles, not even a watered down one. It took almost twenty years, but Konami addressed this mistake by offering up “X-Men” for download. Even better, it has both four-player and six-player versions, plus the Japanese and American versions, which are mostly there for comedy value, but what the hell, it’s still fun to see Professor X subtitled in Japanese.
3) Monkey Island 2
One thing console gamers largely missed out on during the ’80s and ’90s was the adventure game craze. Sure, they got “Maniac Mansion” on the NES, but they missed out on pretty much everything else, especially the comedic genius of LucasArts. Then all the funny guys either got fired or quit, and LucasArts went to the special hell of licensed games.
Fortunately, they realized somewhere along the line that everybody loved their old adventure games, and that they could make almost as much money on those as they could on Star Wars properties. Hence, LucasArts is slowly rolling out remakes of their adventure games, and none more welcome than “Monkey Island 2”.
“Monkey Island” features Guybrush Threepwood fighting the dread undead pirate LeChuck, and largely defeating him by bumbling out of his lady love Elaine’s way. Along the way, you get to commit fraud, hock loogies, steal ships, and get outwitted by animals. You know, just like back in college.
2) Final Fight: Double Impact
We mentioned Konami in the beat ‘em up wars a few entries back, so it’s only fair that we mention some of Capcom’s best as well. Especially when it’s not just a fun game, but a great deal.
Final Fight, of course, features a mayor and his daughter’s boyfriend walking around beating up his own citizens and trashing their vehicles, offering a trenchant and profound criticism of the failure of local politics in American in the 1980s. OK, so we’re completely full of crap, but it is a classic beat ‘em up that launched an entire genre and a beloved series that Capcom would later utterly derail, but this is why we have retro nostalgia in the first place. You can also play it on a distorted, crappy screen with the cabinet surrounding the image, just as the gaming gods intended.
Even better, it includes another Capcom beat ‘em up that never quite got its due, “Magic Sword”. Basically “Final Fight” in a fantasy setting, this one had ass-kicking sidekicks and the ability to hit people with an axe. Best of all? They’re available in a $10 two-pack. That’s a lot of violence for ten bucks!
1) Wolfenstein 3D
There are three enemies that any gamer has no problem killing: aliens, zombies, and Nazis. Let’s face it, you can shoot a Nazi in the crotch with a missile launcher and not feel bad about it, because they’re Nazis, screw those guys! And nobody does Nazi-killing like “Wolfenstein 3D”.
“Wolfenstein”, of course, is the granddaddy of every FPS ever, being the first to catch on, and if you grew up with a console, you never actually played the real thing. The SNES version was heavily censored, and even worse, a lot of console ports were based off the SNES code. It’s so bad, the version on the Ti-83 (yes, they had Wolfenstein on calculators) was more faithful.
So this release, which features all of the expansion pack levels, blood, and swastikas, redresses a serious wrong. Plus, despite years of new technology, this game still remains fun. Because there’s nothing more fun than shooting a Nazi and hearing him scream. Unless it’s a zombie Nazi.