Sunday, January 9, 2011

Retro Gaming Recap; Winter 2010/2011

So here's what's been going on with retro gaming recently. We'll delve into it in chronological order, new to old...

Amidst rumors of SNK Playmore no longer publishing games, I have it on good authority that SNK Arcade Classics 0 may finally be on it's way. Word is new footage was taken and sent to the ESRB recently (as posted by developer G1M2 on December 22 on their Facebook Page), and that information should be publicly available soon.

First off, the PS2 release has been altogether scrapped, which isn't the least bit surprising (I wasn't even aware that games were still being manufactured for the old workhorse, although apparently they still are, with at least five games scheduled for NA release in 2011).
The PSP release might still be in the cards, and digital distribution in some form is the new blueprint, which might be the only way us non-handheld home console players will be able to access these classics - which would be unfortunate.

No word yet on why the game was delayed over a year from the PSP release date found in the Japanese comic.

So there's finally an official announcement on SNK Arcade Classics 0.
It is set for an April 21st 2011 release for the PSP in Japan. No word yet on a Stateside release.

Dreamcast Collection Due In Late February (Feb 22nd North America)
Four Dreamcast games are included in this compilation; Sonic Adventure; Crazy Taxi; SEGA Bass Fishing; and Space Channel 5: Part 2.

To call four games a "collection" is a real stretch. Since I already have most of the key Dreamcast games (only game in this collection I don't have is Space Channel 5, and I couldn't care less about it), the Dreamcast Collection will not show up in my collection.
Yes, Dreamcast games take up a larger amount of memory so there's a limit on how many titles they can fit onto one disc, but I was simply expecting more, and it's difficult not to compare it to the all-encompassing Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection which contained a grand total of 48 games (40 Genesis, 7 arcade, and 2 Sega Master System games). Additionally, two of the games in the Dreamcast Collection (Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure) are available on Xbox Live Arcade, and the remaining two games are planned for future XBLA release. My condolences to those who have purchased either Crazy Taxi or Sonic Adventures on XBLA for $10 a piece, when you could've just waited for the Dreamcast Collection for $30 and got 4 games for for the price of 3 Dreamcast titles on XBLA.
Putting aside the fact that there were only 4 games included, the game selections in this compilation were just far too predictable. Not to mention the fact that Crazy Taxi isn't really the authentic Dreamcast version, since the in-game advertising was removed and the soundtrack featuring Bad Religion and The Offspring was replaced, and Sega Bass Fishing just isn't the same without the Dreamcast Fishing Rod peripheral.

A few game suggestions;
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker (also ported to the PS2)
2K Sports series; NBA 2K2, NFL 2K2, NHL 2K2, Tennis 2K2 (aka Virtua Tennis 2), World Series Baseball 2K2
Alien Front Online
Confidential Mission (On-rail gun game)
Crazy Taxi 2 and Crazy Taxi 3 (which was only released on the Xbox)
Dynamite Cop
Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Future
Phantasy Star Online Episode I&II
Racing games; Daytona USA 2001, F355 Challenge (also ported to the PS2), Sega GT, Sega Rally 2
Seaman and Seaman 2 (which was only released on the PS2 in Japan)
Sega Bass Fishing 2
Shenmue I&II
Skies Of Arcadia (the updated Gamecube port)
Sonic Adventure 2 (the updated Gamecube port)
Virtua Cop 2 (from Sega Smash Pack)
Zombie Revenge

I've heard many echo requests for Jet Set Radio and it's sequel, although I have no vested interest in it.
I'd suggest House Of The Dead II, but the House Of The Dead II&III collection on the Wii pretty much covered that.

Although the following games have no roots in the Dreamcast, I'd also like to see them include Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox) and Shinobi and Nightshade (PS2). Then again, they could always save the Shinobi games for an all-encompassing Shinobi Anthology.

I think Sega has been spiraling out of control with no one at the wheel ever since they left the hardware market. And they've been hemorrhaging their back catalog with games like the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection and the upcoming Dreamcast Collection, not to mention auctioning off their back catalog to craptastic Atgames, most recently with the Sega Genesis Arcade Motion plug-n-play on sale at Walgreens. Which is all pretty good news for consumers, but more indicative of a company that's struggling rather than sitting well.

To Sega's credit, they did publish two well-rated games this past year, Bayonetta and Vanquish. Both demos of which I enjoyed, Vanquish more than Bayonetta (reminded me too much of Devil May Cry). Gamespot even gave Vanquish the dubious honor of 'best game no one played' award for 2010. AVP3 however, was up for the worst game everyone played award.

Krome closes down
"On 18 August 2010, it was reported that Krome had closed down their Adelaide studios and made significant staff cuts to their Melbourne and Brisbane offices - with as many as 100 staff let go. On 18 October 2010, all remaining staff were let go."
On December 22nd, the final game pack (unlucky number 13) was released.

Let's face it, Game Room was destined for failure from the very start. Krome did little to nothing to alter or improve the virtual service since launch, and Microsoft has done little to nothing to promote it since its launch. You can't have both the developer and the publisher not give a product it's full support and expect it to succeed.
Bring in another developer? Perhaps. But I'd prefer if they'd scrap everything but the title and the games already released, and start from scratch.

I doubt we'll ever see even half of the 1000 games initially promised, and why would we want to? As echoed by others, it's most assuredly all shovelware, and Konami should have included all of their bottom-of-the-barrel arcade offerings (along with their hits) on a $20/$30 compilation disc long ago.

I'm sure glad I didn't actually spend money on any of Game Room's offerings, and now that I know it's teetering on the brink of extinction, I surely won't!

Krome's brilliant (sarcasm) solution to the Konami arcade cabinets' missing artwork was to substitute them for the Konami Windy arcade cabinet, which was released in 1996, when all of Konami's Game Room games were released years before. The least Game Room could do is make their application historically accurate, but Krome couldn't even get that right. The Windy cabinets stick out like a sore thumb and are entirely out of place.
Sure sure "if you go to an arcade in Japan they will have ALL the games in these cabinets, including classics from the 80s". Well that's all fine and dandy but THIS ISN'T JAPAN nor is Game Room intended to emulate 1996-present day! Not to mention that Windy cabinets do not have a marquee so it's nearly impossible to even tell what game it is until you enter the game itself.

I logged into Game Room around the time of the Pack 13 release and it was screwy to the tenth degree. Booted me from Live, made me download a small update, booted me from Live again, told me I had to re-download game packs and if I canceled it would erase my Game Room history, it (temporarily) erased my custom arcade, clicked on arcade games to play in the shop and it'd go to a loading screen, and once the loading was done it'd just bring me right back to the shop. What a friggin' disaster! Krome really had no clue how to run this thing from the get-go. What was Microsoft thinking? Stick a fork in it MS, it's done.

Once again, scrap the WHOLE dang thing and try again with another developer - or better yet, DON'T and force Konami to release an all-encompassing arcade compilation at a budget-price ON DISC (which they should've done long ago), and have Atari and Intellivision put all their Game Room shovelware on Atari Anthology Volume 2: FUCT (Failed Under Continuous Testing) and Intellivision Lives! Volume 2: MEGO (My Eyes Glazed Over).

In regards to classic game compilations on disc vs digital distribution;
It's pretty simple really. More games for less money is better than more money for less games. Classic game compilations have been around for quite some time now, and they set the bar in regards to pricing. Then digital distribution came along and felt the added convenience and online options (multiplayer, leaderboards) were worth a 500% to over 1000% markup. They were wrong, and sensible consumers can and will always recognize that fact.
I do not understand some of Game Room's [digital distribution] biggest advocates voicing their support in having classic games in Game Room as opposed to on disc. You're not gaining much if anything at all by having it on Game Room. Owning it on disc, however, guarantees it won't ever disappear. Owning classic games released on disc is a win-win for consumers. Having them released onto digital distribution instead of on-disc and the developer/publisher has you the consumer over the barrel.

And you can blame publishers for having half a bit of marketing sense for that. Release a classic game compilation on disc for a budget price, then releasing the games separately on a digital distribution service for a 500% markup and consumers are less likely to jump if there's a cheaper option available.
Release them on a digital distribution service first, then releasing them on a classic gaming compilation on disc for a budget price after the fact doesn't make much sense from a business standpoint, unless the online game sales have already topped out - at which point releasing a compilation on disc is superfluous.
In example; Would you have paid $60 (4800 points) for 9 Namco Xbla games, or $30 for all those plus the 25 more games included within the Namco Museum Virtual Arcade compilation?
It's just an unfortunate fact that the more money consumers dump into classic games via digital distribution, the more prices rise and the less likely we are to see classic game compilations on disc.

So the big remaining question mark Game Room gamers were clammering about was; Where is Sunset Riders? "It's in the demo reel and also listed in the binary file" gamers wrote. Well it was a no-show, and to be honest, I think Konami would be making a mistake by releasing Sunset Riders in Game Room for a paltry $3 as opposed to XBLA. Sunset Riders deserves larger exposure, and it'd be a nice fan-service if they gave it some sort of enhanced graphics treatment (with an option to play with original graphics of course).

Microsoft claims to be still investing in Game Room, although they have been been silent on their plans for Game Room ever since developer Krome went under.
One sign that it may still have a future is the fact that certain games via the Game Room interface were introduced as playable on Windows Phone 7 at CES 2011 earlier this month. Whether Microsoft brings in another developer to work on the core Xbox 360 application, or simply let it sit unused and full of glitches, is yet to be seen.

Dotemu released IREM Arcade Hits for the PC, DRM free, download only, in December 2010.
The games included are;

Air Duel [1990]
Battle Chopper [1987]
Blade Master [1991]
Cosmic Cop [1991]
Dragon Breed [1989]
Gunforce [1991]
Gun Force II [1994]
Hammerin' Harry [1990]
Image Fight [1988]
In The Hunt [1993] *Released on PSOne in US
Kung Fu Master [1984] *Ported to NES, arcade-perfect port included in Irem Arcade Classics for both the Sega Saturn and Playstation in Japan.

Legend of Hero Tonma [1989] *Turbografx-16 port available on the Wii Virtual Console
Mystic Riders [1992]
Ninja Spirit [1988] *Turbografx-16 port available on the Wii Virtual Console
Believe it or not, Ninja Spirit for the Turbografx-16 was the first game in history to receive a 10 in Electronic Gaming Monthly.
R-Type Leo [1992]
Released only in arcades, R-Type Leo is the third and final arcade release of this classic series (all subsequent R-Type games were released only on consoles). The R-Type timeline indicates that the events of R-Type Leo occur before those of all the other games in the series.
Superior Soldiers [1993]
Undercover Cops [1992]
Vigilante [1988] *Turbografx-16 port available on the Wii Virtual Console
A spin-off of Kung-Fu Master

I've always wanted Irem to release an arcade classics compilation! And although I wish they could've included more games from their collection (the exclusion of the 1982 golden age classic Moon Patrol is somewhat puzzling, and they really need to release an all encompassing R-Type Anthology including every last console release), my big complaint is though, why not release this on consoles!?! IREM Arcade Hits deserves larger exposure. I think it's a mistake to only release it as download only for the PC. I'd gladly pay a mark-up to play this on the Wii with the classic controller. I'd suggest the 360 but I'm afraid that they'd try to hawk each game separately on XBLA instead.

DotEmu has stated that it [releasing the game on consoles] "is not so straightforward due to various reasons."

I only recently became aware of the Playstation 3's Playstation 3 Classics HD line with the release of The Sly Collection, which was released on December 1, 2010. In a way this was kicked off over a year ago by the God Of War Collection, which was the first release to include remastered versions of Playstation 2 games.
From Wikipedia; "Classics HD is the official name given for these compilations in Europe, no equivalent of such name exists in North America or Japan. However, these titles are easily differentiated in North America as they include the subtitle "Remastered in High Definition" on the cover."
These remasters also sometimes include 3D support.

The Prince Of Persia trilogy, remastered in high definition, was released in North America as download only via The Playstation Store. Why a hard copy option wasn't made available in North America I do not know. Shame on you!
Update: A hard copy was eventually released on April 19, 2011.
Note; If you own the NTSC Xbox version of Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, you might wanna hold onto it, because the Prince Of Perisa Collection does not include the original Prince of Persia & Prince of Persia 2 as unlockables, as the original Xbox version did (the only version to include Prince Of Persia 2 as an unlockable).

Some news I found exciting is the planned Q2 2011 release of Ico & Shadow Of Colossus. Two titles I own and love and would repurchase to experience them in high-def and 3D.

Update: The Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus Collection has a release date of September 27, 2011.

The planned Tomb Raider Trilogy doesn't quite fit into the formula, since all 3 games have been available in hi-def on this generation of consoles, albeit on the Xbox 360. But since neither Legend nor Anniversary were available on Playstation 3, this gives PS3 owners the chance to experience them all in one pack.
Update: Tomb Raider Collection was released on March 22, 2011.
"The collection includes the PlayStation 2 versions of Legend and Anniversary remastered in high definition plus Underworld, which was previously released on the PS3 in 2008, all on one Blu-ray Disc.
The two downloadable episodes available for the Xbox 360 version of Underworld are not included, and Crystal Dynamics has no current plans to make them available on PS3."

The Tom Clancy Splinter Cell Compilation is planned for release on August 2, 2011, and like the Prince Of Persia Trilogy, was originally listed for North America as download only, but that was revised.

Occasionally swaying from the Playstation 2 requirement, here are some of my suggestions of games worth compiling and revisiting to game pubishers for the "Classics HD" line of compilations;
ACCLAIM; Turok 1-4
ACTIVISION; Call Of Duty Finest Hour and Big Red One, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1-4/Underground 1-2, X-Men Legends 1-2/Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1-2
CAPCOM; Devil May Cry 1-3, Dino Crisis 1-3, Maximo 1-2, Onimusha 1-3 + Dawn Of Dreams
EIDOS; Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver 1-3
ELECTRONIC ARTS; Burnout 1-3 + Revenge and Dominator, James Bond; [Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Agent Under Fire, Nightfire, From Russia With Love], LOTR: The Two Towers and LOTR: The Return of the King, Medal Of Honor 1-6 [Medal Of Honor/Underground/Frontline (*A remastered version of Frontline was included in the PlayStation 3 version of Medal of Honor)/Rising Sun/European Assault/Vanguard], NBA Street 1-4, Need For Speed 1-2/Hot Pursuit 1-2/Underground 1-2 + High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed, NFL Street 1-3, SSX 1-4, Time Splitters 1-3
INTERPLAY; Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance I&II
KONAMI; Hideo Kojima's Adventure Games (Snatcher and Policenauts, uncensored & localized), Metal Gear Solid 1-3, Suikoden 1-5
LUCASARTS; Star Wars: Battlefront 1-2
NAMCO; Ace Combat 1-5 + The Belkan War, Dead To Rights 1-3, Point Blank 1-3, Tekken 1-5 + Tag Tournament 1, Time Crisis 1-3 + Project Titan and Crisis Zone
ROCKSTAR GAMES; Grand Theft Auto III/Liberty City Stories/Vice City/Vice City Stories/San Andreas, Max Payne 1-2
SEGA; Shinobi (2002) and Nightshade, Yakuza 1-2
SONY; Ape Escape 1-3, ATV Offroad Fury 1-4, Discworld 1-3 (Psygnosis), Gran Turismo 1-4, Jak & Daxter 1-3, Ratchet & Clank 1-4, Ridge Racer 1-5, Wipeout 1-6 (Psygnosis) [Wipeout, Wipeout XL, Wipeout 3, Wipeout Fusion, Wipeout Pure [PSP], Wipeout Pulse (PS2 port only released in EU)]
SQUARE ENIX; Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2, Secret Of Mana 1-4 [The Secret Of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Legend Of Mana and Dawn Of Mana]
THQ; Red Faction 1-2
UBISOFT; Destruction Derby 1-5, Driver 1-5, Myst 1-6
WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE; Champions Of Norrath I&II (Snowblind Studios)

The new Splatterhouse game was released in North America on November 23, 2010 and along with it came a welcome surprise.
Although the 2010 revival of Splatterhouse wasn't exactly met with critical fanfare, it is worth noting for including the original Splatterhouse trilogy of games as unlockables. And although you can purchase Splatterhouse 2 on the Wii's Virtual Console, and you'd probably be able to track down Splatterhouse 3 second hand off of Amazon or Ebay without breaking the bank, this is the first time the arcade version of the first Splatterhouse, uncensored without the changes you would find in the Turbografx 16 port, has become available to home console owners.
So because of the fact that Splatterhouse 2010 includes all 3 original games, even if Splatterhouse 2010 may not be a terrific game, it'd be worth picking up in the bargain bin someday.

The Medal Of Honor reboot was released on October 10, 2010, and the Playstation 3 version came with an added bonus. A remastered HD port of 2002's Medal Of Honor: Frontline.
It is one of only two WWII games I own (the other being Call Of Duty 2).
And while 2002 may not be considered "retro", MOH Frontline is a terrifc game, starting off with the D-Day Beach at Normandy level ripped right from Saving Private Ryan.

Dragon's Lair Trilogy (Dragon's Lair I & II and Space Ace) was released for the Wii on October 8, 2010 at an MSRP of $29.99. IGN Review
There have been many releases of Dragon's Lair over the years, but this is the first time both Dragon's Lair games and Space Ace have been brought together on one disc.

The Wii release features the same remastered footage from the Blu Ray release, though converted to 480p widescreen. The original games were filmed in 4:3 and the Blu-Ray was matted to 1:78:1 to fit a 16x9 frame.
The only thing missing is the extra behind the scenes footage produced for the DVD/Blu-Ray.

Yes, the separate Blu-Ray releases of Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair II and Space Ace displayed in full 1080p resolution are the definitive versions, but they come at a cost. All three titles on Blu-Ray would currently cost you $123.97 off of (or $132.89 at Amazon MSRP), or a full $49.95 a piece off of Digital Leisure's site, for a grand total of $148.50!
Considering that each game "can be beat in 15 minutes flat" as someone states, the current price of $21.98 off of Amazon for Dragon's Lair Trilogy for the Wii, as opposed to $120 or more for the Blu-Rays, and considering that the Wii uses the same remastered footage (albeit displayed at 480p), the Wii version comes out lookin' like a winner.
Much like the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack however (and Data East Arcade Classics), Dragon's Lair Trilogy might be difficult to spot at your local brick & mortar store, leaving online outlets such as Amazon your only reliable source of purchase.

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