May 11
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

Somebody far funnier than us once said life is about re-purchasing your favourite movies in higher definitions until you die. The same can also be said about Mega Drive compilations.

SEGA Mega Drive Collection – out on PS4 and Xbox One at the end of the month – is the fourth since the Japanese publishing giant departed the hardware biz.

2009’s SEGA Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection managed to live up to its name, containing all the renown hits ‘90s SEGA fans grew up with, alongside a handful of arcade obscurities such as Congo Bongo. FMV interviews rounded the package off nicely.

This latest iteration, however, has a few gaping holes in its library that the new additions (Wonder Boy, ToeJam & Earl, Landstalker, Bio-Hazard Battle, and more) can’t compensate for.

If you’re wondering where the following are, then you aren’t alone.

Ecco the Dolphin

Since the release of the PS2/PSP’s Mega Drive Collection we’ve gone from three Ecco games (yes, three – Ecco Jr. is an often-forgotten kid’s title, released in the US and Australia only) to zero.

Although the underwater adventure series is unquestionably a ‘Marmite’ affair it’s still an important part of the Mega Drive’s history, offering non-violent gameplay at a time when the industry was under fire for introducing increasingly adult themes.

Sonic 3/Sonic & Knuckles

There’s a reason Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are both absent – Michael Jackson and Brad Buxer directly sampled songs from their respective discographies, resulting in a licensing nightmare. SEGA has found workarounds in the past, giving the PC re-release alternative music, but they’ve clearly decided to omit them completely here, perhaps for authenticity’s sake.

Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!

Greendog may not be fit enough to rub shoulders with the Mega Drive’s finest, but it was a big seller back in the day. As such, it’s bound to hit gamers of a certain age with a bout of nostalgia, despite numerous shortcomings.

It’s trash, but the best kind imaginable – quintessentially ‘90s trash. We’d happily take ol’ Greendog over Super Thunder Blade any day.

Virtua Racing

We can live with the fact that not a single sports title features on this compilation. The complete lack of racing games is inexcusable, however. Well, maybe not inexcusable – OutRun isn’t here because the Ferrari licensing deal expired decades ago. Super Monaco GP was also loaded with licenses, including billboards featuring Marlboro cigarettes, so that’s a no-no too.

As far as we’re aware though, all vehicles and tracks in Virtua Racing were entirely fictional. The only possible explanation for its absence could be emulation issues, as the cartridge included a dedicated 3D chip. But even then, that isn’t much of an excuse – Nintendo was able to include the Super FX 2 powered StarFox 2 on the SNES Classic Mini, after all.

The Ooze

While it’s great to see a few fresh faces on the new collection, a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss. The Ooze is something of a lost classic, released during the end of the Mega Drive’s life. It’s pretty hard to find, in fact, selling for between £50-£70 on eBay nowadays.

A very different experience to most Mega Drive games, it puts you in control of a slimy puddle of green goo that slithers across the ground while growing and shrinking in size. For the time, it was technically impressive. It’s more of a curio these days, but seeing many people overlooked it upon launch, it would have been a worthy addition.

Emulation can’t be an issue as it was included in a past collection – 2002’s Sonic Mega Collection Plus, where it was joined by Comix Zone in the bonus game section.

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May 10
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Nintendo has ruled out plans for Virtual Console on Switch, but this doesn’t mean owners of the hybrid handheld will be denied a retro fix. This week is a fine example why, with a trio retro re-releases and several homages to ’90s classics due on the eShop.

ACA NEOGEO SUPER SIDEKICKS 2 (£6.29) from 1994 is this week’s re-release from Hamster, unofficially based on the ’94 World Cup. Then we have Arcade Archives TERRA CRESTA (£6.29), a technically advanced Nichibutsu vertical shooter from 1985.

Curiously, Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Sly Spy (£7.99) is down for a Saturday release. It’s a Data East platform shooter influenced by Namco’s Rolling Thunder series, only with a James Bond-style facade. This is obviously the arcade iteration, but you may know it from its home release – Ocean Software converted it to the likes of the Amiga back in 1990.

As for this week’s big-name releases, we have the colourful Uridium homage Hyper Sentinel (£9.99), which has so far mustered an 8/10 from Nintendo Life and a lukewarm 6/10 from The Metro. “Hyper Sentinel doesn’t bring shame upon its inspiration, but it also doesn’t do much to continue its legacy,” said the UK tabloid.

Team 17’s Raging Justice (£9.99) pays homage to a different retro classic – SEGA’s Streets of Rage series. Visually though, it has more in common with CGI rendered ‘90s titles such as Killer Instinct, X-Perts, and Batman Forever. Review scores are mostly positive, but not glowing, with vexing controls and a few difficulty spikes to blame.

‘90s throwback shooter Immortal Redneck (£17.99) has been getting consistently good reviews, with both Nintendo Life and Vooks opting for an 8/10. “By combining well-crafted room design with randomly generated maps and then giving the player the ability to smoothly run, leap and blast through them with all the grace of a shotgun-wielding swan while constantly upgrading their abilities, it offers a massively satisfying experience that’s likely to remain permanently installed on your Switch long after you’ve deleted other games to make space,” said NL.

Puzzle/platformer Suicide Guy (£7.19) makes the jump from PS4, meanwhile. Set inside the mind of the protagonist, it’s your job to him to wake up before it’s too late. “It provides a fun little challenge without becoming a chore,” was Gaming Trend’s verdict. http://gamingtrend.com/feature/reviews/a-drink-to-die-for-suicide-guy-review/

Then we have Garage (£13.49), a grisly top-down shooter influenced by B-movies. Playing as a drug dealer named Butch, you stand alone against hordes of the living dead. Nintendo Life has reviewed this one too, handing out 6/10. “With nothing new or interesting up its sleeve, Garage’s zombie apocalypse setting feels very tired and it lacks the readability, coherence and sheer style of Hotline Miami, a game the developer is clearly in awe of,” was their conclusion.

Death Road to Canada (£9.99) looks like a better way to blow your cash, being a zombie take on the PC classic The Oregon Trail. As mentioned in our weekly new release round-up, reviews are remarkably positive, with several 9/10s being bandied about.

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May 09
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

We can’t decide if Raging Justice’s timing is perfect or unfortunate. The side-scrolling brawler makes its debut while Streets of Rage Collection is currently free on Xbox, which of course contains one of the finest examples of the genre – the almighty Streets of Rage 2.

Critics make several references to SEGA’s sentimental classic in their reviews, claiming Raging Justice doesn’t come close to topping it.

It certainly isn’t a bad attempt though, with scores mostly clocking in at 7/10. It’s a bit of a slog in places due to difficulty spikes, but it’s bold, brash, and appropriately trashy. The jury is still out on the visual style, though – the rendered characters and backdrops have divided critics, in some instances recalling bad memories of Pit Fighter.

Trailblazers and Death Road to Canada are also turning heads this week. The colourful Trailblazers combines F-Zero with Splatoon, while Death Road to Canada turns The Oregon Trail into a zombie apocalypse. Zombie Pinball on Xbox One provides an altogether different zombie experience, ignoring the fact that it appears suspiciously similar to last month’s Babylon 2055 Pinball. We wonder how many more reskins Plug in Digital has in the pipeline. Infinite possibilities, there.

As for this week’s big budget titles, Conan Exiles has left preview status, now packing free additional ‘Nudity DLC’. Good Lord. Reviews of the MMO are slow to surface, which probably has something to do with the game’s scope and scale, but user reviews on Metacritic and Steam are mostly positive.

The same can’t be said for Destiny 2: Warmind, which is getting a kicking even from the Destiny diehards. Word has it that it’s even shorter than previous add-ons, offering not much more than 4-5 hours of playtime. Currently, Destructoid is the only outlet to pen a review. “Destiny 2: Warmind is a better effort than Osiris, but its limited scope and re-used concepts prevent it from attaining greatness,” they said before handing out a mediocre 5.5.

We’ve also rounded-up reviews of AO International Tennis below. We haven’t seen a proper tennis sim in bloody ages. Sadly, this one wasn’t worth the wait. Perhaps next week’s Tennis World Tour will be worth making a racket about.

New release showcase:

Raging Justice – PS4/XO/PC/Switch

Reviews:
8.5 – Xbox Tavern: “This may not be the next Streets of Rage II, but it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re on the market for a modern day version of that formula. It’s fun, brutal, often unfair, yet ultimately satisfying in the long run”

7/10 – PSU: “Erring on just the right side of trashy, Raging Justice doesn’t break any significant new ground for the side-scrolling brawler but it succeeds as an entertaining effort all the same”

3/5 – Trusted Reviews: “Raging Justice is ridiculous fun which is, at its heart, just an updated version of Streets Of Rage. It’s dumb, entertaining and well made, even if it can be horrifically hard”

Death Road to Canada – PS4/XO/PC/Switch

Reviews:
9/10 – PlayStation Country: “Death Road To Canada is a brilliant addition to the rogue-like pantheon, you should be playing it right now. It’s excellent. At the time of writing we’d just got within three days to the land of the maple leaf before we succumbed to the hordes yet again, the only thing stopping us having another go was writing this review”

9/10 – PSU: “A fiendishly constructed zombie mashing roguelike with a veritable mountain of stuff to do, Death Road to Canada is the hilarious, ever-compelling road trip odyssey you never knew you wanted”

8.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Everything about the package comes together well. Even though the developers could have taken shortcuts and brushed issues aside as nostalgia for The Oregon Trail, they instead gave us a game that invokes that nostalgia while improving upon the old formula”

AO International Tennis – PS4/XO/PC

Reviews:
5.0 – God is a Geek: “Despite giving the player an excess of control over shots themselves, the movement in order to set up those shots is almost completely absent. Add to this a list of unrecognisable names and you’ve got a tennis game that feels pretty darn hollow”

4/10 – Push Square: “The few official player models are of a good quality and the customisation options are a welcome touch, but the PS4’s first tennis title is a disappointment – it wouldn’t even make the qualifiers let alone win a Grand Slam”

4.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “Ultimately though, the poor execution and the cracks in the gameplay cause this wildcard entry to fall well short of being a grand slam effort”

Trailblazers – PS4/XO/PC/Switch

Reviews:
4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “By offering up enough twists on a traditional racing game, it finds ways to create excitement that haven’t been done before in the genre and is a must for anyone looking for an arcade-style futuristic racing experience. If you like F-Zero and/or Splatoon, you will find a lot to like here”

6/10 – Push Square: “Some performance issues aside, this remains an engaging, and rather different, racing game that just about overcomes its problems to offer some good old fashioned fun”

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May 08
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

No less than five titles in this week’s UK top ten are first-party exclusives.

God of War takes the top spot for a third week running, while newcomer Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze swings in at #2.

Tropical Freeze is technically a re-entry. According to GamesIndustry.biz though, only 44 copies were sold on Wii U last week. They also state that sales on Switch already account for 17% of Wii U version’s lifetime sales.

Far Cry 5 dropped one place to #3 while FIFA 18 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe held onto #4 and #5 (respectively).

Due to the popularity of a certain movie, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is back in the top ten at #6, up from #12.

Fallout 4 hangs around at #7, PUBG rose to #8, Star Wars Battlefront 2 climbs to #9, and then at #10 it’s Super Mario Odyssey.

GTA V, Call of Duty: WWII, and the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit were this week’s top ten dropouts, falling to #12, #13 and #14.

The Nintendo Labo Robot Kit has left the top 40 entirely, meanwhile.

May 05
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

It’s easy to forget how popular Donkey Kong was in the early ‘80s. Nintendo’s arcade classic spawned a marketing phenomenon, with the grinning ape appearing on everything from breakfast cereal to board games.

The colourful visuals, non-violent gameplay, memorable characters, and hard-but-fair difficulty level made Donkey Kong an arcade game like no other, notching up impressive sales. While it didn’t go quite as far as to make Nintendo a household name, it certainly helped the Kyoto giant claim a foothold in the US.

We could duly tell you that Mario made his first appearance in Donkey Kong, under the guise of Jumpman, but that’s common knowledge. Less common: the number of Game & Watch handhelds based on Donkey Kong exceeded those starring Mario. The two-player Donkey Kong Hockey even saw the popular primate cross into the sporting genre.

The original Game & Watch Donkey Kong from 1982 is often referred to as one of the best LCD handhelds of all-time. It was certainly the bestselling – 1.2 million units were sold in Japan alone. It’s an amazing figure. Heck, some fully fledged ‘80s video game systems even struggled to reach 1 million sales (although that’s perhaps a slightly unfair comparison, given price).

Another factor that plays in the popularity of this Game & Watch is that many children weren’t allowed in arcades. Especially in the US, they had a reputation of being shady locations for troublesome youths to congregate. When word of mouth spread that Donkey Kong could be experienced outside of the arcade, sales boomed.

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May 03
By Matt Gander In Most Played No Comments

We’ve become accustomed to simultaneous launches in this digital age. If not simultaneous, then at least within a month of launching in other regions, should there be a last-minute hiccup or similar.

Super Night Riders’ story is a little different. Some two years after hitting Xbox One in America, the arcade racer has finally found its way to Europe. The reason for the delay isn’t clear, but one cause could be down to Microsoft exercising quality control. Reviews across the pond weren’t too kind, resulting in a sloppy 36% Metacritic. Ouch!

Whatever the reason, a two-year delay is largely unheard of nowadays.

Many indie games are influenced by retro classics, but few are quite as brazen about it as Super Night Riders – as soon as a race starts, the words ‘Hang On!” dash across the screen. What we have here, then, is a straightforward checkpoint racer with courses taking approx. 3 minutes to beat.

Time limits are tight, with checkpoints just 30 seconds apart. There’s very little leeway for error – it’s possible to hit one, maybe two, rivals and still win but any more than that is pushing your luck.

Bike handling is fittingly arcade-like. Bikes get up to full speed in a blink of an eye and drifting across the tarmac to avoid traffic is an effortless task, requiring just a jab of the accelerator.

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May 03
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

This week’s Switch eShop line-up features dozens of familiar faces. Or in other words, the Switch eShop is about to be swamped with more belated conversions.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (£49.99) leads the way. Critics claim that it’s a great way to experience one of the Wii U’s lesser-known titles, featuring some deceptively challenging level design. Review scores are mostly a mixture of 8s and 9s so far, putting it alongside some of the system’s finest.

It also gained Eurogamer’s ‘recommended’ badge earlier today. “Retro Studios displays mastery of the 2D platformer in this exquisite sequel,” was their verdict.

Obscure horse racing sim ACA NEOGEO STAKES WINNER (£6.29), and Arcade Archives 10-Yard Fight (£6.29) – an American football title from 1983 – are this week’s arcade re-releases, both striking us as somewhat niche.

Cast of the Seven Godsends (£9.99) also provides arcade-like thrills, influenced by Ghouls n’ Ghosts. The Xbox One and PS4 versions gained middling reviews due to stale mechanics and a general lack of polish, so it’s probably best to approach with caution.

Atmospheric 2D puzzle/platformer Nihilumbra (£5.99) – which hit PC in 2013 and Wii U in 2015 – fared better amongst journalists, even gaining a lofty 9/10 from Nintendo Life. Together with a low entry point, we imagine it’s worth a look.

Going back to the arcade theme, the cheapy cheap (£1.79) Timberman VS is a competitive multiplayer woodchopping party game, featuring retro pixel art. It reminds us of Super Hot’s hidden tree chopping mini-game.

Then we have the side-scrolling physics-based adventure game Animal Super Squad (£8.99), and the 3D optical illusions puzzler Perfect Angle (£8.99), which entails lining up objects perfectly to create images with shadows and such. Those who played through Resident Evil VII may notice some similarities.

Don’t Die, Mr Robot! (£7.19) makes the jump from PS4, meanwhile. This bullet-hell avoid ‘em up has received a remix for its Switch debut, with new music, improved visuals and 50 new stages. L.F.O. -Lost Future Omega- (£5.89) offers a similar psychedelic experience, albeit one more music orientated.

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May 02
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Nintendo’s latest batch of Wii U-to-Switch conversions have come under fire, and for arguably good reason – both Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker were part of the £20 Wii U Selects range, yet their Switch counterparts cost double. Adding further insult to injury, Tropical Freeze was yanked from the Wii U eShop earlier this week.

In Nintendo’s defence, the Switch iteration of Tropical Freeze has had additional work put into it, including a new Funky Kong mode for inexperienced gamers. Critics are also seemingly in agreement that it’s a great way to play one of the Wii U’s lost classics. A sampling of review scores can be found below. Admittedly, we’re surprised to see so many 9/10s bandied about.

Rebellion’s Battlezone Gold Edition – which drops VR support in favour of pastures new – is also off to a good start, gaining a glowing review from GameSpew. “Battlezone Gold Edition is a great game that’s easy to pick up and play; one that I’ll certainly find myself dipping into little but often,” they said.

Reviews of the teamwork-focused steampunk aircraft shooter Guns of Icarus: Alliance are starting to surface too, leaving critics impressed by the ability to play against Steam users. GameSpace opted for an 8/10 while Push Square deemed it worthy of a 7/10. “If you’re in the mood to invest some time in becoming the best of the best as a team, there is much airborne fun to be had on board your shiny steampunk,” was their verdict.

For sports fans, particularly frugal ones, Super Mega Baseball 2 may be of note. Even though it’s one of this month’s Xbox One ‘Games with Gold’ titles it’s also hitting PS4 this week. We were considering penning a review but there isn’t a great deal for us to say. The presentation is stylish, and it has all the features and options you’d expect to find in a baseball sim. In all, it’s pretty good. Again, you’ll find scores below.

Super Hang On homage Super Night Riders – out now on Xbox One – was also potentially lined up for the review treatment, but it turns out US gamers received it back in 2016. We have no idea why it has taken this long to reach the UK. Although reviews were damning in 2016, resulting in a 36% Metacritic, a quick play suggests fans of SEGA’s racer may still want to take a look. Also: it’s only £3-odd currently.

New release showcase:

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – Switch

Reviews:
9.25 – GameInformer: Tropical Freeze stands among the best platformers of the last decade. Playing as Funky Kong is great for alleviating frustration or allowing skilled players to breeze through the game at high speed

9.0 – EGM: There might not be enough (or anything) to convince Wii U owners to play it again, but long-lost Nintendo fans who came back for the Switch have another must-play game to add to their growing libraries.

4.5/5 – GamesRadar: If you crave a challenge, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will bring out the best of your platforming abilities. Those expecting a cakewalk will feel like they slammed headfirst into a brick wall of difficulty.

Super Mega Baseball 2 – PS4/XO

Reviews:
9/10 – CGM: From the players, to the narration, and even to the stadiums, Super Mega Baseball 2’s style is so simplistic, but it’s easy on the eyes. Above all, it is this visual simplicity that, combined with the satisfying gameplay, creates an experience that does exactly what the developers intended Super Mega Baseball 2to do: be a fun baseball experience that can get any player to smile whether alone or with friends.

8.1 – Xbox Tavern: Its decent and believable physics, grouped with its unique design and alluringly fluid gameplay, gives it a definitive edge over the half-baked RBI Baseball 18. Despite the lack of diverse stadiums and licenses, this game achieves everything that it set out to accomplish, ultimately delivering a polished, wacky and robust experience.

7.8 – IGN: Super Mega Baseball 2 hits the spot as a customizable, outside-the-batter’s-box baseball sim.

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