Retro Games Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Retro Games RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network RetroMania Wrestling Review: Boys Club Nostalgia https://www.gameskinny.com/eg608/retromania-wrestling-review-boys-club-nostalgia https://www.gameskinny.com/eg608/retromania-wrestling-review-boys-club-nostalgia Tue, 02 Mar 2021 15:59:17 -0500 Anthony McGlynn

Few wrestling games are thought of as fondly as WWF Wrestlefest, a 1991 arcade game from Technos Japan. Between improving on the visual fidelity and sound quality of WWF Superstars and getting worldwide distribution, Wrestlefest was a hit that helped shape wrestling in video games for generations to come.

Some 30 years later, RetroMania Wrestling from Retrosoft Wrestling is a sequel to WWF Wrestlefest, trading the necessity of a bulky cabinet for a gamepad and Steam account. The WWF license has been replaced by the National Wrestling Association and House of Hardcore, and a cavalcade of today's wrestlers are the new would-be arcade heroes. 

A follow-up three decades overdue, RetroMania Wrestling celebrates modern pro wrestling through the pixel art and sound of yesteryear. As a throwback to when the best way to settle a grudge was using an arcade cabinet, it lays a strong foundation, but as a showcase of contemporary professional wrestling, it leaves something to be desired.

RetroMania Wrestling Review: Boys Club Nostalgia

Two single-player modes are available in RetroMania Wrestling, each offering its own distinct narrative.

In Story Mode, you guide Johnny Retro (based on WWE superstar John Morrison) through a dramatic comeback following a career-threatening injury at the hands of Zack Sabre Jr. Once he's completed rehabilitation, Retro hits the road, traveling to territories in the United States and around the world for his chance at revenge. Stylized versions of Matt Cardona (previously Zack Ryder in WWE), Jeff Cobb, hardcore legend Tommy Dreamer, and many others make appearances along the way, either teaming up with or challenging Johnny across the various shows.

Matches use three movesets; weak, medium, and strong. Landing hits requires good timing and no small amount of button-bashing to win grappling contests for bigger moves. There is a tutorial, but like its forebears, RetroMania is best understood through trial by fire, trying out combinations against wrestlers in actual matches.

It can be frustrating having the standard AI pull off suplexes and other combos that seem impossible, but once you start to understand the overall rhythm, elaborate techniques become a gratifying cinch. Eventually, dwindling your opponent's stamina for the 1-2-3 is but a forgone conclusion, at which point you can dial up the difficulty.

Short animated cut-scenes break up story encounters, where Retro talks to other wrestling figures in a kayfabe-like environment where everyone is their in-ring personas. Names and faces, such as Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, pop up to help further the plot, and you occasionally have choices about alliances or your next adversary that affect your proceeding matches and create some replayability.
 

If you aren’t much for melodrama, the second mode, 10 Pounds of Gold, lets you choose your wrestler in a bid to defeat Nick Aldis for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship, one of the oldest belts still in active competition.

You face a series of random opponents, in matches varying from one-on-one to a fatal-four-way, before getting to Aldis on an NWA pay-per-view, complete with an animated pre-match Aldis promo. Should you win, you defend a number of times, leading to Aldis getting his rematch.

These are rounded out by Royal Rumble and Exhibition, where you can play against friends using any of the 16-strong roster, with Exhibition giving you full control over the venue, rules, and so on. Going above four participants does put a wrinkle in the game's general smoothness by making it hard to keep track of where you are without a cursor. I was pinned after losing track of my character on more than one occasion.

It's a fairly robust package for anyone pining for another alternative to WWE’s dominance in wrestling games, but it's held back by not having any talent on the roster that isn't a cis-gendered man.

RetroMania positions itself as the recapturing of a bygone era of wrestling video games, one that hoists up the modern generation and highlights legacy beyond that of WWE.

I'm a man who grew up watching WWE and WCW in the 90s, with an older brother who started in the 80s. I'm the obvious target audience for a game like this. But as much as I love seeing the banner for NWA's 70th Anniversary as if it was somehow added to a cabinet from the early 90s, and hearing a heavy metal chiptune following my chosen athlete to the ring, without a single woman or non-binary performer, my rose-tinted glasses aren’t so rosy.

Absent a more inclusive roster, RetroMania dwells in retrograde boys club nostalgia, a vision of wrestling as purely male-dominated and male-defined, without any kind of internal critique or self-awareness.

Journalists and T-shirt companies are name-checked and given dialogue over Serena Deeb, Candy Lee, Thunder Rosa, or any of their peers (despite the NWA World Women's Championship predating the Worlds Heavyweight Championship).

This is especially conspicuous given that WWE unceremoniously cut a women's title match on a recent PPV, and AEW's controversial choice not to air its women's tag tournament on TV, proving these issues persist on a systemic and cultural level.

Thankfully, this is something the devs are aware of, and there's potential here to retroactively acknowledge wrestling outside of the masculine paradigm through-out history, piggybacking on Netflix's GLOW in shedding light on the workers that led the way and their struggle for mainstream recognition.

Right now, though, it's a game that avoids acknowledging these problems at all, and though I had some fun with it, it's not something I'm keen to return to.

RetroMania Wrestling Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Looks good and soundtrack is catchy
  • Wide variety of moves
  • Cool to see smaller companies in video game form

Cons

  • Roster lacks diversity
  • Too many people in the ring is chaotic
  • Learning controls can be frustrating

Retrosoft clearly understands the kind of game it wanted to make in RetroMania, and aesthetically, it succeeds. Gaining the momentum in a match that's in full swing, and keeping it until victory, is exhilarating.

But as of now, RetroMania perpetuates aspects of pro wrestling that are better left in the past.

[Note: Retrosoft Studios provided the copy of RetroMania Wrestling used for this review.]

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Capcom Arcade Stadium Review: A Visual History of the 80s Arcade https://www.gameskinny.com/utaec/capcom-arcade-stadium-review-a-visual-history-of-the-80s-arcade https://www.gameskinny.com/utaec/capcom-arcade-stadium-review-a-visual-history-of-the-80s-arcade Wed, 24 Feb 2021 16:10:34 -0500 Jason D'Aprile

Like a delightful and historic artifact of fun, Capcom’s latest collection of classic games is a wayback machine to the golden days of the arcade. This isn’t, by any stretch, the first such collection we’ve seen from them. Their last arcade collection, the Capcom Arcade Cabinet, hit during the Xbox 360 and Vita era, but it wasn’t quite as expansive as Capcom Arcade Stadium.

The 32 games in this collection represent a remarkably varied look at the sheer variety of styles Capcom released to arcades through the 80s and 90s. It’s not their complete catalog, unfortunately. A lot of 90s fighters, like Darkstalkers and X-Men: Children of the Atom are absent. But it offers some of the true coin-op greats of the era. Available as a free download with just 1943: the Battle of Midway unlocked, the collection is split into three vaguely related packs of 10 games each.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins is available as a separate download as well, complete with two-player local multiplayer, which is new. You can read my review of that over here

Capcom Arcade Stadium Review: A Visual History of the 80s Arcade

There’s a hefty assortment of SHMUPs like Carrier Airwing, the 194X series, Gigawing, Varth, and Forgotten Worlds. They’re all fun and intense bullet-hell quarter-eaters that were a prized commodity on consoles of the day. Side-scrolling brawlers make up a significant part of Stadium as well, and it’s amazing to see just how outlandish Capcom would make titles to add personality to the genre.

Most are probably familiar with Final Fight, which was a pretty straightforward street-fighting thug bash. Others, like Captain Commando and the really obscure Battle Circuit, offer hilariously weird character designs across the board. The latter lets you be a kid with a super ostrich or a plant alien, among others, then drops you into four-way co op as you fight against even weirder foes like cephalopod aliens and a guy who looks an awful lot like Elvis.

Other brawler gems include Dynasty Wars (well before the Dynasty Warriors series), Warriors of Fate, and Powered Gears, all offering stunningly different landscapes for what is essentially similar bashing action. 

For a really old-school challenge, Commando, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Tatakai No Banka (released on the NES in the U.S. as Trojan), Strider, Bionic Commando, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and more all offer a pixel-perfect look at some of the biggest coin-ops of the 80s. They’re ridiculously hard, colorful, and impressive feats of game design. 

Arcade Stadium also includes Street Fighter II: The World Warriors and two of its variants, Hyper Fighting and Turbo Editions. Capcom also threw in the very obscure but entertaining Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness. This is a one-on-one fighter of battling robots that never had much presence in the West and had to be imported for the Sega Saturn. 

All the games here are classics of one sort or another. They’re all gems that 80s kids hunted down in arcades and probably paid full-price for whenever one got an actual console release. So, on that level, paying a mere $40 for the collection is a pretty small price. On the other hand, the 80s (and even the 90s) were a while ago, and there are some noticeable gaps in this collection.

Stadium includes Section Z and Forgotten Worlds, for instance, but not Hyper Dyne Side Arms (easily one of this reviewer’s favorite arcade games of all time). Carrier Aircraft is here, but not U.N. Squadron.

The fighting game collection could have been far beefier as well.

It’s not hard to assume there might be legal issues including the superb X-Men fighter, but why not throw in the Darkstalkers series and some other non-Street Fighter-based games? Several games in the previously-released Capcom Arcade Cabinet collection aren’t included in this collection, like Side Arms and Black Tiger.

From a presentation standpoint, Capcom has done a great job offering players options. Most of the games include a Japanese and English ROM version (though some are Japanese-only), but you can customize the display in all kinds of ways. The default is a 3D-rendered arcade cabinet, although it feels much more comfortable to have the game take up as much of the screen as possible.

It’s slightly annoying you have to adjust the display settings for each game individually though, instead of just a blanket option to always display all games a specific way.

Once in the game, there are rewind, difficulty level, and even speed control options, which add a lot of fun to the frenetic gameplay. Pressing the R-stick button adds quarters, allowing you to play forever, which is great for enjoying the nostalgia of the arcade without needing pockets laden with quarters.

Stadium also lets you save at any point in any game and, depending on the game, supports local play for up to four players. There are even online leaderboards to take the high score list online and Stadium-specific achievements.

Capcom Arcade Stadium Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • 32 arcade classics
  • Superb collection of shooters and brawlers
  • Can rewind and continue forever without ever having to touch another dirty quarter or token
  • Online and local play
Cons
  • Could definitely be more complete
  • Missing some key 80s games and most Capcom fighters
  • Universal display options would have been nice

Capcom Arcade Stadium isn’t flawless. It could definitely be more complete, but the 32 games on display here still offer a pretty great slice of gaming history. As examples of their genres, it’s amazing how well most of these games still hold up while serving to vividly illustrate just how much gaming has changed since.

[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Arcade Stadium used for this review.]

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Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review: Brutally Old-School on Every Level https://www.gameskinny.com/8duqz/ghosts-n-goblins-resurrection-review-brutally-old-school-on-every-level https://www.gameskinny.com/8duqz/ghosts-n-goblins-resurrection-review-brutally-old-school-on-every-level Tue, 23 Feb 2021 10:40:05 -0500 Jason D'Aprile

It can be hard to bring back classic games, especially those from the arcade-era of the 80s and early 90s. Deciding how close to stick to the original template is key, since design philosophy and game mechanics have moved on so much since then. In the case of Capcom’s revamp of their arcade classic, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the developer opted to stick right to the source material’s template.

That sounds great, nostalgically, and for those who have played Ghosts ‘n Goblins in modern times and liked it, Ghost ‘n Goblins Resurrection will almost certainly appeal. For those used to more modern sensibilities and controls, this classic take on side-scrolling action is much more of a mixed bag. 

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review: Brutally Old School on Every Level

 

Arcade games were designed for players to fail, just enough to put more quarters in the machine and not so much so they rage quit. GnG always skirted that line. Even by standards of the day, it was a viciously hard game. Resurrection embraces that insane difficulty level with abandon. In that pursuit, it shines a light on so many of the original game's flaws while choosing to emulate them. 

As the beleaguered, armor-wearing knight, Sir Arthur, the entire game world is against you. It starts with Arthur’s own legs. The man runs and jumps like he’s in mud. The weird, janky pace of his movements impacts everything, especially jumping and dodging. Where tombstones and other bits of scenery do nothing to hamper the armies of the undead (both enemies and enemy fire go right past them), it all hampers Arthur, forcing him to jump over even minor obstacles.

It forces players to perform perfectly timed attacks and movements to get through nearly every part of every level. 

All of this is, of course, is spot-on for the source material. It’s remarkable how exactingly Resurrection mirrors the feel, pacing, and overall gameplay of the original. Whether it’s particularly fun is another question entirely.

The game starts out brutally hard and never lets up. Chase sequences mix in with more standard side-scrolling, where you’ll have to jump from flying dragon to flying dragon, avoid murderous bee swarms while jumping to disappearing platforms, and maneuver through other creatively sadistic tasks.

The only compromise here is the difficulty level option. There are three main difficulty levels to choose from and Page mode, the easy mode that also doesn’t allow access to the entire game. Only Page mode allows you to continue from right where you died. The other three rely on sparse checkpoints set on each map. There, when you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint, which can make forward progress frustratingly slow.

I tried the game on all four settings but only managed to actually get through on Page. Squire and Knight, the next difficulty levels, proved sanity-threatening by around half- to three-quarters through the game. If anyone can beat the game on Legend mode, hats off to them.

The frustrating point isn't really that enemies are wickedly hard to kill, but how much the game relies on the sluggishness of Arthur to punish players. Beating a level after umpteen attempts, with all the repetitive backtracking it involves, felt more annoying than satisfying.

Even with weaker enemies, more power-ups, and saner respawns, Page mode is far from actually easy. Since Arthur moves and controls exactly the same no matter which setting you choose, platforming challenges still suffer from sluggish movements. Given that even the arcade sequel, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, felt noticeably improved over the first, the sluggish feel of your character here feels almost cruel.

Granted, arcade revamps and ports in the modern world cater to nostalgia more than anything else. Some of them are legitimately great in their own right, but all come with expectations of a certain style and challenge. On that level, Resurrection certainly accomplishes what it set out to do. It feels spot on to the original.

One area where there is a definitive enhancement is the game's artistic style. Resurrection has a delightful, colorful, almost-hand drawn graphic style. It looks charming and fantastic. Enemy design, from an array of zombies and skeletons to pig men, vicious bugs, and huge bosses, is great as well. There’s a surprising variety of villains here, and they look great. 

The soundtrack in general is excellent, but the updated score will be music to an old arcade hound’s ears. There’s also an incredible variety of weapons to collect and throw. Starting with the standard lance, there’s explosive holy water, knives, shields, a giant hammer, crossbow, and more. 

New to the series are special powers Arthur can buy by collecting magical sprites. These build Arthur up with moves like turning into a rock temporarily, turning weaker enemies to frogs, unleashing lightning and fire, and more. Bizarrely, these secondary moves require you to hold the main attack button to charge instead of having their own button. Given the frenetic pacing of the rest of the game, having to wait a couple seconds without being able to attack makes these specials hard to use. 

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review — The Bottom Line

 

Pros

  • Captures everything about the original game nearly perfectly
  • Delightful artistic style and great soundtrack
  • Excellent enemy designs and great selection of weapons
  • Perfect if you want an absurd challenge

Cons

  • Insanely hard
  • Sluggish player movements hurt pacing and accuracy
  • Can’t see the whole game on the easiest difficulty level.

Fans of classic arcade games will almost certainly be eager to jump into Arthur’s sluggish boots again for another romp through this classic adventure. For those on the fence, the best approach may be to download the original game in Capcom’s Arcade Stadium and see how it feels.

Resurrection captures everything about Ghosts ‘n Goblins, warts and all, with little to no compromise. 

[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection used for this review.]

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Square Enix Announces Legend of Mana Remaster https://www.gameskinny.com/0th22/square-enix-announces-legend-of-mana-remaster https://www.gameskinny.com/0th22/square-enix-announces-legend-of-mana-remaster Wed, 17 Feb 2021 18:41:28 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Square Enix is releasing Legend of Mana remastered for Nintendo Switch on June 24. The announcement came as part of Nintendo's big February Nintendo Direct. But that doesn't mean it's just on Switch. It's also coming to PC and PlayStation 4 on the same date. 

The classic world-building PS1 title will feature an updated orchestral soundtrack and the option to toggle enemy encounters on and off. The soundtrack can be switched between the remastered version and the original.

There's also a new mode called Ring Ring Land, where players raise monsters through a series of Digi-pet-style minigames.

Legend of Mana breaks from its predecessor, Secret of Mana, and tasks players with literally putting the world back together. The map is blank, but pieces of the world, including dungeons and towns, gradually come back to life as players discover artifacts and fill the map out once again.

Legend of Mana on Nintendo Switch releases June 24. It will retail for $29.99. Pre-orders up until June 23 "will receive an early purchase reward, including 10 avatars and a custom Legend of Mana theme on the PlayStation 4 or Legend of Mana wallpaper on PC," according to Square. 

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Eldest Souls Releases Q2 2021 and Brings the Fight to New Platforms https://www.gameskinny.com/61ww0/eldest-souls-releases-q2-2021-and-brings-the-fight-to-new-platforms https://www.gameskinny.com/61ww0/eldest-souls-releases-q2-2021-and-brings-the-fight-to-new-platforms Mon, 01 Feb 2021 16:32:41 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Eldest Souls releases in the second quarter of 2021 — roughly sometime between April and June — and Fallen Flag Studios announced it's coming to current and previous-gen systems.

Eldest Souls follows a hero's journey to defeat the vengeful Old Gods after they stole the essence of life and doomed the world to death. 

Fallen Flag originally announced the boss rush pixel art game for Switch and PC in 2019, and early previews were promising. The game's signature pixel art style earned the Retro Roots award from Pixel Awards Europe 2020.

We praised Eldest Souls' optional challenges, brutal combat, and gorgeous art when it first debuted at E3 in 2019, and it's evolved a fair bit since then both in visuals and gameplay. Where that early preview build only had skills in three categories, the launch version features multiple powers and abilities players can combine for a unique build in every playthrough.

Francesco Barsotti, Fallen Flag's Co-Founder and Programmer, said:

Over the last year, we’ve been hard at work making Eldest Souls the best it can be.

The response to the trailers and the demo during the Steam Game Festival lit a fire under us and we’re further excited by the chance to bring this experience to even more players. We can’t wait to see Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC players challenge the Old Gods.

While there's no solid Eldest Souls release date just yet, PC users can wishlist it on Steam.

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The Game Boy Lives On: Top-Down Horror Title Deadeus Launches in 2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/y85ti/the-game-boy-lives-on-top-down-horror-title-deadeus-launches-in-2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/y85ti/the-game-boy-lives-on-top-down-horror-title-deadeus-launches-in-2021 Fri, 29 Jan 2021 14:59:43 -0500 Henry Stockdale

It's not uncommon to see retro-inspired titles these days. Thanks to the rise in digital distribution, it's given developers a much wider platform to showcase these types of passion projects.

Recreating the aesthetic of a generation long-past, the Game Boy has often been a focus of these new but retro endeavors. Even in 2021, Nintendo's aging handheld is getting new titles, and next in line is horror experience Deadeus.

Developed by -IZMA- and published by Spacebot Interactive, Deadeus focuses on a boy who experiences a prophetic nightmare, informing him everyone will die in just three days. Venturing out into his village, he must find a means to save them while encountering11 different endings.

You can play the ROM for free over on Itch.Io, choosing how much you'd like to donate to the developer, and a physical edition is also in the works. Better yet, this will be fully compatible with your original Game Boy, alongside Color and Advance models.

You can pre-order it now for $57.44/£42, with the package offering a cartridge, box, and manual. Physical editions pre-orders will close on February 15, with shipping planned for March.

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PlayStation Store Remasters & Retros Sale Discounts Old Favorites and New Classics https://www.gameskinny.com/m77iu/playstation-store-remasters-retros-sale-discounts-old-favorites-and-new-classics https://www.gameskinny.com/m77iu/playstation-store-remasters-retros-sale-discounts-old-favorites-and-new-classics Thu, 28 Jan 2021 12:30:32 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Another day, yet another PlayStation Store sale. This time, the PS Store is discounting dozens of retro and remastered games, including Resident Evil Triple Pack, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, MediEvil, Dead Cells, and more through February 10.

Here's a sampling of what's on offer during the PSN Remasters & Retro sale.

PlayStation Store Remasters & Retro Sale

Game Sales Price Original Price
  Resident Evil Triple Pack  $19.63  $59.49
  Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection  $9.99  $19.99
  MediEvil Digital Deluxe  $19.99  $39.99
  Valkyria Chronicles Remastered + Valkyria Chronicles 4  $15.99  $39.99
  Spyro Reignited Trilogy  $15.99  $39.99
  Jak and Daxter Bundle  $14.79  $39.99
  Devil May Cry HD Collection  $14.99  $29.99
  Katamari Damacy Reroll  $20.99  $29.99
  Dead Cells  $12.49 $24.99
  Castlevania Anniversary Collection  $4.99 $19.99
  Gravity Rush  $9.89  $29.99
  Streets of Rage 4  $17/49  $24.99
  Dark Cloud  $5.99  $14.99
  Dark Cloud 2  $5.99  $14.99
  Ys Origin  $7.99  $19.99
  Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition  $4.49  $14.99
  Ape Escape 2  $4.99  $9.99
  Okami HD  $9.99  $19.99
  Metro Redux  $5.99  $29.99
  Resident Evil Raccoon City Edition  $31.99  $79.99

 

The full Remasters & Retro sale list is over on the PlayStation Store. PlayStation Plus subscribers get an extra helping of discounts in February with three free PS Plus games.

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Cyber Shadow Review: Ninja Gaiden's Angry Cyberpunk Grandchild https://www.gameskinny.com/63gub/cyber-shadow-review-ninja-gaidens-angry-cyberpunk-grandchild https://www.gameskinny.com/63gub/cyber-shadow-review-ninja-gaidens-angry-cyberpunk-grandchild Mon, 25 Jan 2021 13:43:55 -0500 Thomas Wilde

There's a lot of obvious care and time baked into every frame of Cyber Shadow. If I didn't already know this was one guy's years-in-the-making passion project, I'd definitely suspect as much.

It's got that feeling you get sometimes from very polished fan games, where it's wearing its influences on its sleeve, and every piece of it was meticulously built out of sheer love of the medium.

That medium, incidentally, is homicide. Cyber Shadow wants you dead.

Cyber Shadow Review: Ninja Gaiden's Angry Cyberpunk Grandchild

Cyber Shadow is a dark 8-bit-styled action-platformer that takes much of its inspiration from the part of the original NES' library that was big on '80s-style future dystopias. Here, you're a lone ninja on an impossible mission through the ruins of a once-great city, where everything in it is rusting, broken, corrupted, and trying to kill you.

The game was primarily made over the course of several years by a solo Finnish developer, Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker, with Shovel Knight developer Yacht Club Games only coming along near the end of the project to help polish and publish it. Cyber Shadow also has a genuinely great chiptune soundtrack, courtesy of Enrique Martin and Jacob “virt” Kaufman.

Hunziker has been fairly open about his influences in the last few years, citing games like Contra, Shadow of the Ninja, the level design of the Mario series, and Sunsoft's 8-bit Batman. More than anything else, though, Cyber Shadow feels like a follow-up to the NES's Ninja Gaiden trilogy. It's got those games' mood, storytelling style, and fluidity, but above all else, it places the same emphasis on flawless execution.

Every room in Cyber Shadow's extensive map is a long gauntlet of traps, enemies, and hazards, where every mistake costs you dearly if it doesn't flat-out kill you. It's a brutal, unforgiving game, but it's fair, aside from a few rough edges.

In the Grim Darkness of the Cyber-Ninja Future

At the start of the game, a ninja named Shadow wakes up to find himself equipped with new cybernetic parts, with a dim memory of getting caught in an explosion. According to a nearby friendly robot, Shadow used to be a powerful member of the ninja clan that protected Meka City.

Now the city's wreckage is ruled by an army of synthetic soldiers, the master of Shadow's clan is missing, her father has gone full Dr. Wily, and the handful of ninja who are still alive are hooked up to machines, which drain them of the supernatural "essence" that fuels their abilities. Shadow's only survived due to being made into a cyborg, and it seems like the only chance he's got to save his clan is to find and free its master.

The strange innovation here is that Cyber Shadow plays its hand straight. It's not winking at the camera like a lot of retro-styled games do; it takes its story seriously and doles out just enough of it at a time to keep the ball rolling. It's sparse but effective, and it adds some real pathos to a game that would otherwise be a long series of death corridors.

From the start, Cyber Shadow makes it clear just how bad your odds are. You spend the first level crawling out of a hole in the ground with little more than a sword to your name, and the training wheels come off almost at once.

Cyber Shadow moves fast, with a degree of fluidity in motion that most of its 8-bit inspirations could only aspire to, and it uses all that speed to kill you as efficiently as possible. The first couple of rooms in Cyber Shadow are more challenging than the entire first half of a lot of the games like it.

It also seems to operate on the assumption that if you're playing it at all, you're generally familiar with its genre-pool. Cyber Shadow's enemies have obvious patterns you should be able to pick up at a glance if you've got any experience with this style of game, and if something looks like it's capable of killing you, it is. Every area has a frankly gratuitous assortment of spikes, steam jets, acid, live current, and other hazards, populated by a killer assortment of deadly robots and mutants.

Cyber Shadow's map is broadly divided into particular areas, where you can go back and explore later as you pick up new tools and tricks; it splits the difference between a straight one-way trip like Ninja Gaiden and a wide-open "Metroidvania" map. Between every save point, you'll run a series of vicious gauntlets, full of hand-placed enemies and clever ambushes, each one of which requires careful execution if you want to survive.

You can get upgrades that increase your base damage, maximum health, and spirit, but enemy damage output goes up faster than your life total ever will. The only real way to survive, particularly once you pass the 33% completion mark, is to focus on not getting hit at all. There's no way to brute-force your way past Cyber Shadow with late-game upgrades or grinding; it's all down to your personal skill and timing.

This is further reinforced by the special, extremely powerful items you can pick up, but which are immediately destroyed if you take three hits while using them. One of them in particular, a sort of rotating throwing star on a chain, is immediately reminiscent of the big orange throwing star subweapon in Ninja Gaiden, and it shocks me that it took this long for someone to make the "yo-yo shuriken" into an actual weapon in a modern game.

In general, the challenge level in Cyber Shadow is tough, but it's fair. Most of the moments that frustrated me came from my wanting to speed through an encounter, but a little patience and observation usually did the trick.

The boss fights in particular seem like they're initially impossible, and you're likely to die in seconds on your first attempt, but they're designed well enough that you can gradually get a feel for what you can and cannot do.

What annoys me a bit is that Cyber Shadow, like many of the games that inspired it, gives you a short invincibility window once you take a hit, but unlike those games, Cyber Shadow's window is very brief and doesn't give you immunity to instant-death hazards. This is immediately evident early in the game, where there are several rooms that "challenge" you with not getting randomly punted into yet another acid pool/industrial shredder/wall of spikes. It's more obnoxious than anything else.

The greater criticism, though, is that Cyber Shadow feels like its manual is missing. There are a lot of elements of its gameplay that you're simply expected to find out on your own, via context or experimentation. Some are easy enough to understand, like how your Charge Beam assist has a visible gauge and an audio cue, but others are actively hidden from you.

There's one sequence early on where you're supposed to win a vertical footrace by using your recently-acquired down-slash move to bounce off of objects and gain altitude, but the game never actually tells you that you can do that unless you talk to a friendly ninja who's halfway up the course.

Later, when you learn the ability to sprint, there's a room you can't get through unless you figure out by yourself that you can attack while sprinting to launch a long-range flying dash that functions as a long jump. This is the kind of thing that, back in the day, we used to have to find out from an eight-page spread in Nintendo Power (or from that layout disaster of a "secrets" section in really early issues of EGM), and to be honest, I didn't miss it.

Cyber Shadow Review— The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Beautiful sprite art
  • Fluid controls
  • Good soundtrack
  • Tough, but usually fair...

Cons

  • ...although it's often frustrating
  • Some crucial systems go unexplained
  • Made for serious retro-game nerds, and basically nobody else
  • Projectile parries are a little too high-risk/low-reward for as often as the game emphasizes them

There's a lot I like about Cyber Shadow. Its soundtrack is amazing, its environments are impressively designed, and its story steadily pulled me along. What holds it back, to some extent, is that it feels like it's made for people who've already played a hundred games just like it. Cyber Shadow is a product made for fans of an incredibly specific sort of gaming experience, and effectively no one else.

It's worth a look if you're up for a serious challenge, but only the hardest of the hardcore need apply. I'm usually not up for this level of recreational masochism in my games, so if you are, feel free to add a mental point or two onto this score.

[Note: Yacht Club Games provided the copy of Cyber Shadow used for this review.]

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Nintendo Adds 5 More Classic Games for Switch Online Subscribers https://www.gameskinny.com/uaher/nintendo-adds-5-more-classic-games-for-switch-online-subscribers https://www.gameskinny.com/uaher/nintendo-adds-5-more-classic-games-for-switch-online-subscribers Tue, 15 Dec 2020 17:21:01 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Nintendo released a new trailer — out of nowhere, as has been the Big N's wont in 2020 — highlighting five classic games coming to Switch Online subscribers on December 18, including Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble.

The full list includes:

SNES Switch Online games:

  • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble
  • The Ignition Factor
  • Super Valis IV
  • Tuff E Nuff

NES Switch Online games:

  • Nightshade

The Ignition Factor casts players as firefighters and puts them in scenarios where they must risk all to save life and property. Super Valis IV for SNES is something of a rarity, an action platformer starring women on a quest to vanquish the lord of the Dark World. Tuff E Nuff is an arcade-style fighting game where characters' special moves get more powerful the more foes they defeat.

Nightshade Part 1: The Claws of Sutekh was ahead of its time when it launched in 1992. It featured a gritty story of a city besieged by crime syndicates until the vigilante Nightshade steps up. It's part action, part point-and-click adventure. It even featured a popularity meter that adjusted based on Nightshade's actions.

What other classic SNES and/or NES title would you like to see come to Switch Online's retro library? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light Review – A Retro Classic Returns https://www.gameskinny.com/fw742/fire-emblem-shadow-dragon-the-blade-of-light-review-a-retro-classic-returns https://www.gameskinny.com/fw742/fire-emblem-shadow-dragon-the-blade-of-light-review-a-retro-classic-returns Mon, 07 Dec 2020 13:12:49 -0500 Henry Stockdale

Though it’s become one of Nintendo’s top franchises in recent years, you might be unaware that Fire Emblem is celebrating a big anniversary this year, much like a certain plumber. Or that the first game was released way back in 1990, since, until 2003, the whole Fire Emblem series remained a Japan-exclusive. And even when the series did show up in the West, that initial release stayed behind.

Until now.

Developed by Intelligent Systems and dubbed Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light, the original NES game has finally been localized for Nintendo Switch, joining Three Houses, Warriors, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo’s hybrid machine.

Shadow Dragon may show its age 30 years later, but there remains a fine RPG experience here, one that series fans owe it to themselves to try.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light Review – An Aged RPG Classic

Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light's story takes us to the Archanean continent and the Kingdom of Altea, which was Formed after King Anri fended off the Dolhr Empire and killed the Shadow Dragon Medeus with the exalted blade, Falchion.

Resurrected 100 years later by an evil wizard, Shadow Dragon Medeus launches a new invasion of the kingdom, forcing our protagonist, Prince Marth, to seek refuge on the island nation of Talys. After several years of forced exile, Marth sets out to reclaim his homeland with an army of knights at his command.

Progression in Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light is strictly linear; each of the 25 chapters directly progresses from one to another. This is an NES game, after all. Battles have their own victory conditions, normally focused on routing enemy forces, defeating their commander, or securing a central castle.

The game employs a turn-based movement system across a grid-based battlefield, so units can only move a set number of spaces each time, calling to mind games such as Final Fantasy Tactics. If you run out of HP during these encounters, the affected unit is permanently dead; even key characters, like Princess Caeda, can be killed and removed from the remaining storyline. If Marth is defeated in battle, it’s game over.

Across each area, you’ll find various buildings housing helpful NPCs, such as villagers offering friendly advice or offering items, and secret vendors selling new weapons and healing potions. Later portions of Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light are quite challenging, so careful planning is required, making these NPCs extremely helpful. 

Adding to that layer of tactical strategy is the game's class system. Each character is tied to a specific class that affects their functions in battle. For example, flying units like Pegasus Knights can travel across rough terrain and Cavaliers can move greater distances. Classes also affect the weapons units can equip, access to magical abilities, and overall stats, such as defense, attack, and HP.

Individual units level up over the course of battle, earning EXP by taking damage or inflicting it, which increases stats at random. After reaching a set level, some units can be promoted to a higher class for a larger stat buff, though not all of them, including Marth, have the ability to do so.

Unlike later entries in the series, Shadow Dragon doesn’t include Fire Emblem’s famous weapons triangle, but each weapon still has unique traits. Axes and lances are more powerful but are less accurate than swords, while flying units are particularly susceptible to archers.

The game doesn’t tell you how likely an attack is to hit, which makes planning trickier, and since enemies can counterattack if their weapon is within striking range — and you can do the same during your turn — further strategy is needed for unit placement and movement.

Units can’t equip weapons beyond their proficiency rank, either, so you’ll start with lowly iron swords, bows, and axes before getting better equipment later on. Weapons have durability ratings and will break with repeated use, so keeping multiple weapons in your inventory is wise. You can regularly stock up from armories, using gold obtained through the story to purchase them.

Considering Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light is a 30-year-old NES game, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it shows its age. Looking at it in a historical context, it was a superb RPG in 1990, one that influenced countless other titles, and you can see how later Fire Emblem games built upon it. The base components are all here, relationships aside, but it lacks depth in comparison to those later titles.

Curiously, Shadow Dragon received a full remake on the DS in 2008, which overhauled the visuals, added multiplayer components, a new prologue, rebalanced the weapons system, and more. Considering it received a Western release, you have to wonder why Nintendo didn’t release that version on the Switch instead of this one. 

Outside of hardcore Fire Emblem fans, it makes the NES version (this version) practically redundant. Perhaps, despite the new translation, porting this version was simply the easier option; releasing the remake on Switch would require reworking its dual-screen elements for the console. It’s the type of rework we’ve seen with The World Ends with You, but even there, the controls received the most negative feedback.

This re-release does, however, provide several quality-of-life additions to make Shadow Dragon smoother. By pressing both "L" and "R" buttons together, you can bring up a separate menu that lets you increase gameplay speed, create fresh save states, and rewind to a previous turn. For an unforgiving game, they are welcome additions.  

You can also change the graphics settings between a widescreen setting and a “pixel perfect” setting, which restores the original 4:3 ratio and looks significantly less stretched on the Switch, though both still have a large black border.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Still a fine RPG experience
  • New quality-of-life improvements make it more accessible
  • Enjoyable combat
Cons
  • Both graphical options leave a black border on your screen
  • Gameplay lacks depth compared to modern entries
  • Difficulty may be off-putting

I still can’t believe Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade Of Light is finally here after 30 years; it’s better late than never. As a significant piece of gaming history, it shows just how far this series has come.

While I question the rationale of releasing the NES edition over the superior DS remake, there’s still an enjoyable game here, and going back to where everything started is certainly enjoyable, boosted by some new quality-of-life improvements.

When you consider the low price point alongside everything else, this is one Fire Emblem game that fans should experience before the limited-time release is removed on March 31, 2021.

[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light used for this review.]

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New Game Boy RPG Dragonborne Takes Flight in January 2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/ao2em/new-game-boy-rpg-dragonborne-takes-flight-in-january-2021 https://www.gameskinny.com/ao2em/new-game-boy-rpg-dragonborne-takes-flight-in-january-2021 Wed, 28 Oct 2020 13:09:57 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The Game Boy is getting a brand-new RPG nearly 32 years after the system first launched. Dragonborne from Spacebot Interactive releases January 2021 on a Game Boy cartridge compatible with all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance systems.

Dragonborne is an 8-bit, turn-based RPG. Players take control of Kris, a young person scouring the land of Argon for traces of Kurtis, their missing father who also happens to be the world's greatest dragon slayer.

It's not just a family matter, though. The dragon is about to wake up again.

It might seem like a straightforward retro RPG on the surface, but Dragonborne has a lot going on underneath. It features multiple endings, equipment upgrades, collectibles, and plenty of puzzles for Kris to solve over the course of its 6-7 hour playtime.

Dragonborne is expected to ship in January 2021. Pre-orders for physical cartridges are live now through November 30 and cost $54.73. This release is just the latest in a number of games releasing for retro consoles.

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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light Getting Official Localization https://www.gameskinny.com/vgseh/fire-emblem-shadow-dragon-and-the-blade-of-light-getting-official-localization https://www.gameskinny.com/vgseh/fire-emblem-shadow-dragon-and-the-blade-of-light-getting-official-localization Thu, 22 Oct 2020 13:34:19 -0400 Josh Broadwell

A new Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch is on the horizon — well, sort of new. Nintendo announced the first-ever official localization for Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, set for a limited-time release from December 4, 2020, through March 31, 2021.

The localization boasts modern touches like rewind and save state features, but the rest of the game is taken straight from the original 1990 Famicom version. It's the game where Marth of Smash Bros. and Fire Emblem Awakening fame made his debut.

Players recruit over 50 different characters across 20 different classes and struggle along with Marth to defeat the evil Shadow Dragon (Grima, for you Awakening fans) and restore some semblance of normalcy to Archanea.

Nintendo announced a special Fire Emblem 30th anniversary collector's edition complete with art book and collectibles, though pre-orders aren't open for that yet.

Despite seeing a remake with 2009's Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for the DS, the original tale of the Archanean prince's showdown against the evil shadow dragon remained locked in Japan until now. And it's apparently going back into the Nintendo vault after March 31, along with Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

Get your hands on it this December, and stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Fire Emblem news as it develops.

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Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review: Star-Studded Selections https://www.gameskinny.com/jpbuc/super-mario-3d-all-stars-review-star-studded-selections https://www.gameskinny.com/jpbuc/super-mario-3d-all-stars-review-star-studded-selections Thu, 24 Sep 2020 15:33:00 -0400 Ethan Anderson

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for many. It's also a convenient way to experience three Nintendo classics for the very first time, which, for me, is the case when it comes to the first two games in the collection. I never owned a Nintendo 64, and Super Mario Sunshine never made its way onto my GameCube.

With that said, the 3D All-Stars collection is certainly a time machine in more ways than one. It's easy to see why so many players fell in love with these games years ago, even when experiencing them as a first-time player in 2020.

The collection's games do end up feeling dated in some areas thanks to the lack of major modern updates, but those flaws don't do much to diminish their original magic.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review: Star-Studded Selections

[If] you're experiencing this for the first time, playing through this old-school Super Mario classic will still fill you with nostalgia.

Super Mario 64 launched in 1996. As someone who was too young to even hold a controller back then, I expected SM64 to be a somewhat trying experience to start. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here — at least not for the majority of the game. If your situation is similar to mine, and you're experiencing this for the first time, playing through this old-school Super Mario classic will still fill you with nostalgia.

The main goal in Super Mario 64 is to, unsurprisingly, save Princess Peach from Bowser after he's taken control of Peach's castle. In other words, it's as standard as a Super Mario plot gets.

Ignoring the near nonexistent story, Mario's 3D debut still holds up as a platformer. It's full of memorable levels, creative puzzles, and secrets that are a joy to find.

Most of the game's levels take full advantage of the 3D space with some truly timeless platforming. Bob-omb Battlefield, Hazy Maze Cave, and Big Boo's Haunt are some of the standouts in that regard, with Big Boo's being fun from the start, since you actually find the level first.

Super Mario 64 really shows its age, though, specifically in its visuals and archaic camera controls. The graphics are about as updated as they can be without going into full remake territory, so while the jagged edges and blurry textures aren't exactly major issues, they are noticeable.

The camera controls, however, are rough. It always manages to get snagged on an invisible wall when you're trying to rotate it around, making certain segments of the game feel impossible to get through.

It doesn't help that it's inverted in some situations, while it's not in others. And there's no setting to change camera preferences at all, making an update or addition here a welcome one.  

While Super Mario 64 may feel a bit outdated as a result, its shortcomings are nowhere near as bothersome as those found in Super Mario Sunshine.

Somehow, Sunshine feels like it has more downsides than Super Mario 64, despite launching six years after that game in 2002. And you can thank FLUDD for most of it.

Here, Mario is framed for drawing graffiti all over Isle Delfino, and now he has to clean it up. It immediately feels like a plot point from Sonic Adventure 2 involving Sonic and Shadow.

This time around, you'll have to use the water-filled backpack, FLUDD, for pretty much everything, from attacking to platforming. It's a machine that blasts water to spray enemies, clean the environment, and improve Mario's mobility.

It's a creative idea that starts out interestingly enough. It has four different nozzles that shake up the gameplay in four very different ways. The Hover Nozzle is easily the most useful of the choices, as it allows players to find their own unique ways through many of the game's levels with some outside-the-box thinking.

Sadly, FLUDD overstays its welcome due to its occasionally clunky controls. The few levels without FLUDD are tougher, but they make Sunshine feel like a greatly enhanced version of the platforming you're used to from Super Mario 64

3D All-Stars does its best to fix FLUDD's mechanical awkwardness by providing a more simplified control scheme and adjusting the button layout. The "R" button allows for more precise, stationary aiming, and "ZR" allows Mario to spray water while on the move.

This all sounds great in concept, but in practice, FLUDD's novelty wears off around halfway through the game; the exact moment that it lost me was during the Eely-Mouth boss fight in Noki Bay. FLUDD's accuracy and controls are put to the test in a tricky underwater situation, and they fail miserably.

If you end up feeling like this about any of Sunshine's other stages, it might upset you to know that, unlike in Super Mario 64, you can't just skip the ones you're having trouble with. They must be done in order.

On the upside, 3D All-Stars upscales Sunshine's visuals by a noticeable amount. Isle Delfino's sunny locales all look colorful and vibrant on the Switch, though they don't look better than the numerous planets found in Super Mario Galaxy.

Galaxy checks every Super Mario box there is, from tight platforming to creative mechanics and a catchy soundtrack.

Super Mario Galaxy is still a great game, and without a doubt, the best one in this collection.

It really ups Bowser's ambition and execution from a plot perspective. He still performs the regular old Princess Peach abduction, but this time, he brings her all the way to outer-space. You'll be chasing after her with the help of Rosalina and the star-like Lumas.

Like Super Mario 64, this game does so many innovative things in all the right ways. Galaxy plays with gravity and perspective wonderfully, while adhering to the Super Mario school of top-notch platforming and puzzle-solving.

With that said, the camera can also be a nuisance here, working against you when smaller planets force annoying angle changes. But once again, it's forgivable because it rarely has a prolonged negative impact on the gameplay mechanics.

Speaking of the mechanics, they're solid for each of the control schemes, although the Joy-Cons do the best job of replicating that original feel of the Wii. It plays the same but doesn't look the same thanks to some slight visual upgrades.

Galaxy checks every Super Mario box there is, from tight platforming to creative mechanics and a catchy soundtrack. Above all, it introduced some sort of an actual checkpoint system. Mario is no longer ejected from a level after every lost life. Thank goodness.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Best way to play three classic Super Mario games
  • Visual upgrades for the whole collection
  • Galaxy is a standout, with the Joy-Cons replicating the Wiimote perfectly
Cons
  • The modern updates are basically all visual, with very few quality-of-life changes
  • Super Mario 64 is in need of a camera control upgrade
  • Sunshine's FLUDD controls occasionally lack precision and accuracy, even with the changes

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a satisfying gift for the series' 35th anniversary. The collection provides a worthwhile journey through Mario's 3D beginnings, even for newcomers like myself.

Much more effort could've been put into modernizing the camera controls in Super Mario 64 and FLUDD's spray mechanics in Super Mario Sunshine, but 3D All-Stars is still an overall enjoyable platformer package nonetheless.

[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars used for this review.]

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Hellbound Review: Bloody Homage to Doom https://www.gameskinny.com/d6tcn/hellbound-review-bloody-homage-to-doom https://www.gameskinny.com/d6tcn/hellbound-review-bloody-homage-to-doom Fri, 07 Aug 2020 15:25:17 -0400 David Jagneaux

The header image for Hellbound on its Steam store page describes it as a "90s FPS, 30 years later," and I couldn't possibly think of a more apt summary.

For better or worse, playing Hellbound feels like you found an old Game Design Document for a hellish, bloody shooter conceived at the height of 90s shooter fever and gave it to a 2020 development studio.

Hell is invading with demons. You're a big, strong, one-liner tough guy with massive guns, a cool temper, and a gravelly voice. There's some cursing, some blood, and lots of bullets to go around. That's it, that's the formula, and it mostly nails what it's going for.

You can finish the entirety of Hellbound in just around three hours on normal difficulty, including all the times you'll die. It's pretty short — even by retro standards. I livestreamed the entire thing in one go  you can watch it here or above if you'd like.

One of the major draws for Hellbound then, just like the old-school shooters that inspired it, is the satisfaction of finishing levels on hard difficulties and sprinting through them quickly. At the end of each, you'll be graded on how many enemies you kill, how many items you find, and how many secrets you uncover, in addition to your completion time.

Not only that, but the game literally warns you in the intro splash screen that it's designed to be difficult, just like the 90s, and states that not everyone will like it for that reason.

You'd have to be a bit of a sadist to dive into the high difficulties head first here, but I fully expect some people to enjoy that particular type of self-punishment. I'd say Hellbound is certainly hard but not as brutal as the blood-soaked games of yore. A generous system that allows you to save at literally any moment goes a long way towards making it more palatable, as do the stylish and polished visuals.

That being said, the publisher is well aware of the type of game this is, certainly factoring in the short length, and has priced Hellbound accordingly (it's only $15 at full-price and has a launch discount right now), so don't expect to get a dozen or more hours out of this campaign unless you replay it several times on higher difficulties. 

Weapon variety is a bit of a sore spot. Even if I only end up using the shotgun for 90% of the game, as was the case here, I still like knowing I have a bunch of other cool weapons to pick in a pinch. In Hellbound, you've got your bare hands, a big two-handed melee club, a basic semi-auto rifle, a triple shotgun, a minigun, and a rocket launcher. That's it. 

Each weapon in Hellbound has an alternate function, like the semi-auto rifle and minigun let you aim down sights with a right-click, whereas the triple shotgun shoots out three shots instead of one, and the rocket launcher becomes a grenade launcher. That helps with the variety, but it still seems a little paltry. Given the short length and small level count, it wasn't surprising, though.

More impactful to the generally repetitive feeling is the fact that there are just four enemies in the entire game, other than the boss. You've got the basic grunts, who all mix up and use any one of your various weapons, a larger version of those guys that always has rockets, a tall enemy that throws fireballs just like the Imp from Doom, and four-legged crawlers that charge and leap at you to deal massive amounts of damage. They're also faster than you even if you sprint, which can cause some real chaos.

Map variety on the other hand is quite nice. Levels are just large enough to encourage exploration but never devolve into aimless labyrinths, ensuring you've always got a way forward laid before you.

It all looks like you're in Hell no matter what, which is appropriate, but there is still a good deal of visual variety. I particularly liked the outdoor environments with enormous, red glowing moons in the distant sky and swirling vortexes of energy that all felt truly captivating.

The world-building is pretty generic, though, as literally every line of dialogue and loading screen description, as well as the overall aesthetic, could've been ripped directly from a Doom game and you'd have never known the difference. It almost feels like Hellbound is just a really sophisticated Doom spin-off mod.

Speaking of, Hellbound feels made for mod support. Give intrepid players the ability to add in new weapons, new enemies, new levels, or at least new survival maps, and this game could go on to have a truly dedicated fanbase. There is a ton of potential.

After you finish the main campaign's seven maps (that's six larger levels and a final boss fight), there's a wave-based survival mode that's heavily focused on how long you can stay alive while reaching a high score. It's addictive and the overall frenetic gameplay is honestly a bit more suited to this game mode than the campaign itself given how satisfying it is to strafe and sprint backwards while shooting. You'll need to have top-notch kiting skills to last longer than just a few minutes on any of the survival maps.

Hellbound is a well-paced shooter that doesn't hang you up with obtuse puzzles or awkward platforming very often. The jump button is really only used as a means-to-an-end, and you shouldn't need to worry about too many death pits here. Movement is extremely fast, slick, and smooth, so it always feels really great to tear through the game's environments.

There is one section near the end of a late level that involves scouring a multi-tiered structure to locate switches where an elevator bugged out on me once, and I also had one crash to desktop, but other than that, it was pretty flawless from a performance perspective on high settings.

Hellbound Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Fast, snappy controls
  • Aesthetic, structure, and premise feel ripped directly from a 90s-era Game Design Document
  • Extremely bloody gameplay
  • Very satisfying shotgun
  • Absolutely rocking soundtrack
Cons
  • Very short campaign (just around three hours)
  • Lack of enemy variety
  • A small handful of weapons
  • Just one boss fight at the very end

Hellbound is the kind of game that you'll know you'll want to play or not just by reading the summary or glancing at screenshots. If you're a fan of 90s-era retro FPS games like Doom and Quake, then there is an extremely high chance you'll appreciate this particular brand of punishing, yet rewarding, demon slaughter.

There are plenty of ways Hellbound could have expanded beyond the framework it borrows from to color outside the lines a bit, but even as a play-it-safe tribute to 90s shooter royalty, it still manages to serve up a cold, hard dish of bloody brutality gritty enough to make Doom Guy blush.

[Note: A copy of Hellbound was provided by Nimble Giant Entertainment for the purpose of this review.]

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Evercade Release Date Pushed Back https://www.gameskinny.com/x4h6q/evercade-release-date-pushed-back https://www.gameskinny.com/x4h6q/evercade-release-date-pushed-back Fri, 24 Apr 2020 19:48:50 -0400 Josh Broadwell

We've been looking forward to Evercade's retro handheld console called, well, Evercade for a while now. And it looks like we might have to wait just a bit longer than expected, as the creators recently announced Evercade's release date was pushed back because of — you guessed it — COVID-19.

Instead of a May 22 release date, we've now got a more general release window of May 22 through June 5. The Evercade itself is finished and ready to go. The primary concern the company has is with actually getting it to you — similar to concerns Naughty Dog had over The Last of Us Part 2.

Evercade is basing the release window on how long it anticipates couriers will take to deliver the handheld. Depending on location and circumstances, some people might get theirs on time, and some may end up getting them later. Either way, Evercade said it doesn't want to impose release embargoes and expressed gratitude for both understanding the situation and continuing to stick by them.

In brighter news, Evercade also announced a new cartridge is being unveiled in May and an additional new cartridge announcement is coming for June, for a total of at least 14 cartridges during the Evercade's launch year. Since Evercade plans on featuring indie games on its cartridges, alongside retro classics, that's a lot of variety in store.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Evercade news as it develops.

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Missing the PS1 Days? Check Out The Haunted PS1 Demo Disk Collection! https://www.gameskinny.com/r7p8j/missing-the-ps1-days-check-out-the-haunted-ps1-demo-disk-collection https://www.gameskinny.com/r7p8j/missing-the-ps1-days-check-out-the-haunted-ps1-demo-disk-collection Fri, 07 Feb 2020 15:16:04 -0500 Ty Arthur

Get ready for a serious blast from the past with a modern twist! While most retro titles these days focus on SNES-style pixel art or classic isometric gameplay, that iconic, blocky PS1 look doesn't get as much love (unless you count the killer Last Of Us Part 2 demake trailer).

Today, 17 demos for classic PS1 games that don't actually exist came online with the Haunted PS1 Demo Disk. Despite the name, the collection is solely for Windows machines, but it is available for free and includes games that very much taking their cues from the best PS1 games like King's Field, Silent Hill, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

If you're ready for your own lo-res haunted house experience, you can download the Haunted PS1 demo disk here.

Here's what the developers had to say about this spooky collection:

A CRT you don't remember owning flashes to life. Frozen in place you look upon the flickering screen to spy a dismal, bloodied scene. A cracked and faded jewel case sits close beside. A pale grey plastic box sits in front, emitting a low whirring noise. Will you take to the controller or let yourself be taken over?

Here's the full list of titles included on the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2020:

  • A Place, Forbidden
  • Dead Heat
  • Dread Delusion
  • Effigy
  • Erasure
  • Fatum Betula
  • FILTHBREED
  • Heartworm
  • In Somnio
  • KILLER BEES
  • Neko Yume
  • Ode to a Moon - Lost Disc
  • Orange County
  • Sauna2000
  • Snowy Castle Game
  • Tasty Ramen 
  • Until Biglight

Hopefully, this won't be the last collection like this. And maybe, we'll get a real classic demo disc from Sony or SEGA in the future. 

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MyArcade Shows Off Two New Retro Gaming Systems at CES 2020 https://www.gameskinny.com/bhjaz/myarcade-shows-off-two-new-retro-gaming-systems-at-ces-2020 https://www.gameskinny.com/bhjaz/myarcade-shows-off-two-new-retro-gaming-systems-at-ces-2020 Mon, 06 Jan 2020 14:17:11 -0500 Josh Broadwell

MyArcade announced two brand-new additions to its lineup of mini-arcade cabinets and retro gaming devices as part of its CES 2020 showcase.

The first is a partnership with Capcom to bring consumers the Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition Micro Player. Like all MyArcade Micro Players, the Street Fighter 2 Micro Player is built as a 1/10th scale of the original arcade cabinet. It stands 7" high with a 3.5" screen. It will also feature packaging and cabinet artwork inspired by the original arcade classic.

Because it's better to fight Bison (the character, not the cattle) with a friend, the Street Fighter 2 Micro Player includes MyArcade's CO-VS technology that lets two Micro Players connect for fierce two-player competition. Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition Micro Player will retail for $49.99. And FYI: batteries are not included.

The second new MyArcade device is the Super Retro Champ Console. It is a follow-up to the original Retro Champ and, as the name suggests, supports SNES, Super Famicom, and Sega Genesis and Mega Drive cartridges. You feast your eyes upon it in the picture at the top of this article.

What's different about this retro console compared to the numerous other retro consoles that do the same thing is the Super Retro Champ is handheld. It boasts a 7" screen, a rechargeable battery promising up to five hours of play, two wireless gamepads, and an HDMI cable should you wish to play in tabletop or TV mode. It will retail for $109.99.

As of now, neither of these devices has a release date, but stay tuned to GameSkinny for more MyArcade and retro gaming news as it develops.

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Nintendo Switch Online Getting 6 New Classic Games https://www.gameskinny.com/mikog/nintendo-switch-online-getting-6-new-classic-games https://www.gameskinny.com/mikog/nintendo-switch-online-getting-6-new-classic-games Thu, 05 Dec 2019 11:43:30 -0500 Josh Broadwell

It's been a little while since Nintendo added SNES games to Nintendo Switch online, with the caution that we shouldn't get our hopes up for regular content updates

But the dearth of new classic games is over for now. Nintendo Switch Online is getting six new classic games, four from the SNES and two from the NES.

These classic games will be added to their storefronts on December 12. The following is a list of the games coming to Switch. 

SNES Games
  • Star Fox 2
  • Breath of Fire 2
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Super Punch-Out!!
NES Games
  • Crystalis
  • Journey to Silius

Some of these classic titles have been available on various renditions of the Virtual Console over the past 10 years. But it's the first time outside of the SNES Classic Mini we'll be able to get our hands on Star Fox 2. That says nothing of how long it's been since Crystalis and Journey to Silius have been easily accessible.

For those uninitiated, Crystalis is a cult classic RPG from SNK, following the adventures of an unnamed hero in a post-apocalyptic world. Journey is a side-scrolling shooter inspired by the Terminator films — a product of the '80s if ever there was one.

If you're looking to get your hands on those lovely SNES controllers Nintendo put up when SNES games first launched on Nintendo Switch Online, you'll have to wait a little longer. The controllers won't be back in stock until January. On the other hand, the NES controllers are back in stock.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Nintendo Switch Online news as it develops.

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Dragon Quest 2 Switch Review: Let the Past Shine Once More https://www.gameskinny.com/7m22b/dragon-quest-2-switch-review-let-the-past-shine-once-more https://www.gameskinny.com/7m22b/dragon-quest-2-switch-review-let-the-past-shine-once-more Fri, 04 Oct 2019 10:08:43 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Long ago, Enix released an RPG that would revolutionize gaming and spawn a series still going strong today. Dragon Warrior was the first of its kind, though rather basic in scope and mechanics.

Not long after it released came Dragon Warrior II. It provided a host of improvements over its predecessor, with expanded combat options, more characters, and a broader story carrying on the Erdrick saga. It was ported to Android and iOS as Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and that's the version the recent PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch ports are based on.

It boasts the usual improvements modern ports of older games tend to feature, such as some quality of life upgrades, better soundtracks, tweaked scripts, and much nicer looking sprites.

Yet the big, loaded question is whether Dragon Quest 2 is worth playing this many years later, even with these improvements.

That's not an easy one to answer.

Go Forth, Young Prince

Dragon Quest 2's story is standard for a late '80s game, but that doesn't mean it's bad; it's just fairly simple.

It takes place long after the events of the first Dragon Quest, starring three of Erdrick's illustrious descendants — the titular Luminaries, a name which should sound familiar to anyone who's played even a bit of Dragon Quest XI.

One day, the fiendish followers of Hargon invade the peaceful kingdom of Middenhall, destroying its castle and king along with it. It falls to your character to venture forth and gather the Prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbroke to eventually take the fight to Hargon.

That's pretty much all there is to the story. You travel around and gather your cousins, then travel some more, conquering dungeons and gathering the necessary sigils to successfully defeat Hargon at the end of the road.

Dragon Quest stories tend to be fairly conservative on the scale of RPG narrative innovation to begin with, though DQ 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor when it released.

The world is much bigger, and you have party members this time. Though the plot is ultimately a variation of "Hero defeats evil villain," it does continue the story told in the original game, unlike Final Fantasy.

We take these things for granted now, but it doesn't take away from appreciating that kind of continuity and improvement put into older games.

Simple Can Be Good

How this resonates with you today depends on your expectations. But, in a world that sets 100+ hour character-driven epics as the standard, there's something refreshing about a simple game you can finish in under 20 hours. That goes double for a game that's mostly straightforward, one you can just have fun working through.

The same kind of simple setup applies to the game's mechanics. Combat is rudimentary, though still more involved than the first Dragon Quest. Apart from two additional party members, DQ 2 also introduced the seeds of what would become the series' class system.

The Prince of Midenhall (aka you) is the warrior type and can't actually use magic, unlike most DQ heroes. Cannock's prince is a mixture of warrior and mage, learning spells like Heal and Sizz without excelling in physical or magical strength. The Princess of Moonbroke is the only one who fits the usual mage class, being squishy but magically powerful.

The game has more combat abilities than its predecessor, though the range of spells and physical attacks is still limited.

Fights are in first-person, like most of the series' fights until DQ 8. Just like you have more party members, your foes can come at you in larger groups as well, and unlike the original DQ 2, these fights take place on animated backgrounds. Sprites are static, though that and the first-person perspective are actually a big boon.

Why? Because it means combat goes faster without snazzy animations and detailed models. That's a good thing because you're in combat a lot.

The random encounter rate in Dragon Quest 2 is almost obscene, with fights occurring as frequently as every step you take. Yet you do also need to fight most of these. DQII is no exception to the Dragon Quest rule of requiring lots of experience points to level up.

Most fights are stingy in the amount of experience and gold you get from them, but if you run from too many, you'll find you die more quickly than you'd like later on.

It creates an interesting, if sometimes tedious, balance between dealing with a highly intrusive encounter rate on and short fight times. You'll grind because you have to — but not for endless hours.

Thankfully, there are no transition screens or load screens when you begin and end a battle, which helps make them go even faster. However, it would have been nice to have an option to reduce the rate. This is 2019, after all.

Ye Olde Adventure

There is a caveat to all this simplicity and streamlining, though, and it's one you'll want to keep in mind if this is your first Dragon Quest game.

"Simple" and "straightforward" might be friends in a thesaurus, but they're miles apart in Dragon Quest 2. Being a game from the '80s means Dragon Quest 2 expects you to either play it very frequently, take notes, or use the 21st-century version of the playground information network (online guides).

Naturally, you don't get objective markers, your map features no names, and you'll need to talk to townsfolk to get a clue about where you need to go next.

Don't forget that clue, because there's no "story up to now" feature either. The trouble is, these clues can be very vague indeed. It's all well and good to describe a specific location, but when you've never been there, and the map isn't the best at showing landforms and the like, there's still a bit of guesswork and extra travel involved.

There's no bag feature like later Dragon Quest entries either, so your inventory capacity is significantly limited. You also don't get HP and MP restored upon leveling up.

You'll burn through Medicinal Herbs and MP using Heal pretty quickly at first, which means it's back to town using a Chimera Wing (assuming you remembered to buy one), then another monster-filled slog to whatever dungeon you had to evacuate from.

Save points are infrequent. You can save by speaking to the kings of each castle and some other NPCs in certain places, but unless it's a king, there's no way of knowing who will let you save. Fortunately, there is a quick save feature.

Your cousins don't get any character development either, which is a big difference from later DQ games that interweave character stories with the overall plot.

These setbacks, plus the encounter rate and somewhat barebones plot work much better for those who are already fans of the series or who have a good tolerance level for older games. Others might walk away wondering what all the fuss is about this Dragon Quest thing.

Some Improvements

Some things did get updated, though. Unlike the port of Romancing Saga 2, this port is solid in terms of text size, interface, and general appearance.

The graphics got a new coat of paint, so they're upgraded even from the SNES version — more vibrant colors, just a bit of extra detail to help make environment models look nice, and as mentioned, backgrounds for combat.

There's always some chatter about character sprites in Square Enix's mobile games. While there is a slight disconnect between their style and color and the style and color of the environments, it's not that much of an assault on the eyes.

DQ 2's soundtrack is also simple, but it's a great example of why soundtracks usually don't change much. They just work — really well. It's made even more pleasant thanks to the MIDI treatment the original chiptune tracks received, which puts the soundtrack just a bit below the quality of the DQ IV, V, and VI remakes on the DS.

Finally, the text. Later Dragon Quest games add in a variety of dialects depending on location and specific individuals. Dragon Quest 2, like its brethren, uses just a variant of old English instead of including different dialects, but it's definitely been spiced up from the original text as well.

It's cute, too, and adds a bit of verve to all the dialogue, unlike the medieval literature that is a certain H'aanit's dialogue in Octopath Traveler.

Plus it gives you scenes like this:

The glory of no context

Pros:
  • Still solid gameplay, after two decades
  • More varied combat, even if still limited compared to what the third entry brings
  • Fast and simple combat
  • Something you can reasonably expect to finish in a month or two
  • A chance to experience part of the series' origins on consoles again
Cons:
  • It's obviously a two-decade-old game
  • That encounter rate
  • Would have benefited from additional QoL enhancements

In the end, this is a game you can't really assign a score to. On the one hand, Dragon Quest 2 is completely solid and enjoyable by itself. The port is good in terms of presentation, but it really did need some extra attention to help ease that transition into the modern era.

If you're good with retro blemishes and don't mind having to put up with some iffy features, then jump right in. If not, you'd probably want to look elsewhere for your first, or next, Dragon Quest experience.

[Note: Square Enix provided a copy of Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line for this review.]

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Evercade Brings Indie Studios on Board, Unveils New System Color https://www.gameskinny.com/uz4xk/evercade-brings-indie-studios-on-board-unveils-new-system-color https://www.gameskinny.com/uz4xk/evercade-brings-indie-studios-on-board-unveils-new-system-color Fri, 30 Aug 2019 12:54:43 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Update 9/6/19: Evercade is currently up for pre-order on the Evercade website for $79.99. 

Original story:

Evercade, makers of the retro-throwback, handheld console of the same name, announced it will have support from indie developers, with more studios coming on board after the system launches.

The first indie studio Evercade said will be supporting the system is Mega Cat Studios, known for retro and retro-inspired games like Log Jammers and Coffee Crisis.

However, Mega Cat isn't the only purveyor of indie titles offering support for the system.

Evercade didn't name any more names, but did say more partnered indie studios will be announced after the system launches in early 2020.

These games will reportedly be included on the same kind of retro-style cartridges the rest of the Evercade games will release on. The company said even more cartridges will be added to the already-announced nine launch titles.

We initially reported on the Evercade and its lineup a few months ago. The full story and list of announced games can be found here. The new pre-order trailer also offers a look at what to expect.

 

The Evercade follows in the footsteps of other mini consoles like the SNES Classic Mini and Sega Genesis Mini, but the goal is to address what's perceived as a shortcoming with those mini systems: the limited roster.

By putting its games on classic cartridges, Evercade product developer Andrew Byatt says it "enables you to purchase one piece of hardware and then add new content for a low additional cost. It's a great value, future proof investment."

In other news, ahead of pre-orders opening September 6, Evercade also showed off the system's new alternative color scheme of black and red. Despite being exclusive to UK retailer Funstock, it can be ordered worldwide.

Recent years have made it plain retro is in more demand than ever.

Alongside the Evercade comes stand-ins for the missing N64 Mini and rediscoveries of old console attachments, both of which also cater to those who prefer the physical touch.

In just this week alone, we've had two more compilations of classic games announced: the Mega Man Zero/ZX collection and a remastering of the classic Disney's Aladdin and Disney's The Lion King games.

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