While not as prolific as on the Wii’s Virtual Console, Sega seems to be giving us a steady trickle (not quite yet a stream) of quality titles on Xbox Live Arcade. Last month’s offerings were fun and accessible, and this month’s are just as worthy of downloading. It’s a shame that we’re only getting two or three games a month basically, but it’s a start.
As I mentioned in our first installment, any chance for today’s gamers to experience the great games of the Genesis is something worth supporting. The fact that these releases feature enhancements (unlike that other service… *grumble, grumble*) adds even more incentive to buying them. I understand the Internet-wide chant of voices asking for more obscure games, and hey, I hear ya folks! I’d kill for Pulseman with achievements, or Battle Mania 2 with online play. Ah, the possibilities….
Ecco the Dolphin
Sega’s gone and tapped one of its favorite franchises to milk, but this one’s a bit different from the rest. In addition to the HD trappings now added for those with 21st century TVs, there’s also the benefit of achievements, and in my personal opinion, the best inclusion possible: save states. Sure, the Sega Genesis Collection and numerous Sonic compilations allow you to save wherever you wanted, but it’s good to see Sega’s initiative in maintaining the feature in other releases.
Pass or Purchase? If you haven’t played Ecco yet in some form, then you need to come out of your cave and find a real home. It’s been made available more times than I can remember, and while it’s still a great game any way you look at it, I just can’t see the justification in spending $5 for yet another version. Leaderboards and achievements might be incentive to some, but I’d say you’re better off waiting for something better to come along.
Streets of Rage 2
How long have you wanted to be able to sit at your Genesis and play Streets of Rage 2 online with someone? Well, what emulators have offered for years is finally available on your Xbox 360, and Sega’s seminal beat-’em-up is back with a vengeance. I can honestly say that this is the best of the Sega Vintage Collection bunch so far, and there’s still plenty of fun to be had by battling through scores of baddies using nothing but your fists (and the occasional pipe or knife). Streets of Rage 2 still holds up pretty darn well as a brawler, and the enhancements made to this latest version all but make it a lock-in for a purchase.
Pass or Purchase? Whereas Nintendo’s offering you a bare-bones Streets of Rage on the Virtual Console for $8, Sega’s pulled out all the stops on Live Arcade by include HD support, achievements, and thank-you-all-that-is-holy online co-op play – all for a measly $5! Now you can hit up anyone on your friends list and jump right into the action, and I can tell you that it plays quite smoothly if you have a decent connection, unlike the lag-fest that is TMNT Arcade Game 1989. There are co-op achievements, and you can chat with your buddy as you play, making this the best version released on console yet. This is a no-brainer, folks.
I was never a fan of Cyberball on the Genesis back when it was released, due to my lack of knowledge of how it played and the fact that it seemed so painfully slow for my ADD-rattled brain. After almost two decades, I finally have the chance to come back to it – albeit the arcade original this time – and my impressions have not really been all that much more enthusiastic. In fact, I feel about the same as I did before I played the game. It’s not that Cyberball is bad; it’s not. It’s just that I never found the slow gameplay of the robots to be all that exciting. The exploding football is a nice twist, and I can perhaps see some fun in playing this online with a friend, but single-player? No thanks.
Pass or Purchase? If you’ve played the arcade game or the Genesis original and found the experience worthwhile, then you know what’s involved here. Casual football fans need not apply, and most will probably spend their MS points elsewhere.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Regarded by most as the best 2D Sonic of them all (a sentiment even former SOA president Tom Kalinske shares), Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a great platformer no matter how you slice it. The level design is much more suited for speed than in the first game, and the game is basically more of the same, just bigger and better – exactly what you want from the sequel to the most important Sega title of all time. I still love the whole look and feel of Sonic 2, and I’m one of the few guys around who probably actually likes Tails! If you played through the original game on Live Arcade, then you’re aware of how well done the emulation was, and this one is just as good.
Pass or Purchase? It’s another Sonic game, I’ll give you that, and chances are that sooner or later we’ll see every single 16-bit outing the famed hedgehog had come to Live Arcade. That’s not a bad thing, in my opinion, especially when you consider all the goodies Sega packed into this $5 release. If achievements, leaderboards, and the full HD/Dolby 5.1 set up aren’t enough to entice you, then how about some online co-op and versus play?
As I said above, many are probably opting to wait for more and better games, and Sega’s luckily got us covered there. According to the software giant, we’re soon to bathe in more Genesis goodness in the forms of Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage 2 (with online co-op!), and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. All are to be priced at the same $5 the initial games cost, and all will have the standard Live bonuses of achievements and leaderboards. And while I’m on the subject of leaderboards, what’s with the funky way of tallying my score? Unlike just about every game on the service, Sonic and Golden Axe both use some kind of wonky format in deciding how well I did. Apparently, continuing will screw up your score, so high score fiends will have to beat them in one sitting. It’s a decidedly unconventional way of maintaining the leaderboard, and the lack of clarification as to how it works is sure to confuse gamers the first time they boot up either game.
Regardless of these minor quibbles, I’m excited about the prospect of Genesis games appearing on Live Arcade. After months of speculation, it’s finally true, and the future is bright to the prospect of playing your favorite games online. Let me put it to you this way: how does online Gunstar Heroes sound? Pretty darn good, doesn’t it?