Genre: Retro compilation
Released: Oct. 25, 2005
Presentation & extras: &&&1/2
Loaded with 29 games, this collection throws in some that have no business appearing under the "legends" banner, but there are enough true classics here to make this an essential purchase for any member of the Atari generation. I felt like a lottery winner when I saw it would include Elevator Action, in which you make your way down an elevator- and escalator-filled office tower while shooting spies in the kneecaps and ducking in the red doors to steal documents. It's one of those games whose simplicity only enhances its appeal, and I can play it for ages without growing bored. I'd forgotten how much I love to see the spies tumble down the elevator shaft or get squashed underneath the elevator. I immediately noticed that the audio in Elevator Action seems less polished than that of the NES version, but maybe it's just me.
There are bigger names here, like Space Invaders, Jungle Hunt, Phoenix, Bubble Bobble and its sequel, Rainbow Islands. I actually never played Space Invaders in the arcade and am surprised at how difficult it is compared to the Atari 2600 version. Both its sequels are included, and, while Space Invaders Part 2 arguably doesn't tweak the game play enough, Return of the Invaders strays pretty far from the primitive original and appears to have been influenced by Galaga, even down to including a challenging stage. The most pleasant surprise is Tube It, a puzzler variation with dropping pieces for the Tetris crowd in which sections of pipe must be shifted to make connections from side to side before the screen fills to the top. It's about as compulsively playable as a puzzler gets. Speaking of puzzles, it seems odd to give us Super Qix here rather than its predecessor, Qix, the box-drawing game that may be the only title to make percentages fun. The sequel, Super Qix, relies on the gimmick of uncovering a picture as the player chips away at the game board.
Unfortunately, the game list is peppered with some pretty awful stuff amongst the winners. Some of the worst are Space Gun, a first-person alien shooter aboard a space vessel; Electric Yo-Yo, which amounts to gobbling up dots; and Plotting, a block-busting game that just doesn't pop. There is one uninspired racing game and several ordinary fighting titles. Colony 7, in which the player defends buildings from incoming missiles, is a difficult Missile Command clone, and Plump Pop, a cute game in which the player bounces an animal off a trampoline to pop bubbles in the sky, is impossible to execute with the PS2 controller.
I've found instances where the difficulty settings are a bit confounding. In Elevator Action, for example, the easy setting starts with six men and offers a free man at 10,000. The medium setting starts with three men and makes you crawl to 15,000 – too much – to earn the freebie. Neither setting seems logical. Thankfully, you can rectify this with a custom setting, but this nice feature is hampered by the fact that the game won't save high scores for games played with customized difficulty. For gamers who enjoy cheat codes, some are included in the game descriptions.
Despite some filler, Taito Legends is neck-and-neck with Midway Arcade Treasures for best retro-gaming compilation. While the few interviews with game designers aren't as fun or interesting as those of the first Midway collection, the developers deserve praise for the presentation. The interface is sleek and functional, and I'm in love with the techno menu music that's based on the steady march of the Space Invaders. It's nearly as addictive as clocking those Elevator Action baddies in the kneecaps.
// The games //
Battle Shark, Bubble Bobble, Colony 7, Continental Circus, Electric Yo-Yo, Elevator Action, Exzisus, Gladiator, Great Swordsman, Jungle Hunt, Ninja Kids, The New Zealand Story, Operation Thunderbolt, Operation Wolf, Phoenix, Plotting, Plump Pop, Rainbow Islands, Rastan, Return of the Invaders, Space Gun, Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part 2, Super Qix, Thunderfox, Tokio, Tube It, Volfied, Zoo Keeper
// Linkage //
The impressive official site, with game information and screen captures, downloads, a forum and more.
// Related post //
NAMCO Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection