You might have noticed that we don't tend to bother looking at retro reissues when we compile each week's roundup. For one thing, most of you probably already know whether you want to buy them in advance; you've either played them or your mates have spent years going on about them. Besides, Retro Sunday is there to service those with nostalgia issues.
What's more, the retro reissue scene has been pretty underwhelming for some time, with the flow of interesting Virtual Console releases slowing to a tiny trickle. Whether that's as a result of Nintendo holding titles back or publishers choosing not to bother isn't clear.
But last Friday's release of Chrono Trigger was an especially welcome one - not simply because of its undisputed classic status, but because it's the first time Square's 1995 SNES RPG has had a full 'home' console release in Europe. For those of you who passed up on its DS port a couple of years back, now's the time to see what everyone's been ranting and raving about all this time.
Upbot Goes Up
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 240 Microsoft Points (£2.04).
Yeah, Upbot goes up. That's all he does, the stubborn little sod. You can probably infer from this that his pals Leftbot, Rightbot and Downbot perform similar acts of mono-directional defiance. Cue puzzle antics!
In its original browser-based incarnation, Ishisoft's puzzler showed plenty of brow-furrowing raw potential, but seeing it in 'finished', fleshed-out form is yet another example of why paying attention to the Xbox Indie scene is well worth the time and effort.
Each of the 60 levels involves seemingly straightforward feats of cause-and-effect block movement, where getting each coloured block (or blocks) to its respective destination is the goal.
Some blocks, though, find themselves out of kilter on the grid and must be pushed by their chums before they can reach contentment. You often have to plot your route with a great deal of forethought, lest you find your Leftbot hung out to dry with no means of getting home.
Fortunately, you can backtrack move-by-move if you make a mistake, as opposed to having to start over from scratch. In a game that's increasingly driven by endless trial-and-error, such small mercies are very welcome indeed.
A few levels in, there's a remarkable sense of achievement for something that starts off so innocuous. The moment the blocks rocket into the air on a cloud of beaming elation, it's hard to drag yourself away.
Perhaps the only downside is the all-or-nothing nature of the levels. In the absence of a hint system, hitting a roadblock can stall your progress indefinitely. But if you feel the need to flex your puzzle muscles, Upbot Goes Up is the kind of puzzler to separate the men from the boys.
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
- Xbox Live Arcade - 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20).
- PSN - TBA.
You could probably trot out a pretty accurate D&D video game review by plugging the words 'goblins', 'XP', 'barrels', 'attack', 'skeletons', 'button' and 'mashing' into a template.
Yep, all the gang are here, and they're in fine fettle for those of us needing another dose of dungeon-crawling. As usual, you pick your hero from four basic classes (Dwarven Cleric, Elvish Rogue, Halfling Wizard and Human Fighter), and head out to do the bidding of anyone offering a quest - and by 'bidding', I mean slaying the dozens of ingrates who dare to clutter the murky corridors.
Melee combat is of the real-time hack-and-slash variety, but reduced to its most basic form, with either a slower, more powerful attack, or a faster, less powerful one. If spells are your bag, it's the same deal.
That's not to say that Backstab's effort isn't enjoyable in its own mindlessly repetitive way; you'll feel that odd sense of satisfaction from scooping up all that lovely loot, and smash your way through every crowd with the same steely determination. You'll gain XP, you'll level up, you'll buy better weapons and gain better special attacks, but it's a well-trodden path that we've been down many times. Surprises are definitely at a premium.
Perhaps the main selling point is the presence of four-player co-op - especially given its online and local credentials. A bit of Gauntlet-style adventuring isn't something to sniff at, and far more enjoyable than button-mashing solo forays, where death results in having to replay entire missions from scratch. Nein, danke.
But with the excellent Torchlight only recently getting an XBLA release, and the equally entertaining Dungeon Hunter offering PS3 users an alternative, D&D: Daggerdale arrives with unfortunate timing - and at a price that doesn't readily lend itself to impulse purchases. While this is the very definition of 'solid' in every respect, it's only worth considering if you have some willing volunteers to play it alongside you.
- Virtual Console - 900 WiiWare Points (£6.30)
While my WiiWare gently sleeps, at least Nintendo has had the decency to keep the Virtual Console fires burning with the overdue release of Square's RPG classic.
Fact fans will know that it's now more than 16 years since Chrono Trigger sent Japanese and American audiences into wild paroxysms of desire on the SNES. For us indomitable, eternally patient Europeans, though, this represents the first opportunity to play the game on a home console. Just as well the Rapture was postponed for a bit.
But is it any good? Well, apart from the obvious fact that massive widescreen HD tellies are ridiculously unflattering to games designed for dinky CRTs, it holds up remarkably well - assuming you're already well-versed in the ways of 16-bit JRPGs.
Once you get beyond the obvious clichés, there's a good chance you'll love it for its endearing storyline, gorgeous art style, simple battle system and supply of hummable tunes.
And unlike a lot of similarly lauded RPGs, it has the decency to not take itself too seriously or bog players down with wearisome complexity. It hasn't appeared high up in numerous Best Game of All Time lists for nothing.
After waiting so long, we'd better get used to Chrono Trigger pitching up around these parts. With PSN and mobile phone versions arriving over the next couple of months, there will be no escape from its enduring allure.
Steel Storm: Burning Retribution
- PC/Mac - Steam £5.99.
It's nice, now and then, to high-five top-down shooters with an old-school spirit, especially ones that promise 'hordes of smart enemies', 'destructible worlds', and the under-rated added bonus of 'ground-shaking explosions'. While the neighbours are away, the sub-woofer will play.
The bizarrely named Kot In Action Creative Artel evidently believes that Steel Storm shouldn't merely ape the endlessly scrolling Xevious style, and instead puts a more exploratory, objective-based spin on the shooting.
What follows is somewhat less thrilling, sadly. After bursting through the traps all guns blazing with its explosive scenery and intricate art style, the game quickly settles into a numbing monotony where the incessant rattle of gunfire begins to bore through your skull.
Apart from having to destroy anything in range, level objectives tend to have you to-ing and fro-ing around the place, disabling force-fields and accessing new areas to take down specific installations.
But the one-note nature of the single-player quickly proves to be the game's undoing. One level blurs into the next and the repetition grinds you down. Additional weapons and new enemies help, but it's not enough to save a game that lacks a creative spark and the necessary variety to spur you on.
The promise of 16-player online multiplayer could be the game's saving grace, but it's entirely theoretical as things stand, with tumbleweed currently blowing through empty lobbies. Ideas like collaborative mission editing offer tantalising possibilities for the creatively minded, but they can't mask the flaws of a game lacking a central hook.
Go Series: Picdun
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points £4.50.
You certainly can't fault Gamebridge's wily dedication to seek out every last oddity in DSville with its Go Series.
This week, we explore the possibilities provided by PICture DUNgeons, which essentially involve traipsing around little first-person environments one square at a time until you've traversed every inch.
Doing so plots a little automap on the top screen, and once you've filled in every possible location, the level is considered complete, and you can hop into the elevator and attempt the next 'floor'.
To make matters slightly more challenging, each dungeon is populated by strangely unthreatening 'monsters', some of whom just wobble a bit and look embarrassed to be there. Perhaps they're in the wrong game.
Dispatching said creatures involves little more than a gentle thwip across their face, a bop on the head, or a poke in the ribs. It's the most polite form of retribution, but the only one available to you.
Eventually they vanish into thin air, and you trot off to figure out increasingly elaborate locations, with hidden passages to uncover, one-way walkways, and other such puzzling jazz.
Because of the necessity to be completist about the task at hand, it all gets a bit OCD. Eight levels in, and the inevitable existential crisis looms about why you're spending precious life minutes of your time finding that last elusive square.
More to the point, why would you consider spending £4.50 on the gaming equivalent of pairing socks? I'm not sure even the developer, Intense, has the answer to that one.