Phantasy Star II
If you value gameplay hours, then Phantasy Star II certainly justifies its meagre asking price. A rare JRPG that doesn't cling to the Final Fantasy template, it's an epic and fairly mature tale of sci-fi intrigue and environmental ruin, with a memorable stick-man graphical style and a vast open world to explore.
Visually, your closest reference point is probably Zelda, with a stark top-down perspective and party members that trail behind you. There are random encounters, sadly, but they're easy to flee from in the early stages while you build up your stats.
If it has one major failing, it's that this download version rather skimps on the instructions with only three slides of basic info and as a result the abbreviation-heavy menus and prompts can be fairly overwhelming. Combat in particular requires no small amount of prior experience in the genre to decipher, and the nuances take too long to become clear. This is compounded if you switch on the smoothed graphics, which makes the abundant text practically illegible.
Get past that initial barrier, however, and you'll find one of the better examples of the early RPG genre, and a game of depth and longevity that really stands out alongside its platform and fighting peers. It's hard to imagine who'd want to grumble about a weighty adventure like this for such a low price.
Shinobi has always been one of those solid series that thoroughly deserves all the warm nostalgia it stirs up, while never quite ascending to the echelons of true greatness. Maybe people get it confused with Ninja Gaiden. That would be very silly, since it actually has more in common with side-scrolling shooters like Green Beret and Rolling Thunder.
You are Joe Musashi, a ninja sent to save kidnapped children from an army of jumpsuited terrorists. You do this by roving left to right, and swapping between two pathways - one high, one low - as you go. An endless supply of shuriken is your main defence, but you can also whip out a sword for a quick up-close melee attack.
There's not much to it, but the design is crisp enough to work some measure of alchemy on such generic base ingredients. It rarely feels unfair, unlike so many of its genre peers, and the control is nimble and responsive, allowing you to attempt daring pixel perfect manoeuvres without fear of being caught short by wonky collision detection.
Only the boss battles tip the scales in favour of frustration, but that's par for the course. The multiplayer mode, meanwhile, is strictly turn-based, but that's no bad thing. It's surprising how easy it is to slip into the old high-score battle mindset.
With crisp sprites (assuming you're not one of those heathens that actually likes the smeared effect of the "smoothed" graphics option) Shinobi is a solid little action game that works beautifully with the 400-Point price-tag.
The runt of the current SEGA Vintage litter, I'm always surprised that Altered Beast has managed to endure so long, given that it's such a technically inept and tediously designed trudge to play.
Ordered to "wise fwom your gwave" by Zeus, you're sent to rescue his daughter from an evil wizard. You do this by plodding from left to right, using a tiny number of fighting moves to demolish the laughably crap monsters that shuffle towards you from both sides. Occasionally you'll see a white wolf. Killing these releases a spirit globe, which makes you stronger, and collecting three transforms you into a different special-move enhanced animalistic warrior depending on the level.
It's really only once you've changed into a beast that the game becomes even remotely playable, as life as a human is sluggish and stiff, but even with that little extra boost the experience is constantly plagued by jerky scrolling and baffling collision detection. Compared to other side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, it's a graceless blunt instrument with precious little inspiration to distract from the crude way it spams you with enemies.
The graphics are horrible, and made even worse by that hellish "smoothing" filter. Your powered-up hero has a bulky weightlifter's body with a tiny comedy head on top, while enemy designs are lumpy and ugly. It's possibly worth sticking around for the pink unicorn men though. Apart from that marvellous bright spot, Altered Beast is a grim throwback that looks even worse when played alongside its current company.