At a time when gamers are digesting Game of the Year recompilations of
last year's games or even games in the last five years, this set of
games from Konami has, in comparison, been in the works for a long time
coming. It consists of the following titles: Frogger, Scramble, Time
Pilot, Gyruss, Yie Ar Kung Fu, and Rush'n Attack. All are classics from the
1980s when I was a wee tot and could hardly trek it out to the arcades
to actually play these firsthand. By the time I hit the arcades, it was
Double Dragon, Street Fighter and a bunch of other games we would be
more familiar with.
That's not to say I didn't have my hands on a joystick by the time I
could grab a hold of things. Frogger, Gyruss and Scramble were my
favorite games and here, they are faithfully translated. I've heard of
Time Pilot, Yie Ar Kung Fu and I played a lot of a game called Green
Beret overseas in Asia. I didn't know it was called Rush'n Attack
(Russian-get it?) here. Konami could have easily, like other prior
arcade developers, merely port the games over. But someone obviously
went out of their way to add some code to these ancient giants. You've
got multiplayer in games like Frogger where both frogs can work the same
playing field. More primitive games like Time Pilot though, only have
two player modes where both players compete for score; like in most
You can now use a link cable to enable multiplayer gaming. It works
like a charm but the most dramatic effect will be with most advanced
titles like Yie Ar Kung Fu and Rush'n Attack. The former didn't have it
before so multiplayer fleshes this one out into a true fighting game. I
found most of the games, even though they are all from a similar era, to
all be well translated on to the GBA. The lack of a joystick for the
GBA hinders it somewhat from faithfully recreating games like Gyruss.
Gyruss is a space shooter revolving around a circle. Needless to say,
circles are pretty tough to do on a four-direction game pad. A special
move in other games, you're going to be doing it constantly in Gyruss.
The playing field is also slightly cramped due to the screen
restrictions of the GBA but the compromise is very little. The only
thing that bothers me is the graphics. Some of the more primitive games
have very little color, small icons and huge black or blue backgrounds.
That makes it difficult to play in low light conditions but the gameplay
of the titles themselves more than make up for this minor distraction.
The first striking thing I found about these games was the soundtrack.
Synthesized soundtracks are a dime a dozen these days for modern games
but none are really as memorable as games like Frogger or Gyruss. If
you've played Gyruss for any amount of time, you'll remember the
beginning of it. You might also remember the exact tone of the wailing
alarm in Rush'n Attack. The music is translated into the GBA decently.
It's not the best. I've heard better (from my C64) but maybe my memory
is fuzzy. I know for one thing, the Frogger soundtrack has undergone a
remix. The classic that we all have come to know too well has been
changed into a Prozac-enhanced happier tune.
True, some of these titles work on very simple mechanics. If you can't
appreciate the importance of the games presented here, you can still
appreciate what types of spins they did on tried and true gaming genres.
Time Pilot is basically something like 1942 except you can move in a 360
degree fashion. I had very little playing time on this myself when I
was younger but one of the geniuses I think Time Pilot was able to
introduce was its backdrop. It lets you take on a variety of different
aircraft a la time travel without stretching itself too much. How many
pieces of WWII aircraft could you draw in more than a dozen levels in
anyway? That's how games kept themselves fresh without fancy graphics
or sound to lean on. Frogger has an inherently simple goal but so many
infinite possibilities to achieve it. These games challenge the
creativity of the player. Finally, with a game like Gyruss, the Space
Invaders clone is given a radial 3D-esque look, effectively redefining
the confines of the venerable space shooter. These small pieces of
innovation are hard to find these days. They're the games where
developers thought outside of the box.
Resurrected arcade games work well because they're easy to pick up and
just as easy to put down if you can manage your addiction. My addiction
to over half of the games listed here still lives strongly. I still
remember the exact positions of the power-ups in Rush'n Attack in the
first three levels. The selection in this game compilation is strong.
There are no fillers included here and some of the more advanced titles
(Rush'n Attack, Yie Ar Kung Fu) could be repackaged all by themselves.
When I began this review, I was about to put down that ten years has not
changed the innovative fundamentals these games bring to the table. I
should correct myself and put down twenty years because truly, it is
almost two decades. Like old film classics, these games will remain
timeless for those of us who can still remember what significance they
held. However, I still understand there are people, younger people, who
will take one look at the graphics and pass this up. My advice to
them is don't. These may be close to black and white films or films
without sound but they are aging with an artistic value that I hope
people will still be able to appreciate. Ultimately, I have to remind
myself, I am just a critic offering an opinion. But if this compilation
were a stock and I were an analyst, it would wholeheartedly get a
'strong buy' rating from me and that's the exact e-mail message I'll
pass on to my colleagues too.