Taito Legends Review
Taito Legends collects 29 classic and not-so-classic arcade games together on a single disc for the low, low price of $19.99. If you're a fan of at least a few of the titles on the disc, it's definitely worth picking up.
That's an eclectic line-up, to say the least. They've got the popular genres covered (action, platformers, and puzzle). Some selections are legitimate classics that justify the price by themselves, such as Bubble Bobble, Space Invaders, and Elevator Action. Others, like Phoenix, Rastan, and Space Gun, are quirky niche games or knock-offs that keep you coming back long after your first play. And... yeah... there are some duds too. For instance, Zoo Keeper, which isn't the recent puzzle game, but is actually a weird half-action, half-puzzle game from 1982 where the goal is to run in as many circles as possible while jumping over enemies. Really.
Overall, there are more hits than misses on the disc, so the inclusion of a few stinkers isn't a deal breaker.
The versions of the games on the disc compare favorably to their original arcade iterations. I did a side-by-side comparison using the M.A.M.E. PC emulator and didn't notice any nagging inconsistencies. The gameplay, graphics, and audio are accurate, and, with the exception of the controls in the light-gun style games, the controls are accurate too. You can choose between stretched and original graphics display ratios, and adjust options for each game such as difficulty, number of lives, and the amount of points required to earn a continue. High scores are also automatically saved to the memory card.
Unfortunately, light-gun style games, such as Operation Wolf and Battle Shark, use an on-screen cursor together with the analog stick to simulate the gun (the compilation doesn't support Namco's Guncon peripheral). Even though you can adjust the sensitivity along the X- and Y- axes, the required amounts of precision and response just aren't there. Space Gun is one of my favorite arcade games of all time, because it's basically an interactive version of Aliens , but I absolutely hate it on this disc because I can't move the cursor fast enough to blow off the aliens' limbs before they take swipes at me. If your main interest in the disc was any of the four gun-based games that it includes, you may want to steer clear. < p
Thankfully, I didn't uncover any major problems with the other games on the disc. Space Invaders--ahh, the classic Chicken Little style shooter where your tiny ship at the bottom fifth of the screen has to avoid the bullets and shoot back at the aliens coming from the top four-fifths. Elevator Action--riding down elevators, sneaking into red closets, and shooting G-Men was fun in 1983 and it's still fun now. Bubble Bobble--People fell in love with Bub and Bob, the bubble blowing dinosaurs in this action game where the main goal is to capture monsters inside of bubbles and then bash them so that they turn into fruit. None of these games is particularly complicated, but that's the point. This collection celebrates the growth of the industry and serves as a reminder to people that sometimes all a good video game needs is a joystick (or control pad) for movement, one button marked "jump," and, optionally, another button marked "shoot."
Of course, the graphics and audio are outdated by today's standards. Most of the games on the disc came out between 1985 and 1989, which was when 8-bit was maxed out and 16-bit graphics were just starting to hit their stride, so that should give you some idea of what to expect. With that said, it's important to stress once again that the graphics and audio are emulated perfectly in most cases. The colors are rich, the sprites are crisp, and the animations, while simple, don't exhibit any unnatural chop or ghosting. I did notice that the deep bass backbeat in a couple games, most obviously Bubble Bobble, seems to be weaker and less resonant than it is when playing through a PC emulator. That could be a result of differences between my PC and TV audio setups though. Otherwise, the bleeps and bloops that make up the major share of the music are very distinct, and the speech samples used in certain games (e.g. the voice narration in Battle Shark) are clear enough to understand.
One thing that might bug some people though, is the lack of extras on the disc. Midway and Capcom put music jukeboxes, video retrospectives, and cheats on their collections, and the Intellivision and Activision collections contained complete scans of boxes and manuals. Taito Legends includes promotional flyers and hints for each game, and developer interview videos for five games (Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part 2, and Volfied), but nothing in the way of music samplers or other historical content. At the very least, it would've been nice if they had put a few more developer interviews on the disc--particularly for games like Elevator Action, Qix, and Rastan.
Nonetheless, you can't argue with 29 games for 20 bucks. You just can't! Taito Legends is a winner just based on value alone, but it also happens to contain a few truly milestone games (and some less memorable ones). If you enjoy retro collections, you've gotta get this one.