The current trend for shovelling old games en masse onto a disc shows little sign of slowing, with a Yuletide release roster that throws up classic packs from the likes of Capcom, Midway, Sega and Namco, to name just a few.
Yet the ‘shovelware’ aspect is something that’s an increasing minefield. Take the newly-released Midway Arcade Treasures 3, a pack which goes against its two predecessors by only scattering a handful of games onto a disc, all but one of which are entirely forgettable.
But make sure you have some space in your life for Taito Legends, quite possibly the best pack of its ilk ever to grace the land of video-gaming. For £20 you get 29 – count ‘em! – games of yesteryear, along with historical interviews with some key Taito talking heads. It’s astonishing value for money, especially when you consider some of the games included.
Granted, there’s the usual mix of the great, the good and, er, the not so good, but there are plenty of stand-out highlights. Rainbow Islands, for instance, is an outstandingly accomplished platform game, layered with detail and compulsively playable. Likewise its prequel, Bubble Bobble, is tremendous fun, as is another Taito platforming classic, The New Zealand Story.
When you then throw in frantic shoot-’em-ups such as Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt (although the latter two sorely miss the arcade-mounted light gun of old), you already have five games that justify the asking price alone.
And there’s more. A game called Plotting is an interesting, cerebral puzzler that was surprisingly entertaining, while Elevator Action – in spite of its best days clearly being behind it – is still pleasantly good fun. Continental Circus is as crude a racer as it now appears, but it’s still a bit of a hoot in the short term, while even Rastan brought a smile to our hard-to-please face.
On the downside? Nostalgics though we are, the Space Invaders spin-offs didn’t do an awful lot for us, and there’s a handful of games here that we’d simply never come across before, and for good reason. Plump Pop, for instance, barely held our attention for a few minutes, and the same goes for Great Swordsman.
From what we could tell, the package runs on a version of the popular MAME arcade emulation program, which has been freely available online for many years in different guises, although clearly the ROM files that hold the games haven’t, most of them still being copyright.
They’re all held together through a simple menu system that gives you an overview of the game, control details and occasionally a bit of historical content. There wasn’t enough of the latter for our liking, though, and we’d love to see a retro pack do this kind of thing properly: Atari’s Anniversary Collection has come the closest to date.
But let’s not get too churlish. What Taito Legends offers is 29 games for less than £20. Granted, around half of them will probably be dealt with via a cursory ten-minute play. Yet there are some here that could conceivably eat up a couple of hours with consummate ease, and at worst you’ve paid less than a quid for each of them. A tremendous deal, and one that paves the way for a Taito Legends 2, replete with some of the names that didn’t for some reason make it into this pack. Parasol Stars, anyone?