Defunct Games
This Week In Defunct Games

Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Join Cyril every Friday as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week. It's our final article of 2012. I can think of no better way to go out than to review games starring Mario, Mega Man, Wario and a bunch of Shock Troopers. This week we're looking at the original Mega Man, Wario Land 2 and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels for the 3DS Virtual Console. Not to be outdone, the Wii has Shock Troopers 2nd Squad. Which of these games is worth picking up? Find out now when you read our last reviews of 2012!
Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad (SNK)
[ Release: December 27 | Price: 900 Points | Console: Neo Geo | Year: 1999 ]
What Is It? If you're looking for continuity between Shock Troopers games, then chances are you're going to be incredibly disappointed with Shock Troopers 2nd Squad. This kinda/sorta-sequel cuts the number of characters from eight to four and ditches the team mode. But don't worry, not all is lost. This Shock Troopers "sequel" adds brand new vehicles that make it feel more like a Metal Slug game.

If you can get past some of the questionable changes, you'll find another explosive action game. You'll fight through city streets, the sandy desert, a well-protected air base and residential neighborhood. It's a solid hour of wall-to-wall shooting action, complete with moving stages and enormous multi-part bosses. The new art style and emphasis on story may turn some gamers off, but there's still a lot to love about Shock Troopers 2nd Squad.

Does It Still Hold Up? Released in 1999, 2nd Squad's visuals are a marked improvement over the original Shock Troopers. Here we see both 2D sprites and 3D polygons creating an effect you don't normally see in Neo Geo games. The characters don't have the hard-edge look of the original, instead opting for a more cartoon-friendly approach. Even with the unfortunate cuts to the cast, Shock Troopers 2nd Squad is an incredible action game that manages to hold up surprisingly well.

Is It Worth The Money? Forget Metal Slug; bring me another Shock Troopers game. While not as universally loved, I have a soft spot for this MERCS clone. The 3D polygons complement the sprites, creating a look that is unique to this sequel. Even in the midst of cliche boss battles and backdrops, this impressive sequel manages to find a way to make them feel fresh. Shock Troopers 2nd Squad may be a shallow experience, but it's a roller coaster ride full explosions and cartoonish figures.
Wario Land 2 (Nintendo)
[ Release: December 20 | Price: $4.99 | Console: Game Boy Color | Year: 1998 ]
What Is It? After battling for top billing in the Super Mario Land trilogy, Wario is back in his very own over-the-top Game Boy sequel. This 1998 release ditches the more famous Italian plumber and instead focusing on our favorite money-loving sourpuss. The result is nothing short of inspired. Wario Land II sports 12 unique chapters, 52 individual levels and tons of quirky mini-games.

Captain Syrup returns in this 2D sequel. With the help of her legion of seafaring thieves, the evil Captain steals Wario's riches, ransacks the place and, worst of all, leaves the bathtub faucet running. What a jerk! It's up to Wario to take back his fortune and make sure Captain Syrup never strikes again. The good news is that our hero is invincible to all attacks. Unlike Super Mario, Wario won't lose lives when getting hit. The challenge comes from solving puzzles and avoiding obstacles that take your coins. As a result, Wario Land II feels more like a maze when compared to the three previous Super Mario Land outings. Whether that's a good thing or not is up to you, but there's no question that Wario has found a style of platforming action that is all his own.

Does It Still Hold Up? Wario Land II is yet another good looking game from Nintendo. Here's a company that really understood how to get the most out of aging Game Boy hardware. At the same time, what is impressive about the game has little to do with the visuals. The game really shines when it lets the inventive puzzles take over. I also really enjoy the varied chapters, which take you through a world that is decidedly darker and scarier than anything in Super Mario Land. Even with the limited color palette, Wario Land II still manages to hold up.

Is It Worth The Money? This is Nintendo at the top of their game. The large graphics really pop on the small Game Boy screen and the world is rich with hidden rooms and amazing boss battles. And despite getting his start in a Super Mario Land game, Wario manages to have a unique feel that is all his own. The puzzles are inventive and there are enough levels to warrant the slightly higher price for Game Boy Color downloads. Wario Land II is the perfect way to end the first full year of the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.
Mega Man (Capcom)
[ Release: December 27 | Price: $4.99 | Console: NES | Year: 1987 ]
What Is It? Who knew that this little Mega Man game (with its terrible cover art and simplistic story) would spawn dozens of sequels, remakes and spin-offs? In fact, I can't think of another 8-bit game that spawned so many different installments. Not even Nintendo is pimping out Mario as much as Capcom is milking the Mega Man franchise. Between the recently released Street Fighter X Mega Man and this NES port, Capcom is bringing the blue bomber back in a big way.

In this game you do battle with the first set of robot toughies, including Cutman, Gutsman, Elecman, Fireman, Iceman, and Bombman. The idea is both simple and ingenious: Once you beat a boss you collect their special weapon. Like all Mega Man games, the joy is figuring out which weapon works best with each boss encounter. This is the first of several announced Mega Man ports for the Nintendo 3DS. Hopefully this all leads to a brand new Mega Man adventure.

Does It Still Hold Up? If you're a long-time Mega Man fan, then you're probably going to be a little surprised at how barebones this title is. You can't slide, there's no charge blast and you don't have a robot dog companion. In other words, this is about as primitive as Mega Man gets. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but those advancements definitely added something to the formula. If you can get over that, then you'll find that this is a great 2D shooter that holds up remarkably well.

Is It Worth The Money? Yes the original Mega Man is fun, but fans of the series would be much better suited to just wait until Mega Man 2 is released early next year. Or better yet, Nintendo 3DS gamers who also own a PSP or PS Vita should seek out Capcom's amazing Mega Man Powered Up. Not only do you get this full game (completely remade with 3D polygons), but you can also play through the game with the various boss characters. If you don't own a PSP and still want a good Mega Man game then this should do, but just be warned that there are much better Mega Man games on the horizon.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (Nintendo)
[ Release: December 27 | Price: $4.99 | Console: Famicom (Jp) | Year: 1986 ]
What Is It? Apparently Nintendo has decided to celebrate the end of 2012 by making you hate Mario. This is Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, the REAL sequel to Miyamoto's classic 8-bit platformer. While we Americans were given a Super Mario sequel that featured vegetables, Birdo and a guy named Wart, the Japanese were playing through a Mario game that looked and played almost exactly like the first game. Unfortunately we didn't get our hands on these "lost levels" until the 1993 release of Super Mario All-Stars, and at that point Nintendo had gone in and cleaned up the graphics to make them more presentable on the 16-bit system.

So what is Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels? Picture the hardest set fan-made levels imaginable. The Lost Levels feels like those levels come to love. There's only one problem: These frustrating levels aren't made by fan; they were done by Nintendo employees. People actually got paid to churn out these unfair stages.

This is a dark and dreary Mario game full of the same enemies and tiles. But don't let the graphics fool you, this is also an extremely difficult game that will challenge even the most hardcore Mario fanboy. The problem is that there isn't much of a change between the first and second game, outside of a new power-up (which is to be avoided at all cost) you'll be asked to do the same thing that you did in the first exciting adventure. Only this time around it's not nearly as much fun or exciting. You can still have a lot of fun with The Lost Levels, but expect this game to kick your ass.

Does It Still Hold Up? Visually, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels looks a lot like the first game. It's not until you start playing that you realize that this is not your typical Mario outing. Right from the get-go you'll run into punishing platforming sections and far too many leaps of faith. Most players will abandon the game quickly; wisely realize that it's not with the trouble. Nothing about the presentation or level designs is as memorable as the original game, leaving me a little unsure whether it holds up or not.

Is It Worth The Money? There's a reason why these levels were lost. You know you're in for nothing but bad times when the only addition is a poisoned mushroom that immediately kills you. That isn't the good-natured spirit of Super Mario Bros. Miyamoto's masterpiece was both challenging and fair, a rare combination for an 8-bit platformer. This Japanese sequel takes away all of the wrong lessons, leaving us with a game that actively hates you. I can understand the morbid curiosity surrounding this long-lost sequel, but Mario fans would be better off picking up Wario Land II.
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