A marathon Taito Legends 2 review

User Rating: 8.1 | Taito Legends 2 PS2
Taito Legends 2—to the joy of retro gamers everywhere—finally receives a North American release a couple of years after other territories received the game; the quantities are very limited and the game seems to only be available online at the moment, but I ordered my copy and therefore here is my review of the collection, which is a generous 39 games, an outstanding value for only 20 dollars, even when many of the games being mediocre is factored in. As with most arcade collections, there are a good variety of genres that are represented; some genres definitely hold up and age better than others however. I personally am fond of the old-school shooters as it has always been one of my favorite genres and it is well represented here. Puzzle games also are in good supply, and there are plenty of games from every time-period up to the mid-nineties; the best of the very early eighties games were used for Taito Legends 1 however, and what is leftover for this compilation is pretty unremarkable for the most part. While Taito Legends 1 featured many of Taito’s most well-distributed and successful games part 2 gets more of the more modern and refined titles; overall part 2 is the superior compilation but they are both worth having for old-school gamers at the friendly price-point. I will give a short review and score for each of the games on the compilation, in alphabetical order; this is going to be a long review.

Alpine Ski: An early-era skiing game with downhill, slalom, and jump challenges. The controls are a little stiff however the game has some game-play depth for its’ time. Besides that, a skiing game can only really be so good. 6/10

Arabian Magic: Released when the market was saturated with the side-scrolling beat-em-up, this game is just another me-too title but it is competent enough with some decent levels. The shallow game-play will get boring before too long. 7/10

Balloon Bomber: Very simplistic game where the objective is to shoot down balloons carrying bombs from above. Slightly addictive but overall a lackluster effort compared to the best games of the early-eighties. 4/10

Bonze Adventure: This is Taito’s answer to Capcom’s Ghosts and Goblins; this side-scroller is not quite as tight in the game-play department; the level designs are decent enough though and the visuals look sharp and colorful. 7.5/10

Bust a Move Again: One of the more well-distributed modern Taito games, this is a fun vertical puzzle game where you must aim and shoot balls at the play-field above to clear out the clutter. There is some relatively engaging fun-factor here. 8/10

Cameltry: A navigation game where the objective is to guide a ball through a maze by rotating the surroundings, and maneuvering around obstacles and penalties. Pretty clever game-play and the action is both fun and addictive. 8/10

Chock and Pop: A maze navigation game where bombs must be tossed to keep baddies at bay. The controls are a little quirky and the game is not all that much fun or engaging. 4.5/10

Cleopatra Fortune: Just another falling blocks puzzle game where you must surround jewels to make them disappear. Not much to distinguish this from similar puzzle arcade games. 6.5/10

Crazy Balloon: Pretty lame navigation game where you guide a balloon across the screen to its’ destination. You will be hard-pressed to maintain interest-level in this type of game. 2/10

Darius Gaiden: Darius was always a respectable shooter series but still second-tier when compared to the very best franchises. Darius Gaiden is the finest game of the series however and is thoroughly impressive regarding game-design and artistic value. The music is also fittingly psychedelic and complements the environments. 9/10

Don Doko Don: These guys have more than a passing resemblance to Mario and Luigi, and the game is very similar to the arcade Mario Bros. Simply eliminate all of the enemies on each of the single-screen levels but the game-play is pretty fun. 7/10

Dungeon Magic: Here is a arcade brawler with some actual thought and intricacies put into it. The game is non-linear and also allows for the character to level up weapons and status, as well as pick up loose weapons on the ground for short-term use; all of which gives the game a nice role-playing feel. This could be considered a precursor to the Capcom Dungeons and Dragons arcade games that were released a few years later. 8/10

Elevator Action Returns: A worthwhile sequel to the original as it stays faithful to the core game-play while adding more modern and advanced game-play elements, as well as more elaborate level-designs. The visuals are also very detail-oriented and well illustrated. 8/10

Front Line: An older game in the mold of Ikari Warriors or Commando, but not as good as either of those titles. The play-mechanics are a little tough to get used to and the game is pretty tame material. 4/10

G Darius: The final game in the shooter series introduces 3D polygon visuals to mixed results; while the visual impact is enhanced by the 3D pyrotechnics the vibrancy and detail is a little bit compromised as a consequence. Still a fine-playing shooter, just expect to have your ship destroyed a lot, it is not the most fair game in the world as is the case for many arcade shooters. The capture ball is also a new and unique element that works pretty well. A good shooter however it does compromise a little bit of substance in favor of wow-factor. The bosses are so over the top that you just laugh at their attacks, stamina, and firepower; but they are cool and memorable encounters. 8.5/10

Gekirinden: For something released in 1995, this vertical shooter is very underwhelming and below-average. A very comical visual look but the backgrounds are very boring and flat, and the action and patterns of the enemies is completely phoned in by the developers, like they really didn’t have any passion when creating the game. 6.5/10

Grid Seeker: Nice-looking vertical shooter with plenty of worthwhile sequences and environments to play through. The grid options are a little awkward to work with but the game on the whole is well-done anyways. 8.5/10

Growl: The developers just went through the motions when creating this mindless brawler. Very shallow game-play all-around and the action becomes boring very fast. A me-too title if there ever was one. Couldn’t we have been given Double Dragon instead? 5.5/10

Gun Frontier: Solid vertical shooter in general but definitely second-tier quality; the game uses checkpoints when the ship is destroyed which is not really suited for unfairly difficult arcade shooters. 7.5/10

Hat Trick Hero: A fun arcade soccer game with a simple set of rules and game-play concepts, good action and personality are highlights: 7.5/10

Insector X: For those that are wondering, this game is much different from the Genesis version and has a much more cutesy look. The shooter action is passable but I remember the Genesis game a little bit more fondly. 7/10

Kiki Kaikai: Where do they come up with these game titles? An overhead action game not unlike Gauntlet. Nothing unique stands out about the game but it is at least competent in most respects. 6/10

Kuri Kinton: A mediocre side-scrolling karate action-platform game with stiff play-control. The game-play is very mundane and the level-designs do not stand out as anything noteworthy. 5/10

Liquid Kids: A very colorful and vibrant side-scrolling action/platformer, not quite as intricate as what you get with a good similar game for the 16-bit consoles but somewhat expansive for an arcade game. 7.5/10

Lunar Rescue: The oldest game of the collection, the single objective is to land your ship on platforms and rescue the civilians by returning to the space-station while avoiding the usual dangers. 5.5/10

Majestic Twelve: Also known as Space Invaders 91, this game increases and expands upon the enemy patterns and gives the game a hybrid Space Invaders/Galaga feel. The visual sprites are pretty well animated and active also. 7/10

Metal Black: A sequel to Gun Frontier but this time a horizontal shooter rather than a vertical one. The action is intensive as one would expect and the visuals are very nice at times. Shooters tend to age well and this game is no exception. 8/10

Nastar: Better known as Rastan Saga 2, this action/platform game was a disappointment after the excellent first game in the series. The game-play added more depth but compromised the smooth and easy play-control that was present for the original, and the level-designs are not as good either. I still like the warrior theme and genre where the game can be worth playing through, and despite the games' considerable flaws, there is some fundamental and straightforward gaming fun; I also like the music arrangements. 7/10

Puchi Carat: Another puzzle game for the collection; this one involves clearing out blocks by using a paddle pong style, all while some nicely animated characters make gestures at you. The player vs. mode provides some fun. 7/10

Qix: An innovative concept for the time-period; draw lines and enclose the Qix enough while avoiding the Qix and sparks that are chasing you. This version is decent but Super Qix and Volfied—both of which are on Taito Legends 1—are better examples of the game-play. 6.5/10

Raimais: Here is a game that takes after Pac-Man for its’ core game-play and it adds more depth and power-ups to the experience. Clean up all of the dots and move on to the next stage. It features some decent music also. 7/10

Ray Storm: Perhaps the most visually impressive game on either Taito Legends compilations, this vertical shooter uses a lot of 3D effects to make a strong visual impact, and the action/shooter sequences are respectable too, just prepare to continue many times. 8/10

Space Invaders 95: This version of Space Invaders concentrates on lots of quirky characters and weird game-content. It has that Japan purist thing going for it with the general imagery. 6.5/10

Space Invaders DX: A rather throw-away version of the game with the original, vs. mode, and a more modern looking cute character mode. More novelty than anything and it doesn’t have too much play-value. You wonder why they even bother to develop a version like this. 5.5/10

Syvalion: An overhead action game where you take control of a mechanical dragon and fight to the exit, as well as a few bosses. The game-play gets a little old before too long. 6/10

The Fairyland Story: Another single-screen game like Mario Bros., turn your adversaries into cake and push the cake onto other enemies when possible. Nothing to spend too much time with. 6/10

The Legend of Kage: This game seemed cooler back in the mid-eighties when it was new and at the arcades. Now it is just a below-average action game with a ninja theme. 5.5/10

Violence Fight: Do not expect Street Fighter here, this game is a little more like Pit Fighter but not even that good. Very shallow game-play, a little simplistic fun-factor, but ultimately sloppy play-control does this game in, and there are only four characters to choose from. 5.5/10

Wild Western: Protect the train as it ascends a vertically scrolling level and eliminate the bandits. The controls are a little imprecise but the game retains some fun-factor in spite of this. 5.5/10

So while most will find a moderate portion of these games to be throw-away titles, the overall value is still very high and it is at least a positive for these retro collections to provide a history lesson and pull from all genres and time-periods, and you never know which game might hold a given players' interest for whatever reason. Taito’s arcade games were never as refined or cutting edge as Capcom or Sega, but they generally managed to provide some solid game-play in their own right.