Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Those of you who have been reading my reviews for a while may remember my continued disapproval of EA games. That's in part because a small part of my gamer soul believes that EA has, as the term goes, sold out, churning out Madden rehash after Madden rehash and worshipping the power of the almighty dollar.
Apparently someone in EA's programming staff remembers the company's early days, however, as with a name like EA Replay, this title could've been simply one mashed-together mess of old sports titles and it would have sold. But it's not. Instead, it's a collection of some of the games that made the company famous before they started pushing out sports titles for a dime a dozen. True, not all of these games are well-known; aside from the Road Rash series and the somewhat-infamous Jungle Strike, most casual gamers even from the era of the Sega Genesis (where most of these games originated) would be hard-pressed to remember a lot of these titles.
Unfortunately, with a small selection of 14 games, it's almost painful to say that not all of these games are good. While it's nice to tote around all three original Road Rash games, Desert Strike and its sequel Jungle Strike, and the annoying-yet-fondly remembered Mutant League Football, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who's heard of the venerable Budokan, much less anyone who actually enjoyed the plodding, sluggish excuse for a fighter. For that matter, Virtual Pinball is a good example of why the "pinball video game" genre never sees any true success, with its uninspired — and at times downright ugly — design.
In addition, the compilation is exclusively ports of Super NES and Sega Genesis titles. Even though some of these titles have vastly superior PC versions that could just as easily have been included on the disc, what you're playing here are most definitely the home console editions. Never does this come more into play than when trying to enjoy Wing Commander or Ultima VII: The Black Gate — both games were made nearly unplayable with their porting to the SNES, yet remain beloved titles of more nostalgic gamers far and wide in their pristine PC form. However, it appears EA decided that it wanted to punish the people who thought they could put effort into programming a game, and instead gave us what amounts to a sub-par port of a sub-par port.
Not all of the games are groaners, however. Haunting (Starring Polterguy) is one of the most interesting and amusing games from the Genesis days that nobody ever played, and the equally obscure platformer B.O.B. is somewhat amusing, despite being the predecessor to such universally loathed games such as Bubsy. The Road Rash games are all at least relatively playable, as well, and somehow, Jungle Strike remains just as fun and frustratingly difficult as I recall.
The sound remains mostly unchanged from the original console games, but with the somewhat tinny quality of all the songs contained, it's hard to imagine that being a good thing. The one set of games where the original soundtrack would have been appreciated — Road Rash and its sequels — is the baffling singular exception to this rule, whereupon the motorcycle racing game got a somewhat retooled extreme guitar action soundtrack going on which just seems a little ... misplaced, considering it's nowhere near as fuzzy-sounding as the rest of the games created with the Genesis sound chip in mind.
The controls are just like you remember them, as well. The only difference is that instead of playing with a single, semi-responsive d-pad, you get to play with a single, semi-responsive d-pad or a single, semi-responsive analog stick. While games like Jungle Strike and Mutant League Football handle with somewhat competent ability, B.O.B.'s controls lead to consistently frustrating cheap hits, and most of the other games respond like played in molasses, or worse, hardly respond at all. (Syndicate? Wing Commander? Looking at you.)
Well, at least compilation games are full of unlockable extras, right? Interviews from game designers, original game packaging, and those sorts of things are always available in this sort of game ... yet for some reason, are completely absent in EA Replay. Instead, your unlockable content consists of three grainy, low-res pictures per game, and a brief little snippet about the game's origins. Most of this is already unlocked upon purchasing the game, so there's absolutely no reason to play games at which you wouldn't otherwise look twice. Perhaps that's a bit of a mixed blessing, though, considering the weak status of many of the titles.
The worst part here is that this fails to do what a proper compilation should do. With the exception of Mutant League Football, B.O.B., and the Strike games, most of these titles have aged incredibly poorly and fail to inspire any nostalgia whatsoever into an older gamer. Similarly, it's not hard to imagine that if someone new to playing video games picked up the title, they'd be incredibly confused as to how the older generation ever tolerated playing games like this.
Electronic Arts had some truly interesting and unique games back in the 16-bit era, though not necessarily the same title shared both qualities. When you consider how little space is taken up by a game's ROM data and the coding to run it, it leaves you wondering why they squandered it with games like Budokan and Virtual Pinball. People remember games like Populous and M.U.L.E. for being some of the best games of their time, and if you needed something frustrating and spherical, Marble Madness alone is a game that could have doubled the sales of this title.
Congratulations, Electronic Arts. You've made me want you to start making Madden games again. Is that what you were aiming for? Ah well. I suppose it could have been worse. You could have included Shaq-Fu. Maybe you're just waiting until EA Replay 2.
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