Genre: Arcade Compilation
Developer: Empire Interactive
Release Date: June 26, 2007
Buy 'TAITO LEGENDS POWER-UP': PSP
I'm 33, so I'm a child of the 1980s, straight up. I know that makes me ancient by the standards of most gamers, but it does afford me the luxury of not only yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but also waxing nostalgic for the days of coin-operated video games. There is a booming market for emulators that replicate those halcyon times, and I find myself from time to time dabbling in some MAME action just to get my Rygar or Ghosts 'N Goblins fix. To that end, I was more than pleased to see Taito Legends Power-Up for the PSP come along the review pipeline, offering 25 titles that span from 1978 to 2005, in the palm of my hand.
This is the third version of the Taito Legends line and the first for the PSP, with the first two collections consisting of 29 and 32 Taito classic arcade titles, respectively. Power-Up is somewhat of an amalgamation of these previous compilations. There are 21 classic games, and four "remastered" versions with updated graphics.
The full list available is as follows:
Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part 2, Alpine Ski, Balloon Bomber, Balloon Bomber 2005, Cameltry, Cameltry 2005, Chack 'N Pop, Crazy Balloon, Crazy Balloon 2005, Elevator Action, The Fairyland Story, Kiki KaiKai, Kuri Hinton, Legend of Kage, Legend of Kage 2005, Lunar Rescue, The New Zealand Story, Phoenix, Qix, Raimais, Rastan Saga, Return of the Invaders, Space Chaser and Space Dungeon.
As you can see, it's an impressive list that covers a fairly broad spectrum of releases throughout Taito's '80s lineup. However, I wouldn't exactly rush to say that these are all "classics," not in the success sense, at least. I suppose enough time has passed that the term can be applied merely by age alone. For my money, though, I find it strange that coin-devouring games like Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble, Operation Wolf or Kageki aren't on the list in place of a few less-prosperous games. It is possible that my own personal recollections of musty, darkened arcades may be coloring my opinions in this regard, I suppose there was a need to provide a smattering of everything for everyone. What I find most confusing is why there are no less than three different versions of Space Invaders. Isn't one enough, or do the higher-ups at Taito really believe there is that much market demand to justify the repetition?
I must stress that these aren't just versions of these games. These are fully emulated ROM sets that are, issues of screen size and portability aside, the exact same titles into which you may or may not have fed quarters as a wee lad or lass. While this presents an excellent stroll down memory lane, it's also a superb way to see how the mechanics of game design have developed over the years. Let's face it — not many of these venerable amusements have stood the test of time, and those that haven't aged well aren't just victims of graphics upgrades. Fun is fun, no matter how it looks. There is also much to be said for the archival aspects of these collections.
Each of these titles comes with a variety of options, from button configuration to difficulty to number of lives to time limits, depending on the game. The difficulty option strikes me as dubious, as I've yet to encounter what actual difference it makes in any of the games that have it as an available setting. Is it merely in place for the placebo effect? Perhaps, but it doesn't seem to work for me, so I'm bitter about its teasing promises. The number of lives and the time limit are handy additions, though, especially for those games that restrict the number of times you can continue, like Rastan Saga. I always thought the point of these things was to consume as much pocket change as possible, so why a limit on continues has ever been coded into an arcade game is beyond me. I'm forced to recall a time when I once fed so many quarters into a Gauntlet cabinet that the receptacle started overflowing, and I had to push the coin-reject button just to free up some room for more money. That's the sweet spot!
The five "deluxe" games that are included are exactly the same as the originals, just with better graphics. I love it. I wish there were more of this sort of thing happening, aside from the Xbox Live Arcade titles. There are no alterations to the core mechanics, but some polish has been added to the visuals. It can be done, so why not go crazy? In the case of the five titles on Legends Power-Up, the end result would be very much at home on a "casual" portal site, like Big Fish Games or Reflexive Arcade. Legend of Kage 2005 is a clean, elegant, and nigh-impossible side-scroller, Balloon Bomber 2005 is a pretty little anti-aircraft shooter, Cameltry 2005 is an oddly named, dizzying puzzle game that has you manipulating a marble at high speeds, and Crazy Balloon 2005 is an exceedingly frustrating title that shares much in common with Operation, only without the gallows humor of a surgical table. Taito could have re-done the entire lineup of Legends Power-Up with these graphical updates, and I would have been ecstatic.
Reviewing a release such as Legends Power-Up presents certain difficulties. I can't really comment on the usual suspects like graphics, sound, frame rates, etc, simply because this isn't a single game. At the same time, even if I wanted to attempt dissecting each of the 25 offerings here, I would be faced with trying to comment on long-established classic titles that are more or less beyond critique. At most, I can say, "These ROMS work; they won't crash your PSP." That alone is enough to tell you whether or not it's worth your time and money to pick this up. From where I stand, it really is worth adding Legends Power-Up to your collection. It's a good value and offers plenty of replay. What more can one ask for, besides more?