Review by James Hills
Taito Legends will shortly join the ever growing list of coin-op classics packs that are rapidly entering the retail market, and features 29 games ranging from the 70’s to 1990. This review is based on the European version that is out now, US fans should be able to play it mid next month when it is released here. In the mean time, UK readers can buy it online here.
Unlike many other packs, Namco, Atari and Midway as examples, Taito presents a collection of games that are far less known than its brothers and sisters. Sure, everyone has heard of Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Qix, and Operation Wolf — but what about Colony 7, The Electric Yo-Yo, Volified and Zoo Keeper? These aren’t just filler as some manufacturers seem tempted to throw in. These are legitimate classics that I at least, had forgotten about. This is what makes a classic game pack special – it doesn’t just provide a legal source of classics to play – it breaths new life into classic games you might have forgotten about.
It would be pointless to give a review of all 29 games (a complete list can be found at the end of the article). However, a few games really stood out that I wanted to share a bit about: Colony 7, The Electric Yo-Yo, Volfied, and Zoo Keeper.
Colony 7 (1981) initially seems like a clone of Missile Command – premise is to defend a city from aerial invaders by shooting them out of the sky before they can blow up parts of the city. This time however, you have two turrets firing simultaneously from either side of the screen blowing up flying saucers instead of incoming missiles. If you lose both turrets the game is over. Presumably, if all the buildings are blown up then the game is over as well but I kept losing the turrets first.
Unlike Missile Command however, Colony 7 is played with a joystick and three fire buttons for different types of ammo. The player is forced to react quickly to the flying saucers that fill the sky wanting nothing more than to kill you. This presents a frenetic game play that almost recalls the adrenaline rush of games like Robotron.
The Electric Yo-Yo (1982) is not a “great game” by any means, but it was fun and stood out as something that I will probably return to many times in the future. It is a similar to Pac Man, except this time you are a yo-yo with the goal of eating up all the dots, while avoiding the monsters. To move around the level, players shoot the yo-yo string from one set of dots to the next, though unlike Pac Man there is no maze to create a sense of panic.
Volfied (1989) is the unofficial sequel to one of my favorite all time games, Qix (1981). This time, graphics are tremendously updated and the designer worked hard to increase the depth of the game and variety of levels. One feature that stands out is that this time when you close off an area of the board, it actually reveals the next level below it.
Zoo Keeper (1982) places players in the role of Zack the Zoo Keeper as he tries to rescue his girlfriend and put all the animals back in the zoo. Levels vary between running around a rectangular area, building walls to keep the animals in the cage before they break out and “Frogger-like” levels where you jump on horizontal moving platforms while trying to make it to the top of the screen to save your girlfriend Zelda. It is a fun, but very simple game that I enjoyed and will return to.
Presentation and Setup
While Taito Legends certainly features a great selection of games, the presentation of those games is also important. I am happy to say that while the default settings are for keyboard and dithery stretched out graphics, it is very easy to set the games up to work with a joystick – or mouse in the case of Operation Thunderbolt and Operation Wolf. Unfortunately, you either have the option of leaving the games in the original resolution – with a “Taito Legends” marquee around the otherwise black areas, or you can opt for it to be horribly stretched out. Neither is a good options for the purist, but my guess is purists are probably playing the games in MAME anyhow and that normal consumers won’t care.
The game select interface is clean and simple, simply scroll horizontally to chose the game and each selection features a good sized rendering of the cabinet, year of release, number of players, and the current high score. Having the cabinet as the center of the display provides a great way of attracting people to play each game – just as a cabinet does in an arcade. This also allows the player to cycle through and say “oh this is a gun game” or “oh this is a 2 player joystick game” instead of having to read that in text.
Unfortunately displaying the cabinets backfires often as a UI tool. Space Gun appears to be a gun game – like Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt … but nope, it is a joystick game. Additionally, other games The Ninja Kids clearly show FOUR joysticks, but Taito Legends only allows for 1-2 players.
This collection also includes “extras” to help complete the retro feel. After you select a game, most offer an image of the original sales brochure, some offer hints and tips and in the case of Bubble Bobble and Volfied, video interviews as well. I would have liked more extras, but I guess everyone says that, and they are just that “extras” not core game content.
Another interesting discovery is that apparently members of the MAME development team are listed in the credits including: Aaron Giles (special thanks) and Nicola Salmoria (programming).
Overall, this pack is worth the money, but there were some notable absences. Two of the greatest “brick breakers” of all time came from Taito – Arkanoid and its sequel Revenge of Doh. I can only imagine that these are left as marquee titles for Taito Legends 2 or something similar; there are certainly a tremendous number of games left in their library to fill at least one more collection.