"Unless you lived in arcades 20 years ago, you probably won't even remember half the stuff you find here. You're thus denied even the value that nostalgia might lend each selection. Taken on their own terms, most titles you'll find here are trumped by the free Flash games you can find all over the Internet."
When I was young, I couldn't pass an arcade machine without either dropping in a quarter or scowling bitterly because my parents wouldn't lend me a measly 25 cents. I can't remember every game I ever played, but I know that there were times when I tried my hand at complete rubbish just because it was there. Taito Legends 2 brings all of that back with the force of a sledgehammer blow to the face. It's a compilation boasting 39 titles from coin-op's golden years, but by the time you're done with it you'll probably wonder why anyone bothered to produce it.
Growl is arguably the most interesting game in the whole compilation, mostly because it's so absurd. As the story goes, evil poachers are killing animals and you've decided to end their nefarious dealings and restore harmony to the planet. Rather than waste time in legal battles, you've taken your battle to the bland and dusty streets.
Mostly you move from left to right, punching women in green mini-skirts (or vivacious blondes wearing purple), dodging attacks from fat black men and knocking the turbans off a few of the thinner types that apparently hopped a flight from India. You have four brawny Texans at your disposal, any of them quite capable of kicking butt since most of the game (except for the final boss) is ridiculously easy. Clearly, the developers realized this formula could only carry a game so far, as proven by one area where you ride a wedge of land down the side of a mountain (jump to avoid logs) and another where you run and jump through a cave while avoiding steel traps that rise and fall like something out of a Mega Man game. Such diversions feel as out of place as the muffled voice work.
Throughout your violent safari, you'll free animals that will then aid you in battle, but you hardly need their assistance. The whips you periodically obtain turn you into a lethal force compared to the token resistance the game throws your way. Even unarmed, your punches can clear the field. You might feel ripped off because you don't have any special moves beyond a kick, but even that seems overkill when your rivals are hapless poachers. Mostly you're just fighting the same five or six thugs anyway, repeated regularly without more than a palette swap. Boss battles add to the variety and are more difficult but also very stupid. One brawny guy likes to lift a tank and throw it around. Another looks like he belongs in an opera performance, complete with top hat and tuxedo (in the middle of the sweltering heat, no less). Then you knock him around for awhile and a giant worm emerges from his body.
It turns out that the worm was your true opponent all along! Tethered to the corpse of the slain opera warrior, the slimy green menace thrashes this way and that like a phallic slug... until you finally punch or kick him enough times that he bursts into flames and a few nearby animals are freed. The game is over in half the time it would take to slog your way through Final Fight or any other one of a hundred superior brawlers.
Liquid Kids, also included in the compilation, fares much better and feels like it belongs on a cartridge in someone's 16-bit library. Players control a diminutive creature that sends pods of water outward. Those can capture enemies that can then be knocked away in chains as the protagonist leaps through active, vibrant worlds. It plays a little bit like New Zealand Story might if someone mixed it with Bubble Bobble, one of Taito's premier titles that is not present on this particular collection. Liquid Kids also happens to feature some challenging bosses that can be easily defeated once their patterns are memorized, along with enjoyable stages between that often force you to think on the fly. In short, it feels like a complete game and might even hold up to multiple sessions if you limit the number of times you allow yourself to continue.
Unfortunately, the same can't really be said about so many of the others in the package. For every triumph like Cameltry (a fun diversion where you tilt the playing field with the analog stick to guide a ball through a maze) or Lunar Rescue (where you pilot a space vessel that is rescuing miners from the moon while alien craft fly overhead), there are three or four flops and a mediocre offering you'll soon forget is even there. Unless you lived in arcades 20 years ago, you probably won't even remember half the stuff you find here. You're thus denied even the value that nostalgia might lend each selection. Taken on their own terms, most titles you'll find here are trumped by the free Flash games you can find all over the Internet.
If not for one of the Bust-A-Move titles making an appearance, along with a few Space Invaders variations and G Darius, it would be difficult to imagine anyone getting much out of this package beyond the first four or five hours of play. Even then, it might make more sense just to pick up Taito Legends: Power-Up for the PSP. It includes most of the best games from this and the first offering in the series, but in portable form. At least when you're playing that, you're likely traveling and your options are limited. Taito Legends 2 is like too many of those games that littered supermarkets, truck stops and pizza parlors when I was a child: good only for people with money to burn and a lack of better options. Is that you?
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 28, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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