Review: Taito Legends 2 (PS2)

Taito Legends 2
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Genre: Retro Compliation
Release Date: 5/16/2007

You know, I have a problem with games being Gamestop/EB Games exclusive, only to find the game was released on May 16th, but not a single store in a 250 mile radius of my house got one in until the following week, and even then the closest was 20 miles away. This is one of the few times I wish I lived in Europe still, as they got the TL2 back in late March, and for the Xbox, and with 2 other games as well. But I digress…

If you were to ask me what my five favorite developers were you’d get: Red Company, Atlus Japan, Treasure, Camelot, and Taito. I love Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble, and so many others. I reviewed Taito Legends back in November 2005 and it received an 8.0 from me. That’s a rare score for me to be handing out. I really enjoyed the first one, and with this new one having 39 Taito games for $19.99? Of course I’m going to drive out of my way to get this.

Imagine my surprise though when out of 39 games, your lord and master of retrogaming only recognized only THIRTEEN of the games on this disc. That’s only a third of the games. Well, I should rephrase that; only 13 of the 39 games were instantaneously recognizable to me. That means a lot of these were as new to me as they will be to you. With 39 games for 19.99 though, that’s approximately fifty-one cents per game. That’s an amazing deal no matter how you look at it. But amazing though it is, are the games any good?

Let’s Review

1. Games

Here’s what were going to do. We’re going to go through all 39 games a say a quick line or two about them and whether they are good or crap. Ready? Let’s do this. Basically assume if I give the game a point, it would score a six or higher from me.

1. Alpine Ski. This game is two minutes long. That’s it. You ski and you try to collect points while avoiding trees, snowmobiles and other skiers. If you get to the end of the race, you get to go onto the next…with whatever time remained from the last round. No matter what, it’s a two minute game. I’ll pass. 0 for 1.

2. Arabian Magic. This was a fun beat em up similar to TMNT, Captain America, X-Men or the Simpsons. Decent graphics for a game from 1992 with excellent controls. Had I encountered this in the arcade when this genre was popular, I’d have probably played the crap out of it. 1 for 2.

3. Balloon Bomber. Similar to Space Invader, you’re a little pod shooting balloon with missiles strapped to them out of the sky. The catch here is that if a missile hits the ground, it’s blows up a crater your pod can’t go by, so slowly but surely, you lose room to dodge. Great concept, but the collision detection is massively off as your pod sometimes blows up even is a missile lands a bit away from you. 1 for 3.

4. Bonze Adventure. Side scrolling platformer where your monk travels to seven stages fighting monsters and demons. Look kind of like Bonk on the TG-16, but without the solid controls. You can’t aim for crap in this game and some enemies are hidden so you don’t know they are there until you touch them and die. Could be fun, but more annoying than anything with the handicaps thrown at you. 1 for 4.

5. Cameltry. This game is basically the Chaos Emerald stages from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It plays exactly the same and is a lot of fun. There are 4 courses, each with their own unique puzzles. Great little game. 2 for 5.

6. Chack N’ Pop. Words can not describe how much I hate this game, it’s basically Pac man vs. Bubble Bobble monsters. By all means, this should be the greatest game ever. Alas, it has amazingly awful controls. If you are launching bombs left and right, the buttons should be square and circle. Instead they are square and X. This is so counter intuitive, it ruins the game. 2 for 6.

7. Cleopatra Fortune. Weird puzzle game that left me cold. kind of like Columns, but it also involves jewels and mummy cases. Not a bad game, just not a good one. 2 for 7.

8. Crazy Balloon. Hey look! Let’s maneuver a balloon through a maze of thorns that is practically the same each time with only minute differences! Also, let’s have horrible collision detection. Yuck. 2 for 8.

9. Darius Gaiden. Oooh! Darius game. Why isn’t the first on either this or the first TL compilation though. It makes no sense! Why go directly to Gaiden? Either way this is a truly amazing shooter with stunning graphics and wonderful music. The Darius games are some of the most underrated shooters ever. 3 for 9.

10. Don Doko Don. It’s like the original Mario bros, but with carpenters instead of plumbers. No thank you. 3 for 10.

11. Dungeon Magic. Awesome beat ’em up that is the closest we’ll ever get to the D&D arcade games being released for a US console. Lots of fun and highly recommended. 4 for 11.

12. Elevator Action Returns. Wow. In 1994, I didn’t think it was possible for a video game character to be more androgynous than the main one here. 3 years later we got FFVII and it all went downhill from there. Fun game though and a lot more substance then the original. 5 for 12.

13. Football Champ aka Hat Trick Hero. Very short Soccer/Football sim where the game is just too short for anyone to actually score. Good controls, but brief and hard to change characters. pass. 5 for 13.

14. Front Line. It plays like Ikari Warriors, but Front Line came out three years earlier, so I guess I would instead say Ikari Warriors plays like Front line but with better graphics, controls and a less insane control scheme, although I suspect the control issues are simply due to the bizarre choices made for the PS2 port. 5 for 14.

15. G Darius. It’s a Darius game, so you know it’s quality. It’s a 3-D shooter as well, so it’s very odd and unsettling in that respect, but still an enjoyable game nonetheless. 6 for 15.
16. Gehirindan. Generic bland shooter released in 1995 when this game would have passed for typical 5 years earlier. Pass. Better shooters here. 6 for 16.

17. Grid Seeker. Bullet Eater style shooter. 3 different ships. The GRID controls are offputting as controlling them is the same button as shooting so it can be very distracting and annoying. 6 for 17.

18. Growl. Hilariously bad plot and Engrish. Basically it’s Steets of Rage but you’re fighting poachers and making animal friends. Captain Planet would be proud. Amazingly solid engine and a fun game to play. It also taught me that all evil is controlled bu an interstellar 12 foot long centipede that lives in side a mime wearing a tuxedo and Freddy Kruger gloves and whose head can turn into a LAW rocket launcher. Needs to be played to be believed. 7 for 18.

19. Gun Frontier. Truly awful vertical shooter. Is this considered a legend because it is so bad? You tell me. Hilarious Engrish though. 7 for 19.

20. Insector X. Another awful shooter. It looks like Alex Kidd though. 7 for 20.

21. Ki Ki Kai Kai. Cute little action game where you kill all sorts of spirits. This was a fun one that still holds up today. 8 for 21.

22. Kuai Hinton. Holy crap, if this hadn’t been released in 1988, I would totally call this a Dragon Ball Z rip off. The main character has Spikey air and has to stand around to power up and has the same weird aura thingie Goku has. Aside from that weird coincidence, this is an acceptable beat ’em up. 9 for 22

23. Liquid Kids. Totally cute game reminiscent of other 1990 platformers with traits of Bubble Bobble mixed in. A lot of fun, and super cute! 10 for 23.

24. Lunar Rescue. Behold the wonders of 1979. Hideously hard game where you have little to no control and 95% of you succeeding is pure luck. I’m all for hard games, but everything here is so exact, if you are off by even a millimeter, you lose. it’s insane. 10 for 24.

25. Metal Black. How the hell is the sequel to Gun Frontier so good. This is an amazing shooter and I absolutely loved it. Still has the hilarious Engrish translation going on though. 11 for 25.

26. Nastar aka Rasten Warrior. Oh man. Awful game. Just plain bad all around beat em up. 11 for 26.

27. Puchi Carat. Weird but well done anime character graphics. It’s a combination of Breakout and Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. Has a single player, story mode and PvsP mode. not my cup of tea, but it’s well made. 12 for 27.

28. Puzzle Bobble 2. Where the hell is Puzzle Bobble 1? It’s not on either compilation! INSANE. Still, it’s an awesome game no matter how you look at it and one of my favorites on this disc. 13 for 28.

29. Qix. Man I love Qix. It’s a lot harder than when I had it on the original black and white battery guzzling Game Boy, but it’s still just as fun, Excellent puzzle game. 14 for 29.

30 Raimais. Imagine Pac-Man crossed with Pole Position. Now remove your imagination and insert something that sucks. This is Raimais. 14 for 30.

31. Space Invaders ’95. Holy Hell. Did we really need 3 Space Invades games in this disc when we had 3 on the last one. How much blood can Taito squeeze from a stone? We did not need another SI game in 1995, sorry. 14 for 31.

32. Space Invaders DX. Various versions of Space Invaders you can play. Again, this is room that could have been taken by PUZZLE BOBBLE. 15 for 32.

33. Super Space Invaders aka 1991. Okay, I’ll give a pass on this one, because this was the first major tune up and they tried to add a story. Again, no way we needed Space Invaders V and Vi in addition to this one (IV). 16 for 33.

34. Syvalion. Holy hell is this game awesome. it was obviously meant to be played with a roller ball ala Marble Madness, but so what? You’re a giant robotic firebreathing dragon and you wind your way through this incredible maze/2-D shooter hyrbid. This would be awesome on the Wii. 17 for 34.

35. The Fairyland Story. This was pretty cute and reminded me of Crystal Castles for some reason. man, was that an awesome Atari game. 18 for 35.

36. The Legend of Kage. Loved this game in the arcade, and it still holds up well although it is exceptionally easy nowadays. Crazy ninja jumping rules. 19 for 36.

37. Violence Fight. Best video game name ever. 1989’s answer to Street Fighter with characters named Licky Joe. This game is so bad its good. 20 for 37.

38. Ray Storm. Boring slow and easy shooter. next. 20 for 38.

29. Wild Western. Easily my least favorite game on the compilation. it’s ugly, it makes so sense, controls are awful, once you kill an enemy its horse makes a beeline right for you and you can’t avoid it. Yuck yuck yuck. 20 for 39.

51% good to bad rate. This definitely isn’t the best compilation ever, although it does have the most games out of any I can think of for the PS2 off the top of my head. I’m going to actually bring it up to six simply for the sheer number of games and the fact I get Puzzle Bobble 2 in the original arcade format for my PS2. And you know, all the shooters. Like I needed any more…

Compilation Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

The newest of these games is 10 years old. Obviously these games are not going to set the world on fire visually. The games from the late 1970’s and early 80’s are obvious 2600 or NES in quality, and as you go through the games in a chronological order, you really do start to see how graphics improved over the years. It’s a nice little timeline. Games like Syvalion or Darius Gaiden are still impressive today, and both came out between 1988 and 1994. Overall it’s a decent mix. As this is a PS2 compilation, the graphics are usually beneath what else is out for the system, but the fact some 10-15 year old games look good enough to be actual PS2 games, that scores a few extra points from me.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

Taito and Konami are two companies known for amazing amazing music in their games, regardless of how bad the rest of the game might be. Taito legends 2 really showcases this. It’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that most of these games are using MIDI’s for their music compared to fully orchestral scores or pop hits like a lot of today’s games. Every game on here has excellent music. Special props to the Puzzle Bobble song as well.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Sadly, only about half the games here are solid control-wise. This is probably due to the fact that TL2 in the US is not the PS2 version that Europe got, but is actual a port of the XBOX version from Europe. You’re probably wondering why they did that. Well, the Xbox version had more games, and so that’s what they brought over here. God only knows why they didn’t make it an Xbox exclusive instead of a PS2 one as that would have saved a massive headache, but then I suppose, no one actually makes Xbox games anymore.

Anyway, a lot of the games have some serious screwed up controls. Several games use L2 and R1 for the controls. Some games have exceptionally poor collision detection. There’s even 1-2 games that have controls that aren’t listed on the “Controls for this game” screen that you discover only while playing. I can’t begin to describe how annoying THAT was.

Half the games have solid controls. Of course it’s the games you expect to. The Bobbles, the Kages, the shooters, and the more famous games or the side scrolling beat ’em ups. The other half though? Well, if the publishers has bothered to make the tiniest adjustment to the default control settings, there’d be a lot less annoyance with this game. Even less if TL2 would have allowed you to save your control settings for each individual game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 4/10

5. Replayability

39 games for $19.99. 20 of them are good enough to stand on their own. It doesn’t get much better than this. You could probably spend a quarter of a year just playing this compilation.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

As a lot of these games were designed for arcade play, they are meant to be both addicting and pretty hard. This is of course to suck you in to spending more quarters. In 2007 though, the difficulty on many of these have shifted. The shooters of probably harder to today’s gamer simply due to the lack of them these days as well as their being shuffled into a niche genre. Other games like the Legend of Kage and Elevator Action 2 are actually a lot easier than I remembered them being. I hadn’t played Kage in nearly twenty years and I beat it my first time playing. Back when I was 8 or 9 I had toruble getting past the first level. Such is life I suppose.
Most of these games still remain hard though. The beat ’em ups of course have pretty cruel boss fights and some games are difficult simply due to poor controls and collision detection. You can definitely tell these games are harder than what we’re used to today, but that’s how arcades made money.

Balance Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

Half of me wants to talk about how a lot of these games are so old they automatically deserve a high originality score simply because some of them were pretty influential. The other half of me looks back and sees how many of these games were an attempt to merge two already popular games into one sure fire hit and the horrible crapfest that was the result. As well, a lot of these games are pretty par for their respective time period. Beat ’em ups when those were popular, shooters when they were popular, and so on. The only real highly original game in this mix is Puzzle Boble 2 and that’s a freakin’ sequel. I suppose Growl gets some points for the anti-poaching message, and Syvalion and Qix were still outside the box games today, so it’s not as if everything here is a rip off or bandwagon game.

By playing through this compilation though, it really does show me Taito is like most companies. They have 2-3 highly original games, and then everything else is a sequel or a version of something already on the market. Even in the 1980’s this appeared to hold true.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

With 39 games on this disc, it’s not really an easy category to rate. If you like old school arcade and puzzle games, you’re going to be engrossed with this game. I know when I sat down to review it, I told myself I’d only play each game five times and then I would have to move on. It didn’t work out so well. A lot of these games I ended up playing 2-3 times that (which is why this review is later than it should be). Even the games that I didn’t like or that had poor controls sucked me in because there was something enjoyable to be found in each one, usually the music.

Unless you’re very much the “graphics R everything” gamer, it’s hard to imagine you not waisting a lot of time with this compilation. I mean, thirty-nine games. There has to be something for EVERY gamer on here. Just remember to avoid the games I suggested above.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Empire rather f*cked themselves over by agreeing to this game being an EB/Gamestop exclusive and then having to sit back and watching the gaming conglomerate a) not allow you to pre order this game and b) only stock it in a third of their stores. In talking to other people, I learned this was pretty much the pattern across the country and not just a Minnesota thing. I’m going to have to talk to PK as I have a feeling he might understand this backwards batshit marketing strategy a bit better than I do.

Although only old school gamers are going to pick this compilation up (or much less even be aware of it), it’s a shame because as I said above, there is something for every type of gamer here. Hell, there’s even a soccer game on here and how often do you get to see soccer games in the US these days not made by EA? I can honestly say that if you pick this up, it’ll be 19.99 well spent and that you’ll have a decent amount of fun with this title, even if it is inferior to the first compilation of Taito games.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

I’m really happy to get this many games on a compilation. Even ignoring the bad games, it’s a dollar per good game, and that’s incredible in this day and age. I do have some issues, like the fact that the manual and the actual disc sometimes have different names for specific games. As well, I am really disappointed that on the website for this game, we were promised Bubble Bobble 2 (aka Bubble Symphony) and yet it is nowhere on the disc, not even as an easter egg. There’s obviously some quality control issues with the marketing and planning besides the actual playtesting. Still, this is a good collection and well worth hunting down if you’re a retrogamer like me.

Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

The Scores
Compilation: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 4/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score: 65/100

Final Score: 6.5/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Although this is the lowest score I’ve given to any compilation out for the PS2, it’s by no means the worst (Atari and Tecmo collections come to mind). A 6.5 is an above average score, and it is almost worthy of being labeled good, but some serious control issues on a few games and some noticeable exceptions of Taito’s best games like PB1 and Bubble Bobble 2 being replaced by 3 different Space Invaders titles and some serious pieces of crap drags the overall value down. Still, this is a game worth purchasing if you manage to find it thanks to some real gems and overlooked classics on here. I have to admit though, I think Taito has fallen to #6 of my all time favorite developers, with Game Freak taking the #5 spot after this collection.



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