Feature: IMPLANTgames Retro Gaming Awards 2010

Welcome to the first annual IMPLANTgames Retro Gaming Awards 2010! My main focus with starting this web site was authenticity. All games would be played on original hardware, no emulation, no piracy. I wanted to make sure I was offering genuine opinions of games I actually played. It would also give me the chance to start working my way through the hundreds of old games I own, but have not played. And thus I made my way through 43 titles in 2009. Below I present the 2010 IMPLANTgames Retro Gaming awards, aka, the highlights, and lowlights, of my gaming expedition in 2009. Enjoy.

Biggest Surprise

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Runner Up: Psycho Fox (SMS) I had never really heard of Psycho Fox before. Psycho Fox is a secret. Hardcore Sega Master System fans know it's good, but they don't talk about it. Nor do they let their copies go, as it's tough to find. When I saw a copy on eBay for $8 including shipping, I knew I had to jump. And thus Psycho Fox entered my possession. I own a couple dozen Master System games, and none of them really grabbed me. Psycho Fox was such a breath of fresh air. Bright colors, interesting controls, and it’s an exclusive title to boot. Above all, Psycho Fox is fun, and should be in every gamer's collection, the secrets out.

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Winner: Super Burnout (JAG) The Atari Jaguar is one of the industry’s worst flops. Despite being in the market for 2 and a half years, it only managed to sell around 225,000 units, and 100 thousand of those were after Atari folded. It's not surprising either, as the Jaguar library does not consist of a lot of strong titles. Therefore when I popped in Super Burnout, I wasn't expecting much. But damn, what a game! The graphics are mind blowing, the 60 FPS and smooth sprite scaling offer a graphical experience not seen outside the arcades. The controls are superb, the soundtrack is outstanding, and the game has all of the modes you need in a racing game. Super Burnout is a stand out title, and should be mentioned among the likes of Alien Vs. Predator and Tempest 2000. It's that good.

Biggest Letdown

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Runner-up: WipeOut (SAT) I had somehow managed to go through life without ever playing a WipeOut game. But based on hype, I was excited to score WipeOut on the Saturn at the local used gaming store for a decent price. After booting it up, disappointment set in immediately. Despite the flashy graphics and pumping soundtrack, WipeOut is boring and not terribly fun. The awkward controls, lackluster AI, and a weak weapon system make for this year’s disappointing runner-up.

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Winner: F-Zero (SNES) I was so excited to find F-Zero at the local Good Will, complete with manual and a plastic case, for $4. F-Zero is a treasured titled, shows off the Super Nintendo's mode-7, and continues to spawn sequels to this day. Sadly the game isn't any fun to play. The game lacks soul. It just is what it is, 4 hover crafts and a bunch of tracks. F-Zero is annoying, with awkward turns, and frustrating obstacles. I have to fight wind all the way down the straight away? Lame. I’ve gotten a lot of flack in forums for this review, but I stand by my opinion.

Best Sound

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Runner-up: Sonic CD (SCD) Back in the 90's gaming magazines were in love with the pre-release sound track found on their preview copies of Sonic CD. Right before the American release, Sega of America decided to completely scrap the Japanese soundtrack and replace it with something new. Magazines hated it. Fans still argue about it. But what they all seem to miss is that depsitre being completely different, the American sound track kicks ass. A lot of ass. Combine that with all new sound affects for spin dashes, ring collecting, and just about everything else, and you have the best reason to own a Sega CD. Eat your heart out SNES.

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Winner: Hydro Thunder (DC) Have I gone mad? Hydro Thunder for best sound? No, absolutely not. Part of what makes Hydro Thunder so damn exciting is the excellent sound. Everything in the environment makes it's own sound. And it's all directional, giving a surround sound like experience despite only 2 channels of audio. Combine that with a tension building, orchestral score, and every race feels like an action movie. The sound is a huge reason why Hydro Thunder is so fun to play, and for that, it's this years winner.

Best Graphics

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Runner-up: Sonic R (SAT) Sonic R is a beautiful game. From a technical stand point, with its high poly-count models, excellent transparencies, and nice fog effect to avoid pop-up: is excellent. From an artistic stand point, the game features gorgeous textures, excellent colors, and interesting level designs. Every nook and cranny of every level is filled with detail. Sonic R pushes the Saturn to its limits, and is this year’s runner-up for best graphics.

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Winner: R-Type (SMS) R-Type is an amazing technical feat. After playing other shooters on 8-bit hardware, its clear R-Type is special. It feels like a 16-bit game. The sprites are large and detailed, the animation is excellent, and the backgrounds are filled with sprites, rather than a solid color. It looks better than any Sega Master Game has the right to. Sure there is some flicker here and there, but R-Type easily wipes the floor with NES games, and shows off the extra horsepower Sega's 8-Bit machine had. It was a tough choice picking R-Type over Sonic R, but it boiled down to this: No one is ever going to mistake Sonic R for a Dreamcast title, but you could mistake R-Type for a Genesis game. And for that, R-Type takes the crown.

Best Game Play

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Runner-up: Neo Drift Out (NGCD) Runner-up for the Best Game Play is Neo Drift Out, also on SNK's Neo Geo hardware. I have played a lot of top down 2D racers in my day, and none of them even come close to the fluidness of Neo Drift Out. The controls are responsive, and the game is a blast to play. Neo Drift Out makes you feel like you are really drifting a rally car around hairpin turns. Long live simple 2D controls.

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Winner: Metal Slug (NGCD) The Neo Geo was overpriced, didn't have enough third party support, and didn't have any mascots to rally around. Six years after the original launch of the Neo Geo, Metal Slug was born, and proved the Neo Geo still had some fight left in it. Metal Slug wins the best game play for 2 reasons. First, it came out in 1996, when game creators will still trying to figure out 3D controls. And while they were messing around in the third dimension, Metal Slug perfected the second. Perfect controls are reason number two. Every person I have sat down to play this has instantly loved it. They never fumbled around with the controls, the buttons, anything. It's the ultimate pick up and play title for all gamers.

Worst Game of the Year

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Runner-up: BC Racers (32X) I tend to find Sega's 32-bit Genesis add-on as being over bashed. But BC Racers lends some credibility to the bashing and wins this year's runner up for worst game. The controls are simply horrible. It's nearly impossible to turn; your kart just wants to keep going straight... only sideways. WTF? This game was clearly rushed to the dying system to try and make a few bucks before the 32x was discontinued. What a shame to, a few more months in development and this could have been a Mario Kart killer. As it is, the game is unplayable.

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Winner: Riding Hero (NGCD) I didn't review a lot of bad games in 2009. I have over 400 games in my collection, and don't tend to spend a lot of time on the bad ones. However, I still managed to play a few duds. Riding Hero is the worst game I have played in a long long time. Don't believe me? Search for game play videos on YouTube. What you'll see is opponents crashing into you, slowing you to a halt, and for no good reason. That sums up Riding Hero in a nutshell: people crashing into you. This game not only lacks fun, it's insanely frustrating. The only reason I played through was to see what tracks were available. I documented them. Now you don't have to play it.

Game of the Year

metalslugbox

Runner-up: Metal Slug (NGCD) For its second award in 2009, Metal Slug takes home the runner up for Game of the Year. On top of the excellent controls, the game features the best 2D graphics ever created. The animation is stunning. The soundtrack is excellent. The voice samples are perfect. The weapons are fun to use and romping around in the Metal Slug is a hoot. This game should have moved hardware for SNK… perhaps they should have made more copies of the game.

sonicrbox

Winner: Sonic R (SAT) I wasn’t expecting Sonic R to win Game of the Year, but when I crunched the numbers that’s how it turned out. And I couldn’t have picked a more deserving title. Sonic R was among the last games released by Sega for its failed Saturn. If games like Sonic R were released in 1995, instead of 1997, the Saturn would not have failed. It’s brilliant romp, with forgiving controls, awesome level design, and plenty of challenges to complete to truly beat the game. The graphics are astounding, and do things the Saturn “couldn’t” do, like transparent polygons. The soundtrack isn’t for everyone, but the voices can be turned off. Most of all, Sonic R is fun, one of the most enjoyable titles I have ever played. Every couple of years, after my Saturn’s battery dies and I lose my saves; I play through this again and unlock EVERYTHING. This game is epic.

And there you have it, the 2010 IMPLANTgames Retro Gaming awards. I played a lot of good games this year. Next year I hope to make it through some of the rougher games in my collection, and check out some of the more obscure games of the 90’s. Above all, I'd like to play through more than 43 games, but we'll see. Thanks for reading.