Review – Taito Memories

Why hello there Taito Memories. Fancy seeing you here for ten dollars. I think I just might take you home with me. I’ve always been really curious about what you’re all about. After all, you’re not quite like your other cousins. Last generation saw tons of you classic compilations being released, on PS2 and just about everywhere else.

Namco, Capcom, Sega, Atari, even Activision and Midway tried their hand at it. Seems they sold pretty well too, though gamers also learned that they could never guess what to expect from you compilations. They might get all the classics, and they might not. They may get 20 games, or fewer than ten. There could be tons of bonus content and great emulation, or sparse features and horrible recreations of each game. The only guarantee was that if you bought something from Sega, you were going to get more than a few recycled games.

Tip for pilots: Do not attempt to land your helicopter on crumbling buildings.

But you Taito, you’re a bit different. You were a quiet mainstay in the arcades for years, though I don’t think most gamers could name even three Taito games. I’m not even sure if they could match classics like Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble with your name. Yet here you are, with almost 30 different games to play. The box even promises interviews, hints and historical information. Looks like I might be in for a real treat.

Let’s open you up. Your instruction manual is almost nonexistent. Ten or so pages, half of them disclaimers and junk. Guess you’re not much for words. And what’s this? You’re on a CD? That doesn’t bother me too much since I have a PS2 slim, but owners of older consoles that don’t read CD’s may not be able to play you. That’s a shame, but I can’t really blame you for Sony’s shoddy craftsmanship.

What I can blame you for is a lack of good controller support. Looks like my nice Hori joystick doesn’t work, meaning I can’t get the authentic arcade feel I was hoping for. I’ve heard you won’t take lightguns either, though you have quite a few games that could benefit from one. To make matters worse, you don’t even support button remapping on a Dual Shock. Granted, these games are so old that their controls can be mapped two to three times over the entire pad, but that doesn’t mean every player is going to find one they like. Such restrictive control options just screams of laziness.

What is a nice option is the ability to tinker with the position and size of the game screen. This is especially handy for getting some of the older games to look as authentic as possible on TVs of any size and shape. As annoying as the control issue is, a lot classic gamers would argue that presentation errors are even worse.

Most games use the back of the case to promise the world. On the other hand you promise…. absolutely nothing. In a way, that makes it so all your extra features are something of a surprise. Or it could be a suggestion to the player to expect nothing. In reality your extra goodies are something of a wash. I like the clean interface and the techno beat, and it is great that each game is represented with an image of its original cabinet.

Just imagine how advanced a race of evil fish who design giant robotic fish ships must be.

Your historical bonuses however are pretty half assed. Each game may feature a basic synopsis (usually reading as bad as the engrish that plagued so many old games) or a promotional poster that you can barely examine because the image is so tiny. There are also hints and tips for every one, though when one of the hints for the racing game is to “go fast”, I begin to wonder just what the hell you were thinking. A very select few games have interviews with their creators, but the production values are so bad and the questions so dull that they leave a lot to be desired. It almost seems as if they were just thrown in there so that you could say you have them, which makes me wonder if it was even worth it for such an embarrassing display.

All this talk and nothing about your games, Taito. That might be a problem, considering you boast 29 arcade titles. I’m going to have a lot of playing to do.

Or maybe not. You’ve got some real classics on here, like Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Elevator Action and Thunderfox, but for every gem there are 5 terribly derivative titles that play exactly like a hundred other arcade cabinets. Beat ’em ups, schmups, and puzzle games are a dime a dozen, and most of these guys just aren’t at the top of the heap. There are a few real surprises like The New Zealand Story and Battle Shark, and I can’t thank you enough for including Space Gun (my arch nemesis as a child in the arcades), but without real lightgun or joystick support, its tough to recommend most of these games, especially when other, better examples of these genres are out there to find. It is even more disheartening to see that you’ve succumbed to the same curse as your brothers, and have omitted stuff like Arkanoid, Darius and Elevator Action Returns for use in a later compilation. It is hard to consider this a collection of legends when some of your best work is MIA and most gamers won’t recognize 3/4 of the names. A slimmer selection of your best games, along with some quality goodies for each would have been a much more effective strategy.

I’ll pop you in the PS2 from time to time Taito Legends, if for nothing more than Bubble Bobble, but I’m sad to say I’m quite disappointed. Considering I wouldn’t have put more than a quarter’s worth of time into most of these games back in the day, even your cheap $10 price tag seems a bit much. Maybe if you go back to the drawing board and return as a leaner, meaner sequel we might have more in common.

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