Like Hollywood, video games can’t seem to stay away from remaking, rebooting and otherwise cashing in on established franchises with sequels. Recent movies like Tron: Legacy preyed on us 30-somethings with promises of the Tron movie we always wanted to see. Recent game releases like Yar’s Revenge and Rush N Attack: Ex-Patriots attempt to do the same thing, but they don’t always make good on their promises.
Remaking the classics
As a retro gamer, hearing about remakes of my favorite games is usually a welcomed thing. Arcade games like Pac-Man CE and Galaga Legions successfully brought classic games up to speed while still offering something new. Even straight up remakes that don’t stray that far from the nest, like Bionic Commando Rearmed and Military Madness, are great fun despite not offering much more than better graphics. So when I heard about a new Rush N Attack game, I was ready to return to a game I loved.
We couldn’t attack Russians, but we could rush ‘n attack
Rush N Attack on the NES is a long-time favorite of mine. Along with non-stop knife fighting and a killer soundtrack, Rush N Attack was one of the first NES games to feature simultaneous co-op play, which added a whole new challenge to the game. There’s nothing fancy about Rush N Attack; it’s a straight forward arcade game where one stab kills every bad guy and the only real challenge is timing and jumping. As I grew older and my gaming skills improved, the challenge was no longer just finishing the game but how long it took me to do it. For a while I was out to capture the world record in completion time, which stands at a little less than 10 minutes. I could only get my time down to about 12 minutes but every now and then I’ll drop in the game and give it another try.
A bad trip down memory lane
When I saw that Rush N Attack: Ex-Patriot was coming out on XBLA, I was hoping for something along the lines of Bionic Commando Rearmed. I wanted a graphical update and some new story but otherwise I still wanted a good old fashioned run-n-gun…er, run-n-stab…arcade game. I played the Ex-Patriot demo and while it wasn’t what I had hoped, it wasn’t too bad…then I read the reviews. Ex-Patriot got some harsh critiques all around and a lot of it sounded rather unfair, so I gave the game the benefit of the doubt and purchased the full game for $10. I figured the game couldn’t be that bad, after all, this is Rush N Attack, a game I loved.
Well, I was wrong. Instead of a simple and fun remake, what I got was a game that suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. In some ways, Ex-Patriot makes good on the run-n-stab part but then at times it tries to be all stealthy and Metal Gear-esque. Then on top of that you have some little find-n-return quests that bring what little momentum you may have to a grinding halt. As if that wasn’t enough, the graphics are pretty weak and remind you more of a Playstation 2 game than a current gen title. Even the cut-scenes are bad without any voice acting whatsoever…who wants to read? The controls are flaky at best, and to top it it off, there’s almost no music to speak of. Let me tell you that when there’s no driving beat behind your stabbing of bad guys, it’s just not as exciting.
I often think that professional game critics skew their reviews to achieve business agendas, but in this case, everything you’ve read about Rush N Attack: Ex-Patriots is probably true. In the end, they managed to remove almost everything that made the original Rush N Attack fun and challenging. And if you haven’t played the original or NES version of Rush N Attack, do yourself a favor and give it a try. Then try to finish it in 12 minutes or less.
From obscure to even more obscure
Thankfully, however, one reboot that won’t leave you wishing for a refund is Yar’s Revenge, also available on XBLA for $10. I had never played the original Yar’s Revenge on Atari until now and it is…interesting…and not without its challenges, but I’m not sure how it earned the prestige of being the best selling Atari 2600 title. Nonetheless, the reboot had the luxury of being able to revisit a game that was so abstract that they could do with it whatever they wanted, and they decided to turn it into one of my favorite genres: the rail shooter.
In Yar’s Revenge you’re a mutant dragonfly person that flies around a world of tropical trees and hills shooting giant spiders and other perturbed insects. I admit that might not sound as exciting as stabbing some angry Soviets but believe me, it’s far more rewarding and challenging. Yar’s Revenge uses a dual-stick control scheme similar to that of Rez HD or After Burner Climax where you move your player with one stick while targeting with the other. There’s a little learning curve but since you don’t have to worry about navigation, you can focus on mastering the controls and learning the levels so you can work on your score.
Let me be clear that Yar’s Revenge is all about getting a high score. If you’re looking for a deep story or lots of options, this is not the game for you. There are only five levels but each one is packed with enemies and exhausting boss battles. You’ll probably be able to the complete the game in one night, but like any good shooter, it may be easy to start but extremely hard to master. It takes dedication but when you finally reach that high score or pull of that incredibly long combo chain, you won’t get a better feeling of accomplishment, something you won’t get playing Rush N Attack.
Give me more but please tread lightly
Revisiting and updating old video games is a slippery slope. Sometimes it pays off and delivers a great experience that makes you happy to be a fan. Other times it just makes you weep for the future of gaming while also making you angry because they just made a mockery of your childhood. I’m sad to see the good name of Rush N Attack get dragged through the mud, but I’m glad Yar’s Revenge was brought out of obscurity and has made me a fan.
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