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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

Forget Nostalgia for the '70s, Pong Gets the Gong

The title is among three so-called classics on a Game Gear cartridge that falls flat. Not even bell bottoms would help.

June 20, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pong was cool back in, say, 1975--when bell bottoms truly made the man and disco balls turned any gathering with a BeeGees eight-track into a party. But times have changed and, thankfully, we've moved on.

And while there is something to say about classic games like Pong, there's not much to play about them. Nonetheless, Sega joined the recent retro craze of churning out what are dubiously billed as Arcade Classics by going all the way back to the primordial muck of the Digital Age.

Pong is among the three primitive Atari games--including personal faves Centipede and Missile Command--dredged up with a decided lack of grace or flair for the new Game Gear cartridge.

As those readers old enough to vote might remember, Pong was the game that begat the whole, big, wonderful world of Sonic, Mario, Gex and Sektor. But these days it's pretty weak sauce. I played for a few minutes recently--expecting at least a nostalgic moment contemplating lost youth--but found myself thinking only: "Man, this sucks."

Unfortunately, I felt the same way playing the other two games on the cart: Missile Command and Centipede. While I enjoy these resurrections on my PC and even on my Game Boy, they fell flat on Game Gear.

As Sega slowly divests itself of all platforms except Genesis and Saturn, it seems as if these classics were just burned onto a cartridge and slapped in a box. Game Gear can handle more, but designers failed to let it.

Genesis Six Pack Fortunately, another Sega compilation--this one for Genesis--delivers some pretty good play for a pretty fair price. The six-pack wraps an array of tasty 16-bit classics into one cartridge.

I toted the six-pack around with me and my Nomad and had a great time, although I sometimes got a little bored with the three side-scrolling fighters that tend to weigh down an otherwise superb collection.

All told, the cart wraps in the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the puzzler Columns, the racer Super Hang-On and the fighters Golden Axe, Streets of Rage and Revenge of Shinobi. And while it's great for portability, it might not fly as well on a stand-alone Genesis.

Toshinden Remix: I practically flew home the day I got Battle Arena Toshinden Remix for Sega Saturn. A huge fan of the 360-degree fighter that was part of Sony's PlayStation launch, I could hardly wait to see how a great game could be made better.

How about smoother play, slicker graphics, new characters and clearer sound? That about sums it up. In almost every respect, this Toshinden blows the doors off the original. Yet it still comes up a little short when compared to Virtua Fighter 2.

One thing that sucks about this version, though, is the crummy animation sandwiched between rounds. These cheesy scenes do little except slow the game down. Disc space would have been better spent on cleaning up some of the arenas, which still suffer from pixelation and a two-dimensional sense of stasis.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Thursday. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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