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The Cutting Edge / Personal Technology | Gamers' Corner

The 'New' '720' Is an Old Idea, Lame Game

April 05, 1999|AARON CURTISS

A sure symptom of age: Knowing that something passing itself off as new is just the same old thing wrapped in flashier packaging. Tykes might believe "720" is some great new title for Game Boy Color, but odds are good that many of those buying the game today were not even born when the original code was written.

See, "720" debuted 13 years ago as a coin-operated arcade game. And now it's been reincarnated on Game Boy Color as a "new" title. But it's not new, and it's not even as rad as I once thought it was. Thirteen years later, the repackaged "720" looks like a 13-year-old game, but it lacks the sparkle of the original--which wowed gamers in the 1980s with digitized speech that urged us to "Skate or die!"

It's a tougher choice now than it was then.

Players start the game in "Skate City, USA," a skateboarder's paradise." Skate City is the kind of place where mall owners don't mind if skateboarders practice tricks on the front steps and where every curb cut is a potential jump. There's money just lying in the street, and there are plenty of places to spend it--from board shops to shoe stores.

The object of the game--do tricks to get money to buy stuff. Oh, and avoid the swarms of killer bees that inhabit Skate City. All of this made sense to me back in 1986, but somewhere along the way either I grew up or the game got lame.

It's probably a little of both.

Unlike the arcade machine, which allowed players to jerk a joystick to perform tricks, the Game Boy Color version relies on a game pad that makes it awkward to spin and jump. Controls are tough to master, and the payoff is pretty small for those who do invest the time.

Graphics that once seemed high-tech now look ancient even on Game Boy. And the digitized "Skate or Die" that once dazzled now sounds like distortion. Old fans of the original may find a sentimental moment or two in "720," but anyone else is likely to feel cheated.

There's nothing wrong with repackaging an old game and selling it as a classic edition. But that seems to be about all Game Boy Color hosts. Cynical gamers might believe developers and publishers have done little to support the system beyond splashing some color on old games, putting them in new boxes and jacking up the price.

The DX label after most of these "new" titles must be game industry shorthand for "sucker."

"Castlevania"

For a lesson in how to take a classic game and freshen it up with new technology, look no further than "Castlevania." Konami took this old gem and reworked it from top to bottom for the Nintendo 64.

As a side-scroller on old Nintendo machines, "Castlevania" was a winner. But as a three-dimensional adventure on Nintendo 64, "Castlevania" redefines the game. Players assume the role of either Reinhardt Schneider, a whip-wielding vampire killer, or Carrie Fernandez, a sensitive magician vampire killer, and set off in search of Dracula's castle to, of course, kill him.

Along the way, players navigate a creepy landscape crawling with skeleton swordsmen, lizard people and giant bosses that give new meaning to the words "big" and "ugly."

Characters move smoothly and the action is relentless. Although the game perspective is third person, it's easy to control the heroes on screen--even when engaged in a nasty fight with a squad of Hell Knights.

What a great way to keep the undead franchise alive.

"Contender"

A fighting game that rewards patience, hard work and determination? I couldn't believe it either. But there's no easy way to beat "Contender," a boxing game that starts players on their pugilistic careers in seedy gyms.

Unlike most fighters, in which players slug at each other with a bunch of fancy moves, "Contender" demands that boxers think and employ strategy. Look for openings, decide which punch to throw, know when to block--and do it all in real time.

In either first- or third-person perspective, "Contender" definitely lives up to its name.

"Rally Cross 2"

The best thing about "Rally Cross 2" is not the tracks--which wind like asphalt spaghetti. It's not the cars--which come in all shapes and sizes. It's not the graphics--which blaze across the screen.

No, the best thing about this sequel is the ability to create unique tracks. Players can actually design and save their own tracks and then challenge friends to a race.

The track editor puts players not only in the driver's seat but in charge of the course committee as well. Although players cannot create some of the subtle turns and dips that a real game can, it's a hoot nonetheless to drop turns and straightaways and obstacles into a grid and then drive through them in three-dimensional dirt racing that's as fun as it comes.

*

Times staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Monday in The Cutting Edge. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send e-mail to aaron.curtiss@latimes.com.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Essentials

720

Platform: Game Boy Color

Publisher: Midway

ESRB* Rating: Everyone

Price: $29.95

Bottom Line: Beyond me

*

Castlevania

Platform: Nintendo 64

Publisher: Konami

ESRB rating: Teen

Price: $59.95

Bottom line: Creepy fun

*

Contender

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

ESRB rating: Everyone

Price: $39.95

Bottom Line: Technical boxing

*

Rally Cross 2

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: 989 Studios

ESRB rating: Everyone

Price: $39.95

Bottom Line: Dirty driving

*Entertainment Software Ratings Board

Next Week: "Rollcage," "Need For Speed: High Stakes," "Rushdown" and "Silent Hill"

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