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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Taito Legends 2
(Destineer/Empire/Taito for PS2)

By Michael Palisano

Featuring nearly 40 classic arcade titles, Taito Legends 2 on the PS2 delivers a comprehensive cross-section from gaming's golden age. Early titles like Crazy Balloon and Qix deliver simple fun while later releases like G-Darius and Ray Force offer intense shooter action. There are also several puzzle games, like Cleopatra Fortune and Puzzle Bobble 2, along with obscurities like Arabian Magic and Metal Back so this release should appeal to a broad array of gamers. Each game's emulation is nearly flawless and the game also offers some impressive extras. Read on and find out why this is one of the best compilations to date.

The first volume of classic Taito arcade games was one of the more impressive and balanced compilations released on the PS2 and while North American gamers have waited a long time for this second volume to be released, it has finally arrived and the delay has been worthwhile. Taito Legends 2 features an even larger selection of 39 classic titles ranging from the late 70's to 90's including well-known franchises like Space Invaders and Elevator Action to obscurities like Cameltry, Kuri Kinton, Bonze Adventure, Puchi Carat, Gekirindan, Raimais, Kiki Kaikai and, more. The genres covered in this installment range from classic early 80's games like Qix and Lunar Rescue, to shooters like G-Darius, Darius Gaiden, Metal Back, Gun Frontier and side scrolling platform titles like Dungeon Magic and Nastar. Players will also find a good selection of puzzle titles like Cameltry, Puzzle Bobble 2 and even a couple of oddities like the soccer title Hat Trick Hero and Front Line. There are three versions of Space Invaders on the compilation Space Invaders DX, Super Space Invaders 91 and Space Invaders '95. Each of these versions stays fairly true to the original game, which is included in DX as well, but adds comical and humorous characters, power-ups and different wave configurations to keep things interesting. Taito Legends 2 also includes several Bubble Bobble spin-offs like Liquid Kids and The Fairlyland Story which should make fans of that style of gameplay happy. There's an abundance of side-scrolling action platformers as well with the excellent and under-rated Growl leading off the pack. Another solid entry is Nastar, the side scrolling follow-up to Rastan Saga which offers more of the same satisfying gameplay that made the original so much fun. Plenty of obscurities abound in this pack, and it's quite cool to play the weird yet appealing Japanese titles on the disc, with titles like Puchi Carat, Raimas and Kiki KaiKai giving the package a distinct flavor that many of the mainstream compilations seem to lack.

Although there are a number of well-known games on the disc, there are also a few clever obscurities like Cameltry, where you have to spin the screen around, that serve as pleasant surprises with ingenious controls and gameplay that seem to come out of nowhere. TL 2 has a number of these games that seem very different and unique by today's standards. Another standout title is Puchi Carat which takes off on Breakout with classic controls and weird power-ups to create a strangely addictive and weird game. The use of anime characters gives this a strangely appealing feel as well. Sqvalion has a strange name and an even stranger concept: you control a mechanical dragon and try and navigate a maze while avoiding enemies. It seems strange at first but once you get accustomed to its unusual approach and controls, you'll find this to be one of the more enjoyable games on the disc. One of the more challenging and interesting games is also one of the earliest. Despite its somewhat primitive graphics, Crazy Balloon offers one of the more difficult games. The object is to move a balloon through a maze without hitting the sides, which causes you to lose a life immediately. This is actually much more challenging than it appears and makes for simple, yet very difficult at points gameplay. These represent a small fraction of the 'hidden gems' on Taito Legends 2, which goes a long way in explaining why it should be pleasing for classic game fans.

Of course, not everything on Taito Legends 2 is either obscure or weird. One of the best titles on the disc, which is almost worth the price of admission alone is Elevator Action Returns, which updates the classic spy platformer with grittier graphics and more interesting level design. Those who missed out on this during its original release on the PS1 will find this to be one of the more successful updates of a classic game, which is almost a classic in itself. Another solid classic title is Front Line, which definitely feels like a prototype of later games like Ikari Warriors. The controls for this one are pretty good as well with the Dual Shock's analog sticks used to move and aim your gun, which allows you to actually play the game effectively. Fans of the classic Qix who complained about its absence from the first Taito Legends will be happy to know that it's here in its original form and remains one of the most engaging, challenging and simple games ever made. Ironically, the game's stripped down graphics and minimalist design remains quite appealing and trumps the more elaborate, yet aesthetically dismal follow-ups. Fans of classic style horizontally and vertically scrolling shooters will also be pleased to find an abundance of these games here. Of course, G-Darius and Darius Gaiden are the headliners here, but players will also find several obscurities like Insector X, Grid Seeker, Metal Back and Gun Frontier which offer hours of 2D classic, addictive play for those with itchy trigger fingers. These are all very much in the classic mold, but this edition goes a little bit further by including Ray Storm, the all 3D and excellent update to the classic Ray Force. There are definitely some themes that emerge as you go through the games, and part of the fun is exploring and discovering each of the games on this package.

Obviously, it wouldn't be fair to judge the games' graphics against current standards, but the titles here are perfectly emulated and recreate the look and feel of the original titles flawlessly. Using the standard PS2 controller provides excellent controls, but for added authenticity, playing with an arcade joystick makes for an even more robust experience. While the list of titles is extensive, one disappointment in the game is its lack of extras. Instead of elaborate arcade artwork or sales flyers, the game doesn't offer much beyond standard information and fairly innocuous game tips. However, these are minor complaints compared to what is included. When you combine this release with the original Taito Legends, you have a two-disc set encompassing nearly 70 classic arcade titles. When you consider that both volumes come in at $20.00 or even less, it represents an even better value. While the quality and depth of the games vary, most classic gamers should find many titles to enjoy through the extensive selection of titles. The only problem with Taito Legends 2 is that its extras aren't as elaborate as one would like. However, given it's deep array of titles and the high-quality emulation, there's really little room to complain. For classic gamers, the selection and depth included on the disc are quite impressive and make this an essential purchase for anyone who loves classic arcade games. 


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