Taito Legends Power Up

They say you should never go back, whether it's to old girlfriends, jobs or football clubs. Yet when it comes to video games the perception is the rule doesn't apply, that the old days really were the best, and that they can be recreated upon our shiny modern technology.

Taito Legends Power Up offers conclusive proof to the contrary.

Promising a joyful jaunt through old skool arcade gaming from the veritable kindergarten of Space Invaders and Phoenix (1978 and 1980, respectively) right through to those difficult teenage years via the likes of Rastan Saga and The New Zealand Story (1987 and '88), this retro collection succeeds only in providing an education from the school of very hard knocks.

The first lesson is history, as we consider what makes a gaming 'legend'. It's highly debatable whether the vast majority of these games deserve such a weighty moniker.

You expect a few fillers, of course, but Taito Legends might be more accurately entitled Now That's What I Call A Mixed Bag of Old Arcade Games. There's three variations of Space Invaders, a couple of variants on the Pac-Man style maze theme (in Space Chase and Raimais), and a handful of eminently forgettable wannabes.

Sure, there are diamonds midst the rough in the form of New Zealand Story, Rastan Saga, Phoenix, and the aforementioned Space Invaders, as well as Qix, Balloon Bomber and Legend of Kage. And the likes of Cameltry, Ki Ki Kai Kai and Fairyland Story are pleasant new discoveries, for this reviewer at least.

Yet quite why the remainder of the titles were afforded 'legendary' status – when Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Island and Operation Wolf/Thunderbolt are nowhere to be seen – isn't clear. Perhaps the presence of two Taito Legends collections on home consoles could offer a clue?

Cynicism aside, you might think that ten or so arcade legends on one disc isn't exactly bad going – that you'd get a good few weeks of gaming entertainment from these alone. Sadly you'd think wrong, for the second lesson on offer here is a scientific study into how bloody difficult old skool arcade games can be.

Regardless of whether you plump for a shooter, puzzler, or platform action game, the outcome is likely to be the same: an obligatory 30 seconds of teary nostalgia and a couple of minutes' frantic button bashing, followed by choice language and an abrupt return to the credits screen. Then repeat.

Life isn't made any easier by the conversion: the translation from arcade to PSP is about as polished as the average GCSE students' French oral. The software may be the exact same code as featured in those original boxy arcade cabinets with their TV screens and lollypop joysticks, but here they're squeezed into the rather more compact PSP, with a screen more the size (and shape) of a TV remote.

The widescreen format is particularly problematic on the older titles, where the portrait display is compressed to such a degree that you need 20/20 vision and the reactions of a mongoose to have any chance of survival.

You can increase the screen size by flipping it through 90 degrees to a landscape format. However this introduces awkward new problems in the control department, since you also have to flip the PSP 90 degrees to a portrait position, whilst still using the D-pad and buttons, which are now at the base and the top of the screen. Hardly comfortable for prolonged play.

Even more problematic is the fact that small details (such as the bullets from your space invader-battling ship) become difficult to see, or even disappear altogether.

Taito Legends is only saved from terminal detention by the inclusion of 'deluxe' updates of Crazy Balloon, Balloon Bomber, The Legend of Kage, and Cameltry. Although the more determined nostalgics may persist with the originals, it's with this quartet the majority of us could imagine spending the most time, enjoying the sugar coating provided by a graphical makeover and a far more approachable learning curve.

Yet whilst these four may provide an interesting insight into how our demands of games have changed, they can't make up for the generally frustrating and underwhelming experience of the collection as a whole.

Even at a sub £20 price, Explosiv really must try harder if it wants to succeed with the inevitable follow-up.

Taito Legends Power Up

(Some legendary names + modern updates) divided by (a lot of filler) x (a questionable conversion) = a medicore old skool outing
Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, bossman Chris is up for anything – including running Steel Media (the madman).