It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. “Cyber Monday”. As if we didn’t get enough shopping done on “Black Friday”, now there is an online holiday shopping rush. Now it seems we have another opportunity for some early X-mas shopping. Well be that as it may, now that your turkey is digested, I got this week’s $20 Game of The Week for you. You don’t have to wake up early for this one. Also, I got two lost classics this week, so there is no shortage of leftovers either. This week, you’ll get a remake of a classic, a classic remake, and a game that should have been a classic. So click after the jump and be thankful for

$20 GOTW: Maverick Hunter X (PSP)

When the Super Nintendo was first released, its starting lineup contained 16-bit adaptations of several 8-bit classic franchises. Within months of the system’s release, we got brand new 16-bit Final Fantasy, Zelda, Castlevania, Mario, and Gradius games, each of which catching fire with both longtime Nintendo fans and newcomers alike. One series that was conspicuously absent was Mega Man. We knew for sure that Capcom’s blue bomber had to hit the Super Nintendo someday, but when? It wouldn’t be until 1994 that we would see Mega Man’s 16-bit debut. However, it wasn’t the traditional blue bomber that gamers grew up with. Nope, this was a brand new Mega Man, and a brand new world. He even had a new name: X. What could have been at the time the 6th entry of the original Mega Mean storyline turned out to be the first of a brand new saga (thankfully though, the original series would still continue to move on). Instead of hearing about the next stage of the feud between Mega Man and Dr. Wily, X told the story of a bleak future in which robots ran amok, infected by a computer virus. X and his longtime friend Zero team up to stop the ‘mavericks’ and bring down Sigma, the leader of the infected robots.

Even though hardcore Mega Man fans tend to look down into the series, Mega Man X was the natural extension of the classic Mega Man gameplay. However it was even deeper. Not only did you add to your weapons cache, but you must also search out new body upgrades. The upgrades gave X new abilities, and they were as important to achieving victory as the bosses’ weapons were. A leg upgrade gave players the ability to air dash, and a blaster upgrade enabled players to power up an enemy’s weapon. The game also introduced an interesting new character in Zero. Though he got slagged in the first entry, he was rebuilt in the second, and eventually became a star in his own right, headlining his own series. The series was at its best in the first three Super Nintendo entries. 4, 5, and 6, which were released on the Playstation 1 were good also, but some familiarity set in. 8 and 9, which were released on Playstation 2, had gameplay issues, and weren’t received as well. Along with a compilation of the first 6 games in the series, Mega Man X also spawned an RPG spin-off for Gamecube and PS2. When Capcom decided to remake the original Mega Man in 2005, they decided to sweeten the deal with a remake of Mega Man X as well. Now fans and new players alike can experience the first adventure of X in a whole new way.

Like Mega Man Powered Up before it, Maverick Hunter X eschews the original 2-d sprites of Mega Man X for a 2.5-d polygon look. Thankfully, it doesn’t share Powered Up’s overly cutesy art style. The game featured new level layouts, spoken dialog, and animated story sequences. It doesn’t offer much in the way of extras compared to Powered Up, but there is an unlockable mode in which players take the role of series villain Vile. Even so, it’s an excellent addition to any PSP owner’s library, especially for Mega Man fans.

Super Double Dragon IV/Return of Double Dragon
Long before Final Fight completely changed the norm of beat-em-ups, the Double Dragon series was the alpha and the omega of the genre. Even after Final Fight, Double Dragon’s impact was still felt on gaming. It blossomed into a franchise, spawning a [horrible] movie, comic books, a cartoon series, and action figures. Even though it started in the arcade before hitting the 8-bit Nintendo, it was the NES home versions which gained it the most notoriety. Double Dragon 2 added more story elements, levels, and enemies, while the NES version of Double Dragon 3 was considered by many to be better than its arcade counterpart. Like Mega Man before it, Double Dragon’s Super Nintendo debut was eagerly anticipated but didn’t make the launch window. It wouldn’t show up on the SNES until a few years later, but the 16-bit debuts of Billy and Jimmy Lee were well worth the wait.

Instead of simply being a sequel to Double Dragon III, Super Double Dragon takes the Super Castlevania IV route, in which the game is a re-imagining of the first Double Dragon. A gang called the shadow warriors has kidnapped Marian (who is a policewoman rather than the typical damsel-in-distress in the original game), who just so happens to be the girlfriend of martial artist Billy Lee. Billy Lee doesn’t take kindly to this, so he and his brother Jimmy take to the streets to bring her back. The two travel through several levels while busting shadow warrior heads. The locations you’ll explore include a casino in Vegas, an air port, a forest, and the top of a truck. There are weapons you can pick up and use, and the boys have a new selection of martial arts moves to use. A blocking stance helps set up counterattacks and throws, while a power meter enables them to pull off heavy damage attacks. The soundtrack is good, and there are even a few remixes of classic Double Dragon anthems.

Double Dragon hit the Super Nintendo in a big way. Even with the millions of Final Fight clones, Super Double Dragon helped the franchise retain its own unique identity. It reminded players why they love Double Dragon so much while at the same time providing a fresh new gameplay experience. Sadly, after SDD, the most we would see of the series is a Neo-Geo fighting game based on the movie, a 16-bit fighting game based on the cartoon, and Rage of the Dragons, which is a Neo-Geo fighter sorta kinda maybe loosely inspired by Double Dragon. The original arcade game was re-released on the Game Boy Advance and Xbox Live Arcade (with the former having new levels), and the original NES game was re-released on Virtual Console. We may never see a new ‘true’ Double Dragon game, but hopefully Super Double Dragon will make its way to Virtual Console. Its a prime example of the series and the genre at its best.

Also of note is Return of Double Dragon, which is the Japanese version of the game. While for the most part its the same game as the American release, it contains new story sequences, slightly different levels, and a different soundtrack.

Tuff E Nuff
Jaleco just doesn’t get the props it deserves as a game developer. It created a classic baseball series in Bases Loaded, the Rush-n-Beat beat-em-up franchise, and several solid platforming games (including Avenging Spirit). It’s a wonder why they aren’t looked upon and respected the same way as a Capcom and a Konami. One of their 16-bit lost classics is a simple known fighting game by the name of Tuff-E-Nuff. Cheesy title and goofy box art aside, it was a pretty decent fighting game. In your typical post-apocalyptic setting, a man by the name of Jade rises to become one of the world’s top fighters. The last remaining free nations choose 4 of their champions to face him. First they have to battle each other for the right to face him (and develop their abilities in the progress), ascend his tower, defeat his henchmen, then face him in final battle.

The gameplay is pretty typical of most mid-90s fighting games. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel (indeed, the biggest difference between this game and others is the fact that the health indicators are on the sides of the screen rather than the top), but the controls are responsive, the visuals are good, and the music is solid. Unfortunately, you can only select from the four champions. To make matters worse, two of which are even Ryu/Ken style clones of each other. Thankfully, there is a code which allows you to play as the entire cast, and that’s a good thing, as the enemies you’ll face have attacks and abilities which make them a lot more interesting than the generic looking heroes.

Despite this critical oversight, Tuff-E-Nuff is a fun fighting game from an underrated game company. Sadly, as good as it was, it did little to set itself apart from the other fighting game titles of that period, and became one of many games which critics dismissed as a Street Fighter clone. Hopefully, the game can receive a second life on the Virtual Console. Fans of 2-d fighters will eat up this lost classic.