Arcade light-gun games lose something in move to Wii

I've often found that what works in an arcade doesn't usually work at home on a console.

In an arcade, you are betting your money on your skill, wagering that the coins you drop into the machine will buy you at least a few good minutes of entertainment. If you don't have what it takes, you'll die or fail or whatever rather quickly, in effect losing the bet — and then you have to decide whether it's worth the cash to give it another go. But if you've got the skills and the luck, you might stretch that one-time investment into an enjoyable marathon at the machine.

That dynamic is lost when the game moves to a home console. There's no opportunity cost to restarting or hitting continue if you die in the middle of a mission. And, no, the outlay of cash to buy the game in the first place does not equate.

Sure, the ported game can still be fun. But it won't be quite the same experience.

That holds true for Sega's recent release of "Gunblade NY and L.A. Machineguns: Arcade Hits Pack." The two games are arcade classics, adrenaline-fueled light-gun rail shooters for one to two players.

Combined into one release for the Nintendo Wii, the games are pretty much perfect ports of the arcade versions.

In both, you — and a partner if you want — blast away at a seemingly endless array of android antagonists with your machine gun as the camera whips endlessly around out of your control. Your ammo is so unlimited that you never even have to stop squeezing the trigger if you don't want to, as you never reload.

"Gunblade NY" is the more dated of the two titles, with blocky polygonal graphics and relatively static enemies. In "L.A. Machineguns," the visuals are a little more complex, the enemies bounce and dodge about like kids on a sugar high, and civilians run about amid the action. (Killing them reflects negatively on your score.)

The overall objective of the two games is to kill all the enemies while surviving each mission. The androids fire large missiles at you, so the key to survival is shooting down their ordinance before it reaches you. Three hits and you're out of the action — except, of course, for the fact that you've got unlimited continues, and if you haven't let go of the trigger, the "continue?" screen will barely flicker before you're shooting again.

But as near as I can tell, two features have actually been added to the game on the Wii. The most obvious is a connection to an online leaderboard. The second is varying levels of difficulty, hidden in the options menu. Both games are set by default at normal difficulty, but you can ramp things up to hard or expert if you desire more of a challenge.

The difference in difficulty appears to be that enemies fire far more often if you crank things up, which actually does result in more challenging play.

Still, the fact remains that the games are pretty short, and you won't get a "game over" screen unless you really want one. As a result, I really see only two real audiences for this pack: those craving arcade nostalgia, and parents who want to introduce their kids to the shooter genre with a simple, action-packed, bloodless experience. (Frankly, I disagree with the game's teen rating. There's no blood, no profanity, and the controls are exceedingly easy to master.)

"Gunblade NY and L.A. Machineguns: Arcade Hits Pack"
Platforms: Wii.
Publisher: Sega.
Price: $29.99.
Rating: T for teen.
Recommendation: While there's absolutely nothing wrong with the games, $29.99 seems a little steep for the little that you get. If you're into arcade nostalgia or want a simple shooter for the kids, OK, but it'd be easier to recommend at $19.99.

Images courtesy of Sega
First image: Android terrorists attack in "Gunblade NY."
Second image: The terrorists fly around in "L.A. Machineguns."

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