Taito Milestones 2 brings together another collection of the prolific Japanese company’s arcade hits in one nostalgic package for Nintendo Switch. As a follow-up to 2021’s inaugural Milestones compilation, this second outing compiles an additional set of 10 games spanning Taito’s heyday in the ’80s and early ’90s.
For retro gaming enthusiasts, it’s a chance to revisit or discover some true coin-op classics from the golden age of arcades. From cutesy platformers like The NewZealand Story to shooting classics like Darius II, Taito’s DNA courses through these genres and exemplifies their trademark style.
While some titles may not have stood the test of time, the majority still hold up as inventive, challenging, and downright fun gaming experiences. So let’s take a leisurely stroll down memory lane to examine the origins, gameplay intricacies, and lasting legacies behind this eccentric range of arcade amusements.
A Mixed Bag of Genres and Styles
Taito Milestones 2 encompasses a diverse selection of arcade releases spanning different genres and gameplay styles:
- The Legend of Kage (1985) – An early ninja-themed action platformer with a focus on acrobatic jumping and throwing shurikens.
- Kiki Kaikai (1986) – A top-down shooter starring a shrine maiden, later known as the popular Pocky & Rocky series.
- Metal Black (1991) – A horizontal sci-fi shoot ’em up that started development as a Darius sequel. It introduced the concept of beam battles with bosses.
- The NewZealand Story (1988) – A cute platforming adventure starring a kiwi protagonist with a laser gun. Fondly remembered for its maze-like multi-screen levels.
- Ben Bero Beh (1984) – A simplistic single-screen platformer where you play as a firefighter trying to rescue people from a burning building.
- Darius II (1989) – The second entry in Taito’s beloved horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up series set in an aquatic sci-fi universe.
- Dinorex (1992) – A primitive fighting game with stop-motion dinosaur animation.
- Solitary Fighter (1991) – An obscure early fighting game with 360-degree movement, released after Street Fighter II.
- Liquid Kids (1990) – A Bubble Bobble-inspired platformer where you shoot bubbles to trap enemies before jumping on them.
- Gun Frontier (1990) – A gritty, western-themed vertical shooter set on an alien planet.
With shoot ’em ups, platformers, and fighting games all present, Taito Milestones 2 encapsulates the diversity of genres and style that Taito pursued during the arcade boom years. Core shmup titles like Darius II and Metal Black are obvious highlights, demonstrating Taito’s shooting pedigree. But imaginative platforming adventures such as The NewZealand Story and Liquid Kids reveal their equal talents in crafting lively, original worlds brimming with personality and challenge.
Capturing the Spirit of the Originals
Given Taito’s reputation for distinctive visual design, a key consideration is whether the games included here faithfully recreate the pixel-perfect arcade originals. Thankfully, the collection utilizes the solid emulation foundations of Hamster’s Arcade Archives series, resulting in extremely authentic ports.
The vibrant, cartoonish platforms like The NewZealand Story pop with color while avoiding filtering that could muddy the intentional sharpness of the 1980s graphics. Shooters like Darius II and Metal Black showcase the incredible mechanical designs and frenetic on-screen mayhem just as veterans would remember. Even more basic titles like Ben Bero Beh shine through with smooth animation and a level of detail surprising for such an early release.
Of course, with 10 games spanning nearly a decade of arcade development, visual capabilities understandably vary. The oldest title, The Legend of Kage, is particularly dated with simplistic ninja sprites and limited animation. But this primitive style encapsulates the charm of early ’80s game design rather than being a true negative. Overall, Taito’s artistic strengths – mixing sci-fi with aquatic life in Darius or anthropomorphic animals in Liquid Kids – are vividly brought back to life.
In terms of extras, Taito Milestones 2 adopts a no-frills approach. The collection utilizes a standard Arcade Archives menu with minimal flourishes. Background customization and screen adjustment options are available but kept practical. The goal seems to be spotlighting the games themselves rather than flashy bonuses. Given the focus on accuracy, most players will appreciate the dedication to recapturing these arcade masters in their original forms without unnecessary distractions. With rock-solid emulation powering the visuals, the collection succeeds as a portal back through decades of Taito’s history.
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How These Classics Hold Up Today
While arcade games were often designed around intense difficulty and frustrating game-over screens, the true test of time is whether the core gameplay remains engaging and entertaining. Do these Taito greats still play well or have they aged poorly? Let’s examine each title’s standout qualities as well as any quirks that betray their antiquity.
The Legend of Kage demonstrates the simplicity expected of early 80s games but little grace in play control or enemy patterns. Dated design prevents it from being more than a historical curio. Dinorex fares even worse with its stop-motion dinosaur combat burdened by terrible plodding movement. It’s an ambitious concept failed by poor execution, especially compared to the smoother play of later fighting games.
Solitary Fighter earns points for 360 degree movement but otherwise amounts to shallow Street Fighter II imitation. Liquid Kids mimics Bubble Bobble’s bubbly charm yet slippery controls mar the experience. Gun Frontier sticks to vertical shooter basics without any memorable traits beyond the gritty sci-fi visuals. These middling titles still offer moments of fun but can’t escape their primitive designs. Newer players accustomed to refined modern games may lack the tolerance for their clunky quirks.
Fortunately, the collection is salvaged by genuine classics that demonstrate incredible polish. Darius II remains one of Taito’s shoot ’em up masterpieces, plunging players into pitched battles across vividly realized alien seas. The three screen presentation immerses you in the explosive action that exemplifies why Taito excelled at the genre. Metal Black likewise impresses with frenetic run-and-gun gameplay and a fascinating beam power-up system that keeps the intensity high.
For platforming, Kiki Kaikai (Pocky and Rocky) delivers engaging top-down shooting/melee mechanics still capable of providing a stern challenge. Best of all is The NewZealand Story with its sprawling, maze-like multi-screen levels and adorable kiwi protagonist. It marries cute charm with devious level design that takes dedication to overcome but brings tremendous satisfaction.
In the end, Taito’s arcade mastery shines through in the collection’s most celebrated titles, while lesser known ones feel their age. For shoot ’em up fans or those receptive to old-school difficulty, the highlights here offer deep and rewarding gameplay. But modern gamers seeking a gentle nostalgia trip may find the more antiquated entries frustratingly unfair. Nonetheless, Taito’s unique arcade spirit persists even in the rough around these diamonds.
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Multiplayer Mayhem with Friends
One integral part of the classic arcade experience was battling friends and strangers head-to-head or cooperatively. Several titles in Taito Milestones 2 incorporate multiplayer support to recreate frenzied competitive and cooperative play.
Ben Bero Beh becomes even more frantically entertaining with two players trying to rescue victims in the burning tower. Having a partner adds to the coordination challenge and allows saving more people before the flames overwhelm you. Liquid Kids likewise excels in 2-player co-op with additional teamwork strategies to trap enemies in your bubbles. Solitary Fighter and Dinorex feature competitive fighter modes, though shallow gameplay limits their head-to-head appeal.
For shooters, Darius II and Metal Black impressively include online leaderboards to compete indirectly against others. While not direct competition, putting up high scores against the world captures the spirit of arcade one-upmanship. Of course, jumping into couch co-op and trash talking friends is closer to the real arcade experience.
Overall, the most suitable titles for multiplayer make solid use of the features. The party atmosphere and shared struggles or rivalries enhance the longevity and enjoyment of games like Liquid Kids and Ben Bero Beh. For single player-focused games like The NewZealand Story, the lack of multiplayer isn’t detrimental. But offering options for playing together certainly adds nostalgic value in reliving the boisterous ambiance of arcade hangouts. Taito Milestones 2 effectively incorporates multiplayer where it best supplements the gameplay.
Pioneering Classics That Left Their Mark
While all retrospectives glance fondly to gaming’s past, Taito Milestones 2 showcases several landmark titles that left an indelible impact on the industry. Appreciating their legacy and historical significance reveals why these pioneering greats remain relevant.
Few shoot ’em up franchises boast the longevity and influence of Darius. The first Darius in 1986 introduced gradual power-up builds, branching level paths, and especially the unique aquatic sci-fi universe. Darius II built upon those foundations with even more diverse stages, fearsome bosses, and an unforgettable soundtrack. Its 1989 release saw wide acclaim for surpassing the original and cementing Darius as a gold standard for the genre. The series continues thriving today in part thanks to the identity and appeal established by Darius II.
The NewZealand Story also endures as one of Taito’s most inventive platformers. Released in 1988, its adorable kiwi protagonist and sprawling multi-screen levels brimming with secrets charmed arcade gamers. Crisp controls with 360 degree aim and varied weapons made it a joy to maneuver. For an 80s platformer, its Metroidvania-esque progression through maze-like stages was novel. Ports for nearly every computer and console exposed new fans globally to Taito’s talents in crafting cute yet challenging adventures.
Lesser known but innovative was Metal Black from 1991. Originally envisioned as Darius III, it adopted a horizontal orientation and intriguing beam meter management. Building and expending your armaments against bosses in tense beam duels brought shooter dynamics. As later Darius entries integrated similar mechanics, Metal Black deserves credit for pioneering clever concepts Taito reiterated.
While not landmark feats, the creativity driving the likes of Liquid Kids and Kiki Kaikai (Pocky & Rocky) highlight Taito’s range. They crafted new worlds brimming with personality through both somber shooters and cheerfully cute quests. Taito Milestones 2 collects several pioneering classics born from wildly imaginative minds.
An Impressive Collection With Some Highs and Lows
With its $39.99 asking price, Taito Milestones 2 raises the question of whether its curated selection warrants the cost. Does this retrospective provide good overall value? While some frustrations keep it from being definitive, the standout titles still excel in showcasing Taito’s arcade excellence.
Given that the majority of games are available separately through the Arcade Archives series, owners of those may balk at re-purchasing titles they already own. However, Milestones 2 does contain a few exclusives not sold individually. Obscure fighting game Solitary Fighter appears here for the first time, alongside Dinorex. Their inclusion caters to collectors eager to play the full span of Taito’s catalog.
Having a broader range of genres also enhances the compilation’s scope. The mixture of shooting, platforming and fighting games speaks to Taito’s diverse interests during the arcade boom period. Fans focused solely on the excellent shooters may overlook equally inventive adventures like Liquid Kids and The NewZealand Story. Presenting a wider selection exposes players to classics potentially outside their typical tastes.
As covered earlier though, not all the games included stand the test of time equally. Titles like Dinorex and Solitary Fighter land with a thud, betrayed by clunky play control and limited mechanics. Their novelty quickly fades. Meanwhile, the low points make the genuine masterpieces shine brighter. Darius II remains an irresistible shooter bolstered by the triple screen presentation. For action platforming, The NewZealand Story retains an incredible capacity for joy and frustration.
Focusing just on the highlights, Taito Milestones 2 emerges as a worthy celebration of Strata’s arcade output. But padding the package with lesser entries mutes the overall impact. With no ability to individually purchase the measly exclusives, collectors must shell out for lackluster inclusions as well. More curation in the selection may have yielded a tighter, more consistent set.
Nonetheless, Taito’s legacy is difficult to tarnish given their copious classics. Modern convenience can gloss over the bygone era’s unfair difficulty, rendering even flawed retro games oddly charming. Despite missteps, Taito Milestones 2 ultimately provides a vivid window back to many hours spent feeding quarters to their arcade creations. For devoted fans, revisiting both the triumphs and curiosities among these 10 games recalls why Taito compelled a generation of gamers. Warts and all, it earns a light recommendation as a historical retrospective.
Taito Milestones 2
In the end, Taito Milestones 2 succeeds in its goal of compiling a highlight reel of the legendary developer's arcade classics. A few clunkers betray their age, but the inclusion of masterpieces like Darius II and The NewZealand Story make diving into this retro lineup worthwhile. Minor quibbles aside, it provides a vivid trip down memory lane for just $40. For that price, I'm happy to revisit Taito's unique brand of gaming creativity that spawned many quarters spent in arcades.
- Brings together a collection of Taito's arcade hits from the '80s and early '90s.
- Offers a diverse selection of arcade releases spanning different genres and gameplay styles.
- Utilizes solid emulation foundations, resulting in extremely authentic ports.
- Captures the spirit of the original games with pixel-perfect arcade recreations.
- Incorporates multiplayer support for competitive and cooperative play.
- Showcases several landmark titles that had a significant impact on the gaming industry.
- Some titles have not aged well and feel outdated.
- The collection adopts a no-frills approach with minimal extras.
- Some games, like Dinorex and Solitary Fighter, have clunky play control and limited mechanics.
- The package includes lesser entries that mute the overall impact.