The funny thing is even though roughly half of the games included in these collections are ones that gamers could care less about; they are moderately popular. As such I'm sure that EA Replay will garner its fair share of sales and warrant enough to have a second installment. Still, it does have to be said that the assortment of games in this package just isn't good enough (in my opinion) to make this one a success.
A majority of these games came from the days when 16-bit was the echelon of technological superiority and in most cases feature a direct port from original ROMs. This means that flaws like control issues and clunky interfaces are still firmly in place. As far as the game selection goes, do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad? Ok, here we go!
Back in the heyday when companies were searching for a gaming superstar; a character to latch on to if you will, EA tried to make a loveable robot named B.O.B. While he wasn't quite a finalist in America's Next Gaming Idol the character was quirky and fun enough to play as. Unfortunately this artificially intelligent junk box doesn't control as well as he should and the game offers little entertainment. Cheap hits wait for you at every turn and all around things just aren't as polished as they could have been.
Up next was a game I was originally interested in checking out; Ultima: The Black Gate. I don't know about you but I had fond memories of the Ultima series. It was different enough of an RPG to stand out and for the most part installments were worth the time it took to beat them; not The Black Gate though. This incarnation was about as boring as it could get and didn't offer anything resembling a compelling story.
Virtual Pinball was another sore spot in EA Replay. Considering pinball is supposed to be a game filled with all sorts of bells and whistles this one comes across as EXTREMELY dry. Some diversity in the different maps was appreciated but in the end there just wasn't enough to keep me coming back. Granted Virtual Pinball was better than our next contestant Budokan. At first that particular game looked interesting. I mean it's a karate fighting tournament where you can use a selection of fighting styles! Sadly that's about as enjoyable as this game got with horrible controls that essentially made the game unplayable. Be thankful that today's generation of fighting games actually responds when you press a button.
Syndicate was another game that I just couldn't get into. It's an isometric shooter with science fiction roots and even includes squad-like features. It's an interesting concept but I had a really hard time controlling the game on the PSP. Controls were too unresponsive and the game doesn't give you any direction what-so-ever. I stuck with it for a bit and as I got more familiar with it things got easier but it just wasn't good enough to satisfy.
Now, the rest of EA Replay ranges from moderate quality to good. There's no breakout smash hit in my opinion but there are quite a few titles that many of you will recognize. Take Road Rash for example. This motorcycle combat game was always a blast to play because there was just something enjoyable about kicking or punching somebody off of their wheels. Road Rash 1, 2, and 3 are included here, which is kind of confusing because apart from checking out the evolution of the series the core game is essentially the same.
Another recognizable title is Wing Commander. This ancient feeling first person flight simulator doesn't control well and that's probably because this is the port of the SNES version and not the PC. If EA had taken steps to actually decide which version to include they might have gone with the better one but alas that's not the case. The original Wing Commander and the Secret Missions sequel are included in this release.
Up next are Desert Strike and Jungle Strike. These top down view helicopter piloting games were also a fun way to kill some time (and digital people). Once again the controls don't feel as fluid as they should have but both of these games still provide a decent challenge and experience. These remain as two of the better inclusions in EA Replay.
The final two games were probably my favorite though both are kind of obscure when you get right down to it. Mutant League Football was a grotesque adaptation of the Madden franchise and quite honestly is something inspired. Sure the interface is overly simplistic and ugly menus are no way to play through a football game but there's something to be said about running down the field as a troll and shoving a member of the opposing team into a fire pit. If only EA would make a next generation version of this game the world would be a happier place.
Finally Haunting: Starring Polterguy provide a bunch of laughs and a unique concept for the time. You play as a mischievous poltergeist that does nothing but harass people in their homes. You can possess various items and employ a variety of skills in order to achieve your spooky goal. The game may be kind of crude when you get right down to it but there was just something fun about playing as Polterguy. This was one of the better experiences on EA Replay though the controls still felt a little loose and lacked polish.
In the end the bad unfortunately is about equal to the good in EA Replay. This definition of "bad" mostly boils down to poor controls which could have been something lost in translation to the PSP or just in the original. Apart from Road Rash, Wing Commander, Mutant League Football, and Desert Strike I had never played these games before so I had no experience to compare it to. If you find yourself jonesing for a compilation of "classics" there are a few good times to be had with this release but not many.
Instead of including three Road Rash games, two Wing Commanders and the questionable choices of B.O.B. and Budokan EA should have dug into their library a little further. Titles like Populous, James Pond, or even; dare I say it, Shaq Fu, could have been more entertaining and diverse. Who knows, maybe if we see an EA Replay 2 these games might get some love?
Another thing that disappoints with EA Replay is the graphics. I understand that these are direct ports of games from roughly 15 years ago (on average) but it's hard denying that many of them are ugly. Even by the standards set when these titles were released some of them disappoint such as Syndicate, Budokan, and Ultima VII. Other games like B.O.B., Desert Strike, and Haunting are much more appealing. As with many compilation releases on the PSP you can dictate how you want the image to appear. Granted your choices are either full frame or widescreen but none of these games adjust well to the widescreen option.
Sound is another weak point but again this is a problem that plagues many older games that get regurgitated. A few titles hold up well such as Road Rash III, and Wing Commander: Secret Mission though many of the games here leave something to be desired.
Overall EA Replay feels kind of sloppy. Why some of these titles were picked and not others is beyond my comprehension. Honestly, who wants to go back and play Budokan or Virtual Pinball? Not me. Personal preferences aside control issues strike a good majority of these titles and beyond that many of these games just aren't fun to play irregardless. If you are a lover of all things retro then you'll probably get a kick out of these games but if you have been spoiled by other much better releases (see Capcom Classics Remixed) then there's not much point to this one.