GAUNTLET 4 / Tengen / Genesis
Gauntlet 4 veers away from the weird experimentalism of Gauntlet 3 and back to the arcade roots. In fact, there's an included port of the first Gauntlet game that's about as arcade-perfect as any console port is going to get, and is easily the best one available on a cartridge.
For those of us that didn't care all that much for Gauntlet action, however, there's also a new Quest mode, which is really the meat of the game. The traditional Gauntlet style has been retained, but the Quest starts you off in a small hub castle from which you can freely enter and exit four dungeons (Fire, Wind, Earth and Water, all with appropriate tilesets) as well as buy weapon upgrades using the treasures you snarf in the dungeon areas. You also gain EXP for killing foes, which eventually translates into max health upgrades and better attack and defense. This can be played with up to four players, and there's also a new Battle mode which tosses you into an arena to slaughter each other - you can use default character stats, have everyone have the same stats, or import your Quest Mode characters using a password.
The graphics are almost perfect to the original two arcade games. The sound is more of a mixed bag. Sound effects are largely accurate, and a soundtrack has been added that sounds like Shining Force music for the most part and is actually pretty good. The narrator voice, however, sounds like it was re-recorded by a Japanese guy who doesn't speak English very well, and now sounds a little silly.
There's a few other little gameplay niggles like annoyingly long passwords rather than a battery save, and the fact that you can't select the Valkyrie as player 1 unless you have a second controller plugged in to move player 2's default selection cursor off of her. Quest Mode is a fun twist on the old Gauntlet formula, however, and the port of the first Gauntlet is the best there is short of downloading an emulated version of the arcade original.
* Gameplay Video