Those who weren't gaming 10 or 15 years ago may find this surprising, but there was a time when EA was actually all about genre diversity and blazing new trails; a far cry from the big-budget, focus-tested hit factory the company is today. EA Replay is a great reminder of those glory days, featuring a good cross-section of titles that cover just about every major gaming genre back then. Sure, some of the games included aren't timeless classics, but the few real gems herein more than justify the $20 price tag.
Before we check out each of the games here, one overarching issue needs to be pointed out - all of the games on EA Replay suffer from a sort of "smearing," where fast-moving characters or vehicles streak a bit. It's a symptom of the PSP's screen. It doesn't hinder every game to the same degree, though.
Desert Strike and Jungle Strike embody what video games were all about in the mid-90s. This series, partially begun as a way to capitalize on the first Gulf War, is a hard-as-nails, mission-based helicopter shooter. Only the hardest of hardcore gamers will make any progress in either of these two titles, but they're nonetheless two of the best shooters from the 16-bit era.
Mutant League Football was EA's attempt to have a bit of fun with the Madden franchise back in the day. It featured the same great gameplay, but with the added bonus of funny and violent additions in the form of monstrous players, on-field booby-traps, and so on. Easily the best multiplayer game on EA Replay. Note to EA: please bring this series back. Please.
Finally, the three-game Road Rash series. This early motorcycle racing/combat franchise was simply awesome back in the day, and remains so on this compilation. It looks great, plays great, and has a surprising amount of depth for a game where all you do is go fast and beat up other riders. Strangely, though, the soundtrack's been replaced with some decidedly generic tunes. Too bad EA couldn't have included the incredible licensed soundtrack from Road Rash on the 3DO and SEGA CD.
Along with these six true classics come a bevy of games that demonstrate the more forgettable side of these classic eras. Platformer B.O.B., early one-on-one fighter Budokan, and Virtual Pinball aren't necessarily bad games. They're just not all that good, either.
Ultima VII, part of the venerable PC RPG series suffers because the version on EA Replay is not the PC version, but actually the almost unplayable SNES port. Even doing something as simple as walking up to townsfolk and talking to them is a chore here. Syndicate is, likewise, based on the console port. While the original is a very good PC game, the console version just didn't cut it then, and doesn't cut it now.
The biggest tragedy in EA Replay, though, has to be the two Wing Commander games. Again, these are based on the SNES versions, not the fantastic PC games. And while the SNES versions were actually quite respectable back in the day, the PSP's tiny screen, streaking issues, and low frame rate combine to make these two classics pretty much unplayable. Dammit.
So in the end, you get six great games, and six mediocre ones. Not bad for 2,000 pennies, really. EA's history houses some great, forgotten franchises, and it's nice to see the publishing behemoth remembering its roots. EA Replay is a cool little history lesson for younger gamers, and a great trip down memory lane for the oldsters among us, despite its problems.