Version tested: 3DS
Wouldn't it be nice if I could just talk about how great the eStore games are, how competitively priced they are, and how Nintendo has learned important lessons from the past? But sadly, I'd be leading you astray.
Firstly there's the issue of price. We've all gotten used to a degree of parity in the download world, whether we're talking about games on Android Marketplace, Steam, PSN, Xbox Live Arcade or the App Store. If a game is $5.99 in the US, we generally expect to pay £3.99. But for whatever reason, Nintendo would rather we pay £5.40, as in the case of Link's Awakening.
If that wasn't bad enough, Nintendo won't even allow you to use any old points cards you've got in reserve. The new eStore cards aren't going on sale until later this month. To actually buy anything at all involves putting in your credit card details and coughing up a minimum of £10, even if you only want to buy one title.
And the European eStore itself is, to put it politely, a work in progress. Although it's simply designed, making it relatively quick and easy to navigate, it lacks many of the search options of the US store.
The range of content on offer is fleshed out with a curious 'DSiWare Highlight' selection that lacks many - if not most - of the very best titles. To find the rest, you have to do a search and filter by DSiWare. Not exactly the most elegant system in the world. Those that are for sale are priced well out of the realms of impulse purchasing. Meanwhile, transferring previous DSiWare purchases from your old DSi has to rank as one of the most tedious and drawn-out processes in living memory.
The fact Nintendo has launched with some of the best Game Boy titles off the bat is encouraging, but we could definitely do without the dregs of the catalogue being foisted upon us at hilariously disproportionate prices.
The 3DS has come under a fair bit of criticism of late, and the last thing Nintendo needs is to give its detractors even more ammunition. But given the company's apparent unwillingness to evolve the DSiWare shop, you shouldn't hold your breath.
The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
Confession time: I'm one of those terribly snarky unbelievers who thinks Zelda wasn't really worth bothering with until Link To The Past. Burn the witch! But even if you violently disagree and wish to replace my eyes with hot toffee apples, you can't deny Link's Awakening is among the finest games ever to grace the humble Game Boy.
Of all the games unleashed to the public in the eStore this week, Link's Awakening is probably the only one you'd be willing to pay money for. Presumably Nintendo realises this, and has elected to double the price just to make sure you're really committed to the cause.
But enough about boring pricing shenanigans. Rejoice in the fact that we're getting the 'remastered' Game Boy Color 'DX' version, rather than the 1993 original.
Its hallowed status as the 'quintessential isometric Zelda game' isn't just blethering hyperbole. Whatever your preconceptions of Game Boy titles may be, this is the game to challenge them. It's epic without being tiresome. The quests are challenging without being frustrating. If you're a particular fan of the Link To The Past formula, this is mana from heaven.
You know the drill. Explore that dungeon. Kill those baddies. Get that new ability. Go back to all those areas you couldn't previously access. Get a new quest. And so on.
The refined simplicity and near-perfect design of it all means the game hasn't dated a jot, and its wry humour still comes through almost two decades down the line.
With games like this in the canon it's possible to forgive Nintendo for some of its complacency - but only a little.
3D Classics: ExciteBike
- Free until July 7th. £5.40/$5.99 thereafter.
Unlike a lot of the NES-era titles, Excitebike is one of the few that continues to be almost as entertaining now as it was nearly three decades ago. No, really.
OK, it doesn't exactly rival Trials for the title of best stunt bike racing game anymore, but there's a depth and accessibility to the game's design that still make it feel fresh and fun.
And with slightly superfluous 3D depth effects applied to the game's functional-but-appealing visuals (now in widescreen!), there's more reason than usual to go back and wallow in its addictive allure. It's also free for the next few weeks, so get in quick.
Gameplay is the same as it ever was, with two distinct modes to meddle with: the Selection A solo time trial and the Selection B races against AI racers. The 'excitement', if you can still call it that, comes from mastering the angle of your landing and judging the exact momentum you need to avoid the obstacles.
Basic stuff by today's standards, obviously, but that doesn't mean it's no longer fun. However, it is a shame there's no online leaderboard or any way to share your track creations, especially for a game that is eventually going to sell for a premium price.
Right now, though, Excitebike represents a pleasing - if not essential - example of how Nintendo is planning to overhaul some of its true retro treasures.
Super Mario Land
It's somewhat fitting that the game which kicked off the whole Game Boy era for Nintendo should be present at the opening of the eStore. Woo hoo!
As any Nintendo veteran will know, it was incredible at the time to have a fully-fledged Mario title on a handheld machine. Super Mario Land arrived in 1989, remember, only a few years after Game & Watch, and it was as good as handheld gaming got.
Even its monochrome visuals didn't dampen the enthusiasm, mainly because the faithfulness to the NES-style gameplay was so strong. And then there were those whistle-along tunes. The tunes.
But Gunpei Yokoi's take on Mario was also a pretty brief affair, with just 12 relatively compact levels spread across the four worlds. Even average players could probably romp through it inside an hour.
For the completist, this is a chance to see what cutting edge handheld platforming looked like in the eighties. Those wanting the real deal would be better off holding out for Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, or the inevitable point when Nintendo starts issuing 3D ports of its NES and SNES classics.
Bring on the clones! As one of the very first titles released for the Game Boy in April 1989, there's a certain historical significance to Alleyway - perhaps in the same way that Bros and Rick Astley were the hottest teen pop sensations of their day.
Even at that time, yet another spin on the done-to-death Breakout formula wasn't terrifically exciting to many people, and the game deservedly got bent over the knees of critics and given a stern spanking.
Looking at it 22 years later, there's nothing to suggest anyone was being particularly unfair for meting out physical violence to something that - even then - was considered something of a retro nonentity.
If you wanted to be the most forgiving critic who ever lived, you could could observe that, yes, it's a decent enough Arkanoid-style bat and ball game. But you'd be pretty perverse to be hankering after the most tiresome monochrome version that ever existed.
For anyone with taste and dignity, this is the kind of detritus you'd most readily associate with built-in late nineties mobile phone games, and it deserves nothing but contempt. £2.70? Really?
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for rubbish tennis games. Match Point on the Spectrum, On Court Tennis on the C64 and Great Courts 2 on the Amiga devoured for more of my time than they probably deserved.
I'm fairly sure that Nintendo's take on Tennis would have done the same if the NES had gained any sort of a foothold in this part of the world. It's wobbly, it's hilariously slow and imprecise, there's absolutely no depth to it whatsoever, but it has that same basic sense of absurd fun that all tennis games had back in the day.
Trying to play it now is something of a trial, with its ridiculous, arcane timing system, coupled with the most basic monochrome visuals imaginable. You can't really knock Intelligent Systems for its Game Boy efforts. This was 1989. It was in the post-launch range. What does anyone expect?
Perhaps it wouldn't be unreasonable of Nintendo to have bundled together some of its lesser lights into value packs for the curious and the completists. Maybe it could have charged an appropriate price like ooh, I dunno, 59 pence, to pluck a figure out of the air that seems to wind up Nintendo execs.
Instead, to experience this rather ramshackle offering, you're expected to pay over the odds. The only reasonable course of action is to vote with your wallets and send Nintendo a message that you're not interested in rubbish like this.