Version tested: Wii
So, bye bye then, Hanabi Festival. You were a curious little experiment, not exactly brimming with festival atmosphere, though your bountiful gifts of cool Japanese games unseen on our shores were most welcome all the same. It's just a shame you had to sour the excitement slightly by bumping up the prices for no apparent reason. Regardless, the general idea is certainly one that should be encouraged and hopefully we'll see Nintendo refining it further in the years to come.
For now, let's sample the juicy fruits of this final festival offering. It's - ooh - SciFi Week, which basically translates as "Shoot Em Ups" and it's perhaps the best selection yet.
Sin and Punishment
- Platform: N64
- Wii Points: 1200
- In Real Money: 8.40 GBP/12 EUR (approx)
From beloved schmup developer Treasure - the folk who crafted the legendary duo of Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun - comes this delightfully manic third-person blaster, which plays a lot like a grounded Space Harrier.
The plot is typically dense anime babble - something to do with Earth being overrun by aliens that are hilariously referred to as "Ruffians". These bio-organic creatures can infect humans, turning them into Ruffians (and maybe even Scoundrels or Urchins) and, in true manga style, the plot involves key members of the cast being transformed causing much histrionic wailing and angry shouting. Bizarrely, for a game never released outside Asia, all the dialogue is in English so while the plot may not make a whole lot of sense, you can at least understand what the characters are saying.
In terms of action it is, as you'd expect given its heritage, pretty intense stuff. Your character races into the screen and you can control their movement in a lefty-right sort of way, with your attention split between navigating hazards and obstacles, while staying focussed on the roving reticule with which you direct gallons of bullets at the enemies surrounding you. Environmental objects can be targeted, detonating explosives or dumping debris on hapless henchmen. It's a basic enough premise - calling to mind classic blasters like Starfox and Time Crisis along the way - but there are also enough wrinkles to make it more than just holding down the fire button and dodging.
You can swap between manual aiming and an automatic lock-on system, though you trade off shot power for this. You also have a melee attack which comes into play should an enemy get within striking distance. Clobber a foe in this manner and they'll be sent hurtling back, damaging any others they hit on the way. Control is tricky at first, especially finding the balance between controlling both character and aim at the same time, but like all the best shooters the experience is sublime once this balance has been found.
It looks absolutely fantastic - one of the best looking games on the N64 - and just keeps throwing new enemies at you, from swarms of tiny little gits to enormous screen-filling monstrosities. There's even a giant crab that you can hit for…hey, you know the drill. While we can't condone the price hike, there's no denying Sin and Punishment is one of the more exciting games on the Virtual Console right now.
The Legend of Hero Tonma
- Platform: TurboGrafx 16
- Wii Points: 600
- In Real Money: GBP 4.20/6 EUR (approx)
If all the arcade stink of stale fag smoke and adolescent sweat wafting over from the hardcore shooters is making you feel queasy, then maybe this week's non-festival offering will soothe your stomach.
It's a super-cute platformer, firmly in the WonderBoy mould, in which you guide the heroic Tommy to save yet another kidnapped princess. It's devoid of surprises, but the controls feel crisp and the game is generous with the power-ups, meaning you soon amass a fun array of projectiles to magically expel from your personage.
Where it flounders is the respawning bad guys and one-hit-kill gameplay which frustrate more than they thrill. Though you can continue from the last checkpoint easily enough, the game just isn't special enough to earn the dedication you'll need to get past the hump of having to start over, from the middle of a level, with no power-ups. Amusing enough, but not the best example of its genre on the VC.
- Platform: SNES
- Wii Points: 900
- In Real Money: 6.30 GBP/9 EUR (approx)
And if a cult shooter from Treasure wasn't enough, here comes one of Konami's most famously hardcore horizontal scrollers to make shoot-em-up fans disgrace their trousers with excitement.
This is, of course, the SNES version so its not quite as savage as the arcade original. It uses such spineless options as - scoff! - continues, meaning that some mortal players may actually see past the first level. Other than that, this is another solid addition to the VC shoot-em-up library, and its influence on Irem's parallel R-Type series can clearly be seen.
The big difference here is the power-up progression. Certain enemies leave bonus pods behind when defeated, but they don't activate as soon as you collect them. The more you pick up, the greater the power-up you can unlock, from a linear selection across the bottom of the screen. Cashing in one bonus pod, for instance, can just speed up your ship. Cashing in more can unlock homing missiles, lasers and all the other weapons of mass destruction you'd expect. On top of this, you can choose the order of the power-ups on the menu bar. So if you like to get missiles as early as possible, you can choose a weapon line-up that favours that weapon class. Alternatively, you can edit the line-ups to create your own custom arsenal.
It's a great idea, if clearly more beneficial for the die-hard shooter who knows the game inside out, but the dose of strategy it injects into the hectic action is enough to make this another essential purchase for shoot-em-up aficionados.