Virtual Console Roundup

64-carat gold.

Those of you still reeling from the ability to play Megadrive games on a Nintendo console better stock up on the medication of your choice this week. Four new games hit the VC, three of which are from Sega's beloved black lozenge, with nary a Nintendo title in sight. We're also continuing our epic quest to bring you reviews of all the games already available, so if you've been sitting on a stockpile of Wii Points wondering where best to spend them, you're in the right place.

Streets of Rage 2

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800

Oh, cruel fate. What hast thou donest? Only last week I encouraged scrolling fight fans to give Streets of Rage a go, given that its superior sequel had yet to make an appearance. And, lo, here it is.

Admittedly, it's more of a subtle evolution of a solid template than a miraculous overhaul, but the improvements are more than enough to justify its place atop many fans Best Of lists.

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The biggest addition is a special attack move, which replaces the police-assisted smart bombs from the original, and leathers the poop out of nearby enemies at the cost of some of your own health. This alone lifts the game above its brawling peers and introduces just enough strategy to avoid brainless button-bashing. Enemies now also have their own energy bars (cribbed from Final Fight, the game Streets of Rage was designed to compete with) while there's a smattering of new weaponry to be picked up and used.

On the downside, the scenery is less interactive than in the original and foes will no longer work together as a team to flank you. It's also not the hardest game in the world and, fun though the two-player mode is, you'll speed through it in less than an hour. Still, it's that rare thing - a side-scrolling beat-'em-up that improved on what went before, and still holds up today.

8/10

Toejam and Earl in Panic on Funkotron

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800

The original Toejam and Earl didn't exactly set Kristan's pants aflame back when he covered it in the first batch of VC reviews, but this follow-up switched the viewpoint from top-down exploration to side-on platforming, so it gets some kudos at least for not following the "more of the same" game sequel mentality.

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This time the comedy duo are back on their homeworld of Funkotron, and are tasked with tracking down rogue earthlings. On the surface, things are pretty much what you'd expect from an early '90s platformer with comedy overtones. It's all very wacky, with an abundance of squelchy farty sound effects, but it soon becomes apparent that there was admirable ambition behind this offering.

For a start, emphasis is placed on interacting with the environment. An upwards prod on the d-pad investigates your surroundings - rummaging in bushes, shaking trees, pressing buttons - and you're almost always rewarded with some power-up or bonus. There are also forward-thinking additions like a radar view - which switches the graphics to charming crayon squiggles - allowing you to find secret items.

However, for all its bold ideas, the basic platforming mechanic is pretty shonky. If you're the sort of player who can forgive rough edges in pursuit of mild innovation then give it a try. Otherwise, save your points.

6/10

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