Version tested: Wii
It's another quiet week on the Virtual Console, I'm afraid. Only two new (old) games, one of which involves baseball and will thus appeal to about nine people and one that...well, one that's quite possibly the most baffling addition to the VC line up yet. Both are very good, but not likely to have many gamers stampeding to their Wii Wallets.
Baseball Stars 2
- Platform: NeoGeo
- Wii Points: 900
- In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)
Yes, yes. I know. American sports games aren't usually a recipe for excitement round these parts, especially baseball - a sport which combines the ambling pace of cricket with the depth of junior school rounders.
Cue angry baseball fans...
Baseball Stars 2 manages to overcome this hurdle by being more videogame than sport, ramping up the excess to the point where you almost don't mind the less gripping elements of the original pastime. Delivered in a big beefy arcade cartoon style, bats are smashed and cracked in anger, fielders leap explosively towards the screen and ice hockey style fisticuffs erupts when players clash. It's fast moving, and oozes with demented energy.
It's also easy to get into, unlike many sports games made for the US market, which tend to drown the gameplay in reams of stats and numbers and percentages and fiddly diagrams. Despite being a fairly robust and complete simulation of the real thing, Baseball Stars 2 keeps such guff to a minimum, and is all the better for it.
Finding the timing of the swing is easier than most, and it's entirely possible to actually score some home runs in your first game. The game does still suffer from the sense of frustration that nags away at all baseball games, though, especially when you finally hit a nice solid ball into the field - only for it to land squarely in a catcher's mitt.
Still, if you're seriously considering downloading a baseball game I expect you've made your peace with such things. This is the best baseball game on the Wii - including Wii Sports - and that alone earns it a recommendation.
The Dynastic Hero
- Platform: TurboGrafx 16
- Wii Points: 800
- In Real Money: GBP 4.20 / EUR 6 (approx)
This is the weird one. The Virtual Console is already home to games that are incredibly similar - whether sequels that stick too closely to formula, or cheeky rip-offs which shamelessly ape other games - but this is the first time that the exact same game has been uploaded twice.
See, The Dynastic Hero is simply the TurboGrafx16 title for the Megadrive game, Wonder Boy in Monster World. And that game is already available on the Virtual Console. Indeed, it was the very first game reviewed in the very first roundup, way back in May.
The graphics have been reworked for this version - presumably due to some weird licensing brouhaha between Sega and Hudson - but the game is otherwise no different which, much like my leather ceiling harness, puts me in a very odd position. It's a pretty great game, you see. A platform game with RPG undertones that, while never as great as Zelda, is still a million times more charming and fun than most of its early 90s peers. But then, because this was a CD game for the Turbo Duo, they've nudged the price up to 800. So you get the same game, for the same price, but with clearer music and an animated intro. Contain yourselves.
The score below is judged purely on the game itself, which seems like the only fair way to untangle this unpleasant situation, but in terms of what this price-hiked recycling means for the Virtual Console in general, it's hard not to see it as a huge step in the wrong direction.