Version tested: Wii
After a few weeks ping-ponging up and down the quality scale, this week sees another solid selection hit the Virtual Console in the shape of two great titles that should tickle the retro glands of action lovers and adventure fiends alike. Oh, and there's also one load of old rubbish that should have been left to fester in the dustbin of history. Still, can't have everything, eh?
Breath of Fire II
- Platform: SNES
- Wii Points: 800
- In Real Money: GBP 6.00 / EUR 8.00
One of the major advantages of the Virtual Console over Microsoft and Sony's rival download services is that it is, at the moment, the only one to really offer the big beefy steak dinner of gaming that an old-style RPG offers. Quite apart from the glowing majesty of the Zelda series, there are games on the VC that will take your paltry six quid and stretch it for weeks and weeks.
Now we have Capcom's well-regarded Breath of Fire II added to the service, and right from the off it's clear that this is no mere Link rip-off. There's ambition here, proper storytelling and a sense of grandeur that is immediately alluring. As the bombastic music rises to a crescendo, the black screen peels open to reveal a malevolent eye, which starts banging on about God. Cut to a flashback opening (in classy black and white, no less) and before you know it, you're swept along in the sort of melodramatic monster-strewn soap opera that only the greatest Japanese studios can conjure up.
OK, as Tom pointed out in the VC news update, the random battles can get tiresome, but such things come with the territory and shouldn't prevent you from throwing 800 points in the direction of a beautifully crafted and impeccably produced adventure.
- Platform: TurboGrafx16
- Wii Points: 600
- In Real Money: GBP 4.50 / EUR 6.00
On the opposite end of the retro scale from sprawling dungeon questing we have this, a pitch perfect dose of frenetic arcade blasting, originally released in 1988 but slyly retitled by the time it reached our shores.
The fourth game in the Galaxian series, it takes pretty much everything you know about Galaga and gives it a smart yet subtle tweaking. You can now combine up to three ships for massive firepower, at the expense of your extra lives. Enemies will combine, or split into smaller versions of themselves. There are a couple of scrolling sections. And there are pathways through the game, accessible by dimensional warping. It's a great example of a classic game given just the right amount of evolution without losing sight of the core appeal.
Obviously, if you're not a fan of this particular style of space invading shoot-em-up than this probably won't be enough to win you over but, as arguably the apex of design within the single screen shooter genre, you can't really go wrong with this one.
- Platform: NES
- Wii Points: 500
- In Real Money: GBP 3.75 / EUR 5.00
And, um, yeah. Then there's this. The first few weeks of the VC were blighted by these NES sports games, none of which stand up to scrutiny in 2007, so it's a mystery as to why this clunky old duffer has been allowed to slip its chains and gallop onto the service.
As with Tennis, Soccer, Baseball and Ice Hockey it's a basic representation of the sport, marred by unresponsive control and non-existent ball physics. You flap around, trying to get one of your team under the shadow of the fast-approaching ball, but have almost no hope of guessing which way the ball will go once you hit it. The CPU plays a pretty mean game, full of passing, lay-ups and slams over the net so, unless you want to risk your social standing by inviting a friend to take part, there's precious little entertainment to be found here.
In fact, the only enduring plus point in the game's favour is that you can choose an all-female team and be reminded of the days when a volleyball videogame featured breasts that were only three pixels in size. Aah, such innocence…