Virtual Console Roundup

NeoGeo and Mega Drive treats.

Do you like hitting people? Kicking them in the face? Maybe you prefer clobbering them with lead pipes or even an axe. If so, it's a good week in the VC lounge with no less than three fighty favourites joining the line-up, including the first fruits from Nintendo's new saucy romance with the beloved-by-hardcore-gamers Neo Geo format. There's also a clunky old helicopter and a fellow called Nigel. Don't pretend you're not intrigued.

Fatal Fury

  • Platform: NeoGeo
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.75 / EUR 9

A fitting opening salvo from the NeoGeo catalogue since, along with Metal Slug, this fighting series is the one that most people associate with the cult console. As such, there's a certain thematic sense in starting at the beginning with the first game. After all, it's a finely balanced no-frills beat-em-up with an eclectic cast of characters, and deserving of its many accolades.

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On the plus side, it introduces the dual-plane fighting system in which fighters can shuffle between two lines of attack, and a very nifty two-player co-op mode that lets you and a friend team up to work your way through the array of enemies. But, on the other hand, it does only offer three playable fighters which makes it rather hard to swallow the 900 point price tag, especially since Fatal Fury Special has already punched up Xbox Live Arcade with more game for less dosh, plus online gubbins.

So while Fatal Fury remains a slick and fun experience, and a significant game in the history of the NeoGeo and beat-em-ups in general, the knowledge that there are even better games in the series, and that they'll certainly offer better value when they inevitably get added to the VC, is reason enough to hold off on this purchase for the time being.

7/10

Streets of Rage 3

  • Platform: Sega Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8

Received rather sniffily on its 1994 release, and selling so poorly that the planned fourth game was axed, this seminal side-scroller has since undergone a reappraisal and emerged as arguably the finest game of its type from the 16bit era.

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There are more characters than in Streets of Rage 2 - both immediately playable and secret - while the gameplay itself is about as refined and nuanced as the genre could offer at the time. Mostly, it's just enormous fun with a wide variety of enemies, each requiring actual tactics to defeat, and the usual spread of weapons and combos, all slightly tweaked to make them more useful and/or interesting. It's fast, but the game rewards thoughtful play over button mashing. There are dodge and dash moves, grappling counter movies, special attacks that recharge rather than running out, and loads of nice little visual touches - like the way scenery will shake when you body slam an enemy.

The game even boasts multiple endings, depending on your performance. It's nothing wildly innovative - if you fail to save a key character in level 6 then you play a different final stage, but it does give you that little added incentive to go back for another playthrough.

The music is still rather garish, an unusually atonal industrial cacophony from the normally chilled-out Yuzo Koshiro, but Streets of Rage is a varied and inventive take on a genre that suffers far too many uninspired knock-offs. Well worth the effort for casual fans, downright essential for fighting fans.

9/10

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