Virtual Console Roundup

Light Crusader, Rolling Thunder 2 and Cybernator.

After a few weeks of splashing about in the more obscure corners of TurboGrafx Lagoon and NeoGeo Reef, it's back to the familiar surroundings of Megadrive Boulevard and, er, SNES Street this week. Three decent new games - none of them brilliant, none of them awful - are all hoping to make you cough up 800 Wii Points to bask in their pixelly charms. Let's see what they're like...

Light Crusader

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

There are many valid criticisms that can be levelled at the Virtual Console set-up, and I've deployed many of them myself, but when it gets something right it's only fair to balance the karmic see-saw with deserved praise. The growing collection of good-to-great games from cult Japanese developer Treasure is one such situation, allowing fans to gather together an enviable greatest hits compilation from an often unsung legend of the games industry, all without leaving their armchair.

1

Best known for manic and often delightfully loopy shoot-'em-ups like Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga and Alien Soldier, this early oddity is not at all what you'd expect. It's an isometric RPG with platforming overtones. Wikipedia declares it similar to Landstalker (which arrived on the VC in early October) but it's actually a much more pure adventuring experience than that often clumsy hybrid.

Environments are rich and detailed, brought to life in a European style that belies Treasure's traditional approach, and it's both simple and enjoyable to wander around, talking to locals and buying apples. Combat is real-time, and rather basic, but the controls are responsive enough that your limited attack options never become a hindrance. The only major criticism is that the game is in absolutely no hurry to show you what needs doing. After a long and unskippable intro, the king tells you that people have been disappearing, and that he'd like you to sort it out. That's pretty much all the guidance you get, so those who prefer their quests to be more clearly spelled out may find progress a frustrating affair.

That hiccup aside, Light Crusader is a welcome addition to the VC and one that should keep dedicated adventurers busy until next Friday at least.

7/10

Rolling Thunder 2

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Back in the days when I clung to my Spectrum +2, Namco's Rolling Thunder was one of the games that would make me look wistfully at my sharp-cornered black obelisk and think, "Why can't you do something like that?"

I'm not sure why this was the case - Rolling Thunder was hardly the most dazzling arcade machine of its time, nor was the 1988 Speccy conversion particularly embarrassing. Yet for some reason this smartly dressed spy game acquired some bizarre level of desirability in my mind, enough that when I saw this sequel pop up on the VC I got that familiar flutter of childish excitement that you get when you find some once-desired childhood trinket in a charity shop.

2

The gameplay is, well, exactly as it was in the first Rolling Thunder. It's Shinobi meets James Bond, having some drinks and then getting a taxi home with Green Beret for a dirty ménage-a-trois. You choose between a suave bloke spy or sexy lady spy, then slink from left to right, gunning down the masked bad guys (now dressed as badgers, for some unfathomable reason), occasionally ducking into doorways for ammo and weapons, and leaping up to the walkways above to deal with elevated foes.

There's absolutely nothing here that will surprise or amaze, but it's a perfectly solid arcade shooter with polished production values. It's also marginally easier than some of its peers, which may make it more appealing to some.

7/10

Cybernator

  • Platform: SNES
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Cybernoid? On the Virtual Console? Raf Cecco be praised! Then I wiped the sleepy dust from my eyes and realised that it's actually Cybernator, the second entry in the rather fractured Assault Suits shooty series from NCS.

3

This particular outing was published for the SNES in 1990 by Konami (others appeared on the Megadrive, Saturn and PlayStation) and it's quite interesting to see the parallels with other Konami games that would become more famous - most notably Zone of the Enders and it's tale of mech suit madness. Also, the game's habit of constantly interrupting the run-and-gun action for text conversations is one that will be familiar to most Metal Gear players.

There are alternate endings, optional secondary objectives and secret weapons to be found but, being a mech game, nimble movement isn't really a factor. You lumber about soaking up damage, shooting robotic foes and boosting to higher platforms. If you don't mind the sluggish pace - picture a cross between Metal Slug and Armored Core - there's still a pretty good game in here.

6/10

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