I've just spent the past few days writing up this mammoth Mario retrospective, which you may have already seen. Or not. I have no idea how these internets work. Either way, my head is a-jammed a-full of all things a-Mario so you can imagine my joy when the shining jewel in this week's VC update was...a Mario game.
And I'm not being sarcastic. I really did feel joy. A warm, comforting tide of joy that washed all over me like a soapy glove. You know why? Because Super Mario Bros 3 is ace and any excuse to play it some more is OK by me.
Plus, there's some other stuff.
Super Mario Bros. 3
- Platform: NES
- Wii Points: 500
- In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 5 (approx)
You only need to play it for a few minutes to realise that Super Mario Bros. 3 is a fantastic game. Its appeal is immediate, it offers a surprising amount of variety within the confines of its platform gameplay, and the sense of discovery and challenge is pitched at your pleasure sweet spots with astonishing precision.
Taken in the context of when it was released, it's an absolute marvel. In an era where platform games were still usually little more than right-to-left obstacle courses punctuated by boss battles, this was the game that introduced the overworld map screen, allowing you to choose which levels to play, or replay. This was the game that allowed Mario to fly, to shoot fireballs, to truly evolve into the gaming legend we know today. This was the game that crammed each of its eight worlds with a treasure trove of secrets, ranging from simple hidden blocks that give you a few more coins to sneaky shortcuts that enable shrewd players to speed through the game like excitable ninnies. This was a game that allowed you to beat each level in seconds, or take your time and mine them for every last drop of goodness. Even if you know the game inside out, it's still an absolute pleasure to revisit - the true test of a classic, as far as I'm concerned.
And all of this on a console that would struggle to display a large JPEG of the Wii. It's like how the Apollo moon modules used electronics about one billionth as powerful as your radio alarm clock. Just a phenomenal achievement in thoughtful design, and one that should be celebrated.
So celebrate it. The VC price structure works in our favour for once, making this multi-layered 8 bit classic an absolutely indecent bargain. Download it. Thank me later. Or thank Miyamoto-san. He did most of the work.
- Platform: NeoGeo
- Wii Points: 900
- In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)
After the luminous celestial greatness of Super Mario Bros 3, I feel a bit sorry for Blue's Journey. It's a mid-range 1990 platformer in which a young hero, wearing what appears to be a blue beetle costume, clobbers enemies to save the planet Raguy from a generic invading empire. In common with a lot of videogame villains from the early 90s, they're using pollution as their weapon. Ooh, timely.
Blue's Journey has a few interesting ideas, though few are original. You can change size at will, allowing you to slip into small areas, although your shrunken form is unable to use the various attack options, which include such platform staples as a close quarters whip and chuckable bombs. The visuals are crude and blotchy - unusual for the usually impressive NeoGeo - and the whole thing reeks of generic shelf-filler.
So purely in terms of gameplay, there's no real reason for you to download this. Releasing it alongside one the greatest platform games ever just makes this all the more obvious. And given that it costs nearly twice as much, thanks to the inexplicable price-by-platform system, it's a bit like choosing between The Godfather DVD boxset for £5 or an old VHS of New Jack City that someone taped off the telly for £10.
Once again: buy Super Mario Bros 3.
- Platform: TurboGrafx 16
- Wii Points: 600
- In Real Money: GBP 4.20 / EUR 6 (approx)
About as basic as golf games get (although not quite as basic as the NES Golf game already available) Power Golf is one of those games that doesn't really bring anything of value to the VC line-up. Especially when you consider most people will have already got Wii Sports, which includes a similarly basic golf game but with a more pleasing modern sheen.
And, yes, I know that "modern sheen" doesn't always mean "better", but where sports games are concerned, I beg to differ. The aiming in Power Golf, for instance, is a clunky prehistoric chore as you nudge a pixellated arrow in awkward increments in the hope of sending the ball in the general direction you want. Oh, for a smooth analogue gauge. Ball physics is non-existent, needless to say, while gauging the power of your shot for anything other than full speed wallops is a hit and miss affair.
You may have put up with such irritations back in 1989 when such things seemed par for the course (brilliant) but paying even a few quid for something so outdated today just feels like punishment.
- Platform: Megadrive
- Wii Points: 800
- In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)
OK, so this was released last week. There's a very good reason why I completely missed it back then (it involves a mother-in-law, an unplanned visit to the emergency dentist and a subsequent mad scramble to hit deadline) but, hey, better late than never. If you like the sound of it, feel free to print out this review, toss it into your nearest temporal wormhole and see if your Last Week Self picks it up.
While the title just sounds like two words that were thrown together because they'd appeal to young boys (much like Explosion Boobs, the legendary Taito platform game) Alien Soldier is yet another manically-paced and often bizarrely creative blaster from shoot-em-up masters Treasure.
The alien soldier of the title, Epsilon Eagle, looks like a cross between RoboCop and a parrot, and comes with a bewildering selection of stupidly destructive weaponry. The game has two settings - the hilariously honest Supereasy or Superhard - while gameplay itself consists of short but sweet levels during which you amass as much firepower as possible for the multitude of boss battles. There are 25 levels and 31 bosses. As the Americans say, you do the math.
Assuming you've already anticipated the "it's really hectic and difficult if you're not into this sort of thing" disclaimer, Alien Soldier is rather great, actually, and I feel like a proper spoon for overlooking it last week. Spoony me.