Version tested: Wii
Without order, there can only be chaos. A terrifying, dark whirling maelstrom of chaos, tearing through our thin veneer of humanity like a banshee's wail. Chaos. So, Mr Nintendo, when you've established a neat rhythm of Friday Virtual Console releases, don't go and confuse me by releasing a new game on a Tuesday. It throws the very equilibrium of my being off kilter, and leaves me feeling lost and scared. And hungry.
Mmm. Hula Hoops.
- Platform: N64
- Wii Points: 1000
- In Real Money: GBP 7 / EUR 10 (approx)
Slyly slithering onto the VC along with Tuesday's update, Pokemon Snap is one of those spin-off games that soulless marketing zombies like to call "brand extensions". As such things go, this one isn't all that bad - certainly not as grim as Pokemon Battle Revolution - but its appeal is rather short-lived.
It's a photography game, in which you play a sort of Pokemon paparazzi, taking candid pics of the numerous creatures as they gambol about, being all pokemonny. You're seated in a railcar which inexorably rolls through a series of themed courses, and you have a set number of pics to take along the way. Points are awarded for nicely framed and posed shots, but more can be earned if you catch the Pokemon in action, or can goad them into doing something interesting.
To assist in this interference, you unlock new gizmos and gadgets which can then be taken back through previous courses to entice hidden Pokemon out of the scenery, or to provoke them into doing something photogenic. Some need quick reflexes, others require a small amount of puzzle-solving to create the correct conditions for the perfect pic. It's not exactly taxing, but there's enough incentive for a few playthroughs.
It all stays very true to the "gotta catch 'em all" ethos, and younger Pokemon fans will probably enjoy the ride while it lasts. It's obviously better value now than when it was first released, but there's still not enough gameplay here to justify its place in the top VC price bracket. Cute, but far from essential.
- Platform: NeoGeo
- Wii Points: 900
- In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)
1990s TV star Gaz Top has broken loose from his fortified dungeon, and is rampaging through an idyllic fantasy land, devouring livestock and tearing innocent people to shreds with his mangled claws. Playing as either Roddy or Cathy, two chunky spritey people, it's up to you to put a stop to this gonk-haired menace by shooting and jumping.
Top Hunter is one of those obscure games that sounds crap, but actually proves to be borderline great. It borrows liberally from the likes of Bionic Commando and Contra, but between the colourful cartoon style and a surprising variety of things to grab, use, smash and pull it manages to succeed despite its generic origins. You can swap between two planes of gameplay, and there's even a touch of Street Fighter in the boss fights, as you pummel them with Dhalsim-style combos. As a two-player game, it's even better.
You can tackle the four themed worlds in any order you fancy, which is just as well since things can get a bit hectic and busy rather too soon, but this is one expensive VC release that almost justifies its price. Put it this way - you could probably release the exact same game on Live Arcade for 800 points and few would complain.
Mega Man 2
- Platform: NES
- Wii Points: 500
- In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 5 (approx)
And so to our final new arrival. Capcom's moribund mascot has taken his time in returning to the Virtual Console - particularly surprising given how many Mega Man games there are to choose from - and when released alongside Top Hunter, he can't help but suffer.
Oh, this 1989 sequel is decent enough for its vintage but it still suffers from many throwback traditions that we've since eradicated from our gaming diet. Blind leaps, sudden death, enemies that spawn right underneath you...if such things infuriate you, rather than snuggling you in a duvet of retro nostalgia, then you should probably give this a miss since they form a large part of the game's challenge.
There's plenty on offer - nine worlds, including super boss dude Dr Wily - but its innate charms are slightly spoiled by the crude gameplay mechanics. Ideal, then, for elderly gamers who want to remember the good old days but not much else.