Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
The Virtual Console may still be filling up with all the speed of a particularly unmotivated terrapin, but the past two weeks have yielded three new games, and two of those are the sort of good solid videogaming fun that make it worthwhile blowing the dust off your Wii Points. And the third is pretty good as well, if you like that sort of thing.
What sort of thing? Why, let me show you...
- Platform: N64
- Wii Points: 1000
- In Real Money: GBP 7.00 / EUR 10.00 (approx)
I like Kirby. His games have always existed in the shadow of the mighty Mario, never quite matching their genius but tagging along closely enough in his wake to benefit from the reflected glory. Mostly though, I just like the character. I like the sheer videogamey randomness of his appearance and nature, and the world he inhabits. I like that there's a game series about a pink blob.
For his solitary N64 outing the testicular champion resisted the urge to go fully 3D, and it's ultimately a wise decision. This is no Mario 64, and Kirby's gameplay remains much as it was on the SNES, only now it's played in a linear 2D plane in a 3D world. So, sort of like Klonoa. Or Pandemonium.
Kirby still sucks up enemies, and either spits them out or digests them to absorb their abilities, but now he can combine two of these powers at a time. This creates a rather daunting list of over 40 potential power combinations to discover, and much of the fun of the game is meeting new foes, mixing and matching the available abilities and seeing what the result is. Thankfully the game doesn't rely solely on this trail of discovery to keep you interested, and the gameplay is as breezy and deceptively rich as ever.
It may look fluffy and cute and pre-school, but there's a fiendish platforming heart under that marshmallow exterior. As with all the best games of this kind, it's easy enough to make progress, but those looking for 100 percent completion will have a sizable task on their hands. There are also some multiplayer mini-games on offer, none of which are particularly amazing or memorable, but if you're looking for that little something extra to justify the 1000 point price tag, it can only help.
Kirby 64 clearly doesn't do as much with the N64 as it could have done, and remains a perennial second-stringer in the Nintendo pantheon for that very reason, but that's no excuse to dismiss something this engaging and polished.
- Platform: TurboGrafx 16
- Wii Points: 600
- In Real Money: GBP 4.20 / EUR 6 (approx)
Let's get this one out of the way first. Yes, it's another scrolling shooter to add to the list, and it's one of those that struggles to justify its existence - let alone its inclusion on the VC - when ranked alongside the greats of the genre.
The best thing going for it is the concept. The Devil Ugar has invaded your mind and is trying to dominate your subconscious. Luckily, you can enter your mind (in a tiny spaceship, for some reason) and repel him by shooting loads and loads and loads of bullets at the strings of enemies that swoop and circle in your brainsoup. This doesn't really affect the gameplay one iota - it's a pretty shameless R-Type rip-off - but it does mean that the graphics take on a certain Salvador Dali flair, with symbolic rotten apples as mini bosses and more sinister hovering eyeballs than you can shake The Residents at.
With almost nothing else to add to the shoot-'em-up tapestry it's hard to recommend Psychosis, especially when so many of its superior peers are already available. If you've already played through R-Type and Gradius and all the other decent-to-great shmups on the Virtual Console then...well, then play them again. Beat your high score. There's little here to justify another purchase.
- Platform: SNES
- Wii Points: 800
- In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)
Before everyone laughed at them for Lair, and even before everyone wanted to kiss them for Rogue Squadron, the folks at Factor 5 were best known as the developer that ported Turrican all over the 16-bit platforms. This version isn't the best, but since the VC has foolishly neglected to add an Amiga channel it'll be more than enough for all but the most fussy Turrican purist.
Factor 5 also ported Contra, and it shows in the willingness to upgrade your weapons at a ridiculous pace. Factor 5 also developed the SNES Indiana Jones game, and the first level certainly calls that to mind, with its blowing leaves and fiddly jumps over bottomless waterfalls. New to the series is a grappling arm, blatantly swiped from Bionic Commando, which can be used to grab and swing about. Oh, and you can also duck and roll around like a ball, so you can add Metroid to the list of games supplying second-hand DNA.
Yet for all its derivation Super Turrican is a hard game to dislike. This is a solid, beefy side-scrolling shooty platformer which stuffs each level with enough hidden secrets to have you backtracking all over the place. The difficulty is pitched just right, and it takes advantage of its late arrival on the SNES to offer up some impressive visuals and sound. Despite its dependable charms, I'm still not sure that it's worth the asking price in today's marketplace but if you've made your peace with the VC's price structure you can download this and be sure of a good time.