Virtual Console Roundup

14 games including Majora's Mask and the first arcade releases.

Version tested Wii

At a rough estimate, I'd say it's been about 84 days since we last looked at the Virtual Console in any detail, which means it's high time to rummage in the old games jumble sale and see what's new.

Arcade games, for one thing, with the long overdue addition of Virtual Console Arcade, but with a 500-Point price-tag per game it doesn't seem likely that this will grow into an official alternative to MAME any time soon. At a guess, and based on the initial line-up, I'd expect lots of cheap oldies from the dawn of gaming, but won't hold my breath for any sprite-busting favourites from the late eighties and beyond.

It's worth pointing out at this juncture that all arcade games on Virtual Console come with infinite credits - you can add more to the game at any time by pressing + and 1 together.

Gaplus

  • Platform: Arcade
  • Wii Points: 500
  • In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 4.50 (approx)
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The follow-up to Galaga, this single-screen shooter monkeys around with the details of Namco's beloved blaster but shmup addicts still argue as to whether the changes are an improvement or not.

As in the original game, tenacious aliens swoop around the screen and settle into formations if you fail to blast them in time. You now have freedom to move up and down the screen, rather than just left and right, and the tractor beam system is now reversed - rather than rescuing your own ships from being hoovered up, you can slurp up enemy ships to bolster your own firepower. There are also challenge stages, where you use your shots to spell out prize-winning words.

Gaplus is a weird one. On one hand it's incredibly similar to Galaga, right down to the same graphics, in that clone-happy style that early arcade cabinets so loved. On the other, it's different enough in the details that some will find the balance of the original has been lost, replacing a near-perfect learning curve with some of the most brutal gameplay of the series. One for the dedicated arcade buff, then, which is just what you'd hope from a dedicated retro arcade download service.

8/10

Mappy

  • Platform: Arcade
  • Wii Points: 500
  • In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 4.50 (approx)
2

Mappy is a mouse. A police mouse, no less, and he's infiltrating the lair of a gang of light-fingered cats to retrieve the household appliances stolen by these feline felons, presumably from innocent mouse houses.

He's also a remarkably pacifist police mouse, given that he refuses to retaliate against the numerous cats who gladly kill him with a single touch. Evasion is the aim, as you use convenient trampolines to bounce to different floors of the buildings, where opening a door in a cat's face is the closest you'll get to self-defence. You're safe on the trampolines, but linger on them too long and they break. That kills you as well.

It's fast and, as with all coin-hungry example of early arcade gaming, pretty unforgiving in its gameplay. It's also reasonably good fun, once you adjust to its breakneck pace, and while it's hardly the most obvious choice for an inaugural arcade download, there are far worse choices.

7/10

The Tower of Druaga

  • Platform: Arcade
  • Wii Points: 500
  • In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 4.50 (approx)

Notorious for its epic length and diabolically obtuse design, this sword-waggling maze game is interesting from a historical perspective but sadly not much fun to revisit.

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You are Gil, a knight hellbent on ascending through all 60 floors of the titular tower. Every floor contains a maze, with both exit and key randomly placed each time you play. Monsters roam the narrow hallways, and later levels introduce wizards and other foes who lob fireballs and projectiles at you. Your shield will deflect them if you're facing the right way, but since you can only swap between sticking your sword out for attack and holding your shield up for defence - a motion that is just slow enough to prove problematic - it soon becomes fiendishly difficult.

The game also features a secret treasure on each floor, but the means of finding them are up to you (or Google) to discover. It's a neat idea, but since a lot of these treasures are power-ups that are absolutely essential to success, long-term progress is really only feasible for the incredibly dedicated player.

Sluggish and basic in execution, there are good ideas in Tower of Druaga but its main draw is to see where other, better, dungeon romps like Gauntlet and Atic Atac got their inspiration. As an actual game, it's a bit of a slog.

4/10

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