Virtual Console Roundup

17 games including Ogre Battle, Kirby Dream Land 3 and Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros.

  • Platform: N64
  • Price: 1000 Points
  • In Real Money: 7 / 10

Let's get the controversial one out of the way first, along with this disclaimer: Super Smash Bros. is a fun game. I like it. In its day, it was even an original game, and something of a breakthrough for Nintendo in the way it used its stable of characters. Today, however, it's more of a curiosity than essential purchase.

Some will rear up in dismay at such sacrilege, and that's understandable. A lot of people have waited a long time for this chunky brawler to arrive on the Virtual Console, and a lot of people would like to be transported back to the halcyon days of 1999 for the price of 1000 Wii Points.

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The trouble is that for some Nintendo games, the earliest incarnations are still the best. Mario Kart, for example, never really improved on its perfectly formed SNES debut. Smash Bros., on the other hand, has been rendered redundant by its own sequels. This one is a game still in search of its ideal incarnation, an idea yet to fully bear fruit. On the most basic level, the line-up of 12 characters can't help but seem slim when compared to the boosted rosters of Melee and Brawl, and the absence of auxiliary game modes leaves the single-player experience feeling undernourished.

The simple gameplay is a benefit in the sense that shunting your opponent off the screen is easier to grasp than most fighting games, but in translating the controls from the N64's unique pad to the Wii's alternative a lot of that immediacy has been lost. The graphics also haven't aged well, as the jagged polygons struggle to put such visually distinct characters as Link and Kirby into a convincing common visual framework.

These gripes are of less consequence when you're pummelling a friend such as Donkey Kong, but there's always that nagging suspicion that you'd be having more fun with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. So there's undoubtedly fun to be had here, but how much depends largely on how nostalgic you are.

7/10

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen

  • Platform: SNES
  • Price: 900 Points
  • In Real Money: 6.20 / 9
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A Hanabi Festival "import" that's actually worth getting excited about, Ogre Battle is a pioneering title that helped to introduce not only the idea of strategy gaming to consoles, but also the concept of merging contemplation of the battlefield with JRPG trimmings. In doing so, it helped pave the way for games like Disgaea and is therefore very special indeed. It's also a genuinely rare title, with only 25,000 SNES copies released in America, and absolutely no release for us grunting Euro savages.

After determining your starting stats with a quick Tarot card quiz, you're plonked down in a fantasy landscape and left to develop your own revolution against the evil Zeteginan Empire.

There are no restrictions on how you move your units around the map, and encounters are triggered by entering towns and other inhabited areas. Sometimes this will earn you a bounty, other times it triggers combat, which takes place in a familiar JRPG turn-based style.

What sets Ogre Battle apart is its scope. You're not leading a discreet band of wacky characters but amassing a giant army, and the further you delve into the game, recruiting new units and levelling up existing squads, the more your options expand before you. The shift to a commander's perspective is refreshing and addictive. It also gives you multiple ways of approaching your goals, thus breaking free from the rigid stories of its more traditional peers.

The graphics are lovely, if a touch generic, and the menu system is intuitive and easy to grasp. The Hanabi Festival has too often been used as an excuse to overcharge for games of dubious merit, but Ogre Battle is one rarity that justifies the concept.

9/10

Kirby Dream Land 3

  • Platform: SNES
  • Price: 900 Points
  • In Real Money: 6.20 / 9
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I always feel sorry for Kirby. Pretty much every other Nintendo mascot has been given a moment in the spotlight since the Wii reversed the company's fortunes, but that poor pink ball is still stuck trying to stand out in the crowded Halls of Handheld Gaming.

Playing Dream Land 3, it's hard to understand why he hasn't been dusted off and reinvented for the motion control generation. As with most Kirby outings, this is an engaging, inventive and charming platform adventure with an identity all of its own. Wikipedia tells me that this game was "panned" by critics on release for not offering the wider array of abilities introduced in Kirby Super Star, but in hindsight that seems like a piddling complaint.

What the game does introduce is Gooey, a derpy bouncing blob that Kirby can - there's no polite way of putting this - excrete into existence, at the cost of some health. Once shat-birthed into the world, Gooey can leap and attack and slurp up enemies just like his horribly unnatural birth-father, and when left under the control of the game's AI, he gets on with things fairly well. He can, however, also be controlled by a second player, and the addition of simultaneous multiplayer alone makes Dream Land 3 worthy of note.

Other than that, the benefits are much the same as other Kirby games. Lovely level and world design, and structure that while not up to Mario standards still leaves you plenty to explore and discover.

7/10

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Price: 800 Points
  • In Real Money: 5.50 / 8
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Solid but never particularly special, this 1994 sequel to Activision's prehistoric platformer finds Pitfall Harry Jr on the trail of his father, star of the original game.

Most of the familiar tropes of the series are included, from the expanding and contracting quicksand to lots and lots of ropes for swinging. The graphics are chunky and cartoonish, and control is thankfully crisp. It's no surprise to learn that this belated revival coincided with the development of Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures for the SNES, but even with that craven opportunism in mind, The Mayan Adventure is a decent runny-jump offering, albeit not one that demands your immediate attention.

7/10

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