Virtual Console Roundup • Page 3

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

Altered Beast

  • Platform: Arcade
  • Price: 900 Points
  • In Real Money: 6.20 / 9

Dear Santa, for Christmas I would like you to make Altered Beast go away forever. Thanks. Sluggish, simplistic and with all the pacing of a snail race, Altered Beast is the arcade "classic" that simply refuses to lay down and die like a good dinosaur. It's recent appearance on Xbox Live Arcade was a fairly grim effort, but at least that had online leaderboards, Achievements, rejigged graphics (ugly as they are) and a price-tag around half the cost of this lazy, greedy shovel job.

2/10

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars

  • Platform: Master System
  • Price: 500 Points
  • In Real Money: 3.45 / 5

Acid-bright and twee to the extreme, this saccharine platformer would have been ideal for those with young children if it weren't for the innate frustrations of the game engine.

Control is precise enough, but you're forced to skip and scamper across toytown landscapes against the clock, and with constantly eroding health the game just doesn't offer enough distractions to make such a grind worthwhile.

5/10

Secret Command

  • Platform: Master System
  • Price: 500 Points
  • In Real Money: 3.45 / 5
10

This is one of those games with a bizarre and convoluted history. A translation of the Japanese run-and-gun game Ashura, it was released in the US as the official videogame tie-in for Rambo: First Blood Part 2. Over here in Euroland it didn't have the movie licence and so was simply known as Secret Command. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't be familiar to old timers, since Ocean's home computer Rambo game did bear an uncanny resemblance to this very title.

Sadly, the game itself doesn't really do much to live up to its sprawling origins. A top-down shooter so close to Capcom's Commando it could be called a cover version, you guide your slow-moving soldier up the screen, shooting an endless stream of spawning enemies with bullets that vanish after a few feet. It's amusing enough, in a sub-Ikari kind of way, but its appeal is limited.

5/10

Startropics 2: Zoda's Revenge

  • Platform: NES
  • Price: 600 Points
  • In Real Money: 4.10 / 6

Released just as the NES was about to give one last painful lung-scraping rasp and drop down dead, this RPG sequel didn't do much to halt the console's decline and ended up vanishing as a result. The sad thing is, it's a vast improvement over its predecessor, which is playable enough but pales when offered alongside the likes of Zelda.

The string of tropical islands is ditched in favour of a time-hopping adventure that takes in the Wild West, Ancient Egypt and Victorian London among its nine chapters. You'll meet characters like Cleopatra, King Arthur and explore Transylvanian castles while wielding Leonardo Da Vinci's katana. It's like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure squeezed into an 8-bit RPG framework, and that's a good thing.

Also good are the controls, which have been fixed from the rather stiff original. Diagonal movement is now possible - crazy! - and this makes combat less of a clunky chore.

Startropics is never going to be regarded as a leading light of its genre, but there's plenty here if you're in the mood.

7/10

Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa

  • Platform: Master System
  • Price: 500 Points
  • In Real Money: 3.45 / 5
11

This barmy and adorable side-scrolling shooter is certainly fun but it's virtually identical to the first game, also available on the VC. There's really no compelling reason to download it, therefore, unless you were so enthralled by the original that you've been chomping at the bit to play more of the same.

For what it's worth, you shuttle left and right in a Defendery way, shooting down the enemy-spawning bases while dodging and blasting their tiny offspring. Defeated enemies drop cash that can be used to beef up your weaponry, and warp gates let you zip around the levels with greater ease. It's a nice shooter, it's accessible and it's worth the asking price. If you didn't download the first, give it a try.

7/10

Smash Table Tennis

  • Platform: NES
  • Price: 600 Points
  • In Real Money: 4.10 / 6

What better way to celebrate the inclusion of table tennis in Wii Sports Resort than by downloading a rudimentary ping pong game that manages to build up a diverting rally rhythm without ever becoming particularly engaging? Two-player matches are more fun, but there are dozens of better tennis games - both table and court - that you could play instead.

You control an eerie floating hand which can only move left or right. You can hold either of the buttons down to switch between forehand and backhand strokes, and this is the only real depth the game has. Pick the wrong one for the return and you'll send the ball plink-plink-plonking off the table. It's basic but fundamentally workable, so while it's hard to see why anyone would choose to download it, those who do will find it does exactly what they expect.

4/10

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