Virtual Console Roundup • Page 3

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

Clayfighter

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Along with Earthworm Jim and Boogerman, Clay Fighter represented part of Interplay's quest to be the wackiest games publisher of the early 1990s. However, while Jim and Boogerman managed to be passable platform games beneath all the silliness, the attempt to transplant the same goofy tone onto the fighting game template proved less successful.

Drawing its characters from a roster made up of circus freaks mutated by space clay, the hook was that the graphics were actual clay models photographed and digitised into the game. Such features were enough to distract The Kids back in an age when Jurassic Park's dinosaurs were considered to be some form of dark cinematic voodoo, but to today's modern eyes the effect is negligible. Rendered fuzzy by the 16-bit graphics, they just look like unusually lumpy cartoons.

Given the focus on crazy japes and outlandish characters it's no surprise that the actual fighting game stuff is laughably undernourished. It feels daft to even think of comparing it to Street Fighter or any of the SNK brawlers that are readily available on the VC, but if you're intrigued by plasticine punching it's unlikely that you're in the market for a seriously balanced fighting game experience.

For people who still think Steve Wright In The Afternoon is the height of wit, or that Bored of the Rings is timeless parody, this will no doubt be hilarious. It's not. It's a bit rubbish.

5/10

MERCS: Wolf of the Battlefield

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Capcom's vertical scrolling classic Commando would have to wait five years for this rather obscure follow-up, but that's nothing compared to the 18-year gap between this 1990 entry and its 2008 follow-up.

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Originally published by SEGA on Capcom's behalf, this Megadrive conversion ditches the multiplayer options of the arcade cabinet and instead offers "original mode" with new characters and content exclusive to the console.

Sadly, between the slow-mo bullet fun of the original and the giddy excess of the recent downloadable sequel, this is a fussy and unattractive port blighted by clumsy hit detection, ugly scrolling and a generally slapdash feel to the proceedings. Progress is a chore, and since the shoddy construction means that you'll take damage in ways the feel unfair while your bullets seem allergic to finding their targets, the frenetic pace is wearying rather than thrilling.

Horizontal spaceship shooters may outnumber vertical soldier shooters on the VC, but if you're desperate for something to scratch that itch you'd be better off hoping for Ikari Warriors to make an appearance.

3/10

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Why do they keep doing this? Wonder Boy III is already on the Virtual Console in its Turbografx incarnation, and yet here comes the virtually identical Megadrive version, for no good reason. They did the same thing with Wonder Boy in Monster World, which also appears in the Turbografx line-up as The Dynastic Hero, while the original Wonder Boy is available in both its Master System and NES incarnations. Ooooh, it makes me mad.

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So, once again, Wonder Boy uses all of three frames of animation to slide from left to right along mostly flat and featureless levels, picking up an endless stream of fruit and power-ups. Animal enemies block his path in a half-hearted manner - most simply sit there and wait to be shot - and the platform-leaping elements are so utterly pointless that the only reason to opt for a higher path is if you want to gather even more fruit to top up your meaningless score. Each platforming section is followed by a truly horrible side-scrolling shoot-'em-up stage. Given that Super Mario World originally came out around the same time, this sorry effort was already outdated way back in 1991.

Chintzy, twee and with a high pitched soundtrack that will make dogs scream, I apparently decided Monster Lair only warranted 5/10 when it first appeared but for the sheer gall of once again passing off a duplicate as a new download, I'm going to have to put my foot down with a firm hand. That's how I roll, yo.

1/10

Wonder Boy in Monster Land

  • Platform: Master System
  • Wii Points: 500
  • In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 5 (approx)

Unlike the underwhelming Wonder Boy III, this title - which is technically Wonder Boy II - is bold, inventive and still surprisingly compelling. The guts of the gameplay are familiar enough - reach the end of the level, dodging or killing the various enemies in your way - but the addition of more varied free-roaming level design and even some RPG trimmings makes it more interesting than most of its cutesy platforming peers.

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You collect coins from each enemy killed, and can visit various shops along the way to buy new equipment. Boots make you run faster and jump higher. Armour makes you less susceptible to attacks. Shields deflect projectiles. Basic stuff, but the freedom to choose what to buy opens up enough possibilities to maintain the illusion of a robust fantasy adventure.

Structurally, too, there's a refreshing change from the norm. Owing more to the likes of Metroid and Castlevania, levels can wander in different directions and the end-of-level boss doesn't always come at the end of the level. Exploration isn't mandatory, but it's always rewarded.

Where the game flounders is in its arcade cabinet roots. With a strict time-limit, limited lives and no continues it can be frustrating to amass an arsenal of items only to lose them all and have to start over from scratch. It just doesn't sit well with the long-term benefits of the role playing elements, rudimentary though they may be, and it's just enough to knock this otherwise charming effort down a point or two.

6/10

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