I've pretty much given up trying to spot a pattern in the Virtual Console releases. At the moment we seem to be in a high-low biorhythm where we get one game on a Friday, then three games the next. The choices themselves still seem to be largely random, occasionally throwing out some gems but still frustratingly light on the retro games that people are clamouring for.
Here's the fruits of the last fortnight.
Phantasy Star III Generations of Doom
- Platform: Megadrive
- Wii Points: 800
- In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)
While they have their fans, few would argue that the early Phantasy Star games are particularly stellar examples of the RPG genre. They're decent enough, as is this third entry, but there's a generic feel to them that doesn't really send your imagination soaring.
This entry, which is less than popular even with the series' fanbase, makes a few attempts to shake up the status quo but is mostly content to follow the established format put in place by Zelda and Final Fantasy. Items, chests, quests, random combat encounters - it's all standard stuff, while the mix of medieval and sci-fi elements has already been well-established by the earlier games.
What isn't standard is the way the story spans generations, with your character choosing a spouse, getting her up the duff and siring a sprog to continue the adventure. It's a cool concept, boasting some interesting narrative offshoots, but the impact isn't all that noticeable in real gameplay terms. You'd have to be a pretty dedicated fan to play through multiple times to see the variations in the story.
With its rather drab little figures and amusingly inappropriate Laurel and Hardy music, Phantasy Star III is decent enough as an RPG when judged in its own merits. It's when you stack it up against the competition - the Zelda games that are already available, the Final Fantasy games that really should be, the slinky majesty of Chrono Trigger that better turn up soon or I'll cry until I vomit - that the appeal of this game dims considerably.
- Platform: NES
- Wii Points: 500
- In Real Money: GBP 3.50 / EUR 5 (approx)
Designed by Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the creator of Renegade, it's no surprise to find that Double Dragon follows in much the same urban groin-kicking vein. What it did add, at least in the arcade, was a simultaneous two-player mode. Hence Double Dragon, you see.
Which is something of a problem for this NES conversion, since it's that two-player mode that got the chop in order for it to fit on a cartridge. There is a two-player option, but it simply involves a winner-stays-on system with players taking over when the other player dies. Rather awkwardly, for this VC version, you'll need two controllers since the game won't let you pass the same controller over. There's also a bonus one-on-one fighting mode, but it's so hilariously awful that we'll spare the game some dignity and leave it alone.
Judged as a single-player experience, Double Dragon is a surprisingly decent scrolling brawler given the limits of the hardware. It's no Streets of Rage 2 but it does include the ability to pick up and use enemy weapons, ladders and elevated areas, and a range of attacks including headbutts, knees to the face and spinning roundhouse kicks. There are a few sudden death moments - such as a water trap that spells instant game over, regardless of how many lives you have - but it's a solid little fighter that has aged rather well.