Virtual Console Roundup • Page 2

Ghosts n' Goblins, Phantasy Star IV, Mega Man 3, Castlevania III and Devil Star.

Castlevania III

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

Three, if De La Soul are to be believed, is the magic number. It certainly seems to be true of a lot of NES era games. Super Mario Bros. blossomed in its third outing. Mega Man 3, which is just up there, also found the groove of the series. And, lo, here be Castlevania's third effort - and true to form it's a game that expands its fairly humble origins into the form we know today.

Yes, you start out whipping skeletons and candles just like before, but things soon fill out in all sorts of interesting ways. Three playable support characters, for instance, who can be recruited by taking different routes through the game's fifteen stages, thanks to a clever branching structure. You can swap to these characters on the fly, and using their unique abilities, including magic, the ability to turn into a bat and - courtesy of the magnificently named pirate Grant DaNasty - the skill to clamber up sheer walls.

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Graphically things haven't moved on quite as much and it's easy to find fault with the game's finickety staircases, which go from solid ground to empty space depending on which button you press, often sending you tumbling back down some infernal tower in the process.

So as a platform game, and much like its predecessors, Castlevania III remains a slightly clumsy entry in the genre. It's as a sprawling adventure, with its multiple endings and RPG trimmings, that it truly impresses.

This release is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that the more impressive SNES sequel, Super Castlevania IV, has been on the Virtual Console for almost two years, but this wonderful entry isn't just for completists.

8/10

Devil's World

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

Here's a real oddity for Miyamoto fans, and a game that must have been of intense interest to both Namco and Taito back in the day. It's a religiously-themed Pac-Man clone with a main character that looks like they'd be more at home in Bubble Bobble.

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You guide your doe-eyed dragon around a maze, eating all the dots. Instead of power pills you pick up crucifixes, and these give you the ability to shoot fire at the roaming enemies and then gobble up the fried eggs that come out when they die. The maze is larger than the screen, and you can only explore the area you're boxed into. Except the box is always moving, shifted left, right, up and down on the orders of the Devil himself, who stands at the top of the screen gesticulating like an itchy aerobics teacher.

This twist adds an interesting wrinkle to the otherwise traditional Pac-Man gameplay, since you can be trapped in dead ends by the shifting boundaries. After you've cleared all the dots, you have to gather up four bibles, which makes the Devil flee to the next of the game's ninety-nine mazes.

It's about as quirky as retro gaming gets, and worth experiencing just for the bizarre nature of the concept, but it's abundance of ideas ultimately get in the way of the simple gameplay. Fun for a short while, but you're better sticking with Pac-Man in the long term.

7/10

Ghosts 'n Goblins

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

Yet another inexplicable Virtual Console duplication, as a Halloween upload date is the only justification for adding this 8-bit version of a game which already has two versions of its superior 16-bit sequel, Ghouls n' Ghosts, available for download.

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Once again, it's the ruthlessly difficult tale of Sir Arthur and his quest to rescue his beloved princess from a winged demon, usually while running around in his boxer shorts. It's a challenge that still maintains a fond place in the hearts of many 1980s gamers, but this version has not aged well. This isn't hard in the way that Mega Man 3 is hard - the sort of tough-but-fair doctrine that keeps you plugging away until you scrape through a level. No, it's often blatantly unfair - spawning a constant stream of enemies, popping up right under your feet, and hampering you with stiff control every step of the way.

Much like a visit to Amsterdam, if you're going to be sadistically punished you at least want the spanking to come from the most attractive option available. There is a sore, angry kind of enjoyment to be had here, but anyone with a hankering for Capcom's classic is already better served by the sequels on the VC.

5/10

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