Virtual Console Roundup

Metal Slug, Cho Aniki, Puyo Puyo 2, Break In.

It's the second week of Nintendo's latest Hanabi Festival on the Virtual Console. After a long and painful drought, this means another week with a healthy selection of new games to choose from. Yay! Games that have never officially received a European release before. Yay! Games that have had their prices inexplicably increased because they're somehow still "import games" despite being funnelled down the internet wires just like any other data. Boo!

Metal Slug

  • Platform: NeoGeo
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)

Let's start with the good stuff. SNK's Metal Slug is a justifiably beloved shooter that has attracted a devoted following thanks to its relentless action, outrageous challenge and endearingly daft sense of humour. Scrolling left to right across a series of chunky terrains, you shoot in all directions (well, all four directions that existed on the old d-pads) exploding a never-ending stream of cartoony foes. It's a template that's still in use thanks to games like Alien Hominid, and one that really doesn't show its age.

It's an old-school arcade game in the best sense of that over-used phrase; a game of single-minded focus that requires fast reactions and excellent hand-eye coordination. It's not quite the rock-hard bastard that its reputation suggests, but nor is it for the faint of heart. Making real progress requires dedication and attention, but your reward for making the effort is a wonderfully crafted gamer's game that runs on pure premium-grade fun fuel.

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On that basis alone, I can't help but recommend it as one of the brighter offerings on the Virtual Console. It's certainly the sort of game we should be seeing more of, and anyone who does part with their points will definitely have a blast. Purists will be dismayed to learn that the 50Hz presentation makes the game noticeably slower than the fast-paced original, but that's still not enough to dim the game's innate appeal for the average gamer-in-the-street.

However...putting this download in the wider context, it's not such great value. There is a two-player mode, but it doesn't really compare to the online co-op play that was added for Metal Slug 3's Xbox Live Arcade outing, a port that also boasted slick frame-rate and cleaned up graphics. Even if the Wii is the only console you own, there are better ways of enjoying the series - the Metal Slug Anthology, boasting seven complete games, can now be picked up for just over twice the price of this solitary offering.

A fantastic game then, in a slightly inferior technical presentation that offers poor value compared to the other available methods of sampling this fine shooter. Truly, Nintendo giveth and Nintendo taketh away.

7/10

Cho Aniki

  • Platform: TurboGrafx CD
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)

This really is about as culty as cult games get, a deliberately kitsch shoot-'em-up that formed the basis of an eclectic and long-running series of shooters, fighting games and even RPGs.

Much of the coverage surrounding this release makes excessive use of the word "gay", and that's because Cho Aniki is a very gay game. Or, rather, it's an incredibly camp game which isn't really the same thing but it's close enough for the purposes of a retro game review. In fact, it couldn't be more camp if the main character was made up from the exhumed bones of Liberace, turned into a puppet and operated using strings made from tinsel by an angelic cherub with the face of Freddie Mercury.

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Levels are packed with garish sprites, depicting posing musclemen who slide gracefully onto the screen with an excitable wink. Flowers and magic dust also feature, as do sights like a phallic steam train with a man's face and big, strong, musky arms. The name roughly translates as Super Big Brothers. So, yes, it all looks very gay and very silly. It's Parodius crossed with Mardi Gras, and often referred to as an example of the Japanese subculture of baka-ge, or "idiot games".

Trouble is, as an actual shoot-'em-up it's a fairly tepid experience so flamboyant camp is all it really has to offer. In that regard, I can't help thinking it's slightly awesome - if only because of the terrified insecure reactions the game has inspired on various Virtual Console message boards. There's certainly a delicious irony in the way some gamers throw their hands up in dismay at the oily bodybuilders of Cho Aniki and then retreat to the unambiguously hetero male bonding of whatever wartime FPS is currently popular, and for that alone I'm glad games like this exist.

But, apart from the subversive nature of the presentation, there's no way this otherwise bland shooter is worth your money - especially in this price-hiked manner.

5/10

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