Pinball

pinball
Pinball: Not what you'd call 'wizard'. No sir.

Now this is where we start to question certain inclusions on Virtual Console.

Given that Nintendo has, literally, hundreds of games tucked away in its archive gagging to be released, we're surprised that this was one of the first out of the gate. Although this would have been a mildly entertaining experiment back in 1984, it just feels horrible to play now. Originally an arcade game (bizarre, considering the real deal would have been a few cabinets away), this NES port added one new feature: a take-it-in-turns two-player mode.

Being generous, the sole novelty of this dreadful little game was the ability to enter a breakout-style mini game if you managed to direct the ball into a specific hole. Being harsh but fair, if you spend money on this then expect to be mortified at a shoddy, primitive attempt at pinball that has no lasting playability.

Retro rating: One star.

Tennis

And if you thought Pinball was bad, you should see how Nintendo murdered Tennis. Debuting in Japan in January of 1984, this was one of its first NES-only attempts, and an utterly hamfisted attempt that doesn't even stand up to competing efforts of the era (the C64's On Court Tennis and the Spectrum's Match Point, specifically).

On the surface it looks like a perfectly harmless block-graphic attempt at the game, but in reality it's marred by a horrible service system and an even worse return system that sees your man skate halfway across the court if you do something as simple as press left and fire while attempting a forehand return. The time spent with the NES Tennis game is time you'll never get back - and remember, you can't even download a trial version to see just how awful it is.

Retro rating: Zero stars.

Soccer

Incredibly, this footballing abomination from April 1985 was developed by the wonderful Intelligent Systems, but isn't exactly its finest hour. Looking, promisingly, like a straight copy of the hugely influential C64 title International Soccer (1983), it's not even possible to do simple manoeuvres like passing and shooting without getting yourself in the sort of tangle that would shame Liverpool's second string defence.

With dreadful attempts at ball physics and nothing even approaching a tackling system, you're left wondering why Nintendo would do something as silly as remind us how bad it could be at making games back in the mid '80s. Not a fitting tribute to the NES or the 8-bit era in any way, shape or form, and it will offend even those of you that fondly remember how gaming was back then. Avoid avoid avoid.

Retro rating: Lucky to get nil.

Baseball

baseball
Baseball: Another awful sports inclusion.

Now, I'm not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of a sport that doesn't even register on this continent, but I do know a good videogame interpretation of it when I see it, and this, sadly, isn't it.

Saddled with typically awful presentation typical of a first gen circa 1983 NES title, this early attempt tried its hand an intuitive control system, but it's utterly hit and miss - literally. The pitching is sloppy, the batting mystifying, and fielding hapless.

Old hands in the US and Japan might disagree with what this means to the NES landscape, but to someone - like me - playing it for the first time, it feels like an unnecessary inclusion, and definitely one to give wide berth to.

Retro rating: One star.

Ice Hockey

Fast forwarding to 1988, you can immediately tell that this is a third generation NES title (complete with, oof, 320kb cartridge), with far more intuitive controls and a much more polished feel about it.

Still pretty playable now, and a title with its fair share of fans, this, nevertheless, is one that only those that played this at the time should consider picking up in the harsh light of 2007.

Retro rating: Two stars.

Urban Champion

urbanchampion
Urban Champion: Button mashing dirge.

Originally released in Japan in November of 1984, this hilariously simplistic one-on-one fighting game tasks you with punching your opponent repeatedly until they fall backwards and stumble into a manhole.

Almost impossible to lose at, you've got the choice of a light punch or (supposedly) easy to block hard punch - but it matters little as hammering either seems to work just fine. After 20 straight wins we got thoroughly bored and won't be playing it ever again.

Another absolutely pointless addition to the NES range. Why, Nintendo? Why?

Retro rating: One star

Solomon's Key

Devilishly tough platformer ported to the NES in 1987 from the Tecmo arcade game. Possibly even more evil than was typical of the era, the challenge was made all the more tricky thanks to a somewhat eccentric control system, continually respawning enemies, one hit death, time limits, limited attack abilities... you name it!

The general idea is actually really good, though, and with a minor amount of tweaking this would have been a classic. Tasked with getting the key to the door on each single screen level, you have to build up blocks and take out others while working your way around the screen, and with (apparently) 64 levels in the game, it's one that could feasibly keep you going for ages.

Problem is, you'll probably be put off by steep learning curve and the frustration that goes with it. Another game that warrants an arcade port rather than a NES port, too.

Retro rating: Two stars.

Wario's Woods

wario

Oddly, a SNES game ported to the NES (so, er, why not give us the SNES version with all its extra features and better visuals, hmm?) back in early 1994, and one that demonstrates the ongoing early '90s obsession with falling block puzzle games.

The last first party title released on the NES in the US, the basic idea is to guide Toad around a Tetris style play field and arrange bombs and monsters to clear them off the screen and advance to the next stage.

Feeling rather similar to the recently released Pokemon Link, it's typically frantic, but a little overcomplicated to the point that it feels little more than a curiosity next to other puzzle classics of the time. Another odd VC release.

Retro rating: Two stars.

Xevious

Arriving seven years after its arcade debut, this hugely influential Namco title was, in effect, perfect fodder for the NES back in 1989. One of the very first vertical scrolling shooters, it was considered an immense achievement back in the day - particularly in the visual department, with colourful backdrops and giant (for the time) bosses a real advance on the endless Space Invader clones that littered arcades at the time.

Playing it now, you have to keep all of this in mind, because otherwise you might dismiss it as a pretty unforgiving, garish one-hit-death shooter with simplistic sprites and an annoying looping ditty warbling in the background. Yet again, we'd rather see the arcade original, and yet again, you have to question not only Nintendo's choice of game, but the price it's charging for this.

It's a faithful enough port, mind you, but one for retro completists only.

Retro rating: Two stars.

Stick around for more of Kristan's exciting adventures in the land of Virtual Console, coming soon. Who knows? You might find out when some of those TurboGrafx games came out - and indeed why we seem incapable of putting "PC Engine" instead.

About the author

Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

Contributor

Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

More articles by Kristan Reed

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