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Virtual Console Roundup

Collect the gems, avoid the pitfalls.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

SAY-GAH! That's the chime that will ring out from a great many Wiis this weekend, as a fairly Nintendo-centric run of VC additions is broken by a generous five-strong dose of Megadrive memories. It's even looking like these hefty blasts of Megadrive musk are becoming a monthly occurrence, since it was early August that last saw a batch of four Sega titles in one lump. This is an eclectic selection as well, with one stone-cold classic, one grudgingly admirable bastard and three offbeat obscurities to be sampled. Well, that's if the VC let you sample games. Which it doesn't. So you'd better read on...

Sonic 3

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: £5.60 (8 Euros)

Taking the already sterling groundwork laid by Sonic 2, this third instalment (which introduced Knuckles, the pink dreadlocked echidna) is a thoroughly welcome addition to the Virtual Console.

At first glance it's much the same as previous Sonic efforts, but there's a heap of subtly wonderful evolution under the furry blue exterior. Zones now flow into one another, a nice touch which doesn't really change the gameplay dramatically, but does allow the game to flow much more smoothly. Levels are enormous sprawling monsters, requiring the combined talents of both Sonic and Tails to fully explore, and while racing at full pelt to the end of the level is still a viable way of playing, rummaging around for secrets proves more fruitful than ever. Sonic also benefits from new elemental shield types, guarding him against fire, water and electricity hazards.

The bonus stages are improved, with a gumball machine power-up lottery for accruing 50 rings before each checkpoint, while multiple Emerald stages are hidden throughout each area and accessible regardless of your ring total. The 3D grid-based mini-game that ensues, in which you must turn blue spheres into deadly red spheres while in constant motion, is a lot of fun.

It's not all roses though. The puzzles are still poorly implemented (see: the infamous barrel puzzle in Carnival Night Zone) and it feels like a missed opportunity not to release this with its companion piece, Sonic & Knuckles, at the same time. You know, seeing as they were originally two halves of the same game.

Still, it's Sonic 3, one of the absolute highpoints of the hedgehog franchise, and of 16-bit gaming in general. Snap it up.


Ghouls N' Ghosts

  • Platform: Megadrive
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: £5.60 (8 Euros)

Yes, quiver in fear, yellow-bellied gamers. The game that pretty much defined "ohmygodthatsimpossible" gaming for an entire generation is back, back, back. For what it's worth, Ghouls N' Ghosts is generally considered the easiest in the franchise, but that's a fairly relative distinction. This remains the sort of challenge that'll see you embedding your fingernails in the controller.

The reason for this vaguely softer reputation is the inclusion of several new abilities which help to keep Arthur alive (and fully clothed) for a bit longer. New armour types power you up, while a comedy magician occasionally appears to transform you into an old man or duck. Just because. Unlike the arcade original, this Megadrive version (rewritten by Sonic Team legend Yuji Naka) offers a practice mode, infinite credits across all difficulty levels and other concessions.

Despite this, the core gameplay is still stacked against you - and often in ways that feel desperately unfair. Enemies can walk through, over and around obstacles that Arthur can't, and even though you can now shoot upwards, your ability to fight back is still compromised compared to the hordes ranged against you. And, yes, when you finish the game you still discover that you have to do it all again in order to actually finish the game. Unless you like your gaming with a strong hint of masochism, this beautifully designed game remains a frustrating experience.

This is a strange selection for the VC, given that the beefed up SNES port, Super Ghouls N' Ghosts, is already available so there's not even that much incentive for Capcom die hards to download this effort.