The Virtual Console may still be filling up with all the speed of a particularly unmotivated terrapin, but the past two weeks have yielded three new games, and two of those are the sort of good solid videogaming fun that make it worthwhile blowing the dust off your Wii Points. And the third is pretty good as well, if you like that sort of thing.
What sort of thing? Why, let me show you...
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Platform: N64
- Wii Points: 1000
- In Real Money: GBP 7.00 / EUR 10.00 (approx)
I like Kirby. His games have always existed in the shadow of the mighty Mario, never quite matching their genius but tagging along closely enough in his wake to benefit from the reflected glory. Mostly though, I just like the character. I like the sheer videogamey randomness of his appearance and nature, and the world he inhabits. I like that there's a game series about a pink blob.
For his solitary N64 outing the testicular champion resisted the urge to go fully 3D, and it's ultimately a wise decision. This is no Mario 64, and Kirby's gameplay remains much as it was on the SNES, only now it's played in a linear 2D plane in a 3D world. So, sort of like Klonoa. Or Pandemonium.
Kirby still sucks up enemies, and either spits them out or digests them to absorb their abilities, but now he can combine two of these powers at a time. This creates a rather daunting list of over 40 potential power combinations to discover, and much of the fun of the game is meeting new foes, mixing and matching the available abilities and seeing what the result is. Thankfully the game doesn't rely solely on this trail of discovery to keep you interested, and the gameplay is as breezy and deceptively rich as ever.
It may look fluffy and cute and pre-school, but there's a fiendish platforming heart under that marshmallow exterior. As with all the best games of this kind, it's easy enough to make progress, but those looking for 100 percent completion will have a sizable task on their hands. There are also some multiplayer mini-games on offer, none of which are particularly amazing or memorable, but if you're looking for that little something extra to justify the 1000 point price tag, it can only help.
Kirby 64 clearly doesn't do as much with the N64 as it could have done, and remains a perennial second-stringer in the Nintendo pantheon for that very reason, but that's no excuse to dismiss something this engaging and polished.