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Virtual Console Roundup

F-Zero X, Bonk, Mystical Ninja and friends.


Platform: NES
Wii Points: 500

This game has raised some troubling questions for me. Not because it features more whips and candlesticks than a 1976 swingers party, but because I'm torn on the relative merits of downloading this version when the vastly superior SNES outing, Castlevania IV, is also available.

This troubles me because I've already gone on the record as encouraging, nay demanding, that people should sample both Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time despite the technical gulf between them. However, I can't seem to find the equivalent value in owning the earliest Castlevania when that particular template was improved tenfold in the later game.

I'm also a little bit scared of hardcore Castlevania fans, who lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce the moment I suggest that the absence of a coherent and distinct storyline makes Belmont's early adventures less worthy of replay than Link's epic quests. On the other hand, they might just sulk and cry into their cosplay outfits and say mean things about me on LiveJournal. Silly old Goths.

So, Castlevania. Taken on its own merits, it's a fine platform adventure with six linear stages of candle-whipping fun. Taken as part of the overall VC buffet, you should probably pile your plate high with the gourmet SNES version first, and come back for NES pudding if you like the taste.


Mighty Bomb Jack

Platform: NES
Wii Points: 500

Not just any old Bomb Jack, you'll notice. Mighty Bomb Jack. Hell yeah. Makes Mario's plain old "super" prefix look positively tame, that's for sure.

It's not a bad little game, either. The boxed-in bomb-defusing of the 1984 arcade original is still here, now restricted to end-of-level challenges, with fairly clever platforming sections in between. Clever? Well, kind of. Bomb Jack himself can glide and float, while collecting Mighty Coins allows you to change the colour of your costume. Different costumes enable different abilities - you can only open treasure chests while clad in orange, for instance. It's not exactly deep, but it does introduce a small measure of thought and tactics, as you work out the best way to use the items you've found to maximise your score.

While the game itself is actually quite easy, at least compared to other titles of the same vintage, it does feature one infamously cruel design feature. Should you play well enough, amassing more than nine coins or 99 seconds on the timer, you're taken to the Torture Room. If you don't perform a sequence of jumps within a time limit you lose a life. If you do complete the challenge, you still lose all your coins, the clock resets to 60 seconds and you have to start the level again. Boo-yah!


The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Platform: SNES
Wii Points: 800

An oddball role-playing platform adventure hybrid, Mystical Ninja is a handy example of one of the recurring flaws in the VC no-frills set up. You're dropped into the middle of a typically baffling Japanese story with precious little idea of what you're expected to do, let alone how you should do it. Some context or an explanation of what's in store before downloading would certainly help players hit the ground running.

Put simply, you explore a town - amassing items and playing mini-games - and then head to a platform-leaping action section which ends with a boss fight. Two-player co-op is included, allowing the characters to ride piggyback with one controlling movement, the other attacks. But if you downloaded this as a blind buy, you'd have to figure all of that out for yourself.

Even when you know what's going on, it's still a bit of a well-intentioned muddle to be honest. The genre-hopping doesn't really gel, while the exploration is hampered by the need to constantly clobber wandering civilians and dodge flapping fish. The graphics are cute though, in a Manga-meets-Dogtanian sort of way.


Sword of Vermilion

Platform: Megadrive
Wii Points: 800

So, it's an RPG. Your character is the long lost son of a murdered king. You've inherited a magic ring. Dark forces are gathering and...stop me if you've heard this before.

Even though it came from the fair hand of Yu Suzuki, there's not much to recommend in Sword of Vermilion. It's the sort of game where you start with everyone urging you to rush home, yet you have no idea where home is. From its cookie-cutter fantasy milieu (your adopted father is called Blade and there's a land called Excalabria) to the fussy little charmless sprites, the whole enterprise reeks of an office memo that simply read "SEGA needs a Zelda".

Unfortunately, the desire to experiment with formula clearly got the better of them, and the game lurches from one style to another, never settling on a consistent (or playable) combination. Traditional top-down RPG exploration in towns gives way to a scrolling 3D maze overworld which switches to an awful side-on slashing mini-game during random monster encounters which then switches to platform-style leaping for boss fights.

It's the combat that really sinks this one - horribly clumsy, it reduces the carefully calibrated rules and statistics of better titles to a question of how fast you can mash the joypad. The original Zelda is available for 300 points less, and is an absolute masterpiece. Don't waste your time with this ham-fisted knock off.


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Dan Whitehead avatar

Dan Whitehead


Dan has been writing for Eurogamer since 2006 and specialises in RPGs, shooters and games for children. His bestest game ever is Julian Gollop's Chaos.


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