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Virtual Console Roundup

Yoshi's Story, Super Air Zonk and Magician Lord.

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

All good things must come to an end, and so a fairly solid run of interesting obscurities and gaming greats fizzles out with an uninspired trio of new VC games. There's a new N64 game, which is usually cause for celebration, and some more offerings from the NeoGeo and TurboGrafx CD thingy but nothing that's going to have you whipping out your credit card. Ho hum.

Yoshi's Story

  • Platform: N64
  • Wii Points: 1000
  • In Real Money: GBP 7.50 / EUR 10 (approx)

Yoshi's Story, the N64 sequel to beloved SNES platformer Yoshi's Island, deserves some credit for not jumping on the 3D polygon bandwagon, or maybe it deserves to be ruthlessly mocked for sticking with rote 2D gameplay and not evolving with the hardware. It's hard to tell. Whichever way you spin, it's not the most exciting game - a disappointment back in 1998 and certainly one of the less interesting N64 games on the VC.

The story is twee even by Mario standards - Baby Bowser has stolen the Super Happy Tree! - and the graphics match the infantilised tale with a textured fabric style (not unlike Little Big Planet) and 3D characters rendered in 2D, a la Donkey Kong Country.

As is the norm with Mario's reptilian pal, you waddle through chunky colourful levels, slurping up fruit and enemies with your prehensile tongue. Once they're in your mouth, you can either gulp them down for health or gob them out as projectiles to pop bubbles, defeat more enemies or just because you're dirty. I'm tempted at this point to make a cheap "spit or swallow" gag, but I suspect I already plumbed those depths the last time I reviewed a Kirby game.

And therein lies the problem with Yoshi's Story. It's stuck sort of halfway between Mario and Kirby, but lacking the strengths or charms of both. It doesn't even match up favourably to Yoshi's Island, a game which deserves a VC outing much more than this lassez faire sequel. It's incredibly easy - you can romp through it in just a few hours, though the score-chasing trial mode supposedly adds longevity - and there's really nothing unique or special or interesting to be found. When people talk about Nintendo chasing the kiddie audience, this is the sort of game they mean - a passable simplistic platformer. There's nothing wrong with such undemanding fare, in theory, but there are games on the VC that scratch the same itch without commanding a ludicrous 1000-point price tag.


Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise

  • Platform: TurboDuo
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 8 (approx)

Yet another TurboDuo CD shooter, following last week's harder-than-you shmup Gate of Thunder, though this one is considerably less intimidating. A sequel-cum-remake of traditional TurboGrafx hit Air Zonk, it does at least boast new enemies and levels though the gameplay is unchanged - float at a leisurely pace from left to right, shoot the multitude of surreal enemies, snatch the power-ups and take down the end-of-level boss.

Strangely, despite having a whole CD to play with, Hudson Soft opted to remove graphical features (such as parallax scrolling) and fill up the space with a proper audio soundtrack. It's a full album's worth of rockabilly stomping, all parping trumpets and twanging bass, which means you'll either love it or hate it. It's a bit like listening to endless watered down Rocket From The Crypt instrumentals, if that's any help.

If you enjoyed Air Zonk, which is already on the Virtual Console and earned a generous 7/10 from yours truly, then the prospect of more of the same should be enough to justify a purchase but, with all the fantastic games yet to join the service, it seems a waste of time to add a rejigged version of a game that's already available.


Magician Lord

  • Platform: NeoGeo
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.75 / EUR 9 (approx)

Last week I made an impassioned plea for the NeoGeo VC output to delve into some of the classic and/or overlooked series that flourished on that struggling console. Magician Lord is, at least, not another fighting game.

It's a frantic and ferociously tough side-scroller, best described as Gandalf does Shinobi. You're a wizard, complete with big floppy hat, and you have to bring down an evil rival by zapping wave upon wave of enemies with your flying swoosh projectiles, while navigating basic platforming challenges. To spice things up, you can magically change into such elemental forms as a dragon, ninja, samurai or man-made-out-of-water. There's also a form called Raizin, though it sadly doesn't involve transforming into dried fruit.

The graphics are large and detailed, if predictable. Similarly, the gameplay hits all the right notes for this sort of thing, without ever really bowling you over. It's probably the best thing in a fairly limp line-up this week, but 900 points for another side-scrolling button masher? Not much of an impulse purchase.


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