Retro: VC Weekly #169

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe's guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo's download service. Written by Sam C Gittins.

Filling in the gaps within the VC are two distinctly different titles which are both playable in equal measure and may be just what you're after. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!

Available for download this week we have...

  • Fortified Zone
  • QIX

Price: GB �2.70, EU �3
Publisher: Jaleco
Developer: Jaleco
Released: 1991
System: GameBoy

Famous for supporting the Wii's VC rather heavily Jaleco has started to re-release some of their portable properties on the 3DS starting with this seldom talked about title which feels familiar when compared to other games that it seems to take at least a decent pinch of inspiration from. If you've ever played the GameBoy iteration of Metal Gear Solid or to a lesser extent any portable Zelda title then you're likely to feel at home here if only for a fleeting moment.

Indeed while it's clear to see where Fortified Zone may have gained inspiration from it doesn't necessarily mean that the level of quality found in the aforementioned titles is retained but rather several decent ideas paved with good intentions are utilised to the games end and to give it credit where due it does work well at least in part. Side-scrolling screens are in full effect here as you take control of two Mercenaries named Masato Kanzaki and Mizuki Makimura in your infiltration attempt upon a Fortified Zone in which they must take out Mercenaries, Monsters, Robots and Soldiers as they make their way to the central complex at the Zone's heart which they must destroy.

Utilising both characters is a decent mechanic which lends itself very well to this run 'n gun genre, as you'd expect Masato - the offence - can pick up Flame-throwers plus Machine guns from enemies while Mizuki - the defence - is able to jump which makes her indispensable in rooms where avoiding traps is the order of the day. Alternating between the two is an excellent mechanic which sets it apart from other games and although you effectively get four dungeon-sized areas featuring keys to acquire and enemies to either dispatch or avoid, it's all over far too quickly making it feel like there was more that could have been done here but for whatever reason wasn't which is a shame because this is a reasonably solid experience beneath its shortcomings.

Nicely animated sprites are accompanied by fairly decent - albeit functional � visuals which are of about the expected level for an early GameBoy title; credit to Jaleco however as you always know what you're supposed to be looking at either in-game or on the pause menu/map screen but it does feel a little sparse in places. Likewise the audio does a nice job indeed as you may expect and in some places it even shines definitely helping to keep things moving along at a decent pace though it's not quite up to say classic Metal Gear standard which may feel like an unfair comparison but it's hard not to draw parallels with Konami's classic even they do mostly amount to mere nods.

Overall if you're a fan of the genre then you will most likely get your moneys worth with this title but for those of you who aren't so familiar with this type of game then it's not a bad starting point but then again certainly not the greatest so some may choose to inevitably wait for the improved sequel which may well see a release on the VC sometime in the future. For now though this is all we have and it's a decent offering despite being short though you may feel short-changed when you can easily play through and be done with the experience in a fairly short space of time.

Verdict : Fun for a time though requires further fortification.

Price: GB �2.70, EU �3
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D 1
Released: 1990
System: GameBoy

While it's immediately obvious that Tetris is the most well-known puzzle titles ever made or even arguably the best on the GameBoy due to launching with the machine plus the fact that its fantastic formula still holds up today; for this reason titles like QIX never feel like they really got a look-in despite offering something relatively unique at the time. So now with the title getting re-released on the VC gamers have a chance to get better acquainted with this slightly obscure - but quietly respected - puzzle game.

Objectively this title is simple as you are presented with a field of play which you must slice into sections using a diamond which can travel only in straight lines, so as you play the area that you can use to manoeuvre gets gradually smaller which can make avoiding the 'QIX' � a series of little lines � all the more problematic not to mention sparks which can follow along the lines you have created. Naturally the more of the area that you manage to 'cut' contributes towards an overall percentage which you need to get past a certain percent before the stage ends; it's a simple concept but one that seems notoriously hard to truly master especially the further you progress.

You can travel either at normal speed or fast but the slower you trace shapes the more points you'll acquire so while zooming around may be useful for getting out of a tight spot it's best to travel at normal speed where possible. Though it has an original selling point and manages to supply a genuinely enjoyable experience on the whole, it most likely won't keep you coming back aside from the obligatory 'quick game' every now and then; plus the omission of the two-player mode which is a mystery seeing as it only involved using one system at the time, perhaps Nintendo is of the opinion that less it more in this instance

Featuring visuals which are best described as functional, this is a puzzle game that isn't fussed about trying to impress in this department though a bit more detail perhaps could have been easily afforded in an effort to make things a bit more interesting. Music is virtually non-existent as all that you are greeted with is a repetitive tone which really grates on you after only a few moments of play; personally I feel that it could have benefited from having a few throwaway tunes added in for good measure, they wouldn't have even had to be 'hummable' but it certainly could have helped matters.

Puzzle game purists will no doubt buy this regardless of the titles flaws, quite honestly though if you can wait then I have no doubt that better games within this genre will undoubtedly be released as it's only a matter of time. But for now you could do a lot worse than purchasing QIX as it at least offers something unique which is well suited to quick bursts of play and is still fairly playable even by today's standards.

Verdict : QIX is a quirky title which will quench your thirst for a puzzle game.

That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of the week and Game On!

Sam Gittins

© Copyright 2023 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top