Retro: VC Weekly #197

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

Two lone warriors of completely different types star in their own respective titles, one which ambassadors will have seen before and one that's a long overdue title which the Wii VC is grateful to receive. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!

Available for download this week we have...

  • Metroid
  • Strider

Price: GB �4.50, EU �5
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1987
System: NES

Metroid, who would have thought that 20 years on the franchise would have seen several successful sequels, spin-offs and even make that fabled transition from second to third dimension. The third entry went on to become the definitive example of its genre; but it all started here with this; the original side - scrolling mission.

You assume the role of intergalactic bounty hunter Ms Samus Aran who is dispatched by the galactic federation to retrieve a stolen life-form known only as "Metroid" by any means necessary from the clutches of the Space Pirates. Being a cyborg Samus is equipped with a range of weapons which must be used to her advantage as she follows the evil beings to the planet Zebes in order to destroy Mother Brain.

When originally released this game was like nothing else before it; loosely it can be defined as a side scrolling shooter but to be correct it's more exploration than shooting which is emphasized very early on. One of the first power-ups you obtain is the Morph Ball ability which allows Samus to gain access to more of the games sprawling map in addition to use bombs later on.

As you further advance deeper into the masochistic maze that is the game world you will discover where the real challenge lies as you journey through seemingly symmetrical screens only broken up by an altered colour palette and slight changes to rock formation and enemy sequences. Obtaining the various upgrades to your arsenal ranging from missiles, elemental beams and even the odd energy tank or two will play a vital part in the progress and eventual success of your mission; perseverance is key in this challenging title.

If you have never played this original Nintendo classic which spawned the legend that is Metroid then you may wish to take the opportunity to do so now; it's visually dated but audibly strong and still offers a great challenge. For anyone who has played it though be it in original NES form or as an obtainable extra via the combination GC's Metroid Prime / GBA's Fusion or even is NES classic / Zero Mission form there's little to warrant playing through again but this VC incarnation does at least offer portability which at least makes it instantly more accessible.

Verdict : It's not super but it's still Metroid.

Points: 800
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Sega
Released: 1993
System: Megadrive

A 'cult classic' is definitely the best way to describe Strider made by Capcom as even though there aren't that many titles in the series starring Strider Hiryu his popularity with die-hard fans of the company truly know no bounds so it is understandable that the original game is one of the most requested to be re-released on the Virtual Console and now thankfully our prayers have been answered. Set on a future earthly dystopia you take control of the legendary strider as he does battle against the evil Russian named Grand Master Meio who is plotting � rather admirably � to take over the universe, naturally you're here to put a stop to his plans and although it might not be the most original of premises it serves its purpose well in getting the action going.

Originally in the arcade version in was the acrobatic nature of the main character which impressed all who played it as quite simply nothing else matched up to the experience at the time so it should come as little surprise that Strider was ported many times including this Megadrive version which was developed by Sega due to Capcom not officially being able to develop for the system yet. Naturally the result was nothing short of spectacular as what we have is a near-perfect port of the arcade classic which improves nearly every aesthetic aspect while making a few small sacrifices along the way which are barely of any consequence when you consider what a technical feat it must have been to convert from advanced arcade hardware to a home console in those days.

From the moment you take control you'll no-doubt notice just how smooth the controls are which is true testament to the development being that they still hold up after so long, indeed you'd be hard-pushed to find anything else that controls in quite the same way as sliding, somersaulting, grappling... basically being able to traverse terrain effortlessly across flat surfaces regardless of whether they are on the ground, along walls or even on ceilings is a moment that's quite simply unparalleled. Of course there are a few negatives mainly being that of excessive sprite flicker when many animated enemies are on-screen plus the sharp audio samples of the arcade version take a slight hit in quality but quite honestly when you consider that this is the whole package ported across in its entirety then it more than makes up for its shortcomings.

Visually everything appears to look even better than the arcade version for the most-part featuring fully animated sprites, beautiful backdrops along with lavishly detailed levels which still look stunning despite lacking the initial impact they once had originally. Audio has unfortunately taken a hit due to size limitations which mean that the original speech during the games wonderfully rendered cut-scenes is now no more but everything else from the music to the sound effects are suitably atmospheric and are a decent example of what the Megadrive could do even at a relatively early stage in its life-span.

Strider is an absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word, this is without a doubt the best conversion of the game that you can currently get and so it comes highly recommended. If you've yet to play this terrific title then I would urge you to do so as there's quite simply nothing else that compares to its excellence; hopefully now with this re-release it will have the potential to be enjoyed by many more gamers as it surely deserves to be enjoyed even decades on from its original release as it really hasn't aged at all.

Verdict : Strider is still a simply spectacular title that commands your attention.

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
[email protected]

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