VC Weekly 285

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

Start your engines for the seminal SNES racer which started one of Nintendo's now most beloved franchises! Oh and a few NES titles too... Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Adventure Island II
Mighty Bomb Jack
Ninja Gaiden
Super Mario Kart

Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Developer: Hudson Soft
Released: 1992
System: NES

From humble beginnings the original Adventure Island was nothing more than palette swap of the original Wonder Boy which then – as many know – went down the real-time RPG route but Master Higgins carried on the platforming torch as the Adventure Island series came into its own becoming one of the best-loved series of games within its genre. The second outing improves on the original in many ways by sticking to the same formula and adding in a few extras that freshen the experience but don't lessen the enjoyment.

A relatively unchanged plot sees Higgins' girlfriend get kidnapped by the evil Witch Doctor and so it's up to him to bravely battle his way across eight island-based levels leading up to the rescue of your beloved. Each level is split into stages which you can run and jump through, you can periodically jump on skateboards which give you a speed boost but are difficult to stop plus you can grab a fairy for a temporary blast of invincibility.

Most interesting though is the ability to ride upon the backs of dinosaurs that you may find throughout the level which will give you a bit more power but beware for if you are hit while on one it will disappear however if you find a different dino while on the back of another the one that you're riding will be added to a 'reserve' supply which can prove most useful indeed. There are also secrets to be found in the form of invisible 'doors' that you can find by repeatedly throwing hammers while running, by jumping in these specific locations you're taken to a mini-area where you can grab an egg with your reward inside, these can include an extra dinosaur or even a direct warp to the next island.


Tighter controls mean that you no longer feel as if you're sliding all over the place like in the first game which is something of a relief especially when it comes to the newly improved boss battles which actually feel genuinely more challenging and are a highlight of this reasonably sized platform adventure. Visually everything seems slightly more detailed though sufficiently different resulting in a very slight loss of charm that the first had though regardless it still looks nice; there's a decent amount of variation in the audio this time around too so that you don't feel as if you're listening to the same tune over and over which is a huge plus.

While similar to its predecessor Adventure Island II is a more refined beast that plays in a more forgiving way but never forgets its roots and for that it feels like a superior sequel in many ways that comes highly recommended. If you're a fan of the genre or have simply never played this charming title before then I would advise that you do as it's a release most certainly worth investing in.  

Verdict : Prehistoric platforming perfection.  


Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Tecmo
Released: 1992
System: NES

The original Bomb Jack was a classic arcade game of it's time; it's trademark game concept in which you controlled Jack on a screen where you were tasked with collecting no less than twenty bombs in a specific order, earned it a cult following. So why take a winning concept and then attempt to "improve" upon it by adapting it from arcade game to platform game for it's console release?

It seems completely nonsensical to me but nonetheless that is what has been done in the case of Mighty Bomb Jack. We are left with a side-scrolling platform game which has a main character that doesn't act like you might have come to expect from other far superior examples of the platform genre; this leaves the experience feeling quite broken and personally I found it a difficult game to get into or enjoy.


Not to say it's a complete failure though; it's enjoyable and yet frustrating almost seemingly simultaneously. It's main shortcomings are a lack of proper control over the main character and annoyingly sporadic enemy movement. Some may feel that these points are integral to the way the game plays but it's clear to any gamer who has enjoyed the platform genre regularly thats there are far better tried and tested concepts that work; Mighty Bomb Jack isn't one such example.

Verdict : A sequel that bombs; hit the road Jack.


Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Tecmo
Released: 1988
System: NES

Following the vengeance fueled quest of Ninja Ryu Hayabusa who goes on a journey to take out the leaders of a gang who killed his father and are now trying to obtain the all powerful Dragon Sword which was transported to America by Ryu as his fathers last request. They wish to obtain this sword as it's thought to contain the secret to reviving the demon that the group worship; understandably Ryu isn't happy about this hence his aforementioned mission of deadly Ninja assassination begins.

This is considered by many to be one of the very first decent games to depict Ninja's and a style of play which works well with the theme. Plenty of Ninja-like titles have been and gone over the years but Ninja Gaiden not only proves itself as the first game of it's kind to provide a solid stealth experience but in many ways it also set the standard for nearly every other title considered to be similar in vein to ever since.

As a series over the years it has set many benchmarks in it's increasingly impressive and intricate incarnations but what exactly makes the original game groundbreaking? First and foremost from the moment you take control you actually "feel" like you are in control; this is an innovation in itself for it's time as it was the first game of it's kind to offer such an unparalleled and precise level of control which most importantly holds the game together and makes it truly believable as when playing Ninja Gaiden you "are" the Ninja.


In similar style to Sega's Shinobi the game is split into six sections which are divided into a total of twenty sub-sections as you work your way through such places as Galesburg, Death Valley, Yomi's Valley as you journey toward your ultimate goal of the secret hideout in the Temple of Darkness where your enemy resides. As the story unfolds after each major level it is moved forward through well placed cut-scenes which serve their purpose in addition to being something of a rarity for games at it's time of release.

It may not have aged well visually overall but it comes across in leaps and bounds in it's suitably epic audio score which complements the game exceptionally well. Also now infamous for it's difficulty this is a challenging title indeed, sometimes the the point of frustration but with unlimited continues it's well worth persevering with; especially as the addition of save states will no doubt aid you in your quest no matter where you are. If you enjoy Ninja themed titles, platform games or even if you just want a challenging experience, Ninja Gaiden is most definitely worth purchasing.

Verdict : An amazing game that deserves its awesome ninja namesake.  


Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Released: 1993
System: SNES
Well it's finally here, the game that nearly everyone assumed would have been available at the very start of the Virtual Console has now arrived over a year later; Super Mario Kart is finally available to download and enjoy once more! But does it still have that magic that it once possessed? Read on to find out. Back in the day Nintendo decided to make a Mario game that was so different that it would change gaming as we know it, true it may only have been a spin-off to the main series but today the Mario Kart franchise has more than made a name for itself but none of this would have been possible without the very first title.

Released on the SNES the game truly pushed what was possible at the time utilising Mode 7 technology to its limits providing a fantastic pseudo-3D racing experience that set the game apart from anything else available at the time. No less than a staggering eight playable characters from the Mario universe were made available and while this may seem paltry when compared to more recent iterations, it was definitely a huge selling point at the time and arguably made for a more balanced experience overall; you could choose from Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, Koopa-Trooper and even Donkey Kong Jr, each of whom had their own varied styles of play, anyone who has played the game before will already have a favourite.

Aside from the characters though it's the power-ups that truly set the game apart from the rest, brilliantly you will actually get different items depending on where you are placed in the race; simply run over a '?' block and you'll acquire a random power-up ranging from the green shell and banana skin which you'll get if you're out in front to homing red-shells, invincibility stars, speed-boost mushrooms and the devastating lightning bolt which lets you either speed past or over your rivals, these you'll get if you're not doing so well and of course the feather which actually allows you to jump over track hazards.

Super Mario Kart Image

Four cups are available in the forms of Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special – the latter cup is unlockable – difficulty increases as you progress through the cups and the classes of which there are three – 50cc, 100cc and the unlockable 150cc – to work your way through. To start off with things are easy, gaining speed and difficulty by the mid-range setting and in the event that you actually unlock the final setting then the very best of luck to you because it's no joke even by todays standards. Tracks are based on popular locales from Super Mario World and I'm sure many will be familiar to seasoned veterans of Mario games; Bowser's Castle, Donut Plains and Ghost Valley all make appearances not to mention the now infamous Rainbow Road. Each track is challenging in its own way and contains a whole host of hazards to watch out for, be especially wary of the Thwomps and lava pits in Bowser's Castle!

In single player the game is most definitely challenging in the higher difficulties  and worth playing through but it's when you get another player involved that the real fun begins as this is what Mario kart was built for. Not only do you get to race against another player though but the bonus battle mode is available in which you must burst the other players balloons before they burst yours which is a most excellent addition indeed.

Everything about this game just oozes quality and the amount of effort that has been put into its creation is clear from the small graphical details that matter to the superb soundtrack composed by Soyo Oka which brings the game to life. Above all though Super Mario Kart is still as much fun to play today as it ever was and it even stacks up well against subsequent games that were released after; regardless of if you've played this monumental game before or not, rediscover the origins of kart racing today!  

Verdict : The original and still one of the best Kart racing games ever made.

Super Mario Kart Art

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!

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