VC Weekly 288
Posted 23 Apr 2014 at 16:52 by Sam C Gittins
Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe’s guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo’s download service. Written by Sam C Gittins
If you're a fan of a certain classic portable RPG then this is the time to rejoice for a real gem awaits alongside another classic GBA racing title plus another portable platformer featuring Dracula. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...
F-Zero Maximum Velocity
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
System: GameBoy Advance
Back when Golden Sun was originally released over a decade ago it was subject to a significant amount of hype which was very well warranted, developed by Camelot who were responsible for such spectacles within the RPG genre as the now immortal Shining Force III on the Sega Saturn, but had now focused their full attention on Nintendo's GBA hardware in order to create a new example of excellence which would surely rival their previous efforts at best or even at worst be a perfectly playable title still a cut above the rest... needless to say that it exceeded everyone's expectations. To tell you the story of Golden Sun would be to do a disservice to any new potential players even though its been so long now as I'm well aware this this fantastic title may well have passed a whole generation of gamers by now but I must reiterate that it is well worth playing as the plot is so tightly written, suffice to say you play as a young man named Isaac and you will end up going on a quest of epic proportions.
One of the things you'll notice straight away is the sheer amount of effort that has clearly gone into making an impressive world which is extremely believable, characters which don't just seem to have been arbitrarily placed in a random environment but rather they have actually 'lived' out their virtual existences there for some time before you just simply decided to press the 'Start' button; this is what sets Golden Sun apart from not just other games similar to it at the time or before its release but even when you try to compare it to modern day titles as a lot of them just don't have that same simple charm which the game world here exudes. Initially things seem quite slow to start even a couple of hours in but soon after everything seems to build momentum until there is no stopping this RPG juggernaut as it rolls down the mountainside of games like a boulder crushing everything in its path, literally once you really get going with this adventure then you won't want to play anything else until you've seen many monster heads and the credits roll.
It may have many questionable staples such as random encounters but when the battle system is so streamlined that it flows making for fun to fight each time this seems like a minor concern, but if you think that this leaves you with a basic bare bones affair then you'd be wrong as there are hidden depths thanks to the added elements which effectively make up a huge portion of the game as you will encounter creatures known as 'Djinn' which contain one of four elemental properties - Earth, Fire, Water, Wind - which you can use in order to summon spirits with phenomenal powers. There is also a fair bit of exploration involved which is always kept interesting by the use of magic, you can still inspect areas like in any standard game of this type but here you actually get to use magic to move objects within the field, so you'll be deftly sweeping aside huge statues, pushing lots of lumber and even a spot of 'gardening' as you remove firmly rooted plants from passageways allowing you to progress further; it's all very good at drawing the player deep into the beatifully crafted world within which you'll be spending an excess of many hours.
Beautifully rendered for the small screen it seems that nothing holds this classic back even on a TV as this virtual console version looks simply spectacular even when 'blown up' to such a size, because it's still within its standard resolution boundaries where it's not stretched at all everything still looks simply sublime like an upgraded SNES title but even that comparison is doing it a massive disservice, there is so much detail present that you might not even see each subtle nuance on your first playthrough so that leaves you extra reason to come back again; battle animation is also particularly worthy of note as it's always impressive. Audio is nothing short of astounding when you consider the size of the original GBA cartridge to the sound that comes out of even a large pair of speakers when playing on the big screen, the sampled wind instruments sound spectacular as every moment of this joyous title is perfectly orchestrated but if you want to hear every single note than you may wish to play it on the Gamepad at least once in a while as there are plenty of subtle hidden depths to the music too accompanied with some decent realistic weapon effects which manages to add that little bit extra grit to the preceedings.
Golden Sun is one of those special RPG series which is born but once every few generations, it has more than the makings of existing examples that are 'bigger' than it combined with a certain amount of subtlety which keeps it grounded as a stellar adventure but one that has at least a hint of 'truth' to it in so much that it doesn't try to be something that it isn't like many modern-day RPG's do but rather it remains humble, is well respected yet it knows exactly what the player wants and then delivers it like a pleasant surprise rather than a tired convention. If you've never played this landmark title before then I would desperately urge you to do so right away as I can honestly guarantee that once you start this gem, you won't want to put the controller down as it really is that compelling once you get going; those looking for one of the finest games to play on any system should look no further as this will see you through any 'drought' and beyond, probably more than once... not bad for a title that costs less than seven pounds.
Verdict : Golden Sun still shines equally bright today as it once did, long may it remain radiant.
Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
System: GameBoy Advance
Famous for being one of the most technically impressive pseudo-3D racers of its time when it was released on the SNES the original F-Zero is quite unlike any other game within the genre, indeed you could even say that it created the anti-gravity racing sub-genre which is quite an accomplishment. Almost a decade on the series got something of a rebirth in the form of F-Zero Maximum Velocity a game which takes the structure of the original title as a base and then expands on it to create the first portable version of the futuristic racer which is not only an impressive thing behold but it's also an experience that manages to hold a candle to legendary SNES title.
Its premise is simple you must race against other ships in a bid for first place while making sure not to end up as scrap metal by the track-side as you either take or deal blows to your opponents on the fly, there is a repair lane near the start which you'll most certainly be taking advantage of during each new lap plus the boost which you get at the same time but beware because if you find yourself at the back of the pack you'll get eliminated when those ahead of you cross the line. This continues until it's the last lap with only a handful of racers left all battling it out for first place, competition remains ever fierce as you race on hoping not to be the last over the finish line having to use up another ship to try again; this is the nature of F-Zero at its best.
Control mechanics have been overhauled as while you still use 'A' to accelerate it's going round the corners where you'll need to be rapidly tapping it while holding the relevant shoulder button; a process which takes a little bit of getting used to but after a few tracks you'll be cornering like a pro in no time which is just as well because with twenty plus tracks spread throughout the various cups and with multiple difficulties to tackle this is one racing game which will take you a while to complete. There's a decent selection of ships to choose from too each of which have their own attributes to take into account plus more to unlock as you progress your way through the game, it's something of a shame that the multiplayer can't be accessed on this version for obvious reasons but it's just as well that there's plenty to do here even in single player.
Hugely reminiscent of the Mode 7 graphics which were present in the original, this version takes those iconic visuals and adds an extra layer of slickness on top which seems to add a great deal of depth to the proceedings; it may be in the same league as F-Zero X in this department but it still shows what exactly is possible on the GBA and it looks decent even by today’s standards. Music is again very similar to the original with some very nice chip-tune compositions which feature a healthy amount of synthesised electric guitar accompanied beautifully by a barrage of artistically placed bleeps which really manage to keep the spirit of the series alive despite perhaps not being quite on the same level of brilliance as say the classic track 'Big-Blue' but there are some solid efforts here.
Quite simply there isn't another racing game out there quite like F-Zero as the series is unique and while this may not be the best title overall it's still an ideal starting point for anyone who is wanting to get started or just as a means for veterans to get a quick 'fix' of their favourite futuristic racer. A solid addition to the growing library of GBA Wii U VC titles as it's a great pick up and play experience which provides high-octane thrills now on the big screen which you quite simply cannot find anywhere else.
Verdict : F-Zero's first foray onto a hand-held proves to be just as fantastically fun on the big screen.
Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
There is no denying that the original Castlevania was a classic with it's simple but spectacular structure that worked so well and earned it much well deserved praise; for the second outing however Konami proceeded to eschew the basic formula in favour of a fuller RPG flavour which added depth but displeased fans. So it came as no surprise that for this third installment everything has been taken back to the roots of the first game.
You assume the role of Simon's ancestor Trevor Belmont who must go up against Dracula armed with the traditional Mystic Whip, journeying through many deviously designed dungeons and choosing your own path between each ensuring a varied experience with each subsequent play-through and promotes an immense level of replay value.
Along with the action of old there are a few newly introduced elements that work well with the game; namely a collection of companions who Trevor will meet on his quest and will aid him en-route. Each has their own unique ability, from Grant the Pirate who excels in climbing, Syfa the Magician who can summon powerful spells and Alucard who is Dracula's son and can turn into a bat to assist you for however long your hearts remain.The aforementioned aspect adds a certain tactical element as you can only have one of these assist characters in your party at once so choosing the best use of them based on your immediate situation is wise; the element thankfully only serves to back up whats already there as opposed to detracting from what makes it so brilliant.
Visually it's an excellent effort and audibly the score further backs up everything admirably but other than that the most important fact is that it's the Castlevania that fans know and love; you carry your whip which gets longer and stronger the further you progress, there are many varied locations ranging from a Clock Tower, Forest and a Ghost Ship. Trademark items such as the Holy Cross and Magic Potion make themselves known once more and everything comes together to form an altogether awe inspiring experience for fans and newcomers alike.
Considered by many to be the best ever created in the series and with very good reason, you only have to play this stunning title for a short while to understand why that statement is entirely justified. Be you a fan or just someone looking for their next platforming fix, you truly can't go wrong either way with this fine example of just how well a sequel can be made when the developers decide to put all their creative efforts into it.
Verdict : As classic a Castlevania as they come.
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!