VC Weekly 294

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

A rather fine selection we have for you here as not only do we get two-well known classics but also a previously unreleased gem which is just begging to be downloaded from the eShop. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Mario Golf
The Mysterious Murasame Castle

Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Flagship
Released: 2004
System: GBA
While it's undeniable that A Link to the Past is responsible for setting the template for almost every Zelda title since then Minish Cap should surely be remembered for its most excellent execution of this template but much more than this it is perhaps the most memorable portable game in the series and one that deserves almost every bit the amount of recognition as the landmark SNES title has garnered. The games story revolves around the evil wind sorcerer Vaati who shatters the Picori blade thus breaking an age-old seal which means that evil will once again roam across Hyrule; then Princess Zelda gets turned into stone and it falls upon you as Link to restore the blade in order to lift the curse, this must be done by the 'Minish' also known as Picori who are small people that can only be seen by kind-hearted children... it just so happens that Link fits the bill.

It's a bit of an odd story that's certainly not one of the best but it does pick-up somewhat when you are partnered up with 'Ezlo' a loud-mouthed, bird-shaped hat who decides to accompany you on your quest; thankfully everything else about the game picks up pretty quickly at this point too, failing to let-up for even a moment until the very end. This is the beauty of Minish Cap as it's so perfectly paced throughout because instead of feeling familiar at the start you are introduced to the games most interesting element which is your ability to shrink to a small speck of your former self; this is done by accessing portals which are scattered around Hyrule as this is the only way you'll get to interact with the Minish people, it soon becomes apparent at just how fantastic a mechanic it is too as you're soon exploring many seemingly 'normal' objects such as Tree-stumps which actually turn out to be full-blown areas in their own right and things like a simple rainfall can become comparable to dodging boulders on Death Mountain trail.

One of the best things about this adventure though is its lack of reliance on 'classic' Zelda staples including Bomb's and the Hero's Bow in favour of newer items including the Mole Mitts which allow link to tunnel through certain landscapes plus the Gust Jar which creates a vacuum allowing you to draw objects towards you along with other uses. Indeed it speaks volumes that those two items in particular were most recently recycled in Skyward Sword – albeit in a more powered-up form – because I believe that many items from Minish Cap have long been hailed as some of the best original items used in the series for a long time and they certainly prove their worth many times over as you'll be using these items plus more within the many impeccably designed dungeons which easily feel more challenging than those found in later portable outings not to mention some truly brilliant boss battles; perhaps most impressive though is the land of Hyrule itself which has been re-imagined spectacularly managing to feel rather restrictive at the start but then being blown wide open with each new item you acquire, this is easily one of the best overworlds ever conceived in the series.


There are some justifiably jaw-dropping visuals featured throughout from the beautifully crafted Picori Festival at the start to the haunting Dark Hyrule Castle and everything in-between; just as A Link to the Past is considered to have the best visuals for its time of release on a home console Minish Cap holds this title proudly aloft for the hand-held category not looking to be beaten any time soon unless proven wrong by the yet to be  fully announced original retail Zelda title on the 3DS. Naturally the audio is simply  sublime featuring a diverse score that is sure to immerse you more than ever before; each piece serves only to amplify the air of adventure that's an ever-present accompaniment throughout your journey and is a reminder of just how enchanting the series can be.

Make no mistake as this is one of the finest entries in the long-running series which is now in the year of its twenty-fifth anniversary and has never been stronger, while Minish Cap could have perhaps been longer it still sets a shining example of how to truly do a portable Zelda title the justice it deserves. If you've yet to play this most excellent entry in the series then I would strongly suggest that you do so and if you're an ambassador then what better time to experience this classic which surely proves that the best things come in small packages.              

Verdict : A mini Zelda title that manages to be both mesmerising and memorable.  


Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Released: 1999
System: GBC
This entry in the Mario Golf series may have been released fifteen years ago but it still remains untouched in terms of sheer amount of depth included in a portable Golf game, while it was released at the same time as the N64 game of the same name the GBC version of Mario Golf actually takes on things from an entirely different angle. Sporting a unique RPG-like mode if you choose to play as your own character it certainly offers a rather fresh approach to Golf which is certainly something that's very welcome indeed; it shouldn't really come as any surprise being that the developer Camelot has previously worked on some of the best RPG's to date but of course it seems that they realised that some players would just want to play the sport that they have paid for, so you don't have to indulge in this area at all instead you can just opt to tee off from the start.

Picking either Mario or Luigi will mean that this title will play very much like NES Open Tournament Golf as everything from alligning your shot to putting plus even swinging feels frightfully familiar, albeit in the best possible way of course because if it isn't broken then why to fix it? This does seem to limit you a bit though being that you can just merely play a course or practice your shots with nothing more, which is fine if that's all you want from the experience but for those who want a bit more then I'd suggest going for the RPG mode; it's here that you get to choose your own male or female golfer as you attempt to put your clubhouse on the map by rising through the ranks, defeating former champions on their home turf. It's just fantastic fun, that's it.

Being easier to get into is a very positive aspect of this title as you can train with an NPC to further better your skills over time - much better than becoming daunted by NES Open - with the difficulty level being a bit more forgiving too which may help a lot of players to enjoy the experience a bit more. Of course if you really are a complete purist then you can simply opt to just play as Mario or Luigi, you'll still be able to scratch that Golf 'itch' but you will miss out on being able to play Match games or Tournaments as these seem to be limited to your 'RPG' character, it's hardly a deal-breaker though.


Visually there is a staggering amount of detail afforded by what was always essentially a portable 8-Bit machine, it never ceases to amaze me just how good a Golf game can look on the small screen, all of it done with such style as well that everything from the 'standing shot' screen to the map which shows the ball travelling is ablaze with detail; couple this with the excellent character animation which just manages to capture the essence of the sport so brilliantly but with just enough of a whimsical quality to it. All of the music contained in the game isn't too bad either providing some interesting background beats which are upbeat enough to spur you on, yet not too overpowering so the music doesn't detract from the game in any way although you might get fed up of hearing the same looped track after a particularly long session on one course, the sound effects however are faultless.
It might be lacking the usual multiplayer features due to psychological 'technical limitations' like with most GBC titles but regardless of this, Mario Golf is simply one of the best portable games of golf that money can buy even fifteen years on as it's simple to pick up, hard to put down and just so much fun to play. For anyone that tends to find that more traditional golf games often miss the mark all I can say is give this gem a go if you didn't already get it for free in the recent Mario Golf 3DS promotion that is for buying the recent retail game, now is your chance to pick up and play a few holes with or without your favourite Mario characters, it's up to you but whatever you do... try and stay out of the sand.

Verdict : A hole in one and hands-down one of the greatest Golf games ever.


Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1986
System: NES
This is one of those games that has only really become known of in Europe through cameo appearances in titles such as past Super Smash Bros titles within the trophy section, indeed only more recently as it was the direct inspiration for the infamous 'ninja-throwing star game' - to give it a casual label - contained within Nintendoland and yet it wouls seem that originally The Mysterious Murasame Castle was something of a classic hardcore title in the making when it was originally released in 1986 in Japan but unfortunately never destined for our shores. Until now that is as Nintendo have finally deemed us 'worthy' enough of being able to play this brilliant 8-bit title which shares more than a passing resemblance to the first Zelda game at first glance except you get to play as a Samurai instead of a lone adventurer; of course there's a bit more to it than that though, so read on as I will enlighten those who wish to know more about this beautifully enigmatic title.

Assuming the role of Takumaru as an apprentice samurai you are tasked with leading a two-pronged attack on both the alien menace which has taken residence in the castle plus the other samurai's from nearby castles who have been turned evil by the aforementioend alien assailants; just another days work then? Getting right into the thick of it everything is very heavy on the action as enemies appear from all over the screen trying to attack you from every direction as you push forward with your limited amount of shurikens assigned to the 'A' button when you're at a distance from your target in addition to your sword which you use with the same button but only when an enemy or projectile is close which works well for deflecting airborne attacks. You also have an invisibility which you can use a few times but only lasts for around five seconds which can be useful at times, naturally you can expand your arsenal by picking up powers which include fireballs, lightning bolts, multi-directional fire plus even special footware to make you quicker; certainly a decent selection to be had.

You'll almost certainly be wanting to use restore points with this one as it's one of those deals where if you lose a life then you also forfeit the powers that you've painstakingly been collecting thus far, you can take up to three hits but still it's very easy to lose lives especially if you allow yourself to be distracted even for a second so be on your guard as you attempt to make it from one end of the maze-like levels to the other, taking out as many or as few of the predictably placed enemies on the way. Once you get out of the open-air parts of each area though, making it into the castles you will find that the boss battles in addition to some more testing enemies are not optional as you will have to defeat them to progress which takes at least a little bit of skill; fortunately you will get your health restored after each significant part of the game so it's certainly not unfair but a challenge to say the least.


Strikingly detailed for a NES title, there are many decent sprites contained within the games five stages with just enough variation between them all to stop things becoming stale, some of the objects are essentially reused from Zelda I'm sure like the bushes but I find that it all adds to the charm as does the animation level on the enemies and your character which are always entertaining. Aurally though the experience is on an enitrely different plain being that it was originally developed for the Famicon Disk System so what you end up getting is a spectacular up-tempo soundtrack which is entirely suited to the far-Eastern setting and will keep you playing away for many hours along with the simple joy of hearing the well rounded sound effects as well; it should speak volumes that the soundtrack was basically just re-used for the Takumaru's Ninja Castle minigame in Nintendoland with virtually no alteration because it's simply that good.

A wise man once said that it is much better to be late then to never arrive... or something to that effect, but it's true that the arrival of The Mysterious Murasame Castle in Europe twenty-eight years on is certainly a very welcome surprise indeed, judging by the positive feedback that the game has received since this re-release just goes to further iterate that there is still a huge market for these classic previously Japanese-only releases as they are so full of charm which can be lacking from many games of today. So don't delay in downloading this amazing slice of Nintendo history which has thankfully now become current again and hopefully won't become forgotten again, perhaps we might get a proper sequel one day, I'd like to think so as I for one do not wish to say 'Sayonora' to this fantastic game world only after recently becoming
acquainted with it.        

Verdict : Mysteriously mesmerising, Murasame Castle is a must-have title.

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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