VC Weekly 296
Posted 24 Jun 2014 at 15:46 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
Yes you are reading right, there are six games to choose from following E3 including some rather decent additions which are most welcome and even one that's free. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...
Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training
Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Punch Out has garnered many fans over the years and while the game started out in the arcades and on the NES it was this version on the SNES titled 'Super Punch Out!!' (the double exclamation is there with good reason of course) that elevated the series to new levels of greatness and set it firmly in the spotlight.
This variant includes all of the moves that could previously be pulled off on earlier games including dodging, ducking & diving etc and the ability to deliver brutal blows to the body of your opponent. What's new though is the unique charging system whereby landing a series of successful hits without receiving any damage yourself will allow you to perform more powerful punches and even uppercuts that will leave your rival significantly worse for wear.
You can also of course opt to just jab quickly and attempt to whittle down your targets health meter that way as the choice to which way you play is yours but the way that the game plays remains as unchanged and reliable as ever. The formula it employs is strangely satisfying; there are no separate rounds just single bouts and you end up working your way through the sixteen different opponents ranging from Bald Bull and Bob Charlie to Macho Man and Masked Muscle to name but a few of the crazed characters you need to work your way through to win the WVBA (World Video Boxing Association) Championship.
Each of your rivals will adopt their own set technique and it's a constant challenge to master each one by countering their attack patterns and securing victory. Visually the game still looks great today due to it's original style featuring well rendered characters and an excellent standard of animation; couple this with some quality audio work which includes four different variations while boxing plus a short intro tune for each character and you have a pretty well rounded experience.
Still a simple joy to play today Super Punch Out!! is one of those original and classic Nintendo games that while not as easily recognised as one of the 'bigger' flagship titles is still just as fun to play in it's own understated way; not to mention that it's easily the best game in the series, bettering even the more recent Wii version which did reasonably well but this entry in the series still remains the undisputed King of the Ring.
Verdict : A knockout title that's well worthy of it's fan following even today.
Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Becoming something of a running joke now it seems Nintendo has decided once again to release the 'ever popular' Soccer to coincide with the World Cup, as it happens the last time this was re-released was on the Wii Virtual Console way back at the end of 2006 before even our very own VC Weekly even existed. I suppose we can't blame them for trying but this title is far from the fantastic football sim that you might have once expected it to be nearly three decades ago, indeed it was really pushing it to have even attempted to release it again digitally eight years ago but now... let us just say that it hasn't exactly gotten better with age.
For a start it doesn't even seem to be a full game of Soccer/Football in any case, because as I understand it - and Football really isn't my thing - you tend to have eleven players per side but here you only have five, this was most likely to do with the technicaly limitations of the NES at the time though so I suppose we can let it off at least a little bit for that shortcoming. Choosing a Country to play as has never been simpler being that you get a sterling selection of seven different places from around the world, then pick your skill level from one to five, match time from fifteen minutes right up to three quarters of an hour - if you can stand it for that long - and you're away!
The controls are really basic which means it's easy to just play but being that your only real options are to kick the ball or swap between players, everything else seems to be largely luck based, perhaps it's truer to real-life Football than previously anticipated? Or perhaps it is just down to practice as you can seem to get better at this game if you persevere with it for a while but really it's just not that entertaining.
Visually it's fine offering at least a small range of colours from which the NES can produce many more, the animations are sub-par while the audio is seemingly non-existent bar a few sound effects. I don't think I really need to explain any further that Soccer is clearly a relic of the past that should never be revisted except perhaps for comedy value but nothing more even if you're a huge fan of Football games.
Verdict : A football game which falls foul far too often.
Price: GB £3.59, EU €3.99
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
It's the year 2112, earth has been invaded by an evil force known only as the Quadrunners, the task of taking on this force falls upon the one known as Mach Rider; who will rid the world of this menace using his futuristic bike and blaster. It's actually 2014 and yes the story to this title if original is still weak but this VC release is most certainly justified; “you are Mach Rider!”
Falling loosely into the action genre due to it being neither racer or shooter, this title offers a decent amount of varied ways to play split into courses. The fighting course sees you clearing tracks which involves traveling a set distance, blasting as many enemies as possible while avoiding obstacles which will cause your energy bar to deplete.
Getting past the first track will see a few variables come into play such as your energy meter being replaced by three lives and the rate of obstacles becoming greater and the difficulty ever increasing. At this point the controls become a little easier to manage as opposed to being initially awkward. Other points of interest include a course creator which is competent if you persevere with it and unlike the original you are able to save your tracks this time around; also the endurance course provides a time-based variant to the main mode which is a welcome alternative and adds a small amount to the games life.
Visually the game is comparable to classic racer Outrun but audibly it has a unique style to its main theme which is easily a masterpiece of the 8-bit era, easily a high-point when you're driving down the roads at full speed. As you progress the game does become both enjoyable and yet also frustrating due to the high speed at which you travel at for the most part; this is true throughout all of the modes but it serves to keep you going for a little while although it's more of a game best played in short bursts.
Ultimately Mach Rider is a decent game which falls short of being a classic due to its cumbersome control scheme and unforgiving learning curve. It's enjoyable while it lasts however and provides an entertaining experience for those curious enough to purchase, in recent years though I have wondered if the formula could possibly be refined somewhat in order to be remade into an eShop title which might carry on the lineage through to the modern day; though I must admit that it's more likely to remain a relic of the past which is still a blast to replay but that's about it; which is a great shame because this is a game which still has quite a bit of cult appeal so if you haven't tried it yet then I'd still say it's worth taking for a spin.
Verdict : Mach-speed, motorway based madness.
Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Bandai Namco
We haven't had the 'pleasure' of playing Pac-Land on a Nintendo console in Europe until now, released in Japan in 1985 when Pac Man was presumably starting to branch out into other genres while he was still very much the popular pill popper this title sees the little yellow fellow set off on an adventure through various areas including forests, mountains, valleys and villages for no particular reason at all. These locations are a far cry from the maze-based locations of the original game but you still have many staple elements such as the ghosts - Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde - who will appear at regular intervals arriving on the scene in various vehicles, fortunately they aren't too much trouble to avoid but beware for if you dither too long then you'll incur the wrath of a new purple coloured chost called Sue so watch out when she's about.
Controls are rather sketchy at best featuring some rather floaty jumping mechanics probably owing to the fact that this game didn't just come out on one format and we all know how dodgy the controllers were for other videogame systems during the Eighties when you compare them to the excellent NES pad, that would be my guess anyway as the physics don't seem to have been refined for any particular format in the slightest as this seems to be a case of it being a dodgy arcade port; indeed if we had been given the arcade version instead perhaps it might have fared a little better.
After a few levels you get some kind of unlimited jump ability which isn't apparently obvious but once you figure it out this helps to overcome the few obstacles in the adventure, every few stages you end up travelling back to your home which is an interesting take on level design even if the stages themselves are rather standard at best while at worst they are simply forgettable. The odd few times where you will lose a life will often feel as if you've been cheated by the games dodgy programming so I would just advise using save states to combat this which makes things a bit more playable if you're intent on seeing this title through to the end.
Unfortunately the visuals seem to have suffered greatly which is presumably due to hardware limitations, something that could have also been resolved by making the arcade version available instead but as is they are just about acceptable. Aurally there isn't a great deal to talk about either with most of the music being rather basic though I suppose it's a reasonable effort considering that there wasn't any real music in the original Pac Man short of the ditties that played inbetween each stage or just before playing.
It might not be the worst example of a platforming game ever created but Pac-Land is a distinctly average affair which has been bettered many times over even by Pac-Man's more recent offerings but when you consider this as being more of an interesting experiment which served its purpose of diversifying the brand, then I suppose it's not a complete failure. Really though I can only advise purchasing this title if you are a real fan because everyone else will just see it for the relic that it really is even with its whimsical charm.
Verdict : Pac-man's first proper misadventure at least proves amusing.
Price: GB £5.39, EU €5.99
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Pac-Man may have had several re-releases in addition to complilations over the years but I can honestly say that it was Pac-Man compilation on the GBA which was to me pure perfection in portable form back in the day of its original release, obviously I have played collections since but still none of them touch the simplistic brilliance of this excellent selection. Four games which showed some of the best examples of the little yellow fellow's career to date at that point along with some lesser-known odditites all perfect to just pick up and play at a moments notice; so how does this all translate to this latest Wii U re-release? Pretty well as it happens, read on to find out the low-down on each title.
Starting with the obvious Pac-Man which is included as standard, presented in a choice of two screen formats with the first being the slightly 'zoomed-out' full screen view which works perfectly well if you want to see all the action on-screen just as it was originally or you can opt to just view a section of the maze in a more focused selection which will keep Pac-Man in full view but this might give you a slight disadvantage being that you won't be able to track the exact location of the four ghosts who are constantly hunting you down; but it's still good to have options plus the gameplay is otherwise unchanged. Then we have Pac-Mania which is actually less 'manic' than the title would ahve you believe as it's still a very similar format to the original game except that you have the ability to jump which does make things a bit more interesting I suppose but only when you get to the later stages where the ghosts are able to jump too, still it's a very solid addition which is a viable alternative to the first maze-muncher plus it has an interesting 3D effect.
By far the main attraction however is the beautifully created Pac-Man Arrangement which has a nicer aesthetic appeal than the other games in my opinion but the biggest changes are to the gameplay as you get capsules which have different effects in addition to speed boosters plus jump ramps which make things very interesting; in addition to the usual four ghosts there is also a new spirit named 'Kinky' who can't harm Pac-Man directly though this one can merge with the other ghosts to create more formidable opponents with varying characteristics so watch out for that as you try and beat the games set amount of stages which really do get challenging towards the end. Finally we have Pac-Attack which is a puzzle game that takes elements of Tetris as it involves blocks which disappear when matched plus Puyo Pop as you also have ghost blocks in the mix which of course can only be eaten by Pac-Man; the end result is an interesting fusion which actually makes for an incredibly pleasing puzzle game.
Graphically you get a pretty decent package here even well over a decade on from this compilation's original release, Pac-Man of course looks just like you'd expect it to while some of the visual touches used in Pac-Man arrangement are still genuinely eye-catching even today, couple that with the glorious animation giving you the overall impression that these games are from an era when the yellow 'puck' had really emerged into greatness. The sounds are still just as catchy even today though being that this is a portable title re-released on a home console it won't be pushing any boundaries but it's still got that classic Namco arcade soundtrack to it complete with all of the quality sound effects so it's really hard not to like what's there.
Overall I would say that you really can't go far wrong at all with Pac-Man Collection as it contains a solid selection of titles which are most certainly made of solid yellow gold as they clearly stand the test of time today, even the original shortcoming of the GBA cart having no internal battery back up - rather shockingly - has now been at least partially by-passed by the modern-age thanks to having restore points plus that all crucial Miiverse functionality which will hopefully ensure that 'score-wars' will continue on these games for a long time to come. If you've never played Pac-Man - which I would find both shocking and hard to believe - then it should go without saying that you need this in your life, plus if you're a long-term fan then you'll want to pick it up as well because it's just timeless.
Verdict : A near-perfect Pac-Man Package.
Price: GB £0.00, EU €0.00 (FREE until 10/07/14)
Developer: Nintendo SDD
So it would seem that Nintendo DS games have finally hit the Wii U VC, not perhaps how we might have expected the service to be launched but the first game is a timed freebie so who's going to complain? When it originally launched eight years ago the original Brain Training was something of a small revelation as it introduced us to a piece of software which has now largely become commonplace in today's society. With the dual-screen setup this collection of simple tests which you could easily interact with became an instant hit on the DS managing to introduce the hand-held console to a wider audience, many of which continue to use their DS or 3DS consoles to this day perhaps as an indirect result of this piece of software plus perhaps a few others; yes Brain Training was quite the phenomenon back then but now it's just as well that Nintendo is - at least initially - giving the software out for free in an age where we are graced/plauged (delete as appropriate) with many low cost or no cost applications across various mobile devices.
Primarilly you will find yourself using the 'Brain Age Check' which is very similar to the 'Wii Fit Age' on Wii Fit whereby several quick tests are given to you which you complete and are then given a number which signifies your 'Age' so the closer or even lesser it is from your real age means that you're doing well while if it ends up being significantly higher then that would seem to indicate that your brain is aging perhaps a bit faster than you would have liked. Once you've finished your 'Daily Training' then you can continue to test yourself by using 'Quick Play' which will give you a selection of similar tasks except you can just practice them freely; you get a good mix of simple calculations to reading aloud or even drawing so there's plenty to keep you occupied for a little bit plus you can also opt to play some Sudoku puzzles as well which is a nice bonus.
Being that originally you would have held your Nintendo DS as a book in this instance you get both screens presented to you side-by-side on the gamepad touch screen which works well enough but obviously you'll need to remember that only half of the screen will actually be used for touch recognition. Speaking of recognising things the microphone is also utitlised in the same way, even though it's not perfect there might be a slight improvement to it but it will still struggle with accents or any voice that doesn't sound quite right to the hardware; likewise the character recognition can be a little off when writing out numbers in particular though it's still not bad when you consider that this was a very early DS game.
Visually everything is of course rather functional featuring mostly plain while backgrounds with small splashes of colour when required so as to keep the look rather minimal which is fine, the polygonal floating head of Dr. Kawashima himself is nicely detailed though making for some amusing moments. There isn't really much to speak off in the audio department either with every sound that comes out of the speakers being completely functional and nothing else, so don't go expecting any epic soundtracks here, not that would have been of course.
It's the original Brain Training... it's free... what else is there to say really? There is no downside to obtaining this title for nothing though I must admit that personally I would have been reluctant to part with any money for it but I'm more interested in seeing what new features might be implemented when Nintendo surely launch DS titles for actual money in the near future. As it stand though I suppose it's not the worst way to launch another section of the VC but it's certainly most unexpected.
Verdict : Free training for your brain in the guise of a 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!