VC Weekly 304
Posted 31 Aug 2014 at 17:00 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
Two mediorcre titles, one average and one awesome; it's another mixed bag of digital downloads. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge
Mega Man II
Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
When the original Mega Man Battle Network was released fans were already sceptical towards just how exactly an RPG based on the Mega Man universe would play out, thankfully though all seemed to go as planned as the game is still hailed as a classic today. What happens when you have a game which becomes an off-shoot of what is already a spin-off series? It would seem that you end up with Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge which seems to take the rule-book built up by the MMBN games and instead of respecting it chooses to deface every page making for something which is initially very jarring even for a Mega Man RPG title.
For a start this adventure seems to take place on an entirely different timeline, both Artificial Intelligence programs and computer networks have once again advanced to such a phenomenal level that they are pitted against each other in tournaments so that the Net Navigators can determine who is the overall champion over the digital realm all of whom are battling it out in the BattleChip GP challenge so that they can assemble the ultimate A.I warrior. Oh yeah and there's some overriding good versus evil plot line as well if it makes a difference.
You get to choose from a selection of six operators who has their own Net Navi battling on their behalf, you'll get to play as the two mainstay pairs consisting of Lan & Megaman plus Chaud with Protoman in addition to a new pair who aren't quite as compelling but yay for choice I suppose? During the course of the game you'll come across plenty of the evil Dr. Wily's robot masters which will be a relief to the long-term fans, what isn't so good though is that when you get into the actual battles they are actually rather bland, uninspiring and just boring as the game seems to play itself here as you just collect the battle chips which you build a deck of, these then program your erm... program, telling them what to do so then all that's left is to sit back and watch; of course there are several variables to consider etc but essentially this is what the gameplay boils down to, even the exploration outside of battles is dumbed down to be purely functional.
Everything seems quite reasonable on the visuals front though it's really nothing too much above what the Battle Network series achieved as it utilises the same perspectives just not as effectively, the animations are reasonably good but again nothing that far from what we've become used to seeing from GBA titles, so while I'm not trying to take anything away from the games 'nice enough' sprite work it still fails to do anything overtly original. Now the music is a touch better as the soundtrack at least is pretty decent for a spin-off, while the tunes won't be besting any of the original Mega Man games there are still a few nice pieces hidden away in there along with some well sampled sound effects which are perfectly suited to the on-screen action.
Personally I just can't get past how much of a cash-in Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge seems to be, it may hold some hidden depth for players who like lots of things to collect, trade and then adapt to win but ultimately when you strip everything down there really isn't a lot to the experience if you're a seasoned gamer so if you prefer your Mega Man experiences to be pure then I'd advise that you stay away from this rather simplistic 'RPG' such as it is. Out of all the Mega Man games that have been available on the GBA I really fail to see why Capcom have chosen to release this one other than to simply get it out of the way, some may get enjoyment out of this if they are new to the Blue Bomber but I'd hardly call it representative; otherwise I'd wait for the better offerings which are sure to be arriving imminently.
Verdict : Massively underwhelming Mega Man RPG which manages to undermine the entire series.
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 £3.59, EU €3.99
System: Game Boy
Normally reviewing a Mega Man platforming title would be seen as something of a pleasure, if this had been the NES version then that would most certainly have been the case but unfortunately the misleading Game Boy version of Mega Man II is a far cry from the home console classic. Taking the template made by the first portable Mega Man game this title first pits you against four of the robot masters from the second NES title - Air, Clash, Metal & Wood Man - then has you face Dr. Wily only to find that you must fight four more robot masters - Hard, Needle, Magnet & Top Man - who are from the original Mega Man III so on paper at least all sounds good. It's when you get to actually playing the game though, that's when the problems arise.
Even apparent from the first stage you select this is not the Mega Man that you know or love, the controls may be similar but that's about it as you'll surely discover after only a few moments as it all just feels more than a little 'off' in the sense that you'll really wonder what Capcom were thinking when this one was clearly rushed out, you still run & jump in the usual manner - you can also slide by pressing down and A - but it just simply doesn't feel right at all. This becomes even more evident from some rather dodgy encounters with enemies as the hit-boxes clearly haven't been coded very well leaving you with the feeling that for certain sections it's just impossible not to take any damage which really shouldn't be so at all, because of this if anyone was determined enough to play this then I would have to advise using save states, this not only allows you to avoid using the antiquated password system but it just makes it ever so slightly more playable if only by a fraction.
You can quite easilly score multiple extra lives plus other power ups to by simply waiting next to certain enemies which respawn so that if you do manage to deal with the games many glitches including enemies not even appearing correctly due to how the screen constantly shifts then you'll be able to finish it quite easily but the question is, would you really want to? I certainly didn't as I couldn't stand the well below-standard level design which is simply awful when you compare it now just to better Mega Man titles but well... any platforming title which is really saying something; some of the attack patterns for the enemies are just plain annoying as well which really doesn't help.
On the subject of graphics there really isn't much to say here other than just how awful the sprites and the backgrounds are even for an early Game Boy title, Mega Man himself is barely animated as a result his movements feel stiff whereas the enemies aren't much to look at either, it's just awful to look at plus even worse in motion. Please don't even ask me to talk about the music, my ears have only just stopped ringing from what I would have to describe as nothing less than absolute aural assault, it's that bad and why they didn't just choose to re-use the original music I will never know but then this is what happens sometimes when you outsource development to some no-name company.
I just can't even advise that anyone picks up Mega Man II for the Game Boy unless they really, absolutely must have the game for some bizarre reason which extends to being some sort of masochist who enjoys playing bad games, or if you're a Mega Man fan who just buys every title on impulse. Everyone else should really avoid this hideous experiment and instead just buy the original Mega Man II for the NES which is also available on the eShop and is even cheaper! It really doesn't require much more thought than that.
Verdict : Mega Man for masochists and anyone mad enough to want it only.
Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
System: Game Boy Color
Wayforward may be well known for developing the cult classic Shantae series but before they even conjured up the glorious half-genie they had actually made are rather well desgined, original title known as Xtreme Sports which was their first game made for the Game Boy Color but you'd be forgiven for not even hearing about its existence as this would just happen to be the first time that its been released in Europe so finally we can see what all the fuss is about. This certainly isn't like your other typical sports sim as for a start it has a story of sorts; best friends Fin & Guppi have been invited to compete alongside other athletes in a series of give events hosted by the shady Xtreme Cola Company which gives you the player an excuse to walk around an island hub as you challenge rivals for the chance to win medals thus unlocking more areas within the island, quite a novel idea really.
For the selection of sports you ge to choose from Inline Skating, Skateboarding, Skyboarding, Street Luge and of course Surfing, so basically any sport that begins with an 'S' that's also considered to be rather 'radical' as all the kids used to say basically seems to qualify so at least this isn't your average Track 'n Field affair in any case. You get a selection of difficulty levels with the action spread out over several stages per sport which keeps things fresh, also you'll never be directly competing smultaneously with your rivals instead aiming to better the record they have set on a particular track, it's here that flag collection, high score and speed come into play as deciding factors; the beauty of this setup is that if your rival has gone for the fastest time than the event becomes a time trial for you whereas if you are aiming for the flags then it's more of a 'collectathon' of sorts so it significantly adds to the replay value.
All of the controls are pretty solid which is just as well seeing as the explanations for each event in the story mode aren't exactly the greatest so it's just a case of trying the buttons out to see what they do, to the credit of the designers they have managed to cram quite a decent selection of moves onto a handheld which only originally had two action buttons in addition to the d-pad; keep practicing though and you'll be pulling off your own combination of impressive stunts while mastering the much needed double jump required for reaching higher areas. You also can pick up items known as Twitchy Shakes which will improve your abilities so you'll want to keep a look out for those, the presenation is very simple opting for side-on 2D for most of the sports - aside from Street Luge which is top-down - which helps keep things flowing along nicely making things not seem quite as overwhelming as they could have been had an isometric perspective been utilised instead; indeed the momentum is only really brought to something of a standstill when you go back to traversing the island inbetween events which can be particularly noticable if you've just been on a skyboard dive right into an active volcano - for whatever reason - to then crawling along on foot, perhaps it would have been better to have had a mode of transportation for the hub as well given the 'radical' nature of the game.
Every trick in the book seems to have been used to take advantage of the full power supplied by the Game Boy Color at the time as every element from the menus to the hub right into the events themselves have quite an impressive amount of detail while keeping just the right amount on-screen at any one time, there is a definite warm, sunny vibe that radiates through the whole experience complete with some really cheerful and fun animations to each of the characters in the game including some amusing things going on in the background coupled with the odd barely-dressed pixelated lady here and there being that this is a Wayforward game of course. The soundtrack contains several simple but pleasing 8-bit compositions for the events which suits the frantic action especially when coupled with all of the choice sound effects which add to the fun factor, it just makes the hub seem even more barren though when there's nothing but the sound of digitised waves in the background because being that this part of the game plays like an overhead RPG it could have done with a jovial tune or two but alas no such luck.
Despite the very small shortcomings of the hub there is still plenty to love where Xtreme Sports is concerned as each of the different activities has its own distinct style of play plus there are always plenty of excuses to return just for that elusive 'one more go' even if you're only playing in practice mode which I would recommend if you just want to play for a few minutes. A really fun experience regardless of whether you like extreme sports or not - though clearly it helps if you do - amplified by the constant competition that will surely continue via Miiverse; this game finally becoming available couldn't have happened at a better time as not only can a long lost Wayforward classic now be rediscovered for any who were lucky enough to play it but now this gem can reach a larger target audience than it ever would have before.
Verdict : Xtremely addictive sports sim that's fantastically fun to play.
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!