VC Weekly 306

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

A Quadruple dose of quintessentially brilliant gaming awaits you, the trouble is which one to choose? Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Adventures of Lolo
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Mega Man IV
Fire Emblem

Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: 1991
System: NES
Before there was Kirby this is one of the early games that helped to put the now infamous HAL Laboratories on the map; in the years since it's release it's a title thats remained relatively obscure due to it not reaching the same heights of success as games of the same era and genre. However it's clear that this title is the sum of a solid effort of development for it's time and in this VC re-release it has the potential to reach a much larger audience.

Aside from the cliché' story revolving around a princess named Lala, some evil demons of an empire, a kidnapping and you taking on the role of Lolo (a round spherical creature) the hero who will save her, the rest of the game oozes originality. Each level is based on a room inside a castle, you must collect hearts while avoiding enemies; upon collection of all hearts a treasure chest opens and activates all creatures in the room and provides an exit to the end of the level.


In addition to the ever-present evil enemies you will encounter other obstacles including boulders and single direction tiles which will mean you will constantly planning your escape route. Only really comparable to Solomon's Key (another decent puzzler of the same format and era) in terms of graphics and audio it's understandably underwhelming due to it's age but the gameplay truly shines through and still feels fresh, frantic and fun.

Conceptually simple and yet deviously designed; Adventures of Lolo offers so much in terms of the simple satisfaction of success as completing each level offers a great sense of achievement. For those who want a decent puzzle game that offers a little bit more and that won't leave you feeling short-changed, this comes highly recommended.  

Verdict : A particularly well polished puzzler.


Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Technos Japan Corp
Released: 1990
System: NES
The original Double Dragon has always been highly regarded for its unique brand of beat 'em up action coupled with stunning sound and vibrant visuals that secured its now classic status, so it would seem only fitting that a sequel would surely be just as successful or even better. Certainly this title seems to be every bit as good as the original in most respects even if true fans of the series would have you believing otherwise, this is a sequel which beings new elements to the table while retaining most of what made the original so great which is definitely something worthy of praise.

While there was nothing wrong with the original control scheme things have been optimised to make short-ranged combat more accessible meaning you'll be cracking heads with ease as you simply use the two main action buttons to attack in the direction that they are more biased towards on the controller while performing a special or a jump is a simple case of pressing both buttons simultaneously which will result in either action depending on the sensitivity of the context. It might sound unnecessarily overcomplicated on paper but when you're playing it feels completely natural, really helping the overall flow of the game making it instantly more playable.

Another marked improvement is the addition of two player competitively cooperative multiplayer which allows you to team up playing as either of the Lee brothers as you choose to either help or hinder your teammate as your fight your way through the brilliantly simple yet spectacular side-scrolling stages that this title still has to offer. It's still fun to play solo of course but playing alongside a friend or foe elevates this from being a fun fighter to a chaotic brawler that has all the hallmarks of a classic co-op experience.


Improvements are also noticable in the overall visual quality as everything has a new-found clarity to it from the chracter and enemy sprite animation right through to the bold colour palette that perfectly outlines everything while at the same time creating that all-important seperation of the sprites from the foreground so that you always know where you are while still feeling very much part of the action rather than trying to spot your character as they blend in with the scenery which can be a common problem with this genre of game. Music is also of a particularly high standard as you may have come to expect from the series with each stage featuring some truly terrific compositions coupled with several short, sharp and satisfying samples that make up the sound effects which you'll never tire of hearing no matter how many times you floor an enemy.

Sequels don't get much better than this as taking everything that made the original so addictive then improving on almost every element, making everything more accessible and above all fun to play is surely the way to do things properly; of course naturally this all comes at a price as the game is ever so slightly easier but really when the experience is this enjoyable it really is a small trade-off indeed. No matter if you're a fan of the series or one of the few unconverted people who have perhaps never played a Double Dragon game before there truly is no better place to start than right here.    

Verdict : Double Dragon II delivers a dose of fun to the genre it helped create.


Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Released: 1993
System: Game Boy
For the first three Game Boy Mega Man titles you could say that the portable variants felt like 'best-of' compilations of the NES titles being that each one would take Robot Masters plus their stages from the home console game, add in a few surprises like a new boss or a weapon, perhaps a rejigging of the visuals on a stage or two if you were lucky and that was essentially your classic template for your portable 'Blue Bomber' fix. But it seems that no longer being content with merely sitting in the sahdows of its console bretheren Mega Man IV finally breaks the cycle by moving the portable series forward, you still get your two sets of stages which includes Bright Man, Ring Man, Pharaoh Man and Toad Man in the first set - from Mega Man IV - while the second set comprises of Charge Man, Crystal Man, Napalm Man plus Stone Man - who originated in Mega Man V - all of which have their respective stages for you to blast your way through.

Naturally it's never a simple task because as always with Mega Man you will have many enemies who will get in your way - which thankfully have some decent collision detection this time - along with the areas themselves being of rather devilish design so you've always got to be on constant guard as it's very easy to mess up in a Mega Man game even if you're using restore points which I would advise using if required as it will save you a lot of stress. Speaking of anguish the boss battles are as beautifully brutal as they always have been, perhaps even more so in this iteration because of the perceieved smaller amount of screen room making for tighter encounters; controls seem to be absolutely nailed by this point rather than the fire couple of game which felt glitchy, here you get the precision you would expect from the NES titles but in portable form.

There are multiple improvements this time including a shop which might come in handy for newer players who find it more difficult to get by on less lives or without thise extra energy tanks, you collect 'P-chips' which drop from fallen foes - which of course then became screws in later titles - but if you are content with only using the items which you pick up while playing then you can just forget the shop exists if you like. There are plenty of alternative routes to find in addition to hidden letters with each stage, for instance on the first set you can collect letters that spell 'BEAT' which will grant you aerial assistance from a robotic - almost psychotic - blue bird while in the second set you will have to track down letters to the word 'WILY' in order to even be granted access to the final stage; of course you will also get to use Rush Coil plus Jet in addition to all the arsenal you could ever want but this time the developers have included a handy animation upon acquiring each weapon so that you know how it works rather than having to guess which is perfect for new players.


On an aesthetic level this title is astounding just for the amazing level of detail which has been carefully placed through each environment, every screen is filled with frivolity in places while still remaining substantial in order to keep that authentic feeling of a Mega Man stage, couple this with the animations which add plenty of charm and you can already see why this is such a popular entry. Of course the soundtrack is reused from the games that this borrows from so it's already an instant masterpiece, here though it's good to actually 'hear' that no compromises have been made this time around so that all you get is those brilliant chip-tunes that you've come to adore over the years if you're a fan plus those substantial sound effects which further bolster that feeling of greatness while you progress through this tough-as-nails title.  
Undoubtedly it's easy to say that Mega Man IV represents a landmark in the portable series as never before has such a title existed that exudes such excellence, indeed it is very close to being the very zenith if it wasn't for the fact that the sequel is also just as highly regarded but quite simply you would do well to pick this entry up first as it is certainly more than worthy of your time, especially if you are a hardened fan of the series though at least certain features level the playing field for potential necomers as well. With the word no doubt well and truly spread across Miiverse by now I have no doubt that this is one of those rare titles which will not only get its second wind of sales by reaching a larger userbase but that it actually deserves it too, more like this please Capcom!

Verdict : Mega Man on the small screen at its most masterful.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2004
System: GBA

Fire Emblem is a series that until semi-recently has only really been widely recognised in Japan owing to the fact that us unfortunate Europeans only got our first taste of the franchise - assuming you didn't import - only a mere decade ago, though I must confess that the first time I actually became aware of these glorious titles was upon the release of Super Smash Bros Melee owing to two popular characters named Marth and Roy who were included in the roster, then going on to become fan favourites. But as for the Fire Emblem games themselves my first actual taste of them was from playing Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones on the GBA closely followed by the heavenly Fire Emblem Path of Radiance on the Gamecube, so it would seem that that first portable game in the series actually passed me by entirely; until now that is and I for one and incredibly grateful for this Wii U VC release as its given me a chance to see what I missed for a fraction of the price that the physical game more likely goes for these days, so without hesitation I draw my blade once more as into the realm of the RPG flavoured strategy game I go!

The story begins - after you name your character then choose your birth month plus your gender- where you awake to meet the lovely Lyn who is the last of the Lorca Tribe who apparently found you lying unconcious, yet no sooner have you beein introduced as a tactician suddenly bandits attack so you are effectively thrust into battle where you learn all of the basics, suffice to say that you will meet more characters on your travels but I do not wish to spoil the story for any newcomers - like myself - so I'll just say that it's well worth following as things progress. As it turns out the basics aren't too bad at all as you'll soon learn about all of the basic units along with all of the various actions or interactions that can take place between them, it's all taught to you gradually so over the course of each new mission you actually come away from it having learnt something thus furthering your progress in the adventure at a steady rate.

Controlling your characters couldn't be simpler being that this is a GBA game as you'll be mostly moving each of your units across the map until you get to either an enemy or point of interest where you'll then be able to perform various actions such as attacking which is the most obvious or even stopping off a strategically placed piece of terrain which may provide better cover, you can even pass items between members of your party if they are in a spot of bother; indeed there are plenty of strategical options available to you but the fun comes from learning them for yourself first-hand then using them to secure victory. You can carve your path to winning by either taking out all of the enemies - which will be your main objective early on - or sometimes you can opt to capture the enemy base in a manner which may be familiar to those of you who have played Advance Wars - Intelligent Systems other gem of a series - but really Fire Emblem is still a completely different beast of battle entirely which is why I would urge anyone who has yet to sample its finery to do so without delay.


Visually the amount of clarity here along with the insane amount of depth to the individual animations really elavates this 'mere strategy RPG' to being something of a spectacular experience that never fails to impress regardless of whether it's on a small or large screen, with that said I personally enjoyed playing on the big screen as it affords that great feeling of returning to the very roots of the series being that it originated on home consoles in the East, every map has been carefully pieced together so that each new grid is akin to a piece of glorious medieval tapestry while the beautiful cutscenes which fill in the story add a great amount of weight to the proceedings. Of course the music doesn't dissapoint either featuring that now iconic Fire Emblem theme that plays at the title screen so gloriously that it almost brings a tear to the eye who anyone who holds a great amount of nostalgia for the series and ultimately if you're an invested fan why wouldn't you? For the entirity of the game all of the carefully composed score is easilly suited to each and every moment making for a more complete experience, also worth a mention are the substantial sound effects as there's nothing like hearing that glorious 'ching!' of a sword as you're about to score a critical hit on your enemy.

If you have ever been at all curious about the Fire Emblem series at all in any moment of your gaming life but have yet to try it for yourself then I simply cannot express how much you need this game in your life because in addition to being an ideal starting point for the series it's also the best time to invest what with the added features this version offers in the way of restore points plus the ability to share musings of your battles over Miiverse, I mention this because of the now well-known trait of the series being permenant character death because once any of them falls they are then gone so I think it helps to be able to effectively have an 'Undo' button providing you're saving regularly between turns because if you are the type of player who likes to make it through with everyone alive then this will help you infinitely, possibly even making it more playable to you than even the brilliant Fire Emblem Awakening because here at least you don't have to redo the entire map! Regardless of how you play though this is one of those rare breeds of title that offers something unique which can't be found elsewhere in any other series made by any other developer as there is just something sacred about Fire Emblem which sets ablaze a spark in the hearts of many gamers hearts which then continues to burn throughout the rest of their gaming lives; simply unmissable.

Verdict : Fire Emblem is for everyone who feels exceptionally compelled towards fantastic experiences.

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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