VC Weekly 315

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 fishing RPG's, Coin-up classics or just decent platformers starring a couple of apes then you've come to the right place. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Namco Museum
Legend of the River King 2
Donkey Kong Land II
Donkey Kong Country 2


Price: GB £5.39, EU €5.99
Publisher: Bandai-Namco
Developer: Namco
Released: 2001
System: Game Boy Advance

When this retro compilation was first released in 2001 all of the titles contained within were already around twenty years old, while there's nothing wrong with aging titles I can recall being less than thrilled at the prospect of playing Dig Dug again on a smaller screen so now thirteen years on I'm understandably even less enthusiastic at the idea of playing them again; possibly because I've already played each title seperately many times over in various forms. It does at least still offer value for money if anyone was considering purchasing at least two or more of the five titles that you get in this still relevant if slightly outdated offering.

So firstly we have Dig Dug which sees you trying to destroy a load of underground undesirables by either inflating them or digging dirt strategically so that they get squished by dropping debris, then we have Galaga where you end up essentially playing a more elaboarte scrolling version of the classic Space Invaders but with superior enemy movement so it's obviously worth playing closely followed by Galaxian; it's here that things go back to basics even for this type of game which sticks closer to its space guns than Galaga providing an even simpler yet more satisying shoot-em-up experience.

Of course then we go on to Ms. Pac-Man which everyone should recognise as an all-time classic, it's most likely the main draw of this package too if you don't already own it elsewhere as this landmark title is still just as fun to play as it ever was except here you get the option to play with a full-view of the stage or go for the zoomed-in view which adds scrolling to the mix and is very much considered to be an 'Expert Mode' if ever there was one but it's also a necessary one if you're just playing solely on the Gamepad; for the TV screen its probably better to stick with the classic view. Not forgetting Pole Position though quite honestly you are probably going to want to discount this one as the 'dud' of the selection as while it might have been pioneering in its day, by today's standards it really is just a ropey old racer with not much to offer at all aside from possible headaches from playing it if you do decided to persist to try and get all of your money's worth, it's really not worth the toll on your sanity level.


There was clearly no expense spared on the presentation in this collection, sarcasm aside though while the collection really is bare bones with no extras the actual games do actually look decent still even considering their age, Galaga in particular has some timeless animations including one of the ships which even made it into the latest Super Smash Bros game as an assist trophy; now that's iconic! Then on the audio front you have the charm of Ms. Pac-Man with its amusing intro tunes and infectious sound effects, the various bleeps of Galaxian plus the whimisical noises of Dig Dug; it's a nice package again only marred by the Pole Position which just sounds plain awful to me.

You already know if you're going to purchase this purely based on your nostalgic feelings for the better titles in this sparsely populated 'Museum' of old Namco games, most of the games are at least worth a pound of anyones money so you still can't go far wrong but it's by no means the best way to play these titles nor is it the cheapest despite its 'budget' price. Give it a go if you're curious, but if you end up trying to persevere with Pole Position then try not to be furious.

Verdict : A sedate selection of games including four cult classics plus an offensive offering.


Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Natsume
Developer: Natsume
Released: 2001
System: Game Boy Color

The original Legend of the River King was particularly motable for being the first proper RPG based around fishing as opposed to just having the sport as a mere side-distraction or mini-game, it had a simplistic yet touching story where you went on essentially an elaborate 'fetch quest' to get hold of the 'Guardian Fish' which has supposed healing properties which were required to save your sister in the game, there were various elements in play including a novel battle system where you could optionally fight against monsters by pressing the button at the right time to K-O them which it turns out is worth doing as the experience points would enable you to fish better; you also had one crazy adventure along the way too. In this sequel though it's the very world that it at stake as both Gods of the Mountain and Sea have stolen two parts which make up the 'Heaven Jewel' which is essentially a symbol of equilibrium so without it terrible events start to happen, more to the point they are affecting your village but as luck would have it seems that these two less than gracious gods have been spotted in fish form on occasion, so it falls to both you alongside your brother to catch them so that balance can be restored.

Starting off you get to pick either the Older or Younger brother each of whom have ever so slightly different stats plus different set paths during what it still the same adventure even if it does add a bit of variation it's nothing that will make you want to paly through the game twice unless you really relish the experience; walking around the Overworld you can expect to find a fair few NPC's to talk with each of who will either offer pearls of wisdom or be part of a larger trading sequence of which there are many in this title. If you want to get anywhere in this 'world' then you'll require several different fish to swap for favours as they seem to be like currency here, fortunately the main fishing mechanic is just a simple case of pressing 'B' to cast followed by a lot of waiting for the right moment to reel the aquatic life-form in, of course there are a variety of different bait, hooks and even lures to erm... lure your prey in with so this mixes things up a bit even if it is just down to simple experimentation.

Besides fishing your quest will also see you bug-catching, diving or even flower picking via menu-based encounters, not only that but the enemy battles are back too though these typically consist of battering birds of various varieties until they fly their feathered selves away leaving you with some much needed experience and hopefully not too much bother at all. Notably there are other things which make this adventure stand out as if the fetch quests plus fishing seem obviously Zelda inspired then the day/night cycle in addition to the general style of everything certainly makes it feel like an early Pokemon game from the same era even though it still has plenty of charm all of its very own.


It's actually pretty detailed visually looking especially impressive for its time of release, it still holds up pretty well today which is all thanks to the lavishly detailed presentation which one might expect from Natsume, because you can easily expect the same fidelity here as was afforded by some of their earlier Harvest Moon titles if not more so in some areas. Even the soundtrack is very hard to fault as though it's simplistic there is still a lot to love here being that the chip-tune compositions are both tranquil and enjoyable, as are the sound effects such as the ambient cricket chirps or just the swish of the water as you fish; it's all very pleasing, relaxing stuff.

Gamers looking to get hooked on an alternative fishing game which has a distinct RPG flavour, coupled with plenty of things to do need look no further as this is most definitely the game which will reel you in with its charm ensuring you keep playing for a fair few hours indeed. Even if you've not played the first title it really doesn't matter as I would have to say that this is a case of the sequel being superior even if both titles have a lot to offer you really can't go wrong with Legend of the River King 2 so snap it up as the price is a mere drop in the ocean compared to its price online if you can even find a copy; not to mention that Miiverse is a great place to drum up a conversation about such a niche title as this gem.     

Verdict : A fantastic fish-flavoured RPG with bite!

Price: GB £3.59, EU €3.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Rare
Released: 1996
System: Game Boy
Following the release of Donkey Kong Country 2 it seemed like a no-brainer for Rare to release Donkey Kong Land 2 if only to follow the release pattern of the first titles especially being that they turned out to be pretty decent, indeed the first portable DKL game fell short in a few areas but thankfully this sequel at least addresses some of the issues while at the same time unfortunately introducing some of its own; portable iterations are very rarely perfect though so we should be at least grateful for their competent existence. Of course the story is the same as the second DKC game where Donkey Kong gets captured by Kremlings - oh no! - so it's up to Diddy along with Dixie Kong to go and rescue the slightly dense yet lovable ape, which means an excuse for adventure!

Probably the first thing that anyone who has played other games in the series will notice is that it's very similar to its home-console brethren, indeed where the first DKL title was short but at least refreshingly different this sequel seems to follow a little too closely to the initial template set out for it, which there is nothing wrong with when the source material is so spectacular but it does feel a little bit too much was simply carried over. But on the positive side the controls are better than the first games which were frustrating even at the best of times, in fact I really don't think I conveyed just how unfair the first DKL game felt at times as it had some terrible ways of killing off your characters far too easily mainly down to the controls including dodgy collision detection, poorly placed pitfalls plus horribly unfeasible jumps which were a trial for even those who had mastered the original Donkey Kong Country - which at least was faultless - but thankfully the game feels a lot fairer this time around with the d-pad and buttons feeling a lot more responsive.


Also gone are most of the confusing backgrounds of the prequel that tended to merge with the foreground along with the character resulting in a nearly indistinguishable mess making it hard to ascertain just what exactly you were doing, here things at least feel a great deal more concise which helps a lot particularly when you are trying to explore every part of the stage to locate the 'K-O-N-G' letters or find another elusive secret stage so you can stock up on limited lives as the heart icons stack up across the bottom of the screen; though you'll still likely find yourself making good use of those handy restore points which are a Virtual Console staple for this genre. Small things hold it back though like not being able to pick up 'spare' DK barrels which is useful if you make a mistake so you can go back to nab them but when you're already practised at the game it's a little bit annoying not being able to just use it as a standard projectile, it's always these compromises which let the DK Land games down though they are all completely understandable due to hardware limitations.

Visually things have stepped up slightly from the first game with that aforementioned clarity between the characters and their environments though it's such a shame that we have to miss out on all of those features the Super Game Boy used to bestow on great games such as these, I can only hope that Nintendo find some way to restore things like this one day but for now it's still nice to even be able to play these titles which are still a small technical miracle in some respects; of course the character animations are charming as ever even though you can only have either Kong member on the screen at any one time. Fortunately once again the glorious music of David Wise is preserved in portable form as best it can be in so much as the essence is still there even if it doesn't quite feel as multi-layered as the glorious SNES original, the sound effects are satisfactory considering they are all that the Game Boy could muster which was quite something back in the day.


With plenty to collect spread across many more 'new' stages plus a few surprises if you manage to grab every available Krem-koin, there is still plenty to entertain you in DKL2 as it offers a decent portable platforming experience which still falls flat in places even though it thankfully never becomes as frustrating as the first title owing to several refinements. If you've never played the portable titles featuring pairs of multi-talented monkeys both featuring their own skills then you could do a lot worse than this entry, though the third title is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch this game is far from being an over-ripened banana though it does have a few bad spots you'll need to eat around.

Verdict : Perfectly playable, portable monkey madness.


Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Rare
Released: 1995
System: SNES

When the Virtual Console service launched in Europe there were a number of decent games made available that provided a reasonable retro range of console classics to choose from. For many however it can be safely said that there was one title that stood that little bit higher than everything else at the start of it all.Donkey Kong Country is the title in question, for many this title was in it's day “the” reason to own a SNES; with it's sumptuous pseudo 3D graphics, sublime sound and trademark humour back up with solid gameplay ensured it was a surefire hit for both Rare and Nintendo.

So it was of no surprise and in fact a joy that Rare decided to release a sequel only a year after the original which had found a home within the hearts of many a gamer in a relatively short space of time. Of course as with every sequel to a hugely popular title there were concerns as to whether it could or would be even as half as good as DKC; thankfully though those worries and fears were quickly proven quite unnecessary. Donkey Kong County 2 was released and much to the delight of gamers not only did it match the original in every respect but it took everything that DKC had and pushed the envelope even further. For many the second entry is even today considered to be the zenith of the series and is held in even higher regard than both the original and final installments.


It's not hard to see why, from the moment you load the game and are presented with the ever familiar (for that era) blue & gold, stylised “R” shaped logo, followed by the beautifully rendered title screen which actually “looks” as good as the box art (a rare thing in those days) makes it clear to see that this is a title of high production values.High standards continue when you start the main game which begins where the previous  left off in the place known as Gangplank Galleon; in this area you get to meet the games starring characters Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong (Diddy's girlfriend). Ignoring the fact that they share the same surname which technically relates them; they are on a quest to save Donkey Kong who has been kidnapped by the evil Kremling; King K Rool.

It's also the place where you actively take control of the dubious duo as the initially uncomplicated control mechanics come into play; when you have control of both characters “A” initiates a piggy-back maneuver, “B” is the all important jump button, “X” allows you to dismount from the aforementioned move and “Y” serves as the context sensitive action button which covers everything from making Diddy cartwheel, Dixie swing and when held allows you to run with either Kong as well as having other multiple uses.


Automatically apparent is the games intensely detailed and realistic pseudo 3D style on a backdrop that is two-dimensional; this graphical approach which suited the first entry so well has been carried over and executed on an even greater level. Animation is now even more fluid than before with all the action flowing as seamlessly in this VC release as the SNES original did due to it being optimised for 50Hz; meaning it runs much the same as it's American counterpart. On the audio front DKC2 really is a melodic marvel from the very first piece of opening music to end credits thanks to the talents of composer David Wise who also worked on the first outing and needless to say, the BGM is of exceptional caliber. Throw into the mix many sound effects previously used as well as new ones of equal quality and you have a platform title that easily stands out as one of the best of it's time.

Not only does DKC2 set high standards visually and audibly but it truly is as much of a joy to play today as it was back in the day; from the start it's the simply things such as dispatching with multiple enemies with a perfectly executed cartwheel or barrel throw thanks to spot -on controls superior to DKC and then watching as the Kremlins fall overboard causing a spray of water to appear signifying their demise. It's the combination of the fact that you have full control of the characters and all the different ways of getting from the start to finish of each level; the variation comes from defeating the enemies in new ways. During the course of your adventure you will discover destructible crates that contain creature companions who will lend you their various abilities; such as Rambi the Rhino who sends enemies flying and this time around can charge at high speed which helps in finding those all important bonus stages.


There are a few ways of obtaining extra lives, which is just as well seeing as they are as easy to lose as they are to obtain; you can collect coloured DK balloons, 100 bananas, the infamous “K-O-N-G” letters throughout the levels or you can enter one of the games various bonus stages which often involve selecting a correct barrel or finding a krem-coin hidden in a timed mini-stage.Collected Krem-coins can be exchanged at various points on the stage map via one of the many members of the Kong-Klan such as Wrinkly Kong who will sell you info or Swanky Kong who will quiz you for the chance to win extra 1-Ups. Above the fantastic gameplay it's the small but noticeable things which Rare took the time to include which elevates the experience above being simply another platform game.

From posters of previous Rare games and incorrect math sums in the backdrops of certain Kong residences to Kranky Kong providing self-referential humour relating to the series and of course the wonderfully alliterated location labels. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and with plenty of replay value; Donkey Kong Country 2 is a benchmark example of how good a platform  title can truly be.

Verdict : A killer-ape king of the Kong series.

*Donkey Kong Country 2 review copied completely from my review of the Wii VC version to see how it holds up.

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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