VC Weekly 318

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

Vampire hunting with more suck than bite, a legendary RPG plus a portable action platformer that's a welcome surprise. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Castlevania: Dracula X
Golden Sun: The Lost Age
Bionic Commando: Elite Forces


Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Publisher: Konami
Developer: KOnami
Released: 1995
System: SNES
The following is my original review of Rondo of Blood with an extra paragraph and alternative verdict just to illustrate how far this SNES port fell from the grace of the original game it attempted to reproduce... Castlevania is a series that has garnered a huge amount of popularity over the years spanning many incarnations over a wide range of consoles but by far the most sought after game in the series has to be Rondo of Blood which has been known to reach obscene prices on a certain online auction site in any of its formats. Now you can own the game in its ultimate format for just a fraction of the price thanks to the Virtual Console.

Evil is afoot as Dracula is resurrected by the Dark Priest Shaft  (...)  threatening the great Vampire hunter bloodline; it's up to you Richter Belmont to defeat Dracula and get back your love interest Annette along with her sister Maria Reynard plus two other 'maidens' named Tera - a nun - and Iris - daughter to the local doctor - who were all kidnapped from your village. All in a days work right?

If you're a fan of the earlier titles in the series then this game is a real treat as it sticks closely to its roots as mostly you'll be taking on platforming sections as you take out enemies with a crack of your whip. The old rule of 'if it's not broken then don't fix it' is applied here as special items make a triumphant return and can be used by pressing up on the d-pad. 

Generally the controls are spot-on and emulate the first games perfectly making for blissful exploration of the many beautifully designed - not to mention graphically stunning - levels to your hearts content. Branching pathways can also be found along the way which promotes replay value as no two plays of this title will be the same being that there are a fair few ways that you can go sometimes leading you to bosses that you might not have fought before not to mention a few nifty shortcuts.


As aforementioned, visually this game is very well detailed indeed thanks to the CD format it was originally released on; areas have plenty of atmosphere because of this coupled with the absolutely sumptuous score which really is a treat for the ears featuring many beautiful original compositions plus some much loved classics such as 'Vampire Killer' which are brought alive with such clarity that still shines through even today and is testament to the amount of love and care that clearly went into this excellent title.

Fans of the series should already be well aware that this is a particularly special game indeed an will no doubt be getting this and enjoying it for many moons to come but even if you're new to the Castlevania series then why not start here with one of the most highly regarded titles available? Because quite honestly playing it is an experience that will delight fans of the platform genre not to mention anyone who enjoys games from the golden age that were made properly; the amount of work put into this ensures that Castlevania : Rondo of Blood is a labour of love that doesn't disappoint and never fails to deliver satisfying gameplay.

Basically everything that was good about Rondo of Blood has been taken, stripped of all decency - bar some of the visual elements which survived - and then butchered by implementing terrible stage design in addition to completely ruining the controls; if you still have your original Wii handy then do yourself a favour, please buy Castlevania: Rondo of Blood instead then you can disregard this last paragraph plus verdict as you'll instead be enjoying one of the best entires in the series instead of this ghastly imitation what doesn't even deserve to use the Castlevania name. The sooner Nintendo are able to let other formats onto the Virtual Console instead of keeping it exclusive the better, TurbograFX games were a godsend on the Wii VC and they would be a huge asset to the Wii U especially in this case where loyal consumers are being fobbed off with an inferior offering.

Verdict : A crudely cobbled together 'Castlevania' title unfit to represent the franchise namesake.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Released: 2003
System: GBA
Anyone who ended up playing the original Golden Sun title on the GBA to 'completion' would have no doubt felt that the adventure ended rather suddenly, this is unless you were aware that the games developers Camelot - who also made the Shining Force series - were forced to split the game into two parts owing to the humble GBA which while brilliant still had its limitations; think of it as the RPG equivelant of Sonic 3 plus Sonic and Knuckles on the Sega Megadrive, on their own they are very decent games but together they form a much more satisfying, substantial experience. Where the first game ends this one picks up through a parallel storyline which means you'll be in control of a different party made up of characters that you should be familiar with if you've played the first game, if you haven't then go and play the first game now! No really, stop reading this and play the original first as you'll thank me for it later... don't start playing the 'sequel' first like I did originally back in the day. *slaps own wrist*

What you should know is that if you've completed Golden Sun - which should be a yes if you're reading this - then you have the option to 'import' your save data from the first title via a very long password, this only comes into effect later into the game but it's still nice to have this functionality being that the other option of transferring between two cartridges using a link cable is not longer there for obvious reasons. Trying not to give too much away you will be playing as Felix while Jenna, Kraden plus Sheba all feature as well; structurally it's your average RPG just like the first game was although here you are straight into the action being that this is essentially the 'second act' of one larger story, so chances are you'll very rarely be bored as there is enough to do overall especially when you take into account the magic known as Psyenergy which you'll need to be mindful of in battle.

Djinn still play a major part in the game as these creatures of different elements - Earth, Fire, Water & Wind - are crucial to victory in battle as you can allign them with different party members, combine them later in the game and well... they are just pretty cool to have as well; you will need to track them down then battle them though so be sure to save tactfully before as if you fail then you'll lose that Djinn forever so be careful. Plenty of decent dialogue throughout with a healthy dose of humour helps to move things along in addition to keeping a smile on your face, the completely arbitrary 'Yes/No' questions return as well which I've always liked because they don't matter, this is even more refreshing in today's modern trends of having the player make 'so many different choices to shape the game world' which usually reults in nothing more than a slightly different line of dialogue at the end; thankfully this charming title just keeps things standard and free-flowing.


The visuals are certainly astounding from the step-up they have taken since the first game which was already a nice enough looking piece of software, here you have the subtle charm carried over coupled with a fantastic amount of dazzling brilliance scattered evenly across the fictional land yet is perhaps most impressive within the battle sequences which feel a lot more alive with the level of animation being upped once again. Audibly it's more of the same which is no bad thing here as there are some re-used tracks plus lots of new ones which are always complimentary to your placing within the game world, you likely won't tire of them as it's a decent soundtrack overall complete with some substantial sound effects which more than serve their purpose even if they are slightly generic at the very least they are well-sampled indeed.

Clearly providing you have played the first part of this epic tale then you're going to want to play the second part so that it all makes sense, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is both a satisfying conclusion in addition to being an improvement on the first otuing as well; with both titles together you get a finely crafted masterpiece which is well worthy of your time. With plenty of charm, puzzles, action and depth in addition to the already impressive dialogue this is one RPG which manages to shine brighter than most which were available on the GBA at the time, even today it still stands up well, being that both games are available on the Wii U Virtual Console now if you've never played them before then there really is no excuse not to.  

Verdict : Golden Sun still shines very brightly indeed.


Price: GB £4.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo Software Technology
Released: 1999
System: GBC
It seems the great Nintendo Software Technology have tried their hand at many different genres of games over the years but this sequel to Bionic Commando subtitled Elite Forces ranks amongst the oddest that's for certain. So the story goes that the Avar Empire are planning an invasion of the once peaceful planet Karinia, Commander Joe tried to intervene but got himself captured, he managed to send a transmission referencing the 'Albatross Project' which obviously means something as now the Elite Forces have been sent in to rescue Joe... that would be your excuse to shoot and swing your way through multiple levels in order to save the day!

Male or Female Commando, it's your choice plus it barely effects the game aside from a couple of minor level differences; your main controls are movement via the d-pad plus the use of your bionic arm at the press of the 'A' button which will help you grab, climb or swing using various platforms, it's a little different to merely jumping which you'd see in other platforming games but it's easy to get used to. To dispatch with enemies though you'll need your gun which can be fired with the 'B' button or held for a charged shot which is rather effective, only being able to shoot directly in front of you - or slightly above/below if you get an upgrade - is a bit annoying but it's just another quirk of the game.

In addition to general troops who will attack you frequently you'll also need to look out for mounted turrets plus various other hazards which I won't ruin for you but needless to say that you might want to keep those restore points handy as there are more than a few 'oh what?!?' moments where your character might expire unexpectedly. Boss battles either consist of avoiding some rather predictable attacks from a rather large piece of machinery as you return fire, or the slightly more engaging scenarios which involve another moving character who'll put up a little bit more of a challenge even if it's far from being anything memorable.


On the visual front you get basically what you'd expect from a Game Boy Color title though I must say I have seen a lot more detail in other games such as Metal Gear or Perfect Dark which easily put this to shame, yes you can tell the characters from the backgrounds but there isn't a great deal of animation so the graphics only ever feel functional. There are also some instantly forgettable music tracks which always fit the location despite being unremarkable, the sound effects certainly serve their purpose well though so there is that at least.

Despite having a few issues Bionic Commando: Elite Forces is a well-programmed title which has plenty of reasons to play even if it quite simply won't blow you away. If you like platforming games and you've already sampled all of the other Virtual Console titles in the genre then you really can't go far wrong here; just don't expect it to be a classic based on the namesake alone as you'll be slightly let down, this game still comes out swinging though.

Verdict : A Bionic Commando title best enjoyed in short bursts.

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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