VC Weekly 324

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

What a time for releases, not least of all because we have the first of Nintendo's classic light gun games actually made playable again on HDTV's! Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Duck Hunt
Kuru Kuru Kururin
Mega Man Zero
Mario Party Advance

Price: GB £3.49, EU €4.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Released: 1987
System: NES
When the original Virtual Console launched on the Wii it's fair to say that out of all the NES games which came to the service there was always one that was definitely wanted but for technical reasons never surfaced, that title was Duck Hunt which is one of Nintendo's most famous light-gun based games which originally used the Zapper; the problem being that you needed a CRT TV for the technology to work so obviously there would have been some coding to be done in order to make it work with the Wii Remote which uses more modern HDTV friendly technology. Moving forward to the Wii U VC in the present day and it seems that these tehnological hurdles have finally been overcome so that Duck Hunt plus eventually the other classic Nintendo light-gun series of NES - and hopefully SNES - games can be re-released for posterity, but how does it compare to the original?

Taking into account the differences first, you now have the option of using a targetting reticule which to many will seem alien but in practice it's actually not so bad, first off you'll see the game as too easy as you hit every duck with ease but it's not until you get into the later stages, then you'll most likely start missing and as you know if you're more 'quack-shot' than 'crack-shot' then it's game over for missing more than five targets. The other option is to turn the targetting off but it will still show up for a split-second after you've fired a shot to give you some indication of where you were aiming, this is accompanied by the usual firing sound effect but admittedly it doesn't feel the same unless you're using a gun-shell with the Wii Remote to give it some weight, there is no 'screen flash' any more either which may have been an effect of the original Zapper but it wouldn't have hurt to have coded it in digitally for added autheticity.

As for the modes you have one duck which gives you a single moving target to shoot with very little challenge until the later stages, or two ducks which has some interesting flying patterns which will test your skills earlier on, plus you also have clay target which sends a disc shaped object into the distance which gets more difficult to hit the further it flys away. There is the original two-player mode where one person can control the duck with a controller but those of you hoping for a proper two-player co-op mode using two wii remotes just like the mini-game in Wii Play all those years ago are going to be disappointed; though I suppose it's all the more reason for a modern-day remake to be considered at least.


Visually it's fair to say that Duck Hunt has always looked rather plain even for a NES game, yet it has an unmistakable charm to it which is still very much alive in this release, you have the trademark grass, some bushes plus a tree along with a blue sky background but that's it; everything else is focused on the task in hand which is gunning down those nicely animated ducks and then trying to shoot the face off of the Duck Hunt Dog when he pops his head up to laugh at your failings. There is no music save for the intro tune along with one for the score, the rest of the time it's just bang! bang! quack! Which is fine because in fairness what else would you be expecting?

For the rather meagre price of less than three pounds fifty Duck Hunt still offers a fair amount of fun so if you've never played it before and you happen to have a Wii Remote nearby then you might as well give it a go. But if you remember it fondly back in the day then just be prepared for it to be not quite the same as you once remembered it to be; the main thing which this release will be remembered for is bringing back light-gun based games to a Nintendo home console again, so by the time we're blasting away cans in Hogan's Alley or perhaps one day going on safari with Yoshi, let us spare a thought for the title which made it all possible, the humble Duck Hunt which will now live on not just thanks to Super Smash Bros but due to it being fully playable once again.

Verdict : Duck Hunt is a digital delight that all should download and enjoy.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Eighting
Released: 2001
System: GBA
I can recall the launch of the Game Boy Advance as this was one of the titles which appeared alongside it, of course at the time I was more concerned with thwarting Wart in the remake of Super Mario Bros. 2 but it wasn't long before I completed one brilliant title in preparation for the next, yet nothing could prepare me for Kuru Kuru Kururin as quite simply there is just nothing else quite like it in existence even today. You assume the role of Kuruurin who is off in search of his lost siblings so in order to do this he must fly something called a Helirin which is a rotating blade that has a dome in the middle; presented from a top-down perspective what you'll see is an oscilating stick which you need to guide through courses that are frought with danger as touching the wall three times will result in your ship shattering into pieces before your eyes leaving you to contemplate this momentarilly before deciding that just 'one more go' is in order.

Things start off simply but quickly descend into madness as the confines of each area seem to get smaller with the walls seemingly closing in to claustrophobic levels, you'll need to be precise in your movements if you want to make it to the end, plus you're also against the clock of course which always helps so remember that each mistake will cost you precious seconds if you happen to collide with anything. Controls are delightfully simple though as you only need the control stick or preferably the d-pad for control along with either 'A' or 'B' to speed things up, thanks to the VC menu you can switch things around if you wish though, my only tip is to use an input method which has a decent directional pad as I feel it's necessary for this game making play either with the gamepad or on it a lot more appealing.

On top of the story mode you also get to work your way through no less than fifty challenge courses which are short but swearing-inducingly sweet adding some extra incentive to keep playing, obviously the original two-player race is no longer an option but it's not a tremendous loss. As a bonus you can have reacued family members ride on the outside of your ship which is a nice touch, you can even unlock different parts which customise the look of your ship while the functionality remains the same; just in case you get to the point of thinking this game is sadistically difficult you will happen upon healing points which will help you recover any of your three hearts that may be lost so you at least feel like you are being given a chance to complete these tougher sections and the feeling of finising a course is very rewarding indeed.


A vivid colour palette makes the games plain premise come to life, there are some lovely detaild backgrounds which separate nicely from the main stage itself which is important when you're trying to tell where the walls are, there are some cute animations from your pilot as well which change depending on how well you're doing plus there are some nice scenes interspersed with all this action. All of the music is rather jovial, upbeat stuff which will stick in your head for a little while, thankfully it changes with the level themes too which happens to be quite frequently; I find that the sound of your craft dispersing into many pieces following the final hit is something that I haven't forgotten to this very day so some of it is at least memorable though perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Without a doubt Kuru Kuru Kururin is an instant classic which I'm personally thrilled to see back in the spotlight if only for a short while, if you didn't get to play this on the GBA then you really owe it to yourself to get it now as it's certainly one of the most charming, original titles you're ever likely to come into contact with. Here's hoping that sales of this title could perhaps drive re-releases of the Japan only sequels which appeared on both the GBA and on the Gamecube as I think these would go down very well indeed; perhaps it's time for Nintendo to consider having another 'Hanabi Festival' with at least one of the remaining 'spinning stick' games as the opening act, our wallets are ready!  

Verdict : A stick-spinning spectacular requiring nerves of steel.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Released: 2002
System: GBA
While the Mega Man series is hardly a stranger to the phrase 'spin-off' it does seem rather rare to find an off-shoot to the main series that actually manages to maintain its quality throughout; enter Mega Man Zero which nicely lays the foundations for the three following titles. In it you play as Zero who is awoken from a period of hibernation by a female human named 'Ceil' who is trying to lead a resistance against the evil 'Neo Arcadia' which is supposed to be a Utopia for humans which can only exist through mass destruction of robots so that humans can thrive on the remaining resources, who is behind this regime? None other than Mega Man X who was the hero of the previous games! Well at least it's nice to be fighting against an unexpected villain for once, so away you go on a text-heavy, platform-laden adventure as if you actually needed an excuse.

Loosely linked to the X series by way of physics which are very similar as is the way Zero controls, everything else is new as you no longer get to just 'pick a stage' but rather you are given missions to pick given to you by Ceil so all of the stages end up actually being part of one huge area; you can go off on a defense mission which you can choose to complete or just quit halfway in order to go exploring so you actually end up with more freedom. All of the weapons that you may be used to acquiring from bosses are now merely story-driven, this includes the Shield Boomerang, Triple Rod plus the immortal Z-Sabre and interestingly the bosses no longer have a set weakness which dictates they 'must' be taken down using a specific weapon; now they have elemental allignments - similar to Pokémon - which you can counter by equipping the bosses elemental chips which you can use with your weapons which still operate the in the same way but become augmented by the elements, so it's essentially a new twist on what you may have become accustomed to.

Your weapons become stronger as you use them more as well which means that you'll be grinding in order to get the best abilities, plus you'll need to obtain energy crystals which you need to feed the 'Cyber Elves' which you find within the stages, this is a far-cry from just finding an energy tank in the previous games as you need to feed the creatures up to capacity to even find out what they do; then you can equip three of them which come with random effects then they are gone after you use them, for all the changes in this series it's definitely the most odd but you will need to get all these upgrades as the game is quite difficult. It's not likely that you'll find extra lives very often, you also have a very small health bar, there are manu death traps plus on top of all this you are actually graded on your performance during each mission; this includes time taken and how many upgrades you obtained, many of which can be easily missed with no chance to go back so by all means be cautious while making good use of restore points as they are a literal life-saver here.


So much detail is packed into every scene that it's really hard to appreciate it all the first time you visit an area, everything is clearly distinguishable so you're never left wondering where the background begins though you can often end up staring into it just to admire the depth, also worthy of note is the spectacular level of animation which looks smooth even today on the big screen. Thankfully the soundtrack lives up to that classic Mega Man standard and while it might not be quite as good on the whole as in some of the original titles, it's still very listenable indeed coming complete with those substantial sound effects that fans will have come to love by now.

Mega Man Zero is indeed a hardcore platforming experience which will test you to the limits, delight you with its detail and even surprise you with its story; even if you know classic Mega Man this will still feel new enough to warrant playing through especially if you're relatively new to Zero as a character due to his heavy reliance on a sabre rather than more projectile-based weapons. Well worth your attention if you like the genre, clearly if you're a fan of all Capcom games then you'll know that this is a decent digital investment especially considering the price of the physical games these days, you can't go far wrong here.

Verdict : Zero tolerance, one punishing platformer.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Hudson Soft
Released: 2005
System: GBA
It's an almost natural assumption that given the quality of the N64 Mario Party games plus the 'not too shabby' attitude of the Gamcube iterations that Mario Party Advance being a portable version of these titles would take the bits best suited to the small screen in order to make some special surely? Well I don't know if I'd go as far to call it that but unique this title certainly is; starting off with Toad welcoming you to Party World where non-stop games take place, it takes no time at all for Bowser to show up scattering the collection of games and 'Gaddgets' across neighbouring Shroom City so as either Mario, Luigi, Peach or Yoshi you've got to get them all back... because that's what you do in these situations.

This time you get one map which takes place in Shroom City as opposed the the usual choice of boards you may be accustomed to - that's one way to cope with hardware limitations - though each character will start on a different part of the 'board' it's all actually joined together with pipes. As always you move spaces by rolling the Mushroom Dice, you have normal yellow spaces, red makes you lose a turn - harsh! - while blue spaces are where the mini-games are at in which you can win Mushrooms as these are what makes the game go around as they are linked to how far you can move; in summary if you have no mushrooms then you'll not have 'much room' to maneuver... ah thank you, I'm here all week, every week.

You'll be lucky if you get to play many mini-games though as it can be very easy to miss those blue spaces by just one or two spots, once you get to play them though there's a reasonable array of them some which are fun puzzle-game rip-offs, others which are just odd plus a few awful ones which are to be expected; back to the board where you can get 'quests' for landing on certain spaces which will give you a chance to gain some 'Gaddgets' which are mini toys for up to four players on a single system so clearly these work better than intended on the Wii U gamepad which is just as well seeing as aside from this it's single-player only. If you'd prefer you can just play Challenge Land where you can just play mini-games to get coins so you can unlock all of the fun extras, indeed this is probably for the best as you won't get much proper party atmopshere boardgame action here which is what the series is supposed to be famed for.


A nice clear visual style which is very similar to the portable Mario & Luigi games is present here, ensuring that each screen is always filled with light pastel colours which brighten things up no end especially when coupled with some of the plain silly animations. All of the audio seems like it was ripped straight from many Mario games from the same era, it's not bad to reuse assets when the original source material is decent anyway, plus you get all of those classic sound effects too which is nice, it's all remixed sufficiently to at least feel a bit new in any case.

Mario Party Advance would have been better marketed not for it's boardgame based barminess of old which the original console games are still better at, but instead as a zany collection of mini-games which are fun to play either on your own or with friends around the same console. With the Wii U gamepad these parts of the experience can now truly shine whereas the rest of it can quite easily just fall by the wayside, so it's not the complete package that some may be after but it's still fun if you're only expecting a small celebration rather than a full-scale party.   

Verdict : Mario's small gathering around a single screen Advance is a fun distraction.

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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