VC Weekly 325

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

Two firm, fan favourite franchises begining with the letter 'F' because they are both fantastic titles in their own rights help us to celebrate the new year in style. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

F-Zero: GP Legend
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Suzak
Released: 2004
System: GBA
Famous for being one of the most technically impressive pseudo-3D racers of its time when it was released on the SNES the original F-Zero is quite unlike any other game within the genre, indeed you could even say that it created the anti-gravity racing sub-genre which is quite an accomplishment. Almost a decade on the series got something of a rebirth in the form of F-Zero Maximum Velocity a game which takes the structure of the original title as a base and then expands on it to create the first portable version of the futuristic racer which is not only an impressive thing behold but it's also an experience that manages to hold a candle to legendary SNES title; F-Zero GP Legend continues the portable racing line by offering more of the same which is never a bad thing.

Its premise is simple you must race against other ships in a bid for first place while making sure not to end up as scrap metal by the track-side as you either take or deal blows to your opponents on the fly, there is a repair lane near the start which you'll most certainly be taking advantage of during each new lap plus the boost which you get at the same time but beware because if you find yourself at the back of the pack you'll get eliminated when those ahead of you cross the line. This continues until it's the last lap with only a handful of racers left all battling it out for first place, competition remains ever fierce as you race on hoping not to be the last over the finish line having to use up another ship to try again; this is the nature of F-Zero at its best.

Control mechanics have been overhauled as while you still use 'A' to accelerate it's going round the corners where you'll need to be rapidly tapping it while holding the relevant shoulder button; a process which takes a little bit of getting used to but after a few tracks you'll be cornering like a pro in no time which is just as well because with twenty plus tracks spread throughout the various cups and with multiple difficulties to tackle this is one racing game which will take you a while to complete. There's a decent selection of ships to choose from too each of which have their own attributes to take into account plus more to unlock as you progress your way through the game, it's something of a shame that the multiplayer can't be accessed on this version for obvious reasons but it's just as well that there's plenty to do here even in single player.


Hugely reminiscent of the Mode 7 graphics which were present in the original, this version takes those iconic visuals and adds an extra layer of slickness on top which seems to add a great deal of depth to the proceedings; it may be in the same league as F-Zero X in this department but it still shows what exactly is possible on the GBA and it looks decent even by today’s standards. Music is again very similar to the original with some very nice chip-tune compositions which feature a healthy amount of synthesised electric guitar accompanied beautifully by a barrage of artistically placed bleeps which really manage to keep the spirit of the series alive despite perhaps not being quite on the same level of brilliance as say the classic track 'Big-Blue' but there are some solid efforts here.

Quite simply there isn't another racing game out there quite like F-Zero as the series is unique and while this may not be the best title overall it's still an ideal starting point for anyone who is wanting to get started or just as a means for veterans to get a quick 'fix' of their favourite futuristic racer. A solid addition to anyone's library of titles as it's a great pick up and play experience which provides high-octane thrills which you quite simply cannot find anywhere else; regardless of whether you play this on the gamepad or on the big screen you'll find plenty to enjoy here plus the Miiverse community should at least ensure that F-Zero stays alive regardless of what Nintendo's plans are for the series but I must say that a worldwide release of the third GBA game F-Zero Climax which originally only came out in Japan wouldn't go amiss on the Virtual Console at least.    

Verdict : A splendid sequel for the fantastic yet seemingly forgotten F-Zero franchise.


Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2005
System: GBA
There are certain genres of games that divide players, it would seem that Turn-Based Strategy is one such example perhaps because of the initially steep learning curve but when Intelligent Systems decide to create something it's quite interesting to see just how many people who would normally avoid such titles end up becoming a fan as the result of testing the water. Indeed it is testament to Fire Emblem's design that it's fairly accessible yet it offers a great deal of depth for those who are willing to take the time to explore everything it has to offer  which coincidentally is quite a lot and with Fire Emblem : The Sacred Stones this is no exception, in fact it's more like the rule.

Naturally there is no real continuity with regards to the storyline as each entry is different, in this one you follow the story of Eirika and Ephraim who are the respective princess and prince to the throne of Renais who embark on a quest to retrieve the five sacred stones which have been foretold to bring peace to the land. On the course of your adventure you'll come across other characters each of which have a specialised skill to offer, so you'll likely be glad of their assistance when they join you as there are plenty of dangers ahead that must be overcome.

Comparable to both its predecessor and Advance Wars in terms of the way that it plays, this entry feels like more of the same but with a few changes but in this case that's certainly not a bad thing because while the games are similar in one respect they are sufficiently different in other areas for example Advance Wars is more about intense construction and management whereas Fire Emblem puts more emphasis upon the characters, managing to develop the plot beautifully in tandem with your progress which is somewhat rewarding. Perhaps the trump card is in how much you will get attached to the characters, this is done purposefully because if you lose one of them on the battlefield they will be gone for good which is reflected in the story which leaves you the player with the heart-breaking choice of either restarting the mission probably losing about an hours progress or simply carrying on; it's a brilliant mechanic which works well because it means that you need to be cautious if you're to make it through with no deaths.


Some rather nice details are present as the game is presented mostly in a top-down perspective which is very reminiscent of many SNES titles both in style and level of detail, it has aged quite favourably even when you compare it to more recent strategy titles on the DS with the sprite based visuals looking lovely along with some rather stunning presentation. As you might expect the audio is truly top-notch and is something that sounds good on a portable system plus even more absorbing through a pair of headphones, it's very atmospheric nearly managing to equal the music of its predecessor; rest assured though it's very nearly there and still very much well suited to every in-game moment.

If you're a strategy fan then you already know what to do but if you've still yet to dip a toe into the waters of the genre then don't be afraid to with this fine example but also don't be surprised if after experiencing what it has to offer that you'll want to dive right in. This is to it's predecessor what Advance Wars 2 is to the original; a more than worthy follow up with its only fault being that it isn't quite as original as the title that came before it but when we're talking about gaming of such high calibre it's hardly even a concern.

Verdict : A full-featured stretegy title 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!

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