VC Weekly 327

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

Not one but TWO previously unreleased titles for the European Virtual Console have been bestowed upon us in a fleeting moment of glory for the service Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
Available for download this week we have...     

Demon's Crest

Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Released: 1993
System: SNES

In a list of most wanted SNES shmup titles to be released for the original Wii Virtual Console it would most likely have been Axelay right at the very top of the pile, so how very cruel it was then for both the USA AND Japan to receive this game rather early on in the life-cycle of the service, all the while anyone in Europe had to either go without or track down an original cartridge at great cost. Fortunately for us sense has now finally prevailed as the definitive version of Axelay has landed on the European VC but for the Wii U where it is of course a very welcome addition indeed for this is one of Konami's finest examples of the genre ever conceived which should be no surprise being that after it was made the majority of the staff then went on to form Treasure and the rest as they say is history.

Perhaps the main reason this title is so fondly remembered is because it's the game which proved that the SNES could not only deliver a merely 'functional' game within the shoot 'em up genre, but one that actually played on the systems strengths to produce something spectacular which would end up being highly regarded decades down the line. Piloting your D117B Axelay fighter ship is an unforgettable experience, not least of all because it's actually not the nippiest machine so you end up having to adjust to this unique limitation which makes the ship all the more endearing and actually makes the threat of enemies carry a lot more weight than in other shooters; you'll also be tackling stages presented vertically in addition to horizontal stages so learning how to maneuver your ship effectively is a must.

Thankfully the controls are very responsive which is always half the battle in these games, it's the weapon system which is most refreshing though as there are no irritating power-up's to fret over, instead you get access to three slots when you start a stage which you can rotate through using the shoulder buttons which is a blessing once you progress further; you unlock the weapons and they are there for you to choose then use as you see fit leaving you to focus on the shooting. Obviously if you do get hit then you'll lose the current weapon plus if you collide with the stage then your ship will explode, this can happen frequently as you progress through the perfectly paced stages which are among the finest I have ever had the pleasure of playing; of course here you can opt to use save states which can be something of a life-line but purists will argue that if you want a real challenge then try to complete the whole game without them, it's your choice but I find them useful for at least erasing the odd 'silly' mistake which can occur due to carelessnes.


On the subject of visuals no review of Axelay would be complete without at least mentioning a particular stage filled with fire, accompanied with a rather spectacular boss battle at the end but there is so much more to this beautiful game than first meets the eye; utilising several scaling techniques in order to provide some truly immersive experiences, everything from the environments to the enemies and the backgrounds are all lovingly crafted while the animation really is all that it could have been at the time which is true testament to the technical wizardry accomplished in one stellar title. It also shouldn't go unnoticed that the soundtrack composed by Taro Kudo is almost without parallel as the man clearly is an expert in his craft, just music from one stage alone would have been enough to garner significant recognition but the whole soundtrack is nothing short of genuine 16-bit masterpiece, it's easily the sort of thing that you'd be proud to own in your music collection not to mention the sound effects which are suitably spectacular.

Clearly I cannot recommend Axelay enough as it is genuinely one of the finest examples of its genre to date bar nothing else, it amazes me that I have gone so long without playing one of the most prolific shooters of the past two decades but I am glad that I can finally say that I have had the privilege of purchasing such a magnificent game which I would have otherwise not had the chance to easily experience due to its rarity. We may have been rather ill-treated during the Wii era but now that the Wii U's digital library is finally starting to come into fruition, it's simple a joy to have all of these classics within reasonable reach, even in non-tangible but fully functional form; the digital release of Axelay in Europe is triumph for the original developers and gamers alike.    

Verdict : Axelay is an awe-inspiring, aurally astounding and aesthetically accomplished achievement.


Price: GB £5.49, EU €7.99
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Released: 1994
System: SNES
For anyone familiar with Ghosts 'n Goblins the main protagonist of this series should be easy to identify, namely because you are playing as a Red Arremer named Firebrand who is responsible for stealing the Arthur's armour in the aforementioned title; however here everyone's favourite demon is a hero of sorts. Revolving around the titular Demon's Crest which is composed of six magical stones which when combined grant the bearer ultimate power to rule over all, as leader of the Demon Realm it was Firebrand who fought for the power only to have it snatched from him by his nemesis Phalanx, so the task has now fallen before you to recover the stones before all of human and demon-kind must submit to new rule under Phalanx, after all surely it's better to be ruled by the demon that you're more familiar with.

Taking control of Firebrand couldn't be more satisfying, featuring full flight control while you're airborne in addition to being able to jump, hover, ledge-grab, shoulder-charge, attack... oh and you can breathe fire as well, rather handy that. In addition to being well-equipped by default you'll be able to obtain other Crests through your quest which enable you to transform into various demonic forms which will grant you extra abilities such as increased jumping height as you take flight, reduced damage dealt from enemies or even brand new talents such as swimming or slicing; not to mention purchasable potions containing spells to make life a bit easier which some may find welcome in addition to using save states being that this is a game that's definitely demonic in its difficulty level even though it's equally rewarding should you stick with it.

While this is a game that perhaps has only a finite following due to its intense rarity alone which has forced the price up dramatically being that it must have had a very limited Pal print run during the Nineties as personally I have never seen a copy in my life and the few which surface on certain sites which are actually genuine go for exhorbitant amounts, not even taking into acount the overpriced reproductions. So this is definitely the case of a title which will be well received on the Wii U Virtual Console purely for the fact that it gives many people - including myself - the chance to finally play this classic as it was meant to be played being that this is the 60Hz version which runs magnificently well; of course it's also nice that the Miiverse community will now keep the game alive for a long time to come.


Splashed with a staggering amount of detail spread rather liberally through each of the significantly stylised seven stages, this is a platformer in a realm of its own when it comes to the graphics as there is almost too much detail to take in from just one play of the game - which is just as well that there are different endings - not to mention the phenomenal animations; there's a real sense of life aptly teeming within an adventure more closely linked with death, taking in a tour of the gruesome graveyards alone is atmospheric enough. Then you have the scintillating soundtrack which features enough ambient organ music to make you feel so absorbed into the experience that you'll question the validity of many other platform games as it brings together the world so seamlessly in additon to keeping you there with its brutally brash sound effects that you'll want to keep playing for as long as is demonically possible.

It's certainly a unique experience from start to finish, one which will leave you feeling proud to have played it, thoroughly exhausted by the end yet raring to play it again just to experience everything that this marvelously malevolent masterpiece has to offer. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in quality 16-bit titles should play this, at such a spectacularly low price-point for the joy you'll receive providing this game 'clicks' with you, it's almost impossible to go wrong with a title that feels so right; buy this glorious gem and save the Demon Realm from its plight; if you're willing to put up a good fight then Firebrand will surely give you a light.   

Verdict : A gloriously gothic, genuinely gripping gargoyle's quest rightfully rises from its grave!

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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