VC Weekly 347

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

It would seem that due to recent sad news from within Nintendo seemingly coinciding me not being quite up-to-date with VC releases that this edition features some rather poignant game choices, so I've tried my best to make this a fitting set of reviews which I hope will serve as a fitting tribute to a truly great man. Anyway enough from me and on with the games!
 
Available for download this week we have...     

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training
Kirby: Mouse Attack
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards


 
Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo SDD
Released: 2006
System: DS

So it would seem that Nintendo DS games have finally hit the Wii U VC, not perhaps how we might have expected the service to be launched but the first game is a timed freebie so who's going to complain? When it originally launched eight years ago the original Brain Training was something of a small revelation as it introduced us to a piece of software which has now largely become commonplace in today's society. With the dual-screen setup this collection of simple tests which you could easily interact with became an instant hit on the DS managing to introduce the hand-held console to a wider audience, many of which continue to use their DS or 3DS consoles to this day perhaps as an indirect result of this piece of software plus perhaps a few others; yes Brain Training was quite the phenomenon back then but now it's just as well that Nintendo is - at least initially - giving the software out for free in an age where we are graced/plauged (delete as appropriate) with many low cost or no cost applications across various mobile devices.

Primarilly you will find yourself using the 'Brain Age Check' which is very similar to the 'Wii Fit Age' on Wii Fit whereby several quick tests are given to you which you complete and are then given a number which signifies your 'Age' so the closer or even lesser it is from your real age means that you're doing well while if it ends up being significantly higher then that would seem to indicate that your brain is aging perhaps a bit faster than you would have liked. Once you've finished your 'Daily Training' then you can continue to test yourself by using 'Quick Play' which will give you a selection of similar tasks except you can just practice them freely; you get a good mix of simple calculations to reading aloud or even drawing so there's plenty to keep you occupied for a little bit plus you can also opt to play some Sudoku puzzles as well which is a nice bonus.

Being that originally you would have held your Nintendo DS as a book in this instance you get both screens presented to you side-by-side on the gamepad touch screen which works well enough but obviously you'll need to remember that only half of the screen will actually be used for touch recognition. Speaking of recognising things the microphone is also utitlised in the same way, even though it's not perfect there might be a slight improvement to it but it will still struggle with accents or any voice that doesn't sound quite right to the hardware; likewise the character recognition can be a little off when writing out numbers in particular though it's still not bad when you consider that this was a very early DS game.

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Visually everything is of course rather functional featuring mostly plain while backgrounds with small splashes of colour when required so as to keep the look rather minimal which is fine, the polygonal floating head of Dr. Kawashima himself is nicely detailed though making for some amusing moments. There isn't really much to speak off in the audio department either with every sound that comes out of the speakers being completely functional and nothing else, so don't go expecting any epic soundtracks here, not that would have been of course.

It's the original Brain Training... what else is there to say really? There is no downside to obtaining this title for nothing though I must admit that personally I would have been reluctant to part with any money for it but I'm more interested in seeing what new features might be implemented when Nintendo surely launch DS titles for actual money in the near future. As it stand though I suppose it's not the worst way to launch another section of the VC but it's certainly most unexpected.

Obviously the above review was written over a year ago when this was released initially for free, so it still applies though it's at your discretion whether or not you choose to purchase but if you haven't experienced Brain Training before then it could prove to be a justified purchase but for everyone else who has used this software a lot during the early DS era this is less essential. That's not to say that I don't recognise the importance of this piece of software though as it played a huge part in changing perceptions on what software could be released, even if these days it seems we are overrun with this kind of software which is available for free on lots of devices it's arguable that if it wasn't for this title released during the earlier days of Iwata's leadership then we might not have so much of it now freely available; personally I think it would be a nice gesture if Nintendo were to make it free again but I'm not adverse to people paying money for this being that the proceeds will surely be put into the release of other games, perhaps even the formerly named Devilish Brain Training which I'm still hopeful will see a release in Europe.   
 
Verdict : Training for your brain in the guise of a game.

KirbyMouseAttack

Price: GB £8.99, EU €9.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: 2007
System: DS

While the story in Kirby games has never really been terribly complex this game really takes the proverbial biscuit - or cake for that matter - as the scene is set with Kirby about to sit down to a lovely slice of strawberry shortcake when suddenly it's snatched from right before his characteristically large eyes, this is obviously rather distressing for our lovable pink-fudge-like hero so he sets of on an adventure to retrieve the stolen cake in order to restore that "piece" to his world rather than restoring "peace" to the world which invariably most platforming plots are reduced to.

The main mode is made up of eight excellently alliterated areas which comprise of Prism Plains, Nature Notch, Cushy Cloud, Jam Jungle, Vocal Volcano, Ice Island, Secret Sea and Gamble Galaxy; while these places are thematically what you'd expect on the map screen, within each stage you get to play a variety of different mini locations which helps to break things up even further. There's also a fair selection of enemies which of course brings abilities, so you can expect your usual Fire, Ice, Ninja, Sword & Wheel abilities - my favourite of those has to be Ninja as it's so well implemented - but you also get some unexpected ones such as the Animal ability which lets you dig through dirt or the Metal ability which is really interesting as it makes Kirby genuinely a lot heavier though also practically invincible.

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So the classic formula remains the same but the main difference is you can keep up to five power-ups at a time on the touch-screen which can prove handy though you'll need to leave room for when you're trying to nab treasure off the Squeaks - Mouse enemies in the game - so this proves to be a tactical trade-off so remember to merge those tiny Kirby's to get your 1Up's making you valuable space. You can use whichever powers you like but certain sections are designed to be more enjoyable with specific power ups, like when you've got to race one of the Squeaks to a treasure chest in an area with steep gradients and there's a wheelie enemy right in front of you, or gaining the laser ability in a confined area so that you can bounce your projectile fire off the walls.

There are lots of collectables totalling  one hundred and twenty in all which range from pieces of music in the game, puzzle pieces, spray cans to change Kirby's colour to Extra stage keys which you need for total completion anyway, it's all nicely integrated too as you can check your collection progress easily between stages. Other items include Star Seals, Boss Trophies which when you collect them all you'll unlock Boss Rush mode, then you have Heart Pieces whereby collecting two halves will extend Kirby's life meter, if you collect large or small treasure chests for a second time they will contain a random ability they also appear darker in colour making it simpler for completionists to get all of the chests; there is definitely enough to keep you coming back for a fair few hours.

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On the visual front there's a lot to love here from small details like the foliage rustling as you brush past it indicating it can be cut down or burned, to the metal rim of a barrel which rolls around for a brief moment after you break it open; there's such a wealth of detail in each different environment along with some sublime animation which makes you wonder just how well it would have been appreciated back in the day on the DS being that it looks so good even today on the big screen. Music is a fantastic mix of old Kirby music with some new compositions, one of my favourites is in the third stage within the fourth level as it sounds very much like a Metroid overworld theme for a brief moment, this is perhaps due to there being four composers who worked on the game - Hirokazu Ando, Jun Ishikawa, Tadashi Ikegami & Shogo Sakai - so there must have been multiple influences; in any case this is a title which sounds fantastic featuring a solid selection of sound effects as well.

Coming from someone who hadn't previously played Kirby: Mouse Attack until now, this is definitely a game in the series which has more than stood the test of time, it has barely aged at all managing to feel fresh even when comparing it to the likes of the more recently released Kirby Triple Deluxe which I recall enjoying immensely. This is clearly a no-brainer for fans of the series who may or may not have played it before as it's well worth owning just so you can have the option of playing it on the big screen or the gamepad; without a doubt one of the most enjoyable Kirby games I've played, it remains testament to Hal Laboratory's stellar skills in game creation, even though it was technically developed by both Flagship and Natsume it seems obvious that Hal definitely had more than a hand in making it.

Verdict : Kirby with just a touch of innovation and a plethora of imagination.

Kirby64

Price: GB £8.99, EU €9.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: 2001
System: N64
 
One day, Dark Matter invaded the peaceful Ripple Star, he wanted the power of the Crystal that was housed there so fearing for the Crystal a fairy named Ribbon took the Crystal and fled Ripple Star, Dark Matter pursued her shooting energy balls at Ribbon. One of them destroyed the Crystal while knocking Ribbon to the planet below, meanwhile on Pop Star our hero Kirby was gazing at the stars; Suddenly he finds a piece of a crystal, Ribbon falls to the planet - while managing to keep a Shard -  then Kirby finds her as she explains everything. Kirby agrees to help her find the shards of the shattered Crystal and so begins another adventure!

First and foremost the Kirby games have throughout the SNES era been particularly polished platform titles which are renown for their appealing visual style and the main characters capacity to acquire alternate abilities; though nicely rendered in 3D the game still plays out in classic 2D with the third dimension merely serving to flesh out the brilliant style that's already present and in that respect this outing remains faithful to its roots. Where it struggles however is in delivering the consistent creativity which was present in almost all of the preceding platform games, it's evident that Hal really tried by how much work which must have gone into the title.

Kirby now has the newly acquired ability of combining the traits which he absorbs when he inhales his many varied foes which makes for some rather interesting and entertaining results such as obtaining a flaming sword by swallowing a projectile followed by a flaming foe which is simple but effective, though Electric plus boomerang creates a light-sabre ability which is almost completely broken as you barely need any other abilities after that though Ice-Bomb Kirby is pretty fun to use; Animal Statues Kirby is also great as he can turn into an almost invincible statue of one of the animal helpers from previous games at the cost of mobility helpers include Chuchu the Octopus, Coo the Owl, Kine the Fish, Nago the Cat and of course Rick the Hamster! However for all of its fleshing out the formula falls flat quite early on as the newly introduced hybrid system is fairly limited in comparison to the plethora of powers which were obtainable in previous outings as well as Kirby's comical combat moves which are gone from this Iteration. It's also rather easy and any semi-experienced gamer should be able to complete all six main areas in a few mere hours plus a little bit more to acquire everything which you'll need if you're to see the true final boss though a lot of players might just choose to rush through as obtaining every single shard can feel like a chore at times.

Kirby64Image

Visually there's rather a lot going on with this title being that it was the only Kibry title on the N64 so it really feels like Hal were trying to do as much as they could on a technical level, they certainly achieved that as well because the style which fits somewhere between the second and third dimension does work well at times even if the animation along with the general pace of the game seems to suffer as a result. The audio isn't bad at all though at time it definitely feels like it doesn't quite match up to earlier Kirby titles but that's only because the bar had already been raised rather high so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, the presentation used in the cut-scenes though is very nice indeed adding a nice extra layer, it's really amusing when you have so many other characters including King DeDeDe tagging along on your adventure.

This is still a Kirby game through and through, you still waddle, float, and vacuum your way through the entertaining adventure, its only main downfall is that it falls so short in comparison to that which has come before it and thus the result is something that while enjoyable does not endure the test of time in the way that it plays and so you might be better off going for the SNES classics instead but there are also some rather fun mini-games to play as part of the package so  this is certainly good for anyone wanting a quick “fix” of the pink puffball. If you've not played any of the other Kirby games though, now is most certainly the time to do so now more than ever, there are plenty available so take your pick and enjoy playing some of the most endearing platforming titles ever created, it's what Satoru Iwata would have surely wanted.

Verdict : An enjoyable but not exceptional entry for the series which is still well worth playing.  

This edition of VC Weekly is dedicated to former President of Nintendo - Satoru Iwata who sadly passed away on 11/07/15 due to a bile duct growth, he will always be remembered for being someone who believed in his staff, always putting them before himself and who sailed Nintendo's ship through the Blue Ocean of success with the Wii and DS consoles while continuing through the stormy seas of recent times while enduring his own personal hardship; yet through it all he never uttered a single complaint, instead choosing to put the company first.

Often through tough times he would ask for our patience, that we "please understand" which speaks volumes as we shouldn't forget that he was a gamer as well not to mention a person whose programming prowess truly knew no limits, this great man is responsible for creating many of my fondest childhood memories of gaming in addition to those of many others and he will always be remembered not just for his aforementioned qualities but simply for being a truly remarkable person who took the time to speak to people directly.

It's truly saddening to think of Nintendo without Satoru Iwata yet the company must continue to carry on his legacy, so here at N-Europe our thoughts are with his former co-workers at this difficult time in addition to his family of course and fellow fans of Nintendo who continue to create more lasting tributes with each passing day; over a week on and it still doesn't seem real, indeed it probably won't for some time but for now I would just like to offer my personal thanks to someone who I will always have a phenomenal amount of respect for as do all of us here.

So to Iwata-san in reply "we understand" and can only hope that you realise just how much you're loved by people all over the world.  

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!

Pixel Iwata Credits - 8-bit  16-bit


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