The Virtual Console is a lovely idea. A virtual archive of some of the greatest (and lousiest) retro titles from consoles and handhelds gone by, with then-rival corporations also providing support, giving gamers a wide breadth of gaming history all at once. For example, my (meager) VC library for the Wii allows me to play SNES stalwart Super Punch-Out!! for a few rounds, go toe to toe with Dracula in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the TurboDuo, and explore the Arabian worlds of the Genesis’ Monster World IV. Prior to the Wii, there was no easy way of doing this, so I’m naturally a big supporter of the service. The PS3 and Xbox 360 now have solid retro catalogs as well, but Nintendo doesn’t lend out their stuff to them. :p
I would like to share my thoughts on the games that are available for the Wii and 3DS Virtual Consoles. I want to let you know what I think your best bets would be on the two services thus far…in my own opinion, of course. I haven’t played everything, so I’ll only cover what I’ve played. New games will be featured on the main site, then will join this archive. I’ve tried to consider the game itself over its availability on other retro comps…and think I managed to succeed doing that most of the time. XD The comp legend below will tell you what other options you have regarding the game in question. My philosophy is why spend points on games you could collect in comps at a better price rate? Nester’s also got some opinions on certain titles, which are featured at the end of the this article. Let’s start!
Note - Please note that we’re only covering the North American Virtual Console…but many of these titles are available for PAL regions as well. Alas, some games have been removed over the years. I’ve struck out those titles
In an effort to help you save money, here’s a list of comps released for the last two console generations. Click on the titles to see the Wikipedia page for each comp. If I used ” “, it shares the same title as the previous comp in the list, but is either the next volume or is on a separate console.
Capcom: CCC = Capcom Classics Collection (PS2, Xbox), CCC2 = ” ” 2 (PS2, Xbox), MMAC = Mega Man Anniversary Collection (PS2, Xbox, GC), SFAC = Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (PS2, Xbox), SFAA = Street Fighter Alpha Anthology (PS2), MMXC = Mega Man X Collection. The PSP CCC comps do not feature any extra games, so I will not make separate categories for them. If you see CCC or CCC2 next to a title, it’s on both the console and PSP versions.
SNK: NGAC = SNK Arcade Classics V1 (Wii, PS2, PSP), FFBA1 = Fatal Fury Battle Archives V. 1 (PS2), FFBA2 = Fatal Fury Battle Archives V. 2 (PS2).
Data East: DEAC = Data East Arcade Classics (Wii)
General Notes: RM = Remade for recent consoles. I’ll detail out how it was remade next to these cases up to two generations (GC/PS2/Xbox/GBA) back.
Several VC titles have gotten multiple releases on various platforms (i.e. Street Fighter II Turbo on Genesis and Super NES, Space Harrier on the Master System and Arcade, etc.), which can be confusing to untangle. Nester’s done some investigating into this topic and produced a fantastic comparison piece to help you find the version best suited for you!
Virtual Console No-Shows:
Wondering why a particular title is absent from the Virtual Console? Perhaps I have an answer! I run a series on games missing from both VC’s here. You can find an up-to-date listing in the Features Archive under “Virtual Console No-Shows” in the RETRO section.
NES (500 points/$4.99, Wii/3DS)
Super Mario Bros. (CNES)
W- Ah, the original Super Mario Bros. A lot of the lineup of the Virtual Console owes a huge debt to Miyamoto’s major evolution of the platformer. This is perfect example of a game building up its player’s skills, to heavily push them at the end to see how well they’ve learned. If you don’t have it by some other means, I heartily recommend a DL to see what the buzz is about. Odds are you won’t be sorry.
Legend of Zelda (LoZ, CNES)
W- Another classic and one of my favorite games of all time. A successful blending of action, exploration and puzzles that built one of the longest-lasting franchises of gaming history. A highly-endorsed DL.
Donkey Kong (AC, CNES)
W- DK for the NES is still fun, but it’s missing a lot of the charm of the arcade to fully recommend it. A complete level is missing! Not to mention the cute cinematic stills in-between levels. It’s just not up to par compared to the arcade classic…which I’d love to see Ninty release.
Donkey Kong Jr. (AC)
W- This arcade port is closer to the original than the NES Donkey Kong was (i.e. it has all of the levels!), and is a solid arcade game in its own right. I have to say that it’s my favorite of the three DK arcade games, but I’d rather see Nintendo release the arcade version (something they seem awfully stingy of doing). I recall playing it once long ago and remembering that it was better, but my memory’s unfortunately fuzzy beyond that. XD Maybe it was the graphics – the arcade screens I see are bright and vibrant, and the NES couldn’t quite recapture that.
W- Arguably one of the best sports games on the NES, Tecmo Bowl is simple, fast-paced football that is pretty enjoyable. This version of it loses the NFL player’s names it once held, so now you’re stuck with generic “Denver#” instead of Elway. Still though, it’s a good example of how to make a fun sports game on the NES, so it’s worth a go if you like football.
Kirby’s Adventure (RM – Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland [GBA], Kirby’s 20th Anniversary Collection for Wii)
W- Buy this now. I kid you not. Kirby’s Adventure is easily one of the best NES games you can get, and $5 is a steal for the quality you’ll be getting. This game set a lot of the Kirby standards that exist today (power stealing being the biggest), and despite its low-key difficulty, it offers up a ton of secrets to hunt down, and is a joyous gameplay experience. It also stands as one of the prettiest NES games, and has a sensational soundtrack.
Wario’s Woods (AC)
W- Wario’s puzzler is fun and unique, plus it offers up Toad’s only solo starring role in Nintendo history (I wonder if you can play as Toad alone in New Super Mario Bros. Wii…), but it didn’t really do much for me when I played it. Then again, I’m not a huge puzzle fan, so maybe I’m just biased. :p
W- One of the toughest Nintendo games out there, Kid Icarus is worth a DL if you’d like to know Pit’s history before his Brawl appearance, or if you seek a challenge. KI is not a cakewalk. It has fierce enemies, tricky platforming and somewhat puzzling level design. However, it’s loaded with character, and features some of Nintendo’s quirkiest enemy designs (the Reaper and the Eggplant Wizard leap to mind). One sad note – The old cheat codes no longer work. For some bizarre reason Nintendo took those out of the VC release…thankfully, Nintendo did not screw around with Metroid’s codes…
W- Some people might scoff at this simplistic hockey game, but I love it. I have a lot of memories of this game, and I’ll be downloading it so I can scrap my beat-up used NES copy. The gameplay is solid, and it’s quite a bit of fun, especially against another player. However, it is fairly straightforward, and Konami’s Blades of Steel is probably the better NES hockey choice, but…I like it. :p
Excitebike (AC, CNES)
W- Excitebike is one of the NES’ better racing games, and its track editor can become quite obsessive. I think most people prefer using the editor to race on over Nintendo’s creations. The Suspend feature can keep your custom track, too, so that’s a plus. It’s nothing too fancy, but it has strong enough mechanics to keep one entertained.
W- I like this game, more from memory than anything else. As a pinball title for the NES, though, it’s been outshone by later games like Pinbot, but it does have Mario and Pauline in it as a cameo. :p I can’t say this is worth a DL unless you have (very) fond memories of it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (600 points)
W- Konami’s first run with the TMNT license on the NES is quite different than its arcade sequel brethren. It isn’t so much a beat-em-up as an action/platformer. And it’s quite a hard game at that (remember the underwater bomb-defusing level? I know I sure do >_< ). While it’s not that great of an overall game (Raph and Mike are pretty much pointless, the game is a bit glitchy, a lot of the enemies have little to do with the license, and the game’s control is a bit spotty), it can be fairly fun. However, I’d save the points on much better fare than this. There’s better NES games already available, and I bet there will be better ones later. Besides, the extra 100 points this title demands is stupid, really. Are licensed games going to get an extra dollar or two slapped onto them?
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream (AC)
W- Punch-Out is one of the classics of the era. Obviously, Mike Tyson can’t be in the VC release (licensing…his madness…), but it doesn’t matter. Punch-Out is one of the most simplistic yet effective games ever made. The control is spot-on, the graphics solid (quite so for a NES title) and the game’s fun to play.
W- The original Castlevania is a fine NES download choice. It’s got plenty of challenge, catchy music and is fun to play. The Suspend feature works out well for a game like this – you can take a breather when the going gets tough. The controls are a bit spotty, though, and when you get struck, you fly backwards, leading to cheap deaths (there’s a reason Medusa Heads are among gaming’s most reviled enemies). Outside of that though, I can easily recommend this.
W- One of the kings of the NES action-platforming heap, Ryu Hayabusa’s first adventure is a tough adventure that is certainly worth the points. You’ll get a good amount of gameplay out of this game. The sequel from what I hear is a more balanced title, but you’ll have plenty of fun here nevertheless. I need to play this some more myself…
Pac Man (NM50, NMDS, NMBC, NMVA, CNES)
W- Pac Man is a legendary arcade game, but the NES port is not quite up to task of replicating the entirety of its greatness. It also doesn’t help that the arcade original has seen its fair share of perfect ports scattered across multiple platforms, either. You’d be better served with a Museum comp than this port.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (LoZ, CNES)
W- I’ve never enjoyed this game. I’ve tried, but Link’s painfully short range makes battling enemies a little difficult. It’s not a bad game, but it’s the odd one out in the Zelda series, and it’s never really appealed to me. It’s worth a DL if you want a Zelda title that will be different from any other one you’ve played before…but I don’t like it at all.
Milon’s Secret Castle
W- I rented this a few times when I was younger, but I never caught on to what it was I was supposed to do. Since then, I’ve read that the game has poor level design, which may explain it. At any rate, the only thing I really remember is finding the Hudson bee. And if that’s all I remember about it, there’s far better NES games you can download instead of this.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (RM – Super Mario Advance [GBA])
W- The oddity in the Mario family (mainly because it wasn’t a Mario title to begin with), SMB2 is a different beast from the original, mainly in that you don’t jump on enemies to defeat them; you throw them into other foes (or throw turnips at them). It also introduced Luigi’s flutter jump (as well as his first individualism from Mario!), Peach and Toad’s first playable appearance in a game, and added in a bevy of enemies into the Mario universe (Shyguys, Snifits, Bom-Ombs, Pokeys and Birdos). While feeling quite different than any other Mario game, it remains a fun little title, and $5 is a reasonable price.
Elevator Action (TL)
W- Thanks to Taito Legends I have been able to experience some of their arcade classics, and I can recommend Elevator Action as a download. The NES port isn’t as nice looking, but the basic gameplay mechanics are still there, and the game is quite enjoyable. It’s got a little action, a little stealth and a little bit of strategy all wrapped up in a nice package.
W- Mach Rider boils down racing and shooting in its barest forms, but it’s still a decent experience. The gameplay is adequate, but the track’s short visibility does put a bit of a damper on the game (as does getting nailed from behind by rival bikes…). But for $5 and the ability to suspend your level creations…you may want to give it a shot. You may like it more than me. Cool music, at least. ^_^
Galaga (NM50, NMDS, NMWii [remade], NMBC, NMVA)
W- This is a classic evolution of the Space Invaders-style of shooters, and if you like that type of shooter, you’ll probably enjoy this. However, it’s not quite arcade perfect, and the high frequency of Namco releasing Museums with perfect arcade ports is a strike against this one.
Mario Bros. (RM – any GBA Mario title)
W- This port of the first pairing of Mario and Luigi is decent, but you can find a better version on any of Mario’s adventures on the GBA. Or, if you’re patient, Nintendo may release the original one day. In short, there’s better ways of spending $5 than this.
Balloon Fight (AC)
W- I really enjoy Balloon Fight. It’s a nice, simple arcade game that works an awful lot like Midway’s Joust, but I think I like BF more. With a 2 Player mode, the bonus Balloon Trip mode and solid gameplay mechanics, it’s a great game to recommend for some arcade action.
The Adventures of Lolo
W- Lolo’s gameplay is still fairly unique for the NES lineup – you push around eggs to solve puzzles and to defeat enemies. My playtime with this was when I was little, and I don’t think I grasped the proper method of working through it, but it’s still a pretty fun game. I’d recommend it, since I’ll probably DL it myself to try to beat it properly.
Metroid (CNES, featured on Metroid Prime (GC) and Metroid Zero Mission (GBA) as an unlockable)
W- The good news: Nintendo wisely left Metroid’s famous password system alone, perhaps learning its mistake with Kid Icarus and the furious outcries it caused. If you don’t have it by some other means, it’s a solid enough game that will offer up tons of challenge, mystery and exploration for $5. I’d recommend foregoing this for Super Metroid (by a long shot!), but without Metroid, there wouldn’t be a SM to recommend, so…
Donkey Kong Jr. Math (AC)
W- I’ve played this for 5 minutes and became quite dulled with it in Animal Crossing. The gameplay is boringly simple – the last stage in DK Jr. is the backdrop, and you push up the number that answers the question. That’s it. It’s not worth 100 points, and it being 5 times that amount is offensive.
W- Master Higgins’ first game is not his best. It lacks the dino powerups later games feature, and the gameplay isn’t all that deep. You’d be better off playing one of the Wonderboy games that this spun off from, or waiting for one of the later Adventure Islands to pop up.
Legend of Kage (TL2)
W- This game did little for me. It controls really clunky, the main character runs awkwardly and enemies are a bit too clever for the controls given to you to fight them. Eh. I found it boring and aggravating, and those do not make games fun for me.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
W- Simon’s second adventure is more like the post-Symphony CV titles than the original or Dracula’s Curse. It’s more non-linear than its NES siblings, has a mild RPG flavor, and has shops where you can purchase goods. However, the gameplay is still very true to the original CV. It’s an unique experiment for sure, but expect to get lost – the game’s infamous translation makes figuring out how to do tasks on your own a bit difficult. Still a fun game, though.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (RM – Super Mario Advance 4 [GBA])
W- This is the premiere 2D Mario experience: It’s got excellent level design, great controls, awesome power-ups and it’s a lot of fun to play. One thing I do have to knock about the original SMB is that it doesn’t feel like a vast and unique world, but SMB3 remedies that in spades. A milestone in gaming, and one that I have to highly support DL’ing.
W- For the NES, this is probably the best b-baller you can get. However, basketball games have evolved drastically from its humble arcade beginnings, so this may be a bit too streamlined and simplistic for most. Decent, as I said, but there’s better NES games than this.
Ghosts N Goblins (CCC)
W- If you want one of the hardest games ever made, then by all means, download this right now and enjoy the masochism. It will bend you to its will, submit you to its fury, and will likely push aggro buttons inside of you that you never knew existed. But…somehow…it’s addictive. The later Gn’G games improve the controls and level design (and retain the level of difficulty), so I’d choose either of those over the original, which can become tedious after a bit.
Blades of Steel
W- Konami’s iconic hockey game is easily the best hockey game for the NES, and also stands tall among the NES sports titles as one of its best. An easy recommendation for sports/hockey fans, with its great controls, fun fighting engine (for the NES, anyway) and nifty minigames (Gradius, anyone?).
Bubble Bobble (TL, RM – Bubble Bobble Plus! [Wii] and Bubble Bobble Neo [X360] states that they have 100 classic stages, and I’m assuming it means the arcade original’s)
W- This classic Taito title is a solid NES port and has a ton of arcade gameplay to share with a friend. However, a brief warning – Taito has released a WiiWare title, Bubble Bobble Plus!, that seemingly includes all 100 levels the original had, plus more. And four players can jump in over two. It sounds like a better deal than this to me.
W- Heh, nice to see Mike Jones pop up on the Virtual Console, because it’s a fine game in the Zelda vein. In lieu of a dippable letter to find out the Sub-C code, Nintendo programmed the game to send you a letter to the Wii to open for the code. Smart. Outside of that, though, this game is a lot of fun. It’s puzzling, has interesting monsters, excellent music and a decent plot for the NES era. It’s a hard game, and the controls are stiff, but it manages to still remain enjoyable. A great choice.
Dig Dug (NMWii, NMBC, NMVA, Import)
W- Heh, now we’re getting into some really funny circumstances. The NES port of Dig Dug never came to U.S. shores, so with its arrival on the VC, we get an extra 100 “import” points tacked onto the title. Oy. It’s a good arcade classic, but it’s not worth 600 points.
W- Jaleco’s NES baseball title was an important step in the history of sports games, but it has become quite antiquated since its release. I would skip over this and get Baseball Stars 2 for the NeoGeo if you want a great retro baseball title.
Donkey Kong 3 (AC)
W- The odd one out in the original DK trilogy. No Mario in sight for starters, and the gameplay is a little…odd, to say the least. Having to shoot DK with bug spray? Bizarre. Adding to that, it’s not a platformer like the last two, more like a Space Invaders-esque shooter, and as such it’s not as delightful as the previous DK titles by any means. I’d pass on this one.
Clu Clu Land (AC)
W- This is an interesting take on the maze concept. You have to direct Bubbles when to swing, and she’s always on the move. It adds a nice degree of tension to the concept. This isn’t a bad choice for some arcade maze action.
Mega Man (MMAC, RM – Mega Man Powered Up! [PSP])
W- About time, Capcom. :p Anyway, the original Mega Man is easily the toughest of the bunch, despite it featuring fewer levels than future MM titles. It also is the most archaic of the series as well. However, it still is a fairly solid action title, but you may want to go for Mega Man 2 and/or 3 over the original. The PSP remake is also fantastic, from what I hear, and it’s $10 to DL now, if I remember right.
Mega Man 2 (MMAC)
W- Mega Man 2 is easily one of the best in the long MM timeline. Catchy music, challenging level design and some of the best boss fights in the NES era are to be had here, and Mega Man controls extremely well in this game. I prefer MM3 more, but you can’t go wrong with this one, either.
Super Dodge Ball
W- I haven’t played this in years, but I remember having an incredibly joyous time with this game. Technos really nailed the concept of dodgeball, taking the sport to extremes in terms of the game’s animations and wacky abilities. This will be one I will be DL’ing when I get the chance to see if it holds up to my childhood memories, but for now, I’ll go ahead and say it’s worth 500 points.
Mega Man 3 (MMAC)
W- Heh, I knew that, since the Mega Man onslaught had begun, my favorite NES game of all time would eventually creep out onto the VC, and lo and behold, here it is. I truly think that Capcom nailed the formula perfectly in MM3 – the difficulty is tough, but not maddening, the bosses are out of the usual “Fire Man variant, Ice Man variant” mold, the gameplay tweaks were significant (sliding and Rush), and the series never felt as solid and fluid as it does here. Mega Man responds well to your commands, and rarely does the game make you feel that the controls killed you. The music is among my favorites in all of gaming, too. I’m so stoked about this appearing that I wrote Tactics for it – that ought to show you how much I love MM3.
Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II
W- I may be one of the only people who prefer the original game’s “stuck to a grid” controls to this game’s free-roaming design. I find the newfound freedom to be more obnoxious. At least in the original, if you died from leaping into some sort of abyss, it was pretty much your error. Trying to perform the platforming challenges in Zoda’s Revenge is usually an aggravating exercise. Along with that, the game’s time-traveling plot goes off into bizarro land, which is a bit of a shame, because StarTropics managed to have one of the more compelling plots of the NES era. The game is solid enough, and you may enjoy the control changes more than I did, but I feel that a lot of the magic from the original is missing in this sequel. I do have to admit, though, that this game has some amazing dungeon music.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
W- As I dive more and more into this game, I find myself believing that this is definitely one of Konami’s greatest. Reverting back to the original CV’s formula after Simon’s Quest, Dracula’s Curse builds heavily upon that foundation, showcasing improved level design, introducing multiple characters to play as, tweaking the difficulty to be just right, and features some incredible music. A hearty recommendation.
W- A shockingly pleasant puzzle game, Wrecking Crew pushes the right buttons with its clever level design (plus you can make your own!) and easy-to-learn controls. It’s not much of a looker even by NES standards, but it remains a delightful sidestep in the Mario pantheon.
W- This game reminds me of Mappy, but doesn’t quite nail the premise. It’s not attractive to look at, the controls are sloppy, and I just didn’t get much of a kick out of it. Ultimately, it feels broken. If you’re hungry for arcade action, look elsewhere.
Final Fantasy (RM – Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls [GBA], Final Fantasy [PSP])
W- Square’s supposed swan song (they were on the verge of going bankrupt as they completed it), the original Final Fantasy stands as a classic in JRPG history. As far as VC offerings go, it’s not as deep as most of the other JRPG’s offered on the service, but it does have plenty of charm. The game is easy enough to follow without much outside help, the gameplay mechanics are simple but effective, and it’s quite a challenging adventure. Expect to level grind and occasionally get frustrated at the frequency of random encounters, though. The Suspend feature will be a godsend – I lost to Chaos back in the day to find my battery erased the next time I planned to take on the villain. XD As far as NES RPG’s go, this is one of the best, and it’s a fine choice for FF fans or gamers who missed out on this to uncover the roots of one of gaming’s legendary franchises.
A Boy and His Blob
W- The original ABaHB has plenty of charming qualities, although what exactly you’re supposed to be doing at first is not very clear. It’ll take some exploration and patience to make it to the second, larger half of the game, but the rewards can be pretty satisfying. The game handles well enough, and the variety of jellybeans that you can feed your Blob offer up some interesting answers to the game’s puzzles. It may look like a standard NES platformer, but it’s much more an adventure game than an action-packed title. If you’re the kind of gamer that likes to mind-crunch and think on your toes, you may enjoy this.
W- Sunsoft’s classic is a fantastic early blend of genres: there’s plenty of shooting action, exploration in two different perspectives, RPG-esque bits, and some very challenging boss battles, all mixed up with top-notch NES visuals and one of the best soundtracks of the 8-bit era. Tight controls round up a perfect package of NES gaming bliss. This comes highly recommended!
NES Play Action Football
W- Football in its videogaming infancy was a tricky feat to master, and beyond the 4 player option that this game offers, Tecmo Bowl is the superior choice in my book.
Double Dragon (RM – Double Dragon Advance [GBA])
W- Technos delivered a decent enough port of their arcade hit, minus the two player co-op, multiple enemy encounters, and gimping the weapons a bit, alas. However, Technos did revamp the level designs, add in a new “fighting” mode, and added an exclusive boss to this version. I’d probably recommend bypassing this for the much better executed River City Ransom, or a 16-bit beat-em-up, though.
Mega Man 4 (MMAC)
W- After the fantastic experiences of MM2 and MM3, Mega Man 4 came off as rather flat and uninspired to me. The levels didn’t seem as interesting beyond a few, the music wasn’t as good, and the new weapons weren’t as nifty or were clones of previous Robot Masters. It also made the drastic alteration to the MM gameplay that I think doomed the franchise for quite some time in terms of my enjoyment – the Charge Shot, which made your standard Arm Cannon shots pointless, as a large blast would subdue them faster than bombarding them with several bullets. Some people really love MM4, and many like it more than MM5 and MM6, but it’s my least favorite of the NES set.
W- I have to admit I wasn’t all that wowed with Faxanadu, but I do think it’s a far better action-adventure than Zelda II was. If you dug Zelda II, or like some RPG elements in your action games, then you may enjoy this. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough of a fair shake – I’ve reacquired it to give it a second chance.
Mega Man 5 (MMAC)
W- Mega Man 5 could be seen as the creative drought in the NES games, with the littlest innovation and relatively unexciting powers to collect, plus the greater focus on the Charge Shot. While MM6 would add in new Rush adapters and tried to mix up the gameplay a touch with multiple paths, MM5 plays it extremely safe save Wave Man’s stage, which throws a horizontal shooter stage into the action (which is one of the game’s better moments). I think MM6 is the finest of the Charge Shot NES titles, while this is fairly uninspiring. Series fans may want to give this a shot, but don’t expect to be wowed by too much.
W- One of Game Freak’s first games with Nintendo (they made Pokemon, in case you were in the dark) is this simplistic puzzler that requires you to use Mario to flip the panels and match up enemies vertically to make them vanish, or encase a heap in a Yoshi egg to net big points. As I’m not the biggest fan of puzzlers, I didn’t really dig this one as its premise did little to win me over, but I don’t think it would be all that engaging to genre enthusiasts, either. It’s fairly basic without a massive hook to reel you in.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
W- After nearly a year of limbo in the ESRB, Aksys finally gets this classic beam-em-up out there onto the Virtual Console. Technos improved nearly every aspect of the first NES Double Dragon with their sequel, with full-blown two-player action, better level design, more complex movesets, and improved graphics. It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but I remember it fairly fondly.
PROS – Novel spin on the maze genre. Challenging level design that pushes the player’s forethought. Amusing premise.
CONS – Controls are a little on the loose side, which can lead to accidental deaths. The NES port is not as good as the arcade original…which is on an inexpensive comp for the Wii!
OVERALL – Fans of quirky arcade games may want to look into this…if Data East’s Wii comp doesn’t otherwise interest them. I personally am a fairly big fan of the game.
SNES (800 points, Wii)
W- The Sim City series has grown immensely since this SNES port, but I still enjoyed my time with this one. Maybe it’s the relatively easy control scheme that makes the game easy to lay out, or perhaps it’s the wide variety of maps Nintendo conjured up. Or maybe it’s the sheer joy of seeing Bowser thrash up cities. :p It’s still fun, and I can recommend it.
Super Ghouls & Ghosts (CCC, RM – Same title [GBA])
W- Man, this beast of a game will thrill anyone seeking a difficult game. Much like its NES predecessor, Arthur’s quest will be relentlessly brutal. It does have some concessional improvements to Arthur’s controls (like a double jump, which you will learn to love), the gameplay and level design are much better, and the spritework is quite impressive for an early SNES title. That said, it is tough, and likely will make you frustrated. It’s very, very hard…but some gamers like that.
Street Fighter II (CCC, SFAC)
W- The only way I can honestly say that this is not a waste of Wii points is if you HATE:
A) Playing as the 4 boss characters Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison,
B) Playing as the New Challengers Cammy, Dee Jay, Fei Long and T. Hawk,
C) Picking the same character in VS. Mode without codes,
D) The improvements and tweaks made to the original 8 fighters over the years.
If you do indeed hate those things, then this is the ideal DL for you. Otherwise, you’ll be better served by the other SF options available on the VC.
Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (RM – LoZ:LttP + Four Swords [GBA])
W- Do you not care for or about Four Swords? Then by all means, DL this right now. While it’s not my favorite, this is the defining Zelda that many future titles in the franchise took their design and inspiration from. Its excellent level layouts, charming graphics and nigh-perfect gameplay set the standards that other games look to as their foundation. I have to admit, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not getting this game.
Donkey Kong Country (RM – Same title [GBA])
W- I decided to give this game a proper replay, and I have to stand by my original sentiment: I find the gameplay to be shallow. I don’t see what the fuss is all about. It controls a touch too loose for my liking, and the level design isn’t all that great. The boss fights aren’t that engaging to do, either, and the save system is kind of clunky. I guess that this just isn’t my game.
Super Mario World (RM – Super Mario Advance 2 [GBA])
W- Super Mario World is a fantastic 2D platformer that, while treading a slightly different path than SMB3 (pairing down the power-ups, adding in Yoshi, and experimenting with a larger overworld map that allows replays and secret paths to be uncovered), manages to evolve Mario’s world and provide plenty of new gameplay ideas. While I still think SMB3 is the pinnacle of 2D Mario’s, this is not too far away from it.
Gradius III (released on Gradius Collection [PSP])
W- Gradius III is a fine horizontal shooter (one that I dig, and I don’t usually like the genre) that has a pretty cool gameplay premise. Customizing your ship with different weapons is really awesome. The game controls fairly solid (especially once you get your speed up), looks pretty good and, outside of some slowdown, plays well too. I paid $9 for my used SNES copy, so $8 isn’t a bad price. However, the VC does have a bevy of other topnotch shooters on it, so it’s a tough call with that in mind. If you like shoot-em-ups, then I’d say go for it.
Final Fight (CCC, RM – Final Fight One [GBA])
W- Look, I’ll be frank. I can not recommend a censored, cut-off-at-the-knees version of Final Fight. No playable Guy, no Poison/Roxy, no Sodom (Katana instead!), no Rolento/Industrial Area and no 2-player equals a no DL.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (RM – same title [GBA])
W- I stated it earlier, but the DKC games didn’t do much for me. My brief time with this one left me a little in the cold, much like the rest of the series. But, if you liked the first one, you’ll probably enjoy this. I won’t be DL’ing it, though.
Street Fighter II Turbo (SFAC, CCC, RM – Street Fighter II ‘ : Hyper Fighting [XBLA])
W- Turbo is probably the finest SF title on the VC. Super SFII has the New Challengers, but it also has some slowdown, along with some small graphical downgrades. Here you get two SF games for the price of one – Champion Edition and SF2′ (Turbo), and both offer fantastic fighting gameplay with minimal changes. If you don’t have some other way to pick up Turbo, then I recommend this wholeheartedly.
W- Out of everything the Virtual Console has offered thus far (and probably ever will), this is the best overall choice of a download I can suggest. This game is fantastic, the absolute pinnacle of 2D gameplay and level design. It is a blast to explore hidden nooks with Samus, trying to power her up to her full potential. The game’s world is perfect, one that opens up more and more revelations as you probe deeper and deeper into it. The music is perfect, and Samus controls like a dream. This is the best game on the VC, and you need to download it now.
Breath of Fire II (RM – same title [GBA])
W- I’ve gotten deeper into BoFII, and I can say that it’s a very fun game to play through. The translation sucks, so sometimes what exactly you’re supposed to be doing is unclear or understated, but the combat system is solid enough, the town system is fairly unique for its time, and the graphics are well animated and detailed. The music is mostly well composed (the dungeon theme is really terrible, though), and despite the translation problems, the plot is adequate. Katt does not act like I expected her to, though. :p I haven’t fiddled with the Fusion system yet, so I’ll update this once I do. Of the VC RPG options currently available, this is a great choice.
Donkey Kong Country 3 (RM – same title [GBA])
W- If you liked the previous two DKC games, this will probably serve you well. If you didn’t (like me), then this won’t change your mind in the slightest.
Super Street Fighter II (SFAC)
W- The trifecta of Street Fighter II is over at last. I did own this one, and the graphic crunch is a bit more noticeable here. The four new fighters are a welcome addition, though, and the core gameplay is not affected. It’s really a preference between this and Turbo, and while I think Turbo is a little better in terms of the VC’s offerings, both are great fighters and either would be a fine choice.
Super Mario RPG
W- Took a while, but finally, Square’s stab at the Mario franchise has landed on the VC. This is a great choice for Mario and RPG fans – both should get a kick out the combination of Mario mechanics with RPG trappings. It features more statistical data than the Mario RPG’s that followed (Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, respectively), but it has aged quite well, I’d say. Certainly worth a try if you’ve never played it before.
Secret of Mana
W- Now here is a great addition to the VC lineup. Secret of Mana is a great Zelda-esque action-RPG that is a ton of fun. Great music, bright graphics, plenty of challenge and the option to play with two buddies (without a multi-tap!) make this a very easy recommendation. I will download this ASAP myself (I’m afraid of my SNES copy’s battery dying), and I suggest that you do the same.
Space Invaders (TL)
W- Heh, this could be one of the worst attempts to sap people of their well-earned Wii points yet. This is a SNES comp of the arcade Space Invaders titles, but there’s nothing special on this package that couldn’t be found elsewhere, and 800 points is a lot to ask for considering the content. Space Invaders is a legend, no doubt, but there’s better ways of using that amount of points on the VC.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (Kirby’s 20th Anniversary Collection for Wii)
W- Kirby’s last outing on the SNES follows the excellent Kirby Super Star, and it kind of pales in comparison. Taking the helper concept from the Game Boy Dream Land games to a bit of an extreme, Kirby can combine his powers with 6 different animal buddies, or even summon Gooey to help out (which does add a two-player mode). Each animal does different things with each power, so it becomes a bit of a chore to go track down the right animal for each situation you stumble across. The game’s look is unique enough, but it also comes off a bit flat to me. I find Kirby’s Adventure and Super Star to be the best games in the series, and to me, this doesn’t come anywhere close.
Super Return of the Jedi
W- From what I remember, this action-platformer is pretty tough. However, part of its difficulty comes from somewhat convoluted level design. I never saw Tatooine so covered with floating sand bars. The game’s sprites are also larger than they should be, making the playfield a bit cramped. If you enjoyed the first two, then you’ll probably like this one as well. SRotJ just didn’t do much for me.
Super Mario Kart
W- The first SMK lacks a lot of the gimmicks that have pervaded the series since its inception. Hate Blue Shells? Won’t see them here. Dislike the rubber band AI? Well, you can race loops around your rivals on these courses! The tracks are designed around skill more than randomness, and the gameplay is tight and responsive. And the multiplayer options, while not quite as robust as MK64′s (mainly in that it’s 2 players only), are more than adequate. A solid choice for racing fans or those sick of later Mario Kart item bombardments.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (SFAA)
W- Alpha 2 for the arcade is a fine game, and some consider it to be the pinnacle of the Alpha series. The solid reintroductions of Gen, Zangief and Dhalsim, plus the additions of fan favorite Sakura and Final Fight villain Rolento, were all welcome, and the Custom Combo option was first introduced here. The backgrounds are among the most interesting in the Alpha line, and the gameplay is as tight as ever. The SNES port, on the other hand, is probably not worth your time and Wii points. The impressive anime-style graphics and animation were scaled down significantly to make it fit onto the SNES, which according to Kat Bailey at 1UP, they managed to make it look nice for the humble SNES, but it’s nowhere near arcade quality. Secondly, the game requires load times in between matches. Yes, you did read that right – load times on a cartridge. Capcom made it happen. XD
If you want solid SF action on the VC, I’d say Turbo or Super is your best bet, and would pass over this one. You can find an arcade perfect Alpha 2 regularly enough elsewhere. And I have an annoucement to make: we’ve officially run out of Street Fighter ports on the Super NES now! May the tides turn and the fruits of other Capcom labors be brought forth!
W- I have to admit that I was underwhelmed with Pilotwings. I didn’t think anything about it stood out as being special. The gameplay is tricky and disjointed-feeling, and I felt that I had little control over the situations I was presented with. Perhaps patience is required to truly understand this game, but there wasn’t any incentive for me to do such a thing. I’d pass this up for better SNES fare.
Final Fantasy II (RM – Final Fantasy IV Advance [GBA], Final Fantasy IV [DS])
W- With two expanded, retranslated remakes easily playable on the DS, it’s a little hard to recommend the shortened first release of Final Fantasy IV. Especially since either of those remakes are likely to be $20 or less at this point. The game itself is good, but this is a rare case in which an later alternate version is really the way to go.
Kirby Superstar (RM – Kirby Superstar Ultra [DS], Kirby’s 20th Anniversary Collection for Wii)
W- This was a pleasant surprise when I first played it, recapturing the gameplay joy I had with Kirby’s Adventure. There’s some new powers on display, and the ability to create helpers (which enables a two player mode!) is a nice plus. The graphics are perfect, and the eight separate game modes provides a nice change of pace. Most of them are similar (get Kirby safely through the stage), but vary in their execution. All and all, this is Kirby’s second best outing in my opinion, and well worth 800 points to experience.
Mega Man X (MMXC, remade as Mega Man Maverick Hunter X for PSP)
W- I hate to admit it, but Mega Man X left me rather apathetic. I firmly believe that the Charge Shot rendered the experience poorly in my eyes, so I’ve never really dived in deeper than the introduction level. However, MMX is a action classic, and while it did little for me, you may get a lot more out of it if you like Mega Man games post-MM3 and/or enjoy the genre.
Chrono Trigger (also on DS)
W- Square’s finest moment needs to be downloaded and attempted. A finer RPG is not available on the Virtual Console, and its phenomenal battle engine, soaring musical score and the best cast on the system excellently serve its engaging plot as it twists through time. I adore Chrono Trigger, and I think you may, too.
Final Fantasy III (RM – Final Fantasy VI Advance [GBA])
W- Considered one of the best in the storied franchise, this game deserves a look if you’re into older JPRG’s. Excellent music, interesting characters and an engaging battle system combine to make a memorable experience and one of the finer games on the Super NES. I need to get back into it myself…
PRO – Large, animated characters that sell the concept of comical boxing. Responsive controls. Fairly fun deciphering what to do per opponent!
CON – If cluing in on tells, which essentially are puzzle aspects, aren’t your bag, this probably will bore you.
OVERALL – Punch-Out!! is a series I’ve barely dabbled in, so I’m perhaps not the best judge, particularly with only two opponents tested as of this writing. It’s…okay thus far. I’ll update this when I get more playtime with it.
N64 (1000 points, Wii)
Super Mario 64 (RM – Super Mario 64 DS)
W- I have to add this little side-note: N64 VC titles have gotten a bit of graphical gloss applied to them. Therefore, this port of Mario’s grandest moment is easy to recommend since it looks smoother. It’s not radical, so don’t expect the game to look like Sunshine or anything, but the gameplay is still solid. I easily recommend this purchase for those who haven’t played it or would like to relive the sweet bliss this game presents.
Mario Kart 64
W- Alas, that sidenote above has managed to make MK64 look more like poo than it did when it came out. You see, the N64′s feeble textures are more noticeable now that the polygons are smoother. And since MK64 features sprites, they look worse from what I hear. Also, ghost data saving has been completely stripped out. So, the game has become significantly worse in its transition to the VC. I can’t recommend anything like that. I love MK64 too, so that’s the sad thing.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (LoZ, also part of Legend of Zelda Master Quest [GC], remade as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on 3DS)
W- What has been hailed one of the greatest games of all time is a marvelous addition to the VC lineup. The game looks a tad crisper on the VC than the two GC ports, but the Stone of Agony has been taken out, so expect no help with finding everything in the game. In fact, there’s no rumble at all. In the end, though, the rumble is not a deal breaker, and the game’s excellence is not lost with it missing. Highly recommended.
Star Fox 64 (Remade as Starfox 64 3D on 3DS)
W- The N64 graphic smoothing makes Star Fox 64 look far more impressive than before. However, the rumble has been stripped away from the game that brought it to consoles, which is quite sad, really. Either way, SF64 is a fine shooter and is easily worth the $10 asking price with its two difficulties, solid gameplay and multiple level paths.
W- Do you want speed? If so, F-Zero X is your ticket. While the game’s graphics are fairly simple, the sacrificing of pretty backgrounds let Nintendo pour on tons and tons of speed into the frame rate, making this a blazing rush of a racer. For $10, you’ll have plenty of tracks to race, a large amount of racers to pick from and a solid 4-player mode. Definitely worth it.
W- In my opinion, the GC sequel outclasses the original with its battle system overhaul, but this is still a fun RPG to dive into. Those expecting Super Mario RPG may be disappointed, but Intelligent Systems did make a good enough experience all on its own, and it’s easily worth $10.
Wave Race 64
W- Finally, the racing legend arrives on the Virtual Console. Wave Race was one of the best early titles on the system, so it’s great to see it touch down on the Wii to be downloaded. The N64 graphic smoothing has made the water more realistic looking, so that’s a plus. The crowds and racers…not so much. And the old ads that were in Wave Race 64 have been taken down (the Kawasaki license is no longer viable), and a ton of Wii/DS ads have taken their place. Still though, this is a great racer that offers a lot of replay and challenge, so it’s an easy recommendation.
W- I remembered enjoying this fairly unique photography game on the N64 back in the day, and now you can save your photos to your SD card! It’s a bit stiff of a price (I’ve seen Snap for $7 or 8 dollars used), but for the added benefit of sending cute Meowth (or other Pokemon, if you prefer them) pictures to people…it’d probably be worth the money…especially for newer fans to the franchise.
W- Awesome game. I will be DL’ing immediately. Its challenging courses, precision control and gorgeous N64 graphics make it a well deserved keeper. You can’t go wrong with 1080, unless you want a game that doesn’t push your gaming mettle. To do tricks, you’ll need to practice. But if you stick with it, you will be so gloriously rewarded.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
W- Kirby’s N64 outing did very little for me. I came into it expecting something more akin to Kirby’s Adventure, but alas, the gameplay doesn’t feel as smooth or refined as KA. The power combining is a neat aspect, but I can’t recommend it for its going price on the VC. There’s much better 2D platforming fare than this available.
W- Back in the early days of the N64, when games were few and gamers were desperate, this rather awful port of a mediocre arcade racer was considered poor. Now that we have a wide array of VC titles, this is just not worth any points. It looks terrible, handles loosely, and just isn’t all that fun any way you cut it. Skip this.
W- I am apparently the only person that hugely prefers the GC Toadstool Tour over this. I hate the way the golfers are balanced in this. Luigi (my personal favorite Mario character) just can not cut it against many of the later golfers, and it’s annoying. And I don’t care for the non-Mario characters in here, either. As a golf game it’s certainly more than adequate, but I like the balance and courses of Toadstool Tour a lot more. I won’t DL it, but if you like golf games, this is one of the better ones for the VC.
Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (LoZ)
W- Link’s second N64 adventure is definitely worth a look. It still remains one of the most unique Zelda titles in its history, and its dark, menacing tone is a refreshing change of pace from the usual “Zelda gets nabbed by Ganon” plotline. The only knock I have against it is the scant amount of dungeons, but thankfully, they are mostly excellent. It also has had its emulation issues that plagued the Zelda: Collectors Edition fixed for the VC release, so I can easily say it’s worth a DL.
Super Smash Bros.
W- For those more acquainted with Melee and Brawl, going back to the N64 original is a little awkward. The two sequels have added so much to the franchise’s core that it will take a little readjustment to get back into the simpler gameplay groove of the first. However, that’s not to say that SSB is terrible or bad. The excellent fighting engine is here, and after getting used to not being able to air-dodge, use side special move or charge smash attacks, the fun, chaotic, free-for-all atmosphere is here in spades. Some of the series’ best stages are here, too – I adore Saffron City, the Mushroom Kingdom and Hyrule Castle, which never got a second chance to shine, alas (the Melee retro choices make no sense to me XD ). And the character choices, while a meager 12, happen to be the most important main characters in the Nintendo universe, and the novelty of these titans duking it out remains well preserved in this. If you like the series, it’s definitely worth considering a DL.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
W- The N64 third party breach* has finally been achieved, and honestly, there’s no better game to do it than Quest’s excellent Ogre Battle 64. Easily the finest RPG for the system, this rich, deep and compelling title focuses on army management and political deceit, and it’s incredibly engaging and fun. The game uses 2D sprites for its characters, and they look quite nice (the maps, however, are a little plain), and the music is fantastic, too. In my opinion, this is the best bet for strategy fans on the VC thus far. Well worth the 1000 point plunge.
* = I am aware that Nintendo did release this in Japan, but I think the main point here is that Square-Enix (and, during its original NA release, Atlus) have released it outside of Japan for the Virtual Console, and that’s a big step towards opening up more third party N64 titles making their way onto the VC service.
Genesis (800 points, Wii)
Sonic the Hedgehog (SMC, SGC, SUGC, RM – Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis [GBA])
W- I have spent more time with the sequels than this one, but I really can’t suggest a DL of this with a straight face. Sega has whored this out horribly in recent years on several comps, and while it’s an excellent speed-platformer, you’d be better served with a comp than one 800 point title.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (SMC, SUGC)
W- Like Puyo Puyo? Here’s the earliest US version of it, minus all the cute anime stuff, instead injected with lame robots! Woo! If you’re a puzzle fan, you may like it, but it did little for me, personally.
Sonic Spinball (SMC, SUGC)
W- Spinball is clunky. The physics don’t seem quite right to me for a pinball game. Other Sonic pinball merges feel fine, but Spinball seems too confused between its Sonic platform roots and a proper pinball machine. If it was more like Sonic 2′s Casinoland, then I’d be happy. But, alas, it’s not. I’ve never gotten past Lv. 2, despite my best efforts. I suppose it’s kind of fun…in a rage-inducing way. But I wouldn’t recommend it for a VC DL.
Virtua Fighter 2 (SGC)
W- This is horrible. The game’s called Virtua Fighter 2, but don’t expect VF2′s newbies Lion and Shun Di to pop up. The gameplay is broken down to such a simplistic system that it’s essentially a poor excuse of a beat-em-up. Jumps are superhuman in height. The game’s music and visuals are poor by Genesis standards. And lastly, the game isn’t any fun to play. Avoid, avoid, avoid!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SMC, SGC, SUGC)
W- Sonic 2 is my personal favorite Sonic game. If you only wanted one Sonic game, this is the one I’d tell you to get. Awesome music, level design and challenge combine with the introduction of Tails and one of my favorite 2 player modes in any 2D game…makes me smile thinking about it. Despite its availability on other comps, this is a fine DL choice.
Ecco the Dolphin (SGC, SUGC)
W- Ecco’s take on platforming stands as one of the more unique in gaming, easily. The game’s visuals are pretty, and Ecco controls fairly well. The game’s level designs can be confusing, though, and the game tends to restart you at the beginning of a stage, and without checkpoints, I can imagine the feeling of accomplishing a lot getting diminished into frustration. Still though, it’s pretty fun so far, so I can suggest giving it a shot.
Shinobi III (SGC, SUGC)
W- In my brief playtime with this game, I was quickly impressed. It looks great for a Genny title, controls fairly well (Joe’s multitude of attacks takes a bit of getting used to, though) and has catchy music. The level design is fairly straightforward so far, but I like it. A very solid action choice.
Ghouls N Ghosts (CCC)
W- I have not played the Genny port, but the arcade original is arguably my favorite G&G game. It’s still insanely hard, but I think Capcom hit the sweet spot with the intriguing level design this go-around. I suck at it, but I enjoy it the most. Another challenge-hungry gamer recommendation…although this port has an invincibility code…
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SMC, SUGC)
W- Sonic 3 and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I adore the graphic overhaul, the clever level designs, and the controls feel tighter than ever. However, the 2 Player mode blows, and there’s a part in one stage (the Carnival stage, I believe it was) that it’s very easy to not be able to continue on. Still a fine game, but these quirks put it a peg under Sonic 2 in my eyes. In terms of DL’ing, I’d find a comp over a 800 point VC DL to play it, personally.
Super Thunder Blade (SGC, SUGC)
W- A clunky, unpolished helicopter shooter where sprites pop in and out as you play? I can’t recommend spending 800 points on it with the much better Genesis/Super NES fare out there…
Golden Axe III (SGC, SUGC)
W- Hm. Can’t say that this game impressed me much. It looks fairly lackluster considering its late Genny release, and the game controls rather loosely. Can’t say it’s worth 800 points.
Ecco Jr. (SGC)
W- This is a dumbed-down Ecco game that strips out any platformer/challenging elements the game once had, turning it into a rather dull 2D ocean simulator…minus the ability to truly explore an entire ocean (the walls are still there). If you want an Ecco game, get the other two Ecco games over this one.
Sonic 3D Blast (SMC, SUGC)
W- This attempt to break down some barriers and take Sonic to new heights is an absolute failure. The isometric perspective kills any chance to get Sonic up to speed, and the gameplay requires you to hunt down things, which clashes with Sonic game design. I’ve heard the Saturn attempt was better, as well. No need to DL this.
Vectorman (SGC, SUGC, also on Sonic Gems Collection [GC])
W- I’m not a huge fan of Vectorman. I think his animation makes platforming tougher than it ought to be, and the sprites are a touch too big and bulky for my liking. If you like action games, you may dig this, but I’ll stick with Contra and Mega Man, personally.
Street Fighter II: Champion Edition (CCC, SFAC)
W- Okay…well, Capcom went and blew my mind. They released the Genesis conversion of Street Fighter II Turbo. When they have ALREADY RELEASED THE SUPER NES VERSION OF THE SAME GAME. Jesus, Capcom, what the hell is wrong with you? Do we really need TWO DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF SFII TURBO ON THE VIRTUAL CONSOLE?!? The differences between the two are fairly minor: the sound is better in the SNES version, but the Genesis port features better Turbo options and a tourney mode. I do not know exactly how the controls work out here – the major reason for the Genesis version being hailed as being the better of the two is the Genesis 6-button controller, and if you didn’t have it, you’d have to press Select to switch between kicks and punches, and that, for lack of a better term, is lame. So, if these very minute differences work out in your favor, then consider this over the SNES SFII Turbo and Super SFII…otherwise, ignore!
Forgotten Worlds (CCC)
W- I do not know how well the Genny port holds up to the original, but Forgotten Worlds is a fairly unique shooter that is a lot of fun to play. It has a flip button for Unknown Soldier to turn to fight enemies behind him, and this works better in execution than it sounds. A fine choice for horizontal shooter nuts.
Streets of Rage 2 (SUGC)
W- This is an excellent beat-em-up that offers the player a multitude of attacks to combat the hordes of gang members, and despite some enemy repetition, I enjoyed the entire experience. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.
W – This is a great overhead shooter, but the Genny version had to strip out the multiplayer aspect. To compensate, Sega (who developed this Capcom arcade port) plopped in a new original mode that has new levels. If you don’t have a PS2 or a Xbox to get Capcom Classics V.1, then this is not a bad option for you shooter fans.
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
W- Pitfall’s first resurrection looks great, but has a bit of a complex regarding its controls. Too many weapon buttons, in my opinion. Also, Harry Jr. moves a bit slower than my commands directed, and the level design was a bit chaotic and difficult to discern from the background. You may get more out of it than me, but I walked away fairly unimpressed.
Gain Ground (SGC, SUGC)
W- This game reminds me of Gauntlet, but is way more strategic and precise in its gameplay. It also moves VERY SLOWLY, so it’s best recommended for patient players. It didn’t do all that much for me, personally.
W- From what I hear, the Genesis port of Capcom’s classic Strider turned out quite well and captures the essence of its gameplay nicely. The controls can be a tad touchy at times, but it’s definitely a unique, interesting and enjoyable arcade action game worth some playtime. It has some fascinating setpieces and enemy design, too. Worth a look.
Super Street Fighter II (SFAC)
W- AGAIN? Another Street Fighter port?!? Over Demon’s Crest, Bionic Commando, Breath of Fire and Mega Man 64? Capcom, you’re killing me here. Luckily, there is the bonus incentive of online play that makes this port justifiable to some degree. Nester breaks down the two ports quite nicely here, so I’ll defer to him. I for one will skip it.
Monster World IV (also on PS3/Xbox 360)
PRO – Charming graphics and a catchy overworld theme caught my attention quickly. Add in some great action/platforming/puzzling and solid controls and you have a wonderful game in the making. Asha is a well-animated and delightful heroine. Lastly, I really like the atmosphere of the game. It’s sort of Arabian Nights-esque but with a strong anime spin on it, which makes it really delightful. This is what Zelda II should have been!
CON – It’s nice Sega translated the game, but it’s rather sterile. I guess it’s better than nothing! A part in the Ice Pyramid area requires button taps to progress past doors, but maintains the Genesis control scheme information over updating it to the Wii’s. The bosses are okay but have been so far either sort of cheap or really simple to exploit. They feel disconnected from the rest of the game.
OVERALL – I’m glad to have purchased it. I may have some small quibbles about the localization and the bosses feel more like an accessory than as a key component to the game, but overall it’s fantastic and one I’m happy to recommend.
Ristar (SGC, SUGC)
PROS – Bright, colorful graphics make for a charming excursion. Bionic Commando-esque gameplay that is well-executed.
CONS – Large worlds that I personally got lost in. The arm mechanic alone is okay, but can get a little tiring.
OVERALL – A solid game that just hasn’t resonated with me. If you like platformers that feature grappling, you may like this.
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (SGC, SUGC)
PROS – Kooky! …colorful! …um, I don’t have much else to say.
CONS – Unorthodox gameplay concepts like rock paper scissors for boss fights and shop transactions add too much randomness into the mix. Alex controls awkwardly. Rather dull execution of platforming action.
OVERALL – I really do not understand the appeal of Alex Kidd, although I’ve heard his Master System excursions were generally better. As for this, I cannot recommend such a bizarrely boring game to anyone.
Comix Zone (SGC, SUGC)
PROS – Fluid comic book presentation that is quite novel. Strong graphic style that is very effective.
CONS – Convoluted gameplay and controls. Unfairly brutal difficulty from the get-go.
OVERALL – Comix Zone has some potential to be a really fun action/beat-em-up hybrid, but its visual hook is undermined by its shoddy player interaction. If you have a lot of patience, you may be able to enjoy it, but I certainly couldn’t.
TG-16 (600 – 800 points, Wii)
Dragon Spirit (NM50, NMVA)
W- Namco’s fantasy shooter left me feeling a bit…well, empty. Your dragon has a huge hit box, and compared to some other shooters, the arcade version felt a bit stiff to me. I don’t know if the TG-16 version is any better, but this didn’t do too much for me.
Fighting Street (TG16-CD, CCC2)
W- Fighting Street is a port of Capcom’s arcade Street Fighter (don’t get confused!), but as a game experience, there’s not much point to DL’ing this over any SFII option. The game’s controls are awkward and hard to pull off, the roster’s one deep (Ryu) for one-player, and it’s lacking the magic that SFII pioneered. It’s interesting as a transitional piece of gaming history, but little more than that. It’s certainly not worth the points it’s being asked for here.
Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition (TG16, import, 700 points, CCC, SFAC)
W- The only reason I can recommend this over any other SFII title on the VC is the fact that, even as an import title, it costs 100 points less than the SNES and Genesis revs. You’ll get the Boss Name Remix (i.e., Vega = Balrog, M. Bison = Vega, Balrog = M. Bison), and it lacks SFII Turbo. If you want SFII action on the VC, this is the cheapest bet, but probably not the finest choice. And hey, Capcom, this is more than enough SFII ports on the Virtual Console, k? XD
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (included on Dracula X Chronicles for PSP, Import)
PRO – The best controlling old-school Castlevania, without question. Ricther is fluid and rarely makes the player feel like blaming the controls over their own poor reactions. The graphics and music are also spectacular. Engaging boss fights and dynamic level design (with secret rooms and a bonus character to unlock!) wrap up the total package.
CON – It feels like a classic CV in terms of difficulty, but that’s more my issue than the game’s. Cutscenes are pretty dated now. Not keen on the anime trappings of ‘Vania (at least I’m consistent).
OVERALL – A hearty recommendation for fans of the franchise and for anyone who loves a great 2D experience.
NeoGeo (900 points, Wii)
Fatal Fury (NGAC, FFBA1)
W- I can’t really recommend a download of one of SNK’s first stabs at a fighting game. First off, the game’s tight limit on playable characters (three, to be exact), leaves a lot to be desired, and second, it feels fairly dated. The later FF’s are far better, in my opinion.
Art of Fighting (NGAC, also part of Art of Fighting Anthology [PS2])
W- Another no-go choice for the VC. Although the game has some of the largest, more detailed sprites ever appearing in a fighter, AoF is very dated with its somewhat clunky controls and limited character selection (two, anyone?). Considering the $9 you’d be putting into it, you ought to wait for either later NG games or download some other excellent VC choice.
Magician Lord (NGAC)
W- I recommend this one for fans of Ghosts N Goblins. It’s quite similar to the Capcom series, but a little more forgiving in some ways. Your wizard can jump with more control, take a little more damage than Arthur and regains health when he powers up into a different form. The level design is not up to par with GnG, though, but it’s still a solid enough game.
Baseball Stars 2 (NGAC)
W- I mostly enjoyed my playtime with this title. I’d almost call it the best retro baseball title I’ve played. It has a ton of personality, adequate play mechanics and solid spritework. And it’s kooky. :p The only negative I’ve got is the slightly overpowering computer AI, who put the pressure on fast (and annoyingly keep Powering Up players, which requires a Time Out to perform, which gets a bit pesky after a while). But it’s definitely one of the best sports games from the 90′s, so it’s worth a go for sports fans.
King of Fighters ’94 (NGAC, also part of King of Fighters Orochi Saga [PS2, PSP, Wii])
W- An important game to SNK’s fighter history, this is the very first KOF title. However, it feels sluggish and choppy compared to later KOF games (and even Fatal Fury Real Bout), so I think the Wii points can be spent better elsewhere.
World Heroes (NGAC, also part of World Heroes Anthology [PS2, PSP])
W- Skip this one…unless you really like clunky fighters with very poor controls and boring sprite design.
Metal Slug (NGAC, also part of Metal Slug Anthology [PS2, PSP, Wii])
W- Having played this to completion, I give out a thumbs-up for this excellent run-n-gun. Awesome spritework, interesting enemy design and some cool levels to plow through make this a joyous arcade blast. Its high price point must be considered, but out of the NeoGeo lineup, this is the best one they have put up thus far.
Metal Slug 2 (also part of Metal Slug Anthology [PS2, PSP, Wii])
W- With Metal Slug X, a remake of MS2, now available on the Virtual Console, I would recommend bypassing this original effort. It’s plagued with slowdown problems and lacks the polish and bonus content applied to MSX.
Neo Turf Masters (NGAC)
W- As Nester notes, this is a surprisingly entertaining golf title, and is likely the finest on the Virtual Console (please note that I hate Mario Golf 64 :p ). If you like golfing games, you really can’t go wrong here.
Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy (NGAC)
W- A solid action side-scroller, Top Hunter proved to be fairly entertaining. It’s definitely a quarter-muncher in terms of its difficulty, but the fun gameplay and delightful graphics makes up for it. Worth a try, if you dig arcade action.
King of the Monsters (NGAC)
W- The later sequels of this game are better than the original, which has its fun points, but is a little jilted in its controls. Not worth the going price of 900 points.
Fatal Fury 2 (FFBA1)
W- As Nester states, FF2 was clearly influenced by Street Fighter II, and Capcom’s effort trumps it. Along with FF Special being the far superior upgrade, there’s next to no point of downloading this.
Fatal Fury Special (FFBA1)
W- SNK’s fine-tuning of FF2′s combo system is a massive gameplay success, and the addition of 7 new fighters to the roster doesn’t hurt, either. This remains one of the best titles in the Fatal Fury line-up, and if you want to experience a solid fighter, this is one of the best currently available on the Wii.
Fatal Fury 3 (FFBA1)
W- Thus far, this is the best NeoGeo fighting title you can pick up on the Virtual Console that I’ve played. Fatal Fury began to step away from mimicking Street Fighter here and started to create its own unique style, and the fighters really show off SNK’s budding design skills. A marvelous game well worth considering for fans of fighters (barring PS2 owners who can snag the Battle Archives, that is).
Street Slam (DEAC)
W- With NBA Jam unlikely to see a retro revival, basketball fans will find a very comparable title here. With three-on-three teams, a much livelier set of backdrops, and some similar gameplay (including insane dunks and on-fire three pointers with a maxed out shot meter), this is a very solid arcade sports title worth looking into (although the $20 or less Wii Data East comp makes much more sense than plopping 900 points down for this one game, despite its quality).
Magical Drop III (DEAC)
W- If you’re into puzzle games, this is an excellent addition to the Virtual Console. This may seem like a Bust-a-Move rip-off at first glance, but Data East put a rather unique spin on its main mechanic (collecting bubbles instead of shooting them), which makes this a far more engaging title (for me, at least). The only setback to this game is that it’s on a Wii comp, but if you don’t care for the rest of Data East’s line-up, then this is a worthy pickup.
Metal Slug 3 (also on Metal Slug Anthology [PS2, Wii, PSP])
W- Metal Slug 3 continues the crazy action/shooter chaos of its prequels, but this one ups the insanity factor through the roof. There’s a plethora of crazy levels to explore (and there’s branching paths in this one), wacky enemies to shoot, and a bevy of new “slugs” to ride. Quality stuff, and worth a look if you liked the prior games and/or arcade-style run-n-guns.
Fatal Fury Real Bout Special (FFBA2)
W- Real Bout Special is among the finest games in the Fatal Fury canon. While I prefer the slightly larger cast and refinements the next game, Real Bout 2, brought to the table, RBS is in the top three Fatal Fury fighters without question in my eyes. It’s a lot of fun, and that’s what counts!
Metal Slug X (also on Metal Slug Anthology [PS2, Wii, PSP])
W- Metal Slug X is a redo of Metal Slug 2, and I personally found it to be the better of the two. There’s a bunch of new content added in, plus the slowdown problems of MS2 have been toned down considerably. It’s also packed with more interactive environments. If you want the best Metal Slug games on the Virtual Console, choose this and MS3.
The Last Blade 2
PRO – Lush backgrounds, dramatic music, beautiful sprites and animation; this game is one of the most lavish I’ve had the opportunity to play. It has style and it knows how to use it. The characters are deep and well-designed. Gameplay is engaging and offers a lot of variety. Uncensored unlike the DC port.
CON – Requires a lot of playtime to understand its nuances (which isn’t much of a con when a game looks and plays this well). More technical than many other 2D fighters, which may alienate some.
OVERALL – One of SNK’s greatest games, and it should absolutely be considered for fans of fighting games.
Real Bout Fatal Fury (FFBA2)
PROS – The launch of the second series of Fatal Fury games brings a larger roster than any that preceded it. Interactive stages allow ring-outs, which are pretty cool. Looks and plays well.
CONS – Its sequels, which are big improvements, are already available.
OVERALL – Not worth the 900 points on its own with its better sequels around.
Shock Troopers (NGAC)
PRO – Excellent overhead run-n-gun action. Colorful graphics and smooth animation unite with nigh-perfect controls. Loads of replay due to three different paths to take (that also can be combined for more differences!) and two main methods of character selection (go solo or have three teammates you can swap depending on the circumstances). Surprisingly fair difficulty compared to many other SNK games.
CON – Some mildly annoying sound clips. The PS2 SNK Arcade Classics port has some slowdown, but I think that’s a localized case. Can get a bit monotonous.
OVERALL - The best overhead shooter I’ve played. Highly recommended for those who don’t have easy access to the Wii SNK Arcade Classics 1.
Commodore 64 (500 points, Wii)
W- Karate games were quite the rage back in the C64 days, and this was one of the benchmarks of that era. I prefer Way of the Exploding Fist (which had much better backgrounds and music) over this title, myself. Modern gamers may also find the control scheme a bit awkward, especially those weaned on Street Fighter and the like. You perform an action depending on what direction you hold, which can take some time getting used to. That said, I don’t know the odds of WofEF appearing on the VC, so if you’re looking for some nice retro fighting action that requires some different strategies than the usual, this is a decent pick. However, there is a sequel coming down the pike, so I would probably hold off until that arrives.
Summer Games II
W- I only had half the events on my C64, but from what I recall, it’s one of the better button-mashing sport games available. I prefer California Games the most out of this series (at least the NES port) myself, but Epyx did have a solid concept that many would imitate down the road. If you like Konami’s Track & Field or other Olympics games, I’d give this a shot.
The Last Ninja
W- Last Ninja is incredible for its age. The graphics are very detailed, the music perfect, and is one of the best isometric games I’ve played. The sequels are better from what I hear, but I’d give the original a try, too. I’ll be getting it when I get my Wii online.
W- My experience with California Games is through Rare’s NES port, but I can heartily recommend this. Epyx mastered their gameplay experiments with the earlier Games here, and all of the games (outside of Footbag, which can be tedious after a while) are awesome to play. My favorites are Skating, Skateboarding and Flying Disc. Considering its low price point, I’d definitely consider it if you want a solid C64 sports game.
Arcade (points vary, Wii)
Mappy (500 points, NM50, NMWii, NMDS, NMVA, NMBC)
W- Ah, Namco, once again trodding out your also-rans. Mappy is a quaint take on the maze concept, and manages to be kinda fun. The long list of comps it’s appeared on should be heavily affecting your decision to DL this, though.
Zaxxon (800 points, SGC, SUGC)
W- Sega’s charging an obscene amount of Wii points for this. The isometric camera view requires extensive practice to get accustomed with (until you do, expect to run into various obstacles a lot), and once you get outside of the first base (which has its nostaglic moments for me, as I couldn’t beat it back when I was a kid), the game becomes a run-of-the-mill space shooter that has plenty of better examples of the genre on the VC service. Unless you’ve got some intensely strong memories of the game, most people should just bypass this.
Sonson (800 points, CCC)
W- Capcom’s second arcade game is going to be a hit or a miss with most – I find it likable and challenging, but it’s very simplistic and straightforward. The high price point of 800 points is also a thorn, compared to Super NES and Genesis fare that costs the same amount. If you like old-school arcade shooters, it may be worth it for you, but otherwise you may want to hold off.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando (800 points, CCC)
W- Commando is one of the progenitors of the overhead shooter, and is a definite classic. It shares the same issue as SonSon, though – it’s overpriced. With its improved sequel MERCS available on the service, it’s a little hard to recommend it, unless you love these kinds of shooters.
Ghosts n’ Goblins (800 points, CCC)
W- The original Ghosts N’ Goblins is a action platforming beast. This arcade original trumps the NES port notorious developer Micronics handled visually and aurally, plus there’s additional options, too, but it costs 300 points more. If you MUST have Arthur’s first rescuing of his Princess on your Wii, then this is the best way to go…just know that there’s cheaper options available.
Exed Exes (800 points, CCC2)
W- A vertically scrolling shooter similar to Xevious, this puts you and a potential buddy into spaceships charged with blasting insectoid aliens. It’s an early but serviceable shooter that ought to remind gamers of Capcom’s 19xx series. If you’re big into the beginnings of vertical shooters, you may dig this.
1942 (800 points, CCC)
W- The first in the classic 19XX vertical shooter series, 1942 was a pivotal game for Capcom that became one of their earliest major successes. It’s an more-than-adequate game that has been later eclipsed by its sequels, but fans of this genre may want to look into it, barring their access to other ports, to see some of the history behind the shoot-em-up.
Black Tiger (800 points, CCC2)
W- An action game in the vein of Ghosts N Goblins, but with more directional scrolling (eight, to be precise), a shop to buy improvements, lots of secrets to find, and a slightly easier difficulty curve, Black Tiger is a very good game that offers a lot of exploration and combat. Out of everything Capcom’s put up onto the arcade service thus far, I’d be most inclined to recommend this over the others.
Game Boy ($2.99 – $3.99, 3DS)
Super Mario Land
W- Mario’s first platforming jaunt on the Game Boy harkens back to Super Mario Bros. with a few extra quirks – namely, the horizontal shooter stages that spice up the gameplay. Beyond that, though, it’s a fairly rudimentary Mario title that is a little on the straightforward side, and its simplicity will either be right up your alley or alienate those looking for more complex challenges.
W- One of the best portable experiences I’ve had the pleasure of playing, no question. DK is a fine send-up of the arcade hit, plus a ton of additional levels, gameplay tweaks and top-notch controls. A definite recommendation.
Kirby’s Dream Land (Kirby’s 20th Anniversary Collection for Wii)
W- Kirby’s initial quest is a fun, simple platformer that has charm to spare. Kirby can not absorb powers here (he would earn that talent in the NES Kirby’s Adventure), but despite that mechanic’s absence, it doesn’t harm the gameplay. If you like his later games, give this one a shot.
Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
W- This game manages to outdo its predecessor in a lot of ways. Pit controls much smoother, bottomless pits are out of the picture, the difficulty is more balanced (but it’s still hard!), the environments are a little more dynamic, and it overall eludes a greater sense of enjoyment. This is a solidly made action game that fixes many of Kid Icarus’ issues, and is definitely worth considering.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
W- Wario’s first solo outing as a playable character is a good one! It lacks the clever puzzle mechanics the series later prided itself on, but this serves as a solid transition from Mario’s platforming into Wario’s power-absorbing. Wario has some of his trademark moves like his shoulder bash, and his caps are pretty neat to goof around with. Perhaps not as innovative as its sequels, but still fairly enjoyable.
Game Boy Color ($4.99 – 5.99, 3DS)
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
W- The first and finest portable Zelda is a must-have for fans of the 2D games in the franchise. It’s inventive, smooth and full of the Zelda charm (if not more so than usual), and is an overall excellent game in its own right. Well worth the investment.
Game Boy Advance (only for 3DS Ambassadors)
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
W- I’m glad to see a Fire Emblem game in the initial GBA volley, although I much prefer its predecessor, which has tighter gameplay, more likable characters and is more difficult to abuse. Sacred Stones also tried adding in a world map to the proceedings, but it was not implemented all that well, with forced monster battles for those who wish to backtrack mucking up the traveling. Still, it’s probably the easiest game of the three I’ve tried within the franchise, and may be a good starting point before diving into Path of Radiance or Fire Emblem (7, aka the predecessor), which may be why Nintendo picked it to go first.
Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
W- Capcom’s last effort with the Zelda franchise thus far is a noble one. It’s got a lot of cool ideas, some lush visuals and fun gadgets for Link to play around with. The Kinstone concept needed a little more polish, as it has a couple of points where you’ll lose out on making united stones, but it’s a novel concept that changes the format quite a bit. In short, it’s worthy of the Zelda name, although it requires a little more forethought before plunging too deep into it to truly get everything.
W- Fusion is a big experiment for the Metroid franchise, with a more linear direction and some big shifts from the standards set in earlier games. Samus loses a fair amount of her traditional arsenal, is directed by a computer, and the game is pretty relentless on the player. However, the Metroid gameplay joy is still there, and the SA-X is by far among the scariest encounters I’ve ever experienced in a game. Just don’t go into it expecting Super Metroid, because you won’t see that level of excellence. Still great, but not stellar.
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
W- This game pales in comparison to its Game Boy predecessor by so much it’s almost painful to think about. The controls are too loose, the graphics are a weird style unfitting to the franchises, and the level design is nowhere as good as before. If there’s one of these GBA titles that I would say play it last, it would be this one. Disappointing.
Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island
W- It’s nice to see Yoshi’s Island make it onto the Virtual Console. It took a weird path to get there, though, relying on the Game Boy Advance port over the Super NES original, but that doesn’t erase its quality in the slightest (it just makes Wii owners envious). This one adds in some bonus content, too, but I’m not sure if it’s definitive or not. Wonderful game, though, and a shining gem of a platformer.
NES (500 points/$4.99, Wii/3DS)
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream (AC)
N- This boxing game works where others fail by emphasizing pattern recognition and quick reflexes over button mashing. I also enjoy the strong personalities exhibited by the characters. With or without Iron Mike, Punch-Out!! is an obvious recommendation.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (LoZ, CNES)
N- I guess I’m one of the people that likes this game. Although it has a few questionable design elements and the difficulty is high, I appreciate that it tried something different. Control is excellent, and the graphics are impressive for the time it was released. And I, for one, enjoyed the challenging combat.
Mario Bros. (RM – any GBA Mario title)
N- While I enjoy the original Mario Bros. design, the NES version is primitive, with stiff control and repetitive gameplay. Also, the challenge is very limited, and it doesn’t take long to find yourself repeating the same enemy patterns over and over.
Metroid (CNES, featured on Metroid Prime (GC) and Metroid Zero Mission (GBA) as an unlockable)
N- I hate to say it, but I don’t think the original Metroid has aged that well. It’s confusing, with lots of invisible passages; and if you die, then you’ve got a lot of tedious grinding to do to replenish your energy and missiles. This one is for fans who already know the game, or people who don’t mind using maps and walkthroughs.
Bubble Bobble (TL, RM – Bubble Bobble Plus! [Wii] and Bubble Bobble Neo [X360] states that they have 100 classic stages, and I’m assuming it means the arcade original’s)
N- Just to note: while Bubble Bobble Plus only costs 100 points more (in North America) and contains more game modes and supports four players, it does suffer from bugs and poor play testing. It’s impossible to collect all of the different fruit in the game, and one level is nearly impossible to complete due to the programming. This NES version may lack the extra game modes, but is a bit more robust.
N- While some people may be put off by the stiff, tile-based controls, they actually work really well once you get used to them. The game itself is an overlooked gem that carries the classic Nintendo magic, even though it was made specifically for North America. For action-adventure fans, this game is a real treat, and it’s truly great that it’s available like this for people to play.
Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II
N- While this game is a bit controversial among StarTropics fans, I for one love it. I can understand people being annoyed with the lack of hit-recovery, and the time traveling theme isn’t quite as appealing as the tropical island setting. But I think the game plays well and has its own charm, and I had no problems with the more free-form platforming. You’ll have to make your own call on this one, with the understanding that it’s not quite the same as the first game.
Super C (unlockable on Contra 4 [DS])
N- With the inexplicable absence of the original Contra on the VC, this is the next best thing. It plays about the same, although some people find it more difficult while others think it’s easier. (I thought it was easier.) Of course, you can also go for Contra III for 800 points, or Contra ReBirth for 1000 points.
SNES (800 points, Wii)
N- The SNES version of Sim City is unique in its own right. It takes the basic play of the original game, but implements several new features that would themselves go on to influence later PC installments. If you’re a fan of the series, this is definitely a unique version worth looking into. Plus, how often do two geniuses like Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright collaborate on a game?
Secret of Mana
N- Maybe I just don’t have nostalgia on my side, but I found Secret of Mana a little dull, and even tedious. It’s likely better as a multiplayer game, but for me, it didn’t quite live up to the praise that I often see heaped on it. (Sorry Wildcat!)
Super Castlevania IV
N- This game was a real showcase for the SNES when it was released in 1991. While it doesn’t have the multiple pathways/characters of other Castlevania games, it does have much more flexible controls. It also has impressive graphics, sound and music.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (SFAA)
N- The SNES version of Alpha 2 is not without its technical issues (most notably the awkward lag just after the announcer says “fight!”), but once the action starts, it plays just fine. In fact, my major gripe with it is that the AI can be a little too easy. So, it’s far from arcade perfect, but I think there is fun to be had here. (And at least it’s not another version of Street Fighter II.)
N64 (1000 points, Wii)
Sin and Punishment (import)
N- The controls in this game are a little too convoluted and hard to get used to for my tastes. I imagine that playing it using an actual N64 controller would make a difference, but the overall experience was hindered for me.
N- For years, I disliked this game. Only in recent months have I come to appreciate it for what it is, and that’s a cute, score-based platform game. It is not an adventure on the scale of Yoshi’s Island or any number of Mario platformers. If you don’t like playing for score, and over-the-top cutesy stuff makes you nauseous, this is not the game for you. If you don’t mind those things, though, then there’s some fun to be had. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Sega Master System (500 points, Wii)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear version unlockable in Sonic Adventure DX – Director’s Cut [GC, PC])
N- Despite having the same title as its 16-bit counterpart, this is actually a different game with different levels. Other than that, it’s lacking in speed, and it seems poorly programmed. It’s something of a curiosity for fans, but for everyone else, it’s better to go with the Genesis titles. (Although it does have catchy music by Yuzo Koshiro.)
N- This game birthed not only the Wonder Boy/Monster World series, but also the Adventure Island series, so it carries quite a legacy. It’s good, simple fun, but a little repetitive. Adventure Island fans should appreciate it, but if you’re looking to get into the Wonder Boy series, Monster Land might be a better place to start.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
N- Originally an arcade game, Wonder Boy in Monster Land is very short and linear for an action-RPG. However, it’s also really hard, with absolutely no ability to continue. But despite some messy hit detection, it’s very fun and very replayable, which is good because it’ll take several plays to figure out the best way through the game.
However, Sega has announced that they’ll be releasing the original arcade version in late 2011/early 2012, so you might want to wait for that.
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
N- This is definitely one for Metroid fans. It’s a wonderful game that follows directly after Wonder Boy in Monster Land. It has great design and pacing, different creatures you can transform into, and one large world to roam around in rather than separate linear levels. For 1989, this is a really impressive game. I can definitely see why it’s considered one of the best games for the Sega Master System.
Genesis (800 points, Wii)
Sonic Spinball (SMC, SUGC)
N- I love this game, and I played it a lot back in the day. I admit, it doesn’t run as smoothly as video pinball should, and the physics take some getting used to, but it’s got a lot of great gimmicks, and some exploration elements. The classic Sonic personality is definitely intact here, and the game uses its pinball theme to great effect. It’s also really hard, but not impossible. (I can still pick it up and blast through it, even today.)
Ecco the Dolphin (SGC, SUGC)
N- The best analogy I can make for Ecco the Dolphin is “Prince of Persia underwater”. If you enjoy those types of side-scrolling puzzle-advetnure games with well animated characters, then Ecco will put a unique and interesting spin on the idea. It is, however, a really difficult game, especially in the last few levels.
Vectorman (SGC, SUGC, also on Sonic Gems Collection [GC])
N- Back when it was released, this game was seen as Sega’s answer to Donkey Kong Country. I think that’s an accurate measure since both games combine excellent graphic effects with solid, yet conventional, gameplay. However, it is a little plain, and perhaps hasn’t aged that well. It’s not a bad game, but not terribly remarkable, either.
N- This is a brilliant run-and-gun from the shmup-masters at Treasure. It puts a unique spin on its genre with its play mechanics and graphical style. But the action is still frenetic and non-stop, and there are some impressive graphical effects at work here for what was originally a Genesis game. If you enjoy the likes of Contra or Metal Slug, this is a classic worth looking into.
TG-16 (600 – 800 points, Wii)
N- While I felt that the original Bonk’s Adventure was somewhat bland, the sequel packs a lot more charm and creativity. The controls are still rather stiff, and you may find yourself fighting them more than the enemies, but they’re not insurmountable. The game is also very challenging, but overall, I found it to be a fun platform game.
N- This is one of the best video pinball games I’ve ever played. It’s addictive, smooth, and has decent physics. The ghoulish theme is used to great effect with lots of cool enemies and a great board layout. The music is fantastic, and for me, it never got old or repetitive. For those of you who didn’t care for Sonic Spinball, this is the one to go for.
N- One of my favorites in the Galaga series, this is actually a port of the arcade game Galaga ’88. Rather than just being an endless string of stages, this sequel offers true progression and even has an ending. Different “dimensions” amount to different difficulty levels, and there’s a lot of variety in the enemies and backgrounds. It’s simple, yet addictive.
Gate of Thunder
N- This game takes its cues from Tecnosoft’s Thunderforce series, but that’s not a bad thing! While it’s pretty straightforward as far as horizontally scrolling shmups go, it’s fast paced and challenging, but is also really well balanced. The music is good, too, but you’ll barely be able to hear it under all the explosions.
N- While it’s not as well known as Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi, Ninja Spirit has maintained a reputation as an excellent action game. It has very little actual platforming to speak of, but it’s the relentless onslaught of enemies that keeps you on your toes. If you’re looking for a good twitchy action game, this is one to consider.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (RM – Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles [PSP], Import)
N- This game barely needs my recommendation. It’s one of the highlights of the classic Castlevania games, and that’s saying a lot! Although none of it has been localized (cutscenes are in Japanese), the menus are conveniently in English. It’s just great that this game is easily available for download on the Virtual Console, and download it, you should!
NeoGeo (900 points, Wii)
Fatal Fury (NGAC, FFBA1)
N- This game was released shortly after Street Fighter II, and most people are quick to point out that it’s nowhere near as good. That’s true, but it’s being compared to the wrong game. Fatal Fury was not a rip-off of Street Fighter II, it was a rip-off of Street Fighter I, and by that standard, it’s vastly superior. I admit that I enjoy this game, but mainly out of a nostalgic appreciation for its level-based design and primitive mechanics, not to mention that early Neo Geo charm. If you don’t think you could appreciate it on that level, then there’s nothing for you to see here.
Neo Turf Masters (NGAC)
N- This game surprised me since I was never interested in golf. But it takes a very arcadey and surprisingly fun approach to the sport. It has excellent graphics, good music, plays well, and has several different characters and four courses to choose from.
Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy (NGAC)
N- I really enjoy this game. Controls are a little stiff, but it’s fun and challenging, and it has a lot of charm. The main gimmick is being able to jump between the foreground and background. Wildcat calls it a quarter-muncher, and in a way it is, but it’s also possible to improve your skill at the game, so it’s not cheap, either.
Fatal Fury 2 (FFBA1)
N- Now this is a blatant Street Fighter II rip-off. But I’m not going to spend time comparing the two, because you already know which is the better game.
On it own terms, Fatal Fury 2 is certainly a decent fighting game. However, it’s a bit sluggish by today’s standards, and oddly, it’s completely missing the charm and fun presentation of the first game. In the end, I don’t think it has aged as well as some of SNK’s other fighting games.
Street Slam (DEAC)
N- For those of you who absolutely refuse to buy NBA Jam on physical media, this is your best alternative. Data East’s take on arcade basketball is a little stiff, but it puts its own spin on the classic Jam formula. It’s stylish with good music that keeps the energy up. Compared to Jam, however, it’s limited in its gameplay with fewer moves to pull off, and the control isn’t as smooth.