Nintendo, I understand, has settled on a steady release schedule for the Virtual Console. Four games will be released every Monday, around 9am Pacific. This is a good steady supply of games; we all want everything now, but of course there's no harm in waiting. It's smarter to get people to spend a little money every week or two on the classic games. We do need time to actually play these things, ya know.
This week's releases are pretty thin. To be fair, I don't think there's a winner in the bunch, nothing near the quality of last week's triple hits. One more game for NES, another for the Turbografx, and two more for Genesis. Let's have a look at the contestants:
Donkey Kong, Jr - Nintendo for NES - 1984 - 5/10
I think DK Junior was among the very first games for the Famicom in 1984. It shows. Again, with Donkey Kong, corners were cut for no good reason (I could play perfectly good versions on my Atari 800 for years). Fortunately, all of the arcade levels are available, even if they're duds for the most part.
Nostalgia may compell you to part with your five bucks, but I can't recommend it. I have to admit that I never was a fan of Junior. Donkey Kong was one of the greatest hits of the classic era, and I do appreciate the young Shigeru Miyamoto for trying a new approach instead of simply cashing in (something that plagued videogames then and now). The NES version was just a cheap port, and it shows.
Victory Road - Hudson Soft for Turbografx-16 - 1989 - 5/10
Victory Road was one of the launch games for the Turbografx in 1989, where it competed against Super Hang-On on the Genesis. Despite some good early titles, NEC's console was overwhelmed within a short time. Feel free to inject your own conspiracy theories here.
There are many great games on the Turbo, but Victory Road isn't one of them. It tries to be Outrun, except it's slow. It's more like a lazy drive through traffic. It's boring. The only graphical novelty was the changing time of the day, and racing into night. Big whoop. I'd tell you to spend your money at the arcades, if there were any. Too bad for the teenagers of today - you missed out.
Columns - Sega for Genesis - 1990 - 5/10
Columns was one of the earliest games to cash in on what was then a new Tetris craze. It didn't take long for the clones to start popping up everywhere, with every developer and their uncle trying to create the next monster puzzle hit. Sega tried their hands with Columns, but despite some pretty graphics and typically catchy Genesis music, the game was a miss.
Sega tried to tinker around with Columns with a few sequels, but nothing could really distinguish it apart from the pack. It's a very flat, shallow puzzler, it has it moments, but aged terribly. Among its peers, I think Klax was far better, and since then, other games from Puyo Puyo and Puzzle Fighter to Lumines and Meteos have propelled the genre forward. No thanks. I'll have to pass.
Ristar - Sega for Genesis - 1994 - 6/10
I guess this means Ristar is the champion of the week. Big freakin' deal. Ristar was released at the end of the Genesis' life, as Sega was systematically breaking the company into a thousand pieces. Obviously, the suits have long felt the game never found the audience it deserved, since it's appeared again and again on compilation disks.
I do like the colorful graphics in Ristar, but it's time to just be honest. It's not that great a game. The market was flooded with mascot platformers, and this little guy feels more like...well, he feels like Poochy. There. I've said it. Ristar is Sega's Poochy. As for the game itself, it's somewhat lifeless. Indistinguishable. Common. Bland. Ristar's arm-stretching schtick wears thin after about a minute, but that's all there really is. You could do worse, but then again, you could do much, much better. The very definition of "eh."