Monday, January 15, 2007

Virtual Console Releases - January 15

Another week, another batch of Virtual Console games. And, hey look - something for the Super Nintendo! That never happens. And, hey look - this isn't a crappy week! It's still a "bad week" overall, but as far as bad weeks go, we've had far worse. I came so close to giving this week's games the thumbs up...but then I remembered to actually play them. Oops.

Now you know why the other VC reviews don't bother with actually playing these games. Nostalgia is a much better thing to play with. Yeah, whatever. We've already got more quality games than we know what to do with. I'll bet hard money you still haven't finished Ecco or Zelda yet. So quit yer griping!

Instead, turn off the TV today, go outside, go to a shindig with lots of people, and read your favorite Martin Luther King speech. I Have a Dream, Vietnam, The Promised Land. Take your pick. Then make the dream a reality. Get to work, kids. You can't be playing with your toys forever.


Xevious - Bandai for NES - 5/10

Xevious is one of the classic arcade shoot-em-ups. If you haven't tried it by now, well, there's not much hope for you. You're pretty well lost. Goodness knows there have been enough home versions, not counting the arcade game itself, which you can now play freely via MAME.

Speaking of which, I wonder when Nintendo is going to get MAME signed up to its Virtual Console? Just asking.

Fortunately, most of the home versions of Xevious are really good. Unfortunately, Bandai's NES version is one of the clunkers. Oops! Sorry! Did we fuck up like that? Our bad. Seriously, though, this version isn't terrible in any way, so much that it's just mediocre. The graphics are considerably cut down from the coin-op, and was never much of a standout when it was released in 1988. Much of the intensity seems to be lost, too. Maybe you won't notice, but if you were to play the NES version, then play the coin-op, you'd notice the difference pretty quickly.

Bandai was one of the weaker NES developers at the time, certainly a second banana to the giants like Konami, Capcom, and Tecmo. Their games were always a notch or two below the standard. This is no exception.

If you really want to know, the best home version of Xevious was on the Atari 7800. Now that was a killer version. Sure, those lousy controllers cramped up your hands, but the action was there, the colors were bold and confident, and - best of all - there were numerous bonus items that could be bombed out of the ground. This was a feature on the arcade, but Atari really ran with it; secret flags are literally all over the place, adding another layer of tension to the shooting.

I don't know if the secret flags appear at all in Bandai's version. Too bad. What's here to keep you from playing another round of Lifeforce or Contra? Nuthin'. Absolutely nuthin'.

Moto Roader - Hudson for Turbografx - 4/10

The problem with a console like the Turbografx is that so many of its games acquire a legendary status over time. Few people actually get to play the games, so they gradually build up in their minds as lost classics. That image overtakes everything, to the point where the actual games themselves become irrelevant.

We've already seen that with Military Madness, we've seen that (to a lesser extent) with Alien Crush, and we see it again with Moto Roader. This is one title that will be hyped up by other sites and prozines as a multiplayer classic. Don't believe the hype.

The simple truth is that Moto Roader was one of many, many overhead racing games released on consoles and computers, with only one feature to its credit: multiplayer. You could race five players at a time. Back in the late '80s, this was a novelty, but it's really only that. A novelty.

Let's get beyond that. What do we have? We have a very, very slow racing game. We have very basic racetracks with little or no variety. We have a somewhat pedestrian graphics style. We have sluggish steering and sluggish acceleration from the cars. We have this annoying trait of cars being picked up and dropped back onto the track if they fall behind. And have I mentioned that it's slow?

There's a flyby before each race, to show you the layout. That's a fast bit, and it builds up your hopes. Why can't the actual race move that fast? I swear we're driving golf carts.

Codemasters made a series of racing games called Micro Machines. They're among the greatest, fastest, and most competitive multiplayer racers ever devised. Micro Machines is everything that Moto Roader is not.

R-Type 3 - Irem for Super NES - 8/10

Well, here's the winner for the week. Irem's R-Type has already been released on VC a few weeks ago, and it should belong in everyone's collection. Here's one of their later Super NES follow-ups, and it's one of the best shooters for that console.

Irem released Super R-Type early in the SNES' lifespan. It was certainly cool to look at, but the game was plagued with terrible slowdown (like most of the early SNES titles), which just ruined the whole experience. Thankfully, they returned a few years later with R-Type 3, and they showed their mastery of the hardware.

Most of the console's strengths are on display here. The fantastic graphics and vivid color, the large enemies, the orchestral music, the Mode-7 effects. And there's no slowdown. Hey, look at that! So what if there were only four or five great shooters ever released on the Super Nintendo - R-Type 3 is one of them.

Also, don't forget that this is R-Type, which means that it's gonna be hard. If you've been buttered up by Super Star Soldier and Soldier Blade, you're probably in for a rude awakening. So what? You're just soft. I'm impressed by how well classic shooters have been represented on VC; many of the best titles have already made an appearance. Now somebody's got to get Sega off their fat asses and give us all the classic Genesis shooters - Thunder Force 3, Gaiares, Fire Shark, yadda yadda.

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