Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Virtual Console Releases - January 29

Okay, I think someone in charge has just left the machine to run amok by itself. What the heck happened with Sega? What was that all about?! One freaking game?! Sure, it's Zelda 3, but, still. One freakin' game.

Now this week, Sega has released two of the three games they promised last Monday, but Gain Ground - still left out. Huh? So what's the deal, already? Either Nintendo is seriously enforcing some kind of "no more than four games per week" rule - or Sega just doesn't have many games coming out for Virtual Console. In that case, they're trying to stretch the releases as thin as possible. I am aware that the first Streets of Rage is on deck, but after that? They've pretty much stuck to the same releases that appear on all their previous compilation discs.


On a brighter note...what happened to the bad week? According to tradition, this is supposed to be one of the bad weeks, where the games are either disapointments or complete shit. Instead, we're getting classics, classics! Hits, baby! Nintendo 64 finally gets some attention, and even though we all know there'll only be five or six games released on that channel - the main franchises - this is one of the good ones. Oh, and we finally get to play Contra 3. You know, the one that was available in Japan for months. Thanks for the bone. Jerks.

Hey, it's better than Urban Champion or Altered Beast.

I already wrote about Sega's two Genesis games - Bonanza Bros. and Comix Zone - last week, so just scroll down the archives and read them over there. I'm not reprinting or rewriting anything. I'm listening to Zeppelin IV on vinyl, so there.

Which, by the way, is the Coolest Thing Ever.

Mario Kart 64 - Nintendo for Nintendo 64 - 10/10

The Mario Kart fans usually fall into two different camps on which game is their favorite. A lot stick with the Super Nintendo original, and a lot will stick with the N64 version. Of course, I have to throw a monkey wrench into the mix and root for the Nintendo DS version. Yeah, I do that for kicks. But, still, the latest version owes its existence to Mario Kart 64.

Mario Kart always evaded me for many years, and it took me a long time to finally, ya know, "get it." It's just a completely different beast from the original, and this may be the reason for that fan split. It's a different game entirely, only sharing a name. The trick is to discover the powerslides, which, as everyone knows, you hit by hopping your cart and then jerking the joystick left and right several times.

I can't believe Next Generation didn't figure this out. They only gave the game three stars out of five in their review. What's the deal with that? I had such hopes for them, and yet they still had this tin ear when it came to a lot of really good games. Hmm. I don't they ever gave Mario Kart a fair chance.

Wait, hang on. Zeppelin's over. Gotta throw on something else. Back to Sgt. Pepper's.

Mario Kart 64 has a pretty loose feel in the steering, but the racetracks are perfect for it, and there's a terrific design to everything. There's more balance between the racers, which is a great improvement from the original. Ah, who am I kidding? I still take the damn Smurf.

And, of course, there's the best thing about this game. Four players. Hey, you probably won't see the Wii version of Mario Kart until this fall, if not next year, so this is your real break. This will be one of the games that will be on everyone's Wii. Damn, that sounds lame - I hate this console's name.

Contra 3: The Alien Wars - Konami for Super NES - 9/10

For a short while, Konami continued its run of dominance into the 16-bit era with stellar versions of its classics and originals like Axelay. Contra 3 is one of the most celebrated of those games. It may even be their best on the Super NES. It certainly is one of the best of all the system's titles.

It's common knowledge that the top-tier developers at Konami responsible for Contra 3 were the ones who later split to form Treasure. You can see Gunstar Heroes as their twisted revenge against Konami's rigid formulas and longstanding franchises. The first level in Gunstar - the green earth one - is nearly a direct homage to the first level in Contra 3, mixed with a half dozen tabs of acid.

So, okay, Contra 3 is square and conservative and Nixonian, while Gunstar was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. As far as straight-laced Rambo revenge fantasies, Contra's about as good as it gets. This game offers a steady stream of thrills and spills, a number of cool SNES effects, like that bomber swooping in with the napalm, and that giant turtle, and the robot-skeleton that breaks in from the back wall of a fortress.

Hey, wait a minute! This game isn't square or straight at all! I'll bet these guys were so tripped out they had to peel each other off the walls. Nintendo sure didn't have a problem with psychedelics in their games, now did they? Violence? Blood? Baaad!!! Yoshi eating spores and watching the screen melt? Contra LSD experiments? Hey, yeah! Party on!!

Now that I think about it, Nintendo was a lot cooler than we ever gave them credit for at the time. That whole rigid Puritanical thing was a front.

Oh, yeah, the game. It's fun. Brutally hard, which is a real change of pace for Contra, and the Konami Code doesn't work this time, but since when was that a problem? The series had one more great moment left in it - the Treasure rip-off Contra Hard Corps - before it just collapsed into a million pieces. What the hell happened to Contra? Probably too many acid tests. Contra is the Syd Barrett of videogames.

Okay, next week, I'm gonna listen to Nat King Cole records when I'm writing the VC reviews. This is just getting weird. I'm going to start getting comments from the government.

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