Virtual Console game releases for the second week in July. Yuck. Or snooze. Take your pick.
Really. That's about all there is to say, right? One game that's fairly good, provided you haven't yet burned out on shoot-em-ups, and two clunkers that have no right being here at all. Strangely, Nintendo hasn't had a really bad VC week in a long while. Well, kids, we're having one right now. Why don't you just save your money this time; better yet, send me some. Go buy one of those books I keep threatening to complete and publish. Just think - you could be spending ten or twenty bucks to read this very rant, instead of getting it online for free. What better bargain is there?
M.A.C.H. Rider - Nintendo for NES - 4/10
Well, at least my scheme is a better deal for you than this stinker. What is the deal with Nintendo? Why the bloody hell do they continue to dump, one after another, all of the earliest NES titles? Most of these games are among the worst in the console's library. What's the deal? They only have 800 or so titles to choose from, and they keep sticking it to us. What did we do? I thought we were the new fans responsible for making Nintendo cool again...
MACH Rider seems to be a pretty obscure game. There was never any mention of it during the NES era that I can recall, either from friends or the vaunted prozines. This may have given the game an air of mystery, and a faint hope that it's a lost treasure. Don't bet on it, kids.
What we have here is a fairly basic racing game loaded with obstacles and guns. It may have seemed a novel enough idea in 1985, when it was made, but we already have a classic videogame working this angle. It's called Roadblasters, and it's one of the best arcade driving games of the 1980's. MACH Rider is no Roadblasters.
Don't let the temptation of a track editor hook you in. What this game boils down to is a series of twists and turns. You turn left. You turn right. Sometimes you drive straight. That's pretty much it. Not a lot of nuance or variety. I think the shooting angle was the main focus, as the track is overly cluttered with obstacles and other drivers, most of whom have no problems with smacking you from behind without warning. That's a nice touch. I really liked that one.
The best thing you can say about this game is that it's competent. You can actually steer your bike, and your bullets are large enough to easily hit anything. But that's barely enough to be entertaining, and certainly nowhere near the sophistication and skill Roadblasters offers. Now there is a great game. There were versions released on NES and Genesis, so there's a chance it could be released on VC at a future date. I'd say take that chance and wait. Either that or find another hobby. Do anything instead of shelling out five bucks for this lump.
Yoshi - Nintendo for NES - 4/10
I don't know if this game is worse than MACH Rider, or equally mediocre and pointless. I think it may be slightly worse because of the name. This was the first game to cash in on the Yoshi character, who was introduced in Super Mario World. In fact, that should be the name of this game - "Cash-In" - because that's all it is.
Yoshi is one of the million or so tumbling pit puzzlers you've seen crawl by in the past 15 or 20 years. Using Mario (see, if they called the game, "Mario," at least it would have been honest), you swich places on two columns, moving about four rows in all. Puzzle pieces fall, two by two, and they are eliminated by stacking two of the same kind, vertically. Nope, no horizontal matches. No diagonals, either. No combos, then, I suppose. All of which pretty much defeats the fun of a game like this, reducing it to a level of simplicity that insults toddlers.
And what's with that green checkerboard background? My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
Heck, when I was five, I was playing with little colored building blocks that were more sophisticated than this. Five years old. I'm serious when I say your toddler will be bored by this game.
The hook to Yoshi are the eggs, which drop in halves. You drop a top half onto a bottom half, and it hatches a new Yoshi, who seems pretty bored, if the title screen is to be believed. The one benefit is that any pieces caught in the middle are popped out for bonus points. So that's kinda nice. Sorta.
Did I mention my old blocks had letters, numbers, and patterns on them? You could make an alphabet tower, or a number house, or just go for texture. Oh, and they opened up, too, so you could put things in 'em. I miss those blocks.
So, anyway, the Yoshi puzzle game. Doesn't really have anything to do with Yoshi, apart from his face in a couple spots. The whole thing looks like it was slapped together in one afternoon. If you pay money for this game, you are officially too stupid to have money. You must immediately send the remainder of your funds to me. Or Santa Claus will beat you up. Or somethin'.
Air Zonk - Hudson for Turbografx - 6/10
Finally, something that's decent, or at least better. Hudson releases its third Bonk game for the Turbografx, the fourth in the series overall. This is a goofy anime-styled shooter instead of an action platformer. There's really not much else to say about it. It's Bonk, except he looks like an anime punk robot. He shoots other anime cartoon characters. And a lot of stuff blows up.
This game was considered a favorite for fans of the series, but that's probably due more to the fact that this poor console never had any series at all, than any overall quality. This is just about the point where shmup fatigue kicks in. About every third game in the PC Engine/Turbo library is a shmup. At some point, you're just going to have to pick a few favorites and leave it at that. There are only so many single-file patterns of spaceships you can shoot at.
Or, in this case, single-file chicken robots.
Air Zonk is really more novelty value than anything. It's goofy fun, but not really. You understand? Probably not. Not that it matters. Even if you've become a dedicated Turbo fan thanks to Virtual Console, you already have three or four shooters in your collection. At this point, you're pretty much filled up. There's no reason to shell out more money for yet another one, unless it's exceptionally good. Air Zonk may have its charms, but it is not exceptionally good.
This is probably a game that should have been released earlier, but I still don't think that would have affected my personal feelings. I'd still be waiting for the better ones. Heck, I'm still waiting for Devil's Crush, my favorite Turbo game of all. I understand it's set for release this month. Save your cash, kids. The real prize is on the way.
Damn. This was a lousy week. That sucks. Good job, losers.
Afterword: Okay, looking at the screenshots, I will say this in Air Zonk's favor - it does look nice. At least in still shots. The art direction is very nice. Too bad I still get a sinking feeling in my gut when I think about having to play it. Kinda like that feeling you get when you've had too much coffee, and you're still drowsy. I really should be sleeping this off.