Virtual Player: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Psychosis, Super Turrican
Don't be fooled by its appearance. Nintendo's Wii isn't merely a videogame system. Thanks to the Virtual Console, it's a little, white WABAC Machine, ready to take you over 20 years back in time to play some of your favorite games from the past. There's a ton of games available on the service, however, and they're not all cheap, so we're here to help separate the golden oldies from the moldy ones.
Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn't offer demos on the VC service, so when we review these titles, we can't give them a Try It score. We can only tell you if the game is worth plunking down those hard earned Wii Points or not. So grab that classic controller as we take a look at the most recent Virtual Console releases in our first installment of the biweekly Virtual Player.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Developer: HAL Labs
Price: 1,000 Wii Points
Originally appeared on: Nintendo 64
RECOMMENDATION: Buy It
Here's the weird thing about Kirby's platform games -- they all tend to be quite good, but they also tend to be incredibly easy. The Kirby series is clearly aimed towards younger gamers, but the great control, clean level design and fantastic main play mechanic (Kirby's copying ability) make the games appealing to gamers of all ages.
Kirby 64 was the first title in the series to sport polygonal graphics, but the gameplay is still good old-fashioned 2-D. As in all of the previous games (save the Game Boy original), Kirby is most defenseless until he uses his mighty inhalation powers to suck up his foes. Swallowing certain bad guys grants the pink puffball a new power, such as the ability to toss boomerangs or burst into flames. This time around, you can also combine two different powers to create a new form. One of the more interesting new powers gives Kirby a Darth Maul-ish double-bladed light saber. In all, there are a whopping 35 abilities with which to play, and you'll need specific ones to get past certain obstacles.
Although the main adventure is single-player only, there are a couple mini-games that allow up to four people to play at once. These are merely mild distractions, though, that you probably won't play more than a couple times. Regardless, the main game is terrific fun, and we have to recommend it. Just be aware that it's not even remotely challenging. If you're the type who doesn't like replaying games that you can beat in a couple hours, then you'll want to pass.
Developer: Naxat Soft
Publisher: Naxat Soft
Price: 600 Wii Points
Originally appeared on: TurboGrafx-16
RECOMMENDATION: Fry It
Oh, thank goodness that Psychosis has finally been released! We were beginning to wonder if we would ever see the classic shooter genre represented on the Virtual Console -- especially in the case of the service's TurboGrafx-16 selection, a system that played host to several examples of this mostly forgotten type of game.
We kid, we kid. In reality, approximately 85 percent (completely made-up number) of the Virtual Console library is comprised of TG-16 shooters. These games are fun and all, but whenever we see yet another TG-16 shooter appear on the VC, it reminds us that the United States still doesn't have access to games like the classic role-playing game, EarthBound, the original Mega Man, or the import-only Mario's Super Picross.
The main gameplay gimmick in this side-scrolling shooter comes in the form of a pair of satellite power-ups that block enemy bullets. Collecting items allow these satellites to provide backup firepower, and they can be freely rotated around your ship. This provides a bit of strategy while flying through a stage, but it also makes the game surprisingly easy. The little machines are just too good at taking a bullet, so it's sort of difficult to actually die once you've collected them.
Psychosis isn't a bad game, really. It just pales in comparison to many other similar games that are already on the VC. If you're really itching for a shooter, you'd be much better off checking out something like Blazing Lazers, Soldier Blade, Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder or R-Type.
Developer: Factor 5
Publisher: Factor 5
Price: 800 Wii Points
Originally appeared on: Super NES
RECOMMENDATION: Buy It
Back before Factor 5 was known for its Star Wars games and dragon flying simulators, it made a name for itself with the Turrican series. Originally starting out on old computers like the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST, Turrican gained quite a bit of popularity for its impressive graphics and action-packed gameplay. Not surprisingly, ports and sequels would eventually hit console systems.
The aptly named Super Turrican was the first entry in the series on the Super NES, and it holds up remarkably well today. Although on the surface it looks like a simple Contra clone, there is a lot more going on here. Instead of a simple "run to the right and shoot" formula, the stages here are pretty vast, and some exploration is required to get through them. Complicating matters a bit is the fact that the levels are littered with invisible platforms that will appear once they're shot (and since you're always shooting, you uncover a lot). In addition to providing access to new areas, these platforms also spit out power-ups and weapon upgrades. Blast too many goodies out of them, however, and the platforms disappear. It's an interesting mechanic that forces you to not be too greedy.
Aside from the wide variety of weapons, your character can also roll up into a ball, Metroid-style, and lay bombs. It's just too bad that you can't play with another player. These types of games are always better with a friend. Even so, Super Turrican is fantastic, and it sports some of the best music ever heard on the Super NES. If you want a solid run-'n'-gun title, this is a great one to get.