Virtual Console Wrap-Up for December 28th, 2009

Downloadable services are almost like children. They start out awkward and wobbly, eventually grow a bit, and make people cry as they reach full maturation and show their full potential. Lately, we’ve seen Nintendo’s downloadable services take their SATs and apply for colleges with some solid weeks, including the expansion into arcade titles and some very good WiiWare titles. In all, Nintendo is hosting over five-hundred games for download, and like most of the past few weeks, this week carries a few notable titles.

Let’s start with an original Super Nintendo launch title on the VC:

Pilotwings
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Original System: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Original Release Date: 8/13/1991
Price: 800 Wii Points/$8

Mohamed Al-Saadoon: I remember Pilotwings was one of the the first titles my rich cousins (the ones that always get the shiniest new consoles first) got for their SNES and when I saw it for the first time (it was the first sky diving mission I recall) it blew my freaking mind. Mode 7 may be a byword for primitive and nostalgic today but at the time it was like the time you first laid eyes on Crysis, a metaphorical leap in graphics compared to the 8 bit NES.

Even when I got my own SNES I could never track down a copy of the game so I resorted to playing the game whenever I visited my cousins and thoroughly enjoyed getting all the licenses and surprising my trainers with perfect scores. The final missions on the “Expert” mode were very difficult and I never got to finish the game thanks to the damn hang gliding missions (Which were also the worst missions in the sequel) but the Desert Strike-esque helicopter missions more than made up for it (even though they made no sense within the context of the game).

I can point to Pilotwings and it’s sequel Pilotwings 64 as the single most influential things that got me interested in aviation. It’s because of them I’m a fan of Ace Combat, IL-2 Strumovik and the Strike series of games (Desert Strike, Nuclear Strike,…etc).

This is a definite must buy for me until Pilotwings 64 comes out on Virtual Console.

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Christopher Bowen: Pilotwings blew my mind when I was a kid; it doesn’t seem like a lot now, but Mode 7 was amazing when I was eleven, especially after playing the NES for so many years. It was one step closer to getting arcade perfection at home, as some arcade games were using similar technology by this point. Furthermore, the controls were very nice, and the game had a good progression system, combining graphics, gameplay and a good difficulty curve.

In 2009, I can see Pilotwings more for what it was: a tech demo that tried some new things, knowing that there wasn’t much competition on a new system. In short, it’s a strategy Rockstar tried years later with Table Tennis on the 360. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this was a great game for it’s time, and is worth $8.


Pilotwings might be the only game on the VC, but Nintendo’s other downloadable services are loaded for bear with quality titles. To start with, the big release on the WiiWare service is Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth, a $10 remake of The Castlevania Adventure, the ancient Game Boy title. While the original game wasn’t very good, Rebirth promises to clean up a lot of the issues that a twenty year old, grayscale Game Boy game had. Our own Alex Lucard has already beaten the game, and states that it’s not bad for $10; however, he was able to beat it in two hours, so if you need your games to be long affairs, beware of that.

Also on the service is Rabbids Lab, a $5 game from Ubisoft that features the Rabbids that started in Rayman. Unlike most of those other games, this seems to be nothing more than a way to interact with the little critters, such as dressing them up, putting clothes on them or just shaking them around. This doesn’t seem to me like a good choice for money, but Lucard is the authority on these guys. Eat! Eat! Fight! is also out, via Tecmo. For $10, it seems to be a combination of a button mashing fighter and a puzzle game, and while it doesn’t look well balanced, it does seem to be a lot of fun at the very least. Finally, we have The Magic Obelisk, an action adventure game for $5, which is most notable because it’s developed by Game Arts, of Lunar, Grandia, Thexder, Slipheed and Super Smash Bros. Brawl fame. Just being a Game Arts game, to me, makes this a worthy $5 purchase, not to mention the fact that from what I’ve seen, it looks outstanding.

The DSi service has no fewer than five new titles, including another huge name: The Oregon Trail. I don’t have a DSi, but I can talk definitively about this game seeing as it’s the same game that I’ve had for my iPhone for almost a year. It’s the same gameplay we grew up with on old Tandy computers, but it’s been simplified a bit; on the one hand, the interface isn’t as punishing as those old floppy disc games were, and there are a lot more minigames to keep people invested in the game. On the other hand, it’s much easier unless it’s jacked to the hardest difficulty level, and the new additions – basically, using the DSi camera in-game – seem to be needless. Furthermore, the $8 price tag is $2 more than the iPhone’s price, which might have gone down since I originally bought it (postscript: after spanking iTunes for misbehaving, I checked; it’s down to $5). Anyone who really liked the old game should consider this, but if you have both an iPhone and a DSi, get the iPhone version instead.

Along with The Oregon Trail is Sudoku Sensei, a $5 game of Sudoku for anyone who hasn’t played enough Sudoku by now. This game sells itself on being extra hard for Sudoku veterans, so if you need super-hard Sudoku, this might be worth your money. There is also Master of Illusion Express: Psychic Camera for $2, an app that lets you use your DS to do cheap parlour tricks; it’s only $2, and at first glance, that seems to be $3 too many. Glow Artisan is a puzzle game that advertises 100 levels in it; for $5, puzzle fans might be intrigued, though I think that’s a bit much for a game like this in a crowded market. Finally, there’s Arcade Hoops Basketball, a $2 game that tries to replace the ball shooting games one would see in an arcade or a bar. Whether this game also has the tiny rims that are virtually impossible to put anything into remains to be seen.

Finally, we have a programming note for our regular readers. Starting next week, we’re going to be expanding our downloadable title articles into three parts:

Tuesdays: Nintendo Download Wrap-Up
Thursdays: Microsoft Download Wrap-Up
Fridays: Sony Download Wrap-Up

The Nintendo piece will be structurally no different than past editions; we will still give our thoughts on the Virtual Console games (since we can speak definitively about them) and will strive to get you as much information as we can about the other services and their games, so that we can help you make the most informed purchasing decisions possible. We look forward to bringing this to you in 2010, and expanding our coverage for our readers.

Until then, this is Christopher Bowen, who is treating himself for dysentery.

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