Virtual Console Wrap-Up – 12/21

Nintendo hit a milestone this week: their 500th downloadable title! Nintendo is celebrating by releasing a couple of very big-name titles for the Virtual Console. The question is: are these titles worth your money?

Let’s find out.

Super Smash Bros.
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Original System: Nintendo 64
Original Release Date: 4/27/1999
Price: 1000 Wii Points/$10

Aaron Sirois: You can say what you want about the SSB series. That the gameplay isn’t deep enough. That’s it’s just a cash in. Whatever. All I know is that I’ve had more fun Falcon Punching Mario off of the Grey Fox than in almost any other game I’ve played.

When I dig out the old N64, there are generally only a small handful of games that I play for old time’s sake. I have to get the new high score on Starfox, I have to defeat Gannon one more time in Ocarina of Time, I have to beat the Joker Cup on F-Zero X, and I have to beat some skulls in the original Smash Bros.

It might not have the sheer number of characters and options that Melee and Brawl offer, but you can’t beat the original for nostalgic goodness. If you don’t already have a copy for the N64, picking it up on the VC will be nothing short of a sweet blast from the past.


Mohamed Al-Saadoon: Super Smash Bros was awesome when it came out and managed to give Nintendo a new system selling franchise to wield next to Mario, Zelda and Mario Kart.

The N64 versions pretty much covers all the basic gameplay mechanics in Melee and Brawl but, but it just has less of everything. Less characters, less stages, less items and less moves. There really is no reason to buy this game if you already have Melee or Brawl other than for sheer nostalgia value because it has not aged well.


Alex Lucard: Although I am very hesitant to call the SSB series a fighting game, I won’t hesitate in saying that the games are fun. They feature simple to learn controls and a wide range of characters that are sure to please anyone who picks it up. Oddly enough, even though F-Zero has never been that big state-side, I know a lot of people who love Captain Falcon.

Anyway, SSB featured a such a simple concept, I’m surprised it hadn’t been done before. Nintendo gathered up it’s biggest characters from all its major franchises and made a game where you could beat the hell out of them with each other. Simple addicting gameplay and the ability to finally let Donkey Kong murder Mario for taking away his precious Pauline was possible.

The series has proved to be one of Nintendo’s most popular, to the point where Sega and Konami have asked to have some famous characters of their own make it in. Speaking of Konami, we’ve seen them try a version of their own with a Japanese only game that was nowhere as good, as well as Castlevania: Judgement. Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have gotten into the act. Although all of these have been fun to varying degrees, none have matched the SSB series for fun and quality.

For ten bucks, this is a pretty good deal. At the same time, you can get the expanded (and superior) GCN version for about $19.99 (or less) these days, and Brawl for the Wii for a little bit more than that. The newer games feature more characters, moves and other modes of play if you’re into that. But if you want to see the series’ origin, this is where to look.


Guy Desmarais: Super Smash Bros. is a game that I have spent quite a bit of time on back in the days. The simple controls, combined with gameplay that was so much fun we wondered how we could have lived so long without it, have made this game a huge hit at parties.

Still, the same thing happened with Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. We also lost many nights paying these games, which were just as fun, if not more, than the original. After all, the sequels keep more or less the same controls (only the additions of grappling recoveries and the Final Smash comes to mind as new) but greatly improved the characters roster and the number of modes. The latest even offers a competent platformer that could have been a decent game on its own and a story that made all Nintendo fan-fiction writers’ pants explode.

So if you have never, ever played a Smash Bros. game before and would really like to start with the first game because you are that much of a collector, then go for it. Hell, even if you own the latest instalment, this game will not let you down. It’s just that both games after that were basically the same, but more and more stuff added on top with each passing version. Super Smash Bros. is a great game, it just might feel a bit outdated when compared to its younger brothers.


Aileen Coe: Considering how large the series has gotten and how much hype each release gets (especially with Brawl), I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t happened sooner, even as another way to build up hype for Brawl. Nonetheless, it’s simple good fun, and the sheer number of crossovers is many a Nintendo fanboy’s wet dream.

That being said, if you’ve played the later two iterations, this may feel like a step back, considering the expanded rosters and added mechanics in those versions. But if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic and no longer have the original to play, or if you’re a stickler for playing things in order, this may be worth the points for you.


Chris Bowen: I remember when this came out how excited Nintendo fans were for the crossover potential; it would have made an even bigger dent, I feel, if 1) the N64 wasn’t a virtually dead console by this point, and 2) the controller wasn’t the worst in history.

Once all is considered, this is a good Smash Bros. game for people that don’t have Smash Bros. It’s only $10, and though it’s a bit of a step back compared to the seminal Gamecube and Wii games, it’s not THAT much of a step back; the fighting is the same, retarded button-mashing that I’ve personally despised for years. With that said, Gamestop has the far superior Brawl for $15 used (verified literally five minutes ago); considering the Wii is backwards compatible, it’s hard to justify this $10 download over that.

With that said, for the eighteen people left in North America that don’t have any version of Smash Bros. and are interested in trying it, this is at least always guaranteed to be in stock.


DJ Tatsujin: It’s interesting to note that not only does this entry come in amid the 500th downloadable offering available on the Nintendo Wii, but this title has also recognized 10 years recently. As such, given how weak most of the year has been, Super Smash Bros. is a strong card to play from Nintendo’s hand. Really, the only thing going against picking this one up for $10 are the two other Smash Bros. games you can pick up for play on the system. The title’s visuals haven’t aged the most gracefully due to the blocky nature of some of the models, but it still sounds fantastic and although the single-player mode is frankly pathetic, the classic multiplayer still lives in this original effort.

It’s hard to type up something that most of our staff hasn’t already said, but in the series’ humble beginnings, the frantic fighting was still fun, just not anywhere near perfect. Aside from some graphical quirks and meager offerings for a single player, four players can easily make a night out of Super Smash Bros. When you bring the title into today’s world, however, after a brawl or two, players will be more than ready to move on to either Melee or Brawl for their much more expansive offering of features. If you’re curious about the series’ origin, Super Smash Bros. still holds up in its crazy multiplayer bouts and features classic game play, however, for the most part, players today will be better off holding onto their cash in exchange for Melee or Brawl. It can’t be argued though, that $10 for the title is a bit of a deal compared to the $20 area you usually see this cart floating at.


Mark B.: Well, on one hand, Super Smash Brothers is still a fun and entertaining game ten years later, and it’s honestly worth downloading if you don’t own Super Smash Brothers Brawl or want to own every version of the series released. The game is still fun to play even now, and there’s a wide variety of characters to play as, so you can rest assured that this is a full-on game and not some sort of hacked-off prototype that gave way to the later, awesome games. Super Smash Brothers does feature some interesting novelty challenges that the Wii version doesn’t have, also, which could be worth the download alone if you’re interested, and the character tuning is different from one game to the next, which might be fun if you want to play with Ness back when he was broken, for example.

That said, Super Smash Brothers is functionally the Wii game with less characters and stages, so unless you’re dying to replay it or feel like you need to own it, you can pass it by if you own the Wii version. This is less Street Fighter II compared to Street Fighter III and more Street Fighter II Championship Edition compared to Super Street Fighter II, and while there will be people out there who want to own every revision of the franchise, most folks will be happy with the Wii game and can safely pass the N64 version by. If you don’t own the Wii version, this isn’t a bad purchase, as it’s still a whole lot of fun with friends, but if you do, there’s really not enough different between the games to make Super Smash Brothers worth downloading unless you’re a hardcore fan.


Ninja Gaiden
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Original System: Arcade
Original Release Date: 1988
Price: 600 Wii Points/$6

Alex Lucard: Although I strongly prefer the NES trilogy to the Arcade Game, the arcade game can still be a fun two player co-op beat ’em up if you let it. It lacks the plot, story and style of the 8-bit games, but it is prettier if you care about that sort of thing.

Honestly, my favourite part about Ninja Gaiden Arcade is simply the death scene you get when you run out of lives. Ryu is strapped down with a circular saw coming for his abdominal region. Very Final Fight.

If you’re a huge Tecmo fan, this is worth picking up if only to experience it. It had sluggish controls in cabinet form, but maybe that’s improved with the home controller experience. I can’t say I’ll be picking it up, and it is definitely the worst game bearing the name Ninja Gaiden, but if you can get past some control issues and how easy it is to get trapped in a life draining situation, you might find it worth your time.


Aileen Coe: While it’s a decent beat-em-up and time killer, especially if you’ve got another person to play with, there’s a lack of variety in moves that may make playing through it feel a bit monotonous after a while. Though there are traps to keep you on your toes, and the backgrounds are fairly detailed.

This version of the game is an unlockable in Ninja Gaiden Black, so if you’ve got that game (or the NES version that’s also available on the Virtual Console), you can probably skip this. If you’re desirous of something wherein you mindlessly beat up thugs as a ninja with a dose of nostalgia thrown in for good measure, this could fit the bill.


Chris Bowen: I remember playing Ninja Gaiden in the arcades. Even back then, when our options were much smaller than they are now, I remember strongly disliking it; the controls are wonky, the difficulty is cheap, and it gets repetitive fast, even by 80s arcade standards. As someone who played the NES game first, I was extremely disappointed. This is much like the arcade version of Rygar; don’t let your love of the NES/XBox games cloud your judgement. This is not a very good game, even at $6, and will likely frustrate anyone that tries it.

If you MUST have it and have an XBox 360, it’s unlockable in Ninja Gaiden Black, and also on the Tecmo Arcade Collection, though that collection sucks. I recommend instead that anyone that doesn’t have the Ninja Gaiden NES trilogy purchase that instead.


DJ Tatsujin: This title always interested me greatly, mostly due to the fact of how dramatically different it was from what Tecmo delivered to us on the NES. After plunking my first quarter down the chute, I was taken aback by the brawling nature of the title and seeing two ninjas teaming up in the attract mode confused the hell out of me. The challenging nature of the title quickly led to me kicking the bucket and burning the image of bizarre faces torturing Ryu with a descending saw blade into my young mind. To be blunt, this infamous game over screen is probably the only reason most people bring up the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden and even though I find the title to be a quite interesting diversion, I don’t know if I could recommend its $6 purchase when you could place that money toward the more rewarding NES versions.

At face value, you get a standard brawler where players punch the crap out of anything that pops up on the screen. What set Ninja Gaiden apart from the rest, however, was its shiny red button on top of the joystick – pressing it while jumping over an enemy busts out the seoi-nage, an over the shoulder throw that gives players breathing room from the mass of onscreen enemies. There were also other instances where the technique would be used as a means to navigate the environment, such as in the stage where players have to cross high-speed highways full of traffic by swinging across overhead signage and hanging from objects such as lamp posts let players deliver a powerful swinging kick to enemies. A lot of the environments were littered with destructible objects that rewarded using the throw technique by unveiling power ups. It’s all interesting and the presentation is good for its time (some nice use of scaling can be seen in some of the game’s scenes), but the frequent cheap deaths and repetitive gameplay really make this a not-for-everyone game.


Mark B.: Wow, Ninja Gaiden? Okay. That’s weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the game is fun with a friend, and the Double Dragon mechanics work fine, but Ninja Gaiden as a franchise is primarily associated with the side-scrolling platformers and the 3D action games, with the arcade beat-em-up being remembered either as a footnote in history or a terrible Lynx game, depending on your life experiences. I’m actually astonished that Tecmo would even release the game as a download. Still, as I’ve said in the past, one of the major draws of the VC service is making games like this available to players, and hey, Ninja Gaiden is mighty obscure, so bonus.

The game itself is essentially a two-player beat-em-up featuring you as what would eventually become superninja Ryu Hayabusa (or his grey friend) as you plow through all manner of goofy street gangs on a quest to… do something. I don’t remember, but you’ll find it isn’t important. The big draw of the game, aside from beating the hell out of said goofy gangs, are the ninja abilities Ryu has at his disposal, like being able to cling to poles, backflip out of danger, and so on. These don’t make a huge difference, but they mix up the gameplay a little bit, and as such are mildly amusing if you’re looking for a beat-em-up that isn’t the same as all of the other games you’ve played before.

That said, the game is cheap as hell, and unless the Wii version gives you infinite credits you’re never going to see too much of the game. Hey, even if it DOES, you’re going to spend your time doing what I did while playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Xbox Live: counting the spots where the developers made the game eat your quarters just to piss you off and make a buck. Further, as has been mentioned, this game comes with Ninja Gaiden Black as an unlockable, meaning that you can get this along with what can be described as a much better game if you have an Xbox or Xbox 360 handy. As a cute and amusing novelty with an awesome Continue screen, Ninja Gaiden is fine and all, but unless you’re a hardcore beat-em-up fan or a fan of the franchise, you can probably ignore this.


Unlike most weeks, we actually have a few things to say about one of the other services’ games: the DSi has gotten a version of the ancient arcade classic Dragon’s Lair for 800 points/$8! A few of us decided to take some time out and discuss the game:

DJ Tatsujin: Given the format, this could be a real tough pitch even to fans of the series, who, by now, no doubt own the game on every format known to man. Looking at the title as a whole, $8 is actually one of the cheaper prices you’ll pay to have the game on a relevant format, but seeing as the hook of the game is the Don Bluth animation, one would have to imagine the compression techniques necessary to put the game on the DS would cut into the quality. This title has been discussed to death numerous times, so I’ll break it down briefly for anyone that for some reason isn’t familiar with this title. Dragon’s Lair kicked off the line of “interactive movies” that briefly re-surged arcades with the Laserdisc format. Players essentially watch a movie and key in a direction or button press during brief time-frames amid the scene – mistime the action or make an incorrect input and the disc would skip to a death animation, otherwise, the player moved to the next chapter. Dragon’s Lair is indeed a classic, but it is a victim of its time. Today’s players will most likely be frustrated by the minimal interactivity and trial and error gameplay, so it’s hard to say the title would be worth the $8. This is definitely a release that is strictly for fans only.


Chris Bowen: I didn’t get a chance to play Dragon’s Lair until a few years after it came out, but even when I did play it – at eight years old, in an arcade linked off of our local bowling alley – I was mesmerized by the fact that I could essentially play a movie in the arcade, especially one from one of my favourite animators; even at eight, not knowing quite who Don Bluth was, I could tell that this was the same man that gave me The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, and looking back at the things he did in animation, it’s staggering to look at his resume and find a who’s who of my favourite movies as a kid. All Dogs Go To Heaven! The Land Before Time! The Sword in the Stone!!! In all, Don Bluth is, in my mind, possibly the greatest animator that ever lived.

The personality that Bluth’s characters possessed were shown in Dragon’s Lair, to the point where it almost felt like an interruption to have to actually do something. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to do – press a button here or there when the screen tells you to – and the game was relatively short, but I can’t stress how awesome this was in 1988, let alone 1983.

With that said, this isn’t going to impress a lot of today’s gamers. Therefore, I can’t really recommend this to anyone that isn’t familiar with Don Bluth’s work, but young kids should get a kick out of it. I don’t know how badly the DSi version had to be compressed to get the video to fit, but I bought the iPhone version a few days ago and so far it looks good. Fans of the old game, younger gamers and Bluth fans are recommended to check this out. Non-fans aren’t going to be impressed by a short movie with a game of Simon Says thrown in.


Mark B.: Dragon’s Lair is essentially the first Active Time Event using game ever made, back before the term had any meaning whatsoever, and while it’s interesting that technology has advanced so far as to allow us to release a game that used to occupy a disc the size of a God-damn buckler (as in the medieval shield) as a download for a handheld system, I don’t know that they needed to bother. I mean, having not seen the DSi release yet, if we assume that there’s no degradation to the visuals and audio, I’m sure the game still looks and sounds awesome. The game was essentially created by Don Bluth, and his visual style is absolutely awesome, bringing the game to life as what amounts to a true interactive movie, and back when I was a kid this was all sorts of cool, so in that respect, Dragon’s Lair might be an amusing curiosity.

That said, if you somehow managed to miss the whole animated and live-action interactive movie craze of the eighties and nineties, allow me to sum up the game: every so often the game will indicate to you that you need to do something, and you’ll have to press in a direction or use Dirk’s sword IN ABOUT ONE SECOND or you are treated to a death cinematic. This is the entire game. If you try to play it straight-out without cheating, you’ll end up seeing the same cutscenes over and over a billion times, and if you cheat you’ll blow through the game in about an hour or so. So, you’re essentially either playing the same scenes over until you get sick of them or you’re wasting your money on a game you can beat in no time flat. This isn’t even a game where skill wins the day and thus justifies the short length by being hard as hell; it’s a game where quick reaction times win the day and ABSOLUTELY nothing else matters. Speaking as someone who already lived through this craze, I’d sooner break my DSi on my face than play this again, so, hey, thanks but no.


Also on the DSi are Hot and Cold: A 3D Hidden Object Adventure, an 800 point game that literally is a version of the game we played as kids where we would tell someone how close they were to an object of choice by going “cold… cold… warm… HOT!”. Seriously, they’re charging money for this. There’s also a version of Uno for $8 that supports Wi-Fi. Though Uno is awesome, I think $8 seems a bit high.

For WiiWare, we have Eco Shooter: Plant 530, a 1000 point game with an insane plot – aliens have invaded, and are attacking us with CANS, and it’s up to you to shoot the cans! – and what looks to be a fun shooting game that plays somewhat similar to the NES game Gumshoe at first glance. There’s also Pallurikio, a 1000 point game that looks like a marriage of Kirby: Canvas Curse and Line Rider. On the bottom end of the spectrum are the 800 point trivia show TV Show King 2 and Happy Holidays Christmas, a 500 point application who’s sole purpose is to enable players to make Christmas cards with their Wii.

Until next week, this is Christopher Bowen, urging you to KICK THE ALIENS’ CAN!



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