Justin Wicker knocks out a list of must play Nintendo Virtual Console Cult Classics.
EarthBound Beginnings - $6.99 Wii U
EarthBound Beginnings - $6.99 Wii U
Its official! The JRPG 27 years in the making has finally gotten its official English-language release. Released in Japan as Mother, EarthBound Beginnings is the aptly named first game in the series known as EarthBound in the US. The series is a quirky and fun RPG in the fashion of games like Phantasy Star or Final Fantasy, but starring children and set in a setting turgid with magical realism. The RPG mechanics are average in scope, and the combat isn’t overly complex, but the humor and music are some of the best of the era. If you already love EarthBound then this game is a must, and if you are interested in delving into the series, what better place to start than the beginning.
Mega Man & Bass - $7.99 Wii U
While they chose to port over the American GBA version in lieu of the Japanese Super Famicom Rockman & Forte, I am still in support of any way for players to get access to this unique spin on the classic Mega Man equation. What makes this game special is the ability to play as Bass, a different character from the Mega Man story that exchanges the classic charge shot and slide for different abilities, like 8-direction shooting and a double jump. The game itself is the format that fans of the series have learned to love, except with an interesting spin that gives the game a slightly more linear feel. Unlike other Mega Man games, Mega Man & Bass only gives you access to three robot masters at the start, and defeating each of them unlocks other levels and bosses. Overall, it's a really fun platformer with challenging level design and good bosses, and it’s a steal at twice the price!
AXELAY - $7.99 Wii U
I have a few fond memories of playing Axelay as a young person with one of the other Movie Sleuth writers, Chris, on the SNES. It is a scrolling shooter akin to games like Gradius or R-Type, but mixes up the gameplay by switching between top-down and side-scrolling perspectives during different levels. It shows off some of the Super Nintendo’s superb hardware for the time, with some 3D elements and detailed scrolling backgrounds. The sound design and music are also impeccable, and it even included some digitized voice-over that sounded natural, a rarity for the era. Still to this day I find myself listening to the music from this game, and when my research for this article found this to be available for Wii U, I purchased it almost immediately.
Demon’s Crest - $7.99 Wii U
Demon’s Crest puts the player in control of the demon Firebrand on his quest for ultimate power by claiming the Infinity Crest. It plays like an awesome amalgamation of mechanics from games like Castlevania, Mega Man, and Metroid. Demon’s Crest has you exploring different levels, and defeating their respective demon bosses to claim their crests. As the game progresses, these crests grant different powers to Firebrand similar to weapons collected from bosses in a Mega Man title, but they also grant the utility of granting access to new areas. This allows for exploration analogous to the gameplay loop of games like Super Metroid, and it adds level of depth to the game that similar platformers didn’t typically have. Demon’s Crest features some character choices that result in different endings, something I feel as if modern games are sorely lacking. It has really tight controls, a cool gothic art style, haunting music, and is just genuinely just fun to play.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ - $6.99 Wii U, $2.99 3DS
The inaugural title in the WarioWare series, this GBA classic has the player rapidly completing small objectives and mini-games at a breakneck pace. It’s full of fun and frantic gameplay that is unlike basically any other game. Its mechanical simplicity and fast-paced style makes it easy to learn, but still provides dozens of hours gameplay to the devoted individual trying to beat their best scores, or master all the ‘micro-games’ it has to offer. The WarioWare series has also done a good job of reinventing Wario as a character, giving him some non-villainous characteristics, and additionally added a lot of new characters to the Nintendo universe that I personally really enjoy. (Jimmy anyone?). The game bleeds style and personality, and I would suggest this or any other entry point into the series if it appeals to you.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine - $2.99 3DS
As someone who grew up in a Nintendo household, this was a title I didn't try until many years after its release, but I am quite glad I did. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine was the first game to come to the US built on the gameplay of the Japanese series Puyo Puyo and has the player stacking and clearing colored blobs in a Tetris-like fashion. The game uses a neat combo system that adds a considerable amount of depth to the game, and can make for highly-competitive matches. Nintendo fans out there could pick up Kirby’s Avalanche for similar gameplay, but currently it’s only available for download on the original Wii’s virtual console, and none of the modern Nintendo platforms. There isn't much single-player content here, but if you and your friends like to throw down on some classic or puzzle games, Mean Bean Machine will be an excellent addition to your collection.
Spelunker - $4.99 Wii U, 3DS
Spelunker is the arcade/NES favorite that is one of the main inspirations behind an all-time favorite game of mine: Spelunky. Like Spelunky, spelunker has the player controlling an adventurer as they explore subterranean causeways: fighting monsters, collecting treasure, and most importantly, avoiding spikes. People who don’t have the nostalgia related to the 8bit, era or don't appreciate the old style graphics, might not enjoy their time with Spelunker, but its influences on modern games are everywhere. Spelunker is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a good challenge or you just want to uncover the mysteries of the underground, have a go at Spelunker.
Wario’s Woods - $4.99 Wii U, 3DS
Wario’s Woods is an unusual spin on the falling block puzzle genre. In lieu of moving the falling pieces to line up colors or shapes, you played as Toad while he scurried side-to-side moving pieces at the bottom of the screen. You could move items on the ground to stack them, grab bombs that fell to clear lines, or just make big stacks for extra fun. In this sense it feels more like Money Puzzle Exchanger or Super Puzzle Fighter than Tetris, but it’s a simple and addicting puzzle game that I have lost dozens of hours to.
Space Harrier - $5.99 3DS
Welcome to the Fantasy Zone; Get Ready! The arcade classic Space Harrier comes home to the 3DS, and you too can bask in all its three-dimensional glory. Space Harrier turned the scrolling/bullet-hell shooter genre literally ‘on its head’ by having the player control a man flying through the air in 3D space away from the player, instead of a spaceship moving through a fixed area. The enemies fly at you in speeds that were mind-blowing for its time, and Sega even had to invent new technologies just to make Space Harrier playable on a home console. If you appreciate bullet hell games, or just want to experience the excitement of the heady days of early 3D, give Space Harrier a shot.
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