Features// Wii U: Virtual Console Launch Reviewed

Posted 8 May 2013 08:30 by
Nintendo might be having a hard time getting some disc-based games out on store shelves for the Wii U, but at least itís somewhat picking up the slack in the digital downloads department. One thing that was missing from the eShop experience, though? A Virtual Console. Thatís all changed, with the launch of the Wii U Virtual Console last month.

The Features

Each Wii U Virtual Console game has had a fair bit of care and attention dedicated to it, in terms of presentation. The reason weíve had to wait so long for the service to become available on the console is because of the new features Nintendo have wanted to implement on the Wii U versions.

Laugh if you want at that fact, but the simple fact is once youíve used a Wii U VC title, youíll agree that the features are worth keeping. Each game has been nicely upscaled for high definition TVs - Super Mario World looks particularly nice on Wii U when compared to its Wii Virtual Console counterpart. And after a brief fiasco with Balloon Fight, almost every Wii U VC title is in 60Hz - be it the US or Japanese version of the original cartridge games.

Using a GamePad to control NES and SNES games feels very good, and the bonus of off-TV play when the mood takes you is a rather nifty one (although if you have the same games on the 3DS, you might not see the point). Add the ability to change controller configurations and save/load restore points on the fly, and you have a pretty good update of the Virtual Console service.

The Games

Sadly, we canít be as optimistic about the launch lineup of the Wii U Virtual Console, with the offering consisting of games that have already been released in countless other compilations and remakes. Super Mario World and Marioís Super Picross essentially save the lineup here, as many of these titles are already on the 3DS Virtual Console, let alone Wiiís.

Wii U VC games are, generally, cheaper than their 3DS counterparts however. Some titles, such as Excitebike and Kirbyís Adventure, have not only had the Virtual Console treatment on the handheld, but also a 3D Classics upgrade - which offer a much better experience for your money.

Looking into the future however, it doesnít seem like Nintendo is going to have huge gaps between Wii U Virtual Console updates. Just last week, Mega Man and Pac-Man were added to the VC lineup - which suggests that more exciting titles could be around the corner. So thereís promise in the short-term.

Super Mario World
3DS: Not available on 3DS

Super Mario World is a true classic, and arguably the shining star in the Wii U Virtual Console lineup. Originally released in 1992 on the SNES, this game took the basic platforming formula pioneered in Super Mario Bros and expanded it to the point of revolution, rather than Super Mario Bros. 3ís evolution (having said that, the latter is equally amazing).

Set within in a seamless world map that took you on a real adventure throughout Dinosaur Land, Super Mario World introduced a number of interesting new enemies (American Football players, anyone?) and power-ups (the famous cape feather, and of course Yoshi as a platforming companion). The SNESí graphical power and audio capabilities really brought this game to life, and itís near-100 levels are still as immensely playable as ever.

Score: 5/5

3DS: Available on Virtual Console and 3D Classics

A straightforward dirtbiking affair, Excitebike sees players attempt to complete various courses within a certain time limit. There are five stages in all, that can be played in two different ways - on your own, or against a number of CPU-controlled racers. The latter doesnít really feel like a real race, though, as youíre still pitting yourself against the clock.

Both of the control padís buttons act as an accelerator, but one is a turbo that has the chance to overheat your bike. If that happens, youíre knocked out of the race for a few crucial seconds before being allowed control again. Moving the control pad forward and backwards as you launch off of ramps is key to success, adding a small layer of depth to the gameplay. Itís lack of multiplayer is a drawback, but makes up for it with a limited course creator.

Score: 3/5

Balloon Fight
3DS: Available on Virtual Console

As fun as Balloon Fight is for about ten minutes, I fear weíve reached the point of saturation for this game. Itís seen a release on Wii, 3DS and features in Nintendoland before it even debuted on the Wii Uís Virtual Console.

Youíre a chap whoís strapped to a couple of balloons. There are two modes of play - an arcade mode where you need to knock similarly-ballooned enemies out of the sky before they pop your method of transportation; and an endless ĎBalloon Tripí mode where you must evade deadly stars, enemies and spikes for as long as you can. Itís limited fun.

Score: 2/5

Ice Climber
3DS: Available on Virtual Console

A game that has also seen release on 3DS prior to its Wii U Virtual Console debut, Ice Climber hasnít really stood the test of time that well. Your aim is to reach the top of each stage, avoiding ice-based monsters and breaking through frozen ceilings with your head. All the while, you have to be careful of the slippery ice, which could send you into hazardous environments. The controls are finicky, thereís no feedback for when youíre slipping on the ice and the jumping is atrocious. As classic as this game is today, it just doesnít really play all that well anymore.


3DS: Available on Virtual Console

Extreme biking wasnít the only sport that Nintendo was interested in virtualising on the NES. Punch-Out brought a cartoony, Rocky-inspired flavour to the world of boxing - and while most Nintendo sports games amounted to straightforward arcade experiences, this one had real character and heart. You play as up-and-coming boxer Little Mac, as he tests his best against the best of the boxing ring.

You canít move per se, but can use the control pad to block and dodge your opponentís attacks. The two NES buttons act as Macís left and right hands, and holding Up on the control pad allows you to uppercut. Bouts are broken up into three rounds, with each fighter possessing a health bar that must be whittled down to become Knocked Out. Timing your attacks is crucial, as hitting blocks will leave you exhausted. A fun little arcade game which shows an early example of Nintendoís now-famous personality.

Score: 3/5

Donkey Kong Jr.
3DS: Available on Virtual Console

Itís the classic Donkey Kong arcade game, but with a twist. This sequel stars DKís son, as he tries to free the big ape from the clutches of Mario. Gameplay, as a result, is different to that of the original game - Junior spends most of his time climbing on ropes and vines in order to reach the top of the stage. He can use both hands to climb vines faster, and use fruit to knock away incoming enemies.

The sequel has added value due to its 2-player mode, but pound for pound it offers around the same replay value as the original Donkey Kong. Itís clunky jump mechanics and awkward collision detection also makes this one for the retro arcade aficionados only.

Score: 3/5

Kirbyís Adventure
3DS: Available on Virtual Console and 3D Classics

One of the best NES games you can get for the Wii U Virtual Console launch. Kirby is a rather unassuming pink blob, but can become more than a match for King Dedede by sucking in nearby enemies and absorbing their special abilities. Using this power - as well as his uncanny ability to float - Kirby has to rescue Dream Land from Dededeís evil plans. Itís an interesting platforming game, which sees the hero begin as a rather harmless creature before using the power of its enemies against them.

It feels great to play, with appropriately floaty controls that work well with Kirbyís rotund nature. Itís rather nippy when it wants to be as well, with past-paced levels and lovely presentation to boot. The only thing that lets this game down? Unlike the others in the VC lineup, Kirbyís Adventure is sat at a measly 50Hz. That, and the 3D Classics edition on the 3DS makes for a much better version of this game than you can get on Wii U.

Score: 3/5

3DS: Not available on 3DS

We all miss F-Zero. Being able to jet around futuristic courses at high-speed using zero-gravity vehicles is one of the coolest ideas ever. This SNES classic still holds up well to this day, pitting you against a number of daredevil racers for the coveted F-Zero championship prize. The shoulder triggers help you careen around sharp corners, while a boost mode allows you to get ahead of the pack - at the risk of getting a shorter reaction time. Above all else, itís still graphically fantastic, a great example of the SNESí Mode 7 3D capabilities.

Score: 4/5

Marioís Super Picross
3DS: Not available on 3DS

Picross can be best described as a Ďpicture-searchí. By cross-referencing the numbers on the rows and columns, you eventually get to Ďcolour iní a grid to create an image. Numbers on a grid hint to the amount of blocks that must be coloured in, separated by one or more gaps. So a column that reads ď1, 3Ē means that you need to colour in one block, then leave a gap, then colour in three blocks in succession.

This SNES title isnít the most exciting, action-packed game of the bunch. In fact, itís practically sterile compared to the likes of Super Mario World. But this serene little puzzle game has a strange, indescribable way of hooking you in and never letting you go. Itís possible to spend a good hour or two at a time with this one.

Score: 5/5

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