ron, Jul-13-2007

VC Impact Friday

As the Santa Monican noise starts to die down slowly, with the shockwaves rippling out from E3 across the globe losing some strength, it is now time to have a look at the calender again. And oh wow, waddaya know, it's Friday. So let's have a look-see at the scheduled new Virtual Console releases on the Euro Wii Shop Channel. After watching Reggie standing awkwardly on a Wii Balance Board for a few minutes, we'd wager that it can only get better.

Paper Mario

Fork yes! Ahem.
This is a sorta-hybrid between a Mario platformer, though a rather easy one, and a full-blown fantasy RPG that takes place in Mushroom Kingdom. If you have played Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on GBA or its sequel for the DS (Partners In Time), you'll feel right at home.
The combat system is particularly worth spending some sentence or two on, because in addition to a default turn-based system where your character stats determine damage, you can give your attacks some extra brunt by hitting a button at just the right moment. The same element also works for your defense. This may sound like no big deal, but it keeps the combat engaging. If you're not paying enough attention, you won't get optimal results, no matter what level you are.

The second twist comes in when you enter combat. If you just run into a goomba, combat will start as you'd expect, but if you manage to hit the enemy already while on the field, you'll get an extra attack up-front.

The third twist gives itself away by the "Paper" in the name. Every character (and everything else in the game world) is a perfectly flat sheet of paper. When characters turn around, you'll get a glimpse at their flat edge.
This is applied in several places as a puzzle element: can iron bars keep a prisoner in when said prisoner is flat as paper? See? Despite this cheap trick, the graphics are quite beautiful, and they held up very well (much more so than other N64 games, i.e. Starfox 64/Lylat Wars and F-Zero X).

Air Zonk

Another TurboGrafx shmup, this time it's of the horizontal twitch-compatible variety again, and with a prehistoric flavor to set it apart from the billions of its peers. The gameplay isn't all that innovative, but that's okay. The graphics and the music are very good though, and, you know, it's an enjoyable shmup, including the mandatory power-ups and impressive bosses.

We'd understand if you had numbed and tired to the attractions of TurboGrafx shmups by now. In all fairness, we're getting a little oversaturated by the genre. So you probably want to skip Air Zonk. If your shmup collection is thin anyway, there are very valid reasons to substitute Air Zonk with something else, like R-Type 3 or Soldier Blade.
But. Do not let Paper Mario just pass by. Absolutely do get this game. It's okay if you don't have the Wii points for it right now, just see to it that at some point in the near future you will make this purchase. It's so worth it. It's accessible yet substantial, beautiful and well-written. Everyone must have it.


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