ron, May-30 2008

Jet-lagged VC Friday

While the last few weeks of Virtual Console releases have flown under the "Hanabi festival" banner, that's now officially over and Nintendo has reverted back to games that have already been released in the west at one point or another.

Burning Fight

A side-scrolling mass brawler for the NeoGeo, with the usual modern urban themes. Your chosen dude from a roster of three will have ample opportunity to punch or throw the hordes of enemies that oppose him, plus the odd scenery object. Sometimes enemies will drop weapons, which you can then pick up to extend your range or attack power for a while, and the game also offers the never-seen-before spin kick.

Pokémon Puzzle League

This is an early N64 version of a stacking puzzle variant that is now better known as Tetris Attack or Planet Puzzle League. Within your playing field, you try to line up at least three blocks of the same color. The matching blocks then vanish and make room for the new blocks that grow out from the bottom of the playing field, or the blocks that get sent over to the top of your field whenever your opponent does particularly well. Your goal is of course to keeping clearing the blocks away fast enough so that your field doesn't fill up completely.
As for controls, Puzzle League only allows you to swap two adjacent blocks horizontally, or move a single block to the side when there's empty space. The blocks obey gravity, so if you push a block over an edge, it'll fall down.
Pokémon Puzzle League offers a plethora of modes, such as solo time challenge, solo score challenge, challenges to clear out preset block configurations, versus mode, and a whole single-player campaign based around Pokémon lore.

Samurai Shodown

Another 2D one-one fighting game for the NeoGeo with yet another full roster of fighters that each have their own set of ground moves, aerial moves and special attacks. It's unusual in many ways though, the first of which is the traditional fantasy setting, away from 20th-century airfields and downtown streets, towards more natural, almost romantic battling spaces. The fighters also all use weapons, which changes the dynamic of the fights quite a bit, as weapon-on-weapon impacts cause no damage and function just like blocking would.
The battle arenas are relatively wide, so fighters can put a lot of distance between them. The game just zooms in and out automatically to correclty frame them.

Pokémon Puzzle League is a classy specimen that offers just about any game mode you could ever want from a stacking puzzle, controls perfectly, and gets really challenging in high-level play. I didn't expect this to happen so short after Puyo Puyo 2, but even if you only ever want one of these puzzle games, Pokémon Puzzle League, even though pricey, deserves to be on your very short list of candidates (beside [a re-release of] Tetris itself and Puyo Puyo).

After sifting through billions of look-alike, feel-alike clones of a certain reference title, Samurai Shodown has been a wonderful surprise. The game takes its own unique approach beyond just superficialities. Due to the larger space and more versatile defense options, it lends itself to more careful, tactical fighting while still putting great significance on your knowledge of the move sets. The balance seems excellent so far as well, making it easy to recommend.

Burning Fight is clearly a Final Fight knock-off, and a clumsy one at that. It somehow fails to turn its beefier hardware platform even into a graphical advantage, and falls a bit short in its gameplay merit as well. Final Fight itself is borderline broken, mostly due to the spin kick, but it at least offers visual variety, a consistent style and adequate animations. Burning Fight doesn't.

Summary: for anyone who enjoys puzzles, Pokémon Puzzle League is a must-have. For those who really love to own lots of fighting games, Samurai Shodown is a should-desire. Lastly, for anyone, including the aforementioned two groups, Burning Fight is a want-to-miss.


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