ron, May-09 2008

Tanned VC Friday

This Friday Nintendo updated the Wii Shop Channel with a respectable bundle of four new Virtual Console games, two of them "imported". And who would blame them?

Break In

A straight-forward, feature-complete billiards game for the TurboGrafx. For each shot you target the point of impact with a cursor and also control the direction of the impact, and then control the strength of the shot. This system allows very precise control over the shots, and overall the game seems quite faithful in its physics simulation, and also features lots of eye candy, in the form of a (small) first-person 3D view of the shot, and slick player animations.
You can play many different variants, and there even is a proper single-player campaign.

Cho Aniki

A horizontal shmup for the TurboGrafx that lies somewhere between Gradius and R-Type in gameplay style. Weapon upgrades themselves drop from defeated (whole waves of) enemies, ready to collect, ala R-Type, but the functions of these upgrades more resembles Gradius (most prominently there are "options", satellite ships that follow you around, extending your firepower and spread).
The more famous aspect of Cho Aniki though is that it's not battleships versus alien monstrosities, but flying body-builders that ride across the sky in soup bowls and shoot lasers out of their palms. The whole game is filled with variations on the men-in-thongs theme.

Metal Slug

This first Metal Slug for the NeoGeo is just the start of a hugely popular series of (mostly) side-scrolling action games where your main dude fights hordes of soldiers. Soldiers on foot, soldiers on bikes, soldiers manning turrets, soldiers in tanks, planes, trains and boats. And the occasional wolf. Your arsenal is composed of army gear, pistols, assault rifles, grenades, that sort of thing, and you're rescuing prisoners, too, so you're getting the whole war-movie package, caricature edition.

Puyo Puyo 2

A falling-blob stacking puzzle for the Megadrive. An awesome summary would be that Puyo Puyo is a fixed version of Columns. The playfield is larger now, the … thing that falls down has been reduced to just two colorful … color bubbles, but you can rotate them around while they fall. At the same time, a minimum of four blobs must be connected to make them disappear (which is how you score points and progress), and they can be connected in arbitrary shapes, breaking loose from just horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. As usual, if you do combos, and if set it up right and make a lot of blobs disappear with one move, you get fat bonus points, and your unfortunate opponent will be overwhelmed with penalty blobs.

Metal Slug is fantastic. It connects great balance and smooth progression of challenges with gloriously detailed presentation. It's on the violent side, but if that doesn't bother you, you really need to have played at least one Metal Slug game.
But is the Virtual Console the right avenue for that? I wouldn't think so. There's a pack called Metal Slug Anthology out there for the PS2, PSP and the Wii that includes many Metal Slug games. Coughing up 900 puentes for just one is not recommended at this juncture.
Break In is a sad case of a game that does everything it could do for its genre, and well, but still ends up hopelessly obsolete now. Despite its well crafted core game, the game simply lacks tangible content that would keep it unique and relevant in the face of younger competition. It's the unfortunate fate of every sports simulation.

Of all the games inspired by Tetris, Puyo Puyo 2 is one of the best ones. It strays farther from the template than most, and as a result the gameplay feels distinct and interesting, even after cynically playing many other falling-stuff-stackers. As usual, the versus mode adds a whole new dimension if you have another person available, but Puyo Puyo also does a good enough job of providing computer-controlled challengers.
For a puzzle, I'd prefer a lower asking price. It's just a high-score rush after all. It's such a great specimen that it's recommended anyway, but be aware of how little substance it offers.

Cho Aniki is actually much more than an artistic oddity. Of course it's hard to not notice the oiled hunks of meat all through the game, not to mention the ridiculous cut-scenes, but it's also a great shmup with a decent amounts of challenge and depth. Anyone with a soft spot for shmups should definitely check it out.

Summary: you really want Cho Aniki. Puyo Puyo 2 is an upper-tier puzzler and more than worth it for that clientele. Metal Slug is awesome, but compared to the Metal Slug Anthology offering, this here is a total rip-off. Break In is solid but just sadly obsolete.


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