NES Remix 2
More or less the same as the first NES Remix, which is a very good thing. I love this concept as both marketing for older titles and testing people in their game skill with some genuine challenge. If I have one complaint about both of these games it’s that the wee video clips that can be found to try to show you the basics of playing these games rarely go far enough, making the challenges often difficult to understand, much less complete. There’s a decent balance of good and bad games here to test your skills, so absolutely give it a go.
Advance Wars (VC:GBA)
Advance Wars is a turn-based strategy game like XCOM or Fire Emblem, though with a slightly larger scale owing to the units representing multiple soldiers, tanks, etc. but local battlefields keep the scope of a reasonable size so you don’t feel like you’re playing a game of Risk. The cartoony characters seem to make light of the idea of warfare, but the colourful allied and enemy commanders with their unique powers and balance of the fighting units makes for a fun single-player campaign. If you’ve never played one of these games it’s quite sedate compared to the usual action game, giving you time to plot your moves and figure out how to overcome your computer- or human-controlled opponent.
Unlike many multiplayer GBA titles in the eShop, local multiplayer is supported thanks to the turn-based nature, though you do need to hand the Gamepad controller around as you would have done with your Gameboy Advance back in the day. GBA games look great even on a 42″ plasma thanks to the SNES-level power in the original console (the smoothing option works well if you like), but playing on the Gamepad like a giant Gameboy Micro is every bit as fun!
Pac-Man Collection (VC:GBA)
I grew up on arcade games so I’m not one to pass any up, even if they are ports like this. Namco’s decision to release GBA titles in lieu of original arcade ones is a mixed bag. The ones they’ve chosen are pretty faithful recreations, but not the real thing; on the other hand you are getting four games for the price of one, so it’s hard to complain. I used to have this on the GBA when I owned a hot pink Gameboy Micro I bought to kill time on the Glasgow to Edinburgh rail commute.
It’s got the best version of Pac-Man you can get on the Wii U (unlike the “arcade” version included as a bonus in Pac-Man Party for Wii, it actually has the intermissions) as well as a special remix version that appeared in arcades in the 1990s as Pac-Man Arrangement, the isometric 3D arcade game Pac-Mania and the SNES puzzler (also oddly released separately for the Virtual Console), Pac Attack.
If you like Pac-Man this is a bit of a no-brainer, however the screen options are worth mentioning. You had the option to rotate the image to play on the side of your GBA and enjoy a full-screen presentation, however on the Wii U this means a rather squished emulation of a sideways GBA image, so not the same as the 3:4 display you’d have in an arcade emulation native for Wii U. It’s playable, but the pixels tend to be funny-shaped. Better visuals are had if you choose the option that was made for holding the handheld normally, though this means a bit of top-to-bottom scrolling as you play. Small trade-off, but could be important to some people. Note that these are in-game options and nothing to do with the display options you get from the Virtual Console menu that gets brought up with pressing Zr. As with other GBA titles there’s a screen smoothing option that is intended to make titles look better on your big HD display, but that’s to be avoided with mouldy oldies like Pac-Man as they just make it look like a smeary mess, so just enjoy it as nature intended in all its pixelated glory.
Swords and Soldiers
This was originally a WiiWare offering (and a pretty successful one), being a unique proposition in the real-time strategy genre by having only two-dimensions to contend with. It has an appealing, cartoony look and humorous story alongside simple controls and accessible unit types to choose from as you plot your path to victory.
This port up-rezzes the graphics and includes newer touch-based controls from subsequent smart device ports along with the Remote+Nunchuk controls from the original WiiWare version. Which you use depends on how you’re playing: if you’re opting for off-TV play then touch is more sensible, but you won’t really want to take your eyes off the TV if you’re playing there, so Remote and Nunchuk is a must for the big screen experience.
Otherwise it’s exactly the same as the original WiiWare game. The price is modest enough that the added visuals and convenience of not launching Wii mode made double-dipping acceptable to me. If you’ve never played the game and like a bit of real-time strategy without the added complexity of 3 dimensions to worry about then give it a go.