The subject of much hate and ridicule on the internet, this title contains some mini-games, but as a whole is more of a musical software toy. The brilliance of it is that whilst you can play the included tracks by the numbers – either in concert with the included Tutes (Mii substitutes that look like The Muppets) or a band of your own Miis, you’re also able rearrange songs and craft new pieces by playing “between the notes” using simplified controls for dozens and dozens of virtual instruments. There’s also a drum lesson mode for people with Balance Boards which gives you full control over a drum kit for use in your own videos. The ability to vary tempo and have the music played in a variety of styles (about a dozen all told including rock, pop, jazz and latin) is the icing on the cake.
Sure you can quibble about the sound quality (which really isn’t that bad; I’d rate it over a budget synthesizer) and the fact that there’s only 50 tracks (why no DLC Nintendo?), but if you have an interest in music that goes beyond listening to the radio on your commute it’s really worth checking out. It gets even better if you have Wii friends with Wii Music because you can collaborate and then share the results with others.
It’s a highly recommended title that I hope has a follow-up with a lot more musical styles (really not enough World Music and Classical Music in here), DLC and a better video sharing feature (presently recordings made can only be shared with others who own Wii Music and are registered as friends using Wii system codes).
Star Parodier (Virtual Console PC Engine)
One of several cutesy shooting games that appeared in the arcades and on consoles in the 80s-90s. Gameplay is fun – if a bit challenging – and the visuals are great. Who wouldn’t want to fly around in a PC Engine shooting baddies? This game was released elsewhere as part of the Hanabi Festival, so people who don’t own Japanese Wiis can also enjoy it.
Starblade (Virtual Console Arcade)
Originally a cockpit arcade game using a flight yoke, Starblade controls well using the IR pointer on the Wii remote to move the on-screen cursor. Being an on-rails space shooter this game probably isn’t going to warrant many replays as the whole game is complete in about an hour; given it was originally designed to suck coins out of the pockets of arcade-going youth, there’s plenty of cheap deaths to be had. The control interface alone is what makes this a better game than Space Harrier, however superior 3D visuals don’t hurt. If you’re a fan of this kind of game then check it out, but otherwise save your points for something better.
Super Darius (Virtual Console PC Engine)
This hard-as-nails side-scrolling shooter was originally a fairly large cockpit arcade game which had three displays linked together to create a panoramic view. This arcade-perfect home conversion re-formats the game to fit in a 4:3 screen and has lower resolution than the arcade, but otherwise plays the same. The difficulty is just as punishing as the arcade game and there are no continues, both of which seem odd choices given this is a home console port! You’ll need to be a big fan of Darius and have a pretty high frustration threshold (or brilliant shooter reflexes) to get enjoyment out of this Japanese VC exclusive.
Super Darius II (Virtual Console PC Engine)
This is an arcade-perfect port of the arcade game Darius II, which is very similar to the first Darius, though with a more forgiving difficulty level. Like the first one the screen has been re-formatted from three displays in the arcade to one – with a corresponding reduction in graphical resolution, but the gameplay is still the same. Unlike Super Darius this game has continues (whew!). Despite being easier than the first game, it’s still quite a challenging shooter and not for newcomers to the genre.
Super Fantasy Zone (Virtual Console MD)
The Mega Drive entry in the Fantasy Zone franchise, this is presently the closest thing to Defender on the Virtual Console in that your ship scrolls back-and-forth through a series of closed levels with a radar scope on the top to tell you where you are in relation to the baddies. That’s where the resemblance to Defender ends as the graphics have a cutesy look to them and levels are ended with a boss fight. There’s also a shop that appears from time to time where you can use money collected from shooting baddies to buy upgrades and temporary weapons like missiles as in Namco’s arcade classic Ordyne. Don’t let the cutesy look fool you though, as this game is quite challenging. Definitely one to check out for shooter fans.
Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (Virtual Console SNES)
Not simply an arcade port of Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts has different levels and enemies and a more forgiving difficulty curve. I think it’s a lot more approachable and better to play than the two arcade games that preceded it, so give it a try if you like arcade-style action-platforming games.
Super Shinobi (Virtual Console MD)
The console-only sequel to Shinobi, this game was sold in other territories as Revenge of Shinobi or Shinobi II. Apparently it features Batman and Spider-Man in an unlicensed fashion, which is why people speculate it hasn’t appeared outside of Japan yet (though apparently this hurdle has been overcome). It’s more difficult than Shinobi and not really in a fun way given that your character tends to bounce back from enemy attacks into other things that damage them such that a nice “juggle of death” can occur in certain parts of the game. Personally I’d opt for the Virtual Console Arcade release of Shinobi.
Wonder Momo (Virtual Console PC Engine)
I played Wonder Momo’s arcade port in the Japanese exclusive Namco Museum R on PlayStation and somehow the game grew on me. It’s a bit of a strange arcade title — released exclusively in Japan — which is set up like a “Super Sentai” stage show in front of cheering men. The titular Momo is a young woman with poofy hair who walks back-and-forth across the stage kicking baddies in the face until a boss comes out which looks like a guy in a giant beetle or robot suit. Near this time a whirlwind appears which turns Momo into Wonder Momo, who can then throw a glowing hula hoop at opponents as well as deliver a boot to the choppers. The PC Engine version is nearly identical to the arcade, but adds some interstitial stills of Momo that lean towards cheesecake and make this the preferred version of the game to get. I did a retro review of this game for Nintendo Life, so check it out!
Yōkai Dōchuuki (Virtual Console Arcade)
This is another Namco arcade game only released in Japan (and likely to remain exclusive to Japan since it never saw release elsewhere) in which you control a boy who appears to be platforming through Hell, fighting ghosts and demons on the way. It’s a nice bit of fun though it’s pretty tough. There’s also a PC Engine port on the Virtual Console, but given I’ve never played the game I figured the arcade version was the one to go for.