Contra III – The Alien Wars (VC:SNES)
Indulge a little background if you will: back in the 8- and 16-bit eras games could be brutally difficult. In the arcade this was to ensure a machine had decent “revenue generation” – after all you can’t get more quarters if a kid can sit on a machine for fifteen minutes a go. For the home market higher difficulty was used to provide some longevity to a rather substantial purchase – after all you don’t want people feeling ripped off because the game they just blew fifty bucks on only takes fifteen minutes to finish!
Contra III is a home-based sequel to a rather difficult run-and-gun game called Contra, famed for being quite difficult, but fun. It was one of the earliest arcade games to include the concept of continuing your play by inserting additional coins. Like its arcade predecessor, this home game features checkpoints with the ability to continue, but unlike the arcade game there’s a limited number of continues to prevent you sailing through the game in an hour.
Plot-wise the two games are the same: you control a bandanna-wearing one-man-army out to fight off an alien invasion with an upgradeable assault rifle, running from left to right through a devastated cityscape. Contra III mixes it up a bit with a top-down view for some levels, but otherwise it’s just like playing one of the old arcade shooters, so if you’ve ever played an arcade game of this type you’ll know what to expect.
It’s amazingly hard, regardless of whether or not a second player is helping you, but in a day where games have multiple difficulty settings and internet walkthroughs, it’s nice to have a blast of old-school action wherein reflexes and perserverance are the only thing that can get you through (the ability to create a checkpoint via the Wii U VC menu might help a little, too). Just remember to watch your blood pressure and try not to break too much furniture!
An idea so brilliant it’s amazing no one thought of it before (okay some of the earlier Warioware games did cover this ground a bit): take classic NES games and devise objectives around some of their more challenging aspects. It’s not only fun to play little bite-sized bits of classic NES games, but does a good job of selling the games themselves; all of which can be found in the Wii U eShop.
Whilst the core mechanics of having groups of challenges based around individual games is great, the “remix” idea takes it to another level. Playing a level of Donkey Kong as Link from the Legend of Zelda, who cannot jump, proves quite challenging and there are other examples such as trying to do a bonus round in Balloon Fight whilst the screen gets steadily smaller.
The icing on the cake is the best Miiverse integration this side of Super Mario 3D World: playing challenges earns bits which unlocks access to stamps that can be used in Miiverse posts. Postings can be made in connection with challenges for expressing frustration or bragging about a great score.
A must-have for retro-gaming fans – once you finish this don’t forget the sequel!
Dr. Mario (VC:NES)
I briefly owned an NES in the early 90s thanks to an old friend who gave it to me with one game: Dr. Mario. At first glance it isn’t much, but this game stands alongside Puyo Puyo and Tetris as one of the defining games of the puzzle genre.
The goal is simple: clear primary-coloured “viruses” from a bottle-shaped playfield by rotating and dropping like-coloured “capsules” into place in order to build columns or rows of four. It’s simple to grasp and quite addictive. The challenge is provided by the speed and the number of viruses increasing as you progress through the levels.
Being able to save progress and pick up where you left off is the reason to get the VC version over dusting off your NES copy – can’t beat that classic puzzle action!
An update to Dr. Mario & Germ Busters on WiiWare, this game was released towards the end of Nintendo’s “Year of Luigi” promotion and is the only original standalone Luigi game on the Wii U.
Unlike Dr. Mario, the default mode features falling capsule pairs arranged in an “L” which split apart after being placed; which makes clearing viruses more tricky in many cases. You can still play Dr. Mario or Germ Buster (offered under the banner of “Classic Mode”) which are ported from the WiiWare game with the ability to swap out the virus visuals for the newer look featured in Dr. Luigi. Another major change is that you no longer play Germ Busters with the Wii Remote, but using the Gamepad touchscreen for manoeuvring capsules – which I can’t say I enjoyed as I’d rather play on the big screen. Consequently the only reason I fire this up is to play Dr. Luigi as I enjoy Dr. Mario in its original NES form.
There’s also online play or local multiplayer, but I was unable to get an online match going when I tried it. Whether this was due to it being a weekday afternoon and/or the smaller install base of the Wii U isn’t clear, but given the death of the Wii online game network if you want to play Dr. Mario online this version is now your only option.