Despite wishful thinking from thousands of Nintendo fans, the publisher's possible Hail Mary pass at this year's E3 never came into being. That's right: No Mother 3 on Virtual Console for us this year. (At least, not yet.)
While Nintendo might not be desperate enough to play all of their Mother/EarthBound cards while the Wii U enters hospice care, they still saw fit to fill one of Virtual Console's many gaps with this week's release of Drill Dozer. If you happened to miss this game in its original form, it originally launched for the Game Boy Advance in 2005. And, interestingly enough, it's made by Game Freak, better known for developing Nintendo's money printing machine known as Pokemon. We dove into their history on a recent episode of Retronauts, but it's important to note that this developer started as a collection of super-nerds who released quite a few games before Pokemon, so this deviation from their RPG roots isn't all that strange.
And while Game Freak has produced non-Pokemon games in recent years like Tembo the Badass Elephant and Pocket Card Jockey, Drill Dozer has the distinction of being directed by Ken Sugimori, one of the company's founding members who started there when it was just a humble fanzine. Even if you don't know his name, you're likely very familiar with his work: He designed all of the original 151 Pokemon, after all.
And that same creative spark is definitely present in Drill Dozer. While the Virtual Console version may lack the grafted-on rumble pack—which kinda just felt like an electric toothbrush buzzing in your hands—Drill Dozer remains an incredibly inventive side-scroller that has you steadily upgrading a walking tank throughout each level for the sake of wanton destruction. [Update: Apparently Drill Dozer's rumble functionality works as intended if you're using a Pro Controller.] All in all, it's a cute and incredibly tightly designed little game that makes tearing through the environment with giant drills just as fun as it should be.
Seeing as Drill Dozer released pretty late in the Game Boy Advance's life, it likely didn't get the attention it totally deserved. If you overlooked it a decade ago, strongly consider dropping $7.99 for it, if only to see those gorgeous sprite graphics blown up on your television screen. Drill Dozer might not be the Mother 3 surprise we wanted, but it's certainly a welcome addition to the Wii U Virtual Console.
Images courtesy of MobyGames