This week we're putting Virtual Console under the spotlight. There's a huge range of outstanding games available on VC, and whittling down that list of greats to just one choice is the challenge!
While you make your decision, here's what the USgamer team have chosen as their one and only Virtual Console titles:
There are so many great games on Virtual Console that this topic has a bit of Sophie's Choice to it… but in the end, I decided to go with one of the original shining stars of the entire Wii Virtual Console suite: Import-only Castlevania spinoff Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. The prequel to Symphony of the Night has been remade for PlayStation Portable, and this version of the game is available to be unlocked in that collection… but for my money, this is the way to play it, even if it's all in Japanese. (You can figure it out.) Virtual Console's emulation is top-flight, and if you hook up your Wii with a good CRT television with component cables, Rondo looks and plays much better than on the PSP's screen.
Wii Virtual Console supports 240p output for almost all games, and Rondo is among them. As such, I'd say Virtual Console is the optimal Dracula X experience outside of RGB-modding a PC Engine Duo and buying the import game on disc… which is a vastly more expensive proposition. We're talking the better part of a thousand bucks, versus the modest price of setting up an old Wii and paying 10 bucks for the download. Rondo has never been converted to Wii U VC, and while you can play it on that system through its backward compatibility mode (which is nothing to sneeze at), the truly perfect approach is to keep a Wii kicking around just for this one game. And whichever else you want to play near-perfectly on an elderly TV.
It's a phenomenal game that is otherwise fairly inaccessible outside of a bonus in a flawed remake, which makes this Virtual Console release a truly priceless gem.
As a reminder, I read through a few lists of Virtual Console games, and the sheer volume of titles blew me away. Since I don't have a Wii U, and my Wii has long been consigned to the back of a cupboard, I'd forgotten about just how many games were available on Virtual Console - including Neo Geo releases, PC Engine titles, arcade originals, and of course, a terrific back catalog of Nintendo's own all-time classics.
Choosing just one from them is a real challenge, but for the sake of talking about something a little different from the usual Mario and Zelda greats, I'm going to go for a more obscure Virtual Console title - and that's Namco's Gaplus arcade game. I love the Galaga series, and indeed owned a Galaga coin-op for a few years in the 80's, which I won in a British national arcade championship. As you can imagine, I pretty much mastered that game - but I never really got to grips with its 1984 sequel, Gaplus. Sure, I've played the colorful and highly entertaining shooter plenty of times over the years on arcade compilations and under emulation, but I've never gotten to the point where I can notch up huge highscores, and it's something I've always wanted to do.
What I particularly like about Gaplus is its challenging bonus stages where you juggle enemies by shooting at them. It's a simple, but strangely absorbing mechanic where if you're skillful, you can rack up huge amounts of bonus points. It's just a huge amount of fun - which to me sums up the game in a nutshell.
I'm going to confess my ignorance, in that I have no clue what is really on the Virtual Console at any one point. I don't really keep track of the specific stores - PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, Steam, and Nintendo eShop - unless there's a sale going on. I certainly don't keep track of the store within a store, which is what Virtual Console or Xbox One Backward Compatibility is. This meant I had to sit there and take a gander at what the Virtual Console selection currently is.
I'm going to be basic and cast my vote for Mega Man X. This is probably the best of the Mega Man X lineup on Super Nintendo. Mega Man X4 outshines the first game at time, but it's the first one on PlayStation, not Super Nintendo, so we won't be seeing it on Virtual Console anytime soon.
Regardless, Mega Man X is a complete class act and a great start for the franchise. Great bosses and great level design add up to one of the best Mega Man games period. (I might go as far to say it's one of the best platformers ever, but I'm sure some people would want to fight me.) Right from the first level, Capcom's designers showed players how to handle the game's system, but they weren't overt about it. Each jump and enemy teaches you something and that mindset carries through the entire game. You get better as X1 pulls you along.
There are very few games like Mega Man X and looking out over an impressive list of classic titles on the Virtual Console, it still stands out.
Maybe EarthBound is a bit of an obvious choice if you know my tastes, but, to date, it's probably the most notable Virtual Console release—though I guess you can count EarthBound Beginnings as well. In case you don't know about EarthBound's cult following, fans of the game have been trying to get the game on Virtual Console since the service's beginning. Unfortunately, the salad days of the Wii and DS meant Nintendo had more concerns than some underperforming RPG whose sampled soundtrack could possibly bring on lawsuits, so, for years, they stayed silent on the matter. That all changed in the summer of 2013, when EarthBound finally hit the Wii U's Virtual Console—and then the DS', nearly three years later. I'm not sure how it happened, and we'll likely never know, but being able to play this amazing RPG without resorting to ROMs and piracy still feels pretty astounding. Maybe Sir Paul McCartney gets a fat three-cent check every time it's downloaded?
Now, the only way Nintendo could top themselves would be to release Mother 3 for Virtual Console—so they'd better hurry up and do that.
It’s a bit difficult to quantify my favorite Virtual Console game. After all, what’s a VC game other than an old friend re-visited? So I decided I’d measure my choices according to games that I buy (and will continue to buy!) whenever they hit the VC. The winner: ActRaiser.
Quintet’s ActRaiser is a bold mix of action and simulation. The SNES had action games galore even at its launch, and SimCity offered a potent hit of simulation (and a bit of action, depending on how often you unleashed Bowser on your hapless citizens). But combining both was a new concept for console games at the time, and ActRaiser is a worthy pioneer. Its platforming is superb, and while its sim element is simple next to the likes of SimCity, Quintet’s decision to weave your stat growth directly into the prosperity of your towns was ingenious.
But ActRaiser also pumps you right the heck up from minute one, and I think that’s an important characteristic for a Virtual Console game. Sometimes when you’re bored, or you have a few minutes to blow, you can get a nice jolt of pleasure by booting up an old favorite via the Wii or Wii U menu and then racing through a premiere level.
ActRaiser’s opening act (ha!) is ideal for that kind of quick action fix. Have you recently listened to the track for the game’s opening stage, Filmore? Do it, and tell me that’s not a song you can wake yourself up with before making a dash for the bus in half an hour.