Monday, May 18, 2009

The LoadDown - 05/18/2009

Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console sees its 300th US title released today -- and it's a good one: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a unique and somewhat controversial N64 chapter of the classic saga. I love the series but have never played this one with any serious commitment, so I will likely pick it up sometime soon.

There are also two WiiWare titles on offer today -- the second "R2" chapter of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Defenders tower-defense game, and Silver Star Chess.

Silver Star Chess is rated E for everyone with "mild suggestive themes," which as far as I know does NOT mean the Queen walks like she did in Battle Chess. If Silver Star Chess had online play, I'd be interested, but it apparently does not, just player-vs.-CPU and 2-player local play, so I'm giving this one a pass even at its reasonable 500-point price tag.

I have been avoiding Crystal Defenders so far, even though I liked the gameplay demo on XBLA a lot, because it strikes me as a lazy port -- the graphics and controls originated in the cellphone world and have not really been improved for the console releases. So it doesn't look like it belongs on XBLA, and on WiiWare it's being broken up into three chapters, making it the most expensive version available. I will likely hold off on this title altogether in favor of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, which is a true sequel to the SNES-era Final Fantasy II (US)/IV (Japan) , presented in slightly-updated 16-bit style, to be released in episodic format.

I also caught up a bit on recent XBLA releases over the weekend -- and am pleased to report that Space Invaders Extreme has been ported over from the Nintendo DS/PSP world, and remains excellent. It manages the same tricky feat Pac-Man: Championship Edition pulls off so well - it starts with everything you know about the classic game, then pulls the rug out from under you with new and pleasantly surprising challenges. The techno music is excellent, rather than annoying, synched to the action with some neat timing tricks, and legendary U.K. coder Jeff Minter contributes his speciality -- trippy, psychedelic background visualizations new to this version. But it's all about the gameplay, and Taito's update manages to make Space Invaders cool again, without ripping off Galaga. No mean feat, that, and well worth picking up on XBLA.

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