Tag Archives: n64

Virtual Console: Quality over quantity this week

The curious late-life trickle of Nintendo 64 titles arriving on Wii U continues this week with yet another worthwhile release that probably would have fared a lot better if it weren’t being overshadowed by Switch’s imminent arrival: Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber. It’s the only VC release today, but it’s such a meaty game that it would seem a little churlish to complain.

OB64, of course, hails from developer Quest — though not designer Yasumi Matsuno, as it post-dates his departure for Square to head up the Final Fantasy Tactics project. Despite his absence, it nevertheless feels like a true extension of the series: It boasts a complex story, with equally intricate systems lurking beneath a seemingly simple interface. As one of the very few role-playing games released for Nintendo 64, it commands a pretty penny these days, which makes its Wii U release a welcome sight. (It previously appeared on Wii Virtual Console, so while I haven’t checked to confirm, I’m fairly certain you should get a hefty discount if you own the older release and transferred your account to the newer console.)

Nintendo hasn’t given us any information on Switch accounts or Virtual Console, so who knows if this game will show up on the new console or if you’ll be able to transfer your Wii U license? In any case, it’s one worth playing, and owning it on Wii U is a lot easier on your pocketbook than hunting it down on eBay would be.

Oh, and conveniently enough, we discussed Ogre Battle briefly a few years back in Retronauts episode 16. So please have a listen as you prepare to FIGHT IT OUT.

Let us cling together as we discuss Yasumi Matsuno in Episode 16

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Virtual Console: Pokémon Snap and the Wii U’s most tragic missed opportunity

Yesterday, Nintendo published a single Virtual Console game for the U.S.: Pokémon Snap. A Nintendo 64 release on Wii U, Pokémon Snap happens to be one of those games that’s so entertaining and beloved that it seems downright churlish to complain about the fact that Virtual Console releases have slowed to a trickle versus a decade ago. Sure, it’s just one game this week — but that game is Pokémon Snap. Right?

OK, I’ll cop to it: I don’t really care that much about Pokémon Snap. I didn’t really cotton to the Pokémon series in general until it hit DS — largely because the series demands a platform that allows you to set it down and suspend your action at any time by simply closing the lid — so Snap predates my involvement with the games by several years. However, I also recognize that a lot of people love Snap, to the point that it almost certainly holds the title of “most popular Pokémon spinoff ever.”

It’s a charming little game, really. It’s essentially a rail-based shooter… well, no, it’s literally a rail-based shooter. The game consists of riding along a rail in a safari mine cart or something, but because you’re “shooting” at adorable and highly merchandisable little pocket monsters you shoot with a camera rather than a gun. The challenge then becomes not to kill things as efficiently as possible but rather to capture the most interesting, most unusual, and best-framed pictures of pokémon that you can. The idea wasn’t invented whole-cloth here; it had precedent in a quirky import-only PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 game called Gekisha Boy, which involved the same photo challenge concept as Snap but with rubbery hand-drawn 2D sprites and a decidedly tawdry sense of humor that definitely didn’t make its way over to PokémonSnap, however, turned the whole thing into an immersive virtual safari, so by no means was it some callow Gekisha Boy ripoff. It had its own vibe, its own appeal — yes, even beyond the inclusion of Nintendo’s collectable little creatures.

It sold like gangbusters, and it’s held on to fans’ affections for the better part of two decades. Yet, somehow, they never quite got around to following up on Pokémon Snap. Despite the sheer number of games to have shipped in the past 20 years bearing the Pokémon name, none of them have borne the name Pokémon Snap 2.

According to an interview conducted within the past couple of years — apologies that I can’t seem to find the link to it — the stewards of Pokémon have plainly stated that they don’t want to create a direct sequel to Snap, because they don’t want to simply retread the same material. I personally find that claim a little fishy, given how many indistinguishable sequels they’ve made to Pokémon Ranger and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, but whatever. The thing is, they didn’t have to create a same-y sequel; the Wii U absolutely begs to have its own custom-made Snap follow-up. The game practically designs itself: Stick to the same on-rails movement, but incorporate the Wii U Game Pad’s gyro sensor to create more of an augmented-reality experience for peering around and aiming the camera. This seems like even more of a no-brainer now that we have Pokémon Go to demonstrate just how gloriously Pokémon and AR work together, and it’s honestly bewildering (even for someone like me, who doesn’t particularly care about Snap) that it was Go rather than a Snap sequel that took the franchise into the AR space.

Instead, we simply have the original Snap on Wii U now. I suppose that’s fine and all, but it comes off as a something of a taunt — a reminder of the conceptually perfect sequel they never got around to creating. So go ahead and download the original for that nostalgic dopamine hit you so desperately need, if you must. But don’t think too hard about how incredible a Pokémon Snap for Switch would be. The more you want it, the less likely you are to ever see it happen. You can’t spell “Nintendo games” without “n-e-g,” after all.

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Retronauts Vol. III Episode 12: Wrestlenauts

Retronauts 12 cover

I think the first time I became aware of pro wrestling was through games — specifically, the first issue of Nintendo Power I received, which had a feature on WWF Wrestlemania for the NES. Having no idea who anybody was in the game, I thus had no real interest in wrestling, and pretty much ignored it throughout my childhood, never quite getting it. But I came to realize there was real passion for the sport since it was televised, by people as smart and nerdy as I am, plus nearly 30 years of video games to fuel that passion. And that’s pretty much the focus of this week’s episode, requested by backer Alex “krae_man” Forsyth — who, if you were ever on the 1UP message boards during the Retronauts heyday, probably saw his demands for a “Wrestlenauts” episode. Well, Kickstarter can make dreams happen on either side, and I guess it works out that this is releasing close to Christmas.

Joining us are Dave Rudden and returning guest Henry Gilbert, both from Laser Time and their associated wrestling show Cheap Popcast; and Michael Donahoe, whom you may remember from EGM and 1UP (and respective podcasts). All three are experienced wrestling nerds who played most of the games that were released on this side of the world, and more, and as I guide everybody through a chronology of wrestling games, I more or less leave it to these guys when it comes to discussing them in greater detail.

Sure, there’s the typical going-down-the-list treatment, but we really get rolling once we get to Fire Pro Wrestling, the premier Japanese-made series filled with customization and realistic fighting system, and the 3D/polygonal era, when the developer formerly known as AKI made some of the best (and best-remembered) licensed wrestling games of all time. Those are times when Japanese developers were honing their skills and making the best wrestling games, becoming a sort of latent golden age for the genre. There’s plenty more to be said about certain arcade games, too, like Midway’s Wrestlemania game with the real digitized wrestlers, and as we reach the present day, some talk about where the genre could be going, perhaps always being led by the WWE and developer Yuke’s.

Maybe this won’t be the most relatable episode of Retronauts — even for me it isn’t, on the whole. But again, it’s filled with information and enthusiasm, and no matter what your interest in wrestling is (if you get lost by any jargon, don’t forget this handy glossary), it’s still pretty fun to hear people who really know what they’re talking about share their expertise on games that can rise above the much-maligned sport they’re based on. Don’t shy away from this one!

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This episode’s breakdown:

Links:

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