Kicking Off A Very eShop Summer

Hello fellow Nintendo nerds and nerdettes. It’s been a while since we’ve talked given that there hasn’t been much going on in Nintendoland other than a pretty lackluster E3. However, this summer that’s all going to change my friends.

You see, as you may have gathered by now I’m a gaming nostalgic in love with the midi music tracks and pixilated graphics of my youth. Well, Nintendo has smiled on me by announcing summer 2012 as the 8-bit summer with week after week of releases of some of their finest catalogue titles on the virtual console via the eShop. I’m going to be writtin’ bout them as they come out, but since the whole shebang doesn’t actually kick off yet, I thought I’d start with a little eShop primer of two recently released games dripping in nostalgia for a bygone videogame era that you really need to check out. The first is a no brainer if you’re aware of the name of this website. The second is an obscure little gem that many missed, but at  $1.99 is one you fine folks have go to take a look at. Alright, enough of my jibber-jabber. On with the show.

Marvel Pinball 3D

Marvel-Pinball-8That’s right folks, just a few days ago Marvel licensed an exclusive game to the eShop. Granted it’s a pinball simulator that won’t necessarily set every gamer’s heart aflutter. However if you enjoy that sort of thing, this downloadable title is one hell of a good time. It comes from the good folks who made the fantastic 3DS pinball simulator Zen Pinball a few months back, only this time out they got some sweet, sweet Marvel properties to dress up the game boards (Iron Man, The Fantasic Four, Blade, and Captain America to be precise). Essentially, its a virtual version of licensed pinball games like Terminator 2, Indiana Jones, or The Twilight Zone that used to fill up arcades back in the days those geeky havens still existed. The attention to detail is incredible with all of the model characters, voice clips, and simple LCD light animations that made those old games special. However, with these being virtual boards, the designers were able to make these games fantasy pinball experiences that would never be possible in an actual game. Characters come to life and interact with brief mini-games involving techniques like POV pinball launches that add a great deal of extra fun to the experience without distracting from the classic pinball core.

The ball physics that these designers whipped up for Zen Pinball were exquisite and are carried over here. This feels like real pinball and you’ll never feel cheated when a ball slips through your paddles. Amusing voice clips (like Tony Stark oddly announcing “Stark Industries is going public”), goofy sound effects, and constant music further add to the classic pinball experience. Even better, it’s also one of the few 3DS downloadable games where 3D is actually a vital part of the experience. Without it, judging pinball depth is practically impossible. One legitimate criticism is that the small 3DS screen can make things a wee bit difficult to see at times, but I never felt I lost a game because of it and you can also pause and zoom in on the table at any time if you need a visual boost (or you could always pick up one of those fancy pants 3DS XL systems that are on the way.  I’m sure Nintendo would appreciate you taking advantage of that solution).

Replay value is encouraged through extensive online and local leaderboards and a nice pass n’ play local multiplayer option. If you’re a pinball fanatic, this is as good as it gets without you know, playing actual pinball. The Marvel designs and in-jokes are well implemental to please the comic book geeks, but make no mistake, if you don’t like virtual pinball this isn’t for you. Marvel Pinball 3D has plenty of frills, but it’s also a pure pinball simulator, so if that’s not appealing stay away. However, if like me your pulse raises slightly every time you spot an old pinball machine in a bar or train station, having this sucker in your pocket will scratch an itch you’ve had since the tragic day that the classic arcade died.

I Must Run!

Before I disappear into the online ether for a little while, I must direct all you fine people to a fantastic little eShop title the debuted soft a few weeks back but is well worth a little attention. Put together by indie developers Gamelion Studios, I Must Run! is a simple little game that earns it’s $2 price tag with a deliberately low-fi aesthetic, but provides such addictive gameplay that it’ll be two of the finest dollars you’ve ever spent. The game is essentially a riff on Bit Trip Runner, a sidescroller with a character running at all times, and button commands that allow only the ability to jump, slide,or punch and no option to slow momentum. However, rather than being a rhythm game, this thing is a no frills action/adventure.

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The simple story is based in comic book cut scenes, about a wrongfully accused man escaping for prison and running for his life to set things straight. The style and aesthetic is that of late 80s/early 90s action movies and comic books, recreated with love by obvious fans. Of course, there’s no story once gameplay kicks off. Just a series of levels in a prison, subway, sewer, or on the street setting, as your action star runs along in a delightfully nostalgic 16-bit world with a handful advanced graphical flourishes. The nice visuals are accompanied by an old school gaming score provides a relentless beat to keep the blood pumping.  The gameplay and look are as simple as it gets, but executed so smoothly that you can’t help but fall in love. This thing is addicting and punishingly difficult in an very old school way. You’ll find hours disappear as you’re desperate to see if you can get to the next level with only mild frustration setting in because it’s such a blast. This is an exercise in gaming design minimalism, creating a pretty product that’s small scale, yet dripping with replay ability and style. Given that I Must Run costs two whole bucks there’s really no excuse not to at least try it out and you really should do that. Oh yes, you really should.