Yep, it’s your friendly neighborhood Nintendo Nerd here again.
It’s been a little while since the last update because, well, we just went through the busiest gosh darn video game season of the year. Every Christmas the new releases line up like…er…Christmas and this year there was even a whole new system to be slobbered over. So in times like those you count your blessings, cut off all contact to the outside world, and videogame up a storm. Of course, time not only heals all wounds, but completes all games. Before you know it, that big stack of unplayed wonders turns into a plastic bag bound for the used videogame store. Worst of all, that time comes in January, a sad time of year when new releases grind to a halt and you find yourself doing things like talking to a friend in person rather than through an electronic device. Yikes! Who needs that? Well, good news folks. Nintendo seems to know it too and now is as good a time as any to pick up that 3DS and plunge yourself into the joys of the eShop. Even better news: there are some damn entertaining new games worth offering. Here are a few I’ve been using to fiddle away any periods of productivity.
Mega Man (Capcom)
That’s right, Mega Man. The blue bomber has found his way onto the 3DS with a virtual console port of the original NES adventure. In a way this is both cause for sheer joy and a bit of a tease. Is it exciting to be able to play an 8-bit Mega Man game on a portable Nintendo system? Hells ya, but the series’ crowning jewel titles are Mega Man 2 and 3. Part one feels more like a testing ground for the beloved franchise. Don’t get me wrong, you couldn’t mistake this thing for being from any other series if you tried. You’re still Mega Man, you still have to fight through robot masters to get to Dr. Wiley, and the 8-bit soundtrack is still far catchier than it has any right to be. However, things are a bit scaled back from what they will become.
You see, there’s no mouthwateringly awesome opening like MM2, there are only six robot masters to battle through for weapons n’ joy, and the graphics are pretty scaled back. On top of that, the difficulty is a bit out of hand. Granted that’s as much a staple of this series as Roll, but at times this thing can be frustrating to the point of wanting to throw the system against the wall. But, despite it all, it is still very much a Mega Man game and as such all nostalgic gamers must bask in its glory at least once. The ole Virtual console in-game save function certainly helps curb the difficult as well, so if you once cursed the cartridge in your NES days, all will seem so much easier now. If you’ve got an 8-bit itch that needs to be scratched, nothing but nothing will get it done like this.
Playing through Mega Man is like visiting an old friend and since the game is now available in the eShop and it’s an anniversary year for the little gun-armed guy, you know Mega Man 2 isn’t far behind. That’s going to be one of those “call in sick” days for me and I wish Nintendo would cut the crap and let me know when it’s coming so that I can plan accordingly. For now, this little emulated beauty will hold me off just fine. I also can’t help but feel that with it being the 25
anniversary of Mega Man, someone at Capcom has to be considering making a next gen version of the character or at least another all new 8-bit throwback, right? God…we can only hope…For now, shooting up Gutsman will have to do and it’ll do nicely.
Gunman Clive (Horberg Productions)
And now, from one old timey side-scrolling shooter to another. This little beauty of a game really caught me off guard. It’s about as simple as gaming gets (even by old school throwback standards). It’s set in the Old West, you’re a cowboy, you have a gun, and there are things that need shooting and obstacles that need jumping over. The beauty of this title is in the design. The gameplay is tighter than the cap on an old jar of pickles and the controls are limited to shooting and jumping. Yet it never feels even slightly off the mark. Even better are the graphics. The folks at Horberg productions designed the game to look like rough hand drawn animation. That means when anything moves, you see shifting pencil lines around an object, setting, or character. It’s a small touch, but one that takes a simple graphic design and transforms into something wonderfully artistic (particularly in 3D, which makes the line drawings pop off the screen and with no distractingly complex backgrounds, they really pop). Obviously it can’t compete with an HD blockbuster, but for an indie title this game has a style and charm all its own.
That emphasis on style and charm translates to every aspect of Gunman Clive. Once the basic rhythm of the levels is established, the designers toss in all sorts of creative and playfully humorous designs. Best of all are the bosses (like an old West train than turns into a 19
century cross between a transformer and Carzilla). With the characters and style so basic, the designers can focus their more complex visual work on the animation, which combined with the hand drawn style often makes the game feel like an underground indie cartoon. If you like fresh spins on old platformers, Gunman Clive is a must buy. It might not be as expensive or ambitious as similar 3D platforming throwbacks in the eShop like Mutant Mudds or Mighty Switch Force, but this game is also costs $1.99. For that price, you can’t afford not to buy this game and it makes it all the more impressive that the developers were able to pull this off with such modest aims and resources. This is an ideal indie game: fun, short, and sweet with just enough difficulty and a gorgeous low-fi aesthetic that would never fly in a major release. I guarantee that Guman Clive will be two of the best spent dollars you’ve dropped so far in 2013.
Johnny Impossible (UFO Interactive)
I seemed to be the only person out there who really enjoyed UFO Interactive’s Johnny Kung Fu, so it almost felt like the sequel Johnny Impossible was released just for me. The general visual design of the characters and world are the same, but with Kung Fu not in the title, you should be able to work out for yourself that there’s no fighting this time. There’s also no dual screen old School LCD/new School 3D multiple format gaming dynamic. Instead you play this sucker entirely on the top screen and Johnny is now a superspy in the Mission:Impossible vain, sneaking around high security areas to sniff out important secrets. That means it’s a stealth game, which is essentially based on working through platforming levels and hiding from robots and lights. Like Johnny Kung Fu it’s a simple formula repeated to a fault. I can see why folks hate these games and while I can’t pretend they are masterpieces, I also can’t deny that I enjoy the hell out of them.
The reasons are pretty straightforward. The simple repetitive gameplay reminds me of the handheld games of my misspent youth, while the cartoon style and sense of humor just tickles me, okay?! I don’t mind simplicity and repetition in a downloadable game for a portable system. I assume these things won’t come close to matching the complexity of retail games and consider them commuter time wasters. Johnny Impossible’s stealth mechanics work well and the difficulty is on just the right side of frustration. More importantly, I love the playable cartoon aesthetic that UFO specializes in and the spy parody characters and story they whipped up for this is good for a few chuckles (no big belly laughs, but again this game is for commuting and you don’t want to look like a moron in public, right?). Is it a masterpiece? Heck, no. I’d rank it as the weakest title of the three. But, if you like Johnny Kung Fu as much as me, it’s a worthy follow up. So, there, I said it haters. I said it.