December 21, 2006

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Wii Virtual Console (Wii)
One of the most exciting features of the Wii is the opportunity to purchase classic NES, Sega and TurboGrafx 16 games off the internets.

Through the Virtual Console (or Nerd Shopping Channel as it is known) a growing back catalog of vintage games are available for download for a few bucks each. While this is un-arguably a great idea there are some stinkers in the bunch, although the gems more than make up for it. Here’s a sampling of the 8- to 16-bit goodies you can blow your allowance on in order to play how daddy used to play.

• The Legend of Zelda (NES) — Suprisingly hard even today, this ground breaking RPG can still delight even those of us who are battling through its ground breaking descendant Twilight Princess. A

• Bonk’s Adventure (TG-16) — The signature TurboGrafx title, and possibly one of the most fun side scrolling adventure games ever finds new life on the Wii. The meat-gorging head-butting cave man fights dinsaurs by getting uncontrollably angry; great fun. A

• Ice Hockey (NES) — Quite simply the greatest sports simulation ever made. Much like the Bruins you can choose a team of fat guys muscle your way across the ice to victory. A+

• Altered Beast (Genesis) — “Wise fwom your gwave” and ignore this crap pack-in Genesis side scroller. D+

• Baseball (NES) — Everything that made Ice Hockey such a monument to sports gaming is absent here; namely no fat guy option. C-

• Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis) — Oh man, dolphin’s rule. The legendary Sega undersea adventure presents some of the best puzzle and level design found in the 16-bit era. B+

• F-Zero (SNES) — A great port of a wildly overrated frustrating sci-fi racer. The digital pad controls never allowed for the delicate control necessary to make a good racer and the decision not to retrofit these games to allow analog stick control really hurts here. C

• SimCity (SNES) — A dumbed down version of the computer city comptroller classic agonizes you with its awkward interface. You can get the latest SimCity for your PC for roughly the same price. B-

• Donkey Kong (NES) — Before Bowser absconded with Princess Peach to successively distant castles, a giant monkey nabbed your girl and threw barrels at you. Mmmmmm tastes like classic gamin’. A

Not surprisingly Nintendo gets the lions share of attention on the Virtual Console — though it should be noted that near all of the bad games are also NES or SNES ports. The future of the Virtual Console seems bright as numerous beloved series (Like SNK’s classic Samurai Showdown) are promised to find there way onto the Wii soon. With new games offered nearly every week the Virtual Console is an A+ addition to an already stellar gaming machine. I’m terribly sorry that you don’t have one yet.

— Glenn Given