Virtual Console Wishlist Part 3: SNESOctober 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Posted in Gaming Article | 1 Comment
Tags: Final Fantasy, Nintendo, Rare, snes, starwing, unirally, virtual console, Wii, yoshi island
After a six week hiatus I’ve finally got around to finishing off part three of my VC wish list. This entry covers one of my favourite consoles ever: Nintendo’s most super console, the SNES.
The Super Nintendo was the first console we owned in our household; the Commodore 64 had been my only source for gaming before the day my Mum came home carrying that wonderful box of electronic goodness. I’d played my friend’s console to death; building sprawling cities in Sim City, riding Yoshi in Mario World and exploring Hyrule in Link to the Past. To get the chance to do all that on my very own SNES was just an incredible feeling.
The SNES catalogue has been pretty well covered on the Virtual Console, but in my mind there are still some notable titles that seem to have been forgotten about. My first pick is probably quite topical, being that we are in the middle of celebrating 25 years since Mario’s debut on the NES. It’s still my favourite SNES game of all time and I consider it to be the pinnacle of Nintendo’s 2D platform games. Enter stage left, Yoshi’s Island!
Back in 1995 there was only one game I wanted to find under my Christmas tree. Yoshi’s debut adventure was that game and I made sure Santa knew it. I must have been on his ‘Nice’ list because there it was, under the tree come Christmas morning; within thirty seconds it was in my SNES. Now if I’m honest I wasn’t immediately blown away and it took a little while to grow on me, being quite different to any of Mario’s previous platform games. But within a few play sessions Yoshi’s quality shone through and I don’t think anything took its place in my SNES for many months after that.
There is still so much to love about Yoshi’s Island: the sumptuous chunky-crayon graphics that blew away even Rare’s pre-rendered style; the soundtrack, which is possibly Koji Kondo’s best from the SNES era; the incredible level design that utilised every trick in Yoshi’s bag, while encouraging exploration; and finally, the ingenious bosses that used every ounce of power the SNES had, and stretched players’ grey matter in a way no other platform bosses ever had before or since. It was a truly a joy to play in 1995, fifteen years on it’s still an absolute treasure and one that gamers deserve to experience.
Perhaps the chip used to create those wonderful bosses and assorted graphical effects like 3-dimensional platforms and morphing levels, is the main reason we’ve yet to see Yoshi on the VC. Nintendo’s 3D FX chip, a dedicated polygon-processor fitted into certain cartridges was used to create rudimentary 3D graphics in titles like StarFox and Stunt Race FX, two other games that are sorely missing from the VC library. Homebrew emulators took a while to recreate these effects and maybe Nintendo are still working out how to bring the technology to the Wii. Should they get round to it, maybe Nintendo would be kind enough to give gamers the chance to legitimately play lost gems like StarFox 2. The sequel was quietly canned due to the impending release of the N64 but from what has been revealed through video trailers and online ROMs suggests a game that took the series to a completely new level, and one that deserved to be played.
The decision to keep StarFox 2 away from the public is baffling but none more so than the bizarre reluctance to resurrect my next choice, the incredibly zany RPG Earthbound. Interest in the Mother/Earthbound series was reignited by the surprise addition of Ness as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros on the N64, and his reappearance in Melee and Brawl. The N64 was due to have its own Earthbound entry but development was halted and eventually shifted to the Game Boy Advance as Mother 3. Yet again, despite an outcry from fans, Nintendo refused to release the final entry (series director Shigesato Itoi has said the Mother franchse is unlikely to return) or the GBA compilation of the first two games, outside of Japan. Now admittedly Earthbound on the SNES didn’t fare too well and maybe this was a deciding factor, but the cult following the series has gained in the last decade should not be underestimated. Nintendo could have tested the water by releasing Earthbound on the VC, measured its success and then taken steps to rectify one of its biggest mistakes by giving Mother 3 a DS release.
The possibility of seeing Ness on the Virtual Console may not be as low as you may think. After all Super Mario RPG, another high-profile game never released in the UK was brought to the VC via the Hanabi Festival (a special bi-annual event that saw Japanese oddities finally getting a UK release). Earthbound would be the perfect poster child for the next round of Hanabi releases. Another ray of hope would be the case of Kid Icarus, a long-dormant franchise that has seen a comeback thanks mainly to the appearance of Pit in Smash Bros Brawl.
While Nintendo are at it, perhaps they could treat us to other fabled RPGs like Final Fantasy 6, Bahamut Lagoon, Star Ocean or Tales of Phantasia that us poor UK gamers never got to sample. Somehow I think that’s a wish that will never be realised, but a man can dream can’t he?
My final pick is another Nintendo title that had a troubled release, Unirally. Developed by DMA Design, creators of Lemmings, Unirally was a breathtakingly fast and totally original racing game. Viewed from the side, each track consisted of extreme twists and turns which had to be negotiated at speed, while taking every opportunity to fire out a few quick tricks to gain an all important speed boost. It almost felt like a speed-run through a Sonic the Hedgehog level, only with a unicycle instead of a blue hedgehog. The unicycles themselves were the reason this game never got the attention it deserved. Unfortunately, Pixar decided they looked too similar to their one-wheeled character in the animated short Red’s Game (ignoring the simple fact that all unicycles look EXACTLY THE SAME), and after a short court case Nintendo were forced to cease manufacturing any more Unirally carts. Sad really as it was incredibly fun and addictive and nothing like it has been seen since.
Smash Tennis: My all-time favourite tennis game, I still dust this off once a year around the time Wimbledon starts. The semi-realistic sequels lost the charm of this original, which had various strange themed courts like a beach, a Shinto temple and a mountain-top (complete with a climber you could knock over the edge with a well-timed shot).
Plok: I lost my copy of this great platformer many years ago and haven’t been able to find another one since. It has possibly the greatest title screen music ever: a jazzy harmonica solo, that’s as toe-tappingly awesome as anything you’ll find in a Mario game.
Killer Instinct: Another Rare title we’ll never see on the VC. This was a superb fighter back in the day and its insane combos and fatalities made it a good alternative to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Also had a great soundtrack.
Battletoads: I never got into the Battletoads series but I’d love to see what the fuss is all about and whether it really is as hard as everyone says.
The Firemen: Given the obvious sense of danger and immediate objectives, it’s strange the Fireman profession hasn’t been used more often in videogames. This highly playable soak-em-up goes for hundreds of pounds on eBay so it would be great to see it rereleased for a meagre 800 points on the VC.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this VC wishlist. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on my most wanted list, and also your memories of these games if you were lucky enough to play them on the original SNES.