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Retro eShop: Top 5 Titles For 3DS

EShop goes unnoticed much of the time, with litlte advertising and even littler press, many Nintendo fans have only made cursory forays into the archive of retro gems offered up by Nintendo’s software. NES, GBA, GB, GBC and others are on tap, the following have been selected from Nintendo handheld platforms; despite the abundance of console and 3DS software also worth investigating. A lively cabinet of 3DS eShop releases in 2014 has prompted me to compile a Top 5 list of famous faces that are worth a first look or a nostalgic visit.

1: Metroid Fusion – GBA

Samus Aran, on the verge of slipping into death’s chilly embrace after being attacked by the infernal X parasite, is saved, paradoxically enough, by a vaccine extracted from the last Metroid. She makes an expeditious recovery, quickly dons the hubris of a bounty hunter and takes to exterminating the fresh menace…

Heretical though it may be, I feel like this is a pronounced, if not pre-eminently seminal work in the museum of Metroid. It’s an innovative re-imagining of a compelling, genre defining journey, dovetailed with atmospheric environment and irresistible power-up largesse through every false wall. For anyone who hasn’t experienced the keynote interpretation of Zebes distilled into the ’86 classic, Metroid Fusion is, in my opinion, the more accessible modern classic and a sublime introduction to an authentic Metroid experience; percolating accessible innovation through retro aesthetic. While Metroid Fusion trades the iconic difficulty of Super Metroid – which relied heavily on the gamer being intrepid  – for more forgiving objective linearity, it loses none of the complex charm. For all its shortcomings in brevity, the title delivers on secrets, upgrades and multiplicity that will sate the dedicated completionist, while leaving a skeletal Metroid control mechanic and well signposted story that has less exclusive appeal. The game transitions seamlessly onto 3DS, leaving the signature stamp of Nintendo pedantry.

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2: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX – GBC

Link awakens on the off-beat Koholint Island. Stripped of his adventuring accolades and accouterments, he adventures, flies via chicken and slashes his way through this fresh Nightmare.

This game is worth a play-through, if for nothing but the trippy narrative. If Majora’s Mask is the teenage, nihilistic Link reading Satre and muttering to himself about doomsday in the corner of the LoZ party, then Link’s Awakening is the Link relaying a peculiar dream he had about flying whales and turtle mountains to the toaster in the kitchen while everyone slowly shuffles off to a diplomatic distance. Twisted plot and frustrating dungeon crawl aside, the original for Game Boy and the re-release for Game Boy Color are deservedly on the honor roll for many of the gaming publication world’s greats. Among the notable evolutions of Link’s Awakening, the trading sequence is most memorable, a distinctive Zelda mainstay that would re-appear consistently in the development of the series. The addition of a Link that could jump was a first for top-down Zelda, as were the A and B buttons being applicable to multiple items and the musical instrument performance that are now all definitive Zelda elements. What began as an unsanctioned experiment and a creative outlet for exploring system capacity and the usual incongruous Nintendo imagination (like many of Nintendo’s memorable moments), has proven its staying power and its importance to the Zelda canon. It is a monument to the fact that Nintendo’s crazy ideas do occasionally pay off, and we certainly wouldn’t have access to the impressive Nintendo backlog of acclaimed hits without that fearless injection of eccentricity.

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3: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins – GB

Mario’s brief stint in Sarasaland (Super Mario Land) has created a leadership vacuum filled by a lazy eyed new monarch. Mario has been locked out of his ostentatious castle accommodation in Mario Land by a nefarious and never before seen villain.This time around, Mario adventures across his own aptly named kingdom to recover 6 essential golden coins that will allow him to recover his place of residence.

First of all, we have this title to thank for the first appearance of Mario’s greedy, yellow garbed frenemy, Wario – soon to embark on his own whacky Mario-like franchise. Many gamers came away from Super Mario Land disappointed. The title, for me, and the sentiment isn’t unique, was a claustrophobia-inducing size, with the essential Mario strictures feeling a little too condensed and a backward step from the buoyant, effortless length of the original platforming formula. Super Mario Land 2 was a fierce answer to the question ‘does Mario have a future on handheld?’. With an upscaled, refined experience that could easily have been developed for the home console, Super Mario Land 2 re-defined Mario for future generations of portable, turtle-crushing efficacy. The addition of a save feature sublimated player anxieties about losing their experience to battery expiration and unexpected freezes, conflated with the 3DS save-point feature and suspend state software, makes the eShop package a concise and welcome addendum to the original.

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4: Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones – GBA

If you didn’t have appreciable fluency in the Japanese language and access to Japanese exclusive consoles, Fire Emblem most likely conjured up firefighter calendars and Ray Bradbury literature until the GBA release of Fire Emblem in 2003, when Marth and Roy slashed their way into the hearts of Nintendo fans abroad in Super Smash Bros, creating a market for the tactical role-player overseas. The follow up on Game Boy Advance, brought the distilled medieval fantasy a new vibrancy. The split storyline of Ephraim and Eirika requires a double dip of the core narrative for access to all 28 chapters and a shiny new overworld, amenable to the curiosity of the gamer made Sacred Stones a welcome update to what was intermittently stale and repetitive in the initial Game Boy Fire Emblem release that many players felt was oppressively linear. The score is melodious and is peppered throughout with palpably heroic themes. Fans of the the turn-play mechanic will be pleasantly surprised by the challenges of permanent death and unit management offered up. The graphics do suffer with expansion onto the 3DS, background visuals being the chief victim.  Underwhelming graphics and steep difficulty aside, it’s a warm welcome across the threshold of a Nintendo favorite.

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5: Mega Man IV – GB

Re-imagined titles arguably range from the direct slap dash port of the Legend of Zelda: Collectors Edition ilk to the trainwreck of incomplete tramslation and glitches galore, Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006. Thankfully, Megaman IV is neither of those extremes. In Nintendo’s final port of console Megaman onto handheld, Megaman IV is a tasteful re-arranging of the fraying NES furniture. An alloy of Megaman 4 and Megaman 5, it makes the most sincere attempt at manipulating the marionette of NES firmware in a unique re-imagining. Structurally not dissimilar from the home console release, bosses outside the aperture of the NES release – parallel with some ambitious armory additions – are what make this title worth re-visiting. Unique to the re-release is a shop which gives players access to some much-needed survival supplies like energy tanks and extra lives that go a long way to staving off controller-throwing tantrums when Mega Man’s brutal difficulty finally overcomes intrepid optimism. Sign-posting, is another nifty feature: weapon pick-ups now being accompanied by a short instructional video, anesthesia for the anguish of acquiring a weapon in the classic series, only to give up on it because you couldn’t figure out how to use it. Beat, the friendly ornithological ally, is a friendly face for players, offering assistance after seeking out the ‘BEAT’ letters from the robot bosses indigenous to Mega Man 4. For fans of the Blue Bomber, and for inquisitive new-comers to the hype, Mega Man IV is my pick for entry level, authentic Mega Man, an experience tailored to customer feedback with noticeable resultant merits.

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There is a wealth of gaming history available on eShop, the equivalent of a library shelved with Homer, Milton and Camus for the book worm, and while this list only grazes some of the heavy-weight titles, the likes of Adventure Island, Double Dragon, Kid Icarus and the GB Kirby releases are certainly not to be snickered at. Having said that, there is also a fair chunk of less than satisfactory software for 3DS that are very rum arrangements. The unsatisfactory imaginings have bugs and sloppy design to show it, as well as a selection of retro games that many people will be thinking should have remained in their safe state amongst gaming’s fossilized failures. But the only way to gauge what’s on offer for yourself is check out eShop, sift and sigh through the mediocre, gasp at the extraordinary, bemoan the games better served as doorstops, and possibly find a few new favourites along the way.

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Austin Small

Austin Small

If not writing about or playing the latest offerings of over-dressed simians and over-enthusiastic plumbers, can be found still trying to conquer the Ghost Ship in Super Metroid.