As more and more time goes by, we are starting to see Sega dig out some true gems for the Wii’s Virtual Console. We’ve already seen Ristar, Gunstar Heroes, and Comix Zone. Now we get Beyond Oasis, Gain Ground, and Streets of Rage. Being the retro fan that I am, nothing makes me happier than seeing these classics unleashed onto a whole new generation of gamers. Better yet are the great memories that come back to me while zooming through a level in Sonic The Hedgehog. Still, could Sega – and everyone else involved in the Wii’s Virtual Console – offer more? Here’s a look at the newest releases for the Genesis Virtual Console and how they stack up.
Owners of the Wii who were NOT around during the 16-bit era are in for one hell of a treat. The release of Beyond Oasis is another sweet surprise from Sega. While the game isn’t much of a rarity, I never felt it got the respect it deserved. Beyond Oasis is chock-full of action and fun, all played in an amazing setting. Though some will quickly cite Crusader of Centy and Landstalker (and lets hope that both will soon see their own Virtual Console releases) as directly competing with the Legend of Zelda series, it was Beyond Oasis that made me – an action/RPG nut – proud to own a Genesis. Rather than using the same old formula Nintendo made famous, Beyond Oasis was truly original. The game focused much more on action than puzzles and exploration, and the controls for pulling off the many maneuvers are silky smooth. Add to this an amazing soundtrack and stunning visuals, and you have one of the Genesis’ finest.
Pass or Purchase? Beyond Oasis should be a mandatory purchase. The game is absolutely brilliant. The controls should be perfectly suited to the Wii’s Classic Controller, and the benefit of playing the game in 480p should be worth the price of admission alone. The game regularly goes for around $10-12, making the 800 Wii points a good deal.
The Genesis was an amazing system for shooters. The Thunder Force series, M.U.S.H.A, and Fire Shark were all classics… so it’s a little surprising to see Bio-Hazard released as the first true shmup for the Genesis Virtual Console. I’m not implying the game was bad, it was actually quite good; it just didn’t bring anything new or amazing to the table. Flying around as an actual organism was a cool concept, allowing for some interesting settings and boss battles. Being able to select from different types of ships is really nothing new, but it was done well in Bio-Hazard Battle. Each ship/organism has its own distinct feel and firing ability, and each controls well. The audio/visual package – with its dark and moody music – goes a long way in creating a creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, nothing about Bio-Hazard Battle furthered the genre; it was just a really solid shooter.
Pass or Purchase? Bio-Hazard Battle is a solid choice for fans of the shmup genre, but casual gamers would do well to look elsewhere. There are already a number of classic shmups on the Wii’s Virtual Console worth owning for around 500 to 600 Wii points. 800 points for Bio-Hazard Battle isn’t exactly the best value in town.
Gain Ground was one of those games I completely missed the boat on during its original run. Embarrassing as it may seem, I hadn’t even heard of the game until discovering its review on this site. So when I read that it would be released on the Virtual Console, I got fairly excited. Fortunately, the game lived up to my high expectations.
Gain Ground plays a lot like the classic Gauntlet infused with strategy elements. It’s a strange combination, one that before playing I wouldn’t expect to be so much fun. At the outset, you (and a friend) are able to choose from three characters. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses. As you progress through the game’s many levels, you unlock more and more playable characters. Selecting which characters to use is half the fun, and the action that takes place once in a level is the other half. Gain Ground also features an excellent soundtrack, definitely one of the best early pieces on the Genesis. The same cannot be said for the visuals though; both character sprites and environments look bland. It’s important to note that nothing in the visual department detracts from the awesome gameplay experience presented here. And while Gain Ground is a good single-player game, it excels in multi-player.
Pass or Purchase? I’m willing to take a guess and say that a lot of gamers missed out on Gain Ground. This is unfortunate, because apart from the graphics, the game is great fun. Hopefully more will take notice this time around. Thanks to the simple controls, each of the Wii options fits perfectly, making this a great choice for anyone looking for a great strategy/action/arcade/multi-player game!
Sonic Spinball marks the third appearance of the blue mascot on Nintendo’s new machine. A wild departure from the gameplay the series is known for, Spinball combines Sonic with pinball. Unfortunately, the fact that the game felt neither like a pinball or platformer tended to alienate fans of each respective genre. Despite this, I always found Spinball to be great fun. Bouncing Sonic around in different pinball environments – collecting rings and emeralds – just made me happy. The controls are simple and smooth, making the conversion to the Wii a fine one. The graphics are colorful, and the sound is original while retaining the classic Sonic vibe. It may not be a true pinball experience, but overall Sonic Spinball is a solid game.
Pass or Purchase? Though Sonic Spinball for 800 points isn’t much of a value, it’s still a rewarding game which deserves to be played. The game is perfectly suited for the Wii, and offers a truly different pinball experience – giving gamers a reason to own it over Alien Crush. I know I’m going to seem biased for saying this but…
Streets of Rage
To this day, the Streets of Rage series remains a favorite among beat-’em-up enthusiasts, which is why it’s so great to see the first installment in the series released for the Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Sure, each of the two sequels improved upon the initial groundwork laid by this game, but this is where it all started. For pure historical value alone, it’s awesome to see this game arrive. For those who are unfamiliar with it (shame on you), Streets of Rage was Sega’s answer to the Final Fight series and sees Axel, Blaze, and Adam laying waste to a scum-filled city, hoping to eliminate the source to all problems – Mr. X. The game is pure-unadulterated beat-‘em-up goodness. There’s punching, kicking, combos, specials, weapons, and everything else you’d want in a romp like this. Streets of Rage is without a doubt an absolute classic.
Pass or Purchase? This one was a tough call. While the actual carts for the Streets of Rage series aren’t expensive, the series itself hasn’t been featured in any recent Sega compilations, making this download attractive to gamers who missed out on the Genesis. Still, eventually better versions of this game – in the form of Streets of Rage 2 & 3 – will be made available.
Sword of Vermilion
Besides a couple of absolute stunners, the Genesis always seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to RPGs. In an attempt to appease fans of the genre, Sega published Sword of Vermilion in 1990. I’ve long considered the game to be highly underrated, and I feel it’s a great fit for the Wii. In terms of accessibility, Sword of Vermilion offers a simple quest that can be seen as a fun introduction to a genre populated by the “hardcore.” It’s unfortunate that nothing about Sword of Vermilion, besides the music, really stands out. The graphics are a bit bland, the story is stereotypical, and the quest itself is fairly easy. But again, this could be a great fit for casual gamers. The Wii control options wouldn’t affect this type of game at all, and – of course – this is the ONLY true RPG available for the virtual console at this moment.
Pass or Purchase? After Lunar for the Sega CD, this was my second RPG, and I enjoyed it. Maybe it was because I was desperate for another go at the genre, but I did. I’d wholeheartedly recommend this game to those looking to get their feet wet with the genre, but for anyone else – there are better things coming.
While I love seeing games like Gain Ground receiving a second life, I can’t help but want a bit more out of the Virtual Console service. Maybe I’m spoiled by Microsoft’s Live Arcade service, but I’d love to see online co-op and multi-player, leader boards, and overall game improvements. I get that the reason we see so many releases is because it’s simply a ROM dump, but I’d gladly wait for a spruced up release. And where’s the import love? Still, when Sega eventually decides to release games like Shining Force II and Crusader of Centy, I’m sure I won’t be complaining. As always, lets hope that the future of this service – and Sega’s involvement in it – is bright.