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There are many reasons to like the Wii Virtual Console. For one thing, it gives gamers a chance to once again play through old favorites like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man, only without having to shell out big money for original cartridges or CDs (and perhaps even systems) on online auction services. For another, it allows gamers to experience classic games they might not have had a chance to play earlier on in life, such as the previously reviewed Ys Book I & II for the Turbo CD. Finally, the Virtual Console allows gamers to take a chance on lesser known games, including the following five titles -- our picks for the five best VC games you’ve never heard of.
Sin & Punishment -- Okay, so this is quite possibly one game that some people have heard of. After all, back in the Nintendo 64 days, this on-rails shooter was supposed to be Nintendo’s flagship title for more mature gamers. Only it never quite made it out in the States. Developed by Treasure, the studio behind other such hits as Gunstar Heroes (also available on the Virtual Console) and the uber-rare Radiant Silvergun, the game came out in 2000 in Japan, and thus was not ported overseas despite featuring English-language cutscenes. This highly-anticipated title finally did come out in the U.S. via the Virtual Console in October 2007, and reportedly sold quite well -- well enough, in fact, to warrant the development of a sequel for the Nintendo Wii, ironically announced roughly a year after the original title’s American debut.
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Soldier Blade -- There are a lot of space shooters available on the Virtual Console, but this Turbografx 16 title is definitely one of the best. A vertical-scrolling shooter, Soldier Blade features incredible graphics, intense boss fights and the high-tempo music will definitely help get the blood pumping. One of the best things about this game, however, is the power-up system. There are different types of weapons available, and if you collect multiple versions of the same power-up, the attacks become stronger. That requires players to make difficult decisions about which power-ups they collect, based upon effectiveness, strength and availability. Another great feature is that this game is more accessible than most other games of its ilk, and it even includes a selectable difficulty level. That said, there is still plenty of challenge for longtime shooter game veterans as well.
Wonderboy in Monster World -- Of all the hidden gems on the Virtual Console, this one may just be the best. Wonderboy in Monster World is apparently part of a long series from developer Westone. It is kind of hard to describe, but it takes elements of a side-scrolling action game, a platform, and an RPG and mashes them all together in one absolutely mind-blowing package. As Shion (the titular Wonderboy), the player must attack enemies, talk to villagers, master multiple forms of magic, solve puzzles and clear challenging jumps in order to save Monster World from a horde of, well, monsters. The plot isn’t great, but the Castlevania-meets-Legend of Zelda style of gameplay is just something that every gaming fan simply needs to experience.
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Battle Lode Runner -- Some PC gaming fans might be familiar with the Lode Runner series, in which players explore various levels collecting gold and trying to avoid monsters. The core gameplay itself is solid enough, but this Japanese-only 1993 version of the game introduced something new into the mix -- multiplayer. Guess what? It’s the star of the show. Up to five players can challenge each other in three different modes of play. In Survival Mode, the last man standing wins, and the goal is to trick the other players into falling into your traps. Tag Mode is a team-based variation of Survival Mode, while in Escape Mode, the first person to find the gold, unlock the exit and make it to safety is victorious.
DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure -- A truly undiscovered gem, DoReMi Fantasy was another game that made its North American debut via the Wii Virtual Console. Developed by Hudson of Bomberman and Mario Party fame, this is a game that’s every bit as good as its Super NES competition. Yes, that includes Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. Using a bubble blower to defeat enemies, the hero, Milon, must embark on a quest to find the five legendary musical instruments, save the kidnapped fairy Aeris and bring music back to Piccolo Forest. While the story is fairly typical for this type of game, the graphics, music and production values rival just about any other 16-bit platform out there. Definitely worth playing, but be warned that much of the game’s text is in Japanese, which does take away from the experience to some degree.