If you're curious as to why people like to import games from Japan, you won't be after you check out this week's VC releases.
This week was a monumental one for Nintendo's Virtual Console classic game download service. The arrival of The Lost Levels and Sin & Punishment on VC is fantastic news for people longing to play games that were never accessible to here in North America. Perhaps more importantly, the creation of the "Import" genre on VC means that Nintendo intends to bring more of its Japan-only games to Wiis across the globe in the future. While there are more than a few of those we'd like to see, starting off with two of the biggies is definitely putting things on the right track.
|System||Virtual Console - Nintendo Entertainment System|
|Controllers||Wii Remote,Wii Nunchuk,GameCube|
Hey look at that, it's the real Super Mario Bros. 2! Although The Lost Levels was actually released in America with Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES and hidden in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for GBC, it has not been seen outside of Japan in its natural 8-bit environment. Nintendo's justification for this was that it was thought to be too difficult for people still getting used to the whole notion of playing video games, so instead we got the fake Super Mario Bros. 2. Still a great game, of course, but now we can finally see what we've been missing out on.
Well, I can say that Nintendo was right about the game being hard. Unlike the original Super Mario Bros., a game that was a good, honest challenge, the level design in The Lost Levels is blatantly devious. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you come across an impossibly long chasm, realize you need to find a hidden coin block, and then perform three pixel-perfect running jumps (one on top of the narrow coin block you just found). And that's just in World 2-2! You'll be clawing for every loose coin you can find, since you'll probably need the 1UPs to help you get through a single World, let alone the entire game. Just watch out for those heartbreaking backwards warp zones.
The Lost Levels is a fantastic game, but it's definitely not for everyone. The classic Super Mario palette might make it look like it's universally appealing, but it's really a wolf in sheep's clothing. You will get frustrated playing through this game, but in a way that you'll want come back to it, knowing you can conquer its ridiculous challenges. It's almost like Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts in a way; you don't care that you need to continue after every game over screen. You just want to beat it no matter what. That's why I love it, and why you'll love it if you want a big challenge.
|System||Virtual Console - Nintendo 64|
|Released||Nov 21, 2000|
It's about time. Sin & Punishment is one of the best and most famous Japan-only games of all time, but now, seven years after its initial release on the N64, the whole world has a chance to play it on Wii's Virtual Console. Don't worry, it's worth the wait! S&P is a unique action/shooter game from Treasure and could be considered an unofficial 3D sequel to Gunstar Heroes, another Virtual Console favorite. The gameplay is quite similar to the on-rails levels in Star Fox 64 (yet another game you should have already downloaded), except that you are controlling a character on foot rather than a spaceship, so you have to think about jumping. The other major distinction, and what really sets S&P apart from most other games, is that movement and aiming are independent. This presents an added layer of challenge, since you have more actions to coordinate while playing, and Treasure slowly teaches you to juggle the movement and shooting elements through a great training level as well as the story mode's parade of boss battles.
Have no fear; the Easy setting drowns you in continue credits, and the higher settings will give you plenty to do after mastering the controls and learning the levels. Sin & Punishment costs 200 Wii Points over the normal price for an N64 game, a surcharge likely attributed to the translation services at Nintendo Software Technologies and Nintendo of America, who have Anglicized every bit of text in the game except story subtitles. The voice-acting was always in (really bad) English, so you've got just as much chance to ponder the impenetrable story as did Japanese gamers back in 2000. Despite the higher cost, this is definitely one of the best N64 games ever made and an all-around excellent action game that anyone should be able to appreciate. (Note: The Classic controller is preferable to a GameCube controller, although both work quite well. Be sure to try all three control styles to find one that works best for you.)