Retrocity

To think I have the nerve to call myself a Nintendo fan.

I’ve never played either of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle games.

Also, I’ve never played Super Metroid.

And, uh, um, I’ve never played Super Mario World.

012115sad_mario

Yeah, I know, I know.

And by that what I mean to say is, I hadn’t played them until very recently.

You see, there’s this console called the Wii U that Nintendo released at the end of last year. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It hasn’t had a lot of games released for it in the last several months (that’s an understatement) and I haven’t used it much, but it did recently unveil its new online Virtual Console service, which does give Wii U owners some actual content to enjoy. Old content, sure, but content nonetheless.

So, starved of reasons to pick up my Wii U gamepad, I had the best excuse I’ve ever had to delve into those two critically untouchable supposed gems of the Super Nintendo era: Super Mario World and Super Metroid. I downloaded the pair for the grand total of ten dollars and seventy cents. I played them.

And my self-worth as a Nintendo fan plummeted.

And soaked in colour!

Colour-soaked gamepad image

How I possibly could have missed out on playing such classic titles escapes me. Sure, my passion for videogames started with the Nintendo 64 generation, but still, Nintendo has re-released its SNES titles multiple times over the years on other platforms. I had heard so many people talk about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and its many classic games, had read so many articles covering them and had played so many games presenting iterations on the formulas that made those games tick, that I thought I knew everything there was to know about the early-’90s console.

I mean, Super Mario World is just a game that has had all of its ideas stolen and it’s gameplay improved by later titles in the Mario platforming series, right?  And Super Metroid is just like the infuriatingly vague and difficult first Metroid on the NES, which I’ve played far too much of already on at least three different platforms, right? Right?

If I were in this situation I would not be that chilled.

If I were in this situation I would not be that chilled.

Of course, I was horribly wrong to assume such things. The first few stages of Super Mario World told me that much. Greeted by some permanently off-kilter platforms, an ingenious risk-reward power-up in the cape, a fire breathing Yoshi unable to flutter jump, some oddly aggressive Mario end-stage animations, divergent paths on a map that actually looks like a map and, most surprisingly, not a flagpole in sight, I was quickly made aware that Super Mario World is not only something very special, but a game that still stands very much on its own today.

As for Super Metroid, it turns out that it has far more in common with the excellent Metroid Prime on Gamecube than with the series starter. That sense of loneliness and dread is definitely still there, but this time you can actually work out where you need to go, with actual maps available to discover. Bosses are challenging, experimentation is rewarded in exploration and there’s a glorious 1980s, Alien-inspired vibe to the whole experience.

Someone's a H.R. Giger fan.

Someone’s a H.R. Giger fan.

I won’t deny that the baked-in features of the Wii U Virtual Console have probably played a significant part in keeping me playing these old games over the last few weeks. First and foremost, the Restore Point functionality is an absolute blessing and the reason I’m still playing Super Mario World at all.

You see, I suck at 2D Mario platformers. I don’t even want to give an estimate of the amount of times I’ve run into a Goomba in the first level of the first world of any given Mario side scroller. I normally give up on them midway through the second world, if I even get that far. But with Restore Points, I can just save my progress in any exact location within the game and then return to it again and again until I stop dying and make some meaningful progress. Call it cheating if you will, but without the feature I probably wouldn’t have reached far enough into the game to discover the quirks of its delightful integrated-world approach to platforming.

You'll want to change the missile button to ZL for Super Metroid, trust me. You're welcome.

You’ll want to change the missile button to ZL for Super Metroid, trust me. You’re welcome.

Button reconfiguration is another handy (and surprisingly well presented) feature that comes in handy for Super Metroid in particular. The ability to switch up controller inputs is handy as well if when the gamepad runs out of charge. I’m not an expert on the subject, but according to other sources on the internet there is apparently also a native filter running as you play Virtual Console games that replicates the appearance of an old CRT television above and beyond standard emulators. So that’s cool too.

I’ve also enjoyed the built-in Miiverse integration that comes with every Virtual Console title a little more than I thought I would. The ability to pause at any time, capture a screenshot and post about a moment in the game in an environment where pretty much everyone is there just to talk about that game only is, well, to say it suits me to a T would be a fair way of putting it. Without it, of course, we wouldn’t have the amusing “y cant metroid crawl” meme. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

I would be remiss not to mention that I’ve also been playing The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, which released last week on the 3DS Virtual Console. Suffice to say it’s a blast to play, especially after holding the SELECT button to launch the game in its original resolution, framed by a stylised, slightly pop-up Game Boy Color image complete with functional power light. Magical.

And it has it's own Restore Point feature too. Excellent.

And it has it’s own Restore Point feature too. Excellent.

Both current versions of Nintendo’s Virtual Console service have their fair share of problems at the moment, chief among them the fact that they aren’t linked in any way whatsoever. But I have been very pleasantly surprised by the many presentational and functional improvements to the service since its inception on the Wii.

In any case, this recent SNES shock means my Nintendo worldview has been somewhat realigned lately. Something tells me I need to have another look at Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.

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