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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Game & Watch Gallery (3DS Virtual Console)

Would you really cross that bridge?
Game and Watch Gallery is perhaps the most fascinating release on the 3DS Virtual Console. Why? It is a port of a compilation that features remakes and ports. If that’s too bewildering to wrap your head around, it essentially means you’re playing 30 year old games. Perhaps even more bizarre, though, is that Game and Watch Gallery is arguably the one of the top values on the eShop.

Game and Watch Gallery features four games, each with two versions: modern and classic. The modern editions showcase enhanced visuals and use Mario characters, but the concepts are identical. That’s not to downplay them though, as the fluid motion and subtle altercations make the games that much more unique and engaging to play-almost to the point where they’re different games.

First on offer is Manhole. Using Yoshi’s head and tongue, you must support four different bridges. Once a denizen of the Mushroom Kingdom strolls past the bridge, it will collapse, meaning Yoshi needs to quickly put it back together. This game will give your eyes a major workout since a lot of the challenge is in seeing which direction the characters are coming from.

Ah, 30 year old visuals
Fire is the least complicated game of them all, using only the A and B (or left and right on the D-Pad) buttons for movement. Toads, Yoshis, and Donkey Kong Juniors descend from a window in Princess Peach’s castle, and Mario and Luigi need to bounce them to safety. Different characters fall at different speeds, so it's much easier when you set your priorities straight regarding who to bounce first. Despite being the simplest offering in the collection, this is arguably the most addictive.

Set under the sea, Octopus has a decent amount of depth (no pun intended [yeah right - ed]). Mario journeys through the waters, attempting to steal treasure from an octopus. You can grab a few pieces of gold and return to the surface, or you can greedily fill up your bag. Filling up the bag will make Mario move slower though, so you’ll have to evaluate things rather quickly – lest you get caught by a tentacle. This game is the easiest of the bunch, but it preys on your greed.

The last and most tantalizingly intricate title is Oil Panic. While the three previous games heavily focus on timing, this one requires major multitasking and your undivided attention rather than mere reflexes. As oil drips down, Mario must catch the drips in one of his two cups. On the screen below, Yoshi patrols, waiting for some delicious toxins to consume. This could very well be the best in the collection, as it improves greatly over the basic original.

When all is said and done, each title in Game and Watch Gallery is surprisingly robust. The enhancements, though subtle, are evident as you switch back and forth between the classic and modern versions. There’s even some unlockable content, such as a hard mode and information on other Game and Watch titles as a reward for high scores. Trying to achieve 1000 points in every version of each game on all difficulties is quite time consuming, but it never feels like a chore. Depending on the player, the game can be entertaining for an hour or for mere five minute play sessions (it even boasts an automatic suspend feature).






What music contained within Game and Watch Gallery is remarkably catchy. The tracks are nothing special by Game Boy standards, yet from the length of some of the tunes, it’s clear that substantial effort went into these compositions. As for the classic games, the so-called “soundtrack” in each game consists quite literally of “beep”, “blip-ip”, and fan-favourite, “bleep”.

Game and Watch Gallery is nearly unparalleled in terms of content you can download from the eShop right now. The fact that a single Game and Watch title costs $US2 on its own with no enhancements is proof that a bundle of eight with boatloads of enrichments is worth $US2.99. Subsequent entries add improved graphics, more games, and other features, but this collection is worth purchasing now.  

-Clark A



Review: Game & Watch Gallery (3DS Virtual Console)
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