Mega Man Review

Mega Man

When it comes to third party titles on Nintendo consoles, few have had the impact of Capcom’s Mega Man. Back in its day, Mega Man was as synonymous with the NES as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Although it was Capcom’s first console exclusive title, it proved to be a successful debut. Mega Man spawned countless sequels, and its hero remains one of gaming’s most beloved characters. While the original Mega Man is not without its problems (which its two immediate sequels touched up), it remains a great game to play even today.

Mega Man was renowned for its non-linear structure, allowing players to choose between six different stages in whatever order they saw fit. At the end of each stage is a boss fight against a “Robot Master,” with each one giving Mega Man a new weapon upon defeat. Another unique aspect of the game was its rock-paper-scissors-like structure, with each Robot Master’s given weapon working especially effective against another one.

Mega ManPlayers take the role of the titular Mega Man, a young robot boy trying to save the world from the nefarious Dr. Wily, who corrupted the six Robot Masters created by Dr. Light and repurposed them for his evil schemes. It’s the kind of simple but honest-to-goodness setup of many games of the time that adds to the game’s charm, even if plot was rarely present in the game itself.

Mega Man’s gameplay remains tight and intricate. Mega Man can jump like Mario, but he must use his “Mega Buster” arm canon, or one of the Robot Masters’ weapons, to defeat enemies. The weapon-based gameplay added a new spin on the platforming gameplay, and it gives the Mega Man series a sense of uniqueness among other retro platformers.

Also of note is that this is the only Mega Man title with a scoring system, as Mega Man is awarded points for defeating enemies, picking up items and completing levels. It doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience, but those who want to beat their personal high scores may find reason to revisit the game numerous times.

The level design was some of the most difficult of its age, and the game arguably remains the most challenging entry in the series. The game is fun, but some players may find the difficulty close to unfair, as some of the stages’ challenges require such precision in their platforming they teeter on unforgiving. The bosses (and even some standard enemies) can take Mega Man down in a few quick hits, and replenishing items and extra lives seldom appear. The entire Mega Man series is known for its steep difficulty, but the original is the one that may be off-putting to some players for the sheer level of its challenge.

One retrospective drawback to the original game is knowing how the sequels improved on the formula, leaving some aspects of the original to feel less fleshed out. The sequels would add sliding moves, charged blasts, and even sidekicks to the mix. The original, by comparison, feels stripped down and straightforward. A fault only in hindsight perhaps, but the comparison to its sequels is inescapable by this point.Mega Man

Visually, the game is one of the more approachable NES titles to revisit. The colors and characters are simple, of course. But the game has a distinct, fun look about it, and the great character designs add to its retro charm. The music remains one of the better NES soundtracks. It may not reach the same heights as some later entries, but Mega Man’s soundtrack is still one of the most iconic in the NES library.

Mega Man remains a classic of the medium. Its sequels may have bettered it, with the two following installments still being considered the ‘definitive’ entries in the series, but the original Mega Man remains, in its own right, an absolute blast.

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Super Mario Kart Review

Super Mario Kart

When it comes to influential video games, there aren’t many that can match Super Mario Kart. This 1992 SNES classic not only created the kart-racing subgenre, it also helped shape multiplayer and party games from that point forward. Mario had appeared in games other than platformers before Super Mario Kart, but it is the game that made Mario spinoffs a ‘thing.’ Suffice to say it had an impact.

Despite its influence, the sheer fun and replay value that Super Mario Kart brought to the table is what has helped it endure. Its sequels may have added to the formula, but the original Super Mario Kart remains an impressive game even today on the Wii U.

Being the first entry in the long-standing series, Super Mario Kart represents Mario Kart in its purest form. It lacks the bells and whistles of subsequent entries, but in many ways it’s just as fun.

Players can take control of one of eight classic Mario characters: Mario and Luigi are well-balanced, the Princess and Yoshi have high acceleration, Toad and Koopa Troopa have better maneuverability, and Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. have the highest max speed.

Super Mario KartThe tracks in Super Mario Kart are considerably shorter than later entries (they are downright bite-size by today’s standards), but they are smartly designed. Items like banana peels and Koopa shells made their debut here, but they are much more limited than in subsequent games. It’s the tracks themselves that provide the real challenge, as they host a variety of obstacles that will test players’ racing skills.

Super Mario Kart is still fun to play, though the gameplay isn’t quite so smooth as its modern descendants. Sharp turns will often lead to spinouts, and steering in general feels less fluid than today’s Mario Kart. But when considering this was the pioneer of the genre, it’s a pleasant surprise that it still works as well as it does.

The game made use of the SNES’ “Mode 7” graphics, meaning that scaling and rotation were used on the game’s environments to give a more immersive, three-dimensional effect. It still works for the most part, and it’s pretty impressive how Nintendo used such simple effects to create such a precise racer. Though some of the rotation may prove a little dizzying for the uninitiated.

Super Mario Kart features four different modes: Grand Prix sees one or two players take on a host of computer-controlled characters in a series of races. Time Trial is one-player only, where racers try to beat their best times without the use of items. Vs. Mode is a one-on-one race between two players. Finally, Battle Mode remains one of the game’s highlight, where two players face each other in an arena and must use items to pop each others balloons. The player who pops all of his opponents balloons wins.

Super Mario KartAlthough these game modes are simple, they provide a strong sense of fun and remain addictive, making Super Mario Kart an easy game to return to. One downside is that, even when playing in single player mode, you are still playing within a split screen. Due to the game’s emphasis on multiplayer and technical limitations of the time, Nintendo had to leave the split screen present throughout. It may have had its reasons, but the limited screen space can become a bit of a distraction.

Super Mario Kart, although no longer the best entry in the series, remains a very fun and engaging title that is worthy of a revisit on the Wii U. It was a brilliantly realized concept that revolutionized multiplayer games and turned the Super Mario series into a more versatile franchise. Some of the technical issues are showing their age, but the experience is still a blast.

 

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Donkey Kong 64 Review

Donkey Kong 64 is finally back, and about time to. If you’ve played it before, or if you’re new. Pick up you’re Gamepad, if you wanna play. As we take you through this retro game! Huh!

Donkey Kong 64

 

When it comes to revisiting games from your childhood, the experience will likely lead to one of two very different outcomes: The satisfaction of said game living up to your memories and proving its timelessness, or the disappointment of realizing age has gotten the better of it, and the title falls short of what you remember.

1999’s Donkey Kong 64 falls somewhere in between. It’s a game that isn’t short on ambition or ideas, but one whose execution can leave a lot to be desired.

Donkey Kong 64 takes the groundwork laid down by Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, and supersizes it. It’s a massive adventure that still feels just as big on the Wii U as it did on the N64. That in itself is an impressive feat.

Donkey Kong 64The story sees tragically-forgotten villain King K. Rool return to Donkey Kong Island with a super weapon powerful enough to blow the entire island sky high. But the weapon malfunctions at the pivotal moment, and it will take K. Rool’s men some time to repair it. To distract Donkey Kong, K. Rool steals DK’s horde of Golden Bananas (think Mario 64’s stars) and has them hidden across the game’s stages. Donkey Kong must rescue and recruit his friends Diddy Kong, Lanky Kong, Tiny Kong and Chunky Kong, and together they traverse seven worlds for their stolen bananas and to put an end to K. Rool’s plot.

While the story may be simple, the game is anything but. Super Mario 64 kept its focus on stars being the goal of every stage, and Banjo introduced an emphasis on collectibles to the 3D platformer. But DK64 didn’t know when to say when. Not only do the Kongs have 201 Golden Bananas to look out for, but each of the game’s stages includes 500 bananas (100 for each kong), which work like Mario’s coins. Banana Medals are awarded to each Kong every time they nab 75 bananas on a stage, while each character also has their own unique tokens to be found and traded to the NPCs. There are Banana Fairies that must be photographed to unlock bonus content, as well as a blueprint for each character to find and trade to a Weasel named Snide.

The sheer number of collectibles can get overwhelming, and it isn’t too surprising that this style of “collectathon” platformer fell out of favor soon after DK64. But the abundance of collectibles are only part of the problem. The excessive backtracking is another pitfall.

Donkey Kong 64As mentioned, every Kong has their own share of collectibles, and you’ll find that very frequently you’ll need to switch from one character to another and back again just to reach a single item. You’ll also have to return to previous levels repeatedly as you gain more moves throughout the game. It’s a unique setup, but when stretched between five different characters, it feels stretched a bit too far.

The Kongs, while all sharing the basic frame of control laid down by Mario 64, are all distinct from one another: DK is well-rounded and (strangely) is the only Kong who can pull levers. Diddy can jump far and gets a jetpack and a headbutting move. Lanky has a longer reach in his attacks, can inflate just like a balloon, and climb steep hills. Tiny can glide through the air and shrink to traverse hidden areas. Chunky is the strongest, being able to lift boulders and grow in size.

The characters all bring some personality to the table, but the three characters introduced here aren’t nearly as endearing as DK and Diddy, with Tiny and Chunky in particular feeling derivative of established characters from the Donkey Kong Country series (why Rare decided Tiny should replace the much cooler Dixie Kong is still a mystery). It shouldn’t be too surprising that the DK64 characters have seldom been seen again.

DK64 did add some fun gameplay elements. Taking note from Banjo-Kazooie, the characters learn a number of their special moves progressively throughout the adventure from Cranky Kong. Guns (which naturally shoot fruit) can be purchased from Funky Kong, while Candy Kong gives players musical instruments that have a range of uses. Gaining new abilities of so many sorts means that Donkey Kong 64 is constantly adding some variety to the experience.

Not all the gameplay is fun however. While the characters all control well enough, they lack the fluidity and precision of Mario or Banjo. The camera can also be a mess, with fixed camera angles being far from ideal, and the player has little control to make them much better.

Donkey Kong 64The boss fights are fun and exciting. Though it’s a shame they’re restricted to one per level, especially considering some boss encounters are recycled later on, and the penultimate boss fight set a new standard in lazy design (in short, it’s literally cardboard).

Mini-games are spread throughout the adventure liberally, and while they usually have simple enough setups (beat a rival in a race, shooting one target while avoiding others, etc.), they have a tendency to stack on a needless amount of complicated elements, which feels like a cheap means of adding difficulty to the mix. A good chunk of these mini-games also have intentionally clunky controls, which leaves them feeling unfair. There are a handful of enjoyable mini-games to be found, but too many of them feel more frustrating than fun.

Donkey Kong 64The overall aesthetics fall short of its predecessors. While the visuals of Donkey Kong 64 are some of the better to be found on the N64, it marked a huge departure for the Donkey Kong series. While the SNES Donkey Kong Country games exuded a sense of atmosphere and mood in visuals and music, Donkey Kong 64 all but abandons those qualities in favor of something far more cartoonish. It’s more akin to the nature of Banjo-Kazooie than Donkey Kong Country, but it lacks Banjo’s humor and originality.

Classic Donkey Kong elements like Animal Buddies show up, but are terribly underutilized, with Rambi the Rhino only serving to break down a single wall in the first level. Enguarde the Swordfish has a slightly larger role, but nothing truly memorable. Thankfully, the mine cart stages make a comeback, and are among the more fun bonus stages. But these elements never reach their potential, which only further deviates Donkey Kong 64 from its predecessors.

Donkey Kong 64At this point it all sounds pretty negative, but Donkey Kong 64 has enough redeeming qualities about it to make it worth a look for those who missed out on its Nintendo 64 release, or those wishing to revisit it: The aforementioned look and sound of the game, while lacking in the sophistication that Donkey Kong Country boasted, are nonetheless enjoyable. The sheer variety of the gameplay would humble a number of today’s games. A few local multiplayer modes still provide some good fun. And the game represents a sub-genre that has all but disappeared, giving it a unique appeal.

Donkey Kong 64 does have a lot going for it, even when compared to more contemporary titles it’s a hefty adventure. Donkey Kong 64 provides fun in some key areas, but it has aged poorly in others. Its scope and imagination may still impress, but the experience can often get overwhelmed in too much of its own muchness.

You could say that Donkey Kong 64 has style, but it has no grace.

 

 

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Super Mario 64 Review

Super Mario 64

When Super Mario 64 was released all the way back in 1996 as the Nintendo 64’s key launch title, it was something of a miracle. For years developers had tried to make the idea of 3D gaming a reality, only for it to blow up in their faces. Then along came Mario, in full 3D, to show the world how it was done. Super Mario 64’s influence is hard to understate. Its design was such a creative and technical leap that it set the stage for just about every game that was to follow. The landscape of gaming was forever changed due to Mario’s debut outing in 3D.

What makes Super Mario 64 truly remarkable is how well it holds up. The N64 and Playstation generation is not one that has aged particularly well – with only a few handfuls of titles being as fun today as they are in memory – but Super Mario 64, the earliest of Nintendo 64 titles, is still one of the most fun and ingeniously designed games ever.

The plot remains unchanged from Mario’s past adventures. Bowser, that most perennial of video game baddies, has seized control of the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnapped Princess Peach. The twist here being that Bowser has trapped the Princess in her own castle with the magic of the Power Stars, which he then hid in various worlds that exist within the castle’s paintings.

Super Mario 64Mario must traverse the castle, enter these paintings, and uncover the Power Stars to progress further through the game. The Stars are the goal of each stage’s missions. Enter a stage the first time and you may have to wrest a Star from a boss encounter. The next time you may simply have to reach the end of an obstacle course. Mario partakes in footraces with Koopa Troopas, returns baby penguins to their mothers, and combs every stage for elusive red coins, to name just a few of the methods of earning a Power Star.

It’s a nearly flawless setup that remained the standard of platformers for years. The levels are a marvel of design, and include Mario’s standard fire, ice and water worlds, as well as more obscure locations like the inside of a giant clock, or an island that is both tiny and huge. These stages are stringed together through Peach’s Castle, which remains the single greatest hub world in gaming. Its outer gardens are a place of heaven-like serenity, while its inner design is so charming you would never guess that it’s currently occupied by the game’s villain.Super Mario 64

The level design of Super Mario 64 is still breathtaking to this day, with every stage, even those with repeated gimmicks, having an identity of their own. It would all be for naught though, if Mario didn’t play so wonderfully.

The Mario of 64 controls fluidly, and his actions are so precise that it’s a wonder how Nintendo managed to pull it off with their first try into this uncharted territory. Push the control stick gently and Mario tiptoes quietly enough to prevent a sleeping Piranha Plant from waking. Put some extra force into it and Mario sprints with wild abandon. Hit the action button once and Mario throws a quick punch. Hit it multiple times and Mario pulls off a combo straight out of a beat-em-up. And of course, there’s jumping. For the first time ever, Mario could somersault, backflip, triple jump, and leap off walls. Simple combinations of button presses and joystick motions perform these jumps, which added a whole new depth to Mario’s repertoire.

Mario has so many moves at his disposal in Super Mario 64, but Nintendo pulled it off with such finesse that the game is every bit as accessible as its 2D predecessors.

Super Mario 64The game makes brilliant usage of its (then) newfound space. Wide open worlds give Mario plenty of room to perform his new acrobatics, and enemies and obstacles are presented in such ways to leave players to test every last one of Mario’s moves. The fights against Bowser (of which there are three, which has remained something of the standard for the King Koopa ever since) are probably the greatest showcase of Super Mario 64’s understanding of 3D space. Run behind Bowser, grab him by the tail, swing him around and throw him into one of the bombs placed around a 360-degree battlefield. So much of Super Mario 64 was testing new waters, yet Nintendo crafted it with such playfulness and creativity that it never feels like a mere showcase of hardware. Super Mario 64 is a virtual playground.

Super Mario 64Mario’s list of power-ups was unfortunately shortened in the jump to 3D. Gone are the Fire Flowers, Tanooki Suits and Super Capes of Super Mario Bros. 3 and World. In their place are three caps. The Winged Cap is Mario 64’s premiere power-up, and grants Mario the ability of flight. The Vanish Cap makes Mario ethereal, allowing him to walk through walls. Finally, the Metal Cap turns Mario into an invincible, metal form, which can run through enemies with ease and sink to the bottom of water.

The three caps are a fun twist on Mario’s power-ups, though they’re maybe a tad underutilized, which stings all the more knowing that none of them have ever made a return appearance in the series. The Vanish Cap in particular seems like a missed opportunity, as it only shows up a small handful of times during the entirety of Mario 64.

Sadly, there is one aspect of Super Mario 64 that doesn’t hold up so well as the rest of it’s exquisite design: The camera. Even back in its day, some cried foul at Mario 64’s inconsistent fixed camera. Players have the ability to alter the camera angles themselves, but it only helps so much. Super Mario 64’s camera never feels broken, but you may find that, playing the game today, the camera will lead to more misplaced jumps and accidental plunges into the abyss than you’d like.

It’s not too big of a complaint, however, when you consider that this was Nintendo’s first attempt at 3D gaming, and that they were so wildly successful in so many areas. The visuals are obviously dated, but the color and personality of the characters and environments make you not really care about how blocky Mario may look. The music, while maybe not as catchy as Mario World, is nonetheless memorable (the theme music for the water stages is still one of the most beautiful pieces in the series).

But it’s the design, the genius structure of it all and the beauty of its execution, that makes Super Mario 64 such an enduring classic. The thrilling level design and the polished gameplay still hold up after all these years.Super Mario 64

Best of all are the little things, the throwaway details that display such creativity that most of today’s games wouldn’t even think to dream them up: The title screen which allows you to stretch and pull Mario’s face, which solely exists because it’s fun. The portrait of Peach that melts into Bowser’s ugly mug just before Mario falls through a trap door. The owl hiding in a tree, waiting to carry Mario into the clouds. The rippling walls that reveal themselves as entrances to secret worlds. And my personal favorite, the way the clock world goes into hyperspeed or a dead stop if the clock hands are in the proper positions when Mario enters its portal. Super Mario 64 is brimming with ideas both big and small.

Super Mario 64Super Mario 64 was a revolution in 1996, and it remains influential even today. But the greatest testament to its quality is how much fun it still is. The gameplay is still so entertaining, and the ideas still delight. The camera may prove troublesome to today’s gamers, and you may wish Metal Mario made a few more appearances, but make no mistake about it, Super Mario 64 is still one of gaming’s wonderlands.

 

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Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

SMB2

Today, Super Mario Bros. 2 is often seen as a “black sheep” in the Mario series, neither as revolutionary as its predecessor nor as excellent as its successor. But truth be told, if Super Mario Bros. 2 is a lesser entry in the Mario canon, then let that speak to the overall quality of the series. Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a great game.

It’s true, the game we know as Super Mario Bros. 2 is just the Japan-only Nintendo title Doki Doki Panic retooled with Mario characters in it. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the game was among the best platformers of its era, not to mention the impact it had on the Mario universe.

Birdos, Bob-ombs, Shy Guys, many elements that are common place in Mario games today got their start here. This even includes the attributes of the main characters.

Players have the option of selecting four characters: Mario is well-rounded, Luigi has the highest jumping and descends slower, Peach can temporarily float in the air, and Toad lifts objects the fastest and throws them farthest.

The gameplay is unique among Mario games in that jumping on enemies doesn’t defeat them. Instead, you can jump on an enemy’s head and lift them up, and then toss them at other enemies. Additionally, vegetables are abundant in the ground, and can similarly be plucked and tossed at foes. It’s a fun gameplay hook that still stands out in the Mario series.

One downside is that the usual Mario power-ups are nowhere to be found (aside from an occasional Starman). Instead, players gain extra health by finding mushrooms in warp zones (temporary bonus rooms accessed through hidden doors). It’s just a shame the added bonuses found in warp zones don’t continue through subsequent levels, as it could have added an interesting RPG element to the Mario formula. But it works for the game at hand.

Super Mario Bros. 2Mario and company will of course venture to various themed worlds, each with a handful of stages and ending with memorable boss fights (boss fights which, I must admit, are more varied than those in the more popular Super Mario Bros. 3). It’s not as expansive as Mario’s later ventures, but it provides the same sense of fun.

The graphics are colorful 8-bit sprites, but not as detailed as those found in Mario 3. The music is a highlight, featuring some iconic pieces from the NES era that are still remembered and remixed today.

Super Mario Bros. 2 has a whole lot going for it, and it has aged more elegantly than the brunt of NES titles. Yes, it’s shaky origins mean it deviates from many loved elements of the Mario series (no Fire Flowers), and some might even say it feels slower when compared to other entries in the series, but Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a blast to play. Whether you’re firing up the old NES or playing it through the Wii U Virtual Console, Super Mario Bros. 2 proves that being a black sheep doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

 

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F-Zero Review

F-Zero

F-Zero has never had it easy. It was an SNES launch title alongside Super Mario World, and we all know which game became synonymous with the console. F-Zero’s innovative “Mode 7” graphics were a revelation at the time, and made racing games feel more immersive. But Mode 7 would soon be used for a little game called Super Mario Kart, and we all know which game is considered the more influential.

So while F-Zero may have been in the shadows of more prolific SNES games, on its own merits it’s a more than capable racer.

Players choose between four vehicles, each with their own statistics, and race through various futuristic tracks. You can choose between different cups and difficulty levels, even the easiest of which provides a good challenge.

F-ZeroThe races are fast-paced, turns are sharp, and not only do you have to worry about falling behind the other races, but about your vehicle being destroyed as well. Your health bar depletes every time you run into a wall or bump into other racers. Should it deplete entirely, your car explodes, and you have to start the entire cup over. Health can be replenished by driving on certain pits near the starting point of each lap.The added game over element makes what is already a challenging racer all the more difficult. It may not be for everyone’s liking, but it rewards those seeking a challenge.

The graphics are mostly pleasant, with the aforementioned Mode 7 allowing for scaling and rotation effects that still hold up. There are admittedly some areas where the graphics don’t hold up so well, but given that F-Zero was pushing racing games into new territory at the time, the shortcomings are forgivable.

A huge, retrospective drawback is the lack of multiplayer or any additional modes. F-Zero holds up in a lot of ways, but the complete absence of multiplayer takes a lot away from the experience. The racing available is tight and precise, but with very little else to offer takes away replay value. And without being able to share the experience with a friend, it’s no wonder that Super Mario Kart stole F-Zero’s thunder.

Still, you can’t take too much away from F-Zero. It was novel back in its day for its graphics and fast-paced racing, and everything it has to offer has held up well, but it lacks the substance of other SNES games. There is certainly fun and challenge to be had with F-Zero. But you may find that, just as was the case back in the day, your racing skills will most likely drift back to Super Mario Kart.

 

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Duck Hunt Review

Duck Hunt

Back in the day, Duck Hunt was one of the most prolific games on the NES. It gave gamers a simple task: Shoot ducks with the NES Zapper (a gun peripheral that came packaged with the game), or risk being mocked and laughed at by your dog. The simplicity of the game made an impact on the NES’ appeal, and Duck Hunt was so iconic with the console that it soon became bundled with Super Mario Bros.

Now that you can play Duck Hunt on Wii U, you can see how age has effected the game in both positive and negative ways.

 

On the plus side, the game is still fun. The NES Zapper is replaced with a Wii Remote this time around, with the motion control probably making the game more intuitive than ever (though some targeting blips still occur).

There are three game modes: Game A has you shooting at one duck at a time, Game B has two ducks flying on screen at once, and Game C shifts the game to shooting clay pigeons (two of which are on screen at once), with the clay flying from the foreground to the background, becoming harder to hit as they shrink in the distance.

All three game modes involve ten targets per round, with the player given three shots to hit every on-screen target. Hit the right number of targets per round and you can move on, miss the required number and it’s game over. Hit all ten targets to get bonus points.

All three game modes serve as fun little mini-games, and the simplicity of it provides retro charm. On the downside, all three modes put together don’t pack a whole lot of depth, which may effect the game’s replay value.Duck Hunt

The thing is, Nintendo has excelled at mini-game collections for years now, and regrettably, compared to even one of the mini-games of Nintendo Land, Duck Hunt feels shallow. It might seem unfair to compare an NES launch game with one from the Wii U, given the incredible leap in technology. But the sad fact is that while Duck Hunt may still be fun, it no longer feels as addictive as it once did. The simplistic gameplay is still charming, but the overall package doesn’t hold up quite so well on its own.

Duck Hunt is definitely worth a look on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, but you may find it becomes more complimentary to the rest of your Wii U and Virtual Console library than a gaming experience in itself. It may not be the go-to game on your Wii U menu, but it is a fun little deviation between meatier games.

 

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