A while back I wrote a little article where I sounded-off on which TurboGrafx-16 games should, shouldn't, and should but won't be available on the Wii Virtual Console. Once the Wii was released it started to rack-up more hits than I expected. So I decided to slap together a quick follow-up about some potential TurboGrafx-16 CD titles for the Wii Virtual Console
I haven't read anything to say whether CD games will actually ever be available over the Wii Virtual Console, I personally think it's unlikely. However, if you asked me a year ago if TurboGrafx-16 games would be re-released for new systems I would have laughed. The barrier to CD games though is the size. A TurboChip download clocks in under 1mb. A CD download, even with audio compression, can easily break the 200mb mark. OK, over a broadband connection it's not a complete killer but the Wii lacks a hard-drive so players would be taking that download hit a lot. Maybe you could drop the game onto an SD card if they can get around the whole piracy issue.
There's also the obscurity issue. The TurboGrafx-16 CD wasn't exactly a smash-hit system. Some nerds like me really got into it but the average gamer is basically oblivious to its existence. Despite the remote chances of any games being re-released; I decided to go ahead and throw together a should, shouldn't, and should but won't list for the TurboGrafx-16 CD.
Update (2007-10-21): Gate of Thunder was released for the Virtual Console this month. Although one of the smaller CD games, it offers hope that other titles will be released in the future. To clarify on a statement above.. when I wrote this article I assumed that Virtual Console games would be played online effectively re-downloading them each time, they are actually stored in the 512mb internal memory and can be backed-up to an SD card making CD games much more feasible.
Five TG-16 CD games that should be on the Wii
Ys Book I & II
File this under "no brainer selection". The TG-16 CD didn't exactly sell but when it did, Ys Book I & II was the game that sold it. The graphics and cut-scenes were the most colorful and detailed you could find. It was the first game I recall having voice acting. Not cheesy voice acting either, actual well-done voice acting. And then there's the legendary soundtrack. Falcom made the most of the CD format by including the highest-quality tracks to grace a console at the time. 14 years later, its soundtrack still stands out as one of best ever produced. It's one of the most polished, complete games I've played. Sure, plenty of games look better these days but lack the attention to detail that Ys Book I & II possesses.
Update: Ys Book I&II officially released for the Virtual Console. This is an absolute must-buy for TG-16 and old-school RPG fans.
Dungeon Explorer II
The original Dungeon Explorer was a launch title for the Wii virtual console. I hope it's a success because that would be a great indicator of whether we see more TG-16 titles ported over. At the time of this writing I don't yet have a Wii. Although I own a Dungeon Explorer cart I'd probably spring the $5 for the virtual version too. Half as a show of support, half because I'd probably play it quite a bit. Anyhow, Dungeon Explorer II is a big upgrade over the original. The world is at least twice as large, there are a ton of hidden playable characters, and the soundtrack is outstanding. It's a shame this game graced a relatively obscure platform and wasn't ported to another system. Technically speaking, it would have run perfectly on a Genesis or Super Nintendo, albeit with a lighter soundtrack. I can only hope the first virtual Dungeon Explorer release will generate enough interest to dig its sequel up.
Legend of Heroes: Dragon Slayer
I personally think that old RPGs are what could sell the Wii Virtual Console better than any other genre. RPG fans care more about plot and soundtrack than having the latest graphics. Old RPGs go for a mint on eBay, getting a virtual copy for $10 is a steal. Plus, it's one of the few older RPGs where you can actually avoid random battles. That's a huge relief for the player without an endless supply of free time. Like the previous two entries, the soundtrack is excellent. The storyline is pretty solid too. You play a young prince named Logan. Your father, the king obviously, was killed when you were too young to assume the throne. Naturally the dude who takes over decides he likes the whole King gig and you find yourself on the run. A lengthy quest to restore the kingdom ensues. Players looking for an old-school RPG would be happy with this one. (OK, OK, I'll concede there's some terrible voice acting at the end of the game. It doesn't manage to nullify all the positive qualities though.)
Nintendo is marketing the Wii at a broad range of customers, families and older gamers included. Splash Lake is the perfect game for this cross-market effort. The idea is simple, you control a cute little goose-like-creature who battles other cute enemies by pecking blocks to make them sink. It's an action/puzzle hybrid game that's paced well enough to keep skilled gamers entertained while not frustrating casual ones. It also has a two-player simultaneous mode that gels nicely with the Wii strategy of being a social gaming platform.
Lords of Thunder
This is the only of these five games that I'm personally not a big fan of. I was never a big shooter fan even when I had the reflexes to play them. However, I know that Lords of Thunder is very popular among hard-core shooter fans (actually, the TG-16 as a system was quite popular with them). It does some things that seemed novel at the time. You can tackle the levels in any order you feel like. At the start of each level you select the armor/weapon you'd like to go into battle with. Along the way you collect money which is used to purchase power-ups. It also features an ear-splitting metal soundtrack which alone will entice some to purchase it.
Five TG-16 CD games that shouldn't be on the Wii
The box for this game proudly advertised that it had a soundtrack by the Beach Boys. That's right, the Beach Boys. The average 18-25 year-old gamer in 1992 could really relate to that. "The Beach Boys? Oh yeah, that band of old guys and John Stamos that did that song in that Tom Cruise movie. I hate that song." The Beach Boys soundtrack was considered the best selling point of the game, the best selling point. Camp California has the plot of an average bad 80s surfer film only starring bears. Some evil corporation is going to shut down the beach to build something environmentally unfriendly. No city in their right mind would actually allow this of course but that's the plot you have to work with. Only crappy cities like Waukegan put a junkyard on their water-front but it's not a good setting for a game. "Woah dudes, let's save Waukegan" just doesn't work. Anyway, Camp California is one of the worst TurboGrafx-16 CD releases and ultimately deserves to stay forgotten.
There are two things early CD games are mocked for: terrible full-motion video and comical voice acting. Shape Shifter is filled with the latter. You start off in a town where basically everyone you talk to has a 5-10 second recorded dialog clip. I'm not kidding when I say there are 60+ tracks on the CD. The music is also horrible and repetitive. Nearly every song is a variation of the same theme. In some weird TG-16 tradition it features a barely clothed main character (see Legendary Axe II). There are very few games I've wanted to punch and this is one of them.
Cosmic Fantasy II
If CD games are ported to the Wii Virtual Console it will be incredibly tempting to release Cosmic Fantasy II. It carries the Working Designs brand which usually equates to top-notch RPGs. Unfortunately, Cosmic Fantasy II is one of the most annoying RPGs you can play. It's slow paced with a poorly constructed plot. It also suffers from the most random battles I've ever seen. I think the whole game could be wrapped-up in 30 minutes if not for the endless, monotonous barrage of foes. Toss in a few toilet jokes and you have all the makings of a bad RPG. I'm sure I'll get at least one hate mail for knocking Cosmic Fantasy II. Look, I'm a fan of most Working Designs games. Just because Working Designs published a game doesn't mean it's good though. I can even say a few good things about Cosmic Fantasy II. The graphics and sound are both very nice, the dialog is occasionally funny. However, the wacky plot and repetitive game play make this a title worth passing on.
Final Zone II
Back to the comical voice acting.. even if you rip out the vocals you're still left with a bad Heavy Barrel knock-off. On a scale of 1-10, the originality of this game scores a solid 1.2. There are at least 20 games with the same control and graphic style and they're all better. Yeah, something like Ikari Warriors might flicker like crazy but it's still a more enjoyable gaming experience than Final Zone II.
This is the only game on the list that I don't own an original copy of so you'll have to live without a screenshot. OK, OK, I don't own an original copy of Ys IV or Dracula X either but if they released them in the US I would. Every other game on this list I bought on clearance from 1993-1994 (working at a video game store had some advantages). Anyway, you're not missing much. Just close your eyes and imagine Final Fight, only crappier. Streets of Rage, which either is or will be on the Wii Virtual Console, absolutely blows this game away in every measurable category.
Five TG-16 CD games that should be on the Wii, but won't
Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys
Some fans of Ys Book I & II were disappointed with the side-scrolling style of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. I remember the same debate when Zelda II: The Adventure of Link came out. Like Zelda III, Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys returned to the more popular overhead perspective. Not content to replicate the look of Ys Book I & II, the visuals were given a nice upgrade. The soundtrack was on-par with the previous Ys installments and can stand-up to anything produced today. It was also loaded with cut-scenes and dialogs that help build the storyline.
Why won't this be on the Wii? Ys IV was never released in the United States. There is a fan translation of the game but nothing official. If they decide to release TG-16 CD games for the Wii, and if they release Ys Book I & II, and if it's a huge success, then maybe there's a 1% chance they'll go through the effort of translating Ys IV. That's a lot of "ifs" and I don't see it happening.
It Came from the Desert
It's hard to describe It Came from Desert for TG-16 CD. The best I can come up with is to call it an interactive sci-fi/horror film. Unlike other full-motion video games of the time, like Night Trap or Sherlock Holmes, It Came from the Desert intermixes action with the video scenes. It's not just "watch some stuff and make a choice", you have overhead and side-scrolling battles to get through. It also has a non-linear plot, no kidding. Yeah there are certain plot points you need to hit to finish, but there are several paths to hit them. You can explore and expand upon several storylines by the decisions you make. To that effect, it maintains a decent level of replay after you win it. There were versions of this game for PC, Amiga, and Sega Genesis but they're not the same (not even close really).
Why won't this be on the Wii? Although a big fan of the game, I'll be the first to admit that it has a very limited appeal. The video quality, which is somewhere below terrible, will turn off most gamers. Also, as I previously noted, Cinemaware exists in name only at this point.
Dracula X (Rondo of Blood)
Dracula X is probably the most imported TG-16 CD game in America. I remember back in the early 90s there was a Diehard Gamefan store out in Buffalo Grove. They sold overpriced PC-Engine CD imports to uber-nerds with too much money. See, back in the day there was no such thing as region encoding. The Japanese PC-Engine CD games played just fine on their US equivalent. Shooters were usually the most popular at stores like Diehard Gamefan because you didn't need to know Japanese to play them. By far though, Dracula X was the game to have. There was a good deal of Japanese dialog but at the end of the day it's an action game so American gamers could get by. Devotees to the series consider this to be one of the best installments, the best of the 16-bit generation at the very least (there's a Super Nintendo version that shares the same name but is scaled-down). It would certainly be a success on the Virtual Console.
Why won't this be on the Wii? Dracula X was never released in the United States so there'd be a good amount of translation work. With plenty of other Castlevania titles to choose from it's highly unlikely Dracula X will ever see the light of day again.
Update: Much to my surprise, Rondo of Blood was released for the Virtual Console. At $9 the price is a little high, but a complete bargain compared to buying an import copy.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
The third installment in the Ys series delivered another high-quality soundtrack and attention to graphical detail. The gameplay was a little shaky though. I didn't object to the change to a side-scroller, a game series needs to stay fresh. However, the control was imprecise and made for some tough battles. The graphics, sound, and plot are able to redeem it though. Ys III is fun and exciting and worth playing.. even if it is the weakest link in the series.
Why won't this be on the Wii? Releasing the Super Nintendo version of this game would be the path of least resistance. It's a much smaller download and graphically better. The US distribution rights to Ys III were owned by a company called Sammy which merged with Sega. I think there's a decent chance of seeing the Super Nintendo version but basically no chance of seeing the TG-16 CD one.
The sequel to the NES hit Shadowgate takes on the style of a King's Quest game. The control is a little tricky to manage on a two-button controller but after some initial frustration it's manageable. The puzzles are difficult and will challenge experienced adventure gamers. The medieval soundtrack and graphics set the atmosphere perfectly. Although quite a diversion from the original, Beyond Shadowgate stands as a solid adventure game.
Why won't this be on the Wii? Beyond Shadowgate was one of the final releases for the TG-16 CD. I doubt it sold more than a handful of copies and will be trapped in obscurity for good.