Save your quarters, load up the credit card
When Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 over a year ago, it drastically updated the Xbox Live online interface and all of the features available. Perhaps the most interesting addition was Xbox Live Arcade, or XBLA, which has grown immensely in the last year. It's also become very popular among gamers, who have eagerly downloaded titles like Geometry Wars , Doom and Street Fighter II .
Nintendo, knowing a money-making venture when they see one, has introduced a similar service with the Virtual Console for the Wii. It isn't much different than XBLA; users can either buy Nintendo points at a store or simply charge points to their credit card online, and then redeem those points for a number of classic titles. Some of the hits from yesterday currently available include Bonk's Adventure , Donkey Kong and Ice Hockey . Most range in price from about $4 to $8, or 400 to 800 points.
The key to using the Virtual Console, however, is to get online with Nintendo's new machine. That's a first, seeing as how any internet service for the Gamecube, although originally planned, eventually fell by the wayside.
In order to get online with the Wii, the best method is to purchase a wireless router and a high speed broadband connection. Once you've got that established, connecting to Virtual Console is a snap. Nintendo requires the user download a few updates and then select their access point from any in the local area. It's very easy and leads to no headaches (unlike the first time we connected our original Xbox to Live). Then it's up to you to pay for a selected title, which downloads pretty quickly to your Wii's hard drive. It will then be visible in the Wii Menu every time you boot up the machine. Now that we think of it, that adds a whole new element to just renting a console…
Consider the Virtual Console lineup a fast car for driving down memory lane. There's much to choose from here, including titles once released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, arcade and even the TurboGrafx 16. The games are pretty hit and miss; Nintendo is clearly posting anything it can convert, and not necessarily the best titles. We downloaded the Sega Genesis and arcade smash, Golden Axe .
First released in 1989, the original Golden Axe (there were two sequels) pitted three different characters against the evil Death Adder and his troublesome minions. It took the side scrolling formula of the original Mario games and gave them a 2.25 dimensional treatment. The graphics, sound and characters were all far ahead of their time.
Today, Golden Axe holds up relatively well. The gameplay elements we often forget about older games – the kind that make you scream "cheap!" at the screen – apply here in earnest. The original Golden Axe is a very short game, but the limited experience provided is made longer since it's flat-out tough. The enemies look daunting (even by today's standards), the character selection is rare for classic titles and the multiplayer is very well done. Is it worth $8? Well, try renting Guelph Microplay's Wii; you can find out for free now that we've downloaded it.