People who bought the Nintendo 3DS early enough will now have access to 10 ‘free’ NES titles, which you will be able to download by accessing your Account History on the eShop. There is also the option to ‘re-download’ an Ambassador Certificate, which so far is an odd little application that simply asks you to sign up to SpotPass for future updates on the program.
All the games released have been available on the Wii’s Virtual Console for some time. It’s quite odd that Nintendo are still pushing these old console games, even on the new portable. I suppose it’s a lot easier for them to port the Wii versions over rather than perhaps some more Game Boy Color games? Unlike the Wii versions however, these games have been emulated properly, using letterboxing to retain the original screen ratio. The games also look crisper, thanks to the reduced size of the 3DS screen.
There are some problems with the overall button layout on certain games. In choosing to map the inputs on the exact A/B equivalents on the 3DS’s button layout, games like Super Mario Bros. becomes fairly awkward trying to run and jump. The current lack of the Virtual Console’s save state feature on these titles will make games like Metroid and the Zelda titles quite difficult to pick-up and play, so for those larger titles it may be worth waiting for the updated versions later in the year. The lack of electronic manuals is also disappointing, but as the games are pretty simple to control they’re not missed too much.
The games themselves for the most part haven’t aged too well, with many of them being simple arcade-type experiences with limited replay value. Players who haven’t experienced these before aren’t too likely to get beyond the primitive visuals and clunky controls for many of the games. Fans revisiting may also be surprised how raw and unrefined certain games now feel.
Overall, although the gesture is nice, the bulk of the games on offer here do only offer a limited amount of replay value. Most of these games I personally wouldn’t pay for, whilst the ones I would, I already own, several times in some cases. It would be quite interesting to see the Nintendo Channel’s playtime stats of titles like NES Open Golf Tournament a few months down the line. It’s surprising that Kid Icarus wasn’t included, especially with a long-overdue new entry in the series being a flagship 3DS release later in the year.
This is only half of what Nintendo has promised for the Ambassador Program, later in the year they will be releasing 10 Game Boy Advance titles free of charge on top of these games. After cutting its life short with the DS line, I’m pleasantly surprised Nintendo is giving out games like Metroid Fusion and Mario Kart: Super Circuit for nothing at all, as many fans likely missed out on such releases, although I’m sure down the line there will be a paid download for everyone else.
Super Mario Bros.
Even after being improved upon with later games such as Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, the original title is still one of the finest 2D platforming games ever to be made. Featuring 32 levels, gradually racketing up the challenge; you will be kept busy as there are also secret routes and areas to be discovered..
Whilst Link is partying with his two new titles, symphony tour and re-releases, Samus’ birthday celebrations are confined to two free titles within this Ambassador program, the other of which will roll on with the Game Boy Advance titles. The original Metroid was originally described as a fusion of Mario’s platforming mechanics and Zelda’s freedom to explore the game world; and that’s not a bad description. Although not as refined as the later Super Metroid, the original is still very enjoyable. The password saving system is fairly annoying though, but at least you can use the 3DS’s Game Notes feature to quickly copy them down.
The Legend of Zelda
Also celebrating 25 years with us is The Legend of Zelda, a title which no Nintendo fan needs an introduction to. If you’re up for a challenge, Zelda certainly offers it with nine dungeons, greatly increasing in difficulty as you progress. Fans who jumped on the post-Ocarina of Time bandwagon will likely be lost with the lack of hints as the game just drops you in the field and says “get on with it.”
Playing as Mario, you need to destroy objects in various levels to progress. The game is fairly boring and occasionally annoying as enemies instantly run out and kill you, with no way to avoid them, other than slowly walking up to a ladder, or dropping off a ledge.
NES Open Golf Tournament
Although the game features Mario, don’t expect a bunch of power-ups helping your game, this is strictly a basic golf sim. New players aren’t likely to have fun battling against the slow, unintuitive controls of this title. It really is difficult to go back to sport games like this especially after how far the genre has progressed.
Donkey Kong Jr.
Ported from the arcade release, Donkey Kong Jr. features only four levels, giving only a very limited replay value. Players guide DK Jr. across vines and platforms to reach the top and rescue Donkey Kong senior from Mario, in a twist on the original arcade hit.
A surprisingly fun little game that requires you to tap the A button to keep yourself floating. The main challenge comes from the Balloon Trip mode in which you need to navigate around obstacles as far as you can. The main Balloon Fight mode requires you to burst the balloons of enemies by landing on top of them. It’s fun and challenging, but like many of the other games here, I don’t see it being a title people will play over and over again.
Another fairly simple game as you guide the Ice Climber up various mountains. The game can be frustrating with the controls feeling very temperamental, especially trying to time jumps on moving platforms and not falling onto an enemy below. The major selling point of the original was its 2-player mode, which is absent in this early download.
Zelda II - The Adventure of Link
Although considered to be the black sheep of the Zelda series, I would argue that The Adventure of Link is just as good as the original, but a totally different experience. With new RPG-levelling elements and an increased emphasis on side-scrolling combat, Zelda II is a lot more difficult than the first title. If you’re up for the sometimes punishingly-unfair challenges of Death Mountain and the road to the final temple, you will find a game that does genuinely offer a sense of accomplishment when completed.
Mario & Yoshi
A very simple puzzle game, requiring Mario to match falling blocks of enemies to eliminate them, whilst trying to combine eggs to hatch Yoshi’s. It’s fun for a quick game, trying to beat your high score every now and again, but does lack any real long-lasting appeal.