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In order to boost the sales of the ailing 3DS Nintendo recently gave the handheld system a drastic price cut, a move that might have disgruntled those who had already picked up the console were it not for the Ambassador program. By way of apology to their most loyal fans Nintendo has promised no fewer than twenty games will be made available to anyone who registered their machine on the Nintendo eShop before the date of the price drop for free. Instead of new games the list is made up of ten NES and ten Game Boy Advance titles (only half of the GBA games have actually been confirmed at this point). The NES games, which are already available for ambassadors will also be made available to everybody else at a later date but they’ll have to pay for them. The GBA games however will remain exclusive to ambassadors. It’s a pretty sweet deal to make up for the missed saving and I happily downloaded all ten of the NES titles, a handful of stone cold classics mixed with a number of rather more forgetable games, at the first opportunity. Here’s the full list.

Super Mario Bros.

The Legend of Zelda

Zelda II – The Adventure of Link

Metroid

Donkey Kong Jr.

Wrecking Crew

Ice Climber

Mario and Yoshi

NES Open Tournament Golf

Balloon Fight

For this review roundup I will be considering six of these games. I reviewed The Legend of Zelda quite recently, you can read it by searching in the Game Reviews category. That game’s sequel, Zelda II – The Adventure of Link, Super Mario Bros. and Metroid are all games I’ve played before and I’m not planning to play them again just yet. The rest are all knew to me (with the exception of Mario and Yoshi, sort of) so having sampled them all here’s my opinion on each.

Donkey Kong Jr.

 

This conversion of the arcade sequel to the classic Donkey Kong which launched the careers of both the eponymous gorilla and Mario himself subverts the formula of its famous predecessor by casting the portly plumber as the kidnapper, DK as the victim, and his son as the would-be rescuer. Other than that the structure remains largely the same, four repeating levels in which you must reach the top whilst dodging peril, the only change to the gameplay is Jr’s ability to climb ropes. Donkey Kong and this sequel were relevant in their arcade heyday of the early eighties but after Super Mario Bros. revolutionised everything the simplistic concept became pretty outdated. There’s still a retro charm in chasing high scores here but the not particularly inspired level design and general lack of variety limit the game’s lifespan.

5.7

 

Wrecking Crew

 

This puzzle platformer featuring the Mario brothers challenges you to destroy various features of the scenery in each level while avoiding enemies. There’s no context for this mindless destruction and needless to say it’s not the most riveting concept. There is some strategy involved in choosing what to destroy when so that you don’t cut yourself off but it’s just not much fun. One thing you can do is design your own levels but this is hardly the most inviting prospect.

5.1

 

Ice Climber

 

Nana and Popo, a pair of eskimos best known these days for appearing in two Super Smash Bros. games first appeared in this vertically scrolling platformer in which you must collect vegetables and hammer enemies. The sluggish gameplay and samey level design fails to create an engaging experience but at least there’s a couple of decent tunes.

4.6

 

Mario and Yoshi

 

The Game Boy version of this falling block puzzler was one of the first Nintendo games I ever owned. You control Mario and rotate the position of four plates to move stacks of Mushroom Kingdom baddies and reduce the piles by matching two of the same type. It’s pretty basic stuff but you can also combine occasional egg shells to hatch Yoshis. Game A is the traditional keep-going-until-you-inevitably-lose routine started by Tetris but Game B challenges you to reduce stacks to nothing and thereby clear the level and is the more engaging. It functions perfectly well for what it is but won’t hold your attention for long. A good introduction to the genre for kids.

6.0

 

NES Open Tournament Golf

 

A late release in the console’s lifespan this golf game starring the brothers Mario is fairly deep in its mechanics and offers plenty of options. You must consider your choice of club, the direction and speed of the wind and how you hit the ball with every shot making for a satisfyingly robust experience. The visual presentation stands out with backgrounds changing depending on the position of your lie and even the odd basic cut scene. Needless to say it’s the best next best game on the list after the classics.

7.3

 

Balloon Fight

 

This diverting little game sees you controlling a balloonist in a series of scuffles with numerous enemies. By tapping A you gain altitude and most carefully use the physics to burst enemy balloons and then tackle them to win. It’s tricky to master but quite diverting. Better is the secondary Balloon Trip in which you must scroll (from right to left, atypically) dodging innumerable hazards in pursuit of high scores. It’s not scintillating but it works well.

7.1

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