Guest blog post by Ben Rai @BenRai
Gamers let's dive head first in to the tale of the ReBirth trilogy, created by Konami for the now extinct Wiiware service on the Nintendo Wii's WiiShop channel. The series of games launched in 2008, starting with Gradius Rebirth, followed by Castlevania Rebirth and Contra Rebirth in 2009.
I downloaded all three of these titles, each averaging about £10. I was a big supporter of Wiiware and really encouraged the idea of developers contributing to the market with smaller ,shorter and relatively cheap games that were at least on par with the 16-bit Sega Megadrive or SNES era.
As consoles evolved, games had, and still continue, to become longer, much more complex, and time-consuming. Side-scrollers had basically become a thing of the past on mainstream consoles. This is changing somewhat now there are more indie game developers in the market, thankfully. However in the early 2000s, most of these smaller game developers were yet to exist.
I do believe that actually, despite some really enjoyable and well crafted Wiiware titles, that overall, the medium did not live up to its full potential. Far too many remote-waggling and silly party games existed in the library. I feel that Nintendo could have contributed to Wiiware a lot more too.
Why not produce a true Super Mario World sequel on the Wiiware shop to tide fans over until Super Mario Galaxy 2? It would have been simple to make, heck even fans make constant ROM hack versions online. Nintendo have said as much that they are afraid to produce a fully fledged F-Zero mainline game - so why did they not produce a Wiiware F-Zero game that basically looked like the popular SNES version, but with new tracks and cars? It would have been a very cheap endeavor and it would not only have given us a fresh take on a beloved SNES era game, but given Ninendo a gauge of interest in a potential bigger production. Nintendo dabbled in Wiiware with "NES Remix" 1 and 2, altering NES games - so why not do more with the SNES games?
That however is a whole other topic, but I am thankful that Konami made an effort in this case. While Contra as a series had been fairly quiet for a while, Castlevania had been mostly focused on its RPG style Metroidvania games. Konami also released Castlevania Lords of Shadow around this time period too. which personally, I am not a huge fan of. I like my Castlevania a bit more linear. I wanted to feel like I was playing a new version of Super Castlevania IV, or a new Contra 3. I got my wish with the ReBirth games. Now, let us take a look at the 3 Rebirth games.
First up, Gradius Rebirth. Now I will admit, I am not a huge Gradius fan. It is a series I have given very little attention to, and I am mostly aware of it due to the fact that you can play the first stage of one of the Gradius games as a mini game in "The Legend of the Mystical Ninja" for the SNES. However what I can say about Gradius Rebirth is that it is a solid and challenging game. By challenging I mean it is actually brutally hard in places.
Gradius Rebirth offers you a score mode on the main menu which hands you one life to get as far as you can. Highscores would go on to a leader board. Then you get the standard game mode with unlimited credits. You are able to select your ideal craft from a selection of 5 with their basic weaponry. Then you are launched into space to begin the adventure. Flying from left to right you will shoot enemies flying towards you while avoiding bullets and collecting power ups.
The first quarter of each stage begins with you flying through the vastness of space before smoothly transitioning into a new area, such as the insides of a spaceship or sand themed desert planet. The game consists of about 5 stages, with my favourite being the second, which is set in a classic shoot 'em up trope environment. The good old experiment ship full of pulsating pink brains, tubes with experiments floating inside them, barriers of flesh trying to trap you and floating alien bubbles. Topped off with a giant pinser clawed alien insect constructed of bones, pink slime and a big eye in the middle that is practically screaming "I am the weak spot!"
The game is constructed from varying remixed music and stages of past Gradius games, though it has some original bosses.Some stage salso have secret warp points that can allow you to skip an entire area and boss - but they are very difficult to locate. There is a very brief story, that is kind of placed into the game via text and images but it is nothing of real value, unless you are perhaps a hardcore Gradius fan who loves the series. And even then, I doubt you will care much, because this game and series is obviously about the fast paced, arcade shoot em up action - and the vibrant arcade styled music sure let's you know it.
Gradius Rebirth garnered mixed scores, averaging middle of the road to positive, due to a lack of multiplayer option, which would have been nice, and due to the issue of the game being very tough.
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