Operation Wolf, Columns III: Revenge of Columns

Nintendo Entertainment System

The game: Operation Wolf
Its cost: 500 Points

Operation Wolf is a shooter where rescue hostages by blasting enemies from a first-person perspective through six different stages. The original arcade game was controlled with a positional gun (Uzi replica for the win) mounted to the control panel of the cabinet. This control (which effectively worked like a glorified analog stick) allowed for some unconventional, yet precise shooting back in the day. Unfortunately, those solid controls didn’t translate well to a D-Pad, and that’s just one part of why the NES conversion here fails. Shooters (even of the arcade variety) have evolved leaps and bounds since this game. The fact that you have to scroll the crosshair across the screen to find your targets means you are going to take hits along the way. It’s just the arcade nature of the game to cause you as much damage as possible so you’ll insert another quarter, and that doesn’t translate well to a home environment. To finish it off, the original NES port offered optional Zapper light-gun control (while this Wii emulation does not) for more precision aiming, even if the slow trigger completely gimped your ability to rapid fire. You either had a slow cursor, or a slow trigger. Either way you were screwed on a home controller. The NES graphics look nothing like the arcade source material. This could possibly be overlooked if not for two facts. One: the game is broken. Two: there is a mildly better TurboGrafx version in existence. Why Nintendo went with the massively inferior NES version seen here instead of the later TurboGrafx port probably had more to do with cheaper licensing fees associated with the NES since it was their console. The Wii remote/Zapper (and their soft press buttons) could have addressed most of the issues that destroy this conversion, but their omission basically reduces this game to a gigantic waste of time, Wii channel space, and points.

You get to shoot and kill things

Horrific controls which reflect even more poorly on the already broken gameplay; Lack of Wii Remote/Zapper compatibility kills any remaining chance of enjoyment; There were nearly a dozen other ports to choose from than this broken one

Sega Genesis

The game: Columns III: Revenge of Columns
Its cost: 800 Points

Here we have the third installment in the original jewel breaking puzzle game. Wondering why we skipped the elusive “Columns II”? Sega never ported it home from arcades, so you best forget about it and move on. Compared to the original, Columns III is the Columns to get if you want to have a puzzle party with a group because the (surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable) endless single player mode has been axed completely. Columns III was created for the sole purpose of pushing the multiplayer mechanic. With that in mind, Sega went and added a five player option (something rare for a 16-bit game). Of course, there are also other options for smaller groups (2-player, 3-players, 2-vs-1, and 4-players). There have also been some tweaks made to the core gameplay, but most just get in the way of an already streamlined formula. There are three magical jewels. One lowers your garbage stack in multiplayer, while the other adds to your opponents. The third disposes of all jewels of a certain color and the flashing jewels place a curse on your opponent. Other than just being a lot to keep up with, the new magical jewels unfortunately have the same negative effect on the gameplay that the items in Tetris DS have. Namely, it introduces a random element into the game that levels the playfield. For party games, this can keep things interesting. The problem lies in the fact that the Columns formula itself isn’t very well suited as a “party puzzle” as some other action puzzlers like: Tetris Attack, Bust a’ Move, Puzzle Fighter, and even Tetris itself. Columns is just better as a single player game without the flash. It’s unfair to knock the graphics because Columns is a puzzle game, but stylistically the original had a better Egyptian/Mesopotamian vibe going for it than the more cartoony style here. Most of the new music is largely forgettable compared to the originals, but you might find one or two you like. Overall, if you’re looking for some single player puzzle fun, you’ll be better served with the original game already on the VC because there is no single player option. You either play against the CPU, or against another human(s). Assuming the majority of buyers are going to likely be playing alone; that knocks off a large chunk of this game’s appeal. Unless you are a massive fan of multiplayer puzzle games, there isn’t much to see here that wasn’t already done better in the original Columns.

Actual, working five player gameplay for Genesis with an emphasis on multiplayer makes for a good party game; New gameplay modes can mix up the formula for people looking for some variety in the gameplay

Endless single player mode is surprisingly absent; Some new additions to the formula do more to distract from the core gameplay rather than enhance it; The original game pretty much nailed the concept

Some images courtesy of vgmuseum.com