Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy

Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

Taito is a video game developer/publisher that has been in the industry for decades, from their work on arcade cabinets in the 1970’s to mobile device diversions in the 2010’s. As part of their somewhat storied history, in 1991, they released a license game called The Flintstones: The Rescue Of Dino & Hoppy, based on the popular animated television show. Oddly enough, the platformer was actually pretty good.

Gameplay

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

This is a one-player two-dimensional side-scrolling platformer in which the A button jumps and the B button attacks. This is already a promising formula, but with a lot of room to screw up. Fortunately for gamers everywhere, Taito did not take the somewhat typical route of cheaply, quickly producing the license title to try and take advantage of the fleeting popularity of the name recognition; instead, they packed in enough extras to add some intriguing gameplay dimensions, levels designed at least decently enough to provide a simple challenge, and all done with fairly slick execution.

The player controls Fred Flintstone who, beyond just jumping and swinging a big caveman’s club as an attack, has a few other maneuvers in his repertoire as well. Pressing down causes Fred to drop his head into his shirt, making him able to dodge certain projectiles he will encounter. Holding A during a jump will enable him to grab onto ledges, and pressing up on the edge will enable him to climb up, an essential move to completing the stages. Holding B powers up the club for a more powerful hit, during which Fred humorously waves it above his head until the release strike. There are items to collect as well, such as health items to replenish hearts (begins with three, five max), extra lives, and also including additional weapons. Once one of the three are collected, they can be activated by pressing up and B.

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

The ammo system is interesting. The three items are an axe, which is thrown upward in an arc that comes back down; a slingshot, which fires straight ahead; and, amusingly enough, Boomasaurus eggs which are laid then, a few seconds later, “explode” to kill all enemies on the screen or harm a boss. Using one of the weapons takes tokens. The tokens can be found by killing most enemies. The Boomasaurus eggs take ten tokens to use, while slingshot shots and axes take three, but grabbing a token adds five to Fred’s total, offering an economy of use whereby one slingshot projectile per each fallen foe giving a token item results in a net profit of two tokens per enemy, although the amount does max out at 100.

The levels express a diversity in physics effects at a couple points, though perhaps feeling a little contrived. There is the usual ice level, with its slippery surface; but also a neat twist on an underwater level where, rather than swim, it is still a platforming stage, but with reduced gravity. The truly contrived, at worst, comes with the Asian level, complete with stereotypical martial-arts enemies and 8-bit “Oriental” music.

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

Then there are the three basketball matches. Huh? Yeah, there is an overworld accessed between levels, offering route choice toward completion, which would be notable enough, but the truly noteworthy feature is the three one-on-one roundball rounds against Hard-Head Harry. The strangest part is that, if the player wins by scoring more points in the one-minute time period, the reward is one of three abilities granted by pressing Start and requesting from the Great Gazoo, who himself is a time-traveling alien who appeared on the show as the resident shark-jumper. The three possible rewards are temporary abilities to Fly, in which Fred dons wings and can head upward until hitting something; Jump, for which he hopes on a dinosaur and jumps a crazy height; and Dive, which is supposedly to help travel through water but is not really necessary, and even only helpful on a single level.

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

Oh, the plot, by the way, and forgive this second-person-voice reviewer for slipping into more informal language for the moment, revolves around the two beloved dino-pets being kidnapped by a diabolical evil doctor from the future, who breaks Gazoo’s time machine, spreading its parts across the world, which is the whole point Fred is defeating all the stages to complete the machine to chase the villain down. Along the way, Fred will run into other classic characters from the shoe, like Wilma and Barney, who tend to inform him of an upcoming boss fight, which all the stages end which, featuring enormous monsters and even, at the castle, a Dracula-like character, matching giant Frankenstens throughout.

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

The point: This is a solidly designed, thorough, professionally developed platformer, and done well by Taito, standing as a great example of what a license title can be and, dare it be said, approaches the level of Capcom’s license platformers. It does play a little slower, a little more strategic with its Prince of Persia-like edge-hanging, so it is not as much of a fast-paced game, but some players may even dig that. On the other side of the coin, the worst parts would have to be the knockback suffered with every enemy hit, and the sinister traps laid by the designers, including the need to take a couple leaps of complete faith to advance.

Graphics

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

Flintstones: The Rescue Of Dino & Hoppy looks pretty, sharp, and pretty sharp. The animated sprites are drawn well, the enemy designs are competent, and the levels vary widely in their appearance. Even the signature style from the show is used for Fred’s walk animation, with his exaggerated leg movements. The way Fred can creep along while holding B for a club strike is enjoyable. Yet among the strengths are a couple noticeable flaws: Primarily, the one-color backgrounds in some bits, startling when jumping across a broad chasm; and, in the game’s ambition, there are some minor flickering issues when dealing with the larger foe creatures.

Sound

flintstones-the-the-rescue-of-dino-and-hoppy

A weak point of the game, in this reviewer’s opinion, but for a very specific reason that not everyone may agree with: The background music tracks very heavily rely on painfully high notes. Even though the compositions themselves are fine, even achieving the right range of zany cartoon mayhem, the melody leans on ear-splittingly high notes. The sound effects are okay; if not difficult to comment on, considering the onslaught of eardrum-burstingly shrill tunes.

Originality

The head-ducking effect, the plot twist that shows an amazingly brilliant use of license property near the end of the game, the tokens-as-ammo weapons system, and other elements add up to this being an admirably creative platformer. Perhaps no one of its ingredients is in itself inherently completely original (for example, there are certainly other basketball games on the NES), but the combination is distinctively unique and proves to be a satisfying experience. The rating goes four stars out of five for this one.

8 Eyes

8 Eyes

8 Eyes

   This game is more of a Castlevania clone for pro gamers. You won’t find an easy way out of this game and you’ll definitely be crying over and over as to why you couldn’t find a certain way or reach a certain points. This game is painful and not only do you have to worry about your health but also of your bird’s health! Enjoy the ride….
     The music of this game is enchanting and will make you feel the atmosphere of impossible gaming! Yup, the music of at least the first part of the game is pretty much the horn of sound to your funeral. If you get through it, god bless!
     The graphics are actually awesome! The game itself looks beautiful and it does look well made. If the difficulty wasn’t such a big problem then you would be able to appreciate the pixels more often! Very well done by Taxan!
     The gameplay is as tough as you’ll find. I guess you can’t say it’s Battletoads tough but more like a very tough side scroller that you don’t want to play again. The game has decent controls but the monsters come from all places! You can’t find yourself in a good position at most of the times. Your bird doesn’t help much, you are at a loss!! HELPPP!!!
     Games like these aren’t as good to come back to unless you for some apparent reason fall in love with it. The game is too tough to have the will to come back to it. Check it out if you dare!

The game itself is just a decent Castlvania clone if anything. The difficulty may make it very tough to play through but if you are a real pro, you can over look it. Check it out at your own risk!

Mappy-Land

Mappy-Land

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Mappy-Land-

In 1988, developer Taxan offered the North American release of Mappy-Land, a port to the Nintendo Entertainment System based on an earlier arcade game. Like many other home console titles of the era, it was a serviceable version of the cabinet unit but with a step down in graphics, featuring never-ending gameplay in an attempt to garner high scores.

Gameplay

Mappy-Land-

The NES video game Mappy-Land follows the action of the protagonist, Mappy the Mouse, a police mouse in fact, as he traverses various areas in a side-scrolling platforming adventure divided into four stages of eight levels each, the eight levels almost identical but with slight differences in each world until they eventually repeat completely. Throughout the first world, Mappy must collect pieces of cheese; then, the second world, rings; then Christmas trees in the third world, before collecting baseballs in the fourth and final.

As he is doing so, he is pursued by small cats called Mewkies, a slightly larger cat on each stage named Goro, and sometimes differing foes depending on the level, such as level three that has monkeys on vines. Getting touched by any of these enemies loses a life, and losing all lives equals Game Over.

Mappy-Land-

The control is non-traditional, with the B button used to jump and the A button used to set traps, which are kept in an inventory amount at the top of the screen and can temporarily distract moving Mewkies when laid. Otherwise, this is a very vertically oriented game, with dozens of trampolines throughout that Mappy must use to choose which floor of different structures to traverse in order to find the necessary items in each realm needed to advance to the next stage. There is also a time limit, though not overtly shown; however, there are two warning sounds given before enemies increase or one outright kills Mappy. Sometimes a level, like level six with obtaining a cross to get past the vampire cat at the end, requires a secondary objective. Play continues as Mappy collects the needed items and advances to the end of each stage.

Mappy-Land-

Sometimes the trampolines are a bit touchy, and the third-level vines especially so. In fact, this entire game has a very distinct feel to its controls that takes some getting used to. Once you get used to it, you will find yourself smoothly traveling between the floors, using the trampolines, setting the in-level traps, grabbing the items, and traversing along as you conquer level after level, until the welcome reprieve in the castle side-level (like the church or haunted house on level six) of level eight when you race to try and gather the items in time for Mappy’s family member’s birthday party, etc. This is among the most obviously arcade-inspired of the NES games.

Graphics

Mappy-Land-

This cartridges looks okay in play, but not great. The colors are a bit washed out, to the extent that it can take a few moments to find a needed on-screen item at times, as they lack proper outlines and detail. It is of average appearance, taking the usual step down from the graphics of the arcade counterpart.

Sound

Mappy-Land-

Like other early titles, especially arcade-inspired renditions, Mappy-Land has upbeat, high-pitched background music. It is not as grating as some other examples, but is certainly not going to win any awards any time soon, either. The effects are simple, though very appropriate, such as the little ghost gun on level six, or the heavy noise of the bowling ball traps as they bounce along.

Originality

Mappy-Land-

The original concept is interesting, in that the characters have names and there is even a loose plot involving Mappy collecting items for his family members. The gameplay itself is just the natural, organic arcade advancement of previous item-finding, time-sensitive, high-score-seeking titles like Pac-Man, but with a heroic mouse and some more colors.

Overall, Mappy-Land is a very average game, if that “very average” phrase makes any sense. It will have its loyal adherents that have fallen into deep fondness with its mechanics and have mastered them, and it will also have its detractors who only grow further frustrated and annoyed with its play that can be downright difficult and annoying if you are not used to it. Its one endearing value is, pointedly, this learning curve: In a way, this video game is unique, and those who break it down into its basic foundational aspects may find the same satisfaction that other gamers have found when conquering Donkey Kong, Centipede, etc. But even if it is considered a tightly developed, perfectly challenging arcade-style port cartridge, its shallow play and inability to break any spectacular boundaries of quality lands it two and a half stars out of five.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Mike Tyson's Punch Out

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

The pick of the week is back! This time around, we take a look at this classic of classics! Mike Tyson’s Punch Out for the NES put Nintendo on top of the sporting world. Before there were the Mario Karts and Mario Tennis there was Punch Out! You couldn’t have a NES without this title. It’s still fun to this day so lets take a quick look at why it’s so great.
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
The musical score of this game is quite astounding. Did I mentioned there are only a couple of songs in the entire game? Well, they do the right job that’s for sure. The music will get you pumped up while the sound effects will reflect on how well you are doing in the fight. Be sure to tap the buttons real fast if you want to get up and fight again! You have been warned…
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
The graphics are great as well as the animation. They will keep you entertained even if you have beaten the game over and over. That’s what makes this game a classic. The characters are well animated and even though the game takes place in the same ring, you will feel in a totally different atmosphere as you move on in the game. Beautifully done!
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
The gameplay is where this game tops over all other categories. This game is so much fun to pick up and play, it’s just a very challenging experience. If you want to reach Mike Tyson, you must defeat an array of freaks on your way to the top. Can you handle the challenge?
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
The replay value is top notch. There is no way you will stay away from this game for long periods of time. If you want to let out some steam, then this is the game to do it with! Punch away your opponents and knock them out. Find new secret techniques and learn the enemy’s moves so you can defeat them easier!

To conclude, there is no doubt about the awesomeness of Punch Out. I’m sure you have seen everywhere how amazing this game is but the fact is that it’s not only great for use older gamers but fun for any new comers so if you have kids and they play video games then introduce them to this game if you haven’t! The SNES one is also fun! Till next week!

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars

Beetlejuice - NES

Before this review even begins, let me spoil the ending for you: This game sucks.

Beetlejuice was a movie license made into a video game for the NES, published by LJN (responsible for other film-related garbage like the horrendous Friday the 13th) in 1991. Keep in mind that, in 1991, the Nintendo Entertainment System had seen dozens of high-quality cartridges come and go, along with the usual tripe as well. Amazingly, some of the programming for this turd of a title was done by Rare, who would later make masterpieces like Goldeneye.

But Beetlejuice the video game was no masterpiece. Let us do this quickly and get it over with.

Gameplay

Beetlejuice - NES

The player controls protagonist Beetlejuice, an undead (yet has a life count) scary dude who wants to marry this living chick named Lydia and get a family out of a house and some other bits of plot that ultimately do not matter and are not made very clear. The B button stomps, the A button jumps, and this NES cartridge was not fully developed, as there are several places in the game where common sense would dictate something looks like a solid surface, but it is not, and you walk right through it and die.

Stomping is only good for little beetles, which pop out of beetle holes scattered throughout this sordid little adventure. Stomping them gives you health and money, the money which can be used to buy scares. A “scare” is a temporary metamorphosis into an alternate form that breathes fireballs, used to defeat bosses and clear certain obstacles. The scares are super lame and incredible disappointing, with hardly any true differences between them besides appearance, length of activation, and one lets you jump a little higher.

You cannot kill most enemies, and the environment is hostile, so you spend the majority of the game hopping around like a maniac trying not to die (even though you are undead already, remember?). This would be fine, except for two major flaws in this video game’s design: The control is terrible, making accurate jumps a process you need to learn by trial-and-error rather than intuitive gamer instincts; and the game has this one nightmarish feature, where the levels often scroll left and right, and up and down, but at many, many points, if the level scrolls up, you cannot go down. In other words, if you jump from one platform to a slightly higher one, and the previous platform disappears beneath the screen, you cannot jump back down to it. You die when you hit the bottom of the screen. Apparently, the developers wanted this “video game” to be as frustrating and difficult as possible. Supposedly, this is a platform game, but half the platforms are more hurtful than helpful.

Graphics

Beetlejuice - NES

This game looks okay. There are some still frames that look like characters from the movie, and one particularly creepy face shot of Beetlejuice that is reused every time something happens. But the actual gameplay graphics are not indicative of a producer that cared about its product, as the insect enemies look a little worse than generic and even the bosses are uninspired and bare-minimum. The highlight may be the infamous “snake” villain, which is truly frightening; though, this could just be because it is impossible to kill.

Sound

The music throughout is oddly upbeat, like those annoying background tunes in the Bugs Bunny games or what you would expect from a Capcom-developed Disney title. Bubbly, relatively high-pitched, and at a fast tempo, the music does not fit the on-screen visuals at all. Perhaps that was intentional, but whatever effect was being hoped for is clearly not achieved. The sound effects are dull and not worth mentioning further.

Originality

Beetlejuice - NES

The idea of collecting scares that lead to temporary transformations is the best thing this game has going for it, yet it is executed horribly and does not meet its potential. It is like gathering the best ingredients for a fantastic meal, only to throw them against a wall and scrape off what sticks. Sure, it is better than the worst options out there, but it really could have been put to better use. The transformations could have been more powerful, made Beetlejuice a different size, had an effect other than breathing fire (seriously, why the heck do most of them have the exact same effect yet cost varied amounts to buy from those stupid stores manned by the shrunken head guy?), or something, anything, other than the plain-vanilla, brief, underwhelming benefits we see.

The Beetlejuice NES game is bizarrely random and randomly bizarre, and this may be its final, lasting flaw. Certain parts faithfully recreate elements from the Tim Burton film, while others deviate whimsically. Some enemies can be killed, but others cannot. Sometimes you have to find a key or flip a switch to open a door, other times you just wander aimlessly hoping you find an exit. It is a haphazard, lazily developed, uninspired, completely below-par waste of time video game. Do you remember sorting through the discount bin at your local rental place as a child and finding those NES cartridges that were like 50 cents or cheaper, even when almost brand-new, and the labels were faded or missing or torn or written on? This is the definitive bargain bin game, the prototypical example of an attempt to quickly capitalize on a movie license without truly caring about the end result. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, go to the hereafter and stay there this time with your half star out of five.

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball has always been a thrilling experience wrapped in a simple concept. Hit everything you can and don’t fall, but lets crank that concept to a new level… Battle witches, skeletons, and steal from the devil, all while racking up points that count as gold for you to buy and improve your pinballs ability to slay your enemies. Pinball Quest for the NES brings these things to the table, and introduces the only concept I’ve played of a pinball fantasy action RPG. Featuring boss battles, flipper and stopper powerups, and yes the ability to trade with or steal from the devil.

The level design in the game is creative and every level carries a different objective. As you climb your way towards the top you will find the one annoying feature of this game, as everytime you lose on a stage you will drop down to the last and be forced to fight your way back up. A concept that keeps you playing and occasionally keeps you frustrated. The game features no game over, so there is no real reason to quit. The only other problem I have with the game is that the “Devil Flippers” while having the most power, actually are not worth getting as they sometimes decide not to work. However the other powerups only get better as you level them up. This game is worth a try to almost anyone who likes to play entertaining and creative games. When you pop in this game you’ll enter the world of a simple pinball on an anything but simple quest. Give it a shot.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

In 1991, the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was released in North America, heralding a new age of video gaming, where the home console machine was now a legitimate industry enterprise, and edgy new company Sega placed its Genesis system into heated competition, pittingSonic the Hedgehog against the famed Mario franchise.

The next couple of years would see a rapid-fire stream of new classics enter the video gaming fray, while the former 8-bit consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System would gradually phase out of production and first-party support. In the twilight years of the NES, developers had by then largely mastered and exploited the limits of the hardware, but demand was decreasing for their cartridges, no matter how excellent their gameplay happened to be. Perhaps sadly, a few gems were lost in the shuffle, and are nowadays somewhat rare. One of these titles was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, based on the television show and general mythos of the Indiana Jones films, and happened to be a solid game in its own right, as published in 1992 by Jaleco.

Gameplay

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

The player controls Young Indiana Jones, a courageous, adventurous protagonist who has an appreciation for history and a taste for dangerous situations. The game, interestingly enough, actually begins with a cutscene of an older Indiana Jones offering to tell the player about his younger glory days. The festivities then start in Mexico, where Indy gets involved in helping the villagers combat the oppressive regime of Pancho Villa.

Like any good platformer, the A button jumps while the B button attacks. Indiana begins with his trusty whip, which has a decent range as a melee attack. By attacking crates, he may potentially find other weapons; in fact, there are eight different weapons for his weapon slot while he adventures on foot, such as the knife, pistol, rock, and grenades. Each differs in their projectile characteristics; for example, the rock can bounce down across the ground, while the pistol fires its rounds straight forward across the entire screen, and the knife slowly descends with gravity after being thrown.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Along with the weapon slot, Indy also has a shield slot, though taken by headgear such as his classic hat, or the gas mask in France and Germany. While held, it allows Indy to take one hit before dying; and, if found when Indiana Jones is already wearing one, grants an extra life, hopefully adding to the three he begins with. Last is a slot for helpful items that have a temporary effect, like the enchanted necklace that grants invincibility, or the lamp that lights up the dark caves of the silver mine.

The game provides a decent pace of action; not quite Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man, but a respectable clip nonetheless, while traversing through the historical context of such areas as World War II-era Germany. There is even a flight level where Indy participates in dogfights with enemy planes, zeppelin, and even fights the Red Baron. Touches like that add to the appeal as Indy ends up killing a few actual historical figures; though, in classic NTSC-region censorship, there is no outright reference to Nazis or swastikas to be found.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Overall, this is a very solid platformer, worth playing, and as implied earlier, a hidden gem of the late-cycle NES library. Although the biplane stages in the middle of the game seem a little out of place and not as well done as the straight platforming, the overall experience is still worthwhile, enjoyable, and appropriately challenging.

Graphics

The areas are presented well, with each level and their sub-stages richly detailed per their location. The backgrounds are rendered very pleasantly, though perhaps the underground portions are easy enough, given their blank black background. The foregrounds are done well too, though, as are the animations. The sprites themselves are nice, but perhaps a little large, or could have at least done with more detail; this is one of those NES games that seems to have One-Color Character Syndrome, a disease with the symptom of all the characters being drawn in basically one color. Even the Super Mario Bros. had a two-color protagonist and some multi-hued enemies, but for whatever reason, many 8-bit platformers drew their heroes and bad guys in one dominating shade.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

 

Otherwise, the game certainly looks like a 1992 release; good for the console, but not stretching its limits beyond what was fairly standard for the time. The cutscenes that pan from one character to another are perhaps the most polished element intact, not to mention the iconic sight of Indy cracking his signature bullwhip.

Sound

Honestly, the background tracks and sound effects are not memorable. But they are composed with more punch than many titles, with the music providing the atmosphere needed for a world-spanning adventure. The explosion for the grenades and dynamite is nice; but, beyond the fun grandeur of the title screen, with its clever flame-fill of the logo, there is nothing here that qualifies as an ear-worm, although there is nothing venomously annoying, either.

Originality

The two-frame whipping animation looks suspiciously like a certain Belmont character’s stroke from the Castlevania series, and this game is based on a pre-existing media license. Otherwise, though, the three item slots, multitude of weapons, historical context, and just-plain-good platforming action set this apart as a worthy cart. One notable highlight of the gameplay are the physics: The way the rock weapon bounces a few times down inclines, or the brief time it takes to stop when running, even if some players would prefer a lack of inertia altogether.

In the end, this is a fine job by Jaleco, in the footsteps of Shatterhand, and a pleasant departure from the inundation of their sports library. Although it probably deserves something more like a 3.75, the quirky “why?” behind the flight level and a more-than-normal tendency to glitch out make this a three and a half stars out of five sort of game.

Demon Sword

Demon Sword

Overall rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Sword - NES

Released in 1989 by Taito, a developer perhaps best known for their arcade ports, Demon Sword was a rollicking foray into classic Japanese martial arts action for the Nintendo Entertainment System. With a mysterious warrior set against gorgeous backdrops fighting relentless horde of demon foes, this was a title that implemented some great ideas in a slick package.

Demon Sword was also remarkably similar to an earlier Taito release, The Legend of Kage, which was produced in 1986 from the arcade game of the same title. Both feature identical controls for throwing weapon, sword, and jumping, with storylines featured around lone fighters against out-of-nowhere enemies en route to boss fights and power-ups, and even the same flair for tree-jumping and background-climbing. In fact, the two games were so similar that pirate copies of Demon Sword were often re-labeled and marketed as Legend of Kage 2. It can only be assumed that Kage had such success that Taito decided to reload a the similar development engine to create Demon Sword.

Gameplay

Demon Sword - NES

Demon Sword boasts fast-paced high-flying gameplay that feels like playing a video game version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (though, in fair credit, that film paid homage to earlier Asian epics). Some may say that giving Demon Sword four stars out of five is awfully high for a cartridge clone of a game that was already an arcade retread, has sub-par presentation, holds limited depth, and offers a quirky difficulty level, but Demon Sword passes the fun test and gives us a game that is truly wondrous the first time you pick it up. If you have not tried it in a while, fire it up again, and remember how awesome it felt the first time you realized you could leap an entire screen upward and from treetop to treetop in one jump.

Demon Sword - NES

The player controls the hero Victar, who wields an old weapon, the titular “Demon Sword,” with which to battle the malevolent forces of the generically named Dark Fiend. Battling across three worlds of two levels each before the final world stage, this game utilizes the somewhat distinctive control scheme of having the up button on the directional pad jump, while the A button is a sword slash and the B button throws a dart. Whereas dozens of other platforms would harbor one button for jumping and one for attacking, Demon Sword instantly offered two buttons for attacking. This delivers wonderfully combative gameplay, and rather than marginalize the jump feature, it is quite

the leap, as the character seamlessly glides across the screen at superhuman speeds and heights. In addition to using the Select button as activation for spells that get collected, it is truly remarkable that so few NES title used a similar control scheme, when this one so clearly works to enormous enjoyment.

Demon Sword - NES

This can be a difficult game to master, especially some of the boss fights, but once you get the hang of the patterns of the infinitely generated hordes of enemies, it becomes a fun little romp. Victar can collect different power-ups; some that increase his life or respawn, others that change his speed or the speed of his darts, one that shortly allows him to throw darts in four different directions at one time, and keys that open special areas that reward miniboss-beatdowns with devastating special spells.

Demon Sword - NES

Demon Sword is one NES game that defies description: It is simply difficult to portray, in words, the b.a. awesomeness of being aiming to slash a sword, throw a dart in eight different directions, and jump like only a handful of other characters have ever jumped before, all while casting spells and collecting power-ups to defeat the relentless demon horde. It may not be for everyone, but this game is to arcade-style platformers what Guerilla War is to overhead shooters: A well-honed near-perfection that learned its lessons from previous, similar titles.

Graphics

Demon Sword - NES

The looks of the Demon Sword game are a step up from Legend of Kage, and intriguingly stylized, with colored outlines on the characters for example. Some of the background elements are perhaps too obviously tiled, almost to a distracting extent, but they are certainly colorful. Games like Ninja Gaiden boasted better and more dynamic level designs; however, Demon Sword definitely delivers in the “wow this game plays really fast and fluid without many flickering or sprite problems” department. A slick, somewhat-polished experience.

Sound

Demon Sword - NES

The musical accompaniment is nothing legendary, but provides an appropriately up-tempo beat for the levels, perfectly complementing the face-paced action. Otherwise, the music here is standard: The boss tracks sound like boss tracks, etc. The effects are simple, not understated or overwrought, and are standard without complaint with one exception: The sword-slash effect is very metallic, and sounds like contact is made even when you are swinging at air. You get used to it, but until then, it can give a moment or two of cofusion.

Originality

Demon Sword - NES

The control scheme for Demon Sword was masterful, seeming to provide an additional layer of gameplay that other NES titles could not offer. It may have been adopted from Legend of Kage, along with other elements, but no matter where it comes from, that control scheme should be lauded somehow, with the up button failing to catch on as a jump effect until the practice became nearly universal in the fighting game genre. Otherwise, the power-up system is well-done, if not completely 100% innovative; it is fun to know that some power-ups are immediate, while the magic spells must be earned in secreted areas and have limited use. The enemy designs are noteworthy as well, especially the bosses (one difficult-to-forget example: the old man boss on 1-2 that lobs overpowered bombs at you).

Demon Sword has its flaws: Quick play-through, learning curve difficulty, a hit detection radius that takes some getting used to, perhaps a penalty for following in Legend of Kage’s footsteps almost too literally, and a lack of polish in its audiovisuals. However, for taking the proven formula of the Kage game and refining it to provide one of the best, most intense martials-arts epic experiences on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Demon Sword throws four stars out of five.

Vegas Dream

vegas dream

Under the vibrant lights of the Vegas Strip, the tiny offering of hope at winning big empties, as it feeds the peoples common desire of having more. More money, more luxury… or maybe more Nintendo games. If u are looking for more games I’ve got one that can give you the thrill of gambling in Las Vegas without the worry of losing even a dime. The game is Vegas Dream for the NES.

Vegas Dream

Vegas Dream features multiple game modes such as slot machines, Black Jack, Roulette, and even Keno (if you didn’t get enough of playing that in the bar). But what makes this game stand apart from the rest is the added scenarios that happen at random… say an unfamiliar woman offers to watch a show with you. Maybe her intentions are good, or maybe she wants to steal your wallet and throw your money all over the Black Jack table. Throughout the game you will make choices during scenarios just like this, and they will have a heavy impact on the fate of your chips.

Vegas Dream will satisfy the needs of anyone unwilling to leave their home or lay real money on the line in order to get their gambling fix. I give this game a solid 8 out of 10 based on its genre, and I have never played a more enjoyable NES casino game. Give this one a try if you’re feeling lucky and if your luck runs out just remember… its always nice to have a reset button when your cash is on the line.

Twin Bee

Twin Bee

So this week we have some Twin Bee. I know I’ve talked about this title way too many times but it’s always nice to come back to it. This is the classic shooter you need to have in your collection. Nintendo made it very easy to have this in your Wii or 3DS although I do suggest you pick up the original Famicom port of it. Why? Because it kicks ass! There is nothing like the original! So without further adieu, here is Twin Bee in a nutshell.

twin bee

The music of this game is pure classic! There may only be one theme song on it but it’s only that one that makes it a classic. You can even find places like Youtube packed with remixes of the theme song. The sound effects are as simple as any shooter of its time. Truly enjoyable.

twin bee

The graphics are pure and simple. The game does a good job on making you feel like you are in the air. You fly through islands and even shoot down pineapples that shoot seeds at you. Yes, there is a lot of different weird enemies in this game. Another reason why it’s unique. Gotta love how your flying ship looks like as well. A total array of beautiful yet creative creatures.

twin bee

The game is great to come back to. You can always get together with a friend and play two players at the same time. The game is quite challenging! You can’t get enough of it especially after you get through it once. You get a more difficult second run. Care to challenge it?

The game overall is amazing. I would recommend it to any shooter fan that’s looking for something simple and fun. Games like these are also brought into new generations especially with the release of the 3D classics Twin Bee for the 3DS. Be sure to check it out if you have a 3DS. The game is quite affordable and even comes in the most generic pirate carts. There are so many ways to acquire this one that I won’t even go further. Just go get it and enjoy a good time!

1943: The Battle of Midway

1943 - The Battle of Midway

1943: The Battle of Midway

In late 1988, Capcom released a vertically scrolling military-themed shoot-’em-up called 1943: The Battle of Midway, based on a popular arcade machine. How would the home release for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console compare to the stand-up cabinet?

Gameplay

At the risk of spoiling the entire review by getting straight to the point: 1943 set the golden standard for scrolling shooters on the NES. That is the thesis statement at work here, and it is supported by the tight, richly enjoyable gameplay on hand in the cartridge.

1943 - The Battle of Midway

The player controls a P38 fighter plane over the seas by the Midway Islands in the midst of a World War II setting, complete with several types of enemy aircraft with opposing seacraft as well. The B button fires the cannons, while the A button executes a special screen-blasting special attack, at the cost of using up energy. Energy is metered via a counter at the bottom right-hand side of the screen, and costs about 10 to use a special attack, generally speaking. However, it slowly decreases anyway, just from making forward progress, necessitating refills be gained from certain defeated enemy types.

Fortunately, the P38 has quite an armanent at its disposal. Holding the B button for a couple seconds elicits a sound indicating that, upon release of the B button, a more powerful shot will be fired, handing for taking down bigger planes quicker and generally just having at-ready. Pressing A and B together will perform a defensive “loop-de-loop” maneuver to dodge tense situations; perhaps a godsend, considering that the amount of enemy rounds fired and overall on-screen sprites makes this feel like an early “bullet hell” shmup at times.

1943 - The Battle of Midway

In fact, this game is somewhat renowned for its toughness, and the evidence supports the reputation. There are a couple dozen meaty levels to be conquered, each with a boss ship or mini-boss challenge to defeat. While power-ups such as more powerful main gains, multi-directional shot, or even little sidearm ships for additional firepower can be gained, they can also be quickly lost as well.

Getting hit by enemy fire or craft does not instantly kill, unlike in other shooters such as 1943’s predecessor, 1942. But they do whittle away at that energy meter, which gets an amount refilled after each level. Adding to the gameplay complexity is the fact that the protagonist plane is rated on a handful of specifications, such as offensive power, defensive strength to offset damange, special attack strength, maximum energy count, etc. These statistics can be given an extra point at designated battleship stations blown up near the end of a level, in addition to a few being designated at the beginning ot the game, too.

1943 - The Battle of Midway

The player is offered passwords upon death for later entry; that being said, 1943 is still definitely a challenging game. The good news: It is very fun. This is a fast-paced, relentless, thumb-cripplingshooter, offering as much pure action as any other, yet without any of the usual NES hardware issues concerning flickering and showdown.

This game offers a true test, even for shoot-’em fans. The design is tight, the waves approach with just the right mix of anxious panic without seeming completely impossible, and the entirety feels appropriately tense, even desperate, maybe adrenaline-pumping. The projectiles fly fast, there are pleasant little pacing cuts between levels, and points are kept for those old-school arcade-style high-score seekers. In fact, some bonus items occasionally emerge to be picked up for a tidy allotment, such as a cow or strawberry. Seriously.

Graphics

1943 - The Battle of Midway

This game looks fantastic. As mentioned, the flow is quite smooth, quite pleasurably so. The frenetic action is never interrupted by distracting flickering problems or other graphical headaches. The ship designs are sweet, managing to give each craft a distinct flavor, even with the limited number of pixels available for use. The carrier-sized seafaring ships truly feel huge, as the player fights just a portion of them at a time. Medium-sized green planes might drop miniature black planes. The backgrounds are even gorgeous, with a few different scrolling backdrops of oceanic appearance, and the lazy gliding of puffy clouds passing by. Especially considering the relatively early release of this game in the NES life cycle, kudos to Capcom for managing to seemingly master the palette and animation techniques of the resources provided.

Sound

The sound, however, is another matter from visuals entirely. Now, that is not to say that the soundtrack of 1943: The Battle of Midway is terrible or atrocious. No, this is not the case at all. But there are a couple of unfortunate tracks; namely, primarily, the high-pitched wince-worthy nightmare tune that plays whenever the player’s energy level drops to a life-threatening level. There is another background melody that emerges at some points that, although maybe intentionally, manages to offend the senses with a bizarrely arranged minor key, despite the catalogue otherwise showcasing skillful rendering of the available sound channels. The effects themselves are fine enough, giving just enough oomph and noise to support the urgent mood of the game, though not altogether mind-blowing in their delivery.

Originality

1943 - The Battle of Midway

In terms of originality, this game cannot quite be cited as especially visionary, considering that “military-themed vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up” was already pretty much an established sub-genre by the time this cart arrived, which itself is an arcade port. Even in examining the in-game mechanics, there are some nuanced brushstrokes of innovation, but nothing groundbreaking.

But if the formula works, why tweak it too much? This game, 1943, feels like a near-masterful workshop on the shmup trop, a clinic delivered for old-school fans of the scene. To speak on a first-person note, I think the always-decreasing energy meter is a poor design choice that makes more sense in a quarter-sucking arcade than as a home game that shold be encouraging survival and diligent replay, but other than that, there are no major flaws here. This title truly set the bar, and shoots down four stars out of five for its valiant efforts.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

Batman

Batman - NES

Batman

Fuse together challenging fast paced platforming, gratifying fighting action, and an unmistakable awesome soundtrack. Now put it all into one video game and what you get is Batman for the NES.

Batman - NES

It remains to be one of the more memorable games of my childhood, and features one of the most unforgiving final boss fights I’ve ever encountered in a game. This game is based on the first Batman movie, although you may forget that once you see Batman’s purple suit, never before seen enemies, and some off the wall boss fights.

Batman - NES

 

You will find yourself beating down enemies, ninja gaiden wall jumping, and batarang spamming all the way to the Joker. A challenging, exciting, and highly enjoyable game in every way… this is one you dont want to skip over.

Barbie

Barbie

Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars

Barbie-nes

In 1991, Hi Tech Expressions developed a video game for Mattel called Barbie, based on the popular doll of the same name. If someone were to read this review and think, “I have never heard of Hi Tech Expressions,” there is a reason for that: Barbie was a terrible video game. To repeat, for emphasis: Barbie is an absolutely dreadful video game.

Gameplay

In this one-player horizontally side-scrolling two-dimensional platformer with loose run-and-gun elements, precision-jumping obstacles, and item-gathering, the sole controller controls titular protagonist Barbie, a blonde female who embarks on what the game’s opening narration describes as a “glamorous quest full of fun, magic and adventure.”

Barbie-nes

Instead, the player is rewarded with a bore chore full of ineptitude, impossibility, and irreconcilable flaws. The slow-moving, low-jumping Barbie is an enormous on-screen presence, which is quite a detraction considering that every object and being in the universe is trying to kill her. There are harmful elements that are literally impossible to avoid, the first of which is a bouncing tennis ball being batted down at the floor repeatedly by a floating tennis racket possessed by demonic spirits. Actually, it is technically possible to pass without being harmed if you begin walking and time your passage precisely, but the exactness required just to pass under a freakin’ tennis racket is far out of line.

Graphics

Barbie-nes

The title screen is easily among the top ten worst-looking NES video game title screens of all time, featuring a horribly mutilated/pixelated Barbie doll with splotchy, patchy skin and hair and clothes and whatever, it just looks gruesome. The actual gameplay does not get much better, but at least there are cutscenes in which Barbie performs exciting feats like sleep and read books.

Sound

Barbie-nes

The music is not rendered with skill, instead relying on repetitive sound that just thump-thump-thump a rhythm while too-high notes try to sting the ears of players. Perhaps somewhere within the level tunes was a worthwhile melody that merely got butchered by an incompetent development team, but what resulted was merely a notable fast-paced boogie there and a weird techno-pop track here. Players had better like boops and beeps and squealing bubble-gum melodies because Barbie serves it up non-stop.

Originality

Barbie on the NES is not even the best NES video game based on a toy, considering the G. I. Joe games and other examples. Perhaps its only visionary quality is that t could be lauded for being among the earliest video games to feature a female protagonist, even if Metroid could claim that feat three years prior.

Barbie-nes

The true tragedy of this game is that it could have been a championing lightning-rod title for female gamers and girl geeks everywhere, except that it was a terrible game with a shallow message, underworked theme, and bland storyline. The result is a Barbie video game that still gets rightly made fun of, since insulting it is at least a thousand time more enjoyable than actually trying to play it. Being seen as a potential challenge for die-hard NES enthusiasts, and the bizarre quirk of that weird “weapon” you can see Barbie throwing around from the beginning of the game, is the only reason this even gets a half star out of five.

Alpha Mission

Alpha Mission

Alpha Mission was originally an arcade cabinet, produced in 1985, before being released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home console by SNK in 1987. Cribbing from the earlier shoot-’em-up mechanics of Xevious, this title is perhaps best remembered as a cartridge for shooter purists only.

alpha mission-nes-gameplay-screenshot-1

Gameplay

Alpha Mission is a vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up with the typical science fiction flavoring of alien landscapes, starfield backdrops in space, big alien bosses, and starships sporting formidable firepower. Like Xevious, the player can fire at airborne enemies or ones affixed to the ground. The B button fires the laser that hits fellow aircraft (spacecraft?), while the A button launches missiles for fixed ground targets. The environment automatically scrolls, and the player is given free reign to fly about the entire screen.

There are twelve stages, which repeat in true arcade style toward the goal of just getting a high score, and loosely grow more difficult, beginning with new flight-tracking enemies in Area 2 and proceeding toward the eventual all-out madness of double-digit stages. The end of a level has a juicy fight with a big, bad alien boss.

alpha mission

Power-ups can be gained via colored letters found on the battlefield, primarily by destroying ground targets. These can provide upgrades such as increasing the strength of the laser, increasing the strength of the missiles, and enabling faster movement speed.

Along with the score, there is also an energy meter, which grows by increments of 2 each time the letter “E” is gathered. Increasing the energy meter total unlocks additional types of weapons and other options which, when can be afforded, are selected by entering a selection screen with the Select button. Examples include an eight-way shot and a short-range-but-constant flamethrower.

These elements, in and of themselves, do not necessarily comprise bad game design. A very workable, playable shooter can be formed from these components. In fact, ingredients such as power-ups and differing weapons have been combined to create some of the greatest shooters of all time. However, rather than content to introduce these items and merely tweak them closer to perfection, Alpha Mission instead tears itself off the hinges with some poor choices along the way.

alpha mission

Case in point: There are power-downs; in other words, not all of the gainable items are beneficial. There are items that decrease weapons power, items that decrease movement speed, and even a letter just to throw the player back to an earlier point in the level. This only makes the game less possible to enjoy, to a potentially downright irritating extent, and takes quite the imaginative stretch to defend as a good idea.

Furthermore, the mechanic for weapon selection is maddening. It can be admirable to make this a player choice, rather than simply shift the weapon as the protagonist ship passes over a power-up. But the mechanic used here is terrible: Pressing the Select button opens up a black background, onto which are pased icons for different power-up, depending on what the player can afford. There is, too, the icon of the ship itself. The player actually has to take the time to maneuver the ship over to an icon and, once over it, press Select again. The effect is not always smooth; during a boss fight, this can cause the boss to reappear. Also, pressing Select again will suddenly cancel the power-up out and return to that selection screen, which can be dubious depending on the weapon being used, since different ones use up the energy meter at different rates and may not be immediately available again. This method of choosing weaponry is slow, clunky, buggy, and just plain bad.

alpha mission

Alpha Mission already suffers a blow in being ported to a television setting, since vertically scrolling shooters are much more apt to their original arcade screens, oriented to provide an optimal perspective and taller screen. With so much working against it, and forcing the player to deal with a ship that begins so slowly and existing under the constant threat of downgrades (which, by the way, actually serves to discourage quickly going after power-ups, which seems outrageously philosophically counter-intuitive of shooter design), this video game is just not good. Even worse, it is not fun.

Graphics

Aside from decent production values and the nifty way missiles accelerate to full speed a moment after being fired, not only is Alpha Mission graphically unimpressive, but even has some noteworthy issues. The flickering and slowdown problems in this game are atrocious. Enemies constantly blink in and out of existence, some projectiles cannot exist on-screen at the same time as others, and the slowdown happens often enough to truly be a drag. Even if some of the boss designs are interesting and the backgrounds crafted with pixel-precise skill to an extent, these potential visual treats are muddied and muffled by the display problems.

alpha mission

Sound

The background music is too repetitive to be considered high-quality, and the sound effects lack any sort of crunch, punch, power, gravity, or oomph. What more needs to be say? This is a video game that provides only a bland little snack for the ears, and does not manage any aural feats worth mentioning, despite the best efforts of those who composed the basic tracks. In fact, if you hate the music, you are completely out of luck, since it even plays when the game is paused.

Originality

At first glance, Alpha Mission seems like the average 8-bit shoot-’em-up with a generic premise and arcade-style gameplay. At its core, the formula presented is not completely awful. The lesson to be learned here is that execution is everything, and the execution here misses the mark. This game is not original, visionary, or innovative in any discernible way, save for maybe its stupid weapon-selection screen mechanic.

This is an example of a game where nothing about it seems great and everything about it seems to have a problem. There are worthy complaints to air about Alpha Mission. For its crimes against the shmup genre, arcade ports, and the act of gaming in general, this mess gets one and a half stars out of five.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

Banana Prince

Banana_Prince

Banana Prince

Banana Prince is one of those missed gems that very few people know about. The game is genius! It’s such an enjoyable game! Why? Because it’s pure simple side scrolling action. The music is also gorgeous and the animation of the game is excellent. This is a must have for any collector!
Banana_Prince
The music is incredibly enjoyable. You will definitely not forget the wonderful tunes you’ll hear from this game. They are quite memorable and catchy. The sound effects are also excellent. There is very little to hate about the sound score from this gem.
Banana_Prince
The game has amazing animation and excellent detail. The developers made sure the game was animated enough for an awesome experience. I can’t say I’ve played a more animated and detailed game as this one for the Famicom. Then again, there are 1050 titles for the console so there might be others. Nevertheless, this game looks stunning!
Banana_Prince
The game is a simple platformer that is just too fun to put down. The game has a lot of different features from such games as Super Mario and even Zelda 2. Combine those two schemes and you have an awesome title if done right that is. Be sure to check it out! FUN FUN FUN!
Banana_Prince
The game itself is great. You’ll definitely have to come back for another run. The game is a great experience from beginning to end. Any platformer fan has to try this one out. The animation and beauty of this game makes you want to come back for more!

So to conclude, the game itself is a must have for any retro collector. If you want to go for the Famicom title, might as well get it complete with box and all as it’s very gorgeous to look at. If you want a US release, there isn’t one! You’ll have to get a reproduction of it though which is the next best thing!

Archon: The Light and the Dark

Archon: The Light and the Dark

Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

Activision is among the most prolific video game developers in history, spanning several decades of production for retro and modern systems alike, responsible for titles like the infamously atrocious Ghostbusters cartridge for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) yet also for the explosively popular Call Of Duty series. Somewhere in between, in terms of quality, lies the 1989 video board game Archon.

Gameplay

Archon is a unique game. It is like chess, in the sense that it is played on a similar grid of a board, and strategy heavily lies on most advantageously using pieces with different abilities. However, there is one enormous difference: Rather than instantly taking an opposing space when you move your piece onto a square occupied by an opponent, you must fight to earn it.

Yes, every single time a player moved into a space that is already occupied, the screen shifts to an arena, and the two pieces then fight to the death. It is even possible for both pieces to die in battle. Either way, the lack of a guaranteed takeover makes every skirmish of tantamount importance.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

This also adds to the depth of the variety of pieces; not only do they move in certain ways, but they are also different in their battle mechanics, sporting health meters of different sizes, melee or projectile attacks, even differing in the speed, strength, and rate of reload per those projectile attacks.

If that were not enough to make the game interesting, the pieces are divided into the Light side and the Dark side. They are stronger if on a square of their side; for example, if a Dark piece is on a dark space, its health meter is longer. But rather than simply have a grid with every other space sporting an allegiance to Light or Dark, there is also a swath of spaces that fluctuate their coloration. After the second player’s turn, they turn a shade darker or lighter, cycling through four shades until reaching the maximum saturation, then going back toward the other extreme. Being in one of these spaces, then, means constantly shifting between a position of power and that of weakness.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

There is no concept of “check” or “kinging” in this board game. The victory condition is to either obliterate every opposing piece, or occupy the five special Lumina spaces on the board. Of course, these five spaces are all of the color type that shifts from darkness to lightness, forever back and forth.

One other quirk applies. Each side has a magician; for the Light side, a wizard, and for the Dark, a sorcerer. Not only are they powerful in combat, with a very strong projectile attack, but they can also cast a spell on the player’s turn instead of moving a piece. These spells range from Teleport, which moves a piece (of either allegiance) to a different space on the board; to Revive, which brings a previously defeated piece back onto the playing field; to Heal, which recovers a piece’s health, since drops in health do stay in play, unless the piece is allowed a few turns to heal naturally; Summon Elemental, which basically attacks an opposing piece with a one-use powerful being in hopes of earning the kill; and a couple others, all of which are good for one use.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

The directional pad obviously moves the cursor from space to space and the pieces once selected with the A button, with the B button canceling an unwanted or accidental selection. Also useful to know is that the Down button is what is used to scroll through available spells, and the Up button speeds up the opening scene of piece-placement and any in-game text. Combat is handled by pressing the A button to attack and using the d-pad to maneuver.

Archon exists within a medieval fantasy motif, with the Light side commanding a phoenix, knights, and unicorns, while the Dark side commands a dragon, trolls, and even manticores, among other fiends. The battlegrounds may appear as a slimy dungeon, or a fiery hellhole, or a spooky graveyard set. It truly manages its own distinctive experience for a video board game, and with the option to play either against the computer or against a human opponent, a couple decent chunks of replay value present themselves.

Graphics

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

The battle scenes look darn good, with enough 8-bit graphical quality to appropriately fit in to another genre if it ever tried. The board itself looks alright, though the flickering of the five power spaces is a little off-putting. The pieces look alright, rendered as two-tone icons, and slightly enlarge during battle. The playscreen is cast onto an odd purple-brick background, though manages to not massively offend the senses. The animations are smooth, action proceeds at a satisfactory clip, the menus are legible; really, overall the game looks fine, its only “flaw” being that it never really takes it up a notch in its visuals, since the vast majority of the video game takes place on either the board screen or the battle screen. Also, one complaint is that the tones of blue used for the Lumina spaces are, honestly, difficult to discern in terms of which is darker than another. Grayscale may have been preferable. Speaking of grayscale, the title screen looks sweet, split into black and white, with two serpentine dragons hissing and claying at each other over a strange geometric figure.

Sound

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

The strange, dual-layer background music that comprises the gameplay gets old fast, and it may be preferable to play this game muted. Or, rather, it would be, except that the game makes the sound absolutely essential: During battle, a chime lets the player know when their projectile is reloaded and ready to fire again, using a lower tone for the Dark side and a higher tone for the Light. The more upbeat battle track is solid; though, again, gets repetitive. The tones, at least, are delivered with solid fidelity and clarity. Fire attack buzz like cackling flame, arrows slash through the air – those are the auditory highlights. The music is the worst part, in listening terms.

Originality

One thing Archon can certainly say is that it is a one-of-a-kind video game for the NES. There were plenty of other board games to choose from, whether classics like Monopoly and Othello, or hybrid-genre titles like Anticipation and Bible Buffet. By inherently linking battle attributes to its pieces, Archon adds a unique layer of tactics.

Unfortunately, enjoying those tactics may be difficult, because this game has one big deficiency: There is no choice for computer difficulty level. Yep, the same computer that seems to have masterful control over their weakest pieces will always relentlessly hound human opponents in battle, while having the same projectile-timing weaknesses every single fight. Perhaps obviously, Archon is best played with another player, yet decades later, can an interested player find a second?

The concept is sound, and not executed badly, but the lack of gameplay depth, beyond the foundational rules, is a big hindrance to replay appeal. At least the pieces in battle can both move and fire in eight different directions, which is cool. In fact, “cool” may be the perfect word to describe a neither-hot-nor-cold rating score of three stars out of five.

Seicross

Seicross - NES - Gameplay screenshot -1

Seicross

My brother and I can both agree that Seicross is an underrated game for the NES. If you own a Nintendo Entertainment System and don’t own Seicross, then you probably should.

It might not be the best game ever made, but it sure is a lot of fun. It’s one of those games that no one really talks about, but it’s there and it’s awesome!

Seicross - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Seicross, originally an arcade game called Sector Zone was later ported to the Famicom and NES. It’s kind of a side scrolling future motor bike shooting game.

Seicross - NES - Gameplay screenshot

During game play the player rides a hovering motor bike racing through each level, shooting enemies, collecting energy and saving your blue friends. All of the levels are similar as in they scroll right, but there are the “FAST” levels and the “SLOW” levels and you’ll notice the differences. The fast levels have enemies on motor bikes chasing you around while the slower levels do not, but they have a lot more obstacles.

The game continues on until you lost all of your lives. This game can be forgiving as you can obtain lives easily by racking up the points. More points = more lives. You can find this game pretty cheap on ebay so if you’re looking for some good cheap fun, check this game out. You won’t be disappointed.

Wayne’s World

Wayne’s World

Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

waynes_world

Wayne’s World was a 1992 film based on a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch centered around the public-access television program hosted by Wayne Campbell, as played by Mike Myers, and Garth Algar, as performed by Dana Carvey. The two long-haired metalheads would provide humorous commentary on recent events, people they knew, bands, and chicks. The movie was popular enough to not only place new catch phrases into pop culture, but to spawn a video game, as released in 1993 on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. The game is a side-scrolling platformer developed by THQ.

Gameplay

Alternating between laser-gun-wielding Garth and kung-fu-kicking Wayne, this one-player game has the respective protagonists traversing bizarre side-scrolling environments in which they are attacked by such enemies as living musical instruments and nefarious human beings. The A button jumps and the B button attacks. The levels have multiple stages, requiring the player to go through one area to find a door to go through to the final portion, or perhaps defeat a mini-boss.

waynes_world

In typical THQ fashion, the level design is less than extraordinary. On the first level, for example, Garth literally just has to walk to the right while firing his gun in order to reach the finish, despite the fact that there is an upper level of bounceable drums to travel across if he wished to. Other stages feature precision-jumping parts, annoying fly-over type enemies who bomb the character, and occasional items dropped to replenish the health bar. This is a bare-bones, minimalist, very basic platformer effort, and tellingly behind the times for a 1993 release. There are also amusing screens between the levels where Wayne and Garth engage in witty banter.

Graphics

waynes_world

This is a THQ product, so the visuals are subpar. Vast expanses of background are cast in a single-color palette, and usually an unappealing one. The enemies flicker, the level elements look like they were drawn by a grade-schooler in Microsoft Paint, and the entire experience feels like a narcotics-induced hallucination. Perhaps that was the intention. The highlight may be the shadowy green hues in which Wayne and Garth are cast for their cutscenes; which are hardly so, even, as they consist of a single static image with on-screen text accompanying.

Sound

waynes_world

The sound effects are dull, one-note renditions of the simplest degree possible, outdone even by many Atari 2600 titles. The background music seems underdeveloped; not only is it not skillfully composed and repeats far too quickly, but of the few tracks available, they do not even seem to take advantage of the full array of sound channels available on the hardware, instead content to pump out just one or two synth instruments in plainly orchestrated barely-there background “music.”

Originality

waynes_world

Yes, this is a license game; that is, a video game based on a pre-existing pop-media license, simply designed to be published in an efficient manner in order to capitalize on the fleeting popularity of the franchise at hand. The NES was a console that was particularly notorious for these releases. Although some of them were actually fairly good (Konami’s Ninja Turtle games, Capcom’s Disney titles), many were base-level dross that sought the money of gullible suckers. To its credit, Wayne’s World does present a beginning-to-end challenge, and its faults with hit detection and frequent glitches could perhaps be seen as adding to the difficulty.

Nonetheless, the programming faults resulting in random damage taken and the general lengths required to dispatch of enemies is more annoying than refreshing, and the overall experience deserves absolutely no higher than one and a half stars out of five.

Mega Man

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

Mega Man

The first Mega Man had a lot of potential which turned out to be the legend we know today. It all started with this simple side scroller game. The game developed into an amazing franchise and you’ll definitely feel the tough beginnings it went through. One can relate this game to both Mega Man 9 and 10 for the current gen consoles as it mimics the early beginnings of how tough gameplay could be. Anyways, lets take a look at this awesome game.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The music is what made Capcom games unique at many times during the NES era. You could just listen to a game’s music and know it was made by Capcom. The game has very awesome music although not as memorable as other Mega Man games. You’ll love the entire soundtrack that’s for sure. This is the beginning of something amazing after all.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The graphics are very stable. They are nothing amazing but it does make you feel like if you are in the future. The game looks and feels great overall. There aren’t that many weird things off from the game but it wouldn’t make any sense since it’s from the future. The bad guys are definitely known by many with such simple names as Cut Man and Guts Man…. Yeah, I remember those.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is quite tough. This is one of the more difficult Mega Man games out there mainly because there is no Mega buster, no sliding, no E-tanks…I can go on and on. You’ll have to use your best Mega skills to get through this. It’ll be worth it though!

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

A game like this is good to return to from time to time especially if you want to have a Mega Man marathon. I had a few of those in the past…they are lots of fun! The game is definitely short enough to get through it in just over an hour so you won’t be wasting whole evenings on it. It’s Mega Man after all!

The game is the first one of the legendary blue bomber. It’s just so much nostalgia to play through it after such a long time. I feel it’s a great way to feel the beginnings of things and even look for inspiration. Games like these are legends and we should cherish them even if we don’t find them that appealing.

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Published by Technos, this time with Acclaim providing development work, the third game in the Double Dragon series on the NES console was released. Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones continued the storyline with Billy and Jimmy Lee (or, as a humorous typo in the two-player intro names them, Bimmy and Jimmy) now master senseis teaching at their own dojo. However, they are attacked, and in the dying words of their student Brett, discover that not only has Marion gone mysteriously missing, but powerful forces have once again reared their ugly heads and picked a fight with the Lee brothers.

Gameplay

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

One or two players can try to conquer the five levels of globe-trotting martials arts beatdown with the Lee brothers. The third Double Dragon iteration borrows some gameplay aspects from the first and second games, culminating in the most challenging of the trio by far. The A button punches, the B button kicks, and the fighting mechanics work similarly to the first two titles, whereas the player is given a health bar (though it seems to deteriorate more rapidly this time around), and the enemies can be grappled with and taken advantage of (get your mind out of the gutter for just a moment here) while there are elbow-dropped and kicked within a headlock.

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Pressing A and B together jumps, while pressing a button on the way down performs a jump kick; pressing A and B together at the apex performs the classic Cyclone Spinning Kick, a devastating move for enemies on either side; and pressing a button on the way up initiates the “somer-assault,” a sweet little tricky move that grabs an enemy’s head before tossing them violently out of the way. Other combinations are available as well, such as jump-kicking off a wall for a more powerful jump kick, or even two players combining for mid-air moves, like the ultimate double spinning kick.

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

As with any good old-fashioned beat-’em-up game, dozens upon dozens of enemies will attack the protagonist(s), typically in waves of two. The levels tend to conclude in boss fights, although in Double Dragon III they pose an interesting twist: Defeating a boss recruits them onto the Lee team, meaning that when the player dies, they can now control one of the new characters instead, like the slow fat powerful guy or the quick high-jumping ninja guy. Before picking up any additional allies, the player just has the one life, adding to this title’s brutal difficulty.

Graphics

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

This is a lush, gorgeous game. This characters sport a new fluidity of movement unseen in the prior two games; with, perhaps, the herky-jerky exception of the “somer-assault” flipping animation. Otherwise, though, the punches look cleaner and the enemies move with more convincing appeal. The backgrounds are rendered very pleasantly, stretching the NES palette to its max to get the levels right as the Lee brothers travel across the world. The visuals of the game are fantastic for an 8-bit rendition.

Sound

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

It is the opinion of this reviewer that the soundtrack of background music offered in Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones is inferior to the prior two games in the series. With that being said, the music is still fairly good for a cartridge title on the NES, exploring a wide range of harmonic arrangements and beat-’em-up-appropriate beats. The title track is a little cheesy (not to mention the scrolling-color effect of the “III” featured), but the overall effect works well. The sound effects are still great, with meaty punch and kick effects providing the satisfying “oomph” of every hit and point of contact. Does any other sound effect matter on a beat-’em-up? The answer is no.

Originality

Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Double Dragon III shows interesting progression for the franchise: The light-RPG move-unlocking aspect of the first entry continues to be abandoned, while the direction-based controls of the second game are given up as well. Instead, the use of a single life per character is nonchalantly introduced, along with multiple characters, and the new foe-swinging “somer-assault” attack. The actual plotline is notable as well, providing a remarkable ending twist that will not be spoiled here.
Double Dragon III - The Sacred Stones - NES - Gameplay screenshot
However, perhaps the most noteworthy shift in design choice is the difficulty level. This is a noticeably very hard game, with its degree of challenge prominently noted in other reviews, videos, and features across the Internet. Not only is the single-life restriction a harsh restraint on the player, but enemies attack more vicious, more quickly on average, and generally seem to have a “smarter” artificial intelligence, though in the 8-bit days this just means broken movement and attack patterns in their programming.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSL7fTupMUY[/youtube]

This is a brutal video game, but brutal because the computer is relentlessly unwaveringly tough, the move set boils down to only a couple of effective options at most in any given situation despite the expanded repertoire, and there is no real saving grace to make up for the shifts upward in difficulty, as even the weapons seem fewer and far between. Some side-scrolling action NES video games such as Battletoads, Mega Man, and Ninja Gaiden are notably difficult, but for reasons of tight stage design, a mix of precision-jumping puzzles and enemy encounters, and bosses that gradually ratchet upward on the difficulty scale. Then others, like The Adventures of Bayou Billy and Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones, are hard because the player is wedged into a corner of limited gameplay opportunities, broken A.I., and a winning strategy that strays toward move spamming instead of allowing fluid creativity throughout a satisfying playthrough. A challenging game can be an excellent game; but, in the end, Double Dragon III boils down to a less-fun, less-pure, frustratingly quirk-tough take on the Dragon franchise, kicking two and a half stars out of five.

Werewolf

Werewolf

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

werewolf - nes- gameplay screenshot

In 1990, a video game was published by Data East for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console, developed by Takara, called Werewolf: The Last Warrior. This unabashedly epic action platformer stars a titular werewolf protagonist out to defeat the nefarious world-conquering schemes of the evil Dr. Farya by ruthlessly slaughtering every foe in his blood-splashing path.

Gameplay

werewolf - nes- gameplay screenshot

The player controls the werewolf, who begins the game as a man but, after defeating the first mini-boss character very soon into the game, collects a token to become the werewolf; afterward, the state of man or werewolf is determined by health. In either state, the game takes a rebellious stance against traditional NES platformers by having the A button attack and the B button jump. As a man, the player jumps, punches, and can launch a projectile attack by holding the A button and releasing. As a werewolf, the character is a tougher, meatier, nastier beast, slashing with long claws, leaping through the air, and using the holding-A-button attack to level the entire screen, at the cost of some units on the heath bar.

Gameplay continues through challenging platformer levels, moving from an outdoor scene in the woods to more inner, fiery realms of inner lair sanctums; fighting dozens of enemies, ranging from quick blue-robed ninjas to tough boss bouts; gorgeous cutscenes, including the spirit of Kinju serving at the werewolf’s guide throughout, and the iconic transformation sequence. This is a fast-paced, action-packed, fairly difficult, hack-and-slash, unapologetic scrolling-screen monster of a video game.

Graphics

werewolf - nes- gameplay screenshot

To put it simply: This title looks great. Between the hues both subtle and stunning of the cutscenes, the intimidating guardian characters, and the constant onslaught of precision-jumping obstacles or knock-’em-down foes, the entire experience is bathed in pleasurable visuals.

Sound

werewolf - nes- gameplay screenshot

The music is real solid, with the synth providing layers in bass notes, treble, and some kicking drum shots. The sound effects are wet, punchy, and effective, even if Data East is just as guilty of reusing noise from other titles; although, in cases such as the complex, classic pause effect, this is surely excusable. The only complaint may be that the background music does not always seem to fit the on-screen action, such as in the case of some of the boss rounds, with an oddly mellow track.

Originality

werewolf - nes- gameplay screenshot

This is a video game that knows exactly what it is and delivers it without watering it down: Rip-roaring, body-tearing, bash-and-grab, smash-mouth action. This is not your grandfather’s werewolf: This title character has enormous claws for hands, can move while crouching, and can use the claws to hang from certain ceiling sections, boasting quite an impressive array of moves compared to most NES protagonists. Even details such as the background visuals, appropriately atmospheric or claustrophics, to the boss fights, challenging but pattern-based in demanding a player both cerebral and nimble-fingered, are tightly developed and well-honed.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1MbvxHYay8[/youtube]

Thusly, though the basic formula (transformation-gimmick protagonist in two-dimensional action platformer) may not be 100% original, the presentation is thoroughly deep, rich in character, and very distinctive. This is a wonderful video game, whether as a testosterone-fueled guilty pleasure or a scientific case study of how to develop a great cartridge, very much deserving its four stars out of five.

Bomberman II

Bomberman II

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

The original Bomberman video game on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console was released in 1989 by much-beloved developer Hudson Soft and launched a franchise that would see many subsequent sequels and spin-offs on future systems. It did take four years to see Bomberman II take shape, though, as it came out in early 1993.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Gameplay

Bomberman II is an action puzzle game, where completing stages means using strategy while also making split-second decisions for survival. The best way to beat a level is not always the fastest, and as the game progresses, it grows in complexity. There is a thin plot involving a rival Bomberman framing our hero Bomberman for a bank robbery, necessitating a prison escape and eventually attaining freedom through traversing cave, forest, and other areas as well.

From the top-down perspective, the player maneuvers Bomberman through the grids using the directional pad. Pressing A lays a bomb. Each bomb explodes after a couple seconds; unless Bomberman has gotten the Detonator item, which allows the player to explode bombs by pressing the B button, and they will no longer explode by timing. The Start button pauses the game.

That is it, as far as controls go. The bombs explode a flame horizontally and vertically outward, destroying “soft blocks” in the path of the explosion. Permanent “hard blocks,” which can never be blown up, are distributed evenly throughout every level, forming the resulting grid corridors that Bomberman must walk through. The goal of every stage is to destroy all enemies and find the exit, which begins hidden in a soft block.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Every level also has one hidden power-up item, such as the aforementioned Detonator, found on stage 1-4. These items vary from a simple upgrade to blast radius or amount of bombs to lay, from powerful advantages like being able to walk through bombs or soft blocks. However, just as Bomberman grows stronger and more sophisticated in his techniques, so too do the enemies, moving in differing patterns at varying speeds and often able to move through bombs and soft blocks.

There are six areas in the Normal Mode game, each with eight levels, meaning that Bomberman II has 48 stages in total, with 6-8 being the final. Each area usually begins with a few levels that just occupy the entire screen, but later levels within that area will go beyond the border, scrolling to reveal more blocks and enemies on a wider scale. Bomberman always begins the level in the upper-left corner. He may start out on his jailbreak adventure with only a single bomb with a measly blast, but will soon grow to be quite formidable.

Bomberman starts out with a few lives, and upon losing them all, is given a password for the level, which can be entered as an option at the title screen. Score is also kept, and is increased by defeating enemies, including special “Bonus Round” stages about once per area as an interstitial portion, during which Bomberman is immune to fire, there are no soft blocks, and the goal is just to blow up as many of the generated enemies as possible within the time limit. Every level, in fact, has a time limit, although it should only be significant to new players on the first few levels, as the frenetic intensity of later stages largely renders it a moot point.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Although this action-puzzle hybrid is a little more action-oriented that someone as cerebral as, say,Solomon’s Key, Bomberman is still a very tactical, method-focused game. Its unique formula distinctively delivers challenging puzzles of timing, concentration, pixel-perfect maneuvers, and other nuances, all of which just happen to be packed with lovable explosions. The Bomberman games definitely have a signature legacy, and as such a unique entity, are going to fall into the “not for everyone category”: Some people may never quite understand the appeal, but many fans will continue enjoying the grid-based pyrotechnic demolition within.

Bomberman II includes the addition of multiplayer gaming, which was not found in the original title. Vs Mode pits one human player against another, in a one-screen simple grid that starts them off with minimal firepower and demands they find upgrades and kill the other first in a best-of-5 head-to-head series. Battle Mode is tweaked to offer more firepower on the front end, since it includes a third human player and grows very heated very quickly.

For better and for worse, Bomberman II’s main gameplay remains remarkably similar to the original 8-bit Bomberman game. This means that newcomers can saddle right up and dive in without really having missed much in terms of introductory experience needed, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it also represents a sad failure to tweak some of the flaws of the original. For example, both games have a fun feature where, if the exit door is revealed, it will generate a handful of enemies whenever it is inadvertently blasted. This makes sense and adds a thoughtful element; however, due to the timing of the explosions in chain reactions from one bomb detonating another, it is still possible to, in a split-second, have one bomb reveal a hidden item only for another to blow it up, all before the player has a chance to retrieve the item.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

This is a fundamental design flaw, in that it discourages the player from forging ahead in explosive exploration, discovering the most efficient ways to eliminate clusters of soft blocks, and playing against the time; instead, it forces bombers to make sub-par placement decisions and play over-cautiously if they absolutely wish to avoid such frustration. A very simple solution: Have items be invincible for a moment upon their appearance. While, ultimately, this is not a crippling issue, there are other minor flaws like this throughout, or some matters that are debatable (example: some levels begin with an enemy that can move through blocks moving straight toward Bomberman, which results in a cheap death or two until the player learns to immediately deal with the threat – is this ploy cheap or clever on the part of the developers?) as to their merit. Essentially, if you strip away the visual updates, the gameplay is not only very similar to the original, but so identical as to still have its flaws as well, to which one can ask: Within those four years time, did nobody think to at least examine the core gameplay and try to improve it, rather than provide what basically amounts to just a reskin?

Graphics

Of all the tweaks to the original Bomberman NES game, major and minor, the most noteworthy is probably the visuals. From the in-your-face title screen to the overhaul of the main quest looks, Hudson shows off their artistry with crisp, colorful, cool pixel pieces from beginning to end. Every eight-stage Area has a different theme, which determines the color and appearance of the soft blocks, permanent blocks, border, and background color. There are still-frame cutscenes between each areas, showing Bomberman’s continued progression to true freedom. Many of the enemy designs from the original game return fairly faithfully but with an appropriate touch-up. While other elements shine as well, like the fantastic frame-by-frame explosion animation, there is definitely a bit of slowdown when a lot is going on at once on-screen. This is unfortunate, especially later in the game.

Bomberman 2 - NES - Gameplay screenshot

Sound

Bomberman II sounds great. Hudson was among the highest-quality developers for quite a while, with many player-favorites among that repertoire in the NES days that includes classics like the Adventure Island series, the platforming powerhouse Felix the Cat, etc. One mark of their production value is their sound, which is engineered with pop, precision, and proper pacing in Bomberman II. The main Bomberman theme is back, and the music changes with on-screen events, like discovering the hidden item and signaling additional urgency.

Whereas in many other NES games, the soundtrack sounds as though the programmers had a lot of trouble dealing with the console’s hardware limitations, Bomberman II sounds like the composers were genuinely able to have fun rocking the available channels to their limits. Each Area has its own theme, effectively enhancing the setting and fully encapsulating the environment presentation. The sound effects are subtle, with the exception of the actual bomb explosion, a wonderfully rich effect that sounds like a classic PC-gaming .wav file, multi-layered and complex in its throaty execution. Basically: The sound in Bomberman II is delightful.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar_Kr_UKQ0Y[/youtube]

Outside of its visuals and multiplayer additions, Bomberman II can hardly be considered original, since it is basically the same game as the original Bomberman on NES; however, it should not necessarily be penalized for such lack of innovation either. The Bomberman formula works: It is a fun way to present the player with action elements in a manner that demands thought, and at a rapid rate of speed at times. The series went onto cross-platform multi-generational success for a reason.

Fans of the original Bomberman game will be unable to find any true reason to dislike Bomberman II, while those who never “got” or liked the first outing will not have much incentive to like the second. It does look much better, but at the cost of what feels like a little more slowdown. It does introduce multiplayer, though in a very basic, experimental sense. The plot of the original was much more compelling: A mining robot escaping his subterranean captivity in its desire to become human. In the sequel, we have a Bomberman framed for a bank robbery; which, while thematically intact, is not quite as grand. Then again, do gamers care about storyline?

All nuanced nitpicks aside, Bomberman II remains a very solid 8-bit video game. Critics will cite repetitive gameplay, fans may see it as the ideal NES action puzzler, and gaming historians can note its firm place within the hallowed legacy of the Bomberman canon. The sequel, the stepping stone to the franchise becoming a true series, blows up four stars out of five.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

In the 1970’s, the first of a series of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes flicks was released, providing a send-up of classic B-movie horror films. Years later, kids would enjoy an animated series. Then, in the 1990’s, the 8-bit Attack of the Killer Tomatoes video game was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System console. Published by somewhat notorious gaming company THQ in 1992, with development work by Imagineering Inc., this was a one-player platformer based on the cartoon.

Gameplay

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The player controls Chad Finletter, the only resident in the town of San Zucchini courageous enough to fight the killer tomatoes. This game features the classic platformer controls: A jumps, hold B to dash (on levels 3 and later, which is bizarre), the directional buttons move back and forth. The enemies, for the most part, consist of a variety of different sized tomatoes, along with creatures such as bats, spiders, worms, little pudgy-shaped things, etc. The only attack is to jump on enemies, but the jumps must be exactly on the head or midsection of a foe to defeat it, demanding precision-jumping not only to traverse levels but to beat the baddies.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are some mini-boss battles in which the player engages the larger, named tomatoes, such as Tomacho, Beefsteak, Fang, etc., along with unique stages such as the main mad scientist boss not being fightable but conjuring a wave of enemies instead, or the mysterious hooded figure who plays a sewer organ that Chad must destroy one pipe at a time with rocks (yeah, hooded figure playing a pipe organ in the sewers, right).

Otherwise, this is a fairly typical platformer ‘” much of it is very linear, moving left or right, avoiding or defeating enemies, interacting with certain background elements like switches and the cliche acid drop in the sewers, etc. This is an average title, made less-than-average by some odd design choices, such as levels three, five, and the “bonus” level post-credits being maze-like, making them painful and unenjoyable to navigate.

Graphics

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The visuals may actually be the high point of the game. The backgrounds are colorful, the animations are smooth, there are few clipping/slowdown issues, certain background elements are animated, the characters look distinctive, and many sprites are handled at once. A couple highlights are the lighting effects under the streetlights in the first level, and the tomato-throwing effects during the opening and the credits. However, there are a couple flaws, such as the infamous switch that must be activated in one level, which reverses the gravity; while the gravity-reversing feat is always great fun on the NES when it is found, the switch very much just looks like a background element and can be easily missed.

Sound

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The music is nicely layered, playing a few “instruments” at once, and at decent melodic complexity and pace. But after a while, it does grow stale. This would be forgivable, except for one insane soundtrack choice the developers made that really strikes this cartridge down for enjoyment factor: Moving makes noise. In other words: There is a sound effect for just moving the character across the ground; not only is this remarkably unnecessary, but can only be found as annoying.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhwPsgpkaEg[/youtube]

Originality

Overall, this is another one of those platformers in which more effort was put into its presentation of a license than actual gameplay, much like the Simpsons games (Bart Vs. The World, Bart Vs. The Space Mutants, etc.) or Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six. Actually, those are very apt comparisons with several similarities: Background music that can haunt your sleep if gameplay lasts too long, oddly unintuitive jumping mechanics, potential confusion in navigating certain levels, questionable hit detection, and other issues. Nonetheless, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a worthy challenge for retro NES fans, and is at least fairly short, being just a handful of stages. A word of warning: Look out for the floating robotic arm and spark thing. Otherwise, this squashes two stars out of five.

TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project

TMNT 3 - The Manhattan Project - NES - Gameplay screenshot

TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project

Hello shell brains! This week we have a real treat for ya. The Turtles are back in their third entry through the nostalgic 8-bit world. TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project took the great beat ’em up concept of TMNT 2 and made it even better. With each turtle holding their own unique skill, bigger levels, better sound, and tougher bad guys this entry is surely to be remembered. Lets take a look!

TMNT 3 - The Manhattan Project - NES - Gameplay screenshot

The music is nothing but sensational! The game itself has an upbeat sound in each stage which helps you stay focused and joyful at the same time! The game itself has amazing sound and does a great job at it. There is even a voice recorded sound that you hear when you beat a stage. All the classic tunes are revamped and remixed for a fresh new look and probably the best turtle experience on the NES.

TMNT 3 - The Manhattan Project - NES - Gameplay screenshot

The game looks even better than its predecessor. The NES was already in their final years of existence so by then, games were pretty good looking. Every stage is vast and enjoyable. The bad guys look even more dangerous than before and the backgrounds look as enjoyable and makes you wish you were there! Totally exquisite sight for sore eyes.

TMNT 3 - The Manhattan Project - NES - Gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is even better than the one before. When you pick a turtle, they will have their own unique skill. You have to use their skills accordingly in order to get through the levels with ease. Of course, I do stick with Raphael’s special move for boss fights. You might wanna do the same :p Furthermore, the difficulty makes it a challenge but not so much of it to make you throw the controller across the room. Beating the hordes of Foot Soldiers has never felt so enjoyable though. Play with a friend for a true radical experience, that’s for sure!

TMNT 3 - The Manhattan Project - NES - Gameplay screenshot

When it comes to a turtles’ beat ’em up, you can’t go wrong with any of them. You can play through them over and over within a time period and never get bored. It’s always fun especially with a friend so the replay value on this game is completely high! I totally dig this ^_^
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaHFwzKXesk[/youtube]

So to conclude, there is nothing more to say except that it’s a must have for any video game fan. Of course, if you are collector, it’s a must have. Beat ’em up fanatics should also dig this one up. The list goes on and on! There is no going wrong with this game! Play it with a friend, alone, with your pet, whatever works. Just get dude! Have a cowabunga week ^_^’

Amagon

Amagon

Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

In 1989, developer Aicom created a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System console called Amagon, published by American Sammy. It was a one-player platform game that revolved around the idea of a Marine being stranded on a tropical island and having to fight his way from one side to the other, using his trusty rifle. However, there were a couple twists: The island features quite an eclectic variety of enemies from native wildlife to robots and aliens, and the Marine, Amagon, can occasionally transform into his alter-ego Megagon, a much more powerful version of himself with a punch-blaster form of weapon that outperforms the rifle by far.
Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

On the NES, a preponderance of platformers already existed, and Amagon tried to separate itself from the pack by incorporating a somewhat unique storyline and the transformation feature. However, in the end, the title ends up playing like a slower-paced, less-polished version of Adventure Island, which was released two years prior. In what may have been a noble intent spoiled by a lack of any remarkable, spectacular replay value, Amagon collapses under the weight of its lackluster experience.

Gameplay

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

The protagonist, Amagon, is a battle-ready Marine with a limited amount of ammo that must treak across the island he has wrecked upon. This means the actual play style is fairly basic: One button fires, one button jumps, and Amagon instantly dies if he makes contact with any of the various creatures or projectiles.

Considering the patterned movements of many of the enemy obstacles, this already creates the inherent issue of requiring the player to undergo trial-and-error gameplay techniques in order to conquer the game, which provides a very repetitive, unenjoyable time. Even when Amagon is able to transform into the much (much, much) more powerful Megagon, it is still for a limited time, and ultimately a cartridge cannot rely solely on a single appeal in order to make a great game.

Graphics

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

The looks are fairly decent, but nothing extraordinary. The animals are animals, the plants are plants, and the bare-chested, Hulk-like Megagon carves an intimidating presence on the screen. While the appearance is a step up over earlier, cruder NES gaming renditions, and are competently developed, they are still pretty average overall.

Sound

The music is actually not bad, and can even be somewhat catchy at portions. The sound effects themselves are serviceable but, again, nothing too groundbreaking or newsworthy.

Creativity & Innovation

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GkpRdg8S4[/youtube]

The idea of a platformer sporting a character that must traverse a hostile island was not original, even dating back to the Pitfall series that began on Atari systems. However, the transformation of Amagon into Megagon was certainly the innovating draw here, and perhaps a prescient one when considering later classic such as Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis.

Overall though, Amagon is bland, and not worth too much playtime. Perhaps it is a worthy challenge, as it does have a steep level of difficulty, so gamers may derive some satisfaction with a long session of trying to beat it. Otherwise, though, there is no truly lasting attraction. For being a “meh” platformer on a system already inundated with platformers, Amagon gets one and a half stars out of five.

Alfred Chicken

Alfred Chicken

Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars

alfred_chicken.cover.front

In 1993, an 8-bit video game cartridge called Alfred Chicken was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. It was published by a company called Twilight; which, in retrospect, is not a good sign. The fact that the developer was Mindscape was not the best of signs either.

Gameplay

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

At face value, this is a two-dimensional, horizontally and vertically scrolling platformer puzzle game, in which the player controls a fowl; in this case, a chicken, through multiple levels in an effort to find certain items, all while engaging in precision-jumping challenges and engaging enemies in both battle and avoidance.

In these respects, Alfred Chicken is astoundingly similar to Kiwi Kraze, although Kraze (also known as The New Zealand Story) was released years earlier and, frankly, is a superior cart.

That being said, in Chicken, Alfred must progress through five stages. In each, the goal is to find and peck (by pressing Down) all the balloons. A count of remaining balloons can be given by pressing Start, which also shows how much time is being taken and how many points have been scored. Alfred jumps with the A button and, while in midair, can go into a corkscrew beak-first dive bomb by holding the Down button, which is his primary method of defeating foes and busting ice blocks. Holding the A button is midair slows his descent.

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

There are doors to travel through, which access different areas of the stage, usually going back and forth between a “main” portions. Some enemies can be defeated outright, while others, like the black spiky balls that tend to move in a circular pattern around a green thingy, must merely be avoided. There is a definite emphasis on precision-jumping puzzles, with many spikes to avoid, little hops to make, even springs to bound off of with careful timing of another A button press.

But there are also items to find, which is where the already-odd game begins to get truly bizarre. For example, there is a watering can hidden on every stage, which by collecting earns a 1-up if the player completes the stage. Why a watering can? This is never explained, and seems like an arbitrary, even random designation.

In fact, the entire fricking video game seems completely whacked-out crazy random and arbitrary. Each stage has a loose theme in its graphical presentation, but the variance is insane, from a building blocks level to a book-and-boards area to a science-fiction zone. In between beating stages, Alfred may fly through a blue “space” field to gather bonus-point treasure box items, or fight a “Meka Chicken” in a strange static-screen shooter mode, complete with an enemy health bar and the sudden capacity to fire bullets. There are even a couple underwater portions, which themselves include parts where Alfred must dodge robotic miniature whales.

Oh, but do not forget the occasional wall that can be walked through, the spinning pink feather item that must be gathered from a jumping box as the only way to break certain blockades, toggle switches that make certain block groupings appear or disappear for which the player must figure out the correct pattern in certain cases, the egg in a cup that provides a 1-up when touched and hatched, the snails that may fire a cannon from their back or simply transform into a spiky statue, and the growing unease that perhaps this bizarre game is the result of a bad acid trip, meant to be played while very drunk and/or very high.

Graphics

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

The visuals are not awful, but they lack a certain polish. In a way that is difficult to describe yet obvious the moment you see it, the art used is very “flat,” lacking outlines or layers, giving the human player a “washed-out” sensation for everything. All this, despite the fact that the game prides itself on not having a big single color for its backgrounds, instead plastering little stars and crap across the canvas of the levels. Another instance: The first stage’s color sample is in a yellow and brown theme, even though Alfred himself is yellow and brown, and the whole event just feels stale and yucky.

Sound

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

The sound effects are barely there, and the music? Torturous. Utterly, phenomenally unenjoyable. The same theme plays throughout each stage, and it seems specifically engineered to be thoroughly upsetting and disturbing. Like a carnival tune played off-key, or a carousel spinning slightly too fast, or a too-young child at his or her first violin recital, the background music is the stuff of nightmares. Stay far away. Your ears will thank you. This is, truly and genuinely, among the very select few NES video games that is actually better when muted.

Originality
Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

This is the ultimate rental game: If you are not a collector, just a player, you will try this only to realize that you would be very okay with not owning it. It is not a staggeringly horrible game; in fact, some of the puzzle design is clever (like the spring that bounces you into instant death on a downward-facing spike on the ceiling if you are not careful), and it is perhaps maybe potentially possibly creative, but it is short, lacks replay value, and just seems to be aggravating, annoying, and bothersome throughout.

The utter randomness, brain-numbingly bad music, and short length combine to make this a slightly less-than-average game. Really, it executes smoothly and clearly plays according to the developers’ plans. But does it have to be so frantically mind-screwy? Again: Kiwi Kraze is better. This one, Alfred Chicken, gets two and a half stars out of five.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3JxzjuwJ5k[/youtube]

Ugh, that music. Forgive my casual, informal, brief first-person rant, but even as a reviewer who does not usually place much rating weight on a game’s soundtrack, usually just seeing it as a peripheral feature and not a deciding factor – if this game had better music, I would rate it a half-star higher. I am not even kidding. The music is bad enough that it makes the game definitively, quantifiably worse. I hate it. Some NES games are already bad, so the bad soundtrack is to be expected, but this, this abomination, this has no excuse that would be as convenient. Argh.

The Adventures of Lolo

The Adventures of Lolo

Overall Rating: 4/5

the-adventures-of-lolo

Way back in 1988, Hal Laboratories, who would still be churning out quality titles in later decades, released a quirky little cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System called The Adventures of Lolo. The colorful opening scene depicts fun, cartoony characters as Princess Lala gets captured in dramatic fashion and is whisked away through the sky from Lolo.So, as Lolo, the player must certainly control a valiant hero across epic landscapes and use a mighty sword to brutally dispatch of repulsive enemies and enormous bosses, right? Not quite – this title, with its round blue main titular playable character sporting big eyes and a cute little tail, throws a monkey wrench into the traditional adventure game.

the-adventures-of-lolo

Instead of using blades and other violence, Lolo ventures into the dreaded castle and encounters rooms of puzzles. At first, it really seems like it is going to be another box-pushing puzzle game; but the pleasant surprise lies in the fact that this is a true quest, with odd little enemies, environmental perils, and tricks to master and navigate.

Gameplay

As Lolo, the player controls our blue hero amidst a tile-based landscape and has to collect all the hearts in a room in order to open a treasure chest, which opens the door to the room. Even in the first couple of levels, there are enemies to deal with and the controlling person will soon learn that rescuing Priness Lala will involve keen timing, sharp wits, and a measure of diligence.

Graphics

the-adventures-of-lolo

The elements are rendered colorfully, and definitely stand a step above many NES selections from the time period. The animation is somewhat basic at points (watch a flat fireball listlessly glide across the screen from one of the baby dragons), but it also fits the premise of the game: This is not a flashy medieval warfare epic. This is a puzzle game that just happens to throw some enjoyable action ingredients into the brainy mix.

Sound

The music is lighthearted, and even delightful at times, but after a few levels on the same floor of the castle, it can get repetitive. Otherwise, the effects are pretty simple, with little beeps and boops and whooshes narrating the on-screen happenings.

Creativity and Innovation

the-adventures-of-lolo

Even today, this immediately stands out as a brilliant game, a nearly flawless blend of puzzle and adventure. Lolo, at times, has to dispatch of enemies in clever ways, or navigate rocks and rivers and bridges and other level elements. It is not as unabashedly cerebral as Tetris, without offering the mindblowing adventurescape of the first Zelda title released at the similar time.

the-adventures-of-lolo

The true strength of this game, though, is this password feature. Playing through multiple levels, the player progresses through floors of the castle, each floor having several of the one-screen puzzle levels. After the initial handful of lives are depleted, the player is granted a password that can restore them to the same level at a future time. This saves the game from being completely unfun if you had to redo every single stinkin’ level from the beginning to end every time you played.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC344LoZYdQ[/youtube]

Because of that obvious replay factor, the unique and original storyline, the sublime melding of puzzle and adventure, Lolo is a fantastic game overall. It does have a weakness or two, primarily concerning its difficulty, in that some portions of the game (new enemies, new puzzle elements) require new players to use trial-and-error methods to figure out, inevitably leading to lost lives in the process. Even given these frustration, it still commands a solid four stars out of five rating.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf

SNK developed this classic striker in 1988, and that would be about the same time I discovered it.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

My brother was in college during that time, and he and his college buddies were addicted to it. In fact, I don’t remember them ever playing another game.

The Masters got me thinking about this game, although ironically, Lee never won that tournament, his only Major fail. But, I put a lot of time into it back in the day, and like real golf, you find you never really master it.
LTFG is a 4-player game, with only 4 characters playable (conveinent). There’s Pretty Amy, the accurate-conscious lady in the pink skirt; Miracle Chosuke and Super Mex (Lee’s happily-embraced racist nickname), who have a good mix of accuracy and power; and my favorite, Big Jumbo, who has the pop in the club, but has a 3-click meter that runs faster, making it more difficult to hit the perfect shot.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is pretty simple, just 2 courses (US and Japan), 18 holes each. Nothing too intracite like today’s games; no leveling up, buying new clubs and outfits, no cash prizes. Just grab your bag and start swinging. There’s definitely something too the retro-styled golf where you can just pick up and play.

Typical Nintendo sounds ae in full effect here; an opening musical-title piece, the high-and-low tones when the ball is rising and falling, the positive reinforcement tune when you birdie, and the negitive “thud” when the ball hits the “super rough” (words that still pain me to this day).

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

Graphically, typical 8-bit sprites for the players, but there are multiple camera angles…a nice add for this era. There was the overhead shot of the hole, so you could play in your head how you would manuever around the bunkers and trees, as well as deciding if you could the wind to hit the far fairway (if only you could hit the perfect shot, Big Jumbo!). The common camera behind the shot would switch to in front when the ball was in descent, a very nice touch for 1988 NES.

There are also enough little touches to give this game a high replay score; the wind being a factor, and the changing slopes of the greens (arrows pointing the way home).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCMvgbcCbjU[/youtube]

There may be better golf games out there for the NES, but I haven’t played one. So for now, this gets my highest recommendation for the console. With only a few flaws (4 golfers, 2 courses), you and your buddies will probably find yourself addicted…and according to guys I know, probably never buy another game.

Overall 8/10

World Games

World Games

Overall Rating: 3/5

NES World Games - Gameplay Screenshot

Of the original batch of launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, many were subpar offerings that were limited or even outright flawed in gameplay, such as Gyromite. Others, however, were classic masterpieces that went on to carve formidable legacies, such as Super Mario Brothers and a title called Track & Field.

Track & Field was so successful, with its simple gameplay formula of offering multiple button-mashing or precison events, that it inspired several similar games, such as its sequel Track & Field 2 or the goofy Caveman Games. One of these imitations was a smaller-market cartridge called World Games, an Olympics simulation with many differing events at multiple difficulty levels for one or two players.

Graphics

NES World Games - Gameplay Screenshot

The looks were standard. As far as NES entries go, World Games was neither spectacular nor terrible. Some events, such as Cliff Diving, looked crisp and clean as the long dive down genuinely did create nervous tension. But other events, such as Slalom Skiing, suffered from crude pixilation and questionable contact detection.

Soundtrack

NES World Games - Gameplay Screenshot

The effects were basic, highlighted by breathing noises in Weightlifting and the occasional breaks and shatters of Barrel Jumping, along with the sickening thud of a cliff diver hitting the cliff. Perhaps the best sound, though, belonged to the country selection screen, where the national anthem of each selectable country could be played.

Innovation

NES World Games - Gameplay Screenshot

World Games did not bring an entirely new formula to the table; as mentioned earlier, Olympics-style games with multiple mini-games had been done before. World Games does deserve credit for coming up with entirely new games, and executing them fairly well, with some better than others. Sumo Wrestling was simplistic and had no real strategy, while others like Caber Toss, Bull Riding, and Log Rolling were actually competitive and required finesse skills.

Bonus

NES World Games - Gameplay Screenshot

One odd side item worth mentioning is a humorous glitch in the Sumo Wrestling game: Although normal gameplay would not reveal it, the wrestling ring level wraps. In other words, what goes off one side of the screen will appear on the other. While it is not possible to walk outside the bounds of the ring without losing the match, there is a move that throws the opposing player backwards. If done at the very edge of the ring, the flung opponent will reach the edge of the screen; or, at least, his head will. This means that his body will be laying still on one side, while his head suddenly jumps over to the other, creating the appearance of a decapitation! Other weird visuals can be achieved with other games, such as the weightlifter who holds the barbells too long and falls through the floor after turning blue.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8SdQX52Vj8[/youtube]

Overall, World Games does not establish any fantastic new heights for video games, merely doing a solid job of imitating Olympics-type settings. But it is certainly a piece of fun, especially for two players, thus earning a decent three stars out of five.

Adventure Island

Adventure Island

Overall Rating: 2/5

NES Adventure Island

Adventure Island is one of those early (1987 early) Nintendo Entertainment System games that gamers from the era can still remember sitting on the shelves of so many stores and flea markets. The developer, Hudson, which later formed HudsonSoft, went on to have a hand in the creation of many now-classic titles, and Adventure Island was one of its entries into the foray of home console gaming.Following the exploits of our intrepid explorer Harry, Adventure Island is a fast-paced scrolling platformer in a jungle-type setting with both the appropriate elements (snake and bird enemies) and the eyebrow-raising unexpected features (power-ups like the skateboard or helpful fairy). Does it belong in the famed halls of NES lore?

Gameplay

NES Adventure Island

Borrowing a page from Mario’s playbook, Harry jumps with the A button, attacks (once he finds the hammer) with the B button, and can run while holding B, while also jumping higher. With these moves mastered, the player simply runs to the right, jumping over obstacles and slaughtering any living creature he crosses paths with.

This would be simple (and easy!) enough, except for one very important catch that sets Adventure Island apart: Harry must constantly and continually “eat” the fruit he comes across, to refill and keep his energy at bay, or he will die when his energy bar dips to being empty. This adds a built-in time limit throughout the entire experience, and provides the impetus for moving forward at a torrid pace.

Graphics

NES Adventure Island

Adventure Island looks okay, with the recognizable jungle greens and browns and trees and animals and such, but it does just look okay and not any better. Even Harry, our main character, the protagonist, combative explorer, looks washed-out and minimally rendered. The developers could have spent a little more time creating defining lines and bolder looks. The atmosphere ends up a little bland.

Sound

NES Adventure Island

The music is repetitive, but the track is upbeat, lively, and festively appropriate for fueling a mad dash towards the unknown finish of every stage. The effects, conversely, are rather lacking: Creatures never make a sound, nothing ever rumbles or fires, and beyond the noise of Harry’s jumping, firing, and occasional fairy track, there is very little auditory variety.

Creativity and Innovation

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K70mt9UCam0[/youtube]

The power-ups are interesting, and provide the key motivator. Taking the form of eggs, when they are bumped into, they reveal themselves. The most common is the axe, always gathered first to provide a means of attack. But if Harry runs into other eggs once he has the throwing axes, he can gather further power-ups at the same time, such as riding a skateboard that not only moves forward quicker but also means he can now take an additional hit without dying; or the fairy mentioned before, which provides added protection and a temporary period of differing music. The idea is to make players want to see how many power-ups they can continue getting in a row, until they build into this unstoppable SuperHarry and crash through to the end of the level.Even with the power-ups, the game still suffers from a sharp learning curve. Because obstacles and enemies appear on-screen so quickly, and because Harry must continue gorging himself on island fruits and vegetables, the game demands that a player possess either impossibly fast reflexes, or the patience to try levels over and over until he or she masters them by memorization.

And this, ultimately, is what prevents the game from becoming anything special. Without a password function, this becomes the arena of only the most intrepid and hardcore of gamers, regardless of how many invincibility fairies you may find. For its faults both profound and simplistic, Adventure Island becomes an adventure in mediocrity at two stars out of five.

Kid Icarus

Kid_Icarus_NES_gameplay screenshot

Kid Icarus

With the release of Kid Icarus it was only fair to pick the classic counterpart as the pick for this week. The game itself is not for beginners or crybabies. It’s one of the toughest NES games around and does rivals the difficulty of Ghost n Ghouls for the same console. The game does require lots of patience but does get a lot more bearable later on especially when you get the better weapons and level up. Yes, you do get more health bars and believe me, you’ll need them. So why not step back into the past and take a look at Kid Icarus for the NES.

Kid_Icarus_NES_gameplay screenshot

the music as with most Nintendo titles is memorable at least for the NES it is. The intro tune is just as awesome as any intro tune from next gen games. The sound does suffer especially when you refer it to the Disk System version which contains the best sound of all. Putting that aside, you’ll have some awesome 8-bit tunes for your ears and soul to enjoy.

Kid_Icarus_NES_gameplay screenshot

So graphics is not what 8-bit games are best at especially with comparison to today’s standards but you know what? They are damn good and enjoyable to see. It’s amazing what gaming developers were able to accomplish with so little to work with. You have everything that a side-scroller game is supposed to have. Even Pit looks like Pit! It’s a truly beautiful game nonetheless.

Kid_Icarus_NES_gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is tough and I mean real tough. If you get past the first part of the game then you’ll be alright but until then, you’ll be suffering and wondering how far to the end of the level you are from. This game is not for beginners because even after the first half you’ll have to use the best of your skills to not fuck up. Remember this, when you die in a level you’ll have to start from scratch and you’ll lose everything that you collected in that same level. Enough said!

Kid_Icarus_NES_gameplay screenshot

The game is tough but always fun to come back to. If you have nothing to do in a weekend and want a classic 8-bit challenge then look no further. Kid Icarus is where you’ll find yourself in.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruMWWZ8axeY[/youtube]
So to conclude, we have another beautiful gem from the old Nintendo. This game has everything that you ever wanted in a weekend retro challenge! You’ll be crazy not to pick it up especially since they have it at the Nintendo shop for 3DS users. You can’t get anything better than that. I’m also very glad to have Pit back! It’s about damn time!

The Adventures of Bayou Billy

The Adventures of Bayou Billy

Overall Rating: 2/5

The Adventures of Bayou Billy-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

In 1989, Konami released a Crocodile Dundee-inspired title for the Nintendo Entertainment System called The Adventures of Bayou Billy. Hyped as a beat-’em-up that also featured driving and shooting segments, it was thick in Louisiana flavor and unrelenting in its action, even receiving some exposure on the promotional cartoon series Captain N: The Game Master.

The plot centered around our protagonist, Billy, going after swamp-mod hoodlums in pursuit of a girl, Annabelle Lee. How did it fare on the 8-bit scene, and why did it appear on Captain N’s show? Let’s dig in and find out.

Graphics

The Adventures of Bayou Billy-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The backgrounds were snazzy and seemed to be taken right out of New Orleans. The characters themselves were large and fairly detailed, considering the platform. In some areas, though, the Adventures could use improvement. For example, the driving stages had cloddy-looking cars and a clunky method of lobbing grenades at planes (yes, grenades at planes). Other times, the game was susceptible to be choppy and slow when overloaded with action, but otherwise was a passable romp.

Sound

The Adventures of Bayou Billy-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The developers clearly wanted an emphasis on the effects, considering the voiceover of the title, The Adventures of Bayou Billy! There were only a scant few other instances of voice work in the game, but for an 8-bit title, any digitized voice work is great. The music was lively and fit the theme, while every hit and blow was keenly effected.

Innovation

The Adventures of Bayou Billy-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

This one tried to set itself up as being revolutionary, since some portions were driving, some were beat-’em-up, and some were shooting; however, in the end, Bayou Billy suffers from the disease of trying too much at once and not doing any of it excellently. Sure, it was okay, but the driving scenes were not as good as Rad Racer, the shooting scenes were not as fun as Hogan’s Alley, and the beat-’em-up scenes were not on the quality tier with Double Dragon II. The developers could have looked to Battletoads for a quality example of how to seamlessly blend different types of experience within the same basic storyline, but Bayou Billy crumbles under its own weight.

Replay Value

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYkChIGEI9c[/youtube]

And now we come to the reason why this game earned notoriety and an appearance on Captain N: It was overwhelmingly difficult! Rumor has it that the Japanese release was too easy, so for the international version they gave the enemies triple the life energy and lowered the ammo on shooting levels. Despite having practice modes for each of the three types of Bayou Billy levels, the entire ordeal is still excruciating and nightmarish. Only hardcore gamers should bother seeking this one out for its ardent, horrifying difficultly level. All others can safely stay away, leaving this to score a mild two stars out of five.

Wolverine

Wolverine

Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There was many video games released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System that became classics beloved by millions and even breaking into pop culture relevance. Other cartridges, however, were piles of utter junk that were hardly playable and gained notoriety for entirely different reasons; developer LJN was somewhat known for being more likely to release a bad title rather than a good one, and among the turds they pushed onto an unsuspecting public was Wolverine in 1991, which was indeed based on the popular Marvel Comics character and member of the X-Men.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Gameplay

Playing as mutant titular protagonist Wolverine, the player must traverse through several varied stages, each with a differing theme but all of them packed with many forms of the same faceless, lightly colored clone people, somewhat like the Silver Surfer en masse and less powerful. Each of these stages has a name that hints at their features, like Level 2: Trial By Air, which takes place in the sky amidst flying contraptions; Level 4: Trial By Water, which forces the player to master swimming mechanics with a limited air supply; Level 5: Trial By Terror, an oddly dark level that plays more like something out of a Castlevania crypt; and Level 6: Trial By Fire, which is somewhat self-explanatory, and others, leading up to Level 9: The Final Battle.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

This two-dimensional action platformer also features some bosses between certain stages, in addition to the precision-jumping, enemy-dodging, pattern-memorizing aspects throughout the actual levels. In the comics, movies, and other media, Wolverine is a nearly indestructible beast of a man with claws that can cut through nearly anything. His video game avatar is very different, in this case: The claws can be sheathed or unsheathed, but using them actually reduces his life bar. Whether or not the claws (which are more powerful and have a slightly longer reach than the usual punch) are out, the B button punches and the A button jumps, there is a crouch, and the Select button is used to either toggle the claws or call in Havoc, an ally that lets Wolverine rest, a weird little function.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The fact that using Wolverine’s claws damages him cannot be forgiven. This is asinine. A game featuring a character most known for ripping his foes to shreds should not be reduced to a fragile, foe-punching nincompoop who cannot use his signature fighting moves. There is no reason to make the design decision to make the claws a consequence rather than a benefit, other than to irritate gamers and X-Men fans. This means that LJN actually intentionally chose to make this a much worse, less enjoyable, stupider game than it could have been.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are other odd flaws as well, such as the way Wolverine takes damage: In many NES video games, such as the Mega Man franchise, taking damage grants the character a temporary moment of invulnerability, wherein the player can use a couple precious seconds’ worth of time to escape the situation and move to safety, or bypass an especially difficult area. In other games, like the Ninja Gaiden series, taking damage knocks the character backward, which can be annoying but at least gives an interesting gameplay mechanic in some samples. For Wolverine, however, you just sit there and take damage rapidly as long as you are touching something. This means that if you are standing in front of an enemy and hit it, which you have to be at close range for, you are fine; but if you are a few too many pixels close, your health bar will be dropping as long as you stand there, along with an annoying buzzing sound.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, the gameplay shows the usual shoddy development that LJN was reliable for. This was not a tightly honed game with slick controls and an enjoyable experience. It is very challenging, has a few weird quirks (the berserker mode is one, and not worth explaining), and some mind-numbingly ridiculous design decisions (the claws that mystically kill yourself when using). It stands to say, however, that this is definitely a superior game to the X-Men title on the NES, and at least it is a beginning-to-end platformer quest with varied challenging areas.

Graphics

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The visuals for this 8-bit video game are actually decent, with Wolverine’s character being recognizable, most of the animation operating smoothly, not too many flickering or slowdown problems, and fun appearances by some old X-Men foes like Magneto. In this reviewer’s opinion, the clone enemies actually look cool, though it would be understandable to believe they get stale after a while. At least they come in different varieties, such as the annoying jet-pack ones that fire at you from above.

Wolverine - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Sound

The music is alright, the sound effects are okay. The audio for this game is better for many, but not within the upper echelons of the NES experience.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqvPi5qE5ZA[/youtube]

The problem with the NES iteration of Wolverine is that the concept itself, of taking a popular license character and producing a below-average game with him or her as the starring vehicle, was not original at all. However, the parts of this game that are “innovative” are dreadful aspects, like having Wolverine’s claws damage him as they are used. This video game actually would have been much better had it been a little simpler: Have Wolverine’s claws out at all times without being self-damaging, fix the hit-detection oddities, and voila, a decent platformer. Instead, we have a very “meh” game that could be worth some replay value as a very challenging action title, but still only merits one and a half stars out of five.

Gyruss

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

In early 1989, Konami released an 8-bit video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System console under their Ultra Games label that would prove to a singularity among the typical shoot-’em-up choices available to a player: Gyruss.

Gameplay

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss is a one-player game. Although it exists within the shooter genre, it neither scrolls horizontally nor vertically; instead, this is a “tube shooter,” somewhat like the classic title Tempest, with a fixed viewpoint that provides a faux three-dimensional feel. The player controls the ship by rotating it around a ring formation, always facing the center. Enemy ships not only move around in circles also, but also at different depths, sometimes as far out as the player-ship, while other times so far away they appear as just a couple pixels in the center of the screen.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

There are two control modes offered, A and B. Control Mode A ensure that pressing Right on the directional pad always moves the ship to the right, no matter which vertical half of the screen the ship is on. In other words, if the ship is at the bottom center of the screen, and the player presses Right until the ship is fixated at the three o’clock position at the right center of the screen, the ship will stop there, at which point the player must start pressing Left to continue the ship’s movement rotation around the screen. While it is nice that the game provides a steering mode that prevents the cognitive dissonance of a D-Pad direction only being “correct” half the time, the effect of each pause halfway up the circle is jarring, and Control Mode B is preferred, in which a continual, smooth motion of the ship is achieved, and pressing a direction on the D-Pad will always go clockwise if pressing Left and counter-clockwise if pressing Right.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Of course, there is much more to this video game than simply providing the tube shooter experience, though it is significantly notable for that accolade, considering it is the only example of such a game for the NES. The loose plot, explained in a single frame if allowed past the title screen, only says “Mankind must rid the universe of evil. It’s a death defying risk, and only a hero can succeed.” A foreboding, humanoid figure appears in the background against the starfield as a backdrop to this ominous text.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Play proceeds throughout the solar system that human beings are familiar with. Beginning with Neptune, and proceeding through each of the other planets (even Pluto, which must be during a portion of its orbit that takes it inside Neptune’s), the player is aiming to arrive at the Sun for the final showdown. Each planet has a few fairly short levels, that conclude with a boss fight, and then a bonus stage afterward for points.

In order to defeat each “warp” or wave of enemies, the B button fires the blaster cannon, with a maximum of two shots on the screen at a time. Earning a weapons upgrade enables double-fire, which is obviously a great boon to success, and can be achieved by blasting the two side barriers off a bonus orb before hitting the orb directly. The A button fires a special weapon, of which the player only has a limited amount and most slowly earn more throughout the game. This blast plows through everything in front of the player, towards the middle of the screen, and includes eliminating certain objects and projectiles that the normal blaster cannot get rid off.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The majority of the obstacles to victory consist of groupings of enemies that fly in, dance around in some form of pattern, then make their way to the middle of the screen. Much like Galaga, a handful of groupings will all form together, and should be dealt with before they begin coming back and dive-bombing toward the player. In fact, similar to other shooters such as even Sky Shark, shooting down all the crafts in a particular squadron before they reach the middle garners bonus points.

Besides the alien spacecraft are other challenging deterrents to deal with, such as asteroids and solar fireballs to dodge, along with the lasers and other weapons fired by various enemies. Some weaponry utilized, like the homing solar flare fireballs used near the end of the game, actually slightly veer toward the player as they come from the center of the screen, placing an enhanced demand on reflexes and reaction time.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

There are about forty levels in all, with a brief ending afterward before a “second quest” begins. The Konami code is intact, if the player wishes to begin with 30 lives, instead of the usual three extra. Thanks to the deft programming skills of the development staff at Konami, Gyruss proves to be a slick, fun, very enjoyable 8-bit video game. As a shooter, it is a very distinctive title, and although not as tortuously difficult as some, with or without proper endings, still offers a worthy playthrough for shmup fans. That being said, this is not a game for everyone: It is so different that many will balk at its strangeness and simply never quite “get it.” Gamers have tastes, and some may fall in love with this selection.

Graphics

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss is a good-lookin’ little vidya game. The action is frenetic and fast-paced, complete with Konami’s signature visuals, even down to the small yellow-and-orange circular-oriented explosions that can be seen elsewhere in such NES cartridges as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. Solid ship designs and fancy beam weapon visuals aside, what may be most admirable of Gyruss is the crazy amount of sprites, for an 8-bit hardware machine at least, that it manages to juggle on-screen all at the same time. Granted, this comes with some flickering issues, but surprisingly minor, and without slowdown. The bosses are honestly a letdown at times, being somewhat small and not quite intimidating, but the strictures of the characterization were likely limited by the tube theme—which, in itself, is a graphical feast that mostly makes up for other nitpicky flaws. There is something very appropriate about a shoot-’em-up that strives to make the player feel as though they are shooting through space toward an ultimate destination.

Sound

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The soundtrack is great. Really, it is a Konami work, so the usual high quality can be expected, complete with the familiar Pause sound effect. The background tunes get away from the period rock of something like Base Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, and settle into a motif more apropo of the setting at hand, fast-paced enough to keep adequate adrenaline pumping, with skillful composition that will never distract by its badness.

Originality

If one were to look too closely, one would have to frown and conclude that Gyruss is not entirely innovative: The “space shooter” trope has been endlessly retread for decades, down to the spacey designs of pattern-flying enemy squadrons that dive-bomb at a double-firing protagonist against a shooting-starfield background effect. It is, almost exclusively, the tube element that makes this an original, creative entry in the NES canon of gaming.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BF4img_CyM[/youtube]

The most critical of observers could also say that Konami did not seem to try as hard with this one; the level-by-level execution is fairly straightforward, even with some quirky variety at points like the level without enemies where the player only needs to dodge incoming objects. The ending consists of a modest animation and one line of text (note: to be fair, the version on the Famicom Disk System is longer and less stripped-down). However, to purely take on a gaming perspective, that of a fan of video games, that of a human being with a controller in hand ready to take on the villains of the galaxy, that of purely sitting down in seeking a fun way to pass the time, Gyruss deserves its rating of four stars out of five. The five-word review goes like this: This is a great game.

Weird Games: Zombie Nation

Zombie-nation-KAZe-nes-gameplay-screenshot

One would think that with a name like Zombie Nation the game itself would have to be awesome. However, this is based on the Japanese game, Abarenbō Tengu and features a disembodied samurai head as the main hero.

Zombie-nation-KAZe-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Released in 1990 for the NES by KAZe, Zombie Nation follows the story of an alien named, Darc Seed, (See what they did there?) that fell to earth on a meteor. Unfortunately, the meteor fell right smack in the middle of the Nevada desert, (See what they did there?).Then the alien used magnetic rays to turn everyone in the United States to zombies.

Zombie-nation-KAZe-nes-gameplay-screenshot

One  also might think that would be enough to send in the head of the samurai, but it was not until Darc Seed stole the legendary samurai sword, Shura that the cavalry came, in the form of a headless, undead samurai.

Zombie-nation-KAZe-nes-gameplay-screenshot

In Zombie Nation you control the samurai head as you blast American zombies with your laser eye beams and you can take out structures as well which will come in handy when you have to take out the Statue of Liberty who has come to life and is wreaking havoc, (Yes, they went there.) Oh, and if eye beams are not enough you can vomit. Where does the vomit come from? Do not ask those types of questions.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOYG5S-LpSg[/youtube]

Overall, the game is weird, but not that good. There are four stages and two difficulty settings (easy and hard) and at the end you fight Darc Seed and free the Americans, you did not kill, from their zombification.

Crystalis

Crystalis-snk-nes-gameplay-screenshotCrystalis

This week I have one of my favorite picks period. Crystalis is the equivalent of an upgraded Zelda title. The game itself is jam packed with action around every corner. The story line is also very interesting since it takes place in the not so far future. The year is 1997, now back in the NES era this would have made more sense since we were in the early 90s but nowadays it doesn’t make much sense since the year has passed and well, just saying they should have made it the year at least 3000. Lets move on, the game is only one of few Zelda-clones which there weren’t many to begin with(The only other one being Faria as far as I know). SNK learned well on how to apply the Zelda-like mechanics.

Crystalis-snk-nes-gameplay-screenshot

 

We will start by talking about your main weapons. Your hero(whatever you name it) has the options to wear a sword, armor, and shield. This made the game very simple which meant anyone can pick it up and play as it’s very understandable. The game itself become focused more on your adventure and less on modification. You’ll start off with a regular armor and shield that will help you take less damage and at one point completely shield you from enemy attacks. Furthermore, you’ll also be able to use different swords to be able to defeat different creatures. This is where strategy takes place as there are some monsters that will deflect certain swords while they will be weak against other swords, it’s just a matter of trial and error.

Crystalis-snk-nes-gameplay-screenshot

The also comes with an item and magic screens. They are quite simple to use and helpful at tough times. I always recommend you have your healing magic equipped because at some point in a dungeon or even in the field area, you’ll be attacked over and over by a whole lot of monsters so using the healing spell will be quite helpful and time appropriate. You have a wide range of spells and items to choose from but you must use them wisely and strategically.

Crystalis-snk-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Crystalis is one of the most memorable for the NES and shouldn’t be one to avoid. This game includes a quest that’ll kepp you interested, awesome music, and fun gameplay of course. You can’t beat riding a dolphin!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DWu_BVeg5E[/youtube]

Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - Box

Dragon Warrior

You take role of a warrior (Elwood?) in order to save the princess and slay the dragon. Dragon Warrior(Quest in Japan and lately here) is the one that started it all in terms of quest style games. If you get a chance to check out the library of games for the Famicom you’ll realize that there are a vast amount of Dragon Warrior(Quest) clones out there. Most of the good ones were translated by true RPG fans while some others might or not still be in the works. Either way, you’ll have your best bet playing this classic of classics as you take a quest in the most initiative way through a realm full of freaks!

Dragon Warrior - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

 

You(Elwood) take your role and start up as a wimpy warrior and must train hard to turn into a respectful killing machine. It’ll take you a while to reach your goal so you better be ready to sit down and level up by killing the same monsters over and over again. The music might get to your nerves since it’s so archaic (it’s from the 1980s for crying out loud!) So take a chance and plug in your Ihome or stereo and listen to some punk rock, it helps!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U5gnCG0AUI[/youtube]

 

Your quest will take you approximately twenty hours to complete for slow pokes like me, but I heard some hardy players have beaten the game in ten hours so go figure. I remember that the magazine Nintendo Power said it could be done in ten hours as well. Don’t worry though, do what you have to do, Elwood will always be there dancing on the same spot waiting for your command.
Till next time adventurer….

Elevator Action

Elevator Action

Released by Taito in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Elevator Action can somewhat be most accurately categorized as a platformer action game. The home console video game was actually a port from a popular arcade game; though it lost some of the bright-and-shiny looks of the arcade unit, the NES version of Elevator Action still played very similarly.

Elevator Action - NES - Taito - Gameplay Screenshot

Gameplay

The player controls a spy character who has infiltrated a high-rise building with lots of doors and elevators, and must traverse from the top floor to the bottom without falling victim to enemy men-in-black characters, falls, or being squashed by said elevators. Certain doors in the building are red, and must be entered and exited before completing the level by getting to the getaway car.

Elevator Action - NES - Taito - Gameplay Screenshot

After completing a level, the next stage is generated, with exactly the same building, but a randomization of red-door locations. Also, the A.I. gradually become smarter and more sneaky in their tactics (for instance, they may vary between crouching and not crouching when they fire at you), against the sole defense of the player: A semi-automatic pistol that can fire three shots at a time, and kills instantly, much like the one-shot deaths the player may endure.

Graphics

This is a basic, crude little game. Elevator Action for the NES has a cartoony look, to put it nicely and with as positive of a spin as possible. Otherwise, the line drawings are basic, but at least the elements are recognizable. The simple squishing deaths of agents stuck in elevators shafts are even humorous.

Elevator Action - NES - Taito - Gameplay Screenshot

Sound

Although popular opinion varies widely, the general consensus is that the background music for this game is average at best, and mind-screwingly horrifying at worst. Either way, it does not make up for the “meh” quality of the sound effects, other than the somewhat satisfying “thud” of an enemy agent’s body hitting the floor.

Creativity & Innovation

Elevator Action - NES - Taito - Gameplay Screenshot

Perhaps unfairly, this video game cannot claim to have too much originality, only because Elevator Action was already an arcade game. Otherwise, the very foundational premise is interesting, forming something of a hybrid between a puzzler and an action adventure.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=durTn-5IAms[/youtube]

But beyond all other factors, most visibly prominent, is a cripplingly horrific rate of repetition. Being a high-score, arcade-style game, Elevator Action has no ending, and will only continue generating the exact same building schematic over and over. This truly, deeply hurts its replay value; although it is quirky, possibly interesting, and worth a try, its novelty and fun can only last so long before it becomes boring and stale. Almost single-handedly by this flaw alone, Elevator Actions gets its rating of one and a half stars out of five.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Who would win in a fight….Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

I was sitting around the other day thinking about an old Twitter review I did. It was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It seems to be a favorite with NES fans over the years, so I fired it up to play a little. I didn’t give it a perfect score, mainly because I played the hell out of the arcade Punch Out!!, and the console version just didn’t measure up. Honestly, that wasn’t a fair score, because I try to rate games compared to the actual system they belong. But, my personal bias allowed me to knock it down to an 8/10 (still a great score). I decided for my punishment, I would allow Iron Mike himself to give me the sound beating I deserved. A couple of right crosses from the man himself will knock some sense into me.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

So I’m Googling a little information about the game and I realized something that most people already knew…
Nintendo re-released Mike’s game a couple of years later. Either because of the rape conviction or because he had lost his title by then, Nintendo didn’t renew a contract with Tyson, so he wasn’t in the new game. From what I gathered, the new game, just titled Punch Out!!, was exactly the same as the old game except for one thing…they replaced Mike with a huge white guy named Mr. Dream.
Reading some comparative news about the games, I was getting conflicting answers. Most people say the game is the same, while others swear that either Tyson or Dream was more difficult to defeat. While this may be just psychological nonsense, I have to find out if this is true.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

OBJECTIVE: To end this decades-long debate, and find out who could defeat whom.

The problem is knowing that the two boxing greats will never be put in the same room together, I was going to have to play both games and face both monsters one-on-one.

The gameplay is pretty simple: I play as a small guy named Little Mac. I’ll have to fight through 10 or 12 other boxers to get to the final fight, Tyson or Dream. Each match is 3 rounds of 3 minutes in duration. If I knock down my opponent (or he knocks me) 3 times, it’s a TKO and the match is over. I think it’s possible to win a decision, but I don’t want to take the chance. I need to go for the kill. The 2 controller buttons will throw left/right punches. Holding up or down on the pad will face-punch or block. Left/right will dodge opponent’s punches (I hope).

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
In typical boxing-crookedness, I’ve already cheated. I’ve been taking PED’s for days, loaded up my controller with brass knuckles, and downloaded game-tips from the internet. DING! DING!

The game starts with a tune-up fight: A guy named Glass Joe, who is really just a punching bag, or practice to get used to the controls.
The graphics look cool, decent sound effects, and Mario is your referee. Between plumbing and rescuing ladies, you wouldn’t think he’d have time for a night job, but good for him living the American Dream.

Glass Joe goes down, and there a huge list of un-politically-correct boxers in my sight.

Von Kaiser, the big German.
Piston Hurricane, the Japanese guy.
Don Flamenco, the Spanish guy who prances around.
King Hippo, the ugly fat guy.
Great Tiger, the dude from India wearing a turban.
Bald Bull, the crazy Turk.
Soda Popinski, the Russian.
Mr. Sandman, huge black dude from Philly with the 70′s hair and sideburns.
Super Macho Man, the ‘roided pretty-boy from Hollywood.
Then, gap-toothed Tyson himself.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Mike enters the ring looking like the crazy bastard he is, and I’m looking forward to using the tip and tricks I’ve learned to exploit his weakness and take him down. Mario calls for the fight to start and here I come. About 8 seconds into the match, I realize he has no weakness and I go down and I go down hard. I call for my trainer, the well-respected Doc Louis, to throw in the towel. But the old, deaf S.O.B. can’t hear me over my cries of pain. I reluctantly get back up and try to throw a right body blow that does zero damage. I think it just made Mike more angry, kind of like the Incredible Hulk. Tyson responds to my limp jab with a massive uppercut that actually shook my controller….and these controllers weren’t manufactured to do that like current ones. Doc just sits there offering advice like “Watch his left!” and “Join the Nintendo club!”. Consider yourself fired, sir. I decide to fake like I’m asleep, like I was taught to do if I were ever to be alone in the woods with a huge grizzly bear. Assuming Mike was as dumb as an animal, I thought that would work. Oddly, the Nintendo Gods lifted me upon my feet, and threw me in the path of another Iron-Fist-of-Fury, sealing my fate. A TKO called by Mario, and this match was over.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

TOTAL TIME: 14 seconds.

I couldn’t just jump into the “rematch” with Mr. Dream. I needed to get a good night’s sleep to heal the injuries. So, off to bed.
A couple of hours later, I awaken in a cold sweat. The nightmares of being mauled by a pack of Bigfoots were just too much for me. I needed to “get back on the horse” and take on Mr. Dream, or I’d never have my life back.

I cheat-code my way through most of the fighters and find my way to the Dream-fight.
Pre-match stats show this dude as 99-0, hailing from a place called Dreamland. Kind of a pretty-boy, but I can’t put enough emphasis on the 99-0.
Match starts and he moves the same way Tyson did, so I’m hoping to use my past match as practice.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
I try to stick-and-move, but I got knocked on my ass by a blur…I assume it was a legal punch, but can’t be sure. I notice Doc Louis didn’t take the hint, as he’s still offering crappy advice (they really want me to join that club). I try throwing meat at my opponent, thinking I can distract him long enough to get in at least one punch….didn’t work, as I fall to the mat for the second time. I try to hold my controller pad down, thinking my avatar may stay down for 10 seconds to end this debacle, but he rises again. I start throwing the kitchen sink at him hoping something good will happen, but only got as far as “kitchen si..” when a fist the size as my head sent me through the ground, halfway to China. A final TKO from Super-Mario, and it’s over.

TOTAL TIME: 18 seconds.

I decided to re-score my review.
I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, for a max score of 10.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BBtQ3PmN4c[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
It looks fantastic, with a dozen unique fighters, cool fighting motions, and even “flashbulbs” going off in the crowd.

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
Crowd noise, punches thrown, some voice announcing, even Mario starting the “fight”.

CONTROLS:2
Perfect. An entire boxing match with a pad and 2 buttons. Works very well, very fluid.

FUN-FACTOR:2
It was a blast trying to learn weaknesses of fighters, climbing the ranks, then take your shot at the Dream-title.

REPLAY VALUE:2
You will spend a lot of time on this game trying to beat the big man, and if I ever do it…I’m guessing I’d want to do it again.

OVERALL:10/10

Maybe it wasn’t the most scientific of methods, but to answer the question, “Who would win in a fight?…Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?” My money would go to Iron Mike. But, there is still the chance that those two monsters would still be beating on one another until the end of time.

Cool World

Cool World

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was an 8-bit home video game console that played host to dozens of licensed titles; that is, cartridges based on pre-existing licenses, such as movies or cartoon shows. These games were usually of sub-par quality, since the developer was typically just trying to turn out a quick game in order to profit on the fleeting popularity of the license itself. In this case, the developer was Ocean and the license was a movie (starring a young Brad Pitt, oddly enough) called Cool World. This NES video game was released in 1992, near the end of the console’s official supported life cycle.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gameplay

The player controls protagonist detective Harris, who needs to collect five pieces of a map that shows the connection points between the real world and Cool World, a cartoon-infused weird doppelganger of Earthly reality. He is after a sultry woman named Holli, whose actions may cause the destruction of both realms. In order to do this, the player must play through four selectable stages in order to unlock the fifth, a tower in Las Vegas on which the Golden Spike is located, which has the power to save the worlds. Or something like that.

Harris is a monochromatically rendered little guy that jumps with the A button, moves as entered on the directional pad, and can use weapons by tapping the B button, but holding the B button makes him crouch. This is as silly as it sounds. The Start button pauses, and the Select button cycles through an on-screen selection of the weapons, such as the Pen, which has to be found in each level and can suck up enemies; the Eraser, which can be thrown in order to eradicate one enemy (and turn it into a life-restoring candy cane); and the Bomb, which is a special weapon that differs in each level, and is needed to defeat the boss.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The play control is not good. Harris is remarkably focused and cannot do two things at once. Three examples: He cannot use a weapon in mid-air while jumping; he cannot move diagonally at all, requiring movement in a cardinal direction at all times; and he cannot even use the Select button except when standing still. Thus, rather than create a fun, fast-paced, fluid gameplay experience, the entire ordeal is slow, stilted, and made more difficult than it really needed to be.

The level design is also very questionable. Some require puzzles to be solved, like on Main Street when the player needs to enter the Slash Club, but has to figure out that he has to blow the lid off a green trash can with a bomb, then push it to the left in front of the bouncers, in order for the smell to drive them away from the entrance. Another level is an unforgiving skateboarding level, with lots of one-hit kill opportunities, slightly reminiscent of that aggravating Great Wall of China stage from Bart Vs. The World. Yet another level has a latter part consisting of an enormous, vertically oriented straight-down tunnel that has to be relentlessly navigated. Often, a hidden room must be found; if it is not, then by the time the player reaches the boss, he or she will not have gained enough of the special weapon to defeat the nasty foe.

Overall, Cool World is an intriguing challenge at best. But the most damning aspect of this game is poor design, as though every development decision is made with no further thought or consideration of how it would actually play out. This is not among the all-time most difficult NES video games ever made, neither is it really among the very worst, but it is both hard and bad. In other words, it bads real hard, a phrase which makes just about as much sense as the premise of Cool World itself.

 Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Graphics

The year is 1992. Nintendo Entertainment System video games have been being produced for several years now, and have come a long way in their complexity, stylism, genre breadth, and overall general discoveries of how to stretch the console to its hardware limits. Cool World looks okay visually, and its graphics may actually be its highlight, but it is nothing outstanding for its era, and actually can be seen as evidence of Ocean’s laziness, given the potential for something more striking. Perhaps items like background repetition, palette-swap enemy types, and mindlessly drawn environments can be forgiven, though, in the face of such imaginative surroundings; then again, they were inspired by a movie, and stand merely as a meager attempt at capturing the spirit of the film, which itself was a below-average result.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Sound

The sound effects are lame and minimalist. Look no further than the mind-numbing “kssh” effect of the bartender’s bottles hitting the floor, over and over, in such dismal, monotone, uninspired fashion. Then there is the background music, which is amazing in its ability to sound like it has so much potential, yet end up only ear-grating. In all seriousness: Portions of this game sound as though they were actually, purposefully intended to annoy the player. Some of the tracks utilize that same annoying echo-synth layer used in titles like Micro Machines, which seems to only cheapen the quality of the music, not enhance it. A few quick piano-like ditties would usually add some respectability to a soundtrack, but not here, where they only serve as crescendo to an auditory world of hurt. The music never delves into any real depth, and ends up more of a nuisance than an enhancement.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XysybtnTzU[/youtube]

The game is based on a movie, so the concept is not original. Some of the play scheme is interesting, like the item-switch function, yet is executed rather poorly, given the many superior iterations of the same function in prior games. Perhaps the most creative function is Harris using a pen to suck up enemies (yeah, it seems counter-intuitive, but there you have it), then finding empty ink vials to dump the ink into, which restores an amount of life respective to the number of enemies that were sucked up.

Overally, though, this is simply a poor game, and not fun, only worth a play-through for those seeking a quirky retro challenge. Cool World draws one and a half stars out of five.

Baseball Stars

Baseball Stars - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Baseball Stars

This time around, Baseball Stars for the NES takes top honors as it’s a game well over due for a mention right here at Retro Gaming Life. The game itself combines the RPG elements with sports elements in a very satisfying way. You can start up with a horrible team and win games to earn money to buy steroids for your players so they will get stronger and run faster. Is this what the American past time is all about? You bet! You are also able to name your team whatever you want, as I would name mine the Chomps. We finished last in our first season of play but ended up buying enough steroids to strengthen for next season. This is what it’s all about!

Baseball Stars - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

 

The game is very precise on each characters abilities. If you have a low running rating then you are better off hitting stronger, and if you have low hitting rating then why don’t increase your speed a bit so you can bunt hits all over the infield. Your pitcher also needs to be able to increase his ability so that you can go longer innings with him but even with the best stats your pitcher is only human or umm a pixel player….

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb9ZF7YaYzY[/youtube]
The game is very enjoyable and even came with a battery so you can record your team(s). With the baseball season ending and the playoffs on the way, why not pick this baby up for some late night retro gaming action! Play ball!

Die Hard

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - Cover

Alright, to be fair, this isn’t exactly what I would call a great game. But, it is a game based on the GREATEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
You are the awesome John McClane (Bruce Willis)visiting his wife duringChristmas time at theNakatomi Plaza holiday party. But, an infestation of Euro-trash has spoiled his reunion. WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!!!!!!!
The terrorists, led byHAAAANNNSS!!!! Gruber, have taken the party-goers, including John’s wife, to the 30th floor. Also, the 30th floor is where the money vault is where the stealing be happenin’.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

OBJECTIVE: Save the hostages, protect the money, and kill all 40 sumbitches.
This is a top-down, action game that has McClane in his wife-beater doing some major ass kicking. WHHOOOO!! YIPPEE KAI YAY, MELON-FARMERS!!!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are 40 baddies to kill throughout the building levels, by fists or weapon. You’ll need your fists, because I find myself running out of ammo very quickly. But, it’s just as fun pummeling these ass-wipes. After dispatching the Germans (YIPPEE KAI YAY, MY FRIENDS!!), use the elevator to the next level, finding more weapons (NOW I HAVE A MACHINE-GUN, HO HO HO!!) and more bad guys.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
Some cool features include listening in on their radios and the “foot meter”. This is because like the movie, you’re actually running around in bare feet, OVER GLASS!!! You’ll replenish health by drinking soda and finding first-aid kits.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Eventually, you’ll fight your way through all, including Karl (who is probably still crying over you wasting his brother) and HAAANNSS!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are some really neat cutscenes, and some small nods to the movie, like finding detonators and the helicopter/roof scene.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV0NCiN2i5c[/youtube]

The game is really a lot of fun, and gets the testosterone going. WHOOOO!!! YIPPEE KAI YAY, MOTHER HUBBARD!!!!!

Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Historically, license video games have been an excuse to rapidly churn out a shoddy product after cutting development corners in order to push a title onto the market that only profits because of its name, without nary a care given to the player experience. In 1990, legendary developer Capcom provided the gaming world with a wonderful exception to the trend when they produced Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System home console system.

Gameplay

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

Controlling the player’s choice of either Chip or Dale chipmunk characters, the only pragmatic difference being their appearance, this is a classic two-dimensional platforming game that is tightly honed to near perfection. In addition to the usual left and right to run left and right, the down button crouches. The A button jumps (as it should), with variable height according to pressing length. The B button grabs objects, which can then usually be thrown in straight lines left, right, or directly upward. These grabbable items are key to the entire gameplay experience, and come in different forms; like the basic wooden box that can be hidden in with a crouch and result in defeating an enemy that bumps into it; the metal boxes, that are thrown in a curved trajectory and are reusable, able to stack up to reach otherwise inaccessible areas; and large objects, which cause the protagonist to move a little slower and jump slightly.

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

There is a loose storyline involved the literally named villain Fat Cat and his nefarious efforts at small-world domination, and eventual kidnapping of the chipmunks’ friend. As the player defeats levels, he or she can actually choose a course through different stages, with multiple paths available, similar to Bionic Commando. In addition to the Mega Man games, it seems that allowing the player to choose their own path was a Capcom design staple.

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

With brilliantly modeled environments, featuring some precision-jumping puzzles with pattern-based enemies and basic problem-solving, Rescue Rangers also has item-finding in the best fashion: Rather than absolutely require the player to search for certain hidden objects in order to advance, which is annoying, this game offers bonus stuff that provides benefits, which is great. There are flower tokens, collecting 50 of which grants a one-up; stars, collecting 10 of which grants a one-up; acorns, which restore a heart to the basic three-heart health bar; and even a friend, Zipper, who for a limited amount of time, zips around the screen destroying enemies while granting the player invincibility, a much-appreciated assistance when battling the animal and robot foes led by Fat Cat, including the appropriate boss characters.

Graphics

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

Given an understanding of the context of the time period, this is a perfect example of a 1990 NES video game, since 1990 is roughly right in the middle of the American support run career of the Nintendo Entertainment System (which, itself, was roughly 1986-1993). Rescue Rangers lacks the flaw of early cartridges, like washed-out characters and screen elements without border lines, but retains some of the foibles of the system like flickering and slowdown problems if there are too many sprites on the screen (try the treetop level, in the portion where there are three relatively large flying squirrels on the same screen as your chipmunk, an inchworm or two, and the box you’re throwing).

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, though, this is a game that provides a distinctive experience with its own Disney style. The animation is pretty slick, and the action comes at the player fast. Many have fond sentimental feelings for this game, and its visuals are certainly a part of that nostalgia.

Sound

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

The background tracks are good, featuring the usual impressive array of Capcom composing, if not a tad repetitive and too upbeat at times. That could, though, just be the opinion of the reviewer. Regardless, it is certainly fitting, and plainly shows that effort was put into it.

Originality

Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers - Gameplay Screenshot

This sweet video game from Capcom definitely displayed some innovative gameplay characteristics that set it a step above and apart from the usual formulaic platformer. For example, the ability to crouch in a wooden box and use it as a protective barrier was ingenious, along with the fact that there were multiple types of holdable objects that each presented a different play function. Additionally, Chip and Dale have a relatively small on-screen presence, which is perfect considering the fact that they are chipmunks, and lends a whole new perspective element in light of the pursuit by big robot dogs, screen-gobbling bosses, and the enormous Fat Cat himself in the final confrontation.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82Opm9xGjRA[/youtube]

For turning a Disney license into a very enjoyable video game, for a difficulty level that was neither too easy nor too difficult, for putting actual thought into its mechanics, and for genuinely just being a solid example of a two-dimensional platformer in a genre that could have continued to be stale, Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers rescues four stars out of five from the clutches of Fat Cat.

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Batman

Batman

In 1990, cult-favorite developer Sunsoft published Batman on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console, a video game cartridge based on the original film as directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton in the titular role of the caped crusader. Little did Sunsoft know, perhaps, that they would be laying the foundation for what would be among the most prized legacies in license-game franchise history, and authoring the blueprint for what a successful high-quality license game should feel like.

Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot-1

Gameplay

The controls are definitively sublime: The A button jumps, and the B button punches, as they should. However, the Dark Knight has a few further tricks up his sleeve: Not only can he crouch and jump at varying heights, along with altering his midair momentum, but he can wall-jump rather intuitively, adding a whole new dimension to the classic 8-bit platforming gameplay. Not only are his movement capabilities fleshed out well, but he has a trio of weapons at his disposal: A ‘batarang’ boomerang, a projectile missile that begins with a slow flight before rapidly speeding across the screen, and a powerful triple-shot firing option as well. Each of these items is accessible by toggling through by pressing the Start button, and each with their own respective inventory amount, of which Batman can increase by picking up certain items as he proceeds.

Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Another item he can find is health to boost his life meter, which at full strength allows him to take several hits before dying, although even Batman’s death is impressive, as he bursts into a flash of fire. Suffering damage does not incur knockback, and grants a brief moment of invulnerability. Mastering Batman’s skills in movement, melee combat, long-range weaponry, and inventory management will be key to success, as this Batman game boasts a challenging difficulty curve that will prove to be a worthy conquest for even a seasoned retro gamer.

The stages loosely follows the sets from the movie, as our hero must progress through Gotham, the AXIS Chemical Factory, some Laboratory Ruins, and other locales and sub-levels, before the inevitable final confrontation with his arch-nemesis the Joker. The boss fights after each stage are appropriate, and even innovative, as one finds Batman fighting an inanimate security system.

Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot

The platformer may have been an almost too-popular genre for the NES console, but Batman proves to be a shining example of how it can give the player a thorough, satisfactory experience, demanding honed reflexes, tactics, patience, and outright gaming prowess to complete, while still remaining as one of the best license video games of all time, even decades later.

Graphics

Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Sunsoft did not skimp on presentational strength. This is a fine-looking 8-bit NES video game. The characters are well-defined, distinctive, and varied, from the shock troops wielding flamethrowers to the robotic spike-armed floor guards and react to Batman’s presence. The cutscenes do justice to Batman’s bold, dark flavor, serving to more fully enrich the in-game plotline. But perhaps, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, the most noteworthy of Batman’s graphical qualities is its level design and background graphics. Even on the very first level, the use of detail in the backgrounds is exquisite, thoroughly pacing the rigors of the NES color palette toward establishing atmosphere, and the way the elements gradually fade into swooping blank swaths of black is stunning in its ingenuity and overall effect. This words may seem overly effusive, but rest assured: The praise is deserved, and those who play the NES rendition of Batman The Video Game are in for a memorable portrait of visceral action gaming.

Sound

Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot

While some development teams and programmers were bewitched and obfuscated by the inherent difficulties of composing quality music for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sunsoft must have had a very competent team indeed, because the themes present in Batman are among the most earwormy pieces of sound candy the console had to offer. The title screen tune thunders in with a deep taste of bass before adding a layer of melodic meat. The first level may be the most unforgettable for its music, with an intense track that is not only not a stretch to be described at nearly orchestral in its arrangement power, but apparently so fondly recognized that it is revisited in a later level to dramatic effect. The actual effects, in comparison, may even be a letdown, but pack enough punch to satisfy the proceedings as the buzzy chime of item-collecting bumps up against the brief flame-burst of defeated foes.

Originality
Batman-nes-gameplay-screenshot

This is it: The definitive example of a good license game on the NES. Perhaps it is not the only one, or even the very best, but it set the standard, standing out amidst the morass of sub-standard cartridges in the sea of pre-1990 NES games being made. Maybe it was mostly due to its vast distribution and resulting commonality, but this is among the most beloved NES video games, with countless gamers pleasantly recollecting this as among their favorites.

The wall-jumping mechanic may have been the greatest innovation, with the second-level automaton boss being a notable mention as well. The item-toggling system is an interesting touch, but maybe not done as well as it could have been, although it certainly delivered results in real time. Then again, hardcore purists would balk at the concept of Batman carrying such guns anyway.

Batman-Cinematic-Screen

Some gamers, even retro fans, point to Batman as among the pioneering carts that helped define the term “Nintendo Hard,” supposedly representing an era when, since the limited-memory cartridges could not hold a hugely lengthy game, clever developers instead had to rely on steep difficulty levels to properly give gamers a heart replay value, as kids and hobbyists everywhere repeatedly tried to beat the game. While Batman may be tough, it is defensibly so, with the possible exception of the climactic Joker fight, in which the ultimate boss not only packs an enormous pistol but can inexplicably wield lightning bolts as well.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBkdrjLF-Dg[/youtube]

Whether nitpicked for its theoretical flaws, worked over as a title for hardcore fans only, or unappreciated as merely another example of the inundated field of NES platformers, one basic truth strikes at the core of the issue: Batman is a good game. The detective punches four stars out of five to earn its rightful place in the Nintendo pantheon.

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Toxic Crusaders

Toxic Crusaders

In 1992, developer Bandai published a side-scrolling license beat-’em-up cartridge for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This video game was called Toxic Crusaders, and based on the television cartoon of the same name. Loosely following the plot of the show, the adventure charges the player with cleaning up the streets of Tromaville as Toxie, the eco-friendly protagonist who has been tragically mutated into a hideous Toxic Crusader.

Toxic-Crusaders- nes - gameplay screenshot

Gameplay

This is a standard, basic, formulaic side-scrolling beat-’em-up: A button jumps, B button attacks, the directional pad moves. There are really only one or two pieces of flair to be found otherwise; for example, the player has a life bar, but also has a Mop Meter. The player begins with a mop to swing as a weapon, slightly stronger than fists and with a little longer reach, but loses it in one hit. If the player can somehow manage to keep the mop around, and gain a mop meter point to two, the mop shoots a projectile attack. If the player can get the mop meter to three, then the mop can be thrown like a big boomerang weapon and Toxie can punch as it flies.

Toxic-Crusaders- nes - gameplay screenshot

There are even the usual beat-’em-up elements like a skateboard level (quite essential to any 80’s or 90’s gaming experience) and even an underwater stage. The enemies are pattern-based, as repeated plays will make passing the waves of baddies much easier as the player learns their vulnerabilities, most of which amounts to “do not attack in a straightforward manner; rather, move up or down directly into an attack, or even let them move vertically to you as you are swinging.” Each of the six levels has a boss fight, and there are items hidden in destructible objects that can increase health or mop meter.

Graphics

Toxic-Crusaders- nes - gameplay screenshot

This is one of the NES video games to incorporate parallax scrolling (the appearance of layers of background that move by in differing speeds), which is always a nice touch. To be honest, this is a solid-looking 8-bit game, with large, colorful characters, well-crafted backgrounds, and decent animation performance with less flickering and slowdown than you would expect. The year is 1992, and console developers have certainly learned to push the NES hardware and palette to their max, Bandai being no exception.

Sound

Toxic-Crusaders- nes - gameplay screenshot

The soundtrack is actually somewhat enjoyable, providing appropriate oomphy beat-’em-up tracks begging for some drum-and-electric-guitar remixes, even managing to range the gamut of moods from active inspiration to somewhat creepy in a minor key. The ditties do have some bizarre rapid screeching effects every once in a while, as though to purposefully throw the player off-guard. The effects are okay, but seem somehow a little off. For two examples: The pause noise seems like Bandai’s attempt at the classic effect of, say, Konami, or even Ocean’s superb pause sound in Robocop, only to not quite make it and seem a more sophomoric effort; secondly, check out the dying scream of the first boss for a true trip into weird-effect territory.

Originality

Toxic-Crusaders- nes - gameplay screenshot

This video game is not only based on a pre-existing license, but is so blatantly formulaic that even its one attempt at creativity, the Mop Meter, is just an inferior version of the scaling-weapon functions present in many other, prior existing games. The level designs are okay, but skateboarding and underwater stuff was hardly ground-breaking at the time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0a5GSasHd4[/youtube]

Toxic Crusaders never achieves deep gameplay mechanics. The first level only has two types of enemies, as one example. This cart would have also benefited, at the very least, from having a two-player mode. Nonetheless, what players have is a watered-down version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with the environment-saving overtones of Captain Planet, driven through gameplay mechanics only a step above the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes NES game. Yet another license game that looks pretty good, sounds alright, plays okay, but never really reaches for greatness. This is a very average NES game that serves as a perfect case study of a Typical Early-1990’s NES Video Game, cleaning up a score of two and a half stars out of five. Oh, and expect repeat bosses. Also, try not to get a seizure from the intense flashing greens of the sewer water. Finally, remember: “DON’T BE A PUNK ‘” RECYCLE JUNK!”

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Rygar

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Rygar

Way back in 1987, Tecmo released an action-adventure video game called Rygar on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console that was actually an arcade port. Starring a mythical hero seeking to restore peace to his land by vanquishing countless gruesome creatures and utilizing legendary artifacts, was Rygar a bloated mess or a truly epic quest?

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Gameplay

Most of Rygar’s gameplay takes place as a two-dimensional side-scrolling plaftormer title, as masculine protagonist Rygar uses his disk-on-a-string (think: giant bladed yo-yo) called a “diskarmor” to kill enemies at close range using the B button. The A button jumps, there is a crouch feature enabled with the down direction and a pause function with the Select button as well.

Pressing Start brings up a status screen that, in short, displays Rygar’s current health (also visible during gameplay), attack power (shown as “Tone”), magic points, spells they can be used on (such as “attack & assail,” available for ten uses and deals damage to all enemies on-screen), and which items Rygar is currently in possession of. Killing monsters gains experience points that will eventually, inevitably, boost Rygar’s attack and defensive stats, along with possibly picking up items that enhance magic points or heal hit points.

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

As Rygar advances across the stages, he can encounter doors. Most of the doors bring him to a room with one of the War Gods sitting on an elevated platform, who then provides a helpful message as to what item is needed to progress, where to go, how to get to the next area, etc. However, there is one door in each different realm that leads to a common middle area called Garloz.

Gameplay in Garloz takes place in more of an overhead top-down view, enabling Rygar to move in four directions, jump in eight different directions, and encounter a different set of enemies. Mastering the terrain of Garloz will allow Rygar to discover the gates to the different realms, or even directly gain new items in special War God rooms. There are about a half-dozen different lands to progress through, each ending in a boss fight, and at many points requiring an item such as the crossbow or Wind Pulley to advance.

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The doors to single-screen rooms, along with differing types of gameplay, make this game very much feel like an early cross between NES titles Blaster Master and Wizard & Warriors II: Ironsword. It definitely has more of a high-fantasy feel, closer to Ironsword, despite the appearances of robots in later stages; but, like Blaster Master, this game has no password or battery-save feature, despite offering a meaty, chunky adventure. If the player knows where he or she is going, where to get each necessary item in the right order, and which lands to explore in the correct sequence, the game can be completed in under an hour. It is the hours needed to discover this mastery and grow accustomed to the gameplay, though, that will be the more grueling test.

Rygar definitely offers a worthy retro-gaming challenge, a fantastical mythos, action-oriented gameplay, and a deep system mechanic, but does have its share of flaws as well. For example, the game has an odd relationship with the up button on the directional pad. Pressing it while performing other actions, like running forward, causes Rygar to continue running forward even if left or right are not pressed any longer. This can lead to an accidental death in certain precision-jumping portions of the game. Also, once Rygar has the grappling hook, he is able to descend from certain types of platforms via a rope by pressing down and B. The problem is that pressing down and B is also how to attack while crouching; this creates an issue when the player is on those sorts of platforms, wishes to crouch and attack an oncoming enemy, but instead finds himself hanging helplessly off a rope and taking damage instead. Although these “lovable quirks” can definitely be gotten used to, by principle, a player should not have to deal with such a shortsighted control scheme.

Graphics

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

This game looks grand, from the multi-colored environments that take Rygar through areas of sandy deserts, snowcapped mountain peaks, and even lush woods, to the varied monstrous enemies he encounters, to the detailed backgrounds that put a finishing touch on enhancing the setting. Gameplay itself proceeds at a smooth clip, despite some definite flickering issues, even with just a couple or a few enemies on the screen. Rygar looks like the rugged hero he should, and one can hardly find complaint with the original canon at work here.

Sound

The sound effects are solid, from the constant “whoosh” of Rygar swinging his weapon, to the delightful tone of picking up an item, it is all fine and very serviceable. The majestic background tracks are the true auditory highlight of Rygar, though, as soaring horn-like notes ascend above staccato beats and a healthy bass line, truly serving to convey a grand, encompassing adventure.

Originality

Rygar - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Much like the aforementioned Blaster Master, Rygar is a rather distinctive experience that remains a sentimental favorite for some NES fans. Although each of its elements, on their own, might be found in other titles, Rygar is a one-of-a-kind combination of those characteristics, and truly perhaps a remarkable gaming feat for its era, even as an arcade port.

Its control scheme issues, occasional odd glitches, and overall lack of polish do hurt it, overall. While this is a fun, challenging, beefy 8-bit video game, it is also perhaps not as accessible as it could have been; debate can rage as to whether that is a fair contention in the field of reviews, but the fact is that even without addressing its issues of who would want to sit down and play such a game without a password or save state, even the overall quality is still not on par with the all-time great Nintendo titles. Not quite overwhelming spectacular, not quite bad, either, resting somewhere above the average game but outside the greats: Rygar snags three and a half stars out of five.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCkTZoDbnTw[/youtube]

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

The Uncanny X-Men

The Uncanny X-Men

The Nintendo Entertainment System was an 8-bit home video game console that is still remembered for producing some of the best titles of all time, especially in cartridge format. However, it is also known for also providing a library of truly putrid selections. One particular developer is responsible for many of them: LJN Toys Ltd, a company notorious for taking a popular license and quickly, shoddily turning it into a cheaply made NES cart in order to try and turn a rapid profit before consumers could realize that the games were horribly low-quality, especially in an age before the internet allowed people to rapidly learn of such travesties occurring. Some examples include Friday the 13th, Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six, Beetlejuice, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, all of which are nearly universally considered to be poor gaming choices and not displaying the work of a top-rate developer.

X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Another example was the X-Men game released in 1989, called The Uncanny X-Men on the box but referred to as Marvel’s X-Men on the title screen. This discrepancy, right away, provides a keen sample of the vast comedy of errors that seemingly took place whenever the LJN scam artists put a video game onto the market with the least effort possible. The title issue was not the only problem that plagued the X-Men video game on the NES.

Gameplay

The bland title screen showcases the title text, a blank background, than an animated showing of the head shots of the six selectable mutant heroes known to X-Men fans: Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Colossus, and Storm. After selecting one or two players, the first player can then select the level, from the choices Practice, Futurecity Street Fight, Subterranean Confrontation, Seach & Destroy the Robofactory, or Battle Through a Living Starship.

X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

After selecting the level, the battle begins, and the player will immediately notice a tragic mistake: Rather than having the B button attack, as in a proper NES game, instead the A button attacks and the B button hops in place. The hop is completely, utterly, mystifyingly useless. The attack for Cyclops, Storm, and Iceman consists of a quick beam that fires across the screen, while the other three characters Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler attack with an awkward lunge forward. The characters also have different traits, viewable on the character selection screen, such as Nightcrawler boasting a high speed and Colossus being able to take a lot of damage.

X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

In each area, with the exception of the endless Practice field, the two X-Men mutants must navigate their way through defeating enemy hordes and environmental dangers while searching for keys in an effort to find the finish. The term “two X-Men mutants” is not used accidentally; indeed, even in one-player mode, the player must select an accompanying mutant that is used by the computer as a teammate, although the computer often attacks in the wrong direction, gets stuck behind simple obstacles, paces back and forth in a small space, or freezes altogether until death. If you complete a level, you get to select a different one to try. You cannot even face the final boss, Magneto, except by use of a code: Once having defeated all the levels, you must hold Up, Select, and B, while highlighting the Practice level, and hit Start.

 X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Otherwise, the gameplay is atrociously broken and ridiculous. The mutant “powers” are barely represented at all; while Cyclops does have an energy beam, it is just the same attack as Storm and Iceman have, and while the lunge forward may make sense for the metal strongman Colossus, this game makes no attempt to acknowledge the powers of Wolverine or Nightcrawler, except by making Wolverine’s attack strength high and Nightcrawler very fast. This game is notably difficulty, with dozens of enemies attacking in waves, portions (like closing gates in narrow gaps) that can kill characters instantly, awkward play control resulting in the inability to efficiently attack or avoid attacks, and the stunning lack of any indication as to what to do or where to go on any particular level. There are little icon power-ups that can be collected after defeating many enemies, perhaps to recover energy or freeze on-screen foes, but often items are dropped that freeze your character as well. The entire experience is not enjoyable and offers no replay value.

Graphics

X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The “graphics” found in X-Men are genuinely bad. The character sprites are tiny, with only the palette colors enabling you to discern who is who, and not making any effort to showcase the famous characters with any marquee on-screen presence whatsoever. The different levels are a poorly designed, crappy-looking tile-based mess of background haziness, foreground busyness, and bizarre enemies coming from every angle. The navigation screens, like the level selection or character selection, are dull and minimalist, completely uninspired and not making even the least effort to appear interesting or like the developer cared at all about the final product.

Sound

The music cannot even be mentioned. The sound effects sound as though they were designed to be unpleasant, rather than appropriately complement the gameplay. The effect used for the energy blasts, for example, is a high-pitched shriek that sounds, in no way, like the sci-fi blasting noise it should. The entire game is experienced as an endless series of beeps and boops and stupid noise noise noise. There was not any work put into the soundtrack, and the X-Men video game for NES is just left in shameful shambles. There are Atari 2600 games with better sound than this title, and that is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole, that is cold, hard, measurable, quantifiable fact.

 X-Men-The-Uncanny - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Originality

This is a sickeningly awful video “game” that is of audaciously low quality. It it not fun, it is not good, there is nothing about it that can be favorably compared to even an average NES cartridge, and it offers no noteworthy gaming features. Could a great X-Men game have been created for the Nintendo Entertainment System? Yes, but fans of both Marvel and Nintendo were betrayed with this abomination. If this video game were a squirrel, it should be tied to a tree and beaten to death. The NES version of X-Men receives a half star out of five, and should rot in the ground like the putrid turd that it is.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDJKy-j2id4[/youtube]

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Wrecking Crew

Wrecking Crew - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Wrecking Crew

Another title for the books! Wrecking Crew is a simple game that keeps repeating and repeating over and over. The game consists of Merio which is trying to destroy buildings and such. There is this dude called Werio that won’t let him do it, in fact he is trying to hammer his ass to prevent him from wrecking everything(must be an environmentalist). Your main objective as Merio is to well wreck everything but along the way you have to deal with Werio and some fish with legs that try to kick your ass. The worst part of this game is that you can’t jump! I guess the hammer must be too heavy for Merio to jump with.

Wrecking Crew - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
The game is fun at some parts especially when you take in play the domino factor. If you hit the right object, you will make everything along the way blow up! Isn’t that what wrecking as all about? Either way you put it, the game gets a little frustrating later on, but it’s ok, you can try as many times as you want in order to conquer your wrecking urges. This game was part of the “black box” NES releases which means it’s pretty generic, so don’t expect much from it.
One of the reasons I picked this title as a retro game of the week is because this game shows that it doesn’t have to be great to have a little fun. With the flaws it may have, and the difficulty it may provide, you can still have a great time with it. Just don’t let Werio hit you with the hammer or the wieners will get you.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3I_pVpFBsk[/youtube]

Famicomfreak is a classic gaming writer and collector you can view his main blog here – Retro Gaming Life

Jaws

Jaws - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Jaws

Jaws: The Revenge was the third movie of the Jaws franchise, seeking to once again capitalize on the monster (no pun intended) success of the original, record-breaking film. The video game that was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System was arguably better than the big-screen version.

Gameplay

The game follows a character that is seeking the kill the giant Jaws shark.

Graphics

Jaws_(NES_Screenshot)

Although the looks of the title were somewhat pixelated and crude, in certain instances (such as the jellyfish bonus levels, etc.) you can tell this is done intentionally to create a comical, cartoonish effect. In a way, this is a brilliant, albeit weird idea: Create a dichotomy between friendly, cartoony under-the-sea creatures against the dark, sharp, jagged features of the Jaws bosses.

Soundtrack

Excellent song tracks here, with atmospheric synths featuring the ever-familiar suspense-building theme of the series. Even the between-levels music is upbeat and catchy. The overworld view, when the boat is directed, drones on repetitively until it becomes aggravating. However, this may have been intentional, simulating the long days at sea.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh0SC-bVKGc[/youtube]

Innovation

Usually, movie-themed video games are developed too quickly, as they seek to capitalized on a film’s popularity as rapidly as possible. While this may have been the case with Jaws, it does not show; the game is actually decent on its own merits, with some interesting themes. For example, there are a few modes of play: The overworld view, where the boat seeks upgrades while trying to avoid Jaws; the diving scenes, where the diver attacks creatures while collecting items; and bonus scenes, where bombing jellyfish (yes, bombing jellyfish) earns extra points toward upgrades; and a special section, whenever Jaws’ energy is depleted in the diving scenes. There is even a “hidden” mini-sub upgrade for the diver, making him faster and providing more firepower.

Ultimately, this is a fun, quirky, rewarding movie game, worth a respectable three-point-two-five stars out of five.

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

In 1992, a follow-up to the original Star Wars NES video game was released, this time based on the next film in the series, The Empire Strikes Back. This entry in the Wars-related video gaming canon was notable for retaining some of the elements of its predecessor while departing in some significant ways as well.

Gameplay

Much like the first 8-bit Star Wars game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Empire Strikes Back primarily follows the protagonist Luke Skywalker in his efforts against the evil Empire, while featuring some play appearances from other characters from the films as well

Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

This time, rather than starting in the sandy deserts of Tatooine, Luke begins in the icy expanses of the planet Hoth. Skywalker even begins riding a tauntaun, a kangaroo-like creature, just as in the movie, that you can choose to jettison at any point or continue as far as you wish with it beneath you. Play control remains similar to the first game, with the A button jumping, the B button firing, and Force Powers becoming eventually available via a selection menu screen brought up by pressing Start. One key addition in the controls is the capacity of the blaster weaponry to fire in any of the eight basic directional pad directions (the four cardinals plus diagonals), which although adds an intriguing element of firepower, also seems to give the game designers reason to include crazy-difficult enemies that ebb and dive in chaotic patterns and perhaps take too many shots to kill.

While navigating vast levels, enjoying the occasional cutscene and almost-cutscene, switching vehicles from beasts of burden to outright spaceships, engaging in precision jumping, and pressing the fire button as rapidly as possible, the player is working toward the ultimate goal of confronting Darth Vader in an epic lightsaber duel. In order to get there, crazy-awesome instincts, reaction time, intuition, and other gameplay gifts will be necessary, as this game offers a few less continues than the original and seems markedly more difficult.

Graphics

Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The visuals of this game are of high quality, showcasing the true capabilities of the 8-bit NES home console as it neared the end of its supported run before being eclipsed by the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). As such, the animations are smooth, the enemies are daunting, and there are some noteworthy on-screen appearances that feature head shots of the major players in the Wars mythos. Within the first minute of playing, the player will encounter messages from Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi. As the lasers fly and the space-oriented battles emerge into view, this video game makes it clear that it is aiming for a cinematic experience.

Sound

The music, though recognizable in portions, is hit-or-miss. The original score for the Star Wars films, including that for Empire Strikes Back, is among the best in cinema history, yet the digital translation here is thin. Had one not had any attachment to Star Wars, it would take a rather skilled ear to recognize anything special in the digitized tones. The sound effects, too, are a tad generic and overpowering each other at points, with one key exception: This game does feature some nice voice effects, impressive in their historic context of early video game lore.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Zc8Mi5insM[/youtube]

Originality

This was the second and final Star Wars game released on the NES, and for some reason, it feels like it takes a step backward. Maybe it is the slightly more linear gameplay, the seemingly increased challenge, or an intangible “feel” that separates it from the original, but this game is not as fun as the previous. As a two-dimensional platformer, it is decent at best, and eclipsed by many earlier titles from other developers. Some of the portions of the gameplay that are not taking place in a side-scrolling environment are nice, but do not detract from the title’s primary fault: Its immense difficulty. The characters die very easily, there are even more “cheap shots” than the previous Star Wars game, and some inexplicable quirks are in place. For example, in the Hoth ice cave, the wampa monsters (in the film, the wampa is a bigger-than-man, hulking, roaring, imposing Yeti-like animal) are smaller than Luke yet nonetheless pose a significant threat as they nimbly hop over to maul and claw at him. Taking down an AT-AT may be a great experience, but the film-turned-game nabs just two stars out of five.

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.