Abridged (I refuse to call them
Call them "abridged." Call them
"synoptic." Call them "miniature." Call them "composite." Just please, don't
dare call them "capsule." Not that that isn't an apt term -- in fact, it's
probably better than anything I could think of -- but it is already used on two
other sites of which I know, and probably some others of which I don't. I'm a
tad bent on diversity, and so I elect to call these small synopses of what are
or will become (case depending) my reviews "abridged," instead of the more
Seriously (yes, the previous was my uptight, snobbish idea of a joke,) it hasn't escaped my notice that I haven't been posting new reviews with any real regularity. What with the present demands of my academic situation, I'd be surprised if I suddenly found myself able to do anything about it. That in mind, I've done what I can with the little free time I have, and produced this archive of very brief reviews.
These are designed for a two-fold purpose: Both to explain my opinions of the games I haven't reviewed, and provide condensed versions of the existing lengthy reviews for those who don't have the time/interest to read them.
Also, please be aware that some of the points in a given abridged review may not be covered in the full version if said full version belongs to that fraternity of horrible "Old Era" reviews. However, even those are linked via the game's title if a full review exists.
Finally, I have composed a tangential set of SNES Abridged Reviews, should you care to read them.
Okay, I think I've covered everything. Now, onto the abridged library (if it really merits such a title.)
#s A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Let the message ring forth from this day -- the easiest way to ruin a football game is to get bogged down in the many nuances of the sport. Even though this title is violently simplistic (neé "simplistically violent"), I'd be lying if I said I didn't prefer it to the many games to which John Madden has lent his name. My only quips are that there is no conceivable ending, and that, if a defender so much as stands in the line of a pass, the program interprets the circumsance as an iterception.
A primitive World War II shooter that, despite sluggish action and boundless self-repetition, manages to be a lot of fun. Mindlessly enjoyable, but what the devil is that beeping sound?
A much better idea than its execution does justice, 720 is ruined from the beginning by an unnecessarily stingy timer and (at the risk of repeating Bryan Cord's assertion) slippery play control. Also, the events lack diversity, and they only get longer as the “classes” progress -- no more difficult.
Cluttered graphics, badly instrumented music, unresponsive play control, and the resulting excessive challenge comprise this pitiful effort. Similar to Castlevania, but this turkey does individualize itself by doing wrong everything CV did right.
Even though the plot is nothing more than Life Force with a man instead of a ship, and certain sound effects tend to grate on one’s nerves, this game isn’t all that bad. The graphics and action redeem it to a point, but one tends to go through speed power-up withdrawal upon losing a life, and too many of the gun adapters do the same thing.
-Adventure Island II-
The dinosaurs do something curb the difficulty that ruined first installment, but there should have been a way to dip into one’s reserves during the levels, so as to prevent the many situations in which Higgins has to dodge artfully and race to the end without a weapon. Also, with the stages of any given category as minimally varied from one another as they are in this game, there is no reason for the quest to be as long as it is.
Decent graphics (other than the hero’s sprite), somewhat inspirational music, and easy-to-learn play control do not compensate for the fact that the stages are completely uninspired. Why a game in which all of the stages are basically the same would contain a second quest remains a mystery to me.
Is it just me, or is it extremely difficult to keep the chopper on track? Plotting the crosshairs on the same input scheme as the transport’s direction was one big mistake; making the game a perpetual repetition of the same task was a second; and the density of enemy fighters was the coup de grace. The only part I really like is landing to pick up hostages/fuel -- and even that is fractured by the fact that the helicopter falls like a brick.
This game does virtually nothing to hold my interest, mostly because it lacks inspiration. Two songs, three kinds of enemies in two colors, and basically one repeating level... Next!
I would have loved to hear this game's creator attempt to rouse public interest ("It's Breakout with a plot and powerups... You can push call-waiting now"), but the concept actually works. The capsules are varied enough to keep the player alert, and the enemies add the sense of urgency games like the aforementioned Breakout and Alleyway so sorely lacked. You will never spend half an hour waiting for the ball to connect with any particular bar. Of course... the ball speeds up so damn abruptly that you never really get the chance.
Slow action, revolting music, and a ridiculous fairy tale of a plot (of which I admit I’m too critical) drain Astyanax of its potential greatness. It’s nice to have omnipotent spells, though.
If Athena’s randomly planed jumping control doesn’t deter you from this mediocre side-scroller, her utter lack of striking range will. Fans of mythology had best opt for Battle of Olympus.
I take back everything I have ever said about the irrelevance of graphics to gameplay. At least, I do so to the extent that will allow me to say this: Bad Dudes is so hideously animated that the interface suffers. To this day, I cannot determine if the attack delay is the fault of the play control or the lack of intermediate frames. Either way, the player takes so many preventable hits from highly fragile enemies that the game becomes more of an exercise in fly-swatting than a battle on equal terms. Still, it's worth playing, if only for the satisfaction of knocking away ninjas from a fixed position, and listening to the Edison lab-quality voice modulation that is trotted out at the end of each level.
If you’re playing this game at the moment, please check and see if you are controlling my outfielders. They don’t seem to listen to me. Still, the computer seems to grapple with the same insubordination, so the game can’t be dismissed as unfair.
-Baseball Simulator 1.000-
Forget sports games, this is one of the best games ever made for the NES. The Ultra Plays add a nifty element to it, and the stats tracker gives purpose to play. Plus, the music is stellar, and it’s nice to have a variety of season lengths to choose from.
You'll encounter this comment more than a few times if you choose to read the full review, but I'll state it here anyway: If the game were half as good as its self-celebration insinuates, I would probably have a grand ol' time playing it. Unfortunately, all the internal hoopla conceals what is, at best, a slightly-above-average product. Playable a little at a time, but I can think of more than a few baseball games I would rather play.
An institution in its time, and erstwhile favorite of Nintendo Power. A user-friendly, advanced pitcher-batter interface coupled with decent presentational merits makes this game great fun, but a season length shorter than 162 games and a save option (as opposed to the immemorable and time-consuming multi-letter passwords) would have hardly been outrageous demands.
-Bases Loaded II-
As good a rendition of baseball as I’ve yet found, though not of the universal quality of a Baseball Simulator 1.000. Still, its at-bat graphics, music, and general interface are quite impressive, cheapened only by the poor field animation.
Good graphics, the freedom to customize each member of your robotic team, and the notion of fighting over the rights to a base are all BaseWars requires to make it entertaining. In my case, however, the tendency to lose your outfielder, generally tractionless “M-cycles,” and inability to bunt take precedence. I never could get into this game.
I won't pretend that it's anything other than the presence of the Batman label and the above-average graphics that keep this game from being "just another action game" (Vice: Project Doom without the crisp play control, really), but in this particular case I'm willing to turn a blind eye to exploitation. The weapons serve to make the gameplay a bit more variable, and I can't help but be amused by the fact that the Caped Crusader can force his enemies into spontaneous combustion. However, what leadingly stands out is the fact that, unlike such works as Super Metroid and Strider, this game is able to make the wall-spring jump executable without having the hero stick to every vertical boundary he touches.
Beat-em-up action devoid of humans... Doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does. Good play control, well-paced action, and more than a hint of whimsy make from this silly premise one of the most innovative (albeit not one of the greatest) games in the annals of the NES.
An interesting premise backed by colorful graphics and very good music. The bionic arm is an interesting idea, but there are far too many situations in which jumping would have been so much easier. That alone ruins the experience, in my case.
-Black Bass, The-
Far be it for me to jump to conclusions about a game based on a sport I mention in the same breath as deer hunting in terms of its sheer barbarity; actually, I've always thought that I'd enjoy fishing every bit as much as those men who appear on ESPN at five a.m., if only the objective weren't so... well... mean. My complaints of this game stem less from my ultra-liberal vehemence than from the fact that it drags like a sack of rocks. I played for nearly an hour without catching anything -- and, having put in my time with the Breath of Fire series, I must fault the game's sparse concentration of fish (I only actually saw one in that time frame, and it swam away) before my own ineptitude. The other departments are merely average.
-Blades of Steel-
Konami’s faith in this game (they used it to advertise Jackal) aside, I really do enjoy it. The mechanics are fluid and workable, and it’s easy enough to score. Plus, the music is reasonably inspirational, and the play control reflects real ice hockey quite accurately (although that isn’t always a pleasing trait.) My sole complaints are that, at the “Pro” level, the fights involve too much parrying, and I have no idea what the announcer says when a pass is made. I have it narrowed down between “press the pole”, “testicle”, “strike the gold”, “light the coal”, “past the cold”, “vestibule”, and “Brest-Litovsk”, but that is as close as I can discern. Could it be “pass to goal”?
Between the diversity of stages and excellent music, Blaster Master has a lot of potential. However, that potential is never reached because far too much time is spent looking for things. Severely overrated, IMO.
Fun music, a neat premise, and rampant cuteness fail to triumph over poor graphics and a feather-worthy falling speed (it’s also practically impossible to direct yourself when falling.) The ability to fire upward is sorely absent as well.
-Bump ‘n Jump-
The River Raid of driving games, and a damn fun way to kill an hour. The technical merits are, at best, average, but the focus of the game inclines more toward mindless self-amusement than any graphical revolution. The aforementioned mindless fun is impeded, though, by the fact that you get knocked into hazards all the time.
Of the many botched arcade ports that were made for the NES, this one ranks among the worst (or ranks among the rank, to be whimsical.) Of course, many of the game's faults -- such as the limited pepper supply and dangerous method of reloading -- are carried over from the arcade, but the meager presentation does more than its share to drag down the play mechanics. What I chiefly cannot forgive, though, is the number of times I have died because I mistakenly thought I was in a position to get off the ladder.
This is your basic minimum-frills shooter. Neither graphics nor sound are exactly imperative. However, its most important aspect -- the interface of flying -- is near perfect, hindered only by a few stages that deliberately scroll too quickly.
The father of generations, and I can see why. Superb music, a cornucopia of interesting special weapons, and the memorable vampire-hunting premise place this game among the elite classics of the NES (but, I’ll admit, it’s not one of my favorites to the degree that it is for some.) Simon’s jumping is a little weighted, though.
-Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest-
Konami had no interest, with regard to their classic series, in making one game over and over, and it shows here. The same tried-and-true action is kept, but this time Simon explores all of Transylvania, thus creating plot-forwarding comparable to that of most early RPGs. Unfortunately, the non-linear elements tend to detract from the game more than they add to it. I never have any idea where I am.
-Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse-
And so Konami returns to its roots... This game is similar to Castlevania, but all its technical merits are improved. Also, the highlighted Belmont no longer travels alone. He encounters three companions along the way, but can only take one at a time -- unfortunate, that. Still a great game, mind you.
-Clash at Demonhead-
Second only to the Koosh ball in terms of non-medical stress reduction, but that’s not due so much to the fact that it’s easy (in fact, it’s pretty challenging) as to the fact that its premise simply doesn’t exist to be taken seriously. Decent graphics, a fun plot, a navigable non-linear world, and strange facial expressions galore await you here.
A variety of tasks, coupled with the occasional catchy song and an arcade-like mindset will get the player hooked almost immediately. However, the boat turns a bit sharply, and the game is virtually impossible to beat.
-Code Name: Viper-
An interesting plot -- involving a Harrison Ford-esque special agent -- is betrayed by an unnecessarily limited view of the action (i.e. everything is too big) and repetitive music. Plus, the hero’s life meter is a joke, and I have no tolerance for the demand to search as many as 50 doorways per stage.
Similar to the walkabout scenes in Blaster Master, but this one is somewhat fun in its own right -- that is, until the enemies start pouring out in droves. At that point, the game becomes more trouble than it’s worth.
As is so often said, this game’s challenge rating is plucked from the realm of the impossible by the 30-man code. Plus, the graphics are decent, the music has a distinctly military feel, and the variety of rifles insures that you’ll find one you like. One complaint: the base stages (two and four) do nothing but add drudgery to an otherwise great game.
-Crash 'n' the Boys: Street Challenge-
How do you remedy attitude? Satirize it, of course. Okay, so River City Ransom managed to do so in a somewhat less glaring fashion, but I doubt that this game would have been acknowledged without its characteristic blatancy. That diplomatic facility is the main reason Technos was able to uphold 8-bit ethics well into the 16-bit era. All the same, the play control can be difficult to learn intuitively; and once you get the hang of it, the game isn't particularly hard.
Every technical facet of this game is overshadowed by the marvelously original, fun story (which isn’t to say that the game is presentationally weak.) The only problem -- and it is manageable -- is that the swords don’t charge when the hero is moving.
-Donkey Kong 3-
If the stages lasted a little longer, I might not be so bothered by the fact that they keep repeating. However, as things stand, this poor beleaguered gardener’s plight doesn’t quite hold my interest.
-Donkey Kong Classics-
There is no such thing as too rich, too happy (trust me, I am "too thin"), or too retro. The games may not have the lasting presence of later creations, but, like Galaga, this compilation hits home in the department of sentiment about as resoundingly as anyone could hope. Plus, the vilificaiton of Mario in DK, Jr. is probably the greatest reflection, within the spectrum of the NES itself, of the anti-N64 movement.
The classic beat-em-up arcade game is more than a trifle flawed in this translation. The player and enemy hit each other at the same time far too often, and the character sprites are too small. However, the music is quite good.
-Double Dragon II-
Don’t ask me why I so love this game’s music, but the first stage’s tune gets me excited without fail. Anyway, the characters are of better size in this sequel, 2-player play is now simultaneous, and the play control is original without being convoluted (though the execution of special moves is by-and-large random.) However, the tendency of the game to mix isometric and 2-D terrain into the same levels is a mite irritating.
-Double Dragon III-
I'm all for revving up the difficulty of this series. Frankly, both of the last two installments strike me as a little elementary (neglecting those points whereat imprecise jumping can result in the loss of a life), but making the interface overly beholden to special moves is not exactly what I had in mind. Not only are Billy's punches and kicks far too slow to gain any sort of advantage, but the player is alotted only one life and no continues. Moreover, the concentration of enemies is grotesquely inconsistent. Be prepared, if you play this game, to spend ten minutes fighting in one place.
If memory serves me correctly, this is the first NES game I ever played in-console -- and I have remembered to this day just how bad it is. Bluntly, whoever hit upon the notion of assessing damage through the timer is an idiot, especially in light of the one-life action (ack, two games in a row.) The only reason I even own this game is because I confused it with Flying Dragon.
This game has to be given a bit of leeway in evaluation, because it was pretty much starting from scratch when it was made. Keeping in mind that an RPG of this caliber had never been originally made before DW (Ultima: Exodus, though similar, was a translation of a significantly more primitive computer RPG,) it is remarkable that the people who made it achieved what they did. The graphics are basic (though colorful in places,) and the plot consists mostly of interacting with people (which is actually pretty fun,) but there is an inherent joy in the experience of this game. The only real problem is that the music tends to repeat itself.
-Dragon Warrior II-
This one introduced monoliths, towers, ships, and multi-member parties to the series. Again, the color palette is entertainingly colorful (but more consistently so,) and the music is greatly improved. However, the plot is a bit disjointed, and contains far too many tangents.
-Dragon Warrior III-
Having traded one problem for another in its second installment, Enix finally managed to do everything right with this one. The graphics are good, the music is equally entertaining, and the fun of interacting with townspeople is resurrected amid scads of individualized villages. Also, betting on monster fights is a fun diversion, and a good way to make money.
Having finally replaced my Zapper, I now realize how good this game truly is. Sure, the task gets awfully redundant, but the play mechanics are so perfectly rendered that, for once, I can't justifiably blame the game for my mishaps.
The music is decent, the play control easy enough to pick up, and it’s kind of fun to bounce around the levels on a cane. However, the overriding motive -- to make Scrooge the richest duck in the world -- provides virtually no incentive to play.
I can't count on ten hands the number of futuristic action games that came out between 1989 and 1991, so it's a coup that I even remembered Dynowarz. Thank consciousness I did, though. I admit that the level-dualism is all that convincingly stands out, but that alternation between dino-bot and human gives the game a sense of simple order. The chromatic variation of the planets is the only additional quality this game needs to vault it from "fair" to "good", even though the jumping delay does everything in its power to preclude that rise.
A neat premise in theory, and somewhat fun as an arcade-style game, but the reality is that your task is just too repetitive to encourage earnest play, and its early year of release means primitive technical merits. That would be pardonable if this were a better game, but alas...
Different-but-good music, blurry-but-nice graphics, a variety of stores, and an interesting plot serve to make this game seem enticing at its beginning. But the plot is never really pursued to course, and the hero’s jumping is as futile as any of his contemporaries on the NES. Still, Faxanadu can be quite fun if you are content to play only the first part over and over.
One of the most consistently brilliant series in videogaming history begins here, and this game, for its time, is no exception to that standard. The plot is mythological without being quaint, and thereby extremely involving. Also, the music is pretty good (though, I admit, not up to par with Nobuo Uematsu’s later masterpieces.)
A super hero-esque adventure, the plot of which could quite deftly enthrall the player if actually hitting the enemies were not so difficult. Still, this is one of those curious titles for which purchase can be justified simply because it is rare.
-Friday the 13th-
When it comes to gaming, I pride myself on having relatively few prejudices. However, this game manages to violate three of the bigger ones. I hate horror movies; I hate summer camp; and I hate games that consist of running around the same locale over and over (and over). Even if I didn't have those biases, though, I doubt I'd enjoy Friday the 13th. The basic premise does little to draw the player in, and every time it seems as though he/she might be on the verge of getting something accomplished, Jason shows up and kills whichever character he/she is controlling. I also fail to see the intimidating potential of throwing rocks over one's enemies.
The famed arcade classic is re-created flawlessly in this version. Technical merits are superseded by timelessness, and the result is hours of sentimental -- albeit pretty routine -- play.
The best I can think to say of this game is that it’s average. The graphics are certainly that, though some of the in-race music is all right. Also, the play control is difficult to get used to, and the animation is terribly choppy.
-Gargoyle’s Quest II-
For one thing, Firebrand zips right along on the overworld. For another, his development is perfectly implemented. And for a third, “Firebrand” is a damn cool name. The action is not only perfectly designed, but beautiful both in sight and sound. Unfortunately, Capcom did the same thing with this game’s plot that they did with that of Breath of Fire II -- create a different vehicle for its predecessor’s major conflict and call it a new game. That does not necessarily make for a poor story, though. In whole, this may well be the last great game made for the NES.
Never has a sports game been so done in by realism as Goal!. Possession exchanges are so common that a penetrating scoring drive depends entirely on hot-potato-style passing. There are a few bugs in the system though, and if you shoot the ball from the right spot you can score fairly regardless of the situation. There is little fun in that, however, since the computer AI never figures it out. Plus, blowouts are not at all enjoyable when you can only score in one way.
As an aside, the music is fairly good.
Each enemy monster is greatly individualized, the graphics are good, and, for whatever reason, it’s heartwarming to see Godzilla and Mothra on the same side. However, having to traipse (or fly) slowly across countless stretches of land on which the task is always the same gets old all too quickly.
Once the player gets used to its style, Golf can be fun regardless of its technical shortcomings (most of which are just the results of its early time of release.) Still, the game is way too stringent about boundaries, and mis-hits are only of the extreme kind.
-Goonies II, The-
Having never seen the movie, I suspect I'm missing out on some of this game's subleties. .... Now that I think of it, that entire sentence is a genteelism for "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do." Still, I'm having a good time, if for no better reason than that I like the melding of different environments into one setting, and enjoy making fun of the translation. If this trend persists, The Goonies II may unseat Ultima: Exodus as my favorite "get-nowhere-but-have-fun-anyway" game.
Some of the music is pretty good, and I have no complaints about the graphics, but this game is only fun until you lose your first life (which can actually be prolonged for some time if you maintain a force field and use a turbo controller.) After that, you’re taken back to some point in the stage that is invariably teeming with enemies, with the benefit of neither powerups nor a thirty-man code.
-The Guardian Legend-
This game is great in all of its presentational capacities, including the innovative plot. However, the challenge is a bit excessive in the later levels. Personally, though, I’ve always found that to work in the game’s favor, since the later levels and bosses are far too surreal and, in some cases, macabre for my taste. Gotta love those blue landers, though.
If Galaga were modernized, given some semblance of a backstory, and otherwise “suped-up”, the product would be something like this game (that claim neglects, of course, the short-lived arcade hit Galaga 2000.) Excellent visuals, curiously symphonic audio, and the implementation of depth via the 360-degree control scheme bring a classic paradigm into the... well, the late 80s, anyway. I could do without the bosses that break apart when shot, sending little bits of themselves at the player, though.
A decent simulation of basketball, but it would have been scores better were most of the players not so slow, the ball not stolen so often, and so many of the shots not fated to being bricks.
Personally, I feel this game would have been better executed if the designers had omitted the bonus rounds and just made the mountains twice as high. Even though both tasks involve advancement, they are presented in such different fashions, and with such brevity, that the entire experience seems fragmented. Nonetheless, the emphasis on verticality is a pleasant novelty -- carried too far, albeit, by the tendency of the hero to jump more upward that outward, even when directed horizontally.
The last (and, not coincidentally, the best) of Nintendo’s early sports games. In this one, rosters can be individualized among three player types, teams are more relevant, and the soundtrack is more evolved. The graphics are more refined as well. All in all, Ice Hockey is about as good as fundamentalistic sports games come.
-Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II-
It is incomprehensibly strange that this sequel chose to fix only the facets of its predecessor that didn’t really need fixing. More attention is paid to modifying Kuros’ arsenal, a magic meter is introduced, and currency begets more than just admission to the boss’ lair -- but those are little more than bells and whistles. The first game’s principal shortcoming -- frustration -- remains intact. The main purpose of the levels is still to jump around aimlessly (for some time, I might add) searching for something, and rampant falling opportunities turn that into an experience more irritating than a game of Chutes & Ladders. However, the music is a vast improvement.
This one almost presents Jackal-style action more aptly than Jackal, but the play control is not in tune with the fast response time it necessitates (i.e. the tank turns too slowly). I cannot begin to count the number of blows I’ve suffered because my confounded gun wouldn’t point in the right direction.
The key concept here: masked innovation. In other words, nothing on the surface seems all that revolutionary, but it’s an interesting novelty that this game chooses to spotlight the military ATV, and, for once, touching certain enemies actually does away with them. Also, the music is flat-out stellar. I suppose it would have to be to merit the product plugging in Blades of Steel.
This is an inspired rendition of the show, and the theme song is just plain timeless. However, the characters are somewhat stupid-looking, and the questions seem a mite easier than the typical Jeopardy! fare.
Overridingly, this game seems to be ahead of itself. The music could have been excellent if it had waited for the advent of better instrumentation, and more time should have been taken to refine the play control. Still, this game is fairly interesting. The only huge shortcoming is the futility of Pit’s life meter.
I understand now. This game's lack of inspiration doesn't matter -- its goal wasn't to revolutionize the genre, but to epitomize it. And it does so quite well (I'll start my sentence with a conjunction if I want to!) The action is crisp and, in its simplicity, captivating (who wouldn't feel a rush of power at being able to flick enemies away); and the game establishes itself as a great quick play both through its short length and the fact that, unlike later variations on the theme, one need not "learn" it to be able to play it. Still and all, I wish the henchmen did something other than grab me.
-Legacy of the Wizard-
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but it always pains me to see such a magnificent soundtrack wasted on such a mediocre game. The correct path to take with each character is far too inobvious, and it is often impossible to return to the path from which you came, even (and especially) if you went the wrong way in the first place.
Refined audiovisuals and the thirty-man code redeem this game from the many situations in which losing lives is more-or-less perpetual. Likewise, the length and diversity of the stages compensate for the fact that there are only six of them.
-Low G Man-
A surprisingly enjoyable game, especially once the player gets used to the controls. The mediocre animation is forgivable simply because this is an outright joy to play.
An inspired premise, centering around unique tables and adjustable friction, rests at a virtual stalemate with the lack of a decent sountrack and frequent situations in which the cue ball gets trapped. I should probably stop expecting to get through all the tables in one game.
-Magic Johnson’s Fast Break-
This game has very little potential, and falls short of even that because the ball is stolen far too often, and the graphics are horribly undetailed. Also, five-man rosters would have made the experience significantly more interesting.
This game does three things that have set it in the early stages of becoming one of my favorite NES games (an elusive distinction, believe me). First, it manages to belong to the puzzle genre while being neither bare nor excessively complicated. Secondly, it presents all the nuances of myriad everyday tasks with thoroughgoing realism (home owners don't walk obliviously past strange intruders.) And thirdly, it deftly synthesizes four decades (1950s-1980s) of pop culture into a single offbeat, witty, and complex environment. Give the music a chance, too. It's much more enjoyable than it initially seems.
The innovation and engaging nature of this game wears off by the fourth “race,” but until then Marble Madness is fairly enjoyable. However, even that enjoyability is somewhat siphoned because not enough time is allotted to complete the later stages, and thus the player is always in a hurry.
Not surprisingly the most primitive of this proud series’ games, but certainly not the worst. The Blue Bomber’s surroundings lack detail, and most of the enemies are fairly mundane. However, the music hops right along, and it’s fun to see the many little oddities that were left out of later installments.
-Mega Man 2-
A vast improvement upon its predecessor, and possibly (if not probably) the best in the series. The graphics are stellar, and the music is among the best found on the NES. Also, the bosses are inspired, and the large enemies are absolutely awing.
-Mega Man 3-
The only other game in the series that comes close to Mega Man 2 in terms of overall quality. This one’s graphics are still exceptional, its music still superb, and its bosses maintain MM2’s standard of originality while straying from the elemental motif. However, the Doc Robot stages are completely unnecessary, and simply make the game too long.
-Mega Man 4-
This is where the classic series takes a turn for the insipid. The plot is that, as is the music, and the repertoire of standard enemies consists mostly of bland attempts to recreate MM2’s massive animal robots. Likewise, some of the bosses seem to indicate that Capcom was simply running out of ideas.
-Mega Man 5-
Okay, maybe "Napalm Man" is a bit of a reach, but at least Capcom's trying again. The environments are more than generic rehashes of things we've all seen before, and the musicians seem to be striving to innovate. All the same, it seems to me that deepening the plot would have done more to resurrect the freshness of series than simply making Protoman the next in a parade of stupid covers for Dr. Wily.
-Mega Man 6-
It’s strange, but this game actually manages to make the same mechanics seem less hackneyed than they did two installments ago. Granted, that’s mainly due to the fact that the audiovisuals have been improved, but “Power Megaman” adds an interesting twist. Also, the enemy robots are once again inspired (with the exception of “Wind Man”, that is.) Capcom has milked the whole “animal” motif, though.
Nobody will ever say it with greater effect than did Tim Connolly before he changed his capsule: "Dodging soldiers who are ten times more powerful than you are as you try to figure out where the heck you are doesn't make for a very good game." Like Metroid, Metal Gear stands in my good graces only because it reinvented its genre with all that non-linear espionage stuff. The game itself is just too fitful (all those sudden attacks), irritating (it's not unthinkable for Snake to be killed by one attack dog, and the music sucks), and broken apart (getting in and out of trucks) to hold my patience. Plus, the lack of a charismatic hero keeps it from being at all captivating.
I want to take this game, find the kid from my sixth grade class who recommended it to me, and beat him with it -- that's how bad it is. The mech's attacks are plotted such that they can't hit anything, and the crude animation makes one forget that of Bad Dudes. You could argue that these are all intended to reinforce the chaotic setting, but.... there must have been a better way to do that. To sum the game up simply, Blaster Master without the user-friendliness.
Maybe it's just me, but schleping through all the labyrinthine recesses of a game with no plot-forwarding does little to allure me. I'll accord Metroid some leniency for being as seminal as it is, but, outside of the music, that may well be the game's only noticeably positive quality.
-Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!-
The redundancy of the game’s task is entirely camouflaged by the fact that the player will spend the majority of his/her time watching the opponent, both to enjoy the sheer whimsy with which each is presented, and to anticipate the next attack. Innovation and humor are all that are necessary to save this game from its mediocrity in most technical capacities.
Truth to one’s title is seldom a bad thing. However, what few technical merits -- and what little plot (no offense to MI fans intended) -- this game has are superseded by the fact that this mission is quite literally impossible. None of the characters move quickly enough to survive certain essential parts of the levels, and their “special” weapons are practically useless. Worth a look only for its decent rendition of the classic title sequence.
-NES Open: Tournament Golf-
The illegitimate sequel to Golf, and a much more technically refined version of its predecessor. The variety of new options and variety of opponents make the game quite enjoyable, but once the player gets the handle of the controls, “Open” becomes too easy.
-NES Play Action Football-
Its poor graphics are easily redeemed by both the wide view and the fact that NFL rosters were licensed (even if the team logos were not.) However, the players themselves move much too slowly (with the hastened clock, breakout plays can last upwards of one minute,) and no pass play truly involves anything more than hurling the ball into the air and directing the receiver to it.
The introduction of cinema scenes, though revolutionary, is not where this classic makes its impact -- at least not in my case. Rather, it is the fact that NG manages to both present those scenes, and maintain excellence in most of its traditional capacities. The graphics are good, -- though a tad rough in some of the backgrounds -- the action is fast-paced without being rushed, and the plot is quite possibly the best of any game ever made for the NES. The oft-maligned challenge can be dealt with if the player is willing to spend enough time determining the pattern upon which each given level is modeled. Otherwise, to be blunt, you’re in for hell.
-Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos-
Following excellence with a higher degree of excellence is seldom achieved, but NG2 seems to do so with relative ease. The black grains in the backgrounds are eliminated, the music uses a greater variety of instruments, and the plot is as good as NG’s. Also, the level of challenge is more accessible.
-Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom-
What happened after the Roaring 20s? Not to say that NG3 is that horrible of a decline, -- the graphics and music are still great -- but the play control is a little sluggish and many of the enemies do too much damage. Also, the plot turns the surrealism of its predecessors into something completely incoherent. Nothing happens for a reason, anymore.
-Nintendo World Cup-
The surrealistic, no-holds-barred approach this game takes to soccer is absolutely inspired. Its technical facets aren’t perfect, but it’s constructive to be able to act out your aggressions in the way NWC permits. Now, if only the clock weren’t so slow...
The sound effects are a little off, but I won't make any bones about that. Almost all of the quirky elements that made this one of the most unique works in the history of videogaming (I'll admit there wasn't really the potential for a genre) are translated faithfully into this vehicle. Still, the gameplay speeds up a bit too readily.
Not enough of a revolution to avoid being identified with Tetris, but innovative enough to keep from mimicking it. The emphasis on forming numerical combinations in the face of a sort of guillotine-like onslaught is both fresh and engrossing, but it translates so well into the tournament format that one wonders why that was not the focus of the game. Also, I would have been more willing to tolerate the level of cuteness had the hero been something other than a kid in play-clothes.
An award-winning pinball machine it ain’t, but that doesn’t mean it's not enjoyable. There are about seven or eight basic novelties to be found here, and unleashing the more elusive of them can become an obsession with marked haste. Fun has seldom been so simply and adroitly represented as it is here. I just wish I weren’t so terrible at keeping the ball in that bonus room.
Decent audiovisuals, a plethora of weapons, and a conceptually interesting plot easily win out over the hero’s puny life meter. However, the game does drag a bit because of the lengthy stages.
In order to stand out in a genre this overcrowded, a game must possess something that sets it apart. Power Blade's Arnold Schwarzzenager-esque hero doesn't achieve that, but the use of the boomerang, buttressed by the freedom to throw in several directions, the non-linear levels, and the colorful environment, does. On the other side of things, it can sometimes be difficult, given the bluish-red/reddish-blue coloration of the life meter and the lack of recoil, to determine whether or not Nova as taken a hit; and there is only one relay point, other than the beginning of each Sector, from which one can resume play after losing a life.
I've lauded this game in the past, and it deserves it to an extent. The wrestlers are distinctive, and their moves serve to heighten the variety. However, there is no potential here for the fast victory indigenous to this "sport." Every fight boils down, in the end, to a battle of attrition. That, in addition to the fact that it takes forever to defend the V.W.A. title, prevents this game from being the quick play as which it might best function.
One of many sports games that would have been decent if the matches didn’t take so blasted long. However, there is a vague thrill in playing only a set or two.
An entertaining, Pole Position-esque racing game that is dragged from grace by an interface that, rather than rate the player in terms of the time taken to complete each course, mandates that he/she reach a certain point in a certain amount of time to continue.
The fact that all of the players are shaped like Babe Ruth is somewhat indicative of the old-school mentality of this game. Aside from the authentic MLB rosters, “RBI” doesn’t have much to go on. The “season” mode is just a string of individual games, and the interface of play offers nothing out of the ordinary.
There are far too many oil slicks, but the cars would be virtually impossible to control even if there were not. Also, the novelty of being able to shoot your adversaries wears off quite hastily, and the results of the races are determined by each car’s position when the winner crosses the finish line.
-River City Ransom-
The graphics aren’t particularly good, but the action is quite lively and draws the player in almost immediately. Also, the array of stores has not yet been paralleled by any other game.
I guess this is one of the maxims upon which I found all the scrutiny to which I subject video games: Great games are those that would remain so if divested of the merits of their appearances. The point of my voicing that here is that RoadBlasters is not one of those games. Playing it in this form, I realize that the only reason I ever enjoyed it in the arcade was because the enemy cars looked neat when blown up. Fuel is quite scarce, and regaining it depends entirely on never missing your target. Thus, you will often not take shots that could prevent your destruction for fear of driving down the “multiplier”.
-Shadow of the Ninja-
One more ninja game, in and of itself, wouldn't have been excessive. The problem is that this game is just too archetypal to stand on its own two feet. All the conventional elements are solid, but neither the heroes nor the enemies can do anything that can't be found in fifty other games. Even the grappling hook and the ability to hang on bars are just new versions of old norms (to say nothing of that ubiquitous post-Gutsdozer tank boss.)
This is one of the best -- though also among the more passive -- two-player games I’ve yet encountered, and the bonus scoring system is innovative. However, those lacking a mind for real pool will likely not have an easy time here. Still, the nifty in-play song will keep you in a light mood, thus preventing any paramount frustration.
-Skate or Die-
World Games with skateboards -- no more, no less. Don't get me wrong, there's some appeal to the various events, but like so many other games that require the player to do stunts, it's almost impossible to remain standing.
Audiovisually, this game is quite evolved for its time. Plus, the races are brief without being abrupt, and the music is zippy -- allowing for about as perfect a quick play as one could expect. The problem is that the dominant black outlining ruins the implementation of graphic depth, making it impossible to determine if what you see in the distance is a gate or an obstacle. On some of the faster courses, that can destroy a promising run.
-Snake, Rattle, 'n Roll-
I applaud this game's audacity in making one of the most universally hated members of the animal kingdom seem cute -- to say nothing of its quirky self-elongation/bulb-eating premise and conspicuously Rare-ish liberty with one of the foundations of Rock & Roll. Unfortunately, beneath all the oddities, there isn't much of a game. The stages are basically excuses to slither around eating things, and the multiplanar, isometric layout doesn't lend itself well to the amount of momentum Rattle and Roll are wont to develop.
Obviously, I don't think Metal Gear ever merited a sequel, and this game doesn't really prove me wrong. Granted, the presence of the knife and handgun from the get-go do something to curb Snake's inherent wimpiness, and the music is less... well... boring (I suspect that watching all these Sanford & Son reruns is beginning to tax my vocabulary, even if it has added "champipple" to my repertoire.) However... once again, there is little sense of location; once again, the tenacity of the enemies can end one's game in seconds; and once again, Snake embodies none of the bravado and originality essential to his role. Still, this time there's a stronger element of military ops than of one man trying to overthrow a covert organization with a pack of cigarettes.
Never have I seen dribbling so poorly designed. The player literally loses control of the ball after touching it, and thus the play control demands more acclimation than should be necessary. After that, though, there is a marginally good time to be had.
Fly around in an egg-shaped pod, ward off enemies, and return spoils to the mother ship... What minute interest this premise arouses within me is squelched by the practically unmanageable controls. Even in the best of cases, I find myself ricocheting off the walls at least twice per trip.
-Spot: The Video Game-
Novelty games based on pop culture (no pun intended) seldom appeal to me, but this one is a noted exception. The Othello-like objective is carried off well, and the spot itself is hilarious. However, I’ve never been able to get heavily into games in which I am convinced I'm going to lose until the final move puts me over the top.
The halting play control gets quite annoying, and the plot is mostly a parade of tangents, but neither of those factors ruins the game. Instead, it is the freshness of the tropical setting, the enjoyment of the aforementioned tangents, the colorful graphics, and the catchy music that triumph.
-Street Fighter 2010-
A uniquely orchestrated action game in which the player squares off against a variety of adversaries. Its originality allows for a pleasant experience, but the setting is a bit too post-apocalyptic for my taste.
A plot both thought-provoking and entertaining -- though rather poorly translated -- combines with decent audiovisuals to save this game’s appeal from the murk produced by its stiff play control. All in all a good game, but if I have to climb one more hill...
I don’t care how sentimental -- how much of a purist -- you are, or what you may have heard elsewhere. This game is a vast improvement upon Contra, from the enlarged graphics to the faster “bullets” to the removal of those horrid 3-D base stages.
-Super Dodge Ball-
This game would have been a perfect example of how to turn a playground pastime into a video game if the characters didn’t flicker so blasted much. Still, some of the music is very good, and the inspiration is obviously there.
-Super Mario Bros.-
If you aren’t familiar with Super Mario Bros., then this site is so far out of your element that you’ll need an expedition grant to return to it.
-Super Mario Bros. 2-
A far cry from either of the two games that bookend it, but I’ve always found it liberating to be able to pick up and throw anything you can find.
-Super Mario Bros. 3-
I’d be fonder of the Koopa Kids had they not become so overused so fast, but SMB3 is still a pretty good game. The variety of “suits” insures that there’s something for everyone, even though two of them are about as rare as raw meat.
Either Pitfall! wasn’t as great a game as it seemed (a truth no real connoisseur of videogaming should be willing to accept), or this game needs a lot of work. Seriously, at the time of SP, some kind of objective would not have been a gross request.
-Super Spike V’Ball-
This game makes a noble attempt to create a stellar rendition of volleyball, and comes about as close as any game ever has. The graphics are decent, it’s nice to play in a variety of cities, and a few of the songs border on superb. Plus, the “super spikes” add an interesting little twist to the game. However, the repetitive “bump-set-spike” of volleyball simply doesn’t make for a particularly good video game.
A very fundamental racing game -- average in virtually all capacities. However, it is potently addictive in its simplicity -- definitely a worthwhile investment.
In comparison to its sequel, this game is presentationally weaker, a bit more balanced in its challenge, and equally playable. However -- though this doesn’t effect my impression of it -- I can’t help but chuckle at a game whose “up to date” NFL rosters include Steve Largent and Walter Payton.
-Tecmo Super Bowl-
The play is very well-paced. However, the live-play graphics are as poor as the cinemas are immaculate, and breakout plays are all too common. The latter hardly ruins the game, though, since the player gets his/her share as well.
-Tecmo World Wrestling-
Okay, now how in the name of hell did Tecmo expect us to read lengthy color comments while being beaten to a pulp? The game consists of too much grappling and too little hitting to be interesting, and the wrestlers are just plain lame. I have no aversion to designer-created wrestlers, unless said designers consider he an innovative fighter whose leading characteristic is baldness. Pro Wrestling does it better -- no small feat when one considers that PW was made during the infancy of the NES.
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-
Seldom a fan of cliché, surfer-dude mannerisms, I actually support the depersonalization of the Turtles. I cannot, however, stomach a game in which I recoil and the enemies don’t; nor do I care for those works in which “statistical diversification” translates to mean that the heroes can do nothing well but their respective fortes. I am also unsettled by difficulty curves that are more like scatter charts -- in which, *ahem* the second stage is the most difficult. I’ll give due notation to the visuals and walkabout scenes, but this entire game is bogged down by factors which, had they been solitary, it could have overcome.
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game-
The Turtles literally take flight when hit, and the color palette is a tad bland. Also, because of the restriction of technique in this version, it doesn’t really matter which Turtle you choose. However, the action is still quite fun, even though most of the bosses take scores of hits to defeat.
Again, because of this game’s early year of release, there really isn’t much of a soundtrack. However, the graphics are fairly colorful, in spite of their inevitable primitivity. The only real problem with the gameplay (and it is a big one) is that the slightest error in timing sends the ball miles off your intended mark.
The fundamental nature of the presentation doesn’t impede the inspiration of Tetris in the least. No puzzle game has ever been this addictive, though it is a trifle frustrating that there doesn’t seem to be an ordained last level.
The “mission” concept is quite interesting, and the film’s music is translated stellarly. However, there is far too much inactive time in the air, and thus the action is a bit sluggish. Also, it would take Chuck Yeager to complete that confounded midair refueling sequence.
-Top Gun: The Second Mission-
If Top Gun’s action was too slow-paced, this game is a ludicrous overcompensation. This time around, the player has virtually no time to think and react, and, as a result, the game is unbelievably difficult.
-Track & Field-
The game’s only real hook is the feeling of superiority that accompanies the use of a turbo controller. Without one, the going gets tough rather abruptly. Even with the aforementioned benefit, the skeet shooting event remains a sizable pain in the tuchus.
-Track & Field II-
A marked improvement upon its predecessor (even if the highlighting is a little dark), but this one still doesn’t quite have the hook I was looking for -- probably because it’s quite difficult even with a turbo controller. Still, some of the events can be a blast if you’re content not to do very well.
Never has there been so much fun in walking around doing nothing as in the case of this game. Also, the bright and diverse color palette redeems the primitive graphics to some extent, and the music, though poorly instrumented, has a certain appeal. Just don’t aim to finish this one.
-Ultima: Quest of the Avatar-
The graphics are more refined, but the color palette contains way too much black and dull green. Likewise, the music -- with a few exceptions -- is lacking of the inspiration of “Exodus.” It’s also a terrible chore to trudge across the now oversized continent, and every single thing you do affects how far you are from completing the game.
-Vice: Project Doom-
I’ll concede that this game rips off too many other titles to speak of, but they form a good combination (albeit one previously used in The Adventures of Bayou Billy.) Plus, the plot has pretty much everything you could want, including as interesting a plot twist as comes readily to mind.
-Werewolf: The Last Warrior-
As someone who has never had much of a fondness for comic books, the appeal of this game is by and large lost on me. Plus, the programmers elected to make A the attack button and B the jump button. Rogues...
-Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition-
A decent translation of the classic game show, though lacking of its real theme song. One problem: the prize round is completely wrong -- the puzzles, since they draw from the saame pool as the rest of the game, are frequently too long to be realistically solved with five letters. Plus, since the prizes don't have any palpable ramifications, the round in itself is fairly pointless.
Thanks are due to Loogaroo (the rhyme is unintentional) for informing me that it would have been anachronistic for the game's prize round to give the player R, S, T, L, N, and E.
The excellent, well-forwarded plot -- though it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie -- gives a compensatory incentive to the excess of walking around. Yet it does not, in addition, compensate for the myriad of dead ends.
I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this game is so much worse than its Apple IIgs counterpart, but it is. The graphics are absolutely horrid and the game asks way too much of the player. Plus, there are only four events, none of which are well presented. This sucker is constantly at odds with 8 Eyes for the distinction of being my least favorite NES game.
-Wizards & Warriors-
The music is, well, different, but some of it actually works pretty well. Likewise, the variety of accouterments is marginally interesting, and the medieval theme is carried off commendably. Conversely, the stages consist of way too much jumping around (and falling, one mustn’t forget,) and, in a Murphy’s Law-esque fashion, the key you need will often be in the one place you can’t reach.
Yet another of Epyx’s games that loses a few steps from the computer version, but this one isn’t nearly as slipshod as Winter Games. The graphics are still a severe decline, but the actual events are more nobly translated, and, this time, the fun of a multi-event pseudo-Olympiad remains intact. Still nothing stellar, mind you, since the controls are fairly confusing.
This game disappoints me, but I freely confess to having overestimated it. Honestly speaking, Xexyz is presentationally handsome, and the plot’s not anything to scoff at. However, every stage consists of mainly the same task, thereby keeping the game from being in any way addictive.
For time's sake, let me put it this way: Everything Bryan Cord ever said about this game is true tenfold. Not only is the AI staggering (though I don't think I would have noticed if Cord hadn't pointed it out) and the action feverish, but the number of powerups add a note of variety, and the audiovisuals are, actually, somewhat good. The topper, though, is the fact that, though this game was made in 1986, it bears none of the telltale signs of a game made at such a time (I'd have said '88, personally.)
-Zelda, The Legend of-
One of the coolest arsenals of items (I seldom use the word “cool,” but there’s no more apt description in this case) combines with a fresh take on a traditional objective to make this game the classic that it is. However, -- and I know I’m blaspheming here -- I tend to get a little more sick of the overworld song than I’d like.
-Zelda II: The Adventure of Link-
It seems most people either love this game or hate it, but I’ve never felt horribly strongly about Zelda II. I incline more toward disliking it, but that’s due more to the tight play control and frequent overly difficult situations than its lack of resemblance to the first. Most of the music is quite the triumph, though.
Return to the main page - The NES
Return to the review index - Game Reviews