Archive for the ‘NES’ Category


Friday, July 18th, 2008

I’m reasonably sure that you’re familiar with Monopoly the board game. It’s a relatively loose interpretation of buying and selling real estate. So sure am I that I don’t feel any great need to explain to you how it works in any kind of great detail. Basically you buy, sell, and trade properties in an effort to run your opponents out of money.

The video game adaption of this game is pretty much exactly the same as the board game version, with a couple of kind of important exceptions. Probably the most significant for me were that: there were no tiny pieces to lose and calculating crap like Luxury Tax was way easier if I let the computer do it.

Also, I suppose I should mention that you can make computer players take the place of regular players if you don’t quite have enough to flesh out your game.

In all the times I played the old-fashioned analog version of this game, I don’t think I’ve ever actually played a game to the end. The reason being that this game takes hours upon hours to play if your players have any skill whatsoever. Well, that and as the turns progress they become logarithmically longer to complete.

That’s bad enough, but you can at least talk amongst yourselves and collude with each other to take down whoever’s in the lead. But, if you have the computer taking over one or more, then you can’t really expect intelligent discourse on… well any topic, really. You just kind of have to sit there while it does whatever crap it does, including offering you a ridiculously low amount of money for Marvin Gardens. And just kind of wait until it’s done its thing.

So, you play your turn, and then wait about fifteen minutes while it has its turn(s) before you can go again. In other words, play a turn, make and eat a sandwich, play a turn, mow the lawn, play a turn, wash the family goat, play a turn, etc.

After a few rounds of that, not only did I not actually finish my game of video Monopoly, but I never put it in my NES again, either.

Super Mario Bros. 3

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

A few years after the completely out-of-place Super Mario Bros. 2, we were treated to a new, proper, Mario game. One that felt more like the original game, which was already pretty good.

The story goes that somehow Bowser, the antagonist from the first game, has managed to somehow asexually produce seven kids. Each of which he sends out to a different kingdom in the Mushroom World to steal each king’s magic wand, turn him into some kind of animal, and then rule the kingdom, I guess. So the Princess Toadstool sends the Mario Bros. out to fix everything up (i.e. depose the Koopa Kids and return the wands to their owners).

They do this by utilizing their world-famous superhuman jumping abilities combined with their new powers of scrolling the screen right and left as well as up and down. Which actually becomes kind of important relatively quickly. Mostly because you get new powerups to play around with that let you do things that you could only dream about in other games.

Yeah, you have your mushrooms, your fire flowers, and your starmen, but you also have the Super Leaf that makes your Mario Brother grow an extra set of ears and a raccoon tail that lets him fly somehow. You also have at your disposal three super suits: a frog suit that lets you swim better, a Tanooki suit that lets you briefly turn into a statue, and a Hammer suit that lets you toss hammers like those crazy Hammer Bros. In short, four more kinds of awesome. There are a few more, but they range from the really lame (the anchor), to the normal lame (Jugem’s Cloud), to the kinda lame (the music box), to the almost kinda useful (the P-Wing), so I won’t bother going into them.

As you’d probably expect, the Mushroom World is a lot more expansive than the puny Mushroom Kingdom, so your view of the action is zoomed out a bit to a giant map that represents the Marios’ journey. Along the way there are, for lack of a better term, ‘points of interest’ that you have to clear. These could be your run-of-the-mill stages, power-up huts, minigames for powerups or extra lives, wandering enemies, or the like. Once you decide to take one of them on, you zoom in to a closer-up view with lots more details, and you get a finer-grained control over your Bro. It actually reminds me a lot of Zelda II’s overworld/action stage mechanic. Your goal is to clear a path to the castle to see what hilarious creature the king has been transformed into, then hop aboard the Koopa Kid’s ship, and then give the Kooplet what-for. Once you do that, it’s on to the next stage… Er, I mean Kingdom.

Once you finally clear the world of the menace that is Bowser’s Spawn, you get a stunning revelation that while you were out dealing with Bowser’s kids that he’s gone and kidnapped the unguarded princess.

The nerve!

So you have to trek through one final world to defeat Bowser, rescue the Princess, and win the day… again. It’s pretty hackneyed, I know, but that doesn’t really make it any less entertaining.

Super Mario Bros. 3 would actually be first game that I’d ever play that was an import. I remember that it wasn’t supposed to come out over here in the States for months, yet a friend of mine got the sole rental copy at the local game import shop. The cartridge, since the Japanese Famicom has a different design than the original NES, was about half as long as a US cartridge, and that meant that, even with the adapter, it was still shoved quite far into the NES, and would have been impossible to remove, had someone not had the foresight to attach a ribbon on the thing.

We played that game obsessively, and after a few days he was able to finish it, though I wasn’t around to witness it. For that, I’d have to wait until I got my hands on a copy. The problem was, though, that the game was wildly popular, and was out on rental just about everywhere I went. The odd (or sometimes very odd) friend would find it on a rental and let me play it for a few minutes, but I never really could make what you’d call ‘progress’.

That all changed when another of my friends found a copy of the game in the alley behind my house. Then the game got passed around a little bit and I finally was able to put enough time, effort, and determination into it that, several months after its domestic release, I was able to wrest victory from the gaping maw of defeat.

I think it was the waiting around and getting little tastes of the game here and there that made the final victory all the more palpable for me. And, in fact, it’s a feeling that I haven’t quite managed to attain since, which is kind of disappointing.

Kung Fu Heroes

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I sometimes miss the days when the plot of an entire game can be conveyed in one sentence. Kind of like Kung Fu Heroes:

Princess Min Min has been kidnapped by monsters and kung fu masters Jacky and Lee have to find and rescue her.

Now how do your guys rescue the princess? By navigating through lots of little rooms that are all a whole lot alike. Rooms that are filled with all kinds of highly destructible enemies, the kind that explode when they get hit with your specially-crafted punches. But to make it fair, your guys also go down with one hit from the enemies. Make enough enemies explode and the doors at the top open, and you go in, only to go to the next room and do it all over again with more enemies swarming on you.

I played this game quite a few times, but never really made much of anything that would resemble progress. There are apparently bonus items all over the place that you need to collect that are in the bricks scattered around the stages, but if you hit them too many times, then you get the anti-bonus that negates your accumulated bonuses… which didn’t actually make a lot of sense to me.

Not only that, but there were enemies that were seemingly indestructible unless you figured the precise micron you had to jump on to kill them, or the ones that were so indestructible that I couldn’t figure out how to kill them at all. And then you have some powerups that I couldn’t figure out how to utilize at all. So, even though I played this game numerous times, I never did make it much past the first dozen rooms. Then I got kind of bored with not making progress and went on to play something else.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

You go through all the trouble of rescuing Marian in Double Dragon only to have the evil Shadow Clan come back around and kill her off for some reason. Needless to say, the Double Dragons are a little bit cheesed off. So they decide to get some revenge on the Shadows by wandering headlong into their ranks and slaughtering them all using their martial artistry.

Somehow the game manages to have a slightly more violent premise than its predecessor.

But it’s also a whole lot like the first game. You walk slowly in the direction that the disembodied hands tell you to go bludgeoning thugs with whatever you can find, though your fists and feets work pretty well if you can’t find any goodies. What’s kind of different, though, is that you don’t have to bother with that ridiculous experience point system in the first game to earn your best moves. You can do all of them from the outset… assuming you can figure out which combinations of buttons to pull them off.

Like the first game, this one’s got four stages, and, also like the first game, the game isn’t too tough until you get to the end of the game, where it ramps up in difficulty so far that you’ll get lightheaded from the sudden dip in oxygen.

It’s about that point that you’re going to be really glad that the NES controllers were made out of some kind of space-age plastic that’s nigh-indestructible… unless you have those new-style ‘dog bone’ controllers that just kind of feel flimsier. Then you’ll have to start exercising some self-control. Though they do feel flimsy enough that your controller might disintegrate on impact with your TV, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it.

Spy Hunter

Monday, June 30th, 2008

If there’s one thing that the spies have that’s really cool is access to the cool cars. So you take just that aspect of spydom and make a game about it, and you will get something like Spy Hunter.

Spy Hunter is about driving a vehicle down the course as quickly and accurately as you can. While dispatching enemy cars before they can do the same to you, and sparing innocent lives whenever possible. To do this you have some heavy weaponry at your disposal to compliment your super sweet spymobile.

You start out with a machine gun that never runs out of bullets, which is pretty awesome, but occasionally a weaponry truck will come down the road and give you some kind of other different kind of awesome. Like an oil slick, or a missile launcher, or a smoke screen. All designed to take cars that are being driven by not you off the road. Any time you do that you get some points, unless of course you blow up some innocent car. Then you’re barred from scoring points for a while, so don’t do that.

But if you get tired of driving the super awesome car, you can take a turn at the super awesome boat. The boat is pretty much just like the car except that it rides in the water (duh) and the waterways are a lot more constrictive. But other than that? Still awesome.

One of the troubles with this game is that you can go really really fast, but to do that you’re going to have to get closer and closer to the top of the screen, which means that you’re going to have almost no time to react to anything. And that means that you’re going to crash a whole lot. But that’s OK, kind of, because you have 999 game seconds to play the game with unlimited lives. Pretty awesome, eh? Until the timer runs out and then your lives become extremely limited, and then the game gets far tougher.

Unless you do what I did one time. In the boat level I somehow managed to get the boat maneuvered so far over to the side of the screen that it was actually straddling both the left and sides at once. That meant two things: 1. I suddenly had a super awesome Land Boat(tm) and 2. I was completely untouchable and indestructible.

Which is kind of cool for a while, since you can actually put the controller down and be successful at the game, but that does get kind of boring after a while, even if it’s the easiest thing in the world to continue, once you’ve managed to do it. But I eventually wanted my NES back so I could play something else. So after a couple of hours I maneuvered the boat back on course and finished up my game and put something else in that was a little more interactive.

Mystery Quest

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Mystery Quest is one of the few games that I would buy secondhand that I actually had the manual to. And, even though I’ve gotten rid of the game and its manual at this point, at the time I had some idea of what was going on.

Hao, some magician’s apprentice, has to go out into the world and find four treasures that are hidden in four castles throughout the land. The thing is, though, that the castles themselves are also hidden. Compounding the issue is that Hao is pretty fragile. He can’t swim, diving into deep water is instantly fatal and touching shallow water hurts him. He also steadily loses his vitality (unless he finds some magic item). But it’s OK. He has magic bubbles to defend himself with. Combined with his razor-sharp intellect, there’s no end to what he can do!

Eh, I may have overstated that a bit.

I actually invested a lot of time into this game. I got pretty adept at finding the hidden castles and the treasures within, only to be greeted with a screen of failure each time I did so. I couldn’t understand it, why am I getting the bad ending for doing what I’m supposed to do? I even beat it three times in a row to see if there was another different ending to be had. And you know what I found out? There wasn’t. So I ended up trading this game off for some other NES game or other and hadn’t given it a second thought until today.

Today, I find out that if you want to see the ‘real ending’ for this game you have to beat it four times in a row. Four! One more than the three that I did previously. Do you have any idea what this means? It means that I’m probably never going to know how the game ends properly now. Because I can’t find evidence of the alleged ‘good ending’ anywhere on the Internet. I’m actually beginning to wonder if there actually is a good ending, and that the game is really just a giant joke on NES players. One that you can’t actually win, no matter how hard you try.

That’d be low.

And it would make me jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

Super Mario Bros.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Super Mario Bros. is the game that put millions of NES systems into homes and really made the Mario brothers household names. I understand that the game has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of forty million copies. Forty million! If I got one copy of the game per second, it’d take me just over 463 days to get that many. Not to mention the pile of cartridges in my back yard might be visible from space.

But do I really need to talk about a game with the kind of ubiquity that Super Mario Bros. enjoys? Absolutely!

Super Mario Bros. set the story for most of the Mario games to come after it. The princess is kidnapped by Bowser and the Mario brothers have to go rescue her. They do this by running (and sometimes swimming) to the right and utilizing their now world-famous jumping ability, and any powerups they can find along the way.

I’m going to assume that you’re familiar enough with this game, so I’m not going to feel any great need to go into too much detail about it.

But a lot of people regard this game as somewhat of a classic. You can hum a few bars of the main theme song and lots of people will immediately know what you’re singing, and probably sing along. Or they’ll tell you about how much fun that they had with the game. But if this game was released today, would it have the same status that it holds now? Would people have fawned over it and held it in such high regard.

I don’t think so.

But it was a very important game, and I think it’s aged pretty well. The gameplay still holds up. If you’ve never played the game before, it’s tough, but beatable. And, in fact, most times that your progress is impeded you can see where you screwed up, and are that much wiser for the next go ’round. Which means that when you start from the beginning of the game each time you get just a little further and a little further until you finish the game! Only to find out that there’s a bonus mode waiting for you where the game’s tougher and the enemies move faster, which is still fiendishly clever. And you don’t really get anything for clearing the harder mode other than the sense of accomplishment that you did it, but what do you want from an over-20-year-old game?

I think it’s probably out of cookies by now.


Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I was a paperboy in my neighborhood for the better part of a year, and while I certainly weathered my fair share of hazards, there was nothing that quite compared to what I saw in the video game adaptation of my boyhood profession.

In the video game version of Paperboy you took control of some paperboy riding his bike on his route, and you have to deliver papers to your customers. And his route is just a straight, couple-of-blocks long street. Sounds pretty easy, right.

You don’t know how wrong you are.

Somehow this neighborhood is full of people, animals, and the occasional lawn mower all bent on keeping you from delivering the papers to your customers. Colliding with anything that’s not a bundle of papers (more on that in a second) and you’ll lose one of your chances. But you’re not completely defenseless, you can use your arsenal of tightly-rolled papers as weapons, refilling as you find paper bundles inexplicably strewn all over your street. Just make sure that you keep enough for your customers, they each need a paper on their doorstep, too. It’s actually a whole lot to think about.

You can also use your papers to break the windows and cause general destruction in the yards of the non-subscribers (hey, they’re not your customers, screw ‘em). If you do well, and you get papers to all your customers, then some of the non-subscribers will subscribe to the paper, but if you miss a few, you might lose a few customers, which means you get more windows to break. Kind of a win-win, really.

Of course, you also get to do this ‘training course’ at the end of each day’s route that’s, I guess, there to help you to hone your skills when you’re out doing your deliveries, but I just found that it was a way to liberate me from my quarters.

So, in short: this game is harder than a real paper route, and a little less lucrative.


Saturday, June 21st, 2008

A while back a friend of mine invited me over because he has this rad to the max video game that he was just dying to show me.

Said game, Castlequest was a game about exploring around a giant castle. All throughout the castle is a series of color-coded locked doors and you have to find the correctly-colored key to unlock the correct door, the catch is, though, that you don’t want to necessarily unlock all the doors you find willy-nilly. If you do, you’ll probably run out of keys, and if you run out of keys, you’re pretty well stuck with an unsolvable game.

Not only that, but there’s tons of stuff in this mysterious castle that’s instantly fatal to your guy in spite of the fabulous enfeathered fedora he’s sporting. Which means that, even though you start the game with what appears to be a generous allotment of 50 lives, it’s not going to be nearly enough to get through this mess.

This is one of those games where it should have dawned on me to make a map of some sort to make sure that I unraveled the mysteries of the castle. That I could decipher the precise sequence that I’d have to collect keys and unlock doors in. Perhaps then I’d have been able to finish this monstrosity of a game. But I was young, and lazy, and didn’t actually own the game or anything. So instead of actually making a map, I just kind of never really played this game again. And, really, I’d consider that breaking even.


Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I kind of have an unhealthy affinity for one versus one games. I just kind of like having a one on one contest where the better person emerges. Oftentimes that ends up being the player that’s not me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them, right?

Rampart is a game about castles, wall building, and heavy artillery. You, and up to one of your friends (up to two in the arcade version) each take control of a castle with a wall around it (a rampart, don’t you know).

So, first, after you pick a castle, comes the ‘place your cannons’ phase, and then the shooting phase. Your goal is to use your cannons to bust up the ramparts of your opponents while they’re doing the same to yours. After a few seconds comes the rebuilding phase.

In the rebuilding phase you have a limited amount of time and some tetris-like blocks that you have to use to reconstruct your walls. Your goal is going to be to surround your cannons with a complete wall, but you can also extend your walls to claim other castles to use in your battles. More castles = more cannons at your disposal, but you also have to make sure you claim at least one castle, or it’s game over for you!

There’s also a single-player mode where you get to go up against boats controlled by the computer, but that’s way less fun.

I really had a lot of fun with this game. You really had to use your noodle a little bit to strategically destroy the wall in a way that the weird tetrimino-like wall pieces would have a tough time to fill. But you also don’t have a whole lot of time to do much in the way of scheming, the game just moves too fast for that.

But you have plenty of time for trash-talking whoever’s sitting next to you while you tear their walls down, which just kind of loses something if you do it over the Internet.