Recently I earned the opportunity to attend a baby shower in a faraway and unfamiliar city, a savage land known as Greeley. This outpost of humanity is lawless and looks a lot like the world portrayed in Red Dead Redemption. After hanging out and being natural (i.e. obnoxious) in a room filled with nothing but women, I stole the car keys and managed a dangerous and perilous escape. Being in an unfamiliar place far away from civilization as I knew it, I decided that a tour of the surrounding area was in order. I had the car all to myself for two hours, so I Googled nearby used collectable game retailers. I found a really amazing non-chain store packed to the ceiling with retro video games and systems. They had a locked glass display near the entrance that housed several beautiful rare NES games. I gazed at a mint condition copy of DuckTales 2 for about twenty minutes before settling on a couple less rare games that were far less expensive (Pirates! and Ghost Wolf).
After arriving home, I thought it would be a great idea to dig out all my boxes of NES games and catalog all of them just to keep track of what I had, what had been borrowed forever from “friends”, and to also separate anything that was extremely valuable and put those in a much safer place than cardboard boxes in the garage. In doing this, I found that I had several copies of Mega Man 5 and a mint copy of Bonk’s Adventure with the instruction booklet! All in all, I had accounted for around 350 cartridges, but I made the discovery that I had lots of really good games, but no crappy games that make a true collection complete. So I found an online retailer in town that has an immense selection of fairly-priced NES games and they ship orders immediately.
So I thought I would review the first box of games I ordered with my buddy Nate Dog, who is also an old friend, and also an avid vintage video gamer and collector. I lured him with promises of online glory and a handle of Sailor Jerry, and he quickly agreed. The following reviews are from the first half of a boxed shipment of games I ordered for around sixty bucks.
Note: The screenshots we used for this article were taken were from an emulator program, we tried in vain to capture shots of the television using tips from Nintendo Power. They looked like shit.
In the true spirit of Olympic competition, Epyx made a winter version of Track and Field specifically suited for blind kids. You and a friend (that is, if you hate your friends) compete poorly against each other in four (yup, a total of four) events that encompass every winter sport ever created by man. Terrible graphics, ear-piercing music and unforgiveable/unresponsive control bring the drunken version of the Winter Olympics directly to your television!
TB: This is simply terrible. It might be a more understandable experience if we had the instruction booklet, but without it, we haven’t the slightest idea how to play this fucking thing. Hot Dog Aerials is the least worst event available, but it is over in a matter of seconds. The other three events are button-mashing nightmares that seem to go on forever. I’m convinced the figure skating competition game was designed to be used against your captured enemies as a torture device. Good luck scoring any points or fractions of points from the most critical judgment system in gaming history.
ND: Four events of pure 8-bit pain. If the last event was monkeys throwing exploding bananas at buildings, this game would at least receive a one-star rating. I guess the 8-bit world was just not ready for a game of this programming magnitude. At the very least, Mario and Sonic hopefully learned something from the mistakes made in this title.
Mickey Mouse gets the starring role in a NES title, and it’s less enjoyable than watching the old black and white cartoons starring Mickey Mouse! You get three lives and zero continues so you better be ready to enjoy this game over and over! You not only control Mickey, but his girlfriend Minnie at the same time. Travel all the levels together as a confused team, because it’s the video game equivalent of the worst date ever.
TB: I don’t understand why you have to control both of them at once. Minnie just seems to tag along four paces behind you most of the time but on occasion, she will go berserk and do her own thing. It’s hard to dodge brooms, cats and owls with uncontrollable diarrhea with one person, let alone two characters. If you randomly shoot the wrong window, a red owl will swoop out and steal Minnie. I was relieved when this finally happened and I kept playing through the game without her. In later levels, you can jump across platforms, and by landing Mickey right on the edge, Minnie will go into the ocean. This kills you instantly but it’s the most fun that can be had with this game.
ND: This game immediately came off as a rip-off of Goonies mixed with some DuckTales. But they left one important thing out, enjoyment. The constant trips back to the title screen after death are painful reminders of your own futility and mortality. And yes, with the old “one life no continues” in place, so be ready to play for 3 hours of classic Nintendo frustration. There are no chances to safely pause and hit the restroom in case your younger sibling accidentally hits reset, so I recommend wearing adult diapers for these situations.
Drive a totally sweet car through the finest roads the best cities in the world have to offer. Most of these roads are three tiers high, and require a car that can leap 40 feet into the air to get around on. Drive over every square inch of these roads and move onto the next city! Beware of all the obstacles in your way because few can be killed off by shooting oil cans at them, but the Hairless Nude Cat is completely invincible and will explode your car upon the slightest minor collision.
TB: This is a strange version of Q-Bert that uses a bitchin’ red LeCar in place of a swearing orange alien. I actually kind of like this game a little bit, but the control is horrific. It’s impossible to time the jumps because the car reacts so slowly to commands for jumping up platforms. In order to jump up one level, you have to hold up on the controller for several seconds before attempting the jump. The car turns on a dime forwards and backwards, but once you’ve landed on the lowest part of the screen you are stuck down there permanently in a sea of those instantly respawning naked kitty cats. I do however love the title screen. It features an anime guy who gets a sad face when you pick two players. He should be sad either way.
ND: If Freddy from Scooby Doo was a character in Speed Racer, title screen character would be cool. But that is where any similarities from reality end. There is no speed in this game and there is no racing. Your goal is to paint the squares white while avoiding the cops, cats and weird spike like booby traps. First you get the finger from the Statue of Liberty and then move on to see Big Ben, though “big” is a misused descriptor in this game, unless used in front of the word “disappointment”. This game was the beginning of the end for Jaleco.
Wrath of the Black Manta:
Develop your fierce Ninja skills in this amazing side scrolling adventure in the spirt of Double Dragon and Ninja Gaiden! Throw ninja stars and jump and duck enemies searching for power ups for your stars. And don’t forget to enjoy the hilarious Bloodsport style cinematic in between levels. This one will keep you guessing… as to why you paid money for it.
TB: This hodgepodge of ninja genres steals the cinematic cut-scene style of Ninja Gaiden and blatantly rips off the game mechanics of Shinobi. But instead of making these elements come together for a good game, you get Fat Purple Ninja Adventures. Almost every fortune cookie clue you come across every ten feet does you absolutely no good. Later on you fight on kites and I could not manage to get Mr. Tubby on one, so I gleefully chose to leap to my death from tall buildings instead.
ND: The purple clothed warrior you end up portraying is nothing like the picture suggested on the game cartridge. There is absolutely nothing stealthy about this ninja. From hot pink hang-gliders to ear piercing power-ups you might as well send the enemy a letter attached to a cannonball letting them know you are on your way.
World War II. The Pacific theater. You are the pilot. Battle endless waves of enemies with customizable weapon power-ups in this classic shooter.
ND: One of my more favorite classic NES games. The power up system for its time was ahead of many. The biggest drawback was that it’s single player only. It’s always more fun to destroy stuff with friends. But if you’re the last Starfighter it can be lonely at the top.
TB: My favorite genre is of the shooter variety, so there are no complaints about this game for me. Being able to specifically power up your P-38 for combat is an awesome unique touch. I’m just not sure about the historical accuracy of this game. I don’t think they ever launched P-38 fighters off of aircraft carriers that were equipped with lightning cannons. Even if it isn’t the most accurate game historically, this game is still one of those games that you could easily and happily play until two in the morning. Fight bravely!
“You have no confidence in this sword”
That’s about the most truth ever said in this game. The game is a dungeon crawler that moves in eight directions. With repetitive terrible music that restarts in every room and graphics that look like digitized feces, this game becomes more of a mental challenge than anything else. Have fun slowly journeying through 1,200 rooms that all look the same!
TB: I fucking HATE this game. I hate everything about it. The combat sucks and the prince attacks the local fauna with his amazing cock sword. I fucking hate Ludder and the super creative enemies that consist of Slinkys and giant blue balls. This game came with a couple stickers attached to the cartridge, and being a game collector with OCD, I had to use all sorts of cleaners to remove them. I can now honestly say that I have polished a turd.
ND: Amazingly enough, back in the old days, I did beat this game. How or why I did it still escapes me. Once you find the one OP item the game becomes exponentially easier. However, the knockback effect enemies have on you can be overpowering. One wrong move can mean a cheap knockback death. I will say the only thing deadly about this game is the damage that might be done to your walls by the controller when you throw it in anger.
The Karate Kid:
Play the amazing NES adaption of the popular 80’s movie franchise in the comfort of your own home! The game begins at the end of the first movie and continues on to the sequel from there. Because YOU DODGED ZERO SWINGING HAMMER, you will not get to bang Elizabeth Shue at any point in your glorious adventure.
TB: Why the hell does player one get three lives, and player two get four? Why do I have to start the game punching dudes in the nuts in a karate tournament? Why are cabbages used as legitimate throwing weapons in Japan? I have so many questions about this game but due to the difficulty curve, I don’t give enough of a shit to put the effort forth. Daniel- San excels at only one skill: getting the shit kicked out of him nonstop and not dodging SWINGING HAMMER.
ND: The game is the equivalent of having to play the first tier of Punch-Out! before you can begin playing Metroid. Only it’s 1/8 as fun as Punch Out! and 1/16 as fun as Metroid. On a side note you can enter rooms and play a worse version of Winter Games. This game suffers from an incredible case of identity crisis.
Spy vs Spy:
Mad Magazine thanks you for your donation! Now play as the White or Black Spy in a game of outrageous antics. Defat your opponent! Or perhaps yourself in the process!
TB: WTF is going on in this game?? The rooms are all confusing yet simplistic, and it’s super easy to kill yourself. Once again, this game favors player two by giving them an extra two minutes of play time and a stabbing knife. The goal is to collect all the stuff and go out the special airplane marked door. The music is straight out of Wall Street Kid and the graphics are pretty awful. The booby trap idea could be fun, but more often than not the ones that kill you are the ones you placed there yourself.
ND: If Gauntlet was a two player survival game this would not be anywhere close to that type of game. Your goal is to collect all 4 items before your opponent does, booby trapping everything along the way. I did read Mad magazine from time to time and like this game, and the cartoons in the margins were much better than Spy Vs Spy. So keep that in mind when you find that you are marginally entertained by this game.
Bad Street Brawler:
Take it to the streets in this side scrolling beat ‘em up! Take control of a questionably straight Hulk Hogan and bash in the skulls of balding cave men and their misfit friends! Word to the wise, this game is full of mysterious life lessons that could open Quaid’s mind faster than a chick with three tits!
TB: This game is made by Mattel, the same company that brought us the majesty of Intellivision back in the late 70’s. They have had an obvious slide backwards in programming prowess since those days. And this game is proof that they need to quit programming and stick to pumping out Barbies and Magic Earring Kens instead. I’m not sure if I like the idea of putting Brian Bosworth in his underwear in the middle of the city to punch midgets, junkies and gorillas. He cowers in absolute pants-shitting terror every time you hit down on the controls and all his moves are laughable, from his girly sideways ankle kick to his tickle takedown. The Bad Street Brawler is a lot closer to being a Back Door Brawler if you ask me.
ND: The circus is in town and it is your job to beat down all the deadbeats. From circus midgets to poo flinging monkeys… they have all gotten loose! But be careful, your abilities change from level to level. So what may be OP one level may get you killed the next. But rest assured your gold G-string will maintain its structural integrity throughout the course of the game.
At this point, I realized that Nate Dog and I had had a few drinks too many and we had lots of problems. Trying to get cartridges to work, using a refrigerator-mounted ice maker and walking on two legs became nearly impossible tasks. We will review some more games after we’ve sobered up and recovered from the ensuing hangover.