“This sytem of carefully traversing the environment forms the crux of Prince of Persia. You may love it or hate it, but this is what you get. All bets are placed on this concept of careful, intelligent level-beating.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
Some video games, in reviewing them for the NES, are difficult to extricate objectively from their “more definitive” versions. But be assured, reader, that I always rate and review through the lens of the 8-bit library, on the game’s own merits, and as compared to other examples from its medium and genre.
That being said: This is among the poorer ports of Prince of Persia, which is a classic game. I am actually a little more familiar with the Sega Genesis version, myself; which, at the very least, looks much better. Serious, NES developers of the time: What’s up with all the purple stone?
And, yes, this is another rescue-the-princess game, even if I do not think that is as horrible of a plot basis as it has become en vogue to think.
I do wish more games were made in this style. Blackthorne comes to mind, which was on SNES but I actually played my friend’s 32X version of more, and was quite fond of.
Password after every level. Good stuff.
NES Gameplay Tips For Prince of Persia: This game actually has a solid demo reel, not only showing off most of the movements, but even showing where to find the sword, along with a hidden ceiling panel to knock down. So, uh, maybe watch that before you begin. Otherwise, just proceed carefully and patiently, takes notes of potion locations (and whether they harm or heal), do not be afraid of death, and learn from your mistakes. This game can be a grueling, daunting challenge, but is still nowhere near as difficult as something like Battletoads, and probably for reasons that are more fair.
Read The Full Review For: A humorous-for-its-excess rundown of the move set and level features, a couple comparisons to other games (including one that, the more I think of it, the more apt I realize it is), general commentary and history, etc.
Classy, fun title screen. The intro scene is wonderful, too.
– excerpt from the full review, which can be read here.
I have heard it said somewhere (probably on Twitter, right?) that the genre of sports simulations is the one category that retro gaming can claim supremacy in. I am not sure I am ready to confidently get behind that train of thought, but you can understand the point: There is something to be said for simplicity over complexity, pixel art over realism, Tecmo Bowl over Madden, lighthearted fun over hardcore competition, and other various factors. Just a thought to consider.
And if you like 8-bit baseball video games, boy, the NES was a treat, wasn’t it? There were about 20 baseball games for the console. More miraculously: Most of them are pretty good!
Bad News Baseball, in my opinion, is one of the better ones. This game hits a sweet spot of compromise between strict, tightly honed simulation and carefree, laidback arcade title. Some of the just-for-fun flourishes are obvious: Those goofy animations. The pink rabbit umpires (?!). The strangely not-quite-fitting background music.
But beneath the hood of this wagon is a robust, capable engine that purrs pleasingly under the colorful action and roars to life with very competent, confident precision. The baseball engine really knocks it out of the park, figuratively speaking.
… I couldn’t resist a baseball pun.
Strange-lookin’ fellow on the left? Yeah, I have no idea.
Read The Full Review For: Analysis of the baseball engine compared to other NES hardball titles, the topic of white supremacy, a little more fun with baseball puns, thoughts on the pursuit of perfection, and other coverage.
NES Gameplay Tips For Bad News Baseball: Practice. Don’t be a neanderthal and think that loading your line-up with as many home-run hitters as you can is the best way to go — trust me, having speed on the base paths is a very important part of offense, too. Due to the physics engine of this game, your baseball tactics are going to be slightly different than in other NES sims; for example, pitching is going to fully rely on trickery and pixel-perfect exploitation of swing-and-miss zones. On defense, take advantage of the A.I.’s odd tendency to send the runner back to first base when there is a tag out there from the oncoming batter.
I love how the players are K.O.ed on the basepaths whenever they get out.
Pitch-perfect grassy pixel background. Also: With enough home runs, eventually the “TODAY’S HOMERUNS” board just says “ETC,” haha.
Password insanity. If you thought Metroid and Kid Icarus were bad…
“Seriously: For a movie license money grab, Predator is not an outright atrocity.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I wanted to hate this game.
I entered fully prepared to unleash my deepest, most bilious forms of insult and general antagonism. I had seen the AVGN video that smeared this game, and armed with my own vague memories was ready to dig its grave.
But… it’s not horrible! In fact, it’s even — decent.
ProTip: First screen of the game. Grab that gun in upper-left corner before advancing.
I mean, really, I had fun playing through it. It does not represent an absolutely broken example of poor game design or mechanics. Sure, it has its faults, but it has its bright spots, too. The pacing is weird, the multiple Predators is bizarre, the alien environments are eyebrow-raising, and it has lots of other individual spots that can be examined critically…
Read the full review for more details, but more importantly, I would recommend trying Predator for yourself. Try it with zero expectations, and be honest. This is an average video game, not an awful one.
Read The Full Review For: Several game comparisons you may find interesting, more basic information about this game if you are completely unfamiliar, and a little more meat on the bones of my conclusions.
NES Gameplay Tips for Predator: During the precision-jumping portions, rather than run and jump, just jump from a stand-still and maneuver once airborne. Always for the Laser when you can. Do not be afraid of the Predator, he is a sissy.
Look closely: Those are skulls. Everywhere.
Well that's... unpleasant.
BIG MODE! ... no, seriously, the game calls these levels "BIG MODE."
“A solid game, if a bit rough around the edges and collapsing under its own weight at times…”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I guess I am on a shooter kick lately.
If you were to shove Abadox and Fantasy Zone in my face and say, “Quick! Pick one to play!” I would have to flip a coin. Both are quirky, visually memorable shooters, and both are satisfying, in their own way. Fantasy Zone is satisfying like the comfort of slipping into a familiar, cozy pair of slippers, in which you can maneuver about easily. Abadox is satisfying like that distinct sensation of clipping a toenail that needed trimming badly, or digging a crusty eye booger out of one’s socket.
Quick trivia: Yep, the same Natsume behind all the Harvest Moon games was behind Abadox, which is kinda surreal. They actually developed a few fine titles for the NES.
That, and infinite continues, although restarting a life without any power-ups becomes decreasingly useful as the game progresses.
Interestingly enough, Abadox is all about rescuing a princess. Go figure.
Read The Full Review For: Commentary on those luscious, delicious graphics, along with great sounds, too. More about the weapon variety, gameplay set-up, etc. Stuff.
NES Gameplay Tips for Abadox: Do not be intimidated by those big, gruesome bosses — not only are they often much easier to beat than the stages that precede them, but some can be beaten by exploiting a single spot on the screen that you will never take a hit from. Otherwise, this is a game where maneuverability is key, so exercise your precision hand-eye coordination and prepare to dodge just as many level elements as you will actual enemies. And those power-ups, those precious power-ups… once you have gathered up a handful and feel strong, I hope you have gotten some good practice in, because you need to treat them as though your chance of survival depends on keeping them intact. Because it does.
This really is a beautiful game (in its own weird way, I guess, but I mean that purely in pixel-art terms), so here are a bunch of screenshots for ya.
It all begins.
Frantic panic right away.
Zombie dog boss? Sure, bring on the undead canine. Giant, too. Or I'm just tiny...
Ah, the ol' "googly eyes" routine.
Look at all those projectiles. LOOK AT THEM.
Lame robot is lame.
I love the background here. That is art.
This game officially has an eye fetish.
Another great image.
This part. Oh man. So fun. So anxious.
But this. THIS MOMENT. This is why we play video games.
Even then, I get the feeling that I tend to like Data East’s NES ports more than most. Honestly, try finding a positive review of Cobra Command. I found one, which positively gushes, but also makes some excellent points.
If anything, Cobra Command is ambitious. I would put it somewhere on That List of Somewhat Difficult NES Games That Stand the Test of Time as True Worthy Challenges for Old-School Players, especially since I genuinely believe games like The Adventures of Bayou Billy are too hard to really be any fun.
Cobra Command strikes a nice chord, when you are ready for repeated sessions in order to memorize tricky portions and gain the experience necessary to master air-to-air combat with those zippy planes and such.
Read The Full Review For: Some phrases I have never used before, a couple quick game comparisons, more in-depth coverage of the graphics and sound, etc.
NES Gameplay Tips for Cobra Command: This is not a blast-through-with-all-guns-blazing game. This is a grueling haul that will take patience, practice, perseverance, and who knows what other odd assortment of p-words.
“Tragically, this was the only North American release that Joy Van ever had, which is unfortunate, given that not only is it a decent outing on its own objective merits, but also given some impressive technical achievements within, most notably parallax scrolling backgrounds on multiple layers. Who knows what wonders Joy Van could have given the world, had they managed to put in work for a more legitimate publisher?”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
This might be my favorite Color Dreams game!
Yes, I did just review a Color Dreams game with Robodemons, and its putrid memory is still fresh upon my delicate gray matter. To be kind to Metal Fighter: It is visually fantastic, with not only some great technical achievements, but also high-quality pixel art, and eye-poppingly diverse settings — even if they are “only” seven of them.
The challenge level is solid, too: The control is precise and tight, without the latency issues or fire-one-shot-at-a-time problems that other shooters can suffer from. Metal Fighter gets downright hectic at parts; and, seriously, during some the item mini bosses and end-of-stage bosses, the slow-motion multi-projectile attacks from the enemies make this game feel like training wheels for anyone looking to get into the “bullet hell” segment of the shmup population.
So, ultimately: This game is made well, and this game is fun.
… the first time or two you play it. Yes, this is one of those “fun for five minutes” titles. Even once you get good at it, master the boss patterns, etc., once you have beaten it a couple times I have to admit the replay value decreases. You could say that about every game, sure, but we all know that some games hold their appeal longer than others. Metal Fighter is one of those nice cities in Florida that makes for a great visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Maybe stay for a week’s vacation, but even by Thursday you are longing for the cozy comforts of home.
That being said, this is far from the worst shooter on the NES library, even if it never approaches Gradius-like quality. It should be noted that Color Dreams published this cartridge, but development was done by the mysterious Joy Van. I count it as a gaming tragedy that we did not get to see more of their work, honestly.
Dare I say it? Metal Fighter is slightly above-average, in my opinion. But if you say “Saying a game is the best Color Dreams game is like saying one piece of poop is shinier than the others,” that is perfectly fair.
A decent horizontally oriented shooter with crazy-far-out visuals? Think of it as Fantasy Zone Lite.
NES Gameplay Tips For Metal Fighter: Okay, listen up, I have some intel. During the scrolling portions, enemy types always spawn from the same place on the side of the screen. In other words: For each level, there is usually one noticeable “most annoying” enemy (the nimble types that flit and flutter around unpredictably, yet at higher speeds). I suggest aiming your cannon at that spot and wiping them out every time they pop out. However, remember: Enemies spawn from both the left and right edge, so never stray too close, lest you suddenly explode. Little tip: Many projectiles can be shot, which is especially nice when you have the full-circle multi-shot power-up, acting as a shield. For the item mini boss, use the hold-B charge shot, alternating your up-and-down movements against theirs. Once you find the power up you favor, remember, you do not have to grab every power-up, just keep the one you like in this game, since the mini boss might be the deadliest danger in Metal Fighter. And, finally, for some bosses, you can take advantage of your right-or-left facing movement freedom by hanging out behind them and drilling them from the rear. Have fun.
Read The Full Review For: A further look into the actual mechanics of this shooter, some stuff that makes Metal Fighter unique, several other-NES-game comparisons for points, more context for its place in the Color Dreams pantheon.
I have lots of screenshots for this game, because I really want people to appreciate the visuals. Check out the amazing use of color and the splendid variety of level themes!
Every life begins walking until an "F" is gained for flight.
Mini bosses guard the items -- fellow Metal Fighters!
Full-circle, multi-directional power-up cannon.
Adding the Double Shot power-up for triple-shot power. My favorite.
Boss! Look at all the projectiles this game handles on screen at once!
Beating the boss.
Next level. Great use of color. Looks great scrolling.
The item mini bosses vary in appearance, weaponry.
Great cityscape background here. Sky has parallax (layered) scrolling.
Cityscape changes color scheme for boss battle! Like nightfall!
Cityscape changes once again when boss defeated -- like it's in flames!
Love the field-of-depth visuals in this level.
You're going down, ugly.
Weird: When this boss is defeated, he drops until halves appear separate wrapped at top and bottom of screen, then explodes. Huh?
An undersea-themed level, oddly enough...
Admittedly, just a palette swap from the previous stage screenshot.
I even made a video for this game, if you care to see the final boss (plus a trick at the beginning, just messin’ around with him) and the ending for Metal Fighter:
“Controlling the character is like trying to ice skate on stilts.” – from the full review, which you can read here.
I really don’t want to become some sort of Color Dreams connoisseur or aficionado.
Yet when I play Color Dreams games, I have played enough of them enough times to recognize when they are sticking with their usual mode and when they differentiate. They definitely stuck to a stubborn, bad game-design formula with most of their titles, but there are some subtle nuances of off-course exploration every once in a while.
When you play Secret Scout, you can tell the same artist(s?!) was used for King of Kings, under their later Wisdom Tree brand. The characters have that seem warped proportion, like wide-eyed cartoons. By the time you play Pesterminator, you learn to recognize that distinctive “clang” sound effect they used for — anything and everything, despite it being so grating. Yet some of their games have differing amounts of flickering issues, or stage navigation philosophy, or other elements. Among their shooter/platformer hybrid library, I would place Raid 2020 a step below Robodemons.
But hear me on this: Robodemons sucks. I am not trying to defend it too heartily (I think some of the pixel art is not bad, and it at least forms a playable video game, kinda), I am just saying that parts of it are better or worse than other Color Dreams titles.
Which makes me feel like the crazy guy in the corner comparing one dead bug to another. Nobody wants to play with the dead spiders, y’know? Go get a nice puppy or something.
Read The Full Review For: One important distinction between this game and, say, Mega Man; along with other distinctions made as well, I guess.
NES Gameplay Tips For Robodemons: Honestly? This: During the shooter portions, it is very important to know the exact trajectory of the boomerang, since you can only fire one at a time. If you miss, you have to sit there and wait until it flies away, then curves up, then flies back, then disappears, all before you can fire again. There are segments when it is absolutely critical to hit an enemy repeatedly (and their projectiles!), before they can hit you, without missing, even if that enemy is barely as tall as the boomerang.
My only other piece of advice: Don’t touch anything. An awful lot of stuff can kill you instantly. It sucks. It really sucks.
Hey, at least I can be proud to offer screenshots of areas not covered on GameFAQs or MobyGames. Behold, the depths of Hell:
“Fantasy Zone has a very unique, distinctive look to it, very fantastical in nature (duh?), utterly colorful, and dripping with saccharine sweetness. It is like Ristar and Little Nemo had a demented space-shooter baby in Candy Land.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I think Fantasy Zone is a great game. In fact, it is my pick for Review A Great Game Day 2013! Which officially happens April 8th. Mark your calendars, as this positive celebration of favorite games should become an annual event (along with Review A Bad Game Day, August 8th, which celebrates the catharsis of insulting games we hate).
I have a soft spot for Fantasy Zone. When the Twin Galaxies website recently restored its searchable high-scores database, I immediately looked up my Fantasy Zone mark, for which I still hold the world record, according to their records and rules. If you check, you will notice I tied for the top spot — purposely, as I wanted to make a point about Fantasy Zone being a silly choice for score-chasing, because the enemies regenerate (if you wanted, you could literally just go back and forth on the first level killing the same stuff over and over), yet TG stipulations do not allow “leeching,” which is the idea that if you play for a high score, you should be playing in a way that advances the in-game plot. Some disagree, philosophically, as to whether this really reflects the peak of competition on games (why not take advantage of everything you can for the highest possible score? see also: glitches not allowed in Super Mario Bros speedruns, etc.). Either way, though, it can be a very difficult case to try and determine whether someone was leeching or not. If it were up to me, that game would just be retired on TG. Which, of course, has the added benefit of me having the top spot forever, mwahahahahahahahaha.
Like a boss.
The other reason that Fantasy Zone is a sentimental favorite of mine: Like Crystalis, Fantasy Zone is a game that I bought as a used-games shop, back in the pre-Internet days, as a young’n, when I literally had no idea what the game was like. I still kinda miss that era when you could purchase a cartridge, sight-unseen, and have the excitement of looking forward to discovering what the heck it was. While Crystalis was a mind-blowingly pleasant surprise, Fantasy Zone was a little easier to predict: Right on the label art, you can see that this is probably going to be a weird shooter.
I know lots of other people love this game, too. But, yes, I know, the Sega Master System version is superior. I really do get it, you do not need to tell me or remind me. It is just so much smoother, and looks better. Though, if you really was a visual-feat version of Fantasy Zone, go full 16-bit Sega.
You can scroll to other pages, too!
Is Fantasy Zone perfect? No, far from it, and especially on the choppy NES port. But, if I may be so bold, I think that is one important hallmark of great games: We are fond of them despite the flaws we are aware of. Fantasy Zone has a proper legacy as a quirky shooter, but I think it is enjoyable on many levels: The fantastically trippy dream-world feel, the surprisingly solid shooter mechanics, and the simple old-school Nintendo challenge of trying to beat the game straight through.
Read The Full Review For: More in-depth description and commentary, rather than informal thoughts. Really, that is usually what you can find in the difference between my reviews and my blog posts.
NES Gameplay Tips for Fantasy Zone: There are two types of Fantasy Zone players: Those who abuse Heavy Bombs (as they make half the bosses much easier, some to an absurd extent), and those who do not. Take your pick. Either way, get a speed upgrade early and have fun!