NES A-C

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 A Nightmare on Elm Street - By Rare

Released in 1989, Elm Street is Rare’s take on the world film franchise of the same name. The game is a platformer where up to four players can participate simultaneously (this requires an NES Four Score or NES Satellite) to walk through parts of Elm Street looking for Freddy’s bones. You see, Freddy is a killer who was burned alive but now has come back to haunt the children of those who burned him. But he doesn’t hunt in the waking world. No, he hunts in the world of nightmares. Should anyone find Freddy’s bones in the real world and burn them in the town furnace, Freddy’s power will be gone and he will be defeated. As the player moves about Elm Street, it will be necessary to enter homes, cross a junkyard, and face many different enemies that will do what they can to stop you from achieving your goal. You must be careful, though, for if you fall asleep you will enter Freddy’s world and things turn tougher for you. You may even come face to face with Freddy himself! To stay awake, find cups of coffee around the houses or, should you find yourself in the dream world, find a boombox to wake up. Nightmare on Elm Street tries to be a compelling game but does not do very well. The graphics look fine and the music follows the theme of the movie series but it is not anything special in terms of gameplay. The one cool feature it does have, however, is when things transform between the real world and the dream world. The effect is nicely done visually. Overall and OK game for the NES and a fine game to play over Halloween.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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  Addams Family – By Ocean

Based on the 1991 movie, The Addams Family is a platformer in which the player controls Gomez Addams as he tries to rescue the other members of the family as well as recollect the family’s fortune. Unfortunately, Tull Alford, the family’s attorney has decided to go bad and has taken control of the mansion while imprisoning the family within it. The mansion is huge, of course, even having dungeons within which family members may be trapped. Gomez has to explore the house and the surrounding grounds entirely if he is to find and free them. Surprisingly, Thing and Lurch were not kidnapped by Mr. Alford and can help Gomez at times. Thing does have to be unlocked, though so it may provide hints during the game. As Gomez moves about the house, he will face multiple enemies in the shape of monsters, ghosts, skeletons, spiders, and other ghouls. Contact with any of these will take life force away from Gomez but if Gomez jumps on top of them at the right time, he can dispose of them. Timing of the jumps is important not only to kill these enemies but sometimes also to reach some of the treasure within the mansion. Gomez can also find golf balls and other items to throw at his enemies. Addams Family is a good platformer for the NES. The graphics look good and controls work well but collision detection can be unforgiving at times. The classic musical theme plays through the game but it tends to get old after a while. Overall a good title for the system.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 After Burner - By Tengen

After Burner is a combat flight simulator originally brought to the arcade by Sega. It appears the folks at Tengen wanted to give an “up yours” to Nintendo and they chose to bring this unlicensed port to the NES. Unfortunately, they did not quite capture the magic of the arcade with this adaptation. In After Burner the player controls an F-14 fighter to destroy enemies through several stages. The F-14 takes off the aircraft carrier SEGA Enterprise and it is equipped with machine guns and a limited supply of missiles. You can bank right or left, tilt up or down, and you can even do barrel rolls. You can even fire your afterburners to get a momentary speed burst in your chase of enemy planes. One of the key elements of the arcade game was the speed at which your F-14 maneuvered. This element is missing from this port. It just doesn’t move quite as fast. The other thing that made the arcade so attractive were the detailed landscapes over which your figher flew. That is also missing on the NES version. The graphics simply are not up to par compared to the arcade. Even your plane is relatively small and its color tends to blend it with the background. Control is not a problem but you’ll find that avoiding enemy missiles is quite difficult. Maybe this is why the game doesn’t play as fast as in the arcade. The one thing that did survive from the arcade game in pretty good condition is the music. You can at least enjoy the same soundtrack while playing this home version. While playable, After Burner just falls short of the original.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Alien Syndrome - By Tengen

It is the year 2089. Humanity has established colonies in the outer planets and has been enjoying peace. Unfortunately, a race of aliens attacks one of the colonies and captures the colonists on their starships. Thankfully, you were able to escape which means that rescuing the trapped colonists falls to you. You will hunt down the alien ships, board them, attack the slimy creatures and their bosses and free the humans they have imprisoned. This is the story behind Alien Syndrome, an overhead shooter in which you get to play as either Ricky or Mary as you travel through six different alien ships rescuing humans and killing aliens. Each ship has 12 prisoners that you must rescue before you face off against that ship’s boss. The exit that takes you to the freakishly ugly boss doesn’t appear until you’ve rescued the required number of prisoners. As you move through the ships keep an eye out for certain power ups that will help you deal with the aliens more effectively. There’s a laser gun, a flame thrower, and several other items you can find. Something to remember as you are looking for prisoners is that you’re on the clock before the ship explodes. Once you defeat the alien boss, you move unto the next ship with ever increasing difficulty. Tengen’s port of Alien Syndrome does capture the gameplay of the arcade but it has simpler graphics. Sound is good but the music doesn’t compare with the menacing tones from the arcade. It just sounds “too happy” for something that is supposed to be dreadful. Overall a good game, however, and a worthwhile title to have.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Alter Ego – By Shiru & Kulor

Alter Ego is actually a port of a puzzle platformer for the ZX Spectrum, which was released some time during 2011. The NES version enhances the graphics and sound to make use of the more powerful NES hardware, but keeps the actual gameplay the same. At first glance, the game looks a lot like Lode Runner. You’ve got a level made up of a bunch of platforms and ladders, icons to collect and skulls that move in patterns across the screen to avoid. What separates Alter Ego from Lode Runner, however, is your, err, alter ego. Whenever you move the little outline of your character moves in the opposite direction. By hitting the A button you’ll swap places with the outline, letting you reach places you normally wouldn’t be able to reach by yourself. Be careful though because you’re only given a certain number of swaps per level and if you run out you’ll more than likely have to restart and give up one of your lives. The further in you get the harder the challenges become and you’ll have to deal with icons only your outline can collect or platforms that collapse when you move over them. What’s especially rough is that there’s no way to record your progress short of save states so if you run out of lives you have to do it all over again. Still it’s a good looking game with some great music and it looks quite a bit better than the original Spectrum version. If you’re a fan of Lode Runner or puzzle platformers in general, you’ll probably want this.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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 Assimilate – By Nessylum Games

The creator of Assimilate says he based this particular game off of the earliest NES titles, which tended to be straight ports of arcade games. It makes sense then that Assimilate will probably remind a lot of people of Defender. Well Defender if it had the exact opposite objective really. See, in Assimilate, you control a UFO by the name of Ossam and it’s up to you to abduct helpless humans, convert them into your alien slaves and drop them back where they came from. Your radar will point to which building contains the human you need to pick up, indicated by the arrow over it. Once you’re hovering over it you activate the tractor beam, wait for the earthling to get collected and then wait for the progress bar to fill up. Once he’s ready just tractor beam him back into the building and you got him, then you’ll earn some points. Careful with the tractor beam however, as turning it off too soon will send your potential slave hurtling towards the pavement costing you some points. You also have to deal with people who don’t take kindly to your abducting with bullets, missiles and aircraft flying across the sky trying to take you down. If you feel daring you can use different tools that will slow down the conversion process, but give you much more points once you deliver a converted human. It’s a pretty simple game but it’s pretty fun, once you get the hang of what you’re doing, and the graphics are pretty detailed for what’s supposed to be a simple arcade style game. If that’s your sort of thing then Assimilation will probably entertain you for a good while.

Review by Bobinator

7/10

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  Batman: The Video Game – By Sunsoft

The Dark Knight has had his share of ups and downs on home consoles, but his NES debut was a strong one. To keep in step with Batman’s reputation for agility and combat prowess, Batman: The Video Game appeals to fans of action and platforming games with a mixture of both genres. You’ll spend the majority of the game fighting through waves of Joker’s henchmen, scampering up walls and platforms with Batman and robbin’ enemies of their power-ups and health packs. You’ll want to keep a steady eye on your weapons energy because even though Batman begins the game with full access to his legendary repertoire of gadgets—including a spear gun and the Batarang—he cannot use them without collecting energy from fallen foes. If you run out of ammunition, you can employ the mighty “Bat fist” to put the hurt on your enemies, and—holy horseshoes, Batman—it’s actually quite effective! When Batman isn’t battering bad guys, he proves to be a competent gymnast with the ability to spring off walls, adding to the intricacy of the platforming segments. If you tumble to your death, the Dark Knight rises again and Batman returns to the nearest checkpoint, meaning that you’re never punished too severely for losing a life. That said, Batman: The Video Game is still a pretty stiff challenge for even the most experienced of gamers. The tight platforming segments are bound to have you burning through lives, but you’ll have a great time doing it. Factor in the detailed character models, colorful environments, cinematic cutscenes taken straight from the movie, and a fantastic soundtrack, and it’s not hard to see why Batman: The Video Game is a winner. Once you give it a try, I think you’ll love this rendition of Batman forever.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Battle Kid: Fortress Of Peril – By Sivak Games

Battle Kid’s probably one of the highest quality NES homebrews you’re likely to find. It’s not the most original of games by a long shot, but it mixes up what it takes from its inspirations for a very enjoyable game. The plot’s your standard NES fare: Some evil people are building a giant mech at a place called The Fortress Of Peril, and young Timmy is sent in with a power suit to go blow them up. The game itself is basically described as a third of Mega Man, a third of Metroid and a third of the infuriatingly difficult freeware game I Wanna Be The Guy. Timmy starts off being able to jump and fire off his arm cannon but, by collecting upgrades scattered throughout the game world, you’ll increase your abilities Metroid style. The power-ups you’ll find include boosting your damage, the ability to breathe underwater and keys that open up locked doors. Timmy himself controls a lot like Mega Man, so if you’ve gotten good at those games you’ll have a head start on playing the game. Unlike Mega Man, however, there’s one major difference: You can only take one hit before you die! On the normal difficulty you have unlimited continues to beat the game with but the continue points where you re-spawn can get pretty spread apart from each other. The game won’t pull any punches considering your handicap either, considering what you have to go through. Can you avoid an entire room full of spikes by floating and weaving carefully through them, knowing a single slip will mean you have to do it again? While avoiding enemies and their shots at the same time? If you answered anything except “Yes”, this game might give you some problems. If you can handle the challenge, however, Battle Kid’s probably one of the most “authentic” NES homebrew games you’re likely to find.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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  Battletoads – By Rare / Tradewest

The Battletoads Rash and Zitz are called into action when the Dark Queen kidnaps their partner Pimple and the Princess Angelica. Judging by the name of the heroes, Battletoads is not a game that takes itself seriously, but don’t let down your guard for one minute: as lighthearted as the plot and characters are, this game will punish your every mistake and leave you feeling crushed and despondent. Battletoads is the side-scrolling beat-‘em-up that is legendary for its unforgiving difficulty, but it’d be a shame if you were to walk away without hearing the rest! It also happens to be one hell of a smooth game from the capable programmers at Rare, who have given us this gem on the NES for which we owe them our deepest gratitude and consternation. Battletoads accommodates up to two simultaneous players in a co-op campaign designed to bring teamwork to the forefront. Sure, you can rush forward without your partner and knock some heads, but cooperation really pays off. For instance, you and your friend can damage each other, so it’s advisable to avoid throwing errant punches. The game consists of thirteen levels and there is a good amount of variety among them. The first stage is mostly standard fare beat-‘em-up gameplay, but level two will have you rappelling down a sinkhole, level three will put you in the driver’s seat of a speeder bike, level six has you scampering up giant snakes, and so forth. Rare really pulled no punches with the visuals, either, and there are some incredible graphical effects in Battletoads if you can survive long enough to see them—the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. Battletoads is a tough game, but it’s incredibly fun with two players and has plenty of replay value, so it’s highly recommended.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Bionic Commando – By Capcom

Bionic Commando puts you in the combat boots of Ladd Spencer, a special ops soldier on a mission to rescue Super Joe. You’re the only man on the field, but you’re armed with a bazooka and a grappling hook, and there’s no one better than Spencer to get the drop on the enemy. Gameplay is equal parts brute force and agility: you have your gun to eliminate hostiles in a head-on fight, but you can avoid a skirmish by using the grappling hook to scamper up buildings. This is your primary method of platforming, too, as there is no jump button. It’s an uncommon twist for an action-platformer, but the grappling ability lends a unique feel to Bionic Commando and makes it stand out from every other platformer of its time. The mechanics are well designed, and it’s not too difficult to get used to swinging across gaps instead of leaping over them. Levels are selected on the map screen, giving you the freedom to visit each stage in the order of your choosing. Some levels require key items that you can pick up only in earlier stages, however, so the game progression isn’t entirely nonlinear. Occasionally, you may run into an enemy convoy while transitioning from one location on the map to another. At this point, the gameplay switches from side-scrolling action-platforming to overhead shoot-‘em-up and you simply gun down enemies until you reach the end. As you work through the levels, you’ll uncover the mystery of Project Albatros, the Empire’s plot to construct a superweapon and resurrect ruthless commander Master-D, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain historic German dictator. Bionic Commando offers an experience that no other platformer can match. With responsive gameplay, excellent presentation, and a unique concept, it’s a must-have for all NES collectors.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Blade Buster – By High Level Challenge Project

Some time during the 80’s Hudson Soft, along with a few other companies known for their SHMUPS, would host a completion called the “Summer Caravan”. Basically, these were contests where players would play either two or five minutes into a SHMUP and the player with the highest score would be the winner. The Summer Caravan event ended a long time ago but this game is basically a huge tribute to them. From the start you get the option of playing either a two-minute or five minute game. Then you’re speeding through the stage with waves of enemies rushing towards you, sometimes letting off a few bullets towards you. What you’re trying to do is get as many points as you can before you run out of lives, run out of time or clear the stage, whichever comes first. You get points by destroying enemies, blowing up the scenery and collecting diamonds and there are a few things you can do for major point bonuses. There’s also plenty of weapon power-ups you can collect by destroying certain containers and you’ll need as many as you can get. While there’s not as many bullets as you’d see in a more modern bullet hell shooter it can be difficult to avoid everything the game throws at you. The good news is most hits won’t kill you instantly, instead they’ll just downgrade your current weapon power. Take a hit when you’re using a single shot however and you’ll lose a ship. You’ll also run across a couple of bosses on your way to the finish, which can sap a lot of your time if you can’t kill them quick. If you’re up for a quick burst of action then Blade Buster’s a very polished product with some fantastic sounds and visuals and it’s pretty much made for any fan of the genre. Don’t expect a lot of replay value however, unless you want to keep improving your score.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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  Blaster Master – By Sunsoft

With so many great action-platforming games on the NES, it can be difficult to pick out the ones that are truly special from the ones that merely imitate what has already proven to be successful. After all, when a formula works, no one’s rushing to change it. Sunsoft’s Blaster Master, on the other hand, offers an interesting twist on the genre and it all starts with the oddball introduction: your pet frog has escaped from its tank and touched a radioactive box outside, after which it transformed into a gigantic mutant toad and fell down a sinkhole, prompting you to give chase. At the bottom of this hole, you find an all-terrain vehicle and a futuristic bodysuit, so you get into both and embark on your quest to find your amphibian amigo. It’s ridiculous, of course, but the plot isn’t what is important, and luckily, Blaster Master is good where it counts. You control a turreted vehicle for most of the game, navigating a series of side-scrolling levels, acquiring gun upgrades, and shooting everything in your way. A nice touch is that your cannon can tilt upwards to take out aerial targets, so you have more control than you may be accustomed to in other games. Each stage presents a linear path to the end, but the paths are not always immediately evident, and there are times when you must leave your vehicle and venture out on foot to explore side areas. At this point, the game switches to overhead perspective and becomes more of a shooter. It may seem like a lot to balance at once, but Sunsoft has managed to merge it all together nicely. The story mode is surprisingly long—a password function would’ve been nice—so you’re sure to get much enjoyment out of Blaster Master.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Bram Stoker’s Dracula - By Probe Software

In 1897 Bram Stoker wrote a novel telling the story of Count Dracula. A movie based on this novel was released in 1992 which inspired games for multiple consoles, including the NES. Though the game is supposed to be based on the movie, the game truly bears very little relation with the story from the film. The game mostly plays like a generic platformer with a horror theme (if you are looking for a version of the game that is truly based on the movie, check out the Sega Mega CD version). The player controls who is supposed to be the hero of the movie, Jonathan Harker, as he traverses areas in Transylvania to reach Castle Dracula. Along the way, Harker will have to face numerous enemies that must be defeated if he is to reach Dracula himself. Each area has a daytime and a nighttime “chapter” to play through. Daytime is usually easier to play and nighttime is where most enemies show up to stop you. Harker has a dagger he can use to attack enemies but he may also find other weapons (like stones, torches, and axes) that he can use against them. These are important when the time comes to face the bosses at the end of each level. This game has good graphics and character animation but sound effects are unimpressive. Most characters have drab colours but they are well drawn. Controls do respond well and the music does have the right tone for the game. Gameplay, however, just falls short.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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 Bubble Bobble – By Taito

Bubble Bobble is sickeningly cute with an adorable soundtrack to match, but this game means business: as two dragons, you and a friend must scale 100 harrowing levels of hazards, and you are armed with nothing but bubbles! There’s not much of an in-game narrative, but I gather that you and your partner must work your way through the Cave of Monsters to save two damsels in distress and transform yourselves back into human form. So, possibly an evil sorcerer placed a curse on you and turned you two into little bubble dragons, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It only matters that you become one with the bubble, harness its mysterious ways to defeat your enemies. As it happens, the game physics in Bubble Bobble are fairly interesting. The goal is to trap your enemies in bubbles and pop them. The bubbles (and anything trapped within them) float to the top of the screen, and though you are light enough to skip across them for short periods of time, you’ll want to crash through the bubbles to inflict a fatal blow to your incapacitated foes and collect the chewy treats they leave behind. You can obtain a high score by eating the fruits and candies scattered throughout the screen, and you can collect letters to spell the word “extend” to increase your life count. Though your enemies will expire in one hit, you will, too, if you get careless with your quarry, or if they go into turbo mode and smash into you. This, combined with the tricky enemy movement patterns and the occasional stage hazards, makes Bubble Bobble deceivingly challenging, but thankfully there is a password feature. If you are in the mood for co-operative arcade-like gameplay, this game is a great choice.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Castlevania - By Konami

The Castlevania series introduced a new standard for horror-themed video games in the 1980s. Being grounded in all the familiar monster movie tropes, Konami exercises free license over such characters as the Frankenstein monster and the Mummy. Dracula is the ghoul of the hour, and he’s absolutely menacing in this game when he transforms into his fire-breathing form. All of the visuals are well done, and there’s an eerie presence about the castle as you navigate halls by torchlight with monsters shambling about. Your primary method of attack is a whip known as the Vampire Killer and it becomes a real powerhouse after a few upgrades. You can also equip secondary weapons like axes and daggers, but in order to use them, you’ve got to collect the hearts that are stashed in the numerous candelabras posted throughout the castle. The gameplay is tight and responsive, though the jumps are a little unforgiving in their trajectory. Actually, the level design may prove to be your greatest foe as enemies guard small platforms aggressively, and with airborne hazards thrown into the mix, you’ll need to be vigilant not to be knocked into the abyss below. You’re always one miscalculated jump or one errant fireball away from instant death by pitfall, but luckily, there’s a checkpoint system in effect, so you won’t need to restart each level from the beginning if you lose a life. The boss fights are challenging, but fair. Just be sure to stock up on extra hearts before you fight the Grim Reaper. Castlevania is the game that introduced the Belmont clan’s struggle against Dracula. It’s a great beginning to an incredible action saga, as well as a fantastic homage to classic horror cinema. You don’t want to miss it.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest - By Konami

Dracula is dead, but an evil curse hangs over Transylvania and Simon Belmont must retrace his steps and resurrect the count to seal it. Complicating matters is the fact that Dracula’s body parts are scattered across the land, so Simon’s mission is actually more of an adventure: he must speak with townspeople, barter with merchants, and uncover clues to seal Dracula’s curse and bring an end to the nightmare. Unfortunately, many of the clues are dressed in evasive language and are altogether not very helpful, so this is a game that requires a player’s guide. Your journey will take you through swamps, forests, and castles, where you will fight an assortment of monsters and bosses en route to Dracula’s dread abode. Unlike its predecessor, Castlevania II tries to minimize the monster movie clichés and instead frames a unique narrative for the first time in a Castlevania game. All of the additions to plot and gameplay extend the length of the adventure, but some obscure puzzles, repetitive castle design, tedious backtracking, and uninspired boss battles will make this game feel longer than it really is. On the plus side, the core gameplay remains consistent: you still jump and whip your way through Transylvania, collecting power-ups and weapons. Your equipment options have been expanded, and the new inventory system has some interesting applications. Better yet, Konami has taken an already spectacular soundtrack and improved it with some iconic tunes like “Bloody Tears.” Castlevania II is a respectable follow-up to Castlevania, but you can’t help wondering if Konami made the wrong decision by changing the formula so radically. Some more attention to detail on the level design, dialogue, and puzzles would have helped this game immensely, but it’s still a solid entry in the series and worth a playthrough.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse - By Konami

After two back-to-back Castlevania games, Konami learned what does and doesn’t work for their seminal horror series. The first Castlevania featured great game design, but treated the plot too flippantly, whereas Castlevania II pivoted too heavily on the storytelling and was brought down by sloppy execution. With the third game in the series, Konami offers the perfect balance of plot and straightforward action. Castlevania III is actually a prequel starring the ancestor of Simon Belmont, Trevor, in his quest to exterminate Dracula two hundred years before the events of Castlevania. As Trevor, you can now recruit one of three new support characters to join you on your adventure: the thief Grant, sorceress Sypha, and half-vampire Alucard. Depending on which character you choose, you may end up with vastly different gameplay experiences as each character has their own unique abilities; Grant scales walls and ceilings, Sypha casts magic spells, and Alucard transforms into a bat. Castlevania III abandons the open-world concept of its predecessor and returns to the stage-based progression of the first game, only now you have control over the order in which you complete the stages. Like Simon, Trevor is able to upgrade his whip by collecting power-ups, and he can use secondary weapons. Some support characters can use them, too. Not only has the gameplay been broadened, but production values have been ramped up as well. The character models are more detailed, the stages more varied and interesting, and the soundtrack, which has always been a staple of the series, is even more energetic. It’s a difficult game, but well worth braving because this is the ultimate Castlevania title on the NES. With the expanded plot and gameplay, and improved visuals and music, Castlevania III is an 8-bit tour de force.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers – By Capcom

Based on the Disney cartoon series, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers stars two chipmunks on a mission to rescue their partner Gadget from crime boss Fat Cat. Just as the Rescue Rangers work together as a team, you’ll have the opportunity to enlist a friend in your quest to foil Fat Cat’s evil scheme: the game features two-player co-operative gameplay where player one controls the straitlaced Chip and player two controls easygoing Dale. The game can be enjoyed in single-player mode, too, but co-op is really where this game shines as you and your partner will need to rely on each other to get through the levels. Chip and Dale are a little undersized in comparison to some of the enemies you’ll encounter, but you can even the odds by throwing acorns, boxes, and other objects to knock out Fat Cat’s goons. You can even hide beneath a box by pressing down while holding it; it’s a good way to shake groups of enemies off your tail. There are eleven stages in total and you can choose the order in which you complete them or even skip a few, though all roads lead to the same inevitable conclusion. The level design is colorful and charming; there’s an unexplainable joy in scampering across fences and faucets that appear enormous to the chipmunk duo. The environments and character models are well detailed, but the game could use some more variety in the boss battles. Whether you’re facing a giant robot or Fat Cat, every battle boils down to the same basic sequence: you dodge projectiles, pick up a big red ball, and hurl it at your opponent until you win. Despite occasionally being repetitive, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is a great co-op platformer that has plenty of that unmistakable Disney charm.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Contra – By Konami

Konami’s blockbuster arcade run-and-gun came to consoles in 1988 and immediately sparked a co-operative gaming revolution. Contra was one of the few NES games of its time to offer two-player simultaneous play. There’s something special about marching with a friend through a jungle and spraying bullets at everything that moves. Contra is very much a product of its time: two hulking Ramboesque characters toting machineguns and defending humanity from an alien invasion is the predominant image here. There’s about as much subtlety in this game as there is at the end of a 57 mm cannon, but that’s really where you have the most fun. Every stage is guaranteed to be jam-packed with things to shoot—on the ground, in the air, and wherever else. Enemies pour out of hidey-holes and run blindly at you, serving as little more than target practice for that awesome gun upgrade you just grabbed two screens ago. But you must be careful not to underestimate Contra’s difficulty. Enemies can quickly swarm the screen, making maneuvering and jumping tricky. This is especially true during the numerous platforming segments that you’ll encounter. While it’s not too hard to land a jump from one platform to another, you’ll have to do it with enemy fire raining down from above. Your best bet is to clear the screen of all hostiles first, and that’s where Contra’s huge weapon inventory comes into play with lasers, rapid-fire machineguns, and the legendary Spread Shot. At the end of each stage, you’ll fight a boss that’d fit right in with the campiest of alien movies. If the game proves too difficult, you can punch in the famous “Konami code” for 30 lives. But should you persevere without it, you’re in for a frenetic blitz through eight formidable stages and a great time.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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  Crystalis – By SNK

With the popularity of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest today, it’s easy to forget that there were other high quality RPGs on the NES. While SNK’s Crystalis was stuck in the shadows of more mainstream franchises, it was nonetheless a very good effort from a studio known primarily for arcade games. In many ways, I find Crystalis borrows more from the action-adventure genre than from the RPG. Though you can level up as in a traditional RPG, battles take place in real time with you swinging your sword and casting magic spells at enemies around the world map. You can barter and trade with merchants, store medical herbs and accessories in your inventory for later use, and you can swap out swords, armor, and shields by bringing up the equipment panel. Sword choice is a major component of the gameplay as enemies have different elemental weaknesses and immunities. If you stumble upon an enemy who is unfazed by wind spells, then your Sword of Wind will be ineffective and you’ll have to switch to a different weapon. This entails that you spend a lot of time thumbing through the equipment menu to find the right sword for the job, and no, it never stops being tedious, but the snappy gameplay more than makes up for it. You can stab enemies with the B button or launch a powerful magic attack by holding B for a charge shot. Magic spells are mapped to A. You’ll acquire new spells and weapons by completing dungeons, defeating bosses, and doing quests for townspeople, some of whom may have vital information regarding your quest and your purpose. Crystalis is a game that has few flaws but a lot of strengths and is one of the best RPGs on the console. It’s absolutely worth a playthrough.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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