NES D-G

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Darkwing Duck – By Capcom

Darkwing Duck was one of the many Disney licenses that Capcom adapted to the NES in the early 1990s. The game should feel instantly familiar to longtime NES gamers as it utilizes a modified version of the Mega Man engine for jumping and shooting. In fact, Darkwing Duck borrows many elements from Capcom’s flagship action-platforming series: you can choose the order in which you complete the stages and collect weapons power-ups to diversify your arsenal. One item, the Super Arrow from Mega Man 5, even makes an appearance in Darkwing Duck as Arrow Gas. The storyline involves the titular superhero in a quest to restore order to the city. An infamous band of criminals has been causing trouble, but Darkwing Duck doesn’t have time for fowl play and he’s about to quack down on crime by hitting the streets with his gas gun. Your health meter is represented by a heart that is split into four segments. Whenever you take damage, a part of the heart depletes and you’ll need to collect health pick-ups unless you want to be the main course for St. Canard’s most reviled crime boss. The bad guys are a diverse lot, and if they fail to take you out, then you’ve still got the platforming segments to worry about. Unlike Mega Man, Darkwing Duck can hang from lampposts and scaffolding, so even if you’re a Mega Man veteran, you’ll have to approach the levels differently. Overall, the game is well polished and represents the Disney show well, but it’s not without flaws. For example, the boss battles feel a little repetitive and aren’t all that engaging to begin with. But if you’re looking for a good action game on the NES not involving Mega Man, you could do worse than Darkwing Duck.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Double Dragon – By Technos Japan

Double Dragon was an immensely successful arcade beat-‘em-up game, and the NES port was designed to bring all the arcade action home for console gamers. Though not a pixel-perfect translation, Double Dragon for the NES looks and sounds good enough, but the one notable omission is the lack of two-player simultaneous gameplay. One of the major selling points of the original arcade game was the ability to play with a friend to take down the Black Warriors as a team—just as the title (“Double”) would suggest. Absent the two-player option, Technos Japan features only one (Billy) of the two playable characters from the arcade game, and the other (Jimmy) makes a surprise appearance at the end of the game. If you have a friend with you, you’ll need to settle with a two-player alternating mode in which you take turns controlling Billy. The only simultaneous gameplay option is a basic versus mode that allows you and a friend to duke it out head-to-head with an assortment of characters from the game. Street Fighter it is not; everyone has the same kick, punch, and running attack, and the hit detection feels off. As a one-player game, Double Dragon is mostly enjoyable. You’ve got a large variety of attacks at your disposal, but most of your special moves are locked at the beginning of the game. You’ll need to put the hurt on your enemies to earn enough points to unlock Billy’s flashier martial arts techniques, like the uppercut and the spin kick. As you gain experience, so too will the difficulty escalate, so you’ll have a lot of opportunities to play around with Billy’s move set on meatier opposition. All in all, Double Dragon is a good, classic beat-‘em-up that paved the way for much better games to come.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Double Dragon II: The Revenge – By Technos Japan

After the release of Double Dragon, Technos Japan apparently had enough time to go back and examine what was missing from the NES port, and they very clearly determined that Double Dragon with only one “dragon” is like yin without yang. So, Double Dragon II was developed with a two-player co-operative gameplay option, and NES gamers could finally play the game as was originally intended. The first NES port was by all means a step forward for console games, but Double Dragon II is a giant leap for the genre. The gameplay is a little more user-friendly as all of your character’s abilities are unlocked at the beginning of the game and you can get right into the melee. The control scheme is a bit of a departure from the original game, too. Instead of mapping punch and kick to two static buttons, your attacks will depend on which direction your character is facing. To simplify, punches are always thrown directly in front of your character and kicks are thrown behind him. You can still pull off advanced techniques like spin kicks that deal crippling damage to your enemies, which, by the way, come in more varieties and seem to run on more aggressive AI scripts. Just when you think you’ve pounded enough thugs into the dirt, some stages make use of platforming segments to keep you on your toes. They offer a nice change of pace, but the jumping mechanics make these segments more difficult than they need to be. The level design really excels with beautiful nighttime cityscapes and colorful sunsets, and the cutscenes between stages really push the cinematic effect and bring the plot to the forefront like never before. Double Dragon II is sheer excellence, one of the best beat-‘em-ups on the console.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones– By Technos Japan

After two successful games in the books, Technos Japan looked to expand their foothold in the console game market by bringing Double Dragon III to the NES in 1991. A vast departure from the arcade game, the NES version features a unique plotline and combat system. At first glance, it appears that Technos Japan has gotten everything right. The graphics look fantastic and the character models are more detailed than ever. The two-player co-operative gameplay is enhanced by the addition of team assist moves, where “Bimmy” and Jimmy can springboard off each other to inflict greater damage. When hand-to-hand techniques aren’t getting the job done, each character comes with a weapon in his inventory and can equip it for a short time. The Lee brothers get nunchaku, Chin wields a claw, and Ranzou carries shurikens. Did I forget to mention that Double Dragon III introduces two new characters into the fold? You will initially meet Chin and Ranzou as bosses, but once defeated, they join your party and become playable for the rest of the game. With new characters, moves, and enhanced graphics, this should’ve been the best, most complete version of Double Dragon on the NES. But there is one critical flaw: the difficulty. Even though you can switch to a different character in midgame, you have very little margin for error as one death will end your campaign abruptly. With no continues to pick up from where you left off and no password feature, you’re expected to breeze through the game in one sitting. Having a friend tag along will increase your chances of survival, but still, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Overall, Double Dragon III is a competent yet frustratingly hard beat-‘em-up with some glaring flaws, but also a lot of interesting improvements over its predecessors.

Review by wyldephang

6/10

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 Dr. Mario – By Nintendo

After the breakthrough of Tetris, seemingly every developer wanted to jump on the puzzle game bandwagon. Dr. Mario, which shares some similarities with Tetris, was released just as the ball got rolling in that genre, but it can hardly be called a Tetris clone. Instead of matching shapes, your primary concern in Dr. Mario is colors. Mario is hard at work controlling a viral epidemic and he needs hefty doses of his multicolored megavitamins to stop the outbreak. Each virus on the board is represented by a different color, and you’ve got to match the color of the virus with that of the pills, which drop down from the top of the board. The goal of the game is to clear all the viruses from the field of play. Three conjoined pill segments of the same color will obliterate the virus, and if there are any segments of the pills remaining, they will fall until they are either intercepted by another virus or they hit the bottom of the board. Once you’ve completed a level, you progress to a slightly more challenging one where the viruses are greater in number and positioned in harder-to-reach areas of the board. This is where it becomes critical to attack multiple viruses at one time; every pill counts, for if you let them accumulate and overflow the board, you lose. When you grow tired of eradicating viruses by yourself, there is a two-player versus feature where you compete against a friend to clear your board the fastest. So, Dr. Mario comes with what the Nintendo NES version of Tetris lacked: a fun multiplayer option. How’s that for a selling point? Whether you partake alone or with a friend, Dr. Mario is puzzle gaming at its best.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 DuckTales – By Capcom

DuckTales was one of the first games to come out of the rich Capcom-Disney partnership that hit its peak in the early ‘90s. If you’re going to enlist a game studio to create a platformer, then who can do it better than Capcom? DuckTales stars Scrooge McDuck, a billionaire business tycoon who travels the world in search of precious treasures. The plot is an interesting deviation from the traditional altruistic motives that usually underscore video games designed for young players. Scrooge is a completely self-serving protagonist; he’s not out to save the world or to rescue a damsel in distress. As such, there’s a very minimal amount of extravagant heroics in DuckTales. The gameplay is fairly simple, even for a Disney game, and there are no power-ups to collect or difficult button combinations to learn. Scrooge is armed with only his cane, which can function a few different ways depending on the situation. He can whack objects with it while standing, or use it as a pogo stick while jumping, allowing him to reach higher areas. This is also his primary method of defeating enemies. There are five stages, each with their own unique treasures to find. For instance, you travel to the Himalayas to collect a valuable crown, and you can embark on a journey to the moon to pick up a rare cheese. Everyone knows the moon is made of cheese, right? You don’t need to complete the stages in a specific order, but you’ll always end up in Transylvania last for the final boss encounter. DuckTales is a game whose strength lies in its simplicity: everything is done remarkably well and there aren’t any gaping holes in the design. It’s just a fun platformer from one of the best developers out there, and a joy to play.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Fantasy Zone - By Tengen

In another jab at Nintendo, Tengen ported this Sega arcade game to the NES with great success. Fantasy Zone is a game where the player controls a living ship called Opa-Opa as it traverses the worlds withing the Fantasy Zone. The game is rather whimsical in nature and looks cute given all its pastel colors. As Opa-Opa goes over the worlds, it faces a number of odd-looking enemies that are referred to as Menons. The Menons are responsible for the collapse of the interplanetary monetary system so Opa-Opa not only has to stop the Menons but it must also collect money that is released as the Menons are destroyed. A total of eight planets exist in the Fantasy Zone, each totally different and each with a Menon boss eager to put a stop to Opa-Opa’s mission. Through each world there are specific number of base ships that need to be destroyed before Opa-Opa faces a Menon boss. Opa-Opa is equipped with bullets and bombs but it can purchase new weapons and even better engines with the money it collects. Better technology lets Opa-Opa complete its mission more effectively. When Tengen ported this game to the NES, they really did a great job capturing the essence of the arcade. Visually the game is a close match to the original, though some detail had to be compromised. On the arcade, when a base ship is destroyed, you see it crash land to the ground but on this port they simply explode and disappear. The arcade music is present and most sound effects are a good match. Overall, this is an excellent game that is quite enjoyable.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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  Final Fantasy – By Square

In 1987, Hironobu Sakaguchi was at a crossroads. With Square nearing bankruptcy, Sakaguchi resolved either to make a hit game or resign from his position. Encouraged by the success of Yuji Horii’s Dragon Quest series, Square approved production for what was supposed to be Sakaguchi’s final game, and it turned out to be more successful than anyone could’ve imagined. Final Fantasy is a turn-based RPG modeled after computer games like Wizardry and Ultima. Players control a party of four characters whose classes are selected at the beginning of the game. This means that you’re given a surprising amount of control over the gameplay at an early stage; whether you want four black mages or two mages and two fighters, the choice is yours and it makes all the difference in the world. Depending on which classes you choose, you’ll have to approach your adventure differently. For instance, you’ll want to stock up on healing items if you don’t have a white mage in the group. It’s important to plan ahead before you venture into a dungeon because deaths are fairly punishing occurrences in Final Fantasy. Should a character die in battle, you need to hightail it to the nearest town to revive your fallen comrade. Further, every character has a limited number of spell charges they can use before needing to refill their magic at a house or inn, so every dungeon is a test of endurance. It’s well worth the effort, though. You’ll gain an appreciation for the scale of Final Fantasy as you soar above this beautifully designed world in your airship and skim over its oceans in your sailboat. The battle system is still in an early stage and in need of some tweaks, but it’s a fantastic adventure overall and every bit worth a playthrough.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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 Frankenstein: The Monster Returns - By Bandai

For years, the village has been at peace. For years, the villagers have moved on with their lives trying to forget the nightmares the creature had caused. For years, the sun shone bright, the crops crew well and life was a blissful paradise. Paradise, however, doesn’t last forever on this Earth as the villagers are soon to find out for lighting has struck a certain grave. This grave has been abandoned for years. It is full of weeds and battered but within it lies the body of Frankenstein’s monster. Lightning gave it life once and lightning gives it life again! Frankenstein’s monster rises again and he has come back to terrorize the village. This time he has kidnapped a young girl from town. It is up to you to save her! You must travel through townships, forests, graveyards, castles, and even hell dimensions to reach her. And to save her you will face many creatures of the dark, including the monster itself. Frankenstein: The Monster Returns is a side scrolling adventure that in many ways plays like the Castlevania games. When you start the game, the young hero has nothing but his own fists to fend off the creatures that attack him. As you fight these creatures, you gain weapons that enhance your ability to fight which is vital if you are going to survive the fights with the bosses within each level. Visually the game is not spectacular as most characters are rendered in just one color and the backgrounds are somewhat flat. All the creatures are easy to recognize, however. Music adds to the dark done of the game. The game also has some nice dialogue screens where you get important hints. Overall, an alright game for the NES.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Friday the 13th - By LJN

Inspired by the movie of the same title, Friday the 13th takes place at Crystal Lake where you and six counselors are watching over the children staying at the Camp. The weather is perfect with the sun shining bright every day while the nights are cool and clear. Nothing could go wrong in this idyllic place. Nothing except the presence of a manic killer called Jason Voorhees. Jason is on a rampage and it is up to you to stop him. You must search Jason out before he kills the children or the other counselors in the Camp. An alarm will sound when Jason is close to killing someone and you must find him before times runs out. Fail to find Jason and one more camp members will become his victims. Of course, things are complicated by the fact that the trails in the camp are infested by zombies and other creatures that will attack as you traverse the paths, enter the forest, or even take a boat in the lake. Friday the 13th is a novel implementation for a side-scrolling game but it fails at its task. There is little suspense in the game because the zombies and other monsters do constantly appear and attack you. You can gain new weapons to defend yourself and there are items that you can find to help you along the way. Entering the cabin changes the game to a first-person perspective that does not work very well. You can find children in these cabins or you may even find Jason himself. Visually, the game is well done. The graphics are colourful and the characters have nice detail. The music also works well and adds to the ambiance. Sadly, the game just doesn’t really have that fun factor.

Review by TrekMD

4/10

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 Gauntlet - By Tengen

Gauntlet was a successful fantasy-themed arcade game created by Atari in which up to four players could participate simultaneously as one of four characters: Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie, or Questor the Elf. It was one of the first multiplayer games of its kind and it was adapted to several home systems, including the NES. The NES version, however, was not exactly a port of the arcade as it only maintained the characters and basic formula. On this version, the goal is to find a Sacred Orb (which was stolen by the evil creature Morak) that is found on the 100th and final level of the game. The mazes on this version are completely different and, in these levels, the player must look for portions of a hidden password that will be needed to access the final room. Two players can play at the same time and each can select one character to control. Besides looking for the password, the players can collect treasure, food, and potions while they fight the plethora of enemies that live within the gauntlet. Despite the differences in gameplay from the arcade, the game is still enjoyable. The graphics are not as detailed as on the arcade but they work pretty well. The colors are somewhat bland, however. Sound is fair and those used to the arcade game will certainly miss the narrator’s voice making such announcements as: “Wizard, shot the food” and “Elf needs food, badly.” If you are looking for an accurate arcade port, move along. If, however, you’re looking for similar gameplay, you will certainly enjoy this port.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Gauntlet II - By Tengen

The follow up to the original Gauntlet takes the same game formula and makes improvements upon it. This version keeps the same four characters (Wizard, Elf, Valkyrie, and Warrior) but now adds colors to each type of character so players can choose to play as the same class but differentiated by color (e.g., there can be a yellow Wizard and a red Wizard). New mazes were added and a new “tagging” where a player can be “It.” A player who has become “It” attracts all enemies toward them and can only rid themselves of this curse by touching another player (“tag, you’re it”) or by exiting the maze. New enemies are also introduced as well as new power ups the players can use. Other new elements introduced in Gauntlet II include invisible walls, magic walls, stun tiles, and force fields. Unlike the port of the original Gauntlet, this port is far more arcade-accurate. Up to four players can enjoy the game simultaneously using a special adaptor (this was one of the first NES games to allow this). Graphics are as good as they can probably be on the NES (again with somewhat drab colors) but they do the job. One very welcome addition on this version is the narrator’s voice! Yes, it is here and it is great to hear “Wizard, needs food, badly” or “Elf, is now It” among other phrases. This game is definitely an excellent adaptation of the arcade and much more fun than its predecessor. This is a winner that you should have on your NES library.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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  Ghosts ‘n Goblins – By Capcom

Capcom’s arcade hit Ghosts ‘n Goblins came to the NES in 1986 and has been torturing gamers with its brutal difficulty level ever since. I mention this merely to get it out of the way, because while Ghosts ‘n Goblins will kick your butt over and over again, it is a fine piece of video game engineering and is a prime example of an arcade game done right on the NES. The visuals are quite good for 1986 and everything looks as it should. Gameplay, though a little rigid at times, is responsive and you shouldn’t find yourself cursing the control scheme if things don’t go your way. The story is a take on the usual “damsel in distress” plot device, but the aggressor this time is Satan himself. And what better way to take on the Dark Lord than to don a suit of armor and a lance and chase him right into hell? You’ll run into the standard assortment of creepy crawlies, ghosts, and demons, but every enemy has a unique attack pattern, so you’ll need to be on your toes the first time you enter a new level. This is not to say that the stages become any easier the more you play them. Arthur, the protagonist, dies in one hit if he’s not wearing armor. His full-body plate mail will absorb one additional shot before it shatters to pieces. Throughout the game you’ll be able to pick up new weapons, like the dagger or the torch, and each weapon has its share of advantages and disadvantages. There are six stages from start to finish, but you’ve got to beat the gauntlet twice to unlock the true ending. Though not perfect, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a classic that will surely test your mettle.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Gremlins 2: The New Batch – By Sunsoft

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a top-down action-platforming game released in 1990 alongside the movie. You play as Gizmo, the cuddly protagonist from the film, who is on a mission to wipe out the hostile Gremlins. You’re armed with killer tomatoes, which function as a projectile with limited range, but you can acquire new weapons and upgrades that increase your firepower. I find the hit detection to be pretty solid, and you won’t have much trouble taking out enemies with any of the weapons. While this is a major part of the game, Gremlins 2 is also a platformer that will have you jumping across moving platforms and conveyor belts. One misstep will have you tumbling into a bottomless pit—there seem to be a lot of those in NES games—but on the bright side, the jump mechanics are actually very forgiving and you can move Gizmo in midair if you need to reposition your landing. Aside of jumping across platforms and defeating enemies, you’ll fight your nemesis Mohawk in a series of boss battles that get progressively harder as he transforms each time. The graphics and sound are solid and you should be able to recognize characters from the movie without hesitation. The difficulty level as a whole is manageable; if you’re having trouble at any point, you can visit shops to purchase extra lives, upgrades, and balloons that will save you from pit deaths. In addition to unlimited continues and passwords, these features make Gremlins 2 comparatively easy, but not so much that you’ll lose interest. While the gameplay is solid overall, I do feel Sunsoft could’ve stood to increase the length of the game and the variety of the boss battles. That notwithstanding, Gremlins 2 is a fun game that actually does the movie justice.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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