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Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Lawn Mower – By Shiru

There have been a lot of games that take some of the quietest, least action-packed things people can imagine and make them into a fun product. We’ve had games about delivering papers, caring for dogs and serving tables. And now, we’ve got a game all about mowing the lawn. Don’t worry, it’s a lot better than it sounds. Take Pac-Man, get rid of the ghosts, along with most of the walls, and add in a quickly dwindling timer that needs to be refilled constantly and you basically have Lawn Mower. You take the role of a lawn mower, which worryingly enough nobody seems to actually be holding. The goal of each lawn is to mow 100% of the grass, at which point you move on to the next one. The problem is your mower guzzles fuel like crazy, so you’ll have to run and grab the fuel that appears every few seconds to keep mowing. Thankfully, your mower also comes equipped with a turbo boost, which makes it easier to grab far away fuel. The further in you go, however, the tougher the lawns get. You’ll start coming across rocks and flowers, which will drain even more of your fuel if you run them over. You’ll also deal with lawns that are too big for one screen, meaning you’ll have to scroll the lawn to see more of the grass and fuel you’ll need. It’s not a very difficult game however and if it weren’t for the strict time limit, it would actually be kind of relaxing. The music has a rather laid back sound to it like a lazy summer’s day and you get unlimited lives to mow all the lawns. If you’re wanting an arcade experience with an interesting concept to it then go for Lawn Mower.

Review by Bobinator

7/10

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  Legend of Zelda, The – By Nintendo

Released in 1986, Shigeru Miyamoto’s The Legend of Zelda kicked off one of gaming’s most beloved franchises and elevated the action-adventure genre to new heights. Inspired by a childhood spent exploring the Kyoto countryside, it isn’t hard to see how Miyamoto’s make-your-own-adventure mentality creeps into the game. The first screen of the game presents you with a nearby cave, and should you choose to enter it, the first NPC in Zelda history will hand you a sword and send you on your way. Outside of the occasional cryptic hint, this is about the only hand-holding that occurs in The Legend of Zelda. From then on, you have to search every corner of Hyrule to uncover entrances to hidden dungeons, where you will acquire new items and battle fearsome bosses. The goal of the game is to collect the eight Triforce shards scattered across Hyrule and rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of the sorcerer Ganon. Gameplay is fairly simple to learn: the D-pad moves Link around the overworld, the A button slashes, and B uses whichever item or weapon is assigned to it. You’ll have quite an assortment of items to collect—everything from bows and arrows to rafts that can carry you across rivers. Some items are required to access later dungeons, too, so while the game is conservative with its directions, there is a definite path to the end. The Legend of Zelda can be a difficult game due to the lack of obvious clues, but if you run out of health, you can always retry a dungeon from the start without losing all your equipment, and your progress is recorded via battery backup. Really, there is no reason not to play The Legend of Zelda. It’s a timeless classic that still holds up today.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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  Legendary Wings – By Capcom

Next to better-known shooter franchises like Gradius and R-Type, Legendary Wings doesn’t seem to get nearly as much attention. But if you get right down to it, there isn’t much holding it back from doing so. The graphics, sound, and gameplay all have that typical Capcom polish and it is every bit as fun as any other shoot-‘em-up of its time. Legendary Wings eschews the usual space motif in favor of a more fantasy-based design. You battle enemies on earth in a series of top-down and side-scrolling levels, collecting upgrades to boost your attack power. Your standard weapon is a laser that travels in a straight line, but by the fourth upgrade, you transform into a phoenix and launch devastating fireballs at your foes. You can enlist a friend to fight alongside you in the story mode, and even though the game suffers from some slowdown in two-player mode, it’s well worth it. Otherwise, the game moves along at a steady framerate with the only defect being the occasional sprite flicker when the screen gets too busy. The difficulty is mostly manageable. If you’ve collected a few upgrades, you can take more damage before you lose a life, and you can use continues to restart the level if you run out of lives. That said, the difficulty definitely escalates as the game goes on, so don’t expect to breeze through this one. There are boss battles, but I can’t help feeling let down by them: they’re repetitive and can only be likened to shooting at a wall that moves back and forth. Despite this, the visuals are colorful and the soundtrack has some classic tunes. If you’re looking for a fun and easy-to-learn shoot-‘em-up with a two-player option, then Legendary Wings is a strong choice.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Life Force – By Konami

Life Force, also known as Salamander, is a side-scrolling shoot-‘em-up game by the makers of Gradius. One of the early shooters in the NES library, Life Force is relatively easy to pick up and learn if you’re a newcomer to the genre. It shares a lot of similarities with Gradius, but the difficulty is arguably toned down a bit as deaths won’t set you back as far. Whenever you lose a ship, you restart at your current position rather than backtracking to a checkpoint earlier in the level. This is certainly a nice feature, as is the addition of a two-player co-operative game mode. Now, you can blast your way through enemy armadas with a friend, a rare treat for NES games of the time. While Gradius is rooted in the space shooter motif, Life Force takes place inside a giant alien organism that, as far as I can tell, has been infected by some kind of bacteria. This opens the door for some novel ideas in level design. For instance, walls of connective tissue will occasionally collapse around your ship, or a giant sliver of bone might protrude from the ceiling and threaten to crush you. Because you never know what the game will throw at you next, it’s always a good thing to be prepared for everything. You can collect upgrades to make your ship faster, or sub-weapons to add extra firepower to your main cannon. Stages will alternate between horizontal and vertical scrolling modes, and boss fights entail that you zigzag around showers of projectiles while trying to land precise shots in targeted areas. No one said it was going to be easy, but it’s not frustratingly difficult, either. It just takes practice. Overall, Life Force is a great shooter that has stood the test of time.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Mega Man – By Capcom

Before Roboenza took the world by storm and Mega Man Legends had us spelunking for scrap metal, there was the simple good-and-evil dynamic of a brave robot boy, a mad scientist, and his menacing robot henchmen. Mega Man is the first installment in Capcom’s seminal action-platformer series and they set the bar high with responsive controls and smooth gameplay. There are six initial stages, and at the end of each one, you’ll face off with one of Dr. Wily’s corrupted Robot Masters, defeat it, and gain its special ability. Mega Man develops his arsenal this way, learning various attacks that can be used to exploit boss weaknesses, and the player is always free to experiment with Mega Man’s inventory to see which weapon works best against his foes. The Robot Masters are aggressive and deal a lot of damage with their attacks, and the levels are often as challenging as the bosses themselves; you’ll make death-defying jumps onto moving platforms and dodge bullets when the slightest misstep will have you tumbling down a bottomless pit or onto a bed of spikes. This is indeed one of the harder Mega Man titles, and you are guaranteed to lose more than a few lives your first time through. There is no password function, but you have unlimited continues, so prepare yourself for the long haul if you’re serious about taking down Dr. Wily. Mega Man is an exceptionally polished game with a vivid art style by Keiji Inafune and a catchy musical score. Later installments would refine the formula, but the inaugural game gets the franchise off to a strong start. If you’re thinking about exploring this great series, then start your journey here and get ready to bust some robot butts.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Mega Man 2 – By Capcom

After the release of Mega Man in 1987, Capcom wasted no time in planning their follow-up. Though the first game had been a critical success, it was far from a best-seller, so Inafune and company went back to the drawing board to see where they could refine the Mega Man formula. Turns out that the old adage of “make it bigger and badder” applies, as Mega Man 2 is longer than its predecessor and features a greater number of enemies, bosses, and abilities. The Robot Master roster has been expanded from six to eight; they have more diversified attack patterns this time around and there’s also more variety in the special attacks you gain from them. Additionally, Mega Man 2 introduces three new support items, which are meant to assist the player through those frustrating platforming segments. You have some leeway now if you’re not able to land pixel-perfect jumps, and if you find that you’re absorbing too much damage anyway, you can open your menu at any time and use the new E Tank power-up, which replenishes your health meter instantly. Overall, the challenge has been toned down a bit, especially in the North American and European versions, where you can select from two difficulty levels. A password function has been added, too, and you enter your codes by lining up dots on a grid; it’s more sensible and visually appealing than a long alphanumeric sequence. Outside of these improvements, the best of the gameplay mechanics from the previous game carry over into the sequel, so Mega Man is as ready as ever to bring Dr. Wily and his robot minions down. This is the game Capcom needed to propel Mega Man into stardom, and it’s one of the must-have titles in the Nintendo catalog.

Review by wyldephang

10/10

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  Mega Man 3 – By Capcom

Mega Man has foiled Dr. Wily’s evil plans twice, and apparently the doctor has seen the error of his ways. Looking to repent, Wily co-develops a peacekeeping robot called Gamma and a period of “Pax Robotannica” follows. But it isn’t long before the robots go rogue and Mega Man discovers that Wily is behind all the chaos. Once again, the mad doctor has summoned eight Robot Masters to stop Mega Man, but entering the fray for the first time is Proto Man, Mega Man’s canon brother who insists on testing his sibling in a series of one-on-one skirmishes. Proto Man’s mysterious presence deepens the plot, and overall, Mega Man 3 seems to be one of the more story-driven games of the 8-bit saga despite the lack of a true in-game narrative. As expected, gameplay is given top priority, and Capcom freshens up the experience by introducing a new canine sidekick, Rush, who can transform into three different vehicles to aid Mega Man in the air as a jet, on the ground as a springboard, and underwater as a submarine. Also, Mega Man has apparently signed up for robot calisthenics because he’s more flexible, more nimble, and can now perform a quick slide maneuver to dip under obstacles and projectiles. The Rush abilities combined with the slide function give you more control than ever before, allowing you to access places you wouldn’t have thought possible in previous games, and that is a good thing because there’s certainly more to see this time around. You have the usual eight Robot Master lairs, but you’ll revisit four of them and encounter more challenges and sub-bosses. With the expanded gameplay, unique art direction, and top-rate musical score, Mega Man 3 is one of the most complete games in the series.

Review by wyldephang

10/10

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  Mega Man 4 – By Capcom

Having been thwarted three times by Mega Man, Dr. Wily has abandoned a head-on fight with the indefatigable hero and has now turned to extortion as he blackmails the talented Dr. Cossack into building eight powerful Robot Masters to serve him. Mega Man is summoned to investigate the mysterious new threat, and if you’re familiar with the series up to this point, the rest of the story is mostly academic. As with previous games in the franchise, the goal is to shoot through eight Robot Master stages and learn new abilities along the way. The enemies and the bosses are all well done, though some are less exciting than others, and the level design excels for the most part, only occasionally offering up a screen or two where nothing is happening. The major innovation in Mega Man 4 is the Mega Buster, which grants Mega Man the ability to charge his arm cannon and release a more powerful energy shot. This upgrade turns Mega Man’s trusty sidearm into a viable option to dispatch enemies and even bosses. Rush returns as a multipurpose support vehicle, but now you can collect two separate Wire and Balloon adaptors to help you through those tight platforming segments. The additional items are nice, but they’re a little unnecessary as the Rush vehicles accomplish nearly the same thing, and one gets the sense that it would’ve been better to get an additional offensive item for a change. Mega Man 4 retains the same high-quality production value as its predecessors; the opening cinematic is quite impressive and shows that Capcom was taking the series in a more plot-focused direction. While it’s probably not the best game in the series, it’s a strong effort nonetheless and is definitely worth a playthrough.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Mega Man 5 – By Capcom

After four consecutive Mega Man titles on the NES, the 8-bit generation was entering its twilight years and Capcom faced the question of how to keep the franchise alive on outdated hardware. Their answer was to conceive a radical plot twist in the storyline that no fan would see coming. Chaos erupts as usual and Dr. Light is kidnapped, but this time, Mega Man’s brother Proto Man is to blame. His apparent betrayal in the opening cinematic is the first real plot development in the series that relies on your foreknowledge of the characters and their history. The conspiracy reaches further than Proto Man, and when Mega Man finally uncovers the truth, he is forced to do battle with a mysterious robot called Dark Man, whose creator is well known to us by now. While the Dark Man fights should be crucial to the storyline, they feel downright lethargic, but things improve when you take the fight to a familiar old nemesis who was behind everything the entire time. Mega Man 5 retains the gameplay innovations of previous titles, only now the Mega Buster is capable of taking out most enemies in a single charged shot, somewhat reducing the importance of the special abilities. The Robot Masters are unique, and you’ll find a lot of variety in the level choices, including a speeding cargo train, a space station, and a science lab where the gravity changes sporadically. Rush is back with some superficial changes, and he is joined by Beat, a robotic attack bird that can be summoned to fight by your side. Despite its occasionally sloppy execution, Mega Man 5 is very much worth a playthrough for its smooth gameplay and interesting plot. It’s just that you might start to think Capcom had greener, 16-bit pastures in mind.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Mega Man 6 – By Capcom

It’s the first annual Robot Master Tournament and the best robots in the world have come to battle for supremacy. When the tournament reaches the finals, the mysterious sponsor Mr. X (who looks strangely familiar) makes off with the eight strongest robots and reprograms them to serve his evil purposes. Mega Man gives chase and the rest of the plot unfolds as you’d expect. The Robot Masters hail from all corners of the globe, so they take cultural design cues from the nations they represent. It’s an interesting touch, albeit a little uncoordinated, but the Robot Master lairs have arguably never looked nicer or more detailed. Some of the levels even feature split paths and make use of the latest improvement to Mega Man’s suit, the Rush adaptors. Instead of serving as a support vehicle, Rush now incorporates his circuitry into Mega Man’s armor, forming the Power and Jet suits. The adaptors allow Mega Man to break blocks and fly over short distances, so they open up the stages by a considerable margin. Overall, Capcom stays faithful to the formula and preserves all the best gameplay elements of previous games, but if there is a weakness to be found, it’s in the rather contrived plot that fails to grasp your imagination. Mega Man 6 was the swansong for Mega Man on the NES. In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the sendoff the series deserved, but it is refreshing to know that Capcom insisted on innovation until the very end. From 1987 to 1993, Mega Man underwent many radical changes in gameplay and design, and Mega Man 6 is the culmination of all these refinements. It is a highly entertaining game that could’ve been destined for greatness if Capcom had put more life into the characters and plot.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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 Metal Gear – By Konami

With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain now available for purchase, it’s a good time to step back and reflect on the franchise. What started as the pet project of Hideo Kojima quickly blossomed into a best-selling game series and important cash cow for Konami. Metal Gear was first released in 1987 on the MSX2 computer, but by 1988, it had been ported to NES consoles worldwide. It’s amazing how much of Kojima’s original vision holds up on the NES, a machine with far less video memory than the MSX2, despite him not being involved in the making of the port. The opening of the game has you sneaking around enemy guards in the jungle, using the environment to conceal your movement while you gather items to ready yourself for combat. You’re initially unarmed, and though it’s satisfying to punch your enemies to death, you really need to build an inventory of weapons and gadgets to help you on your mission to rescue captured agent Grey Fox. If a patrol spots you, an alarm sounds and enemies swarm in from all sides of the screen. Unlike other action games, you cannot simply shoot your way out of a bad situation, so you need to make a stealthy escape and remain hidden until the danger passes. The graphics and sound, though inferior to the MSX2 version, are good for the NES and the controls are workable, but there are some flaws in the balancing. Enemies respawn the instant you leave a screen, which is annoying in a game that requires constant backtracking. Should you die, you won’t lose your items, but you’ll revert back to the first screen. Despite this, the NES port of Metal Gear is a solid effort and an ambitious start to one of Konami’s greatest franchises.

Review by wyldephang

7/10

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  Metroid – By Nintendo

Most gamers can hum along to Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, but Metroid demonstrates the emotive impact of an ambient soundtrack, where the lack of music can magnify tension and create suspense. Though it may seem odd to begin the review here, consider that tension and suspense are really the words to describe this game. You are Samus Aran, one of the galaxy’s finest bounty hunters, and you’re alone on a strange planet inhabited by dangerous alien life forms. You’re here to bring down the notorious Mother Brain, the leader of an intergalactic gang of pirates, but you’re equipped with little more than a beam cannon and your wits. From the minimalist soundtrack to the sparsely decorated environments—think subterranean caverns formed inside deep infinities of blackness—it’s no secret that Metroid was created to make you feel the anxiety of isolation. To survive the hostile planet, you’ll need to collect the power-ups scattered throughout the world. Once fully upgraded, Samus can collapse into a small ball to roll into crawlspaces, fire missiles, and plant bombs to break open walls, but half the challenge is in finding the power-ups. Without a detailed world map to guide you and no in-game hints, your only option is to wander through the mazelike depths until you find an item that can bypass some barrier you encountered earlier. This is, admittedly, the game’s most frustrating trait, but if you can find your way in this vast world, it’s a rewarding experience. The gameplay is responsive and it’s satisfying to blast your enemies to pieces. A password system keeps track of your progress if you need to take a break. Metroid isn’t flawless, but you have to respect progressive game design. It’s an ambitious concept wrapped in a tremendous adventure.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! – By Nintendo

Nintendo is not a company to overlook emerging trends in pop culture, so when “Iron” Mike Tyson rocked the boxing world in 1987, Nintendo took notice and quickly acquired the rights to use the champ’s name in their console port of the arcade classic Punch-Out!! The NES game is designed around the same principles as the arcade version, but the gameplay is altered to make better use of the NES controller, and as the name suggests, you’ll square off against Mike Tyson in the final championship bout. Some of the boxers from the arcade game return in the NES port, but you’ll also encounter first-timers like King Hippo and Piston Honda, who have become staples of the series. The goal is to wear down your opponent with punches and land a knockout blow to end the fight. This isn’t always easy, however, and you’ll have to learn your opponent’s attack patterns to land punches at the right time. This requires memorization, adaptability, and fast reflexes. If you plan to bludgeon through your opponent’s defenses, you’ll be in for a rude awakening because if you land too many shots on your opponent’s guard, your boxer Little Mac will fatigue and be unable to attack for a short time. At this point, you’re vulnerable and have to rely on ducks and dodges to survive. If you land a punch at the exact frame, you’ll be rewarded with a star, which can be used to uncork a powerful uppercut to your opponent’s chin. You’ll make your way through three circuits until you step in the ring with Mike Tyson himself. Tyson is the fastest and most lethal of all the boxers, the ultimate test. Beat him and count yourself among the gamers fortunate enough to have experienced this fantastic game in full.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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 Monster Party - By Bandai

Your name is Mark and you are heading home after playing some baseball with your friends. As you look up, a blazing star appears and blinds you with light. When your sight returns, a winged alien creature that looks like a gargoyle stands in front of you. The alien says his name is Bert and he promptly asks for your help in dealing with the evil monsters that are terrorizing his Dark World. Your “weapon” will be useful, even though it is nothing more than a baseball bat. You are reluctant at first but soon agree and Bert whisks you away. As you travel to Dark World, Bert fuses with you so that you can transform into him (albeit for a short time) when you battle the monsters. Once on Dark World the player takes control of Mark who, with his bat, must fight all sorts of creatures. The bat can be used to directly inflict damage on enemies but it can also be used to deflect anything that is shot at Mark. This is very helpful when dealing with bosses. In the game, you will face all sorts of creatures, from traditional (mummies, giant spiders, zombies, the Grim Reaper) to Japanese legends (human faced dogs called Jinmenken) to enemies unique to the game (a caterpillar, walking pants, fried shrimp, and a giant cat). When the enemies are killed, they drop hearts (life energy) or pill that transform Mark into Bert. As Bert, you can fly and shoot beams that are more harmful than the bat. A total of eight levels are available, each with multiple doors that must be entered in order to either find enemies or a question mark that can give health, points, or pills. Monster Party is an average but enjoyable platformer.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Ninja Gaiden – By Tecmo

We’re used to the idea of a video game studio porting an arcade game to home consoles, but every so often, console gamers are treated to a wholly unique game that bears little resemblance to the arcade original. Such is the case for Ninja Gaiden: what started as a fairly standard beat-‘em-up game in the arcades transformed into the action-platformer mega-franchise we know today. Beyond any facile comparisons we might make to the arcade game, the NES version is really its own special campaign and must be judged by its merits alone. And as a standalone game, Ninja Gaiden holds up well. The gameplay is simple enough to grasp; there’s not much room left for interpretation in the concept of a ninja holding a big sword. Your goal is to use that sword to cut a path through unending hordes of enemies, fight a bigger enemy at the end of the stage, and repeat this process through six stages or “acts.” As an assassin trained in the art of ninjutsu, you can scale walls, throw shurikens, and descend on your prey with an assortment of powerful magic arts. The game is well polished with detailed graphics, an energetic soundtrack, and cinematic cutscenes. But the game is not without flaws. The difficulty in particular is cause for frustration, as there isn’t a segment in the game that isn’t teeming with enemies who are all too eager to knock you into a bottomless pit. The jump mechanics are more forgiving than in Castlevania, but I feel pit deaths will be just as common in Ninja Gaiden nonetheless because Tecmo loves to complicate their platforming segments with liberal sprinklings of enemies. If you can beat the system, though, Ninja Gaiden is a fun, memorable action-platformer with plenty of replay value.

Review by wyldephang

8/10

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  Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos – By Tecmo

Capitalizing on the success of the first Ninja Gaiden game on the NES, Tecmo cranked out a sequel 16 months after the debut of the series. For Ninja Gaiden II, they made few changes to the formula, preferring to tweak minor details rather than rewrite the script entirely. The game takes place one year after the events of Ninja Gaiden. The demon lord Ashtar plans to rule over mankind with the Dark Sword of Chaos, a sword forged in demon bone, and protagonist Ryu Hayabusa must be the one to stop him. The game is broken up into acts like the original, and the plot advances by way of cutscenes between levels. Though the first game wasn’t lacking in visual flair, the graphics in Ninja Gaiden II are even more detailed and there is more variety in the level design. Some stages make use of interesting lighting effects while others employ wind mechanics to throw off your timing. The gameplay hasn’t changed much, but Tecmo has made a few adjustments. You can now climb walls by holding the D-pad up or down instead of the relatively difficult wall jump mechanic in the first game. You can attack while climbing, too, meaning that you’re not completely defenseless when attached to a wall. Tecmo has added some new special abilities, like the cloning technique, which allows you to duplicate your sprite to add an extra sword on the battlefield. The extra firepower is a nice touch because Ninja Gaiden II is a very challenging game, though perhaps a bit less so than its predecessor. You have unlimited continues and deaths are a little less punishing this time. Ninja Gaiden II is difficult but fair, the kind of the game that kicks your butt and has you coming back for more.

Review by wyldephang

9/10

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