Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!
SEP
11
2017
0

#51 – Dragon Fighter

Don’t just fight a dragon, become one!

You can’t start until you see this title screen twice. Lame!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game in the secret hard mode
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 5/19/17 – 5/22/17
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
Video: Dragon Fighter Hard Mode

It’s funny. I just finished playing through Dragon Warrior, and then the next game to come up on the list is Dragon Fighter. Don’t let the names fool you, for these two games are really quite different. Dragon Fighter is a side scrolling action game, not an RPG. Dragon Warrior is an early NES game, while Dragon Fighter is a later release. While Nintendo Power gave away Dragon Warrior, Dragon Fighter is a hard to find game that is very expensive now. Finally, Dragon Warrior is really well known, and Dragon Fighter is still pretty obscure. While I can’t get the price down on a cartridge, I can help make this fun game a little more well known.

Dragon Fighter was first released on Famicom in August 1990. The game was developed by Natsume and published by Towa Chika. Natsume developed a few action games on the NES, including S.C.A.T. which I have already completed. Towa Chika did not publish any games outside the US. Perhaps the most infamous game they published is the Famicom platformer A Week of Garfield. Dragon Fighter was brought over to the NES in January 1992. The NES version was published by Sofel, who brought only five games to the NES.

Dragon Fighter is a side-scrolling action game. An evil warlock named Zabbaong attacks the land of Baljing, who are known as a peaceful people with a dragon statue as a symbol of their good nature. The Dragon Spirit had given the people the dragon statue, and now under the enemy attack he brings the statue to life as a fierce warrior. You play as this warrior as you strike back again Zabbaong.

Don’t run away! The green guys aren’t that scary.

This is a relatively straightforward game. In fact, this is a pure horizontal scroller with the playfield only scrolling to the right, just like Super Mario Bros. As the fighter, you wield a sword and can perform basic techniques. Use the D-pad to walk around. You can crouch by holding Down. Press A to jump, and B to swing your sword forward. You can swing your weapon when standing, jumping, or crouching. If you hold down the B button, you will start to flash. Hold it for long enough, and then release the button to perform a charge attack.

The main feature of Dragon Fighter is that you can become a flying dragon. At the top of the screen there are two meters. The top one is your health meter and the bottom one is called the metamorph meter. For each enemy that you defeat with the sword, you will add to the metamorph meter. Enemies beaten by charge attacks do not fill the meter. Once this meter is at least halfway full, then it will start flashing indicating you can morph into a dragon. Hold Up and jump with A, and at the top of your jump you switch over to a flying dragon.

In dragon form, you can fly around in all eight directions and you can fire with B. You always face to the right in this form. Also, the screen begins to scroll forward automatically as your metamorph meter dwindles away. You get more firepower and can avoid attacks much easier as a dragon, so this form is very useful. You can switch back to the fighter at any time by holding Down and pressing A. Keep in mind that you may need to fight more enemies in fighter form to build the metamorph meter back up before you can switch back to a dragon again. If the meter runs out, then you will automatically shift back into the fighter.

Sometimes a defeated enemy will drop a helpful item. There are only a few item drops. The power pearl will restore a couple points of health, while the larger pearl pot will restore eight health units. The power ring wipes out all enemies on the screen. Finally, the dragonweed, shaped like a dragon’s head, will fill up eight points in the metamorph meter.

With the dragon, you can fly over enemies.

In some of the stages, you will find powerups labelled G, R, and B. These are always found in the same location and are not dropped by enemies. Picking up one of these icons will change your fighter into the Green fighter, Red fighter, or Blue fighter. Each color fighter has both a distinct charge attack and dragon attack. The default fighter at the start of the game is the Green fighter. Your charge shot is a green ball that travels to the right, and the dragon form gets a three-way spread fire. The Red fighter’s charge shot is a set of three fireballs that arc in the air and fall down. The Red dragon’s attack is a fireball that spreads out when it hits the ground similar to the holy water in Castlevania. The Blue fighter gets a homing charge shot and the Blue dragon can fire two homing shots.

At the end of each stage is a boss battle. These include a fight with a werewolf, a giant centipede, and a large skeleton with floating hands. The metamorph meter is emptied upon starting the next stage, so don’t be afraid to use the dragon form for the fight. When you defeat the boss, it will drop a staff that you acquire to end the level. Collecting the staff increases the size of your health meter and also restores some health for the next stage. A little spoiler here: The sixth and final stage plays entirely as a horizontal scrolling shooter and you are forced into dragon mode for the whole thing. It culminates in a final boss battle with Zabbaong.

There are no extra lives in Dragon Fighter, so when all your health is depleted it is Game Over. You do have three continues. However, using one sends you back all the way to the start of the stage. Even if you reach the boss and die, you have to replay the entire level. This is the kind of game that you learn over multiple plays.

This was my first time playing through Dragon Fighter. It was among the final 30 games or so I bought for my NES licensed collection, mostly because the game is hard to find and expensive. I bought it in February 2015, and at the time the game was selling for around $100 for a loose cart. I explored many avenues looking for these final games, and for this one I ended up taking a chance on an Amazon listing with no pictures. The cart was only $50, but the game was badly cracked. It was punctured right over the label causing attached shards of plastic to be pushed into the cart shell. I opened the cart up and pushed the damaged part outward to make it flatter. It’s a shame because the cart is in really nice shape otherwise. It does look great on the shelf at least! As of August 2017, a Dragon Fighter loose cart sells in the $250-$300 range, so I’m happy with my choice.

Deploy the dragon strategically during boss battles.

Beating the game wasn’t too much of a challenge for me. I ended up beating the game the first night in over two hours with a few practice runs. A lot of it was figuring out when to deploy the dragon and which color fighter to use. There is a little bit of platforming, but most of the game centers around enemy combat. I think I’m pretty good at seeing the enemy patterns and figuring out how to react. Some fortuitous item drops also came in handy! I gave the game a difficulty rating of 6/10 because of the limited continues and no checkpoints when you use one. I maybe should have rated it higher because I think many players are going to have more of a struggle with it, but I’ll stick with my choice because I figured it out so quickly.

This is not all Dragon Fighter has to offer. The game has an unlockable hard mode. When you beat the game and leave it on the ending screen for a little while, a cheat code is displayed. Correctly inputting it at the title screen changes the copyright text from blue to red, indicating hard mode is activated. There are two major differences in hard mode. First, there are no item drops. This makes health preservation critical as you can only heal once per level after defeating a boss and grabbing the staff. The other difference is that for each enemy you kill in dragon form, a homing bullet fires as the enemy’s death explosion finishes. As far as I recall there were no further changes to the game. It’s a good mode that tweaks how you approach levels. I spent a separate night beating hard mode. For some reason, I was determined to beat the game on hard mode without dying, and I’m happy to report that I accomplished it. It’s one of my better achievements captured on video.

I know the term is overblown to NES fans, but Dragon Fighter is indeed a hidden gem. It’s a straightforward but competent hack and slash action game with the ability to morph into a dragon, so there’s already a lot going for it. The graphics are well done, the music is good, the gameplay is solid, the bosses are fun to fight, the challenge is appropriate, and the optional hard mode is well thought out. Dragon Fighter checks most of the boxes from what you would expect out of one of the most expensive NES games. The price is obviously a major barrier if you want the authentic experience, but if you have a Powerpak or play on an emulator, Dragon Fighter is a game that is worth checking out.

#51 – Dragon Fighter

 
AUG
24
2017
0

#50 – Dragon Warrior

Baby’s first RPG!

Title screen fanfare is nice!

To Beat: Reach the Ending
Played: 4/18/17 – 4/27/17
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 1/10
Video: Dragon Warrior Endgame

It took me longer than I expected to get this far, but I have finally reached this milestone of the review of my 50th completed game. I thought I might do special games at milestones like this one, but my current plan is to take games as they come. In this case, it ended up working out to a game that is good enough for the 50th post. Dragon Warrior is an extremely basic role-playing game, or RPG, but it is an important game that eased me to the genre and was a gateway to more complicated and challenging games in this style.

Dragon Quest is the first game is a long running series of RPG games under the same name. Yuji Horii created Dragon Quest in response to other RPGs of the time like Wizardry and Ultima. The driving force behind Dragon Quest was that it would appeal to a much wider audience, even those who are not interested in or familiar with video games at all. The result was a much more simplistic game with a larger focus on story to draw more players in. Dragon Quest was very successful in Japan and it still one of the most popular game series there today. Dragon Quest XI was just recently released in 2017, and there are various spinoff titles and remakes as well as forays into novels, manga, and anime.

Dragon Quest was released on the Famicom in Japan on May 27th, 1986. It was developed by Chunsoft and published by Enix, now known as Square Enix. North America would not receive this game on the NES until all the way in August 1989, just a few months before Dragon Quest IV released in Japan. Here the name was changed to Dragon Warrior due to a naming conflict with the pen and paper RPG DragonQuest. Its success in Japan did not translate over to the US and sales were poor. In 1990, Nintendo Power gave away copies of the game as a subscription bonus for the magazine, and that greatly helped the series gain traction. The NES would eventually receive all four Famicom Dragon Quest titles under the Dragon Warrior name.

Some olde time English here.

The plot of Dragon Warrior is a simple one. In the land of Alefgard, the evil Dragonlord had stolen the Balls of Light from Tantegel Castle under the rule of King Lorik. The hero Erdrick managed to reach the Dragonlord’s castle on an island but was never heard from again. Years later, the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle again, kidnapping Princess Gwaelin in the process. You play as an unnamed hero who seeks to follow in the footsteps of Erdrick by defeating the Dragonlord, retrieving the Ball of Light, and saving the princess.

A lot of what I have to say about Dragon Warrior is not only basic knowledge of this game, but of RPGs in general. If you have played any games of this style, most of the game description will be quite familiar. Dragon Warrior was aimed at newcomers, and so this review is also going to be focused on that same audience. I do think there is still value in Dragon Warrior as a beginner’s RPG, so I’m happy to go into detail that might be more rudimentary for some.

When you begin the game, you choose from one of three save slots. When starting a new game, you will give your hero an eight-character name and set the text speed. The game begins in a top-down view in the king’s throne room in Tantegel Castle. The king will give you an explanation of the task at hand, and from there you are on your own. You will want to visit the king often over the course of your adventure because this is the only place you can save your game. For now, this area serves as a pretty decent tutorial for how you navigate the menu and see all the things you can do.

The game would be over sooner if you could swim.

You use the D-pad to move the hero in the four cardinal directions as well as move the cursor to choose options on the menu. Press A to bring up the Command menu. As a rule, the A button proceeds and the B buttons cancels or goes back. You can also press Start to pause while walking around, but there is never a reason to do so.

There are many options on the Command menu. The first option is Talk which lets you talk or interact with the person you are facing. Status lets you see your statistics such as health, attack power, or which weapons and armor you are using. The Stairs command lets you walk up and down stairs that you are standing on. Most games will assume you want to take the stairs when you stand on them, but here you must use the specific command. Search lets you examine the ground at your feet for anything interesting. Spell brings up a list of spells that you can cast, but at the start of the game you don’t have any available. The Item screen lets you view and use items you are holding. You can only carry eight items, but certain items group together so you can hold several of them while only utilizing a single item slot. Door lets you open a closed door you are facing, but only if you have a key. The Take command lets you open a treasure chest you are standing on.

When you bring up the Command menu or just stand still for a while, you bring up a panel on screen that displays some basic stats. The LV counter is for your experience level. This indicates how powerful you are and it begins at one. HP stands for Hit Points and this is your health. MP stands for Magic Points. You spend magic points to cast spells. G stands for Gold which is the game’s currency. E stands for Experience Points and you earn these by defeating enemies.

I’ll take one of everything, please.

One of the chests in the throne room contains some gold to get you started. One of the first things you will want to do is spend that gold on some equipment. Unfortunately, there are not any shops inside the castle, but you still want to explore and talk to people here. Exiting the castle takes you to the world map. There is a nearby town to the east called Brecconary that should be your next stop. There are more people in town to talk to as well as places to shop.

The shop in the northwest corner of town is the weapon shop. You can only hold one weapon, one armor, and one shield at a time. There are several options and the more expensive options are more effective. An equipped weapon increases your attack power and either an equipped armor or shield increases your defense. When you buy something from this shop that replaces something already equipped, the shop will buy back the old item at half its value.

The shop in the southeast part of town is the item shop. Here you can buy or sell items from your item stock. It might be useful early on to buy an herb that lets you restore some health from anywhere. The inn is located in the southwest corner of the town. You can spend some gold to stay the night which replenishes all your HP and MP. The shops and the inn are the basic features of each town you encounter in the game.

Get used to seeing this screen a lot.

Most of your time in Dragon Warrior will be spent battling enemies. As you explore the world map or caves, an enemy may appear on screen that you must engage one on one. This bring up a smaller Command menu. Both Spell and Item appear on this menu and they act the same as in the standard menu. Fight lets you attack the enemy. Run gives you the chance to run from the fight and keep exploring, although the enemy may not let you escape. You and the enemy alternate turns until one either wins the fight or runs away. There is a text box at the bottom of the screen that describes what is going on, such as whose turn it is and how much damage is inflicted.

When you win a fight, you are awarded both gold and experience points. If your HP is running low, the text boxes all change color from white to red to show that you are getting close to death. If you succumb to the enemy, then you are returned to the castle in front of the king. Not only does he lecture you on dying, but you lose half of your gold. The good news is you do not lose any experience points or equipment when you die, so even if you lose many fights you will continue to get stronger as long as you keep playing.

When you meet certain thresholds of experience points, you will gain a level. This is noted after a battle with some fanfare. Going up a level gives you stat boosts. You can gain strength, agility, maximum HP, maximum MP, and sometimes even learn a new spell. The strength stat translates into additional points in the attack power stat, and agility translates into additional defense points.

A warrior and a wizard!

At certain levels, you will also learn a new magic spell. Each spell requires a certain amount of MP to cast. You will learn ten spells in all and they have various uses either in combat, while adventuring, or both. The Heal spell restores some of your HP. Hurt is a combat spell that deals damage to the enemy. Sleep is a combat spell that sometimes lulls your enemy to sleep, preventing them from taking their attack turns until they wake up. Radiant is used in dark caves to see as many as three tiles ahead of you in all directions. Stopspell is a combat spell that may prevent the enemy from casting their own spells. Outside lets you leave a cave automatically, and the Return spell sends you back to the castle from anywhere in the overworld. Repel is used on the world map to keep weak enemies from engaging you in battle. There is also a stronger healing spell called Healmore and a final attack spell called Hurtmore.

As you venture further out into the world, you will come across stronger enemies. Not only do later enemies have more health, attack, and defense, but some can cast spells of their own or do alternate attacks. You will need to spend a lot of time fighting weaker enemies and testing yourself to see if you can take on stronger enemies that bestow more gold and experience. You will encounter other towns throughout Alefgard that have new shops with better equipment, as well as different tips about the world to point you in the right direction for story progress. But most of Dragon Warrior is spent fighting enemies to strengthen yourself for tougher enemies.

I have beaten Dragon Warrior several times over the years and I am very familiar with the game even now. I remember finding the game while going out to yard sales with my grandparents as a kid. It was out of place for sure, laying on a table complete in box amidst random knick-knacks. It cost only $5 and they were happy to buy it for me. I didn’t know anything about the game from Nintendo Power because I wasn’t subscribing then, and it may well have been one of the subscription incentive copies. Happy to find a new NES game that day, I gave it a play that night and I got sucked in. The simplicity of the game combined with an abundance of childhood free time was the perfect recipe for a new RPG addiction.

You are the Dragon Warrior after all.

Aside from tracking down a few items, Dragon Warrior is a very easy game. For me, the challenge lies in making the time to play through it. I estimate it took me 15-20 hours to complete the game, though I insisted on leveling up to the highest possible level. I already knew the areas that were best for gaining experience points more rapidly. That helped keep the game shorter, as well as reaching towns as early as possible to buy better equipment. The more time I could spend fighting tough enemies, the faster I could max out experience points. Another time saving tip is that Dragon Warrior is just about a perfect game to grind while doing something else, such as watching TV. I’m not ashamed to admit I grinded out a few levels while listening and participating on conference calls while working from home.

The speedrunning community has managed to achieve seemingly impossible times in completing Dragon Warrior. What took me over 15 hours to accomplish has been done in a world record speedrun that runs a little over 25 minutes. There are certain timings to inputting commands that lets the hero do things like make higher damage attacks, dodge enemy attacks, and avoid random encounters. By using these timings combined with a heavy dose of luck, Dragon Warrior can be beaten at a very low experience level. It’s all very impressive!

Dragon Warrior was a formative game for me. It was my entry point into the Japanese RPG genre at a time when I could give a lot of energy into the experience. From there I sought out the NES sequels, and I eventually moved that interest over to the SNES and some of its top-class RPGs. Therefore, I have much appreciation for Dragon Warrior. Outside of that context, it’s not a game I see myself playing again unless I get bit hard by the nostalgia bug. It’s too simple, too plain, and too grindy. But if you are looking to get into the genre while not getting too deep into the weeds, Dragon Warrior is a fine place to start.

#50 – Dragon Warrior

 
AUG
10
2017
0

#49 – Kings of the Beach

No crowns required to be kings in this four-player volleyball game.

Very chill setting!

To Beat: Win a tournament
To Complete: Beat the game on the Difficult setting
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 4/7/17 – 4/13/17
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Kings of the Beach – Tournament Mode Final Matches

I am not good at sports. I still like to play them when I get the chance even though I wasn’t blessed with any ability. If there’s one game I am at least decent at, it would be sand volleyball. I organized a weekly sand volleyball night with a bunch of friends for several years, and that afforded me the opportunity to practice often. Now don’t let me fool you, I’m still not all that good at volleyball. However, I am pretty good at playing video games. Therefore, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch for me to complete one of the few NES volleyball games.

Kings of the Beach is a volleyball game developed and published by Electronic Arts in 1988 on DOS. It was ported to the Commodore 64 in 1989 and the NES in January 1990. Ultra Games published the NES port. However, it is unclear if either Konami or Electronic Arts developed this version of Kings of the Beach. The game was only released in the US.

Kings of the Beach is a two-on-two beach volleyball game. You play as professional beach volleyball players Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos. In single-player mode, you only control one character and your partner is computer controlled. The main draw for single player is the Tournament mode. Here you will play against other pairs of players in five different locations all around the world. To win the tournament mode and beat the game, you must win three consecutive matches at each of the five beaches for fifteen total matches.

Interesting cursor choice!

At the start of the game, you move a green cursor around in an overhead map of the beach. This is your menu. The first place you will want to go is the registration tent, which is the game’s options menu. To start, you can assign either a controller or computer control to Smith, Stoklos, and two other competitors. Kings of the Beach supports up to four players simultaneously using the NES Four Score accessory. Next, you can choose between cooperative play or competitive play. This is only needed for a two-player game to decide if you want to play on the same team or not. You can set the difficulty of computer opponents to either Easy, Medium, or Difficult. You can choose if you want to play either a single set or a three-set match, and you can toggle the sound on and off. Choose Exit to Beach to go back to the main menu.

The other menu options are for practice or setting up a game. At the top of the screen there are three beaches labeled Bump, Set, or Spike. If you choose one, you are put in a practice beach where you get easy setups to practice the basic moves. Press Select at any time to exit the training and go back to the menu. At the lower left of the menu is the Match option where you jump directly into an exhibition match with the defined settings. This is the mode you want for a three or four player game. The bottom right part of the menu starts up the Tournament mode. You can select either a new game, or continue a previous game with a password. After that you jump right into the action.

Kings of the Beach plays by standard volleyball rules. Each side has two players and each point starts with a serve from the back of the court. Each side can hit the ball up to three times before hitting it over to the opponent’s court, and teammates must alternate hits. If the ball lands in your opponent’s court, the opponent hits the ball more than three times, or the opponent hits the ball out of bounds, then you win the point. The serving team is the only team that can score, otherwise the non-serving team gains control of the serve if they win the point. In a single set match, the first team to fifteen points wins. In a three-set match, teams play to twelve points per set. In either case, teams must also win by two points. This means play will continue beyond the required winning score until a team leads by two.

Bump, set, spike!

The basic strategy of beach volleyball is to use your three hits to bump the ball, then set the ball, and finally spike the ball. You will use the D-pad to move your player around the court. Quite often you will move on your own to the spot where the ball will land as it’s heading toward you, but sometimes you need to position yourself properly. The ball casts a shadow on the sand that will guide you toward where you want to stand. Press A to bump the ball in the air toward your teammate. To set the ball, press B. To spike the ball, press both A and B. The spike is a powerful jumping hit toward the opponent. You will need to focus on timing for all hits, but spiking the ball requires the best timing. The idea is to run up to the net and jump, meeting the ball with your hands at the top of your jump. For all hits, you can guide it in a direction using the D-pad in conjunction with the hit.

The above moves are mostly offensive moves, but you do have a couple of defensive moves at your disposal. If you know the opponent will spike the ball, you can move up against the net and press A and B together to jump up and attempt a block. Sometimes you can repel the ball right back into the opponent’s court for a quick point. Stoklos has his own signature block called the Kong block, which is very powerful. The other defensive move is called the dig. This happens automatically whenever the ball is just far enough out of reach normally. You will make a dive toward the ball to bump it back up into the air. I didn’t seem to put myself in good positions to do this very often, so in my experience it was left to chance.

Serving the ball effectively is a vital skill. When it’s your turn to serve, you can move up and down the line to put yourself in the position of your choice. There are three different ways to serve the ball. The easiest method is the underhand serve. Simple press A and B together to lob a slow serve at the opposite court. You want to pay attention to the flags that indicate wind direction because an underhand serve may come up short if the wind is blowing in hard. The overhand serve is more powerful. Press A to toss the ball straight up, wait for the ball to come down, and then press B to do a standing, overhand hit. You can use the D-pad to aim the ball while serving. The most powerful serve is the jump serve. Like the spike, it’s the most difficult serve to perform. Press A to toss the ball just before, but this time press A to jump and hit the ball. The more powerful the hit, the more likely the opponent will be unable to return the ball.

With the right timing, the jump serve is the best one.

One neat thing you can do is argue a call with the referee. Every now and then the line judge will make a mistake on a ball that lands near the lines. If you think a bad call went against you, then you can run up next to the judge’s stand and press Start to dispute the call. You will see your player make a scene as persuasively as possible. If you are successful, the referee reverses his call and you get the ball! If the judge disagrees, then he will shake his hand no and hold out a penalty card. This can be either a yellow card or a red card. The yellow card is just a warning, but if you lose a second disputed call in a set the referee will give you a red card instead and you lose a point off your score. Your opponents and even your partner can dispute a call on their own. One key thing is that if you want to dispute a call, you need to decide quickly and get over to the referee right away to plead your case. You lose your opportunity to argue a call if play advances to the next serve.

As stated earlier, to complete Tournament mode you must win fifteen total matches broken up into groups of three. After you win three consecutive matches on the same beach, you get a password for the next beach. The passwords are up to eight characters long and are normal words that are easy to write down or remember. I noticed that the passwords are the same for each beach no matter what difficulty or length of match. For instance, you can win the first round of matches on the Difficult setting with three-set matches, and the next time you play with the password you can select Easy difficulty and single set matches. You can play however you want!

This was my first time playing Kings of the Beach. The game was a later addition to my collection, but it is pretty common and inexpensive so I have had a few copies pass through my hands. I am not a huge fan of sports games even though I enjoy playing a little volleyball. Chances are I would not have given Kings of the Beach much of a chance if not for this project. Chances are I will also say this same thing about many other future games!

Digs are done automatically. This one was successful!

For my playthrough, I decided on playing single set matches on Medium difficulty. I played as the default Smith and let the computer play Stoklos for me. My intent was to learn the game on Medium difficulty and then go back and play the game again on the Difficult setting. At first, Medium difficulty was enough of a challenge. I understood the fundamentals early on, and other than some mistakes with spiking I was already playing well enough to make some progress. My struggles came in the third match of any beach. I could play well enough to win the first two matches, and then I would lose the third and have to start over at the top. That is awfully frustrating. Kings of the Beach became a fight of attrition and required some good old fashioned grinding to seal the win.

It seems like many sports games have some kind of exploit or tactic that makes life much easier. I found one such tactic that helped me win points much more often. The first thing is I needed is the setup to spike the ball myself. Usually this required getting the first hit on the return so that I could get the third hit and spike, but sometimes I would take the spike myself on the second hit instead. It’s a little riskier but it can catch the opponent off guard. My spike position was up against the net either slightly above or below the center. I would spike toward the corner of the net and the closer side line. For example, if I set up below center, I would aim for the lower line near the net, and do the opposite when closer to the top. The opponent tended to favor guarding the larger area so I could sneak it in on the other side close to the line without either player getting to it. That trick does not always work, but it works often enough to be useful.

My partner is disputing a call unsuccessfully.

I beat the entire game on Medium over the course of a few days. Once I accomplished that, I bumped up to the Difficult setting and repeated the final three matches with the last password. If I can beat the last beach on Difficult, then I should be able to beat any other configuration, so I didn’t bother repeating anything else on Difficult. I did not notice any significant changes between Medium and Difficult settings. Perhaps the opponents make fewer mistakes or make powerful serves more often on the higher settings, but I could not tell the difference. With my spiking tactic, I could score more often than not regardless of difficulty. I recorded my video of the final set of matches on Medium difficulty, and then played the final matches again on Difficult unrecorded. The ending is the same on either difficulty.

I would have considered the game more difficult overall if not for the fact that the computer controlled Stoklos handled nearly all the defense for me. Actually, my computer partner played very well in general and handled many situations better than I could have. Most of the time he plays close to the net so he can utilize his powerful Kong block. My job was to back him up and try to get to anything hit past him if I could. We worked together well on the offensive side too. He is a good spiker and serves very well. He’s not a perfect partner and makes mistakes that are unavoidable, but in my opinion he is a more consistent player than I am. It’s a pleasant surprise to have a competent computer player for once!

There are not many volleyball games on the NES to compare, but I think they did well with Kings of the Beach. The game sets itself apart somewhat for having a simultaneous four-player mode. It also performs well as a single player game. The computer controlled players are competent both as opponents and partners. The graphics and music are well done, just as you would expect in a Konami game. The game is a tad lengthy and repetitive, but it’s just the nature of the game so it hard to fault Kings of the Beach for that. If you are looking for an NES volleyball game, you won’t do wrong with Kings of the Beach.

#49 – Kings of the Beach