Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

arcade

NOV
22
2017
0

#58 – Snow Brothers

This game is SNOW much fun!

These brothers slim down a bit during gameplay.

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game without continuing
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 9/11/17 – 9/19/17
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
Video: Snow Brothers 1CC Longplay

There are several genres of games that I have had a fondness for from an early age. I cut my teeth on Super Mario Bros. and have always enjoyed platformers of that kind. The SNES affirmed my interest in RPGs, and although for the most part that didn’t carry over beyond that, those RPGs are still among my favorite games. The Adventures of Lolo games, as well as Tetris, paved the way for getting interested in many different types of puzzlers. As an adult, my tastes haven’t changed much, but they did get more refined. I discovered that I really enjoy games like Bubble Bobble, a single-screen arcade style platformer with a focus on clearing out all enemies to proceed to the next room. It’s a specific type of experience, but there are several titles that fit the bill. One of my favorite games in this style is Snow Brothers.

Snow Brothers was originally released in arcades in 1990, developed by Toaplan. It was later ported to the Game Boy, NES, Famicom, and the Mega Drive in Japan only. Each version has slight differences and enhancements. The NES and Famicom versions add story cutscenes at the start of the game. The Game Boy port is single player only, but ten levels were added. The Mega Drive version includes an expanded story and twenty additional levels from the original arcade game. The NES version of Snow Brothers was released in November 1991. It was published by Capcom and appears to be developed by Sol. I could not find much information on the web on Sol, but they are also credited with developing both NES Flintstones titles. Toaplan’s final game was Otenki Paradise in 1994, which was localized in the US as Snow Bros. 2: With New Elves. A third game under this name was created by a company called Syrtex Games in 2002 called Snow Brothers 3: Magical Adventure. It was never officially released and could potentially be a hack of the original arcade game.

Always saving the princesses in these games, sheesh.

The story of Snow Brothers is a basic one. King Scorch cursed brothers Nick and Tom by turning them into snowmen, and he also captured the princesses Teri and Tina because of course he does. It’s up to the brothers do to their thing and defeat the king to save their land. You can play Snow Brothers in single player with the blue-clad Nick, or play simultaneous two-player with the other player using Tom dressed in red. To beat the game and save the day, you must clear all 50 floors.

Snow Brothers is a single-screen arcade platformer. Just like Bubble Bobble, the object of the game is to defeat all enemies on screen so you can proceed up to the next floor. Use the D-pad to move Nick and Tom both left and right. The A button jumps, and the B button throws a handful of snow forward. The idea here is to throw enough snow on an enemy to encase it in a giant snowball. Then, you push the snowball and it rolls to the bottom of the screen and defeats the enemy inside. If the pushed snowball collides with other enemies on the ledges below, they also get defeated and will leave an item behind for you to collect.

The gameplay is both simple and straightforward, but there is some nuance to the mechanics that gives you some surprising versatility. You can jump up through floors allowing you to climb higher more easily. A pushed snowball disappears once it hits a wall on the ground level, and it rebounds off any other wall above. Sometimes you can get a snowball trapped within a ledge off the ground level and it will bounce back and forth a bit before vanishing on its own. You can have the snowball hit you and carry you along with it. While riding, you can either jump out early on your own or let the snowball run its course. Once you finish your ride, you will gain some brief invincibility. You can throw a bit of snow on an enemy to start the process of forming a snowball, briefly stunning the enemy in the process. As partially covered enemies sit there untouched, they slowly melt the snow until they can break out and freely move around again. You can defeat an enemy by running it over with a snowball even if it is partially covered, which is an effective strategy. If two full snowballs collide, they rebound off each other and both start descending which can knock out enemies on both sides of the stage if done right. Some levels have slopes and snowballs can roll up these hills with no problems. You can use a stationary snowball as a platform to reach higher ledges, and you can even lift a snowball by jumping into it from below. All these techniques give you plenty of ways to approach any challenge.

This early level has a great setup for teaching the player how to clear many baddies at once.

Bowling over enemies with a snowball will reveal some kind of item once the defeated enemy is removed from play. These stay on screen temporarily, but usually long enough for you to reach them across the stage if you go at them right away. Most of the time you get some sort of money or food item that gives you points, like candy or a slice of cake. What you really want are powerups. The manual for Snow Brothers calls them hot sauce, but they are clearly potions in jars as far as I’m concerned. The red potion gives you speed skates allowing you to move much faster. The blue potion lets you throw larger handfuls of snow so you can cover enemies with fewer shots. The yellow potion increases your throw distance, letting you heave snow over halfway across the screen. All three powerups stack together too, but you lose all of them if you die. Losing a fully powered character is quite a setback, but that’s just the nature of the game.

There are a couple of rare item drops that you should make sure to grab right away if you see one. The first of these is a green potion. Grab it to inflate Nick or Tom like a balloon. You can then fly freely across the level and simply run into enemies to defeat them. You should have plenty of time with this power to clear all enemies on screen. The second rare powerup is a white smiley face. This item changes the color of the background and temporarily replaces the normal enemies with these blue face enemies. Turning the blue enemy into a snowball displays a letter in the word “SNOW” and pushing it lets you acquire the letter. You will see a space at the top of the screen above your score showing which letters you have. Spell out SNOW for an extra life! You can also destroy the special enemies with a snowball for a large 30,000-point bonus.

There are several different enemies in the game. Most of them have some way of climbing around the level. Some enemies will attack you if you come near, a couple breath fire at you, some fly around, and so on. All normal enemies can be covered in snow and must be defeated. One neat thing you can try to do is clear all the enemies by pushing only one snowball. You can do this with a single snowball, or with more than one as long as you set up a chain reaction first. Defeating all the enemies at once causes some paper money to rain down to the bottom of the level. These disappear very quickly, but are worth either 10,000 or 20,000 points each. If you are playing for high score, you want as many of these as possible.

It doesn’t matter how cold it is, we’re making it rain!

There are two enemies that you cannot cover in snow. There is a sumo enemy appearing in the middle levels that doesn’t need to be killed. He sits at the top of the screen and is tough to reach. If you can pelt him with a little snow, he will go away and leave some paper money behind for big points. The enemy that can show up in any level is Pumpkin Head. This is a “hurry up” enemy that appears when you are spending too much time in a stage. He floats around slowly, but freely, and you can’t hurt him at all. After a little while, he will begin spawning invincible ghosts that home in on you. These spell certain death for Nick and Tom. The idea is to clear levels quickly enough so that you don’t have to deal with Pumpkin Head. The only two ways to get rid of him are to defeat all remaining enemies or let him or one of his ghosts kill you.

Every tenth level is a boss stage, so in this 50-stage game there are five bosses. These are your typical large enemies that take many hits to defeat. All of them generate smaller enemies which you turn into snowballs and send flying into the boss to do damage. You can also throw snow at them directly. I don’t know if that does damage or not, but you can earn a small amount of points for each direct hit. After each boss fight is a slot machine mini-game. There are three reels that each give you a bonus depending on where they stop. The reels contain a big X which gives you nothing, each of the four letters in the word “SNOW,” and a figure of Nick that gives you an extra life. Each letter you collect also nets you 10,000 points, and each extra life adds 50,000 points. It is possible to time the slots for specific outcomes, but it’s tricky to do so and I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Each reel needs time to slow down to a stop so you need to anticipate your mark early. It is also difficult to make out specific letters while the slots are going, but extra lives stand out more and that’s really what you want anyway.

You begin the game with only two extra lives. These can go by quickly when you are just starting out. The good news is that you get many continues. The manual states you get four continues, but you actually get nine. Upon losing your last life, the life counter at the top will blink and instead display the number of continues remaining. You resume play with three new lives exactly where you left off. In a two-player game the continues are shared, so lives are more precious here than in single-player.

I’ll take the red speedup potion any day!

I have a little history with Snow Brothers, and actually I give the game some credit for getting me back into game collecting. I first played the NES game as a rental at a babysitter’s house, so I probably played it soon after release. I enjoyed playing it, but that was the extent of my experience for many years. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but in 2013 we bought a house and I could display all my NES games properly for the first time. As I was getting everything set up at home, I got the urge to expand my collection. I owned around 250 NES games then, so there were plenty of fun individual games left to start looking for. My memories started to stir and the first game that came to mind was Snow Brothers. Unfortunately, this was also the exact moment I realized this collecting journey was not going to be cheap. You see, Snow Brothers is among the most expensive NES carts.

The cost of some individual games like Snow Brothers caused me to divert my attention toward buying games in bulk. I focused heavily on games that fell in the $15-$30 price range. I could make consistent progress through the deep middle ground in the NES set and often found these titles bundled with cheaper games to fill that part of the collection at the same time. That strategy paid off immensely because many of the $20 carts I bought soon became $50 titles or higher. I would eventually need a plan to buy all these high-end titles at the end.

I had nearly doubled my NES loose cart collection in what seemed like such a short time. I was doing a good job at tracking my total and noticed I was sitting on 499 total games. Lacking many of the most expensive carts, this was the perfect time to take a bulk-buying break and acquire something special for Game #500. The choice was easy; this was the time I would finally purchase Snow Brothers. My wife gave her blessing, and so I started searching. I am very price conscious and all I found were high-priced copies and sellers that wouldn’t budge. It seemed like a long time, but it only took a couple of weeks to find my mark. A new eBay listing for Snow Brothers showed up at $130 with best offer, and I worked the price down to $117.50 shipped. That was essentially market price at the time and I was glad to pay it. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but this was also the time I first purchased a screwdriver bit to open and clean cartridges. Better late than never! Snow Brothers was either the first or second cartridge I opened to clean those pins nice and shiny. I played through the game three or four times in my first week of ownership and then mostly left it on the shelf until now.

Snow Brothers features some pretty fun boss battles.

I have owned Snow Brothers for three years now, and I had no trouble beating the game again. The entire game takes around 30 minutes to beat. I needed only two continues and so I punched in an easy victory. Because I enjoy this game so much, I set out to beat the game using no continues simply as a fun challenge. This took a bit more effort but I didn’t find it all that difficult. I needed around five attempts and the failed ones all ended within the last 15 levels or so. The only reason it took me so long to finish the game between my first and last attempts was because it took me a week to make time for my next NES session.

To my surprise, Snow Brothers has an extended ending sequence if you clear the game on a single credit. I haven’t seen this distinction called out anywhere specifically, and I only found out about it once I beat the game this way on my own. I always shoot for the best ending on games like this, but I didn’t even know it applied to Snow Brothers until I saw it for myself. I’m sure I will find more secrets like this as I continue my deep dive into the library.

Snow Brothers is one of my favorite NES games, and it’s a shame is so expensive. Games of this nature can get repetitive, but Snow Brothers lasts just long enough to avoid mid-game burnout. The boss fights are fun and a nice change of pace, and the difficulty curve is even and fair. The graphics are clean and the music is good, although some of the tracks are repeated within the different groups of ten floors. The two-player mode is a blast to go through with a friend. It’s a great game for high score challenges too. I don’t like that it’s so expensive to buy, but it does make sense. The game is a true uncommon title that probably had a low print run, it was a later run NES game, and the game is fun. It fits the profile of an expensive game, as I like to say. Definitely check this one out even if you have to emulate it.

#58 – Snow Brothers

 
APR
07
2017
0

#40 – Paperboy

Delivering the fun!

The newspaper title screen was a great choice!

To Beat: Complete Sunday to reach the ending
Played: 11/28/16
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Paperboy Longplay

Today we have another arcade conversion on the NES. These types of ports tend to have varying quality, but I see Paperboy on NES as a well done game. It may not be the definitive version of the game, but I do think that the game is best known on the NES. It is still a popular title today and a fun game to pick up and play anytime.

Paperboy was released in the arcades in 1985. It was both developed and published by Atari Games. The arcade game is housed in an upright cabinet that features a set of handlebars used to control the game. The game was ported to almost twenty different computers, home consoles, and handhelds. The NES port of Paperboy was released in November 1988 and published by Mindscape. There are two sequels to the game. The first is the aptly named Paperboy 2 which debuted in 1991 on home consoles including the NES. The second is the Nintendo 64 game also called Paperboy. There have also been several re-releases of the original Paperboy on systems such as the Game Boy Color, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, and mobile.

In Paperboy, you play the role of a young boy making the rounds on a daily paper route. The object of the game is to deliver newspapers to a series of homes on a two-block street using his trusty bicycle to ensure the deliveries are made in time. There is only one level in the game but you repeat it for every day of the week, which makes for seven levels in total. You win the game if you survive a week’s worth of newspaper delivery.

Get used to this street because you will see it a lot.

When you start the game you see an overhead map of the street. One at a time, blue homes will appear in random locations on the left side of the street. These are subscribers to the newspaper. The remaining spaces on the map are filled in with red houses representing non-subscribers. Logically, you want to deliver papers to the subscribers and ignore the non-subscribers.

The controls are very simple. Use the D-Pad to steer your bike. You can go left and right, speed up by pressing Up, and brake by pressing Down. You can grind and squeal your brakes all you want, but you cannot come to a complete stop and must always keep moving ahead. You toss newspapers with either the A button or B button. The Start button pauses the game, and the Select button only comes into play on the title screen for choosing either 1 Player or 2 Player mode. Multiplayer in Paperboy is alternating play.

The game utilizes an oblique perspective in gameplay which is not often seen. It resembles a three-quarters view a little bit. The street you are riding travels upward while slanting to the right, and the playfield scrolls in that same direction. The houses are all modeled in this view giving them a pseudo-3D appearance. The graphics may not be mindblowing, but they are both presentable and suitable for this game.

As stated above, the objective each day is to deliver papers to subscribers. While the subscriber houses appear blue on the introductory map, during gameplay they are either white, blue, or yellow. The non-subscriber homes are always red, so just by color it is easy to tell if you should deliver a paper to a home. To successfully deliver a paper, you must throw it and land it either at the front door or in the mailbox. If successful, a sound effect will play and you will be awarded points.

The newspaper in the mailbox is the best outcome.

Paperboy is primarily a score attack game, and so there are quite a few ways to earn points aside from successful deliveries. There are several objects in the game that you can strike with papers that will award points. There are garbage cans, tombstones, and lamps that you can demolish to add to your score. The most fun way to earn points is to smash a paper through the window of a non-subscriber. Most homes in the game have several windows facing the street providing many opportunities to cause some damage and pad your score.

Your bicycle can only hold up to ten newspapers at one time. In the upper-left corner of the screen you can see how many papers you are holding, as well as how many lives you have and your current score. There is a balancing act between saving enough papers to serve your subscribers while throwing them at all the various targets and windows for points. As you bike up the street you will occasionally find a bundle of newspapers that you can pick up by riding over them. The bundles always restock you to the full ten papers. These extra newspapers are scarce in the beginning of the week and more than plentiful by the end of the week. It makes sense that early on you want to be more conservative to get a feel of the neighborhood before going all out for points toward the end.

Other than the level layout, there are many obstacles that stand in your way of a successful day. Many houses have static objects in the yard such as fences, doghouses, signposts, and fire hydrants. More dangerous are the moving objects. There are various people and children that either hang out in their yard or move around. There’s a skateboarder that appears quickly down the sidewalk. There’s a runaway tire that comes down a driveway and veers down toward you. One of the more annoying obstacles is a dog that will give chase as soon as you pass by, but fortunately you can stymie him with a newspaper. There is also a mini-tornado and the Grim Reaper himself that appear later in the week. As the game progresses there are more obstacles that appear at once making it more difficult to pass through and finish the day. If you collide with anything you crash your bike and lose a life. You resume play near where you crashed your bike.

Crashes are pretty painful!

At the end of the street is a training course that acts as a bonus stage. You get unlimited papers and there are targets that you can hit with them that bestow a few points. Aside from that, there are ramps, puddles, walls, and a moving ramp that is tricky to get the hang of clearing. There is also a timer that begins at 45 seconds, but it is more than enough time for the course. If you crash here you don’t lose a life, but you end the level right away. If you make it to the end you meet a small crowd cheering you on and you are awarded 100 points for each second remaining on the timer.

After the training course the map of the street appears displaying all the houses on your route and your results for the day. If you fail to deliver a paper to a subscriber or accidentally break one of their windows, you lose them as a subscriber and their house blinks on the map to indicate their change in status. The residents get so sad when they don’t get their paper that they not only cancel their subscription, but they paint their entire home red so that you know not to give them a paper anymore, unless you want to put some through their window for points! If you retain all your subscribers for the day, then you get a new subscriber and their house changes color from red to one of the other colors.

For the entire game, you get three additional lives to work with, and there are no ways to earn extra lives. This makes the game challenging to beat even though you get used to the few house layouts very quickly. If you lose all your lives, the game ends with a newspaper and the headline “Paperboy Calls It Quits.” You also lose the game if you lose all your subscribers. You are taken to the high score screen where you can put in your initials and try again.

What a show-off!

I have owned Paperboy since childhood, so it has gotten a lot of playtime over the years. We got it secondhand and I don’t remember how we acquired it. It is a common cart and I have had several copies of it that I pick up in lots. I don’t remember if I ever beat the game as a kid, but if not I did get deep into the game at least. Paperboy came up as a game in the NA weekly contest, and during those plays I have beaten the game a few times and have gotten increasingly better at improving my score.

My official Paperboy finish for this project was the best run I have ever had to date. I got to Saturday in my first attempt and then cleared the game on the next try. I had a couple of lame crashes early in the game and then I got on a roll and breezed through the rest of the game. My final score was 152,250 and that is a personal best! I do wish I had a crashless run, but maybe that is something I can tackle in the future. There’s room for score improvement as well.

While trying to play this game for points, I learned of a few tricks to optimize scoring. Since both the A button and B button throw papers, you can press both buttons at almost the same time to throw two papers very close together. Doing this, it is possible to land both papers inside the mailbox for double points. This works in some other places as well, such as the training course targets. I do some of this in my run to boost my score. There are some houses where you can get two in the mailbox and at least one paper at the door, but I didn’t try doing that myself.

Paperboy is a classic arcade game that is right at home on the NES. It is a simple game that has a surprising amount of depth for someone interested in going for high scores. The graphics are simplistic, and there is only one song that loops continuously, but I don’t find that they detract from the game. Paperboy is great for picking up whenever there’s time to kill. This is another example of a game that would be a good fit in any NES collection.

#40 – Paperboy

#40 – Paperboy (Final Score)

 
MAR
13
2017
0

#38 – Spy Hunter

Take pursuit of the top score as the bad guys pursue you.

The font is a bit hard to read.

To Beat: Complete the Winter season and the River section
Played: 11/21/16 – 11/23/16
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Spy Hunter Longplay
Bonus Video: Spy Hunter Glitch

This is another first for Take On The NES Library with the first racing game covered on the site. However, if you know anything about Spy Hunter then you’ll already know that this is a loose claim at best. Since Spy Hunter is less about racing and more about combat, survival, and high scores, we will have to save the first true racer for another day.

Spy Hunter is originally an arcade title released by Bally Midway in 1983. It was supposed to be a James Bond game and it carries that kind of vibe. Spy Hunter was popular enough to spawn a pinball game bearing the same name in 1984. Later the game was ported to a host of home computers and other consoles. The sequel Spy Hunter II was released in 1987 and featured more of a 3D perspective from above and behind the car as opposed to an overhead view. The NES port of Spy Hunter was also released in 1987 and was both developed and published by Sunsoft. In 1991, Sunsoft released a Famicom title called Battle Formula which plays as a racing shooter game similar to Spy Hunter. When they brought the game to the NES, they obtained the Spy Hunter license from Bally Midway and released the game as Super Spy Hunter in 1992.

Spy Hunter experienced periods of dormancy sandwiched between a number of reboots. The next Spy Hunter game was released in 2001 along with a sequel, Spy Hunter 2, in 2003. Around that time a Spy Hunter movie was starting up but it has not yet seen the light of day. There was a movie tie-in game called Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run that was released in 2006 anyway despite no movie release to go with it. After another long quiet spell, yet another video game reboot of Spy Hunter was developed for handhelds in 2012. There have been rumors that a Spy Hunter film is still in development as recently as 2015, but at this point it seems unlikely this will ever come to fruition.

Just crusin’ along!

Spy Hunter is a top-down racing and shooting game. You control the G-1655 CIA Prototype Interceptor as you are being chased by a bunch of enemy agents who only want to destroy you. Your task is to take out the enemy agents, protect innocent bystander vehicles, and drive as far as you can.

The controls are simple. Use the D-Pad to steer your vehicle left and right. You go faster by holding up and you slow down by pressing Down. Your Interceptor is armed with a machine gun that you can fire with the B button. If you have a special weapon you can use it with A, and the Select key will switch between special weapons if you have more than one. There is no pause feature with the game which is a significant omission as far as I’m concerned.

When you begin the game you are unloaded by the big brown weapons van and you can start driving right away. Your score counter is displayed on the upper-right of the screen and it increases as you drive. You want to stay on the pavement since you don’t get score while you are riding along the edge of the road. If you go faster you accrue points more quickly while at a higher risk of crashing. There are a number of vehicles and hazards that will get in your way from both ahead and behind so you want to maintain a decent speed. You also earn points by defeating the enemy agents. If you happen to bump into or destroy a non-enemy vehicle your score counter blinks and stops increasing for a little while.

Try to avoid shooting the regular cars.

There is also a time counter on the bottom-right that ticks down pretty fast from 999. The timer ties to an interesting mechanic concerning your lives. As long as the timer is running, you can crash your vehicle and you can get right back on the road with no penalty. The timer runs out quickly and it only counts down once at the start of the game, so this juncture is when you want to be more careful. You want to drive well enough to earn at least 10,000 points before the timer runs out. Fail to reach that score and your next crash ends your game immediately. However, if you reach that mark then you get an extra life that is shown where the timer used to be displayed. If you play really well and get to 30,000 points you get another extra life, and you can earn another life at every 30,000 points beyond that.

The enemy vehicles on the road all share the same deep blue color so you can easily distinguish them from the others. There is a skinny enemy called the Tire Slasher. You can easily shoot it with your machine gun when it is in front of you, but if it gets to your side it will deploy spikes out of its tires and try to collide with you, causing you to lose control of your vehicle completely. The second enemy agent is a thick car called a Bullet Proof Bully. Naturally this vehicle is immune to your machine gun, so the way to take it out is to bump it off the road with your Interceptor. This enemy will try and do the same to you, so be careful. The third agent is a long Limousine. This vehicle attacks you via a backseat passenger firing a pistol out the side windows whenever you run along side of it, so you want to avoid approaching it just as you want to avoid the Tire Slasher. There is a fourth enemy which is a white helicopter. This is the only flying vehicle and you can hear it coming long before you see it. The helicopter drops deadly bombs on the road that create a deadly pothole in the ground should you run over it.

The helicopters are relentless!

To help fend off the enemies, you can find three special weapons. At certain times the same brown van that drops you off at the start appears with a symbol on the top. If you get close to the van it drops a ramp so that you can drive up into the back of the van. If you do this, the van will pull over to the side of the road and drop you off with your new weapon. The weapons are indicated by letters in the upper-left corner of the screen. The one denoted by an S is the smoke screen which lets you spew a wide fan of smoke out of the back of your Interceptor. This pretty much causes everything behind you to crash, including innocent drivers which halts your score counter. The M is a homing missile that is used solely to take out the helicopter. You have to drive in a way to keep the helicopter still long enough so that you can hit it, and getting the hang of it takes some time. The O is an oil slick which drops a car-wide stream of oil behind you. The effect is similar to the smoke screen but it is much easier to target a single enemy. These weapons are useful but if you crash you lose them all.

As you drive you will occasionally find forks in the road. You have to be careful to pick a side so that you don’t crash in the median. You will also drive across long bridges. When you come out of the other side the background scenery changes. There are four different areas you drive through and each one corresponds to a season. You can bounce around a bit between the different seasons, but usually you go through Spring, Summer, Fall, and then Winter.

If you get really far into the game you will eventually come across a small branching path to the left with a small building at the end. It’s very easy to miss it when you are going fast, and it is completely optional anyway. Drive into the building and you switch over to a boat and drive on the river. There are two types of enemy boats you will encounter and no friendly vehicles to avoid. Cruise boats fire torpedoes both ahead and behind them, and speed boats drop explosive barrels you need to navigate around. Enemy helicopters can also join the fray. You can stay on the water for as long as you want, or eventually you can find a path back to the boathouse and get back on the road.

The water is more dangerous than the road.

Looking around online, it seems a common rumor about Spy Hunter back in the day was that the game eventually has an ending if you play long enough. I can put that rumor to rest: Spy Hunter is an endless game. With an endless game comes deciding on what constitutes a win. The closest thing Spy Hunter has to levels are the seasons and the river. Winter is always the last unique season you will encounter in the game, so my winning condition is to drive through the Winter scene and also survive one loop of the river.

Spy Hunter is one of my childhood games and one that I spent time with on an occasional basis. Play sessions are pretty short so this was a good choice for a pick up and play game. I never committed to it long enough to ever get really good at the game, so this was my first real shot and beating it and seeing everything the game has to offer.

Because Spy Hunter is a pretty short game I ended up recording all my attempts, so I have some hard data on my effort in beating the game. It took me 18 attempts over almost exactly an hour and a half of total playtime. 17 of those attempts took place the first night I played, and the next time I sat down to play I had my winning run on the first try. I took on the river at my first opportunity and ended up getting through it for the first time in my life. The river scene was a childhood gaming nemesis that I was super proud to finally conquer. Going from car to boat or vice versa is the only time the game stops for long enough to capture a proper picture since there is no pause feature. I managed to capture a quick image with my camera even though I hadn’t technically finished the game yet. I was able to drive well enough to pass through Winter and beat the game with a final score of 108,595.

I don’t think many Spy Hunter players have seen this snow!

My 11th attempt was where I got my highest score. I looped through Winter twice and was going pretty well when I decided to go for it and try the River. Unfortunately, I failed out pretty fast. I earned a score of 134,525. I don’t remember what happened after that but I must have been pretty disappointed that I missed my best chance to that point. I stopped recording for a little while and then started back up again a little later. Those last attempts that night were not very good so I smartly cut my losses and went to bed.

During my 4th attempt I unintentionally triggered a glitch that soft-locked my game. I was trying to drive into the weapons van when I bumped into another car at the same time. The game started the sequence of steering the Interceptor into the van without actually putting the car inside. It left my car in a state where it was hovering over the road where I couldn’t move it and no one could touch it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen while playing and I had no choice but to reset and start over. I bet the timing of the glitch is really tough to reproduce!

Spy Hunter is a classic game that would be a good fit it any NES collection. There may not be a lot of substance to the game, but it plays well and it is a great game to pop in if you just want to kill a few minutes. I’m just glad to say that after all these years of playing that I have finally seen all there is to see, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought!

#38 – Spy Hunter

 
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