Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

east

JUL
31
2017
0

#48 – BurgerTime

Build the biggest believable burgers in BurgerTime.

Another plain arcade title screen.

To Beat: Finish 6 Levels
Played: 3/28/2017 – 3/29/2017
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
Video: BurgerTime Playthrough

BurgerTime is another one of the many arcade ports that made its way to the NES. I did not play the arcade version of the game, but I do have some nostalgia for this NES port. I had left the game mostly untouched for the past 25 years as just about all my experience of this game came when I was young. It’s time for me to experience this blast from the past and shed some new light on both this game and its successors.

BurgerTime was first released in arcades in Japan as Hamburger, and then the name was changed over when it came to the US. It was originally released in 1982 by Data East as part of the company’s DECO Cassette System. This was the first arcade system where one could buy a standardized cabinet and load different games to the machine using cassette tapes. BurgerTime also got its own standalone cabinet published by Bally Midway. The game received around ten ports to various computers and consoles, such as Intellivision, ColecoVision, and the Apple II. The Famicom port of BurgerTime was developed by Data East and published by Namco. It was released in November 1985. BurgerTime was brought to the NES in May 1987, this time published by the developer Data East.

There are also a number of sequels and spin-offs for BurgerTime. An Intellivision-only sequel named Diner was released in 1984 where you push balls of food to the bottom of the screen and into enemies. Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory was also a 1984 release in arcades where you build ice cream cones. Super BurgerTime was a 1990 arcade game that is an enhanced version of the original concept. The Game Boy received BurgerTime Deluxe in 1991. Namco released an updated version of the original game for mobile devices named BurgerTime Delight in 2007. Lastly, a 3D version of the game called BurgerTime World Tour was released in 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, with a Wiiware version arriving in 2012.

Who put all this stuff here in the first place?

BurgerTime is a single screen action game. The screen is filled with platforms and ladders, and there are various slices of hamburgers, buns, and toppings across the board. You control the chef Peter Pepper as he must use all the ingredients on screen to build gigantic hamburgers underneath the level. You do this by running across the ingredients causing them to fall to the level below. If an ingredient falls on top of another one, it falls as well potentially setting off a chain reaction. Once all the burgers are assembled, you complete the round and move on to the next stage.

A game like this wouldn’t be complete without enemies, and there are three different types in BurgerTime. They are named Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg, and Mr. Pickle. All three enemies behave in the same way by following you around the board. Mr. Hot Dog is the most numerous of the enemy foods. Mr. Egg appears in fewer numbers and he tends to be a little bit smarter as he tracks you. Mr. Pickle appears in the later levels and also tends to be a bit smarter like Mr. Egg. The only way the enemies defeat Peter Pepper is to run into him, so you should always be on the move.

Peter Pepper can use the ingredients to his advantage in dealing with the enemies. If one of the ingredients falls on an enemy, they get squished and you get points. After a few seconds, a new enemy will take his place and join the fray. You can also displace enemies by dropping an ingredient they are standing on. Not only does this knock out enemies for a short time, but it also causes the ingredient to drop more ledges than when dropped alone. You score double points for each additional dropped enemy on the same ingredient, so this is the best way to rack up points in a hurry as well as clear the level more quickly.

A dash of pepper can help if you get trapped like this.

The only weapon our chef has at his disposal is pepper. It is only limited to a few uses but it is incredibly useful to get out of a bind. Simply press A or B to throw a dash of pepper in the direction you are facing. Pepper stuns all enemies it touches and you can run right through them without getting hurt. It can be used as an evasive move if you get trapped, but you can also use it to stack several enemies together on top of an ingredient and then drop them all at once for huge points. You get five peppers at the start of the game and you can acquire additional ones from powerups that appear in the middle of the level periodically. Depending on the level you will find an ice cream cone, a cup of coffee, or a bag of fries that give you points as well as pepper.

BurgerTime has six levels and it only takes a couple of minutes to clear each one. However, it’s a challenging game. At first, it gets overwhelming being chased around by four or five enemies at one time. After getting used to it, the first couple of levels are pretty straightforward. The third level requires you to work your way up through narrow space to reach the top part of the stage. This is a solid test for understanding how the enemies route their way across the level in order to navigate around them. The fifth stage has long platforms without branching paths, leading you to get trapped easily if you aren’t careful. The final stage is nasty, including several ingredients placed on dead ends. Having several shots of pepper handy goes a long way to clearing it. After all six stages are finished, the game loops back to the first level with faster enemies. It will keep looping until you run out of lives.

BurgerTime was one of the very first games my family owned for our NES. If memory serves it was the third game we owned after Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and Pinball. Therefore, BurgerTime is among my earliest gaming memories. I do remember beating this game as a child by hoarding pepper for the final stage and setting up a super combo with all the enemies included. As we collected new games, I put BurgerTime on the back burner for many years. I played it again in 2015 when it showed up as a NintendoAge contest game. I did not beat the game that week, but now I got to beat the game again for the first time since I was 7 or 8 years old.

The level layouts get tricky at the end.

I beat BurgerTime in one late night, but it wasn’t easy. Stage 6 is the most challenging by far, but Stage 5 is the make it or break it level for me. I typically have to use a lot of pepper because it’s easy to get surrounded on the long platforms, and I need to hold on to as much pepper as possible for the final level. When I did reach the final level, I had some close calls. I was one ingredient drop away from beating the game on my first attempt. On a couple of later tries I botched some near finishes with several lives remaining. I completed the game on my ninth attempt, and I finished it off by playing into the second loop until I lost all my lives.

The one thing I run into trouble with in this game is moving on and off ladders. You have to be lined up with them pretty close to center before you can climb them. To get off, you must be at the very top or bottom before you can move laterally. The inability to make precise movements when you get stuck on an edge makes BurgerTime much more frustrating than it should be. I like it when games automatically nudge you the rest of the way if you start to switch direction just a tad early. That would have really come in handy here.

BurgerTime is a serviceable arcade game port that plays just fine on the NES. As this port is based on an older game, the presentation matches the arcade version. However, on the NES it comes off as a bit sparse. The graphics are plain and include solid black backgrounds. The music is one continuous, droning loop and the sound effects are simplistic. Gameplay is what matters most, and BurgerTime has it where it counts. Rounding up the enemies and dropping them in bulk is satisfying, as is crushing them with a bun or lettuce leaf. It’s fun to play for high scores and it’s fun to work through all the levels. BurgerTime is not a bad choice to consider adding to your NES collection if you are interested in 1980s arcade games.

#48 – BurgerTime

 
JUL
01
2016
0
Crystal Quest Box Cover

Game Boy #2 – Crystal Quest

I thought I was getting some kind of RPG, but I ended up with an arcade game instead!

The title screen is misleading too, but it works!

The title screen is misleading too, but it works!

To Beat: Set the high score
To Complete: Beat Wave 99
My Goal: Complete the game
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 6/28/16
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10

Crystal Quest caught me a bit by surprise in a number of ways. I was not expecting to be writing a Game Boy post right now, but circumstances can be a funny thing sometimes and so here we are. I didn’t know anything about the game until just last week, but when I saw the cart I figured it would be something I would want to have for my collection. When I ended up with was not the game I was guessing I would get, but it turned out to be a fun little diversion that took me almost no time at all to complete.

It all started last week while looking at game lots for sale on eBay. I am always keeping an eye out for good deals as well as games to add to my ever growing collection. One listing I found was for a small Game Boy lot that included Crystal Quest. This was the first time I had ever seen the game while looking at Game Boy games over the last several months. It looked intriguing just based on the cover art alone. I put it in my watch list and hemmed and hawed about buying it before deciding to let the auction end without placing a bit.

I still wanted to know more about the game so I did a little bit of research about the gameplay. Surprising to me, this game with the word Quest in the title was actually an arcade shooter. I hopped on over to eBay and found a copy for under $7 shipped, and when researching prices it seemed to be worth around $10, so that was enough for me to take the plunge and pick up a new game for the collection.

Yep, definitely not an RPG!

Yep, definitely not an RPG!

I received the cart earlier in the week along with a few other games I had ordered. I opened up and cleaned the carts like I always do, and then later on I fired the games up to test them out. When I got to Crystal Quest, I played through a few levels only to lose all of my lives rather quickly. Rather than putting it away, I decided to go for one more try. All of a sudden, I had that beautiful moment where the game clicked with me. I played and played and I got to the point where I could play indefinitely, which is about as good as it gets for an endless game like Crystal Quest. It started with cart testing time, and it ended up with the base for a new blog post!

Crystal Quest was originally released in 1987 for the Apple Macintosh and the Apple IIgs. It was developed by Patrick Buckland and published by Casady & Greene. The game is notable for being the first game in color for the Macintosh. Crystal Quest is loosely based on the Atari 800 XL game Crystal Raider, which is a platformer instead of a shooter style game but with a similar premise. There would later be a sequel released in 1993 named Crystal Crazy, and much later in 2006 Crystal Quest was ported to the Xbox 360 on the Xbox Live Arcade. A Kickstarter was launched in 2015 to create a new version of the game, but unfortunately it did not meet its funding goal. The Game Boy version I played was released in September 1991, published by Data East, and developed by Novalogic.

Crystal Quest is a top down arcade shooter with a very simple goal. You pilot a spaceship inside an arena that is scattered with crystals. The goal is to collect all the crystals and escape through the hatch that opens at the bottom of the screen. That sounds simple, but of course there are obstacles designed to prevent you from easily clearing the room. Randomly strewn on the screen are mines that will explode the ship if touched. There are also two hatches. One is on the left side of the screen and the other on the right side, and they spawn various types of enemies. Each wave consists of a single screen of randomly placed crystals and mines, and the enemies will keep flowing until you escape to the next wave.

Death is pretty common in this game.

Death is pretty common in this game.

The controls are really simple. Use the D-pad to move in any direction. Press the A button to fire a bullet, and press the B button to use a bomb. The movement in the game is very inertia heavy so it is pretty easy to slide around all over the place. Pressing in the opposite direction to slow down is an essential skill. The shooting in this game is unique in that the bullets go in exactly the same direction as the ship is moving. For instance, to fire right means having to move to the right. That makes it challenging to attack enemies coming directly toward you. Even more strange is that shooting without moving at all will place a stationary bullet as sort of a makeshift mine.

The bombs are very powerful weapons that wipe out all of the enemies on the screen. Of course bombs like this can only be used a limited number of times so they must be used conservatively. There are bomb icons in the levels that can be collected to add a bomb to the supply. These turn out to be crucial in keeping alive through as many waves as possible.

There are several different enemy types that will stand in the way of completing the level. They are very tiny sprites and it is typically difficult to distinguish exactly how they will move and attack by sight alone. I just observed them for a second to see how they would attack instead. Some enemies shoot, some enemies home in on you, some enemies drop mines, some randomly bounce around the screen, and so on.

Ride the wave!

Ride the wave!

Crystal Quest is primarily a score attack game and as a result there are several ways to earn points. Collecting crystals and killing enemies give a small amount of points. There are diamonds sometimes dispersed in the level that are there to provide a nice point boost. Occasionally a large diamond will appear that appears to be an enemy at first, but it can be collected and it is worth a lot of points. After the wave is completed, there is a time bonus that depends on how long it takes to complete the wave. The score starts out adding up slowly but it really ramps up after about a dozen stages or so.

There are 99 Waves total in Crystal Quest. I know that because I got to Wave 99 and after beating it the game just loops Wave 99 over and over until you quit or run out of lives. Every 15 waves or so there is a small cutscene where a bug gets shot and explodes, and you are rewarded with a one-word attaboy like “Radical” or “Awesome.” Eventually these cutscenes cease once the Wave 99 loop starts. At some point, the escape hatch start moving back and forth along the bottom of the screen which adds a little extra challenge to slipping out of the arena at the end.

I found that the game takes a little bit of practice to get used to, but after that the Waves become really short. It doesn’t take long to start making good progress into the game. Crystal Quest is also very generous with extra lives doled out at a regular pace. I couldn’t discern any sort of pattern of when I would get an extra life but I would earn one at least every other level, and so I could earn lives faster than I could spend them. At the very least I could maintain roughly the same number of lives. The bombs worked the same way so I never ran out of them or even got particularly low.

The high scores may seem out of reach but they are managable.

The high scores may seem out of reach but they are managable.

I developed a good strategy for playing Crystal Quest. I would sweep each level counter-clockwise starting with the right side of the screen. Early on I stopped shooting altogether in favor of collecting the crystals and exiting the stage as quickly as possible. If I got into any trouble I dropped a bomb and kept moving. This was tricky when collecting crystals around the side enemy hatches. Usually activating a single bomb as I approached the left hatch and quickly flying through seemed to do the trick most of the time.

With repeating that strategy, I reached Wave 99 in a little over a half hour with about 5 million points. I figured that the score would either cap or loop at 9,999,999 so I kept going until then. As it turns out the score keeps tallying above 10 million points, so I called it quits shortly after that. There’s no way I wanted to spend several more hours in an attempt to max out the score just to see what happens!

Endless games are always a challenge to pin on a winning condition. There are several options and there’s a good argument for every one of them, but I had to choose something so this is what I decided. I like to choose the point where all the levels are completed, but that does fit well here since the level layouts are completely random. Beating Wave 99 seems a little excessive to me, so I opted to use that as the Completed winning condition. The next option is either setting the high score or finding where the difficulty maxes out. I decided upon setting the high score as the winning condition since Crystal Quest looks to be all about getting a high score. The high score on the hall of fame screen is 1,750,000, so exceeding that score is the minimum to consider the game beaten in my opinion.

Crystal Quest is a fine option to pick up and play for a few minutes every now and then, but there’s not really enough to the game to want to play it any more than that. It’s a competent game for sure, but I feel that it’s not worth seeking out unless it’s really cheap. I had a fun time with it however so it was worth the cost to me!

Game Boy #2 - Crystal Quest

Game Boy #2 – Crystal Quest

Game Boy #2 - Crystal Quest (High Score)

Game Boy #2 – Crystal Quest (High Score)

 
FEB
18
2016
0
BreakThru Box Cover

#15 – BreakThru

The title of the game is a pretty fair assessment of what to expect here.

It’s not really a breakthrough of title screen design (sorry!)

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 1/30/16
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 3/10

For as many classic NES titles as there are, there have to be others that fall on the other side of the coin. I’m sure there are many poor NES games that I will get to, but then there are others that are just kind of okay and don’t really stand out in any significant way. BreakThru seems to be exactly that kind of middling game that is buried deep within the NES library.

BreakThru was developed and published by Data East in 1986 as an arcade game. It was released on the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and Commodore 64 before making its way to the NES in November 1987. Data East was responsible for publishing over 20 NES games between 1986 and 1992 covering most of the NES lifespan. There really aren’t exact dates for NES game releases but from what I found BreakThru was released in the same month as Kid Niki: Radical Ninja and Side Pocket.

BreakThru is a side-scrolling shooting game where you take control of some kind of armored car. Your mission is to plow through enemy territory in order to recover a stolen aircraft. Your vehicle is equipped with a cannon that lets you shoot forward, and I guess it also has some sort of advanced hydraulic system that lets you jump. You can also speed up and slow down by moving backward or forward. Adjusting the speed more or less affects the scrolling speed of the game but you do need to speed up fast to make some jumps across obstacles. The jumping is also useful as a dodging mechanic since you can’t take any damage from enemy fire whenever the car is in the air.

Shoot the crates!

Shoot the crates!

There are five stages in total: Mountain, Bridges, Prairie, City, and Airfield. There are various enemy tanks, soldiers, and other hazards that stand in your way. There are no bosses in this game so levels end whenever you reach the end. The closest thing this game has to a boss is a giant helicopter that appears a few times through the course of the game. There are a few powerups that drop down on parachutes occasionally but there’s not much variety here. There are three powerups that all give you a three-way spread shot with the only difference being how long you have the weapon. There is also an extra life to grab. I found the powerups to look just about the same so I couldn’t really tell what the differences were without the manual, and they are also kind of tricky to grab in the first place. I think I had to jump to pick them up because they floated too far away if I stayed on the ground.

I picked up my copy of BreakThru a long time ago from a used game store. I bought it solely on the name. What I was really after was a breakout-style game and Arkanoid was too expensive for me. At that store the NES games were in a case with only the end labels showing so I didn’t actually get to see the game cart until after I paid. I think it was only $5 so it wasn’t that much, but unfortunately the cart had a huge crack in the back covered with tape. It’s the only copy I’ve ever had so it’s still in my collection. I took it home, played it once, and put it away for years. I wouldn’t pick it up again until it showed up in the NA weekly contest last year.

Did they blow up the lines on the road too?

Did they blow up the lines on the road too?

My run of BreakThru was really simple. In the prior contest, the object was to score as many points as you can before you start your last life. You only get three lives to start and they don’t show up in the levels that often, but you can also earn additional lives by reaching certain scores. I know you get one life for getting 20,000 points but that’s all I could reach. Under those conditions, I got roughly halfway through the second level. When I played this time obviously I could play however I wanted and it was much easier to get through. There are unlimited continues and each level has a pretty generous amount of checkpoints. You get to restart at those checkpoints after each death, even when continuing after Game Over. The game must be beaten in one sitting but you can just keep chipping away at it until you beat it. When I sat down to play I only intended to play for a little while just to get used to the early part of the game. I ended up finishing the game in a little over 30 minutes.

After the ending scene plays out, the game starts over from the beginning. I played the first level again just to see if it is more difficult the second time but it looked exactly the same to me. Because of that I didn’t bother completing the second loop. Now in the arcade version, I read that after beating all five levels you get to choose which level to start on the second time through. The game ends after the second loop. On the NES version, I couldn’t find any evidence of anything different after winning the second loop and there was no level select after the ending like in the arcade version. I didn’t want to spend any more time playing the game just on the chance of there being something more. If there actually is a true ending, then I guess I’ll have to go back to it sometime later!

Stay above 50!

Stay above 50!

The game may be on the short side with unlimited continues and checkpoints, but it does pose a moderate challenge. I could see there being several sections of the game that would take some practice to pass even though I got through it quickly without much trouble when I played. For instance, there are some large jumps from one bridge to another in the second level and they roll right into a first helicopter attack that catches you off guard the first time. It’s these kind of sections that put the difficulty near average. Now, if you are a purist that believes these games must be beaten on a single credit, then that bumps the difficulty quite a few notches higher. For my purposes, I think my difficulty assessment is appropriate based on what I’ve played, but of course that’s always true for these rankings!

BreakThru isn’t that bad of a game, especially as an early NES title. By today’s standards, the game doesn’t really stand out all that much and it shows its age. I haven’t played the arcade version but I’m betting it’s the superior experience of BreakThru. Either way, it’s a nice little game to check off of my list!

BreakThru Ending Screen

#15 – BreakThru