Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#152 – John Elway’s Quarterback

John Elway is probably in here somewhere.

Not shown is a football spiraling across.

To Beat: Win a Single Game
Played: 3/13/20
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: John Elway’s Quarterback Longplay

There are so many sports games on the NES, but so far the balance of them for this project is way off.  I have played several basketball, baseball, wrestling, and even volleyball games already, but most other sports have received very little or no representation yet.  For instance, I have yet to play either a golf game or a tennis game.  Until now, I had yet to play a football game either.  For one of the most popular sports in America, it is finally time for football to get its due on Take On The NES Library.  And so, for this special occasion, we are starting off with … John Elway’s Quarterback.

This game was originally released as Quarterback in the arcades in 1987, developed by Leland Corporation.  In 1988, John Elway agreed to endorse the game and so it was renamed to John Elway’s Quarterback.  The game was ported to various PCs, as well as the NES in North America only.  The NES port of John Elway’s Quarterback was released in March 1989, developed by Rare and published by Tradewest.

John Elway’s Quarterback is a straightforward football game.  It can be played solo or with two players.  At the start, you select your team out of 14 total teams.  That seems impressive but the only thing it appears to change is the name of the team on the scoring at the top.  Player 1 is always the blue team and Player 2 is always the red team.  Once you press A or B to lock in your team, play begins automatically with a kick off from the red team to the blue team.  There are no other modes or anything in this game, just single matches.  Win one game to beat the game.

Kickoff time!

The controls are pretty simple.  You use the D-pad to move around.  You always control the player with the 1 displayed over his head (or 2 as the second player).  The A button is basically the jump button.  Without touching the D-pad, A jumps straight up which is useful for intercepting the ball.  With a D-pad direction held, the A button does a dive move.  You can use this to tackle the ball carrier or sneak out a yard or two on offense when surrounded.  The B button is for throwing the ball on offense.  First hold the B button down and a cursor will be displayed.  You can move this cursor freely to aim your throw.  When you have the direction you want, let go of B to throw the ball.  On defense, B is used to switch control to a different player.

Before each down, on both offense and defense, you will choose which play you want to run.  The offense has nine different plays to run, as well as kicking a field goal or punting.  You can also select Reverse Play by pressing A when Normal Play is highlighted.  I didn’t know about this when I played, but I think it might just flip each formation from left to right.  It’s not documented in the manual at all.  The defense can choose from one of six regular plays, as well as a punt return formation and a blocked kick formation.  Use the D-pad to select the play and press either A or B to choose the play.  There is a timer and the highlighted play will be automatically chosen if you don’t make a selection.  After the snap, the other players will move in line with the play you selected.

The only other unique play element is the kick, whether it is an extra point, kickoff, or punt attempt.  At the start of the play, a cursor appears at the edge of the screen at a random position.  Before the player automatically kicks the ball, you can move the cursor with Left or Right on the D-pad to adjust the angle of the kick.

Line the arrow up to kick the extra point.

There’s really not much else to say about this game; it is a simple game of standard, exhibition football with few features.  There are four quarters of 15 minutes each, though in real time it is much shorter.  In single player, you receive the kickoff at the start of the game and kickoff to the other team after halftime.  All possessions are four downs to gain 10 years or you turn over the ball to the opposition.  I don’t believe there are any penalties of any kind.  I don’t think you can fumble the ball, but the ball can be intercepted during a wayward pass.  There are basic stats displayed at the top of the screen, from the current down and yardage, time remaining, team names, and score broken down by quarter.  Like I said, it’s a simple, no frills kind of experience, to the point where I’m struggling to be any more verbose about this game than I usually am.

This was my first time playing through this game.  This is one of those super common NES games that you see all the time when buying game lots, and the cart only price is low.  I’m not sure why you would want to buy one individually.  That said, I didn’t have this game for quite awhile when collecting.  I got it around the middle of the pack in terms of the entire licensed NES set.

My playthrough of the game went really well.  I am not sure if this was just beginner’s luck or if it is just not that hard to win.  On my first try of the game, I played for about a quarter and a half just to get the feel of it.  The score was tied 7-7, so I could have kept going and would have won, but just to be sure I started over.  I finished the new game 28-0, a shutout on my first full playthrough of the game.  I scored one touchdown each quarter.  In terms of strategy there really wasn’t much to it.  On defense, I sort of followed around whoever was open.  Then once the pass was thrown, I pressed B to switch to the nearest defender to the ball and pressed A to try and jump in front of the ball to intercept it.  That worked often enough to keep them from scoring.  On offense, I messed around with different passing plays to find an open man and then zig-zagged up the field to dodge defenders.  With the right timing and movement, it seems possible to avoid a diving defender most of the time if not all of the time.

Sneak a peek at the screen and lookie at all the plays to draw from!

When doing research for this blog post, I stumbled upon what appears to be a glitch to help make this easy game even easier.  On the offensive play screen, put your cursor on top of Normal Play and leave it there until the play selection timer expires.  Normally whatever play is highlighted when time expires is the play you get, but since Normal Play isn’t actually a play that you can select, it gives you some sort of default play to run.  For this play, you need to get space to pass right away because the defenders come at you quickly.  If you can do a successful pass to a teammate, for some reason he has incredibly high speed and should score easily.  I tested it out once just to see and it is hilarious how fast he goes.  The next time I tried it I allowed a safety, so you do want to perform this carefully in a game.

I have little experience with NES football games so it’s hard to say how this one measures up to the rest, but I would guess that this is not a very good football game.  It is competent enough at it’s best but that’s about it.  The graphics are very basic, a step up from Atari graphics but only by a little bit.  There’s no music during the game, just organ sounds and sound effects, and the little songs across other parts of the game are nothing to write home about.  The controls are the best part of this game as they are simple enough to play the game effectively.  The gameplay is bare bones with just enough there to resemble a game of football.  In whole, while this is an underwhelming game, I wouldn’t call it a bad game or shovelware or anything like that.   It’s a functional NES football game, it’s just that the NES is capable of much greater things than this.

#152 – John Elway’s Quarterback


#151 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito)

A somewhat more pleasant Indiana Jones game this time.

I remember the color gradient is a special programming trick.

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Finish all levels and get the best ending
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 2/29/20 – 3/7/20
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito) Longplay

I have seen all of the Indiana Jones movies, even the fourth one that everyone seems to want to forget ever happened.  I watched them all just once, all in a row, probably 10 years ago or more by now.  It was so long ago that I forgot pretty much everything from any of the movies, but not so long ago that I remembered that I enjoyed this one the most.  That seems to fall in line with the consensus of the series.  This movie had to have been well loved because the NES ended up with two video game adaptations of the movie, both bearing the name of the film.  These aren’t just label variants, but two completely different games.  They are distinguished by the publisher, so this game is considered the Taito version and the other is the Ubisoft version.  While the comparison between those two may be more interesting, I can safely say I enjoyed this one more than Temple of Doom, at least.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the third movie in the Indiana Jones saga, releasing in May 1989.  It was a huge success, grossing nearly $500 million.  The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and was co-written by George Lucas.  There were three games based on the film.  One was a graphical adventure game by LucasArts for home computers.  Another was a more action based game that launched the same year for home computers.  This was the version that was eventually ported to the NES as the Ubisoft version.  The third game, the one I played for this review, was an NES-exclusive game that released in March 1991.  It was developed by Software Creations and published by Taito Corporation.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Taito version, is a side-scrolling platformer that loosely follows the plot of the film.  You play the role of Indiana Jones in his quest to find the holy grail.  The game is played out via multiple scenes, leading up to the final scene in the lost temple where Indy chooses the holy grail.  There are cutscenes in between the levels to advance the story and set up future events.  What makes this game interesting is that you can choose which stages you want to play.  Furthermore, the more stages you complete, the more difficult later stages will become.  You can opt to play the minimum amount and skip straight ahead to the final stage.  A regular ending done that way will do for this game, but I achieved the best ending for beating all the stages.

Kick the ship out of these guys.

Considering that there are different stages made available at different times, I’ll cover the stages in the same order I chose for my playthrough, beginning with the search for the Cross of Coronado.  This stage takes place on a ship with a bunch of enemy sailors that you’ll need to fight off.  The captain of the ship carries the cross and you need to make your way over to the left side of the ship to reach him, fighting off the other baddies along the way.  At the top of the screen you’ll see your health bar, number of lives remaining represented as grail icons, and a number of sailors left to defeat before the captain shows up.  Even though the captain may be outside ready for a fight, you might have to beat up extra sailors to reach him.  This mission goes away for good if you complete two other missions ahead of it, so I like to do this one first.  At the start you have to fight 15 sailors, but if you choose this mission second then you have to fight through 30 sailors.  The game is over if you lose this mission.

The controls for Indy on this ship are shared with some other missions.  They are also the most complex out of all the missions.  You move Indy around with the D-pad.  You can double tap either Left or Right to run in that direction, holding down the directional button on the second press to continue running.  When standing or walking, the A button does a kick attack while the B button punches.  Run and press A to perform a flying kick.  Indy can get his whip out or put it away with Select, which replaces his punch attack.  Indy can duck by holding Down, and you can do low punches, whips, or kicks.  You can climb Up and Down ladders, and even kick enemies from ladders, but this leaves you vulnerable to being knocked off the ship entirely.  Indy has two more attacks.  He can throw a haymaker by holding Up and pressing B and do a jump kick by holding Up and pressing A.  The fighting in this game does not feel very good.  It seems random how you fare when fighting enemies.  Sometimes you land a good hit and knock the bad guys out right away, other times you land a bunch of hits that don’t seem to do anything.  I had the most success with the flying kick, which the manual itself mentions is best.

Hooray a door maze…

The next thing that happens in the story is Indy gets a telegraph stating that both his father is being held captive and his family friend Marcus is missing, so now you have three options for your next stage. I picked going to Castle Brunwald to save Indy’s father.  Indy is controlled in this area the same as on the ship, identical moves and all.  Only this time, you are in a giant maze.  This is a really cumbersome area to figure out.  There are doorways all over this place, some leading into other layers of the castle and some leading to staircases to bring you up and down.  The castle is three floors high and five layers deep, but you only see one layer and two floors at one time.  There are notches on the floors in groups of one through five that indicate which layer you are on, and every floor has its own shield displayed on the wall.  But essentially you are navigating in 3D space, and so this area is pretty difficult to clear.  Making matters worse is that in later difficulty levels some doors are locked.  In that case, there are some hidden passageways revealed by whipping torches on the wall.  The route through the castle is very different per difficulty level.  I had a tough time getting the hang of it on later levels, so I opted to do this one earlier.

From here you have found about where the grail is located, so now you can skip ahead to the final area if you want, but you will have a hard time without knowing what the grail looks like.  So next I went to Venice to the catacombs where a scrambled photo of the grail is found.  However, fire is raging through so you must put the pieces together and get out in time.  This stage is a sliding puzzle level.  There is a 5×5 set of tiles and you move a hand cursor with the D-pad.  Press A or B to slide either a single piece or part of a row or column toward the empty square across from the hand.  While you are constructing the grail photo, a scene below shows the fire catching up to you.  You need to complete the puzzle as best as you can, then escape by pressing Select.  In the following cutscene you will see either a full or partial picture of the grail depending on how much of it you pieced together.  You need this information to pick the proper grail at the end of the game.  You still survive if you don’t leave in time, but you lose the picture and will have to remember what the grail will look like when you make it to the end.  In later difficulties, the puzzle time is shorter and the puzzle gets more scrambled.

The final stage before the end is in the Desert of Iskenderun.  This time you are on top of a tank fighting off enemy soldiers one at a time to save Marcus.  The tank is heading for the edge of a cliff as displayed at the bottom of the screen, so that’s your time limit to complete the stage.  The controls and combat are the same as in the other side-scrolling segments.  This time, if you get knocked off the tank, you lose a life, your health bar isn’t restored, and you lose time while waiting for Indy to climb back up.  In this stage the flying kick is essential to both survival and clearing the stage in time.  There are more enemies to fight in the higher difficulties.

Solve the puzzle while also remembering the picture.

At the very beginning of the game you are entrusted with Indy’s father’s grail diary.  As a result, the enemies are out to get it at all costs.  Aside from the Coronado, if you lose in a level the diary is taken by the bad guys.  You can keep playing stages but if you lose one, it is Game Over.  An alternative is to go to Berlin to take the diary back and make your escape.  The Road to Berlin is a top-down motorcycle driving level.  You’ll have to avoid all kinds of stuff like mines, gun turrets, ravines, and enemy motorcycles as you make your way up the road.  You use the D-pad to move Left and Right as well as speed Up or slow Down.  You can jump with A or whip to the side with B.  Every time you crash, you’ll restart from a checkpoint with a little health loss.  The goal is to make your way to the end before running out of health.  This is not an easy level, but the good thing is you can keep trying as many times as you want without penalty.  For reasons I’ll explain shortly, it is best if you keep the diary for the end of the game.

The final scene in the game is The Lost Temple.  This has a few different parts to it.  First off, you’ll see a map showing a path or two through the temple.  There is an icon at the top if you have the diary, and you’ll want to make a mental note of that.  You move across the floor of the temple one step at a time with the D-pad.  Tiles on the ground have the letters in JEHOVAH and you need to walk the path of God by spelling out JEHOVAH step-by-step several times.  If you step on the wrong letter, you’ll fall and that’s Game Over.  If you happen to go the wrong way you can backtrack.  You are also racing the torch you are carrying.  When it goes out, you can’t see the letters on the floor and you’ll have to guess.  Once you make it to the other side, the next part is to walk across the invisible path as noted by the symbol that was written on the diary.  If you didn’t bring the diary with you, you can guess.  If you pass that, then your final task is to choose the Holy Grail out of a lineup.  Before choosing, you will see your note of what the grail looks like that you put together earlier.  If you choose right, you beat the game, otherwise you lose completely.  No pressure!

This was my first time playing this game.  I remember testing my cart and playing a little bit of the ship, and I didn’t do so well.  While this cart is the cheaper of the two, it is not that easy to find and costs in the $30-$40 range, which is more than I remembered when I was actively collecting.  I bought a copy of this game for about $10 in 2014, only for the seller to cancel the order because it sold too low.  A few months later I bought a different cart for $12 which is in my collection now.

Walk the path of God.

This game started out like a normal playthrough, just testing levels out and figuring the best way through.  The castle gave me the most trouble as I couldn’t find the exit.  After exploring multiple times for a few days, I gave into an FAQ and found that what I was looking for was in a room I had visited a bunch and didn’t recognize the exit.  (Perhaps this is a direct reference to the movie that I didn’t notice?) I also had some struggles with the Road to Berlin.  I could clear it on the easiest difficulties but not on the higher settings.  That became a moot point because I stopped going there when I played well elsewhere.  On either the 2nd or 3rd day I beat the game.  When you know what to do, the game is pretty short.

My next step was to beat the game while recording before moving on to the next.  In theory this should have been easy, but goodness gracious did it go poorly.  I could do the entire game fine up to choosing the grail, and then I failed over and over and over again.  It took nine tries before beating the game again.  In pretty much all attempts, I had it nailed down to two or three grails and I just kept picking the wrong one.  Re-reading the manual finally helped bail me out.  There are, at least, five attributes of the grail to examine: The lip, the handle, the cup shape, the stem, and the base.  It was the shape of the cup that I wasn’t paying close attention to that messed me up the most, though it was a few tries in before I realized I wasn’t noticing the lip of the cup also.  That first time I won I must have really been lucky.  I get that the developers were trying to do something interesting for the end of the game, and the randomized nature of it is a good idea.  It was just so frustrating and maddening to fail completely at the very end of the game to something that doesn’t at all reflect the ending of the film anyway.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Taito version, is a pretty good game that has some issues.  Presentation-wise, this is very well made.  The gameplay graphics are decent enough, but the cutscenes are digitized images from the movie that look nice in a sepia-tone.  The music is pretty good and includes the iconic theme from the film series.  The gameplay provides plenty of variety, including side-scrolling platforming, top-down action, and even a sliding block puzzle.  The controls and feel of the side-scrolling action is rough and is the most obvious issue with the game.  Combat feels clunky and random.  I can swing away at enemies, not sure if I’m doing damage, and sometimes I beat them right away and other times I get knocked around a bunch.  There’s a lot going on with the controls, making things more cumbersome when things don’t go well.  Another thing is the maze design in the castle is brutal at the higher levels.  Once you get used to things, this is a short game, and you can get skilled enough that the combat issues don’t really matter.  Just make sure that if you play this game that you are more observant with the grail than I was.

#151 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito)


#150 – Double Dribble

Naming a game after something that can happen in it is all the rage.

I just love being told the name of the game I’m playing.

To Beat: Win a Single Game
To Complete: Win a Game on Level 3
What I Did: Completed the Game
Played: 2/27/20
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Double Dribble Longplay

Hey, it’s another milestone post!  Finally made it to #150!  The milestones on the 50s have been pretty kind to me so far.  Let’s recap.  Game #50 was Dragon Warrior, which is a very nostalgic game from my childhood and a nice one for that spot on the list.  Game #100 was Milon’s Secret Castle.  While not the most classic title to remember, it was one I played a lot growing up.  Plus, I got to beat the second loop for the first time which was nice.  So, I was pretty excited to get to #150, only for it to be Double Dribble.  Another basketball game!  This is the 5th of 10 basketball games so we are already halfway done.  But the good thing is that this tends to be regarded as one of the best basketball games on the NES.  Maybe this one won’t be so bad.

Double Dribble originated as an arcade game developed and published by Konami.  It was released in Japan as Exciting Basket.  It was Konami’s 2nd basketball game, the first being Super Basketball, and both games were deemed a success by the company.  The game continued on into the home console market.  It was released on the Famicom Disk System in July 1987 as Exciting Basketball, then on the NES in September 1987 in North America and 1988 in Europe as Double Dribble.  The game was ported to a number of home computers in 1990.  The Game Boy got a version in 1991 named Double Dribble 5-on-5, the Sega Genesis had Double Dribble: Playoff Edition in 1994, and iOS got Double Dribble Fast Break in 2010.

Double Dribble is a standard NES basketball game.  One of the defining features here is that it is a full 5-on-5 game, which due to technical reasons is infrequently used on the NES.  (It’s also convenient that my 5th basketball game is played 5-on-5.)  There are some further configurations and settings here to spice things a little bit, but the goal is simple.  To beat this game, just win any game!

There’s enough room here for everyone.

The game starts off in an impressive manner.  A digitized voice greets you with the name of the game, Double Dribble.  On the title screen, select between a single player game or a two-player game.  Next, you’ll see a cutscene of a large crowd entering the stadium while The Star-Spangled Banner plays.  Then you are brought to the options screen.  A basketball player in the corner will help you set the configuration.  You can set the length of every period from either 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes.  Choose from one of four teams: Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and New York.  This is purely cosmetic for the players.  The uniform colors of each team are displayed in the lower left.  You can also set the difficulty level from either 1, 2, or 3, with Level 3 being the hardest difficulty.  Use the D-pad to move the cursor and press A to update the setting.  The ballplayer will make a shot in the corresponding basket and change the setting.  Once you have things set the way you want, make a final shot by selecting End.  Now you are ready to start a game, going straight into the jumpball.  Time your jump with B, and now the game begins!

Like all basketball games on the NES, the controls differ from offense and defense.  In all situations, use the D-pad to move around in eight directions.  You control the player that is flashing.  On offense, you use the A button to pass and B to shoot.  You use a directional key while passing to pass to the nearest player in that direction, then you assume control of the receiving player directly.  You also use passing to inbound the ball.  You shoot the ball by holding B to jump and release B at the top of the jump to shoot.  On defense, you use A to steal the ball.  Get near the opponent holding the ball to attempt to steal, typically by mashing the button.  The B button lets you change the active player on your team to whoever is closest to the ball.  If you’ve played any other basketball games on the NES, these controls should seem very familiar.

The screen layout is very similar to other basketball games I’ve played on the NES.  The court is laid out horizontally, panning across the court from left to right to follow the ball.  The scoreboard at the top has all the basics.  You see which period you are in, the time remaining in the current period, and the score for both teams.  Also, if you scroll all the way to one side, you can see which team’s hoop it is in the corner.  It’s pointless since the player is already displayed in that corner anyway, but it’s there.

Fouls send you to the free throw line.

This game has some violations and fouls during game play.  Violations include traveling, holding, shot clock violation, not moving the ball forward past half court, and taking the ball out of bounds.  The fouls are blocking and pushing.  Violations simply turn the ball over to the other team for inbounding.  For fouls, the fouled player goes to the free throw line.  A floating ring appears above the rim, moving up and down.  You need to time your shot so that the ring is as low against the basket as possible to make it in.  I didn’t take any free throws in my game but I did foul an opponent once or twice.

I wrote earlier that one of the defining features was the 5-on-5 action, but truly the main defining feature in the game is the dunk cutscene.  When you get close under the rim and shoot, the view changes over to a close-up cutscene of the player attempting the dunk.  These are very simple animations with only a few frames each, but they are so much more detailed in appearance than the standard action.  I found it hard to tell if you actually make the dunk because there’s only one frame or so that actually shows the ball going in.  I picked up the sound effects better and could tell that way.  Dunks are high-percentage shots though so usually they go in.

This was my first time playing Double Dribble.  It was an early NES game and one of the only basketball games on the console for a couple of years, so it is one of those ubiquitous NES titles you see in game lots all the time.  I’ve had many copies of the game before but I’ve since sold them all, so just from that limited sample, it appears to be a popular game to own on the NES.  Even then, it wasn’t a game I had in my collection for quite some time, and even when I did I wasn’t all that interested in playing it.  But now I put all that aside to give this one a try.

Even with low animation, they do look nice in the game.

As you probably know by now, my basketball strategy consists of hitting as many three-pointers as possible.  I try to look for the right spots to shoot from or pick the person with the best shooting capability.  In this game, I did not find out the good three-pointer spots, even though I found out after the fact that they do exist.  My road to victory was very different this time.  In my first game I lost by over 20 points.  I struggled with getting the ball across the court past the Level 3 defenders.  They intercept passes and steal really well.  What I ended up doing was taking shots pretty much any time I was open.  This became a form of passing for me because I could get the ball on my end of the court and either recover the missed shot or steal the ball back and make another shot.  It was an ugly strategy, and I never really found my groove, but it was effective enough.  It was a back and forth game.  I had a decent lead after the first period, and then allowed the computer a decent lead after the third period.  With a little over three minutes to go in the game, I was down 32-24.  Then I had a nice string of lucky shooting and good enough defense to storm back into the game, winning by a final score of 43-36.  I scored more points in the fourth than in the first three periods combined.

I ran across an interesting story about this game while doing some post-game research for this blog.  I looked up scoring exploits for the game and discovered this video showing a trick where you can make just about every three-point shot from a particular spot.  The video ended up being shown during an episode of Family Guy, but in this case they ripped off the footage entirely without credit.  Furthermore, after the episode aired, the original video was incorrectly flagged as infringing copyright and was taken down.  Thanks, YouTube algorithm!  The creator of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane, got involved and fixed the issue so the original creator got his video back.

Double Dribble predated any other NES basketball game by almost a full two years, but there are still reasons why this one stands up as one of the best on the system.  The graphics in this one are nice for the time.  In-game, it is not that special, but the full screen dunk cutscenes still hold up nicely today and have good impact during the game.  For music, the game doesn’t have anything other than sound effects during the game.  However there are some nice tunes on the options screen and during halftime, as well as The Star-Spangled Banner at the start.  The controls are responsive and easy to use.  The gameplay is done well, with passing, shooting, and stealing all working with good feel.  It is pretty impressive on how much Konami got right for this first NES basketball game, and perhaps it sheds some light on why there was such a delay before anyone else tried releasing another one.

#150 – Double Dribble


#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay

I sure bungled my way through this game.

The bubble text is out of place for this game.

To Beat: Beat 1 Loop in Game A
To Complete: Beat 5 Loops
What I Did: Beat 1 Loop in Game B
Played: 2/17/20 – 2/23/20
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Raid On Bungeling Bay Longplay

It’s been awhile since I’ve played a game that brought me to a point of real frustration and anger.  I think as I’m getting older, I am mellowing out a little bit and I put up with a lot more in my gaming.  I have to if I’m going to play all these NES games, and I also need to set a good example for my kids.  Thankfully as I played this game alone late at night, I could vent my frustration a little.  I didn’t go full out tantrum or anything, but I spent a fair amount of time visibly upset at this game.  I wouldn’t say this is a bad game either.  Hopefully I have your attention now to read on and see what you think of this game.

Raid on Bungeling Bay was first released on the Commodore 64 in December 1984.  It was designed by Will Wright and this was his first game.  Perhaps this game is best known as the gateway to Wright’s smash hit SimCity as his development tools for Raid on Bungeling Bay formed the base of SimCity’s gameplay.  The Commodore 64 version was published by Broderbund in North America and by Ariolasoft in Europe in 1985.  Other ports from 1985 were for the Famicom, the MSX, and Nintendo’s VS. System.  The NES version was delayed until September 1987.  It was developed by Hudson Soft and published by Broderbund.

Raid on Bungeling Bay has a simple story.  The Bungeling Empire is set to create a war machine to conquer the Earth.  In Bungeling Bay there are six secret factories, and your task is to pilot a lone helicopter around Bungeling Bay to destroy the factories and put the evil plans to rest.  This game is a top-down shoot-em-up where you fly freely across a large, open map.  This is the only level in the game, so once you destroy all six factories you win the game.  Seems simple enough!

You’ll see home base a lot.

You use the D-pad to control the helicopter.  Press Left or Right to rotate your aircraft.  Press Up to go forward and Down to go in reverse.  These are thrust-based controls with momentum similar to Asteroids.  You’ll keep moving in the direction you are going without adjusting any of the inputs and you can change course in a gradual way.  You can move backwards though top speed in reverse is much lower than top speed going forward.  The A button fires machine gun shots and you can keep mashing A to shoot.  The B button drops bombs.  You can only hold up to 9 bombs as indicated on the bottom of the screen.  You may drop bombs at a rate of about one per second.

Destroying all six factories is not an easy task.  First off, you have to locate them on the map.  It is a lot of ground to cover, roughly 10 screens high and 10 screens wide.  There is no in-game map to see where you are, so you’ll have to memorize where everything is.  Most of the map is open water too which makes navigation more difficult.  Once you find a factory, stop yourself over the top of it, and mash the B button to drop bombs.  The regular allotment of nine bombs may not be enough to defeat the factory however.  To reload bombs, you’ll need to go back and land on the initial aircraft carrier where you start.  Come to a complete or near-complete stop above the center of the aircraft carrier, then press A to land.  Doing so refills your bombs and repairs your helicopter back to full strength.  The aircraft carrier is at least easy to find because there is a navigation arrow at the bottom of the screen that always points you toward the carrier.  But going back out and finding the factory again might be difficult.  Making matters worse, the factories are slowly strengthened over time, requiring more bombs to destroy them the longer they are left alone.  This includes ones that you haven’t even seen yet.  You absolutely need a plan to beat this game.

There are plenty of enemies in the game, many of which are interconnected with each other in various ways.  The biggest relationship is that the factories produce nearly all of the enemies.  As factories are damaged, the lights can go out and then they won’t produce any enemies until they repair some.  Here are the enemies a lit factory will produce.  Tanks patrol the various islands.  They do light damage, but their bullets are invisible and seem to always hit you periodically when they are on your screen.  The boats patrol the water and function in the same way with their invisible, low-damage shots.  Boats, however, can relay the location of your aircraft carrier to the enemy and will also damage the carrier upon collision.  Gun turrets are fixed to the land and shoot visible bullets at you.  If the game goes on long enough, the turrets will sometimes fire homing missiles that do some severe damage.  You can blow up the missiles in the air or eventually they run out of fuel and disappear.  Radar dishes don’t do physical damage to you, instead opting to alert the enemy to start deploying fighter jets and bombers.  Fighter jets attack your helicopter with missiles, while the bombers only go after your aircraft carrier.

Bombs away!

The aircraft carrier is vital to your success, so of course the enemies are going to go after it.  Typically, these will be the bombers circling and attacking your aircraft carrier.  When this happens, an ALERT message will blink across the screen.  You will want to drop whatever you are doing, follow the arrow, and defend it.  The alert continues until all bombers attacking the carrier have been dealt with, and when it clears the carrier is repaired instantly back to 100% strength.  You can’t land on the carrier during an attack.  If the carrier ends up destroyed, that is really bad.  Now only do you lose the place to restore health and bombs, but you also lose all of your extra lives so the next time you crash it is Game Over.  There is one location in enemy territory where you can land and get your bombs refilled from the enemy’s supply.  The caveats are that you can only repair your helicopter to only 50-60% damage and it takes longer to land and takeoff versus the aircraft carrier.

One more advanced enemy to deal with in the later levels is the battleship.  A WARNING message appears on screen once as the battleship is getting prepared, and a second time when it leaves port.  If you encounter it, you are greeted by its homing missiles.  You can destroy it but it takes a minimum ten bombs to destroy, so you’ll have to restore bombs at least once.  It moves slowly with the goal of intercepting the aircraft carrier.  Your carrier moves in a slow drift from south to north while the battleship goes horizontally.  When the battleship comes across the carrier’s path, it will wait for the carrier to approach and then destroy it completely in one shot.  The two options are to take out the battleship as quickly as possible or clear out the factories fast enough before the battleship does its thing.

There is only one map in the game but the game increases difficulty for several loops of the game.  On the title screen you can choose from the normal Game A mode or Game B which is equivalent to the third loop in the A mode.  There are several ways the game gets more difficult.  Damage incurred increases, the battleship appears sooner, bombers are more active sooner, enemies fire missiles earlier and more frequently, and the aircraft carrier can be destroyed more quickly.  According to the manual, the difficulty maxes out on the fifth loop.  Considering all the ways it gets harder, plus the fact that you can lose all of your lives when losing the aircraft carrier, it is quite tough to get that far.

If you lose your carrier the game might as well be over.

A neat feature I wanted to draw a little attention to is this game’s two-player mode.  This is just like the single player mode but with a twist.  The first player flies and plays normally, and the second player controls any turrets out on the field.  The second player can rotate the turret with Left and Right and fire both normal bullets and sometimes the homing missiles.  I can see where this might be used both as a competitive element and also a way of making the game a little easier by having the second player do nothing with the turrets.  It’s a neat idea for a second player that is not often seen on the NES.

Here are some miscellaneous tidbits about this game.  In addition to the ALERT and WARNING messages, there is also DESTROY for when a factory is blown up, SUNK! when your aircraft carrier is taken out, and SPECIAL which is for bonus points when destroying a factory that I don’t understand how you earn exactly.  At certain damage thresholds, your copter has different levels of effectiveness.  From 0-49% is normal operation.  50-79% means you fly at about 75% strength while 80-99% is at about 50% strength.  The color of the ocean is another visual indicator of these levels.  At 100% damage or over, you are going to crash.  You can’t control your speed, your steering capability is reduced, and you can’t drop bombs.  The best thing you can try to do is crash land into a factory to damage it.  One time I destroyed a weakened factory by crashing into it, but it was both tough and lucky to pull off.  Damage can go way over 100% as it will take a little time to complete the crash.  It sort of adds insult to injury at that point.

This was my first time playing through Raid on Bungeling Bay.  When I tested the cart, I messed around for a few minutes and didn’t really understand the game.  Reading the manual definitely helped me.  This game doesn’t show up too often but it is not that expensive, roughly costing $10 for a loose cart.  The best way to acquire this cart is in a lot, which is how I got mine.  It doesn’t stand out much and I don’t think it is often sought out.

This is a fun enough game to start playing around with it.  Flying around freely feels pretty good especially for an earlier NES title.  There’s a lot to explore and see.  Targets are easy enough to shoot and aren’t too aggressive.  Alas, appearances are most definitely deceiving.  Once you blow up your first factory, the game begins its sharp ramp up in difficulty.  Factories start cranking out more enemies, enemy fighters circle you and eventually fire homing missiles.  After about three missile hits, you are done for.  You constantly need to return home to defend your carrier, and if you lose it, your run is pretty much dead.  The longer you play, the more enemies appear and the stronger the factories get.  Refilling bombs needed to destroy these strengthened factories means more retreating home, back and forth, often ending up lost or misdirected in the process.  This game is constantly out to get you and is ruthless in doing so.

Defenses get pretty intense by the end.

At the start I had intended to play through five loops of this game, and after about a day or two I abandoned that idea completely.  I just could not build up the momentum or the interest to keep pressing on with this game.  Just too much failing with one or two factories left to go.  Fortunately, there is only the one level and one ending, so beating one round of it is good enough to consider the game done.  When TMR beat the game for NESMania, he beat two rounds of Game A and also one round of Game B.  While I could have followed suit, I figured one round of the more difficult Game B would be sufficient.  Still, Game B, which is 3rd loop difficulty, was tough for me to accomplish.  I didn’t keep track, but it was probably about a dozen tries or more before I finally beat Game B, each attempt more frustrating than the last.  There was no real strategy that saved the day this time.  It was a matter of learning the map, finding the enemy landing location for occasional bomb refills, and brute forcing attempts until I finally cleared it.  I even missed the photo of the ending “Complete” message just as one last frustration. I get the feeling the best way to clear five straight loops is to speedrun the game as quickly as possible with a route of picking off the most difficult factories first before they ramp up enemy production.  I’m not about to figure that out though, I’m done.

I know this is out of character for me to dislike an NES game like Raid on Bungeling Bay, but it’s a shame because there are some great ideas here that are unlike any NES game I’ve played to this point.  On the surface this is a simple game.  The graphics are simple, with crudely drawn backgrounds and recognizable enemy sprites that get the job done.  There is no real music to speak of here, just a jingle on starting a new life and some low base notes during gameplay.  The controls work well to me, though in general momentum-based controls and movement take some finesse.  Though it eventually became frustrating and tiresome, I can appreciate what Will Wright accomplished in terms of gameplay, particularly in terms of world design and interactivity.  Just about everything connects in some way, giving you the sense of a more coordinated and thoughtful enemy attack.  You know bombing an enemy factory means they are gonna try and fix it, and seeing an enemy satellite dish means you know to prepare for an oncoming aerial attack.  These are cool ideas in isolation.  I just found it all too overwhelming when the difficulty spikes in the second half of each mission, to the point where I found it unfair and wanted to quit playing.  It is an interesting game, it’s just not for me.

#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay


#148 – Gyromite

As they used to say in Good Times, Gy-ro-mite!

People didn’t care about box and title screen discrepancies.

To Beat: Beat Game A and Game B
To Complete: Beat Game A and 3 Loops of Game B
My Goal: Beat the game using R.O.B.
What I Did: Beat the game with R.O.B. and completed the game without R.O.B.
Played: 2/3/20 – 2/16/20
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Gyromite Longplay

Good old R.O.B., our Robotic Operating Buddy.  This robot toy was something of an icon for Nintendo in its early days in the American market.  Since then, he has mostly faded away, sometimes appearing as a period piece in media or as a reference in some of Nintendo’s own games.  It’s good that he gets to join the battle in Smash Bros. though, that was a nice minor renaissance for him.  Today, R.O.B. will get a little bit of the spotlight back as I review one of his games, Gyromite.

R.O.B. played a key role in both Nintendo’s entrance to the North American market as a return-to-form of video games in the home.   The video game crash of 1983 was still looming large as Nintendo wanted to get a foothold in the gaming market.  Their idea was to brand the NES as an “Entertainment System,” placing more focus on the toys, i.e. the Zapper and R.O.B. than on the games themselves.  R.O.B. was intended to be the centerpiece of the marketing for the NES.  The move worked out for Nintendo as the NES became a massive success throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  R.O.B. though did not fare as well, only receiving two compatible games at launch, Gyromite and Stack-Up, and nothing more.  These games released alongside R.O.B. and NES in October 1985 in North America.  Gyromite also released in Japan as Robot Gyro in August 1985 and in Europe in 1986.

There were a couple of ways to acquire R.O.B. back in the day.  The most common way was through the NES Deluxe Set.  This was a very large box set that contained the NES, TV hookups, two controllers, a Zapper, R.O.B, all the parts required for Gyromite, and boxed copies of both Gyromite and Duck Hunt.  The Deluxe Set retailed for $179.99, which in today’s money closes in on $500.  R.O.B. could also be purchased standalone for $49.99, but he did not come with any parts and couldn’t be used as-is to play a game.  Gyromite has a standalone big-box set containing all the pieces and the game.  This set is really tough to find and very expensive nowadays.

Here’s my good buddy hard at work!

Here is how R.O.B. works in practice.  R.O.B. sits in place with his two arms outstretched.  He has the capability to raise and lower his arms, turn his arms left and right, close his arms, and open them.  R.O.B. is powered by 4 AA batteries, and when you turn him on, he goes through a calibration routine.  He raises his arms and opens them all the way while turning to the right.  Then he rotates back to the left to position himself facing forward.  Now you don’t trigger any movements from R.O.B. directly, rather you send him signals through the TV screen.  The NES generates a series of screen flashes that R.O.B. can read and translate that to his basic movements.  There are some considerations when getting him to work.  R.O.B.’s head must be pointed at the TV screen for this to work.  There is a Test mode within Gyromite to ensure he can read the signals.  If he’s positioned properly, a red LED light on top of his head will be lit.  Furthermore, A CRT TV is required for R.O.B. to work.  Similar to the Zapper, he cannot read the signals from a modern TV.  Certainly, there is a lot of setup required to get R.O.B. up and running in the year 2020.

Getting R.O.B. set up to play Gyromite takes even more work.  There are several required parts that need to be set up.  First up are the gyros.  There are two of them in the set and they are spinning tops.  You can hold the top piece and the rest of the gyro below will spin freely.  Along the robot’s base there are evenly spaced notches numbered 1 through 5 where you attach the parts to R.O.B.  In slot 1 you place the gyro spinner.  This takes 2 D batteries and has a power switch to turn it on.  There’s a motor inside that you’ll hear rev up.  If you place the gyro through the hole on the top it will get it spinning fast.  The next piece goes into slots 2 and 3 together.  It is a rail with blue and red concave buttons and a shallow rectangular slot on the far end.  You take the second controller (don’t forget to plug it in) and stand it up in the rectangular slot.  The arms with the red and blue buttons, when pushed down, also press the A and B buttons on the second controller.  The idea is that once a gyro is spinning up, you can rest it on top of the red and blue button keeping the controller button pressed down.  Another rail goes into the remaining slots 4 and 5.  This is just a holder for the two gyros to get it in R.O.B.’s reach.

Now that R.O.B. and the NES are all set up, it’s time to launch the game and see what we can do with it.  An interesting thing here is that this version of the game is exactly the same in all regions, which is why the title screen reads Robot Gyro, the Famicom’s release name, instead of Gyromite.  After the title screen you get to the main menu.  Press either Up, Down, or Select to choose a menu item, then press Start to select it.  The A and B buttons update the phase number at the top, cycling from 1 through 40.  These are the levels in Game A, so you can choose any stage you want.  The Test mode puts the game on a flashing screen which is used to ensure that R.O.B. is facing the TV correctly and is ready to go.  The Direct mode allows you to test all of R.O.B.’s movements.  You press a directional key to issue Up, Down, Left, or Right commands, A to open his arms, and B to close them.  If the robot responds appropriately to all actions, you are ready to play Gyromite!  Press Select to go back to the menu.

This is probably the most viewed screen in the game.

Game A is the meat of this game.  It be played solo or with a friend in alternating play.  Here you control Professor Hector (or Professor Vector as Player 2) directly to help him remove all the dynamite in the room to prevent a big explosion.  Use the D-pad to move Hector around.  He can climb ropes with Up or Down.  Right off the bat in Phase 1 you are stuck behind a blue column.  To get anywhere in this game you will need to move the red and blue columns littered around the room with R.O.B.’s help.  Press Start to get ready to issue a command to the robot.  This turns the screen a tint of blue and Professor Hector will face the screen awaiting your command.  Press a button after that to do the screen flash and move R.O.B.  You will need to control R.O.B. one movement at a time to grab a gyro and place it on top of the blue button.  While held down, this lowers all the blue columns in the level, giving you a path forward.

There are some other things you’ll need to know to play this game.  The object of the game is to collect all the dynamite to advance to the next stage, simple as that.  This game has one enemy type, named Smick.  He can walk around and climb ropes and is generally in the way.  You lose a life if you touch him.  Smick’s one weakness is turnips, which you can find in the stages.  Use either A or B to grab a turnip off the ground and carry it, then press the button again to set it down.  If Smick finds a turnip he will sit down and eat it for a long time, allowing you to pass by him safely.  You can also fight Smick with the columns themselves.  If timed just right, you can smush him against a wall with a moving column removing him altogether.  You might need some time to strategize how to approach a level.  Press Select to pause the game, then use Left or Right to pan across the entire level.  Be careful when unpausing.  Use Select to resume play or press Start while paused to go back to the main menu.  Each level is timed at a generous 999 that ticks down fairly slowly.  Usually this is more than enough time even with the slow process of using R.O.B.  You get five lives to complete this game.  Lives are kind of useless here because you can select any level you want at any time and the only penalty of losing them all is that your score resets back to 0.

Game B plays differently.  This is another level-based game where Professor Hector is sleepwalking and you have to move the columns to guide him through the level.  Here you control R.O.B.’s movements with the controller exactly like in the Direct mode.  Many of the stages have branching paths, some of which lead the professor directly into a Smick.  Arrow signs along the course help point you in the right direction.  The professor only moves to the right or climbs up a rope any time he finds one.  You can predict where he is going to go and can plan ahead to set up the correct path in front of him.  Some levels even have two exits, a high and low path, that influence where the professor enters the next stage.  This mode has 25 levels, but there are only three lives and you can’t select your starting stage like you can in Game A.  

Sometimes you have to lower both colored pillars together.

I didn’t spend much time with Gyromite prior to playing it here.  I remember playing the game at a babysitter’s house long ago, but there was no robot and I didn’t understand that you needed the second controller to play the game without him.  This is a very common game that is inexpensive, however finding every little thing needed to play this game does not come easy or cheap.  Browsing eBay one day, after I had finished my licensed cart collection, I found a listing for a R.O.B. with all of the Gyromite parts in a lot for $80.  Most sets you’ll see online are incomplete, and the ones that have everything can run you $150 to $200, so this was a very good deal for me.  The Gyromite cart itself also has some more expensive variants.  As an early NES game, some copies have the 60-pin Famicom board inside with a converter to the 72-pin format the NES uses.  You can harvest these converters to play Famicom games on the NES.  These used to be more valuable as these were pretty much the only Famicom-to-NES converters you could find for a long time, but loose Gyromite carts with them still go for around $15-$20.  There is also a 3-screw variant where the Canadian version is relatively common while the US version is quite rare and valuable.

When trying to play this game with R.O.B. for the first time, I soon found out that my robot was not ready for prime time.  During setup he went through all his motions just fine.  During playtime, however, I noticed at times he would struggle to lift a gyro.  I could hear the motors working (My R.O.B.’s motors were particularly loud) so I wasn’t sure what the issue was.  I figured out that if I applied very slight pressure with a finger from underneath his torso when he was going up that I could give him enough of a boost to lift all the way.  I played through several levels this way and was making progress.  I just wasn’t happy with the state of affairs and so I decided to take to the internet and figure out how to go about repairing R.O.B.

The next thing that I learned is that there’s not a plethora of documentation out there on how to do repairs.  I went down just about every rabbit hole I could to figure out the complete picture.  A few links I found led to dead pages.  There were some forum threads and blog posts, some with pictures which was helpful.  Probably the best source is YouTube as I found maybe 8-10 videos of varying quality.  Putting it all together, through many attempts, I was eventually able to get R.O.B. back in order.

Definitely save this stick of dynamite for last.

To the best of my understanding, here is how R.O.B. works internally and how I was able to fix my problem.  There are three motors inside R.O.B.  One is inside R.O.B.’s base.  You can set him upside-down, remove the battery cover, and unscrew the bottom plate.  There’s a covered section inside that you can open up with your screwdriver further that exposes gears and the motor.  This assembly is responsible for twisting his torso left and right.  His control board and wiring are also around here as well.  The remaining two motors and gears are inside of R.O.B.’s body.  For this you still want the robot standing on his head with his arms facing you, but you will also need to support his arms or they will fall out when you open him up, probably scattering several gears on the floor too.  Four NES carts stacked are just the right height to rest the arms while you look inside.  When unscrewed, the bottom cover of the torso has to be held up so you can work inside.  I used a couple of big rubber bands to hold the cover against R.O.B’s base.  Inside here are the remaining two gear sections both connected to an axle in the front.  The left motor opens and closes the arms, while the right motor is responsible for up and down movement.  At first, it’s a little confusing because both motors connect to the common axle.  On the left side, the gear assembly is supposed to be attached to the axle so that it turns the axle which connects to the arm assemblies to open and close the arms.  On the right side, this motor connects to the vertical track that moves the torso vertically, so that gear assembly must spin freely around the axle.  I realize that these text descriptions may not be all that helpful in an actual repair, so please go to YouTube and watch some videos in that case.

The common method for repairing R.O.B. is to super glue some of the gear assemblies together.  The final gear opposite the motor is supposed to be connected to some round metal plates.  Over time the glue can dry out and become brittle, and when it breaks free, it causes R.O.B. to either function poorly or not at all.  The other thing specific to the arm movements is that that gear assembly must also be glued down to the axle for it to work.  That was not my issue, but it is a common one.  This glue fix for the gear assembly connected to the vertical track was what worked for me.  I just applied a few tiny drops of glue to hold together what was supposed to be held together and let it dry for a few hours before trying it out.  I have read however that you really aren’t supposed to do that. There is a thin, curvy metal plate in between some of the parts that is there to apply pressure to help with R.O.B.’s function.  Evidently the proper fix is to get that plate loose and pinch it down a little so that it applies the proper pressure when put back together.  I think those curvy plates are there to help the gears slip if the motors are forced, like if a little kid grabs it and starts pulling or pushing his body or arms the wrong way.  I am probably not explaining that or understanding that correctly.  I’m just mentioning it as a caution that I read about that made sense at the time.  In my opinion, since R.O.B. is so sparingly used as intended these days, the glue fix is fine.  I won’t have any trouble applying more glue if he breaks again down the line, plus I only use him when my kids aren’t around so I’m not worried about forcing the gears.

Do the juggling column act.

My repair experience was not the best, to say the least.  Getting R.O.B. opened up and messing around inside was no trouble at all.  I looked inside before I realized I didn’t have any super glue.  I guess the tube we had dried out.  I made a special trip to the store just for super glue.  (This was before all of the social distancing measures were in effect.)  My wife does not seem to get the importance of repairing a R.O.B. to play NES Gyromite, so explaining this to her was half the battle.  Anyway, I got me a tube of Gorilla Glue.  Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the glue fix and glued the wrong gear assembly to the axle, the one that was not supposed to be stuck to the axle at all.  When put back together R.O.B. didn’t move much at all.  I thought I messed it up for good and was convinced I burned out the motors, which I would not be able to fix or replace.  I took it apart again and managed to break the glue so that gear spun freely again.  At this point I decided to leave things alone as R.O.B. went back to his normal state of good movement but not lifting the gyro.  I got pretty far into the game with giving him lifting assistance like I had been doing.  Then one time out of nowhere, his torso fell all the down and didn’t lift at all.  Great, now he’s broken for real, I thought.  I opened him up one more time, and now I finally saw what came loose.  This time I got the glue in the right spots, put him all back together, and now he works just fine.  I finally have a fully working R.O.B.  I am not a repair kind of guy, so looking back I should have known these tribulations would have happened.

Actually playing all of Gyromite with a functional R.O.B. as originally intended was an interesting experience.  Not necessarily good, just interesting.  You have to train your brain a little to do this.  Getting past the initial blue pillar in Phase 1, for example, takes 10-20 individual movements to pull it off.  Each one requires pressing Start, then a direction or button, then waiting a few seconds for R.O.B. to finish moving so you can trigger the next action.  If you want to spin the gyro for this, that adds another 10 steps or so.  This for me was an obvious strategy, but most of the time you don’t need to spin up a gyro at all.  R.O.B. can hold a gyro and lower it enough in his hands to press the button.  Only in situations where you need both buttons held down together do you need to spin up one gyro, leave it on a button, then go grab the other gyro and hold it down on the other button.  The latter scenario happens far less often than I would have expected. Because of the deliberate nature of the game, I was incentivized to plan ahead and figure out the least amount of movements to grab all of the dynamite. It is also beneficial to play consecutive levels because you may already be set up from the last level to grab some dynamite in the next.  Occasionally there were missteps, such as a gyro falling down or me knocking it over with R.O.B. by accident.  In those cases, I reset the setup by hand and just restarted the stage.

I got the hang of Gyromite pretty quickly and I didn’t think it was a very difficult game.  The first level in Game A is a little bit unfair, especially to kick things off.  Being trapped behind the initial blue pillar is a safe playground to get acquainted with using R.O.B. in a gameplay setting.  Once you get past that though, you are face-to-face with a Smick.  Depending on the timing when you lower the pillar, he might be already on a crash course with you.  At least then the pillar should already be lowered for the next life.  Many levels require only one button pressed to clear the whole thing.  Some later levels have a stick of dynamite placed in a spot where you’ll have to grab it last, otherwise you’ll be stuck and have to reset the level.  A few times you’ll have to set the professor on top a pillar, instruct R.O.B. to raise it, then walk off while it’s moving to grab dynamite in the air before you get squished.  Those parts are a little tricky.  The final level in Game A gave me the most trouble for sure.  It starts with two Smicks nearby and a set of red and blue pipes that require you to juggle two gyros to position them properly to pass.  The way the level is structured you will have to loop through that pipe section twice to get all the dynamite.  This takes a lot of time and I almost didn’t have enough left on the timer to complete everything.  I ended up employing a pause buffering technique to clear it.  Once you issue a command to the robot, you can pause the game to halt the timer while he finishes his seconds-long movement.  I did this for several consecutive moves toward the end of the stage to help keep the timer from running out.  I don’t prefer pause abuse as a strategy in general, but I did it anyway, and I hope this ends up the lone exception across this project.

Game B requires some intuition and some trial-and-error.

Game B is a nice twist that is simpler to play but was more challenging to clear.  Focusing only on moving R.O.B. makes the game more straightforward.  Having only three lives and no level select makes this the harder mode to clear.  In a few stages, I was naturally drawn to the incorrect path leading to a Smick, so I had to memorize those.  Sometimes the professor sleepwalks into a pillar, locking him into place and giving you enough time to open the path for him.  In other cases, you must set up the pillars before he gets there lest you lose him to a Smick.  You’ll have to track out where he is going to end up walking to properly do the necessary setup.  This mode took me a few tries before I cleared it with R.O.B.  The second loop of the game has the professor walking faster.  I only got a few levels in before losing and not trying again.

For my recorded playthrough, I decided to replay the game using both NES controllers by hand and going without R.O.B.  I did borrow his rail and set the second controller into it so I could hit the red and blue buttons.  It just seemed appropriate and a little easier than trying to remember which button does which color.  The game is a lot easier and quicker this way.  I managed to clear all 40 phases in Game A on my initial set of five lives, though I did have to play the last dozen levels on my final life.  I ended up clearing three loops on Game B, though that was on my second R.O.B.-less try.  The professor clearly moves faster between Loops 1 and 2, and on inspection at runtime I thought he also sped up at Loop 3.  I used my recording to time it and found that Loop 3 was 2-3 minutes faster than Loop 2, enough to say that he did walk faster.  Loop 4 did not appear noticeably different and so I let my run end there, but it is certainly possible that he keeps walking faster there too and I just didn’t catch it.  Three loops of Game B are more than enough for me to feel good about completing it.

Gyromite is a pretty good introduction for using R.O.B. despite the fact there are only two games for him.  Gameplay is unique for sure, and I could see how it turned heads at its time.  In reality, the novelty wears off quickly.  Gyromite with R.O.B. becomes tedious.  Without R.O.B., there is really no substance to the game.  As an early NES game, it is a simple game in all aspects that is at least competent in all of them.  The graphics are clear, the music is catchy but repetitive, and the controls work.  That’s really all it has to offer.  For me, it was cool to play this game in its purest form.  It was a neat change of pace from my normal playing and I did enjoy my time with it.  It’s just that there’s no reason to go back to it and no reason for me to recommend playing it.

#148 – Gyromite (Game A)

#148 – Gyromite (Game A)

#148 – Gyromite (Game B)


#147 – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$!

You eeeediot!

Not quite the full title.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 1/31/20 – 2/3/20
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$! Longplay

More cartoon NES games!  I’ve mentioned before that we had cable TV growing up and that I ended up a Nickelodeon kid.  The first wave of Nicktoons, i.e. Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy, got a lot of play in my house in those days.  I tended to glom on more to Doug and Rugrats, and I didn’t find Ren and Stimpy nearly as appealing to me.  But that didn’t mean I didn’t watch the show.  I think this game did a pretty decent job at capturing the look and feel of the show, and it brought back a lot of memories and references I didn’t know I still carried.  Let’s take a look at the game.

The Ren & Stimpy Show was created for Nickelodeon by John Kricfalusi, debuting in August of 1991.  It stars Ren the chihuahua and Stimpy the cat, following their random adventures.  Kricfalusi voiced Ren while Stimpy’s voice actor was Billy West.  Kricfalusi left the show in 1992 due to contentions with Nickelodeon, and Billy West became the voice for both characters after that.  The show ran from 1991 to 1996, spanning 5 seasons and 52 episodes.  This show was very controversial at the time with its gross humor, use of violence, and adult themes.  In spite of the controversies, Ren & Stimpy translated into high ratings for Nickelodeon as well as critical acclaim, and it had lasting influence in animation for years to come.

The Ren & Stimpy Show garnered several video games bearing its name between 1992 and 1994.  There were two games on Game Boy: Space Cadet Adventures and Veediots!  Two more Sega Genesis titles were Stimpy’s Invention and Quest for the Shaven Yak Starring Ren Hoek & Stimpy, the latter also appearing on Game Gear.  The SNES had four Ren & Stimpy games: Veediots!, Buckeroo$!, Fire Dogs, and Time Warp.  There was just one Ren & Stimpy title on the NES.  The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$! released on the NES in November 1993.  The game was developed by Imagineering and published by THQ.  It was not released on NES in other territories.

A machine that prints money, that’s genius!

The story for Buckaroo$! begins with Stimpy’s new invention, the Gametron 5000 Moneymaker.  Long before livestreaming was ever conceived, this new machine pays out money the more you play video games.  It comes with three different games: Space Madness, Out West, and Robin Hoek of Logwood Forest.  Of course, Ren is all about this so that he can make as much money as possible, so he and Stimpy play out these three different games.  These subgames are merely level themes in the actual game as you will transition to a different one from level to level.  There are about sixteen areas in the game of varying theme and length, and you beat the game after clearing them all.

Buckaroo$! is an action platformer game.  You use the D-pad to walk around, as usual.  In some cases, you’ll use Up and Down to climb on poles and such.  You can also use Up and Down to scroll the screen a little bit when it’s needed.  After the title screen, you can pick from one of four button layouts for your main actions.  The actions are jump, use a weapon, or run.  Jump and Weapon are always on separate buttons, but otherwise you can map whatever you want to either A or B with the options.  You can aim your weapons upward by holding Up with the weapon button.  The Select button is used for changing your weapons.  Finally, press Start to pause.

The limited heads-up display is shown in the upper left corner of the screen.  A pink thermometer displays the amount of health you have.  Below that is the weapon selected and its corresponding ammo.  You have a default weapon that doesn’t use any ammo so that won’t show up if selected.  There is different info displayed if you pause your game.  You can see your score, number of lives, and number of money bags collected.  For every 30 money bags you snag, you get an extra life.

Use tools to escort Ren to the exit door.

The first and most prevalent of the three game modes is Space Madness.  In this mode, you control Stimpy guiding Ren on an escort mission to the exit door in the level.  Yep, an escort mission.  Ren walks back and forth like a lemming, occasionally getting into trouble by creating new enemies or not going where you want him to go.  Stimpy’s default attack is a hairball projectile that travels in a small arc.  You can use this to beat up enemies or hit Ren with it to push him around.  You can change his direction by hitting him in the front or you can make him go faster by hitting him from behind.  The special weapons are used to manipulate Ren.  Dirty socks stop Ren from moving, litter boxes turn him around when touched, and springs make Ren do a huge jump forward.

In the first stage, those items are all you need to clear it.  There is a giant teleporter in the middle of the room that blocks Ren’s path.  You need to guide Ren toward a spring you put in front of it so that he’ll jump over it to the other side.  Stimpy, however, when he approaches the teleporter, gets sent off to a space shooting mini-game.  You take control of a very large ship and you have to blast all of the enemies in your path to get through.  Press the weapon button to fire straight fireballs, just about as many as you want.  The enemies will loop around the screen until you beat them all to reveal the next wave.  You can also pick up bags of kitty litter to increase your health, as well as money bags, but you can shoot and destroy them as well.  Once the shooting segment is over, now you can pass across the teleporter and Ren will still be over there.  Use the items to guide him all the way to the door.  There will be more space shooting in the other levels, don’t worry.

Later Space Madness levels have some additional items and elements to them.  Some of the escort levels are in pretty large rooms where you can easily lose track of Ren.  The decoder ring item will slide the camera over to Ren so you can see where he is.  The beaver is a very useful item that chews a hole in the floor that Stimpy and Ren can fall through.  This is an essential item for reaching certain exit doors.  Many Space Madness levels feature these vertical pipes that suck you up or down to different floors within the stage.  A few levels also have these buttons that affect the entire room.  Ren always pushes these on contact but Stimpy can engage them as well.  One button reverses your directional controls, another doubles movement speed, another turns the color off leaving the game in grayscale, stuff like that.  It can get out of hand quickly if Ren is left to his own devices.  Good luck with these levels.

This is definitely fitting of the old west.

The next game mode is Out West.  This is a straightforward type of level where all you need to do is go from left to right.  In this mode you start off as Ren, who only wields a short-range slap attack.  Collect a wanted poster and you can switch characters to Stimpy, who has his normal spitball attack.  You can collect more posters to swap back and forth between characters.  Each character has his own set of items that often mirror each other in effect.  For instance, Ren collects ham to increase his health while Stimpy gets bags of cat treats.  Stimpy gets smelly socks again as a special weapon in these stages, while Ren collects apples.  Many of these stages end with a final enemy encounter, and when you beat them, money bags rain down from the sky for awhile.

The third game mode is Robin Hoek.  Here you play only as Ren.  These are also straightforward stages only you don’t switch characters.  There are a few elements you’ll have to contend with here that are different from the Out West stages.  There’s a large section where you have to climb up a set of buildings by jumping up awnings and landing on window ledges.  You will need to switch buildings to find an awning to bounce you high enough, and it is tough to jump across and land on the tiny ledges.  There are also clotheslines that you have to tightrope-walk on, sort of.  You will fall through if you aren’t moving, otherwise it is treated as a normal ledge.

You begin the game with three lives in reserve.  You can collect more lives by collecting enough money bags.  The Out West and Robin Hoek levels have random checkpoints scattered throughout and you will respawn there upon losing a life.  If you run out of lives altogether, you can continue from the start of the current stage.  You can continue three times before you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

This is the first time I’ve played Buckaroo$!.  The only Ren & Stimpy game I ever remember playing before this was Space Cadet Adventures on Game Boy, and that one I don’t remember all that fondly.  Buckaroo$! is an uncommon NES game but isn’t terribly expensive at around $12-$15.  My first copy had some label issues and eventually I picked up a nicer copy.  I remember having a little bit of a time tracking this game down.  Even though it is moderately priced and readily available, I am always looking out for a deal, and that didn’t come for quite some time.  My first copy came in a lot purchase and I am less concerned about condition when buying in bulk.  Later I caught the game solo for a lower-end price on eBay.

I’m not sure if Robin Hood would have put up with all this.

I can see where this game would give someone a lot of trouble trying to beat it.  The first stage alone is quite unclear on what you need to do.  Without the manual I would have played the space shooting over and over until I realized you need to launch Ren past it so that you can exit the level.  Really all the Space Madness levels can get out of hand if you don’t have a clear plan on what to do and where to go.  The other game modes suffer majorly from not having clear rules on what you can stand on and what you can’t.  A lot of incidental graphics are actually ledges, while such things like doors really stand out but then they aren’t solid at all.  On top of that, many ledges are tiny to land on and the jumping in this game is not exactly precise.  Vertical sections can be tricky.  There is also fall damage done in a sort of unpolished way.  When falling from a tall height, the speed the character falls is faster than the scrolling speed.  If you fall from too high, you go below the bottom of the screen and the game interprets that the same as you falling into a pit.  Anyway, missing jumps is bad.

In spite of all the challenges, I got through this game pretty easily.  On my second day of playing, I cleared the game, and then the next time I recorded a full longplay without using a continue.  I had a few deaths and some backtracking in the larger Space Madness stages, but those were the only blemishes on the run that I remembered.  I beat the game in a little over 40 minutes with only a couple of hours of game time building up to that.  A 6/10 difficulty rating seems right for this game.  That slots in between Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, two other platformers by the same developer.

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$! is a platformer out of the vein of other mascot platformers of the early to mid-‘90s.  It features stylized graphics modeling the characters from the show, and I think it looks pretty good on the NES hardware.  The music is pretty decent and blends in well with the gameplay.  The controls have the same feel as the aforementioned Bart vs. the Space Mutants.  That is not a note of praise by any stretch, but it does feel a little bit better than Bart.  Gameplay in this one is varied with the escort sections, the space shooter sections, and the expansive, pure platforming stages, with a few one-offs in between.  Thankfully the stages aren’t gigantic, sprawling mazes that have frustrated me in similar platformers of the past, though the windy Space Madness stages touch on that pattern a little bit.  The unclear ledges, big jumps to tiny ledges, and escort missions degrade this game in my eyes.  This isn’t a great game, but it ended up better than I anticipated.

#147 – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$!


#146 – Arch Rivals

You gotta beat down before you get beat down.

Punching right through the basketball!

To Beat: Win a game
Played: 1/27/20
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Arch Rivals Longplay

Prior to this project, the only basketball video game I ever really played was NBA Jam.  I have had a lot of fun with that game, shoving guys around, stealing the ball, and going in for the big dunk.  Now that I have played a few more games that came before it, I am starting to build an understanding of how they paved the way to NBA Jam.  Back when I reviewed Magic Johnson’s Fast Break, I noted how it felt a little bit like NBA Jam but without all the visceral actions.  Arch Rivals is a much bigger step forward and feels a lot like a prototype for NBA Jam.

Arch Rivals originated in the arcades in 1989.  The game was developed and published by Midway.  Jeff Nauman and Brian Colin are credited as co-developers, with Jeff Nauman doing the programming and Brian Colin creating the art.  Dan Forden is listed as the composer.  The NES port of the game was programmed by Rare and published by Acclaim, releasing in North America in November 1990 and in PAL territories in 1991.  In 1992 the game was ported to both the Sega Genesis and Game Gear.  Arch Rivals also re-appeared in a few different Midway game compilations.

After booting up the game, the first thing you’ll do is set up the game on the selection screen.  There are six different teams in the game, but they only amount to a palette swap.  Press B to switch between pairings of teams until you get to the setup you want.  The A button brings you to some instructions screens so you can learn from the game without needing the manual.  Neat!  The Select button switches between single player and two player modes.  The Start button advances you ahead to the player selection screen.

The teams are angry about being palette swaps.

Regardless of team, you can select from one of eight players to control.  Each player has a character portrait and a short description of his attributes.  Tyrone is the defensive giant.  Vinnie is a great player!  Hammer is the rebound king.  Moose is a real champ.  Lewis is a top shooter.  Blade is a crowd pleaser.  Mohawk is tough and mean.  And finally, Reggie is All-American.  Really stirring stuff here, am I right?  Anyway, choose the player you want and press Start.  For my game I chose Lewis because I always like to have a good shooter.

This is a pretty simple basketball game with one big gimmick.  Games are played two-on-two, you only play single games, each quarter is four minutes long, and there are no difficulty levels.  What sets this game apart is that you can hit and shove your opponents freely without fouling.  I mean, this is called out as “A BasketBrawl” after all.  The manual mentions a shot clock violation as the only penalty but I’m not sure even that exists in this game.  Every time someone scores, you’ll see a brief animation of either one of the coaches or a cheerleader, something like that.  I think that serves the purpose of lengthening the game since contests are short and the action is quick.

The control scheme depends largely on who is holding the ball.  On offense, you press A to shoot and B to pass.  When you are near the basket you will dunk the ball instead.  If your teammate has the ball, you can direct him to shoot and pass with A and B respectively.  If you have the ball, you can do a fakeout move by holding down B, then A to shoot.  After shooting the ball, either you or your teammate, you can press A to jump to try and recover a rebound.  On defense, you press A to jump or use B to fight your opponents.  Press and hold B to “charge up,” then release B to deliver a punch, hopefully clocking the opponent and letting the ball loose.  If you hold B and press A instead, you will do a lunge move.  You can use the lunge to steal the ball away, but if you miss you roll on the ground and lose control of your player for a little bit.

Try to knock over the ball carrier.

There are a few minor things during gameplay to be made aware of.  This game scrolls the length of the court, so sometimes you or your teammate will be off-screen.  In this case, an arrow will show where the player is positioned.  The referee is pretty useless in the game with not calling any fouls, and he will often get in the way of the action.  If you collide with the ref, you get knocked down and you’ll lose your ball.  Sometimes people in the crowd toss out trash onto the court and that will trip you up the same way.  Another purely cosmetic thing you can do is that sometimes during a dunk the backboard will shatter.  I loved doing that in NBA Jam.

There are some small events between quarters to break up the action.  In between the first and third quarters, you will get a small word from their sponsors, as well as some brief gameplay tips.  At halftime, you get a very short halftime show from the cheerleading squad.  The end of game features those sweet, sweet statistics.  You can enter your high score on the leaderboard, which is how many points your player scored.  Next, you’ll see stats from the game.  They are points scored, shot percentage, steals, and rebounds, which are compared to some fictitious averages.  Finally, you’ll see where you ranked on the leaderboard.  Very exciting!

This was my first time playing through Arch Rivals, as it was my first time for all these NES basketball games.  I first bought this game at my local store back when they had cheap and plentiful NES games.  I don’t remember for sure if this was a $3 or $5 game, but I bought it with others Buy 3 Get 1 Free which is always nice when you can cherry pick your titles.  I got a few additional copies through buying lots.

This was the start of my comeback.

For this game, I had to use different strategies from my normal approach to basketball games.  My game plan is always to shoot threes, as often as possible.  For my player I chose Lewis as he is of course the “Top Shooter.”  This was the first time that my strategy let me down.  I had a really hard time getting open just to shoot the three, and when I did I missed most of the time.  I can’t tell if it was because I didn’t have a clear shot, didn’t time the shot well, or didn’t find the right spot.  My plan wasn’t working and I was losing badly.  Early in the 3rd quarter, I was down 36-21, which was when I finally figured out the trick.  Naturally it was right in front of me the whole time.  This is a game where you can foul freely, so at every opportunity I started punching the other team.  When they held the ball, I punched.  After they shot, I punched.  While waiting for the rebound, I punched.  When I got the ball, I tried to dunk which seemed to be the most effective method of scoring.  After scoring, when the other team gets the ball, that ended up being the perfect time to punch the ball away and dunk immediately, forming a nice scoring loop.  I mounted my comeback at that point, winning the game 65-54.

Arch Rivals is a little bit different from your normal NES basketball game, and certainly it is the predecessor to NBA Jam.  I would say the game has good presentation, with features like the in-game manual, a nice cast of characters to choose from, and some animated spectators in the background.  The music does not play a main role in the game, but it is fine nevertheless.  The gameplay is fast action.  Two-on-two suits this game well, though there is a lot of flickering especially when the players are all clumped together.  Punching takes a little while to get used to because it triggers when you release the button, not when you press it.  It’s such a vital weapon that you’ll figure it out.  The way I played the game mirrored how I used to play NBA Jam: Constantly knock guys over to steal the ball, then dunk.  In one way it felt right at home, but in another way it felt weird to deviate from my normal strategy that has worked in other NES basketball games.  This is not a bad game at all.  I don’t think it would hold up for repeated play, but one time through was nice.

#146 – Arch Rivals

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#145 – The Magic of Scheherazade

Come with me on a genre-blending adventure.

Always choose Fast!

To Beat: Reach the Ending
Played: 1/9/20 – 1/26/20
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: The Magic of Scheherazade Longplay

I think it’s common to form a pre-conceived notion about a piece of media before you experience it yourself.  This feels especially true about movies with all the teaser trailers and YouTube video dissections going on today, but I think it applies to games as well.  The Magic of Scheherazade on NES isn’t often talked about within retro gaming circles.  Before playing it, from what I could tell, it was regarded as a fun game and looks to play similarly to The Legend of Zelda or Crystalis.  That was enough to pique my interest.  As it turns out, this game still had ways to surprise me.

The Magic of Scheherazade was first released on the Famicom as Arabian Dream Scheherazade in September 1987.  The game was both developed and published by Culture Brain.  The NES version was released over two years later in December 1989.  The reason for that is the game was massively overhauled for the NES release, changing everything such as the graphics, music, level design, and progression.  A sequel was planned but never released, nor has this game seen any kind of re-release.

This game is loosely based on the Middle Eastern folklore collection One Thousand and One Nights.  The set of stories in the collection are all framed around a single story featuring a woman named Scheherazade.  In this story, the king Shahryah discovers his wife has been unfaithful, so he has her killed, marries a virgin every day, and has her killed the next day.  This goes on for 1001 days until Scheherazade offers to spend a night with the king.  She tells him a story but stops halfway.  The king wants to know how the story ends, so he spares her until the next night.  She then finishes the story but starts up another more interesting tale, again stopping partway.  This goes on for 1001 nights, at which point the king spares her permanently and makes her the queen.

You’ll get sucked in!

The story of the NES game centers around the great magician Isfa.  He battles and defeats the great demon Goragora, sealing him and other demons away underground.  The evil wizard Sabaron eventually comes around and frees the demons.  You play as a descendant of Isfa who alone holds the power to defeat Sabaron, but unfortunately, his memory has been lost, his powers are gone, his princess Scheherazade has been captured, and he has been sent to a completely different time period.  Talk about a bad day!  He is found by the time spirit Coronya who can help the hero travel through the time door.  To defeat Sabaron and save Scheherazade, the hero goes on a time travelling journey joining up with many different allies to help him regain his powers.  This is a chapter based game and you beat the game once you complete the fifth chapter.

On the title screen, you can adjust the text speed from either Slow, Normal, or Fast, and then select to Start a new game or Continue an existing one.  When starting a new game, first enter in your name up to four characters long.  Then you choose your class from the choices Fighter, Saint, or Magician.  Fighters are good with swords and can get little fireballs firing from swords later in the game, but they are not skilled with the magic rod.  The magician is the inverse; he is good with the rod but not so much with the sword.  He is also best suited to fight the bosses.  The saint is kind of an in-between character.  He is not that great offensively, but he can make use of special items to reflect enemy bullets and be spared from damage when touching certain ground tiles.  Shopkeepers may give discounts to certain classes as well.  Don’t worry too much about making a bad decision upfront because you can change your class later.

This game controls like a normal action game, for the most part.  You move Isfa in four directions with the D-pad.  No diagonal movement here.  The A and B buttons are for your actions.  By default, A jumps and B lets you speak to people you find.  The Start button brings you to what the game calls the Select screen.  Maybe not the best choice of name.  Anyway, the Select screen lets you reassign the action buttons.  There is a list of items for the A button and a separate list for the B button.  The A button list is mostly dedicated to spells, while the B button is for your weapons, speaking, or other consumable items.  The Jump action can be assigned to either button or both.  Go through the list, then press A to assign that item to its button.  When you’re done, press Start to go back.  Pressing Select during the game brings you to the subscreen.  There’s a lot of information here.  You can see your list of allies, a map for some sections, your spell list, your items, and your equipment, among other things.

That guy’s gonna get a face full of magic.

Most of the time you will be on the action screen.  The bottom display shows some stats as you play.  You see your current class as well as your experience level.  You see which actions you have assigned to A and B.  Next are your Hit Points and Magic Points, labeled H and M.  Then you see your total experience points and how much money you have.  Finally, you see counts of some of your consumable items.  The left items are your keys and amulets, and the right items are your bread and mashroob.  Keys are for opening locked doors in the palaces at the end of each chapter.  Amulets keep you from being transformed by an enemy and are used automatically as needed.  Bread heals HP and mashroob restores MP, and they are consumed automatically if you run out of either one.

Each of the game’s chapters is self-contained, and they often follow a similar structure.  You start off in a town and you can gather information from the townspeople about what is bothering them and what to do next.  You venture out of the town going screen by screen.  Many of these screens contain enemies that you can fight for experience points, using either your sword or rod.  Sometimes defeated enemies drop money, or occasionally health and magic pickups.  Eventually you gain experience levels where you gain more max HP, max MP, and sometimes power upgrades to your rod and sword or new spells.  You find other towns to advance the story and recruit allies to join you.  Out and about, sometimes Coronya will alert you to use the magic of Oprin to reveal a staircase.  One of these staircases leads to a time door.  Depending on the situation, taking the door will either put you back in time or send you ahead in time.  You can move between time periods freely through the door.  The maps in both time periods have similarities but have changed a little due to the passage of time.  By visiting towns and following leads, you will eventually make your way to a temple or palace where you square off against a powerful demon at the end of the chapter.

Sometimes between screens outside of town, you can trigger a random RPG battle against a set of enemies.  From the start, you can choose to fight, try and escape, or try and make peace with the enemy via a charitable contribution of your own cash.  If you can’t get away, you’ll have to fight.  You can choose up to two of your allies to join you in battle.  You may also pick from a pre-determined formation, provided you have already learned about the formation outside of battle and have the allies that are part of the formation.  You can also fight alone if you want.  Before the fight, the game distributes your bread and mashroob automatically between you and your allies only for the duration of the fight.  You can adjust the distribution as you desire.  If you have hired troopers, they will also appear for your fight.  Now you are finally ready to battle.

Gather a team for some RPG battles.

The battles themselves play out like standard turn-based RPG battles.  For your and your allies, you choose to attack with one of your weapons or cast a spell.  Troopers only attack, though their attacks are strong.  If you selected a formation for this fight, you can choose to cast combined magic.  These powerful spells are cast as a team and they work best against specific sets of enemies that you’ll learn about when you learn about the formation.  In winning a battle, you are awarded with experience points and money, and occasionally a free item.  I’ve learned these battles are the best way to earn money, so usually they are worth it.

The towns contain some locations that help you in your journey.  Use shops to buy items.  You can try haggling with the shopkeeper to reduce your cost, but he can threaten you out of the shop and take some of your cash in the process, so be wary.  You can also take out loans from the shopkeeper.  I never took advantage of this in the game, but it can be helpful if cash is tight.  You will have to pay interest, and if you borrow too much you can’t borrow any more.  You can also get locked out of buying items and supposedly lose the game entirely if you don’t pay it back.  Hotels in towns restore all HP and MP for you and all your allies.  You can gamble money in the casino, but not if you set your class to Saint.  The troopers’ office lets you hire troopers for the turn-based battles.  The mosque gives you some additional options.  Here you can change your class or revive allies for a fee, or you can get your password for later play.  The last place you can find in the towns is the Magic University.  This is where you learn about the formations and combined magic for the turn-based battles as well as the Grand Magic that you can learn in each chapter.

There are a bunch of spells in this game.  I found this the most confusing part of this game because they have strange names and I found it hard to connect the names with what they do.  The one I used the most was Pampoo, which restores 20 HP during battle or 10 HP in the field.  Bolttor and Flamol are lightning and fire spells that get powered up twice during the game.  Mymy turns enemies during turn-based battles into hamburgers, stopping them for a few turns.  Defenee cuts damage taken in half for the entire turn-based battle.  Sillert is a reflect magic spell.  There are other spells, but this is just an example of how confusing these can be and how the manual really helps sort out what they are.

It’s not nighttime, just the solar eclipse.

There’s another mechanic in the game called the Alalart Solar Eclipse.  This event happens periodically during your adventure, dimming the screen colors a little bit for effect.  There are things you can do only during the eclipse.  In each chapter, you will find a wise man who will give you Grand Magic.  These are single-use spells that can only be cast during the eclipse.  These spells can change the landscape of the map, revive your fallen allies, and other powerful things.  The eclipse is the best time to visit the casino as you will have great luck gambling.  You can also create a money tree.  You need a Rupia’s seed to do this, which you can buy in some shops.  There is a specific place on the map where you need to plant the seed and you need to do so in the past during the eclipse.  When you visit that same place in the future, a money tree will have grown, and you get to collect a bunch of cash when harvesting it.
The end of each chapter culminates in a boss battle against one of the demons.  There are a few things to keep in mind.  You will have to explore a palace that is sort of like a Legend of Zelda inspired dungeon.  If you purchased a map this chapter, this is what it’s for.  Some items you buy are used here specifically.  For instance, keys open locked doors (though many can be opened without them), and horns can help you fight some gatekeepers in some of the rooms.  When you make your way to the demon, often you need a specific ally available to help fight with you or even trigger the demon to appear.  You will want to be in the Magician class since the demons are best fought with the rod and the Magician is the best with that.

The game has a lives system, on top of everything else.  It is kind of a weird choice, especially since you auto-heal with bread.  During the action scenes, you can fall or jump into water which is instant death.  In turn-based combat, sometimes an enemy will hit you or your party with an instant-death spell.  You get three lives with no opportunities to gain more.  Running out of lives gives you a password, which happens to be the most convenient way to get one.  If you keep playing, you will resume at the starting town of that chapter with all of your items, experience, and gold intact.

The password system has some interesting quirks to it.  Passwords vary in length depending on where you are in the game.  I’ve had passwords lengths of 35 characters up to 43 characters.  This is a game where the passwords encode exact amounts of stats.  This is the first game I’ve heard of that has a password failsafe built in just in case you fail password entry three times.  From what I’ve read, the game prompts you for your name and class, then puts you at the start of the chapter you are on with minimal equipment.  Much better than starting over, that’s for sure.

Nothing better than a good boss battle.

This was my first time playing through The Magic of Scheherazade.  I read about this game a little bit in old gaming magazines and it looked interesting.  I did not get a copy of the game until my collecting days in adulthood.  I am not sure where I bought my first copy of the game, but I did track down an extra one later that came with the travel map.  The cart and map cost me $10, not a bad deal at all.  Even though I wanted that map specifically, I didn’t use it at all for my playthrough of the game.

I decided for this playthrough that I would record the entire thing and post up a true longplay on YouTube.  I tend to shy away from that because I often play games in short bursts and there’s a lot of overhead when I have to set everything up for video capture.  I don’t have a dedicated recording or streaming setup at my house.  I set my laptop up in the family room to record, then take it all back down later so my kids aren’t tripping over wires.  Despite all that, it is a good idea to try something different. In the long run, it will be better to have full recordings for long games.  This was a good guinea pig since the game isn’t terribly long, but long enough that I would not be able to beat it on one sitting on my second try.

I would say my playthrough of the game for the first time playing is pretty average.  I spent 10 hours playing through this game, fewer than I thought.  There were a few hangups that I remember, mostly minor things.  In Chapter 3, I got stuck for a little while and kind of wandered the map until I realized I needed to change my class to advance the plot.  Some of the demon fights I did not understand the first time through, so I spun my wheels and messed around until I figured it all out.  I got lost in a few of the maps.  Some of the maze areas have hidden holes that take you out of the maze entirely.  It took quite a few tries on some of them to figure out how to get through.  I often backtrack short distances and test out different branching paths just to be sure I’m not missing anything that I would have a hard time coming back to later.  There was also time lost to context switching.  Because I played in shorter sessions, there was more backtracking to the mosque to get my password, and then the next session I needed a little extra time to reorient myself to my current situation.  These kinds of things are bound to happen in a blind playthrough on my schedule.  I don’t expect anyone to actually watch my longplay, but now that I’ve done a full, long game, I’m happy to have the archive of it available.

The Magic of Scheherazade can probably be classified as a hidden gem on the NES.  The graphics and music are mostly well done, just a little on the simpler side.  The controls work well, and I like that you can configure your action buttons, though being able to assign any command to either button would have been a nice improvement.  Jumping can be a little wonky at time, particularly in the towns around townspeople.  Minor issues aside, the gameplay is where this game really shines.  There are so many different systems at play, and once you break through in understanding how it works, the variety of gameplay and the amount of content really drive the experience.  There’s a wide cast of characters so you can configure your party whichever way you want.  You have plenty of options with the different spells and weapons at your disposal.  There’s time travel!  There are mappable dungeons with cool boss battles at the end.  There’s a lot here, almost too much at times.  The game has just the right amount of length and you are almost always making progress, which sure feels good.  This is a neat game and I’m glad I got to experience it all.

#145 – The Magic of Scheherazade


#144 – Wheel of Fortune


You get to hear it here, too.

To Beat: Win the Bonus Round
To Complete: Beat the Game on Difficulty 3
What I Did: Completed the Game
Played: 1/6/20
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Wheel of Fortune Longplay

Game show games were quite popular on the NES with over a dozen titles on the console.  Looking at the list, I would say there is a good mix of games here.  Some of them are from short-lived game shows that just happened to be airing at the time.  Others were from shows that I suppose were only popular enough to generate exactly one NES game, even though some of them have had the staying power on TV up to the current day.  The bulk of NES game show games come from two juggernauts of TV game shows.  Both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune generated four NES games each, and both series are still running strong as ever.  I have completed one Jeopardy! game to date and now I get to see what Wheel of Fortune on NES has to offer.

Wheel of Fortune has had a somewhat complicated history.  The show was created by Merv Griffin and premiered on NBC daytime TV in 1975, shortly after the first run of Jeopardy! was cancelled.  Chuck Woolery was the original host, Susan Stafford was the original hostess, and Charlie O’Donnell was the original narrator.  The daytime version ran until 1989, switched to CBS until 1991, then back to NBC briefly until it was cancelled for good later in 1991.  Meanwhile, a nighttime syndicated version debuted in 1983 with Pat Sajak as the host and Vanna White as the hostess.  This version of the show is still running with the same two hosts.  Pat Sajak, as of September 2019, is now the longest running host of any game show.

There has been a slew of Wheel of Fortune games based on the familiar syndicated TV version, too many games to list.  The series almost started out on the Atari 2600 in 1983, but that version was cancelled.  The first video game adaptation appeared in 1987 on personal computers, developed by Sharedata and published by Gametek.  This version was ported to the NES by Rare and published by Gametek for release in September 1988.  The NES version is exclusive to North America.  There would be three more NES versions of Wheel of Fortune released between 1989 and 1992.

Samantha and Rachel don’t stand a chance.

Wheel of Fortune is pretty much a game show version of hangman for three contestants.  A word puzzle is placed on the main board with all letters hidden and a clue is provided, such as person, phrase, thing, etc.  Each player on her turn may spin the wheel to determine a potential cash prize value.  When a dollar value is spun, the contestant guesses a consonant.  If the letter is found in the puzzle, she wins that amount of money for each occurrence of that letter as that letter is revealed on the puzzle.  From there, she may spin again, spend some of her winnings to buy a vowel, or choose to solve the puzzle.  Any miss passes control to the next player.  When a puzzle is solved, only the winning player’s money for the round is added to her total.  After several rounds, a speed-up round is played with slightly different rules.  The contestant with the most money goes on to the bonus round, and she wins a fabulous prize if she guesses the final puzzle.  To beat this game, you need to win a single game as one of the contestants, including the bonus round.

First you need to set the options to start the game.  This starts with choosing the number of players from 1 to 3.  Players 1 and 3 share controller 1 while Player 2 gets controller 2.  Computer players will cover any remaining players so that all games are three player games.  In that case, you also choose a difficulty level from 1 to 3 of the computer players.  Next, each human player enters a name up to 8 characters.  Use the D-pad Left or Right to move the cursor and press either A or B to enter a letter.  An arrow at the end of the letter list is the backspace, and you will select End to lock in your choice.  Gameplay starts after all names have been entered and randomly selected names for computer players appear at this time.

Typically, on your turn, you will want to choose spin, which brings up the big wheel on the screen.  A power meter is displayed and you press A or B to spin when it reaches the desired power level.  As the wheel spins there is a box at the top that shows what is on the current space on the wheel.  Most of the time this is a dollar amount ranging from $150 to $1000.  If you land on Miss a Turn, play passes to the next contestant.  The bankrupt space is the same as missing a turn, only you also lose your accrued winnings for the round.  It does not affect any money won in prior rounds.  There is also a Free Spin space.  You can hold your free spin and redeem it any time you lose your turn to try again.  If you spin a dollar value, then you get to choose a consonant.  The list of letters appears along with the puzzle and any letters already chosen for that round are removed from possible selection.  You do have a short time limit to choose your letter, else you forfeit your turn.

Try and aim for the big dollar values.

The other two options on your turn are to buy a vowel or solve the puzzle.  It costs $250 of the current round’s winnings to buy a vowel and you earn nothing no matter how many times the vowel is in the puzzle.  Missing with a vowel also ends your turn.  When solving the puzzle, you get 45 seconds to choose letters filling in all the missing spaces in the puzzle.  Take care to spell everything correctly because it has to be an exact match for you to win.  Choose End when you are confident you solved it correctly.  A correct solving ends the round, while a miss moves play to the next contestant.

While the TV version may play a different number of rounds depending on time, the NES version has set rounds.  Rounds 1 and 2 are handled the same way.  An empty puzzle is displayed and players take turns until the puzzle is solved.  In Round 1, player 1 goes first, and in Round 2, player 2 goes first.  Round 3 is the Speed Up round.  To start, the wheel spins until a dollar amount comes up.  That dollar amount is fixed for the duration of the round for all contestants.  Player 3 starts this round by choosing any letter.  Consonants are awarded money same as normal, and vowels award no money but can be chosen for free.  After selection, the contestant has a few seconds to decide whether or not to solve the puzzle.  As long as the puzzle remains unsolved, play continues immediately to the next player and keeps going until someone gets it right.

The player with the highest total winnings over all three rounds gets to play solo in the bonus round.  Before playing, you get to choose what prize you want to shoot for.  The selection for this is a little strange.  You see the first prize, a sports car, and you decide if you want to choose a different prize or not.  Choose Yes to go to the next prize and choose No to select.  Seems like it should be the reverse.  Anyway, after prize selection, you get a brand new puzzle and you get to choose five consonants and a vowel.  Any of the chosen letters are revealed in the puzzle and you get your one chance to solve the puzzle.  Get it right and you are the big winner!  After some brief fanfare, you go back to the title screen.

I still don’t know who he is.

It’s possible I have beaten Wheel of Fortune before.  I think I played it when I was younger, at least one of the NES versions.  It is a fun enough game and it is also very common.  Due to the ongoing popularity of the show I imagine it sold very well.  I’m pretty sure I have a few extra loose copies of this game around my house that I need to get rid of.

Wheel of Fortune is an easy clear.  A playthrough takes around 10 minutes depending on how the puzzles go.  Just keep trying until you win.  For my playthrough, I set the difficulty to 3, the highest level.  The game manual doesn’t elude to the difficulty levels at all, but I suspect it means that computer players are more likely to solve puzzles with fewer letters revealed on harder modes.  It took me five attempts to win the game.  Most of the time, I figured out the answer to a puzzle about the same time the computer solved it.  I didn’t win a single puzzle until my third try when I won all three puzzles and lost on the bonus round.  I chose RSTLNE, just like the default letters in the current show, but it didn’t do much help when the answer was Windshield Wiper.  On my winning run I got really lucky.  I knew the answer in the second round without any letters revealed, which was quite an exciting feeling.  In the bonus round I had 7 of 10 letters revealed for an easy finish.

A cousin of mine was on Wheel of Fortune years ago.  I think it was in 2004 or so.  I know I was in college at the time.  Her taping was on air on a Friday night and I stuck around a mostly empty dorm to watch it on TV.  The only place I could watch it was on the common room TV and the signal to the screen was just horrible.  People on the first floor used to splice the cable signal from the common TV to their own rooms, which didn’t help me out at all.  But it was good enough to watch the show.  The best part is that she won the game and the bonus round.  It is something special to watch a game show when the stakes are raised personally because you know the person playing.  I won’t forget it.  We were all very proud for her for being on the show at all and it was icing on the cake when she won.  I talked to my grandparents the next day.  My grandpa taped the show and made a bunch of copies and my grandma said she cried every time she watched it because he had to test out all the tapes.  Good stuff.

Wheel of Fortune on NES is a good adaptation of the show.  The rules and gameplay are mostly unchanged from current day, but there are plenty of new features in the show that obviously wouldn’t have appeared on the NES cart.  It represents a snapshot in time of how the game was played back then and you can see clearly how it has evolved since.  The game itself plays well, it has nice graphics and sound, and it can give you a challenge if you want one.  There are voice samples of the crowd yelling out the title.  You get a power meter to strategize how hard you want to spin.  Even the alerts of consonants only or vowels only are included.  The only downsides I see here are that some of the puzzles are outdated and that you eventually will see repeats among the 1000 or so puzzles in the game.  It’s not a modern way of playing the game, but it still works.

#144 – Wheel of Fortune

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#143 – Snake Rattle N Roll

Sneaky snakes slither surrounding slippery slopes.

Look at those good snake-y boys!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/29/19 – 1/5/20
Difficulty: 9/10
My Difficulty: 8/10
My Video: Snake Rattle N Roll Longplay

I love 3D platformers.  It’s one of my favorite genres of games that I know I don’t play near enough of given my interest level.  I have completed all of the mainline 3D Mario games 100% multiple times over, and I was also big into the N64 collect-a-thon games like Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Kazooie.  Some NES developers went out of their way to implement pseudo 3D effects in games, some more explicit like in Marble Madness and some more subtle like the areas in Contra.  Snake Rattle N Roll is the closest thing the NES has to a true 3D platformer, so it may not be a big surprise to you that I really enjoyed this game.

Snake Rattle N Roll was released on the NES in July 1990.  It was developed by Rare and published by Nintendo.  The PAL version was released in March 1991, while a Mega Drive port was released in 1993 in Europe only.  Rare released a Game Boy game Sneaky Snakes in 1991 which has similar gameplay to Snake Rattle N Roll but as a 2D side-scrolling platformer.  Snake Rattle N Roll also appeared on the compilation Rare Replay that was released in 2015.  Another random tidbit is that this appears to be the first NES game released with the text “Nintendo Entertainment System” written on a red stripe across the top of the box.  That was the standard for NES releases published by Nintendo for the rest of the lifespan of the NES.

Snake Rattle N Roll has a story section in the manual without having any sort of real story.  Two snakes named Rattle and Roll are on a journey and you get to help them.  Rattle is the orange snake and Roll is the purple one.  In single player you play as Rattle, while in the simultaneous two-player mode you play as either Rattle or Roll.  To beat the game, you have to finish all 11 stages.

Tiny body, long tongue.

This game is an isometric platformer that has pretty simple controls.  You move Rattle in all eight directions with the D-pad.  The translation of the D-pad directions is just like the default 45-degree movement in games like Marble Madness and Q*bert.  Down moves you both down and left, and all other directions follow suit.  The A button jumps.  With the default speed of Rattle and the floaty nature of the jumps, you can cover a lot of ground laterally.  Press B to lash out your tongue.  You can use your tongue to eat things or attack enemies.

To clear each level in the game you need to leave through the exit door, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds.  First off, you need to grow Rattle and Roll.  There are these colorful balls that appear in the levels called Nibbley Pibbleys.  You eat them with your tongue and there’s a brief chewing animation where you can’t open your mouth again right away.  The Nibbley Pibbleys come in orange, purple, and yellow varieties.  The Nibbley Pibbley that matches your color is worth two units, while the alternate color is only worth one.  Yellow ones are worth three units for either snake.  For every four units you consume, your snake grows by one segment.  You must eat enough to grow your snake to the maximum size. When this happens, your tail segment starts flashing.  There is a weighted platform somewhere in the level with a bell on it.  When you are at full size, sitting on the platform rings the bell which opens up the level exit.  Now you proceed through the open door to clear the stage.

Fortunately, Nibbley Pibbleys appear all over the place in different ways.  The most common way to find them is to find a Nibbley Pibbley generator.  It is like a giant box with a couple of horns on it like an old-time phonograph.  It spits out Nibbley Pibbleys one or two at a time in a random direction.  You have to wait for them to land before they come alive so that you can eat them.  The Nibbley Pibbleys take on a different form depending on what stage you are on.  They start off just as simple balls that bounce around short distances, but they can grow legs and run away or sprout wings and fly around.  Later variants are harder to catch than earlier ones.  The generators sometimes spew out bombs that look like Nibbley Pibbleys at first, so you have to be a little careful.  

They don’t like staying still, that’s for sure.

This game features plenty of powerups for our heroes.  All items are worth 1000 points and have some kind of effect.  Diamonds give you temporary invincibility.  Clocks add 25 seconds of time shown at the bottom of the screen.  A rectangle with a fork on it is a tongue extension.  You can grab a few of these to gradually increase the length of your tongue.  The speed up item looks like the knob of an old wind-up toy.  A tiny arrow item reverses your controls for a little while, making it more of a power-down item.  A flashing snake head is a 1up, while a flashing snake head with its mouth open is good for a continue.  There is also a fish tail item that shows up in one level that lets you swim up a waterfall.

In addition to the powerups found out in the open, there are also many items hidden under lids.  To open a lid, stand on top and press B.  The item will fly upward a distance before falling down so you can grab it.  Be careful that sometimes the lids hide enemies or traps as well.  If you see a snake head that is not flashing, it is actually a bomb decoy and you will want to get out of the way.  Sometimes you will find the entrance to a bonus room underneath a lid.  Here you have to try and collect all five Nibbley Pibbleys before they leave the room for a nice 5000-point bonus if you nab them all.  Plus, you get to keep the added length to your snake.  There are also hidden lids out there that conceal warps.  I didn’t find any of these when I played, but they are out there.

It wouldn’t be a platformer game without enemies and traps.  Some enemies can be defeated by either jumping on them or by hitting them with your tongue a few times.  You get more points for bopping than you do for tongue lashing.  Some sharper enemies are vulnerable to the tongue but are immune to jumping on.  Sharks pursue you in the water in the first couple of stages.  There are also blades that pop out of the ground, pushers that try and shove you off the edge, and falling anvils that try and smash you.  One enemy you want to pay attention to is a Big Foot.  Literally.  It tracks around the stage and you have to hit it many times consecutively with your tongue to beat it.  If you let up your attack for just a little while, it gets all its health back.  You don’t get to see how much health it has remaining.  If you keep up the attack and defeat it, you are often rewarded with an extra life or less often rewarded with a bomb posing as a fake life.  I tried to beat the feet up wherever reasonable.

Uhh, this picture speaks for itself.

Death is a frequent occurrence in this game.  Getting damaged by an enemy or trap causes you to lose a segment of your snake, setting back your progress.  You die if you get hurt with no segments remaining.  You die if you fall too far off a ledge.  You die if you jump on top of spikes, including spiked enemies, or if you get crushed by something.  You also lose a life if the timer runs out.  The good news is that death doesn’t set you back any distance; you simply respawn near where you died.  You also respawn if you use up a continue.  You’ll see the Game Over message followed by a message to Play On if you have continues left.  When all is said and done, you are brought to the final score screen.

I wasn’t completely new to Snake Rattle N Roll before beating the game.  There was a small game store that was very close to where I lived at the time that I only visited once or twice before it closed down.  I wasn’t a full-blown collector at that time and now I really regret not visiting that store more often.  But one of the times I shopped there I picked up a loose copy of Snake Rattle N Roll.  I played it casually for a day or two and then put it away.  I know I have played the game some more since then but I’m not sure how much.  I don’t think I got anywhere past the third stage.  I no longer have the copy I bought from the store since it had some damage to it.  It took until my third copy before I acquired a cart in a condition I am happy with.

This is a hard game to beat, but I feel like it was right in my wheelhouse and so it didn’t take me as much effort to win than it could have.  The game starts out slow.  There’s not much jumping needed and the Nibbley Pibbleys are easy to snack on.  Reading the manual first helped me understand the systems at play.  The difficulty gradually ramps up from there.  The end of the second stage introduces what I call corner jumping, where you need to go in two different directions in a single, floaty jump.  These kinds of jumps become the standard for reaching new ledges.  I picked up on all of this rather quickly, reaching the halfway point of the game within the first couple of tries.  Things escalate majorly in the last few stages, and this was where I struggled the most.  Overall, it took me 13 tries to clear this game, but it could have easily been 20, 30, 40 attempts or more.  I’m happy I knocked this one out relatively quickly.

In this stage, you need a water spout boost.

Looking at the game as a whole, I really appreciate how they tied all the levels together.  This paragraph will spoil some late game elements, just a warning.  The entire game map is a mountain and across all the stages you are climbing to the top.  You begin at the bottom of this mountain that is surrounded by water, giving you a temporary safe place to land in case you fall.  As you work your way up, things start to get steeper and more treacherous.  In some areas of the game you can see pieces of levels you have already cleared, giving you a sense of progress.  Waterfalls become a more common feature as the inclines get steeper and the climbing and jumps get more difficult.  This comes to a head at Level 9 when the difficulty spikes near the top of the mountain.  Icy conditions make your path slippery, and to make matters worse there are now slopes to deal with as the ledges get narrower toward the summit.  Even enemies get a defensive boost from the cold as they form icy armor.  The final climb is very tough, but thematically this all make sense.  The final boss encounter takes place on the summit and it demands both precise control and aggressive attacking.  You’ve been groomed for it, you’re ready, but it doesn’t make it easy.

I enjoyed Snake Rattle N Roll quite a lot.  I like the graphics in this game.  There’s a nice use of colors and the characters are well animated.  The viewpoint is about as clear as you can get for an NES isometric game, though I admit it’s one of those things that you either grasp cleanly or you don’t get it at all.  This game has good music as well, opting to use music either from old 1950’s songs or tunes inspired by some of the classics.  The game controls well and I am able to pull off corner jumps without much trouble.  I did consider the speed up powerup more of a power-down since that was much harder for me to control, though that can be considered personal taste.  Gameplay is strong.  I appreciate the different ways the Nibbley Pibbleys move around and how some stages have unique elements in them.  Though the main gist is the same, there’s plenty of variety.  This is not a game for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try just to see if you might like it.

#143 – Snake Rattle N Roll

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