Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#163 – The Lone Ranger

Hi-Yoooooooooo Silver!

With a silver bullet!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 7/20/20 – 8/1/20
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10
My Video: The Lone Ranger Longplay

Konami is at it again.  This time, they are reviving an old, mostly forgotten property into an NES game.  Normally, I would be reminded right away of similar adaptations such as The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island or Dirty Harry, taking a pretty much dormant property and turning it into a Nintendo game, with little success.  Instead, after exploring this game a bit, my mind went quickly to Laser Invasion.  Both games switch between genres during gameplay.  I liked Laser Invasion quite a lot.  On the other hand, The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island and Dirty Harry did not fare as well.  Let’s see which way The Lone Ranger goes.

The Lone Ranger first appeared on a radio program out of WXYZ in Detroit in 1933, created by station manager George Trendle and writer Fran Striker.  The show blew up in popularity, running until 1954 and surviving the death of the voice of The Lone Ranger, Earle Graser, who died in a car accident in 1941.  The television series, The Lone Ranger, ran for 8 seasons and 221 episodes from 1949 to 1957, starring Clayton Moore for most of the series run.  There were a slew of other media properties starring The Lone Ranger, including 6 films, 18 novels, a long running comic strip, comic books, and some animated adaptations.  The NES game, The Lone Ranger, was released in August 1991 in North America only.  It was developed and published by Konami.

The story is based off of the 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger.  In the Old West, the Texas Rangers were the law enforcement of the day, led by Dan Reid.  His son, John Reid, was also a Texas Ranger.  During a shootout with the Texas Rangers, Butch Cavendish, a bank robber, lost his father to a bullet, and from then on he held a grudge against the Texas Rangers.  Butch and his outlaw gang set up an ambush against the Texas Rangers and had them all killed.  Only they thought they were all killed, as John Reid survived.  A Native American named Tonto found John and got him back to health.  John formed a mask out of his father’s vest and did away with the rules of the Texas Rangers, going at it alone as The Lone Ranger with Tonto as his partner.  Now Butch Cavendish has kidnapped the President and it is up to The Lone Ranger to both rescue the President and get his revenge against the man who killed his father.

Walk on the path, engage enemies, and enter towns

After the initial text scrawl of the story, you start off in the overworld.  Simply use the D-pad to walk around here.  You are forced to stay on the dirt trails but otherwise you can explore the map as you please.  There are several buildings around the map that you can enter that take you into town.  Here you will switch to a more zoomed-in overhead view, where much of the game is played.  You can walk around in all eight directions with the D-pad.  Press A to talk to people, and press B to use your weapons.  Select changes weapons and Start pauses the game.  The towns contain women that you can talk to for information, or bad guys in cowboy hats that you’ll have to shoot before they get you.  Generally, you explore the towns for information to advance the story, or to restock on supplies, typically of many games.

The bottom of your screen shows all the info you need during play.  First up is your life bar, pretty self-explanatory.   You can recover health with the uncommon heart item drop or top it off by paying a doctor in town.  Below that is your money.  Coins are dropped by almost every defeated enemy.  Money is most commonly used to buy more bullets for your revolver, other weapons, and gun upgrades.  The square box with the X in the middle is used in the 3D sections that I will describe later.  Next is your currently selected weapon.  You can fight bare-handed, use a revolver, or TNT.  When weapons require ammo, that is displayed directly above.  Finally, the cylinder of your gun shows how many bullets are loaded and ready to fire.  When empty, you will reload with one of your supply.

There are some special locations inside many towns.  The sheriff’s office is usually a point of interest for gathering critical information on what to do next.  At the gunshop, you can buy normal bullets, silver bullets, and TNT.  You can hold up to 50 clips each of normal and silver bullets, and up to 10 TNT sticks.  Silver bullets cost more but they do twice the damage and pierce enemies so you can hit multiple bad guys with one bullet.  TNT is thrown in an arc and blows up after a short time.  You can also buy upgrades to your gun that let your bullets fly farther across the screen.  The doctor’s office is where you want to go to restore your health bar, at a cost.  A few places in the game even let you play poker for money.  There are other unmarked buildings you can enter, as long as the front door is open.

Even towns aren’t a safe haven from gunslingers.

As teased earlier, there are several types of gameplay in The Lone Ranger.  Aside from the top-down exploring and fighting, there are side scrolling platformer sections.  These parts have standard controls.  You use the A button to jump.  The jumping in this game is reminiscent of Castlevania.  It is a very heavy jump and once you commit to a moving jump you will keep going in that direction, though you are able to slow down a little by pressing the opposite direction on the D-pad.  Another thing I noticed is that you have to be real close to the edge of a platform to make the leap across to another one.  If you press Down while pressing A, you will jump down through some ledges.  The B button attacks with any of your weapons similar to the top-down sections.  With the gun, you can fire in all directions and diagonals except for straight down.  Movement is normal stuff with the D-pad.  You can navigate stairs with Up and Down.

This game also features 3D mazes.  Much like in Laser Invasion, these are Zapper-compatible sections.  At the very start of the game you can choose if you want to use the standard controller or the Zapper for these parts.  You will use the D-pad to navigate the maze.  Press Up to walk forward, Left or Right to turn in that direction, and Down to turn around.  You move in increments through the maze, and at some of these steps you will run into a group of enemies.  You can only fight with your guns in these parts so you better have enough bullets handy.  Use the Zapper to shoot the enemies and collect powerups, including hearts to restore health, packs of bullets, and of course money bags for cash.  Here the X mark in your status bar tells you from which direction the enemies are approaching.  You also get to see the compass direction you are facing to assist in navigation.  You will use the D-pad to turn in the appropriate direction and then shoot with the Zapper.  I had to hold both the controller and Zapper at the same time to play this.  If you are in controller-only mode, instead you move a targeting reticle with the D-pad.  Press B to fire a shot.  Holding a direction and pressing A will turn you in that direction.

Bad guys, money, and Castlevania stairs, oh my!

Early on in the game you will reunite with your trusty horse Silver.  There are a few minor sections in the game where you will ride on horseback.  There are side scrolling sections where Silver runs forward automatically, functioning as an auto-scroller.  You can jump between ledges and fire your gun.  It is different but plays a lot like you are already used to.  You also get into gunfights while on horseback.  These encounters take place in first person similar to the mazes, only you don’t have to wander around, just fight off the bad guys with your Zapper.

To beat this game, you must clear all 8 stages.  Each new level begins at a new subsection of the map and all your money and weapons carry over from one stage to the next.  You typically get an explanation from Tonto on what you need to accomplish next.  This game has a password system to retain your progress, and all your money and weapons carry over through the passwords as well.  Passwords in The Lone Ranger are 16 characters long, comprised of a weird subset of capital letters and the digits 0-9.  In this game there are no lives, and when you die you return back to the start of the current stage.  Some of the stages have several parts and can go on pretty long, so it’s a steep penalty.

This was my first time playing The Lone Ranger.  I was only sort of familiar with the premise and I never knew anything of substance about the character or series.  I bought my copy of the game on eBay for only $6 shipped back in the summer of 2014.  I remember religiously checking new eBay listings for NES games to fill out my collection back then and this one was an instant purchase.  The game was selling for around $10-$15 in 2014, and when I checked the current pricing I was shocked.  The Lone Ranger is now close to a $60 game.  It was averaging around $30 from 2017-2019 and just about doubled in 2020 alone.

Shooty shooty bang bang

This game was a bit more challenging than I would have guessed going in.  Most levels comprise of walking around to get a sense of what to do, and then working through the setpiece parts in that stage.  The difficulty varies throughout the game depending on how many special segments there are and what kinds.  There was only one area that I completed the first time through.  A few times I got lost in identifying the intended route.  When I played this I streamed fairly often, and it took me 8 nights of playing to beat the game.  I made progress every night except one, only to beat that stage the first time the next night.  This was almost a 10-hour playthrough from start to finish, condensed into a video lasting a little over 2 hours.  The last couple of stages were pretty tough, with long segments that really try and whittle away your life.  I want to specifically mention the final boss fight.  When I reviewed my video of it, I had forgotten just how close I was to failing that attempt.  I had sort of found a way to trap the boss but he very nearly took me out on several occasions.  I’m proud to have clutched out victory there!

The Lone Ranger is a game that does a lot of things but does them all well.  This is a very nice looking game, from the character sprites to the detailed portraits at the end of each stage.  The music is all very well done, but to me it is mostly music that could fit any game.  The William Tell Overture certainly is evocative of the time, and the rest of it sounds good, but I am not sure it really fits the game.  The controls are responsive and work well, particularly the Zapper and top-down play.  Konami seems to have a handle on games with multiple genres, and this one is no exception in the gameplay department.  There are only a few things about it that I don’t care about.  The platforming and jumping are a little too stiff for my tastes.  That to me is the least polished bit of this game.  The forced reloading every 7th shot is a pain to handle too.  The difficulty and setback on dying would be turnoffs to some, though I relish the challenge.  This is a very good game that is mostly forgotten or unheard of.  I would suggest checking it out!

#163 – The Lone Ranger


#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


#109 – The Terminator

I’ll be back.

You’re missing the whole three frames of zooming out.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/17/18 – 12/19/18
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 7/10
My Video: The Terminator Longplay

I wasn’t actually supposed to play The Terminator yet.  I had a different game scheduled for this slot that I could not get running on my AVS.  It was a weird case where I could get the game to play on a stock console but not the AVS.  That’s what I use to help record my longplays, so not having it playable there was a temporary dealbreaker.  I skipped ahead one game to The Terminator, which conveniently puts it right next to RoboCop, another 1980’s gritty action film franchise that is tied together through the RoboCop vs. the Terminator series.  RoboCop did well enough in its conversion to the NES, so let’s see how The Terminator fared.

The Terminator film was released in 1984.  It was the first major film both directed and written by James Cameron.  The movie is about a cyborg sent from 2029 back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor.  The future intelligence network known as Skynet plans to initiate a nuclear holocaust but would be foiled by John Connor, Sarah’s son.  A Resistance soldier, Kyle Reese, also goes back to 1984 to save Sarah from the Terminator so that John can be born and eventually lead the Resistance to victory.  The movie was made on a small budget with little hope for success, but the reception was positive and the film was a financial success.  The Terminator became a franchise, spawning five feature films with a sixth movie slated for 2019, many comic books, and a television series.  Of course, there have been many video games based on the series and franchise.

There were several games based on the first Terminator movie.  Sunsoft was set to create the first Terminator video game for the NES, but the license expired before the game was finished.  Sunsoft would go on to retool and release the game anyway as Journey to Silius.  The first Terminator video game was an action-adventure game on DOS in 1991.  There were later games on the SNES, Sega Genesis, and Sega CD.  The NES version was released in December 1992, created by Radical Entertainment and published by Mindscape.  The game had a PAL release also in 1992.

The future is so slimy.

The Terminator on NES more or less follows the plot of the movie.  You play as Kyle Reese, the resistance soldier from 2029 on a mission to save Sarah Connor from the Terminator.  You go through several missions.  You start in 2029, then you go back to 1984 and find Sarah, then you escape from the Terminator, and finally head into a factory where The Terminator is destroyed.  There are six missions total and you beat the game once all are finished.

The Terminator is a side-scrolling action platformer, mostly.  There are a couple different modes of play that appear periodically in the game, so the controls vary as well.  The platforming sections where you play as Kyle usually have the same controls.  You use the D-pad to move around.  This is a game where the B button is used for jumping.  When standing still you do a taller jump than when you are moving, and there is also a slight animation that occurs before you go airborne.  The A button uses weapons, which are typically either punches or kicks but can be guns, grenades, etc.  You can press Select to switch between weapons.  There is an icon at the top that shows which weapon is active, along with any required ammo.  The Start button pauses the game.

Sometimes there are items on the ground that you can pick up.  Just like in RoboCop, you have to stand over them and press Down to duck and pick them up.  Mostly you will find hearts that restore some of your health.  You can also find pickups like grenades or other special items that are stage specific.  Enemies don’t drop these so you have to keep an eye out in the stages.

Wow! Two grenades!

The first stage has some unique considerations from most of the other stages.  Kyle Reese starts out with a machine gun when he is in 2029.  Press and hold A to fire the gun.  You will automatically squat down before letting off firepower, so like with jumping you have to allow time for the animation to complete.  Bullets are unlimited.  While holding A to fire, you can press Up or Down to aim your gun at a different angle.  You also get grenades for use on distant targets.  First Select the grenades, then press A to lob them.  The longer you hold A, the farther you throw.

Near the end of the level, you have to hop in a pickup truck and avoid attacks from Skynet as you approach the base to time travel.  This is an auto-scrolling segment moving to the left.  Press Left to speed up and Right to slow down.  The truck is equipped with a gun and you can adjust its angle by pressing Up and Down.  The A button fires the gun.

The second level puts you in 1984 without any of your equipment you had in 2029.  You have to rely on punches and kicks to make it through, in fact you are stuck without a gun or grenades for the rest of the game.  Press Select to choose which weapon you want and press A to attack.  You also find baseballs in this stage alone that you can throw to ward off enemy dogs.  They don’t do damage but act as a distraction.

In Levels 3 and 5, instead of traveling on foot you drive vehicles.  Unlike the truck section in Stage 1, these are top-down driving sections.  You use the D-pad to steer your vehicle Left and Right.  Press Up to speed up and press Down to slow down.  These are looping stages and all you have to do is travel far enough to eventually end the stage.  There is a counter on screen that shows how much further you have to go.  When it reaches zero, the level is complete.  Of course, you will be pursued by the Terminator in a vehicle of his own.  You take damage when he bumps you or shoots you.  You can fire back if you want for points, even though I don’t think it slows him down any.  Press B to fire to the left and press A to fire to the right.

I was surprised to see driving in this game.

You begin the game with two extra lives.  Falling off the stage or running out of health costs you a life.  When you run out of lives, it’s Game Over and there are no continues to bail you out.  The only way to earn extra lives is through scoring.  You get a new life every 50,000 points.  Scoring is slow enough where you will only gain a life or two through casual play.  Every little bit helps with this one.

This was my first time playing through The Terminator.  I didn’t mention it up above, but this is one movie I have actually seen.  I haven’t watched all of The Terminator films but I think I have seen the first three or four.  This was one of the first NES games I picked up in the summer of 2013 when I decided to get back into NES collecting for good.  It was in the same lot of games where I got Alien 3.  Each game averaged out to $5 in that purchase, which is much better than the $20-$25 a Terminator cart will cost today.

This game has a reputation for being difficult.  One review I read said the game is impossible.  It is a difficult game but not nearly as bad as it was made out to be.  After all, I completed it for the first time after three days of playing.  I can see where that impression comes from just from the first level alone.  I’m confident that the first stage is the hardest part of the whole game.  First things first, you have to cope with the jumping.  The collision detection is pretty bad.  You have a large character sprite and the exact bottom-center pixel of the character is where you need to touch a ledge in order to land on it.  Inevitably you will miss ledges and fall to your death.  Furthermore, you are pursued by enemies that appear at random and can knock you down or drain your health fast.  You have to allow time to get your gun out, and the grenades are both limited and difficult to aim properly.  Early in the stage you have to navigate some small conveyor belts with these enemies, and you can fall off into the pit while you have your gun out firing.

This truck part is just awful.

All that is just the first half of the stage.  The rest of it is even worse.  At the top level, you first need to jump across moving platforms that inhibit and influence your jumping in unexpected ways depending on which direction they are moving.  Later are these ankle-biting turrets.  Some you can duck under and fire, while others are too low to handle that way.  You can take them out with grenades and the tricky aiming.  Or you can go toe-to-toe with them with your gun and lose a bunch of health in the process.  If you survive that, then you have to do the truck section.  I can’t for the life of me figure out how to dodge the attacks from above.  Since you can’t jump here, you have to rely on changing speeds to dodge.  The terrain is hilly and you are always bouncing around and can’t reliably aim your gun.  It’s really tough and I got stopped here my first day after many tries.  Survive that part, and you have to outrun another machine with the truck.  I don’t believe it is possible to dodge this at all; I survived through attrition.  You would think that would be the end of the stage, but nope, there is one more platforming section.  This features retractable spikes and platforming across single tile ledges with pits underneath.  This is where the collision detection flaws are most evident.  This game was not designed for precision jumping but you have to do it anyway several times over.  You are also limited on lives since you’ll probably lose at least one life just getting this far.  While not super easy, the game lets up a lot after beating this stage.

There’s one trick that really helped me figure out this game.  I learned it from the Angry Video Game Nerd in his The Terminator review.  There’s a great spot in the first stage where you can camp out with your gun and defeat unlimited enemies without suffering any damage.  Get set up properly and hold down the A button to rack up the points and lives.  I know this was deliberate and I don’t know why, but you max out at only six extra lives.  It takes about two to three minutes per extra life and it gets tiring to hold the button down for the ten or fifteen minutes needed to grind.  The Nerd used a monkey wrench and clamped down the A button on his controller instead.  I am not a handy guy at all, but I do have a monkey wrench, though I have no idea where I left it.  I improvised by finding something heavy and stable enough to set down on top of the controller to keep the button pressed.  Having six lives each attempt gave me the leeway I needed to learn the rest of the game quickly.

The Terminator also features a door maze with cops.

By the time I beat the game initially, at best I could get through the whole game with only losing two lives.  I spent one in the truck part of Stage 1 and another in the driving portion of Stage 5.  Playing normally without grinding gave me enough points for two extra lives, so I had a couple extra to spare anywhere else just in case.  While recording my longplay video, I died both in Stage 1 and Stage 5 as expected.  I burned one spare life in the final stage, giving me a somewhat comfortable win.  Once you know what to do, the game is short.  I finished my playthrough in about 20 minutes, which is about half the time it would take if I needed to grind for lives.

The Terminator is a lackluster NES game.  The character graphics in-game are kind of dopey looking.  The environments look just okay.  The best graphics are the digitized character portraits between the stages.  The music and sound effects are bland where they exist at all.  The controls are okay and you can get used to the floaty jumping.  However, the poor collision detection makes the already loose controls much more difficult to manage.  The vehicle sections, while a nice break from the platforming, are not that interesting or involved.  The high level of difficulty right out of the gate is a big turn off as well, and no continues and few lives mean you may not be spending much time with this game.  As far as Robocop vs. Terminator is concerned, on the NES, Robocop wins in a landslide.

#109 – The Terminator


#67 – Rambo

Stab your way through the jungle in this action-packed movie tie-in.

This animated title screen is hard to capture properly.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/18/17 – 12/21/17
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
Video: Rambo Final Area and Ending

It’s time for another NES game based on a film license. John Rambo is a character ripe for a video game. He’s a tough soldier type with expertise in weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, and he gets to use his skills in the NES game to mow down enemy soldiers. Of course, he will also have to fend off snakes and birds and such because it’s a video game, but Rambo is more than up to the task. Rambo on NES is perhaps best known for its gameplay similarities to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Now that game may be one of the least heralded Zelda adventures, but it is still a great game that plays well. Let’s see if the NES version of Rambo can hold up to that kind of pedigree.

The Rambo series of movies began with the 1982 action movie called First Blood. It is based on the book First Blood written in 1972 by David Morrell. The film was co-written by Sylvester Stallone who also stars in the movie as John Rambo, a misunderstood Vietnam War veteran. Stallone would co-write and star in all four movies in the series. The next movie, Rambo: First Blood Part II was released in 1985 and this is the film the NES game is based on. Rambo III was released in 1988 and the simply-titled Rambo came out in 2008. The original series is effectively over as Stallone has stepped down from any future films. However, there is a Bollywood remake of Rambo slated for 2018 as well as a rumored future reboot of Rambo without Stallone.

The second Rambo film spawned three different video games. The first game is from 1985 that was released on the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum and plays as a top-down action game. The 1986 Sega Master System game plays in similar fashion even though it is a different game. The NES version of the game is a side-scrolling action-adventure game. The Famicom version was first released in December 1987, and the North American version came in May 1988. This game was developed by Pack-In-Video and published by Acclaim.

Watch out Rambo! It’s a small bird!

Rambo on NES follows close to the story of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Rambo is imprisoned at the end of the first film and Colonel Trautman enlists Rambo on a mission that will allow him to get out of prison. He is tasked to go back to Vietnam to take pictures of the military bases to prove to the United States that there are no more POWs in the country after the war. Rambo discovers that there are still POWs in the country and he gets captured as he attempts to rescue one. You play as Rambo as you follow these and the rest of the main events from the film, and you beat the game once you reach the ending.

The game is an exploratory side-scrolling platformer in the vein of Zelda II. There is no overworld in Rambo and everything is played in the side-scrolling view. Play scrolls either left or right as you explore, and often you can venture off either side of the screen to different areas. There are also buildings you can enter as well as entrances to parallel areas. You may also talk to people you encounter to gain clues and figure out where you should head next. For the most part, the world is open to you and you can explore almost anywhere you want, although there is a critical path that is required to proceed with the story.

You use Left or Right on the D-Pad to move Rambo around. Press the A button to jump. Rambo ducks when you hold Down. You can jump down through some ledges by holding Down when you jump. Press Up when standing in front of someone to talk to them, although you can’t talk to everyone. Sometimes you can enter doors or buildings by pressing Up. You also use Up to move to different “rooms” either north or south whenever you stand on a tile marked with either an N or an S. You attack with your weapon with the B button. The default weapon is Rambo’s combat knife and it is a strong, close range attack. You can attack while standing and you may also perform a low stab by pressing B while ducking. The Start button pauses the game. The Select button is used to choose your weapon from the weapons displayed on the top status bar. You can also switch weapons when the game is paused.

Rambo has to deal with ankle-biting fish in shallow rivers.

Most of the game takes places within the action screens, but there are some additional actions you can perform during conversations. When speaking with someone you will see their picture and text on the top half of the screen. Rambo’s dialogue is on the lower half. Press A to advance the conversation. Sometimes you must choose your own response, in which case an arrow appears so you can select your choice with A.

Press Start during conversations to bring up the Status screen. I’m glad the manual explained this to me because I wouldn’t have figured that out on my own. There is some good information on the Status screen. At the top, you see your current health, the maximum possible health, your current experience points, and the number of points needed to advance to the next experience level. The middle of the screen shows your inventory. The lower part of the screen is your mission code, or password. These are complicated 32-character passwords that may contain numbers, lower case letters, upper case letters, and symbols. It’s on par with The Guardian Legend as far as passwords are concerned. You can input passwords when you select Continue on the title screen.

The top status bar contains information and weapon selection. Life and experience points are the same as show on the Status screen, and then the rest of the bar is dedicated to your weapons. First is the standard knife, and underneath that you see Rambo’s current strength level. To the right of that is the throwing knife which is a short range projectile attack. Underneath the throwing knife and every other weapon is Rambo’s current ammo count for that weapon. The bow and arrow has a longer range than the throwing knife and is more powerful. Exploding arrows do twice as much damage as the regular arrows. The machine gun is a powerful weapon that shoots quickly. Next are grenades which can be thrown a short distance in an upward-looping arc. Finally, you see the medicine bottle which restores 100 health when used. Rambo can have up to 99 of all weapons except for the grenades and medicine which max out at nine each.

Go crazy and use those throwing knives.

You gain experience points as you fight enemies. Defeated enemies display the number of experience points earned when you beat them, just like in Zelda II. Gain enough experience points to level up and increase the strength of your weapons. There are seven experience levels in Rambo and you become a one-man wrecking crew by the end of the adventure.

Some enemies will give you ammo or item drops instead of experience points. Each ammo drop gives you ten shots to add to your arsenal, but medicine jars are only accrued one at a time. Here’s a tip. The same enemies always drop the same kind of item, so you can leave and come back and stock up on anything you want. There are also a couple of temporary powerups you may find when you defeat certain enemies. The S powerup lets you move faster and the J powerup lets you jump higher. These abilities only apply to the current room. You can also find item drops inside breakable boxes.

There are a few boss fights sprinkled throughout Rambo. These are more like unique enemy encounters and you need to land a lot of hits to defeat these bosses. Beating a boss drops a heart which restores all your health and adds 100 to your maximum health. It’s possible to skip some of these fights altogether if you aren’t careful, so I recommended taking the time to find and fight them.

Boss battles can be mildly frantic.

This was my first time playing Rambo. I knew that it had the resemblance to Zelda II which is a game I really like, but I didn’t give the game a real try until now. It’s a common game that’s worth about $5. I do remember that it took me some time to get a copy of the game for my collection even though it should have been easy enough to run into by chance. It’s just a weird quirk of collecting that happens sometimes. Of course, since then I’ve had 5-6 copies of the game through buying game lots.

I found Rambo to be a pretty easy game, but maybe it shouldn’t have gone that well. The biggest issue with the game is that the map can be confusing to navigate. Screen exits off either side of the screen may behave differently depending on where you are. Sometimes they go to unique screens and sometimes they loop around to the other side of the area you just tried to leave. You get in situations where you exit the screen, then go right back where you came from and end up somewhere completely different. Some areas will let you fall to a different area below. There are also the entrances that take you either north or south, and occasionally these paths are one-way only and now you have to go around a different way to get back to where you were. It’s disorienting, and there is no in-game map to tell you where you are in the world. But somehow, it is less complicated in practice than it would seem. The characters give you a general direction you need to go and that was enough for me to figure it out.

My playthrough of the game was a little unusual. I struggled some with the combat at first and died a lot. I took every path I could find just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Maybe I took a little too long. In the middle of the game, you rescue one of the POWs and have to take him to the extraction point. You are supposed to get captured again and Co breaks you out of the enemy base. The game plays out these exact scenes, only that didn’t happen for me when I played. Co said that I was too late to meet the helicopter at the extraction point. Now I still had to go there, but instead of doing the following side section as Co, I had to wander back to the next location on my own with no real idea of where to go. In a way, it’s interesting that the game allows you a different way through the game under certain circumstances, but they definitely could have handled it better. The rest of the game took a little time to figure out, but it went well enough. The final boss was the most difficult part of the game and I ended up beating it just barely on my first attempt.

The enemies at the end of the game get a bit ridiculous.

I went through the game again with the intention of recording a longplay and checking out the content I missed previously. The first time through took around four to five hours, and the second time took under two hours. This time I did the scene with Co like I was supposed to, and the flow of the game and story was more sensible. Unfortunately, my computer crashed about halfway through the game and it ate the footage I had recorded up to that point. I think I’ve played enough Rambo, so my video of the final boss and ending will have to be good enough.

There are a couple of interesting things about the ending to the game, so this is your spoiler warning. In the film, Co gets shot and killed. The same thing happens in the NES game but there is a way to avoid it. You reach a screen with Co and a waterfall background. Talking to her here triggers the scene where she is killed. If you don’t talk to her, she never dies and you can speak with her again in the ending. After beating the final boss, you get to walk around the base until you talk to Troutman. Co will be here and she and Rambo share a touching moment. The other awesome thing you can do during the ending is turn Murdock into a frog! It’s totally weird, but you can do it. Attacking on that screen in the ending causes Rambo to spew out a huge Kanji character. It stands for Ikari which means rage. Your anger toward Murdock turns him into a frog. The only explanation for that is the experience meter is referred to as the anger meter in the Japanese version of the game. Thus, you are building up your rage through your journey and you are letting it all fly out quite literally in the end.

If I had to describe Rambo in one word, it would be janky. Enemy movement is often erratic. Bosses may spam floating projectiles. It’s tough to make contact with your knife, at least early on. Sometimes breaking a box with your knife destroys the wrong tile. Good luck trying to break a specific box that you have to jump to reach, by the way. Rambo’s character portrait can only be described as derpy. The experience point balance is way off. Early enemies give a point or two while some endgame enemies give you a whopping 500 points. The game feels unpolished, but it’s not necessarily a bad game. I think the game follows the story pretty well, and the music is good too. If Pack-In-Video was earnestly trying to make a Zelda II clone, I would say they didn’t hit the mark. It’s not nearly as good of a game and it was released almost a full year later. Still, Rambo is interesting enough that it might be worth a look.

#67 – Rambo


#65 – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Killer Tomatoes seem ripe for an NES platformer.

Oooh, it’s both animated AND detailed!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/5/17 – 12/7/17
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Longplay

I know I’ve mentioned before that I don’t watch much movies or TV, but play video games instead in my free time. So Attack of the Killer Tomatoes comes up on my list to play. I know nothing about it at all, but I just know that this is based off some kind of movie or something. It has to be. I turn the game on and I’m greeted by these introductory story segments, further cementing my suspicion. Now that I’ve finished the game and done the research, yes indeed, this is the game based on a cartoon series that was based on a movie. I guess most people figure these things out the other way around, and I just come about it differently than others. But learning is learning, and now I know something about this strange NES game.

The original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is, according to the movie poster, a “musical-comedy-horror” movie that debuted in 1978. The concept is well summarized from the movie title alone, and it was meant to be a spoof of B movies. It was produced by Stephen Peace and John DeBello, and also directed by John DeBello. The movie concept was conceived by Costa Dillon, and all three worked together to write the film. It has since become a cult classic and eventually spawned three sequels. Return of the Killer Tomatoes was released in theaters in 1988. The other two films, Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! from 1990 and Killer Tomatoes Eat France in 1991 were both direct-to-video films. An animated series, also named Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, aired on Fox Kids in 1990 and 1991, spanning two seasons and twenty-one episodes. This cartoon served as the base for the NES game.

There are two video games based on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, both bearing this name. The first game came in 1986 for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and MSX, and it is an isometric game. The NES version is a different game that was developed by Imagineering and published by THQ. The game was first released in Europe in 1991, then released in the US in January 1992. It was ported to the Game Boy and was also released in 1992. Japan only got the Game Boy port, where it was renamed Killer Tomato and released in March 1993. Altron published Killer Tomato in Japan.

The tomatoes are killer, and so are you.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a side-scrolling platformer. Dr. Gangrene has evil plans to take over both San Zucchini and the world with the Doomsday Tomato. Young Chad Finletter sets out to stop these plans. A set of huge killer tomatoes called the Gang of Six attempt to stand in his way. Chad travels through the city streets through Dr. Gangrene’s lair and beyond. Stop the evil doctor’s plans and you win the game.

This game has normal platformer controls. Use the D-pad to move Chad. You do a lot of walking left and right, but sometimes you need to climb a ladder or something by pressing Up or Down. The A button lets him jump. The B button is used for a few different actions. You can hold the B button to run, but for unknown reasons this only works in certain areas in the game. Holding B while jumping lets you leap a little farther. You can also hold B while climbing to move faster. In one place in the game, you can also press B to throw rocks. Holding down B and pressing Select lets you toggle the background music if you want. The Start button is just for pausing the game. There’s a weird glitch that happens when the game is paused. You can press Select to advance the game one frame at a time. That sounds like something that could be exploited but it’s not really helpful.

There is a status bar in the upper-left corner during gameplay. It displays your score counter, number of lives, and your health bar. Chad begins each new game with three lives and three bars of energy out of a maximum of six. There are items found in the game that can increase all three of these things. These are found on the ground and are not dropped by enemies. Fertilizer sacks are the most common item that just give you points. Lunch bags restore health and this amount varies depending on the pickup. Sometimes it is just a couple of health points and other times they give you even more than six. The rare lunch box adds an extra life. The design of these pickups is poor because they all look a lot alike. The lunch bag is folded on the top compared to the sack that looks like it is closed by a drawstring. I had to really pay attention to see if it was worth grabbing. I only came across one lunch box in the game and I couldn’t tell you how it differs graphically from the others.

That fertilizer sack is camouflaged!

There are a few enemies that show up in the game and most of them are tomato related. There are tiny little hopping tomatoes as well as larger ones that split into two tiny ones when stomped. There are tomato spiders and other tomatoes that sort of run at you. There are also rats and bats. You can jump on all these enemies to defeat them and you just fall through them when you kill them. A lot of times in platforming games you will bounce off defeated enemies a little, but it makes sense that tomatoes would just get squished. Each enemy deals one point of damage if it hits you, and there are also various stage hazards that can hurt you. A platforming game wouldn’t be complete without bottomless pits that can cost you a life.

The Gang of Six appear throughout the game, but instead of acting as boss battles they are mostly roadblocking enemies and should be avoided. The first one you meet in the game does need to be stomped to get it to run away, but all the other ones stand in your way and try to knock you around. It even hurts to jump on most of them, so don’t even bother. It seems like a strange choice to use these characters as merely stage hazards instead of bosses, but it seems to work fine. You do want to be careful around them because sometimes they can juggle you in the air and hit you multiple times.

Some of the stages in the game are mazes. The manual calls them 3D mazes but that’s a little misleading. These areas are still side-scrolling platforming levels that have a bit of a three-quarters perspective to them. There are branching pathways visible either into the background or into the screen, and you can press Up or Down to walk to the adjacent screen. They may seem difficult but are pretty straightforward as far as mazes go. If you take the wrong path, you won’t have to backtrack too far to figure out the correct way through.

You don’t wanna mess with these guys, just jump over them.

If you lose all your lives, you get to continue. One of the killer tomatoes spells out the message “Try again tomato head” when you lose all your lives. I like that better than the standard Game Over! You get a new set of three lives, but you can only continue twice before having to restart the game.

This was my first time playing Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It was one of the later additions to my collection. In fact, I bought this copy in the same lot that contained the recently-beaten Kiwi Kraze. That lot was five games for $35, so I did well getting the game for essentially $7. It’s not a common game to find and sells in the $15-$25 range today.

Platformers with limited continues are normally the kind of game I would rate as a 7/10 or 8/10 difficulty. There are lots of way to take damage or die, and you have to play the game repeatedly to get the hang of it. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes gets an average rating because the game is very short. During the first night of playing I got majorly stuck during the third level. It doesn’t look like you can go anywhere at first. You need look for something within the stage that lets you proceed and I just completely overlooked it. The next night I saw my way through that part and ended up beating the game directly from there. I wasn’t recording because I didn’t expect the game to end so soon. I recorded a run the next night in around 15 minutes, only dying once in the first level and again near the end of the game.

Mazes aren’t as complicated as they seem.

Because Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is so short, I’ll run you through the whole game. These are all spoilers, so skip this section if you want to try this on your own. You begin on the streets at night working your way to the right. You have to bop Tomacho five times to progress to the manhole on the far right. This takes you to the sewer maze. Work your way past Ketchuk twice and chase the shadowy figure to a room with a large pipe organ. Here you throw rocks and must break each pipe of the organ to move on. You go back to the streets briefly before going into the tomato factory. Avoid Beefsteak on the floor and the roving robotic arm above and work your way to the top where you will flip a switch on the wall that reverses gravity. This was the part I didn’t get at first. You will need to go up through the ventilation shaft and end up in a small room where you need to bop some enemies for awhile until Dr. Gangreen opens the door ahead. This takes you to the tower. Fang and Zoltan will get in your way at various points as you climb to the top of this maze. Reach the Doomsday Tomato and Chad stops it on his own, loading the end credits. Now that game isn’t quite done yet because you get eaten by a huge tomato and need to work your way through the final maze inside. Just keep moving and get past Mummato when you see him and you’ll get to the end. If you hit a dead end you will probably find a lunch bag to refill your health anyway. Grab onto the large stalactite at the end to crush the tomatoes for good!

Imagineering may not have the best track record for platformer games on the NES, but Attack of the Killer Tomatoes plays well enough and has some neat technical moments that helps it stand out a little bit. Thrown tomatoes help spell out the letters during the credits sequences. Street lights illuminate the character palettes in a clever way. The tomato squishing graphics are oddly satisfying, and splitting bigger tomatoes in two is pulled off seamlessly. The platforming and character movement aren’t the greatest, but may well be the best of their games I’ve played so far. The music is good too.

Despite all the neat touches, the game is only average in gameplay and it is over just as soon as it gets started. It would have been disappointing buying this game when it came out at full price. I really have no idea of the popularity of the cartoon at the time and if that had any bearing on the sales of the game. Word of mouth of the short length of the game might have deterred it from selling well. Both of these could be factors for why the game is a bit on the uncommon side. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is merely NES library filler. Though I’m glad I played it, like I feel about most NES games, I would say skip this one.

#65 – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes


#64 – Jeopardy!

It’s an outdated version of the long running TV quiz show!

Includes the iconic theme song!

To Beat: Win a single round
To Complete: Win a single round on the highest difficulty
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 12/1/17 – 12/2/17
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: Jeopardy! Longplay

This is another one of these project milestones, as today I am covering the first game show game on the NES. Well, that’s only true if you don’t count American Gladiators, I suppose. Even at the time of the NES game release, Jeopardy! was already a popular, long-running TV game show. It is still going strong today and I doubt there is an end in sight. This NES game suffers solely because of its age as the questions and answers are now nearly 30 years old, but it holds true to the Jeopardy! formula we are familiar with.

Jeopardy! first appeared on NBC in 1964 as a daytime show. Merv Griffin is the show’s creator. The original version ran until early 1975, which slightly overlapped a brief nighttime syndicated version airing from 1974 to 1975. A new version called The All-New Jeopardy! aired on NBC for a few months during 1978 and 1979. The show would return for good in daily syndication beginning in September 1984. This is the version of the show that is still running today. Art Fleming hosted the first three runs of Jeopardy! with Don Pardo as the announcer for the first two runs and John Harlan for The All-New Jeopardy! The current run of Jeopardy! is hosted by Alex Trebek and announced by Johnny Gilbert. It has won 33 daytime Emmy Awards and is now in its 34th season.

There have been many video game adaptations of the show, ranging from the mid-1980s up to 2017. The first version was the 1987 release on Apple II, Commodore 64, and DOS. The NES has four distinct versions of Jeopardy! with the original release coming in September 1988. Jeopardy! Junior Edition released in October 1989 and Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition followed in June 1990. Super Jeopardy! was the final NES release in September 1991. Rare developed and GameTek published all versions of Jeopardy! on the NES, and all were US exclusives. GameTek published most video game versions of the game show until they filed for bankruptcy in 1998.

The developers got the look and feel right.

Since the NES game follows the same flow as the TV show, it makes sense to cover a basic overview of how Jeopardy! is played. Three contestants play three rounds aiming to earn the most money to win. Clues are given as answers and the contestant must respond with the appropriate question to earn money. The winner, or champion, of the prior game of Jeopardy! returns to play again and can accumulate winnings over multiple shows for as long as he or she keeps winning. The returning champion sits on the left and begins each game by choosing the first clue.

In the first round, the main game board is filled with six categories of five clue each. Each clue is assigned a dollar amount representing a wager. The original run of Jeopardy! had values ranging from $10 to $50, and the current show ranges from $200 to $1000. Typically, the higher the value, the more difficult the clue. One contestant chooses the category and a dollar amount on the board, and the host reads the full answer. Then, contestants can buzz in and provide the question. Correct responses add the dollar amount to that person’s total, while incorrect responses take away the amount. Totals can dip into the negative. The contestant with the correct response may choose the next clue from the board, or if no one answers correctly then the original contestant may choose again. The round ends when all thirty clues have been given.

One clue hides a Daily Double. When a contestant chooses that clue, the Daily Double is announced and only that contestant may give a response. The player must provide a wager of his or her own choosing, ranging from $5 up to their current winnings. If a player doesn’t have any accrued winnings, he or she can choose from any wager remaining on the board. Then the clue is given and the contestant gets a brief time to respond. Dollar amounts are added or deducted just the same as in normal play. Finally, the contestant gets to choose the next clue for everyone to play.

The simple keyboard interface works well.

The second round is called Double Jeopardy! and it plays out the same way as the first round. Six new categories appear but this time the dollar values are doubled. The player with the lowest total from the prior round gets to choose the first clue. This round hides two Daily Doubles. Once all those clues have been given, then Final Jeopardy! is played. Only contestants with a positive score may play this round. Here only the category is given to start and players must wager a dollar amount of his or her choice from $0 up to their current winnings. Then the clue is revealed and each contestant writes down a response within a shared time limit. One at a time, each question is revealed and the wager is added for a correct response or deducted for an incorrect response. The player with the highest total wins the game.

The NES game begins by choosing the number of players. One to three players may compete with computer players filling in any open spots. Use the D-pad to choose and press either A or B to select how many human players will participate. Next, choose the Skill Level 1, 2, or 3. Then, one at a time, each player enters in a name up to six characters long. The D-pad scrolls the cursor and either A or B enters the character. The cursor may wrap around from any edge to the other side. Then a player character is displayed at the stand and the game asks if you want a new character. Choose Yes to swap in a different character as many times as you want, then choose No to lock that character in. The character selection repeats for all human players and is filled in automatically for computer players. Player 2 uses the second controller and Player 3 uses the first controller, if necessary. This holds true for the entire game.

The first round starts with six categories and dollar amounts ranging from $100 to $500. Player 1 gets to pick the first clue. Press Left or Right to select a category and press A or B to lock it in. Then use Up and Down to select the wager and press A or B. Next, the answer appears on screen along with a timer shown in the corner. Players can buzz in at any time. Player 1 must press any key on the D-pad on the first controller to buzz in. Player 2 does the same on the second controller, while Player 3 uses the A or B button on the first controller. I guess you have to set controllers on the floor or on a table when playing with three players.

This was when the match was going well for me.

When a player jumps in, the question entry screen appears. Inputting the question here is the same as entering in your name at the start of the game, but here there is a time limit for submitting your response. This is where the skill level comes into play. Skill level 1 gets 50 seconds, level 2 is 45 seconds, and level 3 is 40 seconds. These aren’t actually full seconds. Unless the skill level also makes computer players buzz in more quickly, the skill level doesn’t mean much at all. Anyway, you will enter in the response and then choose End to submit. You don’t have to phrase your response in the form of the question because the game handles it for you, which is convenient. Other players get a chance to buzz in if the wrong answer is given. Daily Doubles are also handled similarly where you can input the wager you want or choose from one of the preset wagers if you haven’t earned enough money.

Final Jeopardy! is handled a bit differently than the first two rounds. Normally, contestants all submit their wagers and responses at the same time by writing them down. To get around it here, each player submits their response and wager while the other players are asked to look away from the TV. Of course there’s the potential for cheating if players 2 and 3 aren’t honest, but there’s really no other way to do it on the NES. Once the final submissions are resolved and scores are tallied, someone is crowned the winner! The game goes back to the title screen from here.

I’m sure this was not my first time playing Jeopardy! on the NES. I mean, I don’t remember exactly. It’s not a long game and so I may have completed a full round or two just to see what it was like. I imagine this was the first time I won a game. I managed to beat Jeopardy! on my first time playing, though it took me three tries to win. In all games, I had a reasonable score but didn’t have the lead going into the last round. On the first try, I missed the final question, and on the second try I got it right but didn’t wager enough to win. I played better the third game and nailed the Final Jeopardy! round to claim victory.

Maybe you could figure out some of these clues. I couldn’t.

The clear problem with older versions of trivia games like this is that the information is outdated. Sure, there are general questions and answers that are more timeless in nature. It just seems like about half of the categories or clues have to do with musicians, movie stars, or TV personalities of that period, and most of that information isn’t common knowledge anymore. I just had to hope that the computer would miss or ignore the ones I couldn’t answer, while buzzing in quickly on ones I knew I could answer. I also needed to get a good enough mix of categories that catered more to my knowledge. Perhaps I came out a bit lucky to only need three attempts. As an NES game though, it’s an easy one and a relatively quick clear.

If you want to try out NES Jeopardy! for some reason, here are a few tips for success. Both first and last names are required when the clue is about a person. Spaces for multiple word submissions are not required, though spelling is pretty important to get right. For numbers, you can type out the word or just the digits. Be sure to give the plural form of the words if you are responding with “What are” instead of “What is.”

Those are all input related tips and are somewhat useful, but I do have a couple of more helpful trends I noticed about the computer players. Sometimes the computer will buzz in and get the question wrong, and when they do they will enter in gibberish. Their incorrect response is the same as the correct one only with most of the letters replaced by symbols, so from that you know both how long the correct response should be as well as some of the correct letters in the spelling. You can sometimes glean the correct solution from this, and it’s even better because the opponent also loses points from the wrong response that can help you get the right one. It’s also to your benefit to place a full Final Jeopardy! wager unless you have a commanding lead. Most rounds will be decided by Final Jeopardy! anyway and you have nothing to lose but time if it doesn’t pan out. If you have a really big lead, you can simply wager nothing and probably win. I never saw the computer place particularly large wagers anyway.

Jeopardy! on NES is a competently programmed game and a good adaptation of the popular show. You don’t need flashy graphics or presentation here, but what you get is more than good enough. It’s just nothing special, and it’s too bad that the outdated questions and answers make it even less fun to play now. It was an easy clear for me, and for that I am thankful and won’t complain. For anyone else though, I wouldn’t bother with it.

#64 – Jeopardy!