Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#133 – Casino Kid

It’s gambling that’s wrapped up loosely in an RPG.

Dark and sparkly, just like a real casino.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 8/6/19 – 8/10/19
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Casino Kid Ending

Today we have our first NES gambling game. I’m a little surprised that there aren’t that many of these games on the console. It seems like they would be more plentiful as gambling is quite popular. My guess is that they are too simple to make a full game from, and most people would rather have the thrill of putting money on the line in the hopes of a big payday. From glancing through the short list of gambling games, replicating a huge day at the casino seems to be the common approach. This is what Casino Kid does, using two casino games combined with some light RPG elements. It’s an interesting idea for a game, so let’s take a look and see how it shakes out.

Casino Kid was both developed and published by Sofel. The Famicom release is named $1,000,000 Kid: Maboroshi no Teiou Hen and is based on the manga 100 Man $ Kid which ran from 1986-1988. The game was released in Japan in January 1989. The NES release was localized to Casino Kid in October 1989. It appears the Famicom and NES releases are significantly different. The Famicom version follows the manga, while the NES version has those references removed and contains somewhat simplified gameplay. The NES would later receive an exclusive sequel Casino Kid II in 1993.

In this game, you play the role of the Casino Kid. You step foot inside a prominent casino with only $500. By playing multiple rounds of Blackjack and Poker against several dealers, you earn $1 million dollars and the right to square off against the Casino King. Win against him to become the new Casino King and win the game.

Lots of hustle and bustle here.

Casino Kid starts off looking like a top down RPG. You need to walk around the casino looking for opponents to play. Use the D-pad to walk and press A to talk to someone. There is only one active blackjack dealer and one active poker player at a time. Blackjack dealers appear behind tables and you have to talk to them from across the table, while poker players are just standing around. Talking to the wrong one gets you brushed off, however, sometimes the person will give you a hint to where you might find the opponent you need to play next. Tourists and casino workers also give you some basic hints about the names and personalities of the different players. While walking around, you can press Select to see how much money you have and your password for later play. Passwords in this game are 30 characters long, all capital A-Z. Lengthy, but not bad.

Walking around the casino for your next matchup is just window dressing for the meat of the gameplay, which are the games of blackjack and poker. The screen layout and basic betting structure is the same for both games. Your cards are on the bottom of the screen and the opponent’s cards are at the top. The middle of the screen contains a picture of your opponent along with a textbox for dialog. Below that is the amount of money your opponent has, the current bet, and your total money. Each matchup has a specific betting range. For instance, the first opponent establishes a betting range of $10-$100. During betting, you press either Left or Right to choose the amount of your chip. In the example case, you can choose from either a $10 chip or a $100 chip. Then you can press Up or Down to either add or remove chips for your bet. You will press A to place your bet.

First, let’s cover blackjack, quick and dirty style. Your goal is to have a higher point value in your hand of cards than the dealer without going over 21. The face value of each card is its point value. Jacks, queens, and kings are worth 10. Aces are worth 11 if the total would be under 21, otherwise it counts as 1. First you place your bet, then the dealer gives you two cards face up, and the dealer gets one card face up and the other face down. Casino Kid shows your total in the corner of your hand of cards. You can decide if you want to Hit and get another card or Stand and go with what you have. If you stand, the dealer plays his or her hand. The dealer always hits on 16 or lower and stands on 17 or higher. Either player loses when going over 21, otherwise the higher value wins and earns the bet. Getting the same total is called a push and no money is exchanged. If you are dealt both an Ace and a 10-point value card, that is considered blackjack and you win automatically. Blackjacks are paid 3 to 2 in this game, meaning you earn your wager plus an additional 50%.

Some of the people walking around give you tips.

There are some additional choices you can make during blackjack in certain situations. If you are dealt two identical cards, you can decide to Split hands. This lets you play two hands at the same time against the same dealer hand. You must play one hand all the way before playing the second hand. If you split Aces, you are only allowed to draw one additional card. If you win both hands, you effectively double your original wager. I believe you can get the additional payout if you get blackjack on a split hand as well. The double down option lets you double your bet while hitting only one card. A common double down situation is a 11-point hand with a high probability of getting a 10-point card on your extra card. A third option is surrender. Immediately and only after the initial deal, you can surrender your hand and forfeit half of your initial wager. I never used this option but it can be helpful to limit your loss if you have a high probability of losing your hand if you tried to play.

Now let’s talk about Poker. Your goal is to get a better five-card hand than your opponent. There are many variants of Poker, but in Casino Kid you play five-card draw. At the start of every hand, both players put a little bit of money into the pot, called ante. Each player is dealt five cards face down. You get to see your cards. Next is a round of betting. Players alternate first move here every hand. You can either place a bet or fold your hand. The opponent can either call the bet and chip in the same amount, raise the bet by throwing more money in, or folding their hand to quit. If play continues, you choose which cards you want to hold and you are dealt replacement cards for the others. You can see how many cards your opponent chooses to hold. Armed with that knowledge, there’s another round of betting before revealing hands. The best hand wins all the money in the pot.

The ranking of hands in poker, from best to worst, are royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, and high card. You may know what all of these terms mean already. If not, many of these hands are self-explanatory but I’ll review a few of the others just in case. A full house is a three of a kind and a pair together. A straight occurs when all five cards are in ascending rank. For example, a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 is a straight. The ace can either be the low card or high card but doesn’t wrap around. A flush is when all five cards are the same suit. A straight flush then is when you get both a straight and a flush. A royal flush is a straight flush with an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10. Usually the type of hand determines the winner. Ties are broken using the remaining cards in the hand. For example, if both players have a pair of 5’s, whoever has the next highest card is the winner. While uncommon is it possible to tie outright, in which case each player gets their half of the pot back.

Anything you can do to win money faster is worth it.

In both blackjack and poker, there is a hidden menu. Press Select during either placing a bet in blackjack or placing your ante in poker. Your options here are to Bet All Money or Final Hand. Bet All Money does just that, up to either your max or your opponent’s max. However, your opponent may not let you bet everything. Final Hand means you play out that last hand and then go back to the casino floor. You get to keep your winnings as well as maintain your opponent’s cash stash. There may be some strategy here in stopping early to have a better shot at winning a different game. A better use of the Final Hand is to get back to the floor so you can get your password for later if you decide to quit mid-game.

This was my first time playing Casino Kid. I do like card games a little bit. I’m pretty sure when I tested my copy at least I found an opponent and played a few hands before switching to something else. This is a common cart that is only worth a few dollars. The sequel, however, was an uncommon, late release and is much more valuable.

My playthrough of the game ended up being more tedious than fun. Once you’ve played a little bit of blackjack and poker, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. Beating the game became a test of optimization for me. To that end, my efforts started out poorly. Poker ended up being fairly manageable. Even without making max bets all the time, betting twice per round goes a long way toward exchanging money quickly. After several hands, my opponent offered to go all in and bet everything, to which I gladly agreed. In blackjack, this situation never happens. In fact, for some opponents, the max bet is so small that you have to win about 50 more hands than the dealer to empty them of cash. You can try counting cards to help your odds, but the better option in my mind is the Bet All Money option in the Select menu. After playing awhile, the dealer will accept your request and now your fate rests in one or two hands. I was totally fine with that. The sad thing is that I wasn’t aware of that option until roughly halfway through the game, so I wasted a lot of time. I read the manual before playing these games, but I need to revisit them after playing some because I often end up missing these little tips to speed things up. Armed with a better game plan, I made short work of the rest of the game.

Every once in a while you get extremely lucky.

After playing eight rounds of blackjack and eight rounds of poker, you finally earn the million dollars and get to face off against the king of the casino in poker. This is a long, drawn out match to the bitter end for a couple of reasons. You are unable to bet everything you have, no matter what the situation. This is what sped up the other poker matches. Early poker opponents wore their emotions on their sleeve to where you can figure out if they have a good hand or not. Even later opponents sometimes have a tell in that they can show opposite emotion in trying to bluff you. You don’t get that with the king. You need to make smart bets, fold when hands are bad, and go for broke when you get something good. It took me over 30 minutes to finally overcome the king and beat the game. While it started looking bad at times, I did have a little unexpected help. I ended up getting a royal flush one time, dealt straight up. The odds of that are so low that I felt the game was taking pity on me and did it on purpose. I caught it on video so I have proof it happened. If only I could have that luck for real!

Casino Kid is a fine gambling simulation to play for fun, but offers little beyond that. The graphics are pretty good. Character portraits are a nice touch, and the playing cards are clear to read. One little thing I noticed was that some people in the casino are purely background elements and you have to get an eye for them so you don’t wait around hoping they will walk out of your way. The music is pretty good, in step with the presentation. Controls are accurate, though betting can be cumbersome since you need to switch chip size to place a precise bet. The core gameplay is solid. Betting rounds are done well in poker and there are all the different options in blackjack. The major issue I had with beating the game is that it drags on a long time. I finished the game in maybe 6-8 hours but it’s a lot of repetition. I would have liked pick up and play options to jump straight into the cards. These are fun poker and blackjack games but there’s some rigamarole just to get to playing. This game tries to be something of a gambling RPG, but history would prove that gambling works better as a mini-game in an RPG, making Casino Kid feel quite outdated. You can’t blame them for trying something different though.

#133 – Casino Kid

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#123 – WWF Wrestlemania Challenge

The next in the series both added and removed challenge.

This is very detailed for the NES.

To Beat: Win the eight-man tournament
Played: 5/2/19 – 5/3/19
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: WWF Wrestlemania Challenge Longplay

I seem to have hit a steady stream of NES wrestling games. It took almost 100 games to get to the first one, and now I seem to get one every 10-20 games. I am pretty sure this pace won’t keep up and that this will be the last NES wrestling game for a while. I guess I’ll have to wait and see! This was the easiest one of the genre I’ve played so far, which is something I’m always grateful for. Let’s take a look.

WWF Wrestlemania Challenge was developed by Rare and published by LJN. It was released on the NES only in November 1990. The game also saw a PAL release in 1991. This is the second of four WWF Wrestlemania games on the NES. This game, like the first, was developed by Rare. However, different developers would work on the other two games.

There is no story to this game. This is just a good old fashioned wrestling game between several characters featuring several different modes of play. The primary mode is the single-player eight-man tournament. The wrestlers you will face in this mode, in order, are Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Ravishing Rick Rude, Big Boss Man, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Andre the Giant, “Macho King” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and Ultimate Warrior. When I say you will face them, I do mean you. You will play the role of the wrestler You, taking on each opponent one at a time. It’s too bad that there’s no customization at all, so the role of You is just a generic white guy. Anyway, if you defeat all wrestlers in all matches, you win the tournament and beat the game.

You are the hero this time.

The controls are more simplified in this version of the game. Use the D-pad to walk around in all eight directions. The ring is oriented like a diamond here so there will be quite a bit of diagonal movement. The A button is used for basic strikes. Tap the A button to do a punch. Press and hold the A button to do a secondary move, such as a kick or headbutt. The B button performs a stronger move. The move depends on which direction the opponent is facing. If you are facing each other, B does a bodyslam. If you approach the opponent from behind, then B does a different move. Most wrestlers have a power move that is performed by pressing both A and B together. This can burn your energy faster, so don’t overdo it. If the opponent is laying on the mat, you can press A to attack. You can also press B here to do a pin, but you have to be lined up with the bottom of the fallen opponent to pin. The different moves will vary depending on the wrestler, but these are the basic controls for all moves.

You have some other move options as well. You can climb up on the turnbuckle in any ring corner by walking up to the turnbuckle and pressing A and B together as you press against it. Once you climb up, you can do an attack by pressing A. While airborne, use the D-pad to aim your attack. You can leave the ring the same way you climb on the turnbuckle by walking into the ropes and pressing A and B together. Be careful not to stay out of the ring past the countout or you will be disqualified. You can dodge an opponent’s power move by pressing both A and B together. If you are being pinned or are caught in a submission move, toggle between Left and Right on the D-pad to break out of it.

To win the match, you will have to pay attention to the energy meters of each wrestler. They are displayed on either side of the ring apron, which I think is a nice touch. Each successful move decreases the opponent’s energy meter. Using power moves will deduct a small amount of energy for each attempt. Avoiding attacks for awhile will also slowly increase your energy. To pin your opponent successfully, you have to run him almost completely out of energy. I believe you can force your opponent into submission with certain moves when low on health, but I didn’t see that happen.

Get his energy low, then pin. It’s that simple!

That’s about it for the core gameplay, but there are some different modes to choose from. One is the tag team match. You can control two wrestlers one at a time against a pair of opponents. Here you can switch between the two by going all the way into your corner of the ring and pressing Select. Each wrestler has a separate health meter and the man in reserve slowly gains stamina while inactive. Tag team matches are won when one of the wrestlers in the opposing tag team is pinned or disqualified. It is possible for teammates to both be in the ring together, but one of the two is subject to a countout if he doesn’t return to his corner. There are a couple of special controls here that occur when on top of the turnbuckle. If you are on the turnbuckle of the opposing team, you can kick the opposing, inactive wrestler by pressing B. Similarly, you can attack your own inactive teammate from the turnbuckle by pressing both A and B together. Another similar mode to the tag team match is the Survivor Series. There are two teams of three wrestlers each with only one active at a time. You can tag other teammates into the match. This time, each wrestler must be eliminated from the match individually. When all wrestlers on one team are eliminated, the other team wins.

There are quite a few variations between these different modes. They are broken down in the menu by either One player vs. Computer, Player vs. Player, or Two Players vs. Computer. There are four single player modes. The eight-man tournament is the main mode but you can also play a single exhibition match, you can control both members of a tag team in a match, and you can form a team in a Survivor Series. For two players competitively, you can engage in a one-on-one match, a tag team match, or a Survivor Series. There is only one two-player cooperative mode which is a tag team tournament against four computer-controlled tag teams.

Sometimes you get hit by a super move, that’s life!

You do get an ending screen for each mode. The text varies depending on what kind of match you won. In a way, you could consider any of them an ending, but most people would agree that winning what amounts to a single player campaign is the real criteria for beating the game. To that end, the game makes it a bit easier in this mode by giving you a couple of continues if you lose a match. You get an instant rematch should you lose, but if you lose three matches then you have to start all over.

This was my first time playing WWF Wrestlemania Challenge. This is a game I pulled off the bottom of my list that I wasn’t originally going to play so soon. I don’t recall when I picked this game up. The WWF games were reasonably popular, but only the first game is the one that is most commonly found. Still, I don’t think WWF Wrestlemania Challenge is too tough to track down. It should be easy to find for around $5-$10.

I didn’t have too much trouble with this game, beating it on my third attempt. I figured out somewhat of an exploit on this game. I wasn’t able to do this every time, but it was consistent enough to beat the game. I noticed the opponents either actively chase you or run away from you. If they run away, go get them! I would hit them with my B button move and then slam them when on the mat. If they come after me, I would retreat to either the top or bottom corner. Once in the corner, face toward the oncoming wrestler and mash the B button. It’s something about that corner where the opponent doesn’t line up with you soon enough to attack and you can get your move in first. The opponent then runs away and you repeat the cycle until you pin him with less than one health bar left. Using that method, I beat the game without using any continues pretty quickly.

A corner strategy worked out well for me.

As an aside, this game provides a turning point for my master game list for this project. I’ve mentioned my master list setup a few times but I’ll recap here. I initially removed a large chunk of games from my randomized game list and placed them at the very end. Lots of sports games, these wrestling games, and others were handled this way. About a year into the project I had a change of heart and decided to pull some of those games forward periodically. I’ve been aggressively promoting games lately and I have reached the inflection point where if I keep this pace up, I will have all those back-of-the-list games finished way earlier than the rest. Also, it has been troublesome and time-consuming managing what amounts to two lists. Finally, I have reconsolidated. Those less-desirable games have been spread out through the rest of the list and will appear more organically instead of me deciding on a whim to play one. I am now pleased with the structure of the overall game list, while still managing, for the most part, to keep the remaining games and their order a big secret even from myself.

Back to WWF Wrestlemania Challenge, I think this is a pretty decent wrestling game. It’s not quite as good as Tecmo World Wrestling, but it’s easier to play and much less demanding on my forearm strength and trigger finger. There are several different wrestlers with many modes and variations on game play, including a few different multiplayer modes. Controls are simple for a wrestling game and don’t require memorizing different moves. You still have to remember a lot of controls, but it comes easy in my experience. The graphics are nicely drawn and animated, and the music is decent as well. It is a touch on the easy side, but that is okay with me. It doesn’t quite live up to the name of WWF Wrestlemania Challenge in the difficulty department. That’s really the only complaint I have from this otherwise solid game.

#123 – WWF Wrestlemania Challenge


#90 – Bonk’s Adventure

Bonk here, bonk there, bonk everywhere.

What a happy caveman!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/12/18 – 6/13/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Bonk’s Adventure Longplay

The 1990s in video games were all about the mascot platformer. The success of Super Mario Bros. was a very early frontrunner to this trend, and although mascots wouldn’t really hit their stride until well into the 90s, there are some early examples of games trying to piggyback off the success of Mario. The Sega Master System tried keeping step with Alex Kidd. Sega eventually switched over to Sonic, a formidable rival. You could say Master Higgins of Adventure Island is also a mascot with a platformer. The SNES and Genesis generation brought a lot of one-off type games with mascot platformers like Bubsy, Aero the Acrobat, Sparkster, and Ristar to name a few. The Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era stepped it up even further with big names like Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Banjo-Kazooie, and Spyro the Dragon. Within the days of Mario vs. Sonic and the Console Wars was Bonk, a humble caveman starring in his own adventure on the Turbografx-16. There wasn’t a whole lot of console crossover in the early days, but for some reason, Bonk’s Adventure did receive a very late NES port.

Bonk’s Adventure was released first on the PC Engine in Japan in December 1989, named PC Genjin. The PC Engine became the Turbografx-16 in the US, and Bonk’s Adventure was brought over in 1990. The game was developed by Red Company and Atlus. A Famicom port called FC Genjin released in July 1993 and the NES version launched in January 1994. Hudson Soft published the NES version, however the developer is not clear. Red is mentioned on the title screen, but development has also been attributed to A.I. Company Ltd. There were three Bonk games on the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 and two on the Super Famicom, as well as some Game Boy ports and spinoffs and mobile games in Japan.

Bonk’s Adventure is a side-scrolling action platformer. You play the role of the caveman Bonk who must save the Moon Princess from King Drool. Just another cliché video game story. Bonk’s journey through Dinosaur Land will take him through many locales over the seven worlds in the game. You beat the game once you clear all the levels and beat all the bosses.

You gotta use your head.

You move Bonk around with the D-pad. Use the A button to jump. Bonk has a very strong head and he can use it to hurt enemies simply by jumping into them from underneath. Bonk will grab onto walls from the side with his teeth. In this state, you can climb the wall by jumping repeatedly. The B button is used to attack in two different ways. Press B while standing to headbutt. You can hit enemies from the side this way. While in the air, you can press B to do a flip. This turns Bonk over so that you can fall onto enemies with your head and hurt them that way. If you press B again while still in midair, he will orient himself upright again. You can do a bunch of midair spins in the air by pressing the B button repeatedly while in the air. This causes Bonk to fall much slower and you can use the increased airtime to make long horizontal jumps.

There isn’t much on-screen information to go by while playing Bonk’s Adventure. The top left corner shows three hearts. This is your health meter. Enemies can knock off your health in quarter-heart increments, but typically you lose health by half or full hearts. You can read a little more information by pausing the game. The pause display shows the current round and stage number, the number of smiley faces you’ve collected, and how many lives you have remaining.

There are several powerups to aid you in your adventure. A recurring enemy in this game is the Bani-Bana flower. They are stationary enemies that you can knock with a headbutt either from the side or above to reveal their contents. There are a few variations of the Bani-Bana flower. There are white ones that don’t give power ups, but instead launch Bonk skyward if he jumps on top of them. There is also an enemy that masquerades as a flower that leaps away when you wake it up. Since you are often left vulnerable while attempting to reveal the flower’s item, this means you will usually get hurt by this enemy if you aren’t careful.

Get powered up and crash through the bad guys.

There are many different pickups you get from the flowers. Fruit that is shaped like a carrot restores a quarter-heart of health, while red hearts give you one full heart and a big heart gives you three hearts back. The rare big white heart adds a heart to your maximum health. You begin the game with three hearts and can earn up to six. Smiling faces are collectibles that are redeemed at the end of each round. There are both small meat and big meat that power up Bonk when you eat them. You can also find little Bonk figures worth an extra life.

The small meat powerups give Bonk a head of steam, changing his form to the Grand Bonk. This is only a temporary transformation that is quite useful. As the Grand Bonk, if you do a midair spin and land on the ground with your head, it shakes the screen and damages all enemies. If you take a hit, you will go back to normal, and the effect eventually wears off anyway. If you collect the big meat, or collect the small meat again while Grand Bonk, you become invincible for a short time. You can really plow through enemies and clear a lot of ground in this state. When the invincibility wears off, you remain Grand Bonk until that wears off or you lose it.

You may see a small flower within a level. Grab it to ascend to a bonus area. There are three different bonus areas that have different rules. In the Jump the Canyons game, simply work your way to the right as far as you can while collecting the carrot-shaped fruits. Falling off or reaching the end completes the bonus game. You can earn smileys or even a 1up by collecting as many fruits as you can. You play the Flip Through the Air game by jumping off a tall ledge and flipping with B as many times as you can. The number of flips are counted up when you land on your feet at the bottom and you can earn smileys or a 1up. You earn nothing if you land on your head. The third game, Beat the Clock to Reach the Top, is the easiest one. Cling to the wall and press A to jump as fast as you can to reach the top. You earn more rewards for every second remaining on the timer.

There are bonus games you can sink your teeth into.

Most of the worlds follow a similar pattern. Many levels begin with a signpost with the round and stage numbers written on it. Levels proceed in one direction and there’s another post with an arrow on it meaning you’ve reach the end of the stage. The final stage within a round ends in an elevator that looks like a skull. Stand in front of it and press Up to take the elevator to the boss. These bosses are all large enemies that need to be bonked many times to defeat. After the bosses are defeated, evidently you knock them back to their senses. They each speak a few words of text after you finish the fight. Then you get health restored depending on how many smileys you picked up within the round.

One nice thing about Bonk’s Adventure is you don’t get set back at all if you lose a life. When you run out of health, you roll around and keel over. You can hang out in the death state for a long time while the game continues around you. Press Start to wake up with a new life and three hearts of health right where you left off. If you run out of lives, you can continue from the start of the round. This is a pretty severe penalty if you happen to lose your lives on the end of round boss. Fortunately, it seems like you can continue as often as you want.

This was my first time playing through Bonk’s Adventure. On the NES, this game is well known as one of the most expensive NES games. It’s the most expensive game I’ve played so far for this project. Here in 2018, loose carts sell for an average of $500 and complete in box copies average $800-$900. Bonk’s Adventure has consistently been in or near the Top 5 most expensive NES carts. I scored my copy in mint condition for $150 in 2014. The value of the cart was around $400 then so it was a killer deal. I just happened to find the listing for it on eBay at the right time within a lot of other NES games. That $150 bought me Bonk’s Adventure and 10 other common games.

The bosses are usually huge like this.

I had an easy time with Bonk’s Adventure. There was a learning curve to the momentum in-air. For the first couple of rounds I often missed my target while attacking from above. Powerups and health pickups were plentiful enough to help mitigate most damage taken from missed attacks. I was also bad at the bonus games at first, aside from the wall climbing one that is virtually impossible to lose. I thought the second round boss was the hardest one. It jumps around a lot and I couldn’t hit it when it jumped up into me, which sadly happened a lot. Those were the main issues I had with playing the game and I didn’t have any significant troubles otherwise. My first time through the game required one continue, but the second game through for my longplay video was a no-continue run. I didn’t check on the pause screen, but I think I ended up with about a dozen lives in reserve by the end.

Bonk’s Adventure is a quality game that is fun to play. The graphics and animation are very well done. The boss fights are really fun, though I feel they take way too many hits to defeat. The gameplay is tight and there are plenty of ways to attack enemies within the simple controls. The game can get a little repetitive, but at the same time there are a few stages where you swim or climb and it’s nice to have something different. I am not a big fan of the music. The soundtrack feels a little moodier and depressing than I would expect out of a game like this. The song during the end credits is something that would have given me nightmares as a kid playing games alone at night. It’s not objectively bad music, it’s just not for me. This is a good NES game all around. I would recommend playing the game, even if it falls short of the Turbografx-16 version like I suspect it does. But there is no reason at all to own this game unless you are a collector, grew up with it and still have your childhood copy, or got lucky and found it for cheap.

#90 – Bonk’s Adventure


#58 – Snow Brothers

This game is SNOW much fun!

These brothers slim down a bit during gameplay.

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

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

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

Always saving the princesses in these games, sheesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll take the red speedup potion any day!

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

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

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

Snow Brothers features some pretty fun boss battles.

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

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

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

#58 – Snow Brothers


#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master

What dreams are made of!

I usually listen to the good music for awhile here!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 11/27/16
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Little Nemo Longplay

There are quite a few games I have discovered in the NES library where I play it and immediately realize that I have been missing out for years. Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games for me. I had most of the popular games growing up and many other good games, but there are so many games on the console that some end up being skipped. I am sure I had my opportunities to play the game much earlier since I was definitely aware of Little Nemo long before I played it. Either way, it’s better late than never! Little Nemo is a game that I really like and I am excited to tell you more about it today!

Little Nemo in Slumberland is a comic strip created in 1905 by an American cartoonist named Winsor McCay. It follows the story of Nemo and his adventurous dreams where each strip ends with Nemo waking up out of bed. The comic was published in the New York Herald until 1911 when McCay moved to the New York American. McCay was able to retain the rights to the characters and he brought Nemo to the American under the name In the Land of Wonderful Dreams from 1911 to 1914. In 1924, McCay returned to the Herald and revived Little Nemo in Slumberland until 1926 when it ended due to lack of popularity.

Little Nemo branched out into other forms of media over the years. A play was created in 1907 and another was created much more recently in 2012. There was a film made about McCay in 1911 that involved him creating animations of Little Nemo characters. There was an original opera performed in 2012. There have also been compilations of McCay’s original work, and McCay’s son even tried to bring back Little Nemo after his father’s death with lackluster results. However, the most notable work was the joint American-Japanese film named Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. This 1989 movie serves as the basis for the NES game.

You know you’re in for a treat when one of the first things you see is a giant mushroom!

Little Nemo: The Dream Master was released on the NES in North America in September 1990. It was both developed and published by Capcom. The Famicom release, titled Pajamas Hero Nemo, was released a little later in December 1990, and the European NES release debuted in December 1991. The story of the game follows closely to the 1989 movie. Curiously, the film was not released in the US until 1992, two years after the NES game. Capcom also released a separate arcade platformer simply named Nemo in 1990.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a platformer game. You play Little Nemo as he is tasked by a messenger of the princess to rescue Slumberland and King Morpheus from the Nightmare King. Nemo must work his way through eight areas to beat the game and save Slumberland. True to the source comic strip, each area in the game is a separate dream with Nemo hopping into bed to start the level and being woken up by his mother after the level.

On his own, Nemo is not very powerful. He can move around reasonably well, including jumping and ducking, and he can throw pieces of candy. However, the candy can only temporarily stun enemies without dealing any damage. Nemo can feed certain animals three pieces of candy which causes them to fall asleep. He can then take a ride on the animal or sometimes actually become the animal, which gives Nemo the means to clear obstacles and fight enemies. You can press Select to switch back to regular Nemo and from there take control of a different animal if desired.

The Frog lets you make these tall jumps.

There are several animals in the game and each one provides Nemo a set of additional capabilities. For starters, each type of animal has a certain amount of health points that may vary from Nemo’s own health. Enemy attacks deal one point of damage to Nemo and he loses a life when he runs out of health. More important than health are the different animal abilities needed to properly explore the stages. For instance, in the first level Nemo can become a frog that can jump higher than Nemo to reach tall ledges, and he can defeat enemies by jumping on them. Later you come across a mole that lets Nemo dig underground to explore even more. Some animals can climb walls, some can swim or fly, some have useful attacks, and so on. You have to play around a bit to figure out what you can do with a new animal. If there is an obstacle in the level, then there is an animal nearby capable of tackling it. Therefore, the platformer has some puzzle elements to it where you need to track down different animals and experiment with their capabilities.

There are a few items that will help Nemo out. Small bottles restore a single point of health, and first aid kits restore all of Nemo’s health. There are 1up icons that give Nemo an extra life. Finally, the most important items in the game are keys. At the end of most levels there is a locked door with several keyholes next to it. To finish the level, you need to collect enough keys scattered throughout the stage in order to unlock all the keyholes. Unfortunately, you have to reach the end of the level first to see how many keys are required, and you are forced to backtrack if you come up short. Some of the keys are well hidden in alcoves and branching paths. You will need to master all of the creatures in the game and search high and low to meet the level requirements.

There are many different environments in the stages. The first level is a mushroom forest with giant mushroom mountains as well as caves to explore and waterfalls to climb. There is a jungle level, a sea level, and others. There is also an auto-scrolling train level thrown in there for something really different. There is always something new to explore and there is a lot of variety to keep things interesting.

What kind of toy house has crushers like this?

This is a bit of a spoiler, so jump ahead a paragraph if you don’t want to know. Toward the end of the game Nemo gets an actual weapon that he can use to take out the bad guys when he doesn’t have an animal helper. The difficulty gets significantly bumped up here in part by introducing boss battles. Not only do you have to get more used to controlling Nemo on his own, but you have this new weapon to figure out. It may seem like an unnecessary change in the game, but I find it quite a bit of fun.

Little Nemo is typically regarded as a difficult game, and to an extent I agree. The difficulty curve feels a little bit uneven with some levels more taxing than others, and then the game takes a significant bump up in challenge toward the end like I just mentioned. The game has infinite continues which limits the difficulty, however, the whole game is long and challenging enough where you may not be able to grind through it in a single sitting.

I didn’t own Little Nemo until much later in my NES collection, but I remember reading about the game quite a bit. I probably ended up emulating it first but only just to try it out for a bit. One of my good friends has a very small collection of NES games but Little Nemo is one of them, and he would tell me about how good the game is to play. That sold me on the game enough to seek it out. I don’t remember when or how I ended up getting my copy, but when I did I ended up playing through it shortly thereafter. I have played through it at least a couple of times before covering it now.

You can “bee” deadly if you must!

Despite my experience with the game, I don’t know it well enough to just breeze right through it. I remembered enough to beat the game in a single sitting, but not well enough to look good doing it. I recorded my playthrough but it is definitely not my best effort. I had to continue a few times, and I forgot some of the keys and had to go back and find them. Thankfully this blog is about finishing the games regardless of skill or style, so I’m satisfied with getting to the ending of the game.

I want to take a moment to praise the soundtrack. Capcom games tend to have really memorable music, and Little Nemo follows that trend. The soundtrack is often upbeat and I think it really captures that dreamy feel that should accompany a game like this. Some of my favorite tracks are right at the start, including the prologue, title screen, and Mushroom Forest theme. You can listen to all the songs at the VGMPF website.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games that should be in any NES library. The graphics, music, and gameplay are all top-notch. There is quite the variety of animals, level layouts, and obstacles for a game of this length. Despite that fact that each animal behaves differently, the controls feel good and make sense all around. This is a title that is still affordable for any cart collector. The only negative I see is the uneven difficulty and the endgame challenge, but I welcome it so that’s not a problem for me at all. If somehow you missed playing this game like I once did, I would recommend giving it a try!

#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master

Astyanax Box Cover

#18 – Astyanax

Does anyone even know how to pronounce Astyanax?

The graphics are quite nice!

The graphics are quite nice!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 2/29/16 – 3/4/16
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10

With NES game prices still on the collective rise, there are plenty of inexpensive games remaining and a number of them are more fun to play than their price tag would suggest. Astyanax is a common game that runs around $5 and I think the experience here is good enough to justify the cost. It’s a bit clumsy at times, the story is pretty hokey, and it takes some time to get accustomed to the gameplay, but nevertheless I had fun with the game.

The Astyanax was released in arcades in late 1989. In Japan, the game is known as The Lord of King. It was developed by Aicom and published by Jaleco. The NES version was just called Astyanax and was released on the NES in March 1990. It was released in Europe and Japan around the same time as the US. This is the first Jaleco game covered for Take On The NES Library. Jaleco is one of the more prolific NES publishers with 22 games to their credit. Sometimes, Jaleco is also attributed as the developer for the NES game. It’s hard to say for sure who actually developed Astyanax. The NES game maintains similar mechanics to the arcade version, but it is a completely different game with a different story, levels, and bosses.

Astyanax is a side-scrolling action game. You play as a high school student named Astyanax who gets pulled into another dimension and you must save Princess Rosebud from the evil wizard Blackhorn. You are armed with a battle axe used to defeat enemies. You can also jump and use magic spells. One of the primary mechanics in this game is the power meter. The power meter determines how much damage your attacks will do. It charges up until it either reaches the max or you attack. Swinging the axe resets the power meter back to zero. The idea is that you can swing the axe constantly for little damage, or wait a little bit to perform a much stronger attack. Either approach can work depending on the situation.

Yup gotta save that princess

Yup gotta save that princess

You also have a magic meter that lets you cast three magic spells. You can switch the active spell at any time by pausing the game and selecting which spell to use. Spells are activated by holding up and pressing B just like the subweapons in Castlevania. The first spell is Bind which freezes all enemies for a few seconds. This spell is incredibly useful because it also lets Astyanax walk right through frozen enemies without taking any kind of damage or knockback. The Blast spell attacks all enemies within a pretty wide range and it costs more than the Bind spell. The Bolt spell is the most expensive spell but it does major damage to all enemies on screen.

There are also powerups you can obtain by destroying statues placed throughout the levels. Red potions recover a bit of health and blue potions fully restore health. The power supply looks sort of like a worm and it increases your maximum power meter. The wing lets you recharge your power meter faster. The axe powerup lets you change your weapon. You start off with the axe. The first powerup switches the axe for a spear, and the next one upgrades from the spear to the sword. The spear is weird in that is it pretty much a downgrade as it’s the weakest weapon. The default axe is in the middle and the sword is the most powerful. The stronger the weapon, the stronger the magic attacks are, but the tradeoff is that spells are more expensive when using stronger weapons. Sometimes it is to your advantage to carry the spear for awhile to be able to cast the Bind spell more often in order to clear tough sections of a level. Another powerup you’ll find is the fairy Cutie. She acts like your guide throughout the story segments of the game. When you find her in the levels, you can either have her refill all your magic or she will let you select which weapon you want to use. Finally, you can find a mini Astyanax figure for a 1up.

I know there's danger ahead but don't skip the powerups!

I know there’s danger ahead but don’t skip the powerups!

Astyanax has six levels and each level except for the first level has two sub-levels. The levels take place in typical locales such as a castle, the forest, the mountains, and so on. Most of the levels have you going from left to right, but a few levels are vertical. One of the later levels is a maze where you need to navigate a series of rooms while looking for the correct door in order to proceed. Along the way you will fight stronger ground enemies like skeletons or trolls as well as weaker airborne enemies like birds. There is some platforming involved as well which is pretty tricky given the onslaught of enemies. This is where plant enemies tend to appear up out of the ground and toss projectiles at you that will often knock you back into pits. The Bind spell is almost essential for these platforming portions since the spell effect usually lasts long enough to cross over all the pits ahead. If you run out of magic at any time it makes the levels quite a bit more challenging.

At the end of each sub-level you are greeted by a mini-boss. Each one is about your size and they have a lot more health than the average enemies. Some have more complicated movement patterns, some throw projectiles, and others even have magic spells that they cast against you. They are often accompanied by a full health powerup so they aren’t too difficult to deal with at full health. About half of the sub-levels follow up these fights with a real boss encounter. These bosses are much larger and they usually are as tall as the screen so they can be much more formidable just due to their size. There is no health recovery between the mini-boss and the level boss so that adds to the challenge. In a departure from most games, all the spells are equally as effective against the bosses as they are against the basic enemies. Even the Bind spell stops them dead in their tracks, so that alleviates some of the frustration. Dying against the boss is a real pain because any death sends you all the way back to the beginning of the sub-level, plus it degrades your weapon down one level. You do get unlimited continues though so you can just keep plugging away at it and make progress that way.

There is also an overarching story that is driven via cutscenes in between each level. This is very much like the Ninja Gaiden games in that you play some levels, fight a boss, and watch story cutscenes. The story itself is nothing to write home about, but it’s there and can provide a reason to keep going I guess.

Cut him in the face just like a hero

Cut him in the face just like a hero.

This was my first time playing Astyanax. I didn’t own this one as a kid but I remember reading about it in some gaming guidebooks I had. I ended up with several copies through buying game lots. That means I have had lots of opportunities to play the first three or four screens of the first stage! My first impression was that the game is really clunky. The jumping is slow and the attack is just a bit slow too. I had to play around a bit and get used to the timing, but it eventually clicked. Attacking enemies in the air is really difficult to get the hang of because you have to attack a bit earlier than you would think to make contact, and whenever the enemies are moving too it makes it all the more difficult. I got better at it but I still missed attacks a lot. Utilizing the spells makes the game so much easier. Pretty much any time I encountered a gap I would cast the Bind spell so that I could happily pass right through. I used Bind almost exclusively in the game though I made headway on some of the later bosses with the Blast spell. I didn’t use Bolt at all because I rarely had enough magic power to use it anyway.

It only took me two nights of playing to finish Astyanax. The first night was sort of a trial run to get used to the game. I spent the majority of my time clearing the first level. I found the game pretty challenging right from the start. The first stage is decently long and there was a lot of dying and restarting while I was getting used to the game. I died at the boss a couple of times and had to start all over. I think the game gets easier during Levels 2 and 3 before ramping up in Level 4 and beyond, but I believe that has more to do with getting acclimated to the controls than to the levels themselves. It was in Level 4 where I drew the line and stopped playing for the night.

I just now noticed that poor guy locked up in the background.

I just now noticed that poor guy locked up in the background.

I wasn’t able to play any NES for three nights in between my attempts. I almost didn’t play the night of my winning run either. I went to bed really early and got up in the middle of the night to do some stuff around the house. After I was done I figured what the heck, I’ll play for an hour and see what happens. I blasted through the early game without much trouble and then I decided to just go for it. The last level stumped me for awhile. That one is the maze level I mentioned earlier. I thought I had a handle on it but after awhile I realized I wasn’t actually getting anywhere. There’s a trick to the level that took me awhile to figure out and I’m a bit surprised I figured it out without any help. Even with that knowledge I still had to replay the level a few times to get through it, but that was my last real hurdle with Astyanax and I beat it soon after. I didn’t beat it in a single credit but I only had to continue twice, so that’s pretty good for my second try. The ending to the game is exceptionally cheesy too. I won’t spoil that one here! That one hour of playing turned into almost two hours but I have no regrets!

Astyanax seems to have a reputation for being a very challenging game but I found it to be right about average difficulty. The hard part is learning how to land your attacks, but the very useful spells and unlimited continues really evens things out overall. If I can clear it for the first time in a couple of days, then I think average difficulty is a pretty fair assessment. The music in the game is pretty good too. I don’t think I played it quite enough for the music to lodge itself in my brain, although I have heard the theme in the first level a few times before and I like that one.

Astyanax is a pretty good game to have on the cheap. It has nice colorful graphics and lot of large, detailed sprite work, as well as some nice music to go with it. The game plays fine too. It’s a nice little romp. I don’t think everyone will like it but at least it won’t be much of a loss in that case. I mean, I’d rather play Ninja Gaiden when choosing a game in this style, but I think most people would agree with that.

Astyanax Ending Screen

#18 – Astyanax