Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#175 – Skate Or Die

If I have to choose, I’m choosing to skate.

Fine, fine, let’s skate!

To Beat: Get the high score in all events
Played: 5/17/21 – 5/18/21
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Skate or Die Longplay

Skateboarding and video games seem like a perfect match with each other.  I did some looking into early skateboarding history and I noticed some similarities.  Skateboarding began as a niche hobby, really blew up in its early days, then had a very quick downturn for several years, dismissed as a fad.  Video games had a similar trajectory early on.  Computers were inaccessible to all but engineers, researchers, and educators because they were so huge and costly, but that didn’t stop them from designing games on early hardware.  As video games got bigger and bigger, they too had a very quick rise and quick fall from the infamous video game crash in the US.  But both activities recovered quite nicely and are still very popular.  A match made in heaven, indeed.  Today’s game is one of the earlier attempts to capture the essence of skateboarding into video game form.

For as popular as video games and skateboarding were in their early days, the first skateboarding video games didn’t appear until around 1986.  Atari Games’ 720 is considered the first skateboarding video game, which had an NES port that I will cover in the future.  Skate or Die followed not too long after, first released on the Commodore 64 in 1987 by Electronic Arts, their very first game developed in-house.  The game was ported to various computers in 1988 and 1989, such as DOS and the ZX Spectrum.  Skate or Die came to the NES via Konami in December 1988, published under their Ultra Games label.  It was also released in PAL territories in 1989.

Skate or Die is a collection of five skateboarding themed mini-games.  They are the Freestyle Ramp, High Jump, Downhill Race, Downhill Jam, and Joust.  You can play them solo or all of them back-to-back in the Compete All mode.  Up to 8 players can play the events in alternating play, except for one competitive event.  This game does not have a traditional ending screen, so the next best thing is to get the high score in all events, as well as defeat your opponent in Joust.

Not intimidating at all!

The first thing you’ll need to do is visit Rodney Recloose in his skateboarding shop.  This is the launching area for the game.  Move your “Skate or Die” themed cursor with the D-pad.  You can hover over various things in the shop to get some commentary from Rodney.  At the bottom of the screen, there are options for Go Practice and Go Compete.  You can select Go Practice at any time to jump straight into game selection, but if you want to Go Compete solo or with friends, you’ll need to register on the Sign In sheet.  There you can name up to 8 players, one at a time.  In single player, if you want to Compete All, you need to enter just your name as Player 1.

Outside of the shop, you can control your skater on the street to choose an event.  The events are broken up by where they take place.   The right side leads to the Ramp where you can choose the Freestyle Ramp or the High Jump.  The downhill events, Downhill Race and Downhill Jam, are off the bottom of the screen.  To the left is the Pool where you can Joust, or you may choose the Compete All option.  Just move your skater down the road toward the event you want to try to get started.  I’ll get more into controls in a bit, but your skater on the map screen uses Goofy Foot controls, which are from the perspective of the skater, not the TV screen.

I’ll cover the events in the same order as Compete All, beginning with the Freestyle Ramp.  The goal of this mode is to score as many points as you can by completing as many tricks as you can.  You get 10 tries, 5 from each side of the half-pipe, to pull off these tricks.  To get started, press the A button to enter the ramp.  You can press Up and Down to move in and out of the pipe.  The trick you perform is determined by how many times you press the A button while down in the ramp, plus an optional direction when you reach the lip of the ramp.  There’s a table in the manual that describes each trick you can do.  If you want to simple soar high, press A multiple times in the ramp plus no direction at the top of the ramp.  You’ll fly up into the air and you can turn your skater with Left and Right to spin, just be careful to line up properly when you land back on the ramp.  If you press a direction, either into the ramp or away from the ramp (i.e, press Right when moving right, or Left when moving right), you’ll do a different trick, depending on if you pressed A once, twice or more, or not at all.  Each successful trick nets you points, but if you mess up, then you’ll slide down in shame with no points that try.  After 10 trick attempts, you’ll finish up with bonus points that scale up very quickly the more different types of tricks you do successfully in the run.

Show off your moves, as many as you can.

The next event is the High Jump, also taking place at the ramp.  Press A to start your descent down the ramp.  For this one, you need to mash the D-pad and the B button as fast as you can to gain speed through the ramp.  You can go back and forth up to 10 times to try and record the best jump you can.  The manual says that once you’re ready, you want to press A at the edge of the ramp to soar high, then press A again at the very apex of your jump to “kiss the sky” for a little extra height.  Once you do that, you’ll go back to the left side and automatically dismount.

Next up is the Downhill Race.  This is an obstacle course where your goal is to skate to the finish line at the bottom of the course.  Here, and in the Downhill Jam, you can choose your control method of either Regular Foot or Goofy Foot.  Regular Foot essentially amounts to reverse controls, but those controls line up from the perspective of the TV screen.  For example, pressing Left turns your skater to the right, but since you are moving down, your skater will turn toward the left side of the screen.  In Regular Foot, the Up and Down controls are reversed too; press Down to go faster and Up to slow down.  Goofy Foot is the same controls as the map screen, which are from the perspective of the skater character instead of the TV screen.  It’s confusing to describe, but maybe that made sense.

Anyway, on to the Downhill Race.  First choose your control method, and off you go!  Navigate the obstacles the best you can and try not to crash.  You can earn points by doing tricks as you go.  You can jump by holding Up and pressing A, and you can duck by holding Down and pressing A.  The jumping and ducking controls are the same for both Regular Foot and Goofy Foot.  You can jump off ramps or duck through tunnels for extra points.  Crashing only gives you a slight time penalty as you get yourself back on the board.  The bulk of your score is awarded at the end of the course depending on how quickly you finish.

Love to leave Lester in the dust!

The fourth event is the Downhill Jam.  This one is a different kind of obstacle course, only this time you compete against another skater.  In single player, you’ll go up against the computer-controlled Lester, but in a multiplayer game you compete against each other!  Movement controls for this mode are the same as the Downhill Race, including choosing either Regular Foot or Goofy Foot.  The Downhill Jam is a glorified race to the end of the course.  You can earn points along the way by knocking over small objects like cans, and you’ll crash if you stumble into anything sturdier than that.  Running through a chain link fence and crumbling to pieces is pretty funny!  The other thing you can do for points is to beat up your opponent.  There are surprisingly sophisticated controls for the attacks.  When your opponent comes alongside you, press the D-pad toward him and A to punch.  If you press away and the A button instead, you’ll do a kick.  Furthermore, you can do a high kick with a diagonal Up and away with A, and a low kick with diagonal Down and away with A.

The fifth and final event is the Joust.  It takes place inside of an emptied out pool.  At the start of this mode, you can choose your computer-controlled opponent.  Poseur Pete is the easiest opponent, Aggro Eddie is medium difficulty, and Lester is the toughest, coming right out saying the title reference: “Skate or Die!”  In this mode, players take turns between offense and defense.  The offensive player needs to use the jousting stick to knock the opponent down, while the defensive player must move to avoid getting knocked out.  The defensive player gets five passes across the pool, and should he survive that, then he becomes the aggressor and the players switch roles.  At the edge, press A and toward the pool to enter, then you can use Up or Down to position yourself inside the pool.  You can slide along the top edge of the pool as well.  As the attacker, press A to swing your joust and knock the opponent down within range.  Each knockdown is a point and the first to three points wins!  This mode also has competitive multiplayer where you can square off against your friend.  If you play with more than two people, the mode becomes a single bracket tournament, for up to 8 players, which is a pretty cool addition!

This was my first time beating Skate or Die, at least I think so.  I didn’t play this one until adulthood, but it was one of the old NintendoAge weekly contest games and so I played it for that.  I only remember giving it an hour max, probably not even that long, just enough to post a respectable score on the board.  This is an affordable game, around $5 for a loose cart, not hard to find at all.  It’s weird that I didn’t come across this one as a kid, but I know I picked up multiple copies from buying lots as an adult collector.  It’s the type of game you’ll find bundled with other games you were going after.

Jousting is tough, try to get close and strike.

I stated above that to beat this game you need to get the high score in all events and win Joust, which is only partially true.  You can do all events in a row using the Compete All option, taking them in the order I reviewed them above.  The thing is that there aren’t really high scores for this.  The game keeps track of the top three scores in each event but the lists start off empty, so any score is good enough for the top score.  In the Compete All mode, you are awarded a separate, overall score of 5 points for clearing each event in single player.  I assume when playing with multiple people you earn fewer points the lower you place among your friends.  Now you do not earn the 5 points if you lose Joust, so winning that one is required, but the other ones don’t matter at all.  There’s no ending screen for this game, but the ending blue screen for Joust showing the full 25 points is good enough in this case.

I did want to try to perform reasonably well in each event, so here’s how I did that.  In the Freestyle Ramp, if you play it properly, most of your points are earned from the bonus points at the end.  You need to perform as many unique tricks as you can to boost the bonus points.  My run wasn’t perfect by any means, but I scored a little over 6000 during the round and earned another 6000 points in bonus.  For the High Jump, I just tried to mash as much as I could.  When the jump felt right, then I performed the “kiss” move for a little extra height to end the event.  I don’t think pushing A at the top of the ramp really did anything to improve my height, in fact I think it slowed me down as it threw off my mashing rhythm.  The Downhill Race doesn’t have too much strategy other than trying to avoid crashing.  There are some stunts you can do on certain obstacles to get to the end faster and earn a few style points, but it’s not necessary.  I only crashed once in my attempt which is fine.  For the Downhill Jam, I didn’t bother attacking Lester at all.  I focused on clearing the event as smoothly as possible.  You can gain time on Lester by leaving him behind, as the game will pull him forward automatically and give him a small time penalty.  In my run I crashed once through a fence, but so did Lester so no big deal.  The Joust was the hardest event for me.  My offensive strategy was to wait until he went, then enter and hit him right away on my side, which worked often enough.  Defensively though, I think I just got lucky.  What I wanted to do was stay right behind him so that we only cross paths at the top where he isn’t likely to land an attack.

The speedrun World Record of Skate or Die is currently at 2:16.9 by OldSchoolMcFly.  The run itself looks quite straightforward.  Do the bare minimum to clear the two half-pipe events, and get to the end of the course as quickly as possible in the two Downhill events.  There was a pretty neat route to the Downhill Jam that I wouldn’t have known about before the speedrun.  The Joust is where the run is made.  The runner chose the middle character, Aggro Eddie, perhaps because he is actually more aggressive and enters the pipe more quickly than the others.  Two of the offensive points were scored the same way as my strategy above.  For the third point however, the runner waited out the clock in the pipe until he could go on offense and then timed it to where he was already overlapping the opponent so he could score the point immediately.  That’s definitely not easy to do and I bet it requires a lot of luck to set it up.

For me, Skate or Die is a basic skateboarding game that doesn’t have a lot to offer.  It does have a variety of events that are pretty fun to play, but they are so short and it starts to lose appeal for me quickly.  The graphics are basic, with simple backgrounds and tiny sprites, but the animation is quite smooth and nice to look at.  The music is pretty catchy, in line with other Konami developed games.  The controls are responsive, but they don’t feel very responsive at times due to the momentum based movement and turning in the Downhill events.  These are nitpicky complaints.  This is a good game; I just got my fill of it pretty fast.

#175 – Skate or Die


#175 – Skate or Die


#173 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

Turtle Power! This time at home!

The cursor stares into your soul.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 4/20/21
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game Longplay

A lot can change in just a few years.  It was four years ago when I beat the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the site.  I wouldn’t have guessed that I would end up learning the speedrun for this game and getting a pretty decent time for my efforts, as well as making good friends in the speedrunning community at large.  I don’t speedrun too many games and not any more of the TMNT games, but I do like them quite a bit.  Last April, I played TMNT II: The Arcade Game, a familiar game that got a lot of play over the years.  Now this April, I am finally working the backlog and starting to write up this review.  (Yes, I realize it is now June, I’m not exactly sprinting through things to get fully caught up.)  Purely by coincidence, it is very fitting that April has become the de facto Turtle month for me!

For more information about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, check out my review of the first NES game.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a smash hit in the arcades after its 1989 release.  Tens of thousands of arcade cabinets were sold and shipped worldwide, and Konami had trouble keeping up with the demand.  Naturally that demand was high enough that home versions were created and released on various home computers, as well as a port to the Famicom and NES.  The Famicom version was released first as just Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then a week later Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (TMNT II for short) arrived on the NES.  Both releases were in December 1990.  The game was developed and published by Konami worldwide, except for North America where it was published under the Ultra Games label.  The PAL release, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles II: The Arcade Game came out in November 1991.  The arcade version was released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2007, and both the NES version and arcade version of the game are a part of the newly announced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection coming later in 2022.

How did they get the wrecking balls upstairs?

The NES port of the TMNT arcade game is notable for adding two brand new stages to the mix.  While the story of the game is rather basic, there was some detail added in the NES manual to cover for the new stages.  This game plot-wise is a follow up from the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.  At the end of the movie, Shredder is thrown off the roof of a building into a garbage truck and crushed.  But as it turns out, Shredder was saved from death by his titanium-laced helmet, so he is able to escape unseen and rebuilds in secret.  During this, he recruits two bounty hunters, Tora and Shogun, who star in their own brand new levels.  With everything lined up, Shredder captures April O’Neil again, putting our heroes on the rescue path once again.
Let’s get started with playing the game.  TMNT II has two-player simultaneous play, so you can choose from 1 Player or 2 Player mode to get started.  Next, each player will choose their turtle of choice.  Each turtle is shown in their own square in grayscale and selecting the turtle you want will brighten him up in full color.  After all players have chosen their turtle, another cutscene plays before launching into the game proper.

TMNT II is a side scrolling beat-em-up.  Use the D-pad to move your turtle around the screen.  Stages typically move from left to right, and you can use Up or Down to move in and out.  Press A to jump.  Some stages have elevated floors and you can jump up ledges to higher ground.  The B button attacks.  While standing or moving, this does a simple attack with your weapon.  While airborne in a jump, press B to do a jump kick.  This move is great for quick attacks or as a defensive maneuver if you need a short burst of speed.  Perhaps the most helpful move in the game is the jump attack.  To do this, press A and B at the same time.  If performed correctly, you’ll do a short hop immediately into an attack.  I usually perform this move by rolling my thumb across A then B, pressing B just a little bit after pressing A.  This prevents me from accidentally attacking before jumping which doesn’t do the proper move.  The jump attack does extra damage and defeats many basic enemies in a single strike, and there’s no penalty of any kind to use it, so I do this pretty much the entire game.

The top of your screen contains a few stats for each turtle.  You see the name of your turtle, your score, your remaining health, and the number of lives in reserve.  Scoring in this game is very basic; each enemy defeated is worth one point, including bosses.  Your health bar starts off all the way across your status box and ticks down as you suffer enemy attacks.  Some stages have pizza on the ground that you can collect to restore your health fully.  You begin the game with two extra lives, and you earn another life every 200 points, a fairly tall order given the slow rate of scoring.  There are no other powerups or anything else.  There is a limited continue system.  You get three continues to beat the game, and each one brings you back to the beginning of the current stage.

The orange glow means you’re about to win.

This is a very straightforward game.  There are 10 total scenes in the game across 7 stages.  In each scene, you defeat all the enemies that appear on the screen before continuing to move to the right.  Most stages end in a boss fight against one of Shredder’s big baddies.  Most of the enemies in the game are the standard foot soldiers, with standard attacks.  As the game progresses, they come in different colors with some different abilities.  For instance, yellow foot soldiers throw boomerangs.  Even the default purple color enemies can vary sometimes, like the enemies that throw sticks of dynamite.  There are other types of recurring enemies like the tiny mousers.  The turtles themselves are pretty much interchangeable as there aren’t any turtle-specific special moves and there doesn’t appear to be any benefit to one turtle over the next.  I do have fun with this game, but there’s no denying that it sticks to the same formula throughout.

TMNT II: The Arcade Game was one of the NES games I had growing up.  I was big into TMNT for a few years as I was just the right age for that.  I know I played the arcade release a few times but the NES version is what I remember the most.  This was a multiple time rental before I got my own copy of the game.  I’ve since beaten the game many times over the years.  My collection copy now is not the same one I had as a kid.  I loaned my cart out to a friend at school, he stuck it in his backpack, then later slipped and fell down hard.  The cart inside his bag got cracked and a corner of the plastic broke off entirely.  Thankfully I am not super nostalgic about having the exact same copies I grew up with, even though for the most part I took good care of my things.  This is a pretty common game, but it is desirable, so it goes for about $20 for a loose cart.

This was an easy clear for me.  The game came up once, maybe twice in the NintendoAge contests. (They are still going on now at videogamesage.com, though I haven’t participated in a year or two at this point.)  The ruleset was to get as far as you can on one credit, with lowest score as the tiebreaker.  Some stages have interactable elements that you can hit into enemies to kill them, without earning points.  Grinding out attempts for a week, even years ago, got me trained up to play through the game well.  For this playthrough, I did two attempts and won both times without continues.  I wanted to see if I could go deathless, but that will take some effort to accomplish.  In my video longplay, I actually died to Rocksteady, the Stage 1 boss, then got all the way to Krang at the end of the game before dying again.  I died quite a few times to Shredder too.  I would have to clean that fight up significantly.  This was a clean enough run and I’m happy with it.  Maybe someday I’ll go back and work on a deathless run.

Home sweet home

I bet a lot of retro gamers my age will remember the cross promotion between the NES game and Pizza Hut.  Most notably, there was a coupon on the back page of the NES manual for a free, personal pan pizza.  There was advertising for this plastered on the front of the game box, and Pizza Hut is referenced a few times within the game itself.  I lived in a small town growing up, and the only pizza place we had in town was Pizza Hut.  Those personal pan pizzas were one of the greatest things ever.  My local place also carried a few arcade cabinets, and while I don’t know for sure, it’s certainly possible that there I got to play the arcade version while waiting for the cheesy goodness.  While my original copy is long gone, and I’ll never know if I redeemed that coupon or not, I now own a CIB copy of TMNT II with the coupon still intact.  It’s only 30 years expired at this point!

TMNT II: The Arcade Game sits in an almost overlooked place these days.  I believe TMNT III is the better game of this style.  The original NES TMNT game is so weird and wonky, but also unique and challenging, and I really like what it offers.  The arcade version is a beautiful game and still looks amazing today, and it plays so well with different moves and 4-player simultaneous action.  I think the NES port is really well done considering the limitations of the console, and after looking into it, I say it fared better than its computer ports.  This game has a clean graphical style with recognizable characters and detailed sprite work.  The music is great, as you would expect from Konami, and faithful to the Turtles theme.  Controls are rock solid, and the gameplay is equally solid action.  There are plenty of tense boss fights and scenes to keep things engaging.  The only criticism I see is that the game is pretty long for just fighting enemies and moving to the right.  You literally need to defeat hundreds of enemies in one sitting to beat this game.  That can be tedious for some, certainly.  Some people are really disappointed in this game, and others would claim its average, maybe above average at best.  I say this is quite a good game, one of the better NES games out there.

#173 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game


#169 – Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf

Is this the longest NES title?  There may be something to that.

I guess Jack talks to you directly after this screen.

To Beat: Finish a Round
To Complete: Win a match against the CPU
My Goal: Beat Jack Nicklaus
What I Did: Won a skins match and stroke play
Played: 10/22/20 – 11/1/20
Difficulty: 1/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf Longplay

When I think of Jack Nicklaus’ NES golf game, I think about Twitter.  That is probably going to need some explaining, but it’s simple.  I can’t believe it, but Twitter is already 15 years old.  I got in on it about three years after it first launched, so I’ve been around awhile.  The thing about Twitter starting out was that you were restricted to 140 characters per tweet.  Well in 2017 they expanded the limit to 280 characters, and I remember tweeting about how now I wouldn’t have to worry about completing what I think may be the game with the longest name on the NES: Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf.  (Just in case you want proof, here’s the tweet.)  Pretty close to three years later, I finally got to make good on that by playing this game.

Jack Nicklaus is often considered the greatest golfer of all time.  Before turning pro, he won the U.S. Amateur in both 1959 and 1961, and finished 2nd in the U.S. Open in 1960.  He would win the U.S. Open in 1962 after turning pro, the first of his 18 major championship wins, the most all time in professional golf.  In 1986, at age 46, he won The Masters for his final PGA Tour win, capping off at 73 Tour victories.  Only Sam Snead and Tiger Woods have won more, with 82 each.  Nicklaus would move on to the Senior Tour, racking up wins there, and he also made further appearances on the PGA Tour.  He finished his career at The Open Championship in 2005 at St. Andrews, where he had long hoped to play his final professional game.

Jack Nicklaus gave his name to a series of golf games.  The first of these is the game I played here, Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf.  The game initially appeared on various home computers in 1988.  It was developed by Sculptured Software and published by Accolade.  The NES version was released in March 1990 in North America and June 1991 in PAL territories.  The game was ported by the original developers but published by Konami on NES.  This game was also ported to the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine in 1991 and the Game Boy in 1992.  There are six other games in the Jack Nicklaus series, the latest of which released in 2016.  There were also several add-on discs for the original game that only appeared on home computers, adding many courses and sometimes extra features.

What round hair you have!

As this is the first golf game I’ve covered for this project, I’ll go over the rules of briefly.  This game has only one course of 18 holes, but what is special about this course is that it is comprised of Jack Nicklaus’ favorite holes across every course he’s ever played, a “best of” pack if you will, something that can only be done in video games.  Anyway, to get started you begin with the ball on a tee.  You select a club, a driver in this case, and hit the ball toward the tiny hole at the other end.  Wherever the ball lands, that’s where you will hit from the next time, no matter if it lands on the fairway, rough, or a sand trap.  The idea is to hit the ball as few times as possible to put it into the hole.  Scoring in golf is done by strokes, or how many times you hit the ball, including penalty strokes in certain cases.  Everyone plays golf separately, and the competition is who can complete the course in the fewest strokes.

This game offers two different ways to score golf.  The standard mode is Stroke Play.  Simply keep count of all strokes made over 18 holes.  Each hole has a par score, which is an expected number of strokes per hole.  Score is traditionally tracked by how many strokes you are above or below par.  Professional courses have Par 3, Par 4, and Par 5 holes, and 18-hole courses in whole almost always add up to 72 strokes in par.  The other mode in this game is the Skins game.  Instead of trying to win by strokes, you are trying to win by money.  Each hole is assigned an amount of money, and the player that finishes the hole with the fewest strokes wins the money.  However, if there’s a tie at the top, the money is carried over to the following hole, with that hole’s money added in.  The first six holes are worth a certain amount, the next six holes are worth more, and the final six holes are worth even more, typically in single amount, double amount, and triple amount fashion.  Tiebreaker holes are played for any ties after the final hole to see who wins the last prize.

The gameplay screen is where you will play golf.  The game is played from a sort of 3D perspective where the game draws out your view before taking every swing.  It is a neat idea, except for how slow and long the drawing takes, every single stroke.  Like you can say the entire, full name of this game more than once in the time it takes to render the screen.  The top of the screen shows where you are aiming, designated by a golf ball shaped cursor.  Move the ball cursor with Left or Right to aim.  A flag will show where the hole is, particularly useful if the hole is too far away to see from where you are.  There are bars on either side of the aiming cursor.  If you cross these bars, your golfer will turn in that direction and the view will redraw completely.  This is so you can aim in any direction, 360 degrees, should you desire.  The left hand side has a color bar which is your swing meter.  The bottom of the screen contains all other pertinent information.  You can see the wind measured in both direction and strength on the bottom left.  The bottom right shows your club selection and difficulty level, as well as arrows showing your button presses, for some reason.  The bottom middle shows all other stats, such as player name, hole number, stroke number, par, and distance to the hole.

It’s golf!

When it’s time to swing the club, pay close attention to the swing meter on the left-hand side.  Swinging the club is a three step process.  First press A to start the cursor moving upward.  To set the power, press the A button again.  Now the cursor will go back down.  Press A once more to set the angle of the ball.  The swing meter is scaled differently here than in most golf games I played.  Normally hitting the ball with full power uses the full strength of the club, and all other power settings in between have a linear effect in regard to power.  For instance, setting power in the middle of the meter gives you a half-swing.  This game has a non-linear power bar, which is confusing for the first time player.  The green portion of the meter represents 0% to 100% power.  A red line most of the way up represents 50% power, and the white lines in between break up the power meter into 10% segments, with smaller-sized segments appearing at the top of the power bar, meaning you need to be more precise if you want accuracy on longer shots.  The red area at the top of the power bar is for an overswing.  Setting the cursor in the red hits the ball harder than 100% power at the cost of some left-to-right variance.  If you must hit the ball straight, don’t go into the red.  To set the angle straight, you want to press A for the last time at the line between the green and the brown.  Press early and your ball will hook left, press late into the brown area and your ball will slice right.  Sometimes this is what you want depending on if trees or other obstacles are in the way.

Putting the ball is pretty much the same as swinging.  The swing itself is still a three-part process, same as above.  There are two considerations you will want to make before putting.  The angle of your shot is pretty important.  The ball cursor at the top still determines that angle.  If the green is flat, you will want to line up the shot so that your ball, the hole, and the ball cursor all fall in a straight line on screen.  Which brings me to my next point, reading the slope of the green.  Here the wind meter is replaced with the break meter, which behaves in a similar way.  The arrow shows the direction of the slope and the red and green break meter shows how steep it is.  The more red showing, the steeper the slope.  Upward directional arrows indicated you are putting downhill, and downward facing arrows mean you are hitting uphill.  Downhill shots are tricky in that if you overshoot, the ball will roll and roll a long way.  Take your time.  One other interesting aspect of this game is that the hole position itself on each hole is set randomly every time you play.  You may approach certain holes differently depending on where the hole is on the putting green.

Be sure to read the break on the green and take your time.

You will set up and configure your game on the menu screen before golf.  Right after the title screen, you’ll select your game mode between Skins and Stroke Play, as well as the number of players for each, either 2-4 players for Skins or 1-4 players for Stroke Play.  On the next screen you will set up each player.  Use the arrow keys to move around the highlighted cursor and press A to make selections.  You can choose either Male or Female as well as if this player is CPU controlled or not.  If you choose a CPU player, Jack’s name is populated in the name field.  You can press Left or Right to cycle between the CPU players and all the other settings are updated to match the particular CPU player. Otherwise, you can enter a human player’s name up to 8 characters and set the gender manually.  Next is the Skill setting, either Beginner or Expert.  On Beginner the game auto selects the best club for you considering your current distance to the hole, and also it shows on-screen the max distance for that club.  On Expert you choose clubs on your own with no on-screen indicator for club distance.  It’s unnecessary, seeing as you can use the distance table provided in the manual, but I played on Expert anyway.  Finally, you choose which tee you’ll play from, either Pro, Men’s, or Ladies’.  This sets the initial distance from the hole, with the earlier settings starting you farther away.

There are 8 computer players, named Jack N, Nancy D, Lars X, Babs R, Art M, Natasha, Eddie C, and Sally C.  Each character has their own personality more or less as listed in the manual.  Since their settings are pre-populated in-game, you can get a sense of how well each character plays just from the menu.  You really can’t tell though how they compare to each other, and the names aren’t in any discernible order.  Jack is clearly the best player available.  From the manual descriptions Eddie C seems to be next best, and Natasha seems like the best female player.  I played against these three players only through my various attempts.

This was my first time playing through Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf.  By my count there are 7 golf games on the NES, and I had played about half of them before, but not this one.  This is a common game, among the cheapest NES carts you can find.  As of this writing, it is worth about $3 on Price Charting loose and $10 CIB.  I imagine it isn’t hard to find in a lot, that’s how I got mine.

Most of the time is spent watching this slow rendering.

It turns out that beating this game is completely free, hence the 1/10 difficulty rating.  Simply finish any round, win or lose, to get the same ending screen no matter what.  According to the manual, after 50 strokes on any one hole, the game pushes you along to the next hole, so it is truly 100% free.  Playing the game against the CPU is harder but not too hard if you pick an easy opponent.  The difficulty ramps up a lot with the more challenging players.  After a few rounds I discovered it was gonna take perfect, and I mean perfect, play to beat Jack Nicklaus.  I abandoned that idea rather quickly.  Eddie C was a real challenge himself.  I managed to squeak by him in Skins play in a back and forth match that went to sudden death.  But I was no match for him in Stroke Play.  On one particular round he shot a 59, a massive 13 strokes under par, and it was then I decided to find a different CPU player to beat.  I settled on Natasha who also gave me some real trouble.  After a few tries I shot a 65 and beat her by one stroke, which included an eagle (two strokes under par) on the final hole to come from behind and seal the deal.

Of all the NES golf games I’ve played, in this project or not, I think Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf is probably the weakest one.  The graphics are a little bit hard on the eyes, and some of the views don’t line up well visually with where your ball is.  That’s the cost of essentially rendering the graphics at run time from wherever your ball is.  While a really neat trick, the NES can’t quite pull it off convincingly.  There’s little music to speak of here, just menu music, end of hole music, and some voice samples and sound effects.  The controls are responsive and simple, just what you would expect in a golf game.  The gameplay itself suffers from the rendering issues I mentioned above.  Lining up putts can occasionally be a challenge.  It’s also interesting how easy it is to hit the pin from a great distance.  Hitting the pin often ensures you’ll have just a short putt to finish off the hole.  The modes in this game are interesting, and there are plenty of AI options.  This is definitely not a bad game, but it’s not great either, so this is why it is a bargain bin type of game.  Sorry, Jack.

#169 – Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf (Skins Game)

#169 – Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf (Stroke Play)


#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


#153 – Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

Taking things case by case (by case)

TIME: For the amount of time it takes

To Beat: Solve 80 Cases
Played: 3/18/20 – 4/5/20
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? Longplay (Part 1) (Part 2)

Much like the titular character, I never really got close to Carmen Sandiego.  In grade school, I remember our computer lab consisted of all Apple II’s plus a lone Macintosh computer.  During computer time one student a day got to do activities on the Mac and I do remember that there was a Carmen Sandiego game as an option.  I don’t even remember what I did when my turn came up, and even if I did play Carmen Sandiego, I don’t recall anything about it.  The closest I got to Carmen was occasionally watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on PBS, listening to Rockapella serenade the audience and seeing if the winner could mark off all the countries on the map.  I know there were plenty of educational games bearing her name, but I didn’t seek that stuff out on my own and my parents didn’t force educational games on me.  Much like the main character once more, time has eventually caught up to me and now I am finally playing a Carmen Sandiego game to catch her for myself.

Carmen Sandiego is the lead character in a set of educational video games.  Common to all games, the player’s task is to look for clues and use knowledge to follow her and her henchmen around the world, eventually leading to her capture.  The series was created by Broderbund and began in 1985 with Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?  Broderbund continued to make Carmen Sandiego games until 1998 when the company was acquired by The Learning Company, who have continued to make games in the series to the present day.  Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? is the 5th game in the series.  It was first released on Apple II in August 1989, then was ported to various PCs, the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.  The NES version was released in October 1991 in North America only.  This port was developed by Distinctive Software and published by Konami.

In Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, you play the role of a fresh recruit to the Acme Detective Agency.  Carmen Sandiego and her team of V.I.L.E. henchmen have gotten a hold of a time machine and have been using it to heist various well-known treasures across history.  Fortunately, the agency has access to a portable time travel device called the Chronoskimmer 325i and has assigned it to you so that you can chase Carmen and her gang across time.  There are time restrictions to the device so you can only use it for a short time.  You will need to gather clues to follow the bad guys around and hopefully arrest them before time expires.  As you are making a career out of this, you will need to solve 80 cases before you can retire.  Buckle in, this is gonna take a while!

Fresh-faced and ready to go!

The first thing you would notice upon buying this game brand new at retail was that it came in an oversized box.  This is because the game comes with a paperback desk encyclopedia.  Coming in at 1374 pages, it is a comprehensive encyclopedia.  In this game you will gather clues that you reference in the encyclopedia to find out when and where one of the criminals has run off.  I made sure to buy a complete copy of the game with encyclopedia so that I could play the game as it was intended.

At the start of the game, you have just arrived at headquarters.  Your view is from the inside of an elevator at the lobby level.  Use the hand cursor to select an elevator button to move between floors.  In the basement, you can view the game’s credits.  The third floor is the lab where you can peek in on a science experiment.  You can grab a cup of coffee (hopefully) on the fourth floor lounge.  These things are just for fun.  The real destination is the personnel department on the second floor.  Here you enter in your name up to eight characters, then a password if you want to continue from a previous game.  Passwords are seven alphabet characters long.  It seems from my list of passwords that not all letters are used even though you can select any of them.  If either starting a new game or continuing, you will power up the Chronoskimmer and get to searching!

All of your time playing will be spent on one screen.  At the top are a couple of boxes that display which country and year you are currently located.  The left side box is your graphical display while the right side box is for text.  In the center columns are buttons to select options as displayed in either window at times.  The bottom of the screen shows the time remaining in hours as well as your main menu options: Travel, Search, Data, and Abort.  You navigate this screen via a simple hand cursor.  Simply use the D-pad to move across each button and press either A or B to press the button.

This is a learning game, so there’s plenty of historical facts.

The first thing you will want to do in your investigation is look for clues.  You can do that with the options within the Search menu.  Select Search and then choose from either Witness, Informant, or Scanner.  Choosing Witness and Informant does pretty much the same thing.  You will question someone at your location, and they will tell you something they heard about where the criminal is going next.  You take that piece of information to the encyclopedia to figure out the country and rough time period that it relates to.  Sometimes the witness or informant will also give you an additional piece of information related to the description of the criminal.  These extra clues are essential for determining exactly who you are pursuing for this case.  More on that later.  The Scanner lets you sweep the environment for objects the crook may have dropped, which can also be referenced in the encyclopedia.  Sometimes you can do additional scans on the object you found to get a more detailed hint.  Every time you ask a witness or informant, or do a scan or follow up scan, it costs some hours off the clock.

The Data menu is helpful for learning more about the different criminals you are chasing as well as logging any descriptions you may have uncovered during your search of the scene.  In the submenu you can pick from either Evidence or Dossiers.  The Evidence menu lets you log the criminal description clues.  There are five categories of evidence: Sex, Hair Color, Eye Color, Favorite Artist, and Favorite Author.  Some of the descriptions you’ll uncover are very straightforward, while others may require some encyclopedia research.  Log whatever you find, then when you have enough clues you can use the Compute function.  This lets you know how many criminals fit the description you have gathered so far.  Once you narrow it down to one criminal, you will receive a warrant for their arrest.  The Dossiers submenu lets you browse the known criminals and read some basic information about each one from which you can glean some of his or her attributes.
When your search turns up enough information to know where your criminal went, now you must to travel through time to catch up with them.  The travel menu pulls up a list of four countries along with a time period displayed on a graph.  The time periods you can travel to are 400-1299, 1300-1699, 1700-1899, and 1900-present.  Sometimes you get the same country multiple times in the list in different time periods, and occasionally there are only three selections in the list instead of four.  When you are confident, click your selection and travel through time.  At your next location, if you have tracked the criminal successfully, once you search for help you will see a cutscene displaying V.I.L.E. Henchman Detected.  Then you look for more clues and keep following leads.  If you miss and travel to the wrong location, the search comes up empty and you will have to backtrack in time to get set on the correct course, wasting your precious hours.

When you see More, you’ll get information about your suspect.

With enough investigation, you will have tracked the criminal through multiple locations and have gathered enough descriptive evidence to have collected a warrant for their arrest.  Now it is time to make your capture.  At your final destination, you simply need to search the location to find them.  There are special cutscenes that play to indicate you are at the final location and time period for this case.  You just need to attempt either two or all three of the search options before you finally see them.  Then you catch the criminal via a cutscene, reveal his or her identity, and see if your warrant matches.  If so, then congratulations, that case is completed!

The game is a very long grind with the 80 cases required to beat it.  There are some milestones along the journey that slightly help to break up the monotony.  As you complete more cases, you advance job titles.  You begin as a Time Cadet, but at certain numbers of cases completed, you will get a promotion to such job titles as Time Investigator and Time Detective, among others.  You get special text upon completing the required case to show your promotion.  Also, at one point during your journey, you will finally catch up to Carmen Sandiego.  Now you would think that this would complete the game, but it only serves as your signature achievement.  You still need to get to the full 80 cases completed to officially retire from the force.

This was my first time playing Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?  As an educational game in a popular series, it seems to have sold well enough.  I wouldn’t say it’s a common title, maybe slightly uncommon, but not too hard to track down.  Finding the game in the big box with the encyclopedia is not as easy to find, but even then it’s not terribly expensive.  Expect to pay around $10 for a loose cart and $35-$40 for the complete set.  I had the loose cart from a lot purchase, and I bought my CIB for around $30 about 3-4 years ago.

Enter in enough evidence to find who your suspect is.

The first thing I needed to do was some research on my potential criminals.  I figured out right away that the criminals themselves have pre-defined characteristics and tastes, so that part is not randomized.  Then, I set out to create a table of names along with their hair and eye color and all that.  There are 16 criminals in the game and four types of each of the five attributes.  It is set up so that exactly four criminals have each specific attribute, such as red hair or Kipling as their favorite author.  Reading through the dossiers, I figured out two or three attributes of each person, and then from there I was able to deduce almost all the rest.  That’s when I figured out that I could have done all this legwork much easier.  If you enter in any arrangement of evidence, even with some left blank, and do the Compute function, then the game lists out every criminal matching that description.  You can build a table more quickly that way, but oh well, my work was already done.

The next step was to do some research on the list of favorite authors and artists.  This part was really straightforward.  I simply looked up each person in the encyclopedia and jotted down notes of every significant mention in the entry.  Specific events, acknowledgements, or works of art included in the encyclopedia were often mentioned in a specific clue in the game, which was huge for setting up the evidence.  It was much easier to use a cheat sheet than to keep referring to the encyclopedia entries every single time.

Even with the best laid plans, there were still clues in the game that I could not find any reference at all in the encyclopedia.  This was true with pieces of evidence as well as location clues for when you time travel.  Other clues could be ambiguous, such as in cases were events or lifespans occurred across two time periods.  In those instances, I kept another sheet of paper keeping track of those clues along the solutions after I deduced them through gathering additional information.  I had documented maybe 15-20 pieces of information like this, which really isn’t that many considering the scope of the game.  Some less obvious clues are just part of the experience.

Arrest made! Just 79 to go…

It bears repeating that this is such a long game to complete.  The first few cases you’ll solve are pretty short with only 5 stops or so.  I actually find these harder than in the later game because you have fewer opportunities to get the clues needed to get the arrest warrant.  The amount of time you have to complete each case is randomized but generally scales up to the size of the case as you go up in rank.  The shorter cases require more questioning of people which cuts into the amount of time you need to solve, track, and arrest.  The animations throughout the game also add a bunch of filler time to the game experience as they are both slow and plentiful.  I moved as quickly as I could once I started to get the hang of it.  I also started to memorize some of the clues which saved a bunch of empty research time.  Each case took me roughly 8-10 minutes each to solve, even as they got larger later in the game due to optimization of research.  The full playthrough lasted a little over 12 hours, in addition to roughly an hour or so of research and early, unrecorded attempts.  In the larger scheme this isn’t a super long game, but boy does it feel longer than that.

There’s one minor quirk of gameplay that I noticed happen a few times.  Normally when you time travel to the wrong location, the criminal will never have been there so you get no hints and you know you have to try and go back. However, it is possible to go to the wrong location in the sequence but be at one of the places you have already hit on your search.  When this happens, you will still see the V.I.L.E. Henchman detected scene which leads you to believe you are on the right track, when in fact you have probably messed yourself up from completing the entire case.  I noticed one time I kept having the same clue come up, while another time I had no idea I was off the path until time ran out.  It all depends on which location in the sequence that you backtrack to.  This is a completely sensible thing to happen and I totally get it.  I was understandably frustrated to have that happen over the course of such a long game.

Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? does exactly what it sets out to do.  It is a solid educational title with tons of historical information inside and plenty to learn about.  The graphics are well drawn and there are so many different scenes and animations from all the different time periods and locations.  There is very little music in the game, which in one way is a shame since there is so much silent gameplay and, in another way, maybe a blessing in disguise if the music were to be bad.  The controls work fine as they don’t need to be complicated in this game.  The gameplay is good enough for what it is, however the decision to make the game so long to reach the end is what drags it down.  The game is already repetitive by nature and 80 cases is such a weird, arbitrary number to choose.  You’ll have to time travel hundreds of times just to see the basic ending screens.  It is hardly worth it, but at least I’ve learned some things along the way.

#153 – Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

#153 – Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?


#150 – Double Dribble

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s enough room here for everyone.

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

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

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

Fouls send you to the free throw line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#150 – Double Dribble


#142 – Metal Gear

Get your cardboard box ready.

One of the most briefly shown title screens ever.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/14/19 – 12/27/19
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 7/10
My Video: Metal Gear Longplay

Metal Gear is one of those long beloved series in all of video games.  It didn’t really start out that way though.  It didn’t catch on until Metal Gear Solid came out on PlayStation, which in my opinion was the turning point for the series and elevated creator Hideo Kojima to auteur status.  While not normally my kind of game, I have played some of the Metal Gear Solid series.  Therefore, I came into Metal Gear on NES knowing the sensibilities of the Metal Gear series but not so much how to approach or play this particular entry.  How much of Metal Gear Solid and its ideas originated from earlier titles like this one?  I doubt I’ll be able to answer that question, but I can provide some background information and my thoughts on how this game played.

The first Metal Gear released on the MSX2 in Japan in July 1987.  It was developed and published by Konami and designed and directed by Hideo Kojima.  Metal Gear was quickly ported to Famicom for release in December 1987, and it reached the NES in North America in June 1988 and Europe in 1989.  The North American version was the first NES game Konami published under the Ultra Games label.

The overarching story of Metal Gear is already fairly well known, and the NES version does not differ much from it.  You play the role of Solid Snake, a fresh recruit of the special forces unit called FOXHOUND, who is sent on a special mission codenamed Intrude N313 by his commanding officer Big Boss.  FOXHOUND’s best agent, Gray Fox, was previously sent to a fortress near South Africa called Outer Heaven run by an evil dictator.  Gray Fox was to investigate Outer Heaven and neutralize any imminent threats found within, however, FOXHOUND lost contact of Gray Fox.  Solid Snake has been sent to find out what happened to Gray Fox.  I’m jumping ahead a bit, but a little while into the game you find out Outer Heaven is housing a weapon of mass destruction called Metal Gear, a walking tank capable of firing nuclear weapons from anywhere in the world.  Your mission then is to destroy Metal Gear.

It’s always important to have good communication.

Metal Gear, the game, is a top-down action-adventure game.  Solid Snake is controlled with the D-pad and he can move in four directions.  Press the B button to punch.  The A button fires weapons though you do not start out with any.  The Start button simply pauses the game, while the Select button brings up a selection menu.

The game begins with you being airdropped into the jungle.  Upon arriving you are immediately called via your transmitter as the word “CALL” is flashed at the bottom of the screen.  Press Select to bring up the menu, then choose “TRANS” to use your transmitter.  There you will automatically receive a message from Big Boss.  He gives you the frequency on the transmitter where you can reach him again if needed.  After the message is over you’ll hear this super-annoying horn sound.  At this time, you can tune the transmitter to help you send or receive messages.  Use Left and Right on the D-pad to scan through frequencies 120.00 through 120.99.  If someone is already trying to reach you, simply landing on the proper frequency will deliver the message automatically.  If you want to reach out yourself, tune the frequency and then press Up to switch to Send mode.  Solid Snake will call for help and in the right situation with the right frequency you will make contact and get a message back.  As you can imagine, using the transmitter is good for advancing the story and getting tips on forward progress.  When you are all done, press Select to go back to the action.

Your first task is to proceed through the jungle, moving downward through several screens.  Here you get a taste of using stealth to make your way forward without being noticed.  If you walk in front of a soldier, he sees you and puts the game into an alert state.  Firing a noisy weapon also draws attention to you.  Defeating all the enemies on screen or simply moving to the next screen is enough to escape the alert state and go back to quiet.  Until then, all enemies start moving in on you.  Soldiers have guns and aren’t afraid to use them.  If some enemies are left alone long enough, other enemies may start appearing and make things more difficult.  Of course, you can avoid alert state by staying out of line of sight.  You can punch enemies three times without them seeing you to take them out and stay quiet.  You can also wait for soldiers to leave or fall asleep, giving you an edge.  The third screen of the game introduces you to guard dogs that go alert when you get near, which always happens.  I found it is best to be as quiet as possible and avoid confrontation, but it is helpful to know how to navigate the alert state as it is hard to avoid sometimes.

Sneaking isn’t easy in close quarters.

Getting out of the jungle is not an easy task.  Not only is this first part of the game pretty challenging, it was also a little unclear how to get out of the jungle at all.  Go down far enough and you reach a fence locked off by a gate that you can’t open.  It turns out you need to enter a covered truck simply by approaching it from the back.  If you’re like me and didn’t know about that until the end of the section, it’s a good idea to go back and investigate the other ones you passed as some of them contain items or weapons.  When you have something usable, you can go into the menu and equip it.  There are two screens for this, one for weapon selection and the other for item selection.  The weapon selection screen shows all weapons you’ve collected as well as ammo for each.  Simply point the cursor to the weapon you want, then press Select to leave the menu and equip your new weapon.  Choosing an item from the item selection screen functions in much the same way.  Sometimes items, such as rations, must be used from this screen with the A button.  A few items are equipped permanently without you selecting it, but most items need to be selected to be used outside of the menu.  Anyway, one of the trucks in the jungle transports you in front of the first building.

Most of the game is spent inside of buildings.  These can have pretty large layouts with multiple floors, so creating a map might be helpful, or maybe you can do what I did and memorize the basic structure.  To get inside of the initial building to begin with, you need to locate and equip a keycard.  Many of the rooms inside the buildings are behind locked doors that require some keycard.  These secured rooms hold a majority of the weapons and items in the game.  More commonly you will find ammunition for your weapons or rations for restoring your health.  You can also find captured soldiers, who you can free simply by walking up to them.  They will sometimes give you advice or at the very least a thank you.  For every five captured soldiers you free, you go up in rank.  Increasing your rank increases the size of your health bar as well as letting you hold more ammo.  You can go up to four stars in rank, and you need that rank to finish the game.  If you shoot and kill a hostage, then you go down in rank, so don’t do that.

Be someone’s hero today.

There are several weapons in the game.  You can fire standard bullets with either a handgun or machine gun.  The handgun shoots straight while the machine gun fires bullets one at a time in a spread pattern.  A grenade launcher and a rocket launcher fire their respective shots.  Plastic explosives blow up on a timer, while mines explode on contact with an enemy.  There is a remote-controlled missile.  When firing this weapon, you sit still while you set the rocket’s direction with the D-pad.  You can also pick up a silencer for your handgun and machine gun so that you can use them without causing alerts.

You will acquire roughly a screen full of items of all sorts.  Many of these are the card keys, and some of them are items that open up progress in a part of the game, which makes them just like keys.  I won’t go through all of the items but a few of them have different uses.  The binoculars let you peek into an adjacent room briefly to see its layout.  A mine detector lets you see hidden enemy mines in a few screens.  Infrared goggles allow you to see invisible lasers that alert the enemy when touched.  A gas mask lets you breathe in a gas-filled room so that you don’t suffer any damage.  The antidote is good for curing poison if you get bitten by a spider.  Not everything is required to beat the game, but it’s a good idea to pick up whatever you find.

When you die, you can choose to Continue or End.  Continuing puts you at a checkpoint with all of your stuff intact.  Evidently checkpoints are determined by your rank, not by your equipment or by distance reached.  This means a one-star rank puts you back all the way at the start, which is definitely frustrating when you’ve reached deep into the building.  Choose End to see your password.  Passwords are 25 characters long consisting of all capital letters and numbers 1-6.  This is a game where the passwords store all of your information, such as weapons, items, hostages saved, and even your ammo counts.  Part of the password is a checksum just to ensure you have entered a valid password and aren’t just typing in random stuff on the password screen to try and skip ahead.  This game takes several hours to play through for the first time and so passwords are appreciated.

There are plenty of traps, some often unseen.

This was my first time playing through Metal Gear.  I knew about this game and read about it a lot in old gaming magazines.  I never ran into a copy back then, but then later when I got one I didn’t play it past the first few screens.  I was more intrigued by it conceptually than I was interested in actually playing it.  That was how I felt about the Metal Gear Solid games too.  However, years ago I decided to finally buy Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection on PS2 and played through all three games at that time.  I struggled through them but wanted to see them all to the finish.  I suppose that satiated me as I haven’t touched Metal Gear again until now.

Playing through Metal Gear on NES for the first time was an interesting experience.  The first stretch of the game is tough on a new player and the game doesn’t open up until you get through the jungle.  I really got into it once I reached the first building.  At that point, Metal Gear starts to feel like a dungeon crawler.  I explore the building, getting a little bit further each time and picking up new items that make future runs easier.  I caught my groove in the middle part of the game before getting hung up some toward the end.  I have the map that was included with the NES game, and I looked at it once or twice just to make sure I understood the layout of the game.  This wasn’t a spoiler free playthrough because I needed to look up the solutions to the maze zones.  It was frustrating that the game didn’t tell you anywhere what to do there, and I gave up trying to figure it out on my own.  I would say my time with the game was fun with a few annoying parts.

I was able to record a full playthrough of Metal Gear.  My first time through the game took about 8 hours or so.  The second time for my longplay was much faster at around 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The game really isn’t all that big once you know where everything is and how to navigate the buildings.  I wanted to beat the game without dying but I didn’t quite get there.  I died once to the tank by mistake in the middle of the game.  I also died a few times trying to get through the dark rooms with all the holes.  I only cleared that part once in my first playthrough and I don’t think I ever found the right strategy for it.  That section is completely skippable, so after a few deaths, I went the long way around just to get it done.  I’m not completely happy with this run but it is good enough.

Don’t get run over like I did.

It’s hard to play this game without noticing how glitchy and unpolished it is, so I want to list some things I took note of during my time playing.  The most obvious characteristic of the game is its poor English translation.  Some examples are the well-known “I feel asleep!” and “The truck have started to move.”  This lack of grammar and spelling is all over this game, some things more obvious than others.  The card system has a major flaw in that doors require a certain card and only that card can be equipped to open the door.  There’s no indication what card is needed, and there are eight cards total, so you have to go in and out of the menu over and over swapping cards until you find the right one.  It is possible to reach late game sections early in the game and that causes some weird things to happen.  I had my transmitter go off only to pull up the transceiver to nothing.  Something happened to one of the characters and I presumed them dead though you can backtrack and communicate with them as if nothing happened.  There are also hints you can only get once when you rescue prisoners.  If you speed through the text or skip it, then it’s gone, and it might have been a vital clue for what to do next.  All of these things detracted from my enjoyment of the game a little bit.

There’s one more oddball thing about Metal Gear that has nothing to do with the game itself.  I’ve mentioned screw variants before on this blog.  To quickly recap, early NES games had five screws holding both sides of the cartridge together, and sometime in late 1987 the molds changed to a three-screw design for all future licensed NES carts.  Metal Gear was released long after three-screw carts were the standard, but somehow a few copies out there are in the five-screw form factor and I happen to own two of them.  These late five-screw variants are exclusively Konami or Ultra published titles, and all of them are missing the Caution label on the back of the cart.  These carts technically should not exist, but there are a couple of theories.  One is that these are refurbished games that were sent back for repair and they were fixed using leftover five-screw shells.  Another theory is that these were sample carts used for demos or in kiosks.  Whatever the case may be, these are very hard to find, and I am not sure if every Konami game has one of these variants as some have not yet been discovered.  Variant collectors will pay a lot of money for these.  I have a few others in my collection that I’ll mention when I play those games in the future.

Metal Gear is a game that both has a lot going for it and has a lot holding it back.  The graphics are very nice with lots of detail.  Even though the color scheme is a lot of green, brown, and gray, it still looks good to me.  I am not a fan of the font with the empty lines across almost every character.  I think the music is good.  The controls function appropriately with clean design.  The gameplay is fun and engaging, and I enjoyed exploring the buildings and sneaking past the guards.  I can see why this was a popular game for its time.  All the glitches and weird inconsistencies I mentioned before break the immersion a little bit.  Snake only moves and attacks in four directions which feels limiting, though at least the enemies behave the same way.  This is a game that will grab you by its story and its exploration, and it’s safe to say it delivered for me in both those departments.

#142 – Metal Gear


#138 – Tiny Toon Adventures

Become a little looney by playing this fun platformer.

They look so happy!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 10/28/19 – 10/30/19
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Tiny Toon Adventures Longplay

As a kid I watched a lot of TV.  We had cable growing up and we were a Nickelodeon family for the most part.  I only got into some of the series that were played on local TV.  I didn’t really watch the Disney afternoon stuff, shows like DuckTales or Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers or TaleSpin.  My interest more switched to Nicktoons once they got going in the early 90s.  Now I did watch a bunch of Tiny Toon Adventures, but despite that, I didn’t own or play the NES game.  I played a lot of Buster Busts Loose on the SNES, just not the NES entries.  Tiny Toon Adventures on NES is one of the games that escaped my childhood for reasons unknown, which is a shame because this platformer is really fun.

The Tiny Toon Adventures cartoon was created by Tom Ruegger.  Both Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment collaborated on the show.  Amblin Entertainment was founded by Steven Spielberg, so that’s why you often see “Steven Spielberg Presents” on the show’s title screen.  The show ran for 3 seasons and 98 episodes between September 1990 and December 1992.  The first two seasons were in syndication and the third and final season aired on Fox.  There were also three specials produced.  The show eventually stopped production to make way for Animaniacs, however re-runs continued through syndication regularly through around 2005.  The show was also a critical success, winning 7 daytime Emmy awards.

There are about 20 or so Tiny Toon Adventures video games released between 1991 and 2002.  Konami developed all of the Tiny Toon games except for one between 1991 and 1994.  (They published the other one.)  Konami was one of the most prolific developers in both quality and quantity, so this series was in good hands.  There were three NES Tiny Toon Adventures games: Tiny Toon Adventures, Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland, and Tiny Toon Adventures Cartoon Workshop.  Tiny Toon Adventures released in both North America and Japan in December 1991, while the European release was delayed until October 1992.  It was the first console game based on Tiny Toon Adventures.

High jumps are shocking.

The story is your simple guy kidnaps girl plot.  Montana Max, one of the villains of the show, is upset because Buster Bunny wins the award for Best Student Film at the Acme Acres Animation Festival.  So, in a fit of jealous rage, Montana Max has Babs Bunny kidnapped while on her way over to Buster’s house to celebrate his win.  Now, Babs and Buster are not related, just friends, so this particular version of this old story trope seems extremely lazy to me.  Anyway, Buster Bunny, along with help from Plucky Duck, Dizzy Devil, and Furrball, set out on a journey to save Babs.  There are six stages in this game you will have to complete to beat the game.

Tiny Toon Adventures is a platformer with standard controls.  Use the D-pad to walk around Left or Right.  The A button is for jumping, and if you hold A you get a big height boost after bouncing off an enemy.  You duck by holding Down.  The B button is mostly used for running when it is held down.  While running, press Down to do a slide maneuver.  There are also swimming controls.  Tap the A button to rise in the water and hold Up and press A to jump out of the water.  You can also shoot whirlpools underwater with the B button to fend off underwater enemies.

There are a few items that will help Buster and his friends.  Carrots are the standard collectible in this game.  There’s a counter for them on-screen and you can hold up to 99 of them.  Other items are found in balloons that appear periodically.  Leap into the balloon to pop it and reveal the item inside.  The most common item is the Toon-a-round, a ball with a star shape on it.  Collect this to change characters to either your designated partner or back to Buster.  Hearts give you an additional hit point from the bad guys.  Collecting a second heart while already having one gives you an extra life instead.  There is also a stopwatch that freezes the enemies temporarily.

Plucky can fall slowly and swim well.

At the start of each stage, you speak with Shirley the Loon who helps you pick your partner for the upcoming stage.  Sometimes, if you wait long enough, Shirley will recommend the best character to pick for the upcoming stage.  Each character plays similarly to Buster with some additional moves.  Plucky Duck can glide in the air by tapping A repeatedly. He is also a more effective swimmer than the others.  Dizzy Devil cannot slide, but he has a special spin attack when B is pressed.  There is a little meter that ticks down while spinning and you have to let the meter recharge before performing another spin attack.  Furrball can climb walls.  Push into the wall to grab on, then press A to hop up the wall.  Press the opposite direction and jump to leap away from the wall.

Hamton the Pig plays a useful role in this game.  Instead of being a playable character, he hangs out in a shop of sorts.  In some stages you will find a door to a room.  Go inside to pay a visit to Hamton.  He will exchange every 30 carrots into an extra life.  These are optional rooms of course but every little bit helps!

Most of the game’s stages have a similar flow.  Most often there are three sub-levels per stage.  Completing a sub-level gives you a score bonus for any leftover time.  The second level in the stage ends with an encounter with Elmira.  Just like in the cartoon, she loves to give our heroes a squeeze.  When that happens, however, you get sent back to the start of the entire stage.  You need to avoid her and wait it out until the exit door appears.  The third sub-level culminates in a boss fight.  Each of the defeated bosses drops a key that you will use to pass through Montana’s Max’s mansion.  This level structure lasts for most of the game before changing it up at the end.

Dizzy can bust through some walls with ease.

This was my second time playing through Tiny Toon Adventures.  I beat the game with a friend a few years ago, just passing the controller back and forth.  I think it took us a couple of hours to get to the end.  This was my first time playing solo.  This game is fairly common and costs around $10 for a loose cart.

My playthrough of this game was pretty standard.  For my characters, I went with Shirley’s suggestions of Plucky in World 2, Dizzy in World 3, and Furrball in World 4.  In the other levels I picked Plucky because I found slow falling the most helpful ability.  Furrball is probably the best choice in the final stage, though I went with Plucky and stayed as Buster for the entire level.  The first time I sat down to play it I ended up finishing the game in about an hour.  A couple days later I recorded my longplay.  I did end up restarting once during recording because for some dumb reason I kept dying in the first stage.  When I try to run through this game quickly, I make lots of mistakes.  I spend most of my time just walking, which works because the timer isn’t an issue and I gain some leeway to react to enemies and traps.  I had a few deaths here and there, but I didn’t have any trouble clearing the game both times.  I even triggered the optional boss fight with Duck Vader in my video.  If you beat him, he drops a big heart worth three extra lives.  I didn’t need any more lives but I was happy to just show off and win that fight.

Climbing walls to avoid Elmira is recommended.

This time I am not too confident in my difficulty assessment.  I felt like I came into this game with fresh eyes as my past experience with the game was long enough ago that it didn’t make a difference.  The difficulty is kind of all over the place, with some surprisingly tricky spots.  Some of the enemy patterns and approaches can be tricky.  You only can take one hit and that’s only if you get the heart pickup.  Avoiding Elmira is harder in the earlier stages than the later stages because they slowly turn into platforming challenges rather than avoidance challenges.  Lives are fairly generous and you get I think four continues.  Bosses are relatively simple though the last two fights got pretty tough sometimes.  The final stage is definitely the hardest one, they got that part right.  Smart character selection can mitigate some of these issues.  I found the game easy and originally decided to put this right at average difficulty.  After some more thought, I bumped it up from 5 to 6.  I’m not sure which is better but close to average difficulty seems right to me.

Tiny Toon Adventures is a fun platformer and a great debut for these characters in a video game.  The graphics are bright and colorful with large, detailed character sprites and portraits.  Konami really nailed the look of these characters under NES limitations.  The music is very good, including an excellent rendition of the theme song.  The controls work very well and I like the variety of moves you get with the selectable characters.  Gameplay is standard hop-and-bop platformer fare, but done well with a few neat ideas mixed in.  There are only a couple of things about the game I don’t like.  First, I feel the difficulty curve is uneven.  Second, the running speed seems pretty fast.  I’m good at platformers but I had trouble going quickly through this game.  These are nitpicky items however.  This is a well-made game that is fun to play, even if the source material doesn’t interest you.

#138 – Tiny Toon Adventures

by :
comment : 1

#98 – Defender of the Crown

One must obtain the crown before he can defend it.

The detailed title screen sure looks like a PC conversion.

To Beat: Defeat the Normans to reach the ending
Played: 8/15/18 – 8/19/18
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Defender of the Crown Longplay

The beauty of this NES completion project is that I get to experience new games and am able to build an appreciation of them I would not have had naturally. Defender of the Crown at first glance lulled me in as something interesting. I mean, it’s a Konami/Ultra game and they make great games, so it ought to be good. Then I booted it up and saw that it was a strategy game with a goal of map conquest. I turned a complete 180 from my original impression in my head. I put the game on my deferred list. Fast forward to now and things are much different. I have now beaten Gemfire, a game that I originally didn’t want to play but ended up liking quite a bit. Defender of the Crown is also more action based than I first realized which is another way the game appeals to my tastes. I started up the game with feelings of intrigue and excitement, rather than an attitude of indifference. Would I have a good experience after all?

Defender of the Crown is a game for the Commodore Amiga that released in 1986. It was developed by Cinemaware as their first release. It was best known for setting the graphics standard in video games at the time of its release. Later the game was ported to various home computers while taking a hit in the graphics and audio compared to the Amiga version. The NES port of the game was released in July 1989 in the US and in PAL regions in July 1991. Ultra Games published the US version and Palcom published the PAL version. Beam Software appears to be the developer but the evidence I have found isn’t conclusive. It’s possible Konami developed it themselves.

Defender of the Crown is a strategy title that includes some action elements. The game takes place in England in the year 1149, mired in a civil war. The king has died and someone has to take the throne. To the north are the Saxons displayed in blue, and to the south are the Normans in orange. You play the role of one of the Saxon lords. Your task is to take over all three Norman castles, thereby ending the war so that you can be crowned king. The other Saxons are your allies, but they too want the crown and may come after you as well. You will beat the game if you turn the entire map to blue.

Hey, it’s Robin Hood!

There are many different modes to this game so the controls change frequently to follow suit. Most of the time you will control a cursor on the map screen. Use the D-pad to move the arrow and press A to make selections. The map shows all the separate regions of England. There are colored shields with symbols on them that denote which lord owns that territory. Your army is displayed as a man on horseback within the region you currently occupy. At the start of the game you are randomly assigned one of the three Saxon castles. This map fills up most of the screen, but there is a white banner in the upper left corner that acts as your menu. Press A while on the banner to bring up the menu. A dagger appears as the menu cursor.

Before starting a game, you get to choose one of four knights as your main character. They are Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Wolfric the Wild, Cedric of Rotherwood, and Geoffrey Longsword. Use the D-pad or the Select button to switch between profiles, then press A on the one you want. Each knight has ratings in Leadership, Jousting, and Swordplay ranging from Weak to Average to Good to Strong. The manual says Wilfred of Ivanhoe is the best knight to start off with, and this is the one I chose to play.

After choosing your knight, and before each turn, you see your status screen. You get to see your character portrait, as well as the portrait of the fair maiden should you rescue her. At the top is the current date, both month and year. Below that is your monthly income and your current gold. Next are the Leadership, Jousting, and Swordplay ratings. At the bottom the current forces of your army are shown. You see the number of soldiers, knights, and catapults in your army. You also see how many soldiers are staying behind to defend your home castle. You always get the first turn every month. You will see the map activity of the other lord’s turns afterward. While you can see the location of your army, you cannot explicitly see where the enemy armies are positioned on the map.

Study the map, then conquer it.

The main menu in the corner of the map screen contains your main commands. Tournament lets you spend five gold to hold a jousting tournament. Conquest is one of your primary commands. It contains sub commands that allow you to move your army and forces around the map. Go Raiding lets you do a raid for gold against one of the castles. Buy Army lets you spend gold to buy more troops. Use the Read Map option to check the stats on any of the provinces. You can also choose to Pass your turn.

With the Conquest command, you can control your army. The sub commands are Read Map, Move Army, Transfer, and Done. Read Map under the Conquest command is the same option as on the main menu. Move Army lets you move your army between territories, but before you can do that, you first select the Transfer command to move troops between your castle and your army. You begin the game at your home castle with 20 soldiers and none are in your army, and you can’t move your army with no one in it! On the transfer screen, you see Soldiers, Knights, and Catapults in the middle. On the left side is the count of each in your home garrison, and the right side is the count of each in your army. Use the D-pad to move the dagger cursor and press A to select a unit type. You can use either Left or Right to move troops between the army and garrison, and then press A again to de-select the cursor. Choose Done when finished moving troops. This action doesn’t cost a turn.

Now that you have troops in your army, you can use Move Army to move them to a new territory. You can move the army to any adjacent territory you already own without losing your turn. You can also move freely through other Saxon territories and you decide if you want to just pass through or attack them. If you move to either an empty or hostile territory, this will end your turn. It’s a good idea to use Read Map to examine other territories. Pull up a territory to see the name of it, who owns it if applicable, the number of vassals, and the monthly income generated from owning the territory. Moving to an empty territory claims it for yourself, and in addition, the number of vassals in that territory are added to your army. Adding vassals only happens when taking previously unclaimed territories and not when taking a territory from someone else. If you move to a territory owned by someone else, and there’s no army or castle there, you claim it. Otherwise you will do battle with the occupant. More on that later. All claimed territories generate income that you earn in gold at the start of every turn.

Try to hit the center of the shield to knock him off.

You can compete in jousting tournaments either by paying five gold from the menu or participating for free in a tournament arranged by someone else. You can either compete for Fame or for Land. If you have no land to gamble, or if the game doesn’t let you choose, you automatically compete for fame. When jousting for land, you get to pick an enemy territory that you want to claim. Then that ruler will choose one of your territories and the winner of the joust gets both. When jousting for fame, select the name of the lord you want to compete against. The tournament can last for three rounds as long as you keep winning, and you can only compete against a lord once per tournament. One key point here is that jousting for fame will increase your Leadership stat if you are successful. In fact, Leadership is the only rating that can either rise or fall depending on actions you make throughout the game.

The joust consists of two phases: The joust and the morning star battle. The joust portion is the face-off on horseback that you would normally think of. Two riders on horseback take opposing sides. The action takes places from a first-person perspective with the opponent approaching from the other side of the low fence. Use the D-pad to adjust the position of your spear. Movement is erratic and stiff, but what you want to do is try and put the tip of the spear as close to the center of the opponent’s shield as you can. Then you see an animation with the results. One man can be knocked off his horse, or neither. If no one falls you try again up to three times. If you are unsuccessful by the third attempt, you automatically get knocked down. The worst possible outcome is if you accidentally spear and kill the opponent’s house. This is considered most dishonorable, and if you do that you lose most of your stuff. The results of this joust play into the morning star battle.

Morning star your opponent into submission.

The other half of the match is the morning star battle. You are the blue knight on the left and the opponent is the red knight. There are health bars at the bottom for each participant. Winning the joust gives you a larger health bar. Use Left or Right on the D-pad to move your fighter. Press the A button to swing your morning star. This does a high strike. You can do a low strike by holding Down when pressing A. You have a shield that defaults to defending low. Hold B to raise your shield and block high. The idea is to hit where he is not blocking by striking when his morning star is pointed the farthest away from you. The winner of this fight wins the round.

Swordfights occur when you go on a raid, or if another ruler approaches you to save the damsel in distress. This takes place from a side view. You approach the castle and must take out three guards outside. Then you go inside to battle with the captain of the guard. Use the D-pad to inch either Left or Right. Press A to strike with your sword, or you can parry by holding Up and pressing A. You can also escape by moving all the way to the left but that reduces your leadership rating. The best strategy is to hit him with as much space between the two of you as possible, then back up a bit and strike again. It’s possible to get through without damage though I haven’t done it. The outside guards have small health bars, but the captain inside has a long health bar plus the advantage of stairs on his side of the room. If you initiate a raid and win, you steal half the gold from the enemy castle.

Raiding a castle for gold isn’t supposed to be easy.

As the main purpose of this game is map conquest, you need to build up a powerful army by spending cash and buying troops. Use the Buy Army command. All troops purchased here are assigned to your home castle, so to use them in your army you need to be able to move the army home and then transfer them over. There are four types you can buy. Soldiers cost one gold each and are the bread and butter of your army. Knights cost eight gold each. Naturally with the price difference you will have far fewer knights than soldiers. Knights are powerful fighters on the battlefield but are not that useful for defending your home turf. Catapults cost fifteen gold each. You must have at least one catapult if you intend on attacking an opposing castle. You can also buy castles here for twenty gold. This option lets you build a castle on a territory you occupy and provides you ten soldiers to go along with it. A castle on a territory gives you an option to defend yourself and makes things more difficult for enemies to claim it.

Battles take place out on the open field between opposing armies. There’s no action here, rather the battles play out automatically via what amounts to invisible dice rolls behind the scenes. The battle screen displays one soldier per every 25 commanded and one knight per every 10 commanded on each side. The actual numbers are displayed at the bottom. There is a menu at the bottom where you can change your tactics. Use the D-pad to position the cursor and A to make your selection. The command may take some time to take effect depending on your leadership level. The idea to battles is that there are different tactics you can try based on the situation. Hold Your Ground is suitable when you have the size advantage and are a strong leader. Ferocious Attack is a risky move that could help if you are outnumbered. Bombard takes advantage of your catapults. The Outflank tactic can be effective if you are a weak leader with the larger army. You can also Retreat, which saves your men but affects your leadership rating. Battles can play out very fast so you need to make quick decisions for best results during battle.

Punch a hole in the enemy’s defenses.

If you have a catapult, you can perform a catapult siege against your enemy. Simply attack an enemy castle with a catapult in your army. This mode is all about timing. You get six times to attack the enemy castle before engaging them in battle, no matter how many catapults you have. Each time you get to choose your ammo from either a boulder, disease, or Greek fire. Then you get a view of the castle from behind your catapult. Press and hold A to pull the catapult back and let go to fire away. The castle has a low wall in the front. What you want to do is hit the top of the wall with a boulder first to break a hole in the castle. You can expand the hole with multiple boulders by hitting the top of the wall each time. Then you can use either the Greek fire or disease shots to fire into the hole in the wall you made. The fire shot defeats 10% of the home army, while the disease can kill enemy soldiers over time, particularly if you score a hit with it early in the siege. After all attacks are made, then you go automatically into a normal battle.

Should an enemy attack one of your castles, you then play yet another mini-game to defend it. This is a crossbow battle played from a first-person perspective from inside your castle. Enemy soldiers will pop up at predefined points on the wall and fire at you. You move the crossbow at the bottom of the screen with the D-pad. It moves freely left and right, while it will sit at only three vertical levels that you can shift between by pressing Up or Down. Press A to fire arrows. The number of hits you can take and the number of enemy soldiers you have to dispatch depend on how many soldiers are in each army. The higher your leadership rating, the faster you can slide the crossbow around the screen. The enemy’s leadership rating determines how quickly enemy soldiers fire. If you lose your home castle, you lose all your territory and the game is over. This goes the same for enemy castles, so if you successfully take the enemy’s home castle you get all of their territories.

Outnumber your opponent for best results.

Finally, in a pinch, you can call on Robin Hood to help you. On your turn, point the cursor to Sherwood Forest in the center of the map and press A to talk to Robin Hood. He will help you out up to three times during the game. He can help you raid a castle, siege a castle, or help you out in battle. To use him, you must perform one of those three actions right after asking him for help, otherwise you forfeit his assistance. For the normal battles, Robin Hood will swoop in and knock out a chunk of the opposing army.

This was my first time playing Defender of the Crown. I’m glad I got to play it since it was something I had ignored for a long time. A cart copy only costs around $5, but even with that price it’s not one I see as often as I would expect.

The 5/10 difficulty rating I gave Defender of the Crown is misleading. If you haven’t played this game before, you will get destroyed quickly and often. Any time I encountered an enemy on the map, I suffered for it heavily. The fights I did win left me so crippled that I didn’t last much beyond that, and the ones I lost were over almost as fast as I could issue any command. I fared a little better with gold raiding and the joust, however, you can’t win a game with those skills alone. I couldn’t maintain territories long enough to have enough gold to afford even a modest army. The castle defense sections were also tough to get the hang of. Several attempts ended swiftly. I combed through the manual several times for help, and against my normal policy, I also read parts of an FAQ I found online. The FAQ really helped to clarify the tips in the manual and steered my focus, rather than tell me outright the best way to win the game. I was now able to put together a successful strategy for beating the game. My first win was a little drawn out, but I played a few more rounds and started to win pretty easily. My experience with Defender of the Crown went just like AD&D: Heroes of the Lance. The game starts off challenging, but soon gets much easier when you learn to make sense of what to do.

Defending your home turf is the most important ability.

Here was my strategy for beating the game. If you want to figure it out yourself, now is the time to look away. The first thing you need to do is learn the map. Take some time to use the Read Map feature and check out the territories to see which ones are valuable. There is one near the middle of the map that is really good and one of the starting positions will allow you to claim it right away. Instead of building up my army early on, I spent my gold on castles to lock down the best territories. To properly defend the castles, you really need a quick crossbow. This leads to the most important piece of advice. The key ingredient for success is maintaining a high leadership rating. As you could tell from reading here, many positive outcomes all throughout the game are born from having high leadership. If no one started up a tournament after sticking castles on two or three territories, I made sure to hold one to joust for fame and build up my leadership. The sooner you get to Strong leadership, the better. Then you’re in the driver’s seat. Make sure you keep ten soldiers in each castle, especially the ones that border enemies. You can use your army to help distribute soldiers all over your territories, all on one turn. Having a bunch of castles and getting good at defending them with the crossbow is what you want to focus on. You can opt to play the long game here and start rolling out castles on more territories, slowly dominating the map that way. My way was a little faster. Once I had a territory in reach of an enemy’s home castle, I then splurged on a single catapult and the biggest army I could get, splitting my money about evenly between soldiers and knights. Sometimes I went on a gold raid against a home castle for a nice cash infusion. You can also borrow soldiers from castles that aren’t at risk from enemies to add to your army. Do the best you can at a catapult siege, but even if it doesn’t go the best, I vastly outnumbered my opponent anyway and just did Hold Your Ground until victory. Taking a home castle can give you other territories all in one shot. It should be easy to win from here.

I guess you could say I had a love/hate relationship with Defender of the Crown. I was never interested in this game. When it appeared on my list, I was excited to try it. I liked it at first, even though I got hammered. Then I started to dislike the game from all the losing. Once I figured it out, then I had a lot of fun with the game. The graphics are pretty decent. They are a far cry from the original Amiga version, but are more than passable. I don’t remember the music very well, which I suppose means it’s forgettable. I found the controls to be slow and stiff, especially in the jousting and sword fighting. I realize that this is not exactly selling the game to you. What I enjoy about the game is the variety. There are several ways to play this game and you only have to work hard at one or two of them. There are different characters with his own strengths, plus some random starting positions that give you some replayability. It’s a quick game too, which is unusual for a map conquest game. I think it’s the ideal pick-up-and-play game of this style and I can see myself playing it through again, which I would have never said just a few months ago.

#98 – Defender of the Crown


#84 – Super C

This Contra sequel is just as good as the original.

This title screen enters from both sides together, pretty neat!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat 3 loops
My Goal: Finish 3 loops with a no-death first loop
What I Did: Met my goal
Played: 5/11/18 – 5/14/18
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Super C Longplay

Contra is a game that practically needs no introduction. A sequel would seem inevitable, but it may not be the one you expect. Just looking at the NES library, the obvious conclusion would be that Contra Force is the sequel. Contra Force as it turns out wasn’t meant to be a Contra game at all, and Super C is the actual sequel. It annoys me somewhat when connections aren’t always apparent. I can look past that here because Super C is a fun, solid follow up to the original smash hit.

The arcade game Super Contra was released in early 1988. It was developed and published by Konami. A home port of Super Contra came to the Famicom in February 1990, and the NES version was renamed Super C when it released in North America in April 1990. The PAL release in Europe and Australia was delayed until 1992. There it was called Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces, and just like the PAL conversion of Contra to Probotector, the human characters were replaced by robots. Two home computer ports for Super C for the Commodore Amiga and IBM PC released in North America in 1990.

Super C is a side-scrolling action game. The story is a basic one. Bill and Lance, also known as Mad Dog and Scorpion, are taking a relaxing vacation a few months after defeating Red Falcon in the original Contra. Of course, Red Falcon wasn’t completely defeated, and now he has regrouped and is back at it again. You are thrust back into action as Earth’s only hope against evil. Just like last time, your journey will take you through eight stages of shooting action, and if you clear them all you win the game. The arcade version only has five stages, so hey, more bang for your buck in Super C.

Shoot the core!

The controls are identical to Contra. Use the D-pad to move around, press A to jump, and press B to shoot. You curl up during jumps so you have a smaller hitbox, and you are always moving sideways until you land. (I guess this is a Konami thing, since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also does this.) Hold Down to lay out on the ground and shoot. While holding Down, you can press A to jump down through some ledges. All your weapons have unlimited ammo, so you can mash the B button to fire away at everything. You can shoot in all directions, including diagonally, by holding the D-pad in the appropriate direction. You can fire diagonally upward and downward while either walking or airborne.

The powerups are almost exactly like Contra as well, and all of the same powerups are back this time. You shoot flying pods, or sometimes a large wall sensor, to uncover the bird-shaped upgrades. The letter on the item denotes what it does. The M gives you a machine gun that shoots straight ahead, and you can hold down the B button for continuous fire. The L gives you a laser that is one long, powerful shot. You can only have one on screen at a time and firing again removes the old shot if it’s still on screen. The laser beam is wider in Super C than in Contra. S is for the spread shot, which fires a fan of five bullets ahead. The F is the flamethrower. This weapon acts differently here. In Contra, it is a spiraling shot. In Super C, it is a large fireball that spreads out smaller flames when it hits something. You can even charge this one up by holding B, releasing a large fireball when you let go of the button. The R gives you rapid fire on top of whichever weapon you currently use. It makes your bullets faster so that you can fire more quickly. The B is for a barrier shield. This causes you to flash for a few seconds and enemies and their shots can’t hurt you. There is a powerup with no letter on it that destroys all enemies on screen as soon as you touch it. All powerups are lost when you die, sending you back to the fight with your standard gun.

Top-down levels give you a different perspective on the action.

Most stages in the game are played from the side scrolling view. Play usually moves to the right, but some levels are vertical, and some stages scroll in different directions at times. For example, the first stage has you walking to the right, but there are slopes upward and as you walk the view pans upward slightly to follow the path. Speaking of slopes, they are a new addition to this game. Simply walk straight ahead to go up or down them. The grade is somewhere around 30 degrees, and when you fire diagonally while walking on a slope, you will fire parallel to the slope instead of at the normal 45-degree angle. If you need to fire purely diagonally, you have to jump off the slope and shoot in mid-air.

Levels 2 and 6 are played from a top-down view instead of side-scrolling. Here you can walk in all eight directions and fire your normal weapons with the B button. The A button does nothing in this mode. Play proceeds upward for both stages. It’s more straightforward than the bases in Contra, and it is in line with the arcade version that also features these levels.

All levels end in a boss battle. The bosses seem a lot bigger and more dynamic in Super C compared to Contra. I believe this is tied to the game’s use of the MMC3 mapper chip. One of the capabilities of the chip is better handling of performing a screen splitting technique. Take the helicopter boss at the end of the first stage, for example. It is too large to display with sprites, so it is drawn on the background. The helicopter can move around independently of the ground that stays put. The game is programmed in a way where it can scroll the screen for the helicopter, but when it reaches a certain vertical position, it will stop scrolling and leave the ground alone. This is used to great effect for several screen-spanning bosses in the game.

This walking robot isn’t even the boss of this stage.

Super C has some other features. The most notable is the two-player simultaneous play. Player 1 plays as Bill with blue pants, and Player 2 is Lance with red pants. The game has a scoring system. Points appear on the screen between levels, as well as the second player’s score, the high score, and the level number. During gameplay, there are flags in the corner for how many lives you have remaining. It will only display up to four flags even though you may have many more in reserve. You can earn extra lives through scoring points. I could not determine exactly when you get new lives, even after reviewing video, so I just have to guess. You get an extra life for around every 25,000 points scored.

Our heroes are quite fragile, so they die instantly from taking a bullet or colliding with an enemy. You respawn right where you left off without a break in the action. Should you lose all your lives, you can continue from the start of the stage with three new lives. You can only continue twice before needing to restart the entire game.

I have played a lot of Super C and have beaten the game many times before. I wasn’t aware that this was the sequel to Contra for quite some time. I picked the loose cart up sometime in the mid-90s, probably at my local used game shop. I imagine it didn’t take me too long back then to figure the game out and beat it, so it was a game I went back to often. I even played the game recently for the NintendoAge NES contest and performed relatively well. It is a common cart that sells for around $15.

One of the rare games where bubbles are a viable threat.

For games I know quite well, I like to go above and beyond just beating the game. I set two personal goals for Super C. First, I wanted to beat the game without dying, and second, I wanted to complete all three difficulty loops. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble beating the game three straight times since I can comfortably beat the game once with a bunch of extra lives, and that part held true. Beating the game without dying was much harder. Super C is a relatively quick game to play, but death is swift and one mistake means restarting. I needed around 30 tries over a few nights to finally get the no-death run I wanted. Now this only applies to just the first loop of the game. I allowed myself to die in the other two loops, and that occurred more than I would have liked. Those deaths were mostly from mistakes I made. I didn’t find Super C to be much more challenging in the later loops. I could tell that the basic grunt type enemies appeared a little more frequently, but that’s the only increase in difficulty I noticed.

Super C is a must-have NES game. The graphics, gameplay, music, and controls are all top-notch. The game runs with very few if any graphical glitches or slowdown. There are several neat surprises as you play and more interesting level design this time around. I really like the boss battles and the well-used technical effects. The weapons are all helpful and fun to use. The two-player mode makes the game all the more sweeter. It is a challenging game, but it’s also one that many players have already beaten. A 7/10 difficulty rating seems right to me, but I could see the argument for going either direction with it. I think it’s a game that is fun to keep learning and improving on. The only downside I can see is that the game almost feels like a Contra expansion pack. Re-read this review just to see how many times I said Super C is just like Contra in this way or that way. I understand that might be a turn-off to someone looking for something a bit more advanced or expansive. My viewpoint is real simple: “What’s wrong with more of something good?”

#84 – Super C