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#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay

I sure bungled my way through this game.

The bubble text is out of place for this game.

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

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

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

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

You’ll see home base a lot.

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

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

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

Bombs away!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defenses get pretty intense by the end.

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

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

#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay


#91 – Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

I’ve already played two-on-two basketball, now it’s time for one-on-one!

They look a little too kind on the rebound here.

To Beat: Win a single match
To Complete: Win all game modes
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 6/23/18, 7/1/18
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Jordan vs. Bird: One on One Longplay

I like watching sports but I don’t follow them too closely. The one exception is the Chicago Cubs. I became a baseball fan and Cubs fan somewhere between the 1994 baseball strike and the 1998 home run chase, and I’ll for sure be a dedicated fan for the rest of my life. Being tuned into the Cubs back then led me into recognizing what the Chicago Bulls were doing at that same time. Now the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 90s would have been hard to miss anyway, and I’d like to believe I was aware of how special that run was, but I may have been too naïve to truly appreciate it. However, there’s no denying how special Michael Jordan is as an all-time great basketball player. I don’t have a similar connection with fellow hall of famer Larry Bird as I missed seeing him play in his prime. Those two were among the biggest names in basketball of the time, so I can see why they made a game featuring the two of them.

Jordan vs. Bird: One on One originally released for the PC and Commodore 64 in 1988 and was developed and published by Electronic Arts. This game is a sequel of sorts to the 1983 computer game One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird. The NES version of Jordan vs. Bird released in August 1989. The port was developed by Rare and published by Milton Bradley. This was a US release only. In 1992, the game was ported to both Game Boy and Sega Genesis.

Jordan vs. Bird, for the most part, is a simple basketball game. You get to choose either Michael Jordan or Larry Bird and square off against the other. There are several options for customizing your game and you can play against the computer in single player or play against a friend in simultaneous two-player mode. In addition to a standard basketball game, you can play a couple of mini games. You can play as Michael Jordan in a slam dunk contest or as Larry Bird in a three-point shooting contest. To beat the game, you simply need to win a single game. If you want to do more, you could also aim to win both the slam dunk and three-point shooting contests.

Power past Bird and go for the dunk.

In this game, the controls on offense and defense are similar so I will cover them here together. You move around in all directions by using the D-pad. On offense, you will always face toward the basket, whereas on defense you will face either up toward the basket or down toward the screen, depending on where the ball handler is in relation to you. If you hold the B button down while moving, you will turn your body in that direction and move. On offense, you can lock yourself into facing away from the basket by holding B, pressing Down, and letting go of B. The A button shoots the ball. Press and hold A to jump, then let go of A to release the ball. Jordan can dunk by shooting with A as you move near the basket. You can also press A on defense to jump if the opponent is shooting. Press B while on defense to attempt a steal. You can hold the B button down and continuously try stealing so long as you are standing still. If the offensive player has not yet moved once he has gotten possession of the ball, you can press Select to take a timeout and pause the game. Pressing Start exits the game and takes you back to the Options screen.

The Options Screen is the main menu of this game. For a one-on-one game, you can select from a full game, a game to either 15 or 11 points, and a warm up for practicing. For the slam dunk contest, you can select from the main contest, warm up, or a follow the leader game to help you learn the dunks. For the three-point contest, you can select either the main event or a warm up.

Starting a one-on-one match brings up another options screen. First, select who you want to be. Press B to toggle Larry Bird’s setting and press A to toggle Michael Jordan’s setting. For each player, you can cycle through first player, second player, or computer player. The Play to 11 option lets you choose from either an 11-point game or 15-point game, provided you chose that option from the main menu. You can set the computer’s skill level anywhere from one to four. Winner’s outs determines who gets the ball after scoring. The default of no gives the ball to the defensive side. Fouls can be toggled on or off. Finally, for a full game, you can select the length of the four periods. Selections are two, five, eight, and twelve minutes.

You can play tough defense.

Now you can start shooting some hoops! The basket is in the middle with details written on the scoreboards on either side. The left side shows Bird’s score, followed by the period number, and the 24-second shot clock. The right side shows Jordan’s score, followed by the time remaining in the period, and a repeat of the shot clock. The view pans side to side as you move toward the edges of the screen, leaving part of one scoreboard off screen if you move all the way to the opposite side.

There are only a few differences between the two types of one-on-one modes. We already know the full game is a timed game with four periods, while the other mode is a race to either 11 or 15 points with no time limit. The only other difference is in the scoring. The full game follows standard basketball scoring, with two points for a field goal and three points from beyond the three-point line. In the 11 or 15 game, field goals are worth one point and three-pointers are worth two points.

Both modes display a results screen at the end of each period. This is the same screen that appears when you take a time-out with Select during the game. For each player and period, you get stats like total points scored, shot attempts and percentages, steals, and blocks. You also get some nifty profile pictures of our two stars.

In the Slam Dunk Contest, you can show off Jordan’s dunking ability. You can play this mode with one to four players. In a single player game, the first player is computer controlled and you play second player. For multiplayer, only controller one is used and shared by all the players. At the start, you get a screen where you can choose from one of ten dunks to perform. Move the cursor and select the one you want. Here’s a tip. The dunks on the left side of the list are initiated from the left side of the basket. Same thing for the dunks in the center column and right side of the list. Now you control Jordan alone on the court. Approach the basket from the appropriate direction and hold A to start the dunk. If you hold A the entire time, you will make the basket but not score very high with the judges. A panel of five judges replaces the right scoreboard and your dunk is scored from zero to ten from each judge. The slam dunk contest is secretly a timing game. You want to release the A button as far away from the basket as you can while still successfully dunking. Let go too early and you miss the dunk, but let go too late and you lose points. This mode just takes repetition to learn. Each player gets three dunks and the highest cumulative score wins.

Everyone wants to dunk like Mike.

The other two slam dunk modes are just for practice. Warm up plays just like the normal contest, only you play solo. In Follow the Leader mode, first the computer player selects a dunk at random and shows you how it works. Then, you get a chance to perform the same dunk. This is a useful mode to see what the dunks look like and how to perform them, but it is annoying that you don’t get to pick the dunk you want to follow in this mode.

The three-point contest puts you in Larry Bird’s shoes as you try and score as many shots as you can. In this format, you get 60 seconds to shoot up to 25 basketballs. There are five racks of five basketballs each positioned around the three-point line. You first shoot all five balls in the rack to make the next one appear, and then you walk over to it and start shooting. The judges’ scoring is used to show how many basketballs remain in each rack. The left scoreboard shows the total score and the time remaining. The shooting controls are different in this mode for some reason. You press A to grab a basketball and start your jump, then press B to release and shoot the ball. You get one point for each basket made, while the last basketball in each rack is worth two points. You can play this mode with multiple players or single player against the computer over three rounds. A quirk about this mode is that once you grab a basketball from the rack, the one you previously shot disappears even if it is in midair on the way to the basket. Just make sure you know the outcome of your last shot before you start the next one.

This was my first time playing through Jordan vs. Bird. I know I’ll say this for just about all sports games, but I enjoy watching sports more than playing video games about sports. This is a cheap, affordable game, although it’s one I’ve only owned once out of the many games I’ve had in my house.

Shoot as quickly and accurately as possible.

This turned out to be a game that I figured out on the first day of trying. Unfortunately, I wasn’t recording my trial run and it took me a week before I was able to get some free time and play again. Normally in a basketball game I will look to shoot as many threes as possible, but this time I figured out an exploit right away that goes a little differently. I started off with the main game as Jordan, two-minute periods, and computer level 1, which is said in the manual to be the hardest setting. On offense, I immediately go around Bird and dunk for an easy two points every time. On defense, Bird will start sliding in one direction. If you follow him to the back corner, you can get him trapped there. I hold the B button to steal and make small positional adjustments until I steal the ball, then take it to the basket and dunk. In the worst-case scenario, he will make the three-pointer from the back corner with 3 seconds left on the shot clock. If he misses it, you can hold him back until the ball lands and then recover the rebound easily. I won my game with no trouble. I also played to 11 using Larry Bird. The defensive technique remains the same. On offense, I moved toward the top-right corner and shot the three for two points. Another easy win. Between modes, I switched the computer player level from one to four and I didn’t see any noticeable difference in difficulty.

I found the two mini games harder than the main game. Neither one is particularly easy to win, however attempts are short so eventually one will come through in your favor. In the slam dunk contest, the computer player often seems to score around 35-40 points out of 50 per dunk, while I am usually good for 25-30 points. In my longplay video, after several failed attempts, I won with an above average round for me and a below average round for the computer. On my initial, unrecorded playthrough, I saw the computer outright miss dunks, so it does happen and that can lead to an easy win. The three-point shooting contest goes much the same way. The only advantage you have against the computer is in your shooting speed. The computer player does not finish the final rack, while if you play as fast as possible, you should be able to shoot every single ball. With some of these games, you just have to take every edge you can get!

Jordan vs. Bird is another mediocre basketball game. I don’t mean that in a bad way. On a technical level, it plays well. There isn’t any noticeable flickering or slowdown and the gameplay is clear. The graphics are music are fine but don’t stand out in a meaningful way. It’s the slam dunk contest and three-point contest that make this game stand out. While not enough to base an entire game on, they fit pretty well within the confines of a simple one-on-one basketball game. I would rather play Jordan vs. Bird again than I would want to play Roundball again, but I am also happy enough keeping them both on the shelf. I’m starting to wonder now if there is a truly good basketball game on the NES. It seems that Jordan vs. Bird was ported over because the NES could support one-on-one basketball better than with full teams on either side, which could easily devolve into a flickery, unplayable mess. I suppose we will find out after I play more basketball games.

#91 – Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

#91 – Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (Game to 11)

#91 – Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (Slam Dunk Contest)

#91 – Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (Three-Point Contest)