Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



Big Delays (9/4/2020 Update)

It is all too soon, but here’s another one of these “where have I been” update posts. In short, I have fallen way behind on my writing again. I used to have several drafts written ahead of time and then polished them up with screenshots and everything just before posting so that I more easily stay on a regular schedule. Now I’m not even doing that like I used to. I have just barely started the next review. I think I am learning that I am not as excited about the writing as I used to be, at least in terms of getting motivated to get started. At the same time, I’ve come so far that I don’t want to give it up either. So I won’t quit! But things may still be slow for awhile as I struggle to get caught back up.

There are a few things I have been doing instead of writing blogs. The biggest thing is that I have been practicing for the Big 20 speedrun race. The fine folks at Best of NES have been putting on regular events for several years now. One is a speedrun marathon of all NES games, and the other is the Big 20. This is a speedrun race where contestants all run the same series of 20 NES games in a row. I have been very interested in these ever since I learned of them, and this was the best possible time for me to hop in and give it a try. The theme was Viewer’s Choice where NES games were voted on and the Top 20 made up the overall list. This means that virtually all the classic NES titles everyone loves is on this list. I had already beaten 17 of the 20 games so learning this list was going to be much easier for me than any other race they could have. I have kind of become obsessed with learning and practicing these games for the race, so that has been where the bulk of my time has gone. You can see the game list for the Big 20, and you can watch me speedrun these games on my Twitch channel on Saturday, 9/12 at noon CT. I am hoping for a four hour time in total, which will not be among the top racers but ought to be somewhat competent at the very least!

As far as NES completions go, I was splitting time between Big 20 practice and soldiering through Days of Thunder. Now until the race ends, I am suspending any more playtime on Days of Thunder. That game has been a struggle, to say the least. Racing games were never my strong suit anyway, and in some ways this one might be the hardest one so far. I am confident that I will beat the game, but I am not sure how much more effort or how many more attempts it will take. I say this will give me time to help get caught back up with writing, but we all know how that has turned out in the past. Maybe it will stick this time!

This year has been far from normal. I just hope I can get back to normal pace on my project here real soon, preferably long before the year is out. Once the Big 20 is over I expect that I will have more time to dedicate to the blog again. Thanks for reading and putting up with some of my new antics!

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#89 – Wacky Races

Before you ask, this is not a racing game.

All the other racers drive through the title screen!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/9/18
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Wacky Races Longplay

I am always amazed at the old series or properties that somehow make their way to the NES. The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island didn’t really make much sense to turn into an NES game, even though the show maintained popularity for years in syndication. Puss ‘N Boots is another game starring a character with a historical past. These are just ones I’ve personally covered so far, but there are plenty more. Both Tom and Jerry and Rocky and Bullwinkle got NES games. Bugs Bunny had two NES games. Hanna-Barbera got in on the action too with two Flintstones games, a Jetsons game, and this Wacky Races game, all on NES. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting as well. I think you can make a good argument that Wacky Races might be the most obscure cartoon property to get an NES game. It sure seems to have flown under the radar from a gameplay perspective.

Wacky Races is an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The show aired for only a few months in 1968-1969, with 17 total episodes made. The cartoon is about 11 racers competing in various road races against each other. The main villain, Dick Dastardly, and his canine henchman Muttley, drive a powerful vehicle that might win most or all of the races outright. However, being a villain, he often gets ahead of the pack to set traps that usually backfire in some way. Dick Dastardly never wins a race. There were a couple of spinoffs of the original show: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The show was rebooted in a new animated series beginning in 2017. There were also a few video games based off the franchise.

There were actually two separate Wacky Races games created in 1991. One was made for various home computers in 1991 and 1992 and is a completely different game from the one I played. Wacky Races appeared on the Famicom in December 1991, called Chiki Chiki Machine Mou Race. It was both developed and published by Atlus. The NES version was released in May 1992. This is the first game either developed or published by Atlus I have played so far for the site.

Definitely not a racing game.

You might think a show about racing would have a video game about racing, but instead Wacky Races is a platformer. You take control of Muttley. There are three courses of either three or four levels each, and these courses all have their own plot line. Something has happened to Dick Dastardly and Muttley needs to go and rescue him. You can play the three courses in any order you like, though the stages within the courses all must be played in order. There is a map that shows Muttley’s progress through the course shown after each level. You beat the game once you have completed all three courses.

Wacky Races is a simple platformer with equally simple controls. You use the D-pad to move, mostly walking left and right. Press the A button to jump. You can control the height of your jump a little depending on how long you hold down the button. You can hold Down to duck, and you will jump down through ledges by holding Down and pressing A. The B button attacks. The standard attack is a Muttley bite from close range. The Start button pauses the game, while the Select button is used to trigger items from the item window.

The bottom of the screen contains all the pertinent info you need. On the left are the number of diamonds and lives. You earn an extra life when you collect one hundred diamonds. The middle of the screen shows the item window. The right side shows your health points represented by hearts, and a clock for the stage timer.

Dogs love bones, so collect them to power up.

Wacky Races has a Gradius-like powerup system. The item window is comprised of four icons. There are only three types of collectables in this game: diamonds, extra lives, and bones. When you pick up a bone, a cursor points to the first item in the item window. You can press Select to take that item now or wait until you pick up another bone to move the cursor one space to the right. The cursor will loop back around if you keep finding more bones.

The first two items in the list are weapons. You can only use one at a time but you can switch by collecting bones and nabbing the other one from the window. The first weapon is a bomb. Muttley produces a bomb above his head and throws it. It travels sideways for a while before arcing toward the ground. It blows up on contact with the ground or an enemy. You can hit enemies with it or throw it in front of them a little so that they are hurt by walking into the blast. The other weapon is called the Sonic Bark. Muttley barks and fires an icon in the form of the word “BOW.” This travels through everything and goes about the length of the screen before vanishing. There is a bit of a delay between when you push B and he hurls the bark.

The other two items are support items. The wings give you feather fall ability. While Muttley is falling, you can mash the A button to descend slowly. Muttley slinks down and wags his tail in the air while doing this. The idea is the same as the raccoon tail in Super Mario Bros. 3. The last item in the window is the heart. This item both extends your health meter and restores your health. You begin the game with three health points and can go up to six. Even with a complete health bar, you can still collect the heart from the item window and refill your health any time.

Here’s the obligatory water level.

The stages in the game are also quite simple as they all move from left to right. Stages are broken up into different sections by an arrow sign. Just walk to the edge of the screen to proceed to the next section. If you die, you go back to the beginning of the section. I found that the levels went on a lot longer than I thought they would. Many levels have three or four sections to them that take a little walking to reach the end. The levels themselves are generic platforming for the most part. There is a swimming level and an ice level plus there’s a stage where you bounce on clouds. There are a few more gimmicks like that along the way.

Each level ends with a boss battle. These are all other contestants in the Wacky Races and they all fight you within their vehicles. I think they did a good job making the boss sprites look like the vehicles from the show. The boss arenas are locked down to a single screen. There is a bone provided so you will be able to get a weapon if you start from nothing. The bosses have various movement patterns and may throw projectiles of their own. After taking several hits, it will look like you have defeated the boss, only for it to come back with a second, more aggressive movement pattern. All bosses follow this format. Just keep attacking and you’ll achieve victory!

You begin the game with three lives. If you lose all your lives, you can continue. The manual doesn’t say but it appears you can continue as many times as you like. Even better is that a continue also puts you back at the start of a section. The penalty for failure is this game is minor.

In this game, car chases dog.

This was my first time playing through Wacky Races. It’s a very uncommon game, and that comes with an uncommon price tag. The current selling price is around $200 for just the loose cart. It was one of the last ten games I bought for my licensed set. I had a chance to buy a copy earlier though. There is a local flea market that opens once a month. A seller had a copy there for at least a couple of years for $82. Around then the game had raised in price from around $60 to $120, so eventually the flea market copy was a good deal. Of course, by the time I was ready to go buy it, it had sold just a month or two prior. I had to wait a couple more months before I bought my copy on NintendoAge. I bought it along with Bubble Bobble Part 2 and I ended up getting it for around the price I missed. The only bad thing is that there’s an ink stamp on the front of the cart that I could not get cleaned. Maybe that’s a little reminder of what happens when you wait on something you shouldn’t.

The sad thing is that $200 doesn’t get you much with Wacky Races in terms of gameplay. This is a good enough game, but it is also really easy. I beat the game on my first try with over twenty lives remaining and used no continues. I counted seven deaths on my playthrough. That may not sound great but it’s low enough for a lengthy game like this that I’ve never played before. My deaths mainly consisted of either falling in holes or dying at the bosses. The boss battles in my mind are the hardest part of the game since they are big sprites and they take a bunch of hits to go down. I didn’t find the game challenging, not even considering the infinite continues you can use. It’s a light, simple game with a hefty price tag.

Wacky Races is a solid NES game in most regards. The graphics, music, and controls are all spot on. There are a few cutscenes that are nicely detailed and there’s even a little humor to go along with it. The powerup system works well and you don’t have to wait long to switch weapons if you want. On a technical level, everything runs great. The levels suffer from just being too ordinary. You simply move left and right. There’s a good variety in the graphics from stage to stage, but the level design does not stand out in a meaningful way. Most enemies don’t pose much of a threat. The platforming is basic too, with only a few spots that are mildly tricky. The boss battles get repetitive, though I do appreciate that they change patterns midway through each fight. This game is only worth buying if you are a collector. In that case, you might as well play through it and beat it quickly like I did.

#89 – Wacky Races


#68 – Super Team Games

Great, another exhausting Power Pad game!

Some balloons burst to get you started.

To Beat: Win all four events in single player
To Complete: Win all events on the highest difficulty
What I Did: Beat all events on the lowest difficulty
Played: 12/21/17 – 12/28/17
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 7/10
Video: Super Team Games – All Events

Another Power Pad game already? I just finished World Class Track Meet not even a week before this. There are only a handful of Power Pad games that reached the NES, and it is just dumb luck that we get two such games almost back to back. This may have been a good thing here since my Power Pad muscle memory from the previous game carried over to this one. I needed that because Super Team Games is significantly more challenging than World Class Track Meet.

Super Team Games was developed by Sonata (who would later become Human Entertainment) for release in Japan in November 1987. It was originally published by Bandai, and it was the seventh game in their Family Trainer series. Nintendo published the NES release in November 1988, branded as a Power Pad game. It did not include any Family Trainer or Family Fun Fitness branding, just like World Class Track Meet. This was the final game of the Famicom’s Family Trainer series to reach North America.

Super Team Games is a running race game where you compete in different types of events and try to beat your opponent. There are several smaller events that are arranged into larger obstacle courses. There are several different modes for single player, two players, and two teams of players. Since multiplayer modes are competitions against each other, only the single player modes count for beating Super Team Games. There are four different obstacle courses in single player mode, and when you win all of them you have won the game.

You gotta start jumping pretty early.

This Power Pad game uses Side B, which contains blue buttons on the left and red buttons on the right, all individually numbered from 1 to 12. In single player, we are only concerned with the blue buttons. The top row buttons are 1 and 2, the middle row buttons are 5 and 6, and the bottom row buttons are 9 and 10. Multiplayer games use the red buttons, so just add two to each button number to get the same mappings for the second player.

The menu controls are the same as World Class Track Meet. On the title screen, press Select to move the cursor and press Start to go to name entry. In the tournament mode, you first select how many teams you want between three and six. Use the D-Pad to move the cursor at the bottom and press Select to lock in your choice. You then move to name entry which is identical for all modes. The blinking cursor at the top part of the screen determines which character in the name you want to choose, and you move that cursor by pressing B to move it left and A to move it right. Use the D-Pad to move the letter selection cursor at the bottom part of the screen. Press Select to write the selected character in the name field. When all names have been entered, press Start to begin.

Now you move to the event screen. There are flags displayed with the names of all the events. Press Select to choose the event and press Start. In 1 Player and 2 Player modes, the events are Super Obstacle Course, Obstacle Course A, Obstacle Course B, and Skateboard Race. The 2 Team Play and Tournament mode events are 6 Legged Race, Tug of War, and Relay Race. More on these modes later. The next screen is the versus screen showing who is competing in the race. If you are playing Tournament mode, you will see a screen in between showing the bracket setup. In single player, the versus screen lets you decide which computer character you want to race against. Press Select to choose from either Ollie, Jimmy, or Jack, and press Start to go to the race. Ollie is easy mode, Jimmy is medium difficulty, and Jack is the fastest.

What lovely flags!

The gameplay screen has the same structure in all events. The left runner, designed as the White team, is displayed on the top part of the screen and the right runner, or Red team, is below. At the bottom of the screen is a minimap that shows how far each player or team has reached in the current race. You also see times for each runner. This timer freezes briefly during checkpoints so you get a better glimpse of how you are doing as you compete. To begin the race, all active participants must be standing on the Power Pad in their designated spots. For single player, stand on 5 and 6. A whistle is blown and soon the referee fires the starting gun.

Let’s look at each of the events first. Then I will explain how they combine into the different courses.

The Log Hop is exactly how it sounds; you run and jump over stationary logs. This introduces the standard controls that apply to many events in the game. Run on 5 and 6 in the middle row to move forward. Take a step back and run on 9 and 10 to back up a little bit if you need to. You can run right up to the log and then jump in the air so that your character jumps as well. The logs are medium height so they aren’t too tough to jump over. You can even land on top of the log and run right off.

No, you can’t run around the ball.

The Belly Bump Ball has the same controls as the Log Hop. Here a giant beach ball is in the middle of the track and you have to bump it forward by running into it. The faster you run into it, the farther down the track it goes. Ideally you want to get into a good rhythm of bouncing it far ahead and then running fast to knock the ball ahead again. If you come at it slow, the ball won’t go very far and then you don’t have the distance necessary to build up speed unless you take a few steps back and give yourself some running room.

Water Cross is similar to the Log Hop. There are pools of water on the track that you want to jump completely over if you can. Run up to the edge and jump to hopefully get across. More than likely you will fall into the water. You can swim by running on 5 and 6, but you will cross very slowly and use up a lot of time.

In the Crab Walk, I guess you wear a crab outfit? It’s weird. You want to put your left foot on the 1 and your right foot on the 9 and then run in place to inch ahead. It’s different than the other events since your feet are much further apart. I could move forward but really couldn’t get the hang of this one like I should have.

The Wall Jump is exactly like the Log Hop. The walls are thin and much taller than the logs. You really need to jump high to get to the top of the wall. Not only that, but there are two different heights of walls just to make things more exhausting.

This is a very sturdy bubble.

In Bubble Run, you first approach an air pump and must blow up your bubble. Hit 1 and 2 in the first row to inflate your balloon. The manual says to hit the buttons with your hands, which makes sense since you are working an air pump. You can run on it if you want, but my legs needed a break! Once the bubble is filled, then run on 5 and 6 and take the bubble to the end.

These are all the basic events that combine to form the larger events that you choose from the menu before play. In the Super Obstacle Course, you run all six of the above events in that exact order. In Obstacle Course A, you do the Log Hop, Water Cross, and Wall Jump, and in Obstacle Course B you do the Belly Bump Ball, Crab Walk, and Bubble Run. The Relay Race in the team play modes is the same as the Super Obstacle Course. Instead of running the whole thing alone, you pass the baton and substitute team members after each pair of events.

That’s not all! There are also three other unique special events:

The Skateboard Race is for one or two players. In this mode you don’t have to run, which is quite the relief! Your front foot position will either be on the 5 or 6, and your back foot position is either 9 or 10. First, stand on 5 and 6 to start with the whistle blow, then put your front foot on 5 and your back foot on 9. I like to face right while on the mat. This will position you in the top row in your course. Move your front foot to the 6 and then move your back foot to the 10 to move your character to the bottom row in the course. You can switch positions one step at a time to slide your skateboarder. You may rhythmically step between positions to slalom and that lets you move faster down the course. You also need to sidestep to dodge obstacles on the course. Some obstacles block both lanes and you must jump to get past them. If it sounds complicated, I’m sure you will get it once you finish the course once or twice.

Try to weave around the obstacles.

The 6 Legged Race is a team event only. You need six players for this event! Each team of three stands back to back on the respective spaces on the Power Pad so that there is a foot on every button. Each team must take left and right steps together as if their feet are tied together. If someone is out of step the racers will fall over and make it harder for the team to continue to walk. There’s no feasible way for me to play this event, but I bet it would be hilarious!

The Tug of War is another team event that can be done with either two, four, or six players against each other. Within a team, the first player stands on 5 and 6, the second player stands on 1 and 2, and the third player stands on 9 and 10. The other team takes the respective positions on the right side of the Power Pad. When the firing gun starts, everyone runs as fast as they can. Whichever side has pulled more of the rope after 30 seconds wins the Tug of War.

I’ve never been a Power Pad player, so this was my first time playing through Super Team Games. All of the Power Pad games tend to teeter between common and uncommon, but they are neither difficult nor expensive to track down if you really want them. Well, aside from Stadium Events that is. I got my original copy in a lot on eBay early on when I had made my big push to collect the other half of the NES licensed set. I remember seeing it and getting pretty excited since I had never seen the game before and thought it might have been worth something. I quickly found out that it was cheap because no one wants it. I’ve had a few different copies come through my possession.

This was a really bad jump attempt.

Super Team Games is a significant step up in difficulty from World Class Track Meet. Naturally, I learned this the hard way. My first time playing I picked the Super Obstacle Course against the fastest computer runner Jack. He completely blew me away. He completed the entire course in under three minutes while I hadn’t even reached the halfway point yet. I had to stop and step away in the middle of the race for a little while to catch my breath. I kept at it just to get through it, but I never did finish the race. After 10 minutes have elapsed, the race just ends. I was at the very end of the course with the finish line in sight when this happened. So annoying. I’m calling it impossible for me to beat this on the hardest difficulty and immediately accepted the idea of beating it on Easy and stopping there.

I moved on to the Skateboard Race next which is the easiest mode and much less strenuous. It still took me two attempts to beat easy difficulty Ollie. The first attempt was learning the course and the controls, and then the second try was enough to win the race. I then switched over to trying Obstacle Course A and managed to win that race too. The only problem is I forgot to hit the record button on my PC. That really upset me and I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I completed it again. I was completely spent from playing this game to the point where I had to rest for a couple of days before trying again.

I finished all of the modes over the next three play sessions. The Super Obstacle Course took me two tries to win against Ollie. He finishes the race in around six minutes. I was about twenty seconds behind the first try and then I won by more than that the next try. It also took me two tries to beat the Obstacle Course A again. The first try I quit part way because I was too far behind and exhausted from winning the Super Obstacle Course just before. The next try I won the race by just barely passing Ollie on the final stretch. That was way too close for comfort. Obstacle Course B is quite a bit easier than the other two obstacle courses, but I think that took a couple of tries as well. I used the Skateboard Race as a warm up exercise and finished it a couple more times for good measure. I learned from my mistakes and recorded everything the way I wanted.

That’s how close I was to losing Obstacle Course A.

I think Super Team Games requires more consistency and better form than World Class Track Meet. You can be successful by stepping on the Power Pad as quickly as possible, since that’s more or less what I did. However, it does seem that you are rewarded for having proper form in your steps and jumps. I will caution that I cannot be entirely sure about this. The manual tells you what to do, but not how to do it well. It’s not really feasible for me to test any hypotheses either because I can only play a little bit at a time before wearing out. My theories will have to do. I was able to do a really long jump a few times and I never understood how it happened. I’m sure it has to do with the timing of my jump while running with some speed, maybe even by jumping off of one foot and landing on the other. I also noticed that I accelerated sometimes while jogging for some distance. There does seem to be some momentum inherent in the game physics as long as you keep going without slowing down too much or missing any steps on the buttons. Again, these are just theories. I assume there has to be some kind of technique that I didn’t understand that could help me perform at a higher level.

I do have a few observations about racing Ollie that might be helpful if you want to play this game single player. I found that I was about on par with Ollie in all events but two. Ollie does the Crab Walk well, but does the Belly Bump Ball terribly. I have no idea what the secret is to crab walking and I always lost ground during that event. The Belly Bump Ball is best way to take a big lead. Ollie gets no momentum at all and only pushes the ball a short distance while never backing up to get a better shot at it. If you run fast, pause briefly just after you bump the ball, and repeat, you should clear the event quickly. This was the key for me completing the Super Obstacle Course and Obstacle Course B, leaving only Obstacle Course A without an easy exploit. The sad thing is that the game manual tries to make you feel bad for even coming close in a match with Ollie. From the manual: “Ollie: A push over. Shame on you if you lose!” Let me tell you, there is no shame in losing to Ollie. This really is a tough game.

Super Team Games is not fun to play in my opinion, but it is a competent title. The graphics are simple and clean. The music, while not notable, is decent. The controls work well once you learn how to navigate the menu. There is a wide variety of events, especially when you include many players. The real fun of Super Team Games lies in playing this game with someone else. Racing against another player or coordinating large groups for team events are the kind of activities that form memories and build bonds, even in the heart of strenuous competition. Super Team Games is also a good exercise tool for Power Pad owners, so long as you take it easy and don’t worry about trying to outrun the computer players. Trying to beat the game in single player mode is too tedious and exhausting to be fun, and I missed out on everything in the other modes that would have made it enjoyable. I think the best part of Super Team Games was the feeling of relief to check it off the list and move on to the next game.

#68 – Super Team Games (Super Obstacle Course)

#68 – Super Team Games (Obstacle Course A)

#68 – Super Team Games (Obstacle Course B)

#68 – Super Team Games (Skateboard Race)