Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#131 – Werewolf: The Last Warrior

Ripping straight out of your NES!

Didn’t even realize this game had a 2-player mode!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 7/25/19 – 8/1/19
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10
My Video: Werewolf: The Last Warrior Longplay

I’m just going to say this right away.  I think Werewolf: The Last Warrior is gonna be my favorite NES Box Art of 2019. The obvious element is the giant werewolf ripping out of the cover, but look closely and you will see that he bursts right out of an NES cart.  You can make out the gray lines and the chips on the green circuit board inside.  At this time, very few people took the carts apart to see what was inside because new carts didn’t need to have the pins cleaned. I bet this aspect of the cover was underappreciated.  Some other parts of the cover I like are the red text on yellow background for contrast and the huge claws on the werewolf.  With a box cover so awesome, the game inside has to be equally good, right?

Werewolf: The Last Warrior debuted on the NES in November 1990.  The game was developed and published by Data East, with development credit given to Sakata SAS.  The Famicom release came later in June 1991, published by Takara.  There the game was called Cho Jinro Senki Wourufu, translating to Super Werewolf Chronicle Warwolf.  Europe also saw an NES release in September 1991.

In this game, you play as Chief WarWolf.  The evil Dr. Faryan has created a bunch of bio-monsters that have imprisoned nearly everyone in the world.  Guess who is the only hope for civilization?  With the help and powers of the Great Spirit, you can become Werewolf which will give you the abilities needed to defeat Faryan and save humanity from his evil schemes.  There are five stages in the game, culminating in the final battle with Faryan. Beat all the levels to beat this game.

Most of the cutscenes involve this guy.

This is your typical platforming game with a mostly familiar control scheme. An obvious downside right off the bat is that you attack with A and jump with B.  I have no idea why developers did this as the convention of using A to jump and B to attack was the de facto standard.  I’ve played games long enough to be able to handle it no problem, but otherwise there is this artificial learning curve added for no real reason other than to be different.  The rest of the controls are fine.  Press the D-pad directions to move around.  You can duck with Down and climb ladders with Up.  The A button does a simple punch and you can punch high while standing or punch low while ducking.  You also wield a Power Ray as a charge attack by holding A to charge and letting go to unleash the attack.  Pressing B jumps normally, but you can do a higher jump if you hold Up while pressing B.  Start pauses the game.  While paused, you can press Select to show your score and number of lives remaining. 

At the start of the game, you meet the Great Spirit.  The game switches over to a brief cutscene where the Great Spirit gives you some advice.  Immediately after this you are thrown into a fight with one of Faryan’s death slaves. This enemy has a health bar displayed at the bottom and is a recurring mini-boss throughout the game.  Defeat him and he will leave behind a red W.  Collecting this item turns you into Werewolf.  Then you get another cutscene where you see his transformation.  Don’t worry, this scene only happens the first time you transform.

In Werewolf form, you have several new options available.  You maintain this form until you are at about a quarter of health remaining.  By default, your attacks are twice as strong as normal.  Your Power Ray now attacks everything on screen via a shock wave, but this deals you a lot of damage just to perform the move.  You also get four new movement abilities.  You can crawl into tunnels too big for you to enter normally. Simply walk into the tunnel to start crawling.  You can perform a backflip that makes you invincible to all attacks by pressing both A and B together.  You can climb walls in Werewolf form.  Simply jump into a wall to cling to it.  Now you can climb the wall by pressing either Up or Down.  To get off, you press the direction opposite the wall and press B to jump off.  Lastly, you can cling and hand-walk along ceilings with your claws.  Jump up to the ceiling, then hold Up and press A to dig your claws in.  Then you can use Left or Right to move across the ceiling and press Down to disembark. Getting hooked is tough.  You have to connect just as you are falling from the top of your jump so that you touch the ceiling with the tip of your claws.

This early spot is tough when you don’t know how to ceiling walk.

There is an anger meter at the bottom of the screen.  You collect these tiny, white bubbles that add a notch to your anger meter.  When the meter hits five bubbles, then you transform into Super Werewolf.  In this mode, you have all the same powers and abilities as Werewolf, but your attacks double in strength, you move faster, and you jump incredibly high.  The downside is that this mode is temporary as the bubbles gradually decrease.  (I guess they pop?)  Once you run out of bubbles, you switch back to Werewolf mode until you collect enough bubbles for another transformation.

There are several other items you can collect in this game.  Finding items is weird.  Some of them are dropped by enemies, and others you find by striking objects in the levels.  Sometimes these locations are obvious, like posts or boxes.  Other times you find items by hitting ledges or other places you might not expect.  It doesn’t hurt to attack random things just in case.  Anyway, here are the other items to look out for.  Small hearts heal one health point while large hearts are full health refills.  Little red bubbles defeat all enemies onscreen.  Big red bubbles make you invincible for a little while.  Why bubbles are so powerful in this game, I have no idea.  Hourglasses give you more time, dollar signs add points, and 1ups are obvious. Some enemies drop a bullet behind that gives you a single shot attack of your own with A.

The final item you need to watch out for are the blue W’s.  While red W’s upgrade you to Werewolf, the blue ones downgrade you.  They take you from Super Werewolf back to Werewolf, or from Werewolf back to plain War Wolf form.  If you grab one as War Wolf, it deals a significant amount of damage.  Therefore, you want to avoid these at all costs.  The game puts you in some situations where if you reveal a blue W, you are forced to pick it up to proceed.  Just be careful.  The manual suggests there is a way to somehow use both a blue W and a red W to go directly to Super Werewolf.  I have no idea how or if that works, and I didn’t find any information about that mechanic.

Knock stuff around until you find the good items.

The levels in this game are usually laid out a specific way.  Stages move from Left to Right with a few exceptions. Stages also typically have a high section and a low section.  You can find ladders to climb between sections and sometimes you can choose between the upper path or lower path all the way through the stage.  This can add some replay value if you want to try a different path and it lets you experiment to find the best way through a level.  All levels end in a boss fight with one of Faryan’s stronger creatures.

This game treats lives as continues.  When you fall into a pit or run out of health, it is Game Over.  If you have any lives remaining, then you can Continue from the Game Over screen or select End to start over.  When you run out of lives, the game puts you at the same screen only you are forced to choose End.  You start the game with three lives.  You can earn more by collecting 1up items or for every 50,000 points earned.  Every time you die your score goes back to 0, so you are incentivized to play well enough early to earn more lives for later.

This was my first time beating Werewolf: The Last Warrior.  I sort of remember testing this game out one time and playing until I died, which didn’t take too long that time.   I might have went further if I knew the controls.  I bought my cart copy of the game at a game store about an hour away from home that I have only visited one time.  I think I paid either $7 or $8 for it.  The game sells now for around $10 which I believe is the same as the going rate was when I bought mine.

Boss fights are much better as Super Werewolf

Beating this game was yet another installment in the series of “making incremental progress each playthrough.”  The first stage has at least a couple of spots that are tough to pass until you get a grip of the controls and all the moves you have available. The worst stopping point was the waterfall stage.  This is one of those two-tiered horizontal levels where the lower section is all water. Evidently, in this universe, werewolves cannot swim, so once you fall in you have to watch yourself drown.  There are leaping fish that can easily knock you in the drink, in part because you have a tough time hitting enemies in the air. Their placements are not quite consistent either.  It makes for a tough section and you can bleed your remaining lives away in a flash. Some other parts of the game aren’t much easier, but the waterfall was the worst I experienced.  I could have knocked the difficulty down a point or two if that stage were easier.  Still, completing the game in a week isn’t all that bad and it was a straightforward game to boot.

What I will remember most about Werewolf: The Last Warrior is how janky the game is.  I’ve already mentioned a few of these instances of jankiness, such as B button jumping, tricky ceiling clinging, and the seemingly random locations of hidden items. There are plenty more.  The backflip maneuver is very helpful in crossing some parts where taking damage is eminent, since you are invincible during the flip.  One downside of that is that there are two forced jumps associated with the move, and if you didn’t plan carefully, you could leap right into a pit.  Another quirk is that during a backflip, the screen does not scroll ahead.  You can backflip all the way to the right and then walk against the right side of the screen, leaving you completely defenseless to the dangers right in front of you.  Bosses soak up a lot of damage before going down and end up being very repetitive as a result.  Super Werewolf status makes them pretty manageable, but you may only build up to that state once or twice in the whole game.  If you are plain War Wolf, forget even trying to fight a boss.  Your attacks have one-fourth the power of Super Werewolf, and even if you play the fight perfectly you will probably run out of time before winning anyway.  There are still other minor nuisances that don’t even make a blip compared to these issues.

Werewolf: The Last Warrior is a game that falls short of most other NES platformers. I would say the graphics are just average.  Most of the sprites are large and detailed.  The Werewolf character has a lot of different poses and such for all the moves available. The music is pretty decent.  My favorite song is the one that plays when you are normal War Wolf, but unfortunately the more you hear that song the worse you are playing.  The controls take some getting used to with the B button jumping and handling specific moves like backflips and wall climbing.  The gameplay has some notable flaws.  The jumping is rather stiff and favors more vertical leaping than horizontal, which is tough considering most of the game is horizontal scrolling. Bosses and some enemies take way too many hits to defeat, leaving the timer as more of a threat here than in other games. You can tell that Ninja Gaiden was an inspiration for this game with things like its interstitial cutscenes and wall climbing moves.  Those are some huge shoes to fill, and in my opinion, Werewolf isn’t half as good as Ninja Gaiden.  It’s not terrible and there are sure to be some people that will go to bat for the game, but I’d rather play something else.

#131 – Werewolf: The Last Warrior


#128 – Tag Team Wrestling

It’s the Ricky Fighters versus the Strong Bads … over and over again.

Scores look so weird on this screen

To Beat: Win 35 matches to become Super Champion
Played: 5/18/19 – 5/23/19
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Tag Team Wrestling Longplay

Well, I was wrong. Here is yet another NES wrestling game. I am starting to wonder if these games ever end. I mean, I know they do of course, but I have been receiving what feels like a steady diet of these titles for a little while. As soon as I get a bit of a breather, bam, another NES wrestling game. Tag Team Wrestling naturally turned out to be a real grind of a game too.

Tag Team Wrestling was first an arcade game that released in late 1983/early 1984. It was developed by Technos Japan and published by Data East. The game was ported to a few different home computers, as well as to the NES and Famicom. The Famicom version came first in April 1986. There it was called Tag Team Pro Wrestling and it was published by Namco. The NES version released in October 1986, published by Data East and developed by both Data East and Sakata SAS. The NES port was only released in North America. Tag Team Wrestling is very likely the first third-party title released on the NES in North America.

Wrestling yay!

Tag Team Wrestling is just what it sounds like. You play as the team Ricky Fighters against the bad guy team the Strong Bads. You can also play a two-player game where each player controls one of the teams. To win a match, you either need to pin your opponent, have them tap out by submission, or have them lose by countout when out of the ring. As you win matches, you rise in rank and eventually earn some titles. You beat the game by rising all the way to the top by becoming Super Champions, but you need to win a whopping 35 matches to be the very best.

The controls in this game are different from other wrestling games I’ve played. You move around the ring with the D-pad. You use the A button to punch and grab the opponent. Grab your opponent and initiate the grapple. Now you must select your move with the B button via a pop up menu. Tap B quickly to cycle through the moves and then press A on the one you want. There are eight different moves for each wrestler but there’s only a three second timer to enter your move before the opponent does a counter move himself. I learned pretty quickly to rhythmically tap out the button to get the move I wanted. Once the opponent is low enough on health and knocked to the ground, close in on him and press A to pin.

Seeing as this is Tag Team Wrestling, you can call on your partner to pitch in. Simply walk over to the lower left corner and press B to tag him in. Each wrestler has his own health bar displayed when he is activated. Naturally your opponents can do this too, so try and finish the job quickly when he is at low health. Your partner can also step in and break up a submission hold by pressing A when you are stuck. He will run in and smash the other guy so you can get back in the action. This is the only way I found to get out of the move.

Picking moves from a real time menu seems advanced for 1986.

You can also fight outside of the ring. This happens automatically if someone is hit with a move into the rope, typically by being either flipped or slammed toward either side. The referee begins a 20 count and you fight as normal with a few changes. First, you are locked on the same plane so you can’t run circles around each other. Instead of eight moves, there are only three moves available on the outside. You still need to tap B seven times to get to the last move. Sometimes there is a chair lying on the ground that you can pick up and slam into your opponent. Press Up to get back into the ring before the ref finishes the 20 count or you automatically lose the match. If you leave your opponent out there and get back in in time, then you win by disqualification.

The Strong Bads have a special anger mechanic that you will contend with all the time. After some time, one of the opponents will turn red. When this happens, you will always be grappled and attacked no matter what you do. A lot of the strategy in the game revolves around managing the opponent’s anger. One little trick I learned is that if the opponent becomes angry while laying on the mat, you can pin him and that mellows him out somehow. He also never gets angry while outside of the ring. That may not be realistic, but sure, whatever. As play continues and you win more matches, the time between angriness decreases, making those matches much harder to win.

There are a couple of special instances that occasionally come into play. Each wrestler has an original super move. This move is the last in the move list, and you can only do the move against the opposite wrestler from the start of the match. The Strong Bads also have super moves in that same manner. The Ricky Fighters have an occasional, unique ability of their own that goes against the Strong Bad anger. During certain rounds, if you tag your partner in a number of consecutive times, you will flash for the duration of the match. I believe this makes your attacks more powerful. It’s too bad this can only be done a few times a game.

You won’t like them when they’re angry.

Beating the game requires winning 35 matches. Along the way you will obtain smaller titles on the road to Super Champion. After each victory, you see a screen showing the next title you are going after and how many wins you need to get there. The listing of titles in the game manual is incorrect. Clear Round 3 to become Regional Champion, Round 8 for American Champion, Round 15 for European Champion, Round 25 for World Champion, and Round 35 for Super Champion. Winning a title serves as a checkpoint and you don’t lose rank. For example, winning the first three matches earns you the Regional Champion title. If you lose a match while gunning for American Champion, you go back to Round 4 at the start of the American Champion ladder. You have unlimited continues, making the quest for Super Champion a little easier.

This was my first time playing through Tag Team Wrestling. I am not much a fan of wrestling anymore and I never cared for wrestling games at all. This is a common cart that can be found for a few bucks. I have had several copies of this game on my journey to own them all.

The exploit for winning this game became evident after a while. Early on I play the matches straight up. I got a feel for the right amount of opponent’s health to shoot for. You need it low enough to successfully pin but not too low so that he doesn’t go back to tag his partner in with a full health bar. This works for several rounds but eventually the anger kicks in faster and you need a new strategy. Knowing that the opponent never gets angry on the outside, the goal becomes to shift play out there as soon as possible. I can get him out there in two moves. The first knocks him down to set up the suplex that throws him out. From there, do a post smash to move him into the corner. With good timing when he gets up, you can always win the grapple for another attack. Then I establish a cadence of moves to set up the timing so that I can knock him down as close to a 19 count as possible. That gives me enough time left to get back into the ring so that I win by disqualification. This is not an easy setup, but I was able to do it enough through repetition that it became easy.

“Always grab the weapon on the floor” is some sound advice.

I had a few struggles and close calls. I am not a perfect player so mistakes will happen in my routine. Normally this isn’t an issue until the final matches. The Strong Bad anger becomes constant only a few grapples into a match. Should that happen, either I get lucky and get knocked out of the ring to stage a comeback or I’m toast. This came into play on my final attempt one night. After almost two hours of grinding, I finally reach Round 35. Right away it turns into disaster when I miss the suplex that would throw him outside. The anger loop happens, and I’m done for. After kicking out of a pin, miraculously I get knocked out of the ring. I start working my outside strategy, but my cadence is off. At the end of the count, I panic and fire off a move only to struggle getting back into the ring. I get called out as my feet are hovering above the mat. Game Over. I’m pretty sure after my shock wore off, I threw the controller, turned the game off, and went to bed. Two nights later, I’m back at Round 35 after almost 90 minutes of attempts. It starts off well enough, however somehow I miss a grapple on the outside and get beat up for a little bit before we both head back into the ring. This time I kept my composure enough to grapple him just before he tags his partner. Lucky for me, Strong Bads aren’t in anger mode when attempting to tag in their partner. I attack and get the win by pinfall. It wasn’t how I drew it up, but it works just the same. I ended up playing a couple more matches. You always get the Super Champion message past this point, and naturally I didn’t have any issues winning the extra matches. Looking back, I’m glad the ending was a little bit exciting since it’s a better story.

Tag Team Wrestling is more notable for its influence than for its gameplay. Not only was it probably the first third party NES game, but it also directly inspired the Strong Bad character from Homestar Runner. Aside from that, this is a lackluster game. The graphics and music are simplistic, though that’s not too unusual considering it is such an early effort on the NES. The menu-based move system is a novelty at first that soon becomes tedious. Matches are quick but the road to Super Champion seems to go on forever with very few opportunities to spice things up. The Strong Bad anger is absolutely unfair by the endgame. I don’t think it would be entertaining for a two-player game beyond a match or two. Tag Team Wrestling, while completely playable, is not fun to play. There are far better wrestling games on the NES.

#128 – Tag Team Wrestling


#119 – Boulder Dash

This action-puzzler gives you more than you bargain for.

Clouds rolling in and Rockford running around!

To Beat: Beat World 24 to reach the ending
Played: 3/16/19 – 4/3/19
Difficulty: 9/10
My Difficulty: 9/10
My Video: Boulder Dash Longplay

Boulder Dash and I go way back. All the way back to high school, that is. I was very mathematically minded and so I joined the math team. As part of the deal, all of us on the team were loaned a TI-85 graphing calculator. It had some capabilities, including being programmable, so naturally I started tinkering around making small games on it. Things really blew open when we found that some smart people had hacked into the calculator and wrote programs in assembly language that took full advantage of the hardware. I purchased a computer-to-calculator cable, hacked it myself, and started downloading fun games. One of those was Boulder Dash and I spent a lot of time playing it. Now, years later, I finally beat the game on the NES.

Boulder Dash was originally released for Atari 8-bit home computers in 1984. It was originally developed by Peter Liepa and Chris Gray and the game was acquired by First Star Software in 1983. The company is still around and continues to hold the license to Boulder Dash. The game has been widely ported to various home computers, consoles, handhelds, and mobile phones. The NES version of Boulder Dash was released first on Famicom in March 1990. The NES release followed in North America in June 1990 and in Europe sometime in 1990. This port was licensed by First Star Software but was developed by Data East, specifically Sakata SAS. The Japanese version was published by Data East, the North American version by JVC, and the European version by Nintendo.

The story for the game is a simple one. An old explorer named Stoneford is on his death bed. Before he passed away, he called over his son Rockford and handed him a map. He tells his son to do the adventure he couldn’t complete and find the secret jewels among the six worlds. You play the role of Rockford as he plans to fulfill his father’s wishes. Each of the six worlds contains four levels that the game manual calls towns. Within each world, you can play each level in any order you choose. When all levels are completed, you proceed to the next world. Your task is to complete all the worlds.

There’s even a World Map!

Boulder Dash is an action game, occasionally containing puzzle elements. The object is straightforward. Each level contains gems and there is a counter of how many remaining you need to collect. Once the minimum is gathered, a door will open up somewhere in the level and you need to enter it to complete the level. As you move through the levels, you will clear out dirt that is in your path. There are solid boulders that will fall if they are unobstructed by dirt or other objects. You must take care not to get hit in the head with a falling boulder or you will lose a life. Gems fall by the same rules as boulders and you can be killed by a falling one too.

The controls are easy. This is a top-down game with levels that scroll in all directions. Simply press and hold the D-pad to move around. You can only move in the four cardinal directions and the game is grid based. You move from space to space and you can hold a direction down to move multiple spaces consecutively. You move plenty fast. Everything else in the game plays by the same rules moving one space at a time but with much more rigid movement. You can move through dirt freely as well as into spaces occupied by gems. If you press up against a boulder from the side, as long as there is space on the other side, you will push the boulder one space at a time. Holding down either the A or B button combined with pressing a direction allows you to interact with an adjacent space. You can collect gems, dig dirt, or push rocks the next tile over without moving using this technique. Sometimes you will get trapped where you cannot move at all. You can let the timer run out, or you can hold down A and B to suicide.

There are two primary types of enemies in this game. In the original game, they are fireflies and butterflies, but here they take the form of enemies graphically depending on what world you are in. I’ll refer to them by fireflies and butterflies because even if that’s not what they look like, you can tell them apart by their behavior. Both enemies move around the level by hugging the walls. Fireflies move clockwise while butterflies move counter-clockwise around the walls. You can defeat these enemies by dropping either a boulder or a gem on top of them. They explode and clear out all spaces around them in a 3×3 area. Defeated butterflies generate a 3×3 area of gems instead. You need to take advantage of this right away in the first world where you can only harvest gems from the butterflies. The enemies will defeat you not only if you touch them, but also if they occupy the space next to you. You really have to be careful around the enemies.

Wait for the enemies and knock ’em cold!

There is another special enemy type called an amoeba. This one does not hurt you at all, but instead it tries to take over the entire level once space at a time. It begins as a single tile and expands to an adjacent open space or dirt tile. It has some special properties. Fireflies or butterflies are defeated when they touch the amoeba, exploding into either empty space or gems as if you defeated them with a boulder. If the amoeba gets too big, it will transform into all boulders which is disastrous. However, if you can enclose the amoeba to where it is unable to expand, it will transform into gems. Levels featuring amoebas usually require you to turn them into a large pile of diamonds.

Some other levels appear impossible to clear at first look. There aren’t enough gems within the level, there is no amoeba, nor enough butterflies. That means the level probably contains a magic wall. The manual for the NES version calls this a Special Stone Wall. The magic wall takes falling rocks and transforms them to gems on the other side of the wall. The first rock to fall into the wall activates the magic wall and then it wears off automatically after some time. You need to make sure there is enough space underneath the wall for the transformed gems, and boulders must fall at least one space into the wall before it will transform. Otherwise rocks will sit there and potentially block other rocks from falling through.

As levels get more complicated, some techniques begin to emerge. Though the enemy movements may seem erratic at first, they are very predictable. Since they hug the walls, by cleverly digging dirt as they pass, you can get them to loop around constantly within a small area. You can blow holes in the wall by defeating an enemy next to the wall. There can be gems in blocked off areas that you can now access. A little trick I picked up is that you can use Rockford himself in place of a boulder to help block off an amoeba. This also provides you an entry point into the new pile of gems once it transforms. On that note, using your “grab” technique with the A button gives you the ability to harvest gems out of a large pile while helping you stay just out of harm’s way. Some parts of the game require meticulous digging through the middle of a large pile of gems and boulders. These are puzzles that you have to reason your way through in order to collect as many jewels as possible without getting trapped or killed.

Good luck getting through that pile later.

Boulder Dash has a dirty trick up its sleeve. When you clear all levels in the six worlds, you get a pseudo ending but not a complete one. Then the game continues with Worlds 7-12. This is a second loop of the game with all the same levels but with higher gem requirements to reveal the exit. There is also a third and fourth loop of the game that you must complete before getting the actual ending to the game. Altogether there are 24 worlds. The third loop is particularly devious in that some of the level layouts have been slightly tweaked to make them much harder. The very first level in that third loop is a good indicator of what’s to come. That level is normally a quick clear, but this time the walls go all the way across, sealing off the bottom. You have to dig out a firefly and quickly try to defeat it along the floor so that you can blast a hole to the middle section, then you have to do that again to reach the lower section. Aside from layout changes, some of the gem requirements are even more strict. The fourth loop introduces more changes. Sometimes you have to harvest every possible gem in the level to move on. It gets very challenging.

At the start of the game, you get three spare lives. You get to change the color of your character to just about any color the NES offers. You get a map where you can choose which level in the world you want to try. If you die, you go back to the map and you can choose a different level if you want. Rockford earns a new life every 2000 points, which are a little tough to come by until the later levels. You have unlimited continues but you have to replay all already-completed levels within the world. Boulder Dash has a password system and you can get the password for any world, all the way up to World 24. That’s essential for beating this game. Passwords are simple six-digit codes that are easy to jot down.

This game combines elements in interesting ways.

I have played a lot of Boulder Dash casually, but never made a true effort to clear every level in the game until now. I picked up my cart copy of Boulder Dash many years ago. It was a game I knew I had to have. I played a fair amount of it back then but never really got very far. The last time I played Boulder Dash was in 2014 for the Nintendo Age contest. That time I reached World 13 with a strong score from replaying levels and earning enough points to keep up with lives. That was way farther than I ever made it before.

My complete run of the game took a few weeks to complete. I got through the first two loops fairly quickly and then stalled out on the other two loops. I don’t think I spent more than a couple of hours on any single world in the game, even the difficult ones at the end. I just had to keep at it and chip away. Due to my schedule, I cleared about a world a day toward the end, so that’s why it took so long. The whole game was probably a 20-hour completion. For my longplay video, I recorded just Worlds 19-24. It was too much to do the entire loop at once, so I recorded each world individually and just stitched them together into one video. There is plenty of failure there even without seeing any Game Over screen.

After all I went through to beat the game, I would still say Boulder Dash is a great game. I don’t necessarily think it is a great NES game. The graphics are pretty nice with different settings for each world. It is evident what each element is just from looking at it even though they can vary graphically. The music is good. The controls are simple but work just like Boulder Dash is supposed to work. The level design is good and provides you with varied challenges from pure action to puzzle solving. The problem with Boulder Dash on NES is that the game design is from an earlier time and it doesn’t really fit what an NES game should be like. The action is completely tile based with only the player character moving smoothly. There is some stiffness in the controls as well to match the gameplay. You can put a fresh coat of paint on it, but you can’t change the fundamentals of the gameplay and have it work right. This is the way Boulder Dash has to be to succeed as a concept. It’s not your typical NES game, but it is a good one if you can live with its limitations.

#119 – Boulder Dash


#108 – RoboCop

Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!

I don’t usually see a “subtitle” before the title like this.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/9/18 – 12/14-18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: RoboCop Longplay

Usually when I play a game based on a movie, I always end up saying something about how I never saw the movie because my childhood was deprived and all that stuff.  This time I actually have seen the original RoboCop.  It’s just that it was several years ago and even then I barely remember anything about it.  RoboCop is one of those gritty late 80’s action movies that is ripe for a video game.  I would say it’s a pretty decent one.  Let’s take a look.

RoboCop is a 1987 action movie written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and directed by Paul Verhoeven.  The film is about a dystopian, run-down Detroit, Michigan that makes a deal with a huge corporation, giving them control of the police department in exchange for renovating part of the city.  RoboCop was born out of an idea from one of the company executives where a recently-deceased person would have most of his or her body replaced with cybernetics, transforming the person into RoboCop who will help drive down crime.  The movie was a financial success and had relatively positive reviews from critics.  RoboCop would become a big media franchise including three feature films, a 2014 remake, two live-action TV series, two animated series, and several runs of comic books.

There were also several video games based on RoboCop.  All three feature films received a video game adaptation.  There was a RoboCop vs. The Terminator game based on the comic mini-series.  There is a Game Boy Color game that appears to have been released only in Europe.  A PlayStation 2 and Xbox RoboCop game came out in 2003.  There were also two mobile games.  The NES received three RoboCop games while a RoboCop vs Terminator NES port was developed but never released.  The NES RoboCop game was released first on the Famicom in August 1989.  The North American version came in December 1989, and the PAL version launched in April 1991.  The game was developed by Sakata SAS who ported many Data East games to the NES.  The game was published by Data East except in PAL territories where it was published by Ocean Software.

Just casually punching thugs on the street.

This game loosely follows the plot of the film.  You play as RoboCop over six different assignments.  Your first missions don’t seem to be based on the movie.  You follow RoboCop as he cleans up the streets, takes out some bad guys, and deals with a hostage situation at City Hall.  Later, you encounter and go after Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones, both villains from the movie.  You beat the game once you complete all six missions.

RoboCop is a side-scrolling action game with basic controls.  Use the D-pad to walk around Left and Right.  You can’t jump in this game.  The B button punches while the A button fires weapons.  If RoboCop doesn’t have a weapon drawn, the A button also punches.  RoboCop can take the stairs by pressing either Up or Down while standing near the stairs, but the positioning for this is a little tricky at first.  You can press Down to duck and fire low.  You can press Up to enter doorways.  RoboCop can fire his guns in any direction including diagonals by pressing the desired direction when shooting.  The Select button with the Down arrow is used to block punches.

The lower portion of the screen contains your useful information.  The left side shows your energy level and your power level.  Below that is your score.  Your currently selected weapon is in the center followed by your ammo count and maximum ammo.  You can switch between weapons by pressing either Up or Down when the game is paused.  The four boxes on the right side are your function indicators.

One of the main mechanics in the game is the connection between the energy and power meters.  The energy meter corresponds to your battery while your power meter is more like your health meter.  When you take damage from enemies, it always drains your energy meter a little bit.  Some enemies also deal damage that affects your power meter more drastically.  Your energy slowly drains away as you play, acting like a timer.  You die when either meter is depleted so you need to manage both as you play.

Both the lower indicator and wall flashing make this obvious.

The four indicators at the bottom of the screen will blink to notify you of certain things during the game.  The first is the infrared indicator which blinks whenever your infrared vision is turned on.  When this happens, part of the stage will blink and you have to attack it with punches.  The second indicator is the punch indicator.  When blinking, it means the enemies on screen can only be defeated with punches.  The third is the foe detector which blinks faster the closer you get to the end-level boss.  The final indicator is the energy and power alarm.  This indicator blinks either when you are low on energy or power or when either meter has dropped quickly.

There are a couple of different weapons you will acquire through the game.  Your default gun is the Auto-9, a handgun with unlimited ammo.  It is basic but effective.  There is a machine gun with rapid fire capability that burns through bullets very fast.  The best weapon is the cobra gun.  It launches huge bullets that do massive damage.  However, you don’t find the gun until late in the game, and when you do it can only be fired a few times before it’s gone.  Use it wisely!

There are a few pickups during the game that help you out.  Sometimes defeated enemies drop them, but mostly you will find them lying on the ground.  Walk over them and duck with Down to bend over and pick them up.  A lightning canister fills up part of your energy meter, while the canister with the letter P on it restores part of your power meter.  You can also find machine guns and cobra guns on the ground to give you more ammo.

Pickups aren’t usually this plentiful.

RoboCop is quite a straightforward game.  The levels are relatively small and self-contained.  You usually travel to the right with only a few stages that have different paths through.  There are simple enemies that run at you.  Guys with guns fire out of windows and you have to aim your guns to defeat them.  RoboCop does not always have access to his gun.  At certain points, RoboCop will either draw his gun or put it away.  This means you have to get used to punching, but often the enemies you get are suited to your weapon loadout at the time.  All levels end in a boss fight.  Simple stuff.

After the second and fourth missions, you get to play a shooting mini-game.  This is a first-person style game where you move a targeting reticle with the D-pad and press A or B to shoot.  Targets appear and you have to blow away as many open ones as you can.  You will get a feel for which ones appear quickly and which ones take a while to set up.  If you manage to take out all the targets, you will earn an extra life.  You also get a bunch of points here during the mini-game if you care at all about your score.

RoboCop has only one life in the game.  Your extra life is extremely valuable because when you die you get all your energy and power restored right away and can keep playing from that same spot.  Otherwise, you can continue up to three times.  You will continue at the start of the current mission with just your base equipment.  Normally you get to keep your weapons from level to level, but continuing is better than starting over.  One really annoying thing about this game is that when you run out of continues, the game freezes on the Game Over screen and you have to physically reset the console to start over.

Just a handgun? No problem!

I have played RoboCop many years ago as a kid.  I remember a babysitter had the game with her NES and I’m pretty sure that I even beat the game back then.  This was my first time playing the game in probably 25 years, so it might as well have been a new game to me.  I don’t think I owned a copy of the game until during my collecting days, though it is a common one and I have owned several copies.  You could probably get a copy yourself for around $5.

I only needed a few attempts to complete the game.  It wasn’t until the end that I managed enough shots in the target game to earn an extra life.  That pushed me over the top.  I can handle each level on its own well enough except the final level, but with the extra life I can make it.  Nowadays, I tend to play through games like this twice.  The first playthrough is casual, and then I do another one for video.  My casual playthrough and my recorded longplay ended up just about identical from what I remember.  I think I needed the extra life a little earlier in the longplay but it’s not a big deal.  Even with limited continues and no lives to start, the fact that I can now beat the game quickly after only a few tries makes this game a little bit below average difficulty in my view.

RoboCop is kind of a no-frills, average action game.  The graphics and music are pretty decent.  There are some animated cutscenes that are nice.  The controls are stiff and triggering the stairs could have better hit detection.  I like that you can fire in all directions and that shooting is responsive.  I think the boss encounters are pretty neat.  The energy and power meters maybe don’t make the most sense in gameplay, but it forces you to play quickly and effectively which I think is okay.  I like this game, but I admit that it is average and doesn’t really stand out so much.  It is far from an essential game and can probably be skipped, but I feel it’s worth a look anyway, especially if you don’t have to spend much on it.

#108 – RoboCop