Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#127 – Shooting Range

A Zapper game with a strangely accurate title.

The title colors glow until text appears, so lame!

To Beat: Beat the Normal Game
To Complete: Get the best ending in both the Normal Game and Party Game
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 5/17/19
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Shooting Range Longplay

Now that I’ve come upon yet another Zapper game already, I decided to do a little digging trying to piece together my own list of Zapper-compatible licensed NES games for tracking purposes. The unlicensed list is easy, just Baby Boomer and Chiller. For licensed games, most lists I’ve found are incomplete. Complicating things are a few games that use the Zapper partially, or worse, at one random spot in the game. Putting everything together, it looks like there are 16 licensed games that utilize the Zapper with most of them being Zapper only. Shooting Range is already the 5th Zapper game played for this blog.

Shooting Range was developed by TOSE and published by Bandai. It was released in June 1989 in North America only and is an NES exclusive. Really, that’s all the information there is on Shooting Range.

There’s no story to be found here but there are a couple of different modes to play. The Normal Game takes place over four stages where you fire at targets that appear in themed scenes. This is the main mode of the game. The other mode is called Party Game and you try and shoot as many targets as you can within the time limit. In both modes, up to four players can play alternating to see who can get the biggest score. To beat this game, you need to clear all stages in the Normal Game. There are also different ending screens depending on how many points you score in the Party Game.

Just a normal day out west.

I think Shooting Range has a double meaning here. Sure, it’s a shooting range where you fire at targets. The primary mechanic in the game is that you use both the D-pad and the Zapper at the same time, using Left and Right to “range” across a wide view while you also aim and shoot at targets. This is a cumbersome setup for me since I prefer to hold the Zapper with both hands to keep it steady. You will need to constantly pan back and forth looking for targets to shoot so you really need to play this with both Zapper and controller in hand simultaneously.

The goal of the Normal Game is simple enough. Various targets will appear on screen holding up a red and white pinwheel which is what you shoot to earn points. The bottom of the screen shows your level score and total score on the right and the level timer and energy bar on the left. You lose energy when you shoot and miss. You lose the game if you run out of time or energy, so you must be both quick and accurate. Each stage has different criteria to finish the stage and move on to the next. Upon completing each level, you earn some bonus points for any leftover time or energy.

When starting up a new Normal Game, first you select either Level 1, 2, or 3. These are not the stages themselves but more like a difficulty level. To my knowledge, the only change is how much time you have to start each stage. Levels 1, 2, and 3 give you 300, 250, and 200 seconds respectively. Next up is the scoring screen. This shows your scoring breakdown per stage, as well as any bonus points that roll up into your total score. The Stage Clearing Point area is what the point threshold is for certain stages. I confused this for actual points on my score at first. Then you go to a screen displaying all the stages in the game. Shoot anywhere to start playing a level.

During the Normal Game, shooting some targets also reveals an item. The same characters tend to drop the same things. Most of the items are just circles with letters in them. Simply shoot it to collect it. The little E boosts your energy by two bars, while the large E gives you four. A reverse E deducts a couple of energy points, so avoid them. The C gives you 100 points, while the W gives you 1000. The W is different in that it doesn’t get dropped by anyone and you will sometimes just find it. There is also an hourglass item that gives you 50 more seconds on the clock.

That middle creature flips back and forth quickly.

The first level in the game is Western themed. The goal here is to earn 5000 points, at which point the level ends abruptly. There are Native Americans, gun-slinging criminals, and flying birds for targets. Some of the birds are worth 500 points, while others are worth much fewer, depending on how they fly around. The second level is pretty similar to the first. Here you need 7000 points to clear it, but this time it is ghost house themed. There are monsters such as witches, vampires, and ghosts. One monster flips his pinwheel back and forth rapidly and it is hard to hit.

The next level is the bonus game. This one is just a single screen with no controller required. There are two rows of bottles on the wall and random ones will flash all white. Shoot them while they are all white to break them. This level ends when either all bottles are broken or you run out of time. You always get sent to the next level no matter how well you do.

The final stage takes place on the moon. There are various types of aliens to shoot at here. Instead of meeting a point threshold, as soon as the timer hits 100 seconds remaining, a large brain alien appears. It’s a boss battle! The brain floats around the whole screen in a wave-like pattern and only fully reveals its pinwheel every so often. This is a tough fight with the limited time left, but if you can beat it then you win Normal Game. If you fail here or in any other stage, you can continue, but you lose all your points in doing so. I think continues are supposed to be unlimited, but I didn’t always see it happen so I’m not sure how the continue system works. This is a short game, so once you get the last boss down you can play through the game again trying for a high score. You can enter your initials on the high score screen and see your accuracy too.

The Party Game is a much simpler mode than the Normal Game. This is just a single screen with some targets to hit. There are no items or energy, just you and the timer. Lights in the background appear and shooting them causes the pinwheel to pop up along the bottom. Shoot as many of these as you can. If you miss a pinwheel, then you need to shoot another light to restart the sequence. It’s too bad you can’t play this simultaneously with another player because it would be fun to compete for targets. Either way, try to score as high as you can before the timer runs out.

Even the floating brain has caught pinwheel fever.

This was my first time playing Shooting Range. I can’t recall if I played any of the game during cart testing. Usually with the peripheral games I boot them up to see if they run without glitches and then I put them away without trying the gameplay. I know that I watched TMR beat this game for NESMania and it was one of the last games he completed for his project. I had some familiarity with the game though I forgot most of it. This cart isn’t too hard to find and sells for around $8-$10.

This was a short game that I cleared within a couple of hours. I needed more than a few attempts to clear the final boss, but that was all. If you score high enough at the end, you earn a medal. The bronze medal is at 30,000 points, a silver is at 35,000 points, and you need 40,000 to get the gold. Now your score for the first two levels is pretty well set since those stages end by point thresholds. One tactic is to stockpile energy and cash them in for bonus points at the end, but that doesn’t always pan out and doesn’t give you near enough points anyway. The other thing you can do is play on the easiest difficulty since more time means more points at the end of the stage, even if that only adds just a tiny amount to your total. The secret to getting the gold is to earn the bonus points as shown on the scoring screen, and the only way to get them is to play the bonus level perfectly without missing. Doing so is challenging. My strategy was to go at the top row first left to right, then the bottom row. After a few bottles gone, the next ones seem to line up well and you can take them all out quickly. On my run I ended up with over 50,000 points which was above and beyond what I needed. In Party Mode, the score you want to aim for is 35,000, which I accomplished on my second try. All those attempts at To The Earth not long ago sure paid dividends!

Shooting Range is a brief Zapper experience that ultimately doesn’t add up to much. It is interesting that it has different themes for each level. Even the Party Game has a different feel than the Normal Game’s levels. The music is mostly forgettable but not bad. The controls are a little wonky for a Zapper game. They aren’t difficult to comprehend by any means, but I simply didn’t find it that comfortable to have to use both the controller for scrolling and the Zapper for firing at the same time. Thankfully the game was easy and short enough that it wasn’t a huge issue until the end boss. However, the controls combined with the short play time makes Shooting Range not that great of a game.

#127 – Shooting Range (Normal Game)

#127 – Shooting Range (Party Game)


#122 – Videomation

It’s true, video games are art.

For an art game, the title screen is very plain

To Beat: Create a Videomation
Played: 5/1/19
Difficulty: 1/10
My Difficulty: 1/10
My Video: Videomation Longplay

It is another milestone for Take On The NES Library. The NES has some truly great games, but it also includes a small handful of applications and things that are not games. Some of them I could construct some kind of goal for. You could “beat” Color A Dinosaur by coloring in every dinosaur available, for example. Videomation is the rare example of an NES cartridge that doesn’t have any ending or any sort of goal at all. The only thing I can come up with here is just to create something, so that’s what I did. Let’s take a look and see what Videomation is all about.

Videomation was released on the NES in June 1991. It was published by THQ and developed by FarSight Studios. The title screen credits Western Technologies as the developer, but multiple places online state that it is FarSight Studios. You get the full credits on the title screen if you are interested. This was a North American exclusive title.

All of your drawing will have to be done with the NES controller, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. The D-pad lets you move a cursor around the screen. This lets you point to anywhere on the screen to draw and also at the buttons on the top menu to select different options. The A button is your primary drawing and action button. Conversely, the B button acts as a cancel button or a way to let you move the cursor around without drawing. Press Select to bring up the menu. When you have made your menu selections, press Select again to get back to drawing. The Start button toggles how fast your cursor moves around the screen.

Starting out with some simple shapes

Let’s check out the menu from left to right. First up is the color palette. There are ten different colors you can choose from. Simply hover over the color you want and press A. This color applies to whatever type of operation you want to do. Some of the colors are solid, while others are dithered blends of other colors to make some in-between shades. This is the best the NES can do under its limitations. The next icon with the letter A in it lets you change the color palette. This affects both the color palette from the menu and the color palette of the entire drawing. Sometimes it is neat to change the colors of the entire drawing just to see what it looks like. Some of the color palettes have animated colors. The icon above the palette change is the line width selection. You can toggle between a thin line or a thick line when drawing with the tools.

The next group of eight icons are your drawing tools. Hover over and press A to select the active tool. The most interesting one is the arrow tool in the upper-left. This is as close as you can get to a free hand drawing tool in the game. Use the D-pad to point the arrow in the direction you want. The arrow rotates around in all directions. The dot past the tip of the arrow is where lines will start from. Press and hold the A button to move the arrow in the desired direction and start drawing. While the arrow is moving, you can change direction while still holding A, allowing you to draw curves. You can go all the way around and draw a circle if you want. Letting go of A stops the arrow and stops drawing. You can also move the arrow around without drawing by holding down the B button instead. What’s interesting is that the arrow’s movement is a bit different depending on if you are drawing or not. If you draw a curve by changing arrow direction, the arrow will completely circle around without you having to change D-pad direction. While just moving the arrow with B, the arrow stops turning as soon as it is moving the same direction you are pressing with the D-pad. It’s hard to explain, it’s just something interesting I noticed while toying around.

Too bad there is no triangle tool.

The rest of the top row are the pencil, line, and bucket fill tools. You probably know what these do already. The pencil is another simple free hand tool. Move the pencil anywhere with the D-pad and draw by holding down the A button. The line tool lets you draw straight lines, including at an angle. First, position the cursor at the start of the line. Then press and hold A and move the D-pad to where you want the end of the line. If you stop moving the cursor with A still held, it will show you a sample line without actually drawing anything. Once you let go of A, then it draws the line between the two endpoints. The bucket fill tool lets you color in an enclosed shape. The lowest tip of the paint out of the bucket icon is where filling starts. Press and hold A to fill with color. The painting algorithm colors in horizontal stripes. You can color by just briefly pressing A long enough to color just one stripe, then move the cursor around and repeat to draw as many stripes as you want. To completely fill in the space, you have to hold down A for the whole time.

The next tool on the bottom row is the circle tool. It has the same controls as the line tool. The starting position is the center of the circle. Then you can control how long and wide it is depending on how far away each cardinal direction is from the center. You can draw ovals in either direction with this tool. The rectangle tool is also the same thing as the line tool with both endpoints being opposite corners of the rectangle. The eraser tool is like the pencil tool but it erases anything drawn underneath.

The last icon in that section is the stamp tool. Selecting the stamp tool displays a new menu on top of the main menu. There you will see a row of four stamps. To use a stamp, cursor over the one you want and press A. Then press Select to get out of the menu. Use the D-pad to position the stamp and press A to stamp it down. You can continue stamping with the same one as much as you want. Back on the stamp menu, there are two buttons. More lets you see more available stamps, and the right arrow changes the colors of the stamps. The last page of stamps are letters and numbers. Place these stamps the same way as the others. To help facilitate writing text, there are additional controls. While placing letters on the screen, you can press the B button to advance to the next letter right there so you don’t have to go back to the menu to choose a new letter. If you hold the B button, then you can use Up or Down on the D-pad to cycle through all the characters. Let go of B to select that letter and then you can press A to stamp it.

It was already recognizable, but now it’s clear.

The icon with the stick figure person is the animation icon. This brings up a separate menu that functions just like the stamp menu. Cursor over the animation you want and press A to select it. When you press Select to exit the animation menu, it brings up another menu called the motion menu. Here there are five options for how you want the animation to move across your drawing. Highlight what you want and press either A or Select to play the selected animation with the selected motion. The first motion labeled Follow lets you move the animation with the D-pad. Next is the random path, and the other three are preset paths. You can walk back and forth in a straight line, around the screen in an oval, or in a wave pattern back and forth. Press either A or Select to stop the animation and go back to drawing.

Here are the remaining options. Clear lets you erase everything and start over. You will have to confirm Yes or No on clearing the screen. No Menu lets you remove the menu temporarily so that you see your completed drawing without cursors in the way. Either Select or A brings the menu back. The music note toggles the sounds on or off. Drawing operations and animations have music and sound effects that go with it and you can turn them off if you want. The final icon lets you change the cursor speed of the drawing tools. You can press Start at any time to do the same thing. There are five speeds. At the lowest speed with no bars showing, the cursor moves one pixel at a time so you can do some very fine detail drawing.

I added a little animation flair at the end.

I’m going to say this is my first time playing Videomation. I bet I have “played” it before at least a little bit when I tested my cart. It is not all that common, but when you do see one it is not expensive. This is about a $6 cart. I have had a couple of copies of this cart before. The first one I had for several years had a bad label. My current copy isn’t the best but certainly in better shape than what I had before.

This sounds silly to say, but I am not an artist and I had a little bit of anxiety figuring out how I was going to demonstrate Videomation. I settled on drawing a picture of the NES. I figured that was simple enough to draw, was something I know well, and would make use of most of the tools. I created a sample drawing that turned out okay, and I replicated that a little bit better in my recording. I was happy for the text stamps so I could label it as a Nintendo, and it was a nice bonus that Take On The NES Library fit the width of the screen. The worst part was trying to draw tiny circles for the controller ports. That turned out terrible. It’s recognizable, at least. I also forgot to shade in the lower half of the console. It’s not like it was going to be incredibly realistic anyway. I’m sure a real artist could do some amazing drawings with this tool, but for me I’m satisfied.

So there you have it. Videomation is an art, drawing, and animation tool. Anything that is not tile based on the NES I find impressive from a technical standpoint. Tools like this suffer from not having mouse or touch screen controls, but for what it is, I think the developers did a good job of providing enough features and options to give you the best control you could get out of an NES controller. Personally, I am happy I followed up a 10/10 in difficulty with a 1/10. Otherwise, I could do without Videomation and I am looking forward to playing some actual video games next.

#122 – Videomation