My original intent for Versus Mode this month was to write about the scad of pro-wrestling titles I’ve pack-ratted over the years, ranging from “Tag-Team Wrestling” on the NES to PlayStation 2’s “WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It!”. I’d written about eight game descriptions before realizing a major flaw in my plan: all of these games are ostensibly identical, and the most exciting difference I’ve to note between them is that certain titles make the grapplers look like Stretch Armstrong action figures. Throwing away pages and pages of scribbled drivel, I turned to a style that’s worked well for me before, that of picking games at random and writing about them. I enlisted Associate Editor Eric Regan to help pick out and play several old Nintendo games, and I am now proud to present:
THE BATTLE OF THE NES GAMES THAT ERIC AND I PLAYED LAST WEEK
Adventures of Dino Riki (NES): Dino Riki, from the few minutes we were able to play it without dying, seems to be a 1942 clone, with dinosaurs and cavemen replacing the jet fighters and tanks. The most entertaining part of this game is when your character dies (which he did a lot, especially when Eric was playing), because he twitches comically before disappearing into the earth. If you pick up a certain powerup you can shoot butterflies out of your prehistoric pistol, but no matter what matter of beast you use as ammo, you can only shoot in a forward direction. I have a feeling all of the enemies to my rear were snickering as they pelted me with stones, knowing full well I had no means of retaliation.
Rad Racer (NES): With this game, I made a breakthrough discovery in the field of Nintendo hardware — blowing into the cartridges doesn’t work, and neither does cleaning out their internal organs with rubbing alcohol. No, the real way to get past that blinking black screen it so scream “Come on dude!!” while pressing the power button. It worked wonders for Rad Racer, though I kinda wish it hadn’t, as this game is only marginally more fun than Dino Riki. As with the prior title, the most entertaining aspect of this game is when you fail. If you crash into a palm tree, for example, your car does cartwheels all about the screen before landing back onto the road, apparently unscathed by its gymnastic exhibition.
Hogan’s Alley (NES): Much to our chagrin, this game has nothing to do with the pasta-loving pro-wrestler of yore days. After that initial disappointment, though, Eric and I learned an important lesson from playing Hogan’s Alley: People grimacing deserve to be shot. Moreso than people entering an area clearly marked “Keep Out!”, if you can imagine. Also, we learned that instead of letting the cops shoot all the angry folk, we should play vigilante with our light guns, though we’ll lose points if we vaporize little girls. The people who made Hogan’s Alley apparently learned their set of morals from Disney World, where its punishable-by-decapitation to be anything but jolly.
Ninja Gaiden (NES): The most hyped of the games we played this day (save for, of course, the Fisher-Price title), Ninja Gaiden failed to disprove my long-held belief that ninjas are marvelously overrated. That being said, the fast-paced gameplay here is a welcome change from most NES side-scrollers, and I had a pretty good time with this game despite its main character. Maybe, someday, I’ll go back to it.
Gauntlet (NES): Humble beginnings for such a long-lived series, I must say. This game would approach fun if you didn’t lose a point of health for every second of gameplay, or if the developers had at least tossed you more more powerups. This system is a relic of the arcades, where more deaths mean more money for the operators, and has no place within the eight bits of an NES cartridge. Thankfully, this title would rise to great heights in a few console generations.
Tecmo Baseball (NES): Now we’ve got a real “heavy hitter” AHAHAAAA getitgetitmanI’mFUNNY!!!. Tecmo Baseball is vastly superior to the better known Tecmo Bowl, if only because football is the spawn of Lavos. I beat Eric something like 17-4 in the game we played, though he started to get better once we figured out how to substitute players, so he was able to leap over the hurdle of having accidentally started with his relief pitcher. As far as NES baseball titles are concerned, this one doesn’t feature any robots, but it still does well in my webazine.
Karnov (NES): I’d never gotten further in this game than when we played it last week. I’ve owned it since I discovered my brothers’ old Nintendo in the early nineties and claimed it for my own, and yet, I could only get halfway through the first level before becoming too frustrated to go on. The only reason I kept trying was that the theme song makes me feel warm inside, not unlike the way I feel when I’m getting romantic with that Special Someone, dimming the lights and cuddling close for a round of Ribbit King. This time playing we got to about the third level, and we could’ve gone further still if Smackdown! wasn’t about to air, thus limiting the time we had left to play. Karnov shows us that fat people, too, can save the world, as its main character is bodaciously obese, and any game that supports equal rights for the overweight deserves some kind of recognition.
Fisher-Price: Firehouse Rescue (NES): The plot for this title is more complex than any RPG you might randomly encounter — you are a fireman, and you must rescue people. You do this by first traversing increasingly complex mazes in order to reach the person’s home, and then extending your ladder towards the hellfire and brimstone so that they can climb down to safety. Being Video Game Journalists Extraordinaire, Eric and I scoffed at the prospect of playing a kiddie game on easy mode, so we set it to the most extreme difficulty, and children burned to death in their home as we got stuck in the maze.
Balloon Fight (NES): It took much tome to make this game work, but knowing how mega it is, and knowing that Eric had yet to experience its joy, I wasn’t about to toss it into the pile of broken games. The “Come on dude!!” strategy didn’t even work for this title, whose innards you could hear clattering about as I shook the cartridge, but my persistence won out, and we finally got the start-up screen to load. We played this game for more time than the last two titles combined (which is to say, we played it for more than eight minutes), popping the balloons of demonic aves as we tried not to destroy one another. This is easily one of the better two-player games for the NES; too bad I can’t tell you to go buy it from GameStop, as the majority of them don’t sell old Nintendo games anymore.
Iron Sword: Wizards & Warriors II (NES): Like the original, Iron Sword suffers from making your main character’s sword look like a penis. Though at least in the last game, you can swing your penis around and kill things with it; now all you can do is poke things with your penis and hope it does any damage. We still had about 50 minutes left before Smackdown! was to start, and yet, we only played this for about five; there isn’t much fun to be had in waving your genitals about and dying.
Ten games may compete, but only one can take home the gold. We played a lot of good games that day, but only one of these has the potential to be played at future gaming sessions. (Hint: it isn’t Rad Racer.) I’ll be playing Karnov and Ninja Gaiden again some day, and I’m sure Hogan’s Alley will sneak itself into my NES at some point, but this month’s winner has something hose three games are lacking, something I like to call, for lack of a better word, balloons.
Winner: Balloon Fight (NES)