Frankenstein: The Monster Returns
Publisher: Bandai (1990)
Our high score: CJS 21,600
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Sunsoft (1988)
Freedom Force is a light gun game that's a cut above the rest. Your mission is to shoot terrorists that have taken over an airport. Fortunately, the terrorists all wear the same colored outfits, making them pretty easy to distinguish from the civilians (when will they learn?). Freedom Force features some nifty graphics. I love how the bad guys fall out of windows when shot, and the tied-up hostages also look exceptional. The gun control is dead-on, and the difficulty ramps in a gradual manner. The stages are linear, but enemies tend to pop-up at random, so you can't just memorize the game. A two-player mode is included, but you'll need to take turns. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 12,250
1 or 2 players
Publisher: LJN (1988)
Publisher: Taxan (1990)
I'm not familiar with the G.I. Joe cartoon that this game is based on, but this game impressed the heck out of me. You begin by assembling a team of characters, each with their own weapons and firepower, and you can switch between these characters on-the-fly. Missions take you from exotic jungles to icy Antarctica, and each offers a unique challenge and a seemingly endless supply of adversaries. GI Joe's graphics are crisp and colorful, with detailed characters and huge bosses. The controls are dead-on, and the music is also exceptionally good. A password is issued for each level completed. If you're looking for some shoot-em-up action on the NES, GI Joe is the whole package. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 127,730
Publisher: Namco (1988)
It would be hard to give Galaga anything less than an "A" considering it's practically identical to the classic arcade version. In fact, until I noticed some very
subtle differences I thought I was playing an emulated
version of the original! In case you're not familiar with this mega-popular shooter, it features bug-like aliens that circle around the screen before settling into formation. One distinctive feature of the game is the double-shot power-up, which was really the first of its kind. In order to obtain it, you must first allow one of your ships to be captured. It's a risky proposition, but rescuing that ship effectively doubles your firepower, allowing you to breeze through the "challenge" stages and earn crazy bonuses. This game is noticeably easier than the arcade version, so Galaga veterans are likely to tally some big scores. Holding down the fire button will allows for continuous shooting (and less wear on your thumb), but you'll fire twice as fast by tapping it. If you have a Nintendo Advantage joystick, this is an ideal game to use it with. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 66,570
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tengen (1987)
In the early 80's Gauntlet was a legendary arcade game. Not only did it offer expansive dungeons to explore, but you could join forces with three friends to battle ghosts, grunts, and demons. You get an overhead view as you collect keys, gather treasure, and clear out rooms teeming with wall-to-wall creatures. To fully exterminate them you'll need to destroy the portals that spawn the creatures. Or, if you have a bomb handy, you can obliterate them with the press of a button. The colorful title screen shows evil creatures peering around corners of a decrepit dungeon as renaissance-style music plays. Once the character selection screen appears, you may be alarmed to discover the game only supports two
players! For fans of the arcade game, this is heresy. If you play with a friend you might understand why the number of players is so limited. The characters are poorly-defined and sometimes it's even hard to locate your own character
on the screen! Slow-down is a frequent problem. You need to stick close to your partner, which is not easy when one of you is a speedy archer and the other is a slow dwarf. Ironically the game is far more playable solo. I like the fact that there are alternate paths and levels seem to be connected in different ways. The music is fine but the voice samples are comically bad. Gauntlet doesn't even attempt deliver the multiplayer experience of the arcade, but it's not a bad little dungeon crawler if you're willing to go it alone. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 112
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Mindscape (1990)
Our high score: 4030
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Activision (1986)
Publisher: Activision (1989)
Ghosts 'N Goblins
Publisher: Capcom (1986)
Ghosts and Gobliins is practically an institution
on the NES. It launched a popular series that continues to this day, although many would argue that the franchise peaked with Ghouls 'N Ghosts
(Genesis, 1989). You play as a comical knight who can fire projectiles forward and backward. It's a shame you can't fire upward, because many stages feature multi-tiered platforms with enemies above and below. Zombies, skeletons, crows, and demons pour out of the woodwork as you forge through graveyards, burning villages, mountains, castles, and caverns. This is side-scrolling mayhem at its purest and the action moves at a frantic pace as the soundtrack plays a heroic refrain. If you check out the background of the first stage, you'll notice a preview of what's to come with a majestic castle nestled in the mountains. Ghosts and Goblins is best known for its difficulty. Diamonds
aren't this hard! Despite its short stages and unlimited continues, you'll struggle to make progress. Part of the blame can be placed on the controls, which are rigid and unforgiving. It's very easy to get stuck in a crouch position or become caught up on the edge of a gravestone. Taking a hit knocks you back, sometimes sending you into a pit! The checkpoints could be better placed, as sometimes you'll need to restart large stretches after dying. It's tough, but Ghosts and Goblins has a distinctive arcade style and whimsical medieval/horror theme that never gets old. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: ER 82,700
Publisher: Electro Brain (1989)
As much as I wanted
to like this game, my conscience prevents me from grading it higher than an F. Ghoul School looks great on paper but doesn't play well at all. You control a punk kid trapped in a school crawling with all sorts of creepy monsters. A few of these tend to be quite imaginative and detailed, like the red creature with the huge eye. A toe-tapping tune plays as you wander the halls and classrooms, collecting the items needed to defeat various monstrosities. Unfortunately, the school is a confusing maze consisting of hallways, stairs, and doors that all look exactly alike. The room numbers aren't even consecutive or logical! As a result, you end up wandering aimlessly until you stumble upon a key item (like spring shoes) or weapon (bat, towel, gun). The combat aspect is awful. The pathetic weapons have such an incredibly short range that you'll be limited to repetitive "hit and run" attack patterns. Adding insult to injury, the controls are less than responsive and you're constantly being tossed around. I like the concept behind Ghoul School, but the execution is a mess. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Toho (1988)
I've always been a fan of those old Japanese monster movies, but Godzilla for the NES is just plain bad
. The graphics are decent (despite some serious flicker), with characters pulled straight from the films, including Mothra (your weak ally), Gigan, Mech-Godzilla, and that big squid-looking thing. The gameplay involves taking turns moving Godzilla and Mothra around a hex-map (huh?) while attempting to wipe out all the enemies on the board. When you move to an empty space, you're forced to play a side-scrolling "city" level with everybody and their mother bombarding your slow ass with missiles. Your best bet is to just keep moving, because the missiles don't inflict much damage - they just slow you down. Get used to this ordeal, because you'll have to endure this painful stage every turn! That's right - even when you land on a monster's location, you must relive the same painful experience before the actual confrontation ensues. The battles themselves are a joke, consisting of both monsters floating in black space and smacking each other until somebody runs out of life. Even the music is dull and repetitive. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
It would be easy to be critical of this relic of a golf game. You can only aim in 45 degree increments. All trees are out of bounds. The screen doesn't indicate the range of your club, or even the ball's proximity to the hole. But despite having to perform the distance calculations in your head, Golf is actually pretty fun! The swing meter is not unlike those found in modern golf games, and you can at least partially compensate for the coarse aiming controls by applying a draw or fade to your shot. Putting is tricky however, because the greens tend to be very
fast. The overhead view of the hole is terrific, and the course is challenging and interesting in design. The game moves along at a brisk pace, allowing you to play 18 holes in just a few minutes. Not bad, all things considered. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 117
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Konami (1987)
Save mechanism: Password
Gotcha! The Sport
Publisher: LJN (1987)
Recommended variation: Intermediate
Our high score: 31,580
Publisher: Konami (1986)
This influential side-scrolling shooter takes you through caves with hopping robots, mobile cannons, and incoming ships that weave in hard-to-avoid patterns. The first time you play Gradius you'll be lucky to last two minutes. Success hinges on your ability to collect pods and redeem them for power-ups and weapons. You will risk life and limb
to grab these things! The pods seem elusive at first. You must destroy a complete set of four orbs to earn a pod, and that last orb will flee the screen like a bat out of hell! Your rate of fire is slow, but that can be rectified with a rapid-fire controller like the Nintendo Advantage. Once I unleashed that thing my scores went through the roof!
Loading up on lasers, missiles, and options makes you feel unstoppable, making it all the more heart-wrenching when you take a cheap hit and lose it all. One thing that's kind of lame about Gradius is the boss, which is always the same hunk of metal with that flimsy vent protecting its core. This game was designed before every boss had to be epic in scale. Gradius has a few cheap elements including a volcanic section that overwhelms you with with spewing rock just before you reach the first boss. Likewise near the end of the second stage cubes materialize from thin air and converge on you. I found myself exclaiming "you gotta be [expletive] kidding me!
" all the time
while playing Gradius. It's hard to put down though and over time its catchy musical score will fuse with your very soul. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 178,100
Publisher: SNK (1989)
Our high score: 124,900
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
Our high score: CJS 34,900
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
Our high score: SLN 68,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Ultra (1988)
Ultra took a few liberties with this "semi-classic" space shooter, incorporating oversized sprites, boss stages, and even a special weapon. In this case, it would seem that more is less. Gyruss is played by moving a ship around in a circle as aliens scale in from the edge of the screen before settling into the center. Like Galaga, there are "double-shot" power-ups and "chance" bonus stages. Two control schemes are available, and they both work pretty good. The lively musical score includes a piece by Sebastian Bach, and no, I'm not talking about the guy from Skid Row. Gyruss was challenging and addictive in the arcade, but this watered-down version can't even hold its jockstrap. This NES edition is so excessively easy that it's a bore
. You get five lives, and there's only one lame difficulty level. Unless you absolutely suck, you'll lose interest in the game far before you go through those five lives! The swirling aliens are huge compared to the original game, but that just makes them easier to shoot (it's hard to miss
really). In addition, they are totally harmless
as they make their initial entrance. Every few stages you'll encounter an unimaginative boss, usually taking the form of four connected pods (oh brother
!). You also have a limited number of "super shots", but who even needs them? Ultra was clearly trying to "beef up" Gyruss for the NES, but they inadvertently butchered it instead. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 160,900
Publisher: Data East (1990)
Our high score: 32,200
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1989)
Snowboarding was a relatively new sport in 1989, and at that time Parker Bros. didn't have a very good grasp of the whole extreme sports
scene. Heavy Shreddin' could have just as easily been a skiing title. The game's idea of doing a "stunt" involves stopping in the middle of a slope to do a handstand! Wow, that looks really stupid! Most of the game involves racing against the clock while weaving around trees and rocks. You view your boarder from a side angle, but the scrolling abruptly changes switches between diagonal and horizontal. The effect is so jarring it almost always
causes you to crash. The controls are so poorly designed that my friends would routinely ask "Why did my guy just do
that?!" Adding insult to injury, the collision detection is so unforgiving that merely brushing against a tree causes your boarder to fall, forcing you to restart the entire stage! Just completing the opening stage requires a flawless run - at full speed no less!
The half-pipe stage is a complete sham - a shameful place where terrible graphics collide with incomprehensive controls. Heavy Shreddin' has a few quirky tunes and some bright winter scenery, but these are wasted in a game that most will deem to be worthless. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 4,106
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
While simplistic, this light gun game does add a few wrinkles to the standard "Duck Hunt" formula. The first variation places you in a shooting gallery with cardboard figures that appear three at a time. You'll want to shoot the dirty crooks but hold your fire against the woman, professor, and policeman. In general it's pretty dull affair. The second variation places the figures in side-scrolling urban scenery, which spices things up a bit. But the third stage really steals the show. In this one you repeatedly shoot tins cans that appear on the right side, keeping them in the air long enough to have them land on ledges on the left. Each ledge has a different point value, so it's a nice combination of skill and strategy. Hogan's Alley isn't bad for a light gun game, but it certainly won't have you hooting and hollering and keeping the neighbors up all night. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 40,000
Publisher: THQ (1991)
Our high score: 31,390
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Publisher: THQ (1992)