T&C Surf Designs
Publisher: LJN (1987)
What the heck is
T&C Surf Designs, a line of summer clothing? Whatever it is, I've talked to several people who have fond childhood memories of this cartridge, which offers both skateboarding and surfing action. This is an ideal game to play on a hot summer day. Skateboarding is easily the highlight, as you cruise down a boardwalk while jumping over obstacles and collecting coins. It seems like every time you play you advance a little bit further. Surfing, on the other hand, isn't as enjoyable due to its hard-to-grasp controls. Just remaining upright on your board for more that a few seconds is a major feat. Fortunately the two games can be played separately, allowing you to forgo the surfing if you can't get the hang of it. T&C features appealing, bright beach graphics, and the background music is a lot of fun to listen to. There's a two-player mode, but it's alternating only. On the whole, T&C Surf Designs is not great, but gets by on its sunny graphics and addicting skateboarding action. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Skate
Our high score: 9150
Taboo The Sixth Sense
Publisher: Rare (1988)
Advertised as an "electronic fortune teller", Taboo is more like a fortune cookie generator
. After prompting for your name, sex, and birth date, Taboo lets you ask it a question. My first question was easy: How old am I? If the program had any intelligence at all, it would have determined my age from my birth date, but Taboo couldn't even figure that
out! Taboo responds to any question by playing mystical music while displaying psychedelic graphics, and then displaying a series of cards one by one. The cards reveal very general (and often confusing) "revelations" such as "Your near term goal or destiny is or is influenced by great determination", "Your present situation/attitude is criticism or quarrel", and "Others view you as search for solitude knowledge or self denial." It didn't take long for me to realize that this cartridge is a pointless waste of time. You'd think the developer (Rare) might have snuck something clever in there like "You enjoy playing Nintendo", or "You will witness a murder tonight!" But no, it's always very vague and uninteresting. Once all the cards are read, you're presented with a series of "lucky numbers". What's especially annoying is how you need to re-enter all of your personal information before every question. Maybe little girls at a slumber party could have some fun with Taboo, but I doubt it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1989)
The original Renegade game wasn't great, but at least it had a unique control scheme. Target Renegade on the other hand has absolutely no
redeeming qualities. It's like Double Dragon minus the fun! As you guide a pudgy muscleman through repetitive scenery, you face the same group of thugs (who all dress the same) over and over again. The non-stop punch/kick gameplay is mind-numbing, and the ability to jump-kick cyclists off of their bikes provides little relief. The generic backdrops are awful, and serious breakup occurs in the character graphics. The bosses are large, but after they promptly whip your ass you don't even get a lousy continue for your troubles. And where's the two-player mode? Playing Target Renegade is pure agony. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,730
Publisher: Tecmo (1988)
Despite some flaws, Tecmo Baseball is a pretty good sports game. An intuitive pitcher/batter screen makes it easy to track incoming pitches, and it's always fun to watch the catcher's mitt magically "float" away from his body when a pitch is far outside. When a ball is put into play, a high overhead view is displayed with small, squat players and an enormous outfield. The fielders move way too slowly, but the throwing controls are good. There's no infield fly rule, and you can take advantage of this to pull off some really cheap double plays. After a homerun, the scoreboard shows the hitter rounding the bases, and he looks really queer waving his arms up and down (not that there's anything wrong with that). Between innings the scoreboard displays bizarre messages like "Go ahead!" and "Fight!" The players are completely fictional, the stadium is generic, and the crowd looks like a huge pair of plaid pants. A catchy theme song plays throughout the entire game, and I kind of enjoyed it. Tecmo Baseball has its quirks, but nice controls and brisk pacing makes it playable enough. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tecmo (1988)
It's hard to have a legitimate conversation about classic football games without the word "Tecmo" coming up a few times. Before Madden came along, Tecmo was the only football game that mattered, thanks to its intuitive controls, simple arcade gameplay, and outstanding graphics. Sanctioned by the NFL Players Association (but not the NFL itself), the game features real player names but only twelve teams (referenced by city name). The action is viewed from the side of the field, and the only drawback to that is how you can't see receivers going deep. A handy dotted line on the field indicates where you need to reach for a first down (long before TV adopted this mechanism). The well-animated players are not only decked out in their proper uniforms, but even their skin color is correct! The visuals are exceptional, but it's the tight gameplay that makes Tecmo Bowl so special. A simple passing scheme makes it easy to target receivers, and throwing to a well-covered man usually results in an interception. The running game lets you tap the A button to break tackles, and that's just awesome. Defenders can dive and dodge tackles, and blockers sometimes get tossed clear across the screen. Unfortunately, you can't switch defenders during the play, and it's very easy to get burned by a missed tackle. Tecmo Bowl shows its age with its limited number of options. You can't adjust the game length, although I found the 1:30 minute quarters to be optimal (the clock stops after each play). You only have four plays to choose from (two run and two pass), so you can't execute anything elaborate. A catchy melody plays throughout the contest, and there's a modest amount of voice synthesis as well. As an added treat, half-time features some surprisingly suggestive cheerleader graphics. Tecmo Bowl's computer opponent is competent, but the game excels at head-to-head competition (trash talking optional but recommended). Tecmo Bowl is pure football joy, and it's held up surprisingly well over the years. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tecmo (1991)
Three long years after the original game was released for the NES, Tecmo damn near perfected their pigskin masterpiece with this phenomenal sequel. Fully endorsed by the NFL, Super Bowl delivers all the excitement of the original game plus all the NFL teams and players, a larger play selection, an improved kicking system, spectacular cut scenes, player statistics, injuries, timeouts, and last but not least, a battery backed-up season mode! What more can you ask for? The players are slightly smaller, but this allows more room on the field for sophisticated plays to unfold, including double reverses and flea flickers! You also can see a little further downfield. Like the first Tecmo Bowl, the field is viewed from the side, but it looks sharper and more realistic. Cheerleaders line the top of the screen and the first few rows of fans are visible. Interspersed with the on-field action are dramatic cut scenes that highlight diving catches, punts, sacks, and touchdown celebrations. During field goals, you get an awesome view of the ball sailing through the uprights. Field goal kicking uses an accuracy meter instead of a power meter, which is far more challenging and satisfying. Receivers automatically leap for high passes, and many passes are tipped (which unfortunately you can't catch). As usual, there's some provocative cheerleader graphics shown during half-time. Why modern football games haven't adopted this cheerleader "feature" is beyond me! Packed with features and infinitely playable, Tecmo Super Bowl is without a doubt the ultimate football game for the NES. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Publisher: Ultra (1986)
Based on the wildly popular cartoon series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is entertaining but unpolished. A slick opening sequence introduces our four zany heroes, armed with their respective weapons. You only control one turtle at a time on your quest to rescue hottie journalist April from arch-villain Shredder. By roaming around an overhead map (and avoiding its steamrollers) you enter doors and manholes that lead to side-scrolling stages. These stages offer generic jumping and punching action, but some of the bad guys are surprisingly intimidating, especially the mechanical spiders and scary thugs with chainsaws. Pizzas replenish your health, and occasionally you'll find special weapons like throwing stars and boomerangs. The turtles control very well but are prone to cheap hits when walking near the edge of the screen. Once a turtle depletes his health, you choose another to take his place. The game doesn't end until you use all four, and three continues are available. The graphics are mediocre at best. The turtles themselves look okay but some enemies can be hard to discern, and the fighting action is somewhat sloppy and plagued by heavy flicker. Swimming and driving stages effectively break up the monotony, although swimming through narrow caves of electrified seaweed is very
difficult. TMNT's audio includes some catchy musical numbers that are bound to bring back memories for long-time NES gamers. It's rough around the edges, but I think this oldie is still worth checking out. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 23,200
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game
Publisher: Konami (1990)
I think its subtitle is quite appropriate, because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (TMNT2) has a distinct arcade flavor the first game lacked. Too bad the gameplay is so repetitive and boring! The unimaginative storyline pits our green heroes against Shredder, who has once again
taken hottie reporter April captive. The game's visuals feature fluidly-animated characters, but instead of being limited to a 2D plane, they can move between the foreground and background like a Double Dragon game. The stages look clean but unspectacular, ranging from city streets, to sewers, to a snowy central park. In the street stage, you can look into a store window at see Shredder and April on the TV news, which I thought was pretty clever. TMNT2 is one of the first console games I can recall that features blatant advertisements - in this case for Pizza Hut. Despite its polished look, TMNT2's gameplay is positively mind-numbing. Enemy ninjas make dramatic appearances by breaking down doors and jumping out of manholes. These guys are always pulling out new weapons like stars, dynamite, and even snowballs. In addition to your normal attack you have a jump-kick, but it doesn't work well and you tend to leap right over your target. Other problems include excessive flicker, poor collision detection, and bosses that require upwards of 30 hits to defeat. It's especially annoying the way hazards like huge bowling balls pass harmlessly through the bad guys. A two-player mode is included, but the flicker and slow-down make it nearly unplayable. Even the music is weak. TMNT 2 might look like fun on the surface, but playing it proves otherwise. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Would you believe that bastard Shredder has kidnapped April again
?! Will someone please
keep an eye on that woman?! I swear this [expletive] is more trouble than she's worth! And oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Shredder has also unearthed the entire island of Manhattan and flown off with that too. So begins the third exciting chapter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle saga, which trumps its predecessors in every way. Not only does it look sensational, but it's also a rip-roaring good time. TMNT3's vibrant, sharp graphics are among the best I've seen on the NES. The flicker and slowdown is minimal in the one-player mode, although the two-player mode is still a mess. The improved graphic quality is particularly evident in the scenic backgrounds, which include a beach, a massive submarine, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Most importantly, TMNT3's gameplay is far more appealing and satisfying than previous chapters, thanks to additional moves that spice up the action. Not only can you impale and throw those dirty ninjas at will, but you can even toss them into other enemies. The jump kick has been improved so you can even kick bad guys in fairly close proximity. The standard attacks are more effective as well, sending thugs flying all over the place. The bosses look sharp and are far more reasonable to defeat than the last game. TMNT3: The Manhattan Project is a real treat. Konami made all the right moves with this one. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 99,300
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
As the "chess" of the video game world, Tetris is timeless fun that never gets old. The idea is to stack falling blocks to form full rows, causing them to disappear. Making multiple rows disappear requires skill and strategy, but it will net you some big points. Tetris is addictive and after a while it becomes downright mesmerizing
. There are actually two Tetris games available for the NES - the other one made by Tengen. Nintendo's Tetris offers two variations and nine skill levels. The A variations are a test of endurance as you try to last as long as possible against a relentless onslaught. You might think you have things under control, but one false move and the situation can deteriorate in a hurry. The B variations incorporate pre-existing blocks and your goal is to finish 25 lines. At first I hated how this variation ends abruptly, but the idea of a quick game of Tetris grew on me. The music selection includes three traditional Russian-style tunes, and the tempo picks up as the blocks pile up. Comparisons between this and the Tengen version are unavoidable. The Tengen game was yanked from the shelves in 1989 after a Nintendo lawsuit, and many gamers believe it is superior. This Nintendo version probably has the edge in terms of single-player action. The blocks are bigger, the controls are more precise, and the music is better. This Nintendo version lacks a two-player mode, and for the life of me I have no [expletive] idea why they didn't include one. My friend Brent is a Tetris master (no joke), and he strongly favors this Nintendo edition (although he admits nostalgia may be a factor). Personally I think it's pretty much a draw. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 9A
Our high score: BSC 103,626
Publisher: Tengen (1988)
Nintendo sued Tengen to have this cartridge pulled from the shelves in 1989. Many gamers swear up and down that this is the superior Tetris, but it's really not so cut-and-dry. Tengen's Tetris makes a better first impression with a vibrant title screen showing St. Basil's Cathedral and colorful fireworks. The main menu offers a variety of modes including one-player, two-player, cooperative, versus computer, and cooperative with the computer. The basic one-player game has a few interesting features. Statistics are displayed at the top of the screen, and completed rows are punctuated with the words "single", "double", "triple", and "tetris". After completing a certain number of rows you're awarded with a bonus and treated to a little intermission with tiny Russian dancers. That's nice, but there are some minor flaws. The statistics area encroaches onto the playing field, and it's hard to see the "next piece" in the top corner. The pieces are smaller than the Nintendo version but bolder in color. Unfortunately, when a piece drops into place, it turns the same color as the whole mass, and I don't like that. Finally, there are some subtle "rotation positioning" quirks that casual players will definitely not notice but experts probably will. The two-player head-to-head mode is what makes this edition so attractive. Each player can choose his own skill level or handicap, and you can play for score or lines. The coop and computer variations are not as exciting as you might expect. Both players are forced to share the same play area, which is confusing and aggravating when blocks bump into each other. The rarity of this cartridge is subject to debate, but it certainly is pricey. Tengen's Tetris offers more razzle-dazzle than Nintendo, but I'm not convinced it's a better all-round game. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 9
Our high score: BCS 36,413
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Acclaim (1986)
Is Tiger-Heli one of the better-looking shooters for the NES? No way. Is the action smooth? Not really.
But is it fun? Yes.
In this vertical shooter you control a helicopter penetrating terrorist defenses. You begin by raising hell in a suburban neighborhood, sending soccer moms running for cover. I'm scoring points
for this? When you reach the waterfront area you're accosted by real enemies in the form of tanks, cannons, and ships. Their red missiles are slow but large, giving you little margin for error. Your helicopter hits an invisible barrier when it's about an inch from the edge of the screen, limiting your room to maneuver. Your potent firepower is the best part of the game, letting you fire four missiles at a time in rapid-fire fashion. You also have a supply of bombs, and since you can't fire backwards, these come in handy when tanks sneak in from the lower part of the screen. Two special bombs are attached to either side of your plane, and taking a hit on either side will detonate one and save your life. It's like an automatic safety mechanism. Some power-up icons augment your firepower by latching on a small helicopter, and if you hook up a few you're nearly unstoppable. Tiger-Heli's graphics are somewhat plain with static scenery. The developers were apparently trying to achieve a 3D polygon look with those angular forests. Nice try, boys. The game lacks an auto-fire option, but you can bump up the grade slightly if you own an NES Advantage joystick (which has an auto-fire feature). Tiger-Heli lacks the polish of a first-rate NES shooter, but if you're in the mood for some simple shooting action this one isn't a bad choice. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 44,720
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Konami (1987)
For many old school gamers, the words "classic NES action" evoke fond memories of Track and Field in all its button-tapping glory. Picking up where the joystick-wiggling Olympic games of the early 80's left off (Summer Games, Decathlon), Track and Field combines simple controls with addictive, competitive gameplay. Your athlete competes in eight fun events: 100 meter dash, long jump, hurdles, javelin, skeet shooting, triple jump, archery, and high jump. Each event is brief and easy to learn, and a few can be played by two people at once. In general the controls involve tapping a button to gain speed, and then holding down the directional pad to measure your angle. I remember back in the 80's when people were coming up with all sorts of crazy techniques for tapping the buttons, including running a coin back and forth feverishly over the controller. When you qualify for an event, the crowd roars and flashes enthusiastically, but breaking a world record is the ultimate achievement. Most events are terrific but the difficult is uneven, and I found games like skeet shoot and high jump to be excessively difficult to qualify for. Another issue is the obvious lack of playing modes, probably due to the game's arcade origins. You basically keep playing events until you fail to qualify, at which time your game ends abruptly. Upon completing a round, you advance to the next with a higher difficulty. Track and Field is a bit simplistic compared to latter day track and field games, but in terms of sheer fun, it's hard to beat. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Javelin
Our high score: 84'27"
1 or 2 players
Track and Field II
Publisher: Konami (1988)
With the success of the first Track and Field, Konami went all out with this sequel, dramatically enhancing the presentation and expanding the event list. It's hard to compare this to the first game, because it's completely different. First of all, the graphics are nothing short of spectacular. The athletes look absolutely huge
and well proportioned - a far cry from the cartoon characters in the first Track and Field. In fact, these graphics may be the best I've ever seen on the NES. The audio is commendable too, with numerous voice samples sprinkled throughout. Track and Field II is more like Summer Games than Track and Field, with more realistic action and sophisticated control. The extensive event list consists of fencing, Taekwondo, triple jump, pole vault, freestyle swimming, canoeing, high dive, archery, clay pigeon shooting, hurdles, hammer throw, and horizontal bar. To be honest, I'm not sure if many of these events deserve to be in a Track and Field game. Fencing and Taekwondo play like mediocre fighting games, and I'm still clueless about how to use that stupid horizontal bar. The highlights of the game are the "real" track and field events like the pole vault and hammer throw, which tend to employ the same tap and hold controls from the original game. The archery and shooting events have been completely overhauled from the previous version, and these new versions are brilliantly conceived and satisfying to play. Track and Field 2 also offers new playing modes include training, championship, and a two-player versus contest. Unfortunately, the two player "versus" mode is sorely lacking, with only three events: Taekwondo, fencing, andÉ arm-wrestling?! There's no good reason why more two-player events couldn't have been incorporated. Overall, Track and Field II is an impressive technical accomplishment for the NES, but players who crave head-to-head arcade action will probably gravitate towards the original game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Hammer
Our high score: 24'08"
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1986)
This is what classic NES action is supposed
to be - simple in concept but still challenging and addicting. When you play Trojan and hear that distinctive music you'll feel as if you're back in the 80's again (if you were there the first time around). Trojan takes place in some war-torn, post-apolocalyptic world, and the idea is to hack up enemies with a sword while blocking projectiles from snipers above. Most NES side-scrollers have some kind of gimmick, and in this case it's a shield which can be positioned at five angles. This adds some much-needed strategy, particularly against the bosses. The action starts in a run-down city but later moves on to jungles and caves. Although the game is fairly linear, you'll occasionally wander off the beaten path, by falling into a sewer for example. Some enemies look like knights with maces, and there's a red guy who looks suspiciously like M. Bison of Street Fighter II fame. Since Capcom made both games, it might not be a coincidence. I did encounter some minor problems with the jumping controls and collision detection, but overall Trojan is still a good time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 40,450
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Romstar (1989)
Twin Eagle is just your average vertical-scrolling helicopter shooter. As you encounter enemies on the ground and in the air, they unleash missiles in the form of big, slow red dots. Your helicopter moves slowly, which is not all bad since dodging these missiles requires some precision. A few power-ups are available, but they don't boost your firepower dramatically. The best weapons are the smart bombs which effectively decimate all enemies on the screen. You'll want to save those for tight situations. The scenery includes water, desert, and jungle, and an enemy fortress. In certain stages you can actually blast enemy strongholds to reveal hostages to rescue. Twin Eagle's graphics are plain and lack detail. Soldiers have huge heads, and the green ones look more like Martians. Instead of bosses, the end of each stage bombards you with high speed enemies. A limited number of continues are available. Twin Eagle is not a great one-player game, but the two player mode drastically increases the fun factor. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games