Bad News Baseball
Publisher: Tecmo (1989)
Bad News Baseball features one of the more memorable intros I've seen in a sports game. As a camera rises slowly from the bottom of a light pole, the blue sky gives way to a stadium and field that slowly come into view from below. It looks pretty amazing! In terms of gameplay, Bad News Baseball adopts the same style as so many other NES baseball titles, with simple controls, whimsical graphics, and a looping musical theme that really
gets on your nerves after a while. The fictional players (with names like Roger and Kelly) look like kids on the pitcher/batter screen, but appear short and squat when the whole field is displayed. Close-minded gamers might be uncomfortable with the fact that the umpires are bunny rabbits
, but I'm perfectly fine with it. The pitches come across the plate very fast (110 MPH!) so you need to be ready to swing early! The stadium is deep in the gaps and your fielders are slow, so getting a good "jump" on fly balls is critical. When the ball sails out of the stadium you're greeted by a sea of smiling faces. Don't hesitate to perform substitutions later in the game, because the players definitely suffer from fatigue. Although its basic gameplay is unremarkable, Bad News Baseball spices up the action with brief "zoom-ins" of close plays. And after a homerun, the hitter will high-five all of his teammates. Hey, what the hell is Mr. T
doing at the end of that line!? Comical animations include players that slam their bats in disgust, or pass out on the field upon being thrown out. The background music is very well composed for the most part, but that irritating whistling part costs the game any chance of an A grade. What really stands out about Bad News Baseball is its excellent playability. The controls are so natural that I never had to consult the manual, and there's just the right number of foul balls. Heck, you can play an entire game in about 15 minutes. It's not the most realistic baseball title for the NES, but Bad News Baseball is hard to beat in terms of pure entertainment value. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
I can't believe I had overlooked Balloon Fight for so long, because this game is unadulterated arcade joy. Its gameplay borrows heavily from Joust
(Atari 2600, 1982). In fact, it's hard to believe Nintendo wasn't sued by Atari! You control a little guy who flaps his arms while floating on a pair of balloons. Tapping a button gives you lift, but a light touch is required to control your altitude. Each screen offers a new set of grassy platforms, and a serene starry night sky serves as the backdrop. Each round begins with a bunch of mini Count Choculas pumping up balloons and taking to the sky. You pop their balloons by colliding with them when you're higher. This causes them to deploy a parachute, and if you can hit them again before they land you'll score big points. Taking down enemies is extremely satisfying, and I think the snappy popping sound effects have a lot to do with that. When both of your balloons are popped you fall and lose a life. Balloon Fight's gameplay is more forgiving than Joust, but if you dawdle storm clouds unleash "lightning sparks" that meander around the screen. Balloon Fight is easy to play and the instant your game ends you'll want to play again. My main reservation is how advanced stages contain annoying vertical platforms and pesky "spinners". A two-player simultaneous mode and a side-scrolling "balloon trip" mode are also included. Easy to grasp but difficult to master, Balloon Fight is one of those rare games with universal appeal. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 112,750
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Ultra (1991)
Base Wars is a futuristic baseball game with robot players, much like SNK's Super Baseball 2020
(Neo Geo, 1991). It's an interesting premise and the robots look pretty slick. They all resemble Ultraman in the face, but their lower bodies are composed of wheels, treads, or flying discs. The pitcher/batter screen is impressive, with huge (albeit single-colored), smoothly-animated players. The pitcher literally fires the ball out of his arm, and by holding down the button, you can "power-up" your fastball. With total control of the ball in mid-air, you can make it do all sorts of crazy stuff. The fielding aspect is less impressive; it sucks, really. The screen seems to lag behind when balls are hit, and by the time your fielder comes into view it's usually too late. I tried to dive for the ball once, but alas - I had treads! I'll say one thing for these fielders: they have cannons for arms! No seriously, their arms are literally cannons. But the game's real highlight occurs during tag situations, during which the game is transformed into a one-on-one fighter. The characters are large but their attack controls are rudimentary at best. Cornering the other guy and bashing him in the head repeatedly is usually the best strategy. Of course, when playing against the cheap CPU you'll be lucky to get in one punch! Another annoying aspect of Base Wars is how every other hit is a freakin' homerun - enough already! Still, I enjoy the brisk pace of the game and its over-the-top action. Base Wars certainly is unique and should appeal to most arcade-minded sports fans. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
I thought this early Nintendo title would deliver some fun old-school action, but its gameplay turned out to be atrocious
. I like the idea of viewing the entire field on one screen (as in Atari 5200 Realsports Baseball), with a separate screen for the pitcher/batter duel. The ball movement is smooth enough, but the fielders are painfully
slow and choppy. Much of the fielding appears to be computer controlled, and it's all too common for outfielders to throw out runners headed to first. Baseball's sound effects are practically non-existent, and so is the fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Baseball Simulator 1.000
Publisher: Culture Brain (1989)
I'll be the first to admit I "missed the boat" on this game the first time around. By the title alone, you might expect Baseball Simulator 1.000 to be all about realism and statistics, but in fact it's just the opposite! On the surface, this appears to be standard NES baseball fare, with small, squat players, simple gameplay, and intuitive controls. The behind-the-batter pitching screen makes it easy to gauge incoming curveballs, and when a ball is hit, you get a nice wide angle of the field. There are six stadiums to choose from including a dome, a park near a harbor, and even one in outer space. They all look pretty much look the same however until a homer is hit and the background scenery is revealed. Baseball Simulator's pacing is brisk, allowing you to toss one pitch after the next with minimal pauses. The fielding is a bit weak, with fly balls that take forever to come back down, and a second baseman that insists on covering first base. It sounds pretty average, until you discover Simulator's ace in the hole: The Ultra League. This is a special set of teams that allow you to employ outrageous power-ups that turn the game on its head. When pitching, ten special pitches include a stopper ball (stops in mid-air), a phantom ball (disappears over the plate), and the ninja ball that breaks into multiple balls. As the batter, special swings include the meteor hit (knocks out the fielder), hyper hit (twice the power), and bomb hit (explodes on impact). There are even special moves for the fielders, including one that lets them leap high in the air. Not only do these power-ups add humor and variety, but since they're limited, they add a strategic element as well. In "normal mode", Baseball Simulator's music is absolutely unbearable with constant ear-splitting whistles, but thankfully it's much better in the ultra league mode. And that's really the only mode you'll need. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1989)
As soon I saw the "SNK" on the title screen, it occurred to me that this is the precursor to the amazing Baseball Stars series that would reign supreme on the Neo Geo system. Sure enough, this cartridge packs the same arcade-style, no-nonsense gameplay. The options are slim, with a single stadium and ficticious teams like the Japan Robins and American Dreams. The graphics aren't fancy but look clean and well defined. In a fitting tribute to Babe Ruth, the players are proportioned like fat slobs. Actually, some of the players are girls - wearing shorts
no less! The animation is fun to watch, and I like how pitchers wind up and fielders reach for fly balls. Outfielders will even climb fences to snatch would-be homeruns, occasionally falling into the first row of seats! Check out the batter when he's hit by a pitch - it looks like he's been shot!
Also amusing is how after a fielder catches the ball he holds it up for all to see. The controls are highly responsive and intuitive. The action moves along at a breakneck pace, with nine innings running roughly 20 minutes. Umpires call fair and foul balls, and the crowd looks like a sea of Asian men (with a few gray heads sprinkled about). Baseball Stars is entertaining as hell, but it's not perfect. Fly balls are very hard to judge because you can't tell where your outfielder is positioned until the ball reaches his vicinity. Runners cannot
return to a previous base once they've reached a new one - a real problem during pop-ups. Finally, I hope you like the theme song that plays throughout the game, because you can't turn it off! In fairness, it does become slightly more intense when a runner reaches scoring position. In addition to the "versus" mode, you can play as your own customized team in a slick calendar-based league mode. With its easy-to-play style and fast pacing, this ranks as one of the better baseball games for the NES. Hint: To make strong throws, hit the button at the same time as the directional pad. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Baseball Stars II
Publisher: Romstar (1991)
In this terrific sequel, Romstar has improved the graphics and added options but retained the same excellent core gameplay. Baseball Stars 2 offers versus and league play with fictional teams like the Texas Towers and Toronto Captains. This time you have four stadiums to select from, but you'll want to avoid the "Country Stadium" with its hideous dirt field. The graphics look more vibrant than the first game, and the pitching screen has been revamped to include "windows" of first and third base on each side of the screen (second base can be seen behind the pitcher). This makes good use of the screen real estate and allows the defense to keep a close eye on runners. Like the first Baseball Stars, the game is instantly fun and it's unlikely you'll need to consult the instructions for anything. Unfortunately, Baseball Stars 2 retains a few problems from the first game, including fly balls that are hard to track down. Controlling your runners on the base paths is exceptionally problematic during high fly balls, since you can't turn back once you reach the next base! Many of the customization options have been removed from the league mode, but you now have the ability to trade players with other teams. The audio effects are lighthearted and fun, like the pitch that sings like a bird and umpires that sound like owls. Pleasant background music plays throughout the game, but it does get tiresome after a few games. Funny how there's an option to turn the errors off, yet no option to turn the music off! I also find it amusing how Romstar advertises its other NES titles (like Cowboy Kid) on the scoreboard between innings. Baseball Star 2 isn't terribly realistic, but if you're just looking to have a good time, this is the way to go. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1988)
In addition to being a terrific baseball game, Bases Loaded reinvigorated my interest in consoles in the late 1980's when I was more interested in home computers. I had stopped by my friend Tuan's house, and when I walked into his bedroom he was playing this game against my friend Bobby. Bases Loaded may have lacked the sharp graphics and sophisticated controls of a computer game, but I was captivated by its clean visuals, smooth animation, and intuitive gameplay. Innovative for its time, Bases Loaded helped popularize the realistic "behind the pitcher" camera angle, and its fast-paced gameplay has held up well over the years. You can pitch and swing with precision, but fielding is tricky because there's no diving and the fielders move like snails. The game is loaded with memorable moments, and its quirks actually make it more endearing. When pitching a ball way
outside, it's hilarious to see the catcher's disembodied mitt float away
from the catcher's body. Upon striking out, batters walk back to the dugout dejected with the bat on their shoulders. Pitchers can't seem to resist intercepting balls thrown from third base to first. Relief pitchers drive themselves
to the mound, leaving me to wonder who is returning that little cart? And just look how wide
that mound is! But the ultimate highlight of Bases Loaded is how you can initiate a brawl by hitting a batter in the face
! That feature should be standard in all
baseball games. Bases Loaded's background music plays non-stop, which would be irritating if it wasn't so freakin' good
! Fielders sound like they're squealing as they throw the ball, but the clear synthesized umpire voices sound great. Bases Loaded lacks a major league license, which may explain why my favorite player is "Paste" from the New Jersey team. With so many overly-complex baseball games on the market today, it sure feels good to get "back to the basics" with a classic like this. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Bases Loaded 2: Second Season
Publisher: Jaleco (1989)
In this ill-conceived sequel, Jaleco effectively butchers their landmark baseball franchise beyond recognition. The original Bases Loaded was an old favorite that most NES sports fans have fond memories of. There was room for improvement, but Second Season breaks more than it fixes! The pitching screen has been slightly redesigned, and while the players are smaller, they're also better animated so it's hard to complain. Once a ball is put into play however, everything goes straight to hell. Instead of the classic "from the plate" fielding perspective, you get an awkward "down the baseline" angle that's as disorienting as it is ugly. Adding insult to injury are blob-like fielders that move in a choppy, unsightly manner, rendering the new dive moves worthless. Bases Loaded 2 is just sloppy in general, with lousy control exacerbated by rough outfield scrolling. But the game's worst arocity is its unbearable looping theme song that just won't go away. If someone were to blow a whistle into your ear for the duration of the game, it would be an improvement
. Second Season is so awful
that you start to wonder if Jaleco's first Bases Loaded game was an accident
! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1991)
It may be more playable than Second Season, but Bases Loaded 3 still isn't in the same league as the original. Catering more to the solo player, the game rates your performance in 13 categories while challenging you to play the "perfect game". You have three stadiums to choose from, but except for the scoreboard designs, you won't notice much of a difference. The pitcher/batter screen looks slightly more detailed this time, but the strike zone is smaller and harder to judge. It doesn't help that the swing controls are less
responsive so you need to commit earlier. But the biggest change is the new fielding perspective. Instead of viewing the diamond from behind home plate (as in most baseball games), the camera is situated behind second base, slowly pulling backwards for fly balls. There's a good reason why no other baseball game in the past, present, or future has or will ever adopt a system like this, and that's because it absolutely sucks
. For one thing, it's disconcerting to view the diamond upside-down. When you walk a batter, it looks like he's heading to third base (what are these - Japanese rules?!) And even if you get finally the hang of the odd viewing angle, you can never position your oversized fielders properly because they don't even appear on the screen until the last possible moment! The players are nicely animated and pretty huge by NES standards, but they're a lost cause. Be sure to turn the music "off" before starting a game, because the soundtrack has all the charm of a kazoo player. Once again Jaleco has dropped the ball with another half-assed sequel. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1989)
My original assessment of Batman was heavily influenced by my buddy Eric who is a Batman expert. He claimed it didn't feel
like a Batman game and he has a valid point. It doesn't follow the movie's storyline or use its classic musical score. The wall-jumping, ninja-fighting gameplay is a lot like Ninja Gaiden
(Tecmo, 1989). But there's still a lot to like about this game. The cut-scenes will get you pumped, especially those showing the amazing Batmobile on the move. The soundtrack is memorable and the graphics are artistic. Those green and purple accents on shadowy gothic scenery are very easy on the eyes. Batman himself is small but responsive. He can punch rapidly, fire projectiles, and wall-jump his way up tall structures. Holding in the jump button results in longer leaps, but sometimes you need to let off a little (like when there's an electric barrier overhead). The control scheme could be better. Pressing the select button pauses the game and also displays your lives and score. I would prefer those to be displayed at all times. Pressing the start button lets you select weapons including a gun, batarang, three-way shot, or at bare minimum your fists. If you find yourself in a tight spot with the wrong weapon, this interface is flat-out clumsy. The stage designs are fair but you're not rewarded for taking chances by venturing off the main path. Later levels are less-imaginative girder and pipe labyrinths. Certain levels have roving bombs you can't destroy, and the electrified walls are a pain in the ass. In some cases you have to fall off a platform, grasp it from the side, and vault off of it. I'm pretty sure that's physically impossible to perform in real life. Likewise you can fall the "wrong way" when hit. Still, the controls are responsive and you get a little further with each play. Batman has its quirks but they probably won't prevent you from playing it over and over again. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 26,300
Batman Return of the Joker
Publisher: Sunsoft (1991)
I really wanted to like this great-looking, unconventional Batman romp, but the game would not let me. For the first two stages, Return of the Joker does kick ass. I was seriously impressed with the graphic quality - the characters and backgrounds are bigger and bolder than any other NES Batman game. The gameplay is unique as well - it's more like a shooter
than a platform beat-em-up. Instead of punching and kicking, Batman uses his "wrist projector" to fire various types of projectiles. The crossbow arrow default weapon is pretty effective, and power-ups can upgrade you to multi-shot "darts" and guided Batarangs. After collecting several "capsules", Batman turns gold and becomes temporarily invincible, unleashing a torrent of Batarangs all over the place. The exhilarating shooting action gives the game a Metroid or Turrican flavor, and there's even a jet-pack stage that plays like a space shooter. Return of the Joker never lives up to its potential however due to cheap hits, unfair stage designs (hidden dangers), and lousy collision detection (overlapping with enemies). You can overcome these issues in the early stage, but by stage three the situation comes to a head. This snowy stage is easy on the eyes with its snowy landscape and starry night sky, but the difficulty is nearly impossible
as missiles rain from the sky and bad guys knock you off of icy ledges. The intense shooting action that was such a hoot in the first two levels takes a back seat to simply trying not to fall off of the screen. The game offers continues but no score. I find it amusing how the pause screen display "PAUSE!" like it's something to get excited about. Return of the Joker could have been a nice twist on the standard Batman formula, but these stages are so evil they may as well have designed by the Joker himself. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1993)
This good-looking action title effectively conveys the dark, gothic atmosphere of the film, but it asks a little too much of the player. Unlike the first Batman game for the NES, Batman Returns gives you the freedom to meander around the screen as you would in a Double Dragon game. You'll explore locations from the film including Gotham Plaza, Shreck's Department Store, and the Penguin's lair in Arctic World. The characters are large for an NES title, and Batman looks sharp as his cape flaps in the wind. There's a nice variety of circus goons to beat the crap out of, and your punches send them flying off the screen (sometimes in the wrong direction!). Enemies come in several varieties including acrobats, flame-blowers, motorcycle riders, and clowns on stilts. You can punch, guard, and slide-kick, but the jump-kick is probably your best all-around move. Pressing both buttons unleashes a very effective spin attack at the cost of a sliver of health. The fighting action gets a little monotonous as enemies attack in predictable patterns and sometimes linger where you can't quite reach them. When the game tries to get creative, the results are mixed. In one perilous stage you're forced to hop between floating blocks in an electrified pool while clowns shoot at you from the sides. I hate
it when that happens! In another stage you're fighting on slanted rooftops and slipping off the entire time! I did like the part with the bomb-dropping toy helicopters in the department store, which you'll need to knock down with your grappling hook. Driving stages provide some high-speed thrills, and it looks funny when thugs try to hang onto your car. Bosses include the Catwoman and Penguin, and to defeat them you'll need to stock up on special weapons like Batarangs, Batdiscs, and test tubes. Batman Returns has a somewhat understated holiday theme that includes some snowy scenery, gift boxes, and a lighted Christmas tree in one scene. The background music consists of catchy tunes that immediately transport you back to the 8-bit era. The difficulty is a problem. You begin with only a fraction
of your life bar and hearts are hard to come by. Passwords and continues are available, but they start you back a lot further than you would expect. Batman Returns is a sharp-looking game with a holiday flair, but it's arguably more enjoyable when played with a cheat code. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 24,140
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Rare (1991)
Groundbreaking for its time, Battletoads still comes across as a very polished, well constructed side-scroller. Had its difficulty been anywhere near
reasonable, it would easily merit an "A". But no, this is not even close
to being in the same ballpark
as "reasonable". Like most video games, the first stage contains chasms to leap over and pig-men to beat the living crap out of. Then things get weird. You'll encounter these freaks with long legs, and once defeated, you use their disembodied limbs as clubs! That's typical of this game's off-beat sense of humor. The first stage ends with an innovative boss battle played from the boss'
perspective. In the second stage you'll rappel down into a pit while dealing with toad-eating plants and rope-snapping crows. Each stage of the game offers a variety of interesting and unique challenges, like throwing snowballs at snowmen, surfing log-jammed rivers, and racing against rats. Your ultimate foe is the "dark queen", and I have to tell you - she is one hot chick! Battletoad's fighting action is extra satisfying thanks to its crisp controls and exaggerated attacks, often punctuated with oversized fists and feet. The quirky animations are comical, and you'll even see Space Invader icons towing power-ups. Sadly, most gamers won't appreciate all that Battletoads has to offer, because the game is too [expletive] hard - even with continues! Battletoads supports two-player simultaneous action, but that doesn't make things any easier. If not for my trusty Game Genie, I don't think I would have been able to review this game. Except for the excessive difficulty, there's not much to dislike, except maybe that annoying drumbeat that plays when the game is paused. Battletoads will suck you in with its quality gameplay, only to demoralize you with its relentless difficulty. Even if you like your games hard as nails, Battletoads will beat you into submission and teach you the meaning of pain. Punk! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 116,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: LJN (1990)
Beetlejuice tries to convey the whimsical macabre humor of the 1988 film, but it's a mess. You play the "ghost with the most" who hops on platforms and unleashes "scares" at opportune moments. You begin by entering a house and making your way upstairs while avoiding dangers such as lights, torches, and fish jumping out of barrels (what?
). There's little room for error and momentum tends to carry you into harms' way. You can sustain multiple hits, but after a fish knocks you into a torch which knocks you back into the fish, you're dead. Jumping on clouds as platforms is a time-honored tradition since Super Mario Bros., but the idea of clouds in a house
is a little hard to swallow. Beetlejuice does have a few interesting wrinkles like the ability to stomp on small scurrying bugs. Those points that appear are actually monetary values used to purchase "scares" from the shop. Nobody will ever accuse this game of making sense! "Scares" are masks like medusa or skull heads. Each imbues you with a short-lived power (like throwing a bone) required to overcome a particular part of the game. Figuring out how to use scares is largely an exercise in trial and error. Beetlejuice is riddled with technical flaws. There's a delay before the screen scrolls, as if the game's struggling to keep up with the action. If the floor scrolls slightly out of view, you can suddenly fall through the bottom of the screen!
When pouncing on large bugs, you can't tell if you're hurting them or they're hurting you!
The one graphic highlight is the title screen rendering of the main character's face, as portrayed by Michael Keaton. The off-kilter music restarts when you die, irritating my friend Scott to no end. A continue option lets you resume exactly where you left off except
when you reach the boss. If you die there you'll have to restart from the beginning, and that's demoralizing. Beetlejuice tried hard to capture the spirit of the film, but the gameplay could have used a lot more attention. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Wisdom Tree (1991)
Chock full of epic battles, colorful characters, and widespread disasters, the Old Testament is practically begging
for a video game adaptation! So how in the heck
did Bible Adventures turn out to be so frickin' boring?
The cartridge actually offers three games in one: Noah's Ark, Baby Moses, and David and Goliath. Noah's Ark requires you to scour a forest for animals to carry back to your enormous ark. It's not very difficult task, but it certainly is repetitive! Upon collecting them all, you progress to the next stage which is not necessary harder - only longer!
Does this thing ever end?
Where's the flood
button?! In Baby Moses you play a woman carrying a baby through a Super Mario-style obstacle course chock full of birds, spiders, and spear-tossing Roman guards. The animation is choppy and the scenery flickers something terrible. Worse yet, that poor kid ends up getting tossed around like a freakin' rag doll!
I think a call to Child Protective Services is in order! I was hoping David and Goliath would be a one-on-one fighter along the lines of Mortal Kombat, but alas - it's just another tedious exercise in animal collecting. This time it's sheep (joy!). Where's a good fatality when you need it? All three games have marginal entertainment value, and since the game doesn't keep score, there doesn't seem to be much of a point to it. Bible Adventures clearly had good intentions, but you know what they say about those!
NOTE: The Video Game Critic was struck by lightning shortly after posting this review and is recovering in a local hospital. He is reconsidering the grade. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Big Nose Freaks Out
Publisher: Codemasters (1992)
I guess this was the token platformer for the Aladdin "game enhancer" - an NES add-on that never really panned out. Big Nose Freaks Out is one of those "me-too" games that reeks of mediocrity. You control a wacky caveman character executing spin attacks in generic worlds with happy-go-lucky music. Big Nose rolls around on a small boulder over platforms set up like a rollercoaster. It's a pleasant surprise when you fall off one platform only to land on another far below (*whew*
). Much like Sonic the Hedgehog
(Genesis, 1991) there are multiple routes and hidden areas to discover. Big Nose wields a club and rotates fluidly during his spinning jumps. He also has a supply of rocks he can sometimes hurl three at a time. Enemies vaguely resemble animals like octopus, bees, snails, and armadillos. Moderately fun for a while, the game falls apart upon closer scrutiny. You're tempted to pounce on things but that will get you killed. Likewise you'll naturally want to jump between ramps. But instead of giving you more oomph
on take-off, hitting jump causes you to slow down and fall. Hopping on magic mushrooms results in various effects, some of which are really
unpleasant. One causes your controls be reversed
and another causes the screen to black out sporadically. The game feels buggy, partly because certain doors and mushrooms are completely invisible
. And how is it you can hop on cloud outlines?
The bonus screen is called the "Bone-Us" screen, prompting some serious eye-rolling on my part. I can see why Big Nose is freaking out; he's living in a virtual hell
. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8660
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
In this innovative action adventure, you're a soldier on a mission to infiltrate an enemy headquarters and foil an evil General's plans. I know - it sounds like every NES game you've ever played, right? Its story not withstanding however, Bionic Commando is in a league of its own. The "bionic" part of your soldier is his extensible arm, which pulls him up onto high platforms and allows him to swing to distant ledges. Getting comfortable with the arm control is the key to playing Bionic Commando, and it does take a while. You're also equipped with all the obligatory weapons including machine guns, bazookas, and rocket launchers. Although primarily a side-scrolling affair, there are also some terrific overhead stages that play similar to Mercs or Front Line. By accessing scattered enemy computers you obtain clues and can even spy on your enemies. Bionic Commando is loaded with unique stages, and you can choose the order in which they are played. No question about it - Bionic Commando was way ahead of its time. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hot B (1989)
As far as I can tell, this is the first example of a video game trying to realistically
emulate the sport of fishing. The Black Bass is no prize, but hey, you have to start somewhere
, right? The attractive title screen's easy-going melody puts you in the right frame of mind for fishing on a lazy summer afternoon. You begin by selecting the type of bait, including spinners, frogs, worms, pencil baits, and shallow runners. After selecting your fishing spot from a non-descript map of a lake, you cast your line using a simple power meter. You view your bait in the water from overhead, and reel it towards the bottom of the screen. Depending on your cast location, visible scenery might include marsh weeds or a beach. Attracting fish largely depends on choosing the right style and color of bait, which largely amounts to good old-fashioned luck. Once a fish appears, it gravitates towards the bait and automatically "hooks" when it bites. These fish look fairly hideous with their freakishly large heads. Who would have known that a black bass is really green
? You can also catch trout and pike, but they don't count in the competition. Fighting a fish involves swinging the rod from side to side while periodically reeling in or "thumbing" the line. This can be a long and tedious process if the fish is far away, which he usually is. If the fish becomes aggressive you'll want to let out the line a bit to tire him out. Occasionally a fish will leap clear out of the water, accompanied by a completely inappropriate "boiiiing!
" sound effect. Once you finally net a fish, it's exciting to watch the scale tally its weight. The game keeps track of your catches as you advance the ranks, and a password feature lets you save your process. If you've played any modern fishing games, Black Bass can be hard to stomach. There's almost nothing to see and you can't shut off the horrible background music (not to be confused with the fine title screen tune). The years have not been kind to this game, but its sequel "The Blue Marlin" has fared much better. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 12.7 lbs
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Some prefer Nintendo's Ice Hockey, but in my eyes Blades of Steel is the
definitive hockey game for the NES. Its realistic graphics, digitized sound effects, and tight controls combine to make this the complete package. Like Nintendo's entry, Blades is played on a side-scrolling rink, but the arena is larger and more realistic. Before each contest the teams enter the rink and skate in circles to a disco theme. What is this, the Ice Follies? The large players look surprisingly realistic and it's easy to determine which player you control because he flashes brightly. Passing and shooting are responsive and intuitive, and finding an open man in front of the net is key to scoring. Unlike Nintendo's Ice Hockey, your selected defensive player changes automatically, which is very convenient. Battling for the puck often leads to fist fights presented with a special close-up view. These battles let you pummel your opponent by mashing buttons, and the loser is left on his rump as the winner speeds away with the puck. Penalty shots also occur, and these are also impressively depicted with dramatic close-ups. Blades of Steel's gameplay is fast and intense, but like real hockey, scoring can be like pulling teeth. Digitized sound effects include grunts and referee voices, but I could do without that annoying whistling that accompanies the crowd noise. The limited play-by-play is mainly limited to "makes the pass!" every time you pass the puck. In the tournament mode, I was shocked
to see ads for other Konami
games ("All your friends will want it!"). There's even a shooter mini-game. Blades of Steel has it all. Not only is it one of the best titles for the NES, but it's one of the best hockey games of all time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1988)
Whenever I say anything bad about this game, its legion of fans rush to its defense, urging me to go back and give it another try. I have to admit that Blaster Master is beginning to grow on me somewhat. I can't get that catchy music out of my head, and who can forget the touching "boy and his frog" introductory sequence? I weep uncontrollably each time I watch that thing! For the most part Blaster Master is played in a jumping tank, but your character can also climb out to explore areas on foot. You don't tend to see the words "jumping" and "tank" used together very often, but work with me here. You begin by jumping generic platforms in a wooded area, but later blast your way through underground caverns. Upon falling into some water, I assumed I lost of life, but then realized that underwater areas are part of the game! When you encounter a small door, that's your cue to get out of the tank to explore on foot. Your character looks like a dork with that big white helmet over his huge melon head. Instead of platform jumping, the on-foot stages feature overhead exploration and shooting. Both modes have their own health meters and distinct firepower levels, making Blaster Master feel like two games in one. The graphics aren't bad at all, especially the second stage with its nice medieval castle scenery. Some of the lizard and crab-like bosses look pretty intimidating as well. But despite the positives, Blaster Master never completely won me over. The stage layouts are maze-like and confusing, and you're expected to do a good bit of backtracking. Certain enemies can't be shot because they crawl too close to the ground, and slowdown often rears its ugly head. There's no score, but you do get unlimited continues, so you can pretty much play Blaster Master until you're sick of it. It's not one of my favorites, but Blaster Master deserves some credit for innovation and depth. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hot B (1991)
Compared to The Black Bass, Blue Marlin looks like a million bucks. Its flashy title screen depicts an enormous swordfish leaping out of choppy, bright blue waters. Awe-some! It's almost enough to make you want to catch a fish! Blue Marlin is far more interactive that its predecessor. Instead of picking a spot on a map, you actually navigate a little boat around a lake with your bait trailing behind. The undulating water looks terrific, as do the surrounding docks, foliage, and villages (although that guy running back and forth on that one building looks awfully suspicious). You can easily determine where to go by the visible schools of fish appearing at random around the lake. If you're lucky, you might even spot a seagull or a marlin leaping out of the water - both very good signs. Dragging your bait through a school of fish usually pops up a window stating: "Hey Dave, I feel a bite on your rod". Yes, that's an actual quote from the game - you can't make up stuff like that. When a fish is on your line, you see an animated fisherman strapped into the back of a boat, and a white flume in the distant water indicating a struggling fish. The bottom of the screen displays vital statistics, along with a nicely rendered reel that makes it easy to see how fast you're reeling in (or letting out). The game uses the same basic techniques involved in real deep-sea fishing (I know because I've done it). You need to alternate between pulling up on the rod and reeling in, while occasionally thumbing the line to recoup you "vitality" when you begin to tire. The fights are pretty intense, and can sometimes last for ten or fifteen minutes. Occasionally you'll be faced with a "dilemma" in the form of a multiple-choice question, and these are fun and exciting. As an example, if your line begins to overheat, you can A) douse it with water, B) free the drag, or C) do nothing. Selecting the wrong answer could result in a snapped line. Once you finally pull a fish aboard, it's always a treat to see what kind you caught. There are several varieties including marlin, swordfish, sailfish, sharks, tuna, dorado, and barracuda. Once you've had enough, you can return to shore for weigh-in, at which time you're presented with a password. The Blue Marlin is an addictive game that bears more than a passing resemblance to King Salmon
(Genesis, 1993). If you're looking for some spirited fishing action on the NES, seek out The Blue Marlin. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data East (1990)
I have fond memories of playing Boulderdash on my 8-bit Atari computer in the early 80's, when it still under the Electronic Arts label. It was a good idea to resurrect this fun title for the NES. The main character who resembled an alien in the original has received the "Mario treatment", and now resembles a cute little miner. Borrowing many elements from Dig Dug, you dig through the soil, collect items, and dropping rocks on enemies. But Boulderdash takes this concept to the extreme, with non-stop, twitch gameplay and tons of rocks that tend to avalanche. The action is pretty intense but there's subtle strategy involved, and you'll often need to initiate a avalanche in order to gain access to a new area. Boulderdash has aged quite well, and includes a nice password save and a fine soundtrack. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,071
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Publisher: Sony (1993)
The 16-bit versions of Bram Stoker's Dracula
(SNES, 1992) were so forgettable I was in no rush to track down this scaled-down NES edition. But as is often the case, this 8-bit incarnation is considerably better!
You can tell the programmer "Skunk" really knew what he was doing. I like how the default skill level is "medium" which should always be the case but rarely is. The side-scrolling platform action begins with John Harker slaying ghouls, skeletons, and birds in the forests of Transylvania. If you've played Castlevania
(Konami, 1987) and/or Super Mario Bros.
(Nintendo, 1995) you'll feel right at home with the controls. You collect coins, throw axes, bump boxes for power-ups, and perform ground pounds to break into underground areas. The fact that you can leap a country mile makes the crumbling ledges a lot easier to traverse. Enemies are defeated with a blue splash for some odd reason, and you can even punch ghosts!
The stage designs are so forgiving that touching water or landing on a bed of spikes is rarely fatal. There are hidden areas off the beaten path you can explore to discover extra goodies. Dracula's castle is a maze of floating platforms, lava pits, and fire-breathing statues. It's a shame you can't enter any of those big shadowy doorways. Hitting pause lets you view your score and catch a breather. That's not a bad idea because the pacing of this game is so brisk it feels like a speedrun
for Pete's sake. The musical score is your typical NES cacophony but with some ominous undertones. It's not particularly scary but this version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is probably the most enjoyable, and certainly the most playable. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 15,950
Publisher: Taito (1988)
In Bubble Bobble one or two players control bubble-blowing, chubby little green dinosaurs. The game is jam-packed with 113 levels(!), each with a unique platform configuration. Your goal is to blow bubbles at wandering beasts, trapping them inside and causing them to float towards the top of the screen. Popping these bubbles produces bonus items (fruit, vegetables, and jewelry), and popping several at a time is key to racking up big scores. The game has a Dig Dug vibe that I find appealing. Power-ups spice up the action, including one that wipes out all enemies on the screen. A pleasant musical theme plays throughout the game. Bubble Bobble seems simplistic at first, but there's actually quite a bit of technique involved. Some gamers consider Bubble Bobble to be an NES classic, and they may be right. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 98,720
1 or 2 players
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
Publisher: Kemco (1989)
What we seem to have here is a platform game with no jumping
. After playing Crazy Castle, I'm starting to think that wasn't such a good idea! Playing as Bugs Bunny, your goal is to collect all the carrots on each level while avoiding characters like Sylvester the cat, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam. The stages are colorful but not very imaginative - just a bunch of empty platforms joined by doorways or tubes. Each side-scrolling stage measures about three screens in width. The graphics are high in resolution, but the characters are so tiny that it's hard to discern their animations. Apparently the best way to neutralize enemies is by dropping boxes on their heads, but since there's no jumping, getting cornered means certain death (unless you have a power-up). Crazy Castle is mildly amusing for a while, but it's too easy and you'll get bored as you rack up endless bonus lives. The controls are stiff, the stages are redundant, and the muffled music sounds like it was recorded in a mineshaft. Crazy Castle is one of those uninspired titles you play once and never again. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 32,700
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1988)
Here's a simple but entertaining little driving game that was popular in the arcades of the early 80's. You control a jumping car on a vertically-scrolling road, bumping other cars into guardrails or landing on them for points. Be sure to keep an eye out for rapidly-approaching gaps in the road that you'll need to jump over. Bump N Jump's graphics are colorful, with changing scenery that includes a bridge, city, and suburbs. A pleasant background tune plays throughout the game. It's not very intense, but Bump N Jump provides simple arcade enjoyment. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 20,900
Publisher: Taxan (1989)
Now we're talking! Burai Fighter is a shooter-lover's shooter. There's not much pizzazz but the gameplay is right on point. Burai offers unique controls, non-stop action, and loads of technique. At the start you're prompted to select between eagle, albatross, and ace options. Apparently they stand for easy, medium, and hard difficulties. Your spaceman wears a backpack, flying through perilous metal structures and creepy organic caves. One button initiates rapid-fire while the other detonates smart bombs (when available). Pinpoint aiming controls allow you to hold your fire in any direction (including diagonally) while moving independently. This ability to strafe makes it easy to knock out rows of armaments or zero in on a boss' weak point. Floating icons let you switch between missile, rocket, and laser weapons. And get this - the game retains the power level for each type, so switching to a laser doesn't diminish the firepower of your previous weapon. Collecting red pods provides you with a supply of smart bombs. The stages aren't particularly interesting but I really appreciate how scraping the walls is not fatal. There are even secret areas to uncover, which is something you never see in a side-scrolling shooter. The overhead stages are less fun, as you lose the ability to strafe and it's not always clear where to go. Burai Fighter accepts easy-to-enter passwords like BALL or DOLL. The colorful manual provides nice illustrations of the bosses as well as some of the alien varieties. Taxan really covered all its bases with Burai Fighter, so dust off your favorite joystick and give it a whirl. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 118,480
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Data East (1992)
While clearly inspired by the ladder-climbing hijinks of Donkey Kong, Burgertime's sandwich-building premise is innovative and fun. As your tiny chef walks over huge buns, burger paddies, cheese, and lettuce, you not only construct a burger but also bury pursuing hot dogs and eggs in the process. A limited amount of "pepper" can be used to temporarily disable your adversaries, but it's extremely hard to come by so you'll want to ration it. Burgertime isn't the most realistic video game I've ever played. In order to refresh your pepper supply, you'll need to collect items like an ice cream cone and teacup. Was a peppershaker too hard to render? I also find it curious how you're pursued by eggs
and hot dogs
. Considering they get trapped in the sandwich, pickles and onions would seem far more appropriate. Also, the hot dogs look like they're wearing glasses, and that's just crazy. Burgertime is addictive but insanely difficult. Once your pepper is gone, you're quickly overwhelmed by nefarious food items. To my knowledge, no one has ever
cleared the second screen. The game is available for a number of consoles, but this one looks particularly good. The crisp graphics and toe-tapping soundtrack are terrific, but the controls certainly could be more forgiving. You need to perfectly line up your chef with the platforms to walk across them, and it's easy to get hung up just as evil processed meat products are converging. It's also annoying how enemies tend to respawn near the edge of the screen without warning. Still, Burgertime is timeless fun, and its deceptively simple gameplay will give even the most seasoned gamers fits. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: GWC 10,950
1 or 2 players
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