NES Reviews A

10-Yard Fight
Grade: D-
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
Posted: 2004/11/17

screenshot10-Yard Fight is a terribly outdated football game that combines the shallow gameplay of an arcade title with the sluggish pace of a simulation. The tiny players move like snails, and the vertical field scrolls in a jerky manner. Before each play, a receiver goes "in motion", but it takes him forever to run down the line. In addition to that slow-ass receiver, your quarterback has two other players that run on each side of him. The only advantage to this dumb-looking formation is how it lets you pull off the old "flea flicker" play. You only control one guy on defense, but the overly effective "dive" move lets you soar through the air like Superman! 10-Yard Fight's sound and graphics are poor, but I might have been able to overlook them had the gameplay not been so marginal. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Capcom (1985)
Posted: 2000/8/6

screenshotI was expecting a little more from 1942 than an easy, generic airplane shooter. As the screen scrolls vertically, enemy aircraft emerge from both the top and bottom. Your plane maneuvers around freely, and there's no shortage of firepower. An "evasive maneuver" is also available, but you probably won't need it, because 1942 is as easy as they come. It doesn't even become remotely challenging until you reach the land stages, which arrive about 5 levels and 15 minutes into the game. And what in the heck is up with that annoying non-stop beeping sound?? It's so irritating that I had to turn the volume all the way down! There's a two-player mode, but it only allows for alternating turns, so what's the point? The 1942 arcade game was pretty good, but this mediocre translation fails to impress. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 125,600
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
Posted: 2000/10/24

screenshotThe NES edition of 1942 was pretty lame, but this sophisticated sequel improves upon its predecessor in every way. Before each mission you're allotted a certain number of points to configure your plane based on offensive power, defensive power, energy level, and special weapons. 1943's graphics are noticeably improved, with clouds in the sky and a better variety of enemies on land and sea.

Several effective power-ups are also available, including a devastating five-way shot (sweet). In addition to your normal cannon, you can fire an extra powerful shot, or unleash a "smart bomb" that obliterates every enemy on the screen. The "evasive maneuver" is performed by pressing both buttons simultaneously.

Unlike 1942, taking a hit won't instantly destroy you - it just drains your energy. Upon meeting your demise, a password is provided, along with an option to continue. Unlike the incessant beeping of 1942, 1943 even features some nice upbeat music. A satisfying shooter with surprising depth, the game's only real disappointment is the lack of a two-player mode. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: STP 180,700
1 player 

720 Degrees
Grade: F
Publisher: Tengen (1989)
Posted: 2013/9/8

screenshotBefore good skateboarding games were invented, kids were forced to play garbage like this. 720 Degrees got by in the arcades on the strength of its flashy graphics, quirky humor, tight controls, and snazzy voice synthesis. This NES version lacks all of these features. Instead you guide a dorky-looking kid around a non-descript concrete slab with ramps, water hazards, and wacky characters.

For the novice, it's hard to figure out what the hell you're supposed to do. You can earn points by performing jumps and spins, but thanks to the pitiful control scheme, the only move you can perform reliably is a face plant. When you're not on the ground, you're hopelessly stuck between obstacles, or meeting your demise at the hands of a swarm of killer bees (trust me, it's for the best). Exploring the fringe of the course reveals four "event" mini-games: ramp, slalom, downhill, and jump.

Even if you fare poorly in these, you'll be able to rack up points and advance to the next class. You could easily purchase upgrades in the arcade game, but it seems like every shop is always closed in this version. 720 Degrees tries to give the player a sense of freedom and variety, but it's just a confusing mess. The looping, off-key "music" only serves to exacerbate a miserable situation. There are some decent skateboarding games for the NES, but 720 Degrees is not one of them. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 12,650
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

8 Eyes
Grade: F
Publisher: Taxan (1989)
Posted: 2010/4/3

screenshotLet me preface my remarks by stating that this game royally sucks. The title refers to a set of mysterious gems you try to collect from eight kingdoms from around the globe, including Spain, Germany, Italy, Arabia, Africa, Egypt, and India. Each location features distinctive music and architecture, but enemies tend to be reused between them. These sordid minions include skeletons, bats, men in diapers, and jumping Jawas.

The one thing that gives 8 Eyes some semblance of originality is your bird sidekick. Although he's normally perched on your shoulder, he can be controlled independently to attack enemies and collect hard-to-reach items. Unfortunately his counter-intuitive controls will have you throwing up your hands in disgust. Even in the two-player mode where one player is solely responsible for guiding the bird, it feels a freakin' hardship.

Controlling your character isn't much better, as he strolls around at a leisurely pace and is defenseless while climbing stairs. Your sword's range is miniscule and the collision detection sucks, so mandatory hits are the rule and not the exception. Certain enemies can only be harmed by the bird (and vice versa), but you'll only know by trial and error. You only get one life, because as the manual proclaims, "This is reality!" The special weapons aren't very special, sometimes taking the form of lame bouncing balls.

Each location has a simple puzzle or two which usually involves hitting a switch to open a door. The music sounds exotic but gets monotonous once it starts to loop. The final nail in the coffin is how it's necessary to complete the locations in a specific order to win the game! This game is already difficult enough without such a stupid, arbitrary rule. 8 Eyes would seem to have potential with its cooperative gameplay and stage select feature, but before long, you too will grow to hate it. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 12,150
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

8-Bit Xmas 2017
Grade: C+
Publisher: RetroUSB (2017)
Posted: 2018/12/17

boxThis multi-game cartridge has got to be one of the coolest items in my collection. Its transparent shell houses little Christmas lights that blink as you play, and in place of a label is an LCD screen that displays the title you're playing. Amazing! Of course, you'll need a top-loader NES system to fully enjoy the festivities. RetroUSB has been releasing holiday-themed NES titles since 2008 and 8-Bit Xmas 2017 includes nine of them up to 2016.

Most are four-player party games, but the original 8-bit Christmas (2008) is simply a snow scene with Christmas music. I don't know what the letters "NA" stand for, but I like how the little flakes of snow pile up. Snowball Fight (2009) is a chaotic free-for-all with players sliding along each edge of the screen while hurling rapid-fire snowballs over a field littered with rocks and snowmen. If you don't have four people on hand the CPU fills in nicely.

Jolly Joyriding (2011) puts you on Santa's sled, dropping gifts into chimneys. The momentum in this game is pretty crazy, making the sled hard to control. Fireplace Bash is a Warlords (Atari 2600, 1977) clone that's way too slow. Biplane Dogfight is probably my favorite. Taking a page from Triple Action (Intellivision, 1981), you shoot down adversaries while trying not to stall. Santa's Blaster (2013) is a rapid-fire space shooter where you blast spinning, swirling formations of colorful shapes.

Killer Queen Arcade (2014) is an odd platformer that looks a lot like Pikmin. I couldn't figure it out. 12 Seconds of Christmas (2015) features an amazing rotating Christmas tree on its title screen, but the game is perplexing. You're some kind of jumping flea trying to stack items to reach platforms and somehow solve each room. The final title, Xmas Pinball, is addictive despite its floating physics and mushy collision detection. Okay, so a lot of the games feel like hacks and you have to power the system off and on to switch between them.

Do you know what puts this collection over the top? It's the dozens of harmonized holiday tunes that play throughout. They are very well done and so much fun to listen to! In addition to traditional Christmas carols there are more contemporary tunes like Feliz Navidad and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. They even included my personal favorite It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. 8-Bit Xmas 2017 is a little pricey ($75) but it's worth every penny to dazzle family and friends around the holidays. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 2016
Our high score: BSC 8,966,950
1 to 4 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Natsume (1989)
Posted: 2007/11/12

screenshotRecently I saw a funny video on the Internet showing some guy struggling through Abadox, spouting all sorts of profanity as he tried in vain to complete the frustrating first stage. After playing this generic side-scrolling shooter myself, I can empathize with the guy to some degree. In Abadox you control a guy in a jet pack, and he's a pretty big target. You start by shooting random targets over a living surface before entering the anus of a huge, shapeless organism.

Enemies attack from all directions, making it easy to become caught in the crossfire. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind the enemy designs, which include floating eyeballs, pterodactyls, and flaming skulls wearing bandanas. Most foes can withstand multiple shots, and the first "sub-boss" - a giant skeletal dog - requires about 25 (!) hits to defeat. Give me a [expletive] break!

The first real boss seems insurmountable until you figure out the strategic spot where he can't reach you. The graphics are about average, but the multi-colored explosions look nice. There are two keys to beating Abadox: loading up on power-ups early, and memorizing the patterns. The game's uneven difficulty can lead to frustration, but even if that were fixed, Abadox would still be marginal at best. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 23,000
1 player 

Adventure Island
Grade: C+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1987)
Posted: 2011/9/7

screenshotThis likeable side-scroller offers bright tropical scenery, fast action, and happy-go-lucky music. To the casual observer it looks like a Super Mario knock-off, but astute gamers will note that Adventure Island has more in common with Bonk (also developed by Hudson Soft). You control a pudgy little dude named "Master Higgins" out to save a princess from a witch doctor. This entails running through the jungle while jumping platforms, snatching fruit, and tossing tomahawks at snails, birds, cobras, pig men, and dinosaurs.

The run button plays a key role, as the faster you're moving the higher you can jump. Giant eggs reveal fun power-ups like skateboards and fairies that protect you. The second stage lets you skateboard across clouds, which would be completely ludicrous if it weren't so awesome. On solid ground you'll want to beware of rocks which trip you up and often send you stumbling into harm's way. I like the idea of the numbered checkpoints which make it easy to gauge your progress through each lengthy level. The island theme really shines through in the colorful graphics, although certain stages are plagued by severe break-up.

A bigger issue with Adventure Island is its counter-intuitive controls. The A button is used to jump, and B is used to both run (hold down) and toss weapons. Attacking creatures while controlling your speed is awkward as hell, although it can be overcome with enough practice. The game encourages you to run, and you can get into a rhythm once you become familiar with the stage layouts. Adventure Island is an odd title. It doesn't make the best first impression, but the more you play it, the more it grows on you. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: CJS 19,140
1 player 

Adventure Island 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
Posted: 2011/9/7

screenshotThis excellent sequel offers more fun-in-the-sun platform action along with some surprising innovations. The first thing you'll notice are the world maps which chart your progress as you conquer each island. The first stage feels a heck of a lot like the original game as you grab fruit, jump, and toss tomahawks at random animals. The visual style is slightly different however because everything now has black outlines, making objects look better defined. In addition to snails and cobras you'll face snow bunnies, leaping octopus, fluttering bats, hairy spiders, and flaming skulls.

But what really elevates Adventure Island 2 is your ability to ride on dinosaurs! As you might imagine, these creatures make the game a lot easier - and more fun! There are four types of dinosaurs to commandeer which can breathe fire, swing their tail, fly, or swim. Unlike Nintendo's Yoshi however, these dinosaurs here aren't particularly cute. In fact, some remind me of the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost! The control scheme is the same, but the jumping is easier because you no longer need a running start to leap high.

You can now backtrack through each level and there are "choose an egg" bonus stages. One really weird new power-up is an evil eggplant that looks downright hilarious. Prior to each stage you're presented with an item selection screen, but in addition to selecting items, it also allows you to stash away items for later use! It's an interesting concept that works well if you stockpile items in the early going. Adventure Island 2 is an entertaining romp. It retains the arcade simplicity of the first game while incorporating many worthwhile new features. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 63,120
1 player 

Adventure Island 3
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
Posted: 2011/9/7

screenshotAdventure Island 2 was chock full of surprises, but this third edition seems to have hit the creative wall. The premise is the same as you guide a chubby dude through a prehistoric world, commandeering dinosaurs as you go. The first thing that caught my eye was how the developers tried to give the graphics a next-generation, 3D look. The scenery is certainly more angular, but the illusion of depth is not convincing. In fact, I prefer the graphics of the previous games.

In terms of gameplay Adventure Island 3 feels more like a "greatest hits" compilation than a brand new adventure. Most of the enemies, level designs, and even music seems awfully familiar. Still, there are some interesting new wrinkles. The yellow triceratops lets you roll over obstacles, and the boomerang is a very effective new weapon. You now have the ability to duck, and there are playable bonus rounds including a surfing mini-game.

The difficulty is higher than the previous game, and those clouds with the lightning bolts are a real pain in the ass - literally! I still find the controls problematic at times, but hey, if you've stuck with the series this long, you're probably over them by now. If Adventure Island 3 was a natural evolution, it's clear that the series couldn't go much further on the NES. Still, there's a lot of engrossing platform action here. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 19,200
1 player 

Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1990)
Posted: 2007/11/12

screenshotI've always been a fan of Disney's Magic Kingdom, having visited the parks in Florida, California, and even France. This game lets you freely explore a virtual Disney amusement park, with the rides represented by mini-games. Wandering around the park should be fun, but why does it look so sparse? All of the different areas are represented like Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Liberty Square, but there's minimal detail. Instead of paths and roads between areas, there's just grass! Pretty lame! Your goal is to collect silver keys hidden in the five attractions.

Space Mountain is a simplistic first-person space shooter that demands quick reflexes, Autopia is a clumsy overhead racer, and Big Thunder lets you steer speeding mine-carts while trying to avoid dead-ends. The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are the real highlights. These two addictive side-scrollers look great and control well. In Pirates, you wander through burning towns and treasure-filled caves while trying to save six prisoners. The Haunted Mansion features some wonderfully creepy ghouls and decrepit scenery, along with clever touches like spooks that appear in mirrors as you pass by. If only there wasn't so much emphasis on tedious platform hopping between floating chandeliers and chairs.

When playing any of the games, you can hit Select to trade in stars for bonuses like free lives, invincibility, or freezing enemies. A sixth silver key can be acquired by correctly answering trivia questions posed by kids standing around the park. Don't worry if you get a question wrong - just go back and ask again. On the surface, Adventures in Magic Kingdom seems aimed squarely at kids, but even adults will enjoy the challenge of collecting all of the keys. The game could have used a few more attractions (the Jungle Cruise comes to mind), or at least a few hidden surprises around the park. As it stands Adventures in the Magic Kingdom is a pleasant collection of mini-games that should appeal to Disney fans of all ages. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Adventures of Bayou Billy, The
Grade: C
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Posted: 2001/6/11

screenshotBayou Billy offers several styles of gameplay, but none of them are exceptional. Most stages consist of Double Dragon-inspired fighting on a side-scrolling screen. You'll face a nice variety of thugs, and it's cool how you can steal their weapons to use against them. Without a weapon the action amounts to a very repetitive series of kicks and punches. Sometimes you'll punch a guy and a freakin' turkey will fly out of him! That's why mom said to never fight after dinner!

In addition to pummeling thugs, you'll also encounter alligators that look pretty fearsome until you realize you can beat them up with your bare hands. Billy Bayou's graphics are finely detailed, and its music is well orchestrated. The Louisiana motif is innovative and attractive, with its dark swamps and that distinctive Southern architecture. In addition to fighting, there are car-driving stages that let you blast oncoming traffic and shoot down helicopters.

The pseudo-3D graphics are unimpressive, but it does provide a nice change of pace. Finally, there are a few light-gun stages with bad guys that are hard to miss. In case you can't stomach the fighting stages, the driving and shooting games are immediately available under the practice menu. Bayou Billy is certainly an ambitious title, but despite its strong graphics and sound, this falls squarely into average territory. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Adventures of Dino-Riki
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1989)
Posted: 2020/8/22

screenshotI stumbled upon Adventures of Dino-Riki at a pawn shop and it turned out to be a winner! There was a Hudson Soft logo on the cartridge so I knew it had to be good. As you advance up the screen your little caveman is attacked by all sorts of random creatures. You fend them off by tossing rocks, axes, and boomerangs. Initially your slow speed makes you vulnerable to crossfire and zig-zagging insects. You'll want to grab all the power-ups you can to boost your power, speed, and health. Fortunately icons are pretty much all over the place.

Once fully powered the game becomes an exhilarating rapid-fire shooter. It never lasts though, as enemies home in on you like heat-seeking missiles, decreasing your firepower with each hit. Go easy on the speed icons or you may not be able to navigate the lily pads on the pond. It's one of the harder parts of the game. Be sure the screen has scrolled down sufficiently before jumping forward to ensure you have enough room to land.

Dino-Riki can be extremely difficult if you don't own a rapid-fire joystick. Stage two is set in a desert canyon with fire-breathing statues, and there's no room for error. I really enjoyed the old-school sounds reminiscent of Centipede (Atari 2600, 1983) and happy-go-lucky music similar to Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985). Adventures of Dino-Riki has an appealing pick-up-and-play quality. It may be hard to survive for long but it's fun while it lasts. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 140,150
1 player 

After Burner
Grade: D
Publisher: Tengen (1989)
Posted: 2021/3/16

screenshotAre you in the mood for 90 seconds of intense arcade action? After Burner might just be the game for you. You view your jet fighter from behind, gunning down enemy planes that flank you or emerge from the horizon. I was shocked this game was even available for the NES. The Sega Master System edition was a complete joke, and even the Genesis struggled with its scaling requirements.

But this After Burner surprised me. The planes are small but that actually works to its advantage. At least now you can see what's happening without some huge plane obstructing your view. It's fun to gun down passing planes and unleash guided missiles on locked-on pixels. Your scaling missiles travel smoothly as they home in on their targets, and the modest explosions aren't bad either. The distinctive music is terrific and each stage offers a beautiful new color scheme.

One serious knock against After Burner is how turning your plane causes the horizon to shift in an unsightly, jerky manner. Another blatant flaw is your lack of ability to detect and evade incoming missiles. I absolutely brutalized my NES Advantage joystick trying to avoid incoming missiles. That said, After Burner retains the spirit of the original, prompting my friend Chris to call it an "admirable attempt". The back of the box reveals a rocky gorge screenshot, which incidentally is the closest I'll ever get to experiencing that stage. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1,940,140
1 player 

Air Fortress
Grade: C-
Publisher: HAL (1989)
Posted: 2009/2/1

screenshotIt seems like every time I turn around another reader begs me to give Air Fortress another shot, but every time I immerse myself in this generic space shooter I am bathed in mediocrity. There are some nice graphical touches and the catchy soundtrack has a "Lost In Space" vibe, but the gameplay feels totally by-the-numbers.

Air Fortress offers eight expansive stages and a handy password mechanism lets you save your progress between each. At least the replay value is good. Each stage begins with a side-scrolling shooting area loaded with bomb icons and power-ups. Your character looks like a little kid wearing orange pajamas with "footies", and he rides on the back of his ship like he's riding a sled (pretty cheesy!).

Some of the intergalactic backgrounds are impressively detailed, but sometimes it's hard to discern objects in the foreground from the background. In stage two I thought I was moving in front of a planet, only to crash into a floating rock! The second half of each stage features labyrinths you navigate in a jet-pack while contending with generic robots, spikes, Venetian-blind elevators, and annoying gravity machines.

You can unleash bombs in addition to normal shots, and your weapon has a slight kick-back. A few stages have alternate routes and annoying dead-ends. My friend Steve and I spent about 10 minutes blasting away at a fireball blocking our path until we finally said to hell with it. The game is challenging enough, but there's no score and the stage designs leave much to be desired. I know many gamers will have fond memories of Air Fortress, but newcomers will wonder what the attraction is. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing
Grade: D
Publisher: Data East (1988)
Posted: 2015/3/21

screenshotIf you love fake 3D racers like Pole Position (Atari 5200, 1983), check out Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing. It lets you race Indy cars on sixteen tracks from all over the world. Each course is distinguished by familiar landmarks on the horizon. Greece offers ruins, France boasts the Eiffel Tower, and Australia has the Sydney Opera House. I like how day changes to night as the race progresses. The tracks are wide so it's possible (but not necessarily easy) to pass.

The sensation of speed is effective but the turns can be harrowing. Arrow signs indicate sharp turns ahead, and it's not unusual to see arrows for a right turn while you're still in your left turn. For best results begin your turn early, even if it means riding over the grass a little. Play your cards right and you can hug the entire curve without letting off the accelerator. When you find yourself butting up against another car on a turn, back off. A collision will just send you spinning off the road while the other guy speeds off scot-free.

The graphics look sharp but I noticed some minor graphic break-up. And what's the deal with those annoying pinging sounds? The game definitely lives up to the "turbo" part of its name. While in third gear you push up on the directional pad to engage turbo. Not only does this boost your speed, causing flames to shoot out your tailpipe, but it also makes it easier to hug the road. The screen layout could be better. What's the point in having your driver's face on the lower left? I'd much rather see my current lap, which is only shown intermittently.

No matter how good you get at this game, there's always one car you can't shake, and you'll need to fight it tooth-and-nail during the final lap. The races are challenging but ten laps is too long. Beating the World Grand Prix mode would require several hours of non-stop, highly repetitive racing action. It's a shame there's no password feature. Between races Al Unser offers advice but the guy looks like a ventriloquist dummy! Yikes! Turbo Racing has a few interesting features but it's not good enough to merit a major time investment. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Alien Syndrome
Grade: C-
Publisher: Tengen (1989)
Posted: 2005/4/24

screenshotI first played this overhead shooter on the Sega Master System, but I much prefer this more robust NES edition. Clearly inspired by the Alien films, you control a soldier blasting through a series of alien-infested ships while attempting to rescue their crews. You'll find weapons scattered about and maps to help you locate each crewmember. Aliens continuously regenerate, emerging from slimy holes in the floor, sulking around slowly and splattering nicely when shot.

The game gets off to a slow start, with very easy early stages. Once you've gathered the crew, a self-destruct countdown begins, giving you seconds to escape. But just when you thought you were out of the woods, you need to contend with one of many huge alien bosses. Defeating these gross monstrosities is by far the most challenging aspect of the game.

The background music can't match the menacing tones of the Sega Master System game, and the sound effects are also disappointing. This NES edition plays better, but offers a somewhat forgettable shooting experience. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 104,400
1 or 2 players 

Almost Hero
Grade: B-
Publisher: Mega Cat Studios (2017)
Posted: 2017/8/22

screenshotThis brand-spanking new NES title is a throwback to old side-scrolling beat-em-ups like Double Dragon (Tradewest, 1988) and River City Ransom (Technos, 1988). Almost Hero (love the name) makes a great first impression with first-class packaging, artistic box art, and a full-color manual. The characters are short and squat but the graphics are clean and attractive. From the village hub your ninja can purchase power-ups and health supplies from his master. You then set out to one of four selectable locations: dojo, city, woods, or sewer. The fact you can play these in any order is a great feature.

Each level tosses pairs of attackers your way and culminates with an 80's-inspired boss (think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The buttons let you punch and kick, and hitting both initiates a jump kick. Pressing select consumes a health item like a soda. Unlike many other NES brawlers you can't just stand in front of an enemy and mash buttons. Trading blows will get you nowhere, and if you overlap with an enemy or get caught facing the wrong way, you're in for a world of hurt. Consider taking a cat-and-mouse approach, or better yet hurl objects like boom boxes, laser discs, and Furbys. The best item by far is the blue shell that ricochets around a la Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985).

At first I found Almost Hero difficult because I couldn't save up money. Then I discovered the ability to backtrack through screens - something most old games did not permit. Once you have enough money, just turn around and head back to the hub. Purchasing a power-up like "foot passion" makes the fighting a heck of a lot easier. Upon clearing the four main areas you're ready to take on boss McRibs at Nakatomi tower. The game doesn't have a score and once you beat it, that's the end. There's a two-player mode but it has some heavy graphical break-up. Still, if you prefer your ninja action old-school, Almost Hero is a satisfying romp. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Activision (1989)
Posted: 2001/4/22

screenshotIt deeply troubles me to think that a whole generation of gamers may be missing out on this monumental classic! Archon is to video games what chess is to board games! Heck, it even looks like chess. The checkered playing field is lined with black and white mythological creatures, with the object being to capture five strategic spaces. The white side includes knights, genies, wizards, unicorns, golems, archers, a phoenix, and a wizard. The dark side is composed of goblins, trolls, lizards, banshees, a sorceress, and an evil shape-shifter.

As the characters take turns moving around the board, the squares cycle between light and dark, giving the respective side an advantage. The characters move much like chess pieces, but when two land on the same spot, a battle is initiated! The two warriors are then transported to a wide-open battlefield for a fight to the death!

The warriors move at different speeds, and each has its own weapon, ranging from swords and clubs to arrows and fireballs. The "king" on each side also has a set of spells, including teleport, time shift, summon elemental, and resurrect. Yes, Archon is as fun as it sounds. The characters are small but cleverly animated, and well-orchestrated music scores contribute to the fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 2 players 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Jaleco (1990)
Posted: 2017/2/21

screenshotI find it hard to pronounce this game, but it sounds like something I used to steal from my parent's medicine cabinet. Just kidding. Actually I just discovered Astyanax on my Retro-bit Generations console. I was really impressed by its oversized sprites and detailed scenery. The opening cutscene introduces characters with ridiculous names like "Cutie" and "Princess Rosebud", but don't let that get you down.

You are an imposing warrior rendered in colorful detail. NES games aren't known for their rich backdrops but the castles in Astyanax are adorned with sculptures, coats of armor, and tapestries depicting unicorns. The caves actually have red eyes embedded in the rock walls! Your axe will put a hurting on leaping skeletons and levitating eyeballs, but boy can those things take a lot of hits! Thank goodness the collision detection is so forgiving.

One interesting feature is the power meter which lets you strike with more authority if you wait for the gauge to fill. Pressing up on the directional pad while attacking unleashes magic that damages everything on the screen. You'll probably want to save that for the large, grotesque bosses.

Astyanax is a fun romp but I wish the game didn't toss so many superfluous "filler" enemies my way - like those floating purple amoebas. My only other complaint is how losing a life forces you need to restart the entire stage - even when you've reached the boss! That part is heart-wrenching, but otherwise Astyanax is a likeable platformer that plays as well as it looks. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 395,800
1 player 

Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1987)
Posted: 2020/8/22

screenshotAthena was one of SNK's early forays into the console world and it shows. Rome was not built in a day, my friends! This side-scrolling platformer exudes an innocent charm but technically it's a mess. The graphics and music are childish. Our heroine begins in the "World of Forest". She's not wearing much but after smashing a few blocks she acquires armor and a club. It looks like Athena is beating down football players but in fact those are walking pigs!

The game is big on exploration with multiple paths, hidden areas, and breakable blocks all over the place. Unfortunately the game is lacking in collision detection, control, and even animation. When swinging a club it looks like Athena's smacking herself on the head! She has a super jump move that seems to work every other time I attempt it. Athena can kill certain enemies without even making contact, but overlapping with one will drain her life meter in a split second.

The more objects on the screen, the more choppy and less stable the game becomes. Half the time I had no idea why I died. Then it's all the way back to the beginning of the stage, even if you had reached the boss! The first boss by the way is a twisted tree that looks scary as hell but only requires one hit to kill.

This game is highly unpredictable. Swing your club while sitting on a mushroom and you acquire this enormous flaming weapon. When that wears off you're left with some kind of laser weapon? Unfortunately you're constantly downgrading to a weaker weapon by accident because icons are so ubiquitous you can't avoid them. With enough perseverance you might reach a flying or swimming stage, but I can only tolerate so much of this abuse. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 74850
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games, Universal Videogame List